We’ve got another little season overlap going on, so if you’re looking for the finale of Kado or season finale of Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul, they’re at the bottom of this post, under some extra spoiler protection. Now, the premieres…
Katsugeki Touken Ranbu premiere – The year is 1863, and two men who are the conjured spirits of swords are fighting undead horrors raised by a shadowy organization that wants to change history. What is the devious goal of their enemies? Who cares, let’s fight!
Katsugeki Touken Ranbu has decided what its priorities are, and top of the list is action. Much of this episode is devoted to our heroes slicing evil incarnate to pieces, whereupon it conveniently evaporates to keep the locals from getting suspicious. Next is attending to the historical setting with some fine art and sound work.
Characters and story are further down the list. The featured team is Kanesada Izuminokami, the experienced veteran, and Kunihiro Horikawa, the anxious newbie who can’t go three minutes without launching into a speech about how he’s useless. Even Kanesada is annoyed enough about this by mid-episode that Kunihiro gets a swift kick.
Nobody is much interested in what the bad guys are ultimately hoping to achieve; it’s just get mission, kick butt, preserve the timestream from whatever. No explanation is better than a bad explanation, I guess. If this show sticks to what it’s good at, that might be enough.
International streams: Anime Strike/Amazon Prime (worldwide); Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand); Hulu (US); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Sénégal, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique); bilibili (Asia); Aniplus (SE Asia)
Hina Logic – from Luck & Logic premiere – Logicalists are people who make contact with “Foreigners” from other universes to fight interdimensional invaders. The invasion has been over for about a year, but a school still exists to train new Logicalists just in case.
Hina Logic sets out to be the embodiment of every embarrassing stereotype of anime being about screechy big-eyed schoolgirls and gratuitous nudity. Characters are limited to a single defining trait apiece so that valuable screen time can be saved for two multi-person bath scenes. There is no spark of originality you can cling to in the hope that it will get better; skip it.
International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Sénégal, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique); FUNimation dub starting later this season (US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand)
Fox Spirit Matchmaker premiere – In a world where humans and long-lived spirits sometimes fall in love, a service exists that can track down a spirit’s old lover in their new incarnation and restore their memories to continue the romance. And good thing Crunchyroll provides a description of the premise, because the premiere itself is an absolute mess.
At the center of the mess is Sūsu, a plucky young fox spirit with an important job and an arranged marriage in her future. Her fiancé is Haku, a powerful fighter who is supposed to be a lovable rogue but actually comes across as kind of a creep. There’s also a fox woman from Sūsu’s clan, her wolf minions who are sent to chase Sūsu, the prince and an official from another fox clan, the young lady Sūsu is supposed to track down, Haku’s minders, and another guy who overeats and doesn’t really have much to do with anything but is apparently important because the story cuts away from the main action to introduce him. All these people spend a lot of time bumping into each other and fighting and shouting a lot, but not explaining what is going on or what they are trying to do.
This is the latest Haoliners attempt to adapt a Chinese webcomic as anime, and it unfortunately falls right in line with the reputation Haoliners has established: adequate animation, terrible writing. The premise sounds fascinating but the show isn’t anywhere near living up to it.
International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia)
Knight’s & Magic premiere – In modern-day Tokyo, an ace programmer shows his company spirit by coding really hard to meet a deadline, then goes on a celebratory shopping trip for some new mecha model kits, but is apparently killed by a car. Then, in a fantasy world, a little boy named Ernesti Echavelier sees a gigantic fighting construct and suddenly recalls the details of his former life. With modern skills and knowledge, he’s soon on his way to being the youngest mecha pilot his new home has ever seen.
Coming just a few months after Saga of Tanya the Evil and with such a similar premise, Knight’s & Magic invites comparisons and comes out poorly on all of them. When Tanya looked brilliant, it tended to rebound on her in ways she didn’t anticipate; in Ernie’s case, people simply step aside as he awesomes his way through life. Tanya was a nasty piece of work, but it was a discernible personality; Ernie is your typically bland wish-fulfillment protagonist who is surrounded by crowds of admirers wherever he goes in either world.
