Monthly Archives: March 2020

How Not To Summon a Demon Lord

Type: Helpful PSA or Lewd Cartoon?

Synopsis: ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Pros:  How Not To Summon a Demon Lord is about a shut-in computer nerd that gets sucked into a facsimile of his favorite video game. He was accidentally “summoned” by two cute anime girls that double as his personal slaves and grow to love him both emotionally and sexually. The narrative is all too familiar and does nothing to dispel the stigma of Isekai anime as male power fantasy. In our story, the protagonist is the strongest character in the game, he is basically invincible, and everything he says is re-translated into something intimidating/heroic. But the biggest issue is the anime’s portrayal of women.

The story both infatilizes and sexualizes each female character almost to the point of absurdity. Rem, who by all accounts should be the second most powerful character as she houses a demon lord within her, is literally an svelte cat girl who is obviously meant to invoke someone much younger. Not only does she look young, but she has no way to access her powers, and must rely on the protagonist to remove her power through tactile sexual penetration. Putting aside fiction’s general problem with women with power, Rem has no agency in this story. Her biggest decision was summoning the protagonist. The story also revels in scenes where Rem is in pain, which reveals a lot about the author’s sadomasochistic tastes. Then there’s Shera. Shera is the story’s main source of fan service. Where Rem is underdeveloped, Shera is overdeveloped. She is an adolescents, or immature man’s, ideal woman. Bubbly, large breasted, scantly clad, and abundantly amorous. Shera is the story’s biggest missed opportunity. Her entire story arc centered on her decision to break off the the shackles of her culture’s expectations of her to forge her own path. Although she struggles, oftentimes comically, her desire to become an adventurer instead of becoming a queen to bear hears was admirable. Or, at least it would be, if her actions weren’t negated by the story. Because after Shera shares her convictions with the cast and audience, she is immediately brainwashed and kidnapped by her finance, who is also her brother, who tries to break her by having a monster sexually assault her. She only escapes because the protagonist rescues her, and the story even has the gall to make Shera cry for her brother/rapist.

Is How Not to Summon a Demon Lord a sexist show? Yes. This story demonstrates a very problematic view of male and female roles and dynamics. It shows women as weak, childish, sexy, and often times all three. The ultimate example is Klem. THE most powerful being in the story. The ruler of all demons. Who is really a prepubescent girl who loves cookies, yet still wears next to nothing. Her demon form even has large breast in the design, and the protagonist could still hold her off single highhandedly! I know that here is a tendency to give anime the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the sexualization of women. But the excuses of “it’s a different culture,” or “westerners are too prudish,” were trite a decade ago, and cannot detract from what this show truly is: a power fantasy with clearly unequal social hierarchies and unrealistic and problematic sexual relationships.

Cons: [Exhale]…So yeah.

Watch it?: I mean, it was really easy to watch. It binged it in two days. And the show never pretends to be something else. You know upfront what your getting. But the more I thought about it, the creepier it got. (2/5)

MVP: The voice actors

The stuff they had to act through. God bless ’em.

Best Episode: “The Demon Lord Act” (cat ears).

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Record of Lodoss War

Type: Parn!

Synopsis: Parn! Are you there!! Parn!!! Paaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrnnnnnn!!!!!

Pros: Record of Lodoss War is a good ol’ fashion sword and sorcery anime based on DnD and Sword World RPG rules. Now, I don’t know anything about anything, but from what I can gather, this series is based on Japanese “replays.” These “replays” are transcripts of table-top RPG sessions. These transcripts eventually evolved into the Lodoss franchise. Which explains why so many of the characters in this anime seem straight out of a fantasy RPG. You got your hot-blooded knight, beautiful high-elf, prickly dwarf, sleezy thief, pious priest, and calm magic caster. I particularly liked Parn and Deedlit’s relationship, as well as Ghim’s backstory. They gave these characters a much needed extra dimension. I should also give a shout out to the Grey Witch, who I wish had stuck around for the entire story. The franchise’s origins helps give the series a very high fantasy feel. Since a lot of today’s anime fantasy stories are so intrinsically linked with Isekai stories, this series was a nice change of pace. I also have to admit a certain level of bias regarding older anime animation (I just think it looks more distinct). All in all, the series was a nice trip back in time when fantasy was about knights fighting evil kings and giant dragons.

