Watch ‘Til I Drop: BNA and a Problem with Influencers

Based on your votes, Twwk is spending the upcoming weeks watching BNA: Brand New Animal, Mob Psycho 100, and A Place Further Than the Universe, three series he’d never picked up or barely started, and continuing with one show he made it a third of the way into before stalling, Vinland Saga. He’ll watch several episodes at a time and blog on them, but at any point, could drop a series and may end up finishing just one or two (or none at all!).

BNA, Episodes 3 and 4

Episodes three and four of BNA are like a tale of two anime. The earlier is a continuance of the mystery of who Michiru is and how that connects to Anima City and the problems that are occurring; I’m not engaged at all by this narrative. Because of the animation style and tone of the show, I feel like I’m watching a kids series unfold, which is fine except that the anime wants us as older viewers to enjoy the proceedings. I just don’t care about the story, even though I do care about the character at the heart of it. The latter episode, I thought, fit much better into the tone that’s being established. There were serious moments, culminating in Nina’s near-drowning, while we got to see our two mains reveal more facets of their characters and bond with one another. I went from nearly dropping the series to wanting to watch what happens next.

I thought the commentary regarding social media and one group not understanding another in episode four was especially insightful. These days, we’re awash with social media accounts led by influencers who are exactly like that—they have a platform that influences millions along some spectrum from being just another domino falling for those who are already swayed a certain way to having a massive impact on individual decisions. Yet, they’re not experts in anything but communication. In episode four of BNA, there’s surprise that Nina, once revealing that she’s a beastman, is accepted by Lisa, the human influencer throwing the party, and seemingly by the rest of the crowd. But the partygoers only like Nina because of Lisa’s overwhelming support; behind the scenes (or rather in the bathroom), a couple of attendees reveal otherwise, not being quite as woke as they portray themselves to be. Meanwhile, although trying to do something right, Lisa nearly drowns Nina, thinking that putting her in water would help her exhaustion, though its obvious she’s struggling in there. It’s an indictment in two ways, demonstrating both that Lisa doesn’t really know who Nina is or what she needs, and that she’s ultimately more interested in herself than in the qualities she seems to stand for. Lisa is ultimately uncomfortable with her actions, though she also budget at all to help Michiru extract the dying Lisa from the glass aquarium (prison) she’s put her in, on the display in front of the whole party. Yikes, a biting criticism indeed!

Episode grades: C and B+
Likelihood for completion (1-5): 2 (-1)

BNA: Brand New Animal is available for streaming on Netflix.

Mob Psycho 100, Episodes 3, 4, and 5

I couldn’t help myself. Instead of watching two episodes of the series, I added a third to my viewing of Mob Psycho 100. Episode three started driving my interest, introducing another vital character (I’m assuming) in Dimple, while showing Mob hit 100 for the first time. It’s a tremendously fulfilling 23 minutes, and segues nicely into episodes four and five, in which Mob matches up against another esper for the first time. The three episodes feature terrific action, some really strong comedic moments (in fact, at one point I was worried that they would overtake the dramatic elements—they did not), and wonderful character development. The center of the story really takes shape here, both in comedic tones and more dramatically, as a boy with little self-confidence and low emotional maturity (the Mob scale having to do with his emotions is an interesting surprise!) tries to find how to grow while still within the bounds of ideas he holds closely to his heart, such as family, non-violence, and words of wisdom from his mentor. I of course wasn’t watching when the show first premiered, but I imagine this is the point where people stood up and took notice (if they weren’t already aware of the original manga and creator) that this series was something more than a snarky and silly tale.

Episode grades: A-, A-, and B+
Likelihood for completion (1-5): 3,0 (+0.5)

Mob Psycho 100 can be streamed on Crunchyroll.

A Place Further Than the Universe, Episodes 3 and 4

While there’s nothing exceptional in these episodes, Yoromoi continues to demonstrate its quality by quickly but successfully rolling out a tale that we as viewers can see happening (at least in an anime universe) and developing key relationships among the four main characters. I’m especially excited by the addition of the fourth, Yuzuki, whose lonely background was surprisingly heartfelt and who is voiced by one of my very favorite seiyuu, Saori Hayami (joining another of my favorites, Kana Hanazawa, as Shirase). There’s a beautiful blend in her key episode between the emotional scenes and the beautiful theme music of the series, which is a perfect piece to convey a variety of emotions, working in so many scenes of the series so far. Oh, and we get a training camp episode, too, so that’s fun!

Episode grades: A- and B
Likelihood for completion (1-5): 5 (no change)

A Place Further Than the Universe can be streamed on Crunchyroll.

Vinland Saga, Episodes 12 and 13

My little project here led me into two episodes that were meant to be watched months apart, as I finished the first cour of Vinland Saga with episode 12 and started the second with number 13. It’s quite a letdown when watched this way, since the first ends with a possible slaughter and defeat of a number of important characters and the next one shows that the potential victors were just grandstanding; the promise of a bloody battle leads to peace talks, not war. Still, these were immensely satisfying episodes because they fully introduced the Arthurian legend into the story, which was only hinted at previously, with Askeladd of all people claiming to be of Arthur’s bloodline. I’ve long had a fascination with that legend, so it’s wondrous to see it mingled in with a story of Vikings, Saxons, Danes, Christians, pagans, and now, Welsh. What I’m not so keen on, though, is the kingly politics, which is starting to be emphasized in the formed of Canute’s father. I’m not sure what it is, but I always sour on anime series that introduce a slovenly and / or cruel king. I don’t think Japanese animators have a good foothold on the idea of western monarchy—much like they do with Catholicism, they paint it without any subtlety, and it brings the creativity in the series to a halt. But I’ll continue forward on the momentum of this new storyline idea and on the emotionally powerful new OP, which promises massive bloodshed, epic showdowns, and tearful deaths. These dozen episodes can’t possibly deliver on all that promise, can it?

Episode grades: B- and B+
Likelihood for completion (1-5): 2.5 (+0.5)

Vinland Saga can be streamed on Amazon Prime.

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