The second week of a season is where I expect to mostly cover second episodes, but not this time! We’ve had many more premieres this week than shows airing their second episodes, and as such, we’re still in premiere-coverage mode! A short to medium write-up on each, with links to full first-impressions for most. At the bottom of the post I also order all the premieres of the season by how much I liked them, alongside helpful links.
As always, the list is ordered by how much I liked the episodes, combined with how good I thought they were, in a descending order (first is best, last is worst). I’m also going to give each premiere a couple of scores, “Premiere Score” for how well it did its job as a premiere (introducing characters, establishing situation, providing a “hook”), and “Episode Score”, for how well it worked as a regular episode. “Enjoyment Score” should be obvious.
1) Ushio to Tora Episode 28:
Ushio to Tora’s last episode was sad. Really sad. It had shown us the cast, working their way through their issues, only to be torn apart and for a character to feel lonely, for a relationship to be torn asunder. This episode was worse. Much worse. By which I mean, it was so very good at being painful. It had evoked the show’s most heart-rending moment to date (Jie Mei and Giryou’s role in crafting the Beast Spear in episode 20), while making sure its cast is given agency. No matter what, someone had to sacrifice themselves, because they could not live with the knowledge the other one died for their sake. A selfishly unselfish decision. A save in the nick of time, and our heroes, well, also sacrificing themselves. This episode was a string of heavy moments, of the youkai crying as they look on at another’s sacrifice for their sake, for their desperation. The show did have a moment or two of levity, but it didn’t feel as if it robbed the other moments of their effect, but as if the show were giving us a moment to catch our breath, so we could keep on going.
Who’s Guren? Why does he look like Tora? Will Ushio and Tora be able to convince the rest of the youkai through their actions, even without restoring their memories? I don’t know the answers, but the journey is littered with moments that remind me of why Fairy Tail is my favourite long-running shounen battlers, and which remind me of my favourite Hunter x Hunter arc (the elections arc, if you’re curious). Because it makes me feel.
2) Concrete Revolutio Episode 14 (2nd Cour Episode 1):
ConRevo is back, and it’s as if it has never left! The show took us back to Shiba Raito’s story, who also starred heavily in the show’s third episode, and who started going down the path of questioning his orders and what he should do as a follower of justice in the first cour’s last arc, after Claude’s appearance and the draconian measures employed to take down the protesters. ConRevo is still talking about the same themes it always has, of trying to do what’s right, and trying to reconcile the various “justices” there are out there, while you are beholden to the notion that there cannot possibly be more than one.
This episode was at times touching, had a fair number of animation highlights, and was a great way to welcome the show back. “More of the same” isn’t only good when a show’s been good all along, but is actually a necessity when the show is making a coherent thematic argument (see cour 1’s write-up). To do otherwise would mean everything falls apart. And it’s not falling apart yet.
3) Flying Witch Episode 1:
This was nice! It had a likeable cast of characters, it had humorous moments it did not try to shout and shove at us as “comedy!” which allowed them to breathe and be charming and smile-worthy, rather than end up as something for you to groan over. Makoto is bad with directions. The show kept showing it to us and talking about it, but it was in the sense of two people actually talking to one another, or just a small touch of her opening the wrong door before turning around, rather than feeling the characters are performing for a fake audience and its laugh track.
Charming, charming, charming! The little cousin who is suspicious of the newcomer to her house who keeps talking to her cat. Her amazement over seeing someone fly and then the sheer exultation over having flown herself. Characters who naturally act as dorks, and cover for one another. Aside from some bland art, underwhelming background CG, and Kei’s incapable character, this episode made me smile all episode long. Not as funny/emotionally resonant as Gingitsune, Barakamon, or Snow White with the Red Hair, so the ceiling is a tad lower, but it’s still giving me what I hope to have at least one of every season. And after how Kuma Miko failed to give it to me, I’m really happy this show is here.
Premiere Score: 7/10. Episode Score: 8/10. Personal Enjoyment Score: 8.5/10.
