Myriad Colors Phantom World premiere – In the not-too-distant future, the human visual cortex has suddenly evolved so that it can perceive new creatures called “phantoms”. These range from random magical monsters to spirits that can possess ordinary objects. As usual, they can only be fought by a special group of high school students with idiosyncratic powers.
Myriad Colors Phantom World has a lot going for it, in high production values and some truly imaginative flourishes, such as when our heroes have to put down some forest spirits by dancing the limbo with them. Unfortunately, it’s a light novel adaptation and is unable to escape the genre’s creepy and inept fascination with female anatomy.
So the three main girls in the show are all introduced in the opening sequence with shots of something other than their faces. One of them is has to fight a monster in her underpants for no particular reason, and later on the magic of the surreal dance party is destroyed by a sudden need to focus on nonsensical boob physics. Another girl is introduced to the hero by having him accidentally wind up with his face up her skirt.
This is a good enough show at times to make you angry about all the time, money, and talent is being squandered on the same old boob jokes. Save your blood pressure and try something else.
Active Raid premiere – In the not-too-distant future, powered exoskeletons are becoming available to the general population, which means both criminals and police are in a new arms race. The Tokyo police have one unit experimenting with them, but the unit members are a bunch of lazy misfits, so genius newbie Asami Kazari is assigned to help whip them into shape.
Naturally Asami shows up just as the unit is dispatched to stop a couple of exoskeleton-using criminals, which provides the show with a chance to get out all of its toys and show them off. The ensuing chase includes not only the high-tech goodies, but also bureaucratic procedures, inconvenient politics, and, just for the hell of it, a Fieseler Fi-156 Storch.
In fact, the one thing it doesn’t include is the alleged incompetence that the unit is known for. While everyone is a little quirky and can get on each other’s nerves (particularly the two leading men, who are so far distinguished as The Neatnik and The Slob), they actually come across as a fairly effective group which manages to catch their men with a minimum of collateral damage.
I can’t really tell what Active Raid is trying to be, serious action, buddy comedy, or what. I’m not sure it knows what it’s trying to be. But it sure is fun watching it flail around in the meantime. At minimum, it’s got the action part nailed– we’ll see what it can do with the characters.
International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia)
ERASED premiere – Satoru Fujinuma is 29 and still trying to break into his dream career of manga artist. Complicating his life is an occasional phenomenon where, when something near him goes badly wrong, he gets kicked back in time far enough to have a chance at stopping it. Unfortunately, this phenomenon doesn’t have any consideration for his well-being, and he gets badly injured keeping a runaway truck from killing a child.
This kicks off a series of events that brings Satoru’s mother to Tokyo, stirs up memories of an old crime that Satoru feels guilt at not being able to stop, and culminates in a horrifying murder. Satoru gets his chance to stop it– but starting from years before…
ERASED is unlike anything else this season. A story about adults who can adult (at least for most of this episode) is a breath of fresh air. It’s already hinting at a dark and complicated mystery, plenty to keep us occupied for the rest of the season. Definitely the best of this batch.
International streams: Crunchyroll (territories not specified); Daisuki (also not specified); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia); peppermint anime (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein)
BBK/BRNK premiere – In the not-too-distant future, a witch lives with her husband and twins on a floating island far above Japan. On the island sleep the buranki, giant robots of some sort. Occasionally a buranki stirs. It’s the witch’s job to keep them from fully waking. Then something goes very wrong, and she has to send her family down to the surface. A buranki falls with them and causes a disaster below.
Ten years later, events kick into high gear as the son, who is separated from the rest of the family, returns to Japan to be intercepted by other teenagers with superpowers who know where the lost buranki is and need him to help retrieve it right away. Also Japan has fallen under the sway of a powerful individual whose identity will be obvious with a quick application of the Law of Character Economy, whose superpowered goons are out to capture or kill our heroes.
Although some may find its CGI-powered animation off-putting, BBK/BRNK is the most visually appealing show of the new season so far. The look of the island in particular is nothing short of magical. It’s also got an interesting take on giant robots and the not-yet-fully-explained mechanism for superpowers. It hasn’t had a chance to really introduce us to most of the supporting characters yet, but it’s worth giving it another episode at least to do so.
International streams: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia, Spain, Portugal, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, and Dutch-speaking territories); ADN (France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco)
Divine Gate premiere – In the not-too-distant-future something called the Divine Gate, which can allegedly grant wishes, manifests to extra-special people. Many of them are teenagers with elemental superpowers, who get gathered up in a special academy and trained to try to reach the Gate.
