Infinite Dendrogram Light Novel Review: My valiant attempt to hype the anime

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With the recent announcement of an anime adaptation, I thought I’d take a stab at light novel reviews by posting my thoughts on the source material for Infinite Dendrogram. I’ve read up to volume 8 of the official English release, and I’m going to use some direct quotes from the later volumes. However, they shouldn’t reveal any future plot points, so the goal is to stay spoiler-free.

“You can become a hero or the demon king, a king or a slave, a good person or an evil person. You can do something, or you can do nothing… Just like the Embryo in your left hand, what’s about to begin is infinite in possibility.”

Cheshire

The story of Infinite Dendrogram centers around a VRMMO with the same name, released as a seemingly unprecedented success in realistic “full dive” immersion. Our main character is Reiji Mukudori, known online as Ray Starling. He is invited to play Infinite Dendrogram by his brother, and we follow him as he discovers the world within the game.

Along with his brother and other player characters, Ray fights alongside Nemesis, his “Embryo” born from his actions within the game. Embryo are an in-game special item that is unique to each player and can take almost any shape, even a tank. Nemesis is even more unique as a Maiden-type Embryo, with a human-like appearance and a mind of her own.

“I’d never cared much for any NPCs who’d died in other games, but it was different here. It gave me a lump in my throat. Even if I knew this was a game, I didn’t think I could ever get used to seeing people die here. That might’ve been because *Infinite Dendrogram* was simply far too realistic.”

Ray

At its core, I think series explores the line between reality and fiction, with a healthy dose of artificial intelligence to spice things up. The world of Infinite Dendrogram is a somewhat standard fantasy world, and the players choose to inhabit one of its major kingdoms. However, the world has its own history, and the NPCs, called “tians”, will interact “realistically” with the players, which almost makes it akin to an isekai.

This fact becomes important because it can often become difficult to tell the difference between a player and a tian, allowing the series to pose the general question of what truly separates the two. The tians worship the players as undying “Masters”, but they also have their own lives to live.

“I… I can’t log out,” I muttered as I fell to my knees.

“You sound like the protagonist of a death game VRMMO story,” Nemesis commented.

Sorry if it comes at a disappointment, but the drama in this series isn’t driven by a mysterious game master trapping its users in the game. In fact, most of the conflict in this series is character-driven. The game definitely throw in its fair share of twists, with insane boss and the like, but the story seems to heavily emphasize character choice.

As a result, the story tends to have really strong character development. On a surface level, you can clearly see how Ray improves himself within the game and gains new abilities, but you can also see how he changes on a personal level. Especially as he interacts more with the tians, there’s a lot going on.

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As a fair warning, the story uses a ton of foreshadowing. Ray is regularly getting caught up in some unknown entity’s secret plot. I tend to like that aspect, but I’m not always sure. On the one hand, it makes nearly every scene important, as the scene is invariably referenced in some later reveal. And to be fair, there are some legitimately surprising reveals in this series.

However, some of these reveals tend to be super obvious, which makes me sometimes wonder if the story is giving itself away too much. You could argue that these reveals are intentionally put in to point out how dense Ray is, though. Part of me wonders how an anime adaptation might handle those little hints.

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And to top it all off, the series just has a nice sense of humor in general. For example, the series has a character with a chess piece name ask what castling is or has another character immediately throw a new shield like Captain America. I really enjoy jokes like that. There’s clearly some deeper mystery going on at any given point, but the series never seems to forget that the players are just having fun at the end of the day. You may have to sit through a few bear puns, though.

So, that’s my general take on Infinite Dendrogram. It’s available in English if you’re interested in reading it, and I recommend checking it out. Otherwise, the anime’s on its way, and I’m hoping it turns out well.

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Zombieland Saga Review: Not the zombie series you signed up for

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Sakura has the best faces

This series ended up being a crazy set of ups and downs for me. It had an explosive opening that definitely caught me off-guard. I didn’t really have an issue buying into the premise of zombie idols attempting to save Saga, and I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the first few episodes. I preferred the show when it was at its most insane levels, delivering absurd parodies of typical idol shows. When it winds down, though, it ends up being not too much different than the shows it satirizes, albeit with more ridiculous character backgrounds.

The legendary rap battle

Additionally, the story feels incomplete in the end. Sakura, the main character, ends up being a bummer in the show’s final moments, and her ultimate significance is only hinted at. Given that she’s the core of the story despite being a purported normal girl, it makes sense that the show revolves around her, but I didn’t feel too satisfied with the explanation.

Tae mimics Saki

Overall, I can’t be too upset with the general theme of the series. It takes the standard idea of overcoming individual flaws with the help of friends and amps it up to absurd levels by giving the characters the bad luck of literally dying. From a character perspective, I also liked some of the stories, like Saki’s story, but it was a bit sad that some of the characters didn’t seem to get any focus, like Yuugiri and Tae. Tae happened to be my favorite character, so it was sad that Sakura got a second awakening while Tae was pushed off to the side.

