“Lauren’s heartfelt, pain-filled account is the sort of thing that makes even the most hard-nosed skeptic and science buff want to become a con artist who bilks movie stars and fashion moguls out of their hard-earned (or easily inherited) wealth.”

— Todd Seavey on Jenny Lauren's book

There's something about a war!

Tearmoon, episode 6

Our Rival Princes are very lucky that Our Outstanding Retainer came equipped with a spider-sense, as well as the ability to politely strong-arm Our Over-Ambitious Young Ladies into making food that’s edible and at the proper scale. Special points to Our Adorkable Maid for managing to out-clueless her mistress about what was wrong with the giant horse bread.

On that note, while it was nice to see Mia accidentally get Abel to conquer his insecurities, I really wish Yoshitsugu Matsuoka was able to vary his performances at least a little, so that he didn’t sound like every other boy hero he’s voiced. Every time he opens his mouth, I wonder why Bell is cheating on Hestia, Kirito is cheating on Asuna, and Masamune is cheating on Eromanga-sensei.

While I’m whining, I’d like to say that “desu wa” makes a terrible catchphrase, especially when embedded into a major earworm of an OP song.

Verdict: …and yet I keep watching the OP rather than hitting the skip button…

Potion Loli, episode 6

Fun fact: an army of 20,000 men only needs about six wagons worth of supplies for an extended march through enemy territory. It also looks remarkably like an army of 20 men. With no sentries or scouts. Things go downhill from there.

Verdict: everything that happened in this episode killed brain cells by the dozen. Bye now!

The Apothecary Diaries, episode 6

Thank heaven for little girls… who like poison. And recognize allergic reactions and the type of people who deliberately trigger them.

Verdict: “did you like the soup?”

Rerun’s Special Magic, episode 6

Perhaps the Blue Moon Party should stop recruiting members based on their unique hairstyles. Just sayin’. Meanwhile, Our Reformed Twintail is gaily gleeful about Our Gay Bunnyboy’s gay crush, while forgetting entirely about her desire to figure out Our Foreknowing Hero’s smug secret. Our Bushy-Eyebrowed Valkyrie throws down the thigh-high stockings gauntlet and announces that she will not underestimate the rival she’s still underestimating.

Verdict: it looks like they’re restricting the tournament to two episodes, the first of which is nearly all setup. Good.

Next season possibles?

Frieren and The Apothecary Diaries are both carrying over, which will automatically make it one of the best seasons we’ve had for a while. Other than those, I’m not too excited about most of what’s been announced so far.

  • Solo Leveling - the promos are currently focusing on the unleveled version of Our Hero, so I have no idea how they’re going to pace this, or how many episodes they’re making.

  • McPharmacist and Waifu 2 - Red and Rit return, but after the first season chopped the story to bits to race to a stopping point, can they paste it back together? There should be decent eye candy, but the only reason I’ll give it a chance is for Best Assassin Tisse and Best Spider Mr. Crawly-Wawly.

  • Dungeon Meshi (“Delicious In Dungeon”) - dungeon-delving food porn, which is a fairly lightweight premise, but not only have they committed to 24 episodes, they’re serious enough to hire Bump Of Chicken for the OP song. Of the core cast, the one with the highest recent profile is probably blonde elf Marcille, whose voice will be familiar to anyone fond of a certain overpowered slime’s favorite shrine maiden, but the most naggingly familiar voice will be the dwarf Senshi, who’s been in basically everything since The Legend Of The Galactic Heroes in 1988.

Book cover FAIL

A common problem on Amazon is Kindle books whose covers are incoherent at thumbnail size. Choices in fonts, color, and pictures often lead to the elements getting mushed together in ways that make them difficult to distinguish. This one, however, surprised me in a new way:

At full size, the title is easy to read, but as a thumbnail, at first I thought it was called “The Villainess ASS-Rank Adventurer”, which made perfect sense for the genre.


(that’s “Houkyou No Fern-chan”, for the kanji-allergic)

Fern’s full breasts are two of the most popular characters for fan-art this season, to the point that they can easily fill a full cheesecake post. Honestly, you’d think they were the leads, when they barely get any screen time at all.


“Do not release the strat!”

S-Rank Daddy’s Girl, episode 7

In which Our Stalwart Daughter plays a bullet-hell game to win, Our Vengeful Loli is defeated by Deus Ex Elf-Juice and Dad Power, The Maltese Doughball gets what he deserves, and Our Daddy-Hungry Countess rises to the occasion.

Verdict: Helvetica is dangerously close to overtaking Miriam for Best Girl status.

(cute dragonette foodie is unrelated, as usual)

Frieren, episode 10

Do not meddle in the affairs of Frieren, for she is subtle and quick to anger plays the long game. As she was taught.

