Tuesday 25 June 2024

A Review of Scavengers Reign

 Once again I am writing about something which I feel most of my readers will be aware, but in this case it’s a rare piece of popular art that I really liked so I want everyone to know about it.

The Science-Fiction animation 'Scavengers Reign', was made for HBO (and unavailable in the U.K.), and it looks like it has been cancelled there. BUT it has moved to Netflix where I can actually see it. This is my attempt to make sure we get a second series.

The series is based on this short, ‘Scavengers’;

Twelve 20+ minute episodes of western-style animation about the survivors of a crashed space ship trying to survive on an alien world with a fecund, bounteous, and incredibly dangerous biosphere.

As the "Demeter" suffers massive damage the waking crew escape to the planet below in survival pods while the majority are still asleep in cryo. On the surface, the ships Captain manages to jury-rig a signal to bring the Demeter down to the planet intact. 

Three groups of separated survivors see the Demeter come down. All they needs to do is reach the grounded ship and re-awaken the crew before something kills them or power runs out, and then use the ships lifeboat to leave the planet and go to summon help.

To get there they will have to cross a world of gorgeous bounty and cornucopic terrors. 

The incredible fecundity of invention in the environment of Vesta Minor, creates a sense-making baroque Speculative-Evolution Rhapsody which turns its hyper-complex environment of endless transformations and predation into a gorgeous problem to solve, and also a kind of Pilgrims-Progress hajj of transmutation of the identity and soul.

The environment of Vesta Minor is both alien and fecund but more beautiful than its general forms would be alone, (many Science Fiction stories can create mere visual rhapsodies), is the locking together of the logic of life in which every living thing seems to have its own coherent place, purpose, method and cycle of life. Curlicues of white spiral through the air and fasten to white spars, perfectly camouflaged, until a storm disturbs them and they cloud away, like grey petrels flocking in flight from a grey sea, Cambrian-radial megafauna wander across grasslands, ridden by scatterings of minor species. The hyperdeveloped environment is host to wild schemes of parasitism, symbiosis  and simulacra, and complex games of signalling and counter-signalling.


Transhumanism, Parasites, Symbioses and Identity

The story follows three groups of survivors; The first is Human/Human; the ships captain and natural history lady (now the most useful human alive), one human/robot and one human/weird frog thing.

By the end of the series the only one left we are sure is human is the lady with the robot. The captain has been parasitised by a mind-altering plant, the ships natural history lady may be a fungal simulacra, but we are not sure, the robot has been infected with a fungal strain and reborn as a new kind of cyborg, and the lone male survivor is rapidly brought into a symbiotic relationship with a mind-controlling predator.

Constant and unalterable transformation is a main theme of the story and the only periods or places of stability lie in accepting or negotiating some level of alteration rather than resisting all.

The Captain is poisoned by one plant, which steals some genes and grows a very rough simulacrum of him, the main purpose of which is just to get close to the herd, (it usually preys on cowlike animals), and explode, poisoning the rest of the group and fertilising the ground beneath for the plants seed, left behind in the pseudo-captains flesh.

Then he is saved by the bio-medical knowledge of a mute survivor left behind by a previous expedition, who it turns out is a symbiote herself, of a different cave-dwelling entity. Yet clearly this woman has some selfhood left, she can perform complex actions, still visits her husbands grave, but in other ways is entirely the creature and servant of the entity. She saves his life but infects him with this fresh form of life.

The Captain then watches his own behaviour change, only half realising as his basic urges and desires are subverted by the plantlike organism growing inside him, which is keeping him alive but, mutely and instinctively, is trying to turn him into an agent to create and sustain its preferred environment.

The lone male survivor is trapped in their pod, high up in trees and is slowly starving to death. He is retrieved by the 'Hollow', a somewhat intelligent froglike thing with limited psychokinetic and mind-altering powers.

Most Hollows walk around on branches peering at little bugs or mouselike entities. If they can fixate one, they can parasitise it, subverting its behaviour so that it brings the Hollow food.

One tries this on the lone survivor and it works. It speaks to him through memory, illusion and instinct, transforming him into a food-gatherer. It’s pretty clear that, at least to begin with, the Hollow doesn't understand much or anything about the buttons it is pressing. If it wants its Gatherer to get food, or to stay, or follow, or be happy, it just presses on the memory/emotion complex in the humans head and the human mind does the rest, creating complex dreams, hallucinations and desires to achieve these ends.

But this Gatherer is a sentient self-aware and quite intelligent human, and in order to gather ever-more food, he takes to tool-use, traps, ambush, throwing spears and persistence hunting, making this combination of Hollow and Human Gatherer an abnormally insanely successful system, and making the Hollow a FUCKING UNIT.

As this happens it seems that the Hollow itself is being poisoned, or altered by the infiltrating visions of its human Gatherer. We never know how much the Hollow understands of what it sees in the human mind, or of what emotions it shares, but it ends up making a pilgrimage to the Demeter itself and treats the place as a kind of preferred lair or hunting place, trying to kill or drive off whatever else turns up.

It’s possible that nothing on Vesta Minor is self-aware or intelligent in an way we can understand, but so many of its species can subvert, parasitise or enter symbiosis with humans, which we know are self-aware, we have to ask; what then is the nature of the soul which results?

Many of these effects are horrific but this is not a horror series. The tone and form of the storytelling accept these changes evenly and clearly, with a kind of acceptance similar to that of a Ballard story. What results might be called Environmental Horror, Speculative-Evolution Porn, Alien World Survival Show or Transmutation Drama. It has a little of the Tempest, a little Dougal Dixon, some David Attenborough and a dab of William Golding.

Is this planet actually more complex than earth, or just so strange that it seems so?

In a sense Vesta Minor is "Life-Horror/Wonder" or "Evolution Horror". All the systems and ideas of life’s interaction, transformation and evolution on Vesta Minor are drawn from or influenced by that of our world, but re-enchanted or make strange by their incredible new forms and the complexity and subtlety of their interactions.

