First Impressions Summer 2021 Part 2

And we’re back ! Yes the First Impressions have at last returned so let’s not waste any time and get straight to them!

The Detective Is Already Dead

Kimihiko is a teenager with a peculiar knack for getting himself into trouble. Take the day he was just walking down the road, minding his own business, when suddenly these guys grabbed him, drove him to an airport and told him to take a mysterious package on to a plane. Thankfully it wasn’t as sinister as it sounds, it was just the manipulations of a silver-haired detective named Siesta who needed Kimihiko’s help to thwart a hijacking by a secret criminal organisation! Wait, that still sounds pretty sinister doesn’t it? Oh well, for the next few years Kimihiko joined Siesta as her sidekick, taking on worldwide conspiracies and solving cases. Then, a year ago, Siesta died and that was the end of that. Or is it?

I’m a sucker for a good detective story, unfortunately this isn’t one. I knew I was in trouble the minute Siesta mentioned that a detective should know the answer to a mystery before they even walk in the room. Ok, so we’re doing one of those detective shows, right. In case you don’t know the kind I’m talking about it’s the kind where the detective purposefully holds back key information and just drags you along until the climax when they finally give you the answers that you’d never be able to work out yourself. There are some fun detective series that follow this formula, but for me it does take some of the fun out of it if there’s not even a chance of me solving it before the detective. Still, I was willing to give the series a chance, then the second episode came along. We’re told that Siesta died a year ago and then, only a few minutes later, a new girl explains that she had a heart transplant a year ago and that heart has been in search of someone ever since. You can work out where things go from there. So this series is either going to withhold information and not tell you anything until it wants to or its going to give us such blindingly obvious clues it might as well beat us over the head with a baseball bat. Then the episode ends with another girl turning up, this one with an eye patch. Yeah, no, I see what you’re doing show and I’m not interested in the slightest. I’m out on this one.

The Idaten Deities Know Only Peace

800 years ago the human race was on the brink of annihilation thanks to an unstoppable wave of demons that wanted nothing more than to destroy everything. Then the Idaten, gods of battle, appeared from the heavens and swiftly defeated the demons, sealing them away forever. The world has been at peace ever since, at least as far as the Idaten are concerned, but that means the majority of the current generation have never even seen a demon, let alone know how to fight one. Only the battle-hardened last survivor of the previous generation would stand even the slightest chance if the demons were to suddenly reappear, but that’s impossible. I mean it’s not as if a group of demons have been secretly hiding out in a warring country waiting for their time to return, right?

I’ll warn you now, don’t let the highly saturated colour palette and more stylised character designs fool you, this is one violent series. When there’s not buckets of blood hitting the screen, we’re seeing people tore apart or beaten into pulp, strong stomachs are required here. Also there is a rape scene in the first episode, it’s artistically done and you don’t see any real detail, but the implications are all there so if that’s a turn off for you stay well away from this series. If you can get past all of that though, this is a really fun series. The action is kinetic and fluid, the way this show chooses to use colour is just fascinating and I’m so intrigued about the world it’s presented us with. So far the series has been good about answering questions about how this world works and what things mean, while also laying out a whole load of breadcrumbs for ongoing mysteries. I’ve already used the word, but this show is just fascinating and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

Sonny Boy

It was just another listless, average day for Nagara, until his whole high school was sucked into another dimension! Now, alongside 35 other students, he’s adrift in a black, empty void and has no real clue as to what he’s supposed to do about it. Of course that’s when people started developing superpowers just to makes thing extra difficult. Why did this happened? Will they ever find their way home? All good questions, but the most pressing for me is, how long before they start killing one another?

Anime does Lord of the Flies! I have no idea if that’s actually what this series has in store for us, but it’s all I’ve been able to think about since the first episode. The minute the kids decided that they needed to set their own rules and how quickly things spiralled out of control was just a huge red flag to me. Honestly I’m just surprised people didn’t start dropping dead right there and then, but that’s just me putting my own expectations on this series. What this show has actually been about so far is the mystery of how the kids ended up like this, seeing how they all react and working out the rules of the new locations they find themselves in. It’s all solid sci-fi stuff and I can see a lot of people really loving this series, with good reason, but it’s just not clicking with me. I think must of my issues stem from the fact that the first episode started in medias res, with the school already transported to another dimension and people already having powers. Rather than letting me see this all happen, the show decided to just tell me it happened and that doesn’t work for me. I spent so much of the first episode wrapping my head around what had happened that there wasn’t any time left to get invested in the characters. Again, this was just my reaction and I’m sure other people will enjoy this just fine. As for me I might come back to this one later, but I’ll skip it for now.

The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!

In the Dark Realm, the Great Jahy was second only to the demon king himself! Feared and exalted by all, she spent her days in endless pleasure and luxury, but that changed when a magical girl suddenly attacked and destroyed the source of her power! Now she’s trapped in the human realm, eeking out a living in a tiny run-down apartment while she spends her days actually serving people in a bar! But you can’t keep a good demon down and if Jahy can gather enough mana crystals she can not only restore the Dark Realm, but return to her carefree life! All she has to do is find them first…

Let me know if you’ve heard this one before, a high-ranking demon is besieged by a holy warrior. After the confrontation, they find themselves in the human world with very little of their tremendous magical power remaining and are forced to work in the service industry to survive. Yes, I’m getting strong Devil is a Part-Timer vibes from this too, and I’ve seen that comparison a lot in comments, but I’m not entirely sure it’s fair. If you look past the synopsis these two series don’t really have that much in common. Both are comedies sure, but Devil wasn’t what I’d call a ‘gag’ series. It’s humour just naturally came out of the characters and their situation. Great Jahy on the other hand has a definitive set up and punchline to all of its jokes. I’ve no idea what the source material is like but I’m guessing it’s some type of four-panel gag series. This series is a lot of fun and I chuckle at the majority of the jokes, even if I have to admit that Devil is a Part-Timer is more my style of humour. Still, I’m going to stick with this one for a while, I just have one note to give. Can we please give Jahy’s child form some trousers, or shorts at the very least, I’d really appreciate that, thanks.

Fena: Pirate Princess

Fena Houtman is a young woman on an adventure. She’s spent most of her life as a prisoner in an island brothel after washing up there as a small child, but with the help of some old friends she finally manages to escape. From there she’s taken to a mist-cloaked island that an elite group of samurai call home. These samurai have sworn themselves to protecting the Houtman family and fulfilling the last request of Fena’s father. But with only a clear glass blcok and a single word, ‘Eden’, to go off of they don’t really have much of a clue as to what it is they’re expected to do. So Fena sets off on a journey with her samurai pirate crew, to discover where it is that her father was taking her all those years ago, and what destiny has in store for her…

Honestly this series had me sold the minute I saw ‘pirate’ in the title. Throw into that some drool-worthy animation, a spunky heroine and, well, the fact that said pirates are actually samurai pirates and I don’t know what more I could ask for from this series. I love how animated Fena is, and I know that’s a weird thing to say about a series that is animated, but she just brings so much energy and personality to every scene she’s in. I’d watch this show just for her and her reactions alone. I’ve only seen the first two episodes at the time of writing this, but the show has already done a lot to impress me. The plot is moving at a fairly quick pace, but it doesn’t feel like anything’s been rushed so far. We’ve got a good idea about each locale before we move on to the next one and I can’t wait to see what comes next. My only real complaint is that I’d really like Yukimaru to stop hitting Fena on the head so much, I’m quickly beginning to dislike the guy (My god, is this what it was like for all those One Piece fans that complained about Nami hitting Luffy all the time back in the day?!).

That’s it for this week, and while there’s plenty of shows that I’ve added to my drop list, there’s also a good few gems that I’ve found as well. Hopefully you have to. Next week I’m back to regular reviews, so grab your gear and get ready to step back into the ring, Megalobox is back baby!

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 Summer 2021 Part 1

And the hallowed time is upon us once more, a new season of anime is here! The sun is blazing and, at the time of writing this, I’m melting into a puddle of my own sweat thanks to a heatwave that’s hitting the UK (Curse you my eternal enemy, the sun!) Thankfully there’s a whole bunch of new anime to keep me distracted, or at least there should be. The summer season is here, but apparently the entire release schedule is out of whack because only half the shows have actually started airing. So, for the first time since I started doing these first impression posts there’s going to be a gap between parts 1 and 2. Obviously you’re reading part 1 now, but part 2 won’t come out until all the other anime I plan on watching hits three aired episodes at least, whenever that will be. Enough preamble, let’s get on to the actual shows!

Peach Boy Riverside

Okay, so like there’s this girl, Sally, whose on a journey to find this person she once knew like. She also has this thing right, where like when she meets ogres, ‘cause ogres are a total thing in this world and they have magic powers that can wipe out whole towns. Anyway, when Sally meets an ogre this peach thing starts glowing in her eye and she gets a proper mad on for killing said ogre, all total gleeful like. She meets this demihuman rabbit who’s super cute and pretty badass in her own right and they travel with this knight and an ogre who had her horn chopped off, by the same person Sally is looking for! It’s mad.

I apologise for the quality of the above summary, I think I might have burst a few brain cells trying to wrap my head around whatever it is this show is trying to do. Admittedly I have a fairly vague understanding of the folklore this show is based on and I’m trying to work out how much of a detriment that is. The problem is this show, up to episode three at least, just point blank refuses to explain it’s character’s back stories. I have no idea who Sally is, why she’s on this journey, what the deal with her eye is or what her connection to Mikoto is. At most I know that ogres are a thing, Mikoto wants to kill them all, for some reason, Sally doesn’t and demihumans are discriminated against. Also Frau is best girl of the season, fight me. I could just watch her munching carrots and kicking ogres all day. Unfortunately that’s not the majority of this show and I care so little about everything else that’s going on that I’m not sticking around. I’m out on this one.

Scarlet Nexus

One day grotesque organisms known as Others began to fall from the sky and started eating people. To defend against this bizarre enemy, the Other Suppression Force was formed, enlisting soldiers with a wide variety of psychic powers to fight back. Yuito doesn’t have much psychic potential, but he’s been determined to enlist ever since the day a mysterious woman saved him. Is everything quite what it seems though? Just what are the Others and were do they come from? The wheels of fate are turning as Yuito meets Kasane, a girl who’s been having strange dreams of late.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t go into this series with the highest of hopes. I mean it’s a game adaptation for one and those hardly have the best of reputation, but I thought I’d give this a chance and it’s…okay. There’s nothing really wrong with this show, but there’s nothing really spectacular either. It’s a generic science-fantasy. Strange monsters are attacking the human population and it’s up to a bunch of teens with superpowers to turn the tide! Throw in a conspiracy behind the scenes and just the general sense that not everything is as it seems and you have yourself a story that’s been told a dozen times before. Not that that’s too bad a thing, the story is decently told and the animation is suitable for its purposes. If I did have any praise for this series it’s that things appear to be moving at a fairly quick pace. If you’re after a bit of sci-fi action then I’m sure this series will suit a lot of people just fine, but there’s not enough here to keep me interested.

