Natsume Yuujinchou Season 6 Episode 11

Review – Some spoilers:

Can we get a season 7 announcement, please?

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This episode resumes the hunt for the study and as usual Natsume’s keen eyes and a deeper understanding of yokai and those who can clearly see yokai find the necessary clues that eventually lead the group to the study door. That said, Natori does have a moment of doubt about whether he should hear what Natsume has to say regarding the Book of Friends later in the episode.

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So as much as Natori continues to play the understanding guy they are leaving his character and his relationship to Natsume ambiguous right to the end. I find it fascinating how this show didn’t resolve this point but still made this feel satisfying. We did take another step in this relationship with Natsume ultimately explaining the situation with Reiko to Natori and we heard Natori’s response. First the one he said clearly to Natsume:

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And then the one he made sure Natsume didn’t hear:

It isn’t exactly a declaration that Natori is going to try to take the book or destroy it, but it kind of indicates Natori isn’t just going to say, ‘cool, you’re grandmother left you a really dangerous book’. It will be interesting to see how this progresses, assuming of course we get more of this show.

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The other point that has to be mentioned is that for the first time a yokai has suggested knowing a male relative of Natsume. We kind of knew he had to have family other than Reiko and his dead parents but they’ve never been mentioned. And as Natsume wonders later, what connection did a former relative of his have with the exorcists? It is obvious that Nanase of the Matoba clan had some sort of relationship with Reiko other than the one childhood encounter we’ve seen, but is Natsume more closely tied to the exorcists than he realises?

So this season is done and I’m really happy with how it has gone but will do a full review soon. That said, this is a show I always want more of.


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Natsume Yuujinchou Season 6 Episode 10

Review:

Is there really only one more episode of this? Really? And the next season is…?

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For a second last episode of the season, episode 10 of Natsume Yuujinchou pulled out all the punches. We are dealing with exorcists again and Natori most definitely did not forget about the Book of Friends.

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That said, this episode seems to be positioning us to see him as an actual friend and given he’s been covered in shades of grey as to where his true motives lie for a fair while it would be nice to think that is true. Though there’s always the chance of another twist in the tale.

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But in case exorcists searching a mansion for a study full of spells while Natori gently probes Natsume for hints about what he has via Hiiragi is not enough to keep you entertained in what is normally a much more relaxing story, lets throw in some Reiko stuff just to bring everything together. About the only part of Natsume’s life that gets left out here is his normal school life and normal human friends but that probably would have been pushing it to incorporate that as well.

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That said, though, this is another two parter story so we’ll just have to wait until next week to see how this all plays out but I couldn’t be happier with how this season seems to be finishing up. My only complaint is that it is finishing.


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Natsume Yuujinchou Season 6 Episode 9

Review:

Natsume returned to its usual episodic formula this week. No returning characters of old, no Reiko flashbacks, just a strange shrine on a hill and a flood inside a building.

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Yep, nothing suspicious here.

That said, this isn’t a bad thing as Natsume uses its episodic format to its advantage creating a charming self-contained narrative even as the audience get to enjoy the results of the bonds Natsume has forged with his human friends. Nyanko-Sensei even gets a cute make-over for part of the episode pretending for some reason to be a boar piglet.

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Seriously cute. Anyway, I really enjoyed this episode but it is pretty standard Natsume. Then of course we got the preview for next week and it looks like they aren’t going to make us wait for another season to know what Natori is going to do now that he’s suspecting Natsume has something powerful. While it doesn’t give much away I’m now really excited for next week.


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Natsume Yuujinchou Season 6 Episode 8

Review:

After consecutive weeks of returning characters, season 6 delivered a yokai of the week story that went a different direction to what I was expecting. When Natsume first met the strange boy at the station, I suspected he’d be a yokai, but I didn’t expect that Natsume would simply tell him that he should tell people that upfront and that we’d move on from it. That kind of shows how much Natsume has grown because he used to get quite upset when someone he thought was human wasn’t.

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Anyway, given they get over that part of the story quickly we move onto the real story this week which is the romance between a human girl and a yokai broken off by the yokai either because he wanted her to have a normal life or he got scared about the fact that she will most definitely die before he will.

