Here comes my favorite season, with its cooler weather perfect for cozy hats, mittens, and scarves and its turning colors of purple, red, and yellow. This season is also when I start craving soups and stews, and my hot beverage intake skyrockets. We also have our fair share of rainy weekends leading up to the winter months, so that hopefully means plenty of time for anime and gaming.
Right now, KWoo and I are working our way through the final portions of the PS3 version of Tales of Graces F. I had played it several years ago, but never finished it. He’s liking it much more than Tales of Symphonia, which we completed earlier this year. I actually found a rough draft for my initial review of Graces F, so I’m hoping that I’ll have the time this second play through to actually write about it.
But back to this season’s choices in anime. As usual, this “set menu” is subject to change as the weeks progress. For now, this is what I have chosen:
- 3-gatsu no Lion
- All Out!!
- Bungou Stray Dogs 2nd Season
- Gi(a)rlish Number
- Haikyuu!!: Karasuno Koukou VS Shiratorizawa Gakuen Koukou
- Hibike! Euphonium 2
- Long Riders!
- Magic-Kyun! Renaissance
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans 2nd Season
- Natsume Yuujinchou Go
- Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume
- Shuumatsu no Izetta
- Stella no Mahou
- Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari
- Watashi ga Motete Dousunda
- Yuri!! on Ice
3-gatsu no Lion (2 eps.)
After seeing the second episode, I decidedly moved March Comes in like a Lion from Undecided to Watching. If you are also on the fence after the first episode, I suggest you stick around for one more before making your final decision.
Right from the beginning, I saw the similarity in art and characterization to an old favorite of mine from the same original creator, Chica Umino’s Honey & Clover. The textures, facial expressions, scenic frames–they’re all distinctly familiar. Then there’s the influence by Shaft, which brings more notable features by the studio, like body movements and background effects. The visual combination flatters the story, even if the beginning felt a bit slow.
The first time I encountered shogi was in the anime, Shion no Ou, which was, surprisingly, a murder mystery. 3-gatsu no Lion is completely different. The story centers on Kiriyama Rei, a high school student who plays and lives off wages as a professional shogi player. His solitude and loneliness pervade almost every scene; he seems to have no close friends and no passions. Despite playing professionally, he looks dispassionate in his matches. The one bright spot in his life comes in the form of a household where three sisters and two cats live. Their colorful and light home reminded me a little of the tiny house in Mawaru Penguindrum. Like Kiriyama, the girls have experienced loss in the family, yet they almost always appear brimming over with joy. I absolutely loved the second episode where we saw the first meeting between Kiriyama and Akari, the eldest sister. She is undoubtedly strong and kind, but there’s an underlying sadness that I’m curious to see more of later in the show.
Bungou Stray Dogs 2nd Season (2 eps.)
Chances of me returning for this sequel were low given the failed expectations of the first, but the opening episode of this second season turned out much better than predicted. It provided the story and attitude and I had hoped for in the previous season, and centered on a character I found far more interesting than Atsushi.
It was almost immediately obvious from the beginning that Dazai had much more going on than the suicidal joy he pushed with persistent force in almost every one of his scenes. I felt unjustly teased when the show dropped information on his past affiliation as an executive with Port Mafia, the area’s shadowed authority. Season two opens into the past, with Dazai still a part of Port Mafia and as obsessed with suicide as his future self. The encounter in a neighborhood bar and the subsequent attack at an apartment turned up the tension on this series. Now I’m back, hopeful and wanting for more mystery and thrills.
Haikyuu!!: Karasuno Koukou VS Shiratorizawa Gakuen Koukou (2 eps.)
They really couldn’t get more direct than the chosen title for the 3rd season of Haikyuu!!, could they? This is the national stage we’ve been building towards for two, two-cours seasons, and our team has already faced crushing defeat forcing us to start from the beginning. A good sign is that the season is shorter than usual with only ten episodes. This indicates to me that they have closure and that this focus on one final game is worth all the time leading up to now. I also found the opening episode well paced–not too slow, nor too rushed. They took the time to re-introduce us to the Shiratorizawa crew and their intimidating fans. I’m excited to see how much more Hinata and Kageyama will grow through this match.
