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.

First Impressions Spring 2020 Part 2

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

Ascendance of a Bookworm Season 2

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

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

Digimon Adventure: (2020)

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

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

Princess Connect! Re: Dive

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

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

Appare-Ranman!

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

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

Arte

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

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

Woodpecker Detective’s Office

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

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

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

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

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

First Impressions Spring 2020 Part 1

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

Tower of God

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

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

The 8th Son? Are You Kidding Me?

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

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

Wave, Listen to Me!

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

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

Listeners

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

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

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

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

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

Sing “Yesterday” For Me

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

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

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

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