Between the Lines
by Bamboo Dong, Lynzee Lamb,
On Shelves This Week
Fairy Tail - Part 15 BD+DVD
Funimation - 275 min - Hyb - MSRP $54.98
Currently cheapest at: $32.02 Rakuten
Synopsis: The adventures keep rolling in this next installment of Fairy Tail. Covering episodes 165-175, this volume continues the excitement of the Grand Magic Games, but not everyone is playing fair.
Familiar of Zero: Knight of the Twin Moons BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98 | $49.98
Currently cheapest at: $34.49 Amazon | $29.20 Rakuten
Synopsis: The direct sequel to The Familiar of Zero, this season takes place shortly after the war. Saito is still in Louise's employ as her familiar, although the latter claims she'll ease up with her behavior. Saito ends up meeting the newly coronated Queen Henrietta, but she soon ends up embroiled in more political issues and the beginnings of another war.
Thoughts: While the first season was helmed by Yoshiaki Iwasaki, season 2 is directed by Yuu Kou, who's directed works like Chrono Crusade, the fantastic Giant Killing, and the delightful Uta no Prince-sama (seasons one and two). Still, Familiar of Zero isn't really my bag (sorry Louise). We don't have any reviews up yet of the second season, but Carl did review the first season a few years ago. You can watch every season of Familiar of Zero on The Anime Network and Hulu.
The World God Only Knows Season 3 - Goddesses BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.98 | $59.98
Currently cheapest at: $40.29 Amazon, $35.04 Rakuten
Synopsis: Dating game guru Keima must woo six Goddesses, and there's no time to waste. If he doesn't doesn't conquer their hearts before it's too late, a rogue group of demons will use the Goddesses's powers to unleash a destructive demon army. But with the Goddesses' souls hidden inside girls who've already fallen in love with Keima, not only does he need to figure out who they are, but they might have since already forgotten about him.
Thoughts: This season is directed by Satoshi Ōsedo, who previously also directed The World God Only Knows OAV 2. These are his only directorial credits, although he's also worked as a storyboarder and episode director for a variety of shows, including Jojo's Bizarre Adventure and Squid Girl. We don't have any reviews of season 2, but you can read Erin's review of season 1 here, or a selection of other reviews about the first season. You can check out all three seasons of the series on The Anime Network, Crunchyroll, and Hulu.
Persona 3 the Movie #2 Midsummer Knight's Dream [Import] BD, Collector's Edition BD
Aniplex of America - 99 min - Sub - MSRP $74.98 | $99.98
Currently cheapest at: $59.98 Right Stuf, $79.98 Right Stuf
Synopsis: Transfer student Makoto Yuki is suddenly attacked by a strange monster. He learns that they're called Shadows, and discovers that he has the power to summon a Persona. Makoto is approached by the members of SEES, the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad, who ask him to join them in their battle against these beings. This contains both the director's cut and the original theatrical version.
Thoughts: The film is directed by Tomohisa Taguchi, who also lent his talents to Persona 4 the Golden Animation as director, and Persona 4: the Animation as a storyboarder and episode director. Those who enjoyed the music of the games will be happy to know that Shoji Meguro, who composed the music for several Persona projects and series, also wrote the music for this movie. While you can't watch the movie online just yet, if you want an introduction to the anime franchise, you can check out Persona 4 and/or Persona 4 the Golden Animation on Hulu, The Anime Network, or Crunchyroll.
Shelf Life Reviews
Genshiken: Second Generation Premium Edition BD
Nothing this week
Hiiro no Kakera Complete Series S1&2 BD
But it's more than just a personnel shift that marks this season of Genshiken. The club, once dominated by male otaku, is now largely occupied by fujoshi. That it mirrors the explosive growth of the fujoshi market in recent years is likely not a coincidence—the stereotype of the male otaku has given way to a more mixed image, one where women comb the aisles of Comiket for BL, play otome games, and have the purchasing power to buy anime goods. It's not without its own subset of negative stereotypes—the self-mocking term "rotten girl" is not an inherently positive one, and there are otaku (like Genshiken's Ogiue) who look down on the fandom. But it's here to stay, and it's entirely appropriate that a new Genshiken should reflect that new trend.