Verdict: I am now officially Hot For Teacher.

Why I don’t really like Baldur’s Gate 3

So I made it to Act 3, started to accumulate side quests so that I could finally get into the titular city, and… went off to read a book instead. I just didn’t want to do the things they wanted me to do, and there was nowhere else to go. It’s made very clear that you’re in a Race Against Time to Stop The Bad Guys and Save The City, but you have to run around talking to pretty much every named NPC in each region to make sure that you stumble across half a dozen plot coupons to get the thing to do the thing that unlocks the thing that opens the door to start the fight to see the guy to get the other thing, and half of it isn’t actually necessary but you won’t know that until you finally trip the flag that lets you progress the plot.

Meanwhile, most of the people I helped in Act 1 died horribly in Act 2, and the ones who didn’t are worse off, and most decisions I got to make ranged from Kinda Evil to Mostly Evil. And for all the apparent freedom in experiencing the content, you’re welded to the rails of this story, unable to even revisit the earlier areas if there was something that you missed.

For instance, in Act 1, you have the opportunity to rescue a young tiefling girl who stole something (for a pretty good reason). If you do so, you reunite her with her loving parents. If you stumble across her in Act 2, she’s been separated from her parents and asks you to find them. If you don’t find them before moving to Act 3 (and they’re hard to find even if you know what building they’re in), that quest gets auto-closed with a poor outcome, because you can never reenter the region and locate their tortured-to-death corpses. But you want to find them and shatter her hopes, because then you can recruit her for a plot fight later.

Honestly, the most positive thing I was able to do recently was tame a flesh-eating monster so that I could pet it at my camp. It still goes out and eats anything and anyone it can find, but who am I to make moral judgements, some kind of hero?

The most annoying thing that happened in Act 2 was that I didn’t talk to everyone on the first floor of the inn before going upstairs to see the Very Important NPC that I was specifically directed to speak to right away. As a result, one significant quest chain was closed off by the ensuing massacre, but I didn’t find out until several hours later when I groveled over the map searching for things that would be closed off by advancing to Act 3. There’s even a special cutscene where you lament the fact that you couldn’t make the world a better place.

Oh, and when I met the little girl, well after the massacre, I could tell her to wait for me at the inn with a friendly NPC. Who was dead, along with most of the people she knew from Act 1.

I’d like to play a game that used their D&D engine but had completely different writers and less grimdark epic railroading.

(true story: I gave up on the original Baldur’s Gate for a long time because I missed one tiny little corner of the map that contained a flag I needed to trip in order to enter the titular city; there was literally nothing left for me to do until I found it, and it was boring)

My kingdom or a horse!

Tearmoon, episode 5

In which horses are freedom, but the road to lunch is lined with traps.

Verdict: four girls who’ve never cooked? What could possibly go wrong?

Potion Loli, episode 5

At this point, I think Our Potion Loli’s surprisingly-effective Office Lady Logic is as likely to lead to long-term positive outcomes as the phrase “at last C-ko will be mine”.

Verdict: …and next week she’s setting forth to destroy an army. I think I’m about done here.

(Coffee Loli beats Potion Loli)

The Apothecary Diaries, episode 5

Eunuchs, you say? With muscles like that? If they hadn’t already made it obvious that there was something fishy about Our Harem Manager and His Number One Man, the opening scene of this episode would have done it.

Then again, the OP animation has Our Painted-Lady Medicinal Heroine looking glamorous while dancing sexy in a very non-period dress, so it’s not like they’ve really been hiding things.

Verdict: slow-burn romance, eh? I can go with that direction.

Rerun’s Special Magic, episode 5

The Tale Of The Purloined Rapier went pretty much as expected, with Our Hero-Worshipping Bunnyboy learning the true worth of his legacy and getting a chance to show off his sword-bunny skills. Meanwhile, Our Obnoxious Twintail has trained herself into a better person, and Our Beefcake Asshole Noble reveals the trauma that made him that way (the asshole part, that is).

On that note, it appears the school fears the power of Gainax, which is the only reason I can think of that Romantica’s formerly-bouncy bust is so much smaller and well-restrained than in her initial appearance.

Verdict: one more, but if the tournament turns into a tournament arc, I’m outta here. Hopefully they’ll spend some time on Our Giant Blonde With Weird Eyebrows, who’s been hanging out in the credits without much screen time.

Shy, episode 6

For Those Who Came In Late… our first several minutes will be a recap, accompanied by a brief villainous monologue.

Following that, Our Shy Heroine Shy will be pulled away from a chat with Our Best Friend to become one of Santa’s helpers, without a chance to find a winter wardrobe or learn to use her fire powers to stay warm in the arctic cold. Also featuring Our Drunken Russian Heroine, and introducing Our Chinese Femboy Kung-Fu Hero, who’s kind of sensitive about that.

