Spy x Family’s First Half is Done, and I Have Some Thoughts

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The spring 2022 anime season is, by the time this gets released, likely finished with most of its major shows. However, Spy x Family, the break-out star of the season, is only done with its first half. Presumably, this is to give the staff a bit of a break before they continue this coming October. Still, since it is the end of the season, I figure now would be as good a time as ever to organize my thoughts as well as list my hopes for the second half.

For those who missed the spring season darling, Spy x Family is about Twilight, a spy for the Westalia government who has recently been given an important mission: to take down a prominent political figure of the neighboring Ostania. In order to do this, he must infiltrate one of the country’s most influential schools by disguising himself as normal family man Loid Forger, living together with his “wife” Yor Forger, and his adopted daughter Anya Forger, both of whom do not know about his Spy occupation.

I will start by saying that Mangaka Tatsuya Endou is a genius. While I am not familiar at all with their other works, the idea behind Spy x Family is honestly the perfect example of simple but effective storytelling. The series draws on some prominent historical parallels in the era of McCarthyism and the Cold War. However, alongside its narrative about taking down radical governments and what it means to be a family, the series manages to sprinkle in a lot of humor.

The focus of that humor, though, tends to be Anya, who has, more or less, become the show’s unofficial mascot. Anya is also hiding a secret of her own: she has the ability to read other people’s minds. This power gives her the dynamic of knowing both the secret of Loid and Yor while also having the two of them not know about her, which tends to be the focus of the more comedic moments.

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Speaking of Yor, her secret is a little more…violent. When she is not taking care of Anya or at her day job, Yor works as an Assassin, killing basically whoever she is told to. Apart from having the aesthetic appeal, Yor’s character works because of her budding relationship with Anya, which often leaves her conflicted about her work as a killer.

The same can be said of Twilight, who admits near the beginning of the show that his adoption of Anya has made him less sharp than he would be normally. His occupation necessarily keeps him in and out of various identities, to the point that he has never had the ability to start a family of his own. This is a really compelling point, and it makes it to where there is a continual reason to keep watching even outside of the show’s episodic antics.

Outside of the show’s fantastic characters and narrative, it also just looks incredible. It is clear that there is a lot of attention to detail, from the bustling city backgrounds to the quick moments of action and combat which appear in most episodes. Spy x Family has more love and care put into its most stable moments than some series do at their most animated. *cough cough Seven Deadly Sins cough cough*

The soundtrack also manages to nail the fusion between classic sounds of the 50s and spy movie thrillers. While I would probably have a hard time picking out a favorite track, I can say at least that I do enjoy all of the music that has appeared in the series so far. The opening in particular does a great job at combining these sounds while also giving it a cute, poppier aesthetic that just kinda works.

The anime feels almost flawlessly executed at this point. Every plot point is falling in line and everyone has a role to play. My one wish going forward actually concerns Yor. For as often as she is on one screen, I do not know that the series has properly gotten at the heart of her character. What’s more, her relationship with her brother Yuri, who works for the Ostanian military doing torture, is one that could seriously threaten Loid’s work. Thus, my one hope is that this does not get hand brushed away as a minor inconvenience and that Yor’s character is more thoroughly explored by the end of the next half.

The same could honestly be said for Anya as well, but her appearances on screen do not feel as empty in that regard. Her interior life is much more present, in part because she is often the main focus of the later episodes, but also because her thought process is more laid out when she is reading someone’s mind.

Overall, though, there is fairly little to complain about. Spy x Family is a fun and enjoyable series that seems to be moving in a solid narrative direction. Once the series finishes its second half, I will do a full review, but for now, these are my thoughts.


Have you been watching Spy x Family? How do you feel about the series? Let me know down in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, shout out to Jenn for supporting the blog on Patreon.

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Kaguya-sama Love is War: Ultra Romantic

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The end of another season of course means the end of another block of anime. However, this season feels a bit different, and a lot of that can be attributed to the series I am talking about today, Kaguya-sama. I have admitted in the past to not being the warmest on the show when it first came out. In fact, it felt kind of gimmicky. At least, that is how it was at first.

Not only did the series only get more and more entertaining, but the amount of longevity and growth it has had over its now three seasons is also one of the most impressive I have seen from a show in a while. Any hesitancy about its quality on my part has since been replaced with whole-hearted enthusiasm for one of the most charming romantic comedies of the last decade.

For those unaware, Love is War focuses on Miyuki Shirogane and Kaguya Shinomiya, the president and vice president of the student council of the elite Shuuchin Academy. After working together for about half a year, the two simultaneously develop a crush on the other. However, the driving philosophy among those at the top is as such: Admitting one’s feelings is tantamount to admitting defeat, and so the two engage in war to get the other to confess first.

Ultra Romantic? More Like Ultra in Panic

I said in the plot description that the show focuses on their game of not admitting to one another, and while that is still generally true of the third season, there is a large shift in philosophy that encompasses much of Ultra Romantic. Whereas seasons one and two felt significantly more playful and comedy focuses in their approach to the story, Kaguya-sama’s third season is decidedly not that.

