A Shockingly Bad Anime

Juden Chan Checks all the Wrong Boxes
by Bolt Vanderhuge

I’ve written before about Faito ippatsu! Jūden-chan!!, which you may know as Charger Girl Juden Chan or just Juden Chan, but that was based off of the first few episodes. Since then, I decided to subject my friends to this show as revenge for them showing me some of the shows they’ve made me watch, but in the process this meant that I had to watch the whole thing, too.

… Dammit.

So just to briefly summarize for those of you too lazy to go back and read my last article, this is basically a magical girl show crossed with a harem show. The magical girls in this case are the “charger girls” who come from the parallel world called Life Core and work for a company called Neodym to “cure” humans with depression by zapping them with giant plugs. So the gimmick here is basically anything and everything to do with electricity and electrical equipment, such as our main character Plug Cryostat having electrical prong bunny ears. Normally, these electricity-themed magical girls are invisible to humans and intangible to our world, and are thus able to hover, fly, and pass through objects like they got caught in the blast radius of an experimental Romulan phase-cloaking device. For reasons that are never explained, a human named Sento is able to see, hear, and touch these magical girls, and his natural inclination upon seeing them is to hit them in the head with a baseball bat he pulls out of hammer space, or anything else that happens to be within reach. This is what constitutes a running “gag” for this show, because thumping someone in the skull until they pee themselves is funny apparently.

Surprisingly, my attitude toward it really didn’t improve after actually watching the entire thing after all these years. This show is as unapologetically horny as it is misogynistic, and seems to exist solely to cater to as many fetishes as possible so as to attract as many horny otaku as possible. Probably the most notable one is the whole panty-wetting thing, which is also conflated with female orgasm for some reason, and is in every episode at least once, if not several times. There’s also plenty of loli-con and even some sis-con, because of course there is, which whoever made this show deluded themselves into thinking was less creepy if it’s a woman doing this crap.

Who says men can’t write female characters?

This show is basically just porn (the term is hentaiecchi, you uncultured swine) and isn’t even remotely ashamed of it. I’m not even just talking the amount or graphic nature of the nudity, but things like fun with naughty tentacles (the go-to dick stand-ins), and of course the aforementioned obsession with pee. Admittedly there were times I could almost forget about the cringey aspects of the show and almost enjoy it as the porn-with-plot that it is (it even gets somewhat romantic at times), but inevitably something would come along and ruin that.

For five minutes, could you try not being yourself? FOR FIVE MINUTES!?

The show does try to get semi-serious and dare I say even somewhat dramatic at times thanks to it using mental health and depression as the basis for its gimmick, and can otherwise be fun when it isn’t being completely horrible. Just as an example, at one point it completely lampshades the fact that everyone from Plug’s division actually all have the exact same face and just have different hair to distinguish them (a common criticism of anime in general), which is made a bit funnier by the fact they never bother explaining why and never bring it up again. It’s just that I can never get over the more disgusting aspects of this show (fuck you, I will fetish shame you).

Actually one of the more surprising aspects of this show is that it got an English dub and localization at some point after I’d originally watched this in 2010 or so. You can totally watch this show on Crunchyroll under the name Charger Girl Ju-den Chan, though as you might expect from a company owned by the prudish Sony, it’s been censored to edit out as much of the nudity and pee as possible. For the life of me I can’t understand why they bothered, though, because while sex sells and all, if they’re censoring it, I mean, that’s basically the point of the show, so there isn’t much left other than Sento beating the crap out of invisible magical girls.

In any case, I still cannot recommend that you bother watching this show. I mean, I guess if you like to intentionally watch bad anime to laugh at it like I do it might be worth it, but it’s difficult to find an uncensored version to do so with. Otherwise, unless the thought of beating women with a baseball bat gets you all hot and bothered, or you have Tom Hanks levels of pee obsession (seriously, pay attention to how many of his movies feature him peeing), I can’t recommend it for you.

Fuck No! Don’t Check it Out:
Charger Girl Juden-chan (Faito ippatsu! Juden-chan!!)
based on the manga by Bow Ditama
Produced by Studio Hibari, Licenced by Media Blasters

Redhead gets Boyfriend

Hardly headline news, but Romantic Killer isn’t either
by Bob Johnson

Anzu faces down Man Mountain.

