Winter 2022 Preview Guide

Last Update: 5:20 p.m. p.m. 1/13/22 (All reviews for 1/13 and earlier are done!)

Welcome to my version of the Winter 2022 Preview Guide! I expect to be covering nearly every full-episode series that will be debuting or returning this season which has an official English-subtitled stream. (The exceptions will be the second season of The Case Study of Vanitas and the third season of Teasing Master Takagi-san, as I am not caught up on either.) These will be listed in newest to oldest order, and this post will be updated multiple times per day on busier days.

Note #1: With Arifureta‘s posting, the regular updates for the Preview Guide are done. I will add Salaryman’s Club when it debuts on the 22nd, and Tales of Luminaria on the 20th if it turns out to be a series rather than a special.

Note #2 (updated): How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom s2 will go directly to episode reviews, since I did those for the first season. I am also taking requests for what to do for a second series this season.

So without further ado. . .

Arifureta 2

Streams: Funimation on Thursdays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

I’ll be frank: I always thought the first season of Arifureta was a bad show for any number of reasons, but I still watched it anyway because it was so serious about its badness that it came off as corny, and I enjoyed it at that level. The second season’s opener suggests that things won’t be too much different, aside perhaps from the change of animation studio resulting in slightly better CG monsters. Hajime’s still the edgelord traveling with a bunch of girls all keen about jumping his bones and a little girl who calls him “Poppa,” and he’s leaving most of his classmates in the dust, to the chagrin of at least one in particular. The main difference this season is that Kaori is also along for the ride and in full competition.

The first episode is mostly just about re-establishing everyone’s relative position and providing the hook for the next big arc (including who the next enemy to get utterly butt-kicked by Hajime will be), so nothing much special is going on there. And while all of the cattiness in the military vehicle was annoying, it was saved by a few choice lines. One was Yue’s pointed assertion that while the other girls just want to bed Hajime, she’s actually done it. The other is Kaori’s very pointed (and true!) observation about Hajime’s current status, as shown in the screencap above. Rarely has the “slam head into table” (or in this case, steering wheel), which immediately follows this shot, felt more warranted. Keep popping off a bit more like this and the second season might hold my interest just like the first did.

Love of Kill

Streams: Crunchyroll on Wednesdays

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

In this manga adaptation, Ryang-ha Son is a veteran hitman so notorious that everyone in the Underworld has a bounty out on him, but for reasons even he doesn’t fully understand, he’s taken an interest in young, relatively new female bounty hunter Chateau. Actually, “stalking” might be the appropriate word here, as she cannot seem to shake his attention or dissuade him and he even helps her out by killing some of her targets for her and allowing her to take credit. Maybe his interest is romantic, or maybe he just wants a connection that doesn’t seem rotten to him. But she has her own baggage to deal with and Ryang-ha as a potential target.

How well this goes over with viewers may come down to how much they can tolerate Ryang-ha’s very stalkerish behavior. Though he never gets physical except in self-defense, he can clearly manhandle her if needed, so this isn’t an even pairing at all; the power dynamic is all in his favor. This isn’t quite as creepy as it could be, though, because the only real menace present here is that he is a legitimate cold-blooded killer; this seems more a case of him trying to feel out a potential relationship he’s never really had. Meanwhile, Chateau seems very deadened emotionally beyond her obvious frustration with Ryang-ha. I suspect the plan here is to see them gradually coming to understand each other as more of their sordid pasts are revealed, and I can see that working if it’s handled carefully. It’s walking a thin line so far, but I am cautiously optimistic.

The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Kingdom out of Debt

Streams: Funimation on Tuesdays

Rating: 4 (of 5)

Well, this was a lot more than I was expecting. Rather than being a carbon-copy of How a Realist Hero Rebuild The Kingdom, this one goes at the “rebuild a fantasy kingdom” gimmick from a wholly different angle: the prince is trying to fail, without looking looking like he’s doing it deliberately, in order to secure himself an easier life. Unfortunately for him, failing is the one thing he’s not good at. His unwanted successes are starting to compound into a reality that’s going to require a lot more work for him.

