Yet. More. Isekai.
Popular isekai series returning for another season! Brand-new isekai titles airing for the first time! It could be Autumn 2019 all over again – except for the fact that there are some distinctly different shows airing this time around for those who are overwhelmed by so much ‘and then I awoke as a slime/villainess/mage/librarian/insert role of choice in another world…’ The writers at Anime UK News have been watching some of the latest offerings from Crunchyroll, HIDIVE and Funimation (although, sadly, still nothing new from Amazon Prime – has that ship sailed?). Now they’re here to share their first impressions – and they’d love to hear your thoughts too!
To say that I have been looking forward to HYPNOSISMIC -Division Rap Battle- Rhyme Anima is an understatement; I’m a member of the official fan club and have been following HYPNOSISMIC since its early days as a series of drama recordings interspersed with often-bizarre rap songs. A lot of viewers have assumed that this anime is based on the recently-released mobile game but that too is a spin-off of a mixed media juggernaut that has been sweeping Japan for a few years now, spawning four (edit: now seven!) separate manga series, several stage plays, large scale stadium concerts and a tournament ‘rap battle’ between the original three-man ‘divisions’ which tore through the Oricon music charts.
The plot of HYPNOSISMIC -Division Rap Battle- Rhyme Anima is little more than a pretext for the rap battles; all that you need to know is that weapons have been replaced by ‘hypnosis microphones’ which allow their wielders to take enemies down with verbal sparring matches instead of physical force. The series’ main focus is on the four Tokyo-based divisions, each of which has three oddball members representing various stereotypes from their home territory. It’s all an excuse to throw a bunch of charismatic lunatics together, ranging from Yokohama’s hard-boiled MAD TRIGGER CREW (comprised of a gangster, a corrupt cop and a navy soldier) to Shinjuku’s eccentric Matenrou (a practicing doctor, a host and an office worker).
This anime adaptation introduces the characters’ paper-thin backstories and relationships to the other rappers via a series of splashy, colourful musical interludes, playfully hinting at the confrontations to come and never falling into the trap of taking its premise too seriously. The bonkers underlying plot about the powerful women scheming to pit the region’s best rappers against one another doesn’t really matter beyond giving everyone else an excuse to face off. And that’s ok.
Aside from the strangeness of its cast of characters, what sets HYPNOSISMIC apart from other ‘idol’ projects are its over-the-top musical showdowns, which are usually supplied by actual Japanese rap producers rather than anime/game composers. Some of the actors are noticeably better at rapping than others – a couple of them are rappers first, actors second, while the others are definitely treading new ground – but they all put their hearts into the wordplay-heavy lyrical battles and stay in character throughout.
I was a little disappointed on that front by the first episode of the anime, which had too much CG and not enough good music for my taste. However, the second episode was thoroughly entertaining from start to finish! Buster Bros!!! are my least favourite of the four Tokyo-based divisions in the show so I’m looking forward to future episodes. The only real missed opportunity is that the newer divisions (Osaka and Nagoya) are unlikely to appear this time around, meaning that anime-only fans are missing out on the gloriously-titled Bad Ass Temple Funky Sounds. I’m already hoping for a season two.
The second of my picks is the new season of Mr. Osomatsu, which comes a full three years after its previous television outing (though there was a movie in-between to tide us all over). My lingering impression of Season 2 was that it was weaker than the series’ stellar debut so I am anxious to see whether this third attempt is a return to form! The first episode leaps from topic to topic to get everyone back into the mood for its unique brand of puerile silliness; one minute the sextuplets are shamelessly parodying Demon Slayer then the next, they’re stripping off and breaking the fourth wall to make fun of their own voice actors.
What would make this season perfect for me is if it would lean slightly less into the referential humour and regain its confidence to generate brand new ‘meme-worthy’ gags of its own now and then; the first episode showed a lot of promise. In any case, if you like the show, it looks as though this season is going to be more of the same irreverent, nostalgic nonsense, and while it has lost a lot of its early shock value, it’s still shaping up to provide a very entertaining start to the week.
The Autumn anime season has proven a feast for the eyes so far. I’ve picked up more shows than any other season this year and, better yet, they’ve all turned out to be quite good! But for this article, I’ve narrowed my picks down to two firm favourites, the first of which is Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Season 3.
