First Impressions- Fall Anime 2020 (Part 2)

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

Ratings Scale

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

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

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

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

Excellent: Really outstanding show. Absolutely worth following .

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Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle

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

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

Rating: Good

Ikebukuro West Gate Park

Ikebukuro West Gate Park

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

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

Rating: Good

Noblesse

Noblesse

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

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

Rating: Bad

Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World

Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World

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

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

Rating: Good

Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear

Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear

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

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

Rating: Decent

Akudama Drive

Akudama Drive

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

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

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

Rating: Great

Adachi and Shimamura

Adachi and Shimamura

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

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

Rating: Good

The Gymnastics Samurai

The Gymnastics Samurai

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

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

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

Rating: Great

The Day I Became A God

The Day I Became a God

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

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

Rating: Good


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

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