Gregory Horror Show
88 episodes (3 minutes)
The Gregory Horror Show is the brainchild of Noami Iwata and was developed around the same time and with the same visual style as his more famous work Pecola. That alone was enough to give me nostalgic vibes, but this franchise of TV shorts failed to deliver on its strong legacy.
The ideas are very good. It chronicles the stories of various individuals who arrive at Gregory House, an ominous hotel beyond a graveyard where an elderly mouse welcomes the viewer. The show is largely shot from a first person perspective, so while the horror is tuned towards younger viewers, it does get right up into your face. It soon turns out that the hotel and its occupants are bizarre and seem awfully set at confronting the narrator with his past actions, while also conspiring to trap them in the hotel forever.
I really enjoyed the first season, but the show stumbles by then making every subsequent season basically the same thing. While the narrator changes, each of the 3-and-a-half seasons cycles through the same handful of characters with only minor additions, robbing the show of much-needed surprise and retroactively souring the impact of that great first season. I recommend checking it out for the originality alone, but feel free to call it quits after season 1 and, optionally, The Bloody Karte mini-season.
Nora, Princess, and Stray Cat
12 episodes (3 minutes)
Who the fuck are these characters? Nora, Princess, and Stray Cat opens on a brief bit of narration, after which it immediately jumps straight into anime slice-of-life comedy without ever introducing any of the characters properly. Doesn’t help that there’s so many of them, most of which are just generic anime high schoolers with decently-funny personalities.
The idea behind Nora is cute though. A high schooler has been turned into a cat by a princess from some magical netherrealm and won’t be turned back to normal until he’s kissed by a girl, which causes a bunch of problems for his female classmates now charged with his care. Jokes follow each other up rapidly and, while characterization is thin, I did have a few laughs and enjoyed the brief time I shared with the show. Even its more serious, emotional moments are handled quite well for such a small anime. It’s not my first recommendation for comedy shorts, but it’s a reliable 6/10 all the same.
Working With Voice
2 episodes (30 minutes)
Well this is something else. I thought Working With Voice would be another interesting look into the voice acting business, and… well, I guess it’s still that. It’s just that the the voice acting is done for erotic visual novels.
16-year-old Kanna is pressured by her older sister to help her out with her work as an eroge developer, even though she has never played one and is too anxious to say even a single naughty word. There’s some solid comedy to this setup as Kanna has to click her way through raunchy novels to prep for her work and it does manage to stay within the boundaries of good taste. “Borderline hentai” has rarely been this borderline without venturing too far, though I will say it’s overly creepy how her older sister and other childhood friends turn up in the company and are all a little too eager to see a still-underage girl they watched grow up become part of their business.
If you can put that aside and accept some less-than-stellar visuals, then Working With Voice is a fun and bite-sized bit of semi-erotic anime. The voice-acting aspect is handled with enough depth to be interesting too. I enjoyed it, but I am not proud of that.
Robot Girls Z
3 episodes (30 minutes) + a variety of specials
Talk about niché appeal. Robot Girls Z is a franchise that launched in 2014 as a parody on Nagai-era mecha anime. It takes the tropes of early-70s giant robot series and applies it to a cutesy magical girl-type show about 3 “mecha girls” who are protecting a city from a group of bad guys called The Underground Empire.
It’s an odd mix to say the least and it was still too obscure for my liking despite having seen some of the shows it references. Fortunately, knowledge of these old anime is useful, but not a prerequisite. Even on its own, this is an explosive comedy-action series with many strangely-themed villains and fun recurring characters. Throw in a surprising amount of fan-service and you end up with a very fun show for its short length. Assuming that you’re into the fan-service stuff, that is.
It’s good for what it is, but’s difficult to find, with Crunchyroll only having the original series and Robot Girls Z. The specials and Robot Girls Neo aren’t available anywhere legally as far as I’m aware.
Arcade Gamer Fubuki
4 episodes (30 minutes) + special
I was really hoping this one would be a blast, only for it to turn out to be the most disappointing pick of today’s selection. Arcade Gamer Fubuki is a spiritual sequel to 1982’s Game Center Arashi, telling the story of a girl who is a professional gamer about to participate in a big tournament.
