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This is a continuation of my thoughts from Part 1. If you haven't read part 1 yet, you can check it out here.

7. I Shall Survive Using Potions!

Kaoru is talking to the God of Earth

OK so, I want to start off this entry's rant by saying that I don't particularly like bashing on anime, nor do I do it to gather fame or infamy from it.

The reason I make these blog posts is to talk about the anime which I find to be particularly entertaining and fun to watch and give them exposure so that I can increase their audience a tiny little bit, as well as warn people to avoid watching particular shows that, I feel, are a waste of time.

As such, the reason I'm about to talk about this show isn't because I hate it or that I care much about it, but simply because I feel like it is a waste of time and I'm trying to be helpful towards others by telling them to avoid it.

With that said, let's get on with the episode 1 synopsis.

Kaoru Nagase is a young white collar office worker that's trying to live a peaceful life in Japan when, suddenly, one day, she dies from a rift between worlds that just so happens to spawn in her city.

In the process of doing so, her mind and soul are salvaged by the God of the Earth, a being who's responsible for all the people on Earth and who also is responsible for closing the rifts that randomly appear on Earth to make sure that they don't destabilize the fabric of space and time.

This God apologizes to Kaoru for not being able to close the rift in time to save her, and he is incapable of turning back time to bring her back to life in her world.

However, what he does do is that he sends her soul to Celestine, another God that overlooks the world of Reverie to reincarnate her into her world, instead.

Kaoru agrees with this arrangement but has certain conditions for Celestine now that she's about to be reincarnated in her world. One of the conditions is that she should be able to create drinkable potions with the effect that she desires (whichever that is at the time), she should be able to make that potion appear in any container of any shape or size of her choice wherever she wants it to appear, she should be able understand any language, spoken or written in the world, and that she should also have access to a mystical extra-dimensional storage room of infinite capacity where she can teleport anything into and out of, at her will.

The goddess Celestine uses her goddess powers to make all these wishes come true, until Kaoru makes one final request before her reincarnation begins, and that is for Celestine to become her friend for life.

And so, with all of these conditions fulfilled, Kaoru gets teleported into the fantastical world of Reverie, a medieval world of swords and armor, where everyone worships the goddess Celestine as their one true god.

She is incarnated into this world into the body of a young girl, where she learns that she is capable of understanding even the languages of animals, due to her condition being fulfilled of being able to understand any language.

And so, with the power to create infinite potions of any effects she desires at her disposal, Kaoru sets off to start a brand new quiet and peaceful life for herself.

There's a bit more to the plot of episode 1 but I'll stop here since this is the only thing of the episode that truly matters: the setup.

Now, let's get down to business. In theory, on paper, this sounds like a good plot, definitely not ground breaking or grandiose but a fairly standard isekai plot to get the story moving forward.

When I first watched episode 1, I was intrigued, even though I've been historically very critical of isekai anime in general, so this was already starting out with pretty low bars set for it, from my point of view at least.

But as time went on and I watched episode after episode, even by the low standards I set for this show, I was becoming more and more annoyed.

And no, I don't mean just disappointed, I mean genuinely annoyed by how generic and unimaginative this story felt to me.

By halfway through the plot I was ready to just give up on this and drop the show entirely. In fact, had I not hosted this blog, I absolutely believe that I would have sincerely stopped watching this show halfway into it.

But I didn't, and the reason for that is because, foolishly enough, the show annoyed me so much by that point that I absolutely wanted to write a negative review of it on this blog, to let people know how terrible it was.

And since I hold the belief that you shouldn't review a TV show until you've watched all the episodes of its current season, up to the end, I had to stick with it until the very last episode.

And boy, was it a rough ride.

All I can say after finishing season 1 of this show is that I have not felt as angry and disappointed by an anime in the past couple of years, as much as I had with this show, with the only exception being Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie. And yes, that's including all the other isekai animes I've watched too.

To call this show mediocre would be a disservice to the word “mediocre”. This goes beyond that.

Hell, this show is absolutely bad, in the truest sense of the word. Not bad because it teaches bad morals or that it encourages violence or unhealthy behavior, but bad in the sense that it's extremely ungodly superficial on all levels, to an extent that I find insulting to me, as the audience for it.

This show lacks depth, is my complaint about it. It's as shallow as a puddle made up of only a single layer of water molecules.

Why am I saying this?

Well, let's start with the very beginning: Kaoru herself.

She's the protagonist of this story. She is a strong willed young woman, cunning and intelligent, resourceful and reliable in pretty much all situations, with a sharp tongue but a good heart, always young and with a cheerful disposition that's always willing to make new friends but who, deep down, also wishes to establish a quiet and peaceful life for herself in this new world.

If that's not the perfect description of a Mary Sue character, then I don't know what is.

If the thesaurus had pictures in it, the picture for the Mary Sue expression should be of Kaoru's very face.

The show treats Kaoru as the perfect problem solver, the helper of all humans in this world, the one that can solve any problem of any person, regardless of difficulty, without making absolutely any mistakes in the process.

That's who Kaoru is.

If this sounds like a boring character that has no room for character development in it, then you know why this show feels so horribly boring for me.

Kaoru never needs to learn anything, because she's already perfect. The only thing the show tries to counterbalance her perfection with is by saying that she has a very sharp and scary glare, that intimidates others. That's it.

And her glare is moreso used for comedic effect in this show than anything else. It barely plays any role.

Basically she's the perfect main character. That's all there is to her.

You think she's wrong? Well, too bad, because the show knows that she's right! And it will always side with her, no matter what.

I don't want to be the one to say that a show's depth goes only as far as its main character's depth, since I don't believe that to be the case, but boy does this show really try to make me think otherwise.

Kaoru also has this very critical tongue of nobility or of any people with a lot of influence, in that world. Whenever she sees anyone using their authority for bad purposes, she expresses her disapproval very publicly and calls them out for it.

Hell, even if nobody did anything wrong, she will still call out nobility and criticize it harshly merely for even considering the prospect of herself adopting a life into it, just because she thinks that life as a noble woman would be very stressful and full of restrictions which she doesn't like.

Don't get me wrong, I agree with a lot of the things that she says, in theory at least. The problem is that there's no nuance to it whatsoever, she just speaks whatever comes to her mind and blurts it out in the open, without suffering any consequences for it.

Oh yeah, that's the other thing I absolutely detest about this anime. There are no consequences for the things being said in it.

Just because Kaoru has a very sharp tongue and all but downright insults nobility and the royal family in this universe, she doesn't get to be punished for her words at all because she's right about everything that she says and so she can get away scot-free with anything.

Yeah, if you're anywhere over the age of 18, you know that that's not how the world works.

You shouldn't need me to tell you this but, as it goes, insulting authority does have real life consequences, usually pretty grim ones, mind you.

Granted, there are scenes in which she runs away immediately after making her scathing remarks over nobility, implying that she did fear for her life, but she still somehow gets to escape the castle and run out of the city without so much as a scratch on her. How did the guards let her out? Who knows.

I have a suspicion and my suspicion is “plot armor”.

Or how about another scene, in which she's in front of clergy, talking about the goddess Celestine, about how she's seen as a miracle bringing angel, of all things, and yet she denies these allegations and saying that she isn't an angel of any kind and that Celestine is just her friend and they are just best buddies together. Oh and also she insults the goddess Celestine which, may I remind you, is the goddess of their entire planet, by saying stuff like she's not as well-endowed as the statues that they sculpt of her, along with other blasphemous comments that I'm sure, had this world had any semblance of grounding into reality, would have meant that Kaoru would be burned at the stake for heresy.

Or how she wouldn't need to listen to nobility or the king of the land due to her promise to goddess Celestine that she wouldn't misuse her potions, and that promise cannot be broken because “religion is absolute”.

Lady, I'm pretty sure your head would be on the ground if you even dared to say “No” to a real king, especially because of a flimsy excuse like “I made a promise to Celestine and I don't want to break it since we're BFFs”.

This is in contrast with a good show like The Apothecary Diaries where the protagonist, Maomao, is fully aware of the consequences of her words, and because of that, she's smart enough to know when to speak up and when to hold her tongue.

There was even a scene in that show in which Maomao had a monologue that said something along the lines of “If I speak my mind here, the emperor would have me killed”, which is absolutely true. That gave that show a semblance of grounding into reality, because speaking up against authority, even when you know you're right, will mean your death.

This show, on the other hand, either doesn't understand how authority works, or it just blatantly ignores it for the purposes of the plot.

Yes, speaking up against authority is important in life, that's a good lesson to teach, but there's always a proper time and place to do it. Doing it recklessly, like the way Kaoru does it in this show, especially in a medieval fantasy world like that where power is very much abused in various ways, would normally lead to her public execution. The plot just chooses to pretend that that's not the case and that she's right to speak her mind because “that's just the right thing to do”. Blow me!

Kaoru's perfection extends pretty much to everything she does, but honestly, it all boils down to one of two things: either Kaoru is doing something amazing with her powers like making a potion that's going to bring people on the verge of death to a healthy life again and impresses everyone around her, or she insults nobility or some kind of authority, calls them out, leaving everyone in shock at her and being like “How can she say that?! That's so unorthodox!”. That's it. It's one of these two scenarios playing out, one way or another.

Rinse and repeat that for 12 episodes and you've got a show.

Oh yeah, her potions are pretty much miracle givers in this world. It doesn't matter if you're on the verge of death, like if you've had your heart pierced by a sword, a single potion of Kaoru's will cure you and bring you back to life.

Really, these potions work by video game logic, in which it doesn't matter what debuff effect or disease you're afflicted with, just take one sip from that flask and you're as good as new.

The fact that anything in this world can be cured with Kaoru's potions makes even the smallest semblance of repercussions and life threatening conditions like disease in it, feel like just minor inconveniences that can be handled with just one sip.

Really, there are no consequences for anything in this world. As long as Kaoru's on your side, you can beat anything.

I've complained that other isekai anime have RPG-like mechanics which make their world feel shallow and video game-like, because of that. But this show doesn't even have that, as there are no skills to have, no leveling up, no experience grinding, no stats to worry about.

There's nothing of the sorts. It's just all about “Do you need a potion? Well I've got the perfect potion just for you!”. Rinse and repeat.

There's no world building, no fleshing out of the culture, no anything. There's no history or explanation over why the people of that world worship Celestine, there's barely any mention about geography (although conflicts between nations does come into play at one point), there's no magic or spells to talk about, no demon lords or dragons to fight, no magical items or treasure, no nothing.

Or maybe there is, I don't know, the plot is just too busy talking about Kaoru and how perfect she is.

It just keeps trying to find new ways to conflate her importance more and more before her ego would reach the size of the planet that she's inhabiting.

Like, there was a prince in this world that was trying to find a consort for himself. There are all these women that wished to be his brides, but once the prince heard Kaoru talk and her intelligent brain, she's the one he had to marry.

It doesn't matter that she is a peasant, the fact that she doesn't look that impressive and has the body of a child in that world, or that she has an ugly glare, she just has to be the one, even when Kaoru absolutely says that she doesn't wish to marry him because he's not her type.

And despite all of this, he cannot find a different woman to court because “she has to be the one”, up to the point where he has to obsess over her and become almost like a stalker. I couldn't believe it.

The prince of a nation is incapable of finding a better woman than Kaoru. He needs to become a lowly stalker just to even find her. That's just....I'm out of words.

Or, if that's not enough to boost her ego, what if I told you that Kaoru stopped an entire army that was invading from a foreign nation all by herself, by using exploding potions that destroyed all their supplies and left them with no water to drink in the hot summer?

Yes, you heard that right, she stopped an entire army just with that strategy.

If I had to suspend my disbelief any further for this show's sake, my disbelief would be in a fucking coma.

Oh and, about the exploding potions that were used as weapons, if that sounds like a bit of cheating considering that all her powers were supposed to do was to create potions out of nothing, you're in for a treat! Because this show is not above using cheating to make ends meet.

Kaoru can pretty much conjure any physical object out of nothing, as long as it can be used either as a potion, or a “potion container”.

What this means is that she can pretty much bring forth any object that she needs, whenever she needs it. Don't believe me?

How about a time when she created an amazing sword out of nothing, for the soldiers to use in the war. It's funny, because the sword isn't really a sword, it's actually a potion container, according to her, even though it's not made out of glass, it's not breakable, it pretty much looks and functions like a full fledged sword.

Or how about when she incapacitated an entire platoon of enemy combatants all by herself, by merely spawning poisonous potion liquid inside their very bodies, that made them fall to the ground in pain. Yes, she can apparently do that. She doesn't need to actually have the people drink her potions for them to take effect, she can basically just create the potion liquid inside their bodies from the very beginning, against their will.

Convenient, am I right?

Oh but don't worry, the soldiers didn't die! They were just incapacitated. We wouldn't want to have something as dark as death in our anime, even though it's a fucking invasion of a country onto another. Blow me!

Or how about when she generated a horse carriage to transport her with, by using the same reasoning as before, that the “carriage is merely a fancy looking potion container”. Blow me!

Or how about she can create a configurable sci fi-esque gold detector out of thin air, because, you guessed it, “it's just a potion container, obviously”.

The amount of cheating this plot does to further the story and make Kaoru solve other people's issues is so mind blowing, I felt dirty watching it.

There's thinking outside the box and using what you have to your advantage, and then there's outright cheating. This is cheating.

The author just didn't know how to give Kaoru more ways of being useful so they twisted her potion-making powers into something entirely and utterly unrelated to it.

I'm sure, if Kaoru wanted to, she could spawn a fucking gun too, from thin air, just because “it's a potion container”. At this point it wouldn't surprise me, nor would it be any bigger of a stretch than what she already did in the anime.

Oh and about that death thing? Yeah, this show likes to do fake outs too, as if it didn't stoop low enough already.

There are points in which Kaoru's allies would normally die for her sake, but thankfully she's just there to stop them in their tracks. “This character was stabbed to death? Potion!”

“This character is about to die from a high fall? Teleport them from the fall into my item box (her extra-dimensional storage room)! No biggies.”

Blow me!

And even when big events are supposed to happen, they are treated with the most modicum of importance they deserve. “Oh, this foreign nation is about to invade us? I'll destroy their army!”

“Oh, I just died from a supernatural event and I need to be reincarnated into another world? Oh well, shit happens. Doesn't matter that I won't get to see my family or friends ever again. I'll just start my life in another world anew!”

Yeah, in the first episode, after she died, the god that preserved her soul gave her the chance to visit her family and friends in their dreams one last time to say her farewells before she will be reincarnated in another world, and they all treat it as if she was simply going to move out to another city.

I get it that they now know that she's fine and that she'll have to move on to a better life but, at the same time, even her parents were fine to seeing their daughter tell them that that will be the last time they'll see her. That's not realistic at all.

The fact that death, in this anime, is treated like stubbing your toe is infuriating to me. There's no gravity to actions or dramatic impact with regards to anything.

Imagine if I stabbed you to death and, in your last moments, you told me “I forgive you, because now I'll move onto a better life”. Even as your murderer, I would feel like that was cheap.

This show was too scared to have any drama whatsoever in it, much less death.

I get it that you want this show to be about Kaoru being amazing and you're leaving out anything unpleasant like negative feelings and pain, but that just confers your show a feeling of even more shallowness than it already has.

Even if you'll point out to me that shows like The Apothecary Diaries also have a Mary Sue protagonist in them, and they also replay the same “She's amazing for solving everyone else's problems” type of formula in them, I'll still argue that it's a night and day difference between that show and this one. Why?

Because yeah, Maomao is a Mary Sue, that's true. She is highly intelligent, skilled and reliable at every turn, that's a fact. However, the difference is that in that show, the focus isn't on Maomao. She is the protagonist of the show, that's true, but the focus is on her actions and deductions, on the mystery solving and the ripple effects that they have on the political climate of their environment. Maomao is just a small cog in the larger than life machine that is the Imperial Palace, and that scale shows (not to mention that that show also had actual death moments and heavy debates about the importance of life and one's own limits, which this show is too scared to have).

Here, everything is about Kaoru. It's not even about her actions, it's all about Kaoru as a character, how amazing she is, how good and kind hearted she is but, most importantly, how critical she is to everything else around her.

She isn't just one cog in a larger machine, she is the entire factory that manufactures all the machines. Everything happens within her sphere and she is the god of the story.

Because she doesn't need to plead for her life when insulting the prince of a nation, she doesn't need to ask for forginess when she talks shit about the goddess of that world to the clergy, hell, she feels like she's entitled to bargaining for powers when she's in front of an almighty deity that controls an entire universe in her hand. Because yeah, she doesn't fear authority nor consequences, she just feels entitled to do whatever the hell she wants, without a thought for consequences.

That's just stupid.

Oh yeah, and the one thing that Kaoru can do well in this world, besides making miracle bringing potions, is impart smart business knowledge. That's her thing, that's what impresses everyone around her, how business savvy she is.

It doesn't matter that she's talking to people whose entire jobs is handling national economies and who probably studied and trained years of their lives to doing their jobs, she just imparts one piece of advice like “Lower taxes, so that people can have more money to afford buying things to boost the local economy” and that is enough to change the fate of the entire nation, amazing them with her incredible wisdom. Blow me!

I think the premise of this show is that medieval people are dumb as hell and they would have their minds blown away if they ever met any Average Joe from our time that traveled to them, because supposedly we're more intelligent than them, but that sounds and feels like an incredibly insulting take.

There were incredibly intellingent and highly skilled people in medieval times as well, people who, despite not having some of the knowledge we have, would surely be better at their jobs than a random outsider that used to work as a white collar worker trying to impress them with her “modern” knowledge.

I can't anymore, my hands are tired of typing. This is the longest rant I've had in a long time, and I cannot believe how much steam I needed to let out.

This show pissed me off, not just because of how mundane and shallow it is, but because of how much of a waste of time it proved on being.

Don't get me wrong, any anime is technically a waste of time as well.

Whenever you watch a TV show, you're wasting time out of your life, time that you can use in productive ways to improve it instead. That's simply a fact.

But the point of a show is to entertain you, and to mask away the fact that you're wasting your time on it, or at least to make it worth it. It's supposed to impart knowledge to you, make you have an emotional reaction to something, make you gasp at a specific plot twist or, at the very least, make you feel like you've spent your time on doing something worthwhile.

This is the first show that didn't do that for me.

I was painfully aware of my life slipping away from me, as I was wasting time watching its episodes, and I was becoming depressed. This is not what's supposed to happen.

In all the other entries on this list, I've felt at least some semblance of quality to their entries.

I actually felt shocked when I saw a specific kiss happen in Girlfriend, girlfriend, feeling amazed that the plot progressed the way it did. I felt genuinely heartbroken when a certain character died in SHY, which genuinely brought me close to tears. And I actually did feel shivers run down my spine at the ending of Stardust Telepath. Despite being pure works of fiction, all these shows managed to pull those feats off, and I appreciated that. They touched me in ways I could never otherwise describe and I felt that my time spent on them was worth it.

This show did not do that. It's the first show I felt that I absolutely wasted time on, as it had no impact on me whatsoever. The illusion that I'm doing something worthwhile while watching it ran out and I could see it for what it was: a time waster.

New episodes of this show would come out on Saturdays in my country, alongside new episodes of The Apothecary Diaries and that contrast in quality was so jarring I genuinely found it funny.

Every Saturday, I would go out of my way to watch these two shows back to back and ask myself “What did I Shall Survive Using Potions! do wrong this time that The Apothecary Diaries did right instead?“. And, truth be told, when comparing and contrasting these two shows, you can learn a lot from their differences.

The only thing that this show did better than The Apothecary Diaries at, is the fact that this is a family friendly show, almost to a fault.

The Apothecary Diaries, despite its overwhelming superior quality, is not particularly kid friendly, especially considering the topics of certain episodes about death, suicide, murder and politics.

Granted, I don't think children would necessarily be scarred if they were to watch an episode of The Apothecary Diaries, simply because the show is very restrained in how graphic it becomes, but I do believe that it would bore them out, because it's methodical, slow, dialogue heavy, and it revolves around politics and medical mysteries, topics that usually don't attract attention from kids.

In contrast, this show is colorful, simple and very upbeat and happy-go-lucky, a quality that, to its merit, it exceeds at. As such, I can definitely see kids under the age of 18 and especially under the age of 14, absolutely enjoying this and loving it for its mindless pandering to popularity.

With that said, I don't believe this show would be popular with adults. The moment you become old enough to understand how the world works, you'll look at this show and realize that it's just superficial fluff that tries to teach morals about how one should be and act in the face of injustices, but which also has no real depth or forethought of any kind. It's just preaching and using cliches for the sake of preaching and using cliches.

Watching it for growth and personal development as an adult is no more pointless than a malnourished man, on the verge of death, that suddently eats the frosting of a cake for sustenance (just the frosting, with no cake inside). You'll like the taste and look of it, but in the end you'll be no better off after eating it than how you were before it.

You'd have just had wasted time.

 
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from AnimeZone

New season, new ranking. Come checkout my ranking for this season's new anime titles.

It's that time of the year again.

After enjoying a nice Christmas for myself, I'm back in the groove ready to talk about my watching habits for the past 3 months.

Rest assured, there's a lot to talk about, as this time around I have 7 entries for this list.

Originally, I had planned on watching 9 shows, but I dropped 2 of them after realizing that I wasn't up to date with them and I had a lot of episodes to catch up on before I could get back to their current latest episodes. One such show was the newest season of The Ancient Magus' Bride which I deeply regret not watching.

There will come a time when I'll get around to watching these shows sooner or later. Alas, that time is not now.

Before I get to the actual entries of this list, though, I wanted to give a special mention to a deeply popular anime that aired this season, called Frieren: Beyond Journey's End which I heard a lot of good things about.

To be honest, I did consider adding that show to my watchlist originally, just because the premise sounded really interesting and the trailer did look enticing enough. However, ultimately, I decided against it, due to the fact that 9 shows was already too much for my tastes. Technically I have a maximum limit of 10 shows to watch concurrently at any time, so it was possible, but I genuinely felt like I was stretching myself a bit too thin already, so I decided to not watch Frieren in the end.

One could argue that, since I then dropped 2 other shows from my list anyway, I did have the capacity to pick Frieren back up if I really wanted to, and watch it anyways, but, alas, that's not how it went.

So yeah, sorry, Frieren is not part of this list. However, the shows that I did end up picking were pretty nice, either way, so I don't regret picking them over Frieren (with two exceptions, which are the last entries in this list).