The girls get covered in mud

At the end of the day, the series was an enjoyable experience. It definitely wasn’t the show I was expecting to see when I loaded up the first episode, but I think it still ended up being better than I could have expected. The highlights of the show for me are probably the rap battle in episode 2 and pretty much everything that Tae does.

Overall Score: 6/10

Good for a lot of laughs, but the show gets really weird when it tries to be serious.

Summer 2018 Overview

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It seems like fall series are airing earlier than I expected, so I’ll deal with this last bit on the summer season. As always, this post is a look at my impressions of the shows I watched in Summer 2018, split into four totally arbitrary categories. Let me know what you think, and feel free to share your own thoughts on the season. I thought Summer 2018 was pretty fun, and I ended up watching more shows than normal.

What I Liked

  • Happy Sugar Life

Marth’s Synopsis: There was only supposed to be one crazy character in this show, but they’re everywhere.

I actually held off on reading the manga for this series. I think it was mostly because I was skeptical of the hype. That being said, this series surprised me, and I might end up reading the manga after all. Despite how insane the premise gets, the story seemed smartly written and the developments were fun to watch. The series also did a great job of keeping me guessing and messing with my expectations.

  • Planet With

Marth’s Synopsis: Revenge is nice, but love and forgiveness save the world.

I thought I’d become jaded by some of the mecha series I’ve watched, but this series pushed those thoughts aside. The series felt like it had the perfect mix of serious and lighthearted, and the pacing of the story was extremely impressive. It had a decent message behind it, and the main conflict felt like it was handled well. Some of the characters do get pushed a bit to the background, but I thought the series was really enjoyable overall.

  • Steins;Gate 0

Marth’s Synopsis: My time travel story can’t possibly be so tragic.

It’s not quite at the level of the original, but this series was still pretty enjoyable. I did think it was disappointing that the series sets up interesting ideas about artificial intelligence only to put them to the side. However, I was still impressed with how the series managed to introduce new implications and facets of the time travel in their world that I don’t think were present in the original. It made the side story all the more intriguing to watch, and I’m glad I did.

What I Liked (Part 2)

  • Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo no Dorei Majutsu

Marth’s Synopsis: When in doubt, just act like a demon lord and everyone will love you.

Putting this series here feels like cheating because I was looking forward to the adaptation after having liked the manga. Still, adaptations can always be sketchy, so I’m just glad it wasn’t too crazy. Some of the scenes I liked didn’t make it into the adaptation and other scenes went lewder than I expected, but it was fun overall. Maybe I just relate to Diablo too much. Sometimes, it’s just easier to act like a demon lord when you don’t know what to say.

  • Hataraku Saibou

Marth’s Synopsis: Making you almost feel bad for the sicknesses that make you suffer.

This series was another one in the season that was just fun to watch. It was absurd enough to be funny while have mixing in some truly heartwarming moments, all while acting under the guise of an educational series. I’m not sure how educational it ends up being (because I studied this stuff in college), but I had a good time. Some parts of the series start to feel repetitive, and I honestly think that the more wholesome scenes are where the series does best, but I can’t really complain.

  • Persona 5

Marth’s Synopsis: Edgy kids change the hearts of adults to fix society.

I covered most of this in the post I wrote about what I liked in the series, but the adaptation has been pretty fun for me to watch. I think it’s mostly because it likes to reference the game a lot even if the pacing is a fairly rushed. As someone who played the game (and can therefore pay less attention to the story), there’s a lot still left for me to see. That being said, this adaptation was probably torture for anime-only viewers, which is kind of a shame because the story’s not bad. I’m especially surprised with how the series ended..it just feels like a huge troll.

  • Yama no Susume S3

Marth’s Synopsis: Cute girls climb mountains for the third time.

I managed to catch up with the second season in time to watch the third season. As someone who likes exploring mountains myself, this show has always appealed to me. I found the part of the season focused on Hinata to be fairly awkward to watch, but I thought that this season’s focus on how much Aoi has progressed was pretty nice.

Middle Area

  • Asobi Asobase

Marth’s Synopsis: Puppets are funny, and don’t judge a book by its cover.

The idea of not judging a book by its cover feels like the central theme of this series. By that, I mean that every character falls into a stereotype visually, but the reality is something completely different. For example, you have the bookish girl who needs help with English, the foreign-looking girl who is fluent in Japanese, and the love-obsessed idiot who’s actually a rich girl as the main characters. It’s a comedy show that leans heavily towards the ridiculous side, and it was pretty entertaining to watch, but I didn’t think it was particularly special.

  • Harukana Receive

Marth’s Synopsis: It turns out beach volleyball can involve girls wearing swimsuits.

This series was pretty chill for a sports series. The character drama didn’t feel overplayed, and the rivalries between characters made sense. I say this because it aired in the same season as Hanebado, and I really couldn’t say the same for that show. I thought that the animation quality was noticeably weaker in this series in distracting ways (the sand in particular really bothered me). But hey, those reaction faces were great.

