And so it begins. The Semifinals are upon us. So let this, the penultimate round of Anime TKO Fall 2018… BEGIN!
EvilBob: Okay! I’m fired up! I drank my juice, ate my cereal, polished my Gridman, I’m good to go!
Voyager: …go to what, show-and-tell?
Voyager: Riiight, so let’s get this show on the road. It’s time for more Anime TKO!
Voyager: I didn’t expect to have three shows in the semifinals–
EvilBob: Lies! All of it! LIES!
Voyager: Now, Bob, remember what the doctor said about your cholesterol levels.
Bracket 1: Toaru Majutsu no Index III/SSSS.Gridman
EvilBob: So, uh… Voyager.
EvilBob: How ya feelin’, buddy? Hm? You comfortable? Need anything? How ’bout a seat?
Voyager: Skip to the punchline.
EvilBob: Weeell, you know how it’s one of our rules that we each have to keep up with one another’s shows?
EvilBob: And I take it that means you saw Episode 10?
EvilBob: Were you as blown away as I was? I mean all that awesome action, and the whole thing with Anti, plus an actual good cliffhanger… it was pretty sweet, riiight?
EvilBob: So. How’d you like that last episode of Index?
Voyager: …The one before it was awesome.
EvilBob: That’s not what I asked. Come on. Ya gotta be fair, bruh. Admit it. You’re enjoying this.
Voyager: …I love Index.
EvilBob: Did… did you just Re:Zero me? Whatever. C’mon, you know that last episode was awesome. If I know you, when Anti turned into Gridknight, you just fell to pieces.
Voyager: …There’s still a chance it’ll flop…
EvilBob: Maybe. But not until later. Do you really think Index will get to the best parts of its arc with just two or three episodes left? After it meandered through so much? Face it. This is Trigger at its best. The Trigger you adore.
EvilBob: Weeell? Is this the part where you admit you liiike Gridman?
Voyager: B-baka! Urusai! That’s not true at all! I mean, so what if it has a more palatable narrative flow and consistently awesome visuals! A-and who cares if it’s actually introducing a lot of really interesting character ideas! All that stuff should be expected anyway! Especially from Trigger! There’s nothing special about it at all! Nothing!
EvilBob: Um… thanks for the win?
Voyager: Eh? W-wait…
EvilBob: The winner is SSSS.Gridman!
Bracket 2: Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai/Yagate Kimi ni Naru
Voyager: …In retrospect, I’m starting to regret being so damn convincing. How the hell am I supposed to choose, here?!
EvilBob: Hey. You did this one to yourself.
Voyager: Shut up.
EvilBob: But seriously. Which one of these is winning?
Voyager: I don’t know, Bob. That’s the problem.
EvilBob: …So I guess we just, um… look at what they do best and see what does it better?
Voyager: But they do totally different things!
EvilBob: I mean… yeah, but they’re both romantic dramedies. So this should be easier than before. So, let’s do this with process of elimination using categories they have in common, first. So how about Romance?
Voyager: Oh, that category would go to Yagate Kimi ni Naru. Hands down. I adore the relationship between Mai and Sakuta in Bunny Girl Senpai. But they’re not actually given all that much time to develop it beyond the first arc. Which is fine, as I think it works out well, narratively, either way. And when they’re around one another, their interactions are basically perfect. Buuut Yagate Kimi ni Naru focuses hard on the romantic aspect of the relationship between the two leads and the development of it is genuinely fascinating and engaging, as well as an emotional rollercoaster. At times it’s just adorable and sweet and heartwarming. At other times it’s very heavy, and stronger for it, narratively.
EvilBob: Fair enough. But if this were down to the dialogue, then, c’mon. ya gotta give it to Bunny Girl Senpai. It’s just so sharp and witty. And also really believable. It’s extremely good at capturing humor, but also exceptionally good at conveying really intense emotions for the drama side of the show. Bloom Into You has fine dialogue, sure, but nothing quite that amazing. For them, the best parts are all internal monologue and the meanings of what people say, more than the actual content of it.
Voyager: …Oh yeah. He does have a brain. Huh.
EvilBob: I’ve been saving all of my energy. For just the right moment!
Voyager: Sooo you couldn’t use it to save Golden Kamuy, then?
EvilBob: …To be fair, it got better, right after I dropped it.
