The scenery was good, though.

The conceit of Manaria Friends is “What if Shingeki no Bahamut, but school slice-of-life with no actions and a little yuri?” Which isn’t the worst pitch I’ve heard. I got through a (short) season of (15-minute) episodes, after all … but using that as a victory condition would be disingenuous, because this post isn’t late just because I’ve been busy. I also had to marathon almost the whole thing in a sitting. It turns out that a good premise and serviceable characters can’t carry the day when the pacing is shite.

I think the idea was to make this a healing anime. Or that’s what it felt like, because the pacing makes a sloth look speedy. It felt like each episode had ten minutes of content to fit in fifteen minutes of runtime, and the stretch was real. That led to a series of small stories padded out with long, slow pans over expressions, scenery, or characters in deep thought. The scenery was killer, don’t get me wrong! I appreciated that. But if that’s all I wanted, I would have read an art compilation, not watched an anime. An anime needs story, man! It needs tension, it needs drama! And the twisted thing is that Manaria Friends had too much drama for its pacing, because that’s what stopped it from being an actual healing anime, and turned it into a slog.

So why did I finish it? Stubbornness, if I’m to be honest. But that doesn’t mean I think it’s irredeemable. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit more when I sped up the playback, which fixed some of the pacing problems at the expense of giving everyone chimpmunk-like voices. (Which was hardly noticeable, since the chibi character already sounded like one anyway.) As far as slice-of-life series go, though, I wonder who it’s really for. It wasn’t relaxing, it wasn’t funny, and the dramas were too small to be compelling at the length and pace they were portrayed. Honestly the best part of it was the yuri subtext between the main characters, but there are better places to get yuri subtext (or outright text). Manaria Friends was a cool idea, and I wish more story types would be housed in fantasy settings even when those fantasy settings aren’t strictly necessary. It just didn’t work particularly well this time.

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  1. I have to say I loved this show. It was my little moment of calm in an otherwise pretty frenetic anime schedule. Clearly one of the best-looking shows this season, and packed with understated tension and emotion too. Maybe you marathoning it wasn’t such a good idea – like Sachertorte, one slice is fantastic but you wouldn’t want to eat the whole thing in one sitting.

    1. Definitely a possibility [on the marathoning]. It just didn’t grab me initially, which is why I had seven episodes remaining when the final one aired. I think slice-of-life is fairly subjective (not as much as comedy, but less than action or drama), so can understand the difference in opinion.

    2. I agree. The pacing wasn’t an issue for me. They just took things at the literal speed of life(slow), plus we always had something on screen to interest us even when the girls were alone, from Grea being moe-blob to Anne being an uncontrollable quirky princess. There was always something about their faces, too, to the point where they might as well have been monologueing with how much came across.

  2. You must be joking. This was the anime of the season. Things went slow on purpose, and it was beautiful because, not in spite, of it.

    Also, anime absolutely does not need drama, tension, or story: just look at any of the slice of life and/or cute girls doing cute things series that have become quite common these days.

    What this anime is is a character piece. We’re exploring the characters of Anne and Grea through observing their daily lives. Sometimes it’s exciting. Sometimes it’s just day-to-day stuff. Sometimes they may be going on a date, or studying for tests. They may be helping Anne overcome her phobia by teaching her to swim, or leisurely working in the school library.

    Throughout all of this we learn more about these girls. We learn what makes them happy, and what makes them sad. We see what motivates them, and what depresses them. We learn their quirks and their habits. We discover that Anne’s face is extremely expressive, while Grea’s feelings are often seen through her tail. We see them live, and we understand and care about them as a result.

    This series was magnificent, and I would gladly watch another 1000 episodes just like these. And clearly I’m not alone: the BD/DVD orders for this series sold out completely, so it was clearly a resounding success.

    1. It’s the #2 anime of the season by sales, Kemurikusa is the #1 show. I freaking love how these random shows are demolishing everything these past few seasons. I doubt anyone saw Zombieland Saga being the #1 show the previous season either.

  3. @Stilts: Marathoning almost the whole thing in a sitting was exactly the wrong way to watch this anime, so no wonder you felt bothered. I’m not sure I’d have been able to fully enjoy it that way, either, but in small doses it was a hihly pleasant experience. In fact, I enjoyed it a lot more than either of the “proper” Shingeki no Bahamut series with their generic fantasy action. This one had a real feel to it and I could actually care about the two main characters.

    @Wanderer: couldn’t agree more!


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