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The Stream
A Whole New World

by Bamboo Dong,

Welcome (back) to The Stream, which has been slightly changed, but is still mostly the same ol' column. In an effort to make the column more manageable, and also to make it easier to read, you'll notice that the lengths of the reviews are a little less uniform. Shows that have become a staple on the column have much shorter reviews—chances are, the reviews month to month between four-episode chunks of Hunter x Hunter will likely not vary that much, unless something drastic happens. For old readers, this means you don't have to read the same words about the same series over and over again. For new readers, there are still plenty of archived columns that you can catch up on to know how I feel about fifty episodes of Hunter x Hunter, or, say, thirty episodes of Polar Bear Cafe. If something were to change in the series, or there's something noteworthy to talk about, they would be aptly discussed.

At the same time, I think there are some shows that deserve longer reviews than others. Stellar shows, for instance, or super crappy ones, might just need more time and attention than a mediocre show that hovers between “watchable” and “eh.” Of course, in the interest of fairness, they will get their due attention in the course of the column, but they're a little lower on the priority list.

If anything, I hope that the column will become easier to read. I still want to make sure that each review is informative enough for readers to decide if they, too, want to check a series out, but I don't want the column to become so clogged that it's a chore to read. Previous columns got a little long-winded and the last thing I want is for the column to be tl;dr. Then nobody wins.

Lastly, one of the things I cherish the most about The Stream is its traditionally very active Talkback threads. While certain attributes of a show might slip through the cracks of a review, I've found that they're almost always brought up through the course of discussion, and I hope that we can continue using the forums as a water cooler to talk about these shows.

As always, feedback is greatly appreciated.

Let's dive in.

#1 - My Little Monster [ep. 1-4]

In the vein of this season's other odd couple romantic comedy, Say "I Love You," My Little Monster also pairs together two characters you wouldn't normally expect to see together. Unlike Say "I Love You" though (and most of the other cool-guy-meets-uncool-chick-and-falls-in-love romantic comedies), both of the lead characters in My Little Monster are outcasts. Quiet Shizuku has no friends and prefers to spend all her time studying; Haru is a delinquent who was suspended from school for fighting and has refused to come back. When she's asked to deliver some class notes to him, she's inevitably thrust into a friendship she wasn't expecting. Haru is violent and impulsive, and although it's obvious he deeply cares for people, he has a hard time of showing it. Most of the time he wears a scowl, and many of the words that fall from his lips are shocking and unexpected.

At first, their interactions are a little strange. Haru is so relieved to have found an unlikely friend in Shizuku that he follows her around like a puppy. He eventually tones it down but not before she starts falling for him. Apart, they're both socially awkward, but together, they make up for each other's shortcomings. She teaches him to be more sociable, albeit out of frustration and anger, while he teaches her to open up to others and learn to trust. It's an adorable relationship, and because they're both so broken, the way they complement each other makes it a pairing where both sides grow simultaneously. Neither Shizuku nor Haru are particularly likeable, but you just get the feeling that they belong together.

What's astounding about My Little Monster is that it has a talent for packing a lot of material into each episode. So much happens in each episode that it feels like a complete arc, even though it feels neither rushed nor shortchanged. Somehow, everything manages to squeeze into twenty minutes, even though it feels like an hour, all without ever getting boring. If you want an unconventional romance that's just as socially awkward as it is sweet, then I highly recommend My Little Monster. I'm looking forward to seeing how the rest of the story unfolds.

#2 - Space Brothers [ep. 27-31]

Now a staple of every season, it's hard to remember a time before Space Brothers. Being able to watch it every week makes me feel spoiled. It's written with the careful, metered precision of a well-produced network television show, and the way it patiently unfolds gives it license to explore every nook and cranny of every single character. Now that Hibito is finally in space, we've at least put the “space” in Space Brothers, but just as I never minded the characters being land-bound, I still don't mind that most of the action remains on Earth. The more we learn about Mutta and Hibito's relationship growing up, the more we understand the former, and I'm cherishing every bit of it.

