Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…
All three shows on this list feel a little like something I’ve already seen, whether it’s a Dark Supernatural Dystopia, a Dungeon-Crawling High Fantasy, or An Unorthodox Teacher And His Students. Of course, most stories are influenced by (and will therefore remind you of) others, and there’s nothing wrong with a tried-and-true concept as long as there’s a spark of original wit or style to go with it.
So how did this batch do? Less than stellar, though slightly better than expected. Hit the jump to see what (surprisingly) sparked, and what maybe didn’t so much.
Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign (Owari no Seraph)
Based On: The manga by Kagami Takaya (Legend of the Legendary Heroes)
Streaming On: Funimation (U.S./Canada)
In a Sentence: After a virus wipes out everyone over the age of thirteen, vampires herd the survivors into their underground city and turn them into their personal blood farm.
How was it? Darker than expected and full of some genuinely surprising twists, but the ending leaves me wary.
My favorite part of this episode? Those Gothic oil painting-style backgrounds that infuse the world and story with a sense of age, of slow death and decay. I mean, just look at that gorgeous, spooky city all tinged in sickly greens and blacks! Between this and Rolling Girls, Wit Studio may just be challenging P.A. Works for their title as reigning background art champions.
And maybe that’s a weird place to start a review, but in truth, it’s nearly impossible to judgeSeraph based on its premiere, because the story changes so dramatically during the last five minutes, going from melancholy dystopia to slice-em-up action/horror and ending with a “boy of legend” twist that I didn’t need and am not sure I want. The next episode previews even hint at a school setting, which would be… an abrupt change in tone, to say the least. But there was enough in this first episode in terms of world-building and a willingness to defy audience expectations that I’ll give it at least one more, if only so I can see where this urban fantasy is planning to go.
Is It Wrong To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (Danjon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka?)
I’ll give “DanMachi” credit for its nifty gender-trope-flipped premise, as a physically weak male protagonist falls in love with the powerful lady fighter who saves him from rampaging monsters, then swears to become “strong enough” to stand beside her. Unfortunately, most of the rest of what it does is what I’ve come to expect from light novel adaptations, from the distracting fanservice to the irritating side characters and on-the-nose dialogue. The fantasy universe is almost beat-for-beat a DnD campaign, meaning there’s not much to catch my interest there, either. Not terrible, exactly, but certainly nothing to write home about.
Ultimate Otaku Teacher (Denpa Kyoushi)
I’m in an odd place with this one where I didn’t dislike it as much as I felt like I should (the doxxing “lesson” and the MC’s “smart-but-unmotivated” nerdy character type should have been insufferable but, for whatever reason, didn’t really bother me), but I also didn’t like it as much as it wanted me to. Mostly I just didn’t find it funny, which is never a good start for a comedy, nor did I find it charming, which is an equally lackluster start to an “unorthodox teacher helps out his students” story.
A-1 Pictures has also clearly not put their A-Team on this one, and so the presentation and execution is thoroughly bland. There’s not much animation, and the design/direction aren’t dynamic enough to cover it up either. While I never hated UOT, I didn’t find myself wanting more. I doubt I’ll be back.