Seasonal Reviews: Summer 2016 Pt.1

Okay, so you all deserve an update.

Danni ended up being very busy with school and family matters, while Stephanie was dealing with work and project overload. I couldn't really step back in either, because I too was busy with real life stuff that was thrown at me at a very bad time, along with general burn out and anxiety issues. I'm better now, but Stephanie has resigned due to her conflicting commitments, and Danni has stepped down from a seasonal position due to demand of her classes. Thankfully, Andrew and Megan (the other one, who will be referred to as "Queenira") have joined on as seasonal reviewers, so we don't have staff shortage. I'll be coming back on this season, and I also have Tama assisting this time with a full load.

And if you're wondering what our general Spring thoughts were: Meh. You didn't miss much.

With that out of the way, let's get this back on track. We will be changing scheduling a tad, so we have a first post, a mid season post, and a wrap-up post. Everyone will have two drops, but can only use them once we hit the halfway point of a series. We have thirty shows total, not counting six shorts we're also looking at, and some exciting releases in Mob Psycho (from the creator of One Punch Man), Love Live Sunshine, and Rewrite (because someone really likes Key Works). Hopefully, this season is better than last. Time to dive in!


Full Shows

91 Days
Thom "Tama" Langley

Ah, the Prohibition, a time of hooch, gangsters and dangerous liaisons. Previously, however, anime based on this interesting period of modern American history have been somewhat thin on the ground, represented only by the time hopping, big ensemble mile-a-minute Baccano! 91 Days, thus, treads relatively uncovered land, and with style. Telling the story of the revenge of one Avilio Bruno, it's a slick, perfectly balanced series with flair, blood and razor sharp action. A fugitive after the death of his family, Avilio Bruno is not whom he seems; hiding out in a dingy backwater of the world, in a dirty, listless existence, he one day receives a letter containing a photograph of his slain younger brother, Luce; flashing back seven years, we meet Angelo, the true name of Avilio, Luce and his childhood friend, the bookish Colteo. Unfortunately, power struggles in the Mafia family his father is a part of leave the don dead, and after refusing to hand over the finances to the traitorous family, Angelo's family is shot dead-this sequence is beautifully executed in particular, showing his point of view and his reactions to the violence rather than showing it, cutting to black with a volley of gunshots. Escaping to the nearby town, Angelo appears in front of Colteo's house and is taken in by his friend, but soon realizes that by remaining there, he puts his friend in danger.

Returning to the present, and newly invigorated by the change for revenge, Avilio sets out to enact bloody revenge upon the Vanetti family. Meanwhile, Colteo, now a bootlegger, is being shaken down by thugs working for a rival mafia family, the Orcos, Avilio arriving to get rid of them and suggest a business plan-sell his illegal liquor to the mafia. To do this, they head to the Island, seemingly a neutral space between the various warring mafia factions; however, whilst their alcohol eventually meets with the grudging approval of the speakeasy owner (due mostly to two strangers, who fail to sell their own liquor), it seems someone has been stealing from the Orcos, who promptly send in the violent new recruit, Fango; though Avilio manages to defeat him with the aid of Colteo, the gun-crazy Fango trashes the place, and, together with the two strangers, make their escape, only for Avilio to discover that one of the two men is none other than Nero Vanetti, the man on whom he swore revenge!

By far and away, 91 Days is the best show of the season so far: it's a slick, intelligent, twisting tale, worthy of the best pulps; the action is well choreographed, and often visceral, the interplay between characters snappy and well-written, the setting used to its full-in places, it uses the setting in better ways than Baccano, and without the bloated cast to distract from this tale of revenge, it's a lean, and often beautifully mean series, and nothing this season looks quite as pretty as it does.

Strong Recommendation

Alderamin on the Sky
David O'Neil

It's not very often these days I actually go into a show completely blind. With the amount of time I spend browsing anime news sites, watching previews, and overall figuring out things about upcoming anime through word of mouth or personal interest, I typically have a pretty good idea of what nearly every show coming out in a given season is at least about, adapted from, and who its target audience is. Yet, sometimes there are shows like Alderamin on the Sky that manage to slip entirely under my radar one way or another. I didn't even know this show existed until it was assigned to me, and going in all I had was the poster to give me any sort of idea what it was about. So was it a hidden gem, or is no one talking about this show for good reason?

It's clear from the get go Alderamin on the Sky has a lot of politics going on in the background, but as someone who's bad at politics, I didn't actually get all that much of it. The core story though basically seems to focus on a group of teens joining an army in a fantasy world at the brink of war, as things begin to get more complicated along the way. The details involving the world and finer details of the war are all too quick and vaguely defined to really get a hold of, but the focus here seems to be more on the characters. And the characters were a pleasant surprise, all displaying fairly distinct and entertaining personalities, and playing off each other quite well. The weakest link is likely the protagonist, who's clearly supposed to be something of a likable asshole, but for the most part just comes off as a straight up asshole. The show is fairly slow paced and low key, much more than I would of thought for a fantasy military show such as this. While things certainly escalate as the episode goes on, there's a much bigger focus on self contained character interactions rather than action, or the typical LN info dumps. It has a lot of quieter moments where the characters just talk, and the often beautiful backgrounds simply speak for themselves.

Despite the character's best efforts though, they aren't quite interesting enough on their own to carry the show yet. Although I appreciated its slower pace, towards the latter half it began to meander quite a bit, leaving me anxious for it to move onto the next plot point. This is a pretty common side effect of first episodes, but it really did lack any sort of hook that'd make me genuinely excited to come back, instead ending on a pretty obnoxious cliffhanger. But still, for a show I knew nothing about going in, Alderamin on the Sky left me somewhat curious as to where things would head next, and whether they would build on its strengths in order to be more than just a competent distraction. So I guess that's worth something.

Weak Recommendation

Amanchu!
Thom "Tama" Langley

Amanchu is one of the best shows this season, telling the story of odd couple scuba-diver Hikari and transfer student Futuba and the rest of the diving club; it's a sweet, gentle series with beautiful atmosphere and a whole lotta heart. Starting with an evocative shot of the sea (which is perhaps the best opening shot of any series I've covered for any season, we're then introduced to the somewhat eccentric Hikari, and her grandmother, Kino, who runs a diving shack on the beachfront; Hikari goes for a swim, and it's here that we're introduced to Futuba, who arrives on a bike, wanting to see the sea at her new home, but seems distracted by her phone. Kino comments on this, suggesting that young people are more interested in the world in their hand rather than the world around them. Looking up, Futaba is awed by a huge breaker crashing in from the sea. Returning to land with a group of equally awed divers, Hikari looks up to see Futuba cyling away. Attending her new school for the first time, Futuba bumps into Hikari, who manages to become a perch for the school's rather oddly proportioned cat, and then promptly finds she is in the eccentric girl's class, guided there by here with diving metaphors, finding herself in a richly decorated room by her equally eccentric teacher; odd introductions done, Hikari and Futuba get to know each other better, with the yuri-subtext already laid on pretty thick.

This series starts solid and remains solid; the faltering relationship between the odd couple of Futuba and Hikari is extremely well played-by the end of the episode, there's already a sense that they've hit it off well-moreover, this series looks amazing-the brief parts of underwater swimming are very well animated, and I'm sure when the duo and the rest of the swimclub venture into deeper water, the series will rise to the occasion, whilst Hikari and Futuba are both expressive, interesting characters. Bring on episode two.

Strong Recommendation

Ange Vierge
Joe Straatmann

Somehow, this makes an episode that is mostly girls naked in a bathhouse as compelling as watching paint dry on a not particularly sexy bath soap ad. I don't have much to work with since only the first episode is available, and yet, I pretty much know what to expect from this card game adaptation. This is my second one after the dreadful Luck and Logic, and their rules seem to be to screw up a particularly interesting premise by seeping all life out of it. The series starts in media res on a battle between super powered girls where they stuff as many of their names and technobabble into the dialogue. If it were the trying to jam in exposition that would be needed for later, I would still not like it, but I would understand. No, there are four layers of exposition presented, the coup de gras being most of the cast sitting around a giant bathhouse completely nude and discussing every facet of their job as slowly as possibly while white flares cover the nudity and most of the screen that might as well have text reading, "Buy the Blu-ray release!" I don't even think I can judge the animation properly because I can't see it. The need for so much explaining and to do it with botched titillation shows Silver Link has very little faith or confidence in this product.

The link between Earth and four other worlds is weakening, making them visible to the blue planet and making the inhabitants of all of them able to travel between them. They follow one theme apiece such as science, religion, magic, and so on. The main reason for this seems to be just so they can have angels, androids, and witches fighting together. The visibility of the planets means their world crystals are weakening, and if they're destroyed, all of them will combine into Earth, destroying all life. Trying to facilitate this are the Uroburos, and maybe I lapsed in attention during the tenth conversation that is nothing but the cast explaining things they already know to each other, but it's unclear how they do that or why they want to. They look like the trim from the Persona 4 school uniforms were molded into phallic-like objects and made to fly.  To defend the planets, females with abilities from all worlds called Progress girls are scrambled to shoot them down with special abilities and the help of a drivers who use the same powers to enhance the skills of their teammates from afar.  The taste of the action in the series curtain riser is the bland taste of almost every other all-female super hero anime.

All of this isn't what you'll remember, though. What you'll remember is that after the distractingly chatty battle, a voice over, and a news report, they still have to slowly go through every aspect of Progress girl life, and they do that with conversations in a massive bath tower where the various teams all talk and talk and talk while they wander about completely naked. Since this has to meet with broadcast standards, a massive amount of steam not even seen in the movie Steamboy and lens flares to make J.J. Abrams say enough are utilized.  It keeps going and going and going until time stops. I haven't even brought up the characters. They're the allotted ensemble with a major character from each world with the lead Saya from Earth. She at least gets a good flashback to show when she developed the ability to control light and thought she was so special until her Progress girl rating was stemmed at a average ranking. But who cares? We need reiterations of how the Progress ranking system works and to asswith that, let's have the (spins the wheel) ...androids show their titties! Just sit this one out. Even if all you have to do is get the mail you know is all bills, it's still time better spent than this.

