Inside Pulse 12

Diehard AnimeFAN, Vol. 4: MY Love STORY!!, Monster Musume, Assassination Classroom and more!

Another week, another round of commentary on anime for everyone to enjoy. As mentioned last week, I’ve subscribed to the Funimation streaming service, which you can sign up for yourself right here if you’re so inclined (I have no idea what referring people to the service does for me, but what the heck), and it’s not bad so far. There are three tiers, between the normal Free service (which requires you to view ads to support Funimation), the SubPass (which gets you full access to all subtitled and simulcast anime) and the All-Access Pass (which gets you access to dubbed anime and extras), and all three can be watched on devices like a Roku or a video game console if you get the app. I went with the All-Access Pass because I like to see when a dub is well done (or not), so I’ll be sure to distinguish when something is dubbed or not, in case that makes a difference to you. I’ve also added in my first Funimation anime to the rotation, which will be here for the next couple weeks (it’s not on Simulcast so it’ll be rotated out pretty quickly), in replacement for Classroom*Crisis from last week.

I’ve got nothing else of note to discuss, so let’s get started.

Ongoing Series Discussion:

God Eater (Five Episodes):

Before we get started, allow me to note that Crunchyroll is finally simulcasting this on their service, though for some reason they only have the first episode posted, when it’s up to the fifth episode on Daisuke.net; I’m hoping this means that it’ll catch up fairly quickly if the anime hits a couple more delays, but otherwise you’ll be about four weeks behind watching it there. It’s a more reliable service, though, so it might be worth it to be on a delay. Draw your own conclusions.

Moving onto the episode proper, well, that escalated quickly.

This week’s story starts out with a brief bit of character interaction that’s meant to establish a couple of worthwhile points about how humanity is dying, the distinction between outside born and inside born people, and how Soma is kind of a dick, but this essentially goes into the real meat of the episode: Aragami Hunting. Soma and Lindow are on special assignment, leaving Sakuya in charge, and she’s offered a choice of missions, one of which (hunting multiple Vajra) strikes her as beyond the current skills of the team as-is. Alisa volunteers the team for this hunt, however, and Sakuya decides the team might have a shot, so off they go to do this thing. You’d think this would be a prime opportunity to show off how the New Types can work (or how their skills are still rough), but instead, the battle starts off well before rapidly turning into a big problem, as the team is rapidly surrounded by three Vajra in a matter of moments. Oh, yeah, and the Vajra also end up flushing out a group of outside dwellers in the process, which puts everyone at risk of death from the three Vajra before them.

Then, a Dyaus Pita shows up and everything goes to hell.

What’s interesting about this episode, specifically, is just how quickly the tone changes from the last few episodes. Up to this point, there have been clear risks to the characters, but they’ve mostly risen to the challenge, and come out of it stronger. This time, however, the team absolutely gets their ever-loving shit kicked in by Dyaus Pita, and there is a whole lot of blood in this episode, if that’s a thing that concerns you. Lenka in particular gets completely ruined here, and the episode spends a lot of time building up little hope spots where you think, “Oh, this time-“ but no, not this time either. The point of the episode is to build up a nice “to be continued” part to build to the next episode, while also making Dyaus Pita into the “big bad” for the foreseeable future, and it’ll be very interesting to see where they go from here. This is significantly different from the game’s plotline already, however, and I, for one, can’t wait to see where it goes next.

MY Love STORY!! (Nineteen Episodes):

After last episode’s resolution of the current “will they or won’t they?” subplot, you’d think there’d be an immediate push to start up another underlying storyline, but instead, the anime picks up a thread it’s only mildly dealt with up to this point, in Takeo’s mom Yuriko’s pregnancy. A sizable amount of the episode is devoted to her and the days leading up to the birth of her next child, as she’s still as active as she’s ever been, much to Takeo and his father’s consternation. That said, however, the episode actually does a lot to flesh out why Takeo is the way he is, as Yuriko is just as selfless and physically active as he is, and we see several instances where she puts herself in harm’s way, even while nine months pregnant, to help others. There’s also a decent exploration of the relationship between Takeo and Yuriko, as she’s spent most of the series up to this point kind of thinking of him as an independent child who’s physically capable but requires guidance, and while Takeo does still need his friends, by the end of the episode he at least convinces his mom she raised him right, if nothing else.