The first episode sells this concept remarkably well. It lets us see quite clearly how much of an ass Prince Wein is internally, but much like Tanya in Saga of Tanya the Evil, he knows that he has to at least keep looking good to secure his desired easy life. Like with that show, the great and amusing irony here is that his attempts to maintain a facade are too good and bought into too fully by everyone around him – well, everyone but close advisor Ninym (who is a different race, I guess?) anyway. This results in some surprisingly effective comedy, though the series isn’t entirely light-hearted, even with jaunty music playing during a major battle scene; Ninym’s encounter with a defeated enemy general is decidedly more serious, for instance. I like that balance so far, and also the rapport that exists between Wein and Ninym. Not sure how well the series maintain the premise, but it is off to a rousing start.

She Professed Herself Pupil of the Wise Man

Streams: Funimation on Tuesdays

Rating: 2 (of 5)

To be clear, the low rating for this one should be taken less as an indication that the concept or series as a whole is bad and more as in indication of how unsatisfactorily the first episode is executed. The basic premise is the Danblf is one of the top wizards (aka Wise Men) in a wizard-focused kingdom of an open-format online game, and entirely too much of the first episode is spent establishing that. I don’t mind a bit of exposition as a stage-setting technique, but this series then rambles on showing an utterly run-of-the-mill big battle scene and partly introducing numerous characters who won’t be important immediately, before finally getting to the big twist near the end of the episode: that somehow the classic white-bearded wizard has become a cute white-haired girl. Maybe the episode could have explained a bit more here – did the character just change, or is the player now stuck inside the game in this form – but instead it shows a wordless montage of here wandering around, giving cameos to various characters already introduced and/or important later, before declaring herself cute. In other words, the first episode does not even fully complete the basic premise.

I have to think that there’s a better series afoot here, as there are some interesting concepts shown concerning fantasy RPG play, but this first episode does nothing to promote the series. I will probably give it at least one more episode to prove itself, but it faces a lot of genre competition this season, so it cannot afford too slow a start.

Life With an Ordinary Guy Who Turned into a Total Fantasy Knock-Out

Streams: Crunchyroll on Tuesdays

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

A 32-year-old stud who’s never had any problem attracting women but is more comfortable around guys and his longtime friend, who’s so average that he drunkenly wishes to be a petite hottie, get transported to a fantasy world by a goddess of beauty, who grants the second man’s apparent wish and reincarnates him as a petite blonde girl, all as part of a scheme for them to become heroes and defeat the Demon Lord. Uncomfortably, they both immediately start to find themselves attracted to each other, but whether that’s the result of the curse of the Goddess of Beauty (whom they managed to tick off) or a pre-existing attraction is unclear. What is clear is that both have special abilities: he has a high starting level, she has a plethora of skill that make her irresistible.

I was expecting something at least a little crazy and very trashy out of this, but I was surprised by how fun and well-thought-out it turned out to be. Each of the two leads is well-established and gets a lot of play out of adjusting to the other one now being the opposite gender and trying to sort out how that changes his/her feelings about the other. The irony here, of course, is that both see the other as ideal now that they are opposite genders, and I hope the series goes a long time before clarifying if the goddess’s curse is responsible for that or not. The series even proclaims itself as a “romantic comedy” rather than an isekai title, and it should be entertaining if it keeps that up.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive s2

Streams: Crunchyroll on Mondays

Rating: 4 (of 5)

While Spring 2020’s edition of this mobile game-related title was never a favorite, it was always a series that I enjoyed and appreciated for its goofy fun mixed with occasional touches of strong sentimentality. No doubt this had a lot to do with being directed by Takaomi Kanasaki, the same person behind the anime sides of the Is This a Zombie? and KONOSUBA franchises, and with it just focusing on side stories for its affiliated game rather than trying to shoehorn in too much of the game’s main plot. The first episode of this season beautifully reminded me of why I liked the first.

There’s nothing extraordinary about any of the characters or what they’re doing here, but they make for a cute, fun mix and look like they are genuinely having fun together while out on a silly quest for a legendary ingredient. The series’ trademark humor style is well in evidence, but it also finds a surprisingly affecting place for a story about an old man and his former adventuring party before finishing the episode with a devious twist. It still looks pretty good, too, even if it does tend to have a KONOSUBA-like affinity for not staying tightly on model. I thoroughly enjoyed this episode and will absolutely be following it again.

Sabikui Bisco

Streams: Funimation on Mondays

Rating: 3.5

In a post-apocalyptic Japan, a condition called the Rusting is ravaging metal and people alike and turning the land outside of cities into desert wastelands. While young doctor Milo does his best to make his home city a better place (and find a cure for his elder sister’s advanced Rusting condition), including using illegal mushrooms to try to concoct new medicines, an archer is on his own mission, one which causes mushrooms to sprout everywhere and gets him regarded as a terrorist.

