So. Much. Isekai.
How much is too much? I find myself wondering. And which isekai are the ones to watch? (They can’t all be good, can they?) Thank goodness, then, for some adult series in Babylon and Sword of the Stranger (on Amazon Prime) to balance out the elves, dragons, warriors and mages. But if you’re depressed by the onset of winter and don’t feel like watching titles that are grim and dark (and there’s no shame in that) where’s the lightness and fun to be found this season? The writers at Anime UK News have been sharpening their pens and their critical faculties and are here to share their thoughts with you about their recommendations in the Autumn Season, both returning favourites and new series. Do you agree with their choices? Do you have a recommendation you’d like to share? Let us know!
After a rather quiet summer season for me, I was eager to plunge back into the world of anime for the Autumn Season.
While a vast majority of this season’s shows sit in the isekai genre, that’s not really a reason to groan as there are actually some great ones, principally Ascendance of a Bookworm. After Motosu Urano’s life in the real world comes to an unfortunate end, she finds herself reincarnated as the frail young girl Myne, whose family lives in the poor quarter of the town of Ehrenfest. While she struggles to come to terms with her new-found life, she believes she can get along fine as long as she has access to the books she so loved in her previous life. However, books in this world are expensive and hard to come by, so buying them seems out of reach, meaning if she is going to get her hands on the books she loves, she’s going to have to make them herself!
So far, the first few episodes of this series have been really fun, showing the young girl’s quest to get her hands on some books and exploring various methods of how writing materials have been made through the ages, from chalk and slate to papyrus and clay tablets; while also showing the struggles of daily life. I find the cast of characters very endearing, with Myne and the other kids full of energy and drawn in a very cute art style, and while we haven’t seen much of the world itself so far, it’s good at depicting a lot of the social and class issues of the middle ages, such as how the majority of the cast are illiterate and work in manual jobs.
What’s most interesting is how it contrasts this with modern life, as the reincarnated Urano starts to introduce things like shampoo and pancakes into a world that has never seen these things before, and I like how it tries to give you that sense of how wondrous all of our modern conveniences really are.
So, this is one I’m definitely in for the long-haul and I’m looking forward to seeing how Urano-now-Myne is going to get her hands on some proper books.
With isekai shows being so popular, it’s not a surprise that some more popular franchises would try their hand at it, which has resulted in the Gundam franchise plunging itself into an MMORPG world for its Gunpla-focused anime series with the sequel to Build Fighters, Build Divers. This season we have the second season of Build Divers, Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE, and while there’s an entirely new cast it mostly follows the same template as the original Build Divers series, with our protagonist Hiroto Kuga forming a party and taking part in a variety of different quests within the Gunpla Battle Nexus Online world.
While being very light-hearted and aimed at a more casual audience than the main Gundam anime series, I’ve vastly enjoyed all of the Build franchise over the past few years and found them to be very fun slices of entertainment and a good way to become more acquainted with some of the mobile suits featured in the main Gundam universe. This is ringing true here as well, although we’re really just at the introductory episodes as we discover more about our main cast of characters: Kazami is a flamboyant and cocky wannabe hero who ends up charging into trouble, May is an experienced female player who seems to be pretty skilled, yet like Hiroto is more of a lone player, while Parviz is a newbie who is just getting their first taste of Gunpla battle. There seems to be plenty of room for growth in each so I’m looking forward to seeing how each of them evolves and how they group together as a team.
This has been the core focus of the story so far, as they tackle one of GBN’s beta story missions. Similar to how mobile games work, this splits a quest into a set of missions that the team have to keep coming back to, mostly involving a group of anthropomorphic animal NPCs that need saving from the “One-Eyes”. I’m not sure about this approach so far as the NPCs fall rather flat and there’s not much effort to build in any reason why they should be saved other than the purpose of clearing the story, but we have at least seen some decent bonding amongst our team of Divers. While that’s fine, I do hope that this doesn’t drag on for much longer and that we get some more variety.