The Case Study of Vanitas

It’s the 19th century and, for the most part, vampires and humans live in peace. Of course sometimes that peace is broken, mostly when a vampire’s true name is corrupted and they’re transformed into a mindless beasts with an insatiable hunger. There is no cure for those who find themselves the bearer of a curse, or at least that’s how the story goes. There is in fact one human doctor who claims he can cure any curse-bearer and he goes by the name Vanitas, a name that holds much fear for the vampires. When young vampire Noe travels to Paris in search of the Book of Vanitas he has no idea the mad genius he is about to meet, or how his life will change.

Now this is more like it. From episode one this show got my attention, I mean it’s from studio Bones so I knew at the very least it was going to look great. Throw in a couple of fun and intriguing leads and a vaguely steampunk setting and I’m all yours. I really love the dynamic between Vanitas and Noe, they’ve got a few more layers than I was expecting and I adore how they both play the straight man for one another. They can both sell a serious moment, but they can also both be utter goofballs, Vanitas getting high off his own ego and Noe staring at everything around him with starry-eyed naivety. I was also surprised by how twisted Vanitas can be, it’s played off as a bit of a joke in the first three episodes, but he’s a lot more amoral than I was expecting. I’m really excited to see where this one is going and if nothing else it’ll look good while it does it, which is enough to keep me around.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S

Miss Kobayashi used to be your average office worker, often over-worked and just a little bit lonely, until one drunken night when she missed her stop on the train. That was when she met Tohru, a dragon, who was just as lonely as she was. A few more drinks later and suddenly Tohru had a live-in maid, who was actually dragon, and it didn’t stop there. More and more dragons turned up in the human world to settle down. Some came to live with her, while others found their own human partners. Now Miss Kobayashi’s life is a bit stranger and a lot more chaotic, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. Now, another dragon is about to turn up and if life was chaotic before, well, just wait ‘til you see what happens next.

The arson attack on Kyoto Animation 2 years ago was a true tragedy. I’ve never been able to find the words to properly talk about it, but it gives me immense pleasure to see the studio back, not only in fighting form, but at the top of their game. I loved the first season of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid and so far this sequel hasn’t disappointed. It’s got the quirky humour, the heart and the blistering animation sequences when the show wants to pull out all the stops (which it does often in the first two episodes). I will admit that the story across the first two episodes is a bit hornier than I’m used to with this series, mostly thanks to the introduction of our new dragon and her…overzealous proportions shall we say? That and the thing that happens to Kobayashi at the end of episode one, but that’s quickly resolved. By episode three things are back to the typical slice-of-life hijinks if you’re worried about the show becoming too fanservicey, not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just a little hard to ignore. I’m just glad to finally have these characters back in my life and I’ll spend as much time with them as I can.

The Aquatope on White Sand

Fuuka Miyazawa just lost her job as an idol, a dream she’d held on to for a very long time but in the end she gave up her chance to someone else. Feeling lost and in no way ready to face her family back home, she takes a different flight on a whim and ends up at an aquarium of all places. There she meets Kukuru Misakino, a high schooler and the temporary director of the aquarium. The aquarium holds a lot of special memories for Kukuru and she’s determined to keep it going, even with the ever-looming possibility that it might finally be closing down for good. Some might even say it’s her dream to keep the place going. Can Fuuka help her accomplish this and maybe reignite her own passions along the way? Something tells me its going to take more than the help of the local god to make things work out!

What’s this? A P.A. Works series about some young women working in the service industry? I feel like I’ve seen that somewhere before, oh yeah, the ‘Working’ series! For those that don’t know P.A. Works has this run of independent series that all share the common theme of following the exploits of working women. Those series are Hanasaku Iroha, Shirobako, Sakura Quest and now I guess this series. I have no idea if this series is an official part of the ‘Working’ line, but it’s definitely giving me that same vibe, which is a good thing considering how much I enjoyed those previous series. Our two leading ladies are very likeable and I’m already rooting for them to succeed. The series itself is a fairly quiet slice of life with the occasional drama brought on by the trails of working in an aquarium, so far we’ve had a feeding mishap and an unexpected birth to deal with. All that being said, I do get the feeling that this show is going to break my heart at some point down the line. I can’t quite put my finger on why I think that, it’s just this premonition I keep getting. For now I’m having fun and I can’t wait to dive into more!

We’ll leave it there for this week. This is usually the part were I’d talk about what impressions are coming next week, but seeing as I don’t yet know when Part 2 is going to be published let’s go with this. At some undetermined point in the future, we’ve got a dead detective, a pirate princess and Lord of the Flies anime style! Next week, a regular review. I’m thinking something a little… criminal, does anyone have a 500 yen coin they could lend me?

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 2021 part 2

And we’re back! No preamble, on with the first impressions!

Mars Red

It’s 1923, and as warfare has changed in this new century Japan has a plan to make sure it comes out on top, vampires! Code Zero, the first ever Japanese vampire unit has been formed, but it’s not military might they’re concerned with, not yet at any rate. No, the bigger problem has to be the sudden rise in vampires in Japan. Can this ragtag team of vampires put a stop to the swell of murders and infections before the streets of Japan are clogged with bodies, and what about this mysterious Ascra? Where is that coming from? It’ll be a difficult job, but you know what they say, takes a vampire to catch a vampire!

This show caught me completely by surprise, though I feel like I’ve been saying that about most shows this season. I don’t know what I was expecting from a period piece centred around a unit of vampires, but I’ve already got this show pinned as one of my favourites of the season (and there’s some really stiff competition this season). There’s just something so cinematic about this show, and it’s more than just the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen, and the more reserved colour palette. This show isn’t afraid to let it’s characters and scenes just breath. When the action hits it’s really good, but there’s not actually all that much action, hardly any in fact. Most of each episode is just made up of character’s talking to one another, either setting up something for a dramatic turn later on, or just to let the characters discuss life and their perspective on it. It’s just captivating, there’s no other word for this series, it’s got me by the collar and won’t let go. I can’t wait for the next episode!

Blue Reflection Ray

Optimistic Hiori just can’t turn away from anyone in need, even if it means jumping in head first without a second’s thought. Ruka, on the other hand, is awkward and doesn’t really know how to interact with people or express herself. They’re two people who couldn’t be any more opposite, but when they both find strange rings their fates become more entwined than either of them could ever imagine. Now they’re magical girls, known as Reflectors, and they’ll fight to protect people’s feeling and heal hearts. Of course that’s if those other Reflectors don’t get in their way.

A lot of shows have surprised me this season, so I suppose it’s about time that I found a show that does exactly what I was expecting it to. Admittedly magical girl series all have a fairly well-trodden formula, girl finds magical artefact/chosen by furry companion, transforms and fights bad guys/collects thing. Throw in the energetic, super-happy protagonist and their shy/awkward counterpoint and the first three episodes of this series all play out exactly as you’re imaging they do right now. There is the chance that this series can add in some fun wrinkles down the line, but so far this is all comfortingly familiar. In fact, the only aspect that makes this series stand out so far is the visuals, with an unusual art style for the fights and character designs that take me right back to the old days of Clamp (though not as elongated). Speaking of the characters, can someone explain to me why that red tinge has been applied to all of them? It looks like everyone is suffering from a really bad cold. There’s just enough here to keep me interested and I’ve always had a soft spot for magical girls, so I’ll stick with this one a bit longer.

I’ve Been Killing Slimes For 300 Years And Maxed Out My Level

After dying of overwork, a Japanese woman is reincarnated as an immortal witch with one singular goal, to live as quiet and relaxing a life as possible! For the first 300 years it all goes perfectly according to plan, she goes out and kills a few slimes a day to earn enough to get by and generally does things at her own pace. But killing all those slimes adds up and, without even realising it, she’s suddenly one of the most powerful humans in existence, a fact that soon gets around. Now she has to content with dragons and demons coming to challenge her, and the spirits of all those dead slimes seeking revenge! Of course it’ll all work out, but things are definitely going to be a bit more lively from here on out.

I…I don’t know what to say about this series. Much like Blue Reflection Ray, the first three episodes of this series played out exactly as I expected them to. Main character dies, we’re introduced to this isekai’s quirk and then a series of characters turn up at her door, initially to pick a fight, but quickly deciding to move in and slotting into their designated comedy role. It’s all fairly by the numbers and there’s nothing really that bad, but nothing that’s holding my attention either. Unlike with Blue Reflection Ray, I don’t have a soft spot for isekai outside of specific series like Digimon, so there’s no hook to hold me in. The character’s are fine, the animation is fit for purpose and that’s all. I’m sure other people will enjoy this series and power to them, I was kinda hoping this would be my chill out anime of the season, but there’s just not enough here. I’m moving on from this one.

86 Eighty-Six

Called ‘Juggernauts’, these unmanned combat drones are the main fighting force of the Republic of San Magnolia in their constant battle against the ‘Legion’ of the Empire of Giad. Of course this is a lie. The Juggernauts are not unmanned, they’re piloted by people, people the Republic have deemed not to be ‘human’. Anyone who doesn’t live up to the ‘ideals’ of the Republic, blue hair, blue eyes, is marked as an Eighty-sixer and forced to fight in this hopeless war. One such fighter is Shin, captain of the Spearhead Squadron, a veteran squad with an impressive survival rate, but the Eighty-sixers can only survive for so long and their last day may be soon approaching.

If this show appeared in any other season I’d probably be hailing it as my favourite, hands down. Unfortunately it’s got to contend with the likes of Megalobox, Mars Red and Vivy, but none of that takes away from the fact that this is truly a great show. It’s got a compelling set up, characters I’m immediately invested in and a bad guy I want to see torn down so bad I’m ready to grab my axe and hack into them myself. The Republic of San Magnolia is such a despicable institution I’m quite happy to label whoever’s in charge as pure evil. To take a group of people and say they’re not human, purely because you don’t like the look of them, then to throw them in death machines and have them fight for you? Yeah, no, that’s pure evil. I can’t wait for them to get torn down. At the same time I completely emphasise with Lena, the Republican controller of the Spearhead Squadron. I’m a white dude, I get being apart of the privileged majority, seeing what’s wrong in the world and not having a single clue on how to change things to make it right. I’m really interested to see what answer this series is going to come up with. Definitely check this out if you haven’t already.

