If there’s any word that can describe my thoughts so far on Autumn 2019, it’s “meh”. “Meh” to the miserable cold rainy weather. “Meh” to the tiresome UK political situation. “Meh” to this year’s most uninspiring anime season. There are things that I am enjoying, but nothing that feels like appointment viewing. Am I perhaps burnt out by an overdose of anime? Hard to tell.
Maybe this ennui is because of my huge backlog of older shows as yet un-watched, some of which have sequels this season. I’ve always meant to watch Psycho-Pass, the 3rd season of which is currently airing on Amazon Prime Video. Although both the Gen Urobuchi-penned first season and movie are meant to be awesome, I hear the Urobuchi-less season 2 is terrible and the current season is written by the same people. Also it seems I need to see the currently-legally-unavailable-anywhere-except-Japan Psycho-Pass: Sinners of the System movie trilogy to get the most out of the latest episodes. Hard pass from me until they can make the whole story available.
I’m also sick of isekai, surely the laziest of anime genres. I don’t care how a particular show inverts or subverts the common tropes, the fact that a show is another f***ing isekai instantly drains me of any interest. Make something else, dammit! Do Japanese adolescents all hate their lives and society so much that the only type of escapist fiction that sells is the laziest type of self-insert dreck where they can imagine a fantastical relief from their lives of drudgery, societal pressure and emotional emptiness? Therefore, another hard pass from me on Ascendance of a Bookworm, Cautious Hero and the uncountable multitudes of other isekai clogging the streaming pipes. I don’t want to reward this unimaginative, repetitive bullshit genre with any further views.
Any avid AniTAY follower will be aware of the current Stars Align controversy/civil war/polite disagreement/apocalyptic-armageddon-conflagration engulfing some of my fellow writers. If not, listen to the most recent podcast if you want a laugh. I’m not normally interested in consuming sports anime, but apparently it comes with a side order of freshly sliced Child Abuse so... um... ok? I might give that a look later if I feel I’m starting to recover from my recent Girls’ Last Tour - induced existential crisis.
Fire Force (eps 12-16) Crunchyroll, Funimation NOW
Fire Force continues to be an inconsistent show. I want to love it unconditionally, but even though the last few episodes have dialled down on the offensively off-putting fan-service, I still feel this show is missing a certain spark. I don’t care much about any of the characters, they’re defined mostly by a few prominent attributes and they lack depth. The 4-episode Asakusa arc introduced a few new faces but I found them and that arc boring. The current story about the engineer Vulcan is more promising and endearingly goofy. Resident moron Arthur even managed to provoke my laughter with his knightly antics in the scene where he’s forced to confront the disconnect between his self-perception and reality. I’ll keep watching for daft moments like that, plus the overwrought drama, amazing soundtrack and colourful animation. That new OP is quite literally on fire, I love its OTT thrash metal screaming nonsense.
Dr Stone (eps 14-19) Crunchyroll, Funimation NOW
With time, Senku has evolved into more of a standard shonen protagonist. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Now that main antagonist Tsukasa has started his war against “The Kingdom of Science”, Senku must use his wits against specific enemies, rather than the vaguer concepts he’s been battling up until now. The two-episode detour into his father’s past was heartfelt and added much-needed depth to the setting. It served to humanise Senku - he does have feelings after all, he’s not just a snarky science snob. Peripheral characters like Kohaku, Kinro and Ginro are fun. The humour remains pretty juvenile and the animation is rudimentary but it tends to be the first show I watch when I have a backlog, as it is light-hearted and easy to digest.
My Hero Academia Season 4 (eps 1-4) Crunchyroll, Funimation NOW
Is this the most popular currently running shonen property right now? If so, it’s easy to see why. I was late to the party with MHA, binging the first 3 seasons last year. I enjoyed it for what it was: cookie-cutter superhero wish-fulfillment teenage-boy entertainment. The characters’ designs are attractive and clean, each with identifiable quirks (literally and figuratively) and sympathetic motivations. The action scenes are exciting and for a long-running shonen show, the pacing is pretty good. Season 4 starts off with a throwaway recap episode and then ambles into the next arc. 4 episodes in, and not a whole lot has happened so far, it’s mostly setup for what’s to come. I have read the manga for the upcoming “Overhaul” arc and have to admit I was bored by it, as it’s a standard shonen fighting story. It will probably adapt very well to animation though, so I’m expecting it to surpass its origin material. Season 4 won’t win any new fans, but if you like MHA already I’m sure this is already in your sights.
