The Stream
Winds of Amnesia

by Bamboo Dong, Jan 28th 2013

I started this week with 22 shows. That was too much. I felt myself going nuts halfway through, pawing desperately at a computer that refused to provide me with solace. And so, I axed a bunch of shows, and I daresay I feel a lot better. Hooray for season openers.

Alright, let's dive in!

#1 - Chihayafuru 2 [ep. 1-3]

Everyone who knows me, knows my love for Chihayafuru. I've enthusiastically recommended it to more fans than any other anime title in my lifetime. Naturally, while I was extremely excited for the second season of this series, I approached the season premiere with a bit of trepidation. What if it wasn't as good as my freakishly high expectations? What if the new characters they introduced were nothing like the old characters I had already come to know and love? What if they took the series in the wrong direction, and turned it into a sports anime, or worse, a hackneyed romance?

Luckily, it meets the high bar set by the first season, and reminds me of why I enjoyed the series so much. The members of the Mizusawa High School karuta team are gearing up for a new school year, but they all seem to have different plans for the club. Porky has his eyes solely on the high school championships, while Taichi wants to advance to Class A. Chihaya wants to grow the team as large as possible, and in a heart-warming scene, we finally see why—she wants to be able to come back after she graduates and coach the team. In that moment, we see not only her love for the game, but also her lifelong devotion to it. For her, it's more than just wanting to win tournaments—it's a pure, joyful love for all things karuta, and it's one of the scenes that absolutely steals the episode. Throughout the first season, Chihaya's passion for karuta has been one of the main driving forces in the series, and it's nice to see it's still burning as hotly as ever.

Blessedly, it seems like the new club members will fit in too. Both have the type of burning fire that the rest of the teammates have, and even though they're both completely different from all the characters we've seen before, they're the perfect complements for the karuta team. I think Chihayafuru might have the best track record in making me tear up during episodes, and even with this new season, with these new teammates, the emotional impact is the same. When first year Tsukuba's little brothers rush to Chihaya's side after a match, excitedly yammering, “Big brother will catch up in no time!” tears sprang into my eyes. This series is so consistently good at waving hope and determination and passion in its viewers' faces that I can't help but get emotional at every impassioned speech and display of gumption. I've been waiting a whole year for more Chihayafuru, and it has not let me down.

#2 - Space Brothers [ep. 39-42]

What an incredible show. Week after week, I am left in awe of this magnificent series. Every episode seems to end on a cliffhanger, and every episode leaves me breathless for more. With these chunks of episodes, we follow Hibito on his moon mission, only to watch him try to logic his way out of a harrowing life or death scenario. There is a calmness and assuredness about Space Brothers that makes me look forward to this show every week. Every time the characters are in a jam, I always know that they'll somehow make it. Yet at the same time, I'm always left blind as to how they'll manage to do it. It makes for gripping storytelling and every week I come back for more.

#3 - Tamako Market [ep. 1-3]

I fell in love with Tamako Market instantly. Partly it was because I loved the warm, happy atmosphere of the show. But mostly, it was because I have an incredible weakness for fat animals. Tamako Market has the greatest fat animal I've seen in a while, in the form of a fat, sassy, womanizing cockatoo named Dera Mochiyucky. He's on a mission to find a bride for his country's prince, but he's eaten too much mochi and now he's too fat to fly home. He's incredibly cute. Oh yeah, and he talks, too, and his mouth works as a video projector.

Nestled amongst all that weirdness, though, is also a really great story of a girl named Tamako who really loves her family's mochi, and who cares deeply about the other shopkeepers who make the Bunny Mountain Shopping District their home. She has great friends, a great family, lives in a great community, and I envy her endless supply of happiness and optimism. Between her and the other Bunny Mountain folk, and chubby Dera, it's hard to tell who's really supposed to be the star of the show. At times, they feel like they should be from two completely different shows, but at other times, they fit seamlessly. It's like slice-of-life meets gag comedy, except it's a one-man comedy show.

