Brace yourselves for Winter 2019 as many manga adaptations have worked their way to the big screen. The highly-anticipated Rising of the Shield Hero and The Promised Neverland definitely have our attention, but even delightful surprises like Dororo, My Roommate is a Cat, and W’z pique our curiosity. Check out the Anime Trending Staff’s first impressions for this season!
Bermuda Triangle: Colorful Pastrale – Middlingly Mediocre Mermaids
I play Cardfight!! Vanguard, but I didn’t plan to get into the anime because there is a lot of it, and from what I’ve seen my roommate watch, it’s not super high quality. But I decided that was gonna change! Hot off the heels of ZOMBIE LAND SAGA, a new show was announced about the Bermuda Triangles’ Mermaid Idols from the Cardfight!! Vanguard Universe! I was stoked!
I feel let down. Two episodes in and there hasn’t even been a musical number. If the show is supposed to be a promotion for the new expansion of the card game, it isn’t doing its job very well. The characters don’t catch my interest and the animation is sub-par – the characters’ facial features are sometimes arranged in ways that look rather awkward. My roommate came up with a theory that the reason the show takes place underwater is so that there isn’t the need for walking animations. The characters can just float from place to place. Moreover, I am also disappointed with the show’s world building. In the first episode, we are told that tera is a popular drink and are shown a steaming cup of tea. Steam doesn’t work like that at the bottom of the sea! Additionally, any baked goods would be soggy as heck. Lastly, in episode two, it is just casually revealed that every once in a while, a tide will sweep through the town, damaging the buildings and potentially harming the residents. This death tide is of no concern to our cast of young mermaids, because the death tide has revealed an old theater! Ooh! How fancy.
Colorful Pastrale doesn’t quite clear the watchability threshold for me. It’s pretty clear that it is not trying to create new fans, just trying to give something to the already existing ones.
Boogiepop and Others – A Really Recognizable Reboot
I watched the first two-thirds of Boogiepop Phantom with my friends a few months ago to prepare for Boogiepop and Others. Now, Boogiepop Phantom isn’t a bad show; it’s got a great opening and it has some of the greatest spider-eating scenes in anime. But I was confused and had a tough time connecting all the different vignettes together.
On the other hand, Boogiepop and Others is a much easier show to get into. The first episode is scattered and doesn’t give you a whole lot of information, but the second episode is what hooked me in. We have a strange personality named Boogiepop, rumored to be the god of death, who possesses a girl at a high school. Boogiepop’s goal is to protect the school from a “maneater”. Meanwhile, a girl detective named Kirima Nagi is doing some of her own investigating.
Not only does the show seem to be taking a more linear storytelling path, which makes it easier for a dummy like me to follow, but all the parts of the show are great. Ushio Kensuke’s atmospheric soundtrack really helps build the mood for this supernatural mystery show, and the character designs and animation are both great. Hearing Aoi Yuki do two completely different voices for Boogiepop and Miyashita Touka is also a pleasant surprise.
My only gripe is that they missed the opportunity to call it Boogiepop and Friends.
Date A Live III – Come For The “Plot,” Stay For The Story
It’s been five years since the last season, but Date A Live is back, once again showing everyone that with your very own harem, you too can save the world. Thirty years prior to the events of the series, an unprecedented catastrophe, known only as a “spatial quake,” ravaged most of Eurasia, killing 150 million people. These quakes are caused by “spirits,” or female beings with incredible magical abilities capable of bending the rules of space and time. When faced with such power, there are two options. The government’s decided to deal with these spirits with violence, but the other option is to make them fall in love with you and seal their powers with a kiss. And that’s exactly what the main character, Shido Itsuka, does. With the help of a secret organization named Ratatoskr, Shido is tasked with tracking down and saving spirits wherever they appear. And, naturally, as he saves more and more spirits, hilarity ensues.
So far, I’ve been very impressed by the show’s tone and how quickly it jumps into its story arcs. The beginning is light-hearted and funny, with misunderstanding jokes after misunderstanding jokes, which is pretty standard for Date A Live and other harem shows. This was likely done to ease viewers, new and old, into the show. However, by the second episode, the show turns darker. Even during its most casual moments, there are some pretty somber undertones. Now, this isn’t the first time Date A Live has taken itself seriously, but to do so this early is new. It suggests that this is going to be a darker season with a more compelling and deep story. Personally, having seen both Date A Live and Date A Live II, I have high hopes for this season. From the beginning, I felt the show’s story had a lot of potential, but it hadn’t been fully realized. Maybe this is the season where it will all come together.
