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The Stream
Sister Act

by Bamboo Dong,

Welcome to another edition of The Stream. Last time, the Talkback thread got a little out of control, but I always enjoy hearing everyone's thoughts and opinions, even if I end up disagreeing with some of them. I've even decided to give Oda Nobuna another shot, but that'll be appearing on next week's column once I've caught up. Luckily, some space was freed up this week. When I say "luckily," I also mean that I feel lucky in that I'll never have to watch those shows ever again. But hey, if someone ever finds out who the mystery sister is, please let me know.

Let's dive in.

#1 - Space Brothers [ep. 18-19]

What a good week for the space program! As I was watching the footage of the JPL scientists nervously awaiting news of the Curiosity landing, I was reminded again of the hope and nervous excitement that surrounds space exploration. This is an entire frontier whose surface has only been scratched, and because of it, holds only wonder and the desire to know more. Knowing that only a select few will ever be lucky enough to set foot in space (in our lifetimes, anyway) makes the tension in Space Brothers all the more palpable. Each character has a major stake in the results of the JAXA exam. Each one knows that a once-in-a-lifetime experience hangs on their interactions in the sealed living capsules.

Because of this, Space Brothers has a small advantage. It doesn't need to play up the importance of the exams; we already know. But what it does really well is tell the stories of the characters it wants us to root for. There are fifteen characters, but only a handful of them are being endeared to us, and as the audience, we're all as nervous as they are. We obviously want Mutta to succeed, because he's the everyday goofy dreamer, but we also feel for Naoto, whose ambitions took away his family, and Kenji, whose homesickness fights with his desires to be an astronaut.

As the sealed box exam draws to a close, I'm a little sad. I know that this means that the astronauts will be announced soon, with training to follow closely after, but I've been enjoying this entire arc. It's been really riveting watching the characters interact with each other, and I will be sad to see them go. This is a show that everyone who's ever been interested in space should be watching.

Status: Alright, this is now my favorite show of the season. It's just so good. Even the mundane tasks that the characters do are interesting, and that's when you know that you've got a good show on your hands.

#2 - Polar Bear Cafe [ep. 16-18]

My friends make fun of me because I have a tendency to guffaw. Basically if I see something funny, I'll let out one loud “HA!” and that'll be that. Whenever I watch Polar Bear Café, I must “HA!” so much that it terrifies the neighbors.

My favorite “HA!” moment as of late was the bit where GRIZZLY mistakenly thinks that Polar Bear has been eaten by a pack of otters. In his head, he pictures Polar Bear nonchalantly saying, “Ahhhhh” while otters are gnawing on his head. It's quite possibly the greatest scene this show has had to offer. I watched it upwards of six times, and lost my cool every time I heard Polar Bear's deadpan response.

People underestimate the comedic strength of cute animals with very uncute human traits. If I had a friend like Penguin who never shut up about his dating stories, I'd probably make the conscious choice to stop talking to him. However, because Penguin is, you know, a penguin, he gets away with it. Or rather, he only annoys his fellow characters on screen, while he's still infinitely beloved to us because he's adorable. Panda is a total ass and a freeloader, but because he's portrayed as a nubby panda, he can do and say anything he wants. It's brilliant.

As a side effect, the episodes in which the humans are featured more than the animals aren't nearly as interesting. Rin Rin is weird and delightful when Panda is reacting to him, but when he's just by himself (and with other human characters), then the episode loses all of its magic. I think there's some kind of unspoken rule that once you have talking animals as the main characters, you have to keep them in every scene.

Status: Polar Bear Café is a comedic masterpiece. Every person I coax into watching this show gets hooked, so if you haven't checked it out yet, it's time to jump on the bandwagon.


#3 - Natsuyuki Rendezvous [ep. 4-5]

Natsuyuki Rendezcous has lost some of its charm, and I blame the pacing. It's simply too fast. I praised Ryusuke in the last column for being open and forward about his feelings towards Rokka, but his sudden aggression seems out of place. I get that he feels hurried by the presence of Atsushi's ghost, but all the best romances have been slow burning romances. That he brazenly asks Rokka if she'd have sex with him is a little out of place, even though it's bittersweet that he feels like the only thing he can offer is his flesh and blood body.

