Anime roundup 10/14/2021: We Don’t Need Another Hero

Yuki Yuna Is a Hero: The Great Mankai Chapter premiere – Yūna and her friends in her school’s Hero Club were once actual heroes, fighting evil and having to save each other, but all that is in the past. Now they’re catching up on living life and hanging out, not to mention their club obligations. Until, that is, duty calls again.

If you’re new to Yuki Yuna‘s world and its spin on magical girls, this premiere will explain absolutely none of it. This is entirely for longtime fans, giving them a chance to get reacquainted with characters they already love and see them enjoying life before they get sucked back into fighting.

I can say that this is beautifully animated, and the girls aren’t relegated to the one-quirk-per-person characterization which is so common in shows about fighting teams. But for gauging the story, or how enjoyable the rest of the show may turn out to be, it’s not too helpful.

International streams: HIDIVE (Americas, UK, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Scandinavia, Oceania, South Africa); Laftel (South Korea); Bahamut Anime Crazy (Taiwan); bilibili (China)

Muteking the Dancing Hero premiere – Muteki has come to Neo San Francisco to live with his grandmother, but the city has a whole roster of adventures planned for him. From saving the life of a grateful rodent with his dance moves, to being accosted by a strange DJ known as “DJ” who wants to transform him into a superhero, Muteki has a full first day in town. And when he finally makes it to grandma’s house, the biggest shock of all may be learning how DJ knows who he is.

As a remake of the 1980-1981 show Tondemo Senshi Muteking, this Muteking is set in a retro-futuristic 1980s where roller skates and boomboxes live comfortably alongside smartwatches and androids, leavened with a dash of 1960s counterculture. It’s a wild, colorful place, with a level of visual creativity that in places far exceeds what you’d expect from an attempt to squeeze a few more bucks out of an old franchise.

One part of Muteking that is solidly in the present, though, is the villain. Theo Eight is a mashup of Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos, exciting the masses with his latest product announcement while also controlling big pieces of the city’s business. Secretly, he is working with (or controlled by) the space monsters that Muteki suddenly finds himself fighting as Muteking.

This is still a show primarily aimed at kids, but it gives adults plenty to chew on. It’s the most solid premiere of the season so far.

International streams: Funimation (North America, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Francosphere, German-speaking Europe, Scandinavia, Russia); Bahamut Anime Crazy (Taiwan); bilibili (China)

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut premiere – After a terrible war that engulfed their entire world, a democratic union and a communist empire set their sights on a space race. Lev Leps was once a leading cosmonaut candidate, but now finds himself assigned to be the handler for the newest trainee, Irina Luminesk. Irina is the program’s secret weapon, a rare being who will serve as a test subject for true human spaceflight because she isn’t human herself.

This is basically an alternate Earth, with the UK and UZSR standing in for the US and USSR respectively. The UZSR seems to have been chosen as the setting not out of any particular love for the USSR but because it makes the stakes higher. Failure means Lev won’t just be out of a job, he’ll find himself being disappeared, probably in a fatal manner.

Irina, meanwhile, genuinely wants to go to the moon but is serving as a convenient tool. Sending her into orbit won’t mean actual human spaceflight, so she can be used for testing and the official first human spaceflight can then take place on live TV once all the kinks have been worked out.

This has a few nods to light-novel conventions, like making all the characters that matter (including the chief scientific expert on vampires) teenagers with wild hair, but it mostly plays things straight. Lev and Irina have some genuine chemistry, and the show doesn’t go overboard setting Lev up as someone willing to defend her against bigots. It’s not perfect but it’s pretty good.

International streams: Funimation (North America, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Francosphere, German-speaking Europe, Scandinavia, Russia); Shahiid Anime (Middle East, North Africa); Laftel (South Korea); Bahamut Anime Crazy (Taiwan)

The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window premiere – Mikado can see supernatural apparitions, but he manages to cover up the fact until an exorcist named Hiyakawa arrives at the bookstore where he works and declares him to be the perfect partner for ghostbusting. Whether he likes it or not, Mikado is now reassigned to help find and eliminate hauntings, with some work for the police on the side.

This is also billed as a romance. Unfortunately, it’s the sort of romance based on the idea that everything which would lead to a restraining order in the real world is actually cool and sexy. Hiyakawa is a nonstop torrent of boundary-pushing, double entendres, nonconsensual touching, and worse. He gets Mikado assigned as his assistant without even asking him, and Mikado doesn’t have the courage to push back.

This means practically the entire episode is Mikado looking deeply uncomfortable and the viewer hoping he’ll finally find the resolve to say “stop that”, or for anyone at all to notice what’s going on and intervene. No such luck. Spare yourself.

International streams: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia); Shahiid Anime (Middle East, North Africa)

Mieruko-chan premiere – Mieruko is a schoolgirl who lately has started being able to see apparitions. She ignores them and hopes they go away, and it largely works.

This is billed as a horror comedy. There’s not much humor in this first episode, but it does manage a few good horror moments. Unfortunately, most of the shots are constructed so that the real theme of this episode is ogling schoolgirl butts. A couple times the camera switches to leering at breasts instead, but then a moment later it’s pointed up another skirt. I suppose there is someone out there looking for a show at the intersection of all three.

