Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night Review

The show's two protagonists

Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night is a sci-fi action-adventure anime film based on the Sword Art Online: Progressive light novels that Reki Kawahara wrote, and abec illustrated. It is also the sequel to a film in 2021 entitled Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night. The film was produced by A-1 Pictures and directed by Ayako Kōno. This post will have spoilers.

Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the twenty-second article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on February 4, 2023.

This 100 minute film begins with a scene which pulls you into the world of the sword-wielding characters, specifically  Asuna (voiced by Haruka Tomatsu) and Kirito (voiced by Yoshitsugu Matsuoka), her trusty companion. They are helped by Argo (voiced by Shiori Izawa), a female information broker, who sometimes hides in the shadows. Although the two major guilds are together at the beginning, conflict erupts between the two factions, and someone behind the scenes is making them go head to head, leading to a deadly battle, with death in this game world meaning one dies in the real world.

The animation and definition during the fight scenes shows that the work by A-1 Pictures is top-notch, and makes clear the film is more than the simple description on Wikipedia, IMDB, or in Crunchyroll’s promotional material. This is no surprise since this Japanese animation studio has produced acclaimed series like Black Butler, Fairy Tail, From the New World, Kaguya-sama: Love Is Waralong with others such as Engage Kiss, 22/7, and Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku.

Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night does not shy away from showing blood, death, or anything of the sort. This fits with the film’s action scenes which involve swords, magic, and agility. At the same time, there are scenes where it is much more low-key, like when Asuna, Kirito, and Argo have a meal together at the beginning of the film, or when they do treasure-hunting, going into a cave together.

It is interesting how close Asuna and Kirito are despite the fact they don’t see themselves as a couple, regardless of teasing by Argo to that effect. In fact, their closeness only becomes more pronounced when Kirito saves Asuna from two unsavory people, and a bunch of other monsters head their way, with Asuna admitting her fears.

As Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night goes forward, you sympathize more with the characters, and their struggles, especially when Asuna has her sword stolen after she falls into a trap. Its funny that Kirito does not know there is a party on December 31, and is a bit annoyed as a result, even though he knows a lot about the game, Sword Art Online. The heartfelt scenes in the film pull you in like no other.

This film wouldn’t be an anime without some fan service, although it is very mild, and not as extreme as those anime which feature women with big breasts or tight-fitting clothes. Asuna fights Argo when they aren’t wearing many clothes, as Argo tries to prove her abilities after Asuna says she is worried about Argo going to extreme lengths to get information on mischievous people, even if it puts her life in danger. In the process, their mock fight proves that Argo is more than worthy to defend herself.

Beyond this, the music and character designs, by Kento Toya and Yuki Kajiura respectively, go hand-in-hand with the other elements of Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night. For one, they allow scenes, like Asuna and Kirito sitting other on a beautiful hillside, to maintain your interest, and make you want to keep watching the film to see what happens next.

More than anything, this film is about determination and cooperation, even against those who want to off other players, known as PKs or Player-Killers. This is shown through the drive to keep the party between the two factions going despite those trying to scuttle it to gain a rare item which will boost one group but not the other.

The intensity of some scenes is one of the strong suits of Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night, as is the action sequences as shown through the view of playing a game, or without it. The same can be said for the characters, whether in the raiding party of Asuna, Kirito, and others, or somewhat mysterious ones like Mito (voiced by Inori Minase), who appears to be “gathering materials” in the forest at first.

She is one of the more interesting characters, as she isn’t sure she wants to join in fighting the game boss, and betray anyone “again”. The fact that Asuna and Mito duel one another, with Asuna using her sword and Mito her scythe with a chain, shows how close they are, as they were originally best friends in the human world, and willing to sacrifice anything for their goals. I would not be surprised if some fans ship both characters after watching this film, especially as Mito says she won’t let Asuna die, which builds upon the previous film which had their bond between one another as a key part.

One of the best parts of Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night is how it can be easily watched without having to watch the prequel. I hadn’t watched that film before writing this review, and had no problem understanding what was happening. This was helped by the number of flashbacks and a relatively simple storyline. It was not like Steven Universe: The Movie when there was a part of the film when all the protagonists did introductions of sorts as part of a song.

I also found it very touching how much Kirito cares about Asuna, but also sees the bigger picture. That makes him intriguing, as he was a former beta tester on the game, even though Mito says that she doesn’t like him.

I enjoyed the final parts of Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night, when they the raiding party of Kirito, Asuna, Argo, and their friends, fight together for a common goal, and work well. Without giving away specifics of that battle, I can say that the film remains action-packed, and the boss they fight is a next-level enemy in more ways than one.

I liked the interweaving of magic with the rest of the story and the music fitting with the action. The ending of the Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night sets up a possible sequel, as the player-killers are still out there. While I felt like the film’s climax, and ending of the scheme by the two miscreants, was too easy, there is a twist at the end which throws that into question.

As mentioned earlier, the film’s character designs were by Kento Toya and music was by Yuki Kajiura. Their experience shows through in this film. Toya previously worked on acclaimed series such as El Cazador de la Bruja, Canaan, Lycoris Recoil, Le Chevalier D’Eon, and Somali and the Forest Spirit. Additionally, Kajiura has worked on shows such as Noir, My-HiME, Princess Principal, Fena: Pirate Princess, and Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

Eir Aoi also did a great job of performed the film’s main theme, “Shinzo”. She is a well-known singer in Japan who has sung important tracks within Fate/Zero, Sword Art Online, Kill la Kill, The Heroic Legend of Arslan, and many others. Her music really moved the film forward in a way that no one else could have done.

Apart from this, Kaede Hondo, Yūsuke Kobayashi, Hiroki Yasumoto, and Tomokazu Seki, the voice actors for Liten, Morte, Agil, and Kibao respectfully, are seasoned in the industry. They’ve voiced characters in Magical Girl Raising Project, I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level, Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, Your Lie in April, Bodacious Space Pirates, Spy × Family, and Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, to name a few.

Like many anime films, those in Japan have seen Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night for many months before those in North America and Japan. In fact, the film was released on October 22, 2022 in the country, delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the process, it earned over $8 million in Japan, half a million in Hong Kong, and over $170,000 in South Korea. These numbers don’t count the earnings in other parts of the world, whether in Latin America, Asia, or Europe. It will also be screened in select U.S. theaters in February.

All of this relates to what Kim Morrisy wrote about delays in Aniplex shows, that COVID-19 showed the weakness in animation production pipeline, and that the company, which distributed this film, has been “less than transparent” about past delays. This has accompanied by ramping up production as a result of the pandemic, instead of down. Hopefully this changes in the future.

Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night will be streaming on Crunchyroll on February 3rd.

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

[Review box:

Animation: 5

Voice Acting: 5

Music: 4

Story: 4]

D4DJ Review

D4DJ is music anime directed by Seiji Mizushima. It is part of a Japanese music media franchise of the same name, standing for Dig Delight Direct Drive DJ, consisting of live performances, a rhythm game, a standalone episode, and more. The series, which began airing in 2020, currently has two seasons. This post will have spoilers.

Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the twenty-first article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on January 30, 2023.

The plot of D4DJ‘s first season, also known as D4DJ First Mix, revolves around an idolish DJ unit at Yoba Academy which plays a mix of J-pop and dubstep. It is headed by Rinku Aimoto (voiced by Yuka Nishio), who returns to Japan after living on an unnamed African island. On her first day at the academy, She is inspired to create DJ unit with school DJ Maho Akashi (voiced by Maho Akashi), also known as DJ Mash, after seeing a performance by a hip hop unit named Peaky P-key. Easily excitable, her catchphrase (“happy around!”) becomes the name of their DJ unit.

This music group later gains two additional members: a VJ and talented illustration named Muni Ohnaruto (voiced by Haruka Mimura) and wealthy-born Rei Togetsuwho who is skilled at playing the piano. Each person gets their role in the unit. Rinku becomes the main singer and dancer. Muni is the group’s VJ, Maho is the group DJ, and Rei becomes composer and arranger of the group.

