Fall 2021 Previews

Last Updated: 11:55 p.m. EDT 10/15/21

This page will feature brief first impressions on each legally-streaming series this season as it debuts (except for 86, which will go straight to episode reviews on the blog page). They will be posted from most recent to oldest, so this page could be updated multiple times per day on busy days.

Note #1: Apologies for the delay on posting Ranking of Kings; travel and visiting relatives threw my schedule off. This feature will conclude when Komi Can’t Communicate officially becomes available on the 21st.

Ranking of Kings

Streams: Funimation on Thursdays

Ranking: 4.5 (of 5)

This is not a show that I expected to like, and frankly, I don’t think it’s likely I’ll end up following it despite the rating I am giving the first episode. However, I have to acknowledge how well-done and potentially impactful this debut is.

In particular, I respect the depth and complexity of the meaning it conveys and the symbolism it uses to accomplish that, to the point that they impress me more the more I contemplate them. The choice of stylizing both the art and storytelling in a fashion reminiscent of a classic children’s book is much more deliberate and meaningful than just being a gimmick; those convey that what the narrative shows are fundamental truths rather than anything complicated. At the heart of it is a deaf-mute young prince, one whom almost everyone underestimates because the way he always smiles makes him come across as an idiot. Even his sword-trainer, who also translates what others say into sign language for him, despairs that he’s not as capable as his younger brother, the second prince.

But all of this adds up to a lesson about not taking a disabled person’s disabilities for granted. The young prince is aware of much more than he lets on (only the shadow creature seems to understand that he can read lips) and hides his pain about the way he’s treated behind his smiles. He also has much more talent than he shows. This isn’t an uncommon feature in anime at all, but the way he outmaneuvers his more aggressive and seemingly-capable brother and lands a square hit in a duel between the two packs a power that these kind of scenes rarely have. It’s a silent testament that there’s way more to the prince than anyone has realized.

The deeper meaning of the episode shows in other ways as well. Throughout, the prince is shown as tiny, while his great warrior father is a hulking giant of a man, but how much of this is exaggeration vs. the prince’s impression of his father? The shadow creature, as a fellow outsider (albeit of an entirely different kind), also shows bold promise. Really, this is a remarkably well-constructed episode all around, and I highly recommend it for any audience.

Deep Insanity: The Lost Child

Streams: Funimation on Tuesdays

Rating: 1 (of 5)

An illness called Randolph Syndrome is putting hundreds of millions of people in comas, and it may be connected to a giant hole recently discovered in Antarctica. Sleepers are agents who are sent down into the whole to investigate, and. . .

Oh, whatever. This pathetic attempt at an anime premise is partly a rip-off on Made in Abyss, but it has not one ounce of the style, flair, or compelling characters that its clear predecessor did. It utterly fails at even making its core cast members interesting (much less getting viewers to care about them), is not funny when it tries to be, and has lackluster action elements, albeit ones which can get bloody. The artistry isn’t bad, but otherwise it has no redeeming features. Hard pass.

Rumble Garanndoll

Streams: Funimation on Mondays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

In an alternate version of modern Japan, where a totalitarian state used humanoid dog-shaped mecha is weeding out anything which disagrees with their doctrine (think Taliban), Hosomichi is serving as a host in a host club, trying to earn enough money to pay off lingering family debts. That is, until Kabuki-cho is deemed an abomination and worthy of being burned down. In the midst of the chaos he winds up inside an heroic-looking mecha and contending with its “battery girl,” who seems to fuel the mecha based on the passion and enthusiasm she generates. Hosomichi is in for a wild ride.

This original mecha series from the director behind School-Live! and Astra in Space is cheesy as hell but fully owns it, down even to one character who’s Kamina from Gurren Lagann reborn. (This isn’t an exaggeration, either; the character looks, dresses, and acts so much like Kamina that it has to be a deliberate homage.) The series even apes Gurren Lagann‘s penchant for associating passion with mecha power, though in this case that seems to be more literal than figurative. The episode really doesn’t do anything special as crazy-ass mecha series go, but it at least looks like it could be a fun little diversion.

Ancient Girls Frame ep 1 and 2

Streams: Funimation (see below)

Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

This original mecha series is a Chinese co-production whose primary dub is apparently Madarin Chinese, though a Japanese dub – which changes the Chinese names for characters to Japanese ones – has also been announced. It is streaming in China on Sunday nights (U.S. time) and will apparently air in Japan on Tuesday. Funimation is carrying the former stream, and this preview is based on that. As of 10/11, whether they will also stream the Japanese dub is unclear.