So, if you’re up for more of Gundam’s Build franchise this may be one to jump into, but if you haven’t seen any of it before, I’d perhaps recommend jumping into Build Fighters or the first season of Build Divers first.
Outside of the realm of isekai, there’s plenty of sequels to shows that aired in the spring, and one of the ones that I have been most looking forward to is the second season of Kono Oto Tomare! Sounds of Life. The first half of this show was a surprisingly good drama focused on a high school koto club and their attempt to reach the national competition. The second half picks up from where the first left off, where the club has to deal with the results of the regional competition, as well as the changing dynamics as the burgeoning romances between several of the main characters start to interfere with the club’s practice sessions.
While there hasn’t been much going on so far, it is mostly about setting these two points up as a focus for this season where hopefully the big payoff will be that the club will see some success and we’ll see at least one of the couples getting together. While this is certainly a draw if you like these types of high school dramas, my real enjoyment comes from the cast showing off the power of the koto as an instrument and I’m hoping for some really nice performances as the series progresses, as it’s what brought me to watch the show in the first place. The first half definitely had some pretty nice music so if it continues that in this second half, I will be pretty happy with it.
Ascendance of a Bookworm and Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE are streaming on Crunchyroll, while Kono Oto Tomare! Sounds of Life is streaming on Funimation.
Whilst there is a lot of isekai kicking about, this season has also given way to several crime and investigative anime this season – a genre I feel has been overlooked in recent years.
This season features the enigmatic Babylon, the quirky Special 7, which feels similar to Cop Craft in some ways but has a bigger cast, and the stylish noir of No Guns Life with its unique iconography in the form of the lead character’s design.
Elsewhere this season also has some fun comedy offerings, the highlight for me so far being Africa Salaryman which, despite having some fairly cheap-looking animation, has been consistently funny each week and has a wonderful jerk character in Toucan, whose antics and comeuppances serves as the main appeal of the series.
The season also has some shorter form comedies, namely Bananya and the Curious Bunch and Null Peta, both of which provide brief but likeable bursts of humour and cuteness at the same time.
My final seasonal highlight so far is Radiant 2nd Season, which has been a marked improvement over the first season so far, getting into the story quickly and introducing some new and memorable characters like Okoho. I do hope it keeps up this quality as Radiant is a series I want to like, despite its flawed adaptation.
Babylon is steaming on Amazon Prime Video whilst Bananya and the Curious Bunch, Radiant 2nd Season and Special 7 are available on Crunchyroll. Africa Salaryman and No Guns Life are available on Funimation Now.
As my co-writers have mentioned, this season is packed with isekai series. If you don’t like those then the autumn has also brought back many big shonen series like We Never Learn, Food Wars! and My Hero Academia. Oh, and who could forget Sword Art Online! With so many returning champions, this is looking like an attractive season but how do new shows fit into the pack? Well, here’s some of my picks.
First up we have Kemono Michi: Rise Up which follows the story of professional wrestler Genzou Shibata. In the middle of his latest match Shibata (and his dog) are magically summoned into another world where he’s asked to defeat magical beasts. There’s just one problem – Shibata’s love of animals prevents him doing harm to even deadly monsters. With this in mind, our hero decides to open a pet shop in this new world.
Coming from the author behind Konosuba it’s no wonder that Kemono Michi has such a weird premise. The show might be ‘just another isekai’, but the pet shop aspect sets it firmly apart from the rest. In terms of originality this one is certainly on the right track with a quirky mix of adventuring, comedy and slice of life. As long as you can put up with the fan service and the fact that it’s an isekai, I wholeheartedly recommend giving it a try.
Speaking of comedy, my second recommendation comes in the form of Oresuki: Are you the only one who loves me? which fills the role of this season’s romantic comedy. The series follows protagonist Kisaragi Amatsuyu who thinks his dreams have come true when attractive classmates Cosmos and Himawari invite him out, but when it turns out they just want advice on dating his best friend, Amatsuyu’s world crumbles around him. Now Amatsuyu finds himself stuck helping both girls get closer to his friend, but is there any hope of him gaining a romance of his own?