Hibike! Euphonium 2 (3 eps.)
This sequel couldn’t come fast enough with all the hype from the first season and the stopping point right as they prepared for the regionals. Knowing from the ending credits that they advanced doesn’t really help, since like most other sports anime, real satisfaction comes from seeing them on the national stage and performing through to the end. We’ll hopefully have that opportunity this second season, and not some crappy cliffhanger at the end. For the most part, Eupho is back in beautiful form with its visuals and writing. Kumiko continues to be effortlessly likable with her cynical reactions, and Asuka is still best girl.
The drama also picks up again with a semi-related direction from the first season. This time, we meet one of the second years who quit during the fall out with the seniors from the previous year. We find out flutist Masumi once aspired to reach the nationals, but quit from the attitudes of the third years, leaving behind those she had promised to compete with and her chance to start over the following year. Now she wants in, and Asuka understandably stands against her re-entry to the band. It’s a tough decision–on one hand, I agree with Asuka that there really isn’t a place for Masumi in the coming competition, but I also want to forgive her and see how she will try to contribute to the group despite Mizore’s feelings. I’m betting Masumi will get back in. On a side note, bah on Eupho for squeezing in swimsuits in the second episode!
Keijo!!!!!!!! (3 eps.)
This show wasn’t even going to make my to-try list, but a nudge from friend Crisu to watch the first 60 seconds and provide feedback quickly turned that around. Just that opening minute is enough to determine whether or not you’ll want to pick up this anime. Generically speaking, this is a sports anime, but hardly at all like the usual sort. The anime includes significant amounts of ecchi and yuri scenarios.
The fictional sport of Keijo is a female-only sport that incorporates players balancing on platforms (“land”) floating on water and having to knock off opponents using only their butts and chests. The opening minute of the first episode shows us these tactics to maximum effect. The whole idea of the sport and its popularity in this world is grossly fascinating and comical to me due to the seriousness in which the story approaches the subject matter. If it lacked sincerity or was half-assed in application, I probably would have just been offended at the objectification of the characters. Instead, I am honestly intrigued by the the game and its players, particularly main character Nozomi, as they try to aim for pro-status.
Magic-Kyun! Renaissance (3 eps.)
Fiiiiiiiinally! A reverse harem that seems mildly interesting and has a more colorful main girl. I’ve been in the pits lately with reverse harems, since I haven’t had a single one pique my interest for the past several seasons. And while I have seen one here and there, I haven’t truly loved one since Kiniro no Corda: Primo Passo, which shares some similarities with Magic-Kyun! Renaissance. They both take place in an art-focused environment, one specifically music, and the other on a variety of fine arts. They both include an isolated girl; Primo Passo did so by throwing a girl with zero musical background into a competitive world of musicians, while Renaissance has Aigasaki transfer in to the prestigious magic arts school where transfers are incredibly rare and her name immediately draws the spotlight.
Hoshigei High is a school of magical arts, which combines fine arts with a still unknown type of magic. Certain people have the ability to create beautiful displays of light with their performances, but the usefulness has yet to show itself. For now, I don’t see much of a point for separating these magical arts students from normal arts students. The intention seems the same: to please the audience. Maybe some other effect other than colorful balls of light will reveal itself later on. Aigaski demonstrates an interesting skill that I wouldn’t normally think suitable for public performance–the art of flower arrangement. I’ve known a couple of women who studied the art growing up, but none of them stuck with it into adulthood. Since I have absolutely zero talent for arranging flowers–mine seem to always lop over to one side in the vase–I would be interested in seeing someone else do it. I’m not sure if public arrangement is actually a thing, but Renaissance makes it seem plausible as a performance art. Aigasaki is still finding her own style, using her mother’s creations as a base, and I look forward to meeting each of her male classmates as she grows as an artist.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans 2nd Season (2 eps.)
As I mentioned at the end of the first season, the show ended gloriously and steered clear of elongating battles and dialogue in favor of efficiency. Now we have a second season, which I didn’t particularly need, but does make sense given the fall out from the first. Our orphans worked themselves to death, many of them literally. They have earned their rightful positions as brothers to the Turbines, a part of Teiwaz, and are the official military advisor to Arbrau. They’ve come a long way, and have garnered considerable admiration and animosity. Idealists want to join them, while Gjallarhorn wants to stamp them out along with the Outer Colonies’ independence.
