Brief impressions of the Fall 2020 anime season so far
As before, it's time for my current views on how this season has shaken out so far, following up on my first episode reactions. At this point I've watched four episodes of everything I'm following, which is long enough for shows to establish themselves and usually for my views to stabilize. After a drought that kind of started when I abandoned the fall 2019 season, I'm apparently back to watching plenty of anime.
(I have some thoughts on that but I'm not sure they fit within the margins of an entry I want to write.)
- Warlords of Sigdrifa: This is my surprise of the season, because
it's unreasonably good (well, for its genre);
the third episode was an especially good standout, but it
has great touches all through (including in incidental background
details). As I put it on Twitter, the show might have good fights but
it's about people, and that's what gets me hooked.
(With that said, it's not an entirely serious show.)
- Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear: This is a fundamentally charming story that
I'm enjoying for that, and also for Yuna's faces and periodic nature
as a little gremlin. I have an advantage in that I've been exposed
to the story in manga form, where I also enjoyed it, so I'm happy to
see it animated even if this is not a top notch flawless adaptation.
Unfortunately the various flaws of this probably mean that people who
don't know the story (and aren't fond of isekai in general) won't like
the show at all.
- Akudama Drive: On the one hand, the setting and most of the
characters here are ludicrous in a stylish cyberpunk way, with the
redeeming virtue that the show commits wholeheartedly to it (and has
the animation to make it look good). On the other hand, I have gotten
steadily more caught up in it every episode, as it reveals another
twist and turn, and it does have one normal character that we can root
for and care about as she gets caught up in everything. This has
definitely become engaging watching where I care about what happens
- Jujutsu Kaisen: So far the show is well executed shonen action
with aspects of horror, which is basically what I was expecting from
its genre and pedigree. It's adopting an ongoing Shonen Jump series,
so I'm expecting lots of battles, little progress in any overall plot,
no real conclusion, and a decent chance that I'll get bored with it
before it ends. It has one solid female protagonist, but I'm also
not expecting the show to treat her well, because shonen action shows
(and manga) almost never do.
- Assult Lily Bouquet: This is another 'fighting girls' show, and as
usual I have slightly conflicted feelings. Overall I'm enjoying it
and I find a number of the characters appealing; it's pretty well
made and it knows how to do action and how to make action interesting
(which aren't quite the same thing). It's also got a surprising streak
of subtlety in its storytelling (both visual and in dialog). On the
other hand, it is playing to a certain degree of fanservice and is
somewhat over the top even for its genre.
As an instance of its genre, it's pretty good, and I happen to like its genre when it's done well. However I don't think it has much appeal if you're not a fan of the genre and it certainly has some peculiar aspects if looked at objectively.
On the edge:
- Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle: This is lightweight and only
has one core joke, but so far it's managed to remain both funny
and charming (sometimes through unexpected twists). It's been an
entertaining way to pass some time so far, although I wouldn't be
surprised if I grew tired of it eventually.
(It helps that each episode is divided into several segments, so the jokes move along fairly briskly.)
- Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon: This is reasonably fun, has a
cast of female protagonists in an action series, and I like some
of the characters. On the other hand it has all of the stately
pacing and lack of a real spark that I expected from a follow up
to Inuyasha, although this is an anime only thing so we have
some hope of a conclusion. I'm casually enjoying it so far but
I rather expect I won't make it all the way through (especially
if it's more than one or maybe two cours).
- By the Grace of the Gods: This is a pretty wholesome isekai and
also quite bland and ordinary, in characters, situation, animation,
and directing. That makes it basically a time filler. I'm apparently
willing to keep watching for now but I'm probably going to wind up
(If it was the typical power fantasy type thing I would already have dropped it, but it's just charming enough to hang on for now.)
I don't currently have any urge to watch more than this (or to watch less), so I probably won't have any mid-season pickups. If I did, Adachi and Shimamura is the leading candidate for a look. There are other fantasy and isekai shows and I like the genre in general, but I think I have enough of them as it is this season.