  • Overlord S3

Marth’s Synopsis: The overlord finally decides to take over the world.

This series is still fun to watch. CG scenes can look pretty wonky, but I think the differing perspectives in the show make it entertaining. I feel like the series tends to do a better job with the “unfair” character deaths than Angolmois did, since the characters who die really feel like they have something worth living for.

  • Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro

Marth’s Synopsis: Girl with video game brain tries to go to school without making a scene…that isn’t from a video game.

I read the manga for this series before the anime aired, and I was mostly tired of it by that time. The adaptation didn’t add all that much to the manga, but it wasn’t boring to watch it all over again. At the very least, watching the way the characters treat each other is pretty hilarious, and the video game references are cool.

Middle Area (Part 2)

  • Angolmois – Genkou Kassenki

Marth’s Synopsis: The Mongols invade a tiny island on the way to Japan.

This series did a decent job of satisfying my interest with historical series for this season. I personally didn’t have too much of an issue with the filter that put over every scene, but I did have problems with how the series escalates in the end. I liked the idea of watching the main characters struggle to survive what should be a losing battle, but it was depressing to see how little the characters were explored.

  • Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi

Marth’s Synopsis: Cooking saves the day, spirit-realm edition.

As I said when I posted about the second half of this series before, I thought it was weird that the second half seemed to hit a reset button on the first half. Aoi is brought to a new inn where everyone hates her and she has to once again win each character over individually through meddling and cooking. I didn’t really like how repetitive that felt. That being said, I did like how the series ended. The story of the umi-bouzu was pretty much the kind of story I like to see in this type of series.

  • Jashin-chan Dropkick

Marth’s Synopsis: Snake demon is killed and maimed repeatedly.

I feel like this is another comedy series that wears itself out. I guess I just get tired of watching Jashin-chan lose over and over again. I didn’t hate watching the series, but it felt mostly mindless and I doubt I’ll remember much of it after it’s done. But hey, gore is always good, right?

  • Shingeki no Kyojin S3

Marth’s Synopsis: This time, let’s do it without the titans!

I thought this season went in an interesting direction by focusing on humans fighting humans rather than titans. I didn’t mind the shift, especially since it brings out new weapons and spends time looking at how different people react to killing humans. Couple this idea with the revelation from the last season, and it’s an interesting way of framing the war against the titans, even if the titans are largely absent.

Meh

  • Kyoto Teramachi Sanjou no Holmes

Marth’s Synopsis: Antiques are basically like mysteries, kids!

This series always felt like a chore to watch. I’m all for bringing the character of Holmes into new areas, but I wasn’t a fan of this rendition. The appraiser aspect of the Holmes character could have been an interesting mix of deduction with subjective appreciation for art, but I never got that sense. Instead, Holmes has one personality for critiquing art, in which he uses vague “feelings” to judge the pieces, and a different personality for solving mysteries, in which he actually makes deductions. That just feels like tacking on a detective aspect to the show. And the romantic angle was pretty disappointing in the end…oh well.

  • Satsuriku no Tenshi

Marth’s Synopsis: Girl really wants the bandaged, scythe-wielding murderer to kill her because…reasons.

This series really drew me in with its base premise of the frightened girl with the mysterious past and the crazy murder-happy guy with the scythe trying to escape some kind of insane asylum. It’s hard to even judge the series well since it’s still not technically complete. I think the sudden change in personality for Rachel will alway bother me in the series. She went from a fairly typical character who felt believable to a pretty flat character that didn’t seem to contribute for a while. The “final revelation” also seemed too casual, if that even is the final revelation.

Dropped

You can’t really give a witty synopsis if you didn’t finish the series, right?

  • Hanebado

I don’t really have anything new to say about this series. It looks really great for a sports series, and the badminton games are enjoyable to watch. However, the character interactions are just too much for me. They always feel like they’re dialing the tension up way too high to the point where it has the opposite effect and I can’t take them seriously. My initial impression of the series was also fairly negative, which didn’t help. I wasn’t a fan of how the characters dragged Ayano back to the team, so I admit I had a persistent nagging feeling when watching.

  • Island

I watched because it seemed like a promising take on time travel. It did seem to incorporate ideas of the infinite time loop, but I probably stopped before anything was explained. Maybe the VN handles things better, but what I saw was intriguing but ultimately a bit too confusing to me. The exploration of the side characters’ stories also didn’t feel like they contributed to the main story as much as they should have. I might eventually finish the series to see whether the time travel angle goes anywhere, but I wasn’t really feeling motivated.

  • Shichisei no Subaru

My thoughts on this series aren’t too different from my thoughts on Hanebado. The character interactions always felt overly dramatic, and it was hard to buy into them enough to feel for the characters. Also, the premise of the series always seemed like it was a bit too absurd. The game mechanics were so extreme that they didn’t feel believable. It was starting to feel like a chore to watch for me, so I just cut it off.

Talking about Persona 5 the Animation and what I think it does well

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Spoilers for Persona 5 boss and character identities.

