Farewell to Summer – Summer Season 2019 Overview

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Some simulcast seasons can be difficult to summarize succinctly – and Summer 2019 has turned out to be one of those seasons. All the writers here at Anime UK News have had at least one strong favourite to recommend – but with staggered starting dates and the ongoing phenomenon of the Netflix ‘all-at-once’ release, it’s becoming harder to draw a line and take stock of a whole season. With Dr. STONE, Fire Force and Demon Slayer dominating the viewing figures, it looked very much like turning into a ‘Shonen Summer’ – and yet, several series with smaller budgets have proved extremely impressive in terms of drama, interest and sheer watchability.

So what’s kept our writers glued to their screens – in spite of the summer sunshine? Do you agree with their choices? Let us know…

N.E.C

It’s easy to lose track of what’s coming and going with the sheer volume of anime series on offer each season. We are spoiled for choice, but it makes it tough to choose which ones we’re going to dedicate the time to watching. Particularly as we get older and free time becomes less frequent.

It’s probably for this reason that I have been looking to a couple of shows as a means of winding down after a day of work. Particularly after titles like Made in Abyss which, while excellent, probably had the opposite effect a couple of years back.

I’ve always enjoyed shonen series and Fire Force looked to be the anime that would scratch that itch for me this season. This is the latest manga to be translated to the world of anime from the mind of Atsushi Okubo, the creator of Soul Eater. The trailer offered fluid animation with several snippets from the inevitable fight sequences that would take place. I was intrigued by the premise centered around a division of the “Fire Force”, a profession that serves as being half-firefighter and half-exorcist, while super-powered humans try to fight back against and learn the origins of human combustion. This involves battling the monsters created by this combustion, the infernals. The plot sounded ridiculous, typically anime, but it had me intrigued.

I’ve had a good time following third generation pyrokinetic, Shinra Kusakabe, along with the other members of Company 8 as they encounter infernals and learn of the conspiracy behind it all. He is a good window into the world of Fire Force, as we are new to the story and he being a new recruit to the company, it allows for a reasonable amount of exposition to be delivered without it feeling unnatural. He is, however, very typical of the shonen genre being strong-minded, fairly over-powered, with a one-track mind set on being a hero.

With this in mind, I can understand this series not being for everyone as it is guilty of falling into many of the pitfalls that its peers in the shonen genre frequently do. I would recommend watching the first two episodes if you’re unsure of the series, as these contain a lot of what you can expect in terms of the animation and introduction of the majority of the main cast. Along with general plot set-up and the range of tone that the show has, these first two episodes are a good taste test. 

I have really enjoyed the tonal shift between humour and more serious moments in the series up to this point. It is not afraid to be downright goofy for half an episode and then shift to a darker tone in the latter half; particularly poignant in a series where putting out a fire also involves snuffing out the life of the civilian that it started from. I’ve liked the humour arising from character interactions for the most part too, outside of a few bizarrely inappropriate scenes. You will know them when you see them.

Overall Fire Force has been a good if not somewhat predictable addition to the Summer Season.

The other series I have been watching this season is another easy watch and guilty pleasure of sorts (but not really) and that is the anime adaption of Yobako Sandrovich’s manga, How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? 

Second year high school student Hibiki Sakura, becomes self-conscious about gaining weight and reluctantly looks into joining the newly-opened Silvermans Gym. She ends up getting roped in by fellow classmate and fitness freak, Akemi Soryuin. The final convincing factor comes when she meets her hunky trainer, Noruzo Machio, a man as passionate about fitness and personal health as he is about flexing his clothes into tatters. We follow Hibiki through the ups and downs of her fitness journey as she learns to be healthier and grows closer to those around her who are looking to embark on the same path of improving their physical fitness.

