Summer Season 2019 – Writers at Anime UK News Take a First Look

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How time flies! Last summer we were anticipating the start of controversial new series Banana Fish and looking forward to the third seasons of Attack on Titan and Free! – and here we are with a slew of new titles launching. From Viking epic Vinland Saga on Amazon Prime to retro remake BEM on Funimation (1968) with big shonen series Fire Force and Dr Stone to be found on Crunchyroll and Funimation (not to mention more isekai than you can shake a stick at) there should be something for everyone to like this season. Or is there? Our writers at Anime UK News have selected a few titles that have caught their attention – do share your new favourites with us as well…

Demelza


The long awaited Summer season has finally begun! With adaptations of some of my favourite series starting, as well as sequels to beloved franchises I couldn’t be happier. Without further ado lets jump into what I’ve been watching and recommend so far!

First up we have the return of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?. Based on an on-going light novel series (which Yen are finally about to be caught up to Japan with), this fantasy adventure story tells the story of Bell Cranel and the other adventurers in his Familia. Animated by J.C Staff, the first season had some thrilling battle scenes and fantastic use of colours and after-effects to capture the audience’s heart. With the first season airing back in 2015, it has been quite some time since many of us watched the show, but thankfully a recap episode has been released on HIDIVE and Crunchyroll (where Season 2 is streaming), to help bring us all up to speed.

The first episode of this season drops us in straight after the end of the first season, with Bell and his group exploring the dungeon before becoming embroiled in the scheme of another Familia’s god. For those of you who read the light novels the first episode adapts the beginning of Volume 6 of the novels and I’d imagine (judging by the opening) we’ll get through to at least the end of Volume 8 with this run. Having read these books myself I can’t wait to see the content animated and encourage everyone to give it a watch for themselves. As far as pure fantasy series go, DanMachi is one of the best right now.

Next up we have the anime adaption of If It’s For My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord. Like DanMachi, this one is also based off of a light novel, which some of you may be familiar with, thanks to J-Novel Club publishing it in English. The story follows the adventurer Dale, who comes across a young devil girl called Latina who seems to have been abandoned in the forest. Dale takes in Latina, giving her a home in the attic room he rents from friends. What comes after is a sweet slice-of-life story based around the daily lives of these two and their friends as Latina grows older.

If It’s For My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord is a peaceful, charming series that is easy to relax with week-to-week. Not everyone is going to get on with Dale’s overprotective personality (and the fact he whines about being away from Latina at any opportunity!) but if you can look past that,  it’s adorable. The two share a strong bond, but Latina isn’t shy or dependent on her saviour. As of Episode 2, she’s already made friends of her own and gotten used to life in her new home, which is nice to see. Dale himself is only 18, but, guided by his friends, he’s not alone in bringing up Latina and proves himself a dependable parental figure (even if he does dote a little bit too much).

Those of you looking for something cute in your weekly schedule should certainly check this one out!


Last but certainly not least is the anime adaption of O Maidens in Your Savage Season, the highly anticipated new series from acclaimed director Mari Okada. For the past couple of months I’ve been reviewing the manga this anime is based on (also written by Okada) and I was hooked right from the start. The story follows main character Kazusa Onodera, who’s part of her high school’s Literary Club. Within this club she and four other girls read and discuss literary classics, but for Kazusa this gives rise to a newfound interest in sex due to the sexual references and euphemisms in the books they read. To make matters worse, Kazusa is crushing on her childhood friend, Izumi, and all this talk of sex is confusing her feelings toward him all the more.

One of the best things for me about watching this show is seeing how well the manga has transitioned to animation. The comedy is delightful and entertaining, while the more serious scenes are well directed and don’t outstay their welcome. The characters have all been given voice actors who suit the inner voices I had imagined while reading the manga, which was surprising for me as I expected to find one or two were vastly different to what I’d envisioned. If you’re a fan of the manga already then you certainly won’t be disappointed so far, meanwhile I think the anime is also a great starting point for newcomers to the series.

