Astra Lost in Space Episode #03 Review

Synopsis: On a trip to another planet for a school sanctioned camp experience, a group of nine kids suddenly finds themselves transported 5,000 light years away with little hope of survival. Their only chance of making it back home lies in an abandoned ship known as the Astra, which was found floating near where they warped. Now this group of strangers will have to come together, and make a journey across several planets in order to safely make it back home.

The Review

After two jam packed episodes in a row, Astra takes a bit of a breather this week in order to put the spotlight on last week’s big reveal. With the threat of a potential traitor among the group, it’s hard to tell who exactly can be trusted, and the show is already making some strides to point us at a prime suspect. It goes without saying that this all makes for some of the most exciting stakes the series has had to offer thus far, and while the episode is a little light on character development compared to the first two, there’s still plenty going on here to keep things entertaining.

With the knowledge that the gang has a traitor in their midst, Kanata begins observing everyone in order to come up with some potential suspects. Unfortunately everyone seems suspicious in one way or another, and things only get made worse when Funi throws another wrench into the mystery: Right before she was brought adopted into Quitterie’s family, she overheard a conversation suggesting that everyone being together on this ship was no mere coincidence and that they were all supposed to be eliminated. This also means that since the traitor’s survival was never guaranteed, they might have been prepared to die with the others from the very beginning, and may not hesitate to try killing everyone again.

With such a big bombshell dropped on the crew, Kanata is left with no choice but to tell the rest of the group about the possibility of a traitor existing, and it comes as no surprise that everyone is quick to freak out and start throwing out accusations. While Aries manages manages to break some of the tension between the group for the time being, they quickly find themselves in a new crisis when the ship’s power gets disrupted and they end up in danger of crashing into a nearby planet. With some quick thinking, the kids manage to come together to restore the power, but while they’ve avoided any immediate danger for the moment, it seems like we might have already discovered the traitor’s identity.

As you can probably tell by the heavy recapping here, this episode was mostly just a whole lot of plot, which sadly doesn’t leave me with a whole ton to talk about aside from those details. The twists regarding the group being caught up in some kind of assassination plot, and the traitor also facing the same risks as them are both pretty effective at raising the stakes for the rest of the gang’s journey, but the episode’s a little lacking in any kind of immediate payoff on that end, so it seems like we’ll be waiting a good while to get those mysteries solved. In the meantime, while this episode is light on character drama compared to what the first two episodes offered, there’s still some pretty interesting stuff here concerning our two outcasts of the group, Yunhua and Ulgar.

While Yunhua hasn’t really ventured too far out her “shy clumsy girl” archetype, said clumsiness ends up putting her in the most amount of danger during the crew’s scramble to avoid crashing the ship, and the brief flashback we get of an adult figure in her life mentioning how useless she is suggests there might be a story behind her reserved behavior. Of course the bigger standout here is probably our resident emo-boy Ulgar, who has so far spent the entire trip being as callous to everyone as possible, but reveals a couple of “interesting” things about himself in this episode. Firstly we learn that his father is the vice-principal of the school everyone attends, and that the two of them don’t have the best relationship, making his surprise at the thought of getting assassinated a little muted compared to everyone else’s. Secondly we learn that he’s pretty handy with a gun, and while guns seem to have been outlawed in this show’s not-so-distant future, he’s been secretly carrying one with him this whole time. Combine those facts together, and it shoots him right up to the top of the list in the “spot the traitor” game. Of course since I’ve read the manga I already know exactly who said traitor is, but in the meantime I’ll leave it to your imaginations as to whether or not he’s the one.

Overall, I’d say Astra’s third episode was another solid one for the show. While there’s still plenty of mysteries left to be solved here, everything here still moves quickly enough to keep the episode fun in spite of not getting any immediate answers. Knowing most of the big twists here already made this episode a little weaker for me compared to the first two by default, but on the bright side, there were a few bits of foreshadowing here that stood out to me, and knowing what lies ahead for this series, there should be some pretty solid payoff when the answers finally start coming. For now though, I’m glad this show is still going pretty strong, and even with this episode’s bigger focus on mystery over drama, it’s still holding up as one of the summer season’s biggest standouts.

Rating: 8.2/10

Astra Lost in Space Episode #02 Review

Synopsis: On a trip to another planet for a school sanctioned camp experience, a group of nine kids suddenly finds themselves transported 5,000 light years away with little hope of survival. Their only chance of making it back home lies in an abandoned ship known as the Astra, which was found floating near where they warped. Now this group of strangers will have to come together, and make a journey across several planets in order to safely make it back home.

The Review

After a knockout of a premiere last week, Astra continues chugging right along with it’s journey through space as the gang arrives at their first stop, Planet Vilvarus. There’s a lot to see and do here, both for them, and the show in general, as this episode has a lot going on between the kids exploring the planet and the show’s general character drama. It’s quite a lot for the show to juggle this early into its run, and I was more than a little concerned as to how this would all be paced considering this show has a fair amount of material to burn through if it it hopes to cover the whole manga. Once again though, this adaption’s exceeded my expectations in terms of presentation, and it manages to deliver on another fine entry that also helps to add some extra stakes to this story.

After landing on the planet, Kanata decides to split everyone into groups in order to search for food and water. While everyone else is mostly on board with Kanata taking charge as the leader, Quitterie still remains skeptical about if he’s up to the task. This only gets made worse when Charce’s science know-how proves more reliable than Kanata’s survival tips, and Quitterie’s constant insults cause Kanata to run off in an attempt to prove himself. We soon learn that Quitterie’s bad attitude mostly stems from her upbringing as she never had a father, and her mother largely ignored her growing up, leading to her getting spoiled and not knowing how to interact with other people. It’s especially bad in the case of dealing with her adopted sister Funi, as Quitterie has no idea how to act like an older sister, and resents that her mother took responsibility for another child when she barely made time for her.

While this isn’t exactly the most dramatic backstory out there, it works pretty well for giving us an idea of why Quitterie isn’t exactly the friendliest person in the group, and I appreciate that the overall execution on it feels thoughtful and well-directed in spite of how simple the material is on the surface. However even though Quitterie claims she doesn’t really know how to love anyone else, she’s clearly more concerned about others than she lets on, and her problem seems to be less a lack of understanding love, and more not really knowing how to express it. Something that’s made even more apparent when Funi finds herself in danger and Quitterie is among the first to rush to her rescue. After seeing her sister in trouble, and that Funi still likes her in spite of her general attitude, Quitterie admits that she’s not good at being honest about her feelings and wants to make an effort to improve on it. This is a surprisingly efficient character arc for the span of single episode, and while all of it could have easily felt rushed or unearned, the show manages to make all of this come out pretty naturally and it’s a testament both to how strong the material is and how well the anime’s been handling it thus far.

Even more impressive is that while Quitterie’s stuff is the biggest focus of this episode, it’s far from the only highlight. When Kanata also attempts to rescue Funi, the others take note of how athletic he is and we learn that he used to be a track and field star on the behalf of his father who constantly pushed him to the point of abuse. Kanata changed when met the teacher that got him into space travel, and after failing to save him during the accident at camp, Kanata vowed to live for the dream of someday going on his own space exploration, and stopped living for his father’s. Seeing Kanata and Quitterie’s stories back to back provides a pretty good demonstration of the effects bad parenting can have on the children subjected to them, and since that’s a theme that’s only going to become more prevalent going forward, I’m glad that the anime seems to understand it’s importance.

I’m also glad that even in the midst of all this, the show still finds time to have the kids explore their new environment a bit, and while there’s a little less detail in some of the science behind how everything on this planet thrives compared to manga, it still feels pretty interesting, and it also helps in letting us get to know a little more about the other characters, even when they aren’t exactly the focus of the episode. It’s a bit of a relief since this particular element of the series seemed like it’d be the most expendable in the show’s bid to cover the entire story, and I’m glad it seems like the anime staff is making a clear attempt to balance those elements in between all the character drama. Said story also gets a pretty major shakeup in the last few minutes, as while the group is slowly starting to come together as friends, it seems like one of them is sabotaging their little expedition, and might be behind the mysterious black orb that transported them all in the first place.

As you can clearly see by how much I wrote here, this episode had quite a bit to run through, and while it easily could have felt rushed in the character drama department, it all managed to come together really well. Both Quitterie and Kanata’s backstories feel strong in spite of how simple they are, and the show manages to combine that with the kids learning how to survive the dangers of the planet to make for an episode that was equal parts exciting and heartwarming. I was a little worried the rest of this adaption might not be able to hold up to the premiere, but if this episode’s any indication, it’s still in extremely good shape, and I’m eager to see how it tackles what’s coming next.

Rating: 8.5/10

Available on Funimation

First Impressions- Summer 2019 Anime (Part 2)

We’re onto week two of the summer season anime premieres and while it’s been off to a surprisingly strong start so far, there’s still plenty of stuff left to burn through, meaning things could get a whole lot better or having me wish for the sweet release of death. For now I’m still pretty optimistic, but let’s see what else the summer has to offer.

Ratings Scale

Bad: Stay away far away from this one.  Not worth watching

Decent: Has some okay elements to it. Might be worth giving a  couple of episodes to see how it goes

Good: Fairly solid show. Should be worth keeping up with for now

Great: Really good show. Definitely worth seeing if you get the chance

Excellent: Really outstanding show. Absolutely worth following .

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Hensuki: Are you willing to fall in love with a pervert, as long a she’s a cutie?

Hensuki: Are you willing to fall in love with a pervert, as long as she’s a cutie?

Synopsis: Once upon a time, Cinderella left her panties in a boy’s locker… wait, what?! Keiki Kiryu receives a mysterious love letter, that has no name, but includes a pair of white undies. Curious to find this panty-leaving-Cinderella, his investigation leads him to discover that every candidate is… a total pervert! Surrounded by perversion he still has one important question to answer: who’s the perfect fit?

First Impressions: And we’re kicking off our second week of summer anime premieres with yet another fanservice show and one that going by the overly long title is based off a light novel, which is a combination that rarely works well for me. The basic summary here is that MC-kun is a “nice guy” who really wants a girlfriend and also happens to be surrounded by four pretty girls (one of which includes his younger sister, and I’ll at least give this show credit for shuffling her off to the side as fast as possible) who are all clearly into him, but he’s too trapped in his headspace to realize it. Things only get more complicated when one of them seemingly leaves him a love letter along with their…panties and he spends the episode trying to figure out which one is in love with him (again, the answer is all of them) and discovers one of them is closet pervert. It’s uh…something I guess and while a lot of this is pretty par the course for a typical harem set-up, something about the way MC-kun’s plight here was framed as “I’m nice therefore girls should love me” felt like a transparent incel fantasy. Granted that could describe a lot of harem shows if you read between the lines hard enough, but being this blatant about it kind of irked me, and even as someone who’s more than willing to indulge in some trashy fanservice from time to time, this feels like it might be trying to have its cake and eat it too. I guess if I had any real positives here, it would be the visual direction, and specifically how a lot of the early incidental shots in the episode convey a surprising amount of horny energy without an actual cheesecake on display, and it’s something that surprisingly few fanservice shows have really attempted. Aside from that though, this one lost me pretty fast, and while I might have been more inclined to give it a pass if it were a more basic version of the usual harem formula, I found MC-kun’s attempts to pursue his harem even more insufferable than the usual reverse scenario, and it really turned me off. Hard pass.

Rating: Bad

Kochoki

Kochoki

Synopsis: The fearsome warlord, the demonic king—Oda Nobunaga! Before he was trying to rule over Japan, he was a teenager who began his path to greatness with his younger brother and faithful followers. Through succession, betrayal, battles, and bonds between one another, the struggles these boys face promise a future where they can blossom into powerful men.

First Impressions: It’s been a good while since the last one (or at least the last one I actually watched) but it’s time for yet another obligatory Oda Nobunaga show. If you’re new to this scene and you don’t know who that is, Oda Nobunaga was a famous Japanese warlord, and an extremely prominent historical figure in Japan. So much so in fact that there’s been dozens of anime made about him, including stories where Nobunaga was a girl, stories where Nobunaga possessed a girl, and even one where Nobunaga piloted a giant robot. Given that trend, I came into this expecting some kind of crazy gimmick to distinguish it from the other Oda Nobunaga shows, so imagine my surprise when this one seems to be about well…the actual history of Oda Nobunaga! Specifically it seems like this might be about his younger years, before he became a famous warlord, and this premiere centers around a story from his early childhood where befriended a group of young thieves and got swept up in a minor political struggle for being associated with them. Admittedly I was kind of bored with the first few minutes of this, but by the end, I actually found myself a little interested in where this was all going, and the conflict here didn’t end quite the way I expected to. While it did kind of win me over a little though, going by the fact that the end of the episode jumps a few years to when Nobunaga was a teen it’s hard to say how much it’ll commit to covering those early years, and my interest will fade pretty fast if it does end up just going straight to the warlord stuff since that’s an area that’s been covered dozens of times by other shows. In the meantime, even though this premiere didn’t quite blow me away, it held my attention a bit more than I was expecting it to, so if nothing else I’m pretty willing to give it another episode. I didn’t think I’d be interested in learning anything new about Oda Nobunaga at this stage, but if this show can manage to avoid staying out of familiar territory, it might be a worthwhile history lesson.

Rating: Good

Cop Craft

Cop Craft

Synopsis: 15 years ago, a hyper-dimensional rift appeared above the Pacific Ocean linking Earth with a magical world. San-Teresa City became a melting pot of cultures and species, but despite peace on the surface, there’s always an underbelly. That’s where Detective Kei Matoba and knight Tirana come in—partners with different perceptions of life and law, working together to keep the city safe.