PS: My ongoing impressions of each episode of the shows I'm watching are linked in a Twitter thread from my first episode reactions for each show. Twitter works better for these quick reactions than blog entries do, at least for me.
My (Twitter) reactions to the first episodes of the Fall 2020 anime season
As before I'm collecting here all of my tweeted reactions to the first episodes I've seen (in the order that I saw them). Although I was pretty dormant in anime watching for the past two seasons (or longer), this time around I seem to have woken up with a new enthusiasm for watching things.
- Jujutsu Kaisen episode #1: That was a pretty good action show first
episode, although I probably cheated by reading the first three chapters
of the manga beforehand (that's what's free online). It definitely
leaves me intrigued and wanting more, which is its job.
- Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear episode #1: If I didn't already know and like
the story here, I'm pretty sure I would have bounced off this
episode. It's rather flatly made and kind of incoherent, since it's
starting part way into the story with no background.
- Assault Lily BOUQUET episode #1: That was a decently done instance
of its genre, with more interesting and better staged fights than
usual. I even chuckled a few times, and it's not made the protagonist
into a complete potato; she has some interesting bits.
- Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle episode #1: That was definitely
lightweight but also reasonably entertaining and funny. I can see this
wearing out the joke soon enough, but for now I'm interested enough
to watch another episode.
- By the Grace of the Gods episode #1: That was decidedly ordinary,
by which I mean 'bland'. I'll likely watch some more, mostly because
it's there and I like the genre in general, but I suspect I'll drop
it before the end of the season.
- Akudama Drive episode #1: That was fun and crazy and stylish, and
I like our protagonist, but it's not flawless. Most of the characters
are deliberate cliches, this episode tells us nothing about what
the show is about, and the whole thing is over the top in a slightly
- Yashahime episode #1: As someone who has only a glancing exposure
to Inuyasha, most of this episode was pretty empty and relatively
opaque. It was also pretty bland and only okay as an episode of action,
with a pretty empty monster of the week core.
(Much like Kuma Bear, the second episode was much better.)
I was considering looking at Wandering Witch, but the commentary I've seen on Twitter suggests that it's not my kind of thing. Talentless Nana has some good reviews, but fortunately I've been spoiled on its shock twist because the shock twist shifts it into a genre I'm not interested in. It's possible I'll try out some other shows as junk food, but that's about it for things that look actually attractive.
(Adachi and Shimamura is somewhat tempting because I very much enjoyed Bloom into You, but I'm not sure if it would recapture Bloom's magic.)
And a surprise update:
- Warlords of Sigrdrifa episode #1: That was really good in general but what completely sold me are all of the good characters and the character interactions. This might have had good fights but it was about people, and that makes all the difference in the end. →
My (Twitter) reactions to the first episodes of the Summer 2020 anime season
As before I'm collecting here all of my tweeted reactions to the first episodes I've seen (in the order that I saw them). Well, that's the standard wording, except this time around I only watched one premier.
- Deca-Dence episode #1: That was a hell of a ride, and fun as hell to boot. Our heroine is so expressive, I was not expecting how the climactic weapon worked, the whole setting is fun, and we have several mysteries set up on top of all the great stuff. I can't wait for more. →
Nothing else that's airing this season sounds appealing to me, although some of them are getting good reviews. The Sakugablog season preview does a good job of praising Japan Sinks 2020, but a show revolving around a disaster is not something I want to watch these days for various reasons.
Brief impressions of the Spring 2020 anime season so far
As before, it's time for my current views on how this season has shaken out so far, following up on my first episode reactions. This is rather more delayed than usual, but I want to write down my impressions so far before these shows end (and how they end changes my impressions of them).
Surprisingly tense but sometimes flawed:
- Gleipnir: This is one part battle show and one part psychological horror and tension; the two parts go together surprisingly well and make it the most interesting show I'm watching this season. The show has a very good command of atmosphere, which helps, but then it also has various flaws (many of them revolving around fanservice), which hurt a bit.
