Looks like it’s going to be a full ticket indeed this season, with ample choices in most genres and a few nice surprises along the way. Note that the below anime were all released in Japan on or after October 7th, with shows released in the first week of October being covered in Part I of this post (namely Sengoku Night Blood, Ousama Game, Tsukipro, Net-juu, Juuni Taisen, Kino no Tabi, Just Because!, Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou, and Osomatsu-san). I will be combining the titles later on for a Part III of my taste testing post around the season halfway mark. Also, keep in mind although many of these shows have now been airing for 2 episodes, the below comments are based solely on the premieres.
Two Car: Racing Sidecar
Score: 3/10 (Dropped)
As far as cheap and lazy fanservice goes this season (or any season really), I’m sure we’ve all seen far worse. In fact, in that sense I suppose Two Car might even be considered relatively light. That doesn’t make it any less of a thinly-veiled excuse to fetishize young women on motorcycles though, and Two Car is really going for it in an effort to appeal to all possible tastes on that front; we’ve got goth lolis, identical twins, dom/sub, androgynous/feminine, and a bunch of other pairs that are equally as subtle. There’s also close-up breast, butt, and thigh shots a-plenty because why wouldn’t there be, and oh dear god out of all the projects they presumably could have picked, WHY was this specific one chosen to showcase Silver Link’s tenth anniversary?? Look, I know anime studios have to do pay the bills and all, but come on, guys. This isn’t just plain unimaginative, but vapid and tasteless to boot.
Code:Realize: Sousei no Himegimi
Score: 4/10 (Dropped)
The first few seconds fooled me into thinking this was going to be dark in the that Gothic Victorian England, pseudo-Black Butler kind of way, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that Code:Realize is going to be a lot more light-hearted than that. Adventure seems to be taking precedence over drama, and course there’s the whole reverse-harem/romance thing going on as well – cue a cast made up almost exclusively of colourful bishounen, one of whom just happens to be a thief named Arsène Lupin. Presumably that’s supposed to be one of the major hooks, but I truly think it would have been a better show without it; story-wise, there’s no need for the reference whatsoever, and the self-inflicted comparison only makes Code:Realize look worse. But hey, if you’re going to watch any bishounen-centric anime this season, this is at least a good step above either Sengoku Night Blood or Tsukipro. The character designs are pretty nice, the artwork overall is vibrant, and none of the cast seems to be the creepy, rapey type that I’ve basically come to expect from these sorts of shows by now. That doesn’t make the writing actually good – there’s just too much in the obvious exposition department for that, and I don’t think the story itself is all that great to begin with – but you could certainly do worse.
Garo: Vanishing Line
Score: 5/10 (Dropped)
I vaguely remember taking a look at the first Garo anime back when it aired, and my thoughts then are basically the same as they are now; fine, but really not my cup of tea. The good news is that Vanishing Line looks very slick, with its bold, bright character designs and well-executed action sequences with nicely-integrated CG. It’s also nice to see a fantasy-action show that doesn’t take itself particularly seriously – in fact, I laughed out loud a few times during this first episode (which I can only assume was the intention, given its general manly-man, testosterone-filled silliness). On the downside… well, if you don’t like your anime with an overabundance of gore, fanservice, and all the usual patriarchal trappings you’d expect when you have a main character who literally prays at/for boobs, you’re probably not going to be overly impressed. Given that Vanishing Line seems more interested in pure entertainment than anything else though, your mileage may vary.
Houseki no Kuni/Land of the Lustrous
I’m a little on the fence about this one. Positives first: while I’m sure everyone’s going to make their various Steven Universe references (and personally, I’m also getting a tiny bit of a RWBY vibe), this seems like a fairly original idea in terms of anime and could be a lot of fun to explore – especially if the setting and general world-building becomes just as significant to the story as the characters themselves are. It also feels like an idea that might actually have something genuine and significant to say, as opposed to just being something people decided to adapt for its wtf factor. On the other hand, I’m just not a fan of all that CG and wish it had been used more sparingly – preferably to highlight those aspects of the characters that set them apart from normal; the hair, for example, or the girls’ magical powers. The other thing I’m a little wary of is that for some reason, every member of the cast is clearly depicted as female (I’m told they’re a lot more gender-ambiguous in the manga) and have all been drawn with long legs, tiny waists, and wearing short shorts. I wouldn’t say the camera leers exactly, but it does pay ample attention to their figures where it doesn’t seem warranted. This first episode has me curious enough to watch another, but I’m eventually going to need more out the show than just ‘cute gem girls, one of them a bit ditzy and clumsy, wander around in black spandex and sometimes fight moon people.’
