First Impressions- Winter 2021 Anime (Part 2)

Onwards and upwards to Week 2 of the Winter 2021 anime season! Okay I guess it feels a little false to call this week 2 when stuff only really started premiering in earnest last Tuesday, but that’s close enough for me, and I gotta try to spread this out a least a little bit, so this is where the rest of my impressions are going. As you might have guessed from my rambling, there’s still plenty of anime looming over the horizon and its possible that the best (or likely worst) is still yet to come, so time to keep this moving.

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 .


Kemono Jihen

Kemono Jihen

Synopsis: In a quiet rural village, many domestic animals die unnatural deaths in a strange incident. To resolve the incident, an odd-looking man from Tokyo who goes by the name “Inugami” comes to the town to investigate. In the town, he meets a young boy who has a mysterious air about him called “Dorotabou.”

First Impressions: I’d heard some small rumblings about the manga, but I really knew about this series going in was that it was some kind of supernatural battle manga. You wouldn’t be able to tell for the first half of the episode though, as the opener kicks off with a detective from Tokyo named Inugami coming to the countryside to solve a case, and gets close with a village boy called Doratobo. Doratobo is clearing being ostracized by the other villagers and his extended family that took him in after his parents vanished for some reason or another, but much of the premiere is Doratobo and Inugami getting acquainted and Doratobo opening up about wanting to meet his parents someday. Then we learn that the keepsake from his parents that he keeps around his neck is meant to keep him from transforming into a creature called a Kemono and that Doratobo’s aunt hired Inugami to kill him. However Inugami ends up taking pity on Doratobo, and while “kills” him, it turns out Doratobo is incapable of actually dying anyway and he’s taken by Inugami to the big city where he can hopefully find his parents, and abandons the name Doratobo for his real name, Kabane. It’s a bit of an odd way to open up an action horror series but it’s pretty effective. Kabane’s troubled backstory makes him immediately endearing, and I like the relationship he has with Inugami so far, so I’m curious to see how that’ll develop. The design for Kabane’s “Kemono” form is also pretty spookly looking, and the overall direction of the premiere had an effective enough lead-in for a classic horror set-up, I was almost a little let down when it seemed like this was probably going to be more action centered. The production here looks pretty solid too, and I dig how reminiscent the character designs feel of 90’s shonen action horror classics like Ushio & Tora. Since so much of this premiere was basically just setup, it’s anyone’s guess what the actual plot of this is gonna be aside from Kabane’s search for his real parents, but I liked what I saw here just enough that I’m happy to see where it goes for now.

Rating: Good


Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation

Synopsis: When a 34-year-old underachiever gets run over by a bus, his story doesn’t end there. Reincarnated in a new world as an infant, Rudy will seize every opportunity to live the life he’s always wanted. Armed with new friends, some freshly acquired magical abilities, and the courage to do the things he’s always dreamed of, he’s embarking on an epic adventure—with all of his past experience intact!

First Impressions: There have been a lot of isekai over the years, and they’ve become so prominent it’s almost hard to imagine a time where we were largely devoid of them. Of course pretty much every genre starts somewhere, and Jobless here is the granddaddy of modern isekai stories. I do vaguely recall skimming through the first chapter or two back when I still used to read manga scanlations, but that was many years ago, and I’ve seen dozens of other isekai since then, so how does it hold up against its successors you might ask? Well I mean, it’s still isekai so that basically answers that, but in some ways it’s the most obnoxious of the bunch I’ve come across in a good while. We get our usual setup of MC-kun dying in a horrible accident before getting reincarnated as a baby in a world where magic and monsters exist, but where later variants of this story at least had the sense to make MC-kun a harmless vanilla boy, or at least some over-exhausted worker who might reasonably deserve a second chance at happiness, this shows MC-kun was some jobless otaku smuck, and the first words that come to mind after he gets reborn are about how big his new mom’s boobs are. Unfortunately he doesn’t get any better from there as the episode shuffles between him learning how to use magic, and him just being creepy towards every woman he comes across as he grows, including his young magic teacher who he explicitly states he wants to bang. So yeah, the lead is kind of a huge creepy even by isekai standards, and even taking that out of the equation what we get here is pretty much the same as literally any other isekai premiere you can think of. The one genuinely nice thing I can say about the show is that the production looks really, really good and it’s clear that a lot of resources were poured into it, but given how bland or actively bad every other aspect of it is, it almost feels actively frustrating that all of that couldn’t have been put into a better show. I guess if you very specifically want a nice looking isekai show, then this qualifies, but even then there are still other isekai shows that look pretty good and feel less obnoxious than this did. Hard pass.

Rating: Bad


EX-ARM

Ex-Arm

Synopsis: In the year 2014, a high school student who hates machines, Akira Natsume, wants to change himself for the better and tries to take the first step in doing that… But then he gets run over by a truck. Fast forward to 2030. A police officer named Minami Uezono and her partner, the android Alma, infiltrate the scene of a trade going on at Tokyo Harbor for an unknown weapon named “EX-ARM.” They are then attacked by an enemy armed with the “EX-ARM” No.08. Put in this life or death situation, they decide to activate the “EX-ARM” No.00 that they stole from the enemy, and… 

First Impressions: So this series was announced as getting an anime a few years ago, and we then proceeded to never hear about it again until Crunchyroll announced it was going to be one of their “Crunchyroll Originals” co-productions. It was kinda weird seeing a show announcement get that much radio silence after it’s initial announcement and it got a couple more delays even after Crunchyroll announced it, so it was a mystery what the heck was going on behind the scenes with this show until we saw the trailers, and boy did we see the trailers. What was presented in those trailers was some of the most embarrassingly bad 3DCG I’ve seen in anything and pretty comparable to the first season or two of RWBY, though to that show’s credit, it at least had some killer fight choreography, and it’s studio RoosterTeeth could still be reasonably considered an indy group in those days. That a fully funded TV anime production could look that embarrassing was frankly absurd, and I’m here to tell you the actual show doesn’t really look any better than those trailers. The 3DCG models look incredibly stiff, with little in the way of facial expressions, and robotically animated lip flaps, and the way they’re blended into some of the limited 2D backgrounds is so poor and choppy it makes GoHands look like Kyoto Animation. The 3DCG backgrounds and vehicles also look very choppy and blocky to a pretty amateurish degree, and even the fight scenes, while having maybe a couple of instances of decent fight choreography look incredibly stiff and awkward.

Ex-Arm looks relentingly, embarrassingly awful, and it’s kind of a shame because while the actual story doesn’t seem like a masterpiece or anything, it comes across as way more competent than anything in the anime’s production, and going by the shots of the original character designs we see in the eyecatches and ED song, this show could have looked pretty good in better hands. I have to specify “other hands” because as has been pointed out by folks more knowledgeable than I, the director Yoshikatsu Kimura specializes in live action projects and when he was brought along for this project, rather than hiring staff who already worked in the anime industry, he hired a bunch of other folks who only had experience in live action, believing he’d be able to create something unique that you wouldn’t see from a regular TV anime and well…he wasn’t wrong I guess. Honestly I feel pretty bad for the original manga authors because now their work is gonna be forever tied to this guy’s narcissism and there’s absolutely no excuse for how this whole thing was put together. That said while this show looks abysmal, it is the sort of production disaster that only rarely comes along so for that reason alone I might keep up with it lay proof to it’s existence (which Crunchyroll very understandably probably wants to hide now) as a cautionary tale of sorts. Beyond that though, I honestly can’t think of a single reason to recommend this show in good faith, so unless you’re very, and I mean very specifically interested in examining this disaster of a production, there’s better shows you can watch this season, and probably better ways to spend your time.

Rating: Bad


Wonder Egg Priority

Wonder Egg Priority

Synopsis: The aforementioned Ai scored a “Wonder Egg” from a gachapon machine at a deserted arcade. But when Ai falls asleep and a girl (!) emerges from her Wonder Egg, the worlds of dreams and reality begin to collide. And it’s all connected.

First Impressions: This show wasn’t super high on my radar for the season, but all the preview images I saw made this seem like it was gonna be a pretty low-key coming of age thing, and while that’s not something I’d consider outright exciting, I tend to enjoy that sort of show more often than not so I was curious to check it out. What I watched…was pretty much anything but low-key. The story follows a girl named Ai who seems to be a shut-in for reasons that aren’t totally clear yet, and when she goes on a walk through a park one evening she encounters a mysterious talking bug who gives her egg that it claims can make her desire for a friend to come true. After eventually deciding to crack the egg, Ai gets transported to some kind of other dimension where she’s thrown into what seems to be some weird death game scenario involving monsters called Seeno Evils. However rather than the monsters going after Ai, they go after another girl named Kurumi. While Ai initially tries to run away from the whole ordeal, seeing Kurumi in danger reminds her of her relationship with her best friend who committed suicide and how she failed to save her. Ai decides to step in and save Kurumi only for Kurumi to vanish afterwards, but it seems that saving Kurumi was actually the objective all along and that if Ai continues to save others, she’ll be able to bring her friend back to life.

If everything I just described sounds weird to you well…yeah the show is pretty weird, and the off-kilter visual direction certainly didn’t make any of it easier to digest, I’ll be darned if it didn’t catch my attention though. While we don’t yet know the full circumstances of what led to the suicide of Ai’s friend, we do know that Ai was bullied for her heterochromia before they met, and the impression I got from the last few minutes of the episode are that all of the kids Ai and the other participants are tasked with “saving” are ones who committed suicide. That’s a pretty touchy subject to dive into, but there is a lot of room for potential, and given how much of a problem it’s apparently become among Japanese schoolkids these days, there’s certainly plenty to explore with it, though there is the fear it could turn around and end up being extremely insensitive. Honestly so much of this premiere’s direction is obtuse that even everything I’ve just speculated feels like it might be too bold an assertion of where the show could be going, and it could end up doing something else entirely, but either way it’s got me interested. I don’t know exactly what Wonder Egg is going to be, or even what its ideas are beyond base speculation, but what I do know is that there was no other premiere this season quite like it, and if nothing else, it’s more than worth a look.

Rating: Great


And that’s basically it for me with season impressions. I know this ended up being a lot shorter than usual despite my own expectations, but I didn’t quite realize the extent to which half this season was comprised of sequels, and since I’ve made it a bit of a personal policy not to bother doing impressions about them since there’s not much point in talking up a show people are already invested in, that left me a little stuck. Can’t complain about giving myself less of a headache though, and as far as the non-sequels of the season go, it seems like there’s potential for some heavy hitters despite a few giant turds. Hopefully that prophecy ends up coming true come Spring, but until then, as always, stay as safe as you can, stay indoors as much as you can, and stay animated.

<- Part 1

First Impressions- Winter 2021 Anime

We might have escaped the trenches of 2020 but there’s never any escape from the clutches of anime. and there’ll always be a new season to loom over the horizon bring both hope and dread in equal measure. As always, I’m here to waste my time shifting through as many premieres as possible and hoping to find at least a few new exciting things to make the effort worth it. This is looking to be a pretty stuffed season in particular so I’m probably gonna be a little more selective for my own sanity, but I imagine you’re here to see me ramble about specific Japanese cartoons so let’s get on with that.

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 .


Suppose a Kid From the Last Dungeon Boonies moved to a starter town?

Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town

Synopsis: Considered a weakling his entire life, novice adventurer Lloyd leaves his village located at the fringe of the mortal world to fulfill his dream of becoming a soldier. When he arrives at the capital, the people discover that this oblivious kid from hard knocks might be more powerful than anyone expected.

First Impressions: I’d say it’s time to get the obligatory isekai of the season out the way, but in a surprise twist, this one isn’t actually isn’t an isekai. While I was waiting for some kind of explanation for how our hero got to this world, or some flashback of his former life before he reincarnated, it seems like he is in fact an actual denizen of his world, and despite the JRPG-ish flavor of the setting, it’s an actual fantasy world. That said, even without that one caveat, this premiere otherwise has a lot of the basics you’d see in your standard isekai fantasy in that Lloyd is extremely overpowered compared to everyone him, and girls are already falling at his feat. The only major differences really seem to be that Lloyd actually is a sweet kid instead of a potato putting on the facade of one, and all of his antics have been played entirely for laughs so far. This is far from the first time an isekai power fantasy premise has been turned into a comedy, but a lot of the other ones I’ve seen have been more on the mean-spirited end of things, while this seems relatively fluffy so far, and one of the characters came off as particularly obnoxious. That said, this premiere was kinda missing the key factor to totally win me over, and that would be that the jokes weren’t all that funny, and while it didn’t seem like the show was in any particular danger of running out of ways to make fun of Lloyd’s absurd strength, only a couple of the gags actually landed for me. Still I guess I wasn’t exactly bored by it, so I might give it another episode or two to see if it works for me personally, but I guess if a fluffy power fantasy comedy is your speed this seems pretty harmless so far.

Rating: Decent


Otherside Picnic

Otherside Picnic

Synopsis: Moments from death, Sorawo is saved by the mysterious Toriko in the Otherside. Attracted to its beauty, she soon discovers that this dimension is inhabited by monsters once thought imaginary. Joining with Toriko in her search for a missing friend, they set out to explore this nightmare-realm and maybe make a little money. What they encounter could bring enlightenment—or drive them mad!

First Impressions: I’d heard this was a pretty interesting yuri story, and while I was a little let down by last season’s Adachi and Shimamura being a little bit too much of a slow burn for it’s own good, this grabbed my attention pretty quickly. For one thing, exploring weird and mysterious fantasy worlds is kind of my jam, and I’m already pretty intrigued by the concept of the titular Otherside that our two heroines explore, and how it seems to be a weird mix between urban myths and weird high-concept sci-fi logic. Much of the exploration we see in this premiere outside of Toriko and Sorawo having their first meeting involves the two of them hunting down a mysterious “Wiggle-Waggle” monster that can make you go insane by looking at, but can also only be killed by attempting to observe it head-on. It’s the kind of bonkers fantasy stuff I crave, and I’m already pretty excited to learn more about both the Otherside itself, and how Sorawo and Toriko learned of its existance in the first place. Speaking of Toriko and Sorawo, it helps that the two of them have pretty good chemistry, with Sorawo being a bit of an introvert, while Toriko seems much more gung-ho about exploring the Otherside, and ropes Sorawo into being her “partner-in-crime”. While there aren’t too many hints of it right here in the premiere, if the show actually does commit to being a yuri romance. it’s done a pretty good job of laying the seeds and the direction of their first meeting in particular where Toriko saves Sorawo from dying abandoned came off pretty strong on that end.

If there’s one serious weakness this premiere had, it’s in the show’s production, because while the backgrounds look good, and I like the monster designs we’ve seen so far, the actual animation has been extremely limited for what a show like this will probably require, and there were more than a few really awkward shots of the girls in 3DCG whenever the camera zoomed out from them, and they felt more like a weird cost-cutting measure than a way to help balance out the animation for important scenes, and they kinda killed the atmosphere of the show for me a couple of times. That the show is already showing some notable production woes in its very first episode is a pretty big red flag, and its got me pretty worried it could end up falling apart well before the finish line. I did enjoy the premiere in spite of those problems, but knowing that danger looms on the horizon makes it hard for me to give this show as quick a recommendation as I would otherwise. For now I’d say it’s certainly worth at least giving a peek, and it’s got plenty of potential to be both a cool sci-fi fantasy romp and a good yuri romance, but whether or not it lives up to all that might end up depend on the production holding up, so here’s hoping this show can make it to the end of the season in one piece.

Rating: Good


Gekidol

Gekidol

Synopsis: Five years after a mystifying disaster decimates cities across the globe, Seria Morino receives an invitation from a mysterious woman to join Alice in Theater, a small stage troupe that takes it upon themselves to brighten the world through their performances using 3D hologram technology. As Seria settles in, she begins to uncover unexpected truths about herself and the world around her…

First Impressions: So uh…this was a thing I watched I guess? For a whole hour? This seemed like it was going to be an idol based thing going in, even if it’s more about acting specifically, and given how many IPs like that we get every year, I sorta figured it was based off a mobage game, idol group or some kind of otherwise existing product, meaning it was designed to cater to existing fans. Yet after sitting through this and checking AniChart, it seems like I was wrong and this is actually an anime original product…which makes me really wonder what the heck was going on with the premiere. So the first half is pretty straightforward: a young girl watches a play and gets inspired to become an actor before getting recruited by an acting troupe. Also one of the girls in the acting troupe is some kind of robot, and apparently some kind of implied apocalypse happened in the show’s setting prior to all of this. Okay, so maybe it’s not too straightforward, but it was easy enough to follow, and while it admittedly leaned a little too much into cute girls doing cute things for my personal tastes, I thought it was pretty decently directed, and while the girls themselves didn’t seem all that interesting, I was at least curious enough about where the premise was headed that I was considering maybe giving it another episode. This premiere also happened to be some kind of weird double length thing, where the first episode, and what I guess was meant to be some kind of OVA special were packaged together to make it double-length and the second half was…confusing to say the least.

I guess to be clear it seemed like going off of how the first half of the episode concluded, the OVA was meant to be an extended version of one of the plays the girls were performing with said play centering around a zombie apocalypse scenario. That’s a bit of weird set-up for a play, but it’s a neat idea nonetheless…except that the OVA spends the entire episode on it and without the added context that it’s all just a play, so it mostly just comes off as weird zombie story that feels completely separate from the thing I’d just spent the previous 25 minutes watching, and that disconnect kind of made it hard for me to get invested in the play’s scenario since I kept expecting it to cut back to the show proper and it never did. In fairness this is probably more of a problem with how Funi chose to stream this than the show itself, since had they split these episodes up and made it clearer the latter was just a one-off OVA thing I’d be less irritated, but because I ended up spending an hour watching what felt like two completely different shows, I ended up being able not to appreciate much of either and that kinda sucks. If I were to put my annoyance with that aside I’d say that based off the actual first episode this seems like it could be a pretty okay idol/acting set up, and it certainly seems to be more ambitious than this kind of show generally tends to be, but if the plays themselves are gonna be the main focus, then it kind of weirdly makes me less interested. I’m not doing the best at presenting my case with this one, but I’m not even sure what the case really is at this point. I guess this show seems unique if nothing else, but unless I hear good things about it through the rest of the season, I’m probably gonna pass it up.

Rating: Decent (first half), Ehhhhh…. (second half)


Hortensia SAGA

Hortensia Saga

Synopsis: Set in the Kingdom of Hortensia, a world power thanks to its main territories (Camellia and Olivier) serving as sword and shield against invading countries, a revolt begins in Camellia! With Hortensia headed toward chaos and the arrival of monsters making things more complicated, can the knights of this war-torn world survive and protect Hortensia?

First Impressions: I went into this one blind so I wasn’t even sure what it was based off of, but apparently it’s a video game adaption which certainly explains why the direction here felt a little stale. The show has a pretty basic fantasy world set up where a kingdom called Hortensia suddenly erupts into civil war, and in the process the king is killed, and the princess is led to safety by one of the knights. A few years later the story follows a local lord named Alfred who fights alongside his squire Marius to defend themselves from invaders, and that’s about as much as we really get for the premiere. A lot of it comes off as a kind of boilerplate JRPG set up (and I’m guessing it probably is based on one) and nothing about it came off as particularly inspired, but it executed on most of the standard tropes for this kind of setting decently enough, and while the production values aren’t great, the show looks decent enough, and it doesn’t seem like it’d be at too big a risk of falling apart at the seams later on. About the biggest point of interest in the premiere is that Alfred’s squire Marius is obviously the missing princess who has disguised themselves as a male knight (gonna refrain from using pronouns in the off chance Marius does identify as male but going off the visual in the ED song that doesn’t seem too likely) and for some reason Alfred seems to be completely unaware of that, and the knight that brought Marius to him seems okay with Marius fighting on the front lines seems seems kinda weird as far as politics go, but I am at least sorta curious what the exact story there is. Especially since going by the OP visuals it seems there’s a good chance Alfred will get killed off at some point in the story and Marius will become the main protagonist. That said, everything else about this premiere just seemed aggressively fine, and while I’m not opposed to watching something this low-key, I can’t say it held too much of my attention. Maybe I’ll give it another episode if I need another show to fill out Wednesdays besides The Promised Neverland‘s second season, but for now I’m leaning more towards passing on this.

Rating: Decent


LBX Girls

Soukou Musume Senki

Synopsis: In an unplanned field trip, Riko is transported to an alternate Japan where metal-based life forms known as Mimesis ravage the world. Only girls equipped with LBX armored weaponry can stand up to this scourge. Joined by four other displaced young women, Riko will have to adapt to save humanity. The hope of a planet now rests on these heavy metal soldiers who desire one wish—to return home again!

First Impressions: I know from twitter circles and what little clips I’ve seen of the heavily localized dub that LBX is based off a toy franchise in Japan. and it seems like this show is an attempt to market those robot models to the otaku crowd. The show kicks off with our heroine Riko going to the mall to get an LBX figure for her dad, and she ends up getting isekai’d into another world. In said world a bunch of girls fight a mysterious group of monsters called Mimesis using robot armor that’s based off the LBX models, and wouldn’t ya know it? The LBX model Riko was touching when she got isekai’d gave her some armor of her very own, and now she’s stuck helping her newfound companions fight against the Mimesis until she can manage to find her way home. Between the stock personality types of the girls and the fanservice heavy transformation sequences each one gets before they go out to fight, it’s pretty clear what this show is going for, and if you’re gonna pander, I can at least appreciate when a show is honest about it. For the most part this show seems perfectly fine. The production values seem pretty decent, with some acceptable 3DCG for some of the transformation and fight sequences, and while the designs of the girls aren’t exactly unique, they work well enough if that’s what you’re here for. Frankly this is the kinda thing where your enjoyment of it probably is gonna entirely centered around how much the fanservice appeals to you, and while I’m certainly not against watching a fanservice romp, this show doesn’t seem like it’d have much appeal for me on that end, so I didn’t exactly walk away from this premiere feeling eager to watch more. If the girls or the general aesthetic of this do sound like your kind of speed though, this show seems harmless enough.

Rating: Decent


Cells at Work!: CODE BLACK

Cells at Work! Code Black

Synopsis: A newbie Red Blood Cell is one of 37 trillion working to keep this body running. But something’s wrong! Stress hormones keep yelling at him to go faster. The blood vessels are crusted over with cholesterol. Ulcers, fatty liver, trouble (ahem) downstairs… It’s hard for a cell to keep working when every day is a CODE BLACK! You’ve seen what happens when a young, healthy body gets in trouble… but what if the body wasn’t so young and was never very healthy? This new take stars a fresh-faced Red Blood Cell and his friend, the buxom White Blood Cell, as they struggle to keep themselves and their world together through alcoholism, smoking, erectile dysfunction, athlete’s foot, gout… it’s literal body horror!

First Impressions: I got a pretty good amount of mileage out of the first season of Cells at Work, and I dug it’s mix of edutainment, comedy and campy ultra-violence, and enjoyed it enough to happily take more of it. While we do have a second season proper also airing this season, we also have this serving as its darker counterpart, since while Cells at Work proper takes place in a healthy body, this one depicts the lives of cells in a much unhealthier one. The episode kicks off with a young blood cell starting his first day at work, and going by the orientation he’s given, it seems he’ll have a nice place to work where everyone’s friendly, there’s good benefits and little in the way of mandatory overtime. But of course as any millennial would tell you, such an ideal job environment is way too good to be true in our modern age, so in reality it turns out to be an utter nightmare where he’s thrusted onto the job without any training, isn’t allowed to take any breaks and has to deal with constant complaints from both disgruntled cells mad about how the oxygen’s being distributed and his fellow co-workers for his naïve attitude. The only comfort he finds is in a somewhat friendly senior colleague who advises him that the best way to get through work is to simply cut off his emotions and not question anything about the job.

Amazingly the episode manages to get even more depressing from there. because we get a very detailed look at what what happens when carbon monoxide from smoking enters the body and affects blood cells, and by detailed look I mean the red blood cells get slowly zombiefied before getting brutally murdered by the germs that also entered the body through the cigarette, and Red Blood Cell has to watch his colleague sacrifice himself in front of him so he can safely make the next oxygen delivery. It’s a lot, but I guess on the bright side this is also how we’re introduced to this version’s White Blood Cell who’s a busty lady with a longsword instead of a himbo with a knife, and she informs our broken hero that she’s about as unsure if there’s any meaning behind her work when things like this will keep happening as he is. So uh…yeah as far as anti-smoking ads go this is pretty depressing, and even knowing this show was going to be darker than it’s mother series. I wasn’t expecting it to be this unrelenting, and mixing in some abusive workplace allegories into the mix just makes it hit even harder. All that said, it certainly had my attention pretty much the entire time, and as awful as everything that happened in it was, it was also interesting to learn, and in some ways that actually makes this show a more effective piece of edutainment than the original. It’s hard to say how much darker this’ll get, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious, so I guess I’m willing to hop aboard this obvious sadness train. Hopefully it’ll be a worthwhile ride.

Rating: Great


Heaven’s Design Team

Heaven's Design Team

Synopsis: In Heaven’s Animal Design Department, designers create a variety of new animals daily while contending with the unreasonable requests of their client: God. Funny, interesting, and full of useful information, this series answers questions such as, “Why can’t unicorns exist?”, “What makes an animal taste delicious?”, “What’s the most powerful creature in the ocean?”, and, “Bird versus snake: who would win?” You won’t believe it’s a manga series when you read up on the featured animals in the included encyclopedia entries. Heaven’s Design Team will make your next trip to the zoo or aquarium 100 times more fun!

First Impressions: Sometimes you truly have to appreciate some of the wildness only anime has to offer because it’s hard to think of any other medium where you could get ideas like “what if God’s angels were designer interns and he relegated the duty of creating all the animals to them?”. It’s a pretty weird idea for a comedy setup, but certainly one that caught my attention, so I was expecting this one to be pretty wacky, and it kinda wise, but like Cells at Work, this ended up falling more into the line of edutainment. Throughout each of the three shorts that comprise the episode, the angels toss around animal design ideas in order to figure out if those designs can actually survive on Earth, and what features those animals will need to aid in said survival. This leads to stuff like one of them really wanting to make unicorns a thing, but never getting it past the design phase since it’s body is too large to fly, or having to go through several redesigns with bird types in order to help them avoid getting their eggs eaten by snakes before they can hatch. Some of these lead to a few solid jokes, but it mostly felt like a way to learn more about the various ways animals can adapt to their enviornment or fight off predators, and each short even ends with a segment that goes into detail about how some of these animals do just that. It’s perfectly fine as far as edutainment goes, but if that sort of thing doesn’t interest you or you were looking for something a little wackier, you might be a little let down here. Personally though, I had a pretty decent time with it and I thought some of the trivia was neat so I might keep up with it, though with both Cells at Work and Cells at Work: CODE BLACK airing not only in the same anime season, but on the same day, it’s got some stiff competition in the edutainment department (boy is that something I never though I’d hear myself say about anime). I imagine anyone in the mood for this kind of show will probably gravitate towards those first two, but if you have room in your heart or schedule for a third, this seems about as good an alternative as any.

Rating: Good


2:43 Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Club

2.43: Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Team

Synopsis: Kimichika Haijima leaves Tokyo behind and returns to his childhood home where he’s reunited with an old friend, Yuni Kuroba. The two become an ace pair on the volleyball court but at the last tournament before graduation a fight causes the duo to split. Now reunited in high school, they are forced to mend their relationship in order to achieve their dreams of making it to the top.

First Impressions: I generally don’t like to harp on too much about shows with similar premises, or that are in the same genre, but considering that Haikyu is both the most notable volleyball anime to date, and one of the biggest sports anime juggernauts period, it’s kinda hard not to compare other shows about boys’ volleyball to it. Unlike this season’s Skate Leading Stars though, which at least has it’s high school setting to differentiate it from the figure-skating monolith that is Yuri on Ice (even if that made Skate Lead feel immediately more generic by comparison), both this show and Haikyu star teenagers, and one of the leads Chika, even looks like Tsukishima so that made it even harder not to feel the similarities. Anyway, this one stars two boys Yuni and Chika who were childhood friends but reunite in middle school and are both on the boys’ volleyball team. Chika is extremely dedicated to the sport while Yuni comes off as much more disinterested about it, but Chika’s commitment wins him over and he and the other team members start to get a little more dedicated to practice. This goes over all well and good until a couple of Yuni’s buddies (who based off their “rich boy” comments just see him as a way to spend money) run into him and Chika while they’re walking home from practice and reveal that Chika has an infamous reputation for being extremely overdemanding as a setter (because there weren’t enough Haikyu comparisons already) and that his overbearing nature lead to one of his former teammates attempting suicide.

