UQ Holder! premiere – Once upon a time, there was a boy wizard named Negi Springfield who had to prove himself by teaching an all-girl class. Harem comedy hijinks ensued. UQ Holder! is a futuristic spinoff about Negi’s grandson which supposedly wants to be a more serious action-oriented story. However, it kicks off with a flashback to the aforementioned hijinks, followed by an opening credit sequence which is pretty much boobs and butts. So I think we can assume that this apple won’t be falling too far from the creepy and age-inappropriate tree.
Tōta, Negi’s grandson, spends his days in the countryside, yearning to go to the big city where people can use magic with apps, passing his time by trying to violently assault his guardian/teacher Yukihime with the help of his friends. Then a bounty hunter shows up and nearly kills Yukihime, and suddenly Tōta is having to drink blood and become an immortal monster. Then the tone snaps back to happy fun school days and Tōta is heading off to the big city on an adventure.
I have a feeling that a lot of material from the source manga was compressed into this episode. Possibly some of the characters had a chance to develop personalities, and the tone whiplash wasn’t so bad, and the restrictions Tōta is living under don’t look so much like arbitrary plot conveniences. But rushed material is far from the only problem here. Unless you have overwhelming nostalgia for Negima!, give it a miss.
International streams: Anime Strike/Amazon Video (US, Canada); HIDIVE (Latin America, UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Canada, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland, Austria, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Sénégal, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique); Animax (SE Asia); bilibili (Asia)
Sengoku Night Blood premiere – A smartphone malfunction whisks a young woman into a fantasy world where all the great figures of Japan’s pre-unification period are vampires or werewolves, cute animals can talk, and the art director has flunked celestial mechanics, so that the moon can loom dramatically in the background all day and all night. Since this is an adaptation of an otome game— aimed at women looking for a story full of hot dudes— our heroine has no discernible personality, background, emotions, or even a name so far as I recall, for the convenience of straight female viewers who would like to project themselves onto her.
The nameless blob of a protagonist promptly encounters Vampire Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who invites her into his war council for no real reason other than the story demands it, then later attacks her because her blood smells so darned good that he just can’t help himself. If assault isn’t your kind of thing, there’s also the completely overwhelming number of additional characters presented in cutaways to other clans and factions. Only the leaders are named for now, but every single one of their buddies looks distinctive enough that the viewer will probably have to memorize all of them eventually.
Sengoku Night Blood is every single reason why otome game adaptations are usually dismissed out of hand, plus a few moments above and beyond the call of duty. I can’t come up with any reason why you should watch it, other than if you have a masochistic desire to familiarize yourself with the genre.
International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia)
Juni Taisen: Zodiac War premiere – The Zodiac has assembled in a deserted city for their duodecennial battle royale. Twelve fighters in outfits of varying levels of inconvenience will duke it out under highly contrived rules for a prize of one magical wish. Our viewpoint character for the moment is the Boar, represented by Generic Evil Sexy Action Lady.
One thing Juni Taisen has going for it is the stylized, noir-ish art that brings some visual verve to every single scene. Unfortunately, looks are about all it has. Author nisiOisn’s reputation for wordiness is well-deserved; once the Boar’s internal monologue gets going, it hardly stops, drowning out action and even other dialogue.
As for the promise of a psychological take on the fight, well, it’s certainly trying, but fans of thrillers are likely to feel like they’ve seen all this before. When there is a dramatic cut away from a scene of a previous combatant choosing his heir, there is only one possible explanation and one way it can be resolved. When it looks like someone’s been eliminated even before the battle officially starts, you are guaranteed that that won’t be the last we’ve heard from them. And, of course, the smuggest character is the one who will die first once the fight officially starts.
If you’re all about the visuals, or you’re a devoted fan of nisiOisin, then go for it.
Black Clover premiere – Asta and Yuno were abandoned together as babies and have grown up much like brothers. Yuno is the serious, talented one who is clearly Destined For Great Things. Asta is a one-note scrapper who tries to make up in physical conditioning what he doesn’t have in magic. When they attend a ceremony to match everyone their age with magical grimoires that will guide their life paths, Yuno inherits a particularly special book of great magic, and Asta gets nothing.
