Crunchyroll swallowed Funimation up whole! We knew something was coming (Sony) but who would have expected it all to get underway halfway through the Winter Season? March 1st dawned, Saint David’s Day – and suddenly the world of anime streaming changed forever. With series transferring over and the promise of all the Spring Season titles premiering on Crunchyroll, that leaves just a few of the Funi-exclusive Winter anime at the end of their runs. Now the last episodes have aired of Futsal Boys, Sasaki and Miyano, Requiem of the Rose King and Tribe Nine, what will become of them then? (Stop Press: Requiem of the Rose King has just shown up on Crunchyroll, ready, one assumes for the second part of its run.)
Before we reach that momentous day, we’ve been looking back and asking which Winter series have lived up to their initial promise? Which ones did our writers start – and then drop? Which ones came from out of nowhere to seduce us? Join us for a look-back at our favourites/recommendations – and let us know which series entertained you right up to the final episodes too!
Requiem has been an intriguing series so far. The loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays has so far focused on the earlier years of the future Richard III, with the second half of the story following the older Richard as he slowly makes his way to the throne. He’s certainly been an engrossing character, and you can take your pick of how you want him depicted, whether he be voiced in Japanese by Mitsuki Saiga in Japanese, or by the non-binary British actor Ciarán Strange in the English version (see AUKN’s interview with Strange).
Richard’s turmoil as he comes into conflict with the Lancastrians as well as members of his own family sees the character go through all sorts of drama. His own mother despises Richard, calling the intersex offspring “demon child”, while his middle brother George launches a rebellion against oldest brother Edward IV – not forgetting Richard’s complex relationship with Henry, a man whom at first he fails to realise is the Lancastrian King Henry VI. Richard’s intersex nature also adds to mysterious nature of the story, and things are only going to get even more bizarre as those of us who have been reading the original manga will testify.
In terms of negatives, there have been some less-than-approving comments on the fact that the background characters in the series are just left as featureless figures, which does feel somewhat lazy, especially when you compare it to the more colourful scenes in which Richard is tormented by the ghost of Joan of Arc, but the story has kept me going and I am going to continue watching the second half. I’m just not sure on what platform yet, given the whole Crunchyroll/Funimation thing. [It looks as if it will be available on both. Ed.}
The other series I’ve been watching this season has been the post-apocalyptic Sabikui Bisco. This first series has adapted the entire first volume of the original light novel (see Demelza’s review) rather than covering multiple editions, and thus the entire thing has wrapped up nicely, but I do hope more series will be coming in the future. Let’s be honest, a light novel series not set in an isekai feels like a bit of a novelty these days.
The story, set in a Japan that due to a destructive weapon has turned into a rusty desert, is admittedly typical shonen storytelling, with the boisterous Bisco Akaboshi (“The Man-Eating Mushroom”) and mild-mannered Milo Nekoyanagi (“Dr. Panda”) going on an adventure to find a special mushroom that can cure the deadly rust that poisons people in this land, hoping to cure Bisco’s mentor Jabi and Milo’s sister Pawoo. As the story progresses, we learn of a government conspiracy which is trying to spread the rust further to make more money from the medicines they sell.
Having seen both the anime and read the original book, I find the action sequences in Sabikui Bisco do feel better when they are acted out on screen, as does the extraordinary wildlife in this new world. As well as Bisco and Milo travelling across Japan on a giant crab named Actagawa, we also see snails as aeroplanes, flying fugu fish and a cannon in the form of a live elephant.
Arguably you could say the story is lacking some originality in that it does feel so typically shonen, and there are some scenes which make for uncomfortable viewing, especially one in which Pawoo is tortured on live television by the story’s villain in order to provoke Milo, but overall Sabikui Bisco was entertaining and I plan to continue reading the novels.
Requiem of the Rose King and Sabikui Bisco are currently streaming (subbed and dubbed) on Funimation and Crunchyroll.
After being disappointed by the Autumn 2021 season, I was glad to see the return of some of my favourite shows to offset the hesitation of starting new series. Part 2 of How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, The Case Study of Vanitas and Princess Connect certainly proved themselves the same lovable anime they were in their first outings. However, these weren’t the only shows I enjoyed as Sasaki and Miyano, My Dress-Up Darling, Love of Kill, and The Strongest Sage with the Weakest Crest all ended up memorable too. Truly this season proved way better for adaptations than most of 2021!