Ultra Romantic instead looks towards the end game. For as much as the antics between Kaguya, Miyuki, and the others are fun, time is not static, and both seemingly want this game to come to an end. Kaguya is as restless about the situation as ever, and at this point is even worried about sending him a message on social media, not only because of their game but because she is genuinely confused about how she should approach the situation.

Meanwhile, Miyuki’s sense of self-worth has always been determined by his ability to outwork others. Consequentially, this has meant that his relationship with this game has become more tied to his self-worth. Thus, this sense of resignation in wanting to confess to Kaguya is a genuine internal conflict that she is only aware of on a surface level.

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Romance Isn’t Just For Protagonists

If Love is War was only good for its leads, I do not think I would be able to leverage the amount of praise for it that I do. What sets the series apart from other romantic comedies is that its side characters are decidedly less one-note in their effect on the story or any individual gag.

A great example of this is Ishigami. While he certainly started out as kind of a nothing character, his evolution throughout the series has been phenomenal. His arc during the final episodes of season two showed that the series is able to handle heavier moments despite its more lighthearted nature.

Season three only built on this development, as the revelation of his feelings for Tsubame creates a funny and heartwarming side-story which at times feels as compelling as the push and pull of Miyuki and Kaguya. If season two was Ishigami’s lowest moment, then the end of season three is a moment of triumphant return.

However, Ishigami is not the only other love-struck idiot desperately hiding their affection. It really could not be any more obvious that Miko herself has started to develop feelings for Ishigami, who does not seem to notice, and yet continually feeds this attraction by showing her continual kindness. This comes to a head when Ishigami hand delivers an IPad so she can watch the campfire that she helped organize in the first place.

As much as the main romance of the series is great, some of my favorite moments have come from the interactions between Hayasaka and Shirogane. Embedded in their encounters is a message about what it means to be one’s genuine self, and how the two of them are forced to hide behind a social mask for fear of being ridiculed. Apart from the obvious romantic dynamic of Hayasaka’s crush on Shirogane, their relationship also symbolizes the hardships that come with being from a lower-class family, which itself makes their relationship feel like a continuous moment of solidarity.

The Visual Gag Level Up

Another thing that Kaguya-sama has always been good at is visual gags. Its ability to utilize moments of extreme sakuga and other weird references to tell a joke is second maybe only to a few others. Much like the previously mentioned character development, the visual gags of season three have only gotten funnier.

One of my personal favorites comes from Maki during the early to mid part of the season, where Ishigami tries to protect her from playing her erotic relaxation soundtrack out loud because she forgot to plug in her headphones, meanwhile the image of cute boys is constantly appearing in her head.

Kaguya’s facial expressions are also amongst my favorite, as she can often go from menacing psychopath to adorable gremlin in a matter of frames. The thing that makes it even more humorous is when the series ops to cut in the moments of heaviness with these strange visual gags, which can certainly feel jarring if done poorly, but is almost always on point.

The Finale/Confession

The climax of the series’ cultural festival arc is one that I did not see coming even despite how obvious it was that something was going to happen. In a final bid to get Kaguya to confess, Shirogane undergoes a secret identity of the phantom thief, leading everyone around so that he can have his moment with Kaguya, and while neither actual confess, they do share a kiss under the thousands of heart-shaped balloons which he had risen up from the campfire below.

Again I am not gonna pretend like I did not see it coming. It is literally in the premise of the show that it was going to happen eventually. However, I am a strong believer in the idea that a plot point being obvious is not necessarily bad as long as it is executed well, which this flashy display of romance most certainly was.

Conclusion

There is not much to comment I that I have not praised the series for before, and on top of that, it has been confirmed that another anime-related project is in the works, which likely means either season four or a sequel movie. Season three was exciting, charming, and overall everything that I could have wanted from the series in its latest incarnation.

91/100


How did you all feel about Kaguya-sama: Love is War? Let me know down in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, special thanks to Jenn for supporting the blog on Patreon.

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

Attack on Titan Final Season: Episodes 64-67

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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It is once again time to talk about everyone’s favorite dumpster fire: Attack on Titan. The first part is a joke, obviously, because the series has been amazing. These next four episodes have continued to impress as well, highlighting the chaos that has come from the Marleyian government and its focus from the rest of the world.

As it worked out, these next four episodes covered what ended up being a pretty big reveal, not that it was not obvious anyway. As it turns out, the older man that Falco was helping deliver letters outside of the camp was Eren, who managed to sneak in through the military. Eren and the others use the power of the titans to launch a surprise attack inside the camp, on the night that the head of the Tyburs made his big speech.

Again, what surprised me about these episodes is not necessarily the reveal itself or what happened after, but how it happened. While it certainly makes sense after the fact, Eren confronting Reiner directly was not something that I was anticipating. It felt like something that would have happened near the end of the season, rather than it its first quarter. Still, it was a surprisingly powerful moment, one in which neither character came out looking morally good but certainly the emotion behind it was there.

As for the fighting that happened after…look, if there is one thing that I can count on AOT for its some damn good looking fight scenes. Seeing two giant monster swing at each other is always going to be fun as long as there is some reasonable context behind it. On top of that, the lighting in most of these scenes gives off the feeling of war movies set in enemy territory at night, and it absolutely nails the tense atmosphere that comes with those settings. People and titans are moving quickly and often the only light comes from gunshots and the fires burning just a few hundred feet away.