While the synopsis may sound generic, the real genius of this series rests with the writing. The show has a great sense of comic timing and it’s not long before there are staple jokes popping up each episode, ensuring we get at least a few laughs with every viewing. Oresuki might not be a groundbreaking or original series in the genre, but it’s certainly fun to watch and I think it has some surprises up its sleeves as the story unfolds. Definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of the genre!
My third and final pick for this season comes in the form of tennis series Stars Align. This one follows the story of Maki Katsuragi who is recruited into his junior high school’s soft tennis club, which is on the verge of shutting down, due to how badly the team plays. At first Maki refuses, but he’s quickly convinced by classmate Touma Shinjou who even offers to pay Maki as long as he’ll join the team. With Maki’s quick reflexes and Touma’s honed skills, perhaps the two can whip the club into shape.
Although the series presents itself as a sports story, it has a surprising amount of depth to the lives of the cast. In the first episode we see that Touma spends all his time at home fighting with his mother and then in a post-credit scene for that first episode that we discover Maki is often abused by his father (who doesn’t even live with the family). The two have complicated lives and Stars Align has no intentions of shying away from that and incorporating it with the tennis side of things.
One of the things I really appreciate about Stars Align is that it’s an original series. With no source to adapt from, the story can go as far as the staff choose and hopefully will offer something complete and memorable. The studio behind the show is 8Bit (That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Knight’s & Magic) and the animation looks fantastic. It’s very smooth and easy to follow, with attractive character designs. Interestingly the director behind the show is Kazuki Akane, the director of The Vision of Escaflowne and Noein so I’m certainly expecting good things from the rest of Stars Align. One to keep an eye on for sure.
Kemono Michi and Stars Align are available on Funimation Now, while Oresuki can be found on Crunchyroll.
Case File nº221: Kabukicho (which we were originally told would be entitled Kabukicho Sherlock) is an original series streaming on Funimation (subbed and dubbed, of which more, later). Dr John H. Watson arrives in the seedy East Side of Shinjuku Ward (Kabukicho) looking for the Pipecat Bar, a detective agency. Mrs Hudson, the bearded hostess of the bar, welcomes him and he’s soon swept up in the rush by the six detectives (including the one calling himself Sherlock Holmes) to solve the latest case announced by Inspector Lestrade and win a fee of 10 million yen. The gruesome murder of a callgirl seems to be the work of Jack the Ripper but is this just a trick to put the detectives off the trail of the real killer? Yes, this is 21st century Tokyo – but most, though not all, of the characters have names (and identities) lifted from the works of Arthur Conan Doyle.
I had high hopes for this series but the first episode did not get off to a great start. Jack the Ripper has been overused and so has Sherlock Holmes. The humour involving Mrs Hudson is unsubtle and possibly offensive (are we meant to laugh with the character or at them?). Worse still, by the end of the first episode, we still have no idea why John Watson is looking for help from the deeply eccentric Sherlock. Although a nice touch is that Sherlock reveals his deductions through an impromptu rakugo performance.
I was in two minds whether to give up after the first episode but I persevered and became less ill-at-ease when Episodes 2, 3 and 4 steered away from the Jack the Ripper plotline, delivering self-contained mysteries that were amusing and entertaining. The cool, jazzy score (by Takurou Iga who most recently wrote the soundtrack for Kakuriyo) probably wants us to think of Durarara and other prestigious (and cool) anime series like, oh, Cowboy Bebop perhaps? The Japanese cast is starry (Katsuyuki Konishi as Sherlock, Junichi Suwabe as Mrs Hudson) but the US dub is well worth catching, with Ian Sinclair as the eccentric detective and David Wald as Mrs Hudson. Four episodes in and there’s never a dull moment (Sherlock Holmes fans can have fun spotting little allusions to the original stories). And hints have been placed as to why John Watson is seeking Sherlock’s deductive skills.
Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-Kun (currently streaming on Crunchyroll) has a singularly nostalgic feel, partly due to the artwork. Fourteen-year-old Iruma Suzuki is a good-hearted but put-upon boy, ready to help anyone, who discovers that his feckless parents have sold his soul to a demon called Sullivan. Sullivan has been desperate to acquire a grandson and heir and whisks him away to a life of luxury in the demon world where Iruma must attend demon school (his new Grandpa turns out to be the school’s director). There’s only one slight problem: if the other demons realize he’s a human, they’ll devour him. How will Iruma survive? He doesn’t even have any wings!
If you’re looking for a feelgood fantasy comedy, this is definitely one to try. Its heart is in the right place and there are genuinely funny moments; check out the scene where Iruma and his fellow students are made to summon their familiars by the strict and terrifying professor Naberius Callego (Daisuke Ono).
Case File nº221: Kabukicho is streaming on Funimation and Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-Kun is streaming on Crunchyroll.
Only slightly less predictable than the sun rising in the East is me selecting My Hero Academia as the show I’m most looking forward to this autumn, even though it’s now in its fourth season.
My Hero Academia has constantly shown the perfect way to adapt a shonen manga into an anime, mostly thanks to doing seasons rather than airing weekly, which has been extra effective as the show has constantly been great to boot. Season 4 has got off a mixed start tonally, with our lead protagonist Midoriya “Deku” Izuku looking to study under his idol All Might’s former sidekick Sir Nighteye, which led to the revelation that another student was originally picked to be the inheritor of All Might’s power before the hero chose Midoriya. That was interesting, though somewhat predictable thanks to the design of the character in question… The audition at Nighteye’s was more comedy than drama, which is obviously fine, and the relationship between these new characters and old should be good to follow.
In the exact opposite of comedy was Episode 2 of this season, where new antagonist Overhaul had a meeting with the long-established League of Villains that, not to give away too much, ended rather bloodily. It was certainly an effective proper debut for him, and gave good character development to over-all series antagonist Shigaraki, who has been given a lot to think about…
So I’m looking forward to more MHA, as I knew I would! There is one other returning series I’d like to mention, however, and that’s Psycho-Pass…
Psycho-Pass 1 (as I guess it’s retroactively called) stands as one of my favourite self-contained stories period, with great characters, sci-fi concepts and animation telling a great story. Psycho-Pass 2 comparatively was average at best, and the movie was decent, but not very memorable. So now we get Psycho-Pass 3 and I’m obviously worried that the series is still very much a one-hit wonder and they’re just dragging the name further through the… well dirt would be going too far, but you know what I mean.
The series is unusually split into eight double-length episodes, so I’ve only got the first episode to talk about, but I enjoyed what I saw. It’s far too early to tell if the series is “back on track”, but we have a new duo as our lead characters in Arato Shindo and Kei Mikhail Ignatov, the former of which seems to have a psi ability that allows him to experience people’s memories from concentrating on where an event happened (a power that seems to leave him sleepy). Ignatov on the other hand is facing prejudice for being a foreigner, but is still a person who sticks rigidly to the chain of command and proper etiquette, with the pair likely to bend the rules to fit what needs to be done. There is definitely something else going on between the two that’s hinted at, as well as some sort of conspiracy, but it’s too early to do anything other than baselessly speculate.
Throw in a popular returning character in an interesting predicament and some misbehaving Enforcers (criminals who are under the command of the investigators) tied to our new lead protagonists, and you have a lot of interest piqued in just 45 minutes, and while I can’t see it reaching the heights of the first season, it’s already off to a good start in getting closer than the previous new Psycho-Pass material.
My Hero Academia Season 4 is streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation; Psycho-Pass 3 is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Josh A. Stevens
Some stories walk you through their narratives and complex world-building like a loved one’s gentle hand leading you through a flowery field. The rainbow of petals imbue a sense of wonder, but your soft pace means they don’t overwhelm. Others, however, are more content with just throwing you into the middle of dark woods, and leaving you to figure out the way back. An example of an anime this season that’s clearly happy with the latter, is Assassin’s Pride. Yet another series based on a light novel, it’s been adapted by EMT Squared of Kumamiko: Girl Meets Bear and The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar infamy. The one compliment I’ll give the series is that it isn’t an isekai. The problem now, though, is that despite its name, Assassin’s Pride doesn’t really have anything to be proud about.
