Welp, it’s that time again. Unlike the most recent few anime seasons, there’s a lot I’m interested in this time around, so I’ve decided to break my initial taste testing post into two parts based on release date. This means I’ll be discussing around half the titles I still plan to watch in the next taste testing post, which will be out in a few days. For the record, those titles include Code:Realize, Garo: Vanishing Line, Houseki no Kuni, Kekkai Sensen, Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau, Mahoutsukai no Yome, Two Car, Inuyashiki, 3-gatsu no Lion, and Itsudatte Bokura no Koi wa 10 Centi Datta.
Sengoku Night Blood
Score: 3/10 (Dropped)
I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say that Sengoku Night Blood is the single blandest anime title I’ve ever seen, but it’s definitely headed in that direction. The fact that it’s based on an otome mobile game couldn’t have been any more obvious if it was actively trying to be; MC-chan is such a clear audience stand-in that she lacks even the most basic form of characterization. On the one hand, that makes her less annoying than the kind of heroine who has only one or two personality traits to define her entire character (e.g. Extremely Clumsy and Excessively Cheerful™). On the other hand, that makes MC-chan such a complete non-entity that she may as well not exist at all (and no, I’m not exaggerating for effect, she really is just that dull and pointless). The menfolk of the story are similarly dull, mostly defined by the clothes and accessories they’re wearing rather than by personality. Given that there are over twenty of them in all, I gave up trying to memorize who was who based on their outfits. It’s a definite no-go in terms of production as well – lots of still frames and with speed lines used instead of actual movement for the action sequences, and crappy B-grade boy band material for the music. In fact, much of the music is performed by the voice actors themselves, which should probably be a good indication of the quality right there.
Ousama Game/King’s Game
Score: 3/10 (Dropped)
Nope. Nopenopenope. Look, I’m not opposed to gory material, and I’m really only squeamish around horror when it comes to live-action stuff, but this kind of thing just takes it way too far for me. It’s the kind of show that’s clearly trying desperately hard to be cool and edgy – mostly by shoving as much shock-value material in your face in as little time as possible. You might ask why I’m okay with the likes of Juuni Taisen when I’m not with Ousama Game, and here’s the simple answer to that question: while the former feels intentionally fun and ridiculous, the latter feels like it’s actually trying to take itself seriously in a “hey kids, check this out, ain’t it dark as fuck?” kind of way. The low production qualities certainly don’t make Ousama Game any nicer to look at, and throwing in a bunch of cheap fanservice purely for the sake of fanservice was the final straw for me. It’s a hard pass for me.
Score: 3.5/10 (Dropped)
While I was about as bored and unimpressed with this as I was with Sengoku Night Blood, at least I can say that Tsukipro looks a lot better. The character designs certainly aren’t original in any way, but they look decent, as does the rest of the artwork (minus the truly hideous and unintentionally hilarious CG in the opening credits). The music is about as bad as you’d expect though, and while I’m sure plenty of young female teens are ready to swoon as all the angsty backstories for each and every character are gradually revealed, it was all way too heavyhanded and overly scripted for me to take anything seriously.
Net-juu no Susume/Recovery of an MMO Junkie
Score: 5/10 (Dropped)
This one wasn’t bad, exactly – as in, not skeevy or creepy like I was mentally preparing myself for – but watching it was a lacklustre experience in nearly every possible way, and I found myself repeatedly checking to see how much longer there was to go before the episode was through. Net-juu is apparently meant to be a comedy, but as it got nothing from me apart from one or two weak smiles, the best I can probably say for it is that nothing about it is actually offensive. Rather, it’s just so cartoonish that there’s no way I think I’d be able to invest in anything about the story, comedy or otherwise. Mostly I was just plain bored.