4) My Hero Academia / Boku no Hero Academia Episode 2:
Almost everything the first episode of the show hadn’t done for me, the second one did. The first one had a lot of fun, but it didn’t have me emotionally invested. Yes, we have a sad little boy who wants to be a hero and cannot, but does he wish to be powerful in order to help people, or does he wish to help people in order to feel powerful? The first episode didn’t answer that, the second one did. Moreover, All Might, the Saitama-style “All Powerful Hero” was given weaknesses, he was shown actually risking himself and going against the nature he displayed up to now. The best part of One Punch Man was Mumen Rider. My Hero Academia presenting us with a Saitama did not fill me with joy, but in this episode it has taken this Saitama and crossed him over with Mumen Rider. It had given us a someone with weaknesses, a human with fears and problems and a past to overcome. It has given us a hero.
There were more emotional moments, more kick-ass moments, and the heroes working alongside one another to help people rather than competing for credits (which even last episode, only the rookie has really engaged in). In other words, it took the fun spectacle, and added to it a cast of characters I’d actually like to watch more of. Even the jerk Kacchan is just a boy in middle school, and not that terrible. Good job.
The one thing the show hasn’t done is show us where and how it’d go from now, of Deku joining the academy, and whether he’ll be in a school, fighting villains… what? But that’s fine, because I now care enough to keep watching to find out.
5) Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress / Kutetsujou no Kabaneri Episode 1:
Kabaneri is a beautiful looking show. So beautiful its beauty could fit 4-5 different shows, each looking distinct from one another. And it does look like that. So while the show is absolutely gorgeous in each of its distinct art-styles, it does look like a bit of an incongruous mess. The first episode was quite propulsive, with several fights, an introduction of our protagonist’s anti-establishment ideologies and motivations, betrayal of responsibility, and various hints of powers to be made.
The show was very funny whenever it tried to employ its form of pseudo-science, and the protagonist is indeed sold to us as someone who doesn’t think things carefully, if at all. Which makes it a surprise that the show expects us to agree with his (pretty shounen-standard) philosophy of “I will not cower! We must maintain our pride!”, and it does, as it quickly shows the leadership as cowardly and the adults as despicable. But whatever, this is a ride that was pretty enjoyable, but did suffer whenever I “used my brain.” How do I hate the “You need to turn your brain off when you watch this show” spiel, but this series might be one that suffers the more seriously you try to take it. Thankfully, nothing about it is obnoxious, and the ride with this train is enjoyable, unlike Mayoiga’s, the other journey-themed show.
Premiere Score: 9/10. Episode Score: 8.5/10. Personal Enjoyment Score: 7.5/10.
6) Joker Game Episode 2:
This show is similar to My Hero Academia in that both gave us a two-part premiere, but where I’m not sure where the show is going after the first episode. I don’t know if Joker Game is going to be about Sakuma’s transition into the spy school of thought, or whether we’re going to get an episodic series focusing on another character at a time, or even whether we’ll go globe-trotting. That aside, this premiere’s second half was pretty strong, with Sakuma overcoming his hidebound ideals while remaining within the confines of propriety. It was interesting to watch how even a Colonel who spilled confidential material to geishas, who planned to use his subordinates to erase his shame, and then felt relief at the ciphers being found could still feel this genuinely shocked over a fellow soldiers profaning the Imperial Portrait.
Sakuma sees what the spies are up to, and is starting to see the shape of the game. He plays it with them. He tries to stay out of politics as a good soldier should, while realizing there’s no such things as being non-political. He’s torn between ideals and that following them would defeat the purpose of obeying them, which is saving the nation. It was a well-directed and well-acted episode. Slow, yet full of subtle shifts in perception for the characters. “When did you turn to their side?”, but it’s this view of things as having sides that creates them to begin with. But it’s not like you can act as if the game does not exist, and so, you pick a side. I’m on the show’s side for now. It’s not riveting, but it’s well-done and interesting.
7) JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Part 4): Diamond is Unbreakable Episode 2:
This episode of JoJo had some of the things I like about JoJo, and some things I don’t like. And some of the things I didn’t care for that carried over from Stardust Crusaders had been improved. First, the use of geometry and colours was really nice. Not just after Josuke had gone berserk, but also the view of the house from outside. The show was prompt to maintain stakes by removing the idea of undoing death,which has been vital. The “puzzle” fight between the JoJos and Angelo had a couple of moments that felt clever in their back and forth, in how they went through the wall only for him to see it coming.
What I didn’t like was how one-dimensional Angelo was. He had no dignity as a character, and by the time Josuke and the show were done with him, he didn’t even have dignity as a villain. The “stakes” after the first casualty didn’t feel major, and I’m worried about the “Fight of the Week” thing we might be carrying over from Stardust Crusaders. But, aside from the show feeling a bit more energetic in its delivery of back and forth and visuals, the fact Angelo only received one episode gives me some more hope for what is to come. It was a solid episode with a few stand-out moments.
8) Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto / Sakamoto desu ga? Episode 1:
Sakamoto doesn’t look good. Its sound might be to your liking or not. Still shots abound, empty frames, repeating segments. The show is pretty bare bones in terms of production, yet it is pretty easy to spot Takamtsu Shinji’s (he of Gintama fame) hand. In terms of plot as well, the show only really has one joke – “Sakamoto is amazing. He will win. No matter what.” And the more you go against Sakamoto, the more you fail.
Amazingly, the joke lands much better than it has any right to be, with small moments working, and extended skits working. I found myself chuckling throughout the entire show. Sometimes with it, sometimes at it. It’s a really stupid comedy, and it reminds me of Cromartie High more than anything else. But even though I did not like Cromartie High, I did like Sakamoto. Enough that I’d keep watching it for now. Would I recommend it to you? I’m not sure. I’m sure just reading the manga will be faster and better, but this show is surprisingly good. I’d give it a whirl, at least.
Premiere Score: 10/10 (it introduced the one joke. Well done). Episode Score: 6/10. Personal Enjoyment Score: 7/10.
9) Re:Zero – Starting Life In Another World Episode 2:
ReZero’s second episode was neither as good nor as bad as the first. It didn’t have the truly great directorial highlights of the first episode, but it also had a lot less time spent with Subaru being offensively unfunny, and the show spending all its attention on his “oh so funny unfuniness,” sadly, each time I thought to myself, “Boy, he’s finally taking this world seriously! He’s realizing it’s not a game!” He would go right along once more and make a declaration of how the game owes him for being a game, and would not treat whatever happened seriously. But hey, a bad and annoying character is not nearly as bad as a show trying to be funny when it just isn’t. Half the episode being spent with Felt who was pretty great once more was nice. So, how is this show shaping up to be? Based on this episode, it’s shaping up to be an alright watch. Watchable, with moments where you facepalm not just at the characters but at the show’s writer and director, but also moments with good characters, good music, and art and direction that enhance the sense of dread. So, I’m sticking with it for now. I do want to see where it leads things.
Oh yeah, we finally got the OP (opening song) and the ED (ending song). The OP looks great but sounds bland, and the ED looks bland but sounds great. Also, the OP has a whole bunch of girls, in which sense it really reminded me of Steins;Gate, where the OP and the first half really did make it seem like a harem.
10) Kiznaiver Episode 1:
Kiznaiver is not just a gorgeous show, but a series where someone has put a lot of time and effort into going for specific vibes with the look. Aside from shots that are just beautiful in execution, such as this moment of walking in the shade, there are plenty of shots which focus on geometry, or on the wrongness of things looking innocent and well, slightly deranged. It feels as if the director really wanted to direct Bakemonogatari, or Mekakucity Actors, and had to settle for this show.
How does it fare beyond visuals? Well, the show is definitely not too subtle with its themes, perhaps it is so unsubtle with them that it’s actually telling us it will not revolve around the themes espoused, but use them as the assumption to explore something else? I wonder. There are a couple of interesting characters in the first episode, and more that are standoffishly tropish, but their standoffishness is exactly why they’re part of the show. It’s not elegant storytelling by any means of the imagination, but between the strong visual direction, and dealing with ideas I find interesting, I’m going to stick with it for now.