Knight’s & Magic is also not helped by the light-novel habit of constructing a whole fantasy world and then deciding the most interesting thing it could possibly talk about is kids going to a school not unlike those in the mundane world. Giant insects, possessed dinosaurs, huge steampunk golems, they all get pushed to the side for most of this episode to focus on Ernie acing magic and skipping grades. Feel free to return the favor by skipping this for a better show.
International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Sénégal, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique); bilibili (Asia); FUNimation dub starting later this season (US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand)
Battle Girl High School premiere – This title promises an utterly generic show about teenaged fighting girls, and it delivers in spades. This is not even the first show this season to have a school full of girls training to fight mysterious invaders, nor to add magical-girl-style transformations to the package. It’s not the first to set its heroes up against endlessly respawning enemies that materialize from nowhere and fail to explain why or how the bad guys are doing this.
If there is one way in which this show really excels, it is the number of characters it can cram into one episode. Practically the entire student body gets pulled into a fight so that everyone can say a line or two and establish their name, weapon, and personality quirk. And yet there’s still lots of time to waste on the everyday tedium of high school, like finding out whose after-school clubs are about to be cut if they can’t find more members. At least there are no bath scenes.
If Ikea sold mass-produced flatpack anime, this is what you would get when you assembled it. The best I can say about it is that it has no particularly horrifying flaws that stand out.
International streams: HIDIVE (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); ADN (France, DOM-TOM, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco); Anime on Demand (German-speaking Europe); bilibili (Asia)
Love and Lies premiere – This episode could be the end of a high school drama: a boy and girl who’ve loved each other for years finally pick up the courage to confess their feelings and have their first kiss. Unfortunately, this is an alternate Japan where the government took over matchmaking in 1975 when the birthrate started slipping. Everyone is assigned a future spouse at age 16 through a vaguely eugenic computer program, and from that moment onward, displays of affection with anyone else are strictly forbidden.
Yukari Nejima’s notification arrives at the stroke of midnight on his 16th birthday, right after his first kiss, and the shock of it obscures that several things are fishy about it. First there’s a text message informing him that his partner would be Misaki Takasaki, the girl he’s just shared his feelings with, but then his phone fritzes out. This is immediately contradicted by an official paper notice, hand-delivered by two civil servants, informing him that his wife will be a girl he’s never met. (Yes, they also show up at midnight.)
This hasn’t been teased as an action show or cyberpunk thriller, so presumably getting to the bottom of whatever’s going on isn’t going to be about a head-on tackle of some huge conspiracy to keep people who are Meant To Be Together apart. I’m not really sure what it is going to be about, other than the fact that living in a dystopia sucks even for well-behaved straight people. It’s handling things pretty well so far (unless the weirdness about Yukari’s notice turns out to just be bad writing), so I might give this another episode to find out.
International streams: Anime Strike (US); HIDIVE (Latin America, UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Sénégal, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique); Anime on Demand (German-speaking Europe); Animax Asia (SE Asia)
Restaurant to Another World premiere – Every seven days, the door to the Nekoya restaurant vanishes from our world and becomes a portal into other ones. On those days, a varied clientele comes from across the fantasy multiverse to sample the peculiar culinary delights of Earth.
This episode is made of three vignettes: a party of he-man adventurers nearly starts a tavern brawl over what goes best with rice; an ancient dragon collects her weekly helping of beef stew in exchange for some service rendered; and a persecuted girl momentarily forgets all the fairytale warnings about going into magical places and eating mysterious food.
Everything is centered on the food. As many suspected, this is a food-porn show with fantasy tropes thrown in for a new twist. But it is willing to use the tropes in a variety of ways — straight up, inverted, and played for laughs. If it shows even half the attention to keeping the fantasy aspect interesting that it does to the tasty food, and maybe cut back on the actual porn (two female characters so far, and they’ve both had to be naked, sigh) this could be pretty good.