While that does sound rather warm and fuzzy, a great deal of these events are to guide the viewer through different aspects of proper gym and fitness routines. Basically, this is an educational anime on proper gym routine. If a particular situation arises, such as Hibiki wants to win a race at her school’s sports day, then the episode will involve her learning and Machio explaining proper leg strengthening and dynamic movement exercises involved. Though, the show’s self-aware humour prevents this from being dry, as the characters’ dialogue often ridicules the show itself for doing this. The characters themselves are funny and charming, with Hibiki resenting the vast majority of the exercises she is required to do, then, in complete contrast, having Machio bursting out of his trademark tracksuit with a flex, revealing an unnaturally muscular physique (but still the same ridiculous smiling head).

It’s also been a rather interesting watch for me personally, as one of my best friends is a personal trainer. So far he has watched a few episodes with me and has praised the various tutorials (otherwise known as Machio’s Muscle Lessons) on form and lifting, however, maybe the number and figure information is not the most accurate in terms of what appears on the scales or calorie counts. Seriously, what the show considers an unhealthy weight is a bit of an exaggeration to say the least.

What I have taken from the show has been a good, easy watch each week with some entertaining humour thrown in. As well as that, the show’s message of finding enjoyment in fitness as a process, and learning to do this in a manner that’s right for you, rather than simply glamourising the end goal is really refreshing.

Fire Force is streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation and How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? is streaming on Funimation.

HWR

At the start of this season, Wasteful Days was a series that took me some time warm to as the early episodes felt a little mean-spirited in places. Thankfully, from the third episode onwards I was sold on the often hilarious and sometimes heartwarming antics of this comedy anime.

Wasteful Days treads a fine line between bizarre and surreal antics and more deadpan approaches to character interactions. What impressed me was that the humour of Wasteful Days rarely felt repetitive (unlike the fun but lightweight Magical Sempai and borderline obnoxious comic relief from Zenitsu in Demon Slayer). I was a little concerned before that the comedy would wear itself out but, for me, this was not the case and Friday evenings were made that bit more enjoyable thanks to this anime.

The characters, though defined by a specific characteristic or two, never grew tiresome to watch. Highlights include the occult-obsessed Hisui “Majo” Kujyō who rarely attends classes and Minami “Yamai” Yamamoto, a chunibyo whose bizarre plans and obliviousness draw the ire of long-suffering homeroom teacher Masataka “Waseda” Sawatari.

I was even taken off-guard by Episode 11, in which the comedy took a back seat to Kikuchi trying her dream of singing to impress a Vocaloid Producer who is revealed to be their home room teacher. It was a real departure but the more heartening tone worked surprisingly well.

Elsewhere, the OP Wa! Moon! dass! cry! was my personal favourite of the season and quite the catchy earworm which served to represent the zany nature of Wasteful Days perfectly.

In summary, Wasteful Days managed to be one of the best anime this season for me, partly due to its on-point comedy but also for its consistency and ability to throw me off with its more serious approaches to storytelling in places.

Wasteful Days of High School Girls is available for streaming on HiDIVE.

Josh A. Stevens

While many people are celebrating the news of continuations for anime like Demon Slayer and DanMachi, this summer season also saw the end of a seven year journey. I shared my excitement for Symphogear XV back in July, and now that the fifth and final season of Satelight’s magical girl action series has come to an end, I can happily report that it was a near-perfect finale that exemplified what so many people love about this bonkers series.

Following the fall of Adam Weishaupt and the Bavarian Illuminati, Hibiki Tachibana and her fellow Special Disaster Response Team agents find themselves in the South Pole pursuing their foe’s leads on the Custodians, a god-like race from pre-history. When their trademark over-the-top, explosive battle against a golem-like “coffin” reveals a mummified body and an ancient relic however, this fun and chaotic series about alien punching and alchemical magic throws the characters we’ve come to love into a fight where the personal and world-defining stakes are higher than anything they’ve faced before.