So as far as sports anime setups go though this is pretty straightforward but since again, Haikyu exists as pretty direct competition to it kinda needed to stand out a bit from it, and I’m not quite sure it did. Production wise the folks at David Production seem to be doing a pretty solid job with it, and it had some good cuts for some of the volleyball sequences, but compared to how kinetic and powerful the best stuff in Haikyu can be, this didn’t really come anywhere close to that, and even the designs of the boys, while perfectly fine, don’t really feel bold enough to wrestle away Haikyu’s fujoshi audience. About the only really big distinction this really has from Haikyu is in its tone as compared to the energetic, blood-pumping shonen bravado of that series, this seems to be a little more down to earth and melancholic, especially with the thing at the end about Chika’s former teammate. That could make this show pretty interesting in it’s own right, but there wasn’t quite enough of it to totally grab me, and I spent a good chunk of this premiere remembering that I still need to catch up with the latest season of Haikyu, which I guess kinda says it all. I guess if you’re specifically interested in a volleyball sports show that’s more on the grounded side then this seems pretty alright and there wasn’t anything really wrong with it, but if you do have the option to watch Haikyuu and you somehow haven’t yet, I’d probably point you in the direction of that show first.

Rating: Decent


So I’m a Spider, So What?

So I'm a Spider, So What?

Synopsis: I, the protagonist, was just an ordinary high school girl, but suddenly I was reincarnated as a spider monster in a fantasy world. Not only that, but I awakened in a dungeon filled with vicious monsters. Armed with only my human knowledge and my overwhelming positivity, I’m forced to use spiderwebs and traps to defeat far stronger monsters just to stay alive… So begins the labyrinth survival story of a girl with incredible mental strength living as one of the lowest-ranked beasts!

First Impressions: So here we have our first actual isekai adaption of the new year and I was…actually sorta looking forward to this one. I’d heard fairly good things about the original light novels for years and I actually skimmed through the first two volumes a couple of years back when I found them one day in a library. They didn’t exactly strike as high art, but it was entertaining enough that I was curious to see how this would pan out in animated form and my feelings are a little more mixed than I was expecting. So as you might have guessed from the title, this show’s brand of isekai involves our unnamed heroine getting reincarnated into another world, but as a spider. Though unlike Rimuru from That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime or most isekai protags frankly, by all accounts she seems to be an ordinary spider by this world’s standards and pretty low on the food chain. While she does have the benefit of this world functioning off of JRPG logic meaning she can level up her abilities, a fair chunk of the time spent with her in this premiere involves her scraping by for her survival and learning how to make use of her webs to trap prey. Since isekai protagonists rarely ever have to struggle for anything, this was the aspect of the light novels that caught my attention the most, so I was curious how that was gonna be handled in anime form, and it ended up being played for laughs a lot more than I was expecting, and I was a little disappointed. At the same time though, a lot of those laughs come courtesy of Aoi Yuki’s hamtastic vocal delivery so it’s hard to get mad at it, and she’s clearly having a lot of fun here.

We also discover that our eight-legged heroine isn’t the only one who’s been reincarnated into isekai land as it seems like all her classmmates and her teacher are too, though the part about one of her male classmates being reincarnated as a girl and having that treated as a gag was a little eh. I’m more invested in how our spider girl will survive her new environment and I know that’ll be the focus for awhile so while there’s probably plenty of mystery in what happened to the class, I’m in no hurry to get there. As far as the show’s production goes it looks pretty alright though your mileage may vary on the 3DCG used for the Spider and some of the other monsters. I kinda wish they’d animated her in 2D but given how many wild facial expressions she has and how complicated a spider’s movements can be I can see where that would have been taxing for a TV anime production so I guess it works as a compromise. Honestly I’m not quite sure how I’d feel about this premiere if I wasn’t already semi-invested in this series, but I am at least looking forward to watching more of the Spider’s adventures in the cave so for the time being I’m on board for at least the next few episodes, and if you’re looking for a slightly different flavored brand of isekai, this could be a fun romp

Rating: Good


Back Arrow

Back Arrow

Synopsis: Ringarindo is a land surrounded by a wall. The wall covers, protects, cultivates, and nutures this land. The wall is god … it is the foundation of this land of Ringarindo. One day, a mysterious man named Back Arrow appears in Essha village on the outskirts of Ringarindo. Arrow lost his memories, but says that all he knows is, “I came from beyond the wall.” To restore his memories, Arrow heads out beyond the wall, but is embroiled in a battle with himself as the stakes.

First Impressions: So there are a lot of sequels to hit titles this season, but this was the show I was looking forward to the most. Goro Taneguchi of Code Geass fame is a talented director, but his track record since Code Geass has been pretty spotty and especially when it comes to original projects. However this time around he’s teaming up with writer Kazuki Nakashima who’s worked on the likes of Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill, and given both men have a penchant for campiness in their work, the two of them seemed like a match made in heaven. Having watched this premiere that assertion seems to have been pretty accurate since I had a blast with it. While the whole setting of a civilization being contained within a giant wall might make you think of Attack on Titan this show establishes pretty quickly that it’s not going to be anywhere near that grim since the conflict of the episode starts with a bunch of hungry villagers trying to cook the pod our hero crashed in on because they assumed it contained food, and it only gets sillier from there as he spends pretty much the entire episode running around naked before getting into a tokusatsu-esque mecha suit when a bandit attacks the village looking for him.

It’s pretty goofy but it had me grinning almost the whole way through, and it felt very reminiscent of the kinds of mecha shows we got in the mid 00’s that were pretty much lost to the 2010’s. There’s also enough mystery in why all the humans are so insistent that nothing exists beyond the wall, and where all the pods that fly down from the sky are from that that I’m curious to learn more about the world itself, and with Nakashima the helm, I’m pretty confident the script will be tight enough to keep up with whatever madness Taneguchi throws in since he’s got nothing on the madlad Hiroyuki Imaishi and some of his other regular collaborators at Trigger, The mecha suits also look pretty cool, and they don’t exactly have the best 3DCG I’ve seen, they work pretty well for the fight scenes and manage to stay in line with this show’s abundant levels of camp. This show could go in any number of directions since it’s set to run for half a year, and it could always run out of steam fast, but everything here was so much fun that it seems like a more than acceptable risk, especially with who’s attached to this. For right now though, this is easily the best premiere I’ve seen so far for the season, and I highly recommending giving it a go.

Rating: Great


Scar on the Praeter

Project Scard: Scar on the Praeter

Synopsis: After a rebellion in the Akatsuki Special Ward of Tokyo, the government collapses and citizens are left to fend for themselves. With Divine Tattoos that each possess unique powers, agents known as the Scard rise up to become the protectors of peace. But loyal to three contending organizations, they’ll have to face more than just criminals in order to serve their own definitions of justice.

First Impressions: If you’ve hung around the anime sphere for the last few years, it’s likely you’ve at least heard of the infamous anime studio GoHands, and while the first big anime original project, K, looked pretty alright, their overall aesthetic when it comes to visual direction, backgrounds, and basic shot composition have gotten progressively worse with each new show they’ve worked on (we don’t talk about Hand Shakers in this house), and now even the mere mention of their name will illicit dread from the average anime fan. I actually did kinda enjoy K though, so whether out of the desire to see if they could make something that looks that presentable again, or just morbid curiosity, I’m always curious to at least watch the first episode of any new thing they make. But much like every other time I’ve done that since K, it was absolutely terrible decision. Right away, the backgrounds looked distractingly rotoscoped from real world buildings, and the characters, while fairly pretty looking on their own, never look like they’re on the same plane as the backgrounds in even a single shot of the episode and it’s kind of a mess. It doesn’t help that the show is supposed to take place in some kind of sectioned off ward of Tokyo that’s supposed to be considered the slums, but you sure couldn’t tell from looking at it because every single indoor shot of the city we see looks like it’s from a high end apartment or restaurant and it makes for just as much dissonance as the issues with the backgrounds. The fight scenes also look like well…pretty much everything you can expect from fight scenes with GoHands which is to say they have characters running around completely 3D backgrounds with camera movements that can range from trying too hard to look cinematic to drunken, whatever good animation there is to appreciate is kinda lost in the process.

To the show’s “credit” though, it doesn’t look as bad as Hand Shakers, so it might have been semi-passable if the script was decent, but GoHands can be as bad with story composition as they are with basic art design, and aside from the fact that our main character was from the slums and he met a guy who was known in the slums as a hero before that guy sacrifices himself at the end of the episode, I could barely follow anything. Like I guess there are supposed to be a bunch of gangs vying for supremacy similar to the ones in K, but none of these characters exactly look like gangsters and their motivations aren’t exactly clear so it’s hard to say. Also I guess there’s some evil guy with fire powers who wants to kill heroes. So…yeah, safe to say this premiere was pretty bad. I can at least say with Hand Shakers it looked so absolutely terrible at all times that I was compelled to keep watching it to see how much worse it could get, but ugly as this is, it’s still more restrained looking than that show was, and the script is a lot more boring so I frankly can’t think of a single reason to keep going with it. I guess if you like gawking at bad looking productions, or just want to ogle pretty boys you might get something out of it, but we’ll likely have EX-ARM to fill the quota on that first one so it doesn’t even have that going for it. Maybe someday GoHands will make a good show again, but until then, their stuff should probably continue to be avoided

Rating: Bad


The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter

The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter

Synopsis: The Hidden Dungeon is a place of legend where rare treasures and items are hidden. Nor, the third son of an impoverished noble family who’s lost the one job offer he had, was lucky enough to hear about this dungeon. He then acquires a skill that allows him to create, bestow, and edit skills… and in order to use it, he needs to accumulate points by carrying out such tasks as eating delicious meals and doing sexual things with alluring members of the opposite sex.

First Impressions: Time for another romp through a JRPG-esque fantasy land, and similar to Dungeon Boonies, it doesn’t appear to be an isekai, but it operates a little closer to one. Our resident MC-kun dreamed of becoming a librarian but since he’s from a poor noble family and low on the social standing poll, the job got taken from him leading to him deciding to try making money as a hero. To do this he ends up exploring a dungeon where he meets a mysterious babe in chains who offers to give her incredibly overpowered skills to him. However using those skills drains his life points, and the only way he can recover them is through pleasures like obtaining money or getting intimate with the opposite sex. He ends up going for the latter option a lot of the time, and if you couldn’t guess what kind of show this is from that, then it’s probably worth noting that the only reason MC-kun finds the dungeon at all is by vividly making out with his childhood friend so he can make use of his original power. Yeah this is basically just a trashy fanservice romp, and it comes fully packaged with MC-kun’s childhood friend having giant knockers and his younger sister clearly wanting to bone him. High art this ain’t, but I’m not exactly opposed to this kind of trashiness, and if nothing else the show is at least honest about what it is, and the lady in chains didn’t end up being a slave or something so that at least puts it slightly above similarly trashy isekai premises. MC-kun here also has a bit more personality than the usual potato isekai protag, though the whole gag about him temporarily shrinking his childhood friend’s boobs felt kind of eye-rolling even for this kind of show. Anyway since this show is clearly just here for fanservice, said fanservice is also going to be the obvious criteria for whether or not to keep up with it. I at least wasn’t bored by it so despite some misgivings about the show’s “humor” I might give this one another episode but considering Fridays are pretty stacked and there are better shows, I’m not totally sure how well that’ll end up panning out.

Rating: Decent


Horimiya

Horimiya

Synopsis: Kyouko and Izumi are two classmates who each lead a double life: the popular and talented Kyouko cares for her little brother by herself while her parents are away, and the quiet, bespectacled Izumi hides his many piercings and tattoos at school. After accidentally discovering each other’s secrets the pair becomes fast friends, and together, they begin to navigate their new relationship together amongst unknowing peers and love rivals alike.

First Impressions: I know the source material for this one comes pretty highly recommended and having seen the premiere I can sorta see why. A romance staring two people who where different personas depending on whether they’re in public or in private is far from a new concept, but though Hori is a little more studious and proper than she lets on at school, and Miyamura is subsequently a lot dumber and laid-back than his nerdy school persona would imply, neither one comes off as completely different person between those settings. If anything, it just feels more representatives of the various sides of themselves everyone has that we aren’t always willing to show to others and that helps to make both the show itself feel more grounded, and the chemistry between the two leads to feel believable. While the two of them end up becoming close friends pretty quickly over the course of this premiere, the way they open up to each other feels pretty natural, and it’s a lot of fun watching the two of them bounce off of each other since they’re opposites in ways you might not expect.

Of course the romance angle here seems pretty good too, and while we see Hori get asked out by and quickly turn down one of her other classmates, Miyamura somehow hasn’t yet pieced together she’s interested in him, and he seems to be plagued by a lot of self-doubt so it’ll be interesting to see how and when he manages to piece that together, and how both of them might grow through their relationship. The show looks pretty good too, and while it’s not too wild with comedic faces there’s some good character animation here, and a lot of the visual direction helps to give it a moodier atmosphere than might otherwise be expected from something that feels pretty low-key. If there’s one potential issue I have, it’s that Hori and MIyamura’s relationship has progressed so far in just this premiere alone that it’s hard to imagine how much the story will be able to squeeze out of the two of them hooking up since it almost feels like that could happen at any moment, and I don’t know what direction the show’ll go in if they do. That also kind of makes things more exciting in a way though, so for now I’m pretty onboard with this one, and it seems like it’ll be a pretty chill romance series.

Rating: Great


SK8 the Infinity

SK8 the Infinity

Synopsis: Reki is a second-year high school student who loves skateboarding, and gets caught up in “S,” an underground and dangerous skateboard race at an abandoned mine with no rules. Ranga, who has returned to Japan from Canada and has never skateboarded before, also gets wrapped up in S along with Reki. Dirty racers, AI racers, and other unique individuals compete in the “youth skateboard race battle.”

First Impressions: For the many sports anime in existence, and the many sports represented in them, I can’t really recall one that was about skateboarding and the urban culture that surrounds it. The closest thing was Toei’s adaption of the Air Gear manga back in the day, but in addition to being about rollerblading and not skateboarding, that also turned into a weird (and very horny) battle manga with roller-skates that could grant literal superpowers so the market was certainly ripe for a skating anime that’s flashy, but at least a wee bit more grounded in reality than SK8’s first episode, I’m happy to say it feels like it’ll fill that void and then some because it was practically oozing style from the screen. The series centers around an underground skating scene called “S” and one of our main characters Reki is a regular there who ends up getting injured in a race against a Mad-Max looking skater called Shadow. Reki later ends up getting acquainted with a new transfer student to his class named Langa who gets hired onto the same part time job as him, and ends up getting dragged along to the skating grounds. When Langa ends up volunteering to race against Shadow, it seems like he’s an amateur who’s in over his head, but while he knows nothing about skateboarding, he’s an expert at ski boarding and he picks up skating pretty quickly, though the episode ends before we can get a clear picture of whether or not he wins the race (gonna guess no, if only so show has the opportunity for him, and the audience to learn about skateboarding from the ground up). It’s a fast, but very effective set-up, and it helps that the skating sequences look really, REALLY cool, and both the animation and the camera work help to make the races feel thrilling, The soundtrack’s no slouch either, and combined some sleek and bombastic character designs, pretty much everything about this premiere bleeds cool, and I had a ton of fun watching it. Honestly if none of what I just described doesn’t encourage you to check it out then I don’t know what else to tell ya, but it’s up there with Back Arrow as one of the most exciting premieres of the season, and frankly a little stronger, so if a super stylish sports anime is your jam, then you should go inject this show into your veins immediately

Rating: Excellent


Part 2->

Toon Talk- The Best of Anime in 2020

To say it’s been a hard year would be an understatement, and I’m sure we’re all pretty eager to put in the rearview mirror and look to the future. Between everything going on the real world, and feeling more isolated than usual, I wasn’t sure if I was gonna have the energy to do one of these year end posts, but I do like writing about anime, even if it’s just for the small stuff like this, so I’m gonna try and get back in the habit of doing it a little more often. As far as this whole piece is concerned though, I’ll admit that while it certainly hasn’t been a bad year for anime, the way stuff ended getting shuffled around thanks to the plague, has meant fewer things left an impression on me as far as specific genre stuff goes. With that in mind, this is probably one is probably gonna be shorter than what I’ve done with these the last couple of years, but I’ll try to fill in as much as I can.

This category is basically everything that isn’t show-specific, but that I still wanted to give something of a shout out to. That includes theme songs, characters and stuff related to voice acting and dubs.

Best Opening- Chaos Drifters by Hiroyuki Sawano X Jean-Ken Johnny (No Guns Life s2 OP

Gotta be pretty blunt and say anime openings were really weak this year for me. Granted I feel like I’ve probably said this the last couple of years, but even then there were usually at least a couple I’d jam to regularly enough to make it a no-brainer. This time around I had to struggle a bit not to just automatically default to something from the Fall season, and while Kaikai Kitan was a good song, and one I’ve had on repeat the last couple of months, Chaos Drifters edges it out just slightly. In hindsight, a collaboration between anime composer Hiroyuki Sawano and the lead singer of MAN WITH A MISSION seems like a match made in heaven. but it’s also one of those things that seems like it couldn’t actually be real until you hear it, and boy is this one a bop.

As would be expected from the two names involved it’s a blood pumping opener that does a lot to build up excitement for what’s to come. and even has a few Sawano drops in the mix for some extra kick. Combine that with Jean-Ken’s vocals and it makes for one ear-worm of an OP, and it’s playing in my head now even as I’m typing this. Good as the song is though, it helps that the visuals also sprinkle in a good amount of symbolism for what to expect out of the season, and puts a very loud amount of emphasis on Juzo’s character arc as he both connects with his “client” Tetsuro, and fully breaks from being someone’s tool to his own person. It’s a cool OP that does double duty, and while I wouldn’t list it among my all time favorites, it’s definently one of the best this year had to offer.

Honorable Mentions: Kaikai Kitan by Eve (Jujutsu Kaisen OP 1), G.P. by Yutaka Yamada (Great Pretender OP), Easy Breezy by Chelmco (Keep Your Hands of Eizouken OP)

Best Character- Sayaka Kanamori (Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken)

Sayaka Kanamori-Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! in 2020 | Anime, Anime art  beautiful, Character design

As is always the case with anime, there were a lot of fun, charming and occasionally disturbing characters to appreciate this year, but out of the whole lot, none of them quite stole my heart quite like Kanamori. While all three of Eizouken’s heroines are great in their own way, and represent different aspects of the anime industry with Midori being an ambitious director and Tsubame being a passionate animator, Kanamori represents the cynical anime producer, and while that sounds like it’d make her a pretty easy hate sink on paper, in execution it’s the opposite. While Kanamori is a schemer at heart, and is generally looking to make a few quick bucks, she also has a great deal of respect for Midori and Tsubame’s talents and does her best to help make their work profitable, while also knowing when to put her foot down and occasionally rein the two of them in so they can make a complete project. She represents the very best of what a good producer can be to an anime production, and when push comes to shove, she’s even willing to butt heads with their school’s administration (and totally not a production committee) to make sure the girls get what they deserve. That’s some serious dedication, and she’s also just a really fun cynic that you can’t help but root for no matter how prickly she is. This girl knows how to work a hustle, and I want her to have all the nice things, even if she’d definently try to charge me for them.

Honorable Mentions: Natsume (Deca-dence), Swindler (Akudama Drive), Abigail Jones (Great Pretender)

Best English Dub- After the Rain

Aimer – Ref:rain Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

2020 has been as unkind to dub production as it has to anime production in general, but several studios managed to rise to the occasion, and have pumped out high quality dubs that you’d never guess were recorded from the actors’ closets or makeshift recording booths, and it seems like that could very well be the way of the future for anime dubs. All that said, my personal favorite of the year is a dub that was likely finished a little before everything descended into madness. On paper, After the Rain’s premise about a teen girl who falls for her middle aged manager sounds like it’d be a pretty major yikes. but it quickly proves to be significantly less skeevy and far more wholesome than that would imply. The leads Akira and Kondo are two people stuck at a point of stagnation in their lives, and their actors, Luci Christian and Jason Douglass do a fantastic job of getting across their weariness, and Jason in particular delivers one of the best performances of his career as he portrays Kondo’s woes about his failed writing career, and the two of them bounce off each other really well as their characters attempt to recapture their lost dreams and reconnect with old friends they’ve lost along the way.

The supporting cast is great too, with some rock solid performances from the likes of Elizabeth Maxwell and Jason Libretch, and combined with a pretty solid adaptive script from Marta Becthol, the dub exceeded my expectations and ended up being one of my favorites that the folks at Sentai Filmworks have ever put out. I’ll admit there are other dubs from this year that edge it out a little on the technical front, but I was already a pretty big fan of the show before the dub was announced, and I can’t help but be a little biased when a dub I was heavily anticipating manages to knock it out of the park since that frankly doesn’t always happen. Regardless, After the Rain’s dub is great, and if you’re willing to shell out 40 bucks or so for the Blu-Ray since that’s sadly still the only way to see it, both the dub and the show itself are well worth the investment.

Honorable Mentions: Great Pretender, Fruits’ Basket s2, Beastars

This category is centered around genre stuff. Unlike the best series which we’ll get to afterwards, this for things that stood out really well as a genre piece moreso than as an overall series. That said there’s still plenty of good stuff to be found here, so let’s take a look:

Best Comedy- Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle

Animation's | Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle(Series 1) Episode 8 —  Online FULL! | by Muhammad Septian Nugraha | Nov, 2020 | Medium

We’ve had some solid anime comedies to help ease the pain through the year, and while series like Kaguya-sama have come back with strong sophmore seasons, and stuff like Kakushigoto and Bofurihave brought some new laughs, nothing was as consistently hilarious to me as Sleepy Princess. At first glance the whole thing with the kidnapped princess frequently breaking free from her “imprisonment” to ransack the demons for items to help her sleep seems like it’d get repetitive fast but the show manages to get a lot of mileage out of that joke. As the princess wreaks all kinds of havoc in her attempts to get a good night’s rest it quickly becomes clear she’s the bigger and more competent threat than any of her captors and I always got a good laugh out of her finding new ways to murderize any unfortunate souls unluckly enough to cross her path. It helps that for as ruthless as the princess can be, she’s also about as dumb as the rest of the bunch, and her single-minded attempts to achieve her goals get her killed (and always brought back to life because the demons can’t afford losing their hostage) about as often as she succeeds. The show also has a surprising amount of heart to it, as between the princess’s violent tendencies, her and the demons become a weird family of sorts, and it’s clear the princess really enjoys their company even if she’s a little too focused on her beauty rest to think about that for more than two minutes at a time. It was a delightful little show, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, I have a hard time imagining you won’t walk away with at least a few good chuckles out of the experience.

Honorable Mentions: Kakushigoto, Kaguya-sama: Love is War s2, Mr. Osomatsu s3

Best Drama- Fruits’ Basket Season 2

Fruits-Basket-2nd-Season-anime-image-1

Had Beastars actually come out in 2020 it might have been a serious contender here, but no matter what Netflix’s streaming calendar wants you to believe, it doesn’t change the reality Beastars came out last year, so I gotta give this round to the other show about sad animals. Of course, none of this is to mock Fruba’s second season because boy did it come back a vengeance. I enjoyed a lot of the first season and the way it processed how to love oneself and how families can both help and hurt each other through its cast, but while the first season talked about those topics pretty gently, this season dives deep into the darker parts of them as we see just how much control the family head Akito has over the rest of the Soma family, and the more we see of the rest of the family, the clearer it is to see how much her twisted sense of “love” has eaten away at them, and how trapped they feel by her abuse. Yuki and Kyo in particular go through a lot this season, and while the former seems like he’s on the road to recovery, the process of getting there can be pretty tough to watch, and the show can be surprisingly raw in how all of it is handled. It’s kinda terrifying to think that we apparently haven’t even reached some of the darkest parts of this series since there’s still another season left, and I’m told this train has no breaks, but the second season has been one heck of a ride, and it’s helped to bump of my opinion of the series from a good one, to a must-watch.

Honorable Mentions: Deca-dence, Great Pretender, Japan Sinks

Best Action Series- Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai

dqdai-promo-v1-1440x2560 | Cat with Monocle

While the big shonen heavy hitters like My Hero Academia and Demon Slayer have been on break this year, and the new shonen hits have debuted a little too late into the year to consume the entire hype cycle, we certainly haven’t been short on cool action shows to choose from. Admittedly if I were basing this purely on cool action cuts alone, I’d probably have to give this either of the shows Sung-Hoo Park directed at MAPPA this year, but since The God of High School is way more functional as an AMV than an actual show, this really came down between Dai and Jujutsu Kaisen. Between the two Jujutsu Kaisen is the flashier shonen spectacle for sure, and it’s got enough musings about millenial dread and our connection to death to give audiences a little more to chew on whenever the punches aren’t being thrown, but you don’t need me to tell you to watch Jujutsu Kaisen. You probably ARE watching Jujutsu Kaisen, and even if you aren’t the odds are pretty high it’ll at least enter your sphere of vision at some point or another, so I’d to talk more about the battle shonen show that’s a lot more of an underdog for this season.

That’s not to say that Dai is a notable step down from JJK in terms of production quality, because it’s a tour-de-force in it’s own right and the folks at Toei have pulled out all the stops to fill it with plenty of cool action cuts, and a nice mix of 2D and 3DCG for the heavier fight sequences to keep things flashy while still being able to maintain what’s likely to be a much longer production schedule than JJK’s first season. It’s also just an extremely charming little show, and while basically everything in it is all stuff you’ve heard before from a diabolical dark lord trying to take over the world, to our hero being an orphan from some kind of race of superbeings, it knows how to execute those cliches just well enough to keep the material from being dull, and because it knows exactly it is, it also avoids ever getting too ambitious for it’s own good, and combined with some surprisingly swift pacing, it makes the show a breeze to get through every week, and I’ve rarely left an episode of it without smiling, Much like the Dragon Quest games I’ve actually played, it carries the energy of a really Saturday morning cartoon, and if you’re okay with checking out an action show that skews towards a bit of a younger audiences than the bigger shonen franchises right now (though don’t worry it’s got plenty of violence to go around) I’d really recommend giving it a shot. Now here’s just hoping Toei does the right thing and gives it a dub later down the line.

Honorable Mentions: Jujutsu Kaisen. Fire Force s2, Deca-dence

And now we’ve finally arrived at the best series for the year. You may notice that I have two series listed here instead of one, but that’s because I’ve picked the best based on two sub-categories: best adaption and best original work. While both adaptions and original projects both carry the intent to pick up an audience, they’re generally trying to accomplish different things as an adaption has to be a good piece of entertainment while maintaining the strengths of it’s source material where as an original work needs to stand completely on it’s own two feet and draw in a crowd on it’s own merits. As such I feel it’s only appropriate to bring up which two series did the best at tackling those things so without any further ado, here they are:

Anime of the Year (Adaption)- Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken

Anime Trending on Twitter: "“Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na!” (Hands off the  Motion Pictures Club!) - New Key Visual!! The anime is slated to premiere  on January 2020… https://t.co/Qk62xUuJEp"

Despite the unfortunate circumstances that plagued the anime industry this year, we managed to get a lot of really strong anime adaptions, and fans of shonen blockbusters in particular got fed pretty well so long as you ignore the existence of those awkward Webtoon adaptions. Still, for as many cool adaptions as we got this year my favorite one, and my favorite anime of the year in general, ended up being one of the very first anime I watched in 2020. Eizouken is an anime about making anime which grabbed my attention right off the bat since it’s always interesting to learn about how art gets made, but unlike Shirobako which zeroed in mostly on anime production cycles, and the amount of stress involved in keeping a show together, Eizouken is much more about the creative process and the passion that goes into making art. That feeling of passion really bleeds throughout the show, and especially through the minds of its three heroines Midori, Tsubame and Kanamori who represent a director, animator and producer respectively. While each has their own goals and motivations for getting involved in anime (Midori is a big bundle of ideas, Tsubame really enjoys capturing realistic motion, and Kanamori just wants to oodles of money) they all clearly have a lot of love and respect for their craft, and even Kanamori’s role as a money hungry producer is show to have its positive aspects as she’s often the one who has to help keep her co-horts schedules realistic so they can make a finish product, and come up with as good a compromise as they can under those circumstances.

