Radiant premiere – Demons fall from the sky and wreak havoc from time to time, but those who survive contact with them become mages. Seth is a one such boy, who plans to grow up to be a demon hunter like his mentor. In the meantime, though, all he manages to do is cause trouble.
Radiant was sold as a Western take on the shōnen adventure genre, and it certainly excels at the imitation part. In fact, it has nailed the tropes so well that it utterly fails to bring anything new to the table. Seth is your generic shōnen hero: the spiky-haired, shouty kid who doesn’t know much yet but sure can punch hard. He’s got a mentor who’s way more interesting than him but who is barely there, and a friend he wants to work hard to protect, both standard issue.
There’s an interesting artistic bit here and there— I particularly liked the elephant-cows— but for the most part it’s barely distinguishable from anything produced entirely by Japan. Which I guess means the author achieved what he intended to do, but it means we can skip the rest.
SSSS.Gridman premiere – Yūta Hibiki (or so he’s told his name is) wakes up on a classmate’s couch (at least she claims she is) one afternoon with no memory of who he is or how he got there. Reality is not giving him something firm to hang on to; there’s a mysterious figure talking to him from an old computer and a giant monster towering over the town, both invisible to other people. A couple of his classmates do finally gain the power to see them, though (or, they start sharing his delusion) when he’s sucked into the computer and emerges as a giant hero to defeat the monster!
There are hints of much more going on here than Yūta has realized yet, but for now SSSS.Gridman is content to sit back and let him and his friends start sorting things out. It drops clues at a reasonable rate, and it gives Yūta and company enough intelligence to trust that they will be able to start putting them together.
In addition to that, the art is excellent and the monster suitably weird for an homage to Gridman‘s live-action predecessor. Another one to add to the stack for a second look.
Release the Spyce premiere – For a few minutes, Release the Spyce is the slick action thriller we were promised. A team a teenage operatives breaks into a facility and steals a thing with spy moves and superpowers. It feels churlish to ask questions like “Were those outfits truly the most practical option available?” or “Wouldn’t it be easier if they made the fake retina before they were pressed for time?” or “Did anyone really think about the optics of showing teenage warriors taking drugs to fight better?”
Then it’s gone and we’re into the story of how they recruit a new girl with super-senses, which involves a tedious recounting of every moment of her day. Eventually she gets to fight some beginner thugs, there’s some nonconsensual licking and some upskirt shots, and they’re a team now!
There are the makings of a decent super-spy show scattered around here, but they’ve been torn to bits trying to accomodate a ton of pandering to the latest otaku tastes. Anyone who’s here for the action is going to die of boredom halfway through. Anyone who isn’t a hardcore otaku is probably going to be lost by this.
Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san premiere – Honda is an everyday bookstore employee, except for being a skeleton. His reasons for being a skeleton are unimportant, just as no explanation is provided for why his fellow employees include a man with a rabbit head, a woman in a pigface bascinet, people in masks, and so forth.
What this story is interested in is his trade. The bookstore sees lots of manga fans, who in this episode include a large number of Westerners looking for the sort of gay erotica that would make Chuck Tingle blush. Honda does his best and explains a little bit about the book world along the way.
It’s all in good-natured fun, and if you’re a fan who can take some self-deprecation, it is also hilarious. I’d like to see more of where this is headed.
Conception premiere – Welp, it turns out the whole “pregnant by magic” thing was a head-fake and this show is actually about forcing a teenage boy into bed with a bunch of teenage girls, some of whom are drawn to look considerably less than teenaged. I’m sorry, this would never have been in the season preview if I’d known.
A Certain Magical Index III premiere – The problem with a show that ushers in a whole new subgenre is that one can’t go back and see it as it was when it was unique and fresh. So it is with A Certain Magical Index, whose first season was the beginning of the light novel adaptation wave. Countless imitators have turned its characters and jokes into tropes.
Then again, it’s hard to believe material like “guy keeps accidentally seeing underpants and getting bosoms shoved in his face” was ever really that innovative. “Guy is officially the worst but secretly the awesomest due to an extra-special ranking” I could believe originated with Index, but “guy is forever in trouble with girls who actually have crushes on him” goes back at least as far the 1990s.
Anyway, our bland yet hapless protagonist this time is Tōma Kamijō, and his special power is to cancel out other superpowers. He’s sheltering a girl named Index, who is being hunted by the Catholic Church. Some kind of business about organized religion vs. science or parapsychology is going on, and Tōma has a classmate with connections to the worldwide conflict, so by the end of the episode he’s been dragged off to France to… do something or other.
There’s at least an attempt at summarizing the story so far at the beginning, but crucial aspects of the overall setting are not explained at all. Tōma has nothing much to recommend him, there are a metric ton of supporting characters, and the humor is all about embarrassing the female characters. You can do better than this, especially this season.
International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia)
As Miss Beelzebub likes. premiere – Ever since Satan wandered off, Hell has been under the control his right-hand demon Beelzebub. To the great frustration of her assistant Mullin, she loves everything cute and fluffy and has tranformed Hell into rather a nice place to live. In short, she isn’t remotely demonic (okay, maybe excepting the casual attitude to nudity and the lying in bed covered with animals, even if they’re basically tribbles).
