First thoughts on Eureka Seven (2005)

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I finally gave in to Chris telling me to watch Eureka Seven, and here I am making a post to share that I’m enjoying it a lot. And I mean a lot. Although I’m only 5 episodes in, I already feel as though it might replace something in my top 5 list. The only thing is that, apart from Pokemon, I haven’t seen any series longer than 26 episodes, and Eureka Seven clocks in at 50 episodes. So it’ll be interesting to see whether the series will be able to maintain the fantastic pacing it has had so far. I’m hopeful.

A large part of why the show has been so appealing for me comes from its romance/relationship centred plot, which is something that I didn’t expect to see going in to the show. In particular, I’ve always loved stories where a boy and a girl do adventures together, like Nadia and Castle in the Sky. And these stories don’t seem all that common place. What I like about this dynamic is that it’s cute and sets up for ‘pure and innocent’ affections, however awkward or slow. And at the same time, there’s this earnest pursuit of good we see these kids navigate together.

The other thing I really liked is the setting, and it directly contributes to me getting sucked into the story. There seems to be a lot going on in that world, and I can already feel its rich history, scale, and mystery. The execution of the plot is perfect, because for the main character, there was just the right amount of boredom, threat, and life changing catalyst to kick off his adventure.

I’d like to mention that the premise of the show isn’t necessarily fresh to me. There are obvious parallels to Eva, and the character dynamics of the two main characters heavily remind me of the ones in Nadia. I feel like I could name drop Cowboy Bebop and Gurren Lagann as well. But really, this doesn’t matter because Eureka Seven feels very much its own, and a captivating fantasy world at that. One of the stand out execution in the show is capturing a young boy’s curious and energetic outlook on life. I think this really brings the story to life.

Finally, contrary to what I had expected, the animation looked great. It looks nostalgically 2000s without it having aged badly. If anything, it gives off a stylistic feel (along with the aspect ratio) that feels clean and well produced. Character designs are good, and actually, there is something about Eureka’s character design that feels unique. Opening theme is obviously awesome (sasuga FLOW).

All in all, the 50 episodes count doesn’t feel like a chore, but rather a treat to really allow myself to delve into and engage with their world. It’s like the joy of watching a show you really like knowing right off the bat that there are multiple seasons to enjoy.

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Quick thoughts on Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (2015)

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In my viewing of Saekano (Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata) about a month ago, I was left with the impression that it was an entertaining character driven comedy that tastefully parodied the otaku culture. Of course, by its nature, such a meta narrative is going to be derivative and indulgent, but even if Saekano’s plot wasn’t very original — both of its otaku life plot and making a video game plot — its characters had enough original motivations to make the show engaging. And I enjoyed the parodying because, rather than just referencing the culture, the characters acted as their own individuals — albeit being grounded in their character trope — who came into working in the otaku culture (this idea is further elaborated on here). Moreover, I enjoyed their dialogue as it was similar to the conversations I’ve had in real life.

I won’t hide the fact that I tend to be partial to meta things and parodies. But I think that this a natural progression as one familiarize themselves to a certain culture and become interested in the sub-cultures. And I’m not claiming that parodies are necessarily smart or clever, but the familiarity they bring can be engaging to someone who has been fully exposed to the various trends and themes of a culture. The downside, of course, is that theses shows (such as the Monogatari series) aren’t as accessible to everyone.

I recently learned that the second season is coming out in April. I was honestly satisfied by how the show resolved, but I am curious nonetheless to see how the conclusion will play out. Going into Saekano, I had my reservations for the fact that the show was made by A-1 Pictures. From what I’ve seen from titles such as ErasedOreimo, and Sword Art Online, I got the feeling that this studio does not care for having interesting (multi-dimensional) characters. I also think that their character designs are flat and generic looking. Saekano did not suffer from these problems, but it did bother me in that about 2 full episodes had distasteful ecchi. The OP is a bit problematic as well, highlighting the weird ‘male gaze’ thing that happens in those 2/3 episodes.

