Summer 2022 Preview – the Rise of HIDIVE
Spring 2022 turned out to be a strong season, with several highly addictive series such as Spy x Family, Birdie Wing and Kaguya-Sama. But in spite of the plethora of titles making their debuts and returning series in the Summer Season, there seems to be very little so far that comes remotely near any of these Spring titles in terms of watchability or originality. Have we become a little jaded at Anime UK News? Or is this just a rather weak season?
I do not consider RWBY to be an anime. I know that sounds hypocritical since I’ve reviewed the first 5 volumes for this very site, but when you get given the chance to review something you enjoy on a site you love, you’re not exactly going to turn it down are you? But no, RWBY isn’t an anime; it’s made by Western animation studio, with a Western audience in mind, and the staff behind it (anime fans they may be) are also mostly from America. But as the saying goes, sometimes you got to fake it to make it, and look where we are now! RWBY Ice Queendom is an anime based upon RWBY and in case you were wondering, no this isn’t based upon the manga version that also retold the story from the beginning, this anime is an alternative retelling with some changes made and new additions to the lore and cast. The first 3 episodes (all edited into one video) are now up on Crunchyroll and Rooster Teeth, but each episode is about 20 minutes long, so they’re longer than the standard episode of RWBY was back when it first launched. The story is very much the same from the original, for the most part, but for at least the first 2 parts I very much liked what they did to make it noticeably different from the Rooster Teeth version. They first used elements from the Red, Yellow, Black and White trailers to flesh out Part 1 and introduce the characters individually before bringing them together as a team. Then they made a conscious effort to make the world building and lore feel more tangible; characters that said they knew each other in the original but never met (Ozpin and Ruby’s dad) do in fact talk to each other in this version, and some conversations that happened in the original that slowed down the pace with lore dumping, are cut in the anime and instead are shown visually. I also liked the new elements introduced: the new character Shion is a non-binary hunter with a unique weapon design and the new Grim they’re hunting is also different to what we’ve seen before.
In fact, I was very happy with this anime version…until Part 3 where it starts to go wrong. Part 3 tries to cram 9 episodes of RWBY Volume 1 into 20 mins on top of giving the first look at the new Grim and how to battle it within Jaune’s nightmare, which I think they did WAY too soon. I understand why: to quickly establish to long-time RWBY fans that this is a new version and to keep watching, but the fight relies on the bonds between Team JNPR to fight the Grim, and since this version cuts a lot of the smaller scenes that introduce some of the members individually and they haven’t had a chance to bond as a team, it comes across as incredibly flat. Also, I am baffled that they cut the Penny fight from this version; one minute she’s introduced, we cut away and then cut back to find she’s somehow won the fight! I thought the video skipped on me!
Overall, RWBY Ice Queendom has a lot of potential, but I hope the third episode isn’t a sign of what the whole series is going to be, because otherwise what’s the point of going for a beautifully animated, newly paced and rewritten story if you’re just going to fast forward to the ending?
RWBY Ice Queendom is currently streaming on Crunchyroll
It would be wrong of me to start this segment without excitedly yelling about the fact that Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? is back on our screens with Season 4 this Summer. Having started later than the other shows, we’ve only seen Episode 1 so far (plus a recap episode prior to the season starting), but I’m just happy to see these characters again as anime studio J.C Staff begins adapting one of my favourite arcs in the series so far. But enough fangirling, let’s take a look at the new shows I’m enjoying!
First up we have Call of the Night, an anime adaptation handled by studio LIDEN FILMS (Midnight Occult Civil Servants, Otherside Picnic) which follows the story of Kou Yamori who can’t sleep and wanders the streets of his town after dark. One day he meets Nazuna Nanakusa, a vampire who invites him to spend time with her at night provided she gets to snack on his blood occasionally! Yamori being fed-up with his normal everyday life of going to school and living in the daytime, becomes interested in the idea of becoming a vampire himself and is undeterred when Nazuna reveals that to become a vampire you must fall in love with the one who will turn you!
I’ve been following the manga (available through VIZ Media) and I have to say that the beginning of this series is consistently a low point for me. Kou and Nazuna are great characters and their jabs and taunts are fun to watch, but right now it’s simply a comedy, whereas later it grows more of a central plot and brings in more characters. So if you don’t enjoy the first couple of episodes I’d encourage you to give it a little more rope. But if nothing else, this one is worth watching for the voice work (Sora Amamiya is in the lead role of Nazuna!) and the stunning animation, which brings the night-time setting to life. I’ve always enjoyed projects handled by LIDEN FILMS, but this one has the added bonus of having director Tomoyuki Itamura (who has various Monogatari projects and The Case Study of Vanitas to their name) on-board, who injects some of that interesting SHAFT style into the project. A lot of how Nazuna and Kou’s interactions are framed is very similar to Monogatari and how the protagonist of that series interacts with the world around him, which is fun to watch if you’re a fan of the director’s work elsewhere!
