You know what I think I should be doing? Including links to streams every week, in case someone new to streaming anime comes across this mid-season. What do you think? Does this look like a good idea?
Yona of the Dawn #13-15 – Not everyone is willing to just bow down and hand over their dragons because of an old prophecy, but with persistence and kindness, Yona is able to win over the Blue Dragon and the villagers protecting him. Prophecies can really wreck a fantasy plot. It’s good to see Yona putting in the effort to prove that she deserves Sinha’s loyalty– deserves it far more than the villagers who have mistreated him out of fear– rather than just blowing in and checking off the list of prophetic signs. Although I am dubious about the thesis of “this person has warm hands, therefore he absolutely must be a good person” always holding up.
On the way to the Green Dragon, the plot pauses for another few looks at the reign of King Il. Practically no one outside of the capital seems to think he was any good for the country, despite his professed noble ideals. Su-won looked like the hawkish leader they wanted at his coronation, but now comes across as the nicest guy in the world, almost as though he has a split personality. Is he being subjected to someone else’s control occasionally, or is he just a natural charmer who saves the fierce persona for when he really needs it? He seems capable enough for the latter.
At episode 15, in honor of the new season, we get a big change in the opener and closer. I’m really going to miss the majestic orchestral opening, especially when there are still chunks of the previous opening animation being used. They really don’t fit with the new uptempo disco-y theme, but this is probably a work in progress and we will see all of the old animation replaced. The closer, on the other hand, replaces a rather bland song with a sharp new mix of historical and modern sounds, kind of a Japanese equivalent to Celtic rock. I like it!
Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! #2-3 – Now it’s time to meet Zundar, who is the most adorable little villain ever to try conquering Earth, oh yes he is! And he’s the perfect illustration of why this is the best show of the season so far. Having the evil overlord be a cute animal, sure, that would be amusing. But having him curl up in a teacup and wiggle his little nose and ears while expounding about his desire for world domination is turning the joke up to 11. It’s that extra effort which is making Cute High such an unmitigated joy to watch.
Zundar’s minions with their mineral aliases are yet another shout-out to Sailor Moon. But you can’t sustain an entire series by taking potshots at one single other franchise, so there are going to have to be other magical girl shows dragged into this eventually. And next in the sights is a lesser-known gem by the name of Princess Tutu.
Princess Tutu concerns the adventures of an aspiring dancer who is actually an enchanted duck, who transforms into a magical girl to collect the shards of a prince’s heart (long story) which are possessing people and provoking unnatural negative emotions. It also includes such elements as anthropomorphic animals mixing with ordinary humans, punny names (Kurotori = “black bird”), a black swan of sorts, and, of course, a whole lot of ballet. It’s a terrific show, drawing on the darker myths used for famous ballets as much as the sparkly stuff. Cute High is only riffing on the best so far.
(Crunchyroll – FUNimation – AnimeLab)
Yatterman Night #2 – Next we get a typical episode of Yatterman, in which the Dorombos execute a cunning plan, the Yattermen show up to stop them, things escalate quickly with ridiculous mecha and the Dorombos are forced into a humiliating retreat with their plans and clothes in tatters. Only the Yattermen have been replaced by an army of androids, allowing a fun trope reversal in which the would-be villains get to smash up a horde of faceless identical costumed heroes. And the aftermath gets a much less cartoony treatment. As much as this show is jabbing the audience’s emotions in really obvious, predictable places, it’s working, darnit.
Along the way, the Yatter Kingdom is shown to be on Hokkaido (the northernmost of Japan’s main islands), as the Dorombos sneak in via the Seikan Tunnel which connects it to Honshu (the biggest island, which holds Tokyo and most of the other big cities).
Aaaaand then the writer takes on the challenge of seeing how long he can possibly get away with showing the protagonists nude. Eventually they will be discovered, you say? Ha! The person who finds them is blind, so everyone can stay nude until next time! Take that!
And finally, the mysterious local with the warm hands reminds everyone very strongly of Dorothy for a very good reason: she’s played by the same voice actor, Shizuka Itou. Who incidentally also voiced the heroine of the 2008 Yatterman series. More on this suspicious coincidence next time, if we get the chance.
(FUNimation – AnimeLab)
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders #26 – Ladies and gentlemen, a big hand for the author’s cameo! You may recall that the author of the source manga, Hirohiko Araki, based our heroes’ trip from Japan to Egypt on one he took himself, so here he is as a tourist. (Araki did not, however, provide the voice for the character.)