No Recommendation

Battery
David O'Neil

As some long time readers (or just anyone who follows me on Twitter) likely knows, I have a long standing bone to pick with sports anime. It's not so much a distaste born out of actual sensible reasoning, but more so out of personal preference and me being kind of a stubborn dick. I hate sports, I think sports are boring, and therefore I typically refuse to watch any and all sports anime (except Ping Pong, that show is fantastic). Alas, this season I've been assigned Battery, an anime series centered around baseball. The worst of all sports. So, does this show manage to overcome the relentlessly uninteresting game the characters are forced to partake in? (hopefully no avid sports fans read this review, I'm sorry, please don't yell at me)

Believe it or not, at least so far I find it difficult to even refer to Battery as a baseball show. The episode only includes one real instance of baseball related activity, and even that came down to a simple game of catch. So for now, it's mostly a character driven story, about characters who happen to be passionate about the sport of baseball. And with the weight of the show purely on the characters, it's....pretty alright. It's a very slow, low key experience thus far. Characters have mostly mundane conversations, talking about upcoming games, why they play baseball, or how their teams have done in the past, although the dialogue does have some decent underlying character building. It's nothing great so far, but there's clearly more to these characters than what they give away at first glance. The protagonist especially, although stoic on the surface, has small glimpses of some severe insecurities and subtext involving how he feels about pursuing baseball as a passion. The parallels between him and his grandfather were especially interesting, and while the climax of the episode was hardly thrilling, watching the two lead guys pitching progressively faster to each other, challenging each other to improve, was well done.

From a production perspective the show is in the same basic territory of the story and characters, good, but not great. The backgrounds are detailed, the characters stay on model, the music and sound design are solid, but nothing quite stands out as exceptional. It does have both an absolutely gorgeous Opening and Ending, but the rest of the show's visuals are expectedly less impressive. And so, overall Battery is off to a middle of the road start. It drags on a bit, and not a whole lot actually happens, but there is clearly more to these characters than they give off, which implies some potential for interesting growth as the show goes on. At the least I can say it's a more entertaining watch than actual baseball.

Solid Recommendation

B-Project
Andrew Lepselter

Well this was a thing.

I should probably mention first and foremost, this is not my type of show, nor am I its intended audience, so let's come at this show from a complete outsider's perspective.

There's lots of pretty boys with technicolor hair. They're all pretty, cute, handsome or dangerous looking. They all do stuff together, they're music industry, and they're pretty, and they model, and wait did I forget they're pretty?

It's really pretty and the guys are cute, and that's....like all I get. Music isn't my taste, idol stuff seems surprisingly dull. Perhaps that's my own personal bias interfering, but honestly I just never did get the whole idol obsession in general. Lots of it seems to be mostly talking about business stuff. Each guy seems to be distinct in hair color and personality, ranging from brooding, handsome, cutesy, and standoffish. The girl is self-insert and about as vanilla as they come and she's the manager of this idol group.

If you like pretty boys, idols, and the occasional BL innuendo here and there, and everywhere, then this is bound to bring joy to some. But honestly, even then it seems rather boring to me in general. It's played straight (ironic word choice I know) and it feels very serious and all that. Not many expressive faces or reaction shots, or hell, not even enough BL teasing to make it outrageous or even memorable. It's kinda just "there" to me.

Though they did model with cats though. That was pretty cool.

No Recommendation, Weak Recommendation (if you really like pretty idol boys)

Cheer Boys!!
Jonathan Kaharl

I'm reviewing Love Love this season, and I'll have a lot to say about it later. I say this now because I fear I may repeat myself a bit here. Cheer Boys is basically Love Live with gay guys instead of gay girls, even down to the major themes and desires of the main cast. It's a sitcom like comedy filled with wacky characters bouncing off each other with an overarching theme of doing what you want to do and affecting others through positivity and performance, and there's a lot of emotional baggage mixed in there for ultimately unnecessary but still adequately handled drama. I like it, but it's definitely an inferior copy.

Cheer Boys' main pair are Haruki and Kazuma. Haruki is a member of a judo focused family, but an injury leaves him unable to compete as he once did, and he's grown a complex over it. Kazuma, on the other hand, chooses to quit in order to follow his real passion. His parents were once members of a cheer squad, and he wants to do the same feats and inspire people they way they did. Haruki ends up joining after watching an exhibition, amazed by the energy, and the two quickly start finding members. Wataru is the best one so far. He appears like he's going to be the serious guy who will cause problems in forming the club, but it becomes very apparent that he's a doof unable to lie, blessed with the social skills of an awkward teenage girl trying too hard to fit in, yet never showing a sign of embarrassment. I love him.

The show definitely has the heart, and like Love Live, a talented voice cast. But this is a Brain's Base show, and they didn't bring their Kawai Complex A-game, more an Endride type team (okay, not THAT bad, but still). The show's production issues shine through a lot, from clearly recycled animation to drab coloring and simplistic models and designs in nearly every scene. The show is simply not visually impressive. Despite that, it's a good bit of fun, and it puts a big dumb smile on my face. It also aims at a different demographic than Love Live, and I give credit to trying to include slightly different characters here and there. The fat guy character ends up being pretty likable, and his weight isn't a butt of a joke outside the initial introduction. If you like cute guys and feel good comedies, you'll enjoy this.

Solid Recommendation

DAYS
Megan "Queenira" Z

Sports are an odd animal. In one moment they can create some crazy rift between people who have never met and yet at the same time draw people who have never met closer than ever. In victory or defeat sports share an odd space of being very close to nerds and yet completely alien. So how does this relate to MAPPA production of the soccer anime Days?

In many ways the leads of Days, the shy and frail Tsukushi Tsukamoto and good-looking and athletic Jin Kazama seem like they would never cross paths. However each ones love of futsal draws them in. And honestly were staring to get the start of the biggest trend of the last few years. Sports anime are rather popular and with the rise of series like Haikyu it’s clear to see that sports anime that can walk a fine line between demonstrating the game and making a likeable cast of both the home and away teams.

And so far Days does a damn good job out of that. Tsukamoto is cheerfully endearing and rather sweet and makes a nice contrast to the usual set of gung-ho hot heads you can see leading other sports anime. This gets wonderfully contrasted with Kazama’s personality. Kazama may be a genius and laid back but even in the short time he knows Tsukamoto he shows a genuine care for his condition.

Contrasting the work hard against the hardly working is great for Days because it doesn’t put them at a butting heads conflict for once. They have an odd harmony with one another.
Kazama’s not truly slacking however. One of my favorite things about the series is how Kazama acts like a translator, and by extension guilt trip tour guide, for Tsukamoto. This is more in episode two where for the first half Tsukamoto takes on all the first years running. It shows how damn earnest Tsukamoto is and that even others who don’t know him can see his promise.

However Days biggest strength is that for once our main team isn’t some group of newbies or some underdog. This time the team, Seiseki, is the top dog. However it also plays along with Tsukamoto’s character.  While Kazuma, and Seiseki’s captain Mizuki, can see Tsukamoto’s potential and heart others do not and they meet him with pity or find weakness in Seiseki’s methods.  Of course by episode two’s end those opponents are made to eat their words.

Yet what draws me in the most to Day is MAPPA’s amazing animation. This show is impeccable.  In many ways the moments of close ups on faces, especially Kazama’s, are breathtaking. The skies are just like painting. The music shines as well but compared to Haikyu’s dynamic score it hasn’t gripped me yet. But other than small flaws Days proves to have a strong start.

Strong Recommendation

First Love Monster
Megan "Queenira" Z

You know what. I may have some sketchy taste in things. Some of my friends may have nicknamed “The Filthy Fujoshi.” But nothing prepared me for this. I have seen dragon dicks, I have seen impossible boob physics. I’ve seen a god damn salt powered angel demon but what the ever loving fuck did I get into with First Love Monster! This Studio Deen show is walking the fines line between really creepy and really funny.

It centers around Kaho Nikaido, a rich girl whose been spoiled rotten to the point not a soul has ever yelled at her. So tired of this life she’s gone and moved herself to Tokyo to live in a high school dorm.

However when she tries to help and her kokishi rolls away girl almost gets herself run over unless a very handsome young saves her. When he does and she calls herself worthless he claims it’s not good for her. However when she confesses her love he rightly does what any normal ass person would do…REJECT HER!

But sadly Kaho is suddenly in love and when her savior reveals that he lives together he says its okay they date if she accepts him. Thus Kaho begins to date Kanade Takashi. Oh did I mention Kanade is a fifth grader? Yeah. Yeeeeah.

First Love Monster is either going to make you laugh or make you wanna hurl. The animation is sub par at best and the jokes can fall flat. But above all this show is generally just uncomfortable. Even though I enjoy myself some bishonen there’s a fine line between what’s acceptable. And I don’t know if this because for once it seems like the shoes on the other foot. As an anime fan were all use to some questionably drawn elementary and middle school girls but this series isn’t even trying to hide it.

What I feel is worse is that First Love Monster doesn’t know if it’s a comedy or romance show. One second it can be so serious, such as the scene between Taga and Kaho about her past and just before were talking about some trash lords catboy fetish. Then there’s parts where these “elementary school” kids are running around talking about playing pocket pool.

Oh let’s just throw that in too show. This show is oddly fixated about fifth graders and their junk. Hell this show has a dick fixation. And I don’t care how aged up looking or Mariana trench deep voiced they are! It is just plain creepy. I don’t know where First Love Monster is going but by the end I think I may want off of Kaho’s first love’s crazy ride and I’ll  admit I was actually kinda interested in this. Some of my friends said it would be funny. This is why I have trust issues.

Also seriously fuck you catboy fetish guy.

Weak Recommendation

Handa-kun
Andrew Lepselter

Barakamon was one of my absolute favorite shows of 2014, showing a level of heart, charm, and inspiration that I don't really see in a lot of different shows. I had always heard about the spin-off series Handa-kun, and I never had much desire or interest to pick it up only ever knowing that it was about him in High School. When I heard it was getting an anime I was curious, but cautiously optimistic about how it would turn out.

