Spring 2019 Grab Bag Week 2: Isekai Quartet, Midara na Ao-chan wa Benkyou ga Dekinai

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I’ve got a short post for today.

It's a trap

Isekai Quartet First Impressions (1)

It’s a simple concept, but I think it works well. Take a bunch of isekai shows and bring those characters to yet another world to see how they interact. I was totally on board when I heard about it and watching the first two episodes has been fun. It’s true that I don’t know the Re:Zero characters too well, but I’m sure I can make it up as I go along.

Aqua panics

Well, I assume this is the closest we’re getting to a third season of Konosuba, so I accept. It’s comforting to see that Aqua will always be Aqua regardless of what world she’s in.

The world gets weird

I’m curious to see how seriously this series takes itself. So far, it doesn’t seem to be doing much, but there does seem to be some overarching reason to put these characters in a school together. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being a joke…in fact, I might actually prefer it that way. I don’t know how to take Kazuma seriously anymore.

Tanya was born in a scientific civilization

I hope the main characters of each show get to interact more. Given that Ains is pulling off an act and Tanya’s actually a salaryman, having the main four characters figure out that they’re all Japanese would probably be hilarious.

Ao introduces herself

Midara na Ao-chan wa Benkyou ga Dekinai First Impressions (1)

Not to be confused with the other series in this seasons about students who aren’t able to study, I suppose this one’s the short version. The concept is a bit out there, but at least it makes for funny misunderstandings. I don’t know if I’m supposed to be ashamed about it, but I think this series ends up being good for a casual romance.

Ao is surrounded by perverts

I guess it must be rough to be Ao, huh? To be honest, I like this series so far for not going as far as other similar series I’ve seen. Ane Log is an example that immediately comes to mind. Ao’s misunderstandings are based on her experiences with a perverted father, but she doesn’t take every statement to the extreme, which makes it less tedious to watch.

Ao's father intervenes

If I were going to point out anything about this series, I think it would just be that I prefer when the show doesn’t make Ao’s father interfere directly. This scene in the first episode where he pulls up her shirt seemed way too excessive. Surely, there are better ways to get the two main characters together initially.

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Isekai Izakaya Review: The most important beer in the other world

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Questioning whether the food is good

I’ve always been a sucker for a cooking show, and this one’s a pretty light one. Split across 24 half-length episodes, this series follows a Japanese bar named Izakaya Nobu, which is connected to another world. Together, the two Japanese characters work to serve a range of customers coming from a completely different culture. It’s a premise very similar to the series Isekai Shokudou, so it’s hard not to compare the two.

Tactical retreat is important

I do think that this series does a lot to distinguish itself. From an adaptation standpoint, each episode ends with a return to the real world. A short segment after the credits will feature either a local bar somewhere in Japan or a recipe related to the main dish in the episode. Anime food is fun to watch and all, but seeing real-world food can be pretty appetizing.

The girl is hard to please

While Isekai Shokudou brought with it a wide set of characters, each with vastly different backgrounds, Isekai Izakaya is probably a bit more focused. The series tends to focus more on how the restaurant fits into the society of the other world, and the characters are all local to a particular part of that world. As such, many characters recur, which builds a stronger sense of community within the series.

Wondering about the elder

Additionally, the setting of Isekai Izakaya has more of a Western medieval atmosphere, as opposed to the clear fantasy setting of its counterpart. As a result, I think the series loses out on the clear “other world” feeling when it’s introducing its characters, but the issues that the main characters face feel a lot more relatable as a result. I suppose it’s a matter of preference.

Confusion

Overall, I personally think that it’s unfortunate that this series aired so soon after Isekai Shokudou, since I think that show takes the same concept and does a better job. That being said, this series has a lot of things going for it, and tends to be more inspiring from a practical standpoint. Many of the items in the show are standard Japanese food, but the episodes end with fun variations that brought new ideas for experimentation in the kitchen.

Overall Score: 7/10

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.

Random First Impressions Summer 2018: Isekai Edition

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I’m travelling this weekend, so I’m keeping this one quick. But there’s totally a theme for this post. Clearly, I’m putting in a lot of effort, right?

Overlord

It’s a bit late in the game, but I’ve been enjoying the third season of Overlord. In comparison to the second season, there’s a lot more focus on Ainz’s inner monologue. It’s probably because the second season spent so much time on the lizard people, but the monologues are one of my favorite things to watch in this series.

It’s hard not to relate to this guy. Being the supreme overlord of a game takes practice, right?

Yes, it does.

I’m not going to lie. I really didn’t see this one coming. It makes sense when you think about it, but it still surprised me to see this.

Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo no Dorei Majutsu

I’ve been reading the manga for this series for a bit now, so I was looking forward to watching this. So far, it’s been pretty fun, which is how I felt about the manga. As I said before, the inner monologue in Overlord is my favorite part, so this series is kind of a different version of it. I know a lot of it is pretty typical for isekai (among other things), but I enjoy it. Go figure…

If only this act worked in real life. I should try it.

Winter 2018 Grab Bag Week 8: Mahoutsukai no Yome, Death March

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I really want 3-gatsu to come back…

I’m travelling for work this week, so I apologize for only doing two shows again.

