Stumbling In[to] Another World With My Smartphone

Welcome, all, again.  Have you ever noticed how when somebody has a good idea, you suddenly see it everywhere?  And there is neither a pretense of originality nor apology offered for blatant intellectual theft.  Indeed, the popularity of the original idea becomes the justification for its almost thoughtless imitation (read as regurgitation).  In writing, this is called plagiarism.  In the rest of the world, it’s called business as usual.  But occasionally–so very occasionally–an imitation appears that is worthy of the original, being more of an homage than an embarrassment.  And that perfectly describes the subject of today’s review, In Another World With My Smartphone.

So, how about having an anime about a character who can die and return to life?  You know, like in them there vidja games!  In fact, why not model the storyline on the basic formula of those very games, with quests and parties and weird weapons and abilities. . .oh, and we’re probably gonna want some of those monsters and such.  And some of the hottest gals who ever walked around perpetually single but just waiting on the right guy.  See, now we’ve got a game!  Er, I mean, an anime.

And it’s not even as if this recent spate of shows is the first time the subject been covered.  But just recently we’ve had Konosuba‘s two seasons, as well as Re:Zero–Starting Life In Another World, which won numerous awards.  Konosuba came first, following the comedic misadventures of Kazuma Sato and companions after his death in our world.  Offered an ability or item of his choice with which to be reincarnated into an RPG world, Sato chooses the goddess Aqua herself, who is handling his reincarnation.  And that might have been a brilliant–even inspired–choice, were Aqua a little brighter.  What might have been, right?  Then Re:Zero arrived with its much more serious slant and, to be honest, I was not a fan.  I guess Konosuba had spoiled me, but Re:Zero seemed to be trying too hard–to me, it had no heart, and I stopped watching just a few episodes in.  True, Re:Zero had some beautiful artwork and did a yeoman’s job of character development, but I just never really got into it.  Maybe I’ll try again, sometime.

But now we’ve got In Another World With My Smartphone, and I’m loving this show!  Touya Mochizuki awakens to find himself in a private meeting with God, who explains that he accidentally killed Touya with a lightning strike.  By way of apology, God offers to reincarnate Touya into a magical world with the added benefit of the gift or ability of his choice.  Touya immediately requests to bring his smartphone with him.  God agrees and, somewhat taken aback by the smallness of Touya’s request, enhances his other abilities (such as strength, magic, etc).

Touya then awakens in his new world, and immediately puts his smartphone to use for directions.  Moreover, denizens of this world consider Touya’s smartphone to be a type of personal magic that only he can use.  But it turns out that with God’s extra oomph, Touya can use just about any type of magic available, making him very unique.  This, in turn, draws attention, but not all of it is unwelcome: Touya has only to walk down the road, and girls seem to fall out of the trees and land at his feet.  Talk about enhanced abilities!  But whatever might those girls see in him?  That is, beyond his exotic foreign charm.  And his overwhelming powers as a mage.  And his surprising physical strength.  Oh, right–on top of all that, his smartphone allows him to impress the girls with his cooking!  His cooking!  Now, I know God was feeling bad for Touya, but he really went and stacked the deck on this one.  But Touya nonetheless remains humble and helpful, so maybe we can overlook a little overcompensation.  Maybe.

This is a fun show, a tongue-in-cheek send-up of RPGs and the anime that they’ve inspired.  And it approaches the situation from an entirely different perspective than does Magical Circle Guru Guru, another RPG-inspired show:  Touya is the nigh-invincible hero exploring his capabilities, whereas MCGG‘s Nike is the disinterested straw man, the hero’s reluctant proxy.  And speaking of disinterest, it’s seems that In Another World With My Smartphone is turning into something of a harem show.  So far, though, that particular aspect has been prevented from becoming obnoxious, and this series remains a quietly witty and enjoyable–if predictable–bit of fantasy.

 

 

Magical Circle Guru Guru!

Welcome, all, again.  I bring to you today a most recent discovery of mine, found only this morning–but I can’t stop laughing, and have already re-watched this show a couple of times!  And just what have I found?  Something called Magical Circle Guru Guru, currently being shown on Crunchyroll.  Apparently, this is its third incarnation as a TV anime, with the first running from 1994-5 with 45 episodes and the second in 2000 with 38 episodes.  (Boy, am I late to this party!)  24 episodes are scheduled for this time around.

But what is it?  A blast from the past with serious comedic bite!  From what I’ve read, the franchise came about as a parody of RPGs.  I’m not a gamer, so such description is edging beyond my knowledge and experience.  The show does, however, remind me a lot of when video games first began appearing in homes, with their simple 8-bit graphics and almost interchangeable characters and quests.  (The artwork used is also kept predominately simple and childlike.)  I could easily see this being some early version of Mario where both the gamer and Mario (and fellow characters) had ALL been out drinking the night before play.