Shadows House

Emilico is a living doll. She feels and hurts and gets hungry like a real person might, but she was made to serve the noble family that live in the Shadows House. They are a mysterious, faceless clan plagued by a bizarre sickness that means they are constantly covered in soot, though they can expel a lot more dependent on their emotional states. The living dolls are their servants and their faces to both the outside world and to other members of the family. Emilico is enjoying her life so far, getting to know the house and the family, but is there something more sinister going on?

And once more we reach the ‘Only in Anime’ category, where a show’s premise is so left field the only thing I can do is hold up my hands and say, ‘only in anime’. I mean, only anime could we get this bizarre set up of a gothic slice of life show with clumsy yet energetic girl playing servant to a bunch of walking, talking silhouettes. It’s such a mad idea and I’m so excited to see where it’s going, even if I’m incredibly worried for Emilico. Don’t fret over trivial things my foot, that’s exactly what she should be doing because they’re so obviously not trivial. Just who are the Shadows family and what is this soot? Also I’m not the only one not buying this ‘Living Doll’ explanation either, right? There’s so many things raising red flags every episode has me on the edge of my seat, even if nothing truly terrible has happened yet and we’re still just in the exposition stages. I can’t wait to see where this is going.

To Your Eternity

It began as an orb, cast unto Earth with no thoughts, no feelings, not even a concept of self. All it knew to do was change its form and that it could come back to life after death. For many years it was just a rock, but then it became a wolf and, finally, it met a human. It was a happy time, at least in part, but that soon came to its tragic end. Now it is a human, journeying the world, with no real plan or goal other than to see the world and experience new things. It will meet many other people along it’s journey and maybe it will learn a thing or two, but it will also have to say goodbye time and again.

This show is designed to make me cry isn’t it? I can feel it trying with each and every episode and I have no doubt that it’ll succeed in the end and I’ll be annoyed when it does. There’s a fine art to manipulating your audiences’ feelings and it’s best if you do it without them realising that you’re doing it. Unfortunately ‘To Your Eternity’ has been pretty blatant so far, but that doesn’t stop it from being good. It’s a slow burn series, our main character has only just learnt to say ‘thank you’ after three episodes, but I can’t deny it’s well made. I particularly love the animation for whenever our main characters transforms or comes back to life. There’s something really visceral about the animation that just draws me in. There hasn’t been too much world-building so far, just a case of ‘here’s a place and here’s some people’, but it’s got enough of my interest to keep me watching. I’ve already bought some tissues.

That’s it for the first impressions. Back to regular reviews next week and I’ve got a couple more shows to talk about before we get into last season’s series. 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 or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

First Impressions Spring 2021 part 1

Spring is here and the digital fields of the Internet are just bursting with new anime coming into bloom! Sorry, I may be a tad excited at the minute, at the time of writing this Lockdown is slowly being peeled back in the UK and I’ve actually been outside for the first time in months! I’d almost forgotten there was a world beyond my front door, but we’re not here to talk about that. Anime! There’s plenty of great offerings up for grabs this season, some shows that have taken me by surprise and others that have set some pretty high standards for the series to come. Enough waffle though, let’s get to it. Bring on the anime!

Vivy-Fluorite Eye’s Song-

100 years in the future the A.I. apocalypse is upon us. Over the past century A.I. have become much more commonplace, autonomous androids finding their way into all areas of daily life, but, for whatever reason, those androids are now in open war with the human race. Our only hope for preventing the utter annihilation of our species is a program sent into the past and an A.I. programmed for singing? This unlikely pair will have to find a way to put their difference aside and prevent key moments in history from going the wrong way, at least that’s how things appear.

This series took me completely by surprise. Maybe it’s the glut of disappointing Terminator sequels, but I heard time-travelling back into the past and my brain immediately tuned out. Thankfully there have been some really good reviews for this series so far that convinced me to give it a chance and I am so glad that I did. This show grabbed me by the collar at episode one and it hasn’t let go since. Whether it’s the brilliant back-and-forth banter of Vivy and Matsumoto, the excellent action pieces or just the clear amount of thought that has been put into this plot. I’m pretty sure we haven’t gotten the full picture from my favourite talking teddy bear yet, but I’m definitely sticking around to see it. If you’ve skipped this for whatever reason, do yourself a favour and check this out!

Joran The Princess of Snow and Blood

The year is 1931 and Prince Tokugawa Yoshinobu reigns over Japan with an iron fist. Under his rule their have been great advances in technology, but though all appears peaceful, there are shadows lurking in every corner. To battle those shadows there is Nue, the government’s secret executioner group. One of their top assassins is Sawa Yukimura, when she was just a child her entire village was massacred and she has since sworn herself to revenge. Quite by chance, the man who took everything from her also happens to be the one currently plotting to bring down the government.

I feel like I should be more into this series than I am. This is one of those rare animes where I actually saw the trailer before the show started airing and there was a lot that got me excited. Three episodes in though and there’s just something not clicking with me and I can’t put my finger on what it is. There’s a good set up and I do like the focus on the political goings on and espionage stuff, but maybe it’s a case of there being a bit too much world for me to get my head around. There’s just a lot of stuff that hasn’t been shown to us yet, or explained in all that much detail so it feels like the show is trying to keep me at arm’s length. Add on the fact that our main character spends most of her time either confused by, or suppressing her emotions in order to be an effective killer, and is it any wonder I feel no connection to what’s going on? I’m going to keep trying with this series, but so far it’s not looking good. That and the fights are over way too fast!

SSSS.Dynazenon

Yomogi Asanaka used to be just like every other Japanese high school student, but all that changed when he met Gauma, a self-proclaimed ‘kaiju user’. Now, alongside Gauma and two other strangers, a girl from his class who’s notorious for breaking promises and an unemployed slacker, they each pilot giant robots and defend the city from kaiju attacks. But why are the kaiju suddenly appearing and who are these other mysterious kaiju users and what are they after? More importantly, can this unusual group come together and stop them?

I really enjoyed SSSS.Gridman when it aired a couple of years ago, it had a real sense of nostalgia without actually being nostalgic for me. SSSS.Dynazenon gives me much the same feeling. I’m a big Power Rangers fan, have been since I was a kid, so when I see a show about teens piloting giant robots and combining them together to fight monsters, I’m automatically on board. You add on the usual style of great character designs we get from studio Trigger and a rockin’ soundtrack and I just know I’m gonna have a lot of fun with this show. I also like the little details, like how it keeps bringing up the damage that is being down by the battles with the kaiju. Of course there’s going to be damage, and consequences, to these fights and I’m so glad they’re not just being relegated to the ‘abandoned buildings district’ like other shows. I’m not really sure where the overall story is going, but I’m more than happy to stick around and find out.

Dragon Goes House-Hunting

Dragons are majestic, fearsome creatures, rightfully touted as one of the most powerful creatures in existence, but every rule has its exception. Letty can’t fly, he can’t breathe fire and he was just kicked out of his family’s lair. Alone and defenceless, he needs to find a new home fast if he wants to stand any chance of surviving. Luckily he’s engaged the services of Dearia, the Demon Lord of Real Estate (he has a business card and everything). Whether it’s a hidden-away cave or a newly built dungeon, Dearia promises to find you the home of your dreams, no matter how long it takes.

This show is fine. That’s about all I can say really, and I feel kinda bad about that. It’s not mind-blowing, it’s not earth-shattering, it just does what it does and moves along. The animation is fit for purpose and no more, the characters are fleshed out enough to set up the gags and that’s it. It’s not doing anything bad, but it’s in no way spectacular either. I can see the gag of Letty getting scared/upset by whatever home that Dearia shows him running a bit thin in an episode or two if they don’t add in any other elements, but honestly I don’t think I’m going to be watching this series that long. There’s a lot of really good shows this season and so something that’s just fine isn’t enough to hold my attention. As I said I kinda feel bad, because any other season I’d probably stick with this show, but not this season.

OddTaxi

The life of a taxi driver can be an unusual and ever-so fraught one. Take Odokawa for example, he’s the quiet type and doesn’t like to talk all that much, and yet that’s all his passengers ever seem to want to do. Whether they’re a college student looking to become famous online, a nurse with a confession to make or a criminal baboon, they’ve all got something to say. The question is, what does all this have to do with a missing girl, and who’s that hiding in Odokawa’s closet?

I’ll be honest, I was planning on skipping this show when the season started. As I mentioned with Dragon Goes House-Hunting, there’s a lot of really good shows airing at the minute and this one just didn’t grab my attention. My mid-week’s a bit light on shows though so I decided I’d give the first episode a try and I’ve been gripped ever since. Each skit with Odokawa’s passengers, or friends, are fun in and of themselves (the ones I get at least, I’ll admit a couple of the jokes have gone over my head), but then there’s that mystery plot. I’m a sucker for a good mystery and that’s exactly what this series is. There’s still so many questions and puzzle pieces and each interaction feels like its offering up another tantalising clue, or maybe it’s a red herring, or maybe it’s another mystery all together. I’m questioning everything and mentally trying to link all the pieces together and I can’t remember the last time a mystery series caught me like this. If you’ve skipped this show, for whatever reason, do yourself a favour and check this out right now!

Megalobox 2: Nomad

Seven years after winning the first ever Megalonia tournament, the legendary ‘Gearless’ Joe is no more. Now calling himself ‘Nomad’ and drowning himself in pills and alcohol to numb his pain, the boxer is a shadow of his former self. That’s when he meets Chief, a boxer with drive and a goal. He wants to buy the land his community is currently living on so that they can finally have a place to call their own. Joe decides to help him, but first he’s got to face his past and the pain that had been crippling him.

This is not the sequel I was expecting to Megalobox, it feels like a completely different series in some ways, but a natural evolution in others. It’s hard seeing the unbeatable Joe in such a sorry state in the first couple of episodes, and we don’t even know the full story of how he ended up like this. He’s still a compelling character though, maybe even more so now, and I’m rooting for him just as much as every time he stepped into the ring before. All the characters feel so real and Chief might just be one of my favourite characters of this season, if not the whole year. I adored the first season of this show and I’ve got a good feeling that I’m going to adore this season just as much, if not more.