It's....definitely not the same show.

Both in the metaphorical and literal sense. Literally, it's a completely different studio, director, and animation crew, and among everything else, they even have a different actor playing Handa. As for how it feels, it's much more like 4-koma comic goofy gag humor, misinterpretations and cartoonish antics. Granted, these aren't bad things, and the show itself actually has some pretty amusing humor, and I do still like Handa, but it's definitely a different show. I can't say it's going to change the minds and hearts, nor that it ruins the original show.

It's a prequel separate from Barakamon, and it's a different series in terms of its tone and intention. This is more comedy, while Barakamon was Slice of Life. This isn't bad by any means, humor's still pretty good but I don't understand why some characters look standard while others have weird head proportions. Perhaps the comedy will grab me later on, but at the moment I feel a little bit disappointed from first hand impressions.

Still if you haven't seen it already, GO WATCH BARAKAMON.

Solid Recommendation

Hitorinoshita – The Outcast
Thom "Tama" Langley

Hitorinoshita is...a surprisingly watchable show. This is surprising in of itself, given that a) it's based on a web manwa, and b) its premise of "boy with powers fights the undead" is not exactly the most original concept out there. Nevertheless, there's a certain bloody, b-movie, somewhat creaky, shlock-heavy aplomb to this series that makes it oddly endearing, at least for its first episode. It's zombie time! In China. And some miscreant is digging up the local graveyard in search of something-or someone; one Zhang Xilin. And what luck! A girl who appears to be his granddaughter appears on the scene, looking for her grandfather's body. Not far behind, the slacker Zhang Chulan, the real grandson of Zhang Xilin arrives, and seems somewhat shocked he not only has a sister, but that someone has been digging up his grandfather, who seems to have been rather important once upon a time. 

Determined to catch the perpetrator, Chulan goes to the graveyard at night, and finds that his supposed sister, Baobao is digging up the grave of his (now vanished) grandfather, and isn't his sister at all! Midway through burying Chulan for "being in the way", Baobao is accosted by the undead of the graveyard and springs into rather knifey action, before wandering off, and meeting up with her minder for a shadowy organisation, who reprimands her for leaving Chulan to fend off the living dead. He needn't have worried as Chulan (entirely offscreen) zap-chars the zombie horde, and heads back to university. Meanwhile, a brother and sister duo prepare to take receipt of the body of Zhang Xilan, whilst Baobao transfers into Chulan's college, appearing before the hapless young man.
So far, so b-movie. 
Hitorinoshita is an enjoyably naff action-heavy, intelligence-light series that for once doesn't resort to shamless tits and ass shots to pull in the punters-Baobao is by far the best thing about this show, with an interesting mystery underpinning the proceedings. If you like the undead more on the Hammer Horror or Lucio Fulci side, this show has you covered-bloody enjoyable, if a little cheap and cheerful.

Weak Recommendation


Hybrid X Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia
Jonathan Kaharl

This is already a contender for one of the worst shows I have ever seen. That is not a sentence I type lightly. Keep in mind this season has yet another pedophile show, and it's still not as bad as this. Hybrid X Heart is everything wrong with light novel writers, the ecchi genre, and otaku culture at large in one disgusting, ugly package. It is an abject failure on every conceivable level. It doesn't offend me as much as other terrible shows I've seen, but it may be worse. As some say, bad is the absence of good, and so by definition, this is BAD. I can't even get bad anime laughs out of this. Hybrid X Heart is ...horrid. It is vile. It is a stain on an entire medium.

Hybrid X Heart is so bad that it makes the large majority of the famously awful ecchi shows look passable in comparison.

We're talking that bad. This is IKKI TOUSEN SEASON ONE BAD.

But what is this festering pile of worm infested feces about, anyways? Well, it's about the usual anime Average Everyday Normal Guy with an incredible special power that makes him the center of the universe, and that power is recharging battle armor used by women to fight giant monsters via sexual assault. His battle armor is called "Eros." Are you getting the joke yet? Also like all light novel protagonists, our lead is a spineless virgin who constantly has wacky sex shenanigans happen to him because all the other girls want his man meat because he's A Nice Guy, the twist here being they initially want more power but eventually it will be all about worshiping the penis beccause the target audience habe egos with the durability of egg shells.

The main trio included a white haired ace who is also a pathetic virgin but tries to dominate the MC anyways, the blonde girl with huge tits who is indeed from America who is most likely not a virgin, and the violent tsundere with the stupid hair who I also completely sympathize with because she just wants all the attempted fucking to stop. Shame the show begins showing that she will indeed be felt up later in the story. Also, I forgot to point out that the entire premise is based around giant monsters corralling humanity into a small space and that they're attempting to break free and regain their lost world. It's not necessarily an AoT rip, though, because it also rips out elements of Muv-Luv and Dia-Guard (weirdly). Nothing about this show is original in any respect. The stuff I can't pick out any direct influence has just been passed around so much that it feels like a universal constant for every bad light novel anime in existence. But it also throws in such fun things like the main character's big sister insulting his sexual technique as a child and ordering him to molest an unconscious girl without any explanation. It's a pioneer in terrible.

The source material is bad enough, but then there's the production. IMS is a generally poor studio overall, but even for them, this is sad. Models look cheap and unfinished, battle armor has weird coloring issues, the CG lacks any significant detail to make it at least look pleasing to the eye, the animation proper is bare bones, the music is simply blah, and the "sexy" scenes. Dear god. They clearly have some hentai animators on staff, and they are just terrible. A lot of terrible calling cards are around, mainly the always """"arousing"""" saliva that drools out of the girls' mouths, but along with the usual censoring, we also get a bizarre border that I think is supposed to """"""enhance""'""" the atmosphere. It doesn't. It's amazing they somehow even fucked up tit grabbin'. Also, this kid has the sexual instincts of a piece of buttered toast. Rubbing a thigh does not equal instant near orgasm. Christ.

But worst of all ...IT'S SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO BORING. I had the same issue with Ikki Tousen. Despite the horrible things happening, most every episode is just a lot of dead air that's supposed to be filled with character """"""""development"""""""" and """"""""""""comedy""""""""""""", but are only filled with nothing. If it's not annoying or disgusting, it's about as interesting as paint drying on a statue made of hardened paste of a white person of no particular importance. That is to say, only interesting in the sense that I have to wonder how you make something like this boring. Hybrid X Heart is a show you should never watch. It is baffling awful, and not even in an interesting way.

Its Time To Stop

Love Live! Sunshine!!
Jonathan Kaharl

Boy oh boy, if there wasn't talk around this one. In case you've been living under a rock, Love Live is one of the biggest phenomenons in the anime world in a good while. High ratings, tons of merchandise, and a wildly large fanbase of queer women. It's one of those rare shows that managed to appeal to a wide rainbow of demographics like no other. It did it through simple story concepts and characters shined up so well that it was hard to call the series anything else than enjoyable. Sunshine's existence was a big deal because connection to the original cast was paramount to the success of the original show. Without them, is it still Love Live?

Yes, absolutely. In fact, it might actually be better.

Sunshine casts away the original show's need for drama, forgoing a major crisis that requires the need of idols, which felt like the most pointless element of the first series. Instead, it does something clever and has new girl Chika (basically Honkers 2.0) seeing a u's event and becoming inspired to try being a school idol. The series presents a lot of familiar story beats, like the student council president standing in the way of Chika's club and trying to form a full unit, but there are twists mixed in, as with what it appears each character archetype will be. For example, Dia, the student council president and supposed serious girl, is actually the Nico level trash girl of the cast. She is so obsessed with u's that she practically views them as deities, and her antagonism is mainly because of her devotion and obsession. Yo, who appears to be the Kotori of the cast, ends up being framed as more dependable and outgoing. Riko, the awkward Umi, comes off as far more normal and composed, making her freakout moments all the more hilarious because of how much she tries to hide them and keep a straight face. In episode three, she gets so freaked out by a dog that she slams her hands and feet between railing and a wall to hang in the air away from it. She's great.

The other future idols are similar as well. I thought Yohane would be the big Nico-like standout, and she makes one hell of a first impression, but then enters Mari, a faux-ditz and rich girl who speaks in random English and loves to troll people. With just a few seconds, she stands out as the series best so far. It's joke! Every single character stands out far more with just a few seconds of screen-time than the majority of the original cast did, really showing the staff's experience with characterization. So much is said with just faces and body movements, leading to a lot of great punchlines drenched in classic comedy. This is clean comedy done right.

Okay, Mari does feel up Dia once, but you get what I mean. On that note, the show is way, way more overtly gay than the last series, making me wonder if the staff is embracing their strong lesbian fanbase. It seems to be helping character interactions too, there's so much going on with every different pair interacting, particularly how Ruby acts so completely differently around Chika compared to Maru. The show just has a greater sense of comedic timing than before, and makes good use of the families when they show up,especially Chika's sisters.

Most importantly, the show's much more focused on the message and ideas. It's mainly about the same stuff as the first, except it cuts out the unnecessary and distracting elements. The focus is almost entirely on these girls just doing something because they feel inspired to, and seeing how that spirit spreads like wildfire to others. The idols of Love Live are just like superheroes, in that they inspire others to be better and help others, and Sunshine benefits further by building on the success of the old cast by having them inspire the new. Sunshine has the trappings of something amazing, and I hope it realizes that potential.

Strong Recommendation

Mob Psycho 100
David O'Neil

Every once and a while, an anime goes beyond the niche group of obsessive weirdos (like me) and actually gains some relevance in western nerd culture as a whole. One of these shows was the recent hit action/comedy series One Punch Man. The mix of tongue in cheek satire, crazy action, and some surprisingly effective underlying themes made it a widely talked about series. Now a new show has surfaced from the creator of One Punch Man, an artist who goes by the pseudonym ONE. If that wasn't enough, the show is also being directed by Yuzuru Tachikawa, the director of the critically acclaimed Death Parade, and is being animated by Bones, the studio behind shows like Fullmetal AlchemistSoul Eater, and Blood Blockade Battlefront. With all that talent on board and a huge success like One Punch Man to follow up, there was certainly a lot of pressure on Mob Psycho 100 to impress.

