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from AnimeZone

This is a continuation of my ranking of my thoughts from the first part, which you can find here.

8. Meiji Gekken: 1874

women tending to the wounded samurai

From this point on in this list, there's quite a dramatic drop off in my enjoyment of the shows that I'll talk about.

Up until now, I considered the aforementioned shows to be quite entertaining and above average in almost all regards; some I consider to be masterpieces even.

From this entry onwards, that's not the case anymore and while, I still personally find this show to be slightly above average, I do believe it might not be as enjoyable for everybody. It wasn't as amazing for me as I originally hoped it would be, at least.

As you can probably guess from the title, this is a historical anime.

Honestly I've never been much of a fan of anime TV series that are set in historical periods of real life.

I've always found history as a boring subject, and because of this I tended to avoid shows that are based on it.

Now, whether this anime is an accurate retelling of historical records of this time period, I do not know. I don't know much about history, much less about Japanese history, so I am in no position to say whether this fictional retelling of past events is true to what really happened or if it's just a fictional re-imagening that took a lot of creative liberties.

Given certain episodes from this, I'm very much leaning on saying that they took more than just a couple of liberties when telling this story, but I still respect this show for trying to keep itself very grounded into reality and trying to at least replicate the real world to a significant degree.

I've read on comments from Crunchyroll talking about the realism of specific scenarios, particularly about how authentic some of the weapons in the show looked to their real life counterparts, and how the anime staff did their research very well when deciding how to construct each episode.

But before I go any further, let's talk about episode 1, shall we?

Long story short, the episode opens depicting the Boshin War of 1868 to 1869. It starts out with a battle happening where samurai from the Aizu Domain fight against armed government forces that try to take over a specific stronghold.

One of the samurai, on his death bed, has a final talk with his best friend, another samurai named Shizuma Origasa, where Shizuma tries to encourage him to stay alive, even though it is futile. The dying samurai asks him to look after his sister, Sumie Kanomata, who also is Shizuma's fiancee.

Sumie had disappeared before during a massacre of women perpetrated by a samurai named Masaomi Kuramoto. Shizuma promises to his dying best friend that he will find Sumie and protect her, wherever she may be.

Fast-forward to 1874, and we learn that the Boshin War had concluded with the Imperial army winning and the various shogunates that have been rebelling being defeated.

However, there is still tension in society, with a lot of unrest now that the samurai had their roles and lives turned upside down and are now subservient to a government that doesn't recognize their previous status.

The story now follows a slightly older Shizuma who is now working as a rickshaw puller to earn an income, as he services customers all around town while still looking for Sumie in his free time.

As Shizuma goes about his day like normal, he, one day, gets confronted by the police, who suspect him for being involved with a recent attack on the Minister of the Right, Iwakura Tomomi. This is because the actual culprit behind the attack had ridden in his rickshaw and set him up as an accomplice.

Shizuma, realizing this, escapes the police and now becomes a fugitive, ending up in the position of having to clear his own name before he gets captured and arrested.

Meanwhile, in a nearby gambling establishment, a young grey haired man with an eyepatch named Kyoushirou Shuragami, enters this establishment for the first time, and without any hesitation, manages to prove that the employee there that was responsible with rolling the dice was cheating, bringing great shame to the establishment.

As he is about to exit after causing that ruckus, he is confronted by henchmen working there who are ready to attack him, but he quickly disposes of them by proving to be a very competent and skillful swordsman, as well as being helped by three mysterious allies, a young archer named Dario, an old man named Genshō that uses chemical vapors to induce hallucinations in others and a large muscular man wearing a fox mask named Guen.

Later on, Shizuma manages to track down the man that had set him up, a man named Takechi, and during a gun confrontation with him in which Shizuma uses his old samurai skills from the past to fight him (and barely managing to survive from a gunshot to his chest), he and other police forces manage to subdue and defeat Takechi, clearing Shizuma's name.

After having seen his impressive skills in battle, the Chief Superintendent of the police force offers Shizuma a job to work for the them.

And so ends episode 1.

The anime has a fairly simple premise, although there will be a lot of sword fights, gun fights and discussions about politics, subterfuge and betrayals going on.

There will be many other characters that will get introduced over time, some that might seem like complete wildcards with no allegiance at all, such as a foreign spy that investigates the various schemes going on in the background, another skilled swordsman wearing round spectacles and an underground criminal that works in the opium export business that wishes to bring back the glorious age of the samurai and to topple the current government by causing an uprising of the samurai.

Needless to say, the plot gets very political very fast; and very complicated.

Usually I'm not a big fan of these types of shows, especially given the fact that this is a very cut and dry action TV series with at least one fight every episode and with a thick story with a lot of characters, each with their own goals and agenda.

Simply put, I had to recall every episode what each character was scheming, what their ulterior motives were and who they were working for.

Couple that with the fact that most of the action, while very neatly animated and well executed in principle, felt fairly grounded into reality and was done intentionally to look realistic, up to the point where you were constantly reminded that, despite this being animation, they were clearly holding themselves back from making the sword fights look too flashy, in order to retain a sense of realism.

While, in principle, that's a very commendable decision, it wasted a lot of the potential that this show had as an animated project. The animation looked very nice and well done but you felt like it was held back to look very accurate and simple for the sake of not going over the top.

That and also the show had no opening sequence, and the ending sequence was just a text scroll, with no animation to show. This might seem like a nitpick, but in the world of Japanese anime, a proper opening is a huge deal since that's usually the part of the episode that gets fans the most hyped up. The fact that this show did not have an opening at all was a huge letdown for me.

In fact, a lot of things about this project felt unconventional, such as episode lengths running longer than normal. Usually, an anime episode is between 21 and 25 minutes long. This show had episodes that went on for almost half an hour each, which is quite unusual for this medium.

Clearly this was treated as a special project that was doing its own thing and the staff working on it probably treated it as an outlier among their works.

Either way, while this will sound like an odd thing to say, especially given the fact that I am 31 years old, but I feel like I am genuinely too young to properly enjoy a show like this.

The very cut-and-dry action sequences, the (perceived) historical accuracy of the show and the complex story that focused so heavily on social uprising, revenge and betrayals made this TV series feel like the type of show that was geared towards people that have an affinity towards historical dramas and shows with complex plots, which I would guess is geared towards an older audience, potentially the boomer type of crowd.

While I cannot say that I didn't enjoy this show at all, I feel like I'm slightly a bit too young to properly appreciate all of its complexity and nuance, since I'm sure there are many tidbits in each frame of animation where the staff probably put in a lot of attention to detail with regards to historical accuracy (such as the aforementioned focus on the weapons that the characters were using).

However, I did consider this to be a fine show that is worth the recommendation, especially since there are actual deaths and touching reunion scenes in this show that moved me emotionally when I witnessed them.

There are consequences for actions in this show, and seeing characters die (especially good guys), gave a lot of weight to what was going on, especially once you bonded over those characters onscreen.

So, would I recommend this one? Honestly, if this is the type of show you'd enjoy, I'd give it a shot.

Hell, even if you aren't into historical dramas I'd still give it a shot. I never liked these types of shows and even I had something to gain from watching it, so I feel like this might be up your alley even if you don't particularly enjoy this category of fiction.

If nothing else, I'd encourage you to give at least episode 1 a shot and see for yourself if you'll like it. If you manage to finish it and find it interesting, chances are you'll like the rest of the series as a whole.

9. Metallic Rouge

Rouge in her combat form

Boy, where do I even start with this one?

I guess I'll start this off with talking about episode 1.

Far into the future, the human race won a war against a group of aliens known as the Usurpers, using for combat androids manufactured from technology from a different alien race called the Visitors.

These androids, called Neans, require a liquid substance to be injected into them regularly, called Nectar, which keeps them functioning and alive.

Moreover, Neans have what's known as the Asimov's Laws programmed into them, which practically prevent them from ever willingly hurting human beings, allowing humanity, after the war with the Usurpers, to effectively enslave Neans and use them as mere tools.

The story focuses on Rouge Redstar, who looks like a regular teenage girl that works as a newly-hired assistant for famous singer Sara Fitzgerald, who lives in a Martian city.

Their life seems mostly peaceful, as the media and the news currently focus on a string of seemingly random killings of two Neans that have happened lately by another Nean that they dub the “Red Gladiator”.

Nobody knows the identity of the Red Gladiator yet, nor his or her reasons for the killings.

Later on, Sara is seen injecting Nectar into her body, proving that she is a Nean in disguise.

Using this information, a human girl named Naomi Orthmann, who's currently working undercover with Rouge as an informant, determines that Sara must be, in fact, Viola Keane, a Proto-Nean and member of the Immortal Nine, a group of highly advanced Neans that were the progenitors of all the other Neans that are in existence.

Another member of the Immortal Nine, Joker, interferes and dispatches of the mechanical bird that Naomi was using to spy on people, forcing her to meet up with Rouge in person, for the first time, to relay her findings to her.

It's then revealed that Rouge has always been, in fact, the Red Gladiator all along, and she's been acting as Sara's assistant all this time to get close to her to investigate whether she is a member of the Immortal Nine. Now that she determined that she was, she attempts to kill her, like she had already done with two other members of the Immortal Nine before her, those being the killings previously reported on by the news.

The two do battle while Joker acted as a spectator before escaping by himself, before Rouge could chase after him too.

After defeating Sara, Rouge and Naomi move on to their next target that they plan to kill.

Such ends the episode.

OK so, right off the bat, you might have questions about this episode. Questions like “Why is Rouge killing members of the Immortal Nine?” or “Why is this Naomi human helping her do that?” or “We didn't see Sara do anything wrong. Is Rouge just a serial killer?” or “Why isn't this Joker also fighting Rouge if she's after all of the Immortal Nine, including him?”.

These questions will all be answered across season 1.

OK so I didn't like the first episode, going into it, because I thought it was very cryptic.

Sure, all first episodes have a lot of work to do. After all, it's their job to present the world, introduce our main characters to us, build up atmosphere but, also, it has to stand up on its own with a proper episode twist, a villain and a proper wrap up.

I get it that that's a lot of things you have to do in just one episode, and I understand why not every TV show can pull it off well enough.

But, the main problem wasn't that the first episode simply didn't have the time to do all of that in an organized and coherent manner. No, the problem was that this episode had plenty of time to do all of that, it just chose not to do it.

In fact, a lot of the aforementioned questions don't get answered in the second episode, either.

It's not until the third episode rolls in that we learn that Rouge is working for Ministry of Truth vice-director, Jean Yunghart, and that he's been the mastermind behind Rouge and Naomi's killings all along.

And still, even then, we still don't get an explanation of why all of them are doing all of this until much, much later.

The Immortal Nine themselves are also shrouded in mystery, with some of their members acting evil and behaving like regular villains, but with others acting like regular Neans that just try to live their lives and end up getting killed anyway for no good reason, just like Sara.

I like the angle that this show attempted, of trying to appear morally ambiguous with its protagonist, Rouge, not giving away whether she's the evil one or not all this time, but this didn't help me connect with her in any way.

The problem that the show has is that, for all the plot twists and world building that it does, it intentionally tries to make you ask a lot of questions all the time about our characters and their backgrounds, essential questions like: why is this character doing this? Or why are they planning that? Or what is this other character scheming? Or how did these events connect?

And the show revels in you, the audience, not knowing the answers to these, as it just teases more and more stuff at you each episode, until finally revealing the plot in the last 3 couple of episodes.

Honestly, when I said that I was too young to be enjoying shows like Meiji Gekken: 1874 because I thought they were too cut-and-dry serious historical dramas that would only appeal to a boomer crowd, I also think that I am too old for a show like this, where this type of enigmatic and scrambled plot that's constantly broken into puzzle pieces is presented to me from the beginning, and then it drip feeds me new information every week to help me piece them together into a whole.

This type of plot, I know for a fact, I would have enjoyed back when I was a teenager or younger adult, back when I liked to solve complex stories and figure things out for myself, but now, as an adult approaching middle age, I simply don't have the patience to bother with any of this.

I want my shows to spoon feed me everything I need to know from episode 1: who the characters are, what their backgrounds are, why they're doing what they're doing and why should I care. Anything less than that and I'll get annoyed.

This show, not only did it not do that, but it kept throwing more and more information my way, and presenting valuable information via random flashbacks that were intentionally scrambled just to tease me that there's stuff that I don't know.

This type of stuff I just hate.

Some people might say that doing out-of-order flashbacks and constantly keeping essential plot points hidden adds to a show's presentation and it makes it risque, but I personally just find it gimmicky and lazy.

A good story doesn't need to be scrambled or pieced together. It simply stands on its own legs, if it's good.

Jumbling it around and splitting it into pieces so that the audience constantly has to remember every single detail, especially across weekly episodes where a lot of detail gets forgotten naturally just wasn't doing this any favors for me.

And, honestly, after watching the entirety of all its 13 episodes, I can even say, the plot isn't even that complicated. Sure, there are a lot of details to it but, now that I think about it, it's really very straightforward. There was really no need to scramble it up like this show did, and the fact that it did get presented in such a broken way only detracted from my enjoyment of this show. If they showed Rouge's past and talks with her brother from the very get-go, I, at least, would have gotten emotionally invested, perhaps, and I might even have cheered for her to commit some of the murders that she ended up doing.

