First Impressions Spring 2020 Part 2

Welcome back everyone! Let’s cut the waffle and get straight to it, what juicy new anime delicacies have been on offer this week? Let’s find out!

Ascendance of a Bookworm Season 2

And we’re back to the adventures of Myne, the young bookworm who was reincarnated into the sickly body of a peasant girl. Of course Myne loves books, and I mean really loves books, but there’s one problem the world she’s been born into doesn’t have any! Well, not unless you’re a noble, which Myne definitely isn’t. Luckily last season she managed to score a position in the church so now she can read all the books she wants! Unfortunately things are never all that easy for Myne as she’s stepped into the world of the church and nobles, one that is vastly different to the life she’d already gotten used to. Can she find a way to navigate the rules of her new position, or has Myne finally bitten off more than she can chew?

Ascendance of a Bookworm is back! Ascendance of a Bookworm is back! Sorry, I’ll try to stay calm. I really, really loved the first season of Ascendance (Review HERE)and this is just more of the same show. All the great characters I fell for before are back, but with some new additions and locations. As for the new characters, they’re all interesting in their own way, giving us a glimpse into how the church works and the different mentality that people have there. It’s part of what I love so much about this series, the thought and detail that goes into the world and it’s construction. All of the church stuff makes complete sense for the world we’ve already seen and shows the different mentality between the nobles and the commoners. I’m so looking forward to more of this show.

Digimon Adventure: (2020)

Fifth grader Taichi is all set for his upcoming camping trip, but something strange is happening in Tokyo. A mysterious digital lifeform is causing havoc with the world’s computer systems, leading to Taichi’s mother and little sister, Hikari, becoming trapped on a runaway train! Desperate to find some way to help, Taichi races towards the train station, failing to notice the glowing symbol on his phone. The next thing Taichi knows he’s been transported into the Network, a representation of all the digital activity across the world. With the help of his neightbour, Koshiro, the solemn Yamato and a mysterious creature calling itself Agumon, Taichi intends to save the world! Hopefully he’ll manage it before a nuclear missile drops on Tokyo, yeah, we’re doing that.

Watching this show is really weird. Seeing characters that I know so well in familiar, yet entirely new situations, not to mention the fact that they’re clearly being animated with a significant budget this time around. It’s just…it’s weird. I’m such a big fan of the original Digimon, as you’ll probably be able to tell by my review of that very first season (HERE) that I did not so long ago. This new series is something entirely new though, and I do have to force myself to stop comparing it to the original. Yes, these are the characters I’ve known since childhood and they’re all acting as I know they should, but the situation they’re in is something different (even if it does heavily borrow elements from the War Games film in its first arc). All the old elements are here, but they’re been arranged in a new way, add on some quality animation, direction and a good soundtrack and we’re on to a really top-notch readaptation. I’m really not sure what to expect from this show, but I’m excited to see where it goes. Here’s hoping the delay won’t last too long and we can get back to this fascinating series.

Princess Connect! Re: Dive

A young man named Yuuki awakens to find he has no memory of who he is or, well, anything really. Even basic things, like what money is for or that it’s a bad idea to be dragged off by wolves, are beyond him. Luckily he has a guide in the nervous, yet loyal Kokkoro and friends in the always hungry, powerhouse Pecorine and the prickly sorceress Karyl. Together they form the ‘Gourmet Guild’, whose mission is to travel around the world, sampling all the best cuisine and ingredients. Maybe one day they’ll even get around to figuring out who Yuuki actually is, or who Karyl’s mysterious master is!

Food Wars and Konosuba have had a baby! I know, we’re all so surprised and delighted for them, they’ve kept their relationship on the quiet and, honestly, I didn’t think it would last a month, but here we are. I’m joking, but this show is just such an odd mix that it’s hard to believe it’s as good as it is. True, the plot is fairly directionless and I have no idea what it’s eventual end goal is supposed to be, but I don’t really care. The combination of the clueless Yuuki, the fidgeting Kokkoro, the bombastic Pecorine and the tsundere Karyl just light up my screen every Monday night and I don’t know how I’ve lived without them. The characters and their interactions are just so much fun. Add on some pitch perfect comic timing and some impressively pretty visuals (the animation has some shortcuts, but I’ll forgive that) and we’re on to another winner here.

Appare-Ranman!

Appare is always causing trouble, whether it’s building some insane machine that blows up five seconds later, or just breaking out of jail, there’s always something and the people around him have had enough! Charged with keeping an eye on Appare is the stalwart samurai Kosame and he has no idea the headache he’s in for. Determined to find some place where his inventions are appreciated, Appare decides he’s going to sail away on the steamboat he built, and not even Kosame tagging along is going to stop him. Of course things don’t go to plan and the next thing the pair know is that they’re in the middle of the ocean being rescued by another ship, a ship headed for America! Now with no money to their name and no way of getting home, Appare decides they’re going to build a car and enter the trans-American race! Fortune and glory awaits, along with a host of wacky contestants to compete against.

Wacky Races the anime! Seriously though, why was this never thought of before? A daring and downright insane race across a country, packed with outlandish characters and even more outlandish cars? Does it matter that the cars are way too advanced for the time period this series is set in? No. Does it matter that every character speaks perfect Japanese, when really you’d expect there to be some major language barriers? No. Does is matter that a lot of the characters are designed so stereotypically they might as well wear a sign to say where they’re from? Maybe, that really depends on you. The characters are likable and interesting enough that I’ll forgive the rather blatant design choices for some of them, but this show is not subtle in the slightest. Unfortunately the series has been delayed and we’re still very much in the setup phase before the big race, but when the show does start airing again you can bet I’ll be straight back to watching it. There’s a lot of potential with this one for a really fun ride.

Arte

Born into an aristocratic family in Florence, Italy, at the height of the Renaissance, Arte has dreams of becoming an artist. There’s only one problem, she was born a girl and according to pretty much everyone she meets, including her own mother, that is not a profession for her. Not that that’s going to stop her, Arte is obsessed with drawing, to the point where it’s the only thing she ever wants to do, and she will take on any challenge, overcome any obstacle to do it! Gender barriers be damned! Fortunately she finds a master in Leo, a surly and strict artist who is willing to take her on as an apprentice as long as she can do the work he asks of her.

This show has both surprised me and not surprised me at the same time, if that makes any sense at all. The first surprise was seeing the Universal logo popping up in front of an anime (I’m going to have to look into that later, because if major studios are going to be backing anime from now on then I’m all for it, as long as they don’t interfere with the content of said anime). The second surprise was how much I’ve enjoyed seeing Japan’s interpretation of Renaissance Italy, it’s a fairly simplified version from what I know of the period, but it’s a nice change of location (then again, that could just be due to the fact that I haven’t watched a lot of series set in Renaissance Italy). Speaking of simplified, that is a good summation of this series. The themes and messaging of this series are pretty unsubtle, but I’m always a sucker for a protagonist who tries hard and will chase their dream no matter the obstacle. Plus, she likes drawing. I like drawing. I totally get the obsession (why do you think I draw my own title cards for my reviews?). All in all, it’s a pleasant and fun series and although I’m worried about them pushing a romance between Arte and Leo (I don’t think the series needs that), I’ll continue watching.

Woodpecker Detective’s Office

Ishikawa Takuboku is a poet during the Meiji Era, one who often struggles with his finances and has a habit of sticking his nose into other people’s business. It’s this latter trait that means he often finds himself investigating crimes from across the city, all with the aid of his trusting friend Kindaichi Kyosuke. It turns out that Ishikawa is quite the detective, as are many of the famous writers and poets of this area, all of whom live in the same area. Hmm…me thinks this calls for the formation of a pretty boy detective club! Maybe the name needs a little work, something else’ll come to me I’m sure.

I had hopes for this series, not necessarily high hopes, but moderately level hopes. A nice, gentle detective series in a historical setting, a few quirky little cases and some deductive reasoning from our leads, I don’t think I was asking for much. Unfortunately, three episodes and two cases in, I don’t have nice things to same about this series. At it’s best it’s okay, it looks nice enough, nothing special, but fit for purpose and there’s a good set up for an odd couple relationship between the leads. It’s the cases that are really bugging me about this series, more specifically the resolutions. I’m going to spoil both endings here because I need to vent a little, so if you have any interest in this series please go watch it now, as for me, I’m out on this one.

Okay, everyone else staying? Spoilers in 3…2…1… the first case ends with it being revealed that Ishikawa was just making it up, he has some good reasoning behind his claims, but we never get any resolution and Ishikawa had to fake evidence to prove his point. It’s just not a satisfying conclusion. On to the second case, which spreads across episodes two and three, the build up was good and as were everyone’s little theories about what actually happened, but again, the resolution. Turns out Ishikawa was framing Kyosuke purely because he was mad at him. No, just…no. One, I now hate Ishikawa. Doesn’t matter what his feeling are, if he has a problem he should bring it up with Kyosuke (like a friend would!) not frame him for murder! Two, this is too early in this series to pull this kind of thing, we barely know these characters and, again, I now hate Ishikawa. Three, there’s no actual resolution, yeah Kyosuke is let out of jail, but all Ishikawa does is smack him on the arm. He never explains to Kyosuke that he was mad at him and Kyosuke never figures out it was Ishikawa who was sending him down the river. I did not enjoy it in the slightest.

Well, this ended on a bit of bum note didn’t it? Sorry about that, but I’m not going to review Woodpecker Detective’s Office and I needed to get that off my chest. Aside from that, I am actually really enjoying this season of anime, even with all the series that have been put on delay. Stay safe and well everyone and I’ll be back next week with regular review.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

First Impressions Spring 2020 Part 1

How is everyone? Staying safe? Staying well? I hope so, these are some hard and stressful times that we’re all living through at the moment, but I’m sure we’ll make it out the other side. Personally I feel like my brain is crawling up the inside of my skull and I’m not sure whether I’m going crazy or if I’ve already crossed that threshold. Luckily I’ve got a tonne of DVDs and new anime to keep me distracted from such thoughts! (At least that applies to the anime that haven’t been delayed, but there’s nothing I can do about that and it’s the right call for studios to make regardless, keeping the staff of these studios safe is way more important than my own anime addiction). Anyway, let’s crack on with my first impressions of all these shiny new anime!

