Hello from your still-indoors host Madelyn! It’s day seventy-ish of self-isolation here at Talk This NYC HQ, and I’ve been coping by playing a lot of video games, eating a lot of desserts, and watching a lot of television. Specifically, Clickbait Boyfriend and I have dived into anime head-first. We really only got into watching anime as a couple last summer when Clickbait Boyfriend couldn’t easily leave the building due to a foot injury, and now here we are again, unable to easily leave the apartment. Over the past couple of months, we’ve watched seven shows, and I’ve shared some of my thoughts on them in this blog.
Spoiler: I enjoyed all of them! I would recommend each of the following seven series, although some with more caveats than others. If you’re looking for a place to start, go with My Hero Academia or Haikyuu (or Demon Slayer, if you don’t mind a pretty dark beginning). And as always, send me your recommendations for what I should watch next!
Subtitled on Hulu.
One line summary: Ragtag band of underground heroes pierce the heavens with robots, then pierce the evils of bureaucracy with robots, then pierce aliens with space-robots.
Superlative: Most Improved. I was very prepared to dislike Gurren Lagann after the first two or three episodes. It seemed like it was going to be dated, loud, and bro-y, with a helping of gratuitous boob jokes and a sprinkle of homophobia. But Team Dai-Gurren quickly won me over, and the show went in some bold directions I didn’t see coming. It’s impressive to not only be able to kill off one of your main characters before mid-season, but also believably age your guerilla warriors into government ministers. Add the always delightful Boota, the show’s fundamental unwillingness to take the endgame space opera too seriously, and the hype explosions (literally) of each Gurren Lagann upgrade, and you’ve got me hooked.
For fans of: Saving the world with your bros (of all genders), digging, playing Civilization on the hardest difficulty
Theme song rating: Gurren Lagann has two different opening sequences, but actually uses two different verses from the same song for those openers. This theatre kid loves a reprise, so bonus points. It’s also not afraid to exploit its theme song for dramatic underscoring during the show, something that is somehow effective even though I know the creative team is manipulating me. All this to say, I’ve heard the theme more times than any of the others on this list, and the drop near the end is still pretty hype. Points deducted for fewer hooks to get stuck in my head than other entries. 7/10
The word of Japanese I learned: Aniki (兄貴): older brother. Now that I’ve also spent some time playing Yakuza, I’ve learned that this isn’t really just an alternate word for brother, but more like your gang member bro which…makes sense.
Clickbait Boyfriend’s One Line Summary: Two bros and a scantily clad girl pierce mole-pig butts, bureaucracy, and eventually the heavens.
Rating: Celestial-super-ultra-dai-12/10 explosions
Bungo Stray Dogs
Season 3 and Dead Apple
Subtitled on Hulu
One line summary: Literary gangs continue to run wild in Yokohama, but this time one of them is a literal god, one of them is Russian, and the bosses aren’t feeling well.
Superlative: Most satisfying twist I really should have seen coming. There was just enough space between Fitzgerald’s redemption episode and the season finale that I forgot about his existence, let alone his possession of super-invasive surveillance technology. I imagine he’s going to be a problem in season four, but for now, it was pretty sweet to see Fitzgerald and Dazai nab Dostoyevsky right as he was getting away.
And one bonus superlative: Most “is a plot about a mysterious illness really what I want right now?”
For fans of: Japanese, American, and Russian literary fan-fiction, dark and gritty Hardy Boys, eyeballs, powerful cats
Theme song rating: Bungo Stray Dogs has a really distinctive style to its opening music. I’m generally a fan of this (the vocalist is so different from every other anime theme!), but it does make the songs easier to put head to head against each other. Season 3’s opener is good, but I had to listen to it again to remind myself of what it actually sounded like. 6.5/10
Bungo Stray Dogs (Opening 3)
『Setsuna no Ai』 pic.twitter.com/nFmXqk1hLL
— den 🌼 is ia (@BL0ND3KHUN) May 3, 2019
Aren’t You Forgetting Dead Apple? Sort of, to be honest. Dead Apple was fine. It got me back into the world after a few months off from Bungo. But I spent a lot of the movie confused about the timeline, and it didn’t add that much except some cool fight sequences.
The word of Japanese I learned: Jinko (人虎): weretiger. Not that this is going to be an especially useful piece of vocabulary for me in literally any other situation than discussing Bungo Stray Dogs.
