Anime roundup 10/21/2021: The Back Nine

Platinum End premiere – Kakehashi Mirai is a friendless orphan forced to live with his abusive aunt and uncle. When he finally decides it’s time to end it all, though, he is rudely snatched from his fatal fall by an angel who grants him the power to take revenge on those who have wronged him and a chance to enter a competition to become God.

This is a story about terrible things happening to terrible people at great length with a sense of righteous justification. It isn’t quite as bad as it could be; Mirai is a decent guy with real ethical qualms about what he can now do to people. But it is pretty clear that he is going to keep getting to make the decision to take people down as he faces worse and worse specimens of humanity, most of whom are going to have powers similar to his own. Most people should skip this one.

International streams: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia); Funimation (North America, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Francosphere, Scandinavia, German-speaking Europe, Russia); ADN (Francosphere); Shahiid Anime (Middle East, North Africa)

Shikizakura premiere – Ten years ago, Miwa Kakeru survived a disaster that leveled an entire neighborhood. Now he suddenly runs into the girl who saved him that day, the monsters that were after him, and a battlesuit with a personality of its own.

One thing Shikizakura has going for it is that its fight scenes are gorgeous. Dynamic CGI and beautiful art combine for a real visual treat. Unfortunately, it is not paired with an original story, notable characters, or great writing in general. Kakeru and everyone around him is bland and forgettable, and the oni that they’re fighting are yeat another horde of monsters with no clear motivation that exist just to be mown down by the dozens.

If you just love mecha action, this could be your show! Otherwise, keep holding out for the complete package.

International streams: HIDIVE (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Spain, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand); ADN (Francosphere); aniverse (Germany); Shahiid Anime (Middle East, North Africa); Bahamut Anime Crazy (Taiwan)

Visual Prison premiere – Yuki Ange is just strolling along watching old videos of his favorite signer, when he is interrupted by a surprise concert from a hot new band. A panda-like nekomata crosses his path, a dark cloud covers the sky, a pair of singers pull sword-microphones out of each others’ tattoos before jumping out of a helicopter, and there is a lot more weirdness coming before the episode ends.

Visual Prison is drawing on visual kei culture, with the added twist that all the bands are made of vampires who are about to compete in an immense musical battle for some ill-defined but important power. Structurally, it’s a series of music videos in different styles with brief breaks for plot developments in between them.

This premiere actually does very well with this structure. It’s able to establish four different bands, as well as introduce Ange and the viewer to the overall setup, reveal Ange’s hidden ancestry, give him a chance to meet his idol, and get him invited into the big competition. It’s also a heck of a lot more pleasant to watch than all the premieres this season which have been filling in the extra space with constant bickering.

This is probably not a good candidate for season-long blogging, but if an elaborately costumed pop musical is your thing, it’s worth checking out.

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

Build-Divide -#000000- Code Black premiere – Kurabe Teruhito is a homeless drifter until he rediscovers the card game Build-Divide, which is the key to gaining status in his city and ultimately challenging the king. As he gets a quick lesson in it, memories surface and he suddenly develops unusual skill, impressing his opponent enough that she offers to coach him onward.

This is the worst game tutorial ever. A good tutorial should start with a clear description of the winning conditions, and then go on to explain the mechanics fully. Instead, things go half-explained as the teaching match focuses on special effects and shouted attack names.

Aside from the match, there isn’t much to the episode; just enough time to introduce the characters by name and show us a minute or so of ominous-looking people discussing what’s probably the next tournament. Mainly this is an ad for a Magic: the Gathering knock-off.

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

The Faraway Paladin premiere – Will is a child being raised in an abandoned temple by three undead: Gus the wizardly ghost, Blood the skeletal warrior, and Mary the zombified nun. His unusual but close-knit family teaches Will the arts of fighting and magic to train him for some unrevealed purpose. But Will has a secret: he remembers a previous life in a very different world.

As reincarnation portal fantasies in vaguely medieval settings go, this one is not bad. There is no magic voice granting Will ability after ability, and all the memories of being older have done for him so far is speed up his learning of how to read and write. He doesn’t seem overpowered, he’s not a jerk, and there is no harem of overendowed young women. Yet.

