First Impressions- Spring 2019 Anime

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and it’s finally warm enough that I can stand outside for 20 minutes without praying for the sweet release of death, so I guess it must be Spring. This is always a pretty loaded season on the anime front, but even with that in mind there’s a pretty hefty amount of potentially heavy hitters coming out of the woodwork over the course of the next couple of weeks. and they’re all of varying genres too which sadly doesn’t feel like something we come across too often. Excited as I am for the big stuff there’s always the chance a few welcome surprises could be waiting in store so as always I’m gonna be running through as many shows as I can and praying that I come out of the other side with my sanity in tact. Let’s hop to it.

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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YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World

Synopsis: During the summer, Takuya Arima receives a package—from his missing father—detailing the existence of parallel universes. He investigates further and soon realizes that he’s been given the key to cross-dimensional time travel. Now, Takuya is forced to use this newfound tech to unravel the mystery of his father’s whereabouts and find out why those closest to him are keeping secrets.

First Impressions: And we’re kicking things off with a visual novel adaption…from 1996. Well more accurately it’s an adaption of the 2017 remake of said VN from 1996, but regardless of how convoluted that sounded one thing I can tell you pretty clearly is that it was a very boring premiere. The story begins after our protagonist finds out about the death of his father, but you certainly couldn’t tell that by how he behaves because he spends most of his time here flirting with or sexually harassing almost every girl he encounters, one of which includes a moment where the dude literally flashes himself in front of a new transfer student and no one around him seems to bat an eye (can you tell this was written in 1996?). All these girls seem to pretty obviously be the romance route options but the show doesn’t really do a great job of introducing them, and the actual plot setup isn’t much better as the revelation about a device that allows MC-kun to travel to parallel worlds just kinda seems to happen after an episode of mostly meandering, and given that I’ve seen parallel world plots done better (including in VN adaptions by the very same company that remade this game), it certainly didn’t do anything to grab my attention. I suppose if I were to think of anything nice to say it’s that the production here looks decent as you would generally expect from a studio feel thing, but given how much of a “let’s play” the overall direction here feels like, even that doesn’t really do much to give this any legs. I guess if you’re really curious to see how a VN from the 90’s holds up then maybe this’ll do something for you, but I’m gonna give this one a hard pass

Rating: Bad

Hitoribocchi no Marumaruseikatsu

Hitoribocchi no OO Seikatsu

Synopsis: Hitori Bocchi, a girl with extreme social anxiety, has had only one friend throughout elementary school. When Bocchi learns they’ll be split up after graduation, she makes a promise to her: “By the time of my middle school graduation, I’ll make friends with everyone in my class.” And if she can’t do it… they won’t be friends anymore?! But Bocchi has a hard time talking to people. When she gets nervous, her legs cramp. She can’t look other people in the eye. She doesn’t even know how to make friends! Every way she thinks of to make friends ends up failing. Will Bocchi’s friend-making plan pay off?! It’s a story of the persistence of the lonely girl, Bocchi!

First Impressions: I didn’t know anything about this one, or had any real expectations going in, so I was actually pretty surprised by how much I ended up liking this one. The main gist of this show involves a socially awkward girl named Bocchi who’s starting middle school, and is tasked by her only friend from elementary school to befriend all her new classmates. Having been someone who sometimes had trouble making friends when I was younger, and also continuing to be a person who generally doesn’t like talking to people I don’t know, I could relate to her struggles here pretty well. It helps that she feels like a genuine portrayal of someone who’s bad at being sociable rather than a comfortable moe archetype, and it also helps that we do see her making progress over the course of the premiere and she manages to befriend one of her classmates named Nako who also seems pretty likable, and doesn’t really seem to judge Bocchi for her awkwardness. Production wise this isn’t really a standout, but it looks pleasant enough and this premiere had enough good visual gags that it kept me pretty entertained on that front. How much mileage I get out of this will probably depend on how well Bocchi progresses in future episodes, but for now I can get pretty safely behind this one, and if you’re a cute comedy this season, this seems like it’ll be worth taking a look at.

Rating: Great

Senryu Girl

Senryuu Girl

Synopsis: At first glance Yukishiro Nanako seems like a normal high school girl, but she has a notable eccentricity: instead of speaking, she communicates only through written senryu poetry! This means she expresses herself only in 5-7-5 syllables. To most this might seem like an inconvenience, but for Nanako and her ex-delinquent bestie, Busujima Eiji, it adds to the experience of their high school lives as they run the Literature Club.

First Impressions: I’ve heard pretty good things about the manga so I was a little curious about this one and having seen the first episode, I can kinda see why. Like Hitoribocchi this one also stars an adolescent girl dealing with social anxiety, but Nanako’s way of coping with those fears involves writing out her thoughts in the forms of senryu poems. Compared to Hitoribocchi’s fairly grounded approach to the subject, this felt a little more like what I feared that would be, and came off feeling more like a cute anime girl gimmick than something earnest. However my feelings turned around when we’re introduced to one of her club friends named Busujima who’s a delinquent that also has trouble talking to people and is often assumed to be more violent than he actually is. His troubles felt a little more believable to me, and watching him bounce off of Nanako helped in making her feel a little more endearing to me by the end of the episode, and a romance between these two seems like it could make for a pretty good time. Given that said romance is likely the end goal here and not Nanako overcoming her social anxiety, this might end up getting repetitive pretty quickly so I hope it starts branching out ideas as quickly as possible. In the meantime though this was pleasant enough that I’m down for giving it another couple of episodes, and while I didn’t find it quite as charming as Hitoribocchi, this looks like another safe pick for a cute comedy this season.

Rating: Good

Mix

Mix

Synopsis: 26 years after Meisei High conquered the Koushien, a promising pitcher-catcher battery was formed in its middle school by the Tachibana step-brothers, Touma and Souichirou.

First Impressions: Cross Game is not only one of my favorite sports anime, but is also probably my single favorite romance anime, so when it was confirmed that the latest manga from series author, Mitsuri Adachi, would be getting an anime adaption, this shot pretty high up my list of things to check out. Much like with Cross Game, this is a little atypical of your average shonen sports fare in that the stakes and general dramatic beats are alot more relaxed and low key, meaning that if you don’t have a lot of patience this may not be something that’ll exactly grab your attention. If that does sound like your jam though, then this premiere should do you pretty nicely as it slowly introduces us to our three main protagonists who are presumably directly descended from the main characters of Touch, another one of Adachi’s previous works. Two of the leads are brothers who share the same birthday and age without being twins, which makes me suspect their most likely half-siblings but the show doesn’t seem to be in any particular hurry to answer that question and instead focuses a little more on the struggle going on with their baseball team.

While the show isn’t super explicit about what’s going on there either, it seems like the team as a whole is being forced to hold back for the sake of a rich student who’s publicly displayed as being the ace and presumably has enough influence that no one on the team can ever be allowed to show him up, which they seem to have mostly accepted. Neither of these things quite compare to the big emotional hook at the end of Cross Game’s first episode, but Adachi’s ability to a relaxing but very natural sense of atmosphere with how he writes his characters, remains as compelling as ever and did leave me curious what direction this will end up going in. It helps that the animation production from OLM of Pokemon fame is pretty polished, and while some of the narration cuts a little into the show’s down-to-earth atmosphere, it wasn’t too distracting, and the general visual direction here has a bit of style to it (which is probably about the only thing I’d knock Cross Game for). While I’d be lying if I said previous goodwill from Adachi’s last work wasn’t a factor in how much I dug this premiere, this looks like it’ll be a pretty chill sports drama and while that obviously isn’t going to be for everyone, if that sounds at all interesting to you, I recommend giving it a shake.

Rating: Great

Ao-chan Can’t Study

Ao-chan Can't Study!

Synopsis: Ao Horie’s father, a popular erotic fiction author, chose Ao’s name because A stands for “apple” and O stands for “orgy”! Desperate to escape her father’s legacy and get into a prestigious university, Ao devotes herself to studying instead of pursuing romance. She has no time for boys, but there’s just one problem: Kijima, her handsome and popular classmate, just confessed his love to her! And to make matters worse, she can’t stop thinking dirty thoughts about him! Looks like escaping her father’s influence will be harder than she thought.

First Impressions: Going off the premise this seemed like it would be on the raunchier side of the romcom spectrum and having walked away from the first episode, that assessment was mostly accurate. The series follows a girl named Ao who hates her name because of the double-innuendo her father added to its meaning, and vows to become a respectable person who has pretty much nothing to do with boys. Unfortunately for her, she seems to be catching the attention of the most popular guy in her class, and while she’s convinced she hates him, her awkward attempts to turn him down seem to imply she might actually be into him but hasn’t processed this yet. That seems like it would make for a pretty cute romcom premise and I could see the potential here, but that potential was shot down upon being properly introduced to Ao’s dad. From his character design to his mannerisms this guy feels like if someone resurrected Happosai from Ranma 1/2 in the modern day, and since that guy’s shtick was being a lecherous old fart with zero redeeming qualities, seeing Ao’s dad exude the same energy was a pretty big turnoff and I wanted to see this guy get punted through a wall nearly the second he opened his mouth. To make matters worse it seems like part of his purpose here is to play cupid for his daughter by trying to help her get laid, and that honestly feels a lot more gross than funny. Maybe this could have a chance at being cute if this guy stays far, far in the background but I’m not sticking around to find out, so this is looking like another skip

Rating: Bad

We Never Learn- BOKUBEN

We Never Learn

Synopsis: Nariyuki Yuiga needs a special scholarship, but he has to tutor three genius girls to get it! One is a literature virtuoso, but her skills in science are lacking. Another excels in math, but the arts are in her heart. The last one’s athletic prowess is unmatched, but she struggles with everything else. With university application deadlines on the way, can Nariyuki teach the unteachable in time?

