Instead of making multiple posts with a few reviews here and there, I’ve decided to collect all my first-episode reviews in a single entry, to make it easier for you to skip if you’re not interested. But it’s also easier to find my review for that one series!
Juushinki Pandora: A new type of reactor is built, promising free unlimited energy. But it explodes, and that gives rise to biomechanical horrors that evolve on their own — and that, of course, threaten humanity. Humans retreat into well-guarded cities, leaving wastelands outside where the monsters roam. Leon lives there with his sister, trying to find a better way to power the mechs that defend against the monsters.
I’m not fond of that whole ‘humanity under siege’ trope: I feel it’s been done before, and it’s just not interesting anymore. There was nothing in this episode that added something new or sparkling to the genre. Yes, it does look good, but that’s not enough to salvage the boring plot.
Uma Musume Pretty Derby: Some girls are reincarnations of famous race horses: they also have horse ears and a literal pony tail. Special Week is one of those, and she has gotten a scholarship to a school that trains the girls in racing along a track. And the winner gets to sing and dance in an idol-like stage show.
If this sounds like totally stupid otaku-bait, that might be because it kinda is. It’s a weird and frankly unattractive premise. Special Week is the prototypical naive protagonist who has some special talents that will, undoubtedly, bloom with proper instruction.
Mahou Shoujo Ore: Saki and Sakuyo are a very unsuccesful idol duo. Sakuyo’s older brother is half of a very famous male idol duo, and Saki wanted to become an idol in order to get closer to him. Then it turns out that Saki’s mother was a magical girl (up to a month ago!), who was teamed up with a yakuza to solve whatever problems it is that magical girls are supposed to solve. Het mother pushes the role onto her, and when Saki transforms, she turns into a muscular male version of herself.
The writers probably thought they were poking brilliant fun at the genre of magical girls, but it all seemed very random to us. There’s lots of hyper shouting as well, and it’s just not funny.
Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi: Aoi can see spirits, and she makes sure she stays at their good side, since her grandfather who raised her told her that some spirits would happily eat her! But when she was a child, a spirit gave her some food as well. One day, she feeds an oni, who later reveals himself to be the owner of an inn in the spirit world. Aoi’s grandfather visited often and had racked up quite the debt. He promised Aoi in marriage to the owner, but Aoi doesn’t agree at all! She wants to work in the inn instead to pay off the debt.
A slow-moving series that features youkai and Japanese home-style cooking? That’s totally my thing. And it helps that Aoi is motivated and smart.
Souten no Ken: REGENESIS: A new series from the Fist of the North Star crew, set in a Shanghai that’s ruled by gangs. But of course, there’s even stronger fighters who hunt the practitioners of the forbidden techniques!
If you enjoyed the Fist of the North Star movie, with the men whose necks are thicker than their heads, people who get beaten in the stomach so their heads explode and stuff like that, then this is your thing! The character CGI is actually not that bad, considering. But… yeah.
Captain Tsubasa: Tsubasa loves his soccer ball, and he packs a mean kick. When his family moves to another town, he finds a soccer keeper who can stop anything (including golf balls!) shot at his goal. Tsubasa challenges him to a duel!
A remake of a sports anime from 35 years ago. This time it’s soccer. And at the first episode, we have already picked up two players with almost super-natural abilities! Snoozefest.
Gundam Build Divers: Another series of Gundam Build, in which kids build Gundam plastic model kits and use those to battle against others. We really liked the first two Gundam Build series. This one features VR stations, allowing the kids to ‘pilot’ their models in an MMO, and it takes all the charm out of the idea for me.
Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu – Die Neue These: Three galactic empires clash in space with multiple fleets. One is led by some kind of royalty, and the prince’s tactical genius makes short work of two of the three enemy fleets, despite the initial scepticism of his generals. But the third fleet has someone that seems to be able to meet him on equal footing…
We don’t get any background in this first episode: it’s all gigantic fleets of ships doing battle on a tactical scale: things like speed, weapon range and maneuverability are key deciding factors in the battles. I don’t know who these people are, but I really, really want to see more of these tactical space battles!
Lupin III: Part 5: A new Lupin series. This time, Lupin is after a cybervault, but he ends up ‘stealing’ the genius programmer who built the system. Of course, the quartet (because the sharpshooter and the samurai are present too, after all) gets chased around by lots of goons with several very improbable escapes.
It’s nice to see Lupin updated to the modern age, but the improbable saves (some narrated in flashbacks) and the fanservice threw us off.
3D Kanojo Real Girl: Hikari is an otaku, and he is used to the social stigma that goes with that, most from girls in his class. This is why he tries to minimise his interactions with girls, but when he is late one day, he gets detention together with Iroha, an unpopular girl who gets into trouble frequently. She doesn’t judge him for his hobbies and even helps him out.