Let's get started!

1. Girlfriend, girlfriend (season 2)

Shino looking at a whiteboard with pictures of Naoya and his harem

It's probably not a good sign that the top of my ranking is held by a romantic comedy harem anime, is it?

Oh well, c'est la vie.

Truthfully, I hold this show in high regard, since, despite the intentionally sounding mediocre title and the very generic premise that it has, it is executed in a very fun and interesting way, which always made me want to return to it every single week.

I will say though that this season was not as funny nor as memorable as season 1 was, to me at least, but it did still have the flare and quirkiness that the original had, albeit diluted with a bit too much plot.

As before, I do have to admit that I did not cover season 1 of this anime in my blog post, simply because this blog was not started yet when I got to watch it.

As such, I'll try my best to summarize the plot of season 1 here, as well, at least to give you an idea of what this show is about.

Long story short, it's about a high school student named Naoya Mukai who's finally in a relationship with his childhood friend, a red haired girl from the same class as him, named Saki Saki.

Naoya had confessed to Saki for a very long time, until she eventually relented and agreed to be in a relationship with him when they entered high school together.

Now, a top model student with high grades and a diligent but weirdly too honest and with a straightforward personality, Naoya usually ends up embarrassing Saki with his over-the-top antics and his constant public display of affection towards her.

One day, their teen relationship gets abruptly put to the test when, another girl from Naoya's and Saki's class, Nagisa Minase, suddenly confesses her love for Naoya at school, despite knowing that he's already in a relationship with Saki.

Nagisa had always admired Naoya from the shadows for his perseverance and constant honesty and, as such, trying to learn from him and imitate his straightforwardness, she chose to still confess to him even though she knows that he isn't single.

Naoya, at first, doesn't know what to do but, when understanding Nagisa's love for him and taking in her very cute demeanor, he cannot give up on her and outright reject her.

Instead, he comes up with a compromise: rather than reject Nagisa, as one would normally do, he decides to take a different route and ask her to join him in an open two timing relationship with Saki.

Basically, Naoya wants to make a harem. Nagisa, knowing deep down that Naoya could never give up on his current girlfriend, Saki, if she refused to take part in such a relationship, agrees to this, as this is the best compromise that she could hope for.

And so, Naoya then discusses the topic with Saki as well, both him and Nagisa trying to convince her to accept this new arrangement.

Basically, the rest of the show is them trying to come to terms with this setup, trying to figure out how to navigate the highly dubious and morally complex issues that come with being in a harem and Naoya doing his best to make both of his girlfriends happy at the same time.

Despite the generic sounding plot that you probably are eye-rolling at, let me say that the show executes this premise in a very well done way.

Yes, this is a slice of life teen romantic comedy in which Naoya tries to build a harem.

Yes, this show will have the common tropes that most romantic comedies have, like innuendos about sex, discussions about polyamory and how immoral it is, and, of course, copious amounts of nudity and fan service on top.

There is no denying that it's a standard harem anime that's doing what many other shows have done in the past before it as well.

However, with that said, what makes this show have its own identity and its own spin on things is its own self-awareness over these issues, and how it makes fun of itself by having the characters talk about these issues openly with each other.

Is polyamory immoral? The show doesn't answer that, but it does raise issues about it, with at least one character even outright calling it immoral and raising good points about it.

How would sex come into play in such a relationship? How are the logistics of living together come into play? How do they prevent jealousy between the girlfriends?

This stuff gets addressed and discussed openly, which I highly appreciate, since it usually gets disregarded quite quickly in other shows of the same nature that usually say something along the lines of “Don't worry about these details! They're not important”.

And, to give credit where credit is due, I also appreciate that the show tries to make the characters have normal reactions and conversations with each other.

For example, immediately after hearing that Naoya wants to have a romantic relationship between himself and both her and Nagisa, Saki becomes furious. This is completely normal and understandable. If you had a girlfriend and she heard that you wanted to add another woman to your relationship, obviously she would become angry. It's refreshing that this show acknowledges that.

Or how jealousy between the girlfriends would start becoming a part of their regular dynamic, that's also perfectly understandable.

Granted, the show treats all of these issues with a modicum of shallowness, as they are shown only as arcs to be taken care of instantly and never to be addressed again, rather than persistent ongoing issues that one would normally need to constantly be worried about, but it's nice to have the show at least talk about it.

And also, I genuinely respect the protagonist of this show a lot.

Normally, when it comes to harem animes, the male protagonists have a very abnormal tendency of holding back their sexual desires and being absolutely asexual even when the situation becomes highly dubious.

This show also has Naoya be against sexual relationships with his girlfriends but this is out of necessity so that he doesn't introduce more jealousy in his relationships with Saki and Nagisa. Still, he is honest about it and he genuinely tries to sound earnest whenever he wants to make his girlfriends happy.

Also, I respect that once he decided to have two girlfriends, he does his best to refuse the advances of any other women outside of his harem and maintain the minimum number of harem members he can. Basically, he is very adamant of maintaining the harem to only be consisted of Saki and Nagisa, and very valiantly refuses any other woman for their sake (then again, this ends up failing in the future).

Still, gotta give this man credit for at least trying. The show only has 4 women that are attracted to Naoya, though, and it keeps that number consistent, even across the 2 seasons that are already out. It doesn't unnaturally grow the harem as new episodes roll in, which is a nice bit of self restraint.

And, also, the comedy is just gold.

I usually hate whenever the male protagonist gets violently beaten by his girlfriend in other anime for unfair reasons but here, every time Naoya gets punched by Saki, it's almost always warranted (usually because he really is an idiot, and the show itself won't try to defend him).

Every time he speaks up and says his mind, I really love it. Even though you'd think that having an overly honest and earnest protagonist would become a very old and annoying gag, the show manages to keep it fresh with new and funny jokes that I love.

Finally, the reason I love this show is that, despite this being an adaptation of a romance manga, which are infamous for how slow they make their relationships grow, this story does move forward (at a slow pace, mind you, but at least it feels like it's moving).

Relationships do grow over time, and events happen that put existing ones to the test. And, one of my main complaints about romance manga, which is that kissing almost never happens, thankfully doesn't apply to this show too, as kissing does further the stage of the relationships, when it happens.

Yeah, even here, it happens rarely, but when it does happen, it happens very suddenly and out of nowhere, surprising me to a degree that it's quite impressive.

It doesn't go the sexual route, mind you, which I still am disappointed by, but I'll at least take the kissing and commend it for going at least this far.

All in all, I cannot understate how much I loved this show. Every week I would wait for a new episode to see how the plot would develop further, in ways that I haven't done in a long time. My anticipation for a new episode of this show every week was greater than the anticipation that I had for a new episode of Mushoku Tensei, the highest ranking anime of last season; and by a long mile.

Between the two, I would say that Mushoku is arguably the objectively higher quality anime, as its plot and character development are of higher quality than this show could ever have but, at the same time, from a purely subjective pure enjoyment point of view, I enjoyed this show a lot more. Make of that what you will.

Season 2 is more of what season 1 had, except that it focuses more on Shino and Mirika this time around. Honestly I'm glad that these two are getting a fair share of screen time as well, although I personally still prefer the other two heroines more.

Whatever it is, if you like slice of life high school romantic comedies, I humbly suggest you give episode 1 of this show a watch. If you'll enjoy the comedy of it, I guarantee you this will be up your alley.

2. The Apothecary Diaries

Maomao walking as a lowly servant in the Imperial Palace

If harem animes aren't your thing, maybe this will be a bit more interesting for you.

This anime takes place in a fictional country that's heavily inspired by Ming-era China, in which Maomao, the skilled daughter of the apothecary for a red-light district, is kidnapped by bandits while she was on an errand to collect herbs for her father.

The bandits sell her as a laundry woman to the Imperial Palace, where she begins doing her duties as a lowly servant, working for the emperor's concubines, eunuchs and other servants of the Outer Palace.

The bandits take money from her pay as a laundry woman, effectively treating her as a slave.

3 months later, Maomao learns that 2 of the emperor's concubines, Lihua and Gyokuyou, who both recently gave birth to his children, are falling to a curse that's going around the palace, making both them and their babies weak and on the verge of death.

The doctor that takes care of them has no clue what's causing the weakness and how to solve their problems.

Maomao, being highly intelligent and analytical due to having been raised by her talented father, correctly deduces that the likeliest reason for their sudden inexplicable ailment is the facial powder that their makeup is comprised of.

Wanting to keep a low profile but also save the lives of those women and their respective babies, Maomao anonymously leaves written notes on the windowsills of the two concubines at night, warning them that the powder is the poison.

Concubine Lihua disregards the warning and, due to this, her baby boy dies from the weakness soon after. Concubine Gyokuyou, on the other hand, heeds the warning and stops using the powder on herself and the baby, which leads to them recovering and, her baby daughter surviving in the end.

Curious to see who left the mysterious notes on the windowsills, the eunuch in charge of the concubines' wing of the palace, Jinshi, realizes that one of the women working for the palace must have left the notes and, as such, organizes a gathering of all the workers of that wing and cleverly fools Maomao into giving herself away by deducing that she would be the only woman there to know how to read, as all the women working for them are illiterate and, consequently, would not have been capable of writing the warning notes.

After singling out Maomao, Jinshi forces her to reveal to Gyokuyou how she realized that the face powder was the culprit of their weakness. After explaining her reasoning but also how she would hate to be promoted in rank for her contribution, seeing how that would only increase her pay and, consequently, only help the people that kidnapped her who take her money every month anyway, lady Gyokuyou kindly decides to promote her as a lady-in-waiting for herself, which is a higher rank than an ordinary laundry woman, but also to do so without increasing her pay, by making it look like she was indebted to the palace now, so that her captors won't be paid any better.

And so begins Maomao's life as a new lady-in-waiting for concubine Gyokuyou in the Imperial Palace.

She will have to solve many other medical mysteries in the future, for the palace.

That's the synopsis.

OK, so that was a pretty big summary for what is the first episode of this show but, this is so by design.

This show has a lot of story packed in each episode, so there's a lot to take in.

The show likes to play around with little known facts about the human body and medicine and sometimes even chemistry, in general, and it does so in clever ways that will put Maomao's intelligence and impressive intuition to the test.

I don't want to spoil too much about what plot points it will be about, but, suffice it to say, it has a lot of clever tricks baked in.

Topics will include allergy, lack of taste from a psychological condition, and even dive into murder mysteries, too.

To put it mildly, I simply loved it.

It kept me guessing every week along the way, and any show that manages to make me think like this is well received by me, in general.

Maomao's intelligence really is the highlight of the show, and that is commendable. It's not always that I enjoy a protagonist simply because of how smart they are, but this show pulls it off. A similar show this season that tried this same strategy but failed, by comparison, would be I Shall Survive Using Potions!. I'll talk more about that in its own entry in this list soon enough.

The cleverness of its plot is one quality that the show has, but it's not its only one, by any means.

The show has a high production budget, or at least that's my guess. I say this because it looks absolutely gorgeous on an HD screen.

The Chinese-inspired architecture of the buildings, the traditional Chinese dresses that women wear, the vibrant colors that this show constantly likes to play around with, the highly detailed character designs and small touches to their appearance, every single visual aspect of this show is an absolute treat to the eyes.

And when it comes to anime, that's obviously Japanese focused, it's such a nice breath of fresh air to see something as different as Chinese culture being portrayed, for a change.

I admit I know very little about Chinese culture but, the stuff that I've seen in this show did attract me a lot, and it absolutely filled me with curiosity and wanting to know more about their systems, like maybe more about politics, history, culture.

The fact that this Japanese product takes it upon itself to showcase such things, and, not only that but to also do it in an transparently honest and even positive light, is very encouraging.

I really would like to see more animes that focus on Chinese traditional culture, as that would be a welcome change of pace.

Outside of that, the show does talk about a lot of stuff, with a lot of world building.

Palace life is the high point of the show, obviously, but it also discusses darker topics such as suicide, depression, bullying, hatred, difficult baby deliveries. All subjects that the show doesn't shy away from and I've seldom seen in other animes.

And even the protagonist, Maomao, is a character I've grown to love a lot over the course of this series.

Initially I genuinely thought I'd hate her, just because of how detached she is and her overly calm personality that doesn't take anything too seriously and she barely shows any emotion.

This, and since the show also likes to treat her as a sort of know-it-all that pretty much always solves the mystery at the end of the day, I was afraid that they will make her too much of a Mary Sue character that's going to grate on my nerves sooner or later.

There's a good reason why people hate Mary Sue characters in fanfiction and fiction, in general.

And, to an extent, I was right to be worried, because she kind of turned out this way, sadly. Her overly competent analytical brain made her very likeable as well, which only meant that she would become the archetypal “girl that solves everyone else's problems”.

Her mediocre looks were supposed to offset this trait of hers, as a balancing plot point but even that went out the window later on, when it was revealed that she actually is beautiful naturally, but she intentionally self-induces her freckles in an attempt to uglify herself for a particular reason.

So yeah, she is kind of perfect all around.

But, with that said, Maomao is a small part of this show, thankfully. The point of each episode isn't her perfect character type, nor to make her impress anyone at any point. No, the point of the episodes is to solve the mysteries therein, and that's what's good about them.

The fact that Maomao is always the one that deduces the real truth all the time does get a bit old, after a while, but the intelligent and unexpected nature of the plot twist is always enough to offset that and take your mind off of it, which I like.

And, while other shows take their Mary Sue characters and make them become very important, advances them through the ranks, power them up and boost their social status to infinity, this show at least has restraint and keeps things simple and realistic.

Maomao isn't perfect, and this show tries to drive that point home. She's a simple girl that is highly intelligent but, in the end, intelligence and looks can only get you so far in life. She has limits, she needs to respect authority, she can jump straight to conclusions and even make mistakes as well.

These qualities huminify her and make her feel believable and relatable.

And, moreso, the show does make her a tiny bit quirky at least, like how she genuinely derives pleasure from tasting poison, to an unnatural and creepy extent. Given that, later on, she becomes a food taster for poison, that's going to end up as a fun scenario.

But I digress.

If you want to watch a show about some cool medical mysteries with an ancient Chinese-style aesthetic to it, be my guest and give this one a try! I absolutely recommend it.

3. Stardust Telepath

Yū and Umika engaging in foreheadpathy

This is probably the strangest and most surreal entry on this list.

In fact, the word “surreal” is the best word I can use to describe this anime as a whole.

It's difficult to describe this show in concrete terms because of how abstract everything in it feels, although I will do my best to give you a semblance of an understanding of what this feels like.

First, the plot:

A young girl named Umika Konohoshi is preparing for her first day in high school. She is shy and suffers from social anxiety, her having had difficulties in communicating with other people all her life.

She genuinely believes that the only other beings that could understand her are aliens, and that she wishes to one day travel to the stars to meet them.

The night just before her first day in high school, she sees a shooting star outside her window and makes a wish to meet an alien.

The next day, she struggles to interact with her new colleagues at school, doing her best to cope with her social anxiety, until she meets a strange pink haired girl in her class named Yū Akeuchi, who claims that she is a literal alien from outer space.

She looks like a normal girl, talks like a normal girl, and is very energetic and extroverted but nothing about her speaks that she would be from a foreign nation, much less from outer space.

Naturally, everyone else from their class disregards her claims and just think that she's joking, except for Umika who genuinely believes her.

This makes Yū attracted towards Umika, since she's the only one that takes her seriously.

Yū also tells Umika that she has an alien power called foreheadpathy, which is the ability to read someone's mind by touching their forehead with her own.

The next day, Umika and Yū talk together again, and Umika reveals to Yū that she wishes to build a rocket so that she can travel to space to meet aliens.

Yū replies by saying that she is an alien that got stranded on Earth and she is in need for a rocket herself, to return to her home planet, whichever that is.

Since both their goals involve a rocket, Yū suggests that they should work together.

After school, they both travel to a nearby abandoned lighthouse where Yū claims that that's where she woke up recently in, and that she has no memories from her past. Even so, she genuinely believes that she is an alien that somehow got stranded on Earth and this lighthouse is her temporary home for herself until she'll find a means to return home with.

The two girls then engage in foreheadpathy, and this convinces Yū of Umika's true feelings that she genuinely wishes to build a rocket to take them to space. And so, the two girls set out to make one, somehow.

Thus ends episode 1.

OK so, right off the bat, I know that this summary sounds almost nonsensical.

On paper, this might sound borderline insane of a story, but the show executes it in a straightforward and whimsical manner that gives it a feeling of mystery and intrigue.

This feels like the proper direction of adapting such a story, as it confers it an identity shrowded in mystery and abstraction.

It's difficult to talk about this show in a way that makes sense without spoiling it, so I'll try not to touch on the plot too much and simply say what I felt about it.

On many levels, this show has so much of the stuff I genuinely hate about a lot of anime, and that makes it so odd that I don't actually hate it for it.

The idea of abstract concepts being discussed on, the slice of life feel that this show has, the constant events that take place in high school, the talks about menial things in their lives, the genuinely nonsensical plans and strategies that they have that are inconceivable to be executed, such as saying things like “let's build a rocket” even though they are just freshmen high school students. All this I would normally hate, in any other anime.

But the way it's executed here, for some reason, made me be genuinely passionate about it.

I was absolutely intrigued and it made me ask questions like “How would two high school students go about building their own rocket?”, “Is this Yū girl actually an alien from outer space?” and “Will Umika ever get to meet a real alien at some point, like she plans to?”.

Mind you, these are crazy questions to ask, but they were questions that I did end up asking nonetheless.

It's fascinating how a slice of life anime like this had such a surreal and fantastical feel to it, almost like it was a distant dream that was being played in front of my eyes.

And yet, despite this premise making very little sense overall, the show went with it and it took it seriously.

Granted, it doesn't explain what's really going on fully, and it always allows for a sense of doubt to linger in your mind. Like you can look at this plot and take it at face value and then decide for yourself whether you believe in any of what's being said or if you're skeptical and try to find rational explanations for everything that's being portrayed.

Either approach works, and the show does a good job for allowing you to decide what you believe in, rather than spelling it out and ruining the mystery.

This way of storytelling, I genuinely thought that I hated before I watched this show but, once I saw it done here, I changed my mind.

Frankly, I think that this IS the best way to portray this stuff. I don't want concrete answers, I want to believe in what I want to believe in.

Stuff like, “is Yū really an alien?” is left as a mystery. Sure, the show can conclusively show us at one point that she's just a silly girl with amnesia that has a hyperactive imagination and that would be fine. It would fit the story just well enough and it would explain to us what's going on.

But it doesn't do that.

Instead, it's never explained what she is, or what her past really was like. Whether you choose to believe in her claims that she's an alien is up to you.

I find that as a stroke of genius.

In one episode, Umika breaks up with Yū, due to a team project of theirs having failed and her losing faith in her own dream of going to space.

Her depression causes Yū to suddenly and inexplicably vanish and now Umika, feeling very sad about the prospect of never seeing her again despite the last thing she said to her being something disheartening, goes out after her to search for her, only to find most of her stuff gone and the lighthouse out of operation, almost as if everything that had happened up until that point had just been an odd fever dream, Yū's very existence included.

But the moment Umika cries out for Yū, she suddenly appears again and the dream is resumed out of nowhere.

This borders on paranormal or supernatural, and so many questions popped up in my head but the show never went ahead to explore them, leaving you to decide for yourself the meaning behind all of this.

This is absolutely brilliant.

Foreheadpathy is also never explained either. You can believe that it's absolutely real and that it's one of Yū's strange alien powers that she has, but it could also, just as well, simply be Yū simply imagining it and her being very good at reading others' minds (consciously or unconsciously) simply by staring at their faces. Either way you look at it, both are plausible. Whether you go with the supernatural explanation or the rational one is up to you.

Leaving all of this aside, the show has other brilliant qualities, such as very colorful and vibrant art, moments in which it tries to lecture its audience about rocket making (yes, it does go all out on teaching others on how to make rockets for hobbyists and, honestly, it's very endearing and surprisingly educational), it talks about dealing with your own insecurities and how to better yourself as a person, learning how to deal with difficult people....There's a lot of really good stuff that this show gives us.

But, what I personally liked the most and which I absolutely feel is most worth talking about, is this show's down to Earth sense of reality, in how brutal and realistic it is.

While the show has a sense of surrealism and abstractness to it, it does get surprisingly realistic at points, especially when it talks about human relationships.

My favorite moment in this show was when, I won't spoil too much, Umika and her friends set out to win in a science fare-esque competition on rocket making, and despite their best efforts, they lose.

You'd think this would be a terrible moment for their team, and really, it was. It shook the team to the very core, so much so that it single handedly disbanded their team entirely.

This was absolutely brilliant, because the show decided to teach us about failure. And you know what? It did a good job at it.

Because, yes, sometimes, you'll fail in life. Failure is an inevitable part of it, but the only way to deal with it is by learning from your mistakes, acknowledging your weaknesses and moving forward by trying to compensate for them. And this show acknowledges that.

Maybe I'm harping too much on this but, really, how many times did the last isekai anime you watched in the past few years did this lesson get taught in? I don't think I can count on even one hand how many times that happened.

And this one simple lesson gets showed here like a brutal reminder that not everything in life is going to go as smoothly as you want it to.

There will be times when Umika and her friends will fail, many times even. Whenever they will be competing against someone stronger and more experienced than them, they will fail. There is no plot armor to protect them and frankly, I think that that's brutally realistic and a very welcome change of pace. It forces the characters to learn how to deal with failure and learn from it, something which, given their age and the fact that they're still in high school, is very much needed.

And the character interactions between them are so lively and cute, I genuinely was enjoying all the boring conversations they were having with each other, even though I couldn't care less about rocket design and rocket launches.

Foreheadpathy is so nonsensical when you look at it from an objectively realistic point of view, but the show kept finding ways of making it fun and exciting every time it was being done again (as well as funny too).

The show oozes personality and it's so fun to watch, seeing these characters interact with each other, play off each other, learn how to deal with each other and simply, living their lives together.

The very core concept of a friendship anime feels so childish and boring to me, so much so that I've actively been avoiding them for the past years, and yet I stumbled upon this one and found it so excessively endearing and heartwarming on so many levels.

