Greetings, and welcome to an only-slightly-late listing of all the shows you now need to realise you like. Sadly, ill health has caused the minor delay, but with this season it’s difficult to pin down if it’s an overdose of sugar or salt.
The (sadly only emotional) healing continues across many new shows this season, but is balanced by violence, relationship drama, split continuities, despair, and more violence. With puppets.
So, certainly a diverse selection follows:
The 12 New Shows To Watch
Sweetness and Lightning - [amaama to inazuma]
Written by: MementoMorie
Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy, Drama
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Recently widowed high school teacher Kohei Inuzuka is doing his best to raise his spirited daughter, Tsumugi, by himself. Despite their relatively peaceful life together, Kohei gets a wake up call when he realizes his daughter hasn’t had a good, home-cooked meal since her mother died. A chance encounter with one of his students, Kotori Iida, sets the unlikely pair on a quest to learn to cook - and make delicious memories with Tsumugi.
Why You Should Be Watching: Sweetness & Lightning is one of those rare shows that is just purely good. Kohei is a kind, if somewhat hapless, guy who genuinely loves his daughter. Tsumugi is an imaginative girl who genuinely loves her dad and new friend. Kotori genuinely wants to see them happy, and seems to crave a closer family experience of her own. This is a show so sweet, it’s tempting to ask what the catch is, but it really is just three good people cooking together. The characters are easy to like, and Tsumugi is one the cutest characters in recent memory. As a bonus, her voice actress is actually a child! Pair that with excellent physical comedy from her natural kid antics, and even the most cynical anime fan will find themselves smiling when she’s onscreen. It will sometimes pull at your heartstrings, but Sweetness & Lightning is fully committed to seeing the good in people...and food. Don’t watch this on an empty stomach.
Recommended by: Exile, Gugsy, Grex, jonuiuc, Koda, Maelwys, MementoMorie, Raitzeno, Shade, Protonstorm
Written by: Raitzeno
Genre: Comedy, Seinen, Slice of Life
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Having grown up on the Fairies’ Story game series, Aoba Suzukaze joins Eagle Jump Games, the company that makes the series, as an artist fresh out of high school. Her direct supervisor turns out to be Yagami Kou, the character designer she’s admired since first picking up the games. New Game! is a cute, upbeat story of a young woman getting used to her new game development job, her eccentric and playful coworkers, and the adult world of juggling life and work.
Why You Should Be Watching: Wow, the yuri is strong with this one. New Game! is the latest Cute Girls Doing Cute Things series, this time featuring game development. It’s got a colorful all-female cast of artists, designers, managers, and the odd programmer, plus the director’s pet cat as a bonus mascot. The comedy hits all the high notes and the voice acting (and casting!) is spot on. Though there’s a lot of fanservice, the girls seem at least as interested in each other as the viewers are of them, so it often feels like it’s aimed internally rather than at the audience. Also, there’s a gif-able moment every few minutes - especially in the cheery opening animation, but in general everyone’s reactions to each other are just priceless.
Recommended by: Exile, Gugsy, Koda, Protonstorm
Written by: Koda
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Futaba Ooki is a quiet and shy girl who moves from a big city to a quiet oceanside town, leaving all of her old friends behind. Futaba befriends an eccentric and hyper girl named Hikari who loves scuba diving in the ocean. The two of them eventually join their school’s diving club after Hikari shows Futaba how fun diving can be.
Why You Should Be Watching: Amanchu! is a relaxing, yet funny series. Directed by the person who helmed Aria and written by the writer behind Flying Witch, the show is being handled by masters of the relaxing slice of life variant. On top of that, the show does a great job at handling the experience of trying out something new even if you are afraid of it, as well as what it feels like to try and make new friends after being uprooted to a new location. Lastly, the show uses one of the funniest, yet oddest implementations of chibi forms ever seen. You see, instead of the typical chibi style, each of the characters has a look unique to themselves, and they all essentially end up looking like they walked off of the set of the Muppets.
