RANDOM ANIME WATCH – The Beginning

So, I have a weird relationship with anime compared to some fans. I dip in and out, depending on whether or not something strikes my fancy on Crunchyroll, Netflix, Prime, Funimation – you know, the modern portals for watching our imported Japanese animated television shows. But I don’t follow the seasonal schedules, I’m missing a lot of “classics” in my have-watched repertoire, I have the most basic working knowledge of studios gleaned from other, much more knowledgeable fans I know (SEE: Jesse, Will and Tom). And, as I’ve said a few times on the podcast, I am no fan of Giant Robots, which I know is like saying I like sushi but only if it’s cooked.

I am, for all intents and purposes, a Casual Fan of the anime medium. I only come to mass on Christmas and Easter, I say I like chocolate but only eat Hershey’s, I can’t even lift, bro. Hell, when my life gets busy sometimes the only anime I’m watching is what’s assigned for the next pod recording (as of now it’s Ergo Proxy – no, I haven’t watched it yet even though it was wildly popular when released and has been around for a decade. Are you paying attention?)

But what I lack in knowledge, I gain from being able to watch each show without the baggage of millions of fan reactions. I get to approach each show and movie with a clean slate and form my own impressions.

So, with that in mind, I embark on a special project: RANDOM ANIME WATCH.

I’ll watch a random sampling of first episodes from the master show list on Crunchyroll. I’m choosing them based on name and description alone – I haven’t looked up anything on these shows in advance. At the end of each first episode of this sampling, if I want to watch more I’ll put it on a master list of shows I’ll be watching and reviewing at my own pace. If the show creeps into unwatchibility for me, I’ll drop it.

With all that in mind, LET US BEGIN

First one was a strike out for me: Alice & Zouroku. Magical girl being hunted by some evil corporation of evil, meets an old dude who makes…stuff for gangsters. There’s a chase scene where she’s in his car in the first ep, and she’s explaining the powers that her enemies have –

“She can summon a bow, and her twin can summon anything with a chain! Like a bike! Or a wrecking ball!”

Nope. What a fucking lame power! A cutsie relationship between an old curmudgeon and a girl dressed like a birthday cake isn’t enough for me to forgive something as stupid as “summoning anything with a chain” as the power that someone was given by some entity. What kind of pointless madness is that!? What, “firestarter” was too derivative? Now our little magical girls need to be able to summon chainsaws at a whim?? RABBLERABBLERABBLE, I refuse to watch twelve eps of that!

Pass.

The second struck my interest: KADO: The Right Answer. A giant cube from space lands at an airport outside Tokyo, absorbing a passenger plane. Scientists and the army and the govt tries to get inside it, to no avail. What’s going on inside the cube!?

HINT: It’s albino aliens.

Will watch more.

Third was a show called Erased. Feels kind of slice of life, dude trying to fulfill his dream of being a mangaka, but at 29, is failing and working at a pizza store. His mom is kind of childish, but loves him, he has a coworker who’s way younger and is a buddy –

– oh, and every now and then he goes back in time one to five minutes right before something terrible is going to happen. And he’s gotten in the habit of trying to prevent that terrible thing from happening. And there seems to be a serial murderer on the loose.

Will watch more.

Continued on with Eromanga Sensei, because it had sensei in the title. A light novel author in second year of high school without parents takes care of his recluse little step-sister. He doesn’t know who the illustrator of his books is – their pen name is the scandalous “eromanga”.

I WONDER WHO IT WILL BEEEEE!?!?!?

Lots of underage panty shots, a little girl draws erotic drawings and I get the impression that she’s a “stepsister” for a possible love interest future plotline.

HARD PASS.

The Lost Village struck my interest next, because it’s about youths looking for mysterious lost villages. Everyone was introduced like on Survivor by their online moniker. There were a lot of them. I don’t remember any of them but the three Yuunas. They’re all clearly tropey characters on the way to some Japanese Fantasy Island.

They sing a song about a hippopotamus. There’s a weird as fuck dream sequence. A bus driver goes crazy. Someone throws up on the bus driver.

I have no fucking clue what’s going on, and need to watch more.

