Fall 2019 First Impressions

October has brought a nor’easter to Yata’s corner of the country and tornadoes to Haru’s neck of the woods, but neither could keep us from the better stuff this month had to offer: a whole new slate of anime to check out. It’s the final season of the year and the decade as well, so we each approached this crop of shows with some contemplation and a secret desire to free up some other time. That turned out to be more difficult than expected, however. It may not be quite as loaded as this winter was, but these fall shows aren’t slouching. Which ones have we thinned out? Which ones are our early favorites? Find out below on this update from For Great Justice!


AFRICA SALARYMAN


Summary:
It’s a workplace comedy about three salarymen who are also animals because in this world everyone is animals. Nothing else has changed.

Yatahaze: Seriously, nothing else has changedincluding the patriarchal privilege of businessmen, though Africa Salaryman decided it would rather revel in that than satirize it. There are three protagonists in the show’s lead group; a timid but scary-looking lion, a lizard who seems to gets the short end of every stick, and an utterly insufferable toucan who just can’t stop being an asshole. Credit where it’s due; the voice acting is solid (mostly in that Hiro Shimono really sells how remorseless Toucan is), but I’d almost rather be bored by an abrasive character than fully despise one.

It’s not just him, either. For a “comedy,” there are really only two types of jokes here, and they’re as follows: (1) loud, physically abusive slapstick with overreactions, and (2) crass verbal insults that only punch down. Putting aside the fact that this show has a unique visual presentation (in that it’s either intentionally sparsely animated or exploding in your face for a few seconds at a time), Africa Salaryman’s pilot was just a thoroughly miserable experienceperhaps the most turned off I’ve been from any anime this year, to be honest. It took a while but we finally got us a nigh-irredeemable one in 2019. I can’t imagine many people in the company I keep would find anything to laugh at hereat least, I hope not. If you’ve not given this one a try (and I almost never say this, so heed the warning well) don’t even bother. Steer clear. It’s not worth your time.
Final score: 2/10
Dropped after 1 episode.

AFTER SCHOOL DICE CLUB (HOUKAGO SAIKORO CLUB)


Summary:
A chirpy recent transfer student, Aya Takayashiki, befriends a reserved classmate named Miki Takekasa, and while the latter hesitantly shows the former around her new Kyoto home, they stumble into a board and card game shop where their class president works. Though their school has a strict curfew on when students can be out and about at night, they agree to meet back up at The Dice Club for more games anyway.

Yatahaze:
I’ve gotta say, a school club show dedicated to analog games is a wonderful surprise and a creative idea. It may only find a niche audience, but hey, you can take my word that I love me some tabletop games. Opening my closet door would probably cause a bunch to spill out at your feet.

And yet…I’m not sold on After School Dice Club. While none of these characters are actively irritating, their personalities are pretty archetypal so far, especially lead narrator Miki. As a result, the show’s pilot came across mighty sluggish and so hyper-fixated on just getting through its plot beats that I didn’t naturally feel any emotional spark from this cast.

If nothing else, After School Dice Club’s author has clearly done their work and Lidenfilms has adapted the attention to detail in the shop’s boxes well. I recognized several games with one glance, and that’s neat, but the show’s premiere ultimately flopped in making me want to watch its characters play games instead of just giving me an urge to find and play them myself. Seeing as I don’t even really enjoy Let’s Playsthe digital version of this same conceptmy lack of enthusiasm here shouldn’t be a surprise. If friendship via school club slice-of-life is your genre wheelhouse and you have a higher ceiling for slow starts with average production than I do, I won’t turn you away from After School Dice Club, but that also describes my wheelhouse and even I’m not dying for more, so 50/50 shot here.
Final score: 6/10
Dropped after 1 episode.

AHIRU NO SORA


Summary:
Sora Kurumatani, a small freshman with an undying passion for basketball, is eager to join his high school’s basketball team, only to find that their woman’s team is the only competitive entity there and the men’s one has devolved into a band of delinquents who no longer play the sport at all. So Sora does what any hotshot up against proud loafers would do: embarrass them in a one-on-five. Can he make the team a “team” again, though?

Yatahaze:
I’m gonna eliminate the suspense from the get-go; I will not be watching Ahiru no Sora weekly this season. However, if its reputation remains positive, I may well pick it back up at some point to marathon it, and given how solid its premiere was, there’s a not-unlikely chance of that happening.

That verdict comes down to my aesthetic and narrative preferences more than it does any “objective weaknesses” on the show’s part. Ahiru no Sora ain’t the only “revive this club” show with “Sora” in its title this season and as you’ll see if you scroll on down, that other one is 100% up my alley. Ahiru, on the other hand, is running with some tropes that I’m less partial to and a sport I’m generally indifferent towards. That and a season full of surprising hits is enough to render this title the first one headed towards my chopping block.

