Anime roundup 10/11/2018: Sturgeon Takes a Holiday

Double Decker! Doug & Kirill premiere – Kirill Vrubel is a low-level cop in the futuristic city of Lisvaletta, but he dreams of being a great hero one day. His chance comes when circumstances conspire to infiltrate him into a hostage situation involving a user of the Anthem drug, which morphs people into inhuman creatures of great power. Soon he’s invited onto the career path that will turn him into the hero he wants to be. Or a great policeman. There’s some disagreement between him and the narrator on that point…

Double Decker! has been eagerly anticipated because it reunites the team responsible for Tiger & Bunny, easily anime’s best show about Western superheroes. What hasn’t been clear was whether it was directly connected to T&B or not. Well, with Lisvaletta located on a world with two suns, and no mention of NEXTs, it obviously isn’t… right up until the point where it smacks the viewer between the eyes with something that obviously is. How that something comes to be in this setting is going to take a lot of explaining.

Two ways in which this show is highly reminiscent of Tiger & Bunny are that it has a cast of likeable eccentrics which it intends to treat as adults, and gives them a gorgeous and detailed world to inhabit. Production values are top-notch; the writing feels a little uncertain of where the balance of humor and drama is going to settle but does an excellent job of setting everything up. Most assuredly one to keep watching.

International streams: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia); bilibili (Asia); Funimation (English dub for US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand)

RErideD – Derrida, who leaps through time premiere – Derrida Yvain is cruising along happily enough through life with a good job as a roboticist, until he finds a critical bug which will cause the company’s robots to run amok if not fixed. His superiors aren’t interested, his buddy and co-worker Nathan is the only one who’s sympathetic, and suddenly it doesn’t matter anymore when things escalate to car chases and gunfire and Derrida being dropped down a hole to spend the next decade in suspended animation.

Also crammed in is heavy foreshadowing about time travel, which is stated to be clearly impossible according to the laws of physics and yet also easy enough that kids can run experiments with it. Derrida and Nathan used to dabble in it, and Nathan’s daughter Mage is now trying it. This is explained in an interlude where Derrida is attending Mage’s eighth birthday party, showing a level of interest in her which has no reasonable explanation unless Derrida and Nathan are dating. I think that this is supposed to be excused by additional foreshadowing that Derrida and Mage will be an item once he wakes up and she’s 18 (which, despite what you read on the internet, is the minimum age of consent in modern Japan), but that doesn’t help.

Director Takuya Satō was part of the team that made Steins;Gate and was notably absent from Steins;Gate 0. Knowing now that he was working on another convoluted story involving time travel inevitably invites comparisons, and RErideD does not come out looking well. Where Steins;Gate put only enough into its first episode to provide an initial mystery, RErideD frantically throws out plot fragments right and left. Everyone except Derrida and Mage is one-dimensionally stupid or evil. Derrida himself has no personality beyond Designated Hero.

I’m sure the writer and director have a firm grasp on how everything is connected, but I’m just not feeling a strong need to stick around and find out.

International streams: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia); bilibili (Asia); Funimation (English dub starting 10/22 for US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand)

The Girl in Twilight premiere – Asuka Tsuchimiya keeps dragging her radio club friends out to a sacred tree afternoon after afternoon to perform a ritual that she says should open up a doorway to an alternate world. She’s as surprised as anyone when it finally works, and suddenly they find themselves in a realm full of monsters with a mysterious defender. Who is also Asuka Tsuchimiya, from another timeline where life did not go so well for her and her friends…

With dynamic fight scenes, a sympathetically enthusiastic main character, and a supporting cast who aren’t stuck in trope straitjackets, you would hardly know that this is part of a project which is co-releasing a mobile game. But then there’s the weird moment when alternate Asuka transforms into fighter mode by drawing magical power from… a Sony Walkman. With the radio club’s interest in out-of-date technology, you can bet more product placements will follow. (Also, guess whose anime subsidiary spearheaded the creation of this show?)

Still, the game mechanics haven’t gotten terribly intrusive, the characters aren’t annoying, and the visuals are pretty neat. This is definitely worth a second look.