Tower of God

What would you do if your deepest, dearest wish could be granted? Would you climb a tower? Even a tower filled with deadly trials designed to weed out the unworthy? For Rachel, who wants to see the stars at last, the answer is yes. For Bam, who wants nothing more than to be by Rachel’s side, the answer is yes. That is why when Rachel disappears into the tower, Bam has no qualms about following her, even though he has no idea what he’s getting himself into. There’s an entire world inside the tower, one filled with strange landscapes and even stranger people. Bam does manage to make a couple of friends, but just what is the Tower and, more importantly, who is Rachel really and will Bam find out when he finally catches up to her?

For me, Tower of God, is the shiny gem of this season’s line-up of anime. Just from the trailer alone I had high hopes for this series and, with its first three episodes it hasn’t disappointed. For one, it looks stunning. There are plenty of shows that I can point to that are better animated, but from a pure aesthetic level, this show is gold. The use of colours and the line work on the characters just make every frame pop. Add on a fantastic soundtrack and a truly fascinating world and you’re on to a winner. I have so many questions about how the world of Tower of God is set up and exists, but in a good way. We are given breadcrumbs of detail about why things are the way they are, more each episode, and it’s clear that we’ll get all the answers in time (whether the anime lasts as long as that is another question, I have no idea if the source material is still ongoing, but I’m more than happy to jump on that when the anime finishes it’s run). I’ve heard people compare this series to the Hunters Exam arc from Hunter X Hunter, and I can see why. This is such a wacky and original world I can’t help but love it. I’m so looking forward to exploring more of this world.

The 8th Son? Are You Kidding Me?

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before, a Japanese man dies, suddenly, and wakes up in another world entirely. This time it’s Ichinomiya Shingo and he wakes up in the body of a young noble, Wendelin. At first he’s okay with the idea, being part of a noble family has to be a pretty cushy life, right? Well, not so much when said noble family is accurately a fairly poor noble family, kind of noble in name only. Add on the fact that Wendelin is the 8th son in the family and suddenly his prospects aren’t looking so grand. Thankfully he has a talent for magic and after meeting a wizard in the forest (it happens) he’s on his way to becoming a truly over-powered protagonist just like in every other isekai.

Cue the exasperated sigh because we’re back in generic isekai land! (Three more visits and I get a free sandwhich!). I’m making fun of this show, which isn’t totally fair. There are certainly far worse isekai out there, it’s just that 8th son doesn’t really do anything to stand out. Everything is pretty much as you’d expect from an isekai made in the past few years, our protagonist is generic and over powered. The fact that said protagonist had been reincarnated into a new body is barely mentioned and the fantasy world he inhabits is from a bulk order of European-inspired fantasy worlds. The few differences that the anime does come up are nowhere near enough to make this show memorable. I do like that we spend a bit of time with Well as a child, seeing his training and development, so he doesn’t start out as immediately OP. Then when he gets to high school (because even isekais have to take us all back to school), he’s socially awkward and ostracised for his immense power. There’s some potential there and in Well’s relationship with his master, but it’s brushed past so fast that it feels more like a footnote rather than an actual story beat. I’m just not in the mood for this one so I’ll be giving it a skip this season.

Wave, Listen to Me!

On a night out, curry shop worker Minare has one too many and begins ranting about her ex-boyfriend to a total stranger. Unfortunately for her that stranger turns out to work at a local radio station and, the next day, Minare is horrified to hear said rant being broadcast live. Now while this would normally turn into some kind of lawsuit against the station, it actually becomes a job opportunity for Minare. The station is convinced that Minare’s quick-fire rants are just the thing for a late night slot and just in time too, because Minare is on the verge of being fired from her current job (‘cause she ran out in the middle of her shift to stop broadcast of her rant, you know the more I think about it, the more I realise that broadcast is really the root of al her problems).

Watching this show is one of the weirdest experiences I’ve ever had. This show definitely falls into the category of ‘cultural differences’ because I don’t get half of the jokes and the ones I do get aren’t really structured like jokes as I know them. Why was Minare fighting an imaginary bear in the first episode? Why does the neighbour live in an apparently haunted apartment? Neither of these are a part of Minare’s usual flights of fancy and the rest of the show is definitely set in the real world (outside of the behaviour of that radio producer trying to get Minare onto his show). I just can’t work out what this show is doing, and yet I come away from each episode smiling. Part of it I can put down to the voice actress for Minare who gives such an enthusiastic and fast-paced performance it feels like I’ve been run over by a steamroller, it’s hard to keep up at times. Yet that is the fun of this series. Minare is such a force of nature as a character that it’s hard not to be swept up by her and when I do eventually get a joke, it’s always funny. I think this is one show what really needs to be experienced to be believed.

Listeners

Growing up in the town of Liverchester, young Echo is content with his life. Yes, he has to eek out a living digging through the scrap that remains of his hometown, scavenging what parts he can, but it’s not as if he’s suddenly going to find a young woman buried in all the debris and have his whole life change. Until he does. The young woman he comes to call Mu and she’s a Player, a special kind of person that pilot mechs to fight against the terrifying Earless. Mu has no idea who she is, or where she comes from, but together with Echo and the mech he’s been working on in his spare time, they might just have a chance of finding out. Together they set off on a journey across the world and, if only one thing is certain, it’s going to be a rockin’ time!

Watching this show is giving me flashbacks to the early 2000s, in a good way. There’s something about the character designs and aesthetic that just put me back in that time period, which isn’t the a bad time to be put in, it is when I was learning what anime actually was (and that I’d been watching it since childhood). I like this show, a lot, the story is fairly simple but we’re very clearly still in the set up phase and the characters are fun, there’s mecha and a rock ‘n’ roll vibe to the whole show, what’s not to love? One thing that is driving me slightly crazy, and maybe this is just a British slang thing, I have no idea if other countries use the word this way, but every time some calls someone a player I get the same terrible mental image. To me, and I know this is a horrible use for the word, but it’s what people say over here, a ‘player’ is some jerky dude bro guy who sleeps around a lot. It’s not the mental image I want, but it keeps popping into my head every time someone mentions a Player. I need to untangle the definition of the word in my head, but it hasn’t happened yet. That aside though, this is a great show and a lot of fun, I’m really looking forward to seeing where this one goes.

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

As a small child, Catarina Claes hit her head and remembered that in a past life she used to be a young Japanese woman (all the popular kids are doing it these days)! What’s more, she recognised that a lot of her life very closely resembles an otome game she used to love playing, there’s just one problem, Catarina Claes was the villain of that game! Desperately trying to avoid either exile or death, Catarina sets about befriending the other characters she knows from the game in the hopes that it will avert any potential bad ending to her story. What she doesn’t realise is that a lot of this befriending is making her very popular with the male leads of the game, so who knows what’s going to happen once the actual protagonist turns up!

Characters make a story for me. I can put up with a weak story as long as I connect with just one or two of the characters, so when a show actually has a good story and I fall head-over-heels for a character, well, we are reaching for the heights of anime greatness as far as I’m concerned. I love Catarina, she’s this wonderful mix of self-aware and oblivious all at the same time. She obviously knows what genre she’s in and knows the triggers for her downfall in the game, so she’s on the look out for them (on a side note, I just love the little council of mini Catarina’s that are inside her head to help her sort out problems). Yet, at the same time, she’s completely unaware of all the characters falling in love with her and the general perception that everyone has of her. It’s charming in its own way. Honestly Catarina makes this series for me, I’ve really enjoyed all of her antics through her childhood and I’m so looking forward to what’s going to happen now she’s a teenager and the real game is about to begin! I can’t wait to meet the actual protagonist either and see what relationship builds there!

Sing “Yesterday” For Me

The past is a hard thing to escape from. For Rikou it’s particularly so, since he has no idea what direction he wants his life to go in and the woman he fell for in college, Shinako, has just moved back into the area to start her career as a teacher. Then there’s Haru, the quirky girl with a pet raven who admits to having a crush on Rikou for the past five years. What’s more she openly declares war on Shinako for Rikou’s affection. For Shinako’s part, there are clearly some feelings for Rikou, but she herself can’t seem to escape her own past, and the tragedy she experienced. Will this tangle of love and melancholy help any of these three find a way forward in life, or will it only mire them further into their own histories.

Melancholy is the best word I’ve got for this series so far. There’s this sense of listlessness and uncertainty that radiates off of the characters, except for our quirky girl Haru who is just this wibbly wobbly ball of contradictions at the minute that I’m desperately trying to figure out (let’s face it I’m going to continue watching this series regardless just to find out what her actual deal is). It’s not as if I don’t get where the characters are coming from, I went through the same sort of thing between leaving university and finding a job that I actually want to stay in, it just makes me curious as to where this series is actually going. Look at it this way, most shows with a love triangle at its centre has the characters umming and ahhing, moping around and not opening up about their feelings until towards the very end. This show? Three episodes in, all the characters have already declared their feelings and made it clear who they like (even if one of them is lying and just isn’t ready to admit it yet). There’s a level of honesty to the character that took me by surprise and I have no idea where this show is going next, but I’m curious to find out.

And we’ll leave it there for this week, there’s actually a lot of great shows on offer and there’s more coming, such as the return of one of my favourite anime of the past few seasons, a trip to renaissance Italy and, what was that other thing…? Oh yeah! Digimon is back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

First Impressions Winter 2020 Part 2

And we’re back, no preamble, let’s just get straight to this!