This light novel adaptation was widely-considered one of the most anticipated new titles of the season, but its first episode feels like it’s not quite living up to the series’ full potential. Much of this is because too little that has been shown so far makes much sense, but it also suffers from some minor pacing problems; conversations often go on just a little too long, apparently intent on stuffing little extra background tidbits into the story in a not-too-graceful fashion. Honestly, a lot of the problems could have been alleviated by just making this an extra-length premiere. Even so, it has enough style points and neat ideas to feel like the series is capable of quite a bit more than it has shown so far. The score I am giving this episode indicates cautious optimism, as this could eventually be one of the big shows to watch this season. I will definitely give it at least a couple more episodes.

Fantasia Sango – Realm of Legends

Streams: Funimation on Mondays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

This one has a somewhat unusual pedigree, in that it’s based on a Taiwanese RPG which adds supernatural elements to the classic Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Hence it uses Chinese naming conventions even though it is fully a Japanese production. (The title was originally advertised with Japanese character names, but the subtitles use the Chinese equivalents.) The set-up is a fairly standard “gather a team of unique individuals to fight the miasma causing humans to turn monstrously evil” scenario, only with the godlike sponsors seemingly more directly involved here.

Don’t expect any more from the series than that and it actually works pretty well. The character designs are decent (if a little generic and obsessed with buxom figures for adult women) and the content delivers better-than-average action execution and battle flow, with solid musical and at least competent animation support. I cannot see this getting too deep, but it should be at least passable as a pure actioner.

Tribe Nine

Streams: Funimation on Mondays

Rating: 2 (of 5)

Baseball gets taken to ridiculous extremes? Okay, I can buy that, as this is hardly the only title over the years to pull that stunt. Sports used as a matter of settling conflicts is also a time-honored tradition, one that is known to date back several hundred (if not several thousand) years in certain parts of the world. Youths in Japan becoming so uncontrollable that they break down into tribalism is also an idea that’s been used to some degree in many other series. However, combining all three just creates an excuse for a shonen action series that is over-the-top ridiculous, and not in a good way.

I will give the series credit for trying hard to promote its cool factor with a funky musical score and outlandish visuals. However, I have to give this a low score for two reasons: the very disconcerting eyes of characters in the protagonist group and hair styles which suggest that the characters either never wash their hair or use way, way too much product on horrible notions of what good hair looks like. The series does have some energy going for it, but that isn’t enough.

Futsal Boys!!!!!

Streams: Funimation on Sundays

Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Futsal is an actual sport which has an international following, though it’s practically unknown in the States. It is played in teams of five and uses rules similar to indoor soccer, which makes it ideal for adaptation into anime form. The first episode here makes the wise decision to move along quickly, only briefly introducing its core cast as two impromptu matches get played out. The personality mix so far seems typical for series about boys’ sports teams, as do the problems the team faces (attitudes not conducive to teamwork, etc), so this is a run-of-the-mill sports series in most regards.

The problem – and the reason why I’m rating this below average – is that it’s really stretching to create some antagonism here. Delinquents who settle things with futsal? Really? The series lost all credibility with me over that, and the animation isn’t and choreographer are not that great, either. Don’t see much promise here.

Sasaki and Miyano

Streams: Funimation on Sundays

Rating: 3.5

I’ll be frank: BL is absolutely not my thing, and I don’t care for the heavily shoujo-influenced character design style here on on top of that. Even so, I have to acknowledge that this is a pretty solid start for a light, fluffy romantic comedy that will no doubt charm audiences less averse to BL. The series is refreshingly not coy at all about whether Sasaki’s genuinely attracted to Miyano, and while Miyano does not seem to reciprocate (yet), it’s not hard to see that developing. I might quibble about the somewhat confusing way that the episode bounces around its timeline with little to no hints of transitions, but the series’ easy flow and gentle humor more than make up for that. In other words, this is shaping up more and more to be one of the better seasons for romcoms in quite some time.

Attack on Titan Final Season (ep 76 overall)

Streams: Crunchyroll and Funimation on Fridays

Rating: 4.5 (of 5)

Nine months ago, the first half of the final season left viewers on a major cliffhanger. So what do we get for the wait?