Then again, maybe not, as even after I learned all the details from the story that I needed, I still didn't even know if I wanted to root for our protagonist.

Especially in the later episodes, when all the cards are down and you know most of the relevant stuff about the plot, you end up asking yourself “Is Rouge actually doing the right thing here? Maybe I should really root for the bad guys, instead”.

I know that that's probably what the show makers were going for, in the first place, but this type of storytelling removes any emotional investment that I, as an audience member, can have, because I just become fully impartial to the conflicts going on. I never became particularly invested in one side or the other, I just didn't care.

And that's a problem when you reach the final episode of the show and you still don't know who's in the right and who isn't.

It is unconventional, I admit, but also not very effective at making me care.

Oh and don't get me started on the ending of this show.

The show was supposed to be Studio Bones' 25th Anniversary, and they decided to make this, from scratch, as a celebration.

This show has no source material, much like Delusional Monthly Magazine, and is an original anime, from top to bottom.

Whereas, in the case of Delusional Monthly Magazine, that ended up working in its favor because it meant that it didn't have to work within the context of a particular story that it had to adapt faithfully and it could just make up whatever it wanted, on the spot, allowing for some of its non sequitur jokes and gags, for this show, it meant that the scriptwriters could become fully unhinged.

That might seem like a good thing, but Jesus, when you get into the last 3 episodes, you will be amazed how forced certain plot twists will appear.

There's a plot twist about who the Puppeteer has been all along, a plot twist about a specific character actually being a very important Nean and not a human, a plot twist about a certain character actually being another character's father, a plot twist about who was pulling the strings all along, a plot twist about how this hidden villain planted a trap into this program that was supposed to doom everyone but then another plot twist inside that plot twist about how that got resolved by Jean, in the last seconds, because he overwrote something to prevent it from happening.

The plot just becomes more and more convoluted with plot twist over plot twist, almost as if it was a meme and the scriptwriters were just asking ChatGPT “Hey, what else can I add to this script to amaze our audience”, shoe-horning in all and even the kitchen sink in those last episodes just to leave an impact.

I have never seen a TV show be as desperate and insecure about its own plot, that it ended up with such a pathetic display of constant plot twist salad.

I simply don't get it.

This show just felt like a passion project that was either spoiled by too many cooks in the kitchen, or too much by studio heads demanding that the scriptwriters add in hundreds of ideas from studio notes, one after another.

Midway through the show it felt average and mediocre, to be fair, me asking myself whether it was worse or better than Meiji Gekken, but towards the end it turned into an incomprehensible mess of ideas, all strewn about in incoherent mixes, tossed and turned to make the audience remember this experience forever, almost like this was the last show that the human race would ever see and they wanted to desperately stand out as much as humanly possible.

Suffice it to say, I was unimpressed.

The only good thing, I can say, stood out about this show were its two main characters, Rouge and Naomi, and them working off of each other. That's it.

Rouge is a bit naive and Naomi is a smartass. They work very well off of each other and I feel that this show would have been so so much better, had it just been about these two in a slice of life comedy or something.

Really, that's all you needed. I know that the studio heads at Bones probably thought that their 25th anniversary needed to be something way bigger and more grandiose than that, but in the process of doing so, they kept adding so many ingredients that it spoiled the dish entirely, at least for me.

There's something to be said about the “Keep It Simple, Stupid” idiom that so many engineers use. The scriptwriters of this show could take a lesson or two from that. Or maybe it's the studio heads, I don't know.

Either way, though, I can't say that I dislike this show, nor that I wouldn't recommend it.

Honestly, the show still had a lot of potential and even if it squandered everything it had built up in the end, I'd still argue it's still worth a watch.

And especially if you're into “It's so bad it's good”, you have to see this show. It's amazing how bad it gets towards the end. The crash that it had in the last 3 episodes is something to be remembered for, almost like Darling in the Franxx was. Hell, I'd even say that this ending might be worse than Darling, because Darling's ending felt at least coherent.

This was such a fantastic crash. It was a crash, but it was fantastic nonetheless.

10. Hokkaido Gals Are Super Adorable!

Tsubasa and Fuyuki meet for the first time

And we finally reach the end of this ranking, at the very bottom.

Honestly, this was a fun batch, overall, and I want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed most of the shows on this list, even the lesser ones.

This, however, is the only exception to that.

I do mean it when I say that, up to this point, I would recommend all of the shows on this list to people who are appropriate audiences for them, as I can easily envision at least some individuals that would enjoy them.

This show, however, is the only one I wouldn't recommend to anyone; nor would I watch a second season of.

Let's look at a breakdown for the first episode before I go on.

16 year old Tsubasa Shiki is in the process of moving to Hokkaido, waiting in a taxi to arrive to his dad's home.

Tsubasa transferred school in the middle of winter, due to family reasons and now he wishes to move in with his father in Hokkaido, abandoning the life he used to live in Tokyo.

Before the taxi could reach its destination, though, Tsubasa asks the driver to stop so that he can continue on foot to his dad's home.

While he walks through the heavy snow, he meets up with a blonde gal named Fuyuki Minami.

He asks her for directions, she kindly obliges but warns him that if he intends to continue traveling by foot, the journey would take him 3 hours.

It's at this point when Tsubasa realizes that he had gotten off too early from the taxi, and now he's stuck very far away from his destination, with no other taxis around to take him there.

Fuyuki suggests that he should wait with her there, for the bus to arrive, as the bus should take them to the town that he needs to reach.

The two of them engage in idle banter, during which Fuyuki learns that Tsubasa is moving from Tokyo to their town, which immediately impresses her.

She didn't expect for a city boy from a place as large as Tokyo would want to move into their small town but, when asked if he finds the folk there in Hokkaido to be lame, Tsubasa answers that it's the opposite, and that he finds that place to be quite relaxing, compared to Tokyo.

She also learns that Tsubasa will attend the same school as her, which makes her happy.

After waiting a bit more at that bus stop, Fuyuki gets annoyed that Tsubasa was deep in thought, ignoring her unintentionally, so she pulls a prank where she drops a small amount of snow underneath his jacket. In response, he cries in pain from the sudden cold snow and this prompts Fuyuki to start laughing at him from him being startled. She ends up almost crying from the laughter and Tsubasa, when seeing her pretty face during that, accidentally mutters that she's pretty, which immediately embarasses both of them.

The next day, Tsubasa is introduced in his new class, he walks over to his desk and then, soon after, he discovers that not only did he end up in the same class as Fuyuki, but he also has his desk next to hers.

Fuyuki kindly helps him out by lending him her blanket to keep himself warm during class (because apparently the classroom has no heating despite it being winter), she asks him to walk her home in return for the favor and then, while they're walking together from school with her flirtatiously hanging onto his right arm, she even invites him to come to her house, the next day, so that she can learn more stuff about Tokyo from him.

He accepts, the next day comes, and more lewd shenanigans happen at her house, as Tsubasa is constantly nervous for being in a girl's room alone with her, she mischievously changes in very revealing clothing that embarrasses him, he pulls out a Blu-ray movie for them to watch together, and, during the said movie, Fuyuki falls asleep on the bed.

There's a bit more that happens but, bottom line, that's the gist of it.

In a nutshell, Fuyuki is a very forthcoming and extroverted gal that gets very clingy to Tsubasa all the time, makes dirty jokes or mildly inappropriate remarks that constantly leave him blushing and Tsubasa just absorbs them in a bashful manner; rinse and repeat this every episode.

Honestly, while I know that there are people that like this type of romantic comedy, I'm at a point in my life now when this type of stuff just doesn't phase me like it used to.

In all honesty, the fact that the show has gals as its heroines is the only unique thing about it. And yes, I said “gals”, plural; which means that Fuyuki will not be the only gal in this show. Two other gals will come in future episodes.

While that did give me the fear that this will turn into a sleazy slice of life harem anime that's gonna become unhinged, honestly, that would have been a genuine improvement rather than what we got.

As I already said during my 2023 summer animes ranking when I talked about TenPuru: No One Can Live on Loneliness, I don't mind ecchi anime when they're done right. I understand that the ecchi genre has its haters but I'm not one of them.

However, I do expect for ecchi TV series to do at least something mildly unique or at least risque in the process, to push boundaries and cement some form of an identity for itself.

This show doesn't do that.

While Tenpuru was at least funny and unhinged in more ways than one, this show was oddly very grounded into reality and played it straight for almost all of its runtime.

Not only that but it was very restrained in the jokes that it did and, for one reason or another, held itself back in a lot of ways.

For one, nudity is nonexistent in this. You can't see the heroines naked at all. Excessive skin ship boils down to just Fuyuki clinging onto Tsubasa's arm while he gets flustered and nothing else.

There's only one single sex joke that I can remember off the top of my head from this show, which is when Fuyuki and Tsubasa are inside a snow fort and Fuyuki says stuff that implies that she's having sex with him. And any other attempt at ecchi that this show has just boils down to boob or skirt shots from the perverted camera angles (and no, not even panty shots, just regular skirt shots where you don't see anything).

With the lack of interesting ecchi going on, I thought that maybe the harem component might make the show more interesting, but even that didn't go anywhere. The other gals that appear in future episodes immediately friend-zone the protagonist to oblivion, which means that there's no prospect of a proper harem even in the slightest.

I have to wonder, what even was the point of the other gals if they weren't even gonna play a part in the romantic comedy? The only way I can answer that is that, I assume that their sole purpose was to pad out the story, as there wasn't enough material with the two main characters to carry it to any significant lengths.

Honestly, calling this show a harem is both misleading and an insult to harem anime as a whole. This isn't a proper harem, it's a diet harem at best (i.e. something that tries to look like a harem on the outside in trailers and in the opening/ending but isn't actually one).

Some might say that the fact that it's not a harem plays in its favor, because that means that there's a potential for a proper true romance route between Tsubasa and Fuyuki that can play out without any interference from others. And yes, there is that potential.

The problem is, that potential is squandered by the fact that these two are very very generic character types, and their chemistry together, while it does exist, is fairly underwhelming.

Tsubasa is the nerdy city boy that gets flustered over the slightest amounts of physical contact with a woman of his age, he's very mild mannered and a gentleman but outside of having good grades at school and being good at playing the piano, he has no discernible talents or skills that come in handy outside of just being friendly to others. That's his character in a nutshell.

Hell, he himself mentioned in a monologue in the first episode that others back in Tokyo found him to be boring, and I can absolutely agree with that. He is a very boring character that doesn't go through any growth or development during the show. He just does the bare minimum to become friends with the gals, but has no distinguishing personality or doesn't do anything that sets the plot in motion in any particular direction. If anything, things in this show happen to him, not because of him; or at least, nothing of any real substance.

But he isn't the only issue that I have with the show. After all, Tsubasa is far from being the first bland protagonist in a slice of life anime TV series, and he certainly won't be the last.

After all, the main reason I decided to pick up this show in the first place was because of the gals that were featured in the trailer. I wanted to see how an anime was going to handle their character types and I really wished for a proper depiction of some rowdy female characters that would rock the boat at every turn (spoilers: I didn't get that).

The gals in this show are....very mild, to put lightly. Sure, they are all beautiful characters that wear short skirts during winter, have long painted fingernails and wear makeup all the time, but that's really all that sets them apart from the other female characters in this show. Other than that, they aren't loud, rude or delinquent in any way, shape or form. Hell, one of them is even a top model student in her class. Another is just a stereotypical shut-in gamer girl that's very quiet when around others.

Arguably, the closest to a true gal that we get to see is Fuyuki herself, who kind of acts like a rebel on rare occasions, like how she's late for class, she has mediocre grades, or how she eats during class.

But really, that's as risque as the show is willing to get with her. She still is very friendly, kind and supportive of her friends, works hard and tries to make others happy. Despite the show trying to portray her as a non-conformist, there's nothing really rebel about her, as a character, outside of the aforementioned shallow discrepancies.

The best character I can compare her to would be Marin from My Dress-Up Darling, since the two seem to have very similar personalities. And guess what? In that show, Marin was never considered a delinquent by anyone, and that's why I find it odd how Fuyuki is technically considered a gal in this show, despite them being essentially the same character.

I know that the term gal technically only refers to a fashion subculture, and not necessarily to the fact that one's a rebel or delinquent, so I can't say that it's false advertising per se, but I still felt a bit betrayed by this.

A hypothesis that I have is that, the author of this story realized that the gals aren't really that rebel to begin with, but instead of trying to fix them by making them rowdy and rude, the author chose to rather make the male protagonist, Tsubasa, be even safer and blander so that, by comparison, they just seem to be ruder.

In doing so, I feel like this backfired on Tsubasa, who now seems like such a generic and colorless character that it's not even funny.

Sure, Tsubasa is a kind and friendly character that, had I known him personally in real life, I might have wanted to befriend him, but that doesn't make for an interesting character worth being the center of a story of.

Couple that with a severe lack of ecchi antics, non-existent harem and very watered-down sex jokes that happen only occasionally, and make most of season 1 be about their school life (which I always detest in slice of life shows), and I was genuinely getting bored out of my mind while watching this show.

It just wasn't doing anything for me.

