Born to die, world is a fuck. Spring anime are here. Or rather, some are, some were, and some were going to be, but this pandemic is wreaking havoc on the normal way of things, and Japan’s animation industry has found itself no exception. It’s at a weird time, too—this season had just gotten under way, and since aaaaalmost everything that had planned to premiere did (SAO, Oregairu, etc., we’ll see you eventually), we here at FGJ still have a lot to talk about. So yeah, the bad news: this anime season may be cut short. The good news? If enough series can weather the storm, a lot of great stuff has emerged this time around. Haru and Yata are both here, running down the 21 combined shows they peeped over the last week. What’s worth sticking around for? Find out on this chonkin’ big slate of first impressions.
Summary: Following a series of incidents, Appare, a socially inept young engineering prodigy, and Kosame, a straightforward but timid samurai, find themselves stranded in Los Angeles. With Appare simply desiring a job that indulges his urge to tinker with machines, and Kosame simply wanting the monetary means to reunite with his family back in Japan, the two set out to participate in a grand race across the United States.
…is this a cannonball run anime…
…Is this a Cannonball Run anime?…
…HOLY SHIT SON, IT’S A FUCKING CANNONBALL RUN ANIME!
Discounting a theatrical masterpiece and a certain sequel to one of my all-time favorite anime, it’s been quite a while since P.A. Works has turned out a work that has truly excited me as much as Appare-Ranman. Hell, up until I actually sat my ass down and watched the pilot, I still had my doubts about it. I nope’d away from A3, didn’t give a shit about Fairy Gone, Sirius the Jaeger OR Kuromukuro, only acknowledged Uma Musume for the meme material, and ADHD’d away from Sakura Quest with the nagging burns of Charlotte, HaruChika, and Glasslip still fresh on my mind at the time. Oh yeah, remember Irozuku? I’ve had that show downloaded and sitting on my desktop for almost two years now, and I’ve still yet to start on it. Whoops.
Seriously, P.A. Works does some fantastic animation work on some narratives whose quality is seemingly decided by the flip of a coin. Another and NagiAsu were good shows in spite of their flaws, and Shirobako and Uchouten (at least the first anyways) are masterpieces. So which side of the coin does Appare-Ranman fall on? Well, it sure looks like we have a potential winner in the making!
If my over-eager intro to this blurb didn’t clue you in slightly, 1981’s The Cannonball Run is among my all-time favorite films; I’ll spare you the long-form lecture, but simply put, it’s an iconic film amongst us gearheads. A corny comedy film inspired by an actual outlaw race across the United States held two years prior, The Cannonball Run inexplicably proved to be a commercial success not just in America, but also in Japan, and the film’s influence on this humble anime airing nearly 40 years later is utterly undeniable.
Get a bunch of ambitious (and frankly stereotypical) characters together, throw them in some absurd souped-up cars, pit them against one another in a free-for-all race from sea to shining sea. Appare-Ranman spices it up in the expected anime fashion, with absurdly flashy character designs, ridiculous race cars, and a spaghetti western theme beginning to build, sure to show itself when our racers reach the still-untamed American Frontier.
The show’s even hinted at some deeper themes to possibly be explored, such as Xialian’s desire to race despite being belittled as a woman working in motorsports, a world that essentially excluded women completely at the turn of the century, and still to this very day struggles with chauvinism. Additionally, with Chinese, Japanese, Native American, and African-American characters amongst the cast, I’m quietly hoping that this show either explores some of issues that concerned these people during the era, especially in the turn-of-the-20th-century American West, or that the show simply leans into a “fuck the racists, let’s go fast” thing. With all the bullshit going on these days, I’m a tad hungry for either of those right now, y’know?
Appare-Ranman is a stylish show about trailblazers in an era rife with engineering innovation, and with the first two episodes running on all cylinders, it’s kind of a shame that it is among the ever-growing list of shows whose productions have seen an indefinite hold as a result of the ongoing global pandemic. Guess after episode three airs, I might as well get around to finishing Irozuku. No spoilers on that one, please.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 2 episodes. Will be on indefinite hold after episode 3.
Summary: Arte is the only daughter of the Spalletti household, a family of Florentine nobles who have begun to decrease in influence following their patriarch’s death. Refusing to give up the passion he had imbued in her, Arte runs away from home, hoping her artistic skill and tenacity will attract the eye of a studio, but it’s Renaissance Europe and the men running the show don’t want to acknowledge that women can be capable artists. After several dead ends, Leo, a grizzled and taciturn painter, uncharacteristically accepts Arte as an apprentice, but she’ll have to take care of her own living conditions beyond that.
This spring is stacked. Even the shows I didn’t love throughout this first impressions cycle delivered some semblance of respectable hook, so choosing what to stick with was less a matter of “what shows aren’t doing it for me” and more a matter of “which show will keep me eager for more?” Arte didn’t keep me eager for more. It’s solid enough, and Mikako Komatsu’s performance as the series’ protagonist is laudable, but the plot beats here are delivered with such a merely satisfactory absence of gusto that unless you’re just really in the mood for a historical women empowerment story, there’s not a hell of a lot to otherwise write home about here.
And to clarify, that’s okay; if you want a historical women empowerment story, I don’t have any reason to believe Arte will gravely disappoint in that regard, and perhaps it may offer some beefier commentary on art as a medium and Florence as an environment too, but this pilot kept things straight and simple. Its laser focus was more rewarding than most anime premieres, but the flip side of that means it also failed to indicate any desire to overachieve. If Arte was an alignment, it’d be pretty damn close to this season’s True Neutral. It is what it appears to be on the tin and to that end presents an acceptable but not incredible effort to make its vision reality. I’m running out of ways to make my disappointment in its successes read positively. It’s fine. It’s just far from the only It’s Fine™ show to air over the last few weeks, and I am a picky bastard. Let’s move on.
Final score: 7/10
Dropped after 2 episodes.
