Darling in the FranXX Episode 8 – 20 Question Anime Review (Spoilers)

A 20 Question Anime Review for Darling in the FranXX Episode 8.

Please note: This review is no longer representative of the author’s feelings on this show for an up to date review please read: Puberty & Robots – A 20 Question Reassessment of Darling in the FranXX (Episodes 1-15)

What’s the show? You know what the f**king show is, don’t be cute.

Whoa! Where’s this anger coming from? You ever watch something so insulting that you despair for humanity?

Hmm, like Adam Sandler’s ‘Pixels’? Right, sure, except the difference is there aren’t thousands of people proclaiming the brilliance of Pixels a lot of people are with Darling in the FranXX.

Oh boy. We’re going here again aren’t we? I intended to do a quarterly review of this show every 6 episodes, content to watch on in eye-rolling disbelief as the show progressed. But episode 8 made me so mad I almost put my fist through the screen!

So the clothes melting monster slime only touches the women, hmm? HMM?

Haven’t you heard the phrase, ‘don’t blog angry’? No, and I think you just made that up.

Well someone has to be the voice of reason, besides no one likes reading your rants… They don’t want to read it, they don’t have to.

No chance of that, I’m in full rage mode!

Way to antagonize, buddy. So I guess there’s no stopping this 50 ton freight train of hate, so what about the episode has got you so riled up? Oh you know the usual trash you’d come to expect from this show: casual sexism played for laughs or titillation, women being reduced to less than objects as they are stripped and ogled and then told to not be so up right about it. Reinforcing toxic gender stereotypes, suggesting that women should just ‘get along’ with men regardless of how uncomfortable it makes them.

It’s like ‘the Fappening’ all over again…

U Mad Bro? Don’t you fucking meme with me!

Sorry! I just thought we needed a little levity. So the show continues to be shitty to its female characters, what else is new? Not to be harsh but you knew that 3 episodes in, why do you keep watching if it aggrieves you so much? Because I’m fucking delusional obviously, it’s like the dog who keeps going back to its owner even though it knows it’s going to get beaten down. Because the owner was once good and kind and fun, but is now content to do everything to undermine any sense of what used to be.

Did I forget to mention “heteronormative” because, well yeah…

So ‘all that’ aside, is there anything redeemable you can say about it? I know you praised the animation and the mystery behind the larger story in the previous review, what about now? Nada.

Yikes, you’ve really lost anything favourable to say about the show haven’t you? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this defeated by something. It’s like if you went to a decent restaurant for a while and then one day after going you get the worst food poisoning of your life, like literally body sweats, white knuckle, out every orifice kind of food poisoning. You’re not going to go, when asked “how’s that restaurant?” Say “yeah the bread sticks are good and the wait staff is nice,” no you’re going to say, “stay away, I nearly shat my soul out after eating there.”

Who could’ve guessed this show was written by men?! I mean women totally just sit around and lament about how they nag too much.

Evocative imagery… But do you see what I’m saying? There comes a point where it doesn’t matter if a show is half good, if the part that’s half bad is so bad it makes you shake with rage.

So it is half good? You want me to be honest? Fine, yes, the animation is still very good and the setting is interesting, and the mystery is one that begs answers. But it’s also dumb as heck, I mean this episode literally had a trope as tired and lazy as dividing the house in two with a taped line to determine the boys side and the girls side. I mean really?! Why not just get all your plot points from old sitcom reruns since you’ve evidently run dry of all the anime tropes you stuffed in to the previous episodes?!

“Lucy! You’ve got some ‘splaining to do!”

I have a feeling I know the answer to this question already, but seriously why don’t you drop the show? Nobody’s forcing you to watch it. Yes, in fact every one is forcing me to watch it. Every 5 star review or 10/10 score is goading me into try and understand what kind of people are out there and what they could possibly see in this show? Like I long gave up trying to understand the scores shows get on MAL relative to one another, and understanding people is about as fruitful endeavour as trying to drink soup with a sieve. But I need to know that it’s more than just ogling girls in demeaning positions and big robots fighting that has made this show so acclaimed and so quickly.

Maybe it’s just not for you? Maybe, but then who is it for?

People not like you. And why are there so many of them?

I don’t know. And why do they hate women so much?