I'm not entirely sure where this season of Tamako Market will take us, since the Tamako aspect and the Dera aspect seem so wholly unrelated, but I'm tickled pink that a fun show like this exists. This is quickly one of my favorite shows of the season, and I can't wait to see more.

#4 - Polar Bear Cafe [ep. 39-41]

Every season, Polar Bear Cafe nestles into a slightly different groove. A warmer, more comfortable groove. Watching this show is like coming home after a long day at work and finding that spot on the couch that you've slowly worn in over the years. The series is still as pun-filled and anime joke-filled as usual, but it's become much more of a feel-good show. It's become a show about friends and family, about learning how to appreciate the small things in life. Whether it's Polar Bear napping in a hammock, or Panda growing up a little and learning to appreciate his mother more, or Sasako reminiscing about her dream to fly, it's a celebration of the things in life that make it worth living. It seems like the longer I watch Polar Bear Cafe, the better it gets, and it seems to be maturing in the right direction.

#5 - Kotoura-san [ep. 1-3]

What an unexpected gem! Kotoura-san starts off pretty dark—we're introduced to a little girl who, unexpectedly, can read minds. Unaware of the effect her actions have on people, though, she starts blurting out everyone's thoughts out loud. She reveals her friends' crushes, her parents' affairs, and before long, she's alienated and abandoned. Skip forward several years and now she's in high school. She finally meets a guy who isn't afraid of her powers, and for the first time, she actually has a friend. Naturally, she's also welcomed by the ESP Research Society, and soon, her lonely life is finally filled with people who genuinely care about her.

But of course, nothing's ever that easy, and within the first three episodes, we see that she's still being bullied and before long, she's retreated back to a mental place of self-preservation. We're only three episodes in, but I am absolutely hooked on Kotoura-san. For the first time, we have an ESP show that's more about that person's struggles to fit in and deal with the people around her… and we have a romance show where the leading lady is deeply, emotionally troubled. It takes two very well-worn genres and mashes them together unexpectedly, all without making a big fuss about the ESP angle. It manages to take something very supernatural and utilize it in a real-world setting, all the while sprinkling in some old-fashioned raunchy humor for light laughs.

I like a good high school romance show as much as the next gal, but they do get stale after a while. Luckily, Kotoura-san manages to find a fresh way to present its characters, and I'm dying to see what happens next. Especially after that nasty cliffhanger they left us on after epidode three.

#6 - Psycho-Pass [ep. 12-14]

Ever since episode 11, Psycho Pass has become much more exciting and interesting. Before, the series had always flirted with the idea that the Sybil System was deeply flawed, but now it's actually acknowledging it and pushing it as one of the main agendas. How strange, really, that a serial killer is the one that's pointing out the problems in the system.

We're shown a few things in this set of episodes. We know there's a resistance group that wants to overthrow the Sybil System. We also now realize that this system has completely destroyed and brainwashed society—everyone's so reliant on this system that they can't even identify and process danger. An incredibly brutal murder happens in public, and all people can do is stand by and watch curiously. At the same time, we're also led to believe that there's something just not right about Akane. Her blankness and calmness is an anomaly, and while one of the characters claims it's because of her absolute unwavering faith in the system, I can't help but wonder if it's not a result of chronic antidepressant use or something more sinister.

Now that this series has moved away from episodic missions, it's become much more riveting. Showing murder after murder and detective mission after mission is fine if you're just chasing adrenaline, but now that the series is finally casting a critical eye at the shaky foundation of its very premise, things are definitely heading in a good direction.

#7 - Maoyu [ep. 1-4]

MAOYU tickles the nerd inside me. I love that there are entire segments of this show devoted to crop rotation and the importance of education. I love that the Demon King's “secret weapon” was a potato. I love that her bargaining chip against a mighty foreign power was the introduction of corn into arid climates. I feel like I'm watching PBS, except there's a smidge too much fanservice at times, and the super smart Demon King lady scholar also has an unfortunate slate of body image issues.

