Bokutachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai (We Never Learn: BOKUBEN)

BokuBen is a really light harem rom-com. It’s pretty typical in that it features an overtly kind hearted and dense but otherwise essentially unremarkable protagonist, Nariyuki, that due to various circumstances, in this case being assigned as their tutor, ends up spending a lot of time with a bunch of girls. The girls start off somewhat interesting due to them being natural geniuses in different fields, but wanting to pursue careers in different fields where they have no talent in order to pursue their dreams. Nariyuki himself is someone that doesn’t seem to have any natural talent and got where he is through hard work, so he’s able to sympathize with wanting to do things one has no talent for, though he’s someone that doesn’t have any particular dream beyond getting into a good college so he’s also envious of them for already having decided on their dreams. As such there is an underlying current of exploring themes relating to how talent, hard work, and goals all interconnect. This is a very subdued however, being somewhat prominent at the beginning but only showing hints and flashes beyond that.

The majority of the anime is thus simply slice of life with Nariyuki and the various girls studying as well as getting into other light hearted situations. The only thing that I can think of that makes this anime stand out compared to others like it, is how it’s completely lite. Other similar anime often seem to try to force in drama or random twists, or at least make it seem like they are at the end of episodes to try to hook the viewer, but this anime doesn’t at all. There are times that things seem a bit more serious, like where the girls have to achieve a certain score on exams or Nariyuki will be removed as their tutor. However, even these situations aren’t framed as all that heavy and they’re passed through smoothly without much fanfare.

In what is more standard for the genre, there are moments where it feels like there may be some romantic development, but these too go nowhere. However, the frequency of such moments felt a lot more rare compared to most other similar anime, wherein other similar anime seem to constantly be trying to make as many moments as they can seem important and like something major is at the cusp of happening, this doesn’t even try to play at that. It feels like its pretty clear that nothing is going to happen. One of the main reasons for this is that it establishes that the cast don’t have time for romance until their done with the exams they’re studying for, with it very strongly being hinted that after that is when things will begin to move, and thus indicating to the viewer not to expect anything before that beyond the cast just hanging out and having fun and maybe having some light relationship development along the way. The ends result is that it actually feels a lot like the common route of a moege VN, which is pretty surprising considering this is based on a manga.

As such, the anime is entirely reliant on it’s slice of life aspects, which comes down to how likable the heroines are and how good the comedy is. I would have to say that it’s somewhat mixed on both fronts. In terms of comedy it is pretty solid, but also somewhat repetitive, with each character having a single strain of comedy centered around them and it not deviating too much from that. It switched up enough between heroines that it still feels like there’s some variety, but not a tremendous amount. The fact that almost all episodes are split up into two distinct stories also helps in terms of pacing, but it still feels like it’s getting stale at times. As the comedy is such a core part of this anime, because of the comedy getting repetitive in large bursts, I would highly advise not marathoning this, as at least in my case the enjoyment per episode went down after each consecutive episode with it not really being enjoyable at all watching more than two or three episodes at once.

In terms of heroines, there seem to be five that seem to be very different in terms of not just traits but narrative structure as well. The most fleshed out of those is Uruka, the childhood friend, who gets a good amount of background and gets the most clear relationship development with Nariyuki. It’s all pretty standard osananajimi trope stuff that is only decent executed, so it’s just okay. The rest of the heroines aren’t just standard tropes and thus aren’t generic, but they’re all fleshed out very little. As such, how likable they are comes solely down to how much their personality stands out. The heroine that felt like she stood out the least is Rizu, who’s supposed to be incredibly logical or something like that, but just didn’t feel all that prominent. There’s also Asumi, who has a bit of a teasing senpai dynamic going on with Nariyuki that makes her stand out somewhat, but at least so far she’s kind of been a side character so she’s also stood out very little.

The heroines that stood out the most are the last two, Fumino and Mafuyu, who do it for very different reasons. Mafuyu is straight up a teacher so just based on that she stands out quite a bit, and the situations she ends up getting into with Nariyuki are very different from the situations he ends up getting into with the rest of the heroines. Add on her dichotomous personality, with one side being very strict, prim, and proper, and the other being really lazy and weak-willed and there’s a bit of gap moe going on too.

Fumino is interesting, in that unlike the cast of most rom-coms where everyone is terrible at reading other’s feelings, Fumino stands out as someone that is actually really competent at doing so, with the major exception being her own feelings apparently. Because of that, she’s a pretty omnipresent character to other heroines stories as well where she’s helping them out, though at the same time she gets some really strong moments of her own, with her being featured in the finale being the strongest moment in the anime overall I’d say. Though the caveat on that is that the finale overall was pretty underwhelming for a finale, with it only standing out due to the rest of the anime overall being really subdued. All in all though, it isn’t really clear at all who the heroine that’ll get picked will be at all with it not really feeling like there’s anything close to a main heroine, which is actually pretty rare as far as I can tell in such anime, wherein even though the main heroine doesn’t always get picked there usually still is one.

In terms of production values it was decent enough in terms of art and animation quality. The art style and character designs were only okay but I appreciated how it seemed to be trying to show them off well. The OP and ED have pretty decent songs and decent visuals for the most part, but they feature visual effects that I don’t really like much, lightly animated manga like pages or lightly animated drawings on a blackboard, so I wasn’t much of a fan overall. The soundtrack was pretty good and actually managed to stand out a bit surprisingly enough.

A really light hearted and casual rom-com.

7/10

Youjo Senki Movie (Saga of Tanya the Evil: The Movie)

If you’ve already seen the main series, as is very much a requirement before watching this film, then there’s not much to talk about this film other than that it’s simply a solid continuation of the anime that plays to the same strengths, in that it entirely about an evil overpowered loli being a badass in a variety of ways.

The narrative changes things up in a number of ways so that things don’t start getting repetitive and played out. The main one would be that the enemy is now the Russy Federation which changes things up in terms of the political and strategic sense and also allows the script to have a lot of fun talking trash about commies. But just as important is the proper introduction of a rival for Tanya, another Mary Sue type character literally named Mary Sioux, whose purpose seems to be to make Tanya seem even more overpowered and badass by showing she doesn’t just crush the average trash, but can thrash other overpowered characters as well.

That combined with how the film feels better made than the main series in that it has better pacing in terms of what really matters, moments of Tanya being badass, as well in that it has better production values which results in the action being more exciting and the edgy monologues seem cooler, results in this film edging out the main series as somewhat better.

As a final note, I liked how it just randomly threw in the great ED of the main series with new visuals just for the hell of it. This was then followed after a bit by the credits actually rolling as white text on black background as is the standard for films along with a song that was decent enough but didn’t match anywhere near as well as the OP and ED of the main series did.

More of the same with some changes to spice things up while also being better made.

8/10

Youjo Senki (Saga of Tanya the Evil)

Youjo Senki is an anime that does a lot of different things, though only does a semi-decent job at pretty much all of them. In terms of setting, it’s basically set in an other world Europe during World War I. Thus there’s a decent amount of world building surrounding that in terms of culture, politics, etc that is somewhat interesting. Ultimately, it doesn’t do all that much with the setting though, only really explaining the minimum that needs to be explained for the purpose of the plot in that specific point in time. It’s not like it’s the type of world that feels inconsistent and like it’s being made up as the story moves along, but it just doesn’t really seem to focus on world building more than it has to.