Watching this show was only making me wish that I would watch better and funnier shows with this premise, like Don't Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro or re-watch My Dress-Up Darling that had similar character archetypes, but which would surely have more chemistry and more interesting dynamic (and who are also, coincidentally, available on Crunchyroll).

The only time I genuinely felt like this show had something worthwhile to show was during its second to last episode, when Fuyuki takes Tsubasa to Higashimokoto, a local cherry blossoms-filled park where they had beautiful sceneries of blooming cherry blossoms during spring.

Beautiful pink cherry blossoms blooming in the Higashimokoto park

That episode was, simply, beautiful to watch, and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Still, it's what, I would argue, is the only good episode from this entire first season, and whether it's worth it to watch all the episodes leading up to it just so you can watch it too is debatable. I would argue it's not worth it, but I'll let you decide that for yourself.

I was hoping that maybe the last two episodes would be the turnaround point for this show, where it hopefully becomes interesting or even, dare I say it, good, and that the cherry blossoms park visit was leading me to believe that this might actually be the case.

But no, it didn't become good even after all of this. It threw us another cliche just at the end of that episode, suggesting that there would be a sad ending to this series and trying to make itself look sophisticated and deep because of this.

I'm not going to spoil what the cliche is, but I will say it's one of those endings that you see better anime have, and they would do it to leave a slightly bitter taste in your mouth, as a life lesson they'd teach.

Honestly, I didn't like that, since that cliche has been overused before but, at least, I respected that it attempted to teach that particular life lesson.

But then the final episode rolled in and, while I can't spoil what happens, I'll say, they even managed to squander what little potential they had with that type of ending, by bringing in a cheap cope out plot twist that, while I didn't see coming, cheapened the entire experience to a level that left me feeling insulted.

It's the type of cope out that I only believed satires would try to pull off, not genuine romantic comedies.

Needless to say, I was very much done after that final episode.

Honestly, this show had already cemented its place as the lowest ranked show on this list before the final episode even arrived, so it's not like that cope out did any more damage to it than it already suffered before, but it felt like a final insult to me, a last “Fuck you” on the final date to spite me for no particular reason.

I'm done rambling now.

Honestly, I don't recommend this show to anyone. While the second to last episode was very beautiful and I can genuinely feel that a lot of work and talent were put into it to give it the sense of quality that it achieved, I still would argue that it wasn't enough to warrant watching this.

The main characters are bland, the ecchi is held back a lot, the supposed harem is just filler and the boob shots that it has just gives it a shady overall feel to it.

The only way I see anyone watching this and actually enjoying it is if they have never watched a slice of life romantic comedy in their lives before and wanted to try this as their first experience of that nature. It might entertain them enough, seeing how this would be the first time they'd see these cliches play out, but it would certainly not be very memorable.

And if a season 2 were announced, I won't bother with it.


from AnimeZone

Time for another ranking, ladies and gentlemen, and this time this will even be a top 10 ranking.

Well, sort of. It's a top 10 ranking in the sense that this will have 10 entries ranked from best to worst but, with that said, I have only watched 10 TV shows and no more.

This season I've watched 10 anime TV series concurrently, and boy was it a huge hassle.

The only days of the week when I had nothing to watch were Tuesday and Friday. Every other day I had to watch at least 1 episode every evening (on Saturday I had to watch 3 episodes from 3 different TV series).

Suffice it to say, I was a bit exhausted every week trying to keep up with all of this content, but I am happy to report that, despite the overwhelming quantity of episodes that I had to regularly keep up with, almost all of the TV shows I have watched were pretty damn good.

Honestly, given the volume of episodes I have consumed these past 3 months and their high quality, I will say that this winter was enough to warrant my yearly Crunchyroll subscription already; and keep in mind, the year just started. This is only the first season of the year. We still have the spring, summer and fall lineups waiting for us.

All I can say is that I'm very excited for the future. We're off to a very good start this year.

But enough about that! Let's get to the ranking!

1. The Apothecary Diaries (Season 1, part 2)

Maomao looking at a trail of smoke rising into the sky

What is it with 24 episode animes and always ranking among top places?

Clearly studios put a lot of effort into shows that they decide to give a second part to.

This blog post will be about the second half of season 1. If you want to read about my thoughts for this season's first half, you can check them out here.

This season will continue on with Maomao's role at the Imperial Palace.

She will continue to solve mysteries for Jinshi and all the higher ups there and, interestingly enough, we will also be introduced to her past and learn about her parents this time around, as well.

She will be involved in new cases, this time covering the death of the palace's metalworker who passed away without imparting crucial knowledge about his craft to his three sons but who did pass them on seemingly random items through his will, a mysterious explosion at one of the warehouses in the palace, an odd task that a higher up strategist named Lakan will give to Jinshi to procure blue roses for a ceremony during a time when roses are out of season and, the most interesting of all, a well planned first degree murder where an agent will try to kill a high ranking official of the palace by meticulously planning multiple steps along the way and trying to make it seem like an accident.

Needless to say, there's a lot of good stuff in this second half.

If anything, I'd even go so far as saying that this second half is even better than the first half, as it got even more creative with the mysteries that Maomao now has to solve.

Granted, the issues which I highlighted for the first half also apply to this second half as well, mainly the issue that Maomao is a Mary Sue in this story.

She continues to solve everyone else's problems through her intelligence and deduction skills, she continues to be humble about it and she continues to be the center of this story.

However, like I mentioned before, these aren't really big problems anymore since, thankfully, the mysteries and their twists overshadow the fact that Maomao is always the one that figures everything out, every single time.

That, and in combination with the ancient Chinese theme of the show, makes this particular TV series a big departure from many other anime.

Overall, I'm a big fan of this show. I adored it so very much and I am so happy to have found out that a new season of this has been announced to air in 2025.

The show was very interesting and creative with its story, the visuals were very appealing and high budget, the music pleasing and, most importantly, the show knew how to make things beautiful when it needed to.

There's a particular scene that I'm thinking of, in the last episode, when Maomao practices dancing in a dress that she had received from a courtesan. I can't talk too much about it without spoiling stuff, but I will say that that dancing sequence, under the lightning of the moon, was very well animated, fluid and expertly designed to appeal to the eyes.

Maomao in a beautiful dress dancing in the night

It was, in simple terms, one of the most beautiful scenes I've seen this season; a genuine treat to my vision, and a highlight of how beautiful Maomao's character can be.

Anyways, that's it for this blog post. See you again for season 2 of this masterpiece (assuming it will be available on Crunchyroll too).

2. The Witch and the Beast

Naked human body in a field of white flower petals

This one should be fairly straightforward, honestly.

Simply put, this is a very entertaining show, but the main reason that I enjoyed watching it as much as I did was simply due to the fact that this is the very first gothic anime TV series that I've seen in a very long time.

Before this, the last goth anime that I watched, I believe, was Pupa from a full decade ago, and even that wasn't a full fledged TV series, but rather a collection of TV shorts, which had only 5 or 10 minute long episodes (I can't remember which).

Far more recently, I did play a visual novel called Ballad of an Evening Butterfly, which is also in the gothic style but isn't even an anime (although it is a Japanese product).

To be clear, I find it kind of surprising that I haven't encountered more gothic themed anime over the years, until now; and a bit disappointing.

Now that I got my hands on this, I feel a bit better about it.

Then again, maybe the word gothic isn't particularly fitting for this show, as the style of the show, the visuals and the characters are by no means inspired by the fashion trend of that name. When I say gothic, I'm talking, specifically, about the style of story telling, the motifs of the show and the dark, sober nature of it. I'm referring to its ties to gothic literature rather than anything else.

But let's first discuss about what happens in episode 1.

A conspicuous duo of a tall handsome man carrying a large coffin on his back, named Ashaf, and a blonde young woman companion of his named Guideau arrive, one day, in a town that has a dark history.

They are in search of a witch, a powerful woman with an elongated lifespan and very potent magic powers, and have heard from rumors going around that this particular town houses one.

As they're gathering information from the folk there, trying to find this witch, the town is attacked by a giant shark with legs that's destroying the buildings, only for the said witch to arrive and use her magic to defeat the beast and save everyone.

This particular witch, apparently, has a good reputation around town, her having acted for the past many years as a sort of guardian towards everyone there, using her magic towards everyone's benefit and protecting the town from monsters and the like.

Because of this, everyone there love her and support her.

The duo is suspicious of all of this and Guideau, there, goes one step further even by outright attacking this witch, whose name is Ione, although she only defends herself.

This infuriates the townspeople, who start yelling at Ashaf and Guideau for attacking their protector, and the two have to flee from the crowd.

Later on, as a group of young women arrive at Ione's manshion to have a party there for an anniversary, Ashaf and Guideau arrive there as well, and warn Mary, Ione's apprentice, that something is very suspicious about everything there and that things might not be what they seem at first glance, effectively telling her not to fully trust Ione.

There's a bit more going on in that episode, and this particular conflict gets resolved, but I don't wish to spoil this episode for you.

Generally I'm fine with spoiling the first episodes of TV series that I talk about, just to get the point and plot across as well as I can, but this time I'd rather not talk too much about what happens at the end.

Suffice it to say, there is more than meets the eye.

Looking back at that episode, after watching the entirety of season 1, I genuinely feel like that episode is arguably the least interesting of the entire season.

This isn't to say that that episode is not representative of the series as a whole, but merely that I find the villain and the outcome of it to be quite lackluster and unimpressive, although, to be fair, it's meant to act as an introduction to the show's formula and nothing more.

Said formula can be summed up as this: Ashaf and Guideau travel to a new town looking for a witch, they get involved in some magical shenanigans happening there that may or may not be caused by a witch, they solve the problem, they move on to the next town. Rinse and repeat.

That's the formula for most of the show.

Admittedly, there will be episodes that won't focus on that duo, but on other members of the Order of Magical Resonance (specifically I'm talking about Phanora and Johan), but for the most part, this is about Guideau and Ashaf's story.

Guideau and Ashaf basically act like the order's problem solvers, effectively solving any problem that is of a magical nature, for other people.

What I like most about this show is its world building. And there's a lot of it.

This world, that's meant to look like 18th or 19th century Europe, has a lot of things going on in it: from necromancers reanimating human bodies either legally or illegally, to demon swords that have the power to destroy the world, to executioners sent by The Global Holy Church to execute witches that are malevolent (or not), to much much more.

This world is very rich in background and lore, and I like how well fleshed out these concepts and ideas are, in this story.

The motifs of the show are also refreshingly dark, with the show talking about betrayals and trust, corruption of love, the macabre and exploitation of the helpless, and just, simply, the ugliness of human nature.

I also like the main characters, who I find to be very colorful and work well, off each other.

Guideau's backstory is quite interesting, and I do feel sorry for her, knowing what had happened in her past. I find it very logical that she developed a severe grudge against witches after what had happened to her.

With that said, I appreciate that the show wasn't as simple as just being “All witches are evil and should never be trusted”, like the first episode seemed to imply at first.

Future episodes will mix things up a fair bit and will show benevolent witches that simply get roped into a lot of trouble, simply for being a witch.

But what I like most about this show is that it is particularly dark in its story, going in areas that would make a lot of people uncomfortable, but never becoming gory or exploitative when doing so. It's dark and gruesome, but in a tasteful and even poetic manner, which I find very refreshing.

Also, to make this clear as early as possible: this show is NOT a horror TV series.

It has elements and scenes that play up the horror genre a fair bit but those happen very seldomly and the show tries its best to emphasize on action and thriller elements even from episode 1, moreso than anything else. With that said, it did have some moments when I felt genuinly creeped out to a significant degree.

This is the type of dark thriller that I wish more anime TV series would adopt, but for some reason I don't see this nearly as often as I would like.

The style and story make me uncomfortable, but in a good way, the action is quite exciting and heart pounding, and the world building is exquisitely done.

This is a perfect example of an anime TV series that's only 12 episodes long (at least as of the ending of season 1), but that's perfectly serviceable.

It had a very good and interesting story to say, it said it very well and the execution was immaculate.

The ending left me wanting for more but also made me satisfied with what I already got.

Sure, I will be very disappointed if a season 2 never continues this story, but I feel like, even if a season 2 never gets produced, I will never complain for having watched season 1. It still left me with a very pleasant taste in my mouth.

For the record, in case you were wondering, this is among the few shows I would not recommend children to watch. Like I said, it doesn't get very gory or sexual in any way, but the themes and suggestions for what might happen or had happened, are pretty gruesome nonetheless. This is one of those shows that, if I had to use the US movies rating system to rate, I'd probably classify this as a genuine PG-13 kind of TV series. It's dark enough that children shouldn't watch it, but not so dark that would scar teenagers.

3. A Sign of Affection

Gorgeous shot of Yuki walking while surrounded by falling snow

This one shouldn't surprise anyone that knew the anime lineup for this winter.

I'll be honest, I can easily see many people complaining that this is a “woke” anime that is highly overrated, critically acclaimed but that's too hard leaning towards inclusiveness and political correctness, to an extent that annoys them.

I know there will be that subsection of people that will talk smack about this show just because of that and, for what it's worth, I'm not going to bother to deter those people from doing that.