Much of this episode concerns a boy with water powers, who is believed to have murdered his family for abusing him, even though it’s obvious from the flashback that they burned to death in a raging inferno. The special academy wants to recruit him, but the efforts of two cheerful students and one rather creepy and annoying child ghost come to naught. Meanwhile, a boatload of slightly older superpowered characters debate opaque matters.
Divine Gate is based on a popular smartphone game, which means that it already has a built-in audience and doesn’t feel a pressing need to try to draw additional viewers in. It has decent production values, and on the whole is less awful than the average game adaptation, but that is damning it with very faint praise.
Phantasy Star Online 2 The Animation premiere – In the not-too-distant future, Itsuki Tachibana attends Seiga Academy, where many of the students like to play the game Phantasy Star Online 2. (Which, in our world, was made by Sega. If the name of the school is too subtle, the pond at the center of the school grounds looks like the head of Sonic the Hedgehog.) Itsuki isn’t into it himself, until he is suddenly appointed student council vice-president by author fiat, handed a PlayStation Vita, and ordered to get with the program. Inside the game, he falls in with a helpful veteran player, and they go and blow up some evil insectoid aliens real good.
Like Divine Gate, this is an adaptation of a very popular game which is pitched entirely toward fans of the game. It also has respectable production values, though I’d like to think the audience is still discerning enough to feel at least a little bit insulted by how forced the plot is. Like Divine Gate, there’s no pressing reason to stick around.
International stream: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Turkey, Middle East,Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, North Africa)
Luck and Logic premiere – In the not-too-distant-future, magic interdimensional invaders, teenagers with superpowers, special academy, et cetera, et cetera. The mechanism for magic in this case is that the special teens pair up with goddesses who provide them with their actual powers.
Luck and Logic is yet another game tie-in, only this time it’s a card game that hasn’t been released yet, leaving it relatively unconstrained by an existing story. Given the chance to be anything it wants, this show has decided it wants to be… a light-novel-style harem comedy! Yes, except for the leading guy, all the other magic fighters are girls. Before the end of the episode, a meta joke has been beaten into the ground by the world’s most annoying kid sister and our hero learns he will be forced to share a room with his buxom partner.
But hey, at least there haven’t been any inadvertent boob grabs yet! And when that’s your criterion for success, it is definitely time to move on.
International streams: Daisuki (territories not specified); FUNimation (US, Canada); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia)
Dimension W premiere –
In the not-too-distant future, the entire world has embraced an invention that provides unlimited free energy by tapping into a just-discovered extra dimension, because of course that never turns out badly. The new magic energy source is mediated via “coils”, which are strictly regulated because using bad ones can get you “eaten”.
This is the first series to have a simulcast streaming service on its production committee to help shape it for Western tastes. (Although it’s FUNimation, which only covers a couple of countries, so it’s more being shaped for the tastes of the upper two-thirds of North America. Sorry, Europe.) This is probably why a manga was selected for adaptation where the protagonist, Kyōma Mabuchi, is not a teenaged superpowered cipher, but rather a brooding antisocial cipher somewhere in his late 20s or early 30s.
Sadly, similar respect has not been given to the female lead, who is a cyborg or android catgirl who looks all of about 14 and whose main job in the story, going by the end of the episode and the closing credit sequence, will be to never quite get entirely dressed. Though she’s supposed to help Kyōma track down illegal coils, so far she’s useless in any kind of fight.
Her owner/maker is the inventor who kicked off the worldwide energy revolution and then vanished into seclusion, but he’s discovered by representatives of the energy company just as Kyōma and the cyborg girl meet. Rather than meet with them, he sets off some kind of coil-induced explosion that (maybe) kills him and causes damage for miles around, because apparently he belongs to the Steve Jobs arrogant jerk strain of genius.
Speaking of geeks, another character that could theoretically be touted to American audiences in theory is Kyōma’s crime boss employer’s Indian technician. Because since many American viewers like a cast with racial diversity, the perfect ensemble will include someone with dark skin. Note for the next Western streamer wants to find an adaptation to help with: should also be someone who doesn’t look like a racist caricature.
Yeah, it’s like that. While the mystery of what’s really going on with the coils looks intriguing, it’s not one that I can recommend plumbing alongside these characters. There’s no one to like, unless you can bond with Kyōma over his hipster love of gasoline-powered vehicles, or you’re willing to put up with a lot for another slice of underage robot catgirl cheesecake. Maybe next time, FUNimation.
International streams: FUNimation (US, Canada); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia); Anime on Demand (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein)
Well, it’s certainly clear what the current hot trend in anime is. Anyway, that’s ERASED, Active Raid, and BBK/BRNK getting a second look. But next time, the rest of premiere week!