Summer 2022 Preview Guide

Last Update: 9:45 p.m. 7/12/22

Welcome to my version of the Summer 2022 Preview Guide! I expect to cover every full-episode series that will be debuting this season and some but not all of the sequels. (I will cover the new installments of Utawarerumono, Overlord, Made in Abyss, The Devil is a Part-Timer, DanMachi, and Luminous Witches, the new entry in the Strike Witches franchise.) These will be listed in newest to oldest order, and this post will be updated multiple times per day on busier days.

Note #1: Bastard!! will not be a part of this Preview Guide, as I have posted a separate full review on all 13 episodes here.

Note #2: The Devil is a Part-Timer 2 and DanMachi 2 are both going straight to episode reviews as they debut, as I intend to cover both this season. I might consider covering something else as well (Overlord 4, for instance), as long as it doesn’t air on a TH or FR.

SHINEPOST

Streams: HIDIVE on Tuesdays

Rating: 3 of 5)

I was not expecting any more for this one (which is, surprisingly, a novel adaptation) than a typical idol show, and nothing about the debut episode convinced me to watch more. Thus the answer to the pertinent question, “can this attract the attention of those who aren’t established idol show fans” is “no.” However, the episode is not without merit, and it has some hooks that could make it successful with the right audiences.

One of those is a surprisingly high level of technical achievement. Studio Kai hardly has a sterling reputation, but this is a good-looking series with attractive, well-defined character designs and better-than-average animation, even in the opening performance number. The use of camera is also better than normal. The other is the interesting twist about the exact nature of the would-be producer’s special ability and why it matters so much in this scenario about a trio of girls who were all inspired by a top idol, and seem to have talent, but have had little success putting together a good attendance so far, to the point that their agency’s boss have given them an ultimatum. The lead trio’s personalities flow well but are still stereotypical for the genre, and two more girls look like they may eventually get involved as well. So yeah, there is at least some potential for this one to shine a little.

Parallel World Pharmacy

Streams: Crunchyroll on Sundays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

The premise here seems quite standard: a promising pharmacist apparently expires from overwork and finds himself reborn in the body of a boy not-subtly named Farma, one who is the second son of a noble family renowned for medieval-level pharmaceutical skills. (The boy apparently expired from a lightning strike.) He can now wield magic, but it’s quite unusually powerful, and he naturally, he seems to have the blessing of a particular god, too.

I was all ready to write this off as just another utterly generic isekai series in the more sedate “let’s start a business in a fantasy world” model, until it got to the late scenes where Farma is trying convince his tutor that he’s not really a new person as a result of the lightning strike. Her reactions to Farma utilizing both magic power and a special injury-analyzing eye that far beyond reasonable human capabilities was fear, and not in a comical sense, either. This is an angle that isekai shows rarely take, and it’s left me to wonder if this might amount to something. I’m going to give it at least one more episode to prove itself.

Black Summoner

Streams: Crunchyroll on Saturdays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

This light novel adaptation has about the most generic isekai premise imaginable: a young man is reincarnated into a fantasy world operating on game-like principles (at least from his perspective, anyway). He has one truly OP ability, though he has to be wary about letting anyone know about it because it’s so rare and powerful that it would attract unwanted attention. He joins an adventurer’s guild, bonds with a slime, and starts doing missions. The slight twist is that the voice in his head explaining things is actually the Goddess of Reincarnation, who agreed to be one of his summonable servants as a way of taking a vacation from her normal duties, though he isn’t yet strong enough to actually summon her (he fell in love with her at first sight). He also doesn’t remember anything from his previous life, but that’s just a convenient way to not have to bring it up. Oh, yes, and a half-elf slave girl also does pop up, though in a mildly surprising twist, he has not (yet) bought her by the end of the episode. But surely that’s coming, right?

Really, the first episode would have to try hard to be more utterly generic than this. In fact, it so lacks any degree of visual, conceptual, or storytelling originality that it feels lazy; even the pact with the goddess has been done in other series (more seriously in Ah! My Goddess and more comically in KONOSUBA) before, and the Guild Girls could have been borrowed directly from any of a dozen other series. I am still giving it a middling grade because the visual and technical merits are on the high side for generic isekai series, including a remarkable detailed first battle between protagonist Kelvin and a blue slime, and the interactions between Kelvin and the goddess Melfina are fun. But if there’s anything special about this one, it has yet to show.

Shine On! Bakumatsu Bad Boys

Streams: Crunchyroll on Saturdays?