The main thing that differentiates the world where this takes place is the existence of mages. The magic system starts getting fleshed out a bit at the beginning and seems interesting, but the writing seems to pretty quickly lose interest in that and the light basics that were explained in the beginning are pretty much all the explanation that is ever given to it. Magical combat is the core of the action in the anime, and is pretty cool, with essentially mages flying around using rifles to shoot at each other in what looks like dogfights on steroids that feel a lot like aerial battles scenes in mech anime. Due to the lack of depth in explaining the magic though, the combat too mostly lacks any depth with only a few scenes pretty early on relying on the mechanics of the magic itself. There actually appear to be major technological differences in magic technology between the different nations that manifest in their equipment at least looking very different, but these differences are never really explored or really play a part, which felt like a missed opportunity.

In addition to straight up action, there’s a good amount of tactics and strategy, both at a micro level with individual soldiers and battalions fighting, as well as a macro level in terms of the large scale operations planned and executed. The anime is decent at both of those, and the ones it uses are solid enough and explained pretty well. They aren’t much of a focus either though, in that while they are kind of omnipresent, in the end there aren’t that many of them, and what there is is actually pretty simple.

The narrative also explores quite a lot of themes. These include those relating to human nature, mostly in the direction that humanity is heavily irrational and emotion driven, which can lead to all sorts of issues. This connects to war related themes, such as the desire for peace being one of the main causes of war. There are also a number of other war related themes, such as war being inherently unjust, and this theme connects to another major theme throughout the anime of the existence of a god like figure that demands to be worshipped and recognized also being inherently unjust. These are omnipresent throughout the anime and manifest in a lot of different ways, but in the end they felt superficial.

In terms of plot, as the title suggests it is the story of Tanya Degurechaff, more specifically a chronicle of her as she gets involved with various military affairs. The various previously mentioned themes as well as the strategic aspects previously mentioned end up driving this, but as all of those aren’t particularly strong the plot itself doesn’t stand out as all that strong either. Before getting into a discussion of Tanya herself, in terms of the rest of the cast, they are all incredibly simplistic. The anime manages to portray a decent variety of characters, with the cast encompassing people in all sorts of positions ranging from strategist to soldier to family left behind and on various factions in the war including all of the major fighting factions as well as those simply observing. However, the vast majority are straight up one dimensional and the ones that aren’t don’t have that much depth either.

In the end, the only character that matters, or really the only thing overall that matters, is Tanya. And really, all that matters when it comes to her, is that she’s a badass overpowered evil loli. She’s actually a modern Japanese salaryman that got reincarnated as a girl, so the world building regarding the WWI like world is pretty much just for the sake of Tanya with her knowledge of how things progress from there in her world managing to be smarter than everyone else which makes her seem badass and overpowered. The existence of magic and action is only there because she’s is unnaturally good at magic which allows her to crush her enemies in unexpected and amazing ways which makes her seem badass and overpowered. The tactics and strategy are there so that her incredibly logical self can show its worth which when combined with what is essentially futuristic knowledge also allow her to pull off or at least initiate amazing feats which makes her seem badass and overpowered. All the various themes are pretty much there just to have Tanya monologue and throw out deep quotes in a really edgy way which combined with her surprisingly song sense of charisma makes her seem badass and overpowered. The only other characters that really feel like they matter are those that help Tanya stand out, whether it be in highlighting her traits through contrast such as in the case of Viktoriya or showcasing how she’s ultimately right about everything despite how evil she may appear to be in the case of Erich, which as expected makes her seem badass and overpowered.

In the end this anime is all about showing Tanya being badass and overpowered, and to avoid that getting repetitive it does this in a very large number of ways. On top of that, while Tanya is pretty much an edgy Gary Stu, she’s a very atypical one. Firstly, she’s pretty evil, but in a pretty down to earth way that feels in line with what a psychopath salaryman would want. Her primary motivation isn’t obtaining revenge, defeating a foe, or gaining power. She just wants to live a pleasant and safe life and the only one she really hates is the divine figure that is preventing her from doing so. And on top of that, she’s a loli. Not one that’s trying to be cute or moe or whatever mind you, but she’s still a little girl. That’s just throws the atmosphere in pretty much a perpetual state of dark humor which helps make Tanya stand out even more. Hence, because of all the crazy and ridiculous aspects of the anime, even though it’s straight up simply an isekai story about a character being overpowered without any depth to anything, it’s still pretty enjoyable and interesting throughout. This’ll depend heavily on how much you like Tanya, but for me she was more than enough to hold up the anime entirely on her own. With that said, it’s not perfect at showing her being badass and overpowered, and how well it manages to do this goes up and down, especially towards the latter half where it feels like the pacing on her badass moments is slowing down too much.

The art and animation are pretty solid and the art style fits the tone of the story incredibly well. The OP and main ED have really good art and music that fit really well. There’s a second ED that appears for one episode but I didn’t really get the point of it. The soundtrack is decent enough but not particularly memorable outside of the key track that main theme “Young Girl’s War Saga of Tanya The Evil” which is absolutely perfect for the anime and used incredibly well.

Youjo Shenki, the specials, are hilarious. They use the absurd aspects of the narrative for comedic effect very well and the cute chibi art style works well too.

An interesting and somewhat dark take on the overpowered protagonist isekai, though without much depth.

8/10

Eiyu*Senki – The World Conquest

Eiyuu*Senki is a turn based strategic role playing game visual novel about conquering a world where female versions of heroes from various civilizations across various time periods exist concurrently leading their respective nations. The game was originally released in 2012 on PC with a PS3 version following a year after. The PS3 version was then localized into English in 2015 on PS3 with a PC release following in 2017. Another game in the series, Eiyuu*Senki GOLD was released in Japan in 2014, but was only localized last year. I’ve been getting mixed answers about how GOLD relates to the original, but as far as I can tell it’s not just an enhanced version of the original, but essentially the game redone with a new story, though one that still uses the same assets and general systems. As such, I was somewhat conflicted about whether I should play the original or just play GOLD, but in the end I decided to play the original first.

Looking at the map, the game may seem kind of like a grand strategy game, but it’s really not at all. The goal is to conquer the world, but how that proceeds is incredibly linear and simplistic. The player can declare war on a nation and then begin conquering it. There’s some choice provided on which of multiple to conquer first at times, but the story goes to same place eventually regardless. Conquering involves going from city to city with combat occurring at each one. There may be different paths to get to the capital of the enemy nation, but it doesn’t really make much of a difference what route is taken most of the time outside of there sometimes being side story events or bonus items along certain routes. Each conquered city provides money at the beginning of each turn, but that’s the extent to the strategic significance of the cities as well. Thus, the world map is basically just a UI to prepare for and to initiate combat as well as to initiate main and side events which are what actually make up the majority of the game.

The combat involves controlling units on your half of a 3×6 grid. As one would expect, different units have different stats and abilities, and thus the player needs to manage those in order to defeat the enemy in the most optimum manner. It’s pretty standard for the most part, with there being different classes with different strengths and weaknesses against other classes and a gauge known as the brave gauge that charges up over time that allows the usage of special abilities. And it’s a solid enough implementation in terms of balance and polish though not particularly exceptional.

