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The Binge Log: Japanator's Guide to Winter 2018 Anime

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What to watch when it's cold outside

Hello, and welcome back to Japanator's eternally-delayed anime coverage. As I promised back in our New Year's resolutions, we're resuming our once-regular seasonal anime coverage, though in a bit of a new form. Welcome to the Binge Log for Winter 2018!

For the uninitiated, this is our new take on what used to be known as Japanator's Anime Preview Guide. The changing landscape of anime distribution and licensing, the changing pace and timing of peoples' encounters with new anime, and the sheer number of shows being pumped out these days has made speculating about a show's quality before it's even aired less and less meaningful. Better instead to gather impressions from a number of people - in this case, the surprisingly numerous anime-watchers on staff here at Japanator and Destructoid - and try to find highlights and impressions from the shows we're actually watching (along with a few we tried, but couldn't stick with). So while not every single offering will show up in this big ol' list, you can be sure that we've seen enough of what's here to have a hot take ready to serve. 

So read on to see what we think of the season's offerings so far, and tell us all about what you're watching as well!

[Notes: This guide is primarily based on North American distribution and licensing. Streaming arrangements and availability for each show can vary by country. It is limited to series beginning their broadcast in Winter 2018, and excludes continuing series from previous seasons.]

Pop Team Epic

Studio: Kamikaze Douga

Watch it on: HIDIVE, Crunchyroll, Funimation

The Blurb: Based on a surrealist webcomic by Bkub Okawa, Pop Team Epic is a self-proclaimed "shitty anime" starring foul-mouthed characters Popuko and Pipimi.

Staff Comments:

Bass: 

 Pop Team Epic is basically what happens when you turn the internet into a TV series. And I know what you're thinking, "This is exactly the kind of shitty hook I'd expect from a 9gag post". You're not wrong! But there's really no better way to describe a show like this.

Pop Team Epic goes the extra mile to mess with the audience, from the choice of voice acting for the main characters to the delightfully ugly Bob Epic Team skits. The rapid-fire, absurd comedy has similarities to Nichijou and Robot Chicken... Except with surrealism, and reference humor, cranked to 11. It's definitely a product of its time.

Pop Team Epic has no right being this enjoyable. And yet, it is. You may not understand what you're looking at most of the time when watching Pop Team Epic, but I definitely recommend everyone to give it a chance nonetheless. It's incredible that a show like this exists at all.

Salvador G-Rodiles: 

 With shows like Gintama and Mr. Osomatsu poking fun at pop culture in random ways, Pop Team Epic's comedic style doesn't seem too fresh. Mind you, this isn't a bad thing and it can tell a great joke.

The show's skits revolving around a short angry vulgar girl and a tall calm one result in a great duo who contribute to each skit nicely. Most importantly, Pop Team Epic's doesn't pull punches with the formats of each joke. From its comedic timing of the cast's lines to visual changes between segments, the show understands the important elements in making the audience laugh. Honestly, it's amazing in the amount of variety and styles present in each episode.

While each episode is played twice each week, there's something fun about seeing the same joke handled in a different way. It serves as a great example of how someone's voice can affect a comedic line. At first, it felt like it was a waste of 20 minutes, but the gang at Kamikaze Douga nailed this style. In the end, it's impressive that a four-panel Webcomic received this sort of treatment. Based on its four episodes, it might be one of the best comedy anime shows of the year.

Marcel Hoang:

A few months back I came to the realization that that thing I like to do is basically shitposting. I looked up what exactly it meant off urban dictionary and realized, yeah, that's basically me. Pop Team Epic is that basically. It doesn't mind wasting your time with something completely off-topic and unrelated. Was is funny? Maybe. But then we move onto the next gag or scene of Bob Team Epic and we're already 6 minutes in. I can't believe I'm basically watching the show twice each week: once with female voice and again with hilarious, some may say appropriate, male voices.

Sometimes I give the show a heart chuckle. Sometimes I don't know what exactly what I should be thinking. And other times holy crap a Diddy Kong's Adventure reference?


Christian Chiok: 

 Pop Team Epic is either a show that you're going either going to hate or love. As for myself, I'm in the middle while leaning more towards love. I'm the kind of guy that loves references, especially in a comical or in a ridiculous way. When the first episode had a Kimi No Na Wa (or Your Name in English), I knew that it was going to be my type of show. To top it off, I lost it when I heard Ryuusei Nakao (voice of Freeza in Dragon Ball) and Norio Wakamoto (voice of Cell in Dragon Ball). As a fan of Dragon Ball, I really appreciated it that. 

I understand why people hate it though. It's a type of shitty comedy and it's not for everyone. It's the same when people don't like South Park (at least the old episodes). Just like my colleague Marcel, I like my share of shitposting so I find myself enjoying the show every week.

Robo Panda Z: 

 Let's just get this out of the way? Is Pop Team Epic "Good"?

No, Pop Team Epic is Trash. It's Trash that can only be capitalized. It's the most glorious, god-tier level of Trash. It's Trash that belongs in a dumpster of solid gold, that sits there, taunting you with its sheer lack of point. Every day you walk past the dumpster, asking yourself, "Why is there a solid gold dumpster there?" You can't do do anything about it (and it's too big to steal), so your brain simply accepts it.

