So many shows, so little time!
It’s a little late out the gate, but here’s the first batch of panning posts. I’m doing my premieres a little differently this season: I still watch every new, licensed full-length show and talk about ’em, but I’m rolling them up into just 2-3 “digest” posts and forgoing my usual extended meet ‘n’ greets for shorter blurbs divided into three basic categories: “Guaranteed three episodes,” “On the fence,” and “Probably dropped.” Not sure if I’ll stick with this in future seasons or not, but it’s how I needed to do it this time around.
If a title catches your eye, you can find out where the show is streaming by using this handy search engine. Now hit the jump to ding the bell for Round 1—FIGHT!
The Lost Village (Mayoiga)
In a sentence: A busload of people looking for a “new start” take a trip into the mountains to a(n urban) legendary hidden village…because what could possibly go wrong with that plan?
Director Mizushima Tsutomu (Another, SHIROBAKO) teams up with writer Okada Mari (AnoHana, Wixoss) to bring us a story packed with characters, grim songs about hippos, and a splash of uneasy oddness right off the bat. This premiere didn’t tell us much about the upcoming story, and it only told us a little about the people populating it, but it seems to be interested in public presentation/masks and escapism. I think? Probably?
I suspect it’s going to go full horror/mystery before much longer, and I’m halfway hoping it’s a completely off-the-wall, wild ride when it does. It’s hard to say more beyond that at this point, but a Mizushima/Okada joint project is worth watching for a few episodes, at the very least. If nothing else, it shouldn’t be boring.
My Hero Academia (Boku no Hero Academia)
In a sentence: Deku is a regular human in a world where almost everyone has developed some kind of supernatural power (called “quirks”), but he’s still determined to become a Hero, no matter what his parents and classmates say.
Every so often while watching MHA, a little part of me would whisper: “You’ve seen this before” or “It’s not doing anything new”–and then I’d tell that part of me to sit down and shut up, because the rest of me was having an absolute blast. MHA’s first episode is a sincere, energetic superhero origin story, infectiously fun with a main character you’ll want to root for and protect. It has the potential to draw some sharp parallels between Deku’s lack of powers and real-world people with disabilities (and especially the way society treats or views them), and I’d love to see it explore that more. But if all MHA wants to be is a charming send-up to old-school superhero shows, I wouldn’t say “no” to that, either.
In a sentence: A historical fiction following the people who work at a top-secret Japanese spy agency during World War II.
I thought I’d like this one a lot more than I did, but the premiere left me curious to see more without being at all excited about it. I found it sort of dry and detached, I suppose, which is intentional given that pretty much every character is a spy with a fake name and history who’s uninterested (or unable, more accurately) in developing attachments to his peers, but that makes it hard to care about their fates or even the philosophical debates they shoot at each other.
Credit it for surprising me with one of its twists, though, and for allowing itself some political cynicism and moral uncertainty (although it still does that thing a lot of WWII-era Japanese fiction does where it tap-dances around the more horrific parts of the war). Still, it seems like someone’s put some thought and effort into it, and this first episode was only listed as “part one” of an opening story, so I owe it to come back for “part two” at the very least. Maybe it’ll hook me properly by then.
Bungo Stray Dogs
In a sentence: An organization of people with supernatural powers (all named after Japanese literary figures) investigates and keeps the paranormal peace.
Studio BONES, series director Igarashi Takuya (Ouran High, Star Driver), and writer Enokido Yoji (Utena, Star Driver) are teaming up once more, this time to adapt a well-received manga series. This premiere is very Igarashi: Energetic and amusing, with a busy camera, a focused pace, lots of well-timed comedy, and a loving attention to character movement and expression that helps make its oddball cast immediately endearing and worth learning more about. Add to this the typically stylish and fluid BONES animation, and you’ve got yourself a very good premiere that lays out its basic premise while still promising many more details to come. It’s a winning combination for me, and all but a lock for the season watchlist already.