Ascendance of a Bookworm didn’t miss a beat picking up exactly where it left us three months ago. Myne (Main? Will I ever figure out which Romanization we’re going with? Probably not) has joined the church in order to receive access to their library, and thanks to some mana-fueled hard power and thorough negotiating, she’s allowed to commute there from home, continue her work with Benno and Lutz to some capacity, and don blue robes, a serious status symbol. But not all is well—the church is still very skeptical about their new recruit’s self-interest, and they’ve stuck her with three retainers, only one of whom our heroine can stand. Fran is his name, and even then, to Myne’s distaste, he’s essentially been assigned what Lutz’s role in the story thus far has been. Lutz is still in the picture, but he can’t accompany his partner-crush everywhere, especially now that he’s training more diligently for his apprenticeship.
With such a small window between cours, I’m glad Bookworm didn’t feel the need to waste an episode on a recap, especially since momentum has been this show’s friend from the start; whether its events were grounded or more overtly fantasy-tinged, the series hasn’t significantly stumbled yet with its movement of events. Character-wise, now’s a good time to remind readers that I wasn’t fond of Myne’s outburst towards Lutz when he grew suspicious about her history last cour, but that one out-of-character scene is the only gaffe Bookworm has made with its own internal tone. Its field of vision is getting larger than it’s ever been, and I’m curious if that will trip it up or just allow it to play to its strengths even more. Bookworm’s first season didn’t have to bring any threads or ideas to a close, and in that regard, this second half of the story is about to navigate uncharted waters. That’s the only cause for concern right now—seems like the rest of the ride should be as charming and clever as ever.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.
Summary: Michiru Kagemori, a tanuki beastman, seeks refuge from persecution by heading to Anima City, an area where beastmen are allowed to “be themselves,” but once she arrives, she finds out that’s not entirely true, nor is her new daily reality much less dangerous than the place she fled from. Complicating things even further, most beastmen in the city still take on human form, but Michiru is stuck looking like a raccoon dog…despite insisting that she was actually born human.
Off the high of last year’s feature film Promare, Studio Trigger is back! You know ’em, you either love ’em or hate ’em—the company’s aesthetic shifts from project to project, but a strong fondness of Western cartoons and brash, loud action setpieces typically define most of their work. Not that all their output is homogeneous—the specifics of each story and who’s directing it typically make or break their titles, and I’m pleased to report that BNA falls on the successful side of that divide, in part because director Yoh Yoshinari is cementing his status as my favorite of the studio’s masterminds.
It’s actually worth comparing the similarities between this and his last title, Little Witch Academia: both focus on headstrong girls in an overwhelming environment, pitting their self-righteous expectations of justice against a corrupt society that they feel needs dramatic change. In Little Witch, the conspiracy is more benign, but the times they have a-changed, and BNA’s first two episodes have seen our spunky young heroine Michiru become the victim of attempted hate crime, theft, and human (er, beastman?) trafficking, all in her first handful of hours after arriving in Anima City (which, in case you missed it, is a fitting homophone of “animosity”).
That sounds grim, and it can sure get dark quick, but Trigger’s touch has a way of bringing fiery, passionate hope to the forefront, and BNA does so despite Michiru’s exasperation. After living as a victim, she doesn’t want to see anyone, human or beastman, get hurt, and that idealism can only go so far before she has to reckon with the shadowy politicians profiting off Anima City’s status as a haven-hell hybrid. With energy to spare and a nostalgic, neon backdrop inviting the viewer in, BNA’s done a solid enough job setting itself up for its eventual greater conflict. Six episodes are currently available thanks to an early showing, but I’m exercising patience and taking it weekly for now (please don’t spoil things for me, thanks). No matter how you prefer take it in, or your previous thoughts on Trigger anime, this is definitely a series worth a look.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.
Summary: Having moved to a seaside town, the handicraft-oriented Hina Tsurugi encounters a senpai from her school on a breakwater along the coast. Before long, that senpai lures Hina into the Breakwater Club, a fishing group that cooks their catches of the day. Accompanied by another senpai and her childhood pal Natsumi, Hina starts to warm up to fishing at the breakwater.
Doga Kobo could only shy away from the slapstick for so long. Fresh off the heels of last season’s relatively soothing Asteroid in Love, we have the studio’s newest offering, Diary of Our Days at the Breakwater.
While I’m not implying that Breakwater isn’t a soothing or relaxing watch, it certainly has a more comedic focus to it, quickly demonstrated by Hina’s fear of critters on land and from the sea, such as wharf roaches and octopi. Hell, her squeamishness with the latter is perfectly understandable. In the rest of the cast, we have some time-tested archetypes: Kuroiwa, the mischievous yet reliable senpai of Hina; Oono, the quiet glasses girl that keeps Kuroiwa mostly in check; and Natsumi, the energetic childhood friend. It’s a classic composition of personalities, but hey, they’re all an enjoyable bunch, so I don’t mind that at all.
I’ve enjoyed Doga Kobo’s flavor of comedy for a long time now, and they’re certainly exercising their prowess with Breakwater. Each of the girls were instantly endearing when introduced—though I particularly enjoy Kuroiwa’s laid-back vibe and her light teasing of her new kouhais. Considering I tend to enjoy a coastal setting more than an urban setting in both real life and in my shows, Breakwater is a very easy show to kick back with and have a good laugh or two.
That just makes the fact that this got hit with the pandemic postponement sting just a bit more. Damn.
We kind of like fishing shows (or show, I guess) here at FGJ, so this was a welcome entry to my watch roster this spring. Certainly, this is no Tsuritama—but I’m definitely on board for more of this once the pandemic hiatus is done with.
Current score: 7.25/10
Still watching after 2 episodes. Will be on indefinite hold after episode 4.
Summary: A middling salaryman falls asleep after preparing dinner, only to wake up reincarnated as Wendelin von Benno Baumeister, the young son of a noble family. He’s bewildered to discover that not only is his newfound noble family impoverished, but as the eighth son of the family, he has practically no claim to any inheritance or perks one would normally associate with nobility. Well, as he is later known by, sets out to try and carve out his path to prosperity.
Another season, another isekai. I feel it’s somewhat noteworthy that our protagonist wasn’t yeeted to his next life by an errant box truck. Also: Can you isekai authors out there maybe chill with the attempts at these regal names? Well’s full name is a goddamned handful and a half.
