Inside Pulse 12

Diehard AnimeFAN, Vol. 3: MY Love STORY!!, Monster Musume, Classroom Crisis and more!

Another week, another group of anime to talk about. I’m going to try and rotate in new shows every week when possible, and this week was no exception, as I decided to give one of the Simulcasts over at Crunchyroll a go that wasn’t too far into its episode run, because like hell am I going to start something like Naruto, but it’s entirely possible to go through six episodes and see what I think of a product. I also discovered that Funimation is running their own streaming service online, and for the hell of it I opted to sign up and see if there’s anything there I’d be interested in watching, so expect some shows from their library to pop up now and again. I’ll make the effort to point out when a show is on Crunchyroll and when a show is on Funimation going forward, in case something strikes your fancy. The only other point I want to mention here is that God Eater was a bit delayed this time around, and came out literally the day I was putting the column together, so if the delays continue there might be a “nothing came out this week” week or two here and there.

On that note, let’s get started.

Ongoing Series Discussion:

God Eater (Four Episodes):

One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed about God Eater as an anime is that, while it’s still very much based off of the game of the same name, it seems like it’s trying to take the basic humanizing ideas that make Attack on Titan work and apply them to the game’s (lack of) narrative in those departments, and this episode is a good example of that. The core focus of this episode, to the extent that one exists, is on the more humanizing aspects of the world God Eater exists in, rather than “killing giant stuff,” and while the latter shows up in this episode, it’s really more of a backdrop for showing… well, human stuff. This is honestly a good thing, for the most part, as God Eater as a game had a lot going on narratively speaking, but the majority of the game was “kill giant monsters,” and you can really blow through a lot of the narrative in an anime inside of ten episodes if you’re really focused. Giving the anime more room to really try and get viewers engaged in more than just the monster killing is helpful, because it makes things mean something, and it gives the characters added depth beyond what skills they have and what they can do in battle. That’s important in this context because the game basically wasn’t too interested in more than focusing on a small part of the team as they waged war on the Aragami, and the anime’s attempts to expand the narrative make it a richer universe. On the other hand, that also means we get more of the “needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” narrative I expressed dislike for earlier, but even then, what’s here isn’t bad, and the anime really seems to be finding its footing, which bodes well for later episodes.

As the episode picks up, Lenka and crew have just returned to home base, where they’re given good news: Lenka has been cleared of his insubordination charges, and Lenka and Alisa have been added into combat rotation officially, alongside Kota, who we met briefly in the first episode. From here, the episode mostly just takes us through a routine couple of days for the group, as Lenka, Alisa and Kota are all given a day off before being sent on a routine killing mission, giving us a chance to see how everyone reacts to things and how they behave in general. There’s honestly a lot to like here, from Alisa’s observation that Lenka has the same haunted expression she has, to the subtle contrasts in how Alisa and Lenka behave, to the interactions of the group in general, and anyone who knows the game will be interested to see how their favorite characters are expanded upon. There’s also a relatively simple scene where Lenka and Kota head off to meet Kota’s mother which actually does a lot to make it apparent just how hard the world really is (as well as how much of a goober Kota is). I do like, as well, that while Alisa is becoming a notably different character from her game counterpart, her actions aren’t much different; she’s still a showoff who needs to be the best, she’s just not as loud and obnoxious about it. That said, the ending of the episode wraps up with one of those standard “people are suffering everywhere” tropes, and while it makes sense in context (there are no easy answers), you can see it coming long before you get there. Still, thumbs up this week, and I’m hoping there won’t be any more delays for a while, as the story is moving along at a brisk pace, and it’s working out well.

MY Love STORY!! (Eighteen Episodes):

Oh my Jesus, this show, you guys.

So the plot of this episode is ostensibly about Takeo and Yamato spending New Years together, because it’s Takeo’s birthday, and it’ll be both the couple’s first New Years together and the first time they’ve celebrated Takeo’s birthday. In reality, however, the big plot point of the episode revolves around kissing, as Takeo discovers Osamu and Nanako basically kissed right after they started dating and has… issues with this, while Yamato is trying to figure out if it’s okay for her to kiss him since Lord knows he’s never going to do it. With a planned date of New Year’s Day set, Takeo and Yamato go out, with Takeo intending to spend time with his girlfriend, and Yamato… having other plans, and the whole episode basically spins around the point of are they going to freaking kiss already, it’s been eighteen episodes for crying out loud, which is a question the episode has no intention of answering easily.