However, personally, I'm usually very critical of shows that try to use that strategy to their advantage and, for that reason, I like to think that I'm quite good at noticing that type of manipulation before it takes any hold over me.

But, with that said, I'm not going to pretend that I didn't absolutely adore this show.

Yeah, it's a politically correct show, I agree with that. It is an inclusive show that talks about deafness and the people that suffer from it. That's just the way it is.

If that, alone, is enough to bother you, chances are you're not going to like this show. As such, my suggestion would be to not watch it.

As for everyone else that stays around, let me just say, this show was a blast to watch.

I know that different people might have different feelings about a TV show that talks about disability and some might feel uncomfortable about this particular subject. I understand that and I can see where those people are coming from. And, if the show tries to use such subjects to gain a following and manipulate its audience into liking it just because it does talk about deafness, I'd honestly feel disgusted and give it the bashing that it deserves.

However, I never got the feeling that I was being manipulated by this.

This is a slice of life romance anime, at its core, and everything in this show genuinely felt like I was getting to see a glimpse into Yuki's life. Nothing felt manipulative about this. It was simply a show that was telling the life story of a deaf person. That's pretty much all it was about.

But enough about this! What is this show about?

Well, to put it simply, the show is about a newly enrolled college student named Yuki Itose, who suffers from congenital hearing loss. Her condition makes her practically deaf, although she uses hearing aids on her ears to at least become aware of some environmental sounds around her, even though she still cannot hear people's voices or make out almost anything from them.

She makes a friend in her class a girl named Rin Fujishiro, who helps her take notes during it.

Yuki, due to her disability, cannot hear what other people say to her. Because of this, she uses sign language, lip reading or, sometimes, writes notes on her phone to speak to others. Due to her disability, she also never speaks at all.

One day, while traveling by train through the city, Yuki encounters a man that tries to talk to her in, what she assumes to be, a foreign language. Since she doesn't understand what he's saying, she's trying to tell him that she's deaf but, thankfully, another young man nearby assists her and gives the stranger the directions that he needed.

This young man that helped her is a 22 year old named Itsuomi Nagi, and Yuki recognizes him because she's seen him before in the Cultural Exchange Club that Rin also attends.

Yuki thanks him for his help and Itsuomi quickly picks up on the fact that Yuki cannot hear.

He becomes very interested in her and, reciprocally, Yuki herself appears to be touched by his kindness.

Later on, Yuki and Rin talk at college, where Yuki shows Rin a picture that she had taken of Itsuomi's face, and Rin quickly idenfities him from that. She tells Yuki that Itsuomi works as a server for his cousin at a local cafe and bar and that he, from the money that he makes there, travels a lot abroad as a hobby.

Rin picks up on the fact that Yuki seems to have a crush on Itsuomi after that brief encounter on the train that they had, and suggests that the two of them should visit that cafe where he works at during his shift so that she can meet up with him again. Rin, herself, has a crush on the owner of that establishment, Itsuomi's cousin.

Together, they decide to visit the bar, have a couple of drinks together and Yuki gets to know a bit more about Itsuomi there and, at the end of the day when the bar is about to close, Itsuomi offers to escort Yuki to her house, as it's late into the night.

The two of them walk together to the train station that would take Yuki to her house, Yuki gets to be protected by Itsuomi from an incoming car that she hadn't noticed due to her deafness, and the two begin to split up when they get near the station.

But just before they can split up, in response to Yuki's text message to Itsuomi's phone that reads “Do you think the world is a big place?”, Itsuomi responds with a “Yeah, it's huge” and then also sends a “Let me be in yours”. That last message touched Yuki so much that she begins making outward gestures of happiness to Itsuomi by waving to him, which makes him smile.

Thus ends episode 1.

While, on the surface, this episode might seem very mild and even boring, the way it is very nicely animated, the attention to detail given to each frame and the beautiful background music which enhanced the experience were expertly done, on every level.

This show gives attention to detail to a lot of stuff, from the clothes which are seasonally appropriate for every character, to each gesture that they have, from simple facial gestures like smiling or frowning to animating their hands when they make hand signs.

Oh yeah, that's another detail that I liked about this show. I cannot speak to whether the hand signs that they were making were accurate to real life, but they definitely seemed genuine, to a significant extent.

It amazed me how sincere they tried to make the hand sign communication be.

Couple that with stunning colorful visuals that they give to Yuki whenever she seems happy or ecstatic and this show made me fall completely in love with it.

Oh yeah, and despite being adapted from a romance manga which, as I previously said, are normally very slow and boring when it comes to relationship progression, this show thankfully doesn't share that problem. If anything, I'd even say that the romance between Yuki and Itsuomi progresses a bit too fast in this show, in my opinion, which is the first time I've had this problem in anime. That was a very pleasant surprise, and I cannot overstate how happy I am that this show actually made progression in their main couple, by moving them through the process of intimately holding each other, to dating, to kissing. This made me feel like I was watching a mature show, telling a mature story about mature characters.

This is in contrast to other manga-based romance stories where, when they get adapted to anime form, it takes an entire full season for them simply to hold hands together.

Oh yeah, and Itsuomi and Yuki's romance isn't the only one that this show covers. It will also include to show romantic progression between Rin and Itsuomi's cousin, Kyōya, and even a third romance story between two of Itsuomi's friends that he had known since high school, Ema and Shin.

Granted, the two other stories aren't as well fleshed out as the main one, but it's still a nice touch to give us these perspectives into these characters' lives.

This is, in essence, a slice of life drama with strong romance overtones. It had just the right amounts of drama, comedy and romance to make me completely satisfied and it made me genuinely surprised how much they managed to cover in just twelve episodes.

The last episode, which I'm not going to spoil, had a very beautiful scene of blooming flowers that I have to say, was perfect to showcase how human and relatable Yuki is, that allowed me to connect to her character on a more personal level than I can describe in words. And yes, the flowers were stunning to look at, despite being drawings in an anime.

A beautiful shot of wisteria flowers hanging down from tree branches, above Yuki

While I hate to use the term “whimsical” when describing a TV show, I genuinely believe that that's the most fitting word that I can use for this particular instance. And while this show was still not enough to dethrone my absolute favorite romance anime of recent years, Call of the Night, it might actually have gained a place in my heart as my favorite romance anime that's available in Romania on Crunchyroll (Call of the Night isn't on Crunchyroll, as far as I know).

Obviously I can't say for certain if it deserves that honor since I haven't watched all the romance anime on this particular platform to compare it to, but, as of right now judging from the current shows that I've finished watching on it, I'll say that it's my most favorite one out of all of them.

Honestly, I can't even say that I wish for a season 2 of this show. Season 1 was so expertly crafted that I fear that if a second season were made, it might not live up to season one's standards and ruin the experience for me.

I know that that fear is unjustified, but it's still a fear I have. Still, if a season 2 does get announced, and if it will be available on Crunchyroll as well, you can be sure that I'll watch it, nonetheless.

4. Bucchigiri?!

The genie Senya

OK so, despite this and A Sign of Affection being literally adjacent to one another in this ranking, there's a huge gap between them in terms of quality.

This show doesn't even hold a candle to it, and I'll be the first one to admit, I think that I cannot emphasize enough how big this gap is.

This show has been very polarizing on Crunchyroll, as far as I've seen in the comments.

There have been people that liked it enough and thought it was OK, and others that think it was complete trash.

I'm in the former category, obviously, and I think that, while it had its flaws, it also had a lot of good things going for it.

Let's start out by describing episode 1.

Arajin Tomoshibi is a teen that's returning to his home town to live, once again, with his mother at her restaurant.

He's moving schools and, while hoping to impress all the girls in his new class on his first day, realizes that the class that he will be learning in is filled to the brim with strong bullies that look very much ready to beat his ass up.

While running away from them, Arajin ends up stumbling upon his childhood friend, a friendly and very strong young man named Matakara Asamine.

Matakara tries to be helpful and acts very kindly to Arajin, who responds with being cold towards him, though.

It seems that Arajin has had a falling out with Matakara, in the past, although that's not explained very much.

This particular town has two main rival gangs that live in it: Minato Kai (of which Matakara is already part of) and Siguma.

Arajin immediately falls in love with Mahoro, who is literally the only girl in his class.

Mahoro is a gorgeous young girl that's used to getting things done by using her charms.

Later on, Arajin gets to be chased by the NG Boys, a smaller third party gang that's roaming around town, and he is chased up until he enters an old local abanadoned shrine.

There, he stumbles upon a small toy handgun which he tries to use on the guys that were pursuing him, only to miss them and have the rubber bullet hit him in the head, leaving him unconscious on the floor and prompting his pursuers to leave him alone.

Upon waking up, Arajin triggers the bullet that's now stuck to his head to emanate a strange smoke around him, that morphs into a large flying apparition of a muscular man.

This apparition says to him that he's a genie and that his name is Senya. As he's been summoned by him, Senya wishes to grant Arajin his wish.

Arajin proclaims that he wants to lose his virginity to Senya, only for Senya to answer that he cannot grant that wish, but that they can, instead, merge their bodies, if he wants to become stronger.

Arajin leaves the shrine, confirms that other people cannot see Senya at all, and returns home.

Senya talks to Arajin about becoming Honki people, that pertain to a local legend about people that attain great power by training in the art of unarmed hand-to-hand combat.

Arajin doesn't believe in this legend, thinking of it as mere childish delusions, and instead of focusing on that, he decides to invite Mahoro out on a date.

Mahoro happily agrees to go out with Arajin, making him happy.

As they are out on their date, a strange muscular young man with green hair and piercings called Marito, approaches Arajin and Mahoro, trying to pick a fight with the former.

Marito is the leader of Siguma, which also means that he's the strongest fighter in their gang, and that he has business with Arajin.

Arajin immediately chickens out and tries to pull Mahoro away from him but, surprisingly, Mahoro pulls him back and asks him to fight for her, as she reveals to him that Marito is actually her brother, who's there to beat up her new “boyfriend”.

Marito proceeds to beat the living shit out of Arajin, who takes it because he's very weak, which only disappoints an onlooking Senya, who was hoping for Arajin to be stronger and be able to defend himself.

But as Senya is about to leave permanently, Arajin's thirst for life awakens as he's being beaten, and he proclaims to everyone there, while drawing from Senya's power, that he wishes to lose his virginity, before summoning Senya's strength to punch Marito incredibly hard, so hard that the boy collapses onto the street.

Thus, Arajin the newcomer, defeated, in one blow, the leader of the Siguma gang, one of the toughest gangs in town.

Thus ends episode 1.

Yeah, this show is crazy.

I can see why people hate the show, mainly because the main character is pretty much a simp for Mahoro.

He pretty much does everything that she asks him to do for her, without ever questioning why she does the things that she does.

Also, the fact that Arajin is very cold towards Matakara, who's constantly supportive and trying to reignite their old friendship, only serves to make this show's fans hate him even more.

I get that complaint about this show.

Still, with that said, this show is a prime example of how a series can have a very shallow and unlikeable protagonist and, even in spite of that, still be very good and entertaining. The protagonist doesn't make the show.

And I had a real blast watching this show.

From the funny antics that Arajin's mother constantly has about her boy losing his virginity and becoming a man, to a recurring gag in every episode in which Arajin's wimpy school teacher ends up going into a shady establishment where he keeps paying to meet up with a woman named “Jasmine” where it's never shown what they do (at least not until the last episode), to the constant fights between Minato and Siguma and all the subversion that a third party will enact in order to subdue the both of them, to the literal deterioration of Arajin's and Matakara's friendship, this show had a lot of good things in store for me.

I cannot overstate how much I loved the very simplistic shallow-minded characters.

All the characters in this show are so flavorful, so colorful and so unique, that I love them; from Marito becoming obsessed with Arajin from being punched by him, to Kenichiro also becoming enamored with him, and even Mahoro being completely obsessed with her brother, there's a lot of shenanigans that you can expect from this show.

There's so much personality to this show that I simply loved it.

My one complaint that I have about it is that the show became a bit cliched towards the end, particularly the last episode, where it played out very by-the-numbers and very predictably, and also it was a bit too happy-go-lucky then, with too many problems just getting resolved out of blue, just because the script needed to end all the arcs in a convenient wrap up.

But, I cannot emphasize enough that the show also has good drama in it, so much so that, in the second to last episode, when I saw a specific character beat one of his former friends up after falling into the dark side, that moment was so well done and so gut wrenching that I felt genuinely impressed, how well the show managed to manipulate me.

Sure, certain things are a bit cliched, and this show does suffer from common Shonen Jump tropes, like the protagonist just drawing enough power from Senya at the last moment to win, or about old grudges that come back to life in unexpected ways and stuff like that.

But overall, I really enjoyed this.

I appreciated that the protonist, Arajin, was just a simple asshole punk with nothing noble or impressive about him, how he started being a small and pathetic wimp, but eventually learned to stand up for himself and grow strong when he needed to fight for his loved ones or his friends.

Its these types of character growths that I really appreciate.

And the end, let's just say it was cliched but satisfying nonetheless. The end was the weaker part of this show, I feel, but it got the job done and it was perfectly serviceable.

Honestly, if you like fighting animes that are a bit cliched but still mostly action packed and funny at the same time, you'll probably enjoy this quite fine. Just be aware that you'll have to stomach a very unlikeable protagonist for a very large portion of this show, so that's something you need to be aware of.

