We’re a couple weeks into a brand new anime season. The familiar yet never-tiring feeling of having dozens of new wacky stories to experience has yet to wane even with three weeks having gone by already. As I was penning my first week impressions, there were certain anime that I just didn’t have enough to go off of, so instead of writing a bunch of indecisive opinions relying on future episodes to clarify, I waited until now, with multiple episodes aired for each anime in order to give a more founded first impression of this season’s anime.
This season is ripe with action fantasies in school settings, strange mysteries, and even a musical. But the most exciting among these fresh prospects is the triumphant return of a personal favorite as well as a brilliant execution of bringing a classic manga to life. This season definitely has some keepers, and others are still trailing around possibly being highlights of the season.
Synopsis: I don’t freaking know. I could say anything and it’d be relevant to this anime.
Sometimes an anime is not the sum of it’s parts. You see projects like this all the time. An anime studio tries to gather a mass of talent, combining the writer from this famous anime, the director of that famous anime, and the composer of this other great anime, thinking it’ll be a hit. Other times a creator will think that a story is all about packing it to the brim with ideas. Concrete Revolutio is guilty of both of these. An anime that just has so much in it that none of it hits on more than noteworthy level.
Concrete Revolutio has mechs, magical girls, and a killer art style, however none of it meshes on a meaningful level. Quite frankly, despite all the colorful pops and bangs, I found myself completely unenthused with what was actually going on. I thought, or more hoped, that this was at least going to be an anime that showcased artistic excellence, but it just happens to be colorful, without much going on otherwise. This was not one of those zany anime that really gripped my heart like Kyousougiga or Monogatari, but I really wish it was. Thus, it became the easiest drop of the season for me.
Synopsis: The world as we know it has changed, and advanced. Massive weapons of warfare called “Objects” have taken the military world by storm. Now, in the future, we see the new world through the eyes of two enlistees who are stuck outside of the action that they wanted.
See, I never was a big fan of mech anime. It wasn’t because I thought mechs looked dumb, but as a fan of traditional martial arts, the less of the human body involved in the fight scenes, the less I care. So then, how do I feel if there is a mecha anime, and even the mechs themselves don’t look appealing in any way? Well, I feel pretty bad. The mechs in Heavy Object are giant spherical oddities that have little to no personality attached to them.
This doesn’t stop Heavy Object from being all bad, but with a rather bland story and a completely uninteresting hook, it definitely has little to stand on. Like a lot of Dengeki published works, the story is quick to establish it’s central characters and world. We have the boy who dreams big but is stuck in an abysmally boring position. Then you have the pilot who doesn’t have dreams, but has the skills and the privilege of being a combat veteran. Their interactions carry a little emotional weight, but nothing that has won me over. Especially when he spent almost a full minute of run time debating on if he should grab the boobs of a girl who was about to suffocate right in front of him in order to save her life. Moving on…
Dance with Devils
Synopsis: Rikka Tachibana lives an ordinary life as a school girl until her mother goes missing, and she discovers a society of demons that are attracted to her…or her them. I don’t actually know.
An anime musical has been a pipe-dream to a lot of long-time anime fans, but they might have to dream a bit more before we get a truly stellar musical based anime. Dance with Devils is full of tropes that plague anime already, only with decent musical numbers thrown in. It’s still a bad anime, it just has more appeal to a certain audience.
That being said, if you like the idea of dark, handsome boys singing flirtatious and corny quips in an all-too-forceful attempt at being sexy, this could be your thing. The story is a rather traditional affair with a blend of sophisticated school life, and demon men with a suave style. It’s all too gag-inducing for me, but I can’t deny some of the effort that went into making the original compositions used for the songs.
Dance with Devils could have broken ground for future anime musicals, but it doesn’t seem to be heralding much more than tantalizing demon boys with singing abilities. I am all for an anime musical, but this is definitely not what I would have hoped for. It’s not quite good enough for me to want to use it to represent the possibilities of anime musicals, so unfortunately it’s dust in the wind for me. I have more satisfying anime to watch.
Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry
Synopsis: Guy sees noble girl nearly naked and thus gets roped into a love/hate relationship with one of the strongest girls in a fantasy battle school.
