Diehard AnimeFAN, Vol. 8: Monster Musume, MY Love STORY!!, God Eater and more!

This one’s going to be a bit on the small side, update-wise; essentially, I haven’t had a lot of time to watch much anime due to work training, and I haven’t had a chance to pick out a new anime to sub into the rotation in place of the now completed Nagato Yuki-chan, so I don’t have a lot to say here. I’ll hopefully have more going on next week, but for now, let’s just get down to business.

Ongoing Series Discussion:

God Eater (Seven Episodes):

Yet another week with no new episode. I should note that the Crunchyroll releases are up to Episode Five at this point, so honestly, I really do think they’re going to catch up before long, and that’s honestly kind of depressing. Anyway, moving onward…

MY Love STORY!! (Twenty Three Episodes):

Wow, an episode focused entirely on Rinko as a character, that’s definitely not a thing I was expecting after twenty three episodes where we really haven’t done that. It was actually a really good idea, I think; the series really needed to focus a bit more on her as a character based on how important she is to the plot, and given we’ve given Takeo over half of the screentime, and even Suna has seen a few episodes devoted to him, it’s about time she got one of her own. That said, while the episode puts a lot of effort into being a story about Rinko, it also focuses a whole lot on Takeo’s perspective instead of hers, and while that’s not the worst thing (since he learns some good lessons here), it doesn’t really help develop her as a character. This is problematic, because the execution of the episode… doesn’t make Rinko look the greatest, and focusing on her perspective might have helped that. Obviously, the point was to create a conflict (since those aren’t in large supply here) that can carry the show into the last episode of the season, and from that perspective, it works out great. However, even if we know full well how it’s going to turn out, the way the episode portrays Rinko does her no favors as a character, and it’s kind of crappy that, for as much development as Takeo and Suna have gotten so far, Rinko mostly still just exists from Takeo’s viewpoint more than anything.

Oh, I should probably qualify that, so: this episode is about another dude hitting on Rinko.

The episode starts off simply enough: Rinko starts working at a cake shop as a cashier, where she meets another guy whose name I have completely forgotten, who almost immediately has the hots for her. This is fine, fundamentally speaking, as this has been a driving concept behind a few episodes now (albeit with the person having the hots for Takeo), so that’s nothing new. However, while the first half of the episode starts off from the perspective of Takeo trying to learn how not to be so jealous now that he’s encouraged Rinko into doing the thing she loves (which is a good lesson), the second half of the episode devolves into the dude finding out Rinko and Takeo are dating and basically deciding that he’s going to force them to break up because he’s a better fit for Rinko, which is… something. Now, the logistics of a twenty one year old trying to date a fifteen year old aside (I have no idea how that works in Japan but it wasn’t illegal in Sailor Moon so just go with it), the problem with the episode isn’t in the concept, but in its execution. In other words, Takeo and Rinko handle their relationship very differently in front of others, and while that’s fine, when taken in context it’s kind of hard not to come away with a diminished opinion of the Rinko character. I’ll probably get into that more in a couple weeks (the last episode is delayed a week), so I won’t get into it too much now, but suffice it to say, this is probably the first episode of the series I actively did not like. Conflict is fine, and even desirable, in these sorts of situations, but the episode doesn’t work to give Rinko a voice and works off of The Idiot Plot more than anything, which is fine to a point, but after an entire season where Rinko has lacked a voice of her own and Suna got that opportunity, it’s kind of annoying that, an episode from the end of the season, that this is still a thing.

