Summer 2018 is here and it’s blazing hot as the exciting summer lineup includes both sequels and new anime to enjoy! Many franchises return to the scene such as Attack on Titan 3, Overlord 3, and Free!: Dive to the Future, but some of the newest and hottest anime include Cells At Work!, Grand Blue Dreaming, Banana Fish, and much more. Here are some of the first impressions from the Anime Trending Staff on this slice-of-life summer splash.
Angels of Death: As edgy as edge can be
The edgy show of the season wasn’t that hard to find this time around, and how could it be with Angels of Death screaming edgy with its title? And that’s simply what Angels of Death is: an edgy anime with no substance whatsoever. In the first episode, it seems as if the show is trying to match the horror genre. Horror is rarely done in anime simply because horror relies on realism to scare the audience and it is hard for drawn animation to achieve that effect. So right off the bat, I was immediately worried that this show boasting a cute blond female protagonist was going for this challenging genre. The second important aspect of horror is atmosphere, and Angels of Death manages to mess this up in the worst way possible: monologue. For the entire duration that Rachel, the protagonist, is the only character on screen, she narrates every detail that she notices. The show decides to hold the viewer’s’ hands through what they were supposed to see and notice instead of letting them experience the atmosphere on their own. The tension which should have been present through subtle facial expression, body movement, and setting is completely broken by Rachel talking about everything she sees. I’m guessing that this is due to the source material which is an RPG maker game. It makes sense to have self-narration there because a lot of the details are hard to convey in low-pixel sprites, but in the anime it’s just unnecessary and ruins the mood.
And this isn’t even considering the second episode, where the show begins to confuse its own genre by having comedy gags and unnecessary over-the-top action. Our second character, Zack, somehow manages to compete with Asta from Black Clover for having the most annoying laugh that makes me want to break my headphones. There is no possible recovery for this show, and it is an easy drop for me.
Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion – Don’t research the Mongol Invasion of Japan unless you want spoilers.
If you haven’t heard me from Golden Kamuy by now, I’ll let you know that I’m a sucker for anything that is historical fiction. Specifically historical fiction that centers around time periods that aren’t widely discussed in the anime community. So when Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion released its visuals, I was instantly hooked and found myself asking how this anime was going to execute it. Was it going to cover all the battle campaigns? How was it going to depict the divine “kamikaze” that supposedly drove the Mongols away? And would the characters get enough development alongside the weapons and tactics that emerged from this time period?
I leapt into the first episode during my lunch break, and I’ll say the anime made a fairly good entrance. The art style is coarse like last season’s MegaloBox, but Angolmois adopts this papery-film over the visuals that makes it feel like you are immersing yourself in a story from a bygone era. The Late Middle Japanese spoken throughout the episode is refreshing to hear from the Modern Japanese that we are so used to hearing in most animes. The plot is also of interest, since the so-called “defenders” of Japan are a bunch of exiled convicts who were literally sent to their deaths. I’m a bit excited to see how each convict’s “skill set” as a pirate, ex-retainer of the shogunate, or merchant can contribute to defending Japan, even though all of them clearly have some kind of motive to escape from this hellhole. My only complaint is that the development of Teruhi, the princess responsible for the exiles’ journey, was rather underwhelming and not as impacting as I thought. But the anime still has 12 episodes to improve on her, so I’ll withhold my judgment for now.
Asobi Asobase: Cute girls doing not-so-cute things
First looks can be deceiving, and this can’t be more true than for Asobi Asobase. Although the art style and character design suggests a cute-girls-doing-cute-things slice-of-life show that tends to be ignored in recent seasons, Asobi Asobase is a comedic masterpiece in disguise. Worthy of being called the successor of Nichijou, Asobi Asobase perfects two factors that synergizes to make it the hilarious fun that it is: exaggerated art styles and comedic timing. While the base art is soft and cute, the over-the-top facial expressions and absurd voice acting during the punchline will have you on the floor in no time. Sure, this has been done in the past; but Asobi Asobase perfects their comedic timing to the T with clever editing. Combine this with original jokes and pop culture references like Detective Conan and Star Wars, and you get a refreshing addition to the comedy genre.
While there is much to compliment on the art and editing of the show, I have to give credit to the voice actors. Although the three main voice actors had few to no main roles in the past, they present their characters wonderfully and help greatly in matching whatever atmosphere the artstyle is trying to portray. A special mention goes to Olivia’s voice actor, Rika Nagae, whose fake Japangrish accent is the highlight of the season so far!