Clickbait Boyfriend’s One Line Summary: Two powerful cats shape the fate of Yokohama while stopping crime and doling out punishment.
Rating: 11/10 oldo sportos
My Hero Academia
Season 3, Provisional license arc
Dubbed on Hulu
One line summary: Teenage supercops in training take the Hero SATs; 90% qualify to work as fourteen-year-old junior police.
Superlative: Most Repetitive. I’ll keep this brief, since you can read thirteen blogs’ worth of my thoughts on Split Screen, but I found this arc to be about four episodes too long, and often a less-interesting retread of the Sports Festival. There’s some neat character development for Deku and Bakugo at the end, but it’s a bit of a slog to get there. Still an enjoyable watch, but it’s hard to follow the first half of this season with a medium-stakes game of tag.
I did not award the superlative “most human fleshballs” here, even though I could have.
For fans of: standardized tests, dodgeball, father figure issues, legs.
Theme song rating: My Hero Academia themes are always packed with hooks, and “Make My Story” is no exception. Nothing is going to top “I Keep My Ideals,” which I am required to sing every time any piece of media I am exposed to used the word “ideals,” but you can’t say they didn’t try. 8/10
The word of Japanese I learned: Plus Ultra! (更に向こうへ!!)…look, this is harder when you’re watching the dub.
Clickbait Boyfriend’s One Line Summary: Deku learns to punch with his legs before getting pummeled by a naked man who defies the laws of physics.
Rating: 800 in Teamwork 450 in Originality, 1250 overall (a respectable score!)
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba
Subtitled on Hulu
One line summary: A water-bender, a lightning-bender, a precious demoness, and a pig boy fight monsters and spread compassion while developing ultimate lung capacity.
Superlative: Most beautiful combat. The animation for all of the breathing technique attacks on Demon Slayer is stunning, and really draws you in to the world of the show. Admittedly, at first I didn’t realize that the slayers were literally conjuring the elements with their breath; I thought it was just a bold stylistic choice. It made me even more hyped when Zenitsu could finally defend himself (in his sleep), and when Tanjiro got freaking robbed of a Twelve Kizuki kill on a technicality, which I am still not over. A lot of the shows we’ve watched in the past few months have explored different ways to let their male heroes show softness (see: Simon the Digger, Deku the Cryer, Bakugo the Guilty, Shirogane the Lovestruck, Karasuno the…well, everything about the Karasuno Volleyball Team), but building beauty into epic battle scenes is a really unique way to let the boys be pretty and fierce at the same time. Just don’t tell Inosuke I said that.
For fans of: deep breaths, long naps, adventures with the boys, sibling bonding
Theme song rating: This triggered a mandatory dance party at Talk This NYC HQ every episode. That drum beat! That drop! It doesn’t even lean on the incredibly effective anime theme song crutch of an English hook, so it’s doubly impressive. I also can’t play the song without Clickbait Boyfriend saying “I wish there were more episodes of Demon Slayer,” which is a rave review if I’ve ever heard one. 10/10
The word of Japanese I learned: Niisan (兄さん): brother. All of these words for brother will be extremely helpful for me because I am in exactly zero gangs and have exactly zero human brothers (can you refer to dogs with niisan?)
Clickbait Boyfriend’s One Line Summary: Nezuko is the ultimate good girl while three boys scream at each other.
Rating: Binge Watch Breathing 15th Form: One More Episode
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Dubbed on Hulu
One line summary: Schoolgirls meet the worst genie ever and die over and over again until one achieves godhood and completely alters the fabric of time.
Superlative: Twistiest ending that I did not see coming. Madoka Magica is absolutely not what you see on the tin. Most of the time, that’s a good thing! There’s much more depth, and to be honest, darkness, here than just Magical Girls running around doing Girl Things (sidebar: listening to them all say Magical Girls with utter sincerity is reason enough to opt for the dub). I was really impressed with how much ground the series was able to cover in just a dozen episodes, and how quickly I grew to care about the characters. I could roll with aliens and time loops, but wow, I was not prepared for the eleventh hour twist of Madoka’s ultimate fate. I’m not sure how else the series could have pulled off a satisfactory quasi-happy ending, but I also would not have thought of this as an option, so maybe there’s an alternative out there.