But really, Ahiru is…mostly good. Its “our protagonist is getting bullied, oh no!” cold open was a tad overdramatic, as are most of the delinquents’ actions up to this point. While I have a hunch the series will handle them as more complex characters going forward, the performative meanness they engage in at the start is super transparent and I can already foresee getting tired of it if the series tries to drag their growth out. My best guess is that Sora’s sheer dedication and generally-upbeat attitude will eventually wear his “teammates’” guard down until they don’t care about their reputation as much, but that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a good sign that Momoharu, the lead do-nothinger, and Chiaki, his dorky, aloof brother, have already exhibited insecurities, whether directly or indirectly. An empathetic series can’t ignore the fact that people don’t just give up on life without having been hurt, and if the show plays its cards right, then Sora will have just as much work to do getting these guys to open up as he will training them into an active team.

So yeah, Ahiru no Sora seems like it’ll play the long game regarding the aspects of it I’m really interested in. It’s got plenty of immediately gratifying components too, provided you enjoy some above-average, polished, kinetic body animation and some goofy, sniveling, wannabe-yakuza dialogue. I could take or leave the rest of its unchecked urges (especially the lads’ attempts at ogling their female peers) but not much about this show’s warmup has left me with either a sour impression or a “can’t miss this” eagerness to see what comes next. Ahiru no Sora appears to be a solid sports shounen with all the clichés that implies. If you can dig yourself some of that, then definitely give this one a peek. Like I said earlier, I might give it a second. Just not right now.
Final (?) score: 7.5/10
Dropped for now after 2 episodes.

ASCENDANCE OF A BOOKWORM
(HONZUKI NO GEKOKUJOU: SHISHO NI NARU TAME NI WA SHUDAN WO ERANDEIRAREMASEN)


Summary:
Motosu Urano loved books all her life and was well on track to becoming a librarian, but an unexpected death left her reincarnated in the body of Myne (Main? Maine? fucking transliterations), a frail 5-year-old in a medieval fantasy world. Initially excited because a 5-year-old would have plenty of time to read, she instead soon finds out that this world hasn’t quite invented the printing press yet and most commoners, like her family, aren’t fully literate. Drat.

Yatahaze:
You know what else they hadn’t invented? Fashionable hair accessories, advanced baskets, and pancakes, all of which Myne, with a bit of help, has been able to craft with the meager supplies her family’s stored up for the harsh winter. This may be an isekai, but it’s a decidedly homey and cozy affair despite the socioeconomic conditions leaving said family with a two-room apartment in a packed building and almost no furniture.

Yeah, Ascendance is, well, the ascended brain of “reincarnated to another world” premises. This world sucks in the “no opportunities for education and I’m bored” way. There’s some semblance of law and order and no eldritch creatures threaten the city where Myne lives, but the elements are challenging enough and going without modern medicine hasn’t helped.

Through it all though, Myne hasn’t been shy about showing off the retained knowledge from her previous life, even if she has to come up with thin excuses or shrug off questions about how she thought up her “inventions.” She’s also passionate about trying to learn the world’s writing system with a coworker of her father who lets her borrow a slate to write on, seeing as paper is expensive and her attempts to recreate papyrus were for naught. For this, Myne’s dad gave her a bit of slack, but the family still treats her well, clearly prizing her even before Urano took over the body and simply ignoring the elephant in the room that their toddler on death’s door suddenly became a slightly more energetic and significantly brainier kid in an instant.

And can you blame them? The family unit is so warm to be aroundEva is a loving mother, Turi (Tulli? God, we’re doing this again, huh) is an insecure but good-natured older sister, and the father, Gunther, is dependable and doesn’t take his masculinity too seriously, resulting in a charming and open bond with the rest of his family. And of course Myne herself is outwardly polite but internally snarky; she’s truly an adult in a child’s body playing along with the circumstances so as to not be treated like a lunatic, and she’s doing a thoroughly entertaining job of it so far.

Airing in the fall is an added bonusthis time of year I just crave rustic fantasy stuff like madbut even at any other point, Ascendance of a Bookworm would be a genre standout. Slice-of-life-y isekaiand isekai in general, honestlytend to play up their fantastical elements, but Bookworm is getting its mileage out of the opposite: coming up with solutions for shortcomings that affect its cast on a trivial, humbling level. I’m guessing the series will broaden its scope as it goes, perhaps ushering Myne into a spot of relative wealth as a result of her innovations (that would explain That One Guy who came up in the opening scene and in the next episode previews), but I’d also be fine if it just keeps this act up a while longer. Bookworm is charming and relaxing and doesn’t exaggerate its society’s inequities more than it needs to. All things considered, this world seems like a stable, peaceful oneit just needs more options for leisure. Too bad they don’t have anime, huh?
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 3 episodes.

