Soul Eater Not! premiere – Tsugumi Harudori has the ability to transform into a living weapon, so she’s been enrolled in a special high school for weapons and their would-be wielders, or “meisters”. Flying off alone to the subtly named Death City, which is somewhere in the US, she finds herself facing a crisis of confidence as she meets her classmates for the first time, making both friends and enemies.
Despite the magical trappings, this so far seems to be trying to be one of those shows where some girls who are cute as buttons have everyday sorts of school experiences. If you’re looking for a relatively relaxed, untroubled show, this might be for you. On the other hand, you will need to get around a few jarring elements such as Death City looking like nothing in the US (not what you’re thinking– it looks mostly like Renaissance Italy, except people write things down in Japanese) and the camera being waaaaaaaay too interested in trying to find an angle where it can look up the heroine’s skirt.
Black Bullet premiere – For a few minutes, this is terrific. In 2021, humanity is suddenly threatened by the Gastrea, a fast-moving virus which turns infected people into horrific insectoid monsters. Hero Rentarō Satomi is a small child, just trying to survive in a refugee camp. Ten years later, Rentarō has become one of the specially trained fighters who can kill the creatures with the title ammunition. Arriving at the scene of a suspected Gastrea infection, he bursts in to find a strange man in a mask taunting him about the impending end of the world. When the man’s neck is broken, he simply screws his head back into place, bids Rentarō a cheery farewell, and vanishes.
Meanwhile, a 10-year-old girl has located one of the infected people and informs him solemnly that he is about to be taken over by the virus. When he transforms, she is able to destroy the resulting monster with superhuman strength. This is Rentarō’s partner Enju, one of the “Cursed Children” born to Gastrea-infected mothers who are both a danger to humanity and its best hope of survival.
And then the show remembers it’s a light novel adaptation. Rentarō reports back to his boss, who’s a teenage girl with breasts that appear to operate in their own zone of alternate physics. Later he checks in with a medical researcher who gives him advice about the Gastrea and his love life, the latter being that if he really likes his teenage boss, he should get his attention by forcing himself on her. Meanwhile, Enju has decided that she’s Rentarō’s fianceé, and is pretty much constantly reminding him that she would like to sleep with him at his earliest convenience.
At least it isn’t yet another high school comedy.
International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Andorra, Luxembourg, Turkey, Middle East, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (France, Canada, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia)
If Her Flag Breaks premiere – Hey, look! It’s yet another high school comedy! In this one, the hero has the ability to see flags coming out of people’s heads indicating important moments like a possible friendship or impending death. He also has instinctive knowledge of how to avert those moments, which he uses to keep everyone at arm’s length. By the end of the episode, he’s figured out that he can also stop a death flag by replacing it with a romance flag, meaning, in plain words, that apparently he can seduce girls out of dying.
As harem comedy premises go, it’s a little more creative than most, but it’s still a harem comedy. This means that the hero will soon be surrounded by a whole flock of overly attached girlfriends, all of whom he must keep happy or they will die. Next episode looks like the one where a bunch of them move into his dangerous mansion and engage in fanservice. Let’s just leave them to it.
Chaika – The Coffin Princess premiere – Chaika is a wandering sorceress gathering the remains of the former emperor, whose body was cut into pieces and kept as trophies by the group that defeated him. After ex-saboteur Tōru helps her kill a unicorn (which in this universe is a bloodthirsty levitating demon with nasty big pointy teeth), she hires him and her sister to help her steal one of the pieces. Meanwhile, another bunch of characters in a wooden RV is also after the trophies.
So we have a bunch of people who are after things for reasons, but really haven’t established why we should care about any of them. The visuals are generally good, but let down by the adapters choosing to set this in the Just Don’t Care Period of medieval fantasy, so we have a mish-mash of costumes that run the gamut from generic medieval to later European military to modern maid to the one-of-a-kind, massively overdesigned outfits of our heroes. The same goes for architecture, weapons, etc. (Wooden RV. I am not making this up.) All together, it adds up to a big ball of meh.
International stream: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Europe except German-speaking territories, Middle East, South Africa)
Dai Shogun – Great Revolution premiere – It’s another mecha show with a teenaged hero thrown into the middle of a fight without warning, but this time it’s steampunk mecha in Japan in 1875! Does that sound like fun? Prepare to be disappointed!
The catch is that hero Keiichirō’s special power with mecha comes from him being both a Tokugawa descendant (which of course he doesn’t know until the last possible moment) and a virgin. Especially the virgin part. Which the writer has decided to run with by subjecting him to an unending cavalcade of nude women, scantily dressed women, prostitutes, pervy friends, and innuendo after innuendo.
There’s also the animation style, which relies on severely limited motion even for anime. Consider the frame captured above in all its improbably proportioned, back-breaking glory. The characters freeze in those poses and just talk for several lines.
Keiichirō and his ninja grandmother are interesting people, and I wish I’d met them in a much better show. Unfortunately, everything else about this one is just awful.
No Game No Life premiere – Brother and sister Sora and Shiro are such elite gamers that they attract an invitation from the god of another world. He pulls them into his reality, gives them his ten commandments– all disputes to be solved with games, don’t get caught cheating, have fun– and sets them loose. Refreshingly, the story then skips all the “Whoa, another world! Whoa, it looks weird!” stuff and cuts to Sora and Shiro beating the pants off the locals (literally). No homesickness here; they’re already pre-adapted for this world and happy to stay.
And what a visually striking world it is. “Eye candy” doesn’t do it justice. It’s more like taking medically pure powdered sugar and injecting it directly into your optic nerve. You will be either awed or disgusted. Possibly both, after a while.
It may be that I’m more willing to compromise after a week of squirm-inducing badness, but amazing visuals, no one having to turn stupid for comedy purposes yet, and Shiro only having a slight case of creepy camera angles are enough to get this a second-episode viewing.
Nanana’s Buried Treasure premiere – Jūgo Yama has split with his family and is nearly penniless, but he lucks out and finds a fully furnished apartment for only ¥5000 (about US$50) a month. The catch is that the furnishings include a resident ghost.
Her name is Nanana, and most of the episode is devoted to her backstory. Once she was a brilliant and adventurous young woman who gathered a group of friends and roamed the world seeking out treasures. The proceeds went to build Nanae Island, a complex of high schools and colleges meant as a haven for other inquisitive young people. Amongst the treasures she uncovered were some special items which she hid around the island. But then she was murdered, and her friends split up, and though at least two of them are still watching over her, no one’s been able to find most of the special objects.
Nanana is a wonderfully engaging main character, Jūgo less so. He starts off as the typical nervous, ogly teenage protagonist, at one point calculating that it’s worth having his shoulder dislocated if it means that he briefly touches Nanana’s breast in the process. But he’s soon drawn into the mystery of Nanana’s death and treasure, and has started to develop a genuine sympathy for her. If this show manages to stick with that, it could be pretty good. This one makes the cut for another week.
International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, parts of Europe but it’s not clear which, Middle East, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (France, Canada, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia)
After all that, you can see why so much of the anime reviewing community is both delighted about the continuation of Mushishi and baffled about how it ever managed to be greenlighted.
So, for next week’s lineup, that’s Mushishi, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Brynhildr in the Darkness, No Game No Life, and Nanana’s Buried Treasure. See you then!