First is the OVA (‘episode 0’). I didn’t have a big problem with this episode actually, since the ecchi (albeit quite explicit) is only present in the beginning and can be excused for the setting (the classic OVA hot springs scene). Episode 6 is where we start to run into real problems. Now I understand that the ecchi is used here to communicate the idea that one of the characters is very sexual, but I felt that the shift in tone threw off the pacing of the story.

And then there’s episode 10. This episode was actually annoying to watch. For much of the episode, the ‘camera’ never stays still as it continuously pans over girls’ bodies. The camera becomes an eye sore of a character as it seems to do its own thing independent of the characters. It’s disgusting to be honest. Once again, one of the characters is supposed to be empowered by her sexuality, but this was a level of objectification that most porn don’t even do.

What makes these aspects of the show so frustrating is because it was otherwise a really solid show. I particuarily enjoyed the subversion of the harem trope in that the MC had no problem interacting with the girls. The lovable gang of “I’m only interested in 2-D girls”, deadpan, tsundere/childhood friend, yandere/senpai, and Kanbaru/cousin hilariously parodied the otaku culture while embarking on their coming of age project. And then we get these weird male pandering fanservice that degrades the show. But I digress.

From what I understand, this show is quite popular and many are understandably hyped for the second season. If you ask me, I wouldn’t mind seeing a romantic development — and as always, I’ll root for the tsundere girl. This won’t happen of course, but I think the shows risks being annoying with all the ‘will they or won’t they’ if nothing happens. But we’ll see.


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Image is from Saekano S01E12

Quick thoughts on Digimon Adventure tri. 3 (2016)

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My roommate and I just finished watching Digimon Adventure tri. 3, and I am intrigued by how much my perspective on anime has changed since watching Digimon Adventure tri. 1 (the 1st installment) just over a year ago. At the time, my roommate had barely been exposed to anime, and I myself have only watched a handful other than the ones that I grew up watching. Digimon is a series and a franchise that most people outside the fandom know, and it could be said that it is an icon of the 90s. So the Digimon Tri series is a reboot acknowledging the audience that have aged since its original run. I had a few thoughts while watching this, but most were negative.

First is regarding the art. This may be in part due to my familiarity with cuteness emphasizing anime studios such as KyoAni and J.C.Staff, but I thought that Digimon Tri, in comparison, looked mediocre. Considering the franchise’s popularity — albeit aged — the art definitely doesn’t look as good as what is out there now.

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If you ask me, the colours look flat and bland, and the character design looks like it was made to be easy on the budget. Comparing it to the art of original series that aired more than a decade ago, while it certainly looks more modern, it seems to have lost its original personality as well.

This change in the feel of the series is also apparent in the plot. I think it was in the 2nd installment that they had this hot spring ecchi scene. It was weird to see this in Digimon. Is this what Digimon has to do to keep up with the times?

My other problem is highlighted near the end of the 3rd installment, when it became really apparent that the characters made bad choices for the sake of plot, adding to the urgency and scale of the conflict. This felt plain silly. And for the catalysts for the digimons’ evolutions, what used to be at least based on epiphanies and emotion driven will power, was almost entirely at random. For example, one of the digimons evolved into their next tier one by one when doing the final evolution would have made the most sense. At best, there was a reason, but the timing of it broke the rhythm of the buildup. It was deus ex machina that was more stupid than convenient.

I could rationalize that these characters are still kids who now go to high school, but some of the decisions made by the adults were unjustifiably bad. Each stupidity, which at best was an attempt to prevent emotional suffering (against human lives in danger), led to the current terrible situation seen at the end  of the 3rd installment.