And seeing how this is an original anime, with no source material to draw from, I very much don't think this will get a season 2, as they wrapped pretty much everything already.

If a season 2 will get announced, though, I will watch it.

5. Delusional Monthly Magazine

Jiro, Taro, Saburo and Goro all falling from the sky while a MOParts hits Taro in the head

This is going to be a strange entry.

In fact, this is the strangest anime in this entire ranking, by a long shot.

I know that there will be many people who will read this and ask themselves Really? That show is on here? and roll their eyes when they see this entry.

Honestly, I don't know what to tell you.

Yes, this entry is here and yes, I will be talking about this show.

I know that many people probably looked at the preview for this anime and didn't know what to think of it. Hell, I, myself had no idea what to expect after seeing that preview.

Normally, when that happens, I check episode 1 and see if it's my cup of tea or not, but even that didn't help matters in this case.

The show, intentionally so, is weird; very very weird. And it does its best at trying to be both a memeable but, more than just that, it also tries to be a very fun time.

I'll be honest, I decided to give it a chance even though episode 1 left me bewildered and, now that I fully finished season 1, I think that that was for the better.

So, what's this show about?

28 year old Taro Suzuki is single and is trying his best at finding a romantic partner for himself, even going so far as to enroll in a matchmaking company to find the woman of his dreams, even though he still seems to be completely out of luck.

His insistence on quitting his job as soon as he finds his match and then becoming a stay-at-home husband while his would-be wife earns an income might have something to do with women's general aversion of dating him, perhaps.

One day, while Taro is walking through the city, he stumbles upon a, I don't know how else to put it, green leprechaun dressed, science obsessed, 18 year old man with corns in his shoes named Goro Sato, who's looking for the Moso Monthly Science magazine office, a popular magazine that talks about supernatural phenomena around the city, to talk with the staff there.

Unbeknownst to Goro, Taro is actually part of the editorial team for that magazine. However, Taro fails to tell Goro this because, for some strange reason, Goro seems to emanate a very strong supernatural aura around his body that makes Taro nauseous while being next to him. Due to this, Taro just tells Goro where the editorial office for that magazine is, just to get rid of him as fast as possible.

Goro thanks him, finds the building of said editorial office but, it turns out that the building actually is a small cafe.

There, Goro meets up with a 10 year old boy named Jiro Tanaka, who has secret healing powers, and his dog, a male dog named Saburo who seems to be able to understand human speech and barks whenever someone asks him a question.

Turns out that Jiro is also part of the editorial staff for said magazine despite being very young. They, along with Taro, all work under the guidance of the mysterious and constantly away editor-in-chief Catherine Sue.

When the entire staff of the magazine are together (i.e. Jiro, Taro and Saburo), Goro asks them whether it's possible for them to write up an article in their magazine about the Mo Continent, a legendary ancient continent that is said to have hosted an advanced civilization that perished a long time ago when the Mo continent sunk into the ocean.

Various artifacts and ancient manuscripts exist around the world talking about the continent, although most people nowadays think of it as no more than a legend.

However, Goro reveals that he has been working for some time as a scientist at a nearby research institute and that his research on the Mo continent hints at the fact that the continent and its ancient civilization might actually have existed, in the past.

To prove this, he extracts from his backpack a small piece of an ancient rune, which Goro calls a MOPart.

The staff seems skeptical of Goro's claims and, because of this, they are unwilling to go along and publish an article about the Mo continent in their magazine.

Seeing how he didn't manage to convince them, Goro leaves the cafe, only to suddenly begin being chased by random shady individuals in trench coats for no apparent reason.

Soon after, on a phone call from Catherine, the staff back at the cafe are instructed to, by her orders, go along with Goro and publish his story about the Mo continent, leaving Taro and the others without a choice. How she even knew about Goro and his story, seeing as how she wasn't even there to hear it, they don't know.

They hear a large explosion that shook the cafe, though, go to investigate it and then, at the site of the explosion, they coincidentally meet up once again with Goro, who's still in the process of being chased by a huge group of people.

Goro runs up to them, causing the group of shady people to start chasing all of them as well.

They suspect that the reason that Goro is being chased to begin with is due to the MOPart in his backpack.

While they are struggling to get away from their pursuers, the MOPart from Goro's backpack just so happens to fall out and hits Taro on the forehead, which triggers a strange transformation scene in which Taro turns into a large, muscular, humanoid bipedal tiger.

The tiger goes on a rampage, attacking their pursuers and warding them all off, before collapsing due to exhaustion and reverting back to Taro's usual human form.

Later on, back at the cafe, Taro is recovering from severe body aches and claims he has no memory of ever transforming in the first place.

They wonder what that was all about before, out of nowhere, Goro arrives at the cafe once again, proclaiming that he doesn't work as a scientist anymore and will, from now on, work as part of their editorial staff for the magazine.

Thus ends episode 1.

If the synopsis that I just wrote looks very strange and random, the reason for that is that this show is, by design, very random.

It tries its best at being unpredictable in the episode and usually it succeeds quite well.

It feels like the entire script that the episodes are composed of are intentionally made of non sequiturs that are added in just to confuse the audience.

There is, however, a formula to each episode: the staff hear about a paranormal event that happens around their city, they go to investigate it in an attempt to publish an article about it and it turns out that the occurrence is due to a new MOPart that was causing the strange phenomena, one way or another.

Along the way, they will encounter enemies that will try to steal the MOPart from them.

The basic idea behind the show is that all supernatural phenomena usually have scientific explanations behind them (if you can accept the fact that ancient parts of a stone rune from an ancient civilization have other-wordly properties to them is, actually, scientific).

Yeah, the show is weird, and you might wonder “Why does Taro transform when he's hit with Goro's MOPart?”, or why do random people want the MOParts anyway? What is the truth about the Mo continent, and why does Jiro have healing powers, or why can Saburo understand humans? And why is Taro capable of sensing supernatural auras around others?

All of these questions will be answered this season and, really, the ending of this show was surprisingly well done and answered pretty much all the things I was wondering about the plot.

And yeah, this show tries a lot to be as memeable as possible. There are times when you know, deep down, that a specific scene is animated entirely so that people can clip it and share it online as a meme background.

I don't hate it for that; if anything, it makes it establish its own identity even more.

And the constant mysteries and enigmas of the show were quite effective, as each episode I was constantly asking myself “But why did this character say this?” or “How did this even happen, exactly?”. And, to give credit where credit it is due, the show explains why that is, sooner or later; maybe it won't explain something in this episode but it will do so in a latter one, instead.

But, most importantly, I like this show for being funny and having seemingly random but well timed jokes all around.

The show does its best at trying to be light hearted, and I can respect it because of that.

Out of all the entries on this list, so far at least, this is the first show that doesn't take itself very seriously and tries, instead, to have fun with itself.

And I can respect that.

Sure, sometimes not taking oneself seriously can seriously hamper my enjoyment of the show. This, thankfully, isn't one of those times because, while the story feels like it was made as a second priority initially and the episodes feel more comedy-driven than anything else, the comedy is there and the jokes are funny; random, yet funny.

And the story, while taking a backseat to the comedy and the random nature of the show that tries to make itself be appealing to the internet, will come back. In fact, towards the last episodes the plot comes back in full swing, and a lot of the questions that you were probably asking all throughout will suddenly begin to be answered little by little, one by one.

I liked that.

Sure, the show has some flaws, and the formulaic way that the episodes were getting, talking about paranormal when, in fact, it was almost always because of a new MOPart, was getting annoying.

But all the stories were creative, such as the story of a mysterious masked man that would suddenly appear out of nowhere on the highway while skating, or about another story that's all about a popular man that keeps having troubles with large swarms of cats that appear outside his house every night and causes issues to him because he's very allergic to them.

The show was just fun, and I really loved it.

And, in case you were wondering, no, Taro won't be the only person in this show that will transform; there will be many more.

Exactly why the characters that transform can do so, in the first place, that is another mystery that the show will explain, in due time.

But I think I've rambled enough about this show for the time being.

My guess is, as usual, just give the first episode a watch. If you'll like the humor from it, you'll most likely like the whole show as a whole.

If you find the weirdness and randomness of the episode off-putting and undesirable, chances are you won't like the other episodes either.

6. Sengoku Youko

Tama trying to lecture the group of bandits

Well, might as well get this show out of the way as well.

This is one of those shows that, again, I can see a lot of people praising and calling it a “hidden gem”.

A lot of comments on Crunchyroll called this show underrated, and that it's a shame that it doesn't have bigger of a following.

Honestly, I really don't know what to say to that.

On the one hand, I do agree that the show is above average and is executed somewhat well, and that it probably didn't get as big of a following as it should have.

On the other hand, though, even I didn't enjoy this show as much as I expected, and that's for a multitude of reasons.

But before we get into any of them, let's talk about this show's episode 1.

During Japan's Eiroku period, a swordsman-in-training young man named Shinsuke Hyoudou is plotting to attack a group of bandits that have been causing travelers issues for the past months to acquire glory for himself, only to be beaten to it by two strange travelers: a seemingly very young looking blonde fox girl named Tama and her younger brother, a young sage named Jinka.

Jinka uses talisman sorcery to defeat the bandits very quickly and easily, and this prompts Shinsuke to decide to follow them for a bit.

He gets discovered almost immediately by them, though, and helps them by revealing to them the hideout of the main bandit group, nearby.

Tama reveals herself to be a fox spirit, a youko, a wise being of immense spiritual power and wisdom, that lived for a very long time, and who wishes to bring order and peace to the world of humans. To that end, she and Jinka travel around, enacting justice to all those that are wrongdoers.

They quickly figure out that Shinsuke is just a swordsman that's training and who's trying to make a name for himself by defeating bandits, but he still decides to join their group in dispatching of the nearby bandit threat.

After a confrontation with said main bandit group, it's revealed that their leader was actually a katawara helmet controlling a human puppet all along. Katawara are otherworldly creatures, inhuman beings of great strength.

To combat said threat, Tama bites into her hand to draw blood and then allows Jinka to drink from said blood, activating spirit transformation which turns him into an incredibly fast and strong superhuman, that immediately disposes of everyone there.

After dealing with that situation, Shinsuke decides to continue following Tama and Jinka around, seeing this as an opportunity for him to grow stronger.

At an inn where they are staying in, for the night, he encounters a man that describes, in fear, about a terrible giant beast that he had encountered previously, which the Dangaisyuu there immediately identify as Shakugan, a katawara of immense power. The Dangaisyuu are an order of demon hunting Buddhist monks of great spiritual power, who are quite renowned around those places.

Jinka, who idolizes katawara and hates humans despite being a human himself, has issues with the Dangaisyuu monks' decision to pursue and hunt down Shakugan, but before him and Tama could extract any more information from the monks about Shakugan, they are attacked by him and forced into combat.

Thus ends episode 1.

Now, let's get a couple of things out of the way, first.

Despite this being on 6th place on this ranking from best to worst, I really don't hate, nor even dislike this show.

In fact, I find this show to be quite entertaining, on more levels than one.

I like this show's world building. There's a lot of stuff in this world that are nice, but given that this is about a period in Japanese history that's a really long time ago, you can probably guess that there are a lot of constraints about what that world can contain.

Obviously this isn't to say that this TV series tries to be particularly historically accurate, given that we have cursed swords with magical abilities, demons of gigantic proportions that wreak havoc on the land and talking beasts of myth, as well as gods of the land, but it does at least offer some grounding into a semblance of reality, knowing that this took place in the distant past.

In the same veins where I don't see many anime fans talking about Inuyasha as being a particularly good anime that recreates historical Japan, I don't see this show very different from that, either.

This show is pretty well executed. I liked a lot of the ideas that it had, and the ending of part 1 was stunning, to say the least.

Studio Whitefox seems to choose among the more interesting source materials to adapt into animation, and they did it again with this property.

Between this and Re:Zero, I will say that I'll choose to watch Re:Zero any day of the week, but I can safely say that both are quite entertaining.

However, you may ask, now that I said all of this, how did this entry get so far down the list?

To put it simply, the shows that got a better ranking than this one were just that much better. Simple as is.

There may be some of you who will roll their eyes when reading that, thinking Really? Delusional Monthly Magazine was a better show than THIS gem?, judging me for placing that above this, and I can understand your skepticism.

Simply put, I can see a lot of people thinking that, and I will contend that I really needed a lot of time to think this through for myself. However, this is simply the result that I came up with.

The first three spots in this list (i.e. Apothecary Diaries, The Witch and the Beast and A Sign of Affection) may not be masterpieces in the classical sense, but I genuinely feel like they are as close to genuine pieces of art as you can get, and I wholeheartedly don't feel like this show even comes close to them in terms of quality. So putting this below them in this ranking was pretty much a given.

And as far as Bucchigiri and Delusional Monthly Magazine are concerned, that's a bit more debateable, although I will still defend my stance on this.

Maybe, in terms of objective quality, one may be able to make the argument that this show is higher quality and infinitely more interesting, and that it deserves a better spot than both of those two. Really, I'm not going to defend them when talking about which show might be the more competently made and interesting one.