Persona 5 the Animation as an adaptation certainly has its share of issues. The series has the typical pacing problem that comes with condensing a long game into a TV adaptation, but it goes a bit further than that. The animation quality looks generally disappointing, and the series is missing a lot of the flair that the game had. That being said, the purpose of this post is to focus on the part that I think the adaptation gets right, more so than what I remember from Persona 4 the Animation: a respect for the game’s mechanics.

The simplest example of this idea lies in the ending themes. In the first ending, the animation started by showing the victory animation from the game. In the game, it would show you character experience point gain, but the anime instead uses it as a preview for the next episode. In the second ending, we see the animation used in the game when you sleep. The calendar shifts to the next day of the month, and a knife stabs the new date. The anime instead uses the knife to stab the next episode’s number. These are small things, but they’re great easter eggs for people who played the game.

I made many jokes in the first few episodes about the use of turn-based combat in the adaptation, and how it didn’t make sense in that context. I somewhat stand by that statement, but I also think that it contributes to the idea of incorporating aspects of the game. In Ryuuji’s first fight after awakening Captain Kidd, the three characters face three different Shadows. Ryuuji, Ren, and Morgana each take turns attacking these Shadows, and the scene ends with an All-Out Attack to defeat the enemies.

In the game, All-Out Attacks are triggered when all enemies are “downed”, which happens when a Shadow is hit with an element they are weak against. As it so happens, that’s what we’re seeing in this scene. Each character hits with the appropriate advantaged element from the game, and the All-Out Attack triggers once they all land.

That example may have been too simple, so I’ll give another example. Let’s turn our attention to Madarame’s boss fight. In this fight, the main characters face off against floating paintings of facial features. We start out by seeing the initial mechanic from the game. When a magic spell is cast on the eye painting, it gets drained. The same happens when a physical attack is used against the mouth painting. It’s a basic mechanic from the game’s boss fight.

However, the adaptation takes it a step further. In the game, the paintings have a skill that covers a party member with black paint, making that party member vulnerable to all forms of damage. This mechanic isn’t used in the anime in this way. Instead, the main characters use the black paint themselves to cover the paintings. When they do that, they’re able to cast magic spells on all of the paintings. So, the anime creatively takes a mechanic of the game’s boss fight and uses it in a unique way.

Still not convinced? I’ve got one more example, then. In the game, the protagonist can interact with his allies in the real world, building trust and gaining “Confidant” levels to earn bonuses in the Metaverse. We see most of the non-playable Confidants making brief cameos throughout the anime version. In the game, this mechanic is largely reserved for the protagonist, but we see a different version in the anime.

In the anime, Makoto and Ann reconcile in the real world after Ann accuses Makoto of doing nothing during the Kamoshida incident. It’s a scene that exists in the game, but it’s used for a different purpose in the anime. Immediately after that interaction, the anime shifts back to the Metaverse, and the female pair is shown working together to defeat a Shadow. Real world relationship-building is used to increase their power within the Metaverse. In the game, this type of bonus was restricted to the protagonist, but the anime achieves the same effect without involving Ren at all.

With that all said, I’ll end on this. Persona 5 might be an awkward adaptation, but I suspect that these elements are meant to allow the series to appeal to game veterans in addition to people new to the story. It’s a feeling I didn’t get as much from the Persona 4 adaptation because it was more of a straightforward piece.

Since I played the game, I’m not sure I can speak to whether the series appropriately accounts for viewers who aren’t familiar with the game. For me, these scenes along with the random side character cameos are what make the series more fun to watch. So for the people who didn’t play the game, how have you felt about the series?

Spring 2018 Overview

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Another season has passed. Well, sort of. There are still a few stragglers, and a surprising number of shows are carrying into the next season. I considered splitting this post into three parts, but it felt too much like I was cheating for extra posts. Let’s do this!

What I Liked

  • Golden Kamuy – This series was certainly a nice surprise. It starts out with a fairly grim premise. The main characters are trying to find a hidden treasure by tracking down a bunch of escaped criminals with pieces of a map tattooed on their bodies. But the show mixes in so many funny moments that it tends to balance out. The series also felt like an entertaining look into an indigenous tribe of people I didn’t even know existed. Not that that’s saying much…
  • Last Period – The surprises pile on further with this series. I totally expected this series to be a pretty generic comedy series, but it was actually a blast to watch. The show especially appealed to me since I’ve played a few mobile games. The show constantly rips on mobile games in really funny ways. And somehow, this series managed to have my favorite fight scene in the season (Mao’s fight was close).
  • Hinamatsuri – While Golden Kamuy aired more on the side of the serious and Last Period was more “meta”, this series really went for the ridiculous instead. The show handled itself well, with some surprisingly heartfelt scenes mixed in among the comedy.
  • Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – This is kind of unfair because I was heavily looking forward to this series, and the adaptation had to mess up really badly to screw that up. I like this show mostly for its characters. They represent somewhat separate aspects of otaku fandom, but they come together for their common interest.
  • Piano no Mori – I still need to get around to watching the movie version of this series, but this adaptation did a good job of holding my interest. It had a weird supernatural aspect that didn’t sit well with me in the beginning, but the story quickly pushes past that and moves into a look at the world of competitive piano.
  • Steins;Gate 0 – This series is another one I was looking forward to watching. It was slow at first, but I think it has been picking up more rapidly than the original. The mystery seems interesting so far, but there’s still plenty of story left to cover.
  • Boku no Hero Academia S3 – I don’t really have anything new to say.