BEASTARS


Summary: In a world of anthropomorphized creatures, there exists a cultural rift between carnivores and herbivores and things between them turn even more south quickly at Cherryton Academy once Tem, a kindly alpaca and actor in the drama club, gets mysteriously murdered. In the wake of his death and the subsequent distrust among students, a stagehand in the club, a second-year wolf named Legosi, is also battling his own primal urges, eventually running into Haru, a promiscuous and outcast rabbit one year his senior.

Yatahaze:
I’m doing it. I don’t care that Netflix picked up the rights to this one and is holding it hostage for a few more months as per usual. I don’t care that I might get falsely labelled a furry for watching a show with a cast of animal people. I especially don’t care about the petty “no CG in muh Japanese cel cartoons!” retaliation from the loneliest, most stubborn corners of the ani-sphere. One episode was enough to hook me and the second cemented its status as one of the season’s best new offerings. Beastars is gooooood.

Granted it’s a tad too early to call its shot, but I’ve surmised this much: the series is using two thematic strands to analyze social competition. There’s the self-explanatory, animalistic divide between carnivores and herbivores, but that just figuratively and literally sets the stage for the more specific conflict here: with Tem dead and their imposing star actor Louis shielding an injury, the drama club needs to re-cast roles in its upcoming events. On this front the dynamics immediately reminded me of those found in say, Sound! Euphonium or Revue Starlight, where the surface-level friendships and rivalries peel back to reveal more complicated goals and histories between the club’s individual members.

As far as I can tell, Legosi’s interest in the club is minimal, but he may be positioned to take up a more public role against his wishes. He certainly doesn’t enjoy the attention he already gets just by virtue of being a tall, shy carnivore, and what’s more, the silhouettes and lurking hands of the killer from the opening montage don’t give away whether the deed was undeniably done by another character or a less lucid Legosi himself. He doesn’t act like he did it and I’d like to assume he didn’tboth in appearance and personality he’s basically a furry Shouya Ishida and it’s kind of adorablebut it’s anyone’s guess as to whether he’s guilty of the crime we witnessed early on.

Anyway, while all that is going down, things aren’t so happy-go-lucky among the herbivores either. The aforementioned bunny girl Haru is getting bullied by her dorm mates, belongs to a rooftop gardening “club” that solely consists of herself, and has effectively been branded a slut by her peers. There’s bound to be much more to her than what’s been disclosed so far, but she seems begrudgingly comfortable about sexual deedsso much so that when Legosi pays her a visit asking for stage props and can’t get his words out, she assumes he wants bodily pleasure. The whole situation is played for laughsand as that brought episode two to a curveball of an ending, I did chuckle a bitbut the pair still strike me as incredibly sad, and I’m not sure whether the comfort they’ll supposedly seek together as friends or maybe even a couple can really fix whatever deeper insecurities plague them.

Oh, and that’s not even factoring in how just prior to this, Legosi wounded Haru in a nighttime thirst for flesh that he barely snapped out of in time. One of the characters literally can’t control their body under certain conditions. The other has been made a pariah for doing what she pleases with hers. The whole “being different species” thing renders even the basic premise of this relationship anatomically questionableand I’m not sure if Beastars’ chicken-headed mangaka really thought that far beyond the allegoricalbut if opposites attract, there’s plenty of dramatic irony and suppressed feelings to untwirl between Legosi and Haru. They’ve already done enough all by themselves to make me wholeheartedly interested in what Beastars has up its sleeve.

That said, while I almost always prefer good characters to a fully-fleshed world, I’d love Beastars even more if it can prove to successfully multitask on that front. It’s been revealed that the “meat” the characters eat in their school meals and the like is actually a plant-based substitute as per the law, and I’m not sure what angle the series will take regarding a society that restricts half its members from embracing their “true nature,” but be it by accident or by foresight, Beastars is bound to say something on the matter. Couple that with the theater troupe’s aim of producing a titular “Beastar,” a person who demands the utmost respect based on their civic accomplishments, and there’s just gotta be a larger, more overt political takeaway from this too. It’s just too early to ascertain many specifics.

Oh, and lest I forget, the show looks wonderful. This is Studio Orange’s grand return after adapting the opening arcs of Land of the Lustrous two years ago, and they’ve continued to fine-tune their expressive and immersive CG-based animation to what should be a round of applause. I understand some people’s skepticism around this technique in the medium, but there’s nothing inherently “wrong” with it, and when, as Orange does, the entire show gets adapted with this in mind (and with decidedly beneficial “non-human” character models at that!), there’s a cohesion and craft clearly evident in the final product. Beastars is tightly written, well-acted, and thought-provoking…but most importantly, it’s a marvel to witness every wince, mental breakdown, and flustered reaction through these cinematic storyboards and passionately detailed cuts. All things considered, Beastars’ opening episodes weren’t my personal #1 favorite offering of the season, but the show is undoubtedly a worthy addition to the watchlist and may evolve into a contender for that top spot as the fall unfolds. Either way, I’m glad it’s here…provided that like me, you aren’t waiting on Netflix to release it.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.