As great as all of that is though, part of what really helps to make this show shine is the deft hand of its director Maasaki Yuasa of Devilman Crybaby and Ping-Pong: The Animation fame, as he and the staff at Science Saru help to literally bring Midori’s wild imagination to life through some incredible animation sequences that give the art a very pencil-sketchy kind of feel. and compared to the more typical moe performances of most anime heroines, the main trio have a much more unconventional sound to them, and while it seems like it’d be off-putting in a sense, it actually ends up making them feel more endearing and more like actual teenagers, which adds a little more to their whole rebellious teen struggle to make what they want on their own terms despite pressure from their school administration/production committee to stay in line. It’s a fun and wonderful show about what it means to make art, even when you have to deal with the inevitable compromises reality brings, and Yuasa’s team helped to bring that story to animation in a way I don’t think any other studio or director could have managed. If you like art about making art, or are just curious about the creative process for anime production, I can’t recommend this show enough and it’s truly something special

Honorable Mentions: Fruits’ Basket s2, Jujutsu Kaisen, Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai

Anime of the Year (Original)- DECA-DENCE

Deca-Dence | Deca Dence Wiki | Fandom

Looking back, this has actually been a surprisingly good year for anime-original projects and we gotten some really fun shows out of them. From the shifty capers of Great Pretender, to the wild-west meets Wacky Races aesthetic of Appare-Ranman, any one of them could have been a solid pick for this slot, but as great as those shows were, none stole my heart quite like Deca-dence did. At first glance, Deca-dence seems like your standard grimdark steampunk action show where the last ravages of humanity are fighting against giant monsters called the Gadoll ala Attack on Titan, and I’d have honestly been pretty happy with the show had it stayed in that direction since between it’s cool looking world, and the chemistry between it’s leads Kaburagi and Natsume, with Kaburagi being a tired cynic, and Natsume a determined optimist, there was a lot to like there, and it could have been a perfectly fine show on those merits alone. However what helped to really make it stand apart lied in its big second episode twist: That the world of Deca-dence is a virtual-reality game created by a giant corporation, and while it’s human inhabitants, the Tankers are very much real, the Gears who fight the Gadoll threat are really a bunch of cartoony looking robots that look like they dropped right out of a Pixar game, and see everything in Deca-dence’s world purely as entertainment, Kaburagi included at first.

While such a giant shift in tone seems like it’d be a recipe for disaster, and a great way to lose an audience (and sure enough people were pretty divided on it when that shoe first dropped) it ended up making the show far more interesting than I could have imagined. We find out pretty quickly that much of the show’s world is a thinly-veiled allegory for late-stage capitalism (and by thinly veiled, I mean the director, Yuzuru Tachikawa outright stated as such in interviews) as both the Tankers and the Gears are exploited by the system at large, and while much like real-world capitalist based systems, the Gears seem to have more agency and freedom than their Tanker “NPC” counterparts, both are considered equally expendable. While Kaburagi starts off the show as a Gear who’s fullly recognized he’s a slave to the system, and has no hope for the future, his interactions with Natsume, and her willingness to fight to free her world of the Gadoll despite how impossible it seems inspires him to fight back against the system and start on a path to tear the whole thing down. If you’re about as tired of exploitive capitalism as most millennials are, this show is one heck of a thrill ride, and it’s got a fun and literally colorful cast of characters to root both for and against, with some pretty stellar action sequences to boot. I’ll admit I’m pretty biased towards these kinds of stories, so that certainly played a part in edging it out over some of this year’s other anime originals, and a couple of them ended stronger, but Deca-dence is still a wonderful little show, and I can honestly say there really hasn’t been anything else this year quite like it. Whether you want to see a bunch of robots and humans stick it to capitalists or just wanna see something different there’s a lot to like about this show, and for better or worse, there aren’t many other works that captured the mood of 2020 quite like this did.

Honorable Mentions: Akudama Drive, Great Pretender, Appare-Ranman


And that’s basically it from me this time. Again, I’m sorry this one was shorter than usual compared to the last couple of years, but I’m gonna try to do more writing here whenever I can so this blog isn’t entirely based around seasonal stuff with anime. I guess you guys can look forward to that, but in the meantime, I wish you all a happy and hopefully better new year, so until next time: stay animated.

First Impressions- Fall Anime 2020 (Part 2)

We’re onto week two of the fall season anime premieres and there’s still plenty more to come in this meaty season. So far I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve come across but I’m not sure if the rest of these premieres will continue that trend or lead down a road of disappointment. Either way I guess my opinions are here for your amusement (or annoyance), so let’s keep going shall we?

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 .

———————————————————————————————————

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle

Synopsis: Syalis is a princess. A really cute one. When she gets kidnapped by the Demon King as a hostage, she’s stuck in a castle full of demons, waiting to be rescued by her knight in shining armor. So what does she do? What any of us would. Take a nap—on a pillow she fashioned from her Teddy Demon guards. Duh.

First Impressions: The manga for this has been circulating for awhile, and every account I’d heard of it had it pegged as a pretty solid comedy so I was expecting good things going in. Coming out, I was pretty amused by what I watched, but I’m not sure how much mileage I’ll get out of it. This tale follows the princess of the kingdom of Goodreste (far from the last goofy pun in this show) who is kidnapped by the Demon King and held hostage in his castle. While this situation seems dire on paper, the princess seems pretty okay with things since it gives her plenty of time to sleep. The only problem is she can’t get any rest between her uncomfortable bed, and all the loud noises surrounding her, so she opts to make her living arrangements a little better by acquiring new materials to help with that and comedically brutalizing any demons that either serve or hinder her agenda, and that’s…basically the whole joke. It’s admittedly a pretty solid joke, and while not every instance of her murder gremlin behavior was a gutbuster, I definently got some laughs out of things like her contemplating murdering some sentient teddy bears for their fluffy fur, or her falling into a pit of lava only to get resurrected because the demons can’t afford to have anything happen to her. It’s clear that even though she’s a “prisoner” she’s basically got the run of the place, and even the Demon King finds himself wondering at the end of the episode if he might have made a horrible mistake by kidnapping her. It’s funny, but I’m kinda worried how much can actually stretch the joke. The whole gag about her going on “quests” to obtain better sleeping arrangements was already starting to wear a little thin by the end of the episode, and other jokes like the Demon King never being able to talk to the princess because she’s always asleep when she walks in, get repeated a few times. If there’s already this much repetition in the first episode, I’m not sure how much longetivity this’ll have as a comedy. Thankfully I’ve heard that the manga does manage to do quite a lot with its one joke, so with any luck, I’m just worrying a little too much, but for the time being I’m cautiously optimistic, and I’m willing to give it another episode or two to see if it can branch out a little more with its setup

Rating: Good

Ikebukuro West Gate Park

Ikebukuro West Gate Park

Synopsis: Crime-ridden Ikebukuro is a haven for violent gangs, the Yakuza, and home to Makoto Majima. To protect his friends, this charismatic troubleshooter mediates disputes among the warring factions—even fixing problems the police can’t. But when a rising tide of violence results in Makoto losing a loved one, can he ride out the storm, or will he drown in all the spilled blood that floods his streets?

First Impressions: I’d heard a little bit of buzz surrounding this show but was otherwise clueless about it, so while I knew it was definently going to have a very urban setting, I wasn’t expecting it to be about Japanese gangs. While stories about gang culture aren’t too unusual in the US these days, I’ve rarely seen them pop up in anime outside of maybe Durarara so this was kind of interesting. The premiere follows Makoto who’s friends with King, the leader of a gang called the G-Boys. When a junkie gets a little girl’s mother hospitalized, Makoto is asked by king to shut down the dealers who supplied him. It’s an effective, if kind of basic setup for this kind of story, but while it does mostly seem to be centered around gangs, I was a little surprised how much it felt like a cop procedural drama. Makoto goes around hunting down leads and talking with contacts in a way similar to what you’d expect out of a western live-action drama, with the only serious bit of underhandeness here being the exact method in which Makoto gets the dealers caught by the cops. It’s certainly not bad, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting something a little grittier, though going by how the episode ends, what happens here is clearly meant to build into something larger. Visually the show also looks to be about what you’d expect from most anime with very urban settings and while that’s certainly not the sort of thing I generally associate with Dogakobo since they tend to do a lot of comedies, it works well enough to get the job done. I can’t say I was quite as blown away by this premiere as I would have liked to be, but it seems to be a perfectly fine variant of what it is, and it doesn’t seem to have much to compete with on Tuesdays so I’m willing to stick with it for a while

Rating: Good

Noblesse

Noblesse

Synopsis: Rai wakes up from 820-years long sleep and starts his new life as a student in a high school founded by his loyal servant, Frankenstein. But his peaceful days with other human students are soon interrupted by mysterious attackers known as the “Unions”.

First Impressions: We’re on the third of these Crunchyroll funded webtoon adaptions and after being burned on both Tower of God, and The God of High School, despite their promising starts, I came into this one with a lot more skepticism. Even with that in mind though, I can safely say that this one is easily the worst of the trio, and while I’m kind of appreciative to know early on not to waste my time with it, I’m kind of astounded how incomprehensible it is. It opens up with a bunch of soldiers getting taken out by a group of presumed super soldiers that appear to be from a group called the Union. From there we cut to a high school in Japan where someone who seems to be an escapee from the Union’s experiments has been hired onto work there at the behest of the school’s director who’s also one of the students, and probably a vampire I guess. From there most of the episode is wacky shenangians involving vampire guy not really getting the modern world, and then a bunch of hoodlums show up trying to fight one of the students for completely a completely contrived reason until the escapee guy scares them off. Also the super soldiers at the beginning of the episode are now in Japan and I guess they’re gonna hunt down the escapee and the vampire guy. If all of that sounded confusing to you, rest assured it somehow both exactly as off the rails as that seems, and also extremely boring throughout. Apparently to follow literally anything that’s happening here you would have been required to watch the Noblesse OVA, which seems reasonable…if not for the fact that it came out four years ago, and even if you advertise that, almost no one going into this show blind is gonna know to do that. I certainly didn’t, and as confused as I was throughout, nothing I saw really made me inclined to go back and see that OVA just for comprehension’s sake. I guess for what it’s worth this show doesn’t look awful, and while I’ve certainly seen better looking productions from Production IG, it seems like it’ll hold up well for the rest of its run. That’s basically the nicest thing I can say though, because otherwise this was far and away the worst premiere I’ve seen all season, and while I’m sure this show might be for somebody, it’s off to a pretty ridiculous start.

Rating: Bad

Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World

Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World

Synopsis: Embroiled in a hundred-year war, young Iska is sent to assassinate the Ice Calamity Witch, Aliceliese. Meant to murder each other, their initial encounter on the battleground creates doubt in their missions, but finding common ground together would make them traitors to their own countries. Though circumstances previously made them enemies, their now conflicted hearts may just make them lovers!

First Impressions: This one I went into totally blind, to the point where I wasn’t even sure what kind of media it was based off of until I finished the episode, but I had a pretty decent time with it. The series takes place in a world divided between the Empire, and women known as Astral Mages, or witches, as the Empire has deemed them. Our hero Inka was imprisoned for a year after helping to free a witch, but gets let out in order to hunt down a woman named Alice, who’s known as the Ice Calamity Witch. Inka and Alice’s forces meet in combat, and the two have a brief duel, but both realize that they’re idealists with similar aspirations about bringing the war to an end. While both sides end up retreating, the two of them end up having another chance encounter at an opera house, and yeah I’m pretty sure you can already tell where this is going. It looks like this is going to be a fantasy based take on Romeo and Juliet, and while this far from the first anime to go for that particular set-up, I haven’t seen much of the other attempts at it, and it’s an inheriently interesting concept so it was bound to grab my attention so long as everything around it seemed passable enough. Thankfully I can give the show a pretty solid yes on that front as the characters, while fairly archetypal, seem likeable enough, and the world itself seems pretty cool, since as mentioned with Elaina, I’m down for almost anything involving witches, and I’m at least a little curious to learn a little more about the Astral Mages. The production looks pretty decent too if not particularly remarkable, and while it seems like there’ll be plenty of fanservice, it doesn’t seem like it’ll be super obnoxious about it, even if the Romeo and Juliet parallels between Inka and Alice already feel a little on the nose. Aside from the romance, I have no real clue where this show is going, which means it could easily head in any number of disappointing directions, but I liked what I watched well enough that I figure it’s worth at least a couple more episodes.

Rating: Good

Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear

Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear

Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Yuna prefers staying home and obsessively playing her favorite VRMMO game to doing anything else, including going to school. When a strange new update gives her a one-of-a-kind bear outfit that comes with overpowered abilities, Yuna is torn: the outfit is unbearably cute, but too embarrassing to wear in-game. But then she suddenly finds herself transported into the world of the game, facing down monsters and magic for real, and the bear suit becomes the best weapon she has!

First Impressions: It seems like shows about people casually playing video games are back in style and this is the latest in that trend. This particular show follows a girl in a bear suit who gets tasked with taking out a giant black viper attacking a village. The villagers are largely skeptical of her skills because she’s well…in a bear suit, but she turns out to be a pretty tough cookie, and defeats it in style with her awesome bear powers. That’s…basically it. On paper this seems like something I would be down for since her bear suit is very cute and the lead has a pretty chill personality that would make this a relaxing show. The only problem is I’m not quite sure what tone this is trying to go for. While we know the bear girl is just casually playing a game. the stakes of her quest are treated dead seriously, and while that is kinda understandable since we see that from the perspective of the NPCs, because we know the bear girl is probably going to defeat the viper in an overpowered manner it just seems weird to spend most of the episode on such a dark mood, for what’s inevitably going to be an anti-climatic finish. I’m also not sure how feel about what little we see of bear girl’s home life in the real world, where she’s revealed to be a reclusive NEET who’d rather spend her time gaming than going back to school, and its hard to say if the show’s going to address her real world issues in any capacity or actively indulge her lifestyle since I weirdly walked away from that scene feeling it could legitmately go in either direction. To summarize my rambling, this was a much more tonally confused show than I was expecting, and I’m not sure what to make of it. What I can say is that I didn’t hate it and I least like the bear girl’s pair of fluffy bears, so I might give it another episode to see if I can get a better idea of what it’s trying to be. In the meantime though, I’m not sure how much I can actively recommend it, but I guess if anything I mentioned sounds like something that would interest you, maybe give it a shot for yourself.

Rating: Decent

Akudama Drive

Akudama Drive

Synopsis: Many years ago, a Great Civil War ravaged Japan, leaving the country fragmented between two regions: Kansai and Kanto. In Kansai, a group of six Akudama carry out missions given to them by a mysterious black cat, while evading the police. But a dangerous journey is about to unfold when a civilian girl becomes twisted into the Akudama’s way of life and witnesses their criminal drives.

First Impressions: So this is an original series from Pierrot being helmed by the group of writers responsible for the Dangaronpa franchise, and while I have yet to play even a single one of the Dang-It-Grandpa games because I’m lame, I do like what little I’ve seen of its aesthetic so I was down to check this out. So far I can say it’s off to a pretty wild ride, even if I’m totally sure what exactly it is I watched. This series takes place in some kind of cyberpunk future where public executions are apparently treated like a spectator sport, and a young girl who tries a little too hard to be earnest when not wanting to pay for a meal with money some guy dropped on the ground gets rewarded by being sent to prison. Meanwhile a bunch of presumed expert criminals known as the Akudama all recieve a mysterious request to rescue another Akudama called Cutthroat from being executed. While these killers all trip over each other to beat each other to their prize, the aforementioned girl continues to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and when the Akudama all decide it’s just easier to kill her, she lies and pretends she’s an Akudama herself called Swindler. The Akudama succeed in rescuing cutthroat but they all get collars slapped on to them that could make their heads explode and the kitty that Swindler was carrying with her all this time, has brought these seven together for some mysterious purpose.

To say this is weird would be putting it mildly, but it’s certainly my brand of weird. For one thing, the show is oozing with style, and everything from the cyberpunk design of the enviornments, to the colorful comic book cues the show takes whenever one of the Akudama gets introduced makes for a pretty cool, if weird aesthetic. I also like what we’ve seen of the Akudama so far, and while all of them are only named by their occupations, including Swindler, the episode still manages to give all of them pretty distinct and fun personalities, which makes it pretty fun watching this carnival of killers attempt to outmanuver each other, with death coming to pretty much anyone unfortunate enough to get in their way. Since I know the Dangaronpa franchise is built as much on puzzle-box mysteries as it is quirky characters I assume this show is probably gonna follow suit, but it’s anyone’s guess what kind of mystery will be made out of this already strange set-up, and I’m kind of excited just to see where it goes with that. There’s certainly a lot more style than substance to this premiere, and I imagine that anyone not down with its particular sense of style won’t get much out of this, but it seems like my kind of fun, so I’m ready and willing to tune into this bit of insanity for the foreseeable future.

Rating: Great

Adachi and Shimamura

Adachi and Shimamura

Synopsis: Known for skipping class on the regular, two girls lives become intertwined when they find each other on the second floor of the gym. From there, Adachi and Shimamura’s friendship slowly grows as they play ping-pong and hang out. But when something happens that changes their relationship, how will they react?

First Impressions: I’d been sold on this series as being a chill yuri romance story, and this premiere more or less delivered on that expectation. It follows a pair of girls named Adachi and Shimamura who happen to meet while ditching class, and gradually become friends as they spend time playing hooky. While Shimamura has at least a couple of close friends, Adachi is a loner, and that puts a bit of distance between them since Adachi seems to prefer the two of them hanging out alone. In terms of actual progression, not much really happens in the episode beyond that, but it more than makes up for it in its sense of atmosphere as the show does a good job of getting you into the heads of both girls through both visually expressive internal monologues and solid character animation. My only real complaint with the show’s direction, was that while the show is far from horny, there were an awful lot of closeups of the girls’ skirts that felt a little weird considering how chill the general tone of the show was, but it’s more of a headscratcher than a dealbreaker, and it never really breaks the tone it’s going for. If my thoughts here seem a bit empty, it’s mainly because this show is clearly going to be a very slow burn, and this premiere ends with very little in the way of what would be considered “romantic progress”. While I imagine something like that is going to test a lot of people’s patience, I enjoyed it more or less, and the girls have some pretty good chemistry, so I’m down for more of it. This certainly isn’t going to be for everyone, but it’s pretty charming so far, and if you can tolerate it’s slow pace, I think it has the chops to deliver on a nice quiet love story.

Rating: Good

The Gymnastics Samurai

The Gymnastics Samurai

Synopsis: Jotaro Aragaki, former member of the national team, had given his whole life for gymnastics and was fighting against his age and physical strength. However, one day he is told by his coach to start thinking of his next career. Jotaro struggles, but his daughter, Rei, is always there by his side. But with one fateful encounter, the Aragakis’ lives change drastically.

First Impressions: While this wasn’t the most anticipated premiere of the season for me it was pretty high up on the list. Between the pedigree of the staff, and the trailers implying this was going to be a wholesome tale about a middle aged single dad trying to stay relevant as an athlete, everything about it seemed to be my brand. As far as what I actually watched was concered, I certainly enjoyed it…but it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting. For starters the overall tone of the show was a lot more comedic than some of the trailers implied and while the show does indeed start out with the protagonist Jotaro on the verge of retirement, it’s played less as him being frustrated that he can no longer do what he loves and more that his coach has been trying to tell him for ages he’s past his prime and he’s been too clueless to take a hint until now. In general Jotaro is a lot closer to a himbo than a DILF and most of this premiere is him very badly trying to tell his daughter, Rei that he’s retiring, but failing spectacularly at every turn because he’s kinda dumb, and a weird ninja boy keeps getting in his way. Ah yes, I should probably mention the ninja boy. See when Jotaro and Rei go to watch ninja show performance, one of the ninjas is on the run from the feds, and when said ninja later turns up at Jotaro’s house looking for a place to stay, he turns out to be a foreigner who’s scared of getting deported (boy if that isn’t a 2020 mood, I don’t know what is). He also seems to be really good at gymnastics, and while we don’t quite learn what his deal is yet, seeing him show off his moves, and remembering how much Rei used to enjoy watching him, Jotaro decides not to retire after all during what’s probably gonna go down as a pretty awkward retirement presser.

So uh…yeah this show was a lot more loose and weird that I was expecting (I haven’t even gotten into the goofy looking parrot Jotaro’s family owns) but it suddenly all made sense when I remembered the director, Hisatoshi Shimizu, is probably best remembered right now as the director of one Zombieland Saga, which was also way more weird and chaotic initially than anyone was expecting. The only difference is that show was extremely vague with it’s marketing right up until the premiere so literally no one knew what it was, while this tried to paint itself as being artsy right up until the actual premiere, so if nothing else, I applaud the staff for coming up with a smarter way to hide the joke. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little sad we weren’t getting a serious sports drama about a struggling dad trying to continue with his passion, but at the same time, I can safely say I have absolutely no idea where this show is headed now, and that’s just as exciting in it’s way. Of course given how Zombieland Saga turned out, there’s a non-zero percent chance this’ll turn around into being an actual sports drama in the end, but for now I guess I’m onboard with whatever the heck it is right now.

Rating: Great

The Day I Became A God

The Day I Became a God

Synopsis: Yota Narukami is a high schooler who planned to spend his last summer vacation like most others: preparing for his university entrance exams. But when a young girl named Hina approaches him saying she’s a god, his summer vacation suddenly becomes anything but ordinary.

First Impressions: While he might not be too familar to younger anime fans, the name Jun Maeda has been in the anime sphere for close to a couple of decades now, and depending on who you ask, he’s either famous, or infamous for the melodramas he’s crafted over the years. I can personally say his stuff like Clannad and Angel Beats were shows I enjoyed immensely when I watched them roughly a decade ago, and they have just about as many fans as they do detractors, but his last work Charlotte from 2015 got panned pretty hard for how bonkers it got in its final act, and between that, and how rushed Angel Beats clearly was despite the mostly positive reception, it left many (myself included) wondering if Maeda had finally tapped out of ideas. Apparently not though, because he’s back with a new anime original project, and the premiere is…something. One day a teen boy named Yota has an encounter with a little girl caliing herself Odin who claims to be a god. While Yota dismisses her as loony, alongside her claims that the world will end in 30 days, as she follows him around, it seems like she at least has the ability to predict the future, but isn’t very effective at using it to help Yota hook up with his childhood friend Izanami. That’s more or less what takes up the premiere’s runttime, and while I didn’t quite know what to expect from this, it was a least funnier than I was anticipating. It’s been a good while since I last saw one of his projects so I forgot he has a pretty decent grasp on comedy, and while I can’t say the jokes were super-hilarious, stuff like “Odin” predicting how to help Yota win a baseball game, but having her last prediction fail, or Yota trying to confess to Izanami only for her to reject him outright were pretty funny, and had some solid comedic timing. Of course while Maeda’s stuff can be funny, he’s a guy who’s primary focus is in drama for better or worse (and baseball too I guess because he references it in nearly everything he does) and I’m sure that whole end of the world bit will lead to some kind of emotional rollercoaster later down the line. Admittedly though, despite “Odin” here apparently being able to predict the future, the jury is still out on if this show will actually have much in the way of supernatural shenanigans. Personally I’d kinda prefer if it doesn’t, since a lot of Maeda’s best work happened when he leaned more towards realism, but Charlotte was a thing, so for all I know the apocalypse will really happen at the end of this show and be treated dead seriously, I can’t exactly say this premiere left me excited to watch more of the show, but I liked what I saw here enough, that I guess I’m at least willing to cave into my curiosity and see where its headed. Hopefully I won’t regret that decision in a few weeks

Rating: Good


And that’s it for my impressions. Normally I’d try to come up with some kind of clever way to wrap things up , and look out towards the future, but frankly this year has been awful, and there’s no telling how it’ll end, much less what next year will look like. If nothing else, I do hope we’ll all still be here to goof around and talk about anime for the Winter season, so until then, stay safe, and stay animated.

First Impressions- Fall 2020 Anime (Part 1)

This year has been a gigantic dumpster fire, but the end is finally in sight. While it’s anyone’s guess how horrible the next three months will be for the world (I’m frankly not confident 2021 will be anything to write home about either) we at least have a ton of new anime to watch because nearly everything that got delayed thanks to you-know-what has basically clustered together into the fall season, and there’s a pretty big selection of titles. With that in mind, I doubt I’ll come close to covering nearly everything, but as always I’ll aim to get as close to the sun as I can without frying my eyes from too much anime. Let’s get 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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Higurashi: WHEN THEY CRY- NEW

Higurashi: When They Cry - New

Synopsis: New kid Keiichi Maebara is settling into his new home of peaceful Hinamizawa village. Making quick friends with the girls from his school, he’s arrived in time for the big festival of the year. But something about this isolated town seems “off,” and his feelings of dread continue to grow. With a gnawing fear that he’s right, what dark secrets could this small community be hiding?

First Impressions: So kicking things off we have a remake of an old mid 2000’s horror classic, and one I don’t think anyone was really asking for. The original Higurashi was really strong, and way more compelling than it had any right to be, but it was also well…a complete adaption and covered every route, along with the true ending path across two 26 episode seasons, and by all accounts did so pretty well. Sure the old DEEN adaption was kinda janky looking (especially the first season) but that arguably worked to its benefit in some respects so right off the bat this reboot needed a really good reason to justify its existence. So far well…this was just a nicer looking version of the first episode of the DEEN adaption. Most of the story beats are handled about the same, the visual atmosphere looks pretty similar, and the set up to the show’s larger mysteries concerning the townspeople was also pretty much just like the DEEN version. About the biggest differences were that the world building feels a little clunkier than the DEEN adaption (such as why these characters of varying ages are all in the same classroom) and one of the biggest character mysteries in the story got hinted at a lot earlier than I was expecting, which makes me wonder if this adaption will be shorter than the old one.

On the plus side, the improvement in the visuals do come across pretty well in the comedy segments since the wacky character faces we get are way more expressive than anything in the DEEN version, but I’m also a lot more curious how the actual horror elements are gonna be handled and what we get in this episode, feels a little on the nose, even knowing how weird some of the arcs get. Long story short I’m not really sure why this reboot exists, but for my gripes about that, nothing seems to be off enough about it to be a dealbreaker, and if you haven’t seen the old Higurashi because it was either before your time, or because of well…how it looked, this seems like it’ll do you fine for getting into the series. Personally I don’t know if I’ll keep up with the simulcast for this, but if it ends up getting a simuldub, I’ll probably watch that, because if there’s one thing that’s aged more poorly than Higurashi’s visuals, it was the old Geneon dub by Bang Zoom, and I’d be up for getting something stronger. In the meantime though, Higurashi is back to terrify us all again, and if nothing else, it’ll hopefully be just as wild on that front as the original.

Rating: Good

Assault Lily BOUQUET

Assault Lily: Bouquet

Synopsis: On the verge of extinction by the alien entity known as Huge, the planet unites to develop CHARM. Merging science and magic into a weapon, military facilities called Gardens quickly sprout up to train recruits in this nascent technology. Forged by nature and training, teenage girls emerge as a heroic Lily upon blossoming. Can humanity survive long enough for these Lilies to bloom and save us all?

First Impressions: I didn’t really know anything about this going in, but between the character designs and the premise, I assumed this was an adaption of some mobage game. It is apparently not that, but is instead based off a series of figures which was a little unexpected. Functionally though, this premiere feels pretty in line with mobage adaptions though as we’re thrown into a world where a bunch of girls attend a high school to fight giant monsters called…(and I kid you not) the HUGE. Our heroine is a plucky young rookie named Riri who joins in order to reunite with her childhood savior but said savior is the idol of the school, and while Riri’s inexperience ruffles some feathers with the other girls, she manages to stumble her way into success and begins to win over her idol. It’s fine for the most part, but cute girls doing cute things remains an eternal hurdle for me even when dressed up as an action show, and stuff like that usually has to pull out all the stops or have a real strong hook to keep my attention. In this case the hook seems to be that that it seems like it’ll be more committed to its yuri undertones than similar shows tend to be, and if the ED sequence is any indication, this could maybe turn out to be a more vanilla version of Valkyrie Drive Mermaid for anyone who remembers that little number. That would be pretty interesting, but I’m not quite sure if it’s enough to keep my eyeballs on this show. The one other point in it’s favor is that the show looks pretty solid, and while SHAFT’s lost quite a bit of their best staff members over the years, there are still a couple of cool cuts here and there. It’s not super likely I’ll keep up with this, but if you’re in the mood for a perfectly functional yuri action show, this’ll likely fit the bill.