First Impressions: While I wouldn’t quite say this was a highly anticipated show for me, I was at least curious about it since it seemed like it could be my exact kind of thing. Buddy cop shows are usually a pretty fun time for me, and the idea of integrating that with high fantasy shenanigans sounded really cool. In execution though, this premiere left me feeling very…mixed to say the least. On the hand I do dig the general aesthetic of the show, and I like how some of the fantasy elements are contrasted against the grittier looking ones of our own world, such as the idea of turning fairies into an ingredient for drugs. On the other hand it also appears that the primary theme of this show is going to center around race relations (specifically between humans and the denizens of the fantasy world) and it…doesn’t seem particularly well equipped to handle that particular subject. While I appreciate the show highlighting some of Kei’s obvious racism regarding Tirana, and it seems pretty obvious he’ll broaden his views a bit the show progresses, it also features a scene where a black guy also acts racist towards her which is a bit, uh…problematic to say the least. It doesn’t help that this scene is immediately followed with the revelation that this dude’s boss is another black guy who’s meant to come off as comically shady and while I probably wouldn’t think much of this one on it’s own, combined with the first thing, it’s setting off potential warning signs for me, especially given that Japan doesn’t really have the best track record with depicting black people.

I will be fair in saying that I don’t think this show is gonna turn out to be ultra-racist or anything since Kei later tells Tirana not to view things in black and white despite the black guy being an obvious criminal, but it does make me feel like the original author didn’t do a ton of research on that end, which makes it’s attempts at directly addressing racism feel a little misguided if not horribly intentioned. I guess on the bright side of things, this show looks pretty solid, and while it’s not quite a stand-out production, everything here is decently animated, and show has a good visual aesthetic going for it with some pretty good character designs, and nice looking fantasy backdrops. Still, I was really hoping to like this one, so walking away from it such mixed feelings is more than a little disappointing. I think I might give this another episode and see if shows any promise of balancing things out a bit in regards to how it tackles race, but for now, I’m really on the fence with this, and I can’t quite bring myself to give it a solid recommendation.

Rating: Decent

Arifureta: From Commonplace to the World’s Strongest

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World's Strongest

Synopsis: Hajime Nagumo and his high school class are suddenly summoned to a fantastical land as heroes. But while most of his classmates have powerful stats and abilities, Hajime does not. Underappreciated and unprepared, he tumbles into the depths of a monster-infested dungeon where voracity and sacrifice are his only options. To thrive in this savage world, he’ll have no choice but to welcome the abyss.

First Impressions: It’s isekai time again, but this one’s on the “dark and edgy” side of things which made this premiere extra “fun” for me. The gimmick here is that MC-kun and a group of his classmates are transported to a fantasy world (or at least that’s the implication since this episode doesn’t go into that backstory) and while they’re all busy exploring a labyrinth, MC-kun is betrayed and left for dead, causing him to turn into a vengeful edgelord bent on taking down anyone and anything in his way. If this sounds pretty familiar to you, this tone has quite a bit in common with winter’s Rising of the Shield Hero, and going by the amount of attention my opinions on that show’s premiere got me, I’m pretty sure I don’t need to tell you that I wasn’t exactly a fan of this one (though I guess in fairness at least the first episode of this one wasn’t bogged down by Shield Hero’s…other problems). The whole “become an instant badass and take vengeance on everyone who mocked you” thing is a specific flavor of nerd fantasy that feels pretty toxic, and having come closer towards being this kind of person than I’d care to admit means I have even less patience for this show’s nonsense, and getting through this episode was a slog. It doesn’t help that even putting aside all of that, this show still suffers from the usual isekai woes concerning sub-standard world building, and some utterly horrendous looking CG monsters that feel like they’d be right at home in Berserk 2016. I guess if you were a fan of Shield Hero, or you’re just a big isekai fan, you might get something out of this, but I’m neither of those things, and this came off as more than little vile to me, so it’s safe to say I’m not touching any more of this with a ten-foot pole.

Rating: Bad

Isekai Cheat Magician

Isekai Cheat Magician

First Impressions: It’s time for isekai #3 of the season and given that the first two were both pretty awful in their own ways, I can’t say I had any particularly high hopes. Imagine my surprise then, that I actually kinda this one. That’s not to say this premiere was particularly “good” as this show seems to be operating on a partial sense of self-awareness that makes it feel a bit too smug for it’s own good, while not actually being unique enough to warrant that, but it does have a couple of things going for it. For one thing, instead of the usual set up with MC-kun being transported to a fantasy world alone to become it’s greatest savior, this time he’s transported alongside his childhood friend Rin, and while she’s not big on personality either, having the two of them bounce off each other helped in making Taichi feel a little less bland than he would have otherwise. It’s also kinda neat for this kind of power fantasy to have a girl as one of the actual leads, and while I don’t exactly have high hopes they’ll do anything interesting with her, it is unique if nothing else.

The other big thing this show has going for it is that it seems like there’s a chance this might be an actual fantasy world and not an MMORPG with a coat of paint, which could do a lot in making the show’s worldbuilding feel like less of a slog, and it helps that as of the end of the premiere, while Taichi and Rin are clearly destined to become overpowered, they aren’t quite there yet, and this show isn’t instantly jumping into being an all-out power fantasy. Admittedly I’m placing a lot of my optimism here on hopes that are likely to be dashed pretty quickly, but my expectations for isekai have been lowered so much, that I’m up for anything that seems like it’s at least trying to aim for something more than blatant pandering and this might just fill that void. Time will tell if it disappoints, but for now I’m willing to go along with this a little longer.

Rating: Decent

The Demon Girl Next Door

The Demon Girl Next Door

Synopsis: Yuko Yoshida is just an ordinary schoolgirl — until one day her dormant, devilish powers are unleashed by the demon Lilith! Yuko transforms into Shadow Mistress Yuko, a supernatural powerhouse with horns and a devil tail. Now she must defeat another mystical being named Momo Chiyoda, the shrine maiden of the Light Clan… who just so happens to go to Yuko’s school! But being a demonic magical girl isn’t as easy as it looks, and Yuko has a whole lot to learn before she’s ready to fulfill her destiny and take on the Clan of Light.

First Impressions: I walked into this one blind, and while I didn’t have any big expectations one way or the other, I found it to be a bit more enjoyable than I was expecting. Comedies parodying magical girls or demon lords have gradually become a bit more common over the years, but what made this one kinda click for me, was how deadpan a lot of the jokes were. Rather than flipping out over her transformation and lineage, Yuko’s reaction to finding out she’s descended from a demon clan, is to mostly find the whole thing to be a giant drag. It certainly doesn’t help that she doesn’t yet have any powers to go alongside the horn and tail, and I especially appreciated the gag that her horns only really serve to weigh down her head and disrupt her equilibrium. I also liked that her magical girl “nemesis” Momo carries an even bigger level of tired energy, and very clearly doesn’t want to deal with any of this, but doesn’t perceive Yuko to be anything resembling an actual threat, so her reactions to her antics come off as pity more than anything. It made for a pretty fun dynamic, and while I can’t say I burst out laughing at any of it, I definently got a few more good chuckles than I was expecting, and I was more entertained than I thought I’d be by the end of it. Production wise, this doesn’t look too different from your average “cute girl doing cute things” show, and there isn’t a whole ton of visual comedy with the animation, but it worked well enough for what this was going for so I didn’t find it to be too much of a dealbreaker. Can’t say I was expecting to latch on to this one, and it does seem like it could get stale depending on the execution in the coming weeks, but I got enough out of this premiere that I’m willing to gamble with giving it a bit more of my time.

Rating: Good

given

Given

Synopsis: Somehow, the guitar that he used to love to play and the basketball games that he found so fun just lost their appeal… That was until Ritsuka Uenoyama randomly met Mafuyu Sato. Ritsuka had started losing his passion for music in his everyday life, but then he hears Mafuyu sing for the first time. The song resonates with his heart and the distance between them starts to change.

First Impressions: This series is serving as our NotiminA show of the season, and while haven’t been following this one that much, I’m always interested in whatever that block has to offer and this seemed like it could be interesting. This premiere follows a teen named Ritsuka who enjoys music and runs in a band who has an encounter with a mysterious boy named Mafuyu who continually nags him to teach him how to play the guitar. That sentence more or less surmises the whole episode weirdly enough, and while I’ll admit I was slightly less impressed with this than I was hoping I’d be there’s a few things here I’m interested in. For one thing it’s a show about music, and while I’m not exactly the world’s biggest music fan myself, I’ve always found myself drawn to stories about musicians, and it helps that the scene we get with Ritsuka performing in front of Mafuyu is a pretty good jam. This is also apparently supposed to be a more serious boy’s love story, and while Mafuyu hasn’t yet displayed enough personality for me to say there’s a ton of chemistry between him and Ritsuka, who’s a little more interesting, I’m still at least kinda curious how that relationship will develop, and to learn a little more about what exactly Mafuyu’s deal is. On the animation front this show looks pretty solid as would generally be expected from Lerche, and there thankfully aren’t too many animation shortcuts with the guitar playing, though between it and Astra Lost in Space it’s pretty apparent which of those shows are a higher priority for them. While I don’t have as much to say about this as I expected to, this was a fairly solid premiere, and although it hasn’t totally grabbed me yet, there’s enough potential that I’m pretty willing to stick with it for a while

Rating: Good

Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two Multi-Hit Target Attacks?

Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks?

Synopsis: A new kind of momcom roleplaying adventure! What would you do if you got transported into a video game…with your mom?? That’s the dilemma facing high schooler Masato Oosuki, who has been unwittingly thrown into an RPG world with his doting mother close behind as part of a secret government scheme. As an avid gamer, Masato is eager to show off his skills…but that’s hard to do when your mom is an insanely overpowered, dual-wielding, multi-target specialist!

First Impressions: And wrapping up my impressions for this season, we have our final isekai of the season, and the one everyone seemed to be looking forward to the most. The isekai genre has become such a slog that the premise of the main character getting sent to another world with his mother seemed like it could be pretty funny, and especially with the idea that she’s more powerful than he is and can therefore suck all the fun out of his power fantasy. I did have one big point of apprehension that kept me from getting too excited though: the possibility that this would all lead to incest. While mom-fetish stuff isn’t as prevalent a thing with otaku based stuff as little sister-fetish stuff is, those things still exist, and since I’ve had my own awkward encounters with at least a couple of them I was worried this might follow the same route. Fortunately the episode’s final punchline put that fear to bed (for now) since there’s a pretty strong implication that Mamako’s personally putting together and screening every member of Ma-kun’s “harem” which was a both pretty good joke, and also one that presumably wouldn’t happen if incest was the endgoal here.

Anyway with that bit of rambling out of the way I can talk about the rest of the show which was surprisingly a lot of fun. As I said with Isekai Cheat Magician, isekai parodies aren’t exactly a new concept, but almost all of the jokes here were great. From the setting literally being some kind of test beta for an as of yet-named MMO (which ironically serves as a better backdrop for this show’s world than most isekai) to the developers rewarding Ma-kun and Masako with over-powered items right off the bat because they know modern gamers want the best stuff as soon as possible, this show has some excellent meta-humor going on, and if you’re as tired of generic isekai tropes as I am, this looks like it might tear a hole into them pretty well. Of course all of that wouldn’t mean much if the titular mom wasn’t a fun character in her own right, but thankfully she is, and while she’s a little too cutesy moe at times to feel super believable as an adult, almost all of the embarrassing mom jokes surrounding her land where they need to, and a lot of her interactions with Ma-kun help in making him feel a little less bland than most isekai heroes, even if he’s a bit overly snarky. Overall I had a lot of fun with this one, and while I’m still a little cautious this might pull the incest card at some point, it seems pretty safe for the moment, and it’s got plenty of laughs to offer. If you’re looking for a good comedy this season, this seems like a solid recommendation

Rating: Great


And that’s it for my summer impressions this time around. While there were a few stinkers here and there, I have to say that on the whole this season looks really promising, and there’s a lot more interesting stuff than what I’m typical used to for this time of year. Of course there’s always the chance than more than a few of these shows will implode, but it seems like there’s a pretty good amount of variety here, and odds are pretty good everyone will have at least one thing they’re happy with by the time we hit fall. Until next time, stay animated.

<- Summer 2019 Anime Impressions (Part 1)

Astra Lost In Space Episode #01 Review

Synopsis: On a trip to another planet for a school sanctioned camp experience, a group of nine kids suddenly finds themselves transported 5,000 light years away with little hope of survival. Their only chance of making it back home lies in an abandoned ship known as the Astra, which was found floating near where they warped. Now this group of strangers will have to come together, and make a journey across several planets in order to safely make it back home.

The Review

So I was debating whether or not to get back into doing episode reviews after nearly driving myself mad with The Promised Neverland over the course of the winter season, but I really enjoy writing, and this seemed like it’d be a simple enough thing to cover without going totally overboard, so here I am I guess. Like the aforementioned Neverland, this was another adaption I was really looking forward to this year. I was a pretty big fan of the author’s previous series Sket Dance so when Viz started putting up chapters of Astra’s manga up for free on their site a year or two back, I kept up with it pretty regularly and ended up really digging it. Of course this meant that my expectations here were fairly high, but unlike Neverland’s situation where I was much more confident in the strength of the material than the strength of the anime staff going in, this adaption’s being helmed by director Masaomi Ando whose previous work on School-Live and Scum’s Wish feels like a perfect fit for this series (even if I wasn’t a super big fan of the former) and the fact that the manga is already finished, means there’s significantly less chance of Ando and the rest of the anime staff at Lerche not getting the material. So with all that rambling out of the way I suppose it’s time to talk whether or not this show is actually off to a good start.

