First, several updates to last week’s stream lists:
- When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace: Viewster (Scandinavia, Benelux, Portugal, Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand); Anime on Demand (Germany); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand)
- Cross Ange: Viewster (UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland)
Garo the Animation premiere – First, the production values here are amazing. Much care has been taken to give this show a distinct art style, and the computer-rendered armor that our heroes wear is a masterpiece of detail that no thumbnail image can possibly do justice to.
The story, maybe not so much. The kingdom of Valiante under the king’s adviser Mendoza is basically Spain in the time of Torquemada, except that demons are behind the persecutions, because it is actually witches rather than priests that have the true power of exorcism. One witch gives birth while being burned at the stake, and the child, Luís is rescued and raised by a knight who may or may not be his actual father. Seventeen years later, Luís is a knight with magical golden armor and awesome demon-fighting abilities, and he and his bordello-frequenting guardian are about to head back to Valiante to generally kick butt and save the world.
If all you want is some solid action about a pair of lusty knights hacking demons up, then this is a perfectly serviceable show. But it doesn’t quite rise to the level of something I would actively recommend to everyone.
Akatsuki no Yona premiere – In a small kingdom in early Korea, Yona is a princess and only heir to the throne. While loved by everyone, she is headstrong, vain, and spoiled, so that when the subject of who she’s going to marry comes up, she insists that there is only one man for her. Although he’s never reciprocated her feelings, and still treats here as a child, and although her father wants to consider making an alliance through the marriage, she perserveres. In the end, love and persistence are about to win out, and then everything goes wrong.
This will not be a total surprise, since the opening shows her leading a band of outlaws. But this episode does a good job of spinning out the story and making Yona flawed but still sympathetic. I do recommend this one; enjoy the sumptuous art of the royal compound while you have the chance.
International stream: Crunchyroll (Worldwide except for Asia)
Laughing Under the Clouds premiere – In 1868, the 15-year-old Meiji Emperor overthrew the Tokugawa dynasty of shoguns who had held all the real power in Japan since 1603, and decreed that henceforth, the country would become a modern, industrialized nation with modern institutions. The end result was that Japan went from the Middle Ages to bullet trains within the space of a human lifetime, but it came with cultural whiplash on a profound scale.
Laughing Under the Clouds takes place in year 11 of the Meiji era, when one of the symptoms of that whiplash is a substantial number of samurai who resent being displaced from the top of the heap. As the police round up the disaffected, it’s the job of the Kumo brothers, Tenka, Soramaru, and Chūtarō, to transport them to a special prison, and occasionally help round up escapees.
Most of this episode is spent establishing the brothers as fully rounded characters. What little is shown of the prison suggests that it is, at the very least, an especially nasty place to be, and possibly feeds inmates to a dragon.
This is a good beginning, and it’s a shame it isn’t more widely available. Hopefully there will be fruther license announcements soon.
Trinity Seven premiere – Hijiri Kasuga is a high school student living with her cousin Arata. Her daily routine includes him grabbing her breasts when she goes to wake him up and enduring an endless stream of patronizing comments. Yet she still cares for him, and when disaster strikes, she gives Arata a powerful magical item that will protect him while she is swallowed up by the disaster.
Wait, sorry, I forgot to mention that Arata is the hero of this show. The “grimoire” that Hijiri gives him allows him to construct his own imaginary world where everything is fine again. In fact, it’s probably best to think of this entire show as an imaginary world constructed solely to appease the hero, because it might help head off the urge to scream and punch the wall.
What happens when Arata is kicked out of his dreamworld is that he’s given the choice of giving up the grimoire or being executed. No, he says, he’ll go to wizard school. At wizard school, he again refuses to believe there’s nothing he can do to get Hijiri back, so the principal tells him there might be a way, if he can turn the seven powerful, oversexed young women known as the Trinity Seven into his “pawns”.
Well, technically, only six of them are oversexed. The seventh seems very uncomfortable with Arata’s constant innuendo, but we’re assured that that actually means she’s totally hot for him, so it’s all okay.
Much has been written about the horrifying misogyny of Cross Ange, but at least Cross Ange attempted to make the protagonist sympathetic and was honest about the fact that she suffered. Not only should you avoid this show, I recommend full Ebola-level decontamination if you should ever come into contact with it.
Parasyte -the maxim- premiere – In the first few seconds of this show, a man’s head splits open to reveal a mass of writhing eyestalks and tentacles and teeth and all sorts of alien bits which proceed to bite off his wife’s head.
Now, it’s time to disappoint those of you who are still reading. After setting itself up as full-on horror, Parasyte then jumps into more of a sitcom groove. High school student Shinichi Izumi’s right hand is taken over by an alien parasite, which once maturing is stuck there. Though he is duly terrified by the first sight of his hand morphing into shapes it shouldn’t, by the next morning the wacky music is playing as Shinichi wakes up to find Migi, as it calls itself, speed-reading through his books. Migi also sets up a few misunderstandings with his classmates which will surely take many episodes to fully unwind, and then it’s back to extreme horror mode for a fight with another parasite which has taken over a dog.
I don’t know who to recommend this to. Shinichi and Migi are becoming an interesting pair, but the grotesque appearances of the other parasites are a big hurdle for the potential viewer to overcome. And anyone who shows up ready for a sharp horror show is going to be let down by most of the episode being taken up with tepid attempts at comedy. (Ha ha, Shinichi’s parents are dull and clueless! Oh, look, the unintentional boob-grab gag again!) It’s just not working.
International stream: Crunchyroll (Americas, Europe, MIddle East, northern Africa, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand)
Psycho-Pass 2 premiere – In future dystopian Japan, everyone is monitored constantly by the Sibyl System, which determines their aptitudes, their life path, and, most important to the police, their level of criminal tendency. Well, actually, it doesn’t work very well. In the course of this episode alone, one person fools it with a hologram, another has been fooling it by unknown means, people are giving out free samples of a drug which claims to be able to modify how the system rates them, and an officer is able to modify what happens to a mad bomber by talking him down until his criminality rating moves into a different category before arresting him. Also, the bomber is protesting against the Sibyl System itself because it routed him into a career path he didn’t like.
So much for the omniscient surveillance system. The interesting part is the officer, Akane Tsunemori, who learned the horrific truth of how the system actually works in the first Psycho-Pass series, and is trying to fight it from within. When she corners the bomber, she tells him that he is a good person, with a just cause, before trying to convince him of the merits of staying on the straight and narrow. With all sorts of people pointing personality-scanning guns at each other just then, one wonders how much of that speech is for show.
This is another series that has good potential and has some gaps in its licensing.
Surprisingly, neither Ronja the Robber’s Daughter nor The Seven Deadly Sins has been licensed for international streaming. So, out of what we did get, next week let’s take a second look at Celestial Method, Gugure! Kokkuri-san, When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace, and Akatsuki no Yona, plus Laughing Under the Clouds and/or Psycho-Pass if either gets more widely licensed, and catch up on Sailor Moon Crystal. And, just maybe, we’ll get to see the return of Mushishi!