The Winter 2018 season was, in many ways, a genuine surprise, primarily so because of the sheer volume of genuinely solid shows that were offered in this first bit of the year. What has surprised me beyond this, however, is that not only did we have a number of shows that I am already seeing as possible contenders for anime of the year, but a number of shows, to my surprise, made some concerted pushes in terms of working to buck some norms (or at least attempting to do so) that are fairly present within the general sphere of seasonal anime. For this season in particular, one theme that stood out to me has been that of self-love/self-acceptance, and this came to me most notably while watching Yuru Camp and Sanrio Boys.
It is fairly easy to say that, up until this point, Violet Evergarden has been fairly single-minded in its approach to the conveyance of its narrative, plot direction, and character development. Though episodes three through six have very much contained their own interesting, well-detailed vignettes that feel quite distinct from one another, they have invariably followed, to some degree, a formula of sorts for each episode. Through the course of each story, we follow a side character who initially misunderstands Violet, learns more about her, and feels they understand her a bit better by the end of the episode, and during this period of time, Violet comes to understand an emotion that had previously been inaccessible or unknown to her. Beyond that, while there have been a small number of deviations from the standard course of the show thus far, Violet Evergarden has stayed the course in keeping with its low-key, slow-burn delivery of its tale to us. Episodes seven and eight change that.
[Disclaimer from the team: While this anime is not out in the United States, currently, a large amount of our followers and fellow Anibloggers are not from the United States and we felt it would be good to share our own thoughts on the series along with them. This is also a bit of a statement for the US branch of Netflix. While we are happy that Netflix is helping to fund and support the anime industry and we fully support legal means for watching anime, their practices in timed region-locking content are not something we agree with, particularly in the case of this show which is available in every country except our own with no explanation as to why. Therefore, given the show in nature is the most anticipated of the past year and we have no available legal means of joining the international discussion, we felt we should write about it regardless.]
Violet Evergarden is finally here. To say that it has been one of the most-hyped anime series to come by in the last few years would be a pretty massive understatement. Whether it’s been through talks about Netflix’s choice of streaming with regards to other countries, discussion from those who have read the source material, or just sheer hype over the potential of the show shown through interviews and PVs, it seems like Violet Evergarden has seeped into conversations for a very, very long time. Does it stand up to the raging hype machine that’s been set up alongside it?
Well, yes…but I’m also a tad concerned.
In looking back on episodes seven and eight of Just Because!, it genuinely feels as though those episodes were in a way a fairly bubbly (by comparison) reprieve from some of the existential and romantic angst that has come from the show in previous aspects. The focus on Eita’s dedication to Natsume, the admittedly fun date that Komiya dragged Eita into, and Souma’s optimism over his possible future prospects with Morikawa all really gave the last two episodes an easy sense of genuinely not having to worry too entirely much about what the future holds. It is, of course, a naive sort of reprieve, one which comes with some of the youthful and childish kind of optimism that is so easy for us to hold on to. I guess it’s only appropriate, then, that with the episodes nine and ten, “Answers” and “Childhood’s End”, we are brought fully back into the show’s dealings with difficult questions, and some genuinely painful, adult answers.
When I talked about some of the previous episodes of Just Because! serving as the climax for a first act of the show, I feel as though I inadvertently hit the nail on the head with regards to the shifts that episodes seven and eight set in place for what might be the last (or at least most central) major arc for the rest of the show’s season. There’s always been a focus on Eita in the show (and rightly so, considering he is set as the central character of the series from the outset), but for about the first half of the season, I felt as though Eita was mainly just playing a support role, and didn’t seem to have quite as active a role in the major plotlines. We knew, for instance, that Eita was quietly doing his best to pursue Natsume and support her, but we didn’t see anything quite as in-your-face as some of the antics surrounding Souma. The central focuses for the first six or so episodes largely gravitated towards Souma and the sort of love-parallelogram that encompassed him, Natsume, and Morikawa. Now that these threads have been resolved at least to a point, it feels like the stage has been set for us to see Eita’s own tangled web of infatuation sprawl out before us.
And boy, does it ever.
