In which I sat down for previews/trailers/teasers/what have yous, and offered a bunch of Scalding Hot Takes* in reaction.
(*more like Lukewarm Fence Sitter’s Takes, really)
This time around, I watched more preview video than usual, including for the stuff that I normally outright ignore. It’s an attempt to see the offerings in a more open-minded way, and perhaps gain some additional insight beyond just a key image and anichart summary (especially since I know I wouldn’t have the time nor energy to sit through the actual first episodes of at least 80% of this…). Well, my preview marathon doesn’t end up being especially enlightening or surprising, but I did have some hearty chuckles and gain a much better feel on a few shows. In any case, it’s pretty interesting to see the current trends and patterns of anime industry/studio in packaging their products.
Apart from possibly Ace Attorney (I know), no other spring show I’m watching is carrying over, so I think I could watch up to four or five full-length shows from the summer. Bypassing things that exist far outside my genre and aesthetic wheelhouse that they might as well hang a sign saying “NO RAVEN ALLOWED”, as well as sequels to shows I didn’t watch, here are the contenders this time:
I’ll Call You, Maybe. Probably Not.
The kind of stuff that I may want to watch given the absolutely right occasion and/or mood, but most likely wouldn’t fit in my plan, barring tremendous wave of positive information or words of mouth. So yeah, the wait-and-see menu:
Amaama to Inazuma/Sweetness and Lightning (TMS Entertaiment, seinen manga adaptation, ‘single father cum math teacher cooks with his daughter and female student’)
There’s a subset of enthusiasts for cute and heart-warming story about single/surrogate parenting, and this is also sprinkled with doses of food porn. So, basically Bunny Drop meets Koufuku Graffiti. Hmm… I dunno, the preview kind of overdid the daughter’s “dawww ain’t she’s so pweciouuss” vibe, while everything about that “…and female student” bit gave me a very significant pause. Feels a bit too calculated for me, but we’ll see.
Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan/The Disaster of PSI Kusuo Saiki (J.C. Staff, shounen manga adaptation, ‘esper boy’s daily high school life’)
A Shounen Jump property, this will go head-to-head directly with another esper comedy in Mob Psycho 100, which already had the upper hand thanks to ONE’s stronger brand recognition. FWIW, I like what I saw from the trailer. It has a pleasant easygoing vibe, and the main character has good potential for some deadpan humor (I already chuckled at his first line). Doubt this would make any significant wave, though.
Momokuri (Satelight, webmanga adaptation, ‘first relationship from a high schooler girl’s perspective’)
I remembered reading this good break-down on the manga (http://comicsalliance.com/momokuri-readers-guide/), which sounds like a cute and fluffy rom-com with unexpected amount of authenticity and insight on teenage sexuality. It’s actually already been adapted into an ONA (24 episodesx12 minutes), and as I understand it they’re just going to use the existing material for the TV broadcast this summer after adjusting the format (13 episodesx24 minutes).
Amanchu! (J.C. Staff, manga adaptation, ‘friendship between two scuba diving high school girls’)
Looks like a true blue iyashikei, this one. Taking place in the coastal town of Ito, Shizuoka, the trailer heavily features water, the two main girls pulling off many silly faces, water, high school life, more water, many shades of blue, and… whoa, that’s a very cool, if impractical, uniform robe thingy these kids are wearing. The manga author, Kozue Amano, is also the creator of Aria series, a similarly water-themed SoL much renowned for its tranquilizing property. I’m not in need for water healing magic at the moment, but this does look like a strong representation of its particular sub-genre.
Mob Psycho 100 (BONES, manga adaptation, ‘esper high-schooler comedy’)
Another one of ONE’s work, but while it also looks like an ensemble action/comedy, I’ve been told that it’s a different beast to One Punch Man. Yusuke Murata isn’t around to smoothen and make ONE’s art design more palatable to general audience, for one. I’m not as big into OPM as most, so I wouldn’t mind. The preview sure looks like it’s still milking OPM’s success, though: lots of emphasis on explosions, psychic barrier, and visual fireworks. Gotta say that it comes off like flashy nonsense to me, and the ‘cold fish’ look and mannerism of the main character doesn’t help. However, the staff is certainly top notch material: Yuzuru Tachikawa is a rising star director who have impressed me a lot with his debut work (Death Parade), and accomplished veteran music composer Kenji Kawai is also on board.