In short, MAOYU presents a world in which humans have been warring with demons for ages. The humans sent Hero to slay the Demon King, but when he got there, he learned that the Demon King was actually a hot, smart lady. She wants to see the war end, and asks him to marry her so that the two of them can work towards this goal together. Rather than raise bigger and better armies, though, her method of ending warfare relies more on understanding the economics of war. In order to end a conflict in which certain parties are profiting immensely, that party must be given something of greater economic value. It's a simple proposal, but watching everything play out is pure edutainment.

The only thing that puzzles about MAOYU is its need to have any fanservice at all. It's simply just not necessary. The show doesn't show enough gratuitous cleavage that it's a main aspect of the series, but then at that point, why bother at all? The end result is a scattered handful of scenes that end up distracting the viewer more than titillating them. It's a little strange, but I think the uniqueness of the series makes up for it. It's not often you get to watch a show about humans and demons, and instead end up learning about market manipulation and sustainable agriculture.

#8 - Love Live! School Idol Project [ep. 1-3]

Love Live!: School Idol Project may be cheesy, but it's so genuine and full-hearted that it's impossible to be snide about it. The warmth of the characters and the strength of their convictions fills the show with good feelings, and I daresay I even got a little misty-eyed when the girls gave their first concert.

As tends to happen in anime, for whatever reason, the all-girls school of Otonokizaka Academy is on the verge of being shut down. Enrollment is down, and the current class of freshmen will be the last. Determined to save her school, cheerful gal Honoka visits one of the biggest high schools in the district and learns that their high enrollment is thanks in part to the skyrocketing popularity of their school idols. Naturally, she takes this cue and convinces her two best friends to start their own school idol club, Muse. The training montages that follow are cute, if a little goofy. They run the steps at the local shrine, watch dance videos on YouTube, and practice their own twirls until they're out of breath. There's even a cute bit where tough girl Umi tells Honoka that they need stamina, and challenges her to do pushups while smiling.

In the real world, it'd be improbable that a group of untrained girls would go from zero to stage-ready in a month, with a well-produced instrumental track, but in the anime world, it's all a testament to their hard work and will. It's rewarding seeing them try so hard, and when their concert finally happens, it's a beam of sunshine in a usually cynical world. Love Live!: School Idol Project is a ton of fun, and I'm enjoying it more than I thought I ever would. The characters are sweet and earnest, and there isn't a whisper of irony in the entire production. If you're looking for a truly heartfelt show about friendship and determination and all that kind of stuff, check this one out.

#9 - Robotics;Notes [ep. 12-14]

Robotics;Notes continues to be on-off-on-off with the way it shuffles between the slice-of-life robot-building adventures of the Robotics Club, and a conspiracy-heavy show about solar flares, robot uprisings, and the end of humanity as we know it. As much as I generally love slice-of-life stuff, it's the conspiracy stuff that's really kept me hooked on Robotics;Notes. I just wish that the tone between the two facets of the show mingled a little better.

I was gripped at the end of the first season when I saw the horrified reactions that some of the characters had towards the leaked Gunvarrel finale, but that seems to have largely passed. Likewise, when a solar flare hits Tokyo, its ripples are barely felt in other parts of the show. On the one hand, I understand that despite tragedies in other parts of a country or world, people elsewhere still move on with their lives. But on the other hand, this is a television show where everything is supposed to be gelled together, and cause is supposed to lead to effect.

In the end, I remain where I was last season—loving some episodes, being ambivalent about others. I'm curious where the series will go this season, though, so I'm sticking to it for now.

