The preview guide is once again nearing its end, meaning it’s time to run down every single one of these goddamn cartoons that never stop coming out for one second ever. The actual hits this season were pretty limited, but that’s pretty much what I expected going in – even in my preview post, I was only actually looking forward to a bare handful of shows. Most of those shows turned out to be either solid or display some potential, though there weren’t any real positive surprises outside of just how nicely composed One Punch Man turned out to be. But what the hell are we even doing here if we’re not watching cartoons, and I gotta earn my too-many-words keep, so let’s run ’em all down anyway. TAKING IT FROM THE TOP!
Actually Good Cartoons (I Know, Right)
One Punch Man: This premier was both the most aesthetically impressive and most generally recommendable show of the season – if anything from this crop is going to make waves outside of our little fandom community, it’ll be One Punch Man. That’s not a dig, of course – I may rag on other crossover hits like Attack on Titan or whatnot, but One Punch Man is legitimately excellent so far. Its simple premise is elevated through wonderfully understated deadpan humor and gorgeous action setpieces, and the show jumps gracefully from crisply designed core art to expressive exaggeration for the animation highlights. If you’re at all a fan of action, comedy, or animation specifically, One Punch Man is an easy keep.
The Perfect Insider: And falling all the way on the opposite end of the accessibility spectrum, we’ve got Perfect Insider. From its focus on pretentious dickbag characters to its incredibly subdued, “adult slice of life” (one of my favorite genres!) storytelling to its washed-out visual design, Perfect Insider seems designed to polarize. Fortunately, for me at least, I fall on the side of enjoying all of those choices – I really like shows about witty but deeply flawed people, there are few shows about adults having grounded, character-revealing conversations that I wouldn’t enjoy, and even though the art design doesn’t result in a lot of conventionally beautiful compositions, I like both the lived-in feeling of the world and the character designs. You’re either going to love or hate this one, but I’m having a lot of fun with it so far.
Owarimonogatari: I mean, it’s more friggin’ Monogatari, what did you expect? The promotional materials for Owari even stuck Ougi front and center, so I was already expecting some serious Ougiservice – but this arc definitely managed to carve out its own identity and impress in a very specific way.
Unsurprisingly, I was less interested in the locked room mystery of Araragi’s past than the ways this episode articulated the relationship between Ougi and Araragi. From the first season forward, I’ve often found the narrative of Monogatari less interesting than simply the way it portrays bodies in space, their visual language relative to each other and the way the frame instills their positioning with a sense of purpose and intent. This has shifted somewhat for the various arcs (for example, Hanamonogatari’s base narrative is incredibly compelling even without the show’s visual ornamentation), but it returned to the foreground for this one, where Ougi’s visual bullying of Araragi made for a riveting throughline. Her snakelike movements, her casual violation of Araragi’s space, and the ways the camera emphasized her general inhumanity were all a treat to witness. Ougi’s an intense presence, and you could really feel that in this claustrophobic special.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: And Okada Gundam storms out the gate with a very respectable premiere! Okada’s got a great knack for character writing, and that really helped this relatively busy episode hold together. By the end I already felt invested in a good half-dozen characters, had a reasonable understanding of a few others, and was on board with several overlapping threads of conflict to come. It wasn’t a truly breathtaking episode or anything, but it was absolutely solid – strong fundamentals, strong execution. Fine ideas executed well are totally cool with me.
How Are We Already Getting Into Speculative Shows What The Hell
Concrete Revolutio: There was certainly a lot going on in this episode! Crazy pop-art aesthetic tricks and clashing styles of superpowers and secret organizations and multiple flash-forwards. Concrete Revolutio came off as so eager to get its ideas out that it wasn’t really able to find a solid emotional or narrative footing – there’s a bunch of cool stuff here, but not yet any reason to care. Whether this show works or not will likely depend on how it treats its characters in episode two. But if you’re looking for something that’s wacky for wackiness’ sake, we certainly already have that here.
Comet Lucifer: And forming a nice parallel with Concrete Revolutio, we’ve got Comet Lucifer – a show whose current problem is that it’s playing things too safe within its genre. Comet Lucifer’s first episode was a textbook “boy looking for adventure finds magical girlfriend and giant robot” premiere, and by that I mean it feels like they actually just copied the example that was in the textbook. The show is competently composed and looks nice, though, so if it can gain a bit more personality, it could do well.