My second pick this season is Lycoris Recoil, an anime-original project from A-1 Pictures (Sword Art Online, 86). This one is set in a peaceful Japan where a secret organization called “DA – Direct Attack” operate in the background, preventing crime. Our story focuses on the Café LycoReco branch of the organisation which is home to one of the strongest agents, Chisato Nishikigi. Chisato has her work cut out for her when she’s partnered with Takina Inoue who has been transferred from headquarters after disobeying orders on an important mission. Takina is moody and simply wants to prove herself and return to HQ, but can spending time with Chisato change her view of the world and the missions she undertakes?
I have to say that of everything I’ve watched this season, Lycoris Recoil has one of the best opening episodes, thanks to a focus on impressive action scenes and an impressive sense of style. Two more episodes later and the show continues to impress, even if things have slowed down a little bit to explore more of the setting. It’s helped greatly by the friendship blossoming between Chisato and Takina, who are complete opposites in personality and complement one another because of it. Chisato is your happy-go-lucky overpowered heroine with a cheeky attitude, but while that would normally come off as quite shallow in this series there is a real sense of depth to her character. I have my fingers crossed that this one doesn’t disappoint as the weeks go on, since it certainly had the best start and therefore has the most to lose…
My final recommendation for the season is (surprise surprise) an isekai series – Black Summoner. This one is based on a light novel series (available through J-Novel Club) and follows protagonist Kelvin who wakes up in a new world and discovers he traded his memories of Japan away in exchange for overpowered abilities in his new world. His abilities include having the job class Summoner, which is a rarity here and also gives him the ability to partner with some powerful monsters (and even the goddess who handled his transfer to this world from Earth!).
Only two episodes have aired at the time of writing and so far they’re not offering anything original, but with animation from studio Satelight (Fairy Tail, Log Horizon) the series at least looks really nice. If you don’t mind the same old tropes of the genre then I think you’ll get a kick out of this, not least because Kelvin’s battle-junkie personality will ensure plenty of crazy battles to come! Having kept up with the light novels, I can say that the characters he adds to his party along the way are also all fairly interesting, even if somewhat stereotypical. Black Summoner isn’t perfect but it is fun.
Call of the Night is available on HIDIVE while Lycoris Recoil and Black Summoner are both available on Crunchyroll.
This season sees a mix of new titles and continuations, one of which comes nine years after its initial first season! It’s also nice seeing HIDIVE get so many titles.
The Yakuza’s Guide to Babysitting provides a nice dose of wholesomeness with its story of a crime boss’ daughter, Yaeka, and her caretaker Tooru Kirishima, better known as “The Demon of Sakuragi”. Despite the backdrop of a crime family, the series has so far focused more on Yaeka coming to terms with her surroundings with a father who is often distant (though actually cares a lot for his daughter) and a mother who is in intensive care. It’s with this situation that Kirishima and others fill in the gaps, providing Yaeka with the attention and care she needs, and I’m expecting some emotional happenings in the future.
Chimimo is a series I imagine might end up being overlooked amongst the selection of titles on offer this season but provides an unexpected yet fun comedy outing. The premise sees Jikogu-san, a demon from hell end up in modern day Japan, namely via the household of Onigami sisters Mei, Hazuki and Mutsumi, with whom he becomes a freeloading housemate.
Accompanying Jikogu is an army of little dumpling-like beings known as Chimimo and they’re very much the mascots for the series. So far they haven’t been too obstructive in their cuteness and the stories have been quite fun, though the recent episode did step into slightly more adult territories, dealing with a wormhole into hell and casual workplace harassment – this was however accompanied by a lighter segment involving stolen chocolates. I’m curious to see what scenarios pop up next.
I’ll also give a shout out to Overlord IV which has wasted no time in showcasing more of the political machinations and intrigue that make it an engaging watch, and also the remake series Tokyo Mew Mew New~♡ which will hopefully improve upon the initial adaptation of the series.
Overlord IV & The Yakuza’s Guide to Babysitting are available to steam on Crunchyroll whilst Chimimo and Tokyo Mew Mew New~♡ are available on HIDIVE.