Like many anime with similar themes, music is front and center in the series. It informs the actions and dialogue of the characters, with the story almost built around the songs. In fact, the ending sequence of the season one episodes only focuses on Maho dancing and messing around at her DJ station.

This contrasts with other music series which aired last year, such as Shine Post, League of Nations Air Force Aviation Magic Band Luminous Witches, and the idolish Cue! Those series primarily focus on a single music group. D4DJ focuses on multiple groups at the same time. On the other hand, D4DJ is similar to the aforementioned series in that all of the characters in the series are female. Male characters briefly appear but are never part of the show’s primary cast.

The show’s additional units are just as talented as Happy Around! There’s hip hop-themed Peaky P-key, sci-fi themed Photon Maiden, tropical-themed Merm4id, gothic rock-themed Rondo, lolita-themed Lyrical Lily, and gothic-themed Abyssmare. Each of these units has their own strengths and weaknesses. Even though they often compete with one another, they collaborate with one each especially when holding civic events.

While there isn’t anything to write home about, when it comes to the show’s plot, the songs each band performs are catchy and stick with you. The episodes have some similarities with many episodes of LoliRock, in the episodes often have a music video of sorts at the end. Despite this, the characters are given enough definition that you sympathize with their struggles.

What other series has two characters engaged in a rap battle (as shown above) about their feelings? There isn’t one that comes to mind, making D4DJ unique in this regard. Even Disney series like Elena of Avalor, Hamster & Gretel, Milo Murphy’s Law, Phineas & Ferb or Mira Royal Detective don’t even come close.

The series has as much glitz as the recent seasons of Love Live! Superstar!! and Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club, both of which have all-female casts. Even so, it is different, primarily because the animation style is more 3D, as much as DreamWorks productions using computer animation, like Guillermo del Toro’s Tales of Arcadia trilogy series.

Personally, I tend to prefer 2D animation in currently airing Western animations like The Ghost and Molly McGee and The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, or the style of classic anime such as Sailor Moon and Dear Brother. Even so, I appreciate the more realistic and less “cartoony” styles in the recently concluded Undone and the 2018 film I Lost My Body, to give two examples.

As such, it took me some time to adapt to the animation style of D4DJ. However, the distinct character personalities made me more invested in the story and journey of these characters, as they try and make a name for themselves. This interconnects with the focus on music, creating songs, and the importance of having a fun time.

Unsurprisingly, behind all of the optimism and exuberance, especially of Rinku, is drama. For instance, in the show’s first season, Rinku and Muni have a falling out, and almost drift apart, while Maho often overworks herself. As such, it shares some of the same anti-overwork themes manifested in series like as the well-regarded isekai I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level.

The often fast-paced nature of D4DJ makes it different from the easy-going nature of the slice-of-life musical comedy, K-On!, or the classic surreal comedy Azumanga Daioh. In some ways this is a positive, since it makes you feel the hyper for the show’s songs just like the characters.

Rei counters this exuberance, since she can be a more reserved, yet talented piano player, partially because of strict expectations her parents hoisted upon her. Through the group, her character gets a chance to cast those rules aside and be as free as the optimistic Rinku, coming into her own as the show’s first season progresses.

The second season, also known as D4DJ All Mix, changes up the story entirely. Instead of focusing on Happy Around!, it pivots to Lyrical Lily, DJ group whose members attend a well-regarded all-girls Catholic school named Arisugawa Academy. All the previous musical groups which have appeared in the series are pulled in, as Lyrical Lily enlists their help in an event to revitalize their town.

Unfortunately, these episodes do not pick up where the first season leaves off. In order to understand what is happening, viewers would need to play the video games of the franchise or watch the spin-off anime series, D4DJ Petit Mix. This confusion is compounded by the layout of the show on Crunchyroll, which treats the show’s first and second seasons as separate shows.

This is remedied by the official D4DJ English YouTube channel, where viewers can watch music videos, OVA, a voice drama, or episodes of the show’s seasons free-of-charge. The episodes air on Crunchyroll first and then are available on YouTube.

The series is similar to many female-centered idol anime for one major reason: it has yuri subtext. This is not unique. Shine Post, League of Nations Air Force Aviation Magic Band Luminous Witches, Cue!, and the two Love Live! series, which aired last year, all have similar subtext to varying degrees.

In fact, two of the members of the UniChØrd DJ unit, Kokoa Shinomiya and Hayate Tendо̄ , are in a canon romantic relationship, making them the first canon lesbian characters in the D4DJ franchise. Both attend Arisugawa Academy, like the members of Lyrical Lily, making it likely they will have a role in this anime.

Yuripedia has pages on six characters in the series, noting the closeness between Happy Around! members Rinku and Maho, Muni of Happy Around! getting jealous when Rinku gives attention to those other than herself, the habit of Noa Fukushima (VJ in Photon Maiden) to collect cute things and love “cute girls” (like Muni), and additional yuri subtext manifested by Aoi Miyake (a DJ in Rondo) and Haruna Kasuga (a member of Lyrical Lily). Such yuri subtext goes beyond these six characters.

The setting of the second season partially at an all-girls Catholic school hints at possible additional yuri themes. After all, the classic yuri, and Class S, series Maria Watches Over Us, known as Maria-sama ga Miteru and Marimite in Japan, is set at a fictional Catholic girls school named Lillian Girls’ Academy in Musashino, Tokyo. The focus on Lyrical Lily in D4DJ is not all bad because viewers are shown some character depth, showing the closeness between these girls, and making them relatable.

The excitability of D4DJ‘s characters shines through in their voice acting. For instance, those who voiced the Lyrical Lily members are shown having a fun time in the above video. Some of the show’s cast have provided voices to characters in music-themed series (BanG Dream! and Wake Up, Girls!) and shows in additional genres, such as Luck & Logic, Assault Lily, Komi Can’t Communicate, Wandering Son, Non Non Biyori, and Do It Yourself!!

The character voices of the series are consistent from season-to-season apart from Kanon Shizaki, who voiced Rei in season 1, but departed the D4DJ franchise in 2022. She was replaced by Maiko Irie in the second season. The same was the case for Ami Maeshima, who voiced Ibuki Niijima until 2022, with Kanon Nanaki taking her place this year.

D4DJ is bolstered by Bushiroad, a Japanese company which created the franchise. It is known for the Revue Starlight, BanG Dream!, and Tantei Opera Milky Holmes franchises. While all three have spawned anime series, the first two of these franchises have yuri subtext in their anime, just like D4DJ.

The series is further reinforced by the animation studio, Sanzigen, which animated the series. Interestingly, the studio itself is partially owned by Bushiroad. This studio previously produced the BanG Dream! anime series, along with Sakura Wars the Animation, From Argonavis (spinoff from BanG Dream!), and many others.

The director of both D4DJ seasons, Seiji Mizushima, is accomplished. He even studied dance music, which is an important part of the show itself, as is portraying being a DJ as realistically as possible. Mizushima previously directed episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Beatless.

Otherwise, the group Photon Maiden may be a reflection of the actual Japanese idol industry, as it is formed by an entertainment company. All the units apart from them are formed by the groups themselves, rather than a company. In Japan, idols are marketed and commercialized through merchandise and endorsements from talent agencies, and deal with ravenous loyal fans.

This series, unlike the short-lived Heroines Run the Show, which ran last year, does not focus on the darkness of the idol industry. The latter has grueling work conditions, bans on dating, and oft serialization, especially for female idols. Often this is not a subject in idol anime either because the characters put together idol groups on their own or those involved in the industry (including voice actresses or the idol groups) are part of the anime series.

While D4DJ is not my favorite music anime, as I enjoy the Love Live! franchise better, especially Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club, it is still entertaining and stands firmly on its own in more ways than one.