International stream: HIDIVE (US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, other unspecified countries)

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime premiere – Satoru Mikami is a single geek who suddenly gets stabbed to death on a Tokyo street, only to find himself in a fantasy world, granted fabulous powers, and hobnobbing with a mighty dragon. Typical light-novel power fantasy, right? Well, there are a couple of catches. One is that he’s been reborn as the weakest creature possible. The other concerns the visual presentation of the show itself.

When adapting a popular property, a show is expected to make a predictable amount of money off selling Blu-Rays and merchandise to hardcore fans. Since those fans will buy it no matter what, most shows like this have a look about them that the only minimum necessary effort was made. In this case, a similar calculation seems to have been made, only the conclusion was that those fans will still mindlessly purchase it if it turns into an art film.

This premiere is one visual treat after another, from the careful attention to detail in the movement and posture of people in modern Tokyo, to the trippy mixed-media imagery as Satoru falls into another reality, to the wild expressiveness wrung from a ball of goo. This still has some of the usual problems of light-novel adaptations— the protagonist is already ridiculously overpowered, too much game terminology, and a lot of time spent sitting around and talking— but between the unique twist and the look of this episode, it’s actually enjoyable.

This is worth taking a second look at, but I have a terrible foreboding that this episode was a one-off and it’ll be regressing to the artistic and narrative mean next time.

International streams: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia); bilibili (Asia); Funimation (English dub starting 10/22 for US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand)

Space Battleship Tiramisu Zwei premiere – Brothers Subaru and Isuzu Ichinose are stranded on Earth, with Subaru’s mech destroyed. What do they do? They bicker, they lose track of Isuzu’s mech, they get hauled off to Earth Union’s secret underwater headquarters and wind up critiquing the gift shop merchandise.

Yup, Space Battleship Tiramisu is still giving giant robot space opera the satirical kick it’s been asking for. This episode plunges right in where the previous season left off, so it’s best to start from the beginning (not a huge task, as the episodes are only 7 minutes long). Sadly, it has only expanded its streaming area in a delayed dub, so I won’t be considering it for further blogging this season.

International streams: Crunchyroll (US, Canada); bilibili (Asia); Funimation (English dub starting 10/23 for US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand)

Jingai-san no Yome premiere – Here’s an even shorter show, running 3 minutes per episode. This gives it just enough time to briefly introduce high school student Tomari Hinowa and show his mysterious fuzzy future spouse picking him out of a catalog of male students. Most of the time is occupied with a music video of various characters we haven’t met yet.

It looks like high school boys getting paired up with weird creatures will be a repeating theme in this show. It also looks like it’s not planning to get very creepy or fanservicey, at least.

International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia)

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai premiere – Here’s your periodic reminder that distributors can suggest titles, but cannot force licensors to approve ones that make any kind of sense.

Anyway, the story concerns “adolescence syndrome”, which is its term for teenagers developing psychic powers. For celebrity Mai Sakurajima, it manifests as becoming invisible to everyone, except loner Sakuta Azusagawa. Sakuta is a typical light-novel loser hero with an extra layer of what creepier parts of the Internet think is a Nice Guy. Which is to say that he feels free to emit a steady stream of misogyny yet it doesn’t keep him from getting to hang out with the beautiful celebrity and be a sympathetic sounding board for all her woes. Also his sister idolizes him and wants to cuddle with him in bed, which is catering to another light-novel fan fetish.

If you can get past that, you get some nice art and a whole lot of sitting around and talking (light novels again). Involuntarily becoming invisible should be an interesting problem, but somehow this show makes it boring.

International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand); Hulu (US); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Francosphere, Scandinavia, German-speaking Europe, Russia); bilibili (Asia); Aniplus (SE Asia)

Between the Sky and Sea premiere – In the near future, all the fish have mysteriously vanished from the world’s oceans. To feed the world’s piscavores, Japan has set up a series of ocean habitats in space where specially trained fishermen will harvest them. You may think this sounds like an overly complicated way to address the problem, but you have no idea yet just how complicated they will make it.

But before we get to that, we have to watch the bumbling adventures of heroine and aspiring space fisherman Haru Soramachi, so as to establish that she’s enthusiastic, clumsy, and forgetful, and also that whoever approved her as a trainee must be clinically insane. Circumstances then contrive to put her in space before she gets any training, so we can all admire the magificent ridiculousness of the fishing setup.