O Maidens in Your Savage Season is quickly shaping up to become one of Okada’s best works. With a mature, realistic approach to talking about sex, coupled with lovable characters and some great comedy – this is a wonderful show. It’s broaching topics anime doesn’t normally touch and Okada manages to prevent us becoming too bogged down with the melodrama thanks to her great sense for comedy. Oh and if that wasn’t enough to sell it to you, the series also has an opening performed by HoneyWorks – which I adore. This is certainly not one to be missed!

If It’s for My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord is streaming on Crunchyroll, while O Maidens in Your Savage Season can be found on HIDIVE.

Josh A. Stevens

Let’s get what should be the big one out of the way first: all the way back in our Review of 2017, I bemoaned the fact that Symphogear AXZ, the fourth instalment of Satelight’s beloved bonkers franchises, went unlicensed. Now, not only have Crunchyroll fixed that grievous error with catalogue episodes being slowly updated, but they’re also simulcasting the new season, Symphogear XV!

I know I already sing Symphogear‘s praises more than most, but these first few episodes of its fifth series really have been incredible. The first opened with the usual ridiculous theatrics we’ve come to expect and love, with the main cast teaming up to battle a kaiju-esque monster in the South Pole, complete with a finishing move powered by the “song in my heart” (you don’t question these things with Symphogear – you just strap in and enjoy the ride). The following episodes set a much-welcomed darker tone for things to come, with the new trio of villains making their presence known on an emotionally and physically catastrophic scale. Despite their horrifying actions, however, the Bavarian Illuminati remnants are surprisingly charming and likeable! I just can’t stay mad at Elsa when the werewolf-inspired girl purrs in excitement at being complimented, or the vampiric Millaarc desperately screams her desire to protect her family.

As if my excitement for Symphogear XV wasn’t already through the roof though, the series is also teasing a long-overdue pivotal role for Miku’s possibly-more-than-best-friend Miku, after largely being sidelined since Symphogear G.

The new season has also attracted a lot of much-deserved attention for its detailed transformation sequences, with Yoshiyuki Okubo’s risque pole-dancing Kirika earning particular acclaim (even if some if it was considered too lewd to air!). The clip has been shared by Crunchyroll’s YouTube, but viewer discretion is advised! Then there’s the usual new stream of catchy J-Pop in the series’ soundtrack, with pieces featuring Aoi Yuki, Nana Mizuki and many more. Simply put, Symphogear XV is incredibly satisfying on just about every level right now, so hopefully this keeps up for the rest of the season!

The only downside however, is that until the remaining episodes of Symphogear AXZ are released, I can’t recommend newcomers jump into this season just yet. However, that leaves enough time for anyone curious to go back and join this ride from the very beginning! If you’re curious, Symphogear XV is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Another new anime that caught my attention early on, is Fire Force. Based on the manga by Soul Eater‘s Atsushu Okubo and animated by David Production (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure), the series blends firefighting with the supernatural when humanity has to deal with a spate of spontaneous human combustion, that turns innocent people into frightening demon-like creatures called “Infernals”. Having lost his family to such an incident 12 years ago, Shinra enlists in the Special Fire Force Company 8 with hopes of becoming a hero, even if his habit of grinning when nervous can make him look more like a villain!

Fire Force‘s biggest draw for me so far, is easily its characters. Shinra may not strike me as anything to write home about right now, but Maki having a gloriously buff frame complimented by a cute personality is great, and Iris is definitely a source of intrigue right now. A nun amongst a group of firefighters who prays for fallen infernals is an interesting choice that helps add an extra layer of lore to the world, and the ending theme does suggest big things from Iris to come (as well as being a good tune!). There are duds in the cast though, like Arthur and his whole schtick about being a “knight” that is just… kinda annoying?

The series hasn’t had the easiest start however, due to events completely out of its control. Due to the firefighting theme and the recent Kyoto Animation tragedy, the third episode was postponed by a week, before being broadcast with edits. I wonder if the series will be able to overcome the shadow of that awkward timing though. The opening line after its return being a direct call-out to “what’s taking place in the world right now” perhaps wasn’t the best idea either, because although it was referring to the in-universe phenomenon, it brought the comparison to the front of my mind for the rest of the episode. I hope Fire Force is able to overcome that tragic association though, because the series is fun and has a lot of potential.