Anzu is a lady who doesn’t have any problems. Her folks take care of her, she loves her cat, she eats a fair bit of chocolate, and she plays dating sims, reasoning correctly that it’s cheaper than the real thing. Mendokusai!

However, a sitcom is defined by the hilarity that ensues from problems, and soon enough, Anzu’s problem is Riri, a flying fairy who shows up screeching nonsense about “Lie Back and Think of Japan” and an attitude toward consent that only a clickwrap corporate lawyer could love. Plus a magic wand to wave around! Suddenly, Anzu’s parents are inexplicably moving to America, chocolate and games have disappeared from the house, and Anzu’s treasured pet is nowhere to be found.

Anzu in her native habitat.

We are then introduced to a series of major and minor husbandos, each of whom offers Anzu an experience straight out of an Otome Game: the brooding hunk in need of healing, the childhood friend who grew up to be all big and muscly (or his trashy friend), the filthy rich brat who needs a tsundere to teach him real love (or his chauffeur, who knows what’s up).

I’M LATE!!! Rule 63 has a brand new look.

Most romance shows rely on a suspension of disbelief to the tune of, “Sure, I’ll believe that all of these coincidences could happen randomly in real life and not according to some screenwriter’s guide on putting a plot thickener just before the second act…” Well, the show prevents you from forming those thoughts; just as things are getting particularly good, Riri pops in to drop an “All According To Plan MUAHAHA”, and then everyone remembers that this is a setup, particularly Anzu.

It is a gameplay loop that lasts until they run out of the most obvious scenarios and theeeeeen, well that’s when you learn that Anzu is *not* the title character. For those who don’t necessarily like having a psychological thriller bolted onto your fluffy romance show, you could literally skip Episode 10, 11, and the first three minutes of Episode 12 and not really miss anything. But even leaving them in, I’m not left with the usual Gonzo Ending aftertaste that has ruined other shows forever. They had to put some denouement in there to set up the sequel, after all!

It is a pretty solid show by Netflix standards (i.e. ‘average’), but nothing to rush through before the password checks go in. I would recommend Romantic Killer for fans of visual novels, and it’s fine for any other bored anime fan looking for something a little fun and flirty.

Maybe look it up:

Romantic Killer 12 episode anime
Based on the manga by Wataru Momose
Produced by DOMERICA, Licenced by Netflix
Streaming (Press Time) : Netflix

If Anti-Climax was an Anime

Night Head Genesis, An Interesting Concept in Search of a Story

by Bolt Vanderhuge

When a show is either very good or very bad, it will at least inspire strong feelings from a viewer, but then there are shows like Night Head Genesis which inspire very little emotion beyond disappointment. Calling this show boring is actually selling it a little short, but not by much, as it had a somewhat interesting premise and just failed to actually do anything with it.

This series follows two brothers with supernatural abilities – one who can sense the past, present, and future through touching people and certain objects, and one who can give people telekinetic bitch slaps from across the room. The first episode sees them sent as children to some kind of a secret research center in the middle of the woods by their parents, only to then skip ahead 15 years to see them escape, and somehow come across a classic Toyota they use for the rest of the series to get around in. If you’re thinking that the series might revisit their time in the research center, it does, but not very much, beyond explaining that the reason they were trapped there was because of an old man who also had supernatural abilities, and that they were able to escape when he died, they really don’t do much with that chapter of their lives, nor do they explain why the center allows them to just drive around on their own, and even gives them money so they can live in hotels, eat wherever they like, and pay assholes absurd amounts of money to change their tire.

The two characters do run into a lot of assholes, incidentally. I was almost starting to wonder if the show was just some nihilistic soapbox but this was explained as their powers somehow drawing negativity toward them. This ended up seemingly transitioning into the brothers, Naoto and Naoya Kirihara, driving around and investigating various supernatural happenings, at times at the research center’s request, which gave me some small hope that this would turn into Supernatural × X-Men or something like that, even if the show was taking its sweet time to get there. A mysterious schoolgirl was introduced and seemed like it might lead into a more interesting plot, along with hints of some evil secret organization called Ark that apparently was brainwashing people to go out and kill others who had supernatural abilities. It even seemed possible that the evil secret organization had disappeared the schoolgirl. After all, she claimed to be able to travel through time and space, made predictions to her friend that kept her and her family from getting killed, and write stuff down in a journal in a strange script no one else could read. It was this promise of something finally happening for all the long, drawn out plodding that actually managed to keep me watching. I sure was wrong.