And if you don’t care for the main characters from seasons 1 and 2, at least stay for voice actor Takehito Koyasu (Dio), who returns for this season.
By: @Peter Nishimura
Dimension High School – VR Chat: The Animation
My friend and I stumbled onto Dimension High School accidentally. Of course, being the serious and reasonable people that we are, we immediately set out to watch it. The show is about a group of high school students and their teacher. They get transported into “the 2-D world” by a mysterious talking rock named Spudio XXII. They must solve puzzles while trapped in a virtual version of their classroom or else a sphinx will eat their souls. Did I mention that it is a live action show? Well, it kind of is. The beginning and ending of the first episode are shot in live action, while the time spent in the “2-D world” is straight out of a VR Chat, complete with limbs clipping through bodies and dead, lifeless eyes.
The live-acting seems kind of fake, and the animation in the middle is awkward. The premise is kind of dumb and as someone who doesn’t really understand Japanese, half the puzzles just fly over my head. HOWEVER, I still love watching it. It kind of reminds me of the New Year’s Eve Batsu Game specials. This is a goofy, hilarious show that I plan to watch surrounded by my few friends and with low expectations.
Domestic Girlfriend – A trainwreck worth watching
Domestic Girlfriend has quite the shocking synopsis. Natsuo is a high school student who has the hots for his teacher, Hina. He goes to a mixer with his friends where he meets the gloomy Rui, who unexpectedly asks to have sex with him just for the sake of understanding what it is. The two do it, only to realize a few days later that Hina and Rui are sisters and their mother is getting married to Natsuo’s father. If this sounds like a trainwreck, trust me: the train later derails, rolls off a cliff, and falls into a pool of lava, crushing quite a few side characters on the way down. It’s not exactly a premise with much substance, but underneath the fanservice (although there is plenty of that), there are some interesting themes at play. Parts of the manga delve into the worst case scenario of love, family, and the consequences of both being involved, weaving an interesting tragedy that forgoes political correctness and social expectations. I should mention that while the opening is an absolute banger, it is kind of misleading that this would be a harem show, which it is not.
While the manga does have its faults, what intrigued me is that Diomedea did the opposite approach of the Five Wedded Brides adaptation and focuses much more on the theme of the story instead of the fanservice aspect, skipping the first sex scene entirely. The animation quality is very good as per the usual Diomedea standard, important scenes were executed very well, and the show doesn’t try to act more than it is with obtrusive comedic relief or heavy seriousness. If this is the case for the rest of the season, I would say that Domestic Girlfriend is definitely worth a gander. As I previously mentioned, the good parts of the manga are interesting and the wide variety of the faults that each character have will definitely be relatable for a lot of the viewers, and if this is what Diomedea chose to focus on, the show could easily be the romance drama show of the season.
Dororo – Cool done right
When I saw the poster featuring the characters for Dororo, I was doubtful at first. Long black hair? Check. Red eyes? Check. Father abandoned him and now he has to fight demons? Check. To be honest, I expected this to be another edgy show featuring a Kaneki/Sasuke-esq main character with the same generic tropes that usually are present with said character type.
Boy was I wrong.
Hyakkimaru isn’t your everyday emo character who is cold and distant and whines about his dark past. In fact, he can’t talk at all and has no limbs, vision, or emotions, which is quite the introduction, but it may become uninteresting as the show goes on. However, the plot is not a single-player experience as we have the mischievous child thief Dororo who is the opposite of Hyakkimaru’s character. Dororo is talkative, has all his limbs, vision, and bursting emotions, thus creating a perfect foil for Hyakkimaru and completes an intriguing dynamic duo that I can’t see getting old any time soon. While it sounds like there is a lot of demon slaying involved, the true plot of the show seems to be Dororo helping Hyakkimaru reclaim everything he lost, both physically and emotionally. Combine this with some kick-ass fight choreography, exceptional support characters, stylistic art style, and you have the recipe for an amazing one-of-a-kind historical fiction anime. Yes, MAPPA and Tezuka may not have the best budget (see: feet with only a toe drawn) but I am definitely willing to overlook this for the intriguing premise alone.