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It’s a really cute story and I really enjoyed getting to know Aoi, the yokai of the week. Part of me really hopes his character comes back again.


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Friday’s Feature: Why is Natsume Yuujinchou Still Endearing After Five and a Half Seasons?

There’s no mistaking that I truly love Natsume Yuujinchou. You just need to look at the sheer number of posts I’ve tagged with Natsume to know that I not only like watching it, I like to talk about Natsume, a lot. I don’t remember who recommended it to me or why I tried it initially, but I know that once I started this adorable show I never could stop. Even when I ran out of episodes I would happily go back and just watch them all again. Had a bad day at work, or a bad week? Take a double episode of Natsume and go to bed smiling. As I watch season six of this show week to week, I began to wonder how this show has retained its magic formula and even managed to become more entertaining with time given so many shows, particularly ones where new seasons just keep getting added on, become progressively less than what they were.

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I started making a list of all the great things about Natsume. The list got extremely long by the end so I ended up condensing them into a few main points:

  • The characters particularly the central characters of Natsume and Nyanko-Sensei.
  • The episodic format of the show with themes and character growth that run through the series.
  • The feelings this show inspires in its audience.
  • The art and animation while not the most brilliant ever perfectly fit the show you are watching.
  • Every opening theme that has ever been attached to this show.

There were quite a few other points on the initial list but that isn’t surprising given I love the show. However, making this list actually helped me figure out exactly why this show succeeds season after season.

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Reason 1: The way the characters are presented to the audience.

In so many long running shows the main protagonists (and a lot of the support cast) either have a single defining personality trait or goal. Or, worse, the characters actually lose any defining trait over time slowly becoming generic and featureless in amongst a sea of other characters.

Natsume defies this trend in storytelling. He starts out fairly generic, as do most of the characters in the show, and the show has gradually fleshed them out over nearly six seasons. The affect of this on the audience is essentially feeling like we’ve naturally gotten to know someone. First introductions are fairly superficial and then we’ve slowly been allowed to see who they are underneath those initial impressions.

And this doesn’t seem accidental. Within episodes we regularly meet the yokai of the week and are given one impression before Natsume looks deeper and we realise the other side of the character. This pattern repeating over longer periods of time with the human characters and recurring yokai seems like a deliberate thematic choice of the show as it examines who Natsume is and who he is becoming.

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Which, is the second part of this story. The characters are changing. Even as we get to know who they are or who they were (through flash backs), events in the seasons we’ve seen have changed them. There’s no magic reset at the end of the episode so next episode everyone is back to the cookie cutter model we start with each week in a true sit-com style. This is an ongoing story and these characters are dynamic even if the slow pace of the show sometimes makes it seem like little progress is occurring.

Clearly Natsume, as the title character, has experienced the largest growth and development as he has slowly opened up to both human and yokai characters. However, he isn’t along in this constant change and you can see Nyanko-Sensei has softened significantly toward Natsume since season 1. His threats to eat his human companion have diminished and even when they are inserted they now seem half-hearted. He offers advice more freely and is more willing to warn Natsume of danger. He’s gone from being curious and self-interested to being genuinely fond of Natsume and this relationship is really interesting to watch.

Even Reiko, Natsume’s deceased grandmother has been given character growth as Natsume has slowly learned more about her. The end result is a world that feels incredbily rich and populated with real characters that over six seasons you’ve become friends with yourself and you genuinely care for.

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Reason 2: The overall themes of the show strike directly at the heart.

Okay, that was cheesy, but it is Natsume so it kind of had to be.

But really, the experience of watching Natsume, is one of trying to understand what it means to be human and the choices people make and why. For all the fantastical creatures and goings on, it is a story about the choices you make in life and the consequences that come from them as well as one that focusses very much on the connections that result from encounters with others.

In this the episodic nature of the show really helps it to succeed. Characters can enter the show for an episode or two and drift off only to return a season of so later but the connection they forged still exists. What this allows is for the show to never overly clutter itself with too many characters at once and we’re never wondering why such-and-such a character is even in a scene because other than Natsume, none of the characters are guaranteed an appearance if they are not necessary to the story. Even Natsume occasionally gets written out of his own narrative in order for the focus to be where it needs to be.

