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.

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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.

Release the Spyce Final Episode (12): Graduation day

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Tendou watches the mission remotely

This episode had some good moments, but it’s pretty much the ending that I was expecting. As much as it makes sense given the setup so far, having everything just work out for the best in the end is still frustrating to see. I get that the nature of being a spy involves heavy misinformation, but this episode really didn’t add up for me. Maybe I’m just putting too much thought into it.

Explaining the evil plan with the gas

I still don’t understand the gas. In the earlier episode, we saw it completely change Goe’s behavior, but it eventually wore off. Based on this explanation, the effects should be permanent by the time the subject is receptive to commands. It’s possible that the gas hadn’t reached the level of applying permanent effects at the time of the original test, but that would mean that we end the show knowing very little about that initial experiment.

Mei reveals herself as a double agent

As I’ve said before, I have no issue with Mei being a double agent. The part that doesn’t fully make sense to me in this big reveal is the antidote for the special jelly. Hatsume isn’t told about the betrayal until right before her fake death, which means that Mei wouldn’t have been able to confirm that Hatsume had a working antidote readily available when she first took the poison.

Mei blows up a fake corpse

What exactly was the point of a fake corpse if it just gets destroyed in the explosion?

Tendou reboots the device

I know I’m not supposed to root for the bad guys, but Tendou rebooting the Gekkako device while the good guys were monologuing is honestly my favorite part of the episode.

Momo defeats Tendou

Also, I quite liked the fact that Momo isn’t bothered by Tendou’s taunts while they’re fighting, especially when Tendou reveals that she knows about the death of Momo’s father.

That being said, Tendou definitely fell down a dark chasm after being defeated by Momo. In anime terms, that means she should be alive.

Yuki chooses to graduate

I don’t have a problem with Yuki’s decision to graduate at the end, since the show has been foreshadowing it for a while. I would have preferred a bit more setup for her choice to remove her memories, though. From the perspective of the audience, it makes sense to end the show in that way, but it doesn’t fully add up for her character to make that choice. The only reason I could think of was that she wanted to completely split herself off from Tsukikage to remove Momo’s reliance on her.

Yuki gets her memories erased

With the combination of the last scene in this episode and the fact that the granny is revealed to be a former member of Tsukikage, I’m curious whether the graduated members truly lose their memories. Momo shoots Yuki off-screen, which could easily be a deception. Additionally, Yuki has spent the entire series lying to Momo, so it wouldn’t be a surprise that the extent of the memory erasure bullets is also a lie. Who knows? Maybe it’s just the scientist in me refusing to believe that there are magic bullets that can selectively erase everything about Tsukikage.

Final Score: 6/10

Fun atmosphere with solid music. I think this is a show that’s more enjoyable when you don’t think too hard about it, which makes it a poor match for someone like me.

Release the Spyce Episode 11: The apprentice retaliation

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Momo having some trouble focusing

It’s time for the final showdown, I suppose. This week’s episode certainly seemed to undo a lot of the drama from the previous episode, with Yuki’s survival being a fairly quick reveal. Project Gekkako’s looking more and more like the evil plan from Kingsman, since I’ve made that reference before. I guess we’ll see how everything turns out in the end.

Mei lingers over Fuu for some reason

Mei definitely made a strong case for herself as a double agent in this episode. The way she lingers over Fuu in this scene seems to indicate that she’s whispering something to her apprentice, and she clearly touches Goe’s restraint, which is later revealed to be loosened. It’s weird, though, since Fuu never gives away what Mei might have told her. The only explanation I can think of is that Mei revealed that she’s going to sacrifice herself in order to stop Tendou, and Fuu is trying to save her at the expense of the plan.

The master plan is to spray the brainwash gas

Given what we’ve already seen from Tendou’s experiment with the gas in a previous episode, I don’t see how this evil plan was supposed to be difficult to guess. Is this supposed to be surprising in any way?