#3 - Blast of Tempest [ep. 1-4]

I don't remember a single page of The Tempest from when I was required to read it. Luckily, it doesn't seem to matter for Blast of Tempest, whose similarities to Shakespeare's play seem to mostly be in the setup— powerful sorceress Hakaze is stranded in a barrel and left to wash ashore a desert island. She's the leader of her family clan whose job is to protect the so-called "Tree of Beginnings," which provides her family with its magic powers. However, her evil helper Samon would rather call forth the Tree of Zetsuen, which would bring destruction to the world. In the meantime, some crazy stuff is going on in the world. Communities keep getting hit with a epidemic where people are turning into black iron, but we're not yet privy to an explanation. In the middle of everything is two boys, Yoshino and Mahiro, the latter of which has agreed to help Hakaze in exchange for her help in tracking down his sister's murderer.

There are a lot of random characters who are fighting on various sides, but luckily, the series is pretty easy to follow. There's a lot going on, but Blast of Tempest helps out a lot by backing up all the events with solid visuals. Animated by BONES and directed by Masahiro Ando, of Sword of the Stranger fame, the series deftly combines CG in a way that enhances the action scenes rather than being distracting. The lines are so clean that there's a stark beauty to the series that I can't stop staring at.

There are still a lot of unknowns in the series, and quite a lot of question marks for both the protagonists and antagonists, but the series is moving along at a brisk pace. Hopefully once the setup is out of the way, we'll start getting to the real meat of the story. Until then, it's a pretty action/supernatural thriller that should captivate viewers long enough until they're hooked.

#4 - Polar Bear Cafe [ep. 27-31]

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm glad the saga of Penguin's many Penkos (and Pengolinas and Pen…somethings) has drawn to a close. For now, anyway. I was tickled with the running joke that even a penguin couldn't tell members of his own kind apart (just as others couldn't tell the different penguin species apart), but it was growing thin. Finally, Panda asks the girls, “What's so good at Penguin anyway?” and it's not only the perfect prompt to get their minds churning, but a solid jab in Penguin's side. Polar Bear Cafe continues to be filled with that kind of goofy, pun-filled humor that I think a lot of dads approve of. The kind of jokes where the puns are so silly and transparent that you can't help but grin broadly while you're watching it. When Panda Mama and her king penguin friend go to see the porcupine idol group Yama Arashi (Japanese for porcupine, but also a play off the popular Japanese idol group Arashi [but probably not the rock band YamaArashi?]), the comedy overflows. The group's lyrics are ridiculous and literal, and Panda Mama exclaims that she's finally able to tell the different porcupines apart. As another holdover show from previous seasons, I'm glad I still have Polar Bear Cafe to look forward to every week.

#5 - BTOOOM! [ep. 1-4]

Full disclosure: I did not like the first episode of BTOOOM! I thought it was “okay,” but I mostly thought it was contrived and generic. Video game enthusiast gets whisked away into a real-life video game? Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

But as it turns out, BTOOOM! is riveting. The premise is very simple, but the execution of it is fantastic. At least for now, anyway. Ryota is a little shit who won't get a job and gets mad at his mom for finding him employment at a grocery store, even though he's twenty-freaking-two. He'd rather just sit around and play BTOOOM!, a video game where players can only fight using a plethora of special bombs. What do you know, he wakes up one day stranded on a remote island with nothing on him but a satchel of bombs. He soon discovers that he's trapped in some crazy Battle Royale-esque real-life version of BTOOOM!, where the only way to get off the island is to harvest computer chips off dead players. Just like in the game, “players” are armed with bombs, though the only way to get different types of bombs is to take them from the dead.

In another crazy twist, we learn that everyone is on the island because someone voted them there. Presumably, the nominators didn't know their nominees would be stuck in a battle to the death, but regardless, but what we have left is an island full of people. Some are “good,” like female protagonist Himiko, and some are pure evil, like the sadistic 14-year-old who a year earlier was convicted of killing then raping three women.

Sure, BTOOOM! isn't breaking any new ground at all. It does have to be given credit for being really exciting, though. Because we're learning about the rules behind BTOOOM! alongside the players, there's an element of thrill and fear in every scene. Even though Ryota is initially unlikeable, most everyone else is so unbearable and awful that we instantly want him and his allies to win. Just as he can't trust any of the people around him, as audience members, we're not sure which characters to champion either, and it creates an environment filled with anticipation. Despite my initial hesitation and disdain for BTOOOM!, it's quickly moved to the top of my Watch Now list.

