The Promised Neverland Ep #06 Review

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

 

The Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall: 8.9/10

The Promised Neverland Ep #05 Review

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Overall: 8.7/10

The Promised Neverland Ep #04 Review

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

The Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 8.6/10

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.

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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