CAUTIOUS HERO: THE HERO IS OVERPOWERED BUT OVERLY CAUTIOUS
(SHINCHOU YUUSHA: KONO YUUSHA GA ORE TUEE KUSE NI SHINCHOU SUGIRU)


Summary:
Ristarte is a decent enough goddess. She knows how to summon the right type of hero to do her dirty work of eliminating Demon Lords for her, at least. That is, until she whisks a certified hottie named Seiya Ryuuguuin to heaven so he can conquer the S-class hellrealm Gaelbarde for her, only for him to be paralyzed by his insecurities and OCD.

Yatahaze:
I want to be very clear about this, because it could render all my excitement for Cautious Hero irrelevant if it’s played the wrong way later; I’m diagnosing Seiya with that, not the show. He displays some of its telltale signs, including but not limited to an irrational paranoia that he’s somehow not prepared for anything and an intense distrust of literally everyone he meetsbut the show itself hasn’t addressed that for the deeper cause that it probably is yet. Right now Cautious Hero is playing up his reluctance to go along with Rista’s job for laughs, partially because he’s the first person she’s summoned who approaches this with any reasonable trepidation, but mainly because he goes so damn overboard with it. Seiya doesn’t have much of a personality beyond this. He exists to be a pain in his own head and in Rista’s side.

And so far, I ain’t gonna lie, it’s working.

I did it. I said it. I’m loving an isekai. An isekai I even beat Haru to. And while I can guarantee you I’ll love it even more if it treats Seiya’s behavior tactfully, I’m fine with it simply letting him be a one-note loner. At the end of the day, Seiya is not this show’s primary draw and Cautious Hero knows it. Rista is who we’re here for. The woman is a loose cannon of horny impulses, short fuses, and silly faces. She’s elevating this title from a novel idea on an old premise to a legitimately entertaining ride that can show the premise who’s boss.

So I’ll be continuing Cautious Hero excited for more of her and the potential for a human element to this quick-witted comedy, but I do have some reservations. If the show decides to turn actively mean (and not in a “get in there and save those villagers you self-absorbed dumbass” way, there’s still some compassion in that) like, mean mean, my patience probably won’t last. And then there’s the matter of its third episode already hitting delays. Whether it’s from typhoon-related hiccups or internal mismanagement, I’m not sure, but it’d be awful for Cautious Hero to go so hard on its opening pair of episodes only to dramatically dwindle back into a merely average animation. The sakuga crucially helps sell this series and its lead duo’s nutty temperaments. Stripping that away will force the writing to have to step up its game, and I don’t think it’s quite ready for that yet. But hey, I can only judge what I’ve seen, and two episodes into Cautious Hero, my judgment call is that I very much want to see more as long as it keeps getting made with this much heart and soul.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.

CHIHAYAFURU SEASON 3


Summary:
The long-awaited, “wait, this is really happening? Hell yeah” third season of karuta-playin’ long-running shoujo Chihayafuru.

Yatahaze:
Yeah, so uh…

This hasn’t aired yet.

But it is coming, supposedly today, in fact, and after an incredibly rewarding series of groupwatches over the summer with some pals, I am up to date on this lovely franchise and very excited to continue with it weekly after its pilot drops. Can’t say anything else about it so far, but rest assured, this one’s one of my most hyped series of the season and I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that in this article. Should be a fun time.
Score score: score
Airing sometime, presumably.

FOOD WARS: THE FOURTH PLATE
(SHOKUGEKI NO SOUMA: SHIN NO SARA)


Summary:
The fourth season and sixth cour of a foodporn ecchi show-turned shounen tournament arc show-turned culinary anti-fascism show. You know it. I love it. The one and only Food Wars.

Yatahaze:
When I write it out like that, I’m kind of amazed at the progression Food Wars has undergone over the years. The Fourth Plate picks up right where Totsuki Train Arc left us after the spring 2018 season, and I mean right where it left off. There’s little room for recap montages and even less for wasted time, and as a result The Fourth Plate’s duo of opening episodes were mighty workmanlike in their approach; re-introduce the current shokugeki participants, have the rest of the cast appear via analytical one-liners, and get the judges’ wardrobes to disappear through an ecstasy of mouthfeel.