In watching, I was once again reminded that Digimon is not a light-hearted series. It’s certainly darker and more depressing compared to its peers like Pokemon. And the dread that the characters face is rather constant until the victory they would eventually achieve at the end. This format might be fine for actual shonen watching but I’ve been finding the reboot to be a disappointing acknowledgment to the original series. It was too frustraing and confusing to see the inconsistent power levels and experience of the characters who technically have saved the world from destruction multiple times who are now even older than they had been before.

Nevertheless, it was interesting to see how these annoyances became visible compared to just a year ago when I would not have been able to articulate why I had a smaller affinity to watching the series. Should you watch it? I’m not too sure. It’s certainly not often that you get to revisit a nostalgia through a reboot but it also feels weird to have grown much more than the characters.


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Image is from Digimon Adventure tri.

Winter 2017: mid-season update

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It’s already been a month since my what I’m watching in Winter 2017 post and many of this season’s anime are at their 9th episode by the end of this week. It’s crazy to think that I’ve only started to watch anime regularly since last September, and this season is the first time I’m taking part to watch anime as they air and talk about it with the community.

Much of my views and perspectives have shifted since the beginning of the season. Although this was probably expected, I think I now have a better understanding of the culture around anime and what I can expect to enjoy in the future. Moreover, I think I have a better sense of what’s normal and what’s exceptional.

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I had mentioned that Urara was my favourite at the time. While it’s definitely what I look forward to on Friday mornings, its quirky blend of cute, spiritual, dark, and sexual themes are not exactly what I had expected. While there are still heartfelt moments and is enjoyable to watch, the driving narrative can be rather stagnant at times. A casual 7/10 (previously a strong 7/10).

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Konosuba is going so strong. The humor has become more character based and it works so well. It never takes itself seriously and is often outrageously funny. Not much more needs to be said. A very strong 7/10 (a solid 7/10).

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For a while, my favourite from this season has been Dropout. The character combinations of lazy deadpan, troll, nice and dependable, and hopelessly inept has been one of the best things I’ve ever seen. And its portrayal of Christianity as a religion from a non-Western perspective has been surprisingly thought provoking. A solid 8/10 (a solid 7/10).

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What kept surprising me in terms of enjoyment was Maid Dragon. I guess it’s the KyoAni slice of life magic. It always manages to highlight the struggles and the joys of life in a way you don’t expect. And it’s heartwarming. The characters feel very real after establishing who they are as characters. A solid 7/10 (no change).

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I dropped Seiren after its 2nd arc which was episode 8. It just got worse and worse as it went on. There was absolutely no realism in the characters and there was nothing to feel or enjoy from watching them. The first arc was okay. A light 6/10 (a light 7/10).

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I’m not exactly sure what’s happening in Chaos;Child, but it works pretty well as a thriller. Even though the pacing is the same episode to episode, it never fails to get me when its tone shifts from casual to anxious. Apart from its thriller component, the characters are quite generic and boring. a strong 6/10 (a strong 6 to a light 7/10).

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From just the first few episodes, I had agreed that Little Witch Academia was superb. Right now, not so much. Perhaps it’s the expectations. While certainly not a bad anime, it doesn’t follow up to the thrill and the pacing of the first few episodes. An 8/10 (a solid 8/10).

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Although perhaps undignified, I started watching One Room. But I don’t think I can really call this action ‘watching’ (at least in the same context as the other anime) when it’s only 3 minutes per episode (w/o the ED). It’s kind of interesting that this the first POV style anime. It’s certainly pandering to a certain male audience, and it’s transparently indicative of how anime culture likes to portray girls. First arc was about your simple and airheaded girl next door who thinks you’re super nice the second arc was about your cute little sister who deeply cares for you. No rating.

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Lastly, I had also started watching Masamune-kun no Revenge. I did a fairly lengthy analysis on the first 4 episodes because I felt strongly compelled to express the dichotomy of my enjoyment and frustration with the series. The anime has since changed direction a little bit, proving to be less of a harem anime, but it still keeping trope traits such as having the main heroin be underdeveloped and have a bad personality. The Pedantic Romantic has a fantastic mid-series review (albeit having a lot of filler rant), and articulates my frustrations succinctly: lot of artificial conflict and characters are actually socially inept.

