School Babysitters Episodes 1 + 2: Boys in a Babysitting Club

Overview:

Ryuichi and Kotaro have lost their parents leaving Ryuichi to take care of his younger brother. The two of them are taken in by the chairwoman of a school with the understanding that Ryuichi will work in the babysitter club outside of school hours and help take care of the teacher’s children.

Review Episode 1:

We have another contrived and fairly common set up of kids lose parents and so have to (fill in the blank) which leads to (the usual sorts of anime cliches). This one is full of sweetness and light with just enough drama when the younger brother gets a fever to stop you falling asleep.

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But really, there’s no personality for our characters yet as this is strictly set the scenario kind of stuff with only a little bit of an attempt to build some backstory or emotional depth late in the second half and while it works well enough it is hardly something noteworthy. Of course the middle-school boy is emotional because he’s lost his parents and realises he can’t call them when his brother is sick.

Still, I don’t like kids and anime kids have a real tendency to set my teeth on edge with their overly high pitched voices and either obnoxious or over the top cute antics so the fact that I was still watching at the end of the episode surprised me.

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More surprising, I might go for another episode. I don’t know that I’ll make a season of this, but I did actually feel kind of sad for Ryuichi when I was supposed to and the kids in the daycare, while doing everything I normally find annoying, didn’t annoy (let’s give them another episode and I’m sure they’ll manage it).

Review Episode 2:

The kids decide not to stay in the daycare and try to accompany Ryuichi to class (which is as close to the classroom as we get this episode so I’m wondering if Ryuichi ever did get to school). It is kind of adorable but I kind of get the other girl’s issue with him bringing distractions into the school.

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The chairwoman continues to be quite cold in her direct dealings with the brothers but has shown that she certainly is concerned about their well-being. While that might get tiresome after awhile everything else is so excessively sweet that it is kind of nice to have a few sharp tongued characters make the scene.

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They round out the second episode with a trip to the zoo. There aren’t really any surprises here or any paths taken that you can’t see coming a mile away but it remains fairly watchable and occasionally manages to make even me admit it is kind of cute.

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So, while this isn’t really my kind of thing and while I’m hardly claiming this is some sort of masterpiece, I might leave it on the list for a bit longer because there’s a certain charm to it and it is fairly relaxed viewing.


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Laid-Back Camp Episode 1: Cute Girls Do Camping

Overview:

Girl goes camping and finds another girl sleeping outdoors. End up sharing camp site before older sister collects outdoor sleeping girl. Then outdoor sleeping girl transfer to other girl’s school.

Review:

This is another perfectly fine set up episode if you happen to like what it is setting up. If cute school girls who go camping together sounds like it will be great fun then this introduction to characters who are clearly going to join the club later works just fine.

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This first episode did have the added advantage of some beautiful scenery with Mount Fuji featured prominently. Unfortunately, that was about it for things that caught my attention given I wasn’t particularly interested in their lesson on how to make a fire (given sneezing starts fires where I live it isn’t exactly something I struggle with).

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That said, if you are into the cute girls do whatever kind of shows, this one seems like a fair enough candidate for the season. For me it isn’t a definite drop but it isn’t high on my priority list and probably won’t end up on my final watch list.


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Anime-Gataris Episode 8: It’s a Swing and a Miss

Review:

One thing that has become painfully obvious during the mid-season of Anime-Gataris is that this show is at its best when it is a straight parody of other anime or when the characters are passionately engaged in an anime discussion dropping references left and right. Devoid of either of those ideas, the story itself doesn’t have enough substance to stay standing and the one note nature of these characters becomes far too clear.

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Why was this even here? They didn’t end up doing anything with it.

The reason episode 8 highlights these issues so beautifully is because the entire episode is a tug-of-war between the show trying to be plot driven with the anime club getting shut down and overcoming the student council’s meddling and a barrage of references about doing your best, the screening itself which dumps huge numbers of references and then we finish with a dance sequence that other than being filled with creepy CG was incredibly familiar.

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Basically we had moments that reminded us that this show knew how to make us laugh and had some energy, and then we had all the scenes with Minoa thinking or moping or rallying to get her enthusiasm back up. Minoa is a cute character and when she’s discussing anime she shines. But otherwise, she just doesn’t have enough character, and the audience hasn’t been given enough reason to care about her as a character, for any of the rest of this to have much impact.

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This one looks like it will be hard to review because early episodes were really good value in terms of just making me laugh. Now however, while I don’t dislike the show, it has definitely slumped into kind of watchable nothingness.


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Anime-Gataris Episode 7: They’re Going To Shut Down The Club, Again?