And the friendships forged during this show are organic, they have their ups and downs, they get strained and, at one point, you almost feel like the friendship has ended even. This is how human interactions work, and the fact that this show put them to the test and made me genuinely ask myself “How can they salvage this friendship after all this?” just goes to show how much quality was behind the plot of this.

And the ending, it was perfect. It answered everything I wanted to be answered, while also leaving the questions I didn't want answered to remain unanswered.

The ending was very simple but it was done so exceedingly well that I literally felt shivers run across my spine when I watched it.

The concept was so simple, so childish and yet executed in such a beautiful and straightforward way that I'm not lying when I say that I will remember this show for years to come and still call it a masterpiece.

I cannot sing enough praizes for this show. It is absolutely a wonderful and brilliant piece of art.

It keeps you guessing whenever you should be guessing, it treats things realistically and brutally honest when it needs to, it's vibrant and whimsical when it needs to be and it's cute and endearing every time the plot needs it to be like that.

It's engineered to be memorable and special and, most importantly, it's 100% family friendly. No fanservice, no innuendos, nothing outrageous or questionable, this is a completely wholesome and brilliant piece of family friendly media that I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone that has the time for it.

The fact that I'm singing its praises so much even though this is third place in my ranking should also give you an idea of how highly I think of the first two entries on this list.

4. SHY

Shy having saved a young boy from a high fall

Time for a superhero anime.

It's been a while since I've talked about superheroes on this blog. Actually, I think this is the very first time I talk about them.

This is because I usually avoid superhero stuff, like My Hero Academia and One Punch Man because I don't find that stuff that fun or entertaining.

I understand that they have their fans, and I respect that, but it's just not for me.

But, as I was reviewing the list for this season's lineup and deciding what to watch for myself, I went against my judgment and decided to give one of these shows a try, anyway, just for the hell of it.

And this was that show.

So, what's the plot?

In a world where wars were all ended thanks to the sudden emergence of national superheroes, humanity is adapting to this new state of affairs.

A young girl named Shy, Japan's own hero, tries to make a speech in front of a public at an amusement park, but doesn't gather much support due to severe nervousness, as she is bad at interacting with others and is, fitting for her superhero name, quite shy in front of others.

During the event, a roller coaster malfunctions in the park and freezes on its tracks while everyone in it are still held in by their seatbelts, upside down.

Shy, because she can fly to great heights thanks to propellers in her suit, comes to the rescue and begins to save everyone on that roller coaster, one by one, by bringing them safely down on earth.

However, in the process, despite saving almost everyone from that ride, the coaster goes out of control and Shy has to go out of her way to put it to a stop.

She does do that, but in the process, one girl that was still on the ride, named Iko Koishikawa, suffers a blow and becomes severely injured and requiring to be hospitalized.

Some time afterwards, we see people from across Japan blaming Shy for not saving that girl too, which causes the girl to become depressed over her failure.

It is at this point where we are introduced to Shy's real persona, a 14 year old girl named Teru Momijiyama. She becomes a shut-in in her own home due to her depression and begins doubting herself and her capabilities as a hero.

Due to her failure to save Iko, Teru now is incapable of using her rings to transform again, which essentially means that she cannot use her powers anymore.

This is because a hero's powers are tied to their heart and mental state and, if they lose the will to fight, the hero becomes incapable of even transforming to their hero self.

Teru keeps blaming herself for Iko's injury and worries that Japan would be better off without her help.

However, one day, after talking with her friend, Russia's hero, Spirit, and receiving guidance from her and encouraging words, Teru finds herself next to a building in flames.

Hearing that there's a baby inside that needs saving, Teru eventually summons the courage to pull herself back onto the field and transforms again, allowing her to save the baby from the building, effectively resuming her superhero life.

Later on, we see that Iko Koishikawa, the girl that had been injured during the roller coaster accident, thankfully managed to recover from her injuries and decided to transfer schools. In the process of doing so, she just so happened to transfer to Teru's class and the two begin to hit it off as friends. Koishikawa doesn't know that Teru is in fact, Shy.

Yeah, so that's the synopsis for episode 1.

I will be honest, this episode did not, in fact, give me high hopes for this show.

With how it played out, I felt that it was going to be a cheesy superhero TV series that's going to preach about what it truly means to be a hero, how to struggle about becoming more confident in yourself and so on.

Frankly, I was bored by premises such as these and I really didn't want to go through this.

But alas, I did decide to give this show a chance and I continued to watch it faithfully.

And, you know what? That was a good call to make, since I eventually learned to love it.

Make no mistake though, calling this show cheesy is pretty accurate.

It constantly talks about connecting with other people's hearts, fulfilling their dreams, bringing about world happiness and other such stuff. However, it uses those terms in a more abstract sense than we normally think about and, while all this stuff plays important roles, and a hero's heart is the true source of their power, the show does take itself quite seriously and keeps itself grounded in some semblance of reality.

And while I was worried that the entirety of this show will be about Iko and Teru becoming friends while Teru tries to maintain her superhero identity secret from her friend, thankfully it doesn't go that route.

The plot doesn't revolve around Iko, nor around Teru's high school life. Instead, it's about a supernatural villain boy that the show decides to call Stigma using abstract powers to distort other people's hearts and mutate them into ugly monsters by promising to fulfill their wishes and pitting them against heroes.

While this sounds generic and that it would have a monster of the week feel to it, it doesn't devolve into any of that.

The show takes itself seriously and it ends up talking about deep and slightly dark topics, going into the backstories of various characters and deconstructing their personalities and past to more fundamental building blocks that it will play around with.

I won't go into details but I like that this show has a slight edge to it and it does get quite dark and depressing the more episodes you watch.

There is a point in which the show talks about the relationship that one character had with their mother, and I genuinely liked how that was done in a very tasteful but also depressing manner. It talked about poverty, a slowly falling into depression mother, about tragedy and how all these things ended up building a person that got twisted into a monstrous desire for complete control.

This was a very touching scene and I absolutely found it impressive how they handled it.

For a show that talks a lot about having the heart to continue being a hero, it did get quite nihilistic at some points, which was a nice and welcome change of pace.

Certain moments were quite heartwarming as well, which offered a nice contrast to the darker tragic ones.

Also, despite Teru's quite severe social anxiety, I like how she grows as a character and as a hero, as well, as she slowly becomes more confident in herself and her power to help others. That and also her idealistic self felt really fitting for the role of the voice of reason that she will end up fulfilling for a certain character, later one.

All in all, I enjoyed this show.

It wasn't as generic as I was fearing it will be and it treated me with a nice bit of drama and action that were surprisingly very well executed, to the point where I found myself entertained enough to wait in anticipation for the next episode every week (OK, maybe not actually every single week, but most weeks, at least).

Overall, as a family friendly superhero story goes, this one is perfectly passable and a nice bit of entertainment to fill your time with. I recommend it and I will be awaiting a season 2, if and when it will be confirmed.

5. Ron Kamonohashi's Forbidden Deductions

Toto and Ron meeting for the first time

Now we're getting into the territory of shows that, while I don't necessarily consider bad by any means, I stopped looking forward to their next episodes every week.

This show was not really what I expected it would be and, truth be told, it was a bit underwhelming for my expectations. But, even after saying that, I will concede that the show, by itself, was still pretty entertaining and, while it didn't turn out to be what I hoped it would, it still was a good time waster and a fun journey, nonetheless.

The story is about a (rightfully) unappreciated police officer named Isshiki Totomaru who's not very good at solving police cases, due to having limited deduction skills.

For being the worst detective in his department, he is mostly ignored by his immediate superior, Amamiya, and given the least important and most menial work around the office.

Feeling that he's treated without any respect, Isshiki is given a tip by one of his colleagues at the department to seek out the guidance of a former detective that was known to have brilliant deduction skills, named Kamonohashi Ron.

This latter young man, around the same age as Isshiki himself, lives in isolation in his own apartment, with no connections to the outside world.

Isshiki decides to pay him a visit. However, when he manages to arrive at Ron's apartment, Isshiki finds a very eccentric and odd man that's clearly unkempt and living a weird life in seclusion along with his pet cat.

Ron claims he has been visited many times by the police in the past to help them crack difficult cases, and yet he doesn't wish to assist them anymore. He wishes to be left alone and not have to deal with detective work anymore.

Isshiki finds it difficult to believe that this man is indeed the brilliant detective that many have said that he is.

However, as circumstances would have it, the two end up tangled together in a mystery involving a streak of murders that have been going on in the city, recently, and will have to work together to crack them, despite Ron's unwillingness to assist.

Long story short, Ron cracks the case very easily, without so much as breaking a sweat, they confront the culprit but, just as Isshiki is about to arrest him, Ron commands the culprit verbally to jump off the rooftop of the building that they were currently standing on.

That was very weird, and Isshiki is taken aback by it, but not as much as he does when he realizes that the culprit actually attempted to follow Ron's orders and genuinely tried to jump off the building. Thankfully, Isshiki was there to catch him and prevent his death at the last second.

Afterwards, Ron reveals that he suffers from this curse that makes him, whenever he successfully cracks a case and discovers who the real culprit is, he goes into this trance-like state and starts giving out orders against his own will to the culprit in question to take their own lives in an act of suicide, which wouldn't be a problem by itself, except that the culprits themselves become hypnotized by the curse and follow through with Ron's orders.

Because of this weird curse, Ron has been causing culprits to commit suicide after every case that he solves, which led to the police to blaming him for assisting in their deaths and eventually to them revoking his detective license to prevent any further deaths.

Ever since then, Ron has been living in isolation doing his best to not get involved in any more detective work, mainly because he himself resents this curse and wishes to stop killing criminals.

However, seeing how Isshiki was the first detective that he had worked with that managed to break his unlucky streak of killing criminals, since he managed to save the man before he could jump off, this gave Ron the idea that maybe they could work together, after all, and that he will solve police criminal cases and use Isshiki as his assistant to prevent the criminals from killing themselves while he's in his ordering trance.

Basically, Isshiki would act as the counter to Ron's curse by ensuring that the culprits won't follow through with Ron's orders to them.

So that's the plot for episode 1.

I'll be honest, this is arguably the strangest show on this list, by far. And that's saying something considering that Stardust Telepath is also on this list.

This is like crossing Code Geass with Death Note in the weirdest way possible and distilling the plot to solving criminal cases.

So much of this plot made me ask myself “But why?” that I stopped caring, after a certain point.

I would ask myself “But how did Ron get to acquire this curse in the first place?” or “What makes him have such incredible deduction skills?”.

The show doesn't explain much, at least as of season 1, but certain aspects of Ron's backstory do get revealed, a tiny bit.

The show follows a predictable formula of pitting the duo of detectives against murder cases everywhere they go, so much so that it feels almost funny.

Like, I get it that Isshiki would naturally have an affinity to this stuff, given that he works as a police officer and that there are constant unsolved cases that he can draw from, at work.

But the show keeps pushing murder mysteries at them even while they aren't working. Like this one time, when they went to this observatory on an island just to relax, only for them to end up in the middle of another murder mystery there as well.

Or this other time when Isshiki was trying to talk to this news reporter about his work and he invited her out to a coffee shop to drink coffee together, only for, you guessed it, them to become involved in another murder case at the coffee shop as well.

So many murder cases keep taking place around them that it becomes funny how much suspension of disbelief you have to undergo to believe that this is all coincidence.

And, every single time, Ron is there to assist detective Isshiki with the case and help him crack it.

The formula is fine, to an extent, but it gets old after a bit and the episodes become very repetitive.

The novelty of the murder method is supposed to offset this, which I appreciate, but my main gripe with the show was that I hoped that it would allow me, the audience, to follow along with the deductions and help me solve the case alongside Ron.

Like, I was hoping for the show to give me all the clues, and all the relevant information on the case, and then I could maybe figure it out before Ron spells out the exact methodology. That would have been a fun game.

Basically, what I wanted was for this show to be like Detective Conan (or what I assume Detective Conan to be like, since I never actually watched it but only heard about it from others).

Sadly, this isn't the case, and the show really uses very niche and obscure clues and details all the time to assist on the case solving, details that are arguably impossible to pick up on if you're just watching it.

I don't think there is any case here that can be solved by the audience alone, without any help from Ron. This is because a lot of these details aren't even shown on-screen, until Ron begins explains his reasoning and mentions them to us.

Certain clues are even hidden entirely, so there's no way you can deduce anything without Ron's help.

I personally think that that's cheating, but it is what it is.

Still, I don't think the show wanted for you to participate in the deductions. That's not the point. The point is experiencing how novel certain strategies are for murder, sometimes convoluted even, and hearing from Ron (or from Isshiki) trying to explain how they work for the first time.

That, by itself is a bit fun, I admit.

Granted, I find it extremely difficult to believe that Ron could have deduced the convoluted mess that certain murder strategies are, just from the handful of clues that he had, but who knows, maybe I'm just not smart enough to make the connections in my head.

Also, another thing I hate about this show is how they call out the culprit after explaining his murder method, their explanation can only be considered a hypothesis at that point but without any concrete evidence (so there's still the possibillity of deniability) but, when confronted with all of this, the culprit just admits everything and then they spill out their motive out in full admission.

That's not particularly believable, especially given how ridiculously elaborate the murder methods become, according to the explanations, so much so that I feel like it would be very easy for the culprit to just say something like “I didn't do it and you have no proof!” and then just leave it at that.

In certain cases, the show does at least try to provide actual evidence for the murder that links to culprit to the case, but other times it feels like the culprit could realistically just deny everything and it would be just as believable as Ron's hypothesis.

But no, the show takes everything that Ron deduces as the absolute truth. He is never wrong and everything that he says is exactly the way that he says it is. That gets boring very fast.

Another ongoing thing about the show which I dislike a lot is Isshiki's uselessness.

I don't want to rant too much about it but Isshiki really proves to be a very underwhelming and unreliable detective.

I get it that his role in everything is to be Ron's curse counter and his assistant, that's very much an ongoing gag in the show, but it genuinely feels disheartening seeing how reliant Isshiki is on his friend.

I get it that Ron is supposed to be an absolute genius that can figure everything out by himself, but Isshiki, for better or for worse, really does have his own detective license that he worked hard to acquire. Given that, you'd expect at least some level of competency from him.

The only time Isshiki proved to be useful for the plot was when, at one point, Ron will be accused of a murder himself and, not only is there actual evidence against him, he himself doesn't even deny his guilt and starts believing that he had commited the crime.

It's then that Isshiki's involvement becomes noticeable, since he is absolutely certain of Ron's innocence and actually fights for him on his behalf, even though the evidence is stacked against him.

But, even then, that just makes Isshiki appear as a good friend that simply has faith in Ron, not that he is a good detective that saw this hidden clue that proves Ron's innocence. Frankly, that doesn't make Isshiki any better of a detective, in my eyes.

There's also a recurring gag in this show that Ron is extremely eccentric and a goofy oddball that just makes everyone else roll their eyes when looking at him, and that's fine as a source of comedy. But, much like everything else, it gets old after a point, and whenever something is about to happen you just start asking yourself “How is Ron going to act as a goofball this time around?” since you're expecting it.

Granted, certain jokes about Ron looking really disheveled or dressed up like he was going trick-or-treating for Halloween did get a genuine chuckle out of me, and they were very welcome, but the gag can only work so many times before you just start seeing it coming.

I guess what I would have liked more about this show was if it made certain deductions more accessible so that the audience can figure things out by themselves before Ron does and also, very importantly, if the story revealed a bit more about Ron's curse.

A bit of his backstory is indeed talked about in season 1, but not enough is revealed in my opinion. A bit more details would have been more welcome, rather than wasting episodes on more menial and boring crime solving that just padded the entire season so much there's very little else to talk about.

Ron's curse, for example, was something I was looking forward to being discussed and solved, but that arc is not yet entered.

Oh well.

Overall, the show wasn't so bad that I'd say it was a waste of time. And a season 2 was already announced for this show, so I'm planning on watching that too.

I hope season 2 will become more focused on Ron's backstory and more revelations about his weird curse powers, but we'll just have to wait and see about that.

Until then, I consider this show to be mediocre, at best. Not a bad show, but not particularly good either.

6. Arknights: Perish in Frost

Bonding moment

This post is about season 2 of the Arknights anime. For my thoughts on season 1, you can check them out here.

This one will be a bit short, since there's not much to talk about, really.

If you read my review for season 1, you'd know that I wasn't the biggest fan of it, but I liked it enough to be curious for a season 2.

Well, this is that season 2, and I'll just say right off the bat, it didn't deliver on my expectations for it.

This is an anime where the more I watched it, the less interested I became with the story.

I was never a fan of the game that this is based off of, mind you, so that is likely the reason that I'm not getting as invested into this as I probably should be but, at least as someone that never played the game, I really have to say that I simply cannot see the appeal of this.

Season 1, for its part, felt engaging and somewhat of an interesting story, being about a post-apocalyptic world and about xenophobia against people that harbor a specific infectious disease.

That much I could understand and I really liked about it. Couple that with a plot point about a doctor that's been working on a cure for said disease but now suffers from amnesia, and I was hooked on the premise.

But season 2 really didn't continue with the hype that I felt for season 1.

In season 2 I was asking myself “Who are these people again and why should I care?”. The talks about a cure for Oripathy are missing from this season, so the only plot point that I cared about got shelved for whatever reason, for the time being.

The doctor being a main character stopped being a thing too, at least until the very last episode when he was suddenly important again. Up until then his presence was only marginally acknowledged every once in a while.

There's continous talks about military stuff and missions that they have to go on which I couldn't care any less about as I was never into military animes (86 might genuinely be the only exception to that rule).

And this whole show's plot pretty much just began focusing on individual battles to take part in and win. Winning was important for some bullshit military objective that they needed to accomplish, because of a deal that Rhodes Island made with the leader of that city and, honestly, I just tapped out midway through the story.

I just lost interest.

I don't see the appeal anymore. The only things I cared about was the doctor and his promise for a cure for Oripathy, both plot elements that got sidelined for more talks of battles.

Which can be fine if the battles were done in an interesting way, but I couldn't care less because, again much like last season, there is very little tactical planning being done in this show, so all the battles just boil down to “This enemy is dangerous and we must avoid their attacks”, “Find cover” and “We need to find a way to defend ourselves from her Arts”.

Really, that's all it's about. Hell, sometimes certain battles don't even have that much strategizing and it just comes down to “We have more talented soldiers than you do so we're gonna win”.

Needless to say, I didn't like this show.

In the format of a video game, I can see this formula working because you have the gameplay to keep things entertaining and glue all these plot points together in a fixed structure, but in anime, where there's no gameplay whatsoever, the plot is laid bare with nothing to keep our interest to it.

And that's a problem because I stopped caring. The plot progression of this show is just too slow. There's too much screen time dedicated to battles that I couldn't care any less about, and it all feels like it's being done as fanservice for the fans of the game that played through these events.

Technically, I can see why this is done like this, as I'm sure the playerbase for this game were the target audience for the anime as well, but that just means that there's nothing for outsiders that never played the game to get hooked on.

As someone that never played the game I can definitely say, I just don't see the appeal anymore.

But, I can understand why it's done like this and I understand that I wasn't the target audience for this anime. The impactful battles left little impact on me, the emotional moments felt devoid of any influence over me and the overall story felt without any substance that's worthwhile.

Hell, the only thing that I remembered about season 1 that this season still has would be its high production budget that I assume this had, but even then, that was not enough to make me care about this anymore.

All in all, this was a lackluster experience.

I've said last season that I was curious to see where the plot is heading but now, after seeing it with my own eyes, I can safely say that I just don't care anymore.

I don't care where the plot is heading, I don't care about the doctor's backstory anymore, I don't care about Amiya's goals, I don't care about whether they find a cure for Oripathy or not, I just don't care.

And I won't care if there will be another season for this or not.

This is just part 1 of my thoughts. To see the last entry in this list (i.e. part 2), please click here.

 
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from AnimeZone

Summer 2023 was a pretty big season for anime enthusiasts, however, I picked only 5 shows to watch for that season. Let's see what they are!

Yeah, the reason I only picked 5 was because none of the offerings impressed me that much, and so I decided to just dedicate time to those that I, personally, found to be at the very least thought provoking.

And, while watching anime trailers is a subjective experience and not everyone will decide on the same shows to watch, even if they search for using the same criteria, this is the lineup I came up with.

For the record, though, I want to mention that this, sadly, will be the last blog post entry where I will discuss anime from the HiDive platform.

The reason for that is that, really, I decided not to give the platform any more money, seeing how they decided to cut Romania off from their list of territories where they offer their services to.

So yeah, after this blog is over, the upcoming seasons will only cover from anime from Crunchyroll sadly, anime that is accessible to Romania, specifically.

The only show from HiDive which I will be covering in this blog post, which is The Dreaming Boy Is a Realist, is available through HiDive, at least if you live in Finland (that's where my VPN endpoint was, so that I could still watch HiDive from Romania).

With that said, let's get started!

1. Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Season 2, part 1)

Rudeus being depressed and wearing a hoodie

  • Available on Crunchyroll

I'm not gonna lie, I know that for all my rants about how “isekai anime are the cancer of the anime industry nowadays” it feels very contradictory for me to name an isekai as my top pick for my favorite anime of the summer 2023 season.

And for anyone calling me a hypocrite for this very reason, I get it. I will admit that I am guilty of this.

And, to make matters worse, I also regularly complain when an isekai doesn't bring anything new to the table.

I've complained about this for a long time and I've been talking about it both in this blog (i.e. with the Reincarnated as a Sword TV show) and from before this blog was even a thing (i.e. In the Land of Leadale).

This show doesn't have anything new on top of the regular isekai anime TV series. It doesn't have the interesting character development of Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World, nor the comedy and charm of KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World!, two other isekai anime which I hold dearly to my heart.

However, what it does have that makes it stand apart from most other isekai TV shows that fall short by comparison is its world building.

And I'm not going to lie: I genuinely wholeheartedly believe that this show is among the best anime I've seen in handling world building for such a complex and interesting world.

World building in anime is usually a hit or miss experience. Certain shows do it better than others.

Exposition dumping is usually my least favorite ways of doing that.

I feel like, more so than anything else, world building needs to be experienced by the audience through the eyes of the show's characters more than being described through words.

And it's ironic because, generally, this tactic of describing a world through words is especially prevalent for isekai animes that adapt light novels, the same medium that also spawned this show, as well as KonoSuba and Re:Zero.

I guess, to put it lightly, I'll say that some authors are better at doing this stuff than others.

