Category Archives: Observation Deck

The Observation Deck: Blue Period

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Announcer: “In a world-first achievement, which took all the strength and concentration he could possibly muster, Jack has finally finished a seasonal anime that he started watching!”

I know, I know, truly an incredible feat for someone as fickle about anime as myself. However, in all reality, given the overall quality of the series, finishing Blue Period was not difficult in the slightest. At least for me, this anime kind of came out of nowhere, and yet has somehow ended up as one of my favorites from last year. Still feels weird to say last year when I’m writing this three days into 2022…

Blue Period tells the story of Yatora Yaguchi, a straight-laced popular kid with good grades who is also a delinquent, as he spends most of his free time drinking with his friends and staying out late. Though he finds some happiness in setting up tasks and achieving them, a chance encounter with members of his high school art club ends up challenging his entire “practicality over everything” philosophy. All of sudden, the beauty Shibuya in the morning becomes an inspiration, rather than a passing note. Art, rather than making money, becomes Yatora’s focus.

What Does “Practical” Even Mean?

Something that I think informs a lot of the praise of this show is Yatora’s transformation as a character in the early parts of the series. Initially, Yatora’s entire mindset around his career choice is focused on not what will make him personally fulfilled, but rather what will ensure a stable job and money.

This is not to say that being concerned about those things is not important, especially in the context of growing up in a poor household. As someone who was born into a solidly upper-middle-class household with a lot of economic and social privileges that others simply did not or do not have, I can definitely understand how it might come off as a bit patronizing to tell someone without those same privileges to “just follow your dreams.”

Even more so than that, though, it feels like Yatora is not just concerned about getting a good job, but rather that his entire life has been dedicated to making others happy. This is so obvious to the other people that even Ryuuji “Yuka” Ayukawa, who in the beginning Yatora has a passing relationship with at best, is able to point this out.

While the dynamic is not exactly the same, as Japan seems to be far more conservative in this area, there are undoubtedly a lot of people, including myself, who grew up only ever worrying about other people, whether that be parents, friends, teachers, etc. The catharsis of living for yourself is truly a transformative one, and it is this same catharsis that makes Yatora such a compelling character.

Gender Identity in Blue Period

Blue Period‘s manga had its first English release back in October of 2020, and since then many have taken to talking about the character of Yuka, whose presence in anime series is also a welcome addition. The reason for the continuous discussion of their character is their designation as non-binary, something that, in the past, has very rarely come up in anime. Even in the situations where it did, it was usually as the butt of some painfully unfunny jokes about how ridiculous their characters are.

Even more impressive though is how Yuka’s character is treated as…well, normal. At no point in the anime does it ever feel like they are there solely as a way to check off some box for character diversity, and when struggles related to their gender do come up, it is treated with a level of maturity and seriousness that every other character in the series gets as well. What I have not seen as much of, though I will admit I could just be missing some important discussion, is how gender and career choices intersect in Blue Period‘s story.

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Like I discussed above, Yatora’s character early on is informed by a sense of social expectations which pressure him into orienting his career choices around that which is considered to be most financially stable. However, a smaller, though still important element, is the gendered expectations that people have of certain careers. This article from cultural anthropologist Jennifer Robertson talks in a good amount of detail about Japan’s history of gender-bending and reading it has revealed that there is a strong possibility that these gendered expectations are likely different in Japan than they are state-side.

Still, I cannot help but feel that the perceived effeminate nature of art becomes another point of confusion and fear in Yatora’s development as a character. He, having grown up as a seemingly conventionally attractive Japanese male, feels out of place in a space dominated by those who are different from the norm.

What is more, Yatora is not even the only example of gendered career expectations rearing their ugly head. Near the end of the series, one of his “delinquent” friends Koigakubo tells him that he wants to become a baker. Yatora is surprised, but ultimately supports him, having been through his own struggle with art and understanding that Koigakubo needs emotional support. Again, there is a challenge here because baking is often perceived as a more feminine career.

None of this is to say that gender expectations are a primary reason for the hesitancy these characters feel. However, I do think it is a sub-element that unconsciously heightens these fears.

Manga Discourse

I do not generally go into writing these posts trying to make enemies. My main goal has always been to talk anime in a way that highlights its literary significance and starts broader conversations. Still, after reading some reviews from those who are clearly very attached to the original manga, I felt it was worth addressing.

I have talked about it before, but part of what makes a good adaptation is recognizing when it is important to make changes. This also means knowing what details are and are not ok to leave out. As a reference, I went ahead and read the first chapter of the manga, which, and this is true, is not the same as reading the whole thing, I will admit. Here is the thing though: I still do not see what people are complaining about.

Yeah, there are some meaningful character details that get left out, like when Yatora’s friends pick up Sudama, only to tell him that he says “facts” in response to things way too much. However, nothing instrumental to Blue Period‘s identity is gone. If those who have read all of the manga have counterpoints that would prove me wrong, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

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A lot of the criticism, however, just feels like complaining for the sake of complaining. I understand having an attachment to a specific media property and not wanting some greedy corporation to mess it up. I doubt Percy Jackson fans are happy with how their movie adaptations were treated. What I do not understand is people going as far as saying Netflix’s anime adaptation is “soulless” and “lifeless,” like, did we watch the same show?

A World Full of Colors

One strict advantage that I would argue that the anime has even if it is a “bad adaptation” is the ability to see the works of its characters in full color. There is a lot of art that is done in black and white, and I am sure that most of the sketches in the series look just as fantastic in the manga. Composition is also a big part of painting, as the anime itself likes to reinforce time and time again. Seeing a painting in full color, though, gives the series an extra element of resolution, especially at the end of the second exam when Yatora’s piece is finally revealed.

