You know, the only good thing about having a cold is that it has helped me to catch up on the Winter simulcasts, of which I have been behind on because books distract me very easily.
The season has not been terrible. There are have been quite a few things that I find myself enjoying immensely. Unfortunately, none of those are titles that I had been anticipating at all or expected to like. But surprises can be a good thing occasionally. Unless it is hairy and has eight legs. Then stay the fuck away, bruh.
I began the season by checking out ten shows total, and now that we have reached the mid-way point, I am only watching six of them, with one undecided series. Without further ado, let us take a look at ‘em. They are broken up by “Watching,” “Dropped,” and “Undecided.” I will chat about thoughts that I have regarding titles I am watching. For shows that I dropped, I will briefly give a list of reasons as to why. If you want me to elaborate on anything, let me know in the comments section and I shall gladly oblige! Aside from that, they are in no particular order.
Laid-Back Camp was a series that I did not plan on watching initially, but after reading a fun first impression about the pilot episode, I gave it a shot and it is one of the serials that I find myself looking forward to at the beginning of every week.
There is nothing spectacular or extravagant about this show. It is about a small group of high school girls who take great pleasure in the outdoors and the activity of camping. Each episode provides minor titbits of information about one aspect of camping or another as we watch the girls check out a new camping location. There are three distinct things that has kept me relatively engaged with it.
Firstly, the camaraderie and the simple, relaxing vibes one gets from watching. Two girls in particular are building a friendship around their mutual passion for sleeping in scenic embraced tents and both of them have personas that one would not think would gravitate towards each other. But they complement one another in an adorable way. No matter how bad my days are, I know that I can watch an episode of Laid-Back Camp, see these girls do their camping thing, and be smiling by the end credits.
Secondly, the scenery. It is absolutely beautiful. It is not something that I realised until I reached the third or fourth episode, but I have begun to eagerly anticipate one of two things with Laid-Back Camp, and that is their camping locations. Most of it has been in mountainy regions, as these are closest to their home. Aside from the lovely ways these locations are depicted, I find it to be insightful as well. I feel these are places I can look up when I visit Japan, and probably go camp there if I were so inclined.
Lastly, the food. This show makes me hungry every single time I watch it. Every. Single. Goddamn. Time. I am allergic to pork products, but they make the meat they grill up LOOK SO SCRUMPTIOUS!! I can eat dinner until I am stuffed, watch an episode, and be salivating for food afterwards. As a foodie, I cannot resist a show with good food. Just cannot.
Mid-season thoughts: A very kick-back series good for mindless good time. Great surprise for me this season and I am looking forward to watching it until the end. I have a strong feeling I may even miss Laid-Back Camp when it is over.
A Place Further Than the Universe
I was worried that A Place Further Than the Universe was going to be too ambitious, and after seven episodes, I can say that I still feel as such. The plot progression for this series is more than likely my biggest issue. Aside from that, there have been a few elements that I like quite a bit.
**Please note, some minor plot spoilers will follow.**
With the end of the seventh episode, the girls are finally headed towards Antarctica. They have loaded up on the ship and are officially en route. The series is slated for thirteen episodes, which means they have six to get to Antarctica and have plot things occur there. I just do not see this feasibly happening without everything from this point forward being very rushed. The first half showed us brief struggles and preparation that went into the girls getting to their current position and it took its sweet, damn time doing it. Out of everything else, this is my biggest concern.
I am fond of the building of friendships between the girls. They all have unusual personas that fit together in a fun and quirky way. Some people will find it cute and endearing, others will find it annoying as all heck. I, myself, am in the middle with my feelings. While their bonds are great, they are almost always very happy-go-lucky. There is nothing overtly wrong with being super excited for a crazy ass adventure, nevertheless, it greatly takes away from the authenticity of it all. There should be some level of mental or emotional stress/anxiety that these ladies should be facing. Only one of them seems to show signs of stress. It makes it difficult to stay connected to the characters this way.
Another element I have been enjoying is the animation. It has consistently been beautiful throughout all of the episodes. The aesthetics have been helping me to stay engaged and invested in the series as I am a sucker for gorgeous virtual cinematography. Unlike the last thing I mentioned, I do not have any qualms with this one.
