New anime season time once again! And it looks like a good one. We start off this week with 18 series, 14 of which are new, the other 4 continuing from the Spring. This is likely to increase to 20 next week, once I’ve sampled the late arrivals, but here’s what’s impressed me so far:
2 – Kakegurui ep 1
9 – 18if ep 1
12 – Re-Creators ep 14
13 – Fate/Apocrypha ep 1
15 – Sakura Quest ep 14
Usually, I’d stick to the all-new shows, leaving sequels for later posts to stop this one from going on too long… but there really aren’t many sequels this Summer! And seeing as Senki Zesshou Symphogear AXZ is my #1 for the week, skipping it would be doubly ridiculous. The opening scene was pure, gratuitous, ridiculously unfeasibly over the top action. Tanks were thrown into tanks. Missiles were caught bare-handed (pictured). An enormous airship was sliced in half by a girl wielding a jumbo jet-sized sword. Characters rode helicopters… on top of the rotor blades. Everything exploded. And the main villains for this series? Only the Illuminati. I just… words fail me. This was even crazier than the intro to the previous series. So yes, I enjoyed it. 😛 Direction was superb, animation… good enough, music was epic. Glad to have you back, Symphogear!
The only other show I could have skipped is Fate/Apocrypha, but it’s a not really a sequel, but a new series in a HUGE franchise. And as is often the case with the first eps of Fate/ series, not much action yet (aside from a brief prologue). Instead, a lot of talking, as we were introduced to a few of the soon-to-be Masters, and a small number of Servants too. Instead of the usual seven pairs fighting over the Grail, this time we have FOURTEEN PAIRS – these are split into the ‘Black’ Servants allied with the Grail’s current owner, and the ‘Red’ Servants summoned by the Grail to redress the balance. On the one hand, this means twice as many characters to battle it out, great for action fans everywhere! On the other hand, this ‘team mode’ setup doesn’t sound as interesting as the usual free-for-all Grail wars, where characters could form alliances/betray each other of their own accord.
Topping the all-new shows is Kakegurui! The series is one of many set in an anime high school, that magical setting where anything can happen, aside from serious lessons or exams. That would be madness! 😛 In this case, it’s gambling. Epic gambling, for millions of yen. Our female protagonist Jabami Yumeko transfers into the school, and is immediately invited to play a game. This time, a restricted card-game version of Rock Paper Scissors… already this is reminding me of another epic gambling series, but it’s been a while since I watched anything like it, and the pacing is much quicker, so I’m not complaining! Unsurprisingly, this game is rigged against Yumeko, but using her keen gambling senses and a lot of psychology, she still comes out on top. I loved this first episode. The faces were absolutely amazing.
Just behind it is the most recent episode I watched (and the reason my posts are likely to be late on Sunday evenings this season as opposed to the usual mornings!), Princess Principal, a series that completely went under my radar pre-season. Early 20th Century Steampunk Anime Britain, feat. The Berlin Wall. This is a setting which is VERY much to my liking, and although our main characters are schoolgirls again, they’re also professional spies. Cute as they look, they certainly didn’t hold back on the violence and killing! Animation and music were superb (even if the ‘English’ lyrics in the ED were somewhat hard to make out), and I’ve liked what I’ve seen of the character interactions so far too – looking forward to getting to know them all and to learning their motives for being spies!
Onto the sports, starting with a series I feel very bad about leaving outside my Top 5, Ballroom e Youkoso. It’s just that there’s nothing overly original about the format – schoolkid gets dragged into an activity he’s never tried before, turns out to like it, and may just be a natural at it (and if not, he’s certainly willing to put in the hard work to compensate). But, ballroom dancing itself is a nice change from the more ‘popular’ sports… and above all, it just looks GORGEOUS. Production I.G. have pulled out all the stops on this one, visually it’s on another level than everything else the season has offered up to this point. Characters were great, especially our lovable idiot of a protagonist. Music and voice acting were really good. This is one that could score very highly once the competitions start.
Placing lower, despite being far more novel, is Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun. You wouldn’t even know it was a sports series from the title! Eponymous character Aoyama is an extreme germophobe. He can’t so much as touch a football without wearing rubber gloves, certainly won’t head the ball, and plays terribly in the rain because he’s too busy making sure he doesn’t get his shoes dirty. And yet, he’s good enough to make it onto the national youth team, and his obsessive cleaning seems to have earned the admiration of 99% of the school body. This combination of an already odd character in a standard but ill-fitting sports anime role made for a funny introductory episode… but is there enough material here to keep me laughing for a full series? Or will this show actually take a more serious turn once the inter-high tournaments begin? It’ll be interesting to see!
I’m going to bundle Nana Maru San Batsu in with the sports anime, as while it focuses more on the mind than the body (though quick fingers are surely an advantage!), it stuck to most of the same tropes. Competitive quizzing takes the award for most original of the three in my opinion, and it seems there’s a lot more to the hobby than just buzzing if you know the answer – the strategy of buzzing in early once you’ve heard enough of the question to assume the rest reminds me a lot of the rapid-swiping of Chihayafuru. Again though, schoolkid gets dragged into an activity he’s never tried before, turns out to like it, and may just be a natural at it. It ranks below the similarly-formatted Ballroom mostly due to the lower production values, but also the characters weren’t as instantly lovable. Plenty of potential here, however!