With everything that used to be split between Funimation and Crunchyroll being folded under Sony’s banner now, we are beginning to see the emergence of Sentai’s HIDIVE platform as a serious competitor in the market rather than just picking up the scraps, particularly after they were acquired themselves by the US media company AMC. My main picks this time around are Sentai licenses, with one big title and the other filling a niche I’m happy that Sentai certainly seem to be buying into.
Let’s tackle the latter first as we dig into Tokyo Mew Mew New, the new adaptation of the classic early noughties magical girl series, animated by Yumeta Company and Graphinica. Set in modern Japan, the main plot focuses on schoolgirl Ichigo Momomiya, who, while out on a date at an endangered species exhibit with her crush Masaya Aoyama, gets caught up in a mysterious incident. After being fired upon with a mysterious beam of light and attacked by a gigantic rat monster, Ichigo finds she can transform into a magical cat girl with superhuman powers. She is now one of the Mew Mews, girls who have been infused with the DNA of some of the planet’s endangered animals by the mysterious individuals Ryou Shirogane and Keiichiro Akasaka, who are trying to protect the world from a group of aliens that are taking over Earth’s animals and making them into Chimera Anima. As they can’t fight them themselves, it is now up to Ichigo, along with the other four Mew Mew girls, to fight the Chimera Anima and protect the Earth from the invading aliens.
This is a series that I’ve been looking forward to, as while I’ve seen bits and pieces of the original back when it was on the satellite channel Pop Girl back in the day, I never really followed the series to its conclusion or checked out the manga. My first impressions so far pretty much line up with what I remember from back then though, it being a fun and goofy cartoon full of bright and colourful characters and cool magical girl fights against monsters. We are still early on though and these opening episodes have been more about setting the scene and introducing all the main characters, and honestly it has been doing it well, already showcasing not only good comedy in some funny moments with Ichigo, but also plenty of heart when it introduces the third Mew Mew, Lettuce, a lonely girl who is being completely taken advantage of by her classmates.
It’s very much a “traditional” magical girl show though, and definitely feels aimed more towards young teenage girls with its romance angle, but while it may come off as niche compared to the darker post-Madoka stuff, I think it still can be appreciated for its ability to both educate and entertain with its ecological message, carrying it in a way that isn’t too preachy, while its monster-of-the-week format offers the chance to showcase some good fights and show off each Mew Mew’s specific powers.
Animation-wise it looks okay so far as well, and I think it’s avoided Sailor Moon Crystal’s problem of trying to be too ambitious in changing things up – the artwork is solid and there’s no dodgy CGI here, and while the character designs are different, they’re faithful enough to the originals to be recognisable, just with a modern twist.
So far then all is looking good for this modern adaptation of a magical girl classic. If you’re a fan of the genre then you’re probably already watching this, but if you’re not it’s definitely worth a look.
My other pick is Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun. The second season of Kinema Citrus’ adaptation of Akihito Tsukushi’s manga follows directly on from its movie instalment Dawn of the Deep Soul, and sees Reg, Riko, Nanachi, Meinya and Prushka enter the sixth layer of The Abyss – the Capital of the Unreturned.
This season pulls some interesting moves and decides to tell two stories in parallel, introducing us to a new range of characters whom we see come from across the seas to enter The Abyss and find the Golden City in the past, and end up becoming the Hollows that our gang meet in the opening couple of episodes. Something like this can be difficult to pull off, but so far, it’s proving to be fascinating viewing as everything throws up so many questions that need answering, and as this is The Abyss after all, nothing is as it actually seems, and death for our adventurers could be just around the corner.
The series is still visually stunning and it’s great to see Kinema Citrus still putting in the work to show off the Abyss is a beautiful and deadly world, but it also does up some of the grossness at times, so a fair warning in case you’re averse to seeing things pooping in a lift. Kevin Penkin also returns on soundtrack duty which already sounds incredible, following on nicely from the work he has done for the series so far. It’s also a nice touch he has took to highlighting on social media the musicians that bring his work to life, because as he says on Twitter “without them [he’s] just a guy in a room”.
Made in Abyss has definitely become one of my favourites over the past few years and I’m looking forward to seeing how this latest chapter in Riko and Reg’s adventures unfolds. If you haven’t seen the rest of the series yet, I’d say it’s definitely a good time to jump on board and catch up as it sure feels like it’s going to go to some crazy places this season.
Tokyo Mew Mew New and Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun are both streaming on HIDIVE.