Premiere Score: 7/10. Episode Score: 7/10. Personal Enjoyment Score: 6/10.
Full first impressions, with a bit more of an eye to the visuals, and writing.
11) Bungo Stray Dogs Episode 1:
Very crisp and beautiful show, when it wants to be. Good reaction faces. But, there wasn’t really much of interest happening. Main character was bland thus far, and his voice actor hadn’t done a very good job selling me on his plight either. The other voice actors are all capable, but what little we’ve seen of their characters makes them come off as one-note walking tropes for now. The action sequences were very pretty, but similarly to Noragami, they weren’t exciting, but rather felt cold and austere, with a sense of “One moment hangs in space, and then fades away.”
Many people mention that the comedy style is similar to Ouran Host Highschool Club, which shares the same director. There might be something to it, but Ouran had a couple of differences. First, Ouran wasn’t billed as a more serious show, especially not an action series. Second, I found the cast of Ouran, even at this stage, more endearing, and the show funnier. There were actual humorous interactions in Ouran, whereas in Bungo Stray Dogs it all felt a bit overwrought and “Oh, am I not beautifully tragic and comic?” There are such similar characters in Ouran, but it didn’t feel the same. I’m not sure why. Maybe because the cast was more varied and over the top, and in on the fact they were over the top. I do wish the show shapes up, and either delivers more interesting characterization, better action sequences, or better comedy. I did laugh at one moment, but that’s not that good for a 20 minute episode that otherwise left me cold.
As many other premieres, the “premiere score” here is a bit uneven, as the main character joined a group, and we know this group employs supernatural agents to accomplish tasks, but it hasn’t really shown us what sort of show it’d be, or most of the cast.
Premiere Score: 6.5/10. Episode Score: 6/10. Personal Enjoyment Score: 6/10.
12) Anne Happy Episode 1:
Director Oonuma Shun knows how to direct comedies. I came into this series expecting a comedy. But if it’s reminded me of anything, it’s Love Lab, at least the first couple of episodes that I watched, but it goes even further in the same direction. Which is to say that it’s a “Cute girls being cute” show with some comic plot elements, but that mostly revolves around seeing them doing cute nothingness which should hopefully also elicit a chuckle out of you. There are definitely elements of the plot and characters that remind me of Baka to Test, Shun’s best comedy to date.
The problem is, the interactions are mostly not that charming (though the final hug was suitably warm and fuzzy), the characters aren’t funny, and the plot beats aren’t funny either. So the main girl is in love with a construction site’s sign, and another girl keeps going on about how she’s terrible, and the teacher drops her nice act to stare scarily at her students. And none of it is funny. And it is not charming enough, though Ann is pretty charming (and her voice actress sounds like a dead ringer to Gakkou Gurashi’s Yuki). The show looks pleasant enough in terms of art, and music, but there’s not really anything for me here. Dropped.
Premiere Score: 6.5/10. Episode Score: 6/10. Personal Enjoyment Score: 4.5/10.
13) Mayoiga / The Lost Village Episode 2:
I’ll cut straight to the chase. I did not enjoy Mayoiga. I actively suffered through watching this episode. Furthermore, unlike shows that were intensely unpleasant (Aku no Hana) or doubled down on the unfun (Texhnolyze), I think Mayoiga is a bad show. It’s quite telling when most discussions on Twitter don’t revolve around whether the show is bad, but whether it’s a B-movie, that is to say, whether it’s self-aware of just how bad it is. I’m not a big fan of “so bad it’s good,” so even if the answer to that question is “Yes” (while I think it is a resounding “No”), it wouldn’t make me more inclined towards the show.
