Winter 2019 Grab Bag Week 5: Manaria Friends, Shield Hero

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Grea's new haircut

Manaria Friends General Impressions (1-3)

To be fair, there’s not too much to talk about for this series. As a fan of the Manaria-related content from Granblue Fantasy, I see the show mostly as a bit of fun, watching characters I like interact with each other. The series basically follows Anne, a princess attending Manaria Academy, and her friend Grea, a dragonborn princess. As far as we’ve seen in the first three episodes, the series is largely slice of life without too much development involved. I’m actually kind of hoping that changes, though, since what I know of Grea’s story is surprisingly interesting.

Anne and Grea test out weapons

I’ve always thought that the contrast between Anne and Grea was interesting. They both share a relatively similar set of insecurities, but they have opposed personalities. Plus, there’s the whole fire and ice thing going on.

Grea tries a new outfit

Also, every episode seems to have a fairly gratuitous dressing scene for at least one of the main characters if you’re into that. Not to say I’m not into that…

Raphtalia is tired of dealing with people

Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari Episodes 4-5

It’s interesting to see how my opinions can change from manga to anime. Granted, part of it has to do with the fact that I tend to analyze anime more heavily than manga, but I’m sure a decent part of it comes from how much time has passed since I first read it. My point is that I’ve been a bit skeptical about these recent episodes, especially when it comes to general dialogue.

Raphtalia gets a new slave crest

While I thought that Raphtalia’s defense of Naofumi during the duel with Motoyasu was a great emotional moment, her speech to Motoyasu felt a bit strange. It’s true that Naofumi has demonstrated a much stronger sense of empathy than Motoyasu, but Raphtalia’s claim that Motoyasu should have a slave of his own doesn’t feel convincing to me. It completely ignores “opportunity”, right? The opportunity to buy a slave presented itself to Naofumi, after all.

The villagers start to help Naofumi

It is nice to see people warming up to Naofumi, though. It makes him come off as much less of a jerk overall, which makes him an easier character to watch.

Motoyasu tries to add new tolls to the village

I mean, I get that it’s a legitimate mistake from Motoyasu here, but it’s weird that he doesn’t back down when Naofumi tells him what the buying power of a silver is. Add in the annoyingly blatant cheating during the race, and it just seems like Motoyasu and Malty are being mean for the sake of it.

Filo takes human form

New character time? Filo definitely went through a full range of changes, but it looks like we’ve settled on one.


Winter 2019 Grab Bag Week 3: Shield Hero

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Raphtalia levels up

I’ve been having a lot of fun with this series, and I think it’s been doing a good job as a light novel adaptation. The show is a lot more entertaining when Raphtalia comes into play, which makes me more grateful for the double-length first episode.

Raphtalia is not happy

If I take a step back and think about the first three episodes, I suppose standard light novel pacing still applies. For example, most of Raphtalia’s character growth got covered in episode two. I kind of think it works, though, since Naofumi’s own shift in response to Raphtalia’s growth is probably much more interesting (at least for me).

Naofumi watches as the other heroes abandon the town after setting a flare

I do like how the series messes with typical video game tropes, though. We see this more when the wave starts. The other three heroes rush to the big boss, which is the rational thing to do when you’re playing a video game. In a scenario where real world consequences aren’t important, defeating the enemy and getting the reward is the priority. Naofumi, on the other hand, goes for the nearby village, as he has been spending his time immersed in the real world while the other heroes have been playing a game.

Naofumi leaps from a burning tower to attack the enemies

Story aside, I also wanted to take a second to comment on how awesome the fight in episode 3 looked. When Raphtalia and Naofumi were fighting off the zombies, the scenes felt very seamless and smooth. Most important, you can clearly track Raphtalia’s movements throughout the encounter, and her reactions to her enemies make sense. That’s the kind of thing I really like to see.

Winter 2019 Grab Bag Week 1: Shield Hero, Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita

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I don’t think I’m going to be posting about these shows regularly, so I guess it’s a good time for a grab bag. It’s time for two shows that couldn’t be any more different from each other.