Even in terms of music and animation, I can see many people say that this one is better than those two, as well.

But this ranking isn't about quality or any objectivity whatsoever, it's about my subjective experience of how much I felt like I enjoyed them, as a whole.

And, from that perspective, I will defend my decision on saying that I liked those two more than how much I liked this show.


Because, as far as Bucchigiri is concerned, I found the characters to be more interesting and relatable than in this show, a lot more vibrant and colorful. Sure, Bucchigiri had a lot of unlikeable characters in it as well, but just because a character is unlikeable doesn't mean it's poorely written. In fact, I'd say that the amount of character growth that the protagonist of Bucchigiri went through is way more than the amount of growth that Shinsuke went through in this first 13 episodes (which isn't to say that he didn't grow at all, but merely to say that he didn't grow as much).

Also, the story of Bucchigiri felt way more dynamic and interesting in terms of plot twists compared to this show, where all that the main characters do is just travel. Sure, they end up fighting a lot of characters along the way, but outside of defending themselves from said attacks, they don't do much else.

In Bucchigiri, the characters go through way more drama and twists.

And say whatever you will about how nonsensical Delusional Monthly Magazine was. The fact is, I laughed so much during that show and how creative all the episodes got, compared to how much I enjoyed the fights here.

I'm not going to say that Delusional Monthly Magazine put in harder work into its story than this show it in its story, because I don't think that is the case but, at least, I enjoyed the comedy and the surreal nature of that show way more than the bland historical Japan that this show had.

That and also, I think it's easier and requires way less effort to make a comedy work, because all you have to do is to tell funny jokes, compared to how much you have to put in to make a serious show like this work.

The serious show is gonna have to focus a lot more, and for a very good reason, to have an interesting plot and very well written character development, just so that it can compare, in terms of enjoyment, to a comedy where all it had to do was be original in its jokes.

It's not the same thing, obviously, but comedies can work for far less effort, in my opinion, than non-comedies. And this show, even though it tried a lot, didn't do enough to make itself stand out.

It barely has an identity. The fight sequences, while intriguing and very well animated, are pretty standard otherwise, in my opinion.

The characters, while they do go through significant growth even throughout season 1, don't become particularly interesting, nor deep. In fact, with the exception of Shinsuke and maybe Jinka, I really can't say there's been much character growth, at least as far as the first season is concerned.

The world building, to be fair, did a lot of heavy lifting to make me like this show, and they did put a lot of effort into it. That's the one thing I can say I absolutely loved about this show, was that it had a significant amount of world building that was done semi-decently.

And the story, well, that's a mixed bag. The ending of season 1 was very well done, and I can say I absolutely loved it. In fact, the last 3 episodes of this show really turned it around and made me respect it for being unconventional.

With that said, though, anything before episode 11, with the possible exception of a particular character death in episode 7, was very standard and boring.

Really, if I had to say one complaint about this show, it's that the first few episodes really didn't grab me, at all.

I couldn't care any less about Shinsuke and his quest to become more powerful, nor about Tama's plan of making the world a better place.

I liked their characters, but not enough for me to care much about them.

It wasn't until that the world building grabbed me and made me interested in everything that was going on that I started to care, and even then only marginally, until a particular character died in episode 7.

It was only after that that I started to say “You know what? Maybe this show is worthwhile”. And, even then, it was only the last 3 episodes that really drove the point home that the show had potential.

Basically, what I'm trying to say was that, this show is good, it has potential and it's definitely above average, I will concede on those points.

But, as far as the first season was concerned, it really was a slow grower. It grew on me, for sure, but had I dropped this show during episode 6 or earlier, I wouldn't have felt bad about it. The fact that I stuck with it was what allowed me to see its potential, but boy, did it take a long while to get there.

All in all, I am curious about it now, and I will absolutely want to see how the story will move, going forward, so I will stick with it.

It's just that, when I think about people saying that this show is underrated, I'll always say that, even though I don't like it, it is underrated for a good reason.

7. The Foolish Angel Dances with the Devil

Akutsu in his demon form

Oh boy, I can see a lot of shipping fanfiction stories derived from this show.

This one's a bit odd, I'm not gonna lie. Its sense of humor is a bit wacky, and I can see some people being turned off by how over the top it is but, personally, I've found it quite charming.

This is among the three romance TV series that I watched this season, the other two being A Sign of Affection and Hokkaido Gals are Super Adorable!. While this show couldn't hold a candle to A Sign of Affection, given that that show was absolutely a masterpiece in animation, I won't even attempt to compare it to that. Still, it was an overall enjoyable experience, and I would still recommend this show to any newcomers that are fans of romantic comedies.

So, what's this show about?

Long story short, Heaven and Hell have been in a raging war against each other for a long time, with angels having the upper edge in the battle against demons. Humanity, for its part, exists outside this battle, unaware of their existence, as a complete third party that's independent from them.

In order to bolster morale of Hell's troops, a male demon teen named Akutsu Masatora is sent as an undercover high school student to the human realm, in order to find a charismatic human that he can ally himself with to take back to Hell and have him rally up their army.

He transfers into a regular high school class where he meets up with a beautiful blonde girl named Amane Lily, whom he immediately falls for due to her beauty.

Later during that day, as he is walking home from school, Akutsu just so happens to walk into Lily on the street again.

Lily suggests they should go out for a tea together.

In the process of walking together, Lily almost gets hit by an incoming truck but Akutsu manages to stop that from happening by suddenly turning into his demon form and stopping the vehicle just in time, saving her.

In doing so, he gave away the fact that he wasn't human, to Lily.

They run away together from the scene and then, in a local park where they were alone, Lily inquires about Akutsu's demon form.

Seeing how the cat's out of the bag, Akutsu tells her the truth about the waging war that his race has against angels, and admits to her that he wishes to take her to Hell with him as the charismatic ally that he wanted to recruit.

Lily, at first, appears worried about this, since this is all very new and sudden to her.

Akutsu tries to hold back and let her make a proper decision by herself but, soon enough, Lily summons long magical chains around Akutsu and ties him up with them, out of nowhere.

Akutsu is very surprised by this development but then, realizes, embarrassingly enough, that Lily was an undercover angel all along, who had also been, coincidentally, sent to the human realm, in her case to hunt for demons.

Realizing that he had blown his cover to his enemy, Akutsu tries to fight her and avenge another demon that she had revealed to have exorcised a bit earlier that day, but is overpowered by her angel powers and gets chained up again.

Amane initially wants to exorcise him too, as per her mission but, when realizing how powerful he is, she changes her mind at the last second and decides to, instead, enslave him using a special magical collar of her making to force him to work for her in her mission to hunt demons.

Apparently Akutsu is capable of sensing other demons when they are nearby and so, with this power, Amane would be able to find other demons more easily to hunt down.

Akutsu, naturally, is resistent to the idea of betraying his own race by working for an undercover angel but, seeing how he has no choice in the matter and not wishing to be exorcised as well, he concedes and gets the magical collar that allows Amane to control him with, put over his neck.

Now, the demon Akutsu will have to assist the angel Amane in her mission of hunting demons, at least until he finds a way to free himself from her shackles.

That's the synopsis for episode 1.

Many comments on Crunchyroll were saying that the first episode of this series was the weakest out of all of them, and that people who dropped this show because of this episode were missing out, as the show gets better over time.

Honestly, I don't agree with them at all. In fact, I'd argue that this episode was a very good example of the style that the show was going for.

The plot twist of the episode, which was that Amane was an angel, was a nice one and I've found it quite unconventional, as an idea.

Still, even in spite of all of this, the show worked on a lot of levels.

It's got an interesting premise but, most important of all to remember is that this is a romantic comedy at its core. And the romance, unsurprisingly enough, focuses on Akutsu and Amane's relationship.

Because yes, they are enemies to each other, and this is highlighted by the fact that Amane forces Akutsu to betray his own kind in her favor, but the fact that they have to work together is a good excuse to have them spend time together and get to know each other more.

I also liked the premise, as Akutsu, despite being a demon in nature, isn't in any way evil or mischievous at all. He's just simply a hard working guy that wants to help his race in their war against the angels.

Amane, despite being an angel, is actually very deceitful and cunning and, predominantly, prideful.

She enjoys seeing Akutsu, her enemy, suffer defeat by her and she lavishes at the sight of controlling him and keeping him under her foot.

Initially I was worried that Amane would turn out to be straight up evil, and I was also curious about Akutsu and wondered how he would reconcile the fact that he has to betray his own race because of Amane's control.

While I won't spoil what happens next, I will say that I liked the direction that they went to make their fractured and seemingly impossible relationship, work out in the end.

And I also have to say that, I absolutely loved the chemistry that these two have with each other.

Once all the cards are on the table and their undercover personas are revealed for what they are, their genuine interactions and dynamic are very fun to watch.

The show also is quite original in its jokes, albeit with a very strange humor.

For example, at one point, both Akutsu and Amane decide that they will try to outsmart each other by seducing them. As such, Akutsu goes to great lengths to appear as manly and gentlemanly as possible, while Amane has to act all bashful and girly and cute all the time, despite both of them being enemies to each other (not to mention very prideful and stubborn). In parallel, the show depicts two boxers engaging in fights against each other on the ring, symbolizing each character's struggles.

The jokes they have to make to make this dynamic work were quite original and very funny and creative.

And also, I really like that the show didn't resort only to sex jokes all the time, like I was scared it was going to do.

Sure, there are the random innuendos that the show plays with, from time to time, even in episode 1 but, to give it credit, all the jokes are done in a tasteful manner and they are very creative. Even more so, it also has other types of jokes, as well, playing different gags, such as with their overly serious teacher being bald, Amane being overly cruel and sadistic despite being an angel, or Amane's and Akutsu's friends always being around the corner to accuse them of being a couple, even though they'll always deny it.

And the action sequences for when Amane and Akutsu do get to fight are pretty engaging and suspenseful, always leaving me wondering who would win.

But, with that said, the show is not without flaws.

Particularly towards the end, I felt like it got pretty cliched, with a villain that mistreats Amane and forces Akutsu to come out to protect her, how Akutsu loses control of himself and unlocks new powers when seeing Amane get hurt, how Amane has to knock his senses back into him etc.

This type of stuff I really dislike, since I've seen it before in other romances and, chances are, I'll see it again many more times again.

I think the last time I saw a similar trope done was in a show called Vermeil in Gold, back during the summer 2022 lineup. Vermeil was a much more cliched and, in my opinion, worse, show than this one, but it still played the same beats towards the end.

But this show made up for its lackluster final arc with its last episode, where it compensated for it with a nice and sweet ending that made me happy.

I won't spoil the ending but I will say it made the experience worthwhile.

So, would I recommend this show?

Well, it depends. Its comedic style is a bit out there and it is over the top when it tries to be funny, which might put some people off. Personally I've seen shows with even wackier senses of humor, so this didn't bother me too much but I can definitely see others having an issue with this.

I'd recommend giving the first episode a shot. That's a very good showcase of what the humor would be like for the rest of the season.

If you can digest the first episode, with all its humor and still end up liking it, chances are you'll like the rest of the episodes as well.

If not, consider a different show of the same genre, maybe.

This is just part 1 of my ranking. For part 2, please click here.


from Tech

This is kind of a follow-up to my previous blog post about the history of DRM, which I wrote here.

What I want to talk about in this blog post is which video-on-demand providers decided to not use these mechanisms for their content.

The basic gist of what I wrote there was that copyright holders of popular media wanted a means to protect their content when distributed to consumers digitally, video on demand providers wanted technical solutions to provide such means of protection and make a feasible business model out of it and tech companies wanted to solve these issues in various ways.

Long story short, they all had their dreams come true via the development of three concurrent technologies for protecting digital media: Apple's FairPlay, Microsoft's PlayReady and, last but not least, Google's Widevine.

These three pieces of technology is nowadays used to protect, behind the scenes, all video media that's copyright protected but which also reaches your screen.

They are the foundational building blocks that enforce copyright in a mostly transparent way.

Now, let's talk about enforcement, as not all video on demand providers use these technologies in equal capacity.

Technically, to enable the usage of these technologies in an agnostic way, the W3C introduced a new web standard called the Encrypted Media Extensions (which introduced the requirement for web browsers to include some form of proprietary decryption components, even browsers that had been traditionally open source).

By the standardization of this technology, all web platforms had a common and stable API to call from their client-side Javascript to interact with the underlying FairPlay/PlayReady/Widevine protection facilities in order to initiate and maintain a secure channel to transfer copyrighted video content through the internet.

Since this particular standardization back in September 2017, it was pretty clear that video on demand services had a stable future ahead of them.

Netflix, which had already been proven to have a successful business model by that point and was already an extremely popular platform even back then, was reaching revenues that were quite impressive.

Many other video on demand platforms were already quite well established, by this point, which was already a good indicator that this EME tech being standardized was pretty much inevitable.

However, there were those people that had issue with this: the free software crowd.

Free software, as a social movement, was always about promoting open source and the ability to contribute and share your changes with the world at large, as much as possible.

The free software crowd never liked the idea of forcing proprietary components into web browsers in order to keep them compliant, as that would go against the very principle of what they argue the open web should be.