Rating: 3 (of 5)

Anime has seen a number of fanciful portrayals of the Shinsengumi (the special police force which served the Tokugawa Shogunate during the mid-to-late 1860s) over the years, but this original anime series provides one of the odder takes on that storied group. It supposes that most of the Shinsengumi got assassinated on the day that they officially took that name, so one of the few survivors, unit captain Todo Heisuke, chose eight condemned criminals to take on the swords and roles of the dead in order to fill the role that the Shinsengumi were expected to take on. Naturally, the criminals are a colorful and divers lot, including a professional killer, a sinful monk, a “psycho doctor,” a huge glutton, a cross-dressing woman, a professional criminal, and a revenge-driven idiot seeking the same masked samurai who is behind the slaughter of the original Shinsengumi. Oh, and mystically-imbued swords are going to be a thing here, too.

This is hardly one of the prettier-looking series of the season, but it does at least have a lot of boisterous energy and some reasonable attempts at active action sequences. Given how many historical names it throws around, I am a bit curious to see how thoroughly it integrates in actual historical events, and it does look like some of the character interactions could be fun, but this series is likely to fall below the cut line for me this season.

Extreme Hearts

Streams: Crunchyroll on Saturdays

Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Aspiring to be a singer is a common dream for teenagers, but even for those who do get as far as a debut, it often just won’t work out in the long run. A series about someone who tried their best, didn’t succeed, and ultimately had to find a different path might actually be interesting to watch, but in this setting, there’s one more alternative: go into mixed extreme sports. Because sports enhanced by sci fi-grade sports equipment are a natural avenue for would-be idols, right?

That’s the premise that this new series from the creator of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is asking viewers to swallow. The exact mechanics behind how this all works is left quite vague, so viewers are expected to just go with the flow on “rule of cool” here. Thanks to some solid character foundations for lead Hiyori and her #2 fan Saki, it almost works for a while, too. However, I found the concept just too eye-rolling to handle when they introduced the “AI players” to fill out Hiyori’s short-field soccer team. It’s almost like the series is saying, “we can’t be bothered to provide any better explanation for why Hiyori has fill-in team members,” to say nothing of how bizarre it is that the rules of the Extreme Hearts competition apparently allow this. Maybe there’s enough story here to overcome hang-ups like this, and some of the girls featured in the promo art and opener (shown at the end of the episode) have yet to appear, but I don’t see enough here to convince me to stick around to find out.

When Will Ayumu Make His Move?

Streams: HIDIVE on Fridays

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Despite the boy’s serious, deadpan demeanor, the girl is absolutely convinced that the boy who’s the only other member of her shogi “club” is in love with her and she aches to see him outright admit it. She’s not wrong, and he does say just about everything short of that to show his interest, but what she doesn’t know is that he’s fixated on not confessing until he can beat her straight-up at shogi. Hence a sort of contest of wills plays out across the shogi board.

I can see this one inviting all kinds of comparisons to Kaguya-sama, as this is another case where pride is getting in the way of both leads making any declarations, but it’s not really the same kind of romantic comedy. The conflict here is not between the two, but rather within each of them, so any mind games going on here are strictly internal ones. That turns out to be more entertaining to watch than I expected, as female lead Urushi is thoroughly adorable in the way she tries to reconcile Ayumu’s aggressive forthrightness in some areas with this seeming passivity in others. And while we get very little of this scenario from Ayumu’s point of view, we get just enough to occasionally confirm his sincerity and that yes, he’s absolutely taken with Urushi. He just gets nervous and defensive about saying anything more than flattery to Urushi, and that is reflected in his game play as well. Light use of a musical score also nicely helps set the pleasant, comfortable tone. Basically, there’s not much for laugh-out-loud moments or to get terribly excited about here, but it’s an appreciable watch nonetheless.

Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer

Streams: Crunchyroll on Fridays

Rating: 2 (of 5)

The name of this one has intrigued me ever since I first heard about its source manga, so I went into this one expecting it to be something exciting. What we get instead is one of the more underwhelming openers so far this season.

The set-up is fairly typical: a young man is approached about being a knight who must help find a princess and then defeat an evil wizard who is both seeking the princess and seeking to destroy the world. Yuuhi steadfastly won’t have any of this, especially since the pitch is coming from a lizard almost no one else can see and he can’t get rid of. Turns out the monsters sent by the wizard are real, the neighbor girl is the princess, and she’s both quite capable and quite ambitious in a devilish way (hence the “Lucifer” in the title). Oh, and there really is a giant-ass hammer hanging out there in space called the Biscuit Hammer that’s ready to destroy the world.

I think I can see what this first episode was trying to do, but it just doesn’t work. Almost nothing the episode tries to do clicks; the jokes aren’t funny, Yuuhi is more annoying than sympathetic in his denials, the ridiculous elements are more eye-rolling than enjoyable, and the one monster tries to cover up for just being odd by moving in a flash; that’s the part that maybe comes the closest to working. Yuuhi’s ending exhilaration at connecting with the “princess” is under-supported as well, and the interactions with his teacher are dull. The visual effort is also decidedly mediocre. Perhaps most importantly, the episode just lacks the spirit of fun that it feels like it should have. This is directed by the same person behind last season’s awful Don’t Hurt Me, My Healer!, and apparently I should have taken that as a warning. Overall, it’s not a total disaster (I did rather like and sympathize with the talking lizard), but definitely not worth watching more.