And don’t get me wrong, I like that, and to a certain extent I like that one of Food Wars’ resounding strengths has been making and keeping new additions to its absurdly large cast important as the episodes go. However, we’re now six cours into this story and there are a lot of personal stakes on the line as The Rebels take on what remains of Central. The series’ production isn’t slumping, so my one fear comes down to the writing: how do you focus on the most important participants in this gamble while also giving everyone at least a taste of the limelight? Both sides are currently fighting a group shokugeki, and while exchanging ingredients under people’s noses is to be expected, The Fourth Plate hasn’t re-established the full sense of “we’re all in this together” camaraderie that previous seasons have so successfully built from the ground up. Sometimes you can tell when a beloved recipe is missing an ingredient, and I am very much lacking Food Wars’ leadership while Kuga, Mimasaka, and Megishima, hardly the faces of The Resistance, are taking on harder foes. They’re okay characters, but they’re not the soul of this show, and pacing be damned, The Fourth Plate hasn’t started off on the most striking of notes with them hoarding the spotlight.

That will change sooner or later, I’m sure, and this isn’t even the first time Food Wars has returned underwhelmingly then got its act in gear with a few weeks under its belt. Even as it is, a slow-chugging start is hardly a deal-breakerjust bad luck that a relative lull in the drama with these focus characters coincided with the franchise’s return after its longest wait between seasons yet. Not every appetizer needs to wow me, though; as long as the entrée is goodand with Food Wars, it long has beenI see no reason to turn devoted fans away. What’s that? I’m the only devoted fan? Fine, suit yourselves, I’ve got a stomach to fill and clothes to vaporize…and I’m all out of clothes.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.

HIGH SCHOOL PRODIGIES HAVE IT EASY EVEN IN ANOTHER WORLD (CHOUJIN KOUKOUSEI-TACHI WA ISEKAI DEMO YOYUU DE IKINUKU YOU DESU!)


Summary: Seven absurdly talented high school prodigies wake up in another world after being caught up in a plane crash. After they recover, the group sets out to improve their new home while also searching to find a way back home.

Harubruh:
You know what, even the isekai apologist in me was a tad skeptical about this series.

Contrary to prior seasons, I’m practically in the dark regarding all of the isekai series airing this autumn. I had never read this, Cautious Hero, or any other the other titles ahead of this season, and had never considered picking them up. So, I spun the proverbial wheel, and ended up with Choyoyu, or Prodigies, or what the hell ever you feel like calling this show. I’m not typing that entire ludicrously long title again.

You know how I appreciated Kenja no Mago for it happily leaning into its brand of Overpowered Ridiculousness? I’m pretty sure the same rule applies here. Our seven high school prodigies are unparalleled and unprecedented talents at their various callings, covering a wide spectrum of specialties. Consisting of a politician, an inventor, a ninja journalist, a samurai, a doctor, a businessman, and a magicianall of them the best in the world at their individual callings at their young age, it really does seem like they have it all going for them.

Our group quickly gets to work after they wake, assisting a small village as thanks for tending to them. And as Masato, the ultimate businessman, demonstrated with his effortless toppling of a trade monopoly, they have it relatively easy in this world even by isekai standards. Even when an army of crusaders attempts to persecute the group and the village for the in-world crime of handling gold coins, Prince, the ultimate magician, bails everyone out with ease.

Choyoyu is completely absurd and it totally knows it and completely owns it. I mean, one of the primary tools used by the prodigies to gain favor in the new world is freaking mayonnaise. Yes, just the simple condiment. This show is so stupid and so confident in itself, and hell, it’s a decent time-killer. Most of the characters are endearing enough, but surprisingly, it’s been the residents of Elm Village that have been the most interesting to me. Winona’s “cool mom” energy is way off the charts, and her grumpy son Elk has even become likable after assisting with Masato’s business schemes.

Sure enough, not everything is fine and dandy with Choyoyu. The slave element that isekais have a bad tendency to utilize with glee reared its ugly head, but only for a brief moment with Masato purchasing Roo’s freedom at 100 times the slavers market price, then proclaiming that they’ll regret parting with an asset as valuable as the young apprentice. But… I guess I’ll let this one slide, given how it was presented as the ugly thing it is, rather than a supposed asset as some other series are prone to treating it. Just my two cents with regards to this.

Just like with the aforementioned Kenja no Mago, I tend to enjoy the “We should improve society somewhat” brand of isekai stuff more than I don’t.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 3 episodes.

MY HERO ACADEMIA SEASON 4


Summary:
The fourth season of My Boku no Hero Macadamia.

Yatahaze:
As an anime-only watcher, I’ve heard lots of hype for the material ahead of us in HeroAca 4.

Almost none of that hype carried over into its premiere, though. The very first episode of this installment was essentially a recap episode, but not even really a recap, as virtually nothing from the most recent season was spotlighted other than All Might’s impossible-to-forget proclamation that it was a new generation’sor even just a new person’sturn to be the face of great justice. No, instead a reporter came to UA as an excuse to remind the audience what everyone in the class’ quirk issomething you probably won’t have forgotten since the first cour if you’ve been paying any attention. Will that reporter ever come into play again? Who’s to say? He frankly seemed too nice to be anything more than a one-off plot device. This was not the powerful return I was looking for.

