It’s time for week two of the Spring 2020 anime premieres and there’s still plenty of stuff left to check out. So far the season’s off to a pretty decent start but there’s plenty of room for more promising titles, or piles of trash so let’s see what lies in store. (Sorry I couldn’t come up with an intro that was a little more creative)
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 .
Synopsis: In the developed city of Gatepia close to the Gate, citizens gain access to Kirakuri, an energy fundamental to their way of life and to humanity. But there’s competition in Gatepia, as thousands of corporations seek to become the strongest and obtain the most Kirakuri. Minato, the newest president of Kibo Company, is looking to make it big by hiring the best employees to become the greatest fantasy adventuring company ever!
First Impressions: Mobage adaptions are about as inescapable as isekais so you can always count on getting at least one or two every season and this is here to fill that void. The basic setup here involves a world where there are endless dungeons to explore and dungeon crawling has literally been made into a 9-5 office jon. That’s where our hero comes in as following the passing of his father, he’s asked by his employees to take over his company and lead them in battle. If this sounds like a potentially neat idea for a fantasy premise or at least a parody of one, I’m sorry to say it’s not nearly as interesting as that description implies. Like a lot of mobage adaptions, this feels very much like it was built for people who have already played the game, and while it does at least have the sense to explain the mechanics of how dungeon crawling works in this universe, it all feels pretty by the numbers, with our lead being kinda boring, and his employees all generally filling your standard ensemble of anime sterotypes with the only really interesting gag being that one of them may or may not have a bloodthirsty monster in their bag. The actual dungeon crawling comes off as a little too sacchrine to be engaing either, and I was only about 10 minutes in before I started wondering when the episode would be over. Like most mobage things, this was perfectly harmless, and I’m sure people who’ve actually played the original game might enjoy it, but I’m kinda struggling to even find much to say about it, so that doesn’t really speak well to how much it engaged me. Maybe next time one of these will grab me
Synopsis: Shuichi Kagaya an ordinary high school kid in a boring little town. But when a beautiful classmate is caught in a warehouse fire, he discovers a mysterious power: He can transform into a furry dog with an oversized revolver and a zipper down his back. He saves the girl’s life, sharing his secret with her. But she’s searching for the sister who killed her family, and she doesn’t care how degrading it gets: She will use Shuichi to accomplish her mission…
First Impressions: I know quite a few folks on anitwitter who were excited for this one, but I didn’t know too much other about it other than that it’s apparently pretty horny. It’s very much that, going by the first episode, but I’m not quite sure if I could tell you what the rest of it is. The premiere follows a high school student named Kagaya who seems pretty normal, but is hiding a big secret: his body can transform intoa giant monster that resembles a stuffed mascot. Since he has no idea how he got this power, he tries to keep it on the downlow, but when he uses his powers to save a classmate named Claire, and the animal instincts of his beast form get a little…grabby, she blackmails him into following her around for reasons that aren’t yet clear. Also it seems that Kagaya isn’t the only one around who can transform, and the ability seems to have something to do with some mysterious gold coins that are floating around. That was quite a mouthful, but about all you need to know about this show is that it’s really, REALLY weird. Kagaya’s powers are weird, tying them to his teen hormones is weird, and this whole gosh dang premise is weird, and I’m honestly not sure what to make of this. It seems like something that could be your run-of-the-mill ultraviolent and sex-charged edgefest, but even with how horny the show gets with everything about Claire it seems a little too bizarre even for that, and I have no idea where this is going or what it’s goals are. All that said, I’d sure as heck be lying if I said I wasn’t at least interested because this premiere didn’t leave me with nearly enough to form a solid opinion on the show. It could either be really fascinating, or just the latest in edgelord branded nonsense, and both outcomes seem possible right now, so I feel like I need at least one more episode to form a picture of it. I know that was a lot of rambling, but I guess the point here is…go watch Glepinr I guess? I have no idea what it is, but if nothing else, I can probably guarantee you, you’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Princess Connect! Re: Dive
Synopsis: In the beautiful land of Astraea where a gentle breeze blows, a young man named Yuuki awakens with no memory of his past. There he encounters a guide who has sworn to care for him—Kokkoro, a lovely swordswoman who’s always feeling peckish—Pecorine, and a cat-eared sorceress with a prickly attitude—Karyl. Led by fate, these four come together to form the “Gourmet Guild.”
First Impressions: And here we have mobage adaption #2, or at least I’m assuming it is because it seemed a little too beign to be anything else. This one involves our MC-kun falling from the sky and waking up to find himself being waited on and and foot by a mysterious girl who says she’s here to serve him. I kinda immediately rolled my eyes around this point, but by far the most amusing thing about this is that MC-kun has amnesia, and not typical anime amnesia, but is basically just a helpless infant, which considering how often the reverse tends to happen, got a good chuckle or two out me, as we see MC-kun trying to eat coins because he doesn’t know what money is, or frequently getting carried off by hungry wolves because he can’t defend himself. Sadly that all wasn’t quite funny enough to take away from how saccharine and low stakes the rest of it is, and by the time we got to the revelation that he’s something called a Princess Knight and is presumably destined to unite a bunch of pretty girls to his harem (starting with one who spends nearly the entire episode not realizing two dudes were trying to swipe her sword) I’d already kinda lost interest. If there’s any other positives here, it’s that the show certainly looks good, and while the character designs are kinda generic, there’s some pretty good battle animation towards the end of it, and it’s pretty plesant to look at overall. Once again though, I don’t really have a lot of patience for these mobage adaptions if they’re gonna remain low stakes and mostly built on the assumption you’re already into the game they’re based on so this looks like another easy skip.
Shironeko Project: ZERO Chronicle
Synopsis: The series follows a young adventurer who hails from the Astora Isle, who joins up with a man named Kyle, and the two set out together. After meeting a curious talking white cat and a mysterious young girl, the whole crew uncovers an island in the sky–where Kyle falls into darkness.
First Impressions: Now we’re at mobage adaption #3 but to this one’s credit, it does a much better job at disgusing itself. This one takes place in a world divided among two races with one called the Blacks being ruled by the King of Darkness, and the other being the Whites being ruled by the Queen of Light. If this sounds super on the nose to you, you’re not alone and I can assure you pretty much the entire episode carries that same level of energy. Our nameless protagonist hails from the land of darkness and after an encounter with a powerful knight, he’s given the opportunity to try ascending to the throne and take over the mantle of the King of Darkness so he can bring peace to all. That motivation is all well and good, but the lead up to this felt like it was trying to be edgy for edgy’s sake and none of the writing in the rest of the episode did much to convince me it’ll do anything interesting. On the flip side of things the folks in the kindom of light come off as even blander. and while I’m certain some kind of star-crossed romance will form between our edgy protagonist and the Queen of Light, I can’t say I have any interest in seeing how it gets there. It gets tiring repeating the same point about these mobage adaptions feeling kinda empty to anyone not familar with the source material, and again I give props that this one disguised itself with enough edge that I thought it was based on a light novel at first, but it didn’t have enough to grab me in the end, so it looks like I’m 0-3 on interesting mobage shows this season.
Synopsis: While attending Tensei Academy, Hiiro Ryugasaki ends up acquiring a mysterious smartphone. It comes installed with the popular card game, Shadowverse! Meeting new rivals, facing major tournaments, forging bonds with friends… Shadowverse leads Hiiro to all sorts of new experiences, all that serve to “evolve” him…
First Impressions: It’s time to move on to mobage adaptions to card game adaptions. Okay well I’m pretty sure there is technically a mobile game for this, but it’s presumably closer to how a typical TCG functions so that’s how I’m seeing it. Anyway, I was sorta curious about this both because Shadowverse the game has been around for awhile and I’ve always wondered how it played, and also because I’m a 10-year old at heart and I’m perfectly fine with watching shiny toy commercials if they do a good job of drawing me in. Sadly Shadoverse was lacking on both accounts. The formula for the premiere follows just about every toy based anime cliche you’ve seen before with our lead Hiro dreaming of being able to play the game someday until he happens upon a mysterious smartphone and gets the chance to battle against a skilled player after said player defeats his childhood friend in a card duel and steals her cellphone as a prize. That last bit kinda soured me right away as did Hiro inevitably winning his first battle despite not having ever played the game before, but I could maybe get past that had the episode done one simple thing: explained how the card game works. Sadly it doesn’t do that, and while I guess they’re functioning under the assumption enough people already play the game that they don’t need to do that, this is still being marketed towards kids as a way to further push the game, so doing at least that much seems like a no-brainer. Since I could barely follow what was happening in the game, and the show had kinda lost me everywhere else, there wasn’t really anything for me to latch onto. It certainly looks nice at least, and a little more polished than the footage I’ve seen of the newest Yu-Gi-Oh series, but this doesn’t look like it’ll satisfy my toy show itch quite like I thought it would, so I’ll probably just wait and hold out for that to get simulcasted instead.
The Millionare Detective- Balance: UNLIMITED
Synopsis: Follows the incredibly wealthy Daisuke Kanbe who audaciously solves cases in unconventional ways. Kanbe is assigned to the “Modern Crimes Task Unit” — a unit created to keep problematic officers away from others. There, Kanbe becomes partners with Katou.
First Impressions: This show wasn’t super high on my radar, but bishonen detective shows can be fun when they’re done well, and all the trailers looked kinda interesting so I was sorta curious about. Boy I sure wasn’t expecting what I actually saw. So the basic setup here is extremely straightforward. A former elite detective named Katou is on a case to stop a potential bombing, and in the process he has a run in with a bored billionare named Daisuke who turns out to be his new boss. It seems like it would be pretty standard for a buddy cop show, and in a lot of ways it is, but what I sure didn’t anticipate was…basically everything about Daisuke. From the second he shows up on screen the show wants to tell you that Daisuke is far too cool and smooth for the likes of this earth, and even his theme song (which blares literally EVERY SINGLE TIME HE DOES ANYTHING) feels like something out of a James Bond movie, and it’s just so amazingly ridiculous I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face. The whole gimmick of a character with more money than god certainly isn’t new, but the way Daisuke uses his money to do everything from intentionally causing car crashes that he can pay double reperations for, to literally buying out a bridge to stop a pair of would-be robbers, he feels more like a character out of a Saturday morning cartoon than an anime, but that’s also my aesthetic, so I’m totally down with that. Speaking of the robbers, they were also a pretty good part of the characters, as they had the kind of wannabee Bonny and Clyde energy that almost made me want to see them succeed so I’m glad they weren’t blown to smithreens when Daisuke almost pushed them off a bridge (it’s really hard to keep a straight face while typing any of this). As much as the over-the-top nature of basically everything in this premiere is the primary appeal, it certainly helps that the show looks pretty good doing it, and while it certainly isn’t the slickest looking production from Cloverworks, it nails the cop aesthetic where it needs to, and the 3DCG for the cars isn’t too obnoxious. About my only potential hangup is that I kinda don’t care about Katou yet so I don’t know how well he’ll bounce of Daisuke when they start working together, but everything about Daisuke is so…Daisuke that even if the show doesn’t strike the right balance for a buddy cop comedy, I can still watch it just for him. Since humor is subjective I don’t know if this’ll be everyone’s cup of tea but I had a stupid grin on my face almost the whole way through this, and you bet your bottom dollar I’ll be watching every week
Synopsis: The socially awkward yet genius engineer, Appare Sorano, and the wise but cowardly samurai, Kosame Isshiki, find themselves aimlessly drifting in the sea between Japan and America. In order to earn enough money to get back home, the duo enters a trans-American race in their own steam-powered car. Rivals, bandits, and other trials await them on this race from Los Angeles to New York.
First Impressions: And rounding out my impressions, we have an original project that’s kinda been on my radar ever since it’s been announced. PA Works’s original productions have gradually gotten stranger with time, and it’s hard to imagine getting any stranger than a racing anime that takes place the early 20th century. And when I say racing, I mean racing that looks like it might be shooting to be the anime equivalent to Wacky Races for anyone old enough to remember Dick Dastardly beyond the recent memes for the upcoming Scooby-Doo movie. It’s an odd premise to be sure, but it’s also one that’s pretty much my brand, and I’m happy to say it seems like it might live up to that potential. I say might, because while the first few minutes tease the eventual big race, most of the premiere flashes back to how this all started as we’re introduced to our two leads Appare and Kosame. Appare is an eccentric inventor from a merchant family who dreams of doing the impossible but is lacking in social graces, while Kosame is a bit of an everyman who just wants to get by comfortably until he’s dragged head first into Appare’s shenanigans. It’s a pretty familar dynamic, and the show hasn’t particularly sold me on either character yet, but they have some pretty decent chemistry together, and while nothing they did over the course of the episode had me rolling, I was at least entertained the whole way through. Thankfully it doesn’t seem like we’lln have to wait all the way till the last few episodes for the actual race, because this one ends with our duo ending up on the shores of the U.S. after Appare goes on the lam, and it seems like we’ll get introduced to the rest of the cast pretty quickly. The show also looks pretty polished, as is usually the case with PA Works, and while there’s a little corner cutting here and there, it has a lot of immediate visual appeal, and the 3DCG for the cars seems decent enough that the eventual racing should be pretty fun when we get to that. I’ll admit I’m more interested in the potential of this show than anything that was necessairly in the premiere beyond the first 2 minutes, but those first two minutes seemed close enough to what I wanted that I’m willing to bet on this show reaching it’s potential, and if wacky anime racing seems like something you might be into, I’d say this looks like it may be well worth a shot.
And that’s it for my impressions this time. All in all this looks like a pretty solid season. There’s some promising looking titles, and even the lame stuff wasn’t particularly bad outside of the typical blandness that comes with mobage adaptions. There’s a decent amount of variety too, and it looks like one of those seasons where no matter what your tastes are, you’ll probably find at least one thing to sink your teeth into (unless you’re a shonen fan in which case your only dish is Season 5 of Food Wars which is being served to you way past it’s expiration date). Of course with the virus affecting things worldwide, it’s anyone’s guess how well these shows will hold throughout the season, or if some of them will even finish at all, but hopefully things work out as well as they can. In the meantime, I hope everyone stays safe, and until next time, stay animated.
So normally I’d talk about how nice it is to get away from the cold of winter and finally soak up some warmer weather, but I’m pretty sure you don’t need me to tell you how much everything sucks right now, and I hope all of you are staying as safe as you can. In the meantime, while we’re all holed up at home, waiting for this whole virus situation to be over, we might as well try and escape reality with some new anime. Since I frankly don’t have much else to do in the meantime, the odds are slightly higher I might get around to more stuff than I normally would, but I’d also like to avoid burning myself out, so we’ll see what happens. Now that my rambling’s done, I guess it’s time to kick this off
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 .
Synopsis: Fame. Glory. Power. Anything in your wildest dreams is possible when you reach the top of the Tower of God. Those lucky enough to be chosen by the tower ascend each floor in hopes of fulfilling their dreams, but to succeed, they must complete dangerous and deadly tests along the way. But there are others who can enter the structure on their own free will; these “irregulars” are feared by many and are said to leave chaos and change in their wake. Twenty-Fifth Baam is one such irregular who begins to climb the Tower of God in hopes of reuniting with his childhood friend Rachel, but as he soon discovers, this perilous path will put him in the crosshairs of fierce competitors, untrustworthy rivals and terrifying monsters, and he might not make it out alive…
First Impressions: So this is probably one of the most anticipated things of the season for a lot of folks, and it certainly seems to be the show that Crunchyroll is banking on to carry them through the season, since the original web comic is pretty popular. Personally though, it’s been at least somewhere around a decade since I skimmed through it, and I recall literally nothing about it, so I basically went into this blind and to be honest, I’m not quite sure what to think of it. The most immediately stricking thing about the show (aside from having the Crunchyroll and Webtoon logos blaring through the credits, signifying how much the former banked on this) is the visual style, which from everything, I’ve heard was made to resemble the earliest parts of the webcomic. It’s certainly a unique look, and it very much gives the show a comic like vibe in a way that I haven’t seen a lot of other productions do, but in execution the visuals are kinda a mixed bag. The backgrounds look pretty neat, and rough pencil-like outlines work really well for some of the monster designs, but as far as the human characters go, it makes them all look weirdly flat, and while that’s not too off-putting on it’s own, there’s not a whole ton in the way of fluid animation either, so there are points where it feels a few steps away from being a motion comic. Strange as the artstyle is though, the actual plot is even stranger as the show immediately dumps us into the titular tower, and we’re given more in the way of clunky wordbuilding than we are characters as we don’t really know too much about our lead Ban beyond his desire to find a girl named Rachel who once saved him from some mysterious circumstances and may or may not have made her way to the top of the tower. All of this seems it would make the show a hard pass, but as awkwardly pieced together as all of it is, there’s also something about it that has me kinda curious where it’s headed, and I’m equally curious how much mileage the show will be able to get out of it’s artstyle without going totally off the rails. I can’t say this premiere won me over, but I probably will watch at least a little more of this, so on that end, so I guess for the time being, I’m onboard.
Tamayomi: The Baseball Girls
Synopsis: Yomi Takeda is a pitcher who, after a failed attempt at climbing the ladder in a junior high baseball tournament, vows off the sport when she heads to high school. But after reuniting with her childhood friend Tamaki Yamazaki (the only one to ever catch her special “Magic Throw”), the two head back to the sport once again.
First Impressions: It’s time for another round of cute girls doing cute things, this time with baseball. That was about the only thing I knew about the show going into this, well that and the potential of some yuri-baiting and…yeah it was basically that. This premiere follows a girl named Tama who used to be an ace pitcher on a baseball team, but hung up her hat after middle school until meeting a pair of enthusiastic twins and being reunited with her childhood friend Yomi, who happens to be an excellent catcher, reignites her passion for the game. Annndd…that’s basically the whole premiere. It reminds me quite a bit of Cinderella Nine from a few seasons back, and much like that show it kinda wavers between whether it wants to be an actual sports drama or moe fluff. Thankfully it seems to have a slightly tighter handle on that than Cinderella Nine did, and the sport antics take emphasis, but unfortunently it’s not super compelling on that end. While Tama’s plight concerning the fact that she had to hold back from using her full capabilities in middle school because no one could catch her pitches was at least kind of interesting, that whole hangup is resolved by the end of the episode, which already paints a bad sign that this isn’t going to have any long term stakes, which is kind of a death sentence for a sports drama. Adding onto that, the show is pretty poorly animated, and while it isn’t super wonky looking, it’s already cutting a lot of corners which means there isn’t likely to be much in the way of spectacle. This certainly isn’t a bad show, and I nothing about it really bothered me, but even as I’m sitting here typing this, it’s already starting to fade from my memory which isn’t exactly the best sign. Maybe I’ll give it another episode if the rest of the season is really slow, but right now I’m leaning towards a no.
The 8th Son? Are You Kidding Me?
Synopsis: Shingo Ichinomiya, a 25-year-old man working at a firm company, while thinking of tomorrow’s busy working day, goes to sleep. However, when he woke up, he found himself in a room unknown to him and realized that he is inside a 6-years-old body, taking over his body and mind. He soon learns from the memories of the boy that the boy was born as the youngest child of a poor noble family living in a back country. Having no administrative skill, he can’t do anything to manage the vast land his family has. Fortunately, he is blessed with a very rare talent, the talent of magic. Unfortunately, while his talent could bring prosperity to his family, in his situation it only brought disaster. This is the story of the boy, Wendelin Von Benno Baumeister, opening his own path in a harsh world.
First Impressions: Well folks, it’s time for another round of isekai bingo so let’s see let’s what we can check off here. MC-kun is a boring salaryman who gets reincarnated into another world? Check. MC-kun is in a world where magic exists, and he’s a super special magic user more powerful than god? Check. MC-kun has a harem of pretty girls? Check. Congratulations we’ve already hit bingo and all of this was established before I got even halfway through this premiere. Long story short, this was really boring, and if you’ve seen literally any isekai involving reincarnation, then you’ve pretty much seen everything this has to offer. The main “gimmick” here is of course in the title, where MC-kun gets reincarnated into a poor noble family and is the youngest of eight brothers, but that’s clearly just an excuse for MC-kun to be overpowered and beloved by all, and it matters so little to those endgoals that at least half of MC-kun’s older brothers have the same generic background character designs and are promptly written out of the show before the end of the episode so you can be sure all the focus will be on MC-kun where it should be. In someways, it’s a shame, because an isekai where the protagonist actually DID have a bunch of brothers to compete with, and needed to prove himself and carve out his own identity could at least be mildly interesting, but that’s far too ambitious for this show’s standards, and even for an extremely run of the mill isekai, I struggled to stay awake through the whole premiere. There are certainly worse things out there, but unless you’re really desperate for a new isekai, or looking for a cure to your insomnia, I’d recommend kicking this to the curb.
Synopsis: Single father Kakushi Goto has a secret. He’s a top-selling artist of popular erotic manga, but his impressionable young daughter, Hime, can never find out! Now he’s having to bend over backwards just to keep her inquisitive little mind from discovering what he does for a living. A father-daughter tale of love and laughter.
First Impressions: While I can’t say I was highly anticipating this, it was at least kinda on my radar for this season because it’s original author is the madman behind the cult classic, Sayonara Zetsubo-sensei. Zetsubo-sensei was a pretty wild black comedy in its heyday, and while this show looks like it’ll be a lot lighter in tone, I’m happy to say that the comedy is just as sharp. Much like Zetsubo-sensei, this series seems like it’ll revolve around one primary joke, the joke here being that the main character Kakushi is an author who is desperate to make sure his young daughter Hime never finds out he draws raunchy manga. While it seems like something that could easily get old, the show’s already proven it knows how to get a lot of mileage out of it’s humor, and everything from Kakushi putting on a suit everday to maintain the ruse, even though he prefers to draw in casual clothes, and and a gag about Starbucks patrons being hipster monsters got a lot of good laughs out of me, and made the whole episode go by like a breeze. The visual direction and editing for the comedy helps to play a pretty good part in landing the gags, and while it doesn’t look as wild as the best parts of Zetsubo-sensei, it does give a pretty unique identity of it’s own. Funny as it all is, everything here is brought home by the fact that Kakushi and Hime’s dynamic is totally adorable, and while I’m not a parent, I can definently sympathize with him wanting to keep his hobbies away from his family, and it helps in making the humor here relatable. I don’t know how much momentum the show will have after this, but it’s certainly the best of the premieres I’ve seen so far for this season, and if you’re in the mood for a cute comedy, this may be right up your alley.
Sakura Wars: The Animation
Synopsis: Set in 1940, it’s been 10 years since the great demon invasions, and the World Luxury Operatic Federation has designed a tournament for all to participate in! So how will that work with another impending demonic war?
First Impressions: I don’t really know too much about Sakura Wars other than that it’s a video game franchise that has been around for pretty much forever, and that the most recent entry had the character designs for the girls done by Tite Kubo of Bleach fame. What I ended up watching was…certainly a video game commercial I guess. The most immediately striking thing about this is that’s done entirely in 3DCG which despite having seen vast improvements thanks to productions like Beastars, is still generally not the best mark of quality when it comes to anime productions. As far as this goes, the character models actually come pretty close to the anime cel-shading look that so many similar shows have tried and failed to pull off and the designs for the girls are all pretty cute. Sadly that’s about all I really have to say about this show because the rest of it was a bunch of nonsense that I imagine is only really going to make sense to you if you’ve actually played the game this is based on and I haven’t. About all I really gathered from the premiere is that the girls are part of a revue theatre that doubles as some kind of miltary organization and they’re tasked with looking after a little girl who holds some big mystery. There’s not really a whole lot in the way of explination, and it doesn’t help that the actual combat portion of the show was weirdly where the 3DCG looked the shoddiest, since there was a lot of notable corner cutting in how some of the shots were framed and while it’s far from the worst I’ve seen done with 3DCG on that, it certainly didn’t help to maintain my interest. This is yet another premiere where nothing here stood out as particularly awful, and maybe if it was a 2D production, Kubo’s character designs might have convinced me to maybe give it another episode, but I’m currently not seeing a whole lot of reason to stick with this. Hey, maybe I’ll try out the actual game instead.
Synopsis: In a world where the entire idea of music vanishes from existence, Echo Rec is a young teen who comes across μ, a girl who, oddly enough, has an auxiliary port on her body. Together, they’ll work to rock the foundation of society and bring music back to the world.