It’s interesting seeing a new type of tension in the ranks of Tekkadan. New recruits who lack the rough past of the “human debris” and envy Alaya-Vijnana pilots without understanding the price they paid. The prime example of this is Hush Middy, an aspiring pilot who misconstrues Mikazuki’s nap as slacking off and refers to him as waste. This attitude is odd given that Hush is also an orphan. It’s an ugly reminder of the prejudices the orphans, both from outside and within, face.
Natsume Yuujinchou Go (1 ep.)
I thought we had seen the last of Natsume and Nyanko-sensei with the previous season, but now the series is back with a fifth contribution to the beloved franchise. Now I have yet another box set I’ll have to buy, complete with the art and case to match the others in my collection. What problems I face! :p
Go opens with familiar faces and tone, and it looks like we will be getting more of Reiko’s history. We received a smattering of backstory on Natsume’s grandma in the previous seasons, but opening on Reiko in this first episode looks promising for finding out more about her and the Book of Friends. Unlike Natsume, she continued to be shunned into her high school years by her classmates and neighbors. This left her with little choice but to spend much of her time with youkai.
I’ve always found Reiko’s stories a bit strange. She obviously has a good heart and enjoys meeting and speaking with the various youkai, despite them being the reason for her ostracizing by the community. Yet the same youkai who later confront Natsume usually seem upset and demand their name back, as if Reiko took the names for some darker purpose. I want to know more about the reason for the Book of Friends, and why she kept it even after finding love and starting a family.
Shuumatsu no Izetta (2 eps.)
I am already hyped up for the rest of the season after this one episode. It hit many of my interests: high adventure, a strong female lead, steam-powered machinery, and good, old-fashioned, flying witches. The story is set in a world very familiar to our World War II, especially with country names like Germania and Britannia. Finé is the princess of a tiny but neutral county seeking protection from the advances of Germania. The opening segment of her escape from enemy soldiers on a moving train got my blood pumping, as did the aerial fight that opened the second episode.
Another fun addition to this alternative history is its use of magic, which seems out of place in this era of machines. Izetta is a witch, likely the last of her kind. Despite her young age and solitude, she is an important piece in the war that could tip the balance favorably towards those with whom she sides. Izetta is first scene as a captive transported by the Germanians in a locked capsule as if she is a volatile weapon. When Finé releases her and the two are revealed to have a history with one another, hope starts to glimmer. I can’t wait to see what else Izetta can do and what course this war will take.
Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari (1 ep.)
Udon and tanuki? This is a no brainer! The story focuses on a young man, Tawara Souta, returning from the big city to the small town of his childhood, a place famous for its udon. His homecoming occurs after the death of his father, the owner of an udon shop we later find out is highly esteemed by locals and tourists alike. Souta, however, doesn’t share their praise for the business, one he turned his back on before leaving to Tokyo several years prior. His dispassion in comparison to others’ enthusiasm sets a strange mood, one I read as regret, defiance, remorse, and uncertainty. His emotions come through in memories seen in flashbacks, and on his face as he goes over the belongings of his empty family home and udon shop.
When a little boy is found covered in dirt and hiding in Tawara, it’s almost as if all of Souta’s worries are shifted aside. He is forced to face the now in this strange child without a name or story. The pairing of lost adult and child reminded me a bit of both Barakamon and Usagi Drop. The soft art style increases that familiarity. The instant that the tanuki ears and tail appeared, I was on board with this show. With the myth of tanuki only appearing as children for a short period, I’m assuming we’ll see the boy and Souta grow closer through the revival of Tawara just in time for the tanuki to disappear.
Yuri!! on Ice (2 eps.)
It’s already been said plenty of times before, but I’ll say it again—this show is nothing at all what I expected it to be from the title. I thought we’d be handed lovey-dovey lesbian figure skaters. Instead, we have male figure skaters, and while there is some tongue-in-cheek BL, the focus is decidedly on the ice. That an actual figure skater is handling the choreography of the anime is exciting.