Somali and the Forest Spirit

Humanity is nearly extinct. After a devastating war with the rest of the races of the world (a war which the humans started I might add) there are very few left, in fact most inhabitants of the world can go their whole lives without seeing a single one. Then, one day, a Golem in charge of guarding a forest happens across a little human child named Somali. Not knowing what else to do, the Golem decides he will travel outside of the forest and find some humans to return Somali to, but Golem’s have a limited lifespan and the journey is very long.

I can already tell that this show is going to break my heart. There seems to be more and more of these shows about single dads looking after their kids of late, the first one that springs to mind is ‘If It’s For My Daughter I’d Even Defeat A Demon Lord’ from a couple of seasons ago. Most of them are perfectly fine, they’re all really sweet and the kids are overpoweringly cute, but I have zero parental instincts (probably due to the fact that I don’t have kids) so they never really hold my attention past the first few episodes. What makes Somali and the Forest Spirit different though, apart from the utterly gorgeous backdrops and fun characters designs, is that, to me, Somali feels like a real kid, well, realer than all the others at least. Yes, she’s cute, but she’s also a bit wild, endlessly curious and spares no thought whatsoever for the consequences of her decisions. I love this kid and I want the Golem to protect her at all costs. Add on the time limit of the Golem’s quickly approaching expiration date and I’ve got the tissues at the ready for this one.

The Case Files of Jeweler Richard

Seigi Nakata has always had a strong sense of justice, so much that when he comes across a man being harassed by some drunks he can’t help but intervene. It proves to be a fruitful act as the man is Richard, a jeweller who will soon be opening up a shop in the area. It turns out that Seigi could use a jeweller as he has a ring from his grandmother that he needs appraising. So begins the partnership of Seigi and Richard, Seigi coming to work in Richard’s shop to learn about all kinds of gemstones as well as helping Richard’s various clients with their problems.

It’s the season of mystery! At least that’s what it feels like between this, ID: Invaded, In/Spectre and, yeah, I’ll label Magia Record as a mystery as well, in part anyway. Having said that this isn’t really a high stakes mystery, in fact there’s very little mystery at all. Each episode really comes down to a character study of whoever walks into the shop that week, Seigi and Richard don’t exactly go out to investigate crimes, they are jewellers after all. Not that I’m disappointed by this, the stories so far have been very interesting, letting us get to know some intriguing characters and learning a few things about gemstones and the jewellery business along the way. I do like the way Seigi and Richard bounce off of one another, Seigi being very open and warm, while Richard has more of a detached professional air about himself. They both clearly have some sort of tragic backstory waiting to be told, but for now we’re just getting to know the customer-of-the-week, which is fine. If you’re after relaxed character stories with a bit of gem trivia on the side then check this out.

In/Spectre

When Iwanaga Kotoko was little the yokai asked her to become their ‘God of Wisdom’. They took one eye and one leg, but now Kotoko can see and interact with all yokai, solving their problems and dealing with some of the more violent apparitions that appear. She’s helped in her duties by her ‘boyfriend’, at least he is according to her, Sakuragawa Kuro. Kuro is another odd one, with the ability to heal any wound as well as being utterly terrifying to every yokai around him. Together they’re a perfect match for one another, at least that’s what Kotoko keeps telling everyone.

And my surprise star of the season goes to this show! If it wasn’t for Magia Record and Eizouken I’d be tempted to call this my favourite show of the season, it just has the right mix of everything. Great dialogue, fun characters, comedy, drama and action, add on some cool character designs and impressive animation sequences and I’d say I’m head over heels for this one. I mean really this show should be a lot more disjointed than it actually feels, the way it can switch between comedy and dark subject matter and still come across as one cohesive whole just amazes me. The tone of this show is just a wonderful thing to observe. I will admit that this series is quite a talkative one, all the episode so far have basically played out as a string of conversations between two characters with a little dusting of action inbetween, which would be a problem if I didn’t enjoy being around these characters so much. I love the way the dialogue bounces between people they’re all interesting characters so far. I’m definitely sticking with this one.

BOFURI: I Don’t Want To Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense

Kaede is new to gaming, but her friend Risa has talked her into buying the new VRMMO game ‘New World Online’. Risa can’t join in straight away though so Kaede is left to create her character by herself and since she doesn’t want to get hurt she decides to just pour all of her stat points into her defence, there’s nothing wrong with that right? Well, it turns out that Kaede has discovered the secret to invincibility! With her defence so high nothing can hurt her and she soon becomes resistant to anything like poison that could potentially hurt her. But what fun can you have in a game were there is absolutely no risk? Plenty apparently!

If you’re after a realistic interpretation of the gaming experience then please move along because you’re not going to find it here. The complete lack of anyone complaining or swearing about Kaede’s broken character build just destroyed my suspension of disbelief right there and then. Having said that, that’s not really what this show is about. This is more about the fun of gaming, of playing with friends and exploring a bold new world and that’s where this series shines. You feel the joy radiating off of Kaede and Risa as they explore the game and get into some explosive boss fights. Speaking of boss fights, Risa’s battle with the boss in episode two really impressed me, maybe it’s because I was getting serious Legend of Zelda vibes from it, but also because Risa’s character is the kind I would make for this game. I also like the fact that in episode three they’re clearly adding in elements to limit Kaede’s invincibility and show that she’s not completely OP, which felt a bit more realistic and proves some fun challenges ahead.

Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story

Have you heard the rumour? They say Magical Girls can be saved in Kamihama City! Of course that’s a lie. The city is full of witches, unusually strong witches, as well as a tiny baby Kyubey (which like all of its kind should be shot on sight), but neither of those things are the main concern for Magical Girl Iroha. She’s searching for her missing sister who, until recently, she’d forgotten had even existed. Could this have something to do with the wish that Iroha made to become a Magical Girl in the first place? A wish she can’t even remember? And why does everything tie back to Kamihama City? Whatever’s going on, this isn’t normal, even for Magical Girls.

Madoka Bleedin’ Magica! I’ve never been shy about admitting my love for the original Madoka Magica (it’s my second favourite anime of all time) and I have searched and searched for a series to fill the void left in me by that show. Who knew all I needed to do was wait for a spin off show set within the same franchise. So far Magia Record gets it right where so many other Dark Magical Girls shows have got it wrong. It’s not about Magical Girls trying to kill one another or having horrible things happen to them. It’s about a world that is supposed to be happy and fun and colourful, but there’s something wrong with it. Everything is just slightly off-centre and our dear sweet characters have to find a way to hold on to hope in a world were despair is so rampant. Magia Record captures that atmosphere perfectly and it’s a visual feast with its use of colours, direction and all the crazy witch’s labyrinths. The characters are all likeable, even if I don’t feel like I’ve really gotten to know them yet. Part of what made the original Madoka Magica so strong for me was how nearly perfect it’s plotting and pacing was. I don’t get the sense that this series is going to be the same, it feels like it’s meandering a bit at the moment with things very much still in the set up phase. Then again I could be wrong and looking back all the little breadcrumbs we’ve been given could lead to a masterpiece. Here’s hoping!

That’s it for this season, back next week with a regular review. Get ready for a STAMPEDE!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

First Impressions Winter 2020 Part 1

Winter is upon us once more, but while the nights are long and the winds are cold there’s also a whole smorgasbord of new anime for us to snuggle up with. From a new entry in one of my favourite franchises of all time, to brand new gems for us to admire, there’s plenty to get through so let’s cut the preamble and get right to it!

Asteroid in Love

Kinohata Mira has just started high school and she can’t wait to join the astronomy club to help her fulfil a childhood promise. Unfortunately the astronomy club is suffering from a lack of members and has had to join up with the geology club to form the Earth Sciences club. It’s not exactly what Mira wanted, but she’s excited to join anyway. See when she was little she made a promise to a boy she met only once, to discover an asteroid and name it after him! Except Mira’s childhood sweetheart turns not to be a boy at all, but a girl! A girl who also wants to join the Earth Sciences club! Talk about a coincidence.

Cute girls doing cute things, that’s the name of the game here. Whether it’s hanging out at the riverside collecting rocks, starlit phone conversations or working in a bakery part-time, this anime is very much brightly coloured, cutesy fluff, and it’s very good at it. The characters are all likeable and funny, this is one of those anime where my main enjoyment comes from all the scenes where the characters just sit around talking to one another. They’ve all got good rapore with one another and their quirks and personalities bounce off of one another really well. Also their enthusiasm for their subject really comes off the screen, you can feel the love these characters have for the stars and gemstones and all the nerdy little details that come with those subjects. If you’ve after something bright and fun, check this out.

A Destructive God Sits Next to Me

Koyuki has a problem. See all he wants is a nice, quiet high schools life, but it just so happens that he sits next to a kid who is convinced he’s possessed by some destructive demon. Koyuki does his best to ignore him, but just can’t help being pulled into the strange delusions of his ‘friend’ Hanadori. That’s without even bringing up all other odd boys in Koyuki’s class, but then maybe Koyuki isn’t so normal himself.

Normally I do my best to stick to the three-episode rule, it’s the fairest way I know to give a new series a chance to grab me and show me what it’s capable of. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, there are just some shows that I know I’m not going to like well before that point. One episode was all it took for me to give up on this series. It commits one of the greatest crimes a comedy can. It’s not funny. The set up has potential we’ve got our straight man, Koyuki, constantly plagued by the absurdity and rampant imagination of Hanadori, which is a perfect comedy set up. Lots of comedy is built on the pairing of opposites, heck a lot of comedy is built on the suffering of one slightly jerky character dealing with the strange people around him (that’s like 90% of British sitcoms described right there). However, this series’ problem is that Koyuki is too much of a jerk. He’s not likeable at all, he shouts at the other kids in his class and yet stubbornly refuses to call out Hanadori when he’s annoying him. He’s just a brat with no endearing or redeeming qualities to make me root for him and yet he’s not so detestable that his suffering is all that enjoyable. The rest of the cast aren’t all that interesting either. I’m out on this one.