- Princess Connect! Re:Dive: This is a fun goofy show where the male protagonist being a potato is actually a feature. Karyl is the clear star in our ensemble cast, with Pecorine as the second best character, and I don't think it's an accident that Karyl is the one person who is getting a real character arc. With that said, Re:Dive is not where you should look if you want realistic characters and a deep story. It is nicely put together, though, with good direction, art, animation, and so on.
Sadly on the edge:
- My Next Life as a Villainess: I like the concept and there are some good aspects to it, but by now the basic premise is starting to get a little threadbare and how the show treats Catarina is increasingly grating. If something different doesn't start happening soon, I may get bored with this and drop it.
I didn't continue Kakushigoto and I have tacitly suspended or dropped Listeners because I still haven't gotten the energy together to watch more of it. Things I've heard about Listeners writing have not been encouraging in that regard, and I'm not sure its overall apparent genre of 'teenagers being teenagers in a SF setup' is one that I'm very interested in any more.
Looking back at the Winter 2020 anime season
It's rather past time for my traditional look back at what I watched in the Winter 2020 anime season (after abandoning the fall 2019 season), to follow up on my earlier impressions. As seems to be typical these days, this wound up being a season where I didn't watch very many shows.
- Magia Record: This sustained its pace and impact pretty much
all through, although it didn't resolve anything; this is just
the first half of a split cour show that resumes at some point
(predictions of exactly when seem premature at the moment). It
was all sorts of good in its own right without trying to be a
re-telling of the story of Madoka Magica.
- BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense:
This stayed enjoyable in a fun, goofy way all through the show,
although some of the hijinks may have gotten repetitive after a
while. The show may be unrealistic, but it's definitely fun (and
sometimes the game developers deserved what Maple did to their game). In
fact, I'll repeat my Twitter summary of the show:
BOFURI as a whole was a fun romp with some nice depths of characterization, a solid grasp of its overall comedic tone, and good handling of action. The cunning plans were good ones and there were surprises (and yes, Sally is the ruthless planner behind the throne).
I probably wouldn't mind watching more BOFURI, but I don't feel there's any need for more of the show and it might get a little repetitive. The further adventures of Maple, Sally, and so on are probably best left to our imagination (or the other media you can get it in).
(Of course, reading the Wikipedia entry just told me that there's a second season coming, so someday I'll get to swallow these words.)
- In/Spectre: I would say that this show had too much of people talking
to each other, but that's not quite it; its fatal flaw was that there
was no conflict in those conversations. I got
- Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken: This stayed suspended and thus became dropped. I never got around to watching the fourth episode, but perhaps someday.
The Winter season was a pretty good one all told. Although I regret that Eizouken didn't click with me (and In/Spectre wasn't better), the two shows I did watch were both quite enjoyable in their own ways.
Looking back at the Summer 2019 anime season
This turns out to be so extensively delayed that I only just noticed that I'd never written it. So, it's very past time for my traditional look back at what I watched in the Summer 2019 anime season, to follow up on my earlier impressions. Since it's almost a year since I saw these, my impressions are a bit faded.
- Symphogear XV: This was basically everything I could have reasonably
asked for in a Symphogear show, especially one that basically
wraps up the entire project (it may not stay wrapped up, in the way
of these things, but it's definitely over for now). Symphogear
unfortunately faced some structural story-telling issues in this
but it still did good work, was quite enjoyable, and did
some things to make the Symphogears not the sole saviors.
- Granbelm: This was generally well made and well put together, it had a bunch of characters that I liked, and for much of its run it was quite good. Unfortunately, it took its story in a direction I'm no longer a fan of, and so I can't really judge the show fairly as a result of that. I think the show took its story where it wanted to go and probably succeeded on its own terms (or mostly succeeded, there were some awkward bits), and it was a good spectacle. But the end result left me a bit let down.