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

Meanwhile, in Monster Musume, we’re still moving forward with the dating subplot (assume it’ll wrap up next week), and this time the groups are Papi and Suu (in the first half) and Centorea and Rachnera (in the second half), which is a fine enough set of pairings. Centorea and Rachnera work as romantic competitors in the same way Mero and Miia do, and as for Suu and Papi… well, Papi has little concept of what’s going on half the time, and Suu doesn’t seem to have romantic feelings for Kurusu (which will change, I assure you), so that’s fine enough. What’s less fine is that holy shit this episode is super perverted you guys; the first half of the episode involves an astonishingly large amount of boob stuff, while the second half actually ends with erotic torture. It’s… I mean it’s fine if that’s what you’re here for, and I did know it was coming, but even so, it’s going to be one of those things where unless you’re specifically here for the erotic stuff you’re going to have to skip around a bit. On the other hand, Suu, Centorea and Rachnera are all pretty awesome here, so if you like them, you’ll probably have enough of a reason to stick it out, as there’s boar jousting and kaiju battles here on top of the normal weirdness. It’s kind of an odd episode, is my point here.

Also, can I say, I know Crunchyroll probably translated the episode title as it was written, and I know English slang doesn’t hold much weight in Japan, but “Everyday Life With D” does not sound like a good episode title. Well, I mean, not for a normal anime anyway.

The first half of the episode focuses on Kurusu taking Papi and Suu on a date, as Zombina follows along for funsies and food, though things quickly take a turn for the worse as a Dryad named Kii who Papi befriended (and forgot about, because Papi) tries to wreck Kurusu due to poor treatment by humans. Oh, and she’s commanding a freaking wood Gundam so she clearly means business. Fortunately, Suu is exposed to the same experimental fertilizer that caused Kii to turn into a Gundam and becomes a slime kaiju herself, giving Kurusu enough time to save the day by sucking the fertilizes out of Kii’s boobs, and I am making exactly none of that up. Meanwhile, the second half of the episode focuses on Centorea and Kurusu going on a date while Manako watches from a safe distance and Rachnera tags along in the shadows. After Centorea is convinced to ditch her full plate armor, an attempt at a romantic lunch goes awry and a demon exploits Centorea’s emotional state, ending with her trying to force herself on Kurusu before jousting a boar, which I am also in no way making up. To be honest, the single biggest downside here is that the episode gets super sexual in a hurry and never lets up; there’s a big difference between the playful stuff the series usually does and… this, and this is a bit much to deal with.

Overall Series Review

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan (Season One)

I have no idea who this anime is for.

It’s fairly apparent that the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise is incredibly popular (if far moreso in Japan than in the US), and given all of the weirdness surrounding the production of the anime (or lack thereof these days), it stands to reason that the parent company would want to make some money from the property, even if they have the most asinine business model imaginable. Rather than waiting for another light novel to come out (and considering they’ve been met by diminishing returns that might not even be enough), commissioning a manga series based on an alternate reality storyline, and making an anime based on that, at least meets their model requirements, and gives fans another anime to look forward to. In theory, it’s an awesome idea that gives fans a new show to watch, and gives the parent company the option to license material for worldwide distribution that might actually make notable money. You can bring the existing fanbase in with promises of the characters they love in brand new stories, and make a franchise that doesn’t require the viewer to know the whole history so as to attract a new fanbase on top of the original one. If handled right, it’s basically a license to print money, as you can sell it to old fans, bring in new fans, and possibly even attract new fans to the old work.

In practice, however, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan does absolutely none of that.

For starters, if you weren’t a fan of the original series, while you’d hope there’d be some degree of accessibility here, the reality is, there’s literally nothing for you here. The anime relies entirely too much on prior knowledge of the original series to make the current one palatable, and not just because it’s full of fanservice that references the original anime (including the damn ending for crying out loud), though lord knows missing a quarter of the jokes doesn’t help anyone. The bigger problem is that the characters have one-dimensional personalities, and it makes trying to enjoy the anime if you don’t carry fondness for the original series into this anime with you. You can, on first encounter with a character, write down every important element about that character on two lines of an index card, and by the end of the series, you’d add maybe one more line, at most. Compare MY Love STORY!! to this; in that anime, everyone has clearly defined character arcs and strong, multi-faceted personalities that make them into strong characters who can easily carry any story arc more or less on their own power. Here, the events dictate the story, not the characters, and people are defined by what happens to them, not how they react to and grow from it. At most, Kyon and Nagato are the only people who get any real character development, and even then it’s limited to “we like each other, maybe,” which is the most rote shit you can possibly write. It also doesn’t help that Haruhi is one of the most important characters in this series, because absent the weirdness of her own anime, she’s just kind of a selfish bitch, honestly. She occasionally does good things for others, but for the most part she just shoves people (mostly Kyon) into doing her dirty work and bullies everyone into what she wants to do, and while her ideas frequently drive the plot, that’s still “events dictating characterization” rather than characters doing anything.

