First Impressions Winter 2022 Part 2

And we’re back! No preamble, let’s get straight into these first impressions!

Requiem of the Rose King

As civil war ravages the nation of England, one young man dreams of joining the battlefield and seeing his father crowned as King. Both the House of York, symbolised by the white rose, and the House of Lancaster, symbolised by the red rose, have laid claim to the throne and neither will back down until their country’s fields are filled with blood. This is the period that will one day come to be known as the ‘War of the Roses’ and it will set the course of history for the next century. Young Richard idolises his father and dreams of seeing him, the Duke of York, on the throne, but those aren’t his only dreams. Is Richard truly a cursed child, meant to bring ruin to his house and country? Only time will tell, but in war their are so few who are truly victorious.

I mentioned last week that there was an anime out based on a couple of Shakespeare plays and this is that anime, based on Henry VI part 3 and Richard III respectively. I’ve never read either play (I haven’t read any Shakespeare) so I’ve no idea how loyal this is to it’s source material, nor do I know how historically accurate it is. That last fact does make me feel bad since this is British history. The most I know about the War of the Roses is that it partly inspired Game of Thrones and someone, somewhere is executed by drowning in a vat of wine. So, I’m going into this completely blind and I can’t help but feel that’s to this series’ detriment. There’s a very dream-like quality to the story so far, which feels very Shakespeare, with a plethora of dreams and portents plaguing young Richard. The problem is that it makes things a little hard to get into, especially when the plot keeps throwing events and new characters at us with barely any time to get to know them. Then there’s the animation, which feels like it’s already straining against its budget. There’s been an unreasonable amount of still frames and no matter how artsy the show tries to get, it mostly feels pretty cheap. I’ll give this one another few episodes but I’m not holding out much hope.

Sasaki and Miyano

Miyano is a fan of the Boys’ Love genre, so much so that he’s always buying new manga and fantasying about the other boys in his school getting together as couples. That’s when he meets Sasaki, a tall and unusual senior with a bit of a reputation for getting into trouble. Sasaki says that he wants to get to know Miyano better and the next thing he knows Sasaki is always hanging around and borrowing manga from his collection! With all of his fantasying could Miyano finally have found himself in a real-life Boys’ Love romance? But how does he really feel about Sasaki?

Sparkle sparkle. Glitter glitter. Sorry, someone seems to have activated a bunch of filters on my screen because there’s just so much stuff floating all over the place. Oh, wait, sorry that’s actually part of the episode. Jokes aside, I am really liking this series. It’s a very slow, but well thought-out and developed romance, or at least it will be by the time the main characters get together. I do like the way the show is taking it’s time about things, with the characters struggling to understand their emerging feelings, almost like a real romance. There’s no real obstacle or complications to things at the minute so if you’re after high melodrama you’d be best looking elsewhere. About the only tension so far is waiting to see if these two knuckle-heads will realise their feelings for one another and actually do something about it. I’ll definitely be sticking around for this one.

Attack on Titan: The Final Season part 2

The final battle for the fate of humanity is upon us. As Marley launches a surprise attack on Paradise Island both Eren and his supporters find themselves on the back foot. Meanwhile Eren’s former friends are freed and argue over their next move, should they fight alongside or against Eren? Will Eren really go through with Zeke’s plan or does he have some ulterior strategy in the works? Whatever happens the world will never be the same again. Not all the mysteries of the Titans have been answered though, just who is the girl in Zeke’s vision?

Do I even have anything to say about this series at this point? If you’ve not checked out Attack on Titan yet this really isn’t the place you should be starting and if you are a fan then you’ll already be watching this. Still, this is the last time I’m going to be talking about this series outside of a full review so let’s do this. This show is good, so good. Yes it has it’s problems but it’s a master of making each and every scene as tense and exciting as they can be. It knows how to keep you on the edge of your seat and considering this final part looks to be mostly just one last massive battle you’re getting that ramped up to eleven. Add on some great animation, performances and a tremendous amount of artistic flair and this show is as top notch as it has ever been. I have no idea how this is all going to end, I can’t even think of any way that this story can get a happy resolution, but I still hold out hope. As false as that hope may turn out to be.