As boring as this show could be, my main frustration with it was its complete lack of ability to actually do anything with what it set up. You have this research center that the main characters grew up at that not only let them go, but let them keep a car they stole and even paid them as they wandered around Japan, the mystery of what exactly happened to the main characters’ parents, the mystery of Japanese schoolgirl Nostradamus, the secret evil organization that calls itself Ark going around killing anyone who shows signs of having supernatural abilities, using people who have supernatural abilities, visions of an apocalyptic future, and all of it amounts to nothing in the end. Even on an episode to episode basis, the brothers set out to rescue people only to fail the vast majority of the time.

It doesn’t help that one of the brothers makes Shinji Ikari look strong and brave by comparison.

Outside of the pathetic main characters and the meandering plot that went nowhere, the most disappointing thing about this show was that it had everything it needed to actually maybe be good (or at least more interesting), but couldn’t be bothered to for 24 episodes. There’re shows out there that manage to do more than that in a fraction of that episode count.

It’s difficult to say where exactly this show’s failure came from. It was apparently based on an early ‘90s TV drama that focused on the brothers as they are basically continually on the run, and this was meant as something of a prequel to that show. It would be tempting to blame a low budget, because it was pretty obvious at times that there wasn’t much of one, but I’ve watched plenty of poorly animated, low-budget animes that were a lot more interesting than this one to watch, because that actually had a decent story. This does bring me to the most disappointing thing about this show, though – it has a sequel.

Sufficed to say, I would not recommend that you watch this anime. I can’t really say one way or another with either the original TV drama, Night Head, or its more recent sequel, Night Head 2041, but watching this one does not inspire me to want to watch either of them.

Fuck No, Don’t Check It Out:

Night Head Genesis
Based on Night Head created by George Iida
Written by George Iida, Directed by Yoshio Takeuchi
Music by Shigeru Umebayashi
Produced by Bee Media and Actas, Licenced by Media Blasters

Streaming (press time): Not streaming in the US.
Amazon Prime may have it in some countries
Media Blasters has re-released it on Blu-Ray

Nerves of Chrome

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is a chip off the code block. Scroll it, choom!

by Bob Johnson

Don’t wait for me to rant about it. No need to invest 100 hours in the video game first. If you are even vaguely interested in gaming, computers, guns, science fiction, or metamodern romance, it’s time to chip in. That’s Edgerunner lingo for Watch! This! Show!

I can’t believe my eyes! It’s a half-decent game adaptation!!

New crew, same old Night City. Moments before V explodes on the scene in 2077, we take a close look at David Martinez, a kid who gets his pocket change selling exotic VR replays to smarmy corpo kids. The closest thing he has to a friend at school is some choomba who beats him up for being poor. His mom, Gloria, pays his school tuition with black-market implants she scrapes off carcasses as an EMT.

Dave’s life kinda sucks, and it pretty much doesn’t stop sucking, though it does happen to change when a certain high-grade military implant shows up in his life. Pretty soon, he’s bouncing off the walls with lightning speed, attracting the attention of a certain fatally cute edgerunner, who opens David’s eyes to subway scams and the world of merc work. It doesn’t take long for a job or two to get over his head, but as luck would have it, he lives to fight another day.

Lucy’s idea of a meet cute involves a deadly monowire whip.

For a while, anyway. As true as it’s been since the first edition of Cyberpunk in 1988, a runner in Night City doesn’t last long. If you honestly had the choice, would you let the bullets or the daemons take you?

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is in fact a good show, a show made by the best people, that evokes the gaming experience in just the best way. Even though I’ve heard a fair set of arguments that this show is ‘just an ad’ for the game, this is not remotely in the same category as your average dime-novel Halo Reacharound cash-grab. This is real art. It is completely cohesive, whether you choose to see it as a fully fledged anime or a glorified video game cutscene. And I’d strongly argue the former over the latter.

