The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime: First Impressions

RPG Real Estate: Review and Reflection 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.

PuraOre! Pride of Orange: Review and Impressions After Three

Me work hard five days a week, sweeping garbage from the street
Come home not want book to read, not ’nuff pictures for me see
Sit right down in favourite chair, wearing only underwear
Favourite night is Saturday night, ’cause me can watch hockey fights
Me Like Hockey!

–Arrogant Worms, Me Like Hockey

When the Crochet Club’s members, Manaka, Ayaka, Mami and Kaoruko learn of ice hockey lessons being held at the local arena, they decide to check it out. They are surprised that their instructor, Yōko, seems to be tasking them with dance moves as well, but when they get onto the ice, they are impressed with how exciting the experience is. Along the way, Manaka, Ayaka, Mami and Kaoruko meet Riko and Naomi, two former ice hockey players who are getting back into things at Riko’s insistence. After a thrilling first class, Manaka and her friends decide to come back, and the next weekend, after helping with a filming session at the Mizusawa’s ryōkan, the TV crew swing by the arena, as well. However, Mami is a little disheartened after their second session: she’s transferring away during the next term. Once her friends learn of this, Manaka suggests that they give Mami one final parting gift, in the form of a hockey game against a local team. After training for this day, Manaka and her team are annihilated 9-1 (Manaka manages to score in the game’s final moments), but have a great time. On the day of Mami’s departure, everyone sees her off, and although Manaka is noticeably absent, she ends up riding out to bid Mami a farewell. This is PuraOre! Pride of Orange (PuraOre! from here on out for brevity): this anime comes as a bit of a pleasant surprise for hockey fans, presenting an introduction to the sport of ice hockey, which is a minor sport in Japan compared to baseball and soccer. PuraOre! is produced by CAAnimation and C2C; the latter had been involved with Hitori Bocchi and Harukana Receive, both of which were solid series from a technical standpoint. In particular, Harukana Receive had been particularly good with its art and animation throughout the series, and this sets a positive precedence for the hockey that viewers will see as PuraOre! continues. However, for the time being, despite being a hockey anime, PuraOre! has placed more emphasis on character growth as opposed to the sport itself.

The approach in PuraOre! is appropriate for viewers who are newer to hockey: much as series like K-On!, Yama no Susume, Yuru Camp△, Koisuru Asteroid and Houkago Teibou Nisshi had done before, PuraOre! has elected to set the table and establish the friendship between Manaka, Ayaka, Mami and Kaoruko, as well as the fact that Naomi and Riko had previously played ice hockey. This is a deliberate choice to allow viewers the chance to see how their stories began, and show how everyone is off the ice. For hockey fans familiar with things like the National Hockey League or Team Canada, PuraOre! is going to come across as being very slowly-paced, to the point of raising the question of whether or not this is an anime about ice hockey, or an anime with ice hockey as an aside: compared to the fast-paced plays of the NHL, or the unrivaled joy of watching Canadian teams take home gold on the world stage, PuraOre! portrays a group and their humble beginnings. Manaka and her friends can skate, but this is about the extent of their experience on the ice, and in their first game against another team, Manaka and her teammates barely even skate to create openings. Seeing things begin at the very beginning means accepting, and embracing the fact that Manaka and her friends aren’t going to have any special plays, will fan on shots and miscommunicate: this is actually a part of PuraOre!‘s charm, since it gives newcomers a chance to pick up ice hockey’s rules and terminology. While I’m somewhat familiar with ice hockey, having become a fan ever since Jerome Iginla and the Calgary Flames went on a spectacular Stanley Cup run during the 2003-2004 season, it is understandable that PuraOre! is progressing so slowly: Harukana Receive had done the same thing by introducing viewers to beach volleyball with Haruka and Kanata playing against Narumi and Ayasa, before introducing new characters to help them improve as players. PuraOre! is set on a similar trajectory, and with Yū Kiyose joining Manaka and the others, things are also looking to pick up.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Japan’s women’s national ice hockey team is the team that represents them at all international events, and in the IIHF, they are currently ranked sixth: ice hockey might be a minor sport in Japan, but their team still plays solid hockey. With this being said, the choice to show Manaka and the Dream Monkeys beating Team Canada is a bit of symbolism: Canada is known for ice hockey and for producing some of the greatest players around (e.g. Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid come to mind), so to see Japan overcoming Canada in a game was PuraOre!‘s way of showing how far Manaka and her team had come.