#10 - Pet Girl of Sakurasou [ep. 12-15]

Pet Girl of Sakurasou has moments of brilliance, and moments where I feel like it takes the easy way out with little sister incest jokes and harem antics. Those are the moments when I get the most frustrated with the series, because I feel like it does it a big disservice. Those elements don't really add to the show, and I think it distracts from the message of the series. At its heart, Pet Girl of Sakurasou is about growing up, figuring out what you want to do, and chasing after your dreams. At times it's hard, and at times it's easy to lose motivation, but somehow these kids manage to stick to it.

As a romance series, Pet Girl of Sakurasou tries to sidestep some of the more obvious clichés, too. Sure, a lot of the ladies that surround Sorata tire me with their overt love for him, but other characters are quieter and more thoughtful about their relationships. Jin and Misaki have a complicated love that's grown a lot from the beginning of the series. Originally, Misaki was portrayed as this boy-crazy girl who'd do anything for Jin, but more and more, we realize that they simply don't know what to do. Now they're facing a possible relationship-ending dilemma that many high school couples eventually have to deal with—college. The show may not be focused on them specifically, but their relationship is amongst the more interesting ones in the Sakura dorm.

Sometimes I think that Pet Girl of Sakurasou would've worked much better as a one-season series. There's a lot of filler in this show that could've been axed. There's still a lot of filler, and it's getting to the point where I feel like this show should've reached its conclusion several episodes ago. However, we've already come this far, and now that the characters are reaching an important junction in their academic careers, I have hopes that this season will be as good as the last.

#11 - Oreshura [ep. 1-4]

Finally, a harem-style shonen romance that doesn't feel old, tired, and rehashed. Oreshura had all the initial trappings of a stereotypical harem show—the childhood friend, the aloof tsundere, the guy whose parents are out of the picture—but it's so far shown itself to be more inventive than I originally gave it credit for.

Main character Ei only cares about studying. He thinks love is dumb, especially since his parents both ran off with new lovers, abandoning him to the care of his busy aunt. Luckily, there's another girl at school who also thinks love is terrible, only she also happens to be the most popular girl at school. Tired of getting asked out all the time, she hatches a plan for Ei to be her fake boyfriend, but this doesn't sit too well with the childhood friend.

What makes Oreshura better than your average harem show is that the characters are a lot more well-rounded. They actually engage in activities beyond just cooking and simpering, and they have real conversations about themselves and their dreams. For viewers who like a heavy dose of nerd pandering, there's plenty of that, too, ranging from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure references, to Death Note references. It's still early in the game, but the series doesn't feel stale so far, so I'm looking forward to seeing more.

#12 - From the New World [ep. 13-16]

In case you were worried that you wouldn't get your weekly dose of the strange and the surreal, rest easy, From the New World is continuing this season. Our group of friends is steadily dwindling, and now that they know what awful things their supposedly peace-loving society is capable of, they're determined to fight their fate. Two of the kids have run away, leaving Saki and another to try and figure out their whereabouts. Along the way, they ask the help of more mutant rats, whom they're slowly beginning to mistrust.

I'm not entirely sure what the end game for From the New World is. We're following the lives of these kids, but for what purpose? Are we supposed to see the fall of mankind via institutionalized brainwashing and genetic manipulation? Or are we just supposed to catch a glimpse at a supernatural story with dark, twisted elements? Because the story arc doesn't seem to have a defined goal, I find myself feeling like I'm just drifting through the episodes. I never quite know what I'm in store for, or for what reason I'm still on this journey. It's a strange, disjointed method of storytelling, and I've been struggling with this the whole time. However, maybe it's for that reason that I'm still along for the ride. I'm puzzled at this show and intrigued by its weirdness, so I guess I should steel myself for another season of the same.

#13 - Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman [ep. 1-3]

The one and only time I visited Japan, I was aware that pachinko parlors existed, but I never stuck my head inside one. Maybe because of that, I still can't fully understand how an entire anime series can be developed form a pachinko game. Regardless, it happens all the time, and now we have Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman. Thanks to character designs by Monkey Punch, the show very much looks like Lupin, and I daresay it even feels like Lupin. The only major difference is that our protagonist Roman has got a big ol' beard, and he lives in the Bakumatsu Era.