First Impressions: So as a Shonen Jump subscriber, I’ve actually been following this series since it debuted a few years back, and while I can’t say I’m a diehard fan of it, I enjoy it well enough so I was curious to see how this adaption would turn out. So far it seems to be pretty much exactly what I was expecting. This premiere follows our main character Naruyuki who wants to get on the fast track to college by getting his school’s special recommendation, and hopefully ease the burden on his extremely poor family. However in order to receive this recommendation, he must tutor two girls named Fumino and Rizu who are both considered geniuses in certain subjects, but want to major in the areas they’re bad at. This proves to be more of a challenge than Naruyuki bargained for as neither one of them seems like they’ll really be able to improve, but watching their struggles reminds him of how often he’s failed in getting to where he is now, and he vows to help them achieve their dreams. It’s a pretty by-the-numbers premise for a romcom but the characters are fairly likable for the most part, and even Naruyuki is kind of endearing even if he doesn’t venture too far outside of the audience insert qualities that most harem protagonists tend to have. Of course while this premise is pretty fluffy there’s also a bit of cheesecake here if you’re looking for fanservice, and while this show isn’t super horny, its also pretty aware of who its audience is. The production here is equally by-the-numbers and while we do get some pretty good facial expressions here and there, its not exactly a selling point. Long story short here, We Never Learn is kind of a case of what you see is what you get. If you like this particular brand of ecchi romcom, you’ll be well served. If not, this series probably won’t do anything for you. As for me, I’m just here for best girl Uraka, and since she isn’t showing up till next week it kinda goes without saying I’m gonna be here for a while.

Rating: Good

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

Synopsis: Bloodthirsty demons lurk in the woods, and nobody dares to venture out at night, save for the demon slayer of legend. Surviving in this harsh world, young Tanjirou takes it upon himself to protect his family–until the day that everything is taken from him in a vicious slaughter. Now, all he has left is his sister, and she’s not even human anymore.

First Impressions: This is yet another big Shonen Jump adaption and one I was really looking forward to. I’ve been interested in this series ever since Viz published the first three chapters of it back when it debuted, but the rest of the manga hadn’t been made available here until pretty recently, and while I was collecting the manga volumes for a while, the manga’s unique, but unpolished artstyle was a little hard for me to get behind and I figured I’d just wait for the anime. Fortunently the anime adaption was handed to Ufotable whose reputation for high quality productions pretty much speaks for itself, and so far its off to a strong start. The premiere here pretty much covers soley the first chapter of the manga as we’re introduced to the protagonist Tanjiro and the tragedy that befalls his family as they’re all slaughtered by demons with his sister Nezuko as the sole survivor. To make matters worse, Nezuko has been tainted by demon blood, and the only way for Tanjiro to save her is for him to start tracking down the demons responsible for her transformation. While this set-up seems pretty part the course for a JUMP battle shonen, there’s a quiet, but powerful sense of atmosphere here that helps to draw you into the show’s feudal era setting, and that feeling extends into both the visual direction and the musical score, as it allows for the show to carry a vibe that feels more akin to an old samurai film or folktale. While the hook here means that we don’t get to spend too much time on characterization in this premiere, Tanjiro comes off as a fairly likable protagonist thus far, and although Nezuko doesn’t get a lot of lines here (especially after her transformation), the show manages to convey her with a righteous sense of spirit, and I’m pretty curious in seeing how these siblings will survive going forward. All in all, this was a pretty rock solid premiere and while this was another case where there was pretty much no chance I wasn’t going to be keeping up with this, I’m glad it seems like that decision will be well rewarded

Rating: Great

Fairy Gone

Fairy gone

Synopsis: Fairies possess and reside within animals, granting them special powers. By surgically removing and transplanting the organs of a possessed animal into a human, humans can partially summon the fairy and use it as a weapon. Eventually, such individuals were used for war, and were called “Fairy Soldiers.” After a long war, these soldiers lost their purpose, and had to reintegrate into society. Nine years after the end of the war, Maria is a fresh recruit of “Dorothea,” an organization dedicated to the investigation and suppression of fairy-related crimes and incidents. Even in peacetime, the government is still unstable after the war. Many criminals still have lingering wounds from the previous conflict, and there are terrorist groups bent on revenge.

First Impressions: This was one of my most heavily anticipated shows of the season, and that’s largely due to the big names behind the production. Director Kenichi Suzuki of Stardust Crusaders and Drifters fame has proven to be a pretty reliable action director, and series writer Ao Jumonji is also the author Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions which managed to be a surprisingly strong story about the pathos of losing a loved one. Combine that with the fact that the band KnoW NaMe who handled the themes songs for Grimgar is also on board for this series, and this seemed like it had the potential to be a real winner. Going off the premiere I’d say it…mostly lives up to that potential. The premiere here starts a few years after the end of a conflict between two nations and the protagonist Marlya is one of the only survivors from a tragedy that befell her village during the war. The other survivor is a woman named Veronica who Marlya has been searching for, but Veronica seems to be purely out for revenge and wants little to do with her. In the middle of a fight between Veronica and a mysterious man named Free, Marlya awakens to the power of controlling a fairy, but the ability to use fairies has been outlawed after the war and Marlya is left with no choice but join the organization Free belongs to known as Dorothea, who are investigating incidents related to fairies. While this seems like a fair amount of plot for one episode, most of this premiere is actually action-focused and these story beats end up playing second fiddle to that. Seeing as the mostly quiet drama of Grimgar is what helped make that story appealing to me, I was a little surprised it went this route, but that is very much in like with Kenichi Suzuki’s sensibilities and for what its worth the action scenes here are pretty cool. Unfortunately said action scenes come with a monkey’s paw in the form of the fairies being animated in 3DCG, and while that wouldn’t be too big a deal in most circumstances, the overall look of this show seems to be aiming for a dark fantasy aesthetic not unlike say, Berserk, so it feels a little out of place and will probably take some getting used to. I also can’t really say that what we’ve gotten of the story so far has grabbed my attention much either since the heavy focus on action means that we don’t get a whole lot of time to get properly introduced to these characters and seeing as the connection between Marlya and Veronica is looking to be what’s gonna drive this show, that seems like it might’ve been a bit of a misstep. Regardless of those complaints though, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious where the rest of this story might be headed, and this certainly held my attention well enough that I’m pretty willing to follow that bit of curiosity for now. It’s hard to say if this show will live up to its pedigree but if you’re in the market for another dark action show this season besides Kimetsu no Yaiba, this seems like it’ll be a safe pick.

Rating: Good

Cinderella Nine

Cinderella Nine

Synopsis: When Arihara Tsubasa enters Rigahama Municipal High School and learns that it has no baseball club, she starts up the Girls’ Baseball Club on her own. Drawn to the club are girls who have never played baseball before, girls who once played it but quit, and girls who are constantly tackling great challenges. The Rigahama Girls’ Baseball Club races through the trials of youth, periodically clashing and quarreling, but supporting each other all the way! And so begins the hottest summer the world has ever known…

First Impressions: About all I really knew going in here was that this is yet another mobile game adaption and that this show’s name is strikingly similar to that of a sports anime from the 90’s called Princess Nine, which also happened to be about a girls baseball team. Being a mobile game adaption though, this premiere here felt less like a typical sports anime and more like an episode of an idol show (the leading girl even looks like she could be the long lost twin of Honoka from Love Live). The girls we’re introduced to so far pretty archetypal, and the show has yet to introduce any stakes that would make it endearing as a basic sports anime narrative, instead feeling incredibly fluffy and low-key. Seeing as I’m not the biggest fan of idol anime and they typically need a good gimmick to impress me, this premiere didn’t do a whole ton for me, but basing itself off a sport, however soft the execution, gave this at least a little more momentum than these kinds of shows tend to have, and to its credit the show at least attempts to create some low-stakes drama with two of the girls having their own awkward history with playing sports. I can’t say those elements exactly helped in making this quality television but I at least wasn’t completely bored by watching this. Right now I’m feeling kind of on the fence about this one, and giving it another episode will probably depend on how many other Sunday shows catch my attention, but if the idea of “idols but baseball” appeals to you in some fashion, this might be worth a peek.

Rating: Decent

Kono Oto Tomare!

Kono Oto Tomare!

Synopsis: Down to its last member, the koto club will accept anyone who is interested in the traditional Japanese instrument. But when a delinquent and a prodigy player sign up, finding harmony isn’t going to be easy—especially not with ensemble competitions looming around the corner. With enough time and some incredible skill at the strings, perhaps this motley crew can strike a chord with the judges.

