Oh, Japan, you’re spoiling us with the 2018 Autumn Season! So many titles and not enough time… There really is something for everyone, this time: isekai fans are very well catered for with SAO Alicization, That Time I was Reincarnated As A Slime; sports fans have new anime exploring sumo and running in Hinomaru Sumo and Run with the Wind and there’s yuri and BL too in Bloom into You and DAKAICHI. Meanwhile two of the best series from the Summer Season, Banana Fish and Golden Kamuy continue –there’s so much more and that’s why our writers at Anime UK News are here to share their recommendations with you!
There are certainly a few big titles returning this season. Sword Art Online’s new series, Alicization began with a double-length episode, with Kirito stuck in a game where time flows differently; A Certain Magical Index is back for its third series, with the unlucky Toma Kamjio finding himself being sent to France; and the final series of Fairy Tail has begun, with Lucy, Natsu and Happy trying to reassemble the members of the now disbanded wizard’s guild.
As a fan of sports anime, some new series have already gained my attention, such as the athletics themed Run with the Wind, which concerns a marathon relay team, and is produced by Production I.G, the company who also do Haikyu!!. You can certainly see the similar animation styles. However, given the reputation that sports anime have of attracting viewers that are more interested in the sexiness of the guys rather than the actual sporting action itself, the one new series of big interest to me is Hinomaru Sumo. Based on a Weekly Shonen Jump series, the lead character Hinomaru Ushio, as well as most of the main cast, seem to have surprisingly muscular bodies for a sport where most participants are famously fat. I sense the Odagiri effect is taking precedence over realism.
Outside of that, some of the more unusual series include the comedy short Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san, which follows the masked staff of a bookshop specialising in manga. The lead character Honda, represented as a skeleton, has to deal with all the odd requests from customers, such as one English-speaking customer looking for a tentacle-rape Gintama doujinshi requested by their daughter.
Josh A. Stevens
“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is likely a phrase you’ve heard many times before, passed down from one generation to the next from time immemorial as a warning that we shouldn’t judge things at face value. Like how our society adapts and evolves with the times… however, that saying may also be in need of an update. One suggestion of mine, would be “Don’t judge a light novel adaptation by its title“.
While Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? and I Want to Eat Your Pancreas have already caused many raised eyebrows, the anime that led me to consider this is one whose title may prompt an eye roll and a snicker, but is shaping up to be one of this season’s best new shows: Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (hereafter referred to as “Rascal”). It’s okay, get it all out of your system. It took me a while as well. All done now? Okay.
Perhaps best described as a modern The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, the supernatural drama series revolves around high school boy Sakuta Azusagawa, who, while visiting the library one day, is surprised to see a senpai from his school wearing a Playboy-esque bunny outfit. She isn’t an exhibitionist, however. She’s Mai Sakurajima, a teen actress who, after announcing her hiatus, has become invisible to the world – literally. With an increasing number of people becoming unable to even remember her existence, Mai and Sakuta set out to solve the mystery of “Adolescence Syndrome”.
At time of writing, three episodes have been broadcast of the thirteen episodes, which is set to be followed by a film next year (a sign of confidence?). In just over an hour of combined runtime, Rascal has already convinced me of the genuine chemistry shared by Sakuta and Mai, imbuing the titular Bunny Girl Senpai with a likeable personality and a playful yet vulnerable aura that compels us to dive deeper into the supernatural “Adolesence Syndrome”. Despite the mystical way it manifests, the examples seen so far are also pleasingly less superhero origin fare, but tied to feelings any of us may experience.
Following an exceptionally strong start, the mystery of Mai Sakurajima reached its conclusion in the third episode. Earlier, I had found myself wondering whether this introductory chapter might have been better suited to the big screen, but while the finale packed the right narrative beats, I was left feeling that it lacked in dramatic execution. It wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t hit me like a story resolution should. With the next episode promising the start of a new story arc, however, I hope future chapters can better capture the emotional impact of their finales.
I am concerned, nevertheless, that because of how likeable a character Mai is, the rest of the series may suffer, now that the story has moved on from her. Going forward, I hope Rascal can imbue other characters with an emotional depth like Mai, and give us a long-term hook, lest it become another Erased. Fortunately, potential threads for the long-game may already be being woven in, but only time will tell.
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is currently simulcast on Crunchyroll, with new episodes every Wednesday at 7:50pm.
Where I have been less impressed, however, is in the series sure to become this season’s most memorable: Goblin Slayer. I must applaud the series’ vision in taking the JRPG-esque fantasy setting that has become satured with light-hearted stories, and turning the genre’s usual beginner-level punching bag into a genuine threat. However, the dark fantasy’s premiere may go down in history as anime’s Sonic the Hedgehog, because ow, the edge!