The sheer embodiment what can only be referred to as "shitpost", Pop Team Epic is the most "online" anime I've ever seen. Already criticized by many in Japan for it's lack of "otaku culture", PTE is an endless stream of pop culture references (Cool Running, Top Gun, Wacky Racers, and Android Kikaider in a single bit), surrealist comedy segments, and sheer, unadulterated anti-jokes. It bombards you with such ferocity (With four different voice actors per episode) that, when an actual, genuine joke shows up, you're not actually sure what to do. What is this strange thing? How does it work? Apparently the broadcast version has surreal ads that blend seemlessly into the show, causing you to question what is PTE and what is commercial - it's unfortunate we've lost this with the streaming version.

The key to PTE's humor is that it actually is a high-quality production that genuinely wants you to care, which is the reality of why I call it a "shitpost". While the term is usually referred to the nonsense you post at 3AM (ignore that I'm writing this at 6AM, okay? That's "nightposting" anyway!) with no effort, a true and proper shitpost really wants you to like it. It wants you to care. And the more you're exposed to it, the better it becomes.

Is Pop Team Epic good? No, but it doesn't care what you think. But it really does. And it's all the more wonderful for it. Accept the dumpster.

Josh Tolentino:

I think I like Inferno Cop better, but I'll be damned if I didn't have a, er, Cool Time with it. Like Space Dandy a few years ago and other shows I don't remember as well, Poptepipic is what you get when you have a team of creative folks and don't give a fuck what the audience is going to think. It's hit-and-miss, but it's funny and bold enough that I actually find the popular sentiments calling it "Memes: The Anime" or somesuch to be a bit reductive. Like actually good shitposting, it takes more work than it looks like to make something like Pop Team Epic, and the effort is paying off so far.

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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card

Studio: Madhouse

Watch it on: Crunchyroll, Hulu, Funimation

The Blurb: Close to 17 years after the original anime series went off the air, the iconic magical girl series returns with the same cast and staff to continue the story of Sakura Kinomoto as she enters junior high with her friends and discovers more crises, threats, and (naturally), cards.

Staff Comments:

Salvador G-Rodiles: 

My experience with the original Cardcaptor Sakura is a strange one since it mostly consists of the toned down version called Cardcaptors. The other part is when I saw the show uncut during my trip to Venezuela in 2001. From the episodes I caught, it was like seeing night and day. To top of off, I got to see the end of the "Sakura Cards Arc" before it came out in the U.S. Nonetheless, my takeaway from both versions is that it was a cute show and it was nice to see the cast's relationship (romantic or buddy-like) with each other develop throughout the series.

While it's been a while since the show and manga ended, Clear Card brings back the things we enjoyed about the show. Tomoyo continues to obsess over making different costumes for Sakura, Toya still makes fun of our heroine, and the whole thing is adorable as hell. As the series allows for Sakura to develop her relationship with Syaoron further, the new series feels like a nice continuation. If there was one minor issue, it's the show recycling aspects from the "Clow Card Arc" and the "Sakura Cards" one since she can't use her own cards anymore.

Because of this situation, Sakura's battles against the new cards follow a similar formula to her encounters with the Clow-related stuff. My guess is that they went this route to make the sequel a bit accessible to newcomers since her old arsenal might confuse them. For the most part, Clear Card retains the charm of the original so this aspect doesn't bother me that much.

With Madhouse and a good chunk of the original's key staff returning, it shows that they haven't lost their touch with the series, and it'll be nice to see how their experience will shape it in during the later episodes.

Marcel Hoang:

I've watched this series pretty passively. I'm not entirely invested in it, but I am sure of a few things despite only watching a little bit of the original series: Sakura is adorable, and man do I like watching this show move. I'm not onboard with your typical flavor of the week format, but I can still sit down and watch the show to see what outfit Tomoya puts on Sakura and how this week's crazy mcguffin gets animated.

Robo Panda Z: 

 The original Cardcaptor Sakura wasn't really part of my childhood, per say. Due to the work of Nelvana on the now-infamous Cardcaptors ("Let's make the boy the main character! Girls don't like cartoons, right? I love cheeseburgers!"), I didn't get into the story until high school. There, it blew an adorable (and only very slightly traumatic, by CLAMP standards) breath of fresh air into my angsty manga reading habits.

Fast-forward over a decade, and I'm so happy to say that we've got another season of Cardcaptor Sakura to look forward to. I realize most of the staff and pretty much the entire cast has returned for this, but it's almost eerie to watch CCS in 2018 and feel like they never stopped making the series - We're in the early 2000's again and it's a good thing.

Newcomers to CLAMP's magic-wielding, rollerblading heroine may feel lost, since there's no real attempt at a recap. This is probably for the best, since any attempt to do so for an entire series is doomed to failure. Fans without access to the OVA that aired last year should know that Syaoran left for Hong Kong (for reasons), and there was finally some romantic development between him and Sakura. Well, as of episode one, he's back like nothing ever happened.

Sakura's, well, Sakura Cards have all turned clear, no one knows why, and there's an enigmatic figure afoot! The cards turning clear could be an allusion to adolescence and the rampaging cards, the challenges it holds - but who cares about that when Tomoyo (anime's original "Best Girl") is back with a pile of new, increasingly adorable outfits for Sakura to wear? I guess Li is there too. Kind of.