This season begins with Bell encountering a girl in the dungeon but rather than being a human, the girl is a monster with the ability to speak. She has no intention of hurting adventurers and our hero is willing to go to any length to protect her, even if it means turning against everyone he idolises.
This arc turns the whole DanMachi universe on its head with the introduction of sentient monsters. Not only does it cause Bell to worry about killing any monsters (even those viciously trying to kill him!) it also isolates him from those he can ask for guidance. The members of his familia go along with protecting the girl (whom they come to call Wiene) but they fear the reaction of those around them, should it be discovered they’re harbouring a monster.
When this arc was taking place in the light novels it was regarded as one of the worst by readers. Taking place over three volumes, it wasn’t until the end that author Fujino Omori was able to win the fanbase over. For the most part, the anime is hurrying through the arc, not removing anything of importance but condensing it down all the same. I’m sure that’s partly to get through to the content the fans like or an effort to make sure there is enough time to get through the whole story here.
Although I am admittedly a DanMachi fangirl, even I don’t like this storyline all that much. However, I am finding it more enjoyable in anime form and that’s largely down to the animation from J.C Staff and the talented voice actors. I must admit I found myself disappointed with J.C Staff’s adaptation for Season 2, which had fairly lacklustre animation compared to the first instalment (presumably because the movie was in production at the same time). Thankfully, the team seem to be back on top form now and even just three episodes in, we’ve been treated to some truly thrilling action scenes. As the arc goes on, I find myself eagerly awaiting each new episode and ultimately I think everyone will have enjoyed this season by the time we get to the end.
My second pick for the season is Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World, which is a fantasy light novel adaptation by Silver Link. Having grown fond of the studio in recent years, I’m always looking forward to their next work and this series, in particular, seems to be a solid one.
The story follows Iska, who is a soldier tasked with assassinating the Ice Calamity Witch – Aliceliese. The countries these two belong to have been in a hundred-year war and their first encounter installs doubts to if what they’re doing is truly the right decision. Off the battlefield Iska and Aliceliese encounter one another on natural ground, in a city where they’re enjoying some needed time off. As the two grow closer as friends, it begins to look like instead of fighting, the two should work together – but is that even an option?
One thing I appreciate about Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World is that it isn’t an isekai series. There is a lot of worldbuilding in these first two episodes as well as time spent developing the characters. It’s impressive that the anime has made me care so much about Iska and Aliceliese in such a short time and that is ultimately down to good writing on the part of the author and a strong adaptation from the studio.
Admittedly it’s also nice to hear voice actor Yuusuke Kobayashi in a new role. Readers will be familiar with his work as Subaru Natsuki in Re: Zero, but here he plays protagonist Iska who is a more chipper and laidback character. Meanwhile, heroine Aliceliese is played by Sora Amamiya (Aqua in KonoSuba, Touka Kirishima in Tokyo Ghoul) who also puts her all into the role and delivers a fantastic performance.
If you’re a fan of Silver Link’s work and find yourself looking for a new fantasy series, then this is certainly worth checking out. The first two episodes are off to a great start and show plenty of promise for the story to come.
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Season 3 is streaming on Crunchyroll and HIDIVE. Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World is streaming on Funimation.
We’re at a new Autumn season and with it are some new adaptations of Shonen Jump! properties, so of course I’m going to comment on those! First up is a series that’s actually already “aired” in its entirety…
Burn The Witch is the latest story by Bleach author Tite Kubo. It appeared as a one-off in Shonen Jump! back in July 2018 and proved popular enough that it got a four-chapter run earlier in the year (described as the “first season”) and this OVA film, which for Crunchyroll was broken down into three episodes instead (for… some reason). The series centres on Noel Niihashi and Ninny Spangcole, two Witches that work for Wing Bind, an organisation that hunts and destroys Dragons in a parallel dimension version of London called “Reverse London”. They are able to switch back and forth between Londons, and in fact Ninny has a whole life in the real capital, but in general they work, and get paid by, those in Reverse London.