International streams: Funimation (North America, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Francosphere, German-speaking Europe, Scandinavia, Russia); Shahiid Anime (Middle East, North Africa); Laftel (South Korea); Bahamut Anime Crazy (Taiwan)

The Fruit of Evolution: Before I Knew It, My Life Had It Made premiere – Hīragi Seiichi is the fattest, stinkiest, most bullied kid in his class. No one wants to buddy up with him when a polite announcement comes over the school intercom explaining that the class is about be transported to another world. Seeing him alone, the mysterious power transporting them gives him an extra boost, and pretty soon he’s levelling up with ease.

This is another alleged comedy. The problem with trying to mock terrible portal fantasies about travelling to a generic RPG-like fantasy setting is that they have already gotten so terrible and ridiculous that there’s little room left for mocking. Seiichi is just another ridiculously overpowered hero who is shortly to have the first of many bosomy young women flinging themselves in his direction. The bit where a sentient gorilla wants to marry him is probably an original thought, but we’ve already seen from the prologue that that won’t last long.

International streams: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia); Shahiid Anime (Middle East, North Africa); Ani-One (SE Asia); Laftel (South Korea); Bahamut Anime Crazy (Taiwan); bilibili (China)

Banished From the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside premiere – Red is a low-ranked adventurer living at the back end of nowhere, quietly doing fetch-quests to gather herbs. No one knows that he’s the big brother of the world’s great hero, and he used to adventure with her until he was persuaded to leave for not pulling his weight in the party.

Rather than showing a protagonist abruptly granted great power, this belongs to a slightly older genre of light novel fantasies, where the protagonist is already strong but whtever ranking system dominates his society fails to recognize his awesomeness. Red is unrecognized and persecuted, but he achieves his dream of setting up his own independent shop and claims to be fine with that.

The best one can say about this series is that it’s aggressively bland. It’s not even trying to build a coherent world, it just wants to set the hero up with what the author thinks should be rightfully his (here come the bosomy women again). It’s not too terrible but you can find better this season.

International streams: Funimation (North America, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Francosphere, German-speaking Europe, Scandinavia, Russia); Laftel (South Korea); bilibili (China)

Tesla Note premiere – When a high-speed train vanishes off its tracks and falls from the sky in the middle of Oslo, the cause is obvious: a crystal left behind by Nikola Tesla containing the essence of one of his inventions is distoring space. Long-held plans swing into action to bring together the self-proclaimed world’s greatest secret agent and the daughter of an ancient ninja dynasty to collect the crystals from all over the world before anyone else can.

Our heroes are bland, the choice to have them bicker constantly when they are together is not endearing, and the setup is ridiculous. However, there is really no point in discussing any of this at length when it’s all being upstaged by the terrible CGI.

Tesla Note is widely being compared to EX-ARM, and the comparison is valid: the overall animation is just as bad and the places where it is combined with 2-D animation are even worse. Also like EX-ARM, the choice of CGI seems to have been inspired partly by its potential for doing dynamic shots that would be too expensive for traditional TV animation. When those show up, they’re good, but let down by the animation here.

International streams: Funimation (North America, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Francosphere, German-speaking Europe, Scandinavia, Russia); Laftel (South Korea)

The Vampire Dies in No Time premiere – Ronaldo the vampire hunter goes to take down a local fiend after a child disappears. In short order, he discovers that things are not as they seem: the kid is fine, the vampire isn’t that bad a guy, and, well, you saw the title.

Hey, it’s a comedy which is actually funny! It leans mostly on situational comedy, skewering the popular tropes of the genre left and right. Ronaldo’s mission quickly changes to working with Draluc the vampire to chase down a holy terror of a kid running wild in a trap-filled castle. In the second half of the episode, they team up again to disillusion a wannabe vampire. Draluc himself genuinely wants to be a force for evil, but he’s hopeless at it.

The production values are nothing special, but they’re more than up to the task. If you need a few good chuckles this season, check this one out.

International streams: Funimation (North America, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Francosphere, German-speaking Europe, Scandinavia, Russia); Shahiid Anime (Middle East, North Africa); Laftel (South Korea); Bahamut Anime Crazy (Taiwan)

takt op. Destiny premiere – One day Earth was invaded by monsters known as D2 which abhor music, particularly classical music. Rather than relocate to a more pleasant planet, the D2 settled in for a reign of terror in which humanity has suppressed all its innate musical instincts. But there is hope, in the form of Musicarts, who fight the D2 in partnership with humans known as Conductors. Takt and Destiny are one such Conductor-Muscart pair, trying to make their way across North America to New York.

takt op. Destiny sits at the intersection of several well-established genres. It’s a video game adaptation, it’s yet another setup where girls of immense power but little common sense have to be controlled by male partners, and it’s based around anthropomorphic personifications of a category of things, in this case famous classical music pieces (Destiny is the personfication of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony). Also, like just about every other show this season, it introduces a team who should be working together but argue constantly.