The first and second seasons of D4DJ are currently streaming on Crunchyroll. Both seasons are also available free-of-charge on the official English D4DJ YouTube channel.

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

Things Get Better?: LGBTQ Representation in Animation in 2022

Komichi Akebi of Akebi’s Sailor Uniform happily welcomes all the LGBTQ animated shows in this article. Logos of my favorite anime with LGBTQ themes which aired throughout 2022 are shown in this graphic which I created

In January 2022, I wrote that there was a possibility that in 2022 things would “get better” in terms of LGBTQ representation, with new fandoms developing from shows which take risks by telling diverse stories. Although 2022, in some regards, more than lived up to this possibility and went beyond, there were challenges.

Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the nineteenth article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on January 16, 2023.

In the world of anime, some series with implied, or directly represented, LGBTQ characters, came to an end. [1] Often times these series had yuri themes. For instance, there were somewhat strong undertones between the protagonist, Komichi Akebi, and her friend, Erika Kizaki, in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, and the protagonists of The Demon Girl Next Door, Yuko Yoshida and Momo Chiyoda, and those of the short-lived, but intriguing, yuri isekai, The Executioner and Her Way of Life. In the latter series, one of the protagonists, Akari Tokitō, has a crush on Menou, a female assassin with a duty to kill her. At the same time, Menou’s aide, Momo, has a crush on her and is jealous of how close she is getting to Akari.

One series, Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story, blew representation out of the water, with strong romantic themes between Eve and a Japanese girl she plays golf against, Aoi Amawashi. Eve is often unaware of how romantic she is toward Aoi, who has a clear crush on her. Erica Friedman of Okazu, a well-known reviewer who focuses on lesbian themes in anime, even wrote that she may “start measuring other anime based on how amazing this one was”. Other series ranged from having implied to more direct themes, including Vampire in the Garden, Do it Yourself!!, Bocchi the Rock!, Healer GirlLycoris Recoil, and Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury.

There were additional anime with LGBTQ themes or characters. For instance, Life with an Ordinary Guy who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy Knockout, which had a three month run from January to March 2022, featured a reincarnated protagonist, Hinata Tachibana, who is heavily implied to be a bisexual trans woman. The spinoff from the popular Rooster Teeth series, RWBY, named RWBY: Ice Queendom, featured a non-binary nightmare hunter, Shion Zaiden. Christine Brent, Senior Brand Director for Rooster Teeth, confirmed this and said she would like to have similar characters in future productions.

Apart from these series, there were implied yuri themes in the ongoing idol series Love Live! Superstar!! and second season of Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club. Such themes were also present in Management of Novice Alchemist, Encouragement of Climb: Next Summit, KanColle: Itsuka Ano Umi de, My Master Has No Tail, Prima Doll, Smile of the Arsnotoria the Animation, Shine Post, and many others, [2] all of which began, and ended, in 2022.

Many of these series are on Crunchyroll, one of the biggest anime streaming services. With its recent merger with Funimation, Crunchyroll now dominates the anime streaming market, and will likely continue crackdowns on pirate sites. Its only real competition is YouTube, smaller sites like HIDIVE (owned by AMC), and streaming services such as Netflix, Tubi, and Hulu.

In 2022, there was a plethora of LGBTQ characters in Western animation, from gay warriors Orc and Iago in Battle Kitty to a lesbian drama teacher in Dee Dee Holloway in Big Nate. Other series featured gay couples (as in Baymax!), gay and lesbian parents (as in Firebuds), and many other lesbian, bisexual, non-binary, and queer characters. [3]

Some series had more representation than others. One of these was The Legend of Vox Machina, airing on Amazon Prime and based on the Critical Role roleplaying podcast, which featured lesbian, bisexual, and queer characters, specifically Vex’ahlia “Vex” de Rolo, Vax’ildan “Vax” Vessar, Lady Kima, Keyleth of the Air Ashari, Scanlan Shorthalt, and Lady Allura Vysoren. Stephanie Beatriz, a bisexual actress, voiced two of these characters: Lady Kima and Lady Allura. In addition, there were was a reboot of Monster High which premiered on Nickelodeon in fall 2022, with more gender diversity and LGBTQ characters, such as a non-binary monster named Frankie Stein and two lesbian moms (Medusa and Lyra).

Just as powerful was the reboot of The Proud Family in a series named The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder. It aired on Disney+ from February to April of 2022. Created by the same person as the original, Bruce W. Smith, it includes three gay characters: Randall Leibowitz-Jenkins, Barry Leibowitz-Jenkins, and Michael Collins. There were also one-time lesbian characters and queer vibes among other characters, who are part of the show’s mostly Black cast.

One of these characters is Maya, a 14-year-old anti-racist activist voiced by Keke Palmer. Although Palmer is an actress who has described herself as sexually fluid and queer, it remains to be seen whether Maya will be “sexually fluid and queer as much as Palmer is in real-life.”

This was followed, later in 2022, by the much-expected Dead End: Paranormal Park, which Netflix recently cancelled. This series broke barriers as the first animated series with a trans protagonist named Barney Guttman. He is voiced by a trans male actor, Zach Barack. The show also includes Norma Khan who likes multiple genders and is ambiguously queer, and Courtney, who is non-binary. This series goes beyond the barrier-breaking of High Guardian Spice, a series by a trans male creator, Raye Rodriguez, who voiced one of the show’s characters (Caraway), or the trans male lead character in Wendell & Wild (Raúl Cocolotl), who was said to be the first trans man in an animated film.

2022 heralded the end of the much-beloved Disney series, Amphibia. The series featured LGBTQ characters who were confirmed after the show’s finale, like bisexual Sasha Waybright, voiced by bisexual actress Anna Akana. There’s also Mr. X, Frodrick Toadstool, and Toadie who are gay, Yunan and Lady Olivia who are lesbian, Ally who is pansexual, and Jess who is bisexual.

Just as bombastic is the third season of Harley Quinn headlined by two bisexual protagonists, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. Both are known by the ship name Harlivy. The season, premiering from July to September 2022. The series also features a queer character named Clayface, who works with Harley from time to time. Harley Quinn was recently renewed for a fourth season, with a standalone episode premiering sometime this year.

There are other Western animated series with LGBTQ characters. For instance, Craig of the Creek features Kelsey Pokoly and Isabella “Stacks” Alvarado, two lesbian characters who have an important role in the series. There are additional LGBTQ characters in Summer Camp Island and Victor and Valentino. In the latter series are episodes partially focusing on the relationship between Xochi Jalapeno and Amabel. The former series has at least four LGBTQ characters: Puddle, Alien King, and Ghosts Dads as noted by the Insider database of LGBTQ characters and cartoons, which was last updated in June 2021.

All three of these series were targeted by Warner Bros Discovery execs. Summer Camp Island and Victor and Valentino were removed from the HBO Max streaming platform. Craig of the Creek had its final season order cut in half by execs, worrying those who worked on the show. These shows were not alone. In 2022, three other series with LGBTQ characters also faced the axe from corporate executives: Tuca & BertieThe Casagrandes, and Close Enough.

In 2022, some months after the fourth season ended, shenanigans by Warner Bros Discovery execs led to the effective cancellation of Young Justice. The series includes LGBTQ characters such as Eduardo “Ed” Dorado Jr., Kaldur, and Marie Logan. Lagoon Boy “La’gaan” was shown to be bisexual and in a poly relationship in the recent season. Bart Allen is in a relationship with Ed, and Wynnde is in a relationship with Kaldur.

The show features Harper Row who is bisexual, Rosa who is trans woman, and Violet who is non-binary. In the most recent season, there was a sub-story showing Violet beginning a romantic relationship with Harper Row. Unfortunately, without another season, these stories could not be expanded.

Other series shined through in their representation. This included The Dragon Prince. There are lesbian (Amaya and Janai), non-binary (Kazi), and otherwise queer (Annika, Ethari, Neha, and Runaan), characters. The story of Amaya and Junai was an important part of the story in the show’s recent fourth season, becoming more than “lip service” regardless of how bad other narrative choices in the season were, with this story likely continued in the show’s next three seasons.

