Throwing back the curtains on a bright new season.
I didn’t write any premiere reviews for AniFem this season, so I thought it’d be fun to pop in here real quick and offer folks some bite-sized first impressions. It’s a relatively light season, but its standouts sure do shine. So let’s dive right in, shall we?
- Fruits Basket: The Furuba manga wasn’t as formative for me as it was a lot of folks, but I do have a lot of fondness for it and am excited to see how they handle a full adaptation. While I’m already bracing myself for the conversations surrounding its more troubling elements (mostly age-gap relationships and crummy gender politics—the manga did begin running in the late ’90s, after all), it’s still an emotionally sincere story about self-worth, trauma, and healing that I think is worth the telling. Caveats notwithstanding, I look forward to it emotionally wrecking me in a new medium.
- SARAZANMAI: Director Ikuhara (of Utena, Penguindrum, and Yurikuma fame) is back and I could not be more hype. This premiere slams on the gas from the first minute and never lets up. It is buck -freaking-wild, packed with rapid-fire imagery and thematic breadcrumbs about consumerism, human connection, queer identities… and, of course, butts. Butts for days. I spent most of the premiere delightedly applauding the sheer, unbridled brazenness of it all. I have no idea if Ikuhara can weave all these ambitious threads together into a satisfying whole, but I’m stoked to watch him try.
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: Next to Sarazanmai, this was the most technically impressive show of the season, full of gorgeous wintry cinematography and beautifully staged fight scenes. Its focus on family and empathy sunk its hooks into me as much as its historical-fantasy premise did. This premiere very much had the feel of a prologue, so it could lose me once we get into the actual meat of the story, but right now I’m here for this kindhearted protagonist and his demonic little sister.
- Fairy gone: Oof, they sure did cram a lot of world-building into this first episode. Fortunately for them, that world is thoroughly My Jam. Urban early-1900s fantasy featuring two female leads on opposite sides of a criminal underworld? GIMME. It’ll need to spend the next couple episodes endearing me to its cast and expanding upon its central story, but I’m more than willing to give it time to do so.
- Hitoribocchi no Marumaruseikatsu: This school story about a socially anxious girl trying to make friends was surprisingly sweet (and, at times, delightfully on-point). If the premiere is any indication, it’s also geared more towards a preteen audience, meaning you could enjoy it with your younger relatives if you wanted. I’m not sure its gentle comedy can hold my attention for a full season, but it’s got me for a trio of episodes at least.
- ROBIHACHI: Maybe the most straightforward fun I had all premiere season, Robihachi‘s art is bright, its pace energetic, and its tongue lodged firmly in its cheek. The two leads will need to be fleshed out in the coming weeks to make this odd-couple space comedy fly (and it could really stand to have some actual female characters instead of a string of 2-D con artists), but I’m here to be entertained for as long as they can keep me. Besides, there’s a 1000% Done Robot Rabbit Butler (robbitler?) in it. That alone would keep me coming back for more.
On the Fence
- Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life: A series about a koto club is right up my alley, but the premiere rushes us through a bunch of character backstory and doesn’t take the time to earn its emotional beats. It has a good heart, so I’ll probably give it one more to see if it can slow down and even out, but no promises past that.
- Mix: A competent premiere that neither hooked me nor drove me away. It’s fairly light on conflict or concrete story beats, but given that it’s adapted from a baseball manga by Mitsuru Adachi, “slow burn” is kinda the name of the game here. Adachi’s Cross Game built into a fantastic character-driven sports series, so he’s earned at least one more episode from me. We’ll see how it goes.
- AFTERLOST: A neat SF idea that collapses under washed-out art and wooden dialogue. The last five minutes are a kind of frenetic, so-bad-it’s-good explosion of plot points and Quality! production values, but everything leading up to it is a snooze fest. Bummer.
- Cinderella Nine: I’ve never had a costume decision ruin a show for me before, but boy howdy those baseball skirts (SKIRTS! to play! BASEBALL!) took me right out of this one and I never recovered. I don’t want to come down too hard on it (fellow AniFem staffer Caitlin quite liked it), but as a former softball player I just… can’t, y’all. I’m sorry. I just can’t.
- Midnight occult civil servants: I have a fairly low bar for urban fantasy series, so it’s pretty damning that Midnight occult couldn’t clear it. There were a few moments where it nearly entered the realm of “glorious trash” (those CG angels flapping across the sky, muah), but flat storyboards and a cliche one-off conflict left me more bored than anything. If I hear folks hollering about it, I could be convinced to return, but I’ve got Bungo Stray Dogs for my paranormal pretty-boy fix this season, so I’m prob’ly good out here.
Sequels and Carryovers
Bungo Stray Dogs is the only one. (Igarashi and Ikuhara directing in the same season, oh what a time to be alive!) The only other eligible series would have been One Punch Man, but I was fairly lukewarm on the first season (outside of that phenomenal premiere) and have even less interest if it’s not going to feature the same all-star animation team. I might try it if I hear good things, but it’s not on my watchlist at the moment.
If you thought some off-the-cuff first impressions were worth a hoot, you should see what my colleagues and contributors can do. Help support them by becoming an AniFem patron today!