For fans of: Abstract art, Persona 5‘s Morgana, deux ex puella, Groundhog Day
Theme song rating: This theme was not my favorite when we first starting watching, but it grew on me a lot as the show went on. This went hand in hand with me understanding the animation sequence better, which always helps. It’s a nice, sugar-sweet counterpart to the end credit theme, which is dark AF. 7/10
The word of Japanese I learned: Kawaii (可愛い): cute. Okay, I already knew this one, but this is our second and final dub, so we’re just going with the obvious reaction to their Magical Girl outfits.
Clickbait Boyfriend Corner: Kawaii girls enter into Salvador Dali paintings in order to collect seeds under the watchful eye of a conniving alien kitty.
Rating: 5/4 grief seeds
Kaguya-sama: Love is War
Season one and episodes one through five of season two
Subtitled on Hulu (season one) and Funimation (season two)
One line summary: No chance, no way, teenage government officials won’t say they’re in love (at least out loud).
Superlative: Cutest Couple. Looking back, romance plots are few and far between on my recent watch-list. Nothing against Simon and Nia or Deku and Uraraka(well, maybe something against Deku and Uraraka), but I’ve only got eyes for Shinomiya and Shirogane. I’m rooting for them to get it together before graduation…but then I was rooting for them to get it together by the end of season one too, and that didn’t happen. I laugh out loud at this show every single episode, which helps ease the will-they-or-won’t-they pain.
For fans of: reading, bad romantic advice, internal monologues, ramen
Theme song rating: After the first episode, I told Clickbait Boyfriend that I did not like Kaguya‘s theme song. This was wrong, and I apologize. The psychedelic feel of the animation reminded me of Mob Psycho 100, whose opening songs are untouchable, and I did not judge Love is War on its own merits. To be fair, this is not as hype as some of the other themes (and pales a bit in comparison to Chika’s song). However, it is definitely groovy, and benefits from the English hook I mentioned earlier. 6.5/10
The second theme is fun too, but I haven’t listened to it enough times to form a definitive opinion.
The word of Japanese I learned: Kaicho (会長): president. The student council is in the building, and they have work to do. What is that work? Unclear, but they have a lot of it.
Clickbait Boyfriend’s One Line Summary: Lovebirds internal monologue while the narrator voiceover monologues; Ishigami cowers in a corner.
Rating: 1st in class final marks
Seasons one and two
Subtitled on Hulu
One line summary: High school boys compete for Japan’s volleyball title, but the real prize was the friendships they made along the way
Superlative: Best Boys. As has hopefully become clear over the course of this blog, there were a lot of Good Boys in my last two months of anime viewing. The members of the Karasuno High School boys volleyball team put them all to shame. They make me nostalgic for my soccer playing days (and weirdly also for competitive high school theatre), but mostly make me want to have a circle of close friends who are all very driven and support each other in their goals. Somehow, the show keeps finding new people for me to care about, whether they are the background second years finally developing personalities, or opponents we might not see again for several seasons. And despite the fact that several of the shows I watched have had literal life or death situations, take place, I don’t think there has been any that has kept me more on the edge of my seat.
They’re going to make it to Nationals in season three, right? Right???
For fans of: non-toxic masculinity, nail-biting, sympathetic villains, sports for people who don’t consider themselves sports fans
Theme song rating: This is actually the only show where I really have to choose between theme songs, but there’s no competition. We sing Tobe Fly at random around the apartment maybe half a dozen times a day. It is so catchy and so uplifting at the same time! It makes me miss my boys! Listen when you need to feel better about these dark times. 15/10
The word of Japanese I learned: Kakkoi (格好いい): cool, and Osama (王様): king. Coincidentally, both ways that I would describe the members of the Karasuno High School volleyball team. I also learned the very important Japanese phrases “Nice Serve!”, “Nice Receive!”, “Nice Toss!”, and “Nice Kill!”
Clickbait Boyfriend’s One Line Summary: Chibi-chan and the rest of my sons battle against high schoolers that are seemingly 30 years old, all while being extremely wholesome and incredibly deviant at the same time.
Rating: 25 hearts to 0 frowns
That brings me to the end of my watch list! It’s been really gratifying to watch so much new television and get to explore other worlds during a time where I am mostly confined to a 300 square foot box.
What’s next on the list? CBB and I started a double-header of Kill La Kill and Avatar: The Last Airbender, but we’re struggling to get into the former. We haven’t given up yet, but we had resisted the siren song of the third season of Haikyuu long enough….go go Karasuno!