The same can be said for the mature animated series, Disenchantment, which features the bisexual Princess Bean, voiced by a bisexual actress, Abbi Jacobsen, and various characters in Star Trek: Lower Decks. [4] The latter series, its third season airing from August to September 2022, has a bisexual protagonist named Beckett Mariner, a possibly asexual chief engineer named Andy Billups, and a lesbian woman named Jennifer Sh’reyan. The relationship, and subsequent break-up of Mariner and Sh’reyan was an important part of the recent season, which featured Mariner as a protagonist.

There were other characters of note, like the confirmed lesbian relationship in Arcane between two characters (Vi and Caitlyn) and many characters in another ongoing series, The Owl House. This includes the now-canon romantic relationship between Luz Noceda, who is bisexual, and Amity Blight, who is lesbian. The show featured other LGBTQ characters, whether those who are queer (Eda Clawthorne), aromantic asexual (Lilith Clawthorne), gay (Gilbert Park and Harvey Park), non-binary and transmasculine (Raine Whispers), and presumably non-binary character named The Collector.

While some shows with LGBTQ characters, have ended (Kid Cosmic and Amphibia), were cancelled (Q-Force), or won’t be renewed (Dead End, gen:LOCK, and High Guardian Spice), indie animation has continued to shine. Some argued that people shouldn’t look to Disney for queer representation in animation, that there may be a decline of superhero shows where many queer characters are, and noted a limited number of out TV stars out there. Although by midway through the year LGBTQ representation looked grim, due to what I’ve mentioned earlier, indie animations made clear that queerness is normal, just as it should be in real life.

None of these indie animations would even be recognized by GLAAD, which recently promoted the animated series Chicago Party Aunt, and animated films, [5] and with their nominees for the GLAAD Media Award, blogposts, and annual reports, nor by queer feminist magazines like Autostraddle, a queer feminist magazine. Instead, they have been recognized by fans and supporters. This includes those such as Helluva Boss, Ollie & Scoops, Eddsworld, a new season of Hazbin Hotel in development, along with others in development like The Descendants, Wild Card, Far Fetched, and Indigo, to name a few.

In the year ahead, there are bound to be more LGBTQ series, with the premiere of the yuri series The Magical Revolution of the Reincarnated Princess and the Genius Young Lady in January, the second season of D4DJ in January, the new series Yuri Is My Job! in April, and the new season of Birdie Wing, also in April. Another yuri series, I’m in Love with the Villainess is also set to air this year, while the sci-fi yuri manga, Hoshikuzu Telepath, is in development. This is coupled with continued release of yuri manga, visual novels, and the planned release of Love Live! anime spinoffs Nijiyon Animation and Genjitsu no Yohane: Sunshine in the Mirror. Both will likely have yuri subtext in line with other Love Live! anime series, which only have women as characters. There are indications that anime adaptations of Hikikomari Kyuuketsuki no Monmon aka The Vexations of a Shut-In Vampire Princess, Whisper Me A Love Song, Young Ladies Don’t Play Fighting Games, and Vampeerz may be premiering this year.

Despite these positives, I worry that LGBTQ representation in animation, this year, may wane, in line with declining representation in film. For Western animation, what shows can fill the void left by The Owl House, Amphibia, Kid Cosmic, Dead End, gen:LOCK, High Guardian Spice, or even Q-Force? Its hard to know if existing series can fill that gap. In anime, there is more possibilities, due to the aforementioned yuri series, and any possible yaoi (boy’s love) series.

However, there is some hope for representation in Western animation. The next season of The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder is coming in February, along with Ark: The Animated Series which features a lesbian protagonist, the animated series Princess Power and Velma in January, and the Nimona animated film in the summer. New seasons of Witch from Mercury, Arcane, Star Trek: Lower Decks, The Great North, Invincible, The Ghost and Molly McGee, and Disenchantment may premiere. The pilot episode of S.A.L.E.M.: The Secret Archive of Legends, Enchantments, and Monsters or the film which precedes the Lumberjanes series might air.

There might be new information about an animated series set after The Legend of Korra, which had two bisexual protagonists (Asami and Korra), which will focus on an unnamed earthbender, a film centered around Korra said to be released in 2026. There might be LGBTQ characters in Kiff, Hailey’s On It!, and Iwájú, which are scheduled to begin airing this year, or those in future series such as Primos, Moana, Tiana, and Iyanu: Child of Wonder.

Animation may continue to be in a bit of a rough patch and more may flock to indie animation in hopes of finding an alternative to the studio system. That is what can be easily predicted for this year.

© 2022-2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] Some could say that the final season of Princess Connect! Re:Dive has yuri subtext and point to the second season of Dota: Dragon’s Blood featuring an Elven thief named Fymrym, who was once in a polyamorous relationship with a woman and two men, with her partners murdered by Luna, who attacks the Elves who don’t worship Selemene. Also, Komi Can’t Communicate featured Najimi Osana who has an ambiguous gender and Ren Yamai who is a lesbian, a bisexual man named Apollo in Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, gay characters like Nagi and Soldier in Goblins Cave and Suma in Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. Attack on Titan has LGBTQ characters as well, as does One Piece.

[2] Others, as listed on Yuri Anime Reviews, include Teppen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Laughing ‘Til You Cry, League of Nations Air Force Aviation Magic Band Luminous Witches, Kakegurui Twin, Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story Final Season, RPG Real Estate, Miss Shachiku and the Little Baby Ghost, Black Rock Shooter: Dawn Fall, Cue!, Slow Loop, and Girls’ Frontline.

[3] This includes lesbian characters Nadja el-Koury and Danielle in Human Resources, Laura Feinberg as a bisexual woman in Little Demon, a queer non-binary couple (Gladys and Wren) in Pinecone & Pony, a non-binary Faerie student named Jae in Supernatural Academy, and a non-binary transformer named Nightshade in Transformers: EarthSpark. In addition, Dragon Age: Absolution, which only aired for six episodes in December 2022, featured four of LGBTQ characters (Miriam, Hira, Roland, and Lacklon), with Qwydion voiced by Ashly Burch who came out as queer and pansexual in July 2022.

[4] There were gay characters in Kid Cosmic (Fry and Hamburg), The Great North (Ham Tobin and Crispin Cienfuegos), Jellystone!, Chicago Party Aunt (Daniel and Gideon), Close Enough (Randall “Randy” Watson), Invincible (William Francis Clockwell), Big City Greens (Alexander and Terry), Baby Shark’s Big Show! (Viv and Vera), Undone (Alejandro Diaz), and Pete The Cat (Sam and Syd), along with lesbian characters in Little Ellen, The Ghost and Molly McGee (Mrs. Roop and Pan), the new Rugrats (Betty DeVille), Tuca & Bertie, The Casagrandes (Becky). In addition, non-binary characters appeared in Ridley Jones (Fred) and Madagascar: A Little Wild (Odee Elliott) while genderless characters had roles in Star Trek: Prodigy (Zero) and Solar Opposites (Korvo and Terry), and a trans woman is a character in Peepoodo & the Super Fuck Friends (Evelyn). There were an assortment of LGBTQ characters in Big Mouth, The Loud House, Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir, Bob’s Burgers, Bee and PuppyCat, Rick and Morty, RWBY, Hey Duggee, American Dad!, Red vs. BlueSouth Park, Family Guy, Spongebob, The Simpsons, and Archer.

[5]  Strange World featured a gay couple: Ethan Clade and Diazo. In 2022, there were been bisexual and lesbian characters in Catwoman (specifically Catwoman and Batwoman), queer characters in Turning Red (Priya Mangal), a lesbian woman in Lightyear (Alisha Hawthorne), along with lesbian women in DC League of Super-Pets (Nancy), and Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo! (Velma Dinkley and Coco Diablo).