ID: Invaded

Have you ever wanted to see the inside of a serial killers mind? Well thanks to several breakthroughs in technology we can now do just that! What’s more we can even insert people into these mental landscapes, people like the brilliant detective Sakaido, and with his help the police might just be able to catch these killers before they commit their next crime. But what kind of man can so easily walk through the minds of deranged killers? As the old adage goes, send a maniac to catch a maniac (100 points if you get that reference).

Really I should be all over this show. I mean we’ve got a detective story exploring the inner workings of serial killers and psychopaths, throw in some great surrealist landscapes and I should adore this show, but I don’t. It’s not a bad show and I know other people are really enjoying this, but there’s just this wall that’s stopping me from connecting to the characters and the events. Admittedly detective stories always have a hard time in anime, trying to pack an effective mystery into twenty-odd minutes is hard and that does mean that a lot of the resolutions to the cases so far have felt kind of flat. Add on the lengthy discussions and explanations of the pseudo-science behind the technology at play and half the time I’m bored by this show. I want to like it though, I’ve enjoyed the subconscious landscapes of the killers and Sakaido/Narihisago is a fascinating character. Honestly the scenes where I’ve actually sat up and paid attention were all the ones with Narihigo in. I especially love his chat with the bomber in episode three, talking the man into suicide. He’s got a Hannibal Lector vibe and I think I’ll stick with this show to find out what his deal is. Maybe now that we’re past the set up phase I’ll start enjoying this one more.

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!

Ever since she was little, Midori Asakusa, has wanted to go on an adventure and, after watching an old anime, she’d decided that that adventure is animation! Together with the money-minded and organised Sayaka Kanamori and the teen model Tsubasa Mizusaki who dreams of becoming a character animator, the three girls decide that they should form a club and make their own anime! Making anime isn’t so easy though and the girls have a long way to go, but by combining their boundless imaginations they can make wonders come to life so a feature-length film shouldn’t be so tough, should it?

What do I even say about this anime, apart from the fact that I love each and every frame of it? This show is so clearly a love letter to animation and the creative process and if I could ever have an anime as the outward representation of my soul then it would be this show. I mean I knew this show was going to be good from the moment we see Asakusa lying on the sofa in episode one. That look in her eyes while she was watching anime and I could so clearly see the thoughts going through her head, which boil down to ‘someone made this. I could make something like this’. It’s a powerful moment. So much of this anime, after only three episodes, speak true, for me at least. I mean that scene from the third episode were Kanamori is trying to have a serious meeting about the repairs to the club building and the other two just keep getting distracted and going off on tangents, leading to Kanamori putting her foot down. I’ve been at meetings with my writer’s group exactly like that (and I’ll tell you now I wasn’t the serious one in that situation). I love this show, I don’t really know what else to say but if you’re interested in the creative process or a creative yourself then you need to check this out.

And I think I’ll leave it there for this week. Next time! The tragic death of Mr. Bunny, we meet a rather pushy God of Wisdom and, oh yeah, a new addition to one of my favourite anime franchises is here!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

First Impressions Autumn 2019 Part 2

And we’re back! No preamble, let’s get straight into this and get on with the first impressions!

Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun

Iruma is a total pushover, he’ll agree to do anything you ask as long as you say ‘please’. Obviously this makes his life difficult, but it’s not helped by the fact that he has the world’s worst parents, who are so completely lazy and useless that they get Iruma to do everything for them. Well, that is until they sell Iruma to a demon! Seriously, Worst. Parents. Ever! Luckily for Iruma the demon that he’s been sold to is actually fairly harmless and just wants to experience being a doting grandfather. He showers Iruma with love and presents, he even enrols him in Demon School, a school where if any of the students find out that he’s a human they’ll devour him in seconds, it’s even in their school song. You know what, I’ve changed my mind about how harmless this demon is.

I think this series may just be the surprise of the season for me. I really wasn’t expecting much out of this show, between the bright contrasting colours and how unsubtle this series is (the moment all the students started singing about killing humans while Iruma was stood there was a particular highlight), I judged this series to be fairly childish and simplistic, which isn’t a bad thing, but it didn’t exactly raise my hopes. But then, somewhere towards the end of the first episode, I realised something. I was actually having a lot of fun, Iruma is such a sweet kid and you can’t help but root for him as he tries to survive school and there are several points were the series manages to pull out a joke that I didn’t see coming. The series is just bursting with energy, it’s often completely over-the-top and ridiculous without ever breaking the internal logic that the series has set up. I’ve really grown to love the characters in this series I’m looking forward to spending the next season with them. Make sure to check this one out.

Fate/Grand Order Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia

Humanity is facing extinction! When the Chaldea Security Organisation built its facility high in the mountains, it did so with one purpose, to watch over the safety of humanity’s future, but then something changed. Suddenly humanity’s future no longer existed and seven singularities appeared, points in history that have been warped to create a bleak outcome. Now Fujimaru, the last master of Chaldea, and Mash, a demi-servant with an unbreakable shield, travel into the past to correct the course of history and return hope to humanity’s future. With six singularities completed, it’s now down to the seventh and final one which will take them to ancient Mesopotamia and a city ruled by Gilgamesh.

This is yet another show that I was really looking forward to. I’ve had my ups and downs with the fate franchise over the years, but I did enjoy the Fate/Grand Order First Order movie that was released a few years back (I’ve never reviewed it so here’s a quick summary, it’s a fun little adventure, bit too much exposition and there’s no real conclusion to events and while I like the characters and the fights are cool, it definitely felt like one big ad for the game, which I’ve never played). Going into this series I really didn’t know what to expect and I’d say you definitely either need to have played the game or at least watched the First Order film to get a grounding in the characters and the set up because this show jumps straight into it’s story, and it’s an interesting story. For starters Babylonia is a great locale and I’m having a great deal of fun looking around the place, add on to that the usual collection of legendary heroes for us to get to know and a chance to see a wiser and calmer Gilgamesh and there’s plenty here for me to love. The action is pretty fantastic too.

Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next life?!

Mile is a totally normal 12-year-old girl! Honestly, she’s super completely average and in no way special in the slightest, please believe her! Okay, fine, she’s not the least bit average, see Mile is one of those kids who made their way to a fantasy world after passing away in Japan (seriously has anyone checked Japan for any kind of dimensional instability? This keeps happening!). Since she was a bit of an honour student in her past life, Mile’s one and only wish is to be average in her next life. Unfortunately, as with every monkey’s paw, she should have phrased her request a little more specifically. What Mile meant was to be average for a human, but what is she is is average for the world, which basically means she’s half as strong as a dragon! Join Mile and her friends as she searches for her perfectly quiet and ordinary life, and fail miserably each and every time.

Okay, own up to it, who started putting effort into isekai series again? I mean between this and Asendance of a Bookworm it feels like the genre has been given a much-needed breath of fresh air. I wasn’t expecting anything from this series, but between Mile’s myriad of worried expressions, the many references and parody elements as well as the bond that’s formed between the four main girls, this series is so much fun! I mean all the standard tropes are here, Mile is the super overpowered protagonist that can breeze through any danger, and yet this feels fresh because Mile is trying so hard not to breeze through things. She so desperately wants to be average, even though we all know it is way too late for that, and we’re just waiting to see how Mile will mess up her own plans this time. Add on to that the fact that Mile actually uses her knowledge of her past life, and not just to comment on all the tropes at play, but she’s actually bringing otaku culture to this fantasy world, which I love! It’s just so much fun, I’m definitely sticking with this one.

Food Wars! The Fourth Plate

The battle for the Totsuki Academy is well underway! Having made a clean sweep of the first round of the Team Shokugeki, the rebels are feeling pretty good about themselves, but the Elite Ten are the top of the totem for a reason. There’re plenty of fierce battles ahead, but if Soma and the rebels don’t succeed then the whole of the culinary world will be forced to adopt Azami Nakiri’s rigid and set way of cooking. Cooking doesn’t get any more dramatic than this!

And it’s back! It feels strange to say, but out of all the sequels I’m watching this season, this is the one I was looking forward to the most. I have this weird relationship with Food Wars, when I first started watching it it was fun, but nothing really all that special, and yet, with each episode I watch of this series I just get more and more invested. After watching three seasons of this show I feel like I should have ‘Team Soma’ tattoo across my back and be waving a flag every time I watch an episode. It helps that this current arc is what I’ve been dying to see from the start, Soma and the gang vs. the Elite Ten in a knockout battle and we even get Erina participating instead of standing on the sidelines all the time! Well, at least she’s going to be participating at some point. My only real fear with this season is something that I noticed in the last one, the battles seem to be ending too quickly, we’re skipping over the actual cooking and just going straight to the judges’ decision a lot of time. I liked the cooking, partly because you get some really good food animation, but it also helps to build the tension for the climax. I hoped they don’t rush this arc, but I guess we’ll see.

No Guns Life

Extended, people who have been enhanced with cybernetics, giving them everything from superhuman strength to perfect marksmanship. Originally they were created as soldiers for a war, but the war is over and those who survived must find a new way to live. One such man is Juzo Inui, a man with a gun for his head! When’s he’s asked to protect a kidnapped kid, he finds himself battling the very mega corporation that not only runs the city, but actually built him, and they’ll stop at nothing to get their property back.

Another show that actually came as a bit of a surprise, I didn’t know anything about this series before the season started, but I’m so glad I found it. It combines several things that I love, from a hard-boiled detective to a grimy cyberpunk setting with some typical anime creativity like a main protagonist with a gun for a head. There are plenty of cool designs in this series, and I do also love a cyborg, but I’ve really grown to love Juzo as well. At first he looks like the typical stoic, manly main protagonist, and he certainly has plenty of cool and badass moments, but you spent five minutes and you realise he’s a bit of a goofball. Nothing over the top, but he’s easily flustered and panics about rusting or not getting his favourite brand of cigarettes. I like that and while we haven’t seen all that much of the other characters so far, I like them too, though the less Tetsuro takes over people without their permission, the better.

