Spring 2018 has arrived at our doorsteps, along with an exciting lineup of both sequels and new anime to enjoy! Many sequels such as Steins;Gate 0 and My Hero Academia Season 3 have returned, and the staff at Anime Trending takes a bite with their first impression opinions on some of the hottest anime this season.
Caligula – What is even going on
Don’t sweat it if you can’t understand what’s going on in Caligula’s first episode – the main character doesn’t either. Ritsu Shikishima is a high schooler who’s into popular virtual female idol μ, as well as talking about psychological stuff that neither his friends or myself can follow. His life gets shaken up when strange events – like a random brawl and a song containing cries for help which only Shikishima can hear – start to happen, culminating in a number of students transforming and attacking some of their peers. Yet, while Shikishima and a few others are able to bear witness to the chaos, others don’t seem to notice anything being off. So what’s going on?
If you’ve played the JRPG that Caligula is based on… well, you probably know everything already. If not, things will be hard to grasp initially, but that’s fine. While the events are perplexing, they are also interesting. Sure, there are moments that made me chuckle and mentally throw my head back in laughter due to how little sense things seemed to be initially. But despite that, Caligula actually manages to avoid feeling like a confusing mess. The bewilderment produced feels intentional – and entertaining in my case – since the main character himself doesn’t understand what’s going on either. The second episode provides some hints to that, but smartly maintains the current air of intriguing mystery. So in short, avoid the synopsis, embrace the confusion, enjoy the visuals, and see where things lead to.
Devils’ Line – The Twilight x Tokyo Ghoul crossover we never asked for.
I won’t lie, I randomly picked up this anime after watching the trailer. It was edgy enough to balance out all of the other shows I’m currently watching and I figured it would give me a good laugh too. In the first episode, Devils’ Line delivered all my expectations beautifully. The story starts out with a horribly bland and ordinary MC who knows nothing of the world until her brooding dhampir of a boyfriend crashes into her life. Of course, there are some dangerous and bloody “circumstances” that catalyzed their sudden encounter, but I couldn’t stop giggling at how cliché it was. It’s really the epitome of a Twilight love story that I tried avoiding for years when teenagers thirsted for Edward.
Probably the only redeemable thing in Devil Lines’ first episode are the action sequences. The animators take an interesting approach by hitting the fast forward button when the vampires show off their abilities in front of humans, but they slow it down to a much more manageable speed when the scene switches to a vampire vs. vampire fight. This way, it’s more obvious to the audience that the vampires are pretty OP but we can still follow where the punches and kicks connect. Overall, with this show’s “impressive” premise and decent action sequences, I think I’ll stick to the 5 episode rule to see what happens.
Hinamatsuri – Everyday’s a festival!
What if you combined Mob Psycho 100’s powerful and wild psychic powers together with Alice to Zouroku’s charming atmosphere and the bonding between a young girl and an adult man? The end product is Hinamatsuri! When yakuza member Yoshifumi Nitta finds a cute, near-emotionless young girl named Hina in his living room one day, he had no idea what he was in for. It turns out that Hina possesses extremely powerful supernatural psychokinetic powers and Nitta is forced to take care of her or else his precious collection of expensive vases, paintings and furniture will be destroyed. However, Nitta soon finds joy in taking care of Hina by letting her stay in his apartment: he buys her food, clothes and video games, and he even allows her to go to school. Meanwhile, Hina quickly grows to like Nitta and has fun living with him. According to her, he’s very different from the adults she used to live with.
We don’t know much of Hina’s origins yet, nor is it the primary focus of the series for now. All we know is that the adults she mentions are probably bad guys and she’s not the only psychokinetic kid as her friend Anzu joins the fray in the second episode. Instead, charming and comedic hijinks take up most of the airtime, going from dealing with enemy yakuza gangs (that Hina dispatches in just a few seconds with a poker face) to Nitta getting trapped all night in the device that Hina used to land in his apartment (leading to “smelly” results).
However, the real attraction is the chemistry and growing bond between Nitta and Hina, which is cute and feels truly genuine. Their interactions and occasional banter are a true delight to watch as they are legitimately funny. Seeing them share an increasingly more solid father-daughter bond is heartening. And just like what the show’s name would translate to in English: Hinamatsuri is truly Hina’s festival!
Golden Kamuy – Jojo is that you?