But enough about that! You may be wishing for an introduction of this show.

Well, the sad part is that this is season 2 of this anime (specifically part 1 of season 2, but I'll leave that aside).

Season 1 aired a couple of years ago, before I began this blog, so I never had the chance to write about it. (A similar thing had happened with another show, last season, called Tonikawa: Over the Moon for You).

I'll try to summarize what this show is about as best as I can but, keep in mind, season 1 was very long and it had a lot of stuff going on in it, so it's probably best to just watch it. I won't be able to do it justice with this summary at all.

To make a long story short, an unnamed 34 year old NEET from Japan is evicted from his home following his parents' death. After contemplating towards how little impact he has had on others over his 34 years and how meaningless his life had turned out to be, he ends up sacrificing himself to save the life of a young girl who is about to be run over by a speeding truck.

Some time afterwards, the same man awakens again as a baby to a young couple, in a rural village in a new world that has swords and sorcery in it.

This baby is named Rudeus Greyrat.

And so, with the memories of his past life still ingrained in his brain, the newly born Rudeus sets out to make something out of his life, this time, so that he will have a more meaningful life in this world.

And in trying to decide how to shape his new life, he soon discovers that he has a strong affinity, even from a very young age, towards magecraft and casting spells, particularly without chanting as well, something which is very difficult to do in this world.

Happy to see Rudeus be very talented at this, his parents hire a very talented mage named Roxy to train Rudeus in the art of spell casting.

And so begins Rudeus' life as a magician in this new world.

From time to time, though, Rudeus will have dreams in which his older self, from his old body, is visited by a strange faceless white man that calls himself the man-god, who claims to be the reason for why he had reincarnated.

The man-god claims that he has big plans for Rudeus but does not wish to reveal many details. Instead, he gently guides the protagonist and steers him in the directions he wishes for Rudy to go in.

That's the general gist of the beginning of season 1.

If this sounds up your alley, I highly encourage you to seek it out and watch it.

Suffice it to say, this is among the best isekai anime I've ever seen. Actually, scratch that! This is among the best anime I've ever seen, period!

It has very rich world building, slow pacing to get to grow alongside the protagonist, likeable characters, believable progression, interesting plot twists, and balanced character development as well.

My only gripe with this show is that Rudy does end up becoming slightly overpowered over time, which is something I am known to dislike in anime, in general, however, seeing him face emotional challenges and difficult life decisions still makes it feel like a fresh and inviting adventure.

Season 2 is more of the same as season 1, as Rudy has to learn how to exit the depression that he now suffers from after the ending that we were left with in season 1 (I won't go into more details as that would be too much of a spoiler).

I guess what I like the most from this show that so many other isekais fail at, is the amount of fleshing out the world in a consistent manner.

A lot of isekai anime try to make the world feel like a video game, with RPG like mechanics (i.e. potions that grant buff effects, tasks of completing dungeons and fighting dungeons bosses, some semblance of immortality or respawning in case you die), and that makes them feel very shallow and forgettable.

Granted, I appreciate that even this amount of work goes into their world building, but the problem with this approach is that, for stories that try to take themselves seriously, at least, having this shallow introduction into the mechanics and this sense of “This is like an RPG video game! Have fun!” is really doing the show a disservice when the plot is supposed to be taken seriously.

Pretty much everything else about the story is meant to be taken seriously by the audience, except for the video game mechanics which just so happen to make it look fun.

Yeah, that makes it look inviting, especially for kids and younger adults that may enjoy playing video games, but it also confers the world a sense of transient shallowness that never detaches from its identity. Couple that with very brief and almost brushed off world building that's done in a couple of paragraphs of exposition every once in a while and it's very easy to see why I never get invested in these types of shows.

The one exception where this approach did work for me is KonoSuba, where yes, everything felt meaningless and superficial on all levels, but that was the entire point of the show to begin with. KonoSuba never tried to pretend to be a grand epic, it knew it was meant to be a meaningless fantasy adventure fun and it just ran with it. That and also the (thankfully) constant humor and charm of its characters saved it and made up for the lack of world building.

Other isekai, like Re:Zero, did take the time to properly present the world and went into a lot of detail showing us about the mechanics of that world, the workings of the political systems, the history of the people and, for what it's worth, even though it had a respawn mechanic baked into the plot, it felt very realistic and unlike a video game. That show knew how to distance itself from the superficiality of video game mechanics and dived into a very dark and grim story that gave it a very fine but unique edge.

This show, as well, takes itself seriously, and I really appreciate it for that.

There is no video game mechanic in this show. There is no immortality or respawn mechanic (well, there actually IS something like that which is used at one point but it's actually used by an outside entity and outside of the protagonist's control). Magic has limitations in that world and can only help Rudeus so much before it becomes meaningless.

All the actions that Rudeus takes feel like they have an impact on that world and will have a ripple effect in what will happen into the future.

And, most importantly, Rudeus feels like a relatable and human character. Even though he is slightly overpowered, he has emotions, vulnerabilities and weaknesses. He can become depressed if bad things happen to him, he can make rash and unwise decisions when his emotions get the better of him and, sometimes, that has consequences on his life.

He struggles to maintain control even though sometimes he fails at it. He sometimes is very good at communicating with others and, other times, he's very bad at it when he's down and depressed.

For this reason, Rudeus really feels like an actual human being that I can relate with, which is so much better than the overly confident and always-perfect isekai protagonists that always get things right and never have to worry about anything in their lives for any reason. For this reason I really appreciate this show as much as I do.

But anyways, I've rambled enough for one day.

Suffice it to say, if you like what I just wrote, please give this show a watch. It is absolutely worth your time if you are a fan of isekai shows, and especially if you like TV series that take their time to build up both their fictional worlds, and the characters that inhabit them.

2. TenPuru: No One Can Live on Loneliness

Aoba carrying large barrels of rice

  • Available on Crunchyroll

We now reach the romantic comedy of this season's lineup. (Well, there's this and My Tiny Senpai and The Dreaming Boy is a Realist as well but we'll get to those in due time)

I'll admit: I have a soft spot for romantic comedies that have a lot of softcore sexual scenes packed in them.

This show is a prime example of that, as it is an adaptation of a harem manga.

So, “what's the story?”, you may ask?

The story focuses on a young man named Akemitsu Akagami.

He has a troubled family history, as his father had abandoned him ever since he had been of a very young age, in a pursuit of finding women to fool around with.

As a result, Akagami had grown disillusioned and resentful of his now missing father figure.

He tries his best to avoid becoming anything like his father, who had been an incurable pervert and a wild womanizer all his life, and, because of this, Akagami goes out of his way to avoid having contact with women in general and constantly tries purging his own head of dirty thoughts that keep bubbling up incessantly.

One eventful night, he ends up meeting a lovely young girl of seemingly the same age as him, named Yuzuki Aoba. After seeing him getting himself injured by accident, she tries to be helpful and tries to assist him, making him fall in love with her.

Trying to resist his lecherous and impure worldly desires, though, the next day, Akagami realizes that his overtly explicit imagination and dirty thoughts are most likely genetic, coming from his father's side and, wishing to purge his life of any such unclean tendencies, he decides to dedicate his own life into becoming a monk at a Shinto temple.

After receiving a tip from a relative about such a male only temple nearby, Akagami decides to leave behind his physical possessions and restart his life anew as a monk at Mikazuki Temple.

However, as soon as he arrives there, he coincidentally gets to meet up with a half dressed Yuzuki, which completely surprises him and, after instinctively proposing to her when seeing her like that, he backs away from her only to fall down a nearby well on the temple grounds.

After climbing back out of the well, a very confused and now wandering Akagami (who is walking around dazed because he had hit his head after falling down the well) is causing everyone there to run away from him because they mistake him for a ghost.

A little while later, after all the misunderstandings get cleared and Akagami gets to explain why he had come to that temple in the first place, it is revealed that Yuzuki is actually living at that temple with her two younger sisters, Tsukuyo Aoba and Kurage Aoba, aiming to become the head priest at said temple, trying to follow in her own mother's footsteps (their mother had abandoned the temple some time ago and left them to live there on their own). They live there with two foreign women named Mia Christoph and Kagura Baldwin (who had come to that temple due to Mia's insistence of adopting a celibate life despite her family's tradition of promiscuous lifestyles) and the temporary current caretaker for that temple: another woman simply named Kiki.

Mikazuki Temple, where they're currently living at, is an old Shinto Temple that is in disarray and in heavy need of repair but they are all incapable of paying for these maintenance fees because the temple is severely lacking in funds.

Apparently, the temple has been in such a dire need for money ever since a man who had visited that temple a couple of years back, had stolen twenty million yen from it and ran away with said money.

Akagami is confused by the fact that this temple is currently inhabited only by these women, him having heard that Mikazuki Temple was supposed to be a male only temple. However, he soon learned that, actually, the temple had since become a nunnery for priestesses and was actually female only.

Saddened by this state of affairs and realizing that he has no place at such a location anymore, Akagami sets out to leave the temple and return to the city, to find a different plan for his life.

He leaves in the middle of the night, even though the earliest bus to take him back to the city would arrive in the morning and, not wishing to force the boy to wait all night for that bus to arrive out in the open, Yuzuki chases after him to invite him back to their temple, where he could at least stay the night before departing in the next morning.

Akagami seems open to the idea and is willing to accept her invitation. Yuzuki then finally asks Akagami for his name (something which none of them had done up until that point) and he kindly answers her with his full name.

It is at that moment when Yuzuki, when hearing his full name, including the family name of Akagami, realizes that this boy is the son of the man that had run away with the temple's money many years back.

And, to Akagami's own horrific surprise, he is now the target of all the women living there, as they all now want to seek compensation from him for his father's past actions.

And so, now, Akagami ends up as the only male living in that women-only temple, as he now has to do menial work and chores all day, to pay for his own father's actions (since he doesn't have the money to pay them back).

Yeah, that's the synopsis of episode 1.

Yeah, there's a lot of plot in this show and also a lot of setup.

However, the general gist that you need to remember is that now, a young horny adult that inherited his father's lecherous tendencies and overly active sexual imagination ends up working at a girls-only Shinto Temple. That's pretty much it.

The plot, from that point onwards, focuses on that group's struggles in trying to keep the temple open, even though they have very little money, the temple is in dire need of repairs and, of course, there is currently no head priest.

Akagami and the girls will have to find ways of dealing with all these problems and, every once in a while, Akagami ends up in very sexually explicit situations with all of the girls there.

That's pretty much all you have to know about this show.

Put simply, I loved this show.

If you've been following my blog for some time, you probably know the TV shows that I've been following for the past 2 years and, because of that, you should know that I didn't get to follow that many ecchi TV shows.

Honestly, the ecchi genre is one that's very divisive for many, because not everyone enjoys fanservice and seeing all the innuendos and explicit sexual stuff on their TV.

I get that.

And if you do have such reservations about sexual content, then I would strongly advice you to avoid this show at all costs.

Granted, there's nothing particularly outrageous about this show. It does feature nudity, explicit scenes that obviously are meant to mislead the audience and make them think that something sexual is going on when it clearly isn't, but all of this can barely even be classified as softcore porn.

Yes, you need a certain level of tolerance to be able to digest the episodes of this show but, provided you have experience with even milder ecchi anime before this, then you'll follow along just fine with this one.

And, frankly, after two years of not enjoying any ecchi at all, I can safely say that I really needed this release for myself.

The show doesn't shy away from various scenes and it uses the lechery going on as comedy fuel as well.

One example of this is how Akagami is so determined to keep himself in check and is trying so hard to purge his own mind of dirty thoughts, even though they naturally come to him as specific scenes play out in front of his eyes.

The show doesn't show anything explicit, per se, but whenever, for example, Akagami and Yuzuki and Tsukuyo are meditating in their training in trying to become priests, and Yuzuki and Tsukuyo are failing at it, it's somewhat funny seeing how they get hit by Kiki with a small light wooden stick, only for them to moan from being hit, causing Akagami's uncontrollable imagination to bubble up and have him lose focus in his meditation as well.

Or how Akagami has this instinctive tendency to punch himself in the face very hard whenever he senses that his mind is wandering in troubling sexual territory, to the point where he even causes his own nosebleeds.

At some point, the scenes happening in front of him become so explicit that his imagination ends up running completely wild and, as a result, he has to punch himself so hard that it starts to concern the women around him.

Granted, I know that this type of comedy isn't for everyone and that there will be some people who simply won't get it, and that's completely fine. If you read what I just described and you're still asking yourself what about this stuff is even supposed to be funny, then, chances are, this show isn't for you.

And that's fine.

The people who would like this show will know why the stuff I just described is funny. And to me, it was hilarious.

Granted, not all the jokes hit but, the ones that did, were very enjoyable and I did have a blast watching this series.

If this show will ever have a season two, I will definitely indulge myself in it.

And as for the ending, it wasn't anything spectacular and it's clear that they're trying to leave off on a sweet upbeat note, just in case they will never get greenlit for a season 2, but I will say, even if a season 2 will never happen, season 1 was enjoyable enough as it is. The story never got finished and a lot of the stuff is still unsolved, as of the ending of season 1, but, at the end of the day, it still left a good taste in my mouth.

And in the end, what more can I ask for?

3. My Tiny Senpai

Shiori gives Takuma a shoulder massage

  • Available on Crunchyroll

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Moe-blob, the romcom.

If the above screenshot of a massage scene from episode 1 doesn't immediately convince you to watch this show, I don't think you'll enjoy seeing it at all.

Simply put, this TV series is about a newly hired young man, named Takuma Shinozaki, who works as a white collar office worker for a large company that has a small and adorable cat caricature (colloquially known as Mewtaro) as its mascot, as he has to slowly learn the ins and outs of his new job.

Supervising him is a young woman, around the same age as him, named Shiori Katase, who has a very gentle and motherly demeanor and who tries to be supportive and kind to him.

Katase is of a small stature, and has cat-like physical characteristics, which makes her seem very cute to Takuma.

They will work in the same department as another young woman, named Chinatsu Hayakawa, who has a very down-to-Earth demeanor and logical personality and who also just so happens to be Takuma's childhood friend. (although they have no romantic interest in each other, whatsoever), and they will all work under a young man named Chihiro Akina, their department manager.

Chihiro is a very calm and calculated man, who enjoys to see the people who he manages interact with each other and also has a strange obsession of encouraging them to become romantically involved with each other, constantly fantasizing about their possible relationships getting sexual.

This show, in a nutshell, is about Takuma and Shiori, as they slowly and naturally build a deep relationship with each other, initially a purely platonic and professional one, although slowly having it also grow into something a bit more as time goes on.

OK, so that's the synopsis.

This show is basically My Senpai is Annoying, if the genders of the main characters were swapped.

Now, Shiori is the experienced employee that has to look out after her newly hired colleague, the male Takuma.

And much like that show, this is basically an office romantic comedy series, in the same vein as it.

Also, much like My Senpai is Annoying, there are multiple romances that the show follows: the main one which is between Takuma and Shiori and also a secondary one, which is between Chinatsu and Chihiro, as well.

The latter one is taken way less seriously by the plot compared to the former, as Chihiro seems completely ambivalent towards romantic connections concerning himself and is way more likely to just ship Chihiro with Takuma, instead (or ship her with Shiori even, sometimes).

In fact, Chihiro feels very much like the wingman of the show, constantly trying to push Takuma and Shiori together whenever he gets the chance to, also bringing a video camera with him as well to record their moments together.

In a sense, he feels more like a plot device than an actual character, although his very calm and obsessive demeanor to force his subordinates into unrequited romances does make him arguably the funniest and most likeable character in this show.

Chinatsu is more like the thin thread that still tries to hang onto him by his clothes and pull him down to reality when he seems to become too disconnected into his own fantasies about his employees getting together.

Needless to say, this show was a ton of fun to watch.

However, unlike other shows like the aforementioned Tenpuru, which also has a lot of innuendos and sexual stuff in it, this one feels like the less believable one of the two, as the amount of suspension of disbelief you'll have to undergo in order to watch some of these episodes becomes mind boggling, to an extent.

Basically, this show takes the common romcom cliches that most office animes use and pushes them to unbelievable extremes, so much so that they become comically absurd.

And keep in mind, this show acts like it's supposed to be a slice of life, even though it becomes so wacky in its plot that it starts bordering insanity.

Examples of this include Shiori being so weak at tolerating alcohol, that a single piece of candy that contains it is enough to completely turn her into a wobbly affectionate kitten that wants to cuddle with Takuma (not sexually, thankfully).

Or how about a different scene, where Shiori and Takuma just so happen to finish an assignment where they had to do a presentation to a client, only for them to encounter a film crew as they were heading back to their office in the city, the woman in the crew says that she works for a local TV station and is doing a documentary piece in which she's trying to interview couples across the city and, since she has no luck finding anyone to talk to, ends up begging the two to pretend like they're a couple, for the sake of her show.

And so Shiori and Takuma now have to try pretending like they are a couple that loves each other on TV.

Or how about another scene in which Shiori and Takuma hide in a locker down in the building's basement as they are forced to watch two other characters that work in the same company as them, that have snuck there, make out in front of them while, unbeknownst to them, being watched by the two.

Needless to say, a lot of this stuff becomes really hard to take seriously.

Then again, despite this being a slice of life, supposedly, I genuinely believe it wasn't meant to be taken seriously at all.

This is, for all intents and purposes, a very wild and funny romcom that tries, at every opportunity to force Takuma and Shiori into embarrassing positions, as a couple, and testing to see how long they can go before they confess to each other or lose their minds, in the process.

The fact that everyone else in their department wants to see these two together, is also quite endearing.

This, My Senpai is Annoying and, of course, The Ice Guy and His Cool Female Colleague are just the most recent office romance animes that I've personally watched in recent years.

And out of all of them, I can say that I find this show to be the most entertaining. Why? Because, as outrageous as this show sometimes gets, it's still the one that took its core premise and ran all the way out with it, dialing it up to eleven and making things as insane as a slice of life can be.

Every episode had shenanigans that at no point have I ever felt were in any way plausible or even remotely believable, and yet I still couldn't help but laugh at how stupid but fun it became at times. The wacky unhinged side characters were only a very nice bonus to the comedy.

And the ending, while by no means a masterpiece or even memorable at all, still left me wanting to see more.

Granted, you have to remember that, like most romantic manga adaptations that primarily take place in the office, it's going to be slow. The pacing is going to be horribly slow and the plot will get side tracked by various side stories concerning their office life and other stuff that will only serve to prolong it more.

That's to be expected.

And, as sad as it is to admit this, no serious plot advancements happened as of yet. And that saddens me to no end.

Still, if you're in it just for the comedy, this is a worthwhile watch, and I wholeheartedly recommend this show. You do need to switch your brain off to be able to enjoy this, just because how ridiculous certain scenes become, but the comedy is well worth the suspencion of disbelief, in my opinion.

And if a season two of this will ever come out, I'll be sure to check it out.

4. Reign of the Seven Spellblades

Katie and Guy interacting

  • Available on Crunchyroll

If you like magic, then this show might be just what you're looking for.

As someone who has never been much of a fan of sorcery and magecraft TV series, I can't say that I was looking forward to watching this show much.

However, like all the shows that I do partake in, I try to give it a fair shot and compare it on even ground with all the other stuff that I watch during the season.

And I did go out of my way in trying to really like this show. I tried to make it work and watch this as if it was high quality entertainment.

And, honestly, towards the end it did finally manage to pull me in just enough to admit that it was a very entertaining experience and that it was a worthwhile watch. However, throughout most of its airtime, I was constantly losing interest in it, to the point where I would become bored and constantly checking the video bar to see how many minutes I still had left to watch from the episode.

That's usually a very bad sign.

But let's talk about what this show is about.

At a school of magic known as Kimberly Magic Academy, the new school year is about to begin and a new batch of freshmen is arriving there for the first time.

Among the newly arriving students is a young man named Oliver Horn, who's looking forward towards his studies there but, also, towards accomplishing a personal goal of his at that particular school.

As the first day approaches and all the new freshmen approach the school to begin their new lives, Oliver encounters and immediately befriends two other freshmen named Guy Greenwood and Katie Aalto.

They immediately become friendly with each other and begin walking towards the school together.

Afterwards, during the opening ceremony, where all the students gather outside the school building to watch a big line of magical creatures that the school owns and forces to walk in a parade, a mysterious person casts a spell from afar that causes Katie to run towards a big troll that was walking in the parade.

The troll was already quite enraged and, when it saw Katie running up to it, it seemed to wish to attack Katie, only for Oliver and Guy to intervene, trying to save Katie.

In the process, another young freshmen named Nanao Hibiya, who is a very skilled swordsman, manages to help them incapacitate the troll and save Katie.

Fast forward to the headmistress' entrance speech and, when all the freshmen are gathered in a hall, the headmistress herself, Esmeralda, also known as the Witch of Kimberly, introduces herself to all the people there. She makes a long-winded speech about their school and then she reveals how the safety of the students there is not the school's priority and that, on average, 20% of the students that join Kimberly will eventually die while attending the school, becoming “consumed by the spell”. This is to warn the students not do engage in dangerous and reckless behavior, for there will be consequences that the school staff will not save them from.

Later, during a mixer, Oliver, Guy, Katie, Nanao and two other freshmen named Michela McFarlane and Pete Reston are all at the same table, introducing themselves to each other, as they will all be part of the same class during the new year.

Guy is the son of a farming family and knows how to use magical creatures and plants to his advantage. Katie is the daughter of a family that has a big reputation of acting as rights activists for magical creatures and, because of this, she has sympathy and shows affection towards all magical creatures, especially those who are being harmed or kept in captivity by the school (which usually leads to her being bullied by both other students and even some teachers there). Michela is the daughter of Theodore McFarlane, a man who already works for that school and who, incidentally, also had saved, in the past, Nanao's life and had invited her to come study at Kimberly. Nanao, who is a foreigner and also a samurai, and who came to that country to study magic despite having no magical aptitudes whatsoever but being very talented at wielding a sword. Pete, who is also from a non-magical family and who has no magical affinity at all but is very good at learning and is academically gifted. And, finally, there's the protagonist Oliver, who has no special interests or backgrounds that he wishes to discuss yet but who is very friendly and open to making new friends.

Together, they become friends and decide to look after one another, to make sure that things will go smoothly for their first year.

