Bloodivores premiere – There are vampires in China, but it’s okay, they wear GPS trackers and can participate in everyday life like normal people. Except occasionally when one of them goes crazy from lack of blood and attacks someone in broad daylight. Or when they turn to a life of crime, like rich kid Mi Liu and his friends.
Much of this episode is devoted to a car chase meant to show off how awesome and confident Liu is, although it’s undermined when we see how botched the bank heist preceding it was. But all that is moot when Liu and friends are captured by special anti-vampire forces and it turns out that someone wants to pin a much more serious crime on them. Things get better as the story turns serious and we’re introduced to the person manipulating at least some of the events, who may or may not be the villain but is certainly amoral at best.
Bloodivores doesn’t come anywhere near living down to the expectation of being the next Hitori no Shita; the art is undistinguished (other than its tendency toward improbably gigantic breasts) but serviceable, and the writing is considerably better. Overall, it’s pretty good. But pretty good isn’t going to cut it this season, as you are about to see.
International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except China, Japan, and Korea)
Magical Girl Raising Project premiere – Koyuki is a magical girl enthusiast at an age when the world is telling her to grow up and get interested in more mature topics. When she suddenly achieves her dream of being one, she is warmly welcomed into the sisterhood by her new colleagues and sets out to be the best magical girl ever. But ominous undercurrents are occasionally visible, and the end of the episode sets up the show taking a turn toward becoming very dark indeed.
Koyuki’s one-time companion in magical girl fandom was her friend Sōta, who, being a boy, got even more flack for it than she did. After seeing Sōta lament how only girls can become magical, it’s obvious how he’s going to turn up again, but the actual reveal, and Koyuki’s reaction, are handled with infinitely more grace than one would expect from a light novel adaptation.
I guess now that the craze for adapting anything light-novel-y has passed, only the good stuff is being adapted anymore. And this is very, very good.
International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau)
Izetta: The Last Witch premiere – It’s 1940, and alternate fantasy Europe is at war. The empire of Germania (which does still have a monarch, in this timeline) is conquering nation after nation, including one of the major allied powers, Thermidor. Now it sets its sights on the Alps, where the heir to the principality of Eylstadt is making a desperate undercover journey to negotiate some aid for her country’s defense.
Finé, the heir, is no pampered damsel in distress; she gets to climb around on a moving train, jump off a bridge, and get shot in the course of her adventures. Still, she’s hardly a match for the entire machinery of the German state on her own. But once upon a time, she saved the life of a witch, who comes to her aid in her time of need, as a legend about a magical protector starts to come true.
In addition to an action-adventure, Izetta is a sharp-looking period drama. Sound, animation, you name it, it’s solid. (This reviewer is unable to evaluate the accuracy of the military hardware shown in action, but I can tell you that the editors of a magazine called Monthly Panzer are serving as associate directors in charge of getting military stuff right, so I think we can assume that it’s got everything nailed down there too.) Even in a surprisingly good field so far, this is a standout.
Time Bokan 24 premiere – Two kids in a mecha, versus a slinky villainess, her two inept henchmen, one an inventor and the other the muscle, and their mysterious boss. Sound familiar? If it does, you’ve most likely thought of Yatterman, the hit show of the 1970s, which was revisited with last year’s Yatterman Night. But Yatterman was one of a family of shows all following the same general pattern, which originated with Time Bokan.
Having deconstructed Yatterman, the studio has chosen a straight update for Time Bokan, if “straight” is the appropriate word for an insane, self-aware comedy about a timeline where, for instance, the figure known as Cleopatra was actually a comedy duo named Cleo and Patra. (That last bit isn’t a spoiler; it’s the title of the episode.)
The premise is that history as everyone learns it in school is wrong, only this time, instead of being a diverse narrative covered up by the imperialist kyriarchy, it’s a bunch of absolutely whackadoodle incidents like the Cleopatra thing being covered up by a textbook company that would rather correct history than its textbooks. Junior time patrol members Calen and Tokio must travel through time to witness the truth of history and fight off the bad guys and their ludicrous mecha. For Western viewers, the closest parallel to the result might be the “Peabody’s Improbable History” segments of Rocky and Bullwinkle, if their production process had involved a steady supply of hallucinogens.