Even outside of its art context, there are other elements that seeing a series in color can help articular. While his punk attitude certainly comes across clear as day in the manga, the addition of his bleached hair gives an extra bit of personality that would not be there otherwise.

Conclusion

While I certainly would not call it a masterpiece, I also cannot find much in the way of negativity to direct at Blue Period either. It is a series with a bright and colorful cast, with engaging, albeit sometimes not wholly plot-relevant, storylines and animation that helps to enhance its more visually intense scenes. Overall, this was an absolute treat and is definitely worth the time for those who have yet to see it.


How do you all feel about Blue Period? 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!

Special shoutout to our patron Jenn for supporting us, it is greatly appreciated!

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: Chainsaw Man Part 1

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While I did not list it as one of my goals for the year, I would like to read more manga in 2022, if for nothing else than to gain a bit more perspective on upcoming releases and get ahead of the curb in discussing them. Though this series finished in late 2020, it is still making waves both for how popular its manga is and because its anime adaptation is on the horizon.

During a trip to visit my grandmother over the holidays, I decided, “eh why not?” I paid my $2 a month for Viz and binged most of Chainsaw Man in a few days. I returned home shortly afterward, only to finish the series the following evening. So, what does Chainsaw Man‘s manga have to say for itself?

What in the Everloving Fu-

Chainsaw Man, for the uninitiated, focuses on an orphan boy named Denji, who, after losing his family, befriended a chainsaw devil named Pochita. Fast forward a few years, and Denji is working for the yakuza killing other devils for money. Just as he is starting to feel content with the world, he is tricked, and the Yakuza figure he worked for is now himself a demon set out on destroying the young boy. Denji, on the brink of death, is given a new heart in the form of Pochita, and gains strange new powers. He is now Chainsaw Man.

If that was not enough, it gets even crazier, as Denji eventually meets Makima, one of the heads of the Public Safety Bureau, along with some of the other Bureau members, such as Aki, Power, Kobeni, and Himeno. The initial chapters move at a fairly brisk pace as far as advancing the overall story. Fast enough, in fact, that even Denji as a character is having a hard time really absorbing everything that is going on. In a matter of days, he goes from living in poverty to having what seems like a middle-class job in which he makes real money.

Btw, if it was not made clear already, this show is about devils. Hunting devils, becoming devils, and often working alongside as well as making contracts with them. Denji, armed with the abilities of the chainsaw devil, has gained the attention of Makima (and later many others). Thus, she takes good care to keep an eye on him. The way the series just throws the audience into Denji’s world without much explanation feels fairly emblematic of its overall storytelling philosophy.

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Yes, There is a lot of Blood

Though Chainsaw Man certainly has a lot of fast-paced, 1v1 fight scenes that are typical of actions series, its approach to violence and the depiction thereof is decidedly more horror. If the literal devils did not tip people off, the show has no problem giving a ton of unhealthy reminders. In this manga, it could be argued that the gore involved in each fight is as much a storytelling device as it is an aesthetic choice.

Part of this is fairly direct, as it is noted early on that demons need to drink blood to replenish their strength. A good example comes during one of the earlier fights in the series, where Denji, having been betrayed by Power as food for a bat devil, is now forced to rescue them from his stomach. Thus, the only thing he can do is cut open his stomach using his unique powers.

Part of this, at least, is mitigated by the black and white nature coloring of traditional manga, which is to say nothing of mangaka Tatsuki Fujimoto’s extreme eye for detail in a lot of panels. In many of Chainsaw Man‘s fight scenes, Fujimoto takes great care to make sure that the people reading can remember individual demons based on their…insides.

Sex! That’s it, That’s the Joke.

In much the same way as violence and gore, sex often becomes a core aesthetic and thematic part of what makes this story work. Denji, a 16-year-old with a healthy libido, is constantly thinking about sex. At first, he merely wanted to touch a pair of boobs, but after feeling up Power and realizing that there was something special missing from his experience, Denji realizes that he also wants a sense of intimacy with Makima.

By the same token, many of the women in Chainsaw Man use sex as a means of controlling Denji. Again, this is primarily the case with Makima, but Power and Rize do engage in this behavior as well. In Power’s case, it happens when she tricks Denji into saving her cat, and in Rize’s, she simply wants his literal, and for a period metaphorical, heart. Denji is thus both the end and a means to an end at the same time, both himself and also Chainsaw Man. He is continually confronted with the idea that these two people are, in fact, different people.

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The Point, Please?

I am getting there, jeez. Ok, so Denji is a half human/devil hybrid who is hired by a secretly very shady organization to help kill rogue devils and whose members occasionally make contracts with devils which the humans then use to help kill more rogue devils and-yeah ok I have lost myself. So, does it mean anything?

As Esoteric as a task it is to try and find meaning in a gore-filled nonsense-fest like Chainsaw Man, I do think it can be done. Regardless of the arc, the primary focus of the series never ceases to be Denji, the one who uses the heart of a devil. He goes from just a homeless kid barely scraping by with pocket change to having not only money and food but friends who genuinely care about his well-being. When we consider this change in ascent, along with Denji’s character, the focus of the manga becomes apparent.

Denji is not only playing himself but is rather a symbol of those affected by cruel and unyielding social, economic and political systems. This central idea is further reinforced in other parts of the manga. In one scene where Denji is talking to Rize, she emphasizes that Denji having never been to public school, along with his current arrangement at the public safety bureau, is both out of the ordinary and also incredibly “messed up.”

While it is true that the primary reason Rize says this is because she wants to lour Denji away from the other devil hunters, her underlying shock is totally justified. After all, while fighting devils may still be a reality for many people in this universe, that does not excuse the moral dilemma of not having a basic K-12 education.