Beyond BL jokes, though, and the constant slashing of Genshiken characters, this season does try to be a little more ambitious with its characters. It doesn't always execute it perfectly, but it certainly tries. We see this the most with Hato, a self-proclaimed fudanshi who cross-dresses to fit in better with fujoshi. His sexuality is intentionally left a little ambiguous, despite his profession that he's straight when he's not dressed as a woman. His friends doubt the statement often, but they don't press too much. Mostly, it doesn't really matter.
What's notable about Genshiken: Second Generation is not that there's a character who can't be easily slotted into any preset label (the opening theme is a little too on the nose about it, singing about how labels like "man or woman" don't apply). It's that it's not entirely played for laughs, like it is in many anime. And it allows the other characters to react openly and honestly about it. We see this in the way that various characters choose which pronouns to use when talking about Hato. We see this in the way that some characters embrace her too fetishistically, or express disgust and anger. Others are just excited to shove her into cosplay, while some default to harassment, insisting on seeking proof. Some accept her for who she is, no questions asked. And while some of the responses seem more progressive than others, the series doesn't cast judgments. Rather, it provides the platform for what it believes is a realistic set of (otaku-minded) responses to something that people may not initially understand.
It's certainly not easy for Hato. Even the matter of where she'll change clothing is an important issue, with characters pointing out that if a man is spotted entering a woman's bathroom, it'll become a police matter. Even these logistical issues are indicative of the characters' acceptance. They are more consumed with trying to figure out where Hato can change, than the act itself. Even Yajima, who can't understand why Hato doesn't just dress as a man to make things more convenient, doesn't really press the issue beyond that. It feeds into one of Genshiken's central theses, that no matter who you are, or what you're into, there's a place for you in the otakusphere.
Madarame also gets a lot of good screen time this season, although the writing is often a little clunky. He's matured a lot since the first season, and even cooks a mean seafood pasta. But he has a job close to campus, so he often still loiters around the club. He eventually realizes that he needs to let go, but there are past memories that are holding him back. When he finally has a chance to let his emotions be known, I can't help but be a little irritated at the writers for making the other characters too pushy, though I suppose otaku aren't exactly known for their social grace. But all's well that ends well, and Madarame firmly cements himself as one of the best characters the franchise has ever known.
It's hard to wrap up a review about a series as thoughtful and charming as Genshiken, especially after a season as great as this one. There is just so much to talk about, like Ohno's relatable feelings of despair in a bad job market, Ogiue's search to rekindle passion in a job she once thought would be perfect, or even Yajima's feelings of insecurity that cause her to lash out at Hato. It's a series that has matured over the years, although the ideas are sometimes a little more ambitious than the writers can handle. The school culture festival in particular felt rushed and awkward, with everything tying up a little too cleanly.
On a closing note, those who loved the first two seasons for all their otaku references will enjoy the nerd nods in this one as well. From pixelated Evangelion plugsuits, to Flowers of Evil references, to offhand comments about Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, to the mountains of cosplay from properties like Madoka Magica, Princess Jellyfish, Bayonetta, One Piece, and more, it doesn't skimp on the otaku side of things. Because at the end of the day, what's Genshiken without otaku.
Next up is Lynzee's review of Hiiro no Kakera, seasons one and two.
When Tamaki says this to Yuichi near the end of the first season of Hiiro no Kakera ~Tamayori Princess Saga~, we've watched her be verbally ridiculed by the majority of the male cast for the better part of six hours. Mahiro, who suffers from a Napoleon complex and one of the most grating voices ever, has no qualms telling Tamaki how useless she is. The more stoic and dependable Takeru and narcoleptic Yuichi join in, albeit less aggressively. Tamaki swears she'll become a better Tamayori princess, the boys shoot down this possibility, and she laments her inability to do anything.