Rating: Decent

Jujutsu Kaisen

Jujutsu Kaisen

Synopsis: Although Yuji Itadori looks like your average teenager, his immense physical strength is something to behold! Every sports club wants him to join, but Itadori would rather hang out with the school outcasts in the Occult Research Club. One day, the club manages to get their hands on a sealed cursed object. Little do they know the terror they’ll unleash when they break the seal…

First Impressions: As an avid shonen fan, I’m always interested whenever a big Shonen Jump battle manga comes out with an anime adaption, and while it admittedly took me a couple of tries to get into the Jujutsu Kaisen manga, I’ve gotten pretty fond of its sense of style, and with this show being helmed by the director Sung-hoo Park, of Garo: Vanishing Line and The God of High School, and the same team at MAPPA responsible for the latter being brought on board for this show (which is frankly a much better use of their talents) I was pretty excited for this one, and thankfully the premiere didn’t disappoint. Right off the bat this adaption has a pretty strong sense of visual flair and both the comedy and the action sense are bursting from the seams with energy, and the staff does a pretty job of bringing Gege Akutami’s sketchy horror artwork to life on the screen. Of course as we learned from The God of High School, all the sakuga in the world can’t really do much to polish a weak story and thankfully Jujutsu Kaisen does a solid job on that front as well as we’re introduced to the protagonist Yuji and how his grandfather’s final words to him have affected his stance on death, and fuel his desire to help people in a way that feels both stranger and more organic than what we typically get with a JUMP lead. There’s also a pretty good sense of mystery to this premiere as well as it opens up with Yuji bring held hostage and told he’s to be executed before getting to the sequences of events that leads towards him acquriring the power that put him in these dire circumstances, and while I already know where this is all going as a manga reader, the way it’s re-arranged events like that actually serves as an improvement, and the tight direction through the rest of the episode gave a lot more weight in regards to Yuji dealing with his grandfather’s passing than I felt when I read the first chapter of the manga back in the day, so it’s safe to say Sung-hoo Park knows what’s doing beyond making stuff look cool. All in all this is a pretty strong premiere of what’s sure to be the next big thing in JUMP so if you’re curious about jumping on the train early, or you just dug the general aesthetic of early Bleach, there’s a lot to like here and it’s certainly worth your attention

Rating: Great

HYPNOSIS MIC- Division Rap Battle

Hypnosis Mic: Division Rap Battle - Rhyme Anima

Synopsis: Legendary rap group The Dirty Dawg could have taken Japan by storm, but they broke up before they could. Now each member has joined one of four rival groups—fighting for the territories Ikebukuro, Yokohama, Shibuya, and Shinjuku. Battles for turf are fought with Hypnosis Mics. These special microphones have the power to affect the human spirit, and people now use rap to determine superiority.

First Impressions: I knew going in that this was an otome franchise of some kind, and while I generally have respect for otome stuff, and quite a few of my close online friends are super into them. otome adaptions rarely click with me, and usually require a little special something for me to illicit something more than “this is fine”. So with the utmost apology for how condescending that probably sounded, my point here is that absolutely nothing could have properly prepared me for what I just watched. This show opens with a scene where a political party run by women completely and utterly abolish the use of all firearms and weapons instead forcing all conflicts to be resolved through the use of words, particularly rap battles. Three years later we’re introduced to some of the various rap groups that exist under this system including a trio consisting of a doctor, an abused salaryman, and some kind of priest, and one composed of a gangster, a cop, and a navy man. These rappers either struggle under the system, or actively enforce it by hunting down terrorists who despise this new world order, but all of them are being controlled by these big-boobed women who want use them to further their agenda and control all men, and oh god I literally can’t keep a straight face while typing any of this.

On paper literally any aspect of what I just described sounds like some weird right-wing conspiracy from 4-ch, and grossly offensive, but it’s all just so over the top in execution that it all swirls together to form the perfect form of stupid, and I’m totally here for it. While this is far from the first otome thing to have a musical aspect involved (the Uta-pri franchise springs eternal after all) I can’t say I was expecting one that had an element of political satire to it, and while it’s hard to say yet if this series actually buys into the ideology behind the insane premise its presented, or is actively mocking it, its certainly got my attention either way and its got me curious what the rest of the series has in store. Of course even without the potential “political intrigue” here, there’s a lot of fun to be had as the actual rap battles presented here have some pretty wild visual direction, and while there is some awkward 3DCG mixed in here and there, there’s so much flair on display that it’s hard to be critical of something this silly, and while several folks have already commented on it, I have to give serious props to the translators of this show, because it could not have been easy to handle all of the rap sequences here. I rambled a lot here, but to summarize, I’m totally on-board with this amazingly stupid show, and even like me, you aren’t much of an otome person, between the absurd visuals, and the even more absurd politics, this one is certainly an experience you won’t soon forget.

Rating: Great

I’m Standing on a Million Lives

I'm Standing on a Million Lives

Synopsis: Aloof and logical middle school third-year Yusuke Yotsuya is transported to a game-like alternate world. He becomes a third player and takes on a dangerous quest with his classmates Iu Shindo and Kusue Hakozaki, who were transported there earlier. The cold Yusuke eschews emotionalism and examines all elements with detachment, sometimes even toying with the lives of his companions. Can he protect his party from attacking monsters, difficult incidents, and powerful scheming enemies and win the game?

First Impressions: Having trouble sleeping? Need a little something to help you doze off? Well nothing works to cure insomnia quite like isekai, and in spite of it’s uniquely absurd title, I’m Standing on a Million Lives doesn’t really do much to change that. Alright I guess to be fair this particular blend of isekai comes with a couple of unique flavors. One being that our heroes can apparently travel back and forth between isekai land, and all of three of them are absurdly weak compared to the monsters they’re facing. The other being that instead of being a potato, MC-kun this time around is an edgelord, who seems weirdly comfortable with the danger he’s now in. While all of this sounds somewhat exciting compared to most isekai, I can assure you it’s still about as boring as the rest of the genre. The edge presented in the first minute or two of the episode is mostly washed away by some lame attempts at comedy as the show attempts to riff on JRPG tropes through the characters awkwardly navigating their way through the world’s weird mechanics and how casually death seems to be treated. and all of it feels kinda flat in execution. Even when the show “rips off the mask” to reveal the ultra-edgy revelation that they’ll die for real if all of them die within 30 seconds of each other, it still doesn’t feel as shocking as the show clearly wants it to be, and instead feels more like a hamfisted attempt at giving it some darkness. I guess if you’re super into isekai as a concept and are willing to settle with literally anything different then you might get something out of this, but like with most isekai, this bored the heck out of me, so it’s a pretty easy pass.

Rating: Bad

Tonikawa: Over The Moon For You

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon for You

Synopsis: Nasa Yuzaki falls in love at first sight after an encounter with the mysterious Tsukasa. When Nasa earnestly confesses his feelings, she replies, “I’ll date you, but only if we’re married.” Nasa and Tsukasa’s cute and precious newlywed life of love is about to begin!

First Impressions: In my earliest weeb years, Hayate the Combat Butler was my favorite anime comedy, and its blend of slapstick and otaku references combined with some parodying of romcom tropes made it a fun watch in its prime. While the series did kinda drag later into its run (and from my understanding the winner of the Hayate bowl was a sketchy choice) I had fond enough memories of it that I was looking forward to checking out a new series by the same author. Man, I wasn’t prepared to be this let down. Going back to Hayate the Combat Butler for a second, that show opens with Hayate being told in a dream by Santa he’ll never get presents because his family is poor, and him dealing with the combination of having absurdly bad luck and even worse parents who sell him to the yakuza to pay off their gambling debts. It’s all pretty absurd and while there is some level of sincerity in Hayate trying to maintain some level of goodness despite his ridiculously bad circumstances, all of it is rightfully played for laughs because well…it’s pretty ridiculous and it made for some punchy comedy.

In comparison while there are a few gags here and there, everything here about Nasa’s backstory of…overachieving because he doesn’t like his weird name is treated dead seriously as is his whole love-at-first sight meeting with Tsukasa, even when it results in him trying to give her a dramatic love confession after having a close encounter with anime’s ultimate villain, Truck-kun. While again there were a couple of gags thrown in here, the speed in which the show takes us to this point, made it nearly impossible to buy into this, so jumping from that to Tsukasa showing up at his house to announce they’re newlyweds felt more eye-roll inducing than funny. There’s clearly supposed to be at least some sense of mystery involving Tsukasa, but even with that in mind, the idea that she’d marry a guy she’d just met is bizarre even by anime standards and since this premiere doesn’t really establish Nasa’s personality beyond “doesn’t like his name, and thinks Tsukasa is hot” it just makes this premiere feel like a weird bit of wish fuffilment, with Tsukasa being framed as the ideal dream waifu, and the handling of marriage feeling like it’s trying to get an endorsement from former Japanese prime minster, Shinzo Abe. The production isn’t anything to write home about either, and while it doesn’t look awful, neither the comedy or the drama have enough bite in their visual direction to elevate the material in any way. It’s a shame this one turned out to be a dud because I really was fond of Hayate, but rather than watching more of this show, I’d rather just fire up some clips from Hayate’s first season instead.

Rating: Bad

Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai

Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibouken (2020)

Synopsis: The world that was once afflicted by Hadlar, the Dark Lord, has regained peace in the hands of a swordsman called the “hero” and his companions. Delmurin Island became a place where monsters released from the Dark Lord lived. Dai, who is the only human on the island and longs to be a hero, lives in peace with the monsters. However, that life completely changes with the resurrection of the Dark Lord Hadlar. With promises from teachers, encounters with friends, and a destiny that cannot be escaped… In order to save the world, the adventure of Dai and his quest to be a hero begins!

First Impressions: This wasn’t quite my most anticipated premiere amongst the shonen-heavy hitters this season, but I was still pretty eager to check it out. This series is based off an old Shonen Jump manga that ran in the 90’s and said manga is itself based off of the Dragon Quest franchise, which while having only recently gained some steam again in the west, is one of the biggest video game monoliths in Japan. While I skimmed through some chapters of it in my teen years, it’s all basically a blur, but I do recall liking what I read, and having recently come off of Dragon Quest 11 which might be my favorite JRPG, I’m in the mood for basically anything Dragon Quest and this premiere didn’t disappoint. The set up of a young boy clearly destined for greatness being raised on an island of plucky monsters before meeting a princess is all stuff we’ve seen countless times in older JRPGs and battle shonen, but attempts by both genres to be more subversive have retroactively served to make stuff as straightforward as this more charming when when done well, and boy is this done well. Dai comes off as an immediately likeable protagonist, and while his naive nature and desire to be a hero could be annoying under worse circumstances, he’s such an earnest kid that it’s kind of hard not to root for him, and the fact that he is well…a kid, makes the more generic aspects of his personality a lot easier to deal with. A lot of the comedy works pretty well too, and while nothing here is really laugh out loud funny, it’s got all the charm and energy of a really good Saturday morning cartoon, and since that’s what I dug the most about Dragon Quest 11’s general aesthetic, I’m glad this show replicated it.

Still for as charming as its core is, I’d be lying if I said the real show stopper here wasn’t the visual presentation, because lordy did Toei really pull out all the stops on this one. It’s been long rumored that the staff for a presumed high quality production of a second season of Dragon Ball Super were instead shipped to this show, and I can certainly believe it because the animation looks fantastic throughout the premiere, and everything from the action sequences to the comedy look gorgeous and really help to punch up the whole aforementioned super good Saturday morning cartoon aesthetic. The only real weakness with the visuals is that the 3DCG for the monsters was a little jarring in some shots, but its certainly not a dealbreaker and the 2D animation was so polished that if this is the price we’ll have to pay for that, it’s a pretty good exchange. Needless to say I’m on-board with this premiere, and while I imagine this might not catch the attention of folks looking a more “mature” shonen series, if you’re down with really good kids’ shows, they really don’t get any better than this

Rating: Great

Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon

Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon

Synopsis: Set in feudal Japan, half-demon twins Towa and Setsuna are separated from each other during a forest fire. While desperately searching for her younger sister, Towa wanders into a mysterious tunnel that sends her into present-day Japan, where she is found and raised by Kagome Higurashi’s brother, Sota, and his family. Ten years later, the tunnel that connects the two eras has reopened, allowing Towa to be reunited with Setsuna, who is now a demon slayer working for Kohaku. But to Towa’s shock, Setsuna appears to have lost all memories of her older sister. Joined by Moroha, the daughter of Inuyasha and Kagome, the three young women travel between the two eras on an adventure to regain their missing past.

First Impressions: While I didn’t actually burn through the entire show until later in my otaku years, Inuyasha has been a franchise I’ve been aware of since childhood, and its mix of shonen adventure and shojo romance love triangles made it a pretty big hit in its day, and one that I enjoyed despite some hiccups. Since rebooting old franchises is a pretty popular trend for anime these days, I guess it probably shouldn’t be too surprising Inuyasha is getting touched again, and since the anime did adapt the manga’s finale, going the Boruto route and making a spin-off about the kids was also probably a good call for getting people back into the series and maybe gaining some new eyeballs along the way. For the purposes of this premiere though, what we got was basically just another episode of Inuyasha, as while it opens up with Sesshomaru’s daughter Towa being held against her will, most of this is an extended flashback that takes place shortly after the events of the manga’s finale as Inuyasha and friends deal with a demon called Root Head that Kikyo sealed away back in the day. For what it’s worth it was pretty fun seeing the old gang, with Sango and Miroku having more or less settled down while Inuyasha and Kagome still bicker like cats and dogs despite being actually married now. Their antics are still as fun as ever, and it serves as a good way to ease audiences back into the the kinds of character dynamics and comedy you can generally expect from this franchise. It’s not particularly newcomer friendly, but even if you’ve only seen a couple of episodes of Inuyasha, it’s not super hard to pick up on this, since it was pretty episodic for a long-running adventure shonen anyway and the production here looks pretty solid as the staff at Sunrise does a solid job of translating Rumiko Takahashi’s distinctly retro character designs to life with a more modern look, and I have little reason to doubt the show won’t stay consistent on that end. Of course since this spin-off IS supposed to be about the daughters of Inuyasha and his bro Sesshomaru, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed this premiere wasn’t focused on properly introducing them (even if mostly just for the peace of mind/potential dread of knowing who Sesshomaru knocked up) aside from a brief fight at the end, and while we’re getting that next week, I’m admittedly a little more interested in that story than a trip down memory lane, so hopefully it’ll be worth the extra wait. In the meantime, if you’re a fan of Inuyasha, this is certainly more of it, and I have just enough investment in this franchise that I’m guaranteed to watch this through to completion no matter what, so here’s to it being a fun journey

Rating: Good

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina

Synopsis: Inspired by her favorite book, Elaina ventures out to see the world she’s read so much about. Like a leaf on the wind, she travels from one country to another, looking to sate her inquisitiveness and searching for new experiences. She’s confronted by humanity in all its forms, whether strange, bizarre, or emotional. Exploration and curiosity drive her journey. Where to next, Elaina?

First Impressions: There are few anime backdrops as inherently interesting as basically anything involving witches, and while not every witch themed anime has been great, few I’ve seen left me feeling completely out in the cold, so I was curious to check this one out. The premiere follows a young girl named Elaina who dreams of becoming a witch so she can go on her own journey across the world, and works hard to become the youngest apprentice witch in history. However her quick rise to success leaves her with no one willing to take her on as an apprentice until she encounters the mysterious Stardust Witch, Fran. Fran becomes her master, but refuses to actually teach her anything, instead basically treating her like a maid until Elaina finally has enough and breaks down. This then leads to the revelation that everything Fran did was an act requested by Elaina’s parents so she could learn how to better assert herself and experience the values of failure. It’s uh…certainly not a terrible sentiment to say the least but as well intentioned as it might have been, I wouldn’t exactly call it grade-A parenting and it’s a little irritating the show just kinda rolls with that. That problematic hiccup aside, the rest of the show’s aesthetic is pretty pleasant with nice crisp backgrounds for a fantasy setting, and some fairly solid animation, Elaina herself is also pretty likeable, and since the episode ends, three years into her having finished her apprenticeship and beginning her journey, I’m pretty curious just what that journey will entail, and it seems like a pretty good setup to a fantasy romp. Of course there’s the danger the show’s writing won’t live up to the atmosphere of its aesthetic, and the awkward handling of Elaina’s relationships with Fran and her parents does leave me slightly more concerned about that than I would hope, but there was still more I liked about this than disliked, and it seems like the kind of thing I’m in the mood for, so outside of any giant red flags, I’ll be hoping along for this journey

Rating: Good

Warlords of Sigdrifa

Warlords of Sigrdrifa

Synopsis: When the Pillars suddenly appear on Earth, threatening all life, it’s only the act of the god Odin that offers humanity salvation. Providing a means of fighting back, he gives Earth the Valkyries, young female pilots with supernatural powers and spirit fighter planes. These skilled troublemakers, all young, risk their lives in a long-running war—but the final battle is fast approaching!

First Impressions: I vaguely recalled going into this that this was an original anime project being helmed by the Re:ZERO writer, and while I admittedly dropped off that show after the first episode, and never quite got back to it, I’ve heard enough great things about it that I was at least interested in seeing a new work from the same writer. The show opens up with humanity under attack by a mysterious force known as the Pillars, and on the verge of annhilation until the Norse god, Odin shows up and offers to lend a helping hand through the support of one of his Valkyries named Claudia. She does battle against the Pillars via magical airplane dogfighting, but despite her skill, her comrades typically end up in the line of fire, and some political manuvering forces her into a base way out in the boonies to serve as a replacement for a fallen pilot. While nothing in this set-up is mega exciting it at least serves as a solid foundation for an action show, and while I’m not super into airplanes or dogfights, the presentation looked cool enough that I could have seen myself sticking around for the rest of the show…

And then we get to where Claudia meets the new team of pilots she’s working with, and all three are a pretty standard assortment of moe archetypes. From there the episode shifts to a significantly lighter tone, as Claudia gets to know the other girls with plenty of moe hijinks and light fanservice that ensue. It’s a pretty weird bit of whiplash to say the least and it almost felt like I was watching a completely different show than what the first 10 minutes or so implied. The whole looming threat of whether or not Claudia’s new teammates will survive their first mission with her still technically clings in the air, but the shift in direction makes the remaining beats of the episode so obvious that there’s basically zero room to doubt they’ll all be sticking around, and sure enough it’s a pretty happy ending for all. I’m not particularly mad about what this ended up being, but between this being the Re:Zero guy, and the premiere being double length, I spent the entire back half expecting some dark last minute twist to suddenly shift things back towards tone of the first few minutes, but it turns out the change into a decidedly lighter show apparently was the twist. Even though I’m not usually the biggest fan of cute girls doing cute things, I’d be a little less annoyed if pulled this in the span of a 24 minute episode, but the fact that I had to sit through this for an extra 30 minutes expecting a little more bite than what I actually got makes me feel a little extra prickly about this otherwise perfectly fine thing. I guess if you’re into dogfighting, moe, or Strike Witches specifically you might enjoy this, but I was honestly kinda bored by the end of it, so this is probably where I’m gonna jump off

Rating: Decent

Love Live! Niijisaki High School Idol Club

Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club

Synopsis: Nijigasaki High School is known for their diverse subjects and the freedom they give to students. Second-year student Yu Takasaki has been turned on to the charms of school idols, so she knocks on the door of the School Idol Club with her friend, Ayumu Uehara. Sometimes friends, sometimes rivals, the members of this club each contribute their own thoughts and motivations to the group.

First Impressions: Next to isekai, idol shows are pretty much the most surefire obligation of any given anime season, in that one will almost always exist, and nothing encapsulates idol shows quite like the Love Live franchise. While I’ve never really been an idol guy, I’ve been weirdly fond of Love Live, and it’s mix of family friendly melodrama and bombastic musical sequences that feel like something straight out of a Disney animated film have helped to give it a lot more charm than it’s competition. I’ll also admit that while I had a pretty decent time with it, I was little less invested in Love Live Sunshine than the first series, and while I liked all the girls well enough, it couldn’t help but feel like more of the same throughout, right down to having a similar “save the school from being shutdown” plot. A third Love Live series was going to have to do something at least a little different to distinguish itself, and the solution seems to be…taking a much more relaxed approach. The show kicks off when a pair of high school girls named Yu and Ayumu are hanging out and come across an idol performance done by a girl named Setsuna, who also happens to go to their school. Yu is inspired by her performance and wants to join the idol club despite Ayumu being a little shaky about the idea, but it turns out Setsuna has disbanded the club, and all the members have gone their seperate ways. Yu is dejected, but Ayumu doesn’t quite want to give up on the whole idol idea, and reveals she’s been a lot more passionate about the idea than she’s let on. Compared to the previous two Love Live premieres this is decidedly more down to earth, with Yu and Ayumu both feeling like the most natural acting high school girls the franchise has produced and their goals for now seem relatively mundane. The other club members, who all make cameos throughout the episode, seem a lot quirkier but compared to how quick Love Live Sunshine’s premiere was to show off all the girls as quickly as possible, I appreciate that this was a little more conservative and stuck to focusing on our leads, who feel both likeable and shippable(which has me a little worried it’s gonna pull the same bait and switch that happened with Sunshine). Of course this is still a Love Live episode, so when Ayumu reveals her hidden passion for idols, and outs herself as the actual protagonist of this incarnation, she does so via an over the top music sequence that felt like something from a music video, and that’s the level of wild I partially come to this franchise for. I don’t know how it keeps doing it, but Love Live always manages to find a way to pull me in, and I’ll more than likely be sticking around for this season.

Rating: Good

Iwakakeru- Sports Climbing Girls

Iwakakeru! Sport Climbing Girls

Synopsis: Sport climbing is a sport that makes use of both the body and the brain to climb walls. Kasahara Konomi, a master at puzzles, just happens to discover her school’s climbing wall, and it looks almost like a colorful sort of puzzle in her eyes. This fateful encounter brings big changes to Konomi’s life! With her teammates in the Hanamiya Girls’ High School Climbing Club, Konomi races for the top in this passionate climbing story!

First Impressions: Rounding out our trifecta of obligatory genre obligations for this season, we have our sports show in the form of Sports Climbing Girls. Sports shows about girls aren’t particularly new, but more often then not they tend to be on the horny side, and while I’ll admit I was fully expecting that going off of some of the preview videos I saw for this, it’s surprisingly lighter on that end than I expected and seems to be well…actually relatively commited to its sport of choice, which is cool I guess. The sport here, is of course rock climbing, and our heroine Koyomi is a newbie who’s looking for an after-school club to join and stumbles upon the rock climbing team. She quickly sees rock climbing as a fun challenge which earns her the ire of one of the regulars named Jun who thinks she isn’t takings seriously enough and threatens to kick her out the club if she can’t beat her in a race. However it turns out Koyomi has a pretty good knack for the sport, and her raw talent ends up winning the approval of the other girls, and some begrunding respect from Jun. It’s a pretty by the numbers sports show narrative, and while it’s the kind of thing I’ve seen done by similar stuff a dozen times before, it’s a formula that tends to work, and since I’m admittedly pretty naieve about rock climbing in general, learning more about it throughout the episode was pretty cool, and it’s enough of a hook to make this a harmless watch. 

…All of this is what I would say, but I’d be hard pressed to talk about this show without mentioning its twist. As mentioned before, Koyomi turns out to be a natural at rock climbing, and while a natural born prodigy discovering the sport they were destined for is far from anything new as far as shonen sports tropes go, what I didn’t mention is that Koyomi’s talent comes from…being a hardcore gamer who was really into puzzle games. Yes, you read that right, and some how, some way, the show treats this concept almost entirely seriously in-universe. This is the kind of nonsense I could never hope to concieve even in my wildest dreams, and it’s absolutely amazing. I really can’t say I was expecting this premiere to be about a gamer girl rising up to take a sport by storm, and the fact that the visual direction actually has the climbing walls shift to look like a puzzle game whenever she’s figuring out the best way to climb it only adds to how wild this concept is. I suppose if I had any actual attachment to this sport, I’d find this premise a little offensive, but it’s such an utterly bizarre trick to pull that it’s pulled this show from a perfectly fine genre thing, to a must-watch, purely because I’m curious just how far it’ll run with it. If this bit of insanity sounds up your alley, or you’re just in the mood for a solid sports show, this looks like it’ll be quite a ride, and I’m totally on board with it.

Rating: Good

 

Moriarty The Patriot

Moriarty the Patriot

Synopsis: In the late 19th century, the British Empire nobility reigns while its working class suffers at their hands. Sympathetic to their plight, William James Moriarty wants to topple it all. Frustrated by the systemic inequity, Moriarty strategizes to fix the entire nation. Not even consulting detective Sherlock Holmes can stand in his way. It’s time for crime to revolutionize the world!

First Impressions: The manga this series is based on came pretty highly recommended, and while I’m not super into detective stuff, it usually makes for good entertainment, and a story about Sherlock Holmes’s nemesis Moriarty sounds like it could be a fun time. Thankfully this premiere more or less delivered as it opens on a caper involving the legendary Lord of Crime tracking down a serial killer who preys on young boys. When he manages to deduce that the killer is a noble of high stature, he tracks him down and offers the father of one his victims the chance to enact his revenge, and helps to cover up the deed. Normally revenge stories are kind of a turn-off for me, but two things make it work pretty well in this instance. The first being that this tale comes with a distinctly “eat the rich” vibe as there’s a very clear sense of condescension towards nobles who turn their noses up at the poor that’s sprinkled throughout the episode, and watching smug rich people get dunked on is a pastime, I can certainly get behind. The second being that the way in which the show opens up with a child reading a Sherlock Holmes book gives the distinct implication, that the series is being framed from the perspective of seeing those novels come to life, and that’s a pretty fun take on detective stories. The sharp visual direction throughout the episode also helps to give the show a little extra punch whether its to give the show a little more of a detective drama vibe through the visual cues with the evidence, or the way certain facial expressions help to showcase the intentions of the chararcters. It’s possible that if this show is going in a caper-of-the-week direction, it could get a little repetitive, and the actual “mystery” was more or less solved in a way where it was impossible for the audience to guess anything ahead of time, but there’s more than enough promise here to put this show on my watch-list and whether you’re into detective stories, or watching the rich get taken down a peg, this show seems like a winner

Rating: Great

 

Talentless Nana

Talentless Nana

Synopsis: In the year 20XX, these teenagers with special powers attend specialized schools to hone their abilities. And then there’s Nana, who was sent to attend one of these schools but doesn’t actually have a unique ability. Can she defeat the Enemies of Humanity with her brains and wit?

First Impressions: I’ve known the manga has been available through Crunchyroll’s manga section for awhile, and I’ve heard it be compared to My Hero Academia a few times, but apparently with a darker tone. While I can’t say I really care much for the idea of an “edgier” version of MHA, I was at least curious what this would be like, and having seen it I can safely say: I do not care for this. So the basic setup here seems pretty straightforward at first as a bunch of students with superpowers called Talents are sent to an island in order to be trained to fight a threat known as the “enemies of humanity”. However our hero Nanao, aka not-Deku, is the only one who doesn’t seem to have a Talent of his own, and is incessantly bullied by not-Bakugo, and belittled by the rest of his classmates. His luck seems to change when two new students transfer into the class, one is a mysterious unfriendly edgy boy, and the other is a bright and cheerful girl named Nana, who has the power to read minds, and immediately befriends Nanao. She thinks he has more potential to stand out among his classmates than he’s letting on, and he slowly reveals to her that part of the reason why he doesn’t like the idea of standing out is that his father pushed him to be a leader, and he’s decidedly less timid than that. Nana’s coaxing makes him rethink that perspective a bit when she tells him how quick he was to help her when she almost gets into danger, and when it happens a second time, Nanao decides to reveal his actual power, which is to negate other Talents, and it earns him the respect of his other classmates. Everything described here is pretty standard shonen fare, and while it isn’t super original, I might have stuck around for a show about these kids banding together to fight evil.