While all of these are good and dandy, my biggest reason for not dropping A Place Further Than the Universe is that I am wholeheartedly hooked on Shirase Kobuchizawa’s plight. Her main reason for going to Antarctica is to find her mom. This gives the show a layer of emotionally evocative dimension and something sincerer for me to grasp on to and look forward to as I watch week in and week out.
Mid-season thoughts: Excellently animated series with questionable pacing, but fun characters and an overall basic storyline.
Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens
I fucking love the jazzy OST to this series. It is hands-down one of the best things across all seasonal offerings this Winter.
I needed to get that off my chest first. Okay, moving onwards. Aside from the bitchin’ awesome musical score, Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens was actually one of my most-anticipated shows for the season. It is a complex crime thriller about the inner political climates involving assassins. I love crime thriller shows such as this one (Psycho-Pass and Ghost in the Shell: SAC are among my favourites). Five episodes in and I am addicted.
Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens legitimately has everything I love in an anime. It has lots of action and unapologetically bloody violence, strange characters with borderline villainish personas, a male character who wonderfully breaks forced gender moulds by dressing up like a woman and telling everyone that questions it to essentially get bent, excellent pacing, fluid and natural fight scenes, and it does not shy away from getting dark and fucked up.
I have one big gripe about the series and that is the godawful, bloody bright beams of light that is in virtually every scene. I understand having a scene every once in a while, with light shining awkwardly across the screen to draw a certain kind of effect, but it is unnecessarily overdone in Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens. On occasions it actually draws your gaze to the light instead of allowing you to focus on what is unfolding around the lights. It has been driving me bat-shit mad.
Mid-season thoughts: it is a twisted badass series, with a delightful musical score (akin to Cowboy Bebop), and some superb animation, minus the ugly, ass beams of light. If you enjoy complex storylines, then definitely check it out.
After the Rain
When I first watched the pilot episode, I was immediately drawn in by the rain aesthetics, but felt the story itself was rather questionable as it does focus on a taboo subject: the romantic feelings that a teenage girl has for a man almost thrice her age. However, after watching five episodes of After the Rain, I must confess that I am wholeheartedly taken aback by the sheer quality of everything.
Aside from the rain aesthetics, the overall animation style is just breath-taking. Each scene seems to be crafted with great care and detail-work. Whether it takes place outside, inside, or simply focuses on the faces of the characters—it is exceptional. When you combine the cinematography with the elegant and evocative musical notes of a violin or pianoforte, it creates an ambiance that is…lovely. Serene. Encapsulating.
In addition, the dialogue and the words that are expressed during narration of the characters’ most intimate thoughts are beautiful, quirky, and appear basic on the surface, yet are subtly evocative in way that reminds me SO much of Japanese literature. This quality is the sole purpose behind my infatuation with the show. As a HUGE aficionado of Japanese literature, it is utterly remarkable. I have never encountered another anime like it (yet).
The story itself also has been progressing much more quickly than I expected, yet it does so in a way that keeps from feeling rushed or disorienting. I am enjoying the fact that things are happening faster than normal, especially for a romance-focused plot. Regardless of this pacing, however, the romantic qualities could still be constituted as a “slow-burn.” With Akira, she is completely lost in the world of her feelings and her crush for Kōndo-san, while him being much more mature and older, contemplates the ramifications of the nature of being involved with someone so young. It creates a wonderfully thought-provoking balance of grey areas where neither scenario can truly, 100% be construed as good or bad.
Mid-season thoughts: My second biggest surprise for the season, After the Rain is classic romance with a taboo twist and perfect storytelling that I recommend to all fans of the genre; more so if you are a pluviophile!
Darling in the FranXX
Oh boy… unpopular opinion heading your way, mates. Please, do not throw the popcorn.
Darling in the FranXX is severely overrated, as it stands, five episodes in. I expected so much more from it and so far, I want to bang my head against the wall with frustration. This series is one of the most anticipated shows for Winter, not only for me, but for anime fans everywhere, especially if you were a person that enjoyed Kill La Kill.