That’s all for this week. Come back next week for more first impressions, including a house covered in soot, some non-autonomous robots and a shape-shifter discovering what it means to be human. 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 or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

First Impressions Winter 2021 Part 2

And we’re back! No preamble, on to the first impressions!

The Promised Neverland Season 2

Having escaped the House, Emma, Ray and the rest of the children now face the dangers and wonders of the outside world. Can a group of kids who grew up in such a sheltered upbringing really survive by themselves in the wild? Considering some of the monsters that are waiting for them out among the trees it doesn’t seem likely, but not everything is a threat. In fact they might even have some friends and a safe place to rest their head, but will that last? The demons who set up the House in the first place are still out there, hunting them down. How long before they catch up with them?

There were a lot of series I was looking forward to this season, Attack on Titan and Re:Zero being primary among them (and neither have disappointed me so far), but The Promised Neverland easily took the third spot. I adored the first season, it was just this perfect little pressure cooker of delight and suspense and I was really looking forward to where this second season was going to take me. I won’t say I’m disappointed, because I am enjoying what’s been offered so far, but this new season is missing that air of dread I loved so much in the first season. As the world has expanded it’s had a knock on effect to some key aspects of the series. There’s no longer a looming threat, constantly looking over the shoulder of our heroes and the goals are more vague and ill-defined now. Rather than the simple find a way to beat Mother and escape the House, now they have to find a way to rejoin the other humans, somehow, somewhere. On a slightly more positive note there have been some truly excellent scenes showing the effect this new lifestyle is having on Emma and the rest and there’s hints at some exciting things to come, so we’ll see how this all plays out.

So I’m a Spider, So What?

When a classroom of high schoolers is suddenly enveloped in a mysterious light they find themselves reborn into another world. For most it’s the classic set up, they find themselves in positions of power, reincarnated as princes and princesses with extraordinary talent, but not everyone is so lucky. Take our protagonist for example, she’s been born into the body of a weak, small spider. While the others get to lounge around at fancy parties and attend magic academies, our protagonist is stuck fighting for her life, testing out her abilities and doing her level best just not to get eaten! Whoever said life in another world was easy?

Another season of anime, another isekai! I joke because I have actually been enjoying this series so far. The characters are fun and I’m at least interested in part of the premise, which part would that be? Well, naturally it would be the part about the class of high schoolers reincarnated into a group of OP protagonists in this fantasy world. Yes I know the spider is the protagonist, and probably a draw for a lot of the people, but if that’s all this show was I think I’d be leaving this series here. Don’t get me wrong she’s an entertaining character, or rather her personality is, but there’s only so much grinding to build up character stats I can watch. I get annoyed when I have to do that in games, so why exactly would I want to watch it? No, I’m more intrigued by the rest of the class and how the typical classroom squabbles of their past lives are bleeding over into their new ones, plus the fact that they can’t act too familiar because to everyone else these people have just met. I think Grimgar was the last anime I saw where an entire group was transported to another world like this, it’s the only one springing to mind at least, so I’m sticking around to see where this goes.

Back Arrow

Lingalind is a land enclosed by a giant wall, where ones conviction can take the form of a giant mech thanks to strange arm bands known as bind warpers. When a pod lands in the remote outskirts of Edger village, most think it will be full of bind warpers as these sort of pods typically are, but what the villagers find instead is a naked man! Taking the name Back Arrow, this mysterious man claims he has no memories of who is, expect for the fact that he knows he comes from beyond the wall, which is impossible! Together with the villagers of Edger, Back Arrow will set out on a journey to find out just what exactly is beyond the wall, but powerful forces are already moving against them. And what’s this about a prophecy of destruction?!

A classic fantasy adventure! And I mean that wholeheartedly, despite the fact that this is an entirely new property (as far as I know at least), there’s something so nostalgic about this series. Maybe it’s just the fact that this is just the kind of fantasy series that drew me into anime in the first place. A simple, but wholeheartedly good main character, a quirky cast of supporting characters and plenty of episodic action filled with giant robots and floating battleships. I feel like a teen turning over to Cartoon Network on a Saturday morning all over again. So far the series has just really been set up, getting all the characters and motivations in place while explaining the basic rules to us and it’s been plenty of fun while it’s done that. I can’t wait to see where this series is going, but I know it’s going to be a blast.

Horimiya

At school Hori is the perfect student and liked by pretty much everyone, but in private she’s a brash homebody who spends her spare time looking after her kid brother. Miyamura on the other hand is often seen as gloomy and unreadable, but in truth he’s a warm and gentle soul, who also happens to have a bunch of piercings and tattoos that he doesn’t want people to know about. After a chance meeting they both discover one another’s secret selves and decide that they actually quite like hanging out together. But is their something more to this blossoming relationship? Could this be love?

Out of all of the new series that are airing this season, and by ‘new’ I mean not a returning franchise like Re:Zero or Promised Neverland, this is the one I’m enjoying most. It came as a surprise to me when I first realised it, but it’s true. This sweet, fun little show is the one I’m looking forward to most week after week. Now I realise that this series is set in an anime high school and as such it’s a very idealised, rose-tinted view of school life that is being presented, but there’s just something so real about this series. The way the characters talk to one another and just some of the moments between them, I feel like I’ve seen them all happen in real life. Whether it’s Hori realising that she doesn’t know Miyamura’s first name and agonising over how to find it out, or Miyamura realising that he has has friends now, it brings a warm glow to my heart. I also love the way this series avoids the typical sort of melodrama I associate with this kind of series, there’s no love triangles here, just realistic awkwardness, friendships and figuring out feelings! My feelings are clear though, I love this show!

SK8 the Infinity

Reki loves skateboarding, he loves making them and he loves competing in the top-secret, no-holds-barred downhill race called ‘S’ even more. Unfortunately while he’s got the spirit, he’s lacking in some of the skills. That’s when he meets new transfer student, Langa, a snowboarder since he was a little kid, looking for something to give him the same thrill when there’s no snow around. Could skateboarding be the answer? With Reki’s enthusiasm and board building skills combined with Langa’s natural talent could this be the formation of an unstoppable duo?

I’m not a skateboarder. For anyone that knows me that’s probably pretty obvious, the closest I’ve ever gotten to the sport is playing one the Tony Hawks games for an hour or two back in my teens (which feels like a worryingly long time ago). That being said, I recognise that it’s a designed to appeal to the rule of cool and I can’t think of a sport more fitting for anime. Crazy stunts and crazier characters are the order of the day and this show makes every ollie and -insert other skateboarding trick here- look really, really good. It’s so easy to get sucked into this series. It helps that we also have two such enjoyable main character. Langa is a lot of fun with his cool tricks and nonplussed/airhead reaction to a lot of things, but it’s Reki who’s the star for me. He’s just such an excitable puppy dog of a person that it’s hard not to be drawn in by his enthusiasm. The plot for this one so far has been fairly by the numbers, though I do like the fact neither Reki and Langa are the full OP package by themselves and have things to teach one another. I’ll be sticking with this one for a while.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation

Let me know if you’ve heard this one before. A 34-year-old underachiever, among other things, has a meeting with Truck-san and finds himself reincarnated into a fantasy world. Shocking, I know. In a world with magic at his fingertips can this layabout actually make something of his life? It seems so as with a little push from his teacher he gains the confidence to step outside his home and he even makes a friend! Who knows what else he can achieve in this second chance at life, but since he can use magic without the hassle of incantations, it’ll probably be a lot.

The granddaddy of modern isekai is here! Or at least that’s what I’ve heard, I generally try to go in as blind as I can into new series so I know next to nothing about this franchise outside of a few reviews I’ve read since it started airing. It does make sense, someone is putting a lot of love and money into this production and all the usual isekai tropes are here and played pretty straight. What interests me is that this story is very much framed as a redemption arc for the main character, giving him a second chance at life to finally get off his backside and make something of himself. It’s something that a lot of modern isekai are missing, in fact I can only think of Re:Zero as another series that follows this formula. I also like the fact that this series is taking its time, three episodes in and Rudy is still a kid, yes he’s OP, but it’s made clear that other people can learn his tricks if they start practising as kids as well. That brings me to the only thing giving me pause about this series, the general horniness of the main character. Rudy may be a child, but he has the consciousness of a 34-year-old and there are several times where his antics cross the line into being just plain creepy. Again this is a redemption arc so I’m hoping this gets addressed as he improves himself, but I have found myself wanting to strangle Rudy on more than one occasion for bringing that sort of thing into an otherwise great show.

Wonder Egg Priority

Ai is a warm, friendly person, but the recent passing of her only friend has left her struggling. However, when a bug starts talking to her and promises to take her to something fun she may have just found the answer to all her problems! What ‘fun’ turns out to be is a machine that dispenses eggs, eggs which create dreams and when the egg is cracked in said dream then a girl pops out. If Ai can protect the girl until the end of the dream, from whatever nightmare creature is tormenting them, then she might just get to save the friend she lost! Of course neither the bug or the ones who are in charge of the eggs have outright said that’s what’s going to happen, which I feel is Ai’s second mistake. Her first mistake was following the resurrected bug in the first place, I mean come on does no one pay attention to folk horror stories, ‘cause this is how they start!

I mentioned before that Horimiya is the new series I’m enjoying the most so far this season, but this series right here is in close competition for that title. There’s so much to love here, from the vibrant imagery to the creepy creature designs, fast -paced action and the sheer amount of feels it manages to generate episode after episode. The only thing that’s stopping me from enjoying this as much as Horimiya is the sheer dread I feel with each new episode, because I know this is all going to go horribly wrong at some point. It keeps reminding me of fairie folklore and by fairies I don’t mean cute, sugar-coated little critters with glittery wings, I mean proper fairies, the mean spiteful little beggars. The kind that will have you dancing in a fairy ring only to realise that 50 years have suddenly gone by, or swapping babies out for changelings. Cicadas, or whatever that insect was in the first episode, coming back to life and leading a kid off somewhere sounds exactly like one of those stories and they never end well. I like AI, she’s got enough on her plate as it is and while I can see this adventure helping her find herself and make friends, I’m also worried it’s going to end in a body bag, which I’m not ready to see.

That’s it for the first impressions. There’s a lot of really good shows this season, but in returning series and brand new ones. Of course there is some absolute dreck as well, but let’s focus on the good stuff, I know I will going forwards. Next week we’re back to regular reviews so see you then! Stay safe and stay well everyone!

