Anime Reviews Done Quick #2

More shows that I watched in 2017 and have thoughts about:


Made in Abyss

I will always remember Made in Abyss as being the series that got a very angry self-described “elitist” fan in my Twitter mentions because I made the mistake of saying it’s one of my favorite shows that I watched in fall 2017 show when it is actually, technically, a summer 2017 show. Oh, anime fans.

The show itself is pretty solid, with a great world and cool lore. The Abyss is an enormous cavern that stretches endlessly down, and is full of monsters, magic, and old relics from past civilizations. I did find myself cooling on the show after about the midway point, when Rico was temporarily sidelined and the POV switched over to Reg, a dismally boring robot-sworn-to-protect-the-girl-no-matter-what. (I guess at least he doesn’t go through the usual existential “What does it mean to be human?” crisis that every other robot show has.)

The first season ended on a cliffhanger and I liked it enough to want to stick around to see what happens in the next, though maybe not in such a rush that I’ll bother with the manga.


Land of the Lustrous

Before the first episode, I was bracing hard for this show to suck. It’s got CG animation, there are lots of leggy pre-teens dressed in what look like school uniforms, it had this whole vibe of being a harem show. But it wasn’t! Actually it was pretty great! Also, I need to start having higher standards than “It wasn’t as gross or harem-y as I expected”!

Land of the Lustrous is about jewel people fighting off attacks from the moon people who come in on giant Buddha-like arrays to shoot bits of their body off to take back to the moon as decoration. Got it? Good. There’s a lot of great big action scenes that actually work well with the CG style, and there’s a lot of great moments of reflection mixed with gag humor for relief. Protagonist Phos’ transformation from lighthearted kid to no-nonsense warrior was heartbreaking to watch, and the show ends on a cliffhanger promising even darker events on the horizon.

My only quibbles are with the two grimdark characters Cinnabar and Bort who drag down every scene they’re in. I’m not really sold on the Phos/Cinnabar relationship either to be honest, considering how little they actually interact and how Cinnabar is just really hard to like. I’ll watch Season 2 but it’s not a high priority.


The Disastrous Life of Saiki Kusuo

One of the worst things about 2017 was watching Gintama slide further down the crapper with its awful serious story and completely abandonment of the gags that made it so famous in the first place. On the other hand, thanks to the vacuum, Saiki Kusuo’s quick (and I mean QUICK) gags can stand out that much more.

Saiki Kusuo’s art is half-assed and junk, its characters literally tropes that the main character dully rattles off. The gags sometimes don’t even really land that well, but they go by so lightning quick that you are too surprised to realize that what you’re laughing at doesn’t even make much sense. It’s not a good show, unless you are like me and have an appetite for gag anime. If you are though, man… I’ve never seen a show this fast without flying totally off the rails into incomprehensible gibberish. It’s tight, it’s fast, the jokes rain down so fast and never let up. There often isn’t even much time for setups, it just whisks you away to the next joke the instant one lands.

Unlike Gintama’s raunchy comedy with heavy use of mosaics and winking knowledge about what goes on in Kabukicho, Saiki’s is a bit safer and conventional, and more about the weird people you meet in high school. It is all very fast, very strange, and, if you’re into gag shows, a pretty good stand-in for Gintama… at least, until they get their act back together and start making gags again, dammit.


March Comes in Like a Lion

I want to like this show. It’s about a depressed high schooler turned pro shogi player. There’s a duality to the show: one side is when he’s by himself, alone with his thoughts and memories, vulnerable, and ever brooding. The other side is when the Kawamoto sisters or Harunobu appears, and the temperature of the show immediately warms up.

I should like this show more than I do. It’s got all the right ingredients! But I just can’t. Rei spends wayyy too much time talking to himself about everything. There are so many great atmospheric scenes of him looking out over the bay, for example, but instead of just letting the sweeping art (which is great, by the way, amazing animation) do the work, we have to have Rei’s endless inner monologues over it. There is far too much “show, but let’s also tell just to really hammer it home” going on. Too many brooding moments or character interactions that don’t really need commentary are almost always weakened by Rei talking over it. Ugh.

I’m only partway through the first season, and I don’t know if I have it in me to keep pushing on to Season 2. Shinji Ikari you ain’t, kid.