Naofumi has a strange dream about another world

Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari First Impressions (1)

I’ve been reading the manga for this series for a while now, so I had a good idea of what to expect going in. The main character, Naofumi Iwatani, is summoned to a fantasy world in a way that must be incredibly familiar at this point. In this world, he serves as one of four legendary heroes tasked with saving the world from the monsters that threaten it. However, he is summoned as the Shield Hero, a hero disregarded as the weakest of the four given his lack of offensive capabilities.

Background stories get too complicated

As far as adaptations go, I thought this episode turned out pretty well. The animation generally looked fine, and I thought that the background music was nice. Using a double-length episode to get into the gritty part of the show while still having time to introduce the world also seemed like a good idea.

Myne explains why she wants to know the price of Naofumi's armor

Watching this episode for effectively the second time was interesting. Since I knew that Myne would eventually betray Naofumi, there were a lot of cues that I didn’t pay much attention to the first time. For example, the simple task of asking for the price of his armor should be suspicious, and it makes sense if she wants to resell it later.

This country is a matriarchy

The matriarchy thing was kind of weird overall. I think I mostly skimmed through it when I was reading the manga, so I didn’t realize how much emphasis the series puts on it. I get that it’s a central theme to the show, but it feels unnatural. Just think about it. Patriarchal themes are baked into modern Western society, but would you ever point that out to some alien species without being prompted? Maybe it’s wrong of me to think in that way, but I would be surprised if it was a common conversation starter.

Naofumi negotiates

I think the funniest part of the episode was seeing Naofumi use the balloon monsters to his advantage. Since his defense is raised by the legendary shield, he doesn’t take any damage when they latch on to him, so it’s funny to see them used as an improvised weapon.

French toast is ready

Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita First Impressions (1)

Strangely enough, this might be the weirdest premiere in the season. I mean, didn’t we just have a show like this in the previous season? It’s actually frightening how similar the two shows are. The female lead (who covers one of her eyes) meets a grade school girl and falls in love. The younger girl rejects her advances, but she’s able to at least partially win the girl over with food. The female lead also likes to make clothes for the younger girl.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t enjoy this episode much at all. It gave me a low initial impression because of its background music alone. Maybe I’m overreacting, but the music in this show seemed largely grating to my ears. Visually, the show was mostly okay. In this scene, for example, I think it’s funny that the background is framed to give the image of Hinata pouring sugar on Miyako.

Hinata is killing her sister

I think Hinata had the strongest showing in this episode despite not being the show’s main focus. On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird am I? But that’s all I really had to say about this show.

Princess Principal Final Episode (12): Really asking for that second season

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I’m really unsure how to react to this ending. It definitely has an unsatisfying feel to it, but I almost prefer that over attempting to rush into a resolution. There were too many open questions to really cover. That being said, many of these questions remain, and it made me really want to know more (perhaps in a second season?).

So when all is said and done, I’m still not sure I understand Zelda as a character. Is she meant to represent a separate, competing faction within the Commonwealth? She seemed like such a strange addition at the last minute who got way too much focus…only to disappear into the night.

We haven’t gotten too many chances to see Princess act like an actual noble, so this scene was quite interesting. I’m assuming that Princess is referring to the current plans for revolution as evidence for her statement. The current revolution seems to be an attempt to right the wrongs of the one that separated Ange and Charlotte.

I get the whole idea of teaching Ange a lesson about friendship and whatnot, but this “message” feels more like the kind of lesson you show in an introductory episode, not the finale.

Once again, I feel like I’m missing a reference from a previous episode. Is this just the hat that Princess normally wears? I guess this scene is meant to indicate that the Duke now knows she’s involved in the plots interfering with his own plans. I was wondering if I missed some reference to the past or something…

As a final minor comment, I did have a question about this scene in particular. Why exactly did Chise come down on the rope to join the team if they were just going to fly back up into the rafters? Was it just for the grand entrance?

Final Score: 8/10

Princess Principal Episode 11: Ultimate betrayal

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In many ways, this episode didn’t quite go the way I expected, but I think I’ll wait to see how it comes together in the end to pass ultimate judgment. Honestly, I thought from the moment when Ange first accepted the mission that she would try to die in Princess’s place. I can understand that her plan to escape with the Princess is more reasonable given that she expressed her wish for that outcome in the first place, but I guess my head saw a different ending.