Roman is a “getbacker” (no, not that show from the early 2000s), which basically means that he'll retrieve any lost item for just about any client. Sometimes this means holding a seat at a fireworks viewing party, or tracking down a lost cat, but the big cases involve retrieving stolen maps, returning “stolen” money (in the form of high taxation) to the community, or what have you. So basically, most of the time, he's a thief, except he's not keeping the items at the end of the night. Lupin with a conscience.

So far, this series has kind of existed in a void of apathy for me. I like the characters a lot, especially the gaijin doctor with his lumpy clay zombie buddy, but the stories aren't doing a whole lot for me. It's certainly neat to gawk at, with all its bright colors and anachronistic magical armor suits. At the end of the day, though, I'm not sure I care that much about the individual missions, or the shady government secret that's bubbling in the background. I'm going to give this series another few episodes, but I'm not sure it can hold my interest in the long term.

#14 - Da Capo III [ep. 1-3]

The great mystery about Da Capo III is how all the girls' body parts seemingly move at random. In scenes where they're all sitting around talking, someone's chest ribbon will flounce unprovoked, or a ponytail, or a hair ribbon. It's mysterious, and it's distracting. Is it not enough that all the girls are generically cute? Must they also have roving body parts?

Shows like Da Capo III fascinate me. They're structured in such a way that they're able to kill inordinate amounts of time with really trivial stuff—the characters can look for a missing key for several minutes, or play with a cat—and yet everything is strung together by a single story line. In this case, it's a mysterious and magical(??) cherry blossom tree that supposedly grants wishes. It hasn't bloomed in two decades, but now that all the cutesy girls of the high school newspaper club have wished upon it, it's exploded with blossoms. Now the girls (plus singular guy) want to figure out why. There's definitely something mysterious about it, but likely we won't find out until the tail end of the series. Until then, there's lots of time that needs to be wasted.

There are certainly parts of Da Capo III that make me roll my eyes. There's the requisite “big sister” character who is just a little too forward with her younger brother. Surely, no one is still buying the “let's bathe together” shtick anymore, right? There was also a decidedly unsettling monologue where one of the main dude's buddies outlined the best traits about the newspaper club girls, most of which hit on one otaku fetish or another. But let's be real, here, this isn't a shock to anyone. And at the end of the day, it's not that off-putting, other than occasionally straying too close to cliché. If anything, the occasional fanservice elements in Da Capo III just serve as yet another reminder that the anime industry is in desperate need of more fresh air.

For now, though, the series is pleasant to watch. I'm not the target demographic for Cute Girls Being Cutesy, or Cute Girls With Mysteriously Bouncing Hair, but I am a sucker for the types of weird, quasi-supernatural mysteries that only seem to rear their head in visual novel adaptations, so I'm sticking around for the time being.

#15 - Vividred Operation [ep. 1-2]

Vividred Operation is a jolly good time, even if it has a lot of butts in it. Seriously, the very first scene we get is a shot of the sun from underneath a billowy camel toe, followed up by a girl's butt as she stands up on a floating bicycle. That girl is Akane, a peppy newspaper delivery gal who sure does love life! She's excited that her best friend Aoi is finally coming home, but before her plane even lands, a giant extraterrestrial monster called an Alone lands off the coast and starts laying waste to everything the military can throw at it. Luckily, Akane's grandfather is a genius scientist (who's temporarily stuck in the body of a stuffed weasel) and he's invented these magic keys that let the girls transform into Alone-killing magical girls. When they hug, they can combine their powers even further to transform into one magical girl.

