This round-up review post was severely delayed due to two of my shows not finishing up until near the end of January. I also get kind of wordy in this one.

soft blur filters strike again

Ms. Vampire who lives in my neighborhood:

This is essentially a “cute girls doing cute things”-type anime, but with the added gimmick of having two (out of four) main character be vampires. What I like most about this anime is that it knows what it is and sticks to that. This anime doesn’t have much in the way of an on-going plot—instead, it showcases the daily life antics of humans and vampires trying to live together in a modern society. It doesn’t try to be anything more than that, or attempt to inject faux “deepness.” And that is perfectly fine. Sometimes, you don’t want to watch an anime with a ton of plot or drama, you just want to watch something cute and fluffy; and Ms. Vampire fills that need nicely.

The bulk of each episode explores the misunderstandings that vampires have of humans/human society and vice versa. A lot of the humor present throughout the series is based on this set-up. That said, while there are a lot of jokes in every episode, comedy has never been this series’ strong point (in my opinion). I never found any of the jokes in Ms. Vampire particularly laugh-out-loud funny; but I’m thankful that the show doesn’t rely on tons of anime screaming and yelling for humor. So I found a lot of their jokes and gags to be charming even if some were terribly corny in execution.

I also like that this series is relatively tame… for the most part. I have personally seen far too many slice-of-life and “cute girls doing cute things” shows that were just thinly veiled fanservice schlock. At least Ms. Vampire avoids most of the sleazy stuff, although there is a really gratuitous bathhouse after-credits segment in episode 9. I also can’t not mention Ellie’s and Akari’s questionable behavior. Ellie is super flirtatious; doesn’t seem to understand the concept of personal space; and is generally the one wearing the most risqué clothing. The risqué clothing thing is because she wants to appear more mature, but when Ellie looks like a 14 year old that’s a little bit… yeah. Akari also has problems with the concept of personal space and absolutely obsesses over Sophie. (What is it with anime and having girl characters obsess over other girl characters?) I could stand Akari’s antics as it’s mostly treated more like “ohmygosh she’s so pretty, I want to pamper her like one of my dolls!” But it would definitely come off as way creepier if this anime wasn’t so cute and harmless in tone.

Anyway, I enjoyed this anime for what it was. I have always had a soft spot for anime which featured magical or supernatural beings trying to live peacefully in a mostly human-populated society, and this was right up my alley. I still don’t understand the heavy reliance on “soft blur filters” over the animation, but it gave the show a softer feel, I guess. Out of everything I watched this season, at least this was one of the more pleasant shows, and one of the least infuriating.

Out of five:

precure heart2precure heart2precure heart2

Jingai-san no Yome:

Get yourself a man who doesn’t mind being carried bridal style.

This show was absolutely bizarre but I somehow… enjoyed it? This show is really best watched without questioning anything that happens, or thinking too much about the logistics involved. It’s an anime about boys acting cute with their monster-spouses, and that’s basically the only hint of plot we’ll get.

This is pretty obviously a budget series, as it’s an anime short AND the animation is mostly on the lower/cheaper end. I kind of wish the episodes could have been just a bit longer (maybe even five minutes rather than the three we actually get); just so we could see some more cutesy scenes. But at least it’s a relatively quick watch and it never overstays its welcome.

This anime would never be considered a “masterpiece” by any means; but it was still fun to watch so I can’t be too mad at it. Also, Kanenogi plushie when?

Out of five:

precure heart2precure heart2 precure heart2

Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara:

I’m still a little annoyed that we didn’t get to see more of “the future” (a.k.a. Hitomi’s timeline) because it looked super cool.

(THERE ARE SPOILERS, sorry)

I was originally very, very angry at Iroduku (the official shortened name for this show). But after having watched the whole thing to completion, I would say… it’s a pretty okay series.

The biggest strength that Iroduku has is its animation. P.A. Works really went all out with the animation and visuals. The backgrounds are very lovely to look at, and some of the scene framing is fairly nice too. Every time that Hitomi (our colorblind protagonist) regains her sense of colors, the world goes from monochrome to full color. Some of these scenes are animated extraordinarily well. Unfortunately, nice animation alone can’t entirely save a show that has a lackluster story.

Iroduku’s biggest flaw is that it felt like it didn’t know what it wanted to do with its plot. It could even be said that Iroduku was a bit over-ambitious with its plotline; although I felt that its story elements were clichéd and predictable. I would have been perfectly fine with a series that focused more on the magical aspect of this story’s world. I would have been fine with the series focusing on its two main conflicts: Hitomi’s colorblindness, and needing to send her back to the future. Instead, the series floundered about for most of its run-time with a whole bunch of teen angst and forced love… triangles? Squares? Anyway, these were the parts of the show that I disliked the most. It just felt unnecessary, especially when Iroduku is already such a short series at only 13 episodes long.

