- 0 dango – average and forgettable.
- 1 dango – very good in its category.
- 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
- 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.
Little Witch Academia (TV)
There were plenty of greats this season, but none stirred my heart to the levels that Little Witch Academia did. I reacted exactly like a Hallmark card–I laughed, I gasped, I cried. I wished the adventure would never end, but I loved the way that it did. I want to immediately go back to the beginning and watch it all again. Not many shows get that gut instinct out of me; I tend to reserve those honors for books (happy 20th anniversary, Harry Potter). I’m sure that I will re-watch Akko and her friends many times over, and that my love will only grow with the years.
It’s no great surprise to me that the work has impacted me so strongly. It’s feelings like these that made the anime possible in the first place. From a young animator’s project to a crowd-sourced online release and finally a two-cours television series, our witches traveled far and deserve every ounce of recognition that it gets. You can enjoy the stories at face value, or you can look deeper at how Akko’s struggles parallel Japan’s animation industry, as covered extensively by atelier Emily.
For the most part, I experienced Little Witch Academia as a spectator in their world, a normal human enamored by the idea of magic and its possibilities. While I did remark from time to time the time spent on the hand drawn animation, I mostly felt too sucked in to the story to try and analyze it the first time around. Seemingly simple messages like faith, hope, and love that sounded so cheesy on their own felt perfectly suitable here with Akko at my side. I can see how skeptics like Diana, Andrew and Constanze were persuaded by her–the force of her belief is hard to resist.
If you watched Little Witch Academia, let me know how you experienced it–were you like me, clinging tight on the bumpy ride, or did you make your own connections to animation, religion, or other topics?
If you didn’t watch it and have no real reason for missing out, I encourage you to give the series a try.
Rating: 3 dango
Kids these days! I guess the beginnings of puberty now brings with it raging lust for the penis of the boy closest to you, be he your step brother, rival, childhood friend, role model, or friend’s sibling. I remember being worried about very different things at that age, like making absolutely sure my crush had no clue I liked him by kicking his shin at the slightest provocation (does that make me a tsundere?). Never mind that we have another excellent show this season also set in middle school–shows like Eromanga-sensei have other matters on hand.
The ultimate goal here is for Sagiri to open up, emotionally and physically. Since her brother is the only family member around (dead or absent parents continue to abound), it’s up to Masamune to keep his little sister alive and encourage her to someday leave her room. The show does a good job achieving this goal; it also helps that brother and sister are fated to connect given their not-so-secret careers as a light novel author and illustrator. You can rest assured watching this show that you’ll see Sagiri progress as an artist and a person. She still has a long way to go, but the beginning steps are there by the end of the series.
Aside from Sagiri, there are a handful of attractive young girls (stress “young”) for the viewers to choose from. My personal favorite is the bookstore worker, Tomoe. You gotta love a girl who refuses to compromise on her sample book display–not even friends get preferential treatment! The two authors, Elf and Muramasa, bring their own lovely assets to the set, but I find their quick attachment to the protagonist a little creepy even before considering their ages.
Like predecessor OreImo, Eromanga-sensei looks great on screen with its character designs and framing. They know just how to make us blush with camera angles and body language. The ending credits are also among my favorite of the year so far; Sagiri’s laundry room dance is so cute and irresistible that I find myself at times dancing along with her.
The show works great as a comedy playing off of its sexual innuendos and the aforementioned body language. It took what worked well in OreImo and ran with it, like the exchanges between Sagiri and the rest of the girls. Ignoring her rude method of requesting meals, I prefer Sagiri to OreImo’s insufferable Kirino. The gap between Sagiri’s shyness and her hunger to learn creates a kind of scene that doesn’t get old (even if I wish their ages were older).
Rating: 1 dango
Uchouten Kazoku Season 2
Our run with Yasaburo and friends is over, for now, until the day that more source material is available for a third season. I honestly find the two series we have now already a masterpiece as a whole. It is important to watch both, since it became immediately clear after the first installment that there was much ground to cover I had forgotten about, like the empty seat of Trick Magister, and Benten’s roles both in the Friday Fellows and as Akadama-sensei’s student. Eccentric Family is the type of story that feels like it’s effortlessly told, so it’s only natural that there would be space for more exploration. This is the story of life in its full cycle, from fuzzy unions to the hot pot.
While there’s much to love about this world, one of the most important aspects for me is the cast, particularly its women. Benten has always stolen the stage and that doesn’t change here, but season two shared the spotlight with wonderful characters like tanuki Kaisei and Gyokuran. Strong individuals in their own rights, they also both reveal weaknesses in the Shimogamo brothers that are best supported with their presence. The opposite might seem true for Yasaburo since he can’t hold a transformation with Kaisei watching, but I argue that she keeps him honest and grounded to both reality and his future.
Uchouten Kazoku will also forever hold a special place in my heart since Kyoto is the first place I ever visited in Japan. Vistas of city, nature, shrine, and temple intermingle and create an almost otherworldly setting. Kyoto seems too magical to be true, and I can almost believe I’ll turn a corner and catch sight of a transforming tanuki. If you haven’t seen either of these shows, please do give them a try!
Rating: 2 dango
Alice to Zouroku
I am so glad I stuck it out with Alice to Zouroku after the horrific first episode car chase. Those of us who clung on in hope were rewarded with a marked decrease in CGI action sequences; instead, we followed along on mostly “normal” life episodes centered on the Kashimura family. Concerns about the Dreams of Alice do pop up here and there throughout the season, but the issue doesn’t really take hold until the last few episodes with the final arc.
“Normal” here really means Sana learning about the human world and her role in it. She is beyond lucky to have stumbled across Zouroku, a man with a heart gracious enough to take her in as his own despite what others might think or the responsibilities he must shoulder. Equally fortuitous is the presence of his daughter, Sanae, a young women who happily tackles the job of educating Sana. There’s a lot here that can be compared to current refugee crises around the globe, but I won’t go there in this short review. Suffice it to say that Zouroku and Sanae are the type of people I would love to have in my life.
So what about the Dreams of Alice and its users? Twelve episodes are nowhere near enough to fully explore the phenomenon, but what we do get seems plausible enough as long as you don’t ask too many questions about the origin of it all. We just need to understand that for some reason magical powers are spreading and turning random people into “Alice’s Dreams,” which gives them unique abilities to warp the world around them. Sana’s created world, dubbed Wonderland, is a place that reflects much of what she witnesses, twisting them into fanciful constructions. Sana and the almost sentient Wonderland need to figure out how to balance with the outside world without destroying it.
Even though Sana is dubbed “Red Queen” by the secret agency that discovered her, I view her and Wonderland as one unit called Alice. Like the namesake, they aim to explore their surroundings and find purpose somewhere in it. Just like humans, Sana can spend her entire life seeking meaning and never find it. Or, like some, she’ll find meaning in everything and strive to experience as much as she can. Sana’s time spent with the Kashimuras learning and growing are much of what charms me in this show.
Rating: 1 dango