While we delight in moments of absurd spectacle like Hibiki punching through a mountain in Symphogear GX, the franchise has always had an underlying theme of connecting people, which is at the heart and in every corner of XV. More immediately, Hibiki’s relationship with Miku that has always been her emotional anchor is brought under threat not just when cracks in their unbreakable bond start to show, but also when Miku finds herself dragged into the centre of a supernatural crisis. While further away from the spotlight, I was left conflicted by the empathy smaller scenes helped me develop for the villains, despite their genocidal actions. This season’s trio of charismatic villains may be inspired by gothic horror like Carmilla and Frankenstein, but Noble Red’s familial bond and desire to restore their humanity after being shunned as monsters, were the source for many of the series’ most heartfelt and heartbreaking moments.

Earlier on, the series made waves with its intricate and gorgeous transformation scenes, and Satelight’s work continued to be of stand-out quality throughout. Fluid action and delicate detail were made to look easy in fast-paced sequences like Hibiki’s Symphogear outfit assembling as she frantically rushes forward, with the raw emotion in Aoi Yuki’s scream elevating the scene even further. Her final outing as the big-hearted yet small-brained protagonist may be her best and most energetic yet, while Yuka Iguchi also displayed a surprising vocal range with Miku – and of course, the rare occasions where Miku raises her voice always command my attention!

The way Symphogear XV left me in excited joy each week by drawing on years of history with callbacks, fan-service spectacle, and even surprise returns of major elements, is not unlike what made Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame so beloved, and even the finale’s credit sequence feels inspired by Marvel’s epic. Narratively, thematically, and in just about every other way, Symphogear XV really was a satisfying culmination for the series.

It’s such a shame that years of international licensing ambiguity has held Symphogear‘s popularity back (heck, the previous season was only made legally available alongside this one!). If the powers that be had given Symphogear a proper shot, then perhaps this absolute wild ride of a finale may have received the fanfare, and Anime of the Year accolades, it deserves. Symphogear XV was definitely the anime I looked forward to most each week, and I sincerely recommend you give the first season a try on Crunchyroll – in fact, I envy anyone able to watch all of them for the first time!

Fire Force on the other hand, initially surprised me but burned out quickly. While I was initially optimistic about the series’ fascinating blend of firefighting and religion, the story sadly doesn’t live up to the potential of its world. The new recruit Shinra had only just joined the Fire Force and hadn’t really had a chance to show his mettle, never mind find a firm footing in this fiery world, before the series rushed out secrets that would’ve been more shocking and impactful had they been revealed further down the line.

Then there’s the way Fire Force handles its female characters: they’re all pretty much one note, and poor Tamaki seemingly only exists for fanservice. Her “Lucky Lecture Lure”, a tendency to accidentally find herself in humiliating erotic situations, wasn’t funny the first time. It wasn’t funny the second time either, but every appearance of hers seems to go to convoluted lengths to cram in a 2000’s era ecchi comedy moment. It might have been admirable, if it weren’t so creepy, with a dash of victim blaming. Then we have to ask why only her outfit gets burned off by blames, while men wearing the exact same uniform beside her are left unscathed? Combine that with ruining another character’s established personality by turning her into Shinra’s lovestruck fangirl after he defeated her once, and Fire Force really just is a shame. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to see a similar story in the hands of a better writer when I see PROMARE at Scotland Loves Anime later this month!

One series that did defy my earlier expectations though, was Demon Slayer. After his family were killed by a demon and his only surviving sister Nezuko turned into one, Tanjiro Kamado sets out from his remote mountainous home with his eyes set on training to join the Demon Slaying Corps and hunt down the one responsible, in the hopes of returning Nezuko’s humanity.

Although it’s dominating the seasonal discussion now, the series admittedly didn’t really capture my attention at first. The lack of time spent with Nezuko prior to her transformation left me considering monologues about their unseen bond unearned, but I’m glad I stuck with it (the pretty images helped), because after fumbling through its opening story beats and monster-of-the-week episodes, the series really came into its own in the second half.

