This summer’s recs are definitely a case of quality over quantity. But there are some offerings definitely worth your time!
Category Archives: Alex Watches
Content Warning: animal death in a hunting context
What’s it about? Three members of the undead—the ghost of a grumpy scholar, a warrior skeleton, and a mummified priestess—find a human baby in the ruins of a city. They name him Will and adopt him as their own, teaching him magic, folklore, and fighting skills as he grows; preparing him for some sort of secret destiny the boy isn’t yet aware of. But the boy has something he’s not telling his undead parents, too: he was reborn into this world from a different one, and has hazy memories of a past life.
I’ll get this part out of the way first: there is something a little odd about a child character with the memories and cognitive abilities of an adult, even if Faraway Paladin doesn’t make this weird in the way that other shows do. There are no horny babies here, just toddlers waxing poetic about living a better life in an eloquent interior monologue and a young protagonist who is conveniently precocious because he’s drawing on knowledge from his adult life.
My knee-jerk reaction is to ask if the reincarnation aspect of this isekai is only there to give our hero a leg up and help make him extra smart and special, but that might not be fair. Faraway Paladin seems, even just from this first episode, to be a pretty grounded and competent fantasy series. It’s tropey in fun ways without swimming in cliché, quietly setting up the deeper machinations that surround our hero without overtly smelling of a silly power fantasy. This premiere isn’t keen to rush into the heart of the action and show Will being a cool badass holy warrior. It’s content to draw us in slowly, focusing on the relationship between Will and his undead guardians.
What’s it about? Manaka is happy as a member of the embroidery club, but on a whim decides to attend a trial day for the school’s ice hockey team, taking her friends with her.
PuraOre! opens in the frantic final moments of an international ice hockey game, throwing the audience into some high-octane sporting action. Then, when the team for Japan wins, the… scene transitions into an idol-concert-style musical number, with the players dancing and singing on the ice. Decorative flame cannons go off, confetti falls, and the show transitions, again, to an ordinary school scene.
In the space of about six minutes, you can see these girls aggressively win a hockey game on the world stage, perform a perfectly choreographed dance, and sit down to talk about snacks in a club room. Now that’s what I call a genre mashup!
What’s it about? After being banished from the hero’s adventuring party, knight Gideon changes his name to Red and decides to live a quiet life in a countryside town.
These long light novel titles really do a lot of the heavy lifting, don’t they?
Conceptually, I love this emerging trend of “slow life” isekai. High fantasy is a genre that tends to be most associated with epic quests, grand battles, and high-stakes conflict. The idea of scaling all those familiar tropes down and offering the audience a more chilled-out, character-focused story that combines all the joys of a slice-of-life series with a magical setting, is fun.
This blend of elements is what endears me so much to shows like Restaurant to Another World and Flying Witch, and it’s what made me initially interested in this one. Particularly because the epic stakes and god-appointed warriors you might usually expect are present in the narrative, but they’ve been pushed over to the side. It provides a playful space to explore what the regular person is up to while the protagonists go about saving the world—a potential The Rest of Us Just Live Here type tale for a world drawing its inspiration from fantasy TTRPGs and video games.
Of course, a slow life show set in a fantasy world runs a dual risk: being too slow, and being a bad fantasy.
Content Warning: grotesque ghostly horror, fanservice
What’s it about? Miko can see ghosts: horrifying, grotesque apparitions that appear throughout her house, her school, and her bus route home. Determined not to get further embroiled in any supernatural torment, Miko takes the advice of a paranormal TV show host and simply pretends she can’t see them.
I’ll be candid: from this premise, I’d assumed Mieruko-chan would be much more straightforwardly a zany comedy, juxtaposing the terrifying creatures of the beyond against Miko’s disinterest in engaging with them. But the pacing of this entire episode, and each individual apparition, leans way more on the horror aspect of this horror-comedy.
What’s it about? PriMagi is a stage contest that combines song, dance, fashion, and just a little magic. Matsuri longs to compete, inspired by Jennifer, the impossibly cool past winner, but has always been too shy. She gets an unexpected push, however, when transforming cat-girl magician Myamu drops through a portal and asks to team up.