#6 - From the New World [ep. 1-5]

From the New World is a creepy and weird and fascinating and cool… but I feel like everything is happening way too fast. The opening scene is pretty hard to forget—people are dropping dead left and right, and some unknown force is ripping their bodies apart in a gratuitous shower of blood. Then flashforward a thousand years to a peaceful countryside. Young Saki awakens to objects floating around her room. Her parents rush in, relieved. It appears her psychic powers have finally developed.

We're soon introduced to other kids her age, who all go to a school where children are encouraged to learn to use their powers. However, there's something sinister going on. Children are mysteriously disappearing, either because they didn't make the grade jump in time, or because they were caught cheating in a school exercise. Eventually on a class field trip, we get a data dump on, well, everything. A thousand years ago, people with psychokinetic powers started appearing, leaving destruction and bloodshed everywhere they went. As society crumbled, the world was rebuilt into different factions, each treating psychokinesis users in different ways. One of the factions strove for knowledge and innovation, genetically modifying their race to carefully control their powers, but also to use sex to diffuse stressful situations. It's all very dark and bizarre, and as much as us viewers are creeped out, the kids in the show are even more so. But before anyone has time to process this vomit of exposition, the characters are apprehended by a monk, and then thrust in a mutant rat war.

Talk about uneven storytelling. From the New World is intriguing and crazy, but it is all over the place. I loved the contrast between the crazy blood-soaked prologue and the deceptively quiet rural setting where Saki discovered her powers, but the whole history reveal chased by the mutant rat fight… too much. Granted, if I were given the power, I'm not sure how I would've revealed a thousand years of social history to a group of school kids either, but it was done in such a quick and dirty way that I feel like I wasn't given time to breathe before the mutant rat fight. And the fact that I can't stop typing “mutant rat” is because I've yet to come to grips as to why such a conflict exists already.

From the New World is one show that I know I can't stop watching for the time being because I simply need to know what's going to happen next, but it's too frantic in parts. It's dark and disturbing in a good way, but I wish it would slow down. Give me a chance to regroup.

#7 - Say "I Love You" [ep. 1-4]

Say, “I Love You” is cute, if not a little generic, and borderline creepy. More on that later. If you've seen a few romantic comedies in your lifetime, though, be it shoujo anime or Kate Hudson romps, then you'll be familiar with the setup of this new series. Basically, you have the unpopular girl who almost always keeps to herself, and the super hot guy that all the girls are dying to bed. And of course, they end up together. In the case of Say, “I Love You,” this happens in a matter of episodes. The two characters have their meet cute when she accidentally kicks him, but the wheels get set in motion when he rescues her from a stalker. Before you know it, the hunky guy is head over heels for this shy and quiet girl.

Say it isn't so! The hot hunky guy who falls in love with the weird loner? It's female fantasy projection at its finest, giving all the ladies the sweet dream that someday, they too will be whisked off by the local stud. He'll fall in love with your smile, or your quirky glasses, or your Green Lantern figure collection, and before you know it, it's wedding bells on Nantucket Island.

It would be too easy for heroine Mei and dreamboat Yamato to just enjoy their budding romance, though. Instead, the expected happens—girls are so jealous (and guys so baffled/angry) that everyone tries to sabotage their relationship. Declarations of war occur, whispered conversations transpire, and all play out in faux-menacing shoujo fashion.

There is one scene that really rubbed me the wrong way, though. In the fourth episode, playboy asshole Kakeru decides he wants to have a go with Mei, too, and invites the new couple out to lunch. He's not the creepy one, though—boyfriend Yamato is. The scene plays out like this: Mei is quietly eating her lunch when Kakeru comments that she's pretty quiet. Yamato then goes on to explain that she's nervous when she meets new people, which is why she's eating more than usual. He pats her head patronizingly, and proudly boasts how she's finally making friends and is doing so much better at talking with others. When Kakeru asks Mei to exchange numbers, Yamato nods at her and urges, “Go ahead.” Yeah, okay, creepy asshole, don't be so condescending towards your girlfriend. I get that she's shy, but let the girl talk for herself. I was so put off by this scene that my views on Yamato have been pretty soured. It's cool that he's interested in this girl that no one else would give a chance, but the way he talks about her makes it sound like she's a puppy that finally learned how to stop pooping on the carpet.

