Studio Trigger’s more recent fare is interesting from a critical standpoint because it’s very clear that they are a studio that does not shy away from being political and generally attempting to be progressive. They’re also a studio who, rather than directly addressing Japanese politics, tends to address their narratives through the lens of American politics, often through the X-Men books, which means that due to their distance from American politics, they can stumble into some rakes that are otherwise avoidable, and BNA: Brave New Animal is a great example of this.

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Yuna, the protagonist of Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear

I’ve generally avoided a lot of the more OP Isekai Anime series – no wish fulfillment shows with characters that have a superpowered cheat ability getting ported into a fantasy world modeled on a MMORPG in my watched list. Oh, there are Isekai shows on there, and even ones with people who have abilities that are somewhat overpowered (Log Horizon comes to mind). However, all of those are ones that are cases where an existing power from the game’s world is applied differently. Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is the first show with this concept that I’ve ended up watching, and it’s probably the best place to jump in on this idea.

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Iwa-kakeru kind of got a bad break. This year was the year where we were supposed to get the Tokyo Summer Olympics and with it, as one of the new events, Bouldering – or Sport Climbing. So, Iwa-kakeru would have been placed to perfectly strike when the iron was hot, adapting a manga about this brand new Olympic sport, to rise off of the heat of that Olympic fever. And then COVID-19 happened and the Summer Olympics were pushed back at least one year. So, the question becomes whether Iwa-kakeru can hold up without that boost of Olympic excitement.

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I’ve reviewed most of the anime adaptations of Hayate: The Combat Butler, and reviewed much of the manga that’s been officially released in English to date (in spite of the official US release being several years behind the Japanese release – which has since ended). When I learned that author Kenjiro Hata’s latest manga, Tonikawa, was getting an anime adaptation, that show quickly ended up on the list of shows on my watchlist for that season, and I was not disappointed.

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The members of Special 7

Special 7 is the last of the big anime series I’d watched in the Fall 2019 season that finished that season – Azur Lane was delayed, Blade of the Immortal, Fate/Grand Order, and My Hero Academia were two-cour series, and I dropped Babylon. It’s an interesting anime series that takes the concept of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and applies it in an urban fantasy context, but doesn’t quite have as much to say.

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The main cast of We Never Learn - Yuuki and his romantic interests.

The first season of We Never Learn ended with an announcement for a second season. With the manga being based around college preparation and studying for that, I did definitely have a sense that whether or not the manga was actually done at this point, whatever the second season ended on was going to have some degree of finality – with how the anime was paced, I couldn’t really see a way to wrap here without getting into graduation. Without too many spoilers before the cut, it does get to graduation, and in hindsight, I think the ending kind of works well.

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Sports Anime is something of a blind spot in my viewing habits. A lot of the top shows of the past few years (Kuroko’s Basketball, Haikyu, Yowamushi Petal) are on my to-watch list, and a few other shows (Giant Killing, Free, Princess Nine) I’ve never gotten around to finishing. So on a recommendation I decided to sit down and watch Scorching Ping-Pong Girls, on the one hand I found it an enjoyable and brisk watch – but on the other, it left me hanging.

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From Left - Ultra Seven, Ultraman, and Ultraman Ace from Season 1 of Ultraman

This past year or so we had a fair number of anime series paying tribute to classic Tokusatsu series from Tsuburya Productions. The most high profile of these was S.S.S.S. Gridman, with Netflix’s Ultraman Season 1 (adapting the manga) coming out earlier, and flying under the radar. There are a few reasons for that – Gridman had Trigger’s rep going for it, instead of being a totally CG anime series, and was released in English in a more conventional manner instead of the Netflix binge model. As far as how much each of those contributed – well, I can’t get into specifics without delving into Steiner Math (which I flunked in college). That said, the show is still fun, and worth your time.

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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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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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When I heard about the upcoming release of Gundam NT (or Gundam Narrative) the thought I had coming in was that the film was going to be the kickoff point for the next chapter of the saga of the Universal Century. That, after the conclusion of Gundam Unicorn set up something of a new status quo, this would start a series of films that would basically lay the groundwork for eventually reaching F91, Crossbone Gundam, and Victory Gundam.

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