Contributors: Congress, Shymander
The Summer 2019 anime season is here, and we've been hit with another wave of exciting new shows to sort through. Romance, isekai, comedy, shounen — there are so many different choices on offer, each with their own unique flavors, and it's hard to know just which ones to watch.
But don't worry. To help you make the best selections for your Summer 2019 watchlist, we went through the premieres for 27 of this season's shows, both bitter and sweet, and provided our detailed first impressions here. Of course, our previews won't be able to tell you the whole story (shows can get better or worse over time, after all). However, we've found that first impressions can do wonders for weeding out the bad... while also bringing special attention to the good.
You can find out where shows are simulcasting here.
Disclaimer: all impressions are based on premiere episodes only, and represent the writers' personal opinions.
I think this was the first time I've seen such a straightforward curveball thrown at me in an anime's first episode. I walked away from it with satisfied expectations and a healthy desire for more while also wondering what on earth I just watched. It's not every day you see a girl walking in on a dude pleasuring himself to lewd images and think "oh damn, nice." To clarify, I am celebrating this show's lack of hesitancy for mature scenes that aren't designed to arouse or humiliate, but rather illustrate. And unlike other sexually-driven dramas such as Kuzu no Honkai, it approaches the theme of sex in a dignified manner.
What is sex in our modern society? Kazusa and her friends in the literature club each form their own sexual interests and attempt to explore these desires, using everything from message boards to books. It's not a comedy, but the show injects just enough humour to remind you that these are teenagers and that growing into adults will always have its awkward and amusing moments. With each of their sexual awakenings and mostly realistic responses, this should all hopefully lead into even more interesting character drama, but it could just as easily underperform if it strays away from its themes into tasteless ecchi.
There isn't anything overly groundbreaking in this first episode, but it's one of the best of this season for telling you what you're watching and why you should continue.
Summary: Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo.'s premiere promises a compelling character drama that handles its mature themes appropriately, but focuses into what would be uncomfortable territory for some.
I'm sure a number of you subscribe to the belief that all isekai anime are to be overlooked regardless of quality or enjoyability. This isn't entirely unreasonable: genuinely creative spins on the genre that's pumping out multiple shows per season are becoming few and far between. But blanket statements like that completely undermine shows that are on their own sub-level, and Arifureta Shokugyou de Sekai Saikyou has become one of them in spectacular fashion despite its well-received source material. I guess every season needs its adaptation abomination…
The first episode attempts to slam through 2-3 episodes worth of setup in a 24-minute whirlwind of bizarre backstory flashes and awkward exposition dumps, yet this overload still manages to provide nothing of actual substance. Arifureta Shokugyou de Sekai Saikyou stands out from other isekai series by completely ignoring the transmigration process (e.g. truck-kun, summoning), which eliminates the character and relationship establishment necessary for creating a cohesive introduction. Reading the synopsis beforehand helped provide enough context to get the gist of the situation, but it also confused me even more at the same time.
Allow me to quickly sum up the rest: Hajime Nagumo is a weakling with no special abilities or spirit compared to his cheat-level classmates, but he finds himself thrown into a lower level filled with monsters, supposedly by one of these classmates. He manages to survive by eating monster flesh and randomly gaining their abilities while also completely changing personality (the cliche weakling nerd to overpowered rage machine trope). And now he's ready to kill for his revenge against those who looked down on him (something we don't get to actually experience as a viewer) with a gun he makes out of rocks. It's not the worst isekai plot, but it's not original by any means and its broken setup only makes it worse.
The visuals are also laughably bad. The characters are intermittently outlined in painfully noticeable white lines that look like someone copy-pasted their (terrible) designs from a PNG without knowing how to adjust the Magic Wand tool in Photoshop, and the CGI monsters look like they've been ripped out of a video game engine resource pack from the early 2000's. At the very least, the opening theme is a banger (if you ignore the animation).
Summary: Will it be able to improve down the line? The second episode magically improved on a few of the issues outlined above, but it's definitely still the most disappointing and disastrous beginning for a show in Summer 2019. To both fans and non-fans of the genre, I can't recommend watching this.
It's kind of unfortunate that I chose to watch this right after completing my review for Cop Craft, because it only enforced Bem's comparative mediocrity even more. I can't comment on how it shapes up to previous entries in the franchise, but I can tell that it most likely won't excite fans as much as they may hope. Both shows fall under a similar genre (fantasy beings in an urban setting), but Cop Craft does a far more effective job of introducing its characters and setting in its opening episode. Bem's premiere plays with similar concepts but comes out as a rough sketch than a detailed painting. There's a schism between the "Upper" and "Outside" parts of the city, highlighted by the visibly impoverished slums and cheap displays of petty crime that the contrastingly bright (blonde hair and a light blue jacket) protagonist is forcibly transferred into.
Unlike the experienced hardliner Kei in Cop Craft, Bem focuses on the antithetical Sonia Summers, a "girl scout" policewoman who gets caught up in a world of particularly violent monsters and corruption, but sticks to a mantra of justice that becomes her key character trait. Sonia isn't the most appealing protagonist: she makes many nonsensical decisions and her sense of justice is tedious more than it is inspiring. In just one episode, her resolve is tested by the shady dealings of the Outside police force and a trio of monsters that wish to become human by eliminating other insidious creatures. This is the most interesting aspect of the show and is what separates it from standard police procedurals as Cop Craft's worldbuilding did, but their story and Sonia's would be better off separated unless Bem finds a more compelling reason for them to stay intersected.
The low-visibility grunginess of Bem's urbanscape certainly isn't as disfiguring as Arifureta Shokugyou de Sekai Saikyou's first episode, but it was incredibly static and flat in both appearance and animation. Sure, it's difficult to make a monster made of water into something genuinely scary, but it borderlines on a level of silly that contradicts the show's current tone. If you're not a fan of Cop Craft's blues, you may enjoy Bem's snazzy jazz that took me aback when it first played 30 seconds in. It takes some getting used to, but it complements Bem's empty action sequences with an engaging rhythm that sticks with you after they're done.
Summary: Bem's premiere isn't terrible, but it pales in comparison to its rival Cop Craft. However, it could certainly be an enjoyable watch if you remove any expectations for something deeper or more austere.
Cop Craft ⭐4/5
Shows like Cop Craft are an incredibly rare breed nowadays: it is an anime that could easily not be an anime. Even when the writing is good and the dialogue is more realistic, there are still unique behaviours of anime characters that persist across most genres. Cop Craft's writing is, for the most part, down-to-earth and the banter is genuinely entertaining. This is also strengthened by the premise, which is a tried-and-true genre in Western entertainment: an unlikely duo, the veteran hardliner and the naive newbie, team up to tackle crime in a violent and corrupt city. But is this a good thing? Absolutely. Even if it ticks all the boxes for a Western buddy cop show, Cop Craft is definitely one of the most refreshing anime premieres this season.
