What I’m watching: Anime

Right, I’m doing this list because despite playing two games, reading two books, and one manga, I still am nowhere close to having a review ready. It’s not a case of not putting in the effort either. I just have a lot on my plate. For instance, this last week, we got invited to go to a local theater to watch a production of The importance of Being Earnest. I’m not a huge fan of Oscar Wilde, but I haven’t been to a theater production since grade school, and I figured, wouldn’t it be nice to do something different for the weekend?

I looked around and realized I didn’t have any theater appropriate clothing. So each day after lunch, I went shopping. The first day looking for shoes was a bust, but each day after, I got a dress shirt and sweater, new pants, and new shoes. The shoes in particular required a bike ride of twenty kilometers, because everyone local caps shoes sizes for ladies at 39, and I’m a 42. (Douglas Addams would say my feet are the answer to everything.) Then of course, there was going to see the play, and by Sunday I didn’t feel like doing anything besides watching cartoons after all that bike riding.

And so here we are, one week blown, and I’m still no closer to a review. But, when I got up this morning, I thought, Hey, why not use my procrastination to my advantage for once? Granted, these aren’t reviews because I’ve not seen a full season of most of them yet. (And the ones I have seen, you probably already know, or will know if you want to see them based on a blurb.) But hey, maybe you’ll see something you like and hop in with me.

And so here we…no, wait, I said that already. Right, on with the anime I’ve been watching!

Delicious In Dungeon
This is one of hubby’s shows, and at first, I didn’t care much for the premise or the characters. It’s definitely a hard sell to new viewers as it falls into the dreaded “but it gets good after X episodes” category. The premise is that a dungeon raiding party gets mauled by a dragon because they were too hungry to fight properly. Their healer, a close friend to the group’s mage and sister to the paladin, sacrifices herself so the others can escape.

Out of funds and most equipment, the remaining party members go back to the dungeon to find the dragon, kill it, and recover parts of the healer to perform a resurrection spell before the dragon can fully digest her. They meet a dwarf who is an expert in cooking dungeon monsters and form a plan to reach the dragon without supplies by eating everything they kill. “Hilarity” ensues.

For me the first episodes are pretty weak, desperately trying to wring out comedy from the repeated gag of “Ick! We’re not eating THAT!” This is followed immediately by “Wait, this is tasty!” But once they get past that and start working on real character development, the story does get good. It just takes a while to get there, so it’s not exactly on my recommended list.

Classroom of the Elite
Alright, this is a harem anime, with all the tired tropes that entails. Random guy has large breasted high school students swarming him like ants on a dropped candy bar. Two whole episodes are dedicated to cheesecake, one at a pool where some camera shots are literally just boobs with the heads cropped off, and the other on a cruise ship. These episodes are actually played back to back. (Or maybe boob to boob would be more fitting, but I digress.)

But…as with the previous entry, if you can set that aside, the premise is interesting. Students are attending a private school that promises placement in any corporation the students want. The first catch is, they have to live on campus with no contact outside, not even with their parents.  Catch two is, every class is graded not only on lesson scores, but also by the behavior of all students in the class. It’s either pass together, or fail together.

The show focuses on the D class, the lowest ranking students with the most defects, and thus the highest chance to fail. At the back of the class is Kiyotaka Ayanokōji, a guy who plays at being a slacker, but who is constantly bailing out his classmates using secretive plots. His “wingman” is Suzune Horikita, who claims she doesn’t care about anyone else passing, but still goes along with Kiyotaka’s plans. She also doesn’t object each time he gives her credit for the class’ victories, making the rest of the students think she really cares about them. (Also, maybe she’s coming around and starting to care…but only a little.)

Beyond that, the various ways that literal class warfare plays out among the A, B, and C ranks makes for a fascinating story, with plots twists coming in every episode. But I only recommend this if you don’t mind obvious fan service, or you can do what I did and fast forward through those parts until it gets back to the actual plot.

DD Fist of the North Star
This one is a doozy. The apocalypse never came, so Kenshiro, Raoh, and Toki must try to find work. At a convenience store called Ryuryuken, the owner (Ryuken) makes the three brothers compete to determine who will get a part time job. So they’re working for him full time, for the right to work for him part time. It’s so stupid it arrives back out on the other side to become brilliant.

