Flying Witch, episodes 1-3
- The opening scenes of Flying Witch were powerfully nostalgic. They show the titular heroine Makoto Kowata in transit, travelling first by train and then by bus to a snowy rural town. On my first holiday in Japan, we took a similar journey to the snowfields of Nagano. The pace and beautiful art in these opening scenes captured the feeling of that journey perfectly: away from the thrum of a big city, to the quiet and contemplative atmosphere of a small town. That was enough to hook me.
- The second episode dropped another nostalgia bomb. On my second trip to Japan, I took some cooking lessons offered by home cooks, in their own homes. We learned about the produce that is traditionally eaten in spring. Young bamboo shoots, shiso leaves, strawberries, and so on. We didn’t try fukinotou, but we did make tempura, so watching the episode’s nice little cooking lesson again brought back fond memories.
- This show is like Studio Ghibli took a crack at making Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. The magic elements are much lighter and more realistic, and it’s not so much sitcom as a light drama. But while Chito the cat doesn’t talk, he still conveys the same perfectly sarcastic attitude as Salem.
- Magic in Flying Witch is presented matter-of-factly as part of the natural world, and the rural setting grounds it nicely. A screaming vegetable, flying brooms, a wonderfully strange man who ushers in spring, a simple ritual that summons crows. These things seem more like “old wives’ tales”, forgotten knowledge about how the world works, than the flashy displays of wizards or superheroes.
- The cast around Makoto are all charming, from the curious young cousin who is equally nervous and curious about the magical world, to the perfectly polite visitor who changes the seasons, to Makoto’s impulsive and powerful witch sister. This is not the kind of show that makes you excited, per se, but I am really looking forward to seeing who else we meet, and how Makoto develops her powers.
Aggressive Retsuko, episodes 1-2
- Anyone who has worked in an office environment, especially in cubicles or some other open plan monstrosity, will instantly relate to Retsuko’s plight. She just wants to get her work done and knock off at the end of the day and relax, but… well, hell is other people.
- This is an interesting entry into the growing “kawaii metal” genre. The structure of each episode, with chirping dialogue giving way to a screamo chorus, is very similar to Ladybaby’s Nippon Manju (incidentally, a pretty good song).
- As a recent father I have some sympathy for the pink hippo (?) in episode 2. It’s hard not to think about your kid while you’re away from them, but it’s important to remember that nobody else cares as much as you. I put some photos up at my desk where people can see them, and if they want to ask me about my daughter I’m happy to talk, but I never initiate those conversations.
- Number one jerk: definitely Buffalo Boss. Colleagues chatting about their tedious lives are annoying, sure, but a boss who dumps a mountain of busywork on your desk just as you are about to clock off is an utter shitstain. Stop for a moment and consider whether you do this — and it can go the other way: if you turn up at 5pm on Friday with something that needs your manager’s urgent consideration, then you are Buffalo Boss. Don’t be Buffalo Boss.
- I have no idea how the whole Sanrio family of characters works, but I take it there is a voting process to decide which ones get more attention and which get more or less dropped? I’m not sure, but I voted for Aggretsuko— “Special skill: deathmetal vocals” — just in case.
Macross Delta, episodes 1-3
- I think this is the most thoroughly branded show I’ve seen. The art is a jarring mix of painted backgrounds, flat-coloured 2D art, and glossy CG machinery — but tyang it all together is a neon, 80s Walkure product identity, with W motifs everywhere. Even the way the characters are positioned in the frame forms W shapes.
- I have almost no prior understanding of the Macross universe, except that it includes transforming jet-mechs and magical songs that buff the fighters. I guess someone really loved playing a bard in D&D? I have to admit I was sceptical about how well you could bring a hardware fetish and idol fandom together into a coherent show, but actually I really enjoyed it.
- As for working out the different factions, what the space virus with a musical antidote is, all of that — I’m listening to the SpeakerPODcast to hopefully learn as I go.
- The paintball dogfight training exercise was genuinely suspenseful. In my head I knew Hayate Immelmann would pass the test, because duh of course he would, but my guts were worried about him when he rashly stalled the plane. I think it helped that Freyja Wion’s song was genuinely a decent pop song, and she has a good voice that held up during the a cappella part. It was nice.
- The mercats are a dumb idea (is there some connection to Singapore?) and they spent far too long chasing that unfathomably nimble aquatic Garfield around. The physics of its swimming were just awful — you can’t slap someone with a tail like that. I understand they were setting up Immelmann’s surprise aerial manoeuvre, but that was also the point where the physics broke down in the sky. But okay, he wants to air-dance, I can go with that as long as the music holds up over the series.
My Hero Academia, episodes 1-3
- I really hope this gets a decent dub and finds mainstream success as a before-school cartoon. I love the messages they are developing here: passion, dedication and hard work are important; heroes are defined by their attitude, not their power; you can do a lot of good in your community without chasing glory.
- Coming off the back of One Punch Man, it’s impossible to avoid comparing the two shows. Whereas OPM was a loving but somewhat cynical parody of superhero tropes, Academia embraces them wholeheartedly. (As for the character comparison: imagine the true hero of OPM, Mumen Rider, was bestowed with Saitama’s abilities, and you’ve pretty much got Izuku. This is a good thing.)
- I’m glad they spent a quarter of the first cour on character development. It’s laid a solid foundation for the slugfest I expect we will see as it moves forward. Having a clear sense of Izuku’s motivation will allow the pace to pick up without becoming a bland exercise in fight choreography.
- The art in this thing is gorgeous, especially the faces and the movement. It’s very dynamic. Look at the gif above: the rotation of the background gives it real depth, without resorting to CG or lens flares or any of that nonsense. Simple but effective. The montage of superheroes in the first episode was stunning and fluid, so I’m really excited to get into the tournament and see how all these Quirks are depicted.
- Speaking of tournaments… The last tournament show I watched was World Trigger, which burned the audience pretty badly — they had 63 episodes with a whole lot of filler, but then killed it before the last match of the tournament? Come. On. (I know it’s unfashionable to like World Trigger, but I do and you can eat me.)
Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou, episodes 1-2
- I’ve been hanging out for this one since I first heard about it. The odd premise — a kid working in his family’s restaurant discovers that making tonkatsu is exactly the same as being a DJ — is just ridiculous enough to be intriguing, while still leaving a bit of room to flesh it out beyond that one joke. And now that it’s here… it’s good!
- The flashes of supposed similarity between DJing and frying breaded pork cutlets are… stretched. We’ve got the premise, so the humour comes from seeing how the silly comparison is going to be made this time. Spinning records is like wiping a counter? OK! Rifling through a record shop is like fetching a pickle from the barrel? Why not! It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s pleasantly amusing. (I also like the way these comparisons develop Aragotou’s character, simultaneously an ambitious dreamer and a daydreaming slacker. Can he succeed?)
- “This must be the ripest one!” decides Agetarou, pulling out a record from the pickle barrel to discover… butts. This little moment of embarrassment reminds us that Aragatou is a teenaged boy who is desperately trying to be cool in front of his new friends. A little bit of risqué humour never hurt anybody, and the art style means this isn’t squicky fanservice.
- The art reminds me a little bit of Magnus Carlsson’s Robin, though slightly more detailed. This is a good thing. The carefree lines create the right tone for this show: fun, friendly, not too serious.
- There is a record shop a few hundred metres from my house. It’s smaller than the one in this show, less organised. But Mizokuro’s reaction to the woman who wanders in — literally pushing her out the door — seems about right. What is it about niche hobby shops that makes them so hostile to women?