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Category Archives: Anime: First Impressions

Terrible Anime Challenge: Kanojo, Okarishimasu Season Two, Or, I’m Going To Need a Beer To Put These Flames Out

“You told me not to think!” –Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, Top Gun: Maverick

After Chizuru is unsuccessful in an audition, Kazuya vows to do everything he can to support her dreams and promptly arranges for another rental date. He learns from Chizuru’s grandmother that beneath her tough exterior is someone who’s trying to do everything on her own and despite her appearances, needs someone to lean on. Ruka ends up swinging by and cooks for Kazuya, but when a typhoon sweeps into their region and shuts down all mass transit, Ruka happily stays the night. She tries to seduce Kazuya and fails, but despite this, cheerfully announces they’d spent the night together the next morning. While Chizuru seems unperturbed, but Kazuya remains bothered and decides to rent out Sumi to see if he can gain some insight into what might make a suitable birthday gift – he ends up gifting to her some pickled plums. When Kazuya and Chizuru inadvertently end up being invited to the same drinking party, he ends up overdoing things to help Chizuru out. She and Kazuya end up going on another rental date, where Chizuru reveals she’s auditioning for another role. When Kazuya’s grandmother learns Chizuru’s birthday party has already passed, she decides to host a combined party. Ruka ends up accompanying Kazuya, and while she does her best to make a positive impression, after Chizuru arrives, she’s frustrated at being bested so quickly. She ends up ambushing Kazuya and kisses him passionately, saying she doesn’t want to have any regrets. However, Chizuru’s grandmother’s condition worsens, cutting the party short, and Chizuru decides it’ll be easier to leave their false relationship where it is so her grandmother won’t die with the knowledge that Chizuru has no one in her life. Later, Sumi has a request for Kazuya; she’s been wanting to try taking the lead in a rental date so she can be more effective in her role and to this end, has planned out an itinerary for Kazuya. In the process, Kazuya becomes inspired as to what he should do for Chizuru. Chizuru learns that her latest audition was unsuccessful and recalls why she’d gone into acting: she wanted to fulfil her late grandfather’s dream after he died in a vehicular accident when she was still in high school. When it feels as though despair is total, Kazuya knocks on her door with an ambitious goal in mind – he wants to crowd fund an independent film she’ll star in and complete it for Chizuru’s grandmother. This is Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season, continuing on from the story the first season had begun. In its execution, Kanojo, Okarishimasu has become a very busy anime – it simultaneously seeks to be a drama and comedy, only revealing the background for Chizuru’s singular drive for success in the second season’s finale. However, once this reason becomes established, Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s thematic elements become significantly clearer.

While Chizuru’s attitude towards Kazuya suggests otherwise, and Kazuya’s lingering weak sense of self-esteem continues to be a constraint, Chizuru’s flashback ends up providing answers to the questions surrounding Kanojo, Okarishimasu. Kazuya continues to lack any sort of confidence in his decisions and keeps second-guessing himself. He is indecisive, fickle and short-sighted. However, in being optimistic to a fault, Kazuya actually conveys the same sort of dogged persistence and support that Chizuru’s grandfather had when she announced her desire to be an actress. Chizuru’s grandfather had provided a constant source of encouragement and praise, expressing his desire to one day see her on the silver screen. There are numerous parallels with Kazuya’s single-minded wish to see Chizuru achieve her goals, and seeing this may yield a modicum of insight into why Chizuru is so distant with Kazuya, insisting that they remain at arm’s length – Chizuru has been stated to be quite observant and astute, so it follows that she sees a bit of her grandfather in Kazuya. Despite his clumsy attempts to help her, Kazuya’s motivations are sincere (even if he does display some lust where Chizuru is concerned), and after losing her grandfather, it is probably the case that Chizuru wanted to avoid a repeat of things. However, towards the end of Kanojo, Okarishimasu, Kazuya takes a hitherto unexpected step for Chizuru’s sake in suggesting a crowd-funded movie, and, moved to tears by the offer, decides to accept Kazuya’s help so that she can fulfil her dreams. In doing so, Chizuru has begun to do what her grandmother had wished for – having tried to do everything on her own until now, seeing Kazuya’s dogged persistence leads her to, however reluctantly, accept help from someone else. In this way, Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season indicates that, despite all of the detours taken until now, Chizuru is the real star of the show. By opening up, acknowledging her vulnerability and realising that a little help from others can go a long way, Chizuru’s proven to be the most dynamic character of Kanojo, Okarishimasu. This aspect of Kanojo, Okarishimasu is the series’ strongest, and although it firmly establishes the series direction, my main gripe is that this thematic piece is sufficiently well-written such that the other aspects, such as the love tesseract Kazuya’s entangled in, feels quite unnecessary – from a thematic standpoint, because Kazuya’s desire to support Chizuru is, in effect, a continuation of what her grandfather had done, despite objections from Chizuru, it follows that Kazuya and Chizuru remain the best match in Kanojo, Okarishimasu.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • According to the site archives, the last time I wrote about Kanojo, Okarishimasu was back in May of last year because I had struggled to coherently discuss the series. Right after the first season had ended, the second season was announced, and here at the second season’s conclusion, a third season was immediately announced. Using the existing timeframe as precedence, I would estimate that season three will come out in July 2024. The first season began airing in July 2020, and there is a two-year gap between the two seasons, hence, two years from now appears to be a fair guess.

  • Typically, anime receive continuations based on sales, so Kanojo, Okarishimasu comes across as a bit of a surprise for me: while from a storytelling perspective, the anime is quite inconsistent and does some things better than others, I have heard that in Japan, this work is wildly popular, enough so that merchandise sales and other sources of revenue offset the poor BD sales. I am not one to deny that this series must be successful, since Kanojo, Okarishimasu ended up receiving a live-action drama adaptation, which is no mean feat, considering that Yuru Camp△ also received a live-action adaptation on account of how the overwhelmingly positive reaction for its anime counterpart.

  • The main reason why Kanojo, Okarishimasu was so tricky for me to write about is that the story is wildly inconsistent. One moment, viewers see Kazuya trying to persuade Chizuru to persist and fight on in a moment of emotional build-up, only for something to interrupt said moment. Kanojo, Okarishimasu swings constantly between comedy and drama, which takes away from both aspects; had the series been written to focus on either one, things would’ve ended up stronger for it. For instance, if Kanojo, Okarishimasu purely showed Kazuya’s ineptitude in romance through comedy, then the fun would come from seeing how misfortune slowly helps to improve his game.

  • Conversely, if Kanojo, Okarishimasu had been intended to be about a drama from the start, it would be able to accentuate Chizuru’s story and indicate how her perspectives of Kazuya change over time as she sees bits of her old family in him. This facet was easily the best part of the second season, and I felt that had the story been allowed to focus on this, it would be able to both show Chizuru’s growth as she learns that it’s okay to rely on others, as well as Kazuya’s growth by showing how relationships are more than just the physical piece, and the shared emotional journey with Chizuru would give him fulfilment in ways that his old relationship with Mami could not.

  • With this being said, it is not quite so easy to discard the other characters; Mami had set Kazuya on a course to meeting Chizuru by dumping him, and Ruka is able to help Kazuya see aspects of a relationship that are both good and bad. Sumi, on the other hand, is someone whose shyness requires Kazuya to take the lead. Everyone does help push Kazuya forward in their own way, although things happen at a glacial pace. Kanojo, Okarishimasu is a series that demands patience from the viewers to watch: the second season’s strongest moments and aims are only shown in the finale.

  • I imagine that this design choice was deliberate, meant to establish the dynamics amongst the characters and giving them a chance to bounce off one another before the series really hits its stride. However, this meant that many of the intermediate moments leading up to the finale lacked a good context and as a result, could be infuriating to watch. My favourite example of this in Kanojo, Okarishimasu is how Ruka’s role was portrayed. She’s head-over-heels for Kazuya and goes the extra mile to impress him, but these attempts are always doomed to failure because Kazuya has his heart set on being with Chizuru.

  • Without knowing Chizuru’s story and why she’s so cold towards Kazuya, the logical route would be to turn around and play things pragmatically: rather than pursue Chizuru, it would outwardly seem the better decision for Kazuya to focus on Ruka instead and allow things to progress. Romance and love can come unexpectedly, and while some stories give the impression that doggedly sticking to one’s guns is a measure of heroic resolve, in reality, things don’t always work out so neatly. Having said this, even in the knowledge of Chizuru’s story, I myself are more of a Ruka fan.

  • The reasoning behind why Ruka is my favourite among the main cast is because I empathise with her the most: because of how Kanojo, Okarishimasu is written, and what outcomes must occur in order to convey the story’s main themes, Ruka is predestined to lose Kazuya. Kanojo, Okarishimasu has already shown that she’s madly in love with him and was heartbroken during the first season after it was shown that Kazuya didn’t return her feelings. A sort of status quo is reached after Chizuru asks him to go out with Ruka, feeling that this experience may help him to get over Mami and also stop pining for Chizuru, as she doesn’t return his feelings.

  • While Ruka is my favourite character, in reality, I’m not sure how well I’d get along with someone like Ruka. On one hand, I’m fiercely loyal and commit to wholly to whatever I do, but Ruka also has a bit of a jealous streak about her, as well. Dealing with this might be tricky, but over time, a bit of communication and trust could sort that out, and from what’s shown in Kanojo, Okarishimasu, Ruka’s someone I prefer: she’s quite forward about how she feels and despite being of a smaller stature, has a figure that rivals Chizuru’s. In any other story, anyone who decided to accept what’s in front of them and pick Ruka would not be “settling” by any stretch.

  • On the other hand, Sumi is a bundle of joy, and despite her shy disposition, has no qualms about Kazuya: Chizuru had introduced the two so Kazuya could act as a practise date for her of sorts. While Sumi is shy and struggles to speak at times, her intent with taking up a rental girlfriend position was to gain the confidence she needed to become an idol. At first glance, Sumi and Ruka are secondary to Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s main story, but looking more closely, their presence serves to drive Kazuya forward by giving him experiences in communicating with women.

  • One trap that Kanojo, Okarishimasu avoids is the indecisive protagonist: back when Infinite Stratos was running, viewers were livid about how Ichika always danced around the question of which of Houki, Cecilia, Charlotte, Lingyin, Laura or Tatenashi caught his fancy, and this created enough dissatisfaction amongst those who watched Infinite Stratos such that the series became quite reviled. Infinite Stratos is said to have become entangled in additional controversy after Izuru Yumizuru got into trouble with Media Factory, resulting in the light novels being expunged from all listings: if the rumours are to be believed, Yumizuru engaged in flame wars with Japanese readers on Twitter who’d been critiquing the series, and Media Factory decided to cut ties with him.

  • Kanojo, Okarishimasu doesn’t have quite as controversial of a story (at least, for the time being), and moreover, Kazuya has made it clear that he only has eyes for Chizuru, eliminating the problem of ambiguity. Kazuya’s tendency to second-guess himself is his largest shortcoming: although kind-hearted and acting in good faith, Kazuya always overthinks things. Being with Ruka and Sumi has dailed this back somewhat by Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season, and with the second season in the books, Kazuya’s single-minded determination in helping Chizuru to achieve her dreams leads Chiruzu to wonder why men are so fixated on doing what’s impossible.

  • Curiously enough, I do have an answer for this. There is an evolutionary piece at work here, to show a prospective partner of one’s qualities and traits, and this is why folks go to extraordinary lengths to impress the people they’re interested in. One of my favourite fictional examples is Top Gun‘s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who is a brilliant fighter pilot, but also cocky, immature and a non-team player. Mitchell outwardly is the opposite of Kazuya, being self-assured and smooth, but this actually is a façade: Mitchell flies as recklessly as he does because he lost his father in the Vietnam War, and when Mitchell’s wingman, Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, is accidentally killed during a training exercise, Mitchell loses his confidence to fly for a stretch before regaining his game during a combat situation.

  • Despite their personalities being polar opposites, Kazuya and Mitchell both demonstrate what happens when one tries too hard to impress those around them, but both also have the requisite stubbornness and perseverance to do what they think is best to achieve their goals. Much as how Mitchell would demonstrate to his students in Top Gun: Maverick that it was possible to perform the mission within the tight parameters he’d specified, Kazuya’s grit opens Chizuru’s eyes to the fact that, even though her latest audition failed, and her grandmother’s time is short, they’re not out of options yet. Attitude issues notwithstanding, Mitchell and Kazuya both demonstrate that they are capable of showing, rather than being limited to telling.

  • Unbeknownst to Kazuya, this is why Ruka and Sumi both develop feelings for him. He might be clumsy and inept, but his actions show what’s in his heart. Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season ends up leaving Mami in the dust: a relic of a bygone era, Mami had dated Kazuya briefly before dumping him. The light novels indicate that Mami’s story is a bit of a tragic one, leading her to willfully manipulate those around her in a diabolical sort of game: she doesn’t get along with her family, who had arranged her marriage and forced her to break up with her first partner.