Prima Doll

Streams: HIDIVE on Fridays

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

The heyday of anime adaptations of Visual Arts/Key properties may be past, but the company still remains unmatched in its ability to suffuse its titles with nearly overwhelming amounts of sentiment and raw emotional appeal. Such is the case with the first episode of this series, which looks to be focusing on the repurposing of onetime-combat androids in a sort of “what’s left for soldiers after their battles are over” kind of scenario – done Visual Arts/Key style, of course.

To be clear, the “Dolls” in this setting don’t look like they actually did the fighting themselves. They instead controlled cruder and bulkier Mechanica who were specialized for direct combat and made up a large chunk of this setting’s military forces. Hence the wear and tear on them was less physical and more in a processing sense, as in this episode’s case of the broken Doll Yugiri, who has trouble remembering anything, not even the little girl who adores her., but doesn’t want that little girl to know. Sure, she could get her processor replaced, but that would also reset her to the point of not being Yugiri anymore. That has apparently already happened to protagonist Doll Haizakura, who cannot remember anything and seems fragile and clumsy but still retains an apparently-unparalleled command/control ability. While her situation gets sorted out, she is learning to work at a cafe which entirely employs retired Dolls (for the up-front staff) and Mechanica (for the kitchen staff).

The emotional beats here are remarkably strong for a first episode, in part because a lot of subtext can be read into these situations. (The clear intent is, I think, to equate broken androids with psychologically damaged people.) The first episode also smoothly works a good amount of world-building into a story which seems narrowly-focused and lacks exposition. Never been a fan of the distinctive Visual Arts/Key cute girl character designs, and that is where the episode is most stereotypical, but this has just enough going for it to earn a mild recommendation, especially for CGDCT fans.

The Yakuza’s Guide to Babysitting

Streams: Crunchyroll on Fridays

Rating: 4 (of 5)

Adults ill-suited for dealing with children getting paired up with little kids for both comedy and endearing empathy is a trope hardly limited to anime titles, but there have been a few good ones in recent years in anime – most recently, of course, Spy x Family. This manga adaptation, whose character designs show distinct shojo influences, has the strong potential to be the next success story in that realm. By the end of the episode it has already found a good balance between its violent and tender sides.

A lot of this is thanks to lead protagonist Kirishima Tooru, aka “The Demon of Sakuragi” (with the “Sakuragi” being the yakuza organization in question), a 28-year-old enforcer given the task of looking after the boss’s 7-year-old daughter, Yaeka. The implication is that the boss is doing it to teach Kirishima about responsibility, but rather than grumbling about it, Kirishima takes the task seriously and does seem to genuinely be trying to understand Yaeka. Meanwhile, she is initially distant but already seems to be warming to him a little by the end of the episode. As for where her mother is in this scenario? An aunt is present, but the post-credit scene implies that the mother his hospitalized long-term, which could explain Yaeka’s disposition.

In other words, there’s a strong sense of story and underlying drama to this scenario than most of these type of series show, though the more comic elements still (effectively) dominate on the surface. In all, this is an effective and well-executed opener for what should be a solidly entertaining series.

Chimimo

Streams: HIDIVE on Thursdays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

Shocking, this original animation is a full-length episode rather than a short, and it’s not (entirely) a kid’s show, even if it does traffic heavily in family-friendly cuteness. The little white blobs – each of which has some distinguishing feature, like glasses or a mustache – are actually evil spirits from Hell called Chimimiyo, who work with an emissary from Hell (later named Mr. Hell), who comes to the human world with the intent of researching it and implementing Hell on Earth. The problem is that he didn’t count on running into a trio of sisters, one who has won over the Chimimiyo, another who can drunkenly barf on him, and a third who not only can beat the crap out of him but also trim his hair down and give him a room with a rent charge.

Essentially, the whole thing is one big exercise in cuteness a few hints of perversity underlying the situation, and its simple, pastel-flavored artistry and character designs reinforce that. Don’t expect much more than fluffy, passive fun and this one might entertain.

Call of the Night

Streams: HIDIVE on Thursdays

Rating: 4.5 (of 5)

This manga adaptation was among the most highly-anticipated debuts of the season, and after seeing the first episode I can understand why. This production has a style, spirit, and flow to it that I can easily see making it one of the season’s biggest hits.