The set-up, character personality distribution, and plot progression all borrow heavily from assorted mecha series spanning the past 35 years, resulting in a typical story about how aliens called Nergal started attacking humanity as the latter expanded out across the solar system. (The name choice is interesting, because while Nergal refers to ancient Mesopotamian god of war and the underworld, it also refers to the organization defending Earth from aliens in Martian Successor Nadesico. I have to wonder if the irony of that connection was intended.) Only mecha buried on Earth for thousands of years seem capable of fighting them off, and only those with a genetic link to the ancient aliens who left the mecha – a less than one-in-ten-million occurrence – are able to pilot them, though some kind of emotional connection is also implied to be necessary. Prospective pilots are called Ancient Girls (why men aren’t candidates isn’t explained). Naturally, one of the candidates had an older sister who was an Ancient Girl before being lost in battle, and naturally, she seems to have a special connection to a small but enormously powerful mecha. Both factors put her on the bad side of the direct commander of the Ancient Girls (in the case of the sibling connection) and one of the established pilots (in the latter case), but the special mecha’s tendency to respond to the protagonist in a crisis makes their complaints moot.

In other words, not a shred of originality will be found anywhere in the first two episodes, except possibly for the mecha designs. The editing also feels a little choppy, like these two episodes might have been condensed from 2½ or even 3 full episodes of content. Character designs are attractive but, except for the red tights the redhead wears with her uniform, are nothing fresh, either. Overall, it’s not awful, just unoriginal, and it will certainly scratch a “girls in mecha” itch, as long as you don’t expect fan service. (Essentially none has been provided so far.)

Shikizakura

Streams: HIDIVE on Saturdays

Rating: 2 (of 5)

This original anime series was created and is produced by studio Sublimation, a 3D CG-specializing studio whose previous prominent production effort was the Dragon’s Dogma anime last year. Hence it also being done entirely in 3D CG should be no surprise. Unfortunately, this is hardly a top-of-the-line CG effort. It looks good enough when portraying monsters and stylized full-body battle suits, but human characters look too plastic, despite all of the meticulous effort put into priestess/princess Oka’s design in particular. In other words, if you generally dislike all-CG series, this one will be an instant turn-off.

The base story is also quite generic: a boy who was the sole survivor of a city-wrecking catastrophe now, several years later, finds himself being thrown into the same kind of chaos which created that disaster. His only way out is bonding with a difficult-to-control sentient battle suit which has its own grudge against the priestess who sealed him, and protagonist Kakeru must fight him for control. In other words, it’s sort of an anime version of Venom, which makes the timing of this series (i.e., just a week after the Venom movie premiered) a bit ironic. Even without the CG aspect, though, this one isn’t showing much promise.

BUILD-DIVIDE -#000000- CODE BLACK

Streams: CR and Funi on Saturdays

Rating: 2 (of 5)

Anime series that aren’t pure slice-of-life usually require some suspension of disbelief, but I have always felt that card game series require more than most. Sure, it can be cool to see in dramatic action plays that you might do yourself in a trading card game; that part I don’t mind at all. However, the over-dramatizing of the stakes, and the notion that world-controlling schemes can be dependent on these games, makes my eyes roll every time. So does the notion that such incredible resources could be devoted to making these games into 3D experiences.

This series, which is the leading edge of a multimedia franchise that (naturally!) includes a card game version, is about as stereotypical an example of this as can be imagined. It works pretty well as an advertisement for the game, but the initial match takes up so much of the episode that it leaves little time for establishing or (especially) explaining anything else. If the card game play alone doesn’t work for you, there’s no other draw here. I see nothing here which convinced me that a second episode is even worth a look.

My Senpai is Annoying

Streams: Funimation on Saturdays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

Based on the title and advertising blurb, I had expected a much more comical series where the protagonist is always complaining about her senior co-worker. Instead we get a rather sweet story which definitely has its comic elements but also takes a more mildly serious look at a very short young woman learning the ins and outs of the sales business under the watchful eye of a bear of a senpai. While the “annoying” part of the title likely comes from the protagonist feeling like she’s sometimes being treated as a little kid, her senpai unquestionably is looking out for her. Even when some other co-workers have fun at her expense, there’s nothing mean-spirited about it, and they are looking out for her, too.

In other words, this is a pleasant little workplace comedy – maybe a little too pleasant, in fact. Character designs are also quite generic and the technical merits are modest. It’s probably a little better than what I’m rating it, but I can’t see it sustaining my interest.

