Hey, it’s August already – that puts us at week 5 of the summer season, which is almost halfway! Time sure flies as you get older. Maybe I shouldn’t be measuring out my life in anime seasons?
Some great stuff this week, and some…’meh’ kinda stuff. In addition to the usual anime, I’ve also watched season 3 of ‘She-Ra and the Princesses of Power’ which hit Netflix this week, and after seeing a lot of positive comments, I took a look at ‘Twelve Forever’, a Netflix kids’ show.
Fruits Basket gave us a scene-for-scene re-make of Kisa’s introductory episode, although somehow this hit me a lot harder than it did in the original series. Maybe I was just feeling a tad more emotional this week, but I feel like Furuba should come with a warning – I definitely have to think carefully some weeks about whether I have the spoons to handle particular stories or whether I should wait a day or two.
Kisa is the tiger of the zodiac, but also one of the youngest cursed members of the Sohma family, still in elementary school. I don’t know how well it comes across with western audiences, but the way Tohru, Hatsuharu and Yuki all rally around Kisa and insist the bullying is not her fault was a pretty revolutionary thing back when the manga was first being published – in Japanese schools, being picked on was a way of saying a kid stood out and made themselves separate from their class, and it was up to the bullied individual to try to integrate back into the system. So Kisa, having taken on her teacher’s message that she was partly at fault for her bullying, was having one of the worst experiences a schoolkid could have. The show’s ‘be yourself, go at your own pace’ message might seem fairly standard to American or British audiences, but it would have been a big deal for Japanese kids to hear that at the time the show first ran.
For me, it reinforced a very personal message – that in order to love yourself, you need other people to reassure you that you’re worth loving. The show’s strength is in the way it shows us how important it is to build connections with others even when we feel like cutting ourselves off, and to break away from the connections that do us harm. Even now, twenty years after the original manga and anime, that’s an important message to share, and it’s one of many things that I love about this story.
Carole and Tuesday also hit right in the feels with a sweet story about an in-universe musician. Although it didn’t do much to drive the main plot further forward (that was saved for the scenes with Carole’s politician mother and brother, and their timely, if scary, campaign against migrants from Earth), it did bring the show’s queer rep to the forefront. Finally, we got an explanation for the ‘Martian androgyny’ thing that’s been mentioned a few times, although I’m not sure how I feel about it as a reason (Martian radiation changing bodies and minds over time). It did mean we got a likeable non-binary character to counter Angela’s mother and the gag-character Mermaid Sisters, as well as another canon queer relationship (albeit in the past).
I’m curious to know how all this is being received by Japanese audiences – it still feels like a big deal to see as a western viewer, as such textual inclusion of non-binary characters is still a rarity in English-speaking media.
Even though it’s not anime, I’m including She-Ra and the Princesses of Power season 3 here. I’ve written before about how, as someone old enough to have grown up with the original She-Ra and He-Man cartoon and toys, I love what they’ve done with the reboot. Season three makes me wonder how well younger kids are actually coping with the longer plot-arcs, but then again, Netflix’s insistence on dropping an entire season at once instead of weekly does make it binge-able, meaning it’s easier to keep track of the plot.
The ‘reality gradually being erased’ plot device was the kind of thing that terrified me as a young’un, and it’s interesting to see how this reboot is placing emphasis on outside forces as the thing to beat just as much as on the villain characters.
Also, every single antagonist in this whole show is basically some version of ‘whiny dumbass just wants to be loved’, right up to and including Hordak. And I love that. Actual, plausible motivations for doing bad things. As Adora says about Catra: “She makes bad choices”. She and Catra had similar starts in life, but only Adora is able to focus on the bigger picture, knowing that acceptance and self-gratification come second to doing the right thing. Pretty deep, for a kids’ show.
Vinland Saga should have been a fairly emotional episode, with Thorfinn stranded in England, fending for himself in the forest and still set on killing Askeladd. But the opening subtitle informed us that Askeladd’s boat had docked in “the vicinity of the Humber River” and I spent the rest of the episode laughing my ass off at the thought of this super-dramatic story taking place not far from Cleethorpes beach where I endured many sad summer holidays with my grandparents. Totally not the fault of the anime, and it won’t matter to most people, but for a Yorkshire lad like myself, it’s pretty hilarious. I’m sincerely hoping that next week’s episode doesn’t move us on to somewhere like Scunthorpe or Hull.
To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts seems to be reaching the end of its ‘monster of the week’ structure, with fave seiyuu Fukuyama Jun as a gargoyle hell-bent on doling out justice. I can see what this show is aiming for, but as with the previous week’s episode about Arthur the behemoth, since it didn’t give us enough time to get to know the characters before they had to be killed off, it’s hard to find reasons to care about them.
It looks like the next episode is going to bring back Cain and possibly move away from the episodic structure. What I really want for this series is for Schaal to confront one of the Incarnates and just say, “hey, you knew my dad, let’s talk about this!”
Cop Craft was…well, I know I liked it, but it was a whole week ago and there isn’t much about it that’s stuck with me by this point. I feel like it jumped pretty quickly from the previous episode’s ending to whatever they did last week. Obviously Tilarna is back for a while, because she’s in the promo art so they can’t write her out.
My Twitter feed reminds me that I liked seeing Tilarna and Cecil bonding, but that’s about it. Here’s hoping that this week’s episode is a little more memorable.
Given is currently dishing out the slowest of slow burns. Which is cool when it’s fanfic and you have the whole thing to work through, but it’s a little bit agonising when you only have one episode a week. I wonder if perhaps we don’t need quite so much musical instrument education as the script thinks we need? It’s teasing so delicately at Mafuyu’s back-story, and once again I’m hoping that this week’s episode takes pity on us and gives us something a little meatier (what’s the vegetarian alternative to ‘meaty’? ‘Substantial’? Yeah, I want something a little bit more substantial).
Could Live Without It:
Dr Stone just isn’t doing it for me. What can I say? I just don’t care enough about the characters. Senku is too perfect (child-genius characters are tricky to get right). Tsukasa knows too much. Taiju and Yuzuriha are adorable, but it doesn’t feel like their story, so we don’t get enough of them. I dunno. I’ll see how I feel after this week’s episode.
Try Knights finally dropped its first episode this week, a whole month into the season. And…it really wasn’t worth the wait. For a sports anime, the animation feels far too static, and the character designs are a little too cutesy for me. The two leads have a nice dynamic, but other than that, everything feels a little too forced.
That’s it for this week’s watch round-up. I’m keen to know which posts in particular you folks are enjoying here and would like to see more of. Do you want to see more in-depth essays like last week’s ‘Why Fanfiction Scares Me’, or are you here for the fun posts? The ‘Why I Watched’ stories, or the seiyuu profiles? Do feel free to let me know in the comments what kind of content you want to see more (or less) of.