Welcome to the Ballroom

This is basically every sports anime ever. You’ve seen one, right? Okay, then you’ve seen Welcome to the Ballroom.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. It’s every sports anime ever, but with the twist of it being ballroom dancing, which require partners instead of teams. So instead of building teamwork and camaraderie, it’s… uncomfortable, sometimes creepy metaphors of dancing partners being like married couples. There’s a lot of blushing-and-turning-away and making wayyy too big a deal out of who’s partnering with whom. It also doesn’t help that the dance teacher is a grade-A asshole who does stuff like rip the dress off the main girl character and shout at her to use her sex appeal to win the judges over. (SHE IS A THIRD-YEAR JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT, WTF.)

The art and animation are stunning, especially when they’re dancing. Everything else is okay, I guess? But MAN. This show gets very squicky at points, so uh, hmm. Watch with caution.


And that’s a wrap! I watched more shows in 2017, and could probably write about all the shows I gave up on. But I’ll probably put that on the back burner for now and try to shoot for stuff I’ve been watching in 2018.

Anime Reviews Done Quick

I wasn’t very good at recording my thoughts on TV shows or movies at all last year, probably because I didn’t really watch that much anyway. Starting from this year, I’m going to try to do a better job of rating and writing up my thoughts on my Trakt page, even if they’re just quick blurbs. Anyway, here are some shows that I watched in 2017 that I enjoyed:


Pokémon: Sun & Moon

pokemonLook, I know, okay? I haven’t watched Pokémon since Indigo League days, and even that should be an embarrassing indictment. Sun and Moon isn’t perfect, but it helps to watch completely in Japanese with no subtitles so that I can tune out all the parts that annoy me.

And there is a lot, a lot, that annoys me. I tuned out all of the Ultra Beast episodes and most of the ones that star Lillie for what I think are very obvious reasons. I don’t really mind any of the other characters, and even find it refreshing the way Satoshi/Ash is just friends with everyone instead of constantly picking annoying fights with them (cough Kasumi/Misty cough).

I dig the new art style. The new Alola region gives me a headache (should I love it for the Hawaiian representation? or should I hate it for being basically the worst of Waikīkī and none of the respect for actual Hawaiian culture?) and some of the storytelling is… bad, but it’s cute and mostly harmless. I should probably get into this with more thoughts later on, huh?


The Eccentric Family

I ADORE this show. I can’t even really put my finger on what this show does so well that has completely captured my heart.

A family of shape-shifting tanuki in western Japan try to deal with their place in society, living among other forest animals, humans in nearby Kyoto, and the supernatural tengu. It’s funny, but not an outright comedy; it’s touching, but not overbearing, and with a hint of “that’s just how things are.” I could just chill out in this world for a few hours, not really needing a story or plot to carry me along. And that’s kind of how the show is, not really too bothered to push story so much as just let you come and hang for a bit. It’s the best.

Both seasons are incredible, though I think I prefer the way the first season unfolds just a bit more. This is one of those rare shows that makes me feel incredibly lonely once it’s over. I’ve even picked up the novels they’re based on to try to get more out of this story. It’s honestly one of my favorite shows of all time. Need more!


Sakura Quest

I didn’t honestly expect to like this show. I’m sorry, but most anime that star an all-girl cast are usually harem or fanservice stories. But Sakura Quest is surprisingly free of that, and is an earnest story of how five girls are trying to revive the rural town of Manoyama.

All of the characters, not just the main girl team, are very well-rounded and down-to-earth. It does get a bit too syrupy-sweet at times, and while the show is free from explicit fanservice there are still some questionable elements that don’t really get challenged (notably, the insistence and pressing need for the young men and women of the town to get married as quickly as possible, and the typical old man pervert who almost single-handedly undoes all the goodwill built up over the show’s run). These aren’t deal-breakers since the whole rest of the show is solid who grow and change over the course of the series. Like Eccentric Family, I found myself feeling very lonely when the final credits rolled, because this too was a world I wanted to be a part of for just a little longer.

I sense I may have to go more in-depth with this show as well… But all that said, this really was one of my surprise hits of the year, and definitely recommend checking it out.


ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department

ACCA is a hard show for me to categorize, since I both love it intensely for its stylish music and animation (dat opening!!), am in love with the world and cast, and… am quite cool on the story, which is almost an afterthought.

For whatever reason, my brain puts this show in the same bucket as stuff like Cowboy Bebop, a similarly cool and stylish world with great characters and great flare, but with what I thought was a really disappointing overall story. In that respect, I found ACCA a far easier watch than Cowboy Bebop (I KNOW, I’M SORRY) if only because it’s just bland, where Cowboy Bebop’s mafia story was… really sort of cringey, when we get right down to it. I may have to rewatch both and put my thoughts together a little better.

