The Promised Neverland Ep #03 Review

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

 

The Review

Ohh…boy. So if you recall, I said in last week’s review that I felt like my initial approach to covering this came off as a little too biased in my mind, and I vowed that I’d try and do a better job of balancing my thoughts between the anime as an adaption, and the anime as a piece of standalone entertainment. While I’d like to think I was pretty successful with that last time, this week it’s gonna be a bit more challenging. A lot episode 3’s choices have helped to give me a clearer view of what exactly the anime is aiming for, and for better or worse, the execution has made it kind of impossible for me to separate those two things. Long story short: you’re probably gonna see a lot of my bias here.

Before I talk about my exact feelings here though, I should rundown the episode itself, which compared to last week’s affair, is pretty straightforward. The spotlight here belongs to Sister Krone as we’re properly introduced the character and her agenda. While she was brought on board to assist Isabella in keeping a watchful eye over the kids, she instead plots to find out which kids know the secret and to use that as leverage to steal Isabella’s position as “Mom”. Aside from adding another wrench into the show’s character dynamics, this bit of scheming also suggests that Grace Field isn’t the only one of these meat farms out there, and it’s confirmed when Isabella speaks with her superior known as “Grandma”, who wants to ensure that our trio gets shipped out as scheduled for a special demon feast. Meanwhile, Emma, Ray and Norman work to discover where the tracking devices are located, and thanks to the arrival of their newest sibling Carol, soon discover that the devices were implanted in their ears as infants.

With that bit of extra information acquired, the three of them then move on to discreetly training the other kids for the big escape by playing tag with them and using it to teach them about tracking, and hiding their own movements. However the difficulty level of this training session gets ramped up when Krone decides to join in their game, and she proves to be far more than most of them can handle as she hunts them down with glee. However while Krone manages to outwit most of the kids, she has a much harder time pinning down our main trio and this leads her to deduce that they’re more than likely the kids she’s looking for, along with another orphan named Gilda, who is slowly starting to suspect that Emma might be hiding something. Our three amigos have bigger things to worry about though, as Isabella’s behavior leads them to suspect that there might be another set of eyes on them, and they suspect that one of the other kids might be a snitch.

So in stark contrast to…basically everything about the relatively grounded tone we’ve seen from the show thus far, Krone comes off as cartoonishly menacing in introduction, and everything from her mannerism to the jazzy music that accompanies her during the tag scene, presents her as over-the-top as possible. On paper that seems like it would make for some serious tonal whiplash, but actually it manages to work out pretty well. This is mostly thanks to a solid combination of great visual direction to make a lot of her facial expressions feel downright terrifying, and the fact that she’s just plain entertaining to watch. Out of everything I was anticipating from this adaption, Krone’s depiction was probably the one I was the most concerned about because while I enjoy her character, her design could get a bit…problematic at times and I could imagine that turning some of the show’s potential audience away. I’m happy to say though that the anime seems to have handled that much better so far, as her expressions feel menacing without leaning into caricature stereotypes of black people, and I’m hoping that balance will just as effectively with her overall characterization as we learn more about her.

However while I was pretty happy with Krone’s general depiction here, I’m a bit more divided on other parts of the episode’s execution. While I suspected this was going to be the case, going by the first two episodes, the layout of the material this week has pretty much cemented that the anime is opting to remove any and all  of the characters’ internal monologues. Instead,  it seems to be aiming to have the characters convey their intentions purely through dialogue and character animation, and there’s a bit of give and take to that approach. Aesthetically speaking, I can understand why the anime would opt for this as this is a horror series, and conveying things this way helps in making the general atmosphere of the story more unsettling. At the same time though, TPN is also a thriller series, and while the “mind games” between the characters aren’t exactly the manga’s bread and butter, they are effective in helping to ramp up the tension, and help in directly conveying key plot details to the audience. In removing the characters’ ability to think to themselves, some of that tension is lost, and it makes a couple of scenes, such as Krone failing to catch Ray and Norman during their round of tag, feel clunkier than it otherwise might have been had that stuff been left in.

Under the same vein, while I can appreciate cutting down a lot of the exposition to double down on the horror aesthetic, some of the world building has been trimmed down as well, and while there’s plenty of time for the anime to correct that in future episodes, it makes a few bits of the overall mystery feel a bit more convoluted then where the manga was by this point.  None of this is particularly deal-breaking on its own and aside from some of the details I just mentioned, the overall presentation here is still strong, and some of these nitpicks went away when I combed over this episode a second time (boy I really hope I don’t have to make a regular habit of watching episodes twice for these). Still, it does make me a bit more concerned about the outlook of the anime beyond this initial story arc, and while it hasn’t exactly killed my enthusiasm, it seems like I’m gonna have a rougher time adapting to this adaption than I had originally expected.

Overall: 8.7/10

The Promised Neverland Ep #02 Review

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

The Review

So before I delve into this week’s review, I want to step back a bit and address my tone for the one I put out last week. As a fan of the manga, I do think there’s value in highlighting some of the anime’s choices in adaptation, but I also feel like I spent a bit too much time focusing on that and not the material itself. While my feelings on how the anime adapts things are definitely going to affect how I feel about any given episode, I also want to make sure to judge the anime on its own merits, so going forward I plan to try a little harder in keeping those perspectives balanced. I can’t guarantee how effectively I’ll be able to do that, but hopefully I’ll be able to do better reviews. With that bit of rambling out of the way, let’s dig in.

So after finding out that they’re being raised to be demon food, Emma and Norman start to connect the dots on some of the abnormalities in their everyday life, and start working on a jailbreak plan. In the case of the former, the two speculate on why they have to take so many tests if they’re just going to end up dinner and end up coming to the conclusion that the demons want their brains, and the bigger the better. While the visual direction of the scene manages to make this bit of exposition feel terrifying, it is admittedly a little silly if taken purely at face value. However as a metaphor, it’s a pretty powerful statement, serving as a harsh criticism of Japan’s educational system and the way it grooms children in order to weed out the brightest and serve them up to corporations that will abuse and dehumanize them. That subtext is admittedly a little easier to read into in the manga thanks to some of its framing, but is presented well enough here that I’m pretty confident the coming episodes will double down on that message.

As far as the escape plan goes though, things run into a bit of an impasse when Emma and Norman attempt to recruit Ray into the fold. While he’s surprisingly quick to accept the truth about the orphanage, he also feels what the audience has likely been thinking: that the best way to escape is for the three of them to get rid of any deadweight and leave the rest of the kids behind. Having seen Conny’s death first hand, Emma is fiercely opposed to this, and she’s determined to make sure none of the other kids share the same fate, instead wanting to create a world they can all live in. Ray sees her way of thinking as far too reckless but is left with no other choice but to play along with it for the time being when Norman decides to side with Emma’s point of view, and vows to protect her in spite of the danger. This sets up an interesting dynamic between the trio as they already seem to have different priorities in spite of sharing the same goal, and those priorities are bound to have a big effect on whether or not their escape plan can even succeed.

Of course while a lot of the focus here is on the kids, it’s not as though Isabella is sitting idly by either, and mother dearest is already making moves to discover which of the kids has caught on to the truth. To that end, she subtly reveals to the kids that there are tracking devices on them to let them know she’s onto them, and directly confronts Emma on her change in demeanor in a tense staredown that manages to feel scarier than just about everything else the show’s thrown at us so far. While Emma manages to keep her cool, Isabella’s calm facade, even when talking about Conny, makes it clear that she truly is an enemy to the children, and one that’s already proving to be formidable. To make matters worse, she’s brought on some extra help in the form of another adult named Krone, and while we don’t yet know what she’ll bring going forward, her presence alone is going to make the kids’ escape a whole lot harder.

This a whole heck of a lot for just the show’s second episode, and that applies in more ways than one. While I expected that the anime would cut down on some of the manga’s back and forth exposition to save on time, and make for a more cinematic experience, they’ve already breezed through more material than I expected and outright skipped a chapter in order to end things on Krone’s introduction. It’s more a personal letdown than a serious complaint though, as the episode’s direction manages to make all the material here hit where it needs to, and flows well enough that I doubt anime-only viewers will notice anything’s been cut. For my part though, it makes predicting the pacing of future episodes a little harder, and while I enjoyed what we got here, I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping some of the material they took out makes its way into next week’s episode. Either way, this has proven to be a pretty ambitious adaption so far, and while I still have some apprehensions about said ambitions, I’m also very much excited to see how it’ll handle things in the coming weeks.

Overall: 8.9/10

The Promised Neverland Ep #01 Review

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

The Review

So to say that I’ve been highly anticipating the anime adaption of The Promised Neverland would probably be a bit of an understatement. Ever since the manga debuted way back in August 2016, I’ve been enamored with it’s stellar art and equally impressive storytelling, and it’s quickly grown into my favorite thing to ever come from Shonen Jump. With that in mind, it kind of goes without saying that I had some pretty high expectations for this show, and the same can probably be said of the people making it, as the manga’s become a smash hit in Japan, and this has generally been seen as something with the potential to become the next big thing in anime. So the question here is, does the premiere live up to the hype?

My answer here would be a yes, and a “kinda”. Given how long I’ve been a fan of this series, and the amount of times I’ve re-read chapter 1 of the manga specifically, my feelings are pretty biased, but before we get into that let’s talk about what actually happens in this premiere. We’re introduced to Grace Field House, an orphanage raising gifted children, as well as our primary trio of characters, Emma, Ray, and Norman, who are considered to be the brightest among their peers. On the day a girl named Connie is set to be adopted, Emma and Norman end up stumbling upon a horrifying truth about the orphanage: that it’s actually a meat farm where the kids are being raised in order to be fed to demons. It’s a pretty shocking twist to be sure, and as far as attention grabbing premises go, it’s very effective, and I have little doubt it will get people talking.

The part where my own issues lie however, is in some of the execution, and specifically in the build up to the show’s big twist. In the manga, much of the events here are narrated from Emma’s perspective, and having that anchor-point  helps in building up a creeping sense of dread regarding moments like the kids going through daily exams, or Emma finding herself by the gate that separates the orphanage from the rest of the forest. Instead the episode opts to present these moments a bit more naturally which still works for the most part, but doesn’t quite give off the same sense of atmosphere that made the sudden appearance of the demons so terrifying in the manga for me.

Speaking of the atmosphere here, I’ll also admit that one of my biggest worries concerning this adaption would how well it could capture the twisted fairy-tale aesthetic of it’s source material. Unfortunately the producers’ decision to opt for having the backgrounds done by the studio ATELIER MUSA, who specializes in realistic looking set pieces, as opposed to going for hand painted backgrounds. means that some of that fairy-tale like charm is lost in this anime adaption and that dulls a bit of it’s impact as a piece of horror-fantasy. Fortunately the anime is able to compensate for this deficiency through its solid visual direction, and some really stellar character animation, which certainly help a lot in ramping up the emotional delivery once Emma realizes her peaceful world has been shattered. While it’s tough to say if the show’s production will hold steady enough to be able to expect this level of animation quality for the remaining episodes of the season, what we got here was enough to make me feel hopefully about some this adaption’s prospects going forward on that end.

Despite the somewhat negative tone I’ve been putting on here though, all in all, this was a pretty solid premiere. I’d be lying if I said the execution here was exactly what I wanted, but I’m also willing to admit I’m extremely biased here, and enough of the manga’s strengths were conveyed here that I have no doubt this show will be a hit. I’m probably gonna need a second viewing to completely sort out my feelings on this first episode, but for everyone who’s not as neurotic as me: strap yourselves in because this is gonna be one heck of a ride

Overall: 8.5/10

Available for streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, Funimation, and HiDive

First Impressions- Winter 2019 Anime

Happy new year, everyone! Hard to believe it’s almost been five years since I set up this blog, and life since then has certainly had its share of surprises and disappointments. Of course while things may change, anime is eternal and as always, the new year means a wave of new shows to check out. Fortunently Japan had the decency to wait until the weekend for premieres which certainly worked to my benefit, so I guess it’s time to dig in.

Ratings Scale

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

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

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

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

Excellent: Really outstanding show. Absolutely worth following .

  • All series synopsis from Anime Planet                                                                                      ———————————————————————————————–

Boogiepop and Others

Synopsis: There is an urban legend that children tell one another about a shinigami that can release people from the pain they may be suffering. This “Angel of Death” has a name: Boogiepop. And the legends are true. Boogiepop is real. When a rash of disappearances involving female students breaks out at Shinyo Academy, the police and faculty assume they just have a bunch of runaways on their hands. But Nagi Kirima knows better. Something mysterious and foul is afoot. Is it Boogiepop, or something more sinister…?

First Impressions: So I actually do own Boogiepop Phantom since I blind bought it on impulse at a con earlier this year, but I sadly haven’t gotten any further than the first couple of episodes because the whole thing felt way too obtuse and confusing for me (the lackluster dub didn’t really help much either). Even so I was pretty determined to give this show a shot because it’s being helmed by director Shingo Natsume, and while everyone mostly associates him with One-Punch Man (and to a lesser extent Space Dandy), his work on ACCA 13 Territory Inspection Dept. proved that he’s a versatile director, and I was curious to see how he’d handle this kind of series. This show ended up premiering with two episodes, and it’s a good thing too because I would have walked away a lot more confused otherwise.

The first of these episodes involves a highschooler and his girlfriend who has apparently taken on a split-personality named Boogiepop who claims he was summoned to save the world, while the the other involves two other pairs of high schoolers, one of which is apparently the clone of an alien sent from space to judge humanity. Needless to say it’s pretty weird, and the storytelling format only pushes that further because a lot of the events are told in non-sequental order and require that you pay close attention to piece it altogether. Framing a story this way can be kind of hit or miss for me since for every Bacanno, you get other shows that just end up being a confusing mess, but so far this has me intrigued and the weirdly atmospheric nature of the presentation grabbed me even though the animation is honestly a little shakier looking that I was expecting. I’m honestly not sure exactly how much I liked this double premiere, but I’m certainly very curious to see how it’ll all fit together so if nothing else, the show seems to have accomplished it’s goal in that area.