Why? Why did you have to have one amazing looking fight scene right when I’m about to drop you? Because of a single, thrilling, artistic battle scene, I now feel like it’s a requirement for me to see this through to the end because I don’t want to miss out on another scene like this. The reason I feel so anguished, is because this anime also has a truckload of fan service and awful character personalities ranging from an annoying lead female who constantly adores the “strong man,” and the strong man himself who just has a hyper-masculine vibe about him. His bad-assery comes off as ham-fisted and the girls repeated fawnings over him are simply unpleasant. Wrap this up in about a dozen panty and boob shots and we have what is clearly not about the chivalry of a knight.
Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry is one of two anime that are about an underestimated man partnering up with a resistant woman in a school all about focusing on student’s magical battling powers. To easily compare them, I always said that this is the one with more fan service, even though both of them have it in spades. In episode 2, the opening played for the first time and it showed all these stylish black and white battles with red flurries of color that made it look like something out of a mature, artistic comic book. Nothing in the actual anime reflected this until the end of episode 3, and that, unfortunately, hooked me in.
Rakudai has a lot of things I hate. It’s fan service is borderline distracting, and it’s characters are all extremely hollow. The writing is par for an action series, which isn’t a positive thing in this day and age with creativity overflowing the ramparts across the anime industry in other genres. Once I get my fill of these truly unique fight scenes, this is an anime I’ll be glad to drop.
Synopsis: Sogo is an active young explorer who loves collecting gemstones. He ends up deep in a cave and comes across a mysterious girl who can summon a giant robot, and all of a sudden, powerful people from the shadows are after him.
Comet Lucifer is a mech anime that plays it a little too close to the norm, yet, by following this archetype, it’s also easy to enjoy because you get what you expect of this genre. No more. No less. It’s world is a breath of fresh air, and probably the biggest draw towards continuing on to the next episode. It’s a unique, bustling city that feels like it’s in a renaissance of sorts, full of youthful ideals.
But when it comes down to the actual story, it’s hardly distinctive or surprising. It’s a drawback that doesn’t keep it from being fun, but it quickly takes away from any profound desire to watch this anime. They tried to blend in mystery with the tried and true tactic of introducing a mysterious unknown girl, but it turns out that she’s just an excuse to try to win you over with an unabashedly cute demeanor. I don’t like it when cute things are shoved down my throat, and it seems very apparent that the creator thought of how to make the character cute before making the character a human being. It’s fun, but shallow on an intelligent level.
This anime has potential to be a fun adventure still. It’s atmosphere is very uplifting with a lot of comic relief. When the story does try to get serious, it’s hardly effective, but when it winds down and let’s the character’s breathe, it begins to show promise. I am continuing this one only in hopes of it getting better, but I honestly can not recommend it as of yet. There are plenty of other great adventurous mech anime out there before bringing this one out to the forefront.
Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon
Synopsis: Takeru attends an anti-magic academy that teaches gun combat to fight against the declining existence of mages. Takeru can not even use guns, however, and instead fights with a sword. Thus he is put with the worst group in the school.
And here we have another almost generic action anime that manages to pack a punch in a few places. At least, enough to keep anyone looking for a decent action anime from drifting away. It’s a bit grittier than most anime which is definitely up my alley, but it does so little to distinguish itself that between weeks, I actually forget what happened in this anime and others. There’s a lot of angsty main characters this season hanging around with doting girls.
The things that intensify this particular anime is the music, first and foremost. Having probably the heaviest hitting soundtrack this season, it definitely makes you think some exciting stuff is about to go down. The action scenes themselves have distinguished themselves by having the main character don a suit of Tron style armor to take out a mech entwined with the spirit of someone from the past. That’s right, this is almost like Fate with mechs, but if only it were that good. The world building isn’t near on that level, and nor are the back stories of our main characters.
What I did like is that this anime, out of all the school combat scenarios this season, seems to be taking its premise the most seriously. I don’t mind comedy, and definitely think it heightens the full package when done right. But I will always choose a generally serious anime over one with bad comic relief, or comedy-focused ones entirely. But again, there’s nothing too amazing going on here. If you’re looking for an action anime that could sweep the season, this hasn’t shown near enough promise to do that yet.