And then we get to the big shocking twist: Nana actually can’t read minds, and was just using her powers of deduction to coax Nanao into revealing his powers because it turns out the students have been the so called “enemies of humanity” all along and she’s out to kill them, starting with Nanao who she pushes off a cliff to his presumed (but more than likely) death. This is clearly meant to be super mindblowing and shocking to the audience…except the title of the show more or less gave away that she didn’t have any powers and as soon as the whole “enemies of humanity” can look like humans thing was brought up, it was obvious she was gonna be evil and I was just sitting around waiting for that shoe to drop. I’ll admit the kids being the supposed threat to humanity was the part I didn’t see, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really change my opinion of how bad this twist is for one simple reason: why are we supposed to care about any of this?

While revealing Nana as some presumed edgy anti-hero assassin is certainly a “twist” (and going by the opening, the quiet edgy boy is her partner in crime) in essence she just killed off the only likeable character among the students for no real reason, so any effectiveness this would have in making her seem cool, just makes her feel unlikeable instead. Not to mention that the episode is leaning so heavily on making this twist as big as possible that it doesn’t really give us any reason to actively want to follow Nana’s mission in killing her classmates, because any big hints would give it all away, and it can’t have that. I guess there is some potential mystery in learning exactly why she’s on this mission and what’s driving her, but even the most basic mystery still has to give you some reason to actually care about the answers, and if the execution here, and the shots in the opening are any indication, this just seems interested in throwing around as much darkness as it can. I’m sure this show is for somebody, and I imagine anyone who’s super into battle royale, or death game scenarios might get something out of this, but it just left me feeling numb, and I can’t imagine watching even one more second of it.

Rating: Bad

 

By The Grace of Gods

By the Grace of the Gods

Synopsis: Only 39 years into a life full of bad luck, Ryoma Takebayashi passes away in his sleep! Taking pity on him, three divine beings show compassion by reincarnating him as a young boy to a magical, new world. Now he spends his time researching and caring for slimes. But after healing an injured traveler, Ryoma decides to set out with his new friends on a journey to use his power to help others.

First Impressions: This is our second isekai of the season, and since the buzz I’d heard from people who watched the early premiere from Funimation awhile back was positive, I was curious to check this out. The story follows a young boy named Ryoma who’s just chilling in the woods with a bunch of slimes until he happens upon some knights and helps them out since one is injured. While Ryoma is helpful, he seems mysteriously self-sufficient for his age, and while claims to have lived with his grandparents until a few years ago, this is of course a lie because that was the moment he got reincarnated from his life as a salaryman on Earth. I knew going in that this was an isekai so I wasn’t particularly surprised by that revelation, but while it was honestly a little more interesting to present a little bit of the world before going into detail about how Ryoma ended up in isekai land, it also did a solid enough job of it that part of me wishes it actually was purely just a comfy fantasy show without the need for those tropes.

For what it’s worth, Ryoma’s flashback as to how he ended up there was at least slightly more amusing than usual since he was overworked in his previous life and doesn’t seem particularly surprised by his fate (which is admittedly kinda dark given that death by overwork is a pretty big problem in Japan) until he learns that he died in a pretty silly manner, and the gods who reincarnate him all seem pretty chill. Since that explanation takes up most of the backhalf of the episode, it’s a little hard to tell what direction the show will actually go in, but it certainly doesn’t seem interested in being a power fantasy, and Ryoma doesn’t really want to do much of anything but play around with his adorable slimes (I want plushies of all of them) so it seems like it probably will commit to being low key and fluffy, which is at least a nice change of pace from most isekai. My only slight worry is that the episode ends with Ryoma reuniting with the knights he helped, and meeting a young girl with them, who going by the opening, might be is love interest. It’d be cute if Ryoma actually was just a nice boy playing with his slimes, but because it’s a reincarnation isekai and we know he’s really a middle aged man, it’s gonna feel at least a little weird if the show seriously commits to that. It could be a pretty big red flag going forward, but I enjoyed most of this premiere otherwise, and while it’s probably not going to be appointment viewing, it seems like it could be a relaxing way to spend a half-hour on a Sunday afternoon.

Rating: Good

 

 

 

 

First Impressions- Summer 2020 Anime

Between the scorching summer heat and the world still being on fire we could all use a little cooling off, and nothing beats the heat quite like some good old fashioned anime. But sadly since again, the world is still on fire, anime production as gotten hit pretty rough, and most of the stuff that was originally set for this season has been moved over to the fall while some of the stuff that didn’t last through the spring are restarting now. This leaves us with very few actual premieres, and while I certainly can’t complain about having less bad shows to potentially shift through for impressions, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed about having less stuff to watch. Still the situation is what is, and I could certainly do without folks dying just so I can get my cartoons faster, so I’m more than willing to make do with what we’ve got. With all that out of the way, let’s see what this season 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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Super HXEROS

Super HxEros

Synopsis: Earth faces an unprecedented threat from an invasion by the mysterious Kiseichuu. The Kiseichuu feed on human sexual energy, also known as “H-energy”, and weaken the human population. High school student Retto Enjou is a member of the hero group HXEROS, who fight together to save the earth from the Kiseichuu.

First Impressions: On the surface this seemed like a trashy premise with a lot of potential to be fun. Parodying tokusatsu shows with heavy fanservice tropes isn’t exactly a new concept, but it’s one I can get behind, and fanservice shows in particular tend to be far more entertaining when they’re played as over the top as possible so I figured this would be at least close to my exact brand on that end. In execution however, this show was a lot more boring than I expected. The tokusatsu trappings are still there, and everything from the eyecatches, to the monster designs and especially the banging OP song, seems like it’d make for a perfect love-letter for the genre. Unfortunately the actual material doesn’t carry around any of that same energy as we spend most of time being introduced to the protagonist Ret who’s sad that his childhood friend Hoshino is no longer into him, while there’s an alien invasion in the background and despite some occasional wackiness with the fanservice, almost all of it treated dead seriously, which for something like this, kinda has the opposite effect when it comes to enjoyment. The actual tokusatsu stuff isn’t executed much better as even with stuff like Ret losing his close everytime he punches a monster, or that the aliens suck erotic energy from people, it all comes off as more flat as intended, and even the punchline of Hoshino acting like a tsundere only for it to be revealed that she was so horny for Ret as a kid it made one of the monsters explode didn’t have the right amount of punch it’s execution to get much of a laugh out of me. Long story short, I expected the direction for this show to be way wackier than it actually was, and the fact that it’s playing what is clearly supposed to be a campy parody in such a dry manner is extremely weird. and I kinda can’t help but imagine what it would be like the anime staff really went buck wild with it. For what we got though, this was mostly just a shurg, and while it’s always possible later episodes of this will be campier in execution, for now this seems like it’ll probably be a pass

Rating: Decent

Monster Girl Doctor

Monster Girl Doctor

Synopsis: In the town of Lindworm where monsters and humans coexist, Dr. Glenn runs an exemplary medical clinic for monster girls with his lamia assistant, Sapphee. Whether receiving a marriage proposal by a centaur injured in battle, palpating the injury of a mermaid, or suturing the delicate wounds of a flesh golem, Dr. Glenn performs his job with grace and confidence. But when an unsavory character seeks to steal a harpy egg, how will the unflappable Dr. Glenn respond…?

First Impressions: While the winter season’s Interspecies Reviewers was a pretty hot topic while it came out, both for it’s content and the licensing nightmare that ensued because of it, this show is more in line with what I’ve come to expect from the “monster girl” genre. That is to say it’s horny and definently interested in having its audience ogle cute monster girls via fake science, but relatively tame in terms of actual sexual content. In the case of this show it follows a human doctor and his snake girl assistant as the roam the land treating monsters of various races who all happen to be women because well, this show knows exactly what people are here for. The focus for the premiere has them treating an ojou-sama centaur warrior who keeps losing matches because she refuses to put on horseshoes (which I guess would sound about right), and if you think the show wouldn’t be able to make something as seemingly beign as that into something horny, rest assured it somehow finds a way, and even putting aside that angle I was kinda surprised at the attention to detail in how they made sure the horseshoes were fitted properly. This is a whole lot of rambling, but frankly this is one of those things where you’ll probably know whether or not it’s for you pretty quickly. If you’re into seeing monster girls getting ogled in (mostly) consensual ways and some potentially light harem antics, since you can bet your bottom dollar all the monster girls want to play doctor with the doctor, then you’ll probabIIly get some mileage out of this. If not, then I’d recommend looking elsewhere for something entertaining this season. Personally though, I kind of am in the mood for some light fanservice trash, and since Super HXEROS was a lot more boring than I expected from it’s branding, this seems like it might do nicely so long as it doesn’t go too horny on main, and I was amused enough that it seems like it’s worth at least another episode or two.

Rating: Decent

Lapis Re:LIGHTs

Lapis Re:LiGHTs

Synopsis: Tiara at Flora Girls Academy is where witches are trained to purify the magical beasts that threaten the humans. Together with her classmates, Tiara is ready to learn how to save lives and bring smiles to people’s faces.

First Impressions: Even with a pandemic going on and production schedules getting obliterated in the process, it still wouldn’t be a new season of anime without at least one idol or cute girls doing cute things show, and Lapis Re:LIGHTs is here to pull double duty. At least it seems like that’ll be the case based on a lot of the promotional material and the opening theme. For what we actually get here in the premiere the show so far leans a little more towards the cute girls doing cute things end of the pool as we’re introduced to a band of plucky techicolor haired heroines who all seem to neatly fit into the character archetypes you’d expect from that. As is often the case with cute girls doing cute things shows though, there’s usually some kind of hook and in this case it’s that the girls are all witches attending a magic academy. I’ll admit it’s a pretty good one, and this premiere does some solid world building as we’re introduced to the various forms of magic that the girls can perform, and the rank-based hierarchy that determines the social pecking order at the academy. Of course, none of this is really too different from anything you’d see in another witch school show, so even on that end, it functions more than it actively stands out. It doesn’t help that the character designs for all the girls have a lot of sameface going on, and while the show is pretty to look at otherwise, they’re still clearly supposed to be the main selling point, so that sort of thing is a pretty big cardinal sin of blandness for me. If it sounds like I’m being overly-harsh here, I didn’t really anything against this premiere and it seems like a perfectly fine show, but so far it doesn’t have enough of a kick to seem like it’ll hold my interest. Maybe I’ll give it another episode to see if it does a little more with the worldbuilding, but right now I’m leaning towards giving this a drop

Rating: Decent

The Misfit of Demon Academy

The Misfit of Demon King Academy

Synopsis: Anos Voldigord was a tyrannical Demon King that eradicated humans, spirits, and even the gods, but became bored of eternal warfare and reincarnated with dreams of a peaceful world. However, what awaited him in reincarnation after 2000 years were descendants who became too weak after being accustomed to peace, and all sorts of magic that deteriorated to the extreme. Anos enters Demon King Academy that gathers and educates those who are viewed as the reincarnation of the Demon King, but the academy could not see through his true powers and ends up branding him as a misfit!

First Impressions: So continuing the trend of obligatory genre shows, we have our light novel based title, The Misfit of Demon Academy, which might as well be labeled “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Mahouka”. The Mahouka-ness in question largely centering around the fact that series stars a smug overpowered protagonist who the audience is clearly supposed to admire for how cool and powerful they are, while in-universe the character is demeaned because they don’t fit into the rules of that world’s society. Since I dropped Mahouka after a couple of episodes, and everything I heard about it’s politics made me more than happy to never look back, this seems like it would be an instant dealbreaker, but I’ll admit there’s a little potential here. For one thing while our MC-kun is “unfairly punished” for being a super awesome special snowflake, instead of using that a vehicle to justify weird right-wing politics the same way Mahouka did, instead this show’s MC-kun is beating up smug nobles who think their bloodline is everything, and he himself has contempt for how little value they put on the lives of others. This theoretically puts it safely to the left of Mahouka, and while I’m not really a power fantasy guy, a power fantasy about beating up rich people who only inherited everything they have seems like it could make for a fun time. Of course this being a light novel adaptation, there’s all the chance in the world it could end up either not doing anything with that or go in the opposite direction later down the line. It’s sense of humor is also kind of hit or miss because while I did get a kick out of MC-kun’s parents being sweet and over-enthuastic about their son, and MC-kun killing a noble over and over again because he was too smug to surrender, I was a little less amused by the gag about MC-kun being one month old and picking up girls already since that does come off as a little squick-ish and with the way light novels can be sometimes, that might be a big warning flag. Even so I got a little more out of this than I was expecting, and it certainly looks pretty, so against my better judgement I might actually watch one more episode of I Can’t Believe It’s not Mahouka. Hopefully I won’t regret this decision

Rating: Decent

The God of Highschool

The God of High School

Synopsis: Well-known fighters are all here at the national competition to find out who is the best fighter, but a mysterious group, called “Nox Solidarity”, comes and tries to make a mess. Now, who is going to fight with Mori and his friends against Nox?

First Impressions: This is the second of the major co-productions between Crunchyroll and WEBTOON, and while Tower of God turned out to be kinda boring and empty, this one I was a little more interested in. The main reason being this adaption happens to to be helmed by one Seong-Ho Park of Garo: Vanishing Line fame. For anyone who didn’t happen to check that show out while it was airing it was basically one giant “rule of cool” and throwing as much testosterone and style at the screen as humanly possible, with some cool kinetic fight animation to match. So far this series looks to be a pretty good repeat of that since there’s plenty of brawling going down here, and all of it’s presented in a way that’s designed to be as mainstream as possible, but that’s not quite what won me over. What actually got my attention was the crazy and chaotic energy poured into a single bicycle chase that lasts half the episode, but was both ridiculously well animated, and also a weirdly fun way to introduce the three main protagonists as the hefty amount of slapstick they go through in an effort to retrieve an old lady’s purse speaks both to them being good natured, and incredibly stupid, which is a combination that’s generally endearing to me. Combine all that with a cool soundtrack and some overly stylish eyecatch cards, and it’s clear that this premiere is out to impress as quickly as it possibly can, and I’d say that for the most part it succeeds. My only real fear is that for all the flash and style that was here, there’s a pretty high chance the actual story might be a little too empty for all of this to compensate, and given how Tower of God turned out, it’s certainly possible it could end up being similarly bland in that area. Still, I had way more fun with this show’s premiere than I did with ToG’s so for now I’m willing to give this the benefit of the doubt, and with Seong-Ho Park’s general sense of style and flair, it’ll at least be pretty to look if nothing else. Hopefully this show didn’t totally blow it’s load in the first episode, but for now it’s certainly the most fun premiere I’ve seen this season and I’d say it’s worth giving a peek.

Rating: Great

Deca-dence

Deca-Dence

Synopsis: After nearly being driven to extinction by life forms known as Gadoll, humanity dwells in a mobile fortress named Deca-Dence. Built to protect humans from the Gadoll threat, it’s occupied by Gears, warriors who fight daily, and Tankers, those without the same skills. Natsume, who dreams of fighting, meets Kaburagi, an armor repairman. Their chance meeting will shake the future of this world.

First Impressions: Deca-dence is this season’s big anime-original project, and one being brought to us by the anime studio with the greatest name in existence: Studio NUT. Jokes aside, I was pretty curious to check this one out because one man’s name was attached to this as the director, and that name is Yuzuru Tachikawa. Between his work on his previous anime-original series Death Parade at Madhouse, and his insanely well-crafted adaption of Mob Psycho 100 at BONES, Tachikawa has quickly become one of my favorite anime directors and I’m excited for anything new he gets to work on. That excitement was pretty well rewarded with this premiere because there’s a lot to like about this series. This series takes place in a world where humanity has been under attack by monsters known as the Gadoll and has been forced to live inside a giant mobile fortress known as the Deca-dence where they attempt to hold up a resistence. Enter Natsume, our plucky young heroine who dreams of becoming a soldier in order to help humanity live in peace, but because she lost her real arm in a Gadoll attack as a child and only has a prosthetic, she has to make due living out a quiet life making repairs on the Deca-dence under the direction of her supervisor Kaburagi, who’s a pretty big cynic. As fate would have it though, there’s a little more to Kaburagi that meets the eye, and when the Deca-dence undergoes another Gadoll attack, Natsume gets a close up view of how well he can fight.

This is just the base summary of the episode but I haven’t even gotten into things like the fact that the soldiers who fight the Gadoll and more along the lines of the wastelanders you’d see in a Mad Max movie, with the cars and hair to match, and the Deca-dence is operated like a robot fortress you’d see out an old 80’s mecha anime like Macross, complete with it’s own crew. Long story short, this show is basically what would happen if Attack on Titan, Mortal Engines and Mad Max: Fury Road had a baby, but instead of that baby being overly dark and serious, they’re just out to have a good time and take everyone else along for the ride. This hits just about all my checkboxes for cool things I like out of anime and action movies, and layering all of that on top of some pretty fun character animation puts this next to The God of Highschool as the premiere to beat this season, and I have a lot more faith this one won’t lose any steam as it goes on. My only real issue is that the 3DCG for the Gadoll looks a little clunky in a couple of shots, but with how impressive the rest of the show looks, it’s a moot point and the action choreography of the big battle more than makes up for that deficiency. I don’t know quite where this show is headed, but with Tachikawa at the helm, I have all the confidence in the world it’ll be exciting.

Rating: Great

Rent-A-Girlfriend

Rent-A-Girlfriend

Synopsis: In Japan, the lonely have a new way out — online services that rent out dads, children, even girlfriends! When Kazuya’s true love dumps him, he’s just desperate enough to try it, and he’s shocked at how cute and sweet his rental girlfriend turns out to be. But she wants to keep their “relationship” a secret, and there’s a complication… she goes to his university… and their grandmothers are in the same home… and they live next door to each other?! And Kazuya finds out she’s not nearly as nice in “real life”… 

First Impressions: I’ve heard a lot of mixed things about this rom-com, and while none of them made me excited to watch this, they certainly made me curious, and sure enough I walked away from this premiere feeling mixed on what I watched. The basic rundown of the episode is pretty straightforward, Kazuya is a 20-year old college student who gets dumped by his first girlfriend, and in desperation turns to an online app that allows him to date a fake girlfriend named Chizuru. She plays the part of the ideal girlfriend, but that only causes Kazuya’s insecurities to come out, and when that messes with Chizuru being able to keep up her persona in public, her real, more brash personality comes out and the two of them but heads . After some hijinks, Kazuya realizes he’s been pathetic by forcing his insecurities onto her, and while Chizuru is sympathetic to his lonliness, she seems to have plenty of her own problems to deal with and the two resolve never to meet again until it turns out that Chizuru also happens to be attending the same college as Kazuya.

So one thing I liked about this premiere is that compared to the average rom-com or harem lead, Kazuya comes off as kind of a jerk, and some of the resentment he shows through the episode both towards Chizuru and himself made his character feel pretty believable without having him go full on incel, and as a lonely single dude myself, I could at least relate to him on some level with his self-loathing, even if it didn’t exactly make him likeable. I also appreciated that the show actually seemed to be pretty aware of his behavior and while he is given some sympathy in regards to his whole relationship with his grandma, he still has to own up to taking his resentment out on Chizuru when she was just doing her job, and Chizuru herself comes off as fairly three-dimensional, and while we don’t know the reasons behind her doing this kind of job, the show doesn’t seem to think less of her for it so far. Really my main problem here is that the story this premiere tells actually feels pretty self-contained, and the healthiest thing for Kazuya probably would be to move on from his ex and never see Chizuru again so the fact that it seems like both those things are being chucked out the window is a good sign this show doesn’t have quite as much self-awareness as I’d like, and is likely out to be as spicy as it probably can from this point forward. I guess that could be amusing in it’s own way and the fact that the characters are at least kind of interesting right off the bat, gives this a little bit of an edge over other harem rom-coms. but if the show’s already tossed aside the best possible outcome then I can’t say I have much confidence it’ll be worth sinking time into. I might give this another episode or two to see where it goes and the premiere was pretty okay overall, but I don’t have much confidence later episodes will wow me.

Rating: Decent

Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out

Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!

Synopsis: To Uzaki Hana, nothing sounds worse than being alone. That’s why she’s made it her mission to keep her upperclassman Sakurai Shinichi company. The problem is, all he wants is some peace and quiet!

First Impressions: I’ve been seeing Uzaki-chan memes swirling around the internet for the last couple of years (well that and the whole weird story with the blood donation poster of her from awhile back) and that made me a little curious about that. I kinda wish I hadn’t indulged that curiosity though because this show is very not good. The basic run down involves Uzaki hanging out with her grumpy MC-kun sempai in college who’s kind of a loner, and her simultaneously annoying him with her loud antics while distracting him with her gigantic boobs. That’s uh…kinda supposed to be the joke I guess. I say “kinda” because I watched about 13 minutes of the first episode, and all 13 of those minutes were painfully unfunny. There’s no real comedic chemistry between Uzaki and MC-kun, and as a pretty anti-social dude, the way she rags on him for being a loner just kinda feels more mean-spirited than it is funny, especially since he seems like a pretty okay dude otherwise who’s just trying to live his life. This pretty much leaves the only appeal being Uzaki and her giant tracks of land, and I’d normally be all for big boobs as a single straight dude, Uzaki’s character design literally looks like what would happen if an artist drew a 12 year old and slapped giant boobs on her, and combined with the fact that Uzaki has the annoying personality to match, it makes all the “jokes” surrounding her huge knockers feel more uncomfortable than sexy and it only increased my desire to tap out of this show early. I guess the one thing I could say in this show’s favor is that Uzaki has some pretty good smug faces, and I can see why they’ve spawned so many memes, but they sure as heck aren’t worth sitting through the rest of this for, and I was both bored and annoyed enough by the halfway mark that I couldn’t muster the energy to continue. I’m sure there’ll be folks who find this show funny, or at least have fun with all the smug Uzaki faces, but I can’t say I’m one of them. I’m out.

Rating: Bad

Gibate

Gibiate

Synopsis: In 2030, people in Japan are turning into different forms of monsters based on their age, sex and race. The illness is named ‘Gibia’ – after being rich in variety like gibier. A pair of samurai and ninja appear in the blighted wasteland of Japan. They both travelled from the early Edo period, fighting together with help from a doctor who tries to find a cure for Gibia. Facing ceaseless attacks from Gibia, and outlaws that attack travelers for food, they start the dangerous journey with enemies all around.

First Impressions: This is the other big co-production from Crunchyroll this season next to The God of Highschool, but I hadn’t heard nearly as much about it going in. About all I really knew was that this show featured character designs by Yoshitaka Amano of Final Fantasy and Vampire Hunter D fame so I was curious what this would look like. Unfortunately after checking out the premiere, I can’t quite say the show looked “good”. Amano’s character designs of course look pretty distinct, and while there isn’t an immediate appeal to the character designs, they certainly stand out enough and have a lot of detail to them. The problem however, is that the rest of the actual production can’t compensate, and while the backgrounds look nice enough, the animation is extremely limited with a lot of speed lines and close-up shots that make the whole thing look unpolished. It doesn’t help that on top of that, the 3DCG used for the monsters sticks out like a sore thumb, and however cool Amano’s initial 2D drafts of them might have looked (and we do some of what was probably the original concept art for them at one point in the episode) the show certainly doesn’t do them justice and it just adds onto the production woes. That basically just leaves the story which takes place during the aftermath of a giant pandemic. Given the current state of the world, that does make this show’s premise a little timely, or at least it would be, aside from the whole thing about time travelling samurais and the virus here turning people into giant bug monsters. This isn’t to say that any of that is bad and it’s a decent enough premise for an original action show, but since again, show looks kinda janky outside of Amano’s character designs, that doesn’t leave this with a whole lot of appeal. and the characters all feel a little basic for this type of story. I can’t exactly say I hated this premiere, and under normal circumstances I might give it another episode or two to see how it pans out, but considering how much it looked like it was going to melt in the first episode alone, I don’t have much confidence this show’s production will hold through, and it doesn’t have enough going for it quite yet to make it worth putting up with those production problems. It’s likely this’ll get a dub since it’s a Crunchyroll original so maybe I’ll check it out that way, but between the two I’d say The God of Highschool is probably the one to watch

Rating: Bad

First Impressions- Spring 2020 Anime (Part 2)

It’s time for week two of the Spring 2020 anime premieres and there’s still plenty of stuff left to check out. So far the season’s off to a pretty decent start but there’s plenty of room for more promising titles, or piles of trash so let’s see what lies in store. (Sorry I couldn’t come up with an intro that was a little more creative)

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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Shachibato! President, It’s Time for Battle

Shachibato! President, It’s Time for Battle!

Synopsis: In the developed city of Gatepia close to the Gate, citizens gain access to Kirakuri, an energy fundamental to their way of life and to humanity. But there’s competition in Gatepia, as thousands of corporations seek to become the strongest and obtain the most Kirakuri. Minato, the newest president of Kibo Company, is looking to make it big by hiring the best employees to become the greatest fantasy adventuring company ever!

First Impressions: Mobage adaptions are about as inescapable as isekais so you can always count on getting at least one or two every season and this is here to fill that void. The basic setup here involves a world where there are endless dungeons to explore and dungeon crawling has literally been made into a 9-5 office jon. That’s where our hero comes in as following the passing of his father, he’s asked by his employees to take over his company and lead them in battle. If this sounds like a potentially neat idea for a fantasy premise or at least a parody of one, I’m sorry to say it’s not nearly as interesting as that description implies. Like a lot of mobage adaptions, this feels very much like it was built for people who have already played the game, and while it does at least have the sense to explain the mechanics of how dungeon crawling works in this universe, it all feels pretty by the numbers, with our lead being kinda boring, and his employees all generally filling your standard ensemble of anime sterotypes with the only really interesting gag being that one of them may or may not have a bloodthirsty monster in their bag. The actual dungeon crawling comes off as a little too sacchrine to be engaing either, and I was only about 10 minutes in before I started wondering when the episode would be over. Like most mobage things, this was perfectly harmless, and I’m sure people who’ve actually played the original game might enjoy it, but I’m kinda struggling to even find much to say about it, so that doesn’t really speak well to how much it engaged me. Maybe next time one of these will grab me

Rating: Bad

Glepnir

Gleipnir

Synopsis: Shuichi Kagaya an ordinary high school kid in a boring little town. But when a beautiful classmate is caught in a warehouse fire, he discovers a mysterious power: He can transform into a furry dog with an oversized revolver and a zipper down his back. He saves the girl’s life, sharing his secret with her. But she’s searching for the sister who killed her family, and she doesn’t care how degrading it gets: She will use Shuichi to accomplish her mission…

First Impressions: I know quite a few folks on anitwitter who were excited for this one, but I didn’t know too much other about it other than that it’s apparently pretty horny. It’s very much that, going by the first episode, but I’m not quite sure if I could tell you what the rest of it is. The premiere follows a high school student named Kagaya who seems pretty normal, but is hiding a big secret: his body can transform intoa giant monster that resembles a stuffed mascot. Since he has no idea how he got this power, he tries to keep it on the downlow, but when he uses his powers to save a classmate named Claire, and the animal instincts of his beast form get a little…grabby, she blackmails him into following her around for reasons that aren’t yet clear. Also it seems that Kagaya isn’t the only one around who can transform, and the ability seems to have something to do with some mysterious gold coins that are floating around. That was quite a mouthful, but about all you need to know about this show is that it’s really, REALLY weird. Kagaya’s powers are weird, tying them to his teen hormones is weird, and this whole gosh dang premise is weird, and I’m honestly not sure what to make of this. It seems like something that could be your run-of-the-mill ultraviolent and sex-charged edgefest, but even with how horny the show gets with everything about Claire it seems a little too bizarre even for that, and I have no idea where this is going or what it’s goals are. All that said, I’d sure as heck be lying if I said I wasn’t at least interested because this premiere didn’t leave me with nearly enough to form a solid opinion on the show. It could either be really fascinating, or just the latest in edgelord branded nonsense, and both outcomes seem possible right now, so I feel like I need at least one more episode to form a picture of it. I know that was a lot of rambling, but I guess the point here is…go watch Glepinr I guess? I have no idea what it is, but if nothing else, I can probably guarantee you, you’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Rating: ???