While this is a very different story than you usually get in this genre for now, signs point to conventional adventuring in the future. Right now The Faraway Paladin feels fresh because it’s able to focus on Will’s upbringing, but it may soon turn into just another RPG-like sword-and-sorcery show. I say we should give it another episode to make its case, though.

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

The World’s Finest Assassin Gets Reincarnated in Another World as an Aristocrat premiere – Lugh of the house of Tuatha Dé sees himself as an enforcer of the law, which leads him to stage a raid on the house of a slaver. But once he lived in a different world, and killed people for other reasons, until his organization decided he had outlived his use.

Yes, this is yet another reincarnation portal fantasy, and this one is not good. Most of the episode is spent on Lugh’s last mission in our world, trying to build him up to be a hypercompetent badass while revealing that the author has no idea how anything really works. In his present life, he is established to be a good person by rescuing a bunch of nubile girls from being auctioned off to the highest bidder, but this is somewhat undercut by the camera busily ogling both the merchandise and his female assistant. At least in the flashback, the woman there gets to be fully dressed; she’s just there to be incompetent so that soon-to-be-Lugh can belittle, threaten, and lecture her.

There’s a plot point tying both lives together where Lugh is given a mission to kill the fantasy world’s Chosen One, but it has nothing to do with what he’s actually doing in the present-time part of the episode, and it’s not worth sticking to find out if it all ties together.

International streams: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia); ADN (Francosphere); Bahamut Anime Crazy (Taiwan); Laftel (South Korea); bilibili (China)

Deep Insanity The Lost Child premiere – A mysterious disease known as “Randolph Syndrome” is threatening humanity, and the entry to a mysterious underground world has been discovered at the South Pole. Shigure Daniel Kai signs up as a Sleeper, one of the people to explore the latter.

Despite the Lovecraftian overtones, this quickly devolves to a by-the-numbers shoot-’em-up. Shigure meets his quirky comrades, they go on their first mission before anyone has time to really explain anything to him, horrible monsters appear which are just there to be killed, and the monsters are duly killed.

It is not a surprise that this is a co-release with a video game, as it feels a lot like the early parts of a video game. Still, it didn’t have to be this way; it could have been a background story unconnected to the game mechanics. Oh well.

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

Ranking of Kings premiere – Bojji is a deaf, friendless prince surrounded by people who openly mock and despise him, even among his family. But his life starts to change for the better when he befriends a weird shadow-creature thief named Kage, and his talents start to emerge.

This is the find of the season. Bojji has a believably dismal life, but he also has allies, determination, goodness, and abilities that can take him to greatness if he figures out how. Kage is won over first by Bojji’s immense kindness, and takes a trip into the castle to learn about his home situation, and as you make the same trip you will want to root for him too.

Despite the look of the art, the animation is fluid and engaging, and the medieval setting actually looks medieval for once, unlike the RPG-like worlds of so many light novel adaptations. There’s a tone of magical realism; Bojji’s parents are literal giants and Kage is a pool of shadow with a thorny branch for a mouth. Those might just be how Bojji sees them, but there’s also one guy being followed around by a nest of snakes which appear to look like snakes to everyone. So I don’t know.

Anyway, this is an absolute gem and almost a shoo-in for continued blogging.

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

The Heike Story premiere – It is Japan in the late 12th century, and Lord Shigemori of the Taira clan has problems. He is plagued with visions of dead samurai, his father is going insane, his household guards are murdering the peasantry for showing the slightest disrespect, and now he meets a child with a similar gift of prophecy who tells him that his entire clan is doomed.

This show ultimately traces its roots back to a narrative of the Gempei War, which is usually known in translation as The Tale of the Heike, collated sometime in the early 12th century. A prose version by Yoshikawa Eiji, known as The New Tale of the Heike, was published in 1955, and that is the direct source material for this show.

As primarily a historical drama, there is not much suspense about how the finale will play out. The Taira will be destroyed and nearly everyone introduced here will die an untimely death. But it is a beautifully rendered drama, and it is not clear how strong a part the supernatural elements will play. This deserves at least a second look.

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

And that’s it for the premieres! (Deji Meets Girl and Megaton-kyū Musashi did not get licensed in the US, so I won’t be able to give you my impressions of them.) So let’s add The Faraway Paladin, Ranking of Kings, and The Heike Story to the pile of possible season blogging candidates, and set the final list next week.

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