The Asterisk War
Synopsis: Another guy sees another noble girl nearly naked and thus also gets roped into a love/hate relationship with one of the strongest girls in another fantasy battle school.
Rounding out the three fantasy school action anime is The Asterisk War. The one with the most mainstream pop, and immediate appeal than the other two. Finally, we have characters that express themselves with vigor, and an animation studio that knows how to dazzle the audience. While it’s premiere episode had almost virtually the same proceedings as Rakudai Kishi, this one definitely executed on that premise with more deft and confidence. But it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows because there’s still ass and titties, and I’m very, very tired of it.
There’s nothing more bothersome then when I am about to take a scene seriously and say to myself, “yeah that was very mature Anime, well done,” and then the camera just pans down to a revealing chest as if there was nothing else worthy of attention. It causes completely standstills of momentum, and interrupts everything. Almost every action series is guilty of it this season, so I’m definitely on edge about this particular subject. With that, this is still the anime that makes the most of it’s non-sexualized scenes to craft an actual great foundation. Unlike the others, I can actually see myself following this one if it can continue it’s current trajectory.
What it does do well is easy to pinpoint: it’s animation. This is A1, the animators of Sword Art and Your Lie in April, so it definitely looks the part. It’s not a showstopper, meaning this isn’t one of A1’s best works, but it still is a visual treat, especially when the magic gets rolling. The other good thing is that this anime is developing it’s characters and plot straight out of the gate. I think the princess is a very strong character, and that the main character is likable. I only hope that the premise involves more than students simply battling it out to shoot to the top. Luckily, hints are already dropping that this is the case.
Utawarerumono: The False Mask
Synopsis: An unnamed man snaps out of his reverie and finds himself in a fantasy world he knows nothing about. A cat girl named Kuon becomes his savior and protector and introduces him to the world.
And here’s our lovable atmospheric adventure anime of the season. Like Snow White with the Red Hair, and Yona of the Dawn before it, this is an anime that completely sells it’s fantasy setting by making it feel lived in, and focusing purely on character interplay to tell it’s story. I love these types of anime, and, like always, these are the type of anime to ease into their best material. I pray that this is what Utawarerumono is going to do because it has me sold on it’s world already.
Our main characters is a quick-thinker, yet is also extremely lazy. It’s a fun mixup, but doesn’t make for the most engaging of main characters. The true delight is Kuon, the female cat-woman who is showing the main character around. She’s witty, wily, and best of all, she’s a reverse on what usually happens between cat women and normal men in that she’s the perverted one trying to spy on him whilst changing. Of course, the fact that a fan-service moment exists in this anime already is making my nerve twitch, but at least I can appreciate the twist this pulled, and of course, it’s fan service is hardly distracting thanks to the infrequency of it.
As far as the actual story, well, it hasn’t really got running yet. This already feels like an anime for the more patient viewer. This means, if you’re impatient, then let us more laid back folks watch it, then tell you if there’s anything worth getting to. This is an anime that doesn’t need to much of a story as long as it can have some truly defining character moments and a motive I can get behind. I’m watching this anime for it’s relaxed atmosphere, but of course I’d always appreciate more. Let’s see what other cat-women this can let out of the bag.
Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation
Synopsis: Sakurako has a weird obsession with bones and skeletons. She has made a career out of it and has even developed highly inquisitive detective skills that she puts to use for the police who come upon one strange mystery after another. She is paired with Shoutarou, a young school boy who always seems to stumble upon these unsolved mysteries.
My oh my, we have a mystery on our hands. As I said in my opening to this write-up, we have a few mysteries this time around. I guess Rokka no Yuusha was a precursor of what’s to come. Beautiful Bones is a quirky mystery that is trying to invoke a more personal meaning into it’s relentless pursuit of crime solving. It sports a strong character duo, a decent amount of charm, but not so much in the writing department.
Beautiful Bones is infatuated with details that sell the validity of it’s intellect, but not the value of it’s story. The crimes are solved in interesting and authentic ways, but what’s the point if it doesn’t apply to the story at hand, if at least, symbolically? However, just having all these details and riddles handed to you on a silver platter makes this an easy watch, and kind of spoils you in a good way. It’s not all realistic, however. The police are portrayed as utter baffoons who can’t realize a darn thing and are constantly condescended upon by the ones actual doing stuff in this anime. Unless the plot thickens, however, this anime is on it’s way to mediocrity very fast.