Stanning Isekai has been part of my brand for a minute now, but even I’m susceptible to fatigue when it comes to my enthusiasm for the genre. Hachinan offered a brief respite from the typical “OP from step one” narrative with Well’s relatively disadvantaged upbringing making for a serious roadblock for the first couple of episodes: his family and home region are impoverished, not to mention the condescension of his oldest brother Kurt, the heir apparent to what little the Baumeisters do possess.
Growing increasingly desperate after seeing his older brothers renounce the nobility and set off to greener pastures in other lands to find work, Well gets his fortuitous out after discovering he has an affinity for magic, which is an exceedingly rare trait in his newfound world. He also fortuitously finds a master (actually the master finds him) who is able to train him on the fundamentals of magic before having to forever peace out suddenly.
Yeah, I know, I know. This ain’t exactly the best writing, but I pressed on, and gave the third episode a chance after a pre-ED timeskip in the second episode as Well departs for Adventurer Academy. I’m glad I did, because despite Well now possessing OP magic skills, it seems that he’s exchanged his social skills for magic expertise. With him being the sole magician in his class, everyone thinks Well’s reclusiveness is a result of a belief he desires for them to prove their worth to him, whereas Well is simply terrified of leaving bad first impressions on his classmates. Apparently Well turned into something of a shut-in focused on his studies and training during that timeskip, and it’s left the boy incredibly socially inept, and rather relatable as a result.
Can I take some time to direct your attention to Hachinan’s fucking batshit insane lethargic hair metal OP? It’s got such a strange 80’s vibe to it that I simply can’t take my mind off of it. Spring 2020’s already had some truly oddball OPs, but Hachinan’s might just the outstanding “An Attempt Was Made” OP of this season. It’s so lackluster, yet tries so hard, it’s one of those bad-good things I can’t help but enjoy, even if it’s purely ironic enjoyment.
Had it not been for the third episode introducing awkward OP fighter kids attempting to befriend other awkward child endearing itself a ton to me, I might’ve been totally indifferent as to whether I’d drop this now, or later. If this thing gets hit with a Pandemic Postponement like I’m expecting it to be, I can’t see myself picking it back up, but it’s a relatively harmless time-killer watch for the time being, so I’ll stick around for now.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 3 episodes.
It’s been a long six months waiting for its return, but the Fruits Basket reboot wasted no time getting back into the nitty-gritty. I’m glad.
After a very abbreviated recap of the events of last season, we jump back into the daily lives of Tohru Honda and the Sohma family. We get more Yuki and Kyo squabbling, more Kyo and Uotani squabbling, and some unexpectedly heart-tugging introspections of self-hatred from Yuki and one of his love-struck admirers from his fan club at school.
Seems like we already could use a breather after just the first episode, right? Haha, in your dreams, loser! The second episode featured the kids pondering their respective futures as their school has them submit their career plans and arrange for parent/teacher meetings, which will undoubtedly make for some difficulties for the Sohma kids. Kyo pays a visit to his master and father figure Kazuma’s house, surely in attempt to request his presence for said meeting, but his master ends up having to meet with Kyo’s father. Oof.
When Kazuma meets Kyo’s father, the latter launches into a hateful tirade describing at length his disgust for his son for supposedly killing his mother, and Kazuma promptly and calmly shoots down the estranged father’s assumptions before taking his leave. Back home, Kyo accidentally makes Tohru cry after he makes her ponder about her life post-graduation, a life potentially without her newfound family in the Sohma kids. I should’ve known better at this point, but I still didn’t expect Fruits Basket to go this hard this quickly out of the restart!
We’re well past the point of the story I am familiar with, so every episode from here on is a brand-new experience for me. Hopefully my heart can handle the roller coaster that’s surely in store ahead.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.
Summary: After a night of drinking, a gyaru named Kaede and a middle-aged man named Mieharu wake up to realize they each brought a mute blobby dinosaur home with them. These two timelines aren’t seemingly connected, but that hasn’t stopped Kamikaze Douga (of course it’s Kamikaze Douga) from mashing them and some other skits together into pop art jambalaya.
Back when Pop Team Epic aired, I questioned for the first time in a long time if an anime’s form was failing it for me, or if the content was just so out of left field I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy it. Now, I think I have my answer, but it’s not the one I wished it were; Gal & Dino follows in PTE’s footsteps in that it’s Adult Swim-ready late night entertainment that eschews conventional plot structure and would probably be more fulfilling viewed high than sober. Unlike PTE, it’s surprisingly wholesome in character, more generous in its use of verbal space, and feels less intentionally crude with regards to artistic experimentation.
I’m still not gonna watch it.
But I was tempted to, and that’s progress! The deal is this: I can get on board with “plot-less” media and skit-reliant anime in particular (look no further than my appreciation of basically any snappy schoolkid gag comedy from the past decade), but some shows just feel too lethargic compared to their actual payoff, and Gal & Dino isn’t immune to that hurdle. Through two episodes, my experience has been thus: the Kaede skits are enjoyable, the animator showcase skits make my attention drift, and the Mieharu half just makes me wish it were a separate series. Gal & Dino would be a fantastic premise for a 5 to 10-minute weekly short. It doesn’t have to be as long as it is, and I’d argue its charm actually wears off the longer you watch any given episode of it.
The solution to that, of course, is “watch it however you want,” which runs counter to the whole idea of the show being constructed how it is in the first place. I don’t want to watch a quarter of Gal & Dino each week; I want to desire to watch The Thing Itself each week, and The Thing Itself does not entertain in enough of its entirety for me to justify the extra content.
Will I keep an eye out for supercuts of the show’s “meat” later on? Of course! Maybe marathon the Mieharu skits someday for a laugh? Sure. But if it wasn’t clear before, it’s crystal clear to me now that Kamikaze Douga’s go-to form, however encouragingly against the grain it is, doesn’t lend itself well to my consumption habits. But that’s not on Gal & Dino—that’s on me. If you’re less averse to the studio’s off-kilter, pop arty aesthetic and refusal to cooperate with the average person’s attention span, don’t let my party poopery turn you away. Just know what amorphous entertainment you’re getting into.
Final score: 6/10
Dropped after 2 episodes.
