Spring has sprung and brought with it an April shower of new anime titles.
As a reminder, I watch every licensed premiere and do at least a brief writeup about them. I’ll do full meet ‘n’ greets for shows that caught my interest enough to warrant it. Everything else gets a blurb explaining what I liked, didn’t like, and why the show might not or didn’t make the cut.
Of course the anime deluge would begin on Easter weekend, when my days are morning-till-night packed with family and friend gatherings. I’ll be playing a bit of catch-up for the next couple days, so you’ll have to forgive me if some of these are a little late to arrive. I’ve got two posts coming at you today with a trio of titles apiece. So let’s get the ball rolling with a new take on an old classic, a show that is almost as stupid as it is entertaining, and a big ol’ pile of Nope.
The Heroic Legend of Arslan (Arslan Senki)
Studio: Liden Films, Sanzigen
Based On: The manga by Hiromu Arakawa (Fullmetal Alchemist, Silver Spoon), which is in turn an adaptation of the novels by Tanaka Yoshiki
Streaming On: Funimation (U.S./Canada)
In a Sentence: This epic fantasy follows Prince Arslan, heir to the throne of the militant kingdom of Pars, as he struggles to figure out what kind of a ruler he’ll become.
How was it? About what I expected, which is to say pretty darn good.
I’ve read the first several chapters of Arakawa’s Arslan manga, so I knew that as long as the studio didn’t muck up the adaptation we’ve have a solid (although perhaps not spectacular) fantasy series on our hands, and so far that seems to be exactly what we’ve got. Liden Films brings a theatrical quality to this opening episode, loading it with sweeping establishing shots and snappy action sequences, and barring a few bits of awkwardly integrated CG, it all looks very shiny and slick.
From what I’ve read of Arslan, its strengths lie in the way it rejects hyper-aggressive, militant statecraft, as well as its nuanced approach to exploring different cultures and acknowledging their strengths, weaknesses, and paradoxes (the premiere establishes this nicely with Arslan and the escaped Lusitanian, whose hard-line stance against “heathens” clashes with his lofty declarations of equality for all). If the anime can build itself around those themes and continue to make Arslan a compelling, unique protagonist, I see no reason why this won’t make a fine addition to the spring watchlist.
Show by Rock!!
Based On: The video game developed by Geechs in conjunction with Sanrio (yes, the Hello Kitty company)
Streaming On: Funimation (U.S./Canada)
In a Sentence: Shy Cyan gets yanked into an alternate rock-n-world where she becomes the bearer of the legendary (talking) guitar Strawberry Heart, joins an all-girls band, and apparently fights monsters sometimes, too.
How was it? As dumb as it sounds and twice as entertaining.
This show is a calculated marketing tie-in created specifically to sell video games and a whole lot of figurines and plushies. It’s full of overly cutesy character designs, mild fanservice, and inexplicable jumps between regular cell animation and CG anthropomorphic chibis that you just know someone is mass-producing in a Sanrio factory as we speak. The story is, near as I can tell, about a bunch of bands in an alternate dimension duking it out for popularity among the local fandoms while also sometimes getting pulled into yet another alternate dimension where they fight monsters with the power of their MUSIC. It is total, utter nonsense.
It is also, somehow, a total, utter blast, handled with style, energy, and a sly self-awareness about how ridiculous it is. The creative team behind SbR seems completely uninterested in taking itself seriously, and thank goodness for that, because it frees them up to fill their commissioned toy-selling show with silly sight gags, gleefully over-the-top pop idols (played by Miyano Mamoru, no less), a down-on-his-luck record label manager who is (1) an egg, and (2) appears to be in a happy sub/dom relationship with the office secretary, and goofy, dynamically animated 3-D battles against evil.
I have a sneaking suspicion SbR won’t be able to maintain this giddy idiocy and will lose its guilty pleasure-esque entertainment value in a hurry. But, for now, I’m sticking around to see where it goes, and keeping my fingers crossed that it will never stop being this stupid.
Food Wars! (Shokugeki no Soma)
A cooking series written like an action show sounds harmless enough on paper, but in practice, it’s creepy and distasteful, with a masochistic protagonist who uses cooking as a thinly veiled metaphor for aggressive sexual fantasies. I didn’t just walk away, I freaking ran.