What gives this anime it’s longest legs are the strange main character duo. Shoutarou is the boy simply caught up in this mess, but this is typically a very dangerous character archetype in a mystery. A lot of the times they are the “dumb” person that the smart person explains everything to, making them a mere paper weight. Other times they are too foolhardy and screw up the investigation more than harming it for dramatic effect. Luckily, this main character is perceptive, competent, and can even handle himself in a fight.
Sakurako, on the other hand, is probably my weakness in this anime. She is…hilariously cute and insightful. I really want this anime to perform well because I have my money on her as my favorite female anime character this season. The way she pines over anything skeletal is endearing and weird in the best combination. It helps that her voice actress has a pleasant voice. Anyways, enough about her aesthetics. The way she solves mysteries is by entering a mental super saiyan mode complete with a transformation animation, and analyzes the scene. She then delivers the infodump that sets everything in place. The formula won’t last, but it does its job for setting up the first few episodes. Let’s hope this mystery can solve its own future dilemmas as well as its bloodied crime scenes.
The Perfect Insider
Synopsis: A highly intelligent member of a research group finds a way to go to a private island inhabited by an infamous genius that he looks up to. He’s accompanied by another smart, wealthy girl who has spoken with the genius before, which is very rare. A mystery unfolds on this island when the genius girl seemingly escapes.
Potential. Absolute potential in this bizarre, yet oddly addicting anime. Again, this is a mystery, but unlike Beautiful Bones which revealed most of its hand already, The Perfect Insider is keeping them purposefully close to it’s chest. We know very little about anything, yet the tiny details that eek out are all essential and fun. What we do know is that this is an anime that likes to prance around with more intellect than any single human needs. This is an anime trying to be very smart, that’s for sure. So surely, if its trying to be smart, then it knows how to roll out its story in the best way. Only time will tell here.
The mystery aspect of this anime isn’t near on the forefront as other mysteries do. It doesn’t present the problem that needs solved as much as just simply showing who the people involved are like in their day to day lives. We have all sorts of intellectual people meaning this is a mystery that will involve a high amount of brain processing, or at least it just needs to come off that way. The characters are all instantly unique, and that’s a big selling point here. We have a sheltered genius who strives to live by his own hare-brained philosophies and a privileged woman who still chose to focus on the intellectual merit of life despite having everything handed to her. These people are intellectuals because they want to be. It fits their personality which makes their sophistication feel natural as opposed to dumb people saying smart things because the creator made it that way.
Unfortunately, until the mystery gets rolling, there’s not denying that the anime is rather uneventful. Sure, there are details to gobble up, and character psyches to really delve into, but the suspense that usually underlies a mystery is barely whirring from beneath. If last week’s cliffhanger was any indication, that whirring is due for an increase in intensity any second now. The Perfect Insider is highly philosophical, borderline cerebral, and patiently paced. It has all the room in the world to become magnificent, yet all the opportunities to become a failure too. Even with that, this has been a very cool set of first episodes.
Synopsis: Fresh off their loss from the end of the previous season. Hinata and his volley ball team mates are ramping up energy and motivation to once again shoot for the stars.
And now we’re at the bona fide good stuff this season. Let’s start with the anime that fills the void of Kuroko’s Basketball’s absence, Haikyuu. Who knows if this season can match the heights of what Kuroko achieved throughout it’s three season run. (For the record, Kuroko’s Basketball went down as a 10/10 perfect anime for me.) But, at the same time, Haikyuu doesn’t need to anymore. It’s clear, from one single episode of this new season that Haikyuu isn’t here to out-intensify Kuroko’s Basketball. They have slightly different tones and moods that make Haikyuu the more invigorating anime of the two. It’s more upbeat while Kuroko’s tends to equally highlight it’s more distressing or straight up sorrowful moments.