Okay then. I think it’s time we pull the breaks on this train before you say something that looses you a follower. It’s okay, they probably won’t notice, they’re too busy what with all the women hating.

She’s giving permission for to be leered at, but only a little. Because, you know, nobody likes a king leer. #lamejoke

You know you could be wrong and this show goes on to subvert all your expectations by the end. I hope this day comes, I truly do. I hope after episode 24 airs and it’s actually revealed to be a masterclass in feminist discourse, that everyone who’s been aggrieved by my comments towards the show they love comes to me and says, “ha! You were wrong, it was smart and sensitive and actually about deconstructing all the things you said it was enabling” and I’ll say, “guess you were right all along, pardner” and I’ll tip my Stetson to them and ride off into the sunset on my gallant steed content in being wrong and contrite enough to know that I was a fool to ever doubt the geniuses at Studio Trigger.

Well I’m glad you got that off your chest, it must feel better to have written that all down now you can do the sensible thing and delete it and everyone will be happy. And published!

Darling in the FranXX Episode 1-6 – 20 Question Anime Review (Spoilers)

A 20 Question Anime Review for Episode One to Six of Darling in the FranXX.

Please note: This review is no longer representative of the author’s feelings on this show for an up to date review please read: Puberty & Robots – A 20 Question Reassessment of Darling in the FranXX (Episodes 1-15)

What’s the show? No, just no, I don’t want to do this…

What do you mean? We’re here we have to do it… Ugh, fine, you really want to do this? Fine! Just give me a minute to get into an appropriate character for this, okay?

‘Character?’ You’re not usually in character for these reviews are you? No, but this is a special circumstance. Bare with me a second.

Ah, fine, sure, take your time. *messes up hair, slumps shoulders, readies fingers above keyboard, becomes a virgin again* Okay, I’m ready, or whatever bro…

Okay… what’s the show? Tch! Only the best effin’ show on the planet my dude!

Right… It’s like Studio Trigger’s ‘Darling in the FranXX’ my dude. Tch! What cave have you been living under?

Are you even speaking English? Totally my dude, and seriously did you watch that gif I sent you because I’ve been jackin’ it til I’m red raw!

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Please, I regret everything; can I press the abort button? No doing my scro! We’re in this til the bitter end, did I mention how Darling in the FranXX is like killer JO material my bro, my scro, my dude.

Okay, stop. Just time out. I have no idea what you’re trying to go for with this particular character, but it doesn’t seem very realistic. What do actual fans of Darling in the FranXX really sound like online? You SJW cucks are not intellectually prepared for something as complex and revolutionary as this show, if you’d bother to not get triggered (heh!) for half a second you’d realise that the allegory is….

Wow! Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse… But just wait you beta-cuck; I haven’t even got to show you my fanfic where Trump and Putin pilot a FranXX together.

Oh my f***ing god. Can we just get the regular guy back; you know Cactus Matt or whatever his name is. Oh so now you want to hear my opinion, huh?

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Yes, for f**ks sake, yes! Cool, so Darling in the FranXX is a pretty good show, I mean when it’s pandering to the worst of the anime fandom, namely stunted immature males who think women amount to nothing more than the subject of physical attraction and sexual connection. The sad thing is that if the writers and animators had consulted oh, I don’t know, precisely one woman in the production of their show they might have had the obvious idea to put the protagonist Hiro in the ‘subservient’ role in the FranXX robot Strelitzia alongside 002 rather than have him ‘dominating’ and perpetuating the obnoxious degradation of women for the sake of what amounts to a Saturday morning wank-fest for twelve year old fanboys. Heck I’d even settle for it just being 50/50 where half of the FranXX have the female characters in the demeaning position and the other half the male in said position. But that’d never happen, no, there’s no money to be made in that right?

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I feel like I walked into a pool that’s a mile too deep for me. Everyone who thinks Darling in the FranXX is a show beyond criticism because it’s made by a talented animation studio seriously needs to get an attitude adjustment! It’d be like giving Studio Ghibli a pass if they just suddenly decided to make rape themed hentai!

Wow, okay, I feel like you need to say something positive about this show or else we’re going to be blacklisted from the Crunchyroll anime awards in 2019. High ambitions there… Besides, there’s plenty good I can say about the show, the world is intriguing, the characters are mostly likable, the setting is appropriately mysterious and the action is well animated. Oh and just quietly the opening theme is gorgeous.

