Everything is in a loose order this week, so consider this to be my current standings for the season, barring Aidan’s Sengoku Youko!
Bucchigiri – 2 [Wanna Take You On! The Chu Chu Chinese Pepper Steak Train!]
It’s absolutely ridiculous how good Bucchigiri is. Not only is it one of the most expressively animated shows of the season, right up there with Torture Princess, it’s also fun in all the right ways. Sure, I could do without a lot of the butt/gut/tramp stamp/gay jokes, though for that last one if it actually commits to being a gay romance like its hinting I’ll be impressed and accept it. But overall I’m having a great time with it. From Ara’s obsession with Mahoro and trying his best to impress her, first by challenging her brother, then by challenging her brothers rival, all without realizing she’s not into him at all but both of the gang leaders are, is great! And Matakara’s growing despair as his attempts to reach out and reconnect with Ara fail, thinking he isn’t strong enough when in reality Ara is simply no longer the person he thought he was, is genuinely emotional. And to top it all off? The fights just look good. Like… really good. Not in a cartoony, overexaggerated way, I mean watching Matakara and Jabashiri fight it out in the school was some great choreo and full body movement. It feels like Bucchigiri has it all, and I’m absolutely here for it. Plus both the OP and the ED are absolute bangers.
A Sign of Affection – 3 [Someone is Thinking of Someone]
This as another cute week for Affection. Admittedly I think it was rather slow in spots, around halfway through I checked the time thinking it was almost over only to discover I was nowhere close, but the content was generally good enough that I didn’t mind it that much. Watching Itsuomi learn sign language and charm Yuki to an almost ridiculous degree was cute, and while I find his complete ignorance of personal space and the almost condescending way he talks to her concerning at times, it does lead to some rather emotionally charged scenes. I think Affection is doing a good job of slowly escalating things, from “I’m trying to learn sign language for you” to “I want you to teach me in person”, or the bit with the coins and her stating outright she wants to get closer, or her jealousy over the drunk girl Emma and Itsuomi’s eventual refusal of Emma, making it clear to us the audience who he really likes. It’s sweet, so long as I give it the benefit of the doubt and assume the best of intentions. It’s entirely possible Affection gets really creepy, really controlling, really fast, but it hasn’t yet. Also helps that Affection looks great, love the animation on the sign language and basically anything Yuki does. It’s not super exaggerated like Bucchigiri or Torture Princess, it’s much more subtle, but that doesn’t make it worse or anything, just good in a different way. I like that.
Undead Unluck – 16 [Revolution]
Viva la revolution. Just an all around solid, fun episode of Undead Unluck. Despite the copious flashbacks indicating a failing production, and god do I hope that’s just them holding back because they know what is to come, I quite enjoyed this. I think the “twist” with Billy was revealed well, as well as the hints towards his ability, “Unfair”. Starting off small with questions like “Why don’t we just nuke it” then escalating to a full blown shootout, him “dying” then coming back with Andy’s “Undead”, the reveal of UMA Burn and the stealing of the Round Table. It was good stuff. Of course it raises a lot of questions, and Undead Unluck doesn’t have a lot of time left in the season to answer them all, but I’m hopeful it will be able to pull it off.
Dungeon Meshi- 4 [Stewed Cabbage / Orcs]
We all knew Dungeon Meshi wasn’t going to be able to live up to the previous episode, that was highlight of the season level stuff after all. But while it didn’t have the same level of presentation and emotion, I do think it was even better in terms of world building and gave us a nice look into who Senshi is as a person. We get to learn about his life in the dungeon, how he’s effectively become part of the ecosystem, maintaining the various facilities adventurers use, selling crops, keeping more dangerous monsters from bubbling up and making the higher levels unsafe for new adventurers and certain types of monsters. It reminded me that, unlike so many fantasy shows, Dungeon Meshi’s world lives and breathes and changes. I mean, just look at the Orcs. Not only are their designs unique, covered in fur and such, they were displaced by the very dragon our leads woke up, forced to go higher up for safety which in turn endangered the inhabitants of the inn. It was really cool! Especially as the Orc Chief and Marcille got into argument after argument about the rights and wrongs that sent them down here in the first place, eventually making peace over food and sort of recognizing each others autonomy. It was a nice, wholesome, easily digestible episode that used the food as a vehicle for character progression rather than being the center of the episode itself. And I liked that.