One hell of a spectacle, but also one of the franchise’s more graphic episodes.

Oh, and Levi is maybe dead, but maybe not, and Zeke is still alive but with a weird experience, and Yelena’s plans are falling apart in the face of the Marley attack (which Eren thinks is risky, based on Marley’s “limited knowledge” of something, and not everyone from Yelena’s faction is on board with the sterilization plan, and Eren may be up to something beyond what the others are. . . Yeah, there’s a lot going on here to sort out, but what’s most important is the return to good ol’-fashioned Titan-on-Titan bashing, including Eren using the War Hammer Titan’s abilities. It’s messy, and Yelena’s people are getting their butts kicked, but too much time is left in the series for a major reversal to not be coming.

Yeah, Attack on Titan is back, and it’s great. This should be a fun run to the finish.

Rusted Armors

Streams: Crunchyroll on Sundays

Rating: 1 (of 5)

This is the anime branch of a mixed media project with an unusual progression: it started out as a stage play first, then got animated.

Or perhaps I should say it got the semblance of animation? This is an all-CG production that, frankly, features the weakest artistic and animation efforts at least since last year’s epically bad EX-ARM. The story isn’t much better; it features an array of colorful guys using special Armors (some of which feature tech way beyond the time period) to defend their home village of Saika during the Warring States era. This involves fighting off faceless enemy forces wearing full plate armor of a style never seen in Japan (or anywhere else, for that matter) and using all sorts of annoying verbal quirks. There’s an amnesiac member to provide a semblance of mystery, too, but in general this is the most half-baked production I’ve seen since EX-ARM. The live-action bit at the end, where two of the actors visit actual sites which correspond to the series, is actually the most interesting part, and that should never happen.

Requiem of the Rose King

Streams: Funimation on Sundays

Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

This series adapts a manga, which itself was inspired by Shakespeare’s historical plays, in particular the Henry VI trilogy and Richard III. It does not seem to begin at the start of the manga (Richard III’s birth), but rather at some later point, and depicts events and characters involved in the War of the Roses, the period of on-and-off civil war in England from 1455 to 1487. While the first episode does depict some actual historical events, to say that it is a fantastical interpretation might be a bit of an understatement. Richard III generally doesn’t come off well in historical accounts, with various minor deformities attributed to him, but the only one retained in this case is that he was slight of stature. Here, instead, he’s both hetorochromatic and not fully a “he” – in other words, intersex. This is used to reinforce in Richard’s mind that he is a demon child, and significantly, he is always depicted wearing black and whispering into his father’s ear to push him to take the English crown. The scene shown in the screen cap, which involves the all-white Henry VI (though Richard doesn’t know that), also carries homoerotic undertones. (The story is at least consistent on the point that Henry VI was not regarded as a mentally strong individual.)

As much of a history buff as I am, that angle doesn’t work for me. I will acknowledge that the very limited animation uses some very interesting visual styles, so I could see it finding an audience, and the actual story of Richard III has no shortage of twists and turns beyond that. The depiction of Richard III as a generally tortured soul is also somewhat interesting, but I doubt I’ll watch the series further. Pass here.

Miss Kuroitsu From the Monster Development Department

Streams: Crunchyroll on Saturdays

Rating: 4 (of 5)

Kuroitsu works for the Monster Development Department of secret organization Agatsya, whose ultimate goal is world domination. The barrier to this is assorted Super Sentai heroes, including local hero Divine Swordsman Blader. Hers is a taxing job, which can include making proposal on the fly before the organization’s leadership, dealing with the whims of its absolute leader, and managing the situation when new ace monster Wolf Bete doesn’t turn out quite like the monster’s mind expects.

This manga adaptation was one of my most-anticipated titles based on its premises, and despite an unpromising start, it winds up shining as a silly mix of workplace comedy and Super Sentai parody. It deftly recovers from its weaker initial gag about a mascot-like monster which Kuroitsu has to pitch as a real threat due to a slapdash presentation her boss provides her, with the pivot point being the chief strategist’s unexpectedly accommodating attitude. From there, it presents a much more inspired bit about a wolf warrior who winds up female instead of male, much to his dismay, and how that ironically proves to make him much more effective against the hero. I laughed at the episode several times, and even the way fan service and censoring is handled is both funnier and sexier than in World End Harem (whose rating I might drop further after seeing this). The lengthy episode titles are a hoot, too, and the regional Sentai heroes shown early in the episode are apparently actual regional mascots – another clever twist.