Well, that’s it for now, maybe I’ll see you at the season end review.


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Screenshot is from 3-gatsu no Lion

A discussion on Harem, Tsundere, and Romance genres through Masamune-kun no Revenge (2017)

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(Note: This post was written after intentionally only watching 4/12 episodes)

I was feeling conflicted after watching the first few episodes of Masamune-kun no Revenge because, even though I didn’t think that the show was very good, I’ve been enjoying it nonetheless. And as someone who judges anime based on their first episodes, I had to question the reliability of my first impressions. Even as I watched each consequent episodes, I was struggling to determine whether my frustrations about the anime were warranted if I was enjoying it. I’ll be exploring the answers to these questions by discussing Masamune-kun’s harem, tsundere, and romance narratives.

Masamune-kun no Revenge, from Silver Link., is a currently airing Winter 2017 anime. MAL lists it as Harem, Comedy, Romance, School, and Shounen, and there are certain expectations to be had with this set of genres. Without a doubt, we can expect to encounter a story about a boy and his struggle to navigate through the drama and misunderstandings that come with having multiple girls like him at once. I understand that this premise is quite prevalent in anime, but for the purpose of this discussion, I won’t be drawing comparisons to its contemporaries (but Nisekoi is probably the most apparent).

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The intentional reason why I had decided to write this review after watching only the first 4 episodes is because the harem plot had just started at the very end of episode 4, when a rival/competing girl arrives and halts what seemed like a guaranteed relationship development between the two main characters. Frankly, I would have been perfectly happy to have the show ended right there before this had happened because the promise of their relationship had been establish enough. But the fact that a new girl character was introduced exactly at this point is a clear indication of its frustrating purpose. The problem with harem genres, other than it being a fanservice device pandering to the male audience (watching girls fight over a guy), is that it usually takes precedent over the show’s romantic narrative. The harem plot decides the length of the show by introducing new girls after each arc and have the main couple go through yet another drama and misunderstandings. And you can see how this quickly becomes uninteresting and rather annoying.

But I think the reason why many people, including myself, stick through this drama is because we’ve become invested in the characters. And to be fair, the establishment of connection with the characters was executed well in Masamune-kun, and this should be praised. And the essential component to this success, I think, is by having the main girl character be a tsundere character. Nearly all the harem series has a ‘tsun’ to ‘dere’ plot, which is when a girl with trust issues eventually falls in love with the guy because of his willingness and kindness. I think it’s unfortunate that tsundere characters are mostly exclusive to the harem genre because I find it easy to engage myself with tsundere characters. I find myself naturally empathizing with these characters because their brokenness and inability to trust feel incredibly human. But let me make it clear that there is a distinction between realistic tsundere characters and tsundere characters that were written just for the plot.

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Unfortunately for Masamune-kun, it’s more of the latter. The main girl, Adagaki Aki, is incomprehensibly and inconsistently warm and cold towards the MC, Makabe Masamune. And as a result, Adagaki’s character loses authenticity and becomes annoying, to the point where the show became frustrating to watch. But — just when I thought I was done with the show — they introduced the tsundere hook, which is the “sad” backstory of why she is the way she is: she had her heart broken by a boy when she was a kid. And even though I realized the emotionally manipulative nature of this device, it was effective because the flawed actions of someone with a trust issue is just as understandable as it is frustrating. The fact is, a lot of us live our lives by doing what we think is the best for our happiness. And this is Adagaki’s inner monologue:

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“I’m such a terrible person. I’ve always hurt other people so I wouldn’t get hurt. [But] if it means never having to go through that again, I’d rather be hated and have people keep their distance from me.”