Sabikui Bisco

After an apocalyptic event Japan has become a wasteland, the majority of it’s populace infected with a strange disease that makes it appear as if rust is covering their skin. One doctor, Milo, is desperately searching for a cure for his infected sister, he’ll us any and every ingredient he can get his hands on, including illegal substances like mushrooms. That’s when a wanted criminal, Akaboshi Bisco, enters the town, causing giant mushrooms to sprout up wherever he fires his arrows. The last thing Milo is expecting is for said criminal to turn up at his clinic with someone for him to save. But then the lives of both these men will never be the same again after this night is over.

I love it when a show gets weird, as I’ve talked about time and again on this blog it’s what I come to anime for. I can only marvel at the bizarre string of ideas that someone has managed to concoct and then present with complete abandon. It’s incredible. Not only does this show have an archer whose arrows turn into an array of gigantic mushrooms, but all modern vehicles have been replaced with wildly inappropriate animals. We’ve got hippos instead of tanks and giant iguanas in place of bikes and yet despite this string of absurdities, and many others, the world this series has constructed makes perfect sense when you look at the internal logic. The only thing that might put people off though is that this show has a strained relationship with cause and effect. The first episode is told very out of order and while things get more linear across the next couple of episode I can see that being a confusing experience for people. Still, if you can get through it this show is more than worth it and I’m looking forward to where it goes next.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive Season 2

The Gourmet Guild is back! Yuuki, Kokkoro, Pecorine and Karyl are all hungry for an adventure and they’ll go further than they ever have before to find new and exciting dishes! Whether it’s exploring an ocean of flying fishes, helping some friends putting on a concert or even trying to unravel the hidden mysteries of the world, every day is a surprise in Astraea! How long will these happy days last though? Both Pecorine and Karyl are holding tight to their secrets and just what is the supposed lie of this world?

Princess Connect is back! Can it live up to the surprise hit that the first season was? Yes, yes it can. I love this show so much, I would happily spend the rest of my days watching Yuuki, Kokkoro, Pecorine and Karyl going on one crazy adventure after another and that’s exactly what this second season has given me. We’ve got more characters to get to know, more exotic locations and, surprisingly, hints at some plot progression! Honestly I wasn’t expecting the revelation about Pecorine in last season’s finale to be brought up again so soon, or for us to check in with Karyl and the Queen this early, but we have. Throw in the mentions about the lie of this world and it’s hard to ignore the feeling that big things are coming. My theory is that somehow the world got rewritten and places, people and events have either been wiped away or altered with no memory of their past lives. We’ll see if it turns out that way. Either way, whether this show is going on a goofy adventure or laying the groundwork for something grander I can’t wait to see where its taking us!

That’s it for this week, back to regular reviews next time were we’ll be spending some time at an aquarium. 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 2022 Part 1

Now is the winter of our discontent. While the fool lord dances merry to distract from tales of his revelry and suppings of cheese and wine, the new year dawns on. Though maladies of old still hold firm across this blighted globe the last whispered embers of hope continue to burn and, hark, what light does shine through this magical portal? Why it’s a new season of anime!

Sorry, there’s an anime based on a couple of Shakespeare plays out this season and I think that fact alone has done something to my brain (I’ve never even read any Shakespeare, though I really should at some point). Things are a bit… frustrating over here in the UK right now with our current political situation and I can’t talk about it for too long or I’m likely to explode, but thankfully there’s plenty of new anime to distract me so let’s get to the first impressions!

Orient

150 years ago the otherworldly Oni and their demonic masters, the Kishin, descended on humanity. Now they’re worshipped as heavenly beings that brought peace to the land, but in truth the human race are their slaves. Only one group has the courage and skill to face the Kishin menace, they are the Bushi, travelling bands of samurai who use their flying motorcycles and swords to cut down Oni and Kishin alike. Ever since they were kids Musashi and Kojiro have talked about becoming the strongest Bushi band that there ever was or will be, but as graduation day approaches it becomes time for a fateful decision.

A new shonen anime is here! And it’s from the creator of Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic! I’ll be honest I dropped off Magi somewhere after the first season, which is a shame because I remember really liking it and I bought the first two volumes of the manga. I should probably go back and finish that at some point, but we’re not here to talk about that series, this is Orient’s time to shine! So, is it any good? Yeah it’s okay. I feel bad saying that, I am having a lot of fun with this series so far, but it’s also very clearly still in its set up phase. Now I’m a fan of shonen series and I’ll admit I tend to give them a lot more leeway than other shows, mostly because it normally takes a couple of arcs for a shonen series to really find it’s footing and show me what it’s capable of. I’m in this for the long haul is what I’m trying to say and while I appreciate the groundwork it’s laid out for its characters and world so far I’m still waiting to be truly blown away. The music is great though, especially during the action scenes, that’s worth the price of admission alone for me.