Overall, this show is still charming, even though it's not breaking any new ground, but that lunch scene… well, my interest in the series dropped dramatically at that point. So let's see what happens.

#8 - Psycho-Pass [ep. 1-3]

Gen Urobuchi's new offering, Psycho-Pass, is really intriguing and a ton of fun. The premise is unique—in the near future, in an urban jungle filled with neon lights and concrete reminiscent of Blade Runner, science has made it possible to instantaneously read a person's “criminal coefficient” by scanning their mental state using an implanted device called a Psycho-Pass. So, even if someone hasn't committed a crime yet, they can be tagged as latent criminals and either forced into therapy or neutralized. The latter task is carried out by a special police force made up of Enforcers, who are all latent criminals, and their handlers, known as Inspectors. Enter Akane, a new police officer who could've obtained a job in any department she wanted, due to her high test scores, but chose this job because she believed she could bring something new to the agency.

The premise fascinates me, perhaps not so much just what goes into feeding the plot, but its implications. It deftly plays with a moral grey area that makes you think. Our very judicial system says that someone isn't guilty until proven so, but if you were able to prevent crime by predicting someone's mental capacity to do so, would you? In several instances already, it almost looks like crime prediction is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When a latent criminal is confronted, the stress from being apprehended is such that it drives them past the tipping point, into an aggressive state. As Akane learns in the first episode, even someone whose criminal coefficient marks them for termination can be talked back into a calmer state. Then in that case, it seems the Psycho-Pass does more harm than good.

As of right now, I think what mostly grabs me about Psycho-Pass is not so much what is, but what could be. The actual events that unfold are more of your typical action stuff—high speed chases through factories, limb explosions—but when the characters are chasing each other around, something greater is hinted at. We're supposed to see Akane as the moral compass that revolutionizes their quasi-barbaric justice system. But until we get there, it's not hard to be a little dazzled by the “what ifs.”

#9 - Magi [ep. 1-4]

Magi reminds me of a time in my childhood when I was obsessed with adventure novels. I devoured anything and everything at my public library that was full of exotic locations and swashbuckling. It makes me relish the simplicity and excitement of wide-eyed wonder and epic journeys, without any of the cynicism that leeches into your life as you get older.

The series follows a young boy named Aladdin who has a very powerful friend—a djinn whom he carries around in a magical flute. In one scene that single-handedly shows how pure of heart and mind Aladdin is, we see that he gained control over this djinn by wishing, “I want to be friends.” He befriends a young man named Alibaba who dreams of riches and fame, but Alibaba is so taken by Aladdin's generosity and innocence that when the two do eventually stumble onto treasure, he uses the money to free all the slaves in the city. From that point on, their friendship is sealed.

Magi is a feel-good show that will have you grinning from start to finish, week after week. It's so joyous and innocent that it's easy to get wrapped up in the story. Bad things happen to the characters, but one hopes they'll pull through. After all, even after four episodes, they feel like our friends. Also, bonus points to the hilariously buxom ladies that Aladdin's always got his face in.

#10 - Kamisama Kiss [ep. 1-4]

Kamisama Kiss is silly and funny in a way that lets you turn off your brain for twenty-some minutes at a time. Teenage girl Nanami has hit some rough times. Her father ran away and abandoned her because of gambling debts, and she's been evicted from her home. But as the series reminds us, it's not a tragedy, but a romantic comedy. A dark, weird comedy. As she wanders through the night, she's approached by a stranger and offered a place to stay. Suddenly, she's thrust into a completely unpredictable situation—she's the new land deity and in addition to her shrine duties, she's also inherited a familiar, a fox yokai named Tomoe. Slowly, the two begrudgingly become friends and even four episodes in, there's a sweetness to their growing relationship that's easy to champion.

Refreshingly, the humor in Kamisama Kiss is quirky and offbeat. It relies on a lot of absurd scenarios, like watching Nanami run screaming and flailing from a monster. In one of the episodes, a pop idol transfer student turns out to be a demon, but Tomoe transforms him into an ostrich. The visual gag that ensues had me laughing for minutes.

For now, though, aside from the energetic humor and the blossoming friendship between Nanami and Tomoe, there isn't too much to write home about. Nanami's compassion towards others makes her easy to like, and I feel confident in betting that sticking with Kamisama Kiss will pay off.

