So many big titles are back with tempting new material. If we thought the Winter Season was stuffed with delicious must-sees, then look at the mouth-watering line-up: My Hero Academia Season 3; Persona 5; Tokyo Ghoul:re; STEINS;GATE 0; LUPIN the 3rd Part 5…
And then there are the new titles that could be the NEXT big discoveries of 2018. With so much nostalgia in vogue for revisiting/reinventing older series: Fist of the Blue Sky: Regenesis; Cutie Honey Universe; Legend of the Galactic Heroes:Die Neue These, could the need to create new material be a little neglected?
Our fearless team of writers at Anime UK News are undaunted – and are here to bring you their first impressions of what’s on offer this spring.
Lives are fickle, detestable things when they get between you and your anime. Such has been the case for me for some time, to the point where I’ve only been able to pick up a few shows over the last few years – mostly cute-girls-doing-cute-things fare like Blend S, Himouto! Umaru-chan, and similar. So this season, I’m picking up two shows – one similar, one quite different; one new, one continuing.
The first show is JRPG epic Persona 5: The Animation, an adaptation of the 2016 game and a follow-up to previous Persona and Shin Megami Tensei anime adaptations. Like the other entries in the Persona series, Persona 5 follows a group of high-schoolers who discover a dark alternate world and awaken secret powers, and must navigate both high school drama and supernatural dangers over the course of a year.
Unlike Persona 3’s SEED and Persona 4’s Investigation Team, however, the protagonists of Persona 5 are not clear-cut heroes – very early on, the anime shows that the team is made up of misfits and outcasts, and they do not enjoy the typical good fortune of their typical JRPG protagonist brethren. The main character (known as Ren Amamiya in the anime, and voiced by Jun Fukuyama, the voice of Lelouch in Code Geass) starts the series on criminal probation after being convicted of an as-yet-unrevealed crime, and is ordered to move to a new city and a new school. There, he’s quickly dragged into strange, supernatural phenomena, and eventually forms a group called the Phantom Thieves, who vow to improve society by “taking the hearts” of malicious adults, forcing them to regret and atone for their actions.
As always with adaptations, the biggest question is how well the series will translate to TV. After all, Persona 5 is a game that can take more than 90 hours to complete – how can that be shrunken down into a set of 24-minute episodes? While we won’t know until we’re most of the way through the series, the signs are good. The show is double-cour, which always helps, but it also benefits from a simple truth: Persona 5 was practically made to be an anime, from the plot’s structure to the fantastic set-pieces. It also benefits from many of the side characters’ stories being unnecessary to the main plot, so chopping it down to 10% of the game’s length seems easier than it otherwise might.
So far, the anime is living up to expectations. Persona 5 faithfully adapts the distinctive black, white, and red visual style from the game’s menus, and adapts the first 90 minutes of the game into an incredibly brisk 24 minutes. The pace is such that a viewer who hasn’t played the game might find themselves missing out on important details as they rush by, so hopefully the anime finds the time to stop and explain those points as the series progresses. In terms of animation quality, A-1 Pictures are … more or less managing. While most of the animation is fine, there are a few shots that feel sloppy – which is particularly obvious when they’re shots drawn directly from the game.
Nevertheless, Persona 5 is an incredibly stylish, impossibly cool romp so far – it’s a worthwhile adaptation for fans of the game, although newcomers may find the story easier to follow by playing the game first. That said, it;’s always good to have options – if you’re not a fan of 100-hour JRPGs, Persona 5: The Animation is a worthy way to enjoy a worthwhile story.
Persona 5: The Animation is streaming on Crunchyroll
Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card
The other show on my list this season is Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, a sequel to the original CLAMP series from the late 90s. Although this show started last season, the half-way point is a good place to take a look at the show so far.
Like the original, Clear Card follows Sakura Kinomoto, and picks up straight after the original series ends, as she enters middle school. In all other respects, the show is almost identical to its predecessor – there’s plenty of school life, fancy outfits, adorable mascots, and above all, a whole new set of troublesome cards to capture.