At first glance the premise of Mob Psycho 100 does feel vaguely similar to One Punch Man's. The protagonist is a stoic, somewhat lazy, ordinary looking guy who holds within him seemingly unlimited power, destroying monsters that appear far larger and more freakish than him through his unseen potential. This especially shows in this first episode as they focus entirely on setting things up, but to be fair it does seem to be going in a different direction in terms of the meaning of his powers. While One Punch Man was about the mundanity of overwhelming power, and how the world reacts power and heroes, Mob Psycho 100 appears to be aiming for more of a coming of age story. Rather than yearning for excitement like Saitama, Mob seems to be yearning for something more akin to freedom. He feels restricted in his current life, and admires people with friends, who are able to live more normal lives, which could likely be related to the constantly building meter until Mob's powers burst. Right now it's mostly subtext as the show sets the stage, but it is nice to see it aiming for a different purpose than One Punch Man even if the basic idea seems similar at first.

The highlight of the first episode, though, was by far the animation. Although One Punch Man certainly garnered praise for it's dynamic animation sequences, Mob Psycho 100 goes in a totally different direction while simultaneously stepping it up a notch. The animation is loose, ridiculously cartoonish, and oozing with personality. Whether its just slapstick dialogue or an action scene, there's movement everywhere and the variety of animation style and techniques displayed is unlike anything that's aired in a long while. If it can actually keep up this consistent visual energy, and utilize it to elevate the comedy, action, and story as they did here, the show should have no trouble holding my attention from here on out. So while things are still early, Mob Psycho 100 is displaying immense promise both as an animation showcase, a bonkers comedy, and a story about growing up.

Strong Recommendation

momokuri
Thom "Tama" Langley

If I had to sum up Momokuri in two words, it would have to be "adorably awkward". Not the anime itself, it's a perfectly sweet shoujo series-no, I'm talking about its fumbling, shy, blushing and stammering couple. Previously adapted as an original net animation last year, it's nice to see a series this endearingly sweet make the jump to a fully-fledged series (albeit one where each episode lasts just fifteen minutes). Our hero is Shinya "Momo" Momotsuki, a boy described as "cute" by girls, (and more than a few boys), who suddenly finds himself the subject of the affections of older student Yuki Kurihari-confessing to him at the beginning of the first episode, Momo and Kuri promptly walk home, both reflecting on how they managed to get to this point in the first place; as I said before, it's remarkable how awkward these two are, both unsure on what exactly to do in this situation, whilst Kuri adds to her many many many (seriously, this girl is almost impressively besotted with this boy, and regularly takes pictures of him,) pictures of the cute boy, whilst Momo seems just happy to have this attention, inexperienced and innocent as he is.

And pretty much this sets the tone for the series' first four episodes; Momo attempts to use her near encyclopedic knowledge of Kuri, as well as practically losing her mind over how cute the younger boy ish, whilst Kuri attempts to act mature to immpress his older girlfriend. The shorter nature of these episodes leads to the concentration on a few well-chosen vignettes, from going to a cafe after seeing a movie, with Momo attempting to act mature whilst Kuri predicts his tastes, to Kuri's birthday where everyone (even the boys) seem to faun over him, whilst Momo bemoans that she spoilt the ENTIRE CAKE she baked him as she knows his parents are too busy. All-in-all, you cannot fault this series-it gets the awkwardness of a first relationship down almost perfectly, from not knowing what you can or cannot do around your partner to perhaps investing too much time and worry into a present. In particular, however, this show does so without making thing either cringe-inducing or overly sickly-it's a perfectly balanced and very cute show.

Strong Recommendation

The Morose Mononokean
Thom "Tama" Langley

Ah, yokai. Once upon a time, you used to be scary, the scourge of anime protagonists everywhere, or worthy helpers and friends of characters shunned for being able to see things others could not. Nowaways, of course, they're little more than a common or garden pest. Or so "The Morose Mononokean" would have you believe. Feeling like a slightly awkward halfway house between Natsume's Book of Friends,( upon which it doesn't so much as lean, more shoves to the ground, steals its wallet, and then kicks for good measure) and Studio Wit's "too Japanese to really appeal to the mass market" Hozuki's coolheadedness, it's a middling sort of show that wears its influences a little too much upon its sleeve.

Hanae Ashiya can see yokai. Particularly the large, rather fuzzy, straight out of Yokai Watch sort of one that he found in a carrier bag by the side of the road, which has affixed itself to the top of his head. Unfortunately, this yokai is growing, Hanae is getting iller, and he's missing out on school. Who ya gonna call? Uh, apparently this exorcist on a leaflet he finds, one Haruitsuki Abeno, who turns out to be the genuine article, and agrees to exorcise the yokai. Unfortunately, to do this, he has to play with the creature, (which by this point is truly enormous, if still very cute), since the creature only wanted his attention in the first place. Five hours later, the creature is now back to its orginal size, and, albeit unwillingly, having grown attached to it, Hanae agrees to exorcise it. For a price, of course. Now $1 million in debt, Hanae is forced to work for Abeno, and finds, to his shock, that he is in the same class as the exorcist.

So far, so eh. Mononokean is a nice show to look at, and in places almost feels like it's about to do something interesting with its concept-there's a suggestion that many yokai are simply pets that have passed on wanting their owner's attention-but too often it feels like a watered-down, urbanized Natsume's Book of Friends with weaker characters, (both human and yokai) and less emotion.

No Recommendation

NEW GAME!
Joe Straatmann

Those expecting this to become the Shirobako of gaming may be disappointed if early episodes are any indication. This is more of a nice comedy about likable characters that just happens to take place within the gaming industry. With all the yuri shipping options, I don't think most will mind. This is a pleasant experience with some solid chemistry between the cast driven by that feeling when a game touches your soul and it hasn't mutated into some weird defense mechanism later on in life.

Aoba is a high school graduate gets a new job in the art department at Eaglejump, the game company who made her favorite RPG series. She even gets to work with the character designer that inspired her to get into game art, and her idol turns out to be... a workaholic who sleeps at the office in a ratty t-shirt and panties, but otherwise, okay. Likewise, her fellow employees embrace their newbie, with employees Hajime and Yun happy to finally have a junior with the socially awkward Hifume providing extensive help... via computer chat even as she's three feet away. Even the director of their project is a chill woman whose cat wanders about freely. So far, the conflicts are minimal where Aoba not knowing anything about how to do her job is heavily played down. Seriously, the hardest thing she's had to do so far is figure out how to order alcohol at her welcoming party.

As I said, this show is more about the positive atmosphere than the gaming industry. The almost all-female cast seem to be constantly in the realm of a geekout high that gives them the drive to do the arduous work required to create these games. It's a bit infectious. They are genuinely nice people with charming personalities, and it's hard not to have a good time with them. However, should they choose to have a climax that involves visiting a facsimile of Hideo Kojima to help solve the problem, that would be awesome.

I understand the idealized tone doesn't nearly cover the true grind of the job. I've seen plenty of stuff that knows the edge of working at such jobs and I've been employed by a corporation in the nerd business. I realize this is probably not how 99% of the game studio work would go. That doesn't mean we can't have something that strives for an ideal. Plus, this has a cohesive tone and a purpose that serves it far better than the usual cute girls doing cute things. They have a project to work on and the characters' goals (At least the main ones) are tangible. Studio Doga Kobo is usually not so consistent in their work, but all of the bases here are solid. Just don't be surprised if gaming industry fan service is more minimal here than it would seem.

Solid Recommendation

orange
Jonathan Kaharl

Oh hey, a Hiroshi Hamasaki anime! Hamasaki is definitely an interesting director to me, as he has a thematic style not many directors have ever quite matched. He's headed Steins;Gate, Shiguri, and Texhnolyze, among a few others, and gives every show he directs a real flair in how shots are angled and colors used. He can drench a series in atmosphere with the right staff, and he certainly brings his best to orange, a simply stunning series to watch. Based off a shojo manga, orange is about a high school girl named Naho getting letters from her future self, who expresses her past regrets and tries to get her past self to correct her mistakes. However, the story quickly unfolds in a serious direction as it becomes clear that her first love and good friend Kakeru will die if she does not change the flow of events.

Hamasaki's visual flair and absolutely gorgeous composition is the big reason to watch, no question. The show is just filled with rich frames, and the lighting is superb. It perfectly creates a feeling of haze and nostalgia, giving the world and otherworldly, yet very familiar feel. That fits the shows themes of memory and human connection perfectly, making a world that's run on slightly more abstract rules (there are weird symbols from time to time, especially during the episode one montage) but grounded firmly in reality. The score by Hiroaki Tsutsumi is also masterful, which is no surprise after their work on Valkyrie Drive (bad show, yes, but that score). The production is just top notch.

The story is a slightly more mixed affair. Plot wise, the series is already headed into very familiar territory. Sad things happen to nice people, time travel shenanigans, preventing tragedy, ect. That said, the themes at play are strong. As a twenty-something guy, I can really relate to a story about regretting your past actions, and I can understand the past girl's reactions and her inclination towards making mistakes. When you're a teenager, you end up doing stupid stuff for one reason or another, and you end up regretting it deeply as an adult. The first episode's baseball scene is great because it really captures familiar fears of failure I used to suffer from (and still do, to some extent) and the type of thinking necessary to step forward despite. There are a lot of great moments and thoughts along those lines, but the supernatural elements seem to be leading to an all too familiar direction. Hopefully the show steadies its aim.

Solid Recommendation

Qualidea Code
David O'Neil

Tell me if this sounds familiar. So in the future, humanity attacked by an unknown, inhuman, enemy force probably from space or something, pushed to the brink of extinction. In a last ditch effort for survival, humans band together, using super powered weapons in order to counteract that constantly encroaching faceless force. Oh, and most of the soldiers are students. Who go to a magic school. Because of course they do.