Summary: One day, Shuichi Kagaya inexplicably became able to transform into a creepy, mascot-like beast, complete with inhuman super-strength and a zipper that opens to his back flesh. Despite his better judgment, he saves a girl from a remote warehouse fire, but he drops his phone during the rescue, and the girl he let live, Clair Aoki, turns out to be a psychopathic junior from his school. As another monster-person intercepts them, the dysfunctional duo combines forces and just like that, they’re both murderers! More carnage to come.
Now, see, this is the part where I’d normally lead with a disclaimer about how Gleipnir isn’t “good” or something, but I think that summary should tip you off that we’re dealing with an edgy as hell deathgame anime here. What that summary doesn’t tell you is that it’s also hornier than a triceratops, and not just in the typical “oh look, a panty shot” way. This thing’s premiere is fuckin’ uncomfortable—it’s the middle of summer, everyone’s soaked in sweat, Clair strips in one scene just because, Shuichi almost strips Clair in another scene just because, and I haven’t even mentioned the fursuit, vore, and (arguable) piss fetishism it indulges in by the end of the second episode.
That summary and the above paragraph also don’t tell you the real punchline here: that I’m sold on it. I don’t expect Gleipnir to be something I eventually recommend, and let’s make this clear now—there’s plenty of room for it to devolve into an incoherent mess of tortureporn by its end—but these first two episodes felt refreshingly disarming in a way I haven’t witnessed from a series of this ilk in years. When you’ve seen one of these supernatural manhunt shows designed for awkward 14-year-olds into body horror, you’ve seen them all…except when they truly go a step above and beyond, and boy, does Gleipnir ever. Its direction is engrossingly imposing, its sexual undertones hit notes more similar to Flowers of Evil than your average shounen edge-schlock, and the dynamic between Shuichi and Clair reeks of that strand of toxic dependency that I personally find very weighty in fiction.
Will Gleipnir, like, do anything with all of that? The jury isn’t just out on that front, it’s stuck in traffic miles away. But just like Shuichi’s worst nightmare is some viewer’s ultimate wet dream, this show’s ultra-violence is another person’s comedic respite. For instance, Clair manipulating Shuichi into tag-teaming lest she re-attempt suicide is very not funny, but it also is, because at this point, nothing that happens in Gleipnir’s hell-verse can be superimposed onto the real world. That ship has already set sail, and it has set sail while on fire. From the safety of the shore, I will continue to observe it, analyze it, and commit the disaster in front of me to memory. Why? Because it’s entertaining to. No ulterior motive is necessary. Finally, some good fucking junk food. You probably shouldn’t watch Gleipnir. I will be.
Current score: and a dark wind blows/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.
Kaguya-sama’s first season was an admirable entry in its genre and ranked among my favorite handful of shows from 2019, but I wasn’t always that positive about it. A strong gradual climax in its second half transitioned the series from a mere gag show with above-average direction to a genuine drama with longer-lasting stakes and little a development, as a treat. To say it ended on a high note is an understatement, but that also meant its first half in comparison looks even more repetitive than it probably actually was.
That is to say, though I love Kaguya-sama, I love the whole more than the sum of its disparate parts, and since I held off from checking out the source material in this adaptation’s brief absence, I can’t tell you which route the series will opt for during this new stretch of its run. The question mark in the title, continuing anime’s obscure trend of delineating sequels by mere punctuation, means I’m getting my hopes up: when Kaguya-sama thrives, it does so by finally breaking down the walls its leads construct around themselves and their charade of disinterest.
I’d of course love more serious stuff with Kaguya and Miyuki, but I also wouldn’t complain about a more comprehensive dive into the show’s side characters. Alternatively, this show was born from inessential skits and would kind of be nothing without them. The balance is key, and one episode is too little screentime to judge a new season’s balance on. Regardless, if you liked what Kaguya-sama was doing before, I see no reason to jump ship now, and whether this sequel takes a turn for the stronger, weaker, or refuses to turn at all, I’m solidly on board with these kids and their desperate romantic tension by now.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 1 episode.
Summary: Kakushi Goto may be a cult icon porn illustrator, but that doesn’t mean he can’t also be a family man! He dearly cares for his daughter Hime, but he’s equally mortified of eventually having to reveal to the kindly kiddo what his actual occupation is. To avoid the topic, he abides by an elaborate routine to avoid her while he’s working.
If we were any number of other websites, this is the part where I’d tell you that “kakushigoto” is in fact a multi-faceted pun about secrets, artistry, and family names, but as much as I like puns, I’m not so vain as to purport to understand ones made in a language I do not speak. Some slang in anime comes naturally to long-time foreign viewers. Some does not. A majority of what I’m told is supposed to be ironic or witty in Kakushigoto does not.
Is that a fair criticism of the show? No, and I’m not making it out to be one. Abroad, non-Japanese speakers are a small fraction of who this series is intended for, and me not understanding every nook and cranny of Kouji Kumeta’s (Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Joshiraku, etc.) iconic wordplay isn’t his or the series’ fault, but it is a legitimate barrier to entry. But hey, even if art of the written word can be culture-dependent, emotions are a more universal phenomenon, and this wholesome father-daughter work dramedy at least delivers a more accessible hook on that front, right?
…weeeeeeell, I wanted it to. It sure seemed compelling to a lot of my peers, but for all Kakushigoto’s conceptual humor, I haven’t found myself hooked. It’s not a tonal problem in the sense it would be for a less tasteful anime: Kakushi and Hime don’t get up to any inkling of taboo perversion with each other [insert massive sigh of relief] and in general Kakushi doesn’t strike me as much of a womanizer, but his jittery delivery courtesy of the one and only Hiroshi Kamiya means Kakushi fails to separate himself from the same typecast voice Kamiya always ends up playing, and there are only so many Nah-raragis I can take before the cognitive dissonance kicks in.
With Kakushigoto it kicks in hard. That particular narrative voice pulls most of the weight for the show’s personality, but it’s a personality that I don’t find congruous what the tone you’d expect. I suppose it makes sense; it stresses the dual life Kakushi leads as a dorky chatterbox in his publishing circle and as a poor and devoted single (?) father in his home life. Both worlds are in and of themselves fairly enjoyable; his coworkers are various degrees of charming and Hime’s youth excuses her lack of much self-actualization for the purposes of the premise, but…there’s just something that’s not clicking for me here.