Like most sports anime, Yuri!! takes place with a competition in sight. The protagonist, Katsuki Yuri, returns to his small hometown in Japan after his slip at the Grand Prix Finale. Despite his defeat, he still has the passion to mimic the routines of his role model, Victor Nikiforov. Thanks to some mischievous little girls and the Internet, a video of him perfectly copying one of Victor’s performances goes viral. Yuri’s a sensation once more, and the video catches the interest of the original himself, who comes to Japan to coach Yuri directly. It’s a Cinderella story with a twist. Instead of the fairy godmother granting the wish of one dreamer, there’s a second dreamer vying for some of his own magic. Another Yuri, Yuri Plisetsky, follows his teammate, Victor, to Japan to hold him fast to an earlier promise. Russian Yuri is the perfect competition for Japanese Yuri, which is exactly what we needed for this sports show to gather some necessary tension.
All Out!! (2 eps.)
I’ve always been intrigued by rugby. I imagined it as the love child of soccer and football, with it taking the bests from both. I don’t actually know the rules of the sport, and I have a hard time seeing it succeed in Japan, much less with high school students. It just seems too barbaric, too raw physically and emotionally. Perhaps I’m stereotyping the Japanese culture, particularly that of the school system, too much. I’m interested to see what type of reception this anime will have with Eastern versus Western audiences.
Having said all of that, I did find the first episode of All Out!! underwhelming. It was all gar and no substance of the intellectual or emotional kind. I feel spoiled by Haikyuu!!, and I want more than just yelling and tackling. Unfortunately, that is exactly what we have with main character Gion Kenji, a shorter than average first year extremely sensitive to any perceived slight on his height. He’s the epitome of that over-exuberant sports protagonist that scare off so many already wary of sports anime. The counter-balance to his personality is Iwashimizu Sumiaki, who has the perfect body for rugby with his imposing height and wingspan, but the most timid of countenances due to a past trauma. Opposites attract isn’t quite accurate in their case, since most of the time it’s Gion pushing around Iwashimizu at this point, but perhaps we’ll see some interesting growth from each of them throughout the season.
ClassicaLoid (2 eps.)
There is so much to both like and dislike in the opening of ClassicaLoid, that I find it one of the most questionable additions to my list for the fall. “Superhero musicians” might be the simplest way to describe the premise, though it falls short of capturing the wackiness of the setting and its characters. We’re introduced at the beginning to a music lover’s dream, specifically lovers of classical music. The mansion housing our crazy cast is designed for and of music. The windows are shaped like violins, music bars adorn gates and walls, and a beautiful organ sits in the middle of the great room. The house has a long history of entertaining residents and guests alike. But that’s history, and the now is far less busy. The only residents now are the grand daughter of the original owner, her lazy yet high-dreaming friend, and two musical strangers claiming to be friends of her father. The latter three act like freeloaders, taking up space, cooking up all the food in the fridge, and constantly causing trouble for Kanae.
When the mansion is threatened by foreclosure and demolition, we see a bit of truth to the names of her father’s friends, Beethoven and Mozart. Their musical intervention results in near psychedelic imaginings that cause the universe to color and spin, people to dance and sing, and all sorts of other ridiculous apparitions to appear, all to the tune of their music. I have no idea what causes the phenomenon, or why they’ve chosen Kanae’s home to settle in with her father’s absence. If I were Kanae, I would kick the lot of them out–no rent paid, no chores done, and absolutely no contribution other than her own food being cooked into countless gyoza. I don’t care how crazy the visions they create are!
Gi(a)rlish Number (1 ep.)
It seems like there’s always a choice now per season for some type of fictional documentary, like Shirobako for anime, Bakuman for manga, New Game for video games, and Sore ga Seiyuu for voice acting. I dropped Sore ga Seiyuu pretty quickly after trying it out, but now we have Gi(a)rlish Number (“GN”) entering the ring. I’m not sure if it’ll make the cut, though there are already some promising additions shown in the first episode that make me hopeful for the rest of the season.