Police in a Pod

Officer Mai Kawai is sick of being a police officer. She wasn’t really interested in the job to begin with, she was just after a steady pay check and had failed every other civil servant exam. Could the arrival of a new brilliant detective at the station change her mind though? Whether it’s taking the complaints and insults of the general public, getting lessons from serial burglars or figuring out how to enter sexual terminology into an official form, Officer Kawai still has a lot to learn. And maybe someday she might actually like this job, here’s hoping.

I was really intrigued by this show when I first heard about it. I like cop shows, I prefer a good detective story, but more often than not you can find those in cop shows so I’m always willing to give them a chance. Plus I haven’t seen all that many police shows set in Japan, at least not without some sort of sci-fi or fantasy twist being applied. So it really bums me out to say that this show isn’t clicking with me. I don’t find a lot of the jokes funny and maybe that’s just something that got lost in translation, but it doesn’t help that the series tackles some pretty dark subject matter. I mean one minute the show is making fun of Kawai not knowing how to fill out an official report with all this sexual terminology a suspect has given her, the next it’s got the girl confessing her step-dad has been raping her. That is a serious tone shift and one that needs to be handled with a great deal of skill and finesse, which this show hasn’t been able to pull off so far. I’m out on this one.

Slow Loop

Hiyori has always been the quiet type, even more so since her father passed away. Now her mother is about to remarry and Hiyori can’t think of what to do except go out to the pier and fish, just like she used to with her dad. That’s when she meets Koharu, an energetic girl with boundless optimism. By a strange coincidence Koharu’s father is just about to remarry as well, wait, they couldn’t be… yep, Hiyori and Koharu are about to become sisters! That’s not all they have to bond over though, since Hiyori just introduced Koharu to the joys, and complicated terminology, of fly fishing she’s well and truly hooked! The family that fishes together stays together, I guess.

Well, I’ve found my chill out anime for the season. I’ve never actually been fishing but there’s just something so calming about the idea of it, I guess it’s all the waiting around you have to do. Anyway, cute is very much the word for this series, the animation is relatively simple, but it’s pretty and I can tell most of the budget has gone into the smooth motion when a character casts, which is probably the best place to put the money in this show. I also like the way all the characters bounce off of one another. Hiyori and Koharu have a great deal of chemistry, but it doesn’t forget about everyone else and gives each character their moment. The one thing that’s concerning me is that I’m worried this show is going to make me cry at some point, episode 3 already came pretty close. There’s an undercurrent of sadness to this show, which is only right considering that both of the main characters recently lost loved ones. It gives the show a slight edge so it’s a little more than your typical cute girls doing cute things show. Looking forward to more of this.

My Dress-Up Darling

Wakana Gojo is a high schooler with a passion, he wants to become a kashirashi – a master craftsman who makes traditional Hina dolls. It’s a unique passion and one not a lot of his friends share so Wakana has a tendency to keep to himself and is really awkward in social situations. It feels like the popular kids, such as Marin Kitagawa, live in a completely different world. Then, one day, Marin happens to find out about Wakana’s passion and reveals she has a passion of her own, cosplay! She wants to become a character she adores from a raunchy erotic game, she just doesn’t have the skills to make a dress. Wakana does though. Worlds are about to collide.

I’ll admit I only started watching this show because everyone online was raving about the first episode, and I’m so glad I got in on this series. This show is so good, it looks great and is just the right amount of funny and earnest, but what’s really invested me in this show is the characters. Both Marin and Wakana are super relatable to me, which is weird when I have barely anything in common with either of them. I didn’t even know what a hina doll was before watching this show, but I get being super passionate about something and yet being scared to talk about it with other people. That was me in school and a fair amount of my college and university days. Nowadays I’m more in the Marin camp, I’m not really into cosplay, but I too will loudly profess my love for things to all and sundry, as well as recommend stuff that people never actually watch. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that can relate to either situation, or both like me, and I can’t wait to see where this show takes these characters.