Ascending the ominous visage of Mount Natagumo, the newly qualified Demon Slayer Tanjiro Kamado is given the opportunity to show the strength of his resolve and feelings towards his sister, when the theme of family stares him in the face, in the form of a spider-themed demon family. Even if we have yet to see much of Nezuko’s life prior to this story, Tanjiro’s determination and desperation to keep her safe taught me more than any flashback could. The supporting cast certainly are a Marmite bunch, but the boar-head wearing Inosuke’s hot-headed antics bring a smile to my face in the same way a young child’s would, although I could happily punt the whiny Zenitsu into the sun. Their designs however, are all wonderfully bright with distinctive colours, and eccentric flair.

No discussion of Demon Slayer would be complete however, without talking about the animation. With ufotable of Fate/stay night fame at the helm, the series was always guaranteed to be gorgeous. What I didn’t expect though, was for the anime to trend on Twitter worldwide with people in awe of a tense battle in Episode 19 – but it really was that good! Right up to the final episode with a meeting essentially taking place in an intricate optical illusion, ufotable really knew how to show off when it mattered, easily making Demon Slayer the best looking anime of the season. With a sequel film already in development, Demon Slayer is looking to be the next big anime, and I certainly can’t wait to see more. If you’d like to catch up in time, then you can watch the series on Crunchyroll.

Demelza

This Summer season has been stuffed to the brim with new shows, but as I often find with Summer not many moved past the realm of being ‘good’ into ‘unmissable’. That said, there was one show I won’t be forgetting anytime soon and desperately hope that someone licenses – O Maidens in Your Savage Season. As many of you know, I’ve been reviewing the original manga series as publisher Kodansha have been releasing it in the West. When the anime adaption began I couldn’t wait to see the cast in motion and it certainly didn’t disappoint. 

In our Summer Preview article, I commented that O Maidens in Your Savage Season was shaping up to become one of Mari Okada’s best works and in the end I think the show met that expectation. Balancing comedy moments and mature topics, the anime successfully managed to follow all five of the Literary Club as they came to terms with their newfound emotions as they experience love (and sexual desire) for the first time. Although some things were left out of the anime compared to the source material, it never felt disjointed or obviously lacking. Having five different stories to follow also means there was something for everyone and it’s hard not to get attached to at least one of the girls (I’m a big Sonezaki fan myself) and by the end you’ll be eager to find out if they all have the happy ending they deserve. 

Initially I had been concerned that the animation studio, Lay-duce, wouldn’t do the series justice but having now watched the whole series, I admit I was wrong. The animation is almost watercolour in style, bright, colourful and bleeding together to create some beautiful scenes. Characters were well animated too, providing the emotion Okada stories pride themselves on.

It’s really difficult to talk about this series in any detail without spoiling any of the story, so instead I will just encourage you to watch the show. It’s easily one of the best anime both this season and this year. Don’t let it slip you by!

O Maidens in Your Savage Season is available on HiDive.

Next up I’d like to quickly talk about Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Season 2. This season adapted Volumes 6-8 of the light novel series, which just happen to be some of my favourites. While the animation (handled by J.C Staff) was never quite as good as Season 1, it still excelled in fight scenes with Bell facing off against many enemies far stronger than himself.

This season also kept our heroes above ground more than ever before, with very few ventures into the dungeon. I liked this change because it allowed us to learn more about the world outside the dungeon and what dangers lurk just within the city of Orario. New friends have been made, new members joined Bell’s Familiar and he even got just a little bit closer to his hero – Ais Wallenstein.

The only minor disappointment I had with this season of DanMachi came at the end of its run, where the final arc adapted some of Volume 8 of the light novels. Volume 8 is a collection of short stories and many of these were pushed to the side to focus on just a single one. With a third season already announced for Summer next year, I’m hoping that these stories will be adapted later on but even if they’re not, I’ve still enjoyed adventuring with Bell and his fellow adventurers.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? can be found on both HiDive and Crunchyroll

Finally I’d like to talk about Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit-Multi-Target Attacks?. While many are certainly sick of the mountain of isekai shows that get released every season, this one tried to do something a bit different by making the main character’s mom the focus!