I am going to be 100% biased with Golden Kamuy. I’ve waited a whole year for this anime to be in production, and now that it’s finally here, I’m pumped with about twice as much testosterone after watching the first episode. Golden Kamuy opens up just like the beginning chapters of the manga, with the torn-up war veteran Sugimoto Saichi looking for a way to fulfill his dying friend’s wish. He hears of an outlandish tale about a hidden stash of gold in Hokkaido that’s being sought out by practically everyone in the area: from the Abarashi prisoners to the Imperial Japanese Army. At first, he scoffs at the idea because it totally sounds like a wild goose chase. But after a close call with a bear and encountering an Ainu girl named Asirpa, Sugimoto starts to reconsider his chances at claiming the gold himself. Why not embark on this fantastical quest that might not be true? He’s got nothing left to lose at this point, right? After all, he is “Sugimoto the Immortal”.
So far, the anime has stayed consistent with the manga and some of the CGI turned out to be surprisingly okay. The flickering flames at the beginning of the episode is gif-worthy and the bear’s CGI has a realistic quality to it. But if you don’t like CGI or mediocre animation in general, focus on the voice acting. Despite Sugimoto and Asipra’s seiyuus being relatively unknown, their voices match their respective characters very well. You can feel Sugimoto’s raw emotions whenever he shouts or Asirpa’s calm but determined tone that cuts through the tension of the situation. I look forward to their future acting in the more comedic parts of Golden Kamuy and anything new Geno Studio throws at us for the future episodes.
Isekai Izakaya: Japanese Food From Another World: The tame version of Food Wars!
That’s right you heard me. You’ll be seeing that near food-gasm from our cast of characters, but it’s so PG that you can watch it in public or whenever your parents barge into your room. You won’t be judged, I promise.
Isekai Izakaya takes place in a fantasy European world where the common soldier, noble, or peasant drop by this hole-in-the-wall bar known as “Nobu” to try out its strange Japanese cuisine and alcohol. Surprisingly, it’s not the typical sushi or ramen. Instead, the show focuses on the variety of the izakaya/Japanese bar cuisine. All the characters experience something akin to profound joy and relaxation when they dig into these innovative side-dishes and drown themselves with Japanese beer. Every episode of Isekai Izakaya ends with a couple minutes dedicated to interviews with chefs and food researchers who either try to recreate the recipes in Isekai Izakaya or rediscover the dish’s origins in Japan.
Watching this show made me reminisce my first experience at an izakaya in Kyoto. I was just like all the European characters in Isekai Izakaya: a foreigner, wary about the food, and not really sure what to expect. But I was soon blown away by the chef’s creativity and the izakaya’s humble setting. Alcohol flowed freely in the establishment, families spent their evenings alongside businessmen dining on different derivatives of the standard karage or pickled fish, and everyone was just having a great time. Like Hans and the rest of the characters in Isekai Izakaya, I felt like I could relax and “nom” on the food for as long as I’d like without worrying about getting a stomach ache or getting into a bar fight. I hope Isekai Izakaya continues to deliver that same euphoric, carefree feeling I had when I was in Kyoto while making my stomach growl in envy.
Magical Girl Site – Another dark, edgy magical girl story
Oh look, another magical girl anime that subjects cute characters to disturbing/depressing scenarios! Instead of starting things off with flowers and sunshine however, Magical Girl Site delivers the dark content from the get-go. When we’re introduced to main character and middle schooler Aya Asagiri, she’s already having suicidal thoughts from all the dreadful bullying and brutalisation that she is the victim of. In addition, we see some deaths and are later introduced to a magical girl, who has an air of intrigue and casual nonchalance for slitting throats – and that’s all just in the first episode.
From a personal view, it’s nice to have a dark and edgy magical girl anime show its true colours from the beginning. Usually, I just get bored with the initial set-up of similar shows. However, while Magical Girl Site sounds pretty brutal on paper, many scenes don’t actually feel as impactful as they could (and probably should) have been. Some exceptions aside, this has so far had the effect of both reducing the risk of desensitization while making parts of the show feel somewhat tame for its subject matter. I’ve got mixed feelings about that, but on the bright side, the show has got its serious tone nailed down. The story so far seems solid enough to sustain interest without relying on bucketloads of gore or edginess; I wouldn’t mind if there were more of the last two though.
My Hero Academia Season 3 – Advancing the Shounen Genre
My Hero Academia is rolling out another season, and is going stronger than ever! The season starts off with a summary of the previous episodes, and it serves as a good reminder for the events that have occurred up to now. While it does well in recapping the plot and strengthening our lead characters’ motivation for becoming heroes, I can’t help but feel that they should have used a part of the episode to move the plot forward since the last season wasn’t too long ago.