Yes, if there's one thing Qualidea Code certainly doesn't have going for it, its originality. Even beyond the basic premise, the show makes barely any attempts to differentiate itself from the already generic competition. The uniforms, environments, and powers are all by the numbers, ugly, or outright sterile in their design. Sure, most anime is designed to make money and sell products, but this show reaches a whole new level in terms of feeling specifically designed to look like other popular things, to the point of having no identity of its own. If I were shown a screencap of it out of context, I'd probably name about fifteen other generic light novel adaptations about bland protagonists going to magic schools with their attractive sisters before eventually giving up. I mean for gods sake, the evil unknown force they have to fight is straight up called the "Unknown." But still, with strong execution, even the most overdone stories can be engaging. Unfortunately, this is not the case here either. The first episode was not only a drag to watch, but also very awkwardly structured in general. We're brought into important meetings between characters, only to cut away without anything being accomplished, characters who should know the situation at hand spout obligatory exposition left and right, and despite all that exposition its still difficult to surmise what's actually happening half the time with all the different characters, lore details, and factions being introduced without any thought given to their context.

The closest thing the show has to a strength is its characters. Although the main character is an insufferable ass (seemingly on purpose, so we'll see how that goes) the rest of the extended cast is surprisingly fun. They're fairly basic anime archetypes, but the show does do well at differentiating them all, quickly establishing the sorts of relationships they have with each other, and setting up plenty of  moments that actually made me laugh from time to time. The characters are certainly a diamond in the rough, but its too bad that so far the rough parts are really really rough. From sloppy animation, to a bland visual style, to a by-the-numbers premise, to haphazard pacing and execution, Qualidea Code has a lot its going to need to improve on if it ever hopes to be more than another forgotten drop in the magic school anime bucket.

No Recommendation

Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars
Andrew Lepselter

The first thing that is uttered in this show is “What is going on here?”

That seems like an appropriate summary for my review already.

Regalia is a show that jumps into its premise and concept. A city is blown up during robot battles, then we cut to present day with characters sitting around, eating breakfast and doing the slice of life thing. I understand that some people find fault with massive exposition dumps, and sure just unloading information on some people is kind of a problem, but I feel like there should at least be some sort of easing one into the world and universe you wish to set up instead of just winging it and telling us later on.

Regalia has two sides to it, and by all means they're very different sides in general. One is the character and actual aesthetic design of the show. The girls and characters have this very odd looking sense of moe design to them that just seems rather generic and off, not really sure who the designer was or whether or not these were seen as particularly attractive to someone is unknown to me, but it feels rather jarring. I could easily grow to liking it or being okay with it later on if I like these characters and the show more in due time, but right now it's just bugging me personally in its art.

Now what makes this even MORE shocking and surprising is the art and animation in terms of these mecha designs, in this show referred to as Regalia, which seem to be inhuman transforming people with the power to summon them. Now, in many mecha anime of late, I am so very used to seeing the mecha action and animation being done completely in 3DCG designs and animation. The only real exception to the rule is more Sunrise / Gundam shows. But for some odd, shocking reason, the mech designs and animations here are not only hand drawn, but the designs are appealing and the robot animation and style is actually pretty god damn spectacular. I'm so used to failures of mech action like Comet Lucifer, but this was actually really well done in its mech action and effects. It seems os jarring to me that the character designs are so off and weird, while the actual mecha is REALLY WELL DONE. This alone is worth checking out the show just to see some legitimately decent mecha action. That, or if you're into your surface level yuri undertones. Nothing groundbreaking on either field, but it's a pretty confusing, and surprising gumbo of things put into the same soup.

Weak Recommendation, Solid Recommendation Mech fans

ReLIFE
Joe Straatmann

A few of the anime lately have been about jumping on a second chance. In Erased, a man tries to solve a series of murders in the past by having his conscience jump back to his childhood. Then we have this season's orange where a teenager receives a letter from her future self to fix what went wrong during her high school years. This is more of an inverse version of Big-the movie where a boy becomes Tom Hanks-but the idea of getting a second chance at life is still there. Of the trio, this is the worst, but mostly because it's in good company. Erased was my favorite show of that season and orange is shaping up to by my favorite here. Despite being too broad at times, ReLIFE is wise about the ways high schoolers and an adult within their midst think and how they react to each other, for better or worse.

The story cuts to the chase. Struggling adult Arata is having the toughest time of his life when he can't get a job and his parents suddenly cut off his allowance. Just his luck an overly smiley man appears in his path after a night of drinking, offering him a job and lodging for a year with future employment considerations and all he has to do is take one pill. Alcohol impedes his judgment to take a pill from a creepily happy man in the middle of the night, but luckily for Arate, he only wakes up realizing his body has transformed into himself at age 17. Within five minutes of screen time, he's at his new job acting as a high school student as part of a NEET re-adjustment program. Unfortunately, adulthood has made him less prepared for high school with his knowledge of math formulas evaporated, his social abilities awkward since he's ten years older than his classmates, and his pencil box has since been replaced by with a pack of cigarettes. What's worse is that smily company representative is now his handler, taking the pill himself and acting as a fellow classmate. The humor when Arata's introduced should've been a sly build-up of his shortcomings is instead overwrought by starting with huge over-reactions and nowhere else to go from there. Much smarter is the scene later when he talks with his teacher, and it works on two levels where he's respecting her for being two years younger and holding her own at a demanding profession while she thinks he's buttering her up for preferable treatment. This give-and-take between loud comedy and pangs of intelligent interactions is what seems to be business of the day.

This anime has a Netflix-style, binge-ready release with all 12 episodes available right out of the chute. For the sake of having material for the whole season, I've only watched the first four. What I've noticed is that it's not Michiko Yokote's (Shirobako) sharpest work, yet it understands how high schoolers work and how the path of self-improvement is seen from within the person and to the ones around them. Arata doesn't have much wisdom or particular understanding in the right path, but even if all he knows is what he did wrong, that's still having experience in something. His classmate Rena is an ultra-competitive athletic type who is having a life crisis when she her class rep status is lost to Hishiro, an incredibly shy girl Arata doea heavy work just to make smile. Hishiro's new smile is imperfect, making Rena think she's mocked by her usurper, sending her into a downward spiral. It starts as irksome forced conflict, but it's held together by the knowledge of how weird emotions can blow up and that despite us spending all day with these people in high school, we don't know even some of the most basic things about them.

Oh, there are plenty of standard scenes, such as when Arata has to go to to P.E. and oh ho, he's not in as good of shape as he used to be. Yet there are so many nice touches. My favorite is the closing themes, which are a revolving gate of hits from over a decade ago that Arata listens to on a mini-disc in the animation. It hits just the right spot to hear the T.M. Revolution that spawned this proto meme video from the turn of the millenniumReLIFE's opening acts haven't quite soared yet, but it's still at a reasonable height to check out. I only wish they get to developing potential best girl An, who is a fellow slacker with Arata, for better or worse.

Solid Recommendation

Rewrite
Joe Straatmann

Obvious joke first: Rewrite needed a few of its namesake. At least, the first effort which doubles the length of an average anime episode at 47 minutes that only does about half what a normal anime does. An adaptation of a visual novel by Key, it reminds us that VN anime were the hipster light novel adaptations that have been around for far longer. The introduction is a shapeless matter, showing lead Kotarou walking through a destroyed city when he's killed by a woman with ribbons. He then wakes and finds himself in a normal high school with stilted, clumsy dialogue right down to the childhood friend who has to introduce herself as the childhood friend. Then he finds a ghost in his bed that bites him with full slobber visible, reminding us we need to make a time machine to go back and stop the makers of Mysterious Girlfriend X. Then he finds he's incurred the wrath of a rival who challenged him to the fight and he doesn't show. Then he rescues the most cliched redhead of all anime out of a tree, but DON'T YOU DARE LOOK AT HER PANTIES, KOTAROU! Then stuff happens and stuff happens and eventually, Kotarou drops out of a crack in a dimensional realm in front of a statue of Col. Sanders. Oh yeah, and somewhere in there is a fairy that represents trash (I forgot to mention the city he lives in is extremely environmentally conscious, which will no doubt be a plot point that crashes into the series sideways later).

This is a befuddling charade of sequences which never has any rails to the point where even when it has passable scenes, they're quizzical. Korarou eventually has a branching romance path... er, scene out of nowhere with redhead Chihaya he's only met the other day and the series breaks out some lovely 3D CG and romantic mood music. Before, he was searching for the president of the occult club to protect himself from the ghost that keeps getting in his bed, and after, he's immediately back at the search with no emotional shift that anything happened. It might as well be its own short-subject feature. At least the occult club's light switches which also have options for screaming and ominous moaning are good for a one-off gag. When it tries to be intriguing, it comes off as amateurish. When it tries to be conventional, it's... conventional.

The second episode makes it clear that this is totally going to be a lackluster harem affair as most of the women in Kotarou's life line up to join the occult club he's suddenly in charge of. The one good member of the harem is Akane, the president of the occult club who plays first-person shooters instead of researching Kotarou's problems or handing out paper clips as a protective amulet. The rest are the usual Frankenstein's monster of harem traits mixed and matched. The writing also does that annoying trend that's going around which assumes that if one of the characters says they're doing a cliched scene, it fixes all the problems with having a cliched scene in the show. Not how that works.

Really, the only thing that seems to have any worth is seeing how insane the plot's going to get. Key is known for doing extreme turns to wring out emotion from their audience, so now we wait to see what gut punch they're going for. Charlotte set a high bar in a completely crazed final episode where you could watch the first episode and the last back-to-back and have your brain melt trying to figure out how in the world it got from point A to point Z. It also helped that Charlotte was actually good before then. With far too much good stuff to potentially watch this season, this fire at the VN factory can be easily left to burn regardless of what awaits.

No Recommendation

Scar-red Rider XechS
Jonathan Kaharl

I want to like this one but ...yeah. It's hard to ignore how sloppy this is in just about every respect. Which is weird, because this is an adaptation of a visual novel from 2010. You'd think they'd have time to think this through. Part of the problem may be the source, though. This is basically a super sentai romp, but filled with nonsense words at every turn. The monsters are called "Nightfly O'Note," for example. The first episode is pretty awful, failing to really explain what the hell is going on or who anyone is, outside the most broad strokes. It's not till episode two where we get our lead proper that the exposition is properly delivered. The show also makes a poor first impression via the sad production, as Satellite doesn't do much to add a flair or anything. I like the character designs just fine, but damn if they don't look drab in motion.