On paper, I mostly like this. Visually, I am a very big fan of the character designs, bright color palette, and jumpy pacing. While watching it, however, it all ends up a bit more grating than I fancy. If Kakushigoto proves to be an enduring favorite of the season, I may well give it a second chance with a more forgiving headspace, but right now, it’s just not giving me the same Feels as the stuff I’ll be continuing. I’m surprised too.
Final score: 6.5/10
Dropped after 2 episodes.
Summary: In a land ravaged by shadow-cast monsters called “the Earless,” most of humanity ekes out a humble life of labor while the destined few known as “Players” battle the Earless with mech-like equipment. Echo is one such lowly human, content to sift through mountains of scrap for salvageable goods and read the latest Player zines in awe until he meets an amnesiac Player in the rubble. Chased out of town, Echo and his new companion, who he names μ (Mu), set forth on an adventure.
“Hold on,” you’re saying. “A techie in puppy dog love runs away with a light blue-haired mystery girl? That’s Eureka Seven. This show is literally just Eureka Seven again.”
Yeah, exactly, and considering how shit its actual sequel was, I think we’ve fuckin’ earned this one. Eight years late is better than never. Welcome back, Dai Sato. I missed you.
And by “you,” I more accurately mean I missed your on-the-nose music references as an ethos in and of itself. This has been a major source of critique for others, but I’m frankly appreciative that he and the rest of the team working on Listeners didn’t bother overthinking the terminology here. In these first two episodes, I caught nods to Oasis, Dream Theater, Merle Haggard, and Prince, all seemingly just for the hell of it. Like Eureka Seven, Listeners is already an unabashed love letter to a medium beyond itself, and it dares you to introduce the word “subtlety” to its lexicon. It’s not there, and so far, it doesn’t need to be. With characters this cheerful despite a shitsack world, the brightest heroes of the season can be a timid boy, his homemade amplifier, and a rebellious, hip manic pixie dream girl. It’s nostalgia season, I am being pandered to, and I’ve left my shame at the door.
What’s that? You’re asking if Listeners is a good show? Depends what you’re looking for, assuming you don’t share my unconditional giddiness. On one hand, this series’ pilot was essentially tried and true cliché after cliché. If that sort of thing universally turns you off, so be it, but in the hands of masters, those tropes persist for a reason, and I’d say Sato, fellow writer-composer JIN (whom you may recall from his vocaloid work across the last decade), and the seiyuu do a remarkable job at selling this turn of events and the world it takes place in. Though the causality is laughably predictable, the setting itself oozes character, and for a premiere whose primary goal is to get viewers invested in tagging along for an adventure, I’d unflinchingly label its first effort as a win.
Its second episode…well, let’s just say it wasn’t as promising as the first. Not that that’s inherently a problem, but it should be noted that my rousing enthusiasm masks the fact that I don’t have any damn idea what this series’ endgame will be, and that renders most of its introductory detail moot until later. Its OP is packed with characters. I have no idea how many episodes we’ll be receiving in order to meet them all. And themes? Don’t currently know, don’t currently care.
Maybe it’ll Carole & Tuesday and get explicit with politics at the expense of those characters. Maybe it’ll stay aloof as can be, “plot” thrown out in a fog of jargon and good vibes. Presumably, Echo and Mu will make their way out of the forest back to civilization, where they’ll encounter other Players, learn a hidden truth about their world, and overcome some sort of opposition together, but so far, its eventual route has come second to being fun, and I think it should be allowed to. Few anime have plastered a smile on my face lately quite like the first two episodes of Listeners did, and all great rock ‘n’ roll road trips start with a vague destination and a bold declaration. My diagnosis is this: Listeners may not end up somewhere worthwhile, but it was born to run, and for now, I’m running with it.
Current score: 8.5/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.
Summary: When you’re so bad at policing you get sent to the Modern Crime Prevention Headquarters, you know you’ve fucked up…or you would, if you were aware enough of your surroundings to not end up on the proverbial bench in the first place. Daisuke Kanbe severely lacks that tact, though, and with an essentially limitless fortune at his disposal, his collateral-heavy brand of detective work is about to cause a headache for his new coworkers.
Alright, look. There are very few things in this world I harbor passionate disdain for, but three of them happen to be filthy rich asshats with no regard for other people’s autonomy, agents of the state who abuse their power (see also: the police), and edgelords who get off to trivializing atrocity, historical or otherwise. The Millionaire Detective happens to be connected to not one, not two, but all three of those touchy subjects. Daisuke, the titular detective, is a mean-spirited, self-righteous little shit, and so is his author, Yasutaka Tsutsui, who has produced some great writing over the years, but revealed himself as a pretty damn rotten figure after suggesting he wanted to, uh…I’ll let you read for yourself.
Regardless, in some circumstances, I can separate the art from the artist. I have with Tsutsui before and greatly enjoy adaptations of his work such as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Paprika (even if their adapters are the primary reason for that). What’s more, those titles have endearing characters, and the most endeared I felt to any character in The Millionaire Detective’s pilot were the two lovebird comic relief robbers who accidentally targeted a gourmet chocolate shop instead of a lucrative business.
The pretext beyond that served as an excuse to let Detective Kanbe go on a rampage through the city, destroying anything in his path and undermining his own coworkers’ action Just Because He Can. In less directly destructive terms, these assholes exist in real life. They are already a bane to my existence. I do not need to see them half-glorified and half-“oh, silly you”-d for 25 minutes a week. Make no mistake: if that sort of thing isn’t an immediate turnoff for you, The Millionaire Detective is a smoothly-directed, fashionably-produced ride that may be well worth your investment, especially compared to the myriad of anime per season that struggle to move this well to the eye. Passing that bare minimum of craftsmanship doesn’t immediately make an anime “for me” though, and this one is Extremely Not For Me indeed.
Final score: it really isn’t hard to not mock war crimes, you know/10
Dropped after 1 episode.
Summary: Catarina Claes is the spoiled, bratty young daughter of a duke living a life of comfort, at least until she trips and smashes her head into the ground. This jolt to the brain unlocks memories of her previous life as an otaku, cognizant that she is now the villain of her favored otome game, Fortune Lover. Realizing that all the routes of the game lead to terrible fates for Catarina, she utilizes her knowledge of the game to attempt to avert future disaster.
