To Your Eternity, Fairy Ranmaru, 86, SSSS. Dynazenon…
At first glance, there seems to be much more variety in the sparkly new spring titles for 2021 than in the winter list (or does just that mean less isekai?). Even the series returning for a second season are varied: Megalobox 2: Nomad, Zombie Land Saga Revenge, Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-Kun!
So which series will rival EX-ARM in the eye-poppingly awful stakes? Which will be the surprise hit? Join our writers as they share their first impressions and recommendations!
It’s strange the way things work out sometimes, as my path to watching this season’s hidden gem, Those Snow White Notes, shows, as fifteen years after I first caught onto the strained and plinky sound of the shamisen thanks to the Yoshida’s Brothers’ track “Kodo (Inside the Sun Remix)” being used for the North American Nintendo Wii commercials, here is a show that is pretty much “Yoshida Brothers: The Anime”. I guess that phrase is probably underselling it though, as while this has the Yoshida Brothers themselves involved with the music in the show, it’s a lot more than just showcasing what the traditional Japanese instrument can do.
Its story focuses on Setsu Sawamura, a young lad who is the grandson of Matsugoro Sawamura, a local shamisen legend. Loving his grandfather’s music and aspiring to be like him, Setsu drums up some incredible talent at an early age and becomes a perfect imitation. However, after his grandfather passes away, the grief-stricken Setsu loses his passion and drive for the shamisen, eventually leaving home and heading to Tokyo once he turns 16.
What happens next is an utter whirlwind – with Setsu ending up staying with a young woman named Yuna, who is struggling with a bunch of dead-end jobs working at both a hostess bar and as a gravure idol, as well as her unappreciative guitarist boyfriend Taketo. After getting into a bust-up with him backstage, Setsu heads out with his shamisen to placate a restless audience in order to give Taketo a moment to calm down. Full of emotion, Setsu gives once of the most inspired performances of his life, but unfortunately cannot bask in his viral success as his ultra-glam mother shows up (who is a very popular beauty model) and shoves him off to high school.
There’s a strong theme in here about discovering who you really are, as while Setsu is a very good shamisen player, and revered by many characters in the series, it’s not really his sound that he’s performing, just that imitation of his grandfather’s. There are some really strong moments around that in these early episodes as he is sounded out by both his mother and Japan’s current top shamisen player, with each given completely different moods, the former being light and jovial, the latter rather heart-breaking as Setsu inevitably shows himself up for what he really is. These are both big plot points and make for exciting viewing, but what has caught my eye more is the great job it is doing in establishing an emotional connection with the characters, which can be particularly seen with Setsu’s duet with his older brother, Wakana, which is incredibly sweet.
There are some oddities with the character designs, with Setsu and his brother looking a lot older than they actually are (Wakana in particular looking more like he’s in his forties rather than the 19 he’s supposed to be!), however there are plenty of people to like in this show, from Setsu’s mother, who looks and acts outrageous, or the cheeky but strong-willed Yui Yamazato, who takes pride in knowing of Setsu’s talent before any of their other classmates.
While the third episode does tone things down a bit in terms of its direction, I am hoping this show can raise the profile of the shamisen like 2019’s Kono Oto Tomare! did for the koto, and if these opening episodes are anything to go by, it has enough drama, music and charm to do that in spades.
A more on-brand pick for me, and one that I have been looking forward to for quite some time, is Zombie Land Saga Revenge, the follow-up to MAPPA’s surprise hit about a group of girls that are resurrected as zombies to form an idol group in order to re-energise and save the people of Saga prefecture.
In a surprise twist, one month after their Arpino live concert at the end of Season 1, the girls of Franchouchou have hit rock bottom after their manager, Kotaro Tatsumi, pushed them too hard and ended up in serious levels of debt after a live performance at the Ekimae Real Estate Stadium dramatically flopped. While the girls have found odd jobs around the prefecture in order to pay off the debt, Kotaro spends his time drowning his sorrows at a local bar, fearing his chances of making Franchouchou well-known have been blown. As such, the girls have to take their idol careers into their own hands and seek revenge for their poor last performance.
Despite this rather shocking opening, the first couple of episodes have delivered the same heart-rending drama and in-your-face, hard-hitting comedy that made the first season such an enjoyable ride, which is in no way a bad thing, and I would in fact say it is hitting it out of the park right off the bat. The zany and over-the-top delivery is still unbelievably on-point, and both the girls of Franchouchou and Kotaro are still blooming hilarious to watch.