Tokyo 24th Ward

The Far Eastern Special Administrative Region, also known as the 24th Ward, is a man-made island and soon to be returned to the control of Tokyo. Shuta, Ran and Koki were born and raised there and have been friends since childhood. At least they were until a tragic accident took a dear friend from them. Now, a year later, the three are reunited for the memorial service when each gets a phone call from the friend who died that day. Not only that, but the person on the other end of that call presents them with two possible futures, both terrible, and gives them superpowers in order to avert it. I’ll admit I’ve had worse cold calls.

There’s a lot that I like about this series, but the thing that stands out to me the most is the animation choices. I mean the animation looks great throughout, but there’s some impressive style given to the way certain scenes are depicted. There are moments where a character is brought further into the foreground and highlighted by a white border that really appeals to me for some reason. I don’t want to call it ‘comic book-y’, or ‘manga-y’ which is probably more appropriate, but that’s exactly what I think of when I see it. I also appreciate it that it’s not something that’s overused, it’s just applied when emphasis is needed. Throw in some likeable characters, plenty of good mysteries and a clear display that there are consequences to the characters choices and you’re really on to a winner here.

That’s it for this week. Next week we’ve got that Shakespeare anime I was talking about, the return of the wonderful Gourmet Guild and a guy who shoots arrows that turn into giant mushrooms. I feel like I’m forgetting something…oh that’s right Attack on Titan is back for the final part of it’s final season! 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 Autumn 2021 part 2

And we’re back! Let’s not waste any time and jump straight into these first impressions.

Puraore! Pride of Orange

Manaka is a cute girl doing cute things! Whether it’s at the sewing club or appearing on TV to advertise her family’s inn, she’s a kid living her youth to its fullest. Then she learns that the local ice rink is holding trail lessons for ice hockey and along with her friends decides to check them out. Could this be the beginning of a whole new passion? Coincidentally the manager of the local team has been putting together a plan to make ice hockey super popular, she’s going to combine ice hockey with an idol group! And what’s this? Six girls just signed up to the trail? Perfect! That being said, I’m still really dubious about this whole ‘dancing on ice’ plan and I think the girls will be too, when they find out about it.

Is this the only ice hockey anime? I know there are a metric tonne of sports anime out there, but this is the only ice hockey one I can think of, which just feels odd. Then again I have no idea how popular ice hockey is in Japan, I’m guessing not very much by the fact this anime is resorting to combining ice hockey with a bunch of cute girls dancing around to try and attract in audiences. And, yes, I’m going to keep harping on about this whole putting on performances after a match idea, which is just ridiculous. I’ve seen the ‘Dancing on Ice’ show we have here in the UK, I know just how dangerous performing on ice like that can be, and you want these girls to do that after exhausting themselves with a competitive sport? Are you insane?! Yes, it’ll really make ice hockey popular when you’ve got six girls lying on the ice, unconscious, with their heads split open! Okay I need to stop picking at that particular thread because it’s just driving me crazy, and aside from that inane premise this isn’t a bad show. It’s a little generic and formulaic and the girls are the usual range of personalities you get in these kind of shows, but it’s not doing anything overtly terrible. It’s cute, which is probably exactly what it wants to be. Check it out if you’re interested, but I’m taking my skates off for this one.

Sakugan

Memempu has spent her whole life living underground in one of the many human colonies. She’s a smart kid, so smart in fact that she’s already graduated college and she’s got a dream, literally. She keeps seeing the same place in her dreams and she’s determined to find it, even if it means crossing the dangerous ‘Labyrinth’ all by herself. This, naturally, makes her father Gagumber very nervous and no matter how hard he tries he just can’t get her to stop. When monsters break into the colony it’s do or die time and Gagumber makes a decision. If he can’t stop his daughter from going on this suicidal quest, he’ll just have to go with her! So begins this father/daughter duo’s journey into the unknown!

This show is a lot of fun, providing you can put up with the main characters. That feels like more of an insult than I mean it to be, because I do genuinely like both Memempu and Gagumber, but even I have to admit they’re a bit…extra. They’re both deeply flawed characters and while that’s great for potential character development, it does mean you have to deal with them in their base state for at least the start of the series. Memempu is really, really smart, and the trouble is that she knows it, but she doesn’t yet have the experience to understand that knowing a lot doesn’t mean you know everything. Gagumber is a typical lazy dad stereotype, but his main problem is he’s trying to treat his daughter like a little kid when she’s clearly not. He lays down the law without bothering to explain his reasoning and it would solve so many of his problems if he just took the time to talk through his thought process. As I said there’s a lot of potential for character growth here and I hope the series is going to take the time to develop them. The rest of the show is just a fun, bombastic mecha show and I’m looking forward to where this series is taking us.