First Impressions: This is another one I went into blind, and going off the character designs I figured this was going to be some variation of a bishonen ensemble show. To my surprise this ended up being more of a straightforward drama centering around a music club, and therefore something that’s a bit more my speed. The primary focus for the premiere here is introducing us to our leads Takezo and Chika and both feel pretty compelling so far. Club-based anime featuring a senior trying to hold everything together isn’t a particularly new concept, but it’s rare to get that character as the protagonist, and that desire to protect the club while also being a person with low self-esteem makes Takezo interesting right off the bat and makes his initial distrust of Chika both understandable and frustrating. Chika himself however is the one who really carries the bulk of this premiere as we learn about his history with his grandfather who was a koto maker, and how joining the koto club is his way of reverencing the only person who ever believed in him. It was a pretty good story and was a much bigger emotional gut punch than anything I was expecting going into this. Production-wise on the other hand things are a little rougher as while the character designs look pretty nice, the animation here is a little stiff and there were a few areas in this premiere where I could tell where they were cutting corners. That’s more a nitpick than anything though, because otherwise I enjoyed this a lot more than I was expecting too, and while I didn’t have much in the way of expectations going in, I’m pretty eager to check out more of this.

Rating: Great

Midnight occult civil servants

Midnight occult civil servants

Synopsis: When Miyako Arata joins the Shinjuku Ward Office, he thinks he’s gotten a normal civil servant job. But it turns out he’s joined the Night Community Exchange Department, one of which operates secretly in each of Tokyo’s twenty-three ward offices. Their job is to resolve occult issues concerning non-human beings. Accompanied by his senpai and department head Sakaki Kyoichi and the occult obsessed Himetsuka Seo, they work night after night, facing off with beings whose existence defies the laws of our world.

First Impressions: This is another thing I assumed was going to be more of a bishie ensemble thing than anything else, and once again I walked away fairly surprised. While there’s certainly a few pretty boys on display here, the general vibe here is more along the lines of an office worker learning the ropes at his new job, and said job happens to involve mediating with the supernatural. While yokai focused stuff can be a little hit or miss for me, generalized supernatural folklore is definitely my jam, and this premiere features everything from angels to Cu Siths and tengus. The angels and tengus in particular make up the bulk of this premiere’s conflict as the protagonist’s first day ont the job involves stopping a territorial dispute between them that ends up being more of a Romeo & Juliet scenario. Its a pretty by the numbers plot and nothing about the writing here really stood out, but it was entertaining enough, and the angle of the protagonist being the only one with the ability to directly communicate with supernatural beings seems like it could be interesting, and might make for more dynamic conflicts later down the line. The production here is also pretty standard looking and while that’s a little disappointing for something featuring a lot of fantastical creatures, they look decent enough to get by, and there weren’t too many notable issues with the animation here. While I wouldn’t exactly call this premiere a slam dunk it did enough for me that I’m willing to give it another episode or two to see if it’ll stick, ad if you’re into low key supernatural shenanigans, this might be up your alley

Rating: Good

AFTERLOST

AFTERLOST

Synopsis: The entire population of a city disappeared—vanished without a trace. Yuki, the sole survivor, joins Takuya, a contract courier, on a perilous journey to find answers within the newly named ghost town “Lost”. With a letter from Yuki’s father as the pair’s only lead, a secretive organization refuses to let Yuki and Takuya’s meddling go unchecked.

First Impressions: So I knew going into this that this was some kind of game adaption, and that in addition to being produced by Madhouse, the footage of it they showed in trailers looked…mediocre to say the least. Still I was kinda curious what we were gonna get here and uh…that sure was a show I guess. There’s technically a fair amount of “plot” going on here in that some kind of apocalyptic disaster happens, some people have superpowers now (or at least I guess because the show sure as heck didn’t seem interested in explaining that) and the only survivor of the aforementioned disaster is now going back to ground zero to find her missing family with the help of a mysterious courier. The problem here is that the show does a bad job explaining well just about anything really, and while the plot threads here are basic enough that it’s not impossible to follow there’s pretty much zero attempt here to do any kind of world building, and instead makes this feel like someone’s just checking off a list of obligatory sci-fi anime tropes. It doesn’t help that the characters feel even more barebones than the plot and we’re introduced to such lovely archetypes as sad anime girl for our heroine, stoic emo dude for the male lead, and a hacker otaku who tries creeping on sad anime girl the second he sees her. There’s no real attempts here to make any of them feel remotely distinct or interesting and it mainly feels like the show expects you’re just here for sci-fi action shenanigans which would be okay if the show didn’t look…rough. While the animation here isn’t outright terrible, there’s quite a bit of corner cutting going on here, and the 3DCG for all the vehicles looks so plastic, they nearly feel like carryovers from an early 2000’s anime. The color scheme here is also pretty bad and there’s a couple of shots where the show looks like an utter mess which doesn’t really bode well for the rest of the series given this is only the premiere. With all these complaints you’d think I’d have a serious ax to grind with this show but really the greatest sin of all for this premiere is that it was just really, really boring. Nothing about this show stands out and pretty much everything it’s had to offer in this premiere are things I’ve seen executed better in at least a dozen other shows. If you’re really into sci-fi action tropes then maybe there’ll be something salvageable in here for you, but I couldn’t find anything appealing here, and in an era with more stuff to watch than ever I’d recommend looking elsewhere.

Rating: Bad

Robihatchi

RobiHachi

Synopsis: In the year G.C. 0051, humans have obtained super light-speed navigation technology and formed a commonwealth of planets with other species. In-debt freelance reporter Robby Yarge has had a streak of bad luck; losing his job, his girlfriend, and was nearly killed in a traffic accident. When his bag is stolen, Robby meets 18-year-old Hatchi Kita, who apprehends the thief and return his property. The two part ways soon after, but Hatchi eventually turns up in Robby’s life again, this time as a debt collector working for a loan shark named Yan. A cat-and-mouse chase begins, and Robby tries to elude Hatchi and escape to space while shaking off Yan’s group – only to discover Hatchi hiding inside his spaceship. The two decide to travel across the galaxy together in search of Isekandar, a distant and legendary planet in the Milky Way that is said to bring happiness to those who go there.

First Impressions: Looks like I’m three for three on assuming something’ll be a bishonen ensemble show only to get the rug pulled out from under me, so I guess I’ve got a consistent theme going here for the season. Aside from the pretty boys higlighted all the promo material I’ve seen for this the only other thing I really knew was that this was going to be some kind of anime-original sci-fi romp. Turns out this is operating mostly on the latter end of those things and comes off as a buddy-cop ala Tiger & Bunny or Double Decker but in space. Our boyfriends here happen to be a guy named Robby who has habitually bad luck and is looking for a quick way to get rich, and Hachi a bored genius who thinks there’s nothing interesting left in the world and is constantly seeking new thrills. As with any buddy cop show, the appeal here largely lies in how much comedy you can mind out of the main duo’s interactions and while they’re antics certainly aren’t boring both feel a little archetypal so far, and they didn’t really get more than a few chuckles out of me. Having said that, anime about romping through space are an extreme rarity these days, and while a show parodying that doesn’t seem like it’d have much appeal for modern audiences, it’s something that’s relatively in my line of interest and while nothing here floored me, I also didn’t encounter anything in this premiere that was a total deal breaker. If I had any other complaints here it’d probably be that this looks a little visually underwhelming for the kinds of 90’s Sunrise shows its parodying, but its passable enough, and this doesn’t strike me as the kind of thing that’s going to be all that reliant on visual gags. So…yeah long story short I’m probably gonna follow this purely because this particular genre of anime is practically a fossil at this point, and I’m curious exactly how far this’ll end up leaning into 90’s anime sensibilities. With any luck this’ll actually be entertaining enough to be worth gambling on, but for now I’m wiling to go along for the ride.

Rating: Decent

Isekai Quartet

Isekai Quartet

Synopsis: The button appeared out of nowhere. There weren’t any signs NOT to push it… so the solution is obvious, right? Is it a trap or the start of something new and exciting? The crews of Re:ZERO, Overlord, Konosuba, and The Saga of Tanya the Evil will find out when they go from their world to another and get stuck in… class?! 

First Impressions: At this point, Kadokawa’s been behind so many of the big light novel based hits of the last few years that I’m a little surprised we didn’t get a crossover comedy sooner and…yeah this sure is a comedy crossover alright. Saga of Tanya the Evil, Overlord, Re:Zero, and Konosuba are all very popular titles for better or worse, and this show assumes right off the bat you’re pretty familiar with them and jumps into having these characters collide as quickly as possible. Given how much isekai in general is built on the concept of a normal guy from our world ending up a fantasy one, it was a little amusing to see characters like Tanya and Kazuma react to suddenly finding themselves in a world that mostly resembles the one they left behind. Aside from that though, pretty much all the entertainment value you’re going to get out of this is largely dependent on how familiar you are with each of these shows and since I didn’t get farther than episode 1 for both Re:Zero and Overlord respectively, I’ve only got about half the context I needed to properly enjoy this. It was kind of fun watching the antics of the characters I am a little more familiar with, but until we actually see them all interacting in full it’s hard to say how much entertainment value this’ll have. Whether or not I go any further than this will probably depend on if the dub keeps the cast consistent for Re:Zero and Konosuba since I’m likely to get more out of this show with a punchier dub script, but for anyone else who’s ever wondered what it would be like if these characters ever met up, this looks like it’ll be exactly what you’d expect.