The show tries to take this premise in several directions, none of them especially successful. The contrast between Beelzebub’s actual and expected behavior loses its bite when there are no properly demonic demons to compare her with. There’s a thread suggesting a mutual attraction between Beelzebub and Mullin, leaning on the “overacting = funny” style of comedy. The dream sequences full of adorable furry things are the most enjoyable, and this might have had hope as a short consisting of just those.
Merc StoriA: The Apathetic Boy and the Girl in a Bottle premiere – Yū is a boy in a mostly generic fantasy world with the power to “heal” monsters, rendering them friendly and tractable. This could be the start of an awesome trope-inverting fantasy dystopia, but it isn’t. Instead, Yū is about to set off on a journey with the fairy girl he’s found half-trapped in a jar.
Excatly why or where Yū and the girl Merc are going is unclear, because the show skips over the actual decision and the accompanying reasoning. The premiere just wants to show off Yū’s monster-taming powers and get him on his way.
This is supposed to be a story about visiting lots of different places, but it looks like it’s not going to stray too far from the standard vaguely medieval RPG look. Art is okay, the characters aren’t detestable, but there’s nothing to really grab you here.
International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa); ADN (Francosphere); Anime on Demand (German-speaking Europe); Ponimu (Indonesia); bilibili (Asia)
Karakuri Circus premiere – Here’s another shōnen adventure to close things out, but completely unlike Radiant and the material it’s imitating. The 11-year-old boy at the center of it all, Masaru Saiga, is not a spiky-haired fighting prodigy ready to take on the world, but a traumatized kid who’s just lost his family and is desperate to survive. Acting on cryptic instructions from his now-dead grandfather, he’s running for his life toward the nearest circus, where he supposedly can find someone who will protect him.
That someone is Shirogane, a master puppeteer and acrobat, who can use a giant puppet to fight off the automatons. What she can’t do is navigate a foreign country outside of the circus setting she’s used to. But along the way, Masaru has collected another protector, Narumi Katō, a streetwise tough guy with a heart of gold and a most peculiar curse.
So we have three people who are all, in their own different ways, completely unprepared for the challenge suddenly thrust upon them. They’re three likeably flawed people, and it would be fun to see them grapple with it as long as it doesn’t get too repetitive.
That’s it for the premieres, except for Operation Han-Gyaku-Sei Million Arthur, which will show up October 25. Devidol and Hora, Mimi ga Mieteru yo! didn’t get international streaming.
Next week, SSSS.Gridman, Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san, and Karakuri Circus will join the six candidates from last week and we’ll see what survives to the final season lineup. And now, it’s time to bring out the shows left over from last season and catch up…
Attack on Titan #48 and season finale – A visit to the head trainer of the Scouting Corps brings the story of Eren’s parents, with big implications for what might be in that basement at Eren’s old house. It also fills in the context for a few heretofore unconnected moments very early in the story, and kudos to author Hajime Isayama for having this all so well-planned right from the start.
And then, after some time to reflect, and the argument about whether Erwin is fit for duty or not, and one last party and massive brawl, it is finally, finally time to muster the Scouts and set out to retake Zhiganshina and find out what’s in the basement…
After a four-year gap between seasons 1 and 2, and only 11 episodes last year, it was understood that we’d get six straight months of Attack on Titan this time around. But things have apparently been slipping behind the scenes, so we’ll just have to learn to be patient, which is getting harder and harder as this series gets better and better. I’ll certainly be picking it up again when it comes back.
We Rent Tsukumogami #11 and finale – Tiring of the folly around him, Hansuke invites everyone he can to a little tea party. There, in his role as the Wise Older Person, he graciously and refinedly imparts some of his hard-earned knowledge, mostly
which I think is a moral we can all get behind.
This gets two couples talking to each other, but Seiji is so dense that the lesson escapes him. Even O-Kō outright telling him that she hasn’t cared about Satarō for a while fails to switch the clue light on. Instead, it takes a serious head injury and a dramatic embrace for him to start figuring it out. I’m glad the epilogue didn’t jump straight to them getting married; it would have been too much to believe that Seiji could suddenly start moving that quickly.
Despite some frustration around the way, it’s clear now that Hansuke’s little talk is what the story was always about. It’s not quite the story I was hoping for, but it’s one that has supported the point it wants to make all along. It’s what it first appeared to be— a quiet little supernatural costume drama, nothing earthshaking, but a pleasant diversion.
(Hat tip to the Keep Calm-O-Matic poster generator.)
The Journey Home #13-14 – Thanks to cartoon physics, Midge and Master Wan are able to make their way back to the station just as the mice and frogs escalate to all-out brawls. The last we see of it, with Beta saying that they will need to find someone new to “employ” them, confirms that this was all a comment on the national Japanese attitude to work. So now it’s onward to a new problem, new characters, new ethnic stereotypes… um… maybe it’s just as well we’re leaving it here.
Because it’s been fun to watch, but there’s no way The Journey Home is going to be able to stand up to the torrent of awesome material that this new season is producing. I hope it gets a dub sometime, because that’s the only thing standing in the way of me recommending it for the age group it’s actually aimed at. Any kid able to keep up with the subtitles is probably out of that group.