The first shows having started just about a week ago (and most shows have begun by now with a few major exceptions), it’s a good time to round up my impressions of how these Summer shows started. This is a new program to replace The Weekly Samui (samui needing more time to focus on other things such as work), and I’ve decided to make this a laidback and more personal kind of corner; don’t expect serious writing, just me giving my thoughts in a casual manner. I hope you enjoy this even a little!
Ballroom e Youkoso
Dancing anime aren’t exactly the most common thing around (though I remember Hanayamata making some kind of an attempt), so this is refreshing to see. Thanks to Production I.G.’s talent, the dancing steps are reproduced in a grandiose (yet precise) manner. The story, in and of itself, isn’t the most original: our protagonist, Fujita, doesn’t know what to do with his future, until he meets a pro dancer who gives him the desire to give dancing a shot. In these (probably) idealized stories, anyone can guess the conclusion; but this shouldn’t be Ballroom e Youkoso’s selling point, as with other shows of the same kind. Rather, it will have to rely on how sincerely it depicts the protagonist’s struggles, and his relations to other dancers, specifically with Shizuku who will probably end up his partner. So far, the show does put the amount of heart necessary to an engaging depiction of dancing and what a fulfilling art it can be; whether it can apply the same principle continuously and in all aspects will decide its quality. Cautious optimism should be a fair stance after this introduction.
Centaur no Nayami
This has got to be one of the most peculiar shows this season. It begins in an incredibly trivial way – seriously, I thought they were never going to bring up the part about our heroine being a centaur! Thankfully, after one weird first half – which counts as a failed introduction because it doesn’t even bother to tell us anything about the world and its characters – we actually get to the somewhat more serious parts. And yet, it all remains so strange. So we’ve got a “human” race that’s been divided in four categories, each possessing different animal characteristics? And they’re barely getting over hundreds of years of hardcore racism which the remains of continue to endanger society’s harmony? Welcome to the U.S.A.! In all seriousness, although this is all somewhat intriguing and the ED is mysteriously dramatic, we haven’t seen much more than fluff so far. I’d stick with it a few more episodes to find what all this strangeness is about, but would say those who haven’t gotten into it for now should wait, as it may yet end up some typical slice of life lightheartedness.
Hitorijime My Hero
Because some (actually watchable) gay is always needed, Hitorijime My Hero is a welcome show this season. Masahiro is a lost boy without a hero… until he meets Kousuke. Now clearly we know how the roles are split in bed, which is always the case with yaoi, but in this case it all feels natural enough; at the very least, it’s not exaggerated in a way that makes some Boys’ Love so very cliché and unbearable. Kousuke is the cool guy who beats up the bullies – a true hero indeed –, but he’s yet to try and rape Masahiro, which counts as a positive change in the world of Boys’ Love. In frankness the premise sounds like an excuse for the pure fluff that is to come; in the end, it’ll be about Masahiro trying to become Kousuke’s proud boyfriend while the latter teases his future lover extensively. And that’ll be it; however, as long as the relationship doesn’t become caricatural and remains fun enough, it’ll be watchable.
So, we have a poor little girl who’s rescued by a cook who runs a humble restaurant, except it serves customers from another world (because isekai narratives are, like, so cool nowadays). Here’s a recommendation for folks who may be tempted to watch this show: turn your head away, and just listen to the thing. Watching it may make you hungry, which isn’t necessarily healthy, and anyway, I’d barely call it “animated”. You’d be hard pressed to find any visually compelling moment, except if you like dragon women talking about how they crave food in their birthday suit. Other than this definite downside, the show seems right on track to be one of these gentle, if superficial, stories of kindness: a poor girl is picked up by a gentle and modest man who runs a simple restaurant where people of all races and walks of life gather over the simplest, yet most universal pleasure of life: a good meal. This first impression was largely confirmed by the second episode, where two characters’ personal quests lead them to the restaurant; the show put their individual goals aside, and instead focused on showing them as they enjoyed their meal. This is perhaps the most trodden of all roads in anime, and the most simplistic one certainly; however, it’s almost never a losing formula, at least. Watch this if you want to have your dose of “nice shows” this summer. It’s also a nice counterpoint to the excesses in opulence of Kakegurui.