Also like the original, this show is incredibly slow-paced, due to being structured as a procedural “card of the week” show, rather than the more serialised formats we’re used to today. This is by no means a bad thing – Cardcaptor Sakura has always been driven by its characters and their relationships, rather than the action, and this continues to be true. With new characters to meet, an ominous presence in Sakura’s dreams, and the new challenges of middle school to overcome, the show continues to be a delight to watch.
It’ll never win over those who didn’t enjoy the original, but for those of us who always wanted to see more of Sakura and her friends’ adorable antics, it’s a dream come true.
Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card is streaming on Crunchyroll
Whilst Netflix seems content on holding anime series hostages for several months at a time and with Crunchyroll keeping quiet about what is available outside of their US audience, Amazon Prime seems to be earning the favour of UK fans this season by streaming more anime as-and-when it’s released from Japan.
One series is Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku, a little romance anime starring Narumi, a female office worker starting a brand-new job that just so happens to be at the same company her childhood friend, and fellow otaku buddy, Hirotaka works for. As Narumi gets used to her new job, she tries to hide her fujoshi tendencies from her colleagues, that is until Hirotaka accidently spills the beans to her manager. However, as the pair grow closer, could romance be on the cards?
This series is full of charm and potential to be really good; it’s rare enough to have a series where the main cast are not high school students, so the anime already has a USP for the more jaded or older fan. It’s also nice to see a show having characters who are geeky but also have the balance of work and life sorted; they’re not the typical shut-in otakus, they work their 9 – 5 then unwind with a video game or sorting out cosplays, like most adult geeks do. Whilst the leads regularly discuss gaming, there’s also mentions of shonen-ai and cosplay, so it’ll be great to see other sides of the otaku culture being represented by passionate adults in future episodes. Narumi herself is also quite likeable; she has a quirky sense of humour and is passionate about her hobbies when she’s in the company of others she trusts. Her need to hide her ‘geekier’ side in fear of judgement from others is sympathetic and when we see her interact with the very dry and monotone Hirotaka you can feel the chemistry from the start, you can tell they’ve clearly known each other for a long time and get along very well.
This series was the last to launch of the Spring Season but it looks to be a very promising title, so I recommend it if you’re looking for a romance anime that’s not set in a high school.
Out of morbid curiosity, I decided to check out Magical Girl Site, which is also streaming on Amazon Prime. The series follows Aya Asagiri, a middle school girl whose life is filled with sorrow and misery; from being bullied at school to abuse at home. She considers suicide every day until one night her computer comes to life displaying a site called ‘Magical Girl Site’ that promises her power to make it all better. The next morning in her locker she finds a heart-shaped gun and in a moment of despair she uses it on a pair of bullies who moments later end up dead. Shocked at her actions and newfound powers, she discovers she’s not the only one who’s been given a mysterious gift….
The series is based upon a horror manga, and the bleak colour scheme and moody sounds all paint the correct picture but writing-wise, it lays the misery on far too thickly to be taken seriously. It would have been enough to just be bullied at school, or have a broken family life, to generate genuine and believable sympathy. But every conceivable horror one person can endure is just slapped onto poor Aya; the bullies name-call her, they leave horrible surprises in her locker, they trash her desk, they bog wash her, they threaten her with violence, they attempt to rape her, and that’s just only a small portion of her torture. And it doesn’t stop when she receives her powers, it just keeps going! There’s so much darkness in this opening episode that it becomes very hard to take it seriously, and unbelievable to think that NO adults are picking up on it (she screams in pain whilst in her bedroom and no parent comes running?!) There’s only ONE thing that worked, and that’s the part during the magical girl ‘transitioning’ where the girl’s eyes slit open and blood starts to pour – that was creepy because the sound effects and the subtle imagery of a girl’s eye splitting opening in order to gain power was enough to be horrifying without overblowing it. That’s not the only positive though; the background music was perfectly eerie, and both the opening and ending themes are catchy too. The ending animation is also visually unique – blending 2D animation and live action segments – it’s definitely the most interesting ending segment I’ve seen in a long while.