Although my explanation of the show’s conventions have been pretty standard up to this point, there was something that made Masamune-kun different. Normally, the MC of a harem series is heart-warmingly (and impossibly) nice. They are altruistic, kind, and would easily sacrifice themselves to help another person. The twist in Masamune-kun’s story is that Makabe draws his intentions from wanting revenge (hence the title). It’s revealed to us that he had been planning this revenge, for the past 8 years of his life, because a girl had rejected him when he was a kid. This single event motivates him to change his name, move, and to “get hot”, in hopes that one day, he finds her and makes her fall in love with him, only to dump her afterwards. The show makes it clear that Makabe is a petty character.

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I’m going to go talk about the episodes for a bit. The show starts from Makabe’s first day in his newly transferred school. Just as Makabe walks in to the school, he sees Adagaki, who is the very girl that he had been plotting revenge against. She makes this big scene in front of the whole school as she publicly humiliates a guy for asking her out. The first half of episode 1 establishes the fact that Makabe is narcissistically proud of how all the girls (except for Adagaki) think that he is hot while Adagaki is described to “[have] the best grade in [their] year and is really beautiful [but acts stuck up]”.

There is an interesting dynamic at play as I realized that the show benefits — to a certain extent — from being intentionally frustrating. The cycle of frustration and relief, if done well, reels in the audience. And at the same time, when there is a payoff, it just becomes that much bigger. This is probably romantic drama 101 though.

For me, the main appeal of the show was watching Makabe and Adagaki interact. The tension between the two characters hating on each other, in a fun mix of explicit and implicit actions kept the show engaging. I appreciated how Makabe’s efforts to win Adagaki over often highlighted both of their inabilities and flaws. And this is where the heart of the show is revealed: as Makabe invests a lot of time and energy on Adagaki in trying to make the revenge happen, and as Adagaki is thereby shown persistent affection from Makabe, the two start to inadvertently fall for each other. And I think that this progression of closeness when they actively want to be mean to each other creates a certain sense of authenticity in their romance. As well, as the viewers find out more about their flaws, the more it appears that they’re actually perfect for each other. These underlying implications keep the overarching story engaging.

From here, I’m going to switch the tone to a negative one, because, even though the show has been enjoyable, it is hard for me to fully reconcile with the fact the show used cliche romantic plot devices along with a rather flat tsundere character. As the episodes progressed, the show’s push for the romance agenda between Makabe and Adagaki became painfully obvious and at times felt forced. What I mean is that in bringing the two characters to bond, Adagaki was put in vulnerable situations that caused her to need to rely on Makabe, and Makabe, in turn, was given some decent and reasonable characteristics that seems to contradict the pettiness of someone how would harbour hate for 8 years (spoilers):

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Episode 1:

  • Makabe finds out about Adagaki’s secret related to food. Adagaki is deeply embarrassed and tells Makabe not to tell anyone.
  • Makabe gets cut while protecting Adagaki from a guy that Adagaki had rejected earlier.

Episode 2:

  • Makabe is very aware of his good looks and popularity, but he still feels very shy when it comes to him meaningfully interacting with girls.
  • Makabe goes out of his way to help bring food to Adagaki.
  • Adagaki rejects Makabe, but does so without the usual the public humiliation. Soon after this she’s completely mean to Makabe again. (+1 for tsundere)

Episode 3:

  • Adagaki finds out that Makabe actually gets good grades and she sees him helping his friend study in a genuinely kind way.
  • Adagaki makes a fool out of herself by wearing cosplay to her date because she didn’t know any better. This implies that Adagaki is actually (in anime terms) an “airhead”. (+1 tsundere)
  • Makabe conveniently remembers in a flashback that Adagaki was actually quite nice to him 8 years ago, and that she is not all meanness. But only after all these years.

Episode 4:

  • Adagaki reflects on her past and how she had her trust broken as a child. (+1 tsundere)
  • Makabe literally saves Adagaki’s life from an oncoming traffic.