So far so good then, but as we get into things let’s not forget about some of the mysteries left hanging at the end of the first season; at least one of which is lightly touched on at the beginning here, and I’m hoping that some of the others are also explored throughout this season. I’m also hoping that they can touch more on the girls that didn’t get quite as much love previously, particularly Yugiri and Tae, whom we still don’t know that much about.
If you were a fan of the crazy hijinks of zombies trying to pose as idols previously, then this comes as a must watch and a high contender for anime of the season. And if you haven’t watched the original yet, please give it a go, as it is an absolute blast, and this is only set to deliver more!
My final pick for this season, is Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song, an original sci-fi thriller from the now post-Attack on Titan Wit Studio that delves into the fascinating topic of rogue AI.
Set in the far future, the series begins showing the start of a bloody war between humans and the artificial intelligence robots that now dominate society. With humanity at risk of manufacturing its own demise, one scientist sends a cube-shaped AI 100 years into the past in order to prevent the war from happening.
At that time, AI were still fairly limited and could only perform one task at a time, so each were given specific roles that they have to fulfil. For one AI, known as Vivy, her role is to be a songstress, and spends every day performing songs to guests at a theme park, dreaming of one day performing at the park’s main stage. However, her normal life is thrown upside down as she is greeted by the AI from the future, and is guided into saving the life of a politician who is pushing a bill that would give AI equal rights to humans. Being just one of several flashpoints, or “singularity points” as the show calls them, toward the war, Vivy is now tasked with stepping in and changing history so that it doesn’t end in the fiery bloodbath that we see at the start.
I do love a good rogue AI story, and from what I’ve seen so far this seems promising, although there are a few issues. The pacing seems to be my main concern as, because it has to hop between these different points in time, it ends up feeling a little bit rushed, ending up dropping in what are major plot developments in out-of-nowhere post-credit sequences, which are easy to miss if you glance away from the screen for a second. There’s also some blatant inspiration taken from various other media – the AI from the future, Matsumoto, seems a riff on Wheatley from Portal 2, while the third episode has some not so discreet references to the plot of Mobile Suit Gundam.
Overall though, I’m looking forward to seeing where this one goes. It has an interesting premise and set of characters, and has shown some very solid action sequences in the first couple of episodes. If you’re a fan of science-fiction, then I’d certainly recommend checking this one out.
Those Snow White Notes and Zombie Land Saga Revenge are streaming on Crunchyroll, while Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song is streaming on Funimation.
As the new season comes into full swing, there have been some standouts, both in terms of continuations and new anime making their debut.
ODDTAXI is an original story from studio OLM & P.I.C.S. which sees a world full of anthropomorphic characters and a seemingly ordinary taxi driver called Odokawa who ends up becoming embroiled in an overarching plot of a missing girl.
Within a few episodes, this series has kept me invested, largely thanks to Odowaka’s interactions with the characters around him, whether that’s a social media-obsessed college student, a nurse who practices Capoeira in her spare time and may harbour secrets, or even a dangerous criminal.
His nonchalant approach to these conversations is surprisingly endearing, but what makes ODDTAXI intriguing is how the story is unfolding, and I hope that by the series’ end that it comes together rather than falls short.
Another series that has me intrigued is Shadows House, a series that has so far delivered some suitably creepy moments.
The premise here centres on a noble family who happen to be faceless beings – taking on a shadowy appearance without visages or expressions. Thus, they employ living “dolls” who tend to the house and clean away the soot that the said nobles emit frequently.
Perhaps more unnerving is the other role some dolls take on – to impersonate their faceless masters, mimicking their every moves. This is where Emilico, the main character, comes in, as she is tasked with becoming a worthy attendant for a noblewoman called Kate.
Whilst the first episode was decent, the second began to hook me, more so on the premise, especially a scene in which we see a living doll perfectly mimic her mistress’s mocking scolding. I’m curious to see just how the story will unfold and what dark secrets could be uncovered in the process.
ODDTAXI is available to stream on Crunchyroll and Shadows House is available to stream on Funimation.
