Let’s see what sort of treasures we can excavate this time!
I’ve been hard at work writing and editing the full-length premiere reviews for Anime Feminist, so you’ll have to excuse me if the write-ups for my digests have gotten smaller along the way. Writing lots of words about a few series means fewer words about a lot of series, it turns out. The good(?) news is that I actually watched the shows on Amazon Strike this time around (I signed up for the free trial so I could help AniFem–and yes, I feel dirty about it, too), so they’re included for once.
The categories are a little different this time because there were only a couple of shows that “wowed” me but a whole bunch that fell in a “let’s give it a couple and see what happens” range, so I adjusted accordingly. Overall, the Summer premiere week started slow, peaked in the middle, and finished with a rollercoaster of “pleasant surprise” crests and “utter garbage” valleys. I wound up with a lot more balls in the air than expected. Here’s hoping we can all catch a few good ones as they come down.
(Probable) Season Locks
So good they’re not just “guaranthreed”–they’re likely on the watch list already. Only hurdle?They’re both on Strike and I refuse to support their awful business model on principle. I think I can leech off a friend who already has an account. Fingers crossed I find a way to actually watch these gems.
Made in Abyss
Based on: The manga by Tsukushi Akihito
Series director: Kojima Masayuki
In a sentence: In a town that overlooks a massive abyss, a young Raider-in-training goes searching for “Relics” and finds a robot boy instead.
Hands-down my favorite premiere, no contest, end of story. I gushed about it on AniFem, so I’ll direct you there for lots of words about why I loved it so very, very much.
Welcome to the Ballroom
Based on: The manga by Takeuchi Tomo
Series director: Itazu Yoshimi
In a sentence: Uncertain about his future and looking for something to really care about, junior high senior Fujita Tatara discovers a passion for competitive dancing.
Production I.G. and Team Haikyu are back with their signature stretchy, swoopy, dynamic animation style, this time to bring us the world of dance! The manga is well-regarded and the creative team seemed like a perfect fit, so I was more relieved than surprised to discover that the show I thought would be great is, indeed, great. Always nice when a series meets expectations, yeah?
The premiere is mostly prologue, establishing Fujita’s general aimlessness followed by his sudden spark of determination and dedication after he watches a video of an older professional on the dance floor. Still, it does a nice job of setting the stage, introducing the major players, and convincing the audience to be as intrigued by dance as Fujita is.
The supporting cast already feel like well-rounded people, whether it’s the temperamental mentor or the intense-but-supportive amateur dancer (and probable love interest). I’m excited to watch Fujita learn more about them as he also learns more about himself. All-in-all just a well-paced, smartly narrated, excellently produced premiere. I look forward to more.
Sequels & Carryovers
Just a couple this time around:
- My Hero Academia: Season 2 continues on! Plus Ultra! You can read my thoughts on the first half here if you’d like.
- Saiyuki Reload Blast: I didn’t realize how much I’d missed Saiyuki until I saw the trailer for the new season, and I’ve been a hopeless fangirl about it ever since. I wrote a whole intro for newbies article and everything! It admittedly does not treat its female characters very well (the road to India is paved with dead and evil women) and it gets a big ol’ Content Warning for violence and (if you decide to go watch/read from the beginning) abuse & sexual assault, but… but… I’m sorry, y’all. None of that matters to me. I have a decade-old love affair with this bombastic, silly, feelsy action trash, and it looks like the spark’s still there even after all these years.
I want to give these at least three episodes to stretch their wings and show me what they’re made of. Organized alphabetically.
- 18if: A surreal(ish) story set in a series of dreamscapes, it’s pretty good and close to being really good, but it’s not there yet. I wrote about it in detail for AniFem.
- Clean Freak! Aoyama-kun: I’ve seen two episodes of this by now, and it might be the strangest thing I’ve watched in a long time. One-part sports series, one-part weird absurdist comedy, and willing to turn on a dime from genuinely sweet to utterly bizarre in 0.5 seconds flat (see Tweet thread for details). I kinda love it? As long as it can keep riding this fine line and avoid turning Aoyama’s germaphobia/compulsion into an insensitive joke, I’ll likely stick around.
- Princess Principal: A spy story about five girls at a specialized school in alternate-history London, this premiere dances between caper, intrigue, and quiet drama. Toss in a jazzy score composed by Kajiura Yuki, and you’ve got my full attention. Feels a bit like Lupin meets Gunslinger Girl, if that comparison helps at all. I’m slightly wary it’ll turn into “cute girls suffering a bunch,” but so far it’s a lot of fun with surprising emotional resonance and room to grow.
Super Vatican BrosVatican Miracle Examiner: I, er… MAY have a fatal weakness for self-serious, Catholic mythos-inspired, Gothic suspense stories. Blending mystery, conspiracies, crises of faith, and perhaps some actual demonic presences(?), this story about two young priests investigating alleged miracles (a virgin birth, in this case) is dripping with over-the-top staging and melodramatic flare. If it keeps going all-in with the grandiose tone and staging, I’ll be all-in as well.
On the Fence
I may come back for at least one more, but no promises past that. Organized in order of the likelihood you’ll be hearing about them again in a couple weeks.
- Gamers! This one’s real close to the Guaranthreed pile, and it only sits here because there were juuust enough red flags in terms of an ogling camera that I’m not sure I wanna commit to it. Beyond that, though, this show about a group of gamers and the many reasons they love to play is surprisingly fun thanks to a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, energetic (if not occasionally overly-busy) visuals, a general acceptance of its characters’ hobbies, and a cast of endearing dorks. We’ll see if it has staying power.