Recommended by: Exile, Gugsy, Grex, Koda, Shade, Requiem,
Written by: Shade
Genre: Drama, Romance, Slice of Life
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Kaizaki Arata is 27 years old, jobless, and living on the expenses sent by his parents. He quit his first full-time job in just three months, and at the moment, his future is not looking very bright. On the way home (and right after his parents decide to stop sending him money), a man named Yoake Ryo stands in his path. Ryo is a member of the ReLIFE Laboratory, and informs Arata that he has been selected as a ReLIFE test subject. Should Arata choose to accept this offer, all his living expenses will be paid, and, depending on how well this experiment goes, he could even be hooked up with a job! All he has to do is take the ReLIFE drug and go back to high school for a year. Arata, who was unfortunately drunk at the time, signs his life away and wakes up the next day to the surprise of his unusually youthful appearance.
Why You Should Be Watching: Okay, I can see why people were skeptical about this anime. “Some older guy has his appearance changed into that of a high schooler’s and attends high school all over again? Oh god, it this really a thing?” If you have doubts about that premise, I ask that you lay them to rest right now. Seriously, it’s not as bad as you might think. This anime is about a guy who gets a chance to relive the life he didn’t have in high school, and the people he interacts with.
ReLIFE is all about its characters. From the designs to their mannerisms, each character stands out as their own. And you know what else? They can be pretty relatable—or you can empathize with them, at the very least. Tenshigami wrote an article on how he found himself in ReLIFE, for instance. These characters deal with issues that are understandable, and you get to see some amazing growth from multiple characters in these 13 episodes. The drama feels very genuine, the comedy is spot-on, and the character interactions are fantastic, no matter the mood of the scene. If you want something different from the many anime set in high school, you might want to check out ReLIFE. And if you didn’t know already, Crunchyroll released all 13 episodes in one day, so you can binge-watch the series if you so desire.
Recommended by: Gugsy, Grex, jonuiuc, Koda, Shade, Protonstorm
Written by: Maelwys
Genre: Shoujo, Drama, Romance, School
Spoiler-free Synopsis: One day, Naho Takamiya receives a mysterious letter she doesn’t remember writing addressed to her from herself, but to make things more confusing, it claims to come from the future. It reads in much the same way as she would write her diary, and as things written in the letter start to come true, she gradually begins to believe that maybe there is some veracity to its contents. In addition to recounting things that will supposedly happen in her future, the letter will periodically tell Naho things the her of the future has regretted for 10 years and wishes to change. Most of these regrets have to do with a boy named Kakeru Naruse who transferred into the same class as Naho and her friends, claiming that 10 years in Naho’s future Kakeru is no longer with them and it is the greatest regret that she has.
Why You Should Be Watching: Orange delivers a nice spin on a stereotypical school romance drama through focusing less obviously on the direct romance and more on the importance of relationships of any kind. Developing the characters in natural ways and taking into account how each individual development affects the whole group’s dynamic allows the show to simultaneously pull at the heartstrings of those looking for romance and emphasize the great value friendship has in life. The characters themselves can be relatable for a good number of people, but the main emphasis of the show is the realization that relationships and people in life matter and are worth protecting, something that everyone eventually comes to relate too as they grow older. Despite the lampshading of time travel and some of the usual trappings of school drama and teen romance, Orange manages to provide an interesting and touching story supported by its good writing, consistent theme, and nice visuals.
Recommended by: Grex, Kinksy, Koda, Maelwys, RockmanDash12, Protonstorm
Mob Psycho 100
Written by: jonuiuc
Genre: Comedy, Supernatural
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Shigeo Kageyama (nicknamed Mob) is just a normal, quiet, shy, physically unimpressive, try-hard sort of kid. But this student at the adroitly named Salt Middle School has an ability that he prefers to keep low-key… Shigeo just happens to be the world’s most powerful psychic! Thankfully, he has the (self) renowned and (self) proclaimed psychic/spiritualist Arataka Reigen as his mentor to guide him on the proper (and profitable) use of his time and abilities. This comedic supernatural series follows Mob’s dealings with spirits, other esper-type humans, as well as his fellow middle schoolers.
Why You Should Be Watching: Mob Psycho 100 was created by ONE, the same author and creator of One-Punch Man. This set expectations rather high for this series in terms of humor and action. On the production front, rather than animating in the style of amazing illustrator Yusuke Murata as studio Madhouse did with One-Punch Man, studio Bones would be tasked with animating the relatively more “cartoony” art of ONE himself for Mob Psycho. The end result is visually spectacular, and I would hazard to declare this show the most technically impressive animation I’ve seen of this season. Despite the simplicity of the faces and character designs, every frame is packed with (mostly humorous) details, and a high amount of visual polish (the shadowing of this 2D world is subtle, but really impressive).