But, as I said in my previous blog post, the open source dilemma was a huge one and, realistically, there is no way to write a web browser that's fully open source but which also is supposed to allow for hiding of digital data that's copyright protected and very valuable.

To do so entails that anyone that has some experience with the programming language that this web browser is implemented in can very well take the source code as it is, change it to bypass the security measures that are implemented in the vanilla browser, re-write the pipelines that the protected data are supposed to go through and change them so that you reconstruct a video file from the stream instead, dump said file on your desktop and then, “voila!”, just like that, you have an unofficial fork of that browser that can steal the video contents from Netflix and dump them in mp4 files on your desktop and then share that file with the world at large.

Nobody wants that.

And so, even though this decision displeased the free software crowd by a lot (so much so that, the same day the EME tech was officially standardized, the Electronic Frontier Foundation published an open letter of resignation from the W3C), the W3C made the difficult decision to standardize this technology anyways in order to prevent third party media plugins (e.g. Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight) from re-emerging into the scene as necessities to use Netflix or other video-on-demand providers.

Web browsers that were historically open source but still wishing to remain fully web standards complying (such as Mozilla's Firefox) ended up with having to devise clever workarounds to provide the needed functionality to their userbase. Mozilla, for example, figured out a way to do this by simply piggybacking on Google Chrome's existent proprietary Widevine CDM solution and simply utilizing this as a plug-in to their, otherwise open source, web browser. And, to still keep their free software promoting user base happy and not have them cry foul and yelling that Mozilla is “polluting” a free software browser with proprietary nastiness, they added a checkbox in their browser's settings that allows the end user to decide whether to enable the Widevine plug-in or disable it completely. Disabling it would mean, obviously, that video on demand providers would have no way to create a secure communication channel with the Content Decryption Module on the end user's device (since there is no CDM to talk about at all) and, thus, there would be no way to secure the video content, which means that sites like Netflix would simply refuse to let you stream from them, even if you were a paying customer.

Obviously, this meant that most people that still use Firefox kept that checkbox enabled, so that Widevine would remain as an installed plug-in and be constantly enabled. After all, who doesn't want to watch Disney+ TV shows on their computer?

Well, maybe this won't surprise very many people, but I am a hard-boiled free software advocate myself and I've always been very adamant about the web needing to be as open and devoid of proprietary technologies, as possible.

Given my very puritan stance on this matter, it should come as no surprise, dear reader, that I was among the very few Firefox users that kept said checkbox unchecked, and so I had no Widevine CDM to speak of installed on my Linux system.

This meant, effectively, that video on demand providers like Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and so on would detect the lack of a proper CDM in my browser and, obviously, they would refuse to stream any content to me, because there was a very real risk that I would then copy said video and allow others to pirate it from me.

Needless to say, I was a bit unhappy with the current state of affairs. Still, I wasn't willing to compromise, and I genuinely believed, deep down, that video-on-demand as a business model was doomed to fail and that it was the root of all evil, as it was causing the advent of more proprietary solutions that were parasitizing a pure and virgin web.

In my quest to find video on demand on the web to consume but which did not require me to enable the proprietary CDM in my browser, I ended up with three video on demand platforms that I had to choose from: Crunchyroll, HIDIVE and Wakanim.

Before you say anything, no, I wasn't specifically choosing anime services to watch; it just so happened that these were the only services that did not require me to have Widevine enabled.

All the others (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max etc) automatically detected my lack of a CDM and would give me errors when trying to play any stream on their platforms whatsoever.

Those three were the only services that I could use (although, with Wakanim, even this might not have been the case, as I couldn't even reach the point where I could play media on it).


Wakanim is the outlier because I simply couldn't use it at all. For whatever reason, whenever I tried to use their website, the website presented itself in Russian to me.

I've encountered situations like these when a website tries to auto-detect my location based on my IP and then decides to auto-translate their entire page to whatever language it thinks I speak as a means of convenience.

The only issue is, I'm not Russian, nor do I know or speak Russian whatsoever. I've been born, raised, and am currently living in Romania. So the website auto-translating itself to Russian was quite a hindrance to me.

Normally, a rationally designed web platform would still offer the end-user the possibility of correcting these types of errors by giving them a language selection menu to select a different language from the current one. But no, of course it wouldn't be that easy. Apparently the programmers that worked for Wakanim decided that their platform was too perfect to need such a fallback and that such bugs could never happen on their polished little website (spoiler alert: it happened, to me at least).

So, with Wakanim, at least, I really can't say whether it would or not allow for playing protected media without a CDM installed. From what I read online, supposedly, you can actually download the video series that you purchase from their platform, in an unencrypted format, so you can then play that media on any player of your choice, offline.

If that were true, I would have been mighty impressed and a big fan of. It would mean that there's really no point in employing a CDM and encrypting the data stream if you're just gonna gift-wrap the protected content to your customers anyway.

I guess we'll never know now, since they've been discontinued since November 2023.


Oh, good ol' HIDIVE. It's very funny to think that the entire reason why I initially chose to become one of their customers is because I could use their platform without needing to install proprietary components in my browser to watch their videos.

My relationship with them was a short lived one, as any of those that follow my anime blog already know (specifically, the blog which can be found here).

If you don't know, long story short, I made a subscription to them back in early 2022, watched a couple of their shows that were pretty fun (like Tokyo Mew Mew New, The Executioner and Her Way of Life, Endo and Kobayashi Live! The Latest on Tsundere Villainess Lieselotte and many, many more) but eventually, at some point during April or May 2023 I think, they suddenly and abrutly stopped servicing Romanian customers on their platform. You can read more about that over here.

Eventually I decided to mask my location using a VPN to appear as if I was from a different country so that I could still stream from them but, when the time eventually came to renew my yearly subscription towards them, I decided to cancel and never look back.

In the end, I liked the fact that they don't force a proprietary CDM down your throat in order to stream videos from them. And if you're also anti-proprietary DRM and want to support video-on-demand platforms that don't require them too, then you might like them.

Personally I cannot, in good conscience and with my self respect intact, continue to financially support a service that discriminates against me simply for being from Romania, so I choose not to continue giving them money (I know that it's not a personal matter and that they just made a financial decision to stop supporting Romania, I get that, but I still find it insulting nonetheless).


Finally we came to the last one in our list. Please be aware, though, that what I'm about to write is a, mostly, historical piece about how things were back at the time.

For a long time (I don't even know since when but it's been the case at least since I joined them), Crunchyroll has somehow allowed you to stream their content without actually necessitating to activate the Widevine CDM in your web browser.

I don't know if they've ever officially supported that, since as far as I can tell, their website always warned that you should enable it to have it work, but unofficially, if you kept it disabled, either intentionally or unintentionally, the page you'd load would warn you that you need to turn it on but, eventually, the video would still load without any issues.

Yes, that's right. You used to be able to watch Crunchyroll videos entirely unprotected, no CDM required, at your leisure.

That. was. AWESOME.

Key words being “used to”.

At some point in the past (I think late 2023?) they've patched their Javascript implementation and now their website correctly detects whether you have the CDM disabled or not. If you do have it disabled it doesn't allow you to stream anymore.

So this obscure workaround doesn't actually work anymore, as of the posting of this blog post.

I am tremendously sad by this outcome, I'm not gonna lie.

Crunchyroll, the last bastion of hope that I had for a free web has betrayed me, and now I am forced to enable my Widevine CDM again, just to watch Crunchyroll videos again.


I know what many people are going to tell me: it's selfish of me to want for streaming services to disable the only means that they have for protecting their content just because of my personal puritan ideology of hating proprietary software.

I get it, I really do.

That's why, in the end, I decided to still keep my Crunchyroll subscription.

Because, even though I'm unhappy with how things turned out to be, I realize that what I want is pretty much impossible to implement: I want full complete control over my own hardware and everything that runs on it (i.e. the free software philosophy, in a nutshell) but I also want to be able to stream copyright protected videos through that hardware as well (which requires at least some proprietary closed-source components to implement the necessary protections).

This is a contradiction that has no solution. In fact, this isn't even a technical dilemma, the way I always thought of it, but merely a philosophical one.

The only way to reconcile on this is to make some compromise: either I give up on streaming media on my PC entirely and embrace a fully open and free software ecosystem, or I decide to allow media streaming on my PC, in which case, I have to install at least some proprietary software to allow for its protection and copyright enforcement.

Ultimately, I made the decision that any weak willed individual would make and I eventually caved in and enabled the Widevine CDM. It was a choice, a painful choice, but a choice I needed to make.

Some might argue that it was the wrong choice and, to be honest, I wouldn't necessarily even disagree with them. Compromising on one's own ideals because of convenience is never an easy pill to swallow, but I did.

Still, it is because of this decision that I still get to watch Crunchyroll streams to this day, and maintain my anime blog as well.

So I guess at least some things worked out, for better or for worse.

Still, I can't help but wish for a better world: a world that maybe copyright holders decide to be more trusting of their consumer base and would allow them to watch their media without having to devolve to such barbaric and convoluted processes just to prevent piracy.

Because, as many people have shown in the past, DRM is nothing more than additional hoops that are added to discourage piracy. It does not guarantee that piracy will never happen.

And time and time again it's been shown that pirates, for better or for worse, will get their hands on said protected media one way or another, through various means, and the end result is always the same: DRM just acts as a minor impediment in the grand process of breaking the protection schemes.

The people that always end up suffering the most when DRM is added to products are the lawful consumers.


from Tech

An icon of a lock

Time to talk about DRM again.

Naturally, most people don't care much about this topic, and I'm sorry if another blog post talking about DRM might seem very boring and too technical for you, but I really need to get this off my chest.

With that said, I'll try to keep this as simple and easy to understand for non-technical people as I can.

So, let's get started!

A bit of background on DRM

So, what is DRM anyways? DRM stands for Digital Rights Management and is an umbrella term used to refer to any technological means of enforcing copyright over digital information of any kind. Examples of digital information that are usually DRM protected are music, books, video games and, of course, video files.

Since copy-pasting a file in a computer is as simple as doing a Control + C, Control + V on it and, just like that, you have an exact copy of it without having had to pay any amount of money for a second copy of it, DRM was invented to stop the user from being able to do just that, for the sake of enforcing copyright restrictions.

There are many schemes that have been invented (and reinvented) over the years to do just that, one of the most popular known ones being Apple's FairPlay technology, that is implemented on macOS and iOS. This tech was used historically for protecting music that was distributed over the iTunes store (and still is), but was also extended for protecting ebooks too, as well as video and other media.

Microsoft also tried their hand at this and came up with the PlayReady technology, a similar proprietary tech that is used primarily for encrypting copyrighted video that gets streamed to devices running the Windows family of operating systems (especially on Microsoft's own brand of web browsers, particularly Microsoft Edge).

These pieces of technology are needed in the modern day world simply because, if they did not exist, it would be trivial for anyone to steal digital information passing through their computer. Simple tools like Wireshark (which are free, by the way), would allow anyone with a Netflix subscription to capture the network packets coming from Netflix servers and reconstruct the video file that would represent any TV show or movie that you wanted to get a hold of.

Once this reconstruction process would be complete, you, as a simple Netflix customer, would have in your possession a digital copy of the episode or movie in question and would then be able to share it illegally with anyone of your choice.

It is for this reason that Netflix and other video-on-demand platforms have been employing the aforementioned technologies to protect their digital content and bar computer users from misusing their privileges to enable software piracy.

Why is this a problem?

Now, on paper, DRM sounds quite fine and dandy and, for all intents and purposes, it can be seen even as a necessity in a modern digital age.

After all, how could you, as a movie studio or a musician, ever feel comfortable to distribute your own work digitally to your customers if there was no protection in place to prevent them from illegally copying your work and then distributing it freely to others against your will?

After all, piracy means loss of money to you, doesn't it?

Well, here's where we get into murky territory.

While it's easy to think in black and white terms like that when you're the owner of your own work, it gets complicated when you have to really think about how to prevent people from copying over information when that information has to go through untrusted computers.

Because, at the end of the day, anything that can be shown on a computer, whether it's a book, music or video, has to come down to being a long series of bits. Because, deep down, that's the only thing that computers can work with: digital data.

And, also, that data, in order to be useful to a customer that pays you money, has to go through his own hardware: his CPU, his GPU and, eventually, reach his display or his speakers. A song can only be useful to someone if it plays on his speakers, a video can only be useful if it gets played on his monitor etc.

So, regardless of how you spin it, this protected data, somehow, has to travel through the medium of the internet and eventually reach hardware that is a customer's, a customer that may or may not have malicious intentions of illegally copying it for his own needs.

The inherent problem that I'm trying to highlight here is that, in the end, the data has to reach untrusted territory, and be processed by untrusted hardware.

How can this be resolved when any piece of hardware can be tampered with, physically? How can one guarantee the safety of a piece of data if it has to pass through a CPU that can be made to run an untrustworthy operating system on it?

Well, there is no easy answer to that question. Theoretically, the answer is it's impossible but, then, that would be quite problematic.

That answer would cause a lot of issues, least of which is the fact that video on demand, as a business model, would be effectively impossible to implement if that were the colloquial answer to this dilemma.