Chose Another because I don’t remember. Looks like horror, I guess? The opening song is teeeerrible. Some kid has a collapsed lung and can’t start school. Creepy classmates visit him. There’s a really long scene in an elevator with an obvious ghost chick. The show’s music is delightfully disjointed. Fucking creepy ass dolls are used as transition pieces. Mysterious mystery is mystifying.

Yeah, I’ll keep watching.

Chose Sengokuchojyugiga because the art style is totally different. It’s pritay great, rando fuckin stories riffing on Japanese history and three minutes an episode. I’m gonna blaze through them.

On to Death Parade. Fancy bar, creepy bartender with white hair, a couple can’t remember how they got in the bar – they arrived on two separate elevators and all they can remember is driving on their honeymoon – and now they can’t leave the bar until they play a game. They’re playing darts, and the regions of the board are linked to parts of their body. They’re risking their lives while playing.

WHERE CAN THEY BEEEEEE!?!?

The art is nice, and I get to watch people argue violently with each other about the problems they had in life. I’m definitely going to watch.

Next is Katsugeki TOUKEN RANBU, which I’m watching straight up because the premise was obviously riffed on by Kiss Him, Not Me, and that made me laugh and laugh.

First of all, holy shit, it’s like, got a kitsune buddy animal or whatever!? He has a computer collar! Aaaawww. And the screen is yuuuuge. The quality was so good that I had to downgrade for it to run properly.

Basically it’s, what… Magical Time Cops? In historic Japan? Yeah, cool, okay. Art is aight. Story is interesting enough. The Child Who Is Learning isn’t too The Worst. His teacher gives him Earrings of Encouragement, and he learns he can’t change history by saving people from terrible things, you know, unless it’s convenient – the typical lesson of the time cop in training. Also, there’s a lot of wind of power. And it’s basically a team of bishis fighting evul. One of them is wearing fucking shorts.

Yeah, I can keep watching this.

Tenth show! I clicked on Drifters because it seemed like a historical drama, which is my weakness.

Art’s real nice if bloody as fuck. Almost ridiculously so. I started giggling at it, because it felt like something from a 13 year old boy’s notebook.

And then, purgatory. Agaaain. Man there’s something about purgatory. Only not? Because Our Main Character From Japanese History was sent to some…elf realm? And then a bunch of historical Japanese people meet and they’re all in this new world? And then they…pluck ducks? And there’s a fuckload of silliness – I can deal with – oh, wait, there’s some sort of autocratic war about to happen in this land.

I don’t have the patience to keep watching. Pass.

Finally, we’ve got The Devil is a Part-Timer.

Wow, the beginning is epic.  I was all, “Oh, no, Satan! Woooo, sky fight of dooooom! AAAH BATTLE INNA CAAAASTLE! OH NO SATAN! Escaaape from those aweful humans!

To Tokyo. Natch. Oh, no! He and his general are now teenagers and have no magic! Wait, no, Satan can still control minds. What the fuck are they speaking!? *googles* Engish, in a word substitution code. THAT must be a pain in the ass for the voice actors.

It’s pretty hilarious. A good fish out of water comedy. Watching Satan acquire the necessary goods to live life in Tokyo is pretty fantastic. Whole scenes of filling out applications and explaining health insurance and discussing the value of buying up front rather than in installments!

I am ALL OVER THIS SHIT. watchwatchwatch

Aight, let’s see what I’ll be watching from my random trip through the Crunchyroll –

  • Kado
  • Erased
  • Another
  • Death Parade
  • Katsugeki Touken Ranbu
  • The Devil is a Part-Timer
  • Sengokuchojyugiga
  • The Lost Village

To be continued! – Amber

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Episode 16: Miss Hokusai and Artemisia

We spend our 16th episode pissing and moaning about a terrible movie we watched. We also spend it praising a fun movie we enjoyed. One of the films is Miss Hokusai and the other is Artemisia. They’re both historical films about female artists – the first is set in the 19th century Edo period of Japan, while the second is set in 17th century Baroque period Italy. Which did we like and which did we loathe? Tune in and find out!