Wha-wha-what? The stuffed weasel grandpa gave the girls magic keys that do what? Yes, it's all very silly stuff, especially when you consider how quickly the series waves away any explanation of events. Of course the girls are willing to risk their lives to fight this unknown entity. Of course they know how to transform into magical girls. Of course they're not worried about flying at jets, or approaching aliens with magic hammers. Of course they combine into one older, hotter girl. But at the end of the day, it's actually kind of entertaining. You just… can't think about anything.

Vividred Operation is a total fanservice show in that respect. It throws away backstory and logic in favor of things that please fans—magical girls, giant monsters, mascot critters, vague allusions to sexual situations (girls docking with each other? Gasp!), technobabble—but it keeps your interest, in the same way that dangling keys in front of a cat keeps its interest. It makes no pretense whatsoever that it's trying to be thoughtful or original, and relies on bright colors and shiny things to sell its totally candy-coated existence. I'm not sure how well this will hold up in the long run, but for the time being, it's enough to keep me cautiously hooked.

#16 - Problem Children Are Coming From Another World, Aren't They? [ep. 1-3]

For a series that has zero setup, no characterization, and is totally half-assed, Problem children are coming from another world, aren't they? is strangely engaging. It's a total mess, but the more I watch it, the more fascinated I am by it. In fact, it might actually benefit from not having any setup. If it did, it would probably, somehow, make even less sense. We're introduced to the main characters when they're all given a mysterious letter. Suddenly, they're dropped into another world. There, they learn that they've been chosen for the unique “gifts” (aka super powers) that they possess, and have been summoned by a struggling community to fight for them in the Gift Games. This alternate world (one of many, apparently, since all the characters are originally from parallel universes anyway) is inhabited by spirits, gods, demons, animal folk, mythological beasts, and what not. Goods are won or lost by gift games, in which people have to use their powers and cunning to win against whomever they're playing against.

It's… a little convoluted. Mostly because we're thrown into this series with little to no backstory, and the vast majority seems to be pulled out of thin air. It's a lot like playing make-believe with kids, in which they can conjure any setting they want, and you just have to go along with it. The three main characters—a delinquent with powers of strength, a rich girl who can control things, and a shy girl who can communicate with animals—are way too happy to be in their new surroundings, and are already willing to help the ones who summoned them there. Basically, they've been called by a community that wants to restore their name back from a demon lord.

The more I try and explain Problem Children, the crazier I sound. Regardless, for the time being, I'm actually having fun. The lack of backstory and exposition and characterization makes it kind of shallow, but the world that the characters find themselves in is colorful, and I'm beyond curious where this bizarre little show is going to go. That, and if I'm going to be 100% honest, I'm mostly just living vicariously through the girl who can talk to animals. That's been one of my dream super powers since I was five.

#17 - Ixion Saga DT [ep. 13-14]

Truth be told, my love for Ixion Saga DT ended the second I had a fresh new batch of anime to watch this season. That's how fickle I am. It was a fun show last season when I felt like there wasn't much else to hold my interest, but I think it's run its course. Kon is, expectedly, not actually dead. His adventures with his friends can still continue. Events continue to be as random and goofy as they were before. Season two is essentially just like season one.

Because of the style of the comedy in Ixion Saga DT, which mostly relies on one-shot humor, there's little to string the episodes together in the form of a big picture. Our traveling troupe of colorful characters are headed towards a particular destination, but along the way, the hijinks they get themselves in are variegated. This is perfect when you've got a boxset of twelve episodes sitting in front of you, but when you can only visit a show once a week, it's harder (for me, at least) to sustain interest over a long period of time. I'd be happy to give the second season of Ixion Saga DT a viewing once it comes out on DVD, but for now, I think I'm going to cast my net elsewhere.

#18 - Sasami-san@Ganbaranai [ep. 1-2]

For as crazy and wild as Sasami-san@Ganbaranai looks and feels, it seems to be following a formula. It's just hard to tell, under all the layers of psychedelic colors, textures, and filters. Don't get me wrong, Sasami-san@Ganbaranai is a beautiful show, but its hectic pace and tumultuous storytelling weighs it down and renders the viewing experience tiresome.

