I watched the second season of The Dangers in My Heart (“BokuYaba”) as a simulcast after watching and reviewing the first season. While I do not want to fully spoil my upcoming New Leaf Journal review of season two, I’ll note that the second season is was the strongest anime of winter 2024 and a very early anime of the year candidate (impressive in light of the fact the first season came in outside of my 2023 top six series). The second season finale aired on Saturday, March 30 and I watched it a little bit after midnight on Easter the 31st. It was an excellent final episode that ended on a very sweet note. But maybe it was too sweet. I was satisfied with the way the season concluded but I needed a change before a checked out for the night (or morning). I have been watching Initial D for the first time after being inspired to try it by MF Ghost (which aired in fall 2023). For those not in the know, Initial D mostly consists of street car racing against a Eurobeat sound-track. It is not at all sweet. It has some awful anime romance writing but the races are great fun. I watched the first two episodes of Fourth Stage right after the Dangers in My Heart finale. Just the contrast I was looking for — very satisfying.

I read a news report that HiDive, an anime streaming service, re-designed its website. I have been an HiDive subscriber for a few years (two of my top three series of 2023 and my 2022 anime series of the year aired on HiDive instead of Crunchyroll) and I thought the website was an abomination. For that reason, I was curious to see the new design. My first impression is positive and it should work well on my TV set-up.I will try it for a few days and see how my positive first impression holds up.

I caught up on all the winter series I decided to follow as simulcasts. Below are my (mostly) one-sentence impressions thus far. I publish a year-end top six anime series list annually over at The New Leaf Journal, so I will note which series I view as potential candidates for 2024 based on how they compare to one another and also to series that have made my top-six in previous years.

  • 7th Time Loop: The Villainess Enjoys a Carefree Life Married to Her Worst Enemy: It is much better than the ridiculous (somewhat misleading) title and it has had some good episodes, but cracks started to show in the writing and setting with the introduction of a certain sibling.
  • A Sign of Affection (thru 8): This is a solid effort all around and one of the better shoujo series I have seen in recent years — it should be a solid year-end top-six candidate with a good finish. (Note: I may be somewhat biased due to its exemplary attention to hair color detail.)
  • Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki-kun: 2nd Stage (thru 8): This has erred on the disappointing side with its odd pacing and sometimes-shaky writing, but it has had its moments — episode 8 was its best episode of the first 8 and delivered what should stand as one of the better moments in 2024 anime.
  • BUCCHIGIRL?! (thru 6.5): A trashy delinquent comedy that feels like it is from a different era and stays watchable by not forgetting what it is.
  • Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End (thru 24): It has had some genuinely excellent moments and seems like a near-lock for best aesthetics of 2024, but episodes 18-24 have been shaky (read: boring and very uncomfortable depicting action) to put it generously. It is still a likely top-six prospect but any chance it had to be in the series of the year mix have gone by the first class mage exam wayside.
  • Metallic Rouge (thru 7): It’s a convoluted mess but I’ll watch to the end for some unknown reason.
  • The Apothecary Diaries (thru 20): Its generally strong start has been underminded by its unsatisfying mysteries (a problem for a mystery show) and its passion for using Maomao’s (or Xiaomao’s) long, winding monologues to advance the plot.
  • The Dangers in My Heart (thru 7): The class of the season and the only anime of the year caliber show of the winter bunch.  I expected it to improve over last year’s season one, but not go go from borderline-top six candidate (it missed my 2023 top-six list but would have made 2022) to potential series of the year.
  • Sengoku Youko (thru 7): This is admittedly not my cup of tea but it built up to an excellent episode 7 and has done enough to keep me around so far.
  • Shangri-La Frontier (thru 20): I respect this series for turning the sort of dumb premise that usually makes me run for the hills into a genuinely fun, excellently-animated show that makes for a good watch on Sundays.
  • The Demon Prince of Momochi House (thru 8): I am in a strange place with Momochi where I find it slightly boring but also find myself looking forward to it. So long as the ambulatory daikon (I thought it was a turnip, but it is a raddish) keeps appearing every episode, we have an unexpected borderline top-six candidate with a solid finish.
  • Urusei Yatsura [S3] (thru 9): There’s an animation cut toward the end of the new OP that is about as pretty as anything you will see in anime (AS FOR THE ACTUAL SEASON THEY STILL YELL ALL THEIR LINES SO IT IS STILL VERY MUCH URUSEI YELLSURA).