Yuki makes it back

Yuki’s return isn’t particularly surprising, but it does make Mei’s betrayal more confusing. If we assume that Mei’s a double agent, then it would make sense for the mentor trio to know about it, which is why they were eliminated in the previous episode. Now that Yuki’s back, you’d think she’d tell everyone. I get the feeling that this is just so the audience doesn’t know what’s going on, and that would bug me if it’s really the case.

Tendou can't be stopped

At this point in the story, I would be much more impressed if Tendou turned out to be the true double agent. It doesn’t fit with the fact that Mei keeps trying to cozy up to her, but it would actually be cool if Tendou was revealed to be a Tsukikage agent who’s been in cover this entire time.

Theresia can't decide if she will be a traitor or not

I did like seeing Goe attempt to continue her mentor’s quest to befriend Theresia, but I still get the impression that Theresia is just a sideshow. Once again, Tendou’s attempt to kill Theresia after her fight is hard to believe, since we’ve already seen Yuki return from the dead. Maybe Hatsume shows up to stop her from bleeding out.

Mei is looking for information

Once again, Mei continues to come off as a double agent by probing for information from Tendou. It’s hard to believe she would go through this much effort if she truly betrayed her friends.

Release the Spyce Episode 10: The big reveal

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Pretty suspicious scene

This episode definitely escalated quickly, but I honestly don’t believe it for a second. For what it’s worth, I thought that the handling of the traitor wasn’t bad. The series chose someone who was plausible as a traitor, but generally unassuming, which makes the betrayal scene work. I just personally have trouble believing it, so I’m seriously guessing that the series is building up towards a double agent scenario where everything is actually part of Tsukikage’s grand plan.

Byakko joins the fight

I know that Byakko has gone through her redemption and everything, but I had trouble with this scene. The girls were just talking about how they needed to keep the operation a secret between the seven of them to avoid a potential leak. Even if they trust Byakko now, she used to work for the enemy, so it seems incredibly dumb to tell her about the operation.

Momo asks what Yuki's plans are

Ahh, the classic. Talking about plans for the future right before the big fight.

Momo ferrets out the massive lies

I know it makes sense from a continuity perspective, but it’s super awkward to watch this woman pretending to be innocent when we’ve seen her multiple times as the ultimate big bad. But at least they’re finally using Momo’s lie detector powers again, right?

Mei betrays the group

I have to admit that Mei’s carefree attitude does fit well for a traitor. That being said, I still get the sense that having her as a true traitor doesn’t work well with the rest of the story. The way she blows Hatsume up seems way too overt to me, and it provides a mechanism to allow Hatsume to escape undetected. It’s also suspicious that she takes Fuu for herself and drinks the gel so readily despite the fact that they already isolated it from Theresia.

Momo watches helplessly as Yuki is struck down

Having Yuki’s defeat mirror her mentor’s defeat is annoying as repetition. But as I said from the start, I don’t really believe it. Most of this speculation is coming from the fact that I don’t want to see her die in the same way as her mentor, but I’m also suspicious of the way the camera pans above her at the end of the episode.

Release the Spyce Episode 9: Story time

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Yuki never takes a break

Relatively speaking, I thought this week’s episode was mostly okay. The series immediately addressed the weird scene with Yuki and Momo from the previous episode in a way that made sense, and showed decent background for Yuki. I’m still not feeling great about the whole traitor mystery, but I no longer see Yuki as a walking death flag. I guess that’s something, right?

Yuki talks with Hatsume about Theresia

Wow, the series is really dragging out Hatsume’s progress with Theresia. At this point, I’m starting to see it as being similar to the slacker type you might find in the workplace. Every week, we get a reminder that she’s “working on it”, and we’ll eventually reach the end of the series, when she actually has to deliver.

Yuki and Momo hang out together

Yeah, this totally seems normal for high school girls.

Yuki's mentor jokes around

You know, part of me wanted Nagaho’s offhand joke here to be a hidden message. Usually, jokes like these have a grain of truth underneath them, so I was expecting some reveal that she actually had an incurable disease.