Review:

While conceptually I understand that this show is parodying many other anime, and the overused club getting shut down conflict is worth poking fun at, this is getting ridiculous. It was kind of the reason I didn’t watch Food Wars this season because the whole getting expelled or equally ridiculous consequence of cook offs kind of wore out its welcome as a source of conflict for me and I ceased to care whether the entire school burnt down.

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The challenge this time is to have a good showing at the school festival but just an anime screening isn’t enough. Suckers for punishment and Minoa’s infectious enthusiasm, our favourite anime club decide to make an anime (short). What could possibly go wrong with that?

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Oddly enough, most of the episode is smooth sailing once they agree on a concept and script and they do a decent job of outlining the production process. Of course, the student council can’t let sleeping dogs lie and the episode ends with yet another near catastrophe facing the club. I somehow doubt this one will be anymore exciting than the previous challenges. However, much like episode 5, I found this episode wasn’t quite as charming as others. It does the job but it more just watchable than actually entertaining in its own right.


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Anime-Gataris Episode 6: I Lost Count, But This Was Fun

Review:

I have no idea how many references they packed into that episode but they were coming thick and fast and they were fantastic. Shout out to the Ore Monogatari and Steins;Gate references that both got shoved in to the same scene and somehow made perfect sense. Yet if there were any surer sign that this show gets its audience it would be this moment:

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Every single audience member had to relate to that trauma of realising there was no way to watch a current episode (or any episode given they had no TV).

I will point out that for an episode that was kind of Kaikai’s, Minoa did a good job of stealing the final act of it. I felt a little bad for Kaikai by the mid-way point. He’s been one of my favourites from the group from the beginning and there were so many moments this episode where I just felt like he had the perfect reaction to a sequence of events.

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Also his unnecessary narration of an encounter was pretty hilarious.

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All and all, I had a great time this episode, which was a relief after the flatness experienced in episode 5. This, while ultimately not really moving the plot along in any meaningful way, did do some great work with the characters and returned to the fun of just showing us that it really does get the audience. Of course, it also has god-rays, bath sequences, and the usual girl drooling over boy on boy couple so it kind of understands the anime medium pretty well and is accepting a wide range of elements from it into its commentary.


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Anime-Gataris Episode 4: There Was Supposed to Be A Ka-Boom

Review:

While I enjoyed this episode, it wasn’t quite as interesting as the title suggested it might be with the promised club explosion occurring just as a very minor and peripheral point to the actual story this episode. Meanwhile, as much fun as the reference game has been, including this awesome visual nod to Evangelion:

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I think this episode kind of needed to move on beyond just hinting at darker things to come and to start getting there. The whole student council tries to shut down the club thing had already been done and seemed pretty trivial the first time so a rehash over something as stupid as misusing club funds (and why is the purchasing process lax enough to allow tha sort of reckless spending in the first place) it all just seemed a little too contrived and pointless (even more so than the previous three episodes).

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Attempts to humanize the student council president were mostly wasted and her handing the torch onto some mysterious person on the phone which may lead to bigger issues for the anime club might have been intriguing if they’d given us any kind of reason to care that the anime club exists. Basically the two separate storylines of self-aware anime club discussing anime (much like the final episode of Gamers where they sit around and discuss DLC) and then some darker plot that at this stage doesn’t have legs to stand on and is kind of distracting from the fun of the other.

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Still, it isn’t as though this episode wasn’t fun. The scenes with the club members are fantastic and I love it when they all get super into their discussions. I’d just kind of like the other story to either get moving and do something or stop distracting me from the part of the show I really like.


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Fastest Finger First Series Review: Do You Like Watching Characters Answer Questions?

Overview:

Koshiyama is about as typical an anime dweeb as they come. A book nerd starting high school with few friends or social skills. Then he get dragged into a practice quiz and discovers Quiz Bowl.

Review:

There’s really not a lot of story here. Geeky and shy kid joins new quiz circle at his high school and as a result gains some confidence, kind of makes some friends, and kind of finds a rival. I say kind of, because in these 12 episodes the skeleton for future developments is set up but very little time is devoted to anything outside of quizzing and learning about question formats and practicing to answer.

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Enjoyment of this show relies very heavily on the audience enjoying game shows or playing along with quizzes. If you like hearing characters discuss strategies for when you can quiz in or narrow down answers, then you will have fun. If you like seeing if you can beat characters to the right answer, you’ll probably have fun. If you actually want the back story on the characters or to see any of the potential character developments realized you’ll probably end up disappointed.

For me, I loved being inside Koshiyama’s head as he tried to find the answer to questions. Sometimes he was successful and sometimes not (so at least no plot armour for the rookie quizzer) but his thinking and how he drew on his knowledge from the vast array of books he had read was kind of fun to follow.