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So what’s the problem? OH I’M SORRY WAS THE MESSAGE TO SUBTLE FOR YOU? There’s literally giant robot mechs who are controlled by two person crews, the female of the crew is posed in doggy style position while the male ‘connects’ to her from behind. At which point he literally becomes ‘the brains’ in total control of her body. And don’t give me that bullshit excuse that the robot doesn’t work unless they’re perfectly in sync, thus it’s about equality or something. It’s just fan-service, and I know what you’re about to say next…

But you love fan-service; some of your favourite show’s are full of fan-service, how come this show in particular irks your ire while others get a pass or even a hearty recommendation? It’s hard to put it into words! Maybe I am being a hypocrite, but it just feels so degrading here, and so pointless and so… so…

So? It’s like when you see a father out with his son and the father has one of those shirts with a half naked woman on it, and you get that kind of worrisome, nauseating feeling in the pit of your stomach like, “wow, bet that kid’s going to grow up with some real positive opinions on women.”

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So it’s about the patriarchy? Now, I’m definitely not going down that rabbit hole.

I feel like we haven’t really gotten anywhere with this review. Just kind of made fun of people who like a certain show, that seems kind of mean spirited. And for that I will apologise, not everyone who watches and likes this show fits into easily definable stereotypes. And far be it from me to criticise people for something they love, even if I do think its representation of women is more harmful than almost every other anime I’ve seen. The point of this post was twofold, to let my opinion be known and to say that no anime is beyond criticism. It doesn’t matter if it’s made by a beloved animation studio or whatever, every piece of media that’s produced should be able to be analysed critically from all points of view and discussed to understand why certain things effect people and not others.

And this is only the first 6 out of 24 episodes. Exactly, we’re a quarter of the way through; it’s not beyond redemption. Maybe the show will have some grand and important things to say about the place of women in our society by the time it’s finished. At which point I’ll gladly say I was wrong about it. Or maybe it’ll just remain a beautiful looking but deeply flawed and problematic contribution to the art form of anime. Either way, I’ll be watching and waiting to see what happens.

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Slow Start Episode 7: Cuffed Wrists – 20 Question Anime Review (Spoilers)

A 20 Question Anime Review for Slow Start Episode 7: Cuffed Wrists (Spoilers).

What’s the show? Not a whole season review this time, just one episode.

Oh, this is new, since when do we talk about a single episode of a show? Since I have many thoughts on an episode that just aired and I needed to talk about them. Like seriously need.

Right, so we have to start somewhere, we can’t just go barrelling into an episode review without a little background, what’s the show? Slow Start.

And what’s it about? It’s an adorable slice of life anime about four high school girls, the protagonist Hana took a gap year before high school due to an illness and is now a year older than everyone else, which gives her a bunch of anxieties on top of her already nervous personality.

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Clockwise from top: Tama, Eiko, Kamuri and protagonist Hana.

And the other three? There’s Tama, the hyperactive, always happy one. There’s Kamuri, quite possibly the cutest thing on earth, who despite looking like an elementary school student is indeed in high school. And there’s Eiko, a kind, tall and charismatic girl who everyone loves.

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Protect at all costs.

So why the panic to write this episode review, it’s very out of the ordinary for you? So the show began airing in the Winter ’18 Anime season. And as of the writing of this episode 7 of 12 just aired and it shot if from simply being, “a really cute and great and fun show that I look forward to every week” to “all that plus omg I need to know where they are going with this particular subplot it better not just be a throw away thing!”

Not like a slice of life to have a plot. I know you’re making a joke there but you’re partially true, especially for this show. But episode seven kinda threw a spanner in the works, in a good way, assuming it at least continues with the subplot in some satisfying form or function.

You’re going to have to be more specific. Spoilers ahoy? Aye, spoilers ahoy. If ye don’t want episode 7 spoiled completely this is where ye jump ship, matey!

Why are we pirates all of a sudden? You started it…

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MAL forums in a nutshell.