And that’s it for the first impressions this season. There’s a bunch of other shows I want to be watching, but I can’t get access to them yet. Damn it Amazon give me Psycho-Pass! Sorry, back next week with the regular reviews.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

 

 

 

 

First Impressions Autumn 2019 Part 1

The leaves are changing colour, the nights are drawing in and, is that a chill creeping up your spine? Yes, autumn is well and truly here! And we all know what that means, Halloween! Okay, technically that was last night and the lunatics outside are already prepping for Bonfire night, but we’re not here to talk about that. Last season was a bumper crop of great shows, even if some of them never lived up to the promise of their first few episodes, there was still plenty to celebrate and reviews will be coming eventually. This season there’s not as many new shows that immediately grabbed my attention, but there are plenty of sequels and the odd gems that I’ve found, so let’s get this show on the road.

Ahiru no Sora

Sora Kurumatani loves basketball, and I mean he really loves it! From wearing the shoes inherited from his mother, to practising a thousand times a day, Sora’s energy and enthusiasm is unstoppable, which is a good thing because in basketball terms he’s a pipsqueak. A lack of height isn’t the only problem that Sora is facing though, the basketball team at his new school is full of delinquents! None of whom are the least bit interested in basketball. Can Sora’s love for the sport turn this team of layabouts into a team with a chance of winning a tournament? Well, if they don’t beat up the other teams first, then, yeah, maybe.

And our sports anime for the season is here! I’ll admit I only started watching this show because I played Basketball at secondary school, only in P.E. lessons mind so I was just goofing around, but, as a non-sporty person, Basketball is a sport I could get into. With that being said, Ahiru no Sora is a decidedly average show, it’s not bad, but it’s not blowing me away either. So far it’s sticking to the standard tropes of a sports anime with the added joke that most of the team are stereotypical thugs and get into fights with rival schools and generally try to act tough and mean. It gets a few laughs, but it also makes it hard for me to care about much of the team outside of Sora and Momoharu. Sora’s enthusiasm for the sport is infectious and Momoharu has a decent bit of backstory where we learn he gave up the sport because no matter how hard he tried and hoped, he just didn’t think he was any good at it, and, yeah, I’ve been at that point before so I sympathise. Threatening to drop a kid’s shoes into an incinerator I sympathise with less, but it is nice to see Momoharu regain his drive for the sport. I’d say give it a couple of episodes as I am slowly becoming more and more invested in this show.

Ascendance of a Bookworm

Motosu Urano was a college student obsessed with books, and I do mean obsessed. It was her belief that she could do anything as long as she had books, a belief that is put to the test when she one day wakes up in the body of the five year old Main. Now not only does she have a new father, mother and big sister to get to know, but she has to get used to living in a medieval society, a society where books are a rarity and reserved only for the rich. Whatever will Main do? Well, once she’s done complaining, she’s just going to have to learn how to make her own books!

This was one of the few new shows I was looking forward to coming into this season and, so far, it hasn’t disappointed. Yes, Main can be a bit of an acquired taste at times, especially during the first couple of episodes. She’s single-mindedly obsessed with books to point that nothing else matters, not this new world she’s woken up in, or the fact that she’s replaced some poor family’s ill daughter (not helped by the fact that I’m pretty sure the real Main is dead now, there’s a cheery thought for the day). No, books are all that matter and all her complaints and little tantrums can sometimes veer towards the annoying, but what makes me okay with them is I see how Main is going to develop, she’s already coming to realisation that she’ll never get her old life back and has to come to accept her new family, as well as being a bit more considerate and making gifts to show her appreciation. If Main keeps along this path then this series could be a really good, sweet little slice of medieval life.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These

Thanks to Yang, the Free Planets Alliance manage to avoid a total defeat at the hands of the Galactic Empire and make it back to their own corner of space with at least a handful of ships still intact. That doesn’t mean the fighting’s over though, far from it. With the sudden death of the Emperor, the Galactic Empire is facing civil war and Reinhard will have to take on the nobles if he wants to keep the position he’s worked so hard for. Yang, meanwhile, has to deal with rebellion within the Alliance as the Empire sows the seeds of decent in order to keep them busy. Whichever way you look at it, these galactic heroes still have a long way to go.

This is one of the shows I was waiting for, I really enjoyed the first season (you can check out my review of it HERE), and in all honesty not much has changed. The visuals are as good as ever, from the sweeping vistas of space to the vast fleets and gorgeous locales and backdrops. In fact, my only real complaint is with a couple of character designs, and while 99% are great, there’s the odd couple that I’m sure are just colour swaps of already established characters. Of course the best part of this show is all the political manoeuvring and strategic battles and they’re back with a vengeance. I do wish there were a few less scenes where the narrator just sums up what’s happened in between major events and let us actually see a bit more of it, but each and every episode has left me pumped for more. If you enjoyed the first season, you definitely need to be watching this and if you haven’t, then you need to go check it out.

Granblue Fantasy: The Animation Season 2

Take off into the skies once more with Gran, Lyria and the rest of the crew of the Grandcypher! There’re more floating islands to explore, more primal beasts to meet and plenty of adventures to be had, so it’s business as usual really. After solving one problem with a rampaging primal beasts on an out of the way island, the crew are shocked to learn that the Empire wants to make peace with them. Just what are they up and what does this have to do with Katalina’s childhood friend from the days when she was training to be a knight? Nothing is what it seems, but then would you expect anything else? Let the second season set sail!

Another second season and another show I’ve been really looking forward to, seriously it’s like the season of sequels or something. If you’re interested in my thoughts on Granblue’s first season, then you can check out my review HERE, and, again, my thoughts remain pretty much the same. I really like this cast of characters, yes they’re not all that complex or deep and their adventures are fairly predictable, but I love the way this crew interacts with one another. You feel the bond between them and I just have so much fun following along behind them. The whole show has that old-school adventure feel that I love so much and I can’t wait for more episodes. If you enjoyed the last season, you should definitely be checking this out as it’s really more of the same, and if you didn’t enjoy the last season (which I get) then there’s plenty of other good stuff around this season. Personally I’m loving this and I’m definitely riding along all the way to the end.

My Hero Academia Season 4

Having passed the provisional license exam, Midoriya and the rest of the students of U.A. are ready to get back to training and become the best heroes they can be! To do that they’re going on work studies with professional heroes, Midoriya setting his sights on Sir Nighteye, All Might’s former sidekick. The young heroes aren’t the only ones looking to up their game though, the League of Villains is taught a lesson when they meet the head of a Yakuza family, a man who goes by the alias Overhaul. Overhaul and his gang may prove to be an even bigger threat than the League though, you see Overhaul has a plan, a plan that revolves around a little girl…

My Hero Academia is back! I’ll keep this short because, well, this is the fourth season of this show, you should know whether you like it or not by now. Personally I love it, My Hero Academia is my second favourite shonen series of all time and while this season has gotten off to a slow start, I’m a manga reader so I know exactly what’s coming and I couldn’t be more excited! There’s so much I wish I could talk about, but that would be spoiling things so I won’t. Just be ready for some brilliant action sequences, great character moments and a whole lot of heart, like every other season of My Hero Academia. Be warned though, this arc is going to get dark and I mean that…poor Eri. Sorry, I said no spoilers didn’t I? Anyway! It’s gonna be a wild ride, you know, once we get past the slow introductory lull that a lot of MHA arcs have. Hang in there anime-only watchers!

And we’ll leave it there for today, back next week when I’ll be enrolling in a demon school, taking on the culinary world in the most dramatic way possible and going on a trip to ancient Babylonia for a battle amongst gods. See you then!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

First Impressions Summer 2019 Part 2

And we’re back! No time to waste, on with the first impressions!

Astra Lost in Space

In the not too distant future, eight high school students, and one ten year old, are all preparing for a survivalist camping trip on another planet. Five days with no adults, just themselves and whatever they’ve packed, it sounds like a lot of fun. However once they arrive on the planet an ominous orb appears, warping the kids over 5,000 light years from home and straight into space. With a bit of quick thinking they all manage to make it to a nearby abandoned spaceship, but that is only the first of the challengers they’re going to face. With no supplies to last them the journey they’ll have to gather what they can from the various planets along the way home, tackling mysterious flora and fauna, as well as the possibility of a saboteur onboard. It’s going to be a heck of a journey.

I’d heard a lot people praising this series before I went into it and, I have to say, it doesn’t disappoint. It feels like forever since I’ve watched a sci-fi anime full of spaceships and bizarre alien planets, maybe its just the sheer amount of isekai shows over the past few years, but it does the sci-fi loving part of my heart good to watch this series. It’s got a funny and likable cast of characters, each with their own quirks and faults and while we’ve only learnt about a couple of them so far I’m looking forward to getting to know the rest. I like that the show knows when to be serious and when to deflate that tension. One minute everything will be going wrong and we’ll have a very tense scene where everyone is panicking and the next we’ll have some character trying to show off or dip into a cliché and someone else will come along to burst their bubble. It keeps things light and fun, but also appropriately dramatic. It’s a hard balance to keep up, but so far the series has shown that it knows what it’s doing. I wholeheartedly recommend this.

Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files (Rail Zeppelin) Grace Note

Waver Velvet is a survivor of the Fourth Holy Grail War, but now he’s also a teacher and Lord within the Clock Tower, the home of some of the most prominent mages in society. Yet it’s not just his old teacher’s class and title that he’s taken on, he’s also got a mountain of debt and a scheming younger sister to deal with. All that plus navigating the weird and often complicated world of magecraft means that Waver and his students have their work cut out for them, tackling various mysteries from around the Clock Tower.

