Island premiere – On the isolated island of Urashima, in the far south of Japan, a naked man washes up with no memories. He knows two things: he’s come back in time to save the world, and there’s someone he needs to kill.
Setsuna, as he eventually remembers his name is, avoids immediate deportation and starts poking around. Urashima has an air of comfortable clutter, buildings stuffed full of books and notes, matching the hints of an equally stuffed plot that begin to emerge. Three significant characters show up, all girls from prominent local families: a spoiled rich girl; a priestess with Seussian hair and an interest in physics; and a girl with some mysterious allergy to the sun, who completely believes Setsuna because she too is a time traveler who washed up in similar circumstances.
There are the makings of an excellent sfnal mystery here, but with one insurmountable problem. Within this one episode, Setsuna winds up making comments or taking actions with all three girls that would be inappropriate for someone who had just met them even if they were adults. Flashbacks attempt to suggest that he used to know two of the girls very well in the future, but it doesn’t help. Let us not even discuss the circumstances of the comedy groin faceplant.
It sounded like it had everything going for it beforehand, but Island chalks up the first big disappointment of the season.
The Thousand Musketeers premiere – With the first episode of an adaptation of a character-collecting videogame, you know pretty much what you’re in for. The basic setting needs to be established; a metric ton of characters need to be introduced; a largely personality-free stand-in for the player has to be shown; and the viewer needs to be acquainted with the mechanics of the game.
The Thousand Musketeers pretty much does what it has to do. The setting, although it doesn’t matter that much, is a dystopian future straight out of a right-wing conspiracy theory where a global organization dedicated to world peace has achieved it by confiscating all the guns and violently repressing everyone. But some guns were not confiscated because they were antiques. Now, someone (this show has dodged the problem of the player stand-in by having everyone answer to a mysterious “Master” who is never shown) goes around conjuring up their spirits and giving them bodies so they can fire themselves. To keep them from being totally useless, in moments of great emotion, they can arbitrarily power up and do actual damage through modern body armor.
This episode focuses on four Western guns, and particularly on the British musket known as Brown Bess. This is a slightly unfortunate choice because it is also a rule of the game that all the personified guns are male. (Trans gun spirits would be a fun idea for a story, but I don’t think this is that story.)
The best thing that I can say about The Thousand Musketeers is that at least it isn’t any worse than it basic nature requires it to be. If you like to watch bishōnen doing bishōneny things, and would like to pick up a few interesting gun facts along the way, go ahead.
How Not to Summon a Demon Lord premiere – It is not generally the policy of this column to review ecchi (adult) anime, but occasionally something slips through that none of the usual sources manage to flag, so here we are. What had appeared to just be a slightly skeevier than usual alternate-world gamer power fantasy has turned out to be one of those shows planning to sell DVDs with the promise of seeing the uncensored versions of the shots where the girls are shown topless.
Given this pedigree, it’s not quite as bad as you’d expect. The protagonist seems like an actual nice guy, as opposed to the typical alternate-world gamer power fantasy lead who has lots of internal monologues about being a nice guy but is objectively a jerk. Adult-ish content has so far been restricted to some awkwardly suggestive ear-tickling and establishing that breasts in this world do no obey the laws of physics as we understand them. In fact, Crunchyroll putting a warning in front of this show is a little baffling considering that it runs plenty of shows without when when the content is even more inappropriate for younger viewers. (Like, oh, say, a scene that turns up in the first couple minutes of Island, or The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar below, which is basically this same show but worse.)
This is still a terrible show, but at least it’s straightforward about what it is.
100 Sleeping Princes & the Kingdom of Dreams premiere – Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: an ordinary young woman is abruptly whisked away to a fantasy world, where she’s told that she is a lost princess. Also she’s the only one left with the special power to awake the warriors that can save the world, so could she please get started immediately by reciting an incantation she doesn’t understand.
The heroine is a blank slate typical of a show which is trying to bring viewers with the promise of lots of hot guys, although 100 Sleeping Princes goes above and beyond by not even giving her a name. At least since most of the princes are still asleep, we aren’t subjected to a torrent of character introductions. By the end of this episode, there are only two love interests, one of whom is obviously the heroine’s long-lost brother, but that twist is being kept in reserve so she can ogle him for a while.
Despite the artistic possibilities inherent in being set in a world of dreams, the scenery so far is mostly Generic Sort Of Medieval Europe (the cave shown above being a welcome exception). The princes are bland, and the monsters have no motivation or organization beyond showing up at exactly the moment that some peril is needed to move things along. I can’t recommend this to anyone.
Seven Senses of the Re’Union premiere – Union was a special MMO which only allowed players with “Sense” abilities (possibly psychic powers, not explained), and a team called “Subaru” (“Pleiades”) outdid everyone else there due in part to a girl name Asahi and her extremely rare precognitive Sense. Then one day, they decided to tackle a monster reported to be able to perma-kill players, and discovered when it took out Asahi that that included killing them in real life. Union was shut down, but a few years later it was rebooted as Re’Union. Talked into trying it out, Haruto, Subaru’s former leader, stumbles into a glitch in the game, opens a chest, and finds Asahi.