Madhouse has done wonderful work so far on CCS: Clear Card Arc - the only downside is that the pacing is a bit hurried for my tastes. It feels like, eventually, something could be lost as a result. Despite that, I'm truly happy to see the series back, and if you think we didn't need more Cardcaptor Sakura, then you need to sit in the corner and think hard about your life - because I don't want a world without more "Leave it to Kero-Chan!".

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Devilman Crybaby

Studio: Science SARU

Watch it on: Netflix

The Blurb: Based on legendary creator Go Nagai's over-the-top manga, Devilman Crybaby is a Netflix-exclusive production helmed by Ping Pong director Masaaki Yuasa and starring Akira and Ryou, who must fight demons with their own power to reclaim the world for humanity.

Staff Comments:

Jonathan Holmes: 

 Over 20 years ago, I was a high school student with barely any money in his pocket, but I still spent $20 on a bootleg VHS copy of the second Devilman OAV. It wasn't dubbed or subbed, and I didn't know a lick of Japanese. Still, I watched that thing over and over again, in love with the character designs, animation, and music. My only complaint about it was the cliffhanger ending. I was desperate to know where it was all going. 

Flash-forward to 2018 and I can't help but look back to my 16-year-old self and tell him to be careful what you wish for. Devilman Crybaby is its own thing, not a direct continuation of the old OAV I grew up with, but it still gave the answers I always wanted about Akira and Ryo's fate, and boy oh boy, is it ever a bummer. The whole series reminded me a bit of Zootopia in that it's got a lot of going in its subtext, but it's so vague in its messaging that it can be interpreted in just about any way that you want.

Some people say Zootopia is an anti-racism movie, while others think it says that being a big old racist is in fact a valid way of looking at the world because "the different races are like totally different species of animals". These people also might think that Zootopia validates their urge to fuck a rabbit. Devilman Crybaby gets into similar territory when it comes to sex, violence, war, puberty, queerness, and even social media. Are they bad? Are they good? Depends on which episode you're watching, and how you personally interpret it all. 

The only message that rings out loud and clear from Devilman Crybaby is that xenophobia will kill us all, but we should try to treat each other with empathy and respect anyway. It's a message I can get behind, but jeez, did they have to make me feel so darn bad in the process of sending it? If you are attached to the main characters of the show, and are prone to depression, I might actually recommend that you skip the last 3 episodes of the series. We're talking about Grave of the Fireflies level of feel-bad here. The tragedy on display in those episodes will stay with me for a while, but for some of you, it may be better to just enjoy the relatively straightforward action-horror present in the preceding episodes, and the joyful free style raps that accompany them. 

Josh Tolentino

When the news first got out that Netflix was looking to produce anime series, I was a little worried, having no idea what the streaming goliath's plans were for regionally tailored content. I was more worried after the Castlevania anime came out, for as entertaining as it was, that show struck me as the kind of tone-deaf production a U.S. based company would back, all "badass" action rooted in the '80s and '90s marketing of anime overseas as "cool" "not for kids" cartoon fluff. I imagined the next Ninja Scroll or worse, reams of forgettable tripe like the X-Men and Iron Man anime series. Japan is capable of producing its own unique forgettable tripe without the help of foreign suits, thanks very much. 

I'm glad that my fears haven't been borne out, because while Devilman is badass and over-the-top in all the ways those old shows were, it's also unequivocally a bold, powerful, sometimes gross, auteur-led piece of art. Though I can't say I had a whole lot of fun watching it, I'm as happy as can be that it got the chance to exist. If I have to thank Netflix for that, so be it.

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Violet Evergarden

Studio: Kyoto Animation

Watch it on: Netflix

The Blurb: Based on a light novel, Violet Evergarden follows Violet, a former supersoldier trying to survive after being injured in the war. She takes up a job as an "Auto Memory Doll", writing letters for clients and learning more about them.

Staff Comments:

Josh Tolentino:

Funny story: Every year Kyoto Animation, one of Japan's most prestigious anime studios, holds a contest, the Kyoto Animation Awards to honor original manga, anime, and games, with the implication that those highlighted would be promoted, published, or even adapted for animation by KyoAni itself. In the eight years they've been running the Awards, while some honored works have been adapted (like Love, Chuunibyou, and Other Delusions or Free!), only one has won the actual grand prize: Violet Evergarden by Kana Akatsuki. Now it's here in animated form, and it's a real looker. This might be, hands-down, one of the most beautiful anime series I've ever seen. The sheer amount of work that's gone into every frame is so clear that it feels almost gratuitous, the kind of detail of the sort you'd only see reserved for feature film releases. I'm pretty much a philistine when it comes to appreciating animation on a technical level, but even I can tell how impressive it is.

Seriously, Violet Evergarden looks so good that it actually elevates the source material, which is, so far, falls squarely into the "sad robot learns feelings" subgenre. Violet, with metal arms and a demeanor that would make Rei Ayanami seem gregarious, works as am "Auto Memory Doll", a sort of combination secretary, post office worker, and dictation typist, ghostwriting correspondence for her clients. Unfortunately, typing effective love letters means being able to understand and convey the client's feelings, and that's been a challenge thus far. It's super corny, but in the way that makes me feel warm and fuzzy rather than making me want to roll my eyes, which works for me.