I haven’t decided if I plan to continue this series, but if I do it’ll likely be in chunks of several episodes, rather than have a weekly dose of excessive misery porn.
After the somewhat disappointing year that was 2017, I’m very happy to see that 2018 is already looking to be a much brighter year already, with Spring promising to be one of the best seasons in a long time. Although it does feature the return of many franchises both new, such as My Hero Academia and Food Wars, and old, in the case of Full Metal Panic and Legend of the Galactic Heroes, it is the surprises of the season that have really impressed me so far, and there are three in particular that I’d heartily recommend.
Perhaps the most totally out of nowhere show that I ended up loving this season is Megalo Box, an alternative take on the tried and tested boxing genre, created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ashita no Joe. When it comes to sports anime, I am very much a newbie, having only previously seen Haikyuu!! and Free! and not a lot else, and as such, this is my first foray into a boxing-specific show, but if this is anything to go by, I am now very keen on trying more. Set in the not too distant future where the sport of boxing has been augmented with the invention of ‘Gear’, mechanical exoskeletons that allow the users enhanced strength and agility, Megalo Box follows Junk Dog, a young boxer who is barely scraping by participating in fixed underground matches but has ambitions of one day propelling himself out of the slum. When a large corporation announces they are sponsoring a worldwide championship, Junk Dog is initially uninterested, however, a chance encounter with the reigning champion soon sees him set his sights on winning the competition. Like many a good sports anime, Megalo Box has all the hallmarks of a true underdog story, with a cocky but likeable protagonist who’s down on his luck but aiming for the big leagues, and whilst this is a pretty well-worn formula at this point, the futuristic setting and high quality animation are enough to set it apart from the crowd. The animation especially will appeal to fans of older shows, with an art style that deliberately goes for a more vintage look whilst maintaining a high level of quality that comes with modern animation. The only downside to this is that I think they were a little too dedicated to this need to look like an older show, as the general visual quality looks more like an old DVD rather than a 1080p web stream, and this was almost certainly done on purpose, but it only serves to obscure the wonderful animation. That aside, Megalo Box is certainly off to a promising start, and seems to keep getting better week after week.
Megalobox is streaming on Crunchyroll
Another show that I only tried out on a whim yet ended up really liking was Golden Kamuy. Animated by the relatively new production company Geno Studio (Genocidal Organ, Kokkoku), Golden Kamuy definitely takes the cake for the most unique premise of anything out of this season, at least from what I’ve seen, being what I can only describe as No Country For Old Men set in Meiji era Hokkaido, seeing Russo-Japanese war survivor Saichi ‘Immortal’ Sugimoto team up with a Ainu girl named Asirpa in order to track down a group of prisoners who have a map to a hidden stash of gold tattooed on their backs, all the while competing with others who know about the treasure, and avoiding being hunted themselves. Aside from having such a great and original premise, a good dose of action mixed with the occasional bit of comedy is what makes me really enjoy this. It’s serious when it needs to be, but that doesn’t stop the show from having fun with its characters, and the pairing of an Ainu girl with a soldier does make for some brilliant odd couple type gags, taking advantage of the vastly different lifestyles of the two leads. I have seen some people knock the animation, and whilst it isn’t the best I’ve ever seen, I honestly can’t really take any issue with it, CGI aside, and even if it isn’t great, the content of the show itself easily makes up for it, in my humble opinion.