Berserk (Millepensee, manga adaptation, ‘big medieval guy swings sword around’)
“Massive, thick heavy, and far too rough. It’s too big to be called a sword.” With those ominous innuendo, the Berserk preview descends on me with… what looks like to be a promo video of a hack-and-slash game for PlayStation. Dodgy CG visual aside, I’m still not sure if this is a thing I really want to watch. While I’m not familiar with the manga at all, I did watch the 1997 anime series (depicting the famous Golden Age arc) and certainly like it; it’s a pretty compelling Shakesperean low fantasy tragedy that could totally work as its own self-contained thing. This sequel series already seems like a downgrade in terms of aesthetic, and is probably no longer about things I dig from the previous series, e.g. medieval power play shenanigans and Guts going “GRIFFITH I THOUGHT WE’RE BFFs!?” Need more info.
Orange (TMS Entertainment, shoujo manga adaptation, ‘girl receives a letter from her future self, telling her to help a classmate.’)
It’s here because I’ve read the manga, and I don’t love it enough to the extent that I want to re-experience it in anime form, at least not this soon. In any case, it’s worth a recommendation. This is a time rewind narrative without any action/suspense flavoring, focusing instead on interpersonal bond between likable teenagers. It’s about helping out and providing a safe place to belong to a very troubled young man. Being a shoujo romance, there are some genre tropes on display here, but none of them is too annoying—unless you take your shipping very, very, seriously.
I do have some doubt if it could remain consistently engaging throughout an entire cour , as the romance and characters can feel a bit too milquetoast at times. However, a strong art direction could really elevate the adaptation, and the preview video looks promising enough. I like the new look of the characters, and there’s a great number of establishing shots that convey the original work’s strong sense of place (the original author, Ichigo Takano, put a lot of work in re-creating the scenery and landmarks of Matsumoto city, Nagano) and bittersweet nostalgia.
I’m Gonna Give You A Try
Things that interest me enough to at least watch an episode (provided proper licensing and all) and see if I want more afterward. I doubt I’d be able to watch all of these, but in the unlikely case that everything turns out awesome, I could save them up to be forgotten forever for later consumption.
Onara Gorou (ILCA, original series, ‘anthropomorphic fart solves everyday problems’)
In the ‘what the hell are they smoking’ category of premise, we have this.. well, whether you find this to be brilliant or repugnant says something about you, I guess. I’m honestly torn; Takashi Taniguchi is a clearly talented dude with some interesting (if outright unnerving) short-form work under his belt, and I’m all for creators who buck the trend with off-kilter ideas. But that thing there… talking and shaped liked that… is a serious test to the limit of my sensibility.
The preview video is certainly something else, playing out like a very, very, twisted version of Doraemon. Anyway, there’s no other short series this season that really caught my eye, although I’ll note that there’s one about ‘cat in a banana’ and another one about fudanshi.
Arslan Senki: Fuujin Ranbu (Lidenfilms, manga adaptation, ‘crown prince continues adventure in sea’)
I had my qualms for the first season of this adaptation from manga-based-on-fantasy-novel, mainly concerning character work, but I think I could give it another shot. Based on the trailer, it still has pedestrian animation for battle sequences and more characters on top of an already bloated cast, so the plot better be good enough to compensate. Fuujin Ranbu (=Frenzy of Dust) is the sixth title in the novel series, and there’s still plenty more to come in the timeline. However, reportedly this broadcast will only have eight episodes, so they’re probably only going to adapt story material from one or two novels—assuming Hiromu Arakawa’s take doesn’t deviate drastically, that is.
Hitori no Shita: The Outcast (Emon, web manhua adaptation, ‘college student encounters zombie infestation and mysterious swordswoman’)
This Japanese-Chinese co-production looks interesting to me, despite the relatively quiet buzz. I know nothing about the web manhua it’s based on, but the trailer doesn’t look half bad, giving the vibe of decent action/thriller series. It also features a badass girl slicin’ and dicin’ a bunch of jiangshi, framed through a variety of interesting camera angles (*and she doesn’t wear ridiculous asset-revealing outfit!). I won’t expect this to be extraordinary or anything like that, but it certainly has potential to be a solid show in the mold of Ajin/Parasyte.
Time Travel Girl: Mari, Waka, and the 8 Scientists (WAO World, original series, ‘two girls time travel and learn about science’)
We’re not exactly lacking in time travel anime stuff at the moment, but this slightly old-school looking anime feels more Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and less Erased/Steins;Gate. It’s based (loosely, I presume) on a 1983 educational book on scientific discovery, and gonna feature these eponymous eight: Gilbert, Franklin, Edison, Graham Bell, Hertz, Morse, Faraday, and Volta. You know, I think I’ll probably be in the right mood to at least try this one. No trailer seems to be out yet, though.
Fukigen na Mononokean/The Morose Mononokean (Pierrot Plus, manga adaptation, ‘boy has youkai stuck on him, asks for help from a guide to the next world’)
I’ve been noticing a surge of manga titles themed around a young man connecting with the spiritual world of youkai/ayakashi, presumably spurred by Natsume Yuujinchou’s success. This is one such title: Kiri Wazawa’s on-going work that’s also available digitally in Crunchyroll. Trailer indicates that it could be a fun whimsical times by deftly establishing the major players (Fluff Ball there could give Nyanko-sensei a run for his booze) and showing what coud be a vibrant world-building through emphasis on the spiritual realm.