First Impressions: This was one of the handful of things that was on my general radar for this season, both because the aesthetic seemed interesting and also because it’s an anime original project helmed by Dai Sato. Dai Sato has been around the block for a long time, and he’s the primary force behind the beloved mecha classic Eureka Seven so he’s certainly capable of some great work, but he’s also worked on stuff like Dai Shogun, which in addition to being a horny mess of a show, is quite literally the single worst animated TV series I’ve ever laid eyes on, so it’s always a coin toss as to which version of Dai Sato we’re gonna get. Thankfully he seems to be a lot closer to his E7 game than his Dai Shogun game, and this premiere has all the hallmarks of a mid 00’s mecha anime. Our hero Echo is a young man from a junkyard town who dreams of exploring the world, but is also content with living his life out quietly until an amnesiac girl named Myu comes crashing into his life, and she turns out to be a player, the only beings capable of wielding giant robots called Equipment and fighting against monsters called the Earless. What follows is pretty straightforward, as the inevitable arrival of an Earless convinces Echo that he wants more to his life after all, and he and Myu start on a journey to explore the world. Cliche as a lot of this is, these are cliches I haven’t really seen done this way in a long time since these kinds of anime original productions seemed to have largely gone out of fashion, and mecha especially had pretty much zero pull in the 2010’s so seeing a new one that isn’t Gundam related is kind of a shock. I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t a sucker for this sort of thing since I’ve certainly consumed plenty of this kind of mecha show in my day, and Eureka Seven in particular was rock solid, so if this ends up coming even halfway near that level of quality it could make for a fun ride. I’ll admit I’m basing a lot of my opinions here on optimism more than anything, since there’s any number of ways this could turn out to be disappointing or boring, but I’ve really missed these kinds of productions so I’m rooting for it to be fun, and I’ll certainly be tuning into it until it gives me a reason not to
Wave, Listen to Me!
Synopsis: The stage is Sapporo, Hokkaido. One night, our heroine, Minare Koda, spills her heartbroken woes to a radio station worker she meets while out drinking one night. The next day, she hears a recording of her pitiful grumbling being played live over the air. Minare storms into the station in a rage, only to then be duped by the station director into doing an impromptu talk show explaining her harsh dialogue. With just one recording, the many eccentric facets of Minare’s life begin to pull every which direction as she falls ever deeper into the world of radio.
First Impressions: This is another one I was kinda curious about, both because I’ve seen the original manga floating around in Crunchyroll’s manga catalog for years, and also because it looks to be a comedy about working adults which is sadly kind of a rarity in anime. The story follows a young woman named Minare who after getting into a drunken ramble over a breakup with her boyfriend, ends up getting dragged into the world of radio, and becomes a talk show host. If that premise sounds kinda weird, the show very much is, and it doesn’t help that it starts in media res with Minare already working on the show, and imagining a scenario where she finds herself face to face with a giant bear, before eventually cycling back to tell us how this all started. I can’t say I didn’t get a kick out of it though, and while the show wasn’t ball-busting levels of funny, Minare’s maniac energy is almost impossible not to laugh at, and her struggles with work and relationships feels down to earth enough to be relatable. Even more than her antics though, what really stood to me was the production from Sunrise, and that the episode had some pretty zany animation to match how wild MInare’s personality is, right down to actually going all out on Minare’s imaginary bear fight. Needless to say I was pretty happy with this one, and while I don’t know if the animation quality will hold the whole way through, the comedy certain seems sharp enough to compensate, and if you’re looking for one that’s a little more adult this season, it looks like it’ll be one heck of a time.
Synopsis: 16th century Firenze, Italy. One girl, One ARTistic ambition!The birthplace of the renaissance era, where art is thriving. In one small corner of this vast city, one sheltered girl’s journey begins. She dreams of becoming an artist, an impossible career for a girl born into a noble family. In those days, art was an exclusively male profession, with woman facing strong discrimination. In spite of these challenges, Arte perseveres with hard work and a positive attitude!
First Impressions: While they can sometimes be hit or miss when it comes to the actual execution, period pieces are almost always something that I’m at least a little curious about so I did kinda wonder what I was going to get here. As it turns out, this is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. The story follows a young noble girl named Arte who dreams of making a living as an artist, and after her father passes away, desperately seeks out an apprenticeship before finding the only person who will take her on in the form of a scruffy looking man named Leo. Leo of course isn’t really interested in taking her on, as women were shunned from the arts during the times of the Rennasaince, and dealing with a spoiled little noble girl specifically seems like it’s more trouble than it’s worth for him. Of course Arte is much scrappier than he realizes, and she eventually wins him over. There isn’t too much here you haven’t seen in other period pieces about women trying to work their way through male-dominated professions, but thankfully the execution here is solid enough to outshine the cliches. Arte comes off as almost immediately likeable both in her energetic personality, and her determimation to live her life the way she wants to, and while she might seem a little too naieve about the latter, she’s far more aware of how difficult that’s going to be than it first seems, and it makes it easy to root for her. Leo also seems like he’ll work as a good counterbalance to her, as he struggled through poverty to get where he is, and it makes his initial dislike of Arte pretty understandable, and I’m kinda curious to see how their relationship will develop as master and apprentice. Visually the show also looks pretty adequate for a period piece if not totally amazing, and it seems like it’ll be a modest enough production to probably hold steady the whole way through, This premiere was very much a “what you see, is what you get” kinda deal, but that’s not always a bad thing, and this was pleasant enough that I’m eager to see where it’s headed in the coming weeks
My Next Live as a Villaness: All Roads Lead to Doom!
Synopsis: Wealthy heiress Katarina Claes is hit in the head with a rock and recovers the memories of her past life. It turns out the world she lives in is the world of the game Fortune Lover, an otome game she was obsessed with in her past life… but she’s been cast as the villain character who tries to foil the protagonist’s romances! The best ending the game has for Katarina is exile, and the worst, death! She’ll have to find a way to avoid triggering the flags of doom, and make her own happy future! The misunderstanding-based screwball love comedy now begins!
First Impressions: I wasn’t super excited for this one, but I’ve been hearing good things about it for awhile so I was really curious to check it out. While isekai stories about characters being reincarnated are pretty much a dime a dozen, isekai with female leads are something of a rarity, or at least compared to the 90’s when that was pretty much the norm so this at least had my attention for that alone, and so far it’s off to a good start. Rather than starting us, at the very beginning of her getting isekai-d the story starts with our heroine Katarina living out a lavish lifestyle as a young noble girl until she hits her head and remembers her past life. From there she slowly pieces together that she’s in an otome game, and that she’s the villaness whose destined to someday get upstaged by the heroine and subsequently exiled or murdered. The setup to that puncline is pretty solid, and from there Katarina spends the remainder of the episode doing her darndest to avoid anything that’ll trigger the game routes that lead to her demise, whether it’s getting engaged to the main pretty boy, or making sure her adopted brother has a happy childhood so he doesn’t grow up to hate her and subsequently get her killed. Unfortunently for her, Katarina is none too bright, and her attempts to save herself tend to backfire more often than not, and to a hilarious result. It’s a pretty good comedy setup, but it’s also one that could get old fast if there wasn’t more to it, so it helps that Katarina is as good-hearted as she is stupid, and seeing her stumble into doing the right thing in the end makes it easy to root for her. It’s possible the show end up squeezing but so much out of its premise, but I had a pretty fun time with it. and if this premiere is any indication, this looks like it’ll more than live up to its reputation
Sing “Yesterday” For Me
Synopsis: Rikuo has graduated from college, but has zero ambition or direction and works in a convenience store. A strange high-school dropout, Haru, keeps coming around with her pet crow. Rikuo still has a crush on his senior Shinako, who is beginning a teaching career, and who shows up in the store one day. Rikuo’s relationships with the girls, and his feelings about his life, keep changing as the story evolves, bringing in other important characters—Rikuo’s co-worker, the coworker’s sister, and a childhood friend of Shinako’s, etc.
First Impressions: I didn’t really know anything about this going in other than that it was a drama centered around and young adult characters, and given that again, this kinda thing is rarer in anime than it probably should be, it’s a genre I’m always eager to check out. Having said all that, I wasn’t expecting this to be as painfully relatable as it is. The series follows a young man named Rikuo, who after graduating college, finds himself drifting by working a part-time job because he has no serious aspirations for the future, and doesn’t see much point in pushing himself towards a serious career if he’s not passionate about anything. His world changes when a mysterious high school girl named Haru starts hanging around him, and he’s reunited with his college crush Shinako. While Rikuo is content to sit by and let his crush go unrequited, Hana’s cheerful attitude convinces him to try taking a chance on asking Shinako out. Unsurprisingly, he ends up getting rejected, but he finds out that he has more in common with Haru than he thinks since like him, she’s the kind of person who’s gotten through life by pretending to be more passionate about it than she actually is, and has the same kind of self-loathing. As a guy who has, and still is kinda drifting through life without purpose, everything about Rikuo’s character felt instantly relatable, and his line towards the end of the show, about attempting to problems that dominate his life only to see that othing really changed afterwards is a sentiment I’ve found myself echoing more times than I’d care to admit. Haru also seems pretty interesting so far, and while the show is maybe a little too casual about how she comes onto Rikuo, it doesn’t seem like it’ll head down any potentially creepy territory. The show also looks pretty good, as is generally expected of Dogakobo productions, and while it looks a little more reserved than some of their comedies, it has a strong atmosphere that really matches the dour mood of the show. This looks like it might be a bit of a slow burn, so it may not be for everyone, but this is probably the closest to home an anime premise has ever really hit for me, and while I don’t know exactly where it’s headed, it looks like it’ll be the drama to beat for the season.
Gal and Dino
Synopsis: After a night of drinking, Kaede wakes up realizing that in her drunken daze she had brought an unexpected guest home—a dinosaur! Kaede just goes with the flow and accepts her new living situation. Now she navigates her daily life while eating, watching TV, and shopping with her prehistoric roommate. Together, the duo enjoys each other’s company as they take on whatever the day brings.
First Impressions: I uh…wasn’t sure what I was gonna get with this, but I was sorta curious about it, because with a title like Gal and Dinosaur how could I not be. After sitting through the premiere I can safely say I watched a show about a gyaru and a dinosaur. That’s it. Much in the same in the same vein as 2018’s Pop Team Epic, the punchline here is that there isn’t really one, and the joke is entirely in how it plays with your expectations and subverts them. The Pop Team Epic comparison mostly stems from the fact that this is also a series being adapted by the folks at Kamikaze Douga, and this has a lot of the same staff. That can definently be seen in the show’s visual style as it’s also a mixed media production, and switches between limited 2D animation, 3DCG, puppetry, and even an extended live-action segment for the entire second half of the episode. It’s very bizarre to say the least, and that weirdness kept my attention pretty much the whole way through. However, while Pop Team’s subversive humor was aided by how utterly bonkers it was, Gal and Dinosaur is a lot more relaxed and subdued so if you’re here expecting a second season of PTE, this definently isn’t that, and I imagine it’ll disappoint some folks. But if the brand of weird I just described to you, seems like something you’d be curious about, I’d certainly say it’s worth seeing at least once. I dunno if this’ll hold my attention quite in the same way PTE did, but I certainly couldn’t look away from it. so I guess it succeeded
Synopsis: It’s the year 2020. The Network has become something humans can no longer do without in their daily lives. But what humans don’t know is that on the other side of the Network is the Digital World, a realm of light and darkness. Nor are they aware of the Digimon who live there. Fifth grader Taichi Yagami’s mother and little sister Hikari went to Shibuya, and now they’re aboard a runaway train. Taichi hurries to Shibuya to save his mother and sister, but the instant he heads toward the station platform… a strange phenomenon befalls the DigiDestined, and Taichi goes to the Digital World!
First Impressions: With the exception of Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh (and even then I kinda associate Pokemon more with the games) there aren’t really a lot of anime from my childhood that stuck with me quite like the Digimon franchise did. While it wore the skin of a toy commercial and very much was one, it also had a lot of heart to it, and the way the original eight kids dealt with their own individual struggles and grew past them over the course of their long journey in the original anime is a story that holds up even now. So when it was announced that Toei was going to straight up reboot the franchise from the beginning, this easily became the thing I was anticipating the most this season, but I wasn’t totally sure what we were going to get. On the one hand this show is coming fresh of Toei’s latest reboot of GeGeGe no Kitaro, which initially seemed liked it was going to be a relatively laid back kids show about weekly ghost hunting shenanigans, only to end up having some pretty powerful allegories for race relations, enviornmentalism, war, and how easy it is for society to demonize groups who don’t fit in with the norms, and since this Digimon reboot shares some of the same staff, that gives it some serious potential. On the other hand, this reboot is also coming off of the Digimon Adventure Tri films which started off promising, only to end up being an absolute mess, and while I’ve heard from some folks in Japan that the recent Last Evolution movie is a significant improvement and a much better send off to that timeline, it’s hard not to be a little skeptical of Toei going for such an obvious cash grab. After the first episode though, my feelings are mostly leaning towards optimism.
Given that the first Digimon Adventure anime is pretty well known, even in the west, I was curious how they were going to make it fresh, and the answer seems to be piling on the mysteries. Instead of immediately pulling the kids into the Digital World, this starts off with a series of mysterious cyber attacks, and our protagonist Taichi (or Tai for all you 20-somethings like me who grew up with the dub) getting dragged into the middle of them before learning that they’re the work of creatures called Digimon who secretly exist on the net. For reasons not yet explained, Taichi has a connection to one of them named Agumon, and together they must work to put an end to the cyber attacks before they lead to a potential nuclear holocaust (yeah I’m not kidding). Those are some pretty high stakes to start a new iteration of a kids’ show with, but while this all seems like it would be a lot to digest, the general direction of the episode does a good job of easing us into the setting, and making the audience naturally curious about everything. While I certainly had my share of skepticism that this was going to play it safe going in, by the end of the episode, I was extremely curious where this would be headed, and that the episode doesn’t end with Taichi and Agumon having completely shut down the cyber attacks soothes my fears that this was going to be more episodic that the original anime was. The atmosphere of the premiere also benefits from the fact that this is probably the best a Digimon TV series has ever looked. As much love as I have for the franchise, it was never exactly a smorgous board of animation, even for the recent films, but this has some pretty neat action cuts, and while I doubt every episode is going to look this good, if it can stay at even half that level of quality, it’d certainly be an improvement over how the original series looked. If I have one serious hangup about this premiere, it’s mainly nostalgia-based in that I liked Digimon Adventure as an ensemble show, and in addition to most of the other kids not properly appearing in this episode besides Koushiro/Izzy, the OP and ED theme songs have me worried that most of the focus is going to be on Taichi and Yamato/Matt, which would be a shame since the other kids are just as great. Still, that’s a worry for the future, and for right now, this is off to a pretty solid start, and whether you’re an old fan of the franchise, or coming into it for the first time, I think there’s enough here to grab your attention.
Hello everyone, and welcome to the 2020’s! The 2010’s were pretty rough for a lot of the world, but it’s a new decade, with new possibilities, new things to hope for, and of course, a lot of new anime. The start of a new year for anime is always interesting to look at, but seeing how a new decade for anime kicks off is especially exciting, which means that the shows this round have that much more to live up to. Much like any other new season of anime though, I’ll be going through this by trying to cover as much as I can, and hopefully still retain my sanity by the time we reach the other end of it, so without any further ado, let’s see how anime’s gearing up for the new decade.
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 .
Synopsis: In a world where the ruined human species has been driven almost to extinction by the monsters that now dominate the land, a forest golem is surprised to find a human child sitting alone in the woods – dirty, barefoot, and in chains. The golem takes little Somali under his protection and the two begin a journey together, traveling through beautiful and dangerous lands where the small girl’s humanity must be kept hidden for her own safety. The golem hopes to find Somali’s parents alive somewhere, but the chances of this are slim; and besides, as far as Somali is concerned, she has already found herself a beloved father.
First Impressions: Between the good things I’ve heard about the original manga, and Crunchyroll’s heavy promotion for it, I was pretty eager to check this one out, and I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint. This series takes place in a world mostly populated by demi-humans and other creatures,and follows the unlikely pair of a golem and a young human child named Somali. The pair is unusual because in this world, golems never leave the forests they’ve been assigned to protect, and humanity was thought to be wiped out after their bigotry towards other species led to a war that resulted in their own demise. As such, the beings of this world don’t seem to take kindly to humans beyond finding them delicious, and the Golem has disguised Somali as a minotaur in order to presumably help them find their family(Somali’s gender is never specified over the course of the episode and I’m assuming that’s probably intentional). I say presumably because this premiere doesn’t actually start with the full explination of why these two are travelling together, but that’s okay because the rest of the show is so dang charming, I’m more than willing to put up with a little extra mystery. While isekai has kinda poisoned the fantasy well for a lot of anime-goers, I’m still personally a sucker for actual fully realized fantasy worlds, and this show seems to be leaning much more towards that aesthetic, right down to having its color pallete and backgrounds resemble something akin to a children’s storybook, which really helps to enhance the atmosphere.
The golem and Somali also seem like they’ll be a pretty fun pair as the golem claims to have no emotions and interacts with the world as though he’s just an observer, so watching him bounce off the much more energetic and precocious Somali was pretty entertaining, and it seems like the journey these two go on may end up teaching the golem a little bit about empathy and emotions, which is always the kind of tale I can get behind. About my only point of worry here would be the fear that this’ll go down the child-grooming route as some similar anime have, or otherwise get into some…uncomfortable territory with Somali, but I’ve been told by manga readers that this story is child-grooming free, and apart from one slightly weird gag towards the end of the episode, it seems like this show will be pretty wholesome, and there shouldn’t be be much to worry about. So far this one is off to a really strong start and if you like more traditional fantasy settings as opposed to isekai, and you’re also in the mood for some heartwarming parent-child dynamics, this one seems like it’ll be a winner.
Synopsis: An unpredictable battle of superpowers. Kaname Sudo, an ordinary high school student, receives an invitation email to try a mysterious app called “Darwin’s Game.” Kaname, upon launching the app, is drawn into a game where players fight one another using superpowers called Sigils. Without knowing the reason for all this, can Kaname survive furious battles against the powerful players who attack him?
First Impressions: While I didn’t know any particular details about the premise, I knew from it’s title and the way folks online were talking about it, that this was probably some kind of death game show, which meant this one had a pretty big hurdle to clear for me. There was a time where I was pretty into stuff like Future Diary and the like, but time has made me far less receptive to how mean-spirited and nilhlistic these kinds of shows tend to be, and they almost always end up telling the exact same story anyway, so my general interest comes down to not how interesting the actual game set-up is, or anything about the actual plot, but rather how stupid the whole thing is, and if it’s amusing enough to enjoy ironically. Luckily (or maybe unfortunently if things get dicey later on) this show was a riot and a half. Right off the bat this show hits pretty much every death game anime trope at full speed, with such staples as generic whitebread protagonist who gets himself sucked into the game by not taking it seriously but somehow ends up with the best power anyway, a psycho killer in a panda costume, and a psycho-yandere who goes from wanting to kill our precious hero to wanting to bone him and bear his children. It’s incredibly dumb, and starting off with an hour-long premiere certainly seemed like a gamble for something this outrageous, but over the course of that time, I went from rolling my eyes, to laughing at how much this show was trying to take all these wacky tropes as seriously as possible. I’ll admit the whole “it’s so bad, it’s good” thing is the kind of viewing experience I rarely have these days since hardly anything hits that sweet spot for me anymore, but this is the closest anything has come to that for me in a good while, and I’m in the mood for it so against my typical judgement, I’ll actually stick with this one for a while. Time will tell if it stays amusing, or gets too mean-spirited or gross to continue on, but for now I’ll give it a cautious recommendation if you’re into irony-watching.
Asteroid in Love
Synopsis: When she was little, Konohata Mira promises a boy she meets at a campsite that they can find a galaxy together. When she enters high school, she joins the astronomy club. But that year, the astronomy club happened to combine with the geology club, making it the astrogeo club?! Won’t you find all kinds of sparkles with the astrogeo girls?
First Impressions: Like always, it wouldn’t be a new season of anime without at least one show about “cute girls doing cute things” and this is a show about cute girls studying geology and asteroids. Similar to the whole death game thing with Darwin’s Game, this is a genre of show that tends not to particularly appeal to me unless it’s got some kind of good X-factor, and the X-factor I typically look for is if the main gimmick or characters feels interesting enough to overcome the usual tropes of this genre. In the case of this show it’s looking like a “maybe” because the actual gimmick here isn’t the geology angle (it’s possible later episodes might dive into that more but the premiere doesn’t seem too concered with it) but rather that the two leads are reunited childhood friends who clearly have the hots for each other. It’s far from unusual for these kinds of shows to have lesbian subtext, and half the appeal for them is that they often take place in worlds where men don’t seem to exist, but the fact that this show opens with the bait-and-switch of having one of the girls thinking that the other is a boy until they’re reunited in high school, but has her no less interested, makes me think there’s a chance this show might actually commit to a romance angle, and I’d certainly be down for a cute love story. Still, there’s plenty of room for this show to walk things back and go the more typical route of “they’re clearly gay, but won’t say it so dudes can pretend they’re straight” that lot of similar stuff falls into, so my optimism might not be entirely founded. For now though, it’s an interesting enough hook that I’m likely to at least give this one or two more episodes to see how much it’s willing to buckle down on that, so I guess it succeeded in getting my attention.
Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story
Synopsis: Few people know the truth: the world is safe thanks to the Magical Girls who are forced to slay Witches. Even though these girls are putting their lives on the line for a wish, rumors say they can be saved in Kamihama City. That’s where Iroha Tamaki is headed in search of answers. She can’t remember the wish she made to Kyubey, but a shadowy figure haunts her dreams.
First Impressions: So like most folks who have kept up with anime for the past decade or so, I’m a pretty big fan of Madoka, and I think the show is a masterpiece. I’m also of a mind that it told a pretty complete story (as long as you pretend Rebellion doesn’t exist) and that we didn’t really need more of it. Of course it made simply far too much money for Aniplex to even consider letting the franchise die, so here we are with a spinoff series that’s being adapted from a mobile game. I’ll admit I wasn’t super jazzed about checking this out since again, I didn’t really need more Madoka, but I was at least kinda curious what we were gonna get and so far it’s…okay. Aesthetically this has all of the polish that made Madoka really stand out as a visual production. The backgrounds look great, and everything from the art design to the music is more or less carried over from the original show, meaning that just about everything here looks gorgeous. It also has a pretty good sense of atmosphere going for it too, as it gets the generally haunting tone that the original Madoka had gone fore pretty well, even if it’s a little less lacking in substance, and while the story so far hasn’t wowed me yet, there’s enough to lean on that I’m at least a little curious to learn about these new characters.
My problem though I guess, is that even though this looks and feels like Madoka, it obviously isn’t going to have the same level of heart since that all largely came down to the very specific story Gen Urobuchi was telling with the original, and I’m not yet convinced that simply mimicking everything I liked about it aestehtically will be enough to make up for that deficiency. Basically this feels like a thing that’s going to appeal to you if you were more interested in the world of Madoka than the story of Madoka (and I do mean that specifically because even though this is technically it’s own thing, it very much assumes you’re familar with all the terms from the original) and I’m not sure I liked that world quite enough to be on board with a version that feels more manufactured. For all my griping though, I was still engaged so I guess for better or worse I’m probably gonna watch this for at least a few more episodes. While I’m obviously not expecting this to hit anywhere near the highs that Madoka proper did, hopefully whatever it does end up ultimately going for is good enough to justify it’s existance.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
Synopsis: First year high schooler Midori Asakusa loves anime so much, she insists that “concept is everything” in animation. Though she draws a variety of ideas in her sketchbook, she hasn’t taken the first step to creating anime, insisting that she can’t do it alone. The producer-type Sayaka Kanamori is the first to notice Asakusa’s genius. Then, when it becomes clear that their classmate, charismatic fashion model Tsubame Mizusaki, really wants to be an animator, they create an animation club to realize the “ultimate world” that exists in their minds.
First Impressions: I’ve been a fan of Maasaki Yuasa’s work as a director ever since I checked out The Tatami Galaxy a few years back, and after Devilman Crybaby blew up into giant phenomenon back in 2018, his perception in the west has gone from niche, to him being rightly celebrated as one of the most ambitious anime directors out there. With that in mind, there was definently a lot to be excited about with him returning to a TV anime project for the first time in a while, and boy did this premiere hit all the right marks, The basic set up here is pretty straightforward as it follows a trio of girls who are passionate about anime creation (well two of them, since one doesn’t have much interest in anime beyond it’s money-making potential) and how the chance encounter of the three of them coming together leads them to work on making their own anime project. If you checked out Shirobako way back in 2014 (and if you haven’t you should correct this gross oversight immediately) this is a pretty similar wheelhouse to that in regards to talking about the actual process behind making anime, but where as Shirobako talked about anime creation from an industry perspective, and all the cynicism that comes with it, Eizouken seems far more interested in talking about the joy of making something new, and the way animation can challenge our imaginations.