Probably the first thing to notice is the art, which passes on quality with its cute character designs and not much to trip over animation-wise. I do find it interesting how only the girls have hyper-detailed eyes that look like they have little flowers for irises, while the guys all seem born with average eyes. I really wouldn’t mind if all the characters had normal eyes, but I guess this just supports the current trend in expectations. Then there’s the tone, which has a surprising snarkiness to it that reveals several underlying issues in the industry.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone who has been on stage, whether that be for a band concert, musical, or comedy skit, that several scenarios have been accounted for. An orchestra usually has a piece ready for an encore, and plays have their order of priority for ending bows. The scene shown at the beginning of GN has Karasuma Chitose a bit out of her league at an event promoting a new anime with guests from the cast and staff. The tension between certain voice actors is hidden from the audience, but plain when standing right next to them. The two main girls whip out the show’s opening theme at the smallest of nudges from the announcer and audience, revealing costumes under their clothes and looking like idol-wannabes. I feel bad for those honestly talented voice actors trying to enter the industry who don’t have looks or public speaking to offer, and agree to a certain extent with Shibasaki’s misgivings about the extra expectations. Chitose mutters believable opinions about her peers and job, and isn’t above taking advantage herself when the situation allows. I’m not sure what direction the show will go just yet, so let’s just hang in there and see!
Long Riders! (1 ep.)
I was excited when I first noticed this show on the seasonal chart since I hoped to have another decent addition to cycling anime for KWoo. He loved the first season of YowaPeda, and still enjoyed the second despite its ridiculous pacing and “villains.” Long Riders! also more closely aligns with his style of cycling, which is done more for exercise and the personal challenge instead of competitively.
This first episode was unfortunately underwhelming to the extreme, with a dull protagonist and no substance to the setting. I’m not sure if there’s a story other than Ami learning more about bicycles and seeing the places where they can take her. I wouldn’t mind that usually, if the main character was the slightest bit interesting. The one feeling I have towards her at the moment is irritation, irritation at her impulsive decision to buy a bike without any research and at her complete lack of preparation for her first ride. Maybe some people blame her friend, Aoi, who doesn’t enforce earlier just how important food and rest are for exercise, but I view Ami’s missteps as her own fault. She’s an adult and should know better! Regardless, it was fun to see so many familiar brand names pop up; KWoo kept pointing out popular bicycles and related with the grossness of the energy gel flavor. We’ll give the show a couple more episodes to see if we’ll keep it.
Occultic;Nine (2 eps.)
The occult has always been fascinating to me, even if I have zero intention to pursue it in my personal life other than watching and reading about it. My interest very likely grew even more due to the associated taboo of anything to do with occultism while growing up. Occultic;Nine seems to offer a few different approaches, including divination, spiritualism, and dark magic. It took a couple of episodes for me to feel drawn in to the story, but I think this may be a keeper for the fall. I was thrown off at the start by the different character threads, but they later start to show connections to one another. There are a couple of people that I detest, but I’m trying to enjoy as much as I can despite their personalities.
If, like me, you are put off by the high school duo of Gamon Yuuta and Narusawa Ryouka, then I urge you to stick around for the other cast appearances. I’m hoping Yuuta and Ryouka aren’t going to take up too much screen time, since there are far more curious lines to follow in this mystery. Take, for example, Aikawa Miyuu, a classmate of Yuuta’s with a following due to her uncannily accurate divination. She hosts a live stream where she accepts calls and tells fortunes in real time. I’m not sure why she decides to help Yuuta with his sketchy paranormal blog and news aggregator, but I do want to know more about her and her past. Then there’s the black magic practitioner, who also appears very young, but deals with people’s ugliest desires of pain and death. I’m not sure of the background to the anime’s title, but I’m guessing it means we’ll have nine different main characters connected to the occult–like as shown on the first light novel cover.
Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume (1 ep.)
I recently watched the Netflix documentary movie, Top Spin, which featured three young tabletop tennis players hoping to reach the Olympics. The time and dedication those girls and boy put into their sport from such a young age up through much of their school life was staggering, but also awe-inspiring. The movie made me want to re-watch the anime Ping Pong, which if you haven’t seen you should try right now. This season’s offering to the sport of tabletop tennis is Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume, which is nothing at all like the previous two titles. It looks more like the ridiculous series about mahjong, Saki. The cast comprises entirely of girls who have the looks of middle school students but the racks of college women. When they shift back and forth in front of the table, the camera zooms in repeatedly on their massive boobs flapping along with their movements (with some shoddy animation). It’s silly, but the girls’ serious joy in the game is also addictive. I’m willing to come back for a couple more tries to see if the cast and story will be able to reel me in.