The answer so far seems to be an incredibly firm yes. I was a little cautious as to how well this premiere would be paced since the manga is 5 volumes long (which is short enough to fit into one cour, but long enough that there’s the risk of having to rush things to cram it all in), but thankfully the premiere didn’t run into this particular problem. While the benefit of a double-length episode probably helped with that, it uses all of its time well, and does a great job of setting up the show’s space opera premise and bringing the characters together in a way that feels pretty organic and keeps you consistently engaged without ever feeling like it’s moving too fast. It helps that said group of characters are all pretty likable. The leads, Kanata and Aries are a pretty good pair of likable dorks, and while we don’t spend as much time getting to know the other members of Astra’s “crew”, the premiere shows enough of their personalities that it’s pretty easy to get a feel for who’s who, and makes you want to learn a bit more about them. Kanata himself gets a lot of focus throughout the premiere, as we learn that this isn’t quite the first time he’s found himself in a life-or-death situation, and how he had to help a group of his friends survive when his teacher died in an accident while they were on a camping trip. That story ties pretty heavily into his desire to become the leader of this current group and his never-give-up attitude, but it’s also clear that there’s a bit more to his background than just that, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of it gets handled.

Solid as this material is though, it can only go so far if there isn’t an equally solid production behind it, and thankfully Lerche has really delivered here. Right off the bat, Masaomi Ando’s visual direction for the show gives it the look of a blockbuster film, and that look meshes pretty well with the sci-fi elements of the show. This style of direction is especially effective when it comes to tackling Kanata’s backstory, as the film reel effect and muted colors used for it helps to really sell the pain he felt in being unable to save his teacher and his struggle to survive. The animation and music are also pretty solid so far (well aside from the opening being a typical J-pop number but that’s a pretty minor weakness in the grand scheme of things) and while the show doesn’t exactly look “gorgeous”, everything here feels fairly polished, and even with an hour-long premiere, there didn’t seem to be any notable signs of strain so hopefully this show’s animation will be able to stay afloat for the remaining eleven episodes. About the only real nitpick I had here is that the direction for some of the show’s comedy was a little hit or miss, but I more or less felt the same way about the manga’s humor in comparison to Sket Dance’s, so that’s more a flaw of the material itself than with the anime specifically.

It’s been quite a while since a premiere of an adaption I was anticipating actually managed to hit my expectations but Astra’s really pulled it off. From the pacing to the visual direction, everything here feels extremely confident, and its given the material plenty of room to breathe, while also showcasing some potential advantages the anime might have over it’s manga counterpart. Time will tell if it will be able to keep this up for the rest of it’s run but if this manages to stick the landing *heh* this might actually have the potential to surpass it’s source manga. For now though, I can safely say this is one journey I’m more than happy to sign up for.

Rating: 8.6/10

Available on Funimation

First Impressions- Summer 2019 Anime

I’m currently huddled up inside trying to escape the scorching heat of the sun, so I guess we’ve hit the summer season. While spring had a bevy of good but not great shows (with the exception of Sarazanmai and Fruits Basket), the summer looks to be a lot more promising as there’s an unusual amount of heavy hitters coming out of the woodwork this time around, as well as a few potential darkhorses. Since I walked away from the Spring season with a bit of a shurg, I’m pretty excited to check some of this new stuff out, so I guess we might as well get this started.

Ratings Scale

Bad: Stay away far away from this one.  Not worth watching

Decent: Has some okay elements to it. Might be worth giving a  couple of episodes to see how it goes

Good: Fairly solid show. Should be worth keeping up with for now

Great: Really good show. Definitely worth seeing if you get the chance

Excellent: Really outstanding show. Absolutely worth following .

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To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts

To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts

Synopsis: During a protracted civil war that pitted the North against the South, the outnumbered Northerners used dark magic to create monstrous super-soldiers called Incarnates. Now that the war has ended, those Sacred Beasts must learn to make their way in a peaceful society, or face death at the hands of a Beast Hunter. Nancy Schaal Bancroft, the daughter of an Incarnate, turns to hunting the hunter herself. But once she catches up with her quarry, she discovers hard truths about the lives of these Sacred Beasts.

First Impressions: Other than that this was a MAPPA production, I didn’t know too much about this going in other than that it’s premise sounded extremely similar to last season’s Fairy Gone, and given that show ended up being a snoozefest, I was hoping this would at least be a more entertaining variation. What I definitely WASN’T expecting though, was for this show to somehow be a fantasy world X-Men fanfic. The story follows our protagonist Hank Henriette (whose character design and name being extremely similar to Henry “Hank” McCoy aka “The Beast” from the X-Men is completely coincidental I’m sure) a solider who is also one of the several muta-err…”Incarnates” created by the government in order to help win a civil war, only to find that the experiments done in order to make these super soldiers comes with the side effect of them gradually going insane. As the war comes to a close, Hank finds himself betrayed and left for dead, while his comrades have all succumb to madness and are now terrorizing the populace. Now having lost his chance at happiness, Hank now devotes himself to hunting down his former comrades and granting them a merciful death before they can cause anymore harm.

Yeeeaaaaaaahhhhh…this one’s pretty angsty and while it’s a better variant of the kind of grimdark fantasy Fairy Gone was peddling, I’d be hesitant to say this premiere was “good”. Having said that, between the protagonist basically being AU fanfic Beast, and the amount of unsubtle red flags that things were going to go bad for him throughout the episode, I was pretty entertained, and watching this guy go from cinnamon roll to angry monster hunter was certainly interesting if nothing else. It helps that the show looks pretty good, as is generally expected from a MAPPA joint, and while this feels like a production that could probably see some heavy woes later on, at least for the moment it has a decent enough visual aesthetic. With how hamfisted the setup here is, it’s hard to say exactly where the story’s gonna go, but despite the last few minutes having the subtlety of a freight train, I was invested enough for most of the premiere that I’m at least mildly curious where else this’ll go. For my sanity, I hope this doesn’t lean too much into the X-Men route since there’s only so many ways you can tell that particular tale (and only so many jokes about the similarities I can make), but at least if it does, I can look forward to not-Magneto showing up eventually. For now, this seems like it’ll be worth another episode or two.

Okay but seriously, WHY DID THEY MAKE THE BEAST LOOK REALLY HOT? I DO NOT COMPREHEND.

Rating: Decent

Magical Sempai

Magical Sempai

Synopsis: “I encountered her … a cute, but ‘weird’ sempai!” Magic-loving but stage-fright-addled, this sempai comes with a failure rate of 100%—but you can’t take your eyes off her! The off-color, magical gag manga that’s caused an uproar all over Japan is finally here! Here’s to non-athletic hobbies!

First Impressions: I knew going in from one of the previews and the general look of the heroine that this was probably going to be a fanservice heavy show and…yeah there sure is a lot of fanservice alright. The basic gist of this is that our lead heroine is a clumsy dork with hentai boobs who likes performing magic but sucks at actually doing it and performing in front of an audience. Helping her is a snarky junior who gets roped into being her assistant and watches as all her attempts to do magic end with her in extremely compromising or erotic positions. Anndd….that’s the joke. Basically the ONLY joke, as this premiere somehow goes through four shorts over the span of 12 minutes, and pretty much all of them more or less follow the same formula. As a single straight dude, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t down for some fanservice every now and then, but I at least like those shows to feel like they’re trying or otherwise offering something else besides cheesecake, but that’s pretty much all there was to this one, and while it wasn’t outright boring, it wore out it’s welcome pretty fast for me. If you want an unabashed fanservice title for this season, then this’ll probably be a perfect fit for your needs, but I’m pretty sure I’m gonna take a hard pass on this one

Rating: BOOBS

Are You Lost?

Are You Lost?

Synopsis: Because of a plane crash… starting today, we’re spending the springtime of our lives on a desert island!! There’s nothing here, so we have to make everything!! And eat everything!! (Ugh!) Check out our high school girl survival story of courage and knowledge. We’re actually doing pretty well!

First Impressions: So like Magical Sempai this is also a half-length show that seems to be largely centered around one joke. This time the joke surrounds a group of four high school girls who get stranded on an island including one who’s a survival expert and is willing to resort to factually correct but generally lewd sounding survival tips in order to help the rest of the group. While the joke here also feels like one that could get exhausting fast, I’ll at least say this one worked a little better for me since a lot of the tips here, while weird, are things that would probably be helpful in their current situation which makes this one of the horniest edutainment shows I’ve ever seen, and the tips themselves are varied enough that the jokes didn’t get too repetitive. Make no mistake though, this is still pretty heavily geared towards fanservice, and even though this one didn’t wear my patience like Magical Sempai did, I don’t know if I’m really up to the idea of watching more of it. For now though, I’ll at least say it was interesting enough that it’s at least worth a peek and you can decide for yourself if it seems like it’ll be worth your time.

Rating: Decent

How Heavy Are the Dumbells You Lift?

How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?

Synopsis: Hibiki Sakura’s love for food is starting to affect her size. In effort to slim down, she scopes out her local gym only to discover two problems—it’s a haven for intimidating body builders, and her classmate Akemi has a weirdly aggressive muscle obsession. After meeting her handsome personal trainer, Machio, Hibiki bites the bullet and starts her quest for a hot bod!

First Impressions: And here we are with yet another fanservice show, and probably the one people were looking forward to the most, based on it’s premise. I’ll admit the idea of a fanservice comedy largely centered around weight training is certainly an interesting hook if nothing else, and so far I’d say this premiere has actually capitalized on that pretty well. Hibiki is a pretty funny lead so far, and sounds properly in over her head for someone going through regular workout sessions for the first time. That allows her to play off pretty well against the much more enthusiastic Akemi who’s very much into the idea of getting swole, and maybe a little too into muscles. The visual comedy is what really sells this premiere though as everything from Hibiki’s exaggerated facial expressions to the overly detailed animation on everyone’s muscles when she sees dudes weight lifting for the first time, helps to elevate the humor, and gave me a few more good chuckles than I was expecting. Perhaps the most interesting part of this premiere though is that well…it actually seems to be pretty dedicated to the idea of getting it’s audience into exercising. While the show pokes a little fun at edutainment, it still manages to provide easy to follow explanations of how all these routines work, and even includes a segment at the end for how you can try doing some of them at home (I immediately tried doing a few sets of squats after watching this, so I guess I’m the right audience for this part of the show). So…yeah I enjoyed this quite a bit, and certainly more than the other fanservice centered shows I’ve come across so far this season. Hopefully it can maintain a good balance of cheescake and edutainment, but it certainly seems like it’s off to a good start.

Rating: Good

Demon Lord, Retry!

Demon Lord, Retry!

Synopsis: On the night of his favorite game’s shutdown, Akira Oono awakens in the body of his online character: Demon Lord Hakuto Kunai. He’s not the most confident guy ever, and he’s traveling with an injured young girl. But with powerful game mechanics and abilities on his side, this gamer turned badass plots his course through a diverse new world filled with saints, demons, and charming companions!

First Impressions: *ZZZZZZZZZZZ* Wait, what was I doing? Oh right, anime impressions. So here we have our first obligatory isekai of the season and…yeah it’s an isekai show I guess. This time around the gimmick is that MC-kun finds himself stuck in the body of the demon lord he created for a video game he designed, and said demon lord looks and speaks like a mob boss. If this sounds like it could actually be pretty entertaining to you, rest assured, this was still really boring in spite of that. Much of this premiere checks off the usual isekai tropes of clumsy worldbuilding, and the main character already feeling like he’ll have no trouble breezing past any obstacles in the world he’s found himself in. About the only other things of note here is that this makes a few attempts to poke fun at generic isekai tropes, and the main character very clearly wants out, and that he’s explicitly middle aged while our heroine…looks like she can’t be any older than 12 or 13. The first thing seems like it could maybe give this show an edge over it’s contemporaries, but it follows through on the tropes it’s mocking pretty faithfully so there’s not much chance of that, and the latter thing is uh…concerning to say the least. Granted the show could go for something resembling a father-daughter dynamic, and some of their interactions in this premiere seems to lean towards that, but I’ve done this song and dance enough times to know better than to trust light novel based media not to go for something potentially creepy (and she even gets a slightly skeevy bath scene in this premiere) so that’s already a pretty big red flag for me. Combine all that with the show’s mediocre looking production, and it’s safe to say there isn’t really anything here for me. If you’re hungry for a new isekai this season, maybe give it a shot I guess, but there’s bound to be at least a couple more of these coming, and at least one of them might be better executed, so maybe wait a second before you dive into this one.

Rating: Bad

Dr. Stone

Dr. Stone

Synopsis: Several thousand years after a mysterious phenomenon that turns all of humanity to stone, the extraordinarily intelligent, science-driven boy, Senku Ishigami, awakens. Facing a world of stone and the total collapse of civilization, Senku makes up his mind to use science to rebuild the world. Starting with his super strong childhood friend Taiju Oki, who awakened at the same time, they will begin to rebuild civilization from nothing… Depicting two million years of scientific history from the Stone Age to present day, the unprecedented crafting adventure story is about to begin!

First Impressions: And so we finally hit one of the most anticipated shows of the season, and one that I was also pretty excited for. The Dr. Stone manga has been a pretty pleasant read for me, and while I wouldn’t quit rank it among my favorites of JUMP’s current lineup, it’s been consistently entertaining, and I was curious to see what an anime adaption could bring to the table for this. So far, this looks like it’ll be pretty straightforward on that end as this premiere covers the first two chapters of the manga pretty faithfully and almost panel for panel (well aside from removing the very important scene of Donald Trump being turned to stone, you filthy cowards) and doesn’t attempt to do anything bold with the material one way or the other. Fortunately said material is pretty fun so this premiere works out pretty well regardless, and while the actual scenario of the world’s population being turned to stone is breezed through pretty quickly, it still does a good job of setting up the dynamic between the protagonists *heh* Taiju and Senku and how the former’s overly straightforward attitude plays off of Senku’s more steady and rational approach. Given what happens later on in the story, I’m a little surprised the premiere devoted so much time to Taiju, but it works pretty well in spite of that and it manages to accomplish the thing that would more or less break this adaption: making all of the science explanations look fun. All of the show’s wacky science shenanigans all feel pretty energetic, and are delivered with enough flare that it’s pretty easy to look forward to the idea of these two rebuilding civilization from scratch.