Voyager: Aw. Poor baby. Anyway, there’s also the visuals. Honestly, this is a near draw. I think Bunny Girl Senpai actually has an overall really aesthetically pleasing visual style. But, Yagate Kimi ni Naru has, hands down the best visual storytelling between the two of them – probably the whole season, honestly.
EvilBob: Yeah. Also, the backdrops are seriously amazing. I mean it. When you get a chance, watch it again, pause, and see if you can find any pixelation on any of the surfaces. It’s that smooth. But the characters, themselves, well… they get the job done, but they’re not all that great or anything. I could say they character expressions are good, but the expressions are also great on Bunny Girl Senpai, which, as we covered, has the better overall character design and I think just has better expressions, anyway. But what really gives Bloom Into You the edge is that amazing visual storytelling. I mean, c’mon! Even the freakin’ ED gets in on it!
Voyager: Yeeeah. Unfortunately pretty much everything Yagate Kimi ni Naru does with its outstanding visuals and direction, Bunny Girl Senpai does by exploiting is mysterious premise and using the sci-fi root of its concept to draw a lot of interesting parallels with the problems being introduced in the series on an internal, character level. Story structure’s also a thing we could look at, but… well…
EvilBob: They’re polar opposites. Bloom Into You has one long story.
Voyager: And Bunny Girl Senpai has a series of mini-arcs, rather than a consistent narrative for the whole thing, focusing on a few different themes, instead of an overarching one. Because of that, Yagate Kimi ni Naru is able to spend a lot more time developing its handful of key characters and their relationships to a greater payoff. Meanwhile, Bunny Girl Senpai has a number of smaller, but just as satisfying payoffs. So who even wins this category basically comes entirely down to personal preference. Uuunfortunately, I don’t have one for this, so…
EvilBob: I do!
Voyager: Not your shows. Shut up.
Voyager: What does that even leave? I suppose there’s the characters overall. I mean, there’s more to character than dialogue. What characters say and how they interact with one another is obviously important. But there’s also the matter of character actions and what they say about the characters involved. How “rounded” are the characters in each show? If we based it solely on net likeability, I’m not sure we’d be able to determine which characters are stronger. I mean, Sakuta is great, his interactions with pretty much everyone are great. But the way in which Yuu and Touko interact with one another is endearing in a weirdly bittersweet way that really works. But what else do we know about the characters and how much of their personalities bleed into their interactions and so-on? It’s a difficult thing to really gauge and requires a lot of careful attention. It’s also especially difficult because of the aforementioned differences in the structure of both shows. Obviously, one show has a lot more time to do the same thing, but spread across fewer pivotal characters.
EvilBob: Yeah. Bloom Into You really just has Yuu and Touko, with Sayaka in a strong supporting character role and Maki in a modest and much more distant one. It really is the Yuu and Touko show.
Voyager: Meanwhile, Bunny Girl Senpai has Sakuta, and focuses the majority of the show on him. Yes, Mai is a deuteragonist, but Sakuta gets more screentime by a wide margin, and is a lot more central to everything that happens. However, the supporting cast is filled with all the girls in his pseudo-harem that each get their own arcs and very little time to pack just about the same amount of character into them. Though at the expense of them just kinda returning to the background when they’re done because it’s not “their turn.” It doesn’t make them any weaker as characters, obviously. But that’s still basically how the formula works. With the only exception being the Nodoka arc because Mai was also at the center of that one. Well… kinda.
EvilBob: Sooo? Did any of that rambling help, or…?
Voyager: NO! Ugh…
EvilBob: Totally did this to yourself, dude.
Voyager: Do not underestimate the terrible things I can do to your schedule for next season, Bob…
EvilBob: Shutting up.
Voyager: If I had to predict where both shows were going, I can’t even say which show is ultimately going to have the most conclusive, satisfactory ending because… well… I’m pretty sure both original works go on well beyond what they’d be able to do in just three more episodes of either show. So now we’re at an impasse.
EvilBob: So what now? Flip a coin?
Voyager: Don’t tempt me…
EvilBob: Ya gotta choose which one gets slaughtered in the finals eventually, man. C’mon.
Voyager: Why? You already did that for me.
EvilBob: …Hello, police? I’d like to report a homicide. The suspect is my boss. The victim? Yes, my hopes, dreams, and aspirations.
Voyager: Oh, suck it up. Anyway, I dunno. Part of me wants to say that Bunny Girl Senpai is actually the safer bet.