The Apothecary Diaries – 15 [Raw Fish]
Oh god please no, don’t do this Apothecary Diaries. Please don’t set up this Lakan guy to be Mao Mao’s biological father because he assaulted her mother the courtesan in an attempt to lower her value so he could afford to buy her. Please don’t make Mao Mao someone politically important because of her birth, randomly reuniting with her important father so she’s suddenly of respectable standing within the court. Just let her stay this mystery solving, poison loving peasant. That’s my big fear for what’s about to happen, and what Apothecary Diaries is setting up, and I really hope it doesn’t go down that road. I like her being just this peasant that’s better at things than the nobles. And it makes her dynamic with Jinshi interesting, because their social standings are so different. Aside from this desperate plea, the episode was good. Pretty standard quality for Apothecary Diaries. I’ll admit to not being particularly interested in the puffer fish mystery, more just Mao Mao’s deductions and her interactions with Gaoshun and Jinshi. For a bit I was curious if Lakan was setting all of this up to get close to her, which by the way him trying to get with Mao Mao because she’s the courtesans daughter despite their age difference would also be weird please don’t do that, but the family thing really soured him for me. Anyways, yeah, episode was fine. Not much to say beyond begging the series doesn’t screw this Lakan thing up. Not like there’s much else to get on its case for, it’s solid.
‘Tis Time for “Torture”, Princess! – 3
Demon-Lord’s daughter used “Pity”! It’s super effective! That was basically this episode for me. Torture Princess continues to find new ways to iterate on its rather basic concept. From making legitimate friends with her captors and being “tortured” by being denied the ability to go to the theme park with them, remember she’s a prisoner, to the Demon-Lord’s daughter being sad she’s never successfully interrogated someone before and that pitiable knowledge itself being the act of torture, it was all consistently cute and fun. And the gags with the Demon-Lord himself, like refusing to use the code they got because it was his daughters first success and he wants to frame it like a proud parent, continue to work when they absolutely shouldn’t. I get it, things are starting to slow down, the payoffs are becoming less and less effective, we’re slowly getting used to what Torture Princess has to offer. This episode definitely felt a little slow at times after all. But I’m still enjoying it. And it’s still one of the best produced things this season.
Frieren – 20 [Necessary Killing]
Look I get it, the fights are nice. Freiren continues to have one of the best productions among any currently airing anime, that’s not in question. And Fern walking around like a stone faced serial killer and freaking everyone out by destroying them with the basics is kind of funny. But… This isn’t what I watch Frieren for. I don’t care about shounen power scaling, or some grand wish from becoming a First Class Mage, or a bunch of child-looking adults with soft baby faces fighting each other for a bird only to randomly find said bird while limping away with their tail between their legs, invalidating any and all stakes their fight just had. I don’t care about that! What I want, what Frieren used to give me, was a look at what the passage of time means for people, relationships, nations, anything alive, using an emotionally stunted immortal elf as the audience surrogate/observer of it all. And I haven’t gotten that in a while. And it’s making me very sad. Now hopefully, with this first test ending next episode, the second and third tests will bring that back a bit. That’s my hope at least. Because if it doesn’t… Frieren might have just stumbled at the finish line with this stupid exam arc. At least Denken is a decent character, he’s chill, him and Frieren should make for an interesting matchup I hope. Plus the First Class Mages just chilling with the birds was cute, showing off the difference. I still think Frieren could dunk every single one of them, but hey. That’s not the kind of show it is. Or… That it was.