This is one that I’ll definitely be watching and specifically recommend checking out, though you have to stay for the whole episode if you do.

Akebi’s Sailor Uniform

Streams: Crunchyroll on Saturdays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

In this manga adaptation from CloverWorks, Komichi Akebi is a junior high girl eagerly looking forward to attending the same school as her mother and wearing a sailor uniform, just like her mother did. However, they somehow both fail to notice that the school has moved on to wearing blazers in the time since the elder Akebi attended. (Really, how could they not notice this?) The sailor uniform is allowed since it is part of the school’s history, but that still leaves Akebi nervous about sticking out in a bad way.

I can see this series going over well, but the first episode did not work for me for one superficial reason: I do not care for the character design aesthetic. There’s just something about the shape of the heads and neck that I find distracting, and after looking at some of the manga art, the blame at least partly goes to the source material. Otherwise this looks like a sweet little story about an athletic girl from the countryside being herself around peers that don’t share her background as she navigates high school life. Fair warning that the first episode at least is a bit more fan service-y than might be expected, and I could maybe see that making some people uncomfortable.

My Dress-Up Darling

Streams: Crunchyroll on Saturdays

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

In this manga adaptation, Wakana is a social recluse because he find himself unable to find common ground with other students, given his passion for (obsession with?) traditional Japanese hina dolls. That may be starting to change due to fateful encounters with class popular girl Marin, who, upon discovering that Wakana can sew, practically begs him to help her with her effort to make a cosplay outfit for a favorite character.

This was maybe the most widely-anticipated non-sequel of the season, and after the first episode, I can sort of understand why. It is, at heart, a classic story about the Social Outcast finding common ground with the Popular Girl, and naturally the Popular Girl seems to have some hidden otaku-friendly hobbies. However, this one feels like it might show at least a little more depth. Marin is a more genuine character than normal for this role, one who does not let her image get in the way of her convictions. (She detests people who don’t respect another person’s interests, and I’m presuming that’s because she will be revealed to have had problems with that in her past.) And the twist at the end about who, exactly, she wants to cosplay was pretty funny. The series looks pretty sharp and has a scattering of mild doses of fan service, but I’m a little hesitant to fully commit until I see if the series avoids common genre traps. Will certainly check out more of it, though.

The Strongest Sage With the Weakest Crest

Streams: Crunchyroll on Saturdays

Rating: 2 (of 5)

In this light novel adaptation, Gaius the Sage was a menace against demons in his time, but he felt that he had maxed out his power with his first of the four Crests granted by the gods. Hence he apparently chose to reincarnate in a later age with a different Crest that wasn’t as strong but had more growth potential. (I say “apparently” because a sizable time gap is implied rather than spelled out.) That just means that, as an incoming student at Second Academy, he’s vastly stronger than anyone else, and his familiarity with older magical means allows him to ferret out a plot by demons to weaken the magical strength of humans overall. Oh, and he’s getting a girlfriend this time, too, which he apparently didn’t have the first time.

This series isn’t going to avoid comparisons to The Misfit of Demon King Academy even though the story circumstances are significantly different, and the comparisons won’t be favorable ones. The thing about the potential girlfriend has some cute potential, but Matthius is not that interesting a character and events in the first episode feel like they’re moving way too fast. (I would be interested to see commentary on this from someone who has read the first novel.) The plot about demons infiltrating to sabotage human power by promoting inefficient spellcasting styles is a little interesting, but this is too much of a naked power fantasy with not enough other attracting factors to compensate.

Cue!

Streams: Crunchyroll on Fridays

Rating: 3

15 girls/young women join new agency AiRBLUE with the aim of becoming seiyuu (i.e., Japanese voice actresses). As a first exercise, they must read a famous scene from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

And that’s the entirety of the plot so far from this mobile game adaptation. It briefly introduces a whopping 15 girls (not counting the agency staff), with the greatest focus on Haruna (the one on the right in the screenshot). The only real gimmick here is the way that the voice acting can cause characters to visualize the scene, and frankly, that didn’t work so well in this case; much of the problem, I think, is that Shakespeare doesn’t sound right to my ear in Japanese, no matter how it’s interpreted. The cast seems like it’s going to offer just about every standard body and personality type from idol shows, but overall, it’s a pretty bland start, hence the middling grade.