The episode starts off fairly slowly, with Yuriko just being the self-sufficient person she’s always been and Takeo kind of being a goofball, until Yuriko ends up saving another pregnant mother, which accidentally kickstarts her own pregnancy in the process. There are some minor moments of panic during the later parts of the episode, as Yuriko finally wonders whether her actions might not have been the best while she’s pregnant, but honestly, most of the episode is focused on filling in backstory and showing how Takeo has grown as a person, and it’s just a good all-around episode, overall. The little plot points, such as the comparison between Rinko and Takeo as babies and Yutaka, Takeo’s father, explaining why he fell in love with Yuriko, are honestly a lot of fun, but the best part of the episode is the moment where Takeo finally steps up and does something without goofing up, as it’s a powerful moment that really evolves him as a character. Otherwise, the episode is a nice cool-down from the prior episode, and it gives a lot of development to the cast that helps keep them fluid as things progress, which we probably need considering the last couple episodes.

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

This episode actually works to condense two stand-alone episodes from the manga, focusing on Miia and Papi respectively, so your appreciation for this episode will depend entirely on how much you like those characters; in other words, if you like one or both of the characters it’ll be fine, if you hate one or both of the characters it’ll drag, and if you like one but hate the other it’ll be kind of a hassle. Since I generally tend to like Miia and dislike Papi, well… this episode was kind of an odd duck for me. It doesn’t help that the episodes were both very sexual in their implementation, because this anime generally works fine as a comedy piece, but as an ecchi anime it tends to be hit-or-miss. It also doesn’t help to have both crammed into one episode like this (unless you want to skip it I suppose) because it’s just a large amount of moaning and groaning this week, so even if you do like the ecchi parts it can be a bit much. Still, there are some good parts to the episode, at least, so if you’re fine with (or can ignore) the ecchi stuff, the rest is actually fairly entertaining, so let’s get down to it.

The first storyline this week is that Miia is training to become Kurusu’s wife (presumably because everyone is to some extent) by way of learning to cook, which she’s… Yukiko Amagi levels of bad at. While doing so, however, she suddenly realizes she’s beginning to shed… and subsequently burns her hands on a pot, thus rendering her unable to do so properly. Kurusu, however, figures this out, and what follows is a surprisingly sweet (if perverted) sequence where he helps Miia shed rather than have her get sick. This storyline is cute for the most part, and it shows that Kurusu really is a decent guy; telling the viewer that so-and-so is “nice” means nothing if you don’t show it, after all, and this is a chance for Kurusu to back that up, which comes across well, if, again, a bit sexual. The storyline also ends on a funny note, as Miia thanks Kurusu by cooking for him, which is exactly as much of a disaster as you’d think. The second storyline surrounds Papi announcing she’s about to lay an egg, which is apparently a thing harpies just do sometimes (though this isn’t discovered until after everyone beats Kurusu’s ass). This leads to the core plot of the episode, though, as a random director shows up and, after announcing he’s filming a documentary on extra-normal species, basically begins filming around Kurusu’s house and acting like a greedy pervert. Eventually Suu helps the rest of the cast catch on, and Kurusu ejects the director from his house the only way he knows how, before we finally deal with the egg situation once and for all. Outside of the “Papi lays an egg” parts, the episode is generally pretty amusing and lightly ecchi, though once Papi starts in the episode mostly gets weird and serious for most of the duration. Still, we’re introduced to Rachnera at the end, and we’re apparently seeing her officially debut next week, so those who have been looking forward to her debut should be pleased if nothing else, and we’re also getting the official debut of the Monster Ops force, so it should be a good episode.

Assassination Classroom (Twelve Episodes)

I’ll admit, I wasn’t really interested in this one at first, but a lot of “Please watch Assassination Classroom,” pleas from my friend Dee convinced me to give this a shot, and now, twelve episodes in, I can safely say that I hope it gets a second season in Japan because I kind of love this show. First off, the animation quality is honestly pretty solid; I know that a lot of first-run shows can be a bit spotty and have to be corrected for retail sale (Sailor Moon Crystal, I’m looking at you), but everything here generally looks pretty good, so it’s either been corrected already or it came out great from jump. Further, the anime has really solid pacing to it, as it introduces and resolves things fairly well and keeps you interested by consistently running short, easily resolved arcs over one or two episodes while keeping larger issues simmering in the background, leaving you hanging on everything that happens with ease. I should also note that I’ve watched this in its dubbed form, and the voice acting is generally pretty damn good; it’s not my favorite dub of all time, honestly, but most everyone in the cast does a good job of sounding like how I’d expect them to sound, and special props to Chris Ryan (Karasuma), Austin Tindle (Karma) and Sonny Strait (Koro Sensei) for their work here, as I felt like they did a pretty good job getting over the characters through their work. The Japanese voice work is also quite nice, however, if you’re the sort of person who prefers subtitles to dub work.

