Spring Season 2020 Preview – Anime UK News Writers take a first look

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Who could have predicted that within such a short time COVID-19 would cause such drastic changes throughout the world? And now that Japan has brought in a nationwide state of emergency, even as we put together this preview, several of the titles that began to air for the Spring 2020 season are already ‘delayed’ (Appare-Ranman!, Bungo and Alchemist, Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma, The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED, to name but a few). So, as we face an uncertain future (while wishing that all who work so hard to make the anime we love can stay safe and keep well) here are the thoughts of the Anime UK News writers on some of the new series. We’re writing hopefully, looking forward to the time that these new titles that have caught our attentions will – in due time – be able to continue…

Demelza

One of my favourite shows so far this season is Kakushigoto, a series that follows mangaka Kakushi Goto. While he’s a top-selling artist, the series he draws is an erotic manga and Goto will do whatever it takes to prevent his young daughter Hime finding out what he does for a living!

As Hime goes off to school, our protagonist wanders up to his friend’s clothes shop where he swaps his suit and tie for an outfit more fitting for a manga creator and heads off to his real office. It’s a wholesome tale of a father and daughter’s day-to-day life, which is sprinkled with wonderful comedic moments focused on the manga industry or Hime’s life.

The first episode begins with an 18-year-old Hime discovering Goto’s old manuscripts, which sets up an interesting question of what’s happened to her father. Did he choose to finally reveal his work to her or has he simply passed away and thus had his secret come to light after that? It’s a hook that will keep viewers coming back for more but I’m not sure it needed one, given how good the comedy is.

This series is being adapted by studio Ajia-do (Ascendance of a Bookworm, Izetta: The Last Witch) and they perfectly capture the style of Kouji Kumeta’s original manga (readers may recognise him as the creator behind Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei). The anime is full of life and very colourful, which is certainly nice to see when the world is going through such difficult times. This is one that’s sure to lift your spirits!

My second pick of the season is My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom, which is a light novel adaption by Silver Link (Strike the Blood, Bofuri). This one follows the story of Katarina Claes who suddenly recovers the memories of a past life, which reveals that the world she lives in is the world of otome game Fortune Lover. If that wasn’t enough, in Fortune Lover our protagonist Katarina is supposed to be a villain who always meets a bad end!

With this knowledge in hand, Katarina works hard to build friendly relationships with those around her and avoid situations that led her to a bad end back in the video game. However, this is much more difficult than you’d first think when you’re an oblivious airhead like Katarina is. Ultimately Katarina has a lot of mishaps and mistakes in her future, but hopefully she’ll find happiness in the end.

I admit as someone who reads the original light novels this one is based on, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the anime adaption. While the plot sounds quite serious, it’s actually handled in a fairly comedic way and you’re sure to love the goofball Katarina turns out to be. While she’s busy avoiding a bad end, she’s actually charming all of the male characters, but she’s so distracted worrying about future that she never notices their feelings (although even if she wasn’t, I don’t think she’d notice…).

Like Kakushigoto, this anime is just pure fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and the cast are likeable. How much patience you have for Katarina’s personality will depend on how much you can put up with protagonists like her but as long as that’s not an issue, you’re sure to have a good time watching this one.

Kakushigoto is streaming on Funimation, whereas My Next Life as a Villainess is available on Crunchyroll. At the time of writing, neither series has been delayed and My Next Life as a Villainess has  finished production, so should be relatively safe from any delays, compared to the majority of shows airing this season.

Onosume

We join APPARE-RANMAN! as it sets the scene for the Trans-America Wild Race, a motor race from the west coast to the east coast, featuring the best drivers of the day competing for a substantial cash prize. While the majority of the racers just want to survive and get their hands on the money, marooned samurai Kosame Isshiki and his eccentric inventor friend, Appare Sorano just want to charter a ship home to Japan, after a series of unfortunate events left them stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, before being rescued and shipped off to Los Angeles. Without a cent to their name and struggling to survive, the pair enter the race and battle their way to the other side of the continent.