This is Haikyuu’s signature. Hinata’s signature, more like, as he’s the main character. Hinata is an undying beam of light for his team mates, and the anime reflects that. Perfect character development combined with truly inspirational team spirit makes this a feel good anime with weight. I only wish that actual action anime would pay attention to how well Haikyuu handles its characters and story structure. We haven’t even started a game yet in this season, yet there have already been triumphant moments.
This season has, and I applaud this, chosen to focus on building its team in both a literal and emotional sense. It’s giving us more time with the team members as we witness their determination and drive, whilst allowing us to meet a new character who is an outsider to the volleyball team, and how their infectious attitude slowly overcomes her. It’s a beautiful story and one that would fit in literally any anime. Fortunately for Haikyuu, this was the anime it happened in, and for that, this anime is off to a brilliant start.
Synopsis: Araragi has a deep-seeded memory that has come to the forefront of his conscious due to a mysterious character probing him to relive a moment that caused one of his most drastic changes in life.
And now we have the mega-mystery of the season The mystery so finely entangled with the main character’s psychology that we are literally adventuring through his brain. In an anime that is already known for it’s zany abstraction and trippy settings, this is a dream come true for Monogatari fans, or more like an acid trip come to life.
So Monogatari is full of disconnected, loosely related, and tightly wrapped arcs. Some roll off the others while others operate almost independently. Owarimonogatari is the latter. You almost need no knowledge of the previous season to enjoy most of what this season has offered so far. However, with Monogatari being so damn good anyways, I’d still recommend watching the old series, but if you just want to watch something new to talk about it with your Monogatari junkie-friend, this is your moment.
So what’s actually going on in this arc of Monogatari? Well, believe it or not, across all the perceptive and explorative dialogue and heavy self-narration, we haven’t gotten many looks into the main character, Araragi’s, mind. This season is capitalizing on that completely by offering a deep glimpse into one of his more buried memories. This time, the focus isn’t purely supernatural, immensely psychological, and yes, mathematical. This is a story rooted in a student’s love for math, and his interactions with a fellow math student, after all. The writing is impeccable as always. You blink, and you miss an entire perspective. That’s how ruthless Monogatari’s narration and info dumps are.
On the other hand, we have it’s elegant, innovative animation hitting it home again. The depictions of Ararargi’s mind and thought process are some of the finest works of interpretive animation in the industry, and I will never tire of watching it. I could almost watch an episode on repeat and still find myself fascinated entirely. Owarimonogatari is a treat for the senses and the mind. It’s beautiful and smart. You may find fault in that it’s an extremely well told story about something that may or may not matter to you, but monogatari sometimes isn’t relatable. It’s just about it’s pure erratic expression and how downright addicting it is.
One Punch Man
Synopsis: There is a renown hero in this town who trained so hard that he became able to destroy his enemies in one punch. Now, at the pinnacle of strength, his life is threatened by boredom and repetition due to never having a challenge in front of him.
What a spectacle, this premiere was. And hats off to Madhouse for not dropping the ball on one of the most anticipated adaptations since Attack on Titan. And yes, this very well could be our next Attack on Titan folks. But before we worry about this anime being talked about too much and becoming unavoidable, let’s take a moment to seriously discuss why One Punch Man is a nearly unrivaled anime in this industry.
We have a cliche story with a very basic twist that just clicks. It’s the reason the manga was so popular. Sometimes a simple joke is all it takes to send something to the top, and this joke is basically… “What if someone was Superman, but ended up almost not giving a crap about anything? What if someone became the strongest man in the world, but simultaneously became the most unenthused man in the world?” That’s what One Punch Man is all about, and Madhouse has communicated it’s story perfectly.
The story alone isn’t enough to sell me. I honestly am not a personal fan of the story as much as just appreciating how funny and creative it is. But, there is something that Madhouse did for me, and it’s one of the primary reasons I watch anime: to watch shit that looks good in motion, and One Punch Man looks very good in motion. Scratch that, it’s one of the most visually impressive anime of the year, and has so much kinetic energy in every fight scene that it simply puts all other action anime this season, and perhaps this year, to shame. This is action at its finest, combined with a comedy that hits hard simply because of how drastically the two characteristics compare.
One Punch Man has already delivered. The world is watching now. All that’s left is to keep up this quality and hope that the story in the manga holds up because Madhouse is doing it strictly from the books. Everything from it’s hair-metal opening to it’s fluid, unforgettable fight scenes make One Punch man feel timeless and it is almost a surefire classic before even wrapping up.