Princess Connect! Re: Dive

Princess Connect! Re:Dive

Synopsis: In the beautiful land of Astraea where a gentle breeze blows, a young man named Yuuki awakens with no memory of his past. There he encounters a guide who has sworn to care for him—Kokkoro, a lovely swordswoman who’s always feeling peckish—Pecorine, and a cat-eared sorceress with a prickly attitude—Karyl. Led by fate, these four come together to form the “Gourmet Guild.” 

First Impressions: And here we have mobage adaption #2, or at least I’m assuming it is because it seemed a little too beign to be anything else. This one involves our MC-kun falling from the sky and waking up to find himself being waited on and and foot by a mysterious girl who says she’s here to serve him. I kinda immediately rolled my eyes around this point, but by far the most amusing thing about this is that MC-kun has amnesia, and not typical anime amnesia, but is basically just a helpless infant, which considering how often the reverse tends to happen, got a good chuckle or two out me, as we see MC-kun trying to eat coins because he doesn’t know what money is, or frequently getting carried off by hungry wolves because he can’t defend himself. Sadly that all wasn’t quite funny enough to take away from how saccharine and low stakes the rest of it is, and by the time we got to the revelation that he’s something called a Princess Knight and is presumably destined to unite a bunch of pretty girls to his harem (starting with one who spends nearly the entire episode not realizing two dudes were trying to swipe her sword) I’d already kinda lost interest. If there’s any other positives here, it’s that the show certainly looks good, and while the character designs are kinda generic, there’s some pretty good battle animation towards the end of it, and it’s pretty plesant to look at overall. Once again though, I don’t really have a lot of patience for these mobage adaptions if they’re gonna remain low stakes and mostly built on the assumption you’re already into the game they’re based on so this looks like another easy skip.

Rating: Bad

Shironeko Project: ZERO Chronicle

Shironeko Project: Zero Chronicle

Synopsis: The series follows a young adventurer who hails from the Astora Isle, who joins up with a man named Kyle, and the two set out together. After meeting a curious talking white cat and a mysterious young girl, the whole crew uncovers an island in the sky–where Kyle falls into darkness.

First Impressions: Now we’re at mobage adaption #3 but to this one’s credit, it does a much better job at disgusing itself. This one takes place in a world divided among two races with one called the Blacks being ruled by the King of Darkness, and the other being the Whites being ruled by the Queen of Light. If this sounds super on the nose to you, you’re not alone and I can assure you pretty much the entire episode carries that same level of energy. Our nameless protagonist hails from the land of darkness and after an encounter with a powerful knight, he’s given the opportunity to try ascending to the throne and take over the mantle of the King of Darkness so he can bring peace to all. That motivation is all well and good, but the lead up to this felt like it was trying to be edgy for edgy’s sake and none of the writing in the rest of the episode did much to convince me it’ll do anything interesting. On the flip side of things the folks in the kindom of light come off as even blander. and while I’m certain some kind of star-crossed romance will form between our edgy protagonist and the Queen of Light, I can’t say I have any interest in seeing how it gets there. It gets tiring repeating the same point about these mobage adaptions feeling kinda empty to anyone not familar with the source material, and again I give props that this one disguised itself with enough edge that I thought it was based on a light novel at first, but it didn’t have enough to grab me in the end, so it looks like I’m 0-3 on interesting mobage shows this season.

Rating: Bad

Shadowverse

Shadowverse

Synopsis: While attending Tensei Academy, Hiiro Ryugasaki ends up acquiring a mysterious smartphone. It comes installed with the popular card game, Shadowverse! Meeting new rivals, facing major tournaments, forging bonds with friends… Shadowverse leads Hiiro to all sorts of new experiences, all that serve to “evolve” him…

First Impressions: It’s time to move on to mobage adaptions to card game adaptions. Okay well I’m pretty sure there is technically a mobile game for this, but it’s presumably closer to how a typical TCG functions so that’s how I’m seeing it. Anyway, I was sorta curious about this both because Shadowverse the game has been around for awhile and I’ve always wondered how it played, and also because I’m a 10-year old at heart and I’m perfectly fine with watching shiny toy commercials if they do a good job of drawing me in. Sadly Shadoverse was lacking on both accounts. The formula for the premiere follows just about every toy based anime cliche you’ve seen before with our lead Hiro dreaming of being able to play the game someday until he happens upon a mysterious smartphone and gets the chance to battle against a skilled player after said player defeats his childhood friend in a card duel and steals her cellphone as a prize. That last bit kinda soured me right away as did Hiro inevitably winning his first battle despite not having ever played the game before, but I could maybe get past that had the episode done one simple thing: explained how the card game works. Sadly it doesn’t do that, and while I guess they’re functioning under the assumption enough people already play the game that they don’t need to do that, this is still being marketed towards kids as a way to further push the game, so doing at least that much seems like a no-brainer. Since I could barely follow what was happening in the game, and the show had kinda lost me everywhere else, there wasn’t really anything for me to latch onto. It certainly looks nice at least, and a little more polished than the footage I’ve seen of the newest Yu-Gi-Oh series, but this doesn’t look like it’ll satisfy my toy show itch quite like I thought it would, so I’ll probably just wait and hold out for that to get simulcasted instead.

Rating: Bad

The Millionare Detective- Balance: UNLIMITED

The Millionaire Detective - Balance:Unlimited

Synopsis: Follows the incredibly wealthy Daisuke Kanbe who audaciously solves cases in unconventional ways. Kanbe is assigned to the “Modern Crimes Task Unit” — a unit created to keep problematic officers away from others. There, Kanbe becomes partners with Katou.

First Impressions: This show wasn’t super high on my radar, but bishonen detective shows can be fun when they’re done well, and all the trailers looked kinda interesting so I was sorta curious about. Boy I sure wasn’t expecting what I actually saw. So the basic setup here is extremely straightforward. A former elite detective named Katou is on a case to stop a potential bombing, and in the process he has a run in with a bored billionare named Daisuke who turns out to be his new boss. It seems like it would be pretty standard for a buddy cop show, and in a lot of ways it is, but what I sure didn’t anticipate was…basically everything about Daisuke. From the second he shows up on screen the show wants to tell you that Daisuke is far too cool and smooth for the likes of this earth, and even his theme song (which blares literally EVERY SINGLE TIME HE DOES ANYTHING) feels like something out of a James Bond movie, and it’s just so amazingly ridiculous I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face. The whole gimmick of a character with more money than god certainly isn’t new, but the way Daisuke uses his money to do everything from intentionally causing car crashes that he can pay double reperations for, to literally buying out a bridge to stop a pair of would-be robbers, he feels more like a character out of a Saturday morning cartoon than an anime, but that’s also my aesthetic, so I’m totally down with that. Speaking of the robbers, they were also a pretty good part of the characters, as they had the kind of wannabee Bonny and Clyde energy that almost made me want to see them succeed so I’m glad they weren’t blown to smithreens when Daisuke almost pushed them off a bridge (it’s really hard to keep a straight face while typing any of this). As much as the over-the-top nature of basically everything in this premiere is the primary appeal, it certainly helps that the show looks pretty good doing it, and while it certainly isn’t the slickest looking production from Cloverworks, it nails the cop aesthetic where it needs to, and the 3DCG for the cars isn’t too obnoxious. About my only potential hangup is that I kinda don’t care about Katou yet so I don’t know how well he’ll bounce of Daisuke when they start working together, but everything about Daisuke is so…Daisuke that even if the show doesn’t strike the right balance for a buddy cop comedy, I can still watch it just for him. Since humor is subjective I don’t know if this’ll be everyone’s cup of tea but I had a stupid grin on my face almost the whole way through this, and you bet your bottom dollar I’ll be watching every week

Rating: Excellent

APPARE-RANMAN

Appare-Ranman!

Synopsis: The socially awkward yet genius engineer, Appare Sorano, and the wise but cowardly samurai, Kosame Isshiki, find themselves aimlessly drifting in the sea between Japan and America. In order to earn enough money to get back home, the duo enters a trans-American race in their own steam-powered car. Rivals, bandits, and other trials await them on this race from Los Angeles to New York.

First Impressions: And rounding out my impressions, we have an original project that’s kinda been on my radar ever since it’s been announced. PA Works’s original productions have gradually gotten stranger with time, and it’s hard to imagine getting any stranger than a racing anime that takes place the early 20th century. And when I say racing, I mean racing that looks like it might be shooting to be the anime equivalent to Wacky Races for anyone old enough to remember Dick Dastardly beyond the recent memes for the upcoming Scooby-Doo movie. It’s an odd premise to be sure, but it’s also one that’s pretty much my brand, and I’m happy to say it seems like it might live up to that potential. I say might, because while the first few minutes tease the eventual big race, most of the premiere flashes back to how this all started as we’re introduced to our two leads Appare and Kosame. Appare is an eccentric inventor from a merchant family who dreams of doing the impossible but is lacking in social graces, while Kosame is a bit of an everyman who just wants to get by comfortably until he’s dragged head first into Appare’s shenanigans. It’s a pretty familar dynamic, and the show hasn’t particularly sold me on either character yet, but they have some pretty decent chemistry together, and while nothing they did over the course of the episode had me rolling, I was at least entertained the whole way through. Thankfully it doesn’t seem like we’lln have to wait all the way till the last few episodes for the actual race, because this one ends with our duo ending up on the shores of the U.S. after Appare goes on the lam, and it seems like we’ll get introduced to the rest of the cast pretty quickly. The show also looks pretty polished, as is usually the case with PA Works, and while there’s a little corner cutting here and there, it has a lot of immediate visual appeal, and the 3DCG for the cars seems decent enough that the eventual racing should be pretty fun when we get to that. I’ll admit I’m more interested in the potential of this show than anything that was necessairly in the premiere beyond the first 2 minutes, but those first two minutes seemed close enough to what I wanted that I’m willing to bet on this show reaching it’s potential, and if wacky anime racing seems like something you might be into, I’d say this looks like it may be well worth a shot.

Rating: Good


And that’s it for my impressions this time. All in all this looks like a pretty solid season. There’s some promising looking titles, and even the lame stuff wasn’t particularly bad outside of the typical blandness that comes with mobage adaptions. There’s a decent amount of variety too, and it looks like one of those seasons where no matter what your tastes are, you’ll probably find at least one thing to sink your teeth into (unless you’re a shonen fan in which case your only dish is Season 5 of Food Wars which is being served to you way past it’s expiration date). Of course with the virus affecting things worldwide, it’s anyone’s guess how well these shows will hold throughout the season, or if some of them will even finish at all, but hopefully things work out as well as they can. In the meantime, I hope everyone stays safe, and until next time, stay animated.

<-Part 1

First Impressions- Spring 2020 Anime (Part 1)

So normally I’d talk about how nice it is to get away from the cold of winter and finally soak up some warmer weather, but I’m pretty sure you don’t need me to tell you how much everything sucks right now, and I hope all of you are staying as safe as you can. In the meantime, while we’re all holed up at home, waiting for this whole virus situation to be over, we might as well try and escape reality with some new anime. Since I frankly don’t have much else to do in the meantime, the odds are slightly higher I might get around to more stuff than I normally would, but I’d also like to avoid burning myself out, so we’ll see what happens. Now that my rambling’s done, I guess it’s time to kick this off

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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Tower Of God

Tower of God

Synopsis: Fame. Glory. Power. Anything in your wildest dreams is possible when you reach the top of the Tower of God. Those lucky enough to be chosen by the tower ascend each floor in hopes of fulfilling their dreams, but to succeed, they must complete dangerous and deadly tests along the way. But there are others who can enter the structure on their own free will; these “irregulars” are feared by many and are said to leave chaos and change in their wake. Twenty-Fifth Baam is one such irregular who begins to climb the Tower of God in hopes of reuniting with his childhood friend Rachel, but as he soon discovers, this perilous path will put him in the crosshairs of fierce competitors, untrustworthy rivals and terrifying monsters, and he might not make it out alive…

First Impressions: So this is probably one of the most anticipated things of the season for a lot of folks, and it certainly seems to be the show that Crunchyroll is banking on to carry them through the season, since the original web comic is pretty popular. Personally though, it’s been at least somewhere around a decade since I skimmed through it, and I recall literally nothing about it, so I basically went into this blind and to be honest, I’m not quite sure what to think of it. The most immediately stricking thing about the show (aside from having the Crunchyroll and Webtoon logos blaring through the credits, signifying how much the former banked on this) is the visual style, which from everything, I’ve heard was made to resemble the earliest parts of the webcomic. It’s certainly a unique look, and it very much gives the show a comic like vibe in a way that I haven’t seen a lot of other productions do, but in execution the visuals are kinda a mixed bag. The backgrounds look pretty neat, and rough pencil-like outlines work really well for some of the monster designs, but as far as the human characters go, it makes them all look weirdly flat, and while that’s not too off-putting on it’s own, there’s not a whole ton in the way of fluid animation either, so there are points where it feels a few steps away from being a motion comic. Strange as the artstyle is though, the actual plot is even stranger as the show immediately dumps us into the titular tower, and we’re given more in the way of clunky wordbuilding than we are characters as we don’t really know too much about our lead Ban beyond his desire to find a girl named Rachel who once saved him from some mysterious circumstances and may or may not have made her way to the top of the tower. All of this seems it would make the show a hard pass, but as awkwardly pieced together as all of it is, there’s also something about it that has me kinda curious where it’s headed, and I’m equally curious how much mileage the show will be able to get out of it’s artstyle without going totally off the rails. I can’t say this premiere won me over, but I probably will watch at least a little more of this, so on that end, so I guess for the time being, I’m onboard.

Rating: Decent

Tamayomi: The Baseball Girls

Tamayomi

Synopsis: Yomi Takeda is a pitcher who, after a failed attempt at climbing the ladder in a junior high baseball tournament, vows off the sport when she heads to high school. But after reuniting with her childhood friend Tamaki Yamazaki (the only one to ever catch her special “Magic Throw”), the two head back to the sport once again.

First Impressions: It’s time for another round of cute girls doing cute things, this time with baseball. That was about the only thing I knew about the show going into this, well that and the potential of some yuri-baiting and…yeah it was basically that. This premiere follows a girl named Tama who used to be an ace pitcher on a baseball team, but hung up her hat after middle school until meeting a pair of enthusiastic twins and being reunited with her childhood friend Yomi, who happens to be an excellent catcher, reignites her passion for the game. Annndd…that’s basically the whole premiere. It reminds me quite a bit of Cinderella Nine from a few seasons back, and much like that show it kinda wavers between whether it wants to be an actual sports drama or moe fluff. Thankfully it seems to have a slightly tighter handle on that than Cinderella Nine did, and the sport antics take emphasis, but unfortunently it’s not super compelling on that end. While Tama’s plight concerning the fact that she had to hold back from using her full capabilities in middle school because no one could catch her pitches was at least kind of interesting, that whole hangup is resolved by the end of the episode, which already paints a bad sign that this isn’t going to have any long term stakes, which is kind of a death sentence for a sports drama. Adding onto that, the show is pretty poorly animated, and while it isn’t super wonky looking, it’s already cutting a lot of corners which means there isn’t likely to be much in the way of spectacle. This certainly isn’t a bad show, and I nothing about it really bothered me, but even as I’m sitting here typing this, it’s already starting to fade from my memory which isn’t exactly the best sign. Maybe I’ll give it another episode if the rest of the season is really slow, but right now I’m leaning towards a no.

Rating: Decent

The 8th Son? Are You Kidding Me?

The 8th Son? Are You Kidding Me?

Synopsis: Shingo Ichinomiya, a 25-year-old man working at a firm company, while thinking of tomorrow’s busy working day, goes to sleep. However, when he woke up, he found himself in a room unknown to him and realized that he is inside a 6-years-old body, taking over his body and mind. He soon learns from the memories of the boy that the boy was born as the youngest child of a poor noble family living in a back country. Having no administrative skill, he can’t do anything to manage the vast land his family has. Fortunately, he is blessed with a very rare talent, the talent of magic. Unfortunately, while his talent could bring prosperity to his family, in his situation it only brought disaster. This is the story of the boy, Wendelin Von Benno Baumeister, opening his own path in a harsh world.

First Impressions: Well folks, it’s time for another round of isekai bingo so let’s see let’s what we can check off here. MC-kun is a boring salaryman who gets reincarnated into another world? Check. MC-kun is in a world where magic exists, and he’s a super special magic user more powerful than god? Check. MC-kun has a harem of pretty girls? Check. Congratulations we’ve already hit bingo and all of this was established before I got even halfway through this premiere. Long story short, this was really boring, and if you’ve seen literally any isekai involving reincarnation, then you’ve pretty much seen everything this has to offer. The main “gimmick” here is of course in the title, where MC-kun gets reincarnated into a poor noble family and is the youngest of eight brothers, but that’s clearly just an excuse for MC-kun to be overpowered and beloved by all, and it matters so little to those endgoals that at least half of MC-kun’s older brothers have the same generic background character designs and are promptly written out of the show before the end of the episode so you can be sure all the focus will be on MC-kun where it should be. In someways, it’s a shame, because an isekai where the protagonist actually DID have a bunch of brothers to compete with, and needed to prove himself and carve out his own identity could at least be mildly interesting, but that’s far too ambitious for this show’s standards, and even for an extremely run of the mill isekai, I struggled to stay awake through the whole premiere. There are certainly worse things out there, but unless you’re really desperate for a new isekai, or looking for a cure to your insomnia, I’d recommend kicking this to the curb.

Rating: *zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*

Kakushigoto

Kakushigoto

Synopsis: Single father Kakushi Goto has a secret. He’s a top-selling artist of popular erotic manga, but his impressionable young daughter, Hime, can never find out! Now he’s having to bend over backwards just to keep her inquisitive little mind from discovering what he does for a living. A father-daughter tale of love and laughter.

First Impressions: While I can’t say I was highly anticipating this, it was at least kinda on my radar for this season because it’s original author is the madman behind the cult classic, Sayonara Zetsubo-sensei. Zetsubo-sensei was a pretty wild black comedy in its heyday, and while this show looks like it’ll be a lot lighter in tone, I’m happy to say that the comedy is just as sharp. Much like Zetsubo-sensei, this series seems like it’ll revolve around one primary joke, the joke here being that the main character Kakushi is an author who is desperate to make sure his young daughter Hime never finds out he draws raunchy manga. While it seems like something that could easily get old, the show’s already proven it knows how to get a lot of mileage out of it’s humor, and everything from Kakushi putting on a suit everday to maintain the ruse, even though he prefers to draw in casual clothes, and and a gag about Starbucks patrons being hipster monsters got a lot of good laughs out of me, and made the whole episode go by like a breeze. The visual direction and editing for the comedy helps to play a pretty good part in landing the gags, and while it doesn’t look as wild as the best parts of Zetsubo-sensei, it does give a pretty unique identity of it’s own. Funny as it all is, everything here is brought home by the fact that Kakushi and Hime’s dynamic is totally adorable, and while I’m not a parent, I can definently sympathize with him wanting to keep his hobbies away from his family, and it helps in making the humor here relatable. I don’t know how much momentum the show will have after this, but it’s certainly the best of the premieres I’ve seen so far for this season, and if you’re in the mood for a cute comedy, this may be right up your alley.

Rating: Great

Sakura Wars: The Animation

Sakura Wars the Animation

Synopsis: Set in 1940, it’s been 10 years since the great demon invasions, and the World Luxury Operatic Federation has designed a tournament for all to participate in! So how will that work with another impending demonic war? 

First Impressions: I don’t really know too much about Sakura Wars other than that it’s a video game franchise that has been around for pretty much forever, and that the most recent entry had the character designs for the girls done by Tite Kubo of Bleach fame. What I ended up watching was…certainly a video game commercial I guess. The most immediately striking thing about this is that’s done entirely in 3DCG which despite having seen vast improvements thanks to productions like Beastars, is still generally not the best mark of quality when it comes to anime productions. As far as this goes, the character models actually come pretty close to the anime cel-shading look that so many similar shows have tried and failed to pull off and the designs for the girls are all pretty cute. Sadly that’s about all I really have to say about this show because the rest of it was a bunch of nonsense that I imagine is only really going to make sense to you if you’ve actually played the game this is based on and I haven’t. About all I really gathered from the premiere is that the girls are part of a revue theatre that doubles as some kind of miltary organization and they’re tasked with looking after a little girl who holds some big mystery. There’s not really a whole lot in the way of explination, and it doesn’t help that the actual combat portion of the show was weirdly where the 3DCG looked the shoddiest, since there was a lot of notable corner cutting in how some of the shots were framed and while it’s far from the worst I’ve seen done with 3DCG on that, it certainly didn’t help to maintain my interest. This is yet another premiere where nothing here stood out as particularly awful, and maybe if it was a 2D production, Kubo’s character designs might have convinced me to maybe give it another episode, but I’m currently not seeing a whole lot of reason to stick with this. Hey, maybe I’ll try out the actual game instead.

Rating: Decent

Listeners

Listeners

Synopsis: In a world where the entire idea of music vanishes from existence, Echo Rec is a young teen who comes across μ, a girl who, oddly enough, has an auxiliary port on her body. Together, they’ll work to rock the foundation of society and bring music back to the world.

First Impressions: This was one of the handful of things that was on my general radar for this season, both because the aesthetic seemed interesting and also because it’s an anime original project helmed by Dai Sato. Dai Sato has been around the block for a long time, and he’s the primary force behind the beloved mecha classic Eureka Seven so he’s certainly capable of some great work, but he’s also worked on stuff like Dai Shogun, which in addition to being a horny mess of a show, is quite literally the single worst animated TV series I’ve ever laid eyes on, so it’s always a coin toss as to which version of Dai Sato we’re gonna get. Thankfully he seems to be a lot closer to his E7 game than his Dai Shogun game, and this premiere has all the hallmarks of a mid 00’s mecha anime. Our hero Echo is a young man from a junkyard town who dreams of exploring the world, but is also content with living his life out quietly until an amnesiac girl named Myu comes crashing into his life, and she turns out to be a player, the only beings capable of wielding giant robots called Equipment and fighting against monsters called the Earless. What follows is pretty straightforward, as the inevitable arrival of an Earless convinces Echo that he wants more to his life after all, and he and Myu start on a journey to explore the world. Cliche as a lot of this is, these are cliches I haven’t really seen done this way in a long time since these kinds of anime original productions seemed to have largely gone out of fashion, and mecha especially had pretty much zero pull in the 2010’s so seeing a new one that isn’t Gundam related is kind of a shock. I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t a sucker for this sort of thing since I’ve certainly consumed plenty of this kind of mecha show in my day, and Eureka Seven in particular was rock solid, so if this ends up coming even halfway near that level of quality it could make for a fun ride. I’ll admit I’m basing a lot of my opinions here on optimism more than anything, since there’s any number of ways this could turn out to be disappointing or boring, but I’ve really missed these kinds of productions so I’m rooting for it to be fun, and I’ll certainly be tuning into it until it gives me a reason not to

Rating: Good

Wave, Listen to Me!

Wave, Listen to Me!

Synopsis: The stage is Sapporo, Hokkaido. One night, our heroine, Minare Koda, spills her heartbroken woes to a radio station worker she meets while out drinking one night. The next day, she hears a recording of her pitiful grumbling being played live over the air. Minare storms into the station in a rage, only to then be duped by the station director into doing an impromptu talk show explaining her harsh dialogue. With just one recording, the many eccentric facets of Minare’s life begin to pull every which direction as she falls ever deeper into the world of radio.

First Impressions: This is another one I was kinda curious about, both because I’ve seen the original manga floating around in Crunchyroll’s manga catalog for years, and also because it looks to be a comedy about working adults which is sadly kind of a rarity in anime. The story follows a young woman named Minare who after getting into a drunken ramble over a breakup with her boyfriend, ends up getting dragged into the world of radio, and becomes a talk show host. If that premise sounds kinda weird, the show very much is, and it doesn’t help that it starts in media res with Minare already working on the show, and imagining a scenario where she finds herself face to face with a giant bear, before eventually cycling back to tell us how this all started. I can’t say I didn’t get a kick out of it though, and while the show wasn’t ball-busting levels of funny, Minare’s maniac energy is almost impossible not to laugh at, and her struggles with work and relationships feels down to earth enough to be relatable. Even more than her antics though, what really stood to me was the production from Sunrise, and that the episode had some pretty zany animation to match how wild MInare’s personality is, right down to actually going all out on Minare’s imaginary bear fight. Needless to say I was pretty happy with this one, and while I don’t know if the animation quality will hold the whole way through, the comedy certain seems sharp enough to compensate, and if you’re looking for one that’s a little more adult this season, it looks like it’ll be one heck of a time.

Rating: Great

Arte

Arte

Synopsis: 16th century Firenze, Italy. One girl, One ARTistic ambition!The birthplace of the renaissance era, where art is thriving. In one small corner of this vast city, one sheltered girl’s journey begins. She dreams of becoming an artist, an impossible career for a girl born into a noble family. In those days, art was an exclusively male profession, with woman facing strong discrimination. In spite of these challenges, Arte perseveres with hard work and a positive attitude!

First Impressions: While they can sometimes be hit or miss when it comes to the actual execution, period pieces are almost always something that I’m at least a little curious about so I did kinda wonder what I was going to get here. As it turns out, this is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. The story follows a young noble girl named Arte who dreams of making a living as an artist, and after her father passes away, desperately seeks out an apprenticeship before finding the only person who will take her on in the form of a scruffy looking man named Leo. Leo of course isn’t really interested in taking her on, as women were shunned from the arts during the times of the Rennasaince, and dealing with a spoiled little noble girl specifically seems like it’s more trouble than it’s worth for him. Of course Arte is much scrappier than he realizes, and she eventually wins him over. There isn’t too much here you haven’t seen in other period pieces about women trying to work their way through male-dominated professions, but thankfully the execution here is solid enough to outshine the cliches. Arte comes off as almost immediately likeable both in her energetic personality, and her determimation to live her life the way she wants to, and while she might seem a little too naieve about the latter, she’s far more aware of how difficult that’s going to be than it first seems, and it makes it easy to root for her. Leo also seems like he’ll work as a good counterbalance to her, as he struggled through poverty to get where he is, and it makes his initial dislike of Arte pretty understandable, and I’m kinda curious to see how their relationship will develop as master and apprentice. Visually the show also looks pretty adequate for a period piece if not totally amazing, and it seems like it’ll be a modest enough production to probably hold steady the whole way through, This premiere was very much a “what you see, is what you get” kinda deal, but that’s not always a bad thing, and this was pleasant enough that I’m eager to see where it’s headed in the coming weeks

Rating: Good

My Next Live as a Villaness: All Roads Lead to Doom!

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

Synopsis: Wealthy heiress Katarina Claes is hit in the head with a rock and recovers the memories of her past life. It turns out the world she lives in is the world of the game Fortune Lover, an otome game she was obsessed with in her past life… but she’s been cast as the villain character who tries to foil the protagonist’s romances! The best ending the game has for Katarina is exile, and the worst, death! She’ll have to find a way to avoid triggering the flags of doom, and make her own happy future! The misunderstanding-based screwball love comedy now begins!

First Impressions: I wasn’t super excited for this one, but I’ve been hearing good things about it for awhile so I was really curious to check it out. While isekai stories about characters being reincarnated are pretty much a dime a dozen, isekai with female leads are something of a rarity, or at least compared to the 90’s when that was pretty much the norm so this at least had my attention for that alone, and so far it’s off to a good start. Rather than starting us, at the very beginning of her getting isekai-d the story starts with our heroine Katarina living out a lavish lifestyle as a young noble girl until she hits her head and remembers her past life. From there she slowly pieces together that she’s in an otome game, and that she’s the villaness whose destined to someday get upstaged by the heroine and subsequently exiled or murdered. The setup to that puncline is pretty solid, and from there Katarina spends the remainder of the episode doing her darndest to avoid anything that’ll trigger the game routes that lead to her demise, whether it’s getting engaged to the main pretty boy, or making sure her adopted brother has a happy childhood so he doesn’t grow up to hate her and subsequently get her killed. Unfortunently for her, Katarina is none too bright, and her attempts to save herself tend to backfire more often than not, and to a hilarious result. It’s a pretty good comedy setup, but it’s also one that could get old fast if there wasn’t more to it, so it helps that Katarina is as good-hearted as she is stupid, and seeing her stumble into doing the right thing in the end makes it easy to root for her. It’s possible the show end up squeezing but so much out of its premise, but I had a pretty fun time with it. and if this premiere is any indication, this looks like it’ll more than live up to its reputation

Rating: Great

Sing “Yesterday” For Me

Sing "Yesterday" for Me

Synopsis: Rikuo has graduated from college, but has zero ambition or direction and works in a convenience store. A strange high-school dropout, Haru, keeps coming around with her pet crow. Rikuo still has a crush on his senior Shinako, who is beginning a teaching career, and who shows up in the store one day. Rikuo’s relationships with the girls, and his feelings about his life, keep changing as the story evolves, bringing in other important characters—Rikuo’s co-worker, the coworker’s sister, and a childhood friend of Shinako’s, etc.