This premiere certainly is a lot prettier than most representatives of the above genres, but it’s not doing anything special with the story, setting, or characters.

International streams: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia)

Sakugan premiere – Memempu is a nine-year-old genius living in an underground city surrounded by caves known as the Labyrinth. She has a lot to do: creating new inventions, taking care of her useless father, and planning for the day she and her best friend Lynda will venture out into the Labyrinth as explorers. Her father Gagumber wants her to stay safe in the city, right up until it suddenly is no longer safe.

There’s a lot to like here. Memempu is an engaging heroine, the world is an original and fascinating one, and the hook for the mystery Memempu wants to solve is intriguing. The premiere is let down by rushing through its emotional beats at the end and making it obvious a mile away who’s going to die.

And then there’s Gagumber. The premise would have worked fine if he were a decent father; it still would make perfect sense that he wouldn’t want his kid out there in a barely-mapped cave system full of monsters. But instead he’s an incompetent man-child who relies on Memempu to do the cooking, the cleaning, and a lot of his day job. This show could only be improved by yeeting him down the first convenient bottomless pit. Unfortunately a lot of the story is probably going to be taken up with a redemption arc for him, which is probably not going to acknowledge how messed up the situation is and instead will just declare him a Good Dad forever the first time he makes breakfast all by himself.

The question is whether the rest of the show is worth putting up with Gagumber. I guess another episode to get a better read on that is in order.

International streams: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia); bilibili (China)

AMAIM Warrior at the Borderline premiere – As Japan weakened from its declining birthrate, foreign armies moved in and divided up the country for themselves. This culminated in all-out war in 2041. Now, in 2016, Shība Amō stumbles across a loose AI, which becomes the core of a fighting robot which he will pilot to take the country back.

It’s not clear what exactly the foreign powers are getting out of the occupation. There’s no mention of them needing land, or resources, or having taken offense at anything specific Japan did. The occupation force in Amō’s area consists of a few mecha and one van full of thugs showing up here and there to be randomly mean to people. AMAIM is only interested in its setting as far as it provides a reason for Amō to kick foreign butt for the greater glory of Japan.

Amō himself is an okay protagonist, and his friends seem like nice kids. But they all exist in service of a storyline of unabashed xenophobic militarism.

International streams: Funimation (North America, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Francosphere, German-speaking Europe, Scandinavia, Russia); Laftel (South Korea); Bahamut Anime Crazy (Taiwan)

Muv-Luv Alternative premiere – In 1973, the alien hordes arrived. In 1998, they have conquered the Asian mainland and are spilling into Japan. One valiant defensive effort mounted at an outpost in northern Japan is utterly overwhelmed.

In many ways this feels like an old-fashioned military anime. Characters are introduced with blocks of on-screen text. There are rows and rows of people whose entire lives consist of staring at screens and shouting out status updates. There’s a grim feel to the whole thing as the battle turns into a rout and the remaining defenders scramble to save who they can.

But, there are a few hints that this isn’t just military sf, like the combat suits where the chief design consideration is not practicality, or the one brief shot at the end of someone who appeared to be very dead waking up again. This is actually an adaptation of one of the most widely admired visual novels ever made.

Does it give a sense of why its source material is so loved? Really, no. It gives us a simple, depressing story about a bunch of people in ridiculous-looking suits getting slaughtered by yet another troop of ravening monsters which simply exist to kill or be killed. You have to know from outside material that this hardly introduces the real story or the real protagonist. Maybe when the whole thing is made people will be able to step back and say whether it’s a decent adaptation; for now it hardly seems worth bothering to look at it week by week.

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

Rumble Garanndoll premiere – Ten years ago, Japan was invaded from an alternate timeline where it had never abandoned its xenophobic militarism. Now, Kudō Hosomichi is just trying to earn money to pay off his family’s debts by working in a host club (an establishment where women go to find some male company and get encouraged to buy expensive alcohol and gifts), when the new overlords take a dislike to the entire district the club is in. Not only does Hosomichi wind up in the middle of a fight, he’s soon at the controls of a rebel fighting robot. And to power the robot and survive, he’ll have to look into his jaded heart and rediscover his inner fanboy as fast as he can.

For once, the occupiers have a discernible motive and goal. The “True Country” wants to stamp out decadence and mold Hosomichi’s Japan in its own image. That includes banning otaku culture, and Hosomichi has stumbled across a rebel movement inspired by that culture.

This show is an interesting contrast to AMAIM, as the bad guys here are inspired by the same militarism which AMAIM is nodding to. There’s a lot that Rumble Garanndoll might do to speak to that, but I worry that it might forget about that part in its excitement about the otaku tropes. Still, it’s definitely worth a second look.

International streams: Funimation (North America, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Francosphere, German-speaking Europe, Scandinavia, Russia); Shahiid Anime (Middle East, North Africa); Laftel (South Korea); Bahamut Anime Crazy (Taiwan)

So that’s Muteking, Irina, The Vampire Dies in No Time, Sakugan, Rumble Garanndoll, and possibly Yuki Yuna all qualifying for a second look, and believe it or not, there are still several more premieres to review! We’ll have the rest of the premieres next time.

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