First impression: Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasuka Isogashii Desuka Sukutte Moratte Ii Desuka

I refuse to believe anybody called Willem can be the hero of an anime series, but here we are.

SukaSuka: Willem is not a heroic name

Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasuka Isogashii Desuka Sukutte Moratte Ii Desuka (What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?), aka SukaSuka so far doesn’t. Suck that is. As you may have guessed from the absurdly long title, it’s a light novel adaptation, with a fantasy setting in which humanity went extinct half a millennium ago due to some so far not yet seen enemy, while all the other races are living up in the sky on floating islands. Willem himself is the last living human in the world, with most other inhabitants looking as if they stepped out of a Disney animal movie. The reason he’s with those four human looking little girls is that he is going to be their caretaker.

This first episode was as slow paced as this music video above, and it reminded me of last year’s Grimgar. About a third is spent on Willem guiding this blue haired woman around the town/island he lives to a spot where she can look out over it, set to an absolutely fabulous rendition of Scarborough Fair. It’s only afterwards that the plot sets in, with a friend badgering Willem into taking on a job for the military, to go baby sit an armoury. An armoury full of girls, rather than weapons, but of course the girls are the weapons.

SukaSuka: she wants to eat him. Literally

Ah yes, the saucy maid/old friend who delights in teasing the protagonist through sexual banter. Or not, as she really wants to eat him, perhaps with a nice chianti. in any case, vore makes sense now. Can I say how rare it is that this is the only sexually tinted scene in the whole episode, despite Willem having to catch not one, but two girls as they crash into him, without pulling a Rito? instead we get our protagonist as a slightly indulgent father or older brother as the four cute little girls in the top most picture sneak into his bedroom out of curiosity. It’s nice. I’m sure the rest of the series will be a nice, slice of life healing sort of anime about one guy and the dozen or so living weapons he is the caretaker of, with no hints of tragedy or anything bad happening at all. Nu-uh.

First impression: Sakura Quest

Two years after Shirobako, P.A. Works still cannot match their moe girl styled protagonist to the more realisic looking secondary characters.

Sakura Quest: our heroine surrounded by wrinklies

Our protagonist, Koharu Yoshino, has trouble finding a job after finishing college in Tokyo, but refuses to move back to her small town family. Short on cash, she gets a job as “queen” for the tourist department of Manoyama, a small town almost aa bad off as her home town. She thinks it’s for one day only, but not having read her contract, she doesn’t realise she will actually have to spend a year as the queen of the Kingdom of Chupakabura… She doesn’t really want to, tries to flee, but in the end is more or less guilt tripped into staying on.

Sakura Quest: Chupakabura Kingdom

As you know, Bob, Japan struggles with a demographic crisis and an aging population, especially out in the countryside where small towns like Manoyama struggle to keep young people living there. At the same time, there’s a certain nostalgia for and fetishisation of the country side and anime isn’t adverse to indulging in this. P. A. Works has essentially built a career out of this, even a mecha series like Kuromukuro being set in a loveningly rendered beautiful part of Japan. Sakura Quest is no different, but everything is a little bit more rundown than the norm.

Sakura Quest: down in Tokyo

There’s a depressing undertone to this first episode, especially in the first part as Koharu goes around Tokyo failing to find a job. This is of course to set up a contrast with the more idyllic Manoyama, but you can’t help but think it reflects just a bit too much of the real Japan and the anxiety of young people trying to find jobs in an ever stagnating economy. It’ll be interesting to see if Sakura Quest can keep a bit of this bite going, or whether it’ll turn more cozy than that.

Worrying about Valerian

Is it just me, or does this trailer sound too Hollywood?

To be fair, Luc Besson has already created a perfect save for the absence of the heroes themselves Valerian et Laureline movie in the form of The Fifth Element, but I’m still worried about how well the actual Valerian et Laureline movie will do. There are so many danger signs here. Most worrying is that the actors playing Valerian and Laureline look and sound dreadful here, but equally worrying is the plot as shown in the trailer, which looks dreadfully generic.

Which might be a fakeout, as the movie seems to be loosely based on Ambassador of the Shadows, from which it borrows its setting. The original had an ambassador kidnapped there and Valerian but especially Laureline coming to the rescue, chasing the kidnappers across all sorts of exotic, alien settings. In fact, Laureline did most of the heavy lifting there, with Valerian absent for long stretches. I have a feeling that won’t be the case in the movie.

In all, I’m somewhat skeptical that one of my abso;ute favourite nerd things will be translated correctly into film, but hopefully it will at least be a decent summer blockbuster to go see with the cow-orkers.

Crossing the moral event horizon with Tanya

Youjo Senki proved that war crimes are fine as long as they’re performed by a cute blonde ten year old girl.

Youjo Senki: protecting our people

Well, not really. The show never quite spelled it out for you, but it was always clear that Tanya was fighting on the wrong side, was in fact the baddie, even if there was always the danger of the audience sympathising with her too much because she was cute and badass. There’s a fine line between making Tanya sympathetic and the hero and Youjo Senki managed to keep this distinction. That’s why the ending was great. The empire has finally defeated its enemies, only to see them refusing to acknowledge defeat and new, more powerful enemies rising up to continue the fight. For all its power Tanya knows the empire is probably doomed yet she has no choice but to keep fighting. A perfect stopping point while leaving room for a possible sequel.

Youjo Senki: war crimes

The core of the series for me lies in episode eight, in which a city that’s an important transport centre for the frontlines, revolts against the Empire and Tanya’s batellion is ordered to help put it down. What happens next is reminiscent of what happened during the German invasion of Belgium in World War I. Fury at the continued resistance of the Belgian Amry, which was supposed to stand aside to let the Germans through, as well as unfounded fears of civilian snipers led to a number of atrocities, most noticable the destruction of the university city of Leuven and the burning of its library by artillery fire. The same sort of destruction is brought to the city in Youjo Senki. After Tanya and her batallion suppress the enemy mages, an artillery bombardment is let loose on the already partially destroyed city, with predictable consequences.

Youjo Senki: befehl ist befehl

And throughout the episode, Tanya is only occupied with keeping her own hands clean, not with stopping the atrocity or finding other ways to capture the city. It’s here that Tanya crossed the moral event horizon. No longer edgy antihero, she’s a straight up villain and while Youjo Senki remains sympathetic to her, keeps showing us her point of view, it is clear we are meant to see her that way. Of course, there are still asshats cheering Tanya on, but that’s not the series fault. Unlike a series like GATE or (ugh) The Irregular at Magic High School, Tanya is never shown as the hero, just the protagonist. In a sense, you could see Tanya as anime’s Flashman, a thoroughly nasty but sympathetic enough character that you want them to win, even though you know they don’t deserve to.