If Vesta Minor causes us Awe, or Horror , or Wonder, this is in some sense only because those processes should cause such emotion, yet we are blind to their day-to-day nature here due to overfamiliarity. When recast on an alien world through a Wunderkammer of alien forms, the same processes and logic amaze and astound us.

(Nerd Shit - If Vesta Minor was real and people landed there, even if they could breathe, most likely the viruses and bacteria would infect them and eat them alive within a day. 

Possible reasons they might not include; not being adapted to live inside humans, the humans having some kind of sci-fi inbuilt auto-immune system either via genetic alteration or implant, or Vesta Minor microsphere for some magical reason, not being as incredibly hyper-complex as its macro-scale biosphere.)

It’s really a lovely non-stupid dream of a series so if you are a lover of Science Fiction or strange things and are very tired of fucking stupid stuff then please give it a go.

The ending does have slight Gaia-vibes, which is something it managed to avoid up until that point. It’s kind of boring if the planet has a Mind because that answers a lot of the complex moral questions to do with encountering an alien environment.

Tuesday 18 June 2024

Demons on a Moths Wing

 Imagine Man as a Moth Upon a Leaf

Many prey animals will have no coherent image of what their greatest predator actually is

This is probably more true with very specifically-evolved predator-prey relationships, and likely less so in relations between more generalist animals.

My idea here is that any prey animal that stuck around long enough to get a good long look at its predator was much less likely to survive, while any prey animal that ran for it at the slightest hint of its predator was much more likely to survive, and the slighter the hint that was required, generally the better. So over time the genetics, behaviour and culture of prey animals will be very strongly ruled by the tendency to run-don't-look. In fact active complex thinking about the predator will be almost absent because it will require a cognition and resources load that makes the prey animal over-heavy'.

So what a prey-creature 'knows' of predators is like a cubist array of images, scents, sensations, combinations of circumstance and so on, that if a certain amount or certain kinds are triggered, produce an instant flee/hide response, and that there may be layers to this bag of splintered perceptions, the deeper ones of which produce an ever more intense flee response; "If you perceive such-and such then burn your fat cells if you have to", "If these sensations combine then gnaw off your leg if you have to", "if you feel this then jump off the cliff if you have to".

So that, the more relentlessly dangerous something is, the less clearly they think about it, or at least consider it as a whole thing, and the more it becomes, to the, a scattering of burning glyphs within the mind which, if triggered, overwrite any other thinking and produce an instantaneous, physical, escape response.

Moth Wings

It’s a reasonable supposition that Moth Wings hold amongst their patterns, fragments of image that, when seen through the strange eyes and mad brain of an insect-eating bird, provide splintered signals of just such a predator; a larger bird, snake, leaping fox or similar.

The wings of the Atlas Moth are the most obvious example of this; even to us they clearly seem like snakes looking about. Other moth wings look a lot less like anything we can recognise, but this may be for several reasons;

That they are cubist impressions only; the sensation of a predator broken up into is most sensate elements yet organised in a manner unlike that seen in nature.
That birds see in ultraviolet, which we cannot, and will encounter these fragments in-flight, in strange situations of light or shade and during predation, when they are hyper-focused on one target to the exclusion of all else.
We don't know much about how a leaping predator looks to a diving bird, or how its tiny brain organises the information it does have.

In any case, we might say that, if we continue this line of reasoning; the patterns on a moths wing are nightmares of a birds mortality.

A more curious consideration is that through simple iteration, one species has evolved upon it, signs and symbols which signal to its predator, dreams and impressions of that predators own predator, which, if we continue the conceit that prey have no coherent impression of their own predators, is a transmission of information to the barely-knowable of what is utterly unknowable.

The moth carries symbols and fragments of something so far beyond its understanding that it could not even begin to conceive of it.

Esoteric and Fantastic Considerations

(I deal more in the world of honest Fantasy rather than the murky and somewhat schizoid realm of the Esoteric so I will remain focused on worlds of the imagination, but if you want to go all Von Danekin with the same ideas, then you can.)

In a Fantastic world in which Demons, and other supernatural creatures that prey primarily upon humanity, exist, and which are so utterly dangerous that humanity has developed a hyper-prey response to them, then humanity will be simply unable to name or fundamentally conceive of them, because any attempt to hang around and analyse, observe, understand them or to integrate that understanding into a larger scheme of knowledge, will get you killed.

This becomes more severe when you consider potential psychic, extra-dimensional or extra-causal entities where the environment through which they are hunting us is only partly sensible or comprehensible to us. Or Information Hazard-like entities where just thinking about them, (naming the monster adds to its power, the wizard can hear everyone who speaks their name), makes them more real and deadly

Yet, in such a world, there may well be 'impressions', cubist or modernist fragments of knowledge, information or understanding available to mankind; the 'Moth Wing Patterns' which give hints of predators the simple humans of that world could not imagine. Or even give suggestions of what is utterly unknowable, that beyond-which-is-beyond which preys upon the unknown.

Mans Moth Wings in a Fantastic World

What fragments of reality which might indicate the nature of that which is unknowable, or that which is beyond what is beyond? Or what things found in the organisation of sentient minds through culture, artefact or otherwise, that might show splintered fragments of that which preys upon that which preys upon us. Or things found in the forms of the prey of man that may suggest the form of what preys upon him?

Signs Of That Which is Beyond

Signs of that which might prey upon man but be unknowable to us, as a bird to a moth.

Signs and Glyphs which ward against Man

Like the magic signs that imbue fear, or which cannot be read. Or those which ward magically upon tombs. 

Any sign which repels, frightens or disconcerts so that it might not be read could well impart some essence of the extra-real predators of man.

Signs Borne on Curious Animals

Some magical creatures carry strange signs or astonish the sight without reason, or hypnotise or delude. Such as the Cobras hood, the Peacocks tail, the horses hooves when it races (which cannot be seen), or great whales who's song hypnotises, or the roar of a Tiger, which freezes.

That which is beyond may have some element of all these things, or more likely it carries the qualities which emanate the true and combined qualities, of which these beast signs are only fragmentary simulations.