It's worth noting that at this time, Violet Evergarden is only streaming on Netflix outside the U.S., with the full season dropping in Spring 2018. If we're lucky, the binge-drop will include an improved translation, as the subtitles currently available are rather sub-par.

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Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles

Studio: Studio Gokumi and AXsiZ

Watch it on: Crunchyroll

The Blurb: Yuu's got a crush on the beautiful new transfer student, Koizumi, but Koizumi's got eyes for only one thing: Hot, wet bowls of delicious ramen. Can Yuu master the art of appreciating fine Noodles 'N Soup and make Miss Koizumi notice her?

Staff Comments:

Red Veron:

A show that’s actually about ramen with a yuri (girl’s love) angle to it that I don’t think will go anywhere since its really about the eponymous Koizumi and her true love, ramen. It’s primarily a comedy that involves ramen in some way and characters end up having the noodle dish. I just hope it doesn’t try to be serious and have drama or major conflict, since the lead-up and gags about eating ramen are pretty enjoyable.

Josh Tolentino:

I've recently gone on a somewhat hardcore diet in an attempt to change my eating habits (and lose some weight), and it's been a beautiful sort of self-torture to watch food-porn shows like this and Today's Menu for the Emiya Family. Pre-diet, though, I was more a soba fan than a ramen man, myself, and the show's various factoids about different ramen noodles and ramen types has been a fascinating way to learn more about the dish, perhaps for when I'm off the diet. Plus, seeing Koizumi be courted by her disastrously gay classmate has its own charms.

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Laid-Back Camp

Studio: C-Station

Watch it on: Crunchyroll 

The Blurb: Experienced camper Rin encounters camping newbie Nadeshiko, converting her to the pursuit of hanging out in the wild outdoors, and before long the camping duo add more friends to their campfire circle. Camping.

Staff Comments:

Red Veron:

This is an anime that truly lives up to its name and the most super chill slice-of-life comedy that features cute-girls-doing-cute-things. That particular cute thing is camping, and it teaches viewers about camping by abiding to that old adage “show, don't tell” by having those cute anime girls go do accurate camping stuff.

It also shows the most gorgeous scenery art that is probably the best reason to go camping in real life. Laid Back Camp practically has no creepy fanservice, but there is a bit of skin shown in a hot spring but its not gratuitous or done to titillate. So those who want to stay away from creepy stuff will be fine with this one.

Josh Tolentino:

As a longtime fan of the "cute girls do cute things" subgenre, I'm actually rather relieved that the circle of just what constitutes "cute things" is expanding to include things other than "having a club of some sort in high school". The appeal of Laid-Back Camp is as much in its detailed depiction of camping minutiae (setting up a tent, lighting a fire) as in the character dynamics of cute anime teens. It's just relaxing to watch others relax, y'know?

As if a testament to how enjoyable Laid-Back Camp can make camping seem, rumors abound of an anime-inspired 4chan user accidentally starting a forest fire in New Mexico. I'd say that sounds like a strong endorsement.

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Darling in the FranXX

Studio: Studio Trigger and A-1 Pictures

Watch it On: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu

The Blurb: In the future, humanity established the "Plantation" mobile fortresses to seed civilization through the wasteland. Protecting the plantation from aliens are the children that pilot robots called FranXX. 

Staff Comments:

Bass: 

 Here's a good analogy for Darling in the FranXX. Let's say Wizards of the Coast and the Pokémon Company announced a crossover trading card game series. Excited that two of the biggest names in the card industry are collaborating, you open a pack. What you quickly realize is that this series is made out of commons from Pokémon Platinum and Magic the Gathering 2014, quickly slapped together. The disappointment.

Darling in the FranXX passed the point of being comfort food for me. All the characters are tropes, ones that stick too rigidly to the script at that. Even Zero Two, the most interesting character of the bunch, got on my nerves in two episodes flat with her abuse of the word "darling".

And, since I'm being that guy, I'll also add that the fanservice felt excessive. Yes, I said it! I can enjoy shows that use sexuality as a tool to say something, like Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn't Exist. This isn't Shimoneta. Instead, it's a boring world where only the concept of dirty jokes exists.

What I'm trying to say is that I wasn't a fan.

Salvador G-Rodiles:

 I'm down for collaborations, but Studio TRIGGER and A-1's chemistry in Darling in the FranXX felt off. Part of it has to do with the series not having a bridge to connect the super robot elements with the show's serious tone about relationships.

So far, the series' great aspect is in how the lead girl, Zero Two, is a mix between a hot-blooded mecha pilot from a '70s series (such as Mazinger Z and Getter Robo) and Haruko from FLCL. It was interesting how her personality clashed with Hiro, who seems to give off an Evangelion-inspired mecha show hero vibe. Then there are the flashy 2D robot fights, which is thanks to Imaishi (Gurren Lagaan and Kill la Kill's Director) directing the action scenes.

Sadly, these are the only things that worked well since everything else fails to mix together. While I didn't mind its doggy style-like pilot system for the male and female characters, it's odd to see this in a show that's meant to be dramatic. Considering that Vandread is a good example of a title where this type of cockpit complements it, Darling in the FranXX might've benefited from taking the hyperactive over-the-top route.