However, this is made up by the next episode which has a good balance of action and thematic elements. All of Class A’s quirks were explained by the end of season 2, and it was exciting to see all the students use their unique quirks during combat. This also means more introductions to characters outside U.A., and Kota is definitely a unique addition to the current set of characters. He serves as a voice for the civilians who don’t approve of heroes, and this is an essential theme in any hero-related medium. I expect Kota’s negative view of heroes to be analogous to Stain’s ideology, and this will definitely be an interesting theme for season 3.
Animation-wise, I am definitely glad that Bones isn’t stretching their resources. Having a gap between seasons definitely makes My Hero Academia’s animation quality a level above other ongoing series, and the fighting segments in episode 2 are well-coordinated and animated. Season 3 is looking great so far, and I have full trust in Bones that they will carry through.
MEGALOBOX – Post-apocalyptic Hajime no Ippo
Boxing was never a sport I was terribly invested in and I had no idea what MEGALOBOX meant to those who were celebrating the 50th anniversary of Ashita no Joe. All I just wanted was something to fulfill my bloody action anime quota for the season.
But, oh god… That first episode of MEGALOBOX. It screams of Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and Akira vibes with its uneven lineart, Nujabes-esque music, and gritty color palette. There’s just something that’s nostalgic about seeing all these three elements smushed together in a plot about boxing and the widening socioeconomic gap between the slums and the inner city. Not only that, you have the badass underdog MC who is jaded by people constantly manipulating his matches in order to make some quick cash. All he wants to do is exchange blows with a worthy opponent and see what he’s truly capable of, even if he’s some “stray dog” who hasn’t polished his technique and lacks the proper Gear for a true match. While his cockiness does shine in episode 2 and he gets royally rekted by Yuri, there is some semblance of talent that’s worth looking forward to.
If you want a hilarious play-by-play of the first two episodes and don’t care for spoilers, check out Nick D. and Steve’s little chat from ANN!
Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online – BUNNY HOPPITY HOP HOP
Surprise, surprise! Sword Art Online has another series under its belt! But… what’s this? It’s not written by Reki Kawahara, but by Keiichi Sigsawa who is the mind behind the critically acclaimed Kino’s Journey and is a self-proclaimed gun maniac? Not to mention that his pen name “Sigsawa” is a pun off of the Sig-Sauer pistol? Consider my interest piqued.
GGO Alternative is a more flavorful take on the already well-known universe of GGO, featuring more weapons than just the simple sniper rifle and squads that are either highly experienced with combat IRL or IG. The first episode is jam-packed with vibrant action, smart strategies, and comedic antics that makes it almost a standalone show. There’s no Kirito taking up all the screentime to show off his cool new skill or his romancing with the current girl of the season. Instead, both LENN and M get ample screen time to show off their abilities as either the sort of DPS/decoy of the team or as the master strategist. It’s a different kind of story with a different kind of pace from the get-go, so I’m pretty hyped to see episode 2.
Side note: that last scene of GGO Alt. gave me so many Monty Python and the Holy Grail vibes that I just sat there in disbelief and whispered to myself: “… GG, LENN. GG.”
Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai: RAINBOW UNICORN SHOGUNS
I started watching this anime thinking it’ll be a calm, romantic comedy with a tinge of seriousness, between our level-headed photographer protagonist Tada Mitsuyoshi and foreigner student Teresa Wagner. After all, the MAL synopsis mentions that Tada meets Teresa while he was trying to take photos of cherry blossoms. What the synopsis didn’t tell me was, for the first half of the episode, it was about a rainbow shogun that rides a horse instead of a unicorn (Hey, unicorns are associated with rainbows!). This truly made me wonder if the show was going to be about said couple, or how the shogun defeats his enemies with rainbow power.
It is the second half of the first episode, however, that won me over with its hilarious moments. The slapstick comedy shines throughout, especially when Teresa’s companion, Alexandra, slams a flirty, narcissistic friend of Tada’s into a wall. Right after Alexandra and Teresa leave though, a brief moment of seriousness settles in, where Alexandra reminds Teresa of her mysterious identity. That’s when I realized there’s more to Teresa than meets the eye, making me quite curious about her background, and that’s something I hope the anime will explore. Regardless, this anime is something that will make you laugh when you’re feeling down. It’s not obvious which direction this anime will take, so we’ll have to wait and see. Overall, if you’re looking for some random comedy this season, this is the anime for you.