These often revolt the sight with their scuttling, unnatural movement and skinless nature. Also they are low and hidden.

Poisoning Things

These things have a power to make ill and do harm much greater than is evident, that it is out of proportion with their seeming strength, that their ill may last longer and have more subtle corrosions than another wound.

In some cases this power is hidden so that you may not guess at it, but in other cases the form and colour of creatures boasts and advertises such a power, seeking to frighten and overawe.

Slithering Things

Things such as Worms, Wyverns, Snakes and all who go upon their belly, for they move by motion and not by limb. Also they are low.

Insidious Things

The most fearful and disgusting are those creatures which writhe or hide within other things, and this be worse if such things be living, for it is one living thing within another which should not be, and worse still if it be within oneself.

Perhaps that which is beyond might be able to lie unseen within other things, and even so within living things, like worms within an apple, and worse still, within ones own flesh.

Things Deep in the Sea

That they dwell in a cold blackness where nothing should live. That they mimic no earthly form. That they may come forth and take what is on the surface of their dark world and may not be opposed or followed.

Signs of the Unimaginable

Indications of whatever it is that might prey upon that which is beyond, as a Fox upon a Bird.

Signs which Ward Man from the Other

Signs, symbols, glyphs and rituals which man employs to ward themselves from what they fear may be Beyond, may employ some fragmentary aspect of the hunters of the Beyond.

By which we see that they are clear and regular, and never quickly imbued.


For as darkness itself flees fire, so do all beasts that prey upon man. Therefore fire itself in all its mortal forms may be only a symbol of that meta-fire, the nature of which is cannot be known but which must be 

Alike fire in that it is bright against that which is not, that it devours and transforms, that it lives in that it grows and dies, but not like any other living thing.

Doors, Doorways, Bars and Locks

Alike doors in that it separates on thing from another, but can alter that separation, like bars in that it can be set against what is beyond and once set, its very nature keeps it so. Like locks in that hit has a hidden complexity that may alter its nature, and that there be keys to such, and that these keys may be passed from one to another, even if the full understanding of its workings are not known to those who hold them. By which we mean to understand; spells.

Sunday 9 June 2024

Anime Six - Treats not Tricks

Ok lads, it’s time to deal with unacknowledged war guilt through a vague authoritarian euroland kingdom that definitely isn't white Japan. Get ready to fight the evil Catholic church and discover God is fake with Horrific Consequences, but don’t worry, you are a Pure Boy who will "Just keep moving forward" into this metaphor for Generational Squeeze/ Loss of Future, and never forget; she’s actually a thousand years old and you aren’t related by blood. 

Its Anime Time!


Previously Reviewed

One - Dororo, Re:Creators, Inuyashiki Last Hero

Two - Gankutsuo: The Count of Monte Cristo, Onihei, Outlaw Star, Full Metal Panic!

Three - The Great Passage, Bannana Fish, Kemurikusa, Kokkoku

Four - Ranking of Kings, Odd Taxi, Fire Force, My Hero Academia, Jojo, Attack on Titan, Mob Psycho 100, Slime, Demon Slayer, Belle.

Five - Darling in the Franxx, Assassination Classroom, The Girl from the Other Side, 
Spy x Family, Love After World Domination, Miss Kuroitsu from the Monster Development Department, Shadows House, Vivy -Flourite Eyes Song, Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works, Fate/Zero, SSSS.Gridman, Dr Stone, Series 1, The Vision of Escaflowne, Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation, The Devil is a Part-Timer Series 1, Re:Zero - Starting Life in Another World, Banished from the Heroes Party I Decided to Lead a Quiet Life in the Countryside, 86 Eighty Six



The cursed and unkillable vampire genre lives again and has mutated into ever-more deranged and unlikely forms; Post-Parody theatre kid batman? Reborn as a Spider? As a Vending Machine? 

Dead Mount Deathplay

Absolutely bananas reverse Isekai where a super powerful Necomancer is defeated in the fantasy world and ends up in the body of a real-world twink (average Japanes Protagonist). Wierdoes, conspiracies and bizarre factions are layered onto each other like a towering cake with everything in it. The story is absolutely fuming with invention and fun and barely holding itself together with the pace and style of its inventiveness. Not quite a parody, DMD throws in so many conspiracies on top of conspiracies and schemes on top of schemes that it gets close. The comments threads under the episodes are full of people saying what the hell is going on do you remember that character no wait this makes sense does it though?

Its fun! Remember fun?

The Devil is a Part-Timer Series 2

Genuinely quite bad and a disappointment.

Eminence in Shadow

Tremendously entertaining absurdist Isekai parody double(TRIPLE)-down. 

A young man. All he wants is to become batman and be able to punch out an atomic bomb. He does become Batman but without magic how can he punch out a nuke? While banging his head into a tree in search of magical powers Cid Kagenou ends up reincarnated into a Fantasy World where magic exists. Flash Forward – he is now Batman, Dr Strange and also kind of Iron Man. He leads a mysterious force from the darkness to … well to be generally mysterious. To conspire. Conspiring against conspirators in the dark.

The protagonist is half aware they might be mentally ill but doesn’t care. Insanely hyper-over-mega-powered, all they want to do is to play the part of an Eminence in Darkness; the edgy antihero mastermind dark angel of vengeance. They have literally no idea and genuinely don’t care about any of the overarching plot in this fantasy world. 

There is a whole deal with an industrial revolution, ancient scientific culture, a secret cult of demon worshippers who rule the world, various hyper-powerful beings etc. Every other person or entity treats the quite-good-in-itself backstory with emotional seriousness, while the MC is blagging it, not really paying attention, looking for rooftop spots to loom on, setting up his ‘lair’ and waiting in his study, facing away from the door and saying; “Greetings, did you think you could elude me” every 35 seconds for HOURS because they are sure SOMEONE will come in eventually, dragging an entire grand piano and bag of white feathers down into the sewer so when they finally meet a desperately fleeing young girl she will find him masked, playing Moonlight Sonata (new to this world), on a grand piano, in the sewer, while angel feathers fall dramatically around him.