  • While Mami’s actions in Kanojo, Okarishimasu are unjustifiable, knowing her story helps one to understand why she’s keen on manipulating people and taking a wrecking ball to their relationships. These details aren’t shown in the anime, and instead, come later in the light novel. Because the light novel has a lot of moving parts in it, when adapted into the anime format, things do seem to drag on for viewers. I do find it amusing whenever Mami’s eyes dull and she takes on the traits of a yandere, although I also cannot help but wonder what sort of effort and process would be involved in helping people to heal from their past.

  • Between having the whole of Kanojo, Okarishimasu in the books and reading supplementary materials, I do feel as though I’ve got a better measure of what this series is trying to accomplish now. I had been quite ready to send this series an F grade and admit that those who hate Kanojo, Okarishimasu with every fibre of their being might have a point, but it is bad form to throw in the towel early and acquiesce to the opinions that more popular anime reviewers hold without making one’s own call on things. Had Kanojo, Okarishimasu actually failed in my books, I would not be writing about it.

  • I’ve been called out before for only writing positively of the things I experience, and there’s two simple reasons for this. Firstly, I’m not a professional anime critic and have no obligation to sit through series I dislike: if I drop something, I will do so without fanfare, and I won’t write about it. Secondly, at least according to readers, I’ve developed something of a reputation for finding positives even in series that ruffle my feathers. This is where the “Terrible Anime Challenge” series comes in, and in the case of Kanojo, Okarishimasu, while it was the case that I spent eleven episodes of the series in a state of either bemusement or annoyance, the finale suddenly led me to add two and two.

  • While the journey was a tumultuous one, Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season did end in a manner I found satisfactory, and tied together all of the loose ends that had been bothering me. Scenes that prima facie appeared without purpose were now with meaning, and this meant that my irritation vanished on the spot. However, one aspect of Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season that didn’t sit so well with me was the prevalence of scenes like these, where a large amount of text is present on screen to denote asides the characters are having. I appreciate that these are here to give voice to the character’s thoughts, but they also create visual clutter and come across as being overly sarcastic. These were absent during the first season, which allowed the viewer’s attention to focus on the characters’ interactions and movements, but in the second season, they’re distractions.

  • Luckily, during the most pivotal moments of Kanojo, Okarishimasu, these asides are absent. For instance, there’s no text to distract from the scene where Ruka kisses Kazuya. The entire scene conveyed a sense of desperation and resignation in Ruka: she says so as much, and similarly to how Yui broke into tears during the events of Oregairu‘s third season, it is communicated to viewers here that Ruka doesn’t really stand any sort of chance. One must admire Ruka for how direct she is about how she feels about things, and this entire evening could not have been easy for her.

  • Kazuya’s grandmother is thoroughly convinced that she will be welcoming Chizuru into the family and gifts her a family heirloom as a result. Throughout Kanojo, Okarishimasu, Kazuya had entertained the idea of telling her grandmother and parents the truth about Chizuru, that they’re a phony couple, but over time, the lie endured because it became increasingly difficult to come forward, especially in the knowledge both Chizuru and Kazuya’s grandmothers were thrilled that their grandchildren would be family.

  • In the end, it’s Chizuru, who makes the call to perpetuate the lie for a little longer; her grandmother is dying, and she feels that it would be unfair to spring this news on her. At this point in Kanojo, Okarishimasu, glimpses of the series’ real story began appearing, and I found myself wishing that this is the direction the series had taken from the start. I understand the comedic detours are meant to humanise the characters, but because Kanojo, Okarishimasu is limited to twelve episodes per season, the series simply doesn’t have the luxury of slowly fleshing things out. Love stories take time to explore, and this is why more time is almost always needed to tell a compelling, convincing tale.

  • As Kazuya agonises over things during a make-up date with Ruka, Ruka takes a photograph of her gourmet pancake before digging in. Smartphone technology has come quite a long way: although Japan had been a front-runner in feature phones, the industry was disrupted in far-reaching ways when Apple introduced their iPhone back in 2007. Fifteen years after its introduction, the iPhone line has advanced into an industry-leading standard, and I am excited to receive my iPhone 14 Pro because it’s going to be a substantial upgrade over my current iPhone Xʀ. The iPhone Xʀ already takes excellent food photographs, so I’m curious to see how five years’ worth of advancement impacts my food photography, which has become something of a hobby for me.

  • After Kazuya’s birthday passes, Sumi decides to create a customised date based on his interests. Knowing that Kazuya is a big fan of marine life and aquariums, she takes him to the local marine park on an eventful and fun day. Sumi is outfitted in a school uniform, thinking that Kazuya was into that sort of thing after spotting him and Chizuru on a date in their school uniforms earlier. As the day draws to a close, Sumi brings Kazuya to a beautiful lookout providing a view of the city skyline, and to Kazuya’s surprise, happy couples can be seen everywhere.

  • Kazuya’s imagination goes into overdrive, and while it does appear as though Sumi is struggling with a kokuhaku, it turns out she’d been working up the courage to give Kazuya his birthday gift. Subsequently, Kazuya tries his hand at explaining his situation with Chizuru to her (in an indirect manner), and the pair share tears before Sumi does her best to reassure him. The pair part ways on a good note, and in this moment, Kazuya determines what his next move regarding Chizuru is.

  • Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season ends the way it began by covering Chizuru’s latest ambitions to a career as an actress, and she’s unsuccessful in her most recent audition. Flashing back to her time as a middle school student and her decision to become an actress after watching a film starring her grandmother, the specifics behind Chizuru are finally shown to viewers. These moments are the most critical parts of Kanojo, Okarishimasu because they give Chizuru proper exposition, and once her story is known, every part of her character, and her general attitudes towards Kazuya, become logical.

  • With this story in the open, I felt that the reason why Chizuru has been keeping Kazuya at a distance was simply because his determination and optimistic spirit has similarities with her grandfather’s: he was always one to believe that anything is possible, and that specifics can be worked out later. Since her grandfather’s death, Chizuru felt compelled to succeed on her own merits, without any assistance, which leads her to turn down Kazuya’s help. Ordinarily, dusting oneself off and trying again is what’s required, but Chizuru’s on one hell of a deadline because her grandmother’s health is rapidly declining, and she feels duty-bound to succeed to show her grandparents that their wishes for her were also fulfilled. Because of the timelines involved in auditions, Chizuru begins to feel that it might not be possible.

  • This is where Kazuya comes in: typically, his timing and lack of tact earns him admonishment from Chizuru, but because things had reached this point, Chizuru realises that it’s either she cling to her pride and attempt to do things the old-fashioned way, which would certainly mean her grandmother will never see her act, or she accept Kazuya’s help. Chizuru is initially surprised and wonders if it’s even possible for him to pull things off, but Kazuya reminds her that he’s in business administration, and therefore possesses the skills needed to run such a project. Kanojo, Okarishimasu may have presented Kazuya as a loser of sorts up until now, but the series has never once mentioned that his pursuit of Chizuru’s heart (and the collateral damage that tends to accumulate) ever had an impact on his studies.

  • It therefore stands to reason that, where relationships and romance aren’t concerned, Kazuya can hold his own, but since Chizuru was so absorbed in her own world, she never saw this side of Kazuya. In fact, now that I’ve entertained the thought, it does feel as though Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s portrayal of Kazuya is entirely consistent with how Chizuru sees him, and in this way, it is fair to say that Kanojo, Okarishimasu is every bit as much Chizuru’s story, as it is Kazuya’s. For the first time, Chizuru is flustered, and one hopes that, as Kazuya puts his best forward for her, Chizuru’s opinion of Kazuya will improve, as well.

  • In the event I weren’t being clear, Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season proved a pleasant surprise. I had remained unimpressed with the series during its run, and was quite ready to mark it as a write-off, a series not worth saying anything about, but the finale tied up enough of the loose ends so that all of the lead-up to the finale now had a reasonable context. With Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s directions now clear, I can say that this series is therefore better than I had anticipated. It does have its moments, and I am glad to have had the patience to sit things through to completion. To be sure, Kanojo, Okarishimasu is a B- (2.7 of 4.0): this series isn’t going to displace any of my favourites, and it doesn’t alter how I see the world, but things cannot be considered to be waste of time, either. While the anime still leaves much to be desired in pacing, the story does appear to be hitting its stride now, enough for me to retain a modicum of interest in where things land. This is a win in my books.

I had been an episode away from pulling the plug on Kanojo, Okarishimasu: until the finale, the series had meandered, unnecessarily creating conflict by returning Mami into the fray even as Ruka tried to pry Kazuya’s eyes from Chizuru. However, in the eleventh hour, Kanojo, Okarishimasu suddenly turned around – this anime adaptation exemplifies why I tend to stick around until the very end, because anything can happen. In the absence of Chizuru’s background, her motivations remain unknown, and Kazuya’s determination to help her appears little more than an unwarranted and unhealthy fixation. Similarly, without knowing why Chizuru wanted to become an actress, Kazuya has no reason in trying to court Chizuru beyond maintaining a promise with his grandmother, and Chizuru’s grandmother. With this additional revelation, additional weight is given to both Chizuru and Kazuya’s reasons for being. The second season had certainly taken its time to reach this point, but now that this is known, it becomes clear that Ruka has no chance at all. This aspect of Kanojo, Okarishimasu is written in stone, necessary for the story to progress, but one cannot help but feel poorly for her. Ruka’s feelings are legitimate, and while she’s clingy, her take-charge personality does seem to be a suitable fit, at least for the present, for Kazuya. His biggest weakness is indecision, and spending time with Ruka has also given Kazuya a glimpse as to what a relationship entails, both in good and bad. While seemingly relegated to heartbreak, Ruka’s role in Kanojo, Okarishimasu is an unfortunate, but necessary one – it provides Kazuya with the stepping stone he needs to press on ahead and show Chizuru that he’s committed to her. This appears to be something that could be covered in the upcoming third season as Kazuya strives to make the crowd-funding project a success for Chizuru. Overall, while Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season had not impressed during most of its run, seeing its conclusion provides a decisive answer as to why things are happening the way they did. This remains a difficult anime to recommend because seeing things unfold at such a pace is frustrating, but for folks with patience to weather this storm, the series does set the stage for what could be a touching story yet. Ultimately, I would probably suggest that Kanojo, Okarishimasu is still a series that should be watched once it’s hit completion – individually, episodes can be painfully slow and drag out longer than they should, but the overarching story winds up being touching enough in spite of the series’ shortcomings. Occurrences such as these are why I am reluctant to drop anime: much as how hockey teams can manage to tie a game after pulling the goaltender with only seconds left in third period and subsequently win in overtime, anime can sometimes find ways to surprise viewers. Similarly, I do hope readers have gone all the way through this post, rather than reading just the title and immediately drawing conclusions on what I made of things – for Kanojo, Okarishimasu, my beer can stay right where it belongs, since this series is not, in the terms  of internet reviewers more popular (but less eloquent and, if I may, more vulgar than myself), a “dumpster fire”.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Listen to Me, Girls. I Am Your Father! and Finding A Path Amidst Adversity Through Family

“Grit is that ‘extra something’ that separates the most successful people from the rest. It’s the passion, perseverance, and stamina that we must channel in order to stick with our dreams until they become a reality.” –Travis Bradberry

After an air accident results in his sister and her husband’s deaths, university student Yūta Segawa decides to take in his sister’s children, Sora, Miu and Hina, and raise them himself to keep them from being separated. Although the journey is a desperately tricky one, thanks in no small part to Yūta’s small apartment and limited budget. Despite his struggles, Yūta is determined to keep Sora, Miu and Hina happy – he takes on several jobs to help make ends meet, allows the girls to modify the apartment so they can have a modicum of privacy, and accompanies the girls to pick up some of their belongings back home. Summer vacation soon draws to a close, and Yūta’s friends, the statuesque Raika Oda, smooth but caring Kōichi Nimura, and the uncouth Shuntarō Sato also begin helping out in their own way. Although Yūta’s relatives are disapproving of the arrangement, after Yūta manages to convince them of his commitment to Sora, Miu and Hina’s well-being, they approve of his decisions and, to help him along, transfer his sister and her husband’s old house to his name, allowing everyone to continue living together. This is 2012’s Listen to Me, Girls. I Am Your Father! (Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai!, and from here on out, PapaKiki! for brevity), an anime that had caught my eye for its premise – despite its approach raising some eyebrows, I was met with an anime that proved unexpectedly heartwarming. However, for the past decade, I had trouble writing about this series; the themes here had been simple enough, and PapaKiki! had shown how raw determination in the face of adversity was sufficient to overcome all obstacles. This message is most evident in the sheer effort Yūta directs towards looking after each of Sora, Miu and Hina, but at the same time, it also speaks to the lingering feelings that Sora has for Yūta. Determination and grit alone do not cut it – where individual effort fails, the classic message of accepting help from others comes into play. Raika helps Sora on several occasions, teaching her how to cook and encouraging her to do her best, leading her to continue with her club activities, and Hina quickly captures the hearts of the community. Kōchi manages to help Miu rediscover her spirits after she becomes depressed when classmates begin pitying her situation. In spite of how clear the themes are, aspects of PapaKiki! lingered on my mind, and in conjunction with an impending MCAT, I ended up putting off a discussion of this series.

