The Growing Bonds That Join These Characters

Domestic Girlfriend Post Title Image

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 2 Review

Given I went into the first episode of this anime expecting that Domestic Girlfriend would be the usual clueless protagonist who falls over and lands on a girl’s chest or with his nose in her crotch and that would be played for laughs, and I would promptly drop the show, the far more serious drama unfolding here is actually a pleasant surprise. While there are certainly elements that might turn some away such as the bathroom scene, the story seems to be dealing with largely characters that act kind of like real people (though there are still gaps in that credibility).

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 2 Rui
I like that Rui gets to the heart of the matter.

This episode largely focused on Natsuo and Rui’s interactions and despite Rui not leaving much of an impression last week, that is for the better. Compared to Sensei’s more stereotypical and silly persona, Rui is a harder read and the audience, like Natsuo, is invited this week to take a second look at her.

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 2 Natsuo
Believe it or not, he’s actually being helpful.

There’s an incredibly charming scene at school where Natsuo is attempting to help Rui get used to conversation but somewhere throughout it stops being play and they end up verbally sparring much to the entertainment of the class. While Rui’s transfer to Natsuo’s school is a cliche development, it makes sense given they live together and at least she didn’t land in his class.

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 2

However, Sensei does get development this episode as we see that her tears last week were indeed because of a situation and that situation is ongoing. While the audience, and Natsuo, aren’t fully in on the details just yet, it is clear that things aren’t going so well for Sensei when it comes to romance.

So while Domestic Girlfriend may be teetering on the edge of being a soap-opera (the only thing stopping it is that we currently have a very small cast of characters), so far it has been highly entertaining. And I really do love the music so far, particularly the OP and ED.

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Karandi James
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This Art Club Has A Problem Episode 2 – Scenes Outside the Art Room

We’re back with the second week of Yomu’s amazing collaboration and this week we have more fun themes to pick from. I decided to focus on scenes outside the art room thinking there’d only be a couple given I’ve been busier this week and then I watched the episode. Well, almost all of it takes place outside the art room. On the other hand, I enjoyed this episode significantly more than episode one so there’s a plus. Allow me now to walk you through This Art Club Has a Problem Episode 2: Scenes Outside of the Art Room.

We begin our episode with an exterior shot of the school (I assume) before we transition to a long corridor lined with windows and four girls walking side by side toward us.

In another story I might think this was some kind of show of power the way the girls spread themselves across the entire walkway but here with all the glass, reflections, and general drab colour going on in this scene, they mostly look tiny and insignificant. When we zoom in on their conversation in which one of Usami’s friends gives her a false horoscope, that impression is more of less confirmed.

As to why the corridor needs to be so long or we needed this long shot of the girls, I’m really not entirely certain.

There is a transition in between where we see what happens inside the art room, but our next external to the art room scene involves Usami reaching the end of that hallway, bidding her friends goodbye and then eyeing off the clearly acting suspiciously Uchimaki.

Smooth, real smooth.

With no clue what has transpired inside the room Usami is puzzled by his behaviour but also impatient to get inside the room. The exchange between the two is therefore brief but it does yield this corridor shot where we realise that speaking characters are not the only people who exist in this school, and that every hallway is equally drab as the one we started in.

Again some stuff happens inside the art room but the outcome of that is we end up at some sort of exhibit where Uchimaki’s art work is on display as it has been awarded second place in some competition. Usami is annoyed that it got a place and Uchimaki is upset that it only got second. The President is just kind of there, an ongoing theme for his appearances.

What should be noted though is that the exhibit is as poorly attended as the school seems to be and equally drab in its choice of colour scheme.

And so ends the first of three stories that will be told in this episode.

The second story begins again with an exterior shot of Usami’s house (again, I guess) before we transition to seeing her in bed and discussing Uchimaki with her friend. We don’t get much of a view of the room though what we do see of it implies there’s a lot of books stacked about and that the bed is really too narrow for the two girls to be sharing it.

The friend ultimately manages to get Usami talking about why she likes Uchimaki and we go into an extended flashback of a mission the two went on to buy paint. How extended? Well the friend falls asleep before it is over. Kind of a shame really given it was a fairly good story.