As a result, the first two episodes don't really leave an impact for me. I can see a good story here. There's an interesting hook, with the heroine wishing for death in the first episode before being presented as normal the next, and the idea of ordering around prospective friends to their possible deaths is a good way to inspire drama. The problem is that so little, even by episode two, is made clear, and emotional impact with the setting and cast is hard to form. It also feels like too much is shown early on, like the people in charge seemingly doing something possibly wrong behind the scenes.

I'm still trying to understand the details and find something to latch onto emotionally here. All I know for sure so far is that this isn't a must watch.

Weak Recommendation

SERVAMP
Megan "Queenira" Z

Maihru Shota hasn’t always had it easy. Adopted by his uncle after his mother was hit by a car he lives by the motto that simple is best. So to keep up with this he adopted a little black cat named Kuro. However after hearing about a vampire rumor from his friends he heads home. Instead of finding his new pet cat he finds a boy lounging around watching Tv. The boy reveals himself to be a vampire but rather than being out for blood he just wants to lounge around. However he warns Maihru not to say his name.

Of course this is a shonen series so Maihru has to open his yap. Thus Kuro and Maihru are bound. Okay well bound for 24 hours unless Kuro has some of Maihru’s blood. So when shit hits the fan and Maihru’s friends get attacked by a vampire magician Kuro becomes Maihru’s servamp, or servant vampire. Now bound together as Eve and Servamp they must stop Tsubaki the “eighth servamp”.  All Tsubaki wants is war, a war that will cause the Servamps to come together and finally face what their teacher wants.

Welcome to my guilty pleasure. Servamp is not the greatest show on earth. At points the animation from Brains Base can go from absolutely stellar to utter shit. But god damn if this show isn’t a ton of fun. This is probably what Seraph of the End and Bungou Stray Dogs will be for me this season. I can admit this show is a bit all over place tone wise. One second we can have Maihru reliving his grief and Alice confronting his painful lot in life as an Eve. In the next scene we can have Snow Lilly stripping and Maihru and Kuro’s working guy and lazy bones routine.

However let’s talk about the real star of this show. Tsubaki. Captain Melancholy here is our villain and god damn is he the fucking best. You know when I heard Tatsuhia Suzuki was in this I didn’t expect him to be captain ham. You know that’s why we usually cast Mamoru Miyano or Hiroshi Kaymiya. Needless to say he had me hook line and sinker. Granted I really enjoy most of the characters so far.

Alice is our snobby rich guys, Snow Lilly is captain stripper and Kuro is an absolutely adorable in cat form and human form. However Maihru is far more hit and miss with me. He can be really interesting but at the same time he seems way to vanilla for what this show wants to be. Is he a broken bird or is he just earnest? I honestly wish the show would pick already.

So far Servamp’s worst attribute is the opening and ending. They feel totally disjointed from the show. While I do love me some Oldcodex this may be my least favorite song of theirs and the ending theme feels like it’s trying to ride really hard of the success of Blood Blockade Battlefront’s “Sugar Song to Bitter Step”

Honestly if you’re looking to shut your brain off and have some silly, supernatural fun Servamp is right up your alley. If you’re also a huge seiyuu person this is also you’re show too.

Solid Recommendation

sweetness & lightning
Megan "Queenira" Z

You know when I was told by someone I really needed to watch Sweetness and Lightning I was going to wait a few weeks then marathon the show. They told me it was like the baby of Usagi Drop and Food Wars. However than couldn’t be farther from the truth.

On its own Sweetness and Lightning is its own animal.  I find myself having a hard time describing the feeling I have watching the series. Personally I feel an odd connection to the series. Though not raised by a single parent, but adopted, food has always been a thing to my folks and I. My mother passing on meals for me to learn to cook is something she looks forward to as I enter making it around the sun for almost 25 years. This year it was how to cook a corn beef. But enough about me.

The series revolves around Kohei Inuzuka, a single dad who only lost his wife six months ago, and his attempts to raise his daughter Tsumugi. Kohei sucks at cooking so he always makes prepared meals. However when he goes with his little girl to view the cherry blossoms he runs into a crying girl. As they speak about food it puts the thought into Tsumugi’s head. When your daughter asks for a home cooked meal like mom use to make you take that kid to find it. At the restaurant he calls he meets Kotori Iida.

Kotroi’s doesn’t have it easy either as her mother is all over and never home. When the pair meet and have some pot rice the gears of fate are set in motion.  Kohei wants to learn to cook to make Tsumugi happy and Kotori wants to have a family over.

The show manages to have this balance of cheer and humor with just a tinge of sadness. It is clear that while Tsumugi may have moved on that part of Kohei has not. Even better is that Kohei’s lack of cooking skills doesn’t come from a place of sexism but rather a lack of emotional understanding. To him he can’t understand that cooking a meal is a form of self-presentation. Yet he’s clearly willing to put his lack of understanding aside for his daughter’s happiness, even if it means putting himself in an awkward position.

For Kotori these meals mean having some sort of family. Unlike Tsumugi and Kohei food seems to drive a small wedge between Kotori and her mother. Yet at the same time it seems like the saving grace between the pair I enjoy that each episode feels like coming home and watching your own family cook as you’re off in the back taking care of homework or watching a show.

And much of the praise for the show can be given to how Tsumugi is written. She doesn’t seem too mature for her age or seem gross. She has these moments of acting a lot like my own four year old niece Aubrey when she draws and how she’s fixated on her magical girl show. I also enjoy how this anime even makes her scribble drawings look real.

My biggest hopes on the show are more of a not creepy development between Kohei and Kotori as well as meeting more people to join into the meals. Get your sweet tooth ready!

Strong Recommendation

Taboo-Tattoo
Andrew Lepselter

To my honest to god surprise, this show is in fact, NOT based off of a light novel, instead just being a manga adaptation. From first glance I almost was positive it was in fact a Light Novel, just from the grounds that it’s premise is based around powers that are a giant mixture of science and magic all at once, and the fact that it’s J.C. Staff may have played a part in assuming that too.

As for the show itself, first 2 episodes on it’s kind of cheesy and corny, with a really weird and kinda ugly aesthetic presentation in terms of visual and character designs in a way I don’t typically see. Lot of your run of the mill tropes at play, with some dumb gags and edge visuals. It’s Action/Magic which isn’t always a combination I agree with, but I can’t say I mind it too much here. Action was pretty fun, the main character is a fighter without being too much of a perfect badass, the side characters seem fun and amusing, and when all is said and done, I actually had some fun watching it. By no means is this what I’d call a treasure, or a diamond in the rough (not with the visuals anyways) but it’s a pretty fun time, more than I expected it to be at least. It seems like it’s not breaking new grounds, but at the very least it doesn’t seem like the show in question is going to be hurting my intelligence. So while that may not sound like kind words to sum, this was a bit of a fun little mess that was less trashy than I anticipated it being from the premise, and a level of stupid fun I kind of find charming.

Weak Recommendation

Tales of Zestiria the X
Joe Straatmann

This was the series I was most apprehensive about. I've played about half of the Tales games and I find one of the least interesting aspect to be the story. All the tweaks to the trademarked battle system as well as the character interactions beyond the plot carried them far more than the usual draw of an epic yarn. Especially concerning is the game's storyline was considered "meh" even by those who greatly enjoy the Tales game stories.Surprisingly enough, Zestiria the X has some amazing moments. Perhaps it's more accurate to say the series has an opening episode with exceptional moments. The prologue has enough fantastic visuals, action, and emotional impact to give a recommendation for right now. Don't be surprised if it goes downhill quickly, though. This is why you read the review instead of looking straight at the recommendation and moving on.

I must confess I have not played the game this is based on as I am currently trying to get through Tales of Xillia and Tales of Graces f because BANDAI NAMCO DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THAT I DON'T HAVE THE RESOURCES FOR 1-2 OF THESE TIME SINKS A YEAR, MUCH LESS THEIR HALF-ASSED SEQUELS! From what I can understand, the prologue is a bit of a departure in focusing on a supporting character, warrior princess Alisha. She is working to find the cause behind destructive tornadoes, disease, and strange black clouds that form above cities and just stay there. The story does have its missteps, like overuse of mythology. Alisha wants to keep a tradition alive where people try to draw a sword protected by the Lady of the Lake in order to find the next Shepard who last existed in the days of Seraphim as recorded in Asgardian ruins. You can just hear the darts hit the mythological board during those story conferences. That said, it's a tightly written episode that wastes no scenes, establishing the character, conflict, and the mission, moving through to a knockout of an climax. It definitely helps that this series is beautiful.

You might remember ufotable did the ill-fated adaptation of God Eater. While it was a mess on most every level, it still had outstanding visuals when it wasn't trying too hard with Tony Scott editing class, and they continue that tradition here. Apparently, the Tales 20th anniversary project is flush with cash as every detail is painstakingly put into the background, sequences are full of digital crane shots, and luscious wide shots give it an unforgettable look. I know the best trick for a craftsman is to make 3D CG blend seamlessly with everything else, but the amount of effort put into every side of the presentation makes me forgive them. The climactic sequence of a tornado in the desert as Alisha lands smack dab in the middle of the darkness that threatens the land is kind of breathtaking, especially the final shots that envelope her into the pure size of what she's dealing with.

The second episode is a more earthbound affair, and it's a busy one in its first five minutes. Alisha finds some ruins, has no time for despair as she's followed by the silly mascot of the title, is attacked by a giant mass of bugs, and falls through some water that is levitating on the ceiling of the ruins. It slows down when we're introduced to the main characters Sorey and Mikleo, the much more typical teenage protagonists of these things. They are ordered to stay away from some ruins, so by RPG law, they do, causing a huge disruption in the process. Eventually, Motoi Sakuraba's music which combines ethereal music with synth choir kicks in, reminding us of how many damn game she's scored that have the exact same music (Vakyrie ProfileStar OceanBaten Kaitos, etc. etc. etc.) This is far more what I was expecting. Like I said, this series has the potential to go downhill quickly. Even this was pleasant enough, though.