After a packed Winter season, I was expecting Spring to be a little lighter on new content but it turns out there are a bunch of things I wanted to watch! Among them, all my most anticipated was the anime adaptation of 86: Eighty-Six, from A-1 Pictures. If you’re familiar with my light novel reviews for AUKN, then you’ll know how fond I am of 86 and that understandably led to me being somewhat wary of the anime. Would it be able to capture the emotions of the cast well enough? What about the battle scenes? I had a lot of doubts, but I’m pleased to say the team have managed to put them all to rest.
Our story follows 16-year-old Vladilena Milizé, better known as Lena, who’s a major in the Republic of San Magnolia’s army and a handler for the ‘Processors’ of the Republic’s ‘unmanned drones’ known as Juggernauts. Together with these units, she must help to defend against the Legion: drones developed by the Giadian Empire, who started the war with the Republic.
Beyond the walls that keep the citizens of the republic safe is the eighty-sixth sector, home to those stripped of their humanity and forced to work as the true pilots of the Juggernauts. When the war first broke out nine years ago, the government stripped anyone of Colorate descent of their civilian rights and branded them the 86. The 86 are seen as disposable and used to pilot the Juggernauts in the battle against the enemy. Here among the 86 is our secondary protagonist, Shin (also known as The Undertaker), an 86 who is the leader of the squadron Lena has just been put in charge of: Spearhead.
So far three episodes of the anime have aired and while they’ve been leaving some viewers with just as many questions as answers, the show has undoubtedly been a hit with both newcomers and veteran fans alike. The biggest worry I had about the anime is its use of CGI when in battle scenes, but thankfully this is incredibly well animated and looks very impressive. It’s yet to be seen if it’ll hold up in quality when there are longer fight scenes, but for now, it’s working perfectly well! The anime is also doing a great job of getting us attached to the cast quickly, helped by some anime original scenes that slot into the original material wonderfully.
This is definitely a series everyone should be watching and I hope people give it a chance!
The second title I’m excited about this season is Combatants Will Be Dispatched! from J.C Staff. This anime adaptation is based on an ongoing light novel series from KonoSuba author Natsume Akatsuki and if you’re familiar with any of his other series then you’ll definitely want to check out Combatants.
In this series, we join Combatant Agent Six who is a member of the evil Kisaragi Corporation. With the world domination of Earth close at hand, the leaders of Kisaragi are looking for a new planet to take over and they think they’ve found the perfect place! But while they finish up on Earth they decide to send Agent Six and android Alice to begin the invasion.
In true Natsume Akatsuki style, nothing goes as planned when Six and Alice arrive on this planet. With a Demon Lord threatening the masses and a kingdom in grave danger, Six steps up to help out so they can later take the planet more comfortably. However, he’s paired with Alice who threatens to explode if forced to fight, a useless knight who hates his guts (Snow), a wheelchair-bound archbishop whose curses have a chance of backfiring on her (Grimm), and a chimera with a serious case of chunibyo (Rose) so he certainly has his work cut out for him!
Having handled the KonoSuba movie, J.C Staff seems like a natural fit to take on Combatants. They even kept the same composer (which leads to a wonderful musical reference to Megumin in Konosuba). Unfortunately, the anime adaptation has felt quite stiff in places and the jokes aren’t always landing as well as they should, but I will say this has been improving as the series goes on. At times it feels like the team are trying too hard to replicate KonoSuba’s runaway success and that doesn’t quite work. That said, since things have been improving I think you’d be wrong to give this one a miss based on the initial episodes and I can say in terms of the story we’ll be seeing some really interesting stuff in the episodes to come!
When it comes to shows I wasn’t already familiar with the source material for, Koikimo has been something of a surprise hit. The series follows salaryman Amakusa Ryo, who is one day saved by high school student Arima Ichika when he was about to tumble down a flight of stairs. Afterwards, he discovers Ichika is a friend of his little sister Rio and quickly asks Ichika if he can thank her for saving his life by giving her a kiss or taking her out on a date!
Naturally, Ichika rejects Ryo’s advances and calls him creepy! Nevertheless, Ryo has begun falling for her and continues to pursue a relationship with her, even if it’s simply friendship for now. Yes, this is an age-gap romance and if you’re not comfortable with that then I’d advise skipping past this section completely. However, if you are okay with the concept then I think Koikimo has the potential to offer a sweet romcom.
