By the Grace of the Gods

This adaptation of the same-named isekai light novel is pretty low key and comfortably paced. The focus seems to be healing, or iyashikei, but more so for the protagonist than the audience. Is that still iyashikei? I do think it provides a gap that allows some more, uh, spicy interpretations. By the Grace of Gods, Kami-tachi ni Hirowareta Otoko, or Kamihiro for short, is kind of lukewarm but interesting, to me anyways.

The setting more or less follow the bricks outlined by various video game mechanisms. I get the most vibes from World of Warcraft, but it could be many others in the same genre. What’s also notable is that the 11 or 12yo protagonist periodically checks in with the Gods in the isekai, who watches over him a bit like an idealized set of parents (all three of them), who doesn’t pester their son who live far away all the time with phone calls–wait that might be just me. The gods live in their own realm, and don’t physically manifest in this isekai.

The joke goes, though, that the child has a middle-aged worked-to-death salaryman’s soul. Instead of learning how to code, the child just have a very stable sense of what a functional and sustainable business looks like. He ends up being a manager of a slime-dry-cleaners and a part-time adventurer, taking odd jobs farming mobs in an abandoned mine or cleaning the sewers using the same slimes.

If you liked how Tensura has world building, in the good old MonHon style, Kamihiro just boil it down to how slimes can do everything, given enough of them, and enough different varieties of them. Later on, these slimes (which are tamed, a bit like familiars) are trained to run the laundromat and automate the cleaning process, while player-character types would handle the transaction and upkeep of the shop.

There are a few big “moments” in this show that comes down to the main character making some big decisions. One of them is the decision to join up with some adults who happen to be neighborhood big shots, letting our protagonist settle in the town that they run. Another is the one when he end up opening up the slime laundry shop. Let’s take a look.

As someone who started out living on his own as a 10-year-old, physically, he didn’t know what was going on in this isekai besides the initial guidance he got from the gods. Rest of the way, he figured things out through trial and error (and as per isekai light novel troupe, guided by pop cultural knowledge from anime, game, and light novels). He was able to tame and control slimes, which, in this world, is low level stakes. Noblefolks train their kids on them. What is different is that Our protagonist takes slime taming seriously and was able to figure out a few rare varieties, including the cleaner slime that will become the thing that runs the dry cleaners.

Running into these grown men, and learning that they were nobles, were a big deal. As someone on the receiving end of power harassment in the other world, and as a proper Japanese adult, the protagonist knows what could go wrong if the powers that be were not benevolent. By associating him with this new society, he will be relying on the graces afforded by the locals extended to this outsider. As you know, Japan is this kind of a society, and this is how the show approaches the protagonist’s standing and association.

The other big decision, starting his small business, spent a lot of time doing the logistics as a small-brain kind of stakes, which is a fun thing since that’s the appeal of something like, say, Animal Crossings. It’s like doing the thing many of us want to do with most of the complicated hardship removed. And as it ought to be–viewers don’t really need to spend that much time doing paperwork with our prodigious slime-cleaner. Instead, we see that he thinks through how his employees will be treated, how they’ll live as live-in workers, including even their treatment and meals.

And that is well and good. In that sense, as someone who thought about this show as not only about a flock of party parrots, or someone who runs a small business, but as something regarding our protagonist’s earthbound history–basically dying to a “black company” working him to death–isn’t this more about labor rights? Yet, this series takes on the view in the polar opposite–we are here to do our bosses/lords bidding, and we live and die as a result of these decision makers and the systems they empower.

It explains why it’s called “By the Grade of the Gods” because that’s the way this kind of naive thinking works. It’s not about personal or labor rights, or rather, it is the fantasy in which you don’t need such rights. Rules and regulations are not really necessary when there are no cheaters and people who would exploit things for their own profits at the expense of others. You might still need laws as guiding stars for a society, but if people treat each other as they would treat themselves, maybe it’s a lot less complicated.

That said, clearly this “other world” is not even that world–we know that there are monsters that will steal, kill and pillage from civil society–such as the goblins that were exterminated in the mines. We know that there are bandits that our protagonist has slain during his solo adventures based on his own recollection. We know our protagonist is enterprising and thinks about the edge cases. He is curious. But maybe not so much on the social science side.