Middle Area

  • Comic Girls – This adaptation ended up being more entertaining than I expected after reading the manga. Maybe it was the Kaos noises.
  • Juushinki Pandora – This series was pretty decent as a mecha series. The fights were interesting, and I like the setting both for its post-apocalyptic concept and its Chinese-inspired culture. The “science” gets a bit ridiculous, but the rest of the show is alright.
  • Persona 5 – I had a lot more fun watching this adaptation than I expected I would. However, I do acknowledge that this series seems like it would be a lot better for people who have already played the game. It was entertaining for me, but I think it’s a pretty weak adaptation overall, since it doesn’t do as much for the people who aren’t familiar with the game.
  • Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online – This story turned being better than I expected. The series seemed more focused on the actual game mechanics than the original, so it had a different kind of appeal that worked for me. I think it stood well on its own without considering the original series.
  • Gundam Build Divers – The general theme of online community felt a bit overplayed, but this series wasn’t too bad. It’s a bit childish for my liking, so it ended up being just okay.
  • Shokugeki no Souma S3 Part 2 – Honestly, I liked this season mostly for the backstory we got for Jouichirou. His story is probably my favorite from when I read the manga.
  • Isekai Izakaya – Not bad for a wannabe Isekai Shokudou.
  • Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai – This series started out pretty well. The character relationships were pretty good, and the episodes had an interesting way of anchoring around a concept. I just wasn’t a big fan of the ending, which brought down my general opinion of the series.

Special short mention: Fumikiri Jikan – Even though the episodes are 3 minutes long, they’re pretty funny. They’re a nice look at the idle thoughts of people forced to wait at a railroad crossing near other people. It’s certainly a familiar experience.

Meh

  • Darling in the Franxx – I wasn’t the biggest fan of the series in the first half, and the second half really hasn’t helped. It’s still possible that the series nails the ending, but I don’t have high hopes.
  • Saredo Tsumibito wa Ryuu to Odoru – I was really disappointed with how this series approached its setting. It introduced a sci-fi take on magic only to sweep it aside. The mechanisms of the magic and the effects the magic has on the world are never really explored. Instead, we get a poorly introduced world, and we’re immediately thrown into a political struggle between the main ruling entities of that world. And the ending was really strange…the main antagonist of the arc just dies off-screen.
  • Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi – This series was a bit unfortunate. It’s not really that bad…I just found it boring. It doesn’t seem to do anything particularly noteworthy.
  • Grancrest Senki – This really isn’t too different from last season. The series started to get more interesting when it moved towards battles between larger armies, but the pacing of the story always seemed like an overwhelming negative. Most characters weren’t ever really explored, which resulted in many boring death scenes. The “twist” at the end also wasn’t set up well.
  • 3D Kanojo – You know…I didn’t remember disliking the manga so much, but watching the anime was really a struggle. I got the sense that Tsutsui was more of a jerk than most normal romance protagonists.
  • Caligula – This series started off promising, with a Persona-like premise and an interesting psychological take. But much of the series felt like a waste of time, and the ending was ultimately unsatisfying. There’s something to be said about the focus on social behaviors and redemption, but they didn’t really appeal to me.

Dropped

  • Devils Line – I was watching a lot in this season, and I wasn’t particularly convinced by the first episode.
  • Dorei-ku – I wanted to give this series a shot because the premise seemed interesting, but the show just felt like it was making less and less sense as it went on. So, I just gave up…
  • Tokyo Ghoul;re – I fell behind on this series and didn’t really have the motivation to catch up again.

Fall 2017 Overview

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It’s about time to go over all of the shows I watched in the fall season. I actually quite liked this season. Plenty of shows were duds, but I felt like there was a lot of really entertaining shows to watch.

