A new anime season has begun! As it turns out, in spite of last season’s incredibly tepid lineup, the reports of anime’s demise were greatly exaggerated. This season is looking to easily be the strongest of the year overall, and likely one of the best single seasons in the past several years. Offering phenomenal shows in a wide variety of genres, a strong mix of sequels, originals, and adaptations, and an absurdly deep bench, Fall 2017 looks to be one for the record books. After a season where my weekly diet was “Made in Abyss and Tsuredure Children,” it feels nice to actually have to pick and choose what I have time to watch.
As usual, my work on ANN’s preview guide has given me an exhaustingly full perspective on the season’s offerings, and so I’m here today to rank my selections from the highest highs to the lowest lows. I’ll be grouping shows by vague, perhaps even meaningless tiers, and trying to offer a brief summation of my overall feelings. All of these titles will also have links to the guide itself, so if you want my more extended and theoretically professional critiques, click on through and search for Nick Creamer. Let’s start at the top and run this season down!
A new season has come again, which means I’m currently buried in previews for all manner of shows. That actually hasn’t been so bad this time, courtesy of the fact that anime is apparently good again. From shows I was looking forward to to shows entirely outside my wheelhouse, this has been an extremely promising first few days, offering either actual highlights or at least reasonable genre takes in a wide variety of styles. Basically any season would feel like a relief after this summer, but this season seems like it’ll be a real stunner in its own right!
As always, you can check out the full list of previews over at ANN, or click below for links to my individual writeups (if you didn’t know, I’m Nick Creamer over there). Happy show hunting!
We’re back in the training arc mines with today’s UQ Holder, but at least this volume gave me a chance to roughly cover the manga’s trajectory to date. UQ Holder is perhaps more interesting as a dramatic problem to solve than an actual story, with “how do you make a compelling shounen drama when your hero’s already an extremely powerful immortal” its central puzzle. The manga’s solutions to that puzzle are inconsistent, but it sure is fun to talk about!
Today we’re catching up on UQ Holder a bit, running through the manga’s recent training arc. There’s really not much to say about this one that I didn’t already say in my review, and I’ve got thirty million things to get to today, so HAVE AT IT!
Back to the UQ grind again, with a volume that finally dug into one of this manga’s core issues – how goddamn boring its protagonist is. Tota is a shounen lump, and this volume did its best to paint some character on that lump, with generally positive results. UQ is still a surprisingly mediocre performance from the guy who made Negima, but there’s plenty of entertainment to be found regardless.
UQ Holder arrived at another peak in this volume, with the Santa arc’s second half offering both big visual thrills and some legitimate emotional sensitivity. The manga deliberately and somewhat unexpectedly sidelines basically all its established characters in order to give Santa’s story more room, a choice that really ends up paying off. Santa is one of the most compelling characters introduced in the manga so far, so I hope this is a sign that the central dynamics will continue to improve.
My journey through Akamatsu’s latest continues with volume five. This one couldn’t quite match the either character or battle-based entertainment of the fourth volume, but it does seem like the manga at least has a solid platform to stand on now. There are definitely plenty of ways to give a story dramatic stakes even if your protagonists can’t really die, and Akamatsu seems to be figuring them out one at a time. It’s still not as compelling within its genre as something like My Hero Academia, which is basically the essence of good shounen, but I know Akamatsu has some smart ideas in there. I’m on for the ride.
We’re there! We’ve arrived! UQ Holder is finally good! For the first time, I actually enjoyed a volume of this manga from start to finish. The conflict was actually engaging, the application of the new version of immortality was really creative, and Tota’s rapport with this volume’s new character was actually engaging. It’s honestly just a relief to see Akamatsu can still write – I was really worried for a while there, and figured this manga might just ride entirely on his polished-but-kinda-sterile art chops, but here we are back in the kind of inventive shounen storytelling that made Negima so much fun. Of course, this volume rode almost entirely on how much Kirie adds to the story, so I guess I’ll just have to hope she either sticks around or the manga finds other ways to stay this fun.
The UQ Holder reviews continue, through a volume that… still isn’t particularly good. There’s plenty of spectacle here, but not much reason to care – the manga’s characters are still pretty one-note, and there are no tangible stakes in most of these fights. Writing a manga about immortal characters who already start the series with incredible powers is a pretty tall order, and it feels like Akamatsu still hasn’t quite figured out how to make that interesting. Fortunately, having read further ahead of this myself, I can say there is hope on the horizon! Three lousy volumes is a harsh way to start a series, but it turns out Akamatsu does have some good ideas hiding in here after all. Just gotta soldier through.
Love Hina was a legitimately formative experience for me, and Negima! also an off-kilter favorite, so it was pretty much inevitable that I eventually check out Akamatsu’s most recent manga. Unfortunately, so far this investigation has not been rewarded – UQ Holder has been a slog, frankly, possessing none of the creativity or hooks that made his last work fairly reliably rewarding. And this one doesn’t even start off pretending it’s a harem – it jumps straight into shounen territory, but that shounen is just not at all entertaining. Negima! has demonstrated Akamatsu can do some fantastic things in this genre, so hopefully UQ Holder finds its feet eventually.