Spring 2018 Anime First Impressions (Part 1)
With a new season of anime comes an influx of all-new shows. It can get really overwhelming, seeing the list of everything that's being released this season and trying to figure out where to dedicate what free time you have.
Returning series, of course, always shoot to the top of the recommendation lists. Tons of people are talking about the third season of My Hero Academia or the second cours of Shokugeki no Soma's third season. Fan favorite franchises like Steins;Gate and Tokyo Ghoul returned with new stories. But what about the shows that haven't proven themselves yet? The shows that are completely new to the anime scene? I took a look at some of this season's new offerings to let you know which you should definitely add to your "To Watch" list, and which you can skip.
Butlers x Battlers
A show about a pair of time-traveling, fighting butlers who also go to school and work at a cafe? Yes please! The description for this series was just wild enough to seem like it might be entertaining. However, the series is actually much darker and less humorous than I originally thought it would be. Centering around two butlers who were sent ahead in time after a mysterious incident with the girl they were both trying to protect, the show tries to answer the question: How would butlers with magical powers act in the modern world?
J, Butlers x Battlers’ main character, is a pretty one-dimensional character who’s set on finding out exactly how he jumped ahead in time and what happened to his sister. He shows very little personality outside of that, leaving it up to the show’s supporting cast to insert any humor or lightheartedness into the show. The other butler, Hayakawa, is only used as a convenient plot device. He’s shown only when J is trying to find out what he knows or when J is telling the other student council members—who are surprisingly willing lackeys considering they’ve only known J for few months, if that—to spy on him.
In fact, the show fails in the first two episodes to present J or Hayakawa as well-rounded, complex characters. The secondary cast gets a little love, letting them loose to show some personality in the second episode when they get to help out at a local cafe. While the plot isn’t anything special, it’s good enough to potentially act as the backbone to a decent series. Butlers x Battlers, however, has so many other problems that it will no doubt barely manage to pass as “meh”. Most viewers will probably drop the show before it finishes airing, and those who watch through to the end will forget it once the Summer season starts.
Succeeding where most fail in my book, Comic Girls has taken the group of girls in artistic (and often male-dominated) professions idea and actually captured my attention. I can’t quite explain what it is about Comic Girls that allowed it to catch and keep my interest while similar shows like New Game! left me bored after the first episode. Maybe it’s the fact that both of the released episodes have had more than just the expected moe elements. There were educational bits about the manga industry and how stories are created and what tools are needed in both episode, and they’re shared in a way that doesn’t beat you over the head with expositional information.
While series like Bakuman. are clearly better options if you’re really looking to dive into a story about the manga industry, this is a show that takes the “cute girls doing cute things” concept and makes it just a little more palatable for those of us who aren’t big fans of moe shows.
Going into this season, I didn’t know what to expect from Crossing Girls. One of Spring 2018's snippet series, the show’s description simply says it’s a series of short stories showing the kinds of discussions girls have at railroad crossings. The fact that there’s a railroad crossing and a girl in the episode that says a line, however, seems to be the only connecting thread between episodes.
The first episode showed two friends gossiping away about crushes, which is about what I’d expected. It gives an interesting twist at the end and, even though it doesn’t really show the full resolution, left me feeling decently satisfied. The second episode, however, is completely different. Most of the three-minute episode is a high school boy’s thoughts as he’s ogling one of his female classmates, who all the other boys at school think is extremely sexy. The girl only speaks a few lines at the very end before turning and continuing on toward school. It’s a complete 180 from the first episode that destroys any confidence viewers might’ve had that the series might have something interesting to say or show.
Dances with the Dragons
If you really just love shows where you have no idea what’s going on, Dances with the Dragons is perfect for you. It’s so ridiculous that my boyfriend actually told me that he’d consider continuing to watch the show just to continue hearing my frustrated yelling. It’s a shame this show is so utterly horrific in laying out the details, because the character building around the two main characters, Gayus and Gigina, is actually pretty decent. Gigina is a powerful offensive magic wielder who, in his off time, buys and collects random furniture like chairs and dressers. Gayus is the begrudgingly practical half of the duo who’s often yelling at Gigina about their expenses.