Shangri-La Frontier – 15 [Putting Feelings Into a Moment, Part 1]
It’s here! Finally it’s here! The fight against Wethermon! Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the episode was fine. Psyger continuing to try and connect with Sunraku, the betrayal of Ashura Kai, the reveal that the guild leader is actually Arthurs brother, that was all cute, cool and funny, in that order. But the meat of the episode, and of the next month of the show probably, is the fight against the raid boss, the creature no one has ever killed. And you know what? So far it’s fun. The idea of alternative win conditions to killing a boss makes sense, especially when one of his primary mechanics is neutering your level. I also think they chose their players well for the different phases so far, sending Sunraku to distract him for the first 10 minutes while the other two spam healing potions and resurrection stones is a great strategy for a fight that so out levels them. The animation isn’t the greatest, Shangri-La has had better fights on that front. But I figure we’re just getting started, so lets let it cook for a bit.
The Wrong Way to Use Healing Magic – 4 [Rescue Team Member Usato!]
Wrong Way continues to be the premier Isekai of the season. This entire episode was about our lead, Usato, figuring out what he is willing to fight for. Reconciling his fear of conflict, his inability to fight or kill, with his desire to protect his classmates and friends. And you know what? It works. The focus on running away from fights, dodging attacks and how being in an actual conflict drains your stamina, was nice and it gives me a lot of hope that Wrong Way will stick with Usato as a supporting combatant and not the main hero. And his meeting with his friend, Suzune? It’s actually a solid budding romance slowly built up over repeated, emotionally meaningful interactions rather than sudden one-and-done “I love you MC-kin” bursts. I’m talking healing the hand, the banter, him slowly growing more confident from his time with Rose, etc etc. It’s solid! Wrong Way isn’t doing anything particularly special. It’s just taking all of the basic Isekai tropes and putting effort into them. It’s easier to buy a romance built up over time, easier to buy an OP MC when we watch them train for four-plus episodes and grow from nothing through hard work, easier to buy into our leads motivations when time is taken to flesh them out like this and allow them to come to their own conclusions. What I’m saying is, Wrong Way is solid, and I continue to enjoy it.
Solo Leveling – 3 [It’s Like a Game]
And now we reach the part of Solo Leveling I was never a huge fan of: The real life RPG mechanics. I… I’ve always found this to be incredibly uninteresting. It’s a power that completely breaks the few rules of the world that we have, with everything from the stats to random loot boxes and quests. There’s absolutely no limits nor consistency to it, it just does whatever the author needs it to do at the time, like the softest of magic systems. And that’s kind of dull if you ask me. Still, credit where it’s due, Solo Leveling continues to look pretty good. I like the linework, the character designs, animation is good enough especially in the fights. All around, the production is pretty good. I’m just not the interested in the story.
Unwanted Undead Adventurer – 4 [Existential Evolution]
Unwanted Undead continues to hold steady at “just entertaining enough to keep watching”. Every week it reveals a new tidbit of information about Rentt’s condition, a new rule or requirement, to keep it from getting stale. This week? Apparently he not only thirsts for mortal flesh and blood, consuming it actually contributes to his evolution into higher stages of undead. That’s kind of cool, it adds a cost to growing his power. How long can he maintain his humanity if that’s what he has to do? Already we see him lamenting the civilian he found being a decent person and not a criminal, because apparently cannibalizing a criminal is an acceptable option to him now. It’s a neat wrinkle that Unwanted Undead can pull on to make situations more complicated, and I like that. I also enjoyed his interactions with the civilian, his “deal” to act as a proxy and eat free at the restaurant, despite his inability to eat normal food at all. It sort of acts like a new goal for him now, eating real food there. I can see that being a really emotional moment. So despite all of this, why isn’t Unwanted Undead higher on this list? Well because it looks like shit, is paced poorly, and ultimately never goes deep enough into these ideas to make it worthwhile. It’s leading me on with them, never committing enough to make it great. Odds are one day I’ll drop it. For now though, having enough fun.