Spy x Family Review

Spy x Family is an action spy comedy based on a manga by Tatsuya Endo. It is directed and written by Kazuhiro Furuhashi. It is produced by Wit Studio and CloverWorks. The latter studio is known for many series, including Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, My Dress-Up Darling, In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki, and Bocchi the Rock!, which released this year. The former studio gained recognition after it produced Attack on Titan‘s first three seasons. This review will have spoilers.

Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the seventeenth article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on December 31, 2022.

The plot of Spy x Family focuses around the mission of a skilled secret agent codenamed Twilight (voiced by Takuya Eguchi). He is tasked with enrolling a child in a prestigious university to spy on an important political leader as part of Operation Strix, in an effort to keep peace between two warring nations, Westalis and Ostania,  an allusion to East and West Germany. In order to complete his task, he takes on the name of Loid Forger, adopts Anya (voiced by Atsumi Tanezaki), a young orphan girl, and marries a beautiful woman named Yor Briar (voiced by Saori Hayami).

Little does he know, but Anya and Yor have secrets of their own: Anya is a mind-reader and Yor is a deadly assassin who is named “Thorn Princess” due to her deadly nature. Despite these dangers, and Loid making decisions which don’t always follow common sense, he struggles with juggling the duties of being a caring father, husband, and perfect spy all at the same time.

This plot makes for an enjoyable comedy. Anya is a character that many can relate to not because of her mind-reading abilities, but her quick wit, flexibility, and love for cartoons. Hilariously, the cartoon she loves, Spy Wars, resembles what Loid actually does for a living.

In the same way that Carmen Sandiego, in the recent animated series of the same name, is shown to have human limits, Anya, Loid, and Yor are not superhuman. Anya’s powers wane during a new moon and crowded places stress her out. Yor can become insecure and has a lack of social skills, leading her work colleagues to bully her. Loid can become physically exhausted from his work, including his cover job as a psychiatrist at a local hospital in the city of Berlint.

All of the characters have their own villains which makes Spy x Family an intriguing series. Apart from the country’s secret police, Loid faces a skeptical brother of Yor, Yuri, who is wholly dedicated to her. Just like the protagonists, Yuri has his own secret. He masquerades as a diplomat when he is actually a secret police officer. Also, Yor feels threatened by Nightfall, a former apprentice of Loid who has a crush on him, and believes that Loid may leave her for Nightfall. At school, Anya faces challenges from fellow students and instructors.

While each of the characters, especially those in the main cast, have their strong points, Yor stands out above the others. While she only marries Loid at first as a matter of convenience, as the series goes on, she is further drawn to him, and dedicating herself to him, and Anya. She has a tough and strong nature unlike any other character, which is displayed when her assassin skills are put to use. Similar to other anime characters, she drinks to calm herself down. In an interesting twist, she can clean well, but cannot cook (unlike Loid), and can be selfless but absent-minded.

Spy x Family is unlike any other spy series I’ve ever seen. It does not have the combination of comedy, action, and adventure like the classic 2000s Disney series Kim Possible or similar to the often formulaic, and glitzy, spy fiction Totally Spies! This is because Anya, Loid, and Yor are all playing certain roles, either as schoolchildren or parents, to allay any suspicion from who they truly are.

The series has been positively received, with fans engaging in cosplay, and manga editions flying off the shelves. This popularity has been recognized by the show’s producers, who recently renewed the series for a second season and film, which is set to premiere in 2023.

There are many themes in Spy x Family that go beyond a focus on spying. For one, human experimentation is an important sub-theme, even more than occasional mentions of it in the ongoing yuri golf series Birdie Wing. For example, Anya detests studying because it was forced upon her when she was a test subject. Furthermore, the family dog, Bond, later adopted by the Forgers, has future vision akin to Garnet in Steven Universe, and was also experimented on by humans.

The smoothness of the anime’s voice acting, music, and animation make it stand out more than other series which aired this year, such as Bocchi the Rock! and Do it Yourself!. This is unsurprising since the show’s director, and writer, Furuhashi, is well-established in the anime industry. He previously worked on series such as Rurouri Kenshin, Zipang, Hunter x HunterGunslinger Girl, and Le Chevalier D’Eon.

The show’s music is by (K)now Name, a Japanese group known for their work in five other anime, including Sakura Quest and Dorohedoro. Additionally, the show’s voice actors are seasoned. For instance, Eguchi prominently voiced Kazuya Kujo in Gosick, while Hayami voiced Yuzuki Shiraishi in A Place Further than the Universe. These elements are enhanced by the show’s writing.

Spy x Family doesn’t have any direct or indirect LGBTQ themes, even it arguably has queer themes, but not queer representation. In this way, it is different from other spy fiction like the 2018 steampunk spy action Princess Principal, or the OVA and anime springing from the Read or Die light novel and manga. Both have some indirect yuri themes and subtext.

This series was only rivaled on Crunchyroll by the final season of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, the third season of Ascendance of a Bookworm, and new series such as Love After World Domination, Aharen-san wa Hakarenai, and Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie, all of which were well-animated and constructed series. However, Spy x Family was the only outright only spy fiction which began during the Spring 2022 series lineup for the streaming platform. This anime was on par with those series because of its staff, artwork, story, and plot.

Although accurately identifying which anime have the best production values can be challenging due to a lack of public information, and the fact that having a big budget doesn’t “mean that a production ends up looking great”, Spy x Family is well illustrated, animated, and constructed, meaning that the production value is higher than other series. As such, it is no exaggeration to say this series has some of the best production values I’ve ever seen in an anime. This has attracted many fans to the series, which received some of the best ratings “among all [TV Tokyo] programs on all stations for the July 2022 season”.

In Western animation, happy families are often the norm, especially in Disney series. This series stands against that norm. Yor, Loid, and Anya are only together for convenience. They are a chosen or found family, but all feel a connection to each other. This is not unique to this series.

A similar family of sorts exists in the popular isekai I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level. The protagonist, Azusa Aizawa, becomes an immortal witch, and has a family of sorts which includes a dragon girl, sentient slime spirits, and a ghost girl. A difference is that Spy x Family is more focused on each family member trying to fulfill their societal role, of sorts, and the family in this anime only consists of three people, rather than something larger.

This series bucks the common theme of anime protagonists struggling to do “their best” in school. Such a theme is present in the well-regarded magical girl series Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon, but is also often present in Western animations.

In Spy x Family, Anya is a terrible student, in part because of human experimentation on her. As a result, she tries to become friends with fellow students to further the “friendship scheme” rather than becoming an Imperial Scholar. Anya is just as bad at academics as Eve in Birdie Wing. However, she has the unique advantage of reading minds and a level of charm that Eve doesn’t always have.

Although this series is not as absurd as the overly dramatic golf tournaments in Birdie Wing, the interactions between the characters make you invested in them, and want to watch more. This is strengthened through the many comedic moments, either between Loid and Anya, Anya and Yor, or Anya and Bond. As a result, you root for the characters, either when Loid is gathering intelligence for his next mission or when Anya is trying to make friends at school.

The second season of Spy x Family, set to air sometime in 2023, along with a film, will likely develop the growing romance between Loid and Yor, the friendships Anya is making at school, and the strained relationship that Damian has with his family. As was the case with the 25-episode first season, all of these stories will be intertwined together in some form.

The first season of Spy x Family is currently streaming on Hulu and Crunchyroll.

© 2022-2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

Bocchi the Rock! Review

Screencap from opening sequence from Bocchi the Rock

Bocchi the Rock is a slice-of-life comedic music anime based on a manga by Aki Hamaji. It is directed by Keiichirō Saitō and written by Erika Yoshida. It is produced by CloverWorks, a seven-year-old Japanese studio known for series such as Slow Start, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai, The Promised Neverland, Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, and Spy × Family. This review will have spoilers.

Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the sixteenth article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on December 14, 2022.