On the Fence
Kumamiko -Girl Meets Bear-
No, it’s not a Yurikuma spin-off: It’s the story of a small-town miko (shrine maiden) who longs to go to the big city, and the protector bear who worries for her. The first half is relaxed, silly, and cute. The second half is…discomfiting, to say the least, turning on a dime from cute comedy to a “town legend” backstory with some seriously creepy implications and imagery regarding bestiality and statutory rape.
It’s very true to the darkness that surrounds a lot of traditional myths/legends, and Kumamiko uses it (I think/hope) to make it clear that it is not going to be that kind of series, but their willingness to actually depict it (even in censored flashes) gives me serious paws. I want to give it one more episode to see if the show itself is going to be that cute first half or that uncomfortable, kinda-sexist second, but I can’t promise more than that.
Twin Star Exorcists (Sousei no Onmyouji)
I really wanted to like this one. A supernatural action series featuring onmyouji (exorcists); memorable character designs; a stylish use of sketchy, jagged lines and violent reds on the Kegare monsters and their pocket universe to create a sense of eeriness and danger; a familiar but generally likable cast and the promise of a larger world and system at play–all of this should be right up my alley, right?
The thing is, I’m pretty maxed out on stories about the talented, hard-working girl who gets rescued by the even more talented boy who’s totally out of practice but can still easily take down the opponents she couldn’t handle with an arsenal of weaponry and tactical training behind her. Twin Star was predictable in a way I didn’t enjoy. It’s well-made, I liked the two protagonists, and it looks like Namikawa Daisuke‘s gonna get to vamp it up as the villain, so I’ll come back for another episode. But I still don’t know if I’m buying what this one is selling.
And the Rest
Every show always has a chance if I start hearing good buzz from other people, but none of these caught my eye enough to warrant a second look without that happening.
- Re: Zero: Full credit to the production staff for building good tension, skimming over the cliches, animating exciting facial expressions and action sequences, and giving the characters a modicum of dignity in art if not scripting. I actually watched the entire hour-long premiere. I’ve just… I’ve seen this “shut-in gamer boy becomes hero in fantasy world” story too many times at this point, and there’s nothing in the script to suggest it intends to go anywhere new or even especially charming. I’m out.
- Ace Attorney: My friends who have played the games enjoyed this one a lot, so if you already like Ace Attorney there’s a good chance you’ll like the anime. For me, it was just a little too blandly animated and a little to ridiculously staged to warrant a second visit. I wish it the best.
- Endride: It’s fairly rare to see a series where a boy gets drawn into a fantasy world and immediately meets another boy, which is pretty much the only original thing this stiffly animated middle-of-the-road premiere has going for it. Like Ace Attorney, I could see its appeal (and there was a time when I probably would have stuck with it), but I doubt I’ll be back.
- Hundred: Military school! Harsh lady-led StuCo getting challenged by talented upstart newcomer boy! It wasn’t even that bad in terms of actual dialogue and execution, but the premiere wasn’t working for me. My eyes glazed over around the time the pint-sized scientist showed up.
- Cerberus: The dullest of dull fantasies. I didn’t make it to the end and I barely remember what I did watch.
- Bakuon!!: Cute girls on motorcycles! I was faintly hopeful for this one, but the uninspired animation, direction, and humor made it drag (and not in the fun motorcycle racing kind of way). I kept checking the time and finally gave up when I realized I was only halfway through and wishing it was the end.
- Super Lovers: This premiere frustrates the hell out me, because it plays itself like a sweet story about found families and adopted brothers–except for all the little bits of creepy pedophilia that keep popping up. It’s actually a pretty well-done episode with decent characterization and some genuinely touching moments, but knowing this is labeled “BL”–meaning it’s going to become a romance between an adult and a child–makes my skin preemptively crawl. I got through the entire episode but I just can’t stick with it.
- Anne-Happy: A liberal use of chibi figures and exaggerated faces coupled with lovely background art make this a fun, light comedy, but I’m not a huge “cute girls being cute” fan in the first place, and this one didn’t have much of a hook beyond that. I wouldn’t tell you not to watch it, but I don’t think it’s my thing.
Please note I’ve also caught a few short shows (like the utterly delightful Goma-chan), but I don’t usually start talking about those here until the midseason review. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on any shorts I’m enjoying as the season continues!