The nicest thing about the show is the fact Ryo’s sister is Ichika’s best friend because, due to this, we see that Ryo is by no means a bad person. He treats his sister incredibly well and although he is overbearing with Ichika, he never wants to do anything to make her uncomfortable. The downside is that as the series has gone on we’ve seen that there is a boy at Ichika’s high school who has feelings for her and it’s hard to deny he would be a better match for her, given the age difference. The show hasn’t done a particularly good job of dealing with this character arc either, instead, it’s forcing Ichika and Ryo together somewhat unnaturally, which is a shame.
I will also mention that the production of Koikimo also doesn’t seem great. The anime is being handled by studio Nomad and the animation is fine if a little stiff in places. The biggest problem for me is that the audio mixing seems off for some of the cast. Their voices seem to echo like they’ve been recorded on very cheap microphones. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of Covid and a recording from a personal studio or something, but either way, it can be quite off-putting.
Perhaps in contrast to Koikimo, comes an adaptation of the light novel series Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took In a High School Runaway. This anime follows 26-year-old IT employee Yoshida as he encounters high school runaway Sayu one evening on his way home. Having been rejected by his 5-year crush, Yoshida is admittedly quite drunk when he runs into Sayu and ends up offering to let her stay with him!
The morning after, Yoshida wakes up and realises the mistake he’s made, but after talking to Sayu for a while and realising she has nowhere to go, he agrees to let her stay until she figures things out. Sayu seems used to moving around and sleeping with men she encounters in order to gain a place to stay and a warm meal. Yoshida is outraged to hear about the life she’s led so far and the people who have taken advantage of her – and further flabbergasted when Sayu makes sexual advances on him too, believing it’s the only choice.
Usually, in these kinds of situations, protagonist Yoshida would have given in or the show would have shown him experiencing some kind of attraction toward her. However, in a move I fully support, Yoshida both rejects Sayu and tells her he will kick her out if she keeps trying to seduce him. Now Sayu has a comfortable and safe space to live and Yoshida is determined to help her make her way in life without having to rely on sleeping with people to get by.
Handled by studio Project No.9 (Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki), Higehiro is constantly walking a dangerous line. The animation is at odds with the story, with the show often lingering on Sayu’s breasts or panties a little too long. Away from that, the anime does look good and a lot of care is going into exploring the emotions of this cast. As we get further into it, I’m excited to find out why Sayu left home and if there is any way of resolving the problems, or if not, I want to see the life she’s building for herself now. I’m still wary that this show might embark on a journey down the age gap romance sector, but for now, it’s managing to avoid that, which is promising for its future!
86, Koikimo and Higehiro are all available on Crunchyroll while Combatants Will Be Dispatched is available on Funimation.
While there’s a whole bunch of brand-new properties to sink our teeth into this Spring I’d like to take a quick moment to have a look at a popular returning series…
Yes, My Hero Academia is back on our screens with its fifth series, once again adapting an arc from the manga without too much filler, thanks to their yearly season approach to shonen adaptation. Kohei Horikoshi’s manga seems to have fallen into a pattern of major arc where our heroes face a bunch of villains followed by a more laidback arc or some sort of tournament arc at school, but this trend has been bucked as the arc here is a tournament-style arc at school after the more laidback school-set story that ended the previous season. I want to emphasize “tournament-style”, as in reality it’s more of a series of elimination matches.
To set the scene proper, and for those not in the know, My Hero Academia follows Class-A of the Hero school UA Academy, a group of kids learning how to use their powers to become superheroes. This story arc is a special lesson where Class-A and Class-B fight each other in four v four elimination matches where one team has to capture all four members of the other team in a makeshift prison. It’s an excuse to see our large group of characters show off both new moves and, hopefully, how they’ve grown as heroes with a key focus on working together without having to write another story where some villains are attacking the school or some such. Another wrinkle is added when Hitoshi Shinso, who we last saw was a student in “General Studies” who wanted to get a place in the hero classes, is added to two of the matches as a fifth team member due to his lack of experience. I really liked Shinso’s character when we last saw him, he was upset that his Quirk of Brainwashing was often mocked for being much more a villain power but he just wanted to be a hero…
The other thing we see in these first few episodes is our lead protagonist, Midoriya, having a vision of the other holders of his specially passed down Quirk “One For All” and even a look at its origin. It’s a nice tease for future revelations to come. So overall it’s a strong start to an almost always strong series, and I’m looking forward to seeing what is essentially a long string of fight scenes before we get to the next step in the main plotline…
My Hero Academica Season 5 is available to stream on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Funimation (dubbed).
