It feels like I have a lot on my anime plate lately. I’ve picked up a couple of shows several weeks into the season, and I’ve also been watching a few shows in both English and Japanese, as well as venturing out of my comfort zone to watch some non-anime stuff. So this week I had a bit of catching up to do, since I missed some stuff from last Sunday’s round-up.
‘JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’ is a show that I long ago gave up on trying to understand. Now, I just get comfortable, let my mind float, and follow where the crazy current takes me. I can’t explain why I find it so enjoyable; it manages to be both formulaic and unpredictable, establishing its own internal logic regarding the nature of its fight scenes, but occasionally blindsiding the viewer with unexpected twists (goodbye, Abbachio, you will be missed).
One thing I know I’m enjoying in ‘Golden Wind’ is the amount of body horror, which I feel is ramped up from anything that might have been in previous seasons. Seeing some random background bloke jump over a banister and splash as his lower body disintegrated was delightfully horrifying. I guess now they have a healer on the team, it’s a gimmick they can use multiple times in a variety of different ways. I also feel like some of the musical references are actually more relevant this season, in little details like Doppio’s ‘telephones’ being references to King Crimson lyrics (‘Cigarettes and Ice-Cream’).
If I’m disappointed by anything in the latest JJBA, it’s the music. The opening just doesn’t feel like a JoJo’s opening; it lacks the fighting spirit of tracks like ‘Stand Proud’ and the joyous energy of ‘Great Days’ (a song that gives me goosebumps just thinking about it). The Jodeci end song probably signalled the downward turn; I know it’s period-appropriate, just like the endings for ‘Stardust Crusaders’ and ‘Diamond Is Unbreakable’ were, but it felt at odds with what had come before. Still, the show itself still has my interest after all these years, and I’m looking forward to next week’s episode.
Last week’s ‘Fairy Gone’ was an interesting change of pace; after I’d said I wasn’t sure why I was supposed to care about Marlya and Free getting to the Black Fairy Tome before anyone else, we got a breather-episode showing them relaxing with a group of colleagues. I guess we’re supposed to care because they’re shown to be ‘good’ guys who care about each other? I’m not convinced: I’d rather hear about what horrifying things the antagonists would do if they got their hands on the Black Fairy Maguffin instead. I suspect that, by the end of the series, the real Black Fairy Tome will be the friends they made along the way.
‘One Punch Man’ has a problem this season, and it’s not the animation. The pacing feels completely lost, like they’re trying to condense the Tournament/Monster Association arc but focus more on certain details at the same time. I know I complained that the manga was dragging the tournament plot too much, but two eps of the anime have raced through a ton of character introductions. Simultaneously, it’s lost the sense of scale of the monster invasion. I really don’t feel the threat of the monster attacks, perhaps because we’ve only seen a few heroes’ responses rather than masses of civilians feeling in terror? I genuinely can’t tell if this arc will run right to the end of the season or if it will wind up before then. We’ve raced through about three manga volumes in two episodes, and I feel like I’m losing all sense of pacing and plot beats. I didn’t want to be disappointed with this season, since I felt that I could look past the changes in animation style, but it’s getting hard to feel the love I once had.
To be fair, this problem does stem from the manga itself, which as I’ve said has pacing issues of its own, but when I’ve been as invested as I have, it’s tough not to feel let down.
A pleasant surprise this last week has been ‘RobiHachi’, which suddenly went a bit Samurai Flamenco in episode 5 with the appearance of a character from another show entirely. I was not expecting Wombat to pop up, and had to pause the episode for a few seconds to make sure I’d really seen what I was seeing. Then, episode 6 gave a blatant ‘Sakamoto Desu Ga?’ reference with the long-shot of the three antagonists playing volleyball. Now I need to go back and re-watch the earlier episodes to see if there are any more references I’ve missed.
This last week, I’ve also been watching a few dubbed shows, both from this season and older stuff.
The English dub of ‘Mob Psycho 100 II’ is quickly growing on me, largely due to Chris Niosi. He nails the characterisation of Reigen, and his delivery is at times hilarious. I’m looking forward to seeing how he handles the more emotional moments in season two especially. Not having to focus on the subtitles also means I can take more time to appreciate the glorious animation, which was an absolute treat for the whole second season.
‘Midnight Occult Civil Servants’ also has a decent dub. I don’t feel like it’s added anything particularly new so far, although it is interesting to hear real-life couple J Michael Tatum and Brandon McInnis playing opposite each other. I’m curious to see how the dub handles the inclusion of Anothers from around the world; fingers crossed there are no dodgy European accents.
Finally, I watched the dub of ‘Hitorijime My Hero’. This is an admittedly problematic BL romance from 2017 about a high school student and his tentative relationship with his best friend’s older brother. Yes, I am fully aware of the squickiness of BL in general, and this series has its flaws. But it also has an incredibly emotional tearjerker of a plot.
The protagonist, Masahiro, has grown up with a neglectful mother and no father-figure in his life. He falls in with a bad crowd, aware that they’re not good for him but grateful all the same for the sense of belonging and relative safety they provide. He finds a friend in classmate Kensuke, only to discover that Kensuke’s older brother is waging a one-man war on local gangs, and takes on Masahiro’s gang next. Masahiro rather sensibly decides he’s better off allying himself with Kensuke’s brother Kousuke, labelling him his hero. As he grows up, Kousuke points out that Masahiro is developing romantic feelings for him, which he initially rejects, leading Masahiro to a lot of soul-searching before deciding that he actually does love Kousuke.
The story plays a lot of the more unfortunate BL tropes: age difference, bastard boyfriend, and occasional suggestions of dub-con. But Masahiro is ultimately given space to decide what type of relationship he wants, and is able to set the terms for their eventual union.
I’d sort-of enjoyed the original Japanese sub (hey, when queer romances are so few and far between, sometimes you just take what you can get), but the English dub managed to take the emotion and kick it into overdrive. Austin Tindle is superb as Masahiro, and I think I cried at almost every episode.
I fully understand if BL isn’t your thing, but if you can accept its flaws, then underneath the iffy stuff is a heart-wrenching story about found family and learning to accept your own worth. As BL goes, I’ve seen a lot worse.
This coming weekend I’ll be at Yorkshire Cosplay Con, so my usual weekly round-up may be delayed until Monday or Tuesday, but expect con updates in the meantime.
Have you spotted more anime references in ‘RobiHachi’? Do let me know in the comments – I love random shout-outs to other shows, so I’m keen to hear if there are any I’ve missed.