#11 - Robotics;Notes [ep. 1-3]

Thus far, I've only seen three episodes of Robotics;Notes, but it's completely flying under the radar for me. It seems to exist in a void where watching episodes of the series feels pleasantly like reading a poster on a subway. It passes the time for me, but I'm not really involved in the material. If there was some kind of incident and the series quietly disappeared off the simulcast lists, I might not even notice. With only three episodes under my belt, though, this may yet eventually change.

Robotics;Notes, if you can't tell by the punctuation, is based on another science fiction visual novel in the family that also includes Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate. It follows a few characters from a high school robotics club who are interested in making their own giant robot. Their biggest barrier, though, is funding, and in order for their club to even remain open and get its budget approved, they have to win a battling robot contest. Luckily, the club members have a variety of talents; main character Kaito doesn't care much about robots, but he's freakishly good at a fighting game called Kill Ballad, with which they use to program their Robo-One entry. Other members include Akiho, the brains behind the operation and chairman of the club, and genius robot enthusiast Subaru. While the series thus far seems pretty straight forward, there seem to be hints of more evil (or supernatural..?) elements, including fainting spells that Kaito and Akiho seem to experience, in which time seems to slow down for one, and speed up for another. For the time being, though, the series is merely just pleasant. Knowing what the creators are capable of, I'll keep watching, but I'm not holding my breath just yet.

#12 - Hunter x Hunter [ep. 50-54]

There isn't much else I can continue to say about Hunter x Hunter that I haven't covered already. It's consistently finding new ways to keep the tension high, and having foreshadowing by way of prophecy foretelling the deaths of more Phantom Troupe members has me glued to the seat. At this point, the series would have to take a serious nosedive for me to stop watching.

#13 - K [ep. 1-4]

K is, in one word, beautiful. It is the most visually striking offering from this season, just in terms of loud colors and captivating designs. The series looks like it was shot through a multi-faceted prism, the way the rainbow of colors change so quickly and fluidly. All of the characters look like they're posing for a high-end fashion shoot, even all the punks and thugs, who are modeling delinquent chic. And yet, I'm not sure it has much else going for it besides that.

Japan is—wait for it—secretly ruled by seen psychic clans known as the Seven Clans of Color. In the first few episodes, we're already introduced to a couple—the Red Clan and the Blue Clan, who possess powers of fire and ice, respectively. The one we're most interested in, though, is the Colorless Clan, who can see the future. Main character and average high school student Shiro finds himself in the middle of this mess when a video is broadcast of a person who looks like him killing another man. He finds himself the sudden target of assassination, and even though he's able to find a plausible alibi for why he wasn't the person in the video, he's shocked to find a bloody shirt in his closet.

I think if K wasn't as colorful as it was, I might be inclined to be less interested. Frankly, it lost my interest at the “secret psychic clans” bit, but I was willing to keep going because my eyeballs wouldn't let me stop. Now that I'm in a little deeper, I am curious to see what will come out of the bloody shirt in Shiro's closet, and I am a little interested now to see why these clans even exist, other than to be a contrivance. For now, K is safe.

#14 - Pet Girl of Sakurasou [ep. 1-4]

You know, I'll give Pet Girl of Sakurasou credit for being a little deeper than I originally gave it credit for. The aspect of it that I heavily disliked still bothers me, but there were scenes that were so touching that I felt compelled to keep watching.

Sakurasou is a dormitory for misfits, essentially. Our hapless hero Sorata gets transferred into that dorm because we won't stop taking in stray cats. Yet because he feels as though he's above living in what he feels is a loony bin, he whines endlessly about wanting to move out. As it turns out, the dorm is filled with (yes, some loons) a smattering of talent, including a girl whose obsession with anime eventually earns her commercial accolades, and a new transfer, a shy girl named Mashiro who is utterly incapable of taking care of herself. It turns out, she is a brilliant painter, but aside from her artistic genius, simply cannot take care of herself. She can't dress herself, she can't wash herself without soaking her clothes, and she certainly can't tie her own shoelaces. All of these tasks are handed to Sorata.

Therein lay my discomfort. The caregiver/invalid dynamic between Sorata and Mashiro is unsettling, primarily because Mashiro is so often portrayed in sexual situations. It's one thing to show this growing friendship between two people who need each other, but when the incompetent, but beautiful girl is so often shown half-clothed or in sexual situations “for manga research,” then her invalid-ness becomes more fetishized.