- Elegant Yokai Apartment Life: After his school’s dormitory burns down, freshman Yushi finds cheap lodging at an apartment filled with yokai, ghosts, and a few supernaturally-inclined humans. It’s Profoundly Okay, with unremarkable animation and an awkward, clipped pace. But it also has a warm heart and a likable cast (including a friendly exorcist girl, a cat-faced writer voiced by Akira Ishida, and a trio of Very Good talking birds), so I might stick around depending on how the rest of the season shakes out.
- In Another World with my Smartphone: It’s so sincere and nice I almost don’t mind that I’ve seen this show (“high school boy gets to live in fantasy world”) a million times. I tried to explain my surprise enjoyment of it in my AniFem review.
- Chronos Ruler: This one’s Not Good, friends, and I don’t mind admitting it. Following a pair of young men as they fight time-stealing monsters, it’s clumsily narrated, shoddily animated, and the two leads feel like fairly standard pretty-boy archetypes. I can’t in good faith recommend it to anyone unless you like Tragedy Boiz. (I do, is the thing.) It’s just that there was such a great twist at the very end of the episode that I can’t help but come back for at least one more. I am shameless, and I regret nothing.
- A Centaur’s Life: Another “monster girl” series, this is only on my fence because I know a lot of people who speak highly of the manga. Frankly, I thought the premiere was full of fanservice, queerbaiting, and poorly considered political undertones. But for the folks I know who like it, I’ll give it another one to see if it improves.
I’ve probably dropped ’em all. Some are fine but just not for me, and with so many potentially promising shows already listed, I had to draw a line somewhere. Others deserve to be launched out of a cannon straight into the sun. Organized roughly in order of how badly I wanted to set them on fire, from “not at all” to “a whole lotta lot.”
- Action Heroine Cheer Fruits: A chipper series about two girls who bond over a TV superhero show, it couldn’t quite hook me with the execution, and there were just enough concerning fanservice-adjacent shots to make me too wary to commit. Vrai really liked this one, though, so if they have good things to say after another few episodes, I may give it another shot.
- Altair: A Record of Battles: Supremely straightforward “fantasy” (except it’s totes WWI) adventure war epic in the style of Heroic Legend of Arslan. Lots of table-setting and political intrigue all crammed together, which made it tough to get a grip on the characters. Plus it bugs me (maybe more than it should?) that our protagonist is from Fantasy Turkey, but they still went for the typical western European blonde kid character design. Soft pass.
- DIVE!!: Diving boys! I’ve never seen Free, so you won’t get any comparisons from me. Struck me as a fairly standard sports series with idolized senpais, fresh-faced young ‘uns battling personal limitations, and a team coming together to achieve a tough goal. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from trying it, but I don’t feel the need to watch more.
- Faster Finger First: A bright sports-style series about quiz bowls. Would have won me over if not for all the panty references, a transphobic “joke,” and the main (very talented) girl immediately deciding our protagonist was gonna be the best like no one ever was (c’mon, FFF, at least make them rivals or somethin’!). I considered giving it another try, but I saw a fanservice-y clip from Episode 2 that made me drop it for good.
- Knight’s & Magic: The protagonist is really cute and sincere in his enthusiasm for giant robots, but the girls are giving off We Exist Only To Fight Over the Protagonist love triangle vibes real hard. I’m already taking my chances on a couple LN adaptations with Gamers and Smartphone. I don’t have the energy to roll the dice on one more.
- Restaurant to Another World: It’s as slow-paced as any iyashikei (healing/soothing) series, which meant it was gonna have to work overtime to lure me in with an enchanting atmosphere or lovable characters. It…did neither. Womp womp. (Although a dragon sticking its tongue into a giant pot full of soup might be the cutest thing I saw all season.) A lot of folks seemed to like it, though, so YMMV.
- Touken Ranbu: Sword boys! Solid animation done in ufotable’s by now overdone Fate art style, where it’s so glossy that it’s almost too fake to enjoy. The characters felt as plastic as the art. I, uh… had kinda forgotten I’d watched it? That can’t bode well.
- Classroom of the Elite: The premise–teens essentially trapped on their school campus for four years where they earn points/money based on their performance each month–has loads of potential, but I hated the execution. Or rather, I hated the characters. They’re like lazy, cardboard cutout copies of the My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU trio. Could go someplace interesting, but I have zero desire to watch it happen.
- Battle Girl High School: Magical girls (and I guess idols?) fighting monsters at a special school. It doesn’t offer anything new, and had way too many characters right off the bat. I kept getting distracted and eventually gave up at the halfway point.
- Love and Lies: I wrote about this one for AniFem. Mostly it’s just tone-deaf squandered potential and a little dumb.
- Hitorijime My Hero: This was a really cute, fun premiere about a former delinquent trying to start fresh in high school, and I enjoyed it a lot! …Unfortunately, none of that matters, because it’s ultimately going to be about a high school teacher banging his student. Why can’t we ever get nice BL anime adaptations, huh?
- Fox Spirit Matchmaker: Maybe the worst premiere in terms of production quality. It’s practically incomprehensible thanks to all the jerky cuts and scene jumps. Something about a fox spirit and a really annoying dude? I couldn’t finish this one, either.
- Convenience Story Boyfriends: Did you know a show could be so boring it’s offensive? I shared my pain on AniFem.
- Angel’s 3Piece! Sexualizes fifth graders. I had to sit through it for AniFem and felt dirty after it was over.
- My First Girlfriend is a Gal: …Okay, so I didn’t actually watch this one. Instead I watched Vrai and a couple folks on Twitter watch it, and I said to myself: “Y’know what? I’ve suffered enough this season. Taako’s good out here.” Take their word for it and stay far away from this one, too.
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