The synopsis currently listed on its entry page does efficiently sum up everything we see in the first episode: two different worlds connected by a unique but crime-ridden fantasy city, a setting Cop Craft establishes beautifully through contrasting shots of its bright urban life and darker underworld; it shows and tells. We see just enough urban activity to understand the scale of the setting, while also being teased enough to wonder what else goes down behind closed doors and in the streets of San Teresa. How the series will progress is still a bit of a mystery. There's Tilarna's current task to retrieve "the VIP," but it's unclear what will drive the show to its conclusion. It could expand into a wider world vs. world dynamic, or it will (hopefully) stick to its strengths and maintain its focus on the unique brand of crime (like the use of other-world fairies as drugs) hidden underneath the one-of-a-kind city of San Teresa.
It's difficult to comment on the actual animation since not much is shown, but well-directed framing paired with a blues-y soundtrack reminiscent of Cowboy Bebop's set an appropriate atmosphere for this police drama. The opening theme doesn't quite stand up to "Tank!" in sheer funkiness, but it's already one of the catchiest of Summer 2019.
Summary: Cop Craft offers a fresh anime take on a tried-and-true Western genre to great success thanks to authentic writing and an engaging soundtrack.
Dr. Stone ⭐4/5
"I'm going to beat fantasy with science."
Dr. Stone's premiere doesn't waste a single second of its 24-minute runtime and rapidly speeds us through all we need to know: a mysterious light turned everyone to stone, the main characters reawaken 3700 years later, and now they're going to science the crap out of a new civilisation. The premiere doesn't offer anything in the way of lasting impact like Kanata no Astra's opening scene or Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo.'s ending scene, but its post-apocalyptic and science-based setup sets it apart from other shounen shows. This is the second big Jump property to finally make its anime debut this year, and while its start isn't as memorable as Kimetsu no Yaiba's premiere, it's consistently enjoyable.
Despite their simplicity, the main characters have decent chemistry and are very expressive, Taiju especially. Endearing loud-mouth characters are nothing new, but Taiju takes it to another level that can be a little grating at times. However, unlike the cliche meathead archetype, Taiju gets things done and does them well. The music is incredibly fitting, particularly the tribal music montage near the end. Educational tidbits are efficiently woven in without being overbearing, such as Senkuu's note about using salt as a seasoning and making nital with nitric acid and ethanol. And of course, we can't forget the visuals. The background art is absolutely stunning and certain frames could easily be mistaken for real life. Despite some dodgy-looking works in the recent past, TMS Entertainment have brought their A-game to Dr. Stone.
However, the realism sometimes goes a bit too far and alienates itself from the rest of the scene, such as these ugly grapes that look like they'd been badly photoshopped in. The occasional thicker lines of the statues in broader shots have the same effect on the detailed background, sticking out too much for objects that should be blended into the nature.
Summary: Dr. Stone's premiere is a little flat, but I have no doubt that it's just a slow opening to the far more exciting events and character moments to come. Armed with solid production elements and an entertaining premise, it's certainly one to check out this season.
I expected Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru? to be a guilty pleasure show that would compete with the other lewd comedies of this season for attention, but I instead found a P.E. class video, a mild slapstick comedy, and just a splash of indecency blended into one show. Topped with tight production elements from the esteemed Doga Kobo, Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru? is both for everyone and no one.
While some may find the premise of needing to get slimmer for the sake of their image to be disagreeable, it is merely an inconsequential motivation to drive our main girl Hibiki to the gym, where both she and the show don't dwell on the thought at all when Hibiki begins her fitness routine (clearly distracted by all the JoJo extras surrounding her). In fact, it's her very thoughts and interactions that instantly make her a likeable and relatable character. She has her own little appealing quirks, like her tendency to eat all the time and her current lack of physical endurance, but she also plays the perfect straight (wo)man between the muscle-thirsty Akemi and the "badly photoshopped" Machio. These interactions are consistently amusing, but nothing worth more than the occasional nasal exhale.
Like a light version of Hataraku Saibou, the first episode throws a lot of information at you, including calorie amounts, anatomical names, and whole segments dedicated to how to do squats and use a bench press. So if you're a keen fitness nut or looking to become one, this is definitely a show that you can somewhat invest in. The infomercial material can sometimes come across as distracting if you're not as fitness-inclined, but Hibiki's lack of experience and motivation manages to keep things mostly fresh.
Your enjoyment of Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru? will come down to what you desire from it and how it balances its three key elements in the future. It isn't a knee-slapping comedy, an ultimately satisfying ecchi, nor an enlightening educational show, but it manages to worm itself into a comfortable middle position that's worth at least a try from all parties.
Summary: Despite appearances, Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru? is more of an edutainment anime about fitness than an ecchi comedy, but still offers an enjoyable cast of characters and exquisite visuals.
Enen no Shouboutai ⭐5/5
"I am not a devil! I have to be a hero!"
Enen no Shouboutai is taking on Dr. Stone for the title of best shounen this season, but when it comes to premieres, the Special Fire Force Company 8 extinguishes Dr. Stone in almost every way.
Flames blazing with life. Vibrant layouts with poignant contrasts. Swift but smooth action sequences. David Production, armed with ex-Shaft staff, have set the eye candy bar far above not just Dr. Stone, but every other show this season. Enen no Shouboutai isn't just a feast for the eyes though; a fire only becomes an inferno when it fully engulfs the senses. The crackling and billowing of embers, the dynamic symphony of destruction, and the mood-setting ambiance work in harmony to create an engaging soundscape behind a thrilling orchestral soundtrack.
Where Enen no Shouboutai wins on production elements, it loses on distinction when compared to Dr. Stone's unique setup. You've got the classic misunderstood, sharp-toothed protagonist with a tragic backstory that leads him into wanting to become a hero. He holds the power of the enemy and uses it against them: fighting fire with fire, but literally in this case. These are very familiar tropes in the genre, and while they don't hold the series back in any way, it may turn you off if you're looking for something super fresh in overall concept.
However, the first episode still hands us a bigger treasure chest of worldbuilding and characterisation than standard shounen debuts. The protagonist Shinra is immediately introduced to his motley crew of companions, who each get their deserved share of the spotlight between dialogue and action sequences to show their role in the Company and their general personality. Intriguingly, religion plays a key part in combating Infernals, hence the presence of Iris, dressed in what is essentially a combat habit. Although I made light of Shinra's backstory in the previous paragraph, its artistic presentation was emotionally sublime and poses a tantalising question for the show ahead: what really happened to his mother and brother that day?
Summary: Enen no Shouboutai has the tightest technical elements and is one of the most exciting new shows this season. With a confirmed season of 24 episodes and rumoured total count of 48 episodes, Enen no Shouboutai doesn't seem like a show that's going to fizzle out anytime soon.