Cons: Your enjoyment of this story can be measured by your tolerance for fantasy about knights fighting evil kings and giant dragons. Sometimes, another word for classic is generic. And this story is very generic. The story is about Parn, the son of disgraced knight looking to restored his family’s honor and make a name for himself. He’s brave but reckless. In fact, Parn might be the MOST generic protagonist I’ve ever encountered. Maybe even moreso than black-haired, average nice guy harem protagonist. At least they have comedic foils to play off. But Parn? He’s as exciting as avocado on white bread.  You also have the elf, dwarf, priest, thief, and caster who are so archetypal that I forget their actual names. One of the reasons these characters are so forgettable is because the series has to get the entire Lodoss saga completed in 13 episodes. So the pacing is very rushed. For example,  halfway through the anime the story transitions from the Valis-Marmo war to the War of Heroes. Which sucks because the Grey Witch and Emperor Beld made for much more interesting villains. Far better than some generic dragon and wizard. Yet the directors still found time to give Deedlit her ultra-detailed minute long close ups. Things move so fast that a lot of characters don’t get proper character development. The only characters you spend a lot of time with are Parn and Deelit, who are sadly have very static development. Aside from Ghim, all the other side characters are just that, side characters that don’t really change all the much. You know who actually changes the most in this story? The antagonists. The Grey Witch,  Ashram, Pirotess’s , and Wagnar each end the story is a very different position than where they started. You can’t really say that for any of the protagonists, as even Parn’s ascension into Knighthood is more superficial than anything. Finally, being an old anime, be prepared for a lot of still images and light-based special effects. Back in the day you either got detailed character design or fluid animation, but you ain’t getting both!

Watch it?: For fans of elf and wizards not contracted to a 7 person harem (3/5)

MVP: Karla, the Grey Witch

The more I think about her, the more I like her.

Best Episode: Ep. 05 “The Desert King” (Look Parn, we all have a Daddy fetish, but don’t string along a poor elf-girl when she dressed up special for your date, OK?)

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Goblin Slayer

Type: Basically anime Batman

Synopsis: Now hold your horses. I know what your thinking. Your thinking “But Genetleman Otoku, Batmans good! He’s not an edgelord that focuses on controversy!” To which I point you to: The Dark Night Strikes Again, Joker, The Killing Joke, All-Star Batman, Hush, etc. Now your thinking “Yeah, whatever, but Batman works with other heroes to protect Gotham.” To which I remind you that Goblin Slayer consistently works with a Priestess, a Ranger, a Dwarf, and a Lizard Man. Now your thinking “*%&$ you! At least Batman’s not a sh%#% harem show!” To which I also remind you of: Catwoman, Talia Al-Ghaul, Vickie Vale, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn (sometimes), etc. Face it, if you like Batman, you also like Goblin Slayer. May god have mercy on your deviant soul.

Pros: OK, aside from the fact that I know way too much about Batman despite not really resonating with the character, the stand by my analogy. Goblin Slayer really did remind me of Batman (with some Punisher thrown in there). The protagonist is a overly driven tactician/warrior who specifically focuses on goblins due to a mixture of trauma and pragmatism. He experienced a goblin raid, lost his sister, and now has a genocidal urge to kill every single Goblin in existence. Replace goblins with criminals, sister with parents, and kill with beat-up, and you have the caped crusader. Heck, one of the main throughlines of the show is Goblin Slayer learning to open up to others despite his loner nature. Like Batman, Goblin Slayer’s single mindedness and preparedness are what make his fun to watch. Also like Batman, it’s funny to see Goblin Slayer totally ignore world ending plots, like an apparent Demon King uprising, because local issues are more important to him. His relationships with the other characters are also key in softening his image, as this story could have gotten very old, very fast, if it was literally just killing goblins.

Cons: The show’s biggest problem is in its use of rape. The rape depicted in this show cannot be ignored. Nor should it. In the story, goblins are rapists, and this plot fact is used to make killing the goblins acceptable and ever gratifying. This series got into trouble when it’s first episode depicted the rape of one of it’s characters. The show never goes that far again, so don’t expect this to be another Elfen Lied or Kite. However, rape is still an underlying theme of the show. Every time the goblins appear, the show reminds us that they are rapist, usually with still images of them ripping the clothes off terrified women. Several characters are also affected by this. Goblin Slayer developed a hatred towards goblins because his sister was raped in front of him. The Elf ranger is barely survives an attempted assault by goblins, leading her to develop similar hatred. The priestess also witnessed a goblin assault first hand. And the Shield Maiden manipulated the Goblin Slayer and his party into killing a nest of goblins due to a previous goblin attack that she survived.  The thing is, this character trait for the goblins was not necessary. Them just being murderers would have been enough. Killer goblins would have sold the world of Goblin Slayer as a dangerous one just as well. But making them rapists just makes the show harder to watch. It wasn’t a necessary plot point, and therefore a mistake to use.

Watch it?: It depends on what kind of viewer you are (3/5)

MPV: My Batman comparison

Yes sister, I shall become an edgelord.

Best Episode: Ep. 05 “Adventures and Daily Life” (No goblins slaying, just a nice time in town).

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Fire Force (Season 1)

Type: This girl is on fiiiire!