The basic outline goes that Uchimaki used all the paint to produce waifus and so Usami and Uchimaki had to go buy paint supplies. Naturally, in anime world, that means Uchimaki carries all the supplies and complains about their weight despite there being only two fairly thin bags in his hands, and Usami makes dated comments about gender roles (okay, that might have been a little catty).

While they are walking we transition to a sunset scene, because why not, and then we get to the crux of the story. A mother beseeches them to find her missing child and the two set off on a search and rescue operation.

Actually, finding the child isn’t as difficult as convincing the child they are actually there to help her, not aided by a masked primary schooler who turns the conversation weird. Anyway, Uchimaki draws a picture of the girls mother to reassure her that they are going to help her find her mother and off they go. We transition back to Usami’s bedroom and the sleeping friend and so the second story ends.

The third and final story involves Usami turning down a confession while his senpai’s from the art club do the worst tree impersonations ever. I did like how they drew a tree in between Uchimaki and the girl who confessed as it really helped to make it clear there was a gap between them and that this was not going to be a successful confession.

Are they trying to land a plane?

While I am a little baffled as to how the girl didn’t notice the two hiding behind the bush, this scene was otherwise pretty straight forward, though I am curious as to the overall layout of the school and whether or not this takes place anywhere near the art room.

With that I’m done with episode 2 and I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour of scenes that are not in the art room. Remember to go to Yomu’s site to check out other entries or get on board and join in.

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Karandi James
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A Comedy About A Broken Philosophy on Love and Romance

Kaguya Sama: Love is War Post Title

Kaguya-Sama: Love is War Episode 1 Review

Warning: Minor rant in-coming. You can skip to the review in the third paragraph if you don’t want to deal with my personal hang-ups.

I watched the opening narration of this anime and was left feeling kind of annoyed. The narrator spouting that tired garbage about love being a competition and that someone will be dominant in a relationship and the other submissive. Utter and complete dribble spouted without context over still and panning shots of high school students as though this idea applies to everyone and all relationships. And that was really the part that made it as annoying as it was. They were generalising their statements to encompass all relationships.

Kaguya-Sama Love Is War Episode 1 - Shirogane

Clearly though, I watched the whole episode or I wouldn’t be reviewing it. I firmly believe you could take the scissors to the entire opening narration without actually harming the anime in any meaningful way and we can get rid of that completely ridiculous (at best – potentially harmful more likely) generalisation. However when we actually get on with the specific case this anime is looking at, with two of the single most petty characters in all existence who kind of like each other (or maybe like the idea of the other) but won’t confess because whoever confesses first will lose, the end result isn’t that bad.

Kaguya Sama Love is War Episode 1 Shinomiya

Because clearly ending up in an actual relationship rather than a stand-off should be considered a loss. Okay, I’m not going to try to work my way through the mine-field of horrible ideas about romance this anime has in it. I’m actually just going to go with the obvious, this is a work of fiction and these are characters. So the only question left would be, is it entertaining?

To which the answer would be: surprisingly, yes. Very. For a comedy based around an idea I find fairly repulsive that got off on the wrong foot before it even started around characters I find to be really unpleasant human beings, I actually really had fun by the time this ended.

Kaguya Sama Love is War Episode 1

The episode presents three scenarios where the two leads essentially try to manoeuvre the other into confessing their love and the set ups and the way the situations play out are quite innovative and interesting. The exaggeration of the character reactions as they feel they are losing the upper hand works well, as do their smug expressions when they think they are going to win. While the narrator remains an intrusive presence at times, at others they provide fairly needed insight, and the inner monologues of the characters thinking through their actions are amusing.

Kaguya Sama Love is War Episode 1

It works. I just don’t know that I’d be describing this as a romance of any description (even a comedic one) given even if these two end up together I’m not going to find that overly romantic. Probably more tragic that these two manipulators would then be trapped by their own pride in a self-destructive relationship.

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Karandi James
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HIMOUTO! UMARU-CHAN THE THING WHICH UMARU WEARS AT HOME

And He Thought This Was A One Night Stand

Domestic Girlfriend Post Title Image

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 1 Review

I’m going to start by pointing out I didn’t actually want to watch this first episode, but I’ve already skipped a whole bunch of Crunchyroll premieres because they just did not appeal in the slightest so in the absence of going back and watching dumb girls get tutored, robot girls fly planes, or just cute girls in a cafe, I decided to give this one a shot. I was actually pleasantly surprised – though that is probably because my expectations were pretty much rock bottom after reading the synopsis and looking at the visual of the guy sandwiched between the two girls on the teacher’s desk.