What I think makes the game interesting though is how things are balanced such that the meta to the combat changes completely over the course of the game. Class matchups results in double damage, and thus as a result the player will want to focus on choosing classes that will allow them to deal double damage while avoiding double damage from their opponent, or at least they will at first. The unique trick to this game, is that while normal attacks result in charging the brave gauge of the player that attacked, match ups that deal double damage result in charging the brave gauge of the opponent. At first, this isn’t a major issue, as units generally don’t have powerful abilities and the brave gauge charges pretty slow regardless, so the player will want to focus on positive match ups. However, as the game progresses and more powerful abilities are gained, positive match ups become far riskier, with it essentially becoming a balancing act on when and where to focus on positive match ups and when to focus on abilities. By end game this balance becomes heavily in favor of focusing on growing your own brave gauge in order to use abilities while trying to slow the opponents growth of their brave gauge so that they can’t use any abilities, which is pretty much the opposite of how the game started.

In addition to that, there’s also one other major change towards the later half of the game, which is the addition of ancient hero units. As is often the case for games where units that are composed of armies and not just single units, for most units in this game a decrease in the units health, which is referred to as troops, also results in a decrease in damage. The exception to that are ancient heroes, who don’t lead armies but are incredibly powerful just on their own, and thus don’t have a troops count, but rather an HP count which doesn’t affect their damage at all. This results in them having utility that is very different from other units and most of them just being pretty much straight up overpowered to a degree. There are enemies that also have HP, and while they are somewhat present during earlier portions of the game, they have a much stronger presence towards the latter portions after the player has obtained ancient heroes. These changes result in the game balance overall shifting a good amount. And these changes combined with the shift in focus from positive match ups to abilities results in the game overall feeling like it evolves tremendously over the course of the game, resulting in the combat remaining interesting and fresh throughout the game despite the base seemingly not changing much at all.

The biggest problem with combat though is unit growth. As is evident from looking at the world map, this game has turns, wherein a certain number of actions can be taken per turn, with that number growing over the course of the game. The biggest problem with the game is that these turns are completely useless and completely throw off game balance. There’s essentially no penalty to just running up the turn count other than that it feels like a waste of time but doing so provides tremendous benefits. Damage to units persists past the end of combat, and is healed a certain amount each turn or can otherwise be healed instantly through spending money. Money can also be used to grow the overall troop count of units. Money is gained each turn based on the cities controlled. It should be clear based on these statements, that the optimum way to play would be to never use money to actually heal units, but instead simply run up the turn count to have them heal naturally, while also gaining a bunch of money to use to grow the max troop count. Ancient heroes can’t be healed through money and don’t have a troop count that can be grown, which I suppose is to help diminish them being overpowered, but you can just run up the turn count to heal them so it’s also not much of a detriment. This ended up making the game incredibly easy to the point that I started doing things in as few turns as possible because there was no reason not to and taking a lot of turns takes up a lot of time. Sure, I could just not do that, but with strategy games the point is to play in the most optimum way possible, and it isn’t really clear what would be considered cheesing or just playing optimum in this case, so it just doesn’t feel well designed.

Furthermore, that units have to be used and manually grown by spending money results in there being a heavy emphasis on preferring only a small set of units. Sure, you can only use units once per turn, but turns don’t really matter anyway. The maximum number of units you can have on the field in combat is 6. The enemy can also counter attack in between turns, and later in the game sometimes they attack twice. Thus, you’ll probably want to focus entirely on 18 good units and ignore the rest. There are two issues with that. The first is that there are a tremendous number of units, and where those units will grow to in terms of abilities and such isn’t immediately obvious when you get them. Thus, having to pick which units to focus on can be pretty overwhelming, and with the way the UI is set up it feels even more daunting.

The second issue is more of a minor one, in that this mentality needs to be completely changed for the post game dungeon. This involves having to go through a sequence of multiple battles without any breaks in between, and thus involves using a lot more heroes. The majority of these involve 5 battles in a row, which requires 30 heroes which isn’t too unreasonable and I didn’t have too much of a problem with and found the high difficulty level pretty enjoyable as the rest of the game had long stopped having any challenge at that point. However, the last few involve 10 battles in a row, which would require 60 heroes, which is ridiculous. I could grind enough units to reach that point, and it wouldn’t even be all that hard as all it requires is just going through a bunch of turns, but it felt like it would take so much time and there isn’t any story at all to the post game dungeon so I just decided not to bother. But I think this does further highlight the issue that having so many units with different stats/abilities while needing to manually manage what items they’re equipped with and manually controlling their growth is a system that’s just kind of crazy and way too much of an ask considering how easy the game is.

In terms of plot it starts off with the protagonist literally falling from the sky into Zipang, which is essentially Japan, where a a hero named Himiko essentially tells him that a mysterious great danger is approaching the world and the only way to prevent it is by uniting the world to oppose the danger together. And from there the story is primarily centered around the protagonist conquering the world while also searching for information about the great danger. What would be considered the overarching story is centered around stopping the great danger, and ultimately that’s what the conclusion is centered around. To that end, it’s decent though it’s pretty typical JRPG type story. This is very strongly end loaded though, wherein while there are hints and such regarding this narrative throughout the game, it’s still almost entirely relegated to the final stretch.

The focus instead for the majority of the game is character stories. When the player is conquering an enemy nation, there usually isn’t anything overtly complicated like politics and such in play. Rather, it’s actually a really light hearted that does it’s best to showcase the personalities of the enemy heroes and the bonds the various enemy heroes have with each other, as after each war the enemy heroes ends up joining the player’s faction. There’s very little depth to things, but I still found the stories of conquering each individual nation pretty enjoyable because the cast of characters in general have very strong personalities with a lot being pretty likable. It’s a bit strange at times when one thinks about the connections to the historical figures and stories they’re based on, but I love this sort of bizarreness so my only real complaint on that front is the lack of certain heroes.

In addition to the main story, there are also a lot of side events, character events that generally unlock new abilities for characters, and other miscellaneous events that provide either cash or an item. There are sometimes battles as a part of these, but most are just story. In terms of writing, the miscellaneous events are usually centered around virtual tourism, where they generally focus on a set of the characters doing something that represents that location, such as eating a famous food or going to see a landmark. These are generally pretty short and humorous enough, so I thought they were decently solid, though they’re very superficial in general.

The side character events are what I more so have a problem with. Each character has at least one event, with most having many with some level of a continuous story told across them. The level of quality to these stories is pretty high overall considering just how many characters and thus just how many stories were being told. However, in the end every single character’s story felt like that of a side character. The characters have a variety of strong personalities that are leveraged well for some quick romance with the protagonist as well as some good comedy across the board, but in the end every single character was flat with very little fleshing out and essentially no development. This is perfectly fine for side characters, especially when there are as many side characters as this game has, and as side characters there were a lot I found likable and with the variety there is it’s very likely most will have at least a few them like. But the issue is that in this game every character feels like a side character and a story composed of only side characters just feels kind of lacking. The game really needed something like main heroines to stand above the rest of have full properly fleshed out backgrounds and character arcs. It felt like Himiko and Arthur would end up being that towards the beginning, but in the end I don’t think they really delivered on that.