The show’s plot centers around a socially awkward girl named Hitori Goto (voiced by Yoshino Aoyama) who struggles making friends at school or anywhere, playing cover songs under the name “guitarhero”. She is pulled into a group at an underground bar named STARRY by a girl named Nijika Ijichi (voiced by Sayumi Suzushiro), and meets Ryo Yamada (voiced by Saku Mizuno), who plays bass. The fellow members of the Kessoku Band dub her “Bocchi”, saying they are fans of her “guitarhero” channel.

The series follows the development of Kessoku Band, which expands to four members after Bocchi convinces guitarist Ikuyo Kita (voiced by Ikumi Hasegawa). Over the series, Bocchi becomes more comfortable with other people, effectively coming out of her shell. This makes the series different from the popular 23-episode anime, Komi Can’t Communicate, which centers on a quiet beautiful girl named Shoko Komi, who is also very socially awkward.

Instead, Bocchi the Rock! has more similarities to Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu, which also features a socially awkward and anxious protagonist. At the same time, Bocchi is, arguably, not as physically attractive in the same way as Komi.

Furthermore, her expressions, words, and actions make her more relatable than any other character with similar characteristics, especially when she imagines a dark, depressing future for herself several times throughout the series. For those who are socially awkward, the tendency to hide away from the world and ignore others makes her someone that they can connect to, more than other characters.

This anime is unique because it is one of the only recent music anime series, which are not centered on idols. That distinguishes it from Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club, Shine Post, and Love Live! Superstar!! which aired this year. It also sets it apart from relatively recent non-idol music series such as Healer Girl and Lost Song, neither of which feature rock bands.

Each of the characters in Bocchi the Rock! stand out in their own way, contributing uniquely to the show’s comedy. However, Bocchi has the most comedic moments in the series, in comparison to the other characters.

Animation and background art of Bocchi the Rock! is simpler than other series, like Do It Yourself!!. Even so, the art style stands out, especially when paired with Bocchi. For instance, when she was listening to the psychedelic rock band, Sick Hack, she is shown in a mix of psychedelic colors. After all, the animation and background art can be very dynamic, as it is in the series opening.

The series music is informed by realism more than other series, in terms of chords and sound of the songs. For example when the band isn’t coordinated, the songs sound discordant. When they have more confidence, the songs sound stronger.

This is enhanced by emphasizing the reality of playing in a band. It also couples with mature themes. One example of this is the talented vocalist, and bassist, of Sick Hack, Kikuri Hiroi (voiced by Sayaka Senbongi), who is an alcoholic. She spends most of what she earns on booze. She is almost as drunk as the character, Shorty, is throughout the Tangled animated series.

Even so, she encourages Bocchi, as does STARRY manager, Seika Ijichi (voiced by Maaya Uchida), the older sister of Nijika. This support, and friendly disposition of her fellow band members, allows Bocchi to grow as a person. That is part of what makes the show enjoyable.

Although Bocchi is very anti-social, she does not go on an adventure to leave society behind, in effect, as the protagonists of the amazing 2018 adventure anime A Place Further Than the Universe do. Instead, she expresses her social awkwardness through her actions and her music, while continuing to attend school. In this way, she fits within existing social norms, while remaining anti-social.

The voice acting of Aoyama, Suzushiro, Mizuno, Hasegawa, Senbongi, and Uchida in Bocchi the Rock! shines through and grounds the show itself, especially during songs. The same can be said for those voicing Hiroi’s fellow band members, Eliza Shimizu and Shima Iwashita, or those voicing Hitori’s mother, father, sister, and dog.

Many of the voice actors in the series are recognizable due to their voice performances in previous anime. This includes their voice overs for characters in well-known series such as Princess Tutu, Non Non Biyori, My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, Bloom Into You, and The Promised Neverland.

Others have voiced characters in My Master Has No Tail, Love After World Domination, The Demon Girl Next Door, and Kaguya-sama: Love Is War. This seasoned voice talent makes Bocchi the Rock! a much stronger series than anime which have newer voice actors.

The series has Bocchi at its core, its heart. Bocchi drives the series forward. Unlike series such as Wednesday, where Wednesday Addams holds the series up to such an extent that without her it would collapse, other characters serve as supporting pillars.

Bocchi’s moodiness, emotion, and social awkwardness often all combine together, even causing her disappear or turn into nothingness, especially when she is experiencing too much social interaction or stimulation. While this is not necessarily realistic, it is relatable.

As such, she is more relatable than the aforementioned Komi or Hitori, in their respective series, or even the protagonists of Aharen-san wa Hakarenai and Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club. However, her character is not unique, as there are various shy, timid, and socially awkward characters across anime, something which is more common than ever.

Bocchi the Rock! centers on a socially awkward protagonist, with a focus on what friendship means, and balancing one’s social abilities with possible social exhaustion. This sets her apart from other characters with similar characteristics.

If there is anywhere the story falls down or falls short, it is the fact that it focuses primarily on Bocchi and not as much on other characters. None of the parents or guardians of the other protagonists are shown in the series. However, this is not as extreme as the hyper-focus on Steven in Steven Universe Future to the detriment of additional characters. In this series, viewers can still see some depth of others characters apart from Bocchi.

Some fans have argued that Bocchi the Rock! has yuri subtext. One prominent yuri news site, Yuri Anime News, even listed it on their website, without detailing how this subtext is manifested in the series itself. These arguments are sound. Ikuko seems to have some feelings for Ryo, despite the fact that Ryo does not mean to attract people to her, and looks relatively androgynous.

This is one area the series could be stronger: going beyond yuri subtext. Even other series airing this fall, such as Encouragement of Climb: Next Summit and Management of a Novice Alchemist, have more prominent yuri undertones. The latter even has a textual yuri relationship between two supporting characters which is occasionally shown on screen.

Despite these criticisms, Bocchi the Rock! still stands out, especially among recent music anime series, not falling into the usual set-up of such series. The focus of the series on social awkwardness and music is the reason I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Bocchi the Rock! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

© 2022-2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

Wednesday Review (Spoiler Filled)

From the first promo video for the series in June 2022, showing Thing on Wednesday’s shoulder and showing her snapping her fingers, a callback to the 1960s TV series

Wednesday is a coming-of-age supernatural, and comedy, horror series which is all the rage on social media. It is a live-action series created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, with Tim Burton as an executive producer, along with Steve Stark, Andrew Mittman, Kayla Alpert, and others. The series debuted on November 23.

Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the fourteenth article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on December 7, 2022.

Jenna Ortega, a Latine actress of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, who plays Wednesday, carries the series. She is known for her performances in live action series like Jane the Virgin, Richie Rich, and Stuck in the Middle. She also played protagonists in Elena of Avalor and Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous, two animated series, and a recurring character in Big City Greens. This previous acting experience informs her role as Wednesday, who is part of a multiracial Latine family.

Jenna Ortega, a Latine actress of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, who plays Wednesday, carries the series. She is known for her performances in live action series like Jane the Virgin, Richie Rich, and Stuck in the Middle. She also played protagonists in Elena of Avalor and Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous, two animated series, and a recurring character in Big City Greens. This previous acting experience informs her role as Wednesday, who is part of a multiracial Latine family.

Wednesday is joined by her partner in crime, Thing, a disembodied hand sent by her parents to watch over her. Thing is sentient and serves as her best, and sometimes only, friend. Wednesday arrives at Nevermore after causing problems at other schools, like dumping bags of piranhas into a school swimming pool to get revenge on kids bullying her brother.

Like other supernatural series, Wednesday has latent magical powers. Specifically she has psychic visions toward the past, seeing her ancestor, Goody Adams (also played by Ortega), and events before they happen. This is akin to the powers of Bond, the dog in Spy x Family who has visions of the future.

The school she attends is filled with other societal outcasts like Xavier Thorpe (played by Percy Hynes White) who can make his art come to life, a siren named Bianca Barclay (played by Joy Sunday), a student named Eugene Otinger (played by Moosa Mostafa) who can control movements of bees. Also Wednesday’s roommate, Enid Sinclair (played by Emma Myers), is a werewolf, who has yet to “wolf out”. Vampires, witches, faceless monsters, gorgons, and others also attend the school.