About the only serious nitpick I had here was the production looks a bit more middle of the road than I was expecting. A lot of the nature backgrounds here look gorgeous, but thick linework on the character designs causes the two to have a rough time totally blending together, and it makes some of the show’s limited animation stand out a little more. Thankfully there’s still a good amount of visual comedy here in spite of that, and being pretty familiar with the source material, I already know this isn’t something that really requires a lot of heavy animation to work effectively, so hopefully it’ll be able to maintain some level of consistency if nothing else. Those nitpicks aside though, this was a pretty fun premiere and while this adaption doesn’t exactly look like it’s aiming to outdo it’s source material, if it sticks to it, it’ll be a fun ride if nothing else, and a pretty easy recommendation for something to jump start your weekend

Rating: Great

Fire Force

Fire Force

Synopsis: Tokyo is burning, and citizens are mysteriously suffering from spontaneous human combustion throughout the city! Responsible for snuffing out this inferno is the Fire Force, and Shinra is ready to join their fight. Now, as part of Company 8, he’ll use his devil’s footprints to help keep the city from turning to ash! But his past and a burning secret behind the scenes could set everything ablaze.

First Impressions: This was another hotly (pun not totally intended) anticipated show for the summer season, but while I was curious to check it out, I can’t say I was super excited for it. I picked up the first 8 or so volumes of the manga in a cheap digital bundle deal a few months ago, and while I didn’t dislike it, it felt like pretty standard shonen fair, especially compared to the author’s previous series Soul Eater, which was brimming with energy and charm, even if it was a little too self-indulgent at times. With that, my interest in this mostly lied in seeing if the anime adaption might elevate the writing a bit, or make some slight shifts with the story to make something a little more unique, but the first episode seems to have more or less played out the same as the manga’s first chapter. Shinra’s plight of wanting to become a hero, and having a power that others feel is responsible for the death of his family is all pretty by the numbers as far as shonen intros go, and while the execution on that here isn’t terrible, it’s probably not gonna shake you much if you’ve been around the block a few times with shonen stories (and this is coming from a pretty big shonen fanatic).

What does stand out here though is the production by studio David Production of Jojo’s fame as the show’s visuals look rad as heck, and are bursting from the seams with a sense of flare that makes the look of the anime immediately stand out from a lot of it’s competition, and the animation on display here is equally stellar. It helps that a lot of the anime’s staff is carried over from studio SHAFT, who pretty much excelled at visual presentation, and the show’s been blessed with a great production schedule, meaning we can probably expect most episodes to look as good as the premiere did. Unfortunately I can’t quite say that the visuals did enough to make the story feel any less standard but I certainly give the anime staff credit for going all out on this, and it’s hard not to respect the amount of work put into this. Much as this all sounds like faint praise, like I said in the beginning while I have problems with the manga (mostly in regards to the female cast), I don’t dislike it overall, and I’ve invested a fair amount of my time into it already so I’m probably gonna stick around for this even if it’s probably not going to be priority viewing for me. For everyone else though, if you’re fine with a little substance, and a whole lot of style, this should probably do you pretty good.

Rating: Good

GRANBELM

Granbelm

Synopsis: It had been nearly 1,000 years since all the magic in the world disappeared, and most people had forgotten it ever existed. Kohinata Mangetsu is a cheerful high school student who has a pretty positive outlook on life, but she has nothing to call her own– Because she wasn’t good at academics or sports, she dreamed of having something she was good at. On a night where the full moon was shining brightly, she happens to meet another girl with the character for “moon” in her name named Shingetsu Ernesta Fukami. That was also when she encountered the mechanical dolls called “ARMANOX.”

First Impressions: And here comes our first major anime original production behind it, and one that seemed to have a lot of potential. Much of the staff involved in this show worked on Re:Zero and while I haven’t seen past the first episode of that, there’s no denying it was a pretty big hit, and I was interested to see if this could follow suit. So far it’s off to a solid, if not particularly great start. A lot of this premiere is heavy on the action and jumps into it almost immediately with little time spent introducing us to the main heroine, or giving us too many details about the story’s core conflict. What we do get works well enough for those issues not to be a total dealbreaker, and I’m a sucker for anything that can successfully mix together magic and mecha, so this seems like it’ll scratch that particular itch pretty well. The handful of details we get about the setting also did enough to make me a little curious to learn more about this show’s world, even if I don’t know if I’m totally up for another “magical girl battle royale” premise, which seems to be what this is leaning towards. Aside from that my only other big complaint here was probably the visuals which aren’t bad. and even feature some much sought after 2D mecha animation, but the mecha designs themselves are incredibly simple, and the animation used for them isn’t exactly stand-out, which kind of hurt the overall aesthetic for me a bit. Regardless I’d still say this had a fairly solid premiere, and while this one didn’t quite blow me away like I was kinda hoping it might, it left with enough that I’m curious to see how it develops

Rating: Good

O’ Maidens In Your Savage Season

O Maidens in Your Savage Season

Synopsis: When the girls in the literature club ask themselves, “What do you want to do before you die?” one of them gives a most surprising response. Now they’re all preoccupied (for better or for worse) by their friend’s unexpected answer! Soon each of these very different young women find themselves propelled along the uncertain road to adulthood, their emotional journeys taking them down paths as surprising as their friend’s unconventional wish. 

First Impressions: This was a show I was pretty eagerly anticipating, and primarily because of it’s writer. Love her or hate her, Mari Okada is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable writers in the anime industry and while I’m not always in love with her work, it’s pretty much always interesting and knowing that this an adaption of a manga she worked on boosted my curiosity even higher. Tales about hormonal teenagers and puberty are pretty much a dime a dozen, but it’s pretty rare to get them from a female perspective, and this show dives into all those awkward feelings with a pretty high level of intensity. A lot of that can be seen through the main heroine Kazusa, who seems to be the most stuck between wanting to keep her life and relationships simple, and how much the encroaching fear of having to confront both her and her childhood friend’s sexuality threatens that simplicity. It’s all pretty engaging, and while parts of this premiere were actually a little lighter in tone than I expected, given this show’s subject matter and Okada’s typical writing habits, it all balances out for the most part, and helps in driving these themes home. The production from Lay-duce certainly played a part in selling all this, as it gives the show a polished look that fits the nature of the material pretty well and the exaggerated running animation during the episode’s big climax did a lot to boost how awkward that moment was meant to feel. Since as I said before, I’m not always in love with Okada’s work, there’s a chance this could go south, but for now it has my attention, and it’s looking like a definite watch for me

Rating: Great

Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files {Rail Zeppelin} Grace Note

Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files {Rail Zeppelin} Grace note

Synopsis: Waver Velvet – The boy who fought side by side with the King of Conquerors – Iskandar – during the Fourth Holy Grail War in Fate/Zero. Time has passed, and the mature Waver has now adopted the name of Lord El-Melloi. As Lord El-Melloi II, he challenges numerous magical and mystical cases in the Clock Tower, the mecca of all mages…

First Impressions: Putting aside the absurd word salad title of this show, it was among the things I was most looking forward to for this season. I really enjoyed Fate/Zero and Waver was one of the best characters in that show, so the idea of getting an entire series dedicated to just him, is like getting something shiny that was made for me specifically and this premiere does a good of making a case for this spinoff. While dedicated Fate fans are pretty aware that Waver takes over the family of his deceased teacher Kayneth (may he be resting some place warm) this episode fills in the details of how that whole setup went down, and the idea of Waver getting blackmailed into the position is both hilarious and pretty in character for him. The extended flashback we get of his younger days also provides a pretty good idea of how he was spending his younger days after the Holy Grail War and helps to introduce us to a couple of new characters as well as providing some cool action spectacles. While I’ve talked about this as a Fate fan though, the good news is this show seems like it’s entirely newcomer friendly and gives enough of an explanation as to the Grail War and how the Clock Tower works that you could probably jump into this without getting too confused, and the premiere establishes Waver’s personality well enough for him to feel immediately likable. About the only real barrier for anyone new here is how jumbled the show’s explanation of magic can be at times, but that’s also kind of a thing with the Fate franchise in general so it’s not exactly a bug that’s specific to this show. Production wise this show looks pretty solid as would be expected from a TROYCA joint, and while nothing here really compares with some of the best action sequences from Fate/Zero proper, this looks more than good enough to fill your itch if you’re in the mood for a new action show besides Fire Force. It pretty much goes without saying I had a lot of fun with this one, and while I’m admittedly very biased here, if you’re a longtime Fate fan, or a newcomer willing to dip your toes into it because this looks interesting, it seems like an extremely solid recommendation.

Rating: Great

Ensemble Stars

Ensemble Stars!

Synopsis: The “idol-training produce game” takes place at a private boys’ idol-training school with a history of turning out many great talents in show business. The protagonist is the school’s lone female student who transfers to the school because of a special situation, and enters the school’s producer department.

First Impressions: It’s time for our first idol show of the season, and this one happens to be one of the rare few male idol shows that actually makes it over to the west. Okay I suppose that’s not being entirely fair here. A decent chunk of them actually do, but they’re usually tossed to the wayside by streaming companies without a second thought so the thought of Funimation actually going out of their way to give this an eventual simuldub certainly raised my curiosity a bit. As I’ve said multiple times in the past, idol shows that are played straight tend to put me to sleep (that goes for both male and female idol shows) so there usually has to be some kind of interesting gimmick put beside them if they want to catch my attention. The gimmick here is that the show’s setting is an all boys idol school where they hold stage competitions like tournaments and students have to climb their way to the top if they wanna make it in the idol world. It’s a decent enough concept (especially if it uses it to comment on the exploitative nature of the idol industry a bit, but this doesn’t seem like it’ll be that kind of show) but it wasn’t quite strong enough of a hook to grab my attention. What did draw me in though, was a brief moment where two of the male idols singing on the stage suddenly broke out into a brawl and whacking each other with their guitars as the rules of their competition allow them to do that…somehow. That’s the exact level of quality absurdity needed to make this kind of show work for me, and while that was unfortunately only a 2 minute sequence in a 24 minute show, it was amusing enough that if the show were to pull out similar stunts regularly, it could be a fairly fun time. As of right now though, while this was a perfectly pleasant show, I dunno if I’m gonna go any further with it. I might give the eventual dub a shot for now and see how that goes but for everyone else, I imagine your interest in this will probably depend on if you’re in the general audience for male idol shows. I’m not obviously, but I have friends who certainly are and if nothing else, I’m glad it looks like they’ll be catered to pretty well here.

Rating: Decent

Re:Stage Dream Days!

Re:Stage! Dream Days♪

Synopsis: Young Mana Shikimiya once had big dreams, but she set those dreams aside once she reached middle school in order to live a normal life. When Mana joins the Singing and Dancing Club of Homareboshi Academy to help save the group from being shut down, her dreams of stardom are rekindled. She’ll give it her all to win the Prism Stage competition and be named the top idol. With her friends beside her, there are no dreams too big!

First Impressions: We’re two-for-one on idol shows today but unfortunately between this and Ensemble Stars, I found this one to be far more of a typical idol show, and less interesting as a result. The set-up here is pretty basic as our heroine is a new transfer student who finds herself getting roped into her school’s Lyrical Dance Club aka Idol Club and seems to already possess a fair amount of the talent necessary to make it as an idol. It’s a pretty typical idol show setup and about the only thing that stands out here is that rather the heroine being an enthusastic go-getter who jumps at the chance of becoming an idol, she seems terrified at the thought of performing on stage, and it’s apparently connected to her older sister who’s already a successful idol. While this got me a little curious as to what exactly the story is there, and the idea of her having to overcome her anxiety about performing could be interesting, judging by the fact that she ends up joining the club anyway by the end of the episode, I have my doubts it’ll do anything notable with that. I can’t say there was anything particularly wrong with this premiere, and while the show doesn’t exactly look good (especially the generic character designs), the animation for the dance choreography was decent enough for this not to feel totally empty. Even so, I have but only so much time, and since this wasn’t even as amusing as Ensemble Stars was, this seems like a pass for me. As for anyone else though, if you’re really desperate for a new idol show, this might end up being decent enough to get by.

Rating: Decent

The Ones Within

The Ones Within

Synopsis: Akatsuki Iride is a popular live streamer for the free-to-play game “The Ones Within-Genome”. But what was once fantasy quickly becomes his and 7 others’ reality when they’re transported to the game world against their will. View count matters more than ever before as millions watch them try to complete various high-risk challenges. Only the best will survive in this land that’s always live!

First Impressions: So I didn’t know anything about this going in and after watching the premiere, I…honestly have no idea what it is I just watched. The basic gist (?) of this involves a group of teen Let’s Players getting roped into some kind of game where they have to reach 100,000,000 views to escape and take part in a wide variety of events. If that sounds weird, the show itself is even weirder, and while this sounds like something that might be par the course for a wacky survival game show (complete with a creepy host in a mask) the terms of the game are so vague it isn’t even established these kids are in any actual danger of losing their lives aside from potentially getting locked in a dungeon somewhere (did I mention this is weird?). All of this wackiness is further elevated by the characters being a group of oddballs themselves, particularly the main character, who seems to be little overly relaxed about this whole situation.

Honestly I’m struggling to describe this show because it’s one of those things where only the act of watching it will do it justice, but I will say that while I certainly wasn’t bored with this, I wouldn’t exactly call it “good”. In a lot of ways this reminds me of Angels of Death in terms of how it plays up a horror scenario with enough wackiness that it feels like a parody, and while I didn’t dislike that show, the magic kind of wore off after a while for me, and parts of this premiere were already testing my patience in terms of “look at how CRAAAAAAZZYYYY this is”. As it stands I’m currently lacking in Sunday shows, and this one’s been dubbed right out the gate, meaning it won’t require my full attention, so it’s possible I might end up giving this another episode or so, but I’m still feeling more than a little cautious about it. If you like absurdity, this is about as absurd as it gets, and provided you can turn your brain off for this one, it might prove to be entertaining, but uh…seriously what the heck even was this?

