Fall 2019 is here, along with an exciting lineup of both trilogies and new anime to enjoy! Many anime series return to the scene such as My Hero Academia and SAO: Alicization have returned, and the staff at Anime Trending share their first impression opinions on some of the anime picks this season.
Assassins Pride: Where’s the apostrophe
If I had to name one serious issue with Assassins Pride, it would be its protagonist’s name. Seriously, why does a badass sword-wielding assassin get a name like Kufa? His surname, Vampir, is only marginally better, but still doesn’t gel with the first name. Kufa Vampir? I refuse to say that name out loud.
Luckily, Vampir makes up for his crappy name by getting to showcase his skills in pleasingly fluid action sequences. Assassins Pride is set in a world under threat from supernatural creatures, but the focus thus far is on the relationship between Vampir and his new ward, a young noble called Melida Angel. Unlike her peers, Angel struggles to draw out her mana. The mana issue is, unexpectedly, resolved pretty quickly, but Angel’s story remains that of the familiar underdog. The twist is that she may be the product of an illicit relationship, and Vampir was originally sent to observe and eliminate her if necessary. The story isn’t special fare but moves at a fast enough pace to keep things engaging, although events seem to occur too quickly in the second episode.
While the second episode’s pacing provides some cause for concern, Assassins Pride so far seems to be a decently palatable fare, which is by no means a bad thing. I won’t be continuing with the show, but there are worse things out there — like the name Kufa Vampir.
Azur Lane: Only high-tier waifus come equipped with 42-caliber BL 15-inch Mk I turrets
Over the years, there has been a rise in a strange group of anime fans who like anthropomorphized WWII vehicles of war. And, for some forsaken reason, I’m in that fanbase. In the early 2000’s, KanColle was one of the first games of this genre, which featured massive warships of WWII as, well, cute anime girls. This game made waves in the anime-gaming community, but despite a global fanbase that already existed, Kadokawa refused to push it to a global market. Other game companies decided to ride this wave and published games with a similar concept, and Azur Lane is arguably one of the most popular one of them all (I apologize to Girls’ Frontline players reading this). It’s no surprise that this game got an anime adaptation, and to be honest it went past a lot of my expectations for it.
Azur Lane as a game is very heavy on characters and character fanservice. The story is below average even for a mobile game and I have a hard time remembering what it was about. This adaptation seems to have realized that from the beginning and instead focuses on developing the characters that the players know and love. I was worried that the comedic relief characters might drag down the seriousness of the battles, but certain ships such as Enterprise were given a surprisingly dark and gloomy tone that balanced out the tone, albeit slightly jarring at times. The battles were also very well done despite utilizing CGI and being adapted by an up-and-coming studio.
However, I feel that viewers understand the controversies that surround Azur Lane and other anime/games of this genre. The characters featured are named after real weapons of the past that had the intent of fighting wars and killing people, and the battles are reenactments of actual battles that occurred during the war. Critics viewing the genre from the outside believe that it is disrespectful to lightly throw these references around as a form of entertainment when these vehicles and battles cost millions of lives in real life. Kancolle was criticized for historical revisionism and glorifying the Empire of Japan, as the game featured ships from the Imperial Japanese Navy defeating their enemies and few ships outside the IJN were released. Reversely, the Azur Lane anime was criticized by some Japanese viewers for making the IJN the antagonist of the show. While I feel that fans can both enjoy this genre and respect the historical importance of these ships and battles, it’s definitely something to keep in mind.
Fate/Grand Order – Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia: Humanity’s Last Hope in the Age of Gods
As a huge Fate/Grand Order (FGO) fan, I naturally got excited when I first heard about one of FGO’s most exciting chapters getting an anime adaptation. Most people who have played the game would know that Babylonia had one of the most well-written plotlines, so I was especially keen to see how the anime would turn out. Within minutes of watching the first episode, waves of familiarity crashed onto me; without giving away too much, we are given several scenes reminiscent of the game itself. It was incredibly touching to see characters you know and love coming to life.