Upon revisiting PapaKiki!, it turns out that there had been a subtle, but constant sense of melancholy throughout the anime. Although Sora, Miu and Hina find joy in their everyday lives, and Yūta is happiest when everyone is living their lives fully, the question of handling Yuri and her husband’s death hangs over every moment. It isn’t until the series nears its conclusion that this point becomes addressed – Sora breaks the news to Hina, and while Hina is visibly saddened, she resolves to continue smiling for those around her. At her age, children like Hina do not have a full concept of what death is, and instead, may instead hold themselves accountable for things. To see Hina swiftly turn things around and promise to not cry, and instead, smile, was therefore heartwarming in that it shows just how important Yūta and her sisters are to her. Despite the loss of her parents, Yūta, Sora, Miu and the entire neighbourhood have her back, and Hina appears to be aware of the fact that being respectful to her parents simply means being kind to those around her and making sure everyone around her continues to smile. In this way, PapaKiki! becomes more than a mere story about Yūta’s efforts to look after a family despite being in a tough spot, his love for his sister’s children is strong enough to help them remain strong and in the end, accept that while their parents aren’t returning, they can still live their own lives fully and honour their parents’ wishes for them. Together with help from Raika and Kōchi, as well as voice actress and neighbour Kurumi Atarashi, and practically the whole neighbourhood, Hina thus is able to make a new family and shows to Yūta’s aunt and uncle that, beyond any doubt, everything he’s done for Sora, Miu and Hina has been genuine and effective. Looking past the superficial elements, such as the camera’s focus on Raika’s assets, Shuntarō’s perverse traits or the fact that Yūta has ill timing whenever Sora is concerned, PapaKiki! succeeds in dealing with a challenging topic in a mature and thoughtful way. This is where PapaKiki! excels, and in conjunction with a touching story about Yūta’s determination, as well as Sora’s efforts to get Yūta to notice her as more than just a child, PapaKiki! ends up being superbly enjoyable, covering a considerable amount of territory over a short run.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • PapaKiki!‘s first two episodes betrayed nothing about what the remainder of the series would deal with, and this contributed to the surprise of what happens after Yuri and her husband take off for a longer trip. I still vividly recall starting my journey to PapaKiki! in the university’s library block on a quiet summer’s morning while awaiting the start of my MCAT course. Back then, I’d picked up an iPad, and was able to watch anime with a much greater freedom than before. During summers, campus is far quieter than it typically is, and I practically had the entire floor to myself.

  • That’s about the extent of what I remember; looking back, I have no idea how I was able to finish the whole of PapaKiki! while studying for the MCAT. However, I do remember thinking to myself that I would have liked to write about the whole series once I did wrap up. The journey in PapaKiki! was quite gripping; what had begun as a run-of-the-mill comedy suddenly took a turn for the serious after the aircraft Yuri and her husband on crash with no survivors. Yūta is suddenly thrown into the deep end, and while he’s able to get along with Sora, Miu and Hina well enough, what happens next does push things to the limit.

  • What made PapaKiki! difficult to write for was the fact that, a decade earlier, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why things felt a little “off”. In the present, I’ve experienced enough to conclude that this feeling is a consequence of the fact that Yūta, Sora and Miu are trying to put on a brave front for Hina. While it is clear everyone’s devastated by their loss, Hina’s innocence and happiness means that the others do their best for her. To the me of ten years ago, it did feel as though they were trying to push the issue under a rug, but now, it’s quite plain that this choice was meant to keep Hina happy: Yūta, Sora and Miu find it difficult to figure out how to best convey news of their parents’ death to Hina.

  • Yūta’s apartment is a far cry from the Takanashi residence, and while he’s done a good enough job of keeping the place clean, the close quarters means that Yūta runs into trouble with Sora and Miu’s requirements for space. However, problems invite solutions, and over time, Yūta works out how to go about his routine without accidentally walking in on Sora or Miu. Of the two, Sora is more bashful and quick to anger, while Miu is more patient and, while still exasperated by Yūta’s seeming lack of knowledge about young women, does her best to walk him through things.

  • While revisiting PapaKiki!, it suddenly dawned on me that the character designs felt familiar. Sora looks a great deal like Da Capo‘s Nemu Asakura, and Miu reminds me of Sakura Yoshino. As it turns out, Feel produced PapaKiki!, and some seven years earlier, they were responsible for Da Capo: Second Season. I watched Da Capo and Da Capo: Second Season in 2016 as I worked on my graduate thesis, and while the series had been quite enjoyable, I similarly encountered considerable difficulty in writing about it because it was, in effect, an anime adaptation of a visual novel that hadn’t offered me anything especially novel to discuss.

  • However, the visual similarities between Da Capo and PapaKiki! are superficial: both series are dramatically different in their premise and themes. One aspect that became increasingly visible as PapaKiki! went on was how, through Hina, Yūta, Sora and Miu also become more connected with their community. Although Hina is only three, she brings with her a seemingly indefatigable sense of joy and innocence that wins over the hearts of everyone around her. Here, after neighbour and voice actress Kurumi Atarashi learns of Yūta’s arrangements, she becomes quick friends with Hina, who’s a big fan of the show that Kurumi works in.

  • Throughout PapaKiki!, a recurring element was Sora’s unrequited feelings for Yūta. It turns out that, after Yūta had provided reassurance and comfort to Sora when they’d first met, she’s since seen him as a reliable and dependable fellow, even if he occasionally comes upon her while she’s changing. For Yūta, Sora goes the extra mile, hoping that he’ll come around and notice her feelings. When Yūta leaves his phone at home after taking off for work, she offers to bring the phone to him and dresses especially nicely for the run. Miu is fond of teasing Sora about things, and PapaKiki!‘s original run left things quite ambiguous.

  • As the deep summer sets in, Yūta takes Sora, Miu and Hina back to their old house, which has sat unused since the incident that claimed Yuri and her husband’s lives. It would appear that Yūta’s relatives must be looking after the property, since the utilities and insurance are still being paid for: when everyone arrives, the power is still on, and while the girls pick up their belongings, Yūta dozes before setting about cooking dinner. Being home creates a precipitous situation where Hina begins wondering about when her mother will come back, but tact from Yūta and the others’ part alleviates things for the time being.

  • As a result of Shuntarō’s demands, Yūta ends up having Kōichi and Raika over for dinner. Times are good, although I’ve long felt that Shuntarō is a character PapaKiki! could’ve done without. It’s not often that I say that an anime can do without a character, but his exaggerated traits and mannerisms contribute nothing to the series; in the occasional moment where he pulls through and helps out, the same could be done by Kōichi. The odd laugh may result from Raika striking him with a paper fan when his behaviour crosses the line, but beyond this, Shuntarō does not play a meaningful role in the series.

  • Conversely, Raika’s affection for Hina, Miu and Sora comes across as being motherly; Raika might be blunt and stoic, but her actions speak far more loudly than her words do. She agrees to teach Yūta how to improve his cooking, and after meeting Hina, Miu and Sora, is more than happy to spend time with Yūta because it also means being able to see the three. Raika is voiced by Yui Horie, a famous voice actress with iconic roles like Love Hina!‘s Naru Narusegawa, Kanon‘s Ayu Tsukimiya, KonoSuba‘s Wiz and Kotori Shirakawa of Da Capo.

  • The moé aesthetic has changed considerably over the years: PapaKiki! inherits elements from the Da Capo era, as characters have sharper facial features and more angular eyes. Nowadays, characters are rendered with softer lines and rounder facial traits, and at least for me, the Da Capo era designs create a sense of melancholy that is indescribable. This is compounded by the fact that musicians like CooRie create music that, while sounding happy overall, is also permeated by a sense of longing. In the present, music to moé is far more energetic and spirited, lacking the same yearning older songs convey.

  • When Yūta’s work schedule means he’s unable to stick around, Sora decides to pick up the slack and learns to cook in his stead. Although Sora starts out a terrible cook and burns most everything, over time, she becomes increasingly competent with cooking. This ends up being a wonderful metaphor for Sora: she lacks confidence in herself, and initially views Raika as a rival that she stands no chance against. However, as Raika rightly states, no one gets it right in the beginning, and that it is with practise that one becomes a deft hand in their craft. For viewers, this can be interpreted as being a metaphor for how Sora is still young, and therefore, has time to cultivate her skills, as well as do what she can to convince Yūta to see her in a different light.

  • I had originally picked up PapaKiki! because I had been curious to see more of Raika and how things between her and Yūta would unfold. At the beginning, when Sora, Miu and Hina still have their parents, PapaKiki! felt like the conventional romance-comedy, but once the plane crash occurs, things turned around completely. With the benefit of hindsight, while Yūta has a bit of a crush on Raika, and the pair do get along quite well, there doesn’t appear to be any romantic tension. Yūta occasionally becomes flustered by Raika’s blaise attitude about things, but in more ordinary moments, the two regard one another more as friends. As it was, once PapaKiki! hit its stride, the series became worth watching for seeing how Yūta handles the surprises that he encounters as a result of his choices.

  • While PapaKiki! strives to convey positivity, numerous hurdles continue to throw Yūta in for a ride. His landlady, sore about Yūta violating the terms of his lease, decides to evict him, and this sends Yūta into a desperate search for a new place. Although his friends pull through and manage to find several candidate properties to rent based on Yūta’s requirements for price and space, they all come with their own caveats, from being located inconveniently for Hina, Sora and Miu, to one property that is allegedly cursed.

  • In the end, it turns out the landlady is the older lady Hina runs into, and the younger woman, Sawako, is the landlady’s daughter. Talking things through, Sawako decides to allow Yūta to keep living here on the condition that he update his lease agreement, and also that he allow Hina to visit her from time to time. Anime may seem overly idealistic about how opening up and listening is the key to resolving difficult problems, but I have found that all too often, people jump to conclusions and assume the worst of others, creating conflict unnecessarily. Although people will criticise my approach as being unfeasible for larger scale differences such as those that entail foreign affairs, I maintain that at an interpersonal level, these things matter.

  • Sora and Miu’s respective resemblances to Da Capo‘s Nemu and Sakura is especially pronounced here, as the pair rush off for their respective schools. PapaKiki! had begun during the summer, when Yūta had all the time he needed to work part time jobs and earn enough to keep up with living expenses now that he’s got three more people with him. This was already quite taxing, so when term begins again, Yūta would presumably run into more trouble as he attempts to keep up with his studies on top of making enough money to keep everyone together. This stress, while Yūta had never meant for it to do so otherwise, would transfer over to Sora and Miu – both are old enough to be aware of what Yūta is going through and do their best to help.

  • Despite Mui retaining a cheerful demeanour around her classmates, said classmates take pity on Miu. This bothers her greatly – she’s used to being kind around everyone, and this change is quite jarring. Fortunately, Kōichi is around to help out, and he offers to take her on a date of sorts. Although Kōichi is a womaniser who’s fond of dating women for kicks, he is legitimately kind, doing everything he can to help those around him. After spending a day with Miu, Kōichi takes her to a shop to get her shoe repaired, and the day ends at an observation deck. Here, Miu is able to realise that she should continue to be herself, and she’s glad that Yūta allowed her to take some down time.

  • PapaKiki! shows the importance of being able to gain some perspective on things, and once classes resume, the series begins to place a greater emphasis on problems the girls are facing now that they’re back in school – during the summer, they spent their days at home and around the neighbourhood, being able to look after Hina and tend to housework with increasing efficiency. Although a work of fiction, PapaKiki! absolutely gets right just how busy life is once housework becomes a part of one’s routine, and how demanding a student’s schedule is.

  • When Sora’s singing takes a hit, she decides to resign from the choral club so she can devote her time to helping Yūta keep up with everything, even though she’d loved to sing. While feeling this was for the best, Sora herself is guilt-ridden at the decision, and moreover, both she and Miu’s grades have suffered as a result of how busy they are. One’s studies and extracurricular activities are indeed full-time activities, and looking back, I am immensely appreciative of the fact that my parents allowed me to pour all of my effort into my schooling and related activities when I was a student. During the route to the MCAT, I was able to study without worrying about housework, although I still helped out around the house as a means of taking it easy.