EvilBob: Yeah, does that make it the best bet?
Voyager: I didn’t ask for your help, Bob.
EvilBob: You kinda did?
Voyager: There has to be at least one other category, for the sake of comparison, to figure out which of these moves forward.
EvilBob: What about theme?
Voyager: …huh. Yeah, that is a good point. Well, if we look at it from that angle, then it’s actually still pretty close. I mean, Yagate Kimi ni Naru really nails its theme surrounding love, the lies we tell ourselves about it, and the nature of its pursuit, especially in a world where the media’s inflated idea of romantic love can leave a person feeling empty. Meanwhile, Bunny Girl Senpai features multiple unrelated themes, and manages to handle them all well, in really satisfying ways. One might look at that summary and say it’s a quality over quantity situation, but I actually think Bunny Girl Senpai has both quantity and quality going for it. Its ability to handle the multiple themes that well is genuinely something to be lauded. That’s to take nothing away from Yagate Kimi ni Naru, though. It’s really good at handling the theme it’s running with.
EvilBob: Sooo does that mean you have a winner, now?
EvilBob: …What now?
EvilBob: Oh come on!
Voyager: I take that to mean you already know the answer to this one…
EvilBob: Bloom Into You. By a country mile. It’s way better at using its music to enhance the show’s storytelling. In Bunny Girl Senpai it definitely still works, but it usually just feels like sort of… an afterthought, I guess.
Voyager: Yeah. And now we’re back to this song and dance.
EvilBob: So. Coin toss.
Voyager: Oh, grow a pair. Hm…
Voyager: Huh. Yeah, we could try that one. Hm… so essentially the way the story guides the attention of the audience through the characters, camera tricks, angles, and whatnot. And… honestly, I think that would have to go to Yagate Kimi ni Naru. I mean… Bunny Girl Senpai’s direction is fine. But it’s surprisingly basic for a show that’s about getting into the heads of the characters and figuring out what’s making them tick.
EvilBob: True. Bloom Into You does a lot with its camera to guide the audience’s attention in a way that drives the story. Everything from extreme close shots, slow motion every now and then, depth of feel changes, the works. All of it to help the viewer really get into the headspace of the two leads. Bunny Girl Senpai doesn’t really do that. Most of the time we’re just kind of in “top-down” view. We’re on eye-level with the characters, most of the time, or just in 3rd-person, following Sakuta around like some sort of silent observer. It’s actually kinda creeeepy. Like we’re a stalker, or something. Wait… does that make us a Yandere? Are we the final, secret member of his harem?!
Voyager: …Dude. Decaf.
EvilBob: I don’t have a problem, you have a problem!
Voyager: …Right. So I guess the winner, if only by a really small margin, is Yagate Kimi ni Naru. Mind you, we had to nitpick in order to reach that conclusion because these two shows were so bloody close. But… yeah. That’s that. Please feel free to forward all of your hate mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. And I guess now, without further ado…
THE FINAL BRACKET
EvilBob: The time is now.
Voyager: Or… you know… in about three weeks from now.
EvilBob: …Shut up, Chris.
Voyager: It’s time to get down to the finals, so let’s take a look at our combatants.
SSSS.Gridman vs. Yagate Kimi ni Naru
EvilBob: Ha! I did make it! And now just wait! I’m gonna win this thing! Believe it!
Voyager: …Riiight. Okay, citizens of the universe. I have a feeling he’s gonna need you to send Trigger your energy. All of it.
EvilBob: …Hello, police? I’d like to report a double homicide.
Voyager: Well, it all comes down to this. The finals. This is… this is gonna be tough.
EvilBob: For you maybe. Gridman’s gonna stomp you like a Goomba.
Voyager: You sure?
EvilBob: Of course. Not giving up is my magic!
Voyager: …You start screaming like a lunatic, I’m throttling your list for next season.
EvilBob: Yes sir.
Voyager: And not to worry, folks. I’ll still be covering Bunny Girl Senpai and Toaru Majutsu no Index in Weekly Anime Redux. So Stay Toon’d for that.
Voyager: Aaand that’s a wrap.
EvilBob: All right, everybody! You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here! We out!
Voyager: Have fun storming the castle!
EvilBob: That was exhausting so we’re leaving now! B’byyyye!
Voyager: Keep up the Awesome! Take care!