To Be Hero premiere – The Chinese-Japanese partnership Haoliners, previously responsible for the awful webcomic adaptation Hitori no Shita and this season’s decent but hardly spectacular webcomic adaptation Bloodivores, is also trying out an original short anime. The protagonist, simply known as Ossan (“Old Dude”), is a handsome divorced ladies’ man with an unusual move where he precisely estimates the size of women’s bottoms, a skill stemming from the fact that he works in toilet design.
Yes, this is a comedy show with a certain amount of literal toilet humor. More occurs when Ossan is sucked into the sewers and granted superpowers to defend Earth with, but with an unfortunate downside: now he’s fat and hairy and everything he tries to say comes out pervy. Kicked out by his daughter, he will eventually move in with the flasher next door.
The animation is bargain-budget as with Haoliners’s other shows, but it fits well with a show that prefers its comedy loud, crass, and simple. It should be enjoyable if that’s what you like; I’ll just warn you that the closing theme is a powerful earworm.
International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except China, Japan, and Korea)
Cheating Craft premiere – Oh, look, it’s another Haoliners show based on another Chinese webcomic. But this one might be really good!
From the land of high-stakes testing comes a story of a future world where the stakes are even higher. An unnamed country known only as “the mainland” bases entry into the elite on the result of a single grueling test, so children spend their entire childhoods preparing for it. There are two strategies for passing: one is to just learn the material really well, which would seem like the ideal path except that there are people who will try to keep the competition down by methods up to and including deadly combat inside the exam room.
Enter the second strategy: getting really, really good at cheating – we’re talking smuggled weapons and cybernetic implants – and pairing up with someone who knows the answers. The cheater protects the learner, and the learner provides answers to the cheater. The result is straight-faced yet ridiculous action such as one expects from a classic shonen show.
The animation is limited, as with the other Haoliners shows, but the art and writing are a definite improvement. The first episode declares that the entire rest of the season will be spent telling the story of a single exam. That’s a tall order even considering this is another series of short episodes, but so far it’s shown a swagger that suggests it’s going to be able to keep things entertaining the whole way. I’ll give this a second look next time.
International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except China, Japan, and Korea)
Kiitaro’s yokai picture diary premiere – Kiitaro is a boy living somewhere remote with a bunch of mythical creatures for company. As we meet him, he and his zashki warashi are mustering the monsters for a big fight to settle an argument. Things go a little too far, and they realize the argument was dumb, and then everyone parties and it’s all good.
This looks like it’s aiming to be a slice-of-life show about Kiitaro just having a happy childhood with his buddies who happen to be monsters. At five minutes an episode, they will be small slices, but it doesn’t look bad at all.
International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau)
Nazotokine premiere – And another series of shorts. There is a recognized genre known as nazo-toki, puzzle stories, about a narrative which centers around, well, you can guess.
The heroine of this one is Tokine, a secretary at an ad agency. Tokine is a big fan of anime, which doesn’t seem immediately relevant to this story but is apparently important, since so much time is spent establishing that fact that there’s not much left over at the end to explain the premise of this show. Tokine finds herself transported to a pocket dimension by a cute little pig-creature, given a magical girl transformation, and then told that she will have to solve a puzzle to get out of it again.
There isn’t even enough time to fully explain the starter puzzle, although experienced puzzle fans are likely to come up with a probable solution before the end of the show anyway. (In fact, I’ll bet some will solve it just on the basis of this screenshot.)
It’s hard to rate this one just yet, because the key question about a puzzle story is how it handles the actual puzzle aspect. I’m going to give this one more episode to fully demonstrate that.
International stream: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa)
Flip Flappers premiere – Cocona is the serious one who goes to cram school and overthinks her life choices. Papika is the free spirit with no sense of personal space who rides a hover-surfboard. Together, they… I’m not sure what they do.
Their first meeting quickly leads them into some kind of alternate realm called Pure Illusion, which would be a great prelude to Papika asking just what the hell is going on and getting at least some explanation, but instead they just wander around eating weird-tasting snow and encountering strange lifeforms until they pop back to our world. Back at something that looks like a lab where Cocona came from, colorful characters look serious and say portentious things that are probably important, but which the viewer has no frame of reference for. All we know is that the lab is up to something where Cocona needs a partner, because imperfect partners keep dying, but when Cocona finds Papika, sine waves line up on a monitor and something something something magic!
It’s clear that a ton of resources and talent have been committed to what is visible on the screen (and audible through the speakers). Unfortunately, it’s equally clear that the script was an afterthought. As exciting as the trailers were, it turns out this is not one to continue with.
International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Turkey, Middle East, North Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa); Viewster (US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, New Zealand); Anime Network Online (US, Canada, UK, Ireland); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); ADN (France, DOM-TOM, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco); Anime On Demand (German-speaking Europe)
ClassicaLoid premiere – Kanae is about to have to give up the colorful old mansion where she was raised by her grandmother. The current inhabitants include two men claiming to be Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, although instead of being musically inclined, “Beethoven” is obsessed with cooking the perfect gyoza and “Mozart” is mostly interested in trying out extreme sports moves. It will later develop that they are ClassicaLoids, gifted (perhaps through mad science) with the power to bend reality, on the run from an organization of their kind which is headed by an avatar of Johann Sebastian Bach. Just when the mansion is about to be demolished, their powers spring to life and things get seriously weird seriously quickly.
The apparent reason for ClassicaLoid is to showcase the work of musicians remixing classical music, the highlight in this episode being a bouncy rendition of a snippet of the Pastoral Symphony.