Rating: Good

 

The Price of Smiles

Synopsis: On a planet far, far away from Earth, there reigns a kingdom overflowing with smiles. Princess Yuki is twelve years old and beginning to ride the roller coaster of emotions that comes with adolescence. Each day brings with it tears, laughter, and even a little romance. The palace is full of fun, and the vassals who serve her there add color to her life. Seventeen-year-old Stella is a brilliant warrior. Even though she is cool as a cucumber, she never fails to smile. That’s because smiling is essential to life. This is a story about two girls born on a distant planet.

First Impressions: So I knew going into this that it was an anniversary project for Tatsunoko Productions, and while Tatsunoko’s produced their share of good shows, they’ve also had their share of stinkers so I wasn’t quite sure which end this would fall on. As of the episode 1 premiere however, it’s somewhere in the middle, and I mostly walked away feeling a giant shrug. The setup here seems to involve two warring nations, and I say seems because much of the premiere is spent focusing on one of these kingdoms and it’s princess. Said princess comes off as pretty likeable for the most part as do her subjects but nothing about the characters feels particular fresh and the production looks equally by the numbers from the character designs to the mecha CG. I wish I had a stronger takeway from this but this feels like the sort of thing where you kind of know exactly what you’re going to get, and even the episode’s last minute “twist” doesn’t really do much to help there. I might give this another shot if the rest of the season looks barren but right now it’s not looking like a priority

Rating: Decent

 

W’z

Synopsis: Inspired by house music from a young age, Yukiya spends his free time as a DJ for a crowd of one and uploads his videos online. Like any young teenager, he yearns for something greater than his current life. He wants recognition and importance, but breaking out of his comfort zone means he runs the risk of getting hurt, so the cycle continues. That is, until the day he crosses the line of no return and stumbles across a mysterious live broadcast that will change his world forever.

First Impressions: Whoo boy, where do I begin? So I have a complicated history with GoHands in that I like the K franchise (even if the second season was overly padded) but everything they’ve made outside of that has looked progressively worse, and Hand Shakers in particular was a downright baffling (if amusing) travesty. Even so, I figured their newest show was probably worth a peak for better or worse, so imagine my surprise when it of all things, it turned out to be a Hand Shakers sequel all along. Now in fairness, Hand Shakers did end on a note that threatened the possibility of another season but no one actually thought GoHands would be insane enough to follow through on it, and the fact that this show so brazenly references its predecessor makes you wonder if they learned anything from that show’s shortcomings.

I suppose the nicest thing I can say here is that this premiere doesn’t look quite as messy as Hand Shakers did (no CG chains to be had here…yet) but even thing from the camera angles to the nearly-seizure inducing color filters pile on bad decision after bad decision, and that’s not even getting into how bad the storytelling is, and the awkward attempts to create a sense of mystery regarding what the main character’s deal is. Everything I’ve said probably gives the impression I’d drop this in a heartbeat, but Hand Shakers was a gloriously fun hatewatch and I’d be lying if part of me wasn’t curious to see how this’ll follow up on that show’s sins. If you’re into watching stuff ironically then it might be worth your time, but if not, I’d suggest running for the hills while you still can

Rating: Bad

 

The Rising of the Shield Hero

Synopsis: Naofumi Iwatani, an uncharismatic Otaku who spends his days on games and manga, suddenly finds himself summoned to a parallel universe! He discovers he is one of four heroes equipped with legendary weapons and tasked with saving the world from its prophesied destruction. As the Shield Hero, the weakest of the heroes, all is not as it seems. Naofumi is soon alone, penniless, and betrayed. With no one to turn to, and nowhere to run, he is left with only his shield. Now, Naofumi must rise to become the legendary Shield Hero and save the world!

First impressions: So Crunchyroll has been promoting this to high heaven as the next big thing in isekai shows, but I’ve been pretty apprehensive about it for a while. This was mostly due to musings about parts of the source material being problematic, and one element in particular sounded potentially awful, but as with most things I figured I should at least see part of it for myself. This…this was a mistake. So before I get into the really big problem with this show, I’ll talk about the rest first, though there’s not really much to that. This show kicks off with the typical isekai set up of an otaku getting transported to another world with video game mechanics with the twists being that the main character isn’t the only hero, and that alongside not being a gamer, he has the weakest ability of the heroes. On paper this could have been an interesting setup for a more atypical isekai story but much of this premiere features the same bland setups from the barebones worldbuilding, to long dumps of exposition, with the only major thing of note being the other heroes, who for the most part seem like they would be way more interesting to follow than our actual main character until the “twist” happens.

And speaking of said twist *sigh* this is where everything gets rough. And by rough, I mean repulsive. So towards the end of this premiere the main character gets falsely accused of rape by his only party member who was planning to backstab him all along. This is a pretty nasty scenario in and of itself, and a cheap way to garner sympathy for the protagonist, but the specific framing that’s used here, turns the gross factor up to eleven. See, the show just happens to take place in a country that’s predominantly a matriarchy where women have more say over men, and the crime for sexually assaulting a woman is death (though in MC-kun’s case he “gets off” with having his name besmirched). To anyone who can’t quite connect the dots here, this is implying that men are falsely accused by women who just want to take advantage of them, and that women shouldn’t be blindly believed when making said accusations.

This, to pardon my french, is a load of horseshit. Roughly 98% of reported rape accusations turn out to be true, and this promotes a dangerous narrative that makes it harder for women to go public about being sexually assaulted because they don’t know if anyone will believe them. That this show is promoting this kind of shit is beyond infuriating, and to make matters worse, immediately following the rape accusation, the main character grows into an edgelord and seems willing to purchase a slave girl because “she can’t betray him”. I’ve seen a lot of bad isekai shows, some that were really, really gross, but this may well be one of the most repulsive ones I ever sat through, and even making it to the end of the episode was a challenge. Simply put: I hate this show, and while I imagine I can’t really dissuade anyone from watching, hopefully everything I’ve said here has at least given you all fair warning

Rating: SCREW THIS

 

How Clumsy You Are, Miss Ueno

Synopsis: Not only is Ueno the president of the science club at her junior high school, she’s a genius inventor, too! However, despite everything she has going for her, there’s one big problem she can’t seem to solve: no matter what she does, she can’t figure out how to confess to her crush, Tanaka! Can she find a way to give her heart what it truly yearns for?

First Impressions: And so we’ve arrived at our first short of the season. I haven’t reviewed one of these in a long while but’s a slow day so here we are. The basic gist of this is that the main character Ueno is a genius with a crush on her classmate who’s a bit too dense to notice her feelings, and rather than directly confessing, she uses her weird gadgets to help him get a clue. Comedies like this can be a little hit or miss for me since they ultimately have to rely on the staying power of a single joke and some get more mileage out of that than others. As far as this show goes, it was fairly charming in it’s own way, but my own personal aversion to gross out jokes meant that it kinda lost me when it decided to spend the first segment on a pee joke. The second one was a little funnier to me, but wasn’t quite able to give the impression that it would offer my kind of crass jokes. On the whole this seems harmless enough and if nothing else pops up for Sundays I might give it another go, but for now I’m kind of on the fence here.

Rating: Decent

 

Pastel Memories

Synopsis: Akihabara is known as a shining beacon for otaku culture everywhere. But in a not-to-distant the future, that culture is on the decline due to a mysterious affliction causing widespread memory loss.  As a result, Akihabara has lost its luster. However, in one of the few remaining otaku shops, Izumi and a handful of comrades hatch a plan to restore lost memories and return “Akiba” to its former glory.

First Impressions: I didn’t really know anything about this going in, and at first glance it seemed like it was going to be a cute girls doing cute things kind of a deal. Most of this premiere involves our large group of heroines searching for an out of print manga for their cafe, and it’s about as entertaining as that description sounds. About the only thing that stood out to me here was how contrived it would be to have trouble finding manga in Akihabara of all places, but apparently that was the point because apparently this actually involves some kind of reality warping shenanigans involving a virus determined to wipe otaku culture out of existence. While that is admittedly a little more interesting, it takes to the end of the episode for that bit to drop, and even then, it wasn’t really presented well enough to hold my attention. This could be made somewhat more passable, if the girls seemed cute, but in addition to coming off as generic moe archetypes, the character designs themselves are so samey that all the girls quite literally have the same bust size, which honestly gave the impression that the people working on this didn’t care much about what they were doing either. I’m sure someone will find this entertaining enough to give a pass, and I didn’t exactly hate this, but time is short, and this was a little too boring to feel like it was worth a second glance.

Rating: Decent

 

Dororo

Synopsis: One day, a man entered a temple that housed forty-eight statues possessed by demons and made a deal: in exchange for ultimate power, they could each take a piece of his soon-to-be born son. Soon after the child came into the world and the demons held up their end of the bargain; the man then left the crippled child in the river to die. Found by a kind doctor, the boy grew older with the help of prosthetic limbs and enhanced senses, but soon demons began to follow him, and the boy – who his new father named Hyakkimaru – left to find a way to complete himself. He searches for the forty-eight demons; each one he vanquishes returns a piece of his body. Alongside the child thief Dororo, Hyakkimaru travels from place to place, hoping to one day become whole.

First Impressions: So there wasn’t too much stuff that I was actively anticipating this season, but this was definitely one of them. Partially because it’s a studio MAPPA production and their projects are usually interesting but mainly because it’s an adaptation of a manga by the legendary Osamu Tezuka. For those unaware, Osamu Tezuka, otherwise known as the creator of Astro Boy, is by and large considered to be one of the most important creatives in the history of manga and anime as a whole, and was more or less responsible for helping to pioneer the industry into what it is today. As such, I was pretty excited for the opportunity to check out some of his non-Astro Boy work, and this show is off to a pretty interesting start. The basic gist of this premiere is that a feudal lord desperate to save his people from famine, decided to abandon the ways of Budda and make an exchange with demons for prosperity. The sacrifice was his newborn son who was cursed by the demons and was promptly abandoned and left for dead. The boy survived, and ends up having a run-in with a young thief named Dororo who’s amazed at his ability to sense demons. In many respects this feels more like something out of an old folktale than a manga, but that’s a good thing because it gives the show a dusty sense of atmosphere that helps it to stand out, and it feels appropriate for a series as old as this one. That atmosphere carries over into some of the art design choices, as the mostly painted backgrounds help to carry the old-timey feel of the story, and while the character designs are admittedly a bit more modernized than I’d like, it’s not so much so that the show looks completely indistinguishable from any other modern production. Story-wise it’s hard to say where this is headed, and from what little familiarity I have with Tezuka’s works, I know his stuff can get weird, so I’m very curious to see what we’ll end up with. For now I’m more interested in the show’s potential than anything else, but this is a solid enough premiere that if you’re a little starved for content this season, then it should more than likely be worth your time.

Rating: Great

 

Wataten: An Angel Flew Down To Me

Synopsis: Miyako is a shy college student who is also an otaku. One day she happens to meet some angelic grade school kids! When Miyako sees her little sister’s new friend Hana-chan, Miyako’s heart won’t stop racing! Miyako tries to get along with them but struggles… A sketch comedy all about trying to get along with the super cute girl is about to begin!

First Impressions: *siiiggghh* Welp, it’s another one of these. At first glance this seemed like it was going to be a cute comedy, but the “joke” on display here is definitely going to be…divisive to say the least. This show is primairly about a college girl who finds herself with a crush on her younger sister’s friend. The catch here though is that both her younger sister and her friend are grade schoolers, and I’m pretty sure you can see where this is headed from here. I figured that last season’s Uzamaid was going to be the exception rather than the rule concerning well produced comedies where the gag involves paedophilic undertones, but I guess I was wrong and this show is here to darken my door once again. Unlike Uzamaid though, where the heroine was openly predatory to her intended target, the protagonist of this show hasn’t quite realized she’s in love, which is presumably meant to make her advances less creepy, but in some ways might actually be worse since it kind of feels like this series is trying to have it’s cake and eat it too. To this show’s credit, the fact that it wasn’t super brazen about its premise allowed me to actually make it through to the end of the episode, which is a lot more than I can say for Uzamaid, and it’s final gag was pretty amusing in isolation from everything else. I imagine that if the undertones of this show don’t particularly bother you than you might get some mileage out of it, but this sort of thing is my personal kryptonite so I’m gonna have to give it a hard nope.

Rating: Bad

 

My Roommate is a Cat

Synopsis: The story of Mikazuki Subaru, a novelist who is shy and struggles in relationships with other people, and a cat who was dumped by humans and lived a tough life on the streets. Through a twist of fate, the two of them end up living together. This heartwarming tale illustrates day-to-day life through the eyes of both man and cat. These moments seem trivial, but as they build upon themselves, the two become family and find happiness in their life together.