Moryo will take over the world

I get that this show plays on a lot of spy tropes, but this scene seemed particularly strange to me. It felt like it was saying that Moryo is the typical evil corporation with an unexplained goal to take over the world. And for good measure, they’re going to use satellites to do…something. Are these guys really just “the bad guys”?

Nagaho faces off against the mystery woman

That being said, this fight scene was surprisingly good. Even though the characters were moving quickly, it still felt like a reasonable set of attacks.

Yuki watches her mentor die

Part of me is a bit worried about this scene. Having Yuki’s previous mentor die off-screen in the explosion gives the show an out. There’s a non-zero chance that Nagaho gets revealed as the traitor to squander a lot of the suspicions from the rest of the show. Maybe I’m over-thinking it, but it’s a nagging feeling.

Momo comforts her mentor

The show also makes me fairly certain that Yuki won’t die, even if the preview seems to suggest otherwise. Since we’ve already seen Yuki lose her mentor, I think it would be super weird to force the same situation to happen again with Momo.

Yuki zooms and enhances

That’s a hell of a way to do the old “zoom and enhance” trick.

Release the Spyce Episode 8: Making new friends

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Hatsume and Theresia face off

This week’s episode was hard to watch. It seemed like it had a lot of good things going on, but the pacing was just too erratic to keep focus. The episode tried to continue the story with Theresia, introduce and resolve Goe’s self-esteem issues from the previous episode, introduce a completely new character, and introduce some friction between Yuki and Momo. As a result, most of these developments felt like they didn’t get the setup they deserved, starting with the very beginning of the episode. Theresia and Hatsume face off for some reason, and the poison Theresia drank a couple of episodes back is removed without an issue.

Obligatory beach episode happens

Random montage is random. I suppose this is the obligatory beach episode…somehow.

Viking ignores the girls

Honestly, I thought that Ouka was a pretty good character. Her self-isolation made sense given how she was forced to do, and the way she got excited about Vikings was surprisingly charming. However, introducing her and resolving her story within the span of a single episode makes me think that she’s never going to show up again.

Ouka shows off her helmet

Okay, there’s technically no evidence that Vikings actually used horned helmets (because they’re not actually that useful in battle). Evidence suggests that the notion of the horned Viking helmet actually came from later stories about the Vikings, and a real Viking would likely know that. But hey, this series takes a lot of liberties with history (especially with that “spies” and “spice” etymology thing), so it could once again just be part of this world’s setting.

Shisa agent talks about Ouka's situation

To be fair, I think the best foreshadowing in this episode was the whole thing with Ouka’s grandfather. This scene clearly suggests that the grandfather is the captured doctor. In a later scene, Ouka describes her failed attempt to save him, but an old man who is clearly her grandfather is shown standing over her. I’m okay with that type of subversion and foreshadowing.

Yuki plays with the selfie stick

There’s something hilarious about watching Yuki, the most serious spy, instinctively using a selfie stick as a weapon.

Goe faces off again Ouka

Goe’s story in this episode was actually fine as well, but I wish that her story was more closely related to the rest of the episode. It makes sense that she would be afraid to fight or use Spyce after going on a drug-induced rampage in the previous episode, and it makes more sense that she would be able to overcome it with the help of a friend. Maybe there’s something about betraying your friends that links her to Ouka, but I honestly didn’t see it.

Also, the fact that Goe succeeds in befriending Ouka once again makes me think that Hatsume’s own attempt with Theresia will fail. Goe even goes so far as to say that Hatsume will surely succeed at the end of the episode. That has to be a flag.

Yuki lectures Momo

I’m really not sure about this scene. Is it meant to show that Yuki actually cares for Momo more than she lets on? Is it actually meant to be a moment of rationality? It doesn’t seem to fit with everything else Yuki has been teaching Momo. Add in the fact that Yuki notices that the Spyce is less effective for her in this episode, and I have to once again bring up the idea that Yuki is being set up to die soon.