This is perhaps best expressed in one of the show’s last scenes, which features the trio imagining that they’re flying a plane through a cityscape with penciled in backgrounds, and the sheer wonder it manages to express in just a couple of minutes, brought such a huge smile to my face that I’m already sitting here wondering when the next episode is coming. If you couldn’t tell from that whole little sphiel, the show looks pretty good, and the folks at Science SARU really get a lot of mileage out of it’s simple character designs as the girls get to be pretty expressive throughout the premiere, and are all chock full of personality. The girls themselves are all very likeable so far too, and I appreciate that in addition to giving them non moe-fied designs in exchange for something a little more in line with what teen girls actually look like, the voice acting also reflects that, and it manages to make them feel immediately distinct from each other. I certainly wasn’t expecting Yuasa to disappoint, but even with that in mind, this is easily the standout premiere for the season thus far, and it’s gonna be a pretty tough one to beat. Whether you’re interested in how anime is made specifically, or just like the joy and wonder of making something new at all, this show’s got you covered, and I’m super excited to chow this one down every week
Synopsis: Sakaido was a famous and very talented detective until the day his daughter was killed, and he committed revenge! Now in jail, he uses his skills to help the police find criminals of cold-blooded crimes through a system that allows him to invade a criminal’s “ID.” But he’ll soon find clues that bring back his daughter’s case!
First Impressions: So I guess I should preface this by saying this is technically a second impression because I actually checked out the first two episodes when Funimation offered an early preview of them on their site a few weeks back. I watched them again both to refresh myself so I could write this, and because I was curious to check out the simuldub (which sounds good, save one performance I’m a little iffy on). Anyway this show is a new original IP from Studio NAZ and director Ei Aoki of Fate/Zero fame. That last part would make this something to look for in theory since Fate/Zero’s quality basically speaks for itself, but that was an adaption, and Ei Aoki’s track record with original anime, extends from Re:Creators which was good, and Aldnoah Zero which is uh…yeah we don’t talk about that one anymore. It was hard to say exactly where this one would fall on that potential spectrum, and having sat through the first two episodes twice, I can safely tell you that I still have no idea. Conceptually there’s a lot of interesting ideas here. A procedural cop drama where the detectives can literally dive into the minds of the killers to study their psychology and hunt them down is an idea that could go in a lot of interesting directions, and I also like the idea of the protagonist apparently being some kind of special prisoner who’s being used as a tool to dive into the minds of these killers, and seems to have lost his daughter to some criminal mastermind who can make people into serial killers. Of course, there’s also plenty of room for that to turn into an overly-edgy mess, and these episodes weirdly haven’t made too strong a case for the show going in either direction. It’s impeccibly well-directed, and I like how the show opens with the mystery of Sakaido finding himself inside the world of one of the killers, and having to recollect what he’s supposed to be doing from there, but I was a little less impressed with the actual serial killer being chased after for these two episodes since the writing there felt a little barren. Still it managed to keep me engaged the whole time, and the warning signs for this turning into nonsense don’t feel like they’re blaring right now, so I’m up with sticking with this for a while. It’s hard to tell exactly what we’ll end up with, given Ei Aoki’s previous track record, but if nothing else it’ll at least grab your attention
Seton Academy: Join the Pack!
Synopsis: Majima Jin hates animals, and yet he finds himself at Seton Academy, a school full of animal students! Can he learn to get along with his classmates?
First Impressions: I’ve gotta say that given how big the furry community is, I’m a little shocked that that “high school harem anime, but with furries” is somehow a thing that didn’t exist until now (well I guess there’s Beastars but it has yet to hit Netflix, so I have no idea if it qualifies as a harem show), meaning there was plenty of potential for this to be at least amusing, if not actively funny. Unfortunently this show squanders pretty much all it’s potential right off the bat. Firstly the main character is pretty unlikeable, and spends a lot of the episode’s runttime being a jerk to a wolf girl and basically everyone except the sole human girl at the high school, who weirdly puts up no objections when he accidentally declaires he wants her to join his “pack”. That set off some minor warning bells in my head which got amplified later on in the episode when MC-kun exposes a zebra girl as faking her relation to horses by…literally lifting up her skirt and exposing her panties to a large crowd of students so they could see her tail. That was pretty gross, and it gets shortly followed up a group of bears attempting to rape the wolf girl and the human girl, which is not only there for the purpose of making MC-kun look better, but ultimately ends up getting played for laughs in the end. Yeeeeaaaaahhhh…this really sucks. It’s a shame this is opting for such mean-spirited and frankly gross “comedy” since again, this could have been fun on paper, and I kinda liked the whole narration about certain animal behaviors, but there’s definently no getting past everything else that’s bad about it. Hard pass.
Sorcerous Stabber Orphen
Synopsis: Orphen is a powerful sorcerer who is notoriously lazy. Everything changes when he finds a way to save his sis, who was turned into a dragon during their days at magic academy. Betrayed by friends who refused to help, Orphen will stop at nothing to track her down, even if he has to go it alone.
First Impressions: I don’t know too much about the original Sorcerous Stabber Orphen anime from way back in the late 90’s. but reboots of old classics seem to be the hip new thing with anime these days, and I was kinda curious to check this out since it’s always interesting to see old stuff get a new coat of paint. Unfortunently this uh…wasn’t very good. This show seems to take place in your standard Dungeons & Dragons fantasy world, and follows the antics of a lone sorceror named Orphan who’s on a quest to track down his lady love that got turned into a dragon. I say “seems to” because this premiere doesn’t really explain much of anything about the actual plot here or eases us into the setting. Instead we’re kinda-sorta introduced to Orphen as a character who starts off beating up a couple of kids who owe him money (well I suppose they’re technically dwarves so they might NOT be kids, but they certainly look, sound, and act like them) and doesn’t get any more likeable from there as he joins them in an attempt to scam some rich people out of their money. It’s the sort of thing that would probably be funnier under the visual direction and style of actual 90’s anime, but for the purposes of this reboot it just felt kind of obnoxious and annoying.
This kinda leads into my other grip with this show, which I guess isn’t as important, but is just kind of personally irritating: if I didn’t know this was a reboot of a 90’s thing, I would never be able to tell by the visual style of this premiere. There’s something to be said for updating the look of a show for modern audiences, and I’m usually pretty okay with that if the core of the material itself is kind timeless, but in the case of this show, the tone lives and breathes the 90’s aesthetic so having this resemble basically any isekai (albiet with slightly better character designs) feels like it’s selling the series short, and it doesn’t help that the actual production looks kinda all over the place. The background art is nice, and there’s a couple of bits of good slapstick with the character animation, but it all meshes together in a way that looks off, and it doesn’t help that there’s a few bits of 3DCG every now and then that only add to the muddied look of this production. I really wish I had liked this more than I did (or at all really), but this felt like a mess, and I found myself looking at the episode’s runttime more than once. Maybe I’ll give the dub a peek if David Matranga comes back as Orphen since I know that was his debut anime role, and I’m kinda curious to see how he’d handle it now, but on the whole this gets a pretty big thumbs-down from me.
BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense
Synopsis: She may be new to gaming, but Maple has found the secret to invincibility! Just put all your skill points into defense until you can’t even move. That works, right? She doesn’t want to experience any pain in the VRMMO game she started playing, and somehow it works better than anyone expected. Now she’s got followers??
First Impressions: It’s the most tedious time of the season again: isekai time. Or at least it would be except well…this one isn’t an isekai surprisingly! Nope, we’re back to the regular shenanigans of people just casually playing a VRMMO and it’s something I didn’t know I kinda missed until now, because considering that the general stakes in most isekai are miniscule anyway, being upfront it, gives the show opportunities to excell in other areas. Surprisingly this premiere actually does that, as in addition to not being an isekai, this particular MMO power fantasy stars a female protagonist named Kaede (or Maple in the game) who mostly just comes off as cute and charming in her strangely specific quest to avoid taking damage, and feels immediately more likeable than most whitebread isekai MC-kuns. While it’s not exactly a big secret that she ends up being pretty overpowered in that area by the end of the episode, the road to her getting there actually turns out to be kinda funny, and I got an especially good laugh out of bit where a little rabbit monster does it’s best to hurt her, only to die trying. In addition to some decent comedy, it’s also got a pretty solid looking production, and while nothing about the backgrounds or the character designs blew me away, it looks polished enough to at least have a bit more of an identity than most isekai stuff, and the visual slapstick was pretty nice. This wasn’t exactly the most impressive premiere of the season, but it was a pleasant little surprise, and one I’ll be happy to watch a little more of.
Synopsis: Every human inhabiting the world of Alcia is branded by a “Count” or a number written on their body. Depending on how each person lives their life, this Count either goes up or down. For Hina’s mother, her total drops to 0 and she’s pulled into the Abyss, never to be seen again. But her mother’s last words send Hina on a quest to find a legendary hero from the Waste War—the fabled Ace!
First Impressions: While I wasn’t “excited” for this one, I was kinda curious, both because I knew Funimation had invested a pretty penny in it, and because I knew the creator was behind Heaven’s Lost Property, which I haven’t seen but I’ve heard enough weird stories about to make me wonder what this was gonna be. Boy do I regret that decision. On the one end, this show is really skeevy, even by light-novel anime standards, as it features our presumed protagonist making his introduction by sexually harassing the heroine in a way that’s clearly supposed to be played “for laughs” but just feels gross instead, and continues that with multiple extended shots of thighs which quickly cease to be sexy and just kind of feel uncomfortable, and eventually getting to the villain of the episode who tries to assault the heroine. Or at least I’m assuming that’s how it goes because it was around that point I checked out of the episode. Even if I didn’t find the content to be a bit too gross for my liking though, the show sure doesn’t have much else going for it, since the visual aesthetic isn’t much to look at, and the writing has what is hands down some of the absolute worst exposition I’ve ever seen (and I’ve sat through a LOT of bad light novel exposition) as when the heroine isn’t getting harassed by someone, she’s having people explain things about the world to her that there’s basically no way she possibly couldn’t know as someone else who lives there and it took me out of the episode almost as much as the skeevy stuff did. Between this and Seton Academy I’m not quite sure which one was the worse premiere to sit through (though I guess at least finished Seton’s first episode so there’s that) but one thing that’s for sure is that I sure won’t be watching any more of this. I’m out.
Synopsis: Ever since he was a boy, Makoto Shiranui dreamed of being a magician just like the famous illusionist, Mamoru Hoshisato, his hero. But after traveling to Tokyo to train under Mamoru, he’s mugged by a mysterious and beautiful female thief! To add insult to injury, his once close childhood friend, Hatena, has no time for him anymore. This is no way to start off his new apprenticeship.
First Impressions: So this appears to be one of Funimation’s new co-productions with Chinese streaming service bilibili now that the two have teamed up, and it’s…certainly something. The basic gist of this seems to center around a girl named Hatena and her younger sister who take a young boy named Makoto into their home after he becomes the apprentice of their father who’s a stage magician. The only catch is Hatena didn’t seem to be aware that Makoto was a boy until they agreed to let him move in, and she’s none too happy about. Also there maybe some actual magic going on this family, and Hatena herself seems to be a magical girl of some sort. It’s kind of odd, but for the most part this premiere is a lot more low-key than that weirdness would suggest as the potential magical girl elements don’t pop up till towards the end of the episode and we instead spend time getting to know Hatena and Makoto. The only issue there is that said time mostly involves Hatena being extremely callous towards Makoto upon finding out he’s a boy (I assumed the joke here was that maybe Hatena is gay, but that this seems to be leaning towards a romance between the two would suggest not unless she swings both ways) and Makoto doesn’t really deserve since by all accounts he generally comes off as a sweet cinnamon roll for the entierty of the episode. That was a bit of a turn-off but not enough of one to totally break my interest because if this does end up being a magical girl show of some kind I’d be totally down for that, since it seems like we rarely get those these days outside of the Precure franchise and whatever new edgy magical girl thing is trying to rip off Madoka. It’s hard to say if this will maintain my interest in the long run, but I’m just curious enough about where this is going that it’s at least worth one more episode.
Synopsis: Kamome Academy is rumored to have many mysteries, the strangest of which involves the mischievous ghost of Hanako-kun. When occult-loving high schooler Nene Yashiro accidentally becomes bonded to him, she uncovers a hidden world of supernatural beings. Now the two of them are conspiring to keep the peace between student and supernatural—that is, if they can only stay out of trouble themselves.
First impressions: While I’ve never read it, I’ve been hearing good things about the manga for a long time, so I was kinda curious what the buzz was about, and boy did this one catch my attention. I’m not super versed in Japanese folktales and superstitions, but the story of Toilet-Bound Hanako is one that’s come up in enough anime that I at least know the general gist of it, so putting a twist on it by making Hanako a boy is pretty neat one, and the show gets some good mileage out of it. A lot of this premiere centers around Hanako helping a young girl named Nene with her crush in ways that feel a lot sillier and mundane than the legend surrounding him would suggest. I’ll admit that the comedy here was kinda hit or miss for me, but the show really grabbed my attention towards the end of the episode when things take a much darker turn. It quickly becomes apparent that Nene’s one-sided crush is more of a way to fill the void in her heart than actually being interested in the guy she’s after, and her attempt to fill that void leads her to accidentally take on a curse that turns her into a fish and nearly has her taken away by a mermaid. Hanako saves her and agrees to turn her back into a human, but only in exchange for her services as an assistant. Basically the whole thing gave off the twisted vibes of old childrens’ fairy tales where wishes would be granted with some unexpected consquences, and that’s an aesthetic I’m totally down for. It helps that the visual style of the show really meshes with that vibe as both the character designs and the background art feel like they could have been ripped straight from your favorite childhood storybook, and it made the darker moments of the episode feel more surreal. Combine all that with a pretty cool opening song, and you’re looking at one of the strongest premieres of the season. I’m not sure if this is gonna opt for a twisted fairy tale of the week scenario, or a more ongoing plot from here on out, but either way I’m down for more, and I really recommend checking this out.
The Case Files of Jeweler Richard
Synopsis: One night, a college student with a strong sense of justice, Seigi Nakata, saved a gorgeous foreigner, Richard, who was being harassed by some drunks. When Seigi found out that Richard was a jeweler, he asked for an appraisal on a ring with a shady history; one which his grandmother had kept secret until she died. The appraisal had revealed her past, truth, and desire. It led Seigi to work as a part-time employee for Richard’s jewelry store, the “Jewelry Etranger” in Ginza. While solving various “mysteries” introduced to the Jewelry Etranger, the relationship between Richard and Seigi gradually changes. However, each of them has secrets they have not told anyone.
First Impressions: This is another one of CR’s co-productions for the season and while I wasn’t super interested in it, I was kinda curious what the deal was here since it’s always nice to see them invest in something that isn’t an isekai. Since this had “Case Files” in the title, I was expecting something of a mystery show, but the premiere was a much more mundane drama involving a college student named Seigi getting involved with a jeweler named Richard in order to return a ring that his grandmother once stole to it’s rightful owner. It’s about as low-key as that description sounds, but it actually manages to get a pretty decent amount of nuance out of it, as both Seigi’s grandmother and the woman she stole from both had to deal with unfair circumstances in their youth, and it makes what could have been a simple act of theft into something a little more thoughtful as we see how that incident changed their circumstances in life. I wasn’t exactly blown away by the storytelling here, but it was kinda nice, and both Seigi and Richard feel like pretty likeable leads even though we don’t really know too much about the latter yet. My only issue here I guess, is that premiere felt like a complete enough experience that I don’t really feel as though I need to see the rest of the show. It’s always possible things could take some crazy turns from here, or the writing quality at least stays as consistent as this episode did, but while I thought this was fine, it doesn’t feel like something that would be a high priority to watch unless this season ends up being really light for me, or it ends up getting a dub. If you do have room for a low-key drama in your schedule though, this seems like it might do you pretty okay.
Smile Down the Runway
Synopsis: Chiyuki Fujito has a dream: to become a Paris Collection model. The problem is that she hasn’t grown past 158cm. As she is too short for a model, everyone around her tells her to give up on her dream. However, no matter what anyone says, she wouldn’t give up. Her classmate, a poor student named Ikuto Tsumura, also has a dream he hasn’t been able to let go of, which is to become a fashion designer. But one day, Chiyuki tells him that it’s “probably impossible” for him, causing him to consider giving it up…?! This is the story of two individuals who wholeheartedly chase after their dreams, despite others telling them that they won’t ever come true.
First Impressions: I’ve never gotten to check it out, but I’ve been vaguely aware of the manga for a while now, and I thought it was kind of interesting to see a series published in a shonen magazine (no matter what the cowards at Kodansha USA want you to believe) tackle the subject of modeling so I’m glad the anime adaption has given me an excuse to check it out. So far this series seems to be off to a pretty solid start. As far as shonen premieres tend to go, this one is pretty by the numbers as we’re introduced to our two protagonists Chiyuki and Ikuto who dream of becoming a model, and fashion designer respectively but have rough circumstances getting in the way of their dreams, For Chiyuki, it’s her height which is considered too short to make for an appealing Paris runway model, and for Ikuto, it’s that he comes from a poor family and has to sacrifice his own dreams in order to keep food on the table. It kinda goes without saying I was a little more drawn into Ikuto’s side of the story since his circumstances feel a little more relatable but both leads come off as plenty likable, and I found myself rooting for them to suceed in going after their dreams. None too surprisingly, a chance encounter between them ends up opening the door to both of them making a step towards their goals, and while a lot of it feels pretty predictable, the payoff is still strong enough that it feels satisfying when it happens. Mostly though, I’m just curious to see how this’ll end up talking about the fashion industry, since that’s a topic I don’t really know much about, and everything here clicked enough that it seems like this’ll be an enjoyable way to learn. The only thing I’m slightly worried about is that I hear the story becomes much more about Ikuto than Chiyuki as it progresses, which I guess isn’t too big a deal considering Ikuto’s side of things was a little stronger here anyway, but it’s just kinda sad when stuff that opts for a dual-protagonist scenario doesn’t go all the way with it. Putting all that aside though, this was pretty solid, and it got enough of my attention to stick with it for awhile
If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die
Synopsis: Passionate music-lover Eripiyo only wants to see her favorite underground pop group, ChamJam, make it to the big stage at Budokan. Because they’ve enriched her life by their very existence, Eri is willing to dedicate everything she has to see this dream fulfilled – even her health. At their last performance she got a crazy nosebleed. Hey, no one said being a super-fan was easy!
First Impressions: This is another series where I’d never read the original manga, but I’ve been vaguely aware of it for a while so it was a bit on my radar. Idol based anime are basically a dime a dozen these days and there’s countless stories about a group of ragtag girls coming together to form a popular idol group, but we’ve never really gotten anything from the perspective of actual idol fans, and the culture surrounding them, which is a void this seems happy to fill. The show primairly centers around a woman known as Eripiyo who becomes an idol fan after listening to a performance by a small idol group called Cham Jam, and is obsessed with Maina, who seems to be their least popular member. Since a lot of idol culture is centered around the worship and commoditization of actual people, it would have been extremely easy for this show to get into creepy territory right off the bat, but the antics of Eripiyo and her other otaku friends feels mostly harmless, and while I’m not personally into idols, as someone who’s stood on long lines at anime conventions for voice actor autographs and the like, I can relate to some of the antics the characters get up to in this premiere, and it helps to make a lot of the humor feel relatable for anyone into some form of nerd culture. It also helps that Eripiyo’s antics are just over the top enough that she almost always gets a laugh no matter how obsessive she’s being, and despite her enthuiasm, she’s respectful enough of Maina to avoid being too pushy around her, which is something Maina herself seems to have picked up if the end of the episode is any indication. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect out of this but I ended up enjoying my time with it. There’s always a chance this could get a little too uncomfortable for it’s own good later on, but for right now, it’s walking that line just well enough that it feels like another safe watch for the season
Synopsis: In a world bursting at the seams with moe monsters and humanoids of the horned sort, which brave heroes will take it upon themselves to review the beastly babes of the red-light district? Can only one be crowned the ultimate title of best girl?
First Impressions: As a heterosexual male, I’d be lying if I said this show wasn’t one of the biggest things on my radar this season. Not necessairly because I thought it would be good, but mostly because I was really curious just how horny it was gonna be, and to what level it was commit to that. Having now actually sat through it, I can safely say this was even hornier than I expected. The show basically opens with two of our leads banging elf and human MILFS respectively before arguing about which one is hotter, and it basically maintains that same level of absurdity throughout the entire episode. At least 1/3rd of the shots in this premiere feature some variant of giant (censored) anime tiddies, and our “heroes” are none too shy about their quest to bang every monster girl under the sun, and rate how good the sex is. It’s so unapologetic about what it is, that it’s kinda hard to be mad about it, but if there’s one thing here that did kinda raise an eyebrow for me it’s that we’re eventually introduced to a third lead in the form of an angel shota who’s both extremely shy and is also is also a hermaphrodite that loses their virginity before the episode’s through. It’s a little weird, but I guess if you were gonna object to anything in this show, there’s well…the rest of the show, so it’s hard to be too prickly about it. If I were to give this show a serious review, I’d say it’s probably way too horny for it’s own good, and far from most people’s cup of tea, but it’s basically impossible for me to be serious about anything this premiere had to offer. If you’re here wondering whether or not I’m gonna keep watching this the answer is: heck yes. It’s definently not good, but it’s the sort of bizaarely horny thing that can only really exist within the realm of anime, and I’m so mystified by this show’s existance, and the fact that it actually made it onto television in any capacity that I’m practically obligated to see how much more insane it’ll get. Odds are I’ll regret this decision a few weeks from now, but for the time being. I guess I’ll be sampling this one every week.
Synopsis: One day, Miu Takigawa suddenly receives a letter notifying her that she has been chosen as a member of a brand-new project. Half in disbelief, she heads over to the location stated on the letter. There, she finds seven other girls summoned there in the same fashion. The girls behold a giant, top-secret facility. They stand in bewilderment as they are told: “You are going to debut for a major record label as an idol group.” A new kind of idol, never-before-seen, is about to be born here.. .
First Impressions: Like I said with Budokan earlier, idol shows are basically a dime a dozen these days, and so many of them follow the exact same formula that I’ve mostly learned to ignore the genre altogether outside new iterations of Love Live. This series on the other hand, seems like it might offer a potential shakeup to the usual formula, as our usual ragtag group of plucky idols who have to gradually come together to take the industry by storm, are instead assembled under the mysterious pretense that they’ve been chosen, and half of them don’t even seem to have much interest in idol work specifically. This is especially true for the main heroine who comes off as so much of an introvert that she seems like the last person who’d get picked for idol work, and she initially rejects the offer, only for circumstances to force her into it. Between that, and the fact that the company that hired these girls features a strange device that issues out commands that must be followed, it seems that this show is definently aiming to be a lot darker than a lot of it’s competition, and might potentially have something to say about the idol industry as a whole. Given the many, err…issues that exist within idol culture, I’d certainly be down for a story like that, and I’m hoping this’ll deliver on that end. So far I like the general direction of the series so far, even if the writing is a little on the nose, but if there’s one serious thing that might end up holding it back a bit it’s that the voice acting for the girls is pretty bad all across the board, and the heroine specifically gives the most stilted performance of the bunch. This is apparently because the seiyuu in question for these characters are actual idols and not professional voice actors, which could certainly be a big problem later on if this show takes a serious turn for the dramatic. For the time being though, it’s at least got me curious, and idol anime have gotten so formulaic that I’m up for something that at least aims to be a little different
Synopsis: Both touched by spirits called yokai, Kotoko and Kuro have gained unique superhuman powers. But to gain her powers Kotoko has given up an eye and a leg, and Kuro’s personal life is in shambles. So when Kotoko suggests they team up to deal with renegades from the spirit world, Kuro doesn’t have many other choices, but Kotoko might just have a few ulterior motives…
First Impressions: It’s been a few years since Blast of Tempest came out, and while I only vaguely remember that show, and don’t know if I’d call it “good”, it was certainly interesting and knowing this is by the same author had my attention. The story here centers around a high school girl named Kotoko who develops a one-sided crush on a college student named Kuro and tries to ask him out. The catch here though is that Kotoko was kidnapped the supernatural as a child in order to be made into their goddess of sorts and is now revered by them, while Kuro has a mysterious power that makes his body poisonous to the supernatural, and makes them afraid of him. It’s odd to say the least, and much like what little I recall of Blast of Tempest, it’s presented in a way that feels just a bit too self-serious for it’s own good. That being said, I did at least find Kotoko to be pretty charming, and I was amused by how forward she was about her crush on Kuro, but without coming off as too comically horny which was a nice change of pace. Kuro on the other hand, I’m not quite as interested in as of yet, but the mystery concerning his power is at least interesting enough that I wanna know more about what the deal is with that. Visually speaking, the show doesn’t look super impressive so far, but the presentation in the premiere felt solid enough that it doesn’t feel like the production’s holding it back, and the yokai designs have been pretty decent thus far. I can’t say I was super impressed with this one, but I figured it would at least be interesting, and I certainly got that much out of it, so I’m up for seeing where the next couple of episodes take it
Synopsis: Mankai Company is a far cry from its glory days as an all-male theater. With only one member left and debt collectors at the door, it’s no wonder Izumi Tachibana finds herself in over her head when she boldly confronts the yakuza’s loan sharks, promising to bring her father’s theater back into the spotlight. She might be able to recruit enough talent, but can they bloom into the actors she needs?