Also, I can’t help but give a shout out to the stellar opening. I have never heard of the artist Ziyoo-vachi before, but his high vocal range, mix of modern and traditional instruments, and pastel art style present one of the best openings for this season that conveys the tone of the show perfectly.
Kaguya-sama: Love is War – *Fujiwara’s Victory*
Kaguya-sama is a unique and refreshing romantic comedy manga that I have been following for a while, and I was delighted when I heard that it would be receiving an anime adaptation. However, I was worried at the same time because the manga has a lot of internal dialogue and narration that helps push the story forward. These can be hard to convey through animation, and even though A-1 was handling it, I was still worried all the same. But after watching the first episode, most of my worries were relieved and A-1 again proved themselves to be a master of adapting original material.
The first episode did an excellent job introducing the Kaguya concept of love, characters, and internal dialogue perfectly, as these three factors are the essential driving force of the series. The original material uses personal thoughts and logic to provoke a sense of tactics and battles as the full title of the series suggests. The anime adapts this through the use of metaphorical visuals to accompany what each characters are thinking, and executes it well by making the scenes more exciting and comedic. The dual personality of the main dynamic duo is introduced right away and does its job of informing the audience that our characters are not as strong and confident as their actions might suggest. Fujiwara’s character is done exceptionally well, as her lack of understanding the atmosphere and happy-go-lucky personality is powered by Konomi Kohara’s great performance and A-1’s comedic timing. Fujiwara (who is without question my favorite character in the series) is an important third party in Kaguya and Shirogane’s duel of romance, and her own way of caring for the student council members makes her a very important, if not the MVP of the cast of the show. Her “jester” role was superbly introduced, and I hope that A-1 continues to do so with the characters who will join the cast throughout the show.
The only foreseeable downside I can see is that the series has certain touching moments where the comedic side should be dropped for a more serious tone, and I hope that A-1 is able to balance this out along with all of the slice-of-life shenanigans that will occur in-between. This is definitely the romantic comedy to look out for in the season, and I can confidently recommend Kaguya-sama: Love is War without hesitation for fans of the genre!
Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka – Magical Girls don’t retire
Three years ago, magical girls saved mankind from cute mascot-like creatures called the Disas. Though some of the five survivors have stuck with the military life, PTSD-suffering Asuka just wants to be an ordinary high school student. But the plot has other plans for her, and a terrorist attack causes her to transform into a magical girl once more. There’s also a mysterious group of individuals, whose leader seems rather excited by Asuka’s return…
The inclusion of PTSD and brutal violence quickly makes it clear that Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is another “dark” magical girl show, which seems par for the course these days. Fortunately, it does some things differently. The usage of the first episode as a cute and innocent facade is averted here, while things are nowhere near as edgy as last year’s Magical Girl Site. Having the story set after the final world-saving battle adds to the freshness as well. I don’t expect Magic Girl Spec-Ops Asuka to be as talked-about as Madoka or Magical Girl Raising Project, but it looks like it’s set to be a bloody and solid entry to the sub-genre.
Mob Psycho 100 II – New Year, New You, New Mob
The stakes are high in Mob Psycho 100 II as our middle school protagonist, Mob, is now maturing and understanding his role as a supernatural psychic that has the power to drastically affect the livelihood of others. Mob, Reigen, and Dimple continue to deal with the supernatural requests from customers, whether it be exorcizing an evil spirit or tackling urban legends that haunt the commoners. The workflow remains the same: Reigen takes part-timer Mob to work while Dimple tags along as insurance. However, in contrast to season one, Mob isn’t just blindly following Reigen around anymore. With all his experiences as a ridiculously strong psychic, the supernatural adventures he embarks on now have more weight to them. Mob is no longer the kid that suppresses his power due to his fear — he’s learned to wield it as his own and now understands the responsibility that comes with it. The highly-observant Reigen also notices this, and even he cannot carelessly toss out lies anymore, especially with the stronger spirits and demons they now encounter on the job. Things take on a more serious and darker tone in Mob Psycho 100 II as the dangers Mob and Reigen face are much more tangible and unsettling.