Golden Kamuy is streaming on Crunchyroll
For my third and final recommendation, I saved perhaps the most divisive anime of the entire Spring lineup for last: Magical Girl Site. The concept of magical girls gone dark isn’t exactly an original one at this point, being popularised by Madoka Magica back in 2011, but whilst Madoka was mostly dark in the thematic sense, Magical Girl Site instead goes down the route of excessive violence and perpetual suffering, in what I can only describe as the genre’s equivalent to Elfen Lied. I’ll happily admit that there are probably shows this season that are generally higher in quality, but it is the stark and unique tone of Magical Girl Site that leaves me enamoured with it. It seems to be a rarity that you see anime this willing to push the boundaries in the way that this show does, for better or worse, and it really makes it stand out from the crowd if nothing else. I get the feeling that the show’s intent is to make the viewer feel as uneasy and uncomfortable as possible, a task it accomplishes with ease. It’s because of this that I can’t recommend this to everyone; it’s certainly an acquired taste to say the least, and you’ll know if this is a show for you or not before you even get 10 minutes into Episode 1, but for those seeking something out of the norm and truly bleak this season, Magical Girl Site will happily deliver you misery in spades.
Going into the Spring Season this year, I wasn’t expecting too much originally with the recent seasons being a little bit more lackluster of late. However as the shows were announced, I got more and more excited and lured into what was on offer. This season is a strong example of attracting an older audience back to newer seasons. Not only do we have re-tellings and new takes on older shows in Legend of the Galactic Heroes and Cutie Honey, classics return in Full Metal Panic!, and new shows like MEGALOBOX bring in a classic style twist to what’s on offer. As of now, I’m currently juggling about 8 shows, and narrowing down just a couple is hard with such a strong line-up, but I managed to put up what stands out the most for me here for you. And yes, you don’t need to think too hard about my first choice.
Full Metal Panic!: Invisible Victory – You guessed it, it’s only been 13 years after all, but Full Metal Panic is finally back and continuing on with its main story in Invisible Victory. XEBEC have done a good job in bringing back the majority of the old staff to work on this, and what a joy it was to see the first episode so well put together at the end of it. I won’t deny that I was extremely sceptical about the idea of a new season after so long, so I expected to be trolled when it first hit. As this is a continuation, you do really need to watch what came before to get a grasp of what’s going on (and read another novel in between, as this skips content). The show gets off the ground running, and never stops. Everything is beginning to come together, and the strings behind everything start tugging hard and fast to make it all happen. It keeps with the darker tone of The Second Raid, and for me that’s exactly what I want to see. By Episode 2, the only concern I have is some of the CG elements too it, with one car chase scene feeling a little jarring compared to the rest of it. However the relationship between Sousuke and Kaname really takes to the heart of what we see as well, with the tension already between them, but now with everything coming down on their shoulders, they are both starting to break under the pressure and fear of losing one another. The novels beyond are some of the most exciting and intense parts of the series, so to finally see them animated is a joy. I expect we will get a second cour down the line to finish this, but for the moment, the 12 episodes we have set to go promise to be intense, dark and action-packed. I am still a little bothered that we have missed the chance to see Tessa go undercover as a hijacker dressed as a maid, but maybe we will get that down the line.
Full Metal Panic!: Invisible Victory is streaming on Crunchyroll
MEGALOBOX – This was the first major show of the season I saw that wasn’t a continuation. A new boxing show after so long was enough to get me to give it a chance, and I’m so glad I did. MEGALOBOX is set in an almost cyberpunky future where boxing has become augmented. Boxers are hooked up to exo-skeletal frames around their back and arms which enhance their boxing and make it more hard-hitting and bloody. MEGALOBOX as you guessed, is the name of the sport and we are given a look into it from the eyes of Junk Dog, an underground boxer who wants to be something more. The artistic direction is dripping with style, it captures the vibe and atmosphere of a show I’d expect to see in the 80s to 90s, with the design of the main antagonist, Yuri, reminding of something I’d expect from Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Ninja Scroll). One take I heard put it as “the Redline of Boxing” – which isn’t far off the truth; both shows take from animation styles similar from that period and make it a joy to watch. It goes without saying that the show is to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Ashita no Joe (Tomorrow’s Joe), and a lot of it comes across as a spiritual successor of sorts to that. If you need a new take on an old style of show, one that potentially attracts an older audience, this really is the one to watch.