While I’m giving this series only a mildly positive score for the time being, that mostly comes down to personal preference rather than ‘objective’ opinion, because I actually think this was a fairly strong premiere that delivered something fresh. Anime rarely sees adults as main characters, and when it does, they’re not typically men in their late 50s who look even older. What we have here is a pretty unlikely potential superhero who’s forced into the role simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time (or right place at the right time, depending on your point of view), and also because he literally has nothing else to live for at this point. In fact, given how little respect he gets from his own family (let alone anyone else) and that he seems to have led a wholly unfulfilling life in an attempt to meet society’s expectations, I found the first ten minutes of this episode downright depressing, and would have dropped the show completely if not for the final couple of scenes. What can I say, catharsis can be a powerful thing. I’m still not sure I want to keep Inuyashiki on – it really depends on whether or not I can emotionally stomach Inuyashiki himself being constantly ignored and/or castigated by his wife and kids on a regular basis. I do think the series is well worth checking out on its own merits though, and would encourage people to watch at least the first episode to see what they think.
Kekkai Sensen & Beyond/Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond
I was pleasantly surprised by the premiere of this second season of Kekkai Sensen. Not because I didn’t like the first season, but because like many other viewers, I wasn’t at all sure what the series would look like with both a new director and new writer at the helm. A messy but fun, dumb but delightful romp like Kekkai Sensen begs for someone like Matsumoto Rie to keep things loose and wacky, yet in some way still coherent, rather than just out-and-out stupid. Thankfully, episode one of Beyond feels like exactly the same show, from the character dynamics and setting to that all-important atmosphere. Honestly, I wouldn’t have known from this that there were different staff on board if I hadn’t already looked it up beforehand. So while we have no idea as yet what the overarching plot will be, this was a solid welcome-back from a title that still looks like it’s going to be an entertaining ride.
Mahoutsukai no Yome/The Ancient Magus’ Bride
First off, if you haven’t already watched the 3-episode OVA that aired between September 2016-2017, you really should. It’s not necessary to understand what’s going on, mind you – it’s just a really good anime in its own right that also happens to provide some solid character backstory. This full TV series is evidently set some years later, and is more than likely going to be one of the most compelling shows of the fall season. I say that despite the potential for deep creep factor, because while it would be oh-so-easy for Mahoutsukai no Yome to slip into exploitative territory with this whole mage/bride thing, I really want to believe that it won’t. Admittedly, I’m frustrated that this is even an issue here (I mean, is that weird dynamic even necessary to the plot? Would it actually detract from the story if they just removed that aspect of it altogether?), but I do also notice that the camera has no interest in leering, and that Elias himself seems more interested in trolling Chise than in being any kind of sexual predator. Putting these issues aside for the moment though, I see the capacity for a unique, absorbing, and highly poignant series, and I’m very much interested in seeing where it goes.
Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau/Children of the Whales
Now this, I was not anticipating. I’d even say the premiere managed to edge out over Mahoutsukai no Yome’s for me, and given how much I was/am looking forward to that show, that’s saying a lot. For the record, I knew absolutely nothing about Kujira no Kora going into it other than the brief synopsis I read several months ago and mostly forgot about. My expectations for the series therefore weren’t so much low as they were nonexistent. Based on the first episode though, it seems a pretty safe bet that I’ll be keeping it around; the story has the potential to be both unique and far-reaching, and the characters to be both interesting and sympathetic. The overall feeling I got was something like Nausicaä or Laputa meets Suisei no Garugantia; a sci-fi/fantasy adventure narrative with a very strong social focus and the potential for a lot of really solid world-building. This is exactly the kind of scope I want from my anime, and a much-welcome diversion from your typical high school setting, bishounen/idol-filled cast, or fanservice-laden action piece. Add to this the incredibly soft but lush artwork, and I’d say we have a surprise winner on our hands.
3-gatsu no Lion/March Comes in Like a Lion 2nd Season
I’ll try to keep this brief since unlike the second season of Kekkai Sensen, there have been no staff changes here since we left off and I don’t expect any real shift in either story or quality. Basically though, if you were a fan of season one then have no fear; 3-gatsu no Lion is back in fine form and picks up fairly seamlessly from where it stopped just over half a year ago. All that character development for Rei hasn’t been for nothing either and he’s now someone who, in his own words, no longer recoils from the wind when he opens his window. While I happen to think 3-gatsu is actually at its best when it’s punching its audience right in the feels, I don’t know that I would have liked to start off the new season on a negative note, so I was pretty happy with this opener. As always, there’s often a little too much going on in the visuals department and the eye scarcely knows where to look at times, but in this case the flaws almost feel like part of the show’s charm, so I guess I can’t complain too much. Here’s to another great 22 episodes.
Question of the post: Agree? Disagree? Let me know your opinions on these shows in the comments. (Remember, there’s a bunch of other titles I already talked about a few days ago in Part I of this post, and I’ll be covering Itsudatte Bokura no Koi wa 10 Centi Datta. later on, as that’s not due for release until late November.)