Rating: Decent

Wise Man’s Grandchild

Wise Man’s Grandchild

Synopsis: A young man dies in a car accident and is reborn in a magical new world. The old, yet wise Merlin finds the boy, names him Shin, raises him from infancy, and teaches him combat and powerful magic along the way. 15 years later, Shin is ready to travel the globe on his own, but Merlin forgot to teach him something major—common sense!

First Impressions: It’s time for everyone’s favorite time of the season: isekai time. As always it’s pretty much impossible to get through a season of anime without at least one of these in there somewhere and for the last couple of seasons, we’ve actually been getting fairly lavish productions with the likes of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime and Rising of the Shield Hero. This show however feels like a throwback to what we’d normally come to expect from isekai, and by normal, I mean that it’s boring and looks bland as sin. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A normal Japanese dude gets hit by a car, and upon dying he finds himself reincarnated in another world. In this world magic exists and the guy is extremely talented in it to the point that his mere assistance is a threat to the world order. Also he gets to transfer to a magic high school. If this sounds familar than congratulations you’ve described the plot of almost every dang isekai in existance (and a couple of more generalized light novels). About the only point of distinction here is that MC-kun’s grandfather was apparently a legendary hero in his own right and while that could have made this a slightly interesting tale about the relationship between a grandfather and their grandchild, it’s made apparent almost right off the bat that this is just here to justify why MC-kun here is such an incredible Gary-stu and the show seems incredibly disinterested in its own title. Aside from that, everything else here is something you’ve seen in at least a dozen other isekai and while that would normally be par for the course, like I mentioned earlier, the last couple of isekai shows we got tried a lot harder than this did, and as much as I despised Shield Hero’s premiere, even that felt better directed than anything this had to offer. It doesn’t help that again, this looks super bland and aside from a couple of decent looking shots, its pretty bottom barrel looking compared to what we’ve been getting the last couple of seasons. I guess on the bright side this doesn’t have slavery in it (yet) so if you’re somehow just in the mood for a basic isekai power fantasy that doesn’t feel too scummy I guess you could do worse, but with the stronger productions we’ve gotten recently, this just doesn’t seem like it has anything worth offering

Rating: Bad

Sarazanmai

Sarazanmai

Synopsis: The setting is Asakusa. One day, second-years in middle school Kazuki Yasaka, Toi Kuji, and Enta Jinnai meet Keppi, a mysterious kappa-like creature, who steals their shirikodama and transforms them into kappas. “To return to your original forms,” Keppi tells them, “you must fight the zombies and take the shirikodama from them.” Can the boys connect with each other and steal the zombies’ shirikodama?! At the same time, something is happening at the police box where Reo Niiboshi and Mabu Akutsu work. This is the story of three boys who can’t connect with someone important to them, learning about what it truly means to do so.

First Impressions: And rounding off my seasonal impressions is the series I was looking forward to the most out this entire lineup. Kunihiko Ikuhara simultaneously one of the most brilliant and absurd directors in the entire anime industry, and I get excited pretty much every time he announces a new project. That’s largely because he’s the driving force behind Revolutionary Girl Utena, Penguindrum, and Yurikuma Arashi, which are all strange but beautiful masterpieces in their own right, and shows that have tackled LGBT issues better than just about anything else anime’s had to offer. However up to this point, Ikuhara’s dissection of those issues has largely been geared towards exploring queer women, and this series marks his first notable attempt at a story about gay men. So far, it’s off to whatever constitutes as a normal start for an Ikuhara which is to say it’s super weird and there’s a million and one metaphors here to unpack. Given how stressful the task of doing weekly reviews for Yurikuma was back in the day, the act of sitting here and attempting to go through all of this show’s potential themes is a bit too tedious for me, but the stuff that immediately stands out to me, is the prevalence of boxes as a metaphor for suppressing desire (something of a recurring theme in Ikuhara stuff) and the revelation that the main character Kazuki goes around crossdressing as a female idol. With the already heavy homoerotic undertones of the first episode, and the idea that he repeatedly frames this as a desire to “connect” with the idol he’s pretending to be, it seems like he’s either trans or its his way of trying to suppress his homosexuality by pretending to be devoted to her (possibly both), but this being an Ikuhara thing, I don’t wanna jump the gun too much at what themes are on display here. At any rate I’m really excited to see what this show has to say, and I’m equally excited just to look at it because the art direction here is also on par with what I’ve generally come to expect from Ikuhara stuff, which is that it’s totally gorgeous, and almost every other frame is packed with some kind of hidden meaning. Of course it’s entirely possible that this could end up being the series where Ikuhara somehow drops the ball, but he’s impressed me so many times, I’m willing to believe he’ll keep the score at 4-0, and I’m totally on board for the rest of this ride

Rating: Excellent

The Promised Neverland Ep #12 Review

Synopsis: Emma, Ray and Norman are the three smartest children at an orphanage known as Grace Field House. Under the care and guidance of their caretaker known as “Mom”, the children live peaceful lives, with the one condition being that they are never to go beyond the gate that leads to outside of the orphanage. However one day, Emma and Norman discover the truth of what lies beyond the gate, and it’s one that will change their lives forever

The Review

It’s been a long, long 12 weeks but here we are at the final episode of The Promised Neverland’s first season (which now officially IS the first season as a sequel’s been confirmed for next year). This season’s certainly been an interesting ride both in terms of the story itself, and the changes the anime made in telling it, as my feelings on this adaptation have only gotten more and more mixed with each passing week. Now that we’re finally here at the end though, it’s time to see whether or not it actually managed to stick the landing.

As the kids continue to make their escape, Ray notices that ones 4 years old and under are nowhere to be seen. This was a deliberate choice on Emma’s part, as we see in a flashback that she actually took Ray’s thoughts into consideration on how it would be too dangerous to take them. While Emma initially remained steadfast in her desire to leave no one behind despite knowing the risks, her perspective changed when Gilda brought up that it wasn’t really fair for only their group to escape when there are children in the other Grace Field plants who are still trapped and unaware of their reality. In light of that, Emma decided to talk directly to Phil about what was happening, and after telling him the truth about the farms, she revised her plan: deciding to leave the younger kids behind, but with the hope that she’ll return within two years to not only save them, but all of the kids suffering under the oppression of the farm system.

While this works as a realistic compromise between Emma and Ray’s points of view and helps in providing a more grounded approach to Emma’s optimism, it’s also one that once again highlights how shortsighted Ray’s purely pessimistic approach was in the long run. There can be value in taking the time to approach things realistically, and Ray’s more pragmatic point of view isn’t totally without its merits, but pragmatism is something that’s only ever truly effective when actively working towards a positive outcome rather than simply trying avoid a worst-case scenario. It’s a revelation that quietly dawns on Ray as he admits defeat in the face of seeing how well the other kids have adapted to their situation, and he now sees the value in Emma’s philosophy of working towards a future where they won’t have to lose anyone else.

I really like how well both these scenes are directed, and especially in regards to how the latter shifts between seeing the kids’ actual training, and the end results of it in the present, as it really drives home that they’re far more capable than either Ray or Norman was willing to give them credit for when the show began. At the same time though, I also feel like these points were driven home a little harder in the manga, as Emma’s desire to destroy the very farm system itself is given a little more emphasis than what we got here, and Ray’s shift towards a more optimistic point of view had a lot more emotional weight behind it. Losing some of that here knocked these scenes down a couple of points for me, but the core of what’s being said with them still largely remains in tact so in the end, it balanced out well enough that I can’t complain too much.

What immediately follows though is something I’m a lot more mixed on. As the kids escape via zip-lining over the cliff rather than using the bridge like the demons are expecting, Isabella catches up with them right as Emma is preparing to make her way over to the other side. This is a pretty notable shift from the manga as Isabella never managed to catch up with the kids and by the time she had made it to the wall they were already gone. I really like the idea of this scene, as Emma giving a direct goodbye to Isabella before making her escape helps in driving home the parallels between them and how Emma was able to make the choice to keep resisting her fate that Isabella could not. In execution however, it’s a little goofy as Isabella still seemed pretty determined to catch the kids in the scene preceding it so seeing that she not only never makes any kind of attempt to grab Emma, but gives her enough time to reflect on the house being burned down before heading for the hills feels a little out of character. I give the anime staff credit for trying though, and equally so in regards to how they handle Isabella’s own moment of reflection as we see pieces of her childhood and how she lost a boy she cared about before signing herself into becoming a mama to ensure her survival.