Speaking of art, I should mention how well done the animation is, 2D first with mostly seamless 3D elements, all steeped or borrowed heavily from the game’s aesthetic and art assets, with some wall-breaking Triggerisms tossed in that work amazingly well. 10 years ago, it might have been tempting to do a work like this as some low-grade machinima. They absolutely don’t do that here.

Gotta go fast!

Ultimately, the measure of a show is not how 2D or 3D it is, it’s the whether it was made with real, human emotions, and asks real, human questions. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners has tons of those little zen moments that meditate on the nature of experience. In this glitzy, near-future, artificially-enhanced surreality, what does it even mean to be human?

Fuck Yeah Look It Up!

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
Based on the Cyberpunk franchise created by Mike Pondsmith
Produced by Trigger and CD Projekt RED, distributed by Netflix
Streaming (press time): Netflix

How the Mighty Have Fallen

Since When does Production I.G adapt BL Mangas?
by Bolt Vanderhuge

I have to admit that I probably wouldn’t have bothered to watch Moriarty the Communist Patriot if not for my anime group voting for it. I had actually never heard of this before, so I went into it completely unbiased when I started. The fact that Production I.G had done it gave me some hope initially, because back in the ‘90s and early 2000s, they had actually made some pretty good stuff, even it was pretty obvious one or more people there had a huge anti-America boner. While the same attention to technical detail is still alive there, as someone obviously did their homework on Victorian-era Britain. But while the art skills are still there, the writing skill apparently is not.

At first I thought this series might just be some attempt to make the character of Moriarty more sympathetic (as the title calling him a patriot suggests), or at least an attempt to try some kind of a twist on the old Sherlock Holmes franchise by focusing on this character. Essentially, Moriarty shows all the same deductive skills that are stereotypically associated with Holmes, but the “twist” ends up being that the perpetrator of the crimes he solves are all rich aristocrats and the “service” he offers is to arrange for someone else to murder them.

While was not immediately apparent to my dense self, but after the opening monologue started in the second episode and the flashback featured therein, it became obvious that this series is really just socialist revenge fantasy, which frankly was quite horrifying for a freedom-lover like myself to watch.

The English dub of this scene is … less discriminate.

The strict class separation of Victorian England really lends itself well to socialist talking points, but the show really does go overboard on it. Part of me wonders if they are just using England as a proxy for Japan, given the taboo against criticizing the Imperial family, but that’s probably giving the writers too much credit given how cartoonishly evil all the aristocrats in this series are depicted. Except for Albert Moriarty, who proves his virtue by murdering his entire family after first talking them into adopting William and his brother Louis. Only after the senior Moriarty paid for Louis to get life-saving surgery, though.

The first part of the series was very formulaic, consisting entirely of some aristocrat doing something completely inhumanly evil, William showing how smart he is by figuring out who committed said wrongdoing and/or finding all the details he needs for him and his crew of fellow commies to murder said aristocrat without getting caught. These “perfect crimes” were to be part of some plan to somehow reform the British Empire, but it wasn’t really apparent how this would be accomplished since it really seemed to be all about the revenge aspect and just how smart William was. I would even have gone as far as to accuse him of being a Wesley Crusher level Gary Stu if not for the fact that he was basically just the pop culture stereotype of Sherlock Holmes but evil.

I was honestly getting bored of this series once the initial shock of Production I.G having gone full commie on me had worn off, but just as I was starting to zone out, the series changed things up by introducing the famous detective and archenemy of Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes. It was at times actually somewhat interesting to see these two play off of each other, but it was also pretty apparent that the show was basically morphing into a yaoi fan-fic. It later became the ultimate crossover fic after introducing a few other characters from the classic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle series by doing some … interesting things with them. For example, Irene Adler went from being able to disguise herself as a man (somehow, in spite of being built like Danni Ashe), to being trans, and being able to beat the crap out of people, to actually being the first James Bond, and first agent of MI6, which was totally invented thanks to William Moriarty’s influence. Upon the reveal of her new name, I laughed my ass off. A character named Billy the Kid also turns up. Stuff like this was the only real entertainment I got out of this series. It’s literally the ultimate yaoi socialist self-insert cross-over fan-fiction.

Literally the ultimate yaoi socialist self-insert cross-over fan-fiction.