The gem of these past couple of episodes, though, comes when Atsushi is finally able to possess Ryusuke's body and embrace his wife again. It's moments like this that propel me to continue watching Natsuyuki Rendezvous. The star of Natsuyuki Rendezvous may very well be Atsushi. His emotions and tears are what really drive the series along, compounded with the confusion that Rokka feels about moving on with her life. It's the pained looks that he gets when he sees Ryusuke moving in on his woman, or the relief he feels when he can hug his wife again, that makes the series. It's not so much about Ryusuke, whose desire to be with Rokka are now partially fueled by the desire to beat the memory of her dead husband.

That having been said, in the most recent episodes, the scenes in which Atsushi are with Rokka are vastly more moving than the ones in which Ryusuke is wandering through a dream world colored like a children's book. It's symbolic, sure, but it's not as interesting, especially when you've got a series that thrives on the discordance of human emotion.

More and more, I think I'd be okay if Ryusuke was written out of the picture, to be replaced solely by Atsushi inhabiting his body. There's something really tragic about him being able to interact with his wife again, but her not knowing it's him. It allows for plenty of light-hearted moments, to be sure, but ultimately it's a painful experience, and it tugs at the heartstrings.

These set of episodes of Natsuyuki Rendezvous didn't pull me in as much as the first few, but I still have my hopes up. I think Rokka is sweet and delightful, and plays the part of the heroine perfectly. She's curious about love, but reluctant to pursue it, and that indecision helps make the show the tender, open-ended question mark it is.

Status: Ryusuke's Adventures in Storybook Land set me back a few steps, but the scenes of Rokka interacting with Atsushi again more than made up for them. Let's hope this series doesn't run out of steam.

#4 - Humanity Has Declined [ep. 5-6]

Oh, these terrifying fairies. They are both simultaneously creepy and cute, but mostly creepy. They way they sleep sandwiched between books and wedged between pins is creepy, the way they dangle on strings is creepy, and the way their absence can foretell doom is creepy. But, I'll be damned if it isn't amazing watching one pipe up, perma-grin plastered on, “I want to curl up and die!”

In continuing with our space theme this week, the most recent arc of Humanity Has Declined shows our characters wandering through the ruins of a human city. They're greeted with some weird sites—flesh-eating blobs and mysterious monoliths—but none are as weird as the cheekily-drawn humanoids, Oyage and Pion. Drawn like stereotypical anime action heroes, with scarves fluttering in the wind, they provide some of the best scenes in the show, including a remarkable transformation into a giant killer cat. In the end, we find out what the humanoids really are, and it's a little bit sad.

Recently, fake Twitter accounts have popped up for various Mars-related equipment. Sad Tweets have floated out from personified machines asking when it's okay to go home, or questioning what one's supposed to do after their mission clock has run out. Maybe that's what was on my mind when Oyage and Pion were talking about the loneliness of space exploration. I think there's a tug-of-war between wanting to see what's out there, and wanting to come home. I'm glad Humanity Has Declined is able to set aside its cynicism long enough to ponder both sides of man's conundrum.

Status: I'm loving that these stories are happening in two to three episode chunks. I think any more than that would get too tiresome, but two is just enough.

#5 - Sword Art Online [ep. 3-5]

When we watch a show like Sword Art Online, in which the central premise is, “You're trapped inside this video game until you beat it, OR ELSE!” we forget that there are hundreds, thousands of players who are absolutely terrified to die. Because we're watching a video game, albeit one with terrible real world consequences, it's easy to forget that the avatars in the game may as well be real. When Kirito is trying to comfort the various players he meets along the way, he thinks to himself that despite the terrible situation they're in, players still live, laugh, and cry. It seems silly to have to remind viewers that the characters have real world feelings and fears, but I'm glad that Sword Art Online made that nudge. Without it, I would've perhaps continued to feel a disconnect between the players and their “real” counterparts.