The Faraway Paladin

Streams: Crunchyroll on Saturdays

Rating: 4.5 (of 5)

The first novel for this series is highly-regarded, so this was high on my most-anticipated list. The opener doesn’t disappoint, despite the content, in some senses, being very typical for the first episode of an isekai series. It features a man who is reborn into a fantasy world as a babe and raised to learn various things (fighting, magic, agriculture), which he can accomplish at a genius level because of hazy memories of a wasted past life. He also sees this life as a chance to do things right.

But that’s where the similarities end. The trio raising him are all undead: a ghostly wizard/sage, a skeletal warrior, and a priestess-like mummy (although, incongruously, we never see her wearing wrappings, just a partial face mask). The trio has a good dynamic with each other and obviously care for young Will, but they are also holding a lot of secrets about their circumstances, including why they live at a temple on the fringe of a ruined and abandoned city and why they made contracts with Stagnate, the aptly-named God of the Dead, in order to persist as undead even though (in at least one case) this clearly violates the tenets they lived by.

While the technical merits aren’t spectacular, this episode has so many neat little touches, such as the particulars of how magic works here, the skeleton’s lessons about killing, and especially how the priestess gets the bread they feed will. The mysteries at hand are compelling, and the family dynamic is surprisingly strong. The opener and advertising art indicate that Will isn’t going to stay a kid and will eventually travel with other adventurers, but even so, I am eager to see how this one plays out.

Visual Prison

Streams: Funimation on Fridays

Rating: 2 (of 5)

In the founding Anne Rice novel Interview with a Vampire, there existed in the backstory a theater in Paris aptly-named “Les Theatres des Vampires.” Its conceit was that a bunch of vampires put on stages shows where they pretended to be vampires and thus feasted on victims out in the open. This series’ concept – about “Visual Kei” bands who consist of vampires – feels derivative of that. Yes, there’s some incomprehensible plot about a Scarlet Moon and a singing competition among vampires every year to earn great power, but this is really just an exercise in having androgynous bishonen play at being vampires while also belting out angst-ridden tunes.

That’s about the extent of the series’ appeal, too. I will concede that the singing talent on display here is top-rate, and that’s why I am not rating the episode even lower. However, there’s no potential cross-over draw here. This season is not short on vampire-focused titles, and at least one of those other options is vastly more appealing than this one.

Taisho Otome Fairy Tale

Streams: Funimation on Fridays

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

In 1921 Japan, 17-year-old Tamahiko lost both his mother and the use of his right hand in an auto accident. That made him useless to his family, so he was shipped off to isolation in a mountain home of his family. Unhappy with his life, he intended to die there, until enthusiastic young Yuzuki arrived. She was bought from a debtor to Tamahiko’s father to look after him and eventually be his wife (she’s under 15 and so cannot marry yet), much to Tamahiko’s consternation. But she may also be the caring presence he so desperately needs, while his unwitting decency eases one of her own major concerns.

Based on the blurb from the source manga, I wasn’t expecting much from this one. Indeed, it’s not going to wow anyone with its artistry or character designs, despite some interesting use of symbolism early on (i.e., Tamahiko laying on a mountain of skulls as he contemplates dying). However, it shows the makings of being a sweet, occasionally comical little tale about a troubled young man and the girl who helps him learn to appreciate life again. It’s not simply a case of an ideal waifu, either; despite her naturally-cheery nature, Yuzuki is merely trying to make the best of her situation and seems to have an interest in going back to school, and that could keep this from being just a wish-fulfillment scenario. My viewing card is probably too full for the season to allow room for this one, but it may be worth checking out more.

Platinum End

Streams: Crunchyroll on Thursdays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

That the source manga for this series was created by the same team behind Death Note explains a lot about why the set-up is the way it is. It’s sort of the reverse concept; whereas Light Yagami had everything going for him, protagonist Mirai’s life sucks so badly that he attempts suicide, only to be rescued by a literal personal angel named Nasse. Cheerful Nasse seeks only to promote Mirai’s happiness, but she has a twisted sense about how that can be achieved, one that doesn’t exclude suggesting that Mirai kill someone who’s deeply wronged him and is chiefly responsible for his life being a mess. Rather than glory in the life-or-death power he has been given, Mirai is horrified by it, and unlike Light, he’s leery about the possibility that he is getting drawn into a contest to become the new god.