Go on then. So after a seemingly inconsequential pre-credit scene of Eiko (the kind, tall and charismatic one) picking out some blue paint she likes the look of the episode proper starts with Eiko receiving gifts from her school friends in the form of hairpins, it’s a very quaint and sweet scene as her three best friends wish her well on her birthday and exchange some remarks. Their homeroom teacher Kiyose Enami walks in and gives her a paperclip instead of a hairpin and the two exchange some cheeky sparring words. See, Eiko’s always been a bit of flirt, to almost anyone, especially fellow cute girls, and this certainly doesn’t stop just because her teacher’s one too.

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She doesn’t normally have that many hairclips in, they’re just all the birthday gifts from her classmates!

Sounds pretty normal so far. The next morning Kiyose wakes up bleary eyed and worse for wear as she nurses a hangover, only to find her student Eiko bound by the wrists asleep on the floor of her living room.

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Police!

WHAT?! I know right. Thankfully, the show hasn’t decided to go full dark side as Eiko explains the previous night, which, due to the alcohol Kiyose has completely forgotten.

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We’ve all been there, right Kiyose Enami?

Well, what happened?! So Eiko, bumped into her teacher and a friend at the tail end of nights drinking, the friend has to go back to the bar to collect some things they forgot so Eiko says she’ll walk Kiyose home, almost unable to stand in her drunken stupor. Back at the apartment, Kiyose confuses Eiko for her drinking buddy and the two talk. It’s obvious from her body language that Eiko is ‘hot for teacher’ and tries to get her to confess anything for her but the teacher is stubborn, perhaps too stubborn to admit anything. Still sure that Eiko is in fact her drinking buddy Kiyose insists Eiko’s hands be bound for fear of having lewd things written on her face while she’s passed out.

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Everyone in this show is cute, so it’s not like that’s a surprise.

Just a misunderstanding then, that’s good. Back out of flashback mode, Eiko offers to make Kiyose coffee while she freshens up. The two talk, Eiko persistent with half flirtatious remarks half witty criticisms. Then as Eiko is about to leave to get ready for school, Eiko offhandedly worries that she might smell if she doesn’t have a shower before school, Kiyose leans in and simply says, “you smell good”. Upon leaving the apartment Eiko leans on the door, flustered, all sorts of unfamiliar feelings rising up inside her as she tries to process what just happened.

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“you smell good” – it sounds less creepy in the show, trust me.

This sounds problematic. Ignore that for a second, and let me just gush over how much I loved this scene, unlike so many others in the show, it’s without accompanying music, it’s colours are more muted than the rest of the show, regardless of how ‘contrived’ the situation they got into was, it felt dramatic and real and honest, and honestly romantic, even if it is something as ‘problematic’ as you say as the burgeoning relationship between a student and teacher.

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Dem feels tho.

I know how you like your complicated anime relationships; let’s just hope we don’t find out their related too. So is that all? There’s a bit more actually. Later, back at school, Eiko sees Kiyose in the hall and after some playful teasing from Eiko she notices her teacher has a necklace on that she immediately recognises. Playing it off as nothing, Eiko asks to meet her friend and the show’s protagonist Hana on the hill after school to confide something. Eiko tells Hana that it was she who made the necklace, because her mother owns a ‘Variety Store’ and she occasionally makes accessories for it. Eiko expresses her joy that someone bought something that she made, and that she’s especially glad it was her teacher who liked it so much as to buy it without even knowing who made it.

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Totally not staring at her boobs, right Eiko?

Well that’s very touching. I was moved, I admit it, there was a tear or too!

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It’s like the feeling you get when someone comments positively on your blog!

So is this just you being excited about some ‘shipping’ fantasy coming true or is there more to this blog post? It’s about the fact that a slice-of-life show that I thought was content to play it safe suddenly decided to do something daring, at least as far as my experience with the genre is concerned. Certainly previous to this episode it’s not been completely without surprises to the ‘norm’, there’s always at least a couple of dirty jokes or innuendo per episode and in the previous episode we learned that Tama is raised by her two grandmothers, which was rightly treated as the most normal thing in the world. But here came a certain risk that I didn’t expect and I guess I was just so pleasantly surprised I decided to waffle on for 1200 words about it.slowstartep7.jpg

And we’re not talking about whether this is problematic or not? Nope!

Fine, so how do we end a review like this, bit hard to recommend just watching a single episode halfway through a show? Simply, if you haven’t watched Slow Start yet but think it might be something you could enjoy, I say go for it! Because right now, I have no idea where this show is going to end up but I’m so excited I can barely contain it!