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 Winter 2021 Part 1

New year, new anime! 2020 is finally behind us and 2021 has made it’s triumphant debut, right? RIGHT?! Okay, maybe this year hasn’t gotten off to the kind of start we’d all been hoping for, but at least we’re making baby steps forward. We’re still in Lockdown here in the UK and while the cabin fever is setting in all over again, there are some things to keep me going. Most of them happen to be the host of new anime I’ve been eagerly awaiting this season, so let’s cut to the chase and bring on the first impressions!

Attack on Titan Final Season

The age of the Titans looks to finally be drawing to its close. For years Marley has relied upon the might of the devilish creatures to bolster its military power, but modern technology is quickly catching up. Soon a Titan might not even be a guarantee of victory. There is only one hope for the country, they must once again attack the devils of Paradis Island and reclaim the Founding Titan, but they’re not the only ones making plans. As young Eldians like Gabi and Falco train for the day when they will inherit a Titan themselves, the cycle of violence and hatred that started centuries ago is still continuing on. Is there any way to stop it, or will yet more lives be crushed beneath it’s wheel?

Well, it took us a while, but we’re finally here! The final season of Attack on Titan! Personally I’m excited. Yes, the series has switched studios and there are few things giving me pause story-wise, but overall this is still the same harrowing, gut-punching series that I’ve come to love. I mean any series that can dredge up so much palpable dread just from a couple of characters sitting in a room and talking has to be doing something right. That being said, I’m in two minds with the sudden time skip. I’m certainly enjoying seeing Marley and getting to know how things are across the sea, but it feels like a lot of our old cast have changed with no real indication as to why or how. I mean I barely recognised Eren and while I’m intrigued to find out how that came about I’d much rather have seen the development than deal with the mystery. I have no idea how this series is going to end, but then this show has presented such a bleak situation I have no idea how anyone can reach a happy ending. Still, I’ve come this far and I’m in it for the long haul now.

EX-ARM

The year is 2030 and Japan is facing an all-new kind of arms race. Technology far beyond the comprehension of humans, known as EX-ARMS, have fallen into the hands of criminals and fanatics and its up to the police to track them down before a disaster occurs. One such officer on the case is Minami Uezono, helped by her android partner, Alma, and an EX-ARM containing the brain of a high schooler, she’ll do what she has to keep Japan safe! But how did Akira Natsume’s brain end up in an EX-ARM? And was he really responsible for the devastation that swept Japan years ago?

Ugh. That’s really all I have to say about this series. I normally give series the usual three episode try before giving my first impressions, but in this case I bailed partway through episode two. I just…I just couldn’t take it any more. This show is bad, one of the worst productions I’ve seen in recent memory and it’s not even in a fun way. It literally hurts to watch this show. I hate bashing on animators, it’s a really hard profession and I take my hat off to anyone who’s willing to put themselves through the ringer for their art like that. At the same time this is a professional production and this show just doesn’t look professional. The characters are all so stiff and lifeless, that’s when they’re even animated in the same style and it doesn’t look as if two different series have been smashed together. I’d say it looks like a student film at best, but frankly that’s an insult to students. The writing isn’t much better either. Just avoid this one or if you want to see precisely how bad it is, check it out, but you’ve been warned.

Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town?

Lloyd is considered the weakest person in his village, he can’t even catch one of the local rabbits! Still, it’s his dream to become a cool soldier one day, just like the hero in his favourite book, and so he sets out to the Capital to join the army. What Lloyd doesn’t quite realise is that he’s grown up around some of the most powerful people on the continent, making him far stronger than anyone in the town he’s just moved to! Not that he’s noticed, but other people certainly have!

Comedy is all about timing and that’s something this series understands very well. Whether it’s building up a punchline like Lloyd winding up to punch a moron who’s giving him a free shot, or jumping out of a wardrobe and surprising you like Marie’s teacher, this show knows what it’s doing. It also helps that this series has more than one type of joke on offer, of course there’s the main course of how oblivious Lloyd is when he never recognises his own strength, or in watching people react to his strength. However there’s also the many, many crazy people that surround Lloyd so far in his adventures, or the myriad of unusual yet effective curses that get put on Marie. I love all of these characters, Lloyd is a sweet summer child that I just want to protect, but everyone else is a lot of fun to be around. I’m also impressed at the amount of world building the series has managed to fit in so far, episode three did feel rushed to a degree, but we’ve developed back stories for several characters and built an interesting conflict. I do prefer the comedy in this series to its more serious side, but I’m more than willing to stick around for these characters.

Otherside Picnic

Moments from death, Sorawo is saved by the mysterious Toriko in the bizarre world of the Otherside. Together they decide to explore this strange and often frightening place they’ve found, where folklore and urban legends seem to come to life around them. Of course their adventures come at a cost, both of them experiencing physical changes after only their first encounter! Sorawo’s eyes are now different colours giving her the ability to see more than what it there, while Torkio’s hand is now translucent allowing her to grapple with things of the Otherside. Together they hope to earn a little money and maybe even find some clues to the whereabouts of Toriko’s friend and former mentor, but whatever they find these trips certainly don’t fit any definition of ‘picnic’ that I know of!

Seriously, I have no idea why this series is called ‘Otherside Picnic’, these adventures have been anything but! The Elevator Girl almost gave me a heart attack in episode three, I’ll tell you this if I found a portal to the Otherside I’d leave as quickly as possible and never go back! Still, that aside, I am enjoying this series. Both Toriko and Sorawo are fun protagonists, Sorawo may complain a bit much and Toriko is beyond oblivious, but I’m enjoying their friendship and watching it develop. There’s a clear arc for both of these characters, and possibly a little potential romance but maybe that’s just me hoping, they do make a cute couple! The various yokai we’ve met so far are also fun, even if we don’t learn all that much about them at least they make for some striking visuals. As I said I’m enjoying this series and I’m more than looking forward to where this takes us.

Gekidol

Five years after a mysterious event caused cities and districts around the globe to disappear, life has very much returned to normal in Tokyo. For the young Seria her only concern is her newfound love for acting ever since she saw a performance using the latest 3D holographic technology. Then when she comes across a small stage troupe called Alice in Theatre, she can’t help but join and discover she has an unusual talent for mimicking any performance she sees! Even with that skill though, she still has a lot to learn and maybe at some point they’ll even get around to addressing the giant hole in the middle of the city!

I don’t want to write off a whole genre, but maybe idol shows just aren’t for me. I hate saying that because over the years I’ve tried so many different genres that I wouldn’t have even touched a decade ago and found shows that I genuinely love and adore. I’ve yet to find an idol show though and I really thought this one was in with a chance. I mean it’s categorised as also being a sci-fi show and a good way to get me interested in something is to bolt on some sci-fi or fantasy elements. Unfortunately, this show doesn’t know how to deal with those elements. The characters are all fine, the performances are fine, and the animation is fine, but what I’m intrigued by in this show is just point-blank ignored episode after episode. A whole section of the city just up and vanished and no one addresses it outside of a teacher giving a history lesson! I can feel myself struggling to pay attention with this show so, yeah, I think I’m out on this one.

Hortensia SAGA

When one of the Dukes of Hortensia suddenly turns on the King and murders him, transforming into a werewolf in the process, the stage is set for a time of upheaval and strife. Thankfully the country’s princess managed to escape, now going by Marius and disguised as a man, he serves as squire to local Duke Alfred, who also lost his father in the attack. Together these two will stand at the centre of the coming storm, but they have more to worry about than rival states and Marius’ younger brother being in the hands of the Pope. Monsters straight out of myth have suddenly began appearing across the land with no known cause. Dark times lie ahead for Hortensia and it’ll take everything Marius and Alfred have just to survive it.

I’ve always been a sucker for a good fantasy series, heck even a half-decent one will get a thumbs up from me. Give me knights in shiny armour, some swords clashing and a helping of monsters and intrigue and I’m yours. Hortensia SAGA so far has given me all of that, even if I would qualify it more in the half-decent camp. There’s nothing particularly brilliant about this series, most of it’s elements and character are fairly well-trodden tropes, but there’s nothing really bad about it either. The good guys are chivalrous and noble, the religious leader is clearly evil and up to something and outside of a giant with spider legs I’ve not seen any overly creative monsters. What does have my attention is the whole Marius situation, partly because of the whole gender angle. I mean we were introduced to them as the princess, but since then they’ve presented as male, they’re referred to as male and generally acts like a different person. I guess I’m just hoping this gets explored at some point and isn’t just ignored up to the point where their past is revealed.

Heaven’s Design Team

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth. He followed that by creating light and the oceans and the land. All that was left to make was the many varied and wondrous creatures that would inhabit the world, but, as it turns out, all this creating lark is really hard and tiring. So God decided to take the rest of the day off and subcontract his work out to a design team, Heaven’s Design Team you might say. No matter the request, no matter how vague or nonsensical, they will do their very best to meet their client’s needs, even if some of the designers have some odd foibles.

Considering this is coming out in the same season as Cells at Work 2 and Cells at Work: Code Black, part of me wants to make some comment about the rise of educational shows. Still, when educational shows are this fun and entertaining then it doesn’t really leave any room for complaint does it? While I will continually mock this series for how lazy it makes God sound (speaking as an agnostic here), I am having a lot of fun with this series. It packs a lot of information into each episode, some of which I really didn’t need to know, and presents it in an engaging and colourful way. Cells at Work does a better job of getting me invested in its characters, but I do enjoy the various personalities of the design team and how they bounce off of one another. I just wish the characters didn’t feel quite so one note, but it’s only been three episodes so far so we’ll see how that develops. If you’re after weird animal factoids and colourful animation then I can’t recommend this enough. Check it out.

And we’ll leave it there for this week. Next week, we must protect eggs with traumatised kids inside, follow one spider’s desperate struggle for survival and head to an underground skateboarding competition to learn how it’s different from snowboarding. There was something else as well wasn’t there, what was it? Oh right, The Promised Neverland is back!

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 Autumn 2020 Part 2

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

Golden Kamuy Season 3

On the trail of Asirpa, Sugimoto and the members of the 7th Division head to Karafuto, north of Japan. There they’ll have to battle the bitter cold, bare-chested Russains and one vicious wolverine. That’s before they even catch up with Asirpa and have to deal with her uncle and everyone else who is vying for the lost gold. Will the treasure finally be found? Will the truth at last be told? Sugimoto doesn’t care, he only wants to get Asirpa back and he’ll go on the warpath to do it. He is the Immortal Sugimoto after all!