There are things to fancy, I am not saying there are not. For example: the Easter eggs left behind that watchers of KLK will instantly recognise, the mind-blowingly outrageous designs for the mecha as well as how the mechs are operated (via gadgets that sprout out of the girls uniform around her buttocks region, while she is in a doggy-style sex position with the boys taking point), and the animation style is stunning. Nonetheless, the story is flat, and the characters are all one-dimensional.
I understand that the main focus of the plot surrounds our two main characters and how they will eventually come together to pilot a super-fancy and powerful mech. But that should not be the sole emphasis of the entire series; not when the set-up has allowed for potential to add many layers of depth with something called world-building. Say it with me now: WORLD-BUILDING! Or in this case… severe lack thereof.
We know that the people survive in what is fundamentally a giant bubble to protect themselves from insanely massive and powerful creatures called klaxosaurs. The Franxx are used to battle and defend against attacks from the klaxosaurs, and that is all we know. We do not have concrete information on how these people ended up in their situation, what these monsters are exactly, why they are attacking humans, etc. These pieces of data would help give the series some meat and even compensate for the rest of the shortcomings.
Hiro is a basic character with an inferiority complex who has something to prove. That is it. Code 002 is rebellious and has a very strong presence because she has been treated as a freak and an outsider her entire life, so she is always throwing a tantrum. She is also a very talented pilot. Those are it. We have another girl who is angry and acting out because she is jealous. Tropes upon tropes upon tropes of unoriginality.
But it is a work of TRIGGER, along side Kyoto Animation. I just do not have the heart to give up on TRIGGER. If the series does pick up from here on out, I would have the same concerns for this that I do for A Place Further Than the Universe: time crunch and the possibility of something that is super rushed and unpolished. I suppose only time will tell.
Mid-season thoughts: Unoriginal, tropey, one-dimensional, and rather ambiguous with world-building. But hey, it is pretty!
I saved Violet Evergarden for last because, to be perfectly honest, I am not fully caught-up on this series yet. I have about two or three episodes left, not including this week’s instalment. I also decided not to do a mid-season rant for the title. My main reason for not doing so is that I know for a 100% fact that I will be doing a full-review for Violet Evergarden when it has finished airing. I want to save up all of my thoughts and opinions for that review. I am going to put a hell of a lot of hard work and passion into it and I do not want to risk deprecating that by sharing any conflicted thoughts I currently have.
I apologise to anyone who may have been looking forward to my musings on this. I hope you can be understanding and I hope you will check out the review when it goes up. Thank you.
- Terribly, horribly written
- Inconsistent animation styles
- An apathetic main character who conveniently has things work out for him without any efforts made by him whatsoever
- Poor world-building and fantasy elements
Junji Ito: Collection:
- Abysmal animation that does absolutely nothing to differentiate normal animation from Ito’s unique artistic style, which was what I was most looking forward to.
- Inconsistencies in the animation
- Stories are bland and creepy rather than scary or horrific
- Some of the stories are clipped to compensate for the episodes, which further detracts from the quality
- Just bad and boring, overall.
- Annoying as hell main character who does nothing but shout and scream and yell, even in normal conversations.
- Main character’s personality is immensely grating and irritating
- After watching seven episodes, I became fed-up with the jaw-dropping lack of progression in the story; everything that happens in seven episodes could have happened in three or four
- Extremely poor pacing
- One-dimensional characters
- Clichéd themes that had little to no originality to set it apart from others
- Good, intense storyline
- Awkward combination of animations styles that create some unpleasant inconsistencies
- Music is not the greatest
- Strange fantasy elements that contribute to complex narrative (in a mostly good way)
- Overall, this is a decent enough series. It is just a simple case of: it is not my cup of chai! For some reason, I find myself bored with every episode that I watch. I just cannot get into it. I did try though!
How to Keep a Mummy (Undecided):
- Cute animation style
- Adorable little creatures
- Once again, we have another one-dimensional story about a bunch of teens who find strange things to have as pets, then all the pets get together and do cutesy things
- I admire the charming creatures and the very simple-minded nature of the series, but oft times I find myself feeling uninterested.
- Good chance I will probably drop it.