Time Bokan 24 exists in a realm where primitive dualistic concepts like “good” and “bad” do not apply. It would be pointless to try to analyze it on a weekly basis. But I think some of you reading this would enjoy it.
International stream: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand)
BBK/BRNK #13 – It’s a short time after the huge battle that brought down Treasure Island, but life is starting to return to normal. The Russian, Japanese, and European teams are back in fighting form. Azuma Kazuki and his team plan to travel to Taipei, but Azuma himself falls behind because the Japanese government doesn’t allow people with the extremely rare bubuki heart-controlling power to just saunter out of the country any time they feel like it. The rest of the team heads to Taiwan without him, where they have a surprise encounter with Azuma’s long-lost twin, Kaoruko.
This episode is all about introducing Kaoruko, who it turns out has been attending a school for bubuki users near Taipei. She quickly establishes herself as an irritating, grandstanding, overacting twerp who sees herself as the greatest thing since sliced bread, even though she has to use a borrowed bubuki heart and team. But in the last few minutes, the facade drops, the things she’s struggling with on a personal level are revealed, and it’s the BBK/BRNK we know and love again.
The CGI animation is up to the standard of last season, meaning only people who hate CGI on general principle should worry about it. Different from last time, though, is that a couple of cuts seem to have been done in more traditional hand-drawn animation. New viewers won’t get a direct infodump about the invented terms being used, but enough context is being provided that it should be possible to keep up, and more explanation about the general situation is clearly coming next time.
International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia, Spain, Portugal, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, and Dutch-speaking territories); ADN (France, DOM-TOM, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand)
Monster Hunter Stories RIDE ON premiere – Hey, have you heard of the Monster Hunter franchise? No, not the series by Larry Correia, which is properly Monster Hunter International. I mean the mega-popular Japanese video games, which, as befits a popular franchise, are now getting an anime series.
The story starts in a village where everyone pairs up with monster familiars. The latest batch of kids are about to be given their own monster eggs to hatch, but our hero Lute and his friends decide to go exploring in the forest to find one themselves, because otherwise the rest of this episode can’t happen. They try out a potion-making mechanic, get chased by a bad monster which looks like a giant punk badger, fetch up at an abandoned shrine with portentious carvings, find their egg, and then special magical things happen and there is some muttering about the legend of the Chosen One because of course.
Not too bad as kids’ shows go, but very much by the numbers.
International stream: Crunchyroll (United States, Canada, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand)
Magic-kyun! Renaissance premiere – Speaking of painting by the numbers! Kohana has worked hard to qualify for a transfer to her genius artist mom’s old high school, which trains genius artists to do magic. On her first day, several guys catch her eye because their art emits very special sparkles. We know they will be important characters because all of them have already been featured in the flash-forward at the beginning, and then in the opening sequence. In fact, it’s like we know them already, because the opening has already shown all their artistic specialties, plus made it clear which is the brooding one, the romantic one, the delicate waif, and so forth.
Anyway, Kohana blunders around and learns about her school, including that many of the students can already work magic by the time they get there. This causes Kohana some consternation, because, oh no, her ikebana is pretty, but it doesn’t emit sparkles yet! Whatever will she do?
Adding to her problems, she is immediately placed on the school festival committee along with the hot guys in her class, because the plot isn’t going to motivate itself. Will this open a vast array of romantic possibilities? Will the story hit every anime romance trope along the way? The odds say yes. And it will be really sparkly.
International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia)
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans #26 – The new mercenary company Tekkadan spent the first half of this show trying to get its first client, Kudelia Aina Bernstein, to Earth, while their antagonist, McGillis Fareed, tried to climb the ranks of the corrupt international military force Gjallarhorn. The start of the second half sees everyone trying to deal with the fallout of their success.