Fans of Fate/Zero rejoice for one of our favourite characters, Waver, has returned to us! Honestly this show feels like it was made for me, not only do I love episodic procedurals where you have an investigator looking into a case of the week, but it’s also a sequel to one of my favourite anime, following one of my favourite characters. I’ve died and gone to anime paradise. So far this series has been exactly what I wanted, fun little mysterious with quirky characters, decent action and letting me see how things turned out for the former Master of Rider. The mysteries haven’t been anything too complicated, well, except for when it gets to the explanations of the magic at work, which like a lot of the fate series can be overly wordy, but then I’ve never really looked into how magic works in the fate series too much, still I’m learning as it goes along. I do get the sense that’s there’s a lot of things I’m missing with this series, there’s lots of lingering shots on characters that leave me with the impression that I’m supposed to know who that is, but having only watched the various anime series, I don’t have a clue. Not that any of that matters, I’m enjoying hanging out with Waver and the rest of the cast and the mysteries are fun, as I said. Definitely sticking with this one.

Isekai Cheat Magician

Let me know if you’ve heard this one before, a typical Japanese high schooler is walking home one day when he’s suddenly transported to another world! But wait, there’s a twist! Someone else tags along with him, that’s…that’s about it. Now Taichi and Rin must find a way to survive in a world full of magic and monsters, but luckily for them they both have off the charts magical power making them two of the strongest adventurers around! But who summoned them and for what purpose, and just who is it that keeps calling to Taichi in his dreams?

Another season and yet another Isekai show, because it’s not a season of anime without a dozen new Isekai on offer. Okay, the Isekai fatigue may be setting in again because I’m being awfully bitter towards a show that, at its worst, is average. The animation is fairly subpar and the magic system needs more explanation, especially when it starts throwing out numbers without giving us any proper context for what they actually mean, but aside from that this is a fairly pleasant anime. There’s nothing much original here, but I like both Taichi and Rin and they have a good rapport with one another. Honestly if this season wasn’t packed full of amazing shows I’d probably stick with this one, episode three was starting the build up some interesting mysteries, and while I know the villains will in know way threaten to our protagonists, they’re in a situation they can’t just punch or blast their way through, at least for the moment. Maybe, if I find myself at a loose end, I’ll come back to this one, but as of this minute there’s not enough to keep my attention.

Given

Ritsuka Uenoyama just wants to crash in his favourite napping spot at the school, but today his spot has been occupied by a quiet young man clutching a guitar. The young man is Mafuyu Sato and he knows nothing about guitars, or music or, well, anything really, so when Uenoyama fixes the broken string on his guitar, Sato begs to be taught how to play. Uenoyama resists at first, but soon caves and quickly finds that his passion for music, which had been missing recently, is coming back to him, among other passions. Hint hint.

I really like this anime, I mean I fell in love with Uenoyama the moment I met him. The guy just wants to nap in his favourite spot and has to go through so much hassle, honestly frustrated Uenoyama is the best Uenoyama. I also like the rest of the cast too, Mafuyu has a lost puppy vibe and the other two members of the band are very fun and likeable in their own ways. The four of them together is just perfection, the entire episode could just be the four of them sitting around chatting and I’d love it. The animation is decent, though I do like the colours and lightning that this shows uses for most of its scenes and the music, what there has been of it so far, has been good to listen to too. I’m preparing myself for having my heart broken with this one, but I’m more than willing to stick around for that.

Fire Force

When spontaneous human combustion becomes a reality, transforming people into fiery monsters called Infernals, there’s only one small corner of the world that can still hold on to a semblance of everyday life, Tokyo. Thanks to the Fire Force, specially trained fire fighters, most with pyrokinetic abilities of one degree or another, the people of Japan have a way to fight back against the Infernals. For Shinra, he’s dreamed of nothing more than joining the Fire Force and proving himself a hero, and not the ‘Devil’ he’s been branded as since he was little, but are the Fire Force completely benevolent? Who, or what, was it that started the fire twelve-years ago that took Shinra’s mother and baby brother from him? Most pressingly of all, what is the cause of spontaneous human combustion?

This is one of the anime I was looking forward to most at the start of this season, an adaptation of a manga from the creator of Soul Eater? I’m in! Thankfully this show hasn’t disappointed so far, I mean from a visual standpoint alone this show is jaw-droppingly beautiful. The speed, fluidity and ferocity with which Shinra unleashes his fire attacks is stunning to watch and I often end up watching fight scenes two or three times just to drink it all in. It’s not just the action though, this show really knows how to frame a scene and even keep ‘talking head’ scenes interesting, seriously there’s several stills I want of this anime hung up on my wall (that shot at the end of episode 3 with the stars in the background melted me). Now while I would just watch this show for the pretty pictures alone, you need more than that to make a great anime, you also need engaging characters and an interesting plot and that’s exactly what Fire Force is offering up so far. Shinra is an easy protagonist to like and you can’t help but root for him and the questions it raises about which parts of the Fire Force you can trust as well as the big question of what’s causing Infernals to appear in the first place all offer up tonnes of story potentials. I’m burning to see where this one is going.

Cop Craft

15 years ago, a hyper-dimensional rift opened above the Pacific Ocean, linking the Earth to another world, one filled with magic, fairies and more than a few monsters. Now, while there is peace on the surface, the criminal underworld has taken advantage of these new opportunities and begun new trades in smuggling in fairies and turning them into drugs. It’s up to the police to stop them, but when a bust goes disastrously wrong, Sergeant Kei Matoba finds himself partnered with a knight from that other world, Tilarna, as they track down a deadly wizard and his ‘psychic bomb’.

Honestly, I loved this show the moment I heard about it. A cop show, mixed with fantasy? Okay, someone’s been peeking at my TV show wish list again because this is right up my alley. Unfortunately I have to engage the analytical part of my brain when watching this show and when I do that I can’t really grade it as anything other than decent. The animation ranges from serviceable to ‘My God What Am I Watching?!’, with a lot still shots and what I refer to as ‘moving the cardboard cut out’ bits of animation and the story is, well, after three episodes I’m pretty sure we’ve ticked off the majority of the cop show clichés from the partners not getting along at first to going it alone and an expected betrayal. However, I am still really enjoying this series and that comes down to two reasons, one is the relationship between Kei and Tilarna, I really like their chemistry and how the bond is growing between them, and the other is the world building. I like how the show is slipping in little details about the magic and how the world works a little bit at a time to give us the sense of the deeper world that is out there and ready to explore.

That’s what I’ve been watching this season and, again, I just have to marvel at just how many great shows there are this season. I’ve certainly got a lot to watch, which is never a bad thing. See you next week!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

First Impressions Summer 2019 Part 1

It’s that time again, Hammer Time! Sorry, no, that’s not right. It’s another season of anime, yes, that’s it, and that means First Impressions! Joking aside, I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about what a season has to offer, we’ve got magical girls piloting mechs, hot-footed fire fighters, and a couple of teenagers trying to rebuild the world through science! And that is only the tip of the iceberg, so let’s skip the rest of the preamble and get to it!

One Piece (Wano arc, Episode 892-)

The Strawhats are finally headed for the Land of Samurai, Wano! After barely escaping the terrifying Big Mom and scaling the stormy seas around the isolated country, Luffy is ready to reunite with the rest of his crew and take on the beastly Kaido. However the peaceful and colourful capitol isn’t all that it seems, Wano is a country full of tragedies and ruled by the Shogun, as well as Kaido and his Beast Pirates. Can Luffy and his crew help reignite the spirits of the samurai and stand up to one of the most powerful men in the New World?

I’ll just get to this straight away, I’m a huge One Piece fan, it’s my favourite Shonen series without question, but, to be honest, the anime is pretty terrible. It’s had its moments (I still love a lot of the early years) and I was first introduced to the series through the anime, but low quality animation and ice age slow pacing have always been its weaknesses, something that has only gotten worse over time. So, why have I started watching the anime again? Well, the times they are a changin’ and with a new team running the show (including Tatsuya Nagamine, the director of Dragonball Super: Broly) this may just be the best that the One Piece anime has ever been done. Honestly the look alone is a hundred levels above anything that has been done before for the series, from the bright and vibrant colours to the little details, like the ink strokes that outline each character. Add on to that that the action is more fluid and fast and the new additions to the soundtrack that filled with traditional Japanese instruments and you have a recipe for greatness. That brings me on to the Wano arc itself and the possibilities it has to offer, Wano has the makings of a mega arc and even moving at the speed that it is in the manga, there’s still so many moments that could be expanded on, fights that are moved off panel that we could see on screen. So far the anime looks like its going to stick to its usual pacing, but if it takes advantage of all the potential gaps to fill in, as it has done so far, then this could be the best arc in the whole One Piece anime and I recommend that everyone give it a shot.

To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts

The continent of Patria has long been divided by a civil war, pushed to the edge the North makes a drastic decision, using forbidden technology to turn their soldiers into monsters called Incarnates. On the battlefield the Incarnates were gods, quickly turning the tide of the war, but their victories came at a terrible price. Slowly losing their minds to the beasts inside them, the Incarnates soon became a bigger threat than the South ever was. Now, former Captain of the Incarnates, Hank, sets out to fulfil a promise to his men, that only another Incarnate will kill an Incarnate. Accompanied by the daughter of a former comrade, Hank must battle his friends and maybe, just maybe, find the one who betrayed him back on the battlefield.

This anime is in the running for my surprise favourite of the season, I mean I saw the previews and read the synopsis and thought, ‘yeah, that sounds cool’, and the series is certainly that, but its so much more. I realised there’s something I’ve been missing in my anime, and while I love long-form storytelling, I’m also partial to a more episodic series as well. This series is pretty much the perfect episodic format for me, each episode we’re introduced to a new Incarnate, get to know their own tragic back stories and then watch them die, tragically because this series knows no other way. Now with a lesser series you’d struggle to care about a character you’ve just been introduced to, especially one that you know is going to die by episode’s end, but To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts manages to balance and pace things in such a way that you can’t help but be hit in the feels. True the animation isn’t the greatest and I was worried for a moment that Schaal was going to veer into annoying territory in episode 3, but she’s manage to avoid that so far. Still I’m in this for the characters and their stories so I’ll put up with anything at this point, definitely recommended.

