Peeling Back the Layers — Summer 2020 Week 3 Check-In

Hey, welcome back to our weekly check-in! It’s hard to believe that we’re already about a quarter of the way through the Summer 2020 season, but here we are. We’ve got a lot of good plot and character development from a number of shows this week, a beach episode, and the first round of drops for the season, so this one’s a little packed. Hop on in!

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Bad Things Keep Happening to Good Characters: the Season — Summer 2020 Week 2 Check-In

Welcome back to the weekly check-in series! Now that we’ve got most of the premieres out of the way, the focus of these posts is going to be on what I think is still worth keeping up with, what’s lagging behind, what’s new (whether a series actually premiered later than others, or if I just started on it), and all that jazz.

All things considered, this was a pretty packed second week for most of the shows represented here, so hop on in!

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Summer 2020 Week 1 Check-In

Hey gang, Tofu here! This season, I’m debuting weekly check-in posts for the blog. Every Saturday, I’ll post an update on what I’m watching, what’s good, bad, and other on an episode-by-episode basis, and all that jazz. In this post, I’m just going to give you a look at what I ended up watching this week, so it’s a lot of info all out here at once. The following weeks may be a little different in format – we’ll just have to find out!

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Monthly Manga – Go with the Clouds, North-by-Northwest

Author’s note: What’s up, nerds! This is your captain, General Tofu, speaking. Our regular Monthly Manga host, Mythos, is not currently helming this month’s selection. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to fill in for this month’s post, and then to slowly take over the series as if it was mine all along. Nothing sinister at all! Anyway, thanks for hopping in, and enjoy!

Sometimes, I just get the urge to go through a bookstore and peruse the manga section. (Obviously, we can’t really do that much right now, given the whole badness going on, but join me and journey into this mind palace we’re gonna create together. Just imagine you’re doing it.) Most of the time, I’m not going with the intention of grabbing anything specific. I’ll find volumes of series that I love, or that I’ve heard great things about, and I’ll happily grab them. Really, though, what most draws me to a volume or a series is the art itself. There have been numerous series that I knew nothing about, but I dropped some cash to buy a volume simply because it looked gorgeous.

Nothing quite fits this “that’s absolutely coming home with me today” status quite like Aki Irie’s series Go with the Clouds, North-by-Northwest. I literally had nothing to go off of for this series. Where the back of manga volumes usually give you a synopsis of what’s gonna happen in that edition, Go with the Clouds has…well, it’s better to just show you.

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How Anime Can Help Us Survive Disastrous Times

Writing for The Backloggers has always been a unique experience. What started as, more or less, a way for some college friends to stay in touch by having a creative outlet to talk about anime has given us a pretty broad platform to dive deep into a lot of different shows that we love, and has largely motivated us to keep on top of things – what’s good this season? How does this new piece look at X thing? How does it perhaps relate to some great older series?

As much as I love writing those kinds of pieces (I actually had another one in the works before I started on this one, oops), we are worldwide in a pretty weird, unprecedented state of affairs. Looking just at the microcosm of anime as an industry, for instance, we are seeing delay after delay of many anime projects, with many studios and series not looking to resume until the summer. But obviously on a much grander scale, people are, as a whole, not doing great. And as I was sitting and working on a completely different post, I found myself wondering if that post was what would be best at this time.

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Anime Can (and Can't) Successfully Talk About Big Ideas™️

“Everyone, have you heard of the trolley problem?”

Over the last few years, I recall numerous times seeing folks on Twitter crying for politics, social issues, and “SJW”s to be kept out of anime. Comments and sentiments like these have been around for quite some time, even though they may not use the same language or platform to disseminate those ideas. Hilariously enough, however, one can easily look back to some of the oldest anime we have, or some of the anime considered to be in the canon of the medium, and see that there is a solid history of series that have worked to discuss issues that are deeply important and relevant to the human condition. So when I hear people complaining about the so-called “tainting” of their entertainment media, I can only think about how many shows have worked over the years to actually be about something, even if it isn’t right in your face, and how the medium has always, in some ways, been political or about real-world ideas.