This kind belittling fantasy has an audience somewhere. Hiiro no Kakera is hardly the only male harem show that focuses on attractive men verbally abusing the female protagonist. Compared to its peers like Diabolik Lovers, it's even on the tame side, but the first season of the show is full of nothing but monotonous rooftop conversations about how awful Tamaki is and not much else. There's plenty of plot threads laid out: Tamaki and her five guardians are tasked with protecting a set of artifacts from Logos, a lolita girl named Aria and her five guardians, or else they'll release the Onikirimaru sword and risk the world's destruction. There's a suspicious government agency watching over all the events. Logos has some internal turmoil of its own, and the history of Onikirimaru and the guardians is shrouded in mystery. Unfortunately, Tamaki's guardians suck at their job and apparently it's all her fault for not knowing how to immediately perform her duties as the Tamayori princess.
Overall the show has a surprising lack of “heart-pounding” moments. Just like its male-targeted counterparts, accidental kisses, falling into one of the male leads arms, or other fanservice are the bread and butter of otome game adaptations. Hiiro no Kakera has one “walk into the bath scene” and some kabe-don, but lacks the fangirl staples used to up the appeal of the male cast. So besides insults, it doesn't have any physical tension to fall back on.
Inexplicably, the guys stop giving her crap around episode nine and this gives away the show's otome game roots. It's probably about where the gamer has made enough correct choices that the characters quit being jerks. In the anime, Tamaki hasn't made any real strides or had any positive moments with the cast to warrant their behavior change. Suddenly, they're saying nice things to her. It doesn't make any sense, but it does make the season a hell of a lot more watchable even if it is just for four episodes.
The first season's conclusion leaves a lot up in the air and there's this overwhelming feeling that screen time was unnecessarily wasted on the school's roof. The second season queues up (with a recap episode) and thankfully sets itself up to answer all the untied threads left from the first season and reveal the show's real villain. There's a lot of forces working against Tamaki and Co., including Drei, Logos itself, and the Bureau of Medicine. The show's best antagonist, as far as ability to absolutely loathe a person through and through, is Tamaki's grandmother. The show's primary conflict switches from protecting the artifacts to resealing Onikirimaru, a task Tamaki's grandmother claims can only be done if the Tamayori princess kills herself and she's willing to go through great lengths to make sure it happens for the “greater good.” The other antagonists are more cartoony in their one-note drive to destroy the world. Grandma Ugaya is horrible in a frustratingly bureaucratic way that makes you feel sick.
The second season also goes headlong into the Tamaki x Takeru love story, a romance that lacks any real chemistry. Even though he, and the rest of the generally attractive cast, are nicer and now throw out their promises of dedication to Tamaki (and the viewer during each episode's bumper), they're barely fleshed out characters. It might be more accurate to say that they, and the show's romance, could have been better realized if the second season didn't suffer from the first season's pacing. The show makes a mad dash of throwing in character development at the end for Mahiro and Suguru, but the audience can't be expected to gain insight on the former's upbringing to be a sacrifice if it's presented at the tail end of the show. Every character has a story, but it's like all the pages are in the wrong order and it comes out like meaningless nonsense.
Hiiro no Kakera only succeeds at being frustrating. It fails at providing any kind of romantic tension and instead replaces it with unlikable male leads. The characters manage to break away from constantly being awful, but are still bogged down by haphazard pacing and poor personality building.
That's it for this week. Join me next week for more reviews!
This week's shelves are from Fathergoat, and they're quite the sight:
" Sixteen years of collecting have done this to me. I had to custom build the shelves. I haven't done inventory in quite some time but I estimate 800+ individual discs. (75 regular cases per shelf x 10.5 shelves filled+ slim cases taking up half space)"
Incredible! You should go into business with these shelves; they are beautiful.
Want to show off your stuff? Send your jpgs to [email protected] Thank you!
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