This is a fun series.

Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions

A visually gorgeous and much more low-fantasy and (somewhat) social realist take on the standard Isekai formula. B list kids transported, memory-wiped and forced to work as adventurers in a fantasy world, something they aren’t that good at, and only get good at, at the pace of normal teens.  It reminds me of once visiting a farm and being asked to help a sheep give birth and this lamb covered in placenta squeezing out and then leaping up and fucking running about covered in placental juices and me in the pen with it freaking out.

The scene where they try to mog their first goblin is great and is exactly as weird and disturbing as a city kid having to actually physically grasp a placental lamb. Goblins are actually very frightening, and they quite reasonably want to live. The series also has an actually normative relationship with grief when the team leader dies and everyone just goes numb for a while. 

The painted backgrounds are gorgeous. It is a very visually beautiful and emotionally elegiac series and they didn’t do a series 2 so you are not locked in.

(Is this just ‘Konosuba’ played straight?)

Konosuba - An Explosion on this Wonderful World

An explosion-based spin off from Konosuba which tells the backstory if its teenage mage who only knows one spell, and its EXPLOSION. Can you get through theatre-kid Hogwarts only learning one spell? Good if you like Konosuba, or if you like the idea of a race specifically engineered to be hyper-powerful and hyper-dramatic, who buried a Dark Secret beneath their village “because it sounds really cool”. It’s quite funny.

Reborn as a Vending Machine, now I wander the dungeon

What can I say? A young man loves vending machines so much that when he sees one in danger he sacrifices his life to save it. Reborn in a fantasy land, as a vending machine, he must use his encyclopaedic knowledge of Japanese vending machines to.. survive and fight evil?

His power-ups include the ability to transform into *any* kind of Vending machine. Throughout Series one he can only communicate in the scripted phrases of a Vending Machine.

If you wanted to see how many, or if at all, problems could be solved purely through the use of a Vending Machine, well do I have a series for you! This is… surprisingly good especially for sticking strongly to its utterly batshit premise. By the end of series 1 he is still a vending machine, still needs someone to carry him around and can still only say a handful of electronic phrases.

(This series may be a bone deep galaxy brained commentary on Healer classes in RPGs, or a support of such, I can’t tell.)

So I'm a Spider, So What?

Young girl dies mysteriously during a classics class and is reborn as a lowly powerless spider in the super-dangerous magical dungeon of a fantasy land, (not that she knows the details to begin with). Literally everything can kill her easily, including her spider-siblings who immediately try to eat her. (She is the only self-aware Spider, or at least the only one with a human mind.)

As Joesky would say; a battle is on!  and probably the most reasonable hungry ascent of the power ladder as Kumoco desperately tries to survive and successfully eat her enemies, gaining more and more spider-powers but facing more and more dangerous opponents as she does. Her first major enemy is a frog and it nearly kills her. 

Aoi Yuki has a bent back from carrying this series. Kumoco’s Peter Parker rapid-fire soliloquies pathed together from a highly introverted teens pop culture obsessions, expanding to arguments across multiple parallel sub-minds, (the cheeky cartoon spider is her own self image, everyone else in the fantasy world just experiences a non-verbal eldritch abomination gnashing its jaws at them) as she levels up, and unhinged will to survive  make her probably the most fun character in Isekai with the perfect combination of personality, animation and voice actor.

The story it’s based on is this quite other thing. There is a whole deal with the other Isekai’d students in the class, a hidden world-ruling god, multiple conspiracies, a secret history blah blah blah. In animation, compared to the main Kumoco story, it’s really, truly mind-blastingly boring. While the plot does have its defenders I think a big chunk of the audience were just skipping past standard Isekai stuff.

Unfortunately, the two stories to end up becoming one towards the end of the Anime, which may be part of the reason it never got a second series. (Combined with some apparent chaos during production which lead to parts of the anime getting some truly horrific CGI.)

Every opener and closer is an utterly insane high-temo bubblegum rock/rap banger.

Solo Levelling

Not quite incel porn. 

(Plot is; gates to the Dungeon Dimension start opening everywhere. Some people get video-game style powers but their level is set for life, so some are just automatically and permanently better than others, but due to divine intervention from a mysterious entity this one low level nerd gets the power to actually level up, making them the most powerful person EVAH!)

Im vaguely ashamed that I like this. I started watching thinking god what trash I can’t believe people are into this and then suddenly had finished 24 episodes. Is everything from Korea quite as slightly empty, power hungry and resentful as this? Man Koreans are having a BAD time

I think this is just the Eminence in Darkness played straight

The Wrong Way to use Healing Magic

A somewhat nice Isekai.

MC is an accidental carryalong to the main heroes and gets healing magic. This worlds ultimate badass takes him under her wing and teaches/forces him to use healing magic to also become a hyper-powered badass. 

Despite this their main job is emergency healing and being a kind of fantasy paramedic. The positive vibes and the fact that their route to ultimate badassery involves getting better at healing people take the edge off the slight incel vibes that 90% of Isekai have in their DNA. Also in the English dub the demons are voiced by actual British people, or at least British accents, which is a trip.


Brave Bang Bravern

An gay robot absurdist comedy/apocalyptic drama/romance/military action series.

In the near future, the near future multi-nation robot corps are having an exercise. Suddenly, incomprehensible aliens land giant spikes all over earth and start massacring the population. The robot corps can barely touch them, (all of this is played seriously). THEN… an actual kids TV SUPER-ROBOT arrives.. from.. somewhere? begs the main character to ‘Come inside me’, and starts taking out aliens with a Lazer sword while playing his own action series theme, inside and outside his body.

All the characters react to this insanity as the insanity it is. The robot ‘Bravern’ tells them he is a friendly alien who ‘loves freedom’, but he has an actual metal face, like a transformer or something, and strikes action poses, and in every way acts like a character from fiction in this apocalyptic scenario, (and is obsessed with having the main character ‘inside me’, like he’ll only do it with this one particular guy).