Nonetheless, TRIGGER and A-1 managed to turn it into something that's all right. For now, the bond between the leads and the mecha fights are the factors that'll keep me invested.

Marcel Hoang

Trigger is the PlatinumGames for my anime, and thinking of this anecdote only a few seconds ago, I realize how apt it's become. I really look forward to the stuff both produce and yet it is in the missteps that I realize that neither studio is perfect. Teenage Mutant Turtles was pretty recent for Platinum and now we come to Darling in the FranXX.

At the end of the day, I'll probably hate watch it, because dammit I started watching and I'm holding fast to these tiny threads I've found. But earlier this week I saw a thumbnail on YouTube and a title that perfectly encapsulates Darling in the FranXX for me: it's saying a lot of words but not saying a lot of things.

I absolutely hate this style of storytelling where it dumps everything on you at the beginning and makes you figure out everything contextually as you go along. And Zero Two is just this oasis amongst these characters I try with every fiber of my being to like but end up getting thrown into a turnbuckle to get pounded on by tropes. I could say how I'm not a fan of how Zorome tries so hard to be unlikable but then there's that guy who's always eating a piece of bread and is that how your character peaks? By always eating?

 This show is as enjoyable now as the themes its using, and it's very obviously about awkward sexual experiences and who likes watching that on TV?

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The Seven Heavenly Virtues

Studio: BRidge

Watch it On: HiDive

The Blurb: A spinoff of the Seven Mortal Sins anime (not to be confused with the much safer-for-work Seven Deadly Sins anime), Seven Heavenly Virtues follows the titular characters as they search for a "true messiah" to stand against the Seven Mortal Sins. 

Staff Comments:

Chris Seto: 

Normally, I'd stand up and defend shows like this. Despite their origins, shows like Hakka Ryouran and (especially) Queens Blade did try to make a serviceable show out of themselves and even squeeze out an actual plot worth showing a little interest in. The Seven Mortal Sins set itself up as more of a precursor so I guess there was some hope that The Seven Heavenly Virtues would pick up where Sins left off... But these episodes are 4 minutes long... FOUR MINUTES!!! I can't even string a sentence to say anything about this show with only four minutes to work with!

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Fate/Extra: Last Encore

Studio: SHAFT

Watch it on: Netflix

The Blurb: Waking up sans memories in a world unfamiliar to him, Hakuno Kishinami is drafted as the 129th "Master" in a Holy Grail War, one that's only supposed to have 128 participants. Also starring people you might know from Fate/Stay Night!...or are they?!

Staff Comments:

Josh Tolentino:

Despite the subtitle "Last Encore" being attached to this new Fate franchise entry, it's not a sequel or conclusion to the saga of Fate/EXTRA, but seems closer to a divergent remake (possibly even an alternate timeline) of the original Fate/EXTRA game's story. Franchise creator Kinoko Nasu stated on his blog that he aimed to create a show that would be a surprise to both newbies and Fate stans familiar with the game. Mission accomplished, I suppose, as the new details, as well as studio SHAFT and director Akiyuki Shinbo's deliberately abstract style have made for a first episode that defies easy comprehension. While I couldn't quite tell what was going on at first glance, I was definitely intrigued. Shinbo and SHAFT's talent for making their images look both striking and unsettling works for illustrating the unusual circumstances of Fate/EXTRA's story. Plus, they do a good Nero, so I'm happy for now.

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Record of Grancrest War

Studio: A-1 Pictures

Watch it on: Crunchyroll, Hulu

The Blurb: In a world threatened by demons, warriors equipped with superpower-granting "crests" defend humanity. 

Staff Comments:

Salvador G-Rodiles:

To this day, I'm amazed at the Record of Lodoss War anime installments and novels being based on a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. It shows how one's memorable adventures with their friends could turn into a creation that the masses will consume.

Just like its older fantasy relative, Record of Grancrest War continues to bring in the fantasy tabletop feeling. The main difference is that it feels more like a war campaign than your traditional D&D adventure. Despite the first episode having some weak action scenes, the show's world-building aspects made it seem promising, and it's been improving each week.

The nice part is that the female lead, Siluca, is the one taking the charge as she's helping the Knight Theo obtain recourse to retake his hometown. All in all, it gives off a nice Fire Emblem vibe and you get to see enemy generals join the hero's side. On top of that, the concept of the crests is interesting since they determine one's rank, along with allowing them to use different spells based on their fighting style. 

Once you get past episode one, there's some fun violent scenes when Theo's group goes up against enemy nobles. If anything, it helps that the other characters have more fighting experience so A-1 managed to make their scenes entertaining. 

For a show that's still new, it took some routes that other anime may not do during its early episodes, which has me interested in how the story will turn out. Seeing that its set in a world where two kingdoms went back to war after a demon lord ruined a peace treaty-themed wedding, it'll be interesting to see the cast's position in this war. One thing for sure, it's good to see another Ryo Mizuno (Record of Lodoss War and Louie the Rune Soldier's Author) story get an anime adaptation.

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Mitsuboshi Colors

Studio: Silver Link

Watch it on: HiDive

Staff Comments:

Red Veron:

Another slice of life comedy about cute girls doing cute things but this one is about some elementary school age girls getting into some hijinks in their neighborhood. The trio of girls in this show have a group called “Colors” with their own little club house and they go around “protecting the peace” in their neighborhood. They end up interacting with the locals in their little adventures and are even at odds with a local neighborhood police officer which leads to some funny moments.

