First Impressions- Summer 2019 Anime

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

Ratings Scale

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

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

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

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

Excellent: Really outstanding show. Absolutely worth following .

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To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts

To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts

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

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

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

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

Rating: Decent

Magical Sempai

Magical Sempai

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

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

Rating: BOOBS

Are You Lost?

Are You Lost?

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

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

Rating: Decent

How Heavy Are the Dumbells You Lift?

How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?

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

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

Rating: Good

Demon Lord, Retry!

Demon Lord, Retry!

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

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

Rating: Bad

Dr. Stone

Dr. Stone

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

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

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

Rating: Great

Fire Force

Fire Force

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

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

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

Rating: Good

GRANBELM

Granbelm

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

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

Rating: Good

O’ Maidens In Your Savage Season

O Maidens in Your Savage Season

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

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

Rating: Great

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

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

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

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

Rating: Great

Ensemble Stars

Ensemble Stars!

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

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

Rating: Decent

Re:Stage Dream Days!

Re:Stage! Dream Days♪

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

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

Rating: Decent

The Ones Within

The Ones Within

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

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

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

Rating: ???

Vinland Saga

Vinland Saga

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

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

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

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

Rating: Excellent

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