Golden Kamuy is back! I love this weird, hilarious, tragic and just downright insane show so much and I’m so happy to have it back in my viewing schedule. I don’t really know what else to say beyond that, so far this season has been just as great as the previous two and if you haven’t checked them out you really need to! (You can read my review HERE if you’re still undecided). Sugimoto and the gang are just as captivating as they were previously, I especially love the bare-knuckle fight against the Russians and Sugimoto going completely berserk. We haven’t seen that much of Asirpa so far, but I’m hoping that’ll change soon and in the meantime we get more completely heart-breaking back stories for our side characters, proving that each and every member of this cast is compelling and fleshed out in the best ways possible. Get watching this series if you haven’t already!

Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World

For a hundred years the scientifically advance Empire and the home of powerful magic users, the Nebulis Sovereignty, have been at war. Nothing can seem to deter the hatred these two nations hold for one another, but perhaps that is all about to change. When master swordsman Iska is tasked with capturing one of the Sovereignty’s most powerful astral mages, the fearsome ‘Ice Calamity Witch’, he hopes he can use it as a means to open negotiations for peace. However what he wasn’t counting on was having so much in common with Alice, the aforementioned witch. Could love be about to bloom on this battlefield?

I really have no idea what this show is doing. I mean it’s a perfectly fine fantasy series so far, the set up of two star-crossed lovers on either side of a bitter war is a well trodden route, but one with potential. Iska and Alice are two likeable leads and the actions scenes so far have been dynamic and entertaining. There’s clearly a bunch of back stories and mysteries that the first three episodes have laid the ground work for and I’m interested enough to continue watching, but what has me worried is the writing. Episodes two and three are my main concern. Just the sheer coincidence of Iska and Alice meeting again and again and also having extremely similar tastes. It got so ridiculous it was actually funny, and they do make a cute couple, but it was a bit much to cram into one episode. Then episode three comes along and we already get a big fight with the presumed final boss, and our protagonists win. Okay, writing tip, don’t show the heroes of your story overcoming the villain at the very beginning because there’s going to be no tension whatsoever for when they turn up again. Those quibbles aside, I am still interested in this series and I’m going to carry on watching it.

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle

The princess has been kidnapped by the Demon King! As the Hero and his allies face a perilous journey to rescue her, the princess faces her own trails and troubles. Just how is she supposed to get a good night’s sleep in a Demon Castle?! Whether its using haunted sheet to make luxury pillow cases, reading forbidden grimoires to help her doze off or even stealing coffins to use as a bed, she’ll do whatever it takes to get the perfect night’s sleep! These demons have no idea what they’ve let themselves in for and pretty soon they might be begging the Hero to rescue them from the princess!

Just behind Talentless Nana, this has to be my surprise hit of the season. I had no interest in watching this show prior to it airing and I only really checked it out because I was looking for something to watch on a Thursday night. What I found was a delightful comedy that has left me grinning like an idiot after each and every episode. You wouldn’t think they’d be able to wring much out of the premise of this show, surely only an episode at most, but this little gem keeps surprising me. It’s one part sweet and cutesy, one part ludicrous, I can’t help but laugh watching these poor demons trying to deal with this princess in her endless quest for the perfect night’s sleep. The lengths she’ll go to and the twisted logic she uses to get there just boggles the mind, and just makes it all the funnier. If you’re in need of a warm chuckle this season, then you definitely need to be checking this show out.

The Gymnastics Samurai

Jotaro Aragaki has given his whole life to gymnastics. It’s his greatest passion and the only thing he’s really good at, but as old age and physical strain catch up with him, it might be time to finally call it quits. That’s what his coach thinks anyway and Jotaro does have a ninja-obsessed daughter to think about. Is this really the end of the road for the ‘Samurai of Gymnastics’ or does he have what it takes for one last go at glory? A chance encounter with a ninja-on-the-run might just change Jotaro’s perspective on the matter. Now we’re just left with one burning question, just what the hell is Big Bird?!

Seriously, only in anime could a series like this exist, and that is precisely why I love it so much. I mean anyone could tell a story about an ageing gymnast and his last shot at the sport he loves, but would they think to include ninjas, or a talking bird or ‘Agent Smith’ style immigration officers? Well? Would they? No, only in anime! Putting that aside, I am really enjoying this series. The characters are all likeable, the visuals are good, outside of the CG models they use for some of the gymnastics performances, and overall it’s just a fun time. I’m rooting for Jotaro, he can be a bit of an airhead, but you can tell he’s really in love with what he’s doing and his family are all behind him a 100%. I have no idea why they decided to include ninjas and talking birds, but I’ll roll with to hang out with this cast.

The Day I Became a God

Yota is just your average Japanese high schooler, studying for his entrance exams so he can get into the same university as the girl he likes, but all that changes when he meets a god! Her name is Odin and though she may look like a middle schooler her omniscience is no joke. Want to know what horse is going to win the next race? Ask her. Want someone to plan the perfect choreography for you to win a fight even though you’re physically inept? She can do it. Want to know when the world will end? The answer to that one is in 30 day’s time and she’s decided to spent the remaining time with Yota, whether he likes it or not!

This show is insane, and yes, I’m fully aware that I’m saying that after I’ve just talked about a gymnastics drama featuring ninja and talking birds, but this really is! I don’t know what I was expecting from this series, but it certainly wasn’t recreations of scenes from Rocky, followed by a fight to save a ramen shop and some guy who can apparently hack into anything with a pair of gloves and an ear piece. I genuinely have no idea where this series is going, but it’s going to be a ride and I’m completely down for that. I love the dynamic between Yota and Hina, sorry Odin. Both characters are brimming with energy and they bounce perfectly off of one another. Yota keeps trying to be the straight man to put a pin in Hina, sorry, Odin’s delusions, but then he gets entirely wrapped up in her schemes and the next thing you know he’s pretending to be a 40-year-old who won a baby-face contest. I mentioned this show was insane, right? As I said, I have no idea where this is going, but I’m more than willing to follow it.

Moriarty the Patriot

It’s the late 19th century and the British Empire is at the height of its power, though that power is not spread equally among its people. The nobility of the Upper Class hold all the sway and often look down upon the lowly Working Class that make up the rest of the population. They think they can get away with whatever they want, but a man walks through the thick London fog to tell you that isn’t always so. If you’re frustrated, if you’re a victim of those who call themselves your betters, why not seek out the Crime Consultant? With a mind as sharp as Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty is here to cleanse the British Empire, and he’ll do it by bringing the Upper Class to their knees.

I’m on quite the alternative Holmes run at the minute. At the time of writing this I’ve recently watched Enola Holmes (and very much enjoyed it) and I’ve just finished the first Holmes and Mrs. Hudson novel (again, very much enjoyed it and I’d recommend it), so why not complete the triumvirate with a series about the detective’s greatest enemy. Of course we can’t have a series with a villain as the protagonist without giving him a greater evil to face and what more ideal evil can this series’ setting provide than the Upper Class! (I’m joking, even though I do personally identify as Working Class and as such have an inbuilt mistrust of those of ‘noble’ standing, I also recognise that this series takes a very black and white portrayal of nobility in order to make sure we root for our lead). So far this series has been pretty fun, dark, but fun. Now we’ve got the two-part flashback of their origins out of the way I’m hoping we can get to more intricate cases for Moriarty to tackle, a good mystery is the reason I come to the Sherlock franchise in the first place. I do love the soundtrack to this series and I’ve yet to skip the OP. If you want to see the Holmes universe from yet another angle then I very much recommend that you check this series out.

That’s it for the first impressions. There’s a lot of shows that I’m enjoying this season and hopefully I’ve managed to point out a few shows that you’ve missed in this wealth of treasures. I’d say we’re back to regular reviews next week, but we’re not. Reviewing Frozen 2 for my anniversary has put me in a Disney mood and there’s a couple of series that I absolutely have to talk about. So, Next Week….

Next Stop, Anywhere!

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 Autumn 2020 Part 1

The nights are drawing in and there’s a chill in the air, which can only mean one thing…it’s time for a new season of anime! And we’ve got a bumper selection to satisfy even the greediest anime-lover, do you want to check out the latest contender for the shonen crown? How about a series following a sleepy princess as she torments the demon castle that has taken her captive? Maybe you’re interested in cute girls flying fighter planes to save the world? One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m watching a lot more episodes on funimation’s site this season, when I normally stick to Crunchyroll predominantly. I don’t have any insights beyond that, it was just something I noticed. Anyway, enough of the preamble, let’s get on with the show!

Jujutsu Kaisen

Itadori is your average japanese high school student, well, apart from his tremendous physical abilities that have all the sports clubs begging him to become a member. Itadori isn’t interested in that though, he has much more fun with the occult club. In fact he’s just found this super special cursed object that the president of the club was interested in. I mean, it’s not as if curses are real or anything. Except they are and Itadori’s friends are in very real danger. So much danger in fact that Itadori’s only chance at protecting them is to swallow the very cursed object that got them into this mess. Now he’s part curse himself and there’s this group of sorcerers threatening to execute him unless he helps them collect more of the same cursed objects. Itadori’s life is never going to be the same again, but maybe, just maybe, he’s finally found something that only he can do.

When the man behind My Hero Academia tells you that a series is going to be apart of the next Shonen Jump Big Three, you sit up and pay attention. I certainly did and I haven’t been disappointed, so far. Don’t get me wrong, Jujutsu Kaisen is playing things pretty much by the book as far as shonen go. We’ve got our plucky, naive main character, our cool and collected rival and the wise yet quirky mentor. We also have a very badass female character with a fully formed personality, beyond that of just being the girl, which is certainly welcome, but Nobara is a good example of what this series is doing right. These are all familiar elements, sure, but they’re also executed really well, add on some great animation and a killer OP and ED and you’ve got just an all round enjoyable experience. Plus it always takes shonen series a couple of arcs to really carve out their own niche so I expect this series to only get better and better. If you haven’t already checked this series out, I’d jump on it now!

I’m Standing on a Million Lives

Yotsuya is a loner at school and, honestly, that suits him perfectly fine. After all, he hates his school and the city he lives in. All that may change though when the most popular girl in school, Shindo, and the physically weak Hakozaki, two people he’s never even seen speaking to one another before, suddenly take an interest in him. The next thing he knows he’s been transported into a game-like alternate world with them and given tasks by a strange half-formed man. Any hopes of an isekai power fantasy are soon dashed though as thanks to his low level he can’t even take on a goblin without dying, though being stuck as a farmer doesn’t help. Can Yotsuya learn to look past his cold and calculating nature and actually let people in? More to the point will he ever get a role that’s a bit more standard for a fantasy RPG?