Rating: ???

Vinland Saga

Vinland Saga

Synopsis: Ten years ago, a strong warrior named Thors lost his life in a fight with Askeladd – a powerful and ruthless Viking. Having witnessed his demise, Thors’ son, Thorfinn, became consumed by hatred and vowed to exact revenge on his father’s killer in an honorable duel. With nowhere to go, Thorfinn was recruited onto Askeladd’s ship and began working with the crew as they pillage settlements and trick naive armies. Now, the young boy spends his days honing his battle skills while carrying out Askeladd’s bidding in order to earn his reward of a duel with the vicious captain. But despite having failed in all his bouts with the man he despises so much, will the day ever come when Thorfinn can finally defeat Askeladd and lay his father’s memory to rest?

First Impressions: I’ve been hearing great things about the Vinland Saga manga for ages, and combined with the talent at Wit Studio, this had all the makings of a prestige project, and boy this didn’t disappoint. In a rare act of benevolence on the behalf of our overlord Jeff Bezos, Amazon was kind enough to drop the first three episodes of this all at once, and it’s been a real treat so far. While I wouldn’t exactly call myself a history buff, it’s always interesting to learn about time periods that aren’t often explored in media, and despite how much those stories have endured, there isn’t nearly as much stuff about vikings as you’d expect so this was a pretty interesting experience for me, and I really appreciated how well this show drew me into the atmosphere and culture of this era in a way that felt really organic.

Of course all of that wouldn’t mean much if the story wasn’t good, but thankfully it’s off to a fantastic start. While I don’t have too many thoughts on the protagonist Thorfinn since he’s still a child at this point in the story, his father Thors has proven to be a really compelling character so far, and I’m really impressed with how fleshed out he’s been in spite of his eventual fate feeling pretty obvious, even if I wasn’t aware of the general plot of this show. His hatred of violence and war makes him stand out in stark contrast to the times he lives in, and I appreciate how effectively the show managed to silently point out some of the inherent evils of slavery (a topic isekai seems to have a lot of trouble with these days) by tying his desire to help an escaped slave into his own desire to leave behind his violent past, and this story as a whole feels a lot more emphatic so far than I would have expected from a period piece. In stark contrast to Thors though, Thorfinn seems to be much more into the idea of battle, and doesn’t seem to take his father’s attempt at teaching him pacifism to heart, so I’m curious to see how this show’s inevitable tragedy will shape him going forward, and how that’ll tie into what this story has to say regarding war.

About the only point of apprehension I had here was in regards to the production and specifically the show’s usage of CG. While the majority of this three episodes looked pretty great, and actually looked a lot livelier than I would have expected from Wit compared to their work on Attack on Titan, but the opening battle on the boats looked a little awkward in some places, and while that’s not a dealbreaker by any stretch, I hope the rest of the show’s big battles will look a little better balanced. That nitpick aside though, Vinland Saga is off to an amazing start, and even in a season that already doesn’t seem like it’ll have any shortage of exciting content, this show really stood out from the rest, and seems like it’ll be the one to beat.

Rating: Excellent

First Impressions- Spring 2019 Anime

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and it’s finally warm enough that I can stand outside for 20 minutes without praying for the sweet release of death, so I guess it must be Spring. This is always a pretty loaded season on the anime front, but even with that in mind there’s a pretty hefty amount of potentially heavy hitters coming out of the woodwork over the course of the next couple of weeks. and they’re all of varying genres too which sadly doesn’t feel like something we come across too often. Excited as I am for the big stuff there’s always the chance a few welcome surprises could be waiting in store so as always I’m gonna be running through as many shows as I can and praying that I come out of the other side with my sanity in tact. Let’s hop to it.

Ratings Scale

Bad: Stay away far away from this one.  Not worth watching

Decent: Has some okay elements to it. Might be worth giving a  couple of episodes to see how it goes

Good: Fairly solid show. Should be worth keeping up with for now

Great: Really good show. Definitely worth seeing if you get the chance

Excellent: Really outstanding show. Absolutely worth following .

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YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World

Synopsis: During the summer, Takuya Arima receives a package—from his missing father—detailing the existence of parallel universes. He investigates further and soon realizes that he’s been given the key to cross-dimensional time travel. Now, Takuya is forced to use this newfound tech to unravel the mystery of his father’s whereabouts and find out why those closest to him are keeping secrets.

First Impressions: And we’re kicking things off with a visual novel adaption…from 1996. Well more accurately it’s an adaption of the 2017 remake of said VN from 1996, but regardless of how convoluted that sounded one thing I can tell you pretty clearly is that it was a very boring premiere. The story begins after our protagonist finds out about the death of his father, but you certainly couldn’t tell that by how he behaves because he spends most of his time here flirting with or sexually harassing almost every girl he encounters, one of which includes a moment where the dude literally flashes himself in front of a new transfer student and no one around him seems to bat an eye (can you tell this was written in 1996?). All these girls seem to pretty obviously be the romance route options but the show doesn’t really do a great job of introducing them, and the actual plot setup isn’t much better as the revelation about a device that allows MC-kun to travel to parallel worlds just kinda seems to happen after an episode of mostly meandering, and given that I’ve seen parallel world plots done better (including in VN adaptions by the very same company that remade this game), it certainly didn’t do anything to grab my attention. I suppose if I were to think of anything nice to say it’s that the production here looks decent as you would generally expect from a studio feel thing, but given how much of a “let’s play” the overall direction here feels like, even that doesn’t really do much to give this any legs. I guess if you’re really curious to see how a VN from the 90’s holds up then maybe this’ll do something for you, but I’m gonna give this one a hard pass

Rating: Bad

Hitoribocchi no Marumaruseikatsu

Hitoribocchi no OO Seikatsu

Synopsis: Hitori Bocchi, a girl with extreme social anxiety, has had only one friend throughout elementary school. When Bocchi learns they’ll be split up after graduation, she makes a promise to her: “By the time of my middle school graduation, I’ll make friends with everyone in my class.” And if she can’t do it… they won’t be friends anymore?! But Bocchi has a hard time talking to people. When she gets nervous, her legs cramp. She can’t look other people in the eye. She doesn’t even know how to make friends! Every way she thinks of to make friends ends up failing. Will Bocchi’s friend-making plan pay off?! It’s a story of the persistence of the lonely girl, Bocchi!

First Impressions: I didn’t know anything about this one, or had any real expectations going in, so I was actually pretty surprised by how much I ended up liking this one. The main gist of this show involves a socially awkward girl named Bocchi who’s starting middle school, and is tasked by her only friend from elementary school to befriend all her new classmates. Having been someone who sometimes had trouble making friends when I was younger, and also continuing to be a person who generally doesn’t like talking to people I don’t know, I could relate to her struggles here pretty well. It helps that she feels like a genuine portrayal of someone who’s bad at being sociable rather than a comfortable moe archetype, and it also helps that we do see her making progress over the course of the premiere and she manages to befriend one of her classmates named Nako who also seems pretty likable, and doesn’t really seem to judge Bocchi for her awkwardness. Production wise this isn’t really a standout, but it looks pleasant enough and this premiere had enough good visual gags that it kept me pretty entertained on that front. How much mileage I get out of this will probably depend on how well Bocchi progresses in future episodes, but for now I can get pretty safely behind this one, and if you’re a cute comedy this season, this seems like it’ll be worth taking a look at.

Rating: Great

Senryu Girl

Senryuu Girl

Synopsis: At first glance Yukishiro Nanako seems like a normal high school girl, but she has a notable eccentricity: instead of speaking, she communicates only through written senryu poetry! This means she expresses herself only in 5-7-5 syllables. To most this might seem like an inconvenience, but for Nanako and her ex-delinquent bestie, Busujima Eiji, it adds to the experience of their high school lives as they run the Literature Club.

First Impressions: I’ve heard pretty good things about the manga so I was a little curious about this one and having seen the first episode, I can kinda see why. Like Hitoribocchi this one also stars an adolescent girl dealing with social anxiety, but Nanako’s way of coping with those fears involves writing out her thoughts in the forms of senryu poems. Compared to Hitoribocchi’s fairly grounded approach to the subject, this felt a little more like what I feared that would be, and came off feeling more like a cute anime girl gimmick than something earnest. However my feelings turned around when we’re introduced to one of her club friends named Busujima who’s a delinquent that also has trouble talking to people and is often assumed to be more violent than he actually is. His troubles felt a little more believable to me, and watching him bounce off of Nanako helped in making her feel a little more endearing to me by the end of the episode, and a romance between these two seems like it could make for a pretty good time. Given that said romance is likely the end goal here and not Nanako overcoming her social anxiety, this might end up getting repetitive pretty quickly so I hope it starts branching out ideas as quickly as possible. In the meantime though this was pleasant enough that I’m down for giving it another couple of episodes, and while I didn’t find it quite as charming as Hitoribocchi, this looks like another safe pick for a cute comedy this season.

Rating: Good

Mix

Mix

Synopsis: 26 years after Meisei High conquered the Koushien, a promising pitcher-catcher battery was formed in its middle school by the Tachibana step-brothers, Touma and Souichirou.

First Impressions: Cross Game is not only one of my favorite sports anime, but is also probably my single favorite romance anime, so when it was confirmed that the latest manga from series author, Mitsuri Adachi, would be getting an anime adaption, this shot pretty high up my list of things to check out. Much like with Cross Game, this is a little atypical of your average shonen sports fare in that the stakes and general dramatic beats are alot more relaxed and low key, meaning that if you don’t have a lot of patience this may not be something that’ll exactly grab your attention. If that does sound like your jam though, then this premiere should do you pretty nicely as it slowly introduces us to our three main protagonists who are presumably directly descended from the main characters of Touch, another one of Adachi’s previous works. Two of the leads are brothers who share the same birthday and age without being twins, which makes me suspect their most likely half-siblings but the show doesn’t seem to be in any particular hurry to answer that question and instead focuses a little more on the struggle going on with their baseball team.

While the show isn’t super explicit about what’s going on there either, it seems like the team as a whole is being forced to hold back for the sake of a rich student who’s publicly displayed as being the ace and presumably has enough influence that no one on the team can ever be allowed to show him up, which they seem to have mostly accepted. Neither of these things quite compare to the big emotional hook at the end of Cross Game’s first episode, but Adachi’s ability to a relaxing but very natural sense of atmosphere with how he writes his characters, remains as compelling as ever and did leave me curious what direction this will end up going in. It helps that the animation production from OLM of Pokemon fame is pretty polished, and while some of the narration cuts a little into the show’s down-to-earth atmosphere, it wasn’t too distracting, and the general visual direction here has a bit of style to it (which is probably about the only thing I’d knock Cross Game for). While I’d be lying if I said previous goodwill from Adachi’s last work wasn’t a factor in how much I dug this premiere, this looks like it’ll be a pretty chill sports drama and while that obviously isn’t going to be for everyone, if that sounds at all interesting to you, I recommend giving it a shake.

Rating: Great

Ao-chan Can’t Study

Ao-chan Can't Study!

Synopsis: Ao Horie’s father, a popular erotic fiction author, chose Ao’s name because A stands for “apple” and O stands for “orgy”! Desperate to escape her father’s legacy and get into a prestigious university, Ao devotes herself to studying instead of pursuing romance. She has no time for boys, but there’s just one problem: Kijima, her handsome and popular classmate, just confessed his love to her! And to make matters worse, she can’t stop thinking dirty thoughts about him! Looks like escaping her father’s influence will be harder than she thought.

First Impressions: Going off the premise this seemed like it would be on the raunchier side of the romcom spectrum and having walked away from the first episode, that assessment was mostly accurate. The series follows a girl named Ao who hates her name because of the double-innuendo her father added to its meaning, and vows to become a respectable person who has pretty much nothing to do with boys. Unfortunately for her, she seems to be catching the attention of the most popular guy in her class, and while she’s convinced she hates him, her awkward attempts to turn him down seem to imply she might actually be into him but hasn’t processed this yet. That seems like it would make for a pretty cute romcom premise and I could see the potential here, but that potential was shot down upon being properly introduced to Ao’s dad. From his character design to his mannerisms this guy feels like if someone resurrected Happosai from Ranma 1/2 in the modern day, and since that guy’s shtick was being a lecherous old fart with zero redeeming qualities, seeing Ao’s dad exude the same energy was a pretty big turnoff and I wanted to see this guy get punted through a wall nearly the second he opened his mouth. To make matters worse it seems like part of his purpose here is to play cupid for his daughter by trying to help her get laid, and that honestly feels a lot more gross than funny. Maybe this could have a chance at being cute if this guy stays far, far in the background but I’m not sticking around to find out, so this is looking like another skip

Rating: Bad

We Never Learn- BOKUBEN

We Never Learn

Synopsis: Nariyuki Yuiga needs a special scholarship, but he has to tutor three genius girls to get it! One is a literature virtuoso, but her skills in science are lacking. Another excels in math, but the arts are in her heart. The last one’s athletic prowess is unmatched, but she struggles with everything else. With university application deadlines on the way, can Nariyuki teach the unteachable in time?

First Impressions: So as a Shonen Jump subscriber, I’ve actually been following this series since it debuted a few years back, and while I can’t say I’m a diehard fan of it, I enjoy it well enough so I was curious to see how this adaption would turn out. So far it seems to be pretty much exactly what I was expecting. This premiere follows our main character Naruyuki who wants to get on the fast track to college by getting his school’s special recommendation, and hopefully ease the burden on his extremely poor family. However in order to receive this recommendation, he must tutor two girls named Fumino and Rizu who are both considered geniuses in certain subjects, but want to major in the areas they’re bad at. This proves to be more of a challenge than Naruyuki bargained for as neither one of them seems like they’ll really be able to improve, but watching their struggles reminds him of how often he’s failed in getting to where he is now, and he vows to help them achieve their dreams. It’s a pretty by-the-numbers premise for a romcom but the characters are fairly likable for the most part, and even Naruyuki is kind of endearing even if he doesn’t venture too far outside of the audience insert qualities that most harem protagonists tend to have. Of course while this premise is pretty fluffy there’s also a bit of cheesecake here if you’re looking for fanservice, and while this show isn’t super horny, its also pretty aware of who its audience is. The production here is equally by-the-numbers and while we do get some pretty good facial expressions here and there, its not exactly a selling point. Long story short here, We Never Learn is kind of a case of what you see is what you get. If you like this particular brand of ecchi romcom, you’ll be well served. If not, this series probably won’t do anything for you. As for me, I’m just here for best girl Uraka, and since she isn’t showing up till next week it kinda goes without saying I’m gonna be here for a while.