Also, while the cast is good as side characters, the way they were portrayed also had some issues, mainly in that it largely felt like there was too much content with a lot of it being repetitive. With so many characters and character events, I think a larger emphasis should have been placed on denseness and briefness. As there are often periods where you’ll probably end up spending hours just doing character events, which can make how long winded some of them are kind of annoying and I think things would have benefited tremendously from faster tighter pacing. The biggest issue I think is the introduction to these events, which is a short scene that plays whenever a character event becomes available. It’s essentially just the protagonist noticing something and deciding to check up on it later. The issue is that the vast majority of the time it really isn’t necessary and conveys very little and furthermore there are often so many events unlocked that it takes time to get to the events introduced, and thus I think it would have been far better to just have the scene unlock in the world map and just roll the limited information from the introduction into the beginning of the scene itself. I would also like to note that while there is a pretty solid epilogue that shows what various heroes are doing after the end of the game, it only really shows a fraction of the overall cast. I think a larger focus on featuring every character in the epilogue would have been a better use of resources than having that many events for each character.

In terms of production values, it’s decent enough. It’s a pretty low budget game with only 2-D art work. This 2-D art work is pretty solid for the most part with the art style and character designs overall being really great, unique, and very varied. In terms of the sprites, both the larger character sprites and the combat sprites look good and the combat sprites had pretty great animation. The CG too were mostly good, but there were a few where it just straight up felt like they ran out of time/money and just threw something low quality in, as well as a couple that while of a decent quality overall felt kind of off. The OP is decently solid with solid enough animation for a project of this size. In terms of the soundtrack there were definitely some solid tracks and while there was some variety, I expected more considering it does seem to take cultural cues from all over the world. In terms of UI, it was solid enough, wherein there were some issues such as it being hard to manage just how many heroes and items there were, it did seem to try to implement as many QoL upgrades it could and they were very much appreciated.

A pretty solid character focused SRPG VN that has gameplay that evolves very well over the course of the game and has a very large and interesting cast, though no character really manages to stand out as particularly great.

8/10

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata Fine (Saekano the Movie: Finale)

*Note: This review has spoilers on the previous seasons and which heroine the protagonist ultimately ends up with.*

This film, as should be pretty clear from its title, serves as the finale of the Saekano anime. It’s kind of weird how it relates to the original light novel series however. As far as I understand it, the first two seasons adapted the first seven volumes. This film adapts the last two volumes, volumes twelve and thirteen, and some events in volume 11. As such there’s essentially a season’s worth of content that was skipped over. Surprisingly, while watching it really didn’t seem like there was anywhere near that much content skipped over. The film actually flows pretty well off of the second season which I suppose is a testament to how this is a really good adaptation regardless of the circumstances of what was required to be adapted.

Still, while it certainly as bad as could have been, it does feel like things were skipped over, glossed over, or just not built up as well as they should have been. The second season left off with Utaha and Eriri having left the circle after being recruited by the legendary creator Akane, and Tomoya and Megumi needing to find new staff members for Blessed Software’s second galge, a game with the same title and general story as this anime series itself. This film starts with them not only having already found these staff members, but them being integrated into the team and the game already deep into development. It was hinted pretty strongly at the end of the second season to that these members would be Iori and Izumi, so it’s not like this was surprising.

Still, skipping over the process of them joining feels like it’s leaving a lot untold. Tomoya and Iori had somewhat of a complicated relationship, and though that seems to be smoothed over in exchange there seems to be pretty strong tension between Iori and Megumi. Iori felt in this film like a character with depth, but it’s hard to get a read on him with just the information provided in the anime adaptation, which is kind of frustrating. With Izumi it’s less an issue of it feeling like there’s something missing, and more like a general feeling of there wasn’t enough surrounding her for it to even feel like something is missing. The same applies to Michiru. There’s a feeling in general that as they’re core members of Blessed Software that they should be fleshed out more or have stronger bonds with the other members, but it’s not quite there.

Still, in the end despite the circumstances being different the film is still laser focused on Tomoya, Megumi, Utaha, and Eriri as the previous two seasons were. Thus, while it feeling like content is missing is unfortunate, as it’s essentially skipped over completely and any possible connections to the core narrative are minimized to the point of being negligible, it largely doesn’t have much of an impact beyond how the fact that it’s missing feeling kind of weird at times, so the aforementioned issues aren’t that major of a problem.

The larger issue I had was with how I feel that relationship development between Tomoya and Megumi was also most likely skipped over. Their relationship at the beginning of the film felt a good deal advanced beyond where the second season left off, and thus it’s somewhat hard to follow the flow of their relationship at first. The relationship development between them, what causes it, and the effects it has on others, is the core of this film to the point that other aspects such as exploration of themes and topics related to being a creator are far weaker compared to previous seasons. As such, it being somewhat difficult to really get invested to the degree the narrative wants the viewer to be invested in their relationship from the outset is a pretty major issue.

Still, I feel like for the most part that Megumi would be the one Tomoya ends up with and the themes surrounding why she would be chosen instead of Utaha or Eriri were pretty obvious from the outset, so once things really got going at about half way through, I feel that the film had gotten me to where I needed to be in terms of investment. And from there the film is handled incredibly well, with very unique progression to the plot which ultimately builds up to a really strong confession scene that utilizes the unique aspects of Tomoya, Megumi, and their relationship really well, and thus hits a lot of really strong emotional notes.

I also liked how the film extended a good amount beyond that, and thus showed the two of them just continuing to live their lives while also in a relationship, while also showing the effect that them being in a relationship had on other characters, mainly Eriri and Utaha, though on that front I wish they did more with Utaha. I also appreciate how they went all in to deliver a final ending that feels like a fully complete perfect good ending that despite being well written is drenched in ridiculous amounts of sweetness and happiness to the point that it that may well be one of the most satisfying endings to a rom-com series I have ever seen. The contrast between that and the part before that, which was still somewhat painful despite it being incredibly obvious what the joke was going to be from the outset, I think also helped with that a great deal in hindsight though I was really iffy on it while actually watching that portion.

As for some general notes, overall this film I think had less comedic density than the anime series which shouldn’t be surprising as it was much more focused on faster paced story progression, though what was there was as solid as usual. As a side note, there’s been a bit of fourth wall breaking in previous seasons, but this film felt like it had quite a bit more which I think it was used pretty well. Also, I appreciated how Tomoya’s otaku merchandise continued to progress.

In terms of art and animation I felt that it was somewhat more improved in terms of quality, but it overall felt more restrained in terms of framing and such. The higher quality resulted in some certain key shots looking amazing, more amazing than any of the scenes in previous seasons, but overall I think the previous seasons were more pleasant visually. The soundtrack in terms of non-vocal tracks was only decent as with previous seasons, but there were A LOT of really good insert songs to the point that it feels like they essentially dominated the soundtrack, and resulted in the soundtrack overall being pretty excellent.

A conclusion film that has some issues with it feeling like certain elements were skipped, but that does incredibly well once things settle and it really starts moving.