There are a couple pieces in this episode that didn’t sit well with me. First and foremost, I’m wondering how the Duke of Normandy plays into everything. He’s been a constant looming presence in this series, but he has very little setup himself. Given that his agent has been involved in many episodes now, I’m very much expecting that his character exists as a simple enemy. It seems to me like the ending will just prop him up as the mastermind behind the coup all along, which seems empty if we don’t know much about him.

Along the same lines, Zelda seems like a bit of a random introduction. It’s not unheard of for this series, but it’s odd that she’s being introduced so close to the end as someone presumably pivotal to the ending. It makes me wonder if she’s just a simple spy for the Duke.

Of course, the whole idea of splitting the team just feels like a setup for a grand reunion in the final episode. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but it’s time that needs to be spent. Just how much is meant to happen in this finale?

The most interesting part of this episode was the statement from Ange that Operation: Changeling was her idea. It makes sense and has likely been said before in this series (knowing my track record), since it plays into her original plan to get close to Princess. But I find it interesting that the final conflict in the episode is that plan blowing up in her face.

I’m really shocked about the ending of this episode, though. It has nothing to do with the coup or the fact that Princess trapped Ange on the airship. I’m just surprised that Princess got away with pretending to be Ange so easily. Does the spy organization really think so little of her? They suspected Ange of betrayal, but take her word that Princess is dead without physical evidence? That just seems bizarre.

Princess Principal Episode 10: Role models

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This was a pretty enjoyable episode despite how rough it was. I think my favorite thing about this series is how it uses missions to give background for characters. It’s not the standard style of presenting a situation that is roughly similar to the character’s past. The missions are often directly use people from the past to stir up the memories, which is how memories work.

This episode did a good job of introducing the Farm, where Dorothy and Ange were trained. I’m really curious about this line, though. Did something tragic happen to the other spies? The description of the Farm suggested that girls were dismissed for performing poorly, but it’s hard to believe that only three spies were good enough.

I was really expecting this episode to be more boring after the premise of the double agent was revealed. It’s a pretty simple concept that’s pretty predictable when a random ally spy is introduced. But at the end of the day, the reversal on Dorothy was a nice touch. Though, I really should have seen it coming given that Ange is never mentioned by name. I definitely didn’t expect the episode to show the suicide on screen.

I’m a bit torn about the conversation between Dorothy and Prefect at the end, though. On the one hand, I like that the series gives you the clues rather than telling you the answer. From what we see in the episode, it seems like Prefect has been forced to self-administer some substance to keep herself alive or lucid.

Dorothy’s statement seems to make it clear that the enemy, likely the Duke, exploited a moment of weakness to force the Prefect’s dependence on that substance. I guess I was just hoping for more answers. Maybe I also wanted Dorothy to understand why she was being betrayed before losing her friend.

As for the ending, I guess we’re in the final stretch. Given that this episode was case 22, we’re probably on a normal timeline now. I would expect the final two episodes to complete the story with cases 23 and 24.

Final side note: this scene with Beatrice driving the card was unexpectedly hilarious.

Princess Principal Episode 9: One of us

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Although I generally consider Chise to be one of my least favorite characters, this episode focused around her worked pretty well. My general complaint is that she’s pigeonholed as the foreigner, but I think that trait is used well in this episode. As someone who is legitimately an outsider experiencing the world of the story for the first time, Chise acts as a great way to show the audience more about the actual setting.

The second half of this week’s episode was more focused on Chise. At first, I kinda shrugged off her “acceptance” into the group as pretty mundane. However, make sure to take into account the timeline of this series. This episode covers case 11, which chronologically occurs soon after case 9 in episode 4. One of the main points in that episode was Chise’s frustration about the team’s lack of trust in her. That made this episode seem much more reasonable in my eyes.

Quick note: this scene kinda bugged me. What kind of innocent person would ask for proof before being accused? But it wasn’t important to the episode overall.

I’m a bit curious about Chise’s conversations with her superior in this episode, though. Why are they continuing to focus on Operation: Changeling? Perhaps I missed it somewhere along the way, but are they still planning on going through with replacing Princess? Or is that just the name for the current state of using Princess as a spy?