It's because of this reminder that the characters are living, breathing, feeling human beings that I'm disappointed that each episode only follows one new character that pairs up with Kirito. It's simply too short. The Sachi story, for instance, in which a player actually expresses her fear of death. She was such a valuable character in terms of humanizing the game that it was a shame that it didn't last longer. Had it been dragged out for at least two episodes, it might have made a bigger impact. As it is, viewers barely have time to register, “Oh, yeah, fear is completely real and it exists,” before we have to confront it.

What's also becoming apparent is that aside from the actual premise itself—being trapped in a video game—the biggest villains are other players. It's crazy to think that humans who are all trapped in the same terrible situation together would not only not help each other out, but would actively fight each other, is a sobering reflection on real world conflict. Even within a video game, we're not free from murderous intent.

I was a little worried at first that Sword Art Online would forget its real world ties, and too easily slip into its video game persona, but it seems my fears were unfounded. The series is making a genuine effort to continue to humanize the characters as much as possible, and I appreciate it. Without the continuous elevation of risk, it'd be a much duller show. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the series.

Status: Although I wish the series was less episodic, I'm glad they're exploring the darker side of humanity with this new batch of episodes.

#6 - Kokoro Connect [ep. 4-5]

First off, I enjoyed the latest twist in Kokoro Connect involving Iori and the Heartseed, but setting that aside temporarily, the characters in Kokoro Connect are unbelievably crass. The last time I wrote about Kokoro Connect, one of the girls, Yui, had just talked about a very traumatic experience in her life. At the time, I thought it odd that the situation was waved away relatively quickly, but chalked it up to a pacing issue. In one of the recent episodes, that feeling of incredulousness was amplified when another one of the characters totally spills the beans about Yui's painful past.

Who does that? Who hears a secret of that magnitude and decides, “Hey, gather around the campfire kids, it's time for a story!” If someone trusts you with a big secret, you don't just blab it out at the quickest opportunity. It feels as though Kokoro Connect is rolling through these tragic scenarios not because it wants you to feel something for the characters, but for the shock value.

In fact, there are a lot of scenes in Kokoro Connect that deserve more gravity, but are denied. Iori has a conversation with her crush about her history of stepfathers (some violent), but this also feels a bit hand-waved away. The stock response to most of these revelations seems to be, “Bummer, but you'll be fine!” That's an obvious paraphrase, but that's what it feels like.

While I do appreciate that Kokoro Connect is trying to go deeper than your typical body switch show, I do feel like it's peddling shock much more than it's trying to show emotions and empathy. Case in point, when Heartseed decides that the characters' lives aren't interesting enough, he threatens to kill one of them. I was disappointed with how quickly that resolved also, because if the series was going to wave away abuse and sexual assault, surely it'd play up the dramatic tension of a death threat. Maybe that, too, will be the basis of a story that the characters will tell years later, and their friends will clap them on the back and say, “You'll get over it!”

I like the idea of Kokoro Connect, but I'm starting to doubt its ability to execute its goals.

Status: Still hanging onto this show, but I'm feeling perpetually disappointed with the characters actions and the inability of the series to create empathy.

#7 - Tari Tari [ep. 4-5]

While I felt that Tari Tari had a weak start, weak characters, and felt too fluffy, one of the most recent episodes really turned that around. We get to see some of Wakana's memories about her mother's final days, and they're presented poignantly. In contrast to the tears you'd expect from some memories, we see a lot of regret. Wakana was often angry at her mother, brushing her off with brusque remarks and reacting towards her illness with the kind of bitterness and resentment that you'd associate with a teenager who's not prepared to lose her mother. When she makes the decision to get rid of the piano that's held so many memories for her, it's a sorrowful moment.

It's in this episode, too, that we catch a glimpse of the elements that were trotted out too quickly in the previous episodes. We see a photo of a smiling choir club from long ago, with the now angry Vice Principal standing next to Wakana's mother, and we hear the strains of music that incited rudeness and fury from the VP. I appreciate that this episode is delivering these elements at last, but I wish they had been spread out earlier.

There are still some stories that remain to be told, though. We've known Taichi has aspirations to be a pro badminton players, but his answer to why he chose the high school he did seems like it's hiding information. I find his story and Wakana's to be vastly more interesting than that of the other characters, perhaps because they carry the most weight. I was previously unkind and unforgiving towards Tari Tari, but when I watched Wakana snap at her mother, I realized I had to give the series another chance.