9/10

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭ (Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend .flat)

This is the second season of Saekano, and picks up pretty much exactly where the first season left off. The game circle, now known as Blessing Software, is continuing their work on the galge Cherry Blessing. The first half of the season doesn’t do all that much, basically just continuing how things were in the first season and setting some thematic foundation for where things will go after. The first episode starts off just showcasing the cast again, though it does also show how pretty strong bonds have been developed between all of them, including between Utaha and Eriri. The rest of the first half focuses more on Utaha. There isn’t any major development in Utaha or her relationship with Tomoya, but it begins fleshing out some important themes, mainly that a producer needs to be able to be strict with the creators under them, and though the creators may take it personally and be hurt by it, it has to be done.

The second half is where things start changing tremendously, things start moving much faster, and the plot gets far more intense. This half starts focused on Eriri and what is necessary for her to grow as an artist, and in the process also manages to flesh out her bond with Tomoya quite a bit more. The plot of most of this wasn’t that rushed, but the plot advanced incredibly quickly towards the end to the point it kind of feels like its flying right past a climax while only glossing over it. From there it emphasizes the bonds of the group as a whole and the importance of each member, with a particular focus on Katou where she actually gets development and fleshed out somewhat well.

This builds up to the finale where everything built up gets dealt with and gets dealt with hard. It goes pretty in depth into themes regarding what it takes for a creator to grow, and how what are positive bonds in other contexts can be chains preventing growth in this one and how more toxic relationships may actually be beneficial instead. It deals with issues where characters motivations don’t align and there’s a difficult choice to be made, wherein no one is wrong or wants to hurt anyone else, but it has to happen anyway. It ultimately examines the bonds between the members of Blessing Software in a new context, and results in a lot of really emotional moments. The way things end are considerably different from where they started so it feels like the plot has definitely moved forward, for better or worse. Though in the end, while it does get pretty bitter, it ends on a pretty sweet and positive note that’s both really amusing and hopeful for where the story will go from here, which is a really satisfying way to end.

The most difficult thing to discuss about the finale, and the second half overall really, is the pacing. It’s not like it’s overtly fast the entire time, but it has phases where it moves ridiculously fast, going from key moment to key moment without any room to breath. Surprisingly, this definitely had a major positive effect, in that it allowed the emotional beats to essentially build on each other and hit a peak near the end that was ridiculously high and that I don’t think it would manage to reach if it wasn’t so fast paced.

But on the other hand, the standard negatives of super fast pacing still apply. There are some key themes regarding characters that I don’t think the anime fleshes out well enough, the main one being that Tomoyo is able to be strict with Utaha’s work despite automatically loving it as a major fan of hers, but is unable to be too hard on Eriri due to their childhood together. It also completely ignores characters that aren’t immediately important, such as Michiru who has essentially zero presence the entire season let alone any actual development, but it also glosses over Iori and Izumi who it seems to lightly hint will become more important going forward, but it doesn’t do enough with them if that really is the case. I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I’m still completely undecided on whether the fast pacing was worth it or not, so I’ll just leave it at that.

The art and animation are just as good as they were in the first season, which if you don’t remember, is really great with a good art style, good use of framing, etc. I still don’t know what the shifts in art style are meant to indicate though, beyond that one time it shifted to look like Monogatari which was probably just a straight up reference to Monogatari. On that note, I like how this season had a lot of references to other otaku media. The first season did as well, but I think this one went further, and I appreciated how Tomoya’s collection of merchandise visibly grew. Mahouka and Aokana represent! The soundtrack was solid enough but didn’t especially stand out other than a few well used insert songs. The OP and both EDs were all pretty great, and I liked how it reflected Katou’s change in hair style.

The zeroth episode this time takes place between the first and second season, so not far from the zeroth episode of the first season as far as I can tell. It’s once again the same thing, fanservice and comedy, but really good at both, so I’d say it’s worth a watch.

A solid continuation that builds on the characters and bonds from the first season for some really strong emotional beats with some of them, though at the expense of mostly ignoring the rest.

8/10

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend)

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata, Saekano for short, is a design story about a group of otakus and kind of otakus working together to create a game for comiket. It’s a story that both embraces all the typical tropes of the genre but also goes beyond them in certain ways. It starts off with the protagonist, an otaku named Aki Tomoya, who after having a major stroke of inspiration due to a chance encounter with a girl decides that he really wants to turn that inspiration into a galge. Tomoya is a major otaku, wherein he intentionally does his best to make being an otaku his defining trait, and also does his best to view everything else happening around him from the lens of an otaku, which often makes him really hilarious to the point that he’s a pretty likable character. So far he’s solely been a consumer, and thus he doesn’t have any of the skills necessary to actually create a game, but since he’s so motivated he decides to create a circle with people that do. Since everyone he ends up recruiting is a girl, this essentially serves as the basis for the standard anime harem-subtext dynamic.

The anime feels like it’s divided into four arcs, each three episodes, with the first acting as a sort of general introduction, and the three after each focusing on a different girl. There are ultimately four girls that end up joining the game circle, with the first three joining during the introduction and the last arc in the anime being dedicated to getting the last one to join.

The second arc is dedicated to Kasumigaoka Utaha, an aloof girl that is a published light novel author despite being a high school student. She very much embodies the cool beauty senpai archetype and the relationship between her and Tomoya falls pretty cleanly into the standard senpai-kouhai dynamics, with the respect elements of those being further exaggerated due to Tomoya being a major fan of her as as an author. There are brief flashbacks that illustrate how they came to know each other and also why their relationship in the present has a certain tension to it. I was pretty impressed with how it managed to convey all of this quite well while also being pretty subtle. I found the relationship between the two quite interesting, in that it was pretty much the opposite of the broken relationship that fans often seem to have with whoever they’re a fan of. The core of it comes down to Tomoya valuing his relationship with her as her fan more than the direct personal relationship that they end up developing, and thus trying to keep a distance from her as a result. This has quite a bitter feel to it at times during this arc, but their relationship does seem to begin moving beyond that, though not to any level of romantic interest on Tomoya’s part.

The third arc is dedicated to Sawamura Eriri, a girl that acts elegant and refined but is secretly a really hotheaded ero-doujin artist. She’s both Tomoya’s childhood friend, and also a major tsundere. Her arc pretty much ends up centered around both of those aspects. She was incredibly close with him once as childhood friends, but due to various circumstances pushed him away, and though they had become somewhat closer after that she still kept him at a distance despite wanting to be closer to him by acting as a tsundere. Her arc is essentially dedicated to her feeling what remains of the strong connection she used to have with him being under threat, which results in her acting like even more of a tsundere, which ultimately leads up to a climax that pretty much seems to tackle how the relationship they have is kind of broken as a result of everything that happened. They manage to move on from that kind of with a really strong scene, but she continues acting like a tsundere, though not as extreme of one, and Tomoya also seems to not have any romantic interest in her.

I felt both of these arcs and characters were handled really well. They’re both characters that seem kind of generic heroines at times but their relationships with Tomoya actually had complexity to them in a bad way that hindered the progression of any potential relationship with him. As a result, while it may be the same modern harem dynamic found in a lot of other anime, it feels more fleshed out and Tomoya feels more than just the standard donkan protagonist that usually serves as the protagonist in such stories, though not by that much. The heroines are also really likable in and of themselves and easy to get invested in, though I feel that it’s hinting pretty strongly how the romance overall is going to end up so it’s hard to get invested in their romantic prospects. Still, watching them butt heads is incredibly amusing wherein they seem to have really great although bizarre chemistry together, which serves as one of the major sources of solid comedy throughout the series.