At first glance, this show seemed perfect for me, with its racing and Wacky­ Races­-esque premise and the promise of a grand adventure across North America. And yet, while tantalisingly teasing its main setup, it seems that we’re going to have to wait for it to truly get going, as the first couple of episodes focus on introducing the characters that will form the core of the racing team that we see at the end of the first episode. This slow start may not grab the interest of everyone right off the bat, but I feel it’s striking some good notes with a good mix of character drama and comedy. Kosame and Appare are particularly funny to watch as they get into all of these unfortunate situations; while at the same time they somehow manage to get involved in the lives of the people they meet and help them out, despite initially making a mess of things. Meeting all of the racers in this way is certainly interesting, however I do hope it doesn’t take too long to get to the thick of the action, as the race itself is definitely what I’m sticking around for.

Animated by P.A. Works, the show has a strong look and I love the off-the-wall character designs; while the opening, I got it! by Mia REGINA is an absolute jam and I’m glad some of my favourite idols are moving further into the spotlight with some higher profile shows.

While APPARE-RANMAN! has been delayed due to the coronavirus, this is definitely one to keep on your radar as when it heats up, it looks like it will be lots of fun.

If you want to go even more weird and wacky, how about Gal & Dino, the dual animated-and-live-action adaptation of the manga (also known as My Roomie Is a Dino) from those who adapted Pop Team Epic, Kamikaze Douga and Space Neko Company? If you liked Pop Team Epic then you should kind-of know what to expect here, as it splits itself into an animated part comprised of a few sketches in hand drawn and stop motion animation; followed by a live action part that retells the same story but in a different way. While the setup, a gyaru/gal taking in a funny-looking blue dinosaur as a roommate, sounds so unbelievably surreal, it actually works really well as you see them form a pretty solid friendship. It’s a different form of surreal and humour than Pop Team, and I’m not sure I would even call it a comedy, as I found many of the moments in the first two or three episodes to be really sweet and heart-warming.

It’s its unique production that truly sets it apart from anything else airing this season however, with the arrangement of the traditional animation, stop motion animation and live action coming together to create something different. While the stop motion segments are bitesize and fun, it’s the live action part of this show that has me mesmerised, starting off with an old man being with the dinosaur, before some plot about him choking on oden leads to wacky only-on-Japanese-TV level shenanigans.

If any of the above interests you, I highly recommend picking this up. It’s funny, sweet and heart-warming, and offers a rare slice of Japanese live action TV to boot.

My final recommendation of the season is the second season of Kaguya-sama: Love is War, which continues from where the first season left off, with Kaguya Shinomiya and Miyuki Shirogane still locked in their battle of wits in attempting to force each other to confess their love – and whoever does so first out of the couple will see their pride and ego in ruins.

So far, it’s essentially more of the same, with each episode divided into specific scenarios that pressure both Kaguya and Miyuki to slip up and confess to each other. This is definitely not a bad thing however, as there’s still plenty of new material to keep things fresh and the continuing in-jokes, such as Miyuki being a relationship guru, are continuously taken to the next level. With some pretty great writing and endearing characters, this is still one of the funniest comedies of recent times. If you enjoyed the first season and want more or are just looking to have a laugh with this bunch of idiots, then I’d highly recommend you jump on board.

APPARE-RANMAN!, Gal & Dino, and Kaguya-sama: Love is War Season 2 are all streaming on Funimation.

Josh A. Stevens

For reasons everyone is well aware of, this time of year has been far more stressful than most – so the importance of having a great show to get lost in, or to turn our worried frowns upside down, has never been greater. It is unfortunate that our routes to escapism have been cut short by the number of broadcasts and productions halted, but the safety of those who make the anime we love is naturally of paramount importance. That said, it’s not like there are no anime airing at all, and I can wholeheartedly second my friends’ recommendations of the pastel-coloured eccentricity of Kakushigoto and the unexpectedly fun My Life as a Villainess […] in particular, but there’s also a couple of shows that I think may be of interest to you.

Starting years ago as a slow and gentle boil, the number of western co-produced anime is finally starting to erupt with the volume and ferocity of a volcanic eruption. Although they’ve been on production committees for shows like A Place Further Than the Universe for a while now, last season the streaming service Crunchyroll announced their first slate of branded “Crunchyroll Originals”. Starting with it being retroactively added to the then-airing In/Spectre, Tower of God is the first to launch with that banner.

Produced by Telecom Animation Film (Lupin the Third Part 5) and adapting a South Korean webtoon by Sin-ui Tap, the series follows the timid Bam as he attempts to reach the top of the mysterious Tower of God, which his once-only companion Rachel ascended, in hopes of seeing the stars. Not just anyone can reach its peak, however, and the prize of anything you desire has attracted many powerful foes willing to do whatever it takes for what their heart yearns for. So, Bam must choose his allies carefully, should he wish to come out on top, and see Rachel again.