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For a show that is regularly as sickeningly sweet as Natsume, it knows when not to pull a happy ending out of nothing and it isn’t against leaving the characters wondering if their choice was wrong. It also doesn’t shy away from the darker side of human nature when you think about how most of Natsume’s relatives have treated him and still speak to him and about him. What makes this show a bit different is that it doesn’t wallow in its own darkness or exploit it for sensationalistic purposes. The darkness is there, but like everything else, Natsume chooses how and when to confront it and when to leave things be. It is a very real part of the narrative and while sometimes you may actively dislike a character, generally speaking you are supposed to if that is the feeling you are getting.

After five and a half seasons, my current thoughts about Natsume are that this is actually getting better as it goes. The show continues to weave backstory and lore into a world that already feels rich and real and continues to have Natsume face situations where we confront the human and inhuman equally. Hopefully season 6 can continue to shine.

There were a whole bunch of characters and ideas that I love about this show that I restrained myself from rambling about, but seriously, I’d love to know your thoughts on Natsume. Do you think Natsume has gotten better or is the charm wearing off after so many seasons?


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Natsume Yuujinchou Season 6 Episode 7

Review:

Usually I love episodes with Reiko. Other than Natori, she’s the character I most hope to see an appearance from outside of Natsume and Nyanko Sensei. That said, this season’s Reiko episode kind of lacked bite.

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Part of the issue might be the yokai at the start of the episode that chases Natsume who never returns. Normally these ones show up later in the episode even if just to be punched in the face but at least that small bit of conflict is resolved. Instead we get a huge yokai that threatens to flatten the house if Natsume doesn’t come out and then after losing Natsume, doesn’t return to the house again for the duration of the episode. It seems kind of lacking.

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That isn’t to say this episode wasn’t charming. It is perfectly reasonable and we learn more about Reiko and the absolute contrast between her and Natsume when it comes to relationships. Reiko gave up on them whereas Natsume is definitely embracing the connections he has started to build since moving in with the Fujiwaras. However, not the best episode this season of Natsume has offered and coming after a couple of fairly strong episodes it feels like a little bit of a disappointment even though it is really sweet.


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Spring 2017 Week 7

Some of these shows just get better and better. Meanwhile those that were just kind of ordinary remain that way and get a little bit less exciting each week. I have dropped both Sword Oratoria and Alice & Zoroku in the last two weeks so it isn’t as though the list is stagnant (Grimoire of Zero is still hanging in there by a thread). Still there are so many shows where I get to the end and I’m just really anticipating the next episode so this season has been a lot of fun to watch. Getting closer to the end of the season and I’m kind of hoping these shows can deliver a strong conclusion (though I know a couple are continuing on into the next season). Let me know your thoughts on the season below.

I’m also going to try a few shows that I didn’t get to at the start of this season because dropping Alice & Zoroku left a small hole in my schedule that I’d rather fill but if I don’t find anything I’ll do some random movie reviews or something there.

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Must Watch

Kado: The Right Answer (Episode 6)

Recap episode – no movement.

Natsume Yuujinchou 6 (Episode 6)

I want to find a way to bottle the emotions I feel when I watch this show. There is no mood so bad that Natsume can’t make me feel better and even make me smile. I knew from the preview that this week was going to focus on Natsume’s normal human friends but I hadn’t realised we were flashing back to Natsume transferring into the school. This was a really great episode and continued to fill in our knowledge of the world these characters exist in. Absolutely great fun to watch.

The Eccentric Family Season 2 (Episode 6)

Nidaime was conspicuously absent this week but we did get a healthy dose of Yasaburo and quite a bit of Benten as well as a surprising return from a certain character from season 1 (though I guess that shouldn’t have been too surprising). Add in a brief field trip into a painting of hell and you have a fairly fun and interesting episode even as the tone takes a shift for the slightly more serious.