At the same time, there is a reverence that Sorata has towards her that is completely platonic. He is in awe of her, not only for her artistic talent, but also her steadfast determination to realize her dreams of being a manga artist. Although she can't even put her socks on in the morning, she knows what she wants to do with her life, and that's something that Sorata finds inspiring.

There's an interesting conversation between him and fellow Sakurasou tenant Jin about talent. They both admit that it's difficult to be around people with talent—it leaves you feeling insecure and worthless, and as a result, you find other ways to convince yourself you're superior, all while wishing for their failure. It's more than just jealousy—it's a complex battle of emotions that I think most people have felt at least once in their lives. Until that conversation, I was still agitated over the show's portrayal of Mashiro, but I think under its skeeziness, it's digging at something deeper. I'm not completely sold on the show yet, but I'm willing to continue giving it more chances.

#15 - Sword Art Online [ep. 14-18]

Okay, Sword Art Online. You and I have some talking to do.

I know these novels have this feverish following that will defend every last story thread to the bitter end, but I feel a little duped by the SAO arc to Alfleim arc transition. In the anime adaptation, at least, I feel like it was pretty half-assed. It turns out that one of the major characters in Sword Art Online (I won't spoil who) was actually game creator Akihiko Kayaba. When he's finally defeated, Kirito gets the chance to confront him and ask why he created the death trap he did. Akihiko basically shrugs and says, “I don't remember.” Oh, okay, thanks. Thousands of people died because of this crazy premise, and the mastermind doesn't remember his motivations. Read: the novel writer was just kind of over it, and wanted to move on.

So now we're onto a new arc where, even though a bunch of players are still in comas from Sword Art Online, tons of other players are using their NerveGears to play another game called Alfleim, where they get to fly around as fairy-esque avatars. Kirito is playing because he thinks he can find Asuna in this world and rescue her from an arranged marriage, and he's got a friendly (too friendly?) guide in an avatar named Leafa, whose real-life identity is a little on the shudder side.

Right now I'm burned out on this show. I guess I'm still watching it. I feel so exhausted from that arc transition, though, and jerked around by the fact that there was even an arc transition at all, that I think it'll take me a few episodes to get back into the swing of things. Yeesh.

#16 - Ixion Saga DT [ep. 1-4]

As far as video game-inspired "adaptations" go, Ixion Saga DT is kind of a fun one. Mostly, it doesn't take itself too seriously. Our hero Kon is playing an MMORPG one day when he gets a message from a hot internet lady. When he accepts her request, he's suddenly tossed into another world, where he saves a princess by killing her adversary with his rolling chair. That's the kind of goofball comedy this is. The princess turns out to be a sassy little kid who asks Kon to be one of her guards as she travels to complete her arranged marriage.

Ixion Saga DT definitely pokes fun at RPGs and gamers, and it's all in good fun. There's a running joke where the characters in the alternate world keep calling Kon DT, but he's upset by it because it sounds like “doutei,” a Japanese term for a male virgin. There's another gag early on in the series where someone offers to buy him shoes, but his desire for the most expensive ones net him a pair of uncomfortable, ridiculous dragon boots.

The series is amusing so far, but I don't find myself really wanting to see what happens next. None of the characters are particularly interesting as of yet, and although the princess and her entourage are continually attacked by enemies, I can't bring myself to really care why. I'll keep watching for now, but this might be a Watch Later kind of show.

#17 - Code:Breaker [ep. 1-3]

For a show that's so packed with action and supernatural elements, Code:Breaker is pretty un-compelling. Maybe it's because it's stuffed in the middle of a season where other action shows are just a little more exciting. Or maybe it's because it just feels so generic. Despite its hook of characters who can blast people and buildings to smithereens with colored flames, it feels like a connect-the-dots thriller. We have a secret organization of people who take it upon themselves to rid the world of evil by doling out justice with their flames. Then we have the main “good” protagonist who of course objects, saying that it's ridiculous to simply kill people despite what they've done with their lives. Unsurprisingly, she's special, in that she can't be harmed by flames. Yawn.