Conclusion

Chainsaw Man, in a lot of ways, is just an excuse to be transgressive around the amount of physical violence people are willing to accept in their storytelling. More than that, though, it is a story about the human experience, one which tells us that, no matter how evil an act, it can be no more evil than the worst immorality of all: taking away someone’s human element. In that way, it is a phenomenally entertaining series that it feels fair to say many will enjoy.


Have you read Chainsaw Man? What are your thoughts on the series? 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!

Special shoutout to our Patron Jenn for the continued 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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The Observation Deck – Spider-Man: No Way Home

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(HUGE SPOILER WARNING AHEAD)

Normally I am not super prone to covering Marvel movies, as it’s not my primary focus nor my primary interest. However, I wanted to at least get out a few thoughts on the film so that I can at least say I posted something today. Anyone whose been on social media over the past week or so has probably seen all of the positive things people have said about it so far. As much as I would love to be a contrarian, in this case, I really cannot.

A Top 5 MCU Film

No Way Home will likely go down as one of the best MCU films of all time, and for good reason. There is, of course, the man himself, Tom Holland, who continues to be the best live-action iteration of Spider-Man to date. This is not to say that Andrew Garfield and Toby Mcquire, who reprise their roles in this film, are bad, just that Holland feels like the perfect mix of Peter Park and the superhero spider.

Speaking of, seeing the Spider-Men together on one screen was indeed a highlight of the film. Part of me wants to complain that they spent a little bit too much time reveling in the fact that all of them were in the same dimension, but given the arc of the film, it kind of makes sense. On top of that, seeing some of the most beloved Villains in Spider-Man also make a return only added to the hype.

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Dr. Strange: A Welcome Addition

Ever since the release of his self-titled film, Dr. Strange as a character has always been one of my favorite parts of live-action marvel. Everything from his backstory to his power and even his aesthetic oozes a certain level of cool which few other characters, outside of Spider-Man himself, have managed to top. Thus, I was happy to find out just a little while into the film, that he would end up playing a significant role.

And well, what a role it was. I am hyping it up a little too much maybe, as he spends a significant portion of the film trapped in his own magical dimension. Still, his presence can almost be boiled down to a level of “I told you so,” having to clean up a lot of the mess Peter Parker creates. In order to change the villains that so desperately want to kill some version of him, he has to give up not only his Aunt May but his very existence in the mind of his friends.

Now, given that Dr. Strange previously mentioned that he used the mind-erasing spell on people other than himself, it is unclear whether any of the other he or any of the other Avengers will actually remember him. Regardless, it will be interesting to see Spider-Man’s progression and whether or not he becomes an active part of it again.

Conclusion

Like I said, I do not have too many concrete thoughts on the film outside of repeating how amazing it is, but yeah it is amazing. Spider-Man: No Way Home is not only a great Spider-Man and MCU film, but arguably one of the best Superhero films, period.


How did you all feel about Spider-Man: No Way Home? 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!

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: Aggretsuko Season 3

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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This is probably the closest I’m going to get to having a timely holiday-themed-ish post, so that is an accomplishment, I guess.

Unfortunately, or maybe, fortunately, I did not actually watch the third season of Aggretsuko when it came out in August of last year. Why? idk, I was probably busy with not watching anime or wanting to watch anime but not actually having the mental focus to start one. Either way, it gave me the opportunity to sit down with it this year, and man was it a treat.

For those uninitiated with the series, Aggretsuko tells the story of a set of Sanrio-designed characters who work mediocre office jobs. The main character, retsuko, is a red panda who does accounting and is constantly harassed by her boss, and is slowly losing her sanity. Luckily, she has Fenneko the fox and Haida the hyena to help keep her sane. When the show last left off at season 2, Retsuko had just gone through a pretty big relationship, but ultimately ended it because Tadano said he was not willing to get married.

Sanrio’s Character Designs

I somehow failed to discuss this in my last review of the series, maybe because it felt a little bit obvious, but the character designs of Sanrio contribute so much to this series. I am willing to bet that most people’s only familiarity with the mascot company is Hello Kitty, a character that, at least in the U.S., has only ever been marketed towards young girls.

Thus, it becomes that much more impactful to see similar-looking characters in a modern Japanese work environment, where the colorfulness clashes with just how dull the office feels. It creates a level of confusion and absurdity that you just cannot help but laugh at.

Retsuko is an…Idol?

Initially, the whole idol storyline felt way out of place for a series in which the primary focus is Retsuko going insane every other day. However, as the events unfolded and the season began making its point, it really came together. After two seasons of torturing her character for comedic effect, it did feel nice to see her girl boss her way to the front of an Idol group, taking them from unknown to one of the biggest stars in the country.

On top of that, watching Haida wrestle with his feelings for Retsuko and Inui was entertaining, to say the least, and not for the reason you might think. As compelling as his arc was during this last season, it became pretty obvious that he was only ever going to want to be with Retsuko, which after a certain point, just added the comedy of it all.

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Gori and Washimi are Fighting…

If I was forced to pick my favorite side characters, it would probably be Director Gori and Ms. Washimi. The way they started as these two ominous figures at Retsuko’s company but then end becoming two of her best friends is genuinely charming. Their dynamic together helped to drive a lot of important story and comedy moments, such as when they all took a trip to the bathhouse.

Sad to say, though, that this dynamic is unfortunately absent from a lot of season three. Gori and Washimi are mad at each other for… some reason, Gori is pursuing her goal of creating a dating app and Washimi is…doing something? It is not made particularly clear, which kind of adds the overall disappointment. Still, given the storyline being told, the lack of this dynamic is more a personal dissatisfaction than a failing of the show itself.