Attack on Titan, like Tokyo Ghoul and My Hero Academia, is one of the shows that gave rise a new wave of anime watchers. It was a world-wide phenomenon, and was the talk of the town whether you enjoyed it or not. It set a new standard for triple-a productions, with blockbuster-grade animation, amazing soundtrack, and a story that was gripping. Strangely, Attack on Titan suffered the opposite of most popular shows. While most shows lose quality because the producers try to pump out the next season as soon as possible, producers of Attack on Titan took their time with sequels to maintain the quality but as a result saw decrease in interest. I hardly ever hear people talking about Attack on Titan nowadays, and I realized that the third season was going to air when I opened up the summer lineup for the first time.
That being said, the hiatus is not to be blamed for everything. After the first season, Attack on Titan has been taking a new turn in their focus. While it was originally an action show about people fighting giant terrifying monsters, it slowly moved to being a mystery with people fighting people. In fact, the first episode of the third season had no titans at all (excluding the flashback scenes and Eren). Humanity-was-the-enemy-all-along is a common trope and I had a vague idea that this was where Attack on Titan was going to go. Some people don’t like this change in genre because they miss the badass grapples and swords, but I personally think that this makes the show a lot more interesting and the fights more meaningful. So far, season three looks to be amazing. Unlike another show (cough cough Tokyo Ghoul: re), Wit Studio pulled no punches and the animation quality still looks gobsmack gorgeous. Kenny the Ripper’s entrance was bone-chilling, and seems to be a promising antagonist so far. And trust me, we’ll still get a good dosage of badass grappling action.
Banana Fish – Goofy name, gritty action
When I first read volume 1 of the Banana Fish manga, I was super confused. That could have been due to the fact that I hadn’t slept for the previous 30 hours, but that’s not important. What is important is that Banana Fish has kept me in its grip from episode one. Starting in New York City with a young charismatic gang leader, the show wasted no time in getting into the main plot. I’ve only seen the first three episodes and there’s already been betrayal, murder, prison fights, and pole jumping. Heck, they even killed off someone whom I thought was going to be a main character. The mystery in Banana Fish has laid itself out to be complex and leaves me with a feeling of anticipation as each new revelation occurs.
I also enjoy the animation and character design. The characters have more realistic proportions and most people have natural hair colors, with the exception of the very punk-looking Shorter. The fights have been animated well and feel fluid, and Ash’s hair always looks great. He is so pretty. I definitely will be continuing this show.
Cells At Work! – Platelets, platelets, and more platelets
Welcome to 2018 where we have anime featuring battleships, racing horses, and… red blood cells? Cells At Work! is one of those shows where you shouldn’t ask why it is a thing, but just accept into your life in its full glory. Brought to you by the makers of Jojo’s Bizzare Adventures, Cells At Work! follows anthropomorphized cells in the human body doing their jobs to keep humans alive. This concept is so novel and fresh that it would have been enough to keep me entertained, but David Productions takes it to the next level with Hana Kanazawa voicing the main lead in the show, the best action cuts that I have seen so far in the season, and actually correct factual details according to doctors.
The art is extremely well done. Although CGI is used, both the CGI scenes and hand-drawn scenes utilize line shading, which makes it hard to notice the difference. The action scenes are plentiful and very well done despite being an anime about the human body. And of course, the platelets are the most adorable things ever. If that doesn’t make you want to watch this show, I don’t know what will. Biology has never been so fun to learn.
Chio’s School Road: Too normal for its own good
There are two over-the-top comedies this season: Asobi Asobase and Chio’s School Road. While I can easily recommend Asobi Asobase to anyone, Chio’s School Road falls flat despite having the same concept of blowing everyday events out of proportion. Take, for example, the first half of the first episode. Because Chio’s usual road to school is under construction, she decides to take a shortcut by moving along the rooftops around her neighborhood. And, well, that’s what she does for the most part. There are only two gags that happen while she is on the roof, and the rest of it just shows Chio hopping from roof to roof in the most calm and average way possible. For a show that is supposed to be funny by making normal situations seem extreme, it completely fails to do its one job. The other half is entirely dedicated to the joke that Chio is a NEET who doesn’t know how to interact with a popular girl. On top of this trope being overused to death, the punchline is dragged out for the entire half of the show and beats it to death.
Overall, I had a lot of hope for this show from its PV, but the lackluster comedy and slow pacing of the first episode made me lose interest. The animation quality, despite being made by Diomedia, is not up to their usual par either. Unless it drastically improves, I can’t recommend this because there are simply better shows to watch, with Asobi Asobase being a direct contender.