This show and Flip Flappers make an interesting contrast, in that both of them are full of colorful characters and off-the-wall occurrences, but ClassicaLoid manages to make enough room to begin explaining what’s going on. It’s goofy fun for anyone who has at least a passing interest in classical music, and I think I’ll give it another episode.
International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa); Anime Network Online (US, Canada, UK, Ireland); Viewster (US, Canada, UK, Ireland); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); ADN (France, DOM-TOM, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco)
Natsume Yujin-cho 5 premiere – Takashi Natsume lives his whole life in the shadow of his grandmother. At his age, she befriended many of the folkloric spirits in the area where he now lives, and collected their names to gain power over them. Takashi’s life mission is to return the names to their owners, and along the way he has to solve other yōkai-related problems.
Problems such as when a jar comes rolling after him in a way that jars definitely shouldn’t, and the spirit in it declares that Takashi’s grandmother stole something from her and she will have her revenge if Takashi doesn’t return it quickly. The matter is resolved through quiet drama rather than action; there’s no evil to destroy but simply things to put right.
The production values are nothing special, but it’s a well-told story. It’s obvious why this show has been such a fan favorite. This definitely gets a second look.
International stream: Crunchyroll (Americas, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Turkey)
Matoi the Sacred Slayer premiere – This is a colorful magical girl show, so naturally the first scene is of US soldiers in camouflage shooting up a church, accompanied by a painfully long string of bad English dialogue. (Just remember, if you decide to check this out just for that scene, that this is what your favorite movie actor sounds like when they’re trying to say lines in a foreign language too.)
Matoi‘s spin on the magical girl genre is to make the central character a miko (shrine maiden) with spiritually derived powers, and to link it with gritty action by having her father be a police detective. Like Trickster last week, it also decides that being an action drama means having to make just about every adult male a creep and paying a lot of attention to boobs, culminating by contriving a way for the aforementioned father to grope his daughter.
There’s actually a pretty good midlist magical girl show in between all of the above, set in a colorful world with engaging characters. But the weight of its flaws is far more than it can support.
Drifters premiere – In the aftermath of the Battle of Sekigahara, the last major clash of Japan’s Warring States era, the young samurai Toyohisa Shimazu sacrificed his life to allow his uncle to escape. Or so the history books say.
In this version, he takes several spears through the abdomen but is still able to talk, walk, fight, etc. and staggers away from the confrontation into a strange white hall. There a man at a desk sends him through another doorway where elves drag him to a ruined castle which holds two other lost samurai, including the inevitable Nobunaga Oda. Though Toyohisa barely understands his situation, it’s made clear that fighters are being gathered from throughout history to wage a war.
That’s really all there seems to be to Drifters – famous historical people get to wail on each other. That and the dark, stylish artwork that can’t quite get faces right. Either people have bizarre, bug-eyed grimaces, or their facial features just wind up in not quite the right places. If you really just want action and don’t care about anything else, then this might scratch the itch, but it does nothing else well.
International streams: Crunchyroll (US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, South Africa); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Sénégal, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique)
Occultic;Nine premiere – This is easily the most light-novel-y light novel adaptation this season. It’s crammed with characters: a NEET who runs a blog hating on supernatural claims; his only friend and assistant; the person of ambiguous gender presentation who is basically there to be made fun of; a teenage fortuneteller; another teenage fortuneteller who specializes in sending a demon to curse people; an occult expert; his editor; his son; a mysterious woman with an umbrella; and I’m sure I’m forgetting someone. The assistant is possessed of easily the most biologically implausible mammary structures this season. Yes of course there is a boob faceplant.
These characters inhabit the cluttered world of the hipster-ish neighborhood of Kichijōji. By the end of the episode, nearly all have been linked together through a series of coincidental meetings and one murder. There’s a sense that this has all been carefully worked out and the writer knows what they’re doing.
I so nearly want to see more of this, but. The tendency to fall back on light novel tropes doesn’t bode well, and I don’t really want to encourage viewing of a show where a nonbinary person is casually described as a pervert. So no.
International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand); Daisuki (Americas (delayed 1 week), Europe excepting French, German, and Italian-speaking countries); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Sénégal, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique)
Soul Buster premiere – Son Shin has no interest in studying useless old history, so he naturally finds himself targeted by weird spiritual visitations emanating from something that began at the end of the Han Dynasty. (Seriously, why do these things never happen to a deserving student who truly loves history?) The last one leaves him with a magic card, which causes him to be targeted by other users of magic cards who want to steal it. Luckily, waving it around the right way in a panic causes it to summon a sexy female warrior in totally impractical armor who is no doubt going to kick a substantial amount of butt in the course of this show.
This is one more short based on one more Chinese webcomic. The main effect of the shorter format, compared to other shows of this general type, is the abandonment of any subtlety or three-dimensionality. Everybody’s a basic character archetype with no room to grow.
Soul Buster isn’t outright bad, but it also isn’t doing anything more than going through the motions.
International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Japan and China)
So that’s Cheating Craft, Nazotokine, ClassicaLoid, and Natsume Yujin-Cho advancing to the final round next week to go up against Izetta: The Last Witch, Magical Girl Raising Project, BBK/BRNK, and Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans for up to five spots in the lineup for the rest of the season. I think that’s the most shows I’ve ever let through for a second episode, which means either that this season is off to a pretty awesome start, or I have no standards anymore.