One thing I’ve always loved about anime, is the diverse stories the medium can tell. There’s no better example of this than O Maidens in Your Savage Season, a brilliant coming-of-age drama about sex, that doesn’t feel sleazy at all. While the thought of sex in anime may conjure images of almost-pornographic fantasies aimed at men, Mari Okada undresses this touchy subject from the female perspective that’s been sorely missing in anime with surprising maturity – especially when its cast is anything but!

I don’t think I need to tell anyone here that being a teenager discovering emotions society tells us are taboo is hard, but that struggle is at the very heart of O Maidens. From the shockwaves of the quiet and ladylike Niina expressing a desire to have sex, to prudent Club President Sonezaki’s refusal to even say the word, each of the girls’ relationships with their budding desires is unique, and told with both awkward honesty and respect. For example, the initial shock of Kazusa walking in on her childhood friend masturbating was hilarious, but the series never makes any attempts to shame Izumi for it – O Maidens knows it’s normal (and more importantly, okay) for all genders to be interested in sex. I’m also an absolute sucker for romance stories too, and the plethora of cute and melodramatic moments are certainly keeping me happy on that front!

The pastel colours of Lay-duce’s animation gives the series a pleasing, softer look that I feel really captures the youthfulness of its cast, and as Demelza noted, the voice casting is better than I expected. Hitoha Hongo is a very peculiar character to say the least (I mean, she’s a high-schooler who writes erotica!), but Tomoyo Kurosawa (Sound! Euphonium‘s Kumiko) really captures all of Hongo’s eccentricities with a voice that admittedly sounded a bit grating at first, but now I can’t imagine her sounding like anything else. I was a little disappointed that one plot-thread from the manga was quickly skimmed over in the adaptation, even if it could have created some controversy, but with Mari Okada also working on the anime, I trust that she has a handle on what’s more important in her own story!

I was reluctant to subscribe to yet another streaming service for a while, but O Maidens finally twisted my arm into subbing to HIDIVE. I think a lot of teenagers could benefit from the series, and I wish it was around when I was that age.

Symphogear XV is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Fire Force can be found on both Crunchyroll and Funimation.

HWR

This season I found myself finally making use of my HIDIVE account again as I began watching Wasteful Days of High School Girls. I’m a sucker for slice-of-life, especially if there’s comedy involved and this fits the bill nicely with Wasteful Days centring around an eccentric cast of teenagers getting into bizarre antics.

What has separated the series from other slice-of-life so far is the dynamic between the main trio and the humour conveyed throughout. Wasteful Days can be very deadpan in its approach and most of the comedy has stemmed from the scatter-brained eccentric Tanaka, who often draws ire from her friends Shiori and Kikuchi who have their own quirks.

Image result for wasteful days of high school girls anime hidive

The third episode has been a highlight so far, focusing on supporting character Momoi, otherwise referred to as “loli” due to her petite appearance and essentially being a young girl that somehow ended up being thrust into high school and is frequently teased as a result. Her attempts to buy groceries for her kind but elderly grandma and their endearing relationship is juxtaposed nicely with some off-the-wall humour including Tanaka throwing a tantrum and refusing to move from the store floor. Shiori’s solution? Fetch the janitor and use his broom to pry her off like a barnacle! It’s ridiculous but had me chuckling.

At the moment it’s hard to say whether the series will maintain its funniness all season but the recent fourth episode was very entertaining, so I have high hopes that this will be the comedy of the season for me!

Wasteful Days of High School Girls is currently streaming on HIDIVE.