With that being said, I think that it is important to consider how shows actually work to approach more serious concepts. While a lot of shows might want to be about some loftier or more important ideas, the inclusion and handling of them might not always be handled well, which honestly may be worse than not talking about them at all. Considering this, I have a small selection of shows from the current and previous anime seasons that I feel highlight the two different extremes of this concept – shows like Stars Align and The Case Files of Jeweler Richard, which effectively highlight current social and cultural issues that don’t get much attention in anime, as well as shows like Babylon, which try and fail miserably to be about mature moral and political issues.

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Tofu's Picks for Anime of the Decade

When I was constructing this list, I have to confess that I really had no idea for any kind of structure whatsoever. I just started pulling entries from my list of completed anime, and before I knew it, I had accidentally pulled shows that were all from different years of the decade. So, I figured, why not just keep up the trend until I have one from each year? While I tried my best to keep the list to just one show per year, there were a few instances where I had to bend that rule just a little bit. Thus, we have the list you are looking at now. 

Since I constructed this as a list of shows from each year, it almost felt weird to rank them, and as such, I have opted not to do so. Instead of, say, a battle royale of sorts to determine which is the single best anime of the decade, which seems like a silly effort to try to tackle in the space of a post like this, I have instead opted to have this post function as a showcase of sorts to show that there are shows that I believe should absolutely be watched from every year this past decade.

Each show is going to be on this list for different reasons, and none of these entries are perfect (honestly, what show is?). However, I do believe wholeheartedly that each entry deserves to be on this list and should be watched for different reasons. I’m going to try to be as detailed as I can for my picks with each entry here, but for the sake of space on this thing, each entry is confined to just a few paragraphs. A few entries have redirects to other articles done for The Backloggers, so you can follow those for some additional details, if you wish. 

I think that’s all we really need to say at this point, so let’s get a move-on!

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Swords, Shuriken, and Seasons: Passing the Torch With New Shonen

I’ve always been a sucker of sorts for shinobi or ninja-based series. Rurouni Kenshin was my first love in that regard, as I quickly fell in love with the weird, diverse cast of characters, Kenshin’s code of honor and ever-present desire to help and protect those in need, as well as the flashy swordplay and sword arts, moves, and styles. For a young Tofu, it was absolute heaven. Other series caught my eye similarly – Naruto was an early favorite, for instance. Between the hype that came from watching it as it aired and the ever-present escalation and new uses of interesting and powerful jutsu, the show had me hooked. As I grew older and branched out beyond the shonen genre, I found myself deep in the throes of shows such as Samurai Champloo, which took the idea of warriors embodying the idea of the samurai I had come to love and re-positioning it in a way I had up until then not seen.

Not all first loves last, though.

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Please, Please Don’t Watch W’z

It’s the end of 2018. The year is coming to a close, with a new year and new anime just on the horizon. As I scan over the Winter 2019 season’s offerings, I spy a show called W’z that stirs something within me – it looks a whole lot like Hand Shakers, a show that, no pun intended, shook me to the core almost two years ago. I find a trailer, and sure enough, it’s the same style, aesthetic, and even the jarring gear-looking weapons. I’m having minor heart palpitations. Surely Hand Shakers didn’t get a sequel greenlit – a show that was as consistently panned by critics and viewers alike couldn’t have been given the blessing, let alone the budget, for a season two. I talk to my co-host Owningmatt93, and I’m assured by him that “it’s just the style GoHands does, man. All of their stuff looks like this.” Looking at trailers for, for instance, K: Return of Kings, it does indeed look pretty much exactly the same, aside from a lesser emphasis on a mix of 2D and 3D animation. My fears assuaged somewhat, I continue on with my look at what’s in store for the next few months.

It’s 2019. A new year, a fresh start, and a new season ahead of us for anime. It’s 2019, and I get this message in The Backloggers Slack chat:

shaking

…Wait.

screenshot (61)

…No.

shaking 3

No.

shaking 2

NO.

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3D Kanojo 5 + 6 – All Aboard the Misunderstandings Train

Given how it works within the romcom genre of anime, 3D Kanojo is an odd show to begin with. It eschews a number of tropes that make so many of the romantic plotlines in those series feel contrived and samey through how it approaches the awkwardness and insecurities of new romance, and in turn makes its characters feel surprisingly relatable. As we reach the midpoint of the season, however, things seem to have gotten a bit muddied in terms of some of the show’s strong track record out of the gate. While episodes 5 + 6 do have their fair share of heartfelt moments that get to the core of what makes this show so good (in my view), it definitely suffers in terms of a few pretty important story plotlines and character-building moments.

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