Aside from the tonal and serious shift for the second season, the show certainly doesn’t let you forget that it’s also a silly slice-of-life comedy — the slapstick humor is there every step of the way, and the animation that accompanies each and every scene for Mob Psycho 100 II is phenomenal. The vibrant colors and flashy style has the tendency to play with the viewers’ emotions, ranging from laughter to anxiousness, to disgust and genuine curiosity. Many of the action sequences are lightning fast, and in contrast, the slow-motion or zoom into the characters’ faces, stances, and expressions add a layer of depth to the story. Emotions play a huge part in Mob Psycho, especially in the build-up toward Mob’s explosion. What will Mob do when he reaches 100% this time?
My Roommate is a Cat – The most wholesome show of the season
Do you like cats? If you do, then purrfect! If not, this show is still a nice light-hearted watch amidst a more intense selection of anime this winter. Mikazuki Subaru, a socially awkward but popular mystery novelist, is going through a dark time after the death of his parents. As someone who has always preferred books to people, Subaru turns to his imagination and writing to keep himself distracted from the loss. Through a welcome twist of events, he takes in Haru, a stray cat who has also suffered a rough life. They start living together and we get to see their days pan out with entertaining, emotional and bizarre situations.
One of the best features is that the narrative gives us both Subaru and Haru’s perspective. The cat’s view on events is hilarious and makes the show worthwhile in its own right. The voice-acting in this case is top-notch. As it tends to be with slice-of-life genres, the plot is simple and easy to follow. We witness the intrinsic working of these characters and how remarkably well they interact with each other despite the lack of a shared language. Every action builds up to create a soft mood that has you feeling all fluffy inside. My Roommate is a Cat is the celebration of love between pets and humans. It’s a reminder that relationships can transcend species, and bring a good amount of joy and healing into your life. This is the kind of anime you can enjoy with minimal effort on your part and be rewarded with pure bliss!
The Five Wedded Brides (The Quintessential Quintuplets) – A wedding is not enough to fix this show
The Five Wedded Brides revolves around a quintuplet of sisters who are failing school, and poverty-stricken studying genius, Fuutaro, is given the opportunity to pay his family’s debt in exchange for helping them pass their classes. If that sounds like a harem scenario, it’s because it is. Jumps to the future indicate that Fuutaro will marry one (?) of them, and in most cases I would be fine with labeling the series as a harem waifu wars bait. But the reason why I don’t dismiss this show that easily is because I have read the later chapters of the manga, and there are some genuinely interesting arcs that delve into the meaning of being siblings while also exploring each sister’s flaws and pains.
Unfortunately, Tezuka Production approached this in the worst way possible and adapted the anime based on the tone of the earlier chapters, which simplifies down to: fanservice. Yes, the manga is ridden with fanservice and yes, the anime will probably have to muck through a lot of fanservice to get to the good parts of the manga. What I do have issues though is that the fanservice seems to be emphasized even more in the adaptation, as chest sizes have been upped compared to the manga and a lot of the focus shots are suggestive. The sisters blush for no reason, the color pallete is aggressively saturated, the comedic scenes are cringeworthy, and moments are ruined by a soundtrack that is more befitting of a children’s cartoon. It has been rough for Tezuka Productions the past few years and they have almost no experience at all with this genre, which could explain a lot of the shortcomings of this adaptation. Which is unfortunate, considering the popularity and fanbase surrounding the original material.
Also, in case you were wondering, Miku is best girl. Don’t @ me.
The Price of Smiles – War and peace
The best bit of The Price of Smiles’ first episode comes after the credits. Unbeknownst to twelve-year-old Princess Yuki, war has broken out between her kingdom and the Empire of Grandiga. The peace delegation she sent is well aware of this however, and is determined to resolve things by themselves – via conflict of course. The Grand Master of the Royal Order states that their decision to keep the innocent princess in the dark is meant to save her from heartache, but considering the show’s title, some heartache seems inevitable.