Most of this premise is delivered via expository dialogue so that a large chunk of the episode can instead be devoted to the tedious business of the party getting ready to engage the monster in Union. This seems to be intended to get us interested in the party members, but it just establishes them all as overused types: the headstrong leader, the devil-may-care rogue, the shy girl, the tsundere who obviously has a thing for the hero but loudly announces that she doesn’t care what he thinks or does, etc. Haruto’s friends who get him into Re’Union are a couple of willful idiots who are being set up to be sacrificed as soon as the story needs to kill someone off.
The game world is pretty much the same one you’ve seen in every other anime MMO fantasy, the art is nothing special, and the whole thing is big pile of meh.
Angels of Death premiere – One minute, Rachel Gardner is at a hospital for some therapy. The next, she wakes up in a nightmarish cityscape with writing on the walls and typewriters that have conversations and an announcement that she has been designated a “sacrifice”. Soon a man with a sickle is trying to kill her, and when she escapes back into the hospital, her therapist slowly transforms into a deranged killer himself.
The only problem so far is that word “slowly”. The therapist (or the person who resembles him, anyway) spends way too much of the episode repetitively monologuing at Rachel. Aside from that, there are some intersting ingredients here: the setting, the heroine who has been hinted to not be a normal girl to begin with, the sickle-wielding killer who is transformed into an unlikely ally by the end of the episode.
This show is based on an indie video game, and, thanks to the pacing issue, feels a bit like watching over someone’s shoulder as they play one. With a shorter episode length, this would be an absolutely cracking start for a horror story.
International streams: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia and German-speaking regions); Aniplus HD (SE Asia); bilibili (Asia); Funimation (English dub starting TBA for US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand)
Cells at Work! premiere – What if the human body were an entire world? Suppose the cells were people, and bacteria were invaders from another dimension? Cells at Work! imagines a community where the red blood cells are chipper delivery people, short-lived platelets are adorable kids, T cells are basically Americans, and white blood cells are quietly vigilant killers.
Pneumococcal bacteria, on the other hand, are evil tentacled monsters which must be fought at all costs. This leads to some very anime action scenes and awkward lines spelling out people’s abilities, only in this case it’s all about actual biological facts! But still awkward and wordy. This also leads to the bacterial monsters bleeding a lot, which is the point at which one should stop thinking about the premise too hard.
This looks like some educational fun for younger viewers, and may manage to keep older ones if it keeps the metaphors inventive.
The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar premiere – Hey, have we come across anything like this before? Yūto is a guy from Japan stuck in an alternate magical world of some sort. Or possibly past Earth, since he has noted that the constellations are exactly the same and concluded that he’s in the Bronze Age, because the author has never heard of stellar drift, axial precession, or the many-worlds hypothesis.
The Master of Ragnarok never bothers to explain how this happened, so it has lots more time than the average alternate-world power fantasy to show the hero awesoming his way through life and hanging out with his collection of subservient magical ladies, all of whom address him as “Father” or “Brother” and also want to sleep with him. In this case, the hero’s power comes his smartphone somehow still having connectivity to our world (yes, someone already tried that one a year ago). Since there are no true tactical geniuses around and battle plans never go wrong, this means he’s able to leverage Japanese Wikipedia to defeat and absorb a number of other tribes into his adopted one.
Like a bazillion protagonists of similar stories before him, Yūto is an arrogant jerk who has simply found a setting where the author can justify it. If you’re going to watch one of these, go with How Not to Summon a Demon Lord, which has the advantages of being honest about its intentions and having a less awful protagonist.
Planet With premiere – Sōya has lost his parents and his memories and somehow ended up with a maid cosplayer and a giant cat for guardians, and no one seems to have noticed anything odd yet. What people do notice is the giant teddy bears with misspelled messages of peace that suddenly appear around the world, and the one nearest Japan being taken out by a group of mysterious heroes in animal-themed powersuits. And then Sōya is informed that he needs to defeat the heroes.
Planet With is a very mixed bag ranging from excellent to awful. The best parts involve the teddy-bear-things and their effect on the people who approach them— they really do appear to be messengers of peace, of a sort— and reversing the apparent heroes to antagonists. The worst is making the cat guardian yet another entry in anime’s long list of allegedly hilarious perverts. At least he’s only ogling figurines and laundry and not actual girls?
Well. This season is not off to an excellent start. But there may be a lot more to come in the next week or so, depending on how many more shows get licensed for simulcasts. I guess Cells at Work! and Planet With can’t be completely ruled out as candidates for a second look, but a lot of the better-looking shows are still on their way.