Thankfully, the second episode was. Getting back into the actual story again, the UA first years have been advised to only intern under trusted and renowned heroes if they do so at all, and Midoriya at first gave Gran Torino another call only to be redirected to All Might for pointers. Though there’s seemingly something awkward between the two, All Might’s old sidekick Sir Nighteye comes up as an option, and the recently-introduced Mirio Togata is even working alongside him right now, so Midoriya gets a chance to meet the guy through that connection. It’s a chance that we’ll have to wait another week to see the results of, but things aren’t looking great; the two students stumble in on Nighteye tickling a partner and Midoriya’s attempt at breaking the ice with humorsomething he acknowledges he’s not great atcompletely backfires. This too wasn’t exactly the return I envisioned, but it’s one I’ll gladly take.

Anyway, you know the drill here, I don’t have to explain myself. HeroAca is one of the few long-running shounen I’ve watched, I’m still invested in its characters and ability to pull off stunning arcs and battles, and I have no reason to drop it with a hotly-anticipated set of events supposedly waiting just around the corner. During my teen years, I briefly wondered if I’d stop looking forward to Saturday morning cartoons. The source changed a little, but as long as My Hero Academia is around and airs when it does, the answer to that is a firm “no.”
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.

ORESUKI: ARE YOU THE ONLY ONE WHO LOVES ME?
(ORE WO SUKI NANO WA OMAE DAKE KA YO)


Summary:
Alleged nice guy and average high school boy Amatsuyu Kisaragi (nicknamed “Joro” by his friends) gets invited out to dates by his childhood friend, “Himawari,” and his senpai in the student council, “Cosmos.” Each of the dates ends with the girls confessing to Joro that they like his best friend instead and with them enlisting his assistance in getting close to his pal. Joro’s good-guy act rapidly unravels.

Harubruh:
The speed at which OreSuki went from being not even remotely on my radar to becoming one of my most anticipated shows of this autumn is kind of astounding. I had this show chalked up to just being another cliche rom-com harem, especially with that red herring of the introductory bit in the pilot.

This impression was quickly shattered once Joro threw his tantrum after his disastrous dates, Death Note nod and all, and the tone change from there on was a glorious one. Seeing his reactions to how completely and utterly his plan to create a rom-com out of his school life backfired after the turn in the first episode completely sold me on OreSuki.

From Joro’s copious usage of gratuitous English in his reactions to his moments with Himawari and Cosmos to the generous peppering of reactions from the cast, the voice work is outstandingespecially by our main-character-turned-background-character’s seiyuu, Daiki Yamashita. Add to that a rather decently pretty visual production and the brilliant usage of its soundtrack, and OreSuki has continued to catch my attention with something with every episode. It’s an unexpectedly phenomenal effort by Connect, who appear to have only started handling works solo starting this year. Wild.

I mean, you know the show is doing something pretty damn good when this silly rom-com can make an inanimate park bench one of the most daunting anime villains that I can recall in recent memory. In that regard, the parody rendition of the iconic “Imperial March” from Star Wars’ soundtracks that accompanies said bench is probably carrying most of the weight in its scenes following Himawari and Cosmos’ moments, but hey, it absolutely works for me.

OreSuki’s anime got me interested enough to check out the manga, which took a decidedly different plot route in the beginning whilst overall maintaining a similar heading up through to Joro’s second confrontation with Sun-chan at the school library. Joro and Sun-chan’s conniving during the Himawari/Cosmos nonsense was definitely more noticeable in the manga, as was the sincerity of their friendship before and after their confrontations. Now, I’m not sure what differences there were from the original light novel to the manga, but some details of the plot were altered, such as Joro’s severe harassment at school in the aftermath of Sun-chan’s initial plot. I don’t know if they altered it for a quick attempt at a laugh, but I did find the changes noteworthy.

Having read ahead on the manga, the next arc should be another fun one, should they run with it. If the rest of the show turns out to be as wild as its first arc was, you can bet that I’ll be sticking around with this.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 3 episodes.

OUTBURST DREAMER BOYS (CHUUBYOU GEKIHATSU BOY)


Summary:
Mizuki Hijiri transfers to a new school, where she quickly encounters a group of boys with very prominent variations of adolescent delusions. Wacky chuunibyou antics proceed to occur at an alarming rate.

Harubruh:
Wow, so apparently a single Vocaloid song spawned a series of novels, manga, and this anime series consisting of 11 full-length episodes? That’s a hell of a lot of mileage to attempt to get off of one song.

So, how does this anime adaptation fare so far?