  • When PuraOre! began, I wondered if this would be a series that I could blog in an episodic fashion. After the first episode concluded, it felt more appropriate to write for this series in my usual manner: episodic posting is quite demanding when done correctly, and requires a blogger to continuously piece together where a series is going while keeping the big picture in mind. For me, unless a series is one I’m inherently familiar with or consistently offers new material to consider, I find it’s much better to write about things periodically.

  • A large portion of the first episode is spent in the crochet club’s room, but once Manaka and her friends hit the local arena, the hockey piece to PuraOre! begins. Manaka’s expression says it all here, and so far, her personality traits are an amalgamation of K-On!‘s Yui, GochiUsa‘s Cocoa and Koisuru Asteroid‘s Mira: she’s endlessly cheerful and optimistic. Conversely, her younger sister, Ayaka, is similar to Azusa and Chino. Familiar archetypes are often a problem for folks, but I’ve long held that this is to the anime’s advantage: rather than worrying about setting up individual characters, it frees up writers to focus on interpersonal dynamics and storytelling.

  • The Dream Monkey’s mascot greets Manaka and her friends upon their arrival, and Yōko also introduces herself. Yōko is a bit of a boisterous and dramatic individual, bringing to mind Wake Up, Girls‘ very own Junko Tange. However, whereas Junko is voiced by Noriko Hidaka, Yōko is voiced by Mikako Komatsu (Jan from Tari Tari, Miuna of Nagi no Asukara, The Aquatope on White Sand‘s Kaoru, Saki from Girls und Panzer and Momoko from Magia Record). The younger girls are all played by newer voice actresses that I’m not terribly familiar with. On the topic of mascots, if and when I’m asked, Harvey the Hound is my favourite NHL mascot bar none.

  • Once introductions are done, the girls get to their first session. Here, Yōko starts the class with stretching drills, which are almost immediately spotted as being dance moves in all but name, hinting at the fact that there is more to their version of ice hockey than putting pucks on net and teamwork. After stretching concludes, it’s time for the main event: Manaka and the others head off to get changed for their first experience on ice.

  • Unlike Manaka and her friends, Riko (left) and Naomi (right) have prior hockey experience, so being here is a return to the ice for them. The others marvel at the equipment, and Yōko’s assistant, Sō, remarks that while hockey is a very physical sport, body checking is prohibited under their rules. Generally speaking, a check is a technique for separating an opposing player from the puck, and while the NHL allows for body checks on players with the puck, under IIHF rules for women’s hockey, such a hit is illegal and would be punished by a minor penalty. Instead, there are other modes (e.g. poke checks and stick checks) which are used to interfere with the opponent’s possession.

  • For now, checking is above the girls’ skill levels: their initial exercise is to get a feel for skating around on the ice. Fortunately, PuraOre! establishes that everyone’s taken skating lessons previously and are therefore able to move around on the ice without problem. This takes away the need to train everyone from zero and allows the story to push forward a little more quickly. Harukana Receive had done something similar: while Haruka is a novice in beach volleyball, she is very athletic and is familiar with volleyball, allowing her to pick things up more smoothly.

  • Once the basics are in place, Yōko sets the girls up with their sticks so they can begin passing drills. The experience excites and impresses Manaka, who’s smitten with ice hockey and becomes enthusiastic to continue on with the lessons, which happen weekly. Back at the Crochet Club, Manaka can be seen perusing a book on ice hockey when the others are doing club activities. The sharp contrast between the two activities is likely a visual means of conveying to viewers how far Manaka and the others have to go before they’re ready to play at a more competitive level.