Ensemble Stars! ⭐2/5
Even if you haven't heard about the Ensemble Stars! franchise, you should be able to deduce within seconds of watching that this is adapted from an idol game, thanks to its very subtle introductory menu layout with a moving mouse cursor. Having a gacha game as source material doesn't immediately discount an anime from being good, but it's a road laden with traps and potholes that game adaptations fall into far too often. A loose, fragmented narrative and story-irrelevant gameplay mechanics don't usually translate well into an anime format. If you're here out of love for Ensemble Stars!, there's enough fanservice to give you a good time. If you're here for an enjoyable new idol show, this likely won't be what you're looking for.
The pretty boy idols we're blandly introduced to embody gimmicks more than they do actual character traits, and Ensemble Stars! ensures that they immediately become even more overdone. You've got Subaru, the quickly tiring hyperactive one; Makoto, the inarticulate one who immediately cries "I don't know how to talk to girls…"; and Hokuto, the mellow one that explains everything, who literally says "I explained it to you so logically, too..." There are still other idol units to see, but the main group isn't particularly inspiring so far. The player substitute, Anzu, has a more appealing appearance than other characters of her type, but that only minimally makes up for her complete lack of personality or skill relevant to her position in the Producer's course. Subaru, Makoto, Hokuto (with the mostly silent presence of Mao) deliver the unnecessary cliche idol speech about "becoming stars," placing all their trust and hope into Anzu to help them... even though she had done nothing except get knocked out by a kick to the face. We've yet to see how she will factor into the story and if she will be relevant at all to the development (or rather the training) of the other characters in her "Producer" role.
If there's at least one thing that Ensemble Stars! does well on its own, it's that it doesn't look half-bad. Even if most of the character designs are underwhelming, the first glimpse we get of a group performance in the classroom shows some promising animation, but the rest of the episode is almost entirely still shots. However, these are paired with songs that are standard fare for generic male idol shows. The show has a semi-interesting concept that is less music-focused than its idol anime counterparts: the student council is attempting to reform the school and the main characters are rebelling against them. Despite the confusingly vague intentions of the student council and the rebels, the "revolution" against them could very well evolve Ensemble Stars! into something worth watching. However, the poor, melodramatic writing of the premiere doesn't fill me with much confidence about its execution.
Summary: If you're not already a fan of the franchise, Ensemble Stars! doesn't offer much as an anime or an idol show. If you are a fan, don't expect much more than cheap satisfaction.
A shounen-ai story that isn't immediately rape-y? And one about forming a band? This noitaminA show was on my Plan to Watch list as soon as it was announced. It's the type of anime that you know will make dramatic waves as it airs, and even if the first episode wasn't quite up to the "wow" standard I was hoping for, that prospect has not changed.
A hard-hearted boy with a teased troubled past encounters a soft-hearted boy with a teased troubled past, who persistently pursues him until he's eventually "taken on board." This basic setup has been done enough times before, yet there's a surprising amount of personality shown in 23 minutes, which flashed by without me noticing thanks to its tranquil pace. Their modest "puppy and carer" character dynamic is reminiscent of those in other BL series, but Ritsuka and Mafuyu's sincerity and honest chemistry should dissipate any worries of crossing into uncomfortable territory. We get just enough of Mafuyu to get a glimpse of a tragic backstory and not much else, but as shown in the preview of episode 2, his voice will soon be heard both physically and emotionally. Given's premiere perfectly sets up the first steps of their relationship, which will no doubt evolve as their music does.
If it wasn't for the band's impressionable performance that in turn imprints on Mafuyu, I wouldn't have walked away feeling as satisfied as I was. It is a music show, after all. The guitar riffs and drum beats felt attached to their instruments rather than merely overlaying them, which brought through the musical passion of Ritsuka and his bandmates without a single word spoken; Mafuyu's silent reaction before the screen cuts to black says it all. The soundtrack itself also tugs on the heartstrings at just the right moments, accentuating Mafuyu's gentle innocence and Ritsuka's wary curiosity. The visuals don't quite have the same effect, but they're effective in showcasing the somber introduction of Mafuyu and his first meeting with Ritsuka through well-directed framing.
It's still unclear how the romance part of things will play out, but the soul of both the characters and music will most certainly leave their mark on Summer 2019.
Summary: Given's subversion of objectionable shounen-ai tropes that envelop the genre opens its appeal to a wider audience, offering a likeable story about making music that will surely bring out tears along the way.
It's no secret that there's a pretty big overlap between fans of moe and fans of things like mecha or darker fantasy, and Granbelm seeks to capitalize on this by combining the magical girl, mecha, and isekai genres all into one, high-octane offering. The result is a premiere that I found somewhat difficult to review, as I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about it.
My main complaint is with the story. When the premiere ended and the credits started rolling, I realized that I only had a passing understanding of what the heck was going on. The whole episode was incredibly chaotic, with multiple characters and story threads introduced all at once, none of them being explored as thoroughly as needed to make me understand their purpose. As a result, I found myself struggling to connect with any of the characters or events, and my entire viewing experience felt detached. However, Granbelm's decision to skim over its plot in the opening episode is clearly an intentional one; this premiere is all about eye candy.
Indeed, what Granbelm does have going for it is its excellent visual execution. Everything is flashy, smooth, and nearly all done in traditional 2D (the only instance of CG I caught had nothing to do with the mecha themselves, and it wasn't obvious at all), and the fast-paced mecha fight scenes were an absolute treat to look at. I will say here that I'm not a huge fan of the mecha designs, as they resemble chibi SD Gundams more than they do mecha proper. This is an artistic choice that is certainly understandable (easier to hand-animate, I imagine), but not one I like, as the mechas' "cute" appearances are in stark contrast to the darker tone the whole rest of the show takes on.
Still, my overall impression of Granbelm is a positive one. The action and music are unabashedly cool, and the work that studio Nexus put into the animation is readily apparent. While I definitely would have preferred for the premiere to have spent more time on its characters than the action, it has done a great job of setting up a dark and almost foreboding tone — something about it gives me a "Madoka Magicka" or even "Hunger Games" vibe, and I have a hunch that things could get real serious real soon. This, combined with the engaging spectacle in Granbelm's visual approach, are enough to keep me around. There's definitely potential here.
Summary: Granbelm's premiere is a chaotic and somewhat confusing affair, but the quality art and well-animated action scenes leave me optimistic overall.
"Man, this always feels like I'm cheating, you know?"
It never ends, does it? Last season already gave us a cookie-cutter isekai, in the form of the amazingly mediocre Kenja no Mago. And now, after only two weeks of respite, the anime industry is hitting us with yet another OP MC isekai romp — Isekai Cheat Magician, a show with a title so thoroughly banal that I struggle to understand how the source novel managed to catch anyone's attention at all. Indeed, I went into the premiere expecting to go through the same rollercoaster of emotions I went through when I watched Kenja no Mago, an unending up and down of boredom and extreme irritation. I thought I would hate every last second of it.
