Extra- Christmas and New Year Backlog!

Because I have the pleasure of living interstate from all my family, I am in the incredibly lucky siutation that I can do whatever I want during the Christmas+New Year holiday/”shut down” period. And because I spend 50 weeks of the year working like a madman, this year I decided to spend it doing as little as possible and watching anime. Notably, I decided to test out the AnimeLab platform. Which is fine as far as streaming platforms go. If you want “legit access” to anime I’d put it above crunchyroll.

Anyway I watched/rewatched a bunch of fantastic shows and have some thoughts about them. Some more than others:

Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu

This show is fantastic. Even a decade later. Actually this is my main critiscm of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsuthe AnimeLab platform- the episodes can only be done in chronological order. Well, you could manualy watch them in a different order I guess. But watching them in not broadcast order loses some of the magic. Although I think I prefer the DVD order- starting with the Mikuru “movie” episode is such a great way to begin the show and then have stuff backfilled in as you go through the episodes in broadcast order. Also the OPs and EDs are done by broadcast order so they keep randomly changing across the 28 episodes. The plot and characters are great and have been talked to death so I won’t go into that here, instead I’ll touch on a couple other things of note.

Firstly, Endless Eight was far better than I remembered. I’d alwasy jokingly defended it when people complained but now I leigtmiately think it is a fantastic piece of art. The sheer volume of changes that they make to each epsiode without chnaging anything is amazing- the clothes people where, the locations people go to, the places people sit or stand when talking, the orientation of the printed menu in a cafe. It’s fucking crazy. In hindsight I suspect the backlash and (probable) sales drop due to endless eight is what killed the series. But if there’d been a season 3 or even if S2 had been a full 2 cour rather than 14 new eps mixed amongst the original 14 eps it wouldn’t have been so bad. And we would have gotten more seasons to finish the series. Which would have been great.

Secondly, I was shocked by how many episodes were centred on the School Festival. By my count there were 8 episodes related to the School Festival directly and two other referred to it. Which is like… 30-35% of the total. In a modern anime a School Festival would be done in a single episode and then they’d be off to the next thing. By having so much focus on a single event there was such a deeper story to it. Plus there were HEAPS of eatser eggs in the backgrounds of shots as characters did stuff that you saw in detail in prior or subsequent episodes. Case in point was when Kyon was wandering around the School Fetsival you saw Haruhi setting up the impromptu band performance. Such exquisite attention to detail showed a level of care and love and dedication to the show. I really wish there had been more.

Other small details littered across practically every episode like Haruhi’s changing hairstyle (to ponytail, away from ponytail etc), the Mikuru photo folder on the computer desktop, the costumes and shit in the background of the club room… such a well crafted show in the little details.  Many of which you don’t catch if you watch in it broadcast order becuase they are referencing future episodes!

The art and animation also looked great even though AnimeLab locked it at 480p unless I gave them money.

It wasn’t all rosy though- the tension in the scene when Haruhi tried to set up and film Mikuru being sexually assaulted was incredible. I knew it was coming and how it was resolved (not super well through a modern eye) but even so I was gripping the edge of my seat. Incredibly well drawn, animated and performed.

Also whenever Mikuru was brought to tears at any point in the series it broke my fucking heart.

Another incredibly well done scene was the one where Haruhi was doing casting for the movie and happened to nail everyone’s secret roles. The progressive breaking of Koizumi by Haruhi was so good.

So weird realising that the finale (ep28) takes place like six months after episode 1.

Also wasn’t a big fan of the finale. There was a big drop in quality, epseiclaly with the weird Nakano reading a book in a still room for extended periods of time.

That being said, it is still an incredibly and highly recommendable show. Not only was it incredibly pivotal for anime when it was released it easily holds up. It is still far better than the vast majority of shows being made today.

Lucky Star

I tried to watch this show years ago and just didn’t get it. So for ages I thought Lucky☆StarI’d just missed the boat. And I suspect I somewhat have- it’s such a meta/referential show that I probably didn’t catch anything. But I was pleased to find I was very, very wrong about having missed my chance.

In particular, watching it striaght after Haruhi was a brilliant stroke of luck. To anyone who is familiar with both shows the connection is pretty self-evident. They are both by Kyoto Animation and Lucky Star was their next/immediate follow up to Haruhi. Which means that a significant amount of Lucky Star’s content and meta commentary revolves around Haruhi (and it’s impact on anime/nerd culture at the time).

One of the Lucky Star characters has a Haruhi song as their phone ringtone. One of them puts together a dance routine and comments that they need to make the next Hare Hare dance (the dance from Haruhi). In one episode there are people cosplayer as characters from Haruhi. My favourite was when the anime nerd character Konata “watches” the Haruhi finale and makes many of the same observations I made about it being a weird tonal chnage and drop in quality, makes the same speculations I did and then goes onto online forums to see the nerds already in a flame war over it minutes after it aired. Which I can only presume is what actually happened. Another great one is when the group goes bowling and all their names are Haruhi characters… and the scores match up (the person as Haruhi is doing fantastic, Nagato and Koizomi are just behind, Kyon is average, Mikuru is absolutely terrible).