To newcomers, the first episode serves as a quick introduction to the world-saving organization of Chaldea and the various characters such as Ritsuka Fujimaru and his trusty Shielder-class servant, Mash Kyrielight. The two of them are transported to Babylonia and fight the hostile monsters that stand in their way of fixing the Seventh Singularity. The second episode is simply a continuation of the first episode, but we soon learn people are not who they seem to be, and things have started to become intense for Mash and Ritsuka. The episodes move quite fast which could be hard for newcomers to catch up if they have not played the game, but is understandable due to the amount of content CloverWorks has to cover within 21 episodes. One thing that has amused me though is the various fanservice shots in the episodes; from Mash’s butt to Ishtar’s thighs, I was starting to wonder if fanservice was supposed to be part of the show. That, however, will be for another day.
Overall as an FGO player, the first two episodes have made a fairly good impression on me. However, due to the glossing over of how the situation in FGO came to be, it’s an anime I’d recommend if you are familiar with the game. Otherwise, it can be difficult to enjoy the anime fully without knowing FGO’s backstory. It remains to be seen if CloverWorks can go beyond what they have presented so far to ensure both newcomers and FGO players can enjoy the anime.
Food Wars! The Fourth Plate: Don’t watch this while hungry
The expressive cooking battle extravaganza has made its return yet again, and… truth be told, I really question the starting and stopping points for Food Wars!’s seasons. It’s been over a year since the previous season aired, yet we’re thrown right back in the midst of a non-stop plot without much recap at all. I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve come to appreciate recap episodes in long-running series (more on that in my next entry in these impressions). In all fairness, these complaints are personal gripes that only apply if you choose to watch the seasons as they air, so I’ll move on to the positives.
The Fourth Plate’s premiere episode reminded me immediately that Food Wars! juggles its exceptionally large cast of characters surprisingly well. Despite being out of the loop for some time, I had no trouble remembering what I liked about each of the characters’ designs and quirks. Of course, I have to give a shout-out to the music of Food Wars! too, as Kato Tatsuya’s masterful score really propels the action. After some admittedly awkward readjusting, I’m primed and ready to see where this season takes things. The plot has gotten a little convoluted and dramatic for my tastes, but at the end of the day, the core premise continues to be executed. I know I can expect shokugeki after shokugeki, and watching delicious food prep with a few extra layers of intensity is always a fun time in my book.
Granblue Fantasy The Animation Season 2: *cries in Unite and Fight grind*
Granblue Fantasy is one of the many big-name gacha game coming out with an anime this season and has one of the most expansive background lore and well-crafted story in any gacha game that I have played. However, this is built upon a main story over 100 chapters long with several side stories. Granblue Fantasy Season 2 has the same issues with the first season if seen from an anime-only perspective: it adapts a mediocre and cliche fantasy story that has been done countless times. This is why I’m not entirely sure what audience this show is for; even veteran skyfarers will admit that the beginning of the story is mediocre and would rather get an adaptation of the later chapters or a side story such as What Makes the Sky Blue. Anime-only viewers would not be overly-excited for a run-of-the-mill fantasy story. The only hook for this show that I could think of was the fact that players would be able to see their favorite characters come to life through animation, and see adaptations of big fights as the main game has a mostly static turn-based combat system.
However, this is where my second gripe comes in.
The first season was animated by A-1 studios, and they did a great job with most of the battles that took place (though seeing the fights with the omega primal beasts gave me grind PTSD). For this season, the project was handed off to MAPPA. Now, don’t get me wrong — MAPPA has released some knockout shows in the past and has worked with Cygames in the past on Rage of Bahamut, a show that is ridiculously good for being based on a card game. However, their animation isn’t the most consistent and this was clearer than ever in the first episode during the fight with Tezcat. There were a lot of awkward cuts, character positions seemed to jump around, and the fight choreography was just messy in general. I’m hoping that this improves for the more important fights, but the first episode didn’t leave a good impression.
That being said, there were a lot of things that MAPPA did get right. A lot of people were worried about the change in character design from A-1’s first season, but I feel like the soft pastel actually fits the in-game art well. They featured a cameo of Aliza, a gacha side-character, which gave a lot of players hope that their favorite character might make an appearance from the huge roster that the game currently has. The variations of in-game music that played gave me a huge wave of nostalgia from when I first started the game.