Given all this I’m hesitant to call By The Grace of God anything like “good” but it doesn’t seem “toxic” or even “bad.” It nurtures a fantasy that is way, way too specifically asian in my opinion, and the other execution problems I omitted in this post probably dooms this anime series any kind of intrinsic entertainment value worthy of recommendation. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting hypothesis, as with many of these isekai light novel stories. It just took this show a while to develop that core idea.


IDOLM@STER Pop Links Beta

THE IDOLM@STER POP LINKS, or Popmas, as they say, is a new game published under the IDOLM@STER brand and it is the first and only game that includes the 5 currently active brands of the …franchise. Or should I say they’re sub-franchises? Anyways, the open beta is going on and it will run for about 4 days, ending after the weekend is over.

For more about the nitty and gritty, you can read this blog article and it goes into some details. Just to repeat what it says, the open beta and a few online streams and videos are all we have, which are entirely subject to change between now and launch later in 2021.

The creator of Popmas is NHN PlayArt and they created the currently-active Disney Tsum Tsum game, which is available in English speaking countries. Give that a spin and you then have some idea what Popmas is. They have other games, mostly rebranded stuff for other IPs, but one kind-of original in #COMPASS, which is a 3v3 RTS kind of a game. On that note, also they have a lot of dead games.

I think the other noteworthy items to point out is that the lead producer on the game looks really young. Kitajima Nao (KitaP/Kitajii), as described during the title announcement stream, had the idea when she first joined the company and was later put in charge on said idea (seems to be not too much later either).

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Just How Much PriconneR Global Version will be Censored?

Short Answer: I have no idea, but likely. Oh yeah, there is finally news on Pricone EN version, which will launch on March 2021.

There is some rumbling about censorship regarding the way DanMemo was handled, which was published also by Crunchyroll Games. This is not at all relevant here, given CR is not the one running the Priconne ship. Still this is something to consider given Pricone EN version is a real global version.

I think the real question is, the EN/global version of the game is going to be available in just about every region except the ones that don’t do Google (ie., China). It might also be locked out of existing localized countries like Korea, Taiwan/HK/Macau, and Thailand–although I don’t see why they need to. Japan is also possibly locked out just because CR games don’t Japan, even if there is basically no reason to do so. (For what it’s worth, the Youtube videos from CR Games channel are geoblocked in Japan.)

The truth is, Princess Connect: Redive is a really tame game. It goes for the cute factor, which is ironically what torpedoes it on the Japanese internet for being a lolicon game when it really took off last year/earlier this year. It’s got a lot of cute little girls in this game, and while they don’t show a lot (with maybe exception of the actual demon that is Akari) there is definitely some sexually suggestive content involving minors. There is also some sexually suggestive content involving adults, for example Io, who, well, is explored in this youtube video covering the details of the EN Priconne announcement.

If this was a game targeted for North America only, I don’t think any of the content in the game is worth censoring. It’s pretty tame versus your average late-night anime.

But for countries like Australia? I really don’t know. Or any of the other more conservative regimes and cultures? Is Pricone ready for that? I guess we’ll find out. Most likely the game will just sit in the app store, and CR (and their partners) will target some key regions to advertise. For the most part these products run on words of mouth and are very siloed-in in terms of actual advertising. In other words, Pricone is not something that should see the light of day anyways, probably even in Japan.

My personal take is that Pricone is really tame, the racy stuff is not a big part of the game, even if it can be front and center if you look for it. For the most part, the game errs on the conservative side. Unfortunately(?) for Japan, that means presenting U18 characters in ways that other cultures may find uncomfortable. Between Ilya, Akari and Io I think things might have some changes. Which is to say, it’s for the most part cosmetic except maybe some of Akari’s lines?

Still, this is again not anywhere close to typical anime on Crunchyroll, so I don’t know what the deal is with any possible censoring. I’m thinking they won’t, just because it’s not something that is worth the upside given the downside. Maybe they’ll not make some things into wallpapers? That could be all that there is to it.