The series centres around an armour-clad adventurer who goes under the moniker “Goblin Slayer”. While others take on grandiose quests slaying dragons and more, his calling is the eradication of goblins that, while considered low difficulty, are a plague if left unchecked. It should be stressed that Goblin Slayer is not for the faint of heart; it’s the first anime I can recall having a content warning as part of its subtitles, with a scene of sexual assault likely to earn an 18 certificate from its first episode alone.
While this year’s DEVILMAN crybaby excelled as an unrestrained visceral thrill ride however, Goblin Slayer feels less like a carnal delight, but more an uncomfortable test of endurance – and not in a good way. Speaking as someone whose day job involves working with horror films, for a show being sold on shock value, the action has yet to reach a point likely to please the ultraviolence crowd. In the areas where it does cross the line however, I feel it goes too far.
A complaint I’ve seen growing in fiction of late, is that some writers consider the worst thing that can be done to a woman is sexual assault. In the premiere episode, a male adventurer meets his untimely fate off-screen, yet his female party members have their clothes torn apart on-screen, with one even being gang-raped by goblins (everything leading up to the act happens on-screen). While other TV shows work with professionals on storylines to spark discussions or raise awareness of rape, its purpose in Goblin Slayer is simply a throwaway action to paint how barbaric goblins are, by doing what the author clearly believes is the worst thing that can be done to a woman. The first episode also featured another mark of series that revel in the humiliation of women: a close-up of a petrified woman literally wetting her pants; something I haven’t seen since the unbelievably trashy Queen’s Blade. I’m no prude and will freely admit to liking fun, ridiculous risqué anime like Yuuna and the Haunted Hotsprings, but the first episode of Goblin Slayer made me feel uncomfortable.
Despite its distasteful premiere however, Goblin Slayer returned for a much stronger second episode. With the need to create a shocking hook out of the way, the follow-up takes more time to explore the enigmatic character of the Goblin Slayer. While there are dashes here and there however, those expecting harrowing brutality to the tune of the first episode may be disappointed. Although, while a more character-focused episode is a nice change of pace, why should I invest in a cast that Goblin Slayer seems to care so little about, that they don’t even have names? I’m not even sure what Goblin Slayer is trying to be at this point, although it is still early days and the series has time to find its right balance, but we’ll see if I hang around long enough to find out.
When I was building my list of stuff to watch for this season, I was amazed at how ridiculous it was in length as there was just so much I was interested in, going off the synopses. However, it’s funny that the show that I couldn’t find a synopsis for has become my favourite so far: Zombie Land Saga.
The official Japanese trailer didn’t reveal much apart from that there’s zombie girls in it so I went in mostly blind, and what a setup I was treated to. We’ve got a high school girl who wants to become an idol, who dies on the way to the audition and is reborn as a zombie to be part of an undead idol group that’s going to revive the fortunes of Saga prefecture.
To start it’s utterly, utterly bizarre; but once you get it, the show becomes a fantastic piece of comedy. So far this comes from either the off-the-wall performances that see the audience dance with death as they don’t realise the girls are zombies; or the reactions of the poor police officer that encounters them in the dead of night when they try to run away. It looks like each episode is going to push the girls into different styles of music and revel in the stupidity of how they do it. My initial fear is that this will become stale pretty quickly, but there seems to be an interesting throughline of the girls adjusting to their situation which may provide an extra element on top to prevent that.
While not strictly an idol anime, fans of the genre will still be having a good time with it attempting to parody the major trappings of the genre. Despite being zombies, the girls still have to go through lessons and are pushed to perform by their eccentric producer (who uncannily looks like a certain stylish, tough guy from PriPara). Fans should also note Minami Tanaka of Wake Up, Girls! fame is voicing one of the main zombie girls, Lily Hoshikawa.
So far this is definitely shaping up to be one of the most interesting and unique shows of the season and I’ll be watching this going forward with great interest.
Also high on my priority list this season is Bloom into You, with yuri being a genre I’ve been into since I first started watching anime. After a long stint of being a minority genre (compared to the more visible yaoi at least), yuri seems to be in the middle of a surge in popularity at the moment; this coming hot-off-the-heels of Citrus, and already Bloom into You feels more approachable. There’s no pseudo-incest or rape-like scenes and instead feels like our two heroines are taking the path of a more natural relationship.