Cold Cobra

As it may have come to your attention over the past few years, although I like a wide variety of anime (and indeed other TV and film properties!) I do have a soft spot for a good old fashioned shonen action show, and this Summer Season has seen the debuts of two brand-new manga adaptations from that very genre: Fire Force and Dr. Stone, two brilliantly animated shows, but both varying greatly on how they approach such a cliché-filled area of anime. Let’s have a closer look at both series and how they’ve begun…

Fire Force comes from the mind and pen of Atsushi Okubo (of Soul Eater fame) and is still appearing in Weekly Shonen Magazine, the same publication that printed classics like Devilman and more modern hits like Fairy Tail. It tells the story of Shinra Kusakabe, a talented young lad who’s had a tragic life after he was blamed for a fire that killed his mother, but he’s sure that someone, or something, was there that night and he’s determined to find out who or what it was. The general world of Fire Force sees fire spirits, or “Infernals” as they’re called,  become such a common threat that a series of teams compiled of special fighters are assembled to deal with them, with people gaining stronger pyrokinetic powers each generation since this whole thing began. Shinra joins one such Fire Force with the goal of becoming a hero, a goal he had shared with his mum before the incident, as well as the whole getting to the bottom of the family tragedy thing.

The whole series reminds me of when Black Clover debuted last year. It’s really well animated and I’m sure if you’re young enough to have not seen many shonen shows it’ll become a firm favourite in your mind as you grow up, but for me it’s all a bit too cliché. Shinra and his over-excited-yet-naïve portrayal, his lofty goals and tragic backstory to overcome are all stables of the genre I’ve started to grow tired of. The people he is surrounded by don’t fare much better in the originality stakes either, with a checklist of personality quirks right out of the shonen playbook. All he needed was a rival to pair up with, and in Episode 2 he gets just that in Arthur Boyle, although the two are quicker to form a bond than in  most shows. Also in Episode 2 we hear that Shinra and Arthur are going to enter the “Rookie Fire Soldier Games”, which by all accounts sounds like a tournament-style arc, which doesn’t help the whole cliché-ness!

Overall, as previously stated, if this is your first or one of your first shonen series, you’ll enjoy it, it has high quality animation and seems to at least know how to hit the cliché shonen tropes, even if it doesn’t stray too far from them…

Dr. Stone on the other hand couldn’t be any more different… while still being in the same genre, anyway. The series, written by written by Riichiro Inagaki, illustrated by Boichi and printed in Weekly Shonen Jump! (the holy grail of Shonen publications) has Senku Ishigami, a protagonist that’s super-intelligent, reserved and has quite the unique look to him. Soon he and the rest of the world are hit by a mysterious wave that turns everyone into stone statues for 3,000 or so years, with Senku seemingly being the first to be revived, and his loud, stupid and obnoxious friend Taiju getting revived soon after. Given the year is now 5738 and pretty much all trace of humanity’s accomplishments have rotted away and been replaced with vegetation, the core plotline sees Senku using his knowledge of science to start to rebuild society. He and Taiju soon revive a few other friends and students, including large and imposing Tsukasa Shishio, who soon leaves Senku to form his own new “empire” where they will disregard all the old ways that led adults to becoming greedy and corrupt, as opposed to our protagonist’s goal of reviving the old ways through science.

So the core concept is in a really unique setting and sees two rival groups of young boys (or… you, know, shonen…) and girls try to rebuild a new world for humanity, and although he has a few cliché characters around him, our central hero has a fresh outlook and personality. Much like Fire Force, it’s really well animated, but with the advantage of being a fresh take on the genre. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here…

So there we have it, two shonen adaptations, and two very different takes on the genre, one extremely safe and predictable, one fresh and hard to predict. While you can’t go wrong with either (and I’m sure, much like with Black Clover, I’ll see clips of fights from Fire Force that are really well animated and exciting to watch), I’ll only be following Dr. Stone, as I’ve seen enough standard shonen to last a lifetime and it at least gives me a new kind of protagonist and a fresh setting and core concept to watch every week…

Fire Force and Dr. Stone are currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Arbalest

It’s been a little while since a season really jumped out at me with lots to watch, however I always find that Spring and Summer have some of the best series each year, and this season is shaping up to continue that trend for me. With a superb mix of fantasy, historical and good old detective shows, there is indeed something for everyone.