Wednesday often clashes with those in authority, whether the Nevermore principal, Larissa Weems (played by Gwendoline Christie), Donovan Galpin (played by Jamie McShane), the sheriff of Jericho, the nearby small town, and her court-ordered therapist, Dr. Valerie Kinbott (played by Riki Lindhome). All the while, she tries to solve the mystery about a monster attacking students at the school, sometimes with help from others, and other times, by herself.

Ortega makes Wednesday into a character you can empathize with. This is even the case when she challenges established histories by pointing to genocide of Indigenous people or child slavery used to make chocolate, while working at Pilgrim World. She remains committed toward sharing the reality of what is going on, rather than sugarcoating anything.

Along the way, she faces villains such as Joseph Crackstone (played by William Houston), the Pilgrim forefather of Jericho, who wants to kill every outcast, and a student named Rowan Laslow (portrayed by Calum Ross) who almost kills her with his telekinesis. She fights to defend herself by any means necessary, even through sword fights.

Wednesday’s gothic appearance is likely intended to express her own sensitivity, self-confidence, rebellious nature, and be a wall to protect herself. It makes her distinguished and mysterious, more than any other character.

This is heightened by the difference from previous adaptations. For one, it is more mature, with blood, gory violence, murder, and gruesomeness. Secondly, in Addams Family movies in the 1990s and the two animated films in the 2000s, Wednesday is a kid and does not have independence, always coming back to her family. In this series, such shies away from her family, before coming back to them later.

In the words of Ortega, the series is “Nancy Drew–esque”, with Ortega saying she was inspired by Ricci’s performance, and emphasizing that she didn’t want Wednesday “to be nasty”. She also described the performance, often on location in Romania, as very stressful, and noted Burton’s role in how Wednesday looked on screen, even suggesting changes to the braids Wednesday used, and the style of her bangs.

In Wednesday, there are many callbacks to the films and original television series, including finger snapping to open a secret vault and ringing a bell at the coffee shop in Jericho where Tyler works. Even so, it is different than those previous versions, as Wednesday is much more assertive, even more than when she left her family in The Addams Family 2 and believed a demented scientist was her father.

Apart from Morticia and Gomez, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Luis Guzmán, other characters make a brief appearance in Wednesday. This includes the younger brother of Wednesday, Pugsley (played by Isaac Ordonez), the Addams family butler, Lurch (played by George Burcea), and Uncle Fester (played by Fred Armisen), the uncle of Wednesday and brother of Gomez.

In a somewhat surprising twist, the school’s botony teacher, Marilyn Thornhill, is revealed as a villain, after Wednesday suspects her. This is unique because Christina Ricci, who played Wednesday in The Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993), plays as the character of Marilyn. In that way, Ricci’s performance in Wednesday could be a callback to her previous portrayal.

Apart from non-existent LGBTQ representation in Wednesday, despite some arguable same-sex romantic vibes and promotion, and undertones negative toward Black people, there are are other grounds to criticize the series, including the use of oft-known tropes, caricatures, and archetypes. At times, the series falls into formulaic mystery and teenage romance. An improved show would have expanded representation, perhaps even with Wednesday as asexual, bisexual, or lesbian, or another protagonist.

Despite this, Ortega’s performance gives the show its charm, especially with her deadpan humor. She makes the show you want to watch until the end, following her from abandoned houses to hidden libraries as she tries to figure out who the monster is, and why it is targeting specific people. Ultimately, without Ortega at the helm, the show would fall apart.

More specifically, while the other actors in the series are talented and skilled, their performances pale in comparison to Ortega. None of them measure up to her, not even Thing. As such, the other performers are underused, or even worse, miscast. This could have been remedied of the series had busted apart genres, rather than complying to them. Perhaps it could have been set in a college environment, rather than a boarding school which almost seems akin to Hogwarts in more ways than one.

The next season of the series has been hinted, but has not been confirmed. Apart from any possible LGBTQ storylines, it would be good to see more world-building outside the town of Jericho and into the wider world. Otherwise the show would feel like High Guardian Spice or Little Witch Academia, in that it would be set in a magical school. While neither series is bad, if Wednesday followed the same path, the show could become too stale and uninteresting.

Furthermore, the series would be weakened if it continues to emphasize heterosexual teenage romance, especially involving Wednesday, or Enid. Such as focus could result in the show becoming like Twilight, and become an unfortunate detriment to the series as a whole.

Despite my criticisms, I tentatively recommend the series, mainly due to Ortega’s acting performance, the role of Thing, and the macabre and horror vibes from the show. I hope the show improves in the future.

Wednesday can be watched on Netflix.

Review box, which says: Acting: 4 stars; Writing: 3 stars; Direction: 3 stars; total of 3.3 stars

© 2022-2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

Bang, Bang, Pop!: Reviewing Girls With Guns Anime

Created in Microsoft Paint.

In recent years, there have been even more anime featuring girls with guns, expanding the genre. I decided to examine this genre and offer my thoughts.

Continue reading “Bang, Bang, Pop!: Reviewing Girls With Guns Anime”

Ashly Burch’s Contribution to LGBTQ+ Representation

Four of Ashly Burch’s roles, all of which are canon LGBTQ characters

Recently, Ashly Burch, a well-recognized voice actress, singer, and writer, came out as pan and queer. Taking into account this development, I decided to examine some of her past roles and offer my thoughts on her contributions.

Continue reading “Ashly Burch’s Contribution to LGBTQ+ Representation”

“Craig of the Creek”: An Exciting Adventure for All Ages

Craig of the Creek follows Craig and his two friends, Kelsey and JP, who explore the creek near the fictional suburban town of Herkelton, Maryland. They face family conflict, snobs, witches, and other challenges along the way.

Continue reading ““Craig of the Creek”: An Exciting Adventure for All Ages”

The Demon Girl Next Door Review

On July 1st, this supernatural slice-of-life comedy anime directed by Hiroaki Sakurai came to an end. This series, which recently concluded, is based on an ongoing six volume manga series by Izumo Itō of the same name.

Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the twelfth article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on July 18, 2022. This article was originally supposed to be published on The Geekiary, but they rejected it, saying it was too similar to my previous review.

The Demon Girl Next Door tells the story of a demon girl, and her two magical girl companions, as they learn more about themselves and face unexpected challenges.

The last six episodes of this anime continue with the same levity as the first nineteen episodes, with continued comedic moments, especially when it comes to the relations between Shamiko (Konomi Kohara), also known as Yuko Yoshida, and two magical girls.

The latter have their own internal problems. Mikan Hinatsuki (Tomoyo Takayanagi) has a curse that causes others to experience calamities when she gets flustered. Momo Chiyoda (Akari Kitō) is on the precipice between the powers of light and dark.

Although Shamiko is similar to the protagonist of The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!, Jahy, in that she lives in a run-down apartment, she isn’t alone in this. Mikan and Momo move in next door, and they all live in the same apartment complex. None of them are well-off.

Shamiko also gains a support network, of sorts, apart from help the magical girls give her. She has school friends like Anri Sata (Sayaka Senbongi) and Sion Ogura (Ayaka Suwa). The latter is a lover of the occult. She is able to conjure up recipes to help Momo, especially to stop her from slipping to the dark side. Notes left behind by Sakura Chiyoda (Hisako Kanemoto), the elder adopted sister of Momo, and magical girl, who gave her energy to keep Shamiko alive, assist her in this endeavor.

In another similarity with Jahy, Shamiko works in a part time job. Unlike that series, in The Demon Girl Next Door the bar is staffed by two magical beings: a demon tapir named Shirosawa, and a Hula jing fox named Lico.