Much like with Krone’s backstory, these flashbacks are pretty silent compared to their manga counterpart and most of her internal monologue here was removed. Unfortunately part of that monologue was pretty important to Isabella’s characterization, as she confessed that she actually did despise the farm system for what it did to her friend, but ultimately ended up suppressing that fury because her desire to live outweighed her desire to fight back, putting her in stark contrast to how Emma chose to keep fighting in spite of losing Norman. However unlike with how Krone’s story was handled, Isabella’s drive to live no matter what is still translated pretty well in these scenes in spite of what was cut. Especially so the moment where she realizes that Ray is her biological child, as her pragmatism and her emotions are put directly at odds, and while the former might have won out, it didn’t make the choice of sacrificing her child any less painful. Isabella might have survived by tossing others to the wayside, but her willingness to surrender herself completely to her situation has ultimately ended up costing her everything. As she realizes she’s been utterly defeated, Isabella performs her first true act of motherhood and wishes Emma and the others safety on their new journey as the kids themselves forge ahead towards their first day of freedom.

And with that, we’re finally at the end of Neverland’s first season. When this season first began I was really excited to see how the anime was going to handle the manga’s material and if it was going to be successful in making the series into a bigger hit. Far as the former goes, I’ve been kinda let down by a lot of the anime’s choices, and the emphasis on the story’s horror elements over the characterization of the main cast ended up harming it in a few key areas, and took some of the weight out of its themes. It’s certainly proven to be pretty popular in spite of those deficiencies though, and as much as I’ve nitpicked this adaption to death, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get any enjoyment out of seeing the manga come to life, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a re-watch helped me to better reconcile with some of the anime’s adaptive choices. In regards to the finale though, I’ll say that it more or less stuck the landing, and while I’m still very seriously hoping the next season of the anime will have an extensive staff re-haul,(the rest of the manga is so different from the first arc its almost a necessity) much like the kids themselves, I’m still pretty eager to see what’s over the horizon in spite whatever dangers might come with it.

Rating: 9/10

The Promised Neverland Episode #11 Review


Synopsis: Emma, Ray and Norman are the three smartest children at an orphanage known as Grace Field House. Under the care and guidance of their caretaker known as “Mom”, the children live peaceful lives, with the one condition being that they are never to go beyond the gate that leads to outside of the orphanage. However one day, Emma and Norman discover the truth of what lies beyond the gate, and it’s one that will change their lives forever

The Review

We’re one episode away from the end the season, and Neverland has one last trail of material to blaze through as it speeds towards the finish line. “Blaze” being in the literal sense as the kids prepare to enact one last plan to outwit Isabella and its pretty lit to say the least. There’s a lot material packed into this week’s events and with the amount of reversed expectations this one is packing, it’s the one of the hottest episodes yet.  

Alright I’m pretty sure I’ve expended about as many fire puns as I could think of, so might as well get down to talking about the source. As Emma tells Ray that she hasn’t yet given up on escaping, she reveals that she’s only pretended to have lost hope to throw Isabella off Don and Gilda’s trail and give them time to prepare everything for the escape. Ray meanwhile, has apparently been working on a plan of his own for a while now, and suggests to Emma that the best method of escape would be to set fire to the orphanage and flee with the rest of the kids in the confusion. While he’s still against the idea of taking the others, he acknowledges that Emma won’t budge on her convictions and decides to respect her wishes, even if he hopes she’ll reconsider. With how dead set Ray has been on abandoning the rest of the kids, it seems a little strange that he’d be willing to budge in the final act, but it all makes sense when we discover what Ray truly plans to do.  

When Emma mentions that Isabella might prioritize securing the kids over stopping a potential fire, Ray reveals that he’s come up with a contingency plan for that: setting himself on fire to distract her. In truth, Ray never planned on escaping with Norman and Emma to begin with, as he had given up on the hope of being freed from the farm system ages ago, and feels weighed down by the lives of his siblings who he’s helped to kill in the pursuit of securing Norman and Emma’s safety. Seeing as up to this point, Ray’s been presented as a cold, if understandable, pragmatist, discovering that he has so little regard for his own life is a pretty big twist to say the least, and yet it also explains quite a bit about some of his behavior in previous episodes. For as much as Ray has preached about the efficiency in abandoning the others to survive we’ve also seen moments where he’s clearly more concerned about the other kids than that attitude would suggest, and combining that with this revelation puts Ray’s world view into full perspective. His focus on pragmatism isn’t because he actually thinks it’ll help him survive, but rather because he’s convinced himself that his situation is utterly hopeless, and that if he’s going to die anyway, sacrificing himself for his loved ones is better than clinging to a sense of hope that may not exist, the latter of which he expressed concern to Norman with back in episode 5. Much like Isabella’s scene with Emma last week, this revelation also ties in pretty heavily with the story’s themes regarding the emptiness in a life built on sacrificing others to survive, and while Ray may frame his suicide attempt as an act of rebellion, it’s more an admission of defeat.  

Much as I really like this concept thematically though, in execution I was once again a little let down by how the anime directed this scene. While Ray is clearly letting all his emotions loose in this moment, it felt a little too over dramatic for what the moment needed and the heavy orchestral music playing in the background took what should have been a poignant, or at the very least terrifying moment, and made it feel slightly goofy. Like with most of my complaints about the anime’s sense of direction I wouldn’t say this outright failed in what it needed to do, but tonally I kinda wish they’d swapped this scene around with how Krone’s death was portrayed. I’m willing to admit I’m particularly biased on this one though, so hopefully it still managed to get the point across to new anime viewers.  

Important as that moment is though, what follows is no less significant as when the fire starts and Isabella attempts to rescue Ray, she realizes she’s been played. While Ray might have thought he was doing a good job of hiding his intentions, Norman caught on to Ray’s suicide plan from the very beginning and gave Emma a warning to stop him before he got the chance to follow through on it. This catches Ray off guard and forces him to properly join in the escape, but it’s not the only surprise in store for him: It also turns out that Emma decided to bring the rest of the kids in on the true nature of the orphanage, and they’ve all been working on the escape plan during the two months Emma was pretending to do nothing. That development not only works as a great twist, but it’s also a pretty great rebuttal to Ray’s (and to a lesser extent Isabella’s) viewpoint. He wrote the other kids off as being dead weight who wouldn’t be able to handle the reality of their situation, but they’re clearly willing to face this reality head on, and are already doing their part to contribute, rather than surrendering to their circumstances the same way he and Isabella did. In the end, despite their insistence on it, Ray and Isabella’s pragmatism is ultimately limiting to their livelihood rather than helpful, and while it’s not yet clear how much this lesson has sunk in for Ray, it certainly hasn’t for Isabella who still believes she can salvage the situation before the kids finish their escape. With only one episode to go, and Phil, apparently staying with Isabella rather than fleeing with the others, its up to the finale to determine whose views will prevail, and more importantly: if the kids are alright.

The Promised Neverland Ep #10 Review

Synopsis: Emma, Ray and Norman are the three smartest children at an orphanage known as Grace Field House. Under the care and guidance of their caretaker known as “Mom”, the children live peaceful lives, with the one condition being that they are never to go beyond the gate that leads to outside of the orphanage. However one day, Emma and Norman discover the truth of what lies beyond the gate, and it’s one that will change their lives forever
The Review

It’s a somber day in Neverland, as our heroes find themselves at their lowest point yet. Between Norman’s shipment and a literal insurmountable cliff standing in their way, things are looking pretty dark, and it only gets worse as this week’s events unfold. With that level of despair comes a lot of heavy material for the anime to shift through, and while there’s a bit of give and take in how said material is adapted, it makes for the moodiest episode of the series yet.

So having returned from the wall, Norman goes into more detail about what exactly’s up with the cliff and what their options are. While the cliff is too high to jump down from, it appears that the wall itself actually forms a pentagon like barrier around the farms, with the only exit being a bridge that’s more than likely connected to demon HQ. There’s not a whole lot of time for Emma and Ray to process this new information though, as they quickly realize that Norman came back because he had no desire to escape his fate to begin with, and he’s now fully prepared to face his demise. Of course while he may be ready to die, Emma and Ray still can’t bring themselves to accept it, and the combination of great character and voice acting on display in this scene helps to get across just how powerless they feel in this moment. It’s pretty heartbreaking, and it’s another instance where I’ll actually praise the anime’s direction as letting the emotion of the scene speak for itself rather than tacking on the characters’ thoughts allows for the scene to feel a little more sincere and gives the trio’s final moment in the orphanage together the level of weight it needs to.

That sentiment also largely extends to how the rest of Norman’s departure is handled. As Norman prepares to leave, he thinks back to a childhood memory involving him and Emma, where he was sick and Emma kept attempting to keep him company despite Isabella’s protests. This whole sequence was a bonus side story from one of the manga volumes that was mostly played for laughs, but it is a pretty vital bit of characterization for Norman. While it’s pretty clear his feelings towards Emma have played a key part in him choosing to follow her viewpoint over Ray’s this sequence helps in giving a bit more context to those feelings, and it adds a lot more impact to the event that follows as Emma makes one last attempt to force Norman into escaping. It fails, but it reminds Norman that while Emma’s general attitude can be way too reckless for its own good, the way she puts herself out for other people is part of why he cares for her so much. It’s a great scene for both characters although I’ll admit I was slightly let down by how Norman’s feelings towards Emma in this last moment are implied to be largely romantic, whereas in the manga, it’s mixed with a broader sense of admiration for those aforementioned qualities. This isn’t a particularly big deal, but that difference in framing did help a little more in making the manga feel more confident in Emma’s abilities as a protagonist so it’s a little depressing the anime opted to go this route just to make Norman’s exit mildly sadder.