Is it Wrong to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon?(Danmachi)

Much like Demelza, I was super excited to see that Season 2 was airing this month. Following on from the events of Season 1, it wastes no time in getting back into the mix with Bell and party working through a few quests in the dungeon before returning home. However Bell and Hestias Familia are in the sights of Apollo and his Familia and are about to get swept up into some unexpected games… this does really capture what I loved about the first season again and builds on it. The chemistry between Bell and the cast is certainly one of the stronger points of the show and that’s definitely on display in the first three episodes. While I have some concerns about the pacing, the quality is there and it’s  honestly one of the best the genre has to offer at the moment.

Cop Craft

If you’ve known me from here before, you’ll know that I am a fan of Shouji Gatou’s works (Full Metal Panic!, Amagi Brilliant Park) so it’s not surprising that this was on my radar. Unlike his other series however, the context of this was lost to me until I started the series. Cop Craft puts its focus on the city of San-Teresa, on the Island of Kariana, and just off the Pacific Ocean, where 15 years prior to the events of the show, a gate opened to another world where elves, fairies and other beings have come forth and started to live on Earth. San-Teresa Metropolitan Police Department keeps a track of all the goings in the city, which acts as the front door to the other world beyond the gate, where now millions of those from that world live. Kei Matoba, after a raid that goes back, is paired up with a magical knight known as Tilarna as his new partner, and investigate a drug ring where fairies are the product.

Straight off the bat, Cop Craft feels like a bit of a love letter to older 70s, 80s detective shows. From the hot-headed cops, to the “I need to see this through to the end”, a lot of its tropes, you could say, feel deliberately pulled from there. This begins to recur a lot more as you watch through Episode 3 as well, but I won’t go into them for spoilers (if you watch the show, you might guess why I say this) As such, for a city full of humans and non-humans, the issues and how they figure out who done it, feel very similar to that you would see on earth anyways. And that’s part of the fun this show has, it doesn’t hide the style its going for, but it keeps itself compelling at the same time. The Opening is oozing with a lot of that too, and I dare compare it to a bit of Lupin with some of the car chase scenes shown in that too (albeit we’re rooting for the cops here).

Kei is your typical hardboiled detective, down a partner and trying to catch the guy who done it, while Tilarna is there as a royal knight, trying to figure out how Earth ticks,and has a habit to touch all the buttons (or try to, anyways) along the way. While on the outside this looks very much like it would stray away from all the detective genre, how they clash and why they clash fits the bill to a T. They butt heads on how to tackle a situation, and their first major encounter(and argument) is in an abandoned apartment building too. If you like your shows from then, this is the one for you. Quite possibly one of the best this season has to offer, and you can watch the simulcast on Funimation Now.

Vinland Saga

Each season Amazon gets something different to add to their ever growing list of anime, and this season adds just that. Vinland Saga has been on huge demand to receive an animated TV series for such a long time, and WiT Studio have come out and brought it to life. And after the first three episodes, I wouldn’t have any other studio working on it. The show looks and feels stunning.

Vinland Saga tells the story of Thorfinn, the son of Thors, a once powerful viking warrior now retired, and his journey from young child to teenager, and his quest for vengeance. The tale is loosely based off two Norse Sagas around Vinland, one of Thorfinn the explorer, and one of King Cnut the Great and his historical rise to power. The anime however, puts most of its focus on Thorfinn, and the first three episodes (available through Amazon Prime now) are all about his time in Iceland with his father.

The world setting is stunning, and if you are a lover of Norse mythology and history, you’ll be hooked into this one, even if it’s fairly loosely based on the stories. The world is brought to life so wonderfully with WiT Studios animation, and the characters are all really well built up. As you’d also expect, from the studio that animated Attack on Titan, the animation and choreography of the combat scenes in this are wonderful to watch, and with the level of battle across not only land, but water as well, I can see this only getting better as the series progresses. The soundtrack also pulls a little from the Norse aspect of things, helping to add to the tone and atmosphere of the world. While it may be obvious where the story is going after 3-4 episodes, it doesn’t take away any of the impact the story has and how it directs Thorfinn and his goals. I highly recommend you try this out if you get the opportunity, as this could easily be the best show this season.

