Hey hey! I didn’t think I’d be doing one of these again! Welp, an anime season just started, some shows seem kind of interesting, and I happen to have had some free time this past week. If my most recent review of Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san didn’t inform you, I have a terrible time at actually keeping up with seasons, and even for the shows that do capture my interest, it can still take me a while (well beyond when the show is done airing) to actually finish it.
But I’m curious about a few of them, and there may be some I want to keep around. So let’s get started, shall we?
The original Fruits Basket anime from 2001 was a well-received (and award-winning) adaptation of the popular (and also award-winning) manga Fruits Basket. Even today, loads of people are still a huge fan of the franchise, and this show helped establish Funimation as a source for anime in the US. However… I’ve actually never seen anything beyond just the first few episodes. I honestly know very little about Fruits Basket, so for me, this is my first time experiencing this!
This show’s premise is interesting, that’s for sure: the main girl Tohru finds herself moving into the Soma household, a local wealthy family that not many seem to know much about; and for good reason, the Somas have a secret! If one gets sick or hugged by a member of the opposite sex (although the definition of “hugged” seems pretty lenient and inconsistent), they’ll turn into an animal! Only for a few minutes, but still, enough to bring some unwanted attention. Each member of the Soma family has their own animal they turn into, and it’s based upon the (Chinese) Zodiac… plus the Cat. So now all these boys have to deal with a girl living in their own house… so let the hijinks ensue!
I have to say, though, thus far… I’m not that hooked. It’s an interesting premise, but there really isn’t anything to keep me coming back. I’m not even sure what the plot is even setting up to be. So far, Fruits Basket seems to be a slice-of-life or sitcom-type situation with the undertones of romance and mystery, but it’s not slice-of-life enough nor is there enough mystery nor has the plot gained enough momentum yet, to really reach out and grab me and make me want that next episode right now. It may be a slow ramp-up, though, and given the franchise’s popularity, I’ll give it a bit of slack for right now.
On top of that, I feel the visuals and animation really have that potential for so much more, but yet they’re not doing it. I’m sorry, if I had the chance to have my award-winning manga re-adapted, I’d pull out all the stops this second time around. The character designs are great, but I expected some more fluid subtle animation as characters talk and react – I mean, they’re not not fluid, but they are a bit stiff at times. I’m also kind of put off by the texture work done on some of the backgrounds, such as the inside of the Soma house. I like the coloring, though, and like I said, the character designs really are great.
I’m not trying to sound negative about the show, I promise. A part of it definitely is that underutilized potential in the visuals department, but there’s also probably a part of me that was swept up in the hype and now I’m feeling underwhelmed that it isn’t matching some form of lofty expectations. I’ll keep going because I do want to experience the Fruits Basket story, and we’ll just have to see how it goes.
Before I even got around to delving into this show, I knew that it was going to be something… different. Not sure how it would, but it would. Sarazanmai has the name of Kunihiko Ikuhara attached to it (of Sailor Moon S and Revolutionary Girl Utena fame), and the small but ever-present Utena fandom on Twitter was excitedly awaiting its release.
Even as I saw people post onto social media that this show is just weird, though, I wasn’t really prepared for how weird it was. I’ve seen a lot more kappas and buttholes in that first episode than I think I would’ve ever willingly signed up for otherwise. But I do have to say… the weirdness intrigues me.