As for the story itself: Demon King Giri has returned after being banished for about 300 years.  Only one practitioner remains of the hereditary magic that sealed him away, 12-year-old Kukuri, who is woefully undertrained in using her powers.  And falling into her life as if out of the sky is Nike, 13 years old and trained by his father to be a hero.  Unfortunately, Nike has no interest in becoming a hero, preferring to instead study magic.  But choices are for rich people, and Nike and Kukuri suddenly find themselves out questing in the big world.  Will they find allies?  Or enemies?  Or even each other, as Kukuri has an incurable habit of wandering off?

This show is side-splittingly funny as well as being just plain, stupid fun!  Honestly, this wasn’t even going to be my subject today, but it’s such a great show that my plans got hijacked.  Once I found this, I just had to share it!  I can’t wait for more episodes (on Tuesdays at 12:05PM EDT), and heartily encourage you to give this comedy a try.

Quick Announcements for 14 July, 2017

Welcome, all, again.  This post will not be a review, but will instead serve to disseminate several bits of information.

First, an important reminder: tomorrow, Saturday, 15 July, will see the airing of a two-hour Star vs. the Forces of Evil TV movie on Disney XD.  Times are 11AM, 2PM, and 7PM EDT.  Star returns to her home dimension of Mewni in an effort to save it from conquest and ruin.  Won’t you go, too? [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUYjnA7yBe0]

Next: Two past favorites have returned during this new viewing season!  Crunchyroll is simulcasting a second season of NEW GAME!! on Tuesdays at 9AM CDT (8AM EDT).  New projects lead to new assignments and the introduction of new characters. . .but it’s still the same Aoba-chan!  Meanwhile, CR is also airing the fourth–that’s right, the fourth!–season of Hell Girl on Fridays at 11:30AM CDT (10:30AM EDT).  How lucky can we get?

Last, and on a musical note:  Molly Pinto Madigan, an incredibly talented musician/singer/songwriter and personal friend, is on PledgeMusic accepting pre-orders for her third album, The Cup Overflows.  She reached her pledge goal early, and is already more than fully funded.  So I’m offering you this link just to encourage you to check out her music, something of a modern folk sound: [http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/mpm].  In fact, just for fun, here’s a YouTube video for the song “On the Hunt” from her last album, Wildwood Bride: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYp6aBzK0mY].  Please enjoy.

And that’s it for this short edition of Another Anime Review!  The next post will see a return to actual reviews, so please look forward to it.

Observations on Anime Blues 2017

Welcome, all, again.  Anime Blues 7 just wrapped up yesterday afternoon (Sunday, 09 July), and I hope that some of you were able to attend.  Although my schedule only allowed my own attendance on Saturday, I brought my two youngest sons and my niece (all adults) with me and we all had a blast!  Panels were attended; cosplays were admired; and vendors were enriched.  I even treated my group to lunch at Shang Hai, one of the restaurants which I mentioned in my previous “Going Native” post.  We had only one day, but it was a good day!

Some observations:  wide variety of panels and discussions; many photo-shoot opportunities (of which I failed to avail myself); good selection of vendors and wares, from anime & art to clothing & collectables to imported Japanese eats; high attendance numbers (based upon personal observation, not official count).  Security was present without being overbearing (oh, that first year–you’d have thought we were at a TSA training facility!).  And the Sheraton once again provided catered food, which I didn’t go near enough this time to even comment upon here.

As to be expected, con means cosplay.  There was plenty on display, with many beautiful and intricately detailed costumes being worn.  (Such artistry!)  Characters past and present made appearances, such as Tohru

and Kiki.

But cosplay is more than just costume–comportment is likewise important!  The Sailor Moon franchise has been reinvigorated–some would even say reinvented–by Sailor Moon Crystal.  And there was a corresponding increase in related cosplay at AB7 this year.  But out of all the Sailor Moons and fellow Sailor Scouts running around Cook Convention Center, this one stood out to me like a candle in a dark room:

Hers was not the most detailed costume–indeed, her sailor blouse was actually a screen-printed T-shirt.  It was instead her comportment–her dedication to portraying the essence of a young Usagi suddenly become an unready but desperately needed hero–that made her into her character.  For me watching, she was more than just Sailor Moon–she was Usagi being Sailor Moon, an aspect too often overlooked.  This is how it’s done, folks.

