Has 2024 got off to a good start when it comes to the Winter Season? It’s looking distinctly promising, with Bucchigiri?! the first new series from Hiroko Utsumi since Sk8 the Infinity, and the continuation of Frieren and The Apothecary Diaries. Mashle is back for Season 2 with what might be the catchiest – or the craziest – OP of the season. (Just don’t mention the isekai; there’s still a ton of it Out There, but is it all bad?) Never fear: the writers at Anime UK News are here to give their first picks of the new season!
The series I have been most excited about is A Sign of Affection, but as one of my lovely fellow reviewers is giving that the spotlight, I’ve decided to fall back onto my second choice: The Wrong Way to Use Healing Magic. Based on a light novel series by author Kurokata (published in English by One Peace Books) and adapted into anime by a partnership between Studio Add and Shin-Ei Animation, our story follows high-school student Usato who ends up summoned to another world when walking home with student council president Suzune and classmate Kazuki. Originally only Suzune and Kazuki were supposed to be summoned as heroes to fight the Demon King’s army, Usato was completely accidental due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Both Suzune and Kazuki have what it takes to be heroes with powerful magic, while Usato meanwhile is host to rare healing magic. Upon discovering this, the head of the Rescue Team, Rose, rushes over and drags him off to her headquarters where he’s quickly put through gruelling training to master his abilities and be able to put up a fight against the Demon King’s army. Meanwhile, the king looks on, fearing for Usato’s life as the Rescue Team has a terrible reputation for burning out new recruits…
On the whole, there’s not a great deal of originality here, but that’s okay because it’s fun. Despite having been an accidental summons, the kingdom treats Usato well and despite being in a different department to Suzune and Kazuki, he remains firm friends with them. When I reviewed Volume 1 of the light novel, I found Suzune and Kazuki fairly one-dimensional in terms of personality but I think the anime has done a good job of bringing them to life. Nothing here is mean-spirited and while the series may be stereotypical for the genre, I think if you like isekai then you’ll definitely enjoy watching this one. It’s a solid mix of characters you’ll enjoy spending time with and some not-amazing but perfectly serviceable animation from the studio which comes together to leave you with something that does justice to the source material, which is reassuring for both fans familiar with the work and newbies alike.
There are not as many returning series for me this season in comparison to the one just past and those that are, like Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside and Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki, seem intent on rushing through the source material, much to my dismay. However, there is one series I’m overjoyed to see return and that’s The Dangers in My Heart which is back for its second season.
I confess that when this first aired back in 2023, I was unimpressed with protagonist Ichikawa Kyotaro who is a troubled teenager with some unsavoury thoughts toward class idol Anna Yamada. Thankfully, after two or three episodes, these were scaled back and we were left with a solid romance series about these two middle-school students.
Throughout Season 1 we saw Ichikawa and Yamada get closer and begin to realise that they might have feelings for one another. So, when we pick the story back up here it’s no surprise that we’re continuing along that track. The two episodes so far have both been quite emotionally charged with our two main characters struggling to figure out where they stand now. Misunderstandings ensue, feelings are hurt, but in the end, there’s the sense that they’re two young people figuring out themselves and each other. This is still a highly relatable and enjoyable series with some absolutely gorgeous animation from the studio Shin-Ei Animation. Certainly, it’s easy to see why the manga now has over 3 million copies in circulation and why the anime has the highest global sales for a series in the NUMAnimation programming block ever.
Choosing a show for this category has been a little bit difficult for me as I’m overly familiar with a lot of the shows airing this time! But in the end, I’ve managed to whittle my selection down to Fluffy Paradise, a series that follows Midori who died as an overworked office lady in Japan and finds herself reborn in a fantasy world as Nema, the youngest daughter of a noble family. While she was being reincarnated, god tasked her with helping decide if the humans of this world should continue to exist and she was gifted with the power to be loved by all nonhuman creatures.
In the three episodes that have aired so far though, I’d say Nema’s goal has all been forgotten in favour of her making friends with any fluffy creatures she can find! Including the sacred beast that is supposed to only get on with members of the royal family… But she’s just a child, so for now the responsibilities put upon her can be ignored in favour of playtime and it’s heart-warming to watch her run around befriending anything she comes across – even if that’s troublesome for the adults! I’m not particularly sold on the concept of her god-given role anyway, so the less we see of that the better in my opinion.