Grand Blue Dreaming – The college AU of Amanchu! that’s not about diving.
The first time I had heard about Grand Blue Dreaming was from a freshman I had befriended during a club social. Back then, the anime hadn’t come out yet and he was practically begging me to read the manga. Luckily, he didn’t strip and make me chug “oolong tea” to convince me. But our interaction sort of reminded me of Iori Kitahara’s introduction to the Peek-a-Boo Diving Club, an overly macho club full of college boys drinking themselves to a stupor and engaging in glorious college antics. All the upperclassmen in the Peek-a-Boo Diving Club try to coerce the freshmen into their club simply through the appeal of drinking, with the occasional serious spiel on how to dive properly.
So what’s exactly redeeming about Grand Blue? I’d say the best aspect is its slapstick comedy that isn’t “hilarious”, but more so relatable to anyone who’s left home for college or have gotten way too deep into their club activities. Iori resembles many freshmen I know: he’s desperate to start fresh, make a good impression on the people around him, and survive his first year of college with fantastic grades. Obviously, this plan goes completely kaput the moment he’s lured astray by alcohol and the typical college shenanigans that is a far cry from anything a highschooler can pull. This includes showing up to orientation with a hangover and being nude, cross-dressing without shame with the intention to mess with someone, and doing just about anything to get those club funds. And that, is something I can get behind.
Hanebado! – Awesome badminton with a serving of drama
It’s unlikely that Hanebado! will make me pick up a racket again, but the first episode has certainly got me hooked into watching the show’s depiction of badminton. The prologue serves up a well-animated match that is intense, exciting, and awe-inspiring; based on its ending, a rematch is coming, and I simply can’t wait to watch it. Most people might be hyped over real-world badminton stars like Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan, but I’m more engaged by the female protagonists of this show.
Hanebado!’s story isn’t particularly original, but the serious and mostly realistic tone of the show proves to be a nice surprise. On the downside, the atmosphere can get a bit too heavy at times, and some of the characters’ designs (mainly shown in the previews so far) don’t fit so well with it. The fan service is also noticeable, but fortunately, it’s at worst a mild distraction for now. It definitely doesn’t detract from the drama-like feel of the show, which I quite enjoy. If the rest of the badminton matches continue to match the quality of the prologue, I’ll be enjoying those a lot as well.
Happy Sugar Life – Twisted loli love
A blend of innocent cuteness and disturbing madness, Happy Sugar Life is the story of high schooler Satou Matsuzaka and her deep, reciprocated love for a young girl called Shio. Happy and cheery on the surface, Satou harbors issues with feeling love. Shio is perhaps the only person in the world that provides an exception to that, which might explain why the former’s attachment to the latter is particularly strong. Unlike Mirai Nikki’s Yuki, it doesn’t look like Shio is in any danger from her pink-haired loved one, but Satou’s psychotic moments nevertheless show that the girl isn’t entirely right in the head.
Those psychotic moments actually feel pretty calm and restrained. That isn’t inherently bad, but here it makes the majority of the episode’s dark moments feel somewhat weak and drawn out. It’s the ending of the episode that delivers the goods, with a couple of reveals that – while a little predictable – carry a tone and edge that were mostly lacking in the otherwise competent episode. Happy Sugar Life isn’t quite the burst of violent/psychotic energy I was expecting, but I’m cautiously optimistic for now.
Harukana Receive – Slice-of-life with swimsuits, beach volleyball, and (not much) “ecchi”
I probably should have done some research on Harukana Receive’s genre before deciding to write about its first episode, because slice-of-life offerings aren’t exactly my cup of tea. A healthy dose of “ecchi” was what I expected from this title, and the biggest surprise is that there’s actually not that much of it. While it’s undeniable that most of the main characters have eye-catching figures and/or “assets” that are pretty well-accentuated by their swimwear, the swimsuit scenes are mostly played straight. Even close-ups or certain angled shots don’t feel too gratuitous or opportunistic. Opinions may vary on this aspect, and things could always change, but I’m taking my hat off to the show for now.
The plot centers on high schooler Haruka, who moves to Okinawa and stumbles upon a game of beach volleyball. Cue expected developments like the newbie quickly liking the sport despite not being very adept at it, and a character (Haruka’s cousin, in this case) having some mysterious past connection to beach volleyball. There’s also a serious and experienced player who predictably gets annoyed by Haruka’s seemingly casual attitude about the sport. Harukana Receive treats beach volleyball with a fair bit of gravitas, and that’s another unexpected but commendable surprise. Overall, it seems like a fairly solid product, especially with its art and animation (aside from an airport scene that combines moving CGI models with a normal 2D still shot); I just don’t find any of the parts to be particularly engaging. I suppose that’s just how most slice-of-life anime are like to me, but the sports aspect has me expecting more from this show.
