Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor premiere – Yes, that is the genuine official English-language title of this show. After tracking down images of the covers of the source material, this appears to be yet another tragic instance of “We can’t accept a new translation, we already put our version in the artwork!”. Except not tragic, because anyone put off by this title is dodging an absolutely terrible show.
Light novels have long worshipped the Brilliant Jerk, and the exciting new twist in this case is to turn the Jerk part up to 11. Glenn Radars (yes, really) is incompetent at most things, conceited, lecherous, and completely unmotivated except when being yelled at by women, primarily the busty sorceress he lives with and one assertive student. But, we’re assured, he’s still brilliant at something or other, so it’s fine to break all the rules to shove him into a substitute teaching job he doesn’t even want. After all, his personal growth is all that matters, right?
All the other tropes have turned out for a fast game of Light Novel Bingo. This includes such delights as the changing-room scene that only exists so the male lead can wander in by accident; boob-grabs and other miscellaneous molestation; and the most fetishistic school uniforms yet. See those outfits at the right of the screencap above? Yes. Those. Are the school uniforms.
Recommended only to conoisseurs of the truly awful.
The World YAMIZUKAN premiere – Here’s one of those little super-short shows that pops up unexpectedly from time to time. This one bills itself as an anthology of four-minute old-fashioned horror tales. (Yamizukan is approximately “Field Guide to Darkness”.) In the first, a man tries to figure out why his wife is leaving the house in the middle of the night. Naturally, terrifying things ensue.
The style is meant to imitate old manga; to a Western viewer, that and the heavy amount of narration make it not unlike reading an alternate EC Comics springing from a different art tradition.
Four minutes doesn’t allow much room for plot, just setup and an immediate jump to Bad Things. It’s an interesting curiosity, but not a must-see.
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations premiere – Boruto Uzumaki is a happy-go-lucky kid, parkouring his way through life. His only real complaint is that his father Naruto is so busy with being the leader of a major ninja town that Boruto hardly ever sees him. Denki Kaminarimon is the scion of the family behind the biggest company around, being forced into ninja school because his father insists he needs to be strong. When Boruto rescues Denki from bullies and then later from a misjudged revenge plot, a friendship is formed.
A flash-forward introduction to the episode shows that it won’t last. A few years in the future, Boruto will be standing in the ruins of his town, defending the right of ninjas to even exist as science and technology move on. Back in the present, people are commenting on the expansion of the neighboring big city, and signs of progress like the new electric train. And Denki wants to find ways to combine magic and technology, because that always works out well.
Boruto is setting up for a much longer story than it’s going to be able to fit in the planned six-month run. That’s the kind of confidence you can have as the successor to one of the most popular anime franchises of all time. Having that degree of planning, and the extensive world already built up by Naruto and Naruto Shippūden, gives this premiere more than typical depth.
It’s balanced out by merely passable animation; the art department also appears to be pacing itself to be churning stuff out for the long haul. But if you care more about story and characters, this is off to a promising start.
Love Tyrant premiere – Scratch the surface, and this is the latest spin on the tired harem comedy trope, where one dull, ordinary guy is forced by arbitrary plot decisions to accommodate a whole gaggle of girls who are in love with him and sometimes insanely jealous of each other. The mechanism in this case is an angel, Guri, who likes to parody Death Note by going around dressed as a death god and writing down the names of people she’d like to ship in a magic notebook. Guri usually amuses herself by making random pairs of men fall in love, but decides to hook beleaguered protagonist Seiji Aino up with a bunch of girlfriends, starting with herself.
Seiji’s crush Akane is quickly added to the mix. It turns out the feeling is mutual, but Akane is also a yandere, a girl who elevates insane jealousy to an art form. Because of additional magic, everyone is temporarily invulnerable, allowing Akane to whip out custom knives and hack away happily at whoever has offended her.
There is comedy potential here, but also a number of things that may put viewers off. First, that the show proceeds on the general philosophy that humor is found in having the characters loudly overreact to everything. Second, that these really are tired tropes. And lastly, that the fourth person added to the low-consent glomp circle is Akane’s sister… who has a crush on Akane herself. Yeah.
This show is undoubtedly going to find itself an enthusiastic niche, but it is just for that niche.
KADO: The Right Answer premiere – Another double-length premiere here. Episode 0 introduces Kōjirō Shindō, ace bureaucratic negotiator, as he is tasked with arranging a political land deal. He comes up with a novel solution that satisfies national interests, the health of the business that was to be bought out, and even the one guy who kicked off the deal to do his old buddy a favor. And then, a giant alien gelatinous cube materializes at Haneda Airport and absorbs the plane Shindō is travelling to his next assignment on.