Well, if you like your comedies to come with a sense of whiplash, look no further. One second you might be laughing at the goofy reactions usually put on by Mizuki, and then the next, the various flavors of the boys’ chuuni antics may steal a chuckle, if only out of catastrophic secondhand embarrassment. Between the genki Super Sentai fanatic/wannabe Noda, the handsome Takashima, who is hopelessly addicted to 2D girl gacha games, the traditional supernatural-obsessed chuuni Nakamura, or the would-be schemer Tsukumo, there is a lot going on with these boys.

As I write this, and I know it’s only three episodes in, but from a visual standpoint Chuubyou has looked… rather decent so far for a Studio Deen show. Sure, I haven’t watched a show of theirs’ in its entirety since KonoSuba, so perhaps I’m not familiar with their immediately recent works*, but this show has certainly punched above the weight I expected it to. The OP and ED are rather outstanding, with the OP featuring bombastic visuals set to a catchy tune sung by the chuuni boys’ seiyuus and the ED showcasing a very neat pencil-drawn animation style that especially caught my attention.

Despite it meeting the expectations I had set for it, if not surpassing them, I’m still not sure I’m entirely sold on Chuubyou. I was nearly ready to give it an unceremonious drop after the second episode, but the events of the third episode that culminated in a complete break of character for the schemer Tsukumo did a lot to reel me back in, though I’m still undecided on this. I’m really unsure this show can stretch a single song out for this much material and still be a worthwhile watch.

I suppose time will tell if I feel this is worth sticking with. This season is already busy as it is, and I could use the freed-up time to catch up on more promising shows.
Still watching? Maybe? after 3 episodes.
Current score: 5.5/10

* editor’s note: Watch Rakugo, ya dingus. – Yata

 STARS ALIGN (HOSHIAI NO SORA)


Summary: Touma Shinjou’s “light tennis” club is on the verge of being shut down due to his members’ complete incompetence and a redistribution of club funds, but he eyes an opening once Maki Katsuragi, a superficially pleasant student hiding a rougher home life, moves back to the area. But roping Maki into this is hardand getting the rest of the club to step up their game will be even harder.

Yatahaze:
Alright, let’s go down the list. Empathetic, emotionally versatile middle-school drama? Check. Yuuishi Takahashi (Gatchaman Crowds, Tsuritama, etc.) character design credits? Check. Prestigious anime studio at the helm of an original creation? Che-

wait

fuckin’ 8bit is doing this?

Don’t get me wrong, TenSura was fine and they’ve certainly done…other things too…but I was not expecting a series this confident, cleanly-produced, and narratively rich to come flying out of the gates from Studio 8bit. I can’t attest to Kazuki Akane’s résumé that much; almost every major series he’s worked on was from a time before I watched anime and I still haven’t delved into many of his titles from the aughts or earlier, but he’s certainly had the time to develop into a capable storywriter, and Stars Align proves it with what appears to be a genre and style unique from his other works.

That is, it’s a coming-of-age story about awkward teenagers. In other words, it’s My Shit™. The bright visual presentation, undercurrent of adrift sadness, and phenomenal voice acting are also very My Shit™. People reached out telling me Stars Align would be the Yatacore show of the season and they were absolutely right.

Oh, and there’s a story to talk about too, right. Right now the fate of the club is largely ornamental⁠—these opening episodes revolved around getting to know the major players: Touma is strict and persistent at the expense of considering others’ interests. Maki is a master of blunt small talk but too cunning and self-focused (for understandable reasons, we soon see) to bother connecting with most other people. Their apartment complex neighbor Kanako Mitsue also received a fair chunk of screen time as a gloomy, cynical otaku who’s bought into the middle school myth of “weird = righteous.” And then there’s…the rest of the team, who mostly bumble around thwacking rackets into their own skulls or wishing they were somewhere else. They seem like nice boys for the most part, at least in the “we don’t know what the fuck we’re doing and would love it if we could continue to” way. But the winds of change are a-comin’ for this club. Maybe. Or maybe not. I could honestly care less about their collective fate and just went them to find some solace in each other.

Because yeah, Stars Align looks gorgeous and summery and fun but when it wants to snap into a depressive scene it does so violently and with little warning. Some of these have told all while others are just tips of icebergs. For instance, Maki lives with his mom, and his good-for-nothing goon of a father has barged into their new living quarters in spite of a restraining order, stolen cash for his own purposes, and physically abused his son without a second thought. It seems jarring at first, but all of Maki’s behavioral tics line up afterward⁠—his quick reflexes and preference to never wait, his terse, defensive sarcasm, and his automatic (if ultimately pointless) response to look through the peephole before answering the door all hint at a child who’s grown up learning how to absorb and hide hardship, and if there’s one thing that grabs my heart out of my chest and teabags it, it’s shows about adolescence with inherently good kids trying to convince themselves their shitty lives are just par for the course. Something’s similarly going on between Touma and his mother, who can’t stomach the thought of really engaging with her son for reasons unbeknownst to us at the moment.

