Why I’m Enjoying Senryuu Shoujo More Than Hitoribocchi This Spring Anime Season

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I don’t usually directly compare two anime, largely because each anime needs to be viewed on its own merit. Whether the story is similar or a character follows a comparable arc, if an anime is enjoyable in its own right, let it be enjoyable.

From that point of view, I’m not going to argue that Senryuu Shoujo is the better of the two anime I’m discussing today, simply that I’m enjoying it more. However, I’m certain there are other viewers out there who feel differently and I’d love to hear your take on either show in the comments below.

For those who haven’t followed either show this season here’s a brief break down. Senryuu Shoujo is listed on MAL as a Slice of Life/Comedy about a girl who doesn’t speak but communicates through poems and hangs out with another poetry lover, ex-delinquent Eiji as part of a club at school. It currently has a score of 7.34 and is a short anime format with each episode only lasting 12 minutes.

Hitoribocchi is also listed on MAL as a Slice of Life/Comedy and this time we’re following a very shy girl who has gone to a different school to her friend from middle school and now, for reasons, has to make friends with everyone in her new class. It currently has a score of 7.53 on MAL and each episode is a standard 23 minute length.

From the description you can tell that neither anime sits in my comfort zone of happiness. They aren’t the kind of thing that by nature I find entertaining. Yet each season I try a handful of comedy or slice of life anime and add a few to my watch list, because every now and then you end up with something like My Roommate is a Cat that just utterly charms me and I’d miss out entirely if I didn’t watch a lot of shows that are just fine for those who like the genre, but don’t do much for me.

Keep in mind that ‘March Comes in Like a Lion‘, an anime I regularly rave about, is in fact a Slice of Life. So while I don’t click with the genre as a whole, when it grabs my attention it really draws me right in.

That said, it should be fairly clear if you’ve been reading my episode reviews of either Senryuu Shoujo or Hitoribocchi that I’m not exactly loving either one. To be honest, both will be forgotten almost the minute the last episode airs with just enough lag time for me to write my whole season review. But, in the rank on MAL, number of viewers, and just the amount of blog coverage, it seems Hitoribocchi is the preferred show out of these two.

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There are two main reasons why I prefer Senryuu Shoujo.

The first comes down to the run time. With both anime being limited in scope and content and being reasonably formulaic in their approach of setting up the scenario or gag for the episode and then running with it, I find that Hitoribocchi stretches each moment that little bit too far. I’ve mentioned it before in an episode review and on Twitter, but if the episodes were half the length and more tightly paced, I’d enjoy the content a great deal more. Particularly as I find my tolerance for Bocchi waning the longer an episode runs, if it ended at the 12 minute mark I’d probably find her sympathetic and adorable whereas by the 23 minute mark I’m more annoyed at her.

Senryuu Shoujo with its 12 minute run time perfectly hits the mark. The episodes are bite sized. Not much happens but nothing overstays its welcome either. As a result, the episode always ends when I’m pleasantly in the groove of an episode and so leaves me wanting the next one. They say timing is everything in comedy and to be honest a lot of my preference on the two anime comes down to this factor.

Then we have our two female leads, Bocchi and Nanako.

In a recent review of one of the Hitoribocchi episodes, I was pretty scathing of Bocchi’s character. She whines and whimpers her way through almost every encounter. While her shyness and awkwardness began as relatable and a sympathetic character trait, as the series has progressed there’s just no other aspect to Bocchi. She has no hobbies or likes or dislikes. She has friends now, who she is grateful for, but has no trouble abandoning them in pursuit of making another friend. She’s also incredibly self-centred and rarely thinks about the feelings of others because she’s so wrapped up in her own anxious worrying about how people see her.

Now, if her character wasn’t being played for laughs in a school comedy, possibly I would be more sympathetic toward her. Given I was that incredibly shy person who struggled to speak in the company of strangers, who felt sick at the thought of having to speak in front of people, and most definitely avoided encounters that I was not comfortable with, I might have really connected with Bocchi’s character had they made the tone somewhat more serious. Instead though, I mostly see her start to tear up and feel she’s just a little bit pathetic rather than sympathetic and I’m finding it hard to really connect with Bocchi or any member of the cast.

That said, for viewers that do find Bocchi sympathetic, or just like her or the supporting cast, the viewing experience of Hitoribocchi will be considerably more entertaining.

Nanako from Senryuu Shoujo is a little less relatable but a lot more interesting as a lead. She doesn’t speak at all but expresses herself through facial expressions, body language, and through her poetry. While the gimmick is definitely gimmicky, and you do have to wonder sometimes where she pulls the board out from to write a poem, and how she wrote it that fast, she is by and large adorable. More than that, she’s positive about things and it pursuing a ‘romance’ with Eiji while enjoying her high school life.