Tekkadan has gotten a flood of new business, but rivals are taking notice, and their leader Orga Itsuka is less comfortable with the administrative side of things than he was leading desperate battles. McGillis is now up against the heads of the other Gjallarhorn families who see him as an upstart. And the first fight of the show comes when Tekkadan has to protect Kudelia again, not from Gjallarhorn but from another freedom movement which is jealous of her fame.
Tekkadan’s success has brought Mobile Suits back into fashion, but its imitators have also decided that child soldiers are part of the equation too. It’s still a grim solar system, and getting grimmer. But this is still a good show, able to juggle a large cast without people getting interchangeable, and with a nice balance of action and character.
Aooni The Blue Monster premiere – Four friends sneak into an abandoned house and then talk and talk while ignoring a really obvious monster which kills them.
Look, it’s three minutes long, whaddaya want?
Aooni is a series of promotional shorts for a serious adaptation of the popular horror game of the same name. The shorts aim to provide a humorous spin on the events of the game, and I suppose if you’ve played the game then seeing it remixed like this might be hilarious.
Otherwise, not so much. But again, three minutes. I won’t try too hard to talk you out of it.
International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia)
Touken Ranbu – Hanamaru premiere – Say hello to the second show so far this season about heroes fighting to save history from some shadowy organization that wants to change it, though it isn’t nearly as much fun as Time Bokan 24. Also the second show so far this season which is mostly about showcasing a bunch of bishonen for the female gaze, though it isn’t nearly as pretty as Magic-kyun! Renaissance.
Everything you really need to know about Touken Ranbu is that it’s adapted from an online collectible card game. This will take care of the setup, the artificial constraints on battles, and the reason why there are upwards of 20 characters who have to be introduced in this episode.
After everyone’s been introduced, it’s time to jump back to a famous moment in Japanese history and have a fight with some generically ghoulish critters sent by the opposition. The whole fight is short and uninspired; it feels like the action scenes were thrown in as an afterthought, and the real point of the show is to display a bunch of dudes hanging out in historical and modern outfits and engaging in idiotic dialogue.
International streams: Crunchyroll (US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa); Daisuki (unspecified parts of Europe); FUNimation will start a dub at a later date (US, Canada, UK, Ireland)
Trickster premiere – It’s the year 2030, and a futuristic version of Rampo Edogawa’s classic detective Kogorō Akechi is on the case, which involves a master criminal targeting an industrial company for reasons which are not so much as hinted at. Meanwhile, the head of the futuristic version of Edogawa’s Boy Detectives Club comes across an immortal boy who just wants to die.
One thing you will not find in this show drawing from classic detective novels is any detecting. For all we know, Akechi may as well have had a full briefing from the scriptwriter, and the Boy Detectives Club has their own hacker who can find out anything with a few keystrokes. The focus is on providing an action adventure: the criminal’s weirdly complicated plan makes no sense unless it was created specifically to serve the needs of an opening episode which wanted a crisis, a personal confrontation, and an explosion later on. The second plot, involving the immortal, does a little better on making some kind of sense, but is basically an extended chase scene.
Another unfortunate effect of trying so hard to fit into the action mold is the poor treatment of female characters. To show a random crime being stopped by one of our heroes, the writer chooses to have a schoolgirl being abducted by men. The Boy Detectives Club’s one girl member is the aforementioned hacker, a stereotypical genius shut-in who thus gets to spend all her time in impractical-looking frilly nightclothes. The only other female character is the policewoman who calls on Akechi to help with a bizarre event. Akechi says he’ll look at it for a fee, or a chance to grope her.
On top of all that, there’s a lot of tone whiplash. There are moments which really try to be solemn or dark, but Trickster can’t ever manage to keep a straight face long enough for it to work. It’s another one for pile of terrible Edogawa adaptations. I’m sure we’ll get a decent one one of these days.
Well, I said last week that a mediocre-looking season can deliver some great surprises, and Izetta and Magical Girl Raising Project have certainly exceeded expectations. They’ll go in the queue for a second look, along with BBK/BRNK and Iron-Blooded Orphans, and I’ll tackle the rest of the premieres next time.