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These – Production I.G’s takes on the classic space opera once more, for the first time as a TV series as opposed to the OVAs that it once was. I had reservations knowing that, this series would be 24 episodes in length, considering that the original epic spanned nearly 150, but so far I’m left quite happy with it. The first battle is spanned across two episodes, with the first really focusing on the Galactic Empire’s push to enter the Free Planets Alliance sector, with Reinhard von Lohengramm leading the charge on his first major battle. Episode 2 puts more focus on Yang Wenli, strategist turned last minute leader for FPA, and his scramble to recover from a messy fight. The infamous war between these two warring states has a very fresh look to it with IG’s new coat of paint, and for once the CG is not out of place with the massive scale of the battles. It’s very intense and fluid in capturing each moment. I still can’t get over how close the new character designs look to Kuroko’s Basketball characters, so maybe I’m a little taken aback by that, but for what is out now, the show has done a good job capturing what I enjoyed of the original. I hope that by end of the season, it hasn’t missed too much.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These is streaming on Crunchyroll
Gosh, what a season. It’s as though I have a time machine; with follow-ups and remakes of some really old titles making up more than half of my viewing list this time, it’s difficult to pick which shows most deserve my attention. Having no fewer than seventeen weekly titles on my list is going to eat up a lot of free time!
I’ll take Cutie Honey Universe first of all. It’s streaming exclusively on HIDIVE at the moment so it’s not the most convenient pick for those of us who like to watch their anime on a television screen. Still, I had to keep my HIDIVE subscription going for the latest season of Hozuki’s Coolheadedness (which also comes highly recommended) so it was a no-brainer to check out the latest reimagining of Go Nagai’s ridiculous shounen magical girl series.
I’ve enjoyed every previous version of Cutie Honey I’ve seen, from the original anime adaptation to the alternate versions aimed at completely different demographics, so it’s no surprise that the first two episodes of Cutie Honey Universe have already managed to captivate me. The designs embrace the classic 1970s art style of the original while adding a vibrant slickness made possible by modern animation techniques, and although it’s not as stunning a nostalgia trip as Megalobox the results are certainly appealing. The story is interesting too; the first two episodes introduce the usual main characters and background information, as well as revealing that classic villain Sister Jill is trying a very different tactic this time around. She’s playing the part of a major heroine right from the start rather than hiding in the shadows, which promises to cause heartache all around once Honey realises that her new ally isn’t quite what she seems. For some reason Honey’s classic transformations seem to get more screen time in the opening and ending sequences than the show itself so far.
Speaking of the opening sequence, the classic Cutie Honey theme has controversially been swapped out for a completely different song performed by female idol singers AOP. While the replacement isn’t bad, the original is an all-time classic which has been remixed and covered dozens of times over the years. Its absence feels like a missed opportunity. Still, if this is the only bad thing I have to say after the first couple of episodes, it bodes well for my enjoyment of the rest of the show’s run.
Cutie Honey Universe is streaming on HIDIVE
I like to keep an eye on otome game adaptations and this season provides an interesting one in the form of Libra Of Nil Admirari. It’s a game I’ve never played so I’m coming in completely fresh, but so far the plot has managed to keep me interested enough to keep going. Our heroine, Tsugumi, is from a struggling noble clan in a fantasy version of pre-war (Taishou era) Japan, and at the start of the show she’s about to be married off to someone she doesn’t love for her family’s sake. When Tsugumi’s doting brother objects to the match, it sets off a tragic chain of events which result in her going off to work with a group of attractive men (and women) whose job is to hunt down cursed books. Tsugumi’s rare power to spot the magical energy these books emit makes her invaluable to the group. As a result, she ends up working closely alongside the other members, and while we haven’t had much action so far, it looks as though they’ll be taking care of her in combat once the plot finishes setting everything up. The anime does a good job of attempting to capture the charm of Satoi’s distinctive character designs and every character is immaculately turned out with ill-matching uniforms and stylish haircuts. The only stumbling point so far is that it’s fairly obvious already that the story is trying to match Tsugumi up with the handsome male lead. This is always a problem for titles based on games with multiple routes; the hero is rarely the most entertaining love interest!