Synopsis: But seriously, how great is Alicia Keys? One of our best all around singers. Anyway, this is an anime about magic firefighters.

Pros: Fire Force, or BLAZING FIREFIGHTING CORPS, is a shonen anime from Atsushi Okubo (the creator of Soul Eater) and David Productions. So right off the bat you’ll notice the unique character designs and stellar animation effects. Since this story’s power system involves creating and manipulating fire, a lot of the actions scenes are very flashy. In fact, I would say that the show’s animation effects team are the real MVP’s of this season. Each of the characters fighting styles were  pulled off well in animation, and were always fun to watch. This is definitely a youtube clip worthy show. Story wise, this is a basic shonen, but it manages to have the most important aspect of a shonen story: an interesting a likable cast. The main group is Special Fire Force Company 8, who are  the Fire Force’s internal affairs department. I liked all of Company 8, but my favorites were Captain Obi and Maki Oze. Captain Obi because he plays the “normal guy” character in a world full of super powered weirdos while also being a role model and leader to Company 8 (he’s also best boy and I love him). Maki because she’s strong and competent and feminine and feels like a legit sempai for the main characters (she’s also best girl and I love her). I like most of the scenes between Company 8, and the show does a good job making them feel like a tight knit team who would trust each other during an emergency. Ya know, like an actual company of firefighters.

Cons: Let’s talk about Tamaki. Tamaki is the youngest member of Company 8 (technically a temporary trasfer) after being rescued in the second arc of the series. Tamaki is often used for fan service jokes, a lot. Like in every scene she’s in. It’s kind of her main characteristic. Her “Lucky Lewd Syndrome” is incredibly sexist and creepy given her age. It a big glaring negative on an otherwise fun shonen story. And, it’s like, it wouldn’t be so bad if this just happened once or twice. But the writers keep using the same joke in almost every scene she’s in. Even her big emotional rescue has the main character Shinra motorboat her breasts. It was also weird because based on Soul Eater, Atsushi Okubo seems to know how to portray female characters, at least more or less. I don’t know if this is editor mandated, or if the anime writers took some liberty, or if Okubo is just getting old and pervy, but this was amateur hour fan service. All it did was detract from Tamaki’s character. A great example of this is in Episode 19, where the female members of Company 8 have to face off against White-Clad members, the main antagonists of the series. This episode kinda showcases how Maki and Tamaki are treated as characters. Against a group of White-Clad, Maki admonishes them for attacking Shinra and Arthur in an earlier episode, and takes them out single-handily. She struggles a little against the main boss, but manages to use her powers tactically to get a win. In this scene, Maki was underestimated for being alone and a woman, but uses the element of surprise and her experience to win. Contrast that with Tamaki in the same episode, who is also underestimated for being along and a woman. She even has a flashback where Shinra makes fun of her for having to be rescued. Normally, this would be the scene where Tamaki proves to herself that she deserves to be a fire soldier by beating up the bad guy. However, she instead lunges at her opponent and land her breasts on his hand. And while the bad guy cops a feel, another person bashes his head in with a pipe. So Tamaki’s big moment of self-realization ends with a grope and a joke. The entire series has a weird spectrum of how it handles female characters, from Lisa’s sexualized torture to Hibanan’s iron grip over Company 5. It all felt very dated, which I think is my feelings overall for Fire Force. Overall, the entire story had stereotypical troupes. A main character who’s secretly the strongest character, a rival who’s also his brother, as secret organization of villains, friendly/antagonistic clicks, a central mystery, etc. The only unique thing about it, besides the flashy fights, it that a lot of story beats happen a lot earlier than expected. We meet the strongest fire force fighter in the second arc, Shinra’s missing brother is revealed in the third arc, the White-Clad’s main hideout is invaded at the end of the season, and Shinra fights his brother and unlocks a crazy power-up in the last fight (Episode 22). It feels a little rushed, and kind sacrifices world building. Also, for a show about fire fighters, there is very little actual fire fighting. The show gives up on the premise right away to focus on the White-Clad conspiracy. Which again, a lot of shonen stories do that. In the main story, Naruto doesn’t actually go on Ninja missions and Ichigo doesn’t actually patrol for Hollows. Personally, I do wish that we got to see more Fire Force stuff, as I really liked the premise of super powered fire fighters. Though I suppose the premise is a little limited…which I guess is why Fire Fighters don’t get a lot of TV shows centered around them. I mean, Rescue Me sure, but even that got lost and mostly rambled at the end, just like this thought….

Watch it?: It’s hit or miss at times, but it’s a good looking shonen (3/5)

MVP: Obi and Maki

I love them, but also want to be them.

Best Episode: Ep. 2 “The Heart of a Fire Soldier” (I could have chosen the brother’s fight, but this is the only episodes where the fire fighters do actual fire fighting).

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