Re:Life (TMS Entertainment, seinen manga adaptation, ‘sadsack salaryman takes medical experiment to revert to a high-schooler’s body’)
‘Rewinding time and reliving the past’ is the new ‘enrolled in magic academy’ , apparently. In the most unsurprising note, this one is also set in high school—goddamn, I wonder at times about the Japanese’s obsession with this establishment. In spite of the redundancy and obvious problematic possibility (the key images already show the main character flanked by two high-school girls, presumably oblivious of his true nature), I’ve heard convincing praises about the source material, though. So, let’s think positive without expecting too much. If it’s good, the timing couldn’t be better, since the manga is set to be published later this year in my country and I could transition there from the anime (which likely ends up incomplete).
91 Days (Shuka, original series, ‘young man infiltrates mafia group to avenge his family’)
I haven’t seen a single crime drama anime worth recommending, particularly one that’s realistic and deals with gangland warfare. On that note, the summary of 91 Days, a revenge drama set in Prohibition era, certainly caught my interest. The previews, however, suggested a sort of edgy and overwrought vibe that don’t necessarily agree with my taste, not least of which signified by the shot of main protagonist flashing a Psycho Grin (with a sound of clapping thunder on the background, no less). The other character design does look fine, so I’ll give this a one or two-episode trial to be able to properly gauge the tone.
Days (MAPPA, shounen manga adaptation, ‘high school footballing’)
The on-going Euro and Copa, as well as Leicester’s fairytale triumph last season, certainly keep me high in footballing (soccer) mood. This show looks like a straightforward execution of the shounen sport genre, with familiar tropes like the clumsy and hardworking main character, a genius rival character, and probably a bunch of matches and tournaments. The ‘slice of life’ label and background info on the main character imply that the character work isn’t going to be insignificant, though. What may increase its appeal, especially to non-fans of the genre, is the involvement of MAPPA; the studio earned some reputation for flashy visual execution, which is essential for any kind of sport series. Let’s hope it’s going to be much more exciting than its title, at the very least.
We’re Meant To Be
Handa-kun (Diomedea, seinen manga adaptation, ‘the portrait of a young calligrapher in his high school days’)
Okay, this is here solely because I love the author’s other work. Barakamon is a wonderful manga (and a decently adapted anime) that fully takes advantage of its rural setting to become a genuinely funny and heartwarming series. The reservation for this prequel series is obvious: it’s not just the lack of Naru (the manga is still incredibly strong without having to feature her all the time), it’s the change of location to the Most Overused Anime Setting Ever, with high-schoolers in place of the remarkably diverse islanders of Barakamon. Honestly, without prior familiarity of Satsuki Yoshino and the main character, I’d be completely uninspired by the flat (both thematically and visually) preview.
That said, Yoshino had bombarded me with excellent combination of comedic and dramatic moments, and I have faith in her writing. Plus, there’s Handa. He may lack a show-defining gimmick like a Sakamoto or a Tanaka, but he doesn’t need one. He’s just Handa, a complex, endearingly flawed, and socially awkward person who’s simultaneously inspiring and embarrassing. I’ve grown to love Handa as a character, and I’m looking forward to see him in his pre-Barakamon days. As Yoshino is running the Handa-kun manga concurrently with Barakamon, there’s a good chance some new characters here would eventually appear in the latter, too.
Cheer Danshi/Cheer Boys (Brains Base, novel adaptation, ‘college male cheerleading squad’)
Now, this is one whose preview video drastically amped up my attention. I know it takes a superhuman power (or a fujoshi) to distinguish between the many offerings of pretty boys and pretty idol boys shows this season, but Cheer Danshi really feels like it could be a special show that subverts our general presumption. There’s a lot to like from the preview, which is night to day when compared to the trailer of superficially similar show like last winter’s Prince of Stride. The boys show loads of personality already and don’t look like plastic bishounen, there’s emphasis on choreographic nuances, and the whole thing just gives a warm and very endearing vibe. The fact that it’s based on a novel, with a Shounen Jump+ manga tie-in to come, is also telling in itself.
Coincidentally, I recently read an article about British cheerleader boys and how they overcome prejudice to really embrace their passion, and this show stoked my interest in this subject matter even more. Make no mistake, Cheer Danshi is probably still going to be very gay (it’s set on a male university, after all), but in a way that’s more genuine and enlightening, if you catch my drift. So far, the main message that came across from this looks to be “hey, it’s okay for boys to be cheerleaders”, which is pretty awesome.