Back in the main part of the episode, Jōtarō is forced to admit he’s dealing with a far better class of opponent than before because, in one horrifying moment, N’doul manages to knock his hat off. Also N’doul is able to keep carrying on a conversation despite a big hole through his head, though not long enough to provide any substantiative information about Dio.
What we do learn is that Dio has some way of inspiring total loyalty and awe. Indeed, it’s almost a sort of love, though given the kind of show this is, we must assume that it’s due to Dio being totally badass macho, and not the least bit gay, nope, not at all.
Also on the macho male bonding front, Jōtarō and Iggy have reached a detente after spending almost as much time fighting each other as N’doul. It’s only the grudging respect of tough guys acknowledging that the other guy is tough too, but I expect they will be fast friends when all this is over.
Fafner: Exodus #2 – Starting off with some alien-shooting action, we learn that the pilots of Tatsumiyajima haven’t had to fight in two years, and in that time the invaders have leared some new tricks. In particular, the Festum that survived a triple nuke in Hawaii is able to just fade in and out of existence without the dramatic effects accompanying the wormholes that the others have to use to travel. What can it mean? It obviously means enough trouble to power an entire series.
Another curveball is the leader of the group bringing Emery to Tatsumiyajima. In a show focusing on teenage pilots of giant robots, either there’s some just-identified magic factor which can’t be activated in people over the age of about 16, or the casualty rate is horrific, or pilots have to stop piloting after a short career. To bring in an adult who is still alive and able to pilot is going against the conventions of an entire subgenre. It’d be interesting to hear the general’s backstory.
No such luck for Kazuki, the ace pilot of the last series, who is lionized by the visiting pilots and a romantic target for at least one of his former peers (Who has nice warm hands. What is it with the hands this week!) but unable to be a pilot any longer. Not that he isn’t thinking about it, as he goes to brood at a mech which is said to kill anyone who tries to pilot it, probably foreshadowing an ill-advised attempt to perform one last feat of heroism.
Death Parade #2 – So for episode #2, we get… a commentary for episode #1. There’s confirmation of a couple things most viewers will have suspected: first that there’s some kind of extra interference in the game, and then that Machiko probably lied about not being in love. The new assistant points out that Machiko’s motives may have been pure– so was the judgement wrong? Is it that wrong a lot? If they can scan dead people’s entire lives in an instant, shouldn’t this place be able to magic up a lie detector?
“The void” is explained as a place where souls are essentially thrown away, with no chance to ever live or experience anything again. To have them discarded on the basis of such a potentially flaky decision either makes this the most nihilistic show ever, or means that the void is a big fat lie. Given the amount of deceit and misdirection floating around already, I’d bet on the latter.
The structure going forward, then, is probably going to be that two of the recently deceased show up and play a game, and then Decim and his new assistant argue about it, and then they get packed off to wherever they’re going.
(FUNimation – AnimeLab)
Assassination Classroom #2 – Assassination attempt of the day: exploding baseball. Result: Koro-sensei goes to a Yankees game to perform a musculoskeletal analysis of a famous pitcher and then a comparative analysis on the latest would-be assassin. If Kunugigaoka Academy has a professional code of conduct for teachers, I’m pretty sure it was just violated in several ways. Though maybe, since Sugino is in the E class, it’s not considered a big deal. At least we do not have to hear about how nice and warm the tentacles were.
Later, via the kids’ contact at the Ministry of Defense, there’s an explanation for the real purpose of the E class. It’s there to set an example to make everyone else behave. There’s undoubtedly more trouble on the way when word starts getting out that it’s actually becoming a fun place to be, not to mention more hijinks as the man from the MoD joins the class as their P.E. teacher.
(FUNimation – ADN – AnimeLab)
Here’s the part where I need to cut the lineup to a maximum of five shows for the rest of the season. However, there are a few problems. One is that all of these shows are worthy of being followed for the rest of the season. Another is that I need to make sure to pick ones that are accessible to a reasonable percentage of you, the international readers of Amazing Stories. As I write this, it’s deadline time and AnimeLab still hasn’t made half the shows it promised to simulcast this season available yet, and Viewster is still claiming it has a big anime-related announcement coming any minute now, and Crunchyroll is still displaying that one new license is yet to be revealed.
So here is a provisional lineup: Yona and JoJo stay in as established incumbents, Cute High is definitely in as the best show in the bunch and having sufficient distribution, and for maximum range, my top other choices are Death Parade and Yatterman Night. If either of the last two doesn’t get much wider distribution, then Fafner: Exodus gets the first look in, and if I have to drop both, then Assassination Classroom stays.