Juuni Taisen/Zodiac War
That… actually wasn’t too bad. I mean, it was bad in that it was trashy as hell, in much the same way last season’s Kakegurui was trashy as hell – ridiculously on-the-nose characterization, every single cast member likely being either a legitimately terrible person or a total psychopath (quite possibly both), exaggerated character designs, plenty of close-up boob shots, etc. etc. That said, also like Kakegurui, this ended up being pretty entertaining regardless. Sure, there’s nothing much in the way of either subtlety or originality going on here, since aside from being so fanservicey and in-your-face, the whole battle royale-style plot just isn’t all that imaginative (Mirai Nikki, Deadman Wonderland, or the actual Battle Royale, anyone?). On the other hand, the action scenes aren’t half-bad, and I did like how the main character (if she is going to be that) was proven right off the bat to not be infallible, or even necessarily as smart/bad-ass as she seems to think she is. I’m curious enough to keep watching and see where this is headed, at least for the moment.
Kino no Tabi/Kino’s Journey
There’s not much changed here from the original Kino’s Journey, which personally I’d say is overwhelmingly a good thing, since I can’t think of any major change that would a) be a genuinely good idea and b) make the bulk of the audience happy. Funnily enough though, that’s also the exact problem with creating a sequel to a classic, especially one that was neither asked for nor necessary to the story in the first place; you can’t drastically alter anything because then you’d be ruining it, but then you’re stuck making something that’s no longer particularly original or innovative. To be clear, I didn’t dislike this first episode. The new Kino’s Journey looks and feels like a perfectly competent update to a show that is, if not amazingly popular, then certainly highly respected. I’ll keep watching precisely because it doesn’t seem to want to mess with an already tried-and-true formula, which also happens to be one I liked a lot when it aired nearly a decade and a half ago. But because that also means I know basically what to expect, I just can’t bring myself to be overly excited about its return.
This reminded me a lot of Tsuki ga Kirei even before all the Line messages started popping up. I mean that mostly in a good way – while that particular title may have left a bad taste in my mouth at certain moments, Just Because! has quite a similar vibe to it. That very unexaggerated and down-to-earth delivery, the quietly deliberate pacing, the way the silence is allowed to just speak for itself sometimes. It’s probably not going to be an especially exciting or unique anime, but it feels both natural and genuine, and when it comes to this kind of ‘hardcore slice-of-life’ title, that’s what counts the most for me. As of yet I have no idea how the romantic aspects of Just Because! are going to play out, and admittedly the show also looks a bit rough around the edges in terms of visuals. That said, my expectations were pretty low going into this, so based on that first episode, consider me cautiously optimistic.
Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou/Girls’ Last Tour
Is this A Thing now, creating shows like this one and Made in Abyss where you take a couple of sweet, cheerful child characters and drop them in the middle of a terrible setting? Because if so, sign me up. That disconnect between bright, upbeat kids and dark, perilous surroundings is unsettling in exactly the right way – though it’s probably worth a note that it only properly ‘works’ because that disconnect is considered perfectly normal for the world it’s in, and therefore goes largely unspoken by anyone. The fact that there are two small girls wandering around alone in the middle of (nuclear?) winter and there are guns and broken planes littering the countryside isn’t presented as a big deal, because as far as the characters are concerned, it really isn’t. The fact that these weapons are seen by the girls as vaguely mysterious relics of the past, abandoned debris of a war that was fought by people and for a reason they don’t actually know about, only helps add to the mood. I’m not sure I’m used to those chibi-esque character designs yet and I hope Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou manages to avoid any kind of creepiness in the nudity/sexual department, but based on the premiere, it’s looking pretty good so far.
The good news is that exactly nothing has changed; Osomatsu-san is still the same in-your-face, absurdist comedy that has no problems whatsoever with pushing the envelope as far as it possibly can, even at the risk of turning plenty of viewers off with its particular brand of humour. The series is dumb to the point of ridiculousness and vulgar to the point of obscenity, and I get that not all of its jokes are going to work even for those of us still eagerly watching at this point. That said, I thought this was a pretty strong welcome-back episode and am more than happy to make my way through another season.
Question of the post: Agree? Disagree? Feel free to let rip with your own thoughts on any of these above titles in the comments. (Remember, there’s still a bunch of other titles I’ll be talking about fairly shortly, so maybe hold your opinions on those until I get the chance to watch them.)