  • In the present day, doing the housework becomes my means of unwinding after a solid eight hours of software development, and looking back, I feel that life as a full-fledged member of society is, in some ways, more straightforward than it had been as a student. This is because I have full agency to make my own decisions (and with it, the requirement that I own any mistakes I make), whereas as a student, decisions were often made for me and I would be held accountable for the consequences. This is why, while Kurumi is going through difficulties of her own, I felt that she would be able to find her way again – her old contract had expired, and she’s having trouble finding work. However, once she has a chance to think about things, and with a swift kick to the rear from Sora, Kurumi is able to find her footing anew.

  • Sora herself needs a kick in the rear, but unlike her blunt approach to Kurumi, support from Raika and Yūa is more reassuring – like Yūta, Sora feels that their problems are theirs to bear alone. However, over the course of PapaKikI!, Yūta experiences how assistance from Raika, Kōichi and even Shuntarō has taken some of the pressure off him. In this way, Yūta is able to impart the same wisdom on Sora, and after giving things some thought, Sora decides she’s not quite ready to call it quits just yet. Like numerous other series I’ve watched, PapaKiki! makes extensive use of lighting to capture the emotional tenour of a moment. Harsher colour contrasts mirror stress, and gentler gradients convey comfort. The series has long summer days to communicate the feeling of a tranquil life together, and storms to similarly remind viewer of challenges the characters must overcome.

  • In the end, Sora needn’t have worried – the choral club’s president had faith in her, and hung onto Sora’s resignation letter, but never actioned it. It typifies PapaKiki!‘s ability to present challenges that characters face, and while the problems Miu and Sora encounter are dealt with promptly, one can imagine how being in their situation, things would still be quite difficult. Sora may have resolved one issue with the choral club, but her grades continue to suffer, and there’s no real way to fix this unless she were afforded the time to study.

  • As luck would have it, Kurumi manages to land another voice acting role, and Sora is overjoyed to hear this. However, the lingering problem of trying to keep up with her schoolwork and extracurricular activities, while at the same time, helping Yūta out, has proven quite taxing. Yūta’s relatives do eventually step in and offer a recourse – his uncle is looking at taking Sora, Miu and Hina in so the three can remain together, looking after the sisters in Yuri and her husband’s stead. This would allow the three to live a more structured and organised life, while at the same time, giving Yūta a chance to finish his studies.

  • In any other setting, this should have been the first course of action that was taken, and there would have no discussion as to whether or not Yūta would be able to take Sora, Miu and Hina in. However, this would completely wipe the story out, and PapaKiki!‘s purpose is to show what might unfold if things had been allowed to progress the way they did. This is the whole point of fiction, and if one can accept that standing beside a first-aid kit can heal bullet wounds, then allowing for a universe where Yūta is given a chance isn’t that much of a stretch.

  • Entering PapaKiki!‘s final act, both Sora and Miu’s problems are sufficiently resolved so that things can turn towards Yūta’s relatives finally stepping forward and asking him to consider allowing Sora, Miu and Hina to live with them, promising that they’ll keep the three together. From a practical sense, this was the most feasible route to take, and external observers (i.e. the viewers) would likely conclude that were they in Yūta’s position, this would be the best possible option. From a storytelling standpoint, however, what makes Yūta admirable is his refusal to give up. This helps to drive PapaKiki!‘s themes, even though in reality, such a course of action would be deleterious in the long term. Reconciling this gap and acknowledging that some things need to be fudged is one of the reasons behind how I enjoy anime whose premises are engaging, even if they aren’t the most sound.

  • The lingering question of when Hina would find out about her parents is finally answered when Sora breaks the news to her. This happens right on the edge of Hina’s preschool putting on a singing performance, and I was a little surprised to see how quickly Hina recovers from things. Dramatic revelations are a common storytelling element, utilised to increase tension and accelerate a given story towards the climax, and initially, it appears that Hina loses her usual vigour and spirits. However, she recovers very quickly: Miu overhears Hina talking to her stuffed rabbit, promising to smile and do her best no matter where her parents are. This speaks to Hina’s uncommon maturity; despite only being three, I imagine her experiences have led her to grow more quickly and become mindful of those around her.

  • While paying resects for Yuri and her husband, Yūta and Sora run into Yūta’s aunt and uncle, who admit that their initial reluctance to take in Sora, Miu and Hina was the consequence of their regret at having not done more when Yūta and Yuri had lost their parents. This led Yuri to do precisely what Yūta has done in PapaKiki!: she was successful in looking after Yūta despite the odds being stacked against her, and now, Yūta intends to do the same because he is motivated by his own experiences. Putting two and two together, it becomes clear as to why Yūta is pressing on with his goal of taking care of Sora, Miu and Hina: he wants to return the favour to Yuri as an expression of gratitude. As such, even when presented with an option that would help his own situation, Yūta declines.

  • The preschool play has Yūta attending alongside Raika, Kōichi, Sora, Miu and practically the whole neighbourhood. Throughout PapaKiki!, Hina’s adorable manner has won over everyone around her, and this is one of the reasons why Hina is able to recover so quickly; although saddened by her parents’ passing, Hina also knows that she can make people smile, and in this way, gains a much larger family by becoming a vital part of the community. This was the missing piece of PapaKiki! that made it a little trickier to write for, but at present, with a little more life experience, I was able to coherently write out what made this anime work for me.

  • I originally concluded that PapaKiki! is an excellent series, one that lives up to expectations and would earn a recommendation from me. In Terrible Anime Challenge terms, “PapaKiki! is as good as the community had made it out to be. Having gone through with a revisit, I’ve found that my thoughts about PapaKiki! have not changed dramatically, and so, a full decade after I wrote about the first episode, I return to offer a more detailed set of thoughts surrounding what I felt this series to excel in doing. However, this time around, there is no MCAT on the horizon to deal with.

  • As such, ten years after I first picked up PapaKiki!, my verdict has not changed, and I still would recommend this series on its merits. Since PapaKiki! is done in full, and since I’ve watched the series front-to-back, including the OVAs, at present, I do not believe I’ll be returning to write about this again, unless there is visible interest in my thoughts on the OVAs. With this post in the books, I’ll be returning soon to write another revisit about one of K-On!!‘s lesser-known, but nonetheless important surprises, as well as my thoughts on Luminous Witches once we pass the third episode.

When I had finished PapaKiki! for the first time, I had wondered if the story would have succeeded in conveying its messages had Yūta been a salaryman rather than a university student. Finances and housing were two of the biggest problems he had to deal with; buying enough food and essentials for four, on top of making a small apartment work, cannot have been easy on his part time jobs, forcing him to take on more work to ensure there was enough money to keep the lights on. This results in Yūta spending less time with Sora, Miu and Hina, to the point where his relatives do begin worrying about whether or not he can maintain his studies on top of his duties as a guardian. Towards the end of PapaKiki!, Yūta’s aunt and uncle arrange for him to take possession of his sister and her husband’s old home – while Yūta would still need to deal with property tax, utilities and insurance, having a place to decisively call his own would doubtlessly be a game-changer. Sora, Miu and Hina return to a familiar home, and Yūta no longer needs to worry about rent or a mortgage, freeing up his finances for other things. In PapaKiki!, Yūta’s struggles with funds contribute to a part of the story; taking this problem away would likely have diminished the story, and so, in retrospect, it was appropriate to have Yūta be a university student. A series where Yūta was already a salaryman with some financial stability would take away from the effort, and while there’d still be the matter of handling his sister’s death and communicating this to Hina, much of the conflicts in the series would be lessened. Yūta’s uncle and aunt would be less hesitant to let him keep acting as Sora, Miu and Hina’s guardians, and Yūta himself would actually spend more time with everyone, avoiding some of the misadventures that arose in PapaKiki!. Altogether, while the setup in PapaKikI! cannot be said to be realistic, the story was set in such a way so that the deck is stacked against Yūta, giving viewers more reason to root for him, and the series’ outcomes become more satisfying as a result. In this way, PapaKiki! shows how works of fiction may need to use contrived and unrealistic scenarios to convey their message – series that are more realistic may come at the expense of impact, and for this reason, I hold that realism isn’t always an important metric on which works of fiction should be judged against.

RPG Real Estate: Review and Reflections After Three

“A realtor is not a salesperson; they’re a matchmaker. They introduce people to homes, until they fall in love with one. Then, they’re a wedding planner.” –Lydia

After completing her studies and becoming a mage, Kotone Kazairo travels to the capital city of Dali to meet her employers. On her first day in town, she chances upon a realty company, RPG Real Estate, and unaware that this is the company she’s to work for, she asks them for assistance in finding a suitable place to rent out while she’s in Dali. Here, she meets Fa, Rufuria and Rakira, RPG Real Estate’s three staff. They attempt to find a suitable home for her but come up short, until Fa suggests that Kotone lodges with her. Although Fa’s place of residence is intended for non-humans, Fa is especially skilled in communicating with other species, and realising this, Kotone agrees to live here. When a well-known sage, Luna Didrane, calls to make an inquiry, Rufuria is overjoyed, hoping that taking on a larger client will help her to move up in the ranks. Although Rufuria struggles with selling Luna on a property, after spotting Luna’s interest in a flower, Kotone suggests a quite rural property surrounded by flower fields. Luna is overjoyed and explains she’d been looking for a quiet place to settle down after a lifetime of adventure, and luxurious accommodations felt a bit much. As Kotone settles into her work, RPG Real Estate receives several listings that look difficult to sell, including a large cave near the former Dark Lord’s lair and a mansion belonging to an elderly lady who feels lonely but doesn’t otherwise wish to part ways with her home yet. While thinking about what a suitable course of action is, Kotone overhears Fa speaking with a family of mouse-like beings and immediately feels that they might be able to move to the cave. Kotone is subsequently able to find new residents for the remaining caves, all of whom are immensely satisfied with their new homes. To celebrate Kotone’s joining RPG Real Estate, Rufuria, Rakira and Fa put on a party for her. While recalling a conversation between Rufuria and Rakira, Kotone has a stroke of inspiration, and she suggests to the elderly lady that her mansion can be turned into a rental complex, which turns out to be successful. While news of a rampaging dragon reaches the capital city, Kotone struggles with a client who’s been finding a large number of properties unsuitable, and focuses on RPG Real Estate’s next assignment: a haunted house. Despite being frightened out of their wits, it turns out that a particularly challenging client has taken a keen interest in the site: she’s a necromancer and finds the haunted house’s resident spirits to be quite friendly. When Dali begins to construct a warp gate, the citizens are asked provide taxes to support its construction. The government apparently miscalculates the number of people needed by two orders of magnitude, but Fa is able to single-handedly make up for the shortfall. The staff overseeing the project are grateful and gift to Fa some sweets in return. Besides Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme, viewers this season are fortunate to have not one, but two wonderful series from Manga Time Kirara.

RPG Real Estate (RPG Fudōsan) marks the first time I’ve watched a moé series dealing with realty, and while it is early in the season, each of the episodes have placed an emphasis on a recurring theme: every time RPG Real Estate is presented with a property that seems undesirable, one that prima facie appears difficult to rent out or sell, Kotone manages to come up with a solution based on what she sees in her everyday life. Kotone is remarkably astute in this regard. She’s the first to notice that Luna has a love of flowers and wonders if a country cottage surrounded by flowers might be to her liking, recalls that rodents might be at home in a large cave and feels that a fire spirit would enjoy a reasonably fire-proof stone room. On all counts, Kotone is able to help RPG Real Estate match clients to a suitable property, and the reason why she is successful is because she listens. Being a good listener, being attuned to a customer’s needs and objectives, and empathising with a customer is an essential skill in almost all occupations: in this regard, being a successful software developer is not too dissimilar from being a realtor in that in both cases, one must listen to a client’s requirements and then deliver something up to expectations. A good realtor must therefore be able to determine the sort of individual a client is and suggest properties that a client is happy purchasing. This brings to mind my own home-purchasing experience. When my house-hunt had begun, I was looking on a casual basis, and I had booked an appointment for a property that appeared interesting. As fate would have it, the realtor who took on my inquiry happened to be the same one who had sold my parents their downsized home. We walked through the property, which had been on the market for almost a full year, and had sustained water damage. I wasn’t terribly sold on this listing; there hadn’t been much space for a home office (one of my requirements), and the fact that a leak from upstairs dealt the water damage had dampened my interest. Far from being discouraged, the realtor had asked us to be patient, and he’d been working on a new listing that would likely perk my interest. Three weeks later, I received an invitation to tour this property, and was immediately impressed. In my mind’s eye, I immediately had an inkling of where I’d stick the dining table, couches, television and home office. After careful consideration, it was determined this was the place to buy, and the process really began. RPG Real Estate abstracts out things like the property inspection, finding a broker to handle the mortgage application process and securing a lawyer to handle the transactions, but it does deal with that critical first step of matching clients up with a property that suits their requirements. Three episodes in, it is clear to viewers that with Kotone on board, RPG Real Estate will experience many adventures as Kotone contributes to helping the company out, and their successes may even help Rufuria to become one step closer to her own dreams.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Out of the gates, RPG Real Estate evokes memories of when I’d started GochiUsa: Dali might be the capital of a nation in a fantasy world, but from an architectural perspective, resembles the half-framed timber town Cocoa moves to at GochiUsa‘s beginning. Kotone fulfil’s Cocoa’s role. While looks more like a cross between New Game!‘s Aoba Suzukaze and Chiya Ujimatsu, in terms of personality, Kotone is friendly and easy-going, but also somewhat sensitive and prone to tears. She’s a good singer, as well. Unlike Cocoa, she isn’t prone to getting lost.