The duo encounters a man by the name of Balgo Parks, who is a “Dragonclad”, someone who can attract other Dragons and are therefore normally either exiled or executed, but he has been allowed to stay in Reverse London with his dog-like Dragon. It turns out our leads’ assignment is to watch over him and slay any Dragons that may attack, which they do, but damage is done to the city. The deal doesn’t work out however and the trio are soon chased by high-ranking member of Wing Bind Bruno Bangnyfe (who looks and sounds an awful lot like Grimmjow from Bleach… who in turn looked an awful lot like Gamma from Zombie Powder…) to give us our big finale.
That’s the basic premise of this film/OVA/three-episode series. It’s revealed during the course of the story that Reverse London is actually the British part of Soul Society, with the Wizards/Witches of Wing Bind being their equivalent of the Shinigami of the Gotei 13, only tasked with all things Dragons rather than Hollow. It’s a fun little twist, B-L-E-A-C-H is actually written within the logo of Burn the Witch, but it doesn’t actually add anything, unless we get a crossover if this series really picks up speed…
Speaking of Tite Kubo’s Bleach, the next series from the pages of Jump! that caught my interest is Jujutsu Kaisen…
Jujutsu Kaisen was/is written and drawn by Gege Akutami and features a combination of a lot of genres and tropes, but manages to still be entertaining in its own right. I used the phrase “speaking of Bleach” because that is the series this reminds me of the most, featuring a slightly older cast than you normally find in the pages of Jump! and focusing on an invisible-to-most world of demonic monsters that surround us and a group that exists to use their powers to stop them. Our protagonist and eyes into this world is Yuji Itadori, a regular high schooler who is great at most sports but would rather be by his sick grandfather’s side than attend after-school meetings… apart from the school’s Occult Research Club anyway (which admittedly does very little…) During one such late-night meeting the two other members of the club unwrap a ghostly finger and unleash a bunch of demons, known as “Curses”, around them.
During this time Itadori’s grandfather has passed and given him the message to “always help people” and to “die surrounded by people”, and then he meets sorcerer Megumi Fushiguro, who tells him the very same finger his friends are unwrapping is a “High-grade cursed charm” and that they’re in great danger. Megumi begins fighting the Curses with spells but Itadori is the one who saves his friends despite not having any magical power. Yuji and Megumi are soon in critical danger which leads the former to eat the finger on the off-chance it gives him the power to save everyone, which of course, it does! It also means the super-powerful Curse named Sukuna that the finger belonged to can now possess his body, though to Megumi’s surprise, Itadori is able to suppress it. That was your first episode folks!
So you can see the set-up going forward. Itadori now has to deal with an evil monster sealed inside him that can make him powerful but can also momentarily possess his body, or at the very least manifest a mouth somewhere and talk to the outside world from within. Our lead character is soon enrolled in “Tokyo Metropolitan Magic Technical College” where he will learn to use his powers for good. There is also a fun collect-athon aspect to the story, as there are 19 other fingers to collect with the plan being to have Itadori eat all 20 and then get executed to destroy Sukuna once and for all. Oddly Itadori is okay with the plan as at least that means he can fulfil his grandfather’s dying wish of saving people.
So the set-up may not be massively different, and the character personalities may not surprise you, but the character designs and lore are fun, and there is a high quality to the animation. I don’t think it will become a massive hit, but I’m sure it will be a fun ride.
Burn the Witch and Jujutsu Kaisen are currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
So far, this season has seen some solid entries – some of which have been given shout-outs by fellow site reviewers. My choices for this season may be ones that could slip under the radar for some.
Akudama Drive is a cyberpunk-esque series that has, so far, committed to a zany style of humour and fun character interactions that accompany the storyline, which sees unwilling lead character Swindler continue to dig themselves further into a rut as scenarios arise that require her expertise (or sheer luck in this case.)
That this series has managed to captivate me more in three episodes than all of No Gun’s Life S2 did last season is a hopeful sign that this season’s slice of Sci-Fi will be a highlight.
Is the Order a Rabbit? BLOOM, meanwhile, sees a welcome return to Café Rabbit house as the likeable cast returns for another season of comfy viewing. Though we’re only two episodes in so far (as of writing this), I’m very happy to see the series return as one of several wholesome offerings for this season alongside the more quirky Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle and By the Grace of the Gods.