Dig Delight Direct Drive Disc Jockey: First Mix: Hopes

What is there to say about D4DJ’s TV anime? My approach to this is multi-fold. And personal, as my usual style…

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TV Anime Thoughts: 2020 Autumn

Just freestyling about in and on a particular Autumn afternoon. A lot of shows I won’t mention despite that I am still watching them, and some I don’t watch might get mentioned.

Is this season good? I think so–Corona has done a number to a bunch of shows this year, so even these low-budget-feeling programs like The Boy Who Loves Slimes and Standing on a Million Lives anime with Lantis OP/ED but actually Isekai are surprisingly good Entries. Actually The 1M anime is worth a deeper look. It’s probably the most overflowing-with-kindness take on a pretty deep introspective subject, not to mention it’s one of the weird isekai anime that has a non-isekai slant that isn’t someone logging into an online game. Except it kind of is someone logging into an online game. Anyways, it’s odd and unique. Ever think about the Great Filter? This is getting to that.

Boy Who Loves Slimes, or By The Grace of the Gods, is like a male-centric take on the healing isekai subgenre. Kamihiro is basically a lot messy and clumsy take compared Iguchi Yuka’s little Myne (Main?) from Ascendance of a Bookworm. Koroazu is serviceable here (I guess it is hard to play a child who used to be a worn-out salaryman) but way less spirited than Moroha from the Inuyasha full-blown sequel. I mean this is how you do a proper franchise reboot. I kind of didn’t bother with the original Inuyasha but I am enjoying the Yashahime anime quite a lot. Maybe it helps that there isn’t this Fushigi Yuugi template it tried to walk on. Thinking back it is really hard to like a series when you don’t really care for the two main characters.

The new formula is also breathing life on Major 2nd. Major is one of those popular baseball manga/anime that I would never like despite it being a popular (in Japan anyways) baseball story. Because it is the most hollow, pointless baseball story that manga-fying everything came to represent. Like, you can (and people have) create a manga about just about anything, including various sports and even more mundane or weird stuff. However Major 2nd is not like Major at all in my estimates. It actually respects the sport instead of bending it for the services of its characters.

The other interesting thing about Major 2nd is the whole male-female physical development thing and how puberty is a weird time for athletes trying to compete, to say the least. Like, talk about a topic that isn’t represented much in anime. But this is great. This is the wholesome afterschool TV program that I crave, not that I care particularly about this one item, but the way Major 2nd pivoted completely from its diehard post-reconstruction rhetoric to something people would actually care about in the 21st century is a good study at any rate. In that it actually cares about its authenticity. If you are going to be a story about something extremely real, ie., baseball that everyday kids can play in school, it really helps to also be extremely real in the portrayal. At least, as translated into the medium.

This is also a thematic issue that I’ve seen in recent years. A lot of original TV anime programs fail to capture viewers despite being very interesting. I think two great picks here are Deca-dence and Listeners. But on the flip side you look at (really dumb) serial works turning into anime, they tend to have more of a pull. Major 2nd is good, to something more bling-y like Jujitsun Kaisen, or genre-changing to the likes of Tower of God anime. I think that other Korean cartoon adaptation is the epitome of this–God of Highschool is basically everything nobody cares about but would gladly turn off the brain and watch. It’s like, maybe something to fill the gap between Kengan Ashura adaptations (now that is a fun fighting “anime”).

(For a point of contrast, compare God of Highschool with Akudama Drive (an anime original), man, the difference is clear.)

Is it just that, having the first editorial and publishing go-around culls the silly stories that you’ve seen from top creators? Tomino needed G-reco TV to make the G-reco films, I guess.

There may be some types of works in which we can be easier on. Wandering Witch provides that once-a-year kind of experience, where you can also shut off the brain to enjoy some thought-provoking fable chill-vibes. In this particular case the stories don’t cut as deep as, say, Kino’s, but it is also somewhat positive. It’s like social media is full of luls, but people end up being more glam and positive than they typically are, just because it’s good for engagement. In other words: We live in a society. Indeed those works engage us from that side of life.