Beautiful Bones: I’d heard this show was going to be about a couple that were already in a relationship, so I’m kinda miffed about that, but on its own this was a competent enough premier. Its mystery wasn’t that engaging, but there was a solid rapport between the two leads (even if that banter ended up getting overshadowed by the awkwardly similar and better-written Perfect Insider). The internal monologues, overbearing music, and over-filtered visuals all came off as abrasive, but those might all be issues specific to an insecure premiere, and good character chemistry is more valuable than almost anything else. I’m far from sold on this one, but I’m gonna give it some more time to really show its colors (which hopefully won’t continue to be gaudy rainbows).
Okay Shows I Guess, If You’re Into That Sort Of Thing
Dance with Devils: Holy crap, it’s an actual musical. Like, with songs and shit. By embracing the deep strain of camp inherent in the reverse harem genre, and carrying it to its logical endpoint (a friggin’ musical), Dance with Devils is able to come off as entertaining even if you’re not in the market for pretty, emotionally abusive husbandos. I probably won’t follow this one, but I had a good time with it. I mean c’mon, it’s a musical where bishounens sing about inviting you into labyrinths of depravity. It can’t be that bad.
The Asterisk War: By executing on its genre fundamentals with some real fundamental competence, avoiding lingering on stupid fanservice more than was strictly necessary, and remembering to include actual reasons to watch the next episode, Asterisk War earned the highest grade I’ve ever awarded to one of these inescapable fantasy high school light novel adaptations. Congratulations, The Asterisk War. I don’t think it’d actually be painful to watch you.
Mr. Osomatsu: Hey whadayaknow, it’s an actually pretty funny anime comedy. Mr. Osomatsu’s first episode didn’t present all that much more than a bunch of parodies, but some of those parodies were articulated very well, and this particular brand of self-awareness actually kind of works for me. I’m probably not going to stick with this, because it’s not funny enough to make up for its apparent emptiness on a character/narrative level, but if you’re looking for pure gags, this one’s okay so far.
Young Black Jack: Basically just an incredibly boilerplate medical procedural so far, spiced up with a whole lot of shirtless Black Jack. There wasn’t really anything that differentiated this show from the countless medical procedurals that air over here, meaning it basically was asking to be judged on those terms – and on those terms, Young Black Jack definitely does not hold up. But if you’re looking for a pretty simplistic medical drama with a whole lot of shirtlessness, here ya go.
Garo: Crimson Moon: Less interesting in both a visual and narrative sense than last year’s Garo, and I didn’t even keep up with that one. The backgrounds were lovely, but outside of that, this felt like an episode that didn’t realize it was a premiere – it was basically one of those underwhelming monster-of-the-week adventures you normally get a few weeks in, when the regular writer’s taking a break and the audience has been successfully tricked into caring about meaningless episodic stuff starring this particular cast.
Jeez, that got pretty cynical. Er, did I mention the nice backgrounds?
Bad, But Just Like, Regular Bad
Heavy Object: Fun for the whole family, as long as the whole family prefers exposition and make-believe worldbuilding to actual storytelling. There were a couple nice conversations in here, but they were basically buried under the avalance of unstorytelling and fanservice gags.
Attack on Titan: Junior High: Remember those jokes you made at the screen while watching Attack on Titan with your friends? Well someone apparently thought those jokes were clever enough to build an anime around. Witness your shame. You are not funny.
Lance ‘n Masques: The only thing that pushes Lance ‘n Masques out of the Kill With Fire column is that beautifully surreal scene where a loli somehow plummets three hundred feet away from and then down a cliff. Just look at that loli fly.
pff stupid cliff i got this
wait maybe i don’t got this
seriously reconsidering how much i got this
it is difficult to express how little i continue to have got this
Not Regular Bad
Starmyu: All the cute boys of Dance with Devils and… absolutely nothing else at all. Seriously. This anime is wet paste.
Shomin Sample: I figured the thing I’d most remember about this show was all the ojou-samas, but it turned out to be all the homophobia. Good one, Shomin Sample! You really got me there.
Chivalry of a Failed Knight: A decidedly lesser entry in the “secretly skilled boy goes to magic school to unravel a family secret only to first walk in on changing and then be challenged by a pink-haired tsundere who’s actually the best in the class but is somehow defeated by him and falls in his debt and also in love with him and hijinks ensue” subgenre.
Anti-Magic Academy: Like Chivalry only even shittier.
AND I’M FREE. Wait, that stupid Valkyrie show airs later today. I WILL NEVER BE FREE.