Spring 2018 Anime First Impressions (Part 2)
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.
In part one, I shared the ups and downs of seven other shows airing this season: Butlers x Battlers, Comic Girls, Crossing Time, Dances with the Dragons, Golden Kamuy, Gundam Build Divers, and Gurazeni. Now, I’m going to look at seven more standalone series from this season.
Legends of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These
If you’ve talked to a “true anime fan,” you’ve probably heard of the original Legend of the Galactic Heroes anime, a 110-episode OVA series that ran from 1988 to 1997. The show was based on a 10-volume novel series by the same name, which is all about intergalactic politics and space battles.
Now, over 20 years since the OVA series ended, Production I.G. decided it was time for a new adaptation of the novels. It was a gutsy move, considering how loyal and dedicated fans of the original series are. But Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These has managed to bring an amazing story back into the spotlight, helping younger generations or newer anime fans discover the story of Reinhard von Lohengramm and Yang Wen-li.
The first season is now a third of the way done, but it’s already managed to tell so much. Packing plenty of characterization and world-building into each episode, Production I.G. have managed to build out the unique and intriguing world of Legend of the Galactic Heroes quickly and in a way that keeps your attention. I’m glad that the second season, which will air in 2019 as three films that are made up of four episodes each, has already been announced.
Libra of Nil Admirari
I had very high hopes for this show. The source material is a visual novel, which almost always means a one-dimensional female main character that gets the attention of all the men around her and barely any plot, but I had hoped that the series’ premise of “books that can possess people” was dark enough to maybe pull the show out of the reverse harem pit.
The series started strong, with Tsugumi insisting that she would do whatever it takes to help find and dispose of these dangerous books after her brother becomes a victim to one. She holds her ground, breaking off her arranged marriage in order to help the group dedicated to finding these books, named the Imperial Library Information Assets Management Bureau.
By the second episode, however, the series loses any progress it made at the beginning. The male cast starts to oogle Tsugumi in her new uniform, commenting on the length of her skirt or how cute she looks. It’s clearly going down the path toward becoming a show similar to Sengoku Night Blood or Code:Realize, and while that’s great for people looking for that sort of show, it’s unfortunate for anyone hoping for any substantial plot development.
Magical Girl Ore
Satire can be extremely hit or miss, especially when it comes to magical girl satire. There's a very fine line between hitting the genre's sore spots dead-on and falling into a gimmicky show that relies on the same few jokes for a whole season. Last year, Re:Creators showed us how to do a magical girl satire well by making fun of the genre then moving past it into something deeper.
Magical Girl Ore, on the other hand, falls into the second bucket. The show's first episode was enjoyable, playing off of tropes like the transformation sequence and the need to have some sort of magical stick in order to do any real damage. It picked apart how every magical girl series has a cute assistant character and how the powers are always fueled by love. However, by shoving every trope into the first episode, the series set itself up for long-term mundanity.
Seeing Saki, also known as Ore in her magical girl/man form, beat enemies into a bloody mass of corpses every episode loses its humor after the third or fourth time. Seeing her repeatedly have trouble speaking to her crush gets repetitive real fast. In fact, by sticking the same three or four elements into every episode, the show falls into its own troupe trap, making it really no better than the shows it's making fun of.
Magical Girl Ore starts off strong, but loses its luster real quick.
Do you love the artistic style of Cowboy Bebop? Are you all about the street rat-to-top of the world stories? Then oh man is Megalo Box the perfect show for you. Set in a steampunk-esque dystopian future, the series centers around a guy who simply goes by his underground Megalo Box name, Junk Dog. Megalo Box is a kind of boxing where participants use mechanical packs called Gear to upgrade their speed and power. Gear range anywhere from hulking additions that focus more on power than speed, to custom sets that are made specifically for the user’s body, molding perfectly to their torso for maximum speed enhancement.
Through a series of coincidental events, Junk Dog faces off against Yuuri, the world Megalo Box champion, who promptly pummels him. The battle only makes Junk Dog want to challenge him again, but Yuuri tells him that he needs to work his way up to the top of the sport if he wants them to fight again. Accepting the challenge, Junk Dog gets set up with a fake identity, using the name “Joe”, and enters Megalonia, a worldwide championship tournament to crown the best in Megalo Box. By the time he enters, he only has three months to qualify, making his climb to the top something that has to utilize both his skill as a boxer and his trainer’s ability to create a show that people will talk about.