Monster Musume – 20 Question Anime Review (Mild Spoilers)

A 20 Question Anime Review for Monster Musume.

What’s the show? Monster Musume: Everyday Life With Monster Girls.

Right. And what’s it about? Body positivity.

Ah, okay. Cool, what else? Sexy sexy monster ladies.

That’s what I assumed you would have said first, so harem anime then? Indeed!

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So who are these characters? Miia, is a Lamia (snake girl) and the first of protagonist Kimihito’s burgeoning harem, taking part in an interspecies cultural exchange and thus living under his roof, much to his conflicted feelings. Later joins Papi the Harpy (bird girl), Centorea the Centaur (horse girl), Suu the Slime (the blue one), Mero the Mermaid (duh) and Rachnera the Arachne (yikes a spider!) They all end up living under the one roof, vying for “darling’s” affections while trying to get along with each other and dealing with a world that’s only recently become aware of the existence of Liminals (monster girls).

Right, talk about a full house *cues Full House intro music* I don’t know what that is, but cool reference bro?

Shuddup. So, I have an awkward question, and I feel like I’m going to offend someone by saying this but I have to since it’s my job and all but… well, monster girls + harem, are these characters supposed to be sexy? Because I’m not really feeling it… OH. MY. GOD. I can’t believe you just said that! How racist do you want to be?

They aren’t real races so it’s not racist; I was just asking the question… No, stop! Don’t you dare say another bad word about my monster waifus!

So I take it that some people do find them attractive then? Yeah mate and you’re talking to one, want to fight about it?!

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Sorry, I’m not here to judge you for what you find attractive, different stokes and all that… [Crude joke about ‘stroking something’, deemed too obscene for wordpress.com].

Okay then… so let’s get back on topic. What’s the show about besides ogling monster girls? A lot actually! Well, not really with regard to plot, but when it comes to character development this show delivers! Every one of the girls has their various likes and dislikes and dissonant personalities that either clash or compliment with other girls and that of Kimihito. For some girls he almost ends up feeling more like a father figure or big brother, whereas other girls are exceedingly attracted to him because of his boundless compassion towards monster girls no matter what they look like!

I said I was sorry! I’ll forgive you once you pick one of them to be your ‘best girl’.

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What? No, I don’t do that, I’m not into anime like you are. DO IT! Or I’ll turn this blog around and no one is going to Disneyland!

Fine! Uh… ah, I mean, I guess… the mermaid? BOO! No one likes Mero, you fail, you only picked her because you’ve been preconditioned by the Disney corporation!

What’s with all these Disney references? I DON’T KNOW.

And all the shouting? I don’t know…

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Fine then, who is your best girl? Probably Papi, I mean she is a bit of a birdbrain but she has the best booty and you know I’m all about the booty. But then there’s Rachnera, yes she’s a spider, which is like a totally bad time for an arachnophobe like me, but she’s absolutely the kinkiest of the bunch into BDSM and all that. But then there’s Suu, and well yeah she’s a slime and almost kills ‘darling’ on more than a few occasions by nearly drowning him in her cleavage but being able to change her cup size on the fly has to make for some good variety. But then there’s Centorea, she’s just so noble and pure and devoted and did somebody say I-cup, yowza! Oh but then there’s Miia, she’s been there since the beginning and well if there’s anyone who is DTF amongst the monster girls it’s her!

Jesus! You didn’t even put this much thought into your entire Steins;Gate review, and that was about as something as complicated as time travel! What can I say; I take the business of ‘best girl’ very seriously.

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More like you’re a serious pervert… Hey! What did I say about kink shaming? None of that here thank you very much!

Fine, final verdict? I could talk all day about this show, and not just because I’m into monster girls, what I’m into is well rounded characters with flaws and hang ups and genuine emotions as they deal with a world that’s often less accepting of the parts of them that makes them different from other stereotypical beautiful girls out there. As a protagonist and centre of a harem anime, Kimihito is admittedly kind of bland but he’s also unfailing kind, accommodating and understanding of every monster girl he comes into contact with, not just those who live with him. It’s something that’s not only admirable but also endearing and should make whatever reservations you have about this kind of show (harem/ecchi/fan-service, etc.) feel minor. Yes he’s attracted to these girls, but he also treats and acknowledges them all as unique individuals and seeks to make each of their lives better no matter the cost to himself. A monstrous 89 out of 100.