Are You Lost?

Four high school girls wake up to find themselves shipwrecked with nothing in sight but a desert island a short swim away. No food, no water and no shelter…the girls are definitely in trouble, or at least they would be if one of them weren’t a survival expert. Trained from a young age, Homare knows all the tricks to surviving in the wilderness, from what to eat to how to build a working shower. So, let this season’s survival training begin! Now with added ecchi!

A short anime and a fairly fun one as it turns out. I’ve already been taking notes on the various survival tips in case I ever end up stranded on an island and the jokes, while mostly going along the same pattern, have made me chuckle. A lot of the humour comes from Homare suggesting ways for the girls to survive in her blunt, matter-of-fact way, usually eating insects or drinking blood and such, and the other girls all reacting with varying degrees of horror. It works, though I do wonder how long that type of humour will last before it gets stale, but the way the girl’s developing personalities also bounce off of one another is pretty fun. Outside of our survival expert, we’ve got the lazy one, the shy, studious one and the fantasist who desperately craves other people’s approval. It’s not amazing, but for a short little hit it’s fine.

If It’s for My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord

Dale is a well-known and highly skilled adventurer, despite being so young. One day, while on a job deep into the forest he comes across a young demon girl called Latina. With nowhere to take her and discovering the body of her previous guardian nearby, Dale can’t think of any option other than taking her home, a decision that is going to change his whole life. Doting on the little demon, Latina soon becomes the talk of the pub where Dale lives, endearing everyone to her because she’s just so darn cute. In fact she’s so cute that Dale doesn’t want to go to work anymore!

They say having kids changes you and, boy, is that true, especially in the case of Dale. The young adventurer has gone well and truly gaga over his adopted kid and it’s hard to blame him. Latina is an exceptionally cute kid and completely endearing, she lights up every scene she’s in. Dale on the other hand…I still can’t decide whether I like the guy or not. His exaggerated reactions to everything that Latina does, and especially when he misses her, can be fun…in small doses. The problem is that it’s pretty much Dale’s whole character at this point, we do get to see a few moments of him as an adventurer across the first three episodes and it does raise a few interesting points. Turns out Dale is a bit of a badass and has no qualms about outright assassinating people if that’s the job he’s paid to do, which is a good contrast to the fluffy lightness of the rest of the series. That little nugget aside though, cute is the word for this series and I suppose you’ve just to got to ask yourself whether that’s enough of an offset for Dale’s more annoying behaviour. As for me I’m not so sure, but I’ll give it another episode.

Dr. Stone

One day a green light fell across the world, turning every living human to stone. Since then several thousand years have past, but at last someone has managed to break free of their stone prison, Senku, the teenage genius. With the help of his muscular, if clueless, friend, Taiju, he plans to rebuild the world using science, but leapfrogging his way up the civilisation ladder isn’t going to be as easy as he thinks, especially when they awaken someone who has very different ideals about rebuilding the world than they do. The battle for the future of the world begins now.

Dr. Stone has a lot going for it (probably why Crunchyroll chose to promote it so much). For starters it looks great, lots of bright colours and great scenery, as well as some interesting character designs. Add on to that an interesting premise and a leaning towards using science and thinking its way out of problems and you have a recipe for an anime I’m going to love, at least on paper. I have to say that, so far, Dr. Stone has had a very slow start, things have certainly happened and the plot is progressing, but with all the promotion and hype I can’t help feeling this isn’t the ‘grab me by the throat’ roller coaster I was expecting, not that any of that is the shows fault. It’s a common problem with shonen series, the first arc is never the best, it’s often bogged down by set up and the story trying to find its feet. Once you get through an arc or two though, then a series can hit its stride. Whether you want to stick around for that long is up to you, but I’m hooked enough to give it some time.

Granbelm

Many years ago magic vanished from the world, most people forgetting it ever existed, but it’s still there, waiting for the one who will claim it and become the one true mage of the world. Kohinata Mangetsu is a fairly unremarkable high school student, she’s cheerful and always wants to help, but laments the fact that there’s nothing she’s really good at. She wishes for that one thing, the thing that will make her special. Then, on the night of a full moon, Mangetsu finds herself standing inside ruins instead of the school building, watching as giant mechanical dolls battle it out against one another. The battle for magic has begun.

This show has quickly become one of my favourites of the season, and considering the competition that is some feat. Honestly I’ve fallen more and more in love with this show after each episode, I mean it’s magical girls and giant robots, what is there not to love! It’s more than that though, I mean the battles are flashy and the mech designs are interesting and different and the characters are all very likeable so far (well, aside from the crazy redhead, I am waiting for her to get her comeuppance just so she can stop spewing her venom all over the screen). What I admire most about this series though is the pacing, so far the episodes have been packed with information, constantly moving forward without missing those quiet little moments that allow the show to breath and hasn’t felt rushed once. Loving this so far.

And we’ll leave it there for this week. Next Time! Teenagers lost in space, boys putting a band together and fire fighters who fight fire…with fire! See you then!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

First Impressions Spring 2019 Part 2

And we’re back! On with the first impressions!

Midnight Occult Civil Servants

Miyako Arata has just got a new job as a civil servant in the Shinjuku Ward Office, but he really should have checked the employee handbook because his role isn’t quite what he was expecting. See there are creatures all around us, invisible to ordinary people, but still able to affect their daily lives. They’re called Anothers and it’s now Arata’s job to deal with them and make sure they don’t cause too much trouble. Luckily for Arata he has an ability that not even he was aware of, he can speak to and understand the Another’s, unlike his colleagues and that may just come in handy as a trickster god has just arrived in town.

I’m a sucker for a procedural series, dealing with a problem/monster of the week and I’m also a sucker for series that explore different folklores and myths so this series was pretty much made for me. I also like the fact that it’s bringing up some mythology that I haven’t encountered all that much before, I certainly wasn’t expecting someone from Aztec myth to show up, which was a nice surprise. As for the rest of the series it’s doing enough to keep me entertained, but it’s not exactly blowing me out of the water. The characters are all likeable, though fairly generic so far and that’s fine there’s still plenty of time to get to know them and there are a few hints at some back story for a few of the characters. I do like the various tools that the characters have on hand to deal with Anothers and I hope that gets expanded on. All in all I’m enjoying this and I’ll stick with it.

Namuamidabutsu! – Utena-

Taishakuten and Bonten have descended to the earthly plane to save humanity from the corruption of earthly vices! Except, when they arrive, they find there isn’t really a need to do that much saving. Yes humans have desires and if these go the wrong way they can lead to the creation and growth of vices, but it’s rare that the vices grow to the point were they’re going to cause some sort of problem. As such the Gods spend most of their time mooching around in their temple getting use to the convenience of modern life and generally getting up to sitcom-esque hijinks.

I don’t what it is, but there’s something I find inherently funny about watching a god, or heavenly spirit, or budha (or whatever the guys in this series are classed as) struggling with modern technology like washing machines and microwaves. If, however, that doesn’t sound like your short of thing, or general sitcom antics of ‘oh no, this guy misunderstood something this other guy said and now we must resolve the issue as hijnks ensue!’, then, yeah, this won’t be for you. There are hints of greater plot and the ending of episode three definitely suggested that we were finally going to get some action, but that’s not what this series is about. It’s gentle and funny, offering up low key situations, like an old guy getting jealous in an old folks home, and resolves the issue with honesty and warmth rather than a big fight and I prefer it that way. I don’t think this anime is going to change anyone’s world, but it’s a pleasant way to spend half an hour.

The Helpful Fox Senko-san

Salaryman Nakano’s work/life balance is out of whack. He’s overworked and under pressure, to the point where he barely sleeps and gets home later and later each night. His stressful life maybe be about to change though when he comes home to find a fox girl cooking him dinner. The fox is Senko and apparently one of Nakano’s ancestors did her a favour so now she’s here to look after him and take all that nasty stress away, whether that’s by cooking, cleaning or letting him fluff up her tail. Now I won’t judge Nakano, but I have put the police on speed dial, just in case.

Warm and cosy is the best way I can describe this series. It’s the perfect way to chill out after a long day, which I think is very obviously the intention of the series. Senko is cuteness personified and Nakano is very relatable, obviously he’s a bit weirded out by the situation at first, but gradually starts to enjoy himself and who doesn’t fantasise about getting home after a hard day and work and having someone just take care of everything for you (though the less scenes we get of Nakano advancing on Senko with a creepy look on his face, the better). Episode three has been my favourite so far, mostly because it gets the pair out of the apartment for a bit and pushes us more into the gentle slice of life stuff that I look for in my chill out anime. That and it also starts to expand the cast so things look promising for this series.

Wise Man’s Grandchild

A young Japanese man dies in a tragic car accident he is reborn in a new, fantastical world (like everyone else from Japan, seriously, I’m surprised there’s not a queue for getting into the next fantasy world, or maybe that’s just a British thing). Anyway, the man, now a baby, is found by the wise old Merlin, given the name Shin and raised by the wizard as his grandson. Shin quickly picks up magic in all its forms, including combat magic and making magical equipment, to a degree that is beyond anyone else. Unfortunately, while Merlin is keen to teach Shin as much magic as possible, he neglects to tell him much about the rest of the world or even how powerful he really is. It’s no surprise then that when Shin finally moves to the big city to attend a magic academy he’s in for a fair few shocks and must learn to keep his extraordinary abilities under wraps, something he is immensely terrible at.