‘Each laugh takes them higher. Each tear makes them stronger.’
In Winter Season 2021 there were several sports series featuring young men taking part in unusual sports: WAVE!! showed us surfboarding; Skate-Leading Stars invented team competitive figure skating (not yet A Thing, but who knows?) 2.43: Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Team (volleyball, duh) and Sk8 the Infinity was all about the skateboarding. This season we have Backflip!! on Crunchyroll, an original anime which deals with male rhythmic team gymnastics and has a much more serene feeling to it with a lot less of the conflict and drama that marred 2.43: Seiin High School and Skate-Leading Stars. It’s closest to the latter show in that it involves teams competing to music – and this was a terrible let-down in Skate-Leading Stars where it felt as if we rarely saw the skaters competing for more than a few seconds (let alone heard the music they were using) in spite of the fact that the OP promised so much with some really dynamic animated passages. (Perhaps Yuri on Ice has spoiled us with its specially composed pieces of music and expertly choreographed routines?)
Here we follow first year Shotaro Futaba as he joins the gymnastics team at his new high school, even though he knows nothing about gymnastics, having been inspired by watching their performance at a recent competition. They’re a friendly and encouraging bunch – and desperate for new members because with only four in the team instead of six, they’re at a serious disadvantage. So with another new first year, Miyato, who turns out to be a really strong contender and Futaba doing his utmost best to catch up, perhaps they might have a chance at the next competition? Both WAVE!! and Skate-Leading Stars suffered from some rather basic 3D animation and Backflip!! also switches between 2D and 3D but rather more skilfully (ZEXCS is handling this). It also has some really delicately coloured/imagined scenes using the metaphor of an azure magpie taking flight in a swirling cloud of blue feathers which works really well as rookie Futaba learns how to do a handstand from the young star of the rival team. The setting, Iwanuma City in Miyagi Prefecture, features prominently in the ED. It’s nice to have a sports series which – so far, at least – isn’t all about the angst and rivalries and is more about what it feels like to learn a new skill and become part of a team. What’s good about Backflip!! so far is that the gymnastics routines are both graceful and exciting to watch – and even though the story doesn’t ignore the hard work that goes into making them look so effortless, it succeeds in capturing the audience’s attention. It’s directed by Toshimasa Kuroyanagi, best known for The Great Passage, which may explain why it’s such an engrossing watch so far.
Fairy Ranmaru. Ahem. When Crunchyroll’s promotional slogan reads: THE MAGICAL MEMBERS OF BAR F ARE HERE TO “TAKE YOUR HEART!” the choice of words defies any possibility of taking this bizarrely-conceived WTF otome series with even a pinch of seriousness. Our five fairy warriors sent to Earth by the Fairy Queen, can be found hanging out at Bar F, eating curry for breakfast, ready to help the latest damsel in distress – and deliver a stern moral warning (based on one of their ten Fairy Laws – a little reminiscent of NAMUAMIDABUTSU! – UTENA- in which Buddhist deities cleanse humans of earthly vices) at the same time. Somehow, the creative team behind this series have merged a magical boy concept (complete with ‘hot’ and sparkling transformation scene) with a human ‘heroine in distress of the week’ who needs not so much rescuing, as sorting out. It’s unclear who we’re really supposed to be rooting for. Thus far, each ‘fairy of the week’ has revealed a tortured past/childhood back in the Fairy World, so, who’s hurting the most: the young woman who comes to Bar F (sorry, just can’t type that without smirking) or the fairy boy who’s delegated to help her? Oh – and have I mentioned the private school which four of our fairies attend in their handsome high school disguises? It’s called Et Fran de Muse Academy (eh?) and all the students chorus a school song of unbelievable tweeness (compare and contrast with the bloodthirsty school song of Demon Academy Babyls attended by Iruma-kun). There even seem to be pet white kids (baby goats) frolicking around the rose-arboured grounds. I keep waiting for Fotherington Thomas to skip in from the pages of Molesworth, declaiming, “Hullo clouds, hullo sky!” On the plus side, each magical battle scene takes place against a strikingly surreal art background (Episode 3 animates Hokusai’s famous Wave) taking the conflict into a visually intriguing place. The elephant in the room? The fairy transformations result in highly suggestive poses, bondage gear (we even had a tentacle attack in Episode 3) and each fairy hero delivering their own character song. Tentacles; bondage gear; fairy wings – this show has got the lot! What new perversion will feature next time? (Retires hastily to a darkened room to recover.) Verdict: never a dull moment!