In the four episodes that have already aired, Megalo Box has proven that it’s a fantastic story about dedication and overcoming even the most seemingly impossible obstacles. Joe himself could still use a little bit of rounding out, but with two-thirds of the series yet to air, I’m hopeful that, by the time he faces Yuuri again, the show will have a main character that you’re so ridiculously attached to. The small cast of support characters that help Joe out throughout his journey have added just enough difference to keep each match exciting and unique.
Megalo Box sits in an interesting middle ground between sports anime and action/adventure with an old-school style. It’s a great series for fans of both, or anyone who’s looking for something that’s different from anything else being produced in the industry right now.
Persona 5 The Animation
Oh how I wanted to love this so bad. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I absolutely adored Persona 5 from start to finish. Yusuke Kitagawa, one of the members of the Phantom Thieves, is my profile picture on Slack. He was, until very recently, my desktop image on my laptop. As a 25-year-old American, the themes presented in Persona 5, especially at the end, were amazingly relevant to the political climate I’m living in. The 100+ hours I put into the game last year are ones I won’t soon forget.
But I’m only three episodes into the anime series based on the game and I’m already considering dropping it completely. A-1 Pictures’ adaptation has such a dismal color palette that it honestly makes me sad just watching it. Where the game always included vivid colors, even in the depths of Mementos, the series has dulled everything in favor of a darker look. Sure, it makes everything a little more serious, but half of the fun of Persona 5 are the silly bits that get slipped in when you’re least expecting them.
Fitting a 100+ hour game into 24 half-hour episodes is already going to be rough. It’s guaranteed that a lot of corners and side bits will be cut out in favor of stuffing in all of the important main plot points. The series has already wasted 2 of its 10 total hours on just the first Palace the group encounters. However, trading out the bright and fun but ultimately ridiculous bits that made the game such a special experience for a darker, plot-stuffed recap is making the series unenjoyable for those who liked the game, and is robbing those who didn’t play the game of some of the best parts.
With each new episode, the likelihood of us getting to see hoodie-clad Yusuke holding two lobsters on the beach or Amamiya Ren through the hang loose sign while saying “Aloha!” is getting slimmer and slimmer. That’s a real shame.
Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori
This season's chill anime is slowly showing its surprisingly captivating backstory. Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori focuses on four men who run a bustling Japanese tea shop together. Each of the four have areas that they focus on—Sui is in charge of the tea, Gure is in charge of the coffee, Tokitaka is in charge of the meals, and Tsubaki is in charge of the sweets—making them a perfect team that works perfectly together.
The series starts off seemingly episodic, with a new character visiting the tea shop each week. The four men end up helping these characters overcome whatever's troubling them and sharing a little more about themselves in the process. Each new episode also features beautiful desserts and calming scenery, making the show a perfect for relaxing after a stressful day, just like the tea shop its set in.
Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori's third episode, however, starts to introduce a little bit of plot. There are deceptions and stressful moments that are unlike anything shown in the first two episodes. It's an episode-long setup for what I can only hope will be a common thread throughout the rest of the season.
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for an Otaku
Nerds unite. Similar to Recovery of an MMO Junkie last year, Wotakoi: Love is Hard for an Otaku is all about adult nerds. While MMO Junkie’s Moriko was someone who quit her job to relax and game all the time, Wotakoi centers around a group of four characters who have average, paper-pushing day jobs and do their best not to stand out while at the office. The series is a romance at heart, centering around Narumi and Hirotaka, two childhood friends who meet again after several years and end up dating.
Four very distinct sections of Japanese nerd culture are represented in the four main cast members: Narumi is a BL manga artist who loves otome games and idols, Hirotaka is a gamer who spends as much of his free time possible playing something, Hanako is a well-known male character cosplayer, and Taro is a more casual otaku who likes bishojo manga and figures.
Wotakoi is a great show that highlights a lot of the feelings and worries that adult otakus feel while trying to live in the real world. On Narumi’s first day in the office, she’s extremely worried about her coworkers finding out that she’s an otaku since that’s the reason she felt the need to leave her last job. It’s only after meeting up with Hirotaka again and finding out that Hanako and Taro are otaku as well that she finally opens up a little.
Packed with jokes that anyone who’s been in a similar situation will relate to immediately, Wotakoi is a treat for those who love stories that show some of the sillier worries that working adults feel on a regular bases.