The thing is... I didn't. I didn't hate it. And it was apparent at around just 4 minutes in that it wouldn't be too bad of an experience, when the show subverted my expectations in its opening scenes in a way that genuinely made me laugh. I don't want to spoil the moment for anyone who does plan to watch the show, but it basically boils down to this: I expected the main characters Rin and Taichi to die in almost as stupid a way as Konosuba's Kazuma. However... summoning circle. Perhaps I'm simply insane, but I found the way the tense buildup led to a cliche and anticlimactic resolution to be hilarious.
All in all, the show actually does a very good job of pacing out its first episode. The middle sections of the premiere depict Rin and Taichi learning about the high fantasy world that they've been transported to, and it ends shortly after the revelation that Rin and Taichi both have what appear to be insane magical power. And honestly? It's kind of satisfying.
Though the show treads virtually no new ground, it was never downright boring to watch. And unlike certain other shows in its niche (ahem), it actually provides enough character and plot intrigue within the first episode to make me genuinely want to watch more.
Is the worldbuilding cookie-cutter? Yes? Are the characters cookie-cutter? Yes, in everything from their designs to their very personalities. Even the art style is, for lack of a better word, lame, and the animation is often cheap and awkward. Seriously, this show is nothing special. And if you have no love for fantasy, particularly isekai fantasy, this show is definitely not for you. But when it comes to trash isekai shows, of which I'm usually a pretty big detractor... this one is actually fairly okay. Pleasant, even.
Summary: Bland and uninspired, but pretty decent if you're an isekai devotee who wants an easy, no-stakes watch.
Joshikousei no Mudazukai ⭐2.5/5
This show was basically at the bottom on my set list of shows this season when it came to interest. Any synopsis with a line like "these are the ridiculous days of three high school friends claiming (or not) the height of their youth" is to be approached with lowered standards. After last season's Joshikausei, which similarly describes itself with "three high school girls living their daily lives," I couldn't help but knock it down even further. However, this is thankfully no Joshikausei.
A robot, an otaku, and an idiot all walk into a school. The idiot tries to convince her classmates to introduce her to a good-looking guy friend while the robot and otaku roast her. Well, Joshikousei no Mudazukai isn't that unfunny, per se. Most of the first episode's skits, particularly the homeroom teacher telling his students not to seek romance with him since he prefers college girls, are rather amusing. It just slaps you with talk-heavy gags over and over without enough reprieve for the next joke to vault and land gracefully on two feet. Joshikousei no Mudazukai's premise is far more suited to a half-episode format but decides to run with a full episode while having the pacing of the former. It's a lot to digest for an episode primarily about giving nicknames to classmates.
Despite an uninspiring appearance, the unique opening theme and charming ending theme manage to elevate its other elements away from being overly generic. I certainly don't see myself ever wanting to skip them in the future.
There are some foreseeable bumps in the road, but the direction that Joshikousei no Mudazukai is heading may lead to some real laugh-out-loud antics.
Summary: It's a roughly constructed comedy, but Joshikousei no Mudazukai should still get the occasional laugh out of you to make it worth continuing.
Kanata no Astra ⭐3.5/5
Spiraling helplessly in a sea of black, desperate for help, and making the seemingly impossible journey home from the outer reaches of endless space are nothing new when it comes to science fiction. Having enjoyed the likes of Gravity, Star Trek, and the original Lost in Space, I was excited to see how these would be succeeded in anime form. The story is simple, but its direction and sheer enjoyability show great promise.
The most notable part of Kanata no Astra is its chilling command over tension and atmosphere (yes, I'm going there) that is established within the first few seconds. This is by no means an easy feat. The inflicted terror of spiraling helplessly through space in cinema preys upon the fears of the viewer, but in a 2-dimensional space (sorry, can't help myself) with anime-style characters, it's much harder to do so. A low, heartbeat-like track and ear-piercing gasps for air paired with first-person shots and a spinning camera perfectly capture this same sense of helplessness. The only thing that drags it down is the occasionally awkward CG modeling in wide shots that look more like mannequins than actual characters. Aside from that and the "cinematic" black bars with no achieved purpose, the visuals are aesthetically pleasing and I look forward to seeing how it handles scenery and wildlife on different planets.
Apart from our esteemed captain Kanata, the characters don't stand out much on their own merit. Most of their character designs are generic, and their personalities follow suit. The twinkling prince, the 200 IQ genius, the stuck-up princess-type, the stuttering nerd, the innocent young girl with a puppet: they aren't the most unique bunch, but they are still a likeable cast nonetheless. Even if there isn't much to them individually, I physically cheered when they worked in unity to bring Aries and Kanata back to the ship. Their newfound fellowship will no doubt be the key to their survival and continued appeal.
It's easy to forget about the strange occurrences that set up the plot since the new crew of the Astra spaceship don't really take the time to question them, even after finding safety. What was that random giant orb and why did it zap them thousands of light-years away? Why was there a convenient spaceship waiting for them? I assume Kanata no Astra will let us know later on in the story, but it doesn't leave you begging for the answer as it could be. Regardless, Kanata no Astra delivers an exciting double-length premiere that sets up its premise and endpoint with poise and precision.
Summary: Kanata no Astra is a thrilling space adventure with an appealing crew of eccentric characters, even if they don't stand out much on their own.
Katsute Kami Datta Kemono-tachi e's premiere opens with a grand battle scene, where a mass of infantry charges head-on at a ridiculously huge enemy fortress. The result is predictably bloody; hundreds of soldiers are cut down by rifle and cannon fire, gushing blood as they fall, and one soldier is seen crawling around desperately with both his legs missing. All seems to be lost, and then — the Incarnates appear, a group of handsomely-dressed soldiers with the ability to transform into monsters, some familiar (a dragon, for example), and some downright outlandish (one of the Incarnates is a weird pink blob with horns and a big bump growing out of its face, and eyes growing out of the bump). These Incarnates proceed to decimate the fortress, and as we learn in subsequent scenes, eventually help their nation win the war.
This victory comes at a cost, however; in exchange for their powers, the Incarnates risk losing their minds and humanity. And this central theme, eerily reminiscent of the real-life costs of war, is one that immediately drew me in. Indeed, Katsute Kami Datta Kemono-tachi e had me quite optimistic at first. The themes are strong. The total lack of CG is a treat. And the characters, or so it seemed, were going to be highly sympathetic.
But alas. Here, we arrive at the premiere's fatal flaw — it's too fast, with too much telling instead of showing. We're told the main character, Hank, is a good guy. We're told that the Incarnates treat each other like an extended family, and we're told that Hank is in love with Elaine, the engineer who created the Incarnates. But sadly, so little of these things are actually shown. So little of it is organic.
This premiere, I feel, falls prey to how it wants to end on a strong emotional beat, and it rushes through a ton of story to get there in time. Unfortunately, a lot of corners had to be cut as a result, and so many of Hank's character motivations feel shallow and undeveloped. For example, Elaine's fate — on paper, it's very poignant and compelling. In practice, however... I struggled to care.