Rating: Good

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

Synopsis: Bloodthirsty demons lurk in the woods, and nobody dares to venture out at night, save for the demon slayer of legend. Surviving in this harsh world, young Tanjirou takes it upon himself to protect his family–until the day that everything is taken from him in a vicious slaughter. Now, all he has left is his sister, and she’s not even human anymore.

First Impressions: This is yet another big Shonen Jump adaption and one I was really looking forward to. I’ve been interested in this series ever since Viz published the first three chapters of it back when it debuted, but the rest of the manga hadn’t been made available here until pretty recently, and while I was collecting the manga volumes for a while, the manga’s unique, but unpolished artstyle was a little hard for me to get behind and I figured I’d just wait for the anime. Fortunently the anime adaption was handed to Ufotable whose reputation for high quality productions pretty much speaks for itself, and so far its off to a strong start. The premiere here pretty much covers soley the first chapter of the manga as we’re introduced to the protagonist Tanjiro and the tragedy that befalls his family as they’re all slaughtered by demons with his sister Nezuko as the sole survivor. To make matters worse, Nezuko has been tainted by demon blood, and the only way for Tanjiro to save her is for him to start tracking down the demons responsible for her transformation. While this set-up seems pretty part the course for a JUMP battle shonen, there’s a quiet, but powerful sense of atmosphere here that helps to draw you into the show’s feudal era setting, and that feeling extends into both the visual direction and the musical score, as it allows for the show to carry a vibe that feels more akin to an old samurai film or folktale. While the hook here means that we don’t get to spend too much time on characterization in this premiere, Tanjiro comes off as a fairly likable protagonist thus far, and although Nezuko doesn’t get a lot of lines here (especially after her transformation), the show manages to convey her with a righteous sense of spirit, and I’m pretty curious in seeing how these siblings will survive going forward. All in all, this was a pretty rock solid premiere and while this was another case where there was pretty much no chance I wasn’t going to be keeping up with this, I’m glad it seems like that decision will be well rewarded

Rating: Great

Fairy Gone

Fairy gone

Synopsis: Fairies possess and reside within animals, granting them special powers. By surgically removing and transplanting the organs of a possessed animal into a human, humans can partially summon the fairy and use it as a weapon. Eventually, such individuals were used for war, and were called “Fairy Soldiers.” After a long war, these soldiers lost their purpose, and had to reintegrate into society. Nine years after the end of the war, Maria is a fresh recruit of “Dorothea,” an organization dedicated to the investigation and suppression of fairy-related crimes and incidents. Even in peacetime, the government is still unstable after the war. Many criminals still have lingering wounds from the previous conflict, and there are terrorist groups bent on revenge.

First Impressions: This was one of my most heavily anticipated shows of the season, and that’s largely due to the big names behind the production. Director Kenichi Suzuki of Stardust Crusaders and Drifters fame has proven to be a pretty reliable action director, and series writer Ao Jumonji is also the author Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions which managed to be a surprisingly strong story about the pathos of losing a loved one. Combine that with the fact that the band KnoW NaMe who handled the themes songs for Grimgar is also on board for this series, and this seemed like it had the potential to be a real winner. Going off the premiere I’d say it…mostly lives up to that potential. The premiere here starts a few years after the end of a conflict between two nations and the protagonist Marlya is one of the only survivors from a tragedy that befell her village during the war. The other survivor is a woman named Veronica who Marlya has been searching for, but Veronica seems to be purely out for revenge and wants little to do with her. In the middle of a fight between Veronica and a mysterious man named Free, Marlya awakens to the power of controlling a fairy, but the ability to use fairies has been outlawed after the war and Marlya is left with no choice but join the organization Free belongs to known as Dorothea, who are investigating incidents related to fairies. While this seems like a fair amount of plot for one episode, most of this premiere is actually action-focused and these story beats end up playing second fiddle to that. Seeing as the mostly quiet drama of Grimgar is what helped make that story appealing to me, I was a little surprised it went this route, but that is very much in like with Kenichi Suzuki’s sensibilities and for what its worth the action scenes here are pretty cool. Unfortunately said action scenes come with a monkey’s paw in the form of the fairies being animated in 3DCG, and while that wouldn’t be too big a deal in most circumstances, the overall look of this show seems to be aiming for a dark fantasy aesthetic not unlike say, Berserk, so it feels a little out of place and will probably take some getting used to. I also can’t really say that what we’ve gotten of the story so far has grabbed my attention much either since the heavy focus on action means that we don’t get a whole lot of time to get properly introduced to these characters and seeing as the connection between Marlya and Veronica is looking to be what’s gonna drive this show, that seems like it might’ve been a bit of a misstep. Regardless of those complaints though, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious where the rest of this story might be headed, and this certainly held my attention well enough that I’m pretty willing to follow that bit of curiosity for now. It’s hard to say if this show will live up to its pedigree but if you’re in the market for another dark action show this season besides Kimetsu no Yaiba, this seems like it’ll be a safe pick.

Rating: Good

Cinderella Nine

Cinderella Nine

Synopsis: When Arihara Tsubasa enters Rigahama Municipal High School and learns that it has no baseball club, she starts up the Girls’ Baseball Club on her own. Drawn to the club are girls who have never played baseball before, girls who once played it but quit, and girls who are constantly tackling great challenges. The Rigahama Girls’ Baseball Club races through the trials of youth, periodically clashing and quarreling, but supporting each other all the way! And so begins the hottest summer the world has ever known…

First Impressions: About all I really knew going in here was that this is yet another mobile game adaption and that this show’s name is strikingly similar to that of a sports anime from the 90’s called Princess Nine, which also happened to be about a girls baseball team. Being a mobile game adaption though, this premiere here felt less like a typical sports anime and more like an episode of an idol show (the leading girl even looks like she could be the long lost twin of Honoka from Love Live). The girls we’re introduced to so far pretty archetypal, and the show has yet to introduce any stakes that would make it endearing as a basic sports anime narrative, instead feeling incredibly fluffy and low-key. Seeing as I’m not the biggest fan of idol anime and they typically need a good gimmick to impress me, this premiere didn’t do a whole ton for me, but basing itself off a sport, however soft the execution, gave this at least a little more momentum than these kinds of shows tend to have, and to its credit the show at least attempts to create some low-stakes drama with two of the girls having their own awkward history with playing sports. I can’t say those elements exactly helped in making this quality television but I at least wasn’t completely bored by watching this. Right now I’m feeling kind of on the fence about this one, and giving it another episode will probably depend on how many other Sunday shows catch my attention, but if the idea of “idols but baseball” appeals to you in some fashion, this might be worth a peek.

Rating: Decent

Kono Oto Tomare!

Kono Oto Tomare!

Synopsis: Down to its last member, the koto club will accept anyone who is interested in the traditional Japanese instrument. But when a delinquent and a prodigy player sign up, finding harmony isn’t going to be easy—especially not with ensemble competitions looming around the corner. With enough time and some incredible skill at the strings, perhaps this motley crew can strike a chord with the judges.

First Impressions: This is another one I went into blind, and going off the character designs I figured this was going to be some variation of a bishonen ensemble show. To my surprise this ended up being more of a straightforward drama centering around a music club, and therefore something that’s a bit more my speed. The primary focus for the premiere here is introducing us to our leads Takezo and Chika and both feel pretty compelling so far. Club-based anime featuring a senior trying to hold everything together isn’t a particularly new concept, but it’s rare to get that character as the protagonist, and that desire to protect the club while also being a person with low self-esteem makes Takezo interesting right off the bat and makes his initial distrust of Chika both understandable and frustrating. Chika himself however is the one who really carries the bulk of this premiere as we learn about his history with his grandfather who was a koto maker, and how joining the koto club is his way of reverencing the only person who ever believed in him. It was a pretty good story and was a much bigger emotional gut punch than anything I was expecting going into this. Production-wise on the other hand things are a little rougher as while the character designs look pretty nice, the animation here is a little stiff and there were a few areas in this premiere where I could tell where they were cutting corners. That’s more a nitpick than anything though, because otherwise I enjoyed this a lot more than I was expecting too, and while I didn’t have much in the way of expectations going in, I’m pretty eager to check out more of this.

Rating: Great

Midnight occult civil servants

Midnight occult civil servants

Synopsis: When Miyako Arata joins the Shinjuku Ward Office, he thinks he’s gotten a normal civil servant job. But it turns out he’s joined the Night Community Exchange Department, one of which operates secretly in each of Tokyo’s twenty-three ward offices. Their job is to resolve occult issues concerning non-human beings. Accompanied by his senpai and department head Sakaki Kyoichi and the occult obsessed Himetsuka Seo, they work night after night, facing off with beings whose existence defies the laws of our world.

First Impressions: This is another thing I assumed was going to be more of a bishie ensemble thing than anything else, and once again I walked away fairly surprised. While there’s certainly a few pretty boys on display here, the general vibe here is more along the lines of an office worker learning the ropes at his new job, and said job happens to involve mediating with the supernatural. While yokai focused stuff can be a little hit or miss for me, generalized supernatural folklore is definitely my jam, and this premiere features everything from angels to Cu Siths and tengus. The angels and tengus in particular make up the bulk of this premiere’s conflict as the protagonist’s first day ont the job involves stopping a territorial dispute between them that ends up being more of a Romeo & Juliet scenario. Its a pretty by the numbers plot and nothing about the writing here really stood out, but it was entertaining enough, and the angle of the protagonist being the only one with the ability to directly communicate with supernatural beings seems like it could be interesting, and might make for more dynamic conflicts later down the line. The production here is also pretty standard looking and while that’s a little disappointing for something featuring a lot of fantastical creatures, they look decent enough to get by, and there weren’t too many notable issues with the animation here. While I wouldn’t exactly call this premiere a slam dunk it did enough for me that I’m willing to give it another episode or two to see if it’ll stick, ad if you’re into low key supernatural shenanigans, this might be up your alley

Rating: Good

AFTERLOST

AFTERLOST

Synopsis: The entire population of a city disappeared—vanished without a trace. Yuki, the sole survivor, joins Takuya, a contract courier, on a perilous journey to find answers within the newly named ghost town “Lost”. With a letter from Yuki’s father as the pair’s only lead, a secretive organization refuses to let Yuki and Takuya’s meddling go unchecked.

First Impressions: So I knew going into this that this was some kind of game adaption, and that in addition to being produced by Madhouse, the footage of it they showed in trailers looked…mediocre to say the least. Still I was kinda curious what we were gonna get here and uh…that sure was a show I guess. There’s technically a fair amount of “plot” going on here in that some kind of apocalyptic disaster happens, some people have superpowers now (or at least I guess because the show sure as heck didn’t seem interested in explaining that) and the only survivor of the aforementioned disaster is now going back to ground zero to find her missing family with the help of a mysterious courier. The problem here is that the show does a bad job explaining well just about anything really, and while the plot threads here are basic enough that it’s not impossible to follow there’s pretty much zero attempt here to do any kind of world building, and instead makes this feel like someone’s just checking off a list of obligatory sci-fi anime tropes. It doesn’t help that the characters feel even more barebones than the plot and we’re introduced to such lovely archetypes as sad anime girl for our heroine, stoic emo dude for the male lead, and a hacker otaku who tries creeping on sad anime girl the second he sees her. There’s no real attempts here to make any of them feel remotely distinct or interesting and it mainly feels like the show expects you’re just here for sci-fi action shenanigans which would be okay if the show didn’t look…rough. While the animation here isn’t outright terrible, there’s quite a bit of corner cutting going on here, and the 3DCG for all the vehicles looks so plastic, they nearly feel like carryovers from an early 2000’s anime. The color scheme here is also pretty bad and there’s a couple of shots where the show looks like an utter mess which doesn’t really bode well for the rest of the series given this is only the premiere. With all these complaints you’d think I’d have a serious ax to grind with this show but really the greatest sin of all for this premiere is that it was just really, really boring. Nothing about this show stands out and pretty much everything it’s had to offer in this premiere are things I’ve seen executed better in at least a dozen other shows. If you’re really into sci-fi action tropes then maybe there’ll be something salvageable in here for you, but I couldn’t find anything appealing here, and in an era with more stuff to watch than ever I’d recommend looking elsewhere.

Rating: Bad

Robihatchi

RobiHachi

Synopsis: In the year G.C. 0051, humans have obtained super light-speed navigation technology and formed a commonwealth of planets with other species. In-debt freelance reporter Robby Yarge has had a streak of bad luck; losing his job, his girlfriend, and was nearly killed in a traffic accident. When his bag is stolen, Robby meets 18-year-old Hatchi Kita, who apprehends the thief and return his property. The two part ways soon after, but Hatchi eventually turns up in Robby’s life again, this time as a debt collector working for a loan shark named Yan. A cat-and-mouse chase begins, and Robby tries to elude Hatchi and escape to space while shaking off Yan’s group – only to discover Hatchi hiding inside his spaceship. The two decide to travel across the galaxy together in search of Isekandar, a distant and legendary planet in the Milky Way that is said to bring happiness to those who go there.