Every human is disturbed by this, but they can’t really do shit since this perpetually-smiling titan, who likes delivering earnest speeches about believing in each other and the power of freedom, is their only hope, so this gritty military group just have to kind of go along with it despite the sense of creeping unreality and feeling that someone somewhere is fucking with them.

This is a great and very nuts show that actually manages to stick the landing and even sort of makes sense at the end, its tremendous fun, and relatively short.

(It has in common with SSS Gridman, some quite nice moments of dreamlike semi-horror or unreality as it feels as if the normal world, the world of the Disaster, and dream itself have intermixed.)

Metallic Rouge

I actually stopped watching this before the end, which usually means I wouldn’t review it, but it had enough good elements to be worth talking about.

Part of the ‘basically bladerunner’ sci fin universe where we tell a civil rights or slave revolt story about cyborgs who are basically cognitively just humans in robot bodies – a somewhat hoary old theme to me in an age we are all getting a very immediate education in the complexities of A.I. in the day to day, a more complex view than in most of these shows.

Anyway, good animation, charming protags and a somewhat interesting world. I was ok with the cyborg of the week fights but half way through it gets complicated and annoying. Though it does have some pleasingly slightly nutty dream/memory sequences.

Kaina of the Great Snow Sea

I didn’t realise this was by Tsumo Nihei the creator of BLAME and many others, (or at least, the basic ideas were by him), until I was most of the way through, but it make sense since it’s a sci fi apocalyptic geoengineering fairytale mainly interesting for its setting, though its earnest out-of-the-box Fairytale archetypes do have some charm.

Humans on what might be earth or an alien world live ignorantly amongst the titanic relics of what (to us) is clearly a gigantic and probably Millenia long terraforming or geoengineering project designed to make, or keep, the planet liveable for humans.

Sky-piercing arcology-sized orbital spire trees lance up into the stratosphere and spread out to make a kind of glassine bio-caul around the world. The trees drop spores which cover and hold in the great ‘Snow Sea’ which, if you fall into it, clearly isn’t water, more like some kind of heavy gas. Water can’t be reached except via the Spire Trees which pipe it up from the surface below. The remaining societies live around the spire trees, treating them as islands in the ‘Great Snow Sea’, hanging on in medieval/monarchist/tribal groups but the Spire Trees are dying and the water running out, and the caul around the world is dying off, and the remaining humans don’t remember anything about terraforming and can’t even read for the most part.

A boy from a tribe of dying ‘scholars’ (some can read words which they learn from preserved metal signs), meets up with a tree princess and they fight to save her home and the world.

This is a (for anime), relatively short fairytale (one series and a movie to cap it), which is pretty simple and basic it its characters but good if you like megastructures and fragments of post-apocalyptic tech in a medieval setting.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury

Jam hands!

This is, the Tempest, but gay, in space, with robots, in robot school. My first Gundam series and its surprisingly good.

Suletta Mercury, a girl from the provinces, goes to posh robot school for the elite where the high status thing is to settle everything with Robot Duels. She’s an innocent prodigy with a super-robot from.. somewhere, a mysterious and secretly revenge-bent super-scientist mother and an icy and hyper-capable babe she somewhat rescues.

The story takes a nice dark turn in the middle where the kids get into real combat and Suletta innocently crushes someone to death with her huge robot hands, turning them into a red smear, a neat turning point that strikes hard in a previously playful story.

Gundam feels like its in a particular place where the first half of the story is; OMG WAR AND ROBOTS KEWL and then the second half is “Oh my god we just murdered civilians and the socio-political situation is irresolvable”.

One series and you are done!

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans Series 1

I am working backwards through the Gundams from ‘The Witch from Mercury’.

Child soldier orphans overturn their bosses and take over the company, rising to new challenges with the aid of a mysterious robot shell they got.

I think I like the sadness and heartfelt nature matched with the darkness and cynicism as the warrior kids with semi-legal implants are drawn deeper into more and more complex adult schemes, they are fighting for… something? But everything they do leads them deeper into violence.

The Fire Hunter

I got frustrated and stopped watching, not because of the very odd animation, but the classically anime hyper-complex overcomplex plot, and the fact it’s another ‘overthrowing fake gods’ plot, but there were a lot of really interesting things about this series.

A post-apocalypse where humanity cannot access natural fire. Some kind of magic/bioagent/magic(?) was released, meaning when humans come close to any natural fire, they instantly and violently combust, also setting off any other humans who are close – so mankind is sent back to a pre-stone age state.

The modernist animation with dialogue slipping across scene boundaries and conversations from other strands impinging on the current moment and action was interesting, even if it didn’t always work, and the action scenes were a mess but I can see that they were definitely *trying* to do something interesting with abstraction, motion and form and couldn’t quite get there.

I got bored when more evil gods-not-gods turned up and the overplot was clearly going to be schemes and overthrowing the Gods with the aid of a Pure Boy (Girl this time). I am sorry Anime, if you are going to serve whats basically the Potatoes of Anime you at least need to fry them. Please try to find another plot.

Good if you like very odd post-apocalypse and bold experimental, not always successful modernist presentation.

Psycho Pass

Minority report the series.

Hmm, what can I say.. its been a while since I watched this.. Near future, all citizens have a ‘Psycho Pass’ updated by ubiquitous surveillance, that tells the govt basically how close you are to running Amok, due to the pressure of the hyper-dense society and the ubiquitous surveillance. Crime is theoretically impossible because if your Psycho Pass rating is too bad doors literally won’t open for you, violence and disorder don’t exist any more, people are educated or drugged out of it, or pre-emptively imprisoned if that doesn’t work.

But of course there are odd cyber-crimes that slip through the cracks and that’s where the series starts out. New girl goes to cyberpunk cop department.

