Weekly Watch Round-Up 14th July

New season, new anime. And also, possibly, a new format for these round-up posts.

Most shows are at least one episode in, and I think I’ve looked at everything that was on my watch list by now. I’m still undecided about the season as a whole; perhaps because nothing can match up to the excitement I felt starting ‘Sarazanmai’ three months ago. It’s not that often that a show comes along that grabs me as much as that one did, and although we still have the second half of ‘Carole and Tuesday’ and two more episodes of ‘JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’, there hasn’t been much this season that feels like it will have quite the same impact.

Loved it:

Given is probably the one new show I’m most looking forward to. This was a late addition to my list, since I heard about it through the Tumblr grapevine rather than from previews. I haven’t read the manga (I prefer print manga to reading online, so I’m generally limited to UK releases) but I get the impression that it comes from the more recent wave of BL which avoids a lot of the older problematic tropes and will actually play out like a decent romance.

The first episode looks impressive, with a warm colour palette and creative use of lighting. The character designs aren’t anything out of the ordinary, although it’s nice to see musician characters who dress like a typical teenage garage band rather than the wildly extravagant visual kei styles of stories like ‘Ai Ore’ or the ’90s punk looks from ‘Gravitation’.

Most notable, though is the music. Clearly the soundtrack is as vital to the story as any of the characters. It’s notable from the start, with an opening sequence completely devoid of music; just the sparse sounds of Satou’s key in the lock as he leaves his house. The boys’ first jam session caught me completely off-guard. Whatever I was expecting, it certainly wasn’t a System Of A Down-esque improvised 5/4 belter of a tune. Evidently we have some talented musicians here, who must care about what they do to have reached such a standard (and evidently they know their music too, if they’re working on something on that level instead of a standard 4/4 rock style).

Usually I’m not a fan of the ‘love at first sight’ storyline, and I wish we had more of Satou and Uenoyama getting to know each other before Uenoyama developed any feelings for Satou. But it is what it is. I’m hoping that we don’t at least get tons of gay panic as his feelings develop.

To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts was a show I picked early on, simply for its cast list. We’re two episodes in, with the premise firmly established: an army of super-soldiers with the ability to transform into monsters discover that their abilities will eventually result in them losing their humanity, and their commander resolves to hunt them down and eliminate them.

After the first episode I was expecting a series of monster fights. I was not expecting to be hit with the feels as early as episode two. Hirakawa Daisuke’s John, beautifully paternal and caring, returns from war unable to change back from his huge dragon form. His daughter Nancy and the kids from the orphanage he runs still accept him as he continues to care for them, Nancy even defending him from accusations of animal slaughter and destruction. I could happily have spent an entire episode listening to Hirarin being soft and fatherly. So of course he had to die. I worry that I’ve committed myself to a whole series of watching my favourite seiyuu getting killed off one by one.

But now we have an interesting addition to the show’s conflict: not only do we have Hank hunting down his former comrades, but now we have Nancy seeking revenge for her father’s death. I do appreciate this show’s ability to let its female characters be as involved as the men, even if the female monsters still have to be visibly female, i.e. slim, busty and attractive, compared to the men who get to go full-on monstrous.

Although the animation is nothing special, the range of monster designs are interesting. For me, though, the show hinges on its storytelling, and I’m hoping that there are enough new developments and plot-turns to make up for the average-ness of the visuals.

Vinland Saga was on my list simply because vikings. When I was in junior school we had a term studying viking history, complete with a trip to the Jorvik Centre and lots of costume-making and long boat model-building. So naturally I’ve always had a vaguely romanticised view of viking stories, not the least bit sullied by Netflix’s recent ‘Norsemen’ series (definitely worth a watch).

This one feels like more of a slow build, with episode one entirely devoted to set-up and character. The OP has some gorgeous visuals, but I wish the music was a little more reminiscent of Scandi-metal bands rather than just generic Japanese metal – it could be the opening music to almost any fight-focused shounen series or sports anime.

I’m only one episode in so far, but I appreciate the set-up and the pace, and I’m hopeful for this one. I watched ep one with a friend and during the opening storytelling, we were trying to place the locations and I actually said, “is this some Leif Erikson reference?” before finding out that we were actually watching actual Leif Erikson, so that was cool. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch up with eps two and three tomorrow.

Not sure yet:

Dr Stone is the show getting all the hype this season. I can see why: it’s an interesting premise with some quirky character design. But honestly, even after just watching the preview, I had a sinking feeling that this would be yet another ‘guy saves girl’ story.

Senku, for all his scientific know-how, seems to have maths issues (everything is ‘ten billion percent’ with this kid). Taiju seems likeable enough, and his odd-couple friendship with Senku is fun to watch. Tsukasa is clearly going to be an antagonist of some sort, and I actually like the way he’s set up to oppose Senku; his dream of re-making society with clearly different goals to Senku’s feels like it’s going to make the story more than just a fun action series, with a little philosophy and moral quandary to keep things from being too black-and-white.

But it has to be said: where are the women? The op shows two female characters – Yuzuriha, Taiju’s love-interest, and a blonde woman who might have some sort of special powers, if I’m reading the hints from the op correctly. So once again, it looks like the boys get the action and the girls are there to be rescued or protected. This is my main reason for being sceptical of this show. If it proves me wrong, then great, but it would be nice to see action shows with a better gender balance.

Same goes for Fire Force, which looked cool from the previews, until I read the synopsis and learned that one of the female characters (whom we’ve yet to meet) is a teenage girl cursed with a “lucky lecher lure” which results in her inadvertently stumbling into lewd situations.

As this character hasn’t been introduced in the first two episodes, I’m hoping that, by the time she does appear, efforts have been made to remove this blatant perv-pandering. It’s not necessary to tell the story, and neither is that gratuitous shot of Iris in a soaked white dress in the ending sequence.

This is another anime with a cool premise but which makes me feel uncomfortable to watch because of the way it treats its female characters, and honestly I am getting tired of this.

Maybe at some point this season I’ll write up a more detailed look at the representation in the Summer ’19 line-up, because it feels like for every show that lets its women exist with the same freedoms as its men (Fairy Gone) there are two more that remind us that perv-pandering is still a driving force in anime production.

And the rest:

Not much to say about the three shows continuing from last season. Fruits Basket was mostly filler – a scene-for-scene remake of the lake visit episode (complete with Jason the bear!), although I do like the teasing with the hat in Tohru’s room. Kimetsu No Yaiba has a new crop of shouty boys, and I wish they would not. And Carole and Tuesday took an unexpected turn by having Gus turn down the ‘Mars Brightest’ offer that we’ve spent the last few episodes watching them work for. Not sure where they’re going with Tobe (Toby?), but I really hope this lovely series doesn’t get derailed by anything dodgy at this point.

I haven’t yet seen Bem, which was the other show on my watch-list, and I need to see some reviews before I decided whether Granbelm is worth adding.

What are you watching this season? Do you agree with me about the Dr Stone hype train or are you enjoying the show as it is? Maybe there’s a show you think is worth of another ‘I Watched This Crap So You Don’t Have To’ post? Tell me in the comments!

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