It’s a universal fact that everyone is at least a little bit embarrassed by what they did when they were thirteen. Was it a misguided and poetic emo phase? An overzealous leap into fandom, including indulgent fanfic or fanart? An all-consuming desire to be seen as mature in your tastes that ended up just making you look pretentious? Whatever it is, despite how much this passion consumed you at the time, you’d be happy if no one ever brought it up ever again—that’s how much it makes you cringe.
There’s a Japanese word for this: chunibyo, loosely translating to “eighth-grader syndrome”, the stage of life where a sense of self-importance and newfound independence combines with passion, imagination, and a desire to be seen as special, whether that manifests as a pretentious geek phase or believing you have magic powers. It’s this phenomenon that is the core of Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions—a show that begins as a wacky comedy about high school embarrassment and ends up punching you (or at least, this reviewer) in the gut with a poignant story about grief and growing up.
Flying Witch did for witches what Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid did for dragons: just had them be kinda there, going about their daily business instead of getting wrapped up in some sort of epic fantasy plot. Makoto, the protagonist of Flying Witch, is a young witch completing her training, but is she rollicking along on some sort of Harry Potter-ish adventure attending a haunted magic school and defeating evil incarnate? No, she’s just doing the gardening. Occasionally she unearths a howling mandrake and disturbs her friends and neighbors, but otherwise she lives a relatively conflict-free existence, sitting where she does in the place where the “supernatural” and “slice-of-life” genres meet. Which is, it turns out, pretty near the dreamy land of magical realism.
Spoilers for Flying Witch Episode 11 beyond!
Flying Witch is not a show you watch for conflict and action—it’s quite literally just the day-to-day goings on of a girl’s life in a rural town, including high school cooking classes, vegetable planting, and long conversations about the history of the pancake… oh, with the occasional bit of magic woven in. There’s no overarching plot, no tension, no mysteries or intrigue as we glimpse the magical world. The witches in this universe don’t have a statute of wizarding secrecy so much as just keep to themselves because they like it better that way, which pretty much tells you all you need to know about the series’ casual tone and casual acceptance of magic. Apart from some initial shock when Mako floats on her broom for the first time (and some comedic reactions to the yelling plant), the existence of magic is basically accepted by the cast and by the story without anyone batting an eyelid.
If you could write a letter to your younger self, what would you say? “It will get better”? “Don’t stress too much about fitting in”? “Yes, what you’re feeling is love, and that’s okay”? “The future is awful and sad and I want you to work tirelessly to make sure you don’t end up a regret-stricken wreck like me”? Orange takes this last approach, and the result is a series that I have a barrel full of mixed feelings about.
Spoilers and content warning for suicide ahead.
On the first day of the new school year, protagonist Naho finds a strange letter addressed to her, which was apparently sent from herself, ten years in the future. Naho is confused and dubious that such a thing can be real, but then the events the letter describes start coming true: the letter tells her that a new student, a boy named Kakeru, will be joining their class that day, and he’ll sit next to Naho. Naho’s friends will attempt to be welcoming and invite the new kid to hang out once school is over, but, the letter warns, they should absolutely not do that. Not that day, at least.
Naho soon realizes that the letters are full of specific advice from her future self, chiefly about things that Future Naho regrets and wants to change. These mostly concern Kakeru, since, as Naho is shocked to find out, ten years in the future Kakeru is no longer alive. In Future Naho’s world, Kakeru died—in an accident later discovered to be suicide—when he was seventeen, and she’s sending these letters back in time to try and stop that from happening.
Perhaps to the surprise of very few, it wasn’t too long ago that I sat down and finished Love Live!’s second incarnation, Love Live! Sunshine!!. For all intents and purposes, Sunshine is exactly the same plot as the first Love Live!: a group of three second-year high school girls working hard to become school idols, eventually recruiting three first-years and winning over the skeptical group of three third-years to round out their final group. While a good portion of the Love Live! fanbase and tenets the show is built on are problematic due to their sexualization of young girls, the show itself is typically not any worse than any other anime you may have seen. Unfortunately, though the first season gave me a wealth of girls supporting girls and legitimately touching moments, Sunshine never quite got its feet off the ground. Much of this can be attributed to protagonist Chika’s lack of personality or drive, but the aspect that truly ruined the whole season beyond redemption was the gaslighting of Mari by the two friends she trusted the most, and the show does nothing to show how what they did was wrong.
Spoilers if you haven’t watched past Episode 8 of Sunshine.
(Screencap via Love Live! Sunshine!!, “Young Dreamer”)
The recent controversy over the bullshit Death Note whitewashing has caused me to crave the original version of Death Note, specifically the animated series. I will admit that while I am a fan of this anime, I have never actually finished it, thanks to L’s untimely death. To this day, I still don’t know much about how the show ends. Now, however, on top of my own desire to watch it again, my husband wants to watch it for the first time. So after many years I am set to finally finish this series, but it has been so long since I have watched this anime that upon beginning my re-watch, I immediately noticed things I missed the first time around. I still adore this anime and think it is extremely well done, but I couldn’t help but dislike the treatment of the character Naomi Misora.
“Slice of life with a sprinkling of the supernatural” has long been my favorite genre, though it’s harder to find than you might think. Most often fantasy authors choose to take things in an epic direction, flinging their protagonists out of their ordinary day-to-day existence into some sort of magic adventure, giving them high stakes to deal with. Granted, that’s generally what makes for an engaging fantasy story, but sometimes you’re looking for something that’s more relaxed and grounded in recognizable daily struggles. Sometimes you just want to see an all-powerful otherworldly monster do her grocery shopping without having to worry about a big scary epic background plot, you know?
If this is the case, you might want to take a gander at Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. It’s cute, funny, follows the beats of a slice-of-life show to a T while managing to feel fresh, and while fantastical elements are interwoven inescapably into the plot, the main focus is not so much on magic but on interpersonal relationships and exploring the everyday domestic delights of a found family. Its sense of humor is sometimes incredibly skeezy (read: sexual harassment of minors played for laughs) and it may or may not be as gay as we all wanted (though it comes pretty damned close) but overall it’s quite a sweet and pleasant viewing experience. And there are dragons!
Spoilers (and content warning for said sexual harassment of minors) under the cut.
I finally had a chance to sit down and watch Season 4 of RWBY—something I was really looking forward to after how much I enjoyed the previous season. With everything seemingly in ruins, Season 3 left me wondering how Team RWBY and their friends would be left to pick up the pieces and Season 4 did not disappoint. Though not as action-packed as the season before it, Season 4 finally took some time to give both the main characters and the side characters some much needed development. However, some of these developments left me feeling a little confused and questioning why the writers took that path (and not in a good way). And while RWBY’s world continues to improve in terms of diversity, at times it felt like a mirror of the name of one of the season’s episodes: one step forward, two steps back.