Holmes of Kyoto – Mystery of the Antiques
Holmes of Kyoto was the only anime of Summer 2018 to catch my attention, probably because it had the words “Kyoto” – my favorite Japanese city, and “Holmes”, the surname of the great detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. True to its name, this anime is set in Kyoto; and you can expect more analyses in “Holmes” style thanks to Kiyotaka Yagashira. He is the young but sharp and knowledgeable antique appraiser in Kura, a well-known antique shop in Kyoto. But the anime doesn’t start with him; it starts from our female lead, Aoi Mashiro, who meets Kiyotaka after stumbling into the shop, heartbroken over her ex-boyfriend dating her best friend right after their breakup.
Gorgeous art of antiques, Holmesque analysis, actual antique information, and the intriguing storyline simply made me want to watch more of Kiyotaka and Aoi in action. To make it even better, Kiyotaka sprayed salt on someone who tried to deceive him with a fake antique in Episode 1. However, one area that disappointed me greatly is how the main characters are animated. Kiyotaka’s animation and art were so inconsistent that it was enough for me to question if some parts were done by novices. There were some parts that looked amazing like the photo, but there were some that were clearly of subpar quality. Other than that negative though, Holmes of Kyoto is a great anime to start off Summer 2018; making it a refreshing treat in the sweltering season!
Phantom in the Twilight: Reverse Harem Fantasy
Ton Bayrou and her friend Shinyao have arrived in London to start college. Just before their exciting student life begins, a goblin invisible to the human eye steals their luggage along with Ton’s heirloom ring passed down to her from her great-grandmother, Rijan. In between the shock and confusion, the two friends get separated and Ton goes running after the thief even as Shinyao sensibly suggests calling the police. Ton, who clearly has some magic in her blood, uses a tracking spell to find the thief but instead finds herself bumping into three hot dudes in “Cafe Forbidden”. The employees of the cafe include Luke the rogue werewolf, Toryu the mysterious jiangshi, and Vlad the Count Dracula. The cafe employees decide to help Ton and a whole bunch of action goes down.
Phantom in the Twilight is sponsored by a Chinese game company which explains our main girl’s heritage. Ton is a generic female protagonist with some suicidal recklessness which I think makes her character more appealing. The opening episode promotes Vlad Garfunkel (yes that is a ridiculous last name) and Ton as a couple which is unusual for a reverse harem to do right off the bat. Vlad’s character is sulky and angsty but I’ve developed a curiosity about Toryu. It seems that people are hoping for some yuri love scenes between Ton and her best friend which could be a possibility if it’s adapted into a game. The setting of London is beautiful and I hope we see some flashbacks of Rijan’s story in Victorian England as it has me more interested. The animation during fights wasn’t the best which I hope will be resolved since we’ll be seeing a lot of action.
Shichisei no Subaru: Anohana: The Kirito We Saw That Day
Starting off with a CGI dragon is never a good way to start off a show, but Shichisei no Subaru does just that. Isekai is a genre that is so overdone that it has completely lost the novelty and charm it had when it first became popular. Studios started to churn out low-budget isekai full of fan service and male-fantasy pandering that I’ve stopped caring for the genre entirely. When I heard the synopsis of Shichisei no Subaru, I picked it up in hopes that it does something fresh to the diluted genre. But, the show fails to do that. Yet.
Shichisei no Subaru can be easily summarized into a combination of the isekai standard and Anohana. And that’s all there is to it so far. There isn’t much to distinguish the show from the average isekai show, and the dead-childhood-friend-coming-back-to-life wasn’t as subtly and smoothly introduced as Anohana. The animation and art are so-so; while all of the monsters shown so far are hideous CGI, the character art has a soft pastel vibe. However, this show seems to lean more towards action than Anohana, so I don’t know how much more of those CGI monsters I can take.
Shichisei no Subaru is just your everyday isekai as of now, but that may change later. Emotional anime tend to pay off towards later episodes, and I hope that this is at least a decent one since the genre has been running dry for quite a while. Or it might not become anything, joining the other bland isekai shows that no one will remember a few years from now. We’ll have to see.
