Anime roundup 4/8/2021: Fresh Start

SSSS.Dynazenon premiere – Asanaka Yomogi is just a normal high school student doing normal guy things until he offers his lunch leftovers to a starving man who describes himself as a “kaiju operator”. That favor quickly rebounds on him when the man inserts himself into Yomogi’s life and then suddenly drags him into helping pilot a giant robot to save the city from an invading monster.

Like its predecessor SSSS.Gridman, SSSS.Dynazenon is a love letter to Japanese live-action monster/robot fighting shows of a certain era. No single character has had as much thought put into them as the elaborately constructed robot, and no pesky concerns like “are there people in those buildings” get in the way of a good old robot vs. kaiju smackdown.

In fact, SSSS.Dynazenon is practically the same show as SSSS.Gridman. We have approximately the same people, doing approximately the same things, with a look and feel to the art that won’t let you tell one world from another. At least it is very good art.

It also retains Gridman‘s problems. If you were turned off by the sexualization of its teenage girl characters, welp, Dynazenon can’t even make it through this one episode without pointing the camera up the main girl’s skirt a couple times. If you hated the blandness of Gridman‘s hero, Yomogi is not an improvement.

It sure looks cool, but there are plenty of other cool-looking shows to choose from this season.

International streams: Funimation (US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, UK, Ireland); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); bilibili (China)

Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song- premiere – After general-purpose androids are written off as a failure, developers turn to making purpose-built ones. One such is Diva, whose inborn purpose is to increase the happiness of humanity through singing. Thus she finds it a needless distraction when a fan a century in the future beams an AI back to her which takes up residence in her teddy bear and implores her to help change the future and avert the robot apocalypse.

But of course Diva is quickly drawn in, or there would be no story. And it is a pretty good one so far. Diva is not your typical super-energetic idol show heroine, and Matsumoto, the AI from the future, is good at efficiently moving things along, plus he is engagingly animated once he becomes the teddy bear. Aside from the brief background about the state of AI, the technology of the near-future world is explained without infodumps.

Matsumoto’s plan for how to stop robots exterminating humanity— remove AI from the world entirely— has obvious flaws, but right now I’m more worried about the possibility that Vivy could follow the lead of shows like Zombie Land Saga and Gekidol and abandon the most interesting parts of its setup to become a generic idol show. So far, though, it’s doing fine.

International streams: Funimation (US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, UK, Ireland); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Francosphere, Scandinavia, German-speaking Europe, Russia); Shahiid Anime (territories unknown); Aniplus Asia (SE Asia); Bahamut Anime Crazy (Taiwan)

 Megalobox 2: Nomad premiere – Five years ago, a dark horse known as Gearless Joe stunned the world by winning the first cybernetically enhanced boxing championship. After fading from view, he returned to the world of underground fighting. Now he travels aimlessly from venue to venue under the name Nomad, earning a reputation as a brutal fighter with no mercy for his opponents. Until the day that he finds someone he wants to meet again…

Megalobox is a reimagining of Ashita no Joe, a popular manga from the 1960s about a working-class hero trying to make it in the (non-sf) boxing world. While the first season managed to end on a note of triumph, looking up even a cursory synopsis of Ashita no Joe makes it clear that Nomad is ultimately heading for an unpleasant fate.

But this episode leaves Nomad rediscovering hope. After sinking into a mire of failing health and drug addiction, he’s been inspired to work toward something rather than just keep existing. So it’s certainly not going to be grimdark all the way.

As well-crafted as this first episode is, though, it’s still going to be pretty dark. Viewers looking for a remedy for the pandemic blues should look elsewhere.

International streams: Funimation (US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, UK, Ireland); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Francosphere, Scandinavia, German-speaking Europe, Russia); Shahiid Anime (territories unknown); Ani-One (SE Asia); Bahamut Anime Crazy (Taiwan); bilibili (China)

Seven Knights Revolution premiere – Nemo is the only one in his village left alive after monsters attack. Rescued by two of the leading defenders of the realm, only to be cornered by an even worse monster, he suddenly discovers a new power within himself and saves the day.

This is an adequate, workmanlike start to yet another mobile video game adaptation. We are introduced to a world with vaguely medieval European underpinnings and overdesigned outfits, given a start on explaining its crucial concepts and introducing what looks like a sizeable cast. The protagonist gets to explain his backstory and show off his new power for a few minutes. There are pretty good beginning and ending themes.

Nothing to complain about really, aside from the entire tired setting, but nothing to stick around for either.

International streams: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia); Shahiid Anime (territories unknown); Muse Asia (South and SE Asia); Bahamut Anime Crazy (Taiwan)

 Dragon Goes House-Hunting premiere – Letty is the least terrifying red dragon in existence. After losing the family egg to adventurers, he is cast out into the uncaring world to try to find a home of his own.

Many misadventures await, but so does help, particularly in the form of an elven realtor.

This episode has the feel of a story trying to find its stride. It’s not sure whether it wants to run with fantasy tropes and enjoy how they play out or dissect them, or whether it wants to concentrate on broad comedy or lean more into the fantastical journey aspect. Whichever way it goes, it’s reasonably funny, and the protagonist is charming in his ineptness. This looks like it good one if you want a relaxing, low-stakes watch.

International streams: Funimation (US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, UK, Ireland); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Francosphere, Scandinavia, German-speaking Europe, Russia); Shahiid Anime (territories unknown); bilibili (China)

ODDTAXI premiere – Odokawa is a late-night taxi driver who’s seen it all. He’ll make conversation, but he’s grumpy and sarcastic and his small circle of friends say he’s always been peculiar. But Odokawa has hidden depths, and unknown struggles, and a lot more to do with events going on around him than he wants to let on.

The premise of this show mentioned a disappearance. That mystery is mostly solved by the end of this episode, but it leaves a whole lot of questions about who and why. ODDTAXI lets the clues drop bit by bit as seemingly random conversations unspool across Tokyo: Odokawa and a fare who wants to be a big influencer, a group of friends at a little bar, a couple of policemen going about seemingly normal business, Odokawa and his doctor friend bonding over how much fun it is to say “Bruce Springsteen”.

ODDTAXI is the sort of show that “quirky” was invented to describe, but to leave it at that is doing it a disservice. It’s a fascinating mosaic of Tokyo at night, populated with drunken businessmen, low comedians, pop idols, drug runners, hit men, and ordinary people just trying to get from point A to point B. It’s completely laid-back, yet there is already a terrible menace gathering. It is possibly the best premiere of this season so far.

International streams: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia); Bahamut Anime Crazy (Taiwan)

We’re off to a great start overall, then, with multiple candidates for a second look. But first, a whole lot more premieres next week!

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