I eventually dropped everything else that I was watching in Summer 2019. Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files and Isekai Cheat Magician both failed to sustain my interest, Fire Force was too typically shonen (and there was the horrifying Kyoto Animation tragedy), Astra Lost in Space lost me for various reasons, and I stopped being able to put up with the flaws in Cop Craft, especially in its writing surrounding Tilarna.
My (Twitter) reactions to the first episodes of the Spring 2020 anime season
As before I'm collecting here all of my tweeted reactions to the first episodes I've seen (in the order that I saw them).
- Listeners episode #1: That was interesting, atmospheric, nicely
directed, and had a good climax with some interesting action. The story
felt pretty standard and I'm not sure where the show will go next;
this was all setup and background.
- Kakushigoto episode #1: This is beautiful, well made, and reasonably
sharply written, but as usual its comedy doesn't work for me (and I'm
not sure I'm a fan of the fundamental joke at its heart). It's nice
and good, but not for me.
- My Next Life as a Villainess #1: That was fun and funny, and Catarina
makes a solid lead. It's nicely put together, too (beyond being my
kind of thing). I'm very much looking forward to what happens next
and what sort of absurd situations Catarina gets herself into.
- Princess Connect! Re:Dive episode #1: This was reasonably fun and
periodically funny. It's a bit hard to engage with these people as
people, instead of cutouts, but potato-kun is definitely improved by
mostly not speaking or doing anything.
- Gleipnir episode #1: That was awkward, uncomfortable, and rather adolescent (male) sexual gaze, all of which was entirely intended. It was also pretty good; intriguing and well put together (although not flawless), with a fine control of atmosphere and quiet hanging tension. →
Actually posting this entry has been delayed because I kept thinking I would watch a few more first episodes, but so far that's not happening. I will probably see some of Brand New Animal sometime but not right away, and I've decided that Sing "Yesterday" for Me is probably not my kind of thing in general and especially with the world and local mood as it is right now.
PS: As has become my habit, I've threaded my reactions to subsequent episodes for each series that I'm (still) watching on these first episode tweets.
The flaw in In/Spectre's conversations
Over on Twitter, I said:
I've realized that In/Spectre's fatal flaw is that these characters are explaining things to each other, rather than arguing back and forth, yelling past each other, or trying to pull fast ones. There's no conflict or drama in their conversations.
In/Spectre is by the same writer as Blast of Tempest, a show which I quite enjoyed (see my Winter 2013 retrospective). Both shows are full of talking and clever dialog (it's one of the writer's signature traits), but I'm not enjoying In/Spectre half as much as I did Tempest; in fact I'm increasingly finding In/Spectre kind of boring.
What I realized is that the two shows have different types of conversations. In Tempest, there was a conflict at the heart of most conversations; people were arguing with each other, trying to persuade each other or do deals, or at least trying to hoodwink and fool each other or hide information. In/Spectre is great when it's doing that sort of thing, when people are arguing or bickering or sniping at each other, but its most recent run of episodes has mostly involved people explaining things to each other or coming up with plans. There's no conflict, just talk.
(The few conversations that were not like this still have the spark to them, both in dialog and how they're staged.)
Brief impressions of the Winter 2020 anime season so far
As before, it's time for my relatively early views of how this season has shaken out so far, following up on my first episode reactions. This entry has been delayed partly because I'm lazy but largely for the traditional reason, which is that I haven't wanted to admit something about one of the shows airing this season.
- Magia Record: This has completely blindsided me with how good it is
and how much I've been enjoying it. The entire show is very well
presented, with excellent staging, scenes, direction, and so on, the
characters and their interactions are appealing, and the overall story
interesting, with a solid balance of mystery and slow revelations.
(The show's staging is very deliberately unnatural, but that fits its mood and setup, and it's doing very good things with that staging.)
- BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense: This
is my kind of thing so I'm biased, but