Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun season 2 premiere – Suzuki Iruma was once a neglected child, but as the adopted grandson of the demon Sullivan, he has flourished. With the help of a ring which lets him do magic, he is able to attend school and participate in all sorts of activities without letting on that he is human. No one warned him that the ring would start talking to him, though. Even the ring is surprised.
Welcome to Demon School is still a big glorious ball of sunshine ready to chase your pandemic blues away. Even a rather sinister development is treated by Iruma as a problem he can solve and an opportunity to make a new ally. The only real complaint I have is that this episode doesn’t touch on the cliffhanger at the end of last season at all, where Iruma suddenly woke up as a surly adolescent instead of his usual sweet and positive self.
For now, this show has every indication of continuing as it began: relentlessly upbeat and energetic, a joy to watch in difficult times.
And that concludes the spring premieres! Read on if you’re interested in second looks and the decision about what to follow for the rest of the season…
ODDTAXI #2-3 – In between the mundane events of life, hanging out with his friends and ferrying regular passengers around, Odokawa learns that the mob is closing in on him, gets tangled up with corrupt cops again, and somehow acquires a girlfriend who knows martial arts. Meanwhile his best friend is dating a pop idol and maybe both of them have totally fake profiles on Anime Tinder, his favorite late-night radio hosts are going through a rough patch in their careers, and someone is still hiding in his closet.
ODDTAXI is still a show about people sitting around talking, but it is extraordinarily good at capturing the feel of natural conversation, so that it can go on and on without being tiring. The intersecting plotlines also give you a good reason to stay alert. Why is the manager of a pop idol group taking a call about Odokawa and the disappeared girl in episode 2? Could she have been one of his pop stars? Ah, but the yakuza tapir in episode 3 says she’s the daughter of his old schoolmate Don who ran off because she didn’t like Don associating with him. So it seems that Don is the pop idol manager, though that doesn’t his daughter couldn’t have been one of his performers.
At least the heat is off of Odokawa for now, since the girl’s family has asked for the investigation to be halted. That leaves room for many more layers of mystery to be peeled back. Who was involved in getting the girl’s message to her family? Who is Nurse Shirakawa stealing drugs for? Why has Dr. Goriki suddenly vanished? Why are Rui’s backup singers being forced to wear masks?
This is an amazingly rewarding watch, easily the best thing this season so far.
Mars Red #2-3 – The members of the special military vampire unit are introduced, along with their current mission. Someone is distributing a substance called Ascra, which mimics the nourishing properties of blood but also hypes up vampires and turns them aggressive. On top of that, they have to deal with dubious higher-ups, clashing personalities, and saying goodbye to their previous mortal attachments.
There are a bunch of interesting ideas introduced in these episodes. Vampire meth is a completely new one to me. So is Mars Red‘s explanation for spontaneous human combustion. One common problem for vampire stories is explaining why vampires don’t just multiply geometrically until there are no non-vampire humans left, but it’s got a decent explanation for that: these vampires don’t have to feed directly from humans, only around ten percent of humans who they do directly attack become vampires, and every vampire is weaker than the one who turned them, suggesting that the vampires who are too many steps removed from the originals can’t turn anyone.
As the secondary characters start to be filled in, the most impressive work the show does is with Yamagami. Most shows would establish him as the gruff older military lifer who isn’t destined for much of anything and leave it at that. But when Kurusu helps him fake being an apparition at the Bon festival (when people expect to meet the ghosts of their relatives), he becomes a guy who had a musical hobby, and a happy marriage, and favorite poetry to quote back and forth with his wife.
The spotlight now turns toward Kurusu (“the kid”), who as the strongest of the available vampires is to be trained to lead the unit. Plus there is no way he isn’t Aoi (the reporter)’s childhood friend who officially never came back from Siberia.
Shadows House #2 – Two forays outside Kate’s room, one planned and one not, introduce Emilico to new comrades and duties, and reveal the true meaning of serving as a shadow’s “face”. It is also drilled into her to not question anything, but that she cannot do.
So now we know why Emilico specifically is the main character. She can’t just let things go by; she’s started making a list of the mysteries around her and will inevitably choose to solve them. But she’ll have to do that between cleaning Kate’s room, group cleanings of the rest of the house, and accompanying Kate when Kate starts being able to leave her room. For it appears that the true purpose of the “living dolls” is to learn to mimic their masters’ movements and display the expressions their masters cannot.
This naturally leads to a whole stack of questions starting with why and how this arrangement evolved in the first place. The house isn’t going to give up its secrets quickly or easily, but with Emilico’s persistence, it should eventually yield.