Verdict: the silliness is starting to clash with the dead-serious villainy, but I’m still rooting for our gal.

Feed me!

(Pete, I kind of miss the main feed that started returning 401 errors recently. It’s more fun than trying to track you through multiple feeds. 😁)

(Saturday update: ...and back, for now; and yes, there's RSS at /users/anime/feed/, but not for the top-level /main/public, so I visit that one by hand every few days to catch up. As for signing up for an account somewhere, I'd need to have more than one person to follow before I bother to figure out how... 😁)

S-Rank Daddy’s Girl, episode 6

In which overconfidence is bad, whether you’re a retainer with an obvious crush on your mistresses or a top-rank adventurer who’s never had to deal with mind games. On the bright side, Our Best Catgirl is happy to go wild against a bunch of generic mooks, which works for me.

It takes a while to get to the action, but Chubby Snidely Whiplash’s plot is now clear, as is the way he’s being used by Our Abused Child Prodigy (who is herself being used by Our True Villain, who made a brief tragic-backstory appearance). It still doesn’t feel like they’re really committing to a big fight, even though everyone knows that The Maltese Doughball is traitorous scum who wants everyone dead.

Verdict: Our Noble Sisters deserve the loyalty of their people. But if Helvetica ever finds out that Sasha got picked up…

(and, yes, there’s a touch of foreshadowing in that mind-game scene, but it will take some time to unpack)

Frieren, episode 9

In which much is explained and the JV goes to war, with more success than they expected. Frieren’s fight comes next week.

Verdict: take your time, we’ll still be here.

There’s a lot of nice story-compatible fan-art out there for Frieren, as well as the usual crude porn, but Fern has attracted attention not so much for her talent, intelligence, spellcasting speed, and quiet humor, but for “boooooooooobs!”. For instance:

Starfield break, playing modded Baldurs Gate 3 for a while

Karlach is Best Girl, for looks, voice, and story; how can you not love a cheerful demonic berserker who keeps a teddy bear in her tent? And, yes, I turned on mods right before they released a massive patch, so I’ve disabled downloads until the basic dependencies get updated for the new release. I didn’t go crazy with mods, I just wanted to go back and get Karlath into my party early, unfuck some quests that I could no longer complete in my first run, and do a bit of min-maxing and power-leveling to reduce the annoyance of the do-it-again-stupid quests.

Playing as a half-orc monk, by the way, with a hireling halfling bard in the party; I haven’t ditched Shadowheart yet, but I’ve been thinking about trading her in on a warlock. Or at least pulling out the Gith-ho to do the crèche before passing through the next Door Of Warning; I’ve scoured the surface and the Underdark pretty thoroughly, and that seems to be the last thing left, now that my party is at level 6.

(unrelated little hellions did not deliver their trick-or-treats to my house for Halloween)

Little Monster Report

  • 7:00 PM - 3 boys (oldest in full riot gear)
  • 7:10 PM - 5 boys (dressed as teenage boys)
  • 7:35 PM - 2 girls (matching one-piece hooded reindeer pajamas)
  • 7:45 PM - 1 very little princess, escorted by mom

I’m actually impressed I got that many, on a cul-de-sac without streetlights. With a sidewalk that ends just past my house. Which has a steep 75-foot driveway. And it was 38°F and quite windy.

I’m glad I bought some candy. Even gladder that I didn’t buy the 60+ pounds I used to buy for my house in California. I’d have been giving away multiple pounds per kid, which would have set unrealistic expectations for next year. 😁

(the first group explained that they always go to my street, since it’s full of well-off people of grandparent age. fair)

Shy, episode 5

A Day In The Life of Our Shy Heroine Shy, where a visit to the stationery store leads to adventure and enlightenment. And shouting, as Our Shouty Super Gal drops in for some physical therapy and secrets and shouting. The adventure involves trying to keep up with an old lady on a mountain hike, because Teru’s not the outdoorsy type. The good news is that Miss Shouty actually stops shouting, and even gets a little quiet when she reveals that she’s not completely feral.

The enlightenment continues as Our Best Girlfriend is upstaged by The Strong Silent Type, who lures Teru into the world of zen brush calligraphy, where she gets some surprisingly relevant advice about focusing her heart to unlock her fire powers.

Verdict: a nice change of pace from the costumed adventure, even with the shouting.

First-World (Gaming) Problems

Fallout 76, which to my surprise is a thing that still exists, is steeply discounted at the moment, but that wasn’t enough to convince me it could be worthwhile. However, it turns out to be free with Game Pass Ultimate, so I went ahead and downloaded it to try out.