Has maybe the best arc of female development in any of these series as main girl goes from nervous and clever defender of her society, to competent but broken and disillusioned, to clever and subtle antagonist/foil to the hypermind that runs society – both performing her job as a Psycho-Pass cop but also playing a complex game of both wits and philosophy with the hypermind as she tries to both resist its darker influence but also to match it and persuade or alter it with the knowledge of its own goals and principals – in fact the Hypermind keeps her around precisely because of this quality, as a kind of devils advocate or advisor to instruct or challenge its principals, each trying to persuade or change the other through the context of whatever this weeks crime is

I think what really sticks in my mind is the protagonist who is compassionate and pro-human but neither stupid or deluded. It’s a kind of defence of (relative) freedom and (relative) mercy given in quite a rigorous way, and it’s an active and complex argument between the Hypermind and MC instead of the usual pop fic declarative impassioned speeches.

There is also an evil rich guy with a fully cyborged body who dresses up as a traditional huntsman and chases abducted people through a personal underground maze. The animation on this guy and his unheimlich features is great. Other nice Cyberpunk elements involve cops trying to infiltrate an underground dance party where everyone is in holographic disguise and society having an absolute mental breakdown when someone works out how to subvert the Psycho-Pass system and returns mass crime to a country where people don’t even lock their doors any more since its inconceivable a crime might happen.

Trigun Stampede

Perfecty serviceable and inoffensive 3d based on Trigun. Do you like the original Trigun? I know nothing about it. This was fine.


They still exist! And not all are 1000 years old but in the body of a pre-teen and not related by blood Oni-Chan. Some even head their own series! 

7th Time Loop: The Villainess Enjoys a Carefree Life married to her Worst Enemy

One of the quasi-feminist insurgency Anime 2024. Princess is cast out & stumbles into a 5-year time loop power. She dies and returns to the point of her expulsion with all skills and memories intact. But always dies after 5 years and always during a war started by the Dark Prince. 

She uses 6 loops to level up as a scientist, merchant, thief, knight and I forget what else, and become insanely hyper-competent and knowledgeable at pretty much everything.  On the 7th she runs into the Dark Prince & he falls in love with her. 

The rest is a romance/combat/attempt at moral growth as she falls for the guy but also tries to change him to less fucked up. Can the worlds most fearless and competent woman change the heart of this Dark Genius and avert war? An interesting mix of hyper-competent woman mysteriously solves problems with a more primal reform/redeem the Dark Prince story.

The Apothecary Diaries

I showed this to a friend who generally does not like things and they liked this.

An apothecary-based broadly mystery-of-the-week detective drama based in a fictionalised version of the Chinese imperial court in.. some kind of history time. The MC is a brilliant young apothecary working for her adopted father when she is abducted and sold to the imperial palace as a serving girl, despite trying to hide her encyclopaedic knowledge of herbs and potions and monstrously high IQ in order to get by without being noticed, she is drawn into a network of intrigues around the sub-palace of the Emperors wives.

The mysteries are good. Nice part about it being a general intrigue drama is that not everything is a murder or poisoning; all kinds of wacky situations come up from ghosts dancing on the palace walls to disappearing bodies to mysterious hyper-specific bequests from dead woodworkers

Most interesting as a window into the characters and the world as almost everyone at court is locked in a range of complex mazes and deceptions, up to and including the Emperor, and everyone has about five motives and each statement or social movement can have multiple readings so there is a lot of people outwitting/insulting/insinuating and trying to read each others true intentions.

The MC is good as a brilliant somewhat autistic-inflected young woman who only really gets excited by having access to rare herbs, being sucked into the hyper-complex patterns and mysteries of the court

There are also strong feminist undertones, with everyone involved, of whatever status, being trapped and having to scheme and intrigue to get the slightest grasp of their own desire – all happening under the glorious floral surface of carefully modulated and ruthlessly imposed public ritual (one woman trips up in front of the Emperor and this ruins her career).

Watch one or two episodes if you like detective/historical dramas.

Bocchi the Rock

An extremely introverted and socially awkward girl ends up in a girls rock band, hilarity, friendship and personal growth ensue.

Good story and excellent inventive animation that mixes standard anime and wild cartooning really well.

The sympathetic and entertaining characters explode into sketches, warner brothers simulations, dream-visions etc as their interior worlds collide, a very peppy and visually entertaining anime. Would recommend.

I’m sorry I don’t have more to say! Its been a while!

Tomo-Chan is a Girl!

Athletic Tomboy Tomo realises she has fallen for her childhood friend but he sees her only as ‘a friend’. Hijinks ensue as the two bounce off each other with the help and interference of friend and allies.

Notable in that the male leads emotional retardation is actually pretty well supported in character (he was a near Hikkomori shut-in and the lively Tomo pulled him out of his shell when they were very young. He genuinely thought his best friend was a boy for a few years. Tomo was his inspiration and baseline for how a man should act in very early youth. Also he’s afraid of the collapse of their friendship), also for the mild inversion of the ‘assumption of femininity’ theme; Tomo will learn to act like a girl, somewhat, some of the time, when she feels like it, but will mainly learn how to be less of an emotional retard. 

Lycoris Recoil

A fucking great action series.

Starsky and Hutch extrovert Blonde/introvert Brunette secret agent anime girls team up to battle nebulously evil terrorists on behalf of a nebulously sketchy secret agency in high concept gunfights and tacticool action scenes. Its an anime original and only one series so far.

I feel like I should say more but what more is there to say? You should watch it.

Kaguya Sama, Love is War

A great comedy/romance series. Maybe the best?

Feel most of you will know about this already but; Two type A personalities in a high status school fall in love with each other. Because they are both obsessive Type A’s, neither will confess their love and determine they are going to force the other one to fall in love/confess their love first, so engage in a deranged battle of deception and one-upmanship that reaches surreal and absurd heights in order to do this.

The context of this onrunning battle becomes their love affair. A deeply charming and inventive series with relentless invention, excellent characters, some very high concepts (at one point a character re-animates local parkland into a giant vynil disk and ‘scratches’ it during a cringe v cringe rap battle).

Notable in that this battle for dominance between hyper-obsessive loons who refuse to surrender personal sovereignty by its nature becomes a battle for mutual understanding which ends up deepening and maturing both

The Masterful Cat is Depressed Again Today

This is a short and somewhat pleasing slice of life series. I am actually surprised I watched this.