These events weave the characters together and puts them under a sympathetic light, but I feel that there is some artificiality in it. The strange eating disorder, cutting incident, and the car incident especially are clear plot devices — basically the deus ex machina of romance. And I also didn’t like how all of this seemed to be at the expense of Adagaki.

Although Masamune-kun is entertaining and engaging enough as a romanctic comedy anime, it wasn’t much more than what you would have expected from the start. Although this doesn’t mean that the show isn’t worth watching, there were definitely some scenes that made me go, “not this again”. But, of course, the show hasn’t ended yet. Somewhere along the plot, because of his original intentions of wanting a revenge, Makabe is going to have to prove to Adagaki that he really likes her. But in the end, the thing that makes me want to keep watching is because the show has its own emotional plot and integrity.

In closing, here are some of my romance anime recommendations:

Toradora!: romance drama (w/ tsundere)

Bakemonogatari: romance mystery (w/ tsundere)

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun: romance comedy (romance not actually developed)


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Image is from Masamune-kun no Revenge

On Moe and Kiniro Mosaic (2013)

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Because midterm season is in full swing right now, I haven’t posted anything lately. But since blogging is always on the back of my mind, I thought I do a quick post on Kiniro Mosaic and its second season Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic (2015), which I finished watching two weeks ago.

I also wanted to draw attention to the “Moe” category under the “Anime” category that I’ve created. Moe, as AnimeEveryday discusses in his video The Problem With Moe Anime, is an asthetic rather than a distinct genre. And moe is more than an art style, it’s an approach to evoking feelings of love and cherish-ment. And since I watch a lot of moe and cute girls doing cute things anime anyways, I thought I try to specialize in highlighting and understanding the moe aesthetic.

Having said this, Kinmoza (from Studio Gokumi) is probably the most “pop” moe anime out there. What I mean by pop is that it is familiar, mainstream, and is well produced — just like pop music. And while this also usually means generic, I didn’t think that this aspect hurt Kinmoza. If you watch the PV (promotional video), you’ll understand that Kinzoma’s intentions were just to be cute for the sake of being cute. And with this expectation, the audience got exactly what they were promised.

Moreover, I want to recognize Kinmoza’s visuals for being one of the most accessible and iconic CGDCT series. Iconic in a sense that Kinmoza is what I think of when I think of cute anime, and I think that a lot of others will agree. Even with its cliche premise about the friendship of 5 girls who attend high school together, Kinmoza’s story feels authentic because it comes to its own. Here are some thoughts that I had about the show:

  1. Kinmoza is like the hallmark of being cheerful, energetic, and affectionate in a moe anime. It shows that doing everyday life things can be fun when you do them with your friends, and all of this is executed very well.
  2. The show has 2 characters from England, and this is an interesting addition to the plot of the show. The challenges that they face in adapting to the new environment, learning a new language, and missing home was something that I could relate to.
  3. One aspect of the show that I thought was weird/racist was in the portrayal of Western culture. For example, one of the girls from England wore a Union Jack sweater all the time and the MC was seriously obsessed her friends’ blond hair. Nothing was particularly offensive but it was interesting seeing “white culture” be stereotyped and blond hair be objectified.
  4. Some of the show’s funniest moments come from the seiyuu of the blond girls trying to speak English like its their native language. Genuinely cute and hilarious.
  5. I remember feeling fairly annoyed in one or two of the earlier episodes because the MC had such an insecure jealousy over her friend. It was too much drama and misunderstandings. But the rest of the show wasn’t like this.

There isn’t much else to talk about in terms of the plot or characters in Kinmoza because the point of the show for me was to enjoy its moe aesthetics and character interactions. Like I said, it’s “pop”. But with nothing glaring to complain about, and also for being one of the most typical yet iconic CGDCT slice of life anime, I would give both seasons a high 7/10.


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Image is from Kiniro Mosaic