I guess another example of the hilarity of this show is that it seemed to be structured like the 1997 Berserk series in that it started in 1911 New York City (with a period-accurate skyline) and then flashed back to William Moriarty’s beginning in London, but it’s like the writers forgot to bookend the series, and rather than ending up back in 1911 New York City, it ended in Switzerland. This Rian Johnson level of subverting expectations may be accurate to the manga (I don’t know or care), but it is still pretty funny.

So should you watch this show? Well, that depends. Are you a communist BL fan who also likes Sherlock Holmes? If so, you’d probably like this show, and hijacking planes to get to Red Zone Cuba. Do you like watching absurd things and making fun of them? You will find plenty to make fun of in this series, but it only really picks up toward the end and you really have to wait for the laughs before that. If you don’t want to wade through propaganda to get to the stupidly fun second season, or were foolishly hoping this show might do an actual adaptation of a Conan Doyle mystery, I would recommend that you skip this one and maybe watch Sherlock Hound instead.

Maybe Check It Out:

Moriarty the Patriot
Directed by Kazuya Nomura
Based on the manga written by Ryōsuke Takeuchi and illustrated by Hikaru Miyoshi
Produced by Production I.G

Streaming (press time): Crunchyroll

Apocalypse Zero Sense

The Horror… The Horror…
by Bolt Vanderhuge

This OVA is something of an oddity, and not just in a FLCL/Dead Leaves, “WTF is going on here?” sense (though there is no shortage of that). I’m honestly not sure whether Apocalypse Zero is supposed to be taken seriously or not. It’s like someone took elements of both Fist of the North Star and Neon Genesis Evangelion and mashed them together, but didn’t really care all that much about little details like plot structure.

What, you thought the fact there was an apocalypse meant you wouldn’t have to go to school?

The story follows a Gary Stu named Kakugo Hagakure, who poses as a transfer student so he can protect students and other innocent civilians living in the ruins of Tokyo. He wears the “Zero Armor” that gives this OVA and the manga it’s based on its name, which is a living exoskeleton made from the souls of deceased warriors. His main foe is actually his older brother, Harara Hagakure. They were both given armor by their father, but while Kakugo is able to keep the damned souls powering his armor in check, Harara isn’t, and turns evil, and also into a woman for some reason that’s never really explained all that well. Harara also turned into an environmentalist, which is why s/he has vowed to finish what the unexplained apocalypse started by wiping out all of humanity with his/her army of mutants and demons. Of course, in spite of having an entire army at his/her disposal, s/he insists on sending them one at a time. Worked for Rita Repulsa, right?

That being said, this OVA is a great example of weird old anime that is just so damn entertaining to watch. It is filled to the brim with graphic violence which includes things like a monster that is a literal man-eater, who will grab random guys off the streets and kill any woman who happens to be with him by squeezing them until their insides squirt out like toothpaste out of a tube.

It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

It also doesn’t shy away from gratuitous nudity, which is just as likely to be fan dis-service, like the six-breasted bear seen in the opening of the OVA, or really the majority of the monsters sent after Kukugo and his classmates. Most are dressed in very little, and one of them even uses his dick as his main weapon.

The weird visual design only adds to the oddness of this anime, and with the complete lack of story and plot structure it is very riffable. It is one of the most absurd animes I’ve watched, and it manages to keep just on the right side of funny while it indulges in its own stupidity. I would still recommend this anime, though, as long as you understand the dark weirdness you’re getting into. This is the kind of thing you watch with friends to get drunk and make fun of together.

Fuck Yeah! Check it Out!

Apocalypse Zero (2 episode OVA)
Based on the manga by Takayuki Yamaguchi
Animated by Ashi Productions and AIC
Produced by Big West Advertising, Victor Entertainment, and Tomy

Quiet Death, or Blaze of Glory?

Yasuke has it all, just not all together. Not unlike its title character.
by Bob Johnson

Here’s a show that came out exactly nine days too late last year: Yasuke. I do not know what chemical blend fuelled the production of this technicolor blur, but my friend has this desperate need to get some of it.

Livestreamed from the editing room.