I’m kinda disappointed in this series, but only a little. I mean this series gets points for being even slightly different from the usual formula for an isekai series, but then I’m questioning if I should even class it as that since the teens come home between missions. All the elements are here for the usual power fantasy, going by the OP most of the other characters are girls to surround our male lead and after three episodes he’s shown himself to be the most competent when it comes to actual fighting. What I appreciate though is the fact that he’s had to grind his levels to get as strong as he has and he already has a clearly defined personality so he’s not a self-insert for the audience. The hints of a tragic past for a couple characters is also promising, even if all I’ve seen so far is fairly generic. Where my disappointment comes in is that the first episode seemed to be promising something much darker than the proceeding two episodes that followed it. Yotsuya’s anger and calculating nature are a lot more played down after the first episode and he seems more like the usual male lead in these types of shows. I don’t necessarily want the show to get super dark, but that was definitely the vibe I was getting off the first episode. The show does have potential though, I’m genuinely intrigued by why these people have been pulled into this world and what the people from the future are up to. I’ll stick around with this one, for now.

Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai

Long ago the Dark Lord was defeated by the ‘Hero’ and peace was returned to the world. For the monsters of Dermline Island this was an auspicious day, as without the Dark Lord’s influence they were able to return to a peaceful life on their island home. Dai, the only human to live on Dermline Island, longs to be a hero himself someday, though his ‘Grampa’ wants him to be a sorcerer. Dai’s quiet life is about to change though as the Dark Lord returns and the monsters once again fall under his control. Can Dai become the hero he’s always dreamed of and save all his monster friends? With the help of his friends and teachers he just might!

Another retro classic is revived! Now I know next to nothing about the Dragon Quest franchise, other than the fact that it exists and the creator of Dragon Ball did character designs. So, this series feels like a good place to start. Honestly this series is just so much fun, it’s an old school adventure (which makes sense since this series was originally created in the 90s). The hero are good and pure-hearted. The villains are evil and totally despicable. Dai is a sweet kid that you just can’t help but root for and all the characters are fun and quirky in their own way. It feels like I’m back watching cartoons on Saturday morning, except with some amazing animation quality. It’s bright, it’s cheerful, it’s just a solid good time, definitely check this one out.

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina

Inspired by her favourite book, Elaina has always wanted to be a witch who travels across the world. Fortunately she has a high aptitude for magic and soon graduates to the position of an apprentice. Unfortunately there aren’t many witches willing to take her on and finish her education. Eventually she finds a teacher in the Stardust Witch who, after a valuable lesson, promotes her to a full fledged witch. Now Elaina has everything she needs to set out on her journey. She’s still got a lot to learn, and whole wide world to see, but that’s why she wants to go on a journey in the first place.

I’ve never watched Kino’s Journey (either version of the anime), but I know the basics of the series and this show is definitely giving off similar vibes. I mean we’ve got a young person protagonist travelling from place to place, interacting with people but really they’re more of an observer than anything else. All we need is for Elaina’s broom to start talking and the illusion will be complete. Not that any of this is bad, and there are much worse series to borrow the set up from than Kino’s Journey. So far this is a very pleasant series, we’ve had some good little vignettes told to us, the animation is good and our main lead is likeable enough (though she can be a touch arrogant and conceited). I will give this warning though, if you’re expecting Elaina to jump in and solve people’s problems for them, episode 3 is a good indicator that that isn’t going to happen and it’s what solidified the Kino’s Journey comparison in my head. Elaina is a traveller, she passes through, takes note of her surroundings and then moves on. (I really need to watch Kino’s Journey at some point).

Warlords of Sigrdrifa

When the Pillars appeared all life on Earth came under threat. No human weapon could harm them, that is until the god Odin appeared and offered humanity their salvation. The salvation comes in the form of the Valkyries, young female pilots with the power to destroy the Pillars using modified fighter planes known as ‘Hero Wings’. Claudia is a Valkyrie, the favourite ‘daughter’ of Odin in fact, but she also has a worrying track record. Everyone she flies with ends up dead. Now she’s being transferred to Japan and wonders just how long it will be before people find out about her record. Not that she has to worry too much, Tateyama Base is unlike any other base she’s ever worked at, each member unique in their own quirky way. Together with the other three Valkyrie of the base, Claudia takes to the skies to save humanity!

I like this show. It’s not doing anything original, but what it does do it does well (much like Jujutsu Kaisen). The quirky air base, the cute leads doing cute things together before rushing off into battle, even the bizarrely designed, silent creatures appearing to threaten humanity for no good reason. We’ve all seen these elements in a thousand different shows, but it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. It was a scene in episode 3 that convinced me that this show knows what it’s doing. It had already proven that it could do some spectacular aerial battles and there’s plenty of scenes of the characters being cute and quirky together. It’s genuinely heart-warming to watch Claudia slowly open up to the prospect of having actual friends to go into battle with. All good, but then we get to episode 3 and the quiet, mournful scene of a soldier dying. I barely new the character and the scene had me welling up with feelings, that’s how I know this is going to be good. Looking forward to what comes next.

Talentless Nana

The Earth is under threat from mysterious, extraterrestrial monsters known as the Enemies of Humanity, but there is no reason to fear! A special preparatory school on a secret island is training a collection of super powered teenagers, known as the Talented, to fight back against the aliens! Is that the whole story though? Has anyone ever actually seen these Enemies of Humanity? And why is the school so against contact with the outside world? Is there an enemy already among them? Yes, there is, and soon the bodies will start piling up.

Week to week, this is the show that I look forward to watching most (closely followed by Jujutsu Kaisen and Golden Kamuy). Don’t me wrong, there is a stellar line up of shows this season and I’m enjoying all of them to one degree or another, but this is the one that’s grabbed me by the throat and won’t let me go. The trouble is I can’t tell you why, because that is a massive spoiler. The first episode, for the majority of its run time comes across as a fairly generic story about super-powered teens, just in a slightly odd setting. I was willing to give it the old three episode try, but there wasn’t much to grab hold of me. Then we get to the ending and my jaw hit the floor. Suddenly everything is flipped, we have a completely different show but one that is a thousand times more interesting. The show isn’t perfect, the set up of the plot is really convoluted and flimsy and I hope that gets some better explanation down the line, but even if it doesn’t I’m more than content with the meat of the story, and the cat and mouse game I’m now watching unfold.

That’s it for the first impressions this week, but we’ve got even more weird and wacky shows to come next week! The triumphant return of Golden Kamuy! The dazzling performance of the Gymnastic Samurai (and the mystery of what the hell Bigbird is)! A princess tormenting demons in Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle! Also the sordid history of Sherlock Holmes’ greatest opponent in Moriarty the Patriot! 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 or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

First Impressions Summer 2020 Part 2

And we’re back! You can check out last week’s first impressions HERE. I’m currently melting into a puddle at the foot of my desk, today’s been one of the hottest days I can remember in the UK, so let’s skip the preamble and get on with it. What have we got this week?

Re:Zero-Starting Life in Another World Season 2

After dying multiple times, Subaru and his friends finally managed to take down the White Whale and put a stop to the machinations of the Sin Archbishop of Sloth. Of course this is Subaru, life’s perpetual punching bag, sometimes for good reason, and the good times don’t last long. Rem is attacked by more Sin Archbishops and Subaru is shocked to learn that no one, not even Emilia, can remember who she is. Not even Subaru’s ability to reset things can put this right, leaving Subaru with only one option, to leave things as they are and hope he can find a way to put things right in the future. Roswaal may have the answer, but first they have to find him in the mysterious Sanctuary, where Subaru is invited to a tea party with a witch…

Re:Zero is back and I didn’t realise how much I’d missed this show until the new season started. It’s been quite a while since I’ve caught up with Subaru and the gang and I’m ashamed to admit that I’d almost forgotten just how much I enjoy this series (you can check out my review of the first season HERE). Subaru is just such a fascinating character to me, and while these first three episodes let us enjoy how far he’s come, the next episode looks set to delve even deeper into our tortured protagonist. I can’t wait! Fair warning though, I’d rewatch the first season before starting on this second one because it drops us right back into the action with barely a second to breath. It’ll be great when you’ve binge watching both seasons at a later date, but when there’s a few years between seasons it’s a bit of a hurdle. Still that’s my only complaint so far, so I’d say we’re off to an excellent start.

Deca-Dence

Humanity has been driven to the verge edge of extinction (again), under attack by strange creatures known as Gadoll their only hope lies in the moving fortress of Deca-Dence. The majority of humans live inside it as ‘Tankers’ working to maintain the city and the population, however those with the skills can go out to fight the Gadoll, they are known as the ‘Gears’. Natsume has always dreamed of becoming a Gear, but between her amputated arm and the system’s refusal to acknowledge her she doesn’t stand much of a chance, at least not until she convinces former Gear Kaburagi to train her. However the post-apocalypse isn’t everything it appears to be, there’s something Kaburagi isn’t telling her. There’s a bug in this system…

Okay, I may joke about this being yet another post-apocalypse series, but honestly, excluding 2nd seasons and stuff that started airing last season, this is my favourite show so far. I love the designs of both the human characters and the Gadoll, Natsume is such a bundle of loveable fun and Pipe is just disgustingly adorable, as well as adorably disgusting if that makes any sense. I love the mid-air battles, zooming around in zero gravity and I can’t wait to see more of them in the coming episodes. My only real criticism so far is with how the show chooses to give away its secrets too early. The revelation behind what’s actually going on is a good one, and makes sense of the clues we were getting in the first episode, but I can’t help feeling it would have had more impact if it came halfway through the series instead of the second episode. That’s just a personal preference though and I’m looking forward to where this series is going to take us.