That style and spirit starts with the music. Japanese hip-hop group Creepy Nuts provides both the jazz-influenced opener and more pure hip-hop closer, and man, I could put both on looped play even though I’m not normally a hip-hop fan. (The OP’s visuals are nothing to sneeze at, either.) Music director Yoshiaki Dewa, who’s done great work in titles like IRODUKU, The aquatope on white sand, and The Idaten Deities Know Only Peace, maintains that flow throughout the episode, giving the episode a seamless musical theme. That all backs the account of a 14-year-old boy who doesn’t understand love enough to accept a confession and can’t sleep, only now finding freedom at night. Naturally that means he’s going to run into a vampire, in this case the philosophically-minded, hot pants-wearing Nazuna (wonderfully-voiced by the prolific Sora Amamiya), who might be taking an interest in him or might be just seeking her next meal. Before everything’s said and done, he announces his intent to figure out how to fall in love with Nazuna, as that’s a requirement in this setting for a vampire turning someone into offspring.

This could easily be just a run-of-the-mill premise, but this is the director behind the much-lauded The Case Study of Vanitas and many of the Monogatari franchise titles, and he keeps an episode mostly based on one long conversation flowing along merrily. It doesn’t do anything too fancy visually – and frankly, I’m not a fan of the character design aesthetic – but every little visual and storytelling detail it has works together well, culminating in a slow-speed flight through the night sky that is more beautiful than it has any right to be. Also doesn’t hurt that Nazuna is quite the character as vampires go, and the amusing expressiveness of her face fully supports that.

So yeah, this one gets a strong recommendation. It’s worth your time to check out even if vampire tales are not normally your thing.

My Stepmom’s Daughter is My Ex

Streams: Crunchyroll on Wednesdays

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Dating and breaking up is a perfectly normal part of middle and high school life, as is the break-ups sometimes not being amicable. But what if you not only couldn’t get apart from your ex, but had to pretend to get along with them because Fate gave you a mean twist?

That’s the underlying conceit of this new light novel adaptation, which offers one of the sauciest premises since Domestic Girlfriend‘s gloriously trashy run a couple of years back. In this case, the contrivance forcing former nerdy couple Mizuto and Yume back together is their parents marrying and them thus becoming stepsiblings. Both want their parents to be happy, so neither wants to intimate that they don’t get along, but now they have to both live together and attend the same school; in fact, they’re even stuck together in the same class. That results in a lot of catty behavior behind the scenes as they arrange a contest to see who is considered the elder sibling (they were born on the same day within a half-hour of each other as well), and some of that can be fun to watch. The additional (and completely predictable) complication is that neither is as completely free of their feelings for the other as they like to think, and that’s already showing some tension before the end of the episode.

The biggest knock against the series at this point is that absolutely nothing about the visual presentation stands out. It’s competently-done, but looks like a dozen or more series we’ve seen before, and even some relatively mild fan service doesn’t change that. (Seeing Yume try to tease Mizuto with her body without really understanding what she’s doing does put an interestingly different twist on this, however.) Still, the first episode is put together well enough, and has just enough hints of greater development potential, that I am very cautiously optimistic about it.

Harem in the Labyrinth of Another World

Streams: Crunchyroll on Wednesdays

Rating: 2 (of 5)

Perhaps the most complimentary thing that can be said about this series’ debut is that the title and opener are completely up-front about which direction the series is going in. Hence no one should stumble into this one unaware of what they’re getting into: an isekai story about a protagonist who assembles a harem to go exploring a dungeon with by purchasing sexy slave girls.

Actually, the first episode only clarifies that main girl Roxanne (i.e., the very busty one featured in promo art for the series) starts as a slave, and Generic Isekai Protagonist #1,256 (aka Michio) hasn’t collected enough money to buy her by the end of the episode. The story is definitely headed in that direction, however, and she’s not even the bustiest one shown in the opener. Sexual predation of slave girls also seems to be an expected thing in this setting, and while the setting does not seem to use magical compulsions for slaves, a master dying means death rather than freedom for a slave (unless there’s an inheritance arrangement, of course), so a slave killing her master would be suicidal and slaves have a vested interest in keeping their masters safe and well. Escape isn’t a worthwhile option, either, since the magical equivalent of identity cards insures that escaped slaves get treated as bandits.

In other words, the one thing this first episode does well is lay out its well-thought-out slavery system. Fan service also looks to be a significant component, as the episode features extensive censoring (though sometimes also for very graphic violence) as well. With unremarkable design elements and only the vaguest hint of a backstory for Michio, this one looks like an isekai title purely for the fan service appreciation crowed.

Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun

Streams: HIDIVE on Wednesdays

Rating: 4.5 (of 5)

This is a sequel to the movie Dawn of the Deep Soul, which absolutely should be watched before proceeding with this season. It’s also absolutely not a jumping-on point for the franchise, as very little that’s going on here will make any sense to newcomers.