The three brothers are all complete idiots with short attention spans, so a lot of the comedy is played off of how stupid they can get with each premise. Also there is a narrator, and he is serving fresh hot piss-takes every ten seconds. Jagi is rarely mentioned, or even remembered. Bat is playing Captain Obvious, a pointless task because no one is listening to him. Rin seems like she’s always there with a book of matches after the brothers have spilled enough gas to have a proper dumpster fire.

It’s all very much a slapstick sketch show, so if you like your humor more high brow, this isn’t for you. But for me, every episode has had me cackling loudly between groans of dismay at some of the worst pun, ever.

Solo Leveling
This one started off looking like a horror anime, and then swerved to another genre at the end of the second episode. Based on a Korean web-comic titled Only I Level Up, the story follows Sung Jinwoo, a hunter who is tasked with entering dimensional rifts to fight monsters. If the monsters are not defeated, the portals break open, allowing the monsters to invade our world.

Hunters are ranked by letters, starting in video game style with S and moving to A, B, C,D, and E, and Jinwoo is an E rank hunter who barely qualifies even at that level.

In the first episode Jinwoo and a squadron of hunters enter a dungeon that is supposedly ranked D, but the group encounters a “double dungeon,” with the second half being populated by giants of insane power levels. Several hunters die, and Jinwoo sacrifices himself to save the remaining hunters.

With just seconds of his life remaining, a screen pops up asking him if he wants to become “a player.” He accepts the proposition, and recovers in a hospital with all his limbs somehow reattached. (Seriously that second episode was hellishly gory.) Jinwoo soon discovers what no one else knows, that the portals are actually part of a game. How? Hell if I know, but so far the story has been pretty interesting, and the animation style is very dynamic and detailed. I figure they’ll eventually get around to explaining what’s really going on, but for now, I’m happy to go along for the ride. Plus, being a gamer, I’m perfectly fine with any show framed around my favorite hobby.

Knights of Sidonia
This one gets a bit harder to sum up without spoilers, but I’ll do my best. Sidonia is a space ship carrying what may possibly the last humans in the galaxy after an alien race destroys Earth. In order to survive, the scientists aboard Sidonia genetically altered the surviving people so their offspring could photosynthesize, thus requiring far less food and water than normal humans. Then they made reproduction into a cloning process, so a lot of the population are just newer iterations of the same specimens.

A thousand years have passed, and the humans are still being hunted by the gauna, who are shapeshifters capable of rapid regeneration, making them extremely hard to kill. To defend themselves, the humans develop giant robots (because of course they do) armed with spears tipped with the one thing that can truly kill the gauna.

Into this scenario arrives Nagate Tanikaze, who was somehow born a normal human, raised away from the other humans, and raised to be a pilot using an older model of a training simulator. When his grandfather dies, Nagate is forced to join the rest of the crew, quickly becoming one of their most proficient pilots.

This is a pretty densely plotted show, but with only two seasons available, it doesn’t really answer all the questions I have about Nagate, the ship, the council making all the decisions for the last humans, or the gauna’s true intentions, nor does it reach any sort of resolution. Even so, I liked it enough that I’m watching it again.

This one is a rewatch based on nostalgia, being the first anime I saw as a kid, long before even knowing what anime was. Pitched as a giant robot soap opera, it is in fact three different cartoons stitched together and rescripted by Harmony Gold. (Who have frustratingly made it impossible to get the original anime and their sequels exported to the US for decades.) Beginning on Earth with a crashed spaceship, the show follows three generations of soldiers, each of them dealing with a different alien invasion.

With the first arc, it’s the Zentraudi, a genetically mutated race of soldier slaves who can be micronized to human size and grown to be fifty foot tall monsters. With the second arc, the Robotech Masters try to reclaim their technology with an army of clones. Then in the third arc, a single soldier returns from a failed deep space expedition to find the earth has been ravaged by the Invid, and must assemble a small group of freedom fighters.

What worked for me back then still works now, and that’s consequences. Unlike GI Joe, Transformers, or Gobots, people die in this show. Even characters who seem like they have guaranteed plot armor get pasted with the kind of unflinching realism that other violent cartoons aren’t willing to approach. It’s that realism, even in a show about giant transforming robots and space invaders, that keeps pulling me back in for another viewing.

There you have it, my current anime list. This was fun to write, mainly trying to cover the larger plot points without spoiling anything. Because really, half the fun of anime is not knowing what will happen next. So I might come back around on this next seasons to recap the new shows I’m seeing once I finish these.

See you next week, hopefully with a proper review.