The Faraway Paladin

In a city that lies in ruins, populated by undead demons, there lives a single human child. His name is Will and he has spent most of his life in the care of a skeletal warrior, a mummified priestess and a ghostly sorcerer. The three love him as if he were their own, even if they refuse to tell him how it is he came to be living in a place like this. Will is growing up fast though, picking up skills and knowledge from his non-living family and before any of them know it it’s time for his coming of age. Is Will ready to step out into the living world? Or will he become another undead resident of this forgotten city?

I’ll give you all fair warning right now, if you haven’t checked out this series yet it’s  what I would class as a slow burn and I genuinely love it for that. Too many series feel like they rush through the set up because they’re terrified you’ll leave the second your attention wanders. This series on the other hand, it has the sheer confidence to just do things at its own pace. Three episodes in and we’re still in what feels like the prologue of the story. There’s no major action scenes, no great mystery outside of a couple of story hooks, it’s just the characters sitting around, letting us get to know them. I know that might sound boring and be a turn off for some people, but I beg you to give this series a chance. I’m invested in Will and his relationships with his undead family and I feel like I have a fuller understanding of this world than in most fantasy series. I don’t want these peaceful days with Will and the gang to end, but the cliffhanger at the end of episode three has already told me that’s exactly what’s about to happen. This show definitely needs checking out.

Digimon Ghost Game

Holograms, a new technology that have become a lot more prevalent in recent years. Of course every new technology has its teething troubles, in this case there are widespread rumours of bizarre creatures appearing in said holograms. Alongside the increasing reports of strange accidents and injuries its enough to make people think something supernatural is going on. When Hiro decides to investigate the latest story of a ‘Hologram Ghost’ he isn’t prepared for how much his life is about to change. Suddenly he’s partnered with this creature who calls itself a Digimon and learns his father didn’t just vanished, but was sucked into some place called the ‘Digital World’. With very little information to go on it’s up to Hiro and Gammamon to track down other Digimon, stop them causing havoc and maybe, just maybe, figure out what’s going on around here!

After the crushing disappointment that was Digimon Adventure 2020, it’s so good to have a Digimon series that reminds why I love this franchise so much. Seriously I’m getting Tamer vibes from this series and that is a very good sign considering that’s my favourite Digimon series alongside the original Adventure. This is a show that isn’t afraid to take it’s time, letting us get to know the characters and get a good feel for this new setting, all the while setting up things for later in the background. It also helps the horror aesthetic that the series is going for, there’s been some genuinely creepy moments so far and set ups that wouldn’t feel out of place in a real horror movie. Fancy being mummified and hung up in a basement until you fade into nothing? How about a strange scribble appearing on one of your digital photos and then whatever was scribbled on starts to go out of control or just vanish entirely! There’s some real moments of panic and dread and it really builds up the tension without having the stakes being ridiculously high. I’m loving this series so far, if you haven’t checked this out already then you really need to!

That’s it for the first impressions. Next week we’re back to regular reviews and it’s time to go Plus Ultra as Deku and the gang go on a World Heroes’ Mission! Don’t forget the popcorn.

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 2021 Part 1

The season of change is upon us, the days are getting colder and the nights a little longer, but fear not! There’s a whole batch of new and returning anime to keep us company, so grab your slippers and a cozy blanket and join me by the fire as we see what’s on offer!

The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window

Bookstore employee Mikado has a special gift, he can see ghosts! Unfortunately for him he’s absolutely terrified of them, or anything supernatural for that matter, a fact that isn’t made much better when he meets exorcist Hiyakawa. Pretty soon Mikado finds himself press-ganged into working with Hiyakawa, purely for the fact that Hiyakawa can use him to boost his powers, well, that and this ‘boost’ also feels really, really good for Mikado. Will these two opposites find a way to work together and maybe even come together in other ways? Or will Mikado come to his senses and take out the biggest restraining order possible on Hiyakawa?

