Anime Taste Testing: Angolmois, Free! S3, Grand Blue

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After my experience with both Kyoto Teramachi Sanjou no Holmes and Phantom in the Twilight, I wasn’t in the most forgiving of moods and didn’t know if Angolmois, Grand Blue, or even Free! would be able to change that. So, how did they fare?

Angolmois: Genkou Kassenki/Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion


Historical dramas are right up my alley, but even I’m sick to death of anime set during the Sengoku or Edo Period. Thankfully, Angolmois takes place during the late 1200s (for comparison’s sake, a good 200 years prior to the Sengoku Period, and around 400 years before the Edo Period) on Tsushima, an island situated about halfway between Japan and Korea that did indeed face a series of Mongol invasions back in the day. My history surrounding this time period in Japan is patchy at best, and I certainly won’t be counting on Angolmois for historical accuracy (don’t quote me on this but I’m reasonably sure all the characters themselves are completely imaginary); even so, a setting like this a real breath of fresh air, particularly this season.

I’m unsure if Angolmois will be mixing in a bit of the supernatural – it felt like the premiere might have been heading in that direction a couple of times without ever actually delivering on it – but regardless, the heavy doses of action flowed well and had a distinctly retro-ish, shounen battle feel about them. Here’s hoping the series won’t get bogged down in obnoxious clichés or tired fanservice in the episodes to come, as is so often the mainstay of these types of shows. That said, while I’m not usually much of an action fan myself, I can appreciate a good fight scene when it’s executed well, and was actually quite impressed by what Angolmois had to offer in that regard. I don’t care overly much for the character designs, especially the lead, but the overall animation has a cool style to it and more to the point, the action strikes a good balance between gore and taste – definitely not something to be taken for granted when it comes to anime. As a whole, this first episode struck me as being fairly solid and well-paced, so I’ll certainly be sticking around for more.

Free!: Dive to the Future

free season 3

This being the third season of the Free! franchise, viewers should have a good idea by now whether or not this is their kind of show. If not, I don’t know why you’re bothering to read this, but if so – welcome back, fam! Rather than stick primarily with the high school setting this season, the spotlight seems to be on those members that have gradated and are now attending their different universities, while the younger members of Iwatobi swim club have been pushed mainly to the side. A wise decision; not only does university make for a far fresher backdrop (both in terms of Free! and anime settings in general), but with the introduction of several new characters, the cast is now sizeable enough that it’s just not feasible to try and give everyone an equal amount of screentime. With that in mind, the show gets off to a pretty solid start, changing up POVs to keep things interesting but still maintaining a good sense of focus. The visuals are as richly coloured and crisply animated as ever, particular with the close-up and water-centric shots – i.e. the most important stuff – and yes, it’s all still served with a large side of not quite warranted angst and melodrama, complete with ridiculously !EPIC! opening. Bottom line, this is exactly the shit I signed up for, count me in!

Grand Blue

grand blue

I’m not from America or a guy, and have therefore never been part of a frat. That’s exactly the sort of stereotypical image and feel I get from Grand Blue though – a Japanese version of young, college-age guys getting constantly hammered by the beach and generally behaving the way you’d imagine. I don’t know that I’d call it offensive exactly (while certainly not G-rated, the proceedings are still fairly tame and unimaginative), but it’s nothing but the same one or two jokes over and over as exaggeratedly jacked guys down lots of booze, get naked, and bond over their manly manliness. Meanwhile, the ladies of the show are introduced in one of two ways: from the legs up or the breasts down. They are all pinnacles of beachy, girl-next-door type sexiness (or at least, what the creators think are the pinnacles of beachy, girl-next-door type sexiness), and there’s also scuba diving involved because… it sounds vaguely more interesting that way I guess? In any case, Grand Blue is first and foremost a slightly raunchy comedy, and is also as repetitive and banal as it looks as first glance. I stopped paying attention by the end of the first half of the episode, as it really was just pretty boring all-round.

Question of the post: Did you watch the opening episode for Angolmois, Free! S3, or Grand Blue and if so, what did you think?

18 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Angolmois, Free! S3, Grand Blue

  1. I came here to hear your thoughts on Free and I am now satisfied ahaha I kid. Free’s return means a lot to me, have yet to write a seperate piece on it but it was a electric episode. Love the cast now, I feel drama waiting in the wings somewhere regarding the groups middle school friend, Ikuya. The university setting I agree is so fitting and refreshing, perfect way to mark a new beginning for everyone. Yess that opening was like explosion in my face of epicness. I’m sitting here like Damn!! Love your line ‘this is the shit I signed up for’ LOL


    1. Yes, I feel the cast (or at least, what I know them) is quite strong this season, and I’m really happy about the shift in settings. I don’t think I would be nearly as invested in the story if the guys at university had been secondary characters and those still in high school were the main focus.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I read the manga and Grand Blue’s premiere was everything I’d hoped it would be. Not for everyone, I grant, but I’m loving an anime version of Animal House.