I will say though, that two episodes into this new series, I was still on the fence. While those first two episodes were visually impressive and did their job of establishing the setting and characters, the storylines were fairly episodic and run-of the-mill, at least in contrast to the more instant appeal of a show like One-Punch Man. But the show grew more engaging for me during episode 3, and by the end of episode 4, it had fully won me over. I give Mob Psycho 100 a strong recommendation. The quality of the animation and production is apparent from the outset, but be aware that it may take 3-4 episodes for the story in Seasoning City to really get cooking for you.
Recommended by: Gugsy, Grex, jonuiuc, Kinksy, Koda, Requiem, RockmanDash12
Written by: Grex
Genre: Action, Drama, Historical
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Angelo Lagusa is just your average boy living in Prohibition-era America, complete with loving parents and an adorable little brother. Sadly, things immediately go sour when Angelo’s entire family is killed in a mafia dispute, only nearly escaping himself. Years later, Angelo receives a mysterious letter identifying his family murderers, all prominent members of the mobster Vanetti family. With nothing else to live for, he sets out on a quest for revenge, determined to put the killers down and finally let his family rest. Things can hardly be expected to go smoothly when gangsters are involved, but what does that matter? Angelo won’t let anything stand in his way.
Why You Should Be Watching: Tales of revenge are always fun, aren’t they? 91 Days is by design something of a slow-burn, but it manages to engage with both a reasonably memorable cast and perfectly entertaining spiral of violence. I doubt the various mafia members would be nominated for any sort of “character of the decade” award, but they are alternatively imposing, insane, or simply likable; the latter of which embodied by Nero Vanetti, a boisterous but empathetic man, as well as one of Angelo’s prime targets. The questions of how Angelo will ultimately enact his schemes, and whether or not they’ll even come to fruition, consistently drive interest, keeping thing up in the air just enough for the potential outcome to be gripping. The series does sport some lackluster production values, and I can’t say the genesis of its narrative is particularly original, but otherwise, as this season’s Western-styled crime story, 91 Days does more than well.
Recommended by: Gugsy, Grex, jonuiuc, Kinksy, Koda, MementoMorie, Maelwys, Shade, Requiem, RockmanDash12, Protonstorm
Alderamin on the Sky - [Nejimaki Seirei Senki: Tenkyou no Alderamin]
Written by: Requiem
Genre: Military, Fantasy, Adventure
Spoiler-free Synopsis: In a militaristic fantasy world, the kind of world where soldiers use guns powered by adorable, magic little spirtes, the Katjvarna Empire is locked in a struggle with the Kioka Republic. Into this conflict stumbles our protagonist, one Itka Solork. He’s lazy, sarcastic, a philanderer...and he’s also a natural genius at military strategy and tactics. After a series of events, including an encounter with royalty, he finds himself a very reluctant soldier, and along with his companions—including old friend Yatori, a badass redhead whose ferocity with a blade is matched only by her devotion to her duty—Ikta finds himself on the path to being the one thing he never wanted to be: a hero.
Why You Should Be Watching: What appeared to be a generic fantasy show has revealed its layers slowly, doing its world-building mostly through the “show, don’t tell” method that leaves you wanting to know more. One example is the sprites, little guys with magical powers. Some characters have been shown to have particular sprites they call their “partner”, but does everyone in this world have a partner sprite? How is that arrangement made? Are some sprites abilities stronger than others? Who knows! The show is taking its time unfolding the why’s and where’s of its world, and it’s doing a fine job. It’s a rich, colorful, interesting world tinged with darkness, and I’m dying to see more of it.
Of course, a world needs characters to be compelling, and this one has a very solid cast of them, anchored by quite possibly my favorite new protagonist this season, Ikta. He’s just a magnificent bastard. He’s a strategic genius, yes, but he’s flawed enough that his overwhelming superiority there never starts to annoy you. He’s a lazy, sardonic skirt chaser...and a perfect example of the Loveable Rogue. The rest of the main cast is less spectacular, but still enjoyable and fit well in their roles. Yatori works especially well as foil and counterbalance to Itka.