Solid Recommendation

This Art Club Has A Problem!
David O'Neil

The thing is, I actually read a good amount of the This Art Club Has a Problem manga before this anime was even announced, and was quite the fan of it too. In fact, you may remember me praising it highly in one of our Rainy Day Reading podcasts a while back, as everyone in the podcast seemingly lost interest when I clarified it was cheesy slice of life fluff- okay, I'm getting ahead of myself. Sort of. The point is, being a fan of the manga, it really just came down to whether it was properly adapted, and luckily, it has been VERY properly adapted.

The show is at its core, a slice of life comedy. It is about a school club, and the daily shenanigans of that school club, and that's pretty much it. There is a subplot surrounding the main character, Usami, having an unrequited crush on the main guy, Uchimaki, but there's about as much actual romantic progress in it as Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (as in next to none). The first episode primarily focuses on Usami and Uchimaki, along with the sort of relationship they have. Uchimaki bolsters surprising artistic talent, but utilizes it exclusively for drawing cute anime girls, referring to them his "wives" (though translated to waifu here, which is a pretty fair localization) as Usami constantly scolds him for such irreverent behavior, even though she secretly has feelings for him. The focus of the show so far is primarily on the humor, and it succeeds at that just as well as the manga did. The jokes are good, the visual comedy is spot on, and there's plenty of entertaining cartoony reactions and faces to go around. The humor may not be for everyone, it does lean towards the ecchi side things at times, but at least in my view the characters are likable enough and the delivery is strong enough that I can overlook the occasional upskirt joke.

Although the comedy is the focus here, that doesn't mean the show is devoid of an emotional aspect. In fact, the dramatic side of things is where the anime has really elevated the source material. The show is from the team behind the second season of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, including the director and animation director, and similar to that show when they emotional pay off comes around, an enormous amount of detail is put into the lighting, framing, and animation, to make it hit as hard as it possibly can. Again, the focus here is the comedy so it's hardly anything tear-jerking, but the sweet moments are made even sweeter thanks to the top notch execution of the talented animators and excellent direction. So if you can overlook a bit of ecchi here and there, This Art Club Has a Problem looks to be a great adaptation of the manga, bringing the crazy sense of humor and endearing characters to life with flying colors.

Strong Recommendation

Time Travel Girl
Andrew Lepselter

Anime is quite the oddity sometimes isn't it?

I must say, I've seen a lot of the same old same old genres come out of anime for a while now, as well as all the recurring trends and "in" things that seem to be replicated in many shows. Hell, by all means Time Travel isn't a new thing at all for anime (hell it's became one of the newer trends with stuf like Re:ZERO, Erased, etc.) but I don't think I've seen a real educational anime in quite a long, long time. You know, if ever.

Or at least....I think that's what they're trying to go for?

Sequence of events for this show is odd. We start from flashbacks to scientist dad, to showing importance of her dad being a scientist, then the main character reveals she's living with a pastry chef for a mother, then her friend is really invested in giving this guy she likes a birthday cake so she asks her friend for help. Then they walk home, walk into him doing sports stuff. Then he suddenly gets hit with a baseball and gets SMACKED IN THE CHEST SO HARD HE GOES INTO CARDIAC ARREST! Then her friend's brother comes along, gives him CPR, then her friend who really likes the kid goes all tsun-tsun and just smashes the head of the kid, who JUST WENT INTO CARDIAC ARREST MIND YOU, because oh noes he thinks I like him how embarrasing! Then they go to the brother's science bedroom, and the amulet on Mari (main girl's named Mari btw) and she teleports to 1600, gives a lady a heart attack from her time travelling, and repliactes teaching CPR before meeting with William Goether.

Honestly, I kind of had to write all of this down because this really was a strange spectacle to behold. Perhaps this is a show about learning and teaching the values and importance of scientific acheivements and stuff, but it's also trying to be it's own weird anime thing too. It's got some funny and expressive faces, and I found myself actually amused by the 1600's European woman getting embarrased by a Japanese girl's "risque school uniform."

The show looks odd aesthetically, and I honest to god cannot say where or what they are going to do with the premise like this, but...this one is just so odd and, well, perplexing in that I can't actually read what it's trying to do or what it wants to accomplish that I think that in itself is enthralling me to keep watching more.

Also as a side, I appreciate how they actually acknowledge the whole language barrier thing as they just suddenly understand and hear their own native tongues coming out of the other people. Nice little work around to that inconsistency I was going to point out. So good job show.

Solid Recommendation

Tsukiuta: The Animation
Megan "Queenira" Z

Have you ever watched a show and felt yourself right there in that moment? And when you’re in that moment you feel yourself slowly looking into the depths of the abyss as if some creeping sense of self-aware dread is slowly creeping over you and no matter how much you want to distance yourself from it you slowly are getting pulled into it? Welcome to me watching Tsukiuta The Animation the story of two rival idol groups Six Gravity and Procellarum and their daily lives.

Openly, thanks to a decent amount of friends, I’ve become addicted to learning seiyuu names and listening to them sing and dance. I will attribute the biggest rise to this to Kuroko no Basket of all things and when I saw Ono Kensho was in this I let out a squeal that probably set off every dog in a five mile radius. This show was already set up for my own personal enjoyment.

And god did I want to succeed but there was so much missing. Sure all the cute boys got introduced but not a single one had a truly appealing look. It also doesn’t help Studio Perrot isn’t showing off its best animation. Hell this show at its best looks like Tokyo Ghoul Root A at its worst. I have to question the creators of this series and their choice of animation studios here. Also our good friends CGI song time is back. Granted it’s at least better than the first go of Love Lives. I get this has music from the Vocaloid team but even the songs in the first two episodes truly didn’t appeal to me.

I also find it hard to even see a plot or even some driving force other than look at the pretty boys dance. So far it seems like each episode are one off stories centered around each of the twelve guys but that lends itself to certain flaws. If these guys are generic or unappealing you’ll lose the audience’s interest. So far the first two boys chosen, Kakeru and Iku, seem okay. Kakeru wasn’t given half as much personality as the one off character of the episode which highlights the largest flaw of the series.

With Iku at least there seems like some sort of personality though. I enjoyed the fact his episode was about his struggles between being at a track meet and his idol time. It also doesn’t help I’, slightly biased here because Iku is voiced by my favorite Seiyuu.

However Tsukiuta doesn’t stand out at all. Compared to the other idol show this season in Love Live Sunshine you can see the clear disconnect. Where Love Live shines in giving the girls vibrant personalities and designs Tsukiuta feels bland and disjointed. Overall it’s harmless if not a bit disappointing.

Weak Recommendation

Shorts

Banayan
Andrew Lepselter

Anime has been leading up to this. The moment where every person on this planet was united under the banner of Bananya. A show so perfectly pure, cute, and charming that no one can complain. Like, what can you even say bad about it. It's cute cats inside of bananas having a good ol' time. The only thing to argue is who is Best Bananya. 

So far Baby Bananya and Long-Hair Bananya lead the ranks of the Banana Wars. 

Anyways, this show is pure and perfect and pretty bite-sized (yes I went there) to boot. 3 minute episodes of cute kitty bananas. What more could you ever want?

Solid Recommendation

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
Joe Straatmann

Saiki K... psychic... I get. Thankfully, the jokes in these shorts are a little better than that. but the opening pair of episodes left me with a more sour taste than even the title pun can provide. Most reviews are subjective, but some more than others. You see, title character Kusuo has parents that argue to point of almost going for the throat, breaking windows and literally cooking mis-matched shoes for their spouse to eat. They secretly love each other, but they also feel the end to horrifically lash out.  As a person whose parents went through a nasty, bitter divorce, this is not funny, especially when Kusuo acts out with large-scale violence. But you know, dear reader, I've probably laughed at something you find deeply offensive, so let's just leave this as "duly noted" and move on.

The series is about Kusuo who was born with weird pink hair and enough mental abilities to make Professor X cower in fear. These abilities actually ruined his life because he finds no satisfaction to success and if he uses his powers too much, he ruins the lives of others, such as when he had an incredible streak of rock-paper-scissors wins that caused a kindergarten teacher to quit. But this isn't REALLY about the ironic misery of a teen. This is secretly about a character who is self-aware he's the main character in an anime and trying to navigate through the various cliched cast of various manga and anime. He even tells the audience to read the manga when there's something the four-minute short doesn't have time for. We have the dumb punk, the main character of a shoujo manga about sweet romantic, romantic love, the main character of a shoujo manga that exists to stuff the ego of the reader with the prettiest self-insert character. The best one is the character who thinks he's the hero of a shounen manga imbued with amazing powers and the only one to destroy the secret organization that rules the world. He's actually an idiot, but his idiocy is imbued with intense transitions and even his own theme music at times. The rest are hit-and-miss, half of them going for the easy, predictable target. What bogs it down is the need for you to KNOW it's smart, constantly throwing in self-aware dialogue that calls attention to how clever they are, when really, they're explaining the joke, making it unfunny. Still, it's serviceable if you need four-minutes that will make you lightly chuckle at least a couple times.

Weak Recommendation

The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi
Thom "Tama" Langley

-Shuffles pages- Right. Uh. Yes. I suppose it's only right that as Infinite Rainy Day's BL reviewer, and moreover, a fudanshi (rotten boy) myself, I should review this...(thanks!) Ah! The fudanshi! That rarest of breeds! Yes, it's difficult to be a male yaoi fan, and, as the hero of this short first episode soon discovers, even more difficult to be a straight male yaoi fan. Ahem. Being a short-length episode (excluding ED, this episode is just three minutes long) the jokes, mostly at the expense of our hero, Sakamoto, come thick and fast. First, that familiar situation-having to buy BL manga-obviously Sakamoto hasn't heard of Amazon, as he traverses first the difficulty of going into the BL section (many larger Japanese book-stores place BL manga in its own section as normal bookshops may dedicate a section to LGBT fiction), and then the difficulty and awkwardness of buying BL manga, especially from a male cashier, especially if said cashier makes assumptions based on your purchases.