I did like that when we met her parents and got a bit of backstory, it was pointed out that Nanako was in fact bullied for not speaking when she was younger. While I would actually like the anime to delve into the drama a bit more and look at why she doesn’t speak and how this actually impacts on the day to day when she isn’t with those who accept her weird quirk, I get this one is a light comedy and wasn’t planning on being a deep dive into dealing with difference. Still, Nanako is an intriguing character but one who brings cuteness and light into most scenes and her interactions with Eiji are off the charts adorable.

While it might seem like splitting hairs, the shorter run time plus the more compelling, or at least less annoying, female lead makes Senryuu Shoujo my preferred slice of life/comedy anime from the Spring anime season.

However, I get this is an entirely subjective opinion based on my own preferences and interpretations of the characters and story (as is pretty much everything on my blog so business as usual). Which is why I would love to hear from my readers whether they are preferring Senryuu Shoujo or Hitoribocchi this season. Or is there another slice of life/comedy anime that got your attention this season? Let me know in the comments below and we’re almost at the end of the Spring season so remember to go vote for your favourite show of the season in my poll here.

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Karandi James
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They Can’t All Be Natsume – Nor Do They Need To Be

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As a reviewer I try to avoid comparison where possible between one story and the next (and previously wrote a feature about it – comparing apples and oranges), but it is kind of inevitable that comparisons will be made. Partly that is because similar characters or stories will remind you of the previous one though other reasons for comparing are to make a point clear, to point out the strength or weakness of a story, or to help your audience to really get a feel for what you are talking about by linking it to something they are likely more familiar with.

Still, comparisons aren’t always all that helpful. I recently went looking for some reviews of Kamisama Kiss online and found comparisons everywhere (I was curious about what people had said at the time it came out because that was pre-blogging days so I hadn’t really read any reviews of people who watched it when it first came out). On several occasions I found it compared to Fruits Basket or InuYasha and it seldom came out favourably.

While as a shoujo, the comparison to Fruits Basket kind of makes sense, the overall tone and feel of the stories are entirely different. I watch Kamisama Kiss when I want to just have a bit of a laugh and soak up some cute yokai vibes. Sure, it doesn’t really manage character drama all the deftly, but there is the occasional moment where it hits the spot, but realistically, you kind of watch Kamisama Kiss for the weird antics as Nanami learns to be a land god and the supernatural reverse harem that forms around her.

Fruits Basket on the other-hand I watch when I want to go through a bit of an emotional journey. I usually watch it when I’m feeling low and don’t know the reasons for feeling that way. Watching Fruits Basket and watching Tohru help others really helps process your own emotions and there’s definitely a cathartic effect as you see each of the characters she touches slowly come to terms with themselves. About the only complaint for the original series, other than the dated visuals, would be the lack of ending, which is why I’m super excited about the upcoming rebooted series. Whichever way, I wouldn’t have even thought of comparing it to Kamisama Kiss because in terms of why I enjoy it, it couldn’t be more different.

I can’t really comment on its similarity or dissimilarity to InuYasha because despite that one being on my watch list for a very long time, I’ve still yet to actually watch it.

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So as the title of this post suggests, recently I found myself comparing The Morose Mononokean to Natsume Yuujinchou. Actually, worse than comparing, I mostly pointed out that The Morose Mononokean couldn’t hold the emotional weight of something like Natsume. And that’s actually really true but it is more or less true of the vast majority of anime and not an actual complaint about The Morose Mononokean.

Now when watching these shows, comparisons do seem more or less inevitable. They both follow teenage boys who have the ability to see yokai. More importantly, the first season of The Morose Mononokean and Natsume Yuujinchou more or less follow the yokai of the week format where a new yokai is introduce, the main characters encounter it and it is either threatening or friendly, there’s a little bit of misunderstanding or a problem to resolve, then someone we fix things and we learn and grow from the situation. Rinse – repeat. Yokai of the week.

However, Natsume Yuujinchou, for all that it really is a monster of the week kind of story, has managed subtle and continuous character growth and built an impressive supporting cast that all feel like fully developed characters in their own right. Admittedly, it is now six seasons in, but it is still impressive how you barely notice the character growth until you go back to the beginning and then you realise just how much ground each character has gained. It is such a natural drip feed of growth and development that you really don’t even notice it but the results are there to see in how each season Natsume is that little bit stronger than he was and his relationships with those around him are that little bit deeper and more interesting.

Natsume Yuujinchou

In short, Natsume is pretty brilliant and you should definitely watch it.

The Morose Mononokean is not.

And that isn’t actually slapping it down. The Morose Mononokean season one was decidedly average in every way. It used the yokai of the week format well enough. The characters were entertaining and the back and forth between the two main characters was actually pretty entertaining. Visually it was okay, but they really did a great job contrasting the mundane world and the yokai world through the use of colours. Everything about it functioned, though it never delivered much in the way of an emotional punch and the characters remained more or less as they began, though a bit more of an understanding was forged between the two main characters.