Status: Tari Tari is starting to pick up for me. Seeing Wakana relive her last moments with her mother is the kick that this series needed.

#8 - Binbogami Ga! [ep. 1-5]

There has to be just enough bad luck to balance out all the good luck in the world. So, when Ichiko is sucking up way too much good luck, she needs to be put in her place by Momiji, the god of poverty. However, Ichiko is way too smart to let her good fortune be snatched away by someone like Momiji, and the cat and mouse shenanigans that ensue are a riot. The two go through every silly trick in the book, like dropping heavy objects from ajar doors, or using magic items like aging powders. Throw in some wacky anime references (including the bevy of Dragon Ball references), and you've got a good recipe for a high-energy comedy.

I'm really drawn to the hyperactive energy of this series. The interaction between Ichiko and Momiji is great, and there's never a dull moment. Normally I'm not terribly into these kinds of madcap comedies in which things are just happening for the sake of happening, but Binbogami ga! is using its unique premise to good effect. There's just enough magic use that the scenarios can be ridiculous, but still slight enough that most of the comedy is being carried on by the two heroines.

I wouldn't say that Binbogami ga! is at the center of my radar—it's still just a bit meandering to me, but it's a lot of fun, and it requires zero thought to process. Right now it's mostly just a mad chase, episode after episode, but it's a good way to squeeze out some laughs at the end of a hard day. Plus any time I get to see an out-of-place Vegeta reference is a pretty good time.

Status: Crazy and kooky, Binbogami ga! is great for those who like their comedy supercharged, without too much thought behind it.

#9 - Utakoi [ep. 4-5]

To be honest, I'm not well versed enough in the history of the Hyakunin Isshu to know if all of the poets whose works were compiled actually knew each other and fraternized. I did some Googling, but it didn't answer my questions either. However, whether or not the actual poets hung out together and shared ideas all the time, or if that's just something depicted in Utakoi for creative purposes, I appreciate that the series tells a version(?) of the anthology's history that allows for a finite set of characters. Initially, after just watching a few episodes in which the characters were still being introduced, I assumed it was going to be standalone love stories. I didn't yet realize that the series was going to attempt to tell a full story, with character arcs and complex relationship maps, which makes it much more enjoyable than I previously though.

As far as josei love stories go, I've always been willing to give each one a hearty shot. I like how romance can bring out the best and worst in humans, and I especially love it when the characters involved are old enough to not just be awkward, shoe-gazing teenagers. With Utakoi, the characters are mature, thoughtful people, who not only have just their emotions to contend with, with societal obligation and pressures, such as their duties to the emperor, or their assigned marriage proposals. It makes the romantic entanglements between them more tragic, but also more meaningful.

Interestingly, in the last couple of episodes, the series moves away from romantic pursuits for a little, and focuses more on a couple of the poets. In one episode, the poets have an engaging conversation on why they chose to be poets, and also their different literary styles. That poems as short as the waka in the Hyakunin Isshu can even embrace vastly different styles is interesting to me as a poetry outsider. Later on, this poet storyline merges back into the main story, which brings back an earlier introduced female character. This is the moment that snagged me, because until then, I really didn't expect to see any recurring characters, with the exception of the narrator and the playboy.

I find it fascinating that through these poems, one can reconstruct a full story about the lives of the people who wrote the poems, and also the subjects of their desire. It may not be fully truthful (and as I said earlier, I'm not sure how many of the poets featured in the anthology actually spent time together), but that the original source manga can even string together a cohesive story is impressive and delightful. I wasn't terribly interested in Uta Koi when I first started watching it, but now I'm much more looking forward to future episodes.

Status: With the recurring characters, Utakoi is looking to be much more interesting. I love standalone episodes as much as the next guy, but this really gives viewers a chance to connect with the characters more.

#10 - Hunter x Hunter [ep. 41-42]

Most of the original team is reunited in Yewnork for the great annual auction. While Gon and Friends try to scrap together more funds so they can bid on an old video game and discover why his terrible father left him and his mother, the stage is being set elsewhere with Kurapika and his bodyguard gig. We get to see more of what fuels his rage, which is a nice change of pace from only ever seeing Killua's rage.