I’m horribly biased in this opinion, but I was also unhappy with Hitomi and Yuito falling in love with each other. I mostly just do not like Yuito as a character (oh wow, a bland male lead who acts coldly towards everyone until a strange girl suddenly appears in front of him to give him a newfound sense of hope or something, where have I seen THAT before?). But I also felt that this was yet another unnecessary plot point. Hitomi’s situation is tragic enough without adding in a star-crossed lovers situation. It kinda felt like something just thrown in there to make the ending Extra Bittersweet or something; as these two obviously can’t be together due to time travel shenanigans.

The best episodes of the series to me were the final three episodes, because the show suddenly remembered that it had to address the main problem(s) revolving around Hitomi’s situation. Unfortunately, the actual final episode suffered from being a little rushed. The final episode also had the added insult of being purposely vague about certain characters’ fates; giving us no definite answer on whether they were still alive or not by Hitomi’s time. It’s the final episode of a completely anime original series, you guys don’t need to leave things open-ended??? This show for sure isn’t getting another season.

Anyway, those are my final thoughts on Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara. I realize there are quite a few people who actually love this series and consider it an anime masterpiece, but I just couldn’t find myself being charmed by it. While I don’t regret watching this, I also don’t feel motivated to ever watch this entire series again.

Out of five:

precure heart2precure heart2 and 1/2

Tsurune:

This scene just needs to be witnessed in motion.

I’m just gonna be totally blunt in my review of this series, which will probably annoy some people (especially fans of the series). But here we go.

Maybe it’s just a by-product of also being produced by KyoAni, but this series felt like it was trying a little too hard to be similar to Free! Iwatobi Swim Club at first glance. Kaito feels like a Rin-wannabe, Nanao is like Nagisa (if Nagisa were more popular), and Ryohei is similar to Makoto in that they’re both tall dudes who are super friendly. There’s also a whole bunch of pseudo ship-teasing—like Seiya’s outright confirmed obsession with the main character Minato; Nanao being Kaito’s only friend due to Kaito’s aggressive personality; Minato constantly blushing over the new coach Masaki… But of course, the series never shows off anything more than these types of teases.

Fortunately, most of the Free comparisons end there. Tsurune has a much “calmer” tone, most likely due to its subject matter. Kyudo (a form of Japanese archery) is a sport that is more subdued and emphasizes good form and elegance. Despite not generally liking many sports-themed anime, I was pretty intrigued by Tsurune. I also liked that the archery club featured three female members who were given a decent amount of importance. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see them much during the kyudo competitions (as the boys are the main characters here); but it was nice to see them also cheering on the main cast as fellow teammates.

As much as I like seeing characters goofing off and having fun, it was refreshing to see the kyudo club members actually doing a lot of dedicated practice. And I felt that Minato’s “target panic” was handled well—it takes him several episodes (essentially several months in-series) to finally start getting over his anxiety over not hitting the target. He doesn’t just magically get better right away due to the Power of Friendship or something (although it did help).

Unfortunately, Tsurune also has some common sports clichés such as:

1) Having a team member who is super aggressive for seemingly no reason, despite them participating in a TEAM sport. I’m looking at you, Kaito. Though thankfully he does get better about this as the series goes on.

2) Being an underdog-type story where a school not known for X sport tries to rise up and beat a better team/school. (Though this is generally par for the course as far as sports anime go.)

3) The rival school is made out to be the “antagonists” of the show somehow, because I guess we need a reason to dislike the rival school; despite the fact that they probably also put in as much time and effort to win tournaments. Seriously, the concept of rival sports teams being “evil” in some way will just always baffle me. The audience is not stupid, we don’t need this easy “black-and-white” alignment to choose who to root for.

Barring those clichés, Tsurune as a whole also has a lot of angst coming from all of the characters at one point or another. I guess when the plot revolves around such a non-contact sport as archery, you have to manufacture drama and suspense somehow. Some of this angst is definitely warranted (such as in Minato’s situation for example); and then there were some episodes that were a little too… melodramatic for my tastes. There were definitely times where I would have far preferred to see actual archery rather than the characters having some kind of existential crisis—but overall, I think Tsurune handles character drama well enough. Minor squabbles are usually wrapped up in an episode or two, and many of the characters act surprisingly mature for an anime focused on high school-aged teens. I am also thankful that Masaki (the boys’ coach) got ample time to work through his own issues, giving us an adult perspective on things; which is both refreshing and rare for anime that feature mostly teenaged protagonists.

To be honest, I have a hard time summing up my final thoughts for this show. I actually wasn’t too keen on Tsurune for the first half of the series—despite a decent first episode, the episodes directly following after didn’t impress me much. And some of the early episodes even infuriated me, with the way certain characters were acting. The last few episodes of the series also feels incredibly rushed due to the 13-episode limit. Supposedly, the Tsurune anime also drastically alters some plot points and character relationships from the original novel. I ultimately can’t comment on this, having never read the novel myself. My review thus far is solely based on the anime version of the series.