The rather grimdark first episode plays best if it is treated as the anti-Death Note, complete with Nasse being Mirai’s Ryuk. The set-up seems too specific for that to not be at least partly the intent here, and I am somewhat curious to see how far the series goes with that concept. My biggest concern is that it seems to aiming for some deeper meaning, but its initial efforts, while not a failure, are only rudimentary. Time will tell if this will amount to anything special.

Sakugan

Streams: Crunchyroll on Thursdays

Rating: 4 (of 5)

Although this original anime series was not on my radar, it was highly-anticipated by many others. The first episode amply shows why. It feature impressive animation, a visually well-conceptualized setting, and a smooth way to spill setting details without info-dumping. It also sets up a potentially interesting dynamic with its father-daughter mecha piloting team-up and forcefully drives home the stakes involved in the girl’s desire to seek out the location in her dreams.

And yet, I can’t quite gush over the first episode. The name’s similarity to Bakugan Battle Brawlers is a distraction, sure, but the issue is more that the set-up feels a bit derivative; it strikes me as a mix of Made in Abyss and Gurren Lagann. (Granted, there are far worse pairings of series that you could mix.) Also, the two characters who died felt more like they were committing suicide than just doing something dangerous. These are nitpicks, though. If the execution quality seen in this first episode can be maintained then this is likely to be one of the season’s biggest new hits.

PuraOre! ~Pride of Orange~

Streams: Funimation on Fridays

Rating: 2 (of 5)

Gaggles of cute girls have done just about everything else in anime, so why not hockey? Oh, and since we have all of these cute girls assembled, let’s have them give idol-style performances after each win, too!

If that sounds stupid on paper, it’s no less so in execution in the episode’s opening scenes. The one saving grace is that it is, at least for the moment, just a scheme being cooked up by a woman associated with a local pro hockey team. The episode is mostly just an exercise in insipid cutesiness followed by a beginner’s lesson on hockey. Nothing is inherently wrong about any of this, but I was practically creeped out by the incongruous look of the cute-girl faces on hockey-uniformed bodies that seemed disproportionate for their heads. I think I can see what was being attempted there, but it just doesn’t work visually, to the point of being a major distraction. The technical merits here are good enough that I don’t feel justified in giving an even lower rating, but that effect makes this series a no-go.

Muv-Luv Alternative

Streams: Crunchyroll on Wednesdays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

The Muv-Luv franchise’s evolution is a weird one. It started as an ero game, which was itself a spin-off of the another ero game: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien (aka Rumbling Hearts for the U.S. release of its anime version). Through an alternate-world gimmick it became a mecha-oriented alien invasion epic, one which has had two previous anime entries: the 2012 spin-off Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse and the 2016 prequel Schwarzesmarken. This series looks to be a more direct adaptation of the Muv-Luv Alternative visual novel, which was a sequel to the original ero game. No familiarity with any previous properties is necessary, as what one needs to know to understand the initial set-up in all provided in the first few minutes.

For those new to the franchise, you can expect certain things: sexy female character designs, mecha action, buglike alien-stomping, a generally grim and depressing tone, and lots of bloody violence and sometimes-horrifying death. All of that is out in spades in this episode’s story about the catastrophic failure of one defensive position to hold the line despite being fully prepared. This wasn’t a case of incompetence; they just got overwhelmed in classic “alien horde” style. The story composition is so predictable that a veteran sci fi anime fan could probably predict everything that happens even down to the exact timing, but the execution is just effective enough to provide the story hook and the technical merits are solid, hence the mid-range grade.

It’s also important to understand that this episode is just a prequel. The actual story – and the introduction of the true protagonist – come next episode after a three-year time jump. The feature character here – Komaki Sayako – is more a guest appearance, one who may reappear later but isn’t going to be an ongoing feature character. Given the pattern of past Muv-Luv content, lot more cameos from characters who appear elsewhere in the franchise can probably be expected.

World’s Finest Assassin. . .

Streams: Crunchyroll on Wednesdays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

The title to this one is actually longer than this, but this much is enough to fully identify the title: it’s about a master assassin from our world who’s old enough to be on the verge of retirement when he dies spectacularly and then gets isekai’d. Apparently a goddess is looking for someone to whack the Hero in a fantasy world, so she’s offering him a deal he’s unlikely to refuse.