Stella no Mahou (1 ep.)
I feel like I’m watching the girls from last season’s New Game back in their high school days. Again, we have girls who look way younger than their age, but at least the tone is sticking closer to cute than to sexual. Main character, Honda Tamaki, is a first year looking to find her passion by joining one of her school’s many clubs. When she stumbles across the SNS Club (“Some dead fish eyes Not enough sun Shuttle run Club”) and remembers her childhood wish to create puzzles for everyone, she quickly decides to join the group and help them make a new video game. The demo game she played at the fair looked pretty fun with its mix of puzzles and boss battles, and I’m curious to see what type of game they’ll make with Tamaki’s help. We’re shown her knack at mimicking others’ art, but it looks like she hasn’t yet discovered her own style.
Watashi ga Motete Dousunda (2 eps.)
This show was actually the last of the new ones I decided to try out this season. I wasn’t too thrilled to pick it up once I realized it was a reverse harem, but after my success with Renaissance, I finally tried out the first episode. The series is a shoujo reverse harem that features a heroine much different than most other heroines I’ve met in this genre. Serinuma Kae is overweight and an otaku, specifically a “rotten” girl of the most afflicted kind. Instead of swooning at a good looking classmate being kind to her, she fantasizes him getting it on with other male classmates. When one of her favorite male anime character “dies” on air, she mourns as if he was a real person, skipping school, refusing food, and staying in bed. When her mother and brother finally drag off her sheets, Kae is revealed to have lost all of her fat. She stands up looking like the dream high school girl with a pretty body and face. Though she looks completely different, her personality hasn’t changed in the slightest.
What follows at her home and school initially repulsed me. I’ve always found anime’s attitude towards anyone even slightly overweight despicable, and this show kept with the same approach. Suddenly the boys who treated her rudely want to get to know her. Her previous looks and still present hobbies are repeatedly referred to as disgusting. Kae doesn’t have anything to be ashamed of and I hope she keeps up her interests despite others’ aversion. There’s no question in my mind that certain guys are preferable to others; Mutsumi’s kindness towards her remains the same before and after her transformation, and Igarashi’s still a good guy at heart even if his friendliness before has now suddenly turned towards romance.
WWW.Working!! (2 eps.)
It is so, so hard to not compare this series to the others in the franchise, since the previous finished in an extremely satisfying way and left behind a ton of fond memories. WWW.Working!! is a web comic that actually started two years before the manga Working!!, which then became an anime first. The setting is the exact same, but the characters differ as the two stories take place in alternative worlds. A lot of fans of the older anime series keep referring to this newer one as a copy, when it really isn’t. I do acknowledge the difficulty of trying not to compare the two since so much feels familiar, and what’s new on the screen seems strangely wrong.
The first episode had me struggling for much of it to stop looking for my favorite faces. When I finally relaxed and accepted that these characters were the main characters of the show, I actually started to enjoy the humor, which feels much the same as the other. That should come as no surprise since they were written by the same author. I’m still annoyed by characters like Hana who punch men and expect me to laugh at the undeserved victim. Kondou reminds me a lot of Kyouko with her cavalier responses and attitude towards work. Sayuri looks to be the most unique, with her ignorance to her own ability to see the unseen. The second episode, unfortunately, fell flat on comedy and had me repeatedly checking the remaining time. If I ax this show, it’ll be because of the type of comedy rather than due to my lingering feelings from the other anime.
Days is the only remaining series from the summer that is still continuing into the fall. I won’t say much here since I already discussed it at the start of the summer, but Days has continued to entertain with Tsukushi’s comical contribution to his soccer team. He’s much better than he was at the start, but he’s made significant improvement having only played for about three months. I’m glad they’re taking the slow and steady route with him, since I find soccer to be one of the least friendly sports towards newcomers. It’s completely unnatural to handle balls with your feet when you have hands for that purpose, and Tsukushi was already established at the beginning to be a clumsy and non-athletic student. Of course he’ll need to work harder than others to even near their level, much less make the starter team.