Generally when it comes to these first impressions I stick to the 3 episode rule. Three episode is enough time for me to get a feel for what a series is going to be like, while also giving the show time to find its feet. It’s not a hard and fast rule, and it doesn’t always work, but it’s how I like to approach new shows. Some shows though, some shows I can just tell aren’t made for me. This is one of those shows. I barely made it through the first episode and when it came to the second episode I really couldn’t bring myself to watch it, so I’m already out on this one. The problem with this show is almost entirely Hiyakawa, because as a set up it’s fine. Guy who can see ghost but is scared of them ends up working with an exorcist to solve supernatural cases? Sign me up. Throw in a little romance between the two leads, yeah sure, fine. The issue is that Hiyakawa is way too grabby and he does it without permission and despite Mikado’s protests. Just…just no dude. Unless Hiyakawa gets a major personality transplant in the next episode, there’s no saving this show for me. I’m just not interested in watching a toxic romance play out even if Mikado does eventually come to his senses and call out Hiyakawa.

86 Eighty-Six (Season 2)

The last survivors of the Spearhead Squadron thought they’d reached the end of their road, but fate had other plans. Awakening in the Federal Republic of Giad, could Shin and his friends finally step away from the battlefield and have a chance at a peaceful life? The Legion is still out there though and as the Federacy prepares to do battle against it, will Shin and the others be able to stand on the sidelines, or be drawn to the battlefield once again? And what of Lena, demoted yet still working as a Handler, leading her squads to fight against the Legion and doing her best to remember all those who’ve been lost. In war can there ever be a happy ending?

And it’s back! The first season of the 86 was fantastic, one of my favourite anime of this year so far, and this continuation is just as great! I’ll admit I was a little worried when Shin and co suddenly woke up in perfect health after that heartbreaking ending to the last season, but all my fears have since been assuaged. The first couple of episode may have been a little, and probably necessary, breather from the death and dismay of the first season, but this show hasn’t forgotten how to punch me in the gut. The writing and character work is still top notch, giving us a good exploration of what it’s like for soldiers returning from the frontline. Of course we don’t stay away from the battlefield for long and this show just remains as soul-shattering and riveting as it always was. If I had one complaint it’s that there’s been far too little Lena in this season so far! If you’re not watching this show then you’re doing yourself a disservice and you need to change that immediately!

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut

Following the end of World War II, the two great superpowers, the Federal Republic of Zirnitra in the East and the United Kingdom of Arnack in the West, turned their attention to space. Both competing to be the first to land a human on the moon, they each came up with their own methods and technology to get them there. In the Republic’s case they decided that not enough was known about the effect of space flight on the human body and so decided to send something human-like first. Enter Irina Luminesk, a vampire with a burning desire to reach the moon for some reason. It’s up to former astronaut candidate Lev to prepare her, but facing fear and suspicion from all around will she even survive the training? And if she does survive, what comes after?

It’s the Space Race but with added vampires! You see, it’s this kind of original concept that I come to anime for, the kind that make me slap my forehead and ask, ‘why has no one come up with this before?!’. Plenty of animals got sent into space to test it’s effects on living creatures after all, so why not mix in a little fantasy and send some vampires as well. I mean it’s horrifying treatment for the vampires and we see some very blatant racism directed towards Irina, but that’s not really the focus of this series. Irina genuinely wants to go into space, whether that’s just because it’s a passion of hers or for some other reason we don’t know yet, but she’s clearly very determined. The first three episodes are us following her training, almost in a slice of life kind of way. So far it’s a very sedate, yet charming series, you really feel Irina’s drive and Lev’s growing affection for her, to the point that you can’t help but root for both of them. There are some dark clouds on the horizon though, hints at a saboteur and talk about what’s going to happen to Irina after her space flight. It’s enough to keep the tension percolating away and keep me watching.

The Vampire Dies in No Time

Vampires are a scourge that plagues humanity, with their many different forms and abilities they can be incredibly dangerous. That’s why hunters like Ronaldo exist, to do battle against the darkness and protect the people! When Ronaldo is called to a remote castle he is about to face his most challenging battle yet, a vampire lord named Draluc who….dies at the slightest attack? Wait…what?! Come join the adventures of Ronaldo and Draluc, can a vain and fame-hungry hunter get along with the world’s weakest vampire? Will Ronaldo finish his next manuscript in time or will his editor have to put him in the Iron Maiden again? Will John the Armadillo get his own show because he rightly deserves one?

