Onigiri premiere – Japan has been invaded by monsters, but a team of buxom women (and one guy) is out to defeat them. Sounds like an an excuse for a bunch of tedious fanservice, right? Wrong!
What saves this is that, at three and a half minutes per episode, it doesn’t have time for that sort of thing. In fact, the only real nod to it being aimed at straight men is that the one male character doesn’t get a voice actor and has to speak in text boxes.
The first couple episodes set up a basic pattern where you get a minute or so to enjoy the scenery, then monsters appear, then the good guys wail on them with increasingly ludicrous amounts of firepower until they (the good guys) are kicked into limbo with a voice telling them their game accounts are being suspended for overdoing it.
It’s a colorful and silly diversion, worth checking out if you already have an Anime Network subscription. If not, it doesn’t appear that it’s going to be made available for free streaming.
International stream: The Anime Network (worldwide except China and Japan)
Big Order premiere – Here we are at the end of premiere time, and we’ve made it almost all the way through without tripping over anything unexpectedly squicky. Well, Big Order here to fix that.
Start with protagonist Eiji Hoshimiya’s little sister, who doesn’t just worship her older brother, but is implied to have a crush on him. Add a teenaged girl assassin who has just transferred into his class so that she can stalk and kill him. She has a bit of a tragic backstory, but her main purpose in this episode is to be ogled and then become Eiji’s first victim when he finally starts using his magic power.
Eiji’s power, as revealed when he finally gets over himself after a ton of over-repeated footage and sound cues, is that he can exercise absolute control over people and things. This episode closes with the aforementioned assassin tied up and whimpering at Eiji’s mercy as he takes her over, a process which probably doesn’t actually involve sexual molestation, but by golly the show wants you to imagine that it does.
If this were set up with Eiji as the villain and the briefly-glimpsed crew of interesting-looking characters which is hunting him as the good guys, there is a chance that it could have been watchable. But Eiji is clearly supposed to be the sympathetic one here, so this is one big helping of NOPE.
International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia)
And that’s finally it for the premieres. Since we’re already three weeks into the season, it’s time to shift gears and head straight on into commentary mode. Skip to the bottom if you just want to find out the lineup this column will be following for the rest of the season; otherwise, spoilers ahoy!
My Hero Academia #2-3 – Izuku goes from the lowest of moods to the highest in just a couple episodes. Just as he learns that his idol is slowly losing his powers, he also receives the crushing news that no, in the opinion of an experienced superhero, one can’t become a superhero without a superpower. But a moment of reflexive heroism by Izuku leads All Might to propose a solution to both problems: Izuku can inherit his power.
Of course, since this is a hardcore shōnen story, no one ever just gives anyone a major power like that. Izuku has to work for it. Which means it’s time for a traditional Hellish Training Montage.
I was prepared to dismiss the Tatōin shopping arcade as a weird name coincidence, but when All Might takes Izuku to Dagoba Beach and then reenacts a classic Star Wars moment during his training, it becomes pretty clear that author Kōhei Horikoshi is being a fanboy. Throw in the equally obvious Western superhero comic influences, and the general excellence of the writing and production so far, and FUNimation has made an excellent choice in promoting this show as one of the likely big hits of the season.
All this, and not a villain in sight yet. Sure, Izuku isn’t on great terms with Katsuki, and inadvertently helping save him has made things really awkward between them, but I expect we’ll eventually see them get over it and team up to fight, say, the unnamed person who critically injured All Might five years ago.
Kagewani -II- #2-3 – It’s time to catch up with the protagonist from last season. Professor Bamba has somehow wound up, somewhat hairier but not much the worse for wear, in Very Special Detention. Fair enough, he did murder Kimura at the end of last season by setting a monster on him. Except that Kimura is still alive, and, going by the framing of that shot at the end of episode 2, has merely suffered some kind of horrific facial injury.
It is probably not a coincidence that the monster which shows up as Bamba is being transported seems to be specifically looking for him. In the worst-case scenario– okay, this is a horrror show, so the most likely scenario– I’d guess Kimura has figured out how to replicate the process that gave Bamba the ability to influence or control the monsters, and now Kimura is controlling them all, and the only person outside Sarugaku who has any inkling of what’s really going on is the one detective, and everyone’s doomed.
On the other hand, episode 3 provides a brief glimpse of someone who seems to know a thing or two about fighting monsters. It looks like this person is younger than the monster hunter from last season, but maybe they’re her heir or apprentice or somesuch.
Incidentally, episode 3’s monster is named after the founder of Zen Buddhism, probably because it’s kind of roly-poly and limbless like a Daruma doll.
Re: ZERO -Starting Life In Another World- #2-3 – After yet another death, Subaru works out what’s going on, finds a new ally, and resolves to get the matter of the stolen insignia once and for all. While he technically has no obligation to Emilia for saving his life because it didn’t happen in this timeline, he still feels indebted, plus he’s learned that being killed really freaking hurts and he’d like it to stop.