Later on, though, at night, Oliver exits the room that he's sharing with Pete at the school dormitory and walks into the darkness of the night, and meets up with a strange young girl named Teresa Carste, who has been watching over him all day long.

Teresa has been sent by Oliver's siblings to watch over him, her acting as a servant to Oliver and listening to his commands but also putting his safety as her top priority mission.

They talk to each other in secret and Teresa shares with Oliver important information.

The first episode ends with Oliver discovering Nanao shamelessly naked and taking a bath in a nearby fountain, out in the open, claiming that she wants to wash her body anew from all the blood of her foes that she had accumulated over the years from fighting in a war, as a samurai.

That's episode 1.

Yeah, if you couldn't tell already, this world seems to draw heavy inspiration from the Harry Potter universe.

The two universes are not connected, in any way, but the nature of the magic in that world, it's chaotic effects and the limitless power that mages seem to have when casting spells seem drawn from Harry Potter a bit.

Over the course of the series, even more ideas that seem to connect the two will pop up, such as magical brooms that allow mages to ride them and they would allow the mage to fly through the air at high speeds, the said brooms being intelligent and having personalities, playful magical creatures that play with and disrupt alarm clocks and are treated as insects, and, last but not least, a huge magical labyrinth that sits right under the Kimberly school building, that is filled with traps and creatures that can kill you if you venture into it.

Yeah, this feels almost like a fairy tale, and it's pretty farfetched.

There's a lot of backstory and plot in this world, and a lot going on all the time.

Moreover, I want to point out that this feels like one of those anime TV series where you can pretty much tell that a lot of work, money and passion went into it, when making it. The staff seems to have treated this as a very special project, and they went all in with their efforts.

The music and the soundtrack are very well done, the animation and action sequences are very fluid and pretty to look at, the backgrounds have a lot of detail and unique vibrancy to them, the voice acting is exceptional, the opening and endings are memorable and foreboding.

Pretty much everything seems top notch in this series.

However, the reason I'm ranking this show as low as I am is because there is one thing that keeps this show from being a masterpiece and, you guessed it, that is its story.

And, given that this is an adaptation of a light novel series, I can see why this is a problem, since the light novels are already written with the story as is, and the anime staff couldn't do much about its subpar quality. They just had to adapt it and make everything around it seem gorgeous and inviting.

Even down to the fact that season 1 had the unusual number of 15 episodes in it, because the script writers wanted to make sure they have the time to flesh out the events in a well paced manner, so that nothing feels rushed.

The problem with all this is, when everything is done to such a high quality and is perfectly crafted to look like a masterpiece, and then you have a story that really doesn't live up to everything else's standard, the contrast can be jarring.

And such is the case with this show.

My problem with the show is that, despite its exceptional world building and this very interesting world that the events take place in, much of the conflicts and the issues that the main characters have to solve are very much mundane issues that teenagers usually have to deal with: the bullying problem, the proving yourself to your peers problem, the dealing with your insecurities problem, handling people who just hate you for whatever reasons, family discord rearing up its head in the school setting and stuff like that.

I'm not a big fan of this stuff and, especially when all of this is used as plot devices, I really find it lazy storytelling and I just tune out, at that point.

And a lot of this show, despite all the efforts put in, devolve into those issues, one way or another.

There was a small change of pace, when the protagonist's, Oliver's, actual plans for coming to Kimberly are revealed to the audience. Oliver had a secret, a real reason why he decided to attend this specific school and, while I cannot spoil what that reason was, I will say that he goes out of his way to keep it a secret from everyone, including his friends.

The secret is revealed to us, but, while interesting, the show doesn't treat it any more than a simple arc that it dedicates only 1 episode to.

It was an interesting detour, but it only acted as that, a detour, so that the show would return to its mundane teen drama rhetoric, that it enjoys so much.

Granted, I did like some aspects of it, such as talking about rights activism for magical creatures through Katie, or having metaphors for transgenderism, as it'll soon be revealed later on, but sadly these issues are very little talked about and they feel more shoehorned into the story because they are trendy leftwing topics that the author of the novels resonated with, rather than them having an important role in the plot (the transgender thing does come up during the ending of season 1, so it does play a very small role, but only marginally).

As such, they come across as afterthoughts which, while they are refreshing to see them addressed in an anime, they are only superficially glossed over and talked about minimally.

And other than these political undertones that exist and the protagonist's hidden agenda, the show falls short of expectations, becoming your average teen drama tale, which just so happens to take place at a magical school.

I wish there was more focus on the stuff that really matters, but alas, the stuff that we get is mostly school drama, like I said.

The last couple of episodes introduced did present a semi-interesting adventure that did detach the plot from the school setting for a significant amount of time, which I enjoyed.

The new plot was very welcome and I absolutely loved it for at least being a bit different and presenting an actually interesting challenge that the main characters have to deal with.

If the entire season was an adventure like that, rather than the last 4 episodes, then I might have enjoyed it a bit more.

But I digress.

Honestly, while this show does seem to draw heavy inspiration from the Harry Potter novels, it managed to build an identity of its own, and I feel like that's respectable.

Despite being mostly about school life and talking about teen lives, it did manage to summon enough interesting ideas to become at least a passable means of spending your free time.

Would I watch a season 2 of this? Probably I will.

Despite all of its shortcomings and, in my opinion, mediocre writing, it did entertain me enough to make me say that it had a lot of potential.

And despite having an overpowered protagonist that seems to do exceptionally well at everything that he does (which I always hate), I will say that I did become engaged enough into this world that I am curious to see how the plot will evolve, if a season 2 will ever get greenlit again.

And if a season 2 never does get greenlit, I probably won't shed a tear, though.

5. The Dreaming Boy Is a Realist

Missing image

  • Available on HiDive

Since this will be my last show I'm ever going to review from the HiDive service (because I'm refusing to renew my subscription for their website, since they continue to refuse to offer any shows to Romania), then I hoped that this will, at the very least, be kind of a grandous end to my journey.

Sadly, this show is not that grand, nor that memorable.

The show is about a high school student named Wataru Sajō who is unhealthily infatuated with a classmate of his named Aika Natsukawa.

Sajō wants to keep inviting Natsukawa out on a date but she constantly refuses. From a third person's perspective, it's very clear that their romantic relationship is very much one-sided, and that Sajō acts more like a stalker than a potential mate towards Natsukawa, much to the latter's distaste.

One day, as he keeps following her to their class, a soccer ball just so happens to accidentally hit Sajō on the head. This doesn't cause any health problems or loss of memory, but, somehow, causes Sajō to have a very severe and abrupt shift in personality.

Now, Sajō realizes out of nowhere, the error of his ways, and he stops following Natsukawa around.

He became aware of how his pestering is causing the poor girl discomfort and suddenly decides to distance himself from her, so that it won't cause her any more troubles.

Natsukawa, on her end, becomes concerned to see that the stalker that had always been following her around is becoming disinterested in her and, as the distance between them finally starts to grow, rather than being relieved that she is finally getting breathing space away from the boy, she becomes worried.

And so begins the story of the dreaming boy that suddenly became a realist and who decided to stop aiming for the popular attractive girl.

OK, so that's the synopsis.

Right off the bat, I can say that I really liked the moral lessons that this show started out with.

The idea of a guy realizing how annoying it must be to constantly pester the girl who he's infatuated with is a very nice lesson to teach, in my opinion.

For this reason alone I had decided to pick this show up and follow it.

Usually I'm not a fan of slice of life high school romantic comedies, because I always find them dull and boring, but I decided to give this show a try anyway.

And, despite me giving it a lot of chances, I will say that this was the biggest letdown of this season's lineup.

The ideas that this show presents are somewhat interesting, though, and I feel like, on paper, this story would definitely give you the sense that it has a lot of potential and that it should work on multiple levels.

However, in practice, it kind of falls short of expectations.

What do I mean?

This show acts as a slice of life teen comedy series that tries to convey valuable life lessons, throughout its airing.

And, to give credit where credit is due, I genuinely feel like the life lessons that it tries to convey are worthwhile and they are valuable.

Lessons such as “know when to give someone space for themselves”, “learn to value the people in your life and your relationships with them while you still can”, “work hard to become a productive member of society” and “learn how to respect your younger siblings and allow them to become independent from you as they grow older” are all cleverly baked into the episodes of this series and, for what it's worth, it explores them to a significant degree.

And these are good lessons to teach, especially to teenagers who need these lessons the most.

Natsukawa suddenly realizes that the gap between her and Sajō is growing larger and larger with each passing day and, as time goes on, she starts misinterpreting the distance that he's keeping between himself and her (which he is maintaining out of consideration for her and her social reputation) as him starting to dislike her, which bothers her.

This becomes especially compounded by the fact that Sajō is becoming more and more involved in the lives of other girls as well during this time, making her somewhat jealous even.

These are all good ideas and they are explored well but, at the end of the day, there is one glaring issue that becomes apparent even from episode one of this TV show: that the show is excruciatingly boring.

This is what I mean when I say that this lacks in execution: while, in theory, these are very good ideas to build a proper slice of life story out of, in practice, the show is taking these ideas and applying them in the least interesting ways possible.

My main problem with this show is that the romance aspect of it is being sidelined by slice of life subplots that really really should not be explored without spicing them up at least mildly.

What I mean is that Sajō's interactions with girls other than Natsukawa in this show can be very briefly summarized by one sentence: that he got friend-zoned by every girl he comes across.

That's literally it.

At one point, he becomes approached by a girl named Rena, who wants to flirt with him because she had recently broke up with her boyfriend and wants to use Sajō as a means of getting revenge against him.

However, rather than taking this chance to become romantically involved with her, Sajō instead goes the route of trying to explain to her his life story and his past relationship with Natsukawa, which convinces Rena to reconcile with her boyfriend and resume her relationship with him.

Simply put, he got friend zoned by Rena.

Or how about another instance where, Sajō meets up with another girl, at a part time job, who's visibly socially awkward and very timid and, when he has the chance to grow closer to her and even goes out of his way to pull her out of her own shell so that she can become better at her job, it immediately becomes obvious that their relationship is doomed to remain platonic, as the girl in question is too shy to initiate any romantic moves and Sajō himself seems to have little interest in her.

Granted, the show's obvious end goal with showing these various relationships between Sajō and all these girls is clearly to make Natsukawa become jealous and force her hand to become more aggressive in reciprocating Sajō's affection towards her. I get that, I really do.

However, using jealousy as the main way to establish a romantic connection between two characters that never had any chemistry beforehand feels a bit unorthodox and, dare I say it, cheap even.

The harem that this show tries to boast is pretty much non-existent as the nature of Sajō's relationships with other girls is purely platonic, as becomes obvious over the episodes, the only exception to this rule being Natsukawa herself.

And, while her coming out of her shell and building up the courage to try to become closer to Sajō in response to her jealousy is supposedly the main goal of all of this, this plot point really isn't advanced until the very last couple of episodes of season 1.

Up until then, the show focuses on Sajō's mundane and, I'd even go so far as saying, numbingly boring life: how he tries to help out his friends, how he becomes the interest of the Public Morals Committee of their school and how he is getting approached by them to be enrolled in it, how he has to do various chores for his bigger sister who's part of the student council, how he gets a part time job, how he helps his new coworker girl to become social enough to interact with customers, how he tries to make a self-crafted birthday gift.

And none of this stuff involves Natsukawa or her jealousy, nor is it interesting in the least.

The show simply constantly switches between showing Sajō doing various mundane things in his life that usually involves some girl that he's friends with, and then showing Natsukawa how she's very worried that Sajō now hates her because he stopped approaching her. Rinse and repeat, ad nauseam.

After awhile, around the midpoint of this show, I became aware of this formula and, by the time season 1 was approaching its end, I was already sick of it.

I couldn't care less about Sajō's life, nor his relationship with any of these girls.

Sajō has a boring personality as it is, being the reliable and laid back teen that has a down-to-earth view on life and who knows exactly what to say at the right time and at the right place to solve someone else's problems for them.

Natsukawa, for her part, is even more cliched, with the stereotypical boring tsundere personality with no twists or anything interesting added on top of it. She just thinks she hates Sajō for constantly stalking her but, the moment he becomes independent and starts minding his own business and leaves her alone, she develops Stockholm syndrome and now she starts growing affection towards him.

That's her personality in a nutshell.

And while, say, TenPuru: No One Can Live on Lonelines, is a million times less believable and is completely unrealistic compared to the stuff that happens in this show, it is also a million times more entertaining than it.

Why? Because, TenPuru is fun. That's all there is to it.

Yeah, it's got a harem, yeah the romantic comedy is way more on the nose than this show and the sexual antics are over the roof but, I will say, that's what makes it such a charming experience (not to mention the delicious fanservice that Tenpuru has and which this show sorely lacks). And frankly I would rather watch Tenpuru 3 times in a row again before I'd decide to watch even a single episode from this show.

I get it that this is kind of expected, given that this is a slice of life high school comedy, and I should expect a show that displays such mundane things that pertain to a teenager's life, but, in my opinion, slices of life can be done right and even entertaining. Tenpuru showed how that can be done and it did it well. This show does it wrong, and I really am disinterested in it, as a result.

Oh well, maybe we'll get something better in the future. But until then, this show will be a prime example of how not to do slice of life.

Oh yeah, and the ending was boring. Without spoiling too much, I will say that at least it did conclude on a semi-sweet romantic note between the protagonist and Natsukawa but, honestly, the way they did it is also very held back and uninteresting. Very much not worth the 12 episodes that you needed to watch to get to it.

 
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from AnimeZone

A map showing which European countries are allowed to stream Paramount content

In this blog post, I'll be covering HiDive's decision to lock out my country from accessing specific content that they offer.

Yeah, there's no two ways of putting this.

Geo-blocking, as a practice, is something I've never liked to begin with.

Without going too much into detail, the idea of geo-blocking video entertainment feels like a relic of a past era, of a simpler time where TV stations were region-based and content producers could just cherry pick which stations in which country got to air their show, at their whims.

If said producers felt like it made no sense to air the show in a specific country because that country's audience wouldn't find their content particularly appealing, then they could simply skip on having to pay that channel money to air their show and instead opt to air it in a more lucrative country where the audience retention would be higher and, thus, they would earn back more money from the ads that would get aired during the breaks.

Such was the world of television, and, like it or not, that was the business model.

Content producers had final say on where their shows aired and their decisions were final.

If they, for whatever reason, disliked one particular country and didn't want to air their show there, they had complete control over that and would simply choose to forgo any revenues from that country, in exchange for simply blacklisting it so that their show never aired there.

This business model, as unpopular as it was, made a lot of sense back then and I feel like it also made sense given the technological limitations at the time.

However, we don't live in that era anymore.

The rise in popularity of video on demand services was supposed to change all of this. Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, all these services functioned over the internet, a semi-free environment where such limitations simply did not exist anymore.

Yes, ISPs and autonomous systems are, by definition, geographically bound to a specific physical area on a map, but the flow of data through their wires is, for all intents and purposes, nomad.

Even if, in theory, you could trace the origin of a specific customer of your service by looking at his IP address (and that would, for 90% of cases, be enough to determine his geographical location semi-accurately) there was no reason to expect that this person was of any particular nationality.

Maybe they were simply at a hotel room in a foreign country, using their internet, so locking them out of specific content just because their IP was from a specific country would feel baseless.

Or maybe they would use an anonymization service, that hides their real IP behind a fake one, such as a proxy, a VPN or even the Tor network, in which case, you couldn't even accurately determine their location to begin with.

With such techniques at everyone's disposal, it felt very meaningless to try to impose the same restrictions of geo-blocking that used to exist in the archaic world of TV stations onto the digital and modern world of video on demand streaming.

And yet, not wishing to lose the control that they once had at their disposal, the copyright owners of entertainment media still chose to grip at the power that they still had and gave the streaming platforms ultimatums, by saying “You either give us the choice of selecting the countries we want to share our TV series and movies to, or we're not giving you sharing rights at all!”.

And when Netflix and all these other tech companies tried to push back and say “But what about customers that use VPNs?”, the copyright holders would just reply “Just block them!” without any second thought.

As far as the copyright holders were concerned, internet streaming was a gamble to begin with, and even if their very restrictive and obsessive desire for control would be seen negatively by the general public and would cause severe reputation loss, for them it still didn't matter much, since they had already built their empire using the traditional TV platform.

Basically, if internet streaming didn't work out according to their rules, then the only loss they would incur would be the loss of another revenue stream.

If things didn't work out, they could just return to the traditional TV medium instead and just make more money out of TV ads and home video releases, instead.

The true losers in that gamble would be the middlemen, the tech companies that relied on popularity to get off the ground like Netflix, that needed those entertainment properties to gather an audience that could support their business.

Seeing how they couldn't afford to lose this gamble, they submitted to the copyright holders' decision and implemented the necessary restrictions into their platform so that, as accurately as they could, they would then lock out specific countries from viewing geo-restricted content, at the whims of the licensors themselves.

“But what about the VPN and Tor users then?” you may ask?

Well, they got the short end of the stick. Netflix blocks VPN users. All the time.

And, it's not just Netflix that does this. Most, if not all video on demand providers block VPN and tor connections to their services, because they cannot accurately determine the end user's geographical location when using such technologies.

Granted, I'm sure a more sophisticated approach would have been preferable to solving this issue but, at the end of the day, the simplest solution was the one that had been adopted, which is to just block them.

Yeah, it sucks.

And, since I'm posting this on an anime blog, I should mention that Crunchyroll, as well, blocks VPNs as well, in case you were wondering.

That's because the copyright owners of TV anime shows in Japan are just as obsessive and just as much of a control freaks as their fellow peers in America.

But what's the issue with HiDive

Ah yes, now we get into the meat and bones of this article.

Everything I had written up until now was just the preliminary piece, to give you background on the topic, before we dive into the main issue that I want to talk about.

You see, my woes aren't with the practice of geo-blocking anymore.

Granted, I feel like there could be better approaches to handling such cases as having customers use VPNs but, at the end of the day, I get it.

Control freaks want to control and they need to be able to dictate exactly, in which parts of the world, their content can be streamed to.

This has been the case with traditional TV, it has also been the case with home media (you can Google “Blu-ray discs region lock” if you're curious) and it will sadly seem to be the case for internet streaming as well.

No, I came to accept this reality as the simple fact of life that it is. I don't like it but, much in the same way that cancer or poverty exists, I will concede that I don't have to like something to admit that it still exists.

The issue that I have is with streaming services that retroactively decide to just revoke access to their content after the fact.

HiDive is the subject I'll be talking about today, although this blog post will apply to anyone that does this.

The story

You see, back in 2021, I made a HiDive account for myself.

The reason I did this, while also already having a Crunchyroll account, was that I wanted to expand my catalogue of Japanese anime that I would watch on a regular basis and, also, I wanted to financially support video on demand platforms that did not mandate the installation of a proprietary client on my system in order to stream content from them.

I don't want to go too much into technical details and over the debate of Free software vs. proprietary software since that isn't the goal of this post.

Suffice it to say, I wanted to minimize the amount of proprietary software I had installed on my system to the bare minimum, and avoiding to install the Widevine CDM plugin into my browser was what I was seeking.

Sadly, the most popular of video on demand platforms, would never allow me to stream their content when they detected that I didn't have such a plugin installed on my system (since, without this plugin, there was no way to reliably create a secure environment, over which copyright protected content would be handed over to).

To this day, I've only seen two platforms that allowed me to stream which also didn't mandate that I install the Widevine CDM on my system. Those two were: Crunchyroll (which, for the record, doesn't do that anymore, as of the making of this blog post, and they now do mandate that you install the CDM if you want to play their video content) and HiDive. *Note: there was also another one called Wakanim that supposedly allowed this but I could never verify this myself due to them auto-selecting the Russian language for their website whenever I visited them from my location, for whatever reason, even though I don't and have never been to Russia in my whole life so, yeah*

HiDive, for its part, seemed like just a smaller, less reputable and more indie video on demand platform that advertised itself as hosting a lot of anime TV shows.

Despite being smaller than Crunchyroll, I believe they charged even more of a monthly price than Crunchyroll did but, in the end, I just chalked it up to them being a smaller company and, thus, needing more revenue just to grow and stay afloat than Crunchyroll did, so I accepted this and payed their price.

Their catalogue for Romania was, to put it mildly, very laughable.

They had a total of 20 TV shows to select from. That's it.

And, keep in mind, I'm being very generous when I say 20, because I don't think they even had that many. I'm pretty sure they had just 10 but, to give them the benefit of the doubt, let's just say they had 20.

And the shows they had were not the big names in anime that you would expect from a reputable streaming service. I think, among the titles which they had was Why the Hell Are You Here, Teacher!?, Peter Grill and the Philosopher’s Time and My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, as I Expected (and the last one wasn't even complete I believe, since it didn't include either the first or the last season, I can't remember which one).

So already, their offering was extremely poor compared to Crunchyroll, that had over 100 TV shows to choose from, at least.

But hey, I wanted to give it a chance. With as poor of a catalogue as that one, I still decided to go ahead and see how much I could enjoy them.

And so I began watching stuff from them.

As time went on, more stuff began being added to the catalogue, and I began to enjoy some shows, notable instances being, for example, The Executioner and her way of Life, Kaginado and Tokyo Mew Mew New.

So, while not impressed, I was having a decent time with it.

That was until the tragedy struck.

The tragedy

One day I tried visiting the website to watch a new episode of Tokyo Mew Mew New. But as soon as the browser attempted to load the site, it loaded a seemingly random page that showed me a large banner image that claimed that the website had no content available for my region.

The image banner that loaded showing a large text of "CONTENT CURRENTLY NOT AVAILABLE IN YOUR REGION"

This was very odd.

Surely it couldn't have been a VPN problem since, back then, I had no VPN at all.

I wasn't accessing the website from Tor either, so I had no idea what was going on.

Thinking that this must have been a bug, I cleared my browser's cookies and reloaded the page. Again, I got the same error.

I then closed the browser and opened it back up, made sure the cookies were gone again and then re-attempted the website. Again, same banner image.

And it was just that image. All the links on the website except for the “Contact us” one didn't lead me to anywhere else.

It didn't matter what I clicked, the annoying image wouldn't go away.

I couldn't even log into my own account.

So, angry about what happened, I went ahead and used the only working “Contact us” link to land on their support page (which did work, thankfully) and I eventually got in touch with a support employee.