Mahoutsukai no Yome Episode 20

It’s episodes like this one that make me really wonder how this series is going to end. Chise is already someone with a shortened lifespan and she seems to keep piling things on. At this point, it will take a miracle to keep her alive.

I gotta admit. This “wow” was funnier than I expected.

There’s an interesting idea in this line. It’s a common idea that people who commit suicide are acting selfishly by disregarding the people who care for them for personal solace. From Elias’s perspective, you could make the argument that Chise does the same thing by taking the suffering of others on to herself. Given how little she values herself, she probably sees it as ultimately beneficial, but Elias doesn’t see it the same way.

Death March Episode 7

I haven’t talked with this series in a while because my opinion of it really hasn’t changed. When I was reading the manga, I saw this series as pretty average, as it doesn’t do anything special as an isekai show. However, the anime has been giving me more of a negative impression because I feel like it doesn’t work well as an adaptation.

Nothing against Mia, of course. She’s adorable.

I really don’t understand why this series relies so much on photo montages to pass the time. I can understand having them occasionally, but this series feels like it’s largely showing me a series of screenshots instead of a moving picture.

Anime Review: Isekai Shokudou

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I mentioned this series while it was airing, but I didn’t really say much about it. While this series didn’t really do anything crazy as a slice of life show, I looked forward to watching it every week. Admittedly, I probably have a bias in favor of food shows. And that’s pretty much what this series is. It revolves around a Western restaurant in Japan connected to a fantasy world. Every week, the restaurant opens, allowing the other world’s residents to enter and eat.

I said it before, but I found the reactions to the food in this series very charming. The descriptions generally felt a lot more accessible to me than those of other food shows. The show presented characters that were legitimately experiencing a new world of food and doing their best to describe it with what they knew. Maybe I’m just too much of a food pleb, but that was the impression I got.

Much of the show revolves around introducing each character and focusing on their unique perspective within the restaurant. I liked that the episode individualized each character with their own “story” while also giving them a favorite dish to further act as an identity. I’d also say that this show was one of those rare cases where I noticeably liked the character designs.

This series probably falls under the category of “relaxing” anime, and I think the music certainly helps. The background music sounds whimsical as the characters experience the restaurant, but it also has tracks that sound mysterious as they discover the strange restaurant. I thought it was a satisfying experience overall to watch this series, even if I might not remember it in five years.

Overall Score: 7/10

Summer 2017: Other shows of the season

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Since there was no Re:Creators episode this week, I’m going to take the time to talk about some of the other series I’m watching in this season. It has been a pretty ridiculous season for me (I think I’m up to 28 shows that I’m actively watching), so I won’t go through everything.

Nana Maru San Batsu

I admit that this series initially intrigued me solely because I was a member of the quiz bowl team in high school and college (granted my high school team was very casual). I think the series does a good job of exploring concepts in quiz bowl strategy pretty well, focusing on the techniques used to gain an edge in a competition. I assume most people see quiz bowl as something for people with a lot of base knowledge in multiple subjects. This is true to an extent, but I think it’s fun even if your knowledge is very specialized (like mine was).

The main problem I have with this series is the fact that it tends to beat a joke to death more often than I’d like. For example, the first episode was constantly obsessed with the heroine’s striped panties and the second episode went a bit overboard with zettai ryouiki (not a bad reference, but a bit overdone). And I’m no expert on quiz bowl, but some of the formats seem pretty obscure.

Youkoso Jitsuryoku Shijou Shugi no Kyoushitsu e

I’m really not sure what to make of this series yet. It’s an interesting setup, a competitive school where classes compete over academic merit. It certainly has the makings of an interesting psychological experience as the main characters struggle to overtake the other classes. There’s just something about the series that feels like it’s trying too hard.

I think the main example of this is the quotes at the start of the episode. They’re pretty profound quotes, yes, but they’re not subtle at all. I guess I generally prefer when a seemingly innocuous event earlier in an episode makes me go “oh, that’s what that meant” later in the episode. Instead, this series just plasters it across the screen at the very beginning. Maybe I’m just being nitpicky.

The Fluff

These shows don’t have a whole lot going on, so I’ve grouped them together.

Centaur no Nayami

I thought I was going to skip this series, but I think I was a bit quick to judge it. For some reason, I thought it was just going to follow a centaur that stood out in a normal school environment, but it’s actually an alternate reality. My bad. It’s entertaining enough, but I think it’s a bit heavy on the discrimination part. I get that it’s the message, but it feels forced in some situations (like during the history lesson in the first episode). Plus, it assumes that species would tend to converge on human-like intelligence, which is something that has always bothered me.

Isekai Shokudou

This show is just a pleasure to watch every week. It takes a simple concept of a restaurant connected to another world and uses it to introduce a swath of fantasy characters. There’s also something charming about watching a fantasy character react to a completely different world’s food (and the reactions to the free water are hilarious too).

Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni

I said I’d only watch one isekai series in this season, but I ended up watching them both. This series is a lot more standard than Isekai Shokudou. It’s just a seemingly random guy in our world reincarnated as an overpowered guy in another world. But hey…this time, he’s got a smartphone. That’s new. I don’t really hate it, though.