This could be the start of a great story exploring the meaning of disability in a magical world. Instead, it’s just the prelude to Asta continuing to whine and scream and pick fights until he is rewarded with an even more super-special magic book, allowing him to attend this show’s generic medieval fantasy high school.
Asta is not much of a protagonist. He’s constantly turned up to 11 in a way that’s clearly supposed to be funny, but ranges from seriously annoying most of the time to kind of icky when he’s trying to harass a local nun into agreeing to marry him. He isn’t worth watching this show for, and neither is the dull retread of a story.
Urahara premiere – One sleepy Saturday in Harajuku, three girls chat about nothing much. Shortly afterward, news reports begin to show aliens stealing monuments from all over Earth. When the aliens approach Harajuku, the providential appearance of an escaped prisoner, a giant talking fried shrimp, and some magic baubles allows the girls to transform into the heroes that can save a small piece of the world.
Urahara is trying so very, very hard. It has an aggressively different art style which goes all the way past cute and sweet to positively hyperglycemic. Based on an English-language webcomic, it exudes a sense of worrying that it will never quite be weird enough to be considered Real Anime. It wants to showcase its female leads, but the time spent with them before the action starts is tedious rather than illuminating.
Much was made beforehand of this show having an unusually high complement of female staff as anime goes. Seeing the actual result puts one in mind of the glass cliff. It’s just not very good. I expect that has less to do with the gender of the staff than this just not being the sort of exciting high-status project that attracts the best people, male or female.
Infini-T Force premiere – Emi Kaido is a depressed loner with a death wish. Unlike anime’s typical suicidal teenager, she doesn’t mope around and think about leaping off the top of a building; instead, she rides her motorcycle like a maniac and then consoles herself with art supplies when she survives. One day, she finds herself in the middle of a battle between heroes that have been torn from their own worlds and an enemy who wants to destroy the multiverse. Even less luckily, she winds up in possession of a powerful artifact everyone is searching for. To top things off, the artifact is not an entirely mindless tool.
Ever wondered what live-action Japanese superheroes would be like with a Hollywood budget? CGI means that it is just as easy to keep everyone’s hair and makeup perfect as it is to drop a complete aircraft carrier from a great height onto Shibuya. Which happens. Followed by a physics-defying battle against a robot army. And this is just episode 1.
Infini-T Force is definitely taking some cues from some of the better Western superhero movies. It’s obvious in the heavy use of CGI-enabled moves in the fight scenes, but also in the sense of fun. It has clearly decided that just because it was created to move merchandise doesn’t mean it can’t also enjoy itself.
It’s also a nice surprise to see that Emi is not the quivering damsel in distress the early descriptions of the show suggested. Instead, she’s got an actual personality and skills that are likely to come in handy fighting evil. This isn’t going to be high art, but it could be great television.
International streams: Viz (US, Canada); Tubi TV (US, Canada); Wakanim (Canada, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland, Austria, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Sénégal, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique); VVVVID (Italy); bilibili (Asia)
Konohana Kitan premiere – Konohana-tei is a high-class inn in a town where humans and mythological creatures mix. Its newest attendant is Yuzu, an orphaned fox who has been sent there to get her more used to being around lots of people. Yuzu stumbles adorably through her first few days at the inn.
Okay, stuff actually happens, but the point of the story is that Yuzu is cute and everyone loves her. The other attendants have similarly one-note personalities— the uptight one, the shy one, the boy, and so forth. The setting is beautiful and the variety of non-human beings is neat. However, the camera is also way too interested in watching the fox girls undress, bathe, and hang out in the hot springs. If you like mythological creatures, there are better shows coming.
Kino’s Journey -the Beautiful World- the Animated Series premiere – Kino is a traveler from an unknown land, going from place to place in a world fractured into many small polities, never staying more than three days. Her only companion is her motorcycle Hermès, who has a voice and an intelligence apparently equal to a human’s. Kino is the sort of person who sleeps holding a gun, but also is deeply curious about the world and its people.