Kabukicho Sherlock: Kabuki-Style Sherlock Holmes
I read the Sherlock Holmes series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as a child and loved mysteries ever since. One of my favorite renditions of the classic was BBC’s Sherlock, so since I was expecting something similar, I was extremely confused by Kabukichou Sherlock’s presentation. So many characters were presented in the first ten minutes that I even thought Sherlock was working undercover as a drag queen! However, as we dive deeper into the first mystery, it seems that the Sherlock from Kabukicho talks to himself with a split personality instead of monologuing his thought process to Watson and the audience.
It’s odd for Sherlock and Watson to meet in a district like Kabukicho as the place is home to many clubs, hotels, restaurants, and other forms of entertainment in Tokyo. Paired with the bright lights and jazzy music, Kabukicho Sherlock captures the mood of modern Japan rather than London at any time period. The most surprising thing for me was seeing Sherlock making his deductions in Rakugo, or a traditional Japanese storytelling form, reminding me of scenes from Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. That’s about as Japanese as it can get, especially if Sherlock continues to solve cases like this. In comparison to this show’s take on the age-old detective series, I do prefer Babylon this season because of its straightforwardness, but Kabukicho Sherlock could change my mind depending on how the next mystery case plays out. Kabukicho Sherlock is an oddball, but it leaves me curious enough to want to witness more.
Kandagawa Girls: Jet-skiing with guns, and fanservice
I was about to start working on my assignments when I noticed that Kandagawa Jet Girls had already premiered. It’s needless to say that I chose the anime over my academic responsibilities, so the question is: was it worth it?
For the most part, the answer is “Not really”. The first two-thirds of the premiere are mostly notable for their unimpressive animation and story (rural girl goes to city and meets an aloof city girl). There’s also quite a bit of fanservice, including censored nudity, but they don’t gel with the mood of the show and don’t prevent most of the premiere episode from feeling plain. The plainness was a bit disappointing given that Kandagawa Jet Girls’ — both the anime and the multimedia franchise it is a part of — concept revolves around jet-racing, a sport similar to jet-skiing,except that a water gun-wielding co-rider comes along for the ride. Where’s the dumb, wacky fun?
Well, some of that “fun” is delivered along with the show’s first jet race — the first half, to be exact. The water guns cause clothing damage in the game, — not surprising given that Senran Kagura’s Kenichiro Takaki is involved — and it’s the same in the anime. I was expecting this gimmick to be as pointless as the preceding moments of fanservice, but the reverse proved to be true instead. As lowbrow as it is, the jet-race’s fanservice is at least better than what came before, as it’s done in an absurd and energetic fashion that recalls the silly hijinks of Keijo!!!!!!!!.
However, Kandagawa Jet Girls is far from being on the same tier as Keijo!!!!!!!!, which featured better quality in just about every department. Kandagawa Jet Girls’ jet-races might be worth checking out if you’re not averse to silly, lowbrow fanservice, but other than that, there’s just not much to see here.
My Hero Academia Season 4: Wait, we’re on four already?
You probably don’t need me to tell you much about My Hero Academia in 2019. Chances are, by now, you’ve been exposed to the monumentally popular shounen series, and you’re already watching it if you ever showed it any interest. That said, it could be that, like me, you could use a reminder of why you’re here for it in the first place.
The premiere of our newest season starts out with — you guessed it — the ever-dreaded recap episode. To be fair, it’s been over a year since Season 3 finished its run, so a refresher is not at all uncalled for. If I’m being honest, I actually enjoyed the episode for what it was! A major element that first drew me into My Hero Academia is how interestingly it presents its characters and its world. This premiere episode was not lazy about reviewing prior events, but instead used the opportunity to give a glimpse into the lives of otherwise-unseen characters. We primarily follow a freelance reporter — complete with his own unique camera quirk — as he visits U.A. to personally interview the core cast of students. It is revealed that the reporter was inspired by All Might at a young age and in turn heartbroken over recent developments, which really sells how important the previous events in Season 3 affects the world of the show.
Now, this might also be a good time to mention that I’ve not read a single chapter of the source material, so the recap is more than welcome on my end. Likewise, I hardly have a clue where the plot is headed, but I am eager for what comes next. MHA’s pacing continues to impress, as the two episodes following the premiere have kept me on the edge of my seat. There are just as many new elements to be found as there are old, from villains to allies to plot threads. I expect nothing less but fantastic animation and music woven around a moving, character-driven plot.