Shōjo Kageki Revue Starlight: The idol magical girl show we never knew we wanted
This show baffled me, because I had no idea what it was about. I had to do some digging, and I discovered that there was a whole medium of Japanese theater called Takarazuka. This musical theater troupe is located in Hyogo Prefecture where there are extravagant western-style musical performances. All actors are girls, male characters are played by masculine girls called otokoyaku, there is a main Top Star that is decided by a competitive ranking system, and there is an academy dedicated to preparing girls for the theater… my point is, Takarazuka has enough rules and customs to be a world of its own.
Shōjo Kageki Revue Starlight is actually not an anime original, but a stage musical that is about a stage musical. It criticizes the competitive and stressful culture behind Takarazuka and the life that the performers dedicate for a chance to become a Top Star for a short time (the combat audition is an analogy of the ranking system for choosing the Top Star). As far as I can tell, the show gives off heavy doses of Madoka Magica, especially with the aura of mystery and hints of dark themes. The main protagonist, Karen, seems to have the goal of giving everyone an equal chance to become the Top Star by becoming a Top Star herself. I feel that towards the end, the group will be fighting against the system in order to have everyone play an important act on the play. It is interesting to note that on MAL, all nine girls are listed as the main characters.
In terms of animation and choreography, this show completely blows its competitors out of the water. Choreography is especially important in idol shows, but this is a combat idol show which means that it has even greater importance. Kinema Citrus’ strong point is clearly showing the positioning of characters in a cut, so the studio synergizes well with the action in the show. If you don’t plan on watching this show, at least watch the transformation scene. It is hands down the best mahou shoujo transformation scene that I have ever seen.
Shōjo Kageki Revue Starlight definitely is a niche show of the season. It does a very poor job of explaining Takarazuka, and as an audience member who knew nothing about the core concept, it was quite frustrating to watch. But if you are willing to do some off-screen research (this twitter post is a good start: Twitter), and this show might pay off big with all the great things it has going for it.
Sirius the Jaeger – The revival of P.A. Works in action animes
I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the first two episodes of Sirius the Jaegar at Anime Expo 2018. In the theater room, I was fangirling with Scorpio at the gorgeous visuals, the riveting music that kept us at the edge of our seats, and of course, the certain plot-twist at the end. There’s virtually nothing I can say that’s “bad” about this anime, even on the plot and characters. There’s a beautiful balance of politics, controversial issues, and diverse characters piled up in this anime that makes you feel like you’re watching Joker Game all over again, but it’s a lot more enjoyable with the vivid and fast-pace action scenes.
Masahiro Ando’s team really outdid themselves with the direction of this anime. All the animated frames are crisp without the typical animation awkwardness, the fight scenes are constantly flowing, and there’s an astonishing amount of research and detail in this anime, from the architecture of the Showa era of Japan to the little grooves in the sub machine guns. One thing that’s new is that the team using the reflection from the polished floors and shining blades to foreshadow the following scenes. It’s a bit unique as it’s something I haven’t seen anime use a lot as a means for storytelling. Of course, Sirius is not an Ando work without the iconic hand-to-hand combat scenes, the flair for characters grappling from ceilings with guns blazing, and the copious amount of blood splatter across the screen. If you can stomach Ando’s work, Sirius the Jaegar is perfect for you.
The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar: Questionable Harem Isekai
I haven’t seen an isekai in a while so I was looking forward to The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar. Yuuto Suou was summoned to the world of Yggdrasil where he worked his way up to the position of patriarch of the Wolf Clan. In this world, life is as it was between 1300-2000 BC where war is the most common way to secure land and power. Yuuto, who doesn’t have any supernatural powers of his own, relies on his smartphone to find all the information he needs on tactics and strategies to ensure military success. Additionally, he also has beautiful Einherjar Felicia and Sigrun by his side to help him in his battles.
I came away from the first episode with so many questions. Like, how does Yuuto’s cell phone work in this world? How can it remain charged for such a lengthy period of time!? And most importantly, what network allows him to call his friend Mitsuki in the real world? Yuuto wants peace between the clans so he has time to find a way back home and I’m curious about why he arrived in Yggdrasil in the first place? Because the series jumps right into the middle of the protagonist’s adventures, there is a lot of explaining to do about the way this world works. I’m not sure about the whole sister/ parent reference from Felicia and Siegrune especially since they try to seduce Yuuto… I could’ve done without the sexual humor. The characters aren’t particularly notable yet and the protagonist is as generic a hero as they come. If I keep watching this it would be to find out how Yuuto uses his mind in a world of magic to keep winning.