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The other members of the team and most the rival players are also fun enough, but they just don’t spend enough time with any of them. They all remain more types than characters and, particularly with the leader of Koshiyama’s team, it felt like there was a lot missing that would just make all these characters feel a bit more real and fleshed out.

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Mikuriya gets a lot more time as the set up rival from another school, but even he doesn’t get much beyond his attitude and aptitude. We literally know nothing about him beyond the fact that he likes quizzes and he doesn’t like to lose.

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Of course, the show isn’t all smooth sailing. The introduction of Akira in the latter half hurt my enjoyment of some of the final episodes. He was a really annoying character and while the show needed something to shake up all the composed quizzers and Akira served that role well, he didn’t make it more fun to watch.

The opening song is enjoyable enough and the dings and beeps of the buzzers are certainly nostalgic sounding. Otherwise the music and sound is pretty unremarkable as are most of the visuals.

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There’s no greater narrative going on here. No fighting for a greater good. This is just about the characters and quizzing with Quiz Bowl getting the lion’s share of development even at the expense of the characters. Still, if that works for you then you should have some fun with this show. I certainly did and while it is hardly going to be my favourite anime ever and rewatch value is pretty low (sorry, once I know what the answer is going to be a lot of the fun goes out the window) I’d actually happy watch a second season of this, though that seems unlikely that we’ll get one.

Probably the best thing I can say about this show is that it is consistent in what it delivers.

If you watched Fastest Finger First I’d love to know your thoughts on it.


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Anime-Gataris Episode 1: A Pleasant Surprise

Overview:

Just as soon as she enters Sakaneko Private High School, Asagaya Minoa is dragged into the anime club by her classmate, Kamiigusa Alice, even though she knows next to nothing about anime. A classmate, Kouenji Miko, along with other anime-loving senpais, quickly turn her into an anime fan. Fighting off the incessant shut-down threats of the student council, and completely oblivious to the coming apocalypse, the anime club talks about anime in the club, at Akihabara, at anime Meccas, and at hot springs.

– from Crunchyroll

Review:

This is the kind of show I try usually just to confirm it is what I think it is from the excessively pink haired smiling protagonist surrounded by generic assortment high school tropes pretending to be characters in the art work. And usually I get about ten minutes in, feel satisfied that the show is not doing anything I didn’t expect, drop and move on.

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And yet, I didn’t feel any compulsion to stop watching during this. In fact, I laughed out loud a couple of times, rolled my eyes a few other times, and generally sat up and paid attention to the over the top silliness and the sheer number of misappropriated anime they managed to squeeze into some of those conversations. My favourite was ‘The Girl Who Slept Through Time’.

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Alright, there’s nothing new about self-aware comedy or taking cheap pot shots at light novels, anime, or the culture surrounding it, and there’s certainly nothing new about directly referencing the material you’re making fun of, but this episode made me laugh and to be honest, that was enough.

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I don’t know if I’ll make it through a whole season of this or whether that initial good feeling I got from this episode will wear away after a couple of derivative and fairly mindless episodes, but I’m willing to give this a go and hope for the best.


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TWOCAR Episode 1: Just Not For Me

Review:

I kind of knew starting this that I probably wasn’t the audience for this show so while there is actually nothing wrong with this as a first episode it absolutely did not appeal to me. When we got to six minutes and the race commentator was still introducing each quirky team so that each girl had a chance to say something witty and show off their particular quirk (twins, cross-dressing, goth-loli, etc), I definitely knew this show wasn’t something I was going to stick out.

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Despite that, I did get to the end of the episode and was still pretty indifferent to everything that was going on. It looks nice enough, has set up the characters, and pretty much has done what it needs to do as a first episode, so if you like high school girl club stories and felt what was missing from your life was one that involved motor-sports than this might be for you.

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For me though, I’ll leave this show here.


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Fastest Finger First Episode 7: New Rivals, New Brothers, New Buzzers?

Review Episode 7:

This was interesting in that it felt like lots happened during the episode and you could list off a lot of stuff, but in terms of moving the plot forward we started with them preparing for the regular meet and we end with them still in preparation for the regular meet. Points for not letting an episode with almost zero plot progression drag and a lot of that has to do with the different character interactions.

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At the same time though, I just kept kind of wanting them to move this along a bit. As much fun as the quizzes have been, and learning new facts, and watching the characters stumble their way toward being competitive, as a series the show is leaving a lot of room for improvement. We get small hints at character development and relationship building but these haven’t amounted to a lot yet so it is hard to know if the payoff will ultimately be enough to carry the show to its conclusion.

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Still, there are worse ways I could spend twenty minutes of my week than catching the next episode of a show that isn’t exactly brilliant but has managed to remain pretty even in its delivery throughout the season.


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