No Guns Life: Fullmetal revolver head
Despite featuring a protagonist who has a revolver for a head, No Guns Life’s premiere doesn’t quite arrive with a bang. There’s a short exchange of bullets in the middle, but it lacks the intensity or urgency promised by the gritty aesthetic and hard-boiled appearance of our good-guy-for-hire, Juuzou Inui. I suspect that the following episode will satiate my thirst for a good fight scene or two, but it would’ve been nice if Episode 1 had a bit more to offer on the action front. It does provide a decent — and literal — punch at the end though.
Nit-picking aside, No Guns Life’s first episode offers adequate entertainment and polished visuals, although surprises are few. Set in a future where modified humans called “Extended” exist, our revolver-headed protagonist’s military past and struggle to pay the office rent are almost as expected as the existence of an evil corporation, whose presence literally looms over the city. More world-building is needed for the setting to truly feel like a place, but revolver guy’s first brush with the Berühen Corporation offers enough intrigue for me to overlook that for now. In addition, there are well-placed moments of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood-like comedy that effectively humanize Inui, while Berühen’s femme fatale operative commands attention with her personality and, er… fashion sense. The show hasn’t blown me away yet, but I’m keeping it on my watchlist.
ORESUKI: Are you the only one who loves me?: Rom-com where everything goes wrong
On the surface, ORESUKI seems like your typical harem romantic comedy with a single twist — Amatsuyu Kisaragi, or Joro, is interested in girls who fancy his best friend instead. Torn between rooting for the girls’ love and his best friend, Joro is forced to play sides and take sides as he reluctantly assumes the “Nice Guy” role. However, the one person who sees through all that is Sanshokuin Sumireko, the only person who likes Joro. She doesn’t like the “fake” him, but rather the cynical side of him that he normally keeps to himself. With her insight and intervention, the love triangle, or rather, love pentagon, grows more complicated as the characters get involved.
The dialogue and animatedness of ORESUKI really stand out this season as one of the best romantic comedies because of its characters. Sure enough, there are a couple of lewd shots for the fanservice, but overall, one can see that show doesn’t take itself too seriously, much like its jokes and characters. Take for example the running joke with the park bench — every character so far has confessed their deepest, darkest, most precious secrets, on a bench that seems to be able to magically teleport across the school unnoticed. Other than the ongoing gags, ORESUKI’s highlights definitely include Joro’s crazy facial expressions, reactions, and heavy sarcasm. If the show utilizes the girls’ cute character designs along with the fresh and funny comedy, then we’re in for a treat to the end of the season.
Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld: Alice-ization
Alicization is finally back. After the events of the first half’s finale, Kirito has been reduced to an unresponsive state, while Alice has left the Integrity Knights to care for him; somewhat strangely, she also sleeps in the same bed as him. The Underworld is now more vulnerable to the threat of the Dark Territory than ever, but it’s also interesting to see how the Administrator’s influence upon it remains. Young trainees see Kirito as a villain deserving of execution, while Alice’s younger sister, Selka, is the only one from her village who does not see Alice as an unwelcome criminal. It’s entirely logical, but that doesn’t make Alice’s disappointment in the world she fought for misplaced.
Of course, we all know that Alice will eventually wield her sword in defense of the Underworld regardless of her disappointment, and that Kirito will eventually return in all his glory. The former is likely to happen by the next episode. Nevertheless, the premiere offers a nice look at how things don’t end perfectly by simply defeating an evil ruler, and it’d be interesting to see how Alice navigates this changed yet familiar world. The return to the Underworld retains the visual quality of the previous season, and while the premiere is more of a measured calm-before-the-storm affair, the opening promises a series of exciting fights further down the line. Eugeo’s charisma will be missed, but Alicization – War of Underworld looks set to be a solid ride.
Special 7: Special Crime Investigation Unit – Kekkai Sensen but with more cops.