The Isekai genre is officially back in my good books, I’ve been back to enjoying them a lot lately, even if I do still bemoan the sheer amount of them. Honestly this series has a lot of the problems of the Isekai genre, the overpowered protagonist and I can already tell that Shin’s whole past life will have precisely nothing to do with the series going forward, yet at the time of writing this I don’t care. Shin is an incredibly likeable protagonist, he’s a naïve idiot, but an enjoyable one. It’s funny to see him flustered as he deals with everyone else’s antics and how he calmly talks about killing a demon when he was ten and everyone just stares slacked-jaw. The rest of the cast are just as likable, bringing a bubbly banter that makes it easy to see why all these characters became friends so fast. What has me impressed the most though is episode three where it manages to balance the goofy antics of the cast playing off of one another with some tense and epic action in the second half.Shin is obviously never in any real danger and most of the fight boils down to flashing lights shooting across the screen, but it’s better animated than I was expecting. I also like the way that we not only see Shin take damage for a second, but the fact that he turns serious without it feeling out of character and he even takes a moment to regret and mourn at the end. He may have all the power, but it suggests things won’t be a complete breeze for him, which I appreciate.

Sarazanmai

Where do I even begin? Okay, there’s this kid, Kazuki, he cross dresses as an idol to keep his little brother happy for… some reason. There’s a gangster kid, Toi, with a lethally sharp ruler whose selling drugs and a third kid, Enta, who is seriously in love with Kazuki. All three of them end up annoying a kappa god and are transformed into Kappas themselves. They must battle desire zombies in order to turn back into humans, extracting the zombie’s desires through their… butts. There are also some singing policemen, odd behaviour and cardboard cut outs wandering around the place, the songs are catching though.

All joking about how weird this show is aside, it’s not actually that weird. There are lots of bizarre elements, certainly, but the story itself is pretty straightforward, it’s basically a magical boy show with a monster of the week and gradually peeling the veil back on the characters so that we can come to understand their motivations. After three episodes the formula is fairly well established and you’ve just got to ask yourself if you can cope with watching things getting pulled out of giant bottoms, the random song sequences and trying to work out what’s going to be flying through the sky this week. I get the sense there’s a lot of symbolism and meaning behind a lot of the visuals that I don’t yet understand (or maybe I’m giving the series too much credit and its all nonsense), that and the whole desires being stored in a special organ in the butt is apart of the kappa myth from what I’ve heard, though I haven’t really looked into that, yet. Honestly this show feels like a spiritual successor to Revolutionary Girl Utena, not that I’ve seen that show (I know, gasp, scream, horror! It’s on a very long list of anime that I need to watch at some point, a list that is constantly growing), but from the clips I’ve seen this show is packing a similar surrealist streak. That might have something to do with the fact that the guy behind Utena is one of the people behind this series, you know, maybe, just maybe.Still it’s fun and interesting and I’m curious to see what happens when the formula finally breaks in this show.

And that’s it for the first impression this season. I’ve definitely found some gems and there’s a couple of series that I’m really hopeful for, but then I always manage to find something to watch each season (there’s certainly enough anime produced that one or two things should catch my eye). Back to regular reviews next week and the march to my 5th Anniversary continues, which means it’s back to the Digimon tri movies for me, and my slow descent into madness. I’ve just suddenly realised what put me in a mood last week.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

First Impressions Spring 2019 Part 1

Winter is gone and Spring is here, bringing with it a fresh crop of anime for us to gorge ourselves on, and I wish I could muster more enthusiasm than I currently can. As I write this I’m in a bit of a mood and I can’t decide whether I’m jut having a general downer or if it’s the fact that there’s only really a couple of shows this season that have my attention. Still, I live to be surprised so let’s see what we’ve got and maybe that’ll cheer me up.

YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of This World

Takuya is your typical teen (by anime standards), he’s a cocky smart-arse who generally breezes through life, all the ladies loving him and consistently proving that his brain is nowhere near the driving seat (seriously, how has no one smacked this kid yet?). Takuya’s easy life may be about to change though as strange things are going on in the town, not only has his ‘dead’ father sent him a mysterious device that let’s the user travel through parallel dimensions (read as time travel), but there’s also the lightning strikes and the string of accidents. Not to mention the elf girl who appears and kisses Takuya before vanishing again. Life’s about to get weird, but then this is an anime.

And we’re off to a bad start. Honestly this series had me at the mention of parallel dimensions, I’m a sucker for anything like that, but then we’re not even three minutes into the first episode and we get a flash of the teacher’s underwear. It was like a brick slamming down on to my head, ‘Oh, it’s going to be one of those shows.’ If I’m being fair this anime isn’t terrible, the animation is fairly nice and there’s the potential for some interesting mysteries, but that’s part of the problem. I’ve only watched two episodes, but the show has yet to do anything interesting, even the whole parallel dimension thing is basically boiled out to a reset switch where Takuya can pop back a few minutes in time to try out all the different variables. They could do so much with this concept and normally I’d stick around to find out if they do, but I can already tell that all the female characters are in this show either for fanservice or lewd comments and I have no patience for that right now. I’m out on this one.

Fruits Basket

Tohru Honda is a nice girl, endlessly kind and a perpetual optimist. She doesn’t want to be a burden on anyone, so much so that after the death of her mother leaves her without anywhere to go she decides to live in the forest rather than impose on her relatives. However she’s not alone in the forest and after being discovered by two members of the Soma family, Tohru finds herself living with them. The Soma family are a mysterious bunch though and Tohru soon learns. The family is cursed, when a member of the opposite sex hugs them, they turn into animals of the zodiac.It’s certainly an… odd curse and it does make me wonder how there can be a family of any kind if there’s that harsh a ‘no touch’ being enforced.

I’ll be honest and admit that I never watched the original Fruits Basket. I’ve heard really good things about it and it’s been on my list of ‘Anime to Watch at Some Point’ for a very long time. Trouble is, between my personal life and the general onslaught of seasonal anime I’ve never really found the time, so I’m glad the series is getting the Brotherhood treatment. After three episodes I am enjoying the series, but I get the sense that the series is going to have a lot more to offer down the line (judging by the way I’ve heard people go on about it). The animation is gorgeous and Tohru is just quirky enough to swerve being a bland nice girl, just. The story so far is pretty low key, just having cute little antics that let us get to know the characters a bit more with a few tear-jerker moments along the way, but the stuff I’m really interested in is the curse and how it came about. I guess I’ll have to wait for that, but with what I’ve seen so far I’m happy to.

Hitoribocchi no Marumaruseikatsu

Hitori Bocchi is incredibly socially anxious, so much so that she can’t even build up the nerve to greet someone she doesn’t know, something that may prove a problem as she starts middle school. Desperate times call for desperate measure though and so Bocchi’s one and only friend from elementary school makes a deal with her, either she makes friends with everyone in her new class, or they won’t be friends anymore. Despite Bocchi’s insane plans, her drastic over thinking and just plain misunderstanding of social situations, Bocchi manages to make a friend. Only twenty-eight or so more to go.

I genuinely love this show, even if I do end up watching half of it through my fingers. I mean I consider myself socially awkward, but watching Bocchi and her antics makes me think that I’m not that bad actually, the knots that girl ties herself into over thinking every situation is enough to make me wonder how she can ever function as, well, a person. It helps that the series is so spot on with its comedy, the banter really flies between all of the characters and I love each and everyone of them, though I’m struggling to decide whether the unfortunate girl or the terrified teacher are my favourites. I don’t really have much more to say at this point, I’m just really enjoying this one.

Amazing Stranger

Nona is a planetary exploration mech, with one goal, to seek out new forms of life and learn about them. Or maybe not, maybe she’s just a figure that some otaku bought and she’s suddenly come to life, at this point I’m not sure. What I am sure about is that the guy who bought her, Bouida Haruto, is a hardcore otaku stereotype, he spends most of his life isolated, working from home and obsessing over anime and all its merchandise, having no interest in actual people whatsoever. Having one of his figures suddenly come to life is like a dream come true, but we’ll see how long that lasts.

When this anime started I was intrigued, I liked the mystery around Nona and Haruto’s conflict over whether he explains that all of Nona’s memories match up exactly with an old anime so maybe she is just a living figure after all. I thought there was a lot of potential there, both comedic and dramatic, as he tries to hide reality from her. The problem is that’s not where the show goes and Nona learns about her, possible, origin really quickly. There’s also the fact that she’s now suddenly married to Haruto and the show is really leaning heavily on some unfavourable otaku stereotypes. It’s stopped being anything that I want to watch and even if it is hinting at there being more to Nona’s origin than we know, that’s not enough to entice me to watch past episode three. I wouldn’t have even made it that far if the series didn’t has a shorter run time. I’m skipping this one from here on.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

Tanjiro is a kind-hearted boy who lives a modest, yet blissful life with his family up in the mountains. For him life couldn’t be much better, but the mountains are not a safe place. When night falls there’s talk of demons on the prowl, not that Tanjiro believes in such stories. However when Tanjiro returns home from selling charcoal at a nearby village he finds his family slaughtered, except his younger sister Nezuko who is barely clinging to life. He rushes to get her to help, but as Nezuko awakens she becomes violent, growing in size and strength and able to heal any wound almost instantly. Nezuko has become a demon!

This is the show I was looking forward to most when this season started (it is a ufotable show after all) and I have to say, it hasn’t disappointed. So far the story is fairly straightforward and clearly still in the set up phase, but Tanjiro is a really easy character to root for. He’s so nice and open-hearted you can’t help but feel for the kid, even if he’s incredibly naïve and that gets in him in a lot of trouble. The animation, and the action in particular, are really great, (who doesn’t love a good sword fight?) having a real sense of speed and impact. I’m looking forward to where this series is going and hoping that it’ll just get more crazy and epic as it goes along. My only real concern is with Nezuko was so far barely speaks and while I get that she’s mostly there as a motivating factor for Tanjiro (something that annoys me greatly, but I’m willing to look past it, for the moment), but she has turned into a demon and I’d kind of like to know what things are like from her perspective.

And I think that’ll be all for this week, I’m feeling a lot more optimistic about this season now, but what have we got next week? Well, there’s a helpful fox girl, an all powerful isekai character and… I… I… okay, I can’t even describe what Sarazanmai is yet. See you in a week!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.