To put it plainly, this is probably the most frustrating and hilarious episode yet.

While Ai makes an appearance in this episode, the only significant presences outside of Takeo and Yamato are Suna and a random group of kids from Takeo’s grade school class, with Suna acting as a hilarious foil to Takeo between giving Yamato and Takeo some… questionable advice, and the group of Takeo’s former friends essentially acting as a reminder of how nice Takeo is… and a disruption to his date, of course. This kind of helps out with the pacing, as it breaks up the “will they or won’t they” moments so that we’re not spending ten minutes staring at the screen wondering about this, if nothing else. There’s also a false flag late in the episode that kind of implies the episode is going to end in the sort of “Takeo is thick as hell” way many of these episodes do, before things actually wrap up properly. It’s also worth sticking around after the credits on this one, also, for another absurd interaction between Takeo and Suna that’s… interesting, if nothing else. Outside of that, this is just another fun episode that actually does a lot to advance Takeo and Yamato’s relationship while reminding the audience why they’re such a likable couple, and it’s just a joy to watch, as always.

Monster Musume: Everyday Life With Monster Girls (Five Episodes)

The fifth episode of Monster Musume was devoted entirely to the debut of yet another monster girl living in Kurusu’s house, in Mero, the mermaid, and as an episode, it was… fine? As with most episodes in this series, the episode was essentially divided in half, where the first half revolved around resolving the plot point from last week’s episode (hiding Suu from the authorities), while the second half revolved around introducing Mero proper, and as far as sticking to a theme goes, it worked fine. Mero got a lot of screen time to show her stuff, and for the most part the character is pretty interesting; her odd fixation on tragic romance is one that’s sure to get a lot of reoccurring gag time, and she’s a nice enough character on her own, if a bit inoffensive. Mero isn’t really a character who commands the screen when she’s around, unlike Miia or Centorea, and her gimmick isn’t really powerful enough to make her impressive in the way Suu is, but she’s nice enough in her own way that her addition doesn’t detract from the rest of the cast. In other words, she probably won’t be anyone’s favorite character unless they love mermaids or her goofy tragic love quirk, but she’s perfectly fine otherwise, and honestly, anything that detracts screen time from Papi is a win in my book.

The first half of the episode, unfortunately, starts off with a fairly simple “WE NEED TO HIDE SUU,” subplot before rapidly degenerating into sexual weirdness, with Suu actively trying to get every drop of moisture she can from Miia, Centorea and Papi via direct contact, in such a way that it’s honestly kind of awkward and weird. Suu has quickly become the “accidentally sexual” character in the series, which isn’t a great thing if you’re here for the character interaction (which is why I’m here, so shut up), because literally a quarter of this sequence was groping and sex noises, as well as finding reasons for the girls to be wet. Mero’s introduction, however, was fine at least, so there’s that. The second half of the episode was a quasi-competition between Mero and Miia, and that was entertaining, entirely because Miia’s personality got to shine here, and she’s so ridiculous that she carried the episode on her Lamian back. Her various over-the-top attempts to get Kurusu to pay attention to her rapidly backfire in spectacular fashion, because of course they do, but all’s well that ends well… uh, more or less. Also, the preview indicates that next week’s episode will partly focus on the Miia comic I alluded to last week, for those looking forward to it… as well as the “Papi has an egg” episode, which is basically going to be a massive test of my continued interest in the series, but we need to get to Rachnera as quickly as possible I suppose. Expect the following week to be two filler pieces before that happens though.

Classroom*Crisis (Six Episodes)

I picked this one up because it’s being simulcast on Crunchyroll and is still fairly early in its season, and the concept sounded interesting; futuristic schooling anime can go in a bunch of different directions, and I was curious where the concept was going to head. The core universe is also pretty interesting; set in the future, Classroom*Crisis takes place in a universe where humanity has travelled to, and terraformed, the stars. Inspired by a pair of brothers who developed their own star-navigating engines, the Kirishina Corporation was formed, and when the story picks up, they basically are one of the biggest corporations in the immediate galaxy (or so we’re led to believe). In the spirit of the brothers who formed Kirishina, a student group dubbed A-TEC exists, which operates as one part classroom, one part dev lab, and one part part-time work force. In theory, this is a really cool idea that’s rife with opportunities to tell an interesting story about futuristic concepts, science fiction novelties, or anything else involved in such a universe. We’ve been doing this thing for decades after all, with great success, as franchises like Gundam and Macross, and series’ like Cowboy Bebop and Trigun have shown, so you’d have to try really hard to screw that up.