  • As it turns out, after Naomi lost interest and switched over to figure skating, Riko followed suit, feeling that she wouldn’t be able to continue on her own. This is probably a sign that despite her cheerful demenour, Riko is the sort of individual who isn’t very confident and worries about losing people around her. It’s certainly not a fair assessment to belittle Riko for it, as some have chosen to do: the characters of PuraOre! are middle school students, a time when social interactions are very important. I am of the mind that, especially as viewers with a bit more life experience, it would actually be quite immature to judge anime characters for the decisions that they make.

  • Instead, my approach towards a given anime is to make an honest attempt at understanding why characters make the decisions that they do, and determine how this fits into the overall themes. Complaining about minutiae, especially this early in the game, contributes nothing to discussions. Here, Manaka and her friends prepare to introduce the TV crew to the family ryōkan. The shoot goes very well, and the TV crew even agree to go check out the local arena when the girls head for practise. Yōko is thrilled with this, and despite her antics, she does offer some inspiring words on what makes ice hockey worthwhile.

  • However, things quickly go south when Mami reveals she’s set to transfer away, leaving Manaka devastated. Something similar had happened in Koisuru Asteroid, although there, Ao ended up managing to negotiate an alternate arrangement that allowed her to stay with Mira. Conversely, in PuraOre!, Mami’s departure is inevitable, and once the initial shock wears off, Manaka, Ayaka and Kaoruko decide that Mami should spend one more memorable moment with everyone: playing their first-ever match against another team.

  • Meanwhile, Riko manages to convince Naomi to pick up ice hockey anew by treating her to sweets at the local confectionary store. Insofar, while bits and pieces of her and Riko’s story have been presented, I imagine that there is more to things. Traditionally, anime present the idea that it is only be through being forward about one’s feelings that certain conflicts are resolved, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if those elements return later. For now, Riko’s managed to get Naomi back into things, enough to allow Manaka and her group the requisite number of players to have a training match against another team.

  • With Manaka, Ayaka, Kaoruko, Riko, Naomi and Mami, there’s enough people for Yōko to begin assigning positions. She’s just as excited about the match as the girls are, but for Yōko, being able to revive interest in ice hockey and promote the sport in her own manner seems to be her goal. In the end, Kaoruko becomes the goaltender, Mami and Manaka play as wingers (offensive players who score goals or make plays that lead to goals), and Ayaka and Naomi take defensive positions. With her experience, Riko is assigned the centre, who can cover more ice than the left or right wing and create plays by passing: in fact, a centre is more defense oriented than the wingers because of their flexibility.

  • While visiting the ryōkan with Naomi and Riko, Manaka remarks that making memories is what their main goal is now: while everyone’s been training for their first matchup, their main concern is to create something noteworthy for Mami before she leaves. Here, Naomi also reveals that despite her quiet disposition, she’s also got a fondness for manga, and immediately opens up when she spots that the ryōkan has her favourite series on hand. Naomi is rather similar to Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Mimori Tōgō in this regard; both are taciturn and serious, but when the topic of their interest is brought up, they light up like a Christmas tree.

  • Ahead of their inaugural game, Ayaka and Mami unveil a banner for the Dream Monkeys. This first match is strictly a practise round, and I am reminded of Girls und Panzer, where Miho and her team have a practise match against Darjeeling and the St. Gloriana Academy. However, whereas Girls und Panzer eventually gave Miho an ironclad reason to fight for her school, and Harukana Receive is about Kanata picking herself back up and facing off against her former partner at the nationals to show she found her way, it remains to be seen whether or not PuraOre! will do the same: Manaka and her friends aren’t playing for keeps right now, so it will be interesting to see whether the stakes increase later on.