Perhaps Alderamin’s greatest asset, aside from Itka himself, is the story’s deft tonal balance. Having a well-constructed mix of comedy and drama, the show typically follows a lighthearted approach, but it is not afraid to remind you that these characters are, in fact, soldiers, and sometimes that means getting blood on your hands. In a lesser show, this could lead to a kind of tonal whiplash, but here it’s well-grounded and internally consistent. The plot itself is not overly complex, but works well with this setting and these characters. It’s a well-rounded package.
At first glance, you might make a mistake and pass over Alderamin on the Sky, dismissing it as just one more fantasy LN adaptation. Don’t do that! Dive into this fascinating world and enjoy what’s shaping up to be a real sleeper gem.
Recommended by: Exile, Gugsy, jonuiuc, Kinksy, Raitzeno, Requiem
The Morose Mononokean - [Fukigen na Mononokean]
Written by: Koda
Genre: Comedy, Supernatural
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Hanae Ashiya is a teen wanting the perfect, but normal, high school life. His time in high school is anything but normal, though, as he spends the first week of school in the infirmary because a yokai attached itself to him, and as a result, made him too tired to even move. Fed up, Ashiya seeks out the help of the mysterious owner of a small tea room called the Mononokean for help. As a result of aiding him, Ashiya is now in debt to the owner and must help him guide yokai into the underworld as repayment.
Why You Should Be Watching: Out of all the shows this season, The Morose Mononokean is the most unexpectedly heartfelt of the lot. For all the comedic moments in The Morose Mononokean, of which there are plenty, the heart of the show is much more empathetic, and often emotional. The yokai in the show are not just simple spirits haunting the living, but rather creatures with their own thoughts and feelings, which leads to a variety of various scenarios to happen in the show. Despite this, the show is not a purely episodic adventure as it is building up a story that is sure to have a gut-wrenching payoff if what is being hinted at is really what happens.
Recommended by: Gugsy, Koda, Shade, Requiem
Written by: Gugsy
Spoiler-free Synopsis: College student Haruki Bando has lost his enthusiasm for judo, the sport his family has specialized in and actually owns a gym for. His friend Kazuma Hashimoto is suddenly head-set on starting their own Men’s Cheerleading team at their college when he learns that his parents were both former cheerleaders. So begins Haruki and Kazuma’s journey to form their team, the “Breakers”. Based on the real-life cheerleading team from Waseda University.
Why You Should Be Watching: Of the three sports shows this season, this is easily the one you should be keeping your eye on. It features a unique setting (college) and a very unique sport that has not had representation in anime or most media in general (Men’s Cheerleading). And we can’t really talk about the anime without addressing the real concerns most men feel for cheerleading. Whether it’s a girly sport or some other reason, most guys (myself included) would feel really embarrassed about something like this. And the show actually addresses that! Haruki is embarrassed about cheerleading at first and does it purely for his friend, but after a while, it just doesn’t matter anymore, and Haruki puts his all into it. The other characters who join the team are a lot of fun and bring their own quirks and sometimes even baggage to the cast. The animation, while not outstanding in general, is solid, but really steps up during their performances. Whether it’s dealing with embarrassment, trust, fear, frustration, friendship, and even hints of romance, Cheer Danshi has stuck its landing at every turn.
Recommended by: Gugsy, Shade
Written by: RockmanDash12
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Years after humanity lead their species and the planet along with them into a state of near extinction, men known as “Junkers” traverse the lands in use of anything useful. One such junker finds himself at the dangerous “Sarcophagus City”, and in this journey, he finds a relic of the past: a planetarium. Inside this planetarium is Hoshino Yumemi, a bright robot who wants to continue to show the stars to others even given the decrepit state of mankind, and throughout this series, we see the interactions between the two as they aim to see the twinkling of eternity that will never fade.