Unfortunately, Classroom*Crisis tries exactly that hard.

The biggest problem, and there are many, is that in the six episodes available online, absolutely none of them give the viewer any reason to believe this should be set in the future. For a narrative set in a spacefaring future, there is absolutely zero reason to even have the anime set in this time period, except for novelty purposes, which makes the concept feel like a waste. Also, for all of the cool stories that could be told in this environment, Classroom*Crisis is essentially something of a political anime, which, given the goofy ensemble cast and the colorful presentation, is quite possibly the weirdest thing you could make that isn’t absurd on purpose. The first three episodes deal with talks about budgets, accounting, proper security protocol and usage of development space, and even as a security and tech nerd, this is boring as hell. The plot is just so uneven, as well; the first episode is a big race against time complete with action and adventure, while the next three episodes are all corporate function episodes focusing on political posturing and business management conversations, before the anime then moves onto a beach trip, for some reason, and then moves onto class testing as a veil for exposition dumps. There are so many subplots going on here (Nagisa and his brother hate each other! Nagisa and Kaito are competing, but maybe not! Iris lost her memory and that matters for some reason! Iris is super-devoted to Mizuki! Mizuki wants to be friends with Nagisa for some reason! Nagisa might know Iris from the past, maybe! Nagisa’s bloodline is mixed between the founders bloodlines! Iris might be involved in one of the founder families or… something!) that drop in and out of the narrative and will probably pay off, but are just so poorly paced that it’s impossible to follow along with. The anime goes from goofy comedy to super-serious with no warning or setup, and it just has no idea what it wants to be.

I mean, I’m sure someone out there will enjoy Classroom*Crisis, and if you do, good on you and I hope it works. As for me, I gave it six episodes and while it’s clearly for someone, that someone isn’t me, and I honestly can’t visualize who that person might be. For me, while it’s very pretty, the story is obtuse, the pacing is all over the place, the concept is completely wasted by the actual story being told, and there’s just… nothing really compelling to keep you coming back to it. If you’re looking for something that combines the never-say-die band of outcasts concept with weird political drama and a touch of office procedural, economics and accounting discussions, Classroom*Crisis might be for you… and I will be absolutely astonished that you exist, but hey, I’m glad someone made a thing that speaks to your needs.

Overall Series Review:

Nisemonogatari

So last week, as I mentioned, I noted that Bakemonogatari was perfectly fine on its own merits, but that later seasons didn’t measure up. Well, Nisemonogatari is where the franchise immediately starts going off the rails, for reference purposes, so for those who were hoping I’d start slagging the series soon, buckle up.

Nisemonogatari picks up more or less where its predecessor ended, in the weirdest way possible: Koyomi is chained up in the old prep school from the prior season by his girlfriend, Hitagi (and by the by, screw Crunchyroll’s need to refer to her by her last name, I am never fucking doing that), because she wants to protect him… and sexually torment him in the process, apparently. We’re introduced to the why of this event over the course of the next few episodes as we cut back to this… awkward sequence in bits and pieces, to explain why, exactly, this is happening. It seems that Koyomi’s sister, Karen, has been stung by some kind of magical bee, which is wielded by a man named Kaiki, who is some kind of fraudulent magic wielder, of sorts. Hitagi has… something of a volatile past with the man, and she actively wants to protect Koyomi from meeting him… and also kind of has an itch to kill the hell out of him for what he’s done to her. Koyomi, of course, can’t let this lie, and gets himself heavily involved out of love for his sister, which ends up with his vampiric sire, Shinobu, intervening to help Koyomi. Through an involved sequence of events, Hitagi and Koyomi ultimately resolve the matter with Kaiki in a roundabout way, and Karen recovers well enough, just in time to meet Kanbaru, and also be sexually molested by Koyomi for… some reason.

Oh, yeah, and Koyomi’s other sister, Tsukhi, is a demon or some shit, and he gets beat up by Kagenui, who has more than a passing connection to both Oshino and Kaiki.

If you’re wondering, the reason I gave Tsukhi’s storyline a whole sentence of explanation, that’s because the series gives it exactly that much thought.

