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.

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