Another element of warfare that Attack on Titan does fairly well is the strategy. A good battle scene not only gets the audience invested in what is happening immediately but subtely draws their attention away from things that they might have lingered on otherwise. A good example of this comes in the middle of the fight between the Eldian titans and Eren, when unbeknowst to everyone else, Armin was getting ready to set of the Fat Guy level bomb that is the Colossal Titan, destroying an entire bay of ships.

The only thing that feels somewhat protest worthy is the character development of Gabi. Whereas Falco has fairly clear motivations for his actions at this point in the series, Gabi, who is important enough to be considered the next Armored Titan, does not give me that same feeling. The episodes this week helped with that a fair amount, which is why I would not consider it a big deal, but I do hope she gets a little bit more development before they inevitably kill her off.

At least, those are the vibes I get from the season thus far. On top of Gabi and Falco’s suicide mission into the blimp and procedeing murder of Sasha, there is also the reveal of Zeke working for Eren and the others. I would be lying if I said that this made total sense to me, but it did happen in the last five minutes of the last episode I happened to watch, so judgement will be reserved for next week’s episodes.


Have you finished season four already? Have you yet to even watch Attack on Titan? Are you a clearly superior manga reader who already knows what’s going to happen? Let me know down in the comments, but please avoid spoilers, for my sake and others.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, special thanks to Jenn for cotinuing to support us on Patreon.

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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Wow, I really forgot just how much fun it can be to watch things with other people. As an introvert, I generally prefer to watch things alone and absorb them in a space free from any immediate distraction. However, sometimes it is nice to take a break from that and just hang out with other people. Not like my last group watch was that far removed, but watching Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou with others was an incredibly relaxing experience.

For those who are unaware of this critically acclaimed manga turned two-time OVA series, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is set at the end of the world…kind of. An unnamed disaster has left humans a dwindling artifact of planet earth. Meanwhile, androids like Alpha are fairly common. Alpha is told to manage her owner’s coffee shop after he is called away on business indefinitely. With nothing else to do aside from managing a mostly empty store, Alpha decides to spend her days exploring the landscapes and people around her.

98′ vs 02′

Despite the critical acclaim of the original manga, the series only managed to amass a series of OVAs, or rather two series of OVAs. The first aired in 1998 and the second four years later in 2002. Interestingly enough, this period also roughly coincides with the transition period during which many studios underwent a major transition from traditional cell animation to digital.

The change in animation style is definitely noticeable. While the studio that adapted the series stayed the same between both OVAs, the watercolor backgrounds of the original are noticeably absent in the later series. Both styles are certainly unique, and the digital animation has a charm that is unique to itself. However, it would have been nice to see the series continued in that original style.

Outside of that minute difference, there honestly is not a lot to say about the series’ animation other than that it is well done. Character movement is fairly limited, but the movement that does happen is expressive and displays a ton of personality, like the way Ojisan is always delighted to see Alpha when she walks/drives by.

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Who is Alpha?

YKK is as episodic as it is relaxing. Each episode is fairly self-contained, and though there is an overarching story, it is ultimately built around the main character Alpha. Each episode is focused on either her internal thought process in running the shop or the external struggles of having to deal with a broken body or house.

While the appeal of the show, and of other Iyashikei stories at large, is that they are inviting and peaceful, there is a lot about our main heroine that is left undetermined, at least in the story for anime. Questions about the identity of Alpha’s owner and the nature of his “business trip” still hang around, giving the series an almost melancholic vibe.

I do mean almost though, as none of this really ruins the mood of the series. The vast majority of Alpha’s narrative conflict is centered around nature in some way, whether that be its beauty or its capacity for destruction, or sometimes even both at the same time. The ending scene of episode two of the first season manages to find beauty in a sunken seaside town, and if you don’t take anything else away from this series honestly just watch this scene:

The World is Over, I Guess…

Another massive Elephant that seemingly is never addressed, I suppose for fear of killing the mood, is the setting, because, in the universe of YKK, everyone is living through the apocalypse.

Ok, that is a little inaccurate. Technically, the Apocolypse that wiped out a large chunk of humanity is a couple hundred years removed from the events of the series. Still, it feels like when it is addressed at all, it is done in a way that feels incredibly calm and detached.

Part of this is probably due to the previously mentioned time separation, but a large chunk of it also seems to stem from the fact that Alpha is a robot. While she certainly acts the part of a young woman running a coffee shop, her perception of time seems to be significantly different than that of a normal person.

Again, this stems from multiple reasons, but rather than feeling weird and out of place, this lack of a consistent temporal grounding serves to aid YKK in creating its more relaxed atmosphere. More focus on what caused the end of the world or how it has affected other places would likely take away from the feeling that it has so meticulously crafted.

Conclusion

Weirdly enough, there is not much more to be said about the series. In fact, its brevity may arguably be one of its strengths. It is by no means a series that is going to appeal to everyone (people who primarily enjoy shounen are not likely to find much value in Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou). However, those who tend to enjoy a more monotonal, slice-of-life atmosphere will definitely get a kick out of it.