Haida’s Love for Retsuko, and Also His Stupidity

The ending for the season honestly just felt appropriate. Well, maybe that is a bad way of phrasing it, cause describing Retsuko getting knife attacked by her crazy stalker as “appropriate” feels wrong. Still, it is a pretty dramatic ending with Haida coming to rescue and Retsuko barely avoiding a terrible injury, at best.

Then, for some reason, Haida decides that this is the best time to confess his feelings to her, and everyone else agrees, I guess? Of course, not surprisingly, Retsuko expresses her feelings in the form of a metal song, where he essentially tells Haida to H*ck off. More specifically though, she confronts him with the reality that, regardless of her feelings, she isn’t really in a place where she can trust people, and it is rude of him to push her on it when she does not want to.

Conclusion

Season three of Aggretsuko was a fantastic watch. Maybe not as much of a holiday viewing as I initially implied, but still filled with the drama, romance, and fun one could ask for out of any Christmas special. Although, the series does have an actual Christmas special which is also available on Netflix, so maybe watch that as well.


How did you all feel about Aggretsuko season three? 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!

Special thanks to Jenn for the continuous support on Patreon, it is much appreciated.

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: My Hero Academia Season Five

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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You thought it was someone who posts consistently? It was actually me, DIO!

Anyway, outdated references aside, hope you all have been well while I’m away. At least, as well as anyone can be doing right now. Regardless, I finally got the chance to catch up on some anime over the weekend and it was, first and foremost, at very much needed relaxer for myself. College is hard, especially when the productivity sirens are constantly blaring in your head despite having zero energy to actually accomplish anything. What I have managed to accomplish is finishing season five of “My Hero Academia,” and I want to talk about it.

What is Peace?

One of my favorite video essays on YouTube is actually about “My Hero Academia,” and given how the last season has played out, with its refocus on the League of Villains and Meta Liberation Army, it feels worthwhile to talk about. Pause and Select’s “Boku no Hero Academia and Peace” discusses how All Might, serving as the symbol of peace, not only upholds society on a day to day level, but himself serves as a goal, or what he describes as a metanarrative, around which people build there worldviews. This metanarrative of peace, rather than any particular ideology, serves as the object of Shigaraki’s, as well as many other villain’s, hatred.

It becomes that much more obvious then, as he explains, that peace could be a stand in for a number of things: justice, preservation, etc. The important thing is that their is a metanarrative to stand for or against, rather than what that metanarrative is exactly. What struck me as most interesting while re-watching it is that contrast, that villains are defined not by an ideology per se, but by their opposition to peace. This has become even more true after the last arc, where Shigaraki has not only powered up his quirk, but has undergone a sort of transformation.

This transformation, which occurred during his fight with Re-Destro, had him realize that his vision for society was non-existent, and that he does not need a future because the present is all that matters. What really matters for Shigaraki, symbolized by his evolving quirk, is destruction. This arc not only had some deep ideological implications for the villains, but also characterized them in a way that was both incredibly dramatic and deeply humanizing. Twice’s backstory, in particular, was a testament to the idea that the villains in this series are often a product of environment rather than a representative of some inherent evil.

Meta Liberation

Speaking of not being inherently evil, the meta liberation army was another important part of the season’s narrative. A group that is initially presented as “just another villain group” turns out to be a rather unique allegory for the real world.

The series spends a fair amount of time discussing the era in which having a “quirk,” was not only not normal, but actively despised by the majority. This lead to many people with quirks being attacked by those without. A man named Destro eventually rose up to help those with quirks be allowed to freely use them. The movement ultimately became violent, and was squashed by the government at the time, but many still held onto their beliefs.

It is interesting how this group is cast in the villain role and, again, I think they are treated to some dynamic characterization. Still, despite being fairly sympathetic in their quest to give equality to those with quirks, they are still ultimately thwarted by the League of Villains, who forces them to come together under one umbrella. The final fight between Shigaraki and Re-Destro was somehow fairly slow paced but also incredibly exciting, as the devolution of Shigaraki’s character lent the fight to a build-up of anticipation and stakes.

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Oh Wait, This is About High School Kids

It would not be “My Hero” without the band of dorks that 15-year-old cosplayers love to dress up as (no disrespect though, just really funny that there are so many).

Seeing as how most of the cast was not the major focus of the season, it makes sense they would not get as much screen time. Even so, the initial team matches are a great way to show off the character’s skill development between the previous season and now. Shinsou was a a great highlight in this regard, as his appearance in season two left a lot to be desired. But, his participation in the hero matches and evolution as a hero under Aizawa’s teaching was a great addition to the season.

There is also a lot to be said of Deku, Bakugou, and especially Shouto’s development during the season as well. Finding out that Deku had access to the quirks of all his successors, the first one being “Black Whip” was hype., to say the least. The explosion of that power during the initial team battles felt like a serious awakening in him, with Deku realizing that beating Shigaraki and One for All would mean unlocking all of these powers and controlling them successfully.

The story of Shouto’ s relationship with his father has always been a rather complex one. This has become even more evident over the last season, as Endeavor now feels regret for his actions, but is also unable to connect with Shouto, or the rest of his family, in a serious way. While Shouto seems to be approaching a place of forgiveness, Natsu is not. On top of that, it is hard to imagine that his wife will want anything to do with Endeavor given how he treated her in the past. The initial comparisons of Shouto’s character to Zuko of “Avatar,” while done jokingly, seem fairly apt given his development.