Well, what if you did like the original series? Well, half of the cast has completely different personalities from their original incarnations, so while you’ll love being able to see the characters again, they’ll basically be completely different people, so the shine will wear off sooner rather than later. Further, the tone and style of the anime are also markedly different; while the original was a surreal anime focused on crazy stories and weird characters, this one is just a standard dating anime about normal people living their normal lives, and occasionally following around their crazy friend on her slightly less mundane adventures. The worst part, for fans, is that the undercurrent of the original series was that Kyon was kind of in love with Haruhi, who mostly didn’t seem to care about romance as much as aliens and stuff. In this world, however, while Haruhi loves weird stuff, she’s also acutely aware that she probably has feelings for Kyon… and Kyon doesn’t have feelings for her at all, so even fans who wanted to see that plot point paid off in anime someday can get bent, because that never even comes close to happening. That’s fine if you didn’t care about that plot point, one supposes, but then, you probably wouldn’t want to watch a romance anime anyway, so you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Two-dimensional characters who are different from their inspired counterparts would still work fine if the anime had anything interesting to say narratively in its plots, but it’s mostly just slice of life stuff that goes nowhere, accomplishes little, and leaves the world no different in the end than in the beginning, even if the anime likes to pretend otherwise at the moment. Each episode that involves a Kyon and Nagato plot acts like something happened, but by the end of the first season the two are still in the same place they were at the beginning, except that Kyon might have feelings for Nagato, which takes sixteen episodes to get to. Each arc is wholly self-contained, and the story just… happens, dimly, before moving onto the next arc, which mostly ignores the arc that came before it. There’s no romantic conflict, there’s very little conflict at all… nothing happens, except for a brief part where Nagato goes into shock after almost getting hit by a car, but even then, that plot point, aside from being the only plot point that has any impact, only acts as a driver for the final three episodes. Well, in theory, anyway; the anime makes it a big point that Kyon is now feeling awkward around Nagato since her alternate personality confessed to him, but outside of a couple of events in the first episode post-recovery, we… really don’t get shown much of a difference? Because Kyon doesn’t behave that much differently, even though the rest of the cast is all “ERMAGERD THINGS ARE SO AWKWARD,” because this anime is nothing if it’s not really good at telling instead of showing.

Oh, and the final episode straight up rips off its confession scene from Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, and that ending was bad there, too.

I mean, maybe I’m the wrong audience, and fans of the original franchise absolutely love this series for what it is, but I honestly can’t understand how or why they would. It’s just… there, and it has nothing to really offer anyone except that it’s associated with a brand that, a few years ago, was super popular and in-demand. New fans will find it wholly impenetrable and bland, old fans will find it too much of a genre and character shift to appreciate it on the same level, and in general viewers will only have plots that do nothing, accomplish nothing and simply end to look forward to. Nobody grows, nobody changes, nothing really happens, and it’s basically just an anime about people doing things, which… I mean, everyone does that, and no one wants to watch an anime about your or my life. If you end up enjoying it, more power to you, but something like MY Love STORY!! or Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun would be a better pick from the genre, and if you’re looking for more Haruhi, just watch that over again, honestly. If we end up getting a season two, I’m definitely out, so make sure you watch it on Funimation if that’s what you’re into; otherwise, though, there are far better choices out there, so I’d recommend literally any of those instead.