Anime Taste Testing: Giant Beasts of Ars, Buddy Daddies, and NieR:Automata

I don’t know if I’d categorize the winter 2023 anime season so far as good, exactly, but I’ll give it this, it’s not boring.

Giant Beasts of Ars / Ars no Kyojuu

Remember those super-long fantasy novel series we used to get that were de rigueur in the ‘80s and ‘90s? The ones that were about 16 (thick) books long and had several dozen important characters and just as many disparate plot threads that might, if you were lucky, start coming together somewhere around book 3 or so? Giant Beasts of Ars kinda reminds me of those. Don’t get me wrong – visually, this is clearly a modern show with modern sensibilities – but tonally, it definitely has that old-school high fantasy vibe going on, and it’s a lot.

On the one hand, that makes Ars stand out handily from the vast majority of shows that have aired not only in recent seasons but in recent years or heck, even recent decades, given that the classic high fantasy genre has more or less been entirely replaced by isekai titles at this point. On the other hand, it feels as though this is not one but several different anime stitched somewhat awkwardly together, and experiencing that as a passive viewer is something of a disjointed experience. At the moment, I’m intrigued enough by this anime-original to give it a second episode, but right now, I’m still a bit too confused about how exactly I feel about it to commit to watching the whole thing.

Score: 6/10

Buddy Daddies

If you held a gun to my head (geddit?) and asked me to tell you what studio produced this series, I might have guessed Wit (just something about the color palette and saturation), but my pick definitely wouldn’t have been P.A. Works. Magical realism, tons of monologuing, and weeks of highly impassioned melodrama? Never heard of it – Buddy Daddies seems more like what Yakuza’s Guide to Babysitting should have been if you checked that out back in the summer 2022 season: purposefully stupid, violent when it needs to be, and still with the potential to be heartwarming – if it plays its cards right.

On paper, Buddy Daddies sounds a bit like a Spy x Family rip-off, and I’m certainly not saying that this series doesn’t capitalize on the apparent surge of popularity in the found family/‘dad anime’ subgenre. However, I do think it succeeds in forging its own identity, and so far at least, it’s doing a fairly competent job at playing its more general tropes right. I do wish the premiere had been even more silly and over-the-top, but assuming the show manages to find just the right balance of bloody action and idiotic (yet obviously still touching) assassin roommates-slash-parent comedy, I think this has the potential to do pretty well.

Score: 7/10

NieR:Automata Ver1.1a

Full disclosure: fittingly given the character designs, I went into this anime blind. I’d heard the name NieR:Automata before but that’s the full extent of my knowledge, as I’m not a gamer. I also don’t care how good an adaptation this (or really other anime for that matter is); all I care about is whether it’s a good anime in its own right, regardless of one’s prior franchise knowledge (or in my case, total lack thereof).

So, in that context, how did NieR:Automata Ver1.1a fare? To be honest, not well, even though I’m sure we’ve all seen far worse. I both started and finished the premiere feeling mostly confused because I truly had little to no idea what the heck was going on the entire time. Who are these non-humans, what is their ultimate goal, and why should I care about the answer to either? I’m not asking anyone to comment with an explanation by the way (in fact, please don’t) – I’m simply presenting these as rhetorical questions, much as the anime itself seems to do to the audience. Clearly, this one was made with the fans first and foremost in mind and anyone else as an afterthought, so if, like me, you have zero prior experience with the source material, you’ll likely be shit out of luck.

HOWEVER. That doesn’t mean this anime has no standout features, and I’m going to name exactly two of them to wrap up this mini-review.

  • The show has excellent music. For a hot second, I thought I’d somehow found myself listening to the 1995 Ghost in the Shell OST. I don’t know if the anime’s music is the same or similar to the game but either way, I would absolutely buy this particular soundtrack.

  • This anime (or the game, or both, whatever) is obsessed with thighs. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys thigh shots to a compulsive degree (specifically, the whole zettai ryouiki thing), you will deeply appreciate this series even if you happen to hate every single other thing about it.

Score: 5/10

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5 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Giant Beasts of Ars, Buddy Daddies, and NieR:Automata

  1. I didn’t last long with Nier:Automata: the CGI gave me motion sickness, and I’m not interested enough to brave that. (I know very little about the game. I’ve never been that interested, but I was curious, and I’d have watched it at least a little, were it not for queasy cam.)

    Giant Beasts of Ars… I don’t know. It’s fine, I guess? I’ll need more time to make up mind. I’m not drawn in, and I’m not left out, either. ” Happy-go-lucky runaway girl is special,” is pretty common in anime (most notably, recently, I’d say Granblue Fantasy, but it goes way back, and spans both fantasy and SF). I don’t have high hopes, but on the flipside that means disappointment is unlikely. So far, it’s sort of just… there. I struggle to even remember the episode.

    Buddy Daddies: I’d probably not have thought of PA Works either, but there’s precedent. It feels a little like the Kurumukoro, Sirius the Jäger, Fairy Gone lineage, but with more overt humour. I’m fine with it so far. It’s a bit on the nose, and the girl’s a tad twee, but it could work out in the end.

    Both these shows are basically “judgement pending” for me, with Buddy Daddies being the more consistent premier, and Great Beasts having more potential (which most likely will go unmined). As far as premiers go, I’d suspect they’re somewhere in the middle.

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    1. Weirdly enough, I haven’t seen any of those P.A. Works shows you mentioned – my to-watch list is long and ever-increasing. So far though, I agree, Buddy Daddies is the strongest contender at this point, though I still have at least 3 other shows on my “want to check out the premiere” list.

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      1. Curious what those shows are; will wait for the posts. Myself, I’ve got plenty of above-avarage entertaining shows to watch this season, but nothing great so far (among the new stuff). Surpringly, it looks like I might watch the boy idol show Unite Up, which had a fairly strong premier. And Benriya Saitou-san also came out of nowhere: it’s a isekai party adventrue show, but so far feels like 4-koma slice-of-life, which is an interesting combo. Compared to last season it seems this one has a higher avarage but far lower highs. And again a lot of sequels are near the top (especially Bungou Stray Dogs and Vinland Saga).

        I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the new Trigun. The art is a turn off, and while the original was fun enough, I never was that much of a fan. I’ll see. I haven’t watched the first episode yet.

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