If any of those questions at the end there pique your interest, then you should definitely check this show out. It’s a delightful little comedy with a quirky cast of characters with some good set ups for gags and there’s always John! John the Armadillo, Draluc’s familiar and really the star of the show. Every frame he appears in just makes me smile, whether he’s quietly reading some manga or fretting over Draluc’s ashes you can’t help but love him. He’s worth the price of admission alone. The other characters are fun as well though, the editor is my favourite after John, but I also enjoy Draluc and Ronaldo’s driving one another crazy dynamic. Is this show going to change the face of comedy or offer startling new incites into vampires? No, I every much doubt that, but it doesn’t need to either. It’s fun and every episode so far has left me grinning, and I can’t really ask much more than that.

Takt op.Destiny

Music can be said to be the very heart and soul of humanity, but what does it mean when strange creatures, known as D2, appear to destroy that heart? Drawn to music and impervious to all modern weaponry it looked as if all hope was lost, but then came a last shining light of salvation, the Musicarts! Women transformed by a power from beyond the stars, with their Conductors directing them they are an unstoppable force of music incarnate and the only chance of defeating the D2. For Takt music was his everything, whether its taboo or not, all he wants to do is play. Even after an attack by the D2 leaves his arm injured and the girl he was starting to realise he loved transformed into a Musicart, that doesn’t really change. It’s just that now as well as music he wants to wipe out the D2 for all they’ve taken from him and get Destiny, the girl he loved, to New York were hopefully someone can help him understand why she’s so different from other Musicarts. Let the road trip begin!

Classical music, fun characters and some jaw-droppingly fantastic action, this show has it all! If this is what happens when Mappa and Madhouse team up can I kindly suggest that they never, ever, part company again? Let’s talk about that action for a minute, it’s so blisteringly fast and fluid, I just want to watch it again and again. This show is worth watching just for that, but then you throw some great musical compositions on top of it and you’re really just icing the cake by that point. I wish I knew more about music so I could probably describe how blissful it is to listen to. Thankfully the series isn’t all flash though and has a pretty interesting set up. Sure it’s not that original, aliens invade and push humanity to the brink except for this small group of people that have the power to fight back. There’s at least a hundred other shows out there with the same premise and outside of the ban on music things don’t look that bad for the rest of humanity, most people able to go about their daily lives without much fuss. What gives me hope is that this series is a road trip across the US so it should give us a few different settings and backgrounds and while I don’t love the characters yet, I do like them. There’s great potential here, let’s hope it can keep up the tempo.

That’s it for this week. Next time on First Impressions! A father/daughter duo traverse a dangerous underground labyrinth, if they don’t kill one another first! An exuberant coach hopes to combine idols and ice hockey…for some reason! And Digimon returns with a spooky spectacular new series! Who ya gonna call? Not me, I won’t be here until next Friday, 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 2021 Part 2

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

The Detective Is Already Dead

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

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

The Idaten Deities Know Only Peace

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

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

Sonny Boy

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

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

The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!

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

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

Fena: Pirate Princess

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

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

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

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

First Impressions Summer 2021 Part 1

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

Peach Boy Riverside

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

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

Scarlet Nexus

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

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

The Case Study of Vanitas

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

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

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S

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

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

The Aquatope on White Sand

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

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

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

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

First Impressions Spring 2021 part 2

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

Mars Red

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

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

Blue Reflection Ray

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

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

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

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

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

86 Eighty-Six

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

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

Shadows House

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

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

To Your Eternity

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

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

That’s it for the first impressions. Back to regular reviews next week and I’ve got a couple more shows to talk about before we get into last season’s series. See you then!

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

First Impressions Spring 2021 part 1

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

Vivy-Fluorite Eye’s Song-

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

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

Joran The Princess of Snow and Blood

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

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

SSSS.Dynazenon

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

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

Dragon Goes House-Hunting

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

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

OddTaxi

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

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

Megalobox 2: Nomad

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

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

That’s all for this week. Come back next week for more first impressions, including a house covered in soot, some non-autonomous robots and a shape-shifter discovering what it means to be human. See you then!

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

First Impressions Winter 2021 Part 2

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

The Promised Neverland Season 2

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

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

So I’m a Spider, So What?

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

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

Back Arrow

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

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

Horimiya

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

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

SK8 the Infinity

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

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

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation

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

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

Wonder Egg Priority

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

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

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

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

First Impressions Winter 2021 Part 1

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

Attack on Titan Final Season

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

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

EX-ARM

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

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

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

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

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

Otherside Picnic

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

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

Gekidol

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

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

Hortensia SAGA

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

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

Heaven’s Design Team

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

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

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

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