Just from what I’ve seen of the anime, the show ended up delivering some decent character development by the end of it all. So I guess… I’m satisfied? If nothing else, Kyoani once again delivers some great animation, and great voice acting. If you’re the type of person who likes character-driven plots, then Tsurune might be a good series for you.

Out of five:

precure heart2precure heart2 and 1/2

Hugtto! Precure:

I’ll miss these guys.

Hugtto Precure is the third season of Precure that I’ve been able to watch fully to completion. And I’m really glad I was able to, as Hugtto Precure is probably the best Precure season I have seen to date.

The Hugtto Precure series marks the 15th anniversary of the Precure franchise, and two of its central themes are careers/occupations and “hope for the future.” I think Hugtto Precure was created from the beginning to be sort of a love letter to long-time fans of the Precure series—the ones who have followed the franchise since they were children, and who would be working-age adults by now. While the Precure series is no stranger to tackling darker themes, Hugtto Precure as a whole has a markedly more mature tone than past seasons.

Over the course of the series, Hugtto Precure has tackled many topics related to the desire to find one’s place in the world, under the guise of “exploring careers.” One character must get over her fears of failure to move on with her life; one character must come to terms with her desire to follow a different dream than the one she previously had; one character has to deal with unsupportive relatives who belittle her passions; and one character struggles throughout the series trying to find her one true “calling.” As I’ve mentioned briefly in the Moeronpan 2018 Awards Post, Hugtto Precure is also groundbreaking: beyond having the first in-series confirmed male Cure, the series also touches upon gender identity and expression. The series also addresses childbirth, and the emotional/physical strain of it is portrayed realistically. Furthermore, aging and death are talked about candidly.

Hugtto Precure also has probably one of the creepiest main villains in the entire Precure franchise. George is a person that could easily exist in real life. George is not a monster, demon, nor some evil abomination trying to take over the world. He’s merely a man who suffered a great trauma in life, and ended up developing some twisted and nihilistic ideals. Although his actions are undeniably wrong, he believes he is “saving” everyone by trapping them in a timeless eternity.

Despite having a more mature tone, I’m glad that Hugtto Precure still portrays its topics in a way that would still be understood by, and relatable to, its intended audience of children. I’m also glad that Hugtto Precure has an unabashedly hopeful tone, with its mantra of “You can do anything, you can be anything!” It’s sappy, for sure; but it’s some much needed optimism in such bleak times. I also love the running theme of redemption throughout the series. Villains get redeemed after their defeat, and they are shown throughout the series helping the Precures whilst trying to rebuild their own lives.

Of course, I still do have some criticisms about Hugtto Precure. While the animation work is pretty stellar throughout, there are some episodes that have noticeably lower animation—but this is typical for such a long running series like Precure. I also felt that the middle portion of the series, right after Emiru and Lulu became a Precure duo, was where the show began to drag a bit. As much as I like Cure Macherie and Cure Amour as characters, I sometimes wonder if these two were really needed for Hugtto Precure. Their color scheme and outfits make them look like Cures from a completely different season. It also made the Precure team feel bloated, and took precious time away from our main trio.

I’m also not entirely happy with all of Hugtto’s messages. It sometimes felt like Hugtto Precure was strongly endorsing motherhood, through two childbirth-focused episodes and through the introduction of the baby Hugtan early on. Just to clarify, it’s perfectly fine for people to become mothers and have children if they want to (and have the means to support a baby). But motherhood alone shouldn’t be the end-all/be-all of any woman’s life; and girls definitely should feel pressured to grow up and have kids. It was a little bit uncomfortable to see Hugtan marketed so much to little girls, as if babies were some kind of glorified pet/dress up doll rather than a being that requires a ton of time, work, and care.

The crossover episodes scattered throughout Hugtto were also divisive. Some people liked them because of the numerous character cameos from past Precure seasons and for the great fight scenes. Others disliked these episodes because they didn’t make much sense plot-wise; took up episodes that could have been used to further Hugtto’s plot; or took attention away from the main cast. I personally enjoyed these crossover episodes, although I understand that viewers who started out with Hugtto as their first Precure series would be utterly confused by all the cameos.

Overall, Hugtto Precure isn’t a perfect show, but I’m more than willing to overlook its flaws because it’s such an inspiring and groundbreaking Precure season. The existence of Hugtto Precure shows that Toei is willing to push the boundaries of children’s television, and I’m real excited to see what Star*Twinkle Precure (the upcoming new season) will have in store for us this year.

Out of five, I give:

precure heart2precure heart2precure heart2precure heart2precure heart2

I have way too many feelings about this magical girl anime aimed at little kids, sorry not sorry