The Roundup: Winter 2015 Volume 1

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In this week’s installment…

The Roundup returns with a brand new lineup of Winter shows and a few favorites from last season. Magical Boys, a swanky version of the afterlife, medieval sex witches, adorable dystopian uprisings, and a show already dropped in the first round? Just another Tuesday at the Glorio Blog.

The Roundup is a weekly guide to all the “other” shows we’re watching this season. Check out our full, weekly coverage of:

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders / Gundam: Reconguista in G / Assassination Classroom / The Rolling Girls / Gundam Build Fighters Try / Kamen Rider Drive / Yurikuma Arashi / Parasyte – The Maxim / Your Lie In April / Durarara!! x2

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Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!
Episode 2

Fridays 1:40 am EST on Funimation

Watching: ArtemisJel, Marlin

Artemis: Well, at least I actually laughed out loud in this episode, albeit from sheer disbelief. Is manslaughter considered comedy material now? Also, as someone who frequents her local onsen about once a week, the thought of a literal corpse bathing with everyone else is inherently repugnant to me, even in a clear parody show like this one. Otherwise, as with episode one, I cracked a few smiles – the main antagonist’s transformation sequence was funny enough – but the lampooning of magical-girl tropes will only carry this series so far before these types of jokes eventually grow stale.

Jel: How dumb is too dumb? Earth Defense Club continues to push the limit but I still enjoyed this somehow. Our wombat friend’s Weekend at Bernie’s situation is a much appreciated bit of black humor in the middle of all the colors and sparkles, so I’m glad to see more of that in episode 2. I also love the idea of an evil foil organization, especially with the hilariously deep voiced green hedgehog as their leader. Like Artemis, I’m also still skeptical but after 2 episodes, I don’t have too many complaints.

Shirobako - Look how happy he is. Is he not the cutest thing in this show?

Shirobako – Look how happy he is. Is he not the cutest thing in this show?

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Shirobako
Episode 14

Thursdays 11:30 am EST on Crunchyroll

Watching: Aquagaze, Gee, Marlin

Aqua: Sometimes everything you need is just six middle-aged nerds around a table to create twenty minutes of utterly phenomenal television. This episode of Shirobako was allegedly recorded before it was animated, which I’d gladly believe based on the ridiculously chaotic back-and-forth between our Director and three corporate shills who seem to encapsulate more than any other insufferable caricature Shirobako has come up with how hard it must be to pursue any kind of creative integrity in the anime industry. It’s easy to deride the Director for taking the very obvious rubbish Musashino Animation tend to produce so seriously, but at the very least, he’s dedicated to doing the best he can in stead of caring only about his wallet. Of course, this wouldn’t be Shirobako if the endless and increasingly acerbic quarreling of three equally conceited greedy bastards didn’t end up horribly for one of our perpetually jinxed protagonists. It’s Suzuka who gets the short end of the stick this time, and the other girls’ reactions at the realization that they couldn’t have been so lucky all five of them would miraculously end up working on the same project is a welcome alternative for the usual anime melodrama. Strong acting is just one of the many things Shirobako does right, and given how green its main cast is, I don’t think director Tsutomu Mizushima chose the subject of this episode just like that.

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Garo: The Animation
Episode 14

Fridays 12:23 am EST on Funimation

Watching: Aquagaze

Aqua: For a show that started out with a full episode of sexposition, Garo has displayed an astonishing maturity and depth over its past few episodes. It cast doubt on the nature of heroism by having the infinitely more competent Alphonso usurp León’s role — sending the traditional brooding Garo hero into a spiral of withdrawal. Last week’s quiet, pastoral episode sketched a beautiful portrait of León’s slow recovery, getting to know himself better far away from the immense pressure of his duties, his traumatic past and his father’s shameless behaviour. Ema points out how much his attitude towards her teasing has changed, but the lion’s part of the episode actually brings us back to Santa Bard, where Alphonso’s relentless idealism is starting to pose a problem. On an adventure outside the city walls — where rebellious princes tend to go — he soon stumbles upon a highly entertaining, swashbuckling adventure featuring an alleged gang of thieves who have taken up residence in the castle of one Count Juste, a legendary knight whose heroics inspired Alphonso to be the man he is today. Suffice to say, the true story of Juste isn’t exactly the one Alphonso had in mind. In his true guise of a repugnant Horror, the prince’s childhood hero tears his image of knighthood to pieces, leaving Alphonso even more tired of his double duty as king by day and protector by night. If he cannot be both the benevolent ruler and the valiant knight — he, the man who cast aside his feelings to save the kingdom when its sworn protector gave in to his anger and grief — then who can? The episode cuts to credits as soon as this inconvenient truth dawns on the good prince, leaving yet another agonizing week-long wait before we can see just how much of Alphonso’s faith is still intact.