I would have much preferred a slower burn, and I'm of the opinion that the contents of the first episode could have easily been spread out over two or even three. Give me time to learn about the characters. Give me time to care! As it stands, though, the first episode of Katsute Kami Datta Kemono-tachi e feels kind of rushed, and what should have been a string of incredibly emotional scenes ended up falling rather flat. It's a shame, really. Hopefully, the next few episodes will be better paced.
Summary: A promising shounen with strong themes and a very interesting setting. Unfortunately, the premiere trips over itself in its rush to the finish line, cheapening our introduction to the story.
"Please make me your pet, Keiki-kun!"
I went into this premiere after only reading the synopsis, so I was expecting little more than a vanilla harem rom-com with just an extra-pervy confession to spicily kick things off. And for a while, that seemed to be the case. The show starts off by introducing us to our cardboard-cutout MC, Keiki, who is bemoaning the fact that he doesn't have a girlfriend. Though he is constantly in the presence of three (or four, if you're a degenerate) potential love interests, he appears to never have realized that they all have feelings for them (shocker) and has never given any of them any serious thought. This changes when he receives an unsigned love letter, a letter that comes with a pair of folded, ribboned panties for that extra romantic oomph.
Thus begins Keiki's quest to find out who it was that sent him the letter and the panties, the girl he dubs his "Cinderella." As Keiki's token male friend so conveniently spells out for the viewer, the suspects are the following: the "beautiful and busty senpai, Sayuki Tokihara," the "cute and honest kohai, Yuika Koga," the "friendly and approachable classmate, Mao Nanjo," and the "caring younger sister, Mizuha Kiryu" (who Keiki, thankfully, instantly says is off the table). And at this point, it all seemed pretty congruent with my expectations. The "Cinderella" provided a surprisingly engaging mystery. Nothing about the walking-trope female characters seemed anything out of the ordinary. The show chugged along in solid 2.5-3 star territory, not great, not terrible.
That is, until the first girl, Sayuki, reveals to Keiki that she has a kink. She puts on a collar, complete with leash and tag, and tells Keiki that she is obsessed with the idea of being treated like a pet. And at this point, my face scrunched up in mild discomfort, and I went to Google to search up the true nature of the show.
As it turns out, the letter and panties aren't the show's core gimmick. Rather, they're only the hook. The real gimmick is the fact that all the girls have uncommon fetishes — in other words, the thing that's supposed to give the characters substance here isn't emotional backstories or surprisingly deep personalities like you'd find in higher-quality harem shows. Instead, it's the girls' respective kinks. And frankly, I'm not a fan. It's just not very compelling in my eyes, and though I do want to find out who the "Cinderella" really is (I'm 99.99% sure it's Keiki's friend)... I dunno.
As for the other aspects of the premiere — the animation definitely veers towards the higher end of decent, with fluid movements and sharp (if uninspired) character designs rounding off the deal. Sound direction is fine, pacing is fine... but yeah. The premise is an active turnoff, and the intrigue provided by the initial hook isn't enough to give me a positive or even average overall impression. I'll have to pass.
Summary: Pulls you in with a spicy hook, but ultimately repels with mediocre content and a potentially off-putting character gimmick. While likely appealing to a specific demographic, the average viewer will probably want to sit this one out.
Kochouki: Wakaki Nobunaga ⭐3.5/5
Oda Nobunaga is a historical figure whose name is as well known in Japan as perhaps George Washington is in America. Remembered as a great unifier, he brought much of the country under his control near the end of Japan's Warring States period, and there is no lack of adaptations of his life — Nobunaga appears in numerous movies, anime, manga, and novels, among other mediums. But where most of these other stories focus on the latter parts of Nobunaga's life, Kochouki: Wakaki Nobunaga (Gorgeous Butterfly: Young Nobunaga), elects to focus on the former; at the start of the show, Nobunaga (Kippoushi at this point, as that was his childhood name) is only eleven or twelve years of age.
It's certainly an interesting approach to the man's storied life, and the tale we're told in the first episode shows us a lot about the Nobunaga the show wants to portray. He's kind and compassionate towards those of lesser fortunes, he's fashionably daring (reckless, even), and incredibly brave and witty in the episode's critical moment. He almost comes across as a Japanese Robin Hood here, and though this depiction is likely highly idealized, it serves its purpose well in connecting the viewer to his character.
There's not much to complain about storywise, really. Nobunaga is given clear character depth within the premiere, and we already know his story will lead to some dramatic twists and turns. Nobunaga's life was anything but peaceful.
That said, I do have one major gripe with the show — its presentation came off as incongruous. Though I can understand its appeal, the bright, colorful art style and the distinctly modern soundtrack the show chose to go with felt very out of place. This isn't to say it doesn't work, of course. If the show ends up taking a more lighthearted approach to this particular chapter of history, these trappings could very well be a perfect fit. But knowing how Nobunaga's life eventually ends up, I feel a darker, more serious style might have been far more suitable. But maybe that's just me?
Summary: A reasonably compelling look at the earlier years of Oda Nobunaga's storied life. Bright artistic style may be off-putting to some.
I haven't been invested in the Fate franchise for a while now, passing over the mediocre Fate/Apocrypha and watching a few of the Fate/Grand Order specials out of boredom, and I wasn't a fan of the first Heaven's Feel film either. So how does this Fate/Zero spin-off sequel fit into in the ever-expanding universe of masters, servants, and family feuds? Well, it's not a mainstream Fate series, so to speak, but it is officially canon and more relevant than a number of other Fate works.
Despite already having an "Episode 0", this episode doesn't reveal much of what the crux of the series will be, but rather provides an overview of what the Waver Velvet we all know and love has been up to since the Fourth Grail War. He became a professor at the Clock Tower, played Indiana Jones, and now he's the new Lord of El-Melloi. This episode may seem comparatively boring among some of Summer 2019's blockbuster premieres, but it succeeds at refamiliarising us with Waver and his key character traits: his lack of innate magical ability and the sorrow he still feels at the loss of Iskander, his Servant in the Grail War.
If you're here for an action-focused Fate series like Fate/Zero, this probably won't be the show for you. From the little we're shown in the first episode, Lord El-Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note seems to be more of a mystery drama addressing the troublesome affairs of the magical world, expanding on the wider lore of the Fate universe in an intriguing fashion. If that doesn't quite get your attention, keep in mind that Yuki Kajiura is on board for this Fate entry as well. The technical elements don't quite shape up to ufotable's franchise entries, but TROYCA still delivers a satisfying show with crisp visuals and animation.
Summary: Lord El-Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note puts a new, creative spin on the Fate formula that is worth checking out for any Fate fans, especially those who are into the wider lore.
Machikado Mazoku ⭐3.5/5
"I wonder if a lowly neighborhood demon like myself stands a chance against a world-renowned magician."