As Just Because! has continued its chug through to the midway point of the season, I had honestly expected it to stumble in some way that would break the spell that the first two episodes cast over me initially. Thankfully, this has not been the case, as it has actually kept a steady pace with regards to its plot pacing and genuinely interesting character interactions. I’m definitely still deeply enjoying the show’s depiction of the existential trepidation that comes with, essentially, every aspect of high school life, and feeling for the characters as they wrestle with issues that, frankly, many of us struggle with today. Episode four, as Mythos said, brought the relationships between Eita and Natsume, as well as Souma and Morikawa, to a very early sense of heavy drama for the show – the climax of the first act, if you will. Coming right on the heels of that, episodes five and six have a lot of weight on their shoulders – the climax is important, flashy, and heavy, but the resolution of the events that transpired is just as important, if not more so.
Just Because! is, in many ways, a pretty large departure from the shows that we as the Backloggers have covered in the last three seasons. While we try to decide on the show we’ll be covering episodically for any given season, we work to whittle down our choices to what seems interesting, what we feel would be neat for our readers to check out for the season, and honestly just what seems like would be an enjoyable watch. It’s kind of funny to me that over the last few seasons, we’ve ultimately gravitated towards shows that are essentially fantasy light novel-esque shows with a penchant for action and the dramatic. While there’s definitely nothing wrong with that, and we’ve genuinely enjoyed Youjo Senki, SukaSuka, and Princess Principal, as we were mulling over writing about, say, Kino no Tabi or Juuni Taisen, we kind of came to a collective realization of “oh god, we can’t do a show like this for a fourth consecutive season”. With this idea being part of the inspiration for our choice this season, we’ve happily decided to shake up our usual formula a bit. Why?
Yes, I’m sorry, I know that joke has been beat so far into the ground that it should be right around the earth’s core right about now, but in a lot of ways, the choice really did come as conscious choice to just do it because we could (and because we haven’t covered a show quite outside of our unintentional genre bubble yet), especially after the first two very strong episodes that this show presented us with out of the gate.
Something I’ve always respected about Princess Principal is how unabashedly it likes to just do its thing time and again. From its first episode, it tossed us into its high-flying world of steampunk technology, deception, and espionage and essentially told us nothing except to buckle up. It asked us to trust it with its narrative, its characters, and its fascinating world, and to just let it take us where it was going, wherever that may be. If the final three episodes are any indication, this show did indeed go places, and it escorted us through them in a masterclass style.
Following on the heels of the last two episodes, Princess Principal 12 picks up right where 11 left off, and it’s only fitting for the rollercoaster ride that this finale has been shaping up to be. The show decides to ask us again to simply sit back and take in the sights one last time, and it truly is worth it to do so. The major happenings of episode 12 aren’t necessarily surprising, per se, but they are cathartic, and they work to bring an all-around satisfying conclusion to Princess Principal.
In my youth, food was always hugely important to my friends and family. Food wasn’t just something you brought to a family reunion or put on the dinner table. It was a way that you connected with one another – a cornerstone of life, physically and socially. Even though I don’t dabble to an intense degree in the cooking arts, it’s because of these early experiences that I’ve always held a vested interest in food and how it connects things and people, and that carried over into my taste in anime. Food holds a solid place in a lot of anime these days (just ask any schoolgirl that’s running late on her first day), but shows that revolve specifically around food aren’t exactly common. That being said, some of the few shows that do focus on food hold a special place in my heart for the fascinating ways that they present food, and for how they give food a central role in their narratives. Here, I’m going to look at just three food-centric shows – Isekai Shokudou, Shokugeki no Soma, and Ristorante Paradiso – and dive into the vastly different ways in which they use food for narrative purposes.
As previous history with Princess Principal has indicated thus far, the show has kept consistent with its character explorations with each passing episode, especially if we consider the bombshell that episode eight was. Episode nine chooses to focus once again on the combat expert and resident Nihonjin of the spies, Chise. We already had a pretty solid episode of development dedicated to her earlier in the season, wherein which she faced off with and slayed her father-turned-traitor, and we saw a distinctly human side of her by the end of it. That episode focused somewhat on integrating her into the team, and in many ways, this episode is largely the same, thematically. However, we learn far more about Chise in relation to her Japanese pride and heritage, and how that comes into play with her work as a spy. In a way, though, this episode serves as a deep dive into the character of Princess, as well, using the events of last week as a frame of reference.