Megalobox 2: Nomad #2-3 – When Nomad catches up with Chief, it’s hardly where he expected. Chief is part of an immigrant community struggling just to get by in the face of increasing antagonism from their neighbors. He’s the hero of a story we’ve seen many times, about a slimy developer putting the screws on a powerless group of people to get what he wants. Chief is going to win the big fight in order to buy the land to secure his people’s new home, and Nomad is willing to serve as his trainer for a while.
The looming problem is that Nomad, now Joe again, is the hero of this show, which means Chief is going to have to wind up sidelined very soon. I don’t expect he’s going to come out of that trailer fire unscathed. And then Hikawa can get what he wants, replacing Chief with a marquee name who will really bring in the money.
And after the tournament, then what? Chief has given Joe a chance to get clean, and given him a whole lot of advice to rebuild his life. Nomad may be about Joe’s search for a new place to belong, in which case it will be making a big departure from being a reimagined Ashita no Joe.
Joran: The Princess of Snow and Blood #2 – Karasumori Sawa, now known as Yukimura, is the last remaining descendant of a village of natural changelings, who the mysterious Janome is trying to recreate. While plotting her revenge, in the short term she follows the Nue organization’s orders unquestioningly. Her latest mission is to escort a woman who knows every bad thing Nue has ever done and yet is surprised to discover that she isn’t being sent off to a comfortable retirement.
Really, the Treasurer should have known what was waiting for her. On the other hand, it was pretty dumb of Nue to keep someone hanging around who just happens to know where all the bodies are buried (literally, probably) for no apparent reason. I mean, if she performed an essential function for Nue, she wouldn’t be eliminatable, so she just… happened to know stuff?
Joran is your show if you just want cool action and mature themes, but it feels like the substance beneath the style has been overlooked.
To Your Eternity #2 – After copying the boy’s body, the immortal whatsit stumbles and dies and regenerates its way south until it reaches a new biome. Meanwhile, a girl named March is having a perfectly good life until her entire village is summoned to assemble, a woman in an outfit that says “look at me, I am a major character in an anime” walks in, and March is suddenly being hauled off to be sacrificed to the Demon Bear that roams her land.
In contrast with the first episode, which explored a whole range of emotions amid the struggle to survive, everyone in this one has one note and sticks to it. March is obsessed with motherhood, the woman who collects her just seems to hate everyone, and our protagonist looks like it will take a long, long time to develop any kind of personality. March’s probable impending death doesn’t feel anywhere near as weighty as the ones of the wolf and boy last time.
Also, that outfit. I’m sorry, it’s not possible to stop thinking about it. The people in this episode have an otherwise consistent look that matches the implied Iron Age level of their civilization, but the one woman sticks out like a sore thumb. Her costume looks like an attempt to balance Important Official Person and Evil Sexy Villain Lady which winds up doing neither well. Just like this episode, which both needs to advance the protagonist and quickly make some more people sympathetic because it’s still not much of a character yet, and doesn’t succeed much at either task.
Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song- #2 – Diva assumes the identity of a security android to rescue the assemblyman, a somewhat more complicated task this time since the anti-AI terrorists plan to do the job properly by destroying an entire skyscraper. While that mission is a success, some things absolutely can’t be changed, because, um, Matsumoto says so.
Vivy has much the same problem as Joran, in that it’s a little too interested in making cool stuff happen and not enough in the structure underneath them, but with much, much bigger holes. It looks cool to have Diva using all her strength to keep a slab of concrete from crushing a human, but if the floors of that building were made of unreinforced concrete, they should have collapsed long since. It’s useful that Matsumoto can spoof the terrorists’ magic goggles, but wouldn’t they have hardened them against attacks (or, you know, just not made them available through the local wi-fi)? Also that is not how large commercial jet engine fires work, and how exactly is there a massive gunbattle in the middle of downtown which does not attract any security forces, journalists, or random onlookers with personal computing devices, so that Diva and Matsumoto can just stroll away in plain sight with no one the wiser?
Aside from the technical problems, there are pure sins of writing. The reason why Diva can’t change history to avert the plane crash amounts to “because the writer needed a tragic plot point”. And sure, it was easy to guess that Diva’s cute little fan was going to have something bad happen to her, but she deserved better than a quick offhand appearance tacked onto the end of the episode. It also remains that Diva and Matsumoto’s goal is to avert AI personhood, i.e., to make sure that some sentient beings are permanently derived of rights. Which may sit poorly with some viewers.
All right, it’s time for difficult choices. ODDTAXI and Mars Red would be standouts in any season. Vivy is easy to drop. Shadows House and Megalobox 2 are nice and solid and provide some variety, and I think we’ll take the glorious positivity of Welcome to Demon School for the last slot. Unless it falls on its face in episode 2, in which case Joran and To Your Eternity can have an extra round to fight it out.