Now though, with the conclusion of the fall 2019 anime Beastars, about a high school for anthropomorphized animals struggling through a conflict between herbivores and carnivores that results in the murder of an alpaca, I finally have something good to suggest to my students in Tokyo Ghoul‘s place — because Beastars does everything that Tokyo Ghoul tried to do, just better, from themes about discrimination and growing up to its general production quality (even despite Beastar’s sometimes awkward 3D animation).
First then, I suppose I should briefly re-explain my distaste for Tokyo Ghoul before moving on to my recommendation for Beastars itself:
~ because it’s not like anybody’ll click that over-sized link above!
For the past year or so, I’ve made casual tradition out of picking out the worst-rated anime towards the end of each season just to… see. I’ve covered a few here on this site and avoided writing about several others because I couldn’t even finish a single episode. But with the addition of the anime short Tenka Hyakken: Meiji-kan e Youkoso! (rated 4.8 out of 10) to the bottom of my list this season, I’ve begun to pick up on a trend that I had never noticed before:
All of the worst, or at least the most bizarre, of my bad selections in recent months originated as adaptations of gacha or collectible card games.
When does Girls’ Last Tour (Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou)take place? I googled the question and found no answer on the first few result pages. So, while re-reading the manga through a surprise digital detox sprung on me by a broken computer, I thought I could provide an answer:
Porco Rosso, the 1992 anime film about a flying pig-pilot who does battle with sky pirates in interwar Adriatic floatplanes, might be Studio Ghibli / director Hayao Miyazaki’s most memed movie. In addition to that thumbs-up image above, plenty of lines make common appearances on anime meme boards like “You make me think humanity’s not a complete waste,” “Laws don’t apply to pigs,” and the classic “Better a pig than a fascist:”
But for all the memes, Porco Rosso is a surprisingly apolitical film, with those lines representing more throw-away jokes than a vigorous thematic ideal. Yes, the titular character Porco is a typical anti-authority anti-hero who chafes under the rule of Depression-era Italian fascists. But he’s also such a severe misanthrope that if he happens to take anti-fascist action, he only does so because the facists happen to be in charge. Combine that apathetic position with what might be Miyazaki’s weakest feminist message among his otherwise excellent cast of believable female characters and I don’t know what to do with Porco Rosso. Yes, it’s beautiful, as all Ghibli movies are. But despite the anti-fascist hype, it lacks much of Miyazaki’s characteristic thematic focus. In a word (or two), it disappoints.
Okay, I’ve already done my sarcastic mockery of Assassin’s Pride but I feel compelled to dive into this bit of madness again. The image above fascinates me. Why why why would anyone wear a necktie in their chest pocket like that?
[Oh, this is a “spoilers but who cares” style post. But who cares, Assassin’s Pride has nothing surprising to spoil.]
I often feel that much of the online English-language anime commentariat – including myself — have miscalibrated target-demographic detectors, even despite the prevalence of descriptive age-gender labels like “shounen — boy” and “shoujo — girl” across the industry. Why apply adult standards to a series for six-year olds? I don’t know, but a lot of people do.
Ah, but with Assassin’s Pride from this fall 2019 anime season, there can be no doubt: this series is a tweeny delight. I am twelve and want more like this.
Assassin’s Pride cries out for the creation of a wave of teenage fanfiction full of cosplay-in-writing anti-heroes to express the darkness in every youth’s ultimately good soul, if only society would accept their oppressed status as a half-lancanthrope. That is to say, if Assassin’s Pride isn’t fanfiction itself — I mean, check it:
Assassin’s Pride is perhaps the most juvenile anime I have ever seen – and I do seek them out with great zeal every season. Let’s skip the plot and character summaries here because if you’ve seen any other shounen adventure series in the past decade or so, you’ve seen Assassin’s Pride; it uses every oldest trick in the inoffensive teenage edge-appeal book. I don’t know how better to structure this sarcastic trope accounting though, so let’s make an arbitrary checklist:
Hm, I guess it really is just one face. But Mile’s moods carry the whole show (Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne! — Noukin for short, I guess. The title’s even longer in English so I can’t be bothered to copy-paste it again).
Noukin has a simple, solid formula for its semi-parody: whenever some stupid tropey-dopey anime or isekai thing pops up, played seriously by the supporting cast — pop — a disbelief face in reaction from our lead heroine Mile. After all, why attempt to dispute the ridiculous foundations of the isekai genre when you could just stare in disbelief?
I like it best when the faces *pop* across just a single frame. Low animation quality and production shortcuts hidden behind an excess of static reaction faces, you ask? Nahhhhh… Shhh shhh, quiet now. It’s just an, um, stylistic choice, like a budget Humanity Has Declined vibe. Compare to that series:
Hmmm, Mile’s face from Noukin isn’t quite up to Humanity Has Declined‘s superb quality of deadpan, but it’s still close enough for me, a real keeper — the first isekai I’ve enjoyed since I don’t care to admit — if only because it seems to enjoy mocking the genre as much as I do!
In April, 1945 the destroyer USS Laffey sailed north of Okinawa for radar picket duty to assist in the detection of Japanese kamikaze aircraft during the American invasion of the island. And boy did the Laffey find the planes alright — in just 80 minutes, she sustained damage from 22 air attacks, including four bomb hits and five to six kamikaze strikes (sources sometimes disagree), resulting in severe damage to the ship and over 100 casualties to her crew. But when asked if he would give the order to abandon ship, Laffey’s captain, Commander Frederick Becton, supposedly said “I’ll never abandon ship as long as a single gun will fire.” Except nearby crewmen wondered if the Laffey still had anyone left to man the guns…
If you wanted to anthropomorphize warships, I think you could make a strong case to turn the Laffey into a stern, unyielding madman with suicidal determination to match the kamikaze she shot down.
By contrast how does Azur Lane, a new fall 2019 anime premised on warships transforming into cute anime girls to do battle against a mysterious “siren” threat, depict the Laffey? By turning the destroyer into a sleepy slob who likes to drink cola to stay awake. Huh. What?
Ok, ok, maybe I don’t *hate* it. That was my initial impression for the first hour or so after watching the episode. But I haven’t encountered an anime series that has provoked such a rapid descent towards mere dislike for a while now.
Blown expectations played a role in my disappointment. Having just returned from a job in Japan, I went into the first episode hoping for a relatable, adult look at working life in the country to balance out all of the copy-paste high school and isekai comedies flooding the season — some satirical knocking on the plight of the stereotypical salaryman as Japan’s “Lost Decade” of economic recession rounds out its third decade. Just, you know, with a bunch of animal jokes thrown in.