The pure-pure fantasy side of life is good this year too. Media-mix projects (original anime works, let’s not forget) like Sigururi and Assault Lily are bringing the heat and excitement, or as much as you can get with a bunch of girls. Sigururi is particularly noteworthy because it reminds me of Garupan without all the problematic stuff you get from, say, another season of Strike Witches.

Well, Road to Berlin is fine. I enjoy it and every girl is great in that show. It’s just a bit tiresome after so many years? Maybe my tastes have evolved since then–between Kancolle, Azure Lane, and the barrage of similar bin of things in this very niche. It’s not like “isekai” where a whole world of themes can be explored…literally. Strike Witches first aired in 2007, that is a long run for a limited set of themes!

(As an aside, the gay formula in all these Bushifam works and others just reminds me of Golden Kamui which resumes this season but it gets even gayer than before. In some sense these shows all follow the same formula? I guess even Aachi & Shimamura.)

Other media-mix original anime works also seemed to hit their stride this season for me. A big, big one is D4DJ First Mix. I should write about this separately. The third Bushi-fam-linked-work in anime for this season is NijiGaku anime, and that one is also turning out way better than its predecessors. On that note, even Ochifuru is a lot of fun and I’m enjoying this collective of personas. Drop Out Idol Fruit Tart is a bit like a wonky 00s show but with updated and modern sensibilities. The cast is interesting too, with the cross section of interesting new seiyuu-idol talents.

If there was a miss among all the big gun media mix shows this season, I would say that is going to be HypMic. But even as it stands, it’s serviceable enough and fun to watch. I guess it helps to explain the characters to people who are not neck deep in that fandom, despite the songs were so hype 18-24 months ago. And yes, it can be really CRINGE. But that isn’t anything we didn’t know going in from the very start.

That and Dai no Daibouken are the two shows that I didn’t expect to enjoy this season, but ended up following them beyond 3. It feels like Cygames really should learn from Dai no Daibouken in terms of how to create a compelling RPG story that is between all the Rage of Bahamut things they made (see above regarding interesting original stories that failed) and The Grand Blues which I support as an anime series purely on the Teekyuu Principle but it is the most extravagant waste of time and resource I’ve seen lately. At least the Cingekis and whatever Bushiroad made can serve on its face. This is utterly worthless for non-players and except eccentrics like myself.

Actually, the problem is pretty clear once you’ve taken a moment to think about it–Granblue and Cygames in general spends way too much time grandstanding on their own junk. Maybe it’s kind of atmospheric, but this is kind of a shell game that isn’t selling to people who were not already buying.

I really enjoyed the One Rooms this season so far. I really miss this particular version of Rietion, and that Tomita Miyu act is quite enticing.

The dogeza anime is amusing enough, once you remember it used to be shittweets and now it’s an anime short. But I think the Joy of Sugita Tomokazu can be better found in Sigururi because they’re their own unit there. I mean, Sigururi E4…

It’s a funny coincidence that we got Iwakakeru anime this season, which just reminds me of this. That said, the rock climbing JK team is compelling because it’s something I don’t know about (competitive bouldering in Japan) and the main girl is interesting. That it is over the top is OK, keeps things fresh I guess, but the other characters seems really oddball and maybe the tone of story has to play into it, which makes it also oddish and over the top.

If thinking about adaptation gets this rant to this point, the one main counterpoint this season is Tonikawa. It is also kind of a cringe show but if the entire original story is a mental gymnastic trick, what does the anime have left to do? That said, I liked the OP a lot (possibly my pick this season while Jujitsu gets the ED) and, well, the source content is solid. If I had a nitpick it would be just Akarin’s version of Tsukasa is not a great fit in my opinion. She does a fine job here, that said.

A fitting way to end this post is thinking about the Maeda Jun anime this season–it isn’t that frequently we get a show of this heritage or caliber. It’s decidedly less grim than Charlotte, but way more compelling already. I think that might be due to the animation and direction being really spot on? The timing works. The characterization works (especially on the supporting cast), that the low-key skit nature of the dialog between characters work. The Day I Became a God is probably both in the running for a late-inning comeback homerun, or forgotten to the test of time like other interesting, well-made, original anime TV series. That in itself is kind of exciting.

If there is a thing about finesse in telling a story via animation, this year showed it to us what it means. It’s hard!