That’s not to say there isn’t some yuri-weirdness in play though. After being pushed into joining the student council by her homeroom teacher, Yuu Koito bonds quickly with popular student council president candidate Touko Nanami, who guides her through rejecting a guy who confessed to her after their middle school graduation. While both girls apparently struggle to understand the concept of romantic love; Touko suddenly feels like she is falling in love with Yuu, which is a massive jump when they were basically screaming “What is love?” (no, not the Haddaway song) five seconds earlier.
While I guess we do need a starting point to their relationship, I think this sense of it being a big jump is more down to how these first couple of episodes feel rushed and don’t give a good sense of the progression of time. At their particular school, the student council election does come at the beginning of the academic year, but it’s just not clear whether these events are taking place over a number of weeks or days or so on.
Yuu’s reaction to the confession is essentially “meh…”, and after having a month of one guy chasing her affections, she now has Touko to deal with. This is all just setting the scene of course, and the real meat of the show will be watching how their relationship develops and to find out if Touka can get Yuu seeing the light of love. Already we’re discovering some potential hurdles though as Touko’s best friend Sayaka clearly has some romantic interest in her and is being set up for the love triangle.
Animation-wise I feel the art style is going to take a bit of getting used to as it feels more rounded than normal, particularly with the characters’ faces, although it does match the cover art for the manga so it’s artistically coherent. It still looks pretty though, and I like how the opening goes all in with the flower motif.
The manga of course is still ongoing so we are unlikely to get any type of resolution in its 13-episode run, but so far it looks like a promising yuri anime for both genre fans and newcomers to get stuck into.
As you can see, while this autumn season has a lot of big-name sequels, like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, Sword Art Online: Alicization and even A Certain Magical Index III, it’s the brand-new stuff that’s grabbed my attention. And so, I want to round off my piece keeping to this with Release the Spyce.
This takes the schoolgirl spies idea last seen in Princess Principal and puts it in modern Japan, as the girls of Tsukikage take on dangerous missions to thwart the evil organisation known as Moryo. While a lot of people will compare it to Princess Principal, Release the Spyce is a more light-hearted spy show that seems to aim at being fun and feisty rather than a serious epic. You can tell this at a glance just from the cute, moe-style character designs and there being some oddities like protagonist Momo having a superhuman tongue that results in some licking level fanservice.
Talking about superhuman and oddities, the ‘spyce’ in the title is perhaps an unfortunate name for a drug (given that there’s a dangerous synthetic drug of a similar name in real life) that gives the girls abilities like superhuman speed and strength, allowing them to safely jump from a building to the ground in a flash for example. We haven’t seen too much of it yet but it’ll likely prove a useful plot device in allowing the girls to do things they normally wouldn’t be able to and give them a hand in their various missions, which so far include a raid on a factory and rescuing a couple of female police officers from a group of thugs.
While these missions can escalate into some pretty nice action sequences, so far this has been short-lived and instead the show has mostly been slice-of-life-ified character development as we see protagonist Momo being scouted and then trained to enter the ranks of the Tsukikage. With its current pacing that has been fine so far, but it does feel like it needs to start ramping things up quickly to capture people’s interest. Thankfully there’s murmurings in the background of a possible traitor in the group of spies and we’ve at least seen the series’ villains so it looks like it is heading in the right direction.
That’s my top three picks from the season so far then: Zombie Land Saga, Bloom into You and Release the Spyce. I’m hoping that all three stay the course and turn out to be great shows, and if they are, I’m sure to be spouting why you should watch them when it comes to our Autumn 2018 Overview, so watch this space.
Zombie Land Saga is available for streaming on Crunchyroll, while both Bloom into You and Release the Spyce are available via HI-DIVE.
While the Summer Season was all-round a bit of a disappointment, the Autumn Season has brought with it the return of some of my favourite shows. Sword Art Online, Fairy Tail and (reluctant favourite) Tokyo Ghoul are all here, ensuring that no matter what, there are going to be at least a few shows for me to fangirl over. However, I’m going to put the returning champions aside for now and talk about three new series that have quickly stolen my heart.
First off we have As Miss Beelzebub Likes, a slice-of-life comedy about Beelzebub, who has been banished from heaven and now rules over Pandemonium. She’s aided in her work by attendant Mullin, who has spent years respecting Beelzebub and holding her as a symbol of everything a ruler should be but the longer he works for her, Mullin realises the image he had of Beelzebub is completely wrong! Beelzebub is lazy, childish and completely in love with anything fluffy. Our hero has his work cut out for him keeping Beelzebub focused on her job, but as the two grow closer it seems romance might be in the air…?