First Impressions: This is another series I went into blind, but with a title like this one I figured it might be a good stop for a wholesome slice-of-life show. The premiere pretty much delivered on that feeling as we’re introduced to the protagonist Subaru, who’s an introverted author that recently suffered the loss of his parents. On a whim he decides to take in a stray cat to use them as inspiration for his next work, and his interactions with the cat help in stretching out a bit beyond his shell. It’s fairly charming, but it was so by the numbers for the first few minutes that I wasn’t sure if it was going to be able to hold my attention. However things changed pretty quickly for me when the show suddenly switches to the cat’s perspective, and seeing its simple yet sensible takes on the Subaru’s shenanigans did a lot to give the episode an extra bit of life and by the end I found myself feeling like I could totally be up for more of it. This show probably isn’t going to set the world on fire or anything, and the overall tone is fairly low-key, but if you’re looking for something wholesome and relaxing for the season, this seems like a safe pick

Rating: Good

 

Girly Air Force

Synopsis: Mysterious flying creatures called Zai suddenly appear and overwhelm all of mankind’s aerial combat forces. To fight them, mankind modifies existing aircraft frames to create mechanized soldiers called “Daughters,” which are operated by automated piloting mechanisms called “Anima” that have the appearance of human girls. The story begins when Narutani Kei, a boy who yearns to take to the skies, encounters a shining red aircraft and its pilot, an Anima named Gripen who has been named mankind’s trump card.

First Impressions: About all I really knew about this going in was the basic plot description, and going off of that and the character designs I figured this would be something resembling a magic high-school show (which weirdly in the endless sea of isekai every season I’ve almost found myself nostalgic for. Instead this seems to be something more akin to Arpeggio of Blue Steel (for the 10 people besides me who vaguely remember that show) as our hapless main character who wants to join the JDSF in order to take down a force known as the Xi, and doing so requires that he helps a bunch of fighter jets with AI’s that happen to resemble cute girls obtain the flying skills they need to do so. Admittedly it’s pretty different than what I was expecting but I’m not totally sure if that was for the better. Much of this premiere is spent introducing us to the protagonist and his childhood friend who are fine, but not particularly interesting, and while there’s a fair chance I’m reading too much into it, I kind of raised my eyebrows a bit at the villains apparently hailing from China of all places, given Japan’s rather complicated history with them. It doesn’t help that the technical merits of the show don’t stand out much either, and while I wasn’t super bored with this premiere, I didn’t feel all that engaged either. I might consider giving it another go if I can’t find anything else decent for Thursdays, but for right now it doesn’t feel too likely that I’ll stick with this.

Rating: Decent

 

The Quintessential Quintuplets

Synopsis: One day, a poor high school second-year named Futaro Uesugi comes across a private tutoring gig with good pay. But his pupils are his classmates!! And they’re quintuplets!! A-and they’re all gorgeous girls, but they’re also troublemakers who hate to study and are on the verge of flunking out! And his first task is simply gaining the sisters’ trust?! Every day is a party! The curtain is rising on the Nakano quintuplets’ quirky romantic comedy with five times the cute!!

First Impressions: So I knew going into this that it was a classic harem show, and weirdly it feels like it’s been a long time since we got one of those without any crazy gimmicks attached to it so I was kind of curious to see what we were going to get here. What we get here is pretty much par the course for mid 00’s harem comedies as our story kicks off with the protagonist Futaro being roped into tutoring rich quintuplets in order to support his poor family. It drew some pretty strong parallels to the We Never Learn manga series from Shonen Jump, which has a very similar premise and is slated for anime next season, which is a feeling that never quite left me throughout the premiere. Aside from laying down the premise, the goal of the first episode is to introduce the girls as fast as humanly possible, and each of them have their own quirks that fits pretty nicely into your standard anime harem with a tsundere, an onee-san, and an introvert among the inevitable contenders for Futaro’s affections. There was a time where this sort of thing would have felt pretty exhausting for me, but it’s been such a long time since I saw a harem show so unabashedly honest about what it is (the episode literally ends by teasing the mystery of “which girl will he marry?”) that I found myself being pretty amused with it. It helps that Futaro has enough a personality not to feel like a blatant male insert, and while none of the jokes were particularly funny, I was surprised at how restrained the fanservice was compared to some of its contemporaries. I’m probably being a little too kind here, and this season’s prospects have been so barren thus far that I’m kind of willing to settle for anything that kept me entertained, but I feel like I’m probably gonna give this another episode. Hopefully I won’t come to regret that decision

Rating: Good

 

Domestic Girlfriend

Synopsis: Natsuo is a high school boy who is experiencing the crushing despair of unrequited love. To make matters worse, the person he is in love with is his teacher, Hina. In an attempt to lift his spirits, he attends a mixer where he meets a girl named Rui. The two sleep together, expecting never to see one another again, but fate has other plans. His life suddenly becomes more complicated when his father comes home and announces he has remarried a woman with two daughters whom Natsuo has met before: Hina and Rui!

First Impressions: I recall skimming through the first couple of chapters of this a while back since it was available through Crunchyroll’s digital manga library and my impression was that it seemed pretty trashy and over the top. The first episode of the anime more or less gave me the same impression, as the core plot basically boils down to “dude bangs girl who becomes his stepsister while also harboring a crush for his other much older stepsister”. It’s about as NTR a setup as it gets and the show doesn’t waste any time in playing up all the sexual elements as being super scandalous. It’s about as silly as it sounds though I’ll at least give the episode credit in trying a little harder than it needed to in making Natsuo and Rui’s feelings seem somewhat grounded, which gave the impression that there might be something more thoughtful underneath the surface than what the premise suggests. Of course a lot of that drama is looped in with wacky rom-com hi-jinks so there’s a pretty high chance I may be giving it too much credit. Either way I can at least say I wasn’t bored with this, and like I said with some of my other impressions, the season’s looking sparse enough that “not boring” may have to work as an endorsement. If nothing else I’m not really averse to trash so long as it’s fun so I feel like there’s actually a decent chance I may stick around for another episode.

Rating: Decent

 

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 

Synopsis: As leaders of their prestigious academy’s student council, Kaguya and Miyuki are the elite of the elite! But it’s lonely at the top… Luckily for them, they’ve fallen in love! There’s just one problem—they both have too much pride to admit it. And so begins the daily scheming to get the object of their affection to confess their romantic feelings first…Love is a war you win by losing.

First Impressions: And sounding off this round of impressions is a show I wasn’t sure I was gonna like. I’ve been hearing positive things about the manga for a good while now, and the premise certain sounded amusing, but as much as I love a good rom-com I kind of tend to get annoyed when they don’t go anywhere with the romance half of that genre, and in this case doing that would mean the end of the series so I didn’t know if it’d be my cup of tea. To my surprise though, those conflicted feelings went away after the first couple of minute because this show is a treat. While the concept of two characters refusing to admit their feelings for each other sounds like it would be pretty annoying on paper, the episode is immediately able to sell Kaguya and Miyuki as the kind of egotistical snobs who WOULD think confessing their feelings is somehow “beneath” them, and subsequently makes their attempts to dodge each other a lot funnier than I expected them to be. It helps that the show has some stylish visual direction, and while it does feel a little over the top in a couple of shots, it mostly serves to the show’s benefit in helping the jokes to land, though I can’t quite say the same for narration since that was a bit more hit or miss to me. I’m still a little concerned the joke here could get old fast, but the last of the episode’s three shorts veers in an almost completely different direction than the first two, so it seems like this will be able to branch out for its gags if it needs to. All in all I enjoyed this more than I expected, and while I wouldn’t quite peg it down as appointment viewing, if you’re in the market for a good rom-com this season, this show seems it’ll be the place to go

Rating: Good


And that’s pretty much it for me this time around. There’s still a few more premieres left in the season, and a few shows I didn’t quite get around to checking out but if I’m being honest the general direction of this season’s premieres thus far haven’t really made me motivated to try digging through more of them. It’s not the first time where a season basically boiled down to “the stuff I liked was the stuff I figured I would like” but I’ve only had a couple of surprises here, and even then they aren’t ones that particularly blew me away. Of course not every season needs to stand out, and The Promised Neverland is here, so as long as I can gush over that every week I should be content until spring. Till’ next time, stay animated.

Toon Talk- Best of Anime in 2018

Woof. Looking back at 2018, it feels like this year went on for a decade and each of those years got progressively worse as the world is edging closer and closer to oblivion. Luckily while things in the real world continue to spiral downhill, anime has inversely been on an uptick, and this has been one of strongest years for anime in recent memory, with plenty of variety for just about every type of anime fan. As always though, I’m here to talk about what I found to be the best of the best, so without any further ado, here’s my best of anime in 2018.

———————————————————————————————–

This category is basically everything that isn’t show-specific, but that I still wanted to give something of a shout out to. That includes theme songs, characters and stuff related to voice acting and dubs.

Best Opening- “Fighting Gold” by CODA (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind OP 1)

So I’ve been kinda half and half on openings this year. When it comes to sheer visual presentation, it’s been an incredibly strong year, and even smaller shows have started upping their game in that department. As far as the actual songs go though, there’s been a little less that’s stood out to me, and the ones that did were ironically the ones with minimal visual presentation. There’s been a few good gems however, and out of those the one that’s stuck with me the most is Fighting Gold.

While I was actually a little mixed on this song at first, since it felt like a bit too heavy of a song to kick off a new season of Jojo’s, the farther along I’ve gotten in Golden Wind, the more it’s become apparent that this particular arc is dealing with heavier emotions than any of the previous parts before it, and the level of intensity in the song really fits the mood Golden Wind is going for. Combine that with the visual flair that we’ve generally come to expect from Jojo’s OPs at this point and this one was a clear winner. This isn’t the first time a song’s managed to grow on me more than I was expecting, and it certainly won’t be the last but it’s really turned out to be a total knockout, and one that I’m pretty happy to have been wrong about

Honorable Mentions: MAN-HUMAN by Denki Groove (Devilman Crybaby OP 1), Shiny Days by Asaka (Laid-Back Camp OP), Binary Star by Hiroyuki Sawano w/ Tielle (Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These OP)

 

Best Male Character- Sensei (Planet With)

Alright so I know you’re probably wondering why the heck a giant anthropomorphized cat is up here, but just hear me out. For the earliest parts of Planet With’s run, Sensei comes off as mostly being a weird and quirky mascot character, with some potentially lewd tendencies. As with many things in that show though, he turns out to be far more than he appears, and turns out not only to actually a member of an intergalactic organization that judges the potential for violence in other species, but is also the one who saved the protagonist Souya’s life when he turned out to be from a race of genocidal conquerors. His goal in saving Souya’s life was to prove that it’s wrong to judge an entire race based on whatever sins people of said race may have committed, since even a person from a supposedly evil race could be capable of growing into someone kind and empathetic, and the end of Souya’s journey in the story ultimately proves him to be correct. It’s a powerful message about the value of pacifism in an increasingly judgmental world, and one that I sure as heck wasn’t expecting to get from a weird looking cat. Sensei certainly isn’t the kind of hero you’d normally expect, but he’s certainly the kind people need and that’s helped in making him one of my favorite characters from this year

Honorable Mentions: Yang Wen-li (Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These), Akira Fudo (Devilman Crybaby), Haida (Aggretsuko)

 

Best Female Character- Retsuko (Aggretsuko)

Calling Retsuko my spirit animal sounds like a terrible pun when I say it out loud, but when it comes to capturing the struggle of millenials surviving at work, and navigating the crushing realities of adulthood, few characters are as relateable as Retsuko. From dealing to her cruddy boss, to finding small means of escapism, Retsuko’s issues feel all too real, and while this could have very easily turned into a case of making a character a blatant audience insert, she still feels distinctly like her own person, and has her own arc over the course of the show’s run. Said arc isn’t a particularly happy one, and it doesn’t really make her life particularly better in any way, but she gets better at working through it, and honestly that’s all anyone can ever really hope to do when it comes to navigating adulthood. Retsuko’s life may not be a sweet as her appearance, but it’s one I can understand, and makes her a character I can sympathize with immensely.

Honorable Mentions: Akane Shinjo (SSSS. Gridman, Hisone Amakasu (Hisone and Masotan), Ginko Kuroi (Planet With)

 

Best English Dub- Bungo Stray Dogs

As impressive a year as this has been for anime, it’s been even more impressive for anime dubs, and there’s been quite a lot of stuff that knocked it out of the park for me. Even with that in mind though, it wasn’t too hard to decide on my favorite, and came from a series I wasn’t really expecting. When I watched Bungo Stray Dogs simulcasted back in the day, I found it to be a pretty okay as far as bishonen action shows goes, but had trouble getting completely behind it. That was in part, due to how phoned in Mamoru Miyano’s performance as Dazai felt to me, since it felt very similar to almost every other bishonen character he’s played, and the way he handled him mostly served to make the character feel extremely obnoxious. To my surprise though, when I decided to give the show another shot with the dub, I had a much better time with it thanks to Kaiji Tang’s different, but far more distinguishable take on Dazai, and it was supported by an ensemble of equally strong performances from the likes of Brian Beacock as Akutagawa, and Max Mittleman’s Atsushi, as well as a pretty solid dub script. There’s been other cases where a good dub improved my opinion of a show, but it’s never really happened to this degree before, and I went from falling off the show midway through the simulcast, to eagerly anticipating the next season. It’s a heck of a contrast, and that makes this dub a simple choice for my standout of the year.

Honorable Mentions: Aggretsuko, Dragon Pilot: Hisone & Masotan, SSSS. Gridman

 

Best Voice Actor- Erika Harlacher

While I’ve never been particularly down on Erika Harlacher as an actress, she wasn’t one who particularly stood out to me until she landed the role of Kurapika in Hunter x Hunter, and managed to really nail the character. Since then, her work as only improved and this year in particular brought out the strongest performances I’ve ever seen from her. From her take on the emotionally stunted Violet from Violet Evergarden to the outright insane level of emotional range on display with her take on the gamble-crazy Yumeko from Kakeguri, just about every major role she’s had this year has managed to be a standout, and has helped in demonstrating just how versatile of an actor she is. She’s quickly turned into one of my favorite actors, and I’m really looking forward to what else she’ll be able to deliver next year.