Our teenage protagonist Masato Oosuki is annoyed by his overly doting mother, Mamako, but when the two are sent into a fantasy-themed VRMMO they must work together to overcome their differences and beat the game. Masato spends most of his time on the sidelines as his mother defeats every foe in sight, having picked up two super-powerful weapons and been granted a two-hit-multi-target attack. Masato vows to someday regain the spotlight and outdo his mother, but when their group is joined by a mage who’s always getting her magic sealed (Wise) and a simple craftsman (Porta), he worries they’ll never make it through the game.

Handled by J.C Staff, this light novel adaption is nothing groundbreaking but it’s certainly fun for fans of the genre. The animation is bright and colourful, in line with the studio’s usual style and the characters’ wide range of expressions and reactions fit the comedy genre perfectly. Although there is a bit of a lull in the middle of the series where it adapts Volume 2 (which is a somewhat generic high school-like story), the first and final arcs are enough to overcome these four poor episodes. The characters are all tropes in their own ways, but they’re fun to watch play off one another.

If you’re in the mood for an isekai fantasy, then this is a great choice. I genuinely found myself disappointed at the end of its run when no Season 2 was announced. I really hope it comes back at some point because I am far from ready for this adventure to be over!

Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit-Multi-Target Attacks? can be found on Crunchyroll.

Onosume

Granbelm is an anime that hearkens back to the time when dark, edgy magical girl shows were the big business in the anime world. While some of the latter entries in that boom kind-of took the whole thing too far, Granbelm felt like the genre coming full-circle, with an emotional but heartfelt story around a bunch of teenage girls who are trying to become the Princeps, the one true mage who can control all of the world’s magic, which was sealed away many years ago when humanity deemed it to be too dangerous.

Now itself an entity known as Magiaconatus, the world’s magical power seeks out a master by holding battles between the girls who are Princeps candidates, with each of them manifesting their soul and magical power as mechs in an illusionary world. These battles combine the dark, dramatic elements that the genre is known for with the tense action of a mech series to great effect, using your emotional connection to its varied cast of characters to help increase the tension in these fights that are an absolute rush of colour and style. It may not be as visually appealing as some higher-budget mech series, but I was still highly impressed.

I was however a bit split on the story. The first two-thirds I found to be pretty great, as it focuses on the reasons why each of the girls is duking it out and it has a lot of cool, dramatic moments for resolving specific conflicts; yet in the final third it felt like it lost its way somewhat, and how it treated some of its main characters as it moved toward the endgame left me feeling a little cold. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a more niche magical girl-style show, this is one that I’d recommend.

Granbelm is available to watch on Crunchyroll.

My other pick for the season oddly left me with similar feelings, as Astra Lost in Space showed itself to be a fun, yet confusing, romp across space that ends up getting bogged down by some of its heavier subplots towards the end.

Set in the near future, school trips are no longer to another city, but to another planet, as we see Group B5 of Caird High School on their way to Planet McPa for a 5-day training camp. Just after their teachers leave them on the planet however, the group of nine students encounter a mysterious black wormhole that sucks them into space. After somehow finding an abandoned spaceship and gathering everyone together (with some difficulty!), the group find that they are over 5000 light years away from their home, now orbiting an inhospitable icy world. While all may seem lost at first, with little water or food to survive a journey of that length, the group’s amateur pilot, Zack, works out a route home by visiting five  hospitable planets. It’s certainly not going to be easy, but the group latch onto that hope and begin their journey home.