Attack on Titan Season 2 (Episode 8)

This episode really does feel like it’s taking a moment to have a breath before plunging us toward the end of the season (given it is apparently going to end after 4 more episodes). There was a lot of reminders of key players, then we had some flash backs and some motivational reminiscing, before most of the characters got on their horses and rode out. Dramatic conclusion and all but really this felt like we were being deliberately held up to ensure the story ends where they want it to given I don’t think we learned anything new through the flash backs or discussions.

My Hero Academia Season 2 (Episode 21)

Fine, My Hero Academia, you win. You are a must watch this season. You make me laugh, you make me nervous for the characters, you make me care about their daddy issues, you have some pretty cool action, and mostly you’re just fun to watch. Please keep it up.

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Usually Entertaining

Sagrada Reset (Episode 7)

And I’m back to being totally confused by this show and yet completely unable to stop watching it. This isn’t the fun puzzling out that ACCA gave me or that I experience while watching KADO. This is at times genuinely frustrating because of how this is being delivered and how it is being executed. It doesn’t stop me from being any less intrigued and curiosity almost always wins out with me, but maybe sometimes it shouldn’t.

The Royal Tutor (Episode 7)

The charm continues and pretty much I have to admit I like this show. It isn’t ground breaking or spectacular, nor will it make a favourites list for me (unless that is a list of slice of life/comedies that I’ve actually watched through to the end), but it is a fairly light and entertaining entry into my weekly viewing and I’m quite enjoying it.

Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor (Episode 7)

And after praising this show last week on its recovery from a poor start, it spent all of this week reminding me of each and every thing I didn’t like about episode 1. Another episode like this will definitely knock this out of the usually entertaining category for good because while one or two episodes that aren’t great is pretty standard, if it starts to become a real trend it is time to admit the show is just not very good.

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Okay, I Guess

WorldEnd (Episode 6)

The week after I dropped this from usually entertaining we get episode 6 which kind of pulled the overall feeling from this show right back up. This show is very up and down and I think it is going to have to wait until the end of the season before I know where in this list it actually belongs. For now I’m leaving it here but I definitely enjoyed this episode more than last week.

The Laughing Salesman (Episode 7)

No change here as the show remains watchable and kind of amusing but isn’t exactly going anywhere (not that it really needs to given its absolute episodic formula).

The Silver Guardian (Episode 8)

This show has definitely peaked already. It is becoming increasingly silly and they are just withholding information for the sake of it at this point. I don’t know how many episodes there are going to be of this but I’m kind of hoping it wraps up soon because otherwise I’m never going to find out how he saves Riko Rei. It’s a good thing these episodes are short because the last two have been barely tolerable.

Granblue Fantasy (Episode 8)

Grandblue Fantasy remains watchable but becomes increasingly pointless. This peisode in particular screamed filler or sidequest and while it was fun and all did absolutely nothing to advance a plot.

Grimoire of Zero (Episode 6)

Having dropped Sword Oratoria and Alice & Zoroku, this one is probably the last of my possible drops for the season. That said, episode 6 managed to get me interested in where this might go and so I’m sticking with it. The world the story is set in is fascinating it is more the characters and the plot so far I’ve had issues with. So, if they character are finally going to do something in a world that is inherently interesting, then I am all for seeing that.

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They Made This

Nothing this week.

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Tried and Dropped

Alice & Zoroku (Episode 6)

I knew this didn’t have much chance of staying in my watch list, but wow episode 6 definitely put the nail in the coffin as it focussed on all the parts of the show I wasn’t overly interested in and kind of just moved away entirely from the few things I was hoping to see explored or developed. This is more a failing of my own expectations rather than the show being poorly done, but still, this is where I part ways with it.

Sword Oratoria (Episode 5)

Tsukigakirei (Episode 2)

Eromanga Sensei (Episode 2)

Armed Girls Machiavellism (Episode 2)

Sakura Quest (Episode 1)

Love Tyrant (Episode 1)

Clockwork Planet (Episode 1)

This is the halfway point for the season, what do you think will be the best of Spring 2017?


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Natsume Yuujinchou Roku Episode 6

Review:

I can honestly say that of all the recurring characters in Natsume, Nishimura and Kitamoto were probably the two I gave the least amount of thought too. So here comes an episode that puts these generic classmate and normal human friends of Natsume in the spot light by flashing back to Natsume transferring into the class.