Libra Of Nil Admirari is streaming on Crunchyroll
This Spring season is absolutely packed with returning favourites, reboots, and even the odd new show too! While there are plenty of shows to talk about that I’m watching, from Persona 5 to Legend of the Galactic Heroes, from Full Metal Panic! to Steins;Gate 0 to … erm, Gundam Build Divers (don’t judge me… too harshly), the two shows I’ve decided to talk about are on the opposite end of the scale from each other in terms of quality. I’ll start with the good, that being rather obvious but I feel someone has to talk about it…
Yes, My Hero Academia Season 3 is here. The first two seasons absolutely nailed both western comic book tropes and classic eastern shonen tropes, blending them into a very satisfying whole. Season 3 kicked off with what was essentially a recap episode disguised as a filler episode set at the school pool, and while that felt like a rather slow start, it’s a lot better that what we would have been getting had MHA got the standard Shonen Jump! show treatment and been running all year since it debuted. Episode 2 kicked off the new arc proper with some new characters, a new setting, and lots of teases for the new villains that will be turning up to cause havoc in this otherwise dangerous but supervised training camp.
My Hero Academia is streaming on Crunchyroll
One of the new characters is a boy whose superhero parents were killed when he was too young to understand, so get ready for some heartbreakingly pleasant scenes between the boy and our sappy (but oh-so-lovable) lead Midoriya. Otherwise I’m looking forward to another set of episodes featuring great characters and well-animated fights, or as I like to call it, a good Sunday night in!
What I don’t like to call a good anything is Fist of the Blue Sky – Regenesis, because… yikes. Fist of the Blue Sky was a prequel to the classic Fist of the North Star series, with Regenesis (or Re:Genesis) being a sequel to the prequel. I was all on board for this, I always enjoy a bit of over-the-top FOTNS violence, but there is one major factor holding the show down: the animation. I was aware going in that it was created via CGI, but I was still somewhat hopeful that it would be good enough for me not to care, but I was wrong. Not only do the over-exaggerated muscle structures of the characters not translate well to CG, but the movements of the characters are laughable. Juddery, often doing the same sequence of movements on a repeating cycle, and sometimes everything is just frozen apart from some characters’ mouths like it was a computer game cutscene.
Maybe it will get better. I hear the new Berserk anime eventually did (though I never did get back to it) but after one and a half episodes of embarrassing CG animation, I’ve dropped the show. Given the sheer amount of titles on offer this season, I’m almost glad to have one less to have to watch, but that doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed.
So there you are, one recommendation to watch, one not to watch, with plenty of other shows name-dropped in the opening paragraph as well. As the rest of my fellow staff have shown, this is a certainly a season to remember, no matter what genre you’re interested in.
Fist of the Blue Sky – Regenesis is streaming on Crunchyroll
Josh A. Stevens
I don’t think I’ve seen a season so stuffed with anticipated sequels in quite some time! The current shonen sensation My Hero Academia is back and building promise after an admittedly rocky start with a recap episode, while our appetites are being whetted by another course of Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma. Perhaps my most anticipated however, was the long-awaited adaptation of a Sci-Fi classic’s sequel: Steins;Gate 0.
Okabe Rintaro travelled through time to save the life of Makise Kurisu – and failed. Every time he tried, he failed and watched someone close to him die. Breaking down, he swore he’d never time travel again; that he meddled in God’s domain and was punished for it. Putting his head down and focusing on a “normal student life”, it was at a seminar when Okabe was introduced to “Amadeus” – a breakthrough A.I. that brings back an unexpected part of his past and all the memories that come with it.
Years after the original won our hearts and acclaim, any concerns about the follow-up’s quality were washed away when I went hands-on with the original PlayStation 4 visual novel and was blown away. Two episodes in, White Fox have hit every note they needed to with incredible precision, so I’m definitely looking ahead with excitement.