As I mentioned when reviewing Bakemonogatari, its strengths were mostly in its handling of its concepts, its weird execution and its character interaction (and the relative importance of those characters), but not so much in its overly long conversations and dialogue. I mention this because Nisemonogatari is almost entirely the latter, as virtually everything about it seems structured around goofy, meaningless conversations and annoying wordplay over anything interesting, and the end result is plots that could be resolved in four episodes, total, taking eleven. Still, it would be fine if the rest of the content were at least structured, but even then, that’s not the case; maybe two episodes, total are actually devoted to developing Tsukhi’s particular plotline in any way, while the rest of the time is devoted to entirely too much fucking talking about absolutely nothing interesting or useful whatsoever. The anime spends nine of its eleven episodes focusing on Karen in thought and deed, most of which is also a lot of talking, but the worst part is that while the anime claims it’s divided into a seven/four episode structure (with seven episodes focusing on Karen and four on Tsukhi), that’s not even the case, because the first two episodes of Tsukhi’s arc are about Karen anyway, and the third is mostly about Shinobu and Kaiki. By the time we actually get to the point where Tsukhi is involved in her own story arc, it’s the end of the third episode… and then we go back to Shinobu and Koyomi doing stuff. It’s maddening, as the anime is almost entirely interested in either preening over its existing characters (and I do mean preening, as outside of Shinobu, the sum total “character developments” that come up are “Hitagi and Tsubasa get haircuts”), making Karen mean something (but not Tsukhi for God knows what reason), or trying desperately to make Kaiki mean something. It’s insane, and the whole point seems exclusively to be to focus on the writing of the author over all else.

Now, I know a whole lot of people are really in love with Nisio Isin and his writing, and that’s fine; I’m sure that, much like Stephen King in the US, his writing’s masterful if you’re of the right mindset. That’s fair. That said, however, it doesn’t translate especially well to animated form, because in the end you’re mostly just left with five hours of a bunch of well-animated nothing, and it’s really not very engaging. There’s a sequence at the end of Karen’s actual storyline (as opposed to the part where she takes over Tsukhi’s story with weird sex stuff) where Koyomi, Hitagi and Kaiki have this extended conversation about what is and isn’t real, and it’s just wholly uninteresting and unsatisfying as a sequence, let alone as a narrative denouement. Literally nothing of value happens, and while this probably would’ve been a fun sequence in a novel, where you can investigate the thought processes of those having the conversation and bring the discussion to life through descriptive elements… in an anime it’s just an extended cutscene, honestly, and a boring one, at that. It also doesn’t help that most of the characters are essentially uninteresting, and most of the surreal nature of the anime feels forced. While Koyomi comes across fine enough (if a bit needlessly overprotective) and Karen is likable if a bit overly impetuous, Tsukhi is basically given no time to develop into anything, Hitagi comes across as the most unlikable human being on planet Earth, even against Kaiki, and every other existing character just reverts to type and does nothing of particular note. Meanwhile, while Kaiki is at least mildly interesting narratively speaking, Kagenui and her ally (who is so aggressively uninteresting I’ve forgotten her name) are the most rushed and uninteresting narrative final boss characters I’ve seen in a long time. Kagenui herself might become interesting at some point later thanks to her connections, but in this arc she’s just a rushed and violent means to an end, and she matters not even a small bit to the story here as it limps to a conclusion that’s utterly unsatisfying all the way around.

I tried, honestly I did, to like this, but it’s just so far beyond me as a person I can’t even begin to understand what the appeal is here. Monogatari as a franchise seems like it’s something that would’ve been better had it stayed in its written form, rather than as an anime, and while I liked Bakemonogatari perfectly fine, Nisemonogatari was such a complete mess that I couldn’t comprehend it. It wasn’t enough to dissuade me from continuing the series, as I did give Monogatari Second Season a go (though the first episode was more than enough to change my mind), but it was absolutely a lesser piece of work overall. The narrative is unfocused and far too in love with its lengthy and generally uninteresting conversations, the plot plods along early before rocketing to a condensed and rushed conclusion, and there’s just nothing here that resonates or sticks with you. It’s not great, is the key point of this dissertation, and it’s content to get to its flat and uninspired ending as slowly as possible, without developing anyone or anything along the way except possibly perverse stuff between the protagonist and his sister, and a three-character relationship that this series doesn’t do anything with except set up for later use. I’m happy for you if you love it, but I don’t, and if you haven’t seen it, you really shouldn’t unless you were in love with the windy discussions of the first anime. As one Crunchyroll reviewer described it, it’s Seinfelf in anime form, but unlike that reviewer, I absolutely do not mean that as a compliment.