It only took a single episode for me to become extremely smitten with As Miss Beelzebub Likes, in fact just a few days later I ran out and bought all three volumes of the English release of the manga (being published by Yen Press). I just had to find out more about these characters and their day-to-day lives. Having now read those, I’ve fallen even further in love with series and cannot wait to meet some of the other characters in the anime. The world surrounding our cast is bright and colourful and the characters are varied in personality enough that I think there will be someone for everyone. The only real downside to As Miss Beelzebub Likes is that there are quite a few fan service scenes (and Beelzebub’s whole design shows off a fair bit of cleavage), so that might put some viewers off. For me it’s something I can overlook because I really like the romance and cutesy comedy and have seen worse. I’m intrigued to find out where this series takes us, considering the manga is still on-going in Japan, but from the first two episodes I’ve seen I don’t see it doing anything wrong. Those looking for a heartwarming comedy should definitely check this one out!
Speaking of comedies, my second recommendation comes in the form of short anime Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san. As you might have figured out from the name, this series follows the story of Honda-san who works in a bookshop. Faced with requests for out-of-print books, recommendations for yaoi series and passionate costumers there is never a quiet moment for our protagonist. Admittedly I wasn’t going to check this one out originally because I don’t watch a lot of short series, but after the first episode aired there were reactions and screenshots for it all over my Twitter timeline (I’m not sure any of us will be forgetting the ‘Special Yaoi Book’ scene for awhile…). An episode later and I was sold on following the everyday challenges of working in a bookstore.
The nice thing about Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san is that it’s not a huge commitment in a season so filled to the brim with high quality anime and those returning favourites. Sitting down to watch a 10 minute episode doesn’t take a lot of time out of the day and in this case it’s also incredibly rewarding. Anyone who has worked in retail (or indeed a bookshop!) will be able to relate to Honda-san’s difficulties and even if you can’t, there are a huge number of references to manga that avid fans will immediately pick up on. This one is definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan of workplace comedy.
Finally, my last recommendation comes in the form of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. As a fan of isekai stories, I was already aware of this series due to previously reading a volume of the manga. Although I never read further than the first volume (mostly due to being unable to find Volume 2), I was excited to check out the anime – so far it hasn’t disappointed!
The show follows the story of thirty-seven-year-old Satoru Mikami who is killed protecting a friend from being stabbed. When he awakens he finds himself in a fantasy world, but not as his former self! It turns out that Satoru has been reincarnated into one of the weakest monsters: a slime. Thus our story follows his adventures in this new world, as a slime, and those he meets as he travels and becomes stronger.
What I really like about That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is that the animation is extremely well done. It’s fluid, easy to follow and most importantly has a distinct style going for it. In Another World With My Smartphone and last seasons How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord looked bright and colourful but both were fairly generic when you compared to other series (and each other) in the genre, but That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is different. It looks more like a 90s anime or a western comic in its colour palette and character designs. It’s a breath of fresh air in a crowded market, helped immensely by how well animated Satoru is in slime form. Who would have thought that slimes could have such a wide range of expressions! With it already being confirmed to be a 24 episode series we’ll be seeing a lot of this anime in the coming months, but the animation studio, 8-Bit, obviously have faith in it and from the couple of episodes that have aired so far I highly recommend checking it out. Fantasy and isekai fans should find a lot to like here.
Well, since nobody’s talking about one of the bigger elephants in the room, allow me to step in and talk about the long awaited anime adaptation of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure‘s Fifth story: Golden Wind…
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has an odd set-up as each new story arc involves an entirely new cast and setting, with a few exceptions of the odd character here and there. Part V: Golden Wind is no different in this respect, taking place in Italy and involving new protagonist Giorno Giovanna (making this GioGio’s Bizarre Adventure, I guess…), the son of Part I and III’s lead villain Dio Brando, though he is actually an extremely nice guy. He wishes to clean up the streets and the best way he sees doing this is to take over Italy’s biggest crime family and then use that power to stop the rest of the crime in the city (and becoming a “Gang Star”, apparently…)
As you’d imagine (if you’ve followed the series since at least Part III) he has Stand abilities, ghostly other-selves that often have very odd powers associated with them. Giorno’s stand is Gold Experience, or at least it is in Japanese… as per usual with this franchise, it’s based off of a popular song title, and to avoid potential copyright problems it’s been renamed, in this case to Golden Wind (even though Gio clearly says Experience in English, but hey-ho…) Its powers appear to be able to give life to objects, turning them into a living thing and then back into an inanimate object at will. When facing off against another Stand user in Episode 2 however, Giorno also finds out it has a useful ability against beings already alive too…
So two episodes in, as of this writing, and the series has displayed JoJo‘s usual mix of crazy powers, unique character designs (just look at that poster above, so many exposed chests…) and dare I say bizarre sense of humour. It’s certainly a different setting than we’re used to, and the lead character has a different spin and goal to the normal affair, so I’m looking forward to seeing more of Golden Wind…
The bewildering choice of titles this autumn induces in me the desire to actually watch less and concentrate on the few that have caught my attention. Top of my list is ongoing series Banana Fish – but I’ll return to that at the end of its run (if I’m not a teary mess by then).