Vinland Saga (eps 13-17) Amazon Prime
Amazon is killing it this season with high-quality adult-oriented animation. Vinland Saga continues to be an orgy of Viking-instigated violence, and a brutal depiction of how hard life was during the English Middle Ages. The common man’s life was short, with harsh weather, constant threat of starvation and attacks from wandering marauders being daily occurrences. No wonder men banded together to fight for survival and to prey on the weak. This is no mere misery porn though, with interesting ties to real history. It’s a long-running manga in Japan, so I hope the show is successful enough to span further seasons as I’ve the feeling that even 17 episodes in, we’ve barely witnessed the beginning of the story. Another series with a fantastic (and heavy) new OP.
Blade of the Immortal (eps 1-7) Amazon Prime
I read this manga as it was first released in single issue floppy 32-page comics by Dark Horse back in the 90s. I never bothered with the first anime adaptation as I heard it was terrible. This new version though is something else. Extremely faithful and incredibly violent, this captures the tone and artistry of the manga perfectly. It’s a bleak story - don’t expect many laughs out of this one. I’d even hazard to say the first three episodes are pretty off-putting. The characters don’t seem overly sympathetic and the bad guys are truly, offensively horrible. Then episode 4 happens and we become privy to the history of main antagonist Anotsu, and witness his interaction with nominal main character Rin... and it becomes obvious this will be a different type of samurai story. Something much more subtle, character-based and painted in shades of grey morality that allows the viewer to sympathise with both sides of the central conflict. This comes highly recommended if you can stomach the dark subject matter and dour tone.
Babylon (eps 1-6) Amazon Prime
Based on a Japanese novel series, this is a grim, hardboiled procedural show that starts with the investigation of a corrupt pharmaceutical company but escalates to involve murder, society-wide conspiracies, sinister politics and a very creepy woman with a deeply unsettling smile. It starts off very dry, but I recommend persisting until at least the end of episode 3. This show looks like it’s going to go places. I won’t write much else about this here as I’m contributing to the upcoming official AniTAY collaborative article about the season that will be out soon. Along with Psycho-Pass 3, this completes Amazon Prime’s unholy quartet of Autumn 2019 high-budget, adult-oriented animation. Now why don’t you publicise it, Amazon? You paid money for it, why do you seem to want it to fail?
Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylon (eps 0-6) Crunchyroll, Funimation NOW
The other Babylon-titled show. Fate/Grand Order fans are probably watching this already, it’s an adaptation of the unfeasibly successful mobile gacha game’s “7th Singularity”, actually chapter 8 (of 9) of the story. If you’re not already a Fate fan, this is most certainly not the place to start. You will be utterly lost. However, I love this. It’s awesome seeing a story that I’d previous read in a visual-novel-like format be so faithfully and skillfully depicted in fluid animation. They must have spewed money at this, it looks so glossy. (Let’s face it, they can afford it.) Also it has perhaps the best animated posterior in all of anime - Rin Tohsaka-faced goddess Ishtar flies around the screen and the camera follows her using some, uh... choice angles. Depending on your sexual orientation (Saber or Rin or Sakura) this may be a good thing indeed. Oh God, I appear to have outed myself. I feel like a dirty old man.
Beastars (eps 1-5) Netflix Jail
In their infinite wisdom, our most worshipful streaming overlords have not deigned to release this furry-fetishist anime in timely fashion in the western world. Those with the overwhelming desire to prostrate themselves at the fur-covered altar of what is essentially Disney’s Zootopia but Anime High School Drama Club must seek to serve via... other means. Personally I like the standard AniTAY solution of chartering a private jet once a week to Japan for this sole purpose. So this is what my daughter and I have been doing. Aren’t I just the best dad? Anime Zootopia is pretty good so far. It takes the basic premise of a society where herbivorous and carnivorous animals coexist in uneasy truce and explores some of the darker aspects, such as the crossover between sexual desire and hunting instincts with the urge to kill and consume. Main character Lugosi the grey wolf (who is a dead ringer for A Silent Voice’s Shoya Ishida’s theoretical fursona) finds himself inexplicably attracted to a small white rabbit girl who is frustrated by the way others judge her. She has... issues about boundaries and sexual propriety that freak Lugosi out during one particularly comically awkward scene. Imperious stag Louis is another standout character - at times infuriating and mercurial, I can empathise with his frustration at wanting to overcome his “prey” nature in a world of predators. His interactions with Lugosi who always tries to suppress his predator nature are fascinating. I thought Louis might be into other stags, or at least other male animals, so in episode 5... SPOILERS! Suffice to say, this will hopefully be popular once it’s finally released here. I should mention this has perhaps the best implementation of CGI in a TV anime so far, and the jazzy OP is set to stop motion! This show is something quite special.
Carole and Tuesday (eps 13-24) Netflix Jail
The second half of my favourite show from last season is not released until December 24th on Netflix in the West. I was unable to wait and hopped on that chartered plane as soon as I could. I won’t talk about this until my end-of-season-postmortem article, as I really don’t want to spoil it for those with more patient natures, other than to say - don’t worry, it does not disappoint.
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