Is the Order a Rabbit? BLOOM is streaming on Crunchyroll and HIDIVE; Akudama Drive is streaming on Funimation.
So far, this season has given me the impression of quantity over quality. There are an absolute bucketload of shows to watch, but after checking out most of them, it’s been difficult to find anything I would call anywhere near good, and some have even proven to be very divisive, like Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina.
I’ve been interested in this one for a while, but never got round to picking up the original material, and after having watched the first three episodes of the anime, I’m not sure I want to anymore. Before I go into what I didn’t like about it, I have to say that the initial premise was fine and actually pretty interesting. Elaina is a teenage girl with an extremely high aptitude for magic, but that has left her unable to find an apprenticeship in order to become a full-fledged witch, with most of the witches in town fearful of her powers. Ultimately, she finds someone willing to take her on – an odd-seeming witch who has turned up and is living in the forest at the edge of town. After various tribulations, and a pretty exciting fight between the two, Elaina finally overcomes her trials and becomes a witch. Now having proved herself to her parents, she steps out just like in the stories her mother used to tell her as a child, and runs off to explore the world.
I first thought this was all pretty cool and was looking forward to some magical adventures; however, this is not what this show is at all. It’s actually a collection of Brothers Grimm-style fairy tales, told through Elaina’s eyes as the observer. While this in itself might have been interesting, its overall approach completely falls flat thanks to Elaina being a narcissistic and very unlikable character who doesn’t care for what is going on around her, and that attitude infects the tone of the show itself, as the way each tale is told always feels like the original author got bored halfway through each one. There’s a multitude of problems I could probably go on at length about, from it lacking any form of heart or soul, or even inherent creepiness, to it not really working as either an adventure series or a horror series, while Elaina might not as well be there for how little she does.
It’s a shame because this could have ended up as an interesting series of cautionary tales (and it does remind me in some ways of Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids, which some of our older readers may remember fondly from the early 2000s), however this is ultimately a series I don’t think I can continue with, as it just rubs me the wrong way.
What’s more my thing is idols, and after a confusing couple of weeks without it being available in the UK, I can finally sit down and enjoy some musical delights with Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club.
This series is based on the franchise’s School Idol Festival All Stars mobile game, so apart from knowing some of the characters it shares with the original School Idol Festival, having only played that one, I have largely gone into this blind. It is set in Nijigasaki High School (taking the form of the massive convention hall Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba) and focuses on the girls of the school’s idol club, which due to unfortunate circumstances has just been disbanded. This poses a problem for Ayumu Uehara, who after seeing a performance by Nijigasaki idol Setsuna Yuki, decides she wants to become a school idol herself. Not to be deterred from her dream, she and her best friend Yu Takasaki track down the other members of the now-disbanded club and begin work on reinstating it.
My initial impressions are largely positive. While it doesn’t feel as “big”, as say, Sunshine!! or the original series (and indeed, it is easy to argue it’s just a stopgap until the third main entry, Superstar!!), it has a really cute charm of its own and I love how it is focused on expressing the individuality of its characters. You still have some familiar archetypes (the idol obsessed Kasumi is clearly a Nico, for example), but each one feels like their own person and the character designs are different enough from its predecessors to allow them to stand on their own. It’s also cool that they’ve chosen to lead with solo songs so far, which helps cement the central characters in your mind as their songs do reflect their personalities.
The show’s setting also has a lot of meaning, with Odaiba being the venue for the annual Tokyo Idol Festival, it’s the place to set an idol show. It’s a cool but weird feeling having the characters perform exactly where I saw some of my favourites do the same just over a year ago (with Setsuna performing on the raised section outside Diver City, which is also prominent for Sunrise’s other mainstay with it being the location of the Unicorn Gundam statue). You also have Tokyo Big Sight which is famous for being the venue for Comiket, although for how big that place is, it seems far too large for a school.
With the initial dilemma already resolved three episodes in, it’s going to be interesting seeing how the series is going to go, moving forward. Will it take the girls to Love Live, or will it continue to focus on each of the girls individually as they grow into bigger and better idols? Either way, I’ll be following this one to the end.
Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina is streaming on Funimation, while Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club is available on Crunchyroll.
I don’t often find myself making this observation but thus far, the anime Moriarty the Patriot is a distinct improvement on the manga on which it’s based. But, given the fact that the manga’s author is Ryosuke Takeuchi whose credits include storyboarding All You Need is Kill, perhaps it was to be expected? The idea behind this reimagining of Sherlock Holmes’s arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty, delivers not one but three Moriarty ‘brothers’ who have determined to bring about a revolution in the rigid class system in the British Empire. The character designs, based on the attractive manga art by Hikaru Miyoshi, give us a main cast of bishonen, overturning Conan Doyle’s original vision of the professor as a brooding, lean-faced older man. The first episode plunges us straight into an atmospheric conjuration of late Victorian London, bathed in a crimson-tinged miasma – in which a serial killer is abroad, murdering boys. When the son of Lord Albert Moriarty’s tailor becomes the latest victim, Albert brings in his brothers: brilliant mathematician Professor William James and gentle Louis to lay a trap for the murderer. The anime (from I.G Productions) delivers a Victorian gothic chiller of an episode which acts as a brilliant scene-setter for the series that is to follow, before returning to the first chapter of the manga for the second and third episodes, to show us how and why the three Moriarty brothers have grown into the avenging crime consultants we meet in Episode 1, secretly crusading for social justice. Music is by Asami Tachibana (DARLING in the FRANXX) and the director is Kazuya Nomura, who directed Run with the Wind. All the signs are very promising for what’s going to be a 2-cour series. The animation is good. It’s too soon to debate the fact that this version asks us to cheer for those committing the crimes because the nobles are almost all ‘bad’ and deserve the punishments that are coming to them.
But where’s Sherlock? Thus far, the professor’s arch-rival-to-be has only made a brief appearance in the OP but we’re waiting for a first glimpse of that iconic deerstalker…
In spite of the wealth of new shows on offer (why am I complaining?) like Onosume above, I’m somewhat underwhelmed this autumn, maybe because I’m not a huge fan of isekai. I’ve been casting around to find a series other than Moriarty that genuinely appeals (although I’m enjoying Jujutsu Kaisen thus far and intrigued by HYPNOSISMIC; shows recommended by my AUKN colleagues are always worth checking out!). And so I chanced upon Ikebukuro West Gate Park – or IWGP – which is based on novels by Ira Ishida, originally adapted into a live-action TV series in the very early noughties. It caught my attention because it has something of the K vibe about it (without any of the supernatural/scifi elements) and also something of Durarara! (without the urban folklore). Three episodes in and it’s been a ‘solve the mystery of the week’ format with stories that must have been heavily reversioned to make use of the ills created by contemporary social media, especially Episode 3. The main protagonist is Makoto, the streetwise friend of ‘King’ (Takashi) the leader of the G-Boys. The first episode (drug-dealing) was far from stellar but the second was more interesting, introducing a rival gang leader, red-haired Kyouichi Ozaki, who attracts attention by giving impromptu street dance performances – to one of the Polotsvian Dances from Borodin’s Prince Igor. With an OP garishly bright with street art and a powerful grunge-based song ‘Needle Knot’ from THE PINBALLS, this series is trying hard to prove its street-cred. I’m giving it a few more episodes to see if there’s more of an underlying story than a collection of anecdotes, reflecting on the urban issues of our times.
Moriarty the Patriot and IWGP are streaming on Funimation.
Josh A. Stevens
After the bombardment of incredible anime last season, perhaps it’s not a surprise that this time around, I haven’t found a series that I can enthusiastically present to you while shouting that absolutely everyone, their grandmother, and their postman should watch. What there is, however, is an awful lot of comfort food: anime that while we may admit that they aren’t exactly Re:Zero quality, still put a smile on our faces and leave us feeling a little warm inside. Given what 2020 has hurled at us though, and what we may sometimes go through even without a pandemic, there’s definitely a place for those kind of shows – just like there is the KFC Double Down that I coveted for lunch like a squirrel, even if my GP would balk at the idea.