Waccha PriMagi! is the tenth anniversary spectacular for the Pretty Rhythm multimedia franchise, an arcade game series that has inspired spinoffs and adaptations in manga, TV anime, and movies across its decade-long run. Each entry centers around fashion and music: the goal is not only to earn a high score in the rhythm game but to look fab while doing so, collecting custom outfits that may enhance your capacity to charm and wow the virtual audience. You can see these elements feeding into the plot of Waccha PriMagi, alongside a splash of magic.
Iggy & Ace is the story of two gay best friends — and their drinking habits. Their favourite hobbies are happy hour pub crawls and getting wasted on wine while watching Bondi Rescue. As far as they’re concerned, life is sweet. But a panic attack while hungover at work makes Ace (Josh Virgona) wonder if this is healthy.
Delirious and trying to change, he signs up for a sobriety support program — much to the horror of Iggy (Sara West).
In many ways, Iggy & Ace is a zany drama-comedy blend about recovery and friendship. But this series is also committed to portraying the rough ups and downs of addiction, toxic friendships, grief, trauma and love.
It’s a wild ride, but one certainly worth taking, even if your brain might start screaming it wants to get off at the most emotional and visceral low points.
The Half of It opens with a musing on Plato: specifically, his idea that humans began with two heads, four arms, and four legs, but were sliced and diced by the gods and left forever searching for their missing other half. The stop-motion sequence emphasises the longing for connection that this severing left, showing an increasingly crumpled and shredded figure fumbling miserably after its own reflection. Until, at last, the figure finds its mirror image and they reunite… before the narrator dismisses the whole myth as silly and unrealistic.
It’s easy to see why our protagonist, Ellie—who is introduced to us via that poetic yet cynical voiceover—feels this way. In the first instance, she has no hope of finding her mirror image in her rural American hometown. As the child of Chinese immigrants in a sea of white teenagers, there’s no one who looks like her or can reflect her experiences back to her. As a queer teen, it becomes even more complicated. As both of these things, and as a child who had to grow up very quickly following the death of her mother, she enters the story pre-sapped of romantic naivety. She swats away the Greek myth of the other half in a monotone, and repeatedly dismisses the whole notion of romance throughout the film; yet there’s a sense of impossible yearning that underscores her whole character.
In the end, The Half of It is about longing: for acceptance, for freedom, for love, for something you can’t quite pin a name on, something that you know exists just beyond the horizon but who knows if you’re ever actually going to get your hands on it? It’s about small town isolation, the pressure to fit into expectations, the way that we can easily become silent and stagnant and cynical. And it’s about how love—familial, friendship, romantic, self-love—can haul us out of this. And it’s about the unshakeable bond between a gay nerd and a wholesome himbo, a dynamic that more media should, frankly, be exploring.Continue reading
Vrai, Mercedez, and Alex return for the 2nd half of Madoka to talk about Madoka’s character arc, the aggravating entropy twist, and how the TV finale still resonates.
Content warnings: threats of sexual violence/sex trafficking
What’s it about? During a blazing high seas battle, a young girl named Fena is pushed out to sea in a rowboat, instructed to stay alive until her protectors can find her again. Ten years later, Fena is living in a brothel in the rough and rowdy port town where she drifted ashore, with her “prima nocta” being auctioned off now that she’s come of age. Fena isn’t having this, and concocts a plan to rob her buyer and escape. Just when it seems her scheme has fallen through, some figures from her past reappear, and Fena finds herself swept up in a whole new daring adventure.
Pirates! There is an unmistakable glamor to them (or, at least, the version of them that has filtered down to us through Hollywood and adventure stories). I certainly have a soft spot in my heart for tales of swashbuckling, treasure-hunting, and handsome rogues in big billowy shirts (and that’s handsome rogues of any gender—Cutthroat Island may be credited with tanking the pirate movie genre, but its powerful Looks from Geena Davis had a profound impact on my sense of aesthetic attraction).
Needless to say, the title Fena: Pirate Princess grabbed my attention even before the show’s slick trailer did. I found myself entranced by the idea of a seafaring heroine and the intriguing mix of aesthetics and fantastical elements. The question is, how does the first episode hold up? Can this show sustain itself on my starry-eyed adoration of sword-fighting women alone?