Since there’s very little I can say about Yasuke that hasn’t been said more rudely elsewhere, let’s just start with the positives: This is a beautifully animated show with a killer soundtrack. We’re talking tunes that make you forget how direly anime needs another Nujabes — Flying Lotus could very well rise to the call. Lakeith Stanfield nails the VA for the title role. And well, I can’t really remember the last time I managed to hear about anime on NPR – maybe the FuniCrunch merger made the business section – but they talked up some Yasuke for sure. So Netflix indeed put some weight behind this and marketed the shit out of it, this is not one of the obscure, back-burner titles.

But the plot? It is… hot garbage. It barely budges from the through line of the standard sword-and-damsel plot, plus or minus certain squiggly arrows doodled on the storyboard, all hastily drawn around boxes with fresh Xs drawn through them. This is so palpable I’m trying to spit out the taste of red Sharpie. There’s so much that seems to occur “in between” episodes, almost as if entire extra episodes were meant to have taken place in the meantime. I’d call it Gonzo Ending, but the whole show is this way.

Out of everyone available, I mostly blame Netflix: its famously immutable budgets were unlikely to have covered a full 10 or 12 episodes once the bills started rolling in from MAPPA to draw up LeSean Thomas’ vision. The rest of this show, however epic it was to be, found itself on the cutting room floor.

So, legitimate question: if you were in the same bind, would you decide to go with dull, cheap animation to tell your whole story – or would you turn every knob up to 11, break them off, and spam “robots versus katanas” until your cash ran out?

As odd as it may seem to say, this show’s incompleteness may make it uniquely suited as a “gateway anime” – something to get the new anime viewer hungry for more substantial shows. Anime may be more popular than ever, but there are still plenty of folks out there who don’t fully grasp the capabilities of the medium. One look at Yasuke will cure anyone of that.

Word is that more of this show is coming. I don’t think that, at this late stage, it would make any sense to try to fill it in, as tempting as it may be to complete “missing” episodes. My vote would be for a prequel, as Yasuke’s personal history remains shrouded in mystery.

I would mostly recommend Yasuke for people who are less familiar with anime and want something that can, in about three hours, introduce them to a wide range of anime tropes. And if you like watching anime for the background noise, this is a must-hear.

Maybe look it up:
Yasuke
(6 episode anime)
Story by LeSean Thomas and Flying Lotus
Produced by MAPPA, Distributed by Netflix

Yearning for a More Complex Story

Reminiscing About a First Love
by Bolt Vanderhuge

You only get to experience having a first love once, and for me, the first anime I loved was Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. I had seen other anime first, but I still consider this series to be my gateway anime, because it is the one that really made me take anime seriously as a storytelling medium. The first time I saw it was in the last part of its second season airing on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, way back in the spring of 2006, and even though I had no idea of what was going on, I was instantly drawn in by the drama and intrigue I saw and hooked. Thankfully, the series was re-run a short time later, and I was finally able to watch the entire series, and I soon found myself enthralled with it. Not long afterwards, I was invited to join my local university’s anime club by some friends, and I had begun my journey to become a Maximum Weeaboo. But while I have watched many animes since then, including some very good ones, this series still remains my favorite.

Based on a manga by Masamune Shirow and produced by Production I.G, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex follows the secretive and elite Section 9 of Japan’s Public Security, made up entirely of former members of the military and police and tasked with solving and preventing cybercrime. All of its members are cyborgs, running the spectrum of Togisa, the rookie of the group who only has an implant which allows him to interface electronically as well as to communicate using a kind of cybernetic telepathy with his teammates, to the mysterious and aloof leader of the group, known mainly as “The Major,” whose entire body is prosthetic.

Like Voltaire, I cannot help but wonder if it’s fully functional and anatomically correct.

While they run into a number of interesting cases that make the series semi-episodic in nature, they soon stumble upon a conspiracy that involves a major corporation and the government which begins to move into the forefront. One of the things I liked about this was that the main story arc started out as just another investigation into something kind of weird that was going on, in this case involving a super-hacker known as “The Laughing Man,” and slowly evolved into the main plot of the show.