Firstly, the OP is fantastic. I really enjoyed the OP for My Roommate is a Cat but that was more just kind of fun listening. This OP really hits home and has a lot of impact. While it may not be the most pleasant thing to listen to, I don’t think pleasant is what they were going for. Whichever way, the sound and the images are perfect and I have found my OP of the season right here even if I end up dropping Domestic Girlfriend.

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 1 Natsuo

Now, how was the episode?

Middling.

I’m not even joking. The main guy is kind of average nice guy with a slice of pathetic thrown in for good measure. He sleeps with a girl and then regrets it because he’s crushing on his teacher. Realistically other than the fact that apparently he was a dork in middle school before a friend gave him a make-over, we really learn nothing else about him and his personality is pretty much meh so far as he just kind of reacts to things while trying to be the nice guy.

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 1 Natsuo

Meanwhile the father and the step-mother to be are the typical non-entities parents tend to be in school dramas, appearing only by necessity in this first episode. And once again we have a situation of parents doing ridiculous things to their kids (I thought Citrus was bad). Blending families isn’t something you should jump into in the space of a few days, unless you are an anime in which case go for it because clearly anything goes here.

That just leaves the teacher who is hitting all the tropes of young female teacher who tries to look all together at school but is silly at home and also drinks heavily. I’m kind of reminded of the aunt in Another. Then the younger sister who seems to have a chip on her shoulder but that is literally her only personality so far.

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 1 Rui

While this one didn’t get as trashy as I was expecting, the drama is clearly what they are pushing here and without further character development it is going to fall flat. Still, it wasn’t horrendous and there is potential as we learn more about these characters for them to be interesting so I’ll see how this one goes.

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Domestic na Kanojo (Anime) Intro Theme: Kawakiwoameku
Domestic na Kanojo (Anime) Intro Theme: Kawakiwoameku

Bad Acting Followed By Bad Animation – What Is This?

Dimension High School Post Title Image

Dimension High School Episode 1 Review

I’m kind of adding this one to my current watch list out of morbid curiosity. It kind of feels like a terrible Saturday morning cartoon from the early 80’s only we’ve got live actors exaggerating everything to the point where you have to wonder if they’ve ever seen a real human interaction or are basing their performance on having watched other people performing and then exaggerated it again.

Dimension High School Episode 1 Shiroyama finds a rock.

Needless to say, it isn’t the most nuanced of openings as the main character, Shiroyama finds a weird rock outside the school and naturally picks it up. In the tutorial of four students and one teacher (because five is always how many characters you end up with in this kind of show), the rock suddenly reveals it is some weird magical thing and the group are transported to another dimension where incredibly terrible animation takes hold. I mean, I though Knights of Sidonia was difficult to look at and the character designs were creepy. This one takes it to a whole new level.

Dimension high School Episode 1 Anime form

Once there and after the requisite freak out, is this a dream, kind of moment, the rock gives a non-explanation about the group being needed to save the world. It’s kind of surprised there are five as it was pretty sure they were four so I wonder if we’ll ever find out if that is significant. Anyway, before we learn anything of use a giant sphinx turns up and poses a puzzle for the group to solve.

Here is started feeling like Nazotokine in that the characters are given a riddle on the board and part of the fun in the first puzzle at least was figuring it out while the characters got totally stumped. Admittedly, the second puzzle relies on an actual knowledge of Japanese to solve so that one I had to wait for the characters to figure out.

Dimension High School Episode 1 Rock View

Then the characters are sent back to the real world and the teacher finds out that having failed the first puzzle, he’s lost what is most precious to him and we see the one reasonably composed character of the story lose it. I’m guessing this was supposed to be funny but mostly it falls into the category of ‘what was that’ and then the episode ends with the main character looking after his plants.

Honestly, there’s almost nothing outside of curiosity to recommend this particular title and part of me just wants to see if it will get worse than this. The other curiosity is that MAL lists the episode duration at 10 minutes and yet this first episode was definitely standard length. It will be interesting to see if the next episode is actually only ten minutes because that might make the whole thing more palatable.