Solid Animation, as Usual

The problem with talking about the animation of “My Hero Academia” is that there is not that much I can say that has not already been said by me or others. While it is not bad, it is also not particularly exciting in any way. The main exception of this is, of course, the beautiful moments of Sakuga that the series is well known for. Though there were not as many in this season as in previous ones, some shout outs do have to have to go out to Iida and Shouto during their match, and to the already discussed Shigaraki and Re-Destro fight.

Conclusion

Though I do not know if it reaches the same heights that season two did for me, season five was certainly a welcome change of pace that introduced a number of new storylines while also developing some previously established ones in a big way. With “My Hero” being the big series that it is, it would be easy for a studio like Bones to cut corners, but luckily they have continued to put their effort into this series and it shows. Those who are at all a fan of the series should continue on to season five.


How do you all feel about “My Hero Academia?” 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!

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: Princess Jellyfish

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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“What…was that?”

“…what?”

“No, but like, what did I just watch?”

“‘Princess Jellyfish,’ dumbass.”

Even after writing this 12 hours removed from finishing the series, I still am not entirely sure how to feel about it. There were so many twists and turns that happened that at first felt like they were only tentatively related, but upon reflection make a lot more sense. There are also a ton of political, economic, and gender elements that further complicate the series. So, with that being said, let us take it one at a time.

What is Gender, Anyway?

I want to start this segment by saying that I am nowhere close to an academic. In fact, I’m not even a sociology major, I am in my third year studying English. So, in no way am I an expert on gender issues. That said, I still think it is worth trying to understand how these concepts affect the story of “Princess Jellyfish,” because they are indeed a major part of the show’s progression.

Tsukimi is an 18-year old biological woman who moves into a sisterhood of sorts to try and make it as an illustrator. Only a few months into having moved there, one night, she sees a Jellyfish in a storefront that is likely to die, and tries to get the attention of the store clerk. After failing to convince him to take care of the Jellyfish, a mysterious woman appears to help, and convinces the clerk to give Tsukimi the sea creature. The two head back to her apartment, with Tsukimi feeling severely uncomfortable with just how stylish this woman is. After the two fall asleep in her room, Tsukimi learns that this woman is Kuranosuke Koibuchi, a biological male and the child of a prominent politician. The latter part of that we will get to later, but, for now, gender.

One of the most prominent ideas in the series is this concept of the more otaku lifestyle of the Amamizukan residents versus the “Stylish.” In other words, there is an opposition between women who fit a more traditional definition of feminine beauty and those who do not. However, it is not just the Tsukimi and the others who are opposed to this idea within the story. Kuranosuke, for as much as his outward appearance reflects this feminine beauty, is still a dude, even if the other women in the apartment are clueless.

Kuranosuke, in this way, is an amazing foil to Tsukimi, because while they may be different in personality, habit, and lifestyle, they are incredibly similar in how gender plays a role in shaping their lives. Both perceive themselves, to one degree or another, as not being adequately feminine for the reasons previously explained. Sure, Kuranosuke does not show it as outwardly, but their feelings for Tsukimi and concept of self still affect their decisions.

Additionally, both of these characters are influenced significantly by the presence and absence of their mothers. For Tsukimi, it was more a general sense of encouragement and home that her mother gave her which made the two close. Whereas, for Kuranosuke, that connection came because of fashion and the absence of their father due to work. After their mothers make an exit, both characters find themselves questioning who they are what it is they want out of the life they have.

Another element of gender which underlies this entire conversation is perception. Even much more so than empirical and objective reality, perception, as well as self-perception, drives how people understand and act in the world. Gender, as social construct, is understood in much the same way. It is a product of perception, behaviors, and associations of those behaviors with a particular biological group. Tsukimi feels inadequately feminine because feminine beauty is associated with wearing lots of makeup and wigs. Kuranosuke feels the same because the other part of this feminine ideal is being a biological women, which he is not. Their relationship serves to validate their experiences by combining each other’s personality in the series’ climax.

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Life’s Hard, But Being Rich Helps

Ha! I bet you thought we were done with the university lecture. Gottem!

Gender is without a doubt an important element in “Princess Jellyfish,” but what is equally as interesting is class and the ways in which these two elements intersect. Even before potentially getting evicted from their homes became a major issue, the story sets up this difference between the women in the apartment and the Koibuchi family. All the women come from pretty modest means, including Chieko, whose mom owns the building they live in. Even the famous mangaka of the group, whose works make a lot of money, is portrayed as always being in her room working on new material.

The second episode sets this up as well. After Kuranosuke leaves, the women go shopping for cheap pot luck ingredients. The episode goes so far as to set up the recurring joke that Banba has the superhuman ability to locate the cheapest food at a grocery store. So, yeah, needless to say the group is not exactly living it up. This serves in direct contrast to Kuranosuke and his family, who are incredibly wealthy due to both their uncle and father being prominent politicians. Because of this, Kuranosuke is able to afford whatever they want whereas Tsukimi is used to dawning normal looking tops and skirts as well as the always comfortable track suit.

In much the same way that gender influences our perceptions and vice-versa, class plays a large part in the human experience. Things that might seem trivial to Kuranosuke, like how much money one spends on food, is much more important to Tsukimi and everyone at the apartment. Thus, they are oblivious to a lot of Tsukimi’s feelings and everyday problems. It also becomes an issue when Kuranosuke suggests buying the apartment building so that Chieko’s mother cannot sell it to the redevelopers. Of course, everyone at Amamizukan laughs at him, but then he continues to bring it up, to the point of being pretty annoying about it.

A great example of this is when Kuranosuke suggests selling Chieko’s doll collection in order to help make money for the effort. They then begin filling bags with the dolls while Chieko panics. It is only after Banba grabs their shoulder that Kuranosuke stops. After that, they have the idea of selling all of Chieko’s parents’ old stuff, which everyone hesitantly goes along with. In both cases, Kuranosuke assumes what is best for the women without really asking how they feel about it, and only sees the situation through the lens of money.