Prior knowledge of Steins;Gate is absolutely crucial to even try to follow this sequel, but if you were a fan of the original back in the day, I can’t emphasis enough how much you need to watch Steins;Gate 0. Symbolised visually by an all-black suit replacing his iconic white lab coat, Okabe’s transformation from an overconfident self-proclaimed “mad scientist” to a student caught in the cruel grasp of PTSD is harrowing to behold, especially when we are gradually introduced to the reality of “Amadeus” and consider the repercussions it could have for our tragic protagonist.
Steins;Gate 0 is streaming on Crunchyroll
In another world line, the video game adaptation I’m raving about may be Persona 5: The Animation but sadly, this one isn’t it. The original JRPG is one of the most visually stunning games I’ve ever played, with a fantastic story to boot. Like CloverWorks’ other video game adaptation Ace Attorney however, I can’t help but feel that Persona 5: The Animation suffers from being too faithful to the source material. Stylistic transitions that work for the turn-based battle systems and visual novel-style navigation just look lazy in the more fluid medium of animation. Rather than outright lifting things from the game as an Easter Egg or callback, I wish the anime team had been able to adopt the game’s iconic visual motif in a way that better suited the medium.
In terms of new shows, MEGALOBOX definitely has my attention at this stage. While the animation quality has proved controversial, I love the retro effect that looks like it was plucked right out of a late-90s broadcast schedule. I have no prior experience with Ashita no Joe, but have found this re-imagining both newcomer-friendly and engaging. I’m not a sports fan by any measure, but I love a good underdog story and have been drawn into the world that is MEGALOBOX‘s ring. In one corner, a pampered elite with the latest extravagances at their disposal and the other, the every day struggle of the slums and the moral ambiguity that festers there. It looks like the next episode will finally bring Joe to the professional ring, so I’ll be looking forward to his true debut!
Overshadowed by the big titles are several less ambitious series that have caught my attention and are definitely worth a try if you’re looking for an antidote to all the full-on shonen action on offer.
Magical Girl Ore is based on a 2-volume manga by Icchokusen Moukon (currently available in French in Akata’s WTF series and, yes, those initials are exactly what you think). Saki Uno is one half of an unsuccessful idol group (she really can’t sing in tune), with a major crush on Mohiro, the older brother (and also idol) of the other half of her group, Sakuyo. When Mohiro is threatened by demons, Saki gains the ability to transform into a magical girl (well, her mum was one too, it turns out, so it must be in the genes) via the thoroughly suspicious machinations of a yakuza-style familiar, Kokoro-chan. And when she transforms – yes, you guessed it! – she changes into a muscular young man, while still sporting the frilly pink costume of a typical magical girl. Frightful bloody mayhem ensues as she disposes of the aliens and rescues Mohiro – who seems utterly smitten with his burly rescuer. From here, it’s downhill all the way, as complications lead to yet more magical girl complications…
This series reminds me of the classic Excel Saga (‘Puchu!’) in the way it goes about debunking many tropes of the genre in straight-faced, earnest but entertaining style. And that can’t be bad! It’s early days but I’ve found the first episodes to be much more fun than I had expected. Yes, there have been other shows parodying the Magical Girl trope but this one is doing it with style. Check out the extended flashback scene in Episode 3; it mercilessly parodies – yet in a rather affectionate manner – the soulful type of insert song that is woven into the narrative in countless other anime.
Magical Girl Ore is streaming on Crunchyroll
Tada Never Falls in Love comes from the creative team that gave us the wonderful Monthly Girls’Nozaki-kun but is an original series, not based on a manga. This can be a risky move – but it’s proving to be a gently amusing watch with some nicely observed characterization.