First Impressions: I suppose this technically isn’t the first otome adaption of the season, but I’ve kind of fallen behind on premieres so it’s the first one that I checked out, and I’m kinda glad I did. As I’ve said during other season impression writeups, as a hetero dude, otome game adaptions are kind of inheriently not for me, so whether or not I stick with them typically depends on if there’s some kind of hook that catches my attention. In the case of this show, the hook is that it’s about a theatre troop, and while I wouldn’t really call myself a theatre nerd by any stretch (my journey down that path pretty much ended with getting an acting award in middle school and not much else) as someone who at least masquarades as an acting critic, stories about acting do at least catch my attention. This premiere is pretty straightforward as we get a typical “save the orphanage” plot in regards to a run down theatre troup being on the verge of demolition unless our plucky heroine can recruit enough pretty boy actors to keep it alive. It’s not exactly original, but the execution was done just well enough to keep me at least a little invested the whole way through, and seeing the nearly impossible demands the troupe has to meet in order to keep the lights on, works as a pretty solid hook since I’m already kinda curious how it’s gonna be pulled off. I also really like the heroine so far, since she seems to have a bit more personality than most self-insert otome protagonists do, but I’m not quite as sold on the boys themselves since aside from main one, they haven’t shown too much of themselves beyond stock character archetypes. Still, there’s plenty of time for the show to flesh them out a little bit, and on the whole I thought this was a pretty solid premiere. I’m not totally confident that I’ll stick with this in the long run, since my history with otome game adaptions would suggest that isn’t super likely, but it’s certainly worth at least another couple of episodes.
And that’s it for my seasonal impressions. Gotta say, that while I came across a couple of pretty bad stinkers, on the whole I’m actually feeling really confident about this anime season so far. There’s some really cool stuff in the mix, and plenty of stuff that at least feels solid for what they’re aiming for. More importantly, there’s a lot of variety, and enough needs are being served this time around, that I’m pretty sure you’ll find at least one thing that catches your attention unless shonen slugfests are your particular cup of tea (and even then, there’s always the new season of Haikyu, even it’s technically a sports show). Time will tell if my optimism holds up by the time Spring rolls around, but until then, stay animated.
Synopsis: Drawn to the mystique of the unknown, Hunters travel the world in search of terrifying creatures, incredible riches, and unexplored lands. Gon Freecss is a naive-yet-determined young boy who aspires to join the ranks of these individuals, in order to find his missing father Ging – a master of the profession himself. To reach his goal, he partakes in the formidable Hunter Exam, a series of tests that push the participants to their physical and mental limits, with a Hunter License as the prize. During the exam Gon befriends vengeful Kurapika, doctor-to-be Leorio, and skilled assassin Killua, who have entered for their own reasons. But with the sinister Hisoka standing in their way, will Gon and his friends be able to succeed in obtaining their reward, or even escaping with their lives?
Why You Should Watch: Like I said with My Hero Academia, I’m pretty much a shonen junkie at heart, and when it comes to top-shelf shonen, I can’t think of anything that really out performed this reboot of Hunter x Hunter. I was already fairly familar with the series going into it, having both read some of the manga back when I used to ride the high seas of piracy, and also having been a huge fan of author Yoshihiro Togashi’s previous work, Yu Yu Hakusho, whose anime adaption I had previous considered to basically be the best shonen anime ever made, both because of it’s pacing and the strength of it’s characters and the strength of its material. That still largely remains true, but Hunter x Hunter edges it out in a few areas. For one thing, it’s one of the best looking battle shonen adaptions out there in terms of animation and storyboarding (not that Yu Yu Hakusho slouches on that either), and while the early episodes are a little more conservative on those ends, the show only looks better and better the further it gets into its run. It also does a lot more to play around with the usual tropes of the battle shonen formula, and by extension has more room to play around with its characters and themes. The basic plot of Hunter x Hunter can really be described in one quick sentence: A boy named Gon goes on a journey to track down his missing deadbeat dad, Ging. In the process of getting there though he befriends a child assassin, gets hunted by a murder clown, has duels with death row inmmates, and that’s all just within the first arc of the show.
Like many shonen, Hunter x Hunter is no stranger to the outlandish, but it also goes to great lengths to explain what affects things like a group of superpowered bandits, or an army humanoid monsters would have on an otherwise grounded world, and it both adds to the surrealism, and allows for more serious consequences to the actions taken by the characters than what a lot of similar shonen stories tend to do. That applies even as the show plays around with various genres over the course of it’s run, and whether it’s a story about dealing with the mafia, or being trapped in a giant video game. Togashi puts enough detail into the mechanics of whatever he’s doing that it’s kind of impossible not to roll with it. In effect it kind of makes the series more of a giant toybox for Togashi to throw ideas around in, rather than a big overarching plot, and while having a shonen be so arc heavy sounds like something that would get annoying quickly, it works because it gives Togashi room to explore some really big ideas that a more linear structure wouldn’t allown. The Chimera Ant arc in particular is a great example of that as it takes the sudden emergence of a group of unknown insects and turns it into a powerrful tale about the dual sided nature of humanity, and how we can be capable of both empathy and unspeakable cruelty, making what is technically the show’s biggest detour, into one of it’s biggest highlights. That I feel, really sums up the appeal of Hunter x Hunter, as in the words of Gtying in the final episode “it’s important not to forget about the sidetrips because they’re the ones that hold what you’re really looking for”. It’s a story that’s much more about the journey than the destination (which is fitting since while the show does techinically get to its intended destination, it still leaves some loose ends) and the journey taken is one I’ll never be able to forget.
Synopsis: One night, Madoka has a terrible nightmare – against the backdrop of a desolate landscape, she watches a magical girl battle a terrifying creature, and lose. The next day, the teen’s dream becomes reality when the girl – Homura – arrives at Mitakihara Middle School as a transfer student, mysteriously warning Madoka to stay just the way she is. But when she and her best friend Miki are pulled into a twisted illusion world and meet a magical creature named Kyubey, the pair discovers that magical girls are real, and what’s more, they can choose to become one. All they must do is sign a contract with Kyubey and agree to fight witches that spread despair to the human world, and in return they will be granted a single wish. However, as Homura’s omen suggests, there’s far more to becoming a magical girl than Madoka and Miki realize…
Why You Should Watch: There really isn’t anything I could say about Madoka that hasn’t been said already by people much smarter than me, but that mostly speaks to just how powerful this show became. When I first checked it out way back in 2011, I wasn’t particularly into shojo, or any anime that didn’t feel traditional masculine, let alone magical girl shows, so I found myself being caught between it’s haunting atmosphere and my general aversion to magical girl stuff. I eventually decided to stick with it, and it turned out to be a pretty smart decision. The show’s earliest episodes lure you into something of a false sense of security as Madoka and her friend Sayaka find themselves thrust into the world of magical girls with the help of a fluffy mascot named Kyubei, and while the incredibly nightmare-like designs of the witch labyrinths they explore are terrifying, the show doesn’t really show it’s hand until the infamous twist of episode 3, and everything goes downward into a spiral of darkness from there. As the show progresses Madoka and Sayaka slowly realize that the finer details of being a magical girl might be a little more than they signed up for, and Kyubei isn’t nearly as benovolent as he first appeared as he’s more than happy to twist the emotions of these girls to meet his own ends (quite literally in fact as it turns out to be part of his job description. It all leads to the girls finding their lives torn apart by the cruelty of how the magical girl system actually works, and writer, Gen Urobuchi, takes a genre that is known for it’s unbridled optimism, and adds a shockingly harsh dose of reality to it. The show never pulls any punches on that end, and its commitment to that has spawned many imitators over the course of this decade, making the show perhaps the single most influencial anime since Neon Genesis Evangellion.
Yet, what many of it’s clones have failed to grasp is that while the girls do go through a heavy amount of suffering and cruelty, Urobuchi still understands that hope lies at the core of any magical girl story, and while the show’s ending certainly isn’t a giant pile of sunshine and rainbows, it still champions that hope in the midsts of despair can be powerful, and that it’s always worthwhile to fight for something better, even if the most ideal outcome isn’t always feasible. That message has stuck with me over the years, and it was the show’s great delivery of that message that helped to turn me from someone who avoided magical girl shows like the plague, to a guy who’s more than happy to burn through 200 episodes of Sailor Moon, and check out some Precure . Puella Magi Madoka Magica was and still is, a revolutionary piece of work, and it’s undoubtedly worth checking out if you somehow haven’t already because it’s not just the most influencial and important anime to have come from this decade, it’s a heck of a magical girl show.
Synopsis: Kamba and Shouma Takakura have taken care of their sickly younger sister Himari since their parents disappeared years ago – that is, until the day she died. But as the boys grieve by her hospital bed, Himari sits up, adorned with a strange penguin hat. Suddenly, the three of them are transported to a vibrant world where the hat, using Himari’s body as a puppet, charges these brothers with a task: find the Penguin Drum and their sister’s life will be saved! Now aided by some odd penguins they received in the mail, the duo must find this mysterious item or risk losing the sister they care for so much. However, they aren’t the only ones with their sights on the Penguin Drum, for new enemies await them around every turn, all connected in ways they would have never imagined…
Why You Should Watch: There’s a lot I could say about Penguindrum, whether it’s about its themes or its characters, but I don’t feel like anything I could mention would even begin to give this show justice, and how powerful it is. The story follows a trio of orphaned siblings named Shoma, Kanbe, and their sickly sister Himari who live together happily until one day Himari’s illness kills her, and she’s revived the spirit living inside of a penguin hat who demand her brothers locate something called the Penguindrum if they want to save her life. This leads to them getting mixed up with a young girl named Ringo who’s been secretly stalking her teacher, and things somehow get even weirder from there. The siblings as it turns out, have more than a few secrets of their own, and one that very specifically ties into a real-world terrorist attack, and the burden its left behind on the famlies of the vicitms.
If you couldn’t already tell from how bizarre this all sounds, this is another Kunihiko Ikuhara show, and while I’ve talked about some of his other works from this decade, this one was actually my introduction to him as a director, and his style of work. Similar to Yurikuma Arashi and Sarazanmai, Penguindrum is bursting from the seams with crazy visual metaphors and surreal storyboarding, and while it’s not as well animated as Sarazanmai, the more classical shojo look of both its character designs and backgrounds still make it a visual feast, and it holds up well almost a whole decade later (well as much as it can considered the quality of Sentai’s stateside release for it). I also feel like, compared to the two aforementioned shows, or even Revolutionary Girl Utena, it’s a really great introduction to Ikuhara if you’re coming to his works from a more casual point of view, as the story itself is a little more tightly scripted than some of his other works tend to be, making it entetaining even if you don’t understand everything it’s trying to say, and characters are a lot more fleshed out as well. Shoma, Kanbe, Ringo (who in addition to the best character in the show, is probably the actual protagonist)and all the other members of the cast are given plenty of time to have their motivations explored, and all of them feel like real people, no matter how outlandish their goals might seem at first.
However, even with everything else the show has to offer, the real strength of it lies in what it has to say, and boy howdy does this show has a lot to say. Penguindrum is about a lot of things: the previously mentioned affects of terrorism, unwanted children, parental abuse, and how people can pass the crimes of parents onto their kids. Ultimately though, all of those ideas tie into one core idea, haunting each of the characters: that the past is inescapable, and you’ll be punished for it forever (a theme made more direct by the villain being a literal ghost of the past). But even through all the budens they carry, the show argues that people don’t have to be defined by their pasts or who their parents are, and whether its through finding people who accept you, or choosing who you consider to be family for yourself, you can rise above your circumstances. It’s a message that feel can resonate with a lot of people, and it’s certainly one that hit pretty close to home for me, which is why I’m still looking so fondly back on the show all these years later. There’s been a lot of great anime this decade, but few have captured both the beauty of anime as an artform, and as a tool for storytelling quite like Penguindrum, and it’s not only my favorite anime of the decade, it’s my favorite anime period, and one that I really hope will continue to stand the test of time.
Synopsis: One chilly March day, Kansei University fourth-year Kiyose Haiji (Haiji) encounters Kurahara Kakeru (Kakeru) running uncommonly fast through the streets at night and forces him into living at the Chikusei-so (AKA Aotake). Haiji has a dream and ambition. He became discouraged after suffering an injury in high school, but he wants to run again. He wants to participate in the Hakone Ekiden and show off the running ability he’s been pursuing. He has only one year left to turn that dream and ambition into reality.
Why You Should Watch: I’m a pretty big sucker for the shonen sports formula, and while stories about a group of plucky high school boys coming together to win a tournment before their seniors graduate can get a little repetitive after a while, they tend to embody a lot of the best qualities shonen has to offer so it’s hard to get too upset about it. Now having said all that, Run With the Wind is an interesting sports anime in how far it veers away from that typical formula. For one thing it’s about a group of college boys instead of high schoolers meaning that in addition to being a little more grounded to reality than the typical lineup of pretty boys in this genre, these are all characters who are much closer to actual adulthood, and the uncertanties of things like finding a good job and actual life aspirations. These are also characters who, baring a couple of exceptions, have no serious attachement to the sport their participating, and are mostly amateurs with little experience. That allows this show to be both an effective underdog story, as the members of the Kansei running club really have the odds stacked against them, making every little victory they achieve feel satisfying, while also allowing it to break free from the constraints of a typical sports anime in order to tell a more nuanced story about personal growth. For many of the members of the club, running isn’t so much about winning as it is about bettering themselves and hopefully coming to better terms with the struggles they face, and it allows for the show’s surprisingly minimal drama to be really strong when it needs to.
The boys themselves are also all really fun characters, and while some of them get a little more to do than others, they all feel pretty fleshed out for the most part, and it’s hard not finding at least one that you can kind of relate to (King’s bit towards the end hit really close to home for me). Even if you are in for this purely as sports drama, Run With the Wind certainly doesn’t slouch with it’s productions and while it does cut some corners with the usage of CGI for the running sequences every now and then, on the whole it’s a very polished looking production, and certainly up there with Haikyu when it comes to high-quality sports animation (fitting, since the two shows share some staff). While many sports anime are about how the players have built their lives around the sport, Run with the Wind is more about how the sport has affected the lives of the players themselves, and the way it chooses to wrap up, really drives that home beautifully. Like I said with Chihayafuru, there was a lot of quality sports anime to choose from this decade, but this one really touched me the most on a personal level, and it’s honestly the most I’ve ever enjoyed a sports anime about an ensemble cast as opposed to just mainly following one character (see Hajime no Ippo). It’s a wonderful story, and one that like several others on this list, deserves way more attention than what it’s gotten so far.
Synopsis: When a small-time crook is released from prison, he is determined to turn his life around by apprenticing himself to the great rakugo master Yakumo VIII, inspired by his performance of “Shinigami” during his incarceration. Surprisingly, the old man agrees to train him and brings his new apprentice to his own house to live, giving him the name “Yotaro”, a classical word used in rakugo meaning “fool”. Yakumo has much to teach about the art of rakugo, but both he and his ward Konatsu- a hot-headed young woman whose father was also a famous storyteller- are difficult people with a shared dark past. Yakumo refuses to train her, claiming that the world of rakugo is no place for women, and Konatsu has vowed to kill him, claiming that Yakumo murdered her father!
Why You Should Watch: Like Chihayafuru, this is another one of those things where any basic explination of it’s premise is going to make it sound like the most boring thing on the planet, and that’d be a great disservice to how ridiculously well crafted it is. Rakugo is another thing specific to Japan’s culture that I was unfamilar with, and this show served as a very compelling introduction to it as we learn about it through the eyes of Yakumo, a rakugo master who has lived through some of the most tumltous eras of Japan’s history, and the relationship he formed with another performer named Sukeroku which has more than a little queer subtext on Yakumo’s end. That relationship gets complicated when Sukerou gets mixed up with a geisha named Miyokichi, and it results in a tragedy that continues to haunt Yakumo well into his old age, and leaves him wanting to take the very artform of Rakugo itself with him to the grave. However standing in his way are a reformed Yakuza thug named Yotaro who wants to be Yakumo’s apprentice, and Konatsu, the daughter of Sukeroku and Miyokichi, who was raised by Yakumo and also wants to enter into the world of Rakugo. It’s a tale both about how haunting the past can be, and how certain things are inevitably passed down regardless of our intentions, with the show fittingly framing it’s two seasons between Yakumo’s long and painful recollection of his past taking up the first one, and the second being about how his relationships with Yotaro and Konatsu allow him to better come to terms with that past, and eventually pass on the future of the future of rakugo into their hands.
The show also goes to pretty great lenghts to demonstrate the beauty of Rakugo as an artform thanks to Studio DEEN and director Yuki Taneda’s incredible eye for presentation. You’d think a bunch of sequences featuring people talking to themselves for sometimes half an episode would be incredibly boring, but use of cool visual metaphors, combined with some absolutely stellar voice acting from each of the performers, really sells it’s appeal, and the show does a great job at handling it that as time goes on you can gradually tell the differences between good and bad rakugo performances, and how that effects certain aspects of the story, Speaking of acting, the show also features Akira Ishida giving what is quite possibly the best performances of his career as Yakumo as he plays the character both in his youth and old age, and really gets across how weary and bitter the years have made him. Calling this show “prestige television” sounds a little pretentious, but there really isn’t any other way to describe it, as it’s the kind of slow burn art, that only adults would really appreciate, and while the show almost stumbles with a last-minute tease that threatens to upend it’s most important character dynamics, it remains just vague enoug about it, that you don’t have to think about that if you don’t want to, and it’s easily one of the most powerful dramas of the decade.
Synopsis: Souya Kuroi is a high schooler living a peaceful life despite having no memories of his past. One day, however, his town is attacked by one of the mysterious Nebula Weapons. Together with the cat-like “Sensei” and the gothic lolita Ginko, Soya gets dragged into a battle against… seven superheroes who protect the town! What is Soya’s reason to fight? The answer lies in his memories.
Why You Should Watch: I’ve been a pretty big fan of manga author, Satoshi Mizukami, ever since I read Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer a few years back, and while none of his manga have ever had the opportunity to get anime adaptions (that Spirit Circle in particular doesn’t have one is a crime, because it’s really high up there as one of the best manga I’ve read, period) when it was announced he was going to be putting out an original work with J.C. Staff, I was eager to check it out, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Like some of Mizukami’s other works, the show starts out kinda slow and very weird, with the initial premise involving a boy with amnesia getting mixed up with a group of heroes who are trying to save humanity from a hostile alien threat. The twist here is that the boy in question is a alien himself, but from a different faction than the ones currently invading Earth, and his primary goal is to take out the heroes because of the role their technology played in his world’s destruction. If that sounds like a lot it both is and isn’t as while the show dumps out a lot of information at you, it’s all pretty easy to digest, and the general tone of the show is very tongue-in-cheek about the tropes it’s playing with, and is often quick to get straight to the point of whatever it’s doing, before throwing out new twists that change the nature of the story pretty significantly. In fact, saying it’s quick to the point is kind of an understatement, because Mizukami takes a narrative that any other mecha series would have told over the span of two 26 episode seasons and maybe a couple of films, and grinds it all down into 12 episodes without ever feeling rushed, and it’s an impressive feat in and of itself.
Of course, that wouldn’t mean much of anything if the material itself wasn’t strong, and boy howdy is it. Souya and the heroes are all pretty delightful characters, and even with how many story beats the show has to work through in a 12 episode timespan, it still finds plenty of time to develop them beyonf the archetypes they’re intially presented as, and they feel very relatable and human in their own way (even the giant cat, who is unironically the most heroic character of the whole story). More than anything though, what really makes this show shine is are it’s messages about the dangers of extremism, and demonizing entire races in the name of “righteousness” and how powerful forgiveness and empathy for others can be, as opposed to raw violence. It accomplishes all of this while also just being a lot of fun to watch, both in terms of Mizukami’s weird but effective sense of humor and how he uses that to play with your expectations, and just as a straight up mecha show, as while the production doesn’t look the greatest (and J.C. Staff certainly didn’t spare this show the resources to match how ambitious some of Mizukami’s storyboards got) it’s still pretty solid, and both the 3DCG mecha animation, and the music capture all the energy of a classic super robot anime. It’s a shame this show kinda went under the radar last year (if partially because it wasn’t promoted that well) because it’s really something special, and while I might still be sitting here hoping for a Spirit Circle anime someday, if this is the only work of Mizukami’s we ever get to see animated, he certainly made a heck of a great one.
Synopsis: In the future, a system called Sibyl presides over the country and provides order to every facet of life. It dictates which job fields citizens should go into based on aptitude tests, and can even read each resident’s mental state and predict which ones are likely to commit crimes in the future. Fresh from exams, Akane Tsunemori is beginning her career as an Inspector, a specialized police officer who works to apprehend these latent criminals and stop crimes before they happen. But not all that get caught are eliminated or jailed, some join the police force as Enforcers to provide insight into criminals’ minds, and Akane is warned not to get too close to them, as they’re considered little more than hunting dogs. Though skeptical of this advice, and Sibyl’s judgement, Akane is determined to work together with her Enforcers to protect the peace of her city and its inhabitants.
Why You Should Watch: I should preface this by saying that when I refer to Psycho-Pass, I’m talking strictly the first season, both because I never got around to the movie, and because well…we don’t talk about that second season. With that out of the way, I have to say that I came into this show with some pretty high expectations back in the day, both because it was coming of the heels of Gen Urobuchi’s success with Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and also because the character designs were being done with Akira Amano of Reborn! fame, meaning they were gonna look pretty stellar. Typically setting my expectations through the roof has tended to result in disappointment, but in the case of this show, it met my expectations and then some. While it isn’t exactly my favorite anime genre, I’m pretty into sci-fi and cyberpunk especially is an aesthetic I can really get behind. This show really runs with that from a visual standpoint, as a lot of the style really harkens back to some of the best elements of Ghost in the Shell, and it’s a strong looking production both in terms of animation, and it’s great musical score. The story actually being told here is what really makes it shine though, as Psycho-Pass depicts a futuristic dystopia where Japan has isolated itself from the rest of the world, and has created an “perfect” society through use of the Sybil Systerm which can scan brain waves to detect a person’s potential for criminal behavior and punish them accordingly. It’s a concept that is equal parts interesting and extremely dangerous, and the show allows us to view it through the lenses of Akane, a rookie detective whose capacity for crime is deemed incredibly low, and Kogami, a veteran enforcer whose duty it is to punish criminals Sybil has judged, and kept on a leash by the system as he and the other enforcers are deemed to have a high capacity for becoming criminals.
Much of the show’s early episodes function as a procedural crime thriller with Akane and the enforcers dealing with a variety of criminals who are either trying to hide within the system or have little fear of it. Many of these criminals are manipulated by the show’s primary antagonist, Makishima, a man who is clearly a dangerous and charasmatic killer, but has been deemed by Sybil to have no capacity for crimes, and thus isn’t a target for enforcement. Makishima’s schemes serve as the driving force behind the show’s second half as he sets out to expose Sybil as a dangerous system that can be easily exploited, and sets out to sow as much chaos as possible by demonstrating how apathetic it can make society as a whole. While this all sounds a little theatrical, it ultimately serves as a pretty strong allegory for our own strict adherance to laws, and how bystander syndrome can cause us to easily ignore atrocities commited right in front of us. The show argues as to how much these laws can actually protect people, and if not, whether or not they should be ripped apart entirely. As is often the case with Urobuchi’s writing, the answer he comes to on this isn’t an entirely happy one, but it’s certainly powerful, and while the actual plot gets a little over the top towards the home stretch, it still manages to deliver on that answer in a way that sticks with you. Psycho-Pass is a really cool and really compelling piece of allegorical sci-fi, and while neither of it’s sequel seasons seem to quite get what that allegory was supposed to be, the first season is self-contained enough that you don’t really need to bother with them anyway, and it’s definently the genre standout for the decade.