The guy being older and already an expert in his field before being reborn is a bit of a twist here, but I’m not convinced that it will be enough to distinguish the title. Some cool and effective action scenes help more, and its opener is easily one of the season’s best. (It’s worth checking out even if you don’t otherwise watch the episode.) There is an early fan service element to the content, and some will certainly find the opening slave auction of early-teen girls to be a turn-off (this is from the creator of Redo of Healer, if that tells you anything), but it has good enough technical merits and just good enough storytelling that I might check out another episode or two. I’m also a little curious to see if the assassin’s novice partner also gets the reincarnation treatment, as otherwise the series wasted a lot of effort establishing her.

Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside

Streams: Funimation on Wednesdays

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

I have not read the source novels for this one, so based on the premise alone, I wasn’t expecting much. The concept sounds rather bland: a onetime member of the Hero’s party has outlived his usefulness to the party (at least in the opinion of one other member), so he leaves under the guise of being lost on a scouting mission and retires, under a different name, to the most out-of-the-way town he could find, where he intends to set up residence as an apothecary. This episode establishes those circumstances and progresses the story to that point. Both the opener and closer indicate that he will eventually live and work with a curvaceous blonde, and she makes her first appearance at the end of the episode. Otherwise this is a very low-key tale, with the only minor burst of excitement being a brief fight Red has with an owlbear while gathering medicinal herbs.

But that’s perfectly fine. Unlike the frightfully dull Drug Store in Another World from last season, this one maintains a good pace as it moves the store along and establishes the particulars of the situation. Even more importantly, it sets just the right mood to make the story work. Technical merits are solid and central character Red is likable without seeming artificial. I could definitely see how this might bore some audiences, but I am curious to see how well the tone maintains with the introduction of the blonde next episode. (I am also curious to see how much it parallels the novel series Roll or Die, which uses a similar “once a part of the Hero’s party but deemed useless by a fellow member” gimmick.)

takt op. Destiny

Streams: Crunchyroll on Tuesdays

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

The episode opens with a fable-like way of describing good stones falling to Earth to grant superhuman capabilities, followed by bad stones which bring the monsters. These are the D2, and they seem to really, really hate music, so much so that just hearing it can cause them to go on rampages. Only special magical girls called Musicarts, who are paired with Conductors, can fight them in this semi-post-apocalyptic setting.

Yeah, it’s a generic premise overall, but the way the D2 being triggered by music results in a virtual ban on music is an interesting twist, and the elaborate action scenes are certainly nothing to sneeze at. Also, it’s set in America instead of Japan, which is an interesting choice; unclear if there is a particular reason for that. While I can see how the banter between the music-obsessed takt and his combat-obsessed Musicart could be off-putting, I found it kind of fun, and sympathized with the beleaguered young woman who’s trying to keep both focused long enough to reach their ultimate objective. Might not be for everyone, but with Tuesday looking thin this season, it could earn a spot on my viewing card.

The Fruit of Evolution: Before I Knew It, My Life Had It Made

Streams: Crunchyroll on Mondays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

By all rights, this show should absolutely suck. The animation, while hardly down to I’m Standing on 1,000,000 Lives level, is no more than mediocre, human character designs all look completely generic, and the isekai set-up feels like it was pieced together from other random isekai series. The only thing special about it so far is the uber-strong but also potentially lovey-dovey pink gorilla, who intends to marry the main character but will apparently evolve in a gorgeous redhead human girl next episode.

And yet, somehow this first episode was still entertaining. It’s corny as hell, but I got a good chuckle or even outright laugh out of it on multiple occasions. It has at least a decent sense of comic timing, and that multiple babes will eventually be involved (if the OP and ED are to be believed) certainly doesn’t hurt. I may not end up following this one, but I will check out at least one or two more episodes.

AMAIM Warrior at the Borderline

Streams: Funimation on Mondays

Rating: 4 (of 5)

Maybe the biggest surprise so far this season is that the opening episode of this new traditional mecha series succeeds despite having many reasons to be quickly-forgettable. It is very clearly intended to be a vehicle for advertising model kits (toy/hobby company Bandai Spirits is one of the principle names behind it), very little that it does feels fresh, and the situation that Japan is in at the time of the story seems improbable, so it is standing on a shaky foundation. Its initial villain is almost laughably simple in his evil, and the character designs look like leftovers from a card game show aimed at kids.

Despite that, the first episode hits hard exactly where it absolutely needed to. Amou isn’t just the typical kid who randomly stumbles on a completed mecha; he partially built it himself. He is also starting to build a convincing chemistry with the energetic AI Gai. This is a duo that viewers will easily be able to get behind, and their interactions are fun to watch. The all-2D mecha action isn’t bad, either, and the hopping unmanned AMAIM are interesting designs. Most importantly, the episode has an excellent sense of timing and implements its dramatics just right. Thanks to that and some capable music support, the battle scene at the end is thrilling to watch.