All in all, winter 2024 has been solid and certainly better than winter 2023, which ultimately yielded no top-six entries in my final 2023 ranking. Dangers in My Heart is a genuine series of the year caliber production through 7 episodes and despite its dull mage exam arc, Frieren is still a strong more-likely-than-not year-end top six candidate. Sign of Affection and Momochi both have top-six ambitions.  I’m still not entirely persuaded by Sengoku Youko, but it is long enough that it may be a good prospect for 2024 if it keeps improving. Tomozaki, 7th Time Loop, and Apothecary Diaries are outside candidates for top-six contention but they would need much stronger finishes than what the episodes which have aired thus far suggest they are capable of.

Writing Prompt: What’s an anime that you’ve fallen asleep to? by Yomu (Umai Yomu Anime Blog)
Let’s get another one of these prompts going, and this one will be quite short!

Yomu of the Umai Yomu Anime Blog posted a new writing prompt: “What’s an anime that you’ve fallen asleep to?” Let us see Yomu’s response:

Strangely enough, I’ve never fallen asleep to an anime, even when including re-watching series where I’d already have an idea of what was going to happen and there was less need to pay attention. For some reason, anime just doesn’t make me sleepy, or I don’t want to sleep while I watch it.

I tend to watch anime at night before bed. I recall having fallen asleep during an episode once. However, I do not remember exactly when this occurred or what I was watching (maybe it is harder to remember stuff when you are falling asleep). With that being said, I do distinctly remember falling asleep once during Earth science class and once during psychology class in 11th grade, but that is not the prompt. It would be dull to end my answer to the actual prompt with I fell asleep once while watching an anime episode but I forget the anime. I will thus modify the prompt. I will think of an anime that I have watched that has the natural tendency to drain my ability to stay awake. That I can answer easily: Space Brothers. I was watching it with a friend in college (in a study room in the college library) at the same time as we were watching Kids on the Slope (another sleepy candidate) and Puella Magi Madoka Magica (which gave rise to an anecdote I published in The New Leaf Journal). Space Brothers started promising enough, but it began to lose both of us during the box arc, which featured the characters being in a box. They finally got out of the box close to episode 40, but we checked out at episode 39 of what ended up being 99 episodes. I do not think I am going to catch up for the upcoming continuation.

Writing Prompt: What anime did you start the new year with? by Yomu (Umai Yomu Anime Blog)
Or if you haven’t watched any yet in 2024, I guess what anime will you start with? Surely anyone reading this has watched something though, right?

Yomu at the Umai Yomu Anime Blog asked readers to answer the following question:  What anime did you start the new year with? The first anime I watched in 2024 was actually a 2023 series: BanG Dream! It’s MyGo!!!!! Two factors came together to make that 2023 musical melodrama my first anime of the new year.

First, I had started working on my long 2023 anime year-in-review article for The New Leaf Journal in late December. My year-in-review features a list of my top-six series of the previous year. I had considered publishing it in late December, but I had multiple projects in the works so I delayed it until the first week of January. I then became sick in late December and my ill health trickled into the first few days of 2024. Being sick and not having work assignments, I had little to do. I had read some positive reviews of BanG Dream! It’s MyGo!!!!! and, after confirming that familiarity with the BanG Dream! franchise was not a prerequisite to entry (I had no prior familiarity), I decided to spend some of my sick hours watching the series to see what the fuss was about and make sure that I covered all the bases I wanted to cover for my 2023 anime review article. While it is far from perfect, it impressed me enough  to earn the fourth spot on my final anime of the year ranking, which made me delete a section that I had written for (former) sixth place The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten (that one still has its full-length review, however).