  • For a training match, the usual rules of hockey are modified: periods are shortened to ten minutes, although since Manaka’s group only has six players in total, they must play for the whole of the period without stoppage. Normally, teams are composed of a minimum of twenty players and no more than twenty-three, with at least two goaltenders. This is to allow players to play in shifts: owing to the high intensity in hockey, players will play for an average of 47 seconds before returning to the bench. For this match, the lack of additional players mean that Manaka’s team was fated to lose.

  • After the opening faceoff, the other team immediately sets about burying Manaka’s team, scoring several goals in rapid succession. Whether it was a limitation in the animation or inexperience from Manaka’s team, it appears they’re standing still. Because hockey is a high-paced sport about positioning and movement, players must skate in order to continue tracking the puck and make plays. When players stand still, this creates no such opportunity. There are cases where one should hold a position (e.g. when playing defensively during a short-handed situation), but at this point, PuraOre! has not reached that point.

  • The end result of pitting a moderately experienced group against novices results in what is colloquially referred to as a a “blowout”. There is no standardised definition for what makes a blowout, but in the NHL, the largest such game occurred in 1944 when the Detroit Red Wings buried the New York Rangers 15-0. The Calgary Flames’ worst loss occurred against the Vancouver Canucks in 1992, where we were handed a 11-0 defeat. For Manaka and the others, the overwhelming difference is demoralising, but towards the end of the game, Manaka trips after scoring on the rebound, marking her first goal in any match of the season.

  • The other team remarks that seeing Manaka and others in fine spirits after playing their first game was a little surreal, and this gives Mami one final happy memory of everyone together before she moves. On the day of, everyone’s come to see her off, although Manaka is noticeably absent from the proceedings. Manaka and Mami’s departure is a dramatic one, with the former showing up right as the train pulls away from the station.

  • Given the nature of anime, I am guessing that Mami and Manaka will end up playing one another at some point in PuraOre!: playing against former teammates can be emotionally charged, and I am reminded of the time when then-captain Mark Giordano almost got into a fight with former Calgary Flame Jerome Iginla during one game back in 2017. Being an anime, hockey fights are decisively off the table, but having Mami and Manaka playing against one another could really fire the two up in ways they’d not imagined. For now, a new player, Yū, will join the team and take Mami’s place: it’ll take a little bit of time for her to acclimatise to Manaka, Ayaka and Kaoruko, but I expect that once she settles in, the team will really be able to begin exploring new directions. In the meantime, since the 2021-2022 NHL season is live, I look forwards to seeing how the Flames perform.

One other aspect of note is that PuraOre! plainly written for a Japanese market: during the game shown in the series’ very opening, Manaka and the Dream Monkeys manage to score a game-winning goal against a Canadian team with mere seconds on the clock, and then in their victory celebration, they give an idol-like performance on-ice. Firstly, Canadian teams consistently beaten Japan whenever they play. Secondly, while goals are possible in a game’s dying moments, in a tie game, players will often adopt a more defensive approach and allow the clock to wind down: a sudden-death overtime setup would’ve made the moment more exciting. Finally, I’ve certainly never seen anything like this in any NHL or international game before, and this aspect was, more than likely, meant to help PuraOre! sell image albums. The approach seems a little gratuitous, but previously, Uma Musume had employed a similar approach with the horse girls and also managed to engage me with the sport of horse racing. One can’t fault PuraOre! in taking this route: most Japanese viewers aren’t likely to be as familiar with ice hockey as viewers over here, and PuraOre! does feel like it is intended to accommodate folks who are new to hockey in its earlier episodes. However, as with Uma Musume and Harukana Receive before it, once the basics are done, PuraOre! has plenty of opportunity to engage and excite viewers with its story of Manaka and her friends’ journey through ice hockey, as well as increasingly sophisticated plays and deepening feelings of camaraderie as everyone gets to know one another better. As it stands, I’m rather excited to see where PuraOre! ends up, and I will note that as a Flames fan, I will be making references to my favourite team when I continue on with this series. For now, I intend to return once the whole of PuraOre! is in the books, but if the series continues to offer a great deal of hockey to talk about, I could see myself returning periodically to offer my thoughts on things.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu and An Unexpected Road to Friendship