In fairness, I don’t think it was really trying to pack much of an emotional punch. There are more ‘comedic’ moments dotted throughout, and Ashiya, as the protagonist, is quite the loud and reactive character responding to things with over the top expressions and shock rather than calm deliberation. The yokai frequently aren’t really given a voice and other than fuzzy, Ashiya isn’t really developing much in the way of a relationship with them and he wasn’t shunned or outcast so he doesn’t have to go through the emotional growth Natsume needed at the start of season one.

While that makes The Morose Mononokean a somewhat less compelling watch, it works as it is. Season two expands on the world building and the characters and it has become a much stronger story in its own right. It still has a vastly different tone and feel to Natsume, despite the surface level similarities in premise, but it really is its own show.

But telling someone The Morose Mononokean isn’t as good as Natsume Yuujinchou isn’t exactly helpful when it comes to reviewing, however true I might personally feel that to be. Nor is telling someone that it is similar to Natsume overly helpful because if someone starts it expecting another Natsume, they are surely going to be disappointed.

I think as a reviewer I am going to continue to strive not to overly rely on comparisons to convey my feelings about an anime. They certainly will happen and sometimes fairly thoughtlessly, but I hopefully won’t use them as my main summation of a show. In the case of The Morose Mononokean, through season two I have definitely come to appreciate it for what it is on its own and I’m no longer really looking at what I feel it is missing. Hopefully when it ends and I write my final review my thoughts on it as its own entity come through loud and clear.

Now here’s a question: The Little Fox or Fuzzy? Which is the cuter yokai?

In the meantime, I’d love to know your thoughts on comparisons in reviews and whether you find them helpful or not. Please leave a comment below and get the conversation started.

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Karandi James
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Friday’s Feature – Comparing Apples and Oranges

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With the new season of anime starting, I’ve found myself doing a lot of episode 1 impressions and trying to write a basic overview of a lot of different shows. The number of times I found myself falling back on the “it’s like …. with a bit of ….” in order to describe a show kind of got me thinking. Is it fair to compare one show to another?

In honesty, when I write a review of a full series, I generally avoid comparing one anime to another. Occasionally it seems necessary to make a point about one particularly aspect. Whether it be a character, a bit of music, or a particular plot point, sometimes drawing a comparison can be really helpful in order to explain where you are coming from. However, I avoid falling back on this as my main form of review for the simple reason that I feel things should be taken for what they are and not what other things are that might be better.

erased

Erased is a good anime to look at when we think about whether or not we should compare anime. If we look at Erased as a mystery, even taken by itself you can see that the mystery itself is flawed due to the lack of viable suspects. This makes the guessing who the culprit is pretty easy and takes away any dramatic reveal that might occur later in the series. So even without a comparison Erased isn’t going to stand up very well as a mystery. But if we then played it against a mystery (something like Blood C or Paranoia Agent which leave you guessing until the reveal) Erased starts looking even worse.

paranoia-agent

Is that fair? Admittedly, if I were doing a Top 5 list of best mystery anime, Erased wouldn’t be on it, but when I reviewed Erased I was looking at more than just the mystery component. So comparing it to something else only as a mystery takes away from what Erased actually is as an anime.

My review of Erased focussed very much on the characters within Erased and their reactions to the situations. I looked at the characters I liked and didn’t and the events that shaped them. Are the characters perfect? Not really. If I compared Erased to other character driven dramas would Erased be the best? Probably not. But Erased is a character driven drama with mystery and supernatural elements thrown in. It is the combination of all of these things (working together) that make watching Erased a reasonably entertaining experience.

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But if we start classifying things like that I may as well say that Taboo Tattoo was the most interesting anime about princesses trying to rewrite the world via the power of sentient tattoos. I’d be right (at least I hope there aren’t any others), but that doesn’t make it a good anime either.

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Another anime that I really liked recently was Alderamin on the Sky. I really enjoyed each episode and getting to know the characters, however I found myself regularly pointing out that this anime wasn’t trying to be the most exciting thing in the world. Looking back at my weekly thoughts, I said this a lot. Why? Because when you do a surface comparison of Alderamin to any of the big anime, Alderamin is going to come off second best. Not because it isn’t a good story with good characters but because it just doesn’t have any of the flash of some of the big names. Any kind of comparison is going to go badly for Alderamin but I would still say you should watch Alderamin.

I also remember a lot of people comparing Shirayuki (from Snow White with the Red Hair) to Yona (Akatsuki no Yona). Yeah they were both red-haired heroines who appeared at around the same time and both ended up being quite independent, female leads. It seems natural to compare them. Except that does it matter if Yona is more active than Shirayuki and learns to shoot a bow? Does that make Shirayuki any less of a positive, female character in an anime? Does it matter that Shirayuki has far more self-determination right from the start of the series than Yona does in hers? Does that make Yona less of a heroine because her direction was chosen for her by destiny at first?

I’m not actually criticising comparisons. They do work well at highlighting similarities and differences and make you really consider stories and characters. I just wonder what the purpose of some comparisons are and whether there has to be a better or a worse option when things are compared?

What is your view on using comparisons as part of a review?