So, when I’ve had a rough week and just want to cuddle up to something cute and fluffy, when my dog isn’t around, I turn to TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You. A Crunchyroll Original based on the romantic comedy manga by Kenjiro Hata (Hayate the Combat Butler), the series is about a young couple with a twist: their relationship starts with marriage! Nasa Yuzaki had always hoped to shine brighter than the stars and overcome the ridicule of being named after a certain space agency, but when he’s captivated by the beautiful Tsukasa Tsukuyomi on the first day of his high school entrance exams… he gets hit by a truck! When he discovers that Tsukasa saved his life, he confesses his love, and she agrees to go out with him on one condition: they get married.
In a word, TONIKAWA: Over the Moon for You is precious. While they’re married on paper, Nasa and Tsukasa are equally clueless when it comes to relationships, so there’s plenty of blushing, misunderstandings, and all that cute stuff you’ve no doubt come to expect from a teen romance anime. Aside from the main set-up, and a surprisingly bleak opener I should have expected from Hayate the Combat Butler‘s creator, there’s not a whole lot separating TONIKAWA from the plethora of similar anime, but what really carries the series, is how loveable its cast is.
If you looked up “adorkable” in the dictionary, the definition would be a picture of Nasa. He expresses his love for Tsukasa with an endearing enthusiasm, even if his book smarts don’t exactly translate to anything outside the classroom. Even the supporting characters have their charm, like the cheerful foul-mouthed gremlin that is the local bathhouse caretaker Kaname. The one I can’t quite put my finger on yet, though, is the series’ female lead Tsukasa. She certainly keeps a lot of things to herself, even dodging questions about when she fell for Nasa. She does show genuine affection towards Nasa, and we are starting to get teases about her past (as of episode 4, the most recent at time of writing), so hopefully it’s only a matter of time before I see if the series can make me fall for Tsukasa too.
Despite being married, Nasa and Tsukasa have started their life together with less experience than the average high-schooler, so I’m interested in seeing what becomes of their relationship in the episodes to come. Will it travel down the path of a standard romance with a gimmick that does little more than get them to live together, or could the series evolve into a modern day Itazura na Kiss with its depiction of life after the confession? Time will tell, but at the very least, TONIKAWA: Over the Moon for You is a cute, heart-warming distraction in a year when we all need it. The only real disappointment with the series, though, is that the animation by Seven Arcs (Arte) looks rough – it’s not necessarily bad, but it’s serviceable at best, and some episodes could certainly use some finer in-between animation at times.
In our previous anime preview guides, we’ve only mentioned streaming platforms as footnotes to direct you to where the anime we recommend can be watched, and for the most part that’s all we need to do. When the services we pay for don’t work as intended, though, they can directly impact our enjoyment of anime we might otherwise come to love. I was hoping to eagerly tell you all to watch Adachi and Shimamura, an LGBT romance about two high school girls who grow closer as they cut class together, and have to make sense of their growing and changing feelings towards each other. It’s shaping up to be an early contender for my Anime of the Season, but I unfortunately can’t offer you a sufficient preview at this time because it took Funimation a whole four days to fix an issue that prevented the third episode from playing on any of their platforms. This meant that I was unable to actually watch it before press time, and while we could have held back the whole article so I could do so, I think it’s a good opportunity to finally address the elephant in the room: Funimation.
The Irregular in Magic High School: Visitor Arc took an inexplicably longer time to show up on the UK/IRE side of the service, Strike Witches: Road to Berlin quietly disappeared, and their UK/IRE arm even erroneously announced a simulcast for Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club only to later apologise and clarify that they don’t actually have the rights for this territory – and that’s just some of the issues this season! Then, throw in the daily lottery of whether their apps will even work properly, and it all adds up to an embarrassing show from a service that’s been sweeping up more exclusive titles than ever since their acquisition by Sony. So, with fingers crossed that there’s no further delays to the remaining episodes, I hope you look forward to my full thoughts on Adachi and Shimamura in our season review at the other end of this tunnel. Apologies for ending this preview article on such a downer, but Adachi and Shimamura is cute, it’s gay, and it looks pretty – so if those all tick your boxes, all I can say right now, is give it a go.
TONIKAWA: Over the Moon for You is currently streaming on Crunchyroll, while Adachi and Shimamura is (sometimes) available on Funimation.