A young boy is saved from kidnappers by a young man in a bear mascot suit. The boy, Masaru, is heir to a vast fortune – and his rescuer, Narumi, is a good-hearted soul suffering from a bizarre disease, ‘Zonapha Syndrome’, which means that if he can’t make someone laugh spontaneously, he will die a horrible death. Enter a third player: the silver-haired Shirogane, a beautiful young woman who uses her skills as a puppeteer to foil yet another attack on Masaru by manipulating a life-size puppet called Harlequin. She is Masaru’s bodyguard – and in spite of her presence, Masaru is soon under attack again from another puppet-wielder.
Karakuri Circus is based on a long-running manga from the 1990s by Kazuhiro Fujita (Ushio and Tora, The Black Museum) and has been given the look and feel of a classic anime from another era – and not in a bad way. The story moves at a fast pace, the main characters are endearing, the lifesize puppets are genuinely creepy. Boasting a catchy OP from Bump of Chicken, the series exudes the attractive vibe of a traditional anime adventure series.
DAKAICHI – I’m being harassed by the sexiest man of the year takes a look at the rivalry between two very popular young actors: Takato Saijyo (who’s been ‘in the biz’ since he was a child) and has been voted the most huggable male star for five years (let’s keep to the SFW Crunchyroll translation for now) – and newcomer Junta Azumaya who’s only been acting professionally for three years but has just knocked Takato from the prestigious Number 1 slot. As if that isn’t humiliating enough, Takato is then cast as a supporting actor in a new movie with Junta in the lead role. After a night out drinking, Takato wakes up to find himself in Junta’s bed. His younger rival shows him highly embarrassing footage he’s taken of him on his smartphone – and then declares that he’s idolized him from afar for a long time and… one thing inevitably leads to another. At first Takato doesn’t know how to cope with the younger man’s passionate feelings – but when Junta suddenly becomes distant and starts avoiding him off-set, he finds himself even more confused. Has he developed feelings for him? And what would happen if news of their relationship were to become known to the paparazzi?
Hashigo Sakurabi’s very popular ongoing BL manga (5 volumes so far and if you’re reading the Taifu French edition, as I have been, Volume 5 is due out in January 2019!) is pretty steamy and even though the anime script has toned things down, I’m quite surprised to find this series streaming on Crunchyroll without any suitability warnings. That said, in DAKAICHI’s favour is the fact that the central couple are both adults – and thus far, the script is good at focusing on the high-pressured atmosphere of an actor’s life. (Older BL fans will remember another high-angst series about actors, Youka Nitta’s Embracing Love – but DAKAICHI adopts a different tone, greatly enlivened by many snarky humorous touches.) Minus point? The character designs are just a little too faithful to the original art in that the character designer has kept the mangaka’s trademark hatching/shading beneath characters’ chins and this really doesn’t look great on screen. However, there’s genuinely convincing chemistry between Takato and Junta which is helped all the more by their voice actors, Hiroki Takahashi and Yuuki Ono, who are returning to the roles they’ve already played in the drama CDs released in Japan.
Double Decker! Doug and Kirill
A drug called Anthem is causing havoc in the city state of Lisvalletta, changing whoever uses it into a powerful monster. Rookie Kirill Vrubel has big dreams of achieving fame in the special SEVEN-O Special Crime Investigation Unit– when he finds himself partnered with Doug Billingham on a mission/stake-out.
From the team that brought us Tiger and Bunny (the original character designs are unmistakably the work of Masakazu Katsura) comes this new tongue-in-cheek crazy crime SF-ish comedy drama. It’s genuinely laugh-out loud in places as it has fun messing with familiar tropes of TV crime dramas old and new – but it also can deliver an exciting showdown or two to keep the viewer engaged. It boasts a stylish OP and a banging ED, not to mention plenty of lively female protagonists who do most of the crime-solving. Four episodes in at the time of writing and no overarching storyline has emerged so far (other than the misadventures of Kirill) – but it’s a really entertaining watch.
Both DAKAICHI and Double Deckers are currently streaming on Crunchyroll; Karakuri Circus can be watched on Amazon Prime.
And just to prove my earlier point about the fluidity of the seasons, Crunchyroll have just announced that Tsurune, an intriguing new series set around a school archery club, will start airing on October 21st.