I don’t know if the series can maintain that kind of quality throughout, but if it can, this could be one of the season’s hidden gems.

The Vampire Dies in No Time

Streams: Funimation on Mondays

Rating: 2 (of 5)

While the first episode does have somewhat of a plot – namely, explaining how the vampire Draluc winds up living at the office of renowned Vampire Hunter Ronaldo – it is really more of a sketch comedy, the kind of thing that could play out in a 4-koma manga. Unfortunately, I have to use the word “comedy” loosely here. The episode is certainly trying to be funny, and did elicit one or two genuine chuckles from me, but it falls well short of being a worthy laugh fest. Draluc’s routine of turning into sand from something as simple as just being hit by a door gets old really fast, and so far the series does not offer much for a good alternate humor path. This is one of the most thoroughly disappointing debuts so far.

The Night Beyond the Tricolored Window

Streams: Funimation on Sundays

Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

This season has two series where main characters can see ghosts, and coincidentally, they are are both streaming on the same day. Even more coincidentally, neither is shy about working in some fan service content, although it goes in utterly opposite directions. Whereas Mieruko-chan goes with mildly sexy shots of its protagonist, this one goes for overt, full-blown homerotic subtext – or at least tries to, anyway.

Frankly, guys getting frisky with other guys is not my thing, but I think I can fairly say that the attempt here to draw parallels between sex and exorcisms feels too forced. Hiyakawa comes on way too strong (would his behavior be considered at all tolerable if Mikado was female? and provides no opportunity for chemistry to develop. To put it another way, if the sexual was any good then I’d be thoroughly turned off, but I just found myself rolling my eyes at this.

That’s a shame, because the premise otherwise seems sound and the episode mostly works as a supernaturally-tinged crime drama. Improve the lackluster animation a little and tone down the lame eroticism and this could be a watchable series.

Tesla Note

Streams: Funimation on Sundays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

Something called Tesla Fragments are causing warps in space that are leading to horrific accidents. A 30th-generation ninja girl joins a young hotshot agent to investigate and immediately don’t get along, even though they can work well together when they try.

Protagonist Botan (the ninja) and Kuruma (the agent) have the kind of combative relationship which could eventually lead to them being good partners, much to the exasperation of their boss/overseer. They play off each other well enough that this could be fairly entertaining actioner. There’s just one big problem: it’s mostly (but, oddly, not entirely) done in 3DCG, and not particularly good CG. That is going to be a major stumbling block to the series developing any kind of following, which is a shame. Cannot imagine anyone continuing to talk about this one a season or two down the road.

Mieruko-chan

Streams: Funimation on Sundays

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Miko is an ordinary high school girl from an ordinary family with a mostly-ordinary best friend, until the day she realizes that she can see hideous ghosts. Though terrified by them, her first reaction is to ignore them until they accept that she cannot perceive them and go away. So far that’s working, but it’s also turning her into a wreck.

This manga adaptation was much-anticipated, though I was expecting something a bit lighter-hearted than what we get: a more genuine horror series. It’s effective at that, too, because the situations Miko finds herself in are ones that would make almost anyone struggle for control. Good animation and attractive human designs support the show as it goes through the paces of gradually opening Miko’s eyes to the presence of the ghosts, and the closer strongly implies that another girl she bumps into early in the episode can also see them. Somewhat incongruously, the episode also sneaks in some mild fan service, especially in its fascination with Miko’s rear; one scene pointedly shows her panty lines under her pajamas, for instance. I thought it was put together well enough that I might give it another episode or two to win me over.

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut

Streams: Funimation on Sundays

Rating: 4.5 (of 5)

This was easily my most-anticipated new series of the season, partly because of the cool concept, partly because the initial trailers looked sharp, and partly because of the potential for strong historical parallels. The first episode does not disappoint on any of these fronts; if anything, it’s gotten me even more enthusiastic about this series.