  • Upon arriving at RPG Real Estate (Rent, Plan, Guide Real Estate; in my discussions, I’ll italicise the text when referring to the series, and leave the company name un-italicised), Kotone finds a lively scene unfolding in front of her: it turns out that Fa, a half-human, is not fond of clothing since they catch her tail, and Rufuria is trying to get her dressed for the day’s work. The scuffle creates a sufficiently loud commotion such that Kotone initially wonders if RPG Real Estate is even a viable business, if that’s the sort of negotiations they must have with their customers, but fortunately, no such thing is occurring. When Kotone arrives in Dali, her first thought is to try and find accommodations: unlike Cocoa, whose lodgings at Rabbit House were already arranged, Kotone’s moving to Dali full time so she can begin her career.

  • Rufuria immediately sets about trying to find something fitting Kotone’s requirements, and with Fa, they tour a few candidate properties. Kotone’s ideal property is located somewhere close to the heart of town, but with a quieter ambience, and above all, has a rent not exceeding three hundred gold. For the viewer’s benefit, RPG Real Estate indicates that one gold is 120 Yen, so Kotone is looking for a place with a maximum rent of 36000 Yen (about 356 CAD) per month. This is, strictly speaking, unrealistic: rent usually starts at 800 CAD in my neck of the woods, so these parameters already give Rufuria a tougher time.

  • Although nothing seems like it’d be suitable for Kotone, in the end, after visiting the apartment that Fa lives at, and in the knowledge that Fa is able to communicate with the other residents, Kotone decides that she’s found her home. With this sorted out, Kotone surprises the others by explaining she was the new member of their staff. It is typical that anime employ this as a comedic device; when Kotone first shows up, Rufuria and Fa are engaged in a tussle of sorts, leading them to forget that RPG Real Estate was to be picking up a new team member.

  • As it turns out, Rakira is a fantastic cook, and one of the changes she’s made to RPG Real Estate was the addition of a brick oven right by the front desk. The result of this is that Kotone, Fa and Rufuria get to enjoy things like freshly-baked apple pie to start their day off. Rakira resembles GochiUsa‘s Rize Tedeza in manner and appearance; she’s a warrior and, befitting of her class, possesses above average strength along with a love of weaponry. On top of this, Rakira also wishes to be seen as being more feminine and has a penchant for adorable things, much as Rize does.

  • The dynamic between Rufuria and Rakira is similar to New Game!‘s Kō Yagami and Rin Tōyama, two senior staff on Eagle Jump. Here, Kō is the more easygoing of the two, while Rin is more organised and focused, but occasionally prone to her own flights of fancy. Like Rin, Rufuria has the appearance of someone well-put-together; she’s the de facto leader at RPG Real Estate and leads sales, as well as walkthroughs. However, her original wish had been to become an advisor with the king, and sees her work as a stepping stone for more ambitious goals.

  • After Kotone receives a phone call from a well-known sage, Luna, Rufuria is all smiles and believes that, if she can succeed here, word will get out and potentially accelerate her career. As such, when she meets Luna in person, Rufuria does her utmost to sell the most impressive-looking properties possible. At this point in time, discussions surrounding RPG Real Estate are limited, being constrained to simple reactions in response to what’s happening in the show. A quick gander at the conversation at AnimeSuki finds that most community members are focused on individual moments: the closest it got was one individual has compared the housing market of RPG Real Estate to Final Fantasy‘s in-game economy. Having said this, the Final Fantasy economy doesn’t even come close to reality, so I don’t count it as being a suitable analog (it’s the equivalent of saying one plays ice hockey when their experience is purely limited to NHL 2007).

  • That conversations have not ventured towards discussing personal experiences with realtors and house-hunting speaks volumes about those who spend an inordinate amount of time on forums or social media. For me, when an anime deals with a topic people have personal experience with, it drives all sorts of anecdotes and creates conversation where one has the chance to compare an experience with how an anime had portrayed it. In my case, I can recount how my realtor ended up having a much easier time of selling me on my current place of residence compared to what Rufuria is going through. I’d actually been familiar with the building the first unit was in, and while it was mostly up to specifications, the main challenge was that there was very little space for a proper home office setup.

  • On the second property, it did feel as though all of the stars had lined up: the place was spacious and exceedingly well-lit (to the point where I actually don’t need to turn any lights on during the day), and having now moved in, there’s still enough space left over for me to play with my Oculus Quest. The decision to purchase was made within twenty minutes of conversation, speaking to how quickly one’s mind can be made up after seeing the right place. When Kotone notices that Luna’s particularly keen on a flower she’d put in a vase, she goes on a limb and wonders if one of their listings might fit the bill.

  • It turns out that this tranquil cottage, set in a field of flowers, is precisely what Luna was looking for. This is Kotone’s first win with RPG Real Estate, and with this, the series found itself on a strong footing. While realty seems far removed from my usual scope of interests, my recent experiences meant that I was curious to check out this series and see how it portrayed that first step towards buying a house. The lack of stories out there suggests to me that RPG Real Estate is not a series viewers can easily relate to. Indeed, I’ve heard from readers that at Tango-Victor-Tango, well-known names have decried the series for being unremarkable: claims abound about how the character designs are “unlikeable”, the series is “painfully generic” and that the world-building is “underbaked”, ad nauseum.

  • Whereas most people would be content to quietly stop watching RPG Real Estate and move onto other works, such an adverse reaction is indicative of the fact that the topic matter of home ownership can be a sensitive one for the folks at Tango-Victor-Tango. Granted, the housing market out there is presently unfavourable: incomes haven’t kept up with increases in housing prices in the past decade, making it difficult to get one’s foot in the door (in Canada, it takes an 14 years to save enough for a 20 percent down payment). Housing and real estate are not topics to be discussed lightly, and articles out there about dropping the daily Starbucks or avocado toast are unlikely to be helpful because the process varies person to person. Having said this, one isn’t likely to become any closer to home ownership if they’ve spent their past decade on Tango-Victor-Tango’s forums, acting as though being critical about every slice-of-life anime is a skill, and announcing the shows they’re dropping with pride, either. It is clear that a subset of Tango-Victor-Tango’s forum members are those who’ve plainly have not seen the world beyond the walls of their basements.

  • It is unfair to dismiss an anime on flimsy grounds: a couple of short sentences devoid of explanation should not be treated as being authoritative. I would ask these individuals how precisely are the character designs unlikeable, and what makes RPG Real Estate “generic”, when in reality, other anime have not yet explored the implications of running a realty in a fantasy world. RPG Real Estate has shown the occupation as being a colourful one, a chance to meet people and gain a glimpse of what housing in fantasy worlds are like. This is hardly generic, and in fact, RPG Real Estate is stepping into a realm few series have explored. If anything, the world-building here is more than adequate, and problems unique to a fantasy universe are presented alongside more conventional issues (such has handling dissatisfied clients), which leaves Rakira exhausted despite her efforts.

  • As it is, I am finding RPG Real Estate to be an anime that portrays the ins and outs of realty, albeit in a very simplified and gentle manner, and as such, whenever things look tricky, a solution arises from Kotone’s creative thinking. When a family of rodent-like people speak to Fa, Kotone puts two and two together: two of the children are reprimanded for digging, and Kotone recalls that they’d just looked over a property that would allow for the children to be themselves. These rodent-like people were absolutely adorable, and in a manner reminiscent to The Hunt for Red OctoberRPG Real Estate seamlessly translates their language into Japanese for the viewer’s benefit.

  • In this way, Kotone is able to also sort out several rooms that didn’t initially appear to be likely to draw any interest. A semi-aquatic individaul loves the well in one of the rooms, and a spirit of fire relishes a space where they can flame out without worrying about burning down the surroundings. RPG Real Estate shows that the key to doing a good job is to listen and be open-minded, a recurring theme in Manga Time Kirara series. While these elements may prima facie appear to be common knowledge, it is actually surprising as to how often people forget to take a step back and listen.

  • This appears to be Rufuria’s problem: although she’s running a large part of the show at RPG Real Estate, she tends to pick properties for clients based on her impressions of what they’d like. This stands in contrast with Kotone, who has a knack for picking up subtle cues from clients and doing things accordingly. Given that RPG Real Estate is a Manga Time Kirara series, it is likely that Kotone’s presence at this realty will help Rufuria to improve, and perhaps leave the latter one step closer to the posting of her choice. For now, Rufuria must contend with Fa’s antics, and while Fa can be a bit of a loose cannon at times, it appears that Fa’s nice enough: here, an elderly lady stops by with a posting and enjoys Fa’s company.

  • With work having picked up, Rufuria, Fa and Rakira have forgotten to formally welcome Kotone to RPG Real Estate. They decide to host a small dinner party at Rufuria and Rakira’s place: it’s a small, but cozy and well-appointed space. Ever since I’ve moved, I’ve begun to appreciate good use of spaces. This is why I’ve never been a fan of the so-called otaku room, with their shelves upon shelves of manga, games and anime merchandise. Excessive clutter makes a space hard to live in, and can turn even the chicest of digs into an overwhelming assault on the senses.

  • While Fa is resistant to clothing in general, Kotone does appear to be able to persuade her where Rufuria fails. By this point in time in RPG Real Estate, it is clear that the similarities to GochiUsa are superficial. For one, the premise differs dramatically, and the voice actresses are completely different. Honoka Inoue voices Kotone, and I know Inoue as Slow Loop‘s Aiko Ninomiya. Hina Kino plays Fa, and while she’s had central roles in a few series, they’re not series I’ve seen. Rufuria is voiced by Natsumi Kawaida, whom I know best as Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s Natsumi Hodaka, and finally, Manaka Iwami is Rakira. Iwami has previously voiced Maquia of Maquia, New Game!‘s Hotaru Hoshikawa, Ryōko Mochizuki of Rifle is Beautiful and Magia Record‘s very own Ui Tamaki.

  • Prior to the party, Rufuria invites Kotone to change into something more suited for the party, which gives her some trouble. The fact that Kotone’s got a large bust has been the topic of no small discussion: in Manga Time Kirara works, lead characters usually have a more modest figure, and people are wondering if this is going to negatively impact RPG Real Estate. While perhaps used for some familiar jokes here, Manga Time Kirara series have never crossed the line previously. GochiUsa, surprisingly, had done this in its first season during a pair of pool episodes, but as the series wore on, such elements disappeared in favour of more meaningful, heartfelt moments.

  • As the evening wears on, everyone enjoys Rakira’s wonderful cooking. I’ve always been fond of the portrayal of meals and mealtimes in anime; food is lovingly rendered, and even mundane moments can be transformed through food. While there’s a certain joy about enjoying home cooking, I’ve found that the occasional treat doesn’t hurt, either: because I’d had a bit of a busier day yesterday, I went out to pick up a simple lunch: chicken tenders and potato wedges. It suddenly hits me that I’ve not had potato wedges in years, and in fact, the last time I picked up a ready-to-eat meal from the local supermarket, I was actually back in secondary school.

  • In the RPG Real Estate universe, it appears that the age of majority is sixteen, allowing Kotone to participate in some alcohol along with Rufuria and Rakira. Although Rufuria gets smashed, Rakira is a little more resilient to alcohol and ends up feigning drunkenness in an attempt to be cute. RPG Real Estate reiterates that Rufuria and Rakira are close. From a narrative standpoint, this simply means the pair can support one another and do their best to help their juniors out. I’ve long felt that people tend overread these sorts of things; while it is appropriate to look at yuri more closely in series where this is a part of the theme (e.g. in Wataten!), such discussions also have a tendency to devolve into what are colloquially referred to as “shipping wars”, which are counterproductive.

  • After Kotone’s welcoming party ends, and Fa suggests that it might be nice of all of them could share a space, Kotone realises that the elderly lady might be able to convert her mansion into a shared home. By renting out rooms to tenants, she’d be able to make the place livelier without having to move away from a home that she’s clearly grown attached to. Being set in a fantasy setting, RPG Real Estate has an edge when it comes to solving problems; in many ways, it appears to be an idealised portrayal of the realty industry as a whole. There are doubtlessly laws and regulations even in Dali, but because those aren’t explictly defined, it gives the writers flexibility to tell their stories without being limited by real-world constraints.