My initial impression of Machikado Mazoku was fantastic. A magical girl anime where the tables are turned, where the main character, Yuko, discovers that she's actually the demon in the story — this setup alone was enough to pique my interest, and when I saw how clean the animation was in the opening scenes, I thought I'd found a true winner of the season. The visuals were fun, the OP was lovely, and the scenario was filled with potential.
As it turns out, Yuko is actually laughably weak compared to the magical girl she's been tasked to destroy. And meanwhile, the magical girl, Momo, straight-up takes pity on Yuko given just how weak she is. This is a great comedic setup; indeed, the first two-thirds of the premiere was packed with laughs.
However, things stopped working in the final third of the premiere. The pacing changed slightly, and for the worse, and the characters' delivery suddenly felt very forced. Jokes I knew were supposed to be funny simply fell flat, and a show that originally had me cracking up left and right became, dare I say... boring? It all just felt weirdly impersonal and distant, and an episode that started out on a very high note ended on a rather low one.
For now, I'll treat this segment as an anomaly, because the rest of the premiere really was quite a blast. The potential is there, and I can think of countless hilarious scenarios that the showrunners can put our main characters through. And so for now, I'll proceed with cautious optimism; hopefully, the rest of the show will be able to take things higher than where episode one left off.
Summary: This premiere ends weaker than it starts, but it presents a strong core conflict and character dynamic that can be played for endless laughs.
Maou-sama, Retry! ⭐2/5
Well, this is getting kind of old. Once upon a time, an isekai with a "dark" protagonist was a somewhat fresh take on the genre. But today, here and now, Maou-sama, Retry! is just another addition to the rank-and-file. It's just another piece of cannon fodder unceremoniously thrown into the seasonal meatgrinder, doomed to be forgotten before the end of the year.
The story begins when Akira Oono, the administrator of an MMO called "Infinity Game," gets summoned into said game and takes on the identity of Kunai, the game's demon lord and apparent final boss. There, he gets a rude welcome from Greole, a demon who was in the middle of hunting down a poor, defenseless girl. And, well, the rest unfolds pretty much exactly as you'd expect.
I dunno. I can clearly recall the events of the premiere in my head, but they all feel so incredibly unmemorable and unremarkable. While watching, I felt like I was simply getting pelted by plot point after plot point with no real rhyme or reason, like oh, this happens! Oh, this is a thing! And oh, this happens too! And goodness, it just felt so disorganized and pointless. It doesn't help that Akira/Kunai's reactions to the things that happen feel canned and inorganic. He's supposed to be a composed, middle-age type, but nothing about him except his appearance and voice seem particularly mature at all. I suppose he does look kinda cool, in some sense of the word. Even so, underneath all the trappings... he's just your classic do-gooder isekai protagonist.
Unfortunately for Maou-sama, Retry!, banal source material isn't the only thing it suffers from. The animation is also mediocre, if not outright bad at points. To be fair, the show is only the second title from the fledgling studio, EKACHI EPILKA, but their lack of experience really shows; I can't pinpoint a single moment of truly standout animation, backgrounds are nondescript, and some of the segments look downright corny.
But yeah, I really don't know what else to say about this one. It's obviously not the only cookie-cutter isekai to rear its head this season, thanks to the equally bland Isekai Cheat Magician, but at least that one doesn't suffer from poor execution. If you want an isekai with an "evil" OP MC, there are far better options out there.
Summary: Bland and uninspired. Tries to take a more mature approach to the isekai subgenre, but the lower-quality animation makes the whole thing feel rather lame. Only ardent isekai fans will enjoy this one.
An anime about Let's Players will no doubt either pique your interest or lose it completely, but if you're of the former group like myself, prepare to probably feel disappointed.
In order to escape from their mildly troublesome predicament, they have to work together to reach 100,000,000 views. Okay, but what are these views and why do they need them? Nakanohito Genome [Jikkyouchuu] pretends to ask these questions for you and merely answers them with "neigh," leaving them to hang in the air more as irritating inconveniences than seductive unknowns. I say "mildly troublesome predicament" because the characters aren't overly concerned about being kidnapped, and they're granted infinite time to complete all tasks to reach the goal and escape. They even have a cosy place to stay with all the food they need, nice furniture, and a TV. Compared to the deadly stakes of Battle Royale and Danganronpa, it's incredibly underwhelming for the tried-and-true survival "horror" genre. The "villain," llama mask-wearing Paka-san, has scattered sprinkles of personality and a demeanor that attempt to make him a threatening but endearing antagonist. Ultimately, this just creates an unappealing rip-off of Ansatsu Kyoushitsu's Koro-sensei.
The first episode rushes through its setup and takes us through two quick-fire stages. The concept of Let's Players solving puzzles and scenarios with their own genre specialty is the show's golden goose, if only it would actually utilise it. Instead of something like Karin contributing her knowledge of dealing with ghosts in horror games, Nakanohito Genome [Jikkyouchuu] decides to play the "girls are afraid of ghosts" card to the hysterical laughter of no one. Akatsuki's observant deduction of the first stage loosely makes sense as a detail-oriented escape game player, but he solves the horror-themed second stage by… being friendly to a vengeful ghost while the other three in his group stand around being useless? The moment attempts to cheaply tug on the heartstrings of the viewer but ultimately fails without the proper emotional build-up. In fact, it even tries the same trick again at the end of episode 2, but it once again falls completely flat. Oh well, at least they succeeded in the end and managed to pull in thousands of views! If only we knew what that actually meant...
Summary: The lack of stakes and wasted premise leave this "survival horror" out to dry, saved only by a mildly interesting ensemble of characters. All in all, this is one anime that I certainly won't be liking, sharing, or subscribing to.
Idol anime are actually a lot like isekai — once you've seen two or three, you've essentially seen everything the genre has to offer storywise. Re:Stage! Dream Days♪ does little to counter this observation, electing to deliver on all the classic idol show beats as if going down a checklist. Is there a girl who's exceptionally skilled at singing and dancing, but who's hesitant about being an idol because of her background? Yep. Is there an idol club that's struggling to gain new members and is in danger of being disbanded? Yep. Is there a national championship that the characters will obviously work towards and almost certainly win? Yep.
Nothing much new is brought to the table here. We've been shown all the trappings of an ultra-safe underdog story, and I highly doubt that the show will deviate from its current, well-worn course.
Of course, an idol anime is as much about the actual idols, music, and dancing as it is about the story. And in these regards, Re:Stage! Dream Days♪'s premiere delivers admirably. We've been introduced to four girls so far, and though three of them have been fairly lackluster, one of them, club president Mizuha Ichikishima, is very memorable (I can't get over her fake crying, it's great). And as for music, the few tracks we've been introduced to are actually quite good; the two dance numbers are suitably invigorating, and it felt like extra care was given to the background music, particularly the emotional orchestral swells.
