From Left - Tilarna and Kei

With the Summer 2019 anime season, while I enjoyed El Melloi II Case Files, I found it somewhat lacking as a mystery or detective series and had hoped that Cop Craft would make up for that. Cop Craft executes its Urban Fantasy Buddy-Cop story well from a narrative standpoint, but less so from an animation standpoint.

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Waver Velvet (Lord El-Melloi) reacting in shock and pain

Lord El-Melloi II is a mystery series that breaks from the conventions of the genre. Specifically, the convention of using the question of “Howdunit” to determine “Whodunit”. When urban fantasy normally sets into this territory, you see writers structure out their magic system to fit within this magical structure. Lord El-Melloi II, on the other hand, tosses convention out on its head and decides to play Calvinball instead.

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Promotional art for Lupin the Third Part IV

Lupin the Third is a character who refuses to be tied down. Like Tom Servo, he’s like the wind, baby. His various earlier anime series and films have set him up as a consummate flirt and womanizer, and his adventures have spanned the globe. Lupin the Third Part IV upends that status quo immediately in both respects. In the second, Lupin’s adventures in this series are generally limited to Italy. In the first case, the series opens with Lupin getting married, and not to Fujiko Mine.

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Still from the first episode of O Maidens in Your Savage Season

Occasionally, I watch an anime series that I feel utterly unqualified to review. Sometimes it’s something like Angel’s Egg, where I can clearly feel the concepts flying over my head and ruffling my hair – where I can tell what I’m seeing is art, but I lack the vocabulary to properly expand on the concept. In the case of O Maidens in Your Savage Season, it’s life experiences.

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When I was in High School, Fruits Basket came out in the US and it was a phenomenon. the manga was the flagship of Tokyopop’s unflipped manga (or “100% Authentic Manga”) initiative, and its success led to the majority of manga in the US being published unflipped, and also cemented a longstanding partnership between Tokyopop and Borders which lasted until both went bankrupt – all of that fueled as well by the success of the anime. Now, about 18 years later, long enough for the high school kids who grew up on FuruBa to have kids of their own, there is a new anime adaptation of Fruits Basket, with the first season airing this year.

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A while back, when I had started my fanzine with the intent of getting established science fiction fans, in particular, those who read fanzines (a demographic that is generally more likely to vote and nominate in the Hugos), to watch and nominate speculative fiction anime – I started with a list.  I gave a list of anime series that had come out since the turn of the millennium which I thought literary speculative fiction fans would enjoy. Among them was Bodacious Space Pirates, a science fiction anime which I felt took the sense of adventure and wonder that was a fixture of ‘50s and ’60s YA Space Adventure science fiction, kept that, and dropped the obsolete political and social views that fill so many works of that period. Astra: Lost in Space is the next anime that tries this and pulls it off spectacularly.

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From Left, Hachi and Robby.

RobiHachi is a very different show than most of the anime series I’ve seen – particularly those about travel. Most anime series that are about travel and tourism that I’ve seen tend to be chill slice of life comedies, like Laid Back Camp. RobiHachi, on the other hand, is a very silly, wacky, over-the-top comedy – though one with some thematic elements in common with those other series.

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The three female leads of We Never Learn

A lot of fanservice anime tends to be gross. Maybe it’s because the fanservice comes through sexual slapstick of the “Whoops I fell and groped you or looked up your skirt” variety. Or it comes through battle damage of the “Female character gets their top shredded in combat and now their boobs are hanging out” variety. Or it’s of the “Male lead openly sexually harasses female characters variety.” Perhaps that’s why the fanservice that comes up in We Never Learn feels like a breath of fresh air.

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Well, you’ve just finished watching Evangelion on Netflix, and you’re wondering what to watch after this. I have a few recommendations here for you. The video is fairly spoiler-light so if you’re making your way through the show now, you should be fine.

Lists of all the works I recommend below the cut/further down, with affiliate links for Amazon and RighStuf (through ShareASale), and streaming links, where available. Buying anything through affiliate links helps to support the show.

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There are works of anime and manga which view feudal Japan with a less than critical eye. Dororo is not one of those works. The original manga by Osamu Tezuka was a work that, while more than a little cartoonish (as this was ’60s Tezuka), looked on the realities of Japan leading into the Warring States period with a critical eye. The 2019 anime adaptation of the work keeps a similar appraisal of the period.

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Japanese box art for Space Runaway Ideon

Yoshiyuki Tomino has something of a reputation as an anime director, for multiple reasons. Tomino has a reputation for being full of himself. His interviews about Brainpowerd in Animerica magazine demonstrate this. Anyone who has gone to an anime con and asked a Japanese guest who worked with him for a “Tomino story” can attest to this. Tomino also has a reputation for his absolute ruthlessness for killing off characters in his work. The normal examples of this are Zeta Gundam, the last half of ZZ Gundam, and Char’s Counterattack. However, the work that started Tomino down this road was Space Runaway Ideon. (Pronounced E-day-on).

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Gameplay of Tamamo no Mai from Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star

One of my guilty pleasures is the Dynasty Warriors games. They’re fun, engaging, somewhat mindless hack-and-slash games. However, they are not without their faults. There comes a point where you’ve put the Yellow Turban Rebellion down enough times that you just can’t play through it anymore. Thus the appeal of the other takes on the concept from within Koei and without. Such is the case with Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star.

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Promotional art for The Magnificent Kotobuki featuring the members of the squadron.

If you’d read my review of Area 88, you may recall that I gushed over the gorgeously depicted dogfights in that show. Since then I’ve been looking for something that scratched that itch. Not necessarily with the amount of grit that Area 88 did – but still, something that had exciting, tense fighter dogfights. The Winter 2018 anime season brought me the thing that I’d been waiting for. Specifically, it brought me The Magnificent Kotobuki, from the writer and director of Shirobako and Girls Und Panzer. Now, the series had some difficulty taking off for some fans because of the stylistic choices the director made. However, once it got airborne, in my view The Magnificent Kotobuki became a fantastic action anime.

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It feels like an unnecessary point to say, but it bears mentioning nonetheless – Fate/Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel II. Lost Butterfly is very much the middle installment of a trilogy. While the first film in this route, Presage Flower, had a very dark ending, this film manages to go into darker places and ends in a dire place. While the first two routes had a degree of brightness to their endings, and I have no doubt that the Heaven’s Feel route will be no exception, it’s important to go in knowing that.

It also bears mentioning going in, and I’m mentioning this before the cut for those who don’t want to read further before seeing the film – even though I’m going to minimize spoilers, that I would give this film a content advisory for sexual assault and suicide. Neither is depicted explicitly on screen (sort of), but it comes up, so it’s important to know going in.

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When I think of food porn in anime, I think of Food Wars – in part because of the risque reactions to the food, but more so because of the very involved dishes that are featured in the work – some of them are dishes that I feel I could make with some time and practice, but there are more than few others that I don’t think I could pull off, due to ingredients that aren’t available, or techniques that can be tricky to master (filleting a cut of meat, for example). Though there are a few other series that focus on food that is easier to pull off in the home, like Sweetness and Lightning.

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