  • A future where Kotone, Fa, Rakira and Rufuria would be able to share a home together seems to be quite far off, but with Kotone settling into her position, this leaves RPG Real Estate to really begin exploring the world. So far, Dali is shown to be a town resembling Colmar, France, with a central difference being that there’s no Rabbit House, Fleur Lapin or Ama Usa An around. A few locations around town have already been shown, and because housing is a necessity, one can imagine that throughout the course of this series, more places will be shown as Kotone and the others bring their clients to properties of interest.

  • Fantasy anime (and isekai series) usually are set during a great war of sorts: the protagonists are usually cast into the hero’s position and must overcome a dark lord of sorts, and the threat of both warfare and subjugation means there’s no shortage of adventure. RPG Real Estate differentiates itself from others within this genre by having Kotone come of age in a world where peace has already been reached. This alone makes RPG Real Estate unique in that it’s the first time slice-of-life aspects are combined into fantasy, showing a side of the genre that is otherwise overlooked. Here, Kotone walks RPG Real Estate’s latest client through some properties. This client is a necromancer who finds conventional properties to be missing something, so Kotone agrees to keep working on something for her.

  • Elsewhere, a landlord is having trouble moving his very haunted mansion. Haunted houses have long been a challenge for realtors, and different cultures handle things differently. Here in Canada, realtors have no obligation to disclose whether or not a property is stigmatised (e.g. if a death or murder happened there), although a seller may choose to include this information if they wish. By comparison, in Hong Kong, if anything particularly negative happened in a property, listings are legally required to make this clear. This has created a curious phenomenon where some properties can go for up to a third less than similar units. Although pragmatic individuals not impacted by flights of fancy may jump at these deals, folk beliefs remain strong in Hong Kong, and such units can remain on the market for long periods as a result.

  • After being scared off by the ghosts, upon learning that the client they’ve got is a necromancer, RPG Real Estate bring her in to check the haunted mansion out, and within seconds, she finds it perfect. There’s a steady population of spirits here that she can use to channel her experiments, and the spirits themselves seem to get along with her fine: they go from being a nuisance to being a benevolent and comforting presence. This sort of thing is par the course for Manga Time Kirara series, and I hold that what is shown in most Manga Time Kirara series is a very optimistic and warm way of looking at the world.

  • This sort of optimism is precisely why I’m a fan of Manga Time Kirara series: reality is a place littered with failure and disappointment, and I’ve long found that having anime that is suited for unwinding to helps me to regroup, allowing me to approach the problems I face with a fresh set of eyes and newfound determination. When I was a second-year university student, I had been on the verge of failing out of the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme, and it was my happenstance coming upon K-On! that saw me gain that second wind, enough to stay in satisfactory standing (because I’d been in an Honours programme, I needed to maintain a minimum GPA of 3.3 to stay in good standing).

  • Since then, easygoing series have been my go-to anime of choice, and similarly, I’m fond of writing about such series here with the goal of sharing what about these seemingly unremarkable and mundane stories can tell viewers. Although I am aware this may not be a fair assumption, I have noticed that the folks who dislike slice-of-life series generally are not the most pleasant people to converse with. It is above my pay grade to speculate on why this is the case, but my experiences have found that those who are more open-mined about slice-of-life series tend to be more polite and respectful in discussions.

  • With the latest of their listings sold to a happy necromancer, Kotone and the others prepare to pay a magical power tax to help with a city project to build a warp gate of sorts. Two of the government officials discuss a gaffe that’s occurred: the number of people required to provide enough magic was miscalculated, and the “two digits” error equates to being off by two orders of magnitude. One of the officials panic, fearing it’s her head on the line, and the other tries to assuage her fears. Missing something by two entire orders of magnitude (a 100x difference) is nontrivial, and typically, errors of this sort are easily caught before they make it to production, so one wonders what kinds of processes exist (or don’t exist) here in RPG Real Estate.

  • When Kotone and company head off to drop off their magic, Rakira ends up registering zero, while Fa is able to single-handedly make up for the deficiet and somehow has magic left to spare. This moment may seem trivial, but it does hint at her origins; together with mention that the dragons might be returning, it is reasonable to conjecture that Fa might have a bit of dragon in her. Time will tell whether or not this holds true, and in the meantime, I will note that the return of dragons might signify the end of a peaceful era; in The Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo mentions that dragons have not been spotted in the Shire for over a millennia, and dragons were more common in the First and Second age.

  • As such, RPG Real Estate leaves open the possibility that the peace might not last. Whether or not this is the case, however, doesn’t seem to be too large of a concern; if their world stays tranquil, then Kotone and the others can simply continue matching clients with properties. If war breaks out, Kotone and her friends may be pressed into service, but bring their unique skills to help others both on and off the battlefield. Despite the opening sequence suggesting otherwise, the latter is actually quite unlikely, since Manga Time Kirara series are characterised by their cheerful and adorable aesthetic. Consequently, expectations are that this series stays light and fluffy; I’m quite curious to see how this one turns out. It’s a wonderful complement to Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme and showcases a side of isekai-style anime that are typically unexplored.

Speaking to the sheer variety of topics anime can cover, I’d never expected to be watching an anime that deals with realty, much less in a fantasy world. However, shows like RPG Real Estate demonstrate how almost any topic can be covered in an amusing and enjoyable way. I’m certain that realtors would look at RPG Real Estate and indicate that the anime is merely a simplification of the process, much as how I found the software development workflow in New Game! to be a very stripped out representation of what actually happens. For one, there’s no peer review or QA: in reality, Tsubame’s changes wouldn’t have even made it onto the development branch, much less be put on the branch to production. However, as a work of fiction, RPG Real Estate has proven successful so far: this is an anime meant to highlight how a successful realtor must, among other things, be creative, use lateral thinking and make an honest effort to understand their client’s needs. Doing so in a real-world setting could become unimaginably dull, so applying things to a fantasy world also provides the author with a space where different aspects of the career can be explored without the constraints of reality, as well as the creative freedom to accentuate specific messages that would otherwise be tricky to convey in the real world. Altogether, it does appear that Kotone is settling into her work with RPG Real Estate, and while her days will be filled with matching clients with properties, it is plain that the fantasy world also provides a considerable opportunity for exploration. Traditionally, fantasy setting such as these are set during the course of a great war, with the protagonist being a hero destined to strike down a dark lord of sorts. However, since RPG Real Estate is set a decade and a half after the war ends, in a peaceful era, this series is therefore able to depict how life in such worlds might work, compare and contrast fantasy worlds to our own, and potentially, even show how during times of peace, unexpected events may nonetheless occur and propel ordinary folks into having extraordinary experiences.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Ishuzoku Reviewers as an Unexpected Commentary on Accepting Diversity

“There will come a time when very few will care about other people’s sexual preference – or preferences.” –Clive Davis

Adventurers Stunk and Zel encounter an angel from Heaven named Crimvael, who’s unable to return because their halo is damaged. While resting up at their favourite haunt, the Ale ‘n Eats, Stank and Zel decide to hit a brothel to blow off some steam at a bird-maid place, hauling Crimvael along with them and, upon realising that reviewing different brothels could be a good side gig, Stank, Zel and a reluctant Crimvael become the Interspecies Reviewers. Along the way, they are joined by Kanchal and Bruise, producing reviews that interest other adventurers, while at the same time, drawing the ire of Ale ‘n Eats’ waitress, Meidri. Over the course of their reviews, it becomes apparent that while there are occasionally places that are immensely satisfying, for the most part, different species have their own preferences: this is immediately apparent when Stunk and Zel have a debate about whether or not a 50-year-old human is more attractive than a 500-year-old elf, and throughout the course of Ishuzoku Reviewers, it becomes apparent that there is more to this saucy anime than first meets the eye. Every episode has Stunk, Zel, Crimvael and the other reviewers checking out different brothels to gauge their experiences as casually one writes about anime, movies or games, and at first glance, this has caused Ishuzoku Reviewers to become dismissed as a mindless series on sex. In fact, Ishuzoku Reviewers‘ content proved to be such that Funimation dropped it and refused to show it on grounds that the show was immoral, and even Japanese television studios like Tokyo MX ended up pulling it from their schedule. However, other Japanese channels continued to air Ishuzoku Reviewers (among the AT-X, KBS and BS11). Ishuzoku Reviewers prima facie appears to be a completely meaningless series intended to titillate and shock viewers, with brazen combinations of sight and sound to remind viewers that Stunk and the others are having a blast (or not). However, looking past the surface, in daring to portray what other anime do not, Ishuzoku Reviewers manages to come up with an interesting message nonetheless.

During its run, Ishuzoku Reviewers has Stunk, Zel, Crimvael (and occasionally, one of Kanchal and Bruise) visiting a variety of brothels, hosting færies, minotaurs, undead, dæmons, lilim, lava beings, cyclops, golems and everything in between. For Stunk, vitality and physical attractiveness is key, while Zel prefers high-mana beings. Kanchal is a bit of a sadist and prefers submissive partners, while Bruise, being a dog-man, prefers beings that are easy on his sense of smell. For instance, at the minotaur establishment, the succubus’ busts are a strong point for many, but for Bruise, his lactose intolerance means he doesn’t have quite as good of a time. Similarly, færies are enjoyable to Zel and Kanchal, but Crimvael is unable to participate owing to their own physical traits and feels scammed because they’d been made to pay a registration fee nonetheless. However, there are also places that score highly: the golem shop allows Stunk, Zel, Kanchal and Crimvael to recreate Meidri, and a distant town allows visitors to hang out with a clone of Archmage Demia. Unsurprisingly, the scores are high here because the establishments cater to the individual’s specific preferences, creating a highly personalised experience for them. It becomes clear that Ishuzoku Reviewers highlights how different people favours different things, and moreover, there’s nothing wrong with this at all. This is ultimately what celebrating diversity boils down to: not everyone likes the same things, with some choices being more appealing to others (such as when Stunk, Zel and Crimvael accept an invitation to go to an egg-laying exhibition but are completely turned off, while Narugami, the fellow who invited them, is having a blast). However, there isn’t a right or wrong answer to what is the “best”, either: the answer to this question is based purely on the individual, and while Ishuzoku Reviewers shows viewers through many visceral moments involving the horizontal tango, the message is clear enough; diversity is a good thing, and differences among individuals notwithstanding, at the end of the day, everyone shares in common the desire for similar things (in Ishuzoku Reviewers, it’s to have a good time). Further to this, that the Interspecies Reviewers themselves all rate highly places that offer a personalised experience speaks volumes to the fact that different people similarly have a preference for being able to tailor things just to their liking.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Like my old Yosuga no Sora post, I’ll remark that papilla mammaria are shown in this post to some extent, so, in the manner of Lemony Snicket, this is a final warning of sorts to press the back button and go read something more agreeable. To bring readers up to speed on things, I do Terrible Anime Challenges to see if my response to an anime matches the reception that the community has expressed towards it. Usually, this entails my watching an anime long after it has finished airing; my schedule doesn’t always allow me to watch shows as they air, and I end up returning to a series once it’s done.

  • This is what happened with Ishuzoku Reviewers, which began airing in January 2020, a busy period: at the time, reports of an unusual new respiratory illness were circulating, and I’d just moved offices as a result of WeWork acquiring most of the floor space in our old building. As the winter set in, I ended up trying Ishuzoku Reviewers out of curiosity. The raunchy content proved amusing, but with Koisuru Asteroid and Magia Record keeping me busy, I put Ishuzoku Reviewers on hold so I could keep up with the other anime and Battlefield V, in turn leading Ishuzoku Reviewers to fall off my radar.

  • Ishuzoku Reviewers initially appears to be the sort of anime that seems quite far removed from the typical shows I watch (according to readers, I’ve developed somewhat of a reputation for writing about moé slice-of-life series), and indeed, when I picked up Ishuzoku Reviewers, I had entered fully anticipating that there wouldn’t be anything noteworthy to say. It is true that writing about what amounts to a group of friends fornicating their way through various types of brothels is about as tricky as it gets, but as I delved further into Ishuzoku Reviewers, I began finding myself more impressed with how well-written this world was.

  • Of the characters in Ishuzoku Reviewers, Crimvael was the most interesting; as an angel possessing male and female genitalia, Crimvael chooses to present as male to prevent people from hitting on them. Pronouns for Crimvael are tricky; on one hand, Crimvael is neither male nor female, but people address Crimvael with male pronouns as a result of their preferences. In this post, I’ve chosen to go with the neutral pronoun for simplicity’s sake. On the topic of pronouns, in Cantonese, 佢 (jyutping keui5) is the only third person singular pronoun, as Chinese has no inflections for gender. Talking about Crimvael would be straightforward, but, if I were I to review Ishuzoku Reviewers in Chinese, I would need to be mindful since written Chinese does have the distinction.