The narrative is where the series shines the hardest, so far, however, because it actually manages to do the impossible in making all of its cast likable in spite of, and perhaps because of, their relationships to one another.

The basic gist of the plot is as such: a bio-human, dubbed “Koro Sensei” by his class, has blown up a sizable part of the moon and informed the government that he’ll do the same to the Earth if they don’t kill him. Since he’s capable of travelling at Mach 20, is invincible to most conventional forms of damage, is surprisingly intellectually advanced and can regenerate physical damage fairly quickly, doing this thing is quite a bother, so he offers them a fairly attractive proposition: let him teach E Class at Kunugigaoka Junior High. In return, he’ll generally be in one place (making his movements easier to track), he won’t blow up the Earth for a year, and the students will be able to attempt to kill him throughout the entire year, while he won’t be allowed to harm them during this time. You’d think this would draw a clear protagonist/antagonist line, but surprisingly enough this isn’t the case, as not only is Koro Sensei one of the most likable characters in the show, but almost everyone in the class likes him pretty well also. It turns out that Koro Sensei is not only interested in teaching the class properly, he’s also interested in teaching the students lessons they’ll need to become the kinds of assassins who will be capable of killing him someday. As a result, while the students all understand they have to kill him, there’s an interesting dynamic here where they all kind of like him fine enough which drives a lot of the plot forward. The plot mostly follows the perspective of one of the students, Nagisa Shiota, as he catalogues the events from day to day in hopes of finding the right weaknesses in Koro Sensei that will allow the class to kill him, and Nagisa is also pretty likable. He starts off questioning his own self-worth, but rapidly evolves during his time spent in class into someone who’s strong and actually capable on his own merits. There’s a lot going on in the series, twelve episodes in, from the rivalry E Class has with the rest of the school due to their outcast status, to the various new additions to the class that make life difficult for Koro Sensei, to the introduction of someone with the same capabilities as him into the class and beyond, and covering it all would take way more space than I can commit here. That said, if you can, give Assassination Classroom a shot; it’s a lot of fun, and I’ll be powering through it for another week or two before I weigh in on the current season, so you’ve got plenty of time to catch up.

Overall Series Review

Soni-Ani: Super Sonico the Animation

So I’ve mentioned in the past that I’ve watched this through on Crunchyroll, but I didn’t really explain what I thought of it (beyond saying it was fine), and with good reason: that wasn’t the point of the article, and at the time, there wasn’t a lot of reason to get into it. On the other hand, an entire column devoted to anime? Well, if that’s not an appropriate forum to explain my thoughts on an anime devoted to Super Sonico, I don’t know what is. That said, when I said that the anime is cute and generally fine enough, I basically meant that; if you have around five hours to spend watching a series, you could do a lot worse than Soni-Ani: Super Sonico the Animation… but you could probably do a fair bit better, too. While the anime is mostly adorable and astonishingly doesn’t fall too far into the sexualized content hole that you’d expect of it, the reality is, it’s also trope laden, goofy as hell, and if we’re being honest, it’s not really going to appeal to anyone who doesn’t like Sonico (or this specific style of “cute girls doing cute things” anime) coming in is going to hate the hell out of it.

I’d love to tell you what the core point of the anime is, but to be honest, there doesn’t really seem to be one; if I had to guess, the core point is most likely about following Sonico and friends around for twelve episodes. Sonico’s core goal, in theory, is to turn her band, First Astronomical Velocity, into a thing because her most undying love is that of music, and she wants to be a musician as her primary career. That’s a fine enough goal to drive a plot, to be certain, but one never gets the feeling the anime is really about that specifically, and to be honest, most of the anime revolves around her modeling career over anything else. The anime isn’t really about her modeling either, though, because Sonico more or less admits she doesn’t want to do this as a career, and even if she did, she works for a D-List agency and rarely appears in anything “big” anyway, by the anime’s own admission. Now, the show just being about following Sonico around during her day-to-day life isn’t the worst thing, but in order to carry an entire anime from start to finish, even a twelve episode anime, the person in question would need to have a pretty interesting life, and while Sonico does have such a life, this requires a bit of… surreality, at times.