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Today's Menu for the Emiya Family

Studio: ufotable

Watch it on: Crunchyroll

The Blurb: Seven Servants are summoned...for lunch! 

Staff Comments:

Josh Tolentino:

Is this the best ending? I'd like to believe it is. For a series that's normally so heavy and self-important, having a fun little palate-cleanser like Today's Menu for the Emiya Family is great. Seeing everyone just...not dead or crazy, and just living their best lives while waiting for Shirou to make them some food. The detail on the animations is up to ufotable's elevated standard, and the best part is, it's all also educational, since you can learn a few recipes on the way. 

Robo Panda Z:

My first entry into the the extended nonsense that is the Fate/Stay Extended Universe - or Nasuverse, was the comedy series Carnival Phantasm. So I went into the rest of the Fate series, with their over-dramatic fights, extended monologuing, and terribly-convoluted plots (as wonderful as I find them) knowing that Type-Moon basically has its collective head up its own ass. It's certainly why, for all its trials and tribulations, I hang on to Fate: Grand Order - the special events hearken back just a little to the sheer silliness of Carnival Phantasm.

Today's Menu for the Emiya Family takes a different and equally pleasing track down the path of ridiculosity. Instead of over-the-top humor, Fate/Laze Cooking, as I now call it, indulges in Kinoko Nasu's love for food. Grail War? What Grail War? Cu Cuchulain and his muscly arms are going to sell Shirou some fish - then make him cook it. And Shirou's gonna do it, because Shirou's nice (and Cu Cuchulain is a handsome handsome man - look at those arms!). Illya isn't coming over to kill him with a Berserker, she's going to be a lazy sack of potatoes with Taiga on New Year's Eve while Shirou makes some soba. Behold, the calming power of the kotatsu! Behold, the infinite stomach of Saber!

I never expected ufotable to make a slice-of-life series, and whether they're using their A-team or not, Shirou Cooks for Lazy Potatoes is a gorgeous in every aspect. There's a delightful fluidity to the watercolor aesthetic, both the backgrounds and the characters are wonderful to look upon, and grabbing potential screenshots for this preview is making hungry.

Shirou Forces Me to Write Recipes While Watching Anime is not a canon Fate series, and as such, you can probably watch it with minimal or no knowledge of the characters or background info - but there's something positively delightful about having a character you love just show up for dinner and a drink, instead of fighting to the death (I am not hungry for Cu, shut your face). There's already a host of things I'm hoping happens in the series - the chief of which being the reappearance of the elusive Mapo Chef Kirei. The series also seems devoid of the franchise's now-infamous fanservice - not a single thong-wearing loli in sight, and it's all the better for it (Yes yes, I know Jack the Ripper isn't in Night!).

Today's Menu That I Am Too Lazy to Replicate is another lovely, laid-back addition to a season full of lovely, laid-back shows - and I haven't had the combo of relaxing and tasty food since Sweetness and Lightning (You need to watch that, too). Just give me some more Taiga and some more Cu, and I'll be happy.

---


Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody

Studio: Connect and Silver Link

Watch it on: Crunchyroll, Funimation

The Blurb: A 29-year-old salaryman finds himself transported to the world of an RPG, where he's a teen with special powers. He'd rather just live normally, though.

Staff Comments:

Chris Seto:

Hey Everyone!! Are you not sick of copy/paste isekai shows yet? You're not?? Well, we're going to try really hard to change that with this show which is a near exact replica of In another world with my Smartphone which, itself, was not a particularly good or entertaining show!

That basically sums up Death March. There is absolutely nothing in this show which you haven't seen in other shows before and it doesn't really try to stand out anyway. I struggle to say it's an outright bad show but it's so bland that it's almost impossible to recommend to anyone. 

---


The Ryuo's Work is Never Done!

Studio: Project No. 9

Watch it on: Crunchyroll

The Blurb: Shogi expert Yaichi holds the title of "Ryuo", one of the highest-ranking in the shogi world. When a 9-year-old grade-schooler named Ai shows up on his doorstep, demanding to be his pupil, Yaichi rediscovers his passion for the game.

Staff Comments:

Red Veron: 

This one is about a teenage professional shogi player and while that sounds like another much better anime, March comes in like a lion, Ryuo is a comedy that will draw in people who might end up or already be in some FBI list. I suspect this show, originally a novel, only got picked up because of the interest in Shogi generated by the aforementioned March comes in like a lion. Just pass on this one if you don't want to see anime Shogi with creepy pervy stuff around it, unless that's your thing just be sure to say hello to the FBI agent watching you through your webcam.

 ---

Hakyu Hoshin Engi

Studio: C-Station

Watch it on: Crunchyroll

The Blurb: Taikobo finds himself in charge of Houshin, a project to seal away all the world's immortal beings. But what'll happen if you've been trained to hunt down immortals by one of their own?

Staff Comments:

Salvador G-Rodiles: 

When I heard about Hoshin Engi getting remade, I was excited about it getting a faithful adaptation since Studio DEEN's version (released in North America as Soul Hunter) didn't do the original '90s manga justice. The source material is a shonen take on the classic Chinese novel, Fengshen Yanyi (The Creations of the Gods), and it features immortals who wield mystical tools called Paopei. In other words, it sounds like it could be a ridiculous show in the right hands.