The first episode take an interesting approach: it steps back into the history before a town formed around the pit to focus on a group of adventurers (mostly children led by one adult) who set out for the island holding the Abyss in search of a Golden City within its depths. This is coordinated with scenes of Reg, Riko, and Nanachi making their transition down from the fifth layer, suggesting that whatever the protagonist trio find in the Golden City (they arrive just as the episode ends) is going to be descended from those previous adventurers. There are even some faint visual suggestions that Reg might be connected to those earlier adventurers.

All of this is accomplished with the high animation quality, wonderful musical score, beautifully creative design elements, and sharp characterizations which typified the first series. The ugly side of the first series is also present, including a rare fully-animated scene of someone vomiting, a graphic display of human entrails and a scorched corpse, and a strong implication of branding and child rape. I didn’t have a problem with the latter depiction, as I felt it was sufficiently portrayed as ugly and is in no way titillating, but others may take more issue with it. Despite all of that, the episode is so well-crafted that it makes for the strongest debut so far this season.

Smile of the Arsnotoria the Animation

Streams: Crunchyroll on Wednesdays

Rating: 2 (of 5)

This is the anime side of a multimedia project which started last year with a mobile game and will eventually include a novel later this summer. That doesn’t at all help explain what this series is actually about, though, and neither, frankly, does this first episode. The first 19½ minutes of the episode is simply a CGDCT exercise involving five girls assembling to have tea. From various tidbits dropped throughout, we can tell that they are students (Pentagrams, I think?) at a magic academy, the the magic academy is located up in the sky, that exterminating bugs is part of their curriculum, that they have to keep a regular watch (though for what is not even hinted at), and that some weird stuff wanders around the halls of the academy if one watches closely. No sign of anyone not female, either. Nothing in that content in the slightest suggests what happens in the last two minutes, which shifts to a darker art style, presents a venue with buildings aflame, and shows cloaked figures and a sword-wielding noble bloodily slaughtering older adults.

Both the opener and images I’ve found from the game indicate that this sharp visual and content dichotomy is a key element of the franchise, and the game does seem to have a battle element. Getting inkling on why is going to require more than just this episode, however. The episode does at least plainly lay out the personalities and mannerisms of each of the five central girls, and some of the background design details can be quite interesting, but this should have been a two-episode starter if the first episode was going to be this laid-back and lacking in context. Might watch a second episode just to get a sense of what the hell is actually going on here, but it’s going to have to be more forthcoming to keep its audience.

Tokyo Mew Mew New

Streams: HIDIVE on Tuesdays

Rating: 2 (of 5) for general audiences, higher for magical girl fans

Though I was part of anime fandom at the time the original Tokyo Mew Mew aired in 2002, I wasn’t at all into cutesy magical girl series at the time, so I was aware of the title (mostly from its prominent presence in AMVs and anime magazines) but never watched it. Thus this is my first direct exposure to the franchise. I didn’t have any trouble following the first episode, though, as this appears to be a complete reboot of the original, one wholly intended to draw in a whole new generation to environmentally-themed cuteness.

That being said, the new version doesn’t feel like an update at all. It is every bit a series that has been dragged forward from the early 2000s, down even to some of the style points of its animation, with its only minor concession to the passing years so far being the presence of VR goggles. Its characterizations and story beats will be familiar to anyone who has watched pure, kid-friendly magical girl series over the years, to the point that established magical girl fans might find this to be comfort food. However, those traits also make it unlikely to have any cross-over appeal. The only distinguishing gimmick here is that each of the magical girls – including first episode featured girl Ichigo – has an endangered animal theme, and that’s not enough on its own to make it worth watching.

Vermeil in Gold

Streams: HIDIVE on Tuesdays

Rating: 3 ( of 5)

The Magical Girlfriend trope dates back at least 30 years in anime and has regularly popped up ever since despite changing trends in anime over the decades. This shonen manga adaptation is one of the purest distillations of that trope to come along in some time: Alto, a student at a magic academy who excels at everything else, faces being held back because his one weakness is summoning a familiar, which is essential to have for the next level. In desperation to find something that works, he uses a ritual in an old tome that falls on his head with suspicious convenience, but is shocked by what appears: a voluptuous, naked demon named Vermeil. Normally contracting with demons is deadly to humans, but she determines that Alto’s magic is capable of handling it so she agrees to being his familiar as the price to pay for her freedom (from being sealed in the book). But Lilia, a longtime friend of Alto’s who’s clearly in love with him (Vermeil realizes this, but he’s oblivious), takes exception to Vermeil hanging on Alto and is only forced to get along with her after a duel shows that Vermeil – even when passing as human – is no pushover.

