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

 

 

 

 

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