What I Liked

  • Houseki no Kuni – This series was a pretty big surprise for me since I hadn’t heard of the manga before it aired. It had an interesting world, an entertaining main character with nice character growth, and fun side characters. Phos also has the best facial expressions. I enjoyed watching it every week.
  • 3-gatsu no Lion S2 – My opinion on this series hasn’t really changed from the first season. It’s a great show to watch. The difference in Rei’s character from the first season is amazing.
  • Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou – This series was a nice, relaxing series for the season, which was strange given the post-apocalyptic setting. Still, it was always fun to watch. In many ways, I felt like the series had many of the aspects I expected from Kino no Tabi, proposing interesting concepts while travelling the world.
  • Mahoutsukai no Yome – I really like this series, but I felt like my reactions to it didn’t reflect that well because I came in knowing I would like it. I’m really happy that the series delivered on my expectations, though.
  • Konohana Kitan – This series was the biggest surprise of the series because I mostly wrote it off as another fluff show. To be fair, it was a fluff show, but the stories were much more interesting than I was expecting them to be.
  • Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – This season of Kekkai Sensen was much better than what I remember from the first season. It focused a lot on side characters who had legitimately fun stories, like Chain and KK. I’m starting to wonder if I was unfair on the first season.
  • Net-juu no Susume – This series was pretty fun overall. There were a couple of things that bugged me, like Sakurai’s self-doubt phase and the lack of focus on side characters, but it was enjoyable to watch. To Sakurai’s credit, I thought he was much smarter than I would expect a romance lead to be.
  • Shoukoku no Altair – This season felt a lot better than the first one because we were seeing a lot of the payoff from Mahmut’s travels. It was really cool to see how the relationships he had built throughout the series changed him and helped him out when he needed to fight.

Middle Area

  • Blend S – Kind of a generic fluff show, but it was funny enough.
  • Inuyashiki – My coverage of this series kinda goes into how I felt about this series. It was okay for the hype, but I didn’t feel like I was getting much out of it. The ending felt really cheap too.
  • Juuni Taisen – This series always felt lacking, but it was still enjoyable to watch. It’s similar to Inuyashiki in that I didn’t feel like I got much out of it, but it didn’t feel as bad because the series felt like it was doing what it set out to do.
  • Kino no Tabi – This series was very hit or miss. I really liked a couple of the episodes, but I’d say most of them were misses in my mind. That’s why it doesn’t get into the first section.
  • Shokugeki no Soma S3 – Kinda more of the same. This season is in a bit of an awkward place because it had to end in the middle of the Central arc (which still isn’t over yet in the manga), so the ending wasn’t satisfying at all.
  • Just Because – This series wasn’t bad as a romance series, but I never felt like it was doing anything special. In fact, I thought the ending relied a bit too much on everything working out, so I didn’t end up liking the final scene that much.
  • Animegataris – This series was great for its anime references and its window into otaku mentality, but I think it lost itself a bit when it tried to create a cohesive story. The story felt out-of-place and forced overall. For example, why is there so much focus on shutting the anime club down?
  • Love Live Sunshine S2 – Meh…kinda more of the same. Not that bad.

Meh

  • Code:Realize: Sousei no Himegimi – I wanted to like this show, but it felt like my initial enthusiasm about the series dropped off as it went along. I felt like many of the episodes had glaringly faulty logic, which gave the impression that stuff just kinda worked out for the main characters. I also thought that the villains in this series were severely lacking. I will admit that the ending wasn’t bad, though, even if it also felt like it kinda worked out for the main characters.
  • Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau – I was so happy with the opening of this series. It introduced an interesting world with a hidden secret, and then it hit a really jarring twist that shook everything apart. But once that initial shock had passed, the series just felt like it wasn’t doing anything. I thought the world as they kept adding more information became less interesting.
  • Fate/Apocrypha – This season felt worse than the first season. It felt like the story just flew in a different direction after the mid-series finale and dragged on in a lot of places.
  • Boku no Kanojo ga Majimesugiru Sho-bitch na Ken – Meh…this series just didn’t feel that funny to me. Not sure what else to say about it.
  • Himouto Umaru-chan S2 – I’m not sure why I jumped on board with the second season of this series. It just kinda happens.
  • Dies Irae – I thought VN adaptations were normally bad, but I think this one takes it up to another level. The fights never looked like much, as though they were literally pulling visuals from the VN itself, and the art style looked strangely old. The pacing also seemed problematic, as the main character seemed to get stronger for no real reason every episode. That being said, I could see hints of what people might have liked from the original, so it didn’t feel totally hopeless.
  • Ousama Game – This series is easily my least favorite of the season. I think I mentioned from episode 1 that the characters seemed strangely dumb, which turned out to be more true than I could have imagined at the time. They’re just frustrating to watch and their actions make no sense whatsoever. The series also strangely jumps between two different times like it doesn’t know which story it actually wants to tell.

Dropped

Haha! This section lives!

  • Black Clover – This series didn’t feel like it was doing anything special as a shounen and there’s no way I can make it through 50 more episodes. The main character is also too annoying for that.
  • Youkai Apartment no Yuuga na Nichijou – After seeing how bland the first half of this series was, I didn’t really want to go through another full season of it, so I didn’t watch any of the episodes that aired in fall.
  • Urahara – I stopped this series after episode 8 because it was getting too strange. I might end up completing the last four episodes later, but I’m not feeling particularly motivated at the moment. The colorful art doesn’t really appeal to me, and the story doesn’t feel like much. I don’t really like the characters either.

Summer 2017 in Review

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Let’s wrap up the summer season. Overall, I felt like this season had a lot of good shows, so I ended up taking on a lot. I’ve added some quick comments, but let me know if you have preferences for which shows should get future reviews. Also, I’m thinking about adding more categories…hopefully that goes somewhere.