On the surface, Tower of God may give those already sceptical to western co-productions a knee-jerk first impression of what a foreigner thinks anime should look like: full of colour, over-the-top fantasy designs etc (remember that English-original Manga Shakespeare line?), but at the same time, I feel that’s what gives the series its charm. Tower of God is a truly global product – a South Korean comic, adapted by U.S. and Japanese companies (with others no doubt also on the committee), a hauntingly mystical score by a British-Australian composer (Kevin Penkin, of Made in Abyss fame). On paper, it really comes across as a global celebration of anime. But how is it as a show in its own right?

Tower of God is fun. I’d be lying if I understood all the complex lore surrounding the tower, but that confusion helps place us right alongside Bam, who similarly has very little clue of what’s going on, but has to piece things together as they’re drip-fed while he’s fighting for his life. The characters are a wonderful assortment of whacky designs, like the crocodilian Rak on the poster above, or the green lizard-like Aanak, who can be really threatening one minute, only for me to lose it at the sight of her adorable little lizard tail the next. Seeds are definitely being sewn for dramatic character moments to hopefully come, and while time will tell how Tower of God will be remembered once this season is over, so far, it’s shaping up to be a fun proper debut for the Crunchyroll Originals brand.

Now, if fantasy isn’t your thing, my next suggestion is the total opposite of that: the grounded, melancholic drama of Sing “Yesterday” For Me. Rikuo Uozumi is a recent college graduate still working part-time at a convenience store, lethargic towards his future. One day, he’s approached by an eccentric girl with a crow on her shoulder – the high-school drop out Haru Nonoka, who has a keen interest in Rikuo. At the same time, his former classmate and crush Shinako Morinome has returned to town as a high school teacher, digging up Rikuo’s once-buried feelings, while Shinako also faces her own.

Sing “Yesterday” for Me is arguably a series about grieving – for lost youth, love, and those we treasure dearly. As someone approaching the end of their 20s, having spent most of the last decade with a stopped clock, this series really grabbed me with its realistic portrayal of that muddy miasma that traps those on the precipice of adult life. Haru is a remarkably well-written character, with an undeniable charisma that draws me towards a presence that is enigmatic before I even consider Kansuke, the crow on her shoulder. I’d like to say more about Haru, but in her own words, “If you say any more, you’ll ruin the image of the mysterious Haru-chan!” Despite how contradictory it sounds, even Rikuo’s lethargy is brought to life in a way that sets him up as a likeable, if not pathetic protagonist.

The series is also a technical marvel, with a keen eye to framing and cinematography that one might expect more from live-action productions. One minor detail that really stood out for me, is when the troubled teenager Rō Hayakawa is being served by Rikuo, with the convenience store’s counter between them. With the counter being in the centre, it creates a visible barrier between them that not only emphasises their current relationship, but also acts like a mirror to suggest how they’re actually alike, all without saying so. The series is full of clever little visual tricks like that really give the series a subtle, absorbing charm.

Quickly scroll back up this article and look at the key art of all the titles mentioned, and you’ll notice something in common, that makes Sing “Yesterday” for Me really stand out: an abundance of characters and colour of equal realism. Paired next to fantasies and zany comedies, this series’ earthly palette speaks for the series’ realism in contrast to the other anime around it. This even carries over to the characters, all wearing black with white jackets, as if cut from the same cloth.

Being a drama, Sing “Yesterday” for Me is a real slow burn, and that will understandably turn some people away. With four episodes broadcast at time of writing, the series is still taking its time carefully laying the groundwork to no doubt make me an emotional wreck later. With each introductory episode highlighting a specific main cast member and how their individual dilemmas intertwine with one another, I think we’re still some way from the real meat of this story, but I can’t wait to see where this series ends up.

Both Tower of God and Sing “Yesterday” for Me are available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

HWR

In these times of uncertainty and various delays to this season’s scheduling, I found myself gravitating towards continuing series’ like Fruits Basket 2nd Season and Ascendance of a Bookworm Part 2 for some comfort and familiarity but also delved into some new offerings such as…

Wave, Listen to Me! is a rarity in that the core cast consists of adults dealing with their everyday struggles, interlaced with some more zany elements courtesy of the personalities on display and the storyline involving a local radio station making an unwitting star of Minare, our main character, following a drunken tirade. 

