A thoughtful response to current anime.

Threshing Summer 2012

From Wikipedia: “Threshing is the process of loosening the edible part of cereal grain (or other crop) from the scaly, inedible chaff that surrounds it. It is the step in grain preparation after harvesting and before winnowing, which separates the loosened chaff from the grain.” You can’t winnow the wheat from the chaff based on just one episode, or you risk missing out on shows like Tatami Galaxy and Shiki. But you can at least get some idea. Below are some ideas, sorted in increasing order of how much potential the show seems to have based on the first episode. (Translations of show titles are my own amateur efforts and may be wildly inaccurate.)

13: Campione

A pastrami sub with gouda?

It’s no Gate of Babylon.

An ordinary guy gets divine powers after being caught in the middle of a battle between gods on the island of Sardinia. Looks like a fanservice comedy with elements of action, and it has just nothing to reccommend it. The jokes weren’t funny. The action scenes tried to be Fate/Zero and utterly failed. And fanservice is pretty pointless when your character designs are this generic. Plus, as an added bonus, the Japanese voice actors utterly butcher the Italian language. I don’t even speak Italian and I could tell. Is it that hard to hire an Italian to say some words?


12: Dakara Boku wa, H ga Dekinai (Thus, I Can’t Have Sex):

In a vacuum maybe, but in anime they’re often a symbol of low quality.

A nice green source of power, but I have concerns about sustainability.

A female god of death (shinigami) travels to our world and links with an extremely horny high school boy to use the energy of his soul. This is a really, really trashy fanservice show. Grope breasts to charge up your super meter for a finishing move! The parts that weren’t trashy fanservice were generic supernatural action, which is hardly better. I’ll admit I did laugh a couple of times at just how outrageously trashy it was, so that’s something. And I appreciate that they actually showed nipples instead of censoring them for the blu-ray release, that shows that they respect their audience. But yeah, this one is not for me.


11: Oda Nobuna no Yabou (Oda Nobuna’s Ambition)

If that name doesn’t mean anything to you, this show probably isn’t for you.

A Tokyo Yankee in King Arturia’s Court

A fan of Sengoku Jidai videogames goes back in time to the Sengoku Jidai and discovers that the legendary generals from the games are actually pretty girls. I can’t seem to find it now, but I remember reading a tweet something along the lines of, “I have a great idea for an anime. It’ll be set in the Sengoku Jidai, but the twist is, all the generals are men.” Somehow “genderswapped Sengoku Jidai” has become a flourishing genre in its own right, right up there with “sudden girlfriend appearance” and “four girls do nothing”. This show is taking a more comedic approach to the genre, which is kind of a problem for me, because I lack most of the shared cultural background in the Sengoku Jidai that is assumed for the jokes to work. I get the impression I’m not necessarily missing much, though, because the jokes I did understand were mostly along the lines of, “look! boobies! haha I want to touch them”.


10: Binbougami ga! (This God of Misfortune!)

Surely if we just let the free market operate, her good fortune will trickle down to the 99%?

The 99% don’t see it that way.

A female god of misfortune (binbougami) must restore balance to the world by bringing misfortune to an extremely fortunate girl. It’s a fast-paced gag comedy with the “zany” cranked way up. It’s an interesting premise, and some of the gags worked, but a lot of them didn’t, and the show’s fast pace means that some gag or another was pretty much always falling flat. Maybe it would be better if it were being subbed by someone other than gg, the Fansubbers of Misfortune. Rather than try to make untranslatable jokes work,  or even just translate them directly and let people try to figure them out, they write their own jokes, and they’re not very good at it.


9: Arcana Famiglia


I bet she can summon a badass Persona.

The leader of a vigilante organization that fights using the power of the Tarot proposes a battle tournament to determine his successor and his daughter’s marriage. I kinda like the visual style of this show. The animation quality is unimpressive, but all the characters are dressed up in nice suits and some of them have hats, too. They look sharp! Unfortunately, the writing is rather bad. Something like half the dialogue in this episode was a dude explaining to another dude something both dudes already knew. I understand that there are a lot of tarot cards, and you want to explain the magical powers associated with each one, but figuring out how to do it subtly and unobtrusively is why you get paid big bucks as a writer.


8: Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate (Love and Elections and Chocolate)

Oh my god, that man’s face is melting.

Buy the Blu-Ray to find out!

The favored candidate for election to the student council presidency wants to shut down the Snacks Research Club, so the Snacks Research Club fields their own opposing candidate. So much of this show feels rote, like every school life harem comedy I’ve ever seen with no real variations on the basic formula. I’ve seen enough anime girls shocked by their childhood friends’ morning wood to last me a lifetime, thanks. It seems like there might be some serious political drama mixed in, and maybe some social commentary about exploiting the poor. That could be interesting, but it was only touched on briefly in this episode and there’s a danger that it might stay that way for the whole series, with 85% of each episode spent on tired gags and 15% letting them pretend they have a plot.


7: Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru! (One of the People Here Is My Little Sister!)

She just found out how much money the protagonist stands to inherit.

Don’t cross the IMOUTO, it would be bad. Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.