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Shimoneta – 20 Question Anime Review (Moderate Spoilers)

A 20 Question Anime Review for Shimoneta: A Boring World Where The Concept Of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist.

What’s the show? Shimoneta: A Boring World Where The Concept Of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist (2015).

A title and a plot synopsis in one, huh? Well, makes my job easier. ‘Tis but one in a plethora of Japanese anime with exceedingly long titles… speaking of exceedingly long…

Oh no, is this review going to devolve into 20 Dirty Jokes instead, I don’t need my job to be any harder than it already is. You’re making this too easy…

Fine, I’ll admit that one was my mistake, but let’s at least try and be professional about this? Fine, I can do this.

Okay, so what is the show about aside from being set in a world where dirty jokes don’t exist? Well it’s set in a sort of alternate reality Japan where everyone is enforced to wear devices called ‘Peace Makers’ which analyse and monitor every thing people say and even their gestures to make sure nobody is doing anything that the government considers ‘lewd’ or ‘immoral’.

Wow, sounds kind of dark. I thought it was a comedy from that title? It is! And a very funny one at that!

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Explain? Okay, so let’s start off with the three main characters, there’s Tanukichi, a typical teenage boy who’s torn between living a law abiding life and following in his father’s footsteps as an outlaw erotic novelist. Then there’s the object of his unreturned affection student council president Anna who is very by the books and all about the rule of the law. And then there’s Ayame, vice president of the student council who in her spare time is secretly an erotic terrorist named ‘blue snow’!

Stop. What’s an ‘erotic terrorist’? Well she runs around the streets wearing nothing but a bed sheet and a pair of panties on her head while dispensing lewd pictures to shocked bystanders and shouting dirty jokes.

Interesting angle. But how does she do it? Doesn’t everybody have that monitoring thing that tracks what they are doing and saying? Good, your listening. She has a device on her phone that blocks the signal of the ‘Peace Makers’ for 3 minutes per day, in which time she can lewd up a storm!

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And what’s her goal in all this? Is she just an anarchist who gets off on being able to say and do things in public that other people can’t? Well that’s probably a part of it, but her main goal and it’s a lofty one, is to eventually overturn the laws, which have turned Japan into a country so afraid of sexuality that even students in school don’t know what reproductive sex is or how it happens.

So it’s a story about the ills of mass censorship? Broadly, yes. It’s also a show about saying ‘dick’ a lot and talking about bodily fluids. Lot of bodily fluids in this show.

I’m almost afraid to ask. Well not to go into too much spoiler territory because it does take a couple of episodes for it to come about, but perfect student council president Anna, through various ways discovers what lust is and confuses/rationalises it as love and persists in trying to get Tanukichi to drink her “love nectar”.

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So she’s a pervert? But that’s what makes her character so interesting and complex, is that because of the society she’s grown up in, one that disavows any kind of healthy sexual exploration she doesn’t even realise that what she’s doing is so far removed from ‘normal’ because what is normal is never a part of the curriculum or even taught by parents because of the laws of the country. Also, fair trigger warning because it is something worth mentioning, Anna does attempt to rape him.

Oh boy. It goes there? The show treats it in a semi-serious way, the way it’s animated and the tone of the scene it doesn’t play it for laughs, which is good. I personally didn’t have a problem with the way it was handled but I can understand why some people might feel uncomfortable about it.

Fair enough! Well, this review went to some unexpected places. Well you wanted to me to be professional, didn’t you?

Yes, and I’m very proud of you, well done. Thank you oni-chan!

I’m sorry what did you call me? Nothing!

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Why do I get the feeling you’re being lewd? I don’t know why you’re always so hard on me; it’s not my fault if my words are coming off rude to you, maybe you should have a long look at yourself in the mirror and see why you spout off at the most innocent of comments.

Are you quite done yet? Penis.

Right. Final score and recommendation? Shimoneta is proof that even in a show filled with dirty jokes and rude words there can be a genuine and well-developed discussion about censorship and the implications it has on developing minds and society at large. It also helps that it’s a very funny show at times, as long as you’re prepared for a lot of immature gags. 83 out of 100.

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Bakemonogatari – 20 Question Anime Review (Minor Spoilers)

A 20 Question Anime Review for Bakemonogatari.