Sarazanmai is about three middle school boys – Kazuki, Toi, and Enta – who angered a kappa spirit by knocking over the Kappa Prince statue and calling the spirit a frog. So, the spirit does what any good kappa spirit should do and curses the three boys, transforming them into kappas and forcing them to fight large kappa-zombies and take each kappa-zombie’s soul ball (“shirikodama”) which is said to reside in their anus. (You read that right.) And this fighting seems to involve holding hands and spinning around in the air, a song-and-dance routine, and the “Sarazanmai”, a ritual where the three link consciousnesses and their innermost secrets come out. Each shirikodama the trio collect, they gain a wish they can use on anything they want. So even if they’ve been cursed, at least they get something out of it…
This show seems to pretty wholly incorporate the lore of the kappa creature (which does include the whole shirikodama in the butt thing), which I’ll admit is a creature… I never really had much interest in. This show doesn’t exactly make me more interested in kappas (in fact, if anything, it makes me less) but I’m fascinated at how far they went to include everything about the creature. However, to that extent, kappas are definitely everywhere in this show, including a kappa-loving idol named Sara Azuma that gives a daily Kappa Lucky Fortune. It’s honestly a bit much, and can at times leave Western audiences a tad puzzled.
It also amuses (and confuses) me that the first half of the first episode is so slow and boring. People are randomly walking around with boxes while the whole Kappa Lucky Fortune thing plays out… but once the three boys meet the spirit, that’s when the story kicks it up to 11. Suddenly, they’re thrust in front of the Box Kappa-Zombie, and they’re somehow highly coordinated in battle (and dancing) despite it being their first time ever doing this together. It’s a highly surreal experience, but the visuals are flashy and well-done and it somehow manages to keep your eyes glued to the screen even if your mind is going “omg, is this really happening right now?” The first episode left me feeling bewildered, but also wondering what the hell is even going to come next. (It also left me with this awesome ending song!)
So I think I’ll stick around with Sarazanmai for at least a little bit. I’m not sure if I’m completely sold on the concept yet, but the high production values and WTF factor may just be enough to keep me watching until the finish.
Every time I write these “look at a season” posts, I usually end up looking at a show or two that’s outside my usual realm of anime experiences (drama, comedy, and romance). I try to find what seems to be the popular shows of the season as well, so I can share my thoughts on those too. If it weren’t for that, I don’t think I’d ever bother with this show.
And, well, I kind of like Demon Slayer.
It focuses around a young man named Tanjiro who came back to his rural home (from a visit into the village) seeing his entire family dead, blood everywhere. The work of demons. Somehow, luckily, his sister Nezuko survived, but not without being transformed into a human-eating demon herself. After a run-in with the Demon Slayer named Giyo, Tanjiro learns of a master named Sakonji Urokodaki, who lives on a faraway mountain and who can help him train to become a Demon Slayer himself. So Tanjiro sets off with his neutralized sister to find this master – so that he can transform his sister back into a human, and take revenge on the demon that killed his family.
My biggest issue, I’ll admit, is that a lot of this is simply thrust onto Tanjiro, “this is what you must do”. Giyo said he must seek out the master, master Urokodaki told him he must keep his sister from eating humans, must do this, must do that. Tanjiro doesn’t seem to decide much for himself, only doing what the others tell him to do. Although this could be part of his personal arc if the author leans into this more… Beyond that, you hear the whole “you are weak, but I can sense something special in you” thing in regards to Tanjiro a lot too, which comes off a tad unoriginal.
Beyond these action tropes, though, you have an interesting show and premise. Tanjiro does have a personal stake in fighting these supernatural beings, and those same supernatural beings lead to some very fascinating battles and situations. The pacing is good, and I’m curious to see what kind of world this show will unfold before us. On top of that, the animation and visuals for this show are absolutely amazing (with ufotable being the main animation studio, this shouldn’t be surprising) and I hope they can keep up the quality. The music is also pretty nice, and fitting given the feudal-era Japan time period.
I’m interested in continuing this week-by-week, but since action shows generally aren’t my wheelhouse, I’m not sure how well I’ll stick on that! We’ll see how well I can do, but either way, like I said, I am interested. And if I know any friends looking for an action series right now, this’ll definitely be one I recommend.
Hitori Bocchi no Marumaruseikatsu
I don’t know if I’ve swung so hard from “I’m really disliking this” to “this is a lot of fun” in a show’s first episode before.