While we’ve had a comedic take on a space odyssey recently with RobiHachi, Astra Lost in Space takes a more serious look at space exploration. If you’re a fan of space adventure stories, then I think this is one you’ll probably enjoy as it really gets across the point that it is both wonderful and dangerous, as we see the group plunging themselves into each alien world and getting into all sorts of trouble, from being preyed on by native creatures to suffering a collision with a passing asteroid. Yet while these things are great for bringing tension and drama to the series, it has an uncanny knack for pulling everyone out unscathed, which just cheapens the whole statement of realism that it seemed to be going for. There’s only so many times you can have a lucky escape and this series really pushes the boat out for lucky escapes. Despite that, I still found myself enjoying it for the sheer wonder of space travel, and ultimately what I saw the series as was a space survival story.

Yet, two-thirds of the way in, the show’s story takes a bit of a turn as it brings some darker subplots into play that I found myself not really caring too much about. While it does perhaps fill in one plot hole that had existed from the start, it tries to infuse politics and topics that would not be out of place in Ghost in the Shell into its story, and it just becomes a bit of a bloated mess.

It’s a shame because for the most part this is a show that is markedly different from a lot of the other anime of this season; and pulls off that space exploration really well, but it just stumbles towards the end by getting too bogged down in the details.

Astra Lost in Space is available to watch on Funimation.

Cold Cobra

True to form, the Summer Season was quite light for me… as in very light, almost as if to give me a bit of a breather before the inevitably busier Autumn Season. That being said, there was one series that started over the summer that caught my eye and actually held my attention, and that series was Dr. STONE.

Dr. STONE is an odd one. It’s from the pages of Shonen Jump! like many of the classic action shonen shows like Dragon Ball et al, as well as more gag-based mangas or sports-based ones, but it doesn’t really fit into one of those categories. It’s closer to educational entertainment, some episodes going so deep into the scientific method of what’s happening that it almost felt like I was back in school and we were being fed a “cool cartoon” to hide the fact we were still being taught stuff. Thankfully the show is legitimately entertaining and has a unique set-up, so it doesn’t actually stray into the boring side of things, like it could have easily done.

So what is Dr. STONE? Basically, a strange phenomenon washes across the planet that turns everybody into stone, and a few thousand years later, people start to break free again. One such person is science prodigy Senku, a teenager who is so smart he’s soon using his knowledge to rebuild the world anew with some of his classmates and other survivors. Some of his friends and allies fall into shonen character tropes, it has to be said, but they’re often entertaining. As Senku’s village, dubbed the “Kingdom of Science” starts to grow, a rival village ran by Tsukasa Shishio, a physically strong student who believes this new world would be better without adults and their baggage ruining things again (to the point where he smashes some stone-covered adults rather than reviving them, which is… well, flat-out murder) starts up.

This leads to a showdown between the two villages and their leaders, and although this is sounding more like a standard shonen story arc, it focuses on science and how Senku uses his knowledge to, say, get access to iron or procure sulphuric acid in order to get an advantage, rather than training to “power up”. As the cast of characters in both villages swells, we are now on the cusp of that shonen staple: a tournament arc. I have no doubt this won’t be a straight series of serious fights, humour and science are just as big of a part of this series as all that, it is sort of a shame to see Dr. STONE go down this path already, or at all really…

In the Summer Preview I compared Dr. STONE to Fire Force, and said how the latter seems extremely paint-by-numbers compared to this, and I was right. I soon dropped Fire Force, it had high production values and I’m sure will be much loved by those young enough or new enough to the genre to not pick up on how basic it is, but Dr. STONE I’ve really enjoyed, and I’m thrilled to see we’re only half-way done, with a second cour playing out over the course of this busy Autumn Season. It’s a testament to how much I enjoyed it that continuing to watch it is nearly as exciting as some of my favourite shows returning, but let’s talk about that TV season later…

Dr. STONE is available to watch on Crunchyroll and Funimation. 

Sarah

Two episodes in to Given and I was already smitten when I enthused about it in our Summer 2019 Preview. So did it live up to its early promise – and why watch it?