As it turns out, Shirosawa (Takashi Matsuyama), who runs the coffee shop. He even created the mascot of the shopping district when the cat form of Sakura inspired him. As for Lico (Ayasa Itō), she is a waitress at the shop and she often uses magical leaves to bewitch people who eat the food that she makes. This includes, at one point, Shamiko.


Similar to other series in Western animation, like Amphibia, The Owl HouseSteven Universe, gen:LOCK, and Inside Job, memories, manipulation, and mindscapes are an important part of this series.

Part of this is shown in the fact that Lilith (Minami Takahashi), an ancestor of Shamiko, can appear in the dreams of Shamiko. She can even take over Shamiko’s body if a switch is flipped on her statue.

Lilith often guides Shamiko and Momo, especially when they enter mindscapes. However, she can only be connected to such mindscapes for a short period of time, and her connection can get fuzzy at times.

Then, there’s times when Shirosawa has psychedelic hallucinations caused by eating Lico’s food. The same is the case for Shamiko.

In one episode, Shamiko and Ryo go into Lilith’s dreamspace, discovering she has a lot of manifestations of her loneliness there. Ultimately, she ends up defeating them all by changing her magic rod into stuff from video games she likes.

The final episodes of the series focus on Momo and Shamiko going into the heart of Mikan, with help from Lilith. They vow to tell the protective demon inside Mikan, Ugullu (Fairouz Ai) to calm down and end her curse once and for all. They are able to successfully negotiate with Ugullu and get her to realize the damage she is causing.

In a nice end to the series, Mikan’s school friends help her out, by coming late one night to summon Ugullu into a new body, and a dish made at the cafe Shamiko works at. Ugullu comes into a new form and Mikan accepts her as part of her family.

In a post-credit scene, Ugullu clear has found her place, coming to terms with her new identity outside of Mikan, no longer tasked with defending Mikan from evil.

Like any other magical girl, or magical boy, series, magical transformations are a big part of the series. Similar to the aforementioned The Great Jahy, the magical girls and the demons can both transform. Shamiko can transform into the “crisis management form” which gives her some additional powers. In contrast, Momo and Mikan have their own specific magical girl forms.

At other points, Shamiko’s sister Ryoko “Ryo” Yoshida (Hitomi Ōwada) helps create weapons with her magic rod. She realizes that Shamiko’s subconscious is holding her back and helps her get over her mental hurdles. This is in-keeping with the series playing off many common elements of magical girls in anime and manga.

Unlike Mikan, Momo has a dark form which is known as “Darkness Peach”. She occasionally transforms into this form when she is teetering on the edge of dark and light. At one point, she struggles to keep the two separated, but Shamiko helps her, as does Sion.

At another point, Shamiko tries to develop a special attack and inherits a wand from her father which can transform into anything she wants. She is helped in this task by Shamiko, and in coming up with a super special move. Both seem to have some feelings for each other.

There is also talk in the series as to how magical girls are ordinary girls who make a pact with the light clan, with demons getting a token for
each magical girl they defeat. All the while, Shamiko often utters her line “don’t think this means you’ve won”. In a funny reference to this line, Momo says it at one point, almost becoming an in-joke of sorts.

Even worse is the fact that Momo’s “Darkness Peach” form can break anything she touches. It turns out that when she is happy and content, the balance between the dark and light sides can come to a balance. She even goes to a hot healing spring said to be of therapeutic value, but it turns out to be a healing waterfall. What she finds there is turned into an elixir by Sion, which ends up helping her later on.

Related to this are the magic barriers put on doors, either with magic by Momo, Mikan, or Shamiko. Hilariously, these barriers are just weak pieces of paper, but apparently have all sorts of magical power.

In the final scene of the series, Ugullu declares that Shamiko is the boss of Momo, who is overjoyed. It ends with Momo teasing Shamiko, as they both walk off into the distance.

Since The Demon Girl Next Door is based on a manga parody series, it is no surprise that the series doesn’t really take itself too seriously. The characters are never in series danger. Instead there are occasional breaks in the fourth wall. There’s even a hilarious shirt worn by Lilith on multiple occasions which says “my blood sugar level is dangerous”.

At other points there are faulty recaps which don’t make sense and fun interplay between Momo and Shamiko. This involves Momo trying to motivate Shamiko to do homework and the fact that Momo wants to see a baby tiger at the zoo.

Also comedic is Momo’s reaction when she drinks disgusting potions from Sion. At others, the characters are saying that they don’t have many lines of dialogue or when Lilith tries to send a picture of herself into the camera but it doesn’t work.

Its also funny how Mikan, who lives alone, is afraid of cockroaches even though she is an all-powerful magical girl. Shamiko helps her, even assisting in cleaning up her trash. It is a bit amazing that Shamiko, who has only known Momo for a few months, is able to help Mikan more than Momo, who has been a friend of Mikan for 10 years.

In some ways, Mikan is socially awkward. In the show’s next to last episode, she worries about her school introduction as a transfer student. It ends up going well, however, with Anri helping her. She ropes in Momo to help with prepare with sports day preparations.

Family is an important theme in The Demon Girl Next Door too. Shamiko has a tight family, with a loving sister, Ryo, and mother, Seiko Yoshida (Sayaka Ohara). She has a smile on her face, no matter how absurd the situation is. In an interesting twist, Joshua (Hideyuki Umezu), the father of Ryo and Shamiko, was sealed in a cardboard box by Sakura, the same box they eat many meals on!

Family is important to Momo too. She deals with the past actions of her sister and tries to figure out why she did what she did. She and Mikan find a chosen family among Shamiko, her family, and many school friends.

While some have argued that the series is a “mid-tier offering” with animators told to not “overtax their assets”, the series has a certain charm to it. This is due to the fact that J.C. Staff, responsible for recently ended The Executioner and Her Way of Life, and series such as Edens Zero, Sweet Blue Flowers, R.O.D.-The TV, Azumanga Daioh, and Revolutionary Girl Utena, animated this series. While the animation of this series does not have the same quality as the aforementioned series, it still fits with the slice-of-life vibe.

The show’s voice actors have voiced characters in series ranging from Bloom Into You to Akebi’s Sailor Uniform. Many of these series, and others, like Adachi and ShimamuraAsteroid in Love, Kageki Shojo!!, have direct and indirect yuri themes.

Others are about socially awkward characters, like Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu and Komi Can’t Communicate. This undoubtedly set the groundwork for their voice acting in this series. The same can be said for those who voiced characters in slice-of-life series like Chronicles of the Going Home Club, Kin-iro Mosaic, Gabriel DropOut, and Let’s Make a Mug Too.

I loved that some of the voice actors in this series voiced characters in Bodacious Space Pirates. The latter is a niche sci-fi adventure anime which has two supporting characters (Lynn Lambretta and Jenny Dolittle) in a romantic relationship.

The series director, Hiroaki Sakurai, is just as talented. He is known for directing comedies like Kodocha, Di Gi Charat, Di Gi Charat Nyo!, and Nanaka 6/17. He also directed a ninja anime, Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl, and a magical girl parody, Majokko Tsukune-chan. This directing experience, and that of other series, undoubtedly had a positive impact on The Demon Girl Next Door.

While the final episode of the series is a fitting season end, there is a possibility for continuation. A third season could be focused on the continued adventures of Mikan, Momo, and Shamiko. Another season would continue to be slice of life, with a continued focus on trying to make the town a place that’s easy for everyone to live in as the narrator says at the end.

Perhaps even Momo and Shamiko could be shown as more than ambiguously together. They could be even closer like the protagonists of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Kobayashi and Tohru. It could be more than “shipping fodder” between them then, with often fanservicey outfits of Momo, Shamiko, and other characters. This series does not have any explicit queer representation, just heavy subtext.

In the end, while The Demon Girl Next Door is not my favorite anime series that I’ve watched this year, it is still a must-see for those interested in magical girls, demons, supernatural themes, and yuri subtext.

The Demon Girl Next Door can be watched on HIDIVE.

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