I’m very intrigued to see how the story progresses, especially with how the flawed but likeable lead Minare deals with her potential new career path.

Another fun excursion this season has been the enjoyably silly and lively, yet also comfy and endearing Princess Connect! Re:Dive, which is brought to us by director Takaomi Kanasaki, known for his work on the KonoSuba franchise.

You could make some comparisons between that series and this though Re:Dive is perhaps a bit less loud in regards to its characters and comedy. Perhaps the funniest aspect of this series is how “The Protagonist”, a character who embodies a stereotypical lead surrounding himself with female party members, can’t speak and is initially very dependent on the help of others – having to learn almost from scratch the mechanics of the world he’s in, leading to some more comedic moments due to their general lack of awareness.

That’s where Kokoro comes in, the real main protagonist of the series and a kind-hearted soul with a penchant for an X-shaped mouth expression whenever things go awry – often to comedic effect.

The supporting characters, like the ridiculously strong and sometimes ditzy Guild Master Eustiana or tsundere Momochi, are also welcome additions to the series. Considering this is based on a mobile game I’m impressed so far with the writing and general enjoyment I get each week, it’s just what I need at the moment!

I’ll also give an honourable mention to Gal & Dino, which is detailed above and has been surprisingly endearing so far.

Wave, Listen to Me! Is available to stream on Funimation whilst Princess Connect! Re:Dive is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

Sarah 

 

With so many titles postponed, this article is rapidly turning into a preview for the Summer and even Autumn Seasons 2020. My first choice, Woodpecker Detective’s Office, still seems to be safe for the time being but my original second choice The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED has come to a premature halt after two episodes and is currently predicted to start again in mid-July. So I’ll wait – all being well – until the summer to discuss this title and opt instead for the Second Season of Fruits Basket which, let’s face it, is almost all new material (with a few exceptions). And it’s off to a promising start, introducing new characters: Kakeru the new vice-president and Machi the new treasurer, as Yuki assumes the role of school president, and realizes that he’s in for a troubled ride ahead with these two at his side! There’s also a really attractive OP and ED (the latter very sweetly pays homage in the last bars to the OP of the 2001 anime series by Ritsuko Okazaki). But it’s not until Episode 4 that we meet Rin, the rebellious Horse of the Soma Zodiac, and more of the deep unhappiness at the heart of the clan is revealed. As the series takes a turn toward the dark, ramping up the tension within the family, it’s a little disappointing that the animation takes a turn for the worse and characters as important as Haru are decidedly off-model. But if you can look beyond these technical issues, you’ll be rewarded with an engrossing drama where the shadows of the past are reaching out, threatening the futures of the younger Soma generation, and none more so than Kyo. In a few years, the curse of inheriting the Cat will blight the young man’s future as he will be forced to spend the rest of his days in confinement on the Soma estate. Unless…

If you’re a fan of Bungo Stray Dogs, two Spring series will have caught your eye. One: Bungo and Alchemist is currently on hiatus (Funimation); the other, Woodpecker Detective’s Office, is still streaming weekly on Crunchyroll – and both feature significant authors and poets from the Meiji era as the main protagonists, including Ryonusuke Akutagawa (again!) However, the two main literary figures in Woodpecker Detective’s Office are poet Ishikawa Takuboku and his friend, mild-mannered academic Kindaichi Kyosuke. After unwittingly becoming involved in a murder case, the lively Ishikawa displays impressive investigative skills and the other young writers upstairs in their apartment building are soon offering their opinions too when Kyosuke is accused of the murder of a prostitute. The artwork that’s gone into the animation accompanying both OP and ED is truly beautiful to look at, hearkening back, perhaps, to the popular art of the Meiji period. Story-wise, this is quirky, mostly male-centric so far but different enough to pique the curiosity. Everything seems to suggest that the first episodes are scene-setting and the main material won’t be introduced until Episode 4. I’m already hooked because I like anything set in a different historical period and I’m a total sucker for a mystery series involving crime-solving. (Oh – and did I mention that Edogawa Ranpo has just made an appearance?)

Woodpecker Detective’s Office and Fruits Basket Season 2 are currently streaming on Crunchyroll (Fruits Basket is also streaming dubbed on Funimation, subject to COVID-19 restrictions.)

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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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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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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HWR

HWR enjoys anime and manga alongside a love for film, gaming, Classic Doctor Who and electronic music from the likes of Depeche Mode and more.

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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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