Out of several returning/continuing series, I’ve chosen Fruits Basket the Final, leaving Moriarty the Patriot and Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-Kun! (a welcome return for me, as I love this fantasy series). The big reveal at the end of Fruits Basket Season 2 Part 2 was that Akito, the feared ‘god’ at the head of the Soma clan is actually a young woman, not a man. Given that the manga finished in 2006, that’s no longer really a spoiler but it’s important information to bear in mind going into the third and final season of the TV series. Because the more we see of Akito, the more we realize that beneath the cruel and manipulative exterior she presents to her clan, she’s an abused and needy child, damaged by her unbalanced mother, the sultry Ren. And abused children run the risk of growing into abusive adults and tragically repeating the pattern of behaviour they’ve learned. But is it time for the unhealthy atmosphere hanging like a dark cloud over the clan behind its walls to be finally dispersed and the cursed Zodiac children finally set free – even their god herself? The images of the characters that accompany the ED “Haru Urara” by GENIC (specially drawn by the mangaka Natsuki Takaya herself for the final season) radiate happiness. But can that dream of happiness be achieved? Will Tohru discover the way to release them all from the curse? She knows that Kureno, once the bird, is already free, and the imagery of the threads of a tightly woven cord gradually beginning to unravel is appearing more often. These are must-watch episodes for any fan of Fruits Basket as they’ve never been animated before and TMS Entertainment are doing an excellent job, as are both Japanese and US casts of voice actors. I found myself on the edge of my seat for the most recent episode (#4: Welcome Home) in which the drama was cranked up to 11.
Backflip!! and Fairy Ranmaru are available to stream on Crunchyroll and Fruits Basket the Final is available on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Funimation (dubbed).
We’ve had one really strong season already and Spring is already looking to be throwing more heavy hitters our way. It’s rare for me to get invested in so many shows at once, but there’s honestly so much variety in what’s available this time round that it’s not wrong to say there is something for everyone.
The World Ends With You was always on my radar when it got announced last year, I’ve been invested in the IP since the game got released back on the Nintendo DS in 2008, and still stands as one of my favourite games of all time, so you could imagine I was going in pretty hyped for this. For those new to the series. The World Ends With You (or TWEWY, as I’ll shorten it to from here) follows the story of Neku, as he finds himself waking up in Shibuya – right in the middle of the Reapers game, with no memory of where he’s come from, why he’s there and who he is. The aim of the Reapers game is to survive for 7 days, but you cannot make it past Day 1 without a partner. Neku forms a quick yet uneasy bond with a girl known as Shiki, who is always carrying a plush called Mr Mew (or Nyan-tan, depending on which version you are accustomed to).
Right off the bat, I knew at the very least I’d be happy with the music and art direction for the show. Square Enix have gone out of their way to ensure the style and vibrant colours of the game are captured here in full, while also bringing a lot of its iconic tracks from its urban-themed OST back such as Calling and Twister to build on the atmosphere. Sure, there is a little bit of CG used in this, but the art style really doesn’t lose much with that as it mixes more into something similar to cell-shaded graphics you see in games. This really helps for the action sequences in the first few episodes as well where it keeps it flowing pretty fluidly, without much loss of quality. So two thumbs up already.
Where I think this is brought down a little, is pacing, which was always a potential drawback when you turn a 40-50+ hour RPG into just a 12 episode series, and you see that the first arc is there and gone in the first three episodes. The pacing suited okay for the first episode, as it’s pretty fast-paced to begin with anyway, however the next couple of episodes power through the days a little quicker than I would have liked and don’t flesh out the alternate world of Shibuya in the Reapers game. The performances here by the voice actors are great, but I think more could be done, especially since this will include new content down the line. I fear that this is where it will really be brought down. I guess the question here would also be, is this just a gentle push to play the original game (a re-release with additional content went to several consoles in the last couple of years) so you can get the real meat of everything else going on? As it sometimes does feel that way. It’s going to be another where I think just a couple more episodes would have saved it more, but we’ll wait and see how the rest of the show goes. Definitely one to check out though if you wanted to see some of the world that I came to love way back in the day.