So yeah, the series is progressing down a well-trodden path, including annoying stereotypes like Alto being skittish around sexual elements and the jealous long-time female friend. The technical merits don’t impress, either despite some distinct fan service moments. Vermeil helps save the first episode thanks in part to a wonderfully sultry performance by veteran seiyuu Maaya Uchida, and both the OP and ED hint that she may have an involved backstory, so at least some depth is possible. There are also some interesting magical mechanics in play, such as how strong mana could actually repel weaker familiars and how demon contracts commonly end badly because the summoner can’t handle the mana output needed. This gives me just enough hope that the series could amount to something that I will likely give it another episode or two to prove itself, though I’m still not expecting anything great.

Overlord s4

Streams: Crunchyroll on Tuesdays

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

After nearly four years off, Overlord has returned to continue the story about the establishment of Ains Ooal Goan’s new Sorcerer Kingdom. As with previous seasons, it’s a slow start, with the first episode again being more of a directional establishment than an episode where anything major actually happens. Ains interacts with four of his chief subordinates (Albedo, Aura, Mare, Hamsuke,and Pandora’s Actor), gets a new outfit more suitingly-resplendent than his normal attire, and deals with some business matters. The two main long-term development points to come up are dispatching Albedo as an emissary to the Re-Estize Kingdom and bringing the local adventurer’s guild into the fold of the Sorcerer Kingdom in order to give it a revamped mission: make them adventurers in the truest, most traditional sense, by exploring and making contact with other lands, rather than just being monster exterminators. Both of those feel like paths to eventual greater development.

On the whole, the episode is just business as normal for the franchise. It is solidly-executed on both technical and storytelling elements, but with nothing exciting going on beyond reaffirming that Ains still feels like he’s in way over his head and has to keep an act up while his underlings fawn over him to an uncomfortable degree. Sure, this is the kind of thing that we have come to expect from the franchise, and it certainly scratches an itch for franchise fans, but did we really need a full episode of it? Hopefully the next episode will, at least, expand out into other areas introduced in previous seasons and bring the series into new ones as well. (I hear that dwarves are getting introduced this time around.)

My Isekai Life

Streams: HIDIVE on Mondays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

Rarely has an isekai series been so blasé about its set-up as this one is. The first episode only references protagonist Yuji having a prior life in a modern world once, and when a bit of the backstory does come up about halfway through the second of this two-episode preview, it hand-waves everything. Yuji gets all of these skills and slimes under his control with startling quickness, though how he met and tamed the wolf and the dryad seen in the first episode remains to be revealed. The writing just seems to regard the set-up as trivial and prefers to get to the more interesting content right away.

And honestly, that may have been the correct call. The first two episodes have a peculiar kind of charm to them that works better than the generic, game-styled set-up and circumstances might suggest. Yuju’s minions have plenty enough personality to make up for their master’s deadpan style, though as he shows when casting grand spells, he does have a bit of flair when he wants to. His matter-of-fact way of dealing with problems sometimes makes for some good humor, too. The first two episodes also show a distinct plot thread and some clever uses for magic, especially channeling spells remotely through slimes. Technical merits are mediocre at best, but the ED is almost ridiculously catchy.

This one has every potential to end up just being another bland isekai power fantasy, but I am cautiously optimistic that it could prove entertaining.

Yurei Deco

Streams: Crunchyroll on Sundays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

If you want to see possibly the weirdest and most high-concept show of the season, and the one the auteur anime fans are going to be talking about, then check this one out. Actually, I recommend checking it out anyway, as it’s rather hard to describe in any simple fashion.

This is the latest production from Science SARU, the studio which has done all of Masakai Yuasa’s stuff and also fare like last year’s The Heike Story, and that distinctive visual style is evident here. The concept here is not subtle: the story is set in a world where Love ratings (which look suspiciously like Facebook “likes”) quantify everything and everyone, represent purchasing power, and even can effectively be used to quell criminal activity. In other words, peace is maintained through authoritarian application of social media. Naturally, that means that one of the main characters exists at least partly outside the system, and there is a mysterious phenomenon called Zero Phantom which can negate Love.

Yeeeah, no social commentary all is intended there, right? I’m not going to bother to try to carefully analyze this one, as I’m sure others will have voluminous commentary on it. This kind of thing isn’t my style at all, so I probably won’t watch more no matter how much others might rave about it, but if you want keep up with what may be the most talked-about new series this season (and certainly the most-anticipated one among critics), then be sure to give this one a look.

Luminous Witches

Streams: Crunchyroll on Sundays

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

This title is part of the Strike Witches franchise, and the first episode does not bother to lay out the franchise’s underlying conceits, so a general conceptual familiarity is assumed: an invasion by the alien Neuroi has effectively made an alternate antagonist for World War 2, witches exist who have familiars and magic but lose them around age 20, and witches have become a key part of the anti-Neuroi defenses via the use of Striker Units that harness their magic and allow them to fly (and thus essentially make them anthropomorphized WW2 fighter planes). That’s about all one needs to know to handle the first episode, however, as this does not seem directly connected to any previous franchise title.