So when it came to picking my choices for this article I found myself spoilt for choice, but ultimately I settled on returning to two series I am especially fond of, thanks to both their anime and source material. First up is The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt, which follows Prince Wein who is always looking for a way to sell off his kingdom and instead brings various states of glory to it. Unlike How A Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom which focuses on the nitty-gritty of politics, Genius Prince is far more comedic and action-oriented although it still has some interesting things to say about running a kingdom.
Now as someone who has been reading the light novels (available from Yen Press), I was somewhat horrified to watch the anime speed through 6 (!) volumes in 12 episodes. But to their credit, the anime team have somehow managed to adapt half a book and still make it coherent to people not familiar with the material which is something that deserves praise. Instead of flashy animation, the team focused on Wein’s comedy potential and doubled down on bringing some of the more ridiculous moments of the series to the forefront, which I think worked out well. I certainly had a great time watching the anime, despite my misgivings about the amount of content crammed in, thanks to the strength of the characters, whom you’ll quickly find yourself cheering for. I’d still recommend viewers to go read the book if they have enjoyed the anime, but even if you’re not interested in doing so, this is still well worth a watch. There aren’t a lot of series like it coming out right now, which helps it stand out from the crowd of isekai.
My second choice is 86, which was technically an Autumn series but ended up having its last two episodes delayed to March because of some production issues. After being left on an emotional cliffhanger for two months, I was eager to see the show return and it certainly rewarded viewers for all the time spent waiting. Upon its return, 86 quickly wrapped up the battle the cast had been embroiled in and then ventured into an emotional reunion when Lena returned to our screens (having been rather absent in Part 2).
Readers of the light novels knew Lena would be back, given the epilogue of Volume 1, but anime-only viewers had been left in the dark, thanks to A-1 choosing to skip the epilogue. This is a decision that led to some of the most emotional scenes in the entire series, helped along by the studio choosing to tweak some scenes here and there. Even if this is it for the 86 anime (and I certainly hope it will return for more!) I think fans will be satisfied because this has been a thoughtful adaption that was not only true to the original but built on its foundations in interesting ways with anime-original content. It’s the kind of treatment I’m sure we want all of our favourite anime to get. This is also the best stopping place the series has had for quite some time, so it served as a better conclusion than any other arc would have done. I definitely highly recommend checking it out if you’ve found yourself intrigued by the premise at any point, but be warned that if you get into it, you may not be able to put it down until you’ve watched every episode…
The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt is currently available on Funimation, while 86 is on Crunchyroll.
Attack on Titan’s final episodes are what I talked about in the preview a few months ago, but it seems we’re not actually at the end yet! Still, the show has moved ever closer to the big finale and has provided some fun moments.
First off, I doubt I was alone in assuming Eren Yeager, our main protagonist, wasn’t actually on board with the plan to euthanise his own people as the new lead villain, and certainly within a few episodes, that was revealed not to be the case, but happily it didn’t stop him from potentially still being the series’ current antagonist. As the new opening shows and indeed tells you, Eren finally starts “The Rumbling”, releasing a massive army of colossal Titans on the unsuspecting world outside of his own island home with the plan of committing genocide on all of them before they can potentially commit it on his own people. Logical, if not completely insane.
During the course of this revelation we see several flashbacks dating all the way back to how the Titans were first created, which was great fun. Eren’s actions have now caused his friends to team up with old foes in order to cross the vast ocean and stop him. The different opinions and ideologies of those born on the Island and those from the mainland have made for some really great and tense conversations as they try to find common ground to take on their new enemy, and have really rammed home that no matter how absolutely crazy the plot can get, there is still room for a bit of real-world reflection.
So I’m once again looking forward to seeing how the whole show ends, still adamantly refusing to look up any manga spoilers until I get my animated finale, even if that now means waiting until 2023, seemingly!
Attack on Titan is currently streaming (subbed and dubbed) on Funimation and Crunchyroll.
Sasaki and Miyano, Salaryman’s Club, Sabikui Bisco, Saiyuki Reload -ZEROIN – all my favourites this season begin with ‘Sa’ – what’s going on?
Sasaki and Miyano has stayed true to its original concept of depicting a slow-burn love developing between two high school boys. I confess that I scoffed a bit at one of the terms originally given to the manga at the suggestion of the manga’s first editor: ‘Boys’ Life’ rather than ‘Boys’ Love’– but as we reach the end of the anime, there’s no denying that the series delivers a realistic and charming depiction of the everyday school lives of a group of boys, with the banter (mostly goodhearted) and chatting about food, girlfriends (or lack of them) seasoned with stressing over exams and the usual landmarks of the school year: sports day, cultural festival, graduation…
Yet there’s a cloud looming over the nascent relationship between senpai and kohai: Sasaki is a third year and will be graduating soon. Can a friendship that’s not yet deepened into anything more profound survive when one half of the relationship has moved on into adult life/uni? How many high school-based romances survive when schooldays together come to an end and the lovers go their separate ways?