Until I saw someone mention it recently, I didn’t know of To Your Eternity or what it was about, only that it was the latest work from the author of A Silent Voice, Yoshitoka Oima. So naturally I was curious to see what she had created here. Let me say that, even if you didn’t feel like continuing with it afterwards, the first episode of this alone is a powerful watch. We don’t often get something that really makes an impression on you straight away with just one episode, but this does it and then some.
To Your Eternity tells the story of an entity sent down to earth in the form of an orb, so it could observe and learn from what it sees in its time there. When it comes down to earth, it first takes the form of a rock, where it stays for many years, until a dying wolf falls on top of it. The entity, with this on top of it, learns of the form and takes the shape of the wolf. Now able to walk, it returns to a small village in a frozen wasteland where there is a boy who lives alone. The wolf it took the form of, was the boy’s partner with whom he lived his life, waiting to hear from his family who had set out in search of new lands. From here, the story builds into the entity learning of life, of death and the many pains and beauties that life has to offer. It meets a girl later who is set to be sacrificed to protect the villages around from a legendary beast, and slowly begins to understand human life from there.
I say just the first episode is powerful on its own. You can tell where the story is going as you watch it unfold, but I don’t think you ever really are prepared for how everything happens. What’s more, the episode is carried by a solo performance from Reiji Kawashima (who plays the boy in the first episode). His ability to really show the character’s thoughts and feelings throughout his attempt to survive and stay sane, I would say, is stunning. You learn to understand his determination, his anguish, pain, laughter, all this in such a short space of time. I cannot recommend trying this out enough. It’s not for everyone, and it’s not an easy watch, but it’s worth giving a try.
Last on my list to watch out for is a little bit different. Though saying that, no two things here really are that similar this time round. ODDTAXI is a fascinating show. It’s probably the show that’s the most different as well, this season. As the name suggests, it follows Odokawa, a taxi-driver in Tokyo, who’s riddled with nightmares and insomnia. He’s cynical, sarcastic and keeps to himself, but this all makes for some superb dialogue between the characters. I should note as well that all the characters are anthropomorphic animals, which has been an interesting discussion point too.
My first thought was that the show comes across as “Hardboiled”, something I associate with a lot of older style detective shows from say, the 70s or 80s, maybe a little earlier too. Perhaps the better word for it is Noir? Everyone in the show has something to hide and nothing is exactly as it seems. You get sequences of just the radio playing where two comedians are complaining about their washed-up career in stand-up and how they are “telling the same jokes and nothing new”, while in others Odokawa is telling his passengers how much a waste of time social media followers are. It really helps to build on the charm of the character, but also just how “real” this world actually is. Odokawa is clearly a troubled individual, and we see him struggle with hints to his past and tackling insomnia throughout the first few episodes, but we also find out very quickly that he’s involved in the main plot of the show, the disappearance of a girl from his neighbourhood. From corrupt police working with gangs, to a darker look at this world’s Idol industry and social media, there is a lot that’s true to life in here, and it doesn’t shy away from it too. One particular moment I remember well from it so far is when Odokawa is visiting his doctor, Gorika (yes, he is a Gorilla), the two reminisce about cassette tapes and Bruce Springsteen. It’s a wonderful little conversation that also makes me realise my age (I think I still have some cassette tapes hidden away too) but really sets up some natural exchanges as well.
The opening and ending really capture the tone here as well. As the episodes progress ( I’ve watched the first three episodes so far), you get the oldish style R&B with a good bit of saxophone that feels that it caters to that “Noir” vibe I mentioned earlier, while the ending credits feel like an old school idol group song, fitting the idol group in the show as well and their side of the story. So far the two sides have only really seen a little interaction, however it’s clear that there is more to all of this and I’m really curious to see what links it all up.
Overall ODDTAXI is probably my biggest highlight of the season to date, so I think it’s definitely worth a dive into if you get the chance. If anything, you’ll be left wondering two things: 1) Are the characters being anthropomorphic animals just the setting or is it to do with Odokawa’s mental state? And 2) What would Bruce Springsteen’s anthropomorphic counterpart be in this version of the world?
To Your Eternity and OddTAXI are available to stream on Crunchyroll, and The World Ends With You is available to stream on Funimation.