“Don’t make friends who are comfortable to be with. Make friends who will force you to lever yourself up.” –Thomas J. Watson

When Bocchi graduates from primary school and enters middle school, her best friend, Kai, determines that they shan’t be friends again until the shy and withdrawn Bocchi can befriend everyone in her new class. This seems an insurmountable mountain to climb for Bocchi, who cannot even speak to strangers without getting the dry heaves. On her first day of class at middle school, she manages to strike up a conversation with Nako, who comes to care for Bocchi. Over time, Bocchi ends up befriending the vice representative, Aru, and the foreign student, Sotoka. While Bocchi finds herself unable to convince Kako to hang out with her, she gradually becomes more familiar with her classmates, and so, enters her second year of middle school with a bit more confidence. This is Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu (alternatively, Hitori Bocchi no ○○ Seikatsu, or The Life of Being Alone), a Manga Time Kirara adaptation that aired during the spring 2019 season. While I did have plans to watch Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu, procrastination caused me to sit on this for months, and then years. Fortunately, with a bit of open time now that my schedule’s settled down, I’ve decided it was time to give Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu a go, and for my time, I was met with an anime that is adorable, telling a whimsical and honest story about how friendship comes about. The premise and setup in Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu appears trite at first glance. Bocchi brings to mind Azumanga Daioh‘s Osaka, while Nako is not dissimilar to Yuyushiki‘s Yui. Likewise, Sotoka is Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen. Familiar character archetypes in a purely school setting sets the stage for familiar antics and experiences. However, this is only what the premise conveys; in practise, Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu does a fantastic job of having the characters bounce off one another with their eccentricities, and in the end, contrary to the initial impressions the anime might suggest, the final result is a very rewarding one.

The goal Kai sets for Bocchi is one that appears unbeatable; befriending every last person in class is something that most folks typically won’t consider, since it implies forming a larger social circle than is typical of people of that age group, and indeed, even the folks considered popular usually do not make aquaintances of everyone in their class. Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu chooses to show how this Herculean task has humble beginnings: Bocchi starts out by talking to Nako, and while Nako may appear to be harsh, she’s actually considerate, taking the time to look after Bocchi and patiently walks Bocchi through her troubles. Bocchi herself is friendly, despite being shy, and as Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu progresses, it is clear that Bocchi could succeed in her task; she’s pursuing interpersonal connections to those around her for the sake of getting to know others better, and this falls under the realm of likeability. It is generally stated that popularity is built around likeability and social status. The former refers to how well one gets along with others, and how well others trusts one. Someone who builds relationships around this aspect will be inclined to listen to others. Social status, on the other hand, refers to envy (or admiration) for others. While building relationships around status gives the impression of success, it also entails being controlling, dismissive and unkind: I recall the cliques in high school, during which the popular students were centred around a handful of likeable individuals for clout. While the people at the centre of these cliques were respectable and reasonably kind to those around them, the followers were considerably less so; people who build relationships around status tend to find it difficult to maintain meaningful connections to others, but fortunately, in Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu, Bocchi is not doing anything for status: she genuinely wishes for solid connections to those around her, and while the anime has her definitively friends with Nako, Aru and Sotoka, by the season’s end, she’s beginning to get along with more people in her class, as well: Bocchi’s definitely acting in a likeable manner, and those whom she befriends will likely stick around.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When Bocchi’s journey begins, she starts out with zero friends and only the vaguest idea of how to communicate with people: Bocchi figures it’s a good idea to employ some unorthodox strategies, but these all end up backfiring. Without any outs, Bocchi is forced to introduce herself to others, and while Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu suggests that she’s vomiting out of stress, the reactions of those around her suggest that Bocchi is dry heaving rather than vomiting; no shirts are ruined, and no custodians are called in to clean up the associated mess.