This is kind of a random piece, but I found Chise surprisingly relatable in this episode. I’d be lying if I said I’ve never tried to hit a baseball like this…

Princess Principal Episode 8: What started it all

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For an episode with very little spy stuff, this week’s episode was very entertaining. Ange and Charlotte’s past was really well done even if we had been shown many of the pieces in previous episodes. I was mostly expecting to just get the rest of the pieces, but everything in this episode fit together much better than I expected.

The use of a revolt to swap the princess and the pickpocket was a nice way to explain the swap, especially since the pickpocket Ange would be less willing to force the princess into a pauper’s life. The “princess” was perfectly justified to keep her identity a secret in the chaos of the rebellion because the revolutionaries were targeting nobility, which gave the guards a reason to ignore her pleas.

My only real question would be why they never found a way to meet each other after that point? The simple answer would be that the princess was placed under much stricter guard or moved to some unknown location. It’s mostly just curiosity on my end, though.

I also appreciated Ange’s acknowledgement of the hardships that the fake princess would have suffered, despite how lavish her new life may have seemed. It’s hard to imagine that a random girl on the street could accomplish so much, but I guess desperation can be a pretty strong motivator. That being said, I’m also curious about what happened on Ange’s end. While I will agree that Charlotte’s life has been rough, I imagine Ange has had her own share of hardship. After this episode, I’m even more curious to see what happened to her.

Everything ends up culminating in a final acknowledgement from Ange that the fake Charlotte has become the real princess as a result of all of her perseverance. This scene was a great nod to the beginning of the episode too, where Ange tells Charlotte that she calls her “Princess” out of respect for the work she has done to become a real Princess.

But man I feel sorry for Chise. She had to hang upside down in the cold for the whole episode…

Princess Principal Episode 7: Hard at work

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I had a harder time figuring out the point of this week’s episode. It certainly felt like it was meant to characterize Chise more, but I’m not sure I’m fully convinced. I might have been biased because Chise felt a little too Asian. I guess she was introduced as a devoted and diligent worker. I also kinda wanted her to befriend Marilla more, but she probably can’t have too many attachments as a spy.

While Ange didn’t have too much of a role in this episode, her cover personality was probably the funniest part of the episode. I would have liked for the episode to give more of a reason to back up the personality change, as I think having a strong personality for investigation would be applicable in more cases than this. It was very entertaining, though.

Am I supposed to be remembering this guy? He’s done pretty much nothing, but he’s appeared more times than I would have expected. Does he have some future role? Also, he didn’t interact with Dorothy, so it makes sense that he doesn’t recognize her in case 18. I was watching for that.

Also, props to this guy for progressing the story…

Other than that, I don’t think I have too much comment on this episode. Princess did buy that mill randomly, but I’m not sure what to make of it. The scene with Control made it sound like she was able to justify it by turning a profit. Maybe it’s supposed to act as a future source of income or something.

Princess Principal Episode 6: More fathers

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It looks like this series will continue to jump through time for now as it introduces the main characters. Dorothy’s story has probably been the best of the backstories so far. Chise’s father was a bit of a side thought, and we only really saw the scars from Beatrice’s relationship with her father. Dorothy ended up having a genuine heartfelt episode with her father. It wasn’t that crazy of a story, but it sure was presented well.

It’s hard to even judge the father too since the episode seemed to suggest that he had a legitimate mental issue. But I guess the moral of the story is it sucks to be a spy…

Also, it looks like we’re up to case 18. Just how much is this show planning on jumping around? At this point, I’m not even sure how the gaps in time are going to hold their own.

Beatrice and Dorothy made for a good combination in this episode. We’ve seen them interact in previous episodes, but this episode really establishes as pretty similar characters. Whereas Beatrice latched on to Princess to deal with her past, Dorothy became a bit more cynical as a result. They’re a nice example of separate personalities forged from similar pasts.

The fight in this episode was also pretty surprising. We’ve seen Dorothy used largely as a glorified distraction, but she’s actually pretty strong on her own. It also makes her feel much more normal in comparison to the other spies. Ange uses crazy cyberpunk magic, Beatrice has a fancy voice-changer, and Chise is a literal ninja. It makes Dorothy feel like she just exists to ground the cast, which isn’t necessarily bad.

There was only really one part of this episode that I couldn’t follow. Why exactly was it okay for Dorothy’s identity to be revealed? I understand that she would have the most familiarity with the target, but it seems like it would be very easy for her to get exposed on a mission like this.