In this episode, Kino travels to a land which is famous for not criminalizing murder. The first person she meets along the way is very excited about getting there and being able to kill whoever he feels like. It is probably not a huge spoiler to suggest that the society is rather different than he imagines, and that it will result in a painful lesson. Kino’s detachment serves her well as she observes both the perks and difficulties of living in such a place.
This premiere acquits itself very well. The little we find out about her is enough to make her interesting. The visuals are adequate, but that’s all they need to be, and the music is good. The only thing I want to complain about is that horrible doorstop of a title.
Girls’ Last Tour premiere – In a dead world full of abandoned cities and derelict machines of war, two girls and their half-track motorcycle push endlessly onward. Chito and Yūri have no destination, just a constant struggle to find new supplies before they run out of food. Their memories of other people are mostly men in uniforms and events they don’t understand.
Nothing much happens for long stretches. They drive a long time through some underground complex. They have some soup, and then they come across what looks like a military base, where they scavenge some rations and speculate on why people make war.
Good directing makes this a delight to watch. The world is calm without being boring, mysterious without being frustrating. The little details and the grand sweeps of ruin porn are both beautifully rendered. Some viewers may find the girls’ hyper-stylized designs a little off-putting, but as characters they’re both personable traveling companions. Highly recommended, but I don’t know how highly bloggable.
International streams: Anime Strike/Amazon Video (US, Canada); HIDIVE (Latin America, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Canada, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland, Austria, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Sénégal, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique); bilibili (Asia)
Hozuki’s Coolheadedness 2 premiere – By way of introduction for viewers new to the show, we get an origin story for Hōzuki the demon and his hapless boss. Back when Buddhism had not yet been introduced to Japan and dinosaurs still roamed the underworld, Hōzuki was a child sacrifice taken over by demonic energy and Enma was a reform-minded up-and-comer. It was only after the goddess Izanami was displaced by a gentle coup that the underworld was remade as a place of punishment.
Don’t worry about any dark or tragic undertones to the above; this is a comedy, and it all serves as the setup for an excursion into some, erm, idiosyncratic architecture when Izanami wants to remodel her retirement palace. Hōzuki takes the fact of child sacrifice in stride, but the process by which he was chosen, well, that’s another matter…
All the old gang is back, and the translator is still providing footnotes for all the obscure cultural references. The comedy in this episode isn’t quite up to the standard of the first season, but things should start moving along nicely now that everyone’s been re-introduced.
International streams: HIDIVE (Americas, UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Scandanavia, Turkey, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand); ADN (France, DOM-TOM, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco); Aniplus (SE Asia); bilibili (Asia)
ClassicaLoid 2 premiere – Kanae Otowa has a house full of freeloaders who happen to be semi-magical copies of famous composers. Mozart is a hyper young man cruising around on roller skates, Beethoven is obsessed with cooking the perfect gyoza, Chopin is addicted to MMOs, Liszt is a buxom woman who apprently has to be reminded to not lounge around nude, and Schubert is trying to find himself with rap. One day, Kanae answers the door to find a long-lost little brother with a pet hippo and a dubious backstory. Chaos intensifies until someone reaches their limit and conjures up a transient magical world with music.
ClassicaLoid continues to be two very different shows jammed together. One has flights of pure absurdist fantasy powered by rock remixes of classical music. The other is about a bunch of very annoying people annoying each other. Show #1 is gorgeous and amazing. Show #2 predominates, unfortunately, and it’s a lot to ask to wade through it for the few minutes of show #1.
International streams: HIDIVE (Americas, UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Scandanavia, Turkey, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand); ADN (France, DOM-TOM, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco); bilibili (Asia)
The Ancient Magus’ Bride premiere – After years of feeling unwanted, Chise Hatori agrees to sell herself into slavery for the promise of at least having a permanent home. Chise is a valuable commodity in the world of magic: a person who attracts magical creatures just by existing. Purchased by the Thorn Mage, Elias Ainsworth, Chise prepares herself for a life of servitude, only to discover that she will be trained as Ainsworth’s apprentice.