80/100


Have you all seen Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, special thanks to Jenn for being an amazing Patron.

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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Attack on Titan Final Season: Episodes 60-63

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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The time, my friends, has come. It has been a long and perilous journey, with many hardships, including having to swap ps4 controllers while watching. Hours and hours of catching up on all of the previous seasons, along with the surprisingly impressive OADs, have brought me to this point. It is with great pleasure that I announce the weekly Attack on Titan final season coverage.

In order to fully immerse myself in Attack on Titan over the next couple of months, I will be covering three or four episodes until I finish what has been released. Then, once the last of the final season begins airing, I’ll be doing a final post wrapping up the series along with another post of some kind to finish my coverage.

Rediscovering Attack on Titan this year has been some of the most fun I have had with anime in a while. Not to say that I have been particularly bored with anime, far from it in fact. However, AOT in particular has been one of my main points of enjoyment. With that being said, let’s talk about the final season.

The opening episodes place us sometime in the future, where Reiner has successfully returned home and is helping the Marleyians fight against a nearby middle-eastern nation. In order to accomplish this feat, the country continues to rely on the power of the titans held by the Eldians and their descendants. He has started looking after the next candidates to host the armored titan, of which a young girl named Gabi seems to be the most promising.

However, these opening episodes are, for the most part, viewed from the perspective of Falco, another of the armored titan candidates and the younger brother of Colt, the successor to the beast titan legacy. Falco, in a lot of ways, seems to be a mirror to Eren Jeager: a young upstart who wants to help his family, blood-related or not, by putting himself through immense self-sacrifice. In his case, his most immediate motivation seems to be protecting Gabi, who he has a crush on.

Zeke has also resurfaced as a relevant character. His standing within the Marleyian army has given him enough power to engage on a mission to secure the founding titan. His reasoning for this, which the other top brass seem to agree with, is that the rest of the world has caught up to Marley in terms of military strength and that the founding titan will be needed in order to reassert dominance.

What I like about this series so far is not necessarily the characters, however, although they certainly are good. Rather, what makes this season so intriguing is how the scale of its politics has jumped from the island outside of Marley to basically the entire world. The perspective has shifted from those trapped inside the wall to the ones who banished them, to begin with.

The parallel between the two groups of Eldians still exists, though. One group is trapped behind the wall due to the titans, and the other is trapped behind the walls of internment. Both are suffering at the hands of Marley, just in different ways.

The change in animation styles has definitely thrown me for a loop. Character designs among the Eldians look pretty similar to the point it was hard to tell characters apart at times during the first two episodes or so. Still, despite being lukewarm on the change initially, I have come to appreciate it. In the context of the story being told, the change in style certainly makes some sense. Although, I do maintain that the series would have looked fine even in its previous look.

Overall, the direction Attack on Titan has taken is an exciting one. So many questions are yet to be answered, and it is clear that many unnamed forces are still at play, driving the series’ world in ways that maybe do not make any immediate sense. Will the oppression of the Eldians finally come to an end? probably not yet at least since we are not even a quarter of the way through, but whatever happens is sure to be a good time.


Have you started the final season of Attack on Titan yet? Are you still behind? Let me know in the comments, but please leave out any spoilers.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, thanks to our patron Jenn for the support.

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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Secondary Findings: Redveil, Stranger Things, Blue Box, etc.

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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Welcome back to another edition of “talking about random things I like cause it makes me feel good.” For those joining this series for the first time, Basically, anything that either I do not feel like covering in full or does not fit within the usual scope of the blog. I try to keep these a few months spread apart so that people do not get bored and I actually have stuff to talk about. With that being said, I hope you Enjoy

learn 2 swim by redveil

Something that most probably do not know about me is that I am a pretty big RAP and Hip-Hop. In 2022? I know, very surprising, but it is true. However, since I do not talk about music that much on this site, I figured this would be a great place to talk about said music.

First on that list is an album that seemed to take a lot of critics by surprise, learn 2 swim. Redveil is an artist that I honestly knew nothing about before this project, but he certainly has my attention after its release. A lot of the instrumentals seem to be sampling or inspired by jazz and soul, with most of the tracks having a flare reminiscent of a downtown street performance. My only gripe with it musically is that some of the tracks can sound a little samey, but given its overall narrative arc that makes sense.

Speaking of, the lyrical capability on this album is absolutely insane. Lines like “growth ain’t one direction it’s a tour” gave me pause and honestly sent me into a bit of self-reflection. The over-arching narrative is one of self-growth, looking back on the past as a way of informing the present. All of this is made even more impressive by the fact that redveil himself is only 18 and produced the majority of the album by himself.

At the end of the day, learn 2 swim is an incredible album. It has basically everything one could want out of a hip-hop record, so if you’re looking for something a little more low-key and experimental I would highly recommend it.

Things with Wings by ericdoa

On the note of experimental, I talked previously about my love hyperpop and its adjacent sounds. ericdoa’s previous solely record COA is considered largely a success in that regard, with a variety of hyperpop/EDM-focused sounds, leaning on a good amount of vocal modulation to boot.

