Weekly Anime Round-up

The Spring ’19 season was yet another where, at first glance, there didn’t seem to be many shows I’d like. Lots of ‘trapped in a magical world’ stuff and some rather worrying ecchi harem shows. The only shows I was looking forward to were ‘Sarazanmai’, an original anime from the director of ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’, and the second season of ‘One Punch Man’.

It took a bit of digging around, but I did eventually find a few more potential additions to my watch-list. I took a look at ‘Kimetsu No Yaiba’, largely because of the stunning animation the trailer hinted at. ‘Fairy Gone’ was a possibility mostly because it was one of the rare shows with a cast of adult characters (and adult women at that!). I eventually gave in to my curiosity regarding the reboot of ‘Fruits Basket’ (more on that in a future post), and a friend suggested ‘Midnight Occult Civil Servants’.

I’m also still watching ‘JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind’, as well as re-visiting some older shows with the afore-mentioned friend.

The trailer for ‘Sarazanmai’ intrigued me for two reasons: the use of real backgrounds behind the animated characters, and the cast. I’ll shamelessly admit to being a seiyuu fan, and I’ll try an episode of anything with Suwabe Junichi or Murase Ayumu (that doesn’t always work out well – see ‘Dimension High School’ for a very disappointing example). Plus the combination of Hosoya Yoshimasa and Miyano Mamoru is always a winner. That it’s directed by Ikuhara Kunihiko is a fantastic bonus – ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ has a permanent place in my Top 5 Anime list. The first two episodes of ‘Sarazanmai’ have the ghost of ‘Adolescence of Utena’ all over them – not least because they demand more than one viewing to make any kind of sense – and the intricate layered backgrounds and frantic world-building will be familiar to fans of the Be-Papas series.

There’s a lot to unpack in the first episode of ‘Sarazanmai’, but don’t throw away the suitcase just yet!

It’s one of those shows where having a passable knowledge of Japanese culture – both traditional and modern – probably helps. There’s a lot to take in, and the magical realism requires you to stop trying to think about the logistics of the plot and just go with it. You’d be forgiven for giving up on ‘Sarazanmai’ after the first episode. It’s bizarre and confusing, and doesn’t even begin to explain what those two cops are doing. But I feel like this one will be a thrilling ride.

Just like ‘three boys have a mystical organ sucked out of their butts by a frog/duck spirit’, so too does the premise for ‘Fruits Basket’ seem weird if you try to sum it up in one sentence. ‘People get turned into animals when they’re stressed or hugged by someone of the opposite sex’ isn’t much of an elevator pitch. But if you’ve read the manga or seen the original anime, you’ll know that it doesn’t just work; it makes for one of the best and most successful stories to come out of the manga industry.

In fact, I had such a strong attachment to the original that I was wary of the reboot. I felt that re-making the anime would somehow lessen the original. Turns out I needn’t have worried. The scenery is lush, the character designs more appealing, and the whole thing has a gentle softness to it that the original didn’t quite manage, in retrospect. The new cast is well-chosen: Shimazaki Nobunaga has a knack for soft-spoken melancholy characters like Yuki (see Haru in ‘Free!’ or Sunakawa in ‘Ore Monogatari!!’), and Nakamura Yuuichi is spot-on as Shigure. I can’t truly compare them with the original Japanese cast, as I’ve never actually watched the old sub. My imported DVD boxset had the infamous English subtitles that had been translated from Japanese to Chinese and then to English, with all the character names changed and all the sense lost. But hearing the original Funimation dub cast back together again hit me right in the feels. Jerry Jewell broke my heart as Kyo the first time around, and I know it’s going to happen again.

Much like ‘Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood’, this remake plans to follow the manga more closely and continue the story beyond the ‘true form’ arc, and you can bet that I’ll be sticking with this one to the end.

‘One Punch Man’ almost feels like the opposite. I was super-excited when the second season was announced, but now I’m having doubts. The studio change is already noticeable from the trailer – see this video for an in-depth analysis – but also, the Hero Hunter/Monster Association arc has gone on for so long in the manga that I’m actually starting to get a bit bored of it.

I’m glad that King is joining the main cast (not least because I’ll take any opportunity to listen to the wonderful Yasumoto Hiroki!) and I’ll stick with it because I have been enjoying the manga for the most part, but I’m already going in with a feeling of disappointment.

‘Fairy Gone’ and ‘Demon Slayer’ are two shows that didn’t immediately catch my eye, largely because they’re not genres that I usually seek out. Historical dramas and anything war-related just aren’t to my taste, although there have been exceptions, ‘Golden Kamuy’ being the most notable.

I went with ‘Fairy Gone’ because it looked about the only show this season with female lead characters over 18. That’s something I plan to write about more in the near-future, but for now it’s refreshing to see two capable women who are also not being presented as titillation.

I know some people have been put off by the concept of fairies in the military, which I understand if your idea of fairies is mostly Disneyfied. But if you’re familiar with alternative fairy stories of a more wicked or eldritch nature, then this makes a little more sense. I liked the animation in the first ep, and the fairy designs are interesting. The conflict between the two opposing factions is also an intriguing set-up, and I look forward to seeing where this one goes.

That’s definitely not Tinkerbell…

‘Demon Slayer’ would also have not been on my radar, had I not seen a preview of the sumptuous animation in the action scenes. The first episode is beautifully done; the story is as stark and minimalist as the snowy landscape. Whether this will continue its melancholy tone as the cast expands to include the other young fighters, it’s hard to say, but I’m sticking around long enough to find out.

I also took a look at ‘Midnight Occult Civil Servant’. Again, it’s good to see shows with adult leads, even though they’re all men so far here. The first episode felt a little shaky and rough around the edges, but there were hints of ‘Durarara!’ and ‘Psycho Pass’ in there, or it could be a slightly more mature alternative to ‘The Morose Mononokean’. I’ll give it a few more episdoes and see how it plays out.

I’m looking forward to seeing ‘Carol & Tuesday’, but apparently it’s being held by Netflix who don’t seem to get the concept of updating its anime series weekly.

My one regret so far was watching an episode of ‘Namu Amida Butsu!: Rendai Utena’ at the suggestion of a friend. Sold to me as ‘pretty boy fighters turn into swords’ and featuring Murase Ayumu, Suzuki Tatsuhisa and Hirakawa Daisuke, it felt like a show that could pay off. What I actually got was a cast of characters too big to keep track of, poor-quality animation and even poorer writing, and Murase reduced to voicing the cutesy flying animal mascot.

All in all, it’s shaping up to be a well-packed season. There are shows out this month which concern me – ‘We Never Learn’ and ‘Why The Hell Are You Here, Teacher?’ being just two – and one I will look at with caution – ‘Helpful Fox Senko-San’ has Suwabe Junichi which usually makes something a must-watch for me, but I’m wary of this trend for ‘character-who-looks-like-a-little-girl living with middle-aged man’ stories. There are also some that I’m still trying to track down first episodes of.

If you think there’s anything I haven’t mentioned that would be worth watching, do let me know with a comment (or find me on Twitter @oldanimefan). I’ll be posting my weekly anime round-up on Sundays from now on, so expect another update in a couple of days.

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