What I Liked

  • Owarimonogatari 2nd – This show kinda slipped under the radar because it was released as three episodes. But it really felt like a satisfying conclusion for the Monogatari series and I enjoyed watching it.
  • Made in Abyss – This show did a great job of showing its world on top of the descriptions given by narration or characters. The background for each location was impressive and really made me feel like I was experiencing the world. Also, it had a surprisingly dark tone while trying to convey a pretty standard adventure story otherwise.
  • Princess Principal – This show was interesting in how it introduced its characters and story through a fragmented and non-linear timeline. It also looked and sounded really cool overall.
  • Tsurezure Children – Funny mini-romance stories. This one isn’t really fair because I knew I’d enjoy it going in, but it didn’t disappoint.
  • Isekai Shokudou – As I said in my review, this series was a joy to watch every week. It combines an interesting fantasy world with the kind of food show I tend to enjoy.
  • Re:Creators (Part 2) – Solid ending and climactic fight for this one, even if a lot of time was spent setting it up.
  • Boku no Hero Academia S2 (Part 2) – I don’t have anything to add to what I said in the first half. Still entertaining.

Middle Area

  • Kakegurui – Fun to watch. This show was definitely entertaining and stood out, but I wasn’t too impressed with some of the games or the ending.
  • Sakurada Reset (Part 2) – Second half of this show felt much more interesting than the first half, as it was bringing together many of the pieces set up in the first half. All in all, this show had a very satisfying ending that make the rest of the show seem like it actually had a purpose.
  • Knight’s & Magic – I’m a sucker for giant robots and cool fights, which is why I enjoyed watching this show. I’ll freely admit that the rest of it is pretty sketchy, though.
  • Gamers – Lots of funny gamer references in this show. The misunderstandings could be hit or miss, but they were certainly impressive.
  • Nana Maru San Batsu – This show’s jokes ended up being pretty stale, but I enjoyed watching the quiz bowl aspect of it, especially when they showed the thought process used to figure out an answer.
  • Shoukoku no Altair – Surprisingly interesting for a show revolving around diplomacy in a war situation.
  • Fate/Apocrypha – Interesting new setting for a Fate series, but the fights feel lacking.
  • Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni – Revived human in a new world with the power of a god builds a harem.
  • Sakura Quest – More of the same.
  • Youkoso Jitsuryoku Shijou Shugi no Kyoushitsu e – I already wrote a review for this one, so I won’t repeat myself too much. The show just didn’t feel as smart as it was trying to be.

Meh

  • Centaur no Nayami – This show felt like it was trying really hard to sell me some kind of message while remaining as lighthearted as possible. In the end, it just felt like a less entertaining fluff show.
  • New Game+ – More drama than the first season, but it was mostly just there. Also, the name is definitely “New Game+” and no one can convince me otherwise.
  • Koi to Uso – This show actually started to seem like it was going somewhere in the end, but it was pretty much cut short.
  • Aho Girl – I’m biased against characters like Yoshiko, so I was always going to be annoyed by this show. To its credit, there were some good moments, but I just couldn’t stand Yoshiko.
  • Keppeki Danshi Aoyama-kun – Eh…I just didn’t find this funny.
  • Youkai Apartment no Yuuga na Nichijou – Didn’t seem like anything special. This show just felt boring to watch most of the time, like I’d seen it done better in a different show.
  • Vatican Kiseki Chousakan – I had a bad initial impression for this series because I felt like the first mystery dragged on way too long. The recurring villain in the show also felt like he was thrown in for fun.
  • Hajimete no Gal – Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention while reading the manga, but I don’t remember it being so perverted.

Blogging Principles: Picking and Choosing Blog Post Formats

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I’m going to start this post off with a disclaimer. My goal with this post is not to give some special insight into how you should write posts. I don’t have that kind of expertise. I’m just putting my thoughts on blog post formats out there. I hope it’s helpful, but I’m also interested in how others approach this concept (to see what I could learn from it).

The Summary Post

When I was starting out, my style of posting was pretty simple. My entire post was devoted to talking about what actually happened in the episode. If I was feeling adventurous, I’d add the odd comment or quip. It’s a pretty easy way to start out if you don’t know what to write.

I think this style of post gets its fair share of criticism. Admittedly, it’s probably well-deserved. I’m very aware that it’s a pretty low amount of effort. I certainly made things worse by posting all of my summaries as large blocks of text. But even though I’d never go back to writing posts like these, I would argue that they still have their place.

I’ve always found that I tend to read Wikipedia summaries very often when I watch Western shows. Why only when I watch Western shows? It’s just because anime episode summaries tend to be less available. I do this because I want to see how someone else interpreted the episode I just watched. Which parts did they think were important? Was there an obvious big picture piece that I missed? I’d say summary posts serve a similar role.