Synopsis: When Jonathan Joestar was just a baby, his mother tragically died in a carriage accident, and his father George was saved by the kindness of a stranger, Dario Brando. At least, that’s what George believed, unbeknownst to him that Dario was just attempting to steal from the victims. Thus, when Dario later dies and his son, Dio, comes to his doorstep, the wealthy George eagerly adopts the boy. But what should have become a budding friendship between two siblings quickly becomes a nightmare for poor Jonathan, as Dio is cruel, calculating and will go to great lengths to become George’s primary heir. Little does Jonathan know that this unfortunate childhood is only the harbinger of things to come…
Why You Should Watch: So I know it’s kind of cheating to list Jojo’s without picking a specific part, but picking which of the parts is your favorite is kind of like picking your favorite child (the correct answer so far is Diamond is Unbreakable you simpletons) and pretty much everyone’s answer is going to be different. It hardly matters though because in all honestly, pretty much all of Jojo’s is great and each season has it’s own charms. On the surface, Jojo’s is a pretty straightforward battle of good and evil, pitting the (mostly) heroic Joestar family against the vampire Dio Brando, and basically anyone his influence has effected by extension. What’s helped to make it such an enduring franchise though, ultimately comes down to three things. Firstly that it’s extremely adapable as each arc, or part as they’re called, follows a different protagonist from the Joestar bloodline making each part it’s own story, and allowing the series to constantly try new things with it’s characters, settings and themes, making it pretty likely you’ll find at least one arc will have something that appeals to you. That adaptability even applies to how the show structures it’s fights as it rather famously abandons hand-to-hand combat after Part 2, in favor of more strategic battles involving psychic ghosts called Stands that all have their own specific abilities, and it makes almost every battle in Jojo’s it’s own unique puzzle to solve, which means it’s rarely boring. Second, it’s absolutely bursting with style, and whether it’s the increasingly outlandish fashion choices for the characters, or their signature poses, Jojo’s has a unique look all its own, and David Production’s work on the anime takes that ball and runs with, as each new season has an increasingly unique sense of color of and storyboarding, and while it’s rarely well-animated, it’s directed so well those shortcomings are almost never apparent. Lastly, and very true to the show’s name, it’s very bizarre, and throws in everything from talking cyborg nazis to vampires that can stop time and shoot lasers from their eyes, while somehow making all of it never feel out of place or like the series is trying too hard to one-up itself in insanity. It’s a strange, but incredibly fun formula, and while it goes through many different changes in style, it’s heart consistently beats with the same level of sincerity as any other shonen franchise, and series creator Hirohiro Araki’s passion for it can always be felt throughout. Jojo’s is very odd for a shonen series and there really is nothing else out there quite like it, but it’s that oddness and it’s consistent willingness to evolve that have allowed it to endure so well over the years, and however much more of the franchise we get animated, I’ll always be eager to check it out.
Synopsis: Ten years before Shirou Emiya’s and Saber’s fateful meeting, Japan is the stage for the fourth Holy Grail War. Seven Masters, each with his own dreams, step forward to win the boon of the mystic relic. Into this fray comes Kiritsugu Emiya, the enigmatic “Mage Killer” who wants to use the Grail to make a better world. Can he, paired with the indomitable Saber win the War? Or will he fall to the ambitions of the other mages?
Why You Should Watch: In my early years of anime fandom, Fate only really existed as the 2006 adaption of Fate/Stay Night from Studio DEEN, which wasn’t very good, and which diehard Type Moon fans insisted was a poor representation of the material. Today, it’s nearly impossible to be a dedicated anime fan without having heard about Fate, and there’s at least two or three new anime projects coming out fot the franchise every year. That massive explosion in popularity can be largely attributed to Fate/Zero, and how the team at ufotable adapted the original novel from Gen Urobuchi. Much like Fate/Stay Night, which this series is a prequel to, the basic set up of this show involves a battle between seven mages who have each summoned a heroic warrior of legend dubbed “Servants” to do their bidding in order to win the Holy Grail and have their wish granted by it. It’s a pretty good setup for an action show, and the production really takes advantage of that, as the fight scenes all look fantastic, and the show takes full advantage of digital effects to make every Servant’s ability stand-out and look as cool as possible.
The character writing is no slouch here either, as the show also takes advantage of the Servants all being based off of historical figures of legend from our own world, to give each of them unique personalities and perspectives that bounce off of their respective masters, and influence the actions they take over the course of the series. Whether it’s Rider teaching Waver how to loosen up and fight his own battles, or Gilgamesh slowly convincing Kirei to give into his dark side and go from priest to absolute monster, these dynamics are a ton of fun to watch, and they help to turn what could have otherwise been a straightforward battle royal, into a more complex look at varying ideologies and morality. That can best be seen through the arc of the protagonist Kiritsugu and his servant Saber as he wishes to use the Grail to save the world, and be a hero, only to find himself wondering if there truly is a way in which all people can be saved, and if he can even save himself from the things he’s done on the path to his goal. It’s all really compelling material and the best part about it is that despite being a prequel (and also despite what diehard fans of the franchise will tell you) it’s a perfectly self-contained story that doesn’t require any prior knowledge of Fate, and doesn’t require you to commit to the rest of the franchise if you don’t want to. Frankly nothing else from the franchise has kind of measured up to it, which is kind of a shame, but for what’s effectively served as a new-ish starting point into such a massive franchise, it’s hard to think of anything as well-executed as this was.
Synopsis: The protagonist Akira Fudo learns from his best friend, Ryo Asuka, that an ancient race of demons has returned to take back the world from humans. Ryo tells Akira that the only way to defeat the demons is to incorporate their supernatural powers, and suggests that he unite with a demon himself. Akira succeeds in transforming into Devilman, who possesses both the powers of a demon and the soul of a human. The battle of Devilman and Akira Fudo begins.
Why You Should Watch: Devilman was always one of those things in the anime sphere that I was vaguely aware of, but never gave much thought beyond acknolweding how influencial it was. Now that we’ve gotten a retelling of Go Nagai’s original tale from the mind of the crimininal underrated director Masaaki Yuasa, I can see why. As is kind of evident by it’s title, Devilman Crybaby starts off as a superhero tale of sorts with the protagonist Akira being a mild mannered teen until he goes to a rave with his friend Ryo one night, and gets possessed by a devil, turning him into the titular Devilman, who goes toe-to-toe with various demonic threats surrounding him. However as the story progresses and the devils Akira faces prove to be more complex beings than he first thought, it evolves into a cautionary tale about how easy it is for society to label those who don’t fit into it’s norms as threats that must be exterminated, and the horrors that can be committed in the name of fighting that percieved threat. It is this aspect of humanity that the show argues is the real danger, and the conclusion it comes to on that end, while extremely depressing, hits in a way that will absolutely leave an impact on you. At the same time though, the show isn’t totally devoid of hope, and while pretty much every character gets put through the meat grinder, it shows that love and compassion can be powerful in dire circumstances, even if our self-destructive nature tends to prevail over that. Those messages are aided by the show’s unique visual design which mixes flash and traditional 2D animation to give it a look that can grasp both the simple and gentler side of human natue and the violent destruction that lurks beneath it. While time will tell exactly what kind of impact this adaption leaves on anime going forward, it certainly left an impact on me, and as my main introduction into Go Nagai’s work, it was one heck of a first impression.
The year 2019 is slowly winding down, and with it, the end of this long, long decade. There’s been a lot of wild changes in the world over the past 10 years, some for the best and others…not so much. One thing that hasn’t changed though, is that there’s still a ton of anime coming out every single year and way too much of it for any one person to see no matter how much free time you have. Since we’re getting ready to head into a new decade, I felt like it was only proper to talk about some of the best anime the 2010’s had to offer, and while there was a lot of great stuff that came out during this time, I’ve managed to wittle it down to what I thought were 25 of the strongest shows to come out of the decade.
In the spirit of the season, I’ll be listing off one show per day between now and December 25th, so there’ll be something new here every day until then unless my schedule gets weird. With all that out of the way, let’s hop to it
Synopsis: Over a century ago, mankind was devoured by giant beings of unknown intelligence and origin known as Titans – creatures that eat humans alive indiscriminately and for no apparent reason. The remaining population has managed to survive the last hundred years only by building a multi-walled city capable of keeping the Titans at bay, training military recruits to patrol the perimeter and gather intelligence about their mysterious foe. Eren and Mikasa have lived a relatively peaceful life behind the city’s walls, but when a massive Titan appears, smashing the outer barrier and unleashing a wave of terror, their lives are brutally changed forever…
Why You Should Watch: While my feelings towards the series have kind of diminished over the years, it’s hard to deny how *pardon the pun* colossal of a hit this show turned out to be. The series starts off with a strong hook regarding humanity’s fear of the Titans and Eren’s desire to fight back against a seemingly unstoppable threat and only gets more intense from there as the scale of the story escalates the deeper it goes in, until it eventually evolves into an exploration of military fascism and the demonization of other races. It’s also cool as heck to look at and chief director Tetsuro Araki of Death Note fame, and Studio WIT did a fantastic job of transforming the manga’s unique, but kinda ugly art, into a glorious action spectacle with some city scaling parkour that would make Spiderman blush, and the battles between the Titans themselves constantly hovering somewhere between giant mecha battles and wrestling matches. Sadly the show’s very…messy mixed messaging regarding it’s darker themes kept it from making the cut for this list, but when it comes to the biggest hits of the decade, almost nothing’s managed to scale up to this one.
GeGeGe no Kitaro (2018)
Synopsis: Nearly twenty years into the 21st century, people have forgotten the existence of Yokai. When a number of unexplainable phenomena plague adults of the human world with confusion and chaos, thirteen-year-old Mana writes a letter to the Yokai Post in search of answers, only to be greeted by Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro…
Why You Should Watch: With how much Dragonball fans have been screaming at Toei to put out a sequel to Dragonball Super, you’d be forgiven for thinking Kitaro was a lame replacement with not a whole lot to offer. However you’d also be dead wrong as while the show carries itself with the outward charm of a fun kids’ show, it’s also one with a pretty good horror aesthetic, and uses it’s episodic premise to explore themes such as human trafficking, worker exploitation, and how hatred can spiral violence. It can pretty dark for a kids show, and never pulls any punches despite its target demographic, as not all of it’s stories have a happy ending. Even with all that in mind though, it still knows how to cut loose and be fun, and Kitaro and his band of yokai pals make for a pretty charming cast of characters to hang out with every week. This might not be the most exciting show out there for most audiences, but if you aren’t afraid of checking out kids’ shows, and you’re in the mood for something spooky, Kitaro’s been one heck of a ride, and it could certainly use more love
Synopsis: The teen adolescence story revolves around the coming-of-age of boys in a junior high school’s soft tennis team, which is on the verge of shutting down. Touma Shinjou asks Maki Katsuragi to join the team for his vaunted abilities, and mentions a summer competition. Katsuragi asks for money in return for joining the team.
Why You Should Watch: Honestly it really feels like this show should have made the cut for this list, and I was very tempted to put it there, but as of the time this has been written the show hasn’t ended yet and since there’s still the (slim) possibility it could faceplant in the final act, I’d feel weird including it on something like this. All that said, this is still more than worth checking out. Series director Kazuki Akane had a pretty good track record going for him with his work on The Vision of Escaflowne and Noein to your other self, with both shows mixing cool fantasy elements with heartfelt coming of age stories and solid character drama. While Stars Align is a lot more grounded than either of those shows it certainly isn’t any less lacking in the drama department and has used its premise of a dysfunctional middle school soft tennis club to discuss abusive parenting, and LGBT topics, with episode 8 in particular offering one of the most gentle looks on transgender and non-binary people that I’ve ever seen in an anime, and it was more than a little eye-opening for me. Again, I feel pretty bad not having it on the proper list here, but if you haven’t already checked the show out, it’s far and away the strongest thing the Fall 2019 anime season has had to offer, and it’s more than worth your time.
Synopsis: Around the end of the millennium, Viking, the mightiest but atrocious tribe, had been outbreaking everywhere. Thorfinn, the son of the greatest warrior, lived his childhood in the battlefield. He was seeking the land of reverie called Vinland. This is the story of a true warrior in an age of turmoil.
Why You Should Watch: This is another one I’d include if the show wasn’t still airing, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less interesting. Historical fiction isn’t exactly an uncommon topic for anime, but the time of the Vikings is one that media barely covers in general, despite the myths about them, and this series dives headlong into their culture and the various conflicts of that time period through the eyes of Thorfinn, a young boy who wants revenge for his father’s murderer, and Askeladd, the guy who killed Thorfinn’s dear old dad and runs his own band of Vikings who pillage the countryside, and hire themselves out as mercenaries to whoever pays the highest. While all of that sounds like a formula for some testosterone-fueled action, and there’s certainly no shortage of that given that this is a Studio WIT production, it places even more emphasis on the futility of violence, and how it’s a cycle that can only be escaped by making the conscious choice to live for something better. It’s a lesson that hasn’t quite hit Thorfinn just yet, but the path to him getting there has been a fantastic watch, and with how effortlessly the show’s managed to go into it’s heavier topics, it’s not hard to see why it’s source material has been held in such high regard, and so far, the anime adaption’s proven to be one of 2019’s strongest offerings.
Synopsis: 30 years ago, a massive firestorm tore through half of the world’s cities, bringing the planet to its knees and giving birth to fire-wielding mutants known as Burnish. Now, a powerful mutant terrorist group who calls themselves Mad Burnish, lead by the soft-spoken Lio, threatens to destroy the earth again in a blaze of hellfire. The only thing that stands in their way is the Burning Rescue Fire Department and their hot-headed leader Galo. As these two burning forces collide, with the world as their battlefield, who will come out victorious?
Why You Should Watch: While I wouldn’t exactly call myself the biggest fan of Hiroyuki Imaishi or the general aesthetic he’s helped make Studio Trigger known for, I’d be lying if I said his stuff wasn’t a whole lot of fun to watch, and Gurren Laggan and Kill la Kill are two of my favorite action shows to watch if I want to get my blood pumping. Still even with that in mind, it’s hard to think of anything that quite encapsulates Trigger’s style quite like Promare. Like it’s aforementioned predecessors, Promare is a loud bombastic action spectacle filled with even louder characters and some incredibly stylish battle animation cuts, while also having a unique visual style that blends 2D animation and 3DCG in a way that gives the film an almost comic-book feel not unlike Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. What really makes this particular project special though is that while Imaishi certainly hasn’t been shy about addressing topics like the power of non-conformity in his previous works, this one is definently the most blunt about what it wants to say, and dives surprisingly deep into the treatment of minorities by government enforcers (they’re called the Freeze Force for a reason guys) and the looming threat of global warming, all while maintaining the usual level of fun and high energy that Trigger productions are known for. Sadly it’s commitment to the typical Trigger aesthetic kind of cuts some of it’s thematic ambitions short, but it manages to cram everything great about Trigger shows into a tidy 2-hour package so it’s hard to be too critical about it. Plus it’s given us the most popular gay pairing to an action thing aimed at dudes in recent memory, and anything bold enough to be as unsubtle about that as possible is pretty cool in my book.
Synopsis: In Japan’s Warring States period, Lord Daigo Kagemitsu makes a pact with 12 demons, exchanging his unborn son for the prosperity of his lands. The child is born malformed and is set adrift in a river, while Kagemitsu’s lands thrive as promised. Years later, young thief Dororo encounters the mysterious “Hyakkimaru”, a boy whose arms are blades and whose visionless eyes seem able to see monsters.
Why You Should Watch: I’ll admit I’ve never been the biggest fan of the show’s director, Kazuhiro Furuhashi, since a lot of his work on the Rurouni Kenshin franchise made the series needlessly edgier than it’s source material and subsequently misunderstood it’s ending (the less said about Rurouni Kenshin: Reflections the better). Still, it’s pretty hard to deny he’s talented so when I heard he was doing a new retelling of the grandfather of manga, Osamu Tezuka’s, Dororo, I was pretty curious to check it out. What I got ended up being one of the strongest shows of 2019, as Furuhashi and the staff at Studio MAPPA took the interesting but kind of tonally inconsistent manga, about a boy with puppet limbs hunting down the demons who took it alongside his scrappy orphaned companion, and turned it into a thoughtful look at how one’s humanity can be maintained in a world where everyone has to dirty their hands for their own survival, and if sacrificing the few to save the many can ever truly be justified. Hyakkimaru’s battle to regain his humanity by reclaiming his body, leads him down a path that ultimately threatens to take that humanity away from him, and seeing where that journey takes him can be equal parts horrific and triumphant as nearly every character in the show’s cast carries their own struggles in how they’ve made their way through such turbulent times. The series also has a pretty good visual aesthetic going for it, in how it chooses to display it’s violent world, and it helps to give the series a bit of a retro feel, while still feeling more than suitable for modern audiences. While I doubt this series would have been high on anyone’s list of manga properties to revive, this reinterpretation turned out to be one heck of a ride, and reminded me that not every adaption needs to be direct to it’s source to be great.
Synopsis: When the girls in the literature club ask themselves, “What do you want to do before you die?” one of them gives a most surprising response. Now they’re all preoccupied (for better or for worse) by their friend’s unexpected answer! Soon each of these very different young women find themselves propelled along the uncertain road to adulthood, their emotional journeys taking them down paths as surprising as their friend’s unconventional wish.
Why You Should Watch: Ah, puberty. It’s one of the most awkward and confusing times in any person’s life, and media has exploited that awkwardness for nearly all it’s worth, as stories about horny teens aren’t exactly uncommon, especially in anime. However while fiction about puberty is often tackled from a male perspective, very rarely is it done from a female perspective (at least not without the added condition that it’s at least partially played for titillation) and O’ Maidens in Your Savage Season holds nothing back. Penned by the original manga’s author and prolific anime writer, Mari Okada, O’ Maidens follows a group of young girls in a high school literature who seem to want nothing to do with boys until one of them declares her desire to have sex. The ensuing whirlwind of chaos from that declaration, pulls the girls into various love triangles, strange relationships, and just a general mess of awkwardness.
Mari Okada’s work is both famous and infamous for how melodramatic her stories can get, and while there’s a whole lot of drama going on in this show, what really helps to set it apart from similarly sex-charged stories about puberty is that it has a surprising amount of levity, and often has you laughing at some of the girls’ crazy antics as much as it does wanting to make you give them a hug and tell them everything will get better with time. It’s also one of the rare stories that tackles how a queer teen handles puberty, and while her arc isn’t exactly the happiest, it’s empathetic in a way that dramas like these aren’t always the best at. The relationships in this show can also delve into some very uncomfortable dynamics as the girls deal with the men in their lives (as a word of warning one of them involves one of the girls dealing with her abuser who is a literal pedophile) but it handles them very delicately, and never crosses any lines it can’t walk back from. It’s a pretty messy series, and the slightly anti-climatic conclusion might not sit well with everyone, but puberty is messy, and this show understands that in a way that very few other works of fiction have shown successfully, and that makes it both an impressive piece of art, and one Mari Okada’s strongest works to date.
Synopsis: Frustrated with her thankless office job, Retsuko the Red Panda copes with her daily struggles by belting out death metal karaoke after work.
Why You Should Watch: If you told me a couple of years ago that one of the best shows to tackle millennial work life and the anxieties of adulthood would come from the same company that makes Hello Kitty, I would have thought you were off your rocker. Sure enough though, Aggretsuko is one of the most relatable shows out there, and one of the few anime comedies to penetrate mainstream consciousness in the west, and for good reason. Regardless of gender, I’m pretty sure just about every young adult trying to make their way through an early career can see themselves in Retsuko, a red panda who has to put up with all sorts of garbage from her co-workers and chooses to vent via death-metal screaming sessions at her local karaoke bar about how much she hates her life. It can certainly be cathartic if you’ve ever found yourself in similar situations but what really makes Aggretsuko shine as a series is how Retsuko learns how to navigate her way though the problems with her life with the first season tackling the workplace sexism she constantly finds herself under and how marriage might be her only means of escape, while the slightly more uneven but still solid second season, has Retsuko looking more at what she wants out of life in the long term. These aren’t easy things to deal with, and Retsuko never manages to overcome these problems so much as she does learn to take the good with the bad in her life, and head towards her future at her own pace. As someone who shares in at least a few of those struggles, these feel like surprisingly honest conclusions, and that honesty has probably contributed at lot to it’s current success. Workplace comedies may be nothing new, but few speak to the millennial experience quite as hard as Aggretsuko, and while we can’t always scream out our frustrations, at least this show is willing to do plenty of the screaming for us.
Synopsis: Izuku has dreamt of being a hero all his life—a lofty goal for anyone, but especially challenging for a kid with no superpowers. That’s right, in a world where eighty percent of the population has some kind of super-powered “quirk,” Izuku was unlucky enough to be born completely normal. But that’s not going to stop him from enrolling in one of the world’s most prestigious hero academies. Now, the only thing standing between him and his first class is the academy’s formidable entrance exam—nothing a little private tutoring from the world’s mightiest hero can’t solve.
Why You Should Watch: So I might have tried pretending to be smart with some of these other entries, but anyone who talks to me online knows I’m a shonen junkie at heart, and few series this decade have given my inner 12-year old their fix quite like My Hero Academia. While the first season kind of stumbled out of the gate with some wonky pacing, and a more conservative looking production than the general pedigree Studio BONES has made themselves known for, every season afterwards has only gotten stronger and the anime staff has brought Kohei Horokoshi’s original manga to life with the kind of high energy many shonen adaptions of the past could only dream of, with consistently strong animation, and some killer direction. The material itself of course, is no slouch either, and while a lot of its base appeal lies in how well it’s refined the typical Shonen Jump formula down to it’s lovable cast of characters (and Mineta I guess) and well paced story structure, what really makes this series shine is that’s well…actually a pretty good superhero story. Even though on the surface, a lot of it’s superhero elements feel like they’re there to add some flavor to it’s shonen formula, in many respects, it’s usually the opposite, and the series has quite a lot to say about how true heroism comes from a desire to help people, and how that desire can conflict with a society held up laws and regulations, as well as acknowledging both the good and bad in having superheroes as symbols for the people. Even if you don’t care about any of the deeper stuff though, My Hero is just a really fun time, and while it’s not the most sophisticated thing on the planet, it’s kind of like having your favorite bowl of cereal. It might not be a full-course breakfast, but it always puts a smile on your face, and as this decade’s big tentpole battle shonen, hopefully it can keep bringing those smiles for a few more years to come.
Synopsis: When Mutta and Hibito were children, they made a promise to become astronauts together after spotting a UFO one night. Now adults, the duo’s path couldn’t have diverged more – Hibito is about to travel to the moon with NASA to help simulate the future exploration of Mars, and Mutta is unemployed, having recently headbutted his boss at an auto company. Still, the man can’t shake his desire to surpass his younger brother, and soon, he becomes an applicant for Japan’s JAXA space program. His ultimate goal, to get one step ahead of Hibito and go to Mars. But the path to becoming an astronaut is long and fraught with tests and challenges. Will Mutta and newfound friends Kenji and Serika manage to persevere and achieve their dream?
Why You Should Watch: As kids we’re often told that there’s a certain point in adulthood by which we should have our lives together, and that anyone who fails to do so by that point is doomed to amount to nothing. However as many struggling folks (myself included) in their late 20’s and early 30’s would tell you, real life is a lot more complicated than that, and getting one’s life together can be a constant work in progress. This rings especially true in the story of this show’s protagonist, 35-year old Mutta Nanba, who after getting fired from his job as an auto engineer, is forced to rethink his life trajectory, and decides to pursue his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut, alongside his younger brother Hibito, who’s already living that dream. His journey towards that goal has a lot of ups and downs, and along the way we’re introduced to a variety of other characters, some who have been constantly beaten down by life, and others who have loving families and stable careers, who all still similarly yearn to achieve their dreams of going to space, and there’s a level of humanity to just about everyone Mutta meets that really helps to demonstrate that being an adult doesn’t always mean you’ll be fulfilled.
While that description makes this series sound pretty dry and serious, a lot of the time it’s really funny, and while it never sugarcoats the struggles the adults of this show face, it also has an abundance of child-like optimism that keeps things from ever getting too dark, and it rarely fails to be entertaining. It also presents the inherierant romance of space and adventure with the kind of wonder that can easily capture the hearts of kids, as well as the adults it’s more grounded elements are tailored to, making it one of the rare anime that you could actually put on for the whole family (well minus one racially insensitive joke that’s mostly skippable, and a potential age-gap romance that might not sit well with everyone). Unfortunately it didn’t really gain much traction in the west, much less a dub, so the series has sadly remained kind of niche here over the last few years, but it’s well worth your time regardless, and while it’s a little long, the show never feels like it’s dragging it’s heels. Whether you’re young or old, Space Brothers is here to tell you that it’s never too late to start over and pursue your dreams, and as someone who’s sadly gotten more jaded about life with age, it’s the kind of optimism I could certainly use more of.