Thankfully I was much happier with the exchange after that, as Isabella has her own final chat with Norman before sending him off to his fate. As she commends him for choosing to protect his friends, Norman asks her if she’s happy with the life she’s lived in the farms. In that moment, Isabella’s guard drops, and while she responds that she is because of being able to meet children like Norman, it’s clear that this was a pretty armor piercing question for her. Much like Krone, Isabella has spent a long time trapped within the cruelty of the farm system, and while she’s managed to survive through this system with a level of privilege that Krone did not, the toll of juggling between the personas of a loving parent and an efficient farmer certainly isn’t as small as she’d like to think it is, even if she deems this necessary to her own survival.

This ties in wonderfully to a later scene in the episode where in the midst of despairing over Norman’s absence, Isabella attempts to “console” Emma by telling her to give up on escaping and instead work to become a Mom like her. While Isabella frames this as something of a kind mercy to Emma, it’s clear that this is really Isabella trying to convince herself that the path she chose for her survival is the only correct one. This makes Emma’s subsequent rejection of her offer all the more poignant as simply surrendering to her circumstances is the one thing she can’t ever bring herself to do. While the anime hasn’t placed quite as much emphasis on Emma and Isabella’s specific mother-daughter relationship as the manga did (a point which coincidentally, is why Kaiu Shirai pushed to give the manga a female protagonist), this nevertheless makes for a really powerful dynamic as the parallels between their respective choices not only makes for a great contrast in their character arcs thus far, but also ties into the story’s broader themes regarding sacrificing others for the sake of one’s own survival. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out in the remaining two episodes, and while I do kind of wish this scene was a little better directed, it still carries a lot of significance in an otherwise packed episode.

With so much going into this one, it almost feels like I’m downplaying things by saying the rest of the episode is pretty much an extended sequence of despair, but it’s certainly well handled. Yet again I’ll give some credit towards the anime’s lack of internal monologue when dealing with this specific set of events as the kids’ reaction to Norman’s demise and the subsequent feelings of emptiness that follow pack a lot more punch when being portrayed from this perspective, and it makes the reversal at the end of the episode feel a little more rewarding as we discover Emma isn’t ready to call quits just yet. With only two episodes left to go, and Ray’s shipment next on Isabella’s agenda, the clock is quickly winding down on the kids’ window to escape, but dark as things are now, hopefully this is just the darkness before the dawn.

Rating: 9/10

 

The Promised Neverland Ep #09 Review

Synopsis: Emma, Ray and Norman are the three smartest children at an orphanage known as Grace Field House. Under the care and guidance of their caretaker known as “Mom”, the children live peaceful lives, with the one condition being that they are never to go beyond the gate that leads to outside of the orphanage. However one day, Emma and Norman discover the truth of what lies beyond the gate, and it’s one that will change their lives forever

The Review

So a lot went down in last week’s episode for better or worse, and since I ended up exhausting myself quite a bit trying to get all my thoughts out there, I’m happy that this one’s a lot less stressful to talk about. “Less” stressful being the keyword here because the story certainly isn’t slowing down, and things are looking particularly dire for Norman this week as the threat of his shipment carries the bulk of this episode’s content. With that in mind, it kind of goes without saying there’s a whole lot of drama packed into this one, and unlike last week’s events, the anime’s specific style of approach in handling this material doesn’t feel at odds with what it needs to convey.

Things start off looking pretty bleak for the kids as everyone tries to process Norman’s predicament, and the implications of Krone’s demise as it hammers home that Isabella means business. The former seems to be hitting Ray especially hard, and he desperately tries to think of any solution that could help save Norman. Once again, it’s kind of interesting to see that for all of Ray’s talk about making rational decisions, he’s the one being the most emotional here, Mariya Ise does a stellar job of conveying just how frustrated he feels about seeing all his plans go up in smoke, and watching Norman being put in harm’s way. Norman himself isn’t handling things much better as we see usual smile crack under the pressure of his own demise and watching the horror of his situation set in on him is just heartbreaking. As has generally been the case with these comparisons, the manga pulled readers directly into Norman’s headspace as he processes what to do next, but this is one instance where I’ll actually say the anime opting to go for something quieter works for the better. While seeing his thoughts certainly ramped up the tension of this crisis in the manga, his character animation here speaks volumes more about the level of fear he’s facing, and the visual direction of how that fear gradually turns into a quiet sense of resolve in choosing to face this situation head on is probably my favorite scene from this adaption so far.

In the end, Norman decides that the best solution is to accept his fate and sacrifice himself so the others can continue working on the escape plan, but Emma and Ray aren’t having any of that. The two of them throw out a few suggestions on how to save him, with the biggest being that he could pretend to escape while hiding out in the woods till the escape starts and that Ray could break a few of his limbs to keep from getting shipped out in his place. These ideas clearly reek of desperation, but they do convey just how much these two care about their friend, and it causes Norman to break down and reveal that he still wants nothing more than to continue living alongside them. As compelling as all three of these characters have been individually we haven’t really seen too much of their dynamic as an actual trio, so this scene really does a lot in helping to sell the bond between them, and while it’s doubtful things are going to end very well for them, it really makes me hope they they can get something of a happy ending.

Norman’s material gets the brunt of the focus here, but there’s some other bits we get as well that are also simultaneously where the anime falls a bit short this time around. One of them is more details on Ray’s past as we learn that he’s actually been aware of the farm’s true nature since literally the very beginning. Turns out he retained some of his memories as an infant and gradually put the pieces together as he got older which does a lot to explain his world view and why he’s maintained such a cynical stance on things, as the terror of the farm system is basically all he’s ever known. Sadly, it’s also a rather big case of the anime telling us and not showing us, as the manga actually does displays the visual details of Ray’s memories to the audience while the anime opts not to. While the scene’s still directed pretty well in spite of that, showing this stuff first hand was both frightening and pretty effective as far as world building goes, so I can’t for the life of me understand why the anime staff thought this approach was a good idea. Still, the scene does what it needs to I guess so I suppose it’s not too big of a deal in the long run. The same pretty much goes for the episode’s climax as Norman goes through with faking his escape only to return and reveal to Emma and Ray that there’s a giant cliff beyond the wall. Ending on that revelation makes for a good cliffhanger, but getting our brief glimpse into what the world outside the farms looks like, only reveals the limitations in the anime’s current visual style as the backgrounds make the forest beyond the farms look bland rather than haunting. Hopefully that’s something the anime will correct in the long run (along with a few other things) but for the moment, it’s bit of a weakness. Aside from those complaints though, I’d say this was a pretty strong episode. My problems with the anime’s direction certainly haven’t gone away, but it’s managed to at least turn it’s focus on character animation into a strength this time around, and if nothing else, I’m glad that this material still feels compelling.

Rating: 8.9/10

The Promised Neverland Episode #08 Review

Synopsis: Emma, Ray and Norman are the three smartest children at an orphanage known as Grace Field House. Under the care and guidance of their caretaker known as “Mom”, the children live peaceful lives, with the one condition being that they are never to go beyond the gate that leads to outside of the orphanage. However one day, Emma and Norman discover the truth of what lies beyond the gate, and it’s one that will change their lives forever

Continue reading “The Promised Neverland Episode #08 Review”

The Promised Neverland Ep #07 Review

Synopsis: Emma, Ray and Norman are the three smartest children at an orphanage known as Grace Field House. Under the care and guidance of their caretaker known as “Mom”, the children live peaceful lives, with the one condition being that they are never to go beyond the gate that leads to outside of the orphanage. However one day, Emma and Norman discover the truth of what lies beyond the gate, and it’s one that will change their lives forever

The Review

We’ve finally gotten past the halfway point for this season, and as the show continues it’s journey towards this arc’s big climax, the level of danger these kids have to run through is only increasing. Said danger makes itself readily apparent in this episode as Sister Krone lays her plans bare, and it’s uncertain exactly how much she can be trusted. Needless to say it makes this episode pretty tense experience, but one that doesn’t quite live up to last week’s level of presentation, and feels a little bit of a low point for the anime’s general approach to the material thus far.

Where we last left things, Krone had finally caught the kids talking about their escape plans, and now knows for certain which of them knows the secrets behind Grace Field. However rather than choosing to ship them out right away, Krone offers to make the kids a deal to ally themselves with her in order to take down Isabella. To that end, Krone not only reveals to them her plans to take away Isabella’s mom position, but that she herself is a child from the farms. Girls who score high enough on the daily tests and are recommend by a Mom, can become Moms themselves and Krone believes that becoming a Mom is the only way she can live life properly as a human under this system. While the fact that Krone and Isabella both hail from the farms shouldn’t be too surprising a revelation to the audience (the manga considered this obvious enough, that it made it explicit as early as its second chapter) it is a detail that the anime has opted to remain vague on, so learning it outright is pretty significant to the story going forward.  In many ways,  it makes the nature of farm system all the more sinister as we now know it’s one that manipulates children who were oppressed by it into becoming the oppressors themselves, something that unfortunately mirrors many real world institutions, and in the case of this show’s criticisms, Japan’s education system.