Now, the anime tends to work best when it’s dealing with things that might actually happen to someone in Sonico’s position, as these scenarios tend to be the most interesting and amusing. The debut episode, “I’ll Do My Bets!” (I don’t know if that’s a typo or not), is a prime example of this, as the episode just follows Sonico to a modeling shoot where the overzealous photographers try to talk her into something a bit more revealing than she’s prepared for, only for her manager to save her from the end results. Other episodes, like “Star Rain” (which just follows her for a day of travelling Nigata), “Day Dream” (which is about Sonico reminiscing about her mentor) and “New World” (which has an interviewer follow her around for a day) also do a really good job of showing the viewer why people like Sonico so much, and by association, why you should too. Sonico’s really at her best when the anime focuses on her as a person rather than the things going on around her, and it’s easy to see why people like the character when she’s just given the chance to be herself, because she’s just a nice, simple girl who has a big dream and friends who support this dream. If the whole anime were based around this concept, it’d probably have a little bit more of a limited appeal, but it also probably wouldn’t be sitting at three stars on Crunchyroll.

On the other hand, the anime also tries way too hard to have these wacky and weird episodes, and these episodes are… a lot more hit and miss. The second episode, “First Astronomical Velocity,” is mostly based around the band playing a show, but there’s this weird side-plot where Suzu, the bassist and leader of the band, somehow manages to order an outfit for Sonico to wear that looks like a damn ice cream sundae, and will melt at the end of the set, somehow. Sonico doesn’t want to do it, obviously, and while the episode ends exactly the way you’d expect, the bigger problem is that it isn’t funny. This happens a lot, honestly; the anime will try to set up these big jokes and punchlines that just never pan out into anything amusing, and that’s basically half the anime. The very next episode, “Sonico Goes to Okinawa,” starts off as a simple modeling trip before becoming an episode about Sonico being signed on to play a part in a sentai show that ends up super embarrassing before her manager beats the mess out of an actor and somehow ends up more popular than Sonico, which is far less amusing than it sounds. There’s a murder mystery episode, an episode revolving around her cats, a “Sonico volunteered to do too much and her friends have to help her,” episode and a zombie episode for some reason, and none of it works in the way it’s supposed to, if at all. It’s also kind of weird that, for as attractive as Sonico and friends are presented as being and for all of the odd sexually charged stuff that happens, not a single episode ever deals with dudes being interested in any of the band members, at all, ever. It makes sense in context, given that every Super Sonico video game features the player being a romantic partner and a lot of her fandom probably has an unhealthy love for her and whatnot, but from a pacing perspective it’s so weird that the concept never comes up once. It’s certainly good from a Bechdel Test perspective, but that’s about it, and let’s be real here: that wasn’t the reason the anime does this thing, and considering how many times fanservice does appear in the anime, that thing is far and away the least of the anime’s problems.

Oh, also, I should probably note that, while the anime does have a dub version, you should do everything in your power to watch the subtitled version, because the dub team stunt casted Jessica Nigri as Sonico, and while she’s a great cosplayer and seems like a nice person, holy shit she is NOT GOOD at voice acting you guys. The whole cast sounds like they were recruited from an 80’s dub, also, and while it’s not the worst thing ever, anime dubbing has come a long way in thirty years, and the dub for this just doesn’t even come close to holding up.

Basically, Soni-Ani probably deserves its overall three star rating on Crunchyroll, because it’s basically an average show, and there’s nothing wrong with that, so long as you don’t go in expecting it to be anything else. If you like Sonico, the show is probably just fine for you, as it’s cute and entertaining enough, and Sonico generally comes across very well as a character. If you like comedy or slice-of-life anime, it’s also probably just fine for you, as there are some laughs and touching moments to be had through the series and overall it works more than it doesn’t. I wouldn’t pay money to own it on DVD or anything, and I wouldn’t really recommend anyone else do so either, but honestly, you could do worse with five hours of your time than watch it on Crunchyroll, and if you have the time to spare, it’s not too bad. If you accept it for what it is it’s entertaining, and while that’s not the most positive possible description someone could provide about an anime, in Soni-Ani’s case, it’s probably the most accurate.