Why You Should Be Watching: Beautiful, emotional, memorable, endearing—these are just some of the words that one can use to describe Planetarian and its OVA adaptation made by David Production (of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure fame), a work that will truly touch your heart. With five OVAs, this may seem to be a rushed adaptation on first impression, but even as a Visual Novel, it was always a short work, and this is a strong point of the work, not a negative. This is because Planetarian maximizes its limits, being a very focused and well-executed work that is almost movie-like in its storytelling, a great direction for a Key work. It enables them to do what people love about them, which works well with what it tries to do, which in my opinion is being a condensed version of everything great about Key (the makers of works like Clannad), without any of the negatives. The show provides the great parts of slice of life without the fluff, it’s engaging to watch throughout, and as one would expect from a Key work, it packs plenty of feelz. It’s a fantastic ride, and it’s definitely one to check out, especially now that is available in an animated form.
PS: If you do decide to watch it, marathon it or play the source. All five OVAs are out, and given that this was originally a short kinetic novel, it was made to be experienced as a whole, not serial. The OVAs cut at good points, but marathoning it is still a more immersive, engaging experience. Also, if you liked it and want more, look forward to the sequel movie by the same studio coming out later this year.
Recommended by: Exile, Grex, Shade, RockmanDash12
Written by: MementoMorie
Genre: Fantasy, Action, Period Drama
Spoiler-free Synopsis: This tale, following the tradition of Eastern fantasy epics, begins when the beautiful guardian of the sacred sword Tian Xing Jian, Dan Fei, is pursued by the evil Xuan Gui Zong clan. Dan Fei’s paths cross with the rogue wanderer Shang Bu Huan and the mysterious and impish Gui Nao. With half of the sacred sword in the possession of the Xuan Gui Zong, the ragtag group will have to find more allies and cross treacherous obstacles in order to return the Tian Xing Jian to its rightful state.
Why You Should Be Watching: If your brain hurts after reading those names, don’t sweat it. The important thing is that Thunderbolt Fantasy is an incredibly unique cross-medium artistic collaboration that is worth a watch if only to see what you get when you combine veteran anime writer Gen Urobuchi (Madoka, Psycho-Pass, etc.), Japanese companies Nitroplus and Good Smile Company, and Taiwanese puppet production company Pili International Media. The love and detail put into the craftsmanship, staging, and puppeteering of the characters is a visual feast. In a way, the effect of watching Thunderbolt Fantasy is similar to Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju in that we’re getting exposure to a niche art form that’s almost as good as seeing the real thing live.
If that’s not enough to pique your interest, the writing can hold its own. While the story is standard fantasy/action fare, the character writing is snappy enough, lovably dorky enough, and sometimes transcends into just plain great.
Recommended by: Grex, jonuiuc, Koda, MementoMorie
The 3 Sequels To Watch
Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High Academy - Future Arc and Despair Arc
[Danganronpa 3: The End of Kibougamine Gakuen - Mirai-hen and Zetsubou-hen]
Written by: Kinksy
Genre: Action, Horror, Mystery, Psychological
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Warning: Due to the nature of being a sequel to three games with a heavy amount of plot twists, it is advised to play all three Danganronpa games released before this anime as spoiling them is unavoidable.
Hope’s Peak Academy, the high school where your graduation guarantees success for the rest of your life. A school of hope in which all the students must be an “Ultimate” in their field. However, sometime before the events of Danganronpa 1, the school became the catalyst for “The Biggest, Most Awful, Most Tragic Event in Human History”. Even with the mastermind Junko Enoshima dead, the world has yet to recover, and the Future Foundation (including the survivors of Danganronpa 1) strive to bring hope back to the world.
Danganronpa 3 is a story of two halves: The “Future Arc” follows Makoto Naegi about to face charges for treason after the events of Danganronpa 2) when he and the rest of the Future Foundation are trapped in the building by Monokuma and forced into the “Final Killing Game” in which they must find and kill the traitor amongst them.
The “Despair Arc” is a prequel to the whole franchise and takes place in the Ultimate Academy. It mainly focuses on the cast of Danganronpa 2 and how they became the Remnants of Despair.
Why You Should Be Watching: Needless to say, if you are a already a fan of the Danganronpa series then you should already be watching this. If not, then you should really consider playing the games. Though it consists of two separate anime series, they are intentionally designed in a way that watching both series in sequence (switching between episodes of Future and Despair) with events taking place in Despair referenced in Future and many of the new characters appearing in the Future Arc have their back stories explored in much more detail during Despair. Both series can stand alone their are many subtle details hidden to bind the two together.