This light novel series (available in English through Cross Infinite World) adapted into anime by EMT Squared isn’t going to be the best thing on this season by a long way, but if you’re looking for something chill to pass the time with and happen to love all things fluffy, then I’d recommend giving it a shot. It’ll be fun, even if not memorable.
A Sign of Affection is a manga I’ve been following since it’s print launch back in 2021, and so the announcement last year of its anime adaptation made me very excited. And if the anime is a sign (ha) of a year of anime to come, it’s going to be a cracking year, because the anime series is so far everything I wanted and more.
The romance series follows Yuki, a deaf student who has just started college and finds her life changed forever when she meets Itsuomi, an upper classman who can speak multiple languages and travels abroad frequently. Two people from completely different worlds, and yet find themselves drawn to each other. So far the anime follows the manga closely but uses the new medium incredibly well; like the colour palette gets warmer and brighter when Yuki sees Itsuomi, and there are key moments where the audience literally hears Yuki’s world, with only white noise as the soundtrack as she watches her friends talk and live out their daily lives. I wish that they pushed the audio switch up a bit more; in Episode 2 there’s a small scene where Yuki’s by herself watching birds, but the soundtrack is as you’d expect with bird sound effects and background score. It’s a small thing but I hope they don’t decide to drop the opening episode’s audio switch later, considering the manga (as of the latest volumes) continues to make it clear which dialogue Yuki picks up or not.
On the other hand, the anime adds many new exclusive scenes that bring Yuki’s unique world to life; for example we get to see more of her deaf school in a full scene (in the manga it was just a few panels) and also get a scene of her getting ready for the day, showing a disability-friendly alarm beside her bed that’s brief but says so much about her life and character. This is on top of being able to see the full sign language on screen. Obviously the manga can only show portions of the language, but seeing each line in full, and how each character who can sign brings it to life in their own way is fantastic attention to detail that’s carried over from the manga.
The animation is stunning too; every character has been rendered into animation perfectly, the backgrounds are stunning, and both the opening and ending animations have unique scenes and styles. I’m less fond of the ending theme, but the opening song by Novelbright is so sweet and light.
The relationship in the original manga progresses quickly and I’m really looking forwarding to seeing them in animated form.
Unexpected Diamond (1)
Last year I really liked Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion and there’s a few shows with similar concepts or vibes of that show this year, but the one that really won me over was 7th Time Loop: the Villainess Enjoys a Carefree Life Married to Her Worst Enemy. It isn’t like Raeliana in terms of set up, but heroines from both series are cut from the same cloth in a way. 7th Time Loop follows Rishe; a lady born of a duke and raised to be a princess to her kingdom’s prince. But he breaks up their engagement in a very public event, leaving her cast out of her home. With nothing but the clothes on her back, she ends up joining a travelling merchant, but dies several years later due to a war started by a rival kingdom. Only she doesn’t stay dead, she ends up right back at the small hall where her fiancé publicly breaks up with her!
The anime starts on her 7th time loop; with many different led lives now under her belt, in this one she ends up meeting Arnold Hein, the one who starts the war that got her killed in the previous lifetimes and now suddenly wants to marry Rishe! She agrees on the condition that she doesn’t have to perform any royal duties, but she hopes that she can prevent whatever triggers him to start a war, and somehow live out a whole lifetime once and for all. The set-up is a little complicated, but the first anime episode does a fantastic job of making it easy to absorb, and quickly explains all the lives she’s lived before the exciting incident with Arnold happens, without coming across as heavy info-dumping. Because Rishe has lived multiple lives and specialised in new things in each life, she’s wiser every time she ends up back in the hall with the prince, and her thirst to learn more and make new plans is not only really inspiring but she’s a great female lead to cheer for.
Arnold is also an interesting foil for her; we don’t know the full ins and outs of what triggers him to start a war, so we’re learning alongside Rishe. He’s completely smitten with this confident, smart, independent woman and is happy to give her anything she wants (or so it seems) but something in his presence carries a weight and hints at a dark side to him. It’ll be interesting to see how the chemistry builds between them and what ends up being the ‘trigger’ to the war events.