  • It is the case that stress and anxiety can induce dry heaves, so this aspect of Bocchi’s character is not particularly unrealistic or implausible, even if Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu does exaggerate its characters’ traits. After summoning the courage to speak with Nako, Bocchi ends up befriending Aru, as well. One of the most pleasant side effects of Bocchi’s attempts to get to know everyone better means that those around Bocchi also end up becoming friends; Nako and Aru most certainly do not get along, but initially set aside their differences for Bocchi’s sake. Over time, the pair get a long better, although Nako remains fond of pressing Aru’s buttons late into the series (all in good fun, of course).

  • While Aru is occasionally busy with club activities, Nako has more time on her hands, and one weekend, decides to swing by Bocchi’s place. Bocchi’s idiosyncrasies are a little unusual, as evidenced when she wears a full bear costume while hosting Nako. Nako seems to take everything in stride, and while some of Bocchi’s antics are exasperating, Nako also comes to appreciate that at heart, Bocchi is kind and capable: she just needs a little push to be on her way: she’s voiced by Chisaki Morishita, whose roles in other anime are ones I’m not familiar with. Conversely, Minami Tanaka plays Nako, and I know her from Wake Up, Girls (Minami Katayama), Hanayamata (Hana N. Fountainstand) and Yakunara Mug Cup Mo (Himeno Toyokawa).

  • Sotoka is the classic foreign student with a very curious understanding of Japanese culture: like Karen from Kiniro Mosaic, Sotoka makes certain assumptions, leading her to view Bocchi as a ninjutsu expert of sorts. This misunderstanding lingers throughout much of Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu, but initially, the unusual dynamic between Bocchi and Sotoka also means that Bocchi also has the chance to hang out with one more person: Sotoka is fond of learning ninjutsu, and while Bocchi is no ninja, she does pass along some curious skills to Sotoka, including origami.

  • One cannot help but feel bad for Aru (Akari Kitō, Kaho Hinata from Blend S and Harukana Receive‘s Ai Tanahara): despite her attempts to maintain a confident and successful air about her, she’s also said to be “unfortunate”, which really gets on her nerves (to the point where she flies at Nako whenever Nako pokes fun at her). While 残念 (Hepburn zannen) corresponds to “unlucky”, Aru’s circumstance is probably better described as a “loser”: she somehow manages to kit herself out in a grade schooler’s uniform and resorts to increasingly desperate measures to conceal this. While it works on a few people, Nako sees right through things, forcing Aru to go home and change.

  • The characters’ names are all puns on their leading trait. Bocchi’s full name, Hitori Bocchi, means “alone”, Sunao Nako is a play on the phrase “honest child”, Honshō Aru is “true nature” and Rakita Sotoka is a pun on “outsider”. Some folks had a tough time working out why everyone’s names were puns and how this related to Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu‘s main themes; this is, fortunately, a simple enough exercise. Everyone is named after their defining characteristics, and their name thus gives insight as to their circumstances. The variety of situations, when placed together, creates a rather colourful set of experiences for everyone, showing how friendships can form among the most disparate of individuals.

  • If and when I’m asked, Aru is my favourite character: her cheerful personality and efforts to overcome adversity, especially in light of her poor luck, is admirable. It suddenly strikes me that the misfortune that Aru experiences is relatively minor (usually, losing bets or similar); when it comes down to the wire, Aru is helpful and supportive of those around her. The traits surrounding each character’s namesake are not debilitating in any way, and a major part of the charm in Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu is the fact that none of the characters suffer unnecessarily.

  • I’ve never been fond of series where a given character is made the in-show punching bag, and Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu mitigates this by having the characters be supportive of one another. Here, Bocchi recoils at a karaoke session. What happens next shows the extent of Kai’s desire to see Bocchi reach her goal: the pair meet at the same karaoke bar, but Kai adamantly refuses to even acknowledge Bocchi, causing Bocchi no small amount of distress. It turns out this was just as hard on Kai as it was for Bocchi, and fortunately, Bocchi’s small circle of friends do end up supporting her.