A romantic comedy about an unmatched pair. It looks nice, and I like how Iroha doesn’t care at all what other people think of her.
Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai: Tada is an amateur photographer and works in his grandfather’s coffee shop in a side-street in Ginza. One day, when he goes to take photos of the cherry blossoms near the Imperial Palace, he meets a foreign girl who gets in all sorts of trouble. Teresa comes from Luxembourg, and got separated from her guardian. Tada helps her out, and it turns out that the pair live in an apartment complex right next to them! And next day, guess who transfers into Tada’s class?
Romantic comedy with the bubbly foreigner and the stoic Japanese boy. We very much liked this first episode, and we want to see how it develops. The setup and some locations have been established now!
Comic Girls: “Chaos” is a middle-school-aged mangaka, but she’s not very successful. To get her out of her slump, she is invited to come and live in a dorm that is owned by her publisher, with three other teenaged mangaka. She is (understandably) very nervous, but one of the advantages is of course that you can act as assistants to each other when a deadline looms.
It’s a cool concept: it could be a manga version of Hidamari Sketch. But the execution is not as charming, and while the first episode was kinda entertaining, we didn’t really need to see how it would continue.
Megalobox: “Junk Dog” is a megaloboxer: boxing assisted with exoskeletons for extra punch. He has genuine skill, but he gets by with throwing fights and manipulating the betting. Then there is an announcement from the company that makes the exoskeletons that they will sponsor a world-wide megaloboxing tournament. Junk Dog manages to piss off the favourite for the championship, and finds himself in the ring against him…
Apparently this series is a tribute of sorts to Ashita no Joe. And the look and feel is a lot like Cowboy Bebop. It’s clear that this is a high-profile, high-budget series, but the subject matter just didn’t grab us.
Saredo Tsumibito wa Ryuu to Odoru: Magic is some kind of science-like system, and some people can manipulate the equations that govern reality. Which is a good thing, because there are dragons about who’d eat humans, and you certainly need magic to battle against the fire-breathing monsters! The main characters are two of these magicians, and there is also something going on back in the city with magicians being found murdered…
The concept is kinda cool, but how these formula really affect reality is hand-waved away, so in the end it doesn’t really matter how magic is performed. The main characters are bland, and the setup for the big mystery left us uninterested too.
Hinamatsuri: Hina, a girl with telekinetic abilities, suddenly appears in the apartment of Nitta, a yakuza enforcer with a taste for expensive ceramics. Promptly, she destroys his expensive collection and he agrees to let her stay in order to prevent further destruction. But she can’t contain her powers for too long, and Nitta gives her a good workout on an assignment from his ‘job’, with great effect! This is, in fact, the first time she is treated as a person and not as a tool, and when Nitta gets into trouble, she decides to help him, even though he doesn’t want her to get involved.
Very funny with such a mis-matched pair! I like how earnest Nitta is, and the complete lack of common sense in Hina. It reminds me of Saiki Kusuo no Psi Nan, but Hina is much less self-aware than Saiki, and the added complication of her getting involved with the yakuza certainly adds to the absurdness of the situations.
Gurazeni: Bonda is a professional baseball player, but he’s not a high-flier: he’s a left-handed pitcher called in to pitch out left-handed batters. He is obsessed with making money: the salaries of the players, possible careers after you retire from pro baseball and how to maximise your earnings are at the forefront of his thoughts.
It’s not a sports anime: it’s not even about the sport — though it helps if you know something about the game. It’s an interesting angle for a series, but after the first episode we had seen enough.
Mahou Shoujo Site: Aya just can’t get a break: she is bullied at school and beaten up by her brother at home. It was so depressing that we stopped the episode even before we got to the part where she becomes a magical girl.
Devil’s Line: There is a killer on the loose around Tsukasa’s college: women are found dead: raped and drained of their blood! Turns out that there are vampires that can pass for human and live amongst them. But once they have tasted blood, they will kill again. Luckily, there is some kind of government agency keeping the humans safe!
We’ve seen those ‘monsters live among humans’ series before, and they never interest us — even though they turn out to be hugely popular. This could become one of them.
Sword Art Online: Alternative Gun Gale Online: A side-story for the Sword Art Online storyline on the Gun Gale Online gun-based MMO. Main character is the avatar Llenn, small and dressed in pink. Together with her sniper partner, she participates in a team-based Battle Royale event. Through tactics and quick footwork, they manage to defeat a major obstacle.
Battle Royale shooters are super-hot right now, with games like Fortnite and PUBG. It was interesting to see the same considerations and gameplay going on in the Sword Art Online setting. Of course there will be more going on than what we’ve seen here — I expect a large real-life component as well in the series. But having a first episode where we see the main characters being cool is not a bad start at all.