It’s a big name isekai title that’s been around for nearly five years, and yet I just never picked it up despite all the praise I’d heard for the print versions. Now I’m kind of kicking myself for having procrastinated on that, because Hamefura sure has been a ton of fun!
It’s almost refreshing to see an isekai where the protagonist actually faces some daunting challenges, at least at first. I guess instead of having OP magic or combat abilities, Catarina has OP inadvertent romancing powers, because the girl cannot stop accidentally seducing every friend she makes, regardless of gender or status. I can’t help but chuckle when this dense-ass girl doesn’t realize her smooth-talking ways until after she’s already captured the heart of her latest victim.
Can I take the time to mention Hamefura’s absolutely absurd OP? Wildly bouncing from grandiose choirs to Beethoven’s 5th, to some silly pop stuff and back, with an appropriately absurd visual assortment to match, this is one of the wildest meme OPs I’ve seen in years. If nothing else, give the OP a whirl, it’s quite the experience.
As evidenced by that, it’s clear that Silver Link is having their fun with Hamefura as they did with Bofuri, their standout offering last season. With an equally charming cast and a hilariously entertaining plot, I feel Hamefura is progressing at a comfortable rate, with us jumping ahead a few years in the third episode to Catarina’s 15th birthday—just before the start of the fateful events of the otome game.
At this point so early in the season, Hamefura is easily one of my most anticipated shows amongst the handful I’m covering for this blog. Allegedly its production is already finished or nearly finished, so it thankfully shouldn’t fall victim to postponement as many of my hype shows have this season.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 3 episodes.
Summary: A young adventurer named Yuuki awakens with no memories of the past in an unfamiliar world, with a young elf named Kokkoro at his side apparently sworn to act as his guide. The two bumble about trying to stay alive and make ends meet, where they run into fellow bumbling characters to befriend on their new adventure.
With a new season comes a new mobage anime—guess it is time for me to get my token coverage done with. Fortunately, my first mobage anime trial this season felt anything but token. It had me asking, “Wait, why does this show feel so familiar?” A quick look at Princess Connect’s staff credits quickly answered my question.
There’s an unmistakably Konosuba-esque vibe that permeates the goings-on of Princess Connect, and surely that’s a result of director Takaomi Kanasaki’s influence. From the instantaneous changes of tone from comfy moments to Yuuki getting dragged off by goofy looking packs of wolves, to flashy explosions that’d even make Megumin green with envy, Konosuba’s influence is instantly noticeable in PrinConne. Thankfully, it’s not as noisy, and nowhere near as subversive in tone as Konosuba. Not that I disliked that about PrinConne’s spiritual cousin, but I’m glad that some of my favorite elements of the former have made the latter such a surprisingly enjoyable experience.
Whenever Yuuki, Kokkoro, and Pecorine aren’t being accosted by crazy-eyed wolves or malevolent sentient mushrooms, or a god-damned dragon, they’re usually chowing down on a nice tasty meal and generally just enjoying each other’s company and the place they’re at. That’s not a terribly difficult task, as the main characters of PrinConne are all squishy and adorable enough to hug, and the landscapes they’ve explored are generally pretty, too. This show is super easy on the eyes, and super easy on the soul, too. Comfy vibes abound.
Speaking of the Konosuba influence on this show, of fucking course Jun Fukushima (Kazuma’s seiyuu) has a role as one of the bandits that attempted to filch Pecorine’s prized sword before getting rescued by her from that dragon who also covets her sword. You simply can’t escape it.
I’d seen numerous folks also surprised they enjoyed this humble mobage anime, but I still had my doubts until actually watching it. Seeing truly is believing with Princess Connect. Here’s hoping Yuuki and pals have better luck with those wolves in the coming weeks.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.
Summary: After his father’s sudden disappearance, Minato has suddenly and hesitantly been put in charge of Kibou Company, a firm that hires adventurers to go into dungeons to collect Kirakuri, a mineral and power source of the bustling city they’re based in. He’ll have to learn the in-and-outs of his business quickly to keep the family business afloat, as there’s stiff competition in his newfound trade.
Oh look, another mobage anime!
Oh look, this one isn’t as fun as the other.
Like with most isekai shows, my curiosity tends to get the better of me with these mobage shows. Sometimes I get a good show out of it—Granblue, Merc Storia, and Last Period come to mind—and sometimes I get a completely mediocre offering such as Grimm’s Notes, which I literally had to go through my old writeups to recall the title of because of how utterly forgettable it was.
While Shachibato has some interesting stuff going for it, such as the comparatively modern technology of the world it’s set in, enabled by the resource the various companies are hired to collect, I imagine getting that stuff in the mobage is probably a tedious grindfest. Another notable aspect is the character designs. Nearly everyone in Shachibato is super cute. The girls working at Kibou Company as fighters? Cute. The other boy at Kibou Company working as a healer? Cute. The token rivals from the token rival company? Sure, they’re cute too. Minato, the new bossman of Kibou company? Look at his cute mug and that ponytail, he’s friggin’ adorable.
That said, all these cute faces (especially the girls) have a familiar vibe to them—they remind me a ton of the character designs of OreImo and Eromanga Sensei. Keisuke Watanabe, the chief character designer of Shachibato is apparently credited as an animation director for the former of those two titles, so I suppose the notion isn’t terribly far-fetched. For the moment, Shachibato has stayed away from the deviant streak of those aforementioned shows, and I hope it stays that way.
Though the battles and dungeon stuff aren’t really doing much for me, the kids of Kibou Company are a lively enough bunch who have some enjoyable banter, and the show as a whole has shown a penchant for some good reaction faces, at the very least. I guess that’s worth sticking around for, at least for a bit. I doubt I stick with this for the duration of the season, though.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching (barely) after 2 episodes.
Summary: Underachieving convenience store clerk Rikuo Uozumi, high school dropout Haru Nonaka, the former’s ex-college classmate and latter’s ex-teacher, Shinako Morinome, and Shinako’s friend from back home, Rou Hayakawa, converge upon each other’s worlds at various impasses in their young adult lives.