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Normally this is a sequence you would see way back as a very first episode or at least a flash back in the first season. Anime loves the transfer student introduction scene and Natsume had never done it (although we had seen Natsume start at another school in a flashback if I remember correctly).

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Anyway, while I’d never given these two characters much thought, I’d always kind of liked them, and now, in true Natsume fashion, I completely love them. Nishimura’s insight into Natsume’s fake smiles and Kitamoto’s stoic nature as he deals with his own problems but still manages to know what is going on around him were just kind of perfect. They fit with what we already knew about these two characters and made them feel incredibly real.

Great episode.


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Natsume Yuujincho Roku Episode 5

Review:

I love this show. I always have and this episode really hit every reason why I love this show. The relationship between Natori and Natsume has always felt real and quite complicated this so much left unsaid between them (though the same could be said of every relationship between major characters in this show).

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There’s no doubt Natori actually has some genuine worries for Natsume’s safety but he is, first and foremost, an exorcist and one who does not trust the yokai. It has been a point of contention between the two from the beginning in how to deal with certain situations and last week Natori overheard that Natsume has something (apparently he doesn’t know what it is but he kind of knows it has to be powerful). So, his final line this week is kind of concerning in terms of where this relationship will go in the future (but at the same time kind of brilliant in terms of what it could do for the story).

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However, if that is too much drama in the Slice of Life, cavity inducing cuteness that is Natsume, focus instead of Nyanko and how adorable and compliant he was being this episode.

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Can I have one?

Natsume Yuujincho is available on Crunchyroll.


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Spring 2017 Week 5

Well it has been an incredibly busy week with the anniversary and all, if you missed any posts they are all tagged anniversary so please check them out, particularly the follower features. However, regardless of what else I’m doing, the Spring anime season is marching on and there have been some great shows to check out this week so below is my list and my current thoughts. Love to know what you are watching and how you feel about them so be sure to comment.

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Must Watch

Natsume Yuujinchou 6 (Episode 4)

Natsume delivered a great part one of a story this week and given my favourite exorcist has made an appearance in this episode I’m pretty thrilled. So far this series is giving me exactly what I was looking for in another season of the show so I have no complaints.

Kado: The Right Answer (Episode 5)

Kado may very well pass Natsume on my list of must watch shows next week. It isn’t that there is anything wrong with Natsume, more that Natsume always maintains a nice, sweet story, whereas Kado gets just a little more thrilling each episode. My only concern is where Kado may end up going because Natsume will end well, I already know that from experience, and Kado may very well derail itself as so many anime do. Still, loved this episode and love how the tension continues to build in this series.

Attack on Titan Season 2 (Episode 6)

Another show that may just topple Natsume next week. Episode 6 was pretty thrilling and the reveals were fantastic. While the first season started strong and then kind of meandered, season 2 is taking the opposite approach as it builds just a little bit more each episode. If this continues for the whole season, this is going to be a great watch.

The Eccentric Family Season 2 (Episode 4)

This is still a must watch but I have to admit in terms of which show is moving along and getting me excited for the next episode, Attack on Titan is definitely stronger at this point. Still loving the relaxed approach to narrative this show has and the characters are fantastic, but it doesn’t really drive forward as it is happy just to meander along its own path. That makes the experience fun but individual episodes less striking.

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Usually Entertaining

My Hero Academia Season 2 (Episode 19)

This was a fairly nothing episode if you think about grander plots and the like and yet I thoroughly enjoyed this transition between the second and third competition in the tournament. The character moments were well handled and because we moved between several different groups and scenes it never felt like it was standing still but rather like we were still driving forward. This second season is still being quite fun and I’m hoping it continues.

WorldEnd (Episode 4)

I’m thinking by the end of this show I’m going to want a rewrite. Take all the good parts of it that have been engaging and fascinating, cut out some of the filler cute moments and the parts that just kind of feel like they are there for the obligatory light novel adaptation check list, maybe trim down the cast though we’ll see if all of these characters actually do serve a point or not, and repackage the whole thing as WorldEnd: Will You Watch if We Remove the clichés? Despite that, I’m still enjoying this quite a lot so I’m guessing my complaints are pretty half-hearted.

Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor (Episode 5)

This episode continued to be surprisingly good. I really do have to write episode 1 off as an anomaly at this point and just accept that this show is actually entertaining. It isn’t brilliant and you are certainly going to encounter a whole barrage of clichés, but it does the job and is actually kind of decent at times. As a definite plus, the world continues to be more fleshed out and there’s some quite interesting back story coming into play. The minus would be the radical re-characterisation of the protagonist after episode 1.

Sagrada Reset (Episode 5)

While Sagrada remains very intriguing, it is becoming increasingly problematic in terms of delivery (and it already had enough problems with characterisation and pacing so it really didn’t need to add in any more issues). There’s still hope that this show might be quite good but episodes 4 and 5 have kind of left me thinking this show is going to end up more of a failed attempt at something and I’m not sure yet what that something is.

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Okay, I Guess

The Royal Tutor (Episode 5)

This one is now firmly entrenched. Much like The Laughing Salesman, this is pretty set in its position. There’s certainly the mystery of who Heine is that could become quite an interesting plot point, or the show might just give us more semi-funny/semi-sweet family moments between the princes and either way I’ll probably enjoy it enough but it isn’t really making me fall in love with it. Definitely watchable and cute, but that’s all.

The Silver Guardian (Episode 6)

This show is surprisingly decent. It would be better, I think, just to watch it in one hit. Given the short run time on each episode and the fact that it is one continuous story, watching it in a binge fashion would probably make it far more entertaining, but at episode 6 this is actually pretty okay.

The Laughing Salesman (Episode 5)

While I think other shows will bounce either above or below this title, it is pretty set in its position at this point. There are a few interesting ideas that might later be explored or it may remain episodic and either way this is watchable but not exceptional.

Granblue Fantasy (Episode 6)

There’s only so many times you can say that something is mostly harmless before you realise it really is just bland and there’s not a lot of reason to continue watching. That said, I won’t drop this show, but it is certainly falling down the list, not because the quality got any worse, but just because I get a little less enjoyment from this particular slice of nothing each week.

Grimoire of Zero (Episode 4)

Episode 4 is kind of good in building tension and drawing the audience in to anticipating what is coming, but doesn’t really do anything else (we learn a tiny bit more about magic and some of the character background but not in any depth). This series remains watchable and there are a few signs that it might be able to build a half decent narrative, but at the moment is still just kind of nothing.

Alice & Zoroku (Episode 5)

Mid-season final battle? Kind of felt like they were wrapping up the whole story in this one episode so wondering what the plan is going forward. More importantly, one of the reasons I actually wanted to keep going with this show, to find out what the whole shady organisation was up to, kind of just got punctured and tossed to the side. They could revive this plot line but it seems like they effectively shoved it to the side in favour or Sana learning how to be a cute girl who sings to plants.

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They Made This

Sword Oratoria (Episode 4)

Episode 3 I nearly dropped this into this category and at episode 4, while I am really close to just outright dropping this, my questions about why this even exists remain. Ais is so incredibly boring. Loki as a goddess is absurd (even more than Hestia because at least Hestia was kind of amusing and cute even while clearly being fanservice bait and little else). None of the other characters have given me any reason to care about them. And what is the story? DanMachi it was clear that Bell wanted to be a hero and an adventurer (even if part of his motive was to pick up girls). The story was about him getting stronger. Every episode contributed in some way to his growth as a character and every encounter led to that outcome. What is Sword Oratoria about? Girls who don’t understand the function of armour wandering about and occasionally fighting monsters? This is an unfocussed mess and I am nearly done with it.

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Tried and Dropped

Tsukigakirei (Episode 2)

Eromanga Sensei (Episode 2)

Armed Girls Machiavellism (Episode 2)

Sakura Quest (Episode 1)

Love Tyrant (Episode 1)

Clockwork Planet (Episode 1)

Which sequels are you watching and which ones have made the strongest impressions on you so far?


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