Hitori Bocchi no… yadda yadda, has a pretty simple premise: Hitori Bocchi, who just started middle school, promised she would befriend everyone in her class. The biggest snag in that plan, is that Bocchi has absolutely no idea how to actually talk to people. At all.
The first few minutes of the first episode focus around her on the first day of middle school, as she imagines the idyllic world of having no one else in her class. No one in her class means no one to befriend. But this entire first section is written so extremely awkwardly and poorly-paced that it turned me off pretty quickly. I paused the show 8 minutes in and actually debated stopping right there. I don’t really feel like going back to analyze what it was that bothered me right now, but needless to say, I wasn’t having fun.
However, the episode picks up once Bocchi sets her sights on trying to befriend the girl sitting in front of her: Nako. The writing, rather than being awkward itself, shifted to being able to skillfully portray an awkward character, as Bocchi tried her best and stumbled her way through trying to have a conversation and trying to gain Nako’s affection, leading up to asking Nako to be her friend in a love-confession-esque way. It was charming, as well as painfully accurate and hit close to home in a lot of ways. At one point, Bocchi had a list of conversation points on her hand, and when Nako gave an answer that Bocchi didn’t prepare a response to, she simply asked Nako to skip over to the next topic. I honestly can relate pretty well in the almost-formulaic and cut-and-dry ways that Bocchi approached friendships and achieving them.
Luckily, the show has continued to stay amusing and fun since that point. The visuals and character designs are serviceable, although I wish they added some more detail to the backgrounds, as it feels pretty plain.
I’ll be a tad disappointed if this show doesn’t end with Bocchi actually making friends with everyone in her class. I’ll also be curious about how they’ll handle the “foreigner” girl in her class, as she appears in the OP… I’m expecting stereotypes. But either way, I suppose I’m having enough fun with this to be curious about where it goes next. So I’ll stick with it; I just wish the first few minutes weren’t so off putting.
Ao-chan Can’t Study
I’m a big fan of short-length shows, and even though Ao-chan Can’t Study is half the length of a full episode (only 13 minutes), it’s paced well enough to still feel like a full episode.
So who is Ao-chan and why can’t she study? Well, there’s a certain guy that has her attention… WINK, WINK. Those are not subtle tiny little *wink, wink*’s, oh no, those are big-chested WINK, WINK’s. The guy in question is Kijima, who seems like a well-meaning soft-spoken guy, or “King of the Normies” as Ao refers to him. But the issue is, high schooler Ao doesn’t have time to worry about some stupid guy, she has books to study, classwork to do, a university to apply to, an adult life she can’t wait to get started on. All Kijima-kun is going to do is just get in her way and waste her time.
And yet, she can’t stop herself from thinking about him. I mean, the guy literally confessed to her in the nurse’s office, just before she was going to tell him to get lost. So now, she’s overhearing people talk about his *ahem* assets, her lewd father is helping out with some “training” books, and it doesn’t help that every time the two of them talk, the double-entendres and euphemisms really mess with her head. So what is this poor girl to do?
I’m surprised that I’m enjoying Ao-chan Can’t Study so much. Conversations being misunderstood and characters hiding their feelings are annoying tropes of anime shows, but yet somehow, I’m having fun while this show does the same thing. I think the differences is that while conversations are being misunderstood, she’s not committing herself to anything she doesn’t want – although she originally just wanted to be rid of him, so it is surprising that she’s continuing to let him in. And, well, there is the fact that everything they talk about takes on a more sexual meaning in Ao’s mind.
I think we all know where this show is headed (2 tickets for the next train to Lovebirds-Town), but I think the fun is going to be in the journey, not the destination. And it is helped along by a killer opening theme, I want to get that full song right now! Visuals and pacing are also pretty good, so all in all, yep, I’m curious to see what happens next.
Joshi Kausei follows the high school girl Momoko, who lives her life day by day with her friends Shibumi and Mayumi. It’s a slice-of-life anime through and through, but the big difference with this one is that the only (intelligible) words you’ll hear is the ending theme. Everything else, no one actually says a word. It’s an interesting idea, but they failed the execution due to one major thing.