It's actually really nice having Gon and his buddies doing light-hearted stuff elsewhere in the city. It offsets Kurapika's storyline really well, and it's something that I missed when Gon and Killua were just endlessly sloughing through Heaven's Arena. Being able to switch scenery a couple times each episode helps keep the series from feeling too bogged down, and it's nice to be able to see the guys just interacting normally without having to fend for their lives every five minutes.

I don't want to dwell too much on Hunter x Hunter because we've been talking about it for something like twenty weeks now, but if you're one of the people who are still following this week after week, I salute you. There's something to be said for commitment.

Status: Still going and going. I'm glad Leorio is back, because I missed that crazy buffoon.

#11 - Kuroko's Basketball [ep. 17-18]

Hold onto your hats, kids. The great Seirin High basketball team might have finally met their maker. AND… it might just be at the hands of one of the GENERATION OF MIRACLES. The great Aomine is even FASTER than the previous players! He's even MORE UNREADABLE than the previous players! He learned to play basketball on the STREETS!!! He plays a brand of American basketball that's even more dangerous than Kobe riding an angry bull, and not even the ridiculous, sweat-popping, air-swooshing, laser-lightning passes of Kuroko can stop him. Even Kagami's crazy agile jumps are no match for this wunderkind!!!

But will sheer willpower and determination and teamwork pull Seirin through???

I'm not going to tell you. But I will tell you that Kuroko's Basketball is one of the greatest 22 minutes you'll spend of your life every week. Not because it's particularly good, or anything (after all, the Olympics are on right now and you might as well be watching real athletes make history), but because it is pure fluff. It is like deep-fried bacon on a stick. Kuroko's Basketball is the county fair food of the anime world, and it's keeping me glued to my seat.


Status: Ridiculous. Pure fun.

#12 - Moyashimon Returns [ep. 4-5]

Simply put, this second season of Moyashimon just isn't as good as the first season. The trivia is still interesting—I've learned a lot so far about alcohol laws and sake aging—but the character interactions feel stiffer, and the plot points just don't have the same oomph as its predecessors. For instance, in recent episodes, the group has to prepare for the school Harvest Festival. Most of the screen time is eaten up by cheesy comedy—football players and lacrosse players try to steel themselves against the onslaught of housewives wanting free produce. Our characters are reduced to prop pieces in this sideshow, even though they're the main reason for watching the series!

While the first season showed the characters exploring their relationships with one another and embarking on hilarious adventures together, bolstered with amazing learning experiences, Moyashimon Returns feels like a comedy in which the characters happen to be there. The Harvest Festival feels as cooked up as the alcohol that Misato and Kawahama brewed in their dorm room, and I started to crave more screen time for Haruka. His ability to see microbes was treated as this awe-inspiring feat in the first season, but now just feels more like a gimmick that the series uses for lazy comic effect.

I was really excited for the second season, and was pleased enough with the first few episodes, but the more I watch Moyashimon, the more I realize I wish I was just watching the first season again. Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing, and I think Moyashimon is about to cross that line.

Status: I tell myself that mediocre Moyashimon is better than no Moyashimon, but I'm not so sure anymore. No matter what you thought of the first season, it was never boring. The second season, unfortunately, is.

#13 - Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse [ep. 4-5]

Silly Americans and their egos. We always think we know best, but leave it to someone else to put us in our place. As Yuuya and Yui continue to butt heads, we see more of the race relations that have permeated the last few episodes. While Yui thinks of Yuuya as a thick-headed, ego-driven American, Yuuya's flashbacks tell us otherwise, about how he feels like an outsider in either culture. This to me is much more interesting than all of the robot fights combined. It's a conflict that many Asian Americans can relate to, and I appreciate that Total Eclipse tried to take it out for a spin, even if it mostly ended up as America bashing.

I do have to love one beautiful thing, though. When the charaters are out at dinner at an American joint called Polestar, the big-breasted waitress is everything you would expect from our own stereotypes of the glorious Midwest. She wears a t-shirt with a cow on it, cut-off denim shorts, and plush buffalo ears on her head. If there was a place like that in town, I'd eat there every day, because that is hilarious.