I did not get around to publishing a review of episode 2 of season 2 of Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki-kun after publishing a brief review of the first episode. The second episode had a dramatic tonal shift — segueing from the social game shenanigans that began in the first episode to bullying. I had some issues with most of episode 2. It was oddly paced. I did not mind the fact that none of the main characters (save for Tama) acquitted themselves well, but the whole production felt rushed and a bit heavy-handed. My biggest concern was with the main character himself, Tomozaki, whose views on the episode’s bullying situations jumped around without the changes being fully developed. Bullying is a subject that requires good writing (see e.g., my anime series of the 2011-2020 decade, March Comes in like a Lion). Even the best anime in the broader high school drama/comedy genre that Tomozaki is in, Oregairu, struggled a bit in its one season one arc that focused primarily on bullying. However, while episode 2 was one of the weaker Tomozaki episodes overall, it ended on an intriguing note with Tomozaki and the second bullying subject, Tama. I complained about Tama being underdeveloped and used to highlight the annoying tendencies of a more important character in my season 1 review, but depending on the writing, it can use her well here. I will see what I think when I watch episode 3 this evening.

The Demon Prince of Momochi House (Ep 1) from crunchyroll.com
Himari’s 16th birthday will be one she never forgets. Unexpectedly, she receives a will detailing her inheritance of a mysterious estate: the Momochi House. She arrives only to discover that the home was built on the cusp between the human world and the spiritual realm. There, she encounters Yukari, Ise, and a peculiar boy named Aoi, who seems to be concealing a shadowy secret.

This was the first completely new (as in not subsequent season) anime I am trying in the Winter 2024 season. These days, not involving “another world” or “reincarnation” is a good place to start. We have a girl, Himari Momochi, who is an orphan. When she turns 16, she learns her late parents left her an inheritance: The family house. However, the family house she finds is old, in the middle of nowhere, and occupied by three very pretty boys (le shock!). The studmuffins warn her that she should leave for her own safety, but everyone unsurprisingly works things out by the end of the episode after all the cards are laid on the table (you’ll be shocked to learn that the dreamboats may not be normal guys). It was equal parts inoffensive and unimpressive. I do not always (or often) agree with Anime News Network review takes, but I think their four first impression reviews were on point. I would have given it 2 stars out of 5 on my unofficial rating scale but for one thing…

A basket of sealed ayakishi, including several talking vegetables, from episode 1 of The Demon Prince of Momochi House.
Look at that turnip…

The talking turnip in the basket is too perfect for our imperfect world. I like animate turnips. 5 stars for the turnip, 2 stars for everything else. I will keep watching but I expect to see more of the turnip.

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki 2nd STAGE (Ep 1) by Project No.9 from Crunchyroll
As the second term begins, Tomozaki's first task (courtesy of Hinano) is getting popular girl Erika Konno motivated for the school sports tournament.

I re-watched the first season of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki (after having watched it as a simulcast in 2021) for two reasons. Firstly so I could write a review and secondly so that I could refresh my memory for the second season. I watched the first episode of season 2, titled The best games make reconnaissance fun, a few hours after it went live on Crunchyroll. Five quick thoughts below.

  • The overall aesthetic is the same but the production values were better than most of the first season. For example, I noted that the character models were very consistent. It did reuse a few cuts, however.
  • The episode did a good job of depicting Tomozaki’s new-found confidence in his coaching sessions with Hinami.
  • A good part of the episode was spent effectively re-introducing the characters. This is understandable since I assume many viewers did not re-watch the first season in the last week of December like I did.
  • It introduced one new character in Tomozaki’s lethargic co-worker (another girl, of course). She seems to be set up for a advice role but time will tell.
  • Speaking of advice, I complained that Tomozaki’s friend/pushed love interest, Kikuchi, was used too much as an oracle in season 1. In this episode she gives advice that reasonably followed from things she and the audience observed happening in Tomozaki’s class.
  • Speaking of advice, I do not find Tomozaki’s initial challenge, to get the unpleasant Erika Konno motivated for the sports festival, to be particularly interesting. However, his approach to completing the task, relying on others, does highlight his character growth (namely that he can rely on others) and give the first episode a way to help all the characters shine.
  • Speaking of shining, I like what this episode did with Yuzu Izumi. I mentioned in my review of the first season that I thought she was a good character but somewhat underused. Her late-episode resolution was well-done and I hope she continues to play a meaningful role in the second season.
  • In my review, I opined that the series would ultimately depend on its exploration of Hinami’s characters and motivations. Perhaps the most encouraging point of the episode was an early monologue wherein Tomozaki considers the difference between him (trying to enjoy each step of his self-improvement journey) and Hinami (looking beyond the moment at something distant). I will count it as a good early sign that this is something Tomozaki is thinking about.
  • Finally, in my season 1 review, I complained about the camera’s tendency to fixate on Hinami’s and Mimimi’s legs. Positive sign: Only one weird Hinami leg shot in episode 1. Progress!