I asked him what the deal was. I told him that I've already paid in advance for 1 year worth of access and this person was kind enough to trigger a refund for me, so that I got my money back soon afterwards.

He told me that HiDive execs decided to rescind all content delivery plans to Romania and that there were no plans to bring them back yet.

Naturally, I was very pissed.

Obviously the fact that I got my money back was some consolation that patched the wound a little bit but, still, what I wanted was access to their video catalogue, not this sorry excuse.

And hey, maybe I could have taken it a bit better had they had the transparency to at least send me an email in advance letting me know that, starting from date X, I would lose access to their catalogue.

But no, they never bothered.

And they didn't even have the decency of automatically reimbursing me when they stopped their access to Romania.

Had I been the type of person that seldom accessed their website, maybe once a week or even once every couple of months, I would never have noticed this change and I wouldn't have even known to ask for support to give me my money back. I'm sure that's what they were hoping for, to keep the money from those that were literally abandoned by their site and hoping that the victims wouldn't notice to ask for their money back.

Needless to say, this was a very shady move from their part.

Conclusion

I don't even know what to say at this point.

To some extent, I should probably say that I shouldn't have continued working with this website.

The lack of professionalism in their handling of region lockout left a lot to be desired. Hell, this is the first (and, so far, only service) that I've seen do something like this: rescind access to a country that they used to provide access to.

To some extent, some might say that the writing was on the wall with this one, especially given the lackluster catalogue that they did provide to Romania in the brief period where they offered their services to it.

They clearly didn't care about us and they didn't want to spend more money than was absolutely necessary, to license at least some shows to make them available in our country.

But, probably due to budget cuts, financial trouble or who knows what, they eventually still said “You know what? Maybe we should stop licensing shows to these third world countries that nobody ever heard about. That way, maybe we can save some extra bucks for ourselves” and BOOM!, just like that, we lost access to their meager and unimpressive catalogue.

It was a sudden and merciful end to an already pathetic measly offering.

That should have been the end of it, for me at least.

Sadly, it wasn't. And, against all better judgment, I persisted and I eventually did buy access to a VPN service.

Now, I access their website from Finland and with a different email address than my original one, so that they are none the wiser.

Technically this is a very sad way of doing things and, I'm sure, if they ever decide to put any effort in actually investigating their customers, they will surely discover that I'm using a VPN and lock me out again.

But, for the time being, this has yet to happen. So we'll see.

You might say “Why would you even bother with them if this is the way they treat you?”. And, honestly, to that question, I don't have any good answer.

I just am in desperate need for more anime shows to watch and, while Crunchyroll does satiate and provide to me the vast majority of Japanese animated content (to which I am endlessly thankful for towards them), I will admit that certain shows I would never have been able to watch, had it not been for HiDive offering them to me (originally they offered them to Romania but, since then, they were offered to me through my Finnish VPN connection). Great shows like Tokyo Mew Mew New, Too Cute Crisis, Kubo Won't Let me be Invisible and, of course, Urusei Yatsura and the masterpiece TV hit Call of the Night.

Certain shows were better than others, obviously, but, at least in my opinion, just having watched Call of the Night was enough to warrant a whole year's worth of subscription money to them.

While the way they treat their customers feels very lackluster, in more ways than one, they are capable of selecting quite an impressive catalogue of TV shows to license.

The ironic thing is, had the tragedy never happened and had they never blocked access to Romanians to their website in that fateful day, I might have never been able to access the gems that I eventually did find on their website, such as Call of the Night or Urusei Yatsura at all since, I suspect, they would never have been licensed to be viewed in Romania as they had been to Finland. So them locking me out of their site and forcing me to mask my location eventually ended up to my benefit.

As sad as it is, it is the sad truth.

Oh well. Live goes on!

 
Read more...

from AnimeZone

Well folks, it's time for another ranking, this time covering TV shows about a skilled ninja that's been sentenced to death but simply cannot die, a world in which a technologically advanced alien race that plans to conquer Earth cannot handle the cuteness of the common house cat, and another show about a teenage boy who's the son of a cult leader being sent into another world where he has to teach others about the concept of religions and gods.

Yeah, let's dive into this!

There's a lot to talk about and this ranking will have fewer entries than past ones, as I'm making an active effort to go below the ten entries that I had last season, and try to minimize the number of TV shows I follow.

With that said, as always, the few rules that I have are the following:

  • The shows marked as available on Crunchyroll are available from Romania
  • The shows marked as available on HiDive are available from Finland (because HiDive doesn't work from Romania anymore and I used a Finnish VPN server to get around that)

With that said, let's get into the meat of it!

1. My Home Hero

Tetsuo among trashbags

  • Available on Crunchyroll

This one was a very pleasant surprise.

Honestly, I had little expectations walking into this show but, after the first episode, I was hooked.

I'm a bit biased towards this show, mainly because I am a big fan of detective stories and especially of true crime as well, so it's obvious that a show that focuses on covering up a murder would be right up my alley.

Granted, I don't believe that this show is based on a true story in any way, but it is set in a very realistic world, with very grounded characters and a very believable scenario.

So, what's it about, you may ask?

The story focuses on Tosu Tetsuo, an everyday middle-aged salaryman, who, one day, meets up with his daughter, a young woman named Reika, at a restaurant for lunch.

Reika is cold towards her father, going through a rebellious phase in her life in which she tries to distance herself from him and trying to build a life on her own, separate from her family, now that she was living in an apartment with her boyfriend.

Tetsuo tries to be understanding and supportive but, once he sees bruises on Reika's face, he begins to suspect that her new boyfriend might be physically abusing her.

However, when he asks Reika about this, she is immediately put off by him trying to butt into her life and abruptly leaves.

Suspicious, Tetsuo walks to Reika's apartment by himself, wondering what he should do when, just by pure luck, while outside the entrance to the building, he passes by a group of thugs and overhears one of them saying that he had beaten his girlfriend for disobeying him. When another one of them asks him about the woman's name, he answers “Reika”, which immediately alerts Tetsuo.

Tetsuo doesn't intervene but now he is very suspicious of everything that's going on in his daughter's life.

The next day, he sneaks into his daughter's and her boyfriend's apartment, trying to gather clues about this new boyfriend of hers but, while doing so, he realizes that someone was about to enter the apartment as well and he ends up hiding in the closet.

The one that enters is Nobuto, Reika's boyfriend. He makes his way into the apartment, talking with someone on his phone, unaware that Tetsuo is in the closet, overhearing everything that he is saying.

As Tetsuo listens on Nobuto's conversation over the phone, he learns that Nobuto has connections with the yakuza and that he had already murdered previous girlfriends in the past.

Nobuto casually mentions that he plans on squeezing some more money from Reika's parents, after which he plans on killing her as well and moving on afterwards.

Terrified for his and his daughter's life, Tetsuo accidentally gives away his hiding spot by making noise, alerting Nobuto that someone might be in the closet.

After Nobuto discovers Tetsuo, the latter uses the element of surprise to throw Nobuto onto the floor and, before he can recover, he uses a rice cooker from the kitchen to bludgeon the young man to death.

After confirming that Nobuto is clearly dead, Tetsuo now has to face an extremely grim prospect: if he will get caught by the police with this murder, not only will he face life in prison, but the yakuza themselves will also find out about his murder, and most likely will take revenge against his wife and daughter as well.

Realizing this horrifying reality, Tetsuo is now forced into a position where he will have to cover everything up, and also try to be one step ahead of the yakuza, as they launch an investigation into Nobuto's disappearance.

That's the synopsis for this show.

I'm not going to lie, this show loves cliff hangers and leaving you suspenseful, but that's the hallmark of a good thriller.

And a good thriller this absolutely is.

I'm not going to go into too many spoilers but I will say, the yakuza will bring a very talented and intelligent man to investigate Nobuto's disappearance, and this guy will make Tetsuo's life a nightmare.

Tetsuo will constantly have to make a lot of plans to outsmart this individual and you will see a lot of interesting interactions between the two, especially as Tetsuo will have to constantly feign innocence.

Tetsuo will have to go to great lengths to fool the yakuza, including breaking into apartments, planting evidence, using novel means of removing bodies and other stuff that usually get covered in true crime stories.

Keeping track of everything and following Tetsuo's plans kept me entertained every single second. It's impressive the amount of foresight and intelligence that the protagonist shows during the most intense and dangerous moments of his life.

If I had one complaint about this show, it's that the protagonist's daughter, Reika, shows an impressive amount of ignorance and gullibility, both exploited by bad actors in this story, which further endangers Tetsuo's life.

While I get the argument that she's young and not very bright, given the foresight and overly capable skills that her parents are proven to have, it's amazing how ridiculously narrow-minded Reika is.

Obviously this has to happen for the plot to progress the way that it does, but it feels to me like this story was mostly written by a middle-aged person that clearly has a lot of distaste for younger people, and genuinely believes that they are very brain-dead and impressionable. While it didn't sour my mood for this story, it felt almost unrealistic and it ruined some of the immersion for me, seeing how one-dimensional and gullible Reika was throughout this.

But I digress.

This show doesn't have magic, sci fi tech, or a dystopian outlook of the future. It's very grounded in reality. The fights aren't epic or awe-inspiring, they are realistic and, in some instances, even look pathetic from an outsider's perspective. However, given that the participants are middle aged men that don't have a lot of combat experience, I will admit that they are refreshingly realistic, which I like.

What I'm trying to say here is that this isn't a Hollywood action thriller with car chases, gun fights, and a martial arts sequence on top of a helicopter.

This show is grounded into reality, almost to a fault, and that's going to turn off a lot of people.

However, for those that like realism and, to some extent, even demand it from their crime thrillers, this is a genuine treat.

I highly encourage you give this show a try if you're part of that audience and I'll say, if this has a season two, I will, without a doubt, watch it.

2. Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku

Gabimaru looking at a bunch of human skeletons

  • Available on Crunchyroll

While My Home Hero had a very sober and down-to-Earth vibe that was very welcome, this show is in stark contrast to that.

During the Edo Period in Japan, a young criminal named Gabimaru the Hollow, who had been sentenced to death after a very successful short life as an assassin, is causing a lot of trouble for everyone because his body is seemingly impossible to be executed.

Whenever an executioner is tasked to behead Gabimaru in a public execution, the sword breaks against his neck and he survives without so much as a single scratch.

They even go so far as trying to burn him alive and yet, despite all of this, his body still survives unscathed, much to the chagrin of his executioners.

Gabimaru, himself, claims that he wishes to die as well, and is very disappointed at everyone's incapability of killing him.

One day, he is brought in front of a young woman named Yamada Asaemon Sagiri, an exceptionally talented sword tester as well as a well trained executioner. The Asaemon clan, where she is from, is a reputable and well respected clan of formidable swordsmen in Japan, indicating to Gabimaru that she actually might be able to finish the job.

When Gabimaru is asked why he wishes to die, he tells everyone that he had underwent shinobi training in the village of Iwagakure, where he had been molded and formed as a highly efficient and almost indestructible killing machine, for the purposes of serving the village chief's desire for assassinations, in order to acquire political influence.

As a reward for his efforts, the chief of the clan had given Gabimaru his own daughter's hand in marriage, to which he accepted.

Gabimaru recalls how his married life to his wife, Yui, had been unpleasant to him, as he had never had a sentimental or emotional side, which is the reason he had managed to become the clan's most proficient killer in the first place. He could never come to terms with his wife's feminine side and love for life, and this caused an irreparable distance between the two of them.

Disillusioned by his unsuccessful married life, Gabimaru had asked the chief if he could leave the village and start a new life from scratch. Because of this, he is betrayed by the village and sent as a criminal for execution.

Now, after all of this, Gabimaru claims that he has no more purpose in life and wishes to simply die already. He had come to terms with the idea that he will be executed.

Sagiri, touched by his story, proceeds in attempting to behead him.

When Gabimaru senses her cool demeanor and her very calculated preparations, though, he instinctively dodges her sword at the last second, skillfully breaking his bonds and jumping away in defense.

He, himself, is very surprised by this, as he was convinced that he had accepted his own death, so he cannot explain his own actions.

Sagiri then explains that she believes the reason he was defending himself was that, to put it simply, he had been lying to himself that whole time, trying to rationalize his death to himself in a way that he can come to terms with it.

In reality, Gabimaru did not hate nor even dislike Yui. Instead, Sagiri explains that she is convinced that Gabimaru had loved her all along, and cared for her, and it is this love for her that is subconsciously making him always react, at the last second, to preserve his own life whenever her or anyone else tries to execute him.

When Gabimaru thinks about her explanation, he comes to the conclusion that she must be right and that, deep down, he does actually love his wife, and it was for this very reason that he wanted to leave the village in the first place, so that he could secure a peaceful life with her.

After a quick battle in trying to prevent his own execution, now that he is convinced that Sagiri is skilled enough to pose a realistic threat to his life, the Asaemon executioner offers Gabimaru an unexpected proposal: she can enroll Gabimaru in a mission set up by the Shogunate on a remote island and, if he is successful at it, he will receive an official pardon for his crimes. This will allow him to return to his village as a free man and continue living his life with Yui.

This mission had already been set up by the Shogunate for any criminal to volunteer for it, in which they want to send criminals that had been sentenced to death, on a recently discovered island, a place called Shinsenkyo. Each criminal that gets sent to this remote island will be supervised by a skilled Asaemon clansmember, and they will be tasked to retrieve what's known as the Elixir of Immortality, a liquid with mystical properties that is said to confer a never-ending life to whoever drinks it.

However, the Shogunate promised only one pardon, so all the criminals that would participate in it would be competing against each other to return this elixir to them. Moreover, they must return with the elixir in hand, as well as their assigned Asaemon clansmember supervisor still alive with them.

When hearing about the possibility of being pardoned and the prospect of becoming a free man again, Gabimaru accepts to participate in this mission, for the sake of returning back to his village to his loving wife.

Yeah, that's the story.

It goes without saying that this mission doesn't go very well for everyone involved.

There will be many criminal-and-Asaemon supervisor pairs sent on this mission and, as you would expect, not everyone is going to survive.

In fact, as the story progresses, most characters will end up dying along the way.

Sagiri gets assigned to be Gabimaru's supervisor and, while it's obvious that they are the main characters of this story, there will be episodes that get dedicated to other criminals and Asaemon clansmembers as well.

We'll get to see many characters, each with their own motivations and drives, as they interact with each other.

There will be criminals turning on each other, giant monsters that appear out of nowhere and manipulation going on on many different levels.

What I like about this story is that there's an air of mystery about the island that they travel to. In the story none of the expeditions that had previously been sent to this island had been successful, with most men that had been sent disappearing altogether. The only one that managed to return to tell the tale of it was already half dead and his body had sprouted vibrant and beautiful flowers that emerged from his skin.

The constant hints of various religious rituals that had taken place on that island, the strange sentient creatures that inhabit it and the various monsters that keep attacking them will only cause the characters to constantly question what even is the true nature of that place.

Needless to say, there is a lot of plot in this show, and I love it.

To some extent, I was a bit put off by Gabimaru's extreme inhuman abilities and well trained ninja reflexes, to the point in which I even believed that he was the super-human all-invincible protagonist that I see in so many animes but, thankfully, the story doesn't go that route.

Gabimaru is extremely powerful and skilled, on all fronts, as a shinobi, and he is very good at surviving by himself. However, the story makes it clear that he isn't invincible.

There are many battles in which I expected for him to die and I didn't have much hope for his survival. Obviously he ends up surviving, but only barely, and sometimes he might have even died had he not been helped by others.

I was very happy to see that, despite his incredible skill, he is still shown to be a human that can be hurt and can even die.

His analytical skills will come in handy during battles, when he will have to survive.

All in all, this was a great experience.

I heard that fans of the manga don't necessarily like this anime adaptation, with some even calling it a poor attempt at adapting it, but, personally, as someone that never read the original manga, this feels like a pretty amazing TV series.

My only gripe with it is that I finished the entirety of season 1 and the story is left unfinished, which is very sad, and it kind of left on a cliff hanger too.

However, with that said, season 2 has already been announced so I'm definitely looking forward to that.

I can't wait to see how the surviving characters continue to live through this nightmare.

3. KamiKatsu: Working for God in a Godless World

Mitama followers carrying Yukito in a giant barrel

  • Available on Crunchyroll

Time for some delicious controversy.

This one will be very divisive, and I can very easily see many people either loving this show (as I do) or absolutely loathing it.

The show is about a young teen named Yukito Urabe who, due to being the son of a religious cult of strong muscular men, is being used as a sacrifice by his father, in order to be reborn as the next leader of their group.

The cult his father controls worship a powerful god named Mitama.

They bring Yukito tied in a barrel to a cliff and then they throw him into the sea, where he eventually drowns. However, in his last moments of consciousness, Yukito, despite being an atheist, mentally prays to Mitama to resurrect him in a different world, one where religion doesn't exist, so that he will never have to deal with fanatical nutjobs anymore.

You can probably guess what happens next.

Yukito is teleported into another world, where he finds himself being awoken on a river bed by a pink haired teenage girl named Alural, who tries to awaken him by giving him a handjob.

He is taken back by her to the village where she lives in, and there he meets her sister, Siluril, another teenage boy named Ron and another vilager named Clen.

They all immediately befriend the estranged Yukito.

At their place, Yukito learns that his last dying wish had actually been granted, and he had been teleported to a world where religion and the concept of a god don't exist.

This inspires a certain level of happiness in Yukito and, also due to the fact that the people there are very welcoming to him, he decides to go forward and live with them in their village for a time, seeing himself as a reincarnated protagonist that needs to go on quests to defeat a demon king, like the typical isekai cliches.

However, he soon discovers that, despite having been literally teleported into a new world, there is no magic or mages in that world, no liquid potions or other RPG mechanics like he was hoping for and, also, that the villagers there live very peaceful and quiet lives where they only farm and defend themselves from giant beasts that occasionally attack their village.

Moreover, there is no demon king to defeat, as the empire is mostly controlled by a central singular government, all under the command of an Emperor.

Everyone just naturally follows the will of the Empire, without any questions whatsoever.

A couple of weeks after he had been discovered for the first time, Yukito travels with his new friends to the Imperial capital to buy various items (among of which are porn magazines) and there, for the first time, he witnesses the first public execution of the unlucky few that have been sentenced to death by the government.

He questions why the Imperial capital hosts such executions, only to then be informed by his friends that, in their world where nobody believes in religion, everyone in the capital has been mentally groomed by the government to not fear death, but merely embrace it.

In the Empire, it's seen as completely normal to follow the words of the rulers to the letter, even the simple order of accepting your own execution as completely natural.

People are sometimes randomly chosen by the government to have their lives ended in such an execution, and they're expected to simply accept it with no second thoughts and no struggles.

To fear your own execution or death is seen as abnormal, and those that do such a thing are seen as deviants. Such deviants are exiled from the capital and sent to live in the randomly scattered villages around the Imperial city, where they would live the rest of their natural lives as outcasts to the Empire.

It is then when Yukito learns that the village he has been living in for the past couple of weeks is exactly one such village of outcasts, where all the people there are seen as deviants, for one reason or another. It is for this reason that they have been particularly welcoming to him, an outsider, as they are more open minded to anyone who might join them.

Fast-forward into the near future and, one day, Yukito learns that Alural and Syluril have been taken by the Empire from their village and ordered to take part in another public execution, as they had been deemed deviants due to their lustful nature.

In that world, sex and lust are also seen as abnormal, as people reproduce only via artificial means.

Yukito, feeling depressed over his new friends' incoming deaths, decides to rush to the capital to stop their executions, actively deciding to rebel against the whole empire.

There, he confronts the guards, trying to stop them, only to be murdered by one of them, named Sir Enlilta Reesehyde Bertrand.

The two girls are also murdered, as per the Empire's orders.

With his last dying breath, Yukito mentally prays to Mitama once again for her to save everyone and, once again, the young goddess descends from the heavens, heeding his cries for help, in the form of a little girl, and uses her powers to defeat the guards there, killing Sir Bertrand in the process, along with other knights.

She then uses her powers to resurrect Yukito and the villagers that had been executed, allowing everyone to flee for their lives, back to the village.

Happy that they had escaped nearly guaranteed death and that he had saved his new friends, Yukito now must deal with the new god Mitama that is now his companion, as well as with the prospect that the Empire will most likely surely retaliate against this act of rebellion and attack their village in the near future.

He would like to use Mitama's god powers to defend their village, but he then learns that, because there is no religion in this world and she has no followers in it, her powers are very limited and of little use.

Apparently, a god's powers are directly proportional to the number of followers following and worshiping that god, which means that Mitama now has almost no powers, since she has no followers.

Seeing no other means of defending the village, Yukito sets out to follow in his father's footsteps and become the new cult leader, resolving to introduce the concept of religion in that new world and of convincing as many people there, as possible, to become Mitama's followers to increase her powers, to the point in which they will be able to fight against the Empire.

Yes, so that's the plot.

Already out of the bat, you can tell that there is going to be a lot of talks about religion and faith in this show. That's simply unavoidable with a plot like this.

Yukito will slowly have to introduce these concepts to his fellow villagers, using whichever tactics he had learned over the years from his father to win over as many followers as he can.

Mitama, being a god, is very pleased to gain followers for herself, although her ultimate wish seems to be for Yukito to become her follower as well, despite him refusing to do so.

Yes, despite seeing Mitama with his own eyes and despite having been saved at least twice already by her powers, Yukito still remains an atheist and refuses to worship her.

It becomes a recurrent gag how Mitama constantly persuades him to become her follower, and he constantly avoids doing just that.

Instead, Yukito chooses to become the leader of Mitama's new cult (of which he is the only member so far), and tries to use whatever power Mitama has left in her to perform miracles in order to win over other people.

He uses her powers to bring modern technology for farming and defense to the villagers, who seem to be living with prehistoric tools, he intentionally manipulates and takes advantage of people when they are emotionally vulnerable and depressed to bring them over to become Mitama's followers, and he will use whatever means necessary to gain influence, not just in that village, but everywhere he can in that world.

Yukito will not even hesitate to outright lie and make false promises to others, just for them to help him, only to then go back on his word and pretend that he had never said those things in the first place.

Yes, this is an unscrupulous protagonist with a very shady moral compass, and the show doesn't even try to hide it.

To some extent, it feels like it's trying to teach its audience moral lessons of what tactics cults usually use in order to manipulate outsiders and how to avoid them.