All the way through, fujoshi Miyano has loudly denied wanting to be part of a BL-style relationship, like the ones he reads about and shares with Sasaki. But Sasaki is struggling to hold himself back – he’s totally smitten. In the OP and the charming (duet) ED the anime shows us two young men who are very much at ease in each other’s company. How very different from the adolescent gang wars of Tokyo Revengers or the baka antics of The Daily Life of High School Boys!
The animation has been very faithful to the original manga by Shou Harusono, not only in dialogue but in the overall look and character designs, capturing the attractive freshness of her art and her skill for depicting what her characters are feeling through their facial expressions. Everything, including the sympathetic musical score by Kana Shibue (Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū) and the drifts of pastel-coloured confetti that waft across the screen like windblown petals whenever emotions intensify, helps to contribute to the atmosphere. And, a note of level-headed realism from third-year Hanzawa (whose older brothers have recently come out to their family) when he quietly reminds Miyano that not everyone will be as accepting and supportive of his relationship with Sasaki as his friends seem to be.
The good news? The announcement at the end of this series that there’s more anime to come – although the format has yet to be announced. There’s plenty more original material to adapt, including the spin-off about Hirano and Kagiura, so it’s really heartening to see a well-made, thoughtful BL anime being renewed.
The hidden treasure: Salaryman’s Club (Ryman’s Club). This late-starting series (Crunchyroll) is trailing four weeks behind the others but is one of the most enjoyable sports/slice-of-life series I’ve watched since Run with the Wind. It’s a simple set-up: Mikoto Shiratori, a promising but reserved young badminton player, is ignominiously fired by Mitsuhoshi Bank – but then hired by Sunlight Beverage so he can play for the firm’s team. Mikoto is taken under the wing of outward-going, irrepressibly cheerful Tatsuru Miyazumi who becomes his doubles partner. Mikoto learns the ropes of the beverage business (he has a liking for the firm’s Natto Cola?!) and proposes a new drink: green onion ginger ale. His idea is adopted and now he and his team members find themselves working to promote the new beverage as well as competing against other firms on the badminton court. It’s not all plain sailing, of course, and Mikoto has to face up to some difficult issues of his own – as do all the other members of his team.
What makes this series stand out where so many other recent sports anime have failed? (Futsal Boys!!!!!, for example). Well, it’s a pleasant change to have a series about adults, not school students. It’s cleverly scripted – and the badminton matches are exciting to watch. (It really helps to have good animation for a sports anime when it counts.) The characterization is engaging and there are some genuinely funny moments (check out Mikoto’s 20th birthday celebrations in Episode 3 when he drinks beer for the first time). There are also tensions and hidden stresses: Mikoto has a dark incident on court in his past that’s haunting him – and the series deals with it in an interesting way, rather than going for the usual approach. The green onion ginger ale plot strand is fascinating – who’d have thought it? – and there’s a nice mother/son tension as when Mikoto decides to move back home for his new job, mum coolly informs him that he can’t as she’s given his room to her new pet iguana… This is sports anime for grown-ups in the best sense and comes highly recommended!
In spite of its idyllic scenery, lovingly depicted by the design team in a retro children’s picture-book style, Ranking of Kings has revealed all the grimness of an unexpurgated Grimms’ fairy tale with an underlying mythology complete with an underworld kingdom, giants (not titans!) and one truly malevolent red devil. Betrayals, double-crossings, bargains with the devil, the curse of being granted immortality and much, much more have been incorporated – too much, really, as latter episodes began to buckle under the weight of additional characters and material. The final episode felt unbalanced to me, compared with the ones that had gone before, with an obvious desire to hastily tie up several plotlines, yet leave everything open for a sequel. But it seems churlish to complain when the series has delivered some truly breath-taking animation sequences and created a very likable pair of friends in young Prince Bojji and Kage. Yet I hear that there’s not enough manga yet for a whole second series… so it could be quite a while.
And Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy Knockout? Twelve episodes of isekai send-up fronted by a likable bromance/childhood friends pair. Did I mention that one of them is gender-swapped, thanks to the ditsy goddess who sends them to another world? Fun (mostly) with a heart – and a great OP and ED.
Sasaki and Miyano is still available on Funimation (the dub’s good!). Salaryman’s Club, Ranking of Kings (subbed and dubbed) and Total Fantasy Knockout (subbed) are streaming on Crunchyroll.