I had no idea what to expect from 18if going into it, but I liked what I saw! VERY stylish, this one. Some really creative animation direction, and the wacky landscapes with mysterious doors reminded me heavily of the game Yume Nikki, which I liked a lot. At first it just seemed weird for the sake of it, but as the ep went along, we learned more about what was going on: The dream world is inhabited and ruled by witches, who are in fact humans who’ve escaped the real world due to some trauma or another. Whereas most people come to the dream world through choice, our protagonist has no idea how he got there, and is presumably stuck there. It seems his role will be to cure whatever ails the witches… if he can avoid being eaten by them first! All I hope is that it won’t be all style and no substance.
Propping up the rest of my list this week is Hitorijime My Hero… So few yaoi or shounen-ai manga get adapted to anime, so I really hoped this one would be worth checking out, as it could be a while until the next one. And so far, it’s not bad! Though I did get a little confused mid-way through the episode, when there was an un-announced time skip, and it took me longer than it should have to realize that the two high school characters on screen were the same kids introduced earlier. 😮 It was more comedy and drama focused than romance this week, with both characters fleeing from their old friends for different reasons – the couples/soon-to-be-couples didn’t really interact much, so we’ve got that to look forward later. Production values seemed decent, considering Encourage Films have only made one full-length TV anime before. Worth a shot, IMO.
Centaur no Nayami – slice of life, comedy and monster girls done right. A little fanservice, but less than I expected, and it’s certainly not the main focus. The first half of the episode jumped straight into the main character’s preparations for a school play, no introductions or explanations or anything, but it was easy and entertaining viewing nonetheless; the second half of the episode then explained the four different races (all of which are considered groups of the same human species), and touched on the physical differences between them and the discrimination some of them faced in the past as a result. There was a nice dig at us real humans too, in their musings that simpler creatures with fewer physical differences would surely get along… Well-written humour, nice character designs and animation, an easy yes from me.
I guess I could have classed Katsugeki Touken Ranbu as a sequel, thinking about it… but I’m too tired to go back and edit the earlier part of my post, so deal with it. 😛 And while it actually sounds identical to Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru on paper, the difference is in the focus – this time, the sword boys’ battles against the historical revisionists take centre-stage, instead of just being a flimsy excuse for fluffy slice-of-life fun times. There’s not a huge amount to be said about this ep, fairly standard introductory fare, with ufotable’s usual godly production values. So far the cast is nice and small – hopefully it’ll stay that way, as the sheer overload of characters in Hanamaru ruined it for me. One interesting addition however is the ‘seer’, the previously faceless player character who summons the swords. Not a bad start, hopefully this one won’t get dropped mid-season!
Shoukoku no Altair is another series where the setting is highly appealing, as it’s (loosely) based on historic events in and around the Ottoman Empire – rare for anime, that usually sticks to the same periods of Japanese or Chinese history. Our protagonist Mahmut is a young, newly appointed Pasha (or council member) in the fictional country of ‘Türkiye’, a nation which is facing the threat of imminent war with the neighbouring ‘Balt-Rhein Empire’. Politics and war are likely to be the series’ main focus, and I’m fine with that! Everything from the characters and their clothes to the buildings and backgrounds looked amazing, the action scenes were well-animated, and Mahmut’s elderly father figure survived the episode despite the huge death flag, suggesting it may not be as predictable as some other shows. 😀
Perhaps the series with the most appealing premise of all this season is Vatican Kiseki Chousakan: two investigators from the Vatican going to different places to verify claims of miracles, one using modern science and technology, the other using old records and amazing code-breaking skills… they did lay it on exceedingly thick in this introductory episode though, which featured an immaculate conception, stigmata, a weeping statue of the Virgin Mary, and a good old-fashioned murder made to look like some sort of demonic ritual. Do they have any miracles left for later episodes!? 😛 Fast-pacing aside, the first episode still managed to be gripping, and while I’m not religious myself, the music and imagery in this heavily Christian-themed anime certainly add a lot to it. I just hope the writing is good enough to do this premise justice.
And last but certainly not least, Made in Abyss! This was fantastic. It has a great fantasy setting, and introduced it well. Characters are really cute, both in looks and personality… and they’re orphans to boot. Which makes for quite the dramatic contrast, given that they’re working as treasure-hunting ‘cave raiders’, risking their lives exploring ‘The Abyss’ in order to earn their keep. The monsters they face are horrifying, again clashing with the human (and robot!) character designs – they look like they’re from another world entirely, and that really works here. The mystery regarding The Abyss itself is enticing; Where did it come from? And what the heck is down there in the unexplored depths? So yeah, I really can’t fault it, and look forward to the next episode with great anticipation!
That’s it for now! Let me know what you thought of the above anime in the comments, or if you think I’m missing out on a great series, there’s still space for two more next week, so I’ll take any suggestions into account! 🙂