Synopsis: This takes place right after the events midway through season one. The final arc of season one is seemingly a transparent, unmentioned plot thread.) Yato and Yukine continue their partnership with newfound vigor, yet Yato still doesn’t work on solving Hiyori’s condition. Meanwhile, Bishamon is beginning to have trouble with her numerous regalia.
There’s a difference between an anime that executes on a level that I can’t flaw, and an anime that speaks to me in the perfect way. They are both perfect, or very near, but for different reasons. One Punch Man is a faultless execution, but this new season of Noragami is what will most likely remain with me for the rest of my years because this anime is simply astounding. It’s exactly what I wanted more of from the first season. Noragami, in it’s initial run, at times, felt like a true constitution of what I consider to make up some of my favorite anime of all time. Unfortunately the season ended with an anime original arc that kind of soured everything, leaving the anime too short to ultimately rank as high as I hoped.
I was worried that the second season wouldn’t be able to recapture that same sweeping feeling it had over me. Noragami Aragoto more than proved me wrong, it has improved on every facet of what I loved the first time, delivering what feels like an anime that I will legitimately love as an appreciator of this art form. Noragami is many things, and I want to talk about each one at length.
Noragami is thoughtful. In an age where anime creators do whatever they can to sell a single hook or twist, Noragami simply offers a vessel: Our world, but with the vantage point of the supernatural world. Instead of a single notion of innovation, Noragami is just constantly full of ideas, nearly chucking them by the wayside as they spill out onto the narrative. Clever observations and eye-opening lectures aren’t delivered with the gusto that demands your attention. Instead, they are mentioned effortlessly, as if they were a mere afterthought, yet each look into this world is incredibly deep.
Noragami is emotional. It cares about every character’s feelings, and makes you care too. Yato is worried of being forgotten. Yukine is distraught at the way others like him are being treated. Hiyori is growing wary that their friendship is being strained. They are all feelings that are incredibly easy to relate to, and they tell highly evocative stories using these feelings as an anchor to really drive them home. A single vignette will leave me emotionally vulnerable, and completely immersed into the story like no other anime this season does.
Noragami is comical. Yes, despite all the praise I give it on all the serious subjects, Noragami slices up it’s episode runs with terrifically whimsical humor. Every dreary moment is in harmony with an equally hilarious cut away that just keeps your appetite refreshed and ready for more. It surely keeps any scene from ending on a boring note, as well as weaves the entire episode together to paint a more colorful episode than a typical serious drama could pull off.
Noragami is beautiful. The eyes. Oh god, the eyes. Everything from the close-ups of their faces to communicate their reactions and emotions to the fluid fight scenes that hardly cut-away make this a stunning anime even at it’s lowest moment. The character designs all have a small touch that makes everybody seem slightly attractive, yet completely empowered at the same time. Even though this anime just takes place in a city, the occasional glimpses into the spirit world, especially Bishamon’s mansion, still make for ravishing backdrops.
Noragami is complex. You can’t explain the story in sentences. You can hardly summarize it because plot points will roll off of emotional moments, which in turn stem from your experience with this world’s many properties working in tandem. We have multiple character operating in neutral gray areas meaning that there is nothing but an intricate, developed character chess match. Betrayals, double-crossings, intrigue, every plot point is woven thick into the story making every moment emotional, transgressional, and all the more powerful.
I haven’t felt this way about an anime in a long time. Not since my hypnotic attachment to Hunter X Hunter. Please, Noragami, just keep this momentum going to the end of the season and you’re already guaranteed a place amongst the best. Noragami is a must watch, from the beginning. It’s a perfect balance of emotion, both heavy and light, action, art, and story. I absolutely cannot wait for the next episode.
And that is the fall season folks. Four amazingly strong anime with a couple having the potential to make a huge splash this season. There are still a couple that have caught my eye that I’m waiting for second opinions on. And I’ll admit, I’m simply late in watching the new Gundam, because I do want to see it no matter what. As always, I appreciate anyone who takes time to read this blog. If you have thoughts on this new season as well, then please let me know in the comments!