While hackers can already be a headache thanks to utilities and infrastructure being connected to the internet, this series expands on that through the premise that advancing technology has allowed people to become cyborgs, and even become commonplace, such that most people can connect their brains to the internet, which in turn allows them to be “ghost-hacked.” This allows a hacker to do everything from altering a person’s perceptions, to remotely controlling their body. This is just one of the themes explored by this show which asks exactly what makes a human, since literally every part of a person can be replaced but their brain, and leaves them vulnerable to having their memories altered or erased, the way they sense the world around them being corrupted, or even having their minds and bodies taken over completely, and used like a puppet. There’s also a question of trans-humanism hanging there, with the possibility that humans might be able to live as a consciousness on “the net,” entirely free of a body. At the same time, AI has advanced to the point that it might be argued they actually do represent a form of life themselves.

As a sci-fi fan, this kind of stuff really appealed to me, and I can’t help but feel completely in love with this show in spite of its flaws, like how it takes a bit of time to randomly bash the United States because someone at Production I.G apparently has an axe to grind. But this aside, the series has an interesting premise and plot, with characters I can care about and root for, as well as a beautiful semi-realistic visual design. While I know some people might complain about fan service (check out the original manga sometime), it’s clear that the story is first and foremost, unlike so many shows that have come out since this one.

Fuck Yeah! Check It Out:
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (52 episode anime)
Based on the manga by Masamune Shirow
Produced by Production I.G, Licenced by Funimation

Streaming (press time): Adult Swim, Funimation

Love and Friendship in the Hivemind Age

Kokoro Connect takes mistaken identity to a whole new level
by Bob Johnson

Today, we have 3D virtual reality experiences, even people who literally just walk around and livestream their eye-level headspace to the whole world. Most human beings have a great deal of capacity for empathy and reflection, and think easily of what they might do in another person’s place. Yet *literally* walking around in someone else’s shoes is still the stuff of science fiction, and alien body snatcher horror. Smash these ideas together with a high school slice-of-life anime, and suddenly, you have Kokoro Connect on your hands.

Club advisor Goto in Exposition Dump mode.

The setup is plainly stated: A jerkwad alien going by the name of Heartseed wants to play “New Rule” at a level never envisioned by Bill Maher, decreeing bizarre psychic swaps and brainleaks between these erstwhile BFFs, and presenting a monotone spiel that makes it clear that the level of regard for their lives is on par with a collegebound kid debating whether to keep or burn an ant farm. Every few episodes, Heartseed returns to shake the ant farm and observe if our characters manage to tunnel out again.

Seeing these concepts play out with random variations over 15 episodes is both wonderful and annoying. Annoying in that we get to see in detail how much certain people “literally can’t even” with whiffs of Shinji Ikari wafting off the steaming pile of certain episode scripts. But also wonderful to see these concepts woven into a semi-realistic tapestry of ordinary lives, which despite all this adversity, still manage to muddle through and find happiness.

Heartseed’s experiments mess only with members of Yamaboshi High School’s Cultural Studies Club, another one of those catchall do-nothing low-membership student clubs so common in anime. The energetic club president, Iori, is joined by just four others: the serious Taichi, the carefree Aoki, icy Inaba, and anxious Yui.

You couldn’t ask for a more average-looking student club.

When every day is Freaky Friday, the clubmates have to adapt to strange situations on the fly, occasionally with hilarious results. As they attempt to live their lives without tipping off others to their strange predicament, they’re helped along by the lackadaisical club advisor, Mr. Go, and Iori’s capable, well-organized class rep, Fujishima. Of course, nothing’s perfect, as Mr. Go slips into Jekyll-and-Hyde mode whenever Heartbleed wants to appear, and the romance-obsessed Fujishima often meddles in their already strained relationships.

Class rep Fujishima says hunger (and love) is the best spice.

The show’s 17 episodes are split into one 13 episode season and a 4 episode OVA. While it’s often easy to skip extra episodes, in this case the OVA really is essential to wrap things up, so if you decide to watch and don’t otherwise drop off from the show, go ahead and finish it all. In addition to the anime, otaku fond of a quiet sitdown can look at any of the 11 original Kokoro Connect light novels, also translated into English.

The show is alternately sweet and bittersweet, dramatic and comedic, dark and silly. Suffice it to say, it is a moody, non-stop feels train. It’s hard to suggest as a starter show to newbie anime viewers, but it is very much in the same lane as other complex works at the interface of sci-fi/fantasy and relationships, like Revolutionary Girl Utena, Orange, Haruhi Suzumiya, or Your Name.