A lot of Tsukimi’s negativity comes from the self-perception that she is not worthy of this ideal of beauty, even despite the fact that she dreams of wearing a white-laced wedding dress which looks like a jellyfish. While it is never said explicitly in the show, it would not feel like a stretch to say that part of this self-perception is also derived from her class status, and that, simultaneously, Kuranosuke’s confidence comes from the fact that they can afford these amazing dresses, wigs, and makeup.

But That Writing, Though?!

Outside of its focus on social issues, “Princess Jellyfish’s” writing is incredibly well done. The series starts out simply enough, and someone who only watched the first episode might find it pretty tame, even for the standard of slice of life. In fact, I had the very same opinion after I finished its first episode. However, where the show shines through in this regard is how, rather than having particular character arcs, it keeps its focus on the relationship between Kuranosuke and Tsukimi, layering their opposition with new problems and focuses.

(For the record, I did read a little bit about the manga, and I am aware the other characters get development, so this comment is solely in regard to what is shown in the anime.)

In this way, the pacing is fantastic. In almost every episode the stakes are raised in some way, whether it be an increased chance that the others find out Kuranosuke is a guy, or the new information that is revealed about each other’s past. Even the relationship between Tsukimi and Shuu, as non-existent as it is, becomes a big plot point. If there were ever a series whose manga I would read in order to find out the rest of what happens, it would be this one.

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Small Things I Enjoyed

I feel like this should be a regular segment in my reviews, because oftentimes there will be things I want to talk about that do not fit into a specific category, which makes me feel like including it would make the review read a bit more like rambling…anyway,

While Clara the Jellyfish does not appear incredibly often, I do love that she was used as part of the commercial break intro and outro. Going from the rising announcement of her name to a group of deep-voiced men saying the word “tequila,” presumably because it was a funny sounding rhyme, in the middle of each episode is legitimately charming. Her narration of the Amamizukan residents’ interactions with the real world not only makes for a good laugh, but it also helps to build her up as the show’s mascot, giving that little extra bit of memorability.

Also, Idk what it is, but between this series and others like “Lovely Complex,” I think I just really vibe with the late 2000’s/early 2010’s shoujo aesthetic. The use of bright pinks, yellows, and oranges is just phenomenal, despite the fact that I am not a particularly big fan of those colors. Actually, now that I am thinking about it, that also explains why I liked the color palate in “Golden Time” a lot as well. I guess what I mean is me small brained and easily impressed. 🙂

Conclusion

Putting the thoughtfulness of this series into words has been hard, and while It is hard to evaluate where exactly this will land among my favorites, it feels likely to end up there. Still, this also ended up being on my longest written reviews. So much of “Princess Jellyfish” speaks to a sense of self-inadequacy that has been with me for a long time. There is a truly validating feeling while watching this show, in the much the same way that “March Comes in Like a Lion” continues to validate me. Honestly, I do not know if I could recommend this enough, but do expect me to return to this series at some point.


How do you all feel about Princess Jellyfish? 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!

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: Beastars Season 2

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

“Finally…my suffering is over…I can be free again…”

“omg what happened?”

“I watched “Beastars” season 2…”

“Beastars” is a show that continues to exist, and will continue into the future since it has already been confirmed for a third season by Studio Orange. Joy. Now, you as the reader may be asking, “Jack, if you did not like the show that much, why continue to watch it?” Well, unfortunately I like to dabble in a bit of masochism every now and again, and when I saw that the second season would be on Netflix this month, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity.

However, now that the second season is done, so too is the masochism, and now I can get down to brass tacks. Aside from the masochism there is really only one reason I would watch the series again: to talk about how aggressively awful it continues to be.

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The Dub

While I did not talk about it last time, I actually watched both seasons in their English dub. The first season is because at the time I just felt like watching a dubbed anime, and the second season is because I do not like switching languages once I start an anime. Sub versus dub discourse aside, I actually find the English voices to be one of the more tolerable elements of the show.

Almost everyone was cast really well, from the smooth voice of Legoshi, voiced by Jonah Hill, to the rougher, more grizzly voices of both Gouhin and Ritz. Even the nasal tone of Haru works a lot better than it probably should. In all honestly, the only voice that didn’t absolutely blow me away was Lauren Landa playing Juno, and even then she did not do a bad job by any means.

Seriously, What is this Story?

Shameless plug, but for those who have not read my review of season one, I recommend checking that out as well, if you feel like reading the same opinions twice.

I had an argument with someone on that post who basically said that the story makes more sense if I wait for next arc, and so I did. Now, I cannot really be angry, since I was planning on watching the next season when it came out anyway, but I do feel a bit lied to, and by a bit I mean a lot, because this was ABSOLUTELY NOT better than the first season.

Man, where do I begin. I probably should have been taking notes while I was watching cause there are just so many things that do not make sense, and have continued to not make sense. First of all, why does this show insist on introducing things at the beginning of the season only to not touch on them again at all the same season. Like, the anime literally introduces a giant snake security guard that convinces Legoshi to pursue Tem’s killer only to just disappear completely by episode three. Like, ???

Second, if “Beastars” was trying to make some grand social commentary in the first season, it almost completely abandons that idea in the second. Again, the anime is trying to split the difference between “Twilight” and “Zootopia” and thus far as inherited the strengths of neither, basically relying on the viewer to just not think about it to much and buy into all of the carnivorous brooding of its main characters. Speaking of,

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Jesus Christ, These Characters…

Honest question: am I supposed to like any of these people? Do not misunderstand me, of course I want there to be more complex characters, and having defined heroes and villains is not always better for a story, especially one which is relying on the straining relationships of its cast. However, while its important for their to be conflict between characters, at the end of the day, they do need to be at least a little bit likeable, or even just interesting for me to care about them.