Elegant Yokai Apartment Life premiere – Yūshi Inaba has studied hard and given his all to get into a good residential high school just so he can move out of his uncle’s house, but in one of those cruel ironies necessary for setting up a mild comedy, the dorm burns down before the school year can even start. Desperate to find anywhere else to live, Yūshi finds an apartment going for cheap because it’s haunted. When he finds a cute girl his age and one of his favorite authors living there, that seals the deal. It takes some time for it to sink in that the realtor wasn’t kidding about the haunting.
This is one of those slice-of-life setups where everyone is a bit weird but generally pleasant and well-intentioned. The apartment building is full of spooky and monstrous denizens, but they make no fuss at dinner and go about everyday activities afterward. There’s a momentary unpleasantness when an unhappy haunt follows one of the humans home from work, but it’s quickly banished and everyone returns to domestic bliss.
Slight, but it should be fine if you’re looking for a low-key show.
Some possibilities here, and the heavy hitters haven’t even started showing up yet. We’ll put Katsugeki Touken Ranbu, Love and Lies, and Restaurant to Another World on the shelf for now, and check out the second episodes after next week’s batch of premieres.
Now, we have a couple of season finales to get to. Spoilers ahoy!
Kado: The Right Answer finale – Shindō’s plan is simple: have a child with Tsukai, have Wa give her anisotropic powers, leave her in a bubble of slow time with Hanamori, get himself killed to get zaShunina’s guard down, and hope it all works out. No wonder everyone was crying last episode. But it does work, and after zaShunina gives a classic speech on the subject of the human spirit being greater than mere science and math can contain, he is drop-kicked into a higher dimension than he’s ever experienced before.
Unfortunately, all the cool anisotropic gadgets are destroyed in the process, and Shindō is still dead. Kado has a new level of respect from me for letting that stick. 99% of stories featuring a suicidal plan like this will save the hero with a magic surge of energy, a last-minute bit of rules-lawyering, or having the gay dude sacrifice himself for the happiness of the nice straight couple.
The right answer, then, is the Meiji Restoration. In 1868, when a reformist emperor seized power back from the shogunate, Japan was living in the late Middle Ages. 90 years later, it had bullet trains. In a similar way, humanity can take what it’s learned and give itself an new age of hyper-fast advancement.
That finale went a long way toward repairing my opinion of Kado, though the loss of a week to a clip show really shows at the end. It would’ve been nice to see more about Yukika, or the repercussions of Shindō’s death, or the aftereffects on Hanamori. (Hanamori, you are the best. You raised a godlike adolescent to want to save humanity rather than destroy it, and you gave a being beyond your comprehension the shock of his trillion-year life. Your colleagues who are stuck on “but you’re not her real dad” are idiots. Also, you totally deserve 16 years’ back pay for the time you gave up to save the world.)
I think I will have this on my list of recommendations for sf fans, but with the caveat that there are familiar rough patches. It’s very like reading a novel from oh, about 1968 — terrific ideas, hard science, tightly packed, but with an overall sense that it could have used one more round of revisions to smooth it out.
Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul #13 – Yeah, okay, we get it, the makers of this show love classic Hollywood action movies. Charioce has basically built a Death Star, and then Favaro throws in a Star Wars quote just to make sure we get the reference. How about embracing the spirit of those movies by picking up the pace?
What has really happened since the start of this show? El is just as out of the picture now as he was as Mugaro. Charioce and Gabriel are arguing over which of them is going to subjugate all of humankind, just as they have been the whole time. Nina is living in Bacchus’s carriage again. All we’ve really got is Favaro and Joan sprung from jail and Kaisar no longer in charge of the Orleans Knights.
Next time, Joan and Nina are visiting Nina’s village, which will no doubt involve extensive recounting of all their glacially slow adventures so far so as to provide the traditional start-of-new-season clip show, so we will leave this for a couple weeks and come back to see how it stacks up against the new shows. If the second half of Virgin Soul is going to be Nina, Joan, and Rita gallivanting around the countryside in a magic carriage having exciting adventures, then we’ll see how it goes. If it looks like it’s aiming for a message about how a cruel abusive person will turn good if a lady just loves them enough, then saddle the nopetopus.