Furthermore, Danganronpa 3 (especially the Despair Arc) is filled with blink-and-you’ll-miss-them callbacks and call-forwards to events depicted in the games. With each new episode building on the last, the series promises to be a satisfying conclusion to the Hope’s Peak Academy saga of Danganronpa.
Recommended by: Grex, Kinksy, Koda
Food Wars! The Second Plate - [Shokugeki no Souma: Ni no Sara]
Written by: Stanlick
Genre: Ecchi, Shounen
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Food Wars! is an anime in which chefs battle head-to-head to determine who is more masterly. It mainly follows the life of Yukihira Soma and his proclamation that his cooking skills reign above all others. Luckily for him, there’s no better place to measure his talent than at Totsuki High, a school created to enrich the culinary skills of the next generation of world-class chefs. Students enroll here from all over the world to prove themselves, earn a reputation, and form a foundation for their future in cuisine. To add a twist, any student is free to challenge another to a so-called Shokugeki, a one-on-one cook-off where anything and everything can be wagered. To take it one step further, the school hosts event after event to measure and grade the students’ abilities, and if you fail to meet its expectations even once, you are expelled on the spot, and your career is ruined.
Why You Should Be Watching: Everyone’s favourite culinary battle-shounen is back for its second season, in which the final course of the latest arc is cooked up. The metaphors are hot and the similes are steaming; it’s as if they’re ingredients who are destined to sweeten this dessert. Puns aside, you can expect to see much of the same cast doing what they did in the first season.
If you’ve never seen Food Wars! before, the show is essentially anime’s take on popular “cooking battle” TV shows. It’s known for its vast visualizations which attempt to depict what the characters are feeling when they try out a dish. Most of the time, the characters will come up with a far-fetched scenario that relates the food they’re eating to some random object doing some random thing. For instance, “Eating this soup is like getting hit by a jukebox that fell down a waterfall.” While this doesn’t make much sense, the fact that it’s animated means you actually get to enjoy seeing it happen. Now, a fair warning must be said to anyone who thinks they might try this show out: there is a ton of fan service. However, for reasons that are hard to explain, there are plenty of people who normally dislike fan service in their anime that were okay with it in Food Wars! The best advice is for you to watch the first episode and be the judge. Enjoy.
Recommended by: Gugsy, Grex, Koda, Shade, Requiem, RockmanDash12
Love Live! Sunshine!!
Written by: MementoMorie
Genre: Idol, comedy, romantic comedy (ya)
Spoiler-free Synopsis: In a peaceful seaside town, enthusiastic second-year high schooler Chika Takami wants to by forming an idol club. Inspired by the cinderella story of famous school idol group μ’s, Chika brings together eight girls, each with their share of quirks, to form the group Aquors. To make their idol dreams come true, Chika and her friends face resistance from reluctant members, school bureaucracy, and more, but they have more than enough passion to keep trying.
Why You Should Be Watching: Sound familiar? There’s no doubt that Love Live! Sunshine!! is following in the footsteps of its predecessor. The show isn’t even trying to hide it, never missing a chance to reference μ’s and the original characters we grew to love. And this really works! Sunshine!! is most definitely spoonfeeding Love Live! fans more of what they want, but there’s a huge sense of fun and that the show writers are laughing along with us.
It seems that the franchise runners caught onto the fact that the fanbase came for a cute idol show and stayed for the ridiculous character antics. That element is center stage in Sunshine!!, whether it’s the yuri-tinged soap opera scenes between student council president Dia (think Eli crossed with Nico) and half-Italian-American Mari (a more trolling Nozomi) or the delusions of chuunibyou Yohane (also kind of the Nico). At this point, Love Live! has established its own internal language of humor (#kotoriface) that will be immediately familiar to fans inSunshine!!. The new cast and story has plenty of the over-the-top but so sincere you can’t help be moved drama of the original, too. Love Live! fans won’t be disappointed in Sunshine!!, and if you want to jump straight into this show, it stands enough on its own to work without watching the original series.