In the 70-odd hours between when I write this and when it will ideally get published, I really hope Sing “Yesterday” For Me doesn’t get postponed. (Or rather, I kind of hope it does, because that would probably be smart and for the greater health of all the people working on it, but) selfishly, god do I need this adaptation in my life right now. My friends have been hyping up this title for months, and I immediately saw why in this stunning pair of opening episodes: they channel a painfully accurate sense of listlessness that many a fresh adult, myself included lately, has known or will know during this stage of our lives.
The characters’ intersecting pasts have only added to the immediacy of this adaptation: a series that would normally drag out opportunities for misunderstandings can be funny, but that sort of collective obliviousness doesn’t happen often in real life, and certainly not when everyone in the main quartet is pining for details about somebody else. This…worries me. I mean, I trust the series knows what it’s doing (in part because I’ve been told to trust the series knows what it’s doing…mostly), but love triangles between internally unhappy individuals spells nothing but trouble, and I’m already several stations down the line of this Pain Train. I want to see where this goes. I want to give each of these characters a hug and expect nothing from them in return. Sing “Yesterday” hurts to watch, not because is it actively painful, but because for better or worse, these young men and women believe themselves to be confronting their anxieties more than they actually are. Eventually the levies of their hearts will break.
Why do I do this? Why do I keep getting sucked into Sing “Yesterday” and its slow-burning drama kin? The voice acting is superb, for one, as is the muted visual aesthetic that highlights the nuances of body language above all else. But most importantly, to me, the type of story that dissects its characters this vulnerably indicates its writer is capable of great, burdened compassion—an ability to observe why people are the way they are, what their worst impulses lead them to, and how they try to escape the self-defeat that stems from it.
This is that sort of show. Finding yourself—or a form of yourself you could’ve been—is easy when the gut punches land this bare. We tell ourselves a lot of lies in our everyday life, some ultimately helpful, others less so, but the most obvious lies aren’t usually the ones we impose on ourselves; they’re the ones we see holding others, real or fictional, back; Sing “Yesterday” For Me has already fucking eviscerated my own thought process behind “trying” to get a job straight out of college and “settling” for something with less pressure. It’s already exposed a tendency to revere those who on the surface seem “further along” than I am, even if they’re facing their own battles more privately. Anime able to do that, and so instantly, don’t come along every day. That’s not just good animation—that’s stellar writing, period. I refuse to let it slip by me. I just pray I make it out the other side of this adaptation with an intact heart and an intact production.
If you think getting your soul torn to shreds might help in the long run (and I’m living proof there’s an audience for that) you’d be a fool to skip Sing “Yesterday” For Me. It will probably be my Anime of the Season and could well be my Anime of the Year. It’s way too early to make that call, but my conviction in the prediction should tell you just how impressed I am.
Current score: 9/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.
Summary: In middle school, Yomi Takeda’s signature bizarro-knuckleball was too wild to be reliably caught during games, and her old catcher basically shamed her out of the sport. In high school though, she reconnects with Tamaki Yamazaki, an old friend who rekindles her love of baseball.
And now for something completely disposable, it’s a sports anime, alright, this time with a dash of yuri bait and middling production.
What, you surprised that Haru’s our resident baseball bro and he let me take care of this one? That should convey just how excited he was for Tamayomi, and he had the right idea. If you need, just utterly crave a new sports anime this season, this…exists. Remember when that key visual with the t o n e d t h i g h s lit the world on fire? Some artist went hard there. Such thighs were nowhere to be found in the actual product. But that’s irrelevant—as a whole Tamayomi’s already tedious, forgettable, and bland as all get out, and no anime girl thighs would’ve prevented that. It passes by slowly, not necessarily because it’s inherently paced slowly, but because the dialogue is too tame and dry to be immersive, the designs and visual presentation fall flat, and at the end of the day, the only thing setting it apart from the other dime-a-dozen sports anime that air per year is its all-girl cast.
That’s not enough of a variation from the norm to be truly inspiring in concept or practice, and it’s even coming at the most opportunistic time for sports fans in decades. We’re not getting actual baseball right now. The best we can settle for this April is Zoom calls where the Nats mock the Ass-tros and clips of Joe Kelly breaking a window at home. They’re exponentially more engaging than Tamayomi. Harsh? Yes. Do I really dislike the show? Not at all. But I wanted to need it…and I don’t. And that hurts.
Final score: 5/10
Dropped after 1 episode.
Summary: The Tower of God is a massive tower reaching into the heavens. Legend has it that those who reach the top have their desires granted. Having spent most of his life trapped beneath the Tower, our protagonist Bam finds himself on the first floor after following his childhood friend into the Tower’s gate. Ahead of Bam lies many trials and challenges as he tries to reunite with his friend.
Holy hell, is this the first Korean manhwa title to get the anime treatment? It surely can’t be, right? Because this is definitely the first one that I can recall, and that alone makes Tower of God pretty noteworthy.
It’s pretty impressive how well all the parties involved (and there seems like a ton) kept this adaptation hidden, because the announcement for this show dropped only two months ago. That’s a pretty smart play, allowing the anime to drop while hype was still building for it. I had no prior experience with the Tower of God manwha and still do not, but I was aware that it was one of the most popular titles not just in Korea, but worldwide. As with Shield Hero, it was the announcement that Kevin Penkin was composing the soundtrack that suddenly had my attention locked on this show.
As a result of having nowhere in public to go because of the ongoing pandemic, I’ve absentmindedly found myself working at home later at night than I ever have before, and I’ve consequentially been slacking even further on my anime-watching lately. I only got to starting on Tower of God after two episodes had dropped, and I was admittedly worried after seeing more than a few critics I hold in some elevated form of esteem dogpile on the show, and the relative indifference of a majority of the folks I follow.
I don’t get what all the fuss was about, this show is pretty darn good!
While I would’ve been fine if Tower of God was a straight-up dramatic dark-fantasy battle royale as that first episode led me to believe it would be, it took a full watch of the second episode to really warm up to this show. The second episode had a much lighter tone, with Bam, Khun, and Rak’s (and other characters) team-building efforts adding a more humorous tone to the follow-up, and that tenuous balance of drama, battle hype, and the occasional chuckle seem to be the pattern three episodes in. I’m all for it.