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Karandi James
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S.H.FIGUARTS DETECTIVE CONAN: CONAN EDOGAWA

Panty Shots and Drinking Pee – This is Funny?

How Clumsy You Are Miss Ueno Post Title Image

How Clumsy You Are, Miss Ueno Episode 1 Review

I actually ended up quite enjoying a lot of the short anime I watched in 2018. Space Battleship Tiramisu (season one), Skull Face Bookseller Honda-San, and Voice of Fox all entertained in their own way even if none of them are vying for position of best anime of the year. Short anime are their own thing and with limited run time they do what they can but by nature the stories they tell and their approaches are different. And a lot of short anime are gag comedy which is a genre that just doesn’t really appeal. How Clumsy You Are, Miss Ueno, as the first short anime I’ve come across in 2019 is exactly that and the episode left me wondering if perhaps I just missed something because even by gag standards it was pretty sad.

While plenty of people are discussing the problems of including slavery and rape in a story without dealing with the larger social consequences, it feels to me like this anime with its focus on a socially inept girl trying to somehow convey that she likes the boy, without saying it, and ending up in situations where she’s lifting her skirt up in the name of science, is a lot more immediately problematic than the fantasy repercussions of an isekai rape accusation. The thin pretence that her ‘device’ was perfect and wouldn’t allow the boy to see her panties (or lack of them because she declared she was wearing none) doesn’t actually change the fact that the set up here is that the boy is looking up this girl’s skirt and taking notes, and she is actively encouraging him to do so.

How Clumsy You Are Miss Ueno Episode 1

Part of my issue here is that the setting is supposedly a real world junior high club room in which case I’d first wonder where the supervisor is for this club. Secondly I’d wonder why we’re supposed to swallow not one, but three completely socially inept characters that somehow all come together.

How Clumsy You Are Miss Ueno Episode 1

Finally, I’d wonder who thought opening on a gag about drinking pee (purified or not) was somehow a brilliant move. Because if that’s the best you’ve got this show is in for a rocky ride.

I’m suspecting I’m not the audience for this one, though I will probably watch the second episode just to see if the jokes get any better or if the characters start vaguely appearing like more than just grotesque caricatures of overly-worn tropes, but pretty sure I’m not sticking this series out.

How Clumsy You Are Miss Ueno Episode 1

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Karandi James
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TENSEI SHITARA SLIME DATTA KEN: MILIM NAVA

Say I Love You Series Review

Say I Love You Mai and Yamato

It’s Sweet, Right?

Love stories are a dime a dozen and in anime particularly, high school romances are prolific. While not quite as notorious as isekai stories, these roll out with at least a handful every single season premiering. Some to great fanfare, most quietly appearing and disappearing with little comment or noteworthiness. Every now and then though, a romance comes along that really grabs my attention and even after it is done I still remember it and in such cases, while I’m still very much more fond of action, horror and fantasy, but in such cases the romance may very well work its way into my heart and become a story that I treasure.

Say I Love You didn’t quite succeed at that. However, it also wasn’t one that passed by without needing comment. It’s a story that actually deserves quite a bit of attention, even if ultimately it wasn’t one that really moved me in the way that something like Kimi ni Todoke did. 

To understand my feelings about Say I Love You, I kind of have to point out that what makes or breaks almost every romance story for me are the main pair. From a plot point of view, romance stories are incredibly formulaic, and while there are a few variations on the theme, once you’ve got lonely high school girl and popular high school guy together there really aren’t that many paths for the story to take and for it to still stay grounded in any kind of manner.

Say I Love You Mei and Yamato

Tachibana Mei is an amazing romantic heroine. She starts out as the typical loner who has chosen not to even try to make friends having been burned when she was younger. She deliberately keeps everyone and everything at arms length, save her mother and her cat. She tries not to let the ridiculous taunts of those at school get to her.

Yet one day, having had to put up with too much already, when a boy goes to pull her skirt on the stair-case, she snaps. And she does it in the fantastically amusing manner of a round house kick, that unfortunately doesn’t hit the idiot who actually deserves it, Nakanishi, but instead collides with Yamato, Nakanishi’s friends and one of the most popular guys at school.