The cast is deeply unlikeable. That much is certain. Characters who are deeply unwell, and who act as the caricatures we often see online, but we all know such people really do exist. I mean, we have an uzi-toting girl who is running away to a world where she’ll get to be with her guns, who for no reason at all but to point out how ridiculous she is (because otherwise we’d think the gun-toter is serious), she also speaks as if she were a cat. I do wonder what she’d do once she runs out of ammo, living in the wilds. Her best bud is a machete-wielding dude who goes on and on about how useless women are. These characters are unlikeable. But we see their ilk as personalities online. We can call them deluded and stupid, but we can believe they are people.
But then we have characters like the protagonist, who literally says everything out loud, including marveling over how much he’s not attracted to this woman, so maybe his friend who said he easily falls for girls was wrong, even though if his friend says something about him, he might be right! That sentence is awfully written, but that reflects the issue. These do not feel like real people. These barely feel like actual characters. They only spout these terribly written lines in a non-believeable manner to elicit some reaction from the other characters, and us. But the only reaction it elicits from me is nearly physical pain over how badly written every single line and interaction is. Nothing feels real. Every line exists either to be screencapped and turned into a meme, or because each character only has one track to go along, such as the driver and his “You’re trying to escape responsibility!” and the utterly unbelieveable response he received. Real people rationalize, and react in anger, they don’t go, “You deluded yourself into helping us.”
The show did have one good thing, which is how the abandoned village had a very distinct sense of place. But beyond that? To watch this show would reduce me to noting how terrible literally every single line spoken is. I don’t derive enjoyment from that. So I won’t keep watching. Some people say it’s about cheering when these characters die, but it’s not like the ones left alive will be any better, and sadly, the show’s writing is not a character that can die within the show. Dropped.
Do you just want to know how I felt about the premieres? Here is a list organizing the premieres by scores, as well to the specific write-ups for each that received one beyond the relevant weekly overview. Do note they are listed by how much I liked them. Kabaneri is “Very good”, and Kiznaiver is “Above average”, perhaps. But that’s what you get with arbitrary brackets. Also note, these are for the first episodes alone, ignoring second episodes that already aired.
1) Flying Witch.
2) Joker Game.
4) My Hero Academia.
6) Sakamoto desu ga? (In this week’s overview)
Average / Uneven:
8) Bungo Stray Dogs.
Bad / Boring / Not my thing:
10) Anne Happy (In this week’s overview).
12) Kuma Miko (see last week’s overview).
Overall First Impressions of the Season (Take 2): First of all, missing shows: I’m not going to watch Macross Delta for now, Kuromukuro just received proper subtitles so will appear next week, I didn’t have time for Kagewani Shou this week, and Big Order will only premiere this upcoming Friday. This season has far too many shows that interest me. I mean, “Didn’t have time for Kagwani Shou? It’s only a short!” And yet, I only got to Friday’s episode of The Blacklist last night. Friday is just too packed, especially with Concrete Revolutio, my one sure “Weekly write-up” show also airing on that day.
And that brings us to this show. There are so many shows I find enjoyable this season, at least at this stage, that it’s ridiculous. I didn’t find a comedy I’d love, but I managed to find one that made me laugh (Sakamoto), which is rare enough. I didn’t find a comfy and heartfelt romance show, but I found one that was charming and warm (Flying Witch). The only thing this season doesn’t really have is a good romance. But even if all these show failed to interest me, between Concrete Revolutio tackling the “Themes-show”, Ushio to Tora giving me the “Feels-driven action”, and Flying Witch having me smile, this season would be enough for me. And yet, here are all these other shows, ranging between fun and not deep, to masterfully crafted but somewhat emotionally distant, to fun and silly. And the hopefuls, that might end up great, or as great disappointments.
I might have to cut some shows I’d rather not, and be more strict with what I cut, just because there are too many shows. The weekly overview (this post) might also have to do with only a line or two for most shows, simply because there are far too many shows to give each the time it deserves. And these are good problems to have. Better too many shows that bring a sparkle to our eyes than a season where we look around us and see nothing, so we hold dearly to the one or two shows that bring us any form of joy. Backlog? Not this season. Ha!
Dear readers, what do you think of the premieres thus far? Anything that surprised you, for better or for worse?