The Ancient Magus' Bride Prequel, Knight's & Magic Win the Summer
Summer was so packed with intriguing new anime series that I couldn't help myself from trying to watch as many as I possibly could.
Finishing out the season with five new series and two continuing shows is a great way to end summer. It's a great indicator of how strong the industry is and how much potential for new, intriguing content is still out there. While every series that managed to capture and keep my interest was memorable in some way or another, there were two shows that really blew me away—The Ancient Magus' Bride: Those Awaiting a Star and Knight's & Magic.
The Ancient Magus' Bride: Those Awaiting a Star - 5/5
While it was only a three-part prequel, The Ancient Magus' Bride: Those Awaiting a Star was a breathtaking teaser for what we can expect from the full-length series which kicks off this fall. The prequel looks at a moment in Hatori Chise's past, when she comes across a magical library in the middle of a forest. She discovers it during a particularly rough moment in her life, where she's feeling alone and rejected by her foster family. There's a friendly magician in the library who welcomes her to visit anytime and, over time, becomes a sort of mentor figure to her.
The art style is absolutely gorgeous, almost reaching Studio Ghibli levels at some points. While the main character's present-day situation is never explained, it doesn't make a difference once the actual memory is introduced. The Ancient Magus' Bride: Those Awaiting a Star can be found on Crunchyroll (subbed).
Knight's & Magic - 5/5
Mixing mechas and magical fantasy seemed really strange when I first read Knight's & Magic's description. With two concepts that dominate on their own, I had to wonder if one would overtake the other as the focus. Much to my surprise, though, the show does an impressive job of seamlessly blending the two concepts together, making them so dependent on each other that it would be impossible to one to overshadow the other. Ernesti's "child prodigy" status makes explaining the mechanics (and in turn magic's connection to how the mechas work) a common aspect which not only helps propel the show forward, but also keeps everything connected.
The only negative point is how rushed the first episode feels. We're given the absolute bare minimum amount of information on Tsubasa Karata, the man Ernesti was before getting reincarnated in a magical fantasy world, making him more of a plot device to conveniently explain Ernesti's genius and fascination with robots. It makes the first episode a little difficult to enjoy, but it's easily forgotten as you get into the thick of the story.
Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu - 4/5
Oh wow, is this series beautiful. Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu is a historical/sci-fi/paranormal anime that's based in 1860s Japan. The style is a mixture of classic drawn anime and 3D rendering, which on paper sounds like a weird mess that would look awful. However, the mixture amazingly works.
The series' story is based around a group of heroes who jump through time to stop the Time Retrograde Army, a group of paranormal creatures that are determined to change the course of history. While the series is heavily dependent on its historical setting, the creators have done a great job making sure the important things are explained so that, even if you've never learned anything about Japanese history, you'll be able to enjoy the show. It's available on Crunchyroll and Hulu (subbed).
Classroom of the Elite - 4/5
Is it weird if I say Ayanokōji is on my list of favorite anime characters of all time? His inability to effectively communicate is probably one of the most intriguing parts of Classroom of the Elite. For a show that centers around a school tailor-made for Japan's future bigwigs, its ability to show realistically flawed geniuses is what makes it special. The common trope of the "know-it-all genius" is nowhere to be found, instead centering on a group of believable characters that are put into an extremely complex and slightly convoluted advanced school.
Classroom of the Elite's monotone protagonist with an eerily mysterious backstory makes it a show that will keep you guessing from one episode to the next. If you enjoy shows that force you to think a little, this show is right up your alley. It's available on Crunchyroll (subbed), Funimation (dubbed), and Hulu (subbed).
GAMERS! - 3/5
While GAMERS!'s into is a cool homage to video games, the show itself is more your run-of-the-mill high school anime. Within a few episodes, the show quickly started centering itself around perceived love triangles and the emotional chaos that are high school relationships while losing the video game culture addition that the first few episodes had. Seeing Keita and Tasuku bond over arcade games felt fresh and charming, while watching Karen constantly stalk Keita then panic about her relationship with him just makes me wish the show would move on.
GAMERS! has good characters at a conceptual level, but instead of focusing on their uniqueness and their affinity for games, it chooses to center on cliched high school romance problems that will leave you groaning in agony. It's available on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Funimation (dubbed).
My Hero Academia (Season 2) - 4/5
The second season of My Hero Academia has been quite a ride. From the insanity that was the UA Sports Festival to the almost-too-long Stain arc and now wrapping up with the final practical exams, it's been amazing how much content can get packed into 25 half-hour episodes. While the Sports Festival arc was by far my favorite arc of the season (the Todoroki vs. Bakugou battle was exactly what I'd been hoping for from the beginning of the season), every episode managed to keep my full attention. Even the post-Stain filler episode, which focused predominantly on Tsu/Froppy, really helped flesh out the side characters a little more without being painfully uneventful.
Dream Festival! R - 4/5
The second season of Dream Festival! focuses on the Dear Dream and, to some extent, Kurofune members as they learn how to live their life as debuted artists rather than trainees. The show's managed to continue addressing realistic issues like nervousness brought on by extreme pressure, the consequences of personal and professional misunderstandings, and self-doubt. While the idol concept of the show definitely sounds trivial on the surface, the show does a great job at exploring how relationships are made and tested in such a different lifestyle. Each episode still ends with a concert and song performance, switching strangely from 2D to 3D animation, but is an easy part to skip. The performances hold basically no importance to the actual plot, and are more of a continuing homage to the music games that are also part of the Dream Festival! project. The only interesting part of the ending concert sequences are the Dorika card submissions, which is just an idea that intrigues me.
My personal favorite part of Dream Festival! R so far was Kurofune's two-episode arc which really dug into Kuroishi Yuto's past, something the show gave little to no information on in the first season. It also expanded on how strong Yuto and Keigo's relationship is, which has been a bit of an uncertainty since they randomly partnered up in the first season. Dream Festival! R is now available on Crunchyroll (subbed).
Coming Up - Fall 2017
This fall is filled with interesting sounding animes. From long-awaited returns to some seriously amazing looking new series, there's no doubt there will be plenty to watch over the next few months. Food Wars (Crunchyroll, Hulu) will be coming back with a third season, tempting me with delicious looking animated food that I'll never be able to replicate. If it's anything like the first two seasons, I'll come out of it extremely hungry and ready for more episodes.
Black Clover (Crunchyroll, Funimation) is all about two friends who end up competing to become the next Wizard King, the most powerful wizard in the kingdom. However, while one of the two is an extremely gifted magical prodigy, the other was born without any magic, an oddity in the world. While the trailers are more action-focused, I'm hoping that this series will have really amazing storytelling elements as well, making it just as much an emotional journey as an action adventure.
The Ancient Magus' Bride (Crunchyroll) will be making its full-season anime debut on October 7 and I cannot wait. If the three-episode prequel was anything to go by, then I'm ready to be stunned by a visually breathtaking series with an intriguing storyline. I can't quite tell what to think of the plot from the series' trailer, but the prequel has given me hope.
Juni Taisen: ZODIAC WAR (Crunchyroll) looks like something that wouldn't normally interest me—I'm not really one for super bloody, all action animes—but the concept behind this intrigued me. It's like the Hunger Games, but with 12 Zodiac-themed warriors instead of randomly-selected residents. The trailer doesn't promise much for plot, but we'll have to wait until the show actually arrives in October.