The space fish are, for some reason, basically gigantic armored tuna with short tempers. Catching them involves invoking deities, who may or may not provide something to actually catch the fish with, and then going wild with very anime special attacks just to bag one or two of them.

Now, this is what we expect from a video game adaptation: a story which is hopeless on its own, bent further out of shape to display the game mechanics. There’s a vague stab at being modern and relevant by putting together an all-girl team (who also have a terminal case of Same Face Syndrome) and making them have to deal with dismissive men, but this is all undermined by explaining that they’ve only been hired to meet affirmative-action quotas, and then stuffing them into boob-enhancing diving suits. Recommended only to conoisseurs of the weirdly terrible.

International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia)

Bakumatsu premiere – In the early 1860s, Japan has few more years of rule by the military dictatorship of the Tokugawas before the Meiji Emperor will be able to seize power. When a powerful artifact said to be able to change the very course of time falls into the hands of the government, imperial loyalists steal it away, but have it snatched from them in turn. And then the imperial agents find themselves stranded in a new timeline, where the clothing looks strange, clockwork dolls patrol the streets, and a new regime is ruling from a fantastical mountain that has risen over Kyoto.

Bakumatsu has certainly made good on the promise to focus on action. The only trace of the romance focus of the game it’s based on is the occasional male character who’s never quite gotten the hang of shirts. The biggest factor in whether you enjoy this episode or not is your tolerance for main character Shinsaku Takasugi, whose approach to every situation is to run toward the danger, grenades lit and sword waving.

Much will have to be explained eventually, but enough has been shown to see that the new ruler is up to a lot more than just poking history in a strategic spot or two. If you want to watch a story about people mucking about with time, this looks like a much better choice than RErideD.

International stream: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa)

Zombie Land Saga premiere – Contrary to what the pre-show publicity said, the zombie apocalypse does not happen in this show. This is little comfort to heroine Sakura Minamoto when she is hit by a truck and wakes up in a house full of genuine shambling, moaning, biting zombies. Further news that does not improve her day is that she’s a zombie too after being dead for ten years, she and the others have been raised to form a pop idol group, their first concert will be that night, and their enthusiastic manager has somehow booked them into a heavy metal concert.

Zombie Land Saga feels like it has things to say about idol culture in Japan, but for now they’re taking a back seat to comedy as Sakura, as the only sentient zombie in the bunch, desperately tries to herd her comrades through their disastrous first appearance. Metalheads may be offended at old jokes about metal, but don’t worry, the show looks set to skewer every musical genre it can. (Next week: hip hop.)

I am sick and tired of zombie stories in general, but this had even me laughing out loud and interested in more.

International streams: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia); bilibili (Asia); Funimation (English dub starting 10/28 for US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand)

Iroduku: The World in Colors premiere – 60 years in the future, magic casually coexists with ever more advanced technology. Kohaku Tsukishiro is an accomplished mage whose granddaughter, Hitomi, is so depressed she’s lost the ability to even see colors. Kohaku somehow decides that sending Hitomi on an irreversible trip back to 2018 to experience high school as Kohaku knew it is the key to reconnecting her with life again.

All signs here point to an earnest melodrama. The main obstacle to it is the presentation of Hitomi herself, who comes across not so much “person who needs help dealing with a mental illness” as “infantilized empty shell intended to be shaped by others, particularly that one guy who’s obviously going to be her boyfriend”. There’s not so much as a hint that she’s ever had interests, hobbies, emotions, or any kind of personality before.

There is some beautiful and melodramatic art here, but the story feels as lifeless as Hitomi.

International stream: Amazon (worldwide except China)

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind premiere – Four seasons comprising 113 episodes have already aired, but new viewers starting here only need to know two things: First, supernatural powers in the JoJo universe take the form of Stands, manifestations of a (usually) humanoid shape only visible to other Stand users. Second, as explained in this episode, the young man at the center of this new story arc is potentially a great threat to the world due to his unusual and complicated paternity.