The final arc is dedicated to Hyoudou Michiru, Tomoya’s cousin and a member of a band. Her arc is decent enough and has some light themes about not judging a book by it’s cover and such, though she feels pretty underdeveloped compared to Utaha and Eriri. She’s also introduced late enough that her overall presence feels to the level of a minor character. What makes this a bigger issue is that her arc is how the season ends, which results in the ending to this season overall being pretty forgettable and not that satisfying in and of itself, though as the story clearly isn’t over I suppose that was unavoidable.

The last member of the circle, and one that’s being mentioned last despite being one of the first to join, is Katou Megumi, a girl that didn’t get her own arc and was never completely in the focus. She’s the girl that served as the inspiration behind Tomoya wanting to create a game in the first place, but she turns out to be nothing like what he thought of her when he was initially inspired, in that she’s actually a girl in his class but she has so little presence he had never noticed her before. She essentially serves as the ultimate non-otaku. She has normal common sense and behaves like a normal person, not an anime person. She seems like a kuudere at first, but it quickly becomes apparent that that isn’t the case and that she’s actually someone that doesn’t really fall under any of the standard tropes. In a sense that makes her incredibly dull, something that the other characters constantly point out, but for viewers she actually stands out pretty strongly amongst all the other larger than life characters because just being a regular person is actually pretty rare in such anime. Tomoya actually seems to be trying to turn her into more of a heroine type character, which combined with him having no filter results in him acting absolutely ridiculously with her at times. Her managing to take all of these in stride while still being normal manages to highlight how extreme the way he’s acting and how extreme a lot of elements of otaku culture in general are are, which serves as the other main source of solid comedy throughout the series. She doesn’t seem like that strong of a character, she’s just normally a pretty good person that seems to be trying her best, but in context the writing conveys her incredibly well.

The art and animation were both pretty great. The art style was pretty solid, though I will note that there were shifts in art style at times that probably had some sort of thematic significance though one that went over my head. The art itself was high quality and the designs are solid, though as it’s a pretty grounded anime they’re not all that unique. The animation was pretty good too, and I especially liked the general sense of framing and focus. The soundtrack in general was solid enough though I didn’t find any of the tracks all that memorable. I will note that I really liked how when they were showing a band doing a cover of popular anime songs, they played an actual popular anime song that was pretty nostalgic. The OP and ED both had pretty solid visuals and songs.

The zeroth episode actually takes place after the end of the first season, but it’s pretty much a fanservice episode heavily focused on comedy without any major plot significance and it was designed to be watched before the first season so just watch it before the first season even if it doesn’t make much sense at that point. It making sense doesn’t really matter, but it looks nice and has great comedy so it’s solid based on just that.

A modern harem rom-com anime that is full of tropes but works well in using them beyond the norm.

8/10

Saijaku Muhai no Bahamut (Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle)

Saijaku Muhai no Bahamut, also known as Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle, is harem fantasy mech action light novel series that starts off heavy on battle academy elements though it outgrows them eventually. The general setting is one that is standard medieval fantasy, with the critical exception of there existing excavated suit type mechs that were left behind by a prior civilization and that serve as the cornerstone for pretty much all combat. The plot is centered around Lux Arcadia, a prince of the former Arcadian Empire which fell five years before when the series properly starts leaving Lux in a pretty complicated situation with regards to how he’s dealt with by the new rulers.

Lux is the type of character that is overtly kind and heroic, the type that wants to save everyone, even his enemies, regardless of how difficult or foolish that may be. His character arc isn’t really centered around him changing these convictions. Rather he starts off feeling very shaky about these convictions due to how they pretty much fail him completely in a pretty major way before the beginning of the series. However, over the course of the series he becomes more steadfast on them and becomes a more confident character, which is fleshed out decently enough. He’s the type of protagonist that is a complete pushover outside of serious moments though, so despite his growth in how he reacts to serious situations, he remains pretty flimsy in regards to less serious situations throughout, by which I primarily mean those relating to relationship development and such, which is a mixed bag in that it can be amusing at times but can also get kind of annoying.

Lux is a part of both Syvalles and the Seven Dragon Paladins, which are the two groups that make of the rest of the main cast. Syvalles is essentially the main combat unit of a what was an all-girls school dedicated to training Drag-Knights, which are what the mech users in this universe are called. As is often the case in harem battle academy series, various story circumstances occur and Lux ends up the only male there, which results in him interacting with a number of girls whom all end up harboring affection for him, and in this case all of those girls are members of Syvalles, with five of them essentially serving as the harem. The rest of Syvalles include a trio of girls that are incredibly interested in Lux but aren’t as much in the focus, as well as Lux’s sister who is very strongly affectionate towards Lux but with a very different dynamic from romantic love… mostly. Still, while these are side characters comparatively, overall I’d still say they’re handled pretty well.

The cast here isn’t particularly original, but they’re a pretty solid implementation of solid tropes, with each getting well defined personalities, fleshed out backgrounds, and both solid character arcs and ability growth. There’s also a good variety to them so their interactions with Lux and the dynamics between all of them independent of Lux are also really interesting and amusing. There’s a lot of good romantic fluff and comedy as is standard for such series. These characters are the focus for the first five volumes, the portion the anime adapts, where the story for the most part is pretty standard battle academy for the most part with some events that branch out of that and hint at shifting out quite a bit more.

That shift occurs during volume 6 wherein it pretty much stops being a battle academy series and gets quite a bit more complicated due to the addition and focus on the Seven Dragon Paladins, a group composed of the strongest Drag-Knight of each nation. The plot stops being as heavily driven by character and relationship dynamics and comes to depend a lot more on politics, with various nations having different goals and objectives with secret plots to push those goals further and a mysterious mercenary organization called Dragon Marauder in the background trying to push themselves into the middle of everything. This portion also opens up a lot more world building, in that in order to have politics and such affect the plot its necessary to explain what the political situation is and how it came to be. In addition, the plot eventually brings in elements that essentially relate to the history of the Arcadian Empire, explaining how it came to be, and how it relates to various other core mechanics of the world which involves a lot of sci-fi elements, which add another layer of complexity to the world building, and overall result in a pretty interesting world overall.

The Seven Dragon Paladins are a really interesting group of characters in that they’re all pretty original and unlike with the members of Syvalles where it was pretty clear that they would all turn out to be Lux’s allies eventually, with the Seven Dragon Paladins it isn’t so simple, and thus there’s a much stronger sense of danger that significantly adds to the suspense. A negative on the Seven Dragon Paladins though, is that other than Lux only three of them have proper character development, and even with those three their development is constrained to only the volume focusing on them with absolutely no further growth beyond that. Lux and the members of Syvalles are still very much present though and have solid progress on their character and relationship arcs, and thus the addition of a lot more outside of that even if lacking in some ways still makes the series overall a lot more interesting.