Cop Craft is streaming on Funimation, Vinland Saga is streaming on Amazon Prime.

Sarah

Obsessed since childhood with playing the electric guitar, Ritsuka Uenoyama has lost his motivation, eking out his high school days sleeping. One day he finds an auburn-haired student in his special secret napping place. The boy is clutching a Gibson guitar – with broken, rusted strings. Irascible, touchy Uenoyama can’t bear to see the instrument in such condition and – of course – restrings it. The stranger – Mafuyu Sato – then asks him to teach him how to play. Uenoyama refuses. But Mafuyu is not so easily deterred. Before he knows quite what he’s doing, Uenoyama is taking him to a practice session with the band he plays lead guitar in. Mafuyu is star-struck. But why is he so attached to this guitar? And what is the special gift he possesses that rocks Uenoyama to the core, forcing him to change his mind about the distant, spaced-out Mafuyu and igniting his passion for making music once more?

Given is based on the ongoing BL manga by Kazki Natsume (available in French, German, Polish editions but not yet in English!) and is very faithful so far to the original. It was always going to be a risk adapting a story so deeply rooted in the making of music that the animation would not convince or the songs would not sound ‘right’ – but, happily, the balance seems just right at the moment. The character designs are faithful to the mangaka’s distinctive graphic style and, most important of all, the story holds the attention. Yes, it’s BL, but the main draw is the character interaction which is not solely focused on romance but on the characters’ everyday lives and dreams. It’s very relatable – and the music is great. (How different from the agonizing love life of a certain lead singer in Gravitation and his cold-hearted, traumatized novelist lover; thank goodness BL anime is no longer dominated by abusive relationships.) Given is off to a great start – and well worth your time (it’s currently streaming on Crunchyroll). Music by MICHIRU (a female composer born 1980, not to be confused with another talented female composer, Michiru Oshima…I think?!) Opening Theme: “Kizuato” by centimillimental and Ending Theme: “Mirutsuke” by Given (sung by the voice actors).

If you’re a fan of the FATE franchise or Yuki Kajiura or Waver Velvet (as I happen to be) then you won’t want to miss Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files {Rail Zeppelin} Grace note (on Crunchyroll and Funimation). This latest strand in the ever-expanding Grail Wars spin-off universe blends the hidden worlds of the Clock Tower mages (using London, Big Ben, magical academies as in Harry Potter and The Ancient Magus’ Bride etc.) and Waver Velvet from Fate/Zero, one of the few survivors of the Fourth Holy Grail War. Now grown up and having inherited the title of Lord El-Melloi II, he teaches at the Clock Tower academy while secretly longing to find a way to see his beloved master Iskandar one more time. And then there’s Waver’s apprentice, a quiet young woman called Gray; is there something a little familiar about her? On the minus side the magical jargon is almost impenetrable in places (or wrongly translated?) the character names are bonkers (Waletta  Codrington, Caules Forvedge Yggdemilennia) but dig beneath the mage-babble and you’ll find stories that are strong enough to beguile and intrigue. The music (including the opening theme and closing song) is by Yuki Kajiura and conveys just the right kind of a mystical atmosphere to enhance the story.

And it’s always fun to see how romantic our own capital city and other British locations can look when dramatically portrayed in dark, rainswept Gothic splendour by Japanese animators.

Given is streaming on Crunchyroll and Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files {Rail Zeppelin} Grace note is streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Sarah

Sarah's been writing about her love of manga and anime since Whenever - and first started watching via Le Club Dorothée in France...

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Josh A. Stevens

Reviewing anime by moonlight, working in film by daylight, never running out of things to write, he is the one named Josh A. Stevens.

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Demelza

When she's not watching anime, reading manga or reviewing, Demelza can generally be found exploring some kind of fantasy world and chasing her dreams of being a hero.

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Cold Cobra

Having watched anime since it was airing late night on the Sci-Fi channel in the late 90s, I consider myself... someone who's watched a lot of anime, and then got hired to write reviews about them. Hooray!

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