Battery (Zero-G, novel adaptation, ‘a new transfer student bonds with a classmate over baseball’)
Years ago, I read an American YA novel called Bull Catcher. It’s a story about kids who play baseball, but more than anything, it’s about life, growing up, and how you connect (and grow apart) with your friends over the game. I love it, and Battery looks like the Japanese equivalent of that story. It’s indeed also based on a novel, and the trailer is also reminiscent of Mitsuru Adachi’s (a master at combining slice of life comedy, sports narrative, and bildungsroman) works. Promises of nuanced character work and relationship, great setting in mountainous town, and strong atmosphere all around. Atsuko Asano won juvenile literature award for the novel, which is going to be adapted by veteran director Tomomi Mochizuki (whose resume included many prestigious shows like Here is Greenwood, House of Five Leaves, Twin Spica, and, er, Pupa). My top batter for the season.
As an aside, it’s interesting to see Noitamina’s rotation between prestige shows and populist ones like last season’s Kabaneri these days, as well as its exclusive agreement with Amazon Prime. All things considered, these may be necessary moves for its sustainability, and I’d be curious to see its eventual outcome and if it would have significant impact to the industry in the long run. It’s a subject that may require its own thread of discussion, particularly from a customer’s viewpoint that ideally (but unrealistically) would love to have all the shows provided by as few legal streaming provider as possible—sans region block, too.
Movies & OVAs
When and whether I would actually watch any of these stuff depends on a number of distribution-related factors, but I figure it’s still worth a mention here as the season looks to have a particularly interesting crop. The obvious highlight is Koe no Katachi (A Silent Voice), Kyoto Animation’s adaptation of Yoshitoki Oima’s hard-hitting manga. I would’ve loved to have Koe adapted into TV series for wider exposure if nothing else, but there are valid points raised about the manga that it could actually work better in shortened form by eliminating the less effective characters and sub-plots. I wrote a bunch about the manga (still waiting over here for the last volume, which should come next month), but suffice to say that I love it: it’s a brutally honest and insightful work that takes a realist’s approach to the characterization while still making the kids sympathetic. It may look like romance, but it’s not really, and I hope the movie follows suit in that regard. Should look super gorgeous, at the very least.
Speaking of gorgeous things, Makoto Shinkai also has a new movie in tow, Kimi no Na wa (Your Name). It… looks like every other Shinkai film, honestly: a boy and a girl standing apart, theme of space, and deeply melancholic monologue. I certainly appreciate Shinkai’s works (they’re worth seeing for their visual framing alone), but the ones I’ve seen are too thematically and tonally one-note for me to truly love. The trailer for this seems to show broader range of emotion for typical Shinkai protagonists, though.
On the subject of OVAs, there’s a couple that I would like to watch given the opportunity, from Akatsuki no Yona and Joker Game. The former is an adaptation of the Zeno arc, the backstory of the most mysterious dragon so far, and I haven’t got to that part in the manga yet. With the lack of news regarding any possible second season, this… maybe the last we’ll see of animated Yona for a long while, unfortunately. The Joker Game OVA is a bonus episode bundled with the DVD release, and takes place during the spies’ training period, which is a timeline that I’d love to see.
Kinema Citrus’ Under The Dog, a short cyberpunk thriller film/pitch demo, is interesting for its history alone. It’s successfully funded through Kickstarter and at one point planned to be 26-episode TV series, but troubled development and a lot of hubris got on the way. As for the project itself, it’s basically a spiritual successor to the likes of Akira and Ghost in The Shell ; Swedish super-agent girl in elite Japanese anti-terrorist unit kicks some asses, with the trailers showing glimpses of mouth-watering animation and sound design. The August release is apparently exclusive for project backers before a wider release at some point, presumably. To be honest, all the backroom drama makes me very skeptical about the eventual final product, but it’s worth keeping an eye for in any case.
One Last Thing That May Not Be Anime (?), but Looks Pretty Cool Regardless
Stop motion puppet wuxia with crazy elaborate character design! Where do I sign up? Thunderbolt Fantasy is collaboration between renowned Taiwanese company Pili and screenwriter Gen Urobuchi, the latter being a big fan of the former’s shows. Pili is a very popular producer of puppet drama shows in Taiwan, using cutting edge animation to enhance the presentation of its lovingly crafted puppets, and I’ve been quite curious about their work. TF seems a like a great gateway in that regard, and watching stoic-faced puppets performing gravity-defying stunts while ‘acting’ in a cheesy melodramatic fantasy plot should be great times. Also, it gets to my nostalgic weak spot by featuring a T.M. Revolution theme song.
Whew, that’s a lot more than I thought. Er, thanks if you’re reading all that, and have a nice summer!