First Impressions: I didn’t really know anything about this going in other than that it was a drama centered around and young adult characters, and given that again, this kinda thing is rarer in anime than it probably should be, it’s a genre I’m always eager to check out. Having said all that, I wasn’t expecting this to be as painfully relatable as it is. The series follows a young man named Rikuo, who after graduating college, finds himself drifting by working a part-time job because he has no serious aspirations for the future, and doesn’t see much point in pushing himself towards a serious career if he’s not passionate about anything. His world changes when a mysterious high school girl named Haru starts hanging around him, and he’s reunited with his college crush Shinako. While Rikuo is content to sit by and let his crush go unrequited, Hana’s cheerful attitude convinces him to try taking a chance on asking Shinako out. Unsurprisingly, he ends up getting rejected, but he finds out that he has more in common with Haru than he thinks since like him, she’s the kind of person who’s gotten through life by pretending to be more passionate about it than she actually is, and has the same kind of self-loathing. As a guy who has, and still is kinda drifting through life without purpose, everything about Rikuo’s character felt instantly relatable, and his line towards the end of the show, about attempting to problems that dominate his life only to see that othing really changed afterwards is a sentiment I’ve found myself echoing more times than I’d care to admit. Haru also seems pretty interesting so far, and while the show is maybe a little too casual about how she comes onto Rikuo, it doesn’t seem like it’ll head down any potentially creepy territory. The show also looks pretty good, as is generally expected of Dogakobo productions, and while it looks a little more reserved than some of their comedies, it has a strong atmosphere that really matches the dour mood of the show. This looks like it might be a bit of a slow burn, so it may not be for everyone, but this is probably the closest to home an anime premise has ever really hit for me, and while I don’t know exactly where it’s headed, it looks like it’ll be the drama to beat for the season.

Rating: Excellent

Gal and Dino

Gal & Dino

Synopsis: After a night of drinking, Kaede wakes up realizing that in her drunken daze she had brought an unexpected guest home—a dinosaur! Kaede just goes with the flow and accepts her new living situation. Now she navigates her daily life while eating, watching TV, and shopping with her prehistoric roommate. Together, the duo enjoys each other’s company as they take on whatever the day brings.

First Impressions: I uh…wasn’t sure what I was gonna get with this, but I was sorta curious about it, because with a title like Gal and Dinosaur how could I not be. After sitting through the premiere I can safely say I watched a show about a gyaru and a dinosaur. That’s it. Much in the same in the same vein as 2018’s Pop Team Epic, the punchline here is that there isn’t really one, and the joke is entirely in how it plays with your expectations and subverts them. The Pop Team Epic comparison mostly stems from the fact that this is also a series being adapted by the folks at Kamikaze Douga, and this has a lot of the same staff. That can definently be seen in the show’s visual style as it’s also a mixed media production, and switches between limited 2D animation, 3DCG, puppetry, and even an extended live-action segment for the entire second half of the episode. It’s very bizarre to say the least, and that weirdness kept my attention pretty much the whole way through. However, while Pop Team’s subversive humor was aided by how utterly bonkers it was, Gal and Dinosaur is a lot more relaxed and subdued so if you’re here expecting a second season of PTE, this definently isn’t that, and I imagine it’ll disappoint some folks. But if the brand of weird I just described to you, seems like something you’d be curious about, I’d certainly say it’s worth seeing at least once. I dunno if this’ll hold my attention quite in the same way PTE did, but I certainly couldn’t look away from it. so I guess it succeeded

Rating: ???

Digimon Adventure:

Digimon Adventure:

Synopsis: It’s the year 2020. The Network has become something humans can no longer do without in their daily lives. But what humans don’t know is that on the other side of the Network is the Digital World, a realm of light and darkness. Nor are they aware of the Digimon who live there. Fifth grader Taichi Yagami’s mother and little sister Hikari went to Shibuya, and now they’re aboard a runaway train. Taichi hurries to Shibuya to save his mother and sister, but the instant he heads toward the station platform… a strange phenomenon befalls the DigiDestined, and Taichi goes to the Digital World!

First Impressions: With the exception of Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh (and even then I kinda associate Pokemon more with the games) there aren’t really a lot of anime from my childhood that stuck with me quite like the Digimon franchise did. While it wore the skin of a toy commercial and very much was one, it also had a lot of heart to it, and the way the original eight kids dealt with their own individual struggles and grew past them over the course of their long journey in the original anime is a story that holds up even now. So when it was announced that Toei was going to straight up reboot the franchise from the beginning, this easily became the thing I was anticipating the most this season, but I wasn’t totally sure what we were going to get. On the one hand this show is coming fresh of Toei’s latest reboot of GeGeGe no Kitaro, which initially seemed liked it was going to be a relatively laid back kids show about weekly ghost hunting shenanigans, only to end up having some pretty powerful allegories for race relations, enviornmentalism, war, and how easy it is for society to demonize groups who don’t fit in with the norms, and since this Digimon reboot shares some of the same staff, that gives it some serious potential. On the other hand, this reboot is also coming off of the Digimon Adventure Tri films which started off promising, only to end up being an absolute mess, and while I’ve heard from some folks in Japan that the recent Last Evolution movie is a significant improvement and a much better send off to that timeline, it’s hard not to be a little skeptical of Toei going for such an obvious cash grab. After the first episode though, my feelings are mostly leaning towards optimism.

Given that the first Digimon Adventure anime is pretty well known, even in the west, I was curious how they were going to make it fresh, and the answer seems to be piling on the mysteries. Instead of immediately pulling the kids into the Digital World, this starts off with a series of mysterious cyber attacks, and our protagonist Taichi (or Tai for all you 20-somethings like me who grew up with the dub) getting dragged into the middle of them before learning that they’re the work of creatures called Digimon who secretly exist on the net. For reasons not yet explained, Taichi has a connection to one of them named Agumon, and together they must work to put an end to the cyber attacks before they lead to a potential nuclear holocaust (yeah I’m not kidding). Those are some pretty high stakes to start a new iteration of a kids’ show with, but while this all seems like it would be a lot to digest, the general direction of the episode does a good job of easing us into the setting, and making the audience naturally curious about everything. While I certainly had my share of skepticism that this was going to play it safe going in, by the end of the episode, I was extremely curious where this would be headed, and that the episode doesn’t end with Taichi and Agumon having completely shut down the cyber attacks soothes my fears that this was going to be more episodic that the original anime was. The atmosphere of the premiere also benefits from the fact that this is probably the best a Digimon TV series has ever looked. As much love as I have for the franchise, it was never exactly a smorgous board of animation, even for the recent films, but this has some pretty neat action cuts, and while I doubt every episode is going to look this good, if it can stay at even half that level of quality, it’d certainly be an improvement over how the original series looked. If I have one serious hangup about this premiere, it’s mainly nostalgia-based in that I liked Digimon Adventure as an ensemble show, and in addition to most of the other kids not properly appearing in this episode besides Koushiro/Izzy, the OP and ED theme songs have me worried that most of the focus is going to be on Taichi and Yamato/Matt, which would be a shame since the other kids are just as great. Still, that’s a worry for the future, and for right now, this is off to a pretty solid start, and whether you’re an old fan of the franchise, or coming into it for the first time, I think there’s enough here to grab your attention.

Rating: Great

Part 2 ->

First Impressions- Winter 2020 Anime

Hello everyone, and welcome to the 2020’s! The 2010’s were pretty rough for a lot of the world, but it’s a new decade, with new possibilities, new things to hope for, and of course, a lot of new anime. The start of a new year for anime is always interesting to look at, but seeing how a new decade for anime kicks off is especially exciting, which means that the shows this round have that much more to live up to. Much like any other new season of anime though, I’ll be going through this by trying to cover as much as I can, and hopefully still retain my sanity by the time we reach the other end of it, so without any further ado, let’s see how anime’s gearing up for the new decade.

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 .


Somali and the Forest Spirit

Somali and the Forest Spirit

Synopsis: In a world where the ruined human species has been driven almost to extinction by the monsters that now dominate the land, a forest golem is surprised to find a human child sitting alone in the woods – dirty, barefoot, and in chains. The golem takes little Somali under his protection and the two begin a journey together, traveling through beautiful and dangerous lands where the small girl’s humanity must be kept hidden for her own safety. The golem hopes to find Somali’s parents alive somewhere, but the chances of this are slim; and besides, as far as Somali is concerned, she has already found herself a beloved father.

First Impressions: Between the good things I’ve heard about the original manga, and Crunchyroll’s heavy promotion for it, I was pretty eager to check this one out, and I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint. This series takes place in a world mostly populated by demi-humans and other creatures,and follows the unlikely pair of a golem and a young human child named Somali. The pair is unusual because in this world, golems never leave the forests they’ve been assigned to protect, and humanity was thought to be wiped out after their bigotry towards other species led to a war that resulted in their own demise. As such, the beings of this world don’t seem to take kindly to humans beyond finding them delicious, and the Golem has disguised Somali as a minotaur in order to presumably help them find their family(Somali’s gender is never specified over the course of the episode and I’m assuming that’s probably intentional). I say presumably because this premiere doesn’t actually start with the full explination of why these two are travelling together, but that’s okay because the rest of the show is so dang charming, I’m more than willing to put up with a little extra mystery. While isekai has kinda poisoned the fantasy well for a lot of anime-goers, I’m still personally a sucker for actual fully realized fantasy worlds, and this show seems to be leaning much more towards that aesthetic, right down to having its color pallete and backgrounds resemble something akin to a children’s storybook, which really helps to enhance the atmosphere.

The golem and Somali also seem like they’ll be a pretty fun pair as the golem claims to have no emotions and interacts with the world as though he’s just an observer, so watching him bounce off the much more energetic and precocious Somali was pretty entertaining, and it seems like the journey these two go on may end up teaching the golem a little bit about empathy and emotions, which is always the kind of tale I can get behind. About my only point of worry here would be the fear that this’ll go down the child-grooming route as some similar anime have, or otherwise get into some…uncomfortable territory with Somali, but I’ve been told by manga readers that this story is child-grooming free, and apart from one slightly weird gag towards the end of the episode, it seems like this show will be pretty wholesome, and there shouldn’t be be much to worry about. So far this one is off to a really strong start and if you like more traditional fantasy settings as opposed to isekai, and you’re also in the mood for some heartwarming parent-child dynamics, this one seems like it’ll be a winner.

Rating: Excellent

Darwin’s Game

Darwin's Game

Synopsis: An unpredictable battle of superpowers. Kaname Sudo, an ordinary high school student, receives an invitation email to try a mysterious app called “Darwin’s Game.” Kaname, upon launching the app, is drawn into a game where players fight one another using superpowers called Sigils. Without knowing the reason for all this, can Kaname survive furious battles against the powerful players who attack him?

First Impressions: While I didn’t know any particular details about the premise, I knew from it’s title and the way folks online were talking about it, that this was probably some kind of death game show, which meant this one had a pretty big hurdle to clear for me. There was a time where I was pretty into stuff like Future Diary and the like, but time has made me far less receptive to how mean-spirited and nilhlistic these kinds of shows tend to be, and they almost always end up telling the exact same story anyway, so my general interest comes down to not how interesting the actual game set-up is, or anything about the actual plot, but rather how stupid the whole thing is, and if it’s amusing enough to enjoy ironically. Luckily (or maybe unfortunently if things get dicey later on) this show was a riot and a half. Right off the bat this show hits pretty much every death game anime trope at full speed, with such staples as generic whitebread protagonist who gets himself sucked into the game by not taking it seriously but somehow ends up with the best power anyway, a psycho killer in a panda costume, and a psycho-yandere who goes from wanting to kill our precious hero to wanting to bone him and bear his children. It’s incredibly dumb, and starting off with an hour-long premiere certainly seemed like a gamble for something this outrageous, but over the course of that time, I went from rolling my eyes, to laughing at how much this show was trying to take all these wacky tropes as seriously as possible. I’ll admit the whole “it’s so bad, it’s good” thing is the kind of viewing experience I rarely have these days since hardly anything hits that sweet spot for me anymore, but this is the closest anything has come to that for me in a good while, and I’m in the mood for it so against my typical judgement, I’ll actually stick with this one for a while. Time will tell if it stays amusing, or gets too mean-spirited or gross to continue on, but for now I’ll give it a cautious recommendation if you’re into irony-watching.

Rating: lol

Asteroid in Love

Asteroid in Love

Synopsis: When she was little, Konohata Mira promises a boy she meets at a campsite that they can find a galaxy together. When she enters high school, she joins the astronomy club. But that year, the astronomy club happened to combine with the geology club, making it the astrogeo club?! Won’t you find all kinds of sparkles with the astrogeo girls?

First Impressions: Like always, it wouldn’t be a new season of anime without at least one show about “cute girls doing cute things” and this is a show about cute girls studying geology and asteroids. Similar to the whole death game thing with Darwin’s Game, this is a genre of show that tends not to particularly appeal to me unless it’s got some kind of good X-factor, and the X-factor I typically look for is if the main gimmick or characters feels interesting enough to overcome the usual tropes of this genre. In the case of this show it’s looking like a “maybe” because the actual gimmick here isn’t the geology angle (it’s possible later episodes might dive into that more but the premiere doesn’t seem too concered with it) but rather that the two leads are reunited childhood friends who clearly have the hots for each other. It’s far from unusual for these kinds of shows to have lesbian subtext, and half the appeal for them is that they often take place in worlds where men don’t seem to exist, but the fact that this show opens with the bait-and-switch of having one of the girls thinking that the other is a boy until they’re reunited in high school, but has her no less interested, makes me think there’s a chance this show might actually commit to a romance angle, and I’d certainly be down for a cute love story. Still, there’s plenty of room for this show to walk things back and go the more typical route of “they’re clearly gay, but won’t say it so dudes can pretend they’re straight” that lot of similar stuff falls into, so my optimism might not be entirely founded. For now though, it’s an interesting enough hook that I’m likely to at least give this one or two more episodes to see how much it’s willing to buckle down on that, so I guess it succeeded in getting my attention.

Rating: Good

Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story

Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story

Synopsis: Few people know the truth: the world is safe thanks to the Magical Girls who are forced to slay Witches. Even though these girls are putting their lives on the line for a wish, rumors say they can be saved in Kamihama City. That’s where Iroha Tamaki is headed in search of answers. She can’t remember the wish she made to Kyubey, but a shadowy figure haunts her dreams.

First Impressions: So like most folks who have kept up with anime for the past decade or so, I’m a pretty big fan of Madoka, and I think the show is a masterpiece. I’m also of a mind that it told a pretty complete story (as long as you pretend Rebellion doesn’t exist) and that we didn’t really need more of it. Of course it made simply far too much money for Aniplex to even consider letting the franchise die, so here we are with a spinoff series that’s being adapted from a mobile game. I’ll admit I wasn’t super jazzed about checking this out since again, I didn’t really need more Madoka, but I was at least kinda curious what we were gonna get and so far it’s…okay. Aesthetically this has all of the polish that made Madoka really stand out as a visual production. The backgrounds look great, and everything from the art design to the music is more or less carried over from the original show, meaning that just about everything here looks gorgeous. It also has a pretty good sense of atmosphere going for it too, as it gets the generally haunting tone that the original Madoka had gone fore pretty well, even if it’s a little less lacking in substance, and while the story so far hasn’t wowed me yet, there’s enough to lean on that I’m at least a little curious to learn about these new characters.

My problem though I guess, is that even though this looks and feels like Madoka, it obviously isn’t going to have the same level of heart since that all largely came down to the very specific story Gen Urobuchi was telling with the original, and I’m not yet convinced that simply mimicking everything I liked about it aestehtically will be enough to make up for that deficiency. Basically this feels like a thing that’s going to appeal to you if you were more interested in the world of Madoka than the story of Madoka (and I do mean that specifically because even though this is technically it’s own thing, it very much assumes you’re familar with all the terms from the original) and I’m not sure I liked that world quite enough to be on board with a version that feels more manufactured. For all my griping though, I was still engaged so I guess for better or worse I’m probably gonna watch this for at least a few more episodes. While I’m obviously not expecting this to hit anywhere near the highs that Madoka proper did, hopefully whatever it does end up ultimately going for is good enough to justify it’s existance.

Rating: Good

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!

Synopsis: First year high schooler Midori Asakusa loves anime so much, she insists that “concept is everything” in animation. Though she draws a variety of ideas in her sketchbook, she hasn’t taken the first step to creating anime, insisting that she can’t do it alone. The producer-type Sayaka Kanamori is the first to notice Asakusa’s genius. Then, when it becomes clear that their classmate, charismatic fashion model Tsubame Mizusaki, really wants to be an animator, they create an animation club to realize the “ultimate world” that exists in their minds.

First Impressions: I’ve been a fan of Maasaki Yuasa’s work as a director ever since I checked out The Tatami Galaxy a few years back, and after Devilman Crybaby blew up into giant phenomenon back in 2018, his perception in the west has gone from niche, to him being rightly celebrated as one of the most ambitious anime directors out there. With that in mind, there was definently a lot to be excited about with him returning to a TV anime project for the first time in a while, and boy did this premiere hit all the right marks, The basic set up here is pretty straightforward as it follows a trio of girls who are passionate about anime creation (well two of them, since one doesn’t have much interest in anime beyond it’s money-making potential) and how the chance encounter of the three of them coming together leads them to work on making their own anime project. If you checked out Shirobako way back in 2014 (and if you haven’t you should correct this gross oversight immediately) this is a pretty similar wheelhouse to that in regards to talking about the actual process behind making anime, but where as Shirobako talked about anime creation from an industry perspective, and all the cynicism that comes with it, Eizouken seems far more interested in talking about the joy of making something new, and the way animation can challenge our imaginations.

This is perhaps best expressed in one of the show’s last scenes, which features the trio imagining that they’re flying a plane through a cityscape with penciled in backgrounds, and the sheer wonder it manages to express in just a couple of minutes, brought such a huge smile to my face that I’m already sitting here wondering when the next episode is coming. If you couldn’t tell from that whole little sphiel, the show looks pretty good, and the folks at Science SARU really get a lot of mileage out of it’s simple character designs as the girls get to be pretty expressive throughout the premiere, and are all chock full of personality. The girls themselves are all very likeable so far too, and I appreciate that in addition to giving them non moe-fied designs in exchange for something a little more in line with what teen girls actually look like, the voice acting also reflects that, and it manages to make them feel immediately distinct from each other. I certainly wasn’t expecting Yuasa to disappoint, but even with that in mind, this is easily the standout premiere for the season thus far, and it’s gonna be a pretty tough one to beat. Whether you’re interested in how anime is made specifically, or just like the joy and wonder of making something new at all, this show’s got you covered, and I’m super excited to chow this one down every week

Rating: Excellent

ID: Invaded

ID:INVADED

Synopsis: Sakaido was a famous and very talented detective until the day his daughter was killed, and he committed revenge! Now in jail, he uses his skills to help the police find criminals of cold-blooded crimes through a system that allows him to invade a criminal’s “ID.” But he’ll soon find clues that bring back his daughter’s case!

First Impressions: So I guess I should preface this by saying this is technically a second impression because I actually checked out the first two episodes when Funimation offered an early preview of them on their site a few weeks back. I watched them again both to refresh myself so I could write this, and because I was curious to check out the simuldub (which sounds good, save one performance I’m a little iffy on). Anyway this show is a new original IP from Studio NAZ and director Ei Aoki of Fate/Zero fame. That last part would make this something to look for in theory since Fate/Zero’s quality basically speaks for itself, but that was an adaption, and Ei Aoki’s track record with original anime, extends from Re:Creators which was good, and Aldnoah Zero which is uh…yeah we don’t talk about that one anymore. It was hard to say exactly where this one would fall on that potential spectrum, and having sat through the first two episodes twice, I can safely tell you that I still have no idea. Conceptually there’s a lot of interesting ideas here. A procedural cop drama where the detectives can literally dive into the minds of the killers to study their psychology and hunt them down is an idea that could go in a lot of interesting directions, and I also like the idea of the protagonist apparently being some kind of special prisoner who’s being used as a tool to dive into the minds of these killers, and seems to have lost his daughter to some criminal mastermind who can make people into serial killers. Of course, there’s also plenty of room for that to turn into an overly-edgy mess, and these episodes weirdly haven’t made too strong a case for the show going in either direction. It’s impeccibly well-directed, and I like how the show opens with the mystery of Sakaido finding himself inside the world of one of the killers, and having to recollect what he’s supposed to be doing from there, but I was a little less impressed with the actual serial killer being chased after for these two episodes since the writing there felt a little barren. Still it managed to keep me engaged the whole time, and the warning signs for this turning into nonsense don’t feel like they’re blaring right now, so I’m up with sticking with this for a while. It’s hard to tell exactly what we’ll end up with, given Ei Aoki’s previous track record, but if nothing else it’ll at least grab your attention

Rating: Good

Seton Academy: Join the Pack!

Seton Academy: Join the Pack!

Synopsis: Majima Jin hates animals, and yet he finds himself at Seton Academy, a school full of animal students! Can he learn to get along with his classmates?

First Impressions: I’ve gotta say that given how big the furry community is, I’m a little shocked that that “high school harem anime, but with furries” is somehow a thing that didn’t exist until now (well I guess there’s Beastars but it has yet to hit Netflix, so I have no idea if it qualifies as a harem show), meaning there was plenty of potential for this to be at least amusing, if not actively funny. Unfortunently this show squanders pretty much all it’s potential right off the bat. Firstly the main character is pretty unlikeable, and spends a lot of the episode’s runttime being a jerk to a wolf girl and basically everyone except the sole human girl at the high school, who weirdly puts up no objections when he accidentally declaires he wants her to join his “pack”. That set off some minor warning bells in my head which got amplified later on in the episode when MC-kun exposes a zebra girl as faking her relation to horses by…literally lifting up her skirt and exposing her panties to a large crowd of students so they could see her tail. That was pretty gross, and it gets shortly followed up a group of bears attempting to rape the wolf girl and the human girl, which is not only there for the purpose of making MC-kun look better, but ultimately ends up getting played for laughs in the end. Yeeeeaaaaahhhh…this really sucks. It’s a shame this is opting for such mean-spirited and frankly gross “comedy” since again, this could have been fun on paper, and I kinda liked the whole narration about certain animal behaviors, but there’s definently no getting past everything else that’s bad about it. Hard pass.

Rating: Bad

Sorcerous Stabber Orphen

Sorcerous Stabber Orphen

Synopsis: Orphen is a powerful sorcerer who is notoriously lazy. Everything changes when he finds a way to save his sis, who was turned into a dragon during their days at magic academy. Betrayed by friends who refused to help, Orphen will stop at nothing to track her down, even if he has to go it alone.

First Impressions: I don’t know too much about the original Sorcerous Stabber Orphen anime from way back in the late 90’s. but reboots of old classics seem to be the hip new thing with anime these days, and I was kinda curious to check this out since it’s always interesting to see old stuff get a new coat of paint. Unfortunently this uh…wasn’t very good. This show seems to take place in your standard Dungeons & Dragons fantasy world, and follows the antics of a lone sorceror named Orphan who’s on a quest to track down his lady love that got turned into a dragon. I say “seems to” because this premiere doesn’t really explain much of anything about the actual plot here or eases us into the setting. Instead we’re kinda-sorta introduced to Orphen as a character who starts off beating up a couple of kids who owe him money (well I suppose they’re technically dwarves so they might NOT be kids, but they certainly look, sound, and act like them) and doesn’t get any more likeable from there as he joins them in an attempt to scam some rich people out of their money. It’s the sort of thing that would probably be funnier under the visual direction and style of actual 90’s anime, but for the purposes of this reboot it just felt kind of obnoxious and annoying.

This kinda leads into my other grip with this show, which I guess isn’t as important, but is just kind of personally irritating: if I didn’t know this was a reboot of a 90’s thing, I would never be able to tell by the visual style of this premiere. There’s something to be said for updating the look of a show for modern audiences, and I’m usually pretty okay with that if the core of the material itself is kind timeless, but in the case of this show, the tone lives and breathes the 90’s aesthetic so having this resemble basically any isekai (albiet with slightly better character designs) feels like it’s selling the series short, and it doesn’t help that the actual production looks kinda all over the place. The background art is nice, and there’s a couple of bits of good slapstick with the character animation, but it all meshes together in a way that looks off, and it doesn’t help that there’s a few bits of 3DCG every now and then that only add to the muddied look of this production. I really wish I had liked this more than I did (or at all really), but this felt like a mess, and I found myself looking at the episode’s runttime more than once. Maybe I’ll give the dub a peek if David Matranga comes back as Orphen since I know that was his debut anime role, and I’m kinda curious to see how he’d handle it now, but on the whole this gets a pretty big thumbs-down from me.

Rating: Bad

BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense

BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense.

Synopsis: She may be new to gaming, but Maple has found the secret to invincibility! Just put all your skill points into defense until you can’t even move. That works, right? She doesn’t want to experience any pain in the VRMMO game she started playing, and somehow it works better than anyone expected. Now she’s got followers??

First Impressions: It’s the most tedious time of the season again: isekai time. Or at least it would be except well…this one isn’t an isekai surprisingly! Nope, we’re back to the regular shenanigans of people just casually playing a VRMMO and it’s something I didn’t know I kinda missed until now, because considering that the general stakes in most isekai are miniscule anyway, being upfront it, gives the show opportunities to excell in other areas. Surprisingly this premiere actually does that, as in addition to not being an isekai, this particular MMO power fantasy stars a female protagonist named Kaede (or Maple in the game) who mostly just comes off as cute and charming in her strangely specific quest to avoid taking damage, and feels immediately more likeable than most whitebread isekai MC-kuns. While it’s not exactly a big secret that she ends up being pretty overpowered in that area by the end of the episode, the road to her getting there actually turns out to be kinda funny, and I got an especially good laugh out of bit where a little rabbit monster does it’s best to hurt her, only to die trying. In addition to some decent comedy, it’s also got a pretty solid looking production, and while nothing about the backgrounds or the character designs blew me away, it looks polished enough to at least have a bit more of an identity than most isekai stuff, and the visual slapstick was pretty nice. This wasn’t exactly the most impressive premiere of the season, but it was a pleasant little surprise, and one I’ll be happy to watch a little more of.

Rating: Good

Plunderer

Plunderer

Synopsis: Every human inhabiting the world of Alcia is branded by a “Count” or a number written on their body. Depending on how each person lives their life, this Count either goes up or down. For Hina’s mother, her total drops to 0 and she’s pulled into the Abyss, never to be seen again. But her mother’s last words send Hina on a quest to find a legendary hero from the Waste War—the fabled Ace!

First Impressions: While I wasn’t “excited” for this one, I was kinda curious, both because I knew Funimation had invested a pretty penny in it, and because I knew the creator was behind Heaven’s Lost Property, which I haven’t seen but I’ve heard enough weird stories about to make me wonder what this was gonna be. Boy do I regret that decision. On the one end, this show is really skeevy, even by light-novel anime standards, as it features our presumed protagonist making his introduction by sexually harassing the heroine in a way that’s clearly supposed to be played “for laughs” but just feels gross instead, and continues that with multiple extended shots of thighs which quickly cease to be sexy and just kind of feel uncomfortable, and eventually getting to the villain of the episode who tries to assault the heroine. Or at least I’m assuming that’s how it goes because it was around that point I checked out of the episode. Even if I didn’t find the content to be a bit too gross for my liking though, the show sure doesn’t have much else going for it, since the visual aesthetic isn’t much to look at, and the writing has what is hands down some of the absolute worst exposition I’ve ever seen (and I’ve sat through a LOT of bad light novel exposition) as when the heroine isn’t getting harassed by someone, she’s having people explain things about the world to her that there’s basically no way she possibly couldn’t know as someone else who lives there and it took me out of the episode almost as much as the skeevy stuff did. Between this and Seton Academy I’m not quite sure which one was the worse premiere to sit through (though I guess at least finished Seton’s first episode so there’s that) but one thing that’s for sure is that I sure won’t be watching any more of this. I’m out.