Honorable Mentions: Kyle McCarley, Jalen K. Cassell, Tia Ballard

 

This category is centered around genre stuff. Unlike the best series which we’ll get to afterwards, this for things that stood out really well as a genre piece moreso than as an overall series. That said there’s still plenty of good stuff to be found here, so let’s take a look:

Best Comedy- Aggretsuko

There’s been some pretty solid hitters this year when it came to comedies, ranging from black comedies like Hinamatsuri to the more lighthearted like Mitsuboshi Colors. Out of all the contenders though, Aggretsuko was definitely the one that left me with the most memorable experience. When this reboot was initially announced for Netflix, I wasn’t really expecting anything besides a few good laughs, and maybe a few bits that felt relatable. What I got instead was an effective mix of black comedy and social commentary about millenials in the workplace, and the casual sexism that women in particular have to navigate through, all through a deceptively colorful package of funny talking animals. The jokes hit hard and the commentary hits even harder, making for both one of the boldest anime comedies I’ve ever seen, as well as one that I can could easily recommend to non-anime fans. This show turned out to be a real gem, and with more material on the horizon, I’m looking forward to enjoying it for good long while.

Honorable Mentions: Hinamatsuri, Mitsuboshi Colors, Asobi Asobase

 

Best Drama- After the Rain

Alright so I might as well preface this by pointing out the obvious: the initial premise of this show involves the heroine, Akira, dealing with her crush on her middle aged manager, Kondo. What saves this from becoming incredibly problematic is that the story is largely framed from Akira’s perspective and the impulsive teenage emotions that come with it, as well as the fact that Akira isn’t so much in love with Kondo as she is the idea of him, and how he can be used to escape her own personal problems. Meanwhile, Kondo himself has plenty of his own baggage to deal with, and the relationship that forms between the two isn’t so much a romance as it is a friendship that allows the both of them to better handle their issues and ultimately become healthier people for it. It’s not a conventional story to be sure, and I certainly couldn’t blame anyone from being turned off by the very idea of the show’s premise, but for me it turned out to be a pretty powerful story, and the strongest drama I’ve seen all year

Honorable Mentions: A Place Further Than the Universe, Legend of the Galactic Heroes- Die Neue These, Banana Fish

 

Best Action Series- Thunderbolt Fantasy s2

There’s been a lot of fun action shows this year, and I had a pretty tough time deciding what to put here. In the end though, I had to give this one up to Gen Urobuchi’s Puppet Theatre, because it came back with a vengeance. It might technically be considered a stretch to consider a puppet production an anime, but what else could it be BUT anime when T.M. Revolution voices his own character in order to sing an insert song in the middle of a fight against  a giant dragon? Much like the first season this show features some amazing fight choreography and special effects, and many of the ensuing fights are so crazy and over the top that it’s easy to forget you’re only watching puppets moving around. All of that action is supported by an even tighter script, and the show manages to pack in a lot more intrigue and strong characterization than should even be allowed for a show that’s literally just Gen Urobuchi playing around with his old D&D campaigns. This season was a blast from beginning to end, and if for whatever reason, you still aren’t watching this show, I’d recommend amending that mistake as soon as possible.

Honorable Mentions: The Seven Deadly Sins- Return of the Ten Commandments, Sword Art Online Alternative- Gun Gale Online, Megalobox

 

Best Mecha- SSSS. Gridman

This has been a really notable year for mecha anime, and by that I mean there’s actually stuff to talk about besides Gundam. We saw new mecha IPs debut, and old ones return, each with their own varying levels of quality and success. In the end though, the one that took the crown for me was Trigger’s loving fan-letter to Neon Genesis Evangelion, and of course by that I mean SSSS. Gridman. I suppose this is technically cheating considering it’s based on a tokusatsu property and those two genres aren’t exactly the same thing, but it delivered on what I want out of a good mecha series more than just about anything else from this year, so the heck with it. The robot fights in this show look spectacular mixing 2D and 3DCG animation in a way that comes off as stylistic and flashy, while also paying homage to Gridman’s tokusatsu roots by having all of the giant monsters animated in a way that makes them look like giant rubber suits, and somehow manages to consistently maintain that aesthetic for a full 12 episodes without ever breaking the illusion. The story itself is nothing to snuff at either, as the show proves to be a lot more thoughtful than its campy origins would suggest, and manages to weave a striking narrative about the importance of connecting with others, and coping with depression, that feels like a better companion piece to Evangelion than some of the shows that have tried directly aping it. Trigger really knocked it out with this one and while I’m gonna need more time to decide if this is my favorite thing Trigger has done in general, it’s certainly the strongest thing they’ve put out this year.

Honorable Mentions: Planet With, Last Hope, Full Metal Panic- Invisible Victory

 

And now we’ve finally arrived at the best series for the year. You may notice that I have two series listed here instead of one, but that’s because I’ve picked the best based on two sub-categories: best adaption and best original work. While both adaptions and original projects both carry the intent to pick up an audience, they’re generally trying to accomplish different things as an adaption has to be a good piece of entertainment while maintaining the strengths of it’s source material where as an original work needs to stand completely on it’s own two feet and draw in a crowd on it’s own merits. As such I feel it’s only appropriate to bring up which two series did the best at tackling those things so without any further ado, here they are:

Anime of the Year (Adaption)- Devilman Crybaby

I wrote a full review of the series earlier this year so I don’t want to retread too much of what I said there but this show was quite an experience. When I first heard Masaaki Yuasa of Ping-Pong the Animation and The Tatami Galaxy fame was doing an adaption of Go Nagai’s manga classic Devilman, I was intrigued, but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. To my amazement, the show turned out to be a powerful allegory regarding the dangers of humanity’s tendencies to label those who deviate outside of societal norms as a threat, and the outright catastrophic consequences that the ensuing violence of those tendencies can ultimately result in. It was a pretty heavy message for sure, and one that’s still firmly planted in my mind a full eleven months later.

Of course as powerful as Go Nagai’s commentary is, Masaaki Yuasa’s contributions in making this such a great show can’t be understated either. Adapting a manga from the 1960s and presenting it to modern audiences in a way they’ll resonate with is no simple feat, but Yuasa manages to modernize the setting with everything from additional commentary on how social media can increase our level of apathy, to some killer rap music, while still managing to deliver on Go Nagai’s core message in a way that feels almost timeless. Combine that with the show’s messy but striking visual style, and it’s honestly not hard to see why this show made such a splash when it debuted on Netflix, and why people are still talking about it. Shows as powerful as this one only ever come out maybe once in a decade, and while I sure wasn’t expecting Devilman to hit this hard going in, I have no doubt this series will be regarded as a modern-day classic for many years to come.

Honorable Mentions: After the Rain,  Lupin the 3rd- Part V, Legend of the Galactic Heroes- Die Neue These

 

Anime of the Year (Original Work)- Planet With

So there’s probably a couple of things I should point out here. Firstly, there technically is a manga version of this series that debuted a couple of months before the anime did, but both were announced simultaneously and the anime pulled ahead very quickly, so as far as anyone really needs be concerned it’s an anime original series. Secondly, if you’re wondering why this is my anime of the year, but didn’t take my top mecha spot over SSSS. Gridman, it’s because if I were being completely honest, the mecha battles are probably one of the weakest aspects in this show. This isn’t to say the mecha fights are bad, and they’re actually a lot better choreographed than the clunky looking CG would suggest, but if you just want to revel in the spectacle of giant robots punching things, Gridman does much better job of delivering on that joy.

Fortunately what Planet With lacks in visual polish it more than makes up for in storytelling, and I mean this in more ways than one. What starts off as a goofy super-sentai show involving heroes of justice duking it out against mysterious alien invaders, and our protagonist Souya supposedly on the side of the villains, evolves into a philosophical take on how violence and justice are ultimately two sides of the same coin, and how empathy and pacifism can be a more powerful force than vengeance and hatred. Series writer and prominent mangaka, Satoshi Mizukami somehow manages to cram the mecha franchise equivalent of two 26 episode seasons and their movie sequel OVAs into a mere 13-episode run, and while this could have easily turned into a bloated mess in the hands of another writer, Mizukami’s penchant for character writing and general swiftness in getting to whatever point he’s trying to make, allows this marvel to be pulled off spectacularly and delivers on the most satisfying ending I’ve seen all year. It’s rare for a mangaka like Mizukami to get so heavily involved in an anime, let alone storyboard pretty much the entire thing, but it results in an experience that can go from fun to profound at a moment’s notice, and stands as my favorite series of 2018.

Honorable Mentions: Aggretsuko, A Place Further than the Universe, SSSS. Gridman


And that’s it from me. If you somehow managed to read through all my rambling, thanks for indulging me, and congratulations on making it through this year. It’s been a rough one, but at least we’ve had some good cartoons to watch, and with any luck 2019 will be even better. Until then, have a happy new year, and stay animated.

First Impressions- Fall 2018 Anime (Part 2)

So unfortunately my internet modem decided to start acting wonky over the weekend so I’m currently without internet for the next day or two. That’s gonna be a bit of an issue as far impressions go, so some of these are gonna come a little later than I would have wanted. Gonna do my best to go through as many of these as I can though, so bear with me

 

Ratings Scale

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

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

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

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

Excellent: Really outstanding show. Absolutely worth following .

  • All series synopsis from Anime Planet                                                                                      ———————————————————————————————–

SSSS. Gridman

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!

First Impressions: While that other Trigger mecha show this year was a pretty massive disappointment, I was still relatively optimistic about this show. For one thing it’s paying homage tokasatsu (which is a level of camp I’m always down for), and it’s also being directed by Akira Amemiya, the mad man behind Inferno Cop. Thankfully that optimism seems to have been pretty well rewarded so far. While this premiere kicks off with the ye old trope of an amnesiac protagonist, we’re introduced to the important people in his life almost immediately and the mystery isn’t who he is so much as why he (seemingly) lost his memory out of nowhere. While he’s something of a blank slate so far, the rest of the cast comes off as pretty likable, and their interactions feel pretty natural. Of course if you’re just here to watch giant robots kick the crap and out of Kaiju, there’s plenty of that too, and in addition to featuring one of the most effective blends of 2D/3D mecha animation I’ve seen out of any anime, I appreciated the extra detail of the Kaiju being animated in a way that makes them intentionally look like plastic compared to everything else, which feels right at home with the tokatsu aesthetic. Tonally it’s a bit more grounded than what I’ve come to expect from Amemiya at this point, but there’s enough inherent silliness that I’m pretty sure it won’t take itself as seriously as that other Trigger mecha show and should probably be a fun time. While I wasn’t completely blown away by this premiere, I certainly had a good time with it, and there’s more than enough potential here for me to stick with it. Here’s hoping Trigger can redeem themselves.

Rating: Great

 

Release the Spryce 

Synopsis: To everyone around her, Momo lives a quiet life of solitude: going to school and keeping to herself. To the members of the private intelligence agency Tsukikage, she is their newest recruit, learning to hone her skills to help fight against a global crime organization. Under the guidance of senior member Yuki, Momo undergoes a series of dangerous, deadly and diabolical training scenarios and missions. With each victory, Momo’s confidence in her skills grows but it’ll take more than that to help keep not just her home but the world safe.

First Impressions: Based on the previews this seemed like something that could be up my alley but I wasn’t totally sure what I was gonna get. An all-girls spy show sounds like a pretty good time, but it’s being written by one Takahiro who was responsible for both Yuki Yuna is a Hero which was good, and Akame ga Kill which was…not. As such I had no clue which camp it would fall into and the premiere hasn’t cleared that up any. Much of the premiere is spent introducing us to the main heroine before she’s thrust into the world of spies, and while she didn’t come off as super interesting, the episode does a good enough job of painting her desire to help people versus her fear of getting in a fight, that I’m at least mildly curious to see how she changes. The other girls don’t stand out too much either, and mostly just feel like an assortment of moe archetypes (the character designs don’t help much here) though hopefully that’ll change before long. The actual spy show aesthetic here is pretty good though, since it manages to put some solid animation on display as well as well as a pretty kickin’ soundtrack, and while it’s hard to say exactly how seriously this will take itself in that respect, there was a consistent enough mix of action and humor to keep me entertained throughout. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still worried this could go south quickly (there were a couple of instances where Takahiro’s more problematic tendencies almost felt like they were seeping through) but for now I guess I’ll willing to be optimistic.

Rating: Good

 

Conception

Synopsis: Itsuki Yuuge is a high school student who finds out on the day of his graduation ceremony that his cousin and childhood friend Mahiru is pregnant. Immediately afterward, Itsuki and Mahiru are taken to a magical world called Granvania, which is currently being invaded by monsters. The only people who can fight and exorcise the monsters are the “star children,” and the star children can only be produced by the 12 “shrine maidens of the constellations.” In order to defeat the monsters and return to his own world, Itsuki must father the star children with the maidens.

First Impressions: So in the interest of fairness, I guess I’ll confess that I actually have played the first hour or two of the game (franchise?) this is based on before. However it was a pretty long time ago. So long in fact that I’m genuinely surprised someone decided to resurrect this from the grave for an anime adaption, but I guess if anyone was gonna do it, it would be Studio GONZO who’s been digging into the well of old video games to adapt for the last couple of years or so. In essence this show is based on a fantasy RPG involving being sent to another world where they have to defeat giant monsters. The catch, of course, is that doing so involves impregnating girls with magic babies in order to destroy them. It’s a premise so silly it feels like it’d be right at home with Darling in the FRANXX in terms of how much it wants to sell the idea that having kids is great, but weirdly this premiere is…lacking. With something so inherently over the top in nature, you’d expect the anime to completely revel in it and be as overtly horny as possible in adapting it, and while it’s not totally lacking in that area it feels a bit too conservative. A lot of the first episode just feels like the show going through the motions of watching someone else playing a video game, and although it at least has the decency to poke fun at that a bit, it doesn’t change that the direction feels blander than it should be. I suppose in fairness if this show HAD fully embraced it’s premise, it’d probably feel a little repulsive, but I’d at least be able to respect it’s commitment. I guess if you’re REALLY desperate for a fan-service show this season, it’ll work out for you, but I ended up being a lot more bored than I was expecting so I’m gonna have to give this a no.