To that end, it’s fitting that it’s not Norman, but rather Emma, who immediately questions Krone’s sincerity in lending them a hand. Anyone who could grow up under such a system and yet turn around to take advantage of others in the same situation is the type of person who doesn’t really value the lives of others, and it makes sense the overly empathetic Emma would pick up on that issue as she’s someone who frequently concerns herself with the lives and value of other people. Unfortunately the speed at which these particular moments are run through doesn’t quite give them the level of thematic punch I would have preferred, but the intent here comes across well enough, and given that these are points that are pretty vital to the themes of the original manga, I’m glad the anime was relatively straightforward in conveying them.

However while that’s mostly well and good, the anime stumbles a little later on in the episode when Emma and Norman go to have a second talk with Krone and learn what she knows. This scene helps in giving us a little extra exposition as we learn that the farm system has been in place for at least over 30 years (a point that is very significant to the manga’s timeline of events, but one that the anime has decided not to highlight for whatever reason) and that there are humans who exist in equal standing with the demons and live outside the farms. Both are pretty vital clues towards the kids solving the mystery that is the world they currently inhabit, but they aren’t the only ones that learn something new, as Krone deduces from their reactions that the two of them are aware of where the tracking devices are located on their bodies, and that they’re hiding some big secret by choosing to ask her about it in spite of already knowing that information.

While we a lot of good information from this exchange, there’s a pretty notable difference in how this scene was handled compared to it’s manga counterpart. In the manga, this scene was a back and forth battle of wits between the kids and Sister Krone as their thoughts focus on trying to squeeze as much information as they can out of each other, while hiding their actual intentions. As has become the standard for the anime though, it instead attempts to play this scene out from a mostly-horror based angle, and uses various camera angles to portray a sense of foreboding and dread. While this approach has generally worked well enough in a lot of the anime’s other moments, there’s only so much you can really do to add tension to a scene that’s just characters talking about information, and without the shifting internal monologues that helped to make this “battle” fairly entertaining in the manga, it can’t quite escape the grasp of being a basic (if needed) exposition dump and feels kind of limp compared to the rest of the anime’s execution.

Although the makeshift alliance with Krone takes center stage this week, the story makes some advances in a couple of other areas. While Emma and Norman engage with Krone, Isabella receives a mysterious package from headquarters which includes both a camera that Ray requested, and a letter for Krone. The camera is apparently a key component that Ray needs in order to destroy the tracking devices, but Ray also takes a surprising amount of interest in the idea of photography itself and starts snapping pictures of everyone around the house. For a character as jaded as Ray’s been so far, seeing him express enthusiasm about pretty much anything is certainly a sight to behold, and given how this’ll play out in regards to upcoming events, I’m glad the the anime decided to highlight this a little more than the manga did. The letter on the other hand, is a whole other mystery entirely, and one that seems to come with some very unfortunate timing for Krone. Her continued snooping after her conversation with Emma and Norman seems to have led towards her discovering a key weakness that Isabella’s been hiding, but her reaction to the letter suggests she might have bigger things to worry about. This certainly raises the stakes for next week’s episode, and it’s a good thing too, because how things play out there are likely going to determine for me whether or not this adaption has succeeded as a good representation of it’s source material. In the meantime though, what we got here was decent enough and the material was as interesting as always, but it was also probably the first time where I’ve seriously felt like the anime’s adaptional choices resulted in a wholly less engaging experience.

Rating: 8.2/10

 

The Promised Neverland Ep #06 Review

Synopsis: Emma, Ray and Norman are the three smartest children at an orphanage known as Grace Field House. Under the care and guidance of their caretaker known as “Mom”, the children live peaceful lives, with the one condition being that they are never to go beyond the gate that leads to outside of the orphanage. However one day, Emma and Norman discover the truth of what lies beyond the gate, and it’s one that will change their lives forever

 

The Review

We’re back at it again with the Great Grace Field Escape and there’s quite a bit to run through this week. As our trio  of heroes continues to scheme their way through a jailbreak, the consequences of trying to keep the other kids in the dark are finally starting to catch up with them, and it’s finally time to see some of the fallout. This gives the episode some heavier emotional stakes than what we’ve gotten thus far, but as has generally been the case with this adaption so far, my feelings on how this all actually plays out are fairly mixed.

So right off the bat let’s address the elephant in the room: last week’s cliffhanger regarding Don and Gilda being found out when searching Isabella’s secret room. I was honestly really confused with how that was handled last time because the timing and context of the scene was rearranged in a way that felt like a pretty clear divergence from the manga, and one that had me curious if the anime was going to go for a major shakeup in the story.  Turns out though, it was pretty much just a fakeout and the version of that scene as it happens in the manga is done later on the episode without much extra consequence. Given my high level of attachment to the manga, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat relieved the anime didn’t follow through on splitting off from the manga in any major ways, it does feel pretty anti-climactic. Frankly I kind of feel like the time spent here could have been used to cover some of the material the anime glossed over, but that’s neither here nor there and it is what it is at this point.

With that out of the way let’s get to the major points of the episode because both are pretty significant for the story going forward. Emma, Norman, and Ray decide to shift gears towards learning more about the outside world, and to that end, Emma tells Norman and Ray about a mysterious man named William Minerva who seems to be leaving clues in his books that hint at the true nature of the farms. This gives the kids their first clue towards the possibility that humanity is thriving outside of the farms, but also hints that there may be something larger at work here as the word “promise” comes up in one of Minerva’s books, and seems to carry some kind of significant meaning. Meanwhile, Don steals the key to the secret room from Isabella, and he and Gilda go to investigate and learn the truth of what’s happening themselves.

While I haven’t had as many moments where I felt like the anime improved on the manga’s material as I would have preferred so far, the execution here is one of the moments where I have to give the anime’s direction some serious chops. In the manga these two scenes directly followed each other, but here they play out simultaneously, with the show cutting back and forth between the two of them. This really works to the anime’s benefit, as the contrast between the main trio believing that they’ve discovered some newfound hope for everyone, while Don and Gilda are pushed further into despair as the reality of Isabella’s deception fully sinks in on them, is incredibly effective. It helps to make the latter portion feel a lot more haunting than it did in the manga, and makes the build up to Don and Gilda confronting the trio on lying to them about the details of their situation feel more rewarding.

Unfortunately I can’t say I was quite as happy with how said confrontation played out here in the anime. While Don’s outburst over having been lied to and his subsequent feeling of powerlessness over not being strong enough to be a reliable asset both hit hard enough to work for the anime’s sensibilities, the overall fallout doesn’t have quite the same level of emotion as it did in the manga. A lot of the dialogue and panel composition for this part in particular used intense facial expressions to convey Don’s torrent of emotions in a way that gave the scene a surprising amount of sincerity, but the anime’s cleaner artstyle can’t quite capture that same level of raw emotion. The widespan camera work used for both scenes doesn’t help things either, and they end up coming across as less important towards the show’s goals than they should be. This downgrade also extends to some key character moments, as there was a little more build-up to Emma’s realization that she didn’t have enough faith in Don and Gilda, which makes the scene where Emma tells Norman her escape idea feel slightly less earned (although that one can be chalked up to the anime needing to save time). It also ends up harming what was a key moment for Ray’s characterization, as part of his apology to Don everything that happened, was also for having attempted to frame him as a spy. The anime’s decision to cut out character’s thoughts, including cuts to earlier scenes, makes the context of his last line significantly more vague than it needed to be, and it’s a shame since this ties into some later revelations about his character.

Grumpy as I am over how the anime’s handled some of the emotional beats so far, it’s certainly excelling when it comes to the horror angle and that pays off for the episode’s climax. As all of the episodes events play out, the camera occasionally shifts in a way that gives the impression that someone is watching what the kids are doing in every scene, and that ends up resulting in the frightening revelation that Krone was the one keeping an eye on them and now knows for certain that Emma and co are aware of the farm. The manga was a lot more explicit about Krone’s game here, so I really appreciate the way the anime managed to build up to that ending, and while it admittedly might have been a little more effective had the episode cut out right before Krone offered to form an alliance with the kids, I was still pretty satisfied with the results here. All in all, I’d say this episode was a pretty important victory for the anime’s continued drive towards leaning into the horror aesthetic of the series as much as possible since this had by far the best execution of that, but as someone who cares a lot about the feelings behind the scares, I still wish the anime would take that part of the story into consideration more.