Yukito will become a morally bankrupt cult leader but, at the very least, the only line he doesn't cross (at least not yet, as of season 1) is that he never betrays his allies, nor does he leave people behind even when they have become useless.

Despite the heavy subject matters that the show tackles, and how it tries to talk about religion and manipulation, it's not too shy to take a couple of jabs at itself.

Technically the show is an action TV series, with a lot of underlying plot, but, in my opinion, it's best to treat this as a comedy because this is pretty much a satire of common anime tropes.

There will be an arc in which they will encounter a semi-religious cult that tries to rebel against the Empire, and which hinges on sexuality and promoting debauchery. There, there will be a lot of talk about kinks and sexual deviances, fetishes and letting oneself loose.

Suffice it to say that, even if the constant talks about religion and manipulation wasn't enough to convince you yet, this isn't a very family friendly show that you can watch with children around.

Oh and speaking of which, among the jokes that the show throws around from time to time, there will be humor that some might find a bit uncomfortable, as it references and even implies pedophilia and doing unsavory stuff to Mitama, who is in the body of a very young girl.

Granted, to be fair to this show, the people who start this topic and indulge in such ideas are portrayed as being unsavory and horrible, the show even making fun of them along the way for being pedophiles, but it's still important to mention that the jokes exist and they happen every so often, in case that's a deal breaker to you. They almost immediately get their comeupins though, and it never evolves past the point of humor. Mitama is never portrayed in shady fanservice scenes or anything of the like, and she still is dignified as a god in the story at all times (except when she's shown in cute idol clothes while singing).

As the show progresses, there will come various fights among the guardians of that Empire and our group, they will soon learn of the true nature of that Empire as well and various very powerful false gods known as Archons will also make their appearance and they will even have to fight them to protect their own interests.

Oh and there's instances where some of our allies will receive power ups by engaging in sexual conduct.

Yeah, it's that kind of show.

See what I mean when I say you shouldn't take the show too seriously?

And also, let's talk about the CGI.

The CGI in this show is bad, very very bad. And not just the CG, but also certain episodes have very lackluster and underdone animation sequences that are very obvious.

Some might say that this is because of the low budget, but I genuinely feel that it's absolutely intentional.

The budget might have played a big role in this decision but, when I saw the last episode and how fluid the animation was in it, it was very clear to me that they had a lot of money at their disposal. They just simply chose to redirect a lot of it to the last episode, rather than spend it on the CG, and they then used the very poor CG as a recurring gag in the show.

My favorite scene is a farming scene in episode 4, where they show real life footage of a farmer on a combine harvester tending to the fields (with a filter on top but still) and with Roy's 2D head sloppily superimposed over that farmer's own head, in the most hilariously badly improvised animated scene I've seen in my entire life. This is the level of animation you'd expect from a high schooler's power point project, rather than a full featured anime episode that aired on TV.

So yeah, this is intentional and I'm sure the crew that worked on this show had a blast coming up with these ideas.

And I had a blast watching it.

Some anime connoisseurs that wish to enjoy the best that the anime industry has to offer might find such a display offensive and a genuine insult, but I personally had a lot of fun taking it in for what it is: a harmless joyride that doesn't even try to hide the fact that it's not supposed to be taken too seriously.

If you plan on going into this show, I highly encourage you to lower your expectations, turn your brain off and just treat it like junk food: it's not healthy, nor is it even supposed to be healthy, nor does it even pretend to be so. No, it's there just to taste good and be cheap, but that's actually a good thing. Sometimes, not every meal has to be of high quality and offer incredible sustenance. Sometimes, even junk food is fine.

4. Tokyo Mew Mew New (season 2)

The evil aliens conversing

  • Available on HiDive

You can read my thoughts of season 1 here but, to make a long story short, I thought this remake of the original Tokyo Mew Mew was a fairly decent adaptation and an entertaining first season. I thought the remake was inferior to the original simply because it didn't finish adapting as much of the manga as the original had but, after watching season 2 of the remake, I think I can finally say, I'm personally sold on this.

Please read my thoughts on the first season if you want a synopsis of the story for episode 1 of season 1.

This new season covers even more drama and action, involving even more nefarious plans from the evil aliens, their background and why they are as motivated as they are to take over Earth, a mini-story about an ancient civilization on an island that was wiped out by the growing sea, and the tragic and continued evolution of a newly-introduced mysterious swordsman that wants to protect Ichigo at all costs, called the Blue Knight.

Needless to say, it gets quite interesting.

For me, personally, a lot of the fun was already ruined since, as I already stated in my blog post of season 1 of this remake, I had already watched the original Tokyo Mew Mew anime and, as such, I already knew all of the plot twists and story elements that this new season had up its sleeve, so it had less of an impact on me than it might have had, had I been a completely new viewer to it.

However, from the perspective of an old fan returning for more content, I can say, I still loved this new season.

Even when knowing what to expect and what all the mysteries and twists will be about, you will still have a lot of fun watching.

And, even I didn't see some stuff coming, since, either because I haven't watched the original in so many years or they just improvised on the story in this remake, but there were moments in the show, like plot elements or character decisions that I don't remember having seen in the original, at all.

Stuff like the ancient civilization whose island gets submerged into the sea, for example, I don't remember seeing in the original at all (maybe it was mentioned in passing and I just don't remember it, but it definitely did not get an entire episode dedicated to it like it did here); or certain betrayals happening in this remake that didn't in the original.

Moreover, certain story arcs in the original were cut and didn't appear in this remake at all, although that's to be expected, given that the original ran for like 52 episodes, while this remake only got 24, so obviously a lot of stuff had to be trimmed or removed entirely.

On the one hand I'm disappointed, since this remake was so well made and entertaining that I really would have wanted to see them cover more ground but, on the other hand, I think that getting 24 episodes across 2 seasons is still fully acceptable and serviceable.

Despite being cut short compared to the original anime, this story did not feel rushed in the slightest, and it still had incredible charm and charisma, maybe even more so than its predecessor.

And what I liked way more in this remake than I did in the 2002 anime was the focus that the remake gave to the individual characters.

I don't know why, but I simply don't remember the original having fleshed the girls out as well as this did.

The interactions between the characters, their backstories, their motivations and their personalities felt like they shined in this show way more than they did back when I watched the original in high school and I really loved that.

Even more so, I came to respect characters such as Quiche a bit more, after they are explored, especially in the final episodes of the anime.

Ichigo's relationship with Aoyama is something I was very ambivalent about back when I watched the first show, but here, with the remake, I'm far more in support of it and I was actually rooting for them to end up together. This was pretty much because Aoyama felt like a blank slate character back then, whereas here he has a very vibrant and palpable personality.

Shirogane's character was a bit butchered, as I personally felt that his rude and cheeky deliquent-esque personality had been severely neutered for whatever reason in this remake, but that only served to respect him more.

Mint and Zakuro felt way more friendly and approachable than their counterparts in the old version, and even Lettuce felt like she had grown throughout this installment more than she had in the first one (and her relationship with Shirogane in this remake is actually set up across multiple episodes, rather than just being slammed in our faces in the last episode out of nowhere, like it had been prior).

Honestly, I see this show as a definitive improvement.

This didn't make the cut into the top 3 spots of this ranking but please take this as a golden recommendation from me: watch this show!

Even if you're not a fan of the original, I'd still recommend you give this one a try, since it did improve on certain aspects so it might be more palatable.

And if you are a fan of the original, I'd say you'd have even more of a reason to watch it, as you'll revisit scenes and moments that you probably cherished during your childhood.

The manga was very popular in Japan back when it came out, as well as the anime that adapted it, and this remake seems to be aware of that, it being very respectful and doing its best to live up to their standards. And frankly, I think it not only met them, but surpassed them even.

If I had kids, I would encourage them to watch this show. Even for people that dislike the magical girl genre, this show still has stuff in it that might be enjoyable for them, like talks about environmentalism, important life lessons and, of course, a budding romance between Ichigo and Aoyama.

If you have the time, please, give this show a try! It's worth your time!

5. Tonikawa: Over the Moon for You (Season 2)

Nasa and Tsukasa talking in the park, at night

  • Available on Crunchyroll

OK so, this is the first time I cover a season 2 of an anime in my blog where I haven't talked about season 1 yet.

The reason for this is that season 1 of this show aired back in the fall of 2020 originally, long before I started this blog, so, even though I've watched it, I never covered it in writing.

Since I never wrote about season 1, I'll try to merge this one post into a quick short review of both season 1 and season 2.

The basic gist of the story of episode 1 of season 1 is that, a highly intelligent genius boy named Nasa Yuzaki, who has been ridiculed all his life for having the same name as the famous NASA space agency from the US and who, consequently, tried to compensate for it by learning a lot and becoming popular because of his grades, is hit by a truck one day while walking towards a mysterious pink-haired girl across the street without paying attention to the traffic.

Nasa survives, mainly due to the girl he was walking towards saving his life in the nick of time, even though she herself got slightly injured in the process.

Very thankful for her intervention, Nasa immediately asks her to go out with him, to which she replies that she will only accept this only if he agrees to marry her, naturally expecting him to immediately turn her down.

After a moment of hesitation and, even though they are complete strangers to each other, Nasa agrees to marrying her, surprising her.

Afterwards, Nasa is taken to a hospital.

After being discharged rather quickly by the hospital, being told that he had only sustained minor injuries, Nasa realized that he had never taken that girl's contact information, so now he has no way to get back in touch with her.

Fast-forward a couple of years later and now, an 18 year old Nasa is working as a software programmer for a well payed full time job, living by himself.

It's revealed that after that incident with the strange girl, Nasa had decided to drop his plans of entering high school entirely and sought to, instead, get himself hired at a full time job, where he is now successful in.

While doing so, he had searched all those years for the girl but he had no luck finding her.

Now, soon after becoming 18, he hears knocks at the door of his apartment, one day.

When opening the door, the girl in question from many years ago appears right in front of him, with a legal form in her hand, asking him for his signature on it. The form is a marriage form and, when he is shown to be completely shocked by this encounter, she disappointingly asks whether he had changed his mind about his proposal to her after all these years.

Realizing that this is real and she actually intends on making him follow through with his spontaneous proposal from their past, Nasa agrees to go through with it almost immediately and signs the form after all.

Soon afterwards, Nasa and the girl (now revealed to be named Tsukasa Tsukuyomi) take the form to a bureau where they are officially designated as a married couple by the state.

And so begins their rather impromptu and extravagant married life.

OK so that's the basic gist of the story.

The show handles various topics that are relevant to married couples, such as them moving in together, deciding to partition chores among each other, deciding on sleeping conventions with each other, talking about kissing and intimacy, wondering about making a full marriage ceremony in the future and so, so much more.

Honestly, in the medium of anime where all romance stories are very prudish and, for lack of a better word, innocent in all regards, seeing a story that delves into the nitty gritty details of marriage was kind of a refreshing change of pace.

Season 2 is more of the same, in which more minor characters are introduced, both from Nasa's and Tsukasa's lives, they talk more about plans for a future marriage ceremony where they might invite their families, as well as address the topic of nudity in their married relationship at the hot spring, the various spots where a man can kiss a woman and a very interesting dive into Tsukasa's family and subtle hints about her backstory.

Despite what I just said, this show is very family friendly, almost to a fault.

Keep in mind that, while Tsukasa herself is only 16 during these events, Nasa is 18 and they both have the approval of their respective families for the marriage, which makes their relationship very straightforward.

Not only this but, while there are very minor hints at sex and adult intimacy in this show, they are very well hidden, to the point where if a child that has no idea about sex watches any episode from this show, they wouldn't be able to pick up on the hints at all.

And the very few scenes of nudity in this show (while there are a couple) are very restrained and tasteful and don't show any more than you absolutely need to see.

In fact, this show almost makes it a point to laugh at itself in how family friendly it is. In one episode of season 2, for example, a yakuza-like boss character suddenly makes an appearance into Nasa and Tsukasa's lives, and immediately Tsukasa suspects that he's there to bring about bad business and ruin their peaceful lives.

However, Nasa quickly clarifies that the character in question actually lives a very standup life and he only talks in a way that usually is very misunderstood by others to indicate illegal stuff. So, for example, when he says stuff that seems to indicate that he had done something terribly gruesome, what he actually means was that he had found a stray cat that he decided to take in (Nasa seems to be the only one that actually understands what he really means).

Overall, this show is a very cute and sheepish romance story, about a couple that simply tries to live out their married lives.

I really like this show and, for this reason, I decided to watch season 2 of it.

As far as romance series goes, I like that it doesn't stay stagnant and deliberately freezes in place the romance between the two main characters for eternity, as some adaptations of romantic manga stories do, but it also doesn't force the relationship to go at an unnatural pace either, opting to take things slowly but also progressing the romance with each episode.

While I do like other romance stories a bit more (like Call of the Night, for example), this one is also a very good example of how to take an interesting romance story and keep it feel fresh for multiple seasons.

Moreover, while this show tries to appear like a regular slice of life show (and, for the most part, it does a good job at maintaining that status 99% of the time), it is worth pointing out that, if you do decide to watch season 2 as well, you'll find out that there's more than meets the eye for this story. I won't go into spoilers but I will say that, at some point, there are some plot elements, particularly with regards to Tsukasa's backstory, that reveal the fact that there's a bit of fantasy elements to this plot as well.

Make of that as you will.

Overall, season 2 was just more of the same stuff that you got in season 1.

This is a nice show to spend your time on, if you're ever in the mood for a romance TV series that doesn't shy away from intimacy, but doesn't delve on it unnecessarily either.

6. Too Cute Crisis

Liza looks at a cat

  • Available on HiDive

Well, Tonikawa wasn't the only family friendly show I've watched this season.

I'll be honest, this entry is going to be rather divisive on many fronts, and I can definitely see why.

This show has a very particular kind of comedy style that not everyone will be into. As such, there will be some that will love it and others who will not.

I, personally, was on the side of those that love it, although, even to me, the comedy did kind of become grating after a while.

So, what's the story?

An alien empire known as the Azatos are preparing to invade Earth. Their spaceships are already in Earth's orbit and they are fairly certain they won't have any trouble conquering the planet.

However, as is procedure, they send a member of their survey team, a young woman named Liza Luna, to the surface of the planet first, disguised as a regular human, to investigate their civilization and technology before they make any moves.

Liza is unimpressed with humanity's level of technology or scientific knowledge but, when she just so happens to enter a cat cafe and meets a cat for the very first time, she almost faints due to how cute the creature is.

Apparently, where she comes from, cats don't exist and so, this is the first time seeing a creature as cute as it.

But that's not all! Liza will also have the (dis)pleasure of encountering not just cats, but dogs, hamsters, bunnies and many other pets from various pet owners in the city and so she will learn about all the cute animals that exist on Earth, as she will have to learn to deal with all the cute crises that she will have when meeting each of them.

Oh, and she eventually finds an abandoned cat on the street in a box that she ends up adopting and calling him Yozora.

That's the synopsis.

The type of comedy that this show has is very simple: Liza (and, everyone else from the Azatos empire, for that matter) have a psychological condition in which, the moment they see a cute Earth pet, they have a mental breakdown of some kind, when they see it for the first time. The exact kind of breakdown depends on the character but it usually ranges from freezing in place, trembling in fear or crying, to extreme stuff like fainting.

In fact, Liza is actually the stronger of the members of her empire as, over the course of the show, other aliens will slowly teleport themselves to Earth as well to investigate, only for them to fall victim to the 'crisis cute attacks' of seeing cute pets as well.

The comedy comes from showing these highly intelligent and advanced alien species succumb and turn into mindless zombies when exposed to the cuteness of a hamster of a panda bear.

If this doesn't sound funny to you, you're probably better off not watching this show, because this type of comedy gets repeated every single episode.

And while I do find such extreme comedy-by-contrast examples as cringe-worthy, I actually liked this show's execution of its ideas.

Had it just been Liza who was constantly being exposed to cute animals and seeing her constant reactions over and over again, I would have eventually become bored by it too after only a couple of episodes.

But the show mixes things up and, it constantly introduces more and more aliens to encounter these cute pets, each with their distinct ways of reacting to it, which I found to be quite funny.

Also, the show does go a long way in trying to portray the pets as cute but also as realistic animals. It uses this to teach the audience basic rules of being a pet owner like giving the pet space to breath, letting them live their lives naturally, having patience with them and not scaring them away by your overreacting.

Stuff that kids should also know about if they want to become pet owners as well.

Also, whenever Liza has to send her reports back to the mothership via her advanced intercom technology but is usually interrupted by Yozora who cuts her off by trying to play with her, is very funny to me, because it leaves everyone on the other end of the line, on the mothership, very worried and horrified that she is fighting a demonic monstrous creature. Her reports always come across very skewed to them, who misunderstand them and make them fear the cats as being dominant mind controlling beasts that enslaved humanity for their pleasure.

It's jokes like these that make me love this show as much as I do.

Honestly, this was a fun experience, and especially with the last episode, I was actually laughing out loud at some of the scenes that they decided to leave in.

This is, for all intents and purposes, an educational show, meant to be watched by both children and adults alike, who plan on becoming pet owners themselves. It's good inspirational material, with good morals at the end and a nice balanced sense of humor that, while it's definitely not to everyone's liking, will sure please at least some people.

I, for one, appreciated this show.

7. Kubo Won't Let Me Be Invisible

Kubo sitting on Shiraishi's lap

  • Available on HiDive

Last time, in my 2023 Winter animes blog post, I talked about how I originally picked ten TV shows to watch that season, but the final ranking I made of them only had nine entries in it.

Well, if you wondered why, it was because of this show. This show originally began airing in January but, midway through the season, they postponed all episodes to April, where the show began airing again back from episode one.

The official reason they provided was that the production team had encountered unforeseen trouble due to COVID-19. And, well, that's how we got here, and that was the reason I left it out from the winter ranking, since I thought it would be unfair for me to rank a TV show, after having watched only half of its episodes.

Back then, while I was watching the winter shows, I thought it was a tie between this show and another show called The Ice Guy and His Cool Female Colleague, since they were both romance TV series and I thought they were both on the same level with each other, but, after looking at both of them now, once I finished Kubo, I'm pretty sure Kubo would have come out as the better show when ranking the two. They would still be ranked next to each other, but Kubo would be my personal pick as the superior show, although not by much.

So, with that out of the way, what's the story, you may ask?

The story is about a lonely high school student named Shiraishi, who has a very troubled life due to his constant and innate invisibility.

When I say invisibility, I mean it in an as close of a literal sense as I can, without actually being literal. By this I mean that he's not actually invisible, but he's very hard to notice for other people.

His presence is so subdued and so serene that people simply unintentionally fail to notice him, even when he's standing right next to them. He has to call out to them, bump into them, or stand right in their face for them to actually notice him.

As far as the first season of the show goes, there aren't any supernatural elements in the story to explain this seemingly science-defying curse, he just seems to have been born with this property.

The only few people that seem to be immune to this are Shiraishi's own family, like his very young brother, and a classmate of his named Kubo.

Kubo is intrigued by Shiraishi's “power”, so much so that she usually wants to test its limits, usually by using methods that Shiraishi isn't very fond of.

During the first episode, for example, Kubo tries to test whether people will see Shiraishi if she sits on his lap. Seeing how others have no issues noticing her own presence, she wants to see if this will impact their perception of Shiraishi as well, if she's in physical contact with him (spoilers: they still don't notice him).

Shiraishi, for his part, can't decide if Kubo is just being curious, teasing or bullying towards him with these experiments, as he's never had any sort of interactions with people outside his family before because of his invisibility, so he's not very good at reading people.

Still, he doesn't dislike Kubo's playful tests with him, and, seeing how he has no other friends, he does hang out with her.

The first episode is Kubo trying to see if she can get Shiraishi's phone number, so that they can be in contact with each other even outside of school.

The show is primarily a sorta slice of life high school romantic comedy, although I mean “slice of life” in the loosest sense, as Shiraishi's power is so pronounced and out of place that it feels like a supernatural curse.

But, for better or for worse, that's the source of most of the comedy in this show. I thought this joke would run dry after only a couple of episodes but, surprisingly, the writers managed to keep it fresh, with jokes that made me smirk every so often, like Shiraishi's invisibility working even on electronics, such as when the camera app on Kubo's smartphone can't even detect his face, even though he's in full view of it, or how even the automatic sliding doors at the local supermarket rarely work with Shiraishi, even though they are supposed to work by detecting the body.

Or there was a joke that Shiraishi was so invisible at a class photo they took at school, that they didn't even see him in it and they manually edited him into the photo afterwards, thinking that he had been absent that day. This led to Kubo seeing two Shiraishis in that photo, the real one and an edited one, which confused her.

Granted all these jokes are mentioned in passing and they're never really focused on in the episode, but it's tidbits like these that make me chuckle to myself.

This show reminded me most of Teasing Master Takagi-san, simply because the heroines of both shows resemble each other a lot in their playful and teasing personalities.

However, Teasing Master Takagi-san had its characters be in middle school, whereas this show has its own characters and events take place in high school and, while the heroines resemble each other a lot in their personalities, the males do not. Shiraishi is a very quiet and docile character, much more subdued and less vindictive than Nishikata, and he's also very friendly and open to interactions, even though he has very few of them.

And, while Kubo does resemble Takagi a lot, in my opinion, she does have moments of weakness and insecurity, in which she unintentionally acts in like a somewhat unfocused or even vulnerable way.

Their relationship is steady and it progresses very slowly, so I was a bit unsatisfied with this, but, at the very least, I felt more chemistry between Shiraishi and Kubo than I did for the couples in The Ice Guy and His Cool Female Colleague, so there's at least that to brag about.

Their slow and steady growth together felt cute and warranted, even though I would have liked for them to cross more boundaries in this first (and, so far, only) season. Oh well, guess we can't have it all.

This might annoy its fans but, honestly, I really can't recommend this show for the romance aspect alone. Yes, the main couple is cute, and they do take it slowly and it's a very pure show in more ways than one, but there's nothing this show offers that you wouldn't find in literally any other slice of life high school romance anime TV series.

With that said, if you found the jokes that I already mentioned funny, and you'd like to see this premise explored, then this show is absolutely for you. It intentionally caters to those that like this kind of humor, so I would absolutely encourage you to seek it out and watch for yourself.

The romance alone is not enough to carry this show, in my opinion, but if the comedy is right up your alley and you wouldn't mind a little bit of high school puppy love story alongside it, then you might just enjoy this.