Despite Hakyu Hoshin Engi being close to the source material, the whole is littered with pacing issues. The first episode is the worst contender as the staff's decision to jump between various events ruins the chances of the audience caring about the story and characters. 

One of the things that drew me to Hoshin Engi is that its 72-year-old lead is more of a tactician than a strong fighter. His tendency to act like a goofy slacker helps make his strategic accomplishments feel impressive. To an extent, he's almost like a shonen manga version of Justy Ueki Tylor from The Irresponsible Captain Tylor

Even though the first episode captured Taikobo's smart side, they skipped the key points that were crucial to his development. This includes two major fights, which set the stage for his early confrontations with the story's main villain, Dakki. Because we weren't exposed to those scenes, it made underplayed Taikobo's elaborate scheme since it made it feel like he improvised at the last minute. The worst part is that we didn't get to see the full potential of his genius, such as his plan where he turned an entire lake into saké to save a village.

While the other two episodes had better pacing, they left out crucial parts that made those scenes great. In a way, it's like we get the "who" and "what," but we aren't shown the "why." Seeing that the anime will have 23 episodes and a special, it looks like the team wasn't given enough room to create a proper Hoshin Engi adaptation. I guess it's one of those cases where the publisher thought they could make a quick buck from a rushed adaptation of a classic manga.

---

 


A Place Further Than The Universe

Studio: Madhouse

Watch it on: Crunchyroll

The Blurb: Cute girls go to Antarctica.

Staff Comments:

Bass:

My personal favorite show of the season. A Place Further Than the Universe is essentially a show about girls planning a trip to Antarctica. It may seem like a mundane premise, even if the chosen destination a fairly uncommon one, but it's one that is executed upon with a lot of skill. Characters are believable, being that right mix of dorkiness and trendiness that would feel right at home within my youngest brother's group of friends. Mari Tamaki's struggle to find the courage to break out of her daily routine is particularly relatable... Incidentally, I'm also been planning to go on a trip this summer, which only increased my enjoyment of the show.

In any case, MADHOUSE has crafted a very entertaining show. It's brimming with youth, and the characters are such likable losers that it's scientifically impossible not to root for them.

Hypno Coffin:

When I woke up this morning, I was greeted with a plethora of notifications on both Slack and Discord, the unfortunate result of going to sleep at 9:30 PM for once. Among the miscellany were 2 messages from our very own Bass. These messages revealed a dark and dearly disconcerting situation; Bass had been the only person to provide a preview of A Place Further Than The Universe.

Simply, this could not stand. Now, the reality of this situation is that while I agreed to toss my thoughts into the ring, I only got around to opening these messages from Bass at around Noon-ish, and he later mentioned that this article was set to go live at 5 PM EST. I had only 5 hours to buckle down and write. So what I did was fart around for 2 hours and eat some pizza, and then grumble in front of my keyboard (just like I’m doing right now!) and start writing.

Without wasting any more time, Antarctica Girls was a show that I was more than apprehensive to watch. While I was a rabid connoisseur of anime back in high school, to the point of watching every single show one season (don’t try this at home, kids) but over the years I grew rather tired of the reality of the anime market churning out the same old stuff each season. What I’m getting to here is that a show about 4 high school girls going to Antarctica seemed pretty bog standard, at least to me.

Our main character is a 2nd year in high school who discovers an old diary of hers from years past, and within she sees that she used to have aspirations to go on an adventure of some kind in high school, to make the most of youth. She ends up crossing paths with a girl who has her mind set on taking a voyage to Antarctica, and the rest stems from there. Sure, the Antarctica part was new, but just replace that with a more standard anime setting and its been done to death. So imagine my surprise when the first episode took me on a roller coaster of emotions. I laughed, I cried, I empathized with the main character, and I felt my heart grow three sizes all within the span of a 20-minute episode.

What separates Antarctica Girls Gone Mild from the rest of the riffraff is that it captures a very specific feeling: the adventure and uncertainty of youth. I would be hard-pressed to present you with any specific element of the show that evokes this feeling, and would instead argue that the show is greater than the sum of its parts. Everything works together wonderfully, from the backgrounds and the musical score to the voice acting and the character designs. Out of everything, though, I would argue that the chemistry between the main characters is what glues all those elements together. While I’m only 2 episodes in thus far, but I’m incredibly hopeful that the rest of the show lives up to the incredible quality it’s had early on, and I would wholeheartedly recommend giving this one a shot.

---

 


Yowamushi Pedal: Glory Line

Robo Panda Z: 

 Yowapeda, the ridiculous biking anime that taught me to fake sports conversations with actual cycling fans, is back - and I'm not sure I've ever seen an anime care less about a season break than this. With only the briefest recap of last season, this is a show that knows it's been running for 87 episodes (plus a movie), and knows it has its surprisingly female-oriented fan-base well-secured. For series die-hards, who have been watching for the past four years, it's perfect. For everyone else? Maybe it's time to start with episode one.