Death Parade - If the Afterlife actually looks like this, I'm not afraid of death anymore.

Death Parade – If the Afterlife actually looks like this, I’m not afraid of death anymore.

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Death Parade
Episode 2

Fridays 1:30 pm EST on Funimation

Watching: Aquagaze, Artemis, Euri, Iro, Jel, Marlin

Artemis: I was pleasantly surprised by this week’s Death Parade, having fully expected it to follow exactly the same formula as episode one, albeit with a different game and different player(s). I probably would have been okay with that too, but it was good to gain some context that didn’t feel like it was hitting me over the head with exposition, and also to have some explanation as to what’s going on in the larger picture while still leaving the potential for a few curveballs in later episodes. In what looks to be a very weak season overall, Death Parade is definitely one of the standouts, thanks in large part to its well-crafted atmosphere and a strong sense of style.

Aqua: To say that I didn’t like the conclusion to last week’s pilot would be an understatement, so image my surprise at finding out that all of Death Parade‘s faults were entirely intentional. This second episode not only went out of its way to clear up any doubts regarding the ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ Decim speaks of, but also called the bartender out on his wonky judgement. Apparently I’m far from the only one who thinks Machiko faked the heck out of her breakdown at the end of last episode and Decim was wrong in sentencing her to oblivion. Introducing Asami Seto’s nameless assistant to act as the clinical Decim’s heart was a masterstroke and revisiting the pilot from her skeptical, human perspective puts an intriguing spin on the seemingly cosmic cruelty of that episode’s events. Twisting viewers’ expectations and casting doubt on your own absolute right — take note, authors. This is how you do a second episode exposition dump right.

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Log Horizon II
Episode 15

Saturdays 7:30 am EST on Crunchyroll

Watching: Gee, Iro, Marlin, Timmy

Iro: After 14 episodes of watching Shiroe and Akatsuki strut their stuff, it’s like a breath of fresh air to go back to the kids and see what they’re up to. It’s fun to watch Shiroe go all politics and talking on us, but there’s not too much room for growth there; the kids are still gaining experience, both as RPG characters and as people. Rudy might just be my favorite character in the entire show, and his relationship with Isuzu is super cute, so I’m looking forward to seeing some more of that going on. As for Isuzu herself, this arc seems to be focusing fairly heavily on her, and I’m just fine with that. Hopefully Log Horizon will keep going strong.

Marlin: In the first season, Log Horizon did a fairly good job at balancing two competing story lines. This time, however, taking Shiroe out of his wheelhouse until the very end and spotlighting Akatsuki, by far the most poorly built character in the series, has been in many ways lacking. This new adventure has the potential to bring that spark back. The kids were rudely sidelined throughout the first half, so for them to finally get some character focus is sorely needed. At the same time, a threat coming at Akihabara seems much more suited to Shiroe. While I’m worried that his appearance might eclipse the kids’ own development, I still have faith that we’ll enjoy the outcome.

Maria the Virgin Witch - Don't you think they look a bit like brother and sister?

Maria The Virgin Witch – Don’t you think they look a bit like brother and sister?

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Maria The Virgin Witch
Episode 2

Sundays 9:30 am EST on Funimation

Watching: Aquagaze, Gee, Jel, Iro, Marlin

Iro: Man, they went all in on this one. I never expected to see the day when an anime would tackle the concept of homosexuality in the medieval church, let alone having it make sense in context. Other than that, Maria The Virgin Witch includes enough concepts to stay at least mildly intriguing, particularly with Maria’s summoning magic. It seems that all (or at least many) mythologies are true in this world, and yet the story features the monotheistic Roman Catholic Church quite heavily, to the point of Michael coming down from heaven to tell Maria to quit it with the magic. If the show continues to have an over-reliance on sex jokes, I can’t really see myself continuing, but for now it’s earned another episode.

Marlin: Disclaimer: these are my views as a practicing Catholic, not representative of the blog as a whole.

I don’t even mind the casual nudity in this episode as much as the wide aspersions it casts on Christianity, Catholicism in particular. If this show is trying to ask “If God exists, why do people suffer?” it’s hardly making the most impressive argument. As illustrated by the very characters in this story, the Maria doesn’t exist in the real world, so Michael’s scenes almost come off as some kind of straw man to declare God as callous by directly intervening with her. The homosexual priests were something I imagine a lot of people will find “progressive”. If it were just two normal people, I would say they can have that belief, but this is something different. The position of priest is sacred, but most importantly, it is completely voluntary. No one is forced into discerning for the priesthood and it requires, now as it did back then, several years of schooling and vocation before one takes his vows and becomes a priest. A priest violating those vows is nothing but a betrayal of trust most foul, and nothing to make a joke of. On a related note, I think the way this show seems to treat every man except for the love interest as some kind of sex crazed animal is very patronizing. If Maria The Virgin Witch is trying to present some statement on sexuality I would hope it starts to show the good with the bad.