The Witch and the Beast – 3 [The Witch’s Pastime: Final Act]
This was… This was a weird fucking episode of Witch and Beast. So much so that I’m not sure how I feel about it. On one hand, the character designs, relationships and general mystery are all still fine. I like the plans to draw out the witch, the fake police thing was clever, and the demonstration of forbidden items was interesting. On the other hand though, the action is still shit, the writing is becoming convoluted, and the “twist” of the witch actually being the detectives adopted sons who “viewed her as a woman” and were jealous of her boyfriend, killing anyone close to her so they could maybe get with her in this weird incest thing, was… Well it was fucking weird. Yeah, it got my attention, I’m going to keep watching the show for a bit because this was better than giving the witch some sympathetic backstory. But man, do we need the weird incest storylines? We already have a solid core story following our leads hunting down witches to undo a curse, why do we gotta get incest-y with it? Suffice to say, I was not particularly enthused with the episode, but I’ll keep with it… For now.
Ishura – 4 [Niholo the Vortical Stampede and Kia the World Word]
Once again we get an entire episode setting up two more combatants, get no conflict or action, and are instead inundated with meaningless political drivel. Look, if Ishura was a manga and each of these introductions were a chapter or two, something you could blitz through in maybe 10 minutes, this wouldn’t be a problem. The time investment would be completely different. But as it is, at the rate Ishura is going, I have doubts we’re even going to get through all of these intros before the season ends. We’re 1/3rd of the way through Winter 2024 and Ishura has done nothing but set up characters so that they can fight later. When will they fight? Why can’t you just show me these things as the characters become relevant? I know that’s not the best way to do things, but it’s definitely better than this. Just give me something, anything, involve our lead in any way, just stop introducing two new character backstories with their own entire supporting casts every god damn episode.
Metallic Rouge – 3 [Marginal City]
Metallic Rouge continues to be the most basic, generic, unsubtle sci-fi I’ve seen in a while. It doesn’t even try to hide or do anything interesting with the concept of AI as second class citizens, coming right out and calling them “equipment” and “consumable goods with no free will”. Hell, Metallic Rouge doesn’t even know if the Neans are robots at all, waffling between robots, people, and aliens. Which is it Metallic Rouge? It even has the gall to use Asimov’s Three Laws, despite them very clearly being flawed and not actually able to bind AI at all. And that’s not even mentioning the blatant and obvious racism with the police, or the random sauna scene that only exists to undress out leads, or the doctor defending slavery by saying “Don’t fight for your freedom, you’ll just become something worse, that’s how it always starts”. Perhaps the most egregious example of all of this though is Naomi, who opens the episode acting like a bitch and calling Rouge a “thing”, only to decide a few minutes later with absolutely no outside stimulus that maybe that was a bit rude, making it clear that Metallic Rouge constructed that conflict just to separate the two and not to encourage any actual character growth or narrative importance. It’s all just so… dull, uninteresting, and clearly written by committee to fit some sci-fi mold they have in their head. Gotta tick the racism and Asimov boxes! Lets not consider how any of these might effect our world! It’s just… It’s really disappointing that this is the best BONES was able to come up.
Sengoku Youko – 3 [Year Seven of the Eiroku Period]
Aidan: With this episode we have firmly set up the character dynamics of the main cast with a surface level in Jinka being an edgy tough guy, Tama the voice of reason, Shinsuke the comedy whipping boy and Shakugan the emotional heart. But we have a bit of depth in theming in how interconnected and contrasting the protagonists’ views are. Our two human protagonists both wish for power in that Jinka wants to shed his humanity completely and Shinsuke wants to shed his caste in life. Meanwhile our inhuman protagonists are both placing high value on humanity with Tama wishing for peace between humans and Shakugans deep regret over the lives she has taken and the loss of her own humanity. The male/female pairings make for an interesting clash as their wishes are in direct opposition with in being most notable in Jinkas’ wish to eradicate humanity compared to Tama’s wish to save them. Unfortunately I think Shinsuke is getting unfavorable comparisons to a rather unpopular character from Demon Slayer which I can get in regards to him being a character who shouts a lot and isn’t providing any real use to the main party. That said, it’s pretty clear that they are building something with him. As for other matters I do admit to sharing a bit of Lenlo’s grievances with the production, at least in regards to the action. But I know White Fox is capable of good fight scenes and believe this is just a matter of saving the effort for when it truly matters. But I can say that I like that the villains for the most part are not laughing maniacally and more treating this situation like another day at the office. It kinda gives the sense of them being actual people rather than caricatures.