The only downside to the series is the animation; the show is obviously done on a budget, so a lot of the movements are still, with many uses of static frames with minimal movement. It’s a shame because a lot of care has been put into the opening and ending animations, so hope there’s some budget left over to have an uplift in production later in the series. The dance scene in episode 3 gives me hope they will!
Unexpected Diamond (2)
Another series I found myself fond of is the Boys’ Love series Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?! The original manga by Yuu Toyota has been reviewed here by the lovely Sarah, but I went into this anime blind. The show follows Kiyoshi Adachi, a virgin who, when he turns 30, suddenly develops the power to read people’s thoughts when he touches them. He mostly finds the power to be an annoyance but one day he accidently reads the thoughts of his popular co-worker Yuichi Kurosawa and finds out that Kurosawa is secretly in love with him! The pair are drawn to each other since that moment, but Adachi has no relationship experience whatsoever; he doesn’t even know if he likes guys! Can they make it work?
The anime has a silly premise but the characters are endearing enough to carry it; Adachi has some off reactions to finding out another guy secretly likes him, like thinking that Kurosawa is going to jump on him, but his fear remains unfounded as Kurosawa is actually super shy and a bit romantic too, being elated just to be around Adachi most of the time. It’s clear that both characters have a lot to work on before they can truly be together; Adachi needs to work through his emotions and sexuality, whereas Kurosawa needs to be patient and understanding of Adachi’s needs. The mind-reading thing is a cute way to set up conflict, with Adachi also learning he can use his power to help others as well, but how will the pair work it out? Will this power be something that brings them together or drives them apart? We’ll have to wait and see.
Like 7th Loop, the animation for this series is also a bit on the cheap side, and I’m not too fond of the character designs personally; the faces have hard lines and harsh shadows. They’re not too bad in the eye catch, and in some scenes where it’s softer, but I’m not in love with the style. But overall, I’m enjoying this enough to see where it goes.
For most of the week, he’s ‘The General’, masterminding an evil alien plot to take over the Earth! But once a week, he conceals his terrifying alien appearance and goes incognito to Earth to relax, investigate the food on sale in the local 24/7 and – above all – see real, live pandas. Mr. Villain’s Day Off could be described as a love song to pandas, seen through the eyes of Mr. Villain… as well as a paean to the importance of taking a relaxing weekly escape from the burdens and stresses of work. As Mr. Villain goes around suburban Japan (probably Tokyo as it’s ‘Uenono’ Zoo?) he encounters from time to time the members of the Earth Rangers, his sworn enemies. But as it’s his day off, he courteously but firmly refuses to fight and more than once helps Dawn Red Ranger find his way (Dawn Red has a hopeless sense of direction).
We’re two volumes in to Yuu Morikawa’s quirky manga about alien villains who have a gentle side to them (published by Square-Enix Manga) and the TV anime will soon move beyond what we’ve read in the manga so far. In some ways, though, this doesn’t matter, as an overarching plot is hard to make out other than aliens vs. Earth Rangers; Mr. Villain’s Day Off is more a series of charming and gently humorous vignettes than an anime with a linear plot – and the only hint of trouble comes from Trigger, one of the other aliens who follows the General to Earth. The anime is very faithful to the mangaka’s style, both in text, dialogue and look (which is just as well as her art is what make the manga ‘different’ and rather special).
However, I can’t help feeling that adopting the shorter format used in Play it Cool, Guys (last year) would have worked better than the full-episode format employed for Mr. Villain. Twenty-three minutes is a long time to fill. But the pandas are adorable – and Mr. Villain in relaxed, off-duty Earth-mode is tall, dark and aloof, yet for some reason, keeps encountering children who seem unaccountably drawn to him. Will his encounters with Earth children eventually change his mind about wiping humanity from the face of the Earth?
Blue Exorcist – Shimane Illuminati Saga
‘The Knights of the True Cross begin receiving an increasing number of consultations about demons as a wave of strange events begins to spread across the world. Meanwhile, Rin and the other Exwires work to solve the mysterious phenomenon plaguing the school.
