Quick news flash: Remember that new Sailor Moon adaptation which was probably premiering about now at one point? The studio has announced that it’s set for July now, streaming worldwide on Niconico with subtitles in ten languages, really for real this time.
Hozuki no Reitetsu premiere – Business in the underworld is busier than ever, thanks to population growth, crime, and natural disasters. (Yes, I do believe that giant wave is meant to represent the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.) Hōzuki, chief advisor to Enma, the king of the 272 Buddhist hells, is busy trying to keep things running. On a particularly fraught day, the hell for people who mistreat animals has a critical staffing shortage, Heaven is asking if they can spare any temp workers, and folk hero Momotarō is on a rampage.
Did I mention this is a comedy? It’s a comedy. A very dark comedy. The kind where characters stand around chatting in the middle of Animal Abuser Hell while sinners are having their flesh rent by vengeful beasts in the background.
Each episode covers two stories. Part 2 of this one introduces Hōzuki more fully as he and Enma chat over lunch in the underworld’s cafeteria. Here we learn about his gardening hobby, his love of cute animals, and that his ideal date involves a woman who isn’t afraid of insects and a trip to Tokyo Disneyland.
This show is able to make ten minutes of idle chatter more compelling than many of the entire premieres this week. The only knock against it is that there are some references that will be opaque to non-Japanese viewers. But it’s not necessary to understand every little thing to appreciate the tone, which comes out much like the later seasons of Blackadder. This one’s a keeper.
International stream: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Turkey, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand)
Witch Craft Works premiere – Honoka Takamiya is just an ordinary guy, but suddenly one day the clock tower of the school falls on him, and then he’s being attacked by an army of anthropomorphic rabbits, and then it turns out that beautiful and talented classmate Ayaka Kagari is actually a powerful witch on a mission to protect him. And he may be a princess.
But what this story is really about is another iteration of the tired old plot where a random nobody is suddenly forced by intricate plot gimmicks to hang out with the most popular and well-endowed girl in school, because he has absolutely no redeeming features that could have attracted her to him otherwise.
Magical Warfare premiere – Takeshi Nanase is heading off to sword practice one summer day, when suddenly he’s caught in a fight between magicians, and a magical girl… yes, this is in many ways the same story as Witch Craft Works, although less awful because Takeshi is at least able to exercise some agency.
Magic has some interesting rules in this one. Everyone has magical potential, and any contact with magic before the age of about 20 will instantly awaken it. Wizards also can’t directly attack each other with magical power in the regular world, or else the backlash kills them. Because nobody has ever thought to do the obvious thing, wizards are a rare and persecuted breed who have retreated to an alternate world. Takeshi, who of course is a wizard by the end of the episode, is now going to have to transfer to a new high school there.
This is a light novel adaptation, phoning it in with plans to sell a predictable number of collector’s edition DVDs and merchandise to a predictable market segment that does not include you.
International stream: Crunchyroll (US, Canada, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand)
Pupa premiere – At long last this has managed to make it to TV, but only with 4-minute episodes, so there isn’t much to talk about. A brother and sister are at school, the sister goes to a park where there are odd butterflies, a dog explodes, and then there’s a hideous transformation. End of episode. No time for even a next-episode preview. Some of the art is nice, though.
International stream: Crunchyroll (Americas)
World Conquest Zvezda Plot premiere – Kate Hoshimiya will succeed in conquering the world, says the prologue, but not in any traditional sense involving control or destruction. Cut to the present day, where so far it appears to involve smacking things really hard so that a “Conquered!” stamp appears on them. Also a giant rampaging monster that dissolves into a crowd of cute little toys, a robot, a swordswoman who can slash Humvees in two, and a motley assortment of other allies who make up the organization called Zvezda.
Asuta Jimon is a runaway looking for something to eat when he encounters Kate, who alternates between acting like a normal lost little girl and philosophically musing about her upcoming program conquest. Before he knows it, he’s been recruited as Zvezda’s newest member, they’re facing a division of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, and Kate is stopping tank shells with her bare hands.
This show is trying really hard, too hard, and for all that effort it’s not clear what it’s trying to do.
International streams: Daisuki (Americas, Africa except Tunisia and Algeria, India, Russia, Middle East, parts of Europe not speaking French, German, or English); Crunchyroll (Americas, South Africa); Wakanim (France, Canada, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia)
Wizard Barristers premiere – Cécile Sudo is a young wizard and law prodigy. Raised in Canada, she returned to Japan to pass the bar exam at age 15, and now she’s joining a law firm which specializes in defending those accused of magical crimes. Before she even gets to work, she’s signed up her first case. Let the magical courtroom drama begin!
Unfortunately, the director really wants to make an action series instead, so it makes with the explosions and ridiculous hairstyles and people creeping on the heroine rather than much in the way of actual lawyering. Cécile’s familiar exists to be a comical ethnic stereotype who ends every sentence with “bon“, which I guess is French-Canadian for “eh” in Japanese. Every use of magic becomes a huge scenery-destroying set-piece. (Sure, it explains why non-wizards hate wizards and the people who defend them so much, but there’s no thought put into how magic would be used in everyday life.)Chalk this one up as another promising idea wasted.
International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Turkey, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Middle East); Wakanim (France, Canada, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia)
Buddy Complex premiere – Aoba Watase is looking forward to his second year of high school, but on the first day back from vacation, a guy in a giant robot falls into our time through a wormhole and tries to assassinate him. Aoba is someone important in the future, but luckily his future self warned a friend about what was going to happen. One fight and another wormhole later, both the would-be assassin and protector are (apparently?) dead, and Aoba has been dumped into the middle of a war he knows nothing about.
Sunrise promised only that this would be a “traditional robot action series”, so perhaps we shouldn’t get our hopes up too far, but this is off to a solid start. The series gimmick appears to be something about affinity between pairs of pilots, hence the title and a few other bits of awkward English. (“Nice coupling”? Really? Do the fanfic writers even need a hint like that?)
International stream: Daisuki (Worldwide)
Welp, time to start choosing what we should follow for the coming season! Hozuki no Reitetsu is a shoo-in for a second-episode viewing, and I’m leaning toward giving Nobunagun, The Pilot’s Love Song, and Buddy Complex a chance as well. (Noragami would also be on that list, but for its terribly limited international availability.)
Next week, in addition to those, we’ll catch up on Samurai Flamenco and Kill la Kill, plus any surprise late streaming premieres.