But not all hope is lost! Far from it, in fact, as Touma and Maki each comfort a bullied gay classmate in episode two and seem likely to be forced to get to the heart of the matter between their own tension as well. While immeasurably less abstract and zany, I’m actually finding this to be something of a Sarazanmaia story about our endeavors to share and hide troubling secrets from people we should be able to trust. Maybe I’m reading too far into it, but [VIBE CHECK] yep, yeah, I’m certain of it, that is indeed the vibe I’ve received here. And I’m all for that! Stars Align’s aesthetic sensibilities line up with my own to a T and its poignant, painful depiction of cheery and harrowing subjects alike has me gripped and downright impressed. If it can stay anywhere near this level of tastefully incisive without losing its dashes of heartwarming moments, don’t be surprised if it sprints away from the pack as my favorite show of the season.
Current score: 8.5/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.

SWORD ART ONLINE: ALICIZATION – WAR OF UNDERWORLD 


Summary: Following the siege of the Axiom Church in the previous season, Alice returns to Rulid Village while tending to a semi-comatose Kirito. Elsewhere in the Underworld, the remainder of the Integrity Knights prepare for an invasion from the Dark Territory, while in real life, the Ocean Turtle attempts to stave off a raid by unknown gunmen.

Harubruh:
It’s that time of the year again. That two-cour break zoomed by, and yet it felt like forever! The SAO-appreciating half of FGJ is pleased with its return.

War of Underworld wasted zero time getting back into the nitty-gritty, showing us Alice and Kirito’s escape from the Central Cathedral and subsequent return to Rulid Village, or the outskirts of it, with the village still looking down upon Alice as a criminal for her transgression in Alicization’s opening act. Rulid Village’s judgement is quickly put to rest after Alice intervenes to protect Rulid from invading monsters in dramatic curb-stomping fashion.

I’ve already heaped my shares of praises on SAO in recent months, but jeez, this show keeps getting more and more polished with each season! The presentation of Alice’s battle with the goblin army was a sight to behold, and Yuki Kajiura’s soundtrack carried it to the next level. I’m glad that A-1 Pictures is still clearly treating Sword Art Online like its pride and joy.

I’ll keep it simple and get straight to my point, as I don’t really know if I can heap any more praise on this show. What’s fun is good, and Sword Art Online is fun, and therefore it is good. War of Underworld’s gonna be a blast.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.

WE NEVER LEARN SEASON 2
(BOKUTACHI WA BENKYOU GA DEKINAI SEASON 2)


Summary:
Sequel season to BokuBen. Hallelujah.

Harubruh:
The autumn of blessed sequels began with none other than one of Yata and I’s favorite shows from this spring, and I think I’m pretty safe in saying we’re both glad that BokuBen is back.

Wasting absolutely zero time, BokuBen jumped right back into its brand of nonsense, starting off with a bit amongst our study group where Fumino misinterprets a conversation about quiz grades into one about bra sizes, which even entailed some clever wordplay towards the end, much to my enjoyment and Nariyuki’s misfortune. Additionally, I continue to get tons of laughs out of BokuBen’s recent streak of dunking on Mafuyu, whose night-and-day difference between her slobby demeanor at home yet professional educator public persona never ceases to entertain. Oh, and Asumi continues to secure her spot as best girl, though the competition is still super close. Though most harems usually play off the strength of a goofy yet lovable cast, I’ve found BokuBen‘s to be probably one of the more endearing ones in recent memory.

Following successful adaptations of Haikyuu!!, Boku no My Hero, and other series, it’s been kind of an oddity as of recently to see an anime adaptation of a Weekly Shounen Jump title and my first thought was that the show’s probably an enjoyably safe bet, with me having been jaded by the so-so Studio Pierrot adaptations of Weekly Shounen Jump works of the mid to late 2000’s. Sure, BokuBen isn’t quite the substantially heavy experience that The Promised Neverland has been, nor the excitement machine that Haikyuu!! has turned out to be, but hot damn, it’s always fun watching this dense study group bumble their way through their sessions.

On a side note, I’m not as fond of the sequel’s OP and ED as I was of the first season’s outstanding offerings, but they’re still passable, and the visuals on that OP are somewhat fun to watch, even if the song isn’t up to par compared to the first.

I’m happy that our group of study dummies are back, because BokuBen sure figures out a way to brighten my weekends.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 3 episodes.


And that’s all on this edition of For Great Justice. What were your favorite premieres of the season? Got anything good on your watchlist that we overlooked? Feel free to give us a shout in the comments here or over on Twitter. As always, thanks for reading, and we’ll see y’all again next time.

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