Panning the Stream: Yona of the Dawn, Rage of Bahamut: Genesis, InoBato

Fall (much like Tahiti) is swiftly becoming a magical place.

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I’m ready to call this the season of swords and sorcery, as there seems to be a ridiculous number of high fantasy series on the schedule (to say nothing of the low fantasy series like Fate/stay night). While the new shows haven’t had much in the way of “wow” moments so far, I gotta admit that if I had to choose between middle-of-the-road high school drama and middle-of-the-road dragon slaying, I’d choose the latter any day of the week. Anime fantasy is near and dear to my heart, and I’m happy to see it making a comeback on the schedule.

True to the season’s trends, this batch features a trio of stories with fantastical elements, from a pair of very promising (and very different) high fantasies to a bland supernatural school tale. Hit the jump and get excited for these two Meet ‘n’ Greets, as they’ve got the potential to be memorable additions to that lovely catalog of anime fantasy tales.

Yona of the Dawn (Akatsuki no Yona)

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Studio: Pierrot
Based On: The manga by Kusanagi Mizuho
Streaming On:
Crunchyroll (worldwide with the exception of Asia); Funimation (U.S./Canada) (listed as “Yona of the Dawn”)

In a Sentence: Yona, red-haired princess of the Kingdom of Kouka, has her life turned upside down when a surprise attack disrupts her sixteenth birthday.

How was it? Well, objectively speaking, the story was…
Ahhh, who am I kidding? Objectivity can take a flying leap at the moon. I loved every freaking minute of it.

Overall
Set in an eastern fantasy world (based on Korean history/folklore) and populated with a spunky female lead and a slew of attractive male friends and love interests, this is an anime in the vein of stories like Fushigi Yuugi, The World is Still Beautiful, and the criminally underappreciated Story of Saiunkoku, which means it’s smack in my anime sweet spot. So sure, I could gripe about the rapid pacing, the unremarkable animation, and the occasional leaps in logic, but none of those things affected my enjoyment in the slightest. I grinned like a kid on Christmas while watching this show.

Leading lady Yona is naive and spoiled, but she’s spirited enough that I find her likable instead of bratty, and there are strong indications (the opening sequence, her interest in archery) that she’s going to be a dynamic character who grows a lot over the course of the series. Her relationships with the guys are nothing we haven’t seen before (childhood crushes, bickering buddies, loyal servants), but their interactions are written with ease and wit, and for all that we cover a lot in this premiere, the anime staff does a good job of establishing characters, past histories, and interpersonal dynamics. And with the way things ended, there’s every reason to think the story is only going to get better from here. I, for one, can’t wait to see what happens next.

Did it make the watchlist? I think that’s a pretty safe bet, yeah.

Rage of Bahamut: Genesis (Shingeki no Bahamut Genesis)

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Studio: MAPPA
Based On:
The “Rage of Bahamut” card game
Streaming On:
Funimation (U.S./Canada)

In a Sentence: In this fantasy world of summoners and demons, bounty hunter and ladies’ man Favaro encounters a mysterious woman who requests his help reaching a place called Helheim.

How was it? Cinematic in production and a lot of fun to watch, though I’m not sold on the story just yet.

Overall
You may remember studio MAPPA from this summer’s Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror), which, although the script was a mess, was probably the best-looking show of the summer in terms of overall production. MAPPA has brought that same feel to this show, and barring some awkward CG (although really, it’s much better integrated than most of what you see in TV anime), it looks damn good. The action is dynamic, the faces expressive, and the camera angles sweeping and varied in a way more reminiscent of live-action film than anime. The character designs are distinctive and stylized, blending a western medieval setting with a modern “coolness” that kind of reminds me of what Samurai Champloo did with Edo Japan. The episode clipped along at a nice pace as well, integrating us into this high fantasy world in an organic way that didn’t rely on a lot of heavy-handed exposition.

As for the story itself, it’s a little too early to say anything definitive. The characters aren’t particularly unique (the flirtatious rascal, the uptight noble, the mysterious stranger) but they’re written with the same energy displayed in the rest of the production, making them distinctive even if they are a little tropey (and it’s still early, so that could certainly change). This whole episode is basically table-setting for the world and the premise, so it’s hard to say whether the story has chops or if this is going to be all sizzle and no steak. Still, there are some nice twists at the end of the episode that make me curious to know what happens next, so even if this ends up being nothing more than a fun romp, as long as it is fun, I could end up enjoying it quite a bit.

Did it make the watchlist? I have the feeling this is going to either get really good or reeeeally bad. Either way, stylized art, sleek 2D animation, and some memorable characters are enough for me to give this one the ol’ three-episode rule. Let’s see which way the scales tilt.

Dropped

When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace (Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de)

Consider this the first Madlib of the season: [Boy Name] in [Club] with [#] of girls has daily life changed forever when [Strange Event] happens and shenanigans ensue. It’s not that I demand every show be fresh and new (as the previous two series prove), but man, it’s like the writer didn’t even TRY with this one. The animation was pretty decent, but outside of that there was nothing of note here. Neither bad nor good, it was just…. bland. I gave up halfway through.

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