If you have concerns about watching BL, be prepared to put them aside. This manga-based series is a slice-of-life from Lerche/NoitaminA that tells how four young men get together to form a rock band (three guitarists, one a vocalist, and a drummer). Well, that’s the premise. But such a bland description doesn’t begin to do justice to Given’s charm, quirky humour or dramatic power. It begins with a death. A suicide. And the impact and the outcomes from that one shocking incident resonate throughout all eleven episodes as we gradually come to understand what precipitated it – and how positive, creative outcomes can still happen after such a tragic act..

Gifted but jaded guitarist Ritsuka Uenoyama (Yuuma Uchida, Ash Lynx in Banana Fish) discovers Mafuyu Sato (Shougo Yano) clutching a Gibson guitar with broken strings at his favourite napping place on their high school backstair. Uenoyama can’t bear to see the instrument in such a condition and restrings and tunes it… causing Mafuyu to beg him to teach him to play it. Uenoyama refuses. So how come he finds himself introducing Mafuyu to the other members of the Seasons, the group he plays with: Akihiko Kaji (drums) and Haruki Nakayama (bass guitar)? It turns out that Mafuyu can sing. His voice sends chills through Uenoyama, reminding him what inspired him to want to learn the guitar in the first place. Fired with new enthusiasm, the four set out to create a new song with Mafuyu as soloist. But putting a song together is not so easy – even when there are four gifted but unique individuals contributing but not always collaborating. And Uenoyama is doubly confused since Mafuyu’s voice has awakened other feelings within him which have nothing to do with music.

By the time we reach the concert at which the band is going to give the first performance of the new song, we’re on tenterhooks ourselves, sharing their first-night nerves – yet longing to see if they can pull it off in front of a live crowd. You don’t have to be a musician yourself to share the excitement – but anyone who’s ever played or sung live will feel the tension.

The way the story is revealed sticks closely to the manga, which is a wise move as Natsuki Kizu, the mangaka, is a gifted graphic storyteller. The character designs are very close to hers and are good at capturing shifting facial expressions; a vital part of a story when so much depends on how the protagonists interact with each other.

This is not a flashy music anime but a quiet, thoughtful one (except when the band perform!) which repays repeated viewings. And even though it’s a music-themed story, the director knows when not to use background music; there’s one very telling section in which all you can hear is the sound of falling rain.

I, for one, am glad that – at last – one of the well-written, well-drawn BL manga has made it to an animated series. They do exist (although not so many have been published in English – yet). They’re not all non-con melodramas. But the success of this one was always going to depend on how well the animators could bring the band members to life – and what kind of music we would hear them playing or singing. Mafuyu’s singing talent has to convince the audience at home as well as the other members of his group. Luckily, the casting of all four leads is excellent – and  Shougo Yano, who plays Mafuyu, has a wonderfully expressive singing voice as well as perfectly capturing Mafuyu’s struggles to express himself.

This show also gets my vote for the ‘most adorable pet in an anime this season’ with little white floof ‘Tama’, Mafuyu’s Pomeranian dog (and his avatar on Line) who also features in the Ending animation “Marutsuke”, sung touchingly by Mafuyu’s voice actor. And if you’re a fan of British rock, how can you dislike a show that names each episode after a song by a British band?

There’s a film to follow in 2020 from Fuji TV’s Blue Lynx (currently working on the yakuza BL Twittering Birds Never Fly ) which will concentrate on the two older members of the band – and the tempestuous violin prodigy, Ugetsu Murata. I fervently hope we get to see this in the UK because if it’s anything like the series, it’ll be unmissable.

Given is currently streaming on Crunchyroll. 

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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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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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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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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Onosume

With a chant of "Ai-katsu!", Matthew Tinn spends their days filled with idol music and J-Pop. A somewhat frequent-ish visitor to Japan, they love writing and talking about anime, Japanese music and video games.

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