Discussing this with his friend, Sakamoto explains his reason for enjoying BL manga as "admiring another's happiness", much as many fujoshi enjoy BL for the same reason, before bemoaning the stereotyping of fudanshi as homosexual; he then notes, through his friend becoming annoyed through him using an experience of his own, a difficulty with BL fans, twisting uncomfortable events such as being groped on public transport, into the basis for stories-whilst I may be reading too much into this, there's almost a sense of the series critiquing BL fans (much as 'shippers are in the Western world) who write works based upon real people for their own pleasure. The episode concludes with another merry side-swipe at stereotyping people based upon their tastes, with Sakamoto assumed to be a girl by many of his friends on SNS (a twitter-style sorta thing) due to his love of BL and traditionally feminine things, like cake. He thus endevours to make more fudanshi friends!

The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi is a refreshingly smart, funny show, cocking a snook both at the BL fandom's rather rigid and feminine coded spaces, and somewhat concerning behaviour, as well as the equally rigid ideals of Japanese masculinity; the one downside to this show is its length and obviously small budget, with relatively little happening outside of small, often limited animation vignettes. That said, it's a good little, if slightly niche-interest, show.

Weak Recommendation

Mahou Shoujo? Naria Girls
Jonathan Kaharl

This is baffling. They basically made Who's Life Is It Anyway animated, and it does not work in the slightest. The actresses are trying, bless their hearts, but this concept was doomed the moment the animation style was chosen. There seems to be a similar program used here like you'd see on RWBY, and it's just as hideous and robotic in movement. Limbs crop through body parts and solid objects at random, and it becomes clear very quickly no one actually gave a shit about animating this. So it's an audio thing first and foremost, fine, but the improv just isn't that funny. It runs out of gas pretty quickly, and the girls can't seem to form a good joke most of the time. This is just embarrassing, and I really hope it doesn't hurt the careers of the actresses involved.

No Recommendation

Ozmafia!!
Megan "Queenira" Z

Apparently this is a series based off a game. If I hadn’t looked this up on Anichart I would have honestly had no idea. On top of that this is a game based of the Wizard of Oz. None of that is even apparent in the series. It follows Crimson, a hapless transfer student to a school. So far his teachers Caramia and Kyrie are the only ones who I can tell from the story. Caramia is the cowardly lion and Kyrie is the Scarecrow.

However this series has little of anything to do with the Wizard. Instead it’s about the helpless crimson. So far he’s gotten lost and failed a test. Seriously this isn’t even a series intended for new fans it seems but rather those who play the Ozmafia game. The style reminds me sadly of Diabolk Loves who doesn’t bode well for it. Overall if you play Ozmafia this will be for you. For the rest of us you’d be far better to just go watch another episode of a show you care about.

No Recommendation

Show by Rock!! Short!!
David O'Neil

A while back, you may recall me covering a show for this site called Show By Rock. An adaptation of the rhythm game of the same name, it was kind of a mixed bag of a show. On the one hand it had some fun characters and entertaining over the top humor, but on the other hand the plot was beyond trite and it really dragged on whenever the humor wasn't at its strongest. Now the show has made something of a brief return before its eventual second season, in the form of Show By Rock Short. And while there certainly isn't a ton to go off of from a single three minute long episode, I still feel as if I can make a pretty solid judgement call in terms of whether or not people should watch this show, through a single question. That question is: Are you a big fan of Show By Rock's characters? If the answer to this is no, there is no rational reason you should ever watch this. If its yes, sure, why the heck not. It's three minutes of the show's characters being random goofballs, and that's it. It's a pretty slapdash effort in all honesty, even reusing animation from the original series here and there. It clearly only exists to fill the void until the show comes back proper, but if you are one of those people eagerly awaiting just that, this'll tide you over I suppose. But if you haven't seen the original show, or didn't enjoy the original show, there is nothing at all for you here.

Weak Recommendation

Second Opinions

91 Days

Joe: The second episode strengthened my confidence in this series. The first one had fantastic opening drama and the credits held a great atmosphere, but something bugged me, whether it was the weird secret speakeasy that's in a huge church in the middle of an island, or the generic mob violence to close it out, maybe they were biting off more than they could chew. Nah. The second episode is full of mob media conventions (Don speaking to people in a dark room during a family wedding, secretly being friends with the mob you want to destroy, etc.), but the high-impact violence and drama are served with huge amounts of confidence and precision. That's not to mention they know how to weave a mean cliffhanger. If you want a pure drama that's for adults (and not because boobies), watch the hell out of this. I don't know when you're going to get the next opportunity. Strong Recommendation

Jonathan: Fantastic! Very well handled crime drama that throws a monkey wrench into affairs by the second episode, has great direction and animation, and the cast have very effective reactions with each other that say a ton about who they are and what they've been through. One of the most promsing shows of the season, easily. Strong Recommendation

Amanchu!

Joe: One of my long-awaited shows, an adaptation from the mangaka of Aria with many of the people who did the wonderful anime version on board. It takes a bit to get used to the green-haired girl in this ouvre's color scheme being the extremely outgoing extrovert, but Hikari is absolutely charming as one of those girls who is a gigantic ball of eccentricity that rams straight into conformity-hammering high school. I'm happy the general population is admiring the more comedic face changes and weird cat design from Aria, even if the cats are no longer from terraformed Mars. We'll see how the world of diving compares with life as a gondola guide on another planet. It might be the one shortcoming this has. Solid Recommendation

Jonathan: This is really gay and really cute, thumbs up. Strong Recommendation

Ange Vierge

Jonathan: Boring garbage. Amazing how dull a show made up mostly of nude bathing scenes is. The worst part is the multiverse angle is wasted by very personality devoid character designs and the bad art style. It's just the most generic anime thing I have ever seen. No Recommendation

Bananya

Joe: It's friggen bananas that are actually cats animated as adorably as possible with cute worldplay. If that sounds like some of the best 3-minutes you can have, it is. If you think this something meant to induce vomiting, it is. You know who which one you are. Act accordingly. Strong Recommendation if this is your bag, baby, No Recommendation if it is not

Jonathan: Yes. Watch This

Days

Joe: This sports anime is good enough, with a surprising amount of encouragement in a series about a kid with no experience in soccer trying to join the high school soccer team. The amount of pain he has to go through is really concerning though. Some anime insist determination, even in the face of constant, body-destroying injury, is the best policy. The poor main character here has already bled through his shoe and smashed his head into a goalpost to show he's good enough, and he isn't even that far in. It's good, but I'm dropping it because I simply don't have time for it. Solid Recommendation

Hitorinoshita – The Outcast

Jonathan: A genuine trash show. Trash premise, trash production, trash morals, trash everything. Which is why I'm still watching. It's that right sort of bad I needed. It also has a knife wielding girl that humiliates the fuckboy lead and makes him her slave after stripping him naked, so that's good. Very Weak Recommendation

Mob Psycho 100

Jonathan: Really promising dark comedy. The animation is incredible, and the abstract bits are just a delight to watch. Strong Recommendation

The Morose Mononokean

Jonathan: I watched the first episode and instantly forgot most of it. No Recommendation

orange

Joe: Hiroshi Hamasaki is pretty amazing. I wouldn't expect the director of Steins;Gate to be able to make a straight shoujo manga adaptation so authentic and quietly beautiful. The art design is gorgeous without feeling artificial and the story about a girl receiving a letter from herself ten years in the future effortlessly captures the insecurities of being a teenager to where even when you get a step-by-step guide to fixing the future, your're still not quite sure of yourself. I would be looking way far ahead if I were her, though. I kind of love this one. Strong Recommendation

Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars

Jonathan: It's really gay and has giant robots. If this does not appeal to you, you won't like it. If it does, you will. Solid/Weak Recommendation

SERVAMP

Jonathan: It's like Blue Exorcist but not as good. But also much more gay. Eh, mixed bag. Weak Recommendation

sweetness & lightning

Jonathan: Watch this if you are a human being. Strong Recommendation

Taboo-Tattoo

Jonathan: Somehow very well produced and an embarrassment to the art of animation at the same time. That's certainly an accomplishment. The edgy dark powers story does not inspire confidence either. Probably going to end up being garbage, but for weirdly interesting reasons. No Recommendation

Tama: "Nice concept, shame about the execution" sums this show up pretty well. Taboo Tattoo is another of those "Bland but likeable hero gets powers, is recruited by shadowy organisation somehow mostly staffed by older-than-they-look girls who wear less clothing than they need to (who are mildly obsessed with the protagonist) and is somehow the chosen one/magic maguffin wielder/greatest-thing-since-bread-came-sliced" sort of series. How bad it is is pretty much revealled inside its first two minutes when, pretty much out of nowhere, our hero is giften a magic transfer tattoo that gives him supernatural powers for rescuing a guy from a bunch of thugs. Yup. Our entire show premise, the very reason our hero gets caught up in this, is pretty much glossed over and merrily shunted past before the OP even rolls. From here...well, let's play a drinking game. Our hero, so bland that he has perhaps the dullest design of any protagonist this season, an orphan who knows nothing but martial arts, who is literally named "Justice" (no, really), [takes swig] is promptly stalked and beaten [takes swig] up by Izzy, a badass sorta looking girl who under her badass longcoat is wearing less clothing than Lara Croft [takes swig]. From here, we get your typical first episode World Events infodump, America is revealled to be the bad guy, and the tattoos are created there. From here, Izzy is revealled to be working for the Tattoo Retrieval wing of the US army [takes swig], an American Mafia member rocks up spoiling for a fight, and Justice's triggerless tattoo is revealled to be some whispered ultimate Macguffin. [Takes swig, collapses on floor.] I don't often dislike series this much from a first episode, but Taboo Tattoo is so painfully, generically by the numbers that I really don't need to watch a second episode. Avoid. Now where can I find a new liver... No Recommendation

Time Travel Girl

Jonathan: Bishonen Benjamin Franklin. Nuff said. Weak Recommendation

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