Giorno Giovanna, as he calls himself, is just trying to eke out a living as a minor criminal in Naples. Unfortunately, he doesn’t pay off all the right people, leading to a confrontation with a local gangster, and then with someone set by the gang to avenge him. Even more unfortunately, he’s only just learning that people other than him have Stands, including the hit man.

The weirdness that puts the “Bizarre” in this story is already on full display. Moths turn into paper money; a dead man’s body parts appear from nowhere; a zipper appears on the side of someone’s face and opens to reveal an extradimensional void. JoJo has also not abandoned its love of creative poses or implausibly buff teenagers.

If you’ve been following JoJo for a while, this looks like a worthy continuation. If you haven’t, strap in, this should be a fun ride.

International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Middle East, “parts of Africa”); ADN (Francosphere); bilibili (Asia)

Goblin Slayer premiere – In one of a million identical RPG-like fantasy worlds, a party of level 1 adventurers sets off eagerly on a quest. They’re going to kill some goblins who’ve been carrying off livestock and women, only the quest is a bit above their level and they’re not too good at teamwork. All but one of the party members are variously killed and/or raped, with only the cleric surviving to see the arrival of the eponymous Goblin Slayer, who proceeds to massacre the entire tribe.

In addition to being rapey thieves, the goblins also have no noticeable language or culture and breed like cockroaches. The only thing missing from the portrait of the perfect right-wing nationalist bogeyman is they haven’t been shown scamming the local welfare system yet.

And yet, no amount of nuanced villainy would save Goblin Slayer from the other big problem of its setting, the RPG-like world. Alongside the blood and the grimdark, it also wants you to take seriously that RPG classes, levels, and other game mechanics exist. That by itself is absolutely fatal.

This is like sitting down for a game with one those GMs who justifies how his fantasy world works with bogus ideas about “historical accuracy” and introduces every female NPC with a description of her bosom, and one of those players who has looked up the perfect min-max recipe online and has no time for people who want tedious things like roleplaying in their roleplaying games. At the next table, there’s a guy who’s figured out how to turn a slime into a playable character. Wouldn’t you rather sit with him?

International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa); Wakanim (Francosphere, German-speaking Europe, Russia); Funimation (English dub starting 10/25 for US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand)

Boarding School Juliet premiere – Romio Inuzuka is in love with his lifetime rival Juliet Persia, which is a problem because they’re part of warring gangs of high school students from opposing countries. Romio tries to pull his punches, but she’s insulted that she can’t test herself against him. He tries to protect her from his comrades, but eventually they get frustrated too and ambush and assault her. This leads to a challenge to one-on-one duel, a confession of love, and a plan to keep all this a secret.

In line with the pre-show publicity, Boarding School Juliet wants to be a wacky romantic comedy. Unfortunately, it also wants to be a serious drama and an earnest love story, and it winds up doing none of them well. Even in a season not packed with goodies, it would never make the grade.

International stream: Amazon (worldwide except China)

Ms. Vampire who lives in my neighborhood. premiere – Akari is entranced by a rumor that a living doll lives in a house in the local forest. What she finds is a vampire girl named Sophie Twilight. Akari is so excited she soon invites herself into Sophie’s house permanently, and Sophie admits it would be nice to have someone else around.

This is a comedy, with most of the humor coming from one of two things. The first is how convenient the modern world has become for the vampire who enjoys a quiet life. She can order blood online, store it in a fridge, and heat it up in a microwave, thus avoiding all the messy business of drinking out of people’s necks.

The other strand is Akari’s obsession with Sophie. She oscillates between seeing her new friend as a potential romantic partner and a highly collectible object (actually, it’s not clear Akari sees a difference between the two). The opening credits hint that Akari will soon attract her own boundary-violating stalker, which… really doesn’t help at all. Best avoided.

International streams: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia); bilibili (Asia); Ponimu (Indonesia)

Quite a list we already have for a second look, with 12 more premieres to go (if they all get simulcast deals): Double Decker, The Girl in Twilight, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Bakumatsu, Zombie Land Saga, and JoJo are all queued up to be revisited shortly.

Now, for the mop-up of last season: The episode of We Rent Tsukumogami which was pushed back to this week was not the finale, which is actually coming next week. So next week I will do the wrap-up of that.

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