But as the True Cross Academy Festival is in full swing, Lucifer, the King of Light and Commander-in-Chief of the Illuminati, suddenly appears. Lucifer declares war on the Knights of the True Cross – to resurrect the demon god Satan and rejoin the realm of humans, Assiah, and the realm of demons, Gehenna, as one.’ (From the official website)
‘Rin and Yukio Okamura are the twin sons of Satan but only Rin has inherited their father’s tail and ability to wield lethal blue fire. Both young men are training to be exorcists at the Academy of the True Cross but while Yukio is already working out in the field, Rin is under threat of execution unless he can learn to control his Satanic blue flames.’
Seven years since the Kyoto Saga, Blue Exorcist returns at last with a very welcome new season. Rin is still under threat and at the end of the last season, we learned that Yukio – hitherto unaffected by the Satanic blue flames – has shown signs that he, too, has that power. Which is not so great, given that he’s already working as an exorcist. At the time of writing, Lucifer hasn’t yet appeared (I’m looking forward to that!) but if you’re a fan of the series in anime and/or manga, you’ll be pleased to find all the gang at the academy are there, including the ever-delightful Shiemi. Headmaster Mephisto Pheles is very much in evidence too and exuding an air of menace disguised by his habitual madcap bonhomie (voice actor Hiroshi Kamiya). If you’ve never watched it before, it might be an idea to read up a little on the background but the start of a new series is a not a bad place to give it a try. As before, the standard of animation is very high which a series that pits the denizens of heaven and hell/Gehenna against each other demands and deserves. I’m hoping it’s going to be another wild ride!
I’m also watching the second season of High Card which I really liked last year, in spite of the fact that it left so many issues unresolved and unexplained. There’s a lot of plot set-up to be unravelled and I’ll return to assess this series at the end of the season as it’s hard to tell at this stage whether the writers are up to the considerable task they’ve set themselves! It’s fun (and nail-biting) to watch, though.
Um – cheating a little here by choosing The Witch and the Beast because it could also be regarded as Hotly Anticipated by me, as I’ve been reviewing the manga by Kousuke Satake since it first appeared from Kodansha USA in 2020. Except, even though I’m sure I’ve already said that the manga’s dynamic and eye-catching magical fight scenes were made to be animated, I have other concerns about the slightly random way in which the story has evolved over its ten (so far) volumes, often keeping its plot cards rather too close to its chest.
It also has two ‘difficult to relate to’ protagonists: Ashaf the mage from the Order of Magical Resonance is cool, knowing and detached – whereas his charge/partner, Guideau, the one cursed by a witch, is the beast of the title and behaves like one. If only we were afforded the slightest glimpse of what Guideau was like before her fateful encounter – and shown that she was once a normal young woman – it would be much easier to sympathize with her plight. Instead, we alternately marvel at her incredible strength and feel sorry for Ashaf who endures her insults and constant complaining with equanimity and another cigarette. “Once my curse is broken,” Guideau growls at Ashaf, “you’re first in line. I’m killing you first.” But it’s a rich, dark alternate world that Kousuke Satake has created, which looks a lot like our own (middle-Europe in the mid-twentieth century?) where magic-users wield extraordinary powers. This is grimdark fantasy with the emphasis on the dark (it’ll be interesting to see if the team animate the later story arc which takes the two travellers to Orlencia Sett, the land of the vampires).
Visually, the animation matches the gothic horror vibes, with a twilit colour palette and the same minute attention to detail that gives the manga such a distinctive look. But is it all style over substance? I’d be happy to discover that the team have worked with the mangaka to explain Guideau and Ashaf’s strange relationship so we understand whether it’s just a pairing of convenience arranged by the Order, or something that goes deeper into both their pasts. The possibilities are endless! And then there’s the coffin that Ashaf carries around…
While in recent years Bones has become known for its work on long-running series like My Hero Academia, Bungo Stray Dogs, and Mob Psycho 100, it’s often been the studio’s shorter and original works that have drawn my eye. Metallic Rouge takes the studio back into familiar territory with its sci-fi setting, but has some great potential to explore and say things about the genre that we haven’t heard from the studio before.
Taking place on Mars, the first couple of episodes largely set out the setting and introduce us to the plot. After encountering and being attacked by an alien race called the Usurpers, humans entered into a war and created the artificially intelligent androids known as Neans to fight them. While humanity emerged victorious, the Neans were repurposed as domestic slaves and workers, taking on jobs that humans didn’t want. However, nine of them didn’t go along with humanity’s plans for them and rebelled, soon becoming known as the Immortal Nine. For unknown reasons, these Immortal Nine are now being hunted down by our main character, Rouge Redstar, who is a Nean herself and enters battle as the titular Metallic Rouge.