The first episode is entirely taken up with introducing the girls who will form the core cast, so there’s almost no plot movement yet, but the essential idea here seems to be the answer to an important question in the franchise: what do witches who are not suited for battle (whether because of injury, erratic magic, lack of knowledge, aging out, or just general magical incompetence) do? The answer the series seems to be headed towards is to form a morale-boosting performing troupe – and since this is anime, that of course means it must be done idol group-style. So yeah, this looks to be the franchise’s idol show version.

This is more than just a completely logical extension of the franchise, as it even fits within the franchise’s historical context; essentially, the girls are going to be this setting’s equivalent of the USO. That doesn’t divorce this from being an idol series, but I am curious to see how the wartime elements get integrated into the normal course of idol show events. Visual style and animation quality are consistent with franchise norms, and in a promising sign, a lovely rendition of “Amazing Grace” sung in Japanese is featured in one scene. Overall, this shows some promise, and might not just be for franchise fans.

Shoot! Goal to the Future

Streams: Crunchyroll on Saturdays

Rating: 2 (of 5)

I think I’ve made it clear in previous seasons that I’m not a soccer fan, and even less so am I a fan of soccer anime, so this one had the deck heavily stacked against it for me. Nothing about this debut episode is going to change that opinion, although I do have to give this one some credit for laying on the drama thicker than normal. Even so, this is still just a more serious version of the typical “former ace has become disaffected by the sport, but others are trying to drag him back in” gimmick. And how much does it say about how tired this gimmick is when the former soccer buddy who was implied all along to be dead instead just turns out to have left the former ace, and that’s the episode’s major twist?

One other thing about this one: although it can be taken and fully understood as a standalone, it actually appears to be a next-gen follow-up to the series Aoki Densetsu Shoot!, which aired in 1993-94. The coach figure, Kamiya, is even implied to be one of the main characters from that series. (There was an Atsushi Kamiya in the main cast.) So this is also going to be a “rebuild the team to its past glory” scenario. Not enough to get me watching any more of it, though.

Teppen!!!!!!!!!!!! Laughing ’til You Cry

Streams: Crunchyroll on Saturdays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

This is a series about trios of girls living in a boarding house for finalists in a national manzai trio competition. (Manzai is a traditional Japanese comedy routine style similar to stand-up, though usually done with two people.) The first episode introduces us to both the muscle-bound house manager and five very eccentric trios, with the focus primarily on the trio Young Wai-Wai and their misadventures with a bodybuilding trophy, which serve as fodder for their manzai routine. I would expect that future episodes will cycle through focusing on each of the other four groups, including one with an alien theme, one with a Rich Girl theme, one with a “not from Tokyo” theme, and I’m not clear yet what the Bullet Kunoichi team is going for.

I really, really did not expect to like this at all, especially since I tend to prefer improv for stand-up comedy rather than more formalized routines, but more than once this episode made me laugh despite myself. (The best gag is undoubtedly the one about the damage trophy’s final form.) Though I found it tedious at first, the flow of the humor in it gradually grew on me. Not sure if I’ll watch more, and the technical merits are definitely nothing special. Even if you don’t check the whole episode out, though, you owe it to yourself to at least check out the mostly-rapped opener, which is one of the more memorable ones so far this year.

Lycoris Recoil

Streams: Crunchyroll on Saturdays

Rating: 4 (of 5)

From studio A-1 Pictures and the creator of Ben-To comes this new original series. The premise here is that there’s a secret organization in Japan called DA (for “Direct Attack”) which keeps the peace though the use of young female agents called Lycoris. These highly-skilled girls surreptitiously deal with all kinds of threats, using lethal force when necessary, though they can also still pass as normal teen girls. Takina Inoue is one such agent who gets demoted after going overboard on a mission and sent to train under supposedly the best Lycoris ever, one Chisato Nishikigi, who works out of Cafe LycoReco. But the seemingly-flighty Chisato throws Takina for a loop, both because of her character and because of her current penchant for using non-lethal force and taking on private sector assignments normally deemed beneath DA’s attention. As Takina learns, however, Chisato didn’t earn her reputation for nothing.

In other words, this is one of these “cute girls take on odd jobs” kind of scenarios crossed with a “girls with guns” scenario, one that can get surprisingly harshly violent. (And no, you’re not supposed to ask any questions about why the agents are all teen girls.) The first episode does an effective job of establishing the central duo – a standard light-haired genki girl with dark-haired serious girl combo – and setting up both what Chisato does now and some hints of broader plot points, including a hacker with a penchant for quoting James Joyce and a mysterious philanthropist who is somehow up to no good. Character designs are sharp and the overall visual merits should make this one of the better-looking anime series of the new season, including some crisp action sequences. (Some of the credit for this probably goes to director Shingo Adachi, who is helming his first series but is the long-time character designer and action director for the SAO franchise.) The setting raises a lot of dicey questions about the overall structure of the government in this setting, but overall, I came away with a positive enough impression of this one that I will almost certainly watch more.