Finally, the dancing — this is the third time I've made this same note in this article, but the lack of CG was very refreshing. Even the most lauded idol shows like Love Live! and Idolm@aster use heavy doses of CG, so I was quite happy when I noticed that the OP and the short duo-performance the episode treats us to are both fully hand-drawn. If all the performances in Re:Stage! are going to be receiving this 2D treatment, then I'm very excited to see the big stage events we'll inevitably be getting. The animation isn't perfect, no. In fact, the dancing was actually a bit choppy at times. But for what appears to be a relatively low-profile production to attempt this at all is something to applaud.
After putting all these pieces of Re:Stage!'s premiere back together, we find ourselves with a charming, but innocuous foray into the world of anime idoldom. Its muted nature will likely prevent it from creating many new devotees to the genre, but there's a good chance an established idol fan will find a lot here to love.
Summary: Offers little in the way of innovation, but provides a pleasant seasonal offering for fans of cutesy idol shows. Premiere gets bonus points for hand-animated dancing sequences.
Sounan Desu ka? ⭐2.5/5
When a show treats you to an upskirt panty shot within its first fifteen seconds, you know exactly what to expect. Well, for the most part. I was definitely expecting the rampant ecchi and irreverent jokes. What I wasn't expecting was for the show to actually teach me a few survival tips along the way.
The setup is very straightforward — four high school girls are involved in a plane crash, and they end up stranded on a remote island as a result. The four are a sporty girl, a well-to-do girl, a bookish girl, and finally, a deadpan female incarnation of Bear Grylls, Onishima Homare. Unsurprisingly, Homare is the only girl that actually matters at all within this first episode, with the three other girls serving as mere audience surrogates through which we can observe Homare's survivalist antics. And boy, are those antics as over-the-top as they are informative. At one point, after the well-to-do girl complains about how thirsty she is, Homare straight up drops her panties and tries to pee into the other girl's mouth. It's definitely one of the more... flashy parts of the episode. But this attempt to be titillating and funny was more awkward than anything else.
Honestly, for a show that's billed as a comedy, it's been rather devoid of good humor so far, with only one real laugh that I can remember. That one locust-y moment and its passive delivery are laugh-out-loud material, though, and I probably would have knocked this show down to a 2/5 if not for its existence.
To summarize, Sounan Desu ka? isn't as funny as I was hoping, starting off with a bigger focus on raciness than it perhaps should have. However, if Korean survival shows are any indication, the "stranded on an island" setup here has a ton of comedic potential. It's just a matter of whether or not the show can execute on it well. So far, it's a "no, not really."
Summary: The premiere is kind of tasteless and not all that funny, but the show's setup has high comedic potential and lends to genuinely informative segments. We'll just have to wait and see how future episodes fare.
Tejina-senpai is the story of Senpai, a high school girl who wants to perform magic tricks, but who always fails miserably as a result of stage fright and sheer incompetence. These failures tend to put her in compromising poses or situations, at which point her Assistant curses his luck and wonders how he got into this mess at all.
This rather one-dimensional gag appears to be the crux of the entire show, and frankly... it's great. The ecchi and pandering make up a good half of the show, the animation gets absurd at times (too big), and the humor is often cheap, trashy, and painfully predictable.
And yet, I loved it.
Somehow, even the dumbest and cringiest of the premiere's jokes were able to get actual laughs out of me, and a premiere that ranked at the bottom of my "hyped-to-watch" list ended up becoming one of my favorites so far. The reason is simple: Senpai and her voice actress.
Kaede Hondo's performance is brimming with character and enthusiasm, and this, combined with the show's bright art and designs, results in a core character that is just... I dunno, really damn moe. Senpai is absolutely adorable, and by the end of the first episode, I was pining to see her succeed. I wanted nothing more than to pat her on the head and tell her that it's going to be okay, that she will definitely become the world's greatest magician one day. Indeed, the emotions evoked by Senpai are quite similar to the emotions evoked by Aqua from Konosuba, a fan-favorite character whose uselessness I also find hilarious.
All in all, Tejina-senpai's premiere was short, digestible, and surprisingly entertaining. Is it a complex or high-quality offering? No, not at all. But is it enjoyable? For me, definitely. If you like lowbrow comedy that doesn't pretend to be any smarter than it really is and, very importantly, either enjoy or don't mind ecchi... hey, who knows? Tejina-senpai's premiere could very well be just as great of a brainless romp for you as it was for me.
Summary: Built on cheap and often trashy humor, but made incredibly lovable by Senpai and her super enthusiastic VA. Heavy YMMV warning.
"It's time to go on lots of fun adventures with your mom, Ma-kun!"
Ah, yes. Yet another isekai. This one, at least, tries to separate itself from the crowd by making multiple changes to the tried and true isekai formula. Instead of being transported to a video game world as the result of reincarnation or a hero-summoning, Masato (Ma-kun) and his mother, Mamako (yes, the show is extremely on the nose with its mom references), are transported to a fantasy game world because they're acting as beta testers for a new, full-dive online game that's temporarily being called "MMMMMORPG(Beta)." And hm... it's definitely interesting.
In the opening scenes, we're told that Masato and his mother have a somewhat "meh" relationship. Like many teenagers, Masato thinks his mother and her motherly nature are annoying and embarrassing, and when he suddenly finds himself with the chance to enter a video game world, away from his mother, he revels in the opportunity. There's just one small problem. Only a few seconds after he touches down in the game world, while he's still busy celebrating, his mother appears in front of him. Too bad, sucker.
Thus begins the journey of Ma-kun and his ma through the world of MMMMMORPG(Beta), a fun but superficial caper that explores the relationship between this mother and her son. There are lots of entertaining gags sprinkled throughout, notably the little "pa-pa-ra" trumpet doot that Mamako adorably comments on, or the various ways in which the show lampoons the modern gaming industry and other stories of its nature. For example, this line in particular: "We used special technology that we can't explain easily to put the users themselves in the game. So we want you to go test play it for us!" Level 100 Handwaving, to be sure.
The fact that Mamako is overpowered while Ma-kun is hilariously weak is also a genius approach for the story to take, making MC the one who needs to be protected instead of the other way around. Moreover, I'm actually at a loss for once as to how exactly the plot is going to proceed, Of course, it's pretty obvious that the show is ultimately going to be about Ma-kun and Mamako improving their relationship with each other. However, the "journey" they'll take to get there isn't obvious yet at all, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing how things develop.
My one big gripe with the show so far, and this is something that I alluded to earlier, is the fact that it all comes across as a bit superficial. Ma-kun and his mom are only beta testers in a game, and I can't help but feel like there are absolutely no stakes to this story, depriving the characters of the sort of strong motivation that a death game or vanilla transmigration would provide. The world, too, feels largely lifeless, with the background characters (NPCs?) appearing to be exactly that — part of the background, and nothing more. Actually, now that I think about it, Ma-kun isn't exactly a vibrant character either...