I’ve really liked what we have got of this so far, and it’s proving to be one of the more interesting shows on offer this season. It’s got a fantastic setting and a great sense of worldbuilding, as it portrays a very gritty Cyberpunk Mars where Neans are treated as second class citizens. The androids need the energy source known as Nectar to survive, and there’s some pretty brutal scenes in here where the humans effectively kill off Neans by withholding it from them. Treating AI, robots and androids badly isn’t a new thing, but it’s still an interesting idea to explore and I like the idea that Nectar is a double-edged sword in that it gives the Neans their incredible powers, but also acts as a chain.
There are also some pretty good action sequences, as we’ve not just got the tokusatsu-style battles between Rouge and the members of the Immortal Nine, but also high-impact chases as Rouge is being hunted down herself as a dangerous individual who may have been involved in the murder of a human by a Nean (which due to their programming isn’t supposed to happen).
It hasn’t filled in all the details yet though and there are a lot of questions it raises, from who Rouge really is, to the motivations of her companion Naomi, as well as those of the Immortal Nine. Whether these will all be answered we will have to wait and see, but it depends what it decides to focus on in the long run. Will it be just Rouge taking on each of the Immortal Nine, or will we get to see and discover more of the state of the world?
No matter its ultimate direction, it’s going to be interesting to follow and I am very much here for the ride!
Hokkaido Gals are Super Adorable! is a show that’s been compared in ways to My Dress Up Darling, as it puts an average “loser” sort of guy (Tsubasa Shiki) together with a very outgoing gyaru (Minami Fuyuki) and delights in showing us all the weird and wonderful situations they end up in, as it highlights the insane difference between their personalities.
While My Dress Up Darling became a hit thanks to how endearing it was and how it got the balance right between tackling its main subject matter – cosplay – along with the more romantic and sometimes horny moments, I don’t think Hokkaido Gals has quite the same amount of reach. This one definitely goes into the hornier side of things, and slides more into the “teasing” subgenre, as Fuyuki either wittingly or unwittingly leads Shiki on to the point where he becomes super-embarrassed at how much he finds Fuyuki attractive.
It’s kind of dumb but kind of cute at the same time, and I do think if you take it more on the humorous side it does work and comes off as one of the sweeter and less problematic shows of this type, particularly as you see them both working well together in scenes such as the town’s winter festival. Yet because of that horny side, I don’t think this is going to be for everyone and I don’t see it achieving the same popularity as some of its peers. If this sounds like this is more your sort of thing, I’d say give it a go and you’ll probably enjoy it.
My final pick for this season is Sengoku Youko, a fantasy samurai-era tale that sees the young travelling ronin, Shinsuke Hyoudou, getting involved in the adventures of the odd pairing of Tama and Jinka. Tama is a katawara, an otherworldly spirit, taking the form of a young fox girl (despite, yes, being 200 years old), while Jinka is a sendou, a mighty warrior who has been trained to fight these spirits and can utilise their blood to take on their supernatural forms.
While at first teaming up to take out malevolent spirits, the trio soon find themselves wrapped up in a fight with a shady organisation of monks known as The Dangaisyuu, who are turning humans into monsters. After freeing one of their victims, a girl known as Shakugan, the unlikely band vows to uncover the truth and stop the monks’ evil plans.
Adapted from the manga by Satoshi Mizukami, the creator of Planet With (a show I really liked) and Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, this comes off as a decent supernatural battle series with hints of darker moments and higher stakes. What’s captured me so far is the interesting dynamic between Tama and Jinka, as they not only treat each other like family, but Tama is helping Jinka kill her own kind; yet there’s an understanding that they can’t just let these spirits and creatures run amok and harm humans. Shinsuke, on the other hand, slots into the role of the naïve kid taking it out on the injustices of the world, and although he occasionally has something to say, he’s just too shouty and obnoxious to really take seriously.
The battles are fun though, and I think this has the potential to be a decent action romp if you don’t take it too seriously. I am worried however that the overall plot is going to run out of road too quickly, as by the end of Episode 2 we’re already in a big fight with the antagonists, so I’m struggling to see how this will move forward in a way other than monster of the week.