Rating:

 

My Sister, My Writer

Synopsis: Yuu Nagami, a high school student aiming to become a light novel author has a little sister named Suzuka. Suzuka is an excellent student with good grades and great looks, but she’s very cold toward her older brother. Every year Yuu keeps failing at the preliminary rounds of the light novel contest, but one day Suzuka reveals a shocking truth. The flirty sibling romantic comedy that Suzuka wrote has won the light novel contest! To make matters worse, Suzuka doesn’t understand anything about light novels or moe so she begs Yuu to stand in for her under her pen-name, Towano Chikai!

First Impressions: It’s been a while since I’ve had to deal with the eternal curse of imouto shows, but I suppose our paths were destined to cross again, and my suffering was inevitable. Ever since Oreimo pulled a bait and switch from being a fun slice of life comedy about siblings to full on incest, imoto shows have been the bane of my existence and suffice to say this didn’t really change anything for me in that area. To this show’s “credit” the premiere dispells any pretext that this won’t ultimately end in incest as despite her tsundere attitude, it’s made extremely clear she’s horny for her brother, and it’s only a matter of time before MC-kun decides he’s down with that. Putting aside my personal distaste for incest though, this was straight up boring. Every story beat of the premiere is extremely obvious, to the point where you can easily predict where it’s going well before any of the “twists” happen, and that low energy writing is only further let down by the show looking kinda ugly, with character designs and “buy the blu-ray” fanservice shots that look like something from the late 00’s. Even if imoto shows are something you’re down for, I have a hard time imagining anything about this would catch your eye since stuff like Oreimo and Eromanga Sensei at least had decent production values going for them, and while this didn’t feel quite as soulless as Conception’s premiere this felt a lot more by-the-numbers than I was expecting too. Again, if you’re desperate for a fanservice show this season I guess you could do worse, but this is another big pass for me

Rating: Bad

 

Karakuri Circus

Synopsis: Masaru Saiga is a fifth-grade boy who aims to become a puppeteer. After Sadayoshi Saiga — the CEO of the giant home telephone maker Saiga and Masaru’s father — passes away, Masaru inherits 18 billion yen. Masaru is targeted for his wealth, and is saved by two people. Narumi Katō is a man who has studied Kung-Fu and has a weird illness called “Zonapha Syndrome,” and Shirogane is a silver-haired woman who controls the puppet “Arurukan” (Harlequin). Together, Masaru, Narumi, and Shirogane get thrown into various conspiracies by those who would try to steal Masaru’s fortune.

First Impressions: While I was certainly interested in what the series had to offer going in, I was pretty surprised that Ushio & Tora  turned out to be as strong as it was, and now stands as one of my favorite shonen anime. As such, it pretty much goes without saying that I was excited for Karakuri Circus, since it’s not only based on a manga penned by the same author, but has the same staff members that helped to make Ushio & Tora such a comprehensible adaption in spite of how much material it had to cram. Sadly that excitement turned to rage when I learned this show was destined to be an Amazon Prime exclusive for streaming, and the premiere has only helped to further elevate that rage because it was pretty fantastic. Trading in fights between yokai for fights between puppets is a bit of a weird trade, but puppeteers always seemed like a concept you could probably build a decent battle shonen around, and the fight we get in the premiere makes me think we’re in for a good time on that end. The main trio is also really likable so far with Narumi in particular managing to come off as a lot more big-hearted than his brash attitude would suggest and it makes for a decent foil with the more calm and polite Shirogane, even if the premiere makes it a little too obvious they’re destined to hook up. Production wise it’s pretty much on par with the look of Ushio & Tora so if you liked how well that was able to capture the look of 90’s shonen, this will definitely please you. My only real gripe here is knowing that Amazon’s involvement is going to make the likelihood of a dub, or even a physical release in general, one heck of an uphill battle, but while we wait for that to get settled, you should absolutely give this a watch.

Rating: Great

 

Merc StoriA: The Apathetic Boy and the Girl in a Bottle

Synopsis: Yuu, a young healer with the power to heal the hearts of monsters, receives a mysterious bottle from his father as a gift. When Yuu touches the bottle, Merc, a girl made of liquid, appears from it. Merc has no memories from before she met Yuu and wants to learn more about who she is, so the two of them set out on a journey through various countries. And thus begins the comical fantasy of Yuu, an apprentice healer with a fear of monsters, and Merc, the girl in the bottle.

First Impressions: This is the second video game adaption I’ve previewed but unlike Conception which was far more boring than it’s absurd premise would suggest, I was reasonably entertained by this. One point in this show’s favor is that it does a pretty fair job of disguising it’s origins and feels like fairly genuine, if extremely low-key, fantasy show. It helps that rather than having the usual trappings of a hero fighting giant monsters, the magic in this series is instead used to heal the hearts of monsters, and prevent them from causing harm. While I wouldn’t necessarily say that this premiere makes full use of that concept, it’s an interesting enough idea that it managed to catch my attention, and I’m curious what might be done with. The other point in the show’s favor is that the leads Yuu and Merc have a pretty fun dynamic and even though none of their antics were laugh out loud funny, they came off as more charming than I was expecting going in. All that said, this looks to be a pretty low-key affair both in tone and in terms of visual presentation, so it’s hard to say how long it’ll be able to maintain my interest, but I was happily surprised enough that for now it’s worth a couple more episodes.

Rating: Good


And that basically wraps up my fall impressions. I know I missed a few things thanks to my internet being out over the weekend but I don’t really have the time to spare to do a ton of backtracking and I’m pretty content with what I managed to cover. So far this season hasn’t had many surprises in terms of what shows managed to catch my attention, but I suppose it’s fine to get that every once in a while, and fortunately there was a fair amount I was interested in, so it’s not like I won’t have anything to watch. Hopefully we’ll be able to end this year on a strong note, anime-wise, but until then, stay animated.

First Impressions- Fall 2018 Anime Season

School buses are jamming up traffic and it’s too cold to turn my A/C on so it must finally be fall again. With that comes a bunch of new anime, and as is generally the case with the fall, there’s a lot of big titles going head to head. Working through all of them to find out exactly which ones are worthwhile is certainly gonna be an interesting task, especially with how streaming is affecting how much of this stuff we get at once, but it’s basically what I’m here for so let’s hop to it

Ratings Scale

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

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

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

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

Excellent: Really outstanding show. Absolutely worth following .


Double Decker- Doug & Kirill

Synopsis: The city state of Lisvalletta. Two suns rise above this city, and the people here live peaceful lives, but in the shadows crime and illegal drugs run rampant. Among them is the dangerous, highly lethal drug “Anthem” which casts a dark shadow over the city. The SEVEN-O Special Crime Investigation Unit specializes in cracking down on Anthem. This unit operates in two man “buddy” teams in what’s called the “Double Decker System” to tackle the problem. Doug Billingham is a seasoned investigator, and joining him is Kirill Vrubel, whose abilities are mysterious and unknown

First Impressions: While there’s been a lot of anticipation from the simulcast fandom over things like SSSS. Gridman, and Goblin Slayer, this one was probably my most anticipated non-sequel of the season. I’m a huge fan of Tiger & Bunny and I’ve spent pretty much every year since 2011, praying that Sunrise would get a clue and give us another season. Those prayers were answered…sort of as a sequel is apparently in the works, and this show is a spin-off that’s meant to be part of whatever it is they’re up to. It’s a strange situation to say the least but the good news is, even if you haven’t seen Tiger & Bunny this show seems to basically be it’s own thing and it’s pretty easy to jump into.

The premise is essentially a futuristic buddy-cop comedy following a dorky rookie named Kirill who wants to become a hero and a brooding veteran named Doug along side a few female co-workers who have pairs of their own. Given that Tiger & Bunny was more or less a buddy-cop show mixed with superheroes, a literal buddy cop show is an odd direction to go in, but it certainly fits that style well enough and the show’s got some pretty solid comedic chops, and some pretty slick animation on the action side of things. It also helps that the characters all seem pretty likable so far, and it even seems like the show might have some solid gay representation going by the ED song, which was kind of Tiger & Bunny’s sole Achilles’ heel for me. I’ve watched both episodes that are currently available so it kind of goes without saying I’m all in on this one, but if you’re hesitant on it because it’s connected to another show, I recommend giving it a shot.

Rating: Great

 

RErideD- Derrida, who leaps through time

Synopsis: In 2050 engineer Derrida Yvain is famous for his contribution to “Autonomous Machine DZ,” at his father’s company, Rebuild. But when he and his colleague Nathan discover a dangerous flaw in their creation, their warnings go ignored. The next day after Nathan’s daughter Mage’s birthday party, the group barely escapes an attack by unknown forces, leading to Derrida’s unwitting captivity in cryogenic stasis. Ten years later, he emerges in a world at war with the mechanical lifeforms he helped create. Now, he fights to survive his nightmare future to make good his promise to “Take care of Mage.”

First Impressions: Alright so I know the first four episodes of this have been made available as of the time I typed this, but these ARE supposed to be first impressions and plowing through four episodes just to give my initial two-cents seems excessive so I’m just going off episode 1. Having said all that I was kind of mixed on checking this out. On the one hand it’s helmed by director Takuya Sato of Steins; Gate fame and also has Yoshitoshi ABe, the character designer for Serial Expermients Lain attached to it, which were certainly strong enough staff members to draw my attention. On the other hand I didn’t hear particularly great things about the premiere screening so I was hesitant to set myself up for disappointment. For all that though, the first episode was…okay. As far as hard sci-fi plots go, nothing in particular stands out about the story and it hasn’t introduced any clear themes yet, but it’s not boring, and the episode ends on a strong enough cliffhanger that I felt compelled to see where it goes. Similarly, none of the characters stand out so far, the lead included, but none of them were particularly unlikable so it’s pretty watchable in that respect as well.

The real issue here though is that the show is pretty bland looking. While hard sci-fi shows aren’t necessarily obligated to look good, a strong visual aesthetic usually helps in making the worlds of those settings feel believable or exciting and this show has none of that going on. To make matters worse, the character designs look pretty simplistic in animation, and to the point where you’d never be able to tell someone as talented ABe was involved with this. Obviously none of these things will be deal breakers for anyone going into it totally blind, and it’s perfectly watchable but it does kind of feel like a waste of talent. But like I said, I was left curious to see where the story was headed so I guess I’ll be sticking around for at least one more episode, I just kinda wish this looked better

Rating: Decent

 

The Girl in Twilight

Synopsis: Constantly on the lookout for her next big adventure, the cheerful and kind Asuka Tsuchimiya is always ready to try new things with her high school friends from the Crystal Radio Club. One day, the group performs a ritual from an urban myth just for fun. However, several conditions had fallen into place to put the ritual in motion, opening the door to a new world of gold and jet black. In this world, Asuka finds a different version of herself and soon finds out that some doors were never meant to be opened.

First Impressions: I was a little interested to see this one by virtue of the fact that it has a notable visual novel writer attached to it, and I’m always down for potentially neat anime originals. That interest slightly died when it seemed like this show was going to fall into the hands of PonyCan USA but somehow it ended up in Sentai’s instead, and good thing too because it’s off to a pretty solid start. Much of the episode’s first half is spent introducing us to our lead heroines as they goof around and dabble in the occult and while none of them stand out quite yet, they come off as fairly believable teens rather than moeblobs which is always a plus. Of course things take a pretty drastic turn in the second half when the girls’ antics cause them to stumble into another dimension and our lead Akane, ends up meeting an alternate version of herself with a chip on her shoulder. It certainly caught my attention to say the least and unlike DErideD, this show actually looks pretty good and seems like it could maintain a decent sci-fi aesthetic. The only downside on that department is that it seems like it’ll use 3DCG for the action scenes, but the stuff we got here looked pretty solid by anime standards so hopefully it’ll be an asset and not a distraction. Story-wise it’s hard to say where any of this is going based on the premiere but it got enough right that I’m more than happy to give it another watch. Check it out.

Rating: Good

 

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime

Synopsis: Lonely thirty-seven-year-old Satoru Mikami is stuck in a dead-end job, unhappy with his mundane life, but after dying at the hands of a robber, he awakens to a fresh start in a fantasy realm…as a slime monster! As he acclimates to his goopy new existence, his exploits with the other monsters set off a chain of events that will change his new world forever!

First Impressions: Welp it’s time for our seasonal dose of isekai, but this is one I was at least morbidly curious about, thanks to the clearly weird premise demonstrated in the title. For the most part I’d say this curiosity was pretty well rewarded. On the surface it’s not too different from other isekai stories, the protagonist starts off as an unnamed office worker who dies and ends up reincarnated into fantasy RPG world, and he’s granted abilties that make him pretty overpowerful, but it’s got quite a few things going for it. One is obviously the concept of having the protagonist as a non-human entity, and the show plays that up for all it’s worth (though going by the OP he’ll eventually gain some kind of humanoid form so he can have his inevitable harem), but it also has a pretty solid sense of humor with much of the episode’s second half centering around the protagonist forming an odd bur endearing friendship with a dragon that looks like he’d be the final boss of a Final Fantasy game. This is all aided by some surprisingly strong visual direction that gives the show enough extra flair that it actually feels like the staff involved are having fun with it, compared to how much a lot of other isekai stuff feels like it’s running on auto-pilot. I have no idea if this show will be able the amount of goodwill the premiere provided, but I was entertained enough that I’ll certainly give it another episode or two.