What’s the show? Bakemonogatari (2009).

Bakawakawhat? Don’t worry you’ll get used to it. It translates to ‘Ghost Story’, but nobody calls it that.

So it’s about ghosts? No, not exactly. It’s about a high school boy called Koyomi Aragi and a girl called Hitagi Senjogahara. He used to be a vampire but he’s mostly over that now, and she’s cursed with an illness that makes her weigh nothing. Except it’s not really about that because she gets ‘cured’ pretty quickly, and so then they start dating, but it’s not really about that either.

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So what is it about exactly? Well, Aragi seems to run into a lot of girls with problems. One of them can’t find their way home, one of them has a powerful monkey arm, one of them is being strangled by invisible snakes and one turns into a promiscuous cat girl when stressed. And being the gentlemen that he is, he tries to help all of them with their ‘curses’.

Okay… I think I’m following. So what, it’s like a fantasy series? Is it ever as simple as that? It has fantastical elements but it’s set in an approximation of the real world, current day. It has horror elements but it never dwells on them. It has intense action but so sporadically entire episodes could pass without so much as a punch thrown.

Well that’s interesting. What else can you tell me about it? Stylistically it’s probably the most unique anime I’ve ever seen, it varies animation style on a whim, cuts in live action components and flashes walls of text on the screen that are impossible to read.

Why? That’s a question you could end up asking a lot with this show, it’s better to just sit back and revel in the weirdness than try and understand its intent.

So is it ‘weird for the sake of weird’? Maybe, I suppose the individual mileage for this kind of stuff might vary. But everything feels intended, even if it doesn’t make sense. It’s a very deliberately paced show too; some episodes are just back and forth conversations between two or three characters. Like literally, there’s one episode that takes place entirely in a park as the two main characters talk to each other.

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Just talking? Doesn’t that get boring? Ah! But herein is perhaps Bakemonogatari’s true strength, it’s dialogue is so good. The characters jibe at each other with the kind of wit and wordplay you’d expect from an episode of the Gilmore Girls.

Wait, you watched Gilmore Girls? No but I’ve heard good things.

But if it’s in Japanese doesn’t that make it hard to pick up on things like puns? Well, yeah, mostly, the subtitles do a pretty good job at explaining references when it’s something that can’t come across through translation alone. Like jokes about how some kanji looks or sounds like other ones will have helpful explanations in brackets within the dialogue.

So is this an anime you have to be smart to watch? It couldn’t hurt.

Wait, does that mean you’re smart?! Why do you sound so surprised?!

I don’t know, I just never pegged you for a smart person. So is it a difficult show to watch then? You will need to concentrate; perhaps more than a normal subbed anime, you certainly can’t be snapchatting or tinder banging or whatever it is you young people do these days while watching TV.

Me? Young? I always got the impression you were the young one and I was the old one, the way you have to answer all my questions about anime. I don’t think either of us is old or young, I think… and I don’t want you to panic, but I think we’re just text on a page!

Oh my god! I’m having an existential crisis? Who am I? What is life? The show can get kind of ‘meta’ too, so if you’re not into that kind of thing you might get annoyed.

Oh I see what you were doing, trying to make me think I didn’t exist so you could make the point about meta-fiction? Very bold of you sir. No I think you’ll find that you are in fact the bold one!

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But is the show good? You’ve talked a lot about its individual components but I’m not really getting a sense of it as a whole? This is probably where this fails as a review; I’ll be the first to admit it, because I will praise this show fervently as it is key to my aesthetic, not just as a fan of media but as a person. I love everything about it, I love the characters, I love the wordplay, I love the pacing, I love its unexpectedness, I love its weirdness. But…

But? But there will be people, who can’t stand it. And then there will be people who get hung up on one of the things that make it unique for me and for them it will make it insufferable.

So final recommendation and score? If you want something different, a little out of the mainstream then take the chance, but don’t go expecting an easy viewing experience. For me though, it is one of my favourite anime shows and I give it a lofty 97 out of 100.

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Amagi Brilliant Park – 20 Question Anime Review (Moderate Spoilers)

A 20 Question Anime Review For Amagi Brilliant Park

*Warning: Moderate Plot Spoilers within*

What’s the show? Amagi Brilliant Park (2014).