The Price of Smiles takes place in the future where humans have settled on a new planet and pilot mechas into battle. The plot is harder to describe since the show’s synopsis and debut episode don’t reveal much about it. (The opening does seem to hint that it will involve using the power of friendship to end war, however.) Aside from its juicy post-credits scene. The first episode is more of an introductory experience, allowing viewers to get acquainted with the young Princess Yuki and Hariant. It’s decent stuff, but the lack of an early hook or plot direction hurts it quite a bit, causing the pre-credits proceedings to feel aimless and a little dull. But now that we’ve got half of the introductions out of the way (the show hasn’t introduced the other main girl, Stella, and her fellow Grandiga soldiers yet), the story might pick up the pace and hopefully live up to the potential teased by the post-credits.
The Promised Neverland – A life-or-death escape room experience
Oh man, I love The Promised Neverland. The manga is great, and so far, the anime has been even better. A few well-placed camera angles and some decent background music can really ratchet up the tension. The show captured my full attention while I was watching it, and each episode ends with me eagerly awaiting the next episode.
The Promised Neverland takes place in a house or orphanage. At the house, a bunch of kids live with their surrogate mom and have a generally happy life. Every few months, a child gets adopted and leaves the house. At least, that’s what you are led to believe. In truth, the kids are being raised as food for demons, and each “adoption” is actually a kid being bought to be eaten like a cow at market. With two of the kids, Emma and Norman, learning of this horrifying truth, they now must plot to escape the house without getting caught. Mom is very smart, though, and has a job to keep the kids exactly where they are.
There aren’t any big fight scenes to animate, so a lot of attention is spent on the smaller details, which is important for a suspenseful thriller like The Promised Neverland. I’m also very excited to see a badass female lead character. Emma is a great protagonist and I look forward to seeing her show off her intelligence and wit. Also, Holy Hell UVERWorld’s OP is a jam. It has a great beat and I’m a sucker for anything with a fun saxophone bit.
There’s no Peter Pan or Tinkerbell in this Neverland, but the show looks Promising.
The Rising of the Shield Hero – For a guy with a shield, Naofumi sure has a lot of EDGE.
The Rising of the Shield Hero is about Iwatani Naofumi, a “somewhat otaku” who is summoned to another world through a magic book. He is one of the four heroes, powerful warriors summoned to fight waves of oncoming monsters that appear every few centuries. However, Naofumi is “the Shield Hero” who is considered the weakest of the four and is generally seen as “the loser” of the heroes. After being tricked and betrayed, Naofumi is unconsolably angry and resentful. Broke and lacking the ability to level up quickly due to his low offensive capabilities, he buys a slave to go fight for him so that he can survive the oncoming waves and return home.
I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve seen so far. I’m a fan of betrayed protagonists and some righteous anger, and I indulge in Isekai shows and manga like a fat man at a buffet. I like the character designs. Raphtalia is cute, and the green color of Naofumi’s outfit is pleasing to the eye. The other three heroes seem to be designed in a way that pokes fun at other stereotypical isekai protagonists, and it is amusing. But I can see that joke wearing thin reasonably fast, so I hope that we either see less of them, or they get more character development. The animation is pretty good apart from the CGI horde, but computer-generated armies of baddies seem to be the norm nowadays. I know I’m not the first one to praise Kevin Penkin’s soundtrack, but I really do like it. It is a different direction from his previous work, and it’s been done very well. I am looking forward to watching the rest of it.
W’z – Who ordered more Hand Shaking?
W’z might be the biggest surprise of the season. Why? Because it’s actually a sequel to Hand Shakers, the 2017 anime about holding hands and fighting. It takes place ten years later with a large new cast (but with the appearance of some familiar faces) and revolves around Yukiya, a boy who thinks he’s “probably” fourteen years old. He’s a fan of music and DJing (despite the reactions of the other characters, his music isn’t that good though), although it’s not clear if his musical interest matters in the grand scheme of things. He’s also an “irregular” Hand Shaker, which means he has some special power that other Hand Shakers are keen to get their hands on.
While it might not be saying much, W’z offers a better first impression than Hand Shakers. One reason for that is that both the protagonist and set-up are less dull, although newcomers might be confused about what a Hand Shaker is. The other reason is the presentation which is more restrained than the overly extravagant direction Hand Shakers went with. It still suffers from issues, namely in its overindulgence of color variety and somewhat underwhelming-looking faces, but at least it’s bearable and easier on the eyes. Despite all this, is W’z actually good? Aside from the pretty cool intro, I’d hesitate to say that. It’s certainly not bad for now, and might prove to be decently entertaining in the long run.