Release the Spyce Episode 7: Mind control is rough

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Mei torments Byakko

I’m not sure if this episode counted as an introduction for Goemon as a character, but I thought it was entertaining. It definitely felt like the episode had some holes in it, but I liked it more than Fuu and Mei’s episode. That being said, did anyone else think that this episode seemed way too similar to Kingsman, with the friendly agent getting caught up in the villain’s experiment and going on a killing spree? Oh right, I’m not supposed to make references…

Moryo starts testing their drug

Look, we all know that the bad guys always have some reason to be immune to their own villainous toxin, but the show could at least put a little effort into making me believe it. Gas mask under the fake face? Vaccine injected before releasing the toxin? Just say it and I’ll believe you.

Hatsume offers to keep Theresia's allegiance a secret from everyone else in Tsukikage

Ignoring how hilarious it is that Hatsume just tells Theresia that she’s in Tsukikage, I do respect the fact that Hatsume wants an honest relationship with Theresia. It’s an honest attempt to get Theresia to defect, and it probably avoids some future excuse when allegiances become clear.

Goemon attacks a crime boss alone

I like the idea of throwing Goemon on a rampage to reveal that she’s the strongest fighter in Tsukikage. It’s also set up in a subtle way when she’s shown to be the most athletic member at the beginning of the episode. She’s the only one who isn’t out of breath when the trainees are running together.

Hatsume trying to talk sense into Goemon

I just wish that the episode had put a little snippet in to explain why Goemon was doing what she was doing. It sounded like different people were following different orders when they were hit with the gas, so why did Goemon specifically attack a mob base? Did she just interpret a broad order? Also, I would have preferred to see a scene like this to give better context to why Goemon was caught in the gas in the first place. All we got was that she said that she was going to her part-time job, but that excuse didn’t seem real. Did she double back to look at the swimsuits again?

Theresia reporting in

So…Theresia is turning?

Release the Spyce Episode 6: New allies and enemies?

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Bad guys looking at a screen

There were certainly some strange moments in this episode, but I liked a decent amount of it. I especially thought it was cool that the main characters immediately acknowledge how suspicious Theresia’s transfer was, and Hatsume accepts the conclusion without making a big fuss out of it. Momo seemed to step things up in this episode, which is nice to see, but I got the sense that she kind of fizzled a bit.

Hatsume making friends with Byakko

Part of me wonders if Hatsume’s relationship with Byakko is meant to suggest that she’ll fail to make amends with Theresia. Honestly, the overwhelming majority of the evidence suggests the opposite, since Theresia is on a clear path to redemption, but it just doesn’t sit well with me if Hatsume just befriends everyone.

Young Theresia learns about betrayal

This scene was hard to watch for me. This line was so unbearably obvious that it almost didn’t feel worth mentioning. Yeah, I get that Theresia was a child, so she probably wouldn’t understand that Hatsume wouldn’t have control of the conversation until after her ransom was paid. Either way, this isn’t the most interesting backstory.

Hatsume and Katrina talk about traitors

This conversation really throws a wrench in the traitor idea. Katrina was one of my initial suspects for traitor since she’s so far removed from the rest of the group, but it seems weird for her to call attention to it. Maybe she wants to gauge the group’s suspicious, but it’s still drawing attention to a conversation no one was having. Of course, Hatsume could also be the traitor, so who knows?

Momo and Goe arrive

I was somewhat disappointed in this scene. Momo seems to correctly deduce that something is off with Theresia, so she forces her way into the situation to give Theresia less room to move. That was a great move which shows Momo proactively contributing to the group, so it’s nice to see. It just…doesn’t really go anywhere. Momo ends up siding with Theresia later, so it almost seems like the scene is leading up to a lick later. The scene felt a bit wasted to me.

Theresia gets upset with Hatsume

Theresia, you’re kind of showing your hand pretty early. The group was already suspicious of her, so her animosity towards Hatsume should be a big flag, right?

Big bad covered in blood

So…why did we need to hide this woman’s face again? Do we even know who she is? Based on the sword she uses and her apparent connection with Tsukikage, I would guess that she’s the agent who used the sword before Momo, but I’m not sure that gets us much.