Sasami is a hikikomori who can't step outside without vomiting. Instead, she shuts herself in her room, buying things on Amazon and playing virtual reality games. All of her needs are taken care of by her doting older brother, whose identity is perpetually blocked by objects placed over his face—briefcases, boxes, grocery bags. He doesn't know it, but he's actually an all-powerful supreme god, so whenever he goes overboard trying to please his little sister, the world can spiral out of control, like being flooded with chocolate, or consumed by a multi-headed demon monster. Luckily, there are three other ladies in his life, the Yagami sisters, whose jobs it is to help mitigate these disasters.

Every episode, then, follows a similar trend. Sasami watches her brother through an intricate network of spy cameras (what's unhealthier—her obsession with him, or his lust towards her?), which reveal that something is amiss. He tries too hard to please her, and things go wild, in a surreal and absurd way. Then the sisters step in. Comedy and hijinks ensue, buried under layers of neon colors or out-of-focus scenes, and before the audience is fully aware of what's going on, the episode careens to a screeching resolution.

I have no doubt that there will be future episodes of Sasami-san@Ganbaranai that will make full light of this “supreme god” business, or might dazzle me even further with its unexpected animation, but I don't think I have the energy to sit through any more episodes while they're being simulcast. Weird can be good, but this show feels like it's trying too hard.

#19 - Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East [ep. 1-3]

Loosely inspired by the Japanese book Nanso Satomi Hakkenden, this new series takes more of its cues from the supernatural, replacing samurai half-brothers with demon and shapeshifters. Long ago, three children were rescued from a burning village. One of them now serves as the older brother character, who not only is beloved by dogs, but also can transform into a dog. The other has lost the ability to age, sealing within his arm a magical sword that occasionally appears in the form of a talking crow. The third kid is this sassy girl who seems to exist for the sole purpose of being sassy. Eventually, they're tasked with the job of finding six others like them, and along the way they run into all sorts of demons and monsters.

Despite all the supernatural stuff, Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East is just boring. The characters lack any personality, and what little appeal they do have seems to lie mostly in their bishi appearance. Neither them or their powers are that interesting, and the last thing I really want to watch is these cardboard slabs run around the countryside looking for six more dog people. There are a smattering of bad guys, but they're all generic villains that don't stand out in the slightest. Plus, there are only so many human vs. demons stories one can handle every season, and Hakkenden falls below the cutoff. I gave this series a shot, but I don't think I have the interest to keep going.

#20 - Senran Kagura [ep. 1-3]

I don't know what this show is about. I just stared at everybody's tits the whole time so I was distracted. I think it's mostly about ninjas with ginormous boobs who sit around eating dick-shaped foods a lot. Sometimes they also kick and punch each other.

There's some super secret ninja school somewhere where you can get in if you have really big knockers. You learn all sorts of stuff, like how to quick-change into special outfits, summon animals, and contort your body into suggestive positions. Eventually, I think you get to do real ninja stuff, but for the girls of Senran Kagura, they're stuck doing basic training. All's not roses, though, as a rival school of busty ninjas has it out for these girls, and one of them has been controlling people like marionettes. You can tell which of the ladies is the most villainous, because her breasts are the most out of control.

Senran Kagura is really amazing for people who really, really like boobs. Like if you wake up in the morning, and you're like, “I REALLY LIKE BOOBS!” then this show is probably for you. Literally every ninja girl in this show has tits bigger than her head, and all of them wear those special kinds of anime clothes where each breast comes individually wrapped.

If you don't like boobs, then I guess you're kind of out of luck. Aside from that, this show doesn't have a whole lot else to offer. It's cute and silly, I guess, but it's mostly filler for all the boobs. It's definitely not the worst show out there, not by a long shot, but it exists for a very specific reason, which is to be a boob show. So if you love 'em big and squishy, there you go. If not, drop it, like I'm about to.