  • In this way, it is clear that Bocchi’s journey forward is about how well she can overcome whatever setbacks she may face; with everyone in her corner, Bocchi’s journey is no longer one she must undertake herself. This moment, of Sotoka carrying Bocchi, demonstrates the sort of artwork present in Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu – from a technical standpoint, the anime is middle-of-the-road, offering smooth animation and consistent artwork. Where the anime stands out is how the voice actresses play their part to bring their characters to life.

  • Kako is probably the toughest challenge for Bocchi: unlike Bocchi, who wishes to further herself by building up new connections, Kako is the polar opposite and believes that the best way ahead is to be independent, relying on no one. This is why Kako refuses to be friends with Bocchi: it’s got nothing to do with any shortcomings on Bocchi’s part, but rather, the personal code that Kako has set for herself. While this is unusual (no-one is an island, after all), it means that Kako is the perfect foil for Bocchi.

  • Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu does an excellent job of showing how being likeable (exhibiting politeness, empathy and a willingness to listen) is more important in maintaining good interpersonal relationships than status alone. In popularity, likeability and status are the two leading factors; the latter entails traits that make one appear more respectable or impressive, requiring one keep up appearances all the time. While Aru is prone to doing precisely this, I like her character precisely because she shows her true self around Bocchi and the others.

  • However, Aru’s desire to be seen as doing alright often means she will go out of her way to help others. Altogether, being more honest about herself and doing good will likely result in Aru learning to accept herself while, at the same time, continuing to do right by those around her. When Bocchi messes up during a home economics class, Aru steps in to help Bocchi: this action is seen by others as a sign of how well-adjusted Aru is, but she’s primarily helping out because she wants Bocchi to be happy, as well. The sum of these actions help two of Bocchi’s teammates, Peko and Ito, become friends with her later on.

  • While Kako might refuse to count herself as a friend to Bocchi and her crew, this doesn’t stop her from agreeing to team up with Bocchi on a class trip. It’s clear that of the two facets of popularity, Bocchi (and Nako) are spurred on by likeability: they do the things that make them more approachable to others. Looking back, I always approached friendship from the likeability side, and I’ve always preferred maintaining a small group of close friends, with whom I could confide in about various matters, as opposed to having a much larger social circle.

  • When I entered university out of high school, I ended up following a very similar route that Bocchi took: I made friends with exactly one of my classmates during orientation, and as term wore on, and there was a chance to work with different people, our social circles grew. One of the topics we took, Christopher Boorse’s Health as a Theoretical Concept, galvinised the entire class into working together, and after my first year ended, while I couldn’t say I was friends with every one of my classmates, I could say that I became acquainted with everyone to the point where we could talk about both coursework and other matters. I’m not sure this satisfies Kai’s expectations for Bocchi, but being on good terms with my entire graduating class (around ninety students) was a fun experience.

  • Back in high school, assuming my memories are still accurate, while I wasn’t in popular clique or anything, I found that I got along fine with most people (save those with a profound interest in activism), and maintained friendships with a comparatively smaller group of people that I still am in contact with today. Ironically, I actually do have a few friends now that I’d met because I’d unintentionally antagonised them, although we made amends on short order and ended up with amusing stories to tell. I imagine that this will naturally happen with Nako and Aru, although since it is relatively early in the game, Aru instinctively jumps into Nako every time the latter mentions the word “unfortunate”, resulting in some visual humour.

  • As a general rule, I don’t like making enemies of people because antagonising others always requires twice as much effort. Conversely, being nice to people comes quite naturally and entails almost no effort beyond approaching someone and making their day brighter. Here, Sotoka, Aru, Bocchi and Nako make acquaintances of Mayo, who hails from a wealthy family; her parents are always working, and she’s somewhat lonely, but after encountering Bocchi, Mayo becomes curious about Bocchi and suggests that Bocchi take up a job of making paper cranes. Thanks to Sotoka’s skill, they manage to make a bunch.