Persona 5: The main character is a juvenile delinquent, who had to move to another school because of his criminal record. He lives on his own and his landlord seems like an unlikable fellow, though he does look after him in a manner. A mysterious app keeps popping up on his smartphone, and then he finds his way into the velvet room…
The series starts with him getting caught by the police again for a heist, and it seems like the series itself will be told in the form of a flashback (remember Dragon Age 2?). And all of the Persona series have been super interesting, so I’m looking forward to more Persona-induced weirdness.
Hoozuki no Reitetsu 2: Part II: The second part of the second series featuring the daily life of the top demon aide to the judge of the deceased in the underworld, King Enma. This being the Japanese hell, everything is very orderly and run according to procedures: in the first episode we see demons applying for jobs in a human-torturing carreer!
It’s been consistently funny — though I guess it also helps that we’ve both had corporate jobs so we can empathise with the characters!
Layton Mystery Tanteisha: Katori no Nazotoki File: Karielle Layton, daughter to the famour mystery-solver Professor Layton, opens her own detective agency. Her first customer had actually wanted to hire her father for his problem, but Katie takes the case and solves it for him.
It’s well made, and it does a good job of highlighting all the clues that are needed to solve the mystery, so you can follow along with Katie’s deductions, though there are some fantastical elements in there too. Probably very good for players of the Layton games and for younger children.
Kiratto Pri-Chan: Two young girls want to become idols on a live video streaming platform. Features CGI costumes and song-and-dance performances… Totally a marketing vehicle for a new toy line aimed at preteen girls.
Cutie Honey Universe: Honey is, next to a schoolgirl at a catholic girl’s school that seems like a hotbed for lesbian love, also the super hero Cutie Honey who fights against the devilish Sister Jill and her Breast Claws. Of course Honey suffers multiple wardrobe malfunctions during battles…
Such a thin-veiled fanservicey series! The plot seems thin as well. I literally fell asleep during this first episode.
Nil Admirari no Tenbin: Tsugumi agrees to an arranged marriage to save her father’s business. But her brother doesn’t agree at all, and when Tsugumi comes back from shopping with a cake in an attempt to ply him, he bursts into flames and nearly dies! Turns out the book he was reading was a cursed book, and a special division of the Imperial Library is tasked with dealing with them. Tsugumi’s ability to see the miasma emanating from the books is a great asset to them, and she agrees to join the division.
Of course, the division features a lot of very handsome boys of about Tsugumi’s age… So it’s probably a reverse-harem series with a bit of an odd pretense. It’s all very ‘proper’ and old-fashioned…
Caligula: Things are pretty normal, but the new song by a popular idol seem to have a strange effect on the kids in highschool — though nobody seems to notice or really care. But when the song plays, almost everyone goes into some sort of trance — except for a few who realise something is amiss.
A psychological thriller, it seems. It’s not as full-on as Persona, but it is odd in its own way. I am interested to see what happens next.
Shoukugeki no Souma: San no Sara – Tootsuki Ressha-hen: The continuation of the third TV series of Shoukugeki no Souma. (Which is kind of odd — wouldn’t it be the fourth series then? Hoozuki no Reitetsu has the same construction…) We ended the previous series/part with the revelation that Souma’s father is in fact the cook that Erina and her father looked up to. After giving it some thought, Erina decides to organise the resistance against Central and its dictatorial cooking edicts.
If you’ve seen the previous series, then you probably don’t need me to tell you whether you want to watch this one. Some series start to drag on as they progress, but Shoukugeki no Souma has consistently kept us amused. It probably helps that it’s about food though.
Jikken-hin Kazoku: Five siblings have to live together on their own after their parents were arrested for conducting illegal experiments… on their own children! So now the oldest sister who is half spider, the brother who is a were-dog, a sister who is half plant and another sister who can read minds have to live outside of the laboratory where they have lived all their lives. The fifth child is a boy without any special characteristics, and it falls to him to keep the household together.
It’s a very odd slice of life series, funny but also a bit bitter-sweet. The children are really taken over by their special characteristics: the spider girl is violent and always hungry, for instance. There’s moments of frustration, but also moments that shine, and that mix makes it stand out.
Golden Kamuy: Saichi gained the nickname ‘immortal’ during his tour in the Russo-Japanese war. Back in Hokkaido, down on his luck and needing money for an operation for the wife of his fallen buddy, he stumbles on a conspiracy involving a large gold hoard that was stolen from the Ainu, the indigenous people of northern Japan. He meets an Ainu girl, and together they ward off an attack by a bear. They decide to team up to search for the gold: he to get the money, she to get revenge for her father who was murdered for the gold.
