Category Archives: Alex Watches

Anime Feminist Recommendations of Fall 2021

With the new bevy of premieres out of the way, let’s take a second to look backwards at the best shows from last season—emphasising quality over quantity, but still yielding some treats that you don’t want to miss!

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Premiere Review | The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt

What’s it about? Crown Prince Wein has been placed in charge of his kingdom—and he can’t wait to sell the place and move out. First, though, he must increase the value of the tiny spit of wintry land he governs. He schemes to mount a half-hearted “invasion” of the neighbouring territory with the intention of suing for peace, but these plans go awry when his army wins and he finds himself heading a full-scale war.

Do you want to watch a show about an insufferable young man born into money, scheming to make more money, stumbling into success and being lauded as a tactical genius? No? You don’t think a callous rich kid who treats the people under his governance as pawns in his own petty plans sounds like a sympathetic protagonist? You don’t find it relatable and hilarious when Prince Wein breaks down and whines about how much his kingdom sucks because its small population of vulnerable citizens fail to produce any profit for him? You want to throw tomatoes at the screen? No way!

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Premiere Review | Akebi’s Sailor Uniform

What’s it about? Akebi Komichi is thrilled that she’s been accepted into the prestigious middle school her mother also attended, even though it will mean leaving the familiarity of her small country town behind and throwing herself into a cohort of rich kids. More than anything, she’s excited to wear the school’s sailor uniform. She and her mother embark on a quest to craft the suit from scratch… only to realize at the entrance ceremony that there’s been a terrible mix-up regarding the uniform policy.

This is going to be a bit of an odd one to talk about. Watching this premiere, I was impressed by the beauty before me: lush, detailed backgrounds and environments that felt lived-in and lovingly-crafted; characterization of young girls that felt earnest, cute without being too twee. I was ready to praise all of this, and then the episode used its gorgeous detail-oriented animation to meticulously depict a middle school girl clipping her toenails and smelling her own feet.

And I said “Well… okay. Okay. Well. Okay.”

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Premiere Review | SLOW LOOP

What’s it about? Hiyori learned to fish from her now-deceased father, and whenever she’s anxious she heads to the pier. One day her fishing session is interrupted by a girl running down the dock, stripping to her swimsuit, and preparing to dive into the ocean—despite it being early spring and freezing cold. Hiyori stops the stranger from yeeting herself into the frigid sea, and the two get talking, sharing the wisdom of the fly fisherman… only to realise that they’re about to become stepsisters!

Slow Loop is capital F Fine. It follows the steps of the hobby anime dance with competence: the burgeoning friendship between the withdrawn enthusiast and the bubbly newbie. The cute and accessible guides to the tips and tricks of the hobby itself. The relaxed and comfy vibe. Slow Loop does them all perfectly well. The trouble is, I’ve seen other series that do them much better, which makes this poor little fly fishing anime look a little lacklustre by contrast.

Having watched series like Super Cub that put so much effort into scene-setting and building atmosphere, the backgrounds and environment feel a little flat and artificial. After the meticulously-crafted wintry coziness of series like Laid-Back Camp, this one feels a little stiff, with its many animation shortcuts and simple shot composition. There’s nothing wrong with Slow Loop (except some potential yellow flags in the dynamic between these soon-to-be stepsisters) but it just doesn’t earn the kind of gold star I know this genre can.

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Premiere Review | Girls Frontline

What’s it about? During World War III, androids called Tactical Dolls (or T-Dolls for short) were developed to fight in place of humans. After the war, however, the T-Dolls of Sangvis Ferri rebel and become a new threat in their own right. By 2062 the world is a war-torn wasteland where gun-toting androids run amok, with T-Dolls from the military company Griffin & Kryuger—our heroes, Team AR—out on tactical missions to take the evil AI down.

Gun girls: girls who are guns but also have guns. For a potentially large portion of our audience, I imagine this show simply won’t be for you, based on the somewhat dicey ideological dance at the heart of the series’ premise. This is an adaptation of a mobile game in which real-life firearms—from the AR-15 to the Tommy Gun to the Springfield Rifle—are personified in the form of androids, all conveniently shaped like pretty young women. There’s something to be said for the fetishization of the military industrial complex in a series that turns weapons of war into cool and sexy anime girls for you to collect into a team.

That’s not a dig wholly at Girls Frontline, because this franchise is certainly not the only one doing this: personifying war machines (or just putting cute girls in them) is a trope by this point, and I want to say it’s not inherently harmful in and of itself. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that the very premise of this show relies on detaching killing machines from their historical (or current!) context. Yes, these girls represent assault rifles and are shooting assault rifles, but don’t worry about it, they’re only using them to shoot evil robots. And don’t they look cool?

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The Best Anime I Watched in 2021

Another trip around the sun, another pile of anime recommendations! Read on to hear about my favourite series I watched in 2021, and see if there’s any you missed that you might want to check out.

My work at AniFem has been instrumental in letting me (or, making me) keep up with current releases. Many of these mini-reviews are edited versions of check-ins or recommendations I’ve written for the site—check out each season’s staff picks for even more good stuff that went beyond my personal radar!

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AniFem’s Summer 2021 Recommendations

This summer’s recs are definitely a case of quality over quantity. But there are some offerings definitely worth your time!

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Premiere Review | The Faraway Paladin

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.

Read my full review here!

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Premiere Review | PuraOre! ~Pride of Orange~

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!

Read my full review here!

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Premiere Review | Banished From the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside

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.

Read my full review here!

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