  • In the end, Mayo joins Bocchi’s group of friends, sharing a day with them. She later writes to her parents, saying that she’s made new friends, but also would appreciate it if her parents could make some time for her. With this, Bocchi is one step closer to her goal of befriending every single person in her class: towards the end of Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu, the rate at which Bocchi befriends others increases: she manages to convince Sotoka that they’ve been friends the whole time, as well. This isn’t too surprising, since she’s gotten over the initial hurdle, and now, has a group of people in her corner to support her goals. Along the way, Bocchi has also brought others together.

  • As Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu sees Bocchi enter her second year, she acquires a smartphone, allowing her to better keep in touch with her friends. While smartphones are superior to feature phones in terms of functionality, feature phones (flip phones) remain relatively common in Japan owing to their durability and ability to hold a charge. In anime, smartphones are slowly displacing feature phones: everyone in Yuru Camp△, for instance, rock iPhones. In having Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu transition over to smartphones, then, the anime is suggesting that technology might be integral in helping Bocchi on her quest.

  • The finale has Bocchi successfully pin a corsage on a graduating third year student, and finding an uncommonly cheerful Kako who’s afflicted with a fever. Despite her stoic mannerisms, Kako is grateful that Bocchi goes to the lengths that she does to ensure everyone’s alright. If memory serves, Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu‘s manga began in 2013 and finished running this year – any continuation of the series in anime form would probably have Bocchi befriend Kako towards the end and reunite with Kai a changed person, better equipped with navigate the complex social networks of the world.

  • Where the anime ends remains satisfactory: overall, Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu earns a B+ grade in my books (3.3 of 4.0, or for folks more familiar with the ten-point system, eight points). Despite being a seemingly unassuming anime set in a mundane setting, Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu does a wonderful job of showing how chance meetings can precipitate something much bigger. The anime thus exceeds my expectations for this Terrible Anime Challenge: Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu is not terrible by any stretch, although my propensity towards procrastination are, and I imagine that I’ll only get worse from here on out as I become busier.

Ultimately, Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu suggests that the first step of the journey is always the hardest. It takes several episodes for Bocchi to open up to Nako, but once she does, she’s able to slowly get to know Aru better, as well. Similarly, Bocchi and Sotoka realise that they’re as close as friends are, and openly acknowledge one another as such. As Bocchi becomes more connected to the first group of friends she’s had outside of Kai, she is able to reach out to and interact with others in her class. While Kako is a special case (and reluctantly joins Bocchi’s group anyways), Bocchi manages to even strike up conversations with Mayo, a girl from a rich family, along with Peko and Ito, who were in Bocchi’s home economics group. The initial chat with Nako thus sets in motion a series of fortunate events for Bocchi, and while she still has a long way to go before she can speak in front of a crowd with confidence, at the very least, Bocchi is starting to mature and appreciate that her classmates are generally friendly and warm people who enjoy her company as much as she enjoys theirs. Things do speed up towards Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu‘s final few episodes; the series suggests to viewers that having now taken her first steps, Bocchi’s future is a bit more exciting and bright than she’d imagined it to be. Leaving this anime, one can therefore be confident that whatever happens next, Bocchi has good company in her corner: her own increasing comfort around others, coupled with support from Nako, Aru, Sotoka, Mayo, Peko and Ito, will be a valuable asset in helping her to overcome her own limits and fulfil a promise to Kai, who, despite her cold reception towards Bocchi, very much gives the indicator that she wishes for Bocchi’s success, as well. It’s certainly an optimistic message, and consequently, I am happy to say that I had a great time with Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu: this is another one of those cases where, my tendencies to procrastinate notwithstanding, I should make an effort to check out the series in my backlog where possible, as there are many solid anime dating back many years that are quite worthwhile to watch.