Rating: Bad

Hatena Illusion

Hatena Illusion

Synopsis: Ever since he was a boy, Makoto Shiranui dreamed of being a magician just like the famous illusionist, Mamoru Hoshisato, his hero. But after traveling to Tokyo to train under Mamoru, he’s mugged by a mysterious and beautiful female thief! To add insult to injury, his once close childhood friend, Hatena, has no time for him anymore. This is no way to start off his new apprenticeship.

First Impressions: So this appears to be one of Funimation’s new co-productions with Chinese streaming service bilibili now that the two have teamed up, and it’s…certainly something. The basic gist of this seems to center around a girl named Hatena and her younger sister who take a young boy named Makoto into their home after he becomes the apprentice of their father who’s a stage magician. The only catch is Hatena didn’t seem to be aware that Makoto was a boy until they agreed to let him move in, and she’s none too happy about. Also there maybe some actual magic going on this family, and Hatena herself seems to be a magical girl of some sort. It’s kind of odd, but for the most part this premiere is a lot more low-key than that weirdness would suggest as the potential magical girl elements don’t pop up till towards the end of the episode and we instead spend time getting to know Hatena and Makoto. The only issue there is that said time mostly involves Hatena being extremely callous towards Makoto upon finding out he’s a boy (I assumed the joke here was that maybe Hatena is gay, but that this seems to be leaning towards a romance between the two would suggest not unless she swings both ways) and Makoto doesn’t really deserve since by all accounts he generally comes off as a sweet cinnamon roll for the entierty of the episode. That was a bit of a turn-off but not enough of one to totally break my interest because if this does end up being a magical girl show of some kind I’d be totally down for that, since it seems like we rarely get those these days outside of the Precure franchise and whatever new edgy magical girl thing is trying to rip off Madoka. It’s hard to say if this will maintain my interest in the long run, but I’m just curious enough about where this is going that it’s at least worth one more episode.

Rating: Decent

Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun

Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun

Synopsis: Kamome Academy is rumored to have many mysteries, the strangest of which involves the mischievous ghost of Hanako-kun. When occult-loving high schooler Nene Yashiro accidentally becomes bonded to him, she uncovers a hidden world of supernatural beings. Now the two of them are conspiring to keep the peace between student and supernatural—that is, if they can only stay out of trouble themselves.

First impressions: While I’ve never read it, I’ve been hearing good things about the manga for a long time, so I was kinda curious what the buzz was about, and boy did this one catch my attention. I’m not super versed in Japanese folktales and superstitions, but the story of Toilet-Bound Hanako is one that’s come up in enough anime that I at least know the general gist of it, so putting a twist on it by making Hanako a boy is pretty neat one, and the show gets some good mileage out of it. A lot of this premiere centers around Hanako helping a young girl named Nene with her crush in ways that feel a lot sillier and mundane than the legend surrounding him would suggest. I’ll admit that the comedy here was kinda hit or miss for me, but the show really grabbed my attention towards the end of the episode when things take a much darker turn. It quickly becomes apparent that Nene’s one-sided crush is more of a way to fill the void in her heart than actually being interested in the guy she’s after, and her attempt to fill that void leads her to accidentally take on a curse that turns her into a fish and nearly has her taken away by a mermaid. Hanako saves her and agrees to turn her back into a human, but only in exchange for her services as an assistant. Basically the whole thing gave off the twisted vibes of old childrens’ fairy tales where wishes would be granted with some unexpected consquences, and that’s an aesthetic I’m totally down for. It helps that the visual style of the show really meshes with that vibe as both the character designs and the background art feel like they could have been ripped straight from your favorite childhood storybook, and it made the darker moments of the episode feel more surreal. Combine all that with a pretty cool opening song, and you’re looking at one of the strongest premieres of the season. I’m not sure if this is gonna opt for a twisted fairy tale of the week scenario, or a more ongoing plot from here on out, but either way I’m down for more, and I really recommend checking this out.

Rating: Great

The Case Files of Jeweler Richard

The case files of Jeweler Richard

Synopsis: One night, a college student with a strong sense of justice, Seigi Nakata, saved a gorgeous foreigner, Richard, who was being harassed by some drunks. When Seigi found out that Richard was a jeweler, he asked for an appraisal on a ring with a shady history; one which his grandmother had kept secret until she died. The appraisal had revealed her past, truth, and desire. It led Seigi to work as a part-time employee for Richard’s jewelry store, the “Jewelry Etranger” in Ginza. While solving various “mysteries” introduced to the Jewelry Etranger, the relationship between Richard and Seigi gradually changes. However, each of them has secrets they have not told anyone.

First Impressions: This is another one of CR’s co-productions for the season and while I wasn’t super interested in it, I was kinda curious what the deal was here since it’s always nice to see them invest in something that isn’t an isekai. Since this had “Case Files” in the title, I was expecting something of a mystery show, but the premiere was a much more mundane drama involving a college student named Seigi getting involved with a jeweler named Richard in order to return a ring that his grandmother once stole to it’s rightful owner. It’s about as low-key as that description sounds, but it actually manages to get a pretty decent amount of nuance out of it, as both Seigi’s grandmother and the woman she stole from both had to deal with unfair circumstances in their youth, and it makes what could have been a simple act of theft into something a little more thoughtful as we see how that incident changed their circumstances in life. I wasn’t exactly blown away by the storytelling here, but it was kinda nice, and both Seigi and Richard feel like pretty likeable leads even though we don’t really know too much about the latter yet. My only issue here I guess, is that premiere felt like a complete enough experience that I don’t really feel as though I need to see the rest of the show. It’s always possible things could take some crazy turns from here, or the writing quality at least stays as consistent as this episode did, but while I thought this was fine, it doesn’t feel like something that would be a high priority to watch unless this season ends up being really light for me, or it ends up getting a dub. If you do have room for a low-key drama in your schedule though, this seems like it might do you pretty okay.

Rating: Decent

Smile Down the Runway

Smile Down the Runway

Synopsis: Chiyuki Fujito has a dream: to become a Paris Collection model. The problem is that she hasn’t grown past 158cm. As she is too short for a model, everyone around her tells her to give up on her dream. However, no matter what anyone says, she wouldn’t give up. Her classmate, a poor student named Ikuto Tsumura, also has a dream he hasn’t been able to let go of, which is to become a fashion designer. But one day, Chiyuki tells him that it’s “probably impossible” for him, causing him to consider giving it up…?! This is the story of two individuals who wholeheartedly chase after their dreams, despite others telling them that they won’t ever come true.

First Impressions: I’ve never gotten to check it out, but I’ve been vaguely aware of the manga for a while now, and I thought it was kind of interesting to see a series published in a shonen magazine (no matter what the cowards at Kodansha USA want you to believe) tackle the subject of modeling so I’m glad the anime adaption has given me an excuse to check it out. So far this series seems to be off to a pretty solid start. As far as shonen premieres tend to go, this one is pretty by the numbers as we’re introduced to our two protagonists Chiyuki and Ikuto who dream of becoming a model, and fashion designer respectively but have rough circumstances getting in the way of their dreams, For Chiyuki, it’s her height which is considered too short to make for an appealing Paris runway model, and for Ikuto, it’s that he comes from a poor family and has to sacrifice his own dreams in order to keep food on the table. It kinda goes without saying I was a little more drawn into Ikuto’s side of the story since his circumstances feel a little more relatable but both leads come off as plenty likable, and I found myself rooting for them to suceed in going after their dreams. None too surprisingly, a chance encounter between them ends up opening the door to both of them making a step towards their goals, and while a lot of it feels pretty predictable, the payoff is still strong enough that it feels satisfying when it happens. Mostly though, I’m just curious to see how this’ll end up talking about the fashion industry, since that’s a topic I don’t really know much about, and everything here clicked enough that it seems like this’ll be an enjoyable way to learn. The only thing I’m slightly worried about is that I hear the story becomes much more about Ikuto than Chiyuki as it progresses, which I guess isn’t too big a deal considering Ikuto’s side of things was a little stronger here anyway, but it’s just kinda sad when stuff that opts for a dual-protagonist scenario doesn’t go all the way with it. Putting all that aside though, this was pretty solid, and it got enough of my attention to stick with it for awhile

Rating: Good

If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die

If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die

Synopsis: Passionate music-lover Eripiyo only wants to see her favorite underground pop group, ChamJam, make it to the big stage at Budokan. Because they’ve enriched her life by their very existence, Eri is willing to dedicate everything she has to see this dream fulfilled – even her health. At their last performance she got a crazy nosebleed. Hey, no one said being a super-fan was easy!

First Impressions: This is another series where I’d never read the original manga, but I’ve been vaguely aware of it for a while so it was a bit on my radar. Idol based anime are basically a dime a dozen these days and there’s countless stories about a group of ragtag girls coming together to form a popular idol group, but we’ve never really gotten anything from the perspective of actual idol fans, and the culture surrounding them, which is a void this seems happy to fill. The show primairly centers around a woman known as Eripiyo who becomes an idol fan after listening to a performance by a small idol group called Cham Jam, and is obsessed with Maina, who seems to be their least popular member. Since a lot of idol culture is centered around the worship and commoditization of actual people, it would have been extremely easy for this show to get into creepy territory right off the bat, but the antics of Eripiyo and her other otaku friends feels mostly harmless, and while I’m not personally into idols, as someone who’s stood on long lines at anime conventions for voice actor autographs and the like, I can relate to some of the antics the characters get up to in this premiere, and it helps to make a lot of the humor feel relatable for anyone into some form of nerd culture. It also helps that Eripiyo’s antics are just over the top enough that she almost always gets a laugh no matter how obsessive she’s being, and despite her enthuiasm, she’s respectful enough of Maina to avoid being too pushy around her, which is something Maina herself seems to have picked up if the end of the episode is any indication. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect out of this but I ended up enjoying my time with it. There’s always a chance this could get a little too uncomfortable for it’s own good later on, but for right now, it’s walking that line just well enough that it feels like another safe watch for the season

Rating: Good

Interspecies Reviewers

Interspecies Reviewers

Synopsis: In a world bursting at the seams with moe monsters and humanoids of the horned sort, which brave heroes will take it upon themselves to review the beastly babes of the red-light district? Can only one be crowned the ultimate title of best girl?

First Impressions: As a heterosexual male, I’d be lying if I said this show wasn’t one of the biggest things on my radar this season. Not necessairly because I thought it would be good, but mostly because I was really curious just how horny it was gonna be, and to what level it was commit to that. Having now actually sat through it, I can safely say this was even hornier than I expected. The show basically opens with two of our leads banging elf and human MILFS respectively before arguing about which one is hotter, and it basically maintains that same level of absurdity throughout the entire episode. At least 1/3rd of the shots in this premiere feature some variant of giant (censored) anime tiddies, and our “heroes” are none too shy about their quest to bang every monster girl under the sun, and rate how good the sex is. It’s so unapologetic about what it is, that it’s kinda hard to be mad about it, but if there’s one thing here that did kinda raise an eyebrow for me it’s that we’re eventually introduced to a third lead in the form of an angel shota who’s both extremely shy and is also is also a hermaphrodite that loses their virginity before the episode’s through. It’s a little weird, but I guess if you were gonna object to anything in this show, there’s well…the rest of the show, so it’s hard to be too prickly about it. If I were to give this show a serious review, I’d say it’s probably way too horny for it’s own good, and far from most people’s cup of tea, but it’s basically impossible for me to be serious about anything this premiere had to offer. If you’re here wondering whether or not I’m gonna keep watching this the answer is: heck yes. It’s definently not good, but it’s the sort of bizaarely horny thing that can only really exist within the realm of anime, and I’m so mystified by this show’s existance, and the fact that it actually made it onto television in any capacity that I’m practically obligated to see how much more insane it’ll get. Odds are I’ll regret this decision a few weeks from now, but for the time being. I guess I’ll be sampling this one every week.

Rating: NSWF

22/7

22/7

Synopsis: One day, Miu Takigawa suddenly receives a letter notifying her that she has been chosen as a member of a brand-new project. Half in disbelief, she heads over to the location stated on the letter. There, she finds seven other girls summoned there in the same fashion. The girls behold a giant, top-secret facility. They stand in bewilderment as they are told: “You are going to debut for a major record label as an idol group.” A new kind of idol, never-before-seen, is about to be born here.. .

First Impressions: Like I said with Budokan earlier, idol shows are basically a dime a dozen these days, and so many of them follow the exact same formula that I’ve mostly learned to ignore the genre altogether outside new iterations of Love Live. This series on the other hand, seems like it might offer a potential shakeup to the usual formula, as our usual ragtag group of plucky idols who have to gradually come together to take the industry by storm, are instead assembled under the mysterious pretense that they’ve been chosen, and half of them don’t even seem to have much interest in idol work specifically. This is especially true for the main heroine who comes off as so much of an introvert that she seems like the last person who’d get picked for idol work, and she initially rejects the offer, only for circumstances to force her into it. Between that, and the fact that the company that hired these girls features a strange device that issues out commands that must be followed, it seems that this show is definently aiming to be a lot darker than a lot of it’s competition, and might potentially have something to say about the idol industry as a whole. Given the many, err…issues that exist within idol culture, I’d certainly be down for a story like that, and I’m hoping this’ll deliver on that end. So far I like the general direction of the series so far, even if the writing is a little on the nose, but if there’s one serious thing that might end up holding it back a bit it’s that the voice acting for the girls is pretty bad all across the board, and the heroine specifically gives the most stilted performance of the bunch. This is apparently because the seiyuu in question for these characters are actual idols and not professional voice actors, which could certainly be a big problem later on if this show takes a serious turn for the dramatic. For the time being though, it’s at least got me curious, and idol anime have gotten so formulaic that I’m up for something that at least aims to be a little different

Rating: Decent

In/Spectre

In/Spectre

Synopsis: Both touched by spirits called yokai, Kotoko and Kuro have gained unique superhuman powers. But to gain her powers Kotoko has given up an eye and a leg, and Kuro’s personal life is in shambles. So when Kotoko suggests they team up to deal with renegades from the spirit world, Kuro doesn’t have many other choices, but Kotoko might just have a few ulterior motives…

First Impressions: It’s been a few years since Blast of Tempest came out, and while I only vaguely remember that show, and don’t know if I’d call it “good”, it was certainly interesting and knowing this is by the same author had my attention. The story here centers around a high school girl named Kotoko who develops a one-sided crush on a college student named Kuro and tries to ask him out. The catch here though is that Kotoko was kidnapped the supernatural as a child in order to be made into their goddess of sorts and is now revered by them, while Kuro has a mysterious power that makes his body poisonous to the supernatural, and makes them afraid of him. It’s odd to say the least, and much like what little I recall of Blast of Tempest, it’s presented in a way that feels just a bit too self-serious for it’s own good. That being said, I did at least find Kotoko to be pretty charming, and I was amused by how forward she was about her crush on Kuro, but without coming off as too comically horny which was a nice change of pace. Kuro on the other hand, I’m not quite as interested in as of yet, but the mystery concerning his power is at least interesting enough that I wanna know more about what the deal is with that. Visually speaking, the show doesn’t look super impressive so far, but the presentation in the premiere felt solid enough that it doesn’t feel like the production’s holding it back, and the yokai designs have been pretty decent thus far. I can’t say I was super impressed with this one, but I figured it would at least be interesting, and I certainly got that much out of it, so I’m up for seeing where the next couple of episodes take it

Rating: Good

A3!

A3!

Synopsis: Mankai Company is a far cry from its glory days as an all-male theater. With only one member left and debt collectors at the door, it’s no wonder Izumi Tachibana finds herself in over her head when she boldly confronts the yakuza’s loan sharks, promising to bring her father’s theater back into the spotlight. She might be able to recruit enough talent, but can they bloom into the actors she needs?

First Impressions: I suppose this technically isn’t the first otome adaption of the season, but I’ve kind of fallen behind on premieres so it’s the first one that I checked out, and I’m kinda glad I did. As I’ve said during other season impression writeups, as a hetero dude, otome game adaptions are kind of inheriently not for me, so whether or not I stick with them typically depends on if there’s some kind of hook that catches my attention. In the case of this show, the hook is that it’s about a theatre troop, and while I wouldn’t really call myself a theatre nerd by any stretch (my journey down that path pretty much ended with getting an acting award in middle school and not much else) as someone who at least masquarades as an acting critic, stories about acting do at least catch my attention. This premiere is pretty straightforward as we get a typical “save the orphanage” plot in regards to a run down theatre troup being on the verge of demolition unless our plucky heroine can recruit enough pretty boy actors to keep it alive. It’s not exactly original, but the execution was done just well enough to keep me at least a little invested the whole way through, and seeing the nearly impossible demands the troupe has to meet in order to keep the lights on, works as a pretty solid hook since I’m already kinda curious how it’s gonna be pulled off. I also really like the heroine so far, since she seems to have a bit more personality than most self-insert otome protagonists do, but I’m not quite as sold on the boys themselves since aside from main one, they haven’t shown too much of themselves beyond stock character archetypes. Still, there’s plenty of time for the show to flesh them out a little bit, and on the whole I thought this was a pretty solid premiere. I’m not totally confident that I’ll stick with this in the long run, since my history with otome game adaptions would suggest that isn’t super likely, but it’s certainly worth at least another couple of episodes.

Rating: Good


And that’s it for my seasonal impressions. Gotta say, that while I came across a couple of pretty bad stinkers, on the whole I’m actually feeling really confident about this anime season so far. There’s some really cool stuff in the mix, and plenty of stuff that at least feels solid for what they’re aiming for. More importantly, there’s a lot of variety, and enough needs are being served this time around, that I’m pretty sure you’ll find at least one thing that catches your attention unless shonen slugfests are your particular cup of tea (and even then, there’s always the new season of Haikyu, even it’s technically a sports show). Time will tell if my optimism holds up by the time Spring rolls around, but until then, stay animated.

Toon Talk- 25 Days of Anime: The 25 Best Anime of the 2010’s (#3-1)

Hunter x Hunter (2011)

Synopsis: Drawn to the mystique of the unknown, Hunters travel the world in search of terrifying creatures, incredible riches, and unexplored lands. Gon Freecss is a naive-yet-determined young boy who aspires to join the ranks of these individuals, in order to find his missing father Ging – a master of the profession himself. To reach his goal, he partakes in the formidable Hunter Exam, a series of tests that push the participants to their physical and mental limits, with a Hunter License as the prize. During the exam Gon befriends vengeful Kurapika, doctor-to-be Leorio, and skilled assassin Killua, who have entered for their own reasons. But with the sinister Hisoka standing in their way, will Gon and his friends be able to succeed in obtaining their reward, or even escaping with their lives?

Why You Should Watch: Like I said with My Hero Academia, I’m pretty much a shonen junkie at heart, and when it comes to top-shelf shonen, I can’t think of anything that really out performed this reboot of Hunter x Hunter. I was already fairly familar with the series going into it, having both read some of the manga back when I used to ride the high seas of piracy, and also having been a huge fan of author Yoshihiro Togashi’s previous work, Yu Yu Hakusho, whose anime adaption I had previous considered to basically be the best shonen anime ever made, both because of it’s pacing and the strength of it’s characters and the strength of its material. That still largely remains true, but Hunter x Hunter edges it out in a few areas. For one thing, it’s one of the best looking battle shonen adaptions out there in terms of animation and storyboarding (not that Yu Yu Hakusho slouches on that either), and while the early episodes are a little more conservative on those ends, the show only looks better and better the further it gets into its run. It also does a lot more to play around with the usual tropes of the battle shonen formula, and by extension has more room to play around with its characters and themes. The basic plot of Hunter x Hunter can really be described in one quick sentence: A boy named Gon goes on a journey to track down his missing deadbeat dad, Ging. In the process of getting there though he befriends a child assassin, gets hunted by a murder clown, has duels with death row inmmates, and that’s all just within the first arc of the show.

Like many shonen, Hunter x Hunter is no stranger to the outlandish, but it also goes to great lengths to explain what affects things like a group of superpowered bandits, or an army humanoid monsters would have on an otherwise grounded world, and it both adds to the surrealism, and allows for more serious consequences to the actions taken by the characters than what a lot of similar shonen stories tend to do. That applies even as the show plays around with various genres over the course of it’s run, and whether it’s a story about dealing with the mafia, or being trapped in a giant video game. Togashi puts enough detail into the mechanics of whatever he’s doing that it’s kind of impossible not to roll with it. In effect it kind of makes the series more of a giant toybox for Togashi to throw ideas around in, rather than a big overarching plot, and while having a shonen be so arc heavy sounds like something that would get annoying quickly, it works because it gives Togashi room to explore some really big ideas that a more linear structure wouldn’t allown. The Chimera Ant arc in particular is a great example of that as it takes the sudden emergence of a group of unknown insects and turns it into a powerrful tale about the dual sided nature of humanity, and how we can be capable of both empathy and unspeakable cruelty, making what is technically the show’s biggest detour, into one of it’s biggest highlights. That I feel, really sums up the appeal of Hunter x Hunter, as in the words of Gtying in the final episode “it’s important not to forget about the sidetrips because they’re the ones that hold what you’re really looking for”. It’s a story that’s much more about the journey than the destination (which is fitting since while the show does techinically get to its intended destination, it still leaves some loose ends) and the journey taken is one I’ll never be able to forget.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Synopsis: One night, Madoka has a terrible nightmare – against the backdrop of a desolate landscape, she watches a magical girl battle a terrifying creature, and lose. The next day, the teen’s dream becomes reality when the girl – Homura – arrives at Mitakihara Middle School as a transfer student, mysteriously warning Madoka to stay just the way she is. But when she and her best friend Miki are pulled into a twisted illusion world and meet a magical creature named Kyubey, the pair discovers that magical girls are real, and what’s more, they can choose to become one. All they must do is sign a contract with Kyubey and agree to fight witches that spread despair to the human world, and in return they will be granted a single wish. However, as Homura’s omen suggests, there’s far more to becoming a magical girl than Madoka and Miki realize…

Why You Should Watch: There really isn’t anything I could say about Madoka that hasn’t been said already by people much smarter than me, but that mostly speaks to just how powerful this show became. When I first checked it out way back in 2011, I wasn’t particularly into shojo, or any anime that didn’t feel traditional masculine, let alone magical girl shows, so I found myself being caught between it’s haunting atmosphere and my general aversion to magical girl stuff. I eventually decided to stick with it, and it turned out to be a pretty smart decision. The show’s earliest episodes lure you into something of a false sense of security as Madoka and her friend Sayaka find themselves thrust into the world of magical girls with the help of a fluffy mascot named Kyubei, and while the incredibly nightmare-like designs of the witch labyrinths they explore are terrifying, the show doesn’t really show it’s hand until the infamous twist of episode 3, and everything goes downward into a spiral of darkness from there. As the show progresses Madoka and Sayaka slowly realize that the finer details of being a magical girl might be a little more than they signed up for, and Kyubei isn’t nearly as benovolent as he first appeared as he’s more than happy to twist the emotions of these girls to meet his own ends (quite literally in fact as it turns out to be part of his job description. It all leads to the girls finding their lives torn apart by the cruelty of how the magical girl system actually works, and writer, Gen Urobuchi, takes a genre that is known for it’s unbridled optimism, and adds a shockingly harsh dose of reality to it. The show never pulls any punches on that end, and its commitment to that has spawned many imitators over the course of this decade, making the show perhaps the single most influencial anime since Neon Genesis Evangellion.

Yet, what many of it’s clones have failed to grasp is that while the girls do go through a heavy amount of suffering and cruelty, Urobuchi still understands that hope lies at the core of any magical girl story, and while the show’s ending certainly isn’t a giant pile of sunshine and rainbows, it still champions that hope in the midsts of despair can be powerful, and that it’s always worthwhile to fight for something better, even if the most ideal outcome isn’t always feasible. That message has stuck with me over the years, and it was the show’s great delivery of that message that helped to turn me from someone who avoided magical girl shows like the plague, to a guy who’s more than happy to burn through 200 episodes of Sailor Moon, and check out some Precure . Puella Magi Madoka Magica was and still is, a revolutionary piece of work, and it’s undoubtedly worth checking out if you somehow haven’t already because it’s not just the most influencial and important anime to have come from this decade, it’s a heck of a magical girl show.

Penguindrum

Synopsis: Kamba and Shouma Takakura have taken care of their sickly younger sister Himari since their parents disappeared years ago – that is, until the day she died. But as the boys grieve by her hospital bed, Himari sits up, adorned with a strange penguin hat. Suddenly, the three of them are transported to a vibrant world where the hat, using Himari’s body as a puppet, charges these brothers with a task: find the Penguin Drum and their sister’s life will be saved! Now aided by some odd penguins they received in the mail, the duo must find this mysterious item or risk losing the sister they care for so much. However, they aren’t the only ones with their sights on the Penguin Drum, for new enemies await them around every turn, all connected in ways they would have never imagined…

Why You Should Watch: There’s a lot I could say about Penguindrum, whether it’s about its themes or its characters, but I don’t feel like anything I could mention would even begin to give this show justice, and how powerful it is. The story follows a trio of orphaned siblings named Shoma, Kanbe, and their sickly sister Himari who live together happily until one day Himari’s illness kills her, and she’s revived the spirit living inside of a penguin hat who demand her brothers locate something called the Penguindrum if they want to save her life. This leads to them getting mixed up with a young girl named Ringo who’s been secretly stalking her teacher, and things somehow get even weirder from there. The siblings as it turns out, have more than a few secrets of their own, and one that very specifically ties into a real-world terrorist attack, and the burden its left behind on the famlies of the vicitms.

If you couldn’t already tell from how bizarre this all sounds, this is another Kunihiko Ikuhara show, and while I’ve talked about some of his other works from this decade, this one was actually my introduction to him as a director, and his style of work. Similar to Yurikuma Arashi and Sarazanmai, Penguindrum is bursting from the seams with crazy visual metaphors and surreal storyboarding, and while it’s not as well animated as Sarazanmai, the more classical shojo look of both its character designs and backgrounds still make it a visual feast, and it holds up well almost a whole decade later (well as much as it can considered the quality of Sentai’s stateside release for it). I also feel like, compared to the two aforementioned shows, or even Revolutionary Girl Utena, it’s a really great introduction to Ikuhara if you’re coming to his works from a more casual point of view, as the story itself is a little more tightly scripted than some of his other works tend to be, making it entetaining even if you don’t understand everything it’s trying to say, and characters are a lot more fleshed out as well. Shoma, Kanbe, Ringo (who in addition to the best character in the show, is probably the actual protagonist)and all the other members of the cast are given plenty of time to have their motivations explored, and all of them feel like real people, no matter how outlandish their goals might seem at first.

However, even with everything else the show has to offer, the real strength of it lies in what it has to say, and boy howdy does this show has a lot to say. Penguindrum is about a lot of things: the previously mentioned affects of terrorism, unwanted children, parental abuse, and how people can pass the crimes of parents onto their kids. Ultimately though, all of those ideas tie into one core idea, haunting each of the characters: that the past is inescapable, and you’ll be punished for it forever (a theme made more direct by the villain being a literal ghost of the past). But even through all the budens they carry, the show argues that people don’t have to be defined by their pasts or who their parents are, and whether its through finding people who accept you, or choosing who you consider to be family for yourself, you can rise above your circumstances. It’s a message that feel can resonate with a lot of people, and it’s certainly one that hit pretty close to home for me, which is why I’m still looking so fondly back on the show all these years later. There’s been a lot of great anime this decade, but few have captured both the beauty of anime as an artform, and as a tool for storytelling quite like Penguindrum, and it’s not only my favorite anime of the decade, it’s my favorite anime period, and one that I really hope will continue to stand the test of time.

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