First Impressions: Looks like I’m three for three on assuming something’ll be a bishonen ensemble show only to get the rug pulled out from under me, so I guess I’ve got a consistent theme going here for the season. Aside from the pretty boys higlighted all the promo material I’ve seen for this the only other thing I really knew was that this was going to be some kind of anime-original sci-fi romp. Turns out this is operating mostly on the latter end of those things and comes off as a buddy-cop ala Tiger & Bunny or Double Decker but in space. Our boyfriends here happen to be a guy named Robby who has habitually bad luck and is looking for a quick way to get rich, and Hachi a bored genius who thinks there’s nothing interesting left in the world and is constantly seeking new thrills. As with any buddy cop show, the appeal here largely lies in how much comedy you can mind out of the main duo’s interactions and while they’re antics certainly aren’t boring both feel a little archetypal so far, and they didn’t really get more than a few chuckles out of me. Having said that, anime about romping through space are an extreme rarity these days, and while a show parodying that doesn’t seem like it’d have much appeal for modern audiences, it’s something that’s relatively in my line of interest and while nothing here floored me, I also didn’t encounter anything in this premiere that was a total deal breaker. If I had any other complaints here it’d probably be that this looks a little visually underwhelming for the kinds of 90’s Sunrise shows its parodying, but its passable enough, and this doesn’t strike me as the kind of thing that’s going to be all that reliant on visual gags. So…yeah long story short I’m probably gonna follow this purely because this particular genre of anime is practically a fossil at this point, and I’m curious exactly how far this’ll end up leaning into 90’s anime sensibilities. With any luck this’ll actually be entertaining enough to be worth gambling on, but for now I’m wiling to go along for the ride.

Rating: Decent

Isekai Quartet

Isekai Quartet

Synopsis: The button appeared out of nowhere. There weren’t any signs NOT to push it… so the solution is obvious, right? Is it a trap or the start of something new and exciting? The crews of Re:ZERO, Overlord, Konosuba, and The Saga of Tanya the Evil will find out when they go from their world to another and get stuck in… class?! 

First Impressions: At this point, Kadokawa’s been behind so many of the big light novel based hits of the last few years that I’m a little surprised we didn’t get a crossover comedy sooner and…yeah this sure is a comedy crossover alright. Saga of Tanya the Evil, Overlord, Re:Zero, and Konosuba are all very popular titles for better or worse, and this show assumes right off the bat you’re pretty familiar with them and jumps into having these characters collide as quickly as possible. Given how much isekai in general is built on the concept of a normal guy from our world ending up a fantasy one, it was a little amusing to see characters like Tanya and Kazuma react to suddenly finding themselves in a world that mostly resembles the one they left behind. Aside from that though, pretty much all the entertainment value you’re going to get out of this is largely dependent on how familiar you are with each of these shows and since I didn’t get farther than episode 1 for both Re:Zero and Overlord respectively, I’ve only got about half the context I needed to properly enjoy this. It was kind of fun watching the antics of the characters I am a little more familiar with, but until we actually see them all interacting in full it’s hard to say how much entertainment value this’ll have. Whether or not I go any further than this will probably depend on if the dub keeps the cast consistent for Re:Zero and Konosuba since I’m likely to get more out of this show with a punchier dub script, but for anyone else who’s ever wondered what it would be like if these characters ever met up, this looks like it’ll be exactly what you’d expect.

Rating: Decent

Wise Man’s Grandchild

Wise Man’s Grandchild

Synopsis: A young man dies in a car accident and is reborn in a magical new world. The old, yet wise Merlin finds the boy, names him Shin, raises him from infancy, and teaches him combat and powerful magic along the way. 15 years later, Shin is ready to travel the globe on his own, but Merlin forgot to teach him something major—common sense!

First Impressions: It’s time for everyone’s favorite time of the season: isekai time. As always it’s pretty much impossible to get through a season of anime without at least one of these in there somewhere and for the last couple of seasons, we’ve actually been getting fairly lavish productions with the likes of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime and Rising of the Shield Hero. This show however feels like a throwback to what we’d normally come to expect from isekai, and by normal, I mean that it’s boring and looks bland as sin. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A normal Japanese dude gets hit by a car, and upon dying he finds himself reincarnated in another world. In this world magic exists and the guy is extremely talented in it to the point that his mere assistance is a threat to the world order. Also he gets to transfer to a magic high school. If this sounds familar than congratulations you’ve described the plot of almost every dang isekai in existance (and a couple of more generalized light novels). About the only point of distinction here is that MC-kun’s grandfather was apparently a legendary hero in his own right and while that could have made this a slightly interesting tale about the relationship between a grandfather and their grandchild, it’s made apparent almost right off the bat that this is just here to justify why MC-kun here is such an incredible Gary-stu and the show seems incredibly disinterested in its own title. Aside from that, everything else here is something you’ve seen in at least a dozen other isekai and while that would normally be par for the course, like I mentioned earlier, the last couple of isekai shows we got tried a lot harder than this did, and as much as I despised Shield Hero’s premiere, even that felt better directed than anything this had to offer. It doesn’t help that again, this looks super bland and aside from a couple of decent looking shots, its pretty bottom barrel looking compared to what we’ve been getting the last couple of seasons. I guess on the bright side this doesn’t have slavery in it (yet) so if you’re somehow just in the mood for a basic isekai power fantasy that doesn’t feel too scummy I guess you could do worse, but with the stronger productions we’ve gotten recently, this just doesn’t seem like it has anything worth offering

Rating: Bad

Sarazanmai

Sarazanmai

Synopsis: The setting is Asakusa. One day, second-years in middle school Kazuki Yasaka, Toi Kuji, and Enta Jinnai meet Keppi, a mysterious kappa-like creature, who steals their shirikodama and transforms them into kappas. “To return to your original forms,” Keppi tells them, “you must fight the zombies and take the shirikodama from them.” Can the boys connect with each other and steal the zombies’ shirikodama?! At the same time, something is happening at the police box where Reo Niiboshi and Mabu Akutsu work. This is the story of three boys who can’t connect with someone important to them, learning about what it truly means to do so.

First Impressions: And rounding off my seasonal impressions is the series I was looking forward to the most out this entire lineup. Kunihiko Ikuhara simultaneously one of the most brilliant and absurd directors in the entire anime industry, and I get excited pretty much every time he announces a new project. That’s largely because he’s the driving force behind Revolutionary Girl Utena, Penguindrum, and Yurikuma Arashi, which are all strange but beautiful masterpieces in their own right, and shows that have tackled LGBT issues better than just about anything else anime’s had to offer. However up to this point, Ikuhara’s dissection of those issues has largely been geared towards exploring queer women, and this series marks his first notable attempt at a story about gay men. So far, it’s off to whatever constitutes as a normal start for an Ikuhara which is to say it’s super weird and there’s a million and one metaphors here to unpack. Given how stressful the task of doing weekly reviews for Yurikuma was back in the day, the act of sitting here and attempting to go through all of this show’s potential themes is a bit too tedious for me, but the stuff that immediately stands out to me, is the prevalence of boxes as a metaphor for suppressing desire (something of a recurring theme in Ikuhara stuff) and the revelation that the main character Kazuki goes around crossdressing as a female idol. With the already heavy homoerotic undertones of the first episode, and the idea that he repeatedly frames this as a desire to “connect” with the idol he’s pretending to be, it seems like he’s either trans or its his way of trying to suppress his homosexuality by pretending to be devoted to her (possibly both), but this being an Ikuhara thing, I don’t wanna jump the gun too much at what themes are on display here. At any rate I’m really excited to see what this show has to say, and I’m equally excited just to look at it because the art direction here is also on par with what I’ve generally come to expect from Ikuhara stuff, which is that it’s totally gorgeous, and almost every other frame is packed with some kind of hidden meaning. Of course it’s entirely possible that this could end up being the series where Ikuhara somehow drops the ball, but he’s impressed me so many times, I’m willing to believe he’ll keep the score at 4-0, and I’m totally on board for the rest of this ride

Rating: Excellent

The Promised Neverland Ep #12 Review

Synopsis: Emma, Ray and Norman are the three smartest children at an orphanage known as Grace Field House. Under the care and guidance of their caretaker known as “Mom”, the children live peaceful lives, with the one condition being that they are never to go beyond the gate that leads to outside of the orphanage. However one day, Emma and Norman discover the truth of what lies beyond the gate, and it’s one that will change their lives forever

The Review

It’s been a long, long 12 weeks but here we are at the final episode of The Promised Neverland’s first season (which now officially IS the first season as a sequel’s been confirmed for next year). This season’s certainly been an interesting ride both in terms of the story itself, and the changes the anime made in telling it, as my feelings on this adaptation have only gotten more and more mixed with each passing week. Now that we’re finally here at the end though, it’s time to see whether or not it actually managed to stick the landing.

As the kids continue to make their escape, Ray notices that ones 4 years old and under are nowhere to be seen. This was a deliberate choice on Emma’s part, as we see in a flashback that she actually took Ray’s thoughts into consideration on how it would be too dangerous to take them. While Emma initially remained steadfast in her desire to leave no one behind despite knowing the risks, her perspective changed when Gilda brought up that it wasn’t really fair for only their group to escape when there are children in the other Grace Field plants who are still trapped and unaware of their reality. In light of that, Emma decided to talk directly to Phil about what was happening, and after telling him the truth about the farms, she revised her plan: deciding to leave the younger kids behind, but with the hope that she’ll return within two years to not only save them, but all of the kids suffering under the oppression of the farm system.

While this works as a realistic compromise between Emma and Ray’s points of view and helps in providing a more grounded approach to Emma’s optimism, it’s also one that once again highlights how shortsighted Ray’s purely pessimistic approach was in the long run. There can be value in taking the time to approach things realistically, and Ray’s more pragmatic point of view isn’t totally without its merits, but pragmatism is something that’s only ever truly effective when actively working towards a positive outcome rather than simply trying avoid a worst-case scenario. It’s a revelation that quietly dawns on Ray as he admits defeat in the face of seeing how well the other kids have adapted to their situation, and he now sees the value in Emma’s philosophy of working towards a future where they won’t have to lose anyone else.

I really like how well both these scenes are directed, and especially in regards to how the latter shifts between seeing the kids’ actual training, and the end results of it in the present, as it really drives home that they’re far more capable than either Ray or Norman was willing to give them credit for when the show began. At the same time though, I also feel like these points were driven home a little harder in the manga, as Emma’s desire to destroy the very farm system itself is given a little more emphasis than what we got here, and Ray’s shift towards a more optimistic point of view had a lot more emotional weight behind it. Losing some of that here knocked these scenes down a couple of points for me, but the core of what’s being said with them still largely remains in tact so in the end, it balanced out well enough that I can’t complain too much.

What immediately follows though is something I’m a lot more mixed on. As the kids escape via zip-lining over the cliff rather than using the bridge like the demons are expecting, Isabella catches up with them right as Emma is preparing to make her way over to the other side. This is a pretty notable shift from the manga as Isabella never managed to catch up with the kids and by the time she had made it to the wall they were already gone. I really like the idea of this scene, as Emma giving a direct goodbye to Isabella before making her escape helps in driving home the parallels between them and how Emma was able to make the choice to keep resisting her fate that Isabella could not. In execution however, it’s a little goofy as Isabella still seemed pretty determined to catch the kids in the scene preceding it so seeing that she not only never makes any kind of attempt to grab Emma, but gives her enough time to reflect on the house being burned down before heading for the hills feels a little out of character. I give the anime staff credit for trying though, and equally so in regards to how they handle Isabella’s own moment of reflection as we see pieces of her childhood and how she lost a boy she cared about before signing herself into becoming a mama to ensure her survival.

Much like with Krone’s backstory, these flashbacks are pretty silent compared to their manga counterpart and most of her internal monologue here was removed. Unfortunately part of that monologue was pretty important to Isabella’s characterization, as she confessed that she actually did despise the farm system for what it did to her friend, but ultimately ended up suppressing that fury because her desire to live outweighed her desire to fight back, putting her in stark contrast to how Emma chose to keep fighting in spite of losing Norman. However unlike with how Krone’s story was handled, Isabella’s drive to live no matter what is still translated pretty well in these scenes in spite of what was cut. Especially so the moment where she realizes that Ray is her biological child, as her pragmatism and her emotions are put directly at odds, and while the former might have won out, it didn’t make the choice of sacrificing her child any less painful. Isabella might have survived by tossing others to the wayside, but her willingness to surrender herself completely to her situation has ultimately ended up costing her everything. As she realizes she’s been utterly defeated, Isabella performs her first true act of motherhood and wishes Emma and the others safety on their new journey as the kids themselves forge ahead towards their first day of freedom.

And with that, we’re finally at the end of Neverland’s first season. When this season first began I was really excited to see how the anime was going to handle the manga’s material and if it was going to be successful in making the series into a bigger hit. Far as the former goes, I’ve been kinda let down by a lot of the anime’s choices, and the emphasis on the story’s horror elements over the characterization of the main cast ended up harming it in a few key areas, and took some of the weight out of its themes. It’s certainly proven to be pretty popular in spite of those deficiencies though, and as much as I’ve nitpicked this adaption to death, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get any enjoyment out of seeing the manga come to life, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a re-watch helped me to better reconcile with some of the anime’s adaptive choices. In regards to the finale though, I’ll say that it more or less stuck the landing, and while I’m still very seriously hoping the next season of the anime will have an extensive staff re-haul,(the rest of the manga is so different from the first arc its almost a necessity) much like the kids themselves, I’m still pretty eager to see what’s over the horizon in spite whatever dangers might come with it.

Rating: 9/10

The Promised Neverland Episode #11 Review


Synopsis: Emma, Ray and Norman are the three smartest children at an orphanage known as Grace Field House. Under the care and guidance of their caretaker known as “Mom”, the children live peaceful lives, with the one condition being that they are never to go beyond the gate that leads to outside of the orphanage. However one day, Emma and Norman discover the truth of what lies beyond the gate, and it’s one that will change their lives forever

The Review

We’re one episode away from the end the season, and Neverland has one last trail of material to blaze through as it speeds towards the finish line. “Blaze” being in the literal sense as the kids prepare to enact one last plan to outwit Isabella and its pretty lit to say the least. There’s a lot material packed into this week’s events and with the amount of reversed expectations this one is packing, it’s the one of the hottest episodes yet.  