  • This is because radicals (部首, jyutping bou6 sau2) are used to separate characters when writing (whereas in spoken Chinese, context usually assists with meaning). In written Chinese, he/him is 他 and she/her is 她. 祂 is the character used to refer to deities, and Crimvael might count, as they are an angelic being, although a quick look around finds a new symbol for they/them: X也, which is appropriate for Crimvael. Conversely, animals are referred to as 牠, using the radical derived from 牛, the character for “cow”. On cows, Ishuzoku Reviewers did indeed have Stunk and the others hit a minotaur places after the reviewers totally flake on their promise to visit a dæmon place.

  • While I’d expected the minotaur’s assets to score highly, Ishuzoku Reviewers surprised me with the outcome, and it was about here that the anime’s messages became clear. Nothing is sacred in Ishuzoku Reviewers, as every idée fixe imaginable is explored. One episode has Stunk, Zel, Kanchal and Crimvael taking a potion that changes out their sex. After they have a laugh at their bodies, the establishment gives them a chance to see what things are like from another perspective, and similarly to the minotaurs, Ishuzoku Reviewers shows how some things are not what one imagines it to be, acting as a caution for people to be careful of what they wish for. On the other hand, Crimvael becomes blown away by their experience.

  • Indeed, there are several moments in Ishuzoku Reviewers where the reviewers take on more than they can handle: at a lilim establisment, even after being buffed with stamina and resistance bonuses, the reviewers get wiped out by the horde, and here, after collecting volcanic stones for a quest, Stunk and Zel are unable to order the special service from their host because they’d burn to death. On the other hand, Crimvael’s natural resistance to heat allows them to kick things upstairs. Throughout Ishuzoku Reviewers, the once pure and angelic Crimvael slowly becomes corrupted, and despite their objections otherwise, Crimvael’s actions demonstrate this: in one memorable instance, they end up going to a slime brothel on their own without Zel and Stunk.

  • The creativity in Ishuzoku Reviewers was actually quite charming, and when I noted that nothing is sacred in this series, I am not kidding – even fungi are viable candidates for doing the horizontal tango. During their visit, the reviewers find that this particular establishment, despite sounding a little strange, actually does do a phenomenal job for its clients: the receptionist gauges the individual and then suggests something for everyone. Stunk and Zel are immediately assigned a match, and in the end, even Crimvael receives something suited for them. Despite the mushroom establishment being unusual at first glance, everyone ends up having an especially good time in spite of appearances.

  • One aspect that began manifesting was the juxtaposition of doing the deed with an analogous bit of imagery while the characters review their experiences. Doing this sort of thing keeps Ishuzoku Reviewers from being a flat-out hentai series, but it also enhances things by leaving the viewer’s imaginations to run wild. This technique is often used in horror, where violence happens off-screen. These sorts of techniques are successful because everyone’s imaginations work differently, allowing the moment to impact them in their own way. By showing something on screen, this takes away the need for one’s mind’s eye to get to work.

  • This aspect is what Ishuzoku Reviewers suggests as being the most effective; it is after the Golem establishment that Ishuzoku Reviewers indicates to viewers that Stunk and his crew tend to have the best time at places that give them options. When they end up building a phoney version of Meidri and have a blast as a result, it became evident that people tend to rate things better when they can tailor-make something to their liking. This is why things like cosmetics in video games are such a big deal, and why companies offer “build it yourself” options.

  • Ishuzoku Reviewers‘ best moments actually don’t happen at the brothels: my favourite moment was watching Meidri’s delivery of a big-time physical beating to Stunk, Zel, Kanchel and Crimvael after learning that they’d made her. By default, Meidri isn’t one to put up with perversions from Stunk, but she does get along well enough with Crimvael, who works at Ale n’ Eats from time to time. To see Crimvael get trampled shows how some lines shouldn’t be crossed, and although Meidri is beside herself with rage, the episode’s second half has Crimvael back to being on speaking terms with Meidri, although Crimvael is drained after the Ale n’ Eats sees an influx of shadow people.

  • To help Crimvael recharge, Stunk and the others take them to a will-o’-the-whisp place. Although the staff are very friendly, the fact that it’s so bright in here means that nothing can be seen. Through this establishment, one can conclude that intimacy entails all five senses, and that taking away one (sight, in this case), is to diminish the experience. As Ishuzoku Reviewers continued, it became interesting to see what happened to Crimvael: desires of the flesh begin consuming them, and originally, Crimvael had stated their return to Heaven was contingent on their halo healing up. There’s no sign of that happening any time soon, and so, Crimvael increasingly becomes a fallen angel of sorts.

  • Despite clearly revelling in excesses, Ishuzoku Reviewers seems to caution viewers that there is merit in moderation: on a handful of occasions, the reviewers go to places that are a bit more intense than they’d anticipated. To get it out of their system prior to a lengthy quest, the reviewers swing by an actual succubus establishment: from how Ishuzoku Reviewers‘ world works, it is stated that the individuals working at succubus establishments have some succubus lineage in them rather than being a full member of a given species. This in turn makes them much more active than usual, making them suited for “entertaining” clients. While Ishuzoku Reviewers certainly takes things to a new level, the series is by no means the only one to have such a concept.

  • In Konosuba, succubus joints do actually exist, although they are limited to delivering highly realistic dreams for their clients, and unlike Ishuzoku Reviewers, where establishments are presumably legal, the ones from Konosuba operate in a grey area. On the topic of Konosuba, I’ve heard rumours of a third season going around, and I greatly enjoyed the series, having watched it after the health crisis prompted me to work from home. I am wondering what a continuation will entail, although the series’ greatest strength lies in how the characters bounce off one another.

  • One aspect in Ishuzoku Reviewers I found particularly enjoyable was the moment where Stunk and Zel realise that others have taken their review concept and applied it to places elsewhere. Although they consider legal action, after taking some time to think it through, note their concept isn’t particularly novel and in the end, simply enjoy the reviews from others. This moment was particularly relatable, and as a blogger, I myself occasionally have these reactions when learning another blog has covered what I was sure to be an obscure series. For the most part, it’s fun to see what others say, so long as they remain fair about things. Ishuzoku Reviewers also presents a satire of reviewers like myself through the Incubus, whose physiology allows him to find merits in most everything. Granted, such reviewers are actually worthless by default, although if we were to nitpick, I just tend to be more positive about the thing I do pick up, and my criticisms of a work take the form of “things I’d like to see improved” rather than being a tirade against the creators or folks who enjoyed it.

  • Altogether, beneath its vulgar and crass exterior, Ishuzoku Reviewers is actually a surprisingly fun show that capitalises on its outrageous premise to create something that exceeded my initial expectations. In this way, for the Terrible Anime Challenge series, I would count the series as “it was unexpectedly fun”. It appears I’m not the only one: others have praised the anime for daring to go where few have gone, creating humour at every turn, and unabashedly indicating that fun is a matter of perspective in a meaningful way. In short, Ishuzoku Reviewers does deserve the praise it has received. If and when I’m asked, my favourite of the places would probably be the Golem shop, or the Magic Metropolis, precisely because it provides the most customised experiences for the client.

  • Overall, Ishuzoku Reviewers is the sort of anime that does demand an open mind to watch, and no small amount of courage to write about. My decision to go through Ishuzoku Reviewers and write about it would’ve been unthinkable during its airing two years earlier, but in more recent times, after becoming a bit more involved with the community, especially through collaborative posts with Dewbond, I’m more open now than I’d been two years ago. Such posts therefore become more fun to write about, as they allow me to cover topics that I don’t normally cover. Similarly, it was collaboration with Dewbond that eventually led me to wrap up Gundam SEED and even press through Gundam SEED Destiny.

  • In past discussions dating back to 2020, when we’d first done our collaboration on Yosuga no Sora, Dewbond had suggested Fate/Zero as a candidate for collaboration. For this to materialise, I’d have to actually finish the series first, and this year, things have been looking very busy – I’m just barely keeping up with my posting schedule now ahead of the big move next month. Perhaps once things settle down, I’ll have a more concrete idea of where things are, although since Fate/Zero is a two-cour series with twenty-five episodes, I have a feeling that once I get started, momentum will do the rest, and I’ll finish in a timely manner.

  • During the finale, after New Year’s begins, the crew realise that all of their favourite spots are booked solid, but in exchange for having helped bumped up their visitor count, Aloe (receptionist of the Færie place) thanks them by giving them vouchers for an establishment that does dreams. While not the real deal, it does give everyone a chance to start the New Year with their favourite place; this is the moment that brought to mind how Succubus establishments in KonoSuba worked, and also indicates that reviews in Ishuzoku Reviewers are not taken personally: people see a review and may think to themselves that, given what was described, even in a negative review, a place might just be suited for them.

  • Ishuzoku Reviewers thus describes the more positive side of critical reviews, a far cry from how they can be handled in reality; people often see negative reviews as a call to stay away from something rather than a mark of what didn’t work for someone. Negative reviewers in turn utilise this as a chance to keep people away from genres they deem unworthy, in turn creating a culture of gatekeeping. I remark that it is possible for a negative review to be helpful, but this demands good faith from the reviewer. With this, my reflection on Ishuzoku Reviewers draws to a close, and I’ll round things out by remarking again that this series was quite the pleasant surprise.

Beyond a rather hilarious, if roundabout, way of celebrating diversity, Ishuzoku Reviewers also has a surprisingly well-conceptualised world. The series is set in a high fantasy realm, similar to those of an isekai, with Stunk and the others doing things befitting of a typical adventurer like clearing dungeons, completing quests and spending their downtime in their favourite tavern. However, through the brothels, glimpses into this world are provided. There is a dæmon lord, but her leadership boils down to whether or not people will vote for her. Challenges like improving armour effectiveness exist, and there are things that even magic cannot accomplish, prompting Demia’s interest in Crimvael and his unique properties. The world observes unique customs, as seen when Crimvael participates in a New Year’s Eve prayer. Stunk himself comes from nobility, but opted for a life of adventure rather. The world of Ishuzoku Reviewers is surprisingly well-written, conveying a sense that it is thoroughly lived-in: things never feel empty or lonely at any point. It is therefore the case that Ishuzoku Reviewers is one of those situations where judging a book by its cover is inappropriate – although the anime is trashy and lacks a cohesive underlying narrative through and through, it is a surprisingly well-constructed presentation on sex-positivity (which can be abstracted to diversity in general). With a healthy dose of humour, Ishuzoku Reviewers excels in presenting viewers with a world that seems welcoming, even if it is a little perverted. The anime similarly succeeds in one other realm; it is a hilarious satire of reviewers as a whole, and while the Interspecies Reviewers themselves try to be as fair as possible, they are shocked when they learn others have taken their concept and are applying it to reviewing brothels in different areas. Stunk and Zel consider suing until they realise the concept isn’t patented and then consent to enjoy other reviews, bringing to mind how it feels when one reads another blogger writing on their own chosen topics of interest. Similarly, when an Incubus shows up, and demands the Interspecies Reviewers to revise all of their reviews to perfect scores, arguing that he gets the different species in ways the Interspecies Reviewers do not, I do not mind admitting that I am reminded of myself: I tend to score everything highly and view things favourably. Altogether, while Ishuzoku Reviewers is not going to be a revolutionary series, it absolutely succeeds in creating a highly amusing journey that reminds viewers of how different people will have different preferences, and how in spite of this, these differences are less dramatic than one might imagine.

86 EIGHTY-SIX: Review and Reflection Three Past The Halfway Point

“I think it’s a common misconception in the civilian community that the military community is filled with just drills and discipline and pain. They forget that these are humans who are in an abnormal situation.” –Adam Driver

After Shinei and his team disappear past radio contact, Vladilena is relieved of command and assigned to manage a conventional team, but her combat efficiency allows her to continue looking after her charges and provide them with benefits. Meanwhile, Shinei and his team awaken in the Federacy of Giad, where they meet president Ernst Zimmerman and former princess to the Empire of Giad, Frederica Rosenfort. Zimerman wishes to have Shinei and his team adjust to civilian life, but the five are unable to do so as a result of survivor’s guilt, and so, when Zimerman learn that Shinei and his team intend to rejoin the armed forces, reluctantly allow them to do so. Frederica decides to join them: the five have no trouble getting through basic training and are assigned to Leftenant Colonel Grethe Wenzel’s Nordlicht Squadron. Shinei pilots the Reginleif-class spider tank, which is a single-seater derived off the San Magnolia Juggernauts, and despite their performance, Giad forces still sustain heavy casualties, including Eugene, who Shinei had met in the library and is fighting for a better future for his younger sister. Shinei mercy kills him and prepares to turn his attention towards the upcoming battle ahead with the amassing Legion forces. With this, I am now three episodes into 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half, which follows up with the events that saw Vladilena develop a closer bond with Spearhead and attempt to make tangible changes even as San Magnolia continues to lose the war against an unfeeling, autonomous foe. The first season had suggested that systems exist out of convenience to the politicians, and while Vladilena’s efforts had given the Colorata of Spearhead some hope, the harsh reality led to the deaths of everyone, save Shinei, Anju, Raiden, Theoto and Kurena, who managed to survive and begin to yearn for a future beyond the deaths that the San Magnolia armed forces had consigned them to.