Aqua: Many anime portray the Roman Catholic Church as a less than savoury institution, but Maria The Virgin Witch is the only one I know of that actually bases its criticisms on legitimate historical arguments, rather than on the bizarre mythical mumbo-jumbo shows like A Certain Magical Index rely on. It’s obvious that original author Masayuki Ishikawa has sincere, grounded beef with the Church based on its attitude towards women and sexuality, and picks apart its hypocrisy with a complete and utter lack of restraint. I haven’t been this ashamed of laughing at something in a very long while, and in certain regards — particularly the scene where Artemis throws Maria and Priapus into a flaming gay stereotype’s room to basically get raped — it takes its anarchic kicking about a tad too far. Yet on the other hand, Maria the Virgin Witch retains the cleverness that made Moyashimon‘s portrayal of sexuality so great. Even though Maria’s virginity and naiveté serves as the butt of many jokes, she’s never shamed for it, and in fact, her noble, innocent soul is never shown to be anything other than admirable. This show is more than just a sex comedy, it’s a meaningful take on what ‘purity’ actually entails: Is it Maria’s virginity that makes her pure, or her desire to use her powers to end violence and save innocents? What value does purity even have when the institution that propagates purity itself violates it? Based on its first two episodes, Maria The Virgin Witch is a solid, entertaining romp with some actual meat on it and a lovable main character. It only needs to make sure that in advocating sexual liberation, it doesn’t end up mocking the sexually liberated.

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Yatterman Night – Silly transforming mecha is obviously more important than food or shelter.

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Yatterman Night
Episode 2

Sundays 10:30 am EST on Funimation

Watching: Gee, Iro, Jel, Marlin

Iro: After the unexpectedly dark premiere, I wasn’t fully expecting Yatterman Night to jump right back into being mostly silly. My understanding is that the original series was basically a robot-of-the-week format with Doronjo carting out some silly mecha to attack the Yattermen, and Night seems to be following that formula for now. That said, the silliness juxtaposes surprisingly well with the slow, quiet scenes near the end of the episode, with the massive shift in tone making our cast’s low seem even lower. As a last thing worth noting, the ED sequence seems to star a pair of non-robotic Yattermen, which basically made me start thinking that perhaps the new-generation Doronjo isn’t necessarily descended from a villainous lineage…

Jel: This was much sillier than I expected and they were trying a little too hard to make reference to the original series, but I think a lighter tone worked great for the second episode. I was expecting the entire assault on Yatterman Kingdom to be a dream or something considering there’s no way they would have the resources to build a giant transforming mecha but NOPE. It was one of those situations where it was just better not to ask questions and just enjoy the ride. In a way, the silly battle sequence made it all the more heart breaking when they failed and ended up even worse off than when they started. So far Yatterman Night has been a surprisingly balanced mix of camp and melancholy, a difficult to pull off. We’ll have to see if they can keep it going for the rest of the series.

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Gourmet Girl Graffiti
Episode 2

Sundays 11:00 am EST on Crunchyroll

Watching: Euri

Euri: As we mentioned in our first impressions, Gourmet Girl Graffiti has a lot of similarities to Hidamari Sketch, so believe me when I say that I really do want to like this. The problem is that I can’t, and most likely won’t, because of a few key differences between the two shows. The first is that for a show about food, there really isn’t a lot of cooking involved. If I want to see people eating food and talking about how amazing it is, I’d sit in a restaurant. There certainly is a lot of food in this show, but a focus on preparation and how to cook stuff would have been far more interesting than Shaft showing off their skills at drawing girls in ecstasy. The main killer is that the pacing is all wrong, but I think I know why this is. With Hidamari Sketch, due to being a 4 panel manga, they don’t spend a lot of time on one subject. You hop from one to the next in quick succession, and rarely do you have some kind of overarching episode plot. It stops it from getting stale, and its where a lot of the charm comes from. Gourmet Girl doesn’t do this, instead deciding to spend one episode dedicated to one thing. This is fine for most shows, but when it’s about how the distant cousin is getting depressed that she doesn’t know everything there is to know about main girl, even though they’ve only really known each other for a short period of time, it’s just not going to work. Sure, make a scene about it and resolve it at the end of the episode, but please move on. There’s just far too much fluff to keep my interest, so while it isn’t an awful show by any means, it’s just not fun to watch. Sorry Shaft, I’m sitting this one out. Well, for the most part, as I might keep on top of the best part of each episode; the episode preview.

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