Despite its complexity, as its overall focus is squarely on relationships, I think Kokoro Connect is worth a watch at this time of year. Sure, you could watch dozens of other romance shows, the ones that dither about clothes and flowers and which member of the harem is best, but where’s the *edge*? Kokoro Connect will hit you right in the gut, and set you back up again. Not bad if that’s what you’re looking for.

Maybe look it up:
Kokoro Connect (13 episode anime + 4 episode OVA)
Based on the light novels by Anda Sadanatsu
Produced by Silver Link, Licenced by Sentai

Streaming (press time): Crunchyroll, HiDive

Chargin’ My Disgust

Beating Other Bad Anime Out
by Bolt Vanderhuge

In the world of infamous anime, there are a lot of names that tend to get brought up, at least among us older otaku. This isn’t one of them. Instead, this one has a personal connection to me, from back when I first started really watching anime. I probably heard about this one thanks to TV Tropes on one of my reading binges, and since it’s an ecchi anime that really walks the line of just being straight up porn (and occasionally just hops right over it in my opinion), it was probably something that caught my interest for pervy reasons.

I am not above enjoying the occasional tentacle hentai, after all.

Essentially, this is just another ecchi with a gimmick, that gimmick being that there is a parallel dimension inhabited by a business that utilizes magical girls who use a kind of electro-shock therapy to make depressed humans feel happy and revitalized again – to “charge them up” to put it another way. They are thus called “charger girls” (at least in the localization), and the moé-blob protagonist we end up following is called Plug, with many of the other characters using this electrically-based naming scheme as something of a joke. These characters are able to fly and remain completely invisible and intangible to humanity, along with the tools they have hidden in human technology to accomplish their mission of charging up depressed humans. I’m not entirely sure how a business is built around this “service,” but the writers probably had no idea either, as its only real function is to fit into the typical trope of the perpetually poor screw-up fan service girl because Plug so often manages to fail at her job and destroy equipment in the process, and this is supposed to be funny.

And really, that’s the problem with the series as a whole. It just tries constantly to be funny, but fails basically every time at it. Which makes for a parallel with its protagonist, now that I think about it. In any case, I just feel like the humor completely misses, in part because of just how horrible so many aspects of this show are.

I hope that my earlier admission makes it perfectly clear that I am not some prudish snob who just hates fan service, and with that a given that you’ll also believe me when I say that I don’t use the M-word lightly. That word tends to be thrown around a lot these days, so I tend to reserve it for something I feel obviously deserves it, and this one does – like a baseball bat to the brain pan.

I bring this up, because so much of the “humor” of this show is based entirely around the fact that the male lead, a rather ill-tempered restaurant worker named Sento, is actually able to see these charger girls, and his default reaction is to grab an aluminum baseball bat (or whatever else is handy), and hit them in the head as hard as he can. And if that wasn’t bad enough, this is usually accompanied by the charger girl peeing herself. This is also occasionally conflated with orgasm (such as during their magical girl transformation sequence), especially in the case of an especially uptight, asshole charger girl who reveals that she actually enjoys being beamed in the head so hard that she loses consciousness and pees herself, and even develops romantic feelings for Sento because of it. And this is all played as humor.

I really just don’t have anything to say beyond that, other than maybe “shit’s pretty fucked.” I guess the only real faint praise I can give this series is that, at least it’s completely up front about what it is, right from the opening scene. Needless to say, this is not something I would recommend anyone to watch. This is also probably about the only time that I’m kind of happy that a show has actually stayed pretty obscure (which is admittedly not helped by me writing an article about it), but if you are a glutton for punishment, you can actually legitimately stream a subtitled version of this on Crunchyroll, completely for free, albeit somewhat censored. Surprisingly, this anime actually did get a dub, as it was one of the many sleazy animes licensed by Media Blasters, and there are probably used DVDs of it still floating around out there. This is actually kind of anger-inducing in its own right, not because it got a dub exactly, but because there are so many other animes out there which still haven’t been dubbed but would deserve one way more than something like this does. In any case, I really hope that if you insist on watching this frankly insulting anime, that you don’t waste any money to do so.

Fuck No! Don’t Check it Out:
Charger Girl Juden-chan (Faito ippatsu! Juden-chan!!)
based on the manga by Bow Ditama
Produced by Studio Hibari, Licenced by Media Blasters