Sadly, a pretty large percentage of the cast falls into neither of those categories. I talked about how Legoshi’s entire persona is basically just a fedora wearing nice guy, but like, the others are pretty bad too. Louis comes off as an asshole for most of the series until suddenly he and Legoshi are on good terms? Haru never even really felt like a character to me, probably because the show plays way to hard into Legoshi’s fantasy of protecting thy fair maiden. In fact, the only reason the two have a relationship in the first place is because Haru decided to go down on him as thanks for helping her club.

As much as I wanted to like these characters, (mainly because I have now sunk a collective 10+ hours into this series), I just cannot give them any credit. They feel both underwritten and overwritten at the same time, and because of the anime’s terrible worldbuilding and story, none of them come off as well done characters.

The Music and CG are Still Good, at Least

Apart from the dub, “Beastars” has two other solid qualities: Its soundtrack and its animation. As far as its music goes, the series does a great job supporting its abyssmal writing with some genuinely engaging jazz tracks. From its instrumental pieces produced by Satoru Kosaki, to the talented vocalists who appear scattered throughout, it is a genuinely nice distraction while watching.

Studio Orange also continues their great work in the realm of 3D animation. There is genuinely not a bad looking scene in the entire second season, and the fusion of 2D elements and backgrounds with the largely 3D characters is genuinely impressive. While I still have yet to warm up to the use of 3D in anime as a whole, I certainly have hope for what Studio Orange can do in the future.

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Conclusion

To tell the truth, as a critic, I am relatively easy to please. Just give me an interesting enough premise with a passable execution in the writing, along with some good visuals and ok music, and I will generally be happy. I mean, that is what happened with “Gleipnir” and I will still defend that show as being kind of underrated. “Beastars” cannot even manage that, with its terrible world, sometimes cringe and sometimes boring characters, and ham-fisted attempt at “societal” commentary. There is only so much one person can do pretty up a garbage can.


How do you all feel about “Beastars?” 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!

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

The Observation Deck: Barakamon

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Ok, I promise I’ll start covering seasonal stuff soon.

A realization that I have had over the last few weeks is that, while I enjoy keeping up with a few seasonal things, trying to cover everything just gets incredibly frustrating, at least in the sense that it is hard to keep up. Every so often, I find myself scrolling through either Crunchyroll or Funimation’s catalog just to see what is there, and I remember there is so much stuff from previous seasons that I never got the chance to watch. Thus, I decided to finally start catching up on some of these older series, starting with “Barakamon.”

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Comedy in Anime Vs Barakamon

A lot of comedy in anime can be boiled down to “comedic misunderstandings,” in which a given character is caught in a situation that, without, or sometimes even with context, looks really bad. While this type of humor is funny on occasion, it feels like it saturates certain shows to the point of being incredibly dull. Luckily, “Barakamon’s” comedy is a bit more original, and more often than not centers itself around the main character’s personality, as well as his lack of understanding of rural Japan.

A good example of this comes in one of the later episodes, as the village leader asks Handa and the older kids to watch the little ones at the beach. The major running gag of the episode is Handa not only having never been to a rockier beach before, but continually running over the rocks and slipping, despite Miwa saying it should only happen once. The episode even ends on Handa running after Naru, who is jumping off the pier, in order to keep her out of danger. However, he himself slips on the rocks and gets knocked out while Naru is fine.

Ultimately, comedy is, to a large extent, subjective. What I find funny is not necessarily going to be the same as what someone else finds funny, and one person’s “boring misunderstanding” could be another’s genius. However, I do think analyzing how a show’s comedy functions within a series is important. Good comedy will make a person laugh, sure, but great comedy will accomplish other things, in addition to making someone laugh.

Handa the Great?

“Barakamon,” while being a comedy series, is also largely about Handa’s development as a person. As the series begins, We come to understand that Handa is a bit entitled. His father was a master calligrapher, and he has been praised for all throughout his life. So, when the director of the calligraphy organization tells him his work is mediocre, Handa feels as though his identity is being attacked. It is actually a very similar arc to the one that Koko goes through in the series “Golden Time,” as she feels like her identity is under attack when Mitsuo, her childhood friend, rejects her romantic advances.

Given the seriousness of assaulting another person, and not understanding the consequences that come with that, Handa’s father forces him to move out of Tokyo and reflect on his actions. Part of me does find it weird that the people of Goto are so quick to welcome him into the community despite knowing what he did, and even let their kids just go freely over to his house. Granted, having a connection to the community through his father probably helps, but initially, at least it feels wrong.

Part of this, at least, comes from another fairly unexplored theme in the anime: Handa’s relationship with his father. Much of this is due to the fact that his “textbook” style of calligraphy is his father’s. However, living among an entirely different group of people helps Handa to re-evaluate not just himself as a person, but also his writing. Handa soon begins creating out of genuine passion rather than a sense of “what is correct calligraphy?”

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A New Family

Instrumental to that previously mentioned development is the new community Handa finds himself around. The calligraphy prodigy also has a bias towards the people of Goto at the beginning, thinking them to be just a bunch of country hicks. However, the kindness they offered him unconditionally quickly changes his attitude. From the whole town helping him move his stuff inside the house, to Hiroshi bringing him home-cooked meals, to the middle school girls always always checking in to make sure he is ok.