If it can find something to sustain itself for 37 episodes then I think this may be worth a look if you’re interested in this specific type of show, I’m just wary about it being able to stay its course for its entire run.
This season melds the familiar returning titles with a slew of new isekai and fantasy, with some romance and comedy series to boot. There have certainly been some highlights so far, several already discussed in this article, and I found myself gravitating toward a few other titles as well that are worth a look.
After the first season of Classroom of the Elite left me with mixed feelings I checked out the second season with rather blank expectations, but was very pleasantly surprised at just how my opinion turned around on the series as a whole. With Season 2 I found the narrative more engaging and the machinating nature of lead character Kiyotaka Ayanokouji intriguing where it easily could have been overdone, and the appeal of the series finally clicked for me (though I have seen that it’s a flawed adaptation of the light novels which I have yet to read).
Season 3 continues the familiar story elements I’ve come to expect with deceptive characters, secrets to be revealed, and tests like mixing up classes as part of the ongoing competitions, which make up this new mountain training camp-themed arc, with plenty of characters to keep track of in the process.
The most recent episode focuses on a supposed break-up between Kei Karuizawa and Hirata as well as Yamauchi receiving a summons that could well be a trap but he pays no need to Horitaka’s warnings. I’m certainly interested in seeing whether anything comes of Kiyotaka and Kei’s relationship here, and going in as an anime-only watcher, the twists and turns to follow will be all the more surprising I’m sure.
Kingdom is a series that had a rough start due to some mixed quality when it came to animation but won me over with the story and characters, who have grown over the five seasons alongside improved animation quality and production values.
When I watched the fourth season that aired back in 2022, I was impressed with how it managed to build upon the narrative established to that point, with a finale built upon a massive betrayal being quashed, and the high aims of Zheng Ying being matched in enthusiasm by Xin, a protagonist who has continued to grow on me throughout the story.
Now in Season 5 we are facing the aftermath of these events, and this has so far focused on depicting the Qin army vs Zhao army and their conflict over Koku You Hill. So far, it’s been a solid watch and we also get to see just how much more complex the battle could become, a remark uttered by Qiang Lei when she breaks ranks to warn oblivious villagers tucked away who could end up massacred. I’m hoping for another strong season as the last was one of my favourites so far!
Doctor Elise: The Royal Lady with the Lamp may be another reincarnation story with a narrative focusing on second chances and righting wrongs, but by taking a more medical approach it has, so far, been a solid watch for me, and I’m hoping it maintains my interest as it has in its initial episodes.
The themes of changing morality also feeds into another aspect of the premise in Elise’s planned engagement to to Prince Linden de Romanoff which she plans to break off, though it remains to be seen how this will play out in future episodes.
What has been the most intriguing aspect of the story is so far is seeing Elise piecing together memories of her time on Earth whilst meeting the King, hereby figuring out his diabetes diagnosis – I hope we get more of this as the story progresses, which might well come to fruition as Elise is set a deadline to become a medical expert and may prove to be better at this than as a prospective wife to her fiancé.
Not a lot appealed to me in this Winter Season, as is often the case with the winter shows, but I saw the poster and eventual trailer for Brave Bang Bravern! and I thought “a generic Super Robot show could pass the odd twenty-ish minutes each week”. Generic though, as it turns out, is not the correct way to talk about Bravern…
Episode 1’s first half is presented very much like a serious “real robot” show in that a military exercise is taking place jointly between America and Japan with both sides piloting very grounded looking mechs (well, as grounded as mechs can look, anyway) called “Titanostriders”, which made me laugh, and fighting using canons and bullets. Our two lead human characters are introduced as American ace pilot Lewis Smith, who dreams of being a hero and narrates the opening and ending parts of the episode, and Isami Ao, a Japanese ace pilot who is very quiet and reserved and is, as it turns out, our lead protagonist. As the two prepare for a second round of mock battle the tone shifts as an alien space craft suddenly materialises and a full-on invasion of Earth takes place, complete with highly advanced mechs that have no issue wiping everything out. People are hurt, Isami shows he has a genuine fear of using real live ammo in an actual battle and things look grim, at least until the tone shifts once again as a giant talking super robot appears in front of Isami. This is how I imaged the worlds of the Super Robot Wars games to be, the series of real robots having to deal with nonsensical super robots suddenly appearing and wiping out the enemy.
Bravern immediately requests Isami “get inside him”, which begins the theme of Bravern making unsubtle sexual references as to why he wants Isami to pilot him (“Bang Bravern” indeed…), and as he does, Isami freaks out at not just the crazy technology but that a cheesy theme-song about Bravern begins to play in the background, as in not just for us the viewers but it’s actually playing within the show. Bravern and Isami take out the aliens with some over-the-top attacks to close out the first episode. The second episode is a bit more focused as it’s just about the remaining military forces of Earth trying to come to terms with how Bravern exists and why Isami can pilot it (leading to some unpleasant scenes for our protagonist). Lewis tries to pilot Bravern himself and fulfil his wish to become a hero but Bravern shoots him down, I guess he’s not Bravern’s type? The animation is fine, though some of the CG stuck out a bit too much within a show that otherwise has traditional 2D looking people and backgrounds, but never mind.
After all this insanity I’m not sure how to take the show, apart from “not seriously” obviously, but I knew that going in, what I didn’t know was that it would be so self-referential (not only does Bravern’s theme play within the show but his dramatic action backgrounds are projected behind him in the show as well!) nor did I expect the blatant homoerotic elements, not just between man and machine but Lewis and Isami as the duo sing the ending together shirtless in the rain in an intentional gag, or foreshadowing an actual relationship between the two, but would that make Bravern jealous?! Such questions are… frankly weird, but fun enough to keep me watching out of a morbid curiosity more than anything else.
Brave Bang Bravern! is streaming on Crunchyroll.
I wasn’t expecting all that much from this season after the first few shows rolled out, and for a while I was beginning to wonder whether anything would come close to putting up a fight against the sublime The Apothecary Diaries! Fortunately, it turned out that there were quite a few interesting titles in this jam-packed winter selection after all. The usual formulaic isekai have been joined by some which have genuinely tried to put a new spin on the usual tropes – with varying degrees of success – and fans of most genres will probably find something to enjoy this winter. I’ve personally been most enjoying the titles which play on themes from my earliest forays into anime, from the bombastic, effervescent madness of Brave Bang Bravern! to the mystery-laden cyberpunk trappings of Metallic Rouge, but they’re not the only shows with an oddly retro appeal.
One of the most fun debuts this season has been a show I already had high hopes for based on the staff and design work, so I was delighted when Bucchigiri?! came out of the gate strong. There’s a lot going on; the main story thread follows our hero, Arajin (‘Aladdin’), a boy who has just transferred into a rough school full of colourful thugs divided up by their gang affiliations. He’s not really interested in being the protagonist of a series about high school delinquents, though, and when an old friend mentions their shared childhood aspiration of becoming strong together Arajin desperately avoids the issue (and for the most part, his friend as well).
In the classic tradition of goofy high school shows, all that Arajin actually wants is to lose his virginity, and this misguided plan compels him to make a number of poor decisions which culminate in him encountering a hot-blooded genie (whose name is also inspired by The Arabian Nights). The pair end up working together in spite of their very different outlooks, and it doesn’t take long before Arajin’s single-minded approach to life means he becomes deeply embroiled in the thuggish shenanigans he’d been trying to avoid.
The visual design of the series is wonderful, with all of the characters having distinctive looks, mostly involving brightly dyed hair and eye-catching fashion. There are a lot of gags as well, both visual and narratively, as well as a running theme of Chinese cooking (Arajin’s adorable mother runs a restaurant). I’m keen to know more about why the hero changed from the earnest fighter that his childhood friend remembers into an awkward, somewhat unsociable teen with anxiety issues, but for now I’m perfectly satisfied with seeing the various factions show off their strengths as they each vie to be the manliest group of dorks in the show.
If you find delinquent shows difficult to stomach then Bucchigiri?! probably isn’t the anime for you, but if (like me) you enjoy revelling in the glorious stupidity seen in classics like GTO, Cromartie High School, Tokyo Revengers and Yu Yu Hakusho then it’s worth checking out this ridiculous new entry into the genre.
Bucchigiri?! is streaming on Crunchyroll.