What’s it about? It’s about a high school student, Seiya Kanie, running an ailing amusement park whose employees are all actually magical fantasy creatures who rely on the happiness of the park guests to sustain their magical life force.

Wait, how’s a high school student end up running a amusement park, let alone one inhabited by magical fantasy creatures? A beautiful girl called Isuzu Sento threatens him at point blank range with a magical rifle. It’s literally the opening scene of the anime.

Right. So why him? Why not? If that’s your most pressing question then maybe anime isn’t for you!

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Fine then. What kind of show is it? Well, it kind of defies categorization. Yes it’s about cute fantasy characters living in an amusement park. But it’s also a semi-detailed look at the behind the scenes running of a park and the minutiae of business and advertising. While also being an irreverent workplace comedy where half the cutesy fantasy characters are jaded alcoholic perverts! While also containing a genuinely touching storyline about friendship, perseverance and commitment.

Okay, didn’t expect that. So what drives the plot? Is there an antagonist? The park will be shut down in three months if the park can’t reach its goal of 250,000 guests. If this happens the Princess will die!

Wait, what Princess? Since when is there a Princess? There’s always a Princess…

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Fair enough, so why’s the Princess going to die if the park can’t get 250,000 guests? Because, unlike the other fantasy creatures who can just go and get jobs elsewhere if the park closes. Beautiful Princess Latifah Fleuranza of Maple Land has been cursed by an evil wizard to remain in the grounds of her home, so if the park closes, she will no longer have a home and will die.

‘Evil Wizard’? This is starting to sound kind of silly. Oh, so it’s ‘evil wizard’ where you draw the line, huh? It’s an anime; of course it sounds silly on paper.

So it’s not silly then? Yes. It is, very silly at times. But that’s part of the charm, and the story isn’t what makes the show great, it’s the characters, from the three main ones mentioned previously to all the side characters. They all have flaws, but they try to overcome their hang-ups and the reticence towards change in order to reach their goals!

What about these side characters? Any notable favourites? Too many to mention really, especially as they start hiring outsiders towards the end of the season. Moffle, the park’s mascot, is great. Not just for his temper and violent outbursts but because he acts as a somewhat down to earth, father figure to the mostly young cast of characters. He’s also the Princess’ uncle, go figure! The magical girls of Elementario may seem like they’re just their for eye candy but they have great moments too. They even have an episode that fleshes out their relationship to one another which is really nice.

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And who is ‘best girl’? Sento is best girl. Best girl forever, best girl one million years!

So the protagonist is a guy and the two other main characters are ‘beautiful girls’, does the show try to make them love interests for him? Not exactly. With the Princess it’s entirely platonic and genuinely sweet (there’s a twist to her story that’s not worth spoiling) which makes it why he wouldn’t see her as a love interest. But Kanie and Sento eventually warm to each other; they’re very stubborn and resolute characters and so by the end the promise of ‘something more’ between them is not only noteworthy, but also rather affecting.

Can my kids watch the show? Or is there anime tiddies. You have kids?! Also please don’t say ‘anime tiddies’ ever again only I may say ‘anime tiddies’.

I don’t have kids I was just trying to ask if there’s fanservice? Well…

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But that’s about as risqué as it gets visually. Tiramie, the cute pink dog creature is a massive pervert though and does some questionable things throughout, always good for a laugh though.

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Does the story wrap up nicely or does it end on a cliffhanger? The plot for the first season is satisfyingly resolved; I dare say it even brought a tear to my eye. The romantic subplot however is left on a ‘will they/won’t they’ note which is… well it is what it is. But on the whole there’s no reason not to watch it if what you’re worried about is an incomplete story.

No second season then? Not yet, and it’s unlikely unfortunately though the light novel it’s adapted from is still on-going, but is only published in Japanese at this stage.

Well I’m almost sold; sum up the show in a sentence, like a quote for the back of the box. They still do that right? ‘A light romantic comedy with an emphasis on the comedy. A satisfying story, fun side characters, wacky hijinks and some genuinely touching moments’.

That’s way too long. In fact that’s two sentences! Do you want to try again? Not really, it’s a hard show to just nail down like that. It’s a compliment to the changing nature of the show.

Final score? It’s hard to fault something so entertaining and watchable; I score it a well-deserved 92 out of 100.

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