Chaotic, self-loathing terminally hoarding early 20’s salarywoman rescues a kitten from death which, to return the favour, grows to enormous size and human sentience and learns all the arts of a 50s housewife, transforming her home and life. Now, with her wardrobe sorted, house clean, regular home cooked healthy meals and a bento box that makes others envious of ‘her’ cooking skills, her work life is transformed.. but how will she stop people realising that her house contains a gigantic sentient cat which walks on its hind legs and watches cooking shows? (The cat can leave the house, this being Japan everyone assumes it’s a pervert in a fur suit and refuses to comment.)

There is a neat part in the opening credits to each episode where the girl and cat ride around in an open topped car and the cats ears flap in the wind


Frieren: Beyond Journeys End

The best and most original fantasy for a long time. One of few I own in hardcopy. Was good originally but a rare event in which the animation took an already good story and made it REALLY AMAZING.

You probably already know about this but in case you don’t; Post-adventure fantasy in which near-immortal Elf girl teams up with band of heroes to kill the demon lord. This done she wanders off for 50 years thinking she will come back soon enough, but returns just in time to spend a few days with her close friend before he dies. At the funeral she starts crying and realises she was in love with him.

The series is about the titular Elf going on a journey to the site of the Demon Kings castle, maybe to view the afterlife? She stumbles into a new fellowship.

A near immortal being to whom each human life is like a butterfly or momentary thing, earnestly tries to work through what seems to us like deep depression or anhedonia, to find meaning in the people around her and the current moment.

Its also about depression, disconnection, dealing with inevitable grief and loss, what to do if you feel like you have missed out on life, and a bunch of other things.

Its also a really good adventure series as Frieren and her group run into dragons, problems and some of the very hyper-powerful Demons from the Demon-Kings army who still haunt the land.

This was already a story which vey unusually combined this classical travel/adventure strand with a deep theme of tacit grief and dealing with isolation and failure in a really unusual way. Then the animation studio saw it and though; fuck it, we ball, and just directed gigantic batteries of creative artillery directly onto its position until the whole thing was absolutely blazing with gorgeous animated beauty.

The Faraway Paladin

Technically an Isekai but doesn’t feel like one so I put it here... Its emotional core is just, a good, honest fantasy? Theres a certain slightly dirty bus-stop je ne sai quois that hangs around Isekai and this doesn’t have it.

A man is reborn in a fantasy world, but stolen by goblins and abandoned in a ruined city. He is found and raised by three Undead adventurers and taught their skills. The heroes are hanging around after death because a Cthulhu Gate is under the city and will open soonsh.

Our hero has been gifted hyper-competance but only has so many years to fundamentally alter the continental political and social situation, returning civilisation to the land, in the hopes he can built a nation string enough to fight Cthulhu when he turns up.

You have no idea how rare this actually is. A genre, done straight, no winks. And unusually for anime, neither the pedo-omiter or the fashigram, or the nihilismotron, register, even a bit. There is little exceptional about this except that it tries hard to do normal things well and often succeeds. The showdown with the dragon at the end is just a very neat bit of classical fantasy writing with the Dragon and heroes initially trying to deceive/negotiate with each other and then violence breaking out.

The Unwanted Undead Adventurer

There is a whole ‘I Became a Skeleton’ sub-genre, which is odd, but hey they made the Vending Machine Isekai. I haven’t watched the others but liked the look of this. I suppose on some level I have always wanted to be a skeleton, a desire that, due to overpopulation and adoption of cremation, I am unlikely to achieve…

Low level adventurer, fantasy world. Runs into mystery dragon & dies but wakes up as a skeleton. This skeleton can level up into different forms of undead.

This seems to be another ‘new start in middle age’ fantasy? The MC was always mid-range but had a lot of local knowledge and experience, just couldn’t break the high levels. Dying and being turned into undead finally gives them the chance to become the hero of their dreams.

Positives are; the hero has a cool mask and eventually gains a vampire mouse as a pet.

Mushi Shi

You probably already know about this, I’m not going to describe it. Notable for being deeply original and distinct in its tone and form. This one is off the grid really. There are no other elegiac semi-supernatural investigation serials with the same emotion and philosophy of transience, cycles and beauty. It’s also kind of like a Japanese Twilight Zone, as Mushi can do seemingly a lot of nutty stuff. There is a time-loop episode which might be one of the best 25 minutes on that theme that exist. I can’t even place the emotion of Mushi-Shi, it’s a little bit sad, a little tragic, a little resolute, a little hopeful. You may not like it but if you do here you go there are two series.

Hells Paradise

A magical and deadly isle where everyone thinks the potion of immortality can be found. Everyone who goes there either dies or comes back mutated or mad. Solution – send Japans most super-dangerous criminals to get the potion, if they come back alive, they go free (allegedly). 

So a kind of fantastic dirty-dozen battle royale plus exploration of this mysterious mutant isle and its secrets. I think this is another one with an evil cult where probably they are going to have to kill God at the end.

To Your Eternity

I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed this already, but I watched it so long ago! Now I have to try to remember details!

The adventures of an Orb.

A mysterious entity drops a white orb in the ground. It remains for ages till a lame dog finds it and dies of exposure. It then takes on the form of the dog. The orb takes on the form of whatever it is attached to or drawn towards, but only living things, and only after they die. 

Get ready for heartbreak as, like the orb, we meet a range of characters, one after the other, only for them to die and the Orb, slowly growing in depth, complexity, humanity and post-humanity, encounters more and more living things, becoming sentries, then self-aware, then verbal, cultured and then perhaps more, but, immortal and deeply attached to living things, only able to take on forms after the person dies.

Adventure ensues as some people become obsessed with capturing and controlling the immortal, mysterious shape-changing entities seem to be hunting it and an eldritch white figure in a black robe turns up to advise them.

This is a pretty great and extremely sad series. The first season is just about perfect but the second is good and we do actually get an ending. 