Oh, you want to make a business out of streaming copyrighted content to computers all over the world that have an internet connection? Well, TOO BAD. It's technically impossible to protect said data from being illegally copied by malicious technically savvy actors and so, well, you can't make a business out of that. Sorry.

Imagine if that was the case! Netflix, as a business, wouldn't exist. And TV shows and movies would remain only in the world of TV and Blu-ray/DVD releases. That would be a very sad thing indeed.

But wait a second! I just mentioned Blu-ray and DVD, didn't I? Home media, as a concept, has been a very lucrative industry for many years and, even that, in theory, relies on giving customers access to copyrighted digital data and letting them view that at their leisure.

Blu-ray, by definition, allows a customer that had purchased the Blu-ray disc of a particular movie or TV show, to watch said movie or TV show on their own TV, which is technically untrusted (since any piece of hardware can be tampered with).

So, if Blu-ray could do it, why can't video-on-demand platforms?

The breakthrough (sort of)

Multiple things had to happen at the same time to make Blu-ray, as a piece of technology, become possible.

For one, digital transmission of video streams had to be locked down entirely.

Ever used an HDMI cable? Or a DisplayPort? That's digital video transmission and everything going through those cables has to be encrypted.

The exact name for this encryption technique is known as HDCP, which stands for High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection and it was invented back in 2000 by none other than the Intel Corporation (initially for DVI and later expanded to include other kinds of physical links as well).

Nowadays HDCP is used behind the scenes by pretty much every piece of hardware in existence.

Any type of graphics card will, at the very end of the processing pipeline, encrypt the video stream before it sends it out on the physical cable so that, no matter what that cable is connected to, it will only receive encrypted data (and when I say graphics card, I also mean integrated graphics as well).

But how can a TV or computer monitor read a video stream that's encrypted?

Well, before the encryption even begins, there's a special kind of key exchange that happens, and that kind of exchange is only possible if the TV or monitor in question has its own kind of key burned into its own hardware that is, inherently, trusted. The exact type of exchange is complicated and is designed in such a way as to not leak trusted key material to untrusted parties. I won't go into detail of how this is done but, if you're up to the task, you can read up on the details here.

In addition to this, the trusted keys that have to be burned into monitors or TVs had to be buried into microchips that are difficult to extract data from.

Physically this is not impossible but it requires specialized equipment and knowledge to reverse engineer these keys.

This is to say, to circumvent the problem of How can you protect copyrighted information that has to go through untrustworthy hardware, the solution engineers came up with was Simple! Just design all hardware in existence that has to handle such information to be trustworthy.

This is to say, make an authentication scheme that cannot be spoofed very easily to ensure that sensitive information doesn't get sent out to tampered hardware, bury sensitive cryptographic materials that such schemes rely on in microchips that are very difficult to tamper with and, finally, whenever data has to exit such trusted hardware and has to travel through physical links whose integrity cannot be guaranteed, encrypt that information before it has to travel through said links so that only trusted hardware can decrypt it back to a readable form.

So, how did Microsoft and Apple implement a solution for video-on-demand providers? They designed their FairPlay and PlayReady protection schemes to make use of these hardware technologies by enhancing their respective operating systems with the capability of creating secure write-only pipes that have special anti-tamper protections built into the very kernels. Such pipes would have sensitive copyright protected information travel through them, which, in practice, just means that this information gets encrypted as it gets passed around from one memory area to another (much like how a VPN encrypts your network traffic as it travels from one point to the next) and only the hardware parts that need raw access to that information has the means of decrypting it. Everything else would just see encrypted gibberish.

To make this possible, TPMs had to become widespread (as they are designed to be trusted by default and also handle sensitive information), drivers for graphics cards had to be enhanced by video card manufacturers to support these protection schemes, and much more.

Ultimately, the end result of all of this was a very complex system with many many moving parts, where many giant tech companies had to agree to multiple standards and had to come together in their engineering efforts (among of which were Microsoft, Apple, Intel, nVidia, AMD, Google; pretty much all the big names that you can think of) and, in the end, it resulted in a highly advanced protection scheme whose sole purpose was to enforce copyright over digital data.

And, after all these efforts, we had a technological means of guaranteeing to video-on-demand providers that their data could be safely handed over to secure machines running secure operating systems, that would run secure hardware handled by secure signed proprietary drivers.

But wait! What about Linux?

Oh right, of course things couldn't be that easy! Open source just had to make things complicated again!

You see, dear reader, in this world of security through proprietary secret technologies and encryption schemes implemented through locked-down TPMs or proprietary drivers that nobody can inspect the source code for, there exist those people that want to run only free software, open source software; there exist operating systems whose very kernel can be modified by whoever has the technical knowledge to do so and can be changed to do whatever they so desire. And doing that requires no reverse engineering or hardware tampering whatsoever.

In such a world, you may wonder, how can such data be protected, if the operating system can be modified by anyone in any way?

It would be one thing if the web browser ran directly on the video card and web developers could interface against a secret API from Javascript to access the proprietary underlying drivers to encrypt media, but that's not how anything works.

The web browser runs from the context of an operating system. The operating system runs on a CPU. In order for data coming from a Netflix server to be protected against illegal copying, it has to be passed over from the web browser process to the video drivers (since we're talking specifically about video content now) through system calls, and then the video drivers have to take it and encrypt it and then pass it on to the monitor link.

It is at this point where the data has to be passed over from the web browser process to the video card drivers where it is vulnerable to being copied.

If the kernel is truly open source and a hacker can manipulate its source code to make a modified malicious version that can steal any data that gets passed over during this time and extract the unencrypted bits, then it's all over.

What's even worse is the fact that there are versions of graphics drivers that are also open source, made by third parties unrelated to nVidia or AMD or Intel, who cannot be controlled by them and who publish the source code for their work as well. These drivers can very well be rewritten by anyone skilled enough to copy the data when it is still unencrypted and dump it into a file.

These issues are very pressing and, honestly, this is where we get into the grey area that nobody likes to talk about.

In a world where nobody cares, the solution that most engineering companies would come up with would be “just ignore Linux users” and that would be it. “Since we cannot ensure a secure pipeline for copyrighted data from the web browser to the physical wire that goes to the monitor, we cannot trust the operating system at all. As such, let's not support it” and that would be the end of the discussion.

What this would mean would be that Linux users would be left in the dust, and Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO max and all these other platforms would simply refuse to service them, as none of them would be willing to hand over their copyrighted video data to such untrustworthy platforms.

Thankfully, this is not the case.

Widevine to the rescue

And here we come to the end of our story. The hero that saved Linux and made video-on-demand streaming possible to it was none other than a company that wanted to provide a means of securing data from the context of a web browser.

Widevine Technologies have been making a name for themselves in the area of protecting digital content from 1999 onwards, being among the most famous companies that enforce content protection on various platforms.

In 2010, the company was acquired by Google, who was very well aware of the necessity of acquiring their tech.

The problem with the aforementioned PlayReady and FairPlay technologies is that they were proprietary and relied on special support from the underlying operating system to work.

PlayReady would only work on Windows and FairPlay would only be accessible from the context of Apple's own ecosystem of operating systems.

This posed a problem to Google, since they wanted to make a cross-platform web browser that would the same across all operating systems (namely Google Chrome).

To make Chrome work correctly, it would, in theory, be possible to maintain different code bases for each separate operating system, but that would be an unnecessary amount of extra effort to invest into a means of protecting digital data.

Instead, Google sought to obtain a universal solution, a one-size-that-fits-all glove that would be agnostic to the operating system that it ran on and, would additionally work well on Google's own operating systems, namely the Linux-based Android and ChromeOS environments which lacked the aforementioned protection schemes.

As such, Google realized that it only made sense to acquire Widevine Technologies as a response to this necessity, and integrate their solutions into Google Chrome and Android ecosystems, which lacked them.

“But how can an open source web browser like Chromium ever be able to encrypt data in such a way that's impossible to be bypassed by hackers who can just change the source code? And how can they protect such data from a potentially hostile tampered operating system?” you may ask.

Well, the answer is a fair bit complicated, but, to put it simply, Google had to do a lot of patchwork to get there. But, it's Google. At the end of the day, they had more than enough money and engineers to throw at the problem.

The way they did it for the Chromium project was to simply not make their solution available there, at all.

If you use a pure version of the Chromium web browser to watch Netflix, you'll quickly find out that it simply doesn't work. That's because Google could not reliably implement such a solution into an open source project, lest it invite the open source dilemma that we already talked about.

Instead, they implemented it only for Google Chrome as a proprietary plugin-in dynamic library who does all the heavy work duty of both encrypting and decrypting the media streams in a closed proprietary environment that's very difficult to reverse engineer.

This is known as the Widevine CDM, and is only a small part of the whole Widevine infrastructure that's behind the content protection that's needed.

As this CDM is just a dynamic library file on the local file system, in theory, it is possible for a malicious party to simply disassemble it and extract its inner functioning, analyze it, and figure out how it does things (and this has happened before; I've even read up on a now archived Github page how one user attempted to do just that).

At one point in the past, the way this CDM did things was by using RSA encryption to decrypt video content that was being sent over the wire to it.

Basically, the CDM had its own public-private RSA keypair burned into the library, with the private key very cleverly hidden in some .data section in the library file. Whenever a protected content stream was to be initiated, the Chrome browser would load the proprietary plug-in, the plug-in would send an exact copy of its public key in clear text to the Widevine server that was on the other end of the internet connection, the server would check against its database of trusted RSA keys to see if it was trusted and, if it still was trusted at that point in time, would start encrypting the protected data stream using that public key and send the encrypted data to the browser over the internet. The CDM would then use its associated private key to decrypt the stream back to its original form and then display everything from the context of the web browser as a video feed.

Simple, easy and very elegant.

That was how it was done at one point. Since then, especially after this information got released from the guy that reverse engineered it, I imagine Google engineers updated the method to something else now.

The point is, there exist many different ways to do it, and, as hackers reverse engineer the Widevine library to keep finding out how it works, Google has the resources to find new ways of protecting the content, in a constant cat-and-mouse game of trying to evolve a solution to protect digital video feeds.

“But wouldn't a tampered host operating system defeat this? One could just inspect the RAM memory of the Widevine CDM and access the raw decrypted data directly, if they were skilled enough”.

Yes, yes they could. For this reason Widevine has such a thing as protection levels. Because, unlike Windows or macOS, the Linux operating system that runs in the background cannot have its integrity guaranteed in any way, if Google Chrome detects that it's running on such an environment, it considers this to be in an L3 (i.e. protection level 3) context. This is the least secure context and it is, for this reason, considered the highest risk one.

Within an L3 context, all operations are done in an unprotected memory area by the Widevine CDM, and this is considered low security. For this reason, most video-on-demand platforms only hand over low quality streams to such an environment, content that, even if it were illegally copied and then distributed via piracy, would only lead to marginal financial damages. I forgot exactly what type of restrictions this has, but for Netflix, if I recall correctly, I think they send out only a maximum of 540p quality streams to such environments (either that or 480p or 720p, I can't remember which). Such low quality streams are considered low-risk enough that even if they were sent over to insecure channels, the amount of damage they would do would be limited.

The next level up would be L2 protection, in which video decoding and encoding is done in an unprotected environment but cryptographic operations are done securely. This is where Google Chrome running from the context of ChromeOS would be (sometimes, ChromeOS might even support L1 protection even). Technically ChromeOS is also Linux, but it's treated in a special way, because the operating system is heavily modified by Google to be locked down intensely against tampering, and its own source code is not published online (there is the open source ChromiumOS project that ChromeOS is based off of, but it's only an approximation of the real thing, as ChromeOS modifies it using proprietary means very heavily, much in the same way that the Chromium project is only an open source approximation of Google Chrome).

Inside the L2 context, most video-on-demand platforms would allow for content streaming up to 1080p, as it's very unlikely for memory inspection tools to be available in such environments for hackers to tamper around with.

Finally, there is the L1 context, that's only available on modern hardware that use TPMs and hardware-protected video decoding to ensure the availability of a secure pipeline to send copyright protected information through. This is a 1:1 equivalent to the aforementioned PlayReady and FairPlay solutions, where data protection is guaranteed on every step of the way through the pipeline, from the browser until the data gets displayed on the monitor/TV.

This level of protection can only be guaranteed only on the latest versions of Intel and AMD CPUs (that have TPMs incorporated in them), you have up to date device drivers that ensure that the hardware can handle protected data and the host operating system is guaranteed to not have been tampered with in any way (usually by integrity checks and ensuring that the boot loader of the device is locked, if possible).

From the context of Widevine, this is usually only possible on the latest Chromebooks and on Android devices (smartphones, tablets or smart TVs) that have never had their bootloaders unlocked (and always on iOS and iPadOS devices as well).

In such environments, the security guaranteed is so high that there are no more limits with regards to the quality of the content being shown. This is considered the maximum level of security that Widevine can afford, equivalent to the PlayReady and FairPlay schemes.

And so, thanks to Widevine, Linux as a whole now supports protected video playback (albeit L3 level but still).


from AnimeZone

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.


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.


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.


from Tech

Screenshot of a qTox window

A blog post talking about the history of the privacy-focused Tox protocol.


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.


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.


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 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, as qTox seemed to be expecting, it came with 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 to, 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 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?

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