Again, some incredible attention to detail showing incredible love/passion with the project. And honestly I would have missed it entirely if I hadn’t coincidentally decided to watch Lukcy Star after my Haruhi rewatch. So I 100% recommend anyone who is intereste din Lucky Star do the same thing.

It is also kind of weird how well the art and animation holds up. The character/shows design and style is so different to what modern shows do and for whatever reason that style from the mid-2000s just doesn’t date as badly as the style from the mid-2010s. I didn’t realise how old this show was until I looked it up, thats how good it still looks today.

The characters themselves are the emodiment of tropes but it’s done as a parody more than as a shortcut for character development. And the way they meta-commentate through those tropes is fantastic. Which makes it hard to pick when someone should watch this series in their life as an anime fan- you need to have enough of an understanding of anime and the culture to get it… but if you leave it too late then you risk having it’s perfection undercut by things that have copied bits and pieces of it since.

Also for an odd/crass observation, the physical shape of the “well endowed” Miyuki compared to more modern characters (such as Chi from Devil is a Part Timer) is well… noticeably less exaggerated. Really makes you wonder about the people making and consuming this product…

But yes, this show is a classic cute girls doing cute things slice of life and was the perfect antidote to the typical ‘I can’t believe it’s over feeling’ I was getting for Haruhi. Damn KyoAni are a fantastic studio.

…I feel I should praise the show more for being it and not being related to Haruhi but whatever.

Devil is a Part Timer

Continuing my comedy streak of watching/rewatching things, I rewatched Hataraku Maou-sama!Devil is a Part Timer. I didn’t take as many notes for this one as the previous two shows (actually I took none) because it is a much more recent show and thus I was less shocked at how good it still was.

This is another fantastic show. The only bad thing is that there isn’t a second season over half a decade later. Is defintiely a world and a set of characters I want to see more of. Particualrly given how the final episode is kind of shit- the big climax is done in the second last episode, making the final feel like a random OVA with the kind of content you’d expect around epsidoe 7-8 in a one cour series.

Also Chiho’s body proportions are absolutely ridiculous, even without considering her age. Goddamn Japan.

I particurly like the dynamic between Maou and Alciel as the show progresses. The way Alciel frames him and Maou (and Emilia) as construction workers when trying to explain their situation to a random human friend of Emilia’s was a particularly fun scene. Really showed the strength of their friendship and relationship.

Emilia got a bit tiresome with her stalker behaviour towards Maou and I’m annoyed the romantic subplots of both Maou-Emilia and Maou-Chiho existed. Only one was neccessary and I think it would have been better having Emilia come to understand Maou through him having strong relationships with other humans rather than herself. There could be arguments made that him befriending her could be preceived as having evil ulterior motives, but him being nice and supporting random humans was the perfect way to show Emilia wasn’t on the right side of a simple good vs evil war.

But yeah, a great show! Highly recommend!

No Game No Life

Switching things up I went next for an action-comedy sort of show. The main No Game No Lifething I remembered about this was that the art and animation were eye wateringly beautiful. And they are.

I didn’t remember how much incest stuff there was. I knew it was particulary heavy at the start but damn it is very heavy. It lessens and becomes more comedic (…somehow) as the series progresses but it is still a legitimate barrier to making this a recommendabe show.

The highlight is easily when Sora/Shiro and Jibril play Shiritori. It does such a fantastic job showing how the protaginsts think and perceive the world… and how everyone else is overconfident and underestimates them. Plus it is super funny and quite meta in dealing with censorship.

That being said, the final arc of the show is also pretty fun. The series as a whole is pretty great.

My only other observation is that it really drove home how much I didn’t care/want the prequel movie. I want to see another season of them beating the other races in progressibley more ridiculous games. Building up the war thousands of years earlier and finding a convoluted way to set up this ‘war free, game based dispute resolution’ world was just… well… convoluted and unnecessary.

D-Frag

I loved this show the first time around but struggled to get through the first ep on this rewatch. Dunno why. Maybe I’d just watched too many comedies in a row?

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions!

I feel a bit mixed on this show. Something about it has put me off it for literally years and I was really reluctant to watch it despite many friends recommendations. Unsure what or why though, I’ve just always had an odd feeling about it.

But I decided to give it a shot. I’m not sure if it grabbed me immediately but the middle chunk of S1 had me absolutely hooked. I found myself really relating to the stupid made up fantastical scenarios I had a kid (personally, many revolved around Dragon Ball Z stuff) and then trying to bury that shit when I got to highschool and it was no longer acceptable/cool to play ‘make believe’ any more. I also liked the different ways Togashi and Nibutani tried to solve their similair problems. When Nibutani started having weird interest in Togashi I knew something was up but it defienitely wasn’t what I expected

While some of the characters (in particular Dekomori) were a bit over the top in some ways, they also felt very realistic in others. And the way they came about getting together in their group and then interacted was great. Even the less prominent characters had developed and relatable subplot- like Isshiki’s attempt to get girls backfiring over the course of several episodes.