Well, this show’s heroine, Yumeko, has some “insight” for us already. Money is indeed life under capitalism, and Kakegurui is apparently set on reproducing its dynamics within the microcosm of a school, and exaggerating it all to the maximum (though it somewhat betrays this by allowing a return to slavery). We have people in debt (how modern!) and a pervasive obsession with money that reaches the point of folly when it attains a certain level (it’s telling that this school is specifically one where rich youths gather). While none of this may amount to a meaningful story, it’s there, and it gives the entertainment it hopes to. I don’t expect anything to rescue this story from its own vapidity, but at least we get to watch girls making crazy faces as they embrace the ridiculousness of their intense – meaningful only to them and their reduced circle – betting antics. Maybe that’s good enough, in a way? That said, it was disappointing to see the second episode proceed according to the exact same structure as the first; furthermore, the (imaginable) future focus on Yumeko’s battles against the student council comes with the danger of repetitiveness, which would be the end for a show like Kakegurui.
Regarding the good points, this show happens to be one of the few – Touken Ranbu and friends aside – with any kind of directing: I especially liked the frame in the directress’ room with a huge painting of a woman in kimono during the first episode, perhaps alluding to the lavishness and imagined elegance of the whole affair. At any rate, it feels somewhat ironic that the directress’ imagination would be so Japanese and noble; it seems there is a bit of a contrast between this woman’s ideals – especially for those in privileged positions – and the reality of this school, much more Western in its habits, and above all, much less elegant.
Koi to Uso
After one episode, I was ready to give this a pass a “relatively poor adaptation, but still somewhat passable”; but after watching the second entry, I fear I can’t overstate how terrible this adaptation is. The directing is incredibly poor – the manga cuts are simply much better, as the comparison between the two versions of Misaki’s “it’s really annoying” (or however that line was translated) reveals. In this anime, none of the characters’ actions are made out to be climactic; it’s as flat as a dead man’s heartbeat graph. What’s more, the anime is going faster than the manga, so we get some super awkward moments like Ririna throwing the “I can’t become a wife now!” line instants after meeting Yukari. They really should’ve changed that; in the manga there’s a little more buildup so it comes off as somewhat more passable, but in this case it’s utterly laughable. Beyond that, the adaptation is incredibly literal; it makes some cuts, and the introduction to the first episode explained the legal side that was a little more spread out in the manga, but that’s about it. There’s no meaningful choice in sight on the staff’s part. The manga manages to remain readable, but this adaptation is unable to bring out the source’s better parts to the point where the anime-only watcher will only see the worst in Koi to Uso (which isn’t to say the manga is very good either, but it is more fun than what we’ve got here). Now that’s not to say it’s all dread and doom either: the characters are a somewhat archetypal bunch, but the sheer wackiness of the setting they’re thrown into (I swear, I can’t see how a law like this would pass except by actual violence within the Diet and on the streets) makes them and their actions more fun (and it’s only going to get weirder). It’s also amusing because the show focuses on romances that are forbidden by society, and gives this typically tragic theme a thoroughly trivial twist. Seen under this light, Koi to Uso gains a certain comic potential which makes it hard to totally brush aside totally. That said, two episodes in and I can’t at all tell anyone to stick with this show given how terrible the adaptation’s been so far.
Lesbians sure are “interesting”, aren’t they? Inclusion! Representation! We all love to hear these, but they’ll remain mere buzzwords if we ever consider shows like this to be actual “representation”. The problem isn’t so much the concept – lesbians being troubled as they date guys yet are attracted to each other sounds fair, but rather the approach: you have close-ups on the girls touching, kissing, etc. In this case it’s all clearly designed to be pandering. The reason why I can only conclude this is the sheer laziness of everything: we end with “girls’ kiss are so much sweeter!”, a commonplace line in such works, and while sensuality can make sense, it doesn’t when there’s no build up to it, such as here where the episode essentially begins with focus on Hotaru touching Yuma’s thigh. Forget all about psychological, social insight and all that pesky stuff – let’s just show hot lesbians! Oh, yes, we genuinely support LGBTI people, so buy the blu-rays, please.
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