A very intricate plot and lots of action. Saichi is a true ‘murder hobo’, and with every reveal the plot deepens and gets slightly darker. I really want to see how this plays out!
Piano no Mori: Behind Kai’s house is an abandoned piano that only he can seem to play. Even his friend Shuuhei, the son of a pianist and groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps, can get a decent sound out of it. Then their music teacher, who used to be a concert pianist until an accident hurt his left hand, finds out that Kai has been playing on the piano he left in the forest…
Lots of drama (though we know from the opening scene that Kai does become a concert pianist) of a rather soap-opera type. We didn’t really need to see more.
RokuHoudou Yotsuiro Biyori: Hidden away in a bamboo grove, in the middle of the city, there is a little cafe run by four men. Each has their own speciality, and together they create a relaxed atmosphere where their customers can relax — a little oasis in busy city life.
It’s a bishounen series: four mild-mannered pretty boys being elegant and doing things of little consequence. So the series is as relaxing as the cafe where they work — but don’t expect groundbreaking plots!
Last Period: Owarinaki Rasen no Monogatari: Spirals are monsters that can pop up anywhere. It is up to heroes called Periods to defeat them — for a fee. Their services are administered through branch offices, and the 8th branch office goes bankrupt! Three Periods now have to rebuild the branch office in order to reclaim their salaries.
The plot is a bit cynical, and this first episode also shows how a skinflint client tries to let two teams of Periods bid against each other to see if he can get the Spiral that’s been bothering him banished for the lowest price. Visually, it looks very good, but it just couldn’t keep our attention.
Otaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii: Narumi starts her new job, after quitting her previous job when she was ‘outed’ as a total otaku. On her first day, she finds out that Hirotaka, a classmate from middle school, also works there. He knows her background and interests, meaning that Narumi is in trouble! But there is more to her co-workers than meets the eye at first glance…
A romantic comedy featuring actual adults? And they’re all (more or less) nerds and geeks? Yes, that could be fun to watch!
Butlers: Chitose Momotose Monogatari: Jay is the new president of the high school student council. Mild-mannered and pretty, he is the undisputed prince of the school. But he hides his past, as a butler in a mansion, which now seems to serve as the student council offices? And one of his erstwhile compatriots is now a barista at a coffee shop near the campus, who claims to not know Jay or their past together.
Pretty boys looking brooding and an incomprehensible plot makes this a hard sell for us. There is nothing that seems original, and nothing that ‘sparkles’.
Steins;Gate 0: Set just a few months after the original TV series, we see Rintaro slowly coming to terms with what happened. But since most of that was in different timelines, nobody truly understands. But he tries to lead a normal life now and leave all that stuff behind him — but the threat looming over his friends still exists. And he keeps investigating the leads that he got during the first series, and there is a tantalizing hint in this first episode that things are going pearshaped again…
It’s been six years since we’ve seen the first series, and it is still one of my highest ranked series of all time. And this promises to give us a lot more of the same intricate plotting. When time travel is involved, it always gets interesting, and it seems like poor Rintaro can’t leave all his troubles behind after all…
Hisone to Masotan: Hisone ends up with an office job at the Air Self Defense Force. But then one day, she finds out that hangar eight houses an actual dragon that defends and gives prosperity to Japan. It needs a pilot to fly, and it seems to have chosen Hisone — but she doesn’t want to be swallowed whole, but nobody wants to hear her objections…
A hilarious concept, and you have to feel for poor Hisone. But when she gets fed up, she just tells everyone her mind, something that is certainly a rarity in Japan. And the dragon and the piloting of such is a lot of fun to watch. We want to see more of their adventures together!
Dorei-ku the Animation: With a special type of braces, people can challenge each other for a contest. The loser will become the winner’s slave and won’t be able to refuse an order from their master. Eia gets involved with this scheme through the ex-boyfriend of a friend — he understands that she is looking for a way to test herself. He is the same, and he offers her an alliance: they will act as their mutual assurance.
Characters (mis)treating others very poorly is not a concept that I enjoy in my series. It’s presented as ‘edgy’, but to me, there is no enjoyment in seeing someone debase someone else, even if the persons in question are characters in an anime.
Full Metal Panic: Invisible Victory: Amalgam, who are still after Kaname’s superior mental capacities, decide to step up their campaign to capture her. Mithril is caught unawares and scrambles to protect her, with Sousuke as their bodyguard for Kaname in the front lines. But it won’t be so easy anymore to keep Kaname safe…
It’s been 13 years since the last Full Metal Panic series! One wonders why it took so long, or why such an older series gets a sequel. But Full Metal Panic has always offered some good mecha action and interesting tactical battles, contrasted with high school life, and that’s what we like about it. But with Amalgam stepping up the pressure, this might become a much tenser series than the previous ones.