Mitsuyoshi Tada – a keen member of his high school’s photography club – is asked by a tourist to take her photo when he’s out snapping the cherry blossoms. She’s Teresa Wagner, an exchange student, and it seems she’s obsessed with a Japanese historical series, Rainbow Shogun, and has learned her courtly Japanese from watching it. She’s also got separated from her companion, so Tada takes her to his grandfather’s coffee shop. (Did I mention that there’s a cat (Nyanko Big) at the cafe?) So no surprises when Teresa and her red-haired friend turn up at Tada’s high school and, when encouraged to join a club and the photography club is the one they take an interest in…
It’s a pleasantly upbeat and light-hearted watch so far, the characters are believable, and it will definitely appeal to fans of Nozaki-kun. (It’s difficult to resist a show in which the cat narrates one of the episodes!)
Tada Never Falls in Love is streaming on HIDIVE
And talking of cafes, a quick mention for Yotsuiro Biyori on Crunchyroll (featuring another cat in a cafe) which has to be one of the most charming and restful series around and a great de-stresser, telling about four men (and their cat) running Rokuhoudou, a traditional Japanese cafe. Tea, cakes, desserts…
Yotsuiro Biyori is streaming on Crunchyroll
Last season had many truly special shows on offer and this season is set to bring back some of my firm favourites. Among them I’m happy to see the return of Food Wars!, My Hero Academia and Amanchu!, all of which are shows that I’m extremely fond of – especially given the arcs that Food Wars! and My Hero Academia are approaching in their adaptions. Rather than go on about fan favourites, however, I’d like to talk about some new series instead!
First up I’d like to follow-up on Darkstorm’s recommendation for Wotakoi. I was recently given the chance to review the first volume of the manga for the site and quickly fell in love with what I saw. Two episodes in and the anime adaption has yet to let me down. The animation (handled by A-1 Pictures) is not the strongest I’ve seen from the studio, but nevertheless it’s bright and cheery – conveying the sense of warmth that the manga processes. If you were a fan of Recovery of an MMO Junkie from a couple of seasons ago, then this is definitely a show worth checking out. Like Darkstorm I appreciate the idea of older characters working 9-5 jobs as opposed to high-school students and the fact the show quickly gets lead characters Narumi and Hirotaka into a relationship by the end of the first episode really helps settle the plot into a calm groove, where it can focus on the slice of life elements rather than a ‘will they won’t they’ situation. It’s a drama free show that seems perfect to lose some time with once a week.
My second recommendation for the season, surprisingly, is Tokyo Ghoul:re. Despite the fact I’m not incredibly fond of Tokyo Ghoul, I have read all of the original manga and watched the two seasons of the anime and the OVAs. I didn’t like where the Tokyo Ghoul manga ended originally so I’d been reluctant to give RE a try, but given I’m subscribed to Crunchyroll anyway there was no harm in trying – and I’m glad I did.
Controversially Tokyo Ghoul:re completely retcons the story, moving away from the anime original content of the second season and instead pretending it never happened. Set two years after the events of the original manga series, Tokyo Ghoul:re once again focuses on Ken Kaneki (now known as Haise Sasaki), who is working as a ghoul investigator for the CCG. He’s part of a group known as the ‘Quinx Squad’, made up of people who have undergone special surgery to make use of the abilities of a ghoul. As viewers we’re aware of the fact that Haise is part-ghoul and although he has no memories before joining the CCG, it appears to only be a matter of time until he remembers…
If you’ve not read the manga before then you definitely should not go from watching the previous anime seasons to this because it will make no sense. However, if you are a manga reader then this is proving to be a worthy adaption. Handled once again by Studio Pierrot, the animation for the series looks smooth and suitably gloomy to reflect on the dark world the show offers up. Fight scenes so far have been well detailed and fun to watch, which is great because they’ve always been one of the biggest draws of the series for me. Knowing what’s to come in the plot, I’m liable to get annoyed with this universe again, but right now I’m just happy to have gotten back to the point of finding Tokyo Ghoul enjoyable. It’s a shame how unfriendly the series is to anime-only viewers, but at least the manga is available in English thanks to Viz Media if you’re willing to read it beforehand.
Tokyo Ghoul:re is streaming on Crunchyroll