Episode 1 is mostly about the authorities trying to process what just happened. This is more interesting than it sounds, mainly because the lead scientist called in to figure out what the heck is happening is an enthusiastic proponent of the Poke It Until It Does Something school of research. But much of it is about letting the bureaucratic machinery move. This show isn’t setting out to be a thrill-a-minute ride full of battles and explosions; it knows how to bring the terror and excitement, but also when to sit back and just let the characters do their thing.
This is definitely aiming to be the more thoughtful, carefully paced kind of sf that English-language fans often wish Hollywood could remember how to do, and boy has it succeeded so far. The only thing keeping me from adding it the list for the rest of the season right now is the uncertainty about how much of the world will get the simulcast.
International stream: Crunchyroll (territories TBA)
Clockwork Planet premiere – 1,016 years after the world ended and was replaced with a replica with a bunch of gears glued onto it, a light novel breaks out. Teenaged dude Naoto Miura is both a genius and hopeless at everything. One day a super-advanced mechanical girl, RyuZU, falls out of the sky and into his workshop. As you would expect, she’s deadly and invulnerable and completely unable to do anything outside of battle unless Naoto tells her what to do.
Where this show really stands out from the crowd is that halfway through, it completely abandons any pretense of trying to hook the viewer with beautiful art, exciting plot twists, or solid worldbuilding, and goes straight for the young straight male late-night TV viewer demographic. When Naoto agrees to be declared RyuZU’s official owner, she looks like she’s going to kiss his hand, but what actually happens cannot be properly described in a family column. (I’m sure they’ll explain later that she just needed to get a DNA sample.) Afterward, RyuZU is constantly reminding Naoto that he can order her to do whatever he wants, snuggle her, treat her like furniture, etc.
This show is at least very clear on who its intended audience is. Everyone else should avoid it with all possible prejudice.
Twin Angels BREAK premiere – Meguru Amatsuki is a girl from the hinterlands of Japan who wants to be a hero someday. This being a magical girl show, mysterious forces arrange for her to go to school in Tokyo and achieve her dream. She immediately makes a bunch of friends, who you can remember as the normal girl, the weird girl, the fortuneteller girl, and the wannabe model girl who has a Y chromosome but everyone is cool with that. Meguri also develops a crush on Sumire Kisaragi, who is her opposite in everything, and, wouldn’t you just know, her intended partner in magical girldom.
This is a carbon copy of every magical girl show ever, created to promote a pachinko game, and knows it. Rather than try to hide the fact, it’s content to relax and inhabit the space it has. So it has no compunction, for instance, about directly ripping off some Sailor Moon poses when Meguri undergoes her first transformation. But the relaxed attitude also lets it find its own moments of weird without overplaying them, like the starter villain who plays a shamisen like an electric guitar.
The people making this show aren’t trying for anything more than a little fun, and I think they succeeded.
International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia)
The Laughing Salesman premiere – Another retro-look show for short and unpleasant tales, only this one actually is based on an old property. The source manga dates from 1968-71, and was previously adapted for TV in the ’80s and ’90s. The stories have been updated for the present day, but the art stays vintage.
The title character is Fukuzō Moguro, who claims that he can fill the voids in people’s hearts, but his products keep magnifying their problems until they have nowhere left to turn. There are two stories in the first episode. In one, Moguro shows a couple of salarymen the way into a magic club where they can sneak off during their lunch breaks, but they wind up drinking the whole day away. In the other, he gives a compulsive shopper a credit card which allows her to buy anything, only for it to be reclaimed the next day. This turns out poorly when she decides to start using it for something other than material goods.
Each story closes with Moguro delivering a moralizing warning about how it’s the victim’s own fault, but he’s a dark force looking to exploit the weaknesses everyone has. An unsettling watch.
The Eccentric Family 2 premiere – Yasaburō, third son in a family of tanuki (shapeshifters whose natural form is the raccoon dog), just wants to laze through life. Unfortunately, when Nidaime, the son of his tengu mentor, turns up, years after Nidaime lost a fight with his father and went into exile, the balance of Kyoto’s supernatural society is disrupted, and Yasaburō is caught in the middle of events.
No recap of the first series here, because one isn’t necessary; instead, the episode just plunges right into introducing everyone as they are now. New viewers can start right here without worrying about missing any references.
For returning viewers, it is everything you loved about the first series. The characters are still their three-dimensional and individual selves (except for Kinkaku and Ginkaku, of course). The pacing feels unhurried even when it has a bunch of introductions to get through. The art can still transform even the meanest alleyway into delicious scenery. This is a show firing on all cylinders like no other this season.
And that isn’t all! Two more shows are premiering after this week’s deadline, and there are a few getting too-limited distribution to be considered for following the rest of the season. I’ll take a look at the premieres of those too. Plus, it’ll be time to figure out what the lineup will be. Attack on Titan, Alice & Zoroku, and maybe My Hero Academia all looked like candidates last week; I’ll add KADO, The Eccentric Family 2, and Boruto and give them all a second look.