There’s another narrative shift in volume 15, which is where the true and final villain is revealed, with the rest of the series barring the final volume being dedicated to fleshing them out and building up to the final battle against them. The focus in volume 6-15 felt like it was equally split between Syvalles and the Seven Dragon Paladins, but here it switches to being much more focused on Syvalles, though the Seven Dragon Paladins are still present. The focus on the members of Syvalles is in a very different direction from before though, which is a really interesting twist and allows for major character and relationship development in all of them which helps reach the end of all their arcs in a pretty satisfying manner.

I found the final villain pretty disappointing though. The themes centered around him are much more abstract and nebulous than those centered around the rest of the cast. This is essentially intentional in that the themes chosen for him inherently have to be that way, but writing centered around such themes is kind of difficult and it didn’t really feel like the narrative really pulled it off here. Thus, while I do appreciate how the narrative advanced things in terms of characters, the plot itself I felt was rather weak. I do think that the author made a good choice in that there’s a full volume dedicated only to the epilogue beyond the main story which is solely focused on Lux and Syvalles which helps distance the final ending from the disappointing ending of the main plot. This volume is pure romantic fluff and nothing but, but its good romantic fluff, and the ending overall is pretty satisfying, though I think it would have been better if it had gone even further with what it was doing.

Next, I’ll finally talk about something that I’ve essentially been avoiding, the action. This is a mech action series so the action is a core aspect of the series so it likely did seem strange that I barely mentioned it so far. The reason for that to put it simply is that I found it the weakest aspect of the series and just overall didn’t like it much. I like the how it pushed the plot forward as well as how it was well integrated with all the world building. I also felt that the larger context resulted in some really hype moments. But in and of itself I found the action pretty dull.

The biggest reason for that is that it felt way too slow. As the series went on battles started getting longer and longer, eventually they became unbearable long. There’s a lot of descriptions of exchanging of blows that ultimately doesn’t do anything. This is fine in anime and even in manga I’d say because the art and animation can still make it exciting, but in purely written form it just didn’t do anything for me. For similar reasons, it also felt like it was getting repetitive. There’s some growth in Lux, and each of the members of Syvalles get a single major ability upgrade, but in the grand scheme of things considering how long the series is and how much action there was, that’s not all that much. Further taking into account how there is essentially no ability growth in the Seven Dragon Paladins, and how there is a lot of reuse of abilities in the antagonists results in the action feeling like it’s just going through the same motions again and again in a new context. The context is great, but that just had me wishing it would move on and just get to someone winning so the plot could advance.

The other main issue is that the plot uses the “not fighting at full strength” card way too much. In other battle oriented series characters after ending a fight characters are at 100% and ready for another one, which is strange in one way. This has the opposite problem, in that its constantly bringing up how characters can’t fight at their full strength due to fatigue from previous battles, at times even ones from over a week ago. I suppose that is kind of realistic, but it results in power levels fluctuating wildly which makes the action seem much more random and harder to get invested in. This is especially true for Lux, who at times is downright overpowered, especially during the beginning, but at others is completely outclassed by people he’d beaten before, which just feels kind of awkward and lame.

In terms of art, the series is excellent for most of it, with great character, mech, and world designs and high-quality art with a pretty great style and a good amount of images per volume. The number of images per volume starts drying up at some point, and then near the end it switches to an artist that simply isn’t as good. The cover art still looks good but the images inside, especially the black and white ones, are clearly lower quality. This happens near the end so the art for the majority of the series is still good, but it’s somewhat disappointing that the art for the ending was lacking as I felt it would definitely have helped it a lot.

Also, this isn’t factored into the score, but I thought I should make some notes about the fan translation. I don’t know Japanese so I can’t discuss the quality of it as a translation, but in terms of the quality of the English text in and of itself, it was really lacking. The vast majority of it simply hasn’t been edited at all. There are parts that are a clear improvement over the rest that have been, but those just make the issues with the rest stand out more. The language is often a mess that’s difficult to parse and just in general doesn’t flow at all. It’s not like it’s not understandable, but it takes considerably more effort than decently written, or even semi-decently written prose would, which makes it harder to enjoy.

A series that starts off as a pretty standard harem mech battle academy but comes to have considerably more depth and complexity, though the action is pretty weak throughout.

7/10

Alternate Seven Dragon Paladins header:

Shinchou Yuusha: Kono Yuusha ga Ore Tueee Kuse ni Shinchou Sugiru (Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious)

Shinchou Yuusha is an isekai that doesn’t go as far as being a parody but does come pretty close. It features an overpowered hero named Seiya that was summoned by the goddess Ristarte to go on a quest to defeat the demon lord and save the RPG based world he’s been summoned into, but the catch as is obvious from the title is that Seiya is ridiculously cautious. Most other isekai feature heroes that get pretty accustomed to their world pretty quickly and then begin having fun on their journey. Seiya gets accustomed to his role instantly, but how he reacts on doing so is quite a bit different from most, in that he fully acknowledges the danger of the situation he’s been put into and the importance of the role he’s been given as the only one that can save the world. As such he spends all his time working towards defeating the demon lord and does so in what he believes is the most logical way possible, one that minimizes risk to the greatest extent possible.

His overt caution is to the level of paranoia, and this is constantly resulting in him behaving in ways that are completely unhero like which ends up shocking and frustrating other characters. This is used really well for comedic purposes, but even beyond that there’s still something pretty satisfying about watching his his overt caution actually ending up being useful and resulting in him achieving victories that simply wouldn’t be possible to any other hero that hadn’t prepared to such an unreasonable extent. To a degree this is kind of inconsistent as he seems to be cautious in different ways in different situations that always seem to work out or at least not cause any harm, but it’s not so bad that it detracts from the experience if you’re not trying to be too nitpicky.

Furthermore, this anime is pretty different from most that follow the generic overpowered hero on a journey to defeat the demon king plot line in how dark things can get. There’s a surprising amount of brutal deaths and one of the main characters even gets straight up violently tortured. This tonal difference and how it differs from most similar anime helps hone in that the villains clearly aren’t playing around, and thus Seiya absolutely should not be as well, which further makes it easier to understand Seiya’s mindset. There’s also some background on Seiya that explains why he developed his mentality, though it’s very close to the end. As such, while Seiya certainly is strange, it doesn’t entirely feel like how he’s acting is unjustified and ultimately I think he’s a pretty likable character that’s easy to get invested in.

The series is mainly a series of shorter stories of him preparing to and defeating various enemies and eventually the demon king. These are all pretty simple, but work well in showing off Seiya’s crazy personality and thus I think work well enough. Contrary to what you would expect based on how things play out with similar anime, this is one that actually wraps up and provides a satisfying conclusion to it’s overarching plot thread, and a pretty satisfying conclusion overall, in a single season. The pacing was kind of strange though. In one sense, it moves incredibly slow. It’s twelve episodes long, but it only adapts two light novel volumes, and ones that are on the shorter end of things at that. Still, it never feels all that slow. Part of the reason for that is that the light novels seem to be paced overtly fast so spacing things out more actually helps quite a bit. Still, just dragging things out wouldn’t really help much, so the great thing about this adaptation is that it spaces things out with great comedy. The finale, the last two episodes, is mostly pretty serious though and thus not somewhere that adding comedy would really work well, and thus the pacing on them is pretty off. But outside of that things felt pretty well paced.