Synopsis: The Earth Sphere had lost its previous governing structure, and a new world was created under new systems of government. While a temporary peace had arrived, the seeds of a new conflict were being sown in the Mars Sphere, far away from Earth.
Why You Should Watch: When you think about giant robots in anime, it’s hard not to think about Gundam, and it’s as true now as it was when I was a kid seeing promos for Gundam Wing on Toonami. Yet for all the years I’ve watched anime, with the exception of the fun toyetic spinoff Gundam Build Fighters, I had never really watched a Gundam series from beginning to end, until I watched Iron Blooded Orphans, and for my first “real” Gundam show, it was a pretty wild experience. Iron-Blooded Orphans depicts the tale of a group of well…orphans known as Tekkadan, who have been raised as child mercenaries and have little freedom of their own, until a job from a rich philanthropist gives them a way out, and their journey towards making a better life for themselves, brings them into conflict with various political interests, and through the lens of the show’s titular orphans and some of the other characters they meet along the way, we’re given a front row seat to the various ways the young and vulnerable are exploited by those with power, and how those with that power, can bend narratives to their will to maintain their influence.
As political as that sounds though, this is also another series scripted by Mari Okada, which means that in addition to all of that, it’s also got some pretty heavy dramatic chops, and it spends just as much, if not more time, exploring the weird and sometimes unhealthy dynamics between the members of Tekkadan and those who oppose them, as it does talking about corrupt politicians and nobles, making it pretty easy to get invested in even if you don’t care much about it’s larger messages. And of course since it’s a Gundam title, it’s got some top-notch 2D mecha animation from the folks at Sunrise, and while not all of the show’s giant robot battles look super polished, they rarely disappoint, and the general lack of firearms on these machines, means that the fights can get pretty gritty they need to. It’s certainly not a perfect show, and some of the relationships it depicts can get a little wonky, but it’s unflinching in it’s goals and what it wants to say, right down to it’s surprisingly brutal ending, and I respect the heck out of it for that. My experience with Gundam since then has still been kind of lacking, and I really should get around to seeing the original 0079 series someday, but if I was gonna invest in any Gundam series first, for better or worse, I’m glad it was this one.
Synopsis: Chihaya Ayase is a famous beauty at her school, but she’s far from a conventional girl. Three years ago in her final year of elementary school, Chihaya and her friend Taichi became infatuated with the card game, Karuta, after connecting with a lonely boy named Arata Wataya. But when the trio graduated from elementary school, they each went their separate ways but shared one common goal: to excel in the game and meet each other at the national championships. Now, Chihaya is attempting to share her passion for the game by creating a competitive Karuta club at school, but when she reunites with Taichi it seems that maybe she’s the only one with the intention of fulfilling their childhood promise…
Why You Should Watch: Chihayafuru is one of those things where any basic description of its premise would make it sound way more boring than it actually is, and definently needs to be experienced to be properly appreciated, but not enough folks are watching this dang thing, so I’m gonna try my best regardless. On the surface a show about karuta, a sport that effectively involves listening to poems and swiping cards related to them doesn’t sound like it’d be all that good a time, even with a romance angle involved (go Team Taichi or go home), but veteran shojo director Morio Asaka and the staff at Madhouse put their best foot forward in making the game look as exciting as possible, and many of the matches are filled with cool storyboarding, and kinetic camera work that can go toe-to-toe with some of the best shots from Haikyu in terms of ramping up the intensity and turning what would be an otherwise mundane sport into something that can keep you at the edge of your seat. It’s a good thing too, because while the series is classified as a shojo manga and stars a plucky heroine caught in a love triangle between two pretty boys (well as much as it can be one considering she’s about as married to her love of karuta, as Goku is to his love of fighting) it follows the general formula of a shonen sports anime as Chihaya’s goal is to rise to the top of the karuta world and achieve the rank of Queen, and she both befriends and competes with a variety of quirky characters along the way.
At the same time though, it’s shojo elements also allows the series to have a certain sense of nuance in how it’s characters are written that a lot of similar sports shows lack. Plus, karuta itself being a gender-neutral sport also gives the show a lot more room to flex in that regard, as even some of the most intitially superfical members of the ensemble rarely feel sidelined, and Chihaya’s opponents often come from all walks of life. In a decade where we’ve had killer shonen sports anime adaptions like Kuroko’s Basketball and Haikyu, it feels weird saying that one of the best sports anime to come from it involves an niche, Japanese-specific sport, that isn’t even done professionally, but Chihayafuru really is something special, and with it’s third season currently running, hopefully it’ll continue to impress.
Synopsis: Kageyama Shigeo, a.k.a. “Mob,” is a boy who has trouble expressing himself, but who happens to be a powerful esper. Mob is determined to live a normal life and keeps his ESP suppressed, but when his emotions surge to a level of 100%, something terrible happens to him! As he’s surrounded by false espers, evil spirits, and mysterious organizations, what will Mob think? What choices will he make?
Why You Should Watch: So unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few years, it’s almost impossible to be an anime fan without having heard at least a little about ONE’s hit manga, One-Punch Man, and the absolutely killer adaption it’s first season recieved (we uh…don’t talk about the second). However until recently, you were a little less likely to have heard about ONE’s other series Mob Psycho 100, and it’s a shame because while I’m certainly found of Saitama and friends, Mob is really in a league of it’s own. For one thing there’s very few anime productions quite like it, and while One-Punch Man’s first season had no shortage of sakuga, Mob Psycho takes advantage one ONE’s simplistic character designs to go absolutely nuts with the animation and storyboarding, and nearly every frame is bursting with personality whether it’s in it’s in fast-paced and high energy fight scenes, or it’s more low-key comedy. Of course, a strong production can only carry a series so far (again you need only look at One-Punch Man season 2 for that) but thankfully it’s got a pretty strong story going for it.
Much like One-Punch Man, Mob stars an incredibly overpowered protagonist in Shigeo Kageyama aka Mob, but where One-Punch Man uses Saitama’s strength to explore how jaded life can become once you’re an adult, Mob’s arc is a little more complicated than that as his great power ultimately does little to improve his relationships and his social standing, and he seeks to improve himself in more mundane ways. It’s through those efforts to improve that the show finds it’s thesis statement: that natural talent only goes but so far in life, and it’s generally just more valuable in the long run to be a good person. This is a lesson that Mob gradually has to learn for himself, and that many of his enemies need drilled into them, whether it’s physically, or through more comedic means, as the show preaches the power of empathy throughout all it’s crazy shenanigangs, making it as powerful as it is entertaining. With all that going for it, it’s kinda nice that the show’s much more impressive second season, gave it the shot in the arm it needed in terms of buzz, and now that it’s getting out there, hopefully it’ll be allowed to stand the test of time because it really deserves it. While One-Punch Man, asks what it really means to be strong, and if that strength can be fuflling, Mob Psycho is here to tell you that it’s not just important to be strong, but kind too.
Synopsis: In a “mirror city” that is Kyoto and yet not Kyoto, where humans, monsters, and robots all live, 14-year-old Koto searches for her mother. She encounters a monk named Myoe who’s waiting for his father to return. Family and the mirror city itself are at stake as this action fantasy unfolds.
Why You Should Watch: So this series from Toei Animation has a bit of a weird history to say the least. It first debuted as a kind of pilot ONA way back in 2011, and was subsequently released on Youtube. This was how I first came across it, and while I had absolutely no clue about anything that was happening in it, I knew it looked rad as heck and I eagerly awaited more of it. After that, the series came out with 5 additional OVAs in 2012, before finally becoming a full TV anime in fall of 2013. Thankfully for as wild as all of that sounds, you only really need to watch the TV series to understand the story (well that and the weird episode 0 special, which basically covers everything the first ONA, but re-adjusted for the purposes of the TV anime) but that sure doesn’t make the actual show itself any harder to comprehend, at least initially. In a premise that can only be described as Alice in Wonderland on even more drugs, meets family court, this show tells the story of how a priest with the ability to make his drawing comes to life, uses his strange abilities to create a mirror like version of Kyoto, and with it a wife and kids, as well as one adopted war orphan who he curses with immortality. All is well and good in this bizarre family until one day mom and dad just straight up abandon their kids, and leave them behind to run the mirror world in their absence. The kids obviously don’t take this well, and each one of them has their own ways of coping, or not really coping with their abandonment issues. This all changes when a mysterious girl named Koto (who happens to share the same name as the kids’ missing mom) shows up claiming to be another member of the family, and wants to reunite with them.
It’s very weird to say the least, and series director Rie Matsumoto, uses her incredible storyboarding skills to make it even weirder as nearly every shot of this show is crammed with enough visual information, that you could almost mistake it for an Ikuhara joint, and they can get pretty jaw-dropping. It’s also got a pretty polished production considering it came from Toei (and especially Toei in the early 2010’s) and the overall visual aesthetic of the show is show striking it’d almost be worth watching it for that alone. Beneath all the weird and pretty visuals though, at its core this show is the story of a broken family coming back together, and Rie Matsumoto and her crew poor enough heart into that tale that you can really tell how much of a passion project this series was for them. Plus it’s also got the bonus of my favorite seiyuu Akira Ishida giving a really fun performance towards the end as the priest in question, who’s actually pretty high up there on the list of crappy anime dads even if he’s a lot less mean about it. This a very odd show, and one that definently requires a lot of patience since it’s overal structure is a lot more abstract than it’s general themes would suggest, but it’s also one of those things that really demonstrates how unique anime can be as an artform, and it’s by far the strongest thing Toei’s put out for the decade.
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.
Why You Should Watch: As a huge stan of Kunihiko Ikuhara, I’d be remisced if at least one of the shows he directed this decade didn’t make the cut for this list, and while this one is probably his weakest work to date, it’s still a pretty impressive piece of art. As is generally the case with Ikuhara’s works, this show has a very pretty visual aesthetic going for it, and it’s storyboarding is jam packed with visual symbolism, with many shots carrying some form of hidden meaning. As is also the case with Ikuhara’s works, this crazy visual style is combined with obtuse storytelling, repeated dialogue, and killer musical numbers that generally requires your brain to be at full attention in order to dissect this show’s various messages, and even then, there might be a lot more going on than you’d expect. In the case of this show specifically, those messages come in the form of various ideas about relationships, capitalism. and how certain demographics are exploited. Ultimately though, it ends up zeroing in on that first one, as the core of the story centers around a trio of boys and how sensitive their connections to their loved ones and each other can be in the wake of certain societal norms. It can get into some pretty rough subjects in that regard, and while Ikuhara has never shyed away from getting dark with his material, Toi’s arc in particular goes places that you wouldn’t really expect anime to typically dive into, and it’s pretty wild. The show itself is also very, very queer, and while that isn’t exactly new territory for Ikuhara, this is the first time he’s centered one of his stories around gay men instead of lesbians and he uses that for all it’s worth, even directly challenging the notion of how gay men are generally treated in anime outside of BL, and it’s pretty fascinating. Sadly this material doesn’t all come together in the end that the same way alot of Ikuhara’s other works have, and it’s clear that he couldn’t fit all his ideas into the show’s runttime, but the ending still hits pretty hard regardless, and the show itself is easily one of the most ambitious works to come out this year, and something that’s more than work a look.
Synopsis: Yuuri Katsuki carried the hope of all Japan on his shoulders in the Figure Skating Grand Prix, but suffered a crushing defeat in the finals. He returned to his hometown in Kyushu and hid away in his family’s home, half wanting to continue skating and half wanting to retire. That was when the five-time consecutive world champion, Viktor Nikiforov, suddenly showed up with his teammate, Yuuri Plisetsky, a young skater starting to surpass his seniors. And so the two Yuuris and the Russian champion Viktor set out to compete in a Grand Prix like none the world has ever seen!
Why You Should Watch: Ever since I checked out Michiko and Hatchin a few years back, I’ve been really impressed with Sayo Yamamoto as director and I’m basically up for checking out anything new she makes. This was also the case back in 2016 when Yuri on Ice first debuted, and as anyone still salty about the Crunchyroll Awards that year will tell you, it blew up pretty quickly. It’s not hard to see why though because right off the bat it has a lot of things going on, and it does all of those things really well. On one end, it’s an anime about figure skating, a sport that anime rarely touches (if partially due to how complicated it is to animate) and shows off it’s appeal by bringing an incredible sense of flair and style to all of the show’s figure skating choreography, and while the actual animation doesn’t always deliver on that end the direction, and incredibly strong musical score for the series, make every figure skating sequence a delight to watch. As is typical with sports anime, it’s also filled to the brim with an fun cast of characters with eccentric personalities, and they’re all so entertaining that it’s hard not to find at least one to latch onto. It’s also a story about a struggling athelete who finds himself in a slump, and is forced to reinvent himself in order to maintain his career, which is certainly pretty easy to relate to for better or worse, and Yuri’s development alone is almost enough to make the show.
Of course, the biggest thing in it’s favor, and one of the main reasons it made such a splash to begin with, is Yuri’s relationship with Victor, and how it not only helps him on his path towards reinventing himself, but also in general is one of the surprisingly sweet gay male romances placed in an anime outside of BL. Given how much the industry was, and still is, kind of adamant about keeping non-BL gay romances as vague on the actual romance as possible for marketing purposes, it’s nice that this show was able to convey as much as it did, and Yuri and Victor’s dynamic is so fun, it’s kind of hard not to get behind them. Yuri on Ice sets out to achieve a lot for what could have otherwise been a pretty simple sports show, and Sayo Yamamoto deserves a lot of credit for allowing all that ambition to pay off in more ways than one, since it’s kind of hard to understate big a financial success it ended up being. We may still be waiting on that movie to finally come out, but for what we have right now, it’s clear this show was born to make history.
Synopsis: After an asteroid explosion and meteor shower lit up the sky over planet earth, strange adorable bears began to attack and devour humans. The earthlings responded with violence of their own, and in the end, a massive barrier – the Wall of Extinction – was erected to separate man from bear. This fragile peace lasted until two high school girls encounter a yuri flower blooming – only to be shaken by the piercing warning of the Bear Alarm! Once again, bear and man- or bear and girl -will be pitted against each other in a deadly and mysterious showdown.
Why You Should Watch: It’s time for around of Ikuhara shenangians, with this one centering around the topic that helped to make him such an icon in the anime industry to begin with: lesbians. And when I say the topic of the show centers around that, I mean that really is the main talking point, meaning that compared to a lot of Ikuhara’s other works, this one is probably the easiest to digest in terms of themes. Revolutionary Girl Utena wasn’t shy about having it’s heroines kiss either, but it partially used that as a springboard to talk about the much broader topic of the male patriarchy and how women are controlled, while this talks more directly about the societal pressures gay women face. Specifically, it’s pretty direct about how Japanese culture specifically tends to treat romance between women as something of a childhood phase, even having Kureha, and her initial love interest Sumika refer to each other as “friends”, much in the same way a lot of other anime with yuri subtext tries to keep things vague, even when it’s pretty clear the girls are at least more along the lines of friends with benefits. Meanwhile the villains of this show are literally comprised of a high school clique that’s dedicated to maintaining the status quo, and despite Kureha intially making a few concessions to that status quo, the relationships she forms with the show’s other heroines Ginko and Lulu push her to break free from them, and challenge those norms in order to be with the one she loves. Direct as that all sounds thouhj, this is still an Ikuhara show, so while the overall message isn’t exactly hard to get, it’s still peppered with tons of visual symbolism and abstraction so the actual plot can get a little messy at times, and the exact symbolism behind some of the actions these girls end up taking can be a little more vague that they probably needed to be. Still, Ikuhara’s penchant for bold and coloful art design is all over the place in this show so it’s hard to get too mad about those nitpicks, and the ending is strong enough that you couldn’t really miss the point of this show if you tried. Between the strong visuals and the hard hitting themes, it’s clear that this show was the kind of social allegory that anime was made to tell, and it’s an impressive feat of art that demonstrates how unique anime can be in conveying those themes.
Synopsis: Yuuta Hibiki can’t remember who he is, and now he’s seeing and hearing things that others don’t! A voice from an old computer tells him to remember his calling, and he sees a massive, unmoving creature in the distance. Nothing’s making sense—until the behemoth springs to life! Suddenly, Yuuta is pulled into the digital world, reappearing in the real one as the colossal hero—Gridman!
Why You Should Watch: I might not have any serious childhood memories of the live-action Ultraman series back when it aired on U.S. airwaves, but like most kids who grew up with Power Rangers, I at least have a basic idea of the appeal of tokusatsu shows, and this series exempifies those qualities in spades. While the show’s director Akira Akemiya has been known for his work on intentionally stilted looking action-comedies like Inferno Cop and Ninja Slayer (so much so that some folks didn’t even believe this thing was gonna be properly animated till the full trailers hit) he’s been involved in more than his fair share of bolder looking productions, and this show is quite a sight to behold. While the inheriently plastic look of tokusatsu shows and the various monsters that comprise them is at least part of the charm, this show manages to bring that to animation through a clever blend of 2D animation and 3DCG that makes many of the monsters, and Gridman himself look intentionally plastic looking and something along the line of rubber suits, while still being a pretty impressive visual spectacle even without picking up on that intent as it’s chock full of cool mecha animation, and the character designs are all pretty expressive.
All of this sounds like it would be a formula for some off the walls action and insanity as is generally the case with most Trigger productions, but despite it’s tokusatsu based origins, the general tone of it is surprisingly grounded in a lot of places and Yuta and his pals all come off as one of the most believable group of teenagers I’ve seen in an anime in a good while. It’s also a show with something to say beneath all it’s flashy theatrics as it ends up borrowing more than a few cues from Neon Genesis Evangelion later down the line. However, where as Trigger’s…other mecha show from 2018 tried to blatantly paint itself as the next Eva, and failed pretty badly, this show is more of a homage to it’s themes, as what starts off as a weird but slightly typical show about a boy with amnesia fusing with a superhero in a computer to fight giant monsters, becomes a thoughtful look at depression, and one character’s desperate desire to flee reality and stay in the world of escapism they’ve made for themselves and it gets a lot darker than I was expecting at the beginning. Trigger’s made a lot of cool stuff over this decade, and what your favorite work of theirs is going to be largely kind of comes down to personal taste, but as for me, as much as I’ve enjoyed shows like Kill la Kill, Little Witch Academia and most recently, Promare, this is easily the most impressive thing they’ve put out for the 2010’s and quite possible the best thing they’ve made, period.
Synopsis: In Sternbuild City, corporate logos not only cover billboards, but also the costumes of the super-powered heroes that act as its protectors. Veteran and newcomer warriors of justice alike compete in a reality TV show that offers points for apprehending criminals while giving champions’ sponsors a chance to promote their brand. When the low-ranking Wild Tiger loses his backing after a string of outrageous, botched rescues, he finds himself paired with an up-and-coming spotlight-seeker called Barnaby. But with their wildly different personalities, will the pair be able to save their beloved Sternbuild City and win the game show, or will their constant tension be the undoing of the world’s first hero team?
Why You Should Watch: Before My Hero Academia took the internet by storm, the hottest superhero anime on the market was Tiger and Bunny, and if it’s placement the top of NHK’s poll of the best anime ever made is any indication, it’s got a lot going for it. Similar to My Hero, Tiger and Bunny takes place in a world where being a superhero is an actual job, but whereas My Hero treats it as a profession the same way you would being a police officer, Tiger and Bunny talks about it from a much more commericalized standpoint where superheroes are treated like brands, and saving the day is just another way to boost the popularity of that brand. It’s a unique angle to say the least, and Tiger and Bunny both has fun with as it relates to the protagonist Kotetsu and his dwindling popularity as a hero, while also not being afraid to tap into the darker aspects of what can happen when heroes are just another product in the gears of capitalism. Mainly though, the show is just out to have a really good time, and it’s comprised of a really fun cast of characters (as well as one who’s a little outdated nowadays), and an aesthetic that often feels more like a buddy-cop comedy than a superhero show.
Speaking of that buddy-cop angle, one of the biggest appeals of this show really comes down to the dynamic between the main characters Kotetsu and Barnaby, and they play off of each other really well. A lot of their banter makes for some of the show’s best jokes, and it’s nice seeing how the two of them grow closer over the course of the show. Between the two though, Kotetsu is kind of the bigger draw as a character, because like Mutta from Space Brothers, he’s a rare example of a middle aged protagonist in an anime (right down to having the same seiyuu) and the show really taps into his feelings about seeing his age catch up to him with his career, and if he can even stay in the business at all, despite his genuine desire to help people. It’s a great arc to watch, and while the way it wraps up feels a little like sequel bait, it still feels incredibly rewarding in the end. Tiger and Bunny is a fun show, with one of the best English dubs this side of Cowboy Bebop to go alongside it, and while it weirdly never caught on the west to the capacity it probably should have given it’s general aesthetic, it’s still a great time regardless and it’s worth checking out. Now if only Sunrise would actually make good on another season…
Yet another new season of anime is upon us and honestly…it doesn’t look terribly interesting to me. While some years have had better prospects than others, Fall is usually the season where a lot of heavy hitting titles come out, but it seems like production commtties decided to flip the script and dump out all the really promising stuff in the Summer so what we have left seems kinda shurgy save a couple of sequels. As I’e said before though, sometimes having lower expectations means there’s more room for surprises, so I guess it’s time to dig and see whether or not that ends up being true.
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 .
Synopsis: He may be shorter in stature, but Sora Kurumatani can soar and score on the basketball court! With a passion for the sport he inherited from his mother, Sora vows to her that he’ll take top prize at a high school basketball tournament… but there’s one problem. His new school’s basketball club has turned into a hangout for delinquents! Will Sora’s sheer tenacity and amazing three-point shooting change their minds and get the club up and running again?
First Impressions: While I can’t say I was excited to check this one out, I was definitely pretty curious about it. Although this is a 2019 anime, the manga for this has been running since 2004 and is still ongoing, so the fact that it’s been seralized for so long and is somehow only now getting an anime made me pretty curious what it’s deal is. So far it’s…pretty much an early-mid 00’s sports anime. Kurumatani is more or less your average shonen sports anime protagonist, being short and seemingly unsuited to his sport of choice, but has a heart of gold, and hidden talent beneath his unassuming exterior. His “teammates” are a bunch of as-of-yet unreformed delinquents who are all assuredly about to get some comeuppance (though the episode stops just short of that so it’s possible that could get subverted a bit) and you’ve even got cliches like Kurumatani and one of our other eventual male leads Chiaki, spying on the girls’ locker room. All those story beats really do feel like they walked straight out of 2004, and while that seems like that could be pretty grating, I had a decent time with this. Nothing it did felt terribly original or set the world on fire, but these were and still are pretty popular genre cliches for a reason, and while I’m not super invested in Kurumatani just yet, I’m at least a little curious to see the full extent of his skills next week. It helps that diomedia’s production for the show is pretty solid, and even features some surprisingly good ball animation in a few instances. Of course I could already see where they were cutting corners, and this show is running for a full year so there’s no way they’ll be able to maintain this, but at least it’s off to a nice start. Even if the production does implode though, it at least has an opening by The Pillows going for it, and it’s hard to knock anything that could get them attached to it. This wasn’t the strongest premiere in the world, but there’s some room for promise here, and it was decent enough that I’m pretty willing to give it a few more episodes to see what it has up its sleeve
Oresuki: Are You the Only One Who Loves Me?
Synopsis: Kisaragi Amatsuyu thinks he’s hit the jackpot after popular upper-class girls Cosmos and Himawari invite him out! But to his sheer disappointment, they spill a juicy secret: the girls are into his friend and not him. Overhearing this reveal, a girl in the shadows begins to pester Amatsuyu, finding enjoyment in his lady woes. But he’ll soon find out this girl is the only one who likes him!