Recommended by: Gugsy, Jonuiuc, MementoMorie, Protonstorm, Stanlick
Tales of Zestiria the X
Written by: Shade
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Sorey has always grew up with Seraphim, supernatural beings invisible to the human eye. The village he resides in, Elysia, is both a home and a safe haven for the seraphim, who prefer to not communicate with humans. One day, Sorey and his best friend Mikleo explore the nearby ruins and stumble upon Alisha Diphda, who has been searching for the seraphim and Elysia. However, after Alisha heads back to the capital, a monster known as a Hellion begins attacking Elysian villagers. Though the hellion was fended off, Sorey suspects that the Hellion might be after Alisha, and he, along with Mikleo, set off for the capital to find her.
Why You Should Be Watching: One of the most obvious reasons to watch Zestiria is because of Ufotable. The studio has shown time and time again how big their budget is. No characters are off-model, the background characters are distinct in design and shown close up, the animation maintains a consistent quality, and when the action takes center stage, you can find yourself lost for words. The battles are shown at a blistering pace that puts you on the edge of your seat. Characters dance around the battlefield, their weapons clashing and the sparks flying, and every hit has enough impact to get your adrenaline pumping. To top it all off, these fights are backed by an epic score that sets the tone and helps immerse yourself in the glorious action. Simply put, the fights are a spectacle to behold.
Now, I could just stop at “Watch this because it’s Ufotable”, but I have to give you other reasons beyond just the visuals. Sorey has been a rather likeable protagonist so far. Yes, he might be a do-gooder that puts others before himself, but he’s also calm and collected when the situation calls for it. On the topic of a likeable protagonist, I find that all of the main cast is rather likeable, and their interactions together are fun to watch.
When it comes down to it, however, the one reason I would be recommending the Zestiria anime is the Tales of Berseria prologue. There are two episodes that are dedicated to giving you, the viewer, an in-depth sneak peek at the story and characters. Velvet is a kickass protagonist that takes shit from nobody, and this prologue sets up the main Berseria story with a spectacularly dark tale of revenge. Should want more Ufotable in your life, be interested in Tales of Berseria, or want to see the story of Zestiria without buying the game, there is no reason that you shouldn’t be watching Tales of Zestiria the X.
Why You Shouldn’t Be Watching: I’ve always felt that the Tales series focuses more on its characters than its story, and I find that to be true with Zestiria as well. At the moment, the plot is fairly standard: the MC, through a string of coincidences, finds himself unexpectedly dragged into a bigger conflict with the fate of the entire world at stake. The plot just seems to exist only to move the story along, and, if I were to be completely honest, it can be somewhat predictable at times. I find it unfortunate, however, that even though the characters are likeable, they still manage to be very average. Sorey is the optimist hero that would put others before himself, Mikleo is the best friend that covers Sorey’s faults, and Alisha is the princess that rebels against the government because their views don’t align with hers. There’s just nothing about them that makes me want to get invested in them. And let’s not get started on the conflict that supposedly holds the fate of the world at stake being downplayed to the point where you couldn’t even care less about what happens to anyone. My reaction went along the lines of: “Oh no, look at all these people in trouble. Go save ‘em, hero!” If you couldn’t already tell, that statement was written with immense amounts of sarcasm.
By the way, the “X” in the anime’s title is pronounced “cross”, as in “crossover”. If you like continuity in your stories, prepare yourself for a rude interruption, because the Berseria prologue completely overrides Zestiria’s plot for two whole episodes. Not only that, but despite taking place in the same world as Zestiria, Berseria isn’t really related to Zestiria at all. There is nothing in this prologue that furthers Zestiria’s story in any way. It’s just an advertisement for Berseria, and nothing more. The Berseria plotline is also incomplete, so while those episodes end on a good note for a prologue, it is disappointing that Berseria couldn’t get its entire story adapted into a full TV series. Velvet is a strong protagonist and the Berseria story feels far more engrossing than Zestiria’s, but leaving it incomplete leaves a bad aftertaste.
Written by: Requiem, Gugsy
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Supernatural, Action
Spoiler-free Synopsis: A sequel to the original, seminal 1997 series and three movies that retold the Golden Age arc, this new installment follows Guts, now in his guise as the Black Swordsman, who continues to be hunted by demons as he searches for way to extract vengeance on the one responsible for his suffering, gathering some unlikely companions along the way. They say it’s always darkest before the dawn; but in the world of Berserk, one wonders if the dawn will ever come.