Mr. Love: Queen’s Choice

Protagonist (that’s what I’m going to call her since this show fails to provide an actual name for the character), is the president of a failing production company. Their one show, ‘Miracle Finder’, is about finding the supernatural and offering explanations for the unexplainable, but with plummeting viewing figures and the threat of no more funding, can they even keep that going? That’s when Protagonist stumbles across a new mystery, Evolvers, people with special powers whether that be warping space, slowing down time or even controlling the very wind, they’re out there and they may be closer than Protagonist thinks! These people could be just the story she’s looking for to save her company, and the ones she’s met so far are all pretty photogenic, though I’m sure that’s of interest to no one…

Complaints first! Okay, I’ve seen some self-insert characters in my time, but really? You’re not even going to give this poor girl a name? And, yes, I’m going to stick to calling her Protagonist because if this show can’t be bothered to flip through a list of names, why should I?! I can’t even call her a character because, well, she’s not. She looks like the base avatar from an RPG and she even comes with the ‘Dad missing after investigating some sort of shady organisation’ back story that’s so popular with lazy writers. And look, I know, this is some sort of game adaptation and I’d bet money that that’s how it is in the game. But this isn’t a game, it’s an anime and it bugs me to no end when I a character doesn’t have a name! Deep breath. With all that being said, I still kind of like her, somehow. Part of me wants to put it down to the voice actresses’ performance as she manages to fill the character with enough life and emotional range to make me believe she’s at least close to a real person. That and she’s just the right mix of gutsy, sweet and oblivious to be kinda charming. Production wise the show actually looks pretty good, even if all the main love interests have generic pretty boy face. On paper I should hate this show, and I do hate parts of it, but there’s something that I just can’t put my finger. I find myself liking it despite myself, maybe I’m just a sucker for people with powers, or maybe there’s something else I can’t name yet. I guess we’ll see.

Gibiate

Samurai vs. mutant monsters in 2030! A virus has spread across the globe, transforming people into bizarre creatures known as Gibia, only a few humans still remain and while they work to create a vaccine, the odds aren’t looking good. That is until two strangers arrive in Japan from the most unlikely of places, the past! When Kanzaki Sensui, a samurai, and Sanada Kenroku, a ninja, where exiled from Japan they never expected that they’d be sent so far away! Stumbling into a nightmare future, they may be humanities last hope against the gibia. With their deadly skills and a few modern accessories, they’re more than a match for the monsters, but just one sting and it’s all over.

Grab your popcorn, pretend the CGI is better than it is and prepare yourself to be whisked away by a series that really should have come out in the late 80s/early 90s. I mean samurai vs. monsters in the future is just one of those ideas that I can see coming out in the ultra-violent days of anime past, and it probably would have been better served back then. As it is the show is an awkward, shambling mess, the animation is stilted and lifeless, the writing is effortless trash and the CGI is some of the worst I have seen in a long while. I’m sure the people working on this series are trying their best, but…look this series will be over soon, they can move on to other projects and never have to mention this again. I’m talking about this series like it’s the worst thing ever, but it’s really not. If you switch your brain off and just consume, it’s a perfectly serviceable waste of time. The one good thing I can point to in this series is the soundtrack, it’s rock mixed with classical Japanese instruments and I could honestly listen to it all day. Try this one if you want, but don’t expect anything from it.

That’s it for the first impressions. We’ve had some good, we’ve had some bad, but more importantly we’ve got more anime and I will always appreciate that. Next week back to regular reviews!

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 Summer 2020 Part 1

Another season, another selection of anime! Of course the Pandemic is still in full effect so the number of actual releases is still less that what we’ve become accustomed to, but I’m not going to complain. I’d rather companies take their time, protect their staff and just slowly move back to normality rather than rush it to pander to my anime addiction. Still there are plenty of appetising shows on offer this season, from returning contenders like Fire Force and Re: Zero, to brand new shows like Deca-Dence, there’s a fair bit I’m looking forward to. Enough waffle though, let’s get into those first impressions!

Fire Force Season 2

For the people of Tokyo, the number one fear is that of human combustion. That’s why the Special Fire Force was developed, specialised fire fighter with pyrokinetic abilities who fight against the Infernals, monsters created by human combustion. After many hard battles, including a showdown with the Evangelist’s forces in the Nether, the members of Fire Force Company 8 have finally started to unravel some of the mysterious of human combustion, but there are still many more questions to be answered. What exactly are the Adolla Bursts? What are the Pillars that the white-clad seek? Just who is the Evangelist and why is he so keen on re-igniting the great fire that almost wiped out humanity so many years ago?

Fire Force is back and it’s better than ever! While I certainly enjoyed the first season it also had some very clear problems that needed addressing (you can check out my review HERE). So far season 2 has either avoided or addressed the issues I had, we have a clear goal in front of us in finding the Pillars before the Evangelist does, and the fanservice has been greatly dialled back. Heck, Tamaki actually got to show off her fighting prowess in the first episode, it’s almost as if she’s an actual character! Admittedly the cynic in me does keep reminding me that I’m only three episodes into this season and the old problems could come back as soon as this arc is over, but I’m holding on to the hope that they won’t. Also, on a last note, has the animation taken a step up this season? Season 1 had some impressive fight scenes, but this season even minor skirmishes look amazing so far. Really hoping that keeps up too!

The Misfit of Demon King Academy

Anos Voldigoad was once the tyrannical Demon King, he waged war on humans, spirits and gods alike, and yet this demon died for peace. When confronted by the Hero Kanon, Anos admitted that he was tired with the endless warfare and proposed a solution, he would give up his life energy to separate each species into their own realms for a thousand years. This would end the war and bring the potential for peace when the species finally do make contact again. However, two thousand years later, Anos is reincarnated and can’t help but feel that something is wrong. Enrolling at the Demon King Academy, where his own descendants are taught, his vast power has him branded as a misfit with only the quiet Misha and the tsundere Sasha as his allies. Can Anos work out what changed two thousand years ago? More importantly, can he put it right?

I did not have high hopes for this series when I decided to start watching it, I am so sick of the overpowered protagonist and I really just tuned into this show because I was bored one evening. The first episode really didn’t impress me, exactly as I’d feared the fights had no tension whatsoever as Anos bulldozes his way through his fights and stands around explaining how clever he is. Not to mention the fact that Anos is technically a month old and his parents should really have some sort of reaction to that, but no, that’s just a one-note joke that gets repeated. It was the start of episode 2 that really got my attention, when we learn the details of how Anos died two thousand years ago and that piqued my interest. With each episode the series takes a step away from being a power fantasy and more towards a mystery, clueing us in that the past has changed, but we don’t know why or how. If the series keeps going in this direction then there’s some real potential here, because it’s not an obstacle that Anos can just muscle his way through. Here’s hoping!

Digimon Adventure: (2020)

Fifth grader Taichi is all set for his upcoming camping trip, but he’s destined for an entirely different adventure. Mysterious digital life forms have been causing havoc with computer systems, taking control of trains, launching nuclear missiles, and now they’re systemically plunging the Tokyo into a blackout. The only way to stop the approaching disaster is to travel to the home of these strange new life forms, the Digital World. Together with his Digimon partner Agumon, Taichi heads to the Digital World, where he discovers that he’s not the only kid answering the call of adventure. He’ll have to pick up his fellow chosen ones along the way though as dark forces are on the move and an ancient battle for the world itself is about to reignite.

Digimon Adventure is back and I couldn’t be happier. I know I should just judge this series purely by itself, but it’s just so fascinating to compare this to the original Digimon Advnture. Same characters, similar kind of set up, a bunch of kids travelling across the Digital World, and yet the results are so different. Whereas the original started out with more of a surrealist streak, with the children trying to survive as best they could in the strange place they found themselves in, while also uncovering the mysteries of the Digital World. Adventure 2020 feels more like an epic quest, the Digital World is a lot more solid, with a concrete history that the franchise has been developing over the past couple of decades. As such there’s less mystery to this series, but it still holds on to that essential spirit of adventure and I’m loving it. Also, I’ll say it again, it’s so good to see a Digimon series with a proper budget and some, occasionally, fantastic animation.

Lapis Re:Lights

Tiara is a young magic user with a dream! She wants to be like her big sister and graduate the Flora Girls Academy, a school for young women who want to become ‘lights’ to cleanse the world of magical beasts. The lessons will be tough, and she’ll have to climb up through the ranks, but with her friends, both new and old, by her side what could possibly go wrong? Well, aside from the fact that her friends are all on the verge of dropping out unless they earn themselves some points pretty quickly, and Tiara will be dropping out with them if they don’t succeed! Warm up your vocal chords, put on your fanciest costumes and prepare to take to the stage! It’s the Magical Cute Girls Do Cute Things Idol show!

Last season I made an effort to try shows that I normally would have turned my nose up at, and I was rewarded with some truly fantastic shows on my watch list. That hasn’t worked out so well this time. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing really wrong with Lapis Re:Lights, but there’s nothing all that exciting either. The characters are cute, there’s a few decent laughs each episode and it all looks pleasant enough, but for something that tempted me with the promise of a Magical Girl/Idol/CGDCT genre mash up, there’s been precious little of the first two. We’ve had one mention of magical beasts and two decent, but pretty short songs in the first three episodes. The rest has just been the girls playing around, we’ve had one episode chasing a duck and another with a magical game of dodge ball. I expect we’ll get to the other two genres in time, but this series hasn’t really done anything to ensure I’ll stick around that long. It better start getting interesting soon or I may just forget this one even exists.

The God of High School

High school can be a real battle some times, but never before like this! For those that enter the ‘God of High School’ tournament one promise is made, win and any wish you make will be granted. That’s a tempting offer for anyone and it brings out all sorts of contenders, from martial artists and swordsmen to even pro wrestlers, the tournament isn’t picky about how its entrants choose to fight, just that they do. For Jin Mori, he doesn’t really care who he fights against or even what the end goal really is, he only wants to fight the strongest opponents and now he has the chance to do just that. But just what is the ‘God of High School’ tournament? Can it really grant any wish? And what does it have to do with a tropical island that was flattened by a giant hand?

And here it is, Crunchyroll’s next original that they are promoting the heck out of and it’s…okay. Don’t get me wrong this series is a tremendous amount of fun, but so far that’s all it is, which isn’t a bad thing. I feel like I’m being overly critical with this series, not every series has to be some grand masterwork in character and storytelling, sometimes you can just be fun and so far ‘The God of High School’ fits that perfectly. The fights are tremendous, from the choreography to the animation, these are some exhilarating fights and well worth the price of admission alone. As for the characters, well they’re little more than tropes and the story is just a tournament. There’s potential here, a few mysteries that we can work on behind the scenes, but my suspicion is that 90% of this series will be fighting and, you know what? I think I’m okay with that. Pass the popcorn.

We’ll leave it there for this week, but next week we reunite with Subaru and the gang to restart our life in another world, samurai take on CGI monstrosities in the year 2030 and the end of the world isn’t quite what you think it is…

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.