There were a couple of latecomers to the table this anime season, and while I always encourage quality over quantity, there are also few enough good titles airing right now that I felt the need to take a look at anything that sounded even remotely interesting. Hence, Aguu: Tensai Ningyou, Tsukumogami Kashimasu, and Muhyo to Rouji no Mahouritsu Soudan Jimusho were all on my radar right from the get-go. Now that they’ve all started airing, let’s see how they each fared.
Aguu: Tensai Ningyou/Aguu: Genius Dolls
While I tend to shy away from horror as a genre in live-action form, I’m all for more horror in anime – if only because there are so few titles out there that are halfway decent. Sadly, Aguu is practically a textbook example of a potentially great idea that gets completely wasted thanks to botched execution.
First off, the series suffers from severe tonal whiplash. It begins by introducing its main character as someone who comedically and absentmindedly does the splits no matter where she is, because she’s a ballet dancer and… apparently that’s just something ballet dancers do? The show then proceeds to imbue nearly everything else that happens with an atmosphere of extreme drama or danger instead of picking and choosing its scenes, so that the MC and the actual content are utterly at odds with one another. Another major problem is that Aguu tips its hand by the end of its opening episode, destroying any sense of mystery and turning a promisingly creepy and emotionally impactful premise into nothing more than an overlong and clumsily executed exposition scene; a colossal waste of an idea that could have been the driving force behind the entire show. To add insult to injury, the series looks like total crap. The character designs are exceedingly simple and sometimes just plain silly, the backgrounds are little more than the most basic of outlines with splotches of color, and the animation is minimal. Paired with the by now hopelessly overdone Swan Lake theme (for the love of god, can we please have anything other than that for our next ballet-centric story?), Aguu is disappointing to say the least.
Tsukumogami Kashimasu/Tsukumogami For Rent
I don’t know how popular Tsukumogami Kashimasu is going to be, given its fairly relaxed pace and comparatively dialogue-heavy storytelling, but personally I find it charming. While each episode looks like it’s going to feature its own cute mini-mystery, the overarching plot seems more concerned with the history of and relationship between not-really-siblings Seiji and Okou, the backstories and personalities of the youkai inhabiting their store, and the way in which these things tie together under the general theme of family and acceptance. While anime featuring youkai are hardly a rarity, these kinds of slice-of-life titles are right up my alley, and Tsukumogami Kashimasu manages to feel remarkably fresh – in part because the youkai in question are derived from objects rather than the more usual nature or animal-inspired environment, but also because the tone is largely upbeat, as emphasised by the nicely colourful artwork and vivid designs. No doubt the comparisons with Natsume Yuujinchou will be plentiful (and believe me, I love that show to pieces), but with its considerably less solemn approach, I get more of a Kamichu! vibe myself (also by no means a bad thing, however). Either way, this series is definitely something I feel good about recommending to any audience.
Muhyo to Rouji no Mahouritsu Soudan Jimusho/Muhyo and Rouji’s Bureau of Supernatural Investigation
Let me just preface this by saying that, no matter my lack of personal enjoyment of Muhyo to Rouji, I think it’s a show everyone watching seasonal anime should at least check out. If nothing else, it’s wildly different from any other series airing this summer, and is far darker and more complex in its themes than it probably appears at first glance – a bit as if something like Jigoku Shoujo or Kuroshitsuji and Gegege no Kitaro had a baby.
That being said, it’s not something that piques my interest in a more subjective sense. This is in part, it must be admitted, because I absolutely can’t stand the character designs, or for that matter even the characters themselves. Muhyo looks and sounds like a pretentiously evil five-year old wizard, but evidently has some dark, hidden past to angst about in his spare time. Rouji looks like a teenager, but acts about as clueless as a ten-year old (i.e. the emotional age of most action/adventure shounen protagonists). In fact, the whole thing is peppered with the sort of dumb, unfunny shounen humour you’d expect from such a show from the artwork, but which makes for an outright jarring contrast with the rest of the content. Don’t get me wrong, humour of some kind is definitely needed here, since otherwise Muhyo to Rouji would be almost ridiculously serious, but I would have preferred something with a bit more thought and polish in that department. I also don’t care for the execution of the fantastical elements from Muhyo’s end, because the way he vanquishes demons to Hades is by… reciting rule numbers out of a book that demons just sort of have to abide by? That’s it. There’s no real sense of effort or suspense there, nor any kind of logic or worldbuilding as to how any of this works – or more importantly, why the audience should care. And without that kind of framework fused into the story, I unfortunately can’t bring myself to engage with it on any meaningful level, no matter how much the actual story makes me want to do so.
Question of the post: Did you watch any of these premieres and if so, what did you think of them? Will you be continuing with any of these shows on a weekly basis?