The “Analysis” Post

This style is probably my least favorite of the post formats that I’ve used, even if it’s the one I used for the longest time. It was kind of a natural progression from my previous style. At a certain point, I decided that the reader probably doesn’t need to be told what happened in the episode. I personally tend to avoid reading blog posts until after I’ve seen an episode, so it seemed like a reasonable conclusion. So, I just cut the summary from my post.

I think this change had the immediate upside of forcing me to think more about what I’d watched, rather than blindly repeating the content of the episode. It was a very slow process, but I believe that I came out of it with a better understanding of where my interests lie. I can better speak to what I actually like in a show.

The reason I hated this format was that I didn’t really like what it became. As I wrote more posts, I started giving myself easy milestones to complete the post. For example, there was a long stretch of time during which I would declare a post to be finished if I managed to go over 150 or 200 words. The posts started to feel more formulaic and probably ended up being too concise to really say much.

The Reaction Post

For many of you, this style of posting may be the most familiar one. Admittedly, it’s probably my favorite. After watching a particularly rough first episode, I realized that I had way more things to say than I normally would. More importantly, I realized that these comments were largely in reaction to very specific scenes. Rather than describing the scene, I thought it might be easier just to post a picture of the scene and make the comment directly below it. As such, my posts became a series of images followed by reactions to said images.

The reason I liked this post format was because I felt like it played to my strengths. I feel much more comfortable reacting to specific points than putting together some kind of analysis. The images in these posts acts as a reference point for a particular point in the series, allowing me to talk about it specifically.

Moving Forward

If I had to sum everything up in an overarching lesson, it would be that I aim to experiment and try new methods. Recently, I’ve attempted to trim my posts down to avoid an excessive wall of images. I noticed that I had a tendency to “fill space” in my reaction posts with one-liners in some series while others would have full paragraphs for a single image. I’m now trying to force myself to come up with a decent paragraph for every series (at the very least). One day, I may move away from only using screenshots in my posts.

So, I’ll end on this: why do you prefer the style you use today for your blog posts? Is there a reason for your preference? The answer to that second question doesn’t have to be “yes”. It’s just something I like to ponder myself.

Anime Review: Youkoso Jitsuryoku Shijou Shugi no Kyoushitsu e

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When I first talked about this series in this season, I described it as “trying too hard”, and I stand by that description. Every aspect of the series screams that it thinks it’s a smart show, but I find none of the “intellectual” aspects of the show to be interesting. One of the arcs even felt like it was trying to do too much at one time, attempting to introduce a character to the main cast while resolving a dispute between the classes.

Also, the series seemed to revolve around the point system that they introduce at the start of the show. However, that point system kinda disappeared after that first arc. Is this really a show about class systems in the real world? It certainly tried to take a lot of quotes from creators of economic/social systems.

My opinion of this series is pretty clouded by the way that the season ended. I’m no stranger to inconclusive light novel adaptation endings, but the explanations in this series felt particularly lacking. I’d argue that we still know very little about the main character. I know he’s trying not to stand out, but he might be succeeding too well.

Normally, I would like the character that observes in the background without making too much of a fuss, but this main character feels like he’s pushing it too much with his superhuman abilities. Even if he is the result of some kind of experiment (boy, it would be nice to know more than that), it becomes too easy to see him as the guy who can just do anything to resolve the conflict in the show.

Other than the main character, I’d say most of the characters aren’t too memorable, with the exception of the main three heroines. The rest of the classmates didn’t get too much focus to really stand out.

Maybe I missed the grander point of the show. At the very least, I found it watchable, but it’s nothing special at the end of the day.

Overall Score: 6/10

Anime Review: Demi-chan wa Kataritai

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This series is set in a world where a small percentage of humanity are born as “demi-humans” and live peacefully with humanity. The main character (if you can call him that), Tetsuo Takahashi, is a biology teacher who is interested in studying these demi-humans and finds that there are three students and a fellow teacher in the school that happen to be demi-humans, a vampire, a dullahan, a snow woman, and a succubus. The show mainly follows his interactions with these demi-humans and tries to understand their unique situations (that’s all your getting in terms of story).

Overall, I thought this show was interesting because of how it tried to examine the mythologies behind demi-humans. Everything generally seemed grounded despite the supernatural nature of the discussion. It also focused a lot on each character’s individual struggles dealing with their unique, demi-human-related traits. In that regard, I’ve seen the show described as a message about people with disabilities and I think that’s a pretty good way to put it. But I guess more importantly, there’s a message about looking at things from the perspective of someone else and thinking about why they act the way they do (this is where I think Hikari in particular excels as a character).

I read the manga version of this series before it aired as an anime. Normally, this wouldn’t make much of a difference, but this series really impressed me with how much the anime added on to the presentation in the manga. I really liked a lot of the comedic effects it used with scene transitions as they made the scenes a lot funnier than they appeared in the manga. And music-wise, the series was pretty solid. There were a few particularly memorable songs in the soundtrack and I thought the ending song was pretty good. Using crayons in the animation to match to the piano notes being played was also a nice touch.

Overall Score: 8/10