This ends up resulting in Yamato pestering Mei and giving her his phone number among other things but she more or less resolves to ignore him, until she realises she’s being stalked and can’t get a hold of her mother. The romance begins and Mei gradually learns to open up and trust others. It actually is a fairly authentic character development and wasn’t a ‘get boyfriend and life gets better’ kind of deal. Mei has to work hard and want changes to happen for them to happen and even then there are set backs, failures, and misunderstandings. 

Through it all, Mei’s basic character doesn’t change, but her outlook on other people slowly expands and she starts to see potential that she couldn’t see before. This actually allows her by the end to help two other characters as they struggle with their own personal demons and is a nice circle to show us how Mei has overcome her own drama.

You know, if the story had focused entirely on Mei, I’d have been okay with that.

Say I Love You Cast

No, my mixed feelings and problems with this show come from Yamato. He is, by anime high school standards, incredibly good looking… and you know what, that’s about it. We don’t know if he is particularly good at anything. People just kind of converge around him and he puts on the face they want to see, and that’s kind of him. Even around Mei, he seems to just change to fit her mood and tone rather than being genuine. And while there are people like this, chameleons, who slide in and out of social groups and fit in everywhere and nowhere, they don’t make for a compelling romantic lead.

It also bothers me that Yamato defends his friend Nakanishi as being a good guy, despite the fact that he’s bad mouthed Mei even before we know who he is and then tried to pull her skirt. Sorry, not a good guy. The fact that the rest of the anime portrays Nakanishi as a ‘good guy’ who actually just wants to be Asami’s boyfriend and doesn’t mean any harm also doesn’t sit well with me. I’ll admit, if we cut the first two episodes off, Nakanishi is an idiot, but a good guy. However the impression left after the first episodes sticks for me and mostly I just want him to get kicked down a flight of stairs. And the guy I’m meant to believe is the romantic lead in this story is not only friends with him but rationalises and excuses his behaviour. It all makes it a bit hard to get behind Yamato from the outset.

I’ll give the anime props in that it did try to build Yamato’s character as it went. We see him as a doting big brother, protective boyfriend, slightly oblivious high school guy who ends up hurting his girlfriend without really thinking about it, and also typical teenager who has regrets about not helping a friend in middle-school who was being bullies.

The problem is that he never really becomes a cohesive character. We just kind of deal with whatever mode the anime has switched him into at the time. Over the top of all of these faces though is the teenage guy who fairly regularly pushes physical contact with Mei. And while he doesn’t go into inexcusable territory, he still moves a lot faster than Mei is ready for and he’s constantly pushing the agenda by kissing her or sitting way too closely.

Basically, I end up liking Say I Love You as a character study because Mei is fantastic and each part of Yamato is interesting enough, but the romance itself is more just a vehicle and not something I emotionally connect with enough to really get carried by.

But as a character study, Say I Love You is extraordinary as the support cast that grows as the series continues are pretty fantastic. Each character flawed in some manner and using others to hold themselves up or to recover from past traumas. 

Say I Love You Yamato and Megumi

Megumi is perhaps the one who undergoes the largest transformation, which makes sense given her impact on Mei and Yamato’s relationship. Still, her story still felt a little undeveloped and while the ideas were there it really did feel like we needed a little more insight into what was going on with Megumi for her story to stick. It is also very hard to sympathise with her plight when you see some of the stunts she pulls to get Yamato away from Mei.

Visually this anime is functional enough but unremarkable. Character designs are great and each character has a look appropriate to who they are, but the overall colour scheme is pretty bland and ordinary. Animation is fine but there’s little to show it off and the music works well but other than the OP is fairly forgettable.

I would recommend trying Say I Love You. It is a fun story and the characters are interesting. There’s some really good exploration of social issues such as self-image, friendship, bullying, social media use, and so on. And ultimately, the romance works well enough. I do have a friend who fell head-over-heels in love with this story, which is the reason I watched it more than once. I certainly think this is one that gets better the more you watch it because the strengths of the characters come out more and their flaws become more understandable when you know where the whole story is going.

Right, I’d love to know what you thought of Say I Love You so if you’ve seen it, let me know in the comments.

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Karandi James
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TOKYO GHOUL:RE 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: TOUKA KIRISHIMA
TOKYO GHOUL:RE 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: TOUKA KIRISHIMA