The heir to a business empire must find a wife at his school, but due to his amnesia he can’t remember which girl is his long-lost half-sister. WHO IS “IMOUTO”? This show was actually kind of charming. I laughed at some of the jokes, and as far as harem premises go, it’s not bad. It’s absurd, but what’s really absurd is a standard harem show where a bunch of girls are falling all over the weak-spined protagonist for no reason. In WHO IS IMOUTO, he’s rich, so it doesn’t strain suspension of disbelief as much. They are doing the annoying thing where they show fanservice scenes but censor them for the sake of the Blu-Ray release, though, and although the character designs seem ok the animation is sort of bad. One thing that might be great is if the secret imouto keeps sending the protagonist creepy anonymous love notes and generally being a yandere stalker. I would be all over the WHO IS IMOUTO tagline turning out to be ominous and the genre turning into harem/horror/Higurashi. I kinda doubt that will come to pass, though.


6: Natsuyuki Rendezvous (Summer Snow Rendezvous)

Racism against dead people is perhaps the most insidious form of racism

Such noodle-eating technique…!

A guy working in a florist’s shop has a crush on his boss, but the situation becomes complicated by the ghost of her dead husband, whom only he can see. The animation is nice, and it’s Noitamina branded so it’s gonna be pretty classy at least. The pacing was slow, but I liked the sort of passive-aggressive relationship between the protagonist and the dead husband when he decided to go ahead and hit on his widow. I dunno, I always want to like these sorts of female-oriented romances, but then I end up realizing four or five episodes in that I’m actually a guy. Probably this will turn out the same.


5: Kokoro Connect (Heart Connect)


Then again, this is what they were like *before* they started switching bodies.

Five misfits in an afterschool club discover that they are randomly switching bodies with each other. It looks like a slice-of-life type show that has had supernatural elements added to it, like Natsuiro Kiseki last season. The comedy elements were ok but not great – the male lead has the character trait of responding to everyone’s jokes by pointing out that a joke has occurred, which always bugs me. It’s basically the Japanese equivalent of a laugh track. Still, body-swapping is, as the saying goes, “relevant to my interests”. Heck, I even watched that awful Kaempfer show. Surely this won’t be as bad as that.


4: Joshiraku (Girls’ Rakugo)

Awwwwww yeah.

If that name doesn’t mean anything to you, this show probably isn’t for you.

A group of girls who perform rakugo (a traditional form of Japanese standup comedy) talk about various things. This show is being subbed by gg, but I doubt anybody else would be able to do better. There are too many fast-paced and obscure puns, there’s no way to translate them. The jokes I was able to get were reasonably funny, I’m sure I’d like this show a lot if I were a fluent speaker of Japanese. It might end up being too much trouble to piece together what’s going on in the untranslatable parts of the show though. It’s kind of like Seitokai no Ichizon if you replaced the puns referencing obscure anime with puns referencing obscure Japanese culture and politics.  And I’m way more fluent in anime than I am in Japanese politics.


3: Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online!

They managed to come up with something even worse than modal dialogs.

Players of a new virtual reality MMORPG find themselves unable to log out and learn that if they die in the game they die in real life. Well, as far as currently-airing anime about VR MMOs based on light novel series by Kawahara Reki go, I think I prefer Accel World. “If you die in the game you die in real life” is about as tired a trope as “female Oda Nobunaga”. Games can be interesting in their own right, you don’t need to make them life-or-death struggles. I’m having trouble figuring out where to rank this show, because most of the first episode was spent setting up the premise. It doesn’t look badly-executed, but who can tell? Much depends on if the protagonist has some depth to him beyond the “cool loner who eventually learns to make friends to survive” they seemed to be setting up in this episode.  Accel World is maybe the best show I’ve seen so far this year, though, and since the original work for this is by the same guy, I figure it deserves a second glance, and a third.


2: Tari Tari (Various Activities)

Eat shit, funhavers.

It’s important for a show to have characters the audience can relate to.

A girl feels her school’s choir club is not treating her fairly and quits to start her own choir club. This show did a good job of catching my interest with the opening scene where the choir club was randomly singing the True Tears OP. That’s a hardcore ref, who even watched True Tears? I mean I did, sure. Reflectia was a good song. Anyway, the show has a solid sense of character-driven humor. It sort of reminds me of Hanasaka Iroha, it’s got the cheerful chick with light brown hair and the serious chick with black hair that gets exasperated at her. The character designs aren’t as good as Hanasaku Iroha’s though. And singing isn’t really as interesting as, uh, changing sheets in a hotel? Hmmm.


1: Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita (Humanity Has Declined)

Game Theory – I’ve Tried Subtlety

My whole life was Unlimited Meaningless Works.

Humanity has declined, and now there are fairies? It wasn’t entirely clear to me. I don’t know what this show is about, but I like it. It has a cute, painfully pastel aesthetic combined with a sharp sense of humor, a juxtaposition that really “clicks”. They’re using their pastelpocalyptic setting to comment on the flaws of modern society, showing the absurdity of our social structures by translating them into a condition of great scarcity. But the art is light and cheerful, and the fairies are adorable and dumb, and all in all it makes you not feel so bad about the decline of humanity.


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