First Impressions: This was another thing that was at least partially on my radar though mostly because I had seen a couple of trailers for it. Highschool romcoms are practically the most common form of anime in existence, so subverting expectations by having MC-kun (or more accurately, Incel-kun in this show’s case) be a scumbag, and his potential “harem” members instead being interested in one of his other friends is a pretty good hook to say the least. I’ll admit the lead up to said twist feels a little by the numbers even if it’s obviously setting up a punchline, but once it reveals the twist it goes all in on it, and I spent the entire second half of the episode hoping Incel-kun would get hurled into the sun and that both girls ditch him before he has the chance to enact his “plan” of trying to hook up with whichever one loses out on dating his friend. This is where Incel-kun’s stalker comes in, and where I find myself at an impasse about what this show might pull. On the one hand, Incel-kun sucks so the idea of him getting made as uncomfortable as possible by his stalker could work as some funny comeuppance, especially since she already seems like she could be a pretty amusing personality. On the other hand this is based on a light novel and it’s still a romcom so there’s a very real chance Incel-kun will just end up falling for her without having to ever reevaluate himself or improve as a person. I’m cautiously optimistic that it won’t pull that, but the possibility existing makes it hard for me to get 100% behind this. Still, this was a pretty amusing premiere and while that danger could still lurk beyond the horizon, I’m at least curious to see where the next episode takes this, so I guess I’m on board for now.
Ascendance of a Bookworm
Synopsis: Avid bookworm and college student Motosu Urano ends up dying in an unforeseen accident. This came right after the news that she would finally be able to work as a librarian like she had always dreamed of. When she regained consciousness, she was reborn as Myne, the daughter of a poor soldier. She was in the town of Ehrenfest, which had a harsh class system. But as long as she had books, she didn’t really need anything else. However, books were scarce and belonged only to the nobles. But that doesn’t stop her, so she makes a decision… “If there aren’t any books, I’ll just create some.”
First Impressions: It’s everyone’s favorite time of the season, isekai time! Although by favorite, I mean the genre that never ever seems to go away. This time around though there’s a few interesting twists. For one thing this one stars a female lead reincarnated as a little girl, and the fantasy world she’s been trapped in doesn’t seem to have any RPG elements, or even monsters for that matter. Instead it seems to be a medieval fantasy world where printed text is rare, and books even more so as only the rich have the privilge of owning them. This sucks for Myne because she’s a total bookworm, and being stuck in a world without them is like her own personal hell, so she’s willing to go any lengths to spread them through the world. That setup more or less establishes the first episode which takes things pretty slowly and doesn’t offer too much worldbuilding aside from what I already mentioned. With that in mind, how much mileage you’ll get out of this premiere probably depends on how much you like Myne since it’s all about her coming to terms with her new world. As for me, while I found her obsession with books to be a little one note in the beginning, her antics are cute enough, that by the end of the episode I just wanted someone to give this kid a book to read, so I guess it succeeded in it’s goal. Isekai have gotten so repetitive at this point that I’m up for just about anything that’s actually committed to doing something different rather than simply making do with poking fun at existing cliches, and this is certainly different. Since this show seems like it’ll move pretty slowly, it’s hard to say how much long term investment I could get out of it, but the prospect of Myne theoretically toppling this world’s class system to spreak knowledge to everyone certainly seems like something that would be right up my alley, and it’d be cool if the show actually committed to that. Not sure if I’ll be keeping up with this in the long run, but I had a decent enough time with this that I’m willing to at least give it another episode.
Kemono Michi: Rise Up
Synopsis: Professional wrestler Genzou Shibata was preparing for his next match, when suddenly he was summoned into another world. He’s asked to defeat the magical beasts that roam the land, but as an avid animal lover, Genzou would rather help these creatures. So after a short stint as a hunter, the man opens the Kemono Michi pet shop. There, along with his part-animal employees, he hopes to adopt out rare beasts and foster a pet culture in his new home.
First Impressions: Hey, it’s another isekai, but this one I was actually kind of anticipating. I didn’t know much about it going in other than the base premise, but since it’s from the author of Konosuba, I figured it could make for a pretty solid isekai parody. What I actually got was…something. The concept of having usual MC-kun instead be a buff wrestler is a pretty unique change in expectations, and him both turning on the princess and more or less outting himself as a furry is even more out of left field. With all that it mind it seems like it could have been a riot, and I definently did get a few laughs out of it, but something about it just didn’t totally click with me. Mainly that Genzou’s shtick of petting/harassing every beast or animal-eared girl he comes across already felt like a little much before the episode even ended, and this seems to more or less be his one joke aside from people assuming he’s a pervert based on his costume. It doesn’t help that while the show’s heroine seems snarky enough, she kind of pales in comparison to Aqua from Konosuba proper, and didn’t bounce off of Genzou’s antics as much as I’d hoped she would. This feels like a case where a dub might be where I give it a second chance because it certainly seems like the kind of thing that would probably be funnier if it spices up the jokes a bit more, but for the time being, I wanted to like this show more than I actually did and while I wasn’t bored with it, I don’t feel as inclined to watch more it as I hoped I would. Eh, I guess I’ll see how I feel in a week.
Cautious Hero: The Hero is Overpowered but Overly Cautious
Synopsis: In the world of Gaeabrande, Goddess Ristarte is tasked with summoning a hero to save her world. The hero, Seiya Ryuuguuin, is an OVERLY cautious hero who’s obsessed with muscle training and buying armor before setting out to deal with low level creatures. It’s simply one overly cautious mission at-a-time for this invincible hero!
First Impressions: And here comes isekai #3 which seems to be the true darkhorse of the bunch. I didn’t know anything about this one going in other than it’s title, and while it’s title seemed like it could be a decent enough idea for an isekai comedy, previous attempts at “subverting” isekai tropes have been a mixed bag, with only Konosuba really taking home the crown in that area. Konosuba seems a pretty apt comparison though, because this premiere gave me some pretty similar vibes. Like Aqua, Ristarte is an incredibly smug goddess who’s only following around the hero Seiya because it’s part of her job description, with the only major distinctions being she’s not nearly as mean-spirited and she seems more than little distracted by how ripped Seiya is. She’s a lot of fun to watch, and Seiya’s no slouch either, as while his primary joke of being overly paranoid seems like it could get old quickly, it’s well matched by how snarky he is towards Ristarte about basically everything, and watching the two bounce off each other was pretty hysterical. It helps that the show looks pretty good and White Fox went all in on the visual comedy, as this show has some of the best squash and smear animation I’ve seen in an anime comedy in a good while, and it even gives the intentionally janky expressions of Konosuba a pretty good run for their money. It’s possible this show could lose steam pretty quickly, and having one of the Demon King’s generals show up right in episode 1, makes me a little worried about that prospect, but I’m pretty optimistic that it’ll hold up, and I got enough laughs out of this that it’s a pretty easy recommendation for this season.
High School Prodigies Have it Easy Even in Another World!
Synopsis: Seven high school students are involved in an airplane crash. When they woke up, they found themselves in a parallel world where magic and beastmen exist. Of course, they panicked at their sudden unexpected predicament… or not? Instead, they create a power plant in a world that doesn’t have electricity, they did a little extra work and managed to take economic control over a metropolis, they managed to repay their gratitude to some oppressed citizens by upending a corrupt government, and basically do whatever they feel like?!
First Impressions: We’ve reached an Isekai Quartet, and I honestly wish I were watching that show instead. While Cautious Hero was a pretty fun comedy, this is more along the lines of what I tend to associate with isekai these days and it’s pretty bland. The gimmick of having seven characters travel to another world together and having all of them be insanely skilled (the fact that they all know each other is some incredible plot convience, but I guess you can kinda roll with it) seems like it would be an interesting hook, but there’s an obvious lead, and he doesn’t feel terribly different from your typical isekai MC-kun. The other members of the group haven’t really been developed beyond their gimmick yet, which would be fine if their gimmicks weren’t kinda bland, and the fact that it doesn’t really introduce us to them despite moving pretty slowly, made this premiere feel like a total slog. That it’s also pretty bland on the visual front doesn’t help things either, and while nothing here looks awful, it doesn’t have any real distinction from the dozens of other isekai in existance, and at this point it’s hard not to knock these shows down for that.
About it’s only merits are that it has yet to establish any RPG mechanics meaning this could be an actual fantasy world and therefore present a more interesting challenge in how the heroes manage their way through it, but with how obviously powerful they already are, I don’t have too much hope it’ll follow through. The other thing is that it seems like it’ll be pretty fanservice heavy as a lot of the animal-eared girls have some big knockers, and one of them even gives MC-kun a rather sensual mouth-to-mouth feeding, so if that sounds up your alley, it might be worth giving it a peak. That’s kinda where the show lost me though, since throwing in that last bit not even 10 minutes into the show didn’t do much to make me think this was going be anything better than a boring power fantasy, and nothing in the rest of the episode did anything to change my mind. This is far from the worst isekai premiere I’ve sat through, and it certainly could get stronger later on as the other members of the group get developed, I only but so much patience, and with the ever increasing number of isekai anime in the wild, first impressions matter to me a lot with them, and compared to Cautious Hero, this seems like a giant shurg.
Synopsis: Azur Lane, a combination of all the different Camps in the world, was once successful in repelling the underwater menace, the Siren. Now splintered, they must face a new threat in Red Axis, former allies who crave to wield this otherworldly Siren technology for their own nefarious desires! Who will be victorious in the never-ending war between these battleship girls!?
First Impressions: And breaking away from isekai, comes our mobage adaption of the season and uh…it sure is a mobage adaption I guess. Like Kancolle Collection from a few years back this involves naval carriers being antropomorphized as anime girls with the main difference being these girls don’t seem to be based on real world ships like the ones in Kancolle were, and the girls seem to be divided into factions despite sharing a common foe. The whole factions thing probably makes this sound like it could be more complicated than it is though, because the show is so unconcerned about that plotthread that the members of the opposing faction to our…heroes (?) (there’s not much in the way of PoV here) literally announces how the two factions are opposed to each other, as though they’re explaning it to the audience, which I guess would make more sense than them explaning this to the people who are already opposed to them.
If there’s any “plot” you’re coming to this show for, it’s the character designs, and while I wouldn’t knock that too much normally, this kinda loses out in two big ways for me. One , aside from the two fox girls, a lot of the character designs look pretty samey and mostly boil down to either giant boobs or lolis with not much room in-between (and there were a few too many of the latter for my liking which felt a little uncomfortable). Secondly, despite the girls being the obvious marketing point of this show, there isn’t a whole lot of cheesecake in this premiere, so if you were looking for any decent fanservice, this doesn’t have much there either. The one big thing it has going for is that it looks gorgeous, and in addition to some pretty good character animation, the 3DCG used for the action sequences is actually pretty impressive by anime standards. Still, that’s not quite enough to elevate how blah the rest of this was, and while I imagine you might be pretty happy with this adaption if you’ve played the mobile game, I haven’t so this an easy skip for me.
Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun
Synopsis: Suzuki Iruma, human, 14, one day finds himself taken against his will into the world of demons. To add to his predicament, his doting owner and self-appointed “Grandpa” is the chair-demon at his new school. In order to survive, Iruma must deal with a haughty student who challenges him to a duel, a girl with adjustment issues, and so many more scary beings! Can this ultimate pacifist dodge the slings and arrows that are flung his way? As he struggles frantically, Iruma’s innate kindness begins to win over enemies.
First Impressions: Didn’t know what to expect from this going in other than that it was probably a kids show going by the character designs, and yeah it’s basically that. While that sounds like it would be a knock against it, kids anime can be surprisingly entertaining when the execution’s there, and sometimes even more so than the otaku-centric stuff that we tend to get injected into our veins on the regular. Iruma’s overall character felt like a mix between Hayate of Hayate the Combat Butler fame (for anyone who remembers that franchise since kinda died down it’s last few years) and Deku from My Hero Academia, which seems like a weird combination, but somehow it works and my brain immediately latched onto this poor kid. All his life he’s been suckered into doing what other people wanted and now he’s found himself getting sold by his parents to a demon. Fortunately it turns out to be a very nice demon who just wants a grandson to call his own, and this turns into a weird but charming unreluctant power fantasy as Iruma inadvertendly makes himself into the most frightening being at demon school. While there’s nothing particularly original about this show’s humor or concept, I still somehow found myself pretty amused by it, and the execution on the jokes was just solid enough that I got a few good chuckles out of it, which is something I kinda needed with how drab the rest of this anime season looks right now. Production-wise this looks about like what you’d expect from a kids show not attached to a major franchise in that it’s competent but lacking in polish and probably isn’t gonna ever set the world on fire. Still, what it does have it uses well, and while in a more packed season, this might be have been something I’d be a bit more on the fence about, it was one of the better premieres I’ve come across so far for the fall, and I’m in the mood for it, so I’ll probably stick with this until it gives me a reason not to.
Synopsis: Imagine your co-workers–a lion, toucan, and lizard! Hey it can happen right? Africa Salaryman is a comedic take on office life of three African jungle animals who could be your potential co-workers in corporate America. It’s full of ridiculous office place antics and hilarious scenarios, that keeps things quite entertaining, while the animals cope with their working environment.
First Impressions: While I didn’t know what to expect from this, I’ll admit I was at least mildly curious about it because well…how could I not be with its premise. The show itself is certainly…something. We have animal salaryman and animal high school girls which is more or less the main joke, and while I wasn’t sure how much mileage it was going to get out of that I had a few good laughs at things like the lizard getting his tail violently pulled out, or the whole mixer scene in the third act where the toucan inadvertendly tries hitting on a non-sentient pig. It’s…pretty weird, and the animation style only makes it weird as the show shifts between heavily blended 3DCG, wacky 2D animated cuts, and even possibly some flash animation. The constant art shifts certainlhy got my attention, but if there’s one thing that kinda held me back from giving this a full recommendation, it’s that most of the chararacters introduced so far are a little annoying, with the toucan in particular being obnoxious in a way that’s not always funny. Granted I did laugh at this regardless so I might keep up with it in spite of that, but it does make me worry about how this’ll hold up in the long term. For now though, I guess it was passable enough, so I guess I’ll at least give it another episode or two.
Val x Love
Synopsis: Takuma Akutsu has a “unique” appearance that, unfortunately, leaves him feeling isolated and alone among his high school classmates who shun him. Enter the Valkyries sent by Odin himself! Once they descend into Takuma’s life, he discovers they aren’t scared of him one bit! In fact, they’re super keen to get to know him better. As the intimacy between the Valkyries and Takuma grows, so too do their powers. And that’s a good thing, because they’re on orders to slay the vicious monsters intent on destroying the earth. How far will they go to deepen their connection, level up, and save the world… by any means necessary!?!
First Impressions: I’m uh…not totally sure what I just watched but I guess it’s an action harem anime? The basic gist here is that Takuma is a dude who looks big and creepy and is a social recluse thanks to that but also has a group of pretty valkyries living with who grow stronger through intimacy and all want his spear, if you know what I mean. If what I just said sounds like a bunch of confusing nonsense, don’t worry because I’m just as confused as you are. There would be something potentially interesting in having an unconvientional harem protagonist who isn’t much of a looker, and wants no part of his harem or people in general but the problem here is that in addition to this show’s premise being a bunch of weird nonsense, the weird nonsense isn’t even explained until the last two minutes of the episode. Up till then we’re just told that Takuma is a recluse while the show proceeds to have all the girls living at his house like it’s normal and not even allowing us to get a decent grasp of their personalities. Although I guess even if it didn’t start in media res, I’m not sure how much personality these girls would have to offer because they all seem like pretty standard anime girl archetypes, which would normally be pretty par the course for a typical harem anime, but feels a little weird contasting off of how actually interesting Takuma is, instead somehow making them feel bland in comparison. On top of all the plot confusion, the show itself looks pretty medocre, and the opening is barely animated in some areas which doesn’t feel like a promising sign for the rest of it’s production cycle. I guess if there’s any appeal here it’s that it’s got plenty of fanservice on display, and since that more or less seems to be the goal here anyway, I can at least give it some minor props for cutting right to the point. Still it’s kinda sad seeing something that could have possibly been interesting if handled better be so all over the place, but alas this is what we got, and I’m pretty sure this is getting a big pass from me.
Special 7: Special Crimes Investigations Unit
Synopsis: In the year 2×19, the last of the “dragons” have banded together and taken the form of humans. A group known as Nine is after the dragons’ power. To combat Nine and protect the dragons, the police create the Special Crime Investigation Unit – Special 7. Seiji, a bright and knowledgeable rookie, joins Special 7 and is tasked with solving cases about Nine, alongside his unique new teammates.
First Impressions: Welp it’s finally time to break away from isekai and into detective dramas because that’s another genre that seems to be (weirdly) plentiful this season. Like summer’s Cop Craft, this one takes place in a future where supernatural beings came to Earth at some point and began diplomacy with humans. Unlike Cop Craft though, any conflicts between humans and the supernatural seem to have been mostly resolved so this isn’t likely to serve as an awkward metaphor for race relations, and the cops we’re following are all clearly supernatural beings themselves, minus our lead who’s seemingly human (I say seemingly because he mysteriously survives getting shot in the chest and the show is vague about the details on that). This makes the show decidedly less commentative than Cop Craft tried to be which also makes it a little less immediately interesting, but since Cop Craft wasn’t exactly nuanced with that subject, I’m pretty willing to take a safe buddy cop drama starring vampires and elves among other things. Most of the premiere is pretty formulaic for this kind of story down to main character being a rookie cop who gets roped into joining the unit with all the presumably wacky supernatural characters, but the execution was solid enough that I never found myself getting too bored with it, and while the visuals of the show aren’t exactly awe-inspiring it looks decent enough for the kind of show this is. I wish I had a stronger opinion on this other than “this is fine” but well…this is fine, and given the season hasn’t particularly wowed me so far, I’m willing to take fine over bad, and this seems decent enough to warrant a couple more episodes.
Kandagawa Jet Girls
Synopsis: “Jet-Racing” has become a mega-popular extreme sport across the world, and with good reason! The “Jetter” pilots a high velocity watercraft and is paired with a “Shooter” who blasts rival teams with a hydro gun. It all adds up to explosive, wet-and-wild action as they race to the finish and compete to earn supremacy. Among those competing is Rin Namiki, and racing is in her blood. Rin aspires to become a legendary Jetter just like her mother, and after meeting the cool and gorgeous Shooter Misa Aoi, it looks like Rin’s dreams are finally in reach with a partner who shares her passion! Every race brings them tighter together as a team and closer than ever to their dream of becoming the best Jet Racers on the water.
First Impressions: I knew going into this that it was a new franchise behind the vreators of Senran Kagura, meaning that whatever else this show might have to offer, the one thing I could definently expect were boobs. Given that I’ve been pretty outspoken about fanservice at times, you’d think a thing centered around just that wouldn’t quite be my cup of tea, but I’m still a hetero dude so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the occasional big slice of cheesecake, and since the cheescake here is the main attraction rather than a side dish, it’s a lot easier to roll with so long as the execution feels fun. Having said all that, I was a little less amused by this premiere than I was hoping to be. This indeed has plenty of fanservice going for it, and just about every camera angle is framed in a way that makes it clear this show knows its audience, and yet it didn’t feel quite as over the top as I was expecting. Much of the episode plays out like you’d expect of any basic sports anime premiere, which would be fine if this was that, but provides a little bit of whiplash when from a girl innocently dreaming of riding on a jet ski someday to cloth destroying lasers. Also gotta say that the limited looking production kinda hurt things a little too, as while there’s plenty of detail in the fanservice shots, the actual jet racing sport looks a little underwhelming, which kind of makes both that and the accompaying fanservice, feel less fun than it should be. Plus if you are here strictly for the fanservice, this is definently a “buy the blu ray” kinda deal, which is a little annoying even as someone who isn’t totally here just for that. In the grand scheme of things I’m pretty sure all my complaints here will hardly matter to the people who were anticipating this show since again, it’s got plenty of big boobs, but since I was also hoping to be at least a little entertained outside of that, I don’t know if this quite did it for me enough to watch more of it.
Synopsis: The teen adolescence story revolves around the coming-of-age of boys in a junior high school’s soft tennis team, which is on the verge of shutting down. Touma Shinjou asks Maki Katsuragi to join the team for his vaunted abilities, and mentions a summer competition. Katsuragi asks for money in return for joining the team.
First Impressions: So while there honestly wasn’t much of anything I was actively looking forward to this season, this show was one of the things I was the most curious about. Mainly due to it’s director, Kazuki Akane. For those unaware, Kazuki Akane happens to be director behind a little known show called The Vision of Escaflowne, alongside Noein-to your other self, both of which are very strong shows that mix together cool fanatastical concepts with compelling character drama. Going by the previews, this show looked like it was going to be focused squarely on the latter, and while I slightly suspected this might pull some kind of bait and switch since there wasn’t much promotion behind it, this is indeed a sports drama, but that’s certainly not a bad thing. Right off the bat there’s a sense of energy to this show’s direction that makes everything here feel very naturalistic, and especially in regards to boys’ tennis team largely being comprised of a bunch of slackers who don’t take any of this seriously. In a lot of other sports shows that sort of thing would be heavily dramatized, and while the threat of their antics getting the club shut down is a pretty big part of the episode, it’s used more as a springboard to introduce us to our leads Toma and Maki. Both boys seem to come from troubled homes with Toma apparently having issues with his mother, and Maki having to take care of the house by himself to help support his single mother. The latter of the two is definently the most immediately interesting as Maki’s dad comes into the picture at the very end of the episode, and he’s an abuser (also possibly a yakuza member) who only ever comes home to take money , which immediately paints a much darker picture of his family’s financial situation. The tension of that last scene in particular is pretty well done, and I really dig the whole set up of Maki only joining the tennis club under the condition he’s paid, which could certainly make this more than a little atypical for a sports drama. Good as the story setup here is, it helps that whole show itself looks pretty good, with the only real nitpick being that the show doesn’t quite have the level of character animation it’s clearly trying to display, and it makes a couple of scenes look slightly wonkier than intended. That aside though, this was a pretty good premiere and while I wasn’t sure what to expect, even with a trusted director, I ended up enjoying this more than I thought I would, given that it looks like this’ll stay pretty grounded. Since it is a sports drama, I don’t know if it’ll be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re in the mood for one, this is definently one to keep an eye on
No Guns Life
Synopsis: Humans that have been physically altered and turned into dangerous weapons are known as the Extended. Juuzou Inui awakens as one of these weapons—with amnesia. But his job as an agent investigating the Extended leads to a mysterious child with Extended ties showing up at his office. Now Inui must keep the child away from street gangs and the megacorporation Berühren, and it won’t be easy.
First Impressions: I’m not sure if I was necessairly looking forward to this one but I was certainly curious about it because well…how could I not be when the main character has a literal gun for a head. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this, but putting aside that bit of weirdness, this is pretty straight forward noir stuff. Juuzo is about as much of a walking hardboiled detective cliche as you can get from his mannerisms to his dialogue, with his most distinguishing characteristic being that he doesn’t seem to be very good with women, which makes some his facial reactions pretty amusing. Beyond that the setup here is pretty straightforward as Juuzo stumbles onto a case that ends up tying into a much larger conspiracy, and about the only thing seperating this from just about any other noir movie is that the world is one where Juuzo’s very existance somehow isn’t out of the norm, and while most of what we get in the premiere concerning Extendeds feels like technobabble, I’m at least mildly curious to learn more about them. Aside from the noir cliches, the other knock I’d give this premiere is that the show’s overall visual aesthetic looks extremely middle of the road, which normally wouldn’t be too big a deal, but for the kind of setting this has it’s a little underwhelming and about the only thing that stands out visually aside from Juuzo are the character designs for all the women, which are at least more up my personal wheelhouse than Jet Girls ironically enough. Putting all those complaints aside though, while something this by the book would be kinda bland in most genres, noir is something we don’t see a whole lot of in anime, so even a super textbook one is still something different than what typically comes out in a regular anime season. Plus while I was never really wowed by anything in this show’s plot, I certainly entertained by it, so that at least gives it an edge over some of the other stuff I checked out. Since this show is set to run for two cours, hopefully it manages to impress me a bit more sooner rather than later, but for now this seems like a perfectly fine genre thing, and if you’re in the mood for anime noir, this is pretty much your one-stop shop for the season.