World’s End Harem

Streams: Crunchyroll on Fridays

Rating: 3 as a fan service title, 2 otherwise

In anime and its associated works, going into cold sleep for whatever reason inevitably results in the subject being ensnared in the after-effects of calamities which happen while the subject is sleeping. That’s exactly the case here, with nearly all of the men in the world dying off to the MK (Male Killer) Virus while protagonist Reito is sleeping until AIs come up with a cure for his disease – which, ironically, is likely the reason why he comes out immune. As one of only a handful of men left, he’s faced with an intimidating responsibility: impregnate as many women as possible in an effort to pass his immunity on to male children. And it has to be done the natural way, too! The problem is that Reito is still completely hung up on long-time girlfriend Erisa, who has since disappeared. How tolerant can The Powers That Be afford to be with him?

Okay, so the premise is sleazy as hell, and clearly tricked out to force a harem situation. Even so, the premise raises some interesting ideas: could society survive (and maintain its existing technical level) if half its population quickly died off? And while Reito’s devotion would be commendable in other circumstances, does his obligation to humanity as whole override what he wants? Somehow, I don’t think this series cares too much about exploring these details, as the sex potential here is far greater. The first episode doesn’t have any sex scenes, but they are likely coming, and (as the screen shot shows) it certainly has select censoring. Artistry isn’t bad, either, though it does appear that very large-breasted women will be favored.

I’m giving this episode the rating I am because this is an okay set-up for a fan service scenario, but this series has the very real potential to be one of the season’s worst.

Girls’ Frontline

Streams: Funimation on Fridays

Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

This series is based on a mobile game, so contemplating the foundational logic in anything beyond a meta sense is probably pointless. Even so, I have to ask: if you’re going to make AI-driven combat androids, why make the generic ones look like female S&M enthusiasts, the elite ones look like maids, and the rest look like Japanese school girls, complete with mini-skirts? I also have to question the stability of a unit firing four auto-fire weapons attached to their legs in continuous barrages, but whatever. Logic clearly isn’t a core element of this one, no matter how much it tries to play up its technical side.

The actual episode here – which involves “T-Dolls” fighting each other post-WWIII – feels more like a prelude than an actual first episode, with the woman who will presumably be the Commander arriving at the end of the episode. Hence it’s hard to see how this might play out at this point. The visuals look decent, but this does not feel like a title that is going to be plot-heavy. The series should work for Girls With Guns fans, but I question its staying power otherwise.

Slow Loop

Streams: Funimation on Fridays

Rating: 4

Introverted, boyish Hiyori learned fly fishing from her father, and still does it even though he passed away three years ago. Her soon-to-be high school life gets upended when bubbly, ditzy Koharu arrives on the scene and immediately expresses enthusiasm for fishing, since she’s never gotten to do it for real before. Oh, and Koharu is also to be Hiyori’s new stepsister, too.

I wasn’t expecting anything more than “cute girls do fishing” out of this, and that looks like it will, indeed, be a major component of this light-hearted series. However, the first episode impressed by adding in the context of having to adjust to a new family situation, and how she’s not the only one who needs to adjust. There also looks to be a cooking component as well, though whether or not that will be a regular thing remains to be seen. This isn’t quite as laid back as Laid-Back Camp, but it has some legitimate charm in that vein. I might actually watch more.

Tokyo 24th Ward

Streams: Crunchyroll and Funi on Wed.

Rating: 3.5, I guess?

A year ago, friends Ran, Koki, and Shuta attempted and failed to save mutual friend (and Koki’s sister) Asumi during a fire. A year later, they are drifting apart when a memorial for that fire is held. Shortly thereafter, all three get a mysterious phone call which seems to be from Asumi and experience some kind of brain hacking which gives them abilities beyond what they had before – abilities which might be used to stop an impending calamity in Tokyo’s 24th ward.

And that is all that really makes sense about the double-length debut of this original anime series, which comes from the director of planetarian, Inu X Boku Secret Service, and most of the 2010s Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure titles. I’m giving this an above-average rating because it is animated well and the climactic scene involving the train is suitably thrilling, but so much else is going on here that another episode or two may be necessary for everything to settle in. Certainly this is an ambitious-looking series, with the first episode dangling all kinds of potential plot threads and character developments in addition to the central mystery about Asumi and the boys’ new abilities, and I can appreciate how the character development is already firming up, but I’m cautious in my optimism here for now.