See, the characters don’t say words, but they do make noises. A lot of them. Grunting, giggling, growling, gasping, other mouth sounds that may also start with the letter “g”. They seem to do everything but talk, and at that point, it kind of makes me wonder why they even bother. In fact, in the second episode, we see characters on-screen (like Momoko’s mom) actually doing lip movements – as in, actually talking – but we just hear absolutely no dialogue. As if they’re just mouthing their words. It’s just strange and kind of self-defeating to have the characters make noises and to animate them talking (but not have us hear any words), rather than simply having them all be mute and letting the music and visuals carry the story and emotions.
On top of that, I’ll also admit that the writing and visuals… just aren’t very good. The gag for the entire first episode was that Momoko had her legs splayed out on a school desk and she and her friends played with them. Really strange thing to start your series off with, and I think it turned away a lot of prospective fans. The second episode was about Momoko just having an unlucky day, but the slightly-underwhelming visuals ended up hindering that episode. (The animation and drawings would’ve been good a decade ago, but not now.)
All in all, we’re left with a pretty underwhelming series. I think they just made the wrong decisions when figuring out how to adapt the manga, and as a result, the show is just going to suffer. So like other reviewers have done, I’m going to skip out on this one too.
Why the Hell Are You Here, Teacher?
This is, uhhhh, a show. That’s for sure.
At Ichiro’s high school, there’s a young female teacher that’s known as “Kojiro the Demon” – she’s extremely strict, uptight, and can get anyone to fall in line. But somehow, Ichiro keeps running into her in all sorts of unexpected places – even in her own family’s home – and ending up in compromising positions.
Ichiro walks into the bathroom, and he finds her sitting on the toilet. He goes to the school nurse’s office, and he finds her lying in bed. Even if these situations don’t start off compromising, they somehow turn that way (buttons snapping off a shirt is not uncommon) as Kojiro’s private parts become exposed. It’s the same kind of joke and scenario, over and over again, the big difference being the weird places the two keep running into each other. On top of that, the show somewhat hints Kojiro is falling for her student now, and she acts very tsundere towards him as a result.
I’m gonna be honest, there’s not really much that makes this show intriguing to me. The unrealistic-ness of it all set aside, this is obviously just a bunch of setups to show off a woman in risqué situations – if this is something you want, I don’t understand why you don’t just go the rest of the way and find a hentai to watch? I just don’t fully understand what point there is for this show, unless you just want to get people’s minds racing.
At the very least, the visuals are nice? Character designs are good (I enjoy Ichiro’s friend, Suzuki a lot), animation is fluid, and it has a surprisingly good soundtrack as well. But, still, not something I’m going to be continuing with…
If you notice that I didn’t cover One Punch Man’s 2nd season, there’s two reasons for that: 1) it’s not available on VRV or Netflix in the US (right now, at least) and 2) I honestly felt “meh” about the first season, and so I don’t have much interest in the 2nd one. One Punch Man is not bad, but I’ll leave the 2nd season for those who enjoy it more.
All in all, though, there’s some interesting shows. I felt like I had a lot of criticisms to level at all of them, and I don’t want to sound negative and seem like “nothing new is ever good”, but I don’t want to come across as disingenuous either. Truth is, I wasn’t blown away by any of them, but there are some good ones. Demon Slayer is shaping up pretty nicely, Ao-chan Can’t Study is somehow a lot of fun, and Sarazanmai is a flashy, but strange, ride. I’ll also be holding out to see if Fruits Basket can hook me in the next few weeks.
The big question is going to be if I can keep up with these shows weekly. My money is on me falling behind around mid-May.
Is there any shows you watched that I didn’t mention? Or do you have differing thoughts on the shows I talked about here? Let me know what you think below, and until next time, have a good week!