Why You Should Be Watching: The 1997 adaptation of Berserk was an iconic show for many anime fans ( at least those of us who were ALIVE in 1997, which is depressingly few around here), and there has been much clamoring over the intervening 19 years for a follow-up. First we got the three Golden Age movies, which were great, but covered old ground. Then at last, we got what we’ve been asking for: a new series covering previously unadapted chapters of the manga. The question is, is it worthy of the name Berserk? The answer, I believe, is yes, in all the ways that are most important.
Let’s just address the elephant in the room right now: the 3D CGI animation looks like the drizzling shits. The actual locomotion of the characters, that Godawful crosshatching effect, even the directing and shot framing is just disastrous at times; plus the whole “no nipples or genitals” thing just looks so damn WEIRD. I don’t know who thought this was a good idea, or how they never noticed during production that the show looked like a bad rendition of the A-ha video for “Take On Me”. So as a defender of this show, I must admit, I know its visuals are lacking. Another thing I know?
It doesn’t really matter.
Yes, the choice of animation is unfortunate. But outside of that, everything you want from Berserk is here: the action, the terrible wrath of the supernatural, the characters, the feeling of constant impending tragedy, the guy killing hordes of enemies with a sword the size of a dinner table—it’s all here. The story, which is what people loved about the manga and the original 1997 series (which didn’t exactly feature the best-looking animation in history, either) is here in all its dark-as-hell, messed-up glory. It remains a high watermark in the genre of dark fantasy, and no choppy CGI can ruin that, especially if you’re already invested in this world by a previous love of the original anime, the manga, or even the movie trilogy.
In the end, it’s still violent, it’s still gory, it’s still intense, it’s still occasionally darkly comedic, it still inhabits an amazingly imaginative world, and it still has one of anime’s great, tragic main characters in Guts. It’s still Berserk! That’s all I needed it to be.
Why You Shouldn’t Be Watching: Did we talk about the CG enough? Yeah? Because it truly is unfortunate. Too often, we anime fans think the worst when it comes to CG but shows like Bubuki Buranki show what good CG can do for a show. And even some of the Berserk movies improve the original anime in certain places with the advantages of CG in violent action scenes. But the CG in this Berserk? Yikes.
But even outside the animation, Berserk does enough to keep its fans in perpetual pain. Entire manga arcs are cut out or blazed through, and the material it is covering is really poorly paced. Scenes are being rushed and slowed down haphazardly enough to make what should be strong emotional scenes feel neutered. And don’t get me started on the OP. If you haven’t seen the original anime or the movies (Which whatareyoudoing stahp. No really, please I beg you. Go watch the original anime first), congratulations. The OP spoils almost almost everything, including a really powerful scene from the original that… really shouldn’t be replayed on a constant basis every week.
And oh wait, yeah, we’ve got to come back to the CG. Because if Guts’ sword is the dinner table, and the dark fantasy story is the meat and potatoes, then the CG is the awful cook who burnt everything to a crisp, including the entire kitchen in the process. Because it commits that worst of anime sins: it actively distracts from what’s happening on-screen. And the moments that aren’t in CG are noticeably better looking. Too bad they’re only used for mini-flashbacks. To the original anime arc. That was not at all CG already. Sigh.
Fans of Berserk can agree that this is the worst possible iteration of new Berserk imaginable. Almost every other anime this season is markedly better looking. It’s pure agony. Fans would tell you to read the manga. Foaming at the mouth for more chapters. Making celebration Youtube videos when they finally got off that damn boat they were stuck on for years. But over 20 years of the manga, we’ve had only one arc animated until now. And it looks like this. The suffering is real.
They’ll tell you not to watch. Hell, I’m saying you shouldn’t watch this Berserk. But we’re going to watch anyway. Because like we said, at the end of the day, this mangled, horribly deformed abomination upon the eyes is still more Berserk. And deep down, we like the suffering and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
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This article was a collaboration by several people of the AniTAY community on Talk Amongst Yourselves. You can join the fun on our Sunday Cafes or by posting your own articles on Kinja with the Ani-TAY tag.