So finally, with Subaru out of Emilia’s way, Puck still awake, and Reinhard coming to the rescue, there’s enough magical firepower to put up an actual fight against Elsa, and Re: ZERO gets a chance to show that it can put together a decent extended action scene. And finally everyone survives and everything’s fine again, except Emilia decides she needs to find out what is up with this mysterious guy who knows things he shouldn’t, and Reinhard appears to have recognized Felt as someone’s lost child.
One other complication is lurking in the background. In the latest timeline, the fruit seller mentions that “a broke kid like you” helped his daughter, and in an earlier one, Rom mentioned that “metias” have recently started appearing in greater numbers. This means that Subaru isn’t the only person crossing over from our world. (Or some world– the opening sequence suggests that there are alternate copies of him running around in Lugunica.)
Concrete Revolutio #15 – The career of a Japanese pop idol isn’t just about being a good musical performer; it’s about presenting a total persona and lifestyle. Female idols are expected to appear single and available, and really can be punished for news leaking out that they’re dating. Letting on that they aren’t even heterosexual is right out.
So Aki desperately wants to find freedom, as a superhuman living under the restrictions society has placed on her, as a performer in a world of restrcitive contracts, and as a lesbian in a society which, although it doesn’t have some of the religious hangups that many Western ones do, does still exert strong pressure toward heteronormativity.
It’s less sympathetic to find that her approach toward gaining freedom involves murdering random aliens in the hope of uncovering the Fumers. But it’s enough to persuade Jirō to help her, especially after he has to be the one to break the news that the Fumers she’s looking for are no longer available.
The story of the Fumers is tied up with the Osaka Earth Expo (Concrete Revolutio is playing on real-world events again– there was a World’s Fair in Osaka in 1970). It was an important step in their plan to push human evolution toward developing an ideal lifeform for them to inhabit. Which they do get to do, in a way.
And meanwhile, a side effect of their project is that now someone is using samples of Jirō’s blood to help superhumans develop even more superpowers. With Jirō’s power coming from an equivalent to nuclear energy, this is an equivalent of deliberate radiation-induced mutations. Can’t think how that could possibly go wrong…
The Lost Village #2-3 – After the bus crashes, the travellers have to hike the rest of the way into Nanaki, where they find signs of recent inhabitation but no actual people. And there’s something lurking in the woods with big claws and big growling noises, but the first person to turn up dead has simply drowned.
In the meantime, thirty people with personal problems (plus the bus driver– it would be kind of cool if it turned out he’s really the main character and the rest are just a distraction) are a recipe for endless bickering and drama. By the end of day 1, there’s been an attempted rape and another act of violence, and at least one person is looking for a chance to carry out a death penalty at the earliest possible moment.
The tragic backstories are starting to come thick and fast, but it’s hard to feel an emotional connection to the characters when you know a lot of them are likely to be killed off soon. The really fascinating thing here is the mystery– what did happen to the previous residents? Why no bodies? Did they turn into evil bear-monsters? Are they just hiding in the woods somewhere?
Also, the music continues to be awesome.
Kumamiko: Girl Meets Bear #2 – Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, Machi is still determined to start attending school in the big city, so Natsu gives her a practical test: go shopping at the big-box clothing store near the highway. Machi way overthinks things and then tries to fulfill the quest all on her own, winding up lost in the woods. “Learn to rely on others” is definitely shaping up to be one of the life lessons here.
This leads to a lucky meeting with her cousin and the introduction of the local drunken moonshiner, who also turns out to be a bit of a harassing creep. Thankfully Machi is not going to allow this to become that sort of show.
Bungo Stray Dogs #2 – Atsushi’s first day as a member of the Armed Detective Agency sees him called in to help with two emergencies: first to help Dazai out of another failed suicide, and then a staged bomb threat at the agency headquarters.
It’s a pretty big giveaway that, despite the ample chance for monologuing, the alleged bomber’s grudge remains remarkably nonspecific. There’s lots of room for Dazai and Hosoya to bicker, though, and after all the arguing in episode 1, it’s starting to get old.
The bomber is eventually revealed to be another agency member named after a famous author, Junichirō Tanizaki. The real-life Tanizaki’s work featured recurrent themes of incestuous desires, so this fictional Tanizaki is provided with a sister who lusts after him.
So now that we’ve got suicide and incest being played for laughs, and the balance of action and dialogue falling too much toward repetitive arguing, I think it’s safe to drop this one.
Well, it’s time to cut to the lineup to the maximum of five shows, and if I have to squeeze one more off the list, I think it’s going to be Kumamiko, which joins Flying Witch under the heading of Pretty Good But Not Terribly Bloggable. That leaves us with My Hero Academia, Kagewani -II-, Re: ZERO, Concrete Revolutio, and The Lost Village, which should provide plenty to talk about for the next couple months.