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse continues to straddle that line between Meh and Just Interesting Enough. I'm rarely itching to see the next episode, but I find myself entertained while it's playing. So far I've been the most enthused about Yuuya's musings about dealing with racism as a child, but as far as the main action goes… maybe things will heat up when they actually go back out on the battlefield.

Status: Still going, I guess. Total Eclipse isn't blowing my mind, but it's not the worst either.

#14 - So I Can't Play H! [ep. 3-4]

I appreciate I Can't Play H! for what it is—a story about a lovable lech whose life revolves around boobs. Having never been a teenage boy, I don't know how much breasts consume one's daily thought process, but for Ryosuke, it is his life energy. As Lisara, the Grim Reaper whose contracted his perv powers to replenish her energy, continues her search for the one person at the school who's supposed to have special one-of-a-kind powers, she still has to contend with attacks not only from monsters, but also from other grim reapers who want to usurp her search.

The most recent episode brings the introduction of Iria, a pop idol and rival grim reaper whose charm seems to mostly encompass her enormous breasts. She plays up the pop idol bit to great comic effect, lampooning stereotypes along the way, including her tongue-in-cheek change into a gym uniform (that's obviously too tight), and the poses that seem to have been invented and perfected by the idol industry. If this weren't done with a wink, it could be tasteless and over the top, but the series seems perfectly aware of the smut it's selling. At some point, when she shoves Ryosuke's hands between her breasts, he shouts something that had me laughing out loud.

I Can't Play H! is undoubtedly silly and stupid, but it's schlocky fun. The grim reaper bits are honestly the weakest parts of the story—when you have a series that's already solely about a guy's perv powers, trying to force in a serious storyline seems disingenuous. Considering how self-aware the series is, they should just embrace it and run with it all the way.

Status: I'm still hanging onto this. I've already lost all hope that it's going to go anywhere, but as long as it keeps making me laugh, it's worth keeping around.

#15 - Nakaimo - My Sister Is Among Them [ep. 4]

Hey, don't toy with me, NAKAIMO. I don't appreciate being led around.

As it turns out, we get to discover exactly who it was that was making all those “little sister” phone calls. Thank goodness for letting that thread die out. On the one hand, I'm really glad they didn't drag out that bit for the entire show, a la How I Met Your Mother, but on the other hand, it's still immensely dissatisfying because, spoiler, there's still a secret little sister plot. I half-assedly throw in the not-really spoiler alert because it really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of this series. The “who's my sister???” hook is but a mere grain of rice in the mountain known as Please Let Me Bang You and Beg For Your Hand in Marriage.

Honestly, at this point, the identity of the mystery sister is barely relevant, since the main character (i.e. the blank slate you're supposed to imagine yourself as) already has a small stable of girls he can bang, all of whom are desperate to snatch his knickers. They go so far as to crawl into his bed wearing nothing but a dress shirt, or break into his place sporting only an apron. I'm all for beating the summer heat, but this is not the way to go.

What bothers me most about NAKAIMO is the way that these girls are throwing themselves at Blank Slate Male Protagonist, whose only notable quality is that he will inherit his father's company if he chooses a bride before graduation. That's it. There doesn't seem to be any other reason for these girls to simper over him, like ravenous coyotes in heat. He isn't funny, he isn't interesting, he isn't talented—he's just a cardboard standee that's there so that the girls have something to rub up against in the middle of the night. Give me breast-bobbling vampire slayers any day of the week over this nonsense.

Status: Now that I know who was making those little sister phone calls, I've lost interest in the show. You've shown your cards too early, NAKAIMO! Now go curl up in your den of teenage lust and bad decisions.

#16 - La Storia della Arcana Famiglia [ep. 5-6]

As we're learning, it's tough to be a mafia kid. While last time, we were treated to some of Liberta's backstory, now we get to learn more about Nova and why he's so aloof. It turns out, he's had some troubles with his family, and through a bout of rage, he's done things he's not so proud of.