Then there is Naru, one of the show’s more recognizable characters. The mischievous first grader is always running around Handa’s house and causing trouble. While it is never directly stated in the anime, it is heavily implied in one of the latter episodes that Naru’s parents are not around. This, combined with Naru taking a liking to Handa while he stays there, turns Handa into something of a father figure for her. It is through Naru, as well as the other small kids, that Handa seems to grow the most, as he comes to realize his own lack of maturity.

Conclusion

There is a lot to appreciate about Barakamon. Its comedy and characters are top notch, and the way it implements both character and thematic development into that comedy creates a wonderfully paced story that is unfortunately without a second season. I have yet to read the manga, but if there were ever a case for picking it up after an anime, it would definitely be for a series like this.


How do you feel about “Barakamon?” 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!

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

Final Thoughts: Don’t Mess With Me, Nagatoro!

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

It feels weird to admit that I sat at my desk for almost an hour before actually starting to write this review, not because I was nervous about it, but rather because it felt like there was almost nothing to say about it. Normally, when I start writing about a series, I at least have an idea of what to say and just formulate the review around those ideas. However, this time around, it felt like there was almost nothing to talk about.

Like, really, what is there to say about “Don’t Mess With Me, Nagatoro,” a series so obviously created with little to interest in storytelling or good character development, and was almost certainly created as overpriced troll in an attempt to retain a certain audience of hysterical culture war defenders who are much more in line with the owning the libs types than anything else? Now, this is not to say everyone who watched and enjoyed the show did so for that reason, but it is to say that people of a certain variety are much more likely to have enjoyed it.

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I realize that last paragraph may come off as unnecessarily inflammatory, and it probably is. So, is there anything worth saying about the series, positive or negative?

Well, if there is one thing worth praising about the series, it might actually be Nagatoro’s friends. For as one note and lackluster as the comedy is overall, dumb, dumber, and dumbest actually did have a fair number of good moments. Not only that, their comedic timing was just off-kilter enough to get a couple of legit laughs out of me.

As for negatives, well…it all just feels kind of lazy. From the reusing of animations from the series in the show’s opening to the constant overuse of jokes throughout the series. Again, I might have more good will towards the show if it did not feel like the most obvious bait in the world.

Overall, man I just do not care. There are so many other anime that could better occupy your time, do not spend it watching this nothing of a series.


How do you guys feel about “Nagatoro?” 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!

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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Final Thoughts: Fire Force Season Two

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Here we are again.

For as hyped as I was about this series back when it was first announced in 2019, I never actually ended up watching it because, around that time, I was in one of those modes where watching anime felt like more work than it should. Thus, I ultimately ended up ignoring it. It came back into my mind every so often as my friends who were watching it insisted how hype it was. Still, I never really felt like I was missing all that much.

The many twitter “controversies” that popped up around the show’s fanservice passively made me more confident in my decision to ignore the series after the first episode. This is mainly do to just how many of them there were, as it felt like every other week there was some clip that made the rounds in which one of the female characters were half naked in a situation in which it made no sense.

Even as I started the series again just about a week ago now, I was not sure whether or not I was going to actually end up enjoying it at all. Luckily, the series was definitely not as bad as my admittedly hasty judgement led me to believe. In fact, I would say outside of the often horribly stupid fan service, the show is really cool.

I talked previously about how “Soul Eater” is genuinely one my favorite Shonen series and that seeing another series by Atsushi Ōkubo was an exciting prospect. It is clear after having finished both series that Okubo has a fairly large appetite for Shonen and Seinin fusions. Though, “Fire Force” definitely leans a lot more heavily into the Seinin side of things than its predecessor.

This is true in a number of aspects. Firstly, the series’ main character Shinra has an off-putting design that makes him look a demon in a lot of ways, which is reinforced by how he is referred to as a devil by many of the other characters in the show. This also comes through in his nervous smile, which makes him look even more so.

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The art for “Fire Force” is also feels disturbing in a lot of places too. The depictions of Adolla as a kind of space hell filled with black flames and burning skeletons is honestly intimidating every time it comes on screen. Not to mention fog horn esc noise which both puts and pulls characters in and out of that space. On top of that, there is a lot more straight up gore when it comes to both the fights and character’s deaths.

“Fire Force” as a story is both intriguing from the get go and incredibly entertaining. From the first episode we are introduced to a world in which human beings randomly implode into beings known as infernals, all while being introduced to the group whose job it is to stop these beings. From there, the series rapidly increases the stakes, and each new mission company eight goes on unlocking another piece of an evermore elaborate puzzle.

Even now, with two season done and a potential third on the horizon, there are a ton of questions still left to be answered, about the evangelist, the nature of life after the great cataclysm and the structure of the Tokyo empire. Maybe it was because I binged the series more or less all at once, but seeing the scale increase so rapidly for the series was some of the most fun I have had with an anime in a while.

It is a shame that some of the characters who get the most screen time really are not that interesting. While I am largely referring to Tamaki when I say that, given how most her personality is just losing her clothes at the worst possible time, there are other culprits as well. One of the main ones is Arthur, who also seems to get played up as largely a joke character, so much so that even his backstory gets treated as a punchline. Now, do not misunderstand, I like dark humor as much as the next person, but given how serious the tone is most of the time, having a character who is that prominent in the story be only a punchline feels like a waste.

Outside of those two, however, it feels as though everyone else who has been at all important to the plot has gotten there due diligence, at least as much as they can get given how much story is likely left. I will also leave my usual warning of “depending on how the rest of the series goes, I could be proven wrong.”

Overall, “Fire Force” is a fantastic series. There are definitely still a lot of flaws that, at this point, feel pretty inherent to the experience, such as the fanservice and occasionally unfunny gags. However, looking past that, there is a lot of potential and I am excited to see the series come to a resolution, hopefully sometime soon.


How do you all feel about “Fire Force?” 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!

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