In any case, the real reason to watch ACCA is not its political plot but the cakes. Just endless, delicious, amazing cakes. I give this show ten cakes out of ten.


I’ll probably be back later with more thoughts on shows I watched in 2017. I also need to put together a list of shows I’m looking forward to in 2018, eek… it’s going to be February before I’m finally done with all these post-year wrap-ups!

Book Reviews Done Quick

I wanted to start this year off with writing long-form book reviews, and I have gotten one under my belt already (Slow Bullets). The problem is, I read a lot faster than I can write, and I’d rather keep knocking out my to-read list than have to stop and pore over a lengthy review before moving on to the next one. I promise that if I have time, I’ll give these guys the full treatment in the future, but for now, here are the snippets that I threw up on my Goodreads page:


The Emperor’s Soul

the emperor's soulA very quick and flowing read, and one filled with a deceptively rich world (no easy feat for a book that I polished off in one sitting!) and intricate laws of magic that capture the imagination. Shai is a delightfully unreliable narrator, and I feel as beguiled and enchanted by her as I’m sure Gaotona did. A solid work of fantasy fiction.

I do have to knock off one star for the Orientalist trappings of the world. While there isn’t anything outright disrespectful in the world, I feel like exotic Orientalism as shorthand for fantasy has been done to death. I don’t feel that The Emperor’s Soul was genuine commentary or presentation of actual Asian cultures. In the post-script Q&A, the author says that his research into Asian cultures was to visit a museum in Taiwan (hmm) and do missionary work in Korea (hmmmmm). Though I read the Q&A only after reading the book, I felt like this explained a lot of the exoticism of the piece.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 stars


Pirate Utopia

My favorite read of 2017, and my only regret is that I hadn’t read this sooner. Phenomenal world-building, good pulpy rewrites (or reimagining) of real historical events, and all the dieselpunk to last me years. Post-WWI Italy lends itself well to this sort of fantastic non-fantasy writing, and Pirate Utopia does not disappoint with its surging factions, its larger-than-life characters, and its complete disregard for what is real and what is merely possible.

If I were you, I’d skip the lengthy introduction and the character rundown at the start and just get straight to it. I’ve never read Bruce Sterling before but I stand before you now a fresh convert, completely devoted to reading every last one of his works.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 stars


The Bear and the Nightingale

I enjoyed this beautiful fairy-tale-like story, and found the world both incredibly haunting and gorgeous. I loved the characters and never felt like any of them were over-the-top or cartoonish, though they were all incredibly distinct and had huge room-filling personalities. Vasya is a refreshing take on the tomboyish unladylike protagonist, and I loved reading about all of her hijinks.

My one gripe about the story is that the last third seems to collapse forward in one great rush; the first half to two-thirds was some excellent setting and world-building, but the stakes are only finally realized just before the great battle that ends the book. From the point when Vasya gets spirited away into the forest, the writing seems to be in a great hurry to just be done with it. (I suspect it’s because it culminates in an physical battle, which didn’t really jive with the non-physical “battling” Vasya had been doing until that point.)

Without getting too spoiler-y, the way the battle ends also felt unbelievably rushed, with characters even mentioning how it seemed to come out of nowhere. This is unfortunate because it was immediately preceded by one of the most emotional and heart-wrenching moments of the book, so for the climax to try and top itself with something out of left field was disappointing.

All that said though, I enjoyed the fantastic world and am looking forward to seeing where the sequels take these characters.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 stars


#iHunt: Mayhem in Movieland

An extremely quick read, I managed to get through it in a morning. This is both a strength of the writing (quick, snappy, modern, easy to parse) and also, unfortunately, a bit of a hindrance (events go by too quickly to carry the weight that similar events did in the previous iHunt book). The narrator also seems to commentate more on the not-Disneyland surroundings and trappings than on her life and the hardships she faces, which was what initially drew me into the previous book. Although I appreciate the commentary and found it insightful and amusing, I couldn’t help but feel that it was less personable than the previous book, and left me feeling like this should have been incorporated into a longer book. All that said, I enjoyed my time in San Jenero as I always have, and am looking forward to seeing what’s next in the series.

Goodreads Rating: 3/5 stars


And that’s a wrap, folks!