Aside from Gayus and Gigina as characters, though, Dances with the Dragons is a perfect example of a show that puts the cart before the horse. The first episode is filled with a ton of information that seems like it should mean something, but leaves you asking what is actually going on. Gayus and Gigina battle a huge black dragon within the first half of the first episode, which is a visual treat, but the show fails to explain why this massive dragon appearing is supposed to be shocking or worrying, especially since the two main characters are in charge of killing dragons for a living.
The political aspects of the story are rushed over, which leaves you at a disadvantage when you go to watch the second episode and can’t for the life of you remember who Cardinal Mouldeen is or whose side he’s on. I appreciate the more involved aspects of a story, moving it beyond the black and white, good and evil template, but shoving everything into the first episode and expecting viewers to retain all that information, especially when they’re no doubt watching other series throughout the week as well, might just be Dances with the Dragons’ fatal flaw.
In short, Golden Kamuy is all about grizzled former soldier Sugimoto teams up with a small Ainu girl named Asirpa to find a hidden stash of gold. It’s a pretty standard adventure story on the surface, but where Golden Kamuy really shines is in showing the depth of the two main characters through their differences. Sugimoto, whose nickname in the military is Immortal Sugimoto, has fought and survived a lot of battles. His body is covered in scars to prove it. He’s someone who has killed to protect himself and isn’t shy about making that known.
Asirpa, on the other hand, is very clear that she will never kill another human. She’s knowledgeable about hunting and trapping in the woods, teaching Sugimoto how to kill and prepare anything from massive grizzly bears to squirrels. While she isn’t one to be taken for granted, she also lets Sugimoto see her more vulnerable side from time to time, giving him a little more information about her past and why she’s so skilled in hunting as opposed to something like weaving.
Occasionally terrible CGI moments aside, Golden Kamuy has proven in the first two episodes that it’s a show more about the journey and growth of its two main characters than an average treasure hunt adventure series.
Gundam Build Divers
One of a handful of shows this season that is clearly made with a younger audience in mind, Like other Gundam Build series, Gundam Build Divers is based in a not-so-distant future where players can scan in their own, customized Gundam figures called Gunpla then pilot them in a virtual reality world.
Like other kids animes, the story isn’t inherently unique. The main character—in this case, it’s a 14-year-old boy named Riku—wants to become the best player in the world. Unlike past Gundam Build series, though, most of Gundam Build Divers is set in a virtual reality MMO called “Gunpla Battle Nexus Online.” Making the virtual part of the series an MMO rather than just battle arenas like previous series opens up the potential scenarios that the main cast of characters can take part in. There are social hubs and quests and Gundam maintenance bays, making the virtual world feel a lot more massive.
Gundam Build Divers is entertaining and relaxing, so long as you remember that it’s a show made for younger kids and isn’t about to step outside of the proven formula.
Gurazeni: Money Pitch
If you ever wished there was a sports anime that was less focused on the actual sports parts and more about the behind-the-scenes experience, then Gurazeni is right up your alley. Bonda Natsunosuke is a relief pitcher for a major league baseball team who is obsessed with salaries. He’s got every professional player’s salary memorized, and often spends a lot of time analyzing their performance in an attempt to try and figure out how to raise his own 18 million yen salary.
It sounds like a dry concept, but Studio Deen does a great job at presenting Natsunosuke in a way that’s relatable and entertaining. He talks about other aspects of the professional leagues enough to where he doesn’t become a flat character, and his interaction with other players or industry members are always entertaining.
Gurazeni isn’t action packed, but if you’re looking for something that presents sports in a way that hasn’t really been shown before, it’s worth adding to your watchlist.