Rating: Good

 

Run With the Wind

Synopsis: Tokyo-Hakone Round-Trip College Ekiden Race or “Hakone Ekiden,” one of the biggest university marathon relay races in Japan. The race is held every year on January 2-3 and goes between Tokyo and Hakone and back, for a total run of of nearly 217.9 km (about 135.4 miles).

First Impressions: While I didn’t really know anything about the source material here, the staff attached to it was enough to catch my attention since there’s quite a bit of overlap with Haikyu and that’s a show I like a lot. That certainly shows in the visual presentation as the character designs ring quite a few similarities and the animation looks pretty solid so far which is definitely a plus for a sport like running which obviously requires a lot of motion. Far as the actual material goes I felt a little mixed. The episode made the weird decision shift around some  chronological events in what seemed to be a bid to introduce the show’s ensemble as fast as possible and while it didn’t totally kill my interest, there was a quite a bit of whiplash there. To it’s credit though the cast is pretty diverse as in addition to a few generic pretty boys we get a couple of gruffer looking ones, and even a black guy thrown into a mix which certainly isn’t what you’d come to expect from something clearly hoping to strike it with the fujoshi crowd.

Of course with a total of 10 dudes introduced this premiere doesn’t really have enough time to make them all stand out, but I do appreciate the diversity. Far as the story goes, nothing’s really grabbed my attention yet since the show has yet to make it’s case on why one of the leads is so driven to make it to the championships in track, but I imagine that won’t take long to get fleshed out. Right now the only thing seriously holding me to this one is the novelty of having a black guy as part of a bishie ensemble but I like sports shows, and nothing here seemed it would raise any serious red flags so at the very least I’m probably willing to give it another episode.

Rating: Decent

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai

Synopsis: “Puberty syndrome – Abnormal experiences rumored on the internet to be caused by sensitivity and instability during adolescence. This year, Sakuta Azusagawa, a second-year student at a high school near Enoshima, meets several girls that are experiencing this “puberty syndrome.” For instance, he meets a wild bunny girl in the library. She turns out to be an actress on hiatus, Mai Sakurajima, who is also his senior at the school. For some reason, no one else can see this enchanting girl. How did she become invisible…?

First Impression: Alongside our seasonal dose of isekai is the seasonal world salad title light novel show, and this one looks to fill that void. Didn’t really know anything about this one aside from the wacky title and going by the first episode I’m not quite sure exactly what it’s aiming for. On the surface it seems to following in the footsteps of titles like SNAFU by having a protagonist who’s kind of an apathetic jerk getting involved with a female classmate who’s quiet and socially isolated, but there also seem to be a potential mystery going on regarding the heroines and the “Adolescent Syndrome” that seems to be cursing them. While there’s plenty of set-up here for the latter, much of the time here is spent introducing us to the protagonist who frankly didn’t really come off as endearing enough to hold my attention for 20 minutes and the chemistry between him and the main heroine didn’t quite do it for me either. More than anything though, nothing here really grabbed me one way or the other, and I’m honestly not that sure what I watched. It was fairly watchable though I guess so it might be someone else’s speed but I’m not sure if I’m that interested to see where this is going.

Rating: Decent

 

Between the Sky and Sea

Synopsis: Fish suddenly disappeared on Earth. The Ministry of Fisheries has initiated the experimental program of creating ‘Aquatic Orbs’, farming fish in encapsulated bodies of water in space. Six girls are selected as candidates to become fishers who will go into space to catch new species of fish. From Onomichi City to the cosmos, this is the story of aspiring girls aiming to be Space Fishers!

First Impressions: I knew literally nothing about this one going but somewhere along the way I was able to piece together this was a mobile game adaption and sure enough I was right on the money. Aside from stuff like Rage of Bahamut: Genesis, these tend to strike out more often than not when it comes to being entertaining but I actually found this to be pretty okay. The characters are pretty much the usual assortment of moeblob archetypes with nothing to make them feel distinct or close to actual women, but the premise of fishing in space was absurd enough to catch my attention and this managed to get some decent mileage out of that. The mechanics of said space fishing are pretty clearly based on a mobile app (something it rather shamelessly doesn’t bother hiding surprisingly enough)  but they still felt kind of neat regardless and if nothing else it made me kind of want to check out the mobile game this was based on. Can’t really say if this is absolutely worth a watch since I was mainly just entertained by the premise more than anything, but if that sounds amusing to you, this might be worth a peek. As for me, I’m not totally sure if I’ll go any further but the odds are better than with most other mobile game adaptions I’ve watched so if nothing else, it’s at least accomplished that much

Rating: Decent

 

Zombieland Saga

Synopsis: A typical morning. The usual music. Their normal lives. The peace these seven girls experience will suddenly be destroyed. By the living dead… zombies. A reality that they never wanted a part of, an amazing and terrifying zombie world. They all share one wish: “We want to live.” These girls will struggle through this saga, in order to achieve a miracle.

First Impressions: I was extremely curious about this show, because like most folks, I was wonder what the heck it was gonna be. The producers waited until the last possible moment to give us a staff list and a trailer and usually when a show is that vague in terms of promotion it’s either something extremely unexpected or it’s going through some serious production hell. MAPPA’s general track record made the likelihood of the latter unlikely so I was banking on the former and having walked away from this I honestly haven’t a clue what I just watched. The first few minutes tease the start of a typical idol show, then quickly swerves into a zombie apocalypse, only to end up teasing the possibility of zombies as a idol group, before (seemingly) settling in the idea of zombie idol girls doing death metal. If that sounds absolutely absurd, rest assured the act of watching it is even more bizarre, and the show went through so many shifts over the course of 20 minutes that my jaw was stuck on the floor almost the whole way through. Weird as it was there are two things I know for certain: 1) it was pretty funny and while not everything was laugh out loud hilarious, the timing for every punchline was downright incredible, 2) I’m absolutely down for more of…whatever this is. I’m not sure if anything I’ve said will properly prepare you for the experience but if at least part of it sounded amusing to you, I’d say give it a go.

Rating: Great

 

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind

Synopsis: Jotaro asks Koichi to travel to Naples to investigate a person known as Haruno Shiobana, whose real name is later revealed as Giorno Giovanna. The story follows Giorno in his goal to rise to the top of the Passione mafia group and turn it into a band of honorable thieves.

First Impressions: It’s been a long wait, but it’s finally time for some new Jojo’s. To be honest though I wasn’t totally sure how enthusiastic I was for this. Golden Wind has generally been regarded by Jojo’s diehards as one of the weakest entries, and the 6 or 7 chapters of the manga I skimmed through back when I still read manga scanlations didn’t really do much to keep my attention after the highs of Diamond is Unbreakable. All that said, more Jojo’s is still more Jojo’s and this premiere was pretty fun. Where as Diamond is Unbreakable had the aesthetic of a horror movie set in the suburbs, this seems to be more akin to a mafia drama, and our lead Giornno has already proven himself to be a lot more amoral than Josuke, with the matter of his connection to the Joestar bloodline only further complicating matters. It’s a pretty noticeable shift but the premiere has pulled it off pretty well and in spite of the fact that this season has gone through a pretty big change in directors, the in-house “style” of David Production’s take on Jojo’s is still as strong as ever, and manages to go from funny to terrifying without skipping a beat. The only big “negative” here is that compared to last couple of entries, this one is REALLY running on the assumption you’ve seen Diamond is Unbreakable and Stardust Crusaders so it’s not quite as newbie-friendly. However for all us Jojo’s fans out there, this seems like it’ll be a pretty good time.

Rating: Great

 

Hinomaru Sumo

Synopsis: A “small” new student, Ushio Hinomaru, appears before the weak little sumo club of Oodachi High School. The words “big” and “heavy” are the rules to this sport, which does not fit this newbie one bit, but Ushio surprises everyone. Ushio and the small sumo club climbs its way to the top with a goal to reach the highest rank, Hinoshita Kaisan.

First Impressions: Hinomaru Sumo has been running in JUMP for several years now but due to the lack of an anime adaption, and the fact that sumo’s such an unpopular sport that Viz would be pretty nuts to risk licensing the manga without one, I’ve never gotten the opportunity to check it out. Now that it has though, I was finally able to give it a shot and for the most part this was a pretty fun premiere. Ushio comes off as a fairly likable protagonist and while he’s come too far along in his physical stature for his dream of becoming the best sumo wrestler to work as an underdog story, the show drops some pretty strong suggestions that there’s more driving him than just a desire to win. The general aesthetic also seems to be leaning pretty hard into how much testosterone it can give off and while it’s not a standout in that respect, it does give the impression the sumo bouts could get pretty gritty. In terms of animation it just looks serviceable so far, but given this adaption is being done by modern-day GONZO, I didn’t have any major expectations about it looking good and so long it can stay relatively consistent it hopefully won’t hurt any of the matches. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this, but I walked away pretty entertained and while it’s hard to say if this’ll end up reaching the heights of some of favorite sports shows, I’m willing to give it the opportunity to impress me.

Rating: Good

 

UzaMaid!

Synopsis: Misha is an elementary school girl who lives with her father, having lost her mother at a young age. A new maid has joined their household, and on top of being an unusually muscular woman, she also has an excessive love for young girls!

First Impressions: This is yet another show I knew literally nothing about going in and I kinda wish I had so I could have stayed far, far away. At first glance this seems like it could be an innocent comedy involving a hyperactive maid who’s ex-military and a precocious little girl. That innocence goes right out the window when it quickly becomes apparent the maid is essentially a pedophile and most of the jokes are her creeping on a little girl who is rightlyfully angry and freaked out while the girl’s dad watches on in blissful ignorance. Between my current occupation and my general disgust for this kind of material, pretty much anything that makes a joke out of pedophilia is an automatic nope for me, and I wish I anime would stop with that. If I had anything nice to say about this it’s that the few minutes of it I managed to sit through were pretty well animated and so much in fact that I was kind of angry this much effort was put into something so gross, but the whole thing was so creepy I couldn’t even last the entire episode. Screw this.

Rating: Bad

 

Radiant

Synopsis: Seth is an aspiring wizard living in a pastoral village under the watchful eye of his mentor. Like all wizards, he is an “infected”—one of the few people that has survived contact with a Nemesis, creatures that fall from the sky and contaminate all they touch. His encounter gave him powers and led him to choose a path that seemed to be perfect—to become someone who hunts and fights the Nemesis. But Seth longs for a quest that goes beyond the simple hunt for monsters. He wants to find the place they come from, Radiant, and destroy it. Along with other wizards, he travels the world in search of Radiant, under the sinister eye of the Inquisition…

First Impressions: While I can’t say I was super eager about this one, I definitely wanted to give it a shot since I knew the original manga was penned by a French creator and anime adapting foreign comics isn’t something that happens every day. From everything I had heard though, it seemed like it was going to be a pretty basic shonen, but I generally like shonen so that wasn’t a big deal breaker for me. As for what I saw…yep it sure was a shonen. We’ve got everything from a loud idiot who wants to prove he’s the best like no one ever was, to the obligatory villagers who treat him like an outcast for being a constant screwup. Pretty much everything here is something the audience has likely seen before and it doesn’t helped that the anime is being directed by one Seiji Kishi whose work is so consistently mediocre that the quality of the show literally comes down to how good the source material is.  To it’s credit though, Seth can at least use magic somewhat, so there’s at least a chance it won’t pull the “he actually has the best power” bit that helps makes Black Clover insufferable to me. The only major standout here is the art design which isn’t amazing but offers a clean enough looking fantasy aesthetic that’s pleasant to look at, which is a little surprising considering NHK shows tend to look kinda shoddy. Nothing here really excited me in any particular way but it also seems pretty harmless for the moment and the fact that it ends on a cliffhanger gives me a bit of hope it might do something a little different. In the meantime though, I could probably use a Saturday morning cartoon so I’ll give this a couple more episodes to see if it can fit the bill.

Rating: Decent

 

Goblin Slayer

Synopsis: A young priestess has formed her first adventuring party, but almost immediately they find themselves in distress. It’s the Goblin Slayer who comes to their rescue–a man who’s dedicated his life to the extermination of all goblins, by any means necessary. And when rumors of his feats begin to circulate, there’s no telling who might come calling next…

First Impressions: Here we have the other big isekai of the season, and the one I was extremely nervous about. I’ve heard folks praising the light novels for years, but that praise has typically been in regards to how violent and unrelenting it is, which I guess might have been cool to teen me, but is generally something adult me couldn’t care less about. Still I figured I might as well give it a fair shake and the premiere was quite…something. Even without the title giving away the threat of the goblins, the framing of the first few minutes is extremely unsubtle about how screwed the party of adventures we follow are, and in a span of less than ten minutes things quickly escalate towards mob beatings and gang rape. Our heroine is saved from a similar fate (but not before a really uncomfortable close-up of her peeing herself in fear) by the titular Goblin Slayer who’s primary traits so far are that he’s ruthlessly efficient and…likes to hunt goblins I guess. Needless to say none of this appealed to me, and parts of it were outright gross, but for both better and worse I can totally see how this would appeal to a lot of edgy teens out there who find this sort of stuff to be “cool” and “shocking”. Studio WHITE FOX knows that too because the visual direction here is pretty stunning, and while the partial CG on Goblin Slayer is a little jarring, the overall presentation is enough that it would very much satisfy someone looking to sink their teeth into a violent action show. As for me though, I found this to be pretty vile and while to it’s partial credit, I was at least able to get through the whole first episode to critique it properly, this is basically one giant nope for me.