    1. It just strikes me as incredibly one-note, and in general it’s just not my cup of tea regardless. If it’s yours though, then that’s great, and I wish you happy watching. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m going to be honest and say I passed on all three of these. I had to drop Free during season 1 because me and water just don’t get on and after the near drowning of one of the characters I just couldn’t watch any more. Grand Blue I had no real interest in and Angolmois I’m kind of waiting to see what everyone else thinks. I may pick it up later in the season, but I’m not really big on historical stories in general.


    1. Free! is very close to my heart, because I definitely am a water person – I’ve been a competitive swimmer since age 7, and I’ve always lived pretty near the ocean as well. I still swim several times a week now – if I don’t, it’s almost like getting withdrawal symptoms, lol.

      I’ll keep people updated on Angolmois. I thought the premiere was strong, but who knows if the rest of the series will be.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Always love to hear your thoughts on the various offerings at hand, the style is lovely.

    As a manga reader, just gonna say that Grand Blue does get more nuanced / less cringy once it starts showing that it feels compassion towards the characters and their various feelings and personal troubles.
    (still stays a raunchy, raucous, reaction-face comedy though)


    1. There’s definitely something to be said for raunchy, reaction-face comedies, and I’m not discounting the genre as a whole. Those titles I like are pretty few and far between though, and in general I’d say that Grand Blue just isn’t for me.


  5. How strictly are drinking age limits enforced in Japanese society?

    I’m asking this in relation to Grand Blue, because apparently some characters have been aged up to 20 in the anime to comply with legal limits. Word is the author was worried leaving them as 18 per the manga would invite criticism from local parent watchdogs.


    1. 20 is the legal drinking age in Japan, no exceptions. That said, it would be incredibly easy for an 18 year old (or younger, if they looked like an adult) to buy alcohol from a supermarket or convenience store. Usually, people don’t need to show actual proof of their age – they just push a button confirming they are over the age of 20 (everyone has to do this; it’s automatic at check-out when buying alcohol), thereby absolving the shop of any legal responsibility. It’s rarely an issue, as people tend to be fairly honest about such things in Japan, but the system can and probably is abused by at least a few people, I imagine.


  6. @Angolmois: I quite liked it and am definitely going to stick with it. Since we haven’t much of the Mongol empire yet (with the exception of one Western guy), I’m a tad worried about a nationalistic slant that might ultimately put me off, but so far I’m fine with what we got, and I’m here for more.

    @Free!: Well, I dropped out halfway through season 1 (“cliffhanger by the sea” was the straw that broke the camel’s back), mostly because I tend to dislike KyoAni when they’re doing in-house stuff. I didn’t like K-On, either, which wasn’t in-house stuff, but it seems like it served as the model. It’s really hard to pin down what it is. It’s a flavour of sentimentality I don’t much like.

    @Grand Blue: Maybe I’ll come back to it if I hear surprising things (I expect to hear good things; I’m already hearing good things about this episode), but I didn’t find the humour funny, and this is exactly the sort of thing that had me isolate myself during my teen years and had me have mostly female friends during my university days. This show is not only unfunny for me, I have a visceral dislike for the boys-club elements in this show, and they dominated episode 1. There’s a chance that I’d relent on the show once it mellows down a littler (say, when they go diving), but there’s little chance that I make it this far. It’s not the worst premier of the season, but it’s the most unpleasant premier of the season. I felt similarly about Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou, except that show could be ingenious at times and was worth suffering through for extremely high highlights. This? It’s both less funny. and more unpleasant, so… no.


    1. I’m a bit worried about the potential nationalistic slant of Angolmois too, although the premiere made me feel slightly more optimistic about that. While I fully expect the invading Mongols to be portrayed as the ‘bad guys’, I’m also now not expecting a ‘GLORIOUS NIPPON’ kind of take on events.

      Free! is very near and dear to my heart because I’ve been competitive swimming since age 7 and am addicted to the water. That said, I’m not a big KyoAni fan either (I think the only other anime series I can truly claim to love from them from beginning to end is Hyouka), so I can certainly understand your reservations there.

      My biggest problem with Grand Blue is that it just didn’t make me laugh. I think I cracked a smile a grand total of once during the premiere – and given it’s meant to be a comedy series, that’s a pretty major issue. It just seemed so one-note and repetitive that I can’t even imagine going back to watch more at this point, even when people will inevitably claim that it gets better.


  7. Haven’t seen the other two, but I liked the debut episode of Angolmois. Considering I’ve been watching Nobunaga no Shinobi as well, I guess the foundation was kind of there. I’m just a bit worried about the filter and the occasional CGI…


    1. Yeah, I’m not a fan of that filter either, which is often more distracting than anything else (and also just looks pretty cheap in general). Still, if that’s one of the worst things I can say about Angolmois, at least so far, then I’d say it’s worth sticking around for. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person


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