A few episodes into the season, and nothing has really changed from the classic Yowapedaformula. Since The New Generation hit the Inter-High, we've lost last season's surprising ability to finish races with any sense of brevity, and are back to very short distances taking absurdly-long periods of time to finish. This is naturally so more can be crammed into every screaming second, and boy is there a lot to take in.

Yowapeda has always taken the "realistic premise with absurd power-ups" of sports anime in very odd directions, and this continues to be true with characters like Kuroda, who has explosively-springy leg muscles. We're not talking One Piece-level, here; but when you have someone on the same team so obsessed with rock-hard muscles that he's named his pecs (Andy and Frank, respectively), the idea of "spring" has become oddly novel. It's apparently novel to the other characters, too, because they keep feeling him up.

In-between characters revealing their trump cards, and taking an interminable amount of time to reach the finish line, there's a great deal of flashbacks to flesh out the newer characters, refresh our memories on the older rivalries, and just a hell of a lot of trash talk and banter between both rivals and teammates (The Imaizumi/Naruko odd couple is already a fan favorite). The prominence of everyone's favorite Attack on Titan runaway Midousuji (featured above) promises many shenanigans and low-key gross-out moments to come.

This is a lot of words to say "it's business as usual", but yeah, it's pretty much business business as usual in the land of Yowapeda, for better and for worse. I'm certainly a sucker for the added character development, and I love that the non-cyclists still get to be in the picture... but the drawn-out episodes threaten to drag too long (like this review). Yelling, "Ora ora ora" is great, I know, but finish it up, guys.

---

Mitchiri Neko (Micchiri Neko)

Studio: helo.inc

Watch it on: Crunchyroll

Staff Comments:

Robo Panda Z: 

It's a cat anime. About cats. They're very cat. They can talk, but they're still cats.

If that didn't appeal to you, maybe Mitchiri Neko isn't for you. It's certainly received some criticism for its simple premise and obvious child-demographic... but so what? It's a thre and a half minute anime about cats that replicate when left alone, and take all sorts of weird forms. It's the most goddamn, heart-warmingly adorable thing I've seen in forever. Between this and Cardcaptor Sakura, I can almost feel the cold, cold heart thaw within me.

The premise really is that simple. Based on the comics/mobile games, each episode is just a series of short jokes - often much more clever than they have any right to be - about the various kinds of forms the cats take. There are cats in bottles. There are bee-cats. There's even a curling joke. Finally, a curling joke in an anime! There are a number of excellent shows airing this season, but the two times a week Mitchiri Neko comes on is the best time, as far as I'm concerned.

Let's just put it this way... Mitchiri Neko is so cute, it helped me heal from Devilman Crybaby. Almost. Fucking Devilman.

My first entry into the the extended nonsense that is the Fate/Stay Extended Universe - or Nasuverse, was the comedy series Carnival Phantasm. So I went into the rest of the Fate series, with their over-dramatic fights, extended monologuing, and terribly-convoluted plots (as wonderful as I find them) knowing that Type-Moon basically has its collective head up its own ass. It's certainly why, for all its trials and tribulations, I hang on to Fate: Grand Order - the special events hearken back just a little to the sheer silliness of Carnival Phantasm.

Today's Menu for the Emiya Family takes a different and equally pleasing track down the path of ridiculosity. Instead of over-the-top humor, Fate/Laze Cooking, as I now call it, indulges in Kinoko Nasu's love for food. Grail War? What Grail War? Cu Cuchulain and his muscly arms are going to sell Shirou some fish - then make him cook it. And Shirou's gonna do it, because Shirou's nice (and Cu Cuchulain is a handsome handsome man - look at those arms!). Illya isn't coming over to kill him with a Berserker, she's going to be a lazy sack of potatoes with Taiga on New Year's Eve while Shirou makes some soba. Behold, the calming power of the kotatsu! Behold, the infinite stomach of Saber!

I never expected ufotable to make a slice-of-life series, and whether they're using their A-team or not, Shirou Cooks for Lazy Potatoes is a gorgeous in every aspect. There's a delightful fluidity to the watercolor aesthetic, both the backgrounds and the characters are wonderful to look upon, and grabbing potential screenshots for this preview is making hungry.

Shirou Forces Me to Write Recipes While Watching Anime is not a canon Fate series, and as such, you can probably watch it with minimal or no knowledge of the characters or background info - but there's something positively delightful about having a character you love just show up for dinner and a drink, instead of fighting to the death (I am not hungry for Cu, shut your face). There's already a host of things I'm hoping happens in the series - the chief of which being the reappearance of the elusive Mapo Chef Kirei. The series also seems devoid of the franchise's now-infamous fanservice - not a single thong-wearing loli in sight, and it's all the better for it (Yes yes, I know Jack the Ripper isn't in Night!).

Today's Menu That I Am Too Lazy to Replicate is another lovely, laid-back addition to a season full of lovely, laid-back shows - and I haven't had the combo of relaxing and tasty food since Sweetness and Lightning (You need to watch that, too). Just give me some more Taiga and some more Cu, and I'll be happy.

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Josh Tolentino
Josh TolentinoAnime Editor   gamer profile

When not posting about Japanese games or Star Trek, Josh serves as Managing Editor for Japanator, Dtoid's sister site for the best in anime, manga, and cool news from Glorious Nippon. Disclosure... more + disclosures


 


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