Two facts caught my eye about Shine On! Bakumatsu Bad Boys: the first, that the anime-original story is yet another variation on a Shinsengumi theme (Peacemaker, Hakuoki and Touken Ranbu) and the second, that the character designs are unmistakably by Shaman King mangaka Hiroyuki Takei. But, three episodes in, it’s still a little difficult to tell whether the Shinsengumi-themed plot is inspired or just a rather clichéd way to spice up a formulaic show. The set-up? The legendary Shinsengumi are dead – all except Heisuke Todo who has survived the final battle with unknown adversaries but is horribly maimed. He has, however, gathered all his fallen comrades’ katanas. He seeks out seven criminals condemned to die and offers them another chance at life – if they each agree to take on the katana and the soul of the dead warrior who originally wielded it to help him to continue the mission of the Shinsengumi and avenge their deaths.
Ichibanboshi, the red-haired (natch!) main character, is out to avenge the death of his parents – and though he’s full of talk, he hasn’t got the sword skills to wield his katana effectively. But he’s been given the blade that belonged to the leader of the Shinsengumi, Isami Kondo – and the spirit of Kondo possesses him when danger looms. The (not so magnificent) seven are colour-coded: the blue-haired one, Sakuya, is an assassin for hire: Akira, the pink-haired one is a sword-master and the only female in the group; Bo, the vast, yellow-haired one who’s constantly hungry is a calligrapher who wields a giant brush etc.) so the coding can, I guess, be overlooked as an anime/manga standard to help us work out who’s who. Thus far, the series is intriguing enough to hold the attention and moves at a suitably speedy rate for an action adventure and by Episode 3 the plot is starting to become rather more twisty. Neat touches are the wielding of unconventional weapons by this rag-tag bunch of Shinsengumi wannabes: bombs; a rifle – and an electrified priest’s khakkhara/staff for Gyataro (the purple-haired lapsed priest). So, a promising venture from Geno Studio (Golden Kamuy) which stands out from the crowd of isekai and Rent-a-Girlfriend lookalikes this season. (Okay, I confess, I’ll watch anything with the Shinsengumi in it!)
Yurei Deco also deserves attention – but I have to confess that, even after three episodes, I don’t feel I’ve seen enough from Science SARU’s latest series to be able to offer a cogent opinion! There’s a great deal of world-building on this futuristic, colourful Tom Sawyer Island, with characters called Hack, Berry and Finn (and it’s a long time since I read Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn so I’m not sure how much I’m missing in the way of allusions). Gatchaman Crowds (which I reviewed for Anime UK News) has been referred to by other reviewers and I can see why, as there are similarities, with VR, ocular implants and much more besides. But I feel I need to watch more episodes before I can get some kind of understanding of what’s going on. It’s a wild trip. Go see for yourselves!
The stand-out new anime for me, even after only three episodes, is Season 2 of the deliciously creepy Shadows House. From the first compelling notes of the new OP “Shall We Dance?” by ReoNA, we’re drawn once more into the shadowy corridors and sooty recesses of the great mansion where Kate Shadow and her living doll/servant, Emilico live. At the end of the first season, Kate and Emilico made their formal debut and, alongside some of the other Shadow children (and their living dolls) who also passed the punishing tests (more of an ordeal), are now free to mix with the older Shadows in the household. But now a mysterious cape-shrouded figure has been seen flitting about the mansion – and the terrifying Scorches, soot creatures, are on the attack. Something is distinctly rotten in the House of Shadows – but who is behind the mischief and destruction? Kate, aided by the resourceful Emilico, is determined to find out more – but she must be very careful when it’s so hard to tell who is her ally in the family, and who is her enemy.
All the elements that made the first season a success are still here: the atmospheric musical score by Kenichiro Suehiro (Re:ZERO, Golden Kamuy) enhances the feelings of unease as we follow Emilico and Kate through the mansion – as do the quirky conversations between the Shadow family members in which it seems everyone has a hidden agenda. The relationship between Emilico and Kate is fascinating too, more a growing friendship than a simple mistress-maid arrangement. The ED, “Masquerade” by ClariS is beautiful and strange, depicting a moonlit encounter between two of the Shadow family. The magic systems and the world-building that the mangaka duo Somato have created linger long in the viewer’s mind after the episode has finished, like the very best fantasy. Recommended viewing!
As the concept of a quarterly season of new anime series becomes more and more fluid, we’re aware at Anime UK News that some shows have still to start or have only just started that we’re keen to watch: reverse-reverse isekai Uncle from Another World has only recently begun on Netflix and Kamen Rider spin-off Fuuto PI has a start date of July 31st on Crunchyroll. So perhaps we’ll be adding these to our initial choices! Let us know which series have caught your attention.