Things with Wings is taken a bit of a departure while still retaining a bit of what gave COA its hyperpop identity. It is decidedly more pop, with songs like “phases” leaning into more funk sounds and “victim” feeling more like traditionally dance-pop.

Surprisingly, there are no features of which to speak, which is a bit of a shame since some of the songs could have used the additional length as many feel a tad too short. Most of the songs have a verse and maybe a small breakdown. Still, eric is a capable vocalist and manages to carry the majority of the songs pretty well.

The album definitely has its shortcomings, but it is still a lot of fun. So, anyone who is interested in that sort of sound should give it a chance as well.

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Stranger Things

Well, I was supposed to finish part one of season four with my siblings and my mom…but, that did not really work out. Everyone kept having something going on, and so I just said screw it and finished it by myself.

I do actually feel a bit bad though, cause wow, that was an amazing way to start the final season. The hype may have died down a bit from the series being delayed by COVID and Netflix’s general incompetence but it still felt well worth the wait.

Stranger Things has always felt at its best when disconnected storylines build and then eventually meet, and thus far the series has done an excellent job of that. I will leave this section spoiler-free since, by the time this comes out, the series will still be relatively new. What I will say, though, is that the horror in this season has been turned up to eleven (all puns intended). That 30 million per episode budget may feel ridiculous, but it seems to have accomplished something at least.

If I were to pick a favorite character, however, it would probably be Dustin. In the past, Dustin has come off as mainly just the comic relief of the group, for better or for worse. In season four, it feels as though he is finally coming into his own, almost becoming the “mad scientist” of the group. Overall, it was a fantastic start and I am genuinely excited to see how part 2 wraps ups the series.

Trash Taste Podcast

Putting this here almost feels stupid since the number of views they get on one episode seems to suggest that just about everyone watches them at this point. However, I recently got back into watching the Trash Taste Podcast, so I figured I would talk about it.

Despite having the least history watching him as a creator, it was actually CDawgVA that got me back into it. His second channel just happened to show up in my recommendations, after which I started watching his videos which eventually lead me back to Trash Taste.

I am not gonna sit here and pretend like I have always been the biggest fan of their work. (The whole Flying Colors Foundation thing from years back still makes me seriously question their trustworthiness). However, I have been missing something to put on in the background while I fall asleep, and so it fills a nice role that way.

For what it is worth, though, I do think they are genuinely pretty entertaining. The way they go off on stupid tangents at basically every point of a given episode makes it a lot more engaging and fun to listen to. It is a tad disappointing that do not talk about anime more, considering that is kind of what it was originally advertised as, but still a great podcast overall.

Blue Box

I am putting this here only because I honestly do not know if I will end up covering it for the blog or not. However, I did manage to read the first few chapters of Blue Box, a sports/romance manga that is currently being serialized in Shonen Jump. I found out about it after watching Super Eyepatch Wolf’s recent breakdown of Shonen Jump, and I have to say, I am impressed so far.

The introductory chapters are about what one would expect from the above description. However, there is an earnestness in the characters’ feelings which does resonate quite a bit. Also, despite how obvious it was, I would be lying if I said the reveal at the end of chapter two did not catch me off guard.

The art, while not particularly detailed, is nice enough to look at, and the character designs are distinct enough that I do not have to do a double-take while reading, which is more than I can say for some other series. The whole thing honestly reminds me more of a shoujo aesthetic than it does a sports manga, which makes sense considering the romance seems to be the main focus. I am excited to eventually catch up and see where exactly the series will go.


What have you all been enjoying recently? Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, thank you to our Patron Jenn for being absolutely fantastic!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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Initial Results: Wolf’s Rain

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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There are a lot of shows that sit in the back of my mind, every so often popping into my immediate consciousness after a brief interaction via a mention on social media or a peer talking about the series in passing. This time, however, it was a little bit more forward than even that, as a friend of mine lent me the series since it is one of their favorites. After sitting on it for a month, I decided to finally start Wolf’s Rain and see for myself why this 2003 Bones original is remembered fondly by so many.

The story of Wolf’s Rain details a world much different from our own, where legends say humans are descended from wolves, and that their ultimate goal is to return to paradise. The only problem is, the last wolves were seen over 200 years ago, and are believed to be extinct…so it is thought by most, anyway. Enter Kiba, a lone wolf who has recently come to town following the scent of the Lunar Flower. He then meets a few others, Tsume, Toboe, and Hige, who flee the town and join him on his journey.

There are a lot of individual storylines which are introduced in the opening episodes of the series. The majority of the time thus far has been spent on the wolf boys themselves. However, there is the story of the sheriff who came to Freeze City looking for wolves, the detective whose head researcher ex-wife knows a lot more than she lets on, and a mysterious masked man who is trying to gather the “flower maidens.” Yet, despite all that, it never feels like these storylines are fighting each other. Rather, they serve as a compliment in a mystery that is clearly bigger than all of them.

Not only are the storylines immediately interesting, but the world itself is also fascinating. Not much about the landscape outside of major cities is known, but a lot can implicitly be drawn from episode four, where the crew travels across what looks to be a war-torn area, and Toboe’s reactivation of a mech that was buried underground seems to imply that much of the world was burned down from advanced military technology. There is a sense of bleakness not just in the landscape but in the colors as well. The four wolves trek across what is essentially open, frozen land, with nothing but snow for miles.