The Big Hitters

Jujutsu Kaisen

This is a very good anime. You probably already know about this. Notable in shonen for its good female characters, being very well animated and for allegedly breaking the animation team on its second series.

Demon Slayer - The Swordsmiths Village

Look it’s still good and fun and looks great and that’s about it. A solid normie anime. I feel like Tanjiro would be one of those guys fighting in the jungle 40 years after the war ended.

Mob Psycho 100

What if Akira was nice? Or, what if Akira accidentally picked up a positive father figure (who was also a con-man with a heart of gold). Series is short, finished and good. My favourite father/son relationship in anime. Think I already reviewed this previously, the third season is less perfect than the first two but does fully and boldly tie up and conclude the story in an excellent way. I nice farewell.

Chainsaw Man

It was fine.

Attack on Titan finally ended

Too much to say about AoT. It did convince me that most Japanese hold a secret desire to kill all other life.

JoJo Golden Wind

Fun series, terrible ending.

JoJo’s tend to be a little less good than we remember them as because the endings are usually great and rise to a pitch of fey-mania uno-reverso tornado plotting which makes them so fun we just assume the rest of the series was that good, which it usually wasn’t.

This is a perfectly good JoJo with some good highpoints. Good if you like Italy. The power set of the main villain is even more fudgy vague and deranged than usual, and this is a series where sus extensions of power sets based on schoolyard logic are a stock in trade. This leads to an ending which I felt was pretty poor for a JoJo series.

Difficult To Explain

Sonny Boy

Surrealist, absurdist anime where schoolkids are mysteriously moved to a para-reality that keeps melting and where the highly-specific rules of existence keep changing. IS IT A METAPHOR? IS IT HELL? THE AFTERLIFE?? WE NEVER FIND OUT.

Some of the kids get apparent super-powers, but the dreamlike and surreal nature of the shifting reality ultimately makes these of questionable utility. They are kind of trapped in a dream state. 

Original in its tone and content, consistently interesting and frustrating. Has some really good episodes and your milage may vary for the remainder.

I generally find chin-stroking Third-Policeman-style vaguely meaningful is-it-a-metaphor stories to be frustrating and less good than they think they are, but this was ok.

The Zombie One

Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead

From the subgenre of – the Japanese working environment is hell.

A Zombie Apocalypse happens and the MC is so driven totally insane already by suffering in a Black Company and the commensurate death of all his hopes, dreams and inner life, that the end of the world seems like liberation. They team up with other survivors and set out on a kind of Odessey to  complete their goals of personal fulfilment before humanity is wiped out completely.

Its that movie with Woody Harrilson and Jessie Eisenberg but an anime. Its good.

The Sort Of Historical One That Isn’t Apothecary Diaries

Golden Kamuy

An animated Tarantino/Elmore Leonard historical action series set in turn of the century Hokkaido!

The Ainu of Hokkaido collected a SHITLOAD of gold from its gold-bearing streams and hid it. Then someone killed them. Then that someone was imprisoned and tortured, but wouldn’t give it up.

Instead they became a raw-faced, (the guards cut their face off), prison tattooist and tattooed all the other prisoners in high security. Then organised a breakout. Each of the prisoners has part of the code/map on their skin.

So now a range of colourful characters are chasing these guys around Hokkaido to get their skin (or just copy the tattoos if they are nice). A radical Japanese Military group. Various factions of Ainu, A roguish samurai survivor of that film with Tom Cruise where the Samurai got shot up, criminal gangs, and our heroes; a traumatised but near-unkillable veteran of the Russo-Japanese war and an Ainu girl. 

It's kind of like a western. And its unusual for being heightened but for being strictly a non-genre piece. No magic or similar, an historical Tarantino movie with its heightened but not genre tone, its somewhat stark and heightened but deep characters and rambunctious knockabout inventiveness.

This series also reminded me that Gold for XP is no limitation to roleplaying since all the characters are after the Gold but all have utterly different motivations for doing so, ranging from dreams of Ainu independence, a revivified Samurai culture on Hokkaido, justice for the veterans of an incompetent command, to fulfil a fathers dream and so on. The gold is just a gateway for particular dreams and those are what people are really fighting over.

10 Anime Patrick Would Recommend

(I would put Mushi-Shi in here but I feel like it’s in a category of its own as a unique work of art).

Brave Bang Bravern

Good, short, complete. Deranged. A classic parody and also full engagement with the super-robot and mecha genre. Arch but heartfelt. A great show. The first episode should tell you if you like it.

The Witch from Mercury

The only Gundam series I’ve completed. JAM HANDS!

Psycho Pass

Extended Cyberpunk/Minority Report but goes into quite a lot more depth about what living in a Minority Report world would be like. Also deals with its core moral questions with some subtlety and at length. Has a good female protag with actually interesting growth and depth. The fully-cybernetic millionaire who stumbles around in his cavern complex hunting criminals like rabbits is a lovely horror.

Bocchi the Rock

Really good cartooning? Is that what it’s called? An inventive and expressive use of all the forms of animation, with a shifting palette of styles and modes. And a good story with a charming central character. Watch till Bocchi plays her first set from within a large cardboard box to see if you like it.

Apothecary Diaries

Court detective done well! Two episodes should tell you if you like it.

Lycoris Recoil

A great, original funny action series! John Wick with anime girls. Fuck you I am not cringe for liking this. Watch the opening credits to see if you like it.

Kaguya Sama: Love is War

Highly inventive and very fun. The opening series is more sketch-like than it becomes later so up to you how much you watch before you decide. Maybe the Best Romance/Comedy?

Golden Kamuy

A rare non-genre action/adventure piece that you can maybe show normal people. Not short, or complete, but well worth watching. Two or three episodes should tell you if you like it. Good if you want to know more about the Ainu and/or Hokkaido and Japan at the start of the 20th Century

Mob Psycho 100

What if Akira was nice and the whole thing was drawn in a slightly indie style with a heartwarming teacher/student relationship and absolutely batshit and bananas psychic super-battles that break the pencils of the animators.


If they can stick the landing on this one its going to end up in the Top Ten.