#21 - Cuticle Detective Inaba [ep. 1-3]

From the first frame, Cuticle Detective Inaba is wacky! and crazy! and loud! and weird! There're a zillion things going on at once, and they're whizzing and popping and banging and flashing, and everything is absolutely nuts! That's the whole joke! The entire joke behind Cuticle Detective Inaba is that the show is a joke! Everything is funny! Everything is kooooooky dooky! There's a police dog, but he's actually kind of a human, but he's got dog ear-shaped hair, and he's also obsessed with hair! He can even absorb powers from a strand of hair! And he works for the cops, but only the guy who doesn't really like him, but actually he does! And there's another cop who does like dogs, but the joke is, the dog doesn't like him! Everything's a joke!

Cuticle Detective Inaba is positively exhausting. It never stops. It just beans you over the head with joke after relentless joke, until everything just blurs in front of you like a high-energy mess. Every single little thing is a joke, from the straight-shooter character who narrates all the jokes, to the big baaaaaaaaad villain who's actually a goat, to the very fact that the cuticle detective, indeed, has a hair fetish. For people with exceedingly short attention spans, this is fantastic. For everyone else, it's sensory overload. There was a period of time in my life where I would've liked such comedies, because I was easily entertained by the novelty of Hyper Wacky Anime, but those days are long gone. Behind the barrage of jokes and all the visual gags, Cuticle Detective Inaba is completely barren. There's no story to speak of, or characterization. Just joke after endless joke. Once everything is supposed to be funny, nothing ends up actually being funny. I quit.

#22- Amnesia [ep. 1-3]

You know what's probably a bad way to handle amnesia? Avoiding professional medical help, and just trying to hide it from your friends. Everyone working on Amnesia seems to think so too, but it's okay, because the magical fairy demon avatar guy that's supposed to be the main character's spirit guide cleared it up with, “Don't go to the hospital! They can't help you anyway!” Oh, okay.

Amnesia is based on one of those visual novels for ladies where you're surrounded by hot, sensitive dudes, and if you play your cards right, they'll confess their love to you and maybe bring you a pastry from that shop you really like. Usually, the challenge is in writing a main character that has a blank enough of a personality that any player can insert themselves into this escapist fantasy, but Amnesia figured out the ultimate solution—give her amnesia! Not only does she have a probable reason to meet all the hot, sensitive dudes for the first time, but she doesn't have a lick of personality to get in the way. Unfortunately, a side effect of all this is that she's also dumb as a brick wall and can't even figure out how to fill a water glass, but you can't have it all.

Main Character works at a maid cafe that must only be frequented by angry teenagers from the late 90s because everyone is required to have terrible gradient-color hair and dress in clothes that are mostly comprised of belts, scraps of leather, and checkerboard patterns. Because she doesn't remember a damned thing, she has to do all these dumb tasks to try and jog her memory, like make a parfait, or figure out if her asshole boyfriend prefers melon soda over tea. You would think that your significant other would be concerned if you had amnesia, but no, this guy treats it like some kind of game. Later, she asks him what happened during an accident where she fell off a cliff and he says, “I'm not ready to talk about it yet, sorry.”

What a colossally stupid show. Every single character is vapid and devoid of personality, unless the number of belts you can fit on a jacket counts as a character trait. Even just the way the exposition dumps work in this show are ridiculous. Watching this show feels like playing through a video game tutorial, except the only payback you get is scraps of knowledge like, “Ohhhhh, so his name is ___.” Look, when your entire show rests on the premise, “You don't know ANYTHING, but I can't tell you anything either!” then you end up with a product that just ends up wasting your time. Also, seriously, the clothes in this show are terrible. Where are all these dudes getting their knee-high lycra lace-up boots anyway? I'm done with this.


Whew. That was a typing workout. How do we feel about these rankings? How are we feeling in general about this season's offerings? Make your opinion heard over in the Talkback forum!


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