8. KonoSuba: An Explosion on This Wonderful World!

A very young Megumin talks to a powerful mage

  • Available on Crunchyroll

This is probably going to be my most unpopular entry in this ranking. Not because this show is bad, far from it, but because many KonoSuba fans will probably yell at me for ranking this show in, literally, last place for this season.

Let's make one thing perfectly clear about my stance on this matter: I don't think this show is bad, or even average, for that matter. I think it's a perfectly serviceable and decent comedy TV series, and I'll stand by that decision.

This isn't a case of “This show was so terrible that it ended up in last place in my ranking”, but rather a case of “Every single show in this ranking was good, but there still had to be one that ended up at the bottom”. Even when everyone is a genius, if there's a ranking, there still needs to be someone that ends up at the bottom. That's just the way rankings work.

The reason I watched this show wasn't because I like Megumin, it's because I like KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World! as a whole.

Granted, I genuinely think that Megumin is a more interesting character than Kazuma, but I didn't think too much about this spin-off series when I watched its trailer.

Still, as a KonoSuba fan, I decided I wanted to get a more in-depth view of this world, and so I went ahead and watched it.

So, what's the story?

One day, a very young girl from a famous clan of mages known as the Crimson Demons, named Megumin, gets saved from an attacking monster by a red-haired female mage who uses a very powerful explosion magic spell to obliterate the threat.

Impressed by the intense spectacle of flames and heat, a very impressionable Megumin asks the mage if she can teach her the spell, but the mage refuses, telling her that explosion magic is not something that she'll ever want to learn.

Years later, Megumin gets enrolled in the Red Prison magic academy, where pretty much all the students and teachers are members of her clan already, as she moves forward in life and tries to make her parents proud by becoming a very powerful and successful mage.

The teacher advises everyone in the class about which schools of magic they should pursue in their future careers but, when he leaves out explosion magic and Megumin inquires about why he had done so, the teacher replies that, due to the extremely impractical nature and high costs of explosion magic, everyone from their clan avoids specializing in it.

This, however, does not deter Megumin, and only serves in solidifying her resolve to pursue that type, much to everyone else's surprise.

Oh and Yunyun, a classmate of Megumin's, also gets introduced here, who declares herself to be Megumin's rival, despite them being complete strangers to each other.

Hijinks ensue.

Yeah so that's the first episode of this series.

Personally, I didn't find the first episode that funny.

It had some jokes, and I did laugh sometimes but, for the most part, this felt like a surprising down to Earth introductory episode, with significant chunks of plot and character development.

Granted, some might say that this was expected, given that the entire purpose of this spin-off was to elaborate on Megumin's past, but, after watching the KonoSuba main series and contrasting this spin-off to it, seeing so much plot and so few jokes in one episode felt a bit disappointing to me.

And that's where my main gripe with this show is: it's funny and it still has the sense of humor that the main series had, but it's not as funny.

There were people who badmouthed this show a lot, saying that Megumin was not going to be able to carry this show on her own, that this will crash and burn and be nowhere near as good as the main series was.

And, on the other end of the spectrum, there were fans who claimed that this series will be even better than the main one, and that this spin-off will become even more popular than it.

I'm not in either camp, personally.

Honestly, I don't think this series was bad in any way. I think that Megumin actually can hold a show, on her own, and this specific series is proof of it.

There were moments that had me chuckle, particularly when the characters act selfish and go against the norm for what a protagonist should be like.

However, just because Megumin can hold a show on her own doesn't mean that she should.

And while the main series, KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World!, had a good track record of making me laugh at 7 out of every 10 jokes they made, this show only managed to make me laugh 4 or 5 times for every 10 jokes. While that's still the hallmark of a good comedy, it's not the sign of a great comedy, like the main series was for me.

And the reason I suspect that this was, is the fact that Kazuma, Aqua and Darkness make no appearance in this spin-off series (outside of the occasional rumors around town in which their presence is mentioned, but they never get shown on-screen except for the very last scene in the very last episode of the series). That's a problem, since their characters were the main source of comedy in the main series.

Without them, Megumin does provide some of the comedy, as her eccentric personality and over-the-top persona, as well as the many times she proves powerless or useless in combat, do end up making for humerous situations.

But, as the episodes go by, I ended up thinking to myself “I miss Kazuma's lecherous personality” or “I really wish Aqua was here, interacting with these followers of hers”.

While I understand they needed to leave them out for plot reasons, I did end up longing for the main series while I was watching this spin-off.

And while the show never became boring in any way, and I was still deeply entertained by it, it did make me think to myself that maybe this just wasn't as good as the original was.

And this is the reason why this ended up in the bottom of this ranking: if you're not a KonoSuba fan, and you just pick this show up by pure chance, you're probably not going to be overly impressed with it.

Frankly, the only people who I assume will like this show are the KonoSuba fans, like me, who ended up watching it because they want to discover as much about this universe as we can. This series is not rich in plot twists, insane character moments or thought provoking life lessons, as some might hope. Even the comedy isn't as stellar as it was in the main series.

No, this series is a bonus for fans of the main series; a dose of supplementary material that exists to give further insight into Megumin's character and her background (as well as Yunyun's). That's it.

Then again, the show never advertised itself as anything more than that, so, for all intents and purposes, it delivered on everything I had expected from it, and then some.

But, with that said, seeing how this is technically a prequel to the main series, there might be some people who will choose to start watching the KonoSuba animes from this spin-off series first, before deciding if they move on into the main series as well, afterwards.

And if that's the case, I fear this will put some people off, as there's not as much humor or good comedy in this spin-off as there are in the main series. As such, I worry that some might even drop this thinking “Yeah, it was funny and all but it wasn't that funny” and never even give the main series a shot. Which is a shame because the comedy here is not representative of the series as whole.

But I digress.

If you're a KonoSuba fan and you love everything KonoSuba, I will encourage you to watch this. It's got some interesting scenes, it explains a couple of stuff that the main series never addressed (like Chomusuke's origin), or the reasons why Megumin and Yunyun are so close to each other.

Other than this, if you've never watched anything KonoSuba but you do want to give it a shot, please don't start with this series! It's good and all but I highly suggest you start with KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World! proper, as it's got way more stuff for you to like than this spin-off does. Only after you've watched enough of that, should you then consider moving onto this show as well, if you'll be thirsty for more plot.

 
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from Tech

Screenshot of a qTox window

A blog post talking about the history of the privacy-focused Tox protocol.

Background

After the 2013 Snowden US government leaks, it's no secret that many people, including those from the general public, have become quite uncomfortable about the topic of government surveillance.

Up until then, there was always an air of acceptance among everyone that the government was spying on them and that, most likely, all digital communications were being harvested by it somehow, but nobody gave the thought too much thinking.

Well, Snowden changed this and, in the wake of publications of classified materials that showed just how much the US government was eavesdropping on everyone, including domestically on US citizens, it became clear that the idea of being spied upon suddenly lost all its humor in the public's eyes.

Programs such as PRISM became part of the public consciousness and technologies that many had taken for granted, such as Skype, became the target of much distrust all of a sudden.

People were suddenly concerned about their online privacy, and felt betrayed by the revelations.

And so, as a consequence, in June 2013, the first commit was published on github by a user named irungentoo, a commit for a repository named toxcore.

And so was the Tox protocol born.

Design goals

The protocol, in its infancy, strived to achieve some very straight forward goals:

  1. It was supposed to be entirely a peer-to-peer protocol, meaning that unlike many other instant messaging protocols devised up until that point (such as Whatsapp, Signal, Telegram etc.), the tox protocol will not rely on any central service at all, outside of the barebones bootstrap nodes which would be used to get the ball rolling

  2. It would be an end-to-end encrypted messaging system, meaning that the only players involved in the conversation would be the ones that would have the means of decrypting it

  3. Once a contact's friend request is accepted, the two clients would immediately connect directly to each other, without relying on any relays or intermediaries whatsoever (except if any of the contacts decides to use Tor to mask their IPs for additional privacy)

The Snowden leaks revealed that the main reason digital communication was prone to being eavesdropped on was that the most famous and common instant messaging communication programs relied on servers to relay the messages between the participants. This means that the NSA only needed to go to the server operators to convince them to handle these messages to them, either voluntarily or via use of legal coercion.

So the Tox protocol solved this dilemma by simply getting rid of servers altogether. You can't easily spy on everyone if people are directly connecting to each other to talk, without central intermediaries.

A good analogy is the advent of telephone companies. It's easy for the government to spy on phone conversations because, ultimately, there are only a handful of phone companies in any country, so they just need to compromise all of them and then they can access the phone conversations of millions of people. This is possible because all these millions of people rely on just a handful of companies for all their communication.

The less companies there are to compromise, the easier it is for the government to breach the service.

Drawbacks

The idea, was a good one. There were some caveats though.

Who came first? The chicken or the egg?

The main issue that hampered Tox's growth was the fact that Tox, by design, was very privacy focused.

Yes, in theory, you could use your real name as your tox profile account's name, you could post your email and phone number in your tox details as well for all your contacts to see.

But, in practice, most people used an anonymous username that was very difficult for others to guess. Moreover, the protocol didn't even mandate for the registration of an email address or a phone number. Basically, the protocol allowed for full anonymity at all times.

This was by design like this.

The issue with this was that there was no easy way to find your friends even if they also used tox.

There was no directory where you could search people by name, email address, phone number or even tox username at all.

Instead, if you wanted to talk with someone over tox, you first had to share your Tox ID with them, which is this long 76 character long hexadecimal string, that they would then use to find you over the internet and send you a friend invite.

Once you accepted the invite, your tox client would connect directly with theirs over the internet, negotiate a secret encryption key with them and then use this to encrypt all your communications with each other.

The key would only exist on your device and theirs, never leaked to any third party at all.

Needless to say, this was a cumbersome process, and it made finding new people a complete and utter hassle. Not only this, but it opened the door for a chicken and an egg dilemma, because if you needed to securely talk with someone, you first had to give them your tox ID (or they had to give you theirs) over a secure private channel before you even started talking over tox.

But in order to do that, you needed to have a private trusted communication channel between the two of you already to send the tox ID through, so what even was the point of tox if you already had that?

Offline messages? What's that?

Another, glaring shortcoming that the tox protocol suffered from, due to its server-less architecture, was the lack of offline messaging functionality.

Skype, Teams, Signal and all these other instant messaging platforms have servers that are, inherently, trusted by all the clients by design.

Servers might not seem like that much of a huge deal, but it allows for useful features like offline messaging to happen without having to overly engineer a very complicated solution.

Basically, if Bob wants to send Alice a message over Skype, for example, but Alice is offline at the time, Bob can send the message, the message gets recorded and timestamped by Skype servers which are, by design, always online, and then Bob can do other things in the meantime, even go offline as well, knowing that the message has been sent.

Now, even if Bob may have gone offline in the meantime, Alice may come online, connect to a Skype server and, as soon as the server sees her coming online, it remembers that Bob had tried to send her a message when she was offline, and sends the message to her now.

Bob doesn't need to be online for any of this. The Skype server did the job for him behind the scenes. This is what's known as offline messaging.

Tox doesn't have servers, though, so none of this is possible.

I'm sure, technically, this can be done in a peer-to-peer application too, if you put enough thought into designing a clever solution.

As long as there are other peers for you to connect to, you can engineer a solution in which they store the message themselves, instead of relying on a server, and relay it somehow to Alice when she gets online, but then you have to design a propagation protocol so that the message is kept alive while peers come online and go offline randomly, make sure that a malicious peer doesn't just flood the network with bogus offline messages meant to DoS all other peers and other such nonsense.

The point is, designing a solution that doesn't rely on servers is not easy and tox just decided to take the easiest approach out: just avoid supporting offline messages entirely.

What this means is that in Tox, if you wish to send any of your contacts a message, both you and the contact in question have to be online!

Sure, tox can hide this fact by queuing the message locally on your computer, waiting for your contact to come online to send it to him but, if you decide to shut down your computer during this time while they're still offline, they won't be getting your message while your computer is shut down, even if they will come online in the meantime.

Basically, all your offline messages to your contact will ever be sent to them only during the brief period when both you and them are online at the same time.

This makes people who live on opposite sides of the planet, and who have huge time zone differences between them, very difficult to communicate with each other over tox, as one is usually offline sleeping while the other is online, and vice versa.

Worse, if you have an urgent message you really need someone over tox to read, your only recourse is to keep your computer online and not sleeping at all times, until they get online, for the message to be delivered.

This is not only a huge waste of power but, many times, it's impractical. Basically, in order to mitigate the lack of servers, communicating parties have to turn their clients into servers themselves.

And, not only this, but because Tox is a trustless protocol by design and peers are designed not to trust each other, even if they are directly communicating with one another, a message that is being received by Alice at a later time than it was when being sent by Bob (i.e. an offline message), gets timestamped by Alice's tox client as the time of it being received by Alice, not the time it had been sent by Bob to Alice.

Or, in simpler words, if Bob sent Alice a message, but Alice was offline on Tox for an entire week afterwards so she couldn't receive it, when Alice does finally come online on Tox and receives Bob's message, the message is recorded in Alice's client as having been sent at the time Alice came online, not a week prior when it had actually been sent by Bob.

This is because, Bob could have hacked his own Tox client to lie to Alice about when he had sent the message, in which case his client could claim that the message had been sent a month prior, or even a year prior. Without a trusted third party server to corroborate the sending event, Alice's client has no way of knowing if what Bob's client says is true, nor can Bob's client even prove that he had sent the offline message at the time he claims he has and not earlier or later.

As such, in Tox, the offline messages you receive from a contact are timestamped on your end as the time you actually receive them, not at the time your contact claims to have sent them to you.

This is the issue with software that's inherently distrustful by design. You always end up lacking features that software with trusted servers have.

Have more than one computer? Sucks to be you!

Oh, this one's a doozy.

You know how, on Skype or Microsoft Teams, you just have to login to your account and then you can send messages from literally any internet-connected computer at your disposal?

Like, let's say you send a message to your boss on at work, close your computer to go on lunch break, and then, while you're gone and eating, you decide to see if your boss answered by just logging into Teams via your phone and check.

You can do this because your Teams account is stored somewhere in a database and, regardless of where you connect to Teams servers from, whether it's your work Desktop machine, your Android phone or your grandma's laptop, the servers are always the same and the database that they use to store information about you is also always the same. Only the Teams clients are different.

Well, Tox only has clients. It has no servers, no databases, no anything.

Basically, if you want to share your Tox conversations across machines, you're pretty much out of luck.

OK, in theory, there's nothing in the Tox protocol that prevents a Tox client from somehow implementing a solution to synchronize conversations across multiple computers using peer-to-peer technology. Maybe someone, someday, will actually implement this and I'll take my words back.

But, in practice, I've personally never seen this done.

Only once did I move my qTox profile from a Linux laptop to my Windows desktop by copying the profile folder on a thumb drive and, thankfully, everything went smoothly and without any bugs whatsoever. That way, I've effectively moved my encrypted Tox conversations across machines.

However, it's worth noting that, at least back at the time, this wasn't officially supported by qTox, meaning that it could have very well not worked. Or, even if it did work, a future update could make it not work anymore.

Basically, if you want to use Tox on multiple computers, the official fully supported way of doing it, is to just generate a new Tox profile on each and every one of them. And that means you'll have to re-add all your contacts across all of them, every one of your contacts will have to accept a separate friend request for each computer you use tox on, your friends will have you listed multiple times in their contacts list, once for each of your computers and, even with all of this, none of your chats will be synchronized across your devices, meaning that different computers will have entirely separate conversation histories.

This.IS.A.NIGHTMARE.

If you ever wonder why the Tox protocol was never successful, it's not because it was buggy or it lacked advanced features; it's because, by design, it couldn't implement some of the most basic features that most people expect by default from any instant messaging app.

Its greatest strength, the fact that it had no servers or central database, was also its downfall: no servers means no simple way of inter-device data syncing, offline messaging or central user directories to add friends from.

This is why Tox failed

Lack of support for niche Linux distros for certain Tox clients

This is more of a niche thing, as most software doesn't support Linux anyways, but the user base that most Tox clients pandered to, was the privacy oriented, corporation hating, free software loving Linux community.

Sure, there were Tox clients that were geared only towards Windows too, but those were very rare.

So you'd think, given their primary user base, that many client developers would go out of their way to ensure good support for most distros. Well, you'd be wrong in thinking that.

Or at least, I was wrong about this with a tox client named qTox.

qTox was one of the more popular clients out there, and it was my client of choice because it had the widest operating system support of all clients.

So, naturally, that was my first choice for a client.

I also have to point out that I'm a Fedora linux user. I use Fedora Workstation as my daily driver on my personal laptop, and I love this OS, with all its flaws and shortcomings.

One day, I upgraded to Fedora 36, as that was the latest release at the time and then, as usual, I went ahead and enabled RPM fusion repositories on my system.

Then, from RPM fusion, I installed qTox on my system.

Well, wouldn't you know it, I was getting an error upon trying to start the program.

The error? A library called libvpx.so.6 was missing on my system. Of course, I didn't get this error message while trying to start qTox normally from my launcher, I had to try to start qTox from the terminal, just so that I would get a printout on why it was failing to start in the first place on the console.

Well, wouldn't you know it, apparently Fedora 36 upgraded its system libraries and instead of coming preinstalled with libvpx.so.6, as qTox seemed to be expecting, it came with libvpx.so.7 instead, which was entirely different.

I mean, I know RPM Fusion was a third party repository and that people shouldn't expect much quality control from stuff in it but, isn't the entire point of a package manager that it was supposed to solve dependency issues like this?

And yes, I tried creating a symbolic link named libvpx.so.6 to libvpx.so.7, expecting it to work out of the box, but it wouldn't. The program would still crash immediately upon start-up with an even uglier error message.

The point is, while Fedora is indeed a bit niche, it's still one of the most popular Linux distros on the planet. You'd think the development team for qTox would try to pre-emptively fix issues like these before people would make the upgrade.

And, for the record, I didn't do the upgrade the exact day Fedora 36 came out. I usually wait a couple of weeks before I upgrade, so they had more than enough time to sort this out. The fact is, they didn't care.

Granted, qTox is just one Tox client. Their development team doesn't develop c-toxcore or any of the many other Tox clients on the planet, so they are just one party at fault here.

And, despite this issue, qTox also offered an AppImage that worked out of the box so I could continue to use qTox even after this.

But still, it's disheartening when you realize that this is the type of bugs you encounter quite often when trying to use Tox.

The titan has fallen

With all of these shortcomings, and without obvious technical solutions in sight, the Tox protocol has seen an excruciatingly slow but painful death.

It bled users year after year, as more and more privacy focused individuals sought to use other software suites that promised privacy but which also offered the benefits of centralized services, like Signal.

Don't get me wrong, I despise Signal as much as the next person, and the fact that I still have to have a phone number in order to use the service is extremely infuriating. But, at the end of the day, Signal is easier to use than Tox. And that fact is simply indisputable.

Couple that with the fact that Signal also is open source, much like most tox clients are, and you really have no reason to prefer Tox over Signal.

As time went on, developers, for one reason or another, started abandoning their tox projects, one after the other.

People simply didn't seem to care about peer-to-peer protocols anymore and, as the Snowden leaks were slowly fading out of the general population's consciousness, so too did the volunteers working on the myriad of tox clients all around the world.

And, after many years, the most popular tox client out there, qTox, had its official repository on github frozen, with the developers leaving behind a message that they're planning on abandoning the project.

Keep in mind, there are still many tox clients out there, and the main project, c-toxcore, the one that actually implements most of the functionality offered by Tox, is still maintained to this day.

But c-toxcore is just a platform-agnostic library that implements the Tox protocol itself. A library is worthless if you don't have front-end clients to expose its functionality.

That's what all the tox clients are supposed to do. Now, qTox is abandoned, so that's out of the question.

If you go to the Tox protocol's wikipedia page, you'll see a table with the most popular tox clients out there, as well as a column in that table mentioning whether they're still supported or not.

And, at least as of right now, most clients reported on that page are said to have been abandoned.

The most popular Tox client still being maintained right now is one named Toxic, a C client implementation relying on the Ncurses library. Issue with this one is that it's reliant on Unix functionality, meaning that it doesn't work out of the box on Windows.

Sure, technically savvy people can go out of their ways to make it work on Windows, either by compiling the source code using Cygwin or maybe using the Linux subsystem for Windows that's available under Windows 11 but, at the end of the day, most normal people won't go through this stuff when there's Skype, Microsoft Teams, Slack and many other alternatives available at their fingertips.

qTox was the last Tox client that still supported Windows out of the box and now that it's also abandoned, a large portion of desktop users will don't have the option anymore to use Tox, sadly.

Sure, this is a huge loss for Windows users, but it's an even larger loss for Tox, as now, a lot of people won't even consider using the protocol anymore, since they won't be able to use it to communicate with friends and family that do use Windows.

The protocol itself is maintained by the previously mentioned c-toxcore github project, which only maintains the library that does all the heavy work behind the scenes and which is used by Tox clients.

The library's latest stable version, 0.2.17, as of the posting of this blog post, was published more than a year ago at this point (13 months, to be exact).

The developers never said that it was being abandoned too, but, personally, if a piece of software doesn't get any updates for more than a year, I really start to wonder if it's still being maintained.

Technically there's also another Tox client that supports Windows called yat, but as of the writing of this blog post, I tried installing it myself and all installation links lead me to a website called www.lovecry.pt that seems to be down.

I also tried to reach that website a week ago and I didn't have any success back then either.

So yeah, I'm not getting my hopes up anymore.

At this point, I'm convinced the Tox protocol is either destined to die sooner or later, as nobody cares about mass surveillance anymore to go through the hoops that is using Tox, or, best case scenario, it becomes a protocol mainly used by third party clients that work only on Unix operating systems and used by a very niche community of privacy focused nerds.

For the past decade that I've been using it, I've never heard anyone mention Tox in day to day conversations, as an alternative to Skype or Discord, and now I'm more than sure I never will.

And with the advent and promotion of the federated communication protocol Matrix, there's even less of an incentive for people to seek out Tox nowadays.

In the end, one really has to wonder: how long does it take for a project to die?

This blog is federated. If you wish to follow this tech blog, please use the following Fediverse handle: @tech@blog.transistor.one

 
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