Police in a Pod

Streams: Crunchyroll on Wednesdays

Ranking: 3 (out of 5)

This new series is based on a comedy manga, and comedy is, indeed, an element present throughout the first episode. The premise features a rookie female cop (the one on the right in the picture) who is being discouraged to the point of considering quitting by the abuse heaped upon her while doing her her job, but a beautiful new trainer (the woman on the left) convinces her to give the job a second chance. While this can result in some somewhat serious parts – such as a career burglar’s commentary on what signs he looks for in good targets – and some sincere moments, more often than not the encounters are a vehicle for light humor.

Whether that humor works sufficiently enough to drive the series is another story. I did get a couple of chuckles out of the swearing the more experienced female officer does under her breath in response to angry traffic stops, and the funniest moment involves her reaction to realizing that she had just posed like a poster she hates. However, this is by no means a slapstick series, and I just didn’t find enough going on here – or things coming together well enough – to sustain the episode. Still, it might be worth watching just for the gorgeous character designs. (And, notably, its lack of fan service despite that.) The manga it’s based on is an award-winner, so I will probably give it another episode or two to prove itself.

In the Land of Leadale

Streams: Crunchyroll on Wednesdays

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

The first episode only hints at the background involved (so it may be elaborated on more in ep 2), but the basic premise is that a young woman was critically injured in an auto accident, to the point of being perpetually dependent on life support. While in that state she became a top player in a VR game called Leadale, presumably in part because it allowed her the semblance of physical activity that she was unable to do in the real world. After a power outage knocks out her life support, she wakes up in a setting resembling Leadale, complete with her stats, equipment, and even menu controls all intact. However, 200 years seems to have passed since the time of the game. Her early encounters in a border village she once visited and at her former tower indicate that what happened in the game seems to be part of the lore of this setting, but also that a lot has changed over time, including her (self-admittedly) OP abilities and resources being even more out of whack with the current power scale.

In other words, this is a set-up somewhat like Overlord, where a lot of uncertainty exists about both whether this is more a “transported to another world” or a “trapped in a game” scenario and whether other former players are present or not. The added mystery in this case is the time gap, and presumably that will be an underlying plot thread for the duration of the series. Beyond that, this is setting up as a typical power fantasy, albeit with a female instead of male protagonist, but it does have one saving grace: the production team made the wise choice to play up the cheesier aspects of the source novel by using a goofy tone. That helps compensate for mediocre technical merits and turns the way the episode plays out into a lot of fun. I wasn’t impressed by the first novel, but I like the approach taken here well enough that I may follow this one.

Orient

Streams: Crunchyroll on Wednesdays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

The arrival of oni put an early end to the Warring States era in this shonen action series set-up. 150 years later, the oni control everything, with only the Bushi (i.e. descendants of samurai) remaining to resist them, and those that do remain are mocked and looked down upon for it. The hot-headed redhead naturally cannot accept the order of things, so he plans for a rebellion at the right time, while his childhood friend/sparring partner becomes disillusioned over time. That is, until push comes to shove.

As shonen action series go, this one is as formulaic as they come, with only the time period differentiating it at all. (And yet motorcycles exist in a time period that should be equivalent to the mid-1700s?) For all of its generic procedurals and uninspired action scenes, though, it does come together pretty well near the end of the episode, enough so to have at least some hope that the series might amount to something.

3 thoughts on “Winter 2022 Preview Guide

  1. Gotta admit, I’m not seeing a lot for me to watch this season – My Dress-Up Darling, How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom Part 2, and The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt are the only things on my radar right now.

    Hopefully, I can find a few other gems to watch based on your reviews.

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  2. How about doing reviews of Genius Prince as a compare/contrast with Realist Hero?

    I am not going to bother with the 2nd season of Realist Hero (not a bad show overall, but fell way short of my expectations, too many gimmes, too stupid, and too childish in its harem aspects – to provide context, my expectation was something in the same vein as Spice & Wolf/Demon King & Hero) so your reviews are the closest I will get to it.

    I found this season interesting overall, I have nine shows lined up for the “three episode test” which is more than I normally do.

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  3. Based on your reviews I’m going to give Princess Connect! Re:Dive s2 and Miss Kuroitsu From the Monster Development Department a shot. It’s still a lean season for me, but I appreciate all your work putting these reviews together.

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