The set-up involves a world that is not ours, and yet has strong parallels: World War 2 in 1945, a split between a Soviet-style and Western super-powers coming out of that, and a space race. The details of what transpired up to 1960 also closely mimic real-world history, albeit with name changes; the first dog in space is named Maly here, but the original, Laika, is honored in the name of the facility where the cosmonauts are training. The most significant deviation comes with the notion of using a humanlike non-human – in this case a vampire – as a test subject prior to sending up an actual human. (Vampires are a rare species in this world who have been mischaracterized by fictional accounts; they are sun-sensitive, but more because of overheating issues than direct harm, and eat the same diet humans do. Irina clearly considers herself a separate race, however.) Perhaps the idea of sending a humanlike non-human is a reference to the Mercury program’s use of chimpanzees? As a reserve cosmonaut candidate, co-protagonist Lev Leps’ assignment is to supervise and train Irina, though how willing a participant she is in this is not yet clear. He does seem intent on treating her as a person rather than an object (as he was ordered to do), though, so the potential for a more civil connection between the two is certainly there.

The technical merits on this episode are quite strong, and the writing does seem to be tackling the subject matter very seriously; the only minor deviation from that – and really, the only flaw so far – is the presence of vampire expert Anya, who is easily the most archetypal character so far.m Otherwise this looks to be a rich, detail-oriented series which has the very real potential to be one of the season’s stronger titles.

Mushoku Tensei part 2 (ep 12)

Streams: Funimation on Sundays

Rating: 4 (of 5)

Mushokue Tensei is back after two seasons off, and three things about it are still absolutely true:

  1. It’s still one of the best of fantasy and/or isekai anime series in all technical senses, despite the occasional cartoonish flavor to this episode.
  2. Its character writing is still strong, despite the fact that. . .
  3. Rudeus is still a (mostly) unrepentant skeezeball.

Honestly, anyone who was bothered by #3 before will probably still be bothered by it. Rudeus clearly cares and looks out for Eris, and he seems to have given up on trying to take advantage of her, but that doesn’t mean that he’s above anticipating a peek if she decides to strip down for some skinny-dipping. Get too hung up on that and you miss everything else that’s going on here, though, such as the heart-to-heart he has with Ruijerd when the exorbitant fee to ship him across the ocean proves a barrier to doing it honestly. A loli Demon King who’s apparently legitimate has also shown up, and Roxy and party are in town, too, but keep narrowly missing Rudeus. (I really hope the writing doesn’t drag that out too long, as it’s not funny.)

All-in-all, this is a worthy continuation of the series and a prime candidate for weekly reviews.

Wacca PriMagi!

Streams: HIDIVE on Saturdays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

Myamu is a magical being who can transform into a cat and has ambitions of being the greatest magician ever. Since her magic has been sealed by her grandfather as punishment for misdeeds, she must partner with an “Earthly” (a non-magic-user) to participate in the grand PriMagi idol contest in order to collect “wacca” – and outfit ensembles for her partner, of course. Matsuri, who admires top PriMagi idol Jennifer, is the middle school girl “lucky” enough to have attracted Myamu’s attention, and eventually she gets egged into participating in the competition, with impressive results.

This series is a 10th anniversary release for the Pretty Series franchise, which includes Pretty Rhythm and King of Prism anime and game titles. It’s to be paired with a digital card game, which is blatantly obvious from the way the episode plays out. The target audience is clearly elementary and middle school-aged girls, so the cartoonish antics, cuteness overload, and outlandish fashions not being for me at all isn’t really a problem. (I did get quite the chuckle out of the young man who was wearing a cloak that looked like a nun’s habit, though.) It has a lot of energy, moves along at a steady clip, and has a pretty good feature song (paired with not-too-bad CG visuals), so I can see it being successful with its target audience. I don’t see it having any appeal to those outside the target age range who aren’t fans of magical girl/idol cross-breads, though.

Muteking the Dancing Warrior

Streams: Funimation on Saturdays

Rating: 3, I guess?

Young Muteki is moving to Neo San Francisco to start a new life, where he bumps into a DJ called, well, DJ. When a concert by a top idol, done under the auspices of the head of an evil Apple-like megacorporation, starts putting attendees to sleep and then turning them into black goop, DJ steps in and all but forces Muteki (who had previously shown some slick dance moves) to become Muteking, the skate-wearing super-hero, to combat the menace. Oh, and DJ is dating Muteki’s grandmother.