What derailed the fun train for me was the end arc. And the way that it kind of concluded, as I interpreted it, that not growing up and having all these fantasy delusions about reality is an ok thing because/if it’s being used to “deal” with an emotional tradegy e.g. death of a parent. Even though the character in question actively wasn’t dealing with stuff. It seemed such a poor way to conclude the overal arc and the romantic plot of the series. And the real world message was kind of fucked.

Unsure if I’ll watch S2. One day perhaps but I’ve got a bit of a yuck feeling from the direction S1 decided to go in.

Also random shout out to the fact the main guy’s dad works in Jakarta. What a random place to pick and a refreshing change from ‘somewhere vaguely in Europe or the USA’.

Survivor: David vs Goliath+Palau+Guatemala

An odd inclusion here given I typically talk mostly about anime. But over the Summer I finished Survior S37- David vs Goliath and also watched the entirely of S10- Palau and S11- Guatemala. I’m slowly working my way through the older seasons after getting hooked in the early 30s by a friend. And it’s been good/weird to compare and contrast the modern game with how it originally played out.

It’s also been bad because it’s kind of ruined the modern game. When my friend got me hooked in S32- Kaoh Rong I really enjoyed a couple seasons. But as I started watching the older ones, I realised how much more interesting and exciting those early seasons are.

Those first ten seasons comprise a fairly defineable era of the show- in Guatemala the hidden immunity idol is introduced and it’s downhill from there as it switched from a balanced social game to a strategy heavy game. In the newer seasons, basicllay every episode is dominated by strategy talk of different groups of people trying to form and split majoirty voting blocs to account for one of the four thousand idols or advantages introduced into the game over 30 plus seasons. Whereas in the earlier seasons you saw people having to actually survive and compete and manipulate each other without it backfiring. So much more intriguing and satisfying. Nowadays it seems to all be episodic big moves and very little character or story development.

That all being said, while I love the early seasons (with the notable exception of S8- All Stars which is a steaming pile of heartbreaking garbage), I can already see the wheels falling off in Guatemala as the production/editing switches focus to try and trick the viewer into thinking there is a coin flip decision between two options when really something entirely different is happening on the island.

That being said, David vs Goliath was a pretty fantastic season. I’d say maybe low top ten, probably early teens in terms of season rankings. I got a bit over the Natalie drama and think it was emphasised too much in the ealry season but otherwise the show had a fantastic build up to the double episode. Peaking with the 5+ hour endurance challenge between Christian and Alec that resulted in the David’s finally wresting control from the Goliaths. After a series of fantastic plays including vote steals, idol nullifcation (a new twist) and even splitting a minoirty vote (a survivor first). But then the David’s shot themselves in the foot and gave control back to the Goliaths. It was kind of impressive how the Goliath tribe effectively didn’t break their alliance the entire game. But it made for an increddbly boring endgame- there was really only one possible winner who would be good (who did win) and it was just a question of whether he’d have an immunity run to make it or be voted out and have someone less deserving sneak into the winning spot.

(Which as an aside is what happened in Aus Survivor Champions vs Contenders- the Final Two was a person who quit a bunch of challenges and got carried to the end and a person who should have been voted out but was saved by production with an incredibly suspicous hidden immunity idol find. A dissapointing end to an otherwsie great season. Also both Final Two were super rich which made it hard to want either to win the money)

Fortunately that person did win and it was a pretty satisfying end. And one where it was both hard to see who would win, but the finalists all (quite unusually for a modern season) had been present in the show and storylines since the first episode.

In stark contrast to Guatemala where the ultimate winner was basically absent from the show until the halfway point. Which is actually pretty typical for modern survivor and I was suprised to see this issue emerge so early. When all the people you are introdcuced to in ealry episodes get booted form the show, it’s hard to enjoy the back end of the show and like the winner because the people you like don’t win. And you’ve already had the satsifaction of the people you don’t like losing. Guatemala in particular had a pointless first four(ish) episodes because there was a super convoluted tribe swap which broke everything (in terms of alliances and relationships) and made it super hard to follow who was with who and doing what. After that point though it had a fantastic stretch of episodes (although the extended parts where everyone was off by themselves in the forest looking for the first Hidden Immunity Idol were an ominous foreshadowing of what was to come) that then petered out as the interesting characters were clearly painted into a box of “too much backstabbing to get jury votes” and a semi-random person ultimately won.

Palau was a fun season. The winner did a pretty good job of being a dominant force throughout the whole season. Played pretty close to a perfect game from episode 1 all the way to the finale. Was also really weird seeing one tribe be literally destroyed via immunity challenge losses. With the last member being sent over the merge with the other tribe. In a modern season that would never happen as they’d do a tribe swap or some other thing. The utter domination by one tribe made it incredibly compelling viewing through the start of the season. The high stakes drama of the final episodes as the dominant alliance came apart (led in part by a series of super dumb decisions by Ian) led to a fantastic Final Immunity Challange. And a brutal Final Tribal. An absolute corker of a season!

Sometime in the future I’ll probably do a write up about my Survivor thoughts. From what I’ve seen so far I’ve noticed a fairly horrifying trend in male vs female winners which does not speak well to how people judge winners in the game.