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The wolf boys themselves are fairly compelling, and each of them clearly has their own problems. Tsume has been leading a gang in order to make enough money to survive, but clearly does not fit in with human society. Toboe, at least at first, is a bit more optimistic. A chance encounter with a young girl gives him hope that wolves might be accepted by humans but is later betrayed when the girl cowers after he reveals his wolf form. Hige is admittedly the most underdeveloped of the three since he more or less just meets Kiba and sticks along for the ride. However, I am hopeful that his own storyline will come to fruition.

I did choose to watch the series in dub, only because that is how the DVD is set by default (I am that lazy). Still, I do not at all regret that decision. Not only does Johnny Young’s Bosch play the role of Kiba, but a younger Crispin Freeman takes the role of Tsume, and oh boy do I miss his buttery voice when watching anime dubs. Hige, played by Joshua Seth, and Toboe, voiced by Mona Marshall, also do a great job in their respective roles. Although, in the case of the latter, I cannot help but laugh a little every time I hear his voice.

The only thing I can really complain about at the moment is the format in which I am watching it. The show is almost 20 years old at this point, and as such, is sadly stuck in 4:3 aspect ratio. Not only that, the latent audio is incredibly quiet, and the English subtitles do not at all match the dub script, meaning I am basically required to wear headphones when I want to watch it.

Minor annoyances aside, Wolf’s Rain is looking set up for success. Not does it excel at visual storytelling, but its cast is just big enough to keep it interesting at all times without having to fight for screen time.


Have you all seen Wolf’s Rain? Let me know in the comments, but please avoid spoilers, as by the time this gets released I may or may not be finished with the series.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, thank you to our Patron Jenn for being amazing!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Attack on Titan OADs

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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Some of those reading the title right now might be a bit confused as to why I am choosing to cover the topic of this post. After all, OADs are often not important to the story, and on top of that, I rarely if ever talk about them outside of the context of reporting that they exist. In fact, I do not even watch them most of the time unless I am struggling with things to watch.

Well, apart from the fact that Crunchyroll has them conveniently listed on their website and the fact that I said I was going to cover them, I want to feel like I am getting the full-on AOT experience. Plus, it seems as though most of these are to be treated as canon, and since that is the case, I want to give them the respect they deserve as proper entries into Attack on Titan.

There is not really a convenient summary I can write since each episode, or in some cases dual episodes, cover different characters and events. It might be easiest to think of them as an extended “Tales of Ba Sing Se” only a lot darker and with completely different timestamps and contexts. In fact, the range of time in which these episodes happen spans from before the first episode to the middle of season three.

Highs and Lows

I will say that there is no bad episode among the released OADs. There is, however, one mediocre episode, which comes right at the beginning. Episode two focuses on a cooking competition between Jean and Sasha, all the while Jean is looking for every excuse not to see his mom, even going so far as to kick her out of the barracks when she comes to visit him.

Rather than outright bad, I would describe this episode as just being closer to mediocre. Everything about it feels…off for some reason. Whether it is the stakes, which are some of the lowest the series has ever seen, or maybe even the focus on Jean’s homelife which is not particularly interesting. If I had to choose one thing about it that feels the most wrong, it would be the comedy, which just feels out of place as the focus of an entire episode.

The highlight of this season is by far the episodes focused on Levi’s backstory. He has always been one of the most popular characters in the series, memes or otherwise, and these episodes cemented the justification for said popularity. These episodes also give us the origin story of Levi’s friends, and how exactly his relationship with Erwin came to be.

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Levi’s story is by far one of the most compelling in the Attack on Titan universe. Little is known about the underground city outside of the fact that those who live down there tend to stay down there. Poverty is its defining characteristic and through a major tragedy, Levi is able to make it to the surface.

In fact, I would argue that both of the two-part OADs are worth mentioning, as Annie’s is also surprisingly good. Her episode focuses on investigating the missing daughter of a wealthy elite. The job is passed on to her after she asks her roommate to report her sick for tomorrow’s Military Police work. Despite not caring that much, to begin with, she ends up solving the whole thing in a day.

It is an interesting story because Annie is one of those characters who also feels a bit underdeveloped despite how much importance she has early on. Unfortunately, I cannot say these episodes do as much in terms of properly explaining her motivations, but it does give us another side of her that makes her feel decidedly more human than even Reiner or Bertholdt. On top of that, the episode shows us yet another aspect of the seedy underworld that is human society within the wall: drugs. At first, it felt like an odd choice, but considering they have weapons that literally send them flying through the air at top speed to kill titans, it makes sense that they can cook drugs.

OADs vs Main Seasons

Outside of the aforementioned episode about Jean, all of these are above average episodes, with a lot of them focusing not just on individual characters, but the soldiers as a group. Something that feels missing from Attack on Titan is a sense of comradery which the earlier military training episodes fail to really foster. I dare say that making time for the content of, let us say, episode three would help to improve that.