Now I like myself some video games and the idea of having a character participate in a gaming tournament that features anything from Virtua Fighter to ancient Atari games was definitely appealing. However, the show’s comedy is a big miss for me, with its one big joke being that Fubuki becomes an unstoppable gamer when she shows off her magical panties to the crowd. “Gameplay” just becomes one prolonged panty shot while Fubuki hammers away at the controls with low-effort animation loops. It’s just an ugly show in general, with its lowpoint being an astoundingly-lethargic Dance Dance Revolution scene; I have never played DDR myself and still I am confident I could put up a more energetic show on my first try.
The whole thing with Fubuki and her “Passion Panties” is cringeworthy in and of itself, but it’s backed up by a bunch of unfunny running gags and frankly obnoxious side-characters. It’s a pointless OVA series I wouldn’t recommend to anyone at all.
Galaxy Fraulein Yuna
5 episodes (28 minutes)
Savior of the galaxy, local superhero, idol singer, Yuna is all of it and more. While she is a bit of an airhead, this high school student has protected the world from certain doom several times over and she now leads a posse of fangirls looking to aid her in their epic battles.
The show itself is a sci-fi magical girl blend that sees Yuna fighting against mysterious villains looking to destroy her reputation and conquer the galaxy. It is a bit jarring how its story just seems to start without a proper introduction, made even stranger by the absence of some kind of manga that could contextualize the backstory of how Yuna came to be the beloved hero she is today, or who in the world all of her friends and rivals even are. This does allow the show to focus on action-packed storylines instead of world-building or character development, but I was feeling a little lost for most of the first 2 episodes.
Fans of 90s anime may find Galaxy Fraulein Yuna nostalgically charming and it did a better job at keeping my interest than last edition‘s Melty Lancer. Consequently, people who favor newer shows will likely be annoyed by the simplistic, outdated character archetypes and the sub-par dubbing effort.
3 movies (145 minutes total)
Oh man, this is what I make these mini-reviews for. Violence Jack is a trilogy of OVAs chronicling the adventures of Violence Jack, Japan’s very own Mad Max, created years before Mad Max was a thing.
After society collapsed in the wake of an apocalyptic event, lawlessness and violence took hold of Japan. Gangs of crazed criminals terrorize what few decent people remain, raping women and pillaging what scarce few supplies are still available. Enter Jack, an absolute mountain of a man wielding an oversized knife. He has a habit of turning up wherever people suffer and doing his part to set things right. Just so happens that not many people tend to survive his kind of justice.
This is a classic Go Nagai story, presenting a grim post-apocalyptic world filled with suffering and cruelty. Every movie is guaranteed to contain shocking amounts of bloodshed and rape, particularly in the second one where Jack finds a colony of people stuck underground. The men have given up on ever escaping their tomb and want to spend their final days in lustful ecstasy, so Jack allies himself with the women of the community and offers them his protection while they try to finally escape.
While it’s an amazing series if you’re into violent anime or similar post-apocalyptic stories (Fist of the North Star, for example), I do have to admit that the first movie, Slum King, is kind of shit. Its only 40 minutes long and very cheaply animated, and since each OVA is a disconnected story, you can safely skip it and just watch the fantastic Evil Town and Hell’s Wind.
801 T.T.S. Airbats
7 episodes (30 minutes)
Women can’t fly jets, that’s silly. At least, that’s the belief of Japan’s self-defense force. The 801 T.T.S. squadron is exclusively staffed by young women, but they have been denied proper assignments and only exist to fly for shows and PR. If that wasn’t bad enough already, superior officers constantly conspire to have the unit shut down with constant evaluations and trials, or even outright sabotage.
The story follows newly-recruited mechanic Takuya Isurugi as he cooperates with the female pilots to foil the officers and keep their unit in tact, but he soon discovers that there are problems both in the sky and on the ground. Every pilot of the 801st is a bit of an eccentric problem case, with the most prominent issue being the long-lasting feud between the two ace pilots Miyuki Haneda and Arisa Mitaka. To add fuel to the fire, both these girls then develop romantic feelings for Isurugi and begin competing for his attention.