That's all good and well, but I'm still struggling to find myself interested in the grand scheme of this series. Which, to remind readers, is the Arcana Duella, in which one of the Famiglia will get to take over the “family” business and marry Felicita. This is something that keeps looming over the protagonists, but it's yet to take place, and people don't seem to be very worried about it. Instead, everyone's just going about their daily tasks, even though back in the first episode, it was a Big Deal. Even the Arcana contracts were a Big Deal in the first couple of episodes, but that seems to have slipped by the wayside too. Mysteriously, some of the Famiglia set something up so that Felicita, Liberta, and Nova can gain some fighting experience before the Duella, but why they'd be willing to help these three win the showdown is unexplained.

When I say I like the idea of La storia della Arcana Famiglia, I mostly mean that I like seeing dudes in suits. This is cosplay heaven for guys who like to dress up, and the ladies who like to stare at them. But at this point, I'm just forcing myself to watch the show because I want to like it. I'm not entertained at all. I appreciate that the series is trying to give me backstories of Nova and Liberta, but we still don't know who they really are in the present, and their place in the Duella. And unfortunately, I'm tired of waiting around for it.

Status: Dropped. Maybe in a smaller season, this series would have a longer shelf life, but it doesn't appear to be going anywhere, and life is just too short.

#17 - Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero [ep. 1-4]

Let's start this review off with a disclaimer. I have nothing against fanservice. I've enjoyed plenty of shows laden with fanservice (Highschool of the Dead, Tenjou Tenge, Upotte!!, to name a few). My problem with Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero is that its fanservice veers towards the hyper-misogynistic. In one episode, hero Akatsuki sleep-molests the demon princess staying with him (of course, to blend in, she pretends to be his sister), yanking her clothes off and pushing himself on her, oblivious to her protests because he's asleep. In another episode, he uses his magic powers to make a couple of girls involuntarily urinate on gym mats. His justification is that if a group of girls all void their bladders, it makes the one girl who really had to pee feel better. Right. And, just to bolster all the button-busting cleavage shots, for some reason, demon princess Miu is the only girl in gym class whose breasts are bursting through a keyhole in her uniform. Also, for some reason, the sole lesbian character just molests every girl in sight, even when they're audibly telling her to stop.

There's fanservice, which is meant to entertain/titillate/delight, and there are scenes that just make you feel uncomfortable. Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero definitely made me feel uncomfortable. I wanted to just push those scenes aside and focus on the big picture—the premise of the series, in which there's an organization that specifically protects people who have traveled back from another world. In this case, it's our rogue hero Akatsuki, who not only came back from a land of sword and sorcery with the daughter of the Demon King in tow, but who is also very skilled at fighting. The show occasionally plays him up to be some kind of gallant guy (after all, he forced those girls to pee on a mat to protect the feelings of another), but therein stops my interest in the series.

Unfortunately, Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero just makes me squirm while I'm watching it. At least once a series, I find myself asking, “Wait, did he just rape her?” and then subsequently being disgusted by the Stockholm Syndrome symptoms of Miu. She finds herself blushing about how Akatsuki doesn't quite like her “that way,” when, quite frankly, she should be a lot more alarmed that he disrobes her in his sleep.

If this series just had regular ol' fanservice, it honestly would've been a ton better. I would be a lot more intrigued by this world-traveling, and this enigmatic “COCOON” that's brought up in the fourth episode, if I weren't so disturbed by the way the main character treats women. Snatching a girl's bra while she's wearing it is only “haha” for so long until you realize that's super uncool and demeaning. And I can only watch things through my Relax, It's Just a Cartoon Goggles for so long until I realize that making girls pee in front of you is really messed up. Humiliating people like that isn't funny, it's sick, and I'm disappointed that shows like this are being licensed for distribution while dozens of amazing, thoughtful shows stagnate in licensing Hell.

Status: I don't care what Akatsuki is the hero of. He can be the savior of the world, but his perv shenanigans step over the line from Sexy to Unwanted, and I don't care to support such a show.

Alright, kids, that's it for this time. Whew. Agree? Disagree? Head on over to the forums and let your thoughts be known. If you'd like to butt heads with me on Twitter, you can follow me at @ANN_Bamboo, before the frenzies of American football take over my Twitter.

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