Most of you have at least heard of Uprooted, and will immediately notice the similarities here. One huge difference is that the probable love interest is not an arrogant bully. Elias is unfailingly kind to Chise, seeing that she is clean and fed, calling her “family” immediately, and implying that she’s free to go if she doesn’t like staying with him.
There’s one unfortunate moment where Elias apparently assumes Chise doesn’t know how to operate a bathtub, so that she can be made more embarrassed and awkward about the fact that he momentarily saw her naked. If you can get past that, then the story starts really making with the magic and wonder.
Land of the Lustrous premiere – In the far future, Earth is inhabited by living gems that have taken humanoid form. Constantly fighting off the equally strange Lunarians, who want to break them up for jewelry, they know about little other than their assigned tasks. Phosphophyllite, who is too brittle to fight, is assigned to compile an encyclopedia to broaden the gems’ knowledge. E blows it off until realizing it may lead to finding a way to reintegrate Cinnabar, who exudes poison and has been ostracized from gem society.
Land of the Lustrous delivers a world that is as odd and unique as promised. There are no humans left, other maybe than the gems’ master Kongō, and no one seems to know much about the Lunarians, other than how to fight them. Phos’s project is nothing less than figuring out all the mysteries of the world— something e may have enough time for, seeing as the gems are immortal.
The CGI feels a little off occasionally, but makes up for it with the unearthly beauty of the gems and the moon people. This looks fascinating and I can’t wait for more.
International streams: Anime Strike (US); HIDIVE (Latin America, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand); ADN (France, DOM-TOM, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco); VVVVID (Italy); bilibili (Asia)
Anime-Gataris premiere – Minoa Asagaya doesn’t know what she’s done to provoke Kamiigusa, the most beautiful, popular, and rich girl in the class. But it turns out Kamiigusa just overheard Minoa trying to remember the name of an anime she’d seen, and thinks she’s found a fellow fan to gush at. Before Minoa can extract herself, she’s been roped into helping resurrect the school anime club.
If you’re a hardcore anime fan, this show looks set to provide endless amusement as you guess which shows are disguised under all the imaginary titles. If not, well, it’s cute and harmless but you’re going to know there are a lot of inside jokes you’re not getting.
The big disappointment here is that there’s no mention of the “impending end of the world” we were promised. We do get cameo appearances from a talking cat and a magic beret, though. Recommended for anyone who considers themselves an otaku’s otaku.
International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Scandinavia, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand); ADN (France, DOM-TOM, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco); Funimation (dub coming soon for US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand)
Garo -Vanishing Line- premiere – Garo has had stories set in many places and times, but two things are constant: There are demons, known as Horrors, preying on the weakness of humankind. And there are the Makai Knights, in magical golden armor, who oppose them.
This time around, the setting is a place not unlike modern New York City, and the knight is a large oaf named Sword. Sword is incapable of looking at any part of women other than her breasts, and he rides a gigantic tricked-out motorcycle inhabited by an AI that hates women. Actually, this entire show hates women. Mostly they exist to be menaced by demons. When Sword rescues the young woman who is to be a major character, he puts her right back in the way of a demon because he can’t think of any other way to track it down.
This show did score possibly the best visual work of the season. It’s got stylish action as good as Juni Taisen, plus fantastic use of color. However, it requires shutting down much more of your brain than Juni Taisen does. Keep an eye out for director Seong Ho Park’s next work, whatever it may be, but skip this one.
International streams: Crunchyroll (unspecified territories); Wakanim (Canada, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland, Austria, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Sénégal, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique); Funimation (dub coming soon for US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand)
That’s nearly everything, but we still have a few stragglers to pick up next week. So next time we’ll take a look at those, give a second viewing to Kino’s Journey, Land of the Lustrous, The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Infini-T Force, and Hozuki’s Coolheadedness, welcome back Magical Circle Guru-Guru, and see what emerges victorious for the season lineup.