I expect to see this first arc wrapped up in episode 2 next Wednesday. All in all, the first episode was a solid start to the second season and I am interested to see how it develops after we finish the first arc.

Victor V. Gurbo's "Christmas & You" by Victor V. Gurbo (The New Leaf Journal)
I started writing Christmas & You in college when a friend of mine prompted me to write a Christmas song that would have no prospect of commercial success. His idea was not that the song should be anti-commercial, but instead that it should be hilariously off-brand next to upbeat popular Christmas songs such as Jingle Bell Rock and Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer.

My good friend Victor V. Gurbo noted over on The New Leaf Journal that his college friend gave him the prompt for a melancholy Christmas song that would have no prospect of commercial success. I addend his post to note that the unnamed friend was a very versatile character. The person Victor refers to is the same person who I described as having changed my opinion for the better of one of the many twisted story lines in the infamous “nice boat” School Days anime (I did not, however, grant his positive opinion of the series as a whole). We can complete the circle by noting that my decision to subject myself to re-watching much of School Days for a review was prompted by Victor, who never watched the series.

The Dreaming Boy Is a Realist (TV) from Anime News Network
Sajou Wataru is madly in love with his classmate, Natsukawa Aika, to the point where he daydreams about them being together and constantly pesters her...

I am working on cleaning up a few anime series that I missed throughout the year in preparation for my year in review. As part of the project, I quickly went through The Dreaming Boy is a Realist (light novel titles…) on HiDive (I had neglected HiDive for a bit because there’s no unofficial Kodi app). Was it good? No, not particularly. A series about a high school boy (first year in this case, somewhat unusual for anime) pulling back from his overbearing obsession with a girl he likes but who appears to not like him back would have required a much more deft, focused, and sophisticated hand than what crafted this series. But I will note that notwithstanding the series’ sub-par animation production values, both the OP and ED songs were well done.  That may be one of the over-arching themes of my year-in-review. There were no great series that finished in 2023 like the third season of Oregairu in 2020, SSSS.Dynazenon in 2021, or the third season of Takagi-san in 2022 (jury is still out on one continuing into 2024), but it was a banner year for OP and ED productions.

Live-Action Teasing Master Takagi-san Series Unveils Cast, Staff, March Netflix Debut by Egan Loo (Anime News Network)
The staff for the live-action adaptation of Sōichirō Yamamoto's Teasing Master Takagi-san (Karakai Jōzu no Takagi-san) manga unveiled its main cast, production team, and March 2024 premiere on Netflix globally (before its Japanese television premiere) on Wednesday.

I am on the record as being a fan of the Teasing Master Takagi-san anime. I selected the first season as one of my honorable mention recommended series for general audiences from the 2011-2020 decade. Last year, I picked the third season of Takagi-san as my 2022 anime series of the year and described it as the best anime comedy since 2012’s Humanity Has Declined. But with that being said, I never understood the appeal of live action adaptations of manga and anime? I suppose by manga/anime standards, Takagi is a plausible live action candidate and the actress and actor playing Takagi and Nishikata do not look too old for their 8th/9th roles (they are 16 and 15 respectively). While I am not interested, I hope the live action Takagi-san does the series justice.