There should be some kind of new rule where every time a character intones, “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth,” that he or she should immediately be scrapped from the storyboarding table. It's now become this lazy substitution for character development. With just one lazy mantra, you know exactly where this person stands. And since we also have a special “rarebreed” protagonist girl who is doggedly trying to prevent this guy from using his flames, we know where she stands too. And I guess right now, I still don't really care either way. In a sea of action scenes, Code:Breaker just feels dry.

#18 - Girls und Panzer [ep. 1-3]

I think eventually I want to watch Girls und Panzer, but I don't want to watch it right now. It's the latest in a proud tradition of shows that combine cute girls with military toys. Most recently, we had Upotte!, which I actually found incredibly cute and informative despite its controversial clit triggers. And now we have Girls und Panzer. In all fairness, the two are not related, despite the same staff member being tagged as a military consultant, but it's hard not to draw surface parallels between the two. Only, in this case, the girls themselves are not tanks. They just participate in a time-honored traditional sport known as tankery, where, you guessed it, cute little girls fight each other in mock battles using tanks.

There's some knowledge dropped here and there, but it takes a backseat to cute girls doing cute things. In the second episode, in a setup that boggled my mind, the girls decide that their school's new tankery program needs more tanks. So what do they do? They go looking for them. And lo, the countryside is scattered with old tanks, just waiting to be resurrected back to working condition with a good spit ‘n’ polish. Before we know it, the girls are learning how to drive them and are engaged in their first mock battle.

Let's put on the brakes here. I'm all for outlandish premises to accomplish a specific task, like getting girls into some tanks, but Girls und Panzer feels like it's barely trying. I love a good cute-girls-doing-cute-things show as much as the next person, but I ask only that the writing is remotely creative, and the writers give me another plausible deniability for their premise. “These girls are guns, and their personalities match their models!” Okay. “These girls drive tanks, and they found a bunch by scavenging the countryside.” Screw you. “Also, it's super easy to drive a tank; you just gotta push a couple of buttons.” Get out of here.

Girls und Panzer is one of those shows where, after the season is over, I might settle myself down on the couch with a nice bottle of bourbon and some cake and give myself a nice guilty pleasure marathon. Right now, though, I just can't be bothered. It doesn't feel as though it's exerted enough effort to make me want to follow it from week to week, and I'm weary of devoting twenty-two minutes a week to a show that exists simply just to be cute. Maybe later.

#19 - OniAi [ep. 1-3]

On the one hand, OniAi is pretty funny. It's definitely got that going for it. The main character is so deadpan in his refusal of all the ladies in his harem that I appreciate the tongue-in-cheek-ness of it all. Whenever one of the girls makes a ridiculous statement like, “He's going to put my panties on his face” (or whatever), he answers rapidly, “No, I'm not.” When his sister (yes, his sister) shares her desires that he walk in on her naked, he calmly says, “That's not going to happen.” There's a running gag where the sister tries to place herself in potentially scandalous situations, only to have the brother walk away and leave her to her fantasies. She's obsessed with erotic incest fiction, but the kicker is that the author is actually the brother. It's all very funny in a very droll way, like the writers themselves were tired of their own stereotypes and were slowly writing guns into their mouths.

At the same time, every episode of OniAi is exactly the same. See, there are a number of women living in the same house as the bland protagonist, who serves as the house's property manager. The ones who aren't living with him still want to be with him anyway. There's the sister (or at least right now, we're led to believe she's the sister), the cold tsundere, the childhood friend, and the aggressive eyepatch girl. All want to bed this quiet little studmuffin, and despite his consistent refusal, they won't give up. They go through a number of different scenarios—trying to get him to sniff their panties, trying to get him to eat whatever they've cooked/baked, trying to get him to peek at their panties while they're changing lightbulbs, but each scene plays out the same. The girl says something lewd or forward, and he says no.

If there's an overarching storyline, I'm not sure I've grasped it. I'm pretty sure there isn't. If there is, it's lost in a cloud of women shoving themselves in the cardboard male's face, and him saying no. I appreciate that the series has humor and treats this harem setup in a cheeky way, but every episode feels like a carbon copy of the ones before it. The scenarios may change, but the characters don't. It's funny for a while, but then it just gets old, old, old. So no thanks, OniAi.

Alright, everyone. What do you think? With a whole new season of anime to watch, what are the titles that stand out, and which have you already dropped? As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the forums. Thanks for reading!

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