Understanding that this is a reboot of a 56-episode 1980-81 series helps explain a lot about this big ball of disco-themed weirdness and why it exists the way that it does. It’s one of those series where you end up watching the whole episode with your head tilted, going “huh?” because it’s just that bizarre and silly, whether it’s the cute maid who only delivers one thing to the diner table no matter what you order or the guy with the early ’80s-style boombox who insists on being called “DJ, aka DJ.” It is a riot of colors and out-of-date fashion mixed with futuristic tech, so it’s quite the spectacle to watch, and is occasionally hilariously funny. The idiosyncratic megacorp leader who’s clearly going to be the main villain could be a stand-in for just about any modern corporate billionaire, but there’s a definite mocking tone to be had as well. Overall, it’s too well-made to give it a bad score, but I cannot see myself watching more.

Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon s2 (ep 25)

Streams: CR, Funi, Hulu on Saturdays

Rating: 3 (of 5)

The Inuyasha sequel is back, beginning with a short recap of events from the first half. Then it’s on to Towa trying to use the broken Tenseiga to bring Setsuna back to life, all under the impassive, watchful eye of her father, Sesshomaru. Meanwhile, Totosai arrives on the scene and constructs a new naginata – one that can “cut that which cannot be cut” – for Setsuna while Moroha and Kirara fend off a horde of demons attracted by what Totosai is doing.

Surely no one thought that Setsuna was going to be left dead, especially with such an obvious way to bring her back, right? I’m giving this episode only a mediocre rating because the dramatics of the situation do not entirely offset how something that probably should have been accomplished in half an episode is dragged out to a full episode’s length. The one positive here is the scene where Sesshomaru gently caught and laid Towa down beside Setsuna after the former passed out from accomplishing the task. Sesshomaru doesn’t show emotion outwardly, but this was an effective demonstration of the pride and care he felt at that point. The new closer – which imagines all three girls as normal, modern teenagers – is also one of the franchise’s better ones, more for the visuals than for the song.

Restaurant to Another World 2

Streams: Crunchyroll on Fridays

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Crossbow-specializing solo adventurer Hilda the Night Strider comes across a strange door while exterminating a den of goblins. It turns out to open to the Western Nekoya Restaurant, where she discovers the wonder that is cheesecake. Later, back in the other world, Aletta frets about looking after Sarah, who has immersed herself in study over a new possible treasure.

This one really doesn’t need a review; it’s just more of the same. One newcomer, guest appearances by many from last season, and a bit more about the other world, but always connected to food. It’s still a foodie series with a fantasy twist and should continue to appeal to anyone who liked the first season.

Selection Project

Streams: Funimation on Fridays

Rating: 3.5/5

On the surface, this mostly looks like a standard idol show, with the set-up gimmick this time being that the prospective idols are broken down by region and a finalist chosen by region. Who’s going to win from every block except the North Kanto one is painfully obvious, as only one character in each of the other regions is even named, much less given featured attention. That leaves the only suspense at all being in North Kanto, where featured girl Suzune is participating. Will she win out over her close friend in a tight race, or will she have to take an alternate path?

I’m a little concerned here that the set-up is leading towards the same gimmick seen earlier this year in Idoly Pride, given that Suzune was hospitalized for a long time, a star idol from the first Selection Project died in an accident three years ago, and her being on the stage singing that song; I’m guessing we’re even going to find out that that’s when Suzune got better. (Nope, this isn’t suspiciously similar at all. . .) Even with that hanging over things, though, the first episode hits its emotional beats just well enough to be effective, and there does look to be a good variety amongst the girls. Not seeing much here that would appeal beyond the normal fans of the genre, though.

Yuki Yuna is a Hero: Mankai Chapter

Streams: HIDIVE on Fridays

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

The second season of Yuki Yuna is a Hero ended pretty definitively, with the whole situation which required the heroes to exist in the first place seemingly having been resolved and life returning to what it should have always been for the girls in the Hero Club. Indeed, until near the end of this episode, everything is normal; despite one or two scenes of contemplating where they had come from to get to this point, the girls mostly just spend their time screwing around and being middle school-aged kids. As the closing scenes show, however, a new crisis is arising, one which may require them to resume the hero mantles again.

As a big fan of the franchise (and one of its early strong proponents), I’m not sure how I feel about this. The girls went through a lot to get to this point; is there really going to be any emotional payoff from taking them through another round of grueling battles? And is there any way the series can return them to action without a “been there, done that” kind of feel? The final shot suggests a more massed battle formation with what looks like some kind of heavy artillery, so that’s different, and this time the girls will, at least, have some idea of what they’re getting into up front. Also, the girls just having fun messing around is entertaining enough, especially the metal band bits. The way they comfortably play off each other is a delight to see.

The core staff is all back, so I’m cautiously optimistic about this one.

%d bloggers like this: