As we draw closer to the beginning of the summer anime season, there’s one thing that stands out as a glaring concern for many anime viewers: we aren’t done with most of our series from the Spring season! As usual for me, I wound up with a pile of new series that I slowly whittled down over the course of the season, both because of their own failings…and to make room for next season.
With this article series, I’ve decided to go into detail on which shows I decided to keep and which ones I chose to let go. Can I keep the number reasonable before summer smacks me with it’s own anime? Let’s see!
YU-NO: In YU-NO, main character Takuya Arima is a high school student who recently had his father, a known historian, vanish mysteriously. While on vacation, Takuya receives a note from his father talking about the existence of parallel worlds, then discovers a device with the ability to transport him between the parallel worlds. (Comicon)
Keep/Drop: Dropped at episode 1.
Why? The first episode of YU-NO was surprisingly better than what I tend to expect from light novel adaptations, which are generally trope-filled messes with a stale piece of bread disguised as lead protagonist constantly reacting to increasingly absurd situations. YU-NO was…distinctly not that. The lead character was charismatic and knew how to stand up for himself, and the premise of multiversal travel sounded cool, but…there was something missing. Most of the characters surrounding the lead weren’t compelling and the first episode lacked the kind of hook to bring me back for the second. I’m not even suggesting this show is bad, more that with every season there are casualties of time rather than interest: shows which are decent, but not so good they demand your attention, and so they get dropped. That was YU-NO.
Demon Slayer: In Taisho-era Japan, Tanjiro Kamado is a kindhearted boy who makes a living selling charcoal. But his peaceful life is shattered when a demon slaughters his entire family. His little sister Nezuko is the only survivor, but she has been transformed into a demon herself! Tanjiro sets out on a dangerous journey to find a way to return his sister to normal and destroy the demon who ruined his life. (Viz Media)
Why? Demon Slayer is essentially the opposite of YU-NO. The summary and key art I saw for it didn’t match my core interests, and so it almost missed my list entirely. But ufotable being responsible for the animation made me check out a trailer, and I was blown away by how beautiful it was. So I gave the series a try and I’ve been hooked. Tanjiro’s quest to restore his little sister to normalcy has been as good as most of Shonen Jump’s best offerings, despite her tragic fate, Nezuko is absolutely adorable, and ufotable is knocking it out of the park with some of the most beautiful animation I’ve ever seen. This show is great, and I’m glad it’s running for two cours.
Magmel of the Sky Blue: This Spring brings us a new action-fantasy series based on the digital Shonen Jump+ manga, Magmel of the Sea Blue. A story from the Chinese manga artist/writer Dainenbyo, Magmel of the Sea Blue is set in a world not too dissimilar from our own. But out of nowhere one day a brand new continent appears in the middle of the Pacific Ocean! A new land filled with all sorts of different flora and fauna, humanity sets out to explore this new location. (Comicon)
Keep/Drop: Dropped at episode 7.
Why? So when I asked for the Dark Continent as an anime, I didn’t think I’d literally get Kroger’s off-brand Big K Dark Continent. Take a “stoic” protagonist with sketchy and undefined abilities and a really formulaic process of him taking on boring clients and traveling deep into an island full of unknowns, and you basically have Magmel. In the episodes I gave it, the series never tried to build up any long-form storytelling, and I was never able to find any information on the manga to give me the hope that it would. I try to give shows a lengthy rope, but occasionally they just wind up hanging themselves with it.
Fairy Gone: An original anime series, Fairy Gone takes place in a world with fairies who often inhabit the bodies of animals, gifting them with special techniques. Aware of this, humans begin taking the organs from animals and placing them into human bodies to transfer those powers. These individuals are known as “Fairy Soldiers”, and find themselves plunged into war for years. Afterwards though, these same soldiers find their way off the battlefield and into normal society, becoming everything from mafia members to joining the government.
Fairy Gone takes place nine years removed from the war, and follows “Dorothea”, a group who’ve given themselves to keeping the number of problems related to former “Fairy Soldiers” to an absolute minimum.
Why? This series hasn’t been the most popular with anime fans, but I’ve been loving it. It’s dark without being overly so, the characters (thus far) aren’t caricatures or stereotypes, the designs are strong without being overly anime-ish, and there’s a compelling lead in Marlya Noel, a girl who’s just trying to find the one friend after her village was destroyed. If I have one complaint it’s that it feels like there’s more to the story and I’m concerned they can’t tell it all before the show ends, but there’s a second cour coming in the Fall.
AFTERLOST: Takuya, a courier who works alone, and Yuki, a young woman who has strange powers, are the only two survivors of a massive city that vanished without a trace. At the behest of Yuki’s father, the two of them go searching for what led to the city’s disappearance. Along the way, they find a massive conspiracy involving a hidden organization.
Keep/Drop: Dropped at episode 1.
Why? While I love shows that throw a lot at the viewer in the first episode (because introductions are usually the most boring part of a show to me), Afterlost felt like a really dark film that wrapped up in a single episode. When the “main character” was killed before the episode ended, that was enough for me. They stacked the odds so high the lead literally couldn’t overcome them and he died. I’m sure there’s more to it in later episodes, but ultimately in a season where I was looking for series to drop so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed, Afterlost made it all too easy.
Midnight Occult Civil Servants: Miyako Arata is a rookie assigned to the Shinjuku Ward’s “Nighttime Regional Relations” Department. In this alternate universe, every one of Tokyo’s wards has a department like this to deal with supernatural and occult problems. Arata has the special ability to comprehend the speech of non-humans, and has been called by one of the youkai he runs into as the reincarnation of Abe no Seimai, a Heian period exorcist with a legendary reputation.
Why? I’m actually on the edge with this particular show. I enjoy myself every week, what with Miyako trying to make sense of an entirely new world while also dealing with his new androgynous pet/roommate/boyfriend that happens to be a trickster god, but it feels like not nearly enough is being done with the concept. I like the characters enough to keep up with the show since there’s only a couple episodes left, but it’s hard not to feel disappointed.
The department Miyako works for has been doing it’s business without ever knowing how to communicate with these supernatural creatures (referred to as Anothers), so the obvious thing is Miyako shows up and helps them establish a proper relationship. Instead, the episodes have largely been a lot of “there’s nothing we can do, they are the way they are” nonsense. Maybe the manga goes down a different path later, but far too much of the anime has been relying on episodic plots showing how helpless the humans are even now that they can communicate with the Anothers.
One Punch Man Season 2: Saitama only became a hero for fun, but after three years of “special” training, he finds that he can beat even the mightiest opponents with a single punch. Though he faces new enemies every day, it turns out being devastatingly powerful is actually kind of a bore. Can a hero be too strong? (Hulu)
Why? It really is a shame the series had to switch from Madhouse to JC Staff, because all the anime community has been discussing is the drop-off in animation for this series. I’m not saying that isn’t there, but from both a characterization and story perspective the second season of One Punch Man is so much better it’s almost like the difference between Saitama and everyone else. The increased focus on the workings of the Hero Organization, the introduction of consistent villains in the Monster Organization and the “Hero Hunter” Garou, and even Saitama’s own growth as a character make this series so much stronger. The first season–particularly in its early portions–felt more like a gag stretched out over multiple episodes, while this one continues what was established during the Sea King and Alien Invasion arc, making it feel like a proper universe. This is easily one of my favorite shows every week.
RobiHachi: RobiHachi follows the story of two young men–Robby Yagi and Hatchi Kita, who run into one another after a thief steals Robby’s bag. Hatchi returns the bag, and after Robby treats him to lunch, the two part ways. Unfortunately, Hatchi’s job involves working as a debt collector, and Robby’s his latest job. Sneaking onto Robby’s ship to collect the debt, he ends up in deep space with Robby while the former reporter is looking for Isekandar, a planet said to bring happiness to whomever finds it.
Keep/Drop: Dropped at episode 5.
Why? When I jumped into this I was expecting something cool, along the lines of Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Lost Universe, or Outlaw Star. Instead what I got was the same few tepid gags repeated from episode to episode. It starts with a killer first episode, complete with a parody of late 70’s era mecha series, but by episode 4 all of the potential is gone. Midway through five you realize the debt collector tracking Robby down through the galaxy really just seems like he wants Robby as a sex slave too, and I can’t decide if that’s skeevy or offensive since he’s kind of a campy gay character.
The Wise Man’s Grandson: The Wise Man’s Grandson starts with a young man being reborn in another world after an accident took his life. In this world, he is found by the sage Merlin, and raised to become a master of magic. At age 15, the young boy (now known as Shin) leaves the care of Merlin Wolford to explore the world. There’s just one problem: Merlin forgot to teach him anything other than combat abilities. Now he’s enrolling in Alsheid Kingdom’s magic academy, where he’ll find it more of a challenge learning how to interact with people than actually learning magic.
Keep/Drop: Keep, surprisingly.
Why? Every so often a series will throw a curveball and instead of giving you what’s expected from its description, key art, and even promotional videos, create something completely different. With The Wise Man’s Grandson, I expected something along the lines of a generic isekai I’d watch just to say that I gave it a chance. Wish fulfillment, but in a boring way like The Irregular at Magic High School, and a giant harem like Master of Ragnarok and Blesser of Einherjar. The main character was absurdly powerful with magic so I figured he’d be a cocky prick about it and lord it over everyone while the women fawned over him for being competent.
Instead, the main character is absurdly powerful…and the first thing he does is make friends, and teach them his methods. There’s no harem, just a really cute budding relationship between two teenagers who don’t know how to articulate their feelings for one another. And there’s a surprising amount of legitimate combat in the series, as the characters are forced to face with a threat that’s vastly more dangerous than anything their country has faced in recent times. It’s surprisingly compelling and every week I’m excited to see how they expand the universe and toss new threats at the protagonists.
Carole & Tuesday: In a world fifty years in the future, after humanity has already colonized space, two girls with entirely different backgrounds unite over a shared love of music.
Why? This series is everything I wanted from a Watanabe production: gorgeous animation, likable characters, beautiful music and strong character design. Easily my favorite series of the year as it stands, and my biggest problem is that it just hasn’t made it over thanks to being held back via Netflix. When it finally airs stateside hopefully they promote the crap out of it, because this is a lock to be a huge hit thanks to its crossover appeal and being an anime that avoids a lot of the standard tropes anime fans have to deal non-fans “they’ll get used to”.
If anyone’s doing the math, that’s ten series with six keeps and four drops. A pretty strong season all around, and fortunately for me most of these are one cour series that are going to end with July rather than continue, because the summer has over a dozen series I’ll be looking to check out.
What series did you wind up keeping? Hit me up @SageShinigami and let me know.