Anyway, much loot was bought and much fun was had!  For fellow attendees, I hope you enjoyed yourselves as much as I did.  For those who didn’t make it, I hope you can next year.  Or to the con nearest you.  Cons can be a little weird and overwhelming, especially your first one, but they offer a unique immersion into fan culture.  So go geek out with some other folks who actually talk the talk and get your references.  Go ask your burning questions; go show off your costuming and crafting skills!  Go have a little fun.  Go con!

New Viewing Season! AHO-GIRL, Tsuredure Children, Restaurant to Another World, etc.

Welcome, all, again.  We’ve finally reached the new viewing season, for which I am extremely grateful!  While we were treated to some good shows over the past few months, I was somewhat disappointed by what I considered their scarcity.  Overall, we seemed to get a lot more filler this past season than normal, so I’m hoping to see that trend reversed.  And we already have some strong contenders!  Realistically, it’s too early to offer real reviews yet, but I’ll touch upon some shows that I either liked or in which I at least see potential.

We’ll begin with AHO-GIRL, a comedic short with episodes lasting about 12 minutes (same with Tsuredure Children).  Female lead Yoshiko Hanabatake is an over-the-top airhead with a passion for bananas and her childhood friend and neighbor, Akuru Akutsu.  For his part, Akuru generally gets dragged into whatever mess Yoshiko is busy creating and ends up cleaning up behind her.  This show has a great feel to it, with Yoshiko looking a lot like Shizuku from My Little Monster but acting more like Haru (both manga were published by Kodansha).  Unfortunately, Akuru has a quick temper that regularly leads to bouts of casual violence towards Yoshiko, very reminiscent of Kyouma Mabuchi in Dimension W.  But while Kyouma’s violence, sickening as it was, contributed to his show’s story through character exposition and development, there is no such excuse here.  This is a comedy, and it has no place for the brutalization of women–especially portrayed as a running gag.  There is already plenty of actual physical comedy, so why go this sad route?  This show has a lot going for it: biting humor; strong characterization; and simple, fun storylines.  I sense real potential here, but I might have to stop watching if they don’t curb the violence.

 

Next is Tsuredure Children (also spelled Tsurezure Children), a collection of vignettes involving different pairs of high school students and their twisted relationships.  Somebody had a great idea: after years of watching rom-coms that featured that one tsundere character, why not have a show with all tsundere characters?  Genius!  And just for angst-y irony, attach a title meaning “thoughtful silence”–really, with this group?!  True, all this is just another form of sensory overload, but it’s so cathartic!  Just a taste–the student body president attempting to extort romance from the school delinquent.  (Yep.  But go back, and read it again.)  This should be fun!

Convenience Store Boy Friends (Konbini Kareshi) is more of a traditional slice-of-life series, this time following a group high school first-years as they navigate their new school environment and their changing relationships.  New friendships are formed even as old ones mature, all in the face of the confusion and pressures of adolescence.  The first episode gave some solid character exposition and hinted at equally strong character development in the wings.  The storyline was believable and not at all overloaded, while the artwork is solid and often impressive (especially certain backgrounds).  These seem like some good, likeable kids, so I’m looking forward to seeing where this show goes.

Last for this posting is Restaurant to Another World, a fantasy that almost seems to blend Food Wars! with Maoyu Mao Yusha (Maoyu, for short).  Of course, I’m always game for food-themed shows, and this one is off to a strong start!  The Western Restaurant Nekoya sits in a quiet corner of a shopping district, serving dishes not native to Japan.  But its entrance door also appears in different places at times, allowing denizens of alien, magical realms to eat within–although serving times are kept different between their worlds and ours (surely to prevent mayhem and panic!).  We viewers are witness to various interactions between these beings, as well as being privy to the type of reveries only inspired by great food and its enjoyment.

Anyway, these are four shows that–based upon first episodes, mind you–I want to see more of, and soon.  I’m really hoping that AHO-GIRL can curb its ridiculously gratuitous violence and build upon its strengths, while the other three are already well on their way to favorite status, each for reasons as unique as its individual premise.

And one last thing!  Anyone going to Anime Blues Con in Memphis this coming weekend (07-09 July), please look for Meaghan Beninati in the Artist Alley.  She and her husband Dennis will be manning a booth and selling their wares.  Meaghan is a friend of mine and a very talented artist, so stop by and see if anything catches your fancy.  She also accepts commissions (according to her availability), and has produced two gorgeous commissioned pieces for me.  In fact, tell her I sent you–it won’t get you any discounts, but it should be good for a puzzled look!

[Parental note: gratuitous casual violence by the male lead of AHO-GIRL towards his female co-lead.  Worse still, these incidents are presented as physical humor.  And these are no small taps–the first example we witness is a savage right uppercut to the girl’s jaw.  Characters and viewers alike deserve better.]