TL/DR: it sucks. I was willing to overlook the graphics and UI issues for the $0 price, but I never even made it to the bottom of the hill outside the vault, because I kept getting rubber-banded back to the top. If this is what it’s like now, after all the widely-praised improvements, at launch it must have been an even bigger clusterfuck than I imagined.

(apparently one of the ways they’re trying to stay afloat is adding an optional monthly fee to allow you to play with just friends, not Random Internet People)

I had to revert to a previous save in Baldur’s Gate 3 after getting stuck in a conversation loop with an NPC. And it wasn’t any good the first time. I’m still not loving the do-it-again-stupid quest design, but this was a minor glitch compared to F76 (or some of the things I’ve run into in Starfield that require console hacking or reverting to much earlier saves; being trapped on an exploding starship is almost as bad as not being able to board it in the first place).

First-World (Wireless) Problems

When my sister came to town last week, the first thing she commented on was that her Zoom meetings were a little choppy. Which was surprising given my trouble-free business-class Internet connection, and the fact that she was in the middle of the house right between the high-end Orbi base station and satellite.

After much fiddling, I discovered that the latest firmware update broke the connection to both satellite APs, so the only active wireless was in my office. In between her meetings, I moved the base station to the middle of the house and spent a few hours trying to get the satellites to sync back up. No luck yet, so I’ve left them unplugged until I find the time to factory-reset the whole system and build it back up from scratch. It knows that it has satellites, and I can connect directly to them via ethernet, but they think they’re fine while the base thinks they’re missing.

I’d been wondering why the Sonos speaker in the living room kept going offline; now I know.

Episodes 4

Tearmoon, episode 4

Just so we’re clear, this will not be the last time a horse sneezes all over Our Occasionally-Elegant Princess.

Anyway, if you were wondering how seriously the production team is taking this show, the ballroom dance scene should answer that rather definitively. Of course, Mia’s self-centered plotting backfires in the usual way, this time aided and abetted by Our Heroine-Worshipping Twintailed Redheaded Freckled Maid and A Retainer Who’ll Be Turning Up Rather A Lot. On that note, remember when Anne was a total klutz? It seems her coordination problems were cured by Mia-Worship.

Which reminds me, I should dig up the video where a member of Korean girl-group Girls Generation was booked to tango for a celebrity dancing show; her stable-bred life had clearly not prepared her for so much close contact with a man, and every time he touched her during practice, she teleported across the room. 12-year-old Mia might want to recoil from the touch of Our Perfect Prince, but she doesn’t let it get in the way of her dancing.

Verdict: if only horse sneezes could cure her of shouty internal monologing…

(Best Girl Anne is Best Girl)

Potion Loli, episode 4

This week’s highlight: not changing the entire supporting cast again, and even bringing back some characters from the credits. Downside? My willing suspension of disbelief is foundering on the rocks of Our Potion Loli’s continued ability to confound nobles, royals, and priests with Office Lady Logic.

Verdict: her cheat power is not potions, it’s Axel Foley’s fast talk ability, goddess-enhanced. And it’s wearing thin on me.

(I’d have an easier time putting up with Kaoru if she looked and dressed like Thighza…)

Rerun’s Special Magic, episode 4

In which I am taunted by their decision to insert Our Cute Little Redhead Senpai into this episode as part of a panned still. Meanwhile, Our Tsuntsuntsunderedere Twintail manages to wrap herself around Our Manipulative Hero without even a moment of gainaxing. Rats. In other news, Our Gay Bunnyboy Shota should not be allowed to shop without adult supervision.

Verdict: I keep finding myself distracted by the odd way they color the hair of the Core Trio, especially the way it doesn’t move with their heads. That I’m noticing this at all is a pretty good clue that the story isn’t holding my attention.

(unrelated distractions that I’d prefer…)

The Apothecary Diaries, episode 4

The OP and ED songs do not belong to this show. Other than that, I’m enjoying this. This week, Our Unflappable Heroine’s reputation forces her to Heal or Die, but it takes the intervention of Our Pretty-Boy Harem Manager to get her to the patient’s bedside. Whereupon she quickly discovers that someone has been undermining the foundation of her previous work. With foundation.

Verdict: watching Maomao get literally bounced out of the room by haughty ladies-in-waiting adorably lightened the mood of an otherwise serious situation. Bonus points for blowing her top and putting them all in their place. Double bonus for growing up in whorehouses and learning things that will blow the mind of a veteran concubine.

(Vermeil: “hey, I wonder what Maomao whispered in her ear?”)

Unrelated, Yui 유이

I’m generally disappointed with Korean glamour models; so much potential, sadly wasted. So when I find one who’s actively participating in the shoot, showing multiple realistic facial expressions, and revealing that her skin is free of plastic, steel, and ink, I take note (site is NSFW and full of nasty Javascript!).

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”