Contemporary stories about the military are rare in anime and Airbats benefits from its interesting characters and stylish presentation. It’s a well-balanced show that mixes comedy, action, character development, and romance in such a way that each episode is diverse and entertaining. The English dub does have some horrible performances in it and Isurugi can be a childish protagonist at times, so consider going with the Japanese audio if that’s an option for you.
7 episodes (~28 minutes)
Makoto and Yura were recently introduced to each other as part of a marriage arrangement, after both of them ended up making it to the tail end of their youth with zero romantic experience. Now a couple and set to move in with each other, their inexperience shows as neither of them is certain on how this “sex” thing is supposed to work.
Futari Ecchi is an ecchi romcom with pretensions towards hentai. The storyline is all about the newlyweds discovering how to make love with each other, usually by calling in the help of friends who are willing to help the two virgins figure things out. In that sense, it’s honestly kind-of wholesome and I did take a liking to the main duo, as well as the fun side-characters like Makoto’s older cousin who is fed up with a lifetime of being single.
The series ran for 4 episodes in the early 2000s and made a surprise return in 2014 with an additional 3 episodes made by a wholly different staff. It’s not a remake, nor a sequel; more of a retelling that covers some of the same ground and is, regrettably, not as interesting because of that. It skips a lot of the awkwardness that makes the romance so interesting and the visuals are a step down. I recommend the original series for any wholesome hentai/ecchi fans out there, but feel free to skip the 2014 version unless you really care about this story. There is also the manga that has been ongoing since 1996 for those who prefer to read their sexy stories.
4 episodes (30 minutes)
Is there a sub-genre for post-apocalyptic fantasy? I am not sure, but Ruin Explorers is basically that. After the great magical kingdoms of the past destroyed one another and all the great cities were lost, civilization returned to a smaller, more humble way of living. However, the ruins of old still litter the land, and adventurous “Ruin Explorers” make a living with delving into these dangerous places to pilfer their riches and magical relics.
The anime follows the female duo Ihrie and Fam, a cursed warrior and a shaman from a tribe of cat-like people respectively, who are on the hunt for an item called “The Ultimate Power” said to reside within the domain of a long-dead king. After being conned into buying a map by a double-crossing merchant, Ihrie and Fam become involved in a race for the ultimate power between them, the treacherous merchant, and another band of ruin explorers. A race filled with vicious monsters, perilous dungeons, magnificent sorceries, and encounters both friendly and… not friendly.
It’s a damn cool fantasy show and I was especially fond of the atmospheric style of the world. Every place is full of character and you constantly notice how everything was built on the ashes of destroyed kingdoms, such as this cool temple in episode 2 that’s engulfed in thick roots covered in massive thorns. Fam and Ihrie are great characters to explore this world through and, while I would like to have seen more, the 2-hour runtime is enough to tell a meaningful story and it allows Ruin Explorers to conclude at its peak.
If you have a love for fantasy, particularly worlds like those seen in Log Horizon, then this little-known series from the mid-90s is a must to revisit.
A Wolf in Women’s Clothing
12 episodes (5 minutes)
Finding love can be awkward and difficult for those without the experience or self-confidence for it. Shizuka Kominami experiences this firsthand when her friends persuade her into attending a mixer and she winds up hiding in the toilet until a beautiful woman called Ryou comes to her aid. Ryou and Shizuka go to a local bar for some drinks and decide on a sleepover, where Ryou reveals she was a cross-dresser all along and forces himself on Shizuka.
Despite his initial lies, Shizuka decides to give Ryou a second chance and continues to hang out with him. Their strange romance blossoms and they begin dating, which helps Shizuka overcome her anxieties and allows us to learn more about Ryou’s strange habits.
Putting aside its rubbish animation for anything but the sex scenes, Skirt no Naka wa Kedamono Deshita, has the makings for an actual romance story that is actually held back by it having a sex scene for each brief episode. It means Ryou has to get creepy and rapey in some of the earlier episodes, making it harder to buy into his sweeter moments. Already in episode 1 there is an eerie vibe about him that never goes addressed, which renders the show kinda pointless as an actual romance.
Hentai fans can rejoice, however. The brief length of each episode and the guarantee of sexy times mean there’s never much of a break in “the action”. You don’t have to skip around to find what you actually signed up for and it’s actually worthwhile to follow the brief story bits leading into it for a few laughs and better context.