Episode three showcases Eren and friends during a training mission in which the only immediate objective is to reach a checkpoint and come back. The group is attacked by black market weapon sellers at which point their gear and Krista are taken. The crew is then forced to use their better judgment to devise a plan and get her back.

Honestly, if this episode were just dropped into the middle of the original series and edited a bit for context, the series as a whole would be a fair bit better. This is not to say that right now Attack on Titan is not compelling, but it feels like if more time were spent on characters earlier on, there would be a bit more impact later on.

That could actually be said for most of the episodes here. Their division from the main series as OADs, while they may still be canon, gives them an air of unimportance. One of my biggest gripes with Annie’s episodes, for instance, is not even anything to do with the episodes themselves. Rather, it is the fact that they exist outside the preview of season one, where their inclusion would have seriously assisted her character.

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What is the Point?

Though not as narratively or technically impressive as some of the others, Mikasa’s “flashback” during the last OVA feels compelling enough to talk about. Many have argued that her character basically comes down to having strong feelings for Eren, and while I do not deny that, it is not necessarily a bad thing for a character to be solely focused on another.

During the episode, Mikasa reimagines the world with the stipulation that Eren has to die at some point, and their terrifying reality mirages itself away, replaced instead by one in which Mikasa’s parents are still alive, and Eren becomes her distant friend.

This episode appears to be in the context in which the group figures out that Eren only has a few years left to live, which makes a lot of sense. Those feelings of desperation can be hard to deal with, and yet, by the end of the episode, it all vanishes, which highlights the immediacy of their situation.

Music? Music.

Surprisingly there are actually a few cool things to say about the music in these OADs. For starters, during the intro sequence to the episode about Jean’s cooking competition, the intro for Guren no Yumiya is edited to focus more on Jean himself. While not incredibly important to the overall episode, it is a nice touch that was admittedly pretty funny.

Of course, I cannot talk about Attack on Titan music without also mentioning the man, the myth, the legend, Hiroyuki Sawano. The base soundtrack for the series is already beautiful, but the female rendition of Call Your Name which is included at the end of Annie’s episodes is absolutely phenomenal and was quickly added to my music rotation.

Conclusion

For the purposes of this review, these episodes are being judged as a sort of loosely connected mini-series, with the over-arching story coming from Attack on Titan itself and not from any internal connectivity between the episodes. Even with that being the case, they are a great addition to the overall story of AOT, and with the full context of the series now under my belt, I look forward to the final season.

83/100


Have you seen the Attack on Titan OADs? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, thank you to our awesome Patron Jenn

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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Btooom!: The Anime That Desperately Needs a Remake

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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The great thing about scrolling through my WordPress feed is that, not only do I get to interact with my blog friends, but I also get to scout ideas for potential posts. Credit for the idea of this post goes to The Spooky Red Head, who asked a question that, though I definitely have heard discussed before, I have never really had a great answer to, at least until now.

When Btooom! came out back in the fall of 2012, it felt…unique. I mean, a battle royale on a deserted island…but with grenades? On top of a killer color palette and insanely kickass opening, this show had the recipe for success. At least, that is what I thought. While the show is still decently popular in places like MAL and Ani-list, it is not exactly anything to write home about. On top of that, the show never actually got a second season, which means after that season was over, there was little reason to keep talking about it.

First, I feel like I should clarify. When I say the show felt unique, I do not mean that the battle royale format is unique to it. If anything can be credited for the creation of the sub-genre, it would have to be the Japanese film Battle Royale which was released back in 2000, and even then, there are probably a number of other series/films which took a crack at it before then. Rather, I think it is fair to say that Btooom took the format and intensified it in a way that shapes its own identity, i.e. the brighter colors mixed with the grittier backgrounds and character designs.

“Ok, but the show was still solid. Why does it need a remake?”

A reasonable question someone might reasonably reason reasonably, and yes, I agree. Btooom is an above-average show, and yet the lack of discussion it gets in modern circles would seem to suggest otherwise. The motivation behind this theoretical remake is not quality. After all, plenty of franchises have been remade only to come out worse.

The motivation is instead, for a greater level of success. After all, the environment that Btooom! aired almost 10 years ago was significantly different. The idea of a battle royale was a significantly less popular format in media. Worldwide hits like Squid Game were nowhere to be seen, and the battle royale format in video games was much more niche, since titles like Fortnite, Apex Legends, and PubG were yet to be released.

Fast forward to today, and the battle royale is arguably as popular as it has ever been. A show like Btooom! in today’s anime environment would arguably do much better, and could be a significant moneymaker for any studio that is willing to put the time into marketing it correctly. Of course, there is always a chance the studio fumbles the bag regardless.

Still, I am not here to argue how likely it is the series gets a remake, let alone a good one. What I will say is that, for whatever reason, Btooom was just a little too ahead of its time, especially since it came out during an era where getting any kind of continuation was not particularly common. On the list of media that deserves a heavy spotlight, it is not exactly super high up. On a personal level, though, it is a series I would love to see again.


What series would you like to see get remade? Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, shoutout to Jenn on Patreon for being absolutely amazing.