Alright I’m pretty sure I’ve expended about as many fire puns as I could think of, so might as well get down to talking about the source. As Emma tells Ray that she hasn’t yet given up on escaping, she reveals that she’s only pretended to have lost hope to throw Isabella off Don and Gilda’s trail and give them time to prepare everything for the escape. Ray meanwhile, has apparently been working on a plan of his own for a while now, and suggests to Emma that the best method of escape would be to set fire to the orphanage and flee with the rest of the kids in the confusion. While he’s still against the idea of taking the others, he acknowledges that Emma won’t budge on her convictions and decides to respect her wishes, even if he hopes she’ll reconsider. With how dead set Ray has been on abandoning the rest of the kids, it seems a little strange that he’d be willing to budge in the final act, but it all makes sense when we discover what Ray truly plans to do.  

When Emma mentions that Isabella might prioritize securing the kids over stopping a potential fire, Ray reveals that he’s come up with a contingency plan for that: setting himself on fire to distract her. In truth, Ray never planned on escaping with Norman and Emma to begin with, as he had given up on the hope of being freed from the farm system ages ago, and feels weighed down by the lives of his siblings who he’s helped to kill in the pursuit of securing Norman and Emma’s safety. Seeing as up to this point, Ray’s been presented as a cold, if understandable, pragmatist, discovering that he has so little regard for his own life is a pretty big twist to say the least, and yet it also explains quite a bit about some of his behavior in previous episodes. For as much as Ray has preached about the efficiency in abandoning the others to survive we’ve also seen moments where he’s clearly more concerned about the other kids than that attitude would suggest, and combining that with this revelation puts Ray’s world view into full perspective. His focus on pragmatism isn’t because he actually thinks it’ll help him survive, but rather because he’s convinced himself that his situation is utterly hopeless, and that if he’s going to die anyway, sacrificing himself for his loved ones is better than clinging to a sense of hope that may not exist, the latter of which he expressed concern to Norman with back in episode 5. Much like Isabella’s scene with Emma last week, this revelation also ties in pretty heavily with the story’s themes regarding the emptiness in a life built on sacrificing others to survive, and while Ray may frame his suicide attempt as an act of rebellion, it’s more an admission of defeat.  

Much as I really like this concept thematically though, in execution I was once again a little let down by how the anime directed this scene. While Ray is clearly letting all his emotions loose in this moment, it felt a little too over dramatic for what the moment needed and the heavy orchestral music playing in the background took what should have been a poignant, or at the very least terrifying moment, and made it feel slightly goofy. Like with most of my complaints about the anime’s sense of direction I wouldn’t say this outright failed in what it needed to do, but tonally I kinda wish they’d swapped this scene around with how Krone’s death was portrayed. I’m willing to admit I’m particularly biased on this one though, so hopefully it still managed to get the point across to new anime viewers.  

Important as that moment is though, what follows is no less significant as when the fire starts and Isabella attempts to rescue Ray, she realizes she’s been played. While Ray might have thought he was doing a good job of hiding his intentions, Norman caught on to Ray’s suicide plan from the very beginning and gave Emma a warning to stop him before he got the chance to follow through on it. This catches Ray off guard and forces him to properly join in the escape, but it’s not the only surprise in store for him: It also turns out that Emma decided to bring the rest of the kids in on the true nature of the orphanage, and they’ve all been working on the escape plan during the two months Emma was pretending to do nothing. That development not only works as a great twist, but it’s also a pretty great rebuttal to Ray’s (and to a lesser extent Isabella’s) viewpoint. He wrote the other kids off as being dead weight who wouldn’t be able to handle the reality of their situation, but they’re clearly willing to face this reality head on, and are already doing their part to contribute, rather than surrendering to their circumstances the same way he and Isabella did. In the end, despite their insistence on it, Ray and Isabella’s pragmatism is ultimately limiting to their livelihood rather than helpful, and while it’s not yet clear how much this lesson has sunk in for Ray, it certainly hasn’t for Isabella who still believes she can salvage the situation before the kids finish their escape. With only one episode to go, and Phil, apparently staying with Isabella rather than fleeing with the others, its up to the finale to determine whose views will prevail, and more importantly: if the kids are alright.

The Promised Neverland Ep #10 Review

Synopsis: Emma, Ray and Norman are the three smartest children at an orphanage known as Grace Field House. Under the care and guidance of their caretaker known as “Mom”, the children live peaceful lives, with the one condition being that they are never to go beyond the gate that leads to outside of the orphanage. However one day, Emma and Norman discover the truth of what lies beyond the gate, and it’s one that will change their lives forever
The Review

It’s a somber day in Neverland, as our heroes find themselves at their lowest point yet. Between Norman’s shipment and a literal insurmountable cliff standing in their way, things are looking pretty dark, and it only gets worse as this week’s events unfold. With that level of despair comes a lot of heavy material for the anime to shift through, and while there’s a bit of give and take in how said material is adapted, it makes for the moodiest episode of the series yet.

So having returned from the wall, Norman goes into more detail about what exactly’s up with the cliff and what their options are. While the cliff is too high to jump down from, it appears that the wall itself actually forms a pentagon like barrier around the farms, with the only exit being a bridge that’s more than likely connected to demon HQ. There’s not a whole lot of time for Emma and Ray to process this new information though, as they quickly realize that Norman came back because he had no desire to escape his fate to begin with, and he’s now fully prepared to face his demise. Of course while he may be ready to die, Emma and Ray still can’t bring themselves to accept it, and the combination of great character and voice acting on display in this scene helps to get across just how powerless they feel in this moment. It’s pretty heartbreaking, and it’s another instance where I’ll actually praise the anime’s direction as letting the emotion of the scene speak for itself rather than tacking on the characters’ thoughts allows for the scene to feel a little more sincere and gives the trio’s final moment in the orphanage together the level of weight it needs to.

That sentiment also largely extends to how the rest of Norman’s departure is handled. As Norman prepares to leave, he thinks back to a childhood memory involving him and Emma, where he was sick and Emma kept attempting to keep him company despite Isabella’s protests. This whole sequence was a bonus side story from one of the manga volumes that was mostly played for laughs, but it is a pretty vital bit of characterization for Norman. While it’s pretty clear his feelings towards Emma have played a key part in him choosing to follow her viewpoint over Ray’s this sequence helps in giving a bit more context to those feelings, and it adds a lot more impact to the event that follows as Emma makes one last attempt to force Norman into escaping. It fails, but it reminds Norman that while Emma’s general attitude can be way too reckless for its own good, the way she puts herself out for other people is part of why he cares for her so much. It’s a great scene for both characters although I’ll admit I was slightly let down by how Norman’s feelings towards Emma in this last moment are implied to be largely romantic, whereas in the manga, it’s mixed with a broader sense of admiration for those aforementioned qualities. This isn’t a particularly big deal, but that difference in framing did help a little more in making the manga feel more confident in Emma’s abilities as a protagonist so it’s a little depressing the anime opted to go this route just to make Norman’s exit mildly sadder.

Thankfully I was much happier with the exchange after that, as Isabella has her own final chat with Norman before sending him off to his fate. As she commends him for choosing to protect his friends, Norman asks her if she’s happy with the life she’s lived in the farms. In that moment, Isabella’s guard drops, and while she responds that she is because of being able to meet children like Norman, it’s clear that this was a pretty armor piercing question for her. Much like Krone, Isabella has spent a long time trapped within the cruelty of the farm system, and while she’s managed to survive through this system with a level of privilege that Krone did not, the toll of juggling between the personas of a loving parent and an efficient farmer certainly isn’t as small as she’d like to think it is, even if she deems this necessary to her own survival.

This ties in wonderfully to a later scene in the episode where in the midst of despairing over Norman’s absence, Isabella attempts to “console” Emma by telling her to give up on escaping and instead work to become a Mom like her. While Isabella frames this as something of a kind mercy to Emma, it’s clear that this is really Isabella trying to convince herself that the path she chose for her survival is the only correct one. This makes Emma’s subsequent rejection of her offer all the more poignant as simply surrendering to her circumstances is the one thing she can’t ever bring herself to do. While the anime hasn’t placed quite as much emphasis on Emma and Isabella’s specific mother-daughter relationship as the manga did (a point which coincidentally, is why Kaiu Shirai pushed to give the manga a female protagonist), this nevertheless makes for a really powerful dynamic as the parallels between their respective choices not only makes for a great contrast in their character arcs thus far, but also ties into the story’s broader themes regarding sacrificing others for the sake of one’s own survival. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out in the remaining two episodes, and while I do kind of wish this scene was a little better directed, it still carries a lot of significance in an otherwise packed episode.

With so much going into this one, it almost feels like I’m downplaying things by saying the rest of the episode is pretty much an extended sequence of despair, but it’s certainly well handled. Yet again I’ll give some credit towards the anime’s lack of internal monologue when dealing with this specific set of events as the kids’ reaction to Norman’s demise and the subsequent feelings of emptiness that follow pack a lot more punch when being portrayed from this perspective, and it makes the reversal at the end of the episode feel a little more rewarding as we discover Emma isn’t ready to call quits just yet. With only two episodes left to go, and Ray’s shipment next on Isabella’s agenda, the clock is quickly winding down on the kids’ window to escape, but dark as things are now, hopefully this is just the darkness before the dawn.

Rating: 9/10

 

The Promised Neverland Ep #09 Review

Synopsis: Emma, Ray and Norman are the three smartest children at an orphanage known as Grace Field House. Under the care and guidance of their caretaker known as “Mom”, the children live peaceful lives, with the one condition being that they are never to go beyond the gate that leads to outside of the orphanage. However one day, Emma and Norman discover the truth of what lies beyond the gate, and it’s one that will change their lives forever

The Review

So a lot went down in last week’s episode for better or worse, and since I ended up exhausting myself quite a bit trying to get all my thoughts out there, I’m happy that this one’s a lot less stressful to talk about. “Less” stressful being the keyword here because the story certainly isn’t slowing down, and things are looking particularly dire for Norman this week as the threat of his shipment carries the bulk of this episode’s content. With that in mind, it kind of goes without saying there’s a whole lot of drama packed into this one, and unlike last week’s events, the anime’s specific style of approach in handling this material doesn’t feel at odds with what it needs to convey.

Things start off looking pretty bleak for the kids as everyone tries to process Norman’s predicament, and the implications of Krone’s demise as it hammers home that Isabella means business. The former seems to be hitting Ray especially hard, and he desperately tries to think of any solution that could help save Norman. Once again, it’s kind of interesting to see that for all of Ray’s talk about making rational decisions, he’s the one being the most emotional here, Mariya Ise does a stellar job of conveying just how frustrated he feels about seeing all his plans go up in smoke, and watching Norman being put in harm’s way. Norman himself isn’t handling things much better as we see usual smile crack under the pressure of his own demise and watching the horror of his situation set in on him is just heartbreaking. As has generally been the case with these comparisons, the manga pulled readers directly into Norman’s headspace as he processes what to do next, but this is one instance where I’ll actually say the anime opting to go for something quieter works for the better. While seeing his thoughts certainly ramped up the tension of this crisis in the manga, his character animation here speaks volumes more about the level of fear he’s facing, and the visual direction of how that fear gradually turns into a quiet sense of resolve in choosing to face this situation head on is probably my favorite scene from this adaption so far.

In the end, Norman decides that the best solution is to accept his fate and sacrifice himself so the others can continue working on the escape plan, but Emma and Ray aren’t having any of that. The two of them throw out a few suggestions on how to save him, with the biggest being that he could pretend to escape while hiding out in the woods till the escape starts and that Ray could break a few of his limbs to keep from getting shipped out in his place. These ideas clearly reek of desperation, but they do convey just how much these two care about their friend, and it causes Norman to break down and reveal that he still wants nothing more than to continue living alongside them. As compelling as all three of these characters have been individually we haven’t really seen too much of their dynamic as an actual trio, so this scene really does a lot in helping to sell the bond between them, and while it’s doubtful things are going to end very well for them, it really makes me hope they they can get something of a happy ending.

Norman’s material gets the brunt of the focus here, but there’s some other bits we get as well that are also simultaneously where the anime falls a bit short this time around. One of them is more details on Ray’s past as we learn that he’s actually been aware of the farm’s true nature since literally the very beginning. Turns out he retained some of his memories as an infant and gradually put the pieces together as he got older which does a lot to explain his world view and why he’s maintained such a cynical stance on things, as the terror of the farm system is basically all he’s ever known. Sadly, it’s also a rather big case of the anime telling us and not showing us, as the manga actually does displays the visual details of Ray’s memories to the audience while the anime opts not to. While the scene’s still directed pretty well in spite of that, showing this stuff first hand was both frightening and pretty effective as far as world building goes, so I can’t for the life of me understand why the anime staff thought this approach was a good idea. Still, the scene does what it needs to I guess so I suppose it’s not too big of a deal in the long run. The same pretty much goes for the episode’s climax as Norman goes through with faking his escape only to return and reveal to Emma and Ray that there’s a giant cliff beyond the wall. Ending on that revelation makes for a good cliffhanger, but getting our brief glimpse into what the world outside the farms looks like, only reveals the limitations in the anime’s current visual style as the backgrounds make the forest beyond the farms look bland rather than haunting. Hopefully that’s something the anime will correct in the long run (along with a few other things) but for the moment, it’s bit of a weakness. Aside from those complaints though, I’d say this was a pretty strong episode. My problems with the anime’s direction certainly haven’t gone away, but it’s managed to at least turn it’s focus on character animation into a strength this time around, and if nothing else, I’m glad that this material still feels compelling.

Rating: 8.9/10