Blade of the Immortal
Synopsis: Edo, an era of warriors. There lived an immortal man, the Slayer of Hundreds, ‘Manji.’ He meets Rin, who has sworn vengeance for her parents. Rin’s grudge is against a group of swordmasters – Ittou-ryu. She asks Manji to be her bodyguard on her journey. He refuses, but then sees his late sister in Rin. So began the violent struggle that would bring even the immortal Manji to his knees
First Impressions: I didn’t know too much about Blade of the Immortal going in, but I knew it had a solid reputation as a prestige seinen manga, which definently put it pretty high on my list of things to check out this season. I also knew that it had an earlier adaption by Bee Train that apparently wasn’t very good, so this new one had a lot to live up to, both in attracting newcomers, and pleasing manga fans who weren’t happy the first go around. The show itself is a samura revenge drama, which isn’t quite what I was expecting, but samurai films are some of the coolest pieces of cinema out there, so that at least helped to grab my attention. Our basic setup is pretty straightforward for a samura revenge drama as our heroine Rin watched her father get killed and her mother raped and kidnapped, and now she’s out to kill the group of swordsmen responsible. Unfortunently while she’s spent time training in the sword, she isn’t nearly skilled enough to take down elite swordsmen so she’s left with no choice but to hire a bodyguard. Said bodyguard is Manju, a man known as the 100-man killer, who also happens to be immortal (though this certainly doesn’t stop his limbs from getting chopped off a lot) and that more or less explains this show’s title. Aside from setting the basis for this revenge plot, much of the show’s first two episodes are spent establishing the dynamic between Rin and Manju, which is certainly an interesting one, as while Rin intitally offers herself up in exchange for Manju’s help, she reminds Manju of the younger sister he lost to his violent past, and the end of episode two finds Rin taking on the role of his new sister. It’s a little strange for sure, but I like both characters so far, and while Manju is a bit of an enigma outside of his prickly personality, the show’s opening sequence made me more than a little curious as to what circumstances led to his sister’s death, so I’m looking forward to finding out a little more about that.
More than anything though, what really endeared me to this first two episodes is the show’s art design because HOLY CRAP does this show look gorgeous. Everything from the line art to the backgrounds gives the show a very unique sense of flair that almost feels like you’re watching a painting come to life, and the actual direction’s no slouch either, as the show is littered with impressive shots, and manages to use the heavily stylized artwork both for dramatic, and in one instance, comedic effect, which makes it far and away the most unique looking show of the season. Admittedly I’m onboard for this more because of the art design rather than the story, since it hasn’t completely grabbed me yet, but even with it’s straightforward premise, there’s plenty of potential in the actual writing, and even in the event it doesn’t quite deliver on that end, despite the manga’s reputation, at least this’ll be super pretty to look at, and I’m still totally floored LINDEN FILMS was able to put together such an incredible looking production. If you’re hunting for an easy recommendation for this season, look no further than this.
True Cooking Master Boy
Synopsis: During the 19th century China, the protagonist, Liu Maoxing, wins the title of Super Chef and is the youngest to do so in history. His master, Zhou Yu, suggests that he broaden his skills as a chef even more, so he goes on a journey around China with his friends Shirou and Meili. After returning, he also teams up with Xie Lu and Lei En to fight the Underground Cooking Society. He then learns the secret about the 8 Legendary Cooking Tools. In the past, Mao’s mother, Bei, had wished for everyone’s happiness and fought against the Underground Cooking Society. In order to continue his mother’s wishes and protect the Legendary Cooking Utensils from the Underground Cooking Society, Mao and his friends go on a journey…
First Impressions: I don’t know much about the original Cooking Master Boy, but from my understanding it’s a pretty well known cooking manga in Japan, and I certainly like food so I was a little curious about this one. This premiere follows our protagonist Mao as he and his companions end up in a town that specializes in making dishes centered around chicken, and ends up befriending a restaruant owner. Unfortunently her restaurant has a bad reputation because they raise black feathered chickens that are considered bad luck, but Mao sets out to prove otherwise through his cooking skills as he enters the local cooking competition, and demonstrates the real value behind that chicken. It’s a pretty basic cooking show setup but it was a pleasant little watch regardless. Mao feels like a pretty likeable protagonist, and while we don’t know much about his past yet, the snippets we get indicate that he had to clear a few trials to get to his current skill level, and I’m a bit curious what the deal is with that. I also appreciate that the food in this show looks really good, and while I was lucky enough to be eating dinner while watching this, if I hadn’t I can almost guarantee that looking at some of these dishes would have made me hungry.
If there’s one serious hurdle for this show, it’s that it had the misfortune of being out in the same season as the last season of Food Wars and feels a little redundant next to it, since both seem to have pretty similar forumlas down to the wacky foodgasm reactions (though this show’s doesn’t lean into the lewd like how Food Wars does), and Food Wars is pretty well-known by this point, so this seems very easy to pass up. Having recently finished the manga though I know that the material in the last season of Food Wars is gonna be lame at best, and a dumpster fire at the absolute worst if it actually covers the final arc, so I have no real desire to watch it. With that in mind, this seems like it’ll work as a decent substitute, and while I know a lot more folks will obviously lean towards Food Wars, if you’re looking for another fun cooking show, this seems pretty solid, and I’m up for giving it another episode.
Synopsis: Zen Seizaki is a prosecutor with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors’ Office. While investigating illegal acts by a certain pharmaceutical company, Seizaki stumbles across a conspiracy over an election for an autonomous “new zone” established in western Tokyo.
First Impressions: This show wasn’t particularly on my radar, but I’m always down for new original anime projects, so I’m glad I went to check this out. This is the second of several detective shows for this season that I actually checked out (well third if No Guns Life counts), and this one seems to be really by the book. Anime is certainly no stranger to dipping in procedural cop dramas, and even big franchises like Ghost in the Shell have quite a bit of that going on, but I’m used to it being done through the lens of cyberpunk and/or a distinctly western setting. This show however seems to center around goverment-salaried Japanese investigators, and the politics of the show are kept strictly to the Japanese government, which I certainly haven’t seen one of these do before on the anime front. That gives this a bit of a unique edge in terms of what it could actually explore but the core of the material itself isn’t terribly different from anything you’d see in your average episode of CSI, and this dumps you straight into the procedural stuff without even bothering to fully introduce the central characters, so how much you get out of this is quite literally dependent on how much you enjoy these kinds of dramas. They aren’t exactly my jam to be honest, but I at least like anime cop shows well enough, and while I didn’t latch onto any particular part of this, I was at least pretty engaged with it, and the production is certainly pretty compared to some of it’s competition. There’s certainly no shortage of detective shows this season, and I can’t even declare this to be the best one since I’m not totally sure I’m gonna check out the last one, it was certainly the most polished of the ones that I’ve seen so if you’re really in the market for this kind of show, this feels like it’ll be a good genre watch, and I’m probably keep up with this for a couple more episodes at least
After a long journey, our kids have finally reached their destination, and with it, the end of this show. With how strong last week’s climax was, it was up in the air how much more of a punch the finale could bring, and especially if it would be enough to justify being an hour long, but fortunately it has more than a few tricks up it’s sleeve. There’s still a few lingering questions to be had here, and the show does a great job of not only tying in the answers to everything its had to say so far, but in giving us a few more good gut-punches for the road, as it heads into the finish line at full speed.
Before we get deep into the show’s final big twist, there’s still the matter of what’s to be done about Charice. While the kids understand his motivations, and sympathize with his harsh upbringing, there’s no changing the fact that he betrayed them, and that his actions cost Kanata his arm. Quitterie in particular seems to be the biggest voice of resentment on that end, but Kanata refuses to allow Charice to take the blame for what happened to his arm, since Kanata sees that whole situation as a choice that he made, and he’s prepared to live with the consequences. He also doesn’t want Charice to get taken down with their originals as a part of this whole conspiracy since even with everything that happened, he still considers Charice to be one of them, and while Ulgar decides to play devil’s advocate about it, in the end, he and the others decide to forgive him as well. Honestly with this show’s optimistic tone, there was really no way the other kids weren’t going to ultimately forgive Charice for betraying them, and it’s sweet they did, but I’m glad to see that there was least a little bit of resentment there. It would have been weirder had the show just glossed over the whole thing with how much that subplot was built up over its run, and taking the time to address it helped in making this whole situation a lot more nuanced than it could have been.
And with all that settled, the kids finally decide to grill Charice about what he knows about the truth behind Astra’s history, and strap yourselves down kids because it’s quite a doozy. Polina was right about an asteroid heading towards the Earth, and humanity seeking out new planets to colonize, with Astra being the one they found. However when the foundations for the migration were settled and it came time for the world’s governments to tell everyone about the move, chaos broke out as people started fighting over who would gain territory in the new world, and the fighting that broke out wiped out half the Earth’s population in just two months. The survivors colonized Astra and established an era of peace, but to maintain that peace, they orchestrated a worldwide cover-up, by deciding to tell future generations that WWIII was the cause of humanity’s downfall, and rolled back the calendar by 100 years in order to ensure their descendants wouldn’t be able to piece together the truth, and instead live in blissful ignorance.
Once again, there’s a heck of a lot to unpack with this twist, and it’s a heck of a number for the show to drop at the last minute for how dense it is. Luckily, while the details of this can be scrutinized to death, the part of this that’s actually important to the show’s purposes is more or less spelled out by Aries: the adults lied future generations about their history, and restricted their choices, robbing them a certain sense of freedom and identity. While they might have done this for purely benevolent reasons, as they genuinely thought this was the best way to ensure a lasting peace, it’s ultimately not much different from what the king did to Charice by raising him with a total lack of identity. Framing it this way adds a lot of substance to what would have otherwise been an unnecessarily convoluted revelation, and seeing it from that point of view makes the decision that the kids come to on it a lot more understandable, as they decide it’s their duty to inform the people of Astra about the truth so they can all decide for themselves what to do next. Whether or not you agree with the conclusion they came to is something I can see a lot of potential debate over, but given how well it ties into the show’s pre-established themes, and the amount of issues we face today because of people in power rewriting or obscuring history for later generations (and often for far less benevolent reasons), I can behind their decision pretty easily. It’s certainly something to chew on, and even with how strong the show’s writing has generally been up till now, I’m still pretty impressed that it was able to bring such a complex issue to light in a way that’s fairly easy to understand, and it just makes me appreciate even more how strong it’s turned out to be from it’s relatively simple origins.
Of course while the kids might have resolved to tell the world the truth, the question remains if the people will be ready to hear it, or if the government won’t just attempt to finish them off before they get the chance to spread the word. While we get just enough tension about this potential hiccup to make it seem like the kids could get assassinated right before they land, they manage to make it safely back to Astra thanks to some careful planning, and their originals are all sent to prison for their crimes. As the kids eventually persuade the government to release the truth about Astra’s history to the pubic, anti-government protests inevitably break out, and a wave of discontent sweeps the entire world. However when Kanata releases a novel about his adventures in space to the public, and ends it on the importance of going out to see what’s beyond the horizon with your own eyes, the discord gradually dies down, and the people decide to do their best to uphold the peace they have now. Admittedly this outcome is a tad overly-optimistic for this show, since it’s hard to believe the fallout from such a giant conspiracy wouldn’t have lead to a massive revolution, or at least some serious political upheaval, but it’s handled just well enough that it doesn’t feel irresponsible, and this outcome pretty much works the best with what the show’s themes were aiming for, so I’m more than happy to give this a pass.
The rest of the finale is pretty much a victory lap as the kids all start their new lives. Quitterie and Charice go on to become famous models, with Charice in particular eventually taking over as Vixia’s king in order to shut down the monarchy and help make the wormhole technology that they were hiding away public. Funi enters high school, and Polina becomes a teacher, deciding to use her knowledge to help teach the younger generation about the Earth she knew. Yunhua of course, becomes a famous singer, while Aries and Kanata eventually get engaged before Kanata sets off on a new journey through space with Zack and Charice as his crewmen. Normally these kinds of epilogues can be a little too clean and idealized for their own good, but in this case it’s both pretty well deserved, and arguably more important to this story’s goals than similar ones have tended to be. Seeing all this helps to drive home the idea that the journey the kids went on allowed them to break from their parents and be their own people, and seeing how much happier they are now because of it makes the entire journey of the show feel even more rewarding
If you do need a little something a little less fluffy from this epilogue though, it mostly comes from what we see of Ulgar as he lives out his goal of becoming a reporter. He decides to confront his father in prison to learn the truth about his brother’s assassination, and he was indeed taken out by Luca’s adopted father Marco after coming too close to the truth about the cloning conspiracy and Astra’s history at large. Ulgar’s father was of course, aware this happened, and while he claims to have been sincere in his wish that Ulgar had died instead of his brother, that he saw Ulgar’s brother as disposable enough to be sacrificed at all, speaks to the reality that not even their blood relation was enough to actually see Ulgar’s brother as his own person and not merely his offspring. While this might have been a tougher pill for Ulgar to swallow in the past, he’s become enough of his own person that he’s long since moved past his father’s cruelty and no longer desires his approval. This is something that his father realizes all too late as he briefly sees how much Ulgar has become like the son he lost, and it’s as strong a note as any to ride out this show’s core theme of how our experiences and the people we connect to can be a bigger part of our identity than how we’re raised.
Astra Lost in Space is a series I’ve been fond of for a good while now, and while I was happy with how impressive it was as a manga, I’m happy to say it’s just as impressive as an anime. From beginning to end, Masaomi Ando and the rest of the anime’s staff at Lerche have had a really solid grasp of what made this such a compelling story, and have done an excellent job of presenting its themes and characters, with an especially good eye for pacing and direction. While it’s not quite as detailed as it’s manga counterpart, his has been a strong enough adaption overall than I can safely say it’s worth checking out the story in either format, and that the presentation is strong enough that you’ll get some mileage out of it even if you already sat through the manga. It’s a good thing too, because while Astra may have started off as a relatively straightforward tale of kids going on a journey of survival through space, it grew into an surprisingly hefty sci-fi narrative that highlights the importance of how overcoming trials and hardships are what ultimately allow us to form our own identities. It’s a message that’s delivered with an unbridled sense of joy and confidence, and I really hope that message will continued to be talked about, not just for the rest of this year, but for many years to come.
Synopsis: On a trip to another planet for a school sanctioned camp experience, a group of nine kids suddenly finds themselves transported 5,000 light years away with little hope of survival. Their only chance of making it back home lies in an abandoned ship known as the Astra, which was found floating near where they warped. Now this group of strangers will have to come together, and make a journey across several planets in order to safely make it back home
We’ve finally arrived at Astra’s pentulmate episode, and if you’ve been a little overwhelmed by the show’s seemingly endless barrage of mysteries, you can rest assured this one dials things down considerably to focus on it’s latest revelation. That doesn’t mean this one is any less intense though, as the real truth behind Charice is a pretty wild ride of it’s own, and manages to throws a couple more curveballs into the mix. More importantly, it manages perfectly encompass all of the show’s themes up until now, and makes for not only it’s hardest hitting episodes to date, but one that has helped to firmly set the series into one of this year’s strongest anime offerings.
As we learned last week, Charice is a clone just like the rest of the kids, and specifically a clone of the king of Vixia. He was raised with the knowledge that he was a clone, and therefore worthless outside of his value as an eventual replacement body, and the only real freedom he knew growing up, was in the time he spent with the kingdom’s princess, Seira. Seira was opposed to her father indulging in cloning since she believes that clones are just as human as their originals, and when she discovered that her father had made a clone of her in secret to use for spare organs , she had that clone taken away to be raised by one of her handmaids in secret. That clone was Aries, and while Charice’s original mission was in fact to kill the others and die along with them, he decided to change plans upon realizing Aries true identity, since the real Seira was assassinated long ago, and he sees her as a replacement that could help the king to get over his grief.
Even when I first went through the manga, I was kind of curious how throwing a king into this show’s giant conspiracy would shake things up, but as it turns out he’s just as vunerable to the possibility of being outed as a criminal by the recent Genome Act as the rest of this show’s horrible “parents”, and by all accounts he’s easily the worst of the bunch. While the others also didn’t see their clones as anything but replacements, they at least gave them some semblance of an identity, even if it was one their parents could literally project themselves onto. Charice was told right from the start that he was nothing more than a tool for his original, and has been so thoroughly brainwashed by this that he has pretty much zero sense of self. Even with how messed up some of the other kids have been Charice feels especially broken, and what’s really sad is that he’s been so indoctrinated into the idea that he’s just a shell for the king’s use, that he doesn’t even realize how he’s been harmed, and that his desire to see Aries as a replacement for Princess Seira is effectively perpetuating the same kind of horrible projection the king forced onto him all those years. It’s pretty much the ultimate culmination of all this show’s themes regarding how a parent who doesn’t see their child as their own person, can destroy that child’s sense of identity, and it feels especially fitting that this struggle serves as the final major obstacle for the kids to overcome.
Charice’s story would feel like a tragedy in a less optimistic show, but this is still Astra, so even he manages to find some hope to latch onto. That hope of course, comes from Kanata, who cuts straight through Charice’s facade to reveal his true emotions. While Charice might have only thought he was pretending to be a part of the team throughout this whole journey, he truly did come to care about the others, and his joy at constantly discovering the unknown was just as sincere. Charice really just wants the chance to live his life just like anyone else does, and while he still tries to convince himself that dying and allowing Aries to placate the king’s grief would be the best outcome, Kanata gets him to realize that he’s the one who’s grieving the most over her. It’s clear that at least part of Charice’s self-loathing is rooted in the idea that he can’t forgive himself for watching her die in front of him, and even if he does ultimately want to be happy, it’s not something he feels he deserves, especially since the king opted to directly place the blame for Seira’s death on him.
Unfortunately, this is all way too much for Charice to process at once, and when his conflicting emotions become too much for him, he attempts to commit suicide via the portable worm hole. Kanata manages to beat some much needed sense into him before he gets the opportunity to follow through on it, but this comes at the cost of Kanata losing his arm in the process as it gets sucked through the wormhole. The shock of this whole situation convinces Charice that he wants to live after all, and since he previously expressed interest in being Kanata’s second in command someday when Kanata achieves his dream of being a proper space captain, Kanata convinces him to quite literally dedicate himself towards being his right-hand man. Subtle this is not, but it drives the show’s point home, that people don’t have to be a product of their parents, and that people don’t have to be blood related to be truly considered family. Something that’s best exemplified not in Kanata and Charice’s shouting match, but in Aries’s earlier flashback to her memories with her mom after discovering the two of them weren’t related after all. While the timing of that flashback would give the impression that Aries feels a strong resentment towards her mom for lying to her all those years, even through her tears, it’s more obvious that Aries feels gratitude for all the love her mom showed her, and that she’s who she is now because of it. It’s a wonderful moment that really speaks to the heart of this show, and I’m glad that so much care went into it’s execution since it helped to bump up this episode from a merely great one, to one of the best episodes of anime from this year in general.
On the whole this episode was fantastic, and I really can’t stop thinking of reasons to gush about it. Everything from the direction to the pacing was really on point this week, and I have to give some especially strong props to the great performances from Yoshimasa Hosoya and Nobunaga Shimazaki as Kanata and Charice respectively, since the raw energy of their delivery during that whole conversation really helped to give it some extra punch. Even though this was only the second-to-last episode of Astra and we still have a whole hour-long finale to get through, this one really felt like the climax of the story, and it resonated with so much of an emotional punch, that’s pretty hard to believe anything that happens in the actual conclusion could top of it. Whether or not that actually proves to be true though, one thing that’s for sure is that regardless of what lies in next week’s finale, this show has already proven itself to be an absolute standout, and if it manages to stick the landing, it could have all the makings of a classic.
Synopsis: On a trip to another planet for a school sanctioned camp experience, a group of nine kids suddenly finds themselves transported 5,000 light years away with little hope of survival. Their only chance of making it back home lies in an abandoned ship known as the Astra, which was found floating near where they warped. Now this group of strangers will have to come together, and make a journey across several planets in order to safely make it back home
Astra might be heading into its home stretch, but the show certainly isn’t slowing down because the mysteries just keep on coming. At this point, the extent to which the show is able to one-up itself with dense plot twists is kind of impressive in and of itself, and this episode’s showings really take the cake in that area, as we not only deal with last week’s giant cliffhanger, but the long awaited answer of who the traitor among the kids is. Unlike with last week’s shenanigans, this doesn’t quite leave enough room for any of the show’s trademark character drama, but what we do get here certainly helps in setting up this show’s endgame, and it’s looking like it could be a whole lot bigger than expected.
Jumping right into what was established with last week’s bombshell, the kids are from a planet called Astra while Polina is from the Earth we all know. Kanata briefly suggests the idea that she could be an alien (by their point of view), but that theory doesn’t hold much water. She definitely speaks the same language they do, and when Polina brings up that she was originally from Russia, Aries has at least heard of Russia, even if the very concept of countries (and religion by the looks of things since none of the kids have ever heard of “God” before) is considered outdated by Planet Astra. After Polina and the kids compare their worlds’ timelines side-by-side it seems as though history on Earth and history on Astra are roughly similar until about 1963. While we had the Cuban Missile Crisis that threatened to cause World War III, Astra actually did experience WWIII, and the devastation was so massive that humanity gave up on the concept of war entirely and formed one unified world government, with countries and guns being abolished.
Meanwhile in Polina’s timeline, which is presumably the same as ours, around 2049, it was projected that an asteroid would destroy the Earth in eight years. Humanity then began a mass exodus plan to search for a new world using several ships, among which the Astra was one of them. This was done via artificial wormhole technology which was likely the same as the sphere used to warp the kids into space to begin with, and the icy planet where the kids first came across the Astra was likely the ravaged planet Earth after the asteroid hit. However on Astra, the year 2057 has already passed, and while Polina concludes that it’s likely Astra was one of the planets that the Earth colonized, the fact that it seems to have put together such an organized civilization in a just a few years is more than a little bizarre.
Woof. If that all seems pretty dense and confusing to you, rest assured that the actual explanation is even more complicated than my summary, and even with Astra technically being a sci-fi anime, this is still a lot to take in. Long story short though, it’s almost certain that the kids and the other citizens of planet Astra are descended from humanity on Earth, but the question remains of why Astra has such a convoluted timeline to begin with, and why the kids have no knowledge of the threat that caused humanity to vacate Earth in the first place. As Ulgar aptly puts it, “the adults are always hiding something” and given that the citizens of Astra seem to have been carefully educated not to dig too much into history, it’s likely that some other catastrophe happened that the world government decided to cover up.
Whatever it is they’re hiding is anyone’s guess at this point, and given that we only have two more episodes to address it, I imagine we’ll learn about it sooner rather than later. Regardless of what the truth might be though, one thing I can say for sure is that I once again have to give the show some serious props for its foreshadowing. As ridiculously complex as this whole twist is (I mean seriously, just look at it), the show’s dropped more than enough hints here and there that it all still feels like it makes sense, and that the show is rewarding your patience. Granted it still feels like there’s more questions than answers here, but this is all fascinating enough that seeing where this will all lead still feels exciting (even if I do know the answer already).
But while there’s plenty to chew on with that, the show still has other mysteries to address as it’s finally to end the game of “spot the traitor” that’s been building over it’s run. As the crew heads towards the final planet, Kanata goes what happened when they all got launched through the wormhole, and asks Aries to do a favor for him (as well as offering to walk her home when this is all over, which might be his indirect way of asking her out, but it’s hard to tell with how dense he generally is) and identify who was the last person to get sucked through the wormhole since they’re probably the traitor. Thanks to that ,he deduces the traitor is none other than Ulgar and comes up with a masterful plan to catch him in the ac- alright let’s not kind ourselves here folks. The traitor is actually *surprise* Charice, and Kanata’s “plan” to catch Ulgar was really just his way of getting Charice to slip up and reveal that he’s been carrying the artificial wormhole that’s been following them around this whole time.
As impressive as many of this show’s mysteries and revelations have been up until now, Charice being the traitor was almost ridiculously obvious in comparison. Even putting aside how overly melodramatic his “backstory” was compared to everyone else’s and that it had nothing to do with this show’s consistent theme of bad parenting, neither his folks or Aries’s mom showed up to last week’s League of Extraordinarily Evil Parents meeting. This left either him or Aries as potential traitor suspects and as wacky of a twist as Aries being the traitor might have been, we’ve seen way too many of her thoughts for that to be plausible, so it only left our favorite blond. Luckily if you were a little underwhelmed by how obvious this answer was (I would be, but again, it just demonstrates that this show actually understands good foreshadowing with mysteries) the truth behind his reasoning might actually be the bigger twist here. Like the others, he’s a clone, and he was dispatched to make sure the others were dead before dying himself. Specifically though, he’s a clone of Noah Vix, the king of the Vixia Royal Quarter.
Given that the girl from Charice’s fake backstory seemed to be real, it’s interesting, but not super surprising that he at least wasn’t lying about where he was from. However, this just raises more questions. While all of the kids “parents” have been shown to be influential members of society in some way, throwing an actual king into the mix changes up the dynamic behind this conspiracy considerably, and begs a few questions. Mainly, why he’d risk getting involved in a plan like this to begin with, as well as whether or not he had his own agenda in doing so. It’s quite a lot to think about. Heck this whole episode is a lot to think about, so it should certainly be fun to see how the show hopes to answer all the new questions its raised with the two remaining episodes it has left. Of course, if what went down here is any indication, this show’s story seems more than well thought out enough that there’s hardly any room to doubt those answers won’t be satisfying.