Engage Kiss

Streams: Crunchyroll on Saturdays

Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

In this new multimedia project from Aniplex, Shu Ogata is a young private contractor on Bayron City, an independent Mega-Float city in the Pacific Ocean which is on the cutting edge of new energy mining. Shu specializes in dealing with “D Hazards,” demonic transformations which threaten the city, but his finances are in dire straits due to no recent work. What success and financial support he does have comes from Kisara, who attends school as a high school student but is actually a high-class demon who has made a contract with Shu. And the price of that contract – and what fuels her powers – is draining kisses. She also happens to be a very jealous and possessive sort, as Shu’s ex at his previous job quickly discovers.

Despite the sci fi/fantasy trappings, this series is actually listed as a romantic comedy, and some elements of that do show through in the first episode. A good chunk of the episode is taken up by a fight scene, though, with the “gimmick” that Shu’s current girl and ex seem to be attacking each other as they take out the bad guy’s minions. That works about as well as anything else in the opening series – which is to say, barely at all. The first episode is not outright bad, and Kisara does look at least a little cool when she goes into demon form, but the lackluster production and concept make it hard to get enthusiastic about this one.

Utawarerumono Mask of Truth

Streams: Crunchyroll on Saturdays

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

This two-episode opener begins the adaptation of the third of the three games in the source game series. As such, it is absolutely not a franchise entry point. Even with the opening montage (which references both the previous anime series), anyone not familiar with all previous content will be lost. In fact, I’d even recommend going back and at least reviewing what happened towards the end of the second series before watching this, as the events here follow directly from those events.

While just saying, “if you’ve liked previous entries in the franchise, you’ll like this” may seem like an oversimplification, it is the unvarnished truth in this case. Everything that made the previous seasons a solid viewing experience is back: the gorgeous setting and character designs, strong musical score, broad mix of personalities, involved plot, and of course the mass battle scenes. It picks up with Oshtor, now formally taking over the mask from Haku, leading the poisoned true princess of Yamato to Ennakamuy. His former Royal Guards have come to join them, but have to fight their way there. Meanwhile, in the capital, a fake princess is being propped up and the other Eight Pillar Generals are scheming. On the whole, it’s a solid start to the story’s next chapter.

Phantom of the Idol

Streams: HIDIVE on Fridays

Rating: 4 (of 5)

I may be overrating this episode slightly, but I felt compelled to give it a bump due to my mild shock over how well it worked. This title isn’t exactly coming from nowhere, as it did garner some attention in the run-up to the season, but I think it has the potential to be one of the season’s sleeper hits.

The concept is simple and straightforward: Yuuya is a lazy bum who let himself get scouted to be an idol (because of his looks) because he figured it would be easy money. He’s so put off by the effort and enthusiasm needed to become a proper idol that he’s willing to let himself get fired from the male idol duo ZING (due to half-assed performances) rather than continue. Asahi Mogami was an up-and-coming teen idol with enthusiasm and dedication to spare when she died in an auto accident a year ago. She can’t let go of her urge to perform, so she wandered, undetected, until both realize that Yuuya can see her. When they discover that Asahi can possess Yuuya, they strike up a bargain where she will posses him for performance. She gets to exult in the stage once more, he gets paid without having to put in the effort himself. A win-win scenario, right?

Yeah, it’s gimmicky, and yeah, Yuuya can come across as somewhat of a scumbag in this scenario. However, this is clearly not just a one-sided deal; if Yuuya is using Asahi to make his life easier, Asahi is still getting what she most wants and loves out of it, too. Also, I already get the sense that Yuuya is not being totally honest about his motivations. Asahi’s appeal to him got through to him more than he probably cares to admit, so seeing how this relationship plays out on character development and emotional levels could be interesting. Aside from their central story, it looks like a group of devoted Yuuya fans may also be regular, and the episode does have some decent comedy beats. The performance by ZING is also noteworthy for being fully-animated despite not resorting to any CG, which was a surprise for a production that doesn’t otherwise feel high-budget. Overall, this looks promising.

One thought on “Summer 2022 Preview Guide

  1. I had a good moment today at the end of watching Parallel world pharmacy. After watching the other recent pharmacy isekai I was fully expecting a spongey cute girls filled laid back sponge fest of an anime and while I did get cute girls central it actually managed to surprise me. Starting with a character that while foolish had drive got me interested, but having his instructor freak out like he was a monster actually intrigued me. If the show can keep up with some good old human drama and friction instead of just treating him like a walking Messiah then I have found another surprise of the season to go with Yurei Deco.

    And I was worried at the start of the season that I would only be watching overlord. Thank god for the people out there sneaking good story telling to subvert all that appeal anime.

    Like

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