Episode 15: Mobile Suit Gundam and Star Wars

gundam
In this month’s episode the PodCastle crew looks back at the humble origins of two iconic science fiction mega-franchises with 1977’s ripping space opera Star Wars and the three film theatrical compilation of Yoshiyuki Tomino’s 1979 television mecha series Mobile Suit Gundam.
In the years subsequent to their release, the aesthetic and narrative conventions of the science fiction and mecha genres would each be irrevocably transformed by the imprint of these two pieces of art. Is it now possible some 40 years later to disentangle and appreciate their value as individual pieces of art from their larger cultural legacy? How does one guide a Zaku into a death pose when being cleaved in twain by a giant beamsaber? Will Bright Noa’s urge to slap his underlings ever be satiated? All this and more on an exciting episode of Podcastle in The Sky Spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace!

Episode 14: Little Witch Academia and The Worst Witch

Witchcraft is the name of the game in our latest episode as we cover Studio Trigger’s  Little Witch Academia and the 2017 CBBC/ZDF children’s TV show The Worst Witch – two contemporary throwbacks to a simpler time in the media landscape.

Do you remember getting up early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons and running home after school to catch Full House? Do you remember what it was like to believe in magic and to think that the world would never stop being your oyster? Do you remember when your body didn’t get weird aches, seat belts were optional, and people smoked everywhere? Even if you don’t, you should listen to this podcast.

Episode 13: One Punch Man and The Tick

We go beyond good and evil as we discuss two superhero comedies: the anime One-Punch Man and the 2017 live action Amazon series The Tick. The nature of heroism, the ungratefulness of the common man, and the underemployment of Millennials are all things we cover as we solve all of Japan’s social and economic problems in episode 13 of our podcast. Sometimes we need a hero and sometimes we can’t hold out ’till the end of the night. In those times, we could really use heroes like the ones from these shows.

It’s Winter and Here’s Some Anime

It’s that time again, a new season of anime bullshit is coming our way.

This past season was a damn near embarrassment of riches both in terms of the expected (Kekkai Sensen, Magus, Garo) and wild cards (MMO Junky, Konohana, Anime-Gataris) among a number of others that all ended up being worthwhile.

This coming season will probably be a return to the standard equilibrium of seasonal quality, but there’s some promising stuff on the docket and some of last season’s strong outings (Magus, Garo) still have their second halves to play out.

As always, some shows that look generic at first glance will probably end up being great and some of the flashier ones will end up just being O-K. So here’s a bunch of preview trailers and dubiously accurate commentary on what you can expect.

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Do you like KyoAni but bore of earnest high school girls chasing their dreams?* Well if so you can look forward to Violet Evergarden, the studio’s fantasy-drama about an earnest young war veteran lady robot-doll finding her way in the post-war world by putting the experiences of others into the written word.

It looks, characteristically, pretty great on the aesthetic front. Paying your animators living wages pays off, who knew. In a sign that this is the winter (anime season) of our discontent, Netflix grabbed up Violet Evergarden for the U.S market, so if you want to to watch in a timely manner you should probably go to [REDACTED]

Trigger and A-1 collaborating on a mecha anime, named with classic anime incoherence as Darling in the FranXX. It’s definitely got the Trigger look, but we’ll see if the plot and action also match the energy of their best stuff.

Citrus, a rather successful recent Yuri manga in the English speaking world with a fairly large fan base, is getting its turn at an adaptation this season by Passione, the studio that brought us Rail Wars! (oh no) but also Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers (Pretty good!). Prepare for all melodrama that comes with Forbidden Love! at a straight laced girls school between non-blood related sisters.

Record of Grancrest War is here for all your probably overwrought strategic war fantasy bullshit needs. Dastardly nobles are using the power of the netherworld to oppress the common people, so do our heroes set out to end their tyrannical ways. Characters will probably reference Not-Machiavelli but also there will be battle meidos.

Pop Team Epic is a very peculiar comedy manga. Here is its preview, of sorts, for its adaptation. We will never forget your sacrifice, Croatian Otaku guy.

A kidnapping in the family unearths long forgotten powers in Kokkoku, spiritual tomfoolery and supernatural horror ensues.

 

Robots aren’t people, unless they are, and especially if they are cute anime girls, in Moe Runner 2049  Beatless.

Japan in the near future has become a crime infested dystopia. Killers are on the loose, but also killers of those killers that are maybe good? Nevertheless, stylish detectives are here to unearth the truth and also enjoy ramen probably, in Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens.

Do you have a thing for older gentlemen? Well, if so, here’s the romance for you in Koi wa Ameagari no You ni.

