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Summer 2024 Impressions: The Elusive Samurai, Twilight out of Focus, Senpai Is an Otokonoko

The Elusive Samurai

Short Synopsis: The would-be inheritor of the Kamakura shogunate flees his birthplace after his family is betrayed by a powerful warrior.

Lenlo: Competing with Monogatari, Elusive Samurai is probably the best animated show of the season. It doesn’t quite have the same level of direction and shot composition that Monogatari does, it was actually uncomfortably punched in a lot of the time, making it hard for me to pick which I like more. Still, it definitely moves beautifully, and I love the colors. Narratively… It has promise, but christ is the humor bad. It’s loud and over the top, often clashing with what is happening on screen and what characters are saying/talking about. The tonal dissonance between an entire clan being slaughtered in incredibly gory fashion while a priest mumbles to himself or smiles and screams over a young boy’s shoulder is insane. If Elusive Samurai can figure that balance out, can cut down on the mediocre humor or at least time it better, then this could be something special. As it is though… I’m unsure if it can stick the landing. I’m going to keep watching it for now at least.
Potential: 50%

Wooper: Between the background information on The Elusive Samurai’s historical period (the early 14th century), the names of various lords, priests and samurai, and the details surrounding the untimely deaths of several characters, there’s a lot to wrap your head around in this premiere. A piece of closing narration informs us that the series’ story will span two years, so we’re not in for Heike Monogatari levels of compression, but it’s likely that audiences will have to be mentally nimble to keep up with this show (or in my case, mainline Wikipedia articles to make up the difference). Even if you’re slow-witted like me, though, Elusive Samurai is absolutely worth checking out for its visuals, which will surely go down as some of the year’s best. Usually I’ll point to either animation or art direction as a series’ strong suit, but in this case they’re equally impressive, as main character Tokiyuki runs, jumps, flips, and parkours his way through background after beautiful background. The more scenic landscapes strike a delightful balance between detail and delicacy, but what’s even more impressive is that shots of manmade structures maintain that same balance, constantly accounting for the ways light might touch a stone wall or a wooden rooftop. I’m less enamored with the show’s overall tone, which goes to some bizarrely glib places for a prologue where the protagonist’s family and future subjects perish en masse. But for an anime like this one with both an intriguing setting and top tier production, I can push past an annoying character or two.
Potential: 65%

Twilight Out of Focus

Short Synopsis: A second year college student wrestles with his emerging attraction to his male roommate, who volunteers as an actor in his film club.

Wooper: My initial thought after watching this episode was, “It’s gonna look pretty bad if I give the BL anime a lower score than the step-sibling anime,” but as long as I’m being honest, I have to say that I enjoyed virtually nothing about Tasogare Out Focus. Everything about it is aimed squarely at the fujoshi market, from broad stuff like the uniformly tall, male and handsome cast, all the way down to the tiniest details, like the male/female coding of the lead characters’ plush birds. The “Let’s shoot a BL movie (no homo tho)” attitude of the film club’s leader is awkward, and his goofball personality feels like it’s designed to handwave that issue. And then there’s the scene where one of the main roommates drunkenly pins down and licks the other (strike one) while mistaking him for his sensei (strike two), but is nonchalantly forgiven the next morning with the phrase “it was just an accident” (strike three). Tasogare is clearly trying to have its non-consensual BL cake and eat it too, and although that’s par for the genre’s course, it doesn’t have to be – the Given adaptation from 2019 is proof of that. I’ll give this show a few points for being fairly well-drawn, but really, this is a gentleman’s zero.
Potential: 5%

Lenlo: Basically everything Wooper said above, this is pretty basic fujoshi bait stuff. The only thing it has going for it is that it looks decent, but unlike Wooper I’ll just give it the 0 it deserves. Honestly it’s actually rather creepy in a lot of places.
Potential: 0%

Senpai is an Otokonoko

Short Synopsis: A first year high school girl befriends a crossdressing boy after unsuccessfully confessing her love to him.

Wooper: You’ll want to brace yourself before watching Senpai is an Otokonoko, but not because of its crossdressing or genderbending themes, which are quite mild (after one episode, anyway). No, the reason you’ll need to prepare your kokoro is the constant swapping between two different art styles, which was more aggressive here than in any other anime I’ve seen this decade. I’m assuming this choice was meant to match the manga’s use of deformed character designs, but it was so distracting that I can’t get a handle on whether the show has any promise apart from its bizarre presentation. There’s a relentlessly genki first year girl whom I might have liked, if only her most impulsive moments hadn’t been depicted in that alternate style, and while the protagonist’s childhood friend didn’t leave an impression on me, he might have had a shot at memorability if not for that same issue. As for the main character, it was really just the quiet final scene (where he changed out of his feminine clothes in a storage shed and bid himself goodbye) that garnered my interest. If I were a ‘three episode rule’ kind of anime fan, I might give the show a chance to display that side of itself in the future, but in terms of first impressions, this was a miss.
Potential: 0%

Lenlo: Wooper is right, the switches between artstyle were really jarring and came at completely random times. Do we really need to swap between them in the middle of the same scene, the same conversation, the same damn shot? Really took me out of what was happening. Aside from that, I can’t say it was very interesting. I don’t see how this makes for a long-term story since the guy’s secret is revealed in the first 3 minutes of the episode. Maybe it works as a gag comedy series or something? But with how ugly and unappealing the chibi art style is, which it uses for every single one of its gags, I don’t see it working.
Potential: 0%

The post Summer 2024 Impressions: The Elusive Samurai, Twilight out of Focus, Senpai Is an Otokonoko appeared first on Star Crossed Anime.

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