As another anime season comes to a close, I’ve looked back at the anime I’ve watched and selected a few highlights that stood out for me.
Slow Loop is a relaxing and endearing slice-of-life story revolving around a group of friends who bond over their love of fishing. Having previously enjoyed a series called Diary of our Days at the Breakwater a few seasons back, this was a title I gravitated towards and looked forward to each Friday it aired.
Police in a Pod is similarly a slice-of-life anime but one that deals with mature and dark subject matters through its setting in a police department. The leads Mai Kawai and Seiko Fuji make for a contrasting pair whose bond offers a nice anchoring for the series as inexperience and experience meet to deal with tasks that range from simple patrols to apprehending abductors with deplorable desires.
The story also doesn’t shy away from the more mundane side of this workplace and the attention to detail from the original creator Miko Yasu, who was an actual officer for ten years, really help to add realism to the lighter comedic parts.
Both Police in a Pod and Slow Loop are currently available to stream on Funimation.
This winter season has had some absolute gems that are potentially anime of the year contenders, and my absolute favourite has been My Dress-Up Darling. I’ve just had an immense amount of fun seeing Wakana and Marin’s relationship go from cosplay buddies to a couple in all but name, and it has just struck the right balance between horny, sweet, and cheesy. I often struggle with romantic comedies that try to be too sugary sweet or idealistic, so I was glad that the development of their relationship seemed pretty natural as they just have a grand old time doing cosplay stuff together. The attraction between the two is obvious, and it hits all the right comedic notes as they get embarrassed over getting all horny for each other (the love hotel scene in particular was absolute gold as you could just see it coming).
It gets a lot of other things right too, with its core message of just enjoying what you like without judgement from anyone else being very obvious throughout the entire series, which is something that the target audience is really going to latch on to, being anime nerds and all. It also has a very knowledgeable and realistic, but also loving outlook on cosplay itself, and is clearly well researched from how the costumes are actually made, to faithfully replicating actual stores in Ikebukuro. It’s a bit of a love letter to the hobby and makes me wonder if the manga’s author has dabbled in it herself. It does focus less on the technical details in its second half as it turns more to the core relationships and friendships among its cast, but it still carries across the thrill of cosplaying your favourite characters well throughout.
No matter if you’re into cosplay or not, I’d highly recommend giving this one a go, as, despite its slightly horny reputation, this is a charming rom-com that was a joy to watch.
As Demelza mentioned, we’ve been kind-of spoiled for choice for good shows this season, but I think I’ll have to put one in for Princess Connect! Re:Dive Season 2. The first season of Cygame’s adaptation of their mobile game was a solid showing, following the fun adventures of the Gourmet Guild and its members Yuuki, Pecorine, Kokkoro and Karyl. Following on from its first season after they manage to defend Landosol from the giant Shadow X, we’re back to the usual business of searching for the world’s culinary delights. That is until the shadows start making a return and the gang stand at a crossroads as the fake Princess Eustiana puts her plans into motion, plunging Landosol into chaos once more.
This one falls into the same brand of isekai as shows like Konosuba, being an isekai comedy adventure, and is honestly the one I have jelled with the most, despite its origins of being a gacha game. The characters are fun, engaging, and easy to latch on to, the comedy is absolutely hilarious, and the animation is pretty incredible. Season 2 only builds on this, and I have to say CygamesPictures have really outdone themselves as this is by far the prettiest and most impressive thing from this season. Some of the battles on show here are insane, and that’s right from the get-go, not just for the finale, with the studio having a similar expert grasp on the use of CG effects that Ufotable is known for.
It’s not just that though, as the story here is really strong, and apart from the first few episodes or so, really focuses on the core narrative of Pecorine taking back the throne, which I felt really kept me going week-on-week. I don’t necessarily have the knowledge from the game, so I might be missing some of the background lore and finer details, but I still found it an easy-to-follow and very engaging story. The way things played out fitted perfectly into the Gourmet Guild ethos of just chilling out with a bunch of friends and having a good meal, so I felt pretty satisfied with the way it ended as well. My only real criticism is that those opening episodes aren’t quite as good at welcoming you back in as perhaps they should be, as I initially struggled to remember where we were at and took a couple of episodes to get back into things.
Overall though, if it is an hilarious and thrilling isekai adventure you want, then I’d highly recommend checking this one out to its conclusion as it’s definitely one of the best of the more light-hearted isekai bunch.
Both My Dress-Up Darling and Princess Connect! Re:Dive Season 2 are streaming on Crunchyroll.