But anyway, I digress. All in all, this premiere was quite entertaining. I may even a hazard to label it "refreshing," so much does Mamako's character shake up the established isekai tropes. It's certainly not the shining star of the season, but for now, I definitely intend to keep watching.
Summary: An interesting spin on the isekai subgenre with its fair share of amusing gags. Entertaining and cute, if a bit superficial.
When I heard that this season had a show featuring a cute father-daughter pair, my interest was immediately piqued. I've always been a fan of all things moe, and wholesome slice of lifes have always been up my alley. And really, Uchi no Ko no Tame naraba, Ore wa Moshikashitara Maou mo Taoseru (UchiMusume, for the shorter winded) delivers on its premise well. The orphaned devil girl, Latina, is absolutely adorable, and her adoptive "father," Dale, is doting and likable, if a bit cringy at times. The premiere is bright and fluffy, and there is virtually no real conflict; the circumstances through which Dale meets Latina aside, everything in the episode, from the events to the characters, are charming and optimistic, all crafted to make the viewer feel as warm inside as possible.
It's pleasant, to be sure. Enjoyable and sweet. But it also manages to be somewhat empty at the same time. The only character I feel any real empathy for is Latina, and only because she's depicted as almost unbearably cute and considerate, not because she's particularly interesting as a character.
The writing can also be a bit questionable at points, with the story foregoing logic for the sake of more cuteness. For example, the fact that Latina doesn't speak human language (she's a devil girl, after all) is one of the bigger focuses of the premiere, with Dale struggling to communicate with her using his limited knowledge of devil-speak. It definitely sets up some cute moments. When Latina says her first "good morning," you can't help but smile. However, the gap in communication means that Dale is unable to interrogate Latina about her backstory, which the show suggests is clearly not a happy one. It's pretty obvious that this mystery will eventually come back to bite the characters, and the viewer is left with a question — surely, there are translators in this world? Someone who knows both languages? So why not just find one and ask them to question Latina?
But yeah. This lack of "sophistication" prevents me from liking the premiere as much as I wanted to. Compare to the thematically similar Usagi Drop, which is easily the far more thoughtful show — UchiMusume simply pales in comparison.
And speaking of Usagi Drop, let's address a certain something while trying to be as un-spoiler-y as possible. Apparently, a certain aspect of the original UchiMusume novel proceeds in a similar vein as a certain aspect of the original Usagi Drop manga. This knowledge was like a particularly annoying fly, buzzing constantly around my head and actively detracting from my enjoyment of everything else. Thankfully, the anime will only adapt the first two volumes of the novel, which means the show will end before things get weird.
Overall, the premiere of UchiMusume makes for a very pleasant watch. It's cute, sweet, heartwarming, fluffy, and then some. But that's pretty much all it is, and it fails to offer the kind of depth that would make it truly memorable and impactful.
Summary: Warm and cute, but not much else. Though it's great for an easy watch, its lack of depth and sophistication will prevent it from appealing to a wider audience.
Vinland Saga ⭐5/5
"The ocean here is scary, Thorfinn."
In humanity's constant search for ever better stories to tell, we often find that the most compelling tales, the ones that speak the most to the human condition, are the ones that actually happened. This, of course, refers to history, to the billions of real stories that actually played out here upon this earth. And Vinland Saga, as it were, draws upon the life of Thorfinn Karlsefni, a historical Viking explorer whose exploits are recorded in various Icelandic sagas. And boy... for lack of a better way to put it, the result is epic.
Where do I even start? The gorgeous, movie-quality visuals? The moving soundtrack? The multi-faceted characters and gripping, no-nonsense plot? Honestly, if I were to go through all the strengths of this premiere in detail, we'd be here for much longer than either you or I have the patience for. So please, just take my word for it and go watch the show. At least the battle scene in the first few minutes if you're skeptical — the masterful camerawork and panning shots we're treated to in that scene might as well have grabbed me by the collar and yanked me in through my screen when I watched it, so much did it capture my attention and ground me in its setting. The animation is excellent. The sound is on point and gives a wonderful sense of space. And the violence — it is bloody and brutal, yet pensive and poignant at the same time.
Seriously, watch this show. If this doesn't end up topping every "best anime of Summer 2019" list come season's end, I'm going to be very, very surprised.
Summary: Unless you have a strong aversion to dark fiction or violence, you definitely need to be watching this one.
"So one was sleeping in parks and under bridges, while the other was sleeping in cemeteries..."
Disclaimer: At the time of writing, no official subs were available. All impressions are based on the raw Chinese version.
Yichang Shengwu Jianwenlu (The Record of Unusual Creatures) is the only Chinese show on this list, and it is simultaneously a prime example of just how far the Chinese animation industry has come, and just how much work there still is to be done.
The first thing I noticed when starting this up was how smooth the visuals were compared to past Chinese shows I've seen. Though the animation isn't quite as good as you'd find in the show's Japanese counterparts, the strides made by Chinese animators over the last few years are readily apparent here. Movements have gotten smoother, the designs are overall crisper. Audio too, has improved. The voice acting (though potentially grating to Western viewers) sounds very good to Chinese ears, and both the OP and ED are decent C-rock numbers.
Now then, what about the story? Well... the premise isn't exactly groundbreaking, but it's intriguing enough: Hao Ren, a nondescript millennial, owns an old building in the outskirts of town with many rooms to rent out. Eager to find tenants, he offers a lower price than anywhere around, and two powerful animal girls, a destitute vampire bat, and a naive steppe wolf, eventually present themselves as prospective tenants. What ends up unfolding is a lighthearted supernatural slice of life with the occasional bout of action, a slice of life that offers an approach to storytelling very distinct from what you'd find from anime proper — Yichang Shengwu Jianwenlu draws on a different set of tropes than its Japanese brethren, most notably in the revelation that the show is not a harem. Yeah, really. The MC is living together with a pair (and soon to be trio, if the key visuals are any indication) of cute animal girls, and it's not a harem. Unusual, to say the least. Refreshing, even.
But as for overall impressions, mine are middling. While the premiere was fun, it lacked substance and impact. Sure, there were light laughs to be had (many of which, sadly, will not make sense to Western audiences without heavy explanation), and the show's supernatural slice of life setup is one I find quite appealing. However, the show failed to evoke any strong emotions within me, and that's its greatest shortcoming. It's something you'll find in a lot of modern Chinese fiction, where the "story is everything," often at the cost of characterization or nuance. In Yichang Shengwu Jianwenlu, everything sort of just falls in place, and there are no strong character motivations or themes that I can pick out. The premiere feels like entertainment for entertainment's sake, and while it was certainly enjoyable, and I'm happy to see that the Chinese anime industry has improved so much... it just wasn't able to get me excited for episode two, unfortunately.
Summary: A Chinese offering that showcases the massive strides the Chinese animation industry has made in recent years. However, there's still a ways to go; while the premiere was fun, it lacked compelling substance.