Tokyo Ghoul: re – Remnants of a Great Series
When Tokyo Ghoul started airing in 2014, it completely took the world by storm, amassing an incredibly large fan base and becoming the edgy anime that every beginner should watch. I was sucked into the world of ghouls, amazed by the show’s detailed world-building, unique and grotesque style, and amazing animation. Tokyo Ghoul was one of the first anime I ever watched, and it will forever have a special place in my heart.
But Studio Pierrot killed the series.
Following the disastrous release of root A, Tokyo Ghoul: re is a mess that is a victim of Pierrot’s poor and rushed production practices. It no longer has the charm and unique style that the first season boasted, and even lacks the quality of animation that even root A had. The characters have oversimplified designs that do not reflect the grotesque style of the manga, and there’s no body language which season 1 utilized to convey the powerful emotions and unique attributes of each character. To make things worse, root A is now considered non-canon and anime viewers are left with a massive gap between Kaneki—who now goes by the name Sasaki—joining Aogiri to when he loses his memories. New characters are introduced from the get-go and viewers are expected to accept Sasaki and his new friends, but the lack of relationship development is jarring especially when compared to how the original Anteiku crew was developed in season 1.
While Tokyo Ghoul is a series that will leave a mark on the anime community, the current state of the show lacks its original charm and leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Although I usually never bring up manga when reviewing anime, this is definitely a situation where you should just read the manga.
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku: Workplace Weebs Woo One Another
Romantic comedies are like the junk food of anime and other forms of televised media (case and point, the Hallmark channel). There is a lot of it, and not very many shows leave a lasting impression after you finish them, but oh boy are they great while you consume them. An entire essay that can be written about that, but this is supposed to be short. Compared to all of them, Wotakoi is like high-end fast food chain; the In-n-Out of romantic comedies, if you will. As a fan of the manga, I’ve looked forward to this series ever since it was announced. Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku, or Wotakoi, is about the relationship between the fujoshi Narumi Momose and the game otaku Hirotaka Nifuji.
This shows appeals to me because it’s a workplace comedy, which I find to be much more relatable than high school rom-coms. I’ve never attended a Japanese high school, but I do have an understanding of what it’s like to be a part of the workforce (thanks to summer internships). The focus of the show, however, seems to be otaku culture and how it relates to the rest of society. It’s stated at the beginning of episode one that Narumi’s previous boyfriend broke up with her when he found out she was an otaku and the following awkwardness and pain that Narumi felt was enough to get her to change jobs. But around Hirotaka, she can let loose, play video games at the bar with him, and chat about what it is like being an otaku. Considering that this is 90% of the socializing that I do with my friends, Wotakoi is possibly the most relatable rom-com I’ve ever watched, except for the part where they start dating at the end of episode one! #foreveralone.
Episode one is a pretty faithful adaptation of the first two chapters of the manga. The animation is solid. Nothing revolutionary, but it doesn’t need to be. The music is upbeat and helps keep the mood lighthearted. The jokes are well timed and executed, with the exaggerated facial expressions and voice acting making them even more amusing. I found myself smiling, if not laughing, throughout the entire show. I’m looking forward to a season filled with laughter thanks to this show.
Steins;Gate0: Nostalgic Despair
Steins;Gate was the third anime I ever watched, and it’s my favorite science fiction anime. So hearing the announcement for made me super excited. I was initially a bit worried how this alternate timeline successor would turn out, but all my fears were for naught. Watching the first episode of Steins;Gate 0 felt like being embraced in a warm hug, if that hug was made out of despair and sadness. All the emotions I felt from watching Steins;Gate were pulled from the back of my memories to the forefront of my thoughts in one huge wave of dispiriting nostalgia. And I loved it. Getting to hear my favorite characters speak again filled me with joy and watching Okabe struggle with the emotional baggage from his failure filled me equally with melancholy. I am in love with this show already and at the time of writing this AniBitez, I’ve only spent 24 minutes with it.
I’ll take off the nostalgia goggles for a bit. The animation style is almost identical to the original Steins;Gate which came out 7 years ago, which is an eternity in anime time. I’m glad that studio White Fox is keeping it the same. The washed out tones and hazy backgrounds give the show the mood of impermanence that goes with time travel. The animation is top notch. So much of the tension during awkward and uncomfortable moments can be attributed to the looks of characters’ faces and their body language. As a man of few words (as of episode one), Okabe’s despair, uneasiness, and resignation are told through his face and the way he speaks.
I’ll put the goggles back on to say I am in love with Steins;Gate 0 and I am going to watch it, and then rewatch it, and then buy it on Blu-ray.
Here are what fans are excited about this week on Anime Trending! Make sure you vote in our next week’s chart!