Yuru Camp. It’s a low key comedy about camping, there will be big coats and everything will be very cozy.

Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho. Girls doing antarctic scientific research things and probably chasing some dreams. It looks nice.

Tiny fantasy people living in a big tree, doing slice of life things for you and for me.

A manganka was struggling to decide which of his fetishes, monster girls or muscles, would be the focus of his next work and then he just combined them into Killing Bites.

Masaaki Yuasa of The Tatami Galaxy, Mind Game and Ping Pong fame has his latest project dropping this season and that’s never not welcome. Yuasa’s spin on this source material it should promise to be quite the ride.

Cardcaptor Sakura’s back and in pog form to reboot the franchise for the youths, I hope you all enjoy Pogcaptor Sakura.

There’s still a bunch of other stuff, shonens, idols, a second season of that zombie webcomic show that people apparently watched, plus shorts. These could be good, or perhaps bad. (Some of them will definitely be bad.)

*Sometimes KyoAni is said to also make other things.

 

 

Episode 12: The Saga of Tanya the Evil and Wonder Woman

For the 99th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I, Podcastle in the Sky looks at two fantastical versions of that war from this year – the feature film Wonder Woman and the anime series The Saga of Tanya the Evil. Women with supernatural abilities, godlike beings engineering conflict, pop culture memory of a war from a century ago – we have all!

Transcript

William: Welcome to this episode of PodCastle in the Sky. In this episode we’ll be looking at two pieces of pop culture from 2017 that deal with World War I in a fantasy way. The anime is The Saga of Tanya the Evil, also known as Youjo Senki, and the other piece is the film Wonder Woman. I’m William.

Amber: I’m Amber.

Tom: I’m Tom.

Jesse: I’m Jesse.

A: All right. So I would like to kick things off by actually commenting on both, because one thing I really appreciated about both of these was they both – and maybe because it was both of them are about war – but they both really bring in the idea of humanity being kind of incredibly sucky and reliant on vengeance and things like that. It seems like it’s two characters coming to terms in different ways with the worst aspects of humanity.

And Wonder Woman, she comes to the conclusion that even if humanity has a serious downside, it doesn’t matter, she’ll still fight for what is right because that is what is right. She believes that if she keeps fighting she can help humanity reach a better state, if you will.

Meanwhile, Tanya, her whole deal is essentially using humanity’s worst attributes against her enemies. Anybody who is too vengeful, anybody who is too angry, she flips it and uses it specifically to get ahead for herself only. Everything she does, even the heroic things she does for her team, are for her own benefit. I really like that both shows showed the darker side of humanity and showed what different personalities do with the discovery of that darker side.

J: Well, the thing is that Wonder Woman is a hero – a superhero – and Tanya is basically the villain. We’re watching the bad guy winning, basically, in The Saga of Tanya the Evil. Which, I can’t actually remember the last time an anime had the villain as the protagonist. Continue reading

Episode 11: Garzey’s Wing and The Sword and the Sorcerer

We test our fortitude by watching two legendary works of fantasy crapitude: the 1996 OVA series Garzey’s Wing and the 1982 movie schlockfest The Sword and The Sorcerer. Incoherent writing, awful acting, and incoherent writing abound in both of the items we review. Can we actually find anything nice to say about either work of fiction? Is there anything redeeming about either movie beyond their ironic camp value? And is it possible to watch either work without feeling oneself getting dumber? Join us this episode and find out!

Episode 10: Jin-Roh – The Wolf Brigade and The Company of Wolves

In this episode we discuss urban planning and transformative pubescent experiences. Also we talk about the movies Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade and The Company of Wolves. Both adapt the story of Red Riding Hood, with the former being about an alternate history fascist Japan and the latter being a magical realist feminist take on the traditional fairy tale. We had a couple of technical issues during recording, but we soldiered on for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!

Episode 9: FLCL and Tank Girl

flcl

In this month’s episode, the Podcastle in the Sky crew take a journey back to an era when alt-rock ruled the world and ennui was in by watching two cult favorites, Gainax’s sci-fi infused coming of age story FLCL and the 1995 film adaptation of Tank Girl. Does FLCL stand the test of time as a classic piece of animation, does Tank Girl’s box office failure mask a hidden gem? Listen in and all will be revealed!