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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I Marathoned Three Seasons of Attack on Titan. Here are My Thoughts So Far

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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Confession: I originally did not plan on tackling the series in this way. Rather, I would have much preferred covering the series in chunks of episodes, so that they would roughly aline with the major arcs. I had everything set up: a nicely formatted google doc on which to take notes, my laptop on my bed, and an extremely comfy blanket along with Attack on Titan pulled up on Crunchyroll. Only one small problem: I could not stop watching.

Calling myself a big fan of the original series would probably have been a bit of a stretch. It was good for what it was, but it never really left a lasting impression on me. Come time for season two almost four years later and, well, I enjoyed it, but much like the first, it was never anything more than just a well-made show.

Jump back to today, and uh, yeah, I have no idea how this happened. Something in me just really wanted to revisit the series. Call it the echoes of online discussion lingering in the back of my mind, or really whatever, but at that moment I needed to watch Attack on Titan. Before I realized it, an entire weekend and over 40 episodes were gone in the blink of an eye.

Needless to say, my idea of cataloging my rewatch/journey through season three was basically out the window. From that point, I mostly just tried to enjoy it without thinking too much, and safe to say, I did. Anyone who clicked on this post expecting a full review is going to be sorely disappointed. Rather, for this post, in particular, I wanted to describe my thoughts on the series as a whole up to this point, after which I will segway into covering the OADs and then eventually doing an episodic review of season four like I had originally planned for the whole series.

With that being said, here are said thoughts.

Titan Lore

I remember getting to “that scene” in season 2 for the first time and getting a bit of whiplash from how fast I reached for the remote to rewind. Like, what?! At the time I was very confused, but in hindsight dropping the bleak reality that is the titan lineage out of nowhere is pretty tonally consistent with the rest of the series.

Even before that though we get the also crazy, although slightly less surprising reveal about Ymir, which again makes sense. Season three, however, is where the reveals reach a whole new level, and where the worldbuilding comes to a head. I will admit to being a bit concerned about season three after hearing some mixed opinions from others watching at the time. Still, I cannot help by find Attack on Titan‘s third season to be the best out of the three so far.

This is not to say that any of the seasons are bad per se, it is an incredibly high-quality show, but whereas many series get bogged down by their focus on worldbuilding and lore, Attack on Titan feels at its best during its moments of historical reflection, when the truth finally reveals itself after years of sacrifice and hardship, and this is not even including what is still to come in season four.

If I were to finish ranking the others, season one probably gets a slight edge over two, but not by much. The way season one lingers on the surprise that is Annie and just how much there is left to know creates this weird mixture of hope and pessimism which informs the proceeding seasons really well. However, season two also does a great job at fleshing out some of the minor characters like Gaby, so points to it for that.

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Eren and Friends

Eren has always been a mixed bag of a character, and for good reason. The start of the series shows him at his most angry and revenge-filled, his teenage angst out in full force because of the death of his mother. On top of that, Eren has to be a functioning soldier at an age where he would not even be old enough to drive a car in the state where I live.

However, as knowledge and responsibility of his powers dawn on him more and more, especially after many of his fellow Survey Corps members literally die to protect him, that visible anger begins to subside. The show then presents to us an almost completely different Eren, one whose sole focus has shifted to protecting humanity…and also still killing all of the titans, kind of.

Armin has been my favorite character in the series for a while, his development from the scared puppy who just followed around Eren and Mikasa to the next military genius of the Survey Corp is one that I very much appreciated. There are also plenty of times where he feels the most relatable. Like, everyone else will be ready to go and Armin is there saying “you guys aren’t still scared shitless?”

Mikasa is somehow still the coolest character, and yet also the least developed. Though not necessarily a bad thing, the only thing that really changes is just how obvious her affection for Eren is. In fact, her big emotional outbursts are only ever in relation to the safety of Eren or Armin, which says basically all that one would ever need to know about her.

WIT vs Mappa: What to Expect

For those unaware, during the transition between the end of season three and what was then named the “final season” (despite not actually being the final season) Attack on Titan changed studios. WIT, who handled the first three, gave it over to Mappa. Supposedly this had to do with a thematic change present in season four, and thus WIT wanted a new approach to the series, but at the moment, having not seen season four, I am not exactly convinced.

Still, everything that I have seen as far as trailers and promotional material does not leave me with much to complain about. Attack on Titan looks as good as it has ever been, and with an arc that is bound to be action-packed, I am indeed excited.

On top of that, Mappa has a solid track record, producing the hit shounen series Jujutsu Kaisen as well as one of my favorite series Terror in Resonance. Also, apparently, they made Kids on the Slope, which, man I need to watch that series already…

For as much as I appreciate the grittier, more jagged character designs to come out of WIT’s production of the series, it is not an automatic negative to have Mappa at the helm. Rather, the most concerning element is not the animation but rather how the story will resolve from this point on

Conclusion

Safe to say that I am incredibly optimistic about Attack on Titan even despite the studio change. It is a series that has quickly risen through the ranks for me, and while calling it a favorite is not quite a done deal if season four manages to keep pace, it is a high likelihood.


How do you all feel about Attack on Titan? Let me know down in the comments, but please keep any and all spoilers out, as I am going in pretty much blind.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, special thanks to Jenn for being an amazing Patron

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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