My weekly anime binge, now into its second decade, continues to go well. We’ve picked up about 10 shows this season, split about evenly between continuing series and new series. All of the below are available from Crunchyroll or Funimation if you want to join the fun.
Subgenre: Urban fantasy, I guess?
Points for: The enormous cast is full of unique characters, each one seemingly engaged in a competition to be the fan favorite, mostly successfully. Somehow making a headless horse-person adorable despite lacking a face. Including a high school boy who might secretly be the mastermind of the whole series.
Points against: Good luck keeping track of whatever is supposed to be going on.
Point of Order: This is the third part of the second season. Allegedly the final part.
Review: The 40 characters and their 400 subplots are all entertaining individually and when bouncing off of one another. 8/10
Assassination Classroom (Season 2)
Previously Reviewed: On this very site!
New Information: Not much, but completing season one occasionally caused me to wonder whether I should be rooting for middle school students to become elite assassins, no matter how emotionally satisfying it is for them.
Review: The joke hasn’t gotten old yet. 8/10
GATE (Season 2)
Subgenre: FUCK YEAH JAPAN
Points For: Fun characters that I enjoy spending time with. Hilariously short, if sometimes grisly, encounters between modern military force and aggressive medieval types. Lots of fish out of water cultural moments both from and in reaction to the modern Japanese characters.
What’s Really Important: The Japanese are the strongest, smartest, bestest people in all of existence!
Points Against: More than a hint of propaganda. There is an air of cultural superiority about this show that can only be described as imperialist.
Review: The nationalist elements are similar to fictional depictions of American soldiers making contact in sci-fi/fantasy settings that I’ve encountered. And I really do like the characters. 7/10
KonoSuba: God’s Blessing On This Wonderful World!
Premise: A student dies and meets a goddess who is totally an asshole about his death. He is told he can go fight the Devil King, and take one item. He takes the goddess. Because he’s also kind of an asshole.
Subgenre: Trapped in an MMORPGish world.
A Note on the Title: It quickly becomes apparent that the title is sarcastic. This is a tale of two misanthropes and their dysfunctional party members.
Points For: The timing of the comedy beats is superb.
Points Against: Excessive gainaxing.
Review: The characters are simultaneously playing things straight and not taking anything seriously. It is a seriously impressive tightrope to walk for a show that is probably just slightly better than okay. But it makes me laugh. 7/10
Myriad Colors Phantom World
Premise: Some vague disaster that altered human minds makes us all see phantoms. Real phantoms with physical forms. It is unclear whether they were here all along or if they were created in the disaster. Teens with special powers fight them.
Subgenre: School club with superpowers
Points For: It’s not offensively stupid. Gives the impression that something good, interesting, or important is going to happen at any moment.
A Sudden Realization: But it is stupid. And none of those things ever happen.
Points Against: This show is carefully crafted atop a foundation of banal cliches.
Review: I honestly thought I liked this show before I started writing about it. 4/10
Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju
Cultural Note: Rakugo is a type of Japanese one-man show that involves telling comic stories involving dialogue between at least two characters, delivered from a sitting position with only a paper fan and handkerchief for props.
Musings: I’ve only watched one episode of this show, which is in an hour long instead of a half hour format. I think I learned something about Japanese culture that I never knew. The first episode was good, maybe even very good. It also developed about as quickly as a glacial rock formation. I wanted to talk about it and possibly even intrigue you into watching that first episode, but the only grade it would be fair of me to give is: incomplete.
Utawarerumono The False Faces
Subgenre: Slice of Life and also High Fantasy
Subgenre with a Mild Spoiler: Slice of Life and Post-Apocalyptic
Points For: Lots of fun characters. A mysterious setting. Lots of episodes about forming friendships, but in a way that feels genuine. Some legitimately badass action.
A Mild Complication: Haku, the protagonist, is the only character lacking animal ears and a tail. Except for the emperor.
Points Against: The plot doesn’t bother to show up for 15-20 episodes. Half of the enormous cast is probably unnecessary. The action sequences happen about once per seven episodes.
Review: There’s more going on than I have revealed in this brief review and I am very curious to see where it is going. Also, now that the plot has finally kicked in, there are some ties to the original series which really raise more questions than they answer. 7/10 on curiosity alone. But I also like a lot of these characters, so 8/10
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
Subgenre: If you die in the game, you die for real.
But Wait, There’s More: The MMORPG mechanics are recognizable to the audience, but not to the characters due to them having no memories before entering this world.
Points For: Taking the novel (in my experience) approach of putting people in a game world with game mechanics and playing the consequences straight. Killing other sentient creatures, even if they are goblins, is difficult, and maybe even traumatic. The “pervy guy sneaking a peek at the girls in the bath” plotline results in actual intra-party tension rather than being played for laughs.
Point of Interest: We picked this show up because of the silly name and the Funimation app’s fan service-y title card, hoping it would be in the so bad it’s good genre.
Points Against: Someone in the animation department is a fan of Yume’s ass, because we are constantly getting a good look at it.
Review: This is not so bad it’s good. It is so good it’s good. This show is full of THE FEELS, man. I can barely take it. 10/10
Premise: A 29-year-old man sometimes finds himself flashed back 60 seconds with the ability to prevent a tragedy. At the end of the first episode, he flashes back 18 years, just before three children in his town were murdered.
More Premise: He also flashes back forward to his regular timeline, where he is falsely accused of a murder.
Subgenre: Time travelling whodunit
Points For: Intensity. The events of the two timelines are related somehow. Relationships. New ones, even in the past. Mystery. False accusations. Against the protagonist and others. Death. Tragedy. Motherhood. Friendship.
Points Against: None, yet.
Review: I’ve spent every moment since the end of the first episode on edge. The early execution has been brilliant. If this show sticks the landing, I believe it’s the type of show that anime fans will still be talking about ten years from now. 10/10, with potential to break the scale.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Subgenre: Um, Gundam maybe?
Defining Gundam: Giant robots used for war played realistically. Tension between the Earth and its colonies. At least one Ace Pilot. At least one dangerous rival Ace Pilot. A man wearing a mask. Examining the nature of war and why we fight. A princess who (usually) isn’t actually a princess who also spreads the message of peace. Moral ambiguity. A cavalcade of names that Japan thinks are cool, but sound stupid in English. Produced by Studio Sunrise.
Points For: All of the things above, if you’re a Gundam fan. The realism and grittiness in this series are played up, even for a Gundam series. The comradeship of the boys gives them purpose in life. The Ace Pilot character actually seems to have some grasp of human emotion, which is unusual for a Gundam series.
Gundam Novelties: An ally who has a ship crewed entirely by his wives. The main robot uses a giant club as its primary weapon.
Points Against: The plot has been slow to develop, focusing more on teenagers figuring out how to run a mercenary crew rather than the revolution developing in the background. A tendency to introduce or belatedly develop a character ten minutes before they’re killed off.
Review: I like the realism and I buy into the cast’s attempt to make a family out of each other. And the plot is finally starting to heat up. 7/10
All images via Anime News Network.