However, adjusting to life outside of the battlefield, and the expectation of dying in battle, is not an easy task for Shinei and the others. The very idea of a future seems entirely foreign to them, and while everyone does their best to acclimatise to the fact that they’re now the masters of their own future, guilt and remorse weight heavily on their minds. This outcome is not particularly unusual, and there is substantial evidence to indicate that veterans who leave the armed forces do have a tough time returning to their lives. Pew Research found that aound 27 percent of veterans experienced this difficulty, and moreover, being seriously injured, watching a fellow soldier get injured or killed, and generally experiencing a traumatic event made it tougher to transition back to civilian life. Further to this, soldiers have a very disciplined, rigid life and train extensively for the operations they face, so many veterans report that the relative lack of order and structure means that getting used to how civilians approach problems and work together is completely unlike how people within the military work together. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and 86 EIGHTY-SIX has done a fair job of conveying this: for Shinei, Anju, Raiden, Theoto and Kurena, a lifetime of fighting under the inhumane conditions that San Magnolia had foisted upon them instilled in them a sense of devotion to their duty bordering on fanaticism, and this is most evident once the five’s wishes are granted. When returning to the battlefield, Shinei fights in a suicidal manner, putting his assignment above his personal safety, and his machine’s capabilities – at this point in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, it is evident that Shinei, Anju, Raiden, Theoto and Kurena have lingering hurdles in their life, and while they see a return to the battlefield as their solution, I imagine that a part of 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half will be having these five find their peace.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Since the events of 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s first half, Vladilena has adopted a darker uniform and given her hair a red streak to signify the losses Spearhead had taken. While her actions have garnered the respect of some of her colleagues, on the whole, Vladilena’s vocal defense of the Colorata have made her highly unpopular amongst command, and it is only by virtue of her bloodline that she’s allowed to continue working, albeit on less prestigious assignments.

  • I’m not going to count 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half a second season and continue to refer to the series as a whole on the virtue of episode numbering: the first episode of this second half starts at twelve. It feels like 86 EIGHTY-SIX would’ve done better as an uninterrupted twenty-four episode series, but such productions are less common nowadays because TV networks no longer put up large sums of money to produce a show with the expectation of selling products by using said anime as a promotional means. These days, most anime tend to air during off-hours, and because there is no guarantee that longer shows can succeed, anime producers will produce shorter seasons, see how they perform and determine whether or not it is worth continuing.

  • Some anime do end up with a new season announced immediately after the first ends; in the case of 86 EIGHTY-SIX and Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, I imagine that the studios split production up so they would be able to work on other series. From a business and production standpoint, there are practical reasons for taking this route. For us viewers, this isn’t of too much consequence, save the fact that one might forget what happened in the past season. The remedy for this is simple enough: reading up on things as a refresher, or if time allows, rewatching the earlier works anew.

  • For 86 EIGHTY-SIX, the fact that the first half had aired earlier this year meant that I still had a reasonable idea of what happened earlier: Shinei and his team have disappeared beyond San Magnolia’s borders, leaving Vladilena to sort things out on her own, and end up coming upon a Legion army near the Federacy of Giad. I imagine that in between, they engaged in combat but were overrun, then saved by Giad’s armed forces. Once they’ve had a chance to recuperate, the interim president, Ernest Zimmerman, introduces himself, and explains that he’s taken an interest in ensuring these five can lead normal lives as citizens of Giad.

  • While 86 EIGHTY-SIX has all of the elements for an all-business story about warfare and its consequences, the biggest piece that stands out is the fact that there are whimsical moments, such as Vladilena melting in happiness when eating a pudding made from real ingredients, or here in the second half, when Shinei and the others meet Frederica for the first time. Her initial manner is that of a spoiled child who is concerned with little more than having a good time in life. This is initially meant to drop the viewer’s guard: the little sister archetype is a familiar one in anime, and these seemingly-bratty characters do have a charm about them.

  • Much as how Shinei and the others struggle to adjust to their new lives in Giad, the change in pacing in 86 EIGHTY-SIX was noticeable, and the anime does a fantastic job of conveying to viewers how unaccustomed to things the five are. It feels strange to see Shinei and the others outside of their Juggernauts and uniforms, without their distinct Para-RAID devices on their ears; Giad surgeons have removed the devices, creating a strange sense of freedom that Theoto cannot get used to; during a conversation with Anju, Theoto complains vocally about how mobile phones are inconvenient even if they do offer a modicum of privacy compared to the Para-RAID.

  • 86 EIGHTY-SIX capitalises on this time to show what life in Giad is like: there are cooking classes, Christmas markets and boutique clothing stores that Kurena takes an interest in. In many ways, Giad is more similar to the world that we know, and by comparison, San Magnolia feels even more backwater as a result. Seeing all of the activity in Giad suggested to me that this nation was one that had learned from its predecessor’s mistakes, and looking around at the citizens, there is a diverse range of people sporting different appearances, unlike the homogenous makeup in San Magnolia.

  • While the combination of diversity and the fact that their armed forces is a professional one would indicate that their society is better equipped for dealing with the Legion, Giad is by no means a perfect nation. Here, Shinei meets Eugene, a young man close to him in age who has aspirations to join the army so that his younger sister can be afforded an education. Conversations such as these underline social issues in Giad, such as social stratification; one would imagine that since Giad formed from the remains of its old empire, former nobles are the ruling class, and while the country has transitioned over to a more democratic systems, old systems endure.

  • As such, Eugene struggles to make ends meet and believes that joining the army would allow him to earn enough funds to send back home. This is a world that Frederica isn’t terribly familiar with, and out of the blue, she appears in front of Shinei. The two end up visiting a Christmas Market in town, where Frederica pulls some stunts in a bid to convince Shinei to buy something for her. Although Shinei wonders where Frederica would pick up something like this, he buys her the stuffed bear that she’d been eying, a reminder that despite his past, Shinei retains his humanity.

  • The presence of a Christmas Market, coupled with the nation’s history and the eagle motif on their flag suggest that Giad is probably modelled after Germany: anime is particularly fond of incorporating German elements into their stories because of Germany’s lengthy historical connections with Japan. The military discipline and organisation of the Meiji Restoration was in part, inspired by Prussian approaches, and even today, there are aspects of Japanese culture that overlap with German culture, such as the belief in punctuality, politeness and respect for formalities.

  • While Giad might have Germanic elements, aspects of Japanese culture inevitably return: one evening, Shinei and the others are late in returning to Zimmerman’s palatial home, and Raiden is the first to run into Frederica, who’s feeling uncomfortably hungry. Raiden decides to whip up an omelette for her in the shape of the Japanese omurice, and upon tasting it, her spirits immediately return to her. Although such everyday experiences are doubtlessly comforting and a far cry from the battlefield, Shinei and the others are uncomfortable with spending their days this way and decide to rejoin the armed forces.

  • Zimmerman is initially reluctant to allow them this, feeling that the five had seen more than their share of combat. However, when Frederica finally reveals that she’s the former princess to the Empire and explains that she has the power to delve into someone’s mind and see their past, Zimmerman eventually relents, although he does ask the five to take on the training needed to become officers, as this would allow them more opportunity to reintegrate with society once their duties ended.

  • While doing a training exercise, several overly-enthusiastic recruits pilot their spider-tank over the hill but slips off, nearly colliding with Shinei’s unit. Shinei manages to evade but blows out his unit’s actuator in the process. The drill sergeant overseeing the exercise admits that Shinei had a point, but concludes his decision was still reckless. While Shinei is accustomed to being treated as expendable by the San Magnolia military, Giad clearly views its soldiers as people, and the design of their spider-tanks more closely resemble present-day MBTs, indicating that they were designed with survivability in mind.

  • Grethe Wenzel ends up taking Shinei and the members of the newly-minted Nordlicht squadron out to a memorial in a field where Spearhead had made their final stand earlier. It’s a little early to be passing judgement, but it does look like that despite their predecessors manufacturing the Legion, the present-day Giad holds human life in a much higher regard than the Empire (and considerably more than San Magnolia). This is an encouraging sign so far, although a part of me wonders if Giad might end up betraying Shinei and the others despite doing so much for them now.

  • It turns out that Giad had managed to recover items of personal significance to Shinei, including his service pistol and even FIDO, the autonomous support robot that had accompanied Spearhead throughout 86 EIGHT-SIX‘s first half. Frederica proudly announces that Giad retrieved FIDO’s main CPU and was able to rebuild it entirely, returning Spearhead’s companion back to life with all-new parts for increased performance and durability. This completely diminishes FIDO’s “death” back during the first half, but on the flipside, having an additional asset could be the difference between life and death.

  • While Shinei and the others don’t play well with Giad’s main tank, the Vánagandr, the experimental Reginleif is right up their alley, being a high-mobility single-seater capable of much greater speeds than the Vánagandr, at the expense of firepower and armour (the Vánagandr possesses a 120 mm smoothbore cannon and a pair of .50-calibre MGs, while Reginleifs equip a smaller 88 mm gun). Despite the tradeoffs the Reginleifsd make, they are still superior to the Juggernauts that San Magnolia field in every way, possessing improved survivability and mobility. On their first engagement together, Shinei manages to save Eugene’s Vánagandr from destruction.

  • Frederica ends up joining Nordlicht as a mascot, an individual tasked with bolstering morale amongst the soldiers. When she joins Eugene and Shinei for lunch in the mess hall, she struggles to finish her shimeji mushrooms: on one hand, she’s clearly not fond of them, but at the same time, she knows how much effort goes into food production. Shinei takes them off her hands but asks that she at least try one to help her grow: the moment does result in a few funny faces from Frederica, and I suddenly recall that of everyone in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, Vladilena probably had the most funny faces when she had screentime.

  • While Vladilena might not have had much screen time insofar, it is not lost on me that Eugene’s appearance evokes memories of both Vladilena and Shinei’s older brother. Here, the pair share a conversation, and for me, such conversations have always been foreshadowing of death. Indeed, once their next battle begins, Eugene is mortally wounded and asks Shinei to let him look at a photo of his sister one more time before he dies. Shinei subsequently shoots Eugene in the head to prevent him from being assimilated into the Legion, and while another soldier who’d been disapproving of Shinei earlier objects to this, an officer thanks Shinei for doing the thankless job.

  • The path that Shinei, Raiden, Kurena, Theoto and Anju go down will doubtlessly be a trying one, and I therefore look forwards to seeing where Vladilena comes back into play. At the time of writing, I’m an episode behind (and once the sixteenth episode airs later today, I’ll be two episodes behind): it was a bit of a difficult decision as to whether or not I would be writing about 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half early on, especially when the first few episodes were a bit slower, but once Shinei and the Nordlicht begin combat operations, the series immediately picked up again.

  • The main mindset I have going into the remainder of 86 EIGHTY-SIX is that in this series, the sharp contrast between the lighthearted moments and brutality of warfare means that one can never be too blasé about what’s happening because things can always unfold in unfortunate ways. While it is the case that 86 EIGHTY-SIX does offer a lot to consider, at the end of the day, I’ve never found it to be too meaningful in trying to discuss things like morality and the like when a series is still ongoing. As such, I will be returning to write about 86 EIGHTY-SIX next once the whole series is in the books, and I’ve got a stronger measure of whether or not the story succeeded in conveying its message.

86 EIGHTY-SIX is proving to be a compelling one insofar: although its subject matter touches on the nature of warfare, handling of issues like racism and issues pertaining to things like PTSD, the series also spent enough time building up their world so that there is reason for viewers to continue watching. Up until now, we’d only seen San Magnolia’s central districts and the outlying areas where the Colorata engage the Legion, so to see an entirely new setting in Giad gives viewers a chance to see what became of the world outside of San Magnolia – while the former Empire appears to be more of a democracy now, resembling the contemporary world, it is still a nation in transition, and one where the government is attempting to sort out the problems their predecessors had created and, at the same time, continuing to ensure that their citizens are able to live peacefully. The most notable contrast between Giad and San Magnolia is the fact that Giad’s armed forces appears to be professionally staffed, and this is reflected in their war machines, which are built with survivability and safety in mind. Shinei, Anju, Raiden, Theoto and Kurena have grown accustomed to their mistreatment at the Alba’s hands, so it is understandable that things in Giad do seem a bit odd to them, and following how the five familiarise themselves with practises more consistent with those of modern nations will be interesting. Similarly, the introduction of former princess Frederica Rosenfort and the revelation that she can peer into the pasts of those around her adds another layer of mystery to the sort of technology that exists in this universe. With the way 86 EIGHTY-SIX is set up, there is the possibility that the series is doing more than it has time for, but for the present, all eyes are on Vladilena, who’s been noticeably absent from the proceedings.