Rating: Bad

Review: Shiki- A Line Drawn in Blood

Synopsis: Sotoba is a small village stepped in tradition and cut-off from the outside world. One day a mysterious group of new residents arrive in the village and around the same time, a large rash of sudden deaths begin to plague the village. What is the connection between these new people and the deaths of the villagers, and can anything be done to prevent them?

The Review

I’ve never been much of a horror movie person, and even less into stories about vampires. Due to my upbringing I was never really allowed to be around much of the former growing up, and the latter tends to be targeted more towards women these days so as a straight dude they don’t hold a whole ton of appeal for me without an interesting hook. All that alongside the problems horror anime tend to have with actually being well…scary and I had plenty of reason to continually put off watching Shiki. I’d heard various degrees of praise for it over the years, and I recalled liking the first episode of it that I had actually watched way back when Funimation had done their initial simulcast of it, but my general aversion to the genre made me wary of whether or not it would be worth my time. However thanks to Aniplex’s shenanigans, Funimation’s rights to the show ended up expiring this year, so faced with the possibility of never being able to see this show again and the fact that the S.A.V.E. edition was going for dirt cheap on RightStuf, I was finally faced with no choice but to tackle my procrastination, Twenty-four episodes later, I can safely that the show was definitely one of the most memorable viewing experiences I’ve ever had for both better and worse.

For the first half of the show the show follows a pretty straightforward formula. A series of sudden deaths occurs in the small town of Sotoba, and a few of the residents including our three primary human characters, Natsuno, Dr. Ozaki and Seishin, notice that something else seems to be happening beneath the surface. Eventually these deaths are connected to existence of a race of vampires known as Shiki who drain victims of their blood until they either die permanently, or come back as a Shiki themselves. This combined with the arrival of a group of outsiders including a strange little girl named Sunako, leads to a gigantic ,mystery to discover who and who isn’t a Shiki, with a few episodes focusing on a “victim-of-the-week” before leading up to their eventual demise.

 

Compared to a lot of other horror anime I’ve seen there are two things that Shiki does particularly well in it’s earliest episodes. The first is creating a genuinely unsettling sense of atmosphere as we’re introduced to the setting of Sotoba. Horror anime often tends to suffer from a need to feel “spooky” at all times, and trying to maintain a constant level of dread often just ends up coming off as incredibly goofy instead. This show certainly isn’t immune to that effect either, but compared to similar works, it starts off a lot more grounded, and that largely works to it’s benefit. The “isolated village” is an old enough horror concept that even someone as unversed in the genre as I am knows how it works, but the show manages to make it feel real by giving Sotoba a strong enough sense of culture to feel unique while also providing it with enough modern conveniences that it doesn’t feel as though it’s completely cut off from reality. That gives the overall tone of a bit of a timeless feel, which makes the gradual appearance of the Shiki all the more disturbing as they actually do feel like an unnatural part of the show’s world, and the subsequent murders they dish out are much scarier for it.

The second key to it’s success in the first half lies in how it utilizes its massive cast of characters. Sotoba is town populated with a variety of both relateable and strange individuals and the show takes the time to make sure that the audience gets to be familiar with as many of them as possible. From Megumi who despises the town and desperately wants to escape to the city, to the overly-friendly Toru who also harbors a crush on an older woman, each of these characters have their own motivations, and for the most part, feel pretty believable. While many of these characters vary in their degree of likability, the amount of personalities on display gives the series a sense of humanity that other horror anime I’ve come across have kind of lacked, and more importantly, spending so much time with them makes their inevitable “deaths” at the hands of the Shiki hit that much harder. This naturally causes the audience to lean towards the side of humanity in this struggle, and to want to see the Shiki driven out before they fully infest the village.

However as the show heads into its second half, the story begins to undergo a gradual but significant dramatically shift. As Ozaki begins going to more extreme lengths in order to combat the threat of the Shiki, and more of the villagers become aware of what’s going on, the human characters start fighting back, and fighting in earnest. At the same time, as several of the characters we met while they were human are now Shiki, and the show takes the time to explore the motivations of Sunako, who just wants a place where she won’t be persecuted, we begin to sympathize with the Shiki and their plight to live peacefully. It all builds up to a massive reversal in which the humans become the hunters and many of the townsfolk who were kind or at least sympathetic, become vicious and cruel in the wake of exterminating the Shiki, all while convincing themselves that they’re doing this to protect themselves.

 

It’s a powerful allegory for the way in which we can “other” those we deem a threat and it’s one I honestly can’t say I was expecting. The use of supernatural creatures as a metaphor for those who fit out of societal norms is certainly nothing new, but it’s rare to see that subject tackled in such a violent way (Devilman is the closest comparison that comes to mind here) and it’s honestly pretty haunting. While society as a whole isn’t always quick to turn to extremism against those who threaten the status quo, dehumanizing those people creates situations where any degree of excessive force can be justified as something “for the greater good” and, much as in the case with this show’s conclusion, ultimately results in tragedy. It’s definitely not a very uplifting message, (and it broke me to such an extent that I didn’t even want to look another person in the eye for a good few hours after the finale) but it’s certainly a powerful one, and in light of some of the recent headlines in the news, it’s also one that sadly hasn’t lost any of its relevance. 

As should be no real surprise to anyone by this point, I went through this one watching the dub and said dub turned out to be really spectacular. I have a real fondness for dubs that manage to tackle the challenge of dealing with a large ensemble cast as opposed to following a specific group of characters and ADR Director, Mike McFarland, manages to step up to the plate and then some. There’s a ton of really stellar performances in this dub from the actors in the main cast like John Burgmeier as Seishin and David Wald as Dr. Ozaki who do an excellent job of portraying the individual moral struggles plaguing them, to R. Bruce Elliot whose work as the shopkeeper Tomio manages to make the character sound downright bone-chilling during the Shiki hunts, and made him extremely memorable for an otherwise minor character. Every performance in the show is rock solid and a lot of the acting here did a lot to sell me on the story’s eventual descent into tragedy.

Production wise on the other hand, there isn’t a whole ton that stands out here, but there also isn’t anything I’d actually complain about on that front. The animation by studio Daume is relatively consistent, if not particularly flashy, and the music is generally just serviceable with the second ending theme “Gekka Reijin” by BUCK-TICK being the only one that caught my attention. Similarly, the character designs are pretty par the course for an early 2010’s show with the only exception on that end being the excessive amount of 80’s hair that a good fifty percent of the cast seems to have, and that generally came off as more hilarious than creepy. Fortunately Tetsuro Amino’s direction on the series manages to work around these shortcomings pretty effectively and successfully combines with the sound production by Junichi Inaba to create a chilling sense of atmosphere that manages to make even the goofier bits genuinely unsettling, and actually managed to creep me out even when the vampires weren’t on screen.

So having now sat through all of Shiki, I’m now of two minds on my purchase of it. It made good use of its horror elements to tell a darker tale about human nature than would expected at first glance, and it managed to grip me ways that I really couldn’t see coming based on how the first batch of episodes went. At the same time though, while I acknowledge the material is strong, it also managed to repulse me in a way I’ve rarely experienced while watching something, and I’ve never felt quite as awful walking away after finishing a show as I did watching this. I’m glad I watched Shiki and I’ll stand by it as an excellent work of fiction but truth be told, I don’t think I’ll be be taking it off my shelf to give it another run through anytime soon.

Overall: 9/10

Review: Den-nou Coil- Beyond the Looking Glass

Synopsis: Yuko “Yasako” Okonogi and her sister Kyoko have just moved to Daikoku City. After arriving in the city she finds herself getting involved with a group of children who enjoy hacking via use of their “cyber glasses” as well as a mysterious girl who’s also named Yuko but is quickly referred to by everyone as “Isako”. Like most everyone her age, Yasako also enjoys using her cyber glasses, but when she finds herself getting connected to a series of strange incidents involving cyber space, she finds that there may be a lot more to the virtual world than meets the eye…

The Review

I’ve been a dedicated anime fan for some 13 odd years now, and in that timespan I’ve consumed far more shows than I’d honestly care to admit. Even with that though, there’s always been that pesky handful of beloved classics that everyone says is a must-watch, and that I keep meaning to get around to, but sadly rarely do. One of those shows happens to be the 2007 Madhouse series, Dennou Coil, which has long been a well regarded sci-fi series. For many years I pushed it to the wayside as something I’d get around to eventually, and even when Maiden Japan licensed the series back in 2016, I still wasn’t sure if I really wanted to pluck down the cash for a blind-buy. Fortunately though, Sentai happened to have a big sale a while ago, and both halves of this show were available for pretty cheap, so I finally decided to bite the bullet and give it shot. Now that I finally have, it’s time to see if this show really does live up to it’s strong reputation.

Dennou Coil’s primary objective is the exploration of how much technology (in particular virtual reality and the internet) has become integrated into our daily lives, and how much of a separation, if any, there should be between the virtual world and the real one. Given that this show was created in 2006, and by extension, well before the popularization of social media, I was a little worried that a lot of its commentary would feel dated but it actually holds up quite well. Rather than going for a direct approach in how it tackles those subjects, there’s a high level of abstraction to the way it presents technology that helps in allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions to the good and bad it presents. On the downside that approach means that its easy to lose track of those thoughts on technology in light of some of the shows other themes, such as coping with loss, but it works much more often than not, and the series manages to keep things consistent on that end.

It helps that all of that abstraction is gazed at through the lens of the show’s cast of kids. From the obnoxious, but ultimately good natured Daichi, to Fumie who often pretends to act more mature than she actually is, all of the children who make up the show’s core group of characters come off as really earnest portrayals of kids, and for the most part, that makes them all the more charming.  Centering an ambitious sci-fi narrative around a children might seem like a bit of a strange choice, but it’s one that largely works to the show’s benefit as it allows for the series to forgo any massive infodumps about how its various pieces of tech work, in favor of more natural worldbuilding that helps everything feel really alive. We learn about new information at roughly the same speed Yasako learns them from the other kids, and the way in which they all interact with the virtual world makes the series feel almost more like a hi-fantasy at times than a sci-fi with some of the hacking tools feeling more like magic than technology. It does a lot in helping to make Daikoku City feel like a fun and naturally interesting world to explore, and the sense of wonder and exaggeration that comes from how kids tend to view the world really adds to that effect.

The actual overarching story on the other hand is kind of where things are at its weakest. While many of the show’s early episodes are spent gradually easing the audience into the world of Daikoku City, it evolves into a giant mystery concerning the existence of strange virtual entities known as “Illegals” as well as the dangers of older cyberspaces, before ultimately resulting in a giant conspiracy involving several different factions. It’s perfectly functional, but it can get a little confusing as far as who’s working for who and while it does all come together in the end, I was far less invested in the plot than the characters or any of it’s larger themes. Fortunately the story does manage to tie into the latter pretty effectively and in the end, Dennou Coil’s biggest argument for what role virtual technology should have for us emotionally is that it’s basically up to the individual to decide what’s real to them and what isn’t. It’s not a particularly groundbreaking stance at this point, but it’s neutral enough that audiences can come to their own personal conclusions on that, and it works well enough to still help the series feel relevant. Those are more or less the areas a sci-fi really needs to aim at in order to age gracefully and in that respect, Dennou Coil succeeds in spades.

In addition to having aged pretty well as a sc-fi story, Dennou Coil has also aged quite well visually. The character designs by Takeshi Honda are on the cartoonish side, but in a way that lends themselves very well to animation, helping to make the kids feel expressive and energetic in a way that feels more akin to something like a Studio Ghibli movie than a TV anime production. That child-like animation is well supported by the show’s general art direction which maintains many of the muted colors and quite atmosphere that would be typically expected from a sci-fi story, but close enough in look to the character designs not to make them feel like they’re from completely different shows. Those elements combine together well, and it helps to create an effective contrast between the high energy of the kids, and the much more somber nature of the world around them. Music wise the show is a bit more lacking as the score by Tsuneyoshi Saito is solid but not particularly striking, although the opening theme “Prism” by Ayako Ikeda does a great job of helping to set the mood every episode with its quiet and haunting tone.

I decided  to with the English audio when checking out the show, and I have to admit I was really impressed with it. Houston based dubs can be kind of hit or miss for me, but everything here was very smooth. Hillary Hagg and Monica Rial both deliver excellent performances as the leads Yasako and Isako, while others such as Brittney Karbowski and Tiffany Grant do an equally strong job as Fumie and Daichi respectively, with just about everyone in the supporting cast really stepping up to bat for this show. My personal favorite of the bunch though, was Laura Chapman as Specsgranny who had me laughing just about every time she did something wacky while also being able to dial things back whenever the mood got serious. The dub’s script also really helps in setting the tone as a lot of the dialogue is handled in a way that actually feels how younger kids would talk to each other without ever getting to the point where it felt like a distraction, and it did a lot to make the performances from the cast feel more natural where they otherwise might not have. I can’t really speak for how well they compare to the Japanese cast, but if you want to watch the show in English, I imagine you’ll be very satisfied here.

So having finally watched Dennou Coil, I can safely say that it’s reputation is very well deserved. The show has a fantastic sense of atmosphere that really helps to make its sci-fi elements feel wondrous, and its filled with a cast of characters that are all generally pretty fun to hang out with. Although things get a little overly convoluted when it comes to the actual plot, it works well enough that it doesn’t harm any of the other things the series is trying to do, and it does those other things so well that those complaints are more of a nitpick if anything. Even though it’s been long enough that its views on virtual technology could have easily aged terribly, it manages to take a smart enough stance on those views that I’m confident it’ll still feel relevant even after another decade’s passed. I wasn’t really sure what to expect blind-buying this, but needless to say, I feel like I made a pretty smart purchase.