Overall: 8.9/10

The Promised Neverland Ep #05 Review

Synopsis: Emma, Ray and Norman are the three smartest children at an orphanage known as Grace Field House. Under the care and guidance of their caretaker known as “Mom”, the children live peaceful lives, with the one condition being that they are never to go beyond the gate that leads to outside of the orphanage. However one day, Emma and Norman discover the truth of what lies beyond the gate, and it’s one that will change their lives forever
The Review

 

Hello everyone, it’s time for yet another weekly edition of the Great Grace Field Escape. Last time things slowed down a bit as the show opted to put most of it’s focus towards making the audience guess who the big snitch was, but with that out of the way, we’re back into some fairly hefty material again. There’s quite a bit to talk about here as our resident traitor lays his full intentions bare, but as always I’ve found my attention equally divided between the weight of the story, and the choices the anime has made in adapting it. This time around though, not only have the anime’s choices made the execution feel a bit different compared to its source material, but has also made the show’s immediate trajectory hard to guess, even as a diehard fan of said source material

Before we get to that though, let’s talk about our good boy, Ray, who’s been outed as the traitor in question. Though he attempts to deny Norman’s claims, when he realizes that fell into the trap Norman set for him, he decides to confess the truth: Not only has he been working for Isabella since he was brought on board for the escape plan, but he’s been her loyal sheepdog for years. Despite the implications of this revelation however, Norman decides to continue trusting Ray since much like Emma said last week, he’s still part of their family. He instead deduces that Ray has actually been operating as a double agent to help with the escape and while there is some truth to that, Ray’s actual intentions prove to be a bit more complicated. He is indeed a double agent, and he’s perfectly willing to lead Emma and Norman to safety, but tells Norman that he’ll only continue helping under the condition that Emma is tricked into leaving the others behind sans Don and Gilda. Norman decides to play along with Ray’s wishes for the time being, and lets Emma know Ray is a double agent without tipping her off to his his game, but the burden of knowing that it’s up to him to shield the others from both Isabella AND Ray is one that may be too much for him.

Once again, I really have to praise the way this series has executed on its character dynamics thus far. In a similar setup, I could have easily scene Ray’s traitor status being hidden for as long as possible to maintain suspense, but we’ve gotten that out of the way pretty early and the focus here is less on the act of his betrayal and more about what’s driving it, which does a lot in helping to make the execution here feel more thoughtful than usual genre conventions would suggest. We’ve known from the last few episodes that Ray is by far the most pragmatic of the trio, but the knowledge that he’s been helping Isabella for years carries some pretty nasty implications, and seeing Emma briefly call him out on having shipped out other kids for the sake of his own information-gathering was equal parts surprising, (especially given her general level of optimism) and chilling to watch as she makes it explicitly clear that she’s not tolerating any other sacrifices going forward. Of course, while he may not be willing to throw Emma and Norman under the bus at the moment, Ray is still operating purely on his own agenda, and seeing the intentions of our core trio continuing to diverge with each episode is really doing a lot to make this conflict feel increasingly fascinating.

Great as this material is though, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find the execution to be a little lacking for me compared to how this sequence of events was handled in the manga. While the show’s direction is strong enough to effectively convey all of the necessary information that Ray’s betrayal carries, the anime’s choice to keep the audience directly out of the headspace of the characters, robs it of some its emotional punch while also making things a little more convoluted than necessary. For instance in the manga, Ray telling Norman that he needed to trick Emma was followed up by Norman directly thinking to himself that he was against the idea and had no intention of following that demand, but also couldn’t ignore the value in making use of Ray’s position. While the scene is still handled well enough in the anime for the audience to likely deduce Norman’s viewpoint anyway, that bit of extra ambiguity concerning it makes the last part of that scene a little sloppier than it could have been, and makes Norman’s following nightmare sequence feel more like a general fear of the kids’ situation than a visual representation of the internal conflict he now finds himself in. Additionally, the episode opts to remove a couple of flashbacks to Ray’s childhood during his and Norman’s conversation, which were helpful in conveying an idea of how long Ray has carried the knowledge of the orphanage’s secret with him and how much it means to him that his plan succeeds. What we get here works fine, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those flashbacks were being saved for later episodes, but I do kind of wish the anime would be a little more flexible on its current horror aesthetic since there are times where it feels like it comes at the cost of the story’s emotional core.

This has been quite a fair bit of nitpicking for me, and we haven’t even gotten to the episode’s cliffhanger yet. After having seemingly put aside the issue of Ray’s allegiance for the moment, Emma tells the others that she and Gilda have discovered a secret room in the house that may be where Isabella keeps in contact with the demons. Don wants to investigate the room, and see what’s inside, but Ray believes it’s a bad idea since there’s no telling what kind of surveillance could be hidden inside it. Despite that warning, Don and Gilda go to check out the room anyway, but now face the possibility of being caught in the act. It’s an effective cliffhanger, but it’s one that has me a little baffled as a manga reader. This scene happened a little later in the manga than it did here, and also played out a bit differently than what the episode’s shown thus far, so I’m genuinely uncertain what exactly is peeking beyond that door for Don and Gilda. Both this series and this adaption have continued to be chock full of surprises, and while I continue to be overly neurotic about the latter, I’m more intrigued than ever for what exactly lies in the future.

Overall: 8.7/10

The Promised Neverland Ep #04 Review

Synopsis: Emma, Ray and Norman are the three smartest children at an orphanage known as Grace Field House. Under the care and guidance of their caretaker known as “Mom”, the children live peaceful lives, with the one condition being that they are never to go beyond the gate that leads to outside of the orphanage. However one day, Emma and Norman discover the truth of what lies beyond the gate, and it’s one that will change their lives forever

The Review

Looks like it’s that time of the week again, as we delve deeper and deeper into the haunting world of The Promised Neverland. My feelings on this adaption have pretty much been one big roller coaster ride thus far, but fortunately I was spared of overthinking any of the anime’s choices this time. because this episode more or less played out how I expected and even ended exactly where I thought it would. Of course while I’m happy I don’t need to go through the extra effort of re-watching this episode to make my thoughts on it coherient, I suppose you’re here to read a review and not my neurotic ramblings so let’s get to it

While Krone decides to kids alone for awhile after last week’s rousing game of tag, Isabella is already onto her plan to oust her, and gives Krone a gentle, but condescending warning to do as she’s told if she ever wants to claim a Mom position. Unsurprisingly, this talk has the opposite effect on Krone who feels thoroughly humiliated, and she’s more determined than ever to root out the suspects. In a weird way, I kind of have to admire her level of determination. Sure she’s plotting to sell these kids out to a horrible death,  but if your smug boss talked down to you the way Isabella’s done since day one, wouldn’t you want to kick them to the curb and give them some comeuppance? Can’t exactly say I’d give Krone any awards for most relatable millenial, but she certainly is fun to watch.

Anyway while Krone starts working on her next scheme, our main trio decides to bring Gilda, and another orphan named Don into the fold. While Ray worries about the danger in bring newcomers on board when there’s the risk one of them could be a spy, Norman assures him he already has a strategy in mind to root out the rat. However, convincing Don and Gilda proves to be a little easier said than done, as Emma and Norman decide to obscure a bit of the truth by telling them that the kids are being sold off to child traffickers rather than eaten by demons, and that Conny and the other victims may still be alive. While Don and Gilda mostly buy into this explanation, it doesn’t sit well with Ray who thinks that they should have been blunt about the situation, and finds it cruel to give them a false sense of hope. Given Ray’s general disdain towards the prospect of saving the other kids, it’s interesting that he’d sympathize with them on this issue, and it gives a subtle impression that there may be a little more to Ray’s perspective than what we’ve been shown thus far.

While our heroes have a couple of additional allies though, that victory is seemingly short lived when Gilda sneaks out her bedroom in the middle of the night to meet with Krone. Emma silently suspects that this could mean that Gilda is the traitor, but it turns out that Krone was trying to lure in Gilda in order to get a read on exactly how much she knows, and to also see if she might make for a useful pawn. Unfortunately for Krone, Gilda is careful not to let anything slip, and while she’s still hot on the tails of Emma and gang, she hasn’t gotten any closer to catching them in the act.

With Gilda off the list of potential spies, Don seems like the next likely candidate, but before deciding to talk to the traitor in question, Norman asks for Emma and Ray’s perspectives on why someone would betray them, and if that traitor should be left behind. Ray deduces that the traitor is most likely being spared from shipping in exchange for selling out the other kids, but in spite of that possibility, Emma feels it’s necessary to save the traitor, not only because letting the other kids escape would likely result in that person’s death, but also because Emma knows her siblings well-enough to feel no one among them is truly evil, and wants to believe in them.

It’s hard not to find her thinking just a little naieve, but it’s equally hard to not want to believe she’s also kind of right, and I really appreciate the level of balance Emma’s optimism brings to this otherwise bleak tale. Norman seems to feel the same way as that sentiment leads him to confront the actual traitor, who turns out to be none other than Ray. With how apathetic Ray’s been towards the other kids, and the fact that he wasn’t present for the initial revelation about the truth behind the farm, it’s easy enough to guess he was the sellout, but it certainly doesn’t make the implications any less shocking as having one of our key players working for the other side is a pretty bold move to lay out this early on in the story. While we don’t yet know the details behind Ray’s supposed betrayal though, one thing that’s for sure is that excited to how that plays out.

Rating: 8.6/10