If it isn’t already clear, I will emphasize that the comedy is the core of this anime. The humor stems very heavily from Seiya’s overtly cautious and pretty antisocial personality and Ristarte essentially getting bullied as a result, but it involves enough other interesting characters that interact with them as well that there’s a good variety to the comedy overall. The various side gods and goddesses are especially amusing with very colorful personalities. There’s some character and relationship development in the main characters, but it’s pretty minor, though the background given to Seiya and Ristarte is pretty solid and enough to get viewers invested in them which helps with some of the emotional beats in the last episode. The rest of the cast is completely flat, but as previously mentioned, the comedy is what matters and since everyone and their interactions are really amusing, even if there isn’t any depth to the characters, the cast overall still felt reasonably solid.

In terms of art and animation the anime was solid enough. A lot of the character designs were weird, but fit the comedic and bizarre tone of the anime pretty well so overall I liked them quite a bit. The base art style is decent enough at decent enough quality, but what really made it stand out is that it deviated from that quite a bit for the use of a lot of visual humor that overall really worked well and I think was one of the best things about the comedy overall. The visuals on the action were decent enough but nothing special. Seiya’s voice acting fit him incredibly well and Ristarte’s voice acting also fit her extreme reactions really well. The OP I found pretty great with a good song, despite some weird English, and solid visuals that fit the tone of the anime incredibly well. The ED I think had a okay song and was decent enough in concept visually, but it’s primarily centered around a character rendered in CG dancing which I didn’t think looked all that great. The soundtrack was okay but not particularly memorable.

An isekai with a bizarre but pretty interesting protagonist held up overall by it’s steady solid humor.

8/10

Val x Love

Val x Love is a pretty generic harem battle anime that like many in the genre is primarily centered around female fighters that draw power from romantic acts with the protagonist. I’m totally okay with that concept as long as it is implemented well, but in this case while the anime didn’t feel like it was particularly bad at anything, it didn’t really feel like it did great at anything either, and thus there wasn’t anything that made the anime stand out.

In terms of the overarching plot, it draws pretty heavily on Norse mythology though mostly to a pretty superficial degree as most anime seem to do. The nine daughters of Odin, the Valkyries, have come down from Asgard to defend Earth, also known as Midgard, from the Wicked Gods, but need to use the powers of the Einherjar, the protagonist in order to manifest their powers fully. The general concept is decent enough I suppose, but it doesn’t really extend at all beyond that. There are good guys. There are bad guys. The good guys need to beat the bad guys. That’s it. The motivations of the antagonists are never fleshed out or explained. There are no major twists or events that change things up. It’s just ridiculously simple.

Character wise there also isn’t that much substance. The protagonist, Takumi, in hindsight I think has a pretty decent concept. He’s huge and has a terrifying face so he’s been feared since he was a kid, which has given him major social anxiety. Him now having to romance nine girls is completely beyond what he’s capable of, which results in him looking incredibly lame for most of the anime. Despite that, that when he’s not being effected by his social anxiety, he’s really competent, being pretty strong, smart, and reasonably decisive, so he does manage to shine at times. The thing though is that these moments are very rare, with him only properly being shown in a good light for an extended period of time in the last episode, though even that is pretty rushed. I think his character is a good base concept to show character growth, but in the anime it came through as too little too late and thus while in the end I didn’t dislike the protagonist, I didn’t like him either.

The problem with the rest of the cast is that there were too many characters. There are nine heroines. Of those, three of them are the main heroines it seems, but it felt like most all of them got at least some focus. That’s way too many characters for a single cour anime, and as a result none of them really got to shine. Thus, they all felt incredibly flat and one dimensional. They have a decent enough variety to them and decent enough concepts individually such that they’re interesting enough, but there simply wasn’t enough time to give them any depth at all.

The same applies to the relationships with the protagonist. This anime goes a bit further than any other similar anime I’ve seen in tying the relationship aspect to powers in that it straight up gamifies it, wherein the heroines power levels are literally determined based on obtaining experience points from romantic quests they get like “go on a date” or “kiss for five minutes” which I thought was a really amusing concept that a lot could be done with, and it does seem to at least try to use it in an interesting variety of ways. However, it largely feels rushed and doesn’t spend enough time on most of these quests, and just overall doesn’t spend enough time on any single relationship, jumping around way too much. Thus it doesn’t feel like there’s enough depth and thus it’s kind of hard to really get into or invested in any of this.

The lack of depth also extends to the action. It actually feels like there are two types of action in this I’d say. The first involves the heroines in their normal states, which I will call minor action. Here it’s less straight up battles as it is random hijinks, like the antagonists trying to screw with the protagonist’s date and such to try to prevent the heroines from powering up. It’s less a matter of straight up fights between opposing factions and more simply trying to get out of weird situations through the usage of powers. This was interesting when it happened as the set ups were pretty interesting, but it felt like there wasn’t enough of these.

The second type of action I’d call major action, which is where the cast is going all out fighting in their powered up forms, often inside a barrier that separates them from the outside world. The action here also isn’t terrible, with their being some degree of set up to the various power sets and and how the battles should be used which gives some depth and there are moments where things can click that are pretty cool, but largely things remained too nebulous, haphazard, and random, and thus the action here too didn’t feel all that amazing.

The comedy also can be quite good at times, but it has a really narrow range, being primarily centered around the protagonist being kind of lame, which is a kind of humor I’m not particularly fond of to be honest, and thus I felt it got old really quickly. The anime also has a lot of ecchi, but never anything too major to the extent that it would need to get censored. For a show that isn’t relying on ecchi and just kind of has it tacked on as an extra it would be decent enough, but it isn’t enough to hold up the anime in and of itself as it does with some others. Furthermore, the manga apparently goes much further so I’d assume this would be disappointing to fans of the manga.

The art and animation aren’t bad, but they’re not particularly great either. Overall I’d say things are pretty middling, wherein it looks somewhat good at times, somewhat bad at times, but mostly just looks decent. This level would be perfectly fine for some anime, but this anime seems to be big on both action and ecchi, both of which rely heavily on the visuals aspect, and the middling level of quality extends to them too, so it can feel a bit disappointing. Design wise, most of the designs are somewhat plain and dull. The exception is the powered up forms of the Valkyries which generally look pretty amazing I think, but they don’t show up enough.

In terms of voice acting it was fine for the most part, but I would like to note that the protagonist’s voice got really annoying. It was clearly intended that the protagonist should sound lame most of the time so the moments he doesn’t stand out, and thus on one hand I have to hand it to the voice actor who did an amazing job and made the protagonist sound unbearably lame, but on the other hand, hearing his lameness throughout the anime was incredibly grating at times. The OP and ED were decent enough in terms of audio and visuals but not particularly exceptional. There are multiple variants to the ED which focus on different character’s which is something I generally appreciate. There’s are a few characters that shows up somewhat into the anime that they hide the faces of in the OP/ED until the episodes after they appear, but I largely didn’t see the point of that as it isn’t like the faces served as spoilers. The soundtrack was decent I suppose but not particularly memorable.

An anime that tries to do a lot of things and feels like it has a lot of potential with quite a few of them, but doesn’t quite reach the point that it’s successful with any.

6/10

I will read the manga eventually.