Overall: 10/10

Available for streaming on HiDive

First Impressions- Summer 2018 Anime (Part 2)

It’s a new week, but the wave of summer premieres scorches on. I ended up being unexpectedly busy for the last couple of days which put me a little bit be behind on premieres. As such the remainder of what I end up covering for impressions is gonna be a bit more random than usual so apologies in advance if it seems like I’m late on some of these. Anyway lets get to it!

 

Ratings Scale

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

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

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

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

Excellent: Really outstanding show. Absolutely worth following .

———————————————————————————————–

Asobi Asobase

Synopsis: Olivia is a blonde-haired beauty who was born and raised in Japan, but can’t speak any English. Despite always acting serious and as an intellectual, Kasumi is a bespectacled girl with short hair, who also can’t speak English. Finally, there’s the pig-tailed Hanako, who’s cheerful but can’t seem to become a normie. The three middle schoolers end up making a “Players’ Club”?! The ultimately cute, ultimately fun and hilarious teenage girls’ comedy is about to begin!

First Impressions: I didn’t really know much of anything about this aside from some interesting looking previews, so i wasn’t expecting to be nearly as blown away by this as I ended up being. Wacky anime comedies are a dime a dozen and crazy anime faces are also pretty common these days, but this show is practically armed to the teeth with a solid combination of both and had me laughing through the entire premiere. The basic premise involves three high school girls who spend their time trying to find new and increasingly strange ways to pass the time. It’s the kind of comedy that runs purely on how weird it can get and it has that in spades. From pencil stabbing games to putting a swimming pool in their classroom, the things these girls do are pretty bizarre but they’re always funny and it helps that the chemistry between them is pretty great and I’m especially fond of Oliva, who pretends to be a foreigner to mess with her only friend only to have it backfire when she’s threatened into having to teach English. About the only issue I had here was that the episode’s last major joke got a little uncomfortable but it had just the right level of absurdity to it that I was laughing regardless. I didn’t know I needed this show in my life until I watched it, and while I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be nearly this impressive, this one is definitely the frontrunner for the season’s best comedy.

Rating: Great

 

Music Girls

Synopsis: Haru Chitose, Eri Kumagai, Sarasa Ryuoh, Kiri Mukae, Uori Mukae, Sasame Mitsukuri, Miku Nishio, Hiyo Yukino, Shupe Gushiken, Kotoko Kintoki, and Roro Morooka are the eleven members of “Music Girls,” an idol group produced by Pine Records. However, they’re a third-rate idol group that can’t seem to sell CDs at all. But even though they’re obscure and constantly in debt, the members and their producer, Ikebashi, are all trying their hardest. Ikebashi gets the idea that Music Girls needs a new member—an idol who can light a fire under them so that they can gras

p success!

First Impressions: Well I guess it wouldn’t be a new anime season if there wasn’t at least one new idol show and well…here we are. Idol shows generally aren’t my cup of tea, but I do like Love Live the same as most everyone else, so I’m always curious if anything’ll come along that gives off the same kind of vibe. Far as this show goes it’s…pleasant I guess. These shows are usually pretty inoffensive and this was about in the same vein as what I’d expect from that. We’re very quickly introduced to our cast of idols who all seem to have their own various quirks as well as our lead heroine who seems to be unusually talented when it comes to dance choreography but turns out to be a weak singer. Much of the episode is more or less spent building up to that last punchline, but I was fairly amused by it and it’s enough of a hook that it could potentially do something interesting with that. Production wise it doesn’t look super impressive since the character designs are a little on the generic side, but the dancing animation is pretty decent and they aren’t relying on CG for it so that’s always a plus I guess. Can’t say I was blown away by anything here but I wasn’t super bored, so I suppose there’s that. I don’t see this giving Love Live a run for it’s money and I don’t know if I’ll give it another episode or not but if you’re looking for a new idol show to sink your teeth into, this should probably do you fine

Rating: Decent

 

Phantom in the Twilight

Synopsis: The reverie of a girl who fights her destiny and the “Shadow Guardians.” The stage is modern-day London, in a world where the fears and anxieties of people give birth to inhuman shadows. A foreign student gets embroiled in an outlandish incident as soon as she sets foot on English soil. Seeking help in a city where she knows no one, she wanders into a quaint cafe that has quietly remained open in the dead of night: Cafe Forbidden. It is a place where the guardians of the border between human and shadow gather.

First Impressions: At first glance this seemed like it was going to be the vampire romance show of the season and since those have pretty much never been my thing, my expectations coming in were kinda low. However what I walked away with was quite different as it turns out this is actually a bishonen action show, which is something I actually am a lot more down for when done right, and this seems to be off to a pretty decent start. Ton manages to come off as a pretty likable heroine thus far and her role throughout the episode makes it clear that she’ll get to contribute to whatever crazy supernatural shenanigans happen later on which is certainly appreciate. I’m not quite as interested in any of the actual monster boys we’ve met thus far, but they all come off as pretty okay for the most part, and none of them seem predatory so it seems like this’ll steer clear of the trashier side of shojo stuff. On the downside the show has some pretty limited production values which slightly hurts its appeal as an action show but it manages to do pretty okay with what it has, and the animation was never awkward enough to look super distracting. I wasn’t expecting to like this show at all, but I walked away entertained and curious to see where its headed. Guess it goes to show that you can’t always judge stuff by preview images.

Rating: Good

 

Seven Senses of the Re’Union

Synopsis: Asahi’s life in reality ended simultaneously, when she died playing “Union”, a world-renowned online RPG. The members of “Subaru” went separate ways when “Union” shut down due to Asahi’s death. Six years later, Haruto logs onto a renewed version of “Re’Union” and reunites with Asahi who had died. Is she an electronic ghost? The “promise” the childhood friends made will unfold within the game.

First Impressions: Tired of all those pesky isekai shows? Re’Union has you covered with a throwback to…trapped in the game shows. Well I guess in fairness this is technically more “die in the game, die in real life” than anything since it seems like they can stop playing but you get the idea. Its been quite a while since we’ve had an SAO knock-off and the last one of those I enjoyed was Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions. This seems like a pretty earnest effort to recapture the ol’ SAO magic but honestly too much of the details surrounding the premise left me scratching my head for me to get invested much.

For one thing it’s mentioned early on that the game generally functions on perma-death in that if you lose all your health you lose your game account. Even without the apparent threat of death that’s brought up when a member of the core group is killed midway through the episode, that sounds like absurdly bad game design and I have a hard time imagining anyone would play a game you can’t ever play again if you lose at it. On top of that the whole condition about players requiring some special super sense is also pretty loopy and seems like the sort of thing that would raise alarm bells in real life. It’s kind of a shame those details weren’t thought through very well because I kinda liked the base idea of a member of the group dying young and the others carrying that pain with them into their teenage years. That seems like a pretty solid recipie for a potentially meaningful character drama, and maybe it’ll follow up on that. but with a setting this shoddy I don’t feel terribly confident about those odds. Maybe I’ll give this another go if I hear enough good things about it later on, but this seems like another skip for me.

Rating: Decent

 

Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion

Synopsis: In the 13th century, the Mongolian Empire rapidly expands across the globe. Later historians who studied the prophecies of Nostradamus would say that Mongolia was the birthplace of the “Great King of Terror”, Angolmois. And at last, the force of the Mongolian Empire would turn their attention toward Japan… 1274: The Bun’ei Invasion. This story is a fresh look at the great battle that rocked all of medieval Japan: the Mongol Invasion. It shows how the people of Tsushima panicked, struggled, and eventually rose up against the overwhelming forces of their enemy.

First Impressions: About all I really knew was that this was this looked like another historical drama, and since Golden Kamuy wrapped up not too long ago, I was certainly in the mood for one of those. Even having said that, boy howdy I wasn’t expecting it to be quite this strong. Much like Golden Kamuy, it’s centered around an era of Japanese history that anime hasn’t really covered which makes for an interesting learning experience on its own, and also like Golden Kamuy our protagonist seems to be a former soldier and an expert when it comes to fighting. Unlike Golden Kamuy though, this show looks well…good. While I very much enjoyed my time with Golden Kamuy there was no denying the show kind of looked like butt on the production front and it was mostly good in spite how it was put together rather than because of it. In comparison this has some solid, if not overly stellar animation, and the art direction is fantastic with the backgrounds really helping to capture the essence of this being a period piece. The filtered camera lens featured throughout the episode also helps with that a bit, though there were moments where it got a little distracting. All in all I walked away from this quite impressed and while this show wasn’t really on my radar going into the season. I’m totally gonna be watching this one week to week

Rating: Great

 

Lord of Vermilion

Synopsis: Tokyo, 2030. A high-frequency resonance is suddenly heard in a suburban area, and at the same time, the entire town is shrouded in a red mist. All living things that hear the sounds, human and animal alike, lose consciousness. The phenomenon is assumed to be an unidentified virus, so due to fear of a spreading epidemic, Tokyo is blocked off from the rest of the country. About six months later, all the people who had lost consciousness awaken as if nothing ever happened. However, strange incidents start happening on that same day, and the city becomes engulfed by a chain of cruel destinies.

First Impressions: I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into this, but this was the only show left of Funimation’s eventual simuldubs, and compared to some of the other non-sequels they’re doing, this seemed like it might be interesting. I was wrong. At first I assumed this was based off of a light novel, but it’s actually based off of a game, which makes a lot of the premiere’s choices more understandable while also elevating how frustrating they are. The show opens with an awkward flash forward about some inevitable bad stuff that’s going to go down, and while it’s pretty clearly meant to be a hook, the direction is so all over the place that I mostly just walked away from it wondering what I watched. From there we go back in time to be properly introduced to our MC-kun who’s about as interesting as a sack of bricks and aside from his relationship with his step-brother he isn’t really given much to do before the apocalypse happens and he suddenly wakes up 5 months later to Tokyo in chaos. From there MC-kun decides to check on his foster dad, gets stabbed, and gets some kind of nifty new power before the credits roll. In case you’re wondering why I’m doing so much summarizing it’s because there really wasn’t anything else to this and I was honestly pretty bored watching it. This feels like a pretty heavy case of lame video game adaption and in addition to not making me want to watch more of this show, I sure as heck don’t feel interested in checking out the game it’s based on. For what it’s worth the show doesn’t look awful, and nothing about the material really raises any alarm bells but you can probably do better for supernatural shows this season, and I’m gonna be doing the same.

Rating: Bad

 

Grand Blue Dreaming

Synopsis: After moving out on his own to a seaside town, Iori Kitahara makes a college debut he never anticipated. A new chapter of his life unfolds, full of diving with beautiful girls and shenanigans with a gaggle of lovable bastards! Idiot-expert Kenji Inoue and au naturel authority Kimitake Yoshioka bring you a glorious college tale filled with booze-fueled antics!

First Impressions: This was one of the more anticipated shows of the season in my section of the anime interwebs, and while I wasn’t super excited for it myself, I was pretty curious. Thankfully that curiosity was well rewarded as this turned out to be pretty funny. It’s rare to get shows about college age characters in anime rather than high schoolers so it’s always nice when we do, and this show’s brand of comedy is a mix of crudness and absurdity that feels very akin to something like Prison School or Osomatsu-san. Sadly this doesn’t seem to be quite as sharply directed as either of those shows, but the jokes still hit their mark more often than not, and I got enough laughs to be thoroughly entertained throughout my experience with the premiere. Aside from the production looking a bit bland outside of crazy facial expressions my only real hangup is that frankly none of the characters are particularly likeable thus far, but this is the kind of comedy where that isn’t particularly necessary in order to work and I’m sure I’ll warm up to at least one of these nutjobs eventually. In the meantime I’ll be tuning in for more.

Rating: Good

 

Revue Starlight

Synopsis: After receiving a mysterious invitation to audition for a coveted spot with, Starlight, a popular musical revue troupe, star-struck contestants begin honing their talents and competing against each other for a chance of a lifetime. Among the hopefuls are childhood friends, Karen and Hikari, who once promised each other that they would take the stage together. With each contender working tirelessly hard to win, it’s the girls’ passionate dedication to their lifelong dream that’ll truly transform their performances as the curtains rise.

First Impressions: And finishing out my impressions, is the show I was the most…curious about. At first glance this seemed like it was probably going to be some kind of idol thing, and the character designs being more or less in line with what I’ve come to expect from idol shows didn’t really help with that. On the other hand all of the previews gave the impression that it might be something a bit more ambitious than that so it was definitely on my radar of things to check out. As it turns out though, what I ended up watching was stranger than I could have possibly imagined. For the first 15 minutes or so it appears to be something of a typical idol thing with a group of girls attending a music school in the hopes of someday becoming professional actors with the only noticeable distinction being that the overall direction and framing is more in line with that of a classical shojo like say Revolutionary Girl Utena. That framing turns out to be pretty important because the last 5 minutes suddenly goes full on Kunihiko Ikuhara as our heroine finds herself transported to a stage where the other girls are duking out in the spotlight, complete with transformation sequences, heavy machinery and classic European uniforms. It pretty much goes without saying that the show had my full attention after that, and combined with some of yuri undertones sprinkled throughout the episode, gives the impression this really is going to aim for the same brand of madness as something like Utena or Yurikuma Arashi. Since Ikuhara is more or less my favorite anime director by default I’m totally down for something akin to his style, and while it’s hard to say how this’ll end up comparing to his works, I’m incredibly excited to see what else this show has up its sleeves

Rating: Great


And that’s basically it for my summer impressions. There wasn’t really a whole ton of stuff I was excited for coming into this season, but I’ve walked away with quite a few things I’m interested in keeping up with. Hard to say how many of these shows will work out in the long run, but I’m certainly willing to stay optimistic, and even if they don’t, there’s still enough holdouts from spring to keep me going for a while. Till next time: stay animated.