Production values look fine to me, too. I’ve seen some complaints here or there about them, but as with most stuff TMS and their affiliates crank out, it’s all fine. Personally, I guess I’d rate the effort in Tower of God at “slightly above average,” as I like the sharp art style and the bold yet simple color palette. The action so far is so-so, as is the integration with the CG, but I find the visuals inoffensive, and heck, even above average compared to lots of other stuff airing this season.
“Is the Penkin soundtrack good?,” some may ask. Yes. That was the easiest given of this whole production.
I don’t know if I can say I have expectations for Tower of God, but I’m rooting for it to be a landmark title not just because it’s to my limited knowledge the first Korean comic to get an anime adaption, but because it turns out to be an outstanding show in its own right. There are a lot of fantastic titles in the manwha market across all the genres we know and love, and I hope Tower of God proves to be a trailblazer for more anime adaptations of the medium. Here’s hoping.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 3 episodes.
Summary: Minare Koda’s life is falling apart. The young woman’s shifts at a tucked-away bar aren’t going smoothly and neither is her alone time in the wake of a messy break-up. Her frustration spills out one night while on the job, and her distinctive drunken voice was recorded by a radio show host and played over the air the following afternoon—to patrons in her workplace no less! Hightailing it off the clock in a frenzy to give the businessman she’d met a piece of her mind, she suddenly becomes an overnight sensation over the waves, and the radio crew that baited her in asks her to stay.
Wave, Listen to Me! begins with Minare hurtling out words at a mile a minute while staring down a bear in the woods. The scenario doesn’t make sense—indeed, it’s not literal—but it takes a few minutes for you to catch up with what’s really happening. In that short time, Minare’s blessing and curse is made apparent: she is loud, aggressive, and thrillingly out of her element. Her personality is intimidating, and now that she finds herself the intimidated, she feels lost. But she’s unexpectedly articulate despite it. She doesn’t fumble over a word even in a high-pressure fiasco. The bear is metaphorical, but the fear is real: as we flash back to how she recently got in this mess, we learn her income is about to hinge on this one chance, a chance that involves her dirty laundry being made public fodder, and her only options are to either let it happen despite her, or commandeer the punchline into something (pun intended) more bearable.
And whew, she manages to, but not before almost giving me a couple of heart attacks. Wave is much like Minare herself; quick on its feet, able to contort a bad situation into one where survival is still an option, and expressive in spite of a relative lack of physical movement. It’s a stressful experience, but it’s stressful in that “damn, that’s rough, at least that’s not me” way, where seeing someone deal with worse becomes oddly comforting. Whatever I can complain about—and right now, there’s no shortage of stuff to complain about—at least some suited old hotshot didn’t blackmail me into a new gig in real time with my whiniest thoughts held hostage. I’m no legal expert, but something tells me Minare’s lipstick stain on a loose sheet of paper isn’t a binding contract and she’s entirely within her right to litigate.
But she doesn’t, and I don’t blame her. The new can be scary, as scary as encountering a bear in the woods, but having a scary job sure beats not having any job, and in this cutthroat environment, she may discover something about herself that talking out loud really fast can’t do on its own. I’m nearing one year into my post-collegiate life myself, and as such I’m really growing appreciative of “adult anime;” ones that approach the working world for what it is and what we perceive it to be. None of us stop learning and growing the minute we enter the workforce, and even if her colleagues are manipulative as hell and her broader outlook right now isn’t looking great, Minare’s panicked and justifiably pissed monologues are hitting home pretty hard.
Who is this anime for? People who need that in their lives, people who love surprisingly rich character sakuga highlights, and presumably, people with an interest in broadcast media. I can’t verify if a radio junkie would connect with Wave’s depiction of the inner workings of the business, but I can assume that they know an entertaining host when they hear one, and Minare Koda’s voice is one I’m very eager to hear more of as the season continues.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.
Summary: Poet Takuboku Ishikawa has been looking for a way to branch out from his established form while his pal Kyousuke Kindaichi is timidly trying to launch his own literary career, but as the two are out one night, something catches Ishikawa’s eye and he throws them into an ongoing criminal investigation. After outsmarting the actual investigator, and realizing they’re in serious need of more income, Ishikawa decides to open his own detective agency.
So. Things Woodpecker’s Detective Office has going for it, in my book:
- It follows the semi-reliable trend of novel adaptations being worth a look
- The shot design and coloration are pretty, in a JoJo-meets-Eccentric Family sort of way
- The lead duo is based on two actual historical figures in a refreshingly non-anime-dramatized fashion
- Most importantly, the writing isn’t abrasive
But I almost wish it were, because in spite of all that praise, I’ll be damned if Woodpecker’s Detective Office didn’t mostly go in one eyeball and right back out the other, bypassing my brain along the way. I greatly enjoy a good mystery, but I’m not a fan of the near-omniscient genius and bumbling assistant dynamic, especially when their interpersonal back and forth doesn’t have any bite to it. Ishikawa and Kindaichi don’t explode off the screen in anime-isms, but their rapport is still defined more by their roles in service to the plot than by genuine relations to each other, and that’s a serious transgression for what’s to some degree attempting to be a down-to-earth drama.
And then there’s the “mystery” from this pilot itself, which is pretty predictable from the get-go and made even more tedious by the stubborn, combative policeman who tries to ignore Ishikawa’s deductions along the way. Woodpecker Detective’s Office is another one of this spring’s many genre field-fillers that might be a welcome side dish to your actual favorite shows, but I don’t think anyone’s expecting to be wowed by it, especially if artsy, bishoujo dramas aren’t your thing to begin with. It can walk the walk, but it fails to talk the talk. The show exists. I’ll probably forget even that in two weeks time.
Final score: 6.5/10
Dropped after 1 episode.
And that’s all for this weird, weird start of the season! While life during this pandemic has taken some adjusting, we at For Great Justice hope you’re all well (and that you’ll forgive both us and the anime industry for any delays we may resort to in the near future). But that’s glass half-empty vision talking—what were your favorite premieres from this season? Did we miss anything worth keeping an eye on? As always, feel free to drop a comment below or reach out to us over on Twitter, and until next time, the whole FGJ family wishes you stay safe, smart, and healthy.Thanks for reading.