In a fictional Japanese metropolis, humans coexist alongside stereotypical fantasy species like elves, dwarves, and vampires. A unique police unit known as Tokunana is created to intervene with human-fantasy species related crimes, but their main objective is cracking down on terrorist activity that threatens the peace in Japan. The unit soon acquires a new member whose iron-clad justice and strange ability make him a unique asset to the group. Sounds familiar? It probably does because Special 7 is strikingly similar to the likes of Kekkai Sensen, albeit less crazy. It doesn’t help that the series is also an original work and has the main character explaining every single crime, which usually doesn’t spell good things for police-mystery anime.
Despite its drawbacks, Special 7 is not unbearable. It focuses on more realistic crimes such as bank robberies and the complicated scandals of politicians that somehow tie in with the terrorists’ future actions. There’s a good amount of exposition per episode, some interesting parodying, and decent action that keeps the show well-paced for its worth. The most striking is Kenjiro Tsuda’s role as the second male lead. His “cool and detached” voice acting style often casts him as an anime antagonist, not to mention his gravelly voice is a perfect match to an antagonist’s smirks and snide comments. But his character, “Charisma” Ichinose is, surprisingly, more warm and human. Aside from minor quips of sarcasm, Ichinose never demeans his coworkers’ abilities and readily assumes the senpai-role to the rookie Nanatsuki. I’m here to see Tsuda grow beyond his usual roles and try to bring this anime to new heights, even if it turns out to be a flop in the season.
Stars Align: Soft tennis, startling power
Stars Align is not the sports anime I expected. Sure, it ticks some familiar boxes: a struggling club, a protagonist who happens to have the right aptitude for the sport, a leader figure striving for something noteworthy. However, I was blindsided by the first episode’s ending, in which transfer student Maki Katsuragi receives an unwelcome visit from an estranged family member. Meanwhile, an earlier scene reveals that our other main character, Touma Shinjou, has a complicated relationship with his mother. The respective conflicts that they present are arguably familiar ones, but the deft yet fairly straightforward direction creates palpable tension in both scenes. The show also does a good enough job with its other story elements, as well as the art and animation (I’m not a big fan of the trees, though). That being said, those two scenes are the main reason Stars Align’s premiere leaves such a strong impression.
Admittedly, it does feel a little strange when an anime about soft tennis has me more invested in an entirely different aspect of the show. It’s certainly not a bad thing for a sports anime to be about more than just the sport itself, and the protagonists’ familial issues — combined with their deft presentation — allows for strong and early investment in the characters. It is vital, however, for these subplots to intertwine well with the sports aspect of the show instead of detracting from it. It’s currently too early to say how well the show will handle this, but as far as first impressions are concerned, Stars Align is excellent.
We Never Learn: we do learn but only after getting emotionally involved with the tutor
Season 2 of We Never Learn: Bokuben is back on our screens and fans are bouncing with excitement. The first episode of any anime sets the bar for what’s to come — let’s just say we can expect a lot of boobs. Just kidding… but not entirely. This season picks up straight from where the last one ended, and I’m pleased to see that all the girls are back. The story continues with Nariyuki Yuiga persevering in his tutoring efforts with “geniuses” Fumino Furuhashi, Rizu Ogata, and Uruka Takemoto. Asumi Komiyami and Mafuyu Kirisu also stay in the game and keep things interesting by adding to the romantic tension. If you look behind the brazen fanservice, this anime promotes a worthwhile ideal that old fashioned hard work and passion can beat talent. When it comes to romance, your strength of character and level of grind wins you an attractive harem. An inspiring message wrapped up in comedy is not an easy feat to pull, but Bokuben, while employing some cliched concepts, executes ideas perfectly and enables us to experience an array of light-hearted emotions from sheer awkwardness to full-on laughter.
Episode 1, amidst all the jokes based on some crazy misunderstandings, asserts Fumino as a potential best girl. The first season portrayed her as a sister-like figure to Yuiga however Season 2 promises a different path. In fact, I’m willing to hench my bets on Yuiga choosing her in the end. But Sensei is cute too! I’m torn between all of them, which speaks to how well-written and relatable the characters are. There is a balanced focus on the nature of Yuiga’s relationship with each girl. We get an insight into their personalities because we get to see the characters are thinking and how each encounter has a different but equally hilarious tone. So far, it’s been a refreshing watch, and I expect things to get funnier while maintaining the deeper themes. Bokuben is amongst some of the best entertainment this season. You can watch it to relax, laugh, and fight with yourself over who the true waifu should be.