Perhaps I was predisposed to dislike the series from the outset, given that my first impression was that the lead character designs are obviously inspired by Sword Art Online‘s Kirito and Asuna. After all, with the majority of light novel adaptations being embarrassingly derivative, why not just wear it on your sleeve? At least their personalities are noticeably different, I guess.
As the title suggests, Kiri – I mean Kufa Vampir, is a mercenary of the murderous persuasion. Under contract to a Lord, he goes undercover as the tutor of his benefactor’s granddaughter Melida Angel, who has yet to awaken her uniquely named “mana” – a completely original supernatural energy that allows its wielder to use magic. Melida’s inability to use the Angel family’s signature “Paladin” class mana supports theories of her illegitimate lineage, so Kufa must either determine that the girl is of noble blood, or kill her.
Although it’s a good thing Melida is seemingly prone to revealing her innermost ambitions to every monster that attacks her, as overhearing this allows Kufa to suddenly do a complete 180 and shift from being resolved to kill her to staking his entire life for her. Subtle character development is obviously unknown to this series, as is actually setting up the purpose and win conditions of a tournament before just unceremoniously chucking us into it. Heck, EMT Squared couldn’t even spare 1:30 of unique animation for its opening song, which repeats multiple cuts.
The series does have some genuinely interesting ideas, like a class system dictated by magic, and a world where cities exist in a chandelier-like construct (a fact that’s jarringly wedged in with little framing or purpose) and perhaps the original light novels are more careful in their plotting, but… yeah.
Despite my disappointment in a knock-off Kirito however, the real deal is surprisingly my highlight of this season so far. Sword Art Online Alicization: War of Underworld picks up a few months after Administrator’s defeat, with Kirito left in an almost-vegetative state and under the care of Alice. The Underworld is at a tipping point, with the dwindling number of Integrity Knights all too aware of the impending threat posed by the Dark Territory.
The first few episodes serving as a reintroduction to this changed virtual world, and with Kirito in the state he is, the focus has shifted to his remaining connection in this world: Alice Synthesis Thirty. No longer the stoic holy knight, she has put down her sword and seems intent on a quiet life on the outskirts of her hometown, tending to Kirito and enjoying a newfound relationship with her sister. Seeing this other, more caring side to Alice is a refreshing change of pace, making her a much more likeable character in my eyes – I daresay, she may be dethroning Sinon as my favourite character! A part of me would be totally content with just a slice of their quiet life, without Alice inevitably being dragged out to the battlefield once more.
It isn’t just the virtual world that’s in turmoil, however. The Ocean Turtle has been overtaken by an armed militia intent on obtaining the technology behind Alice’s fluctlight. Balancing these two worlds is proving a challenge, with some of these opening episodes being unwieldy in their exposition, but hopefully the series is currently walking so it can run later, and things streamline as their crises combine. The introduction of the arc’s villain Gabriel Miller, however, was perhaps more disturbing and graphic than it needed to be. While not on the level of that scene in the first Alicization act, a gratuitously long sequence of strangulation could have certainly put its point across without being so prolonged. Still, now we definitely know this guy is bad, perhaps the series will return to the more wild and fantastical action we’ve come to expect from Sword Art Online.
My ultimate measure of which show becomes my “Anime of the Season”, is which anime I jump to watch first each weekend. For now, it’s Sword Art Online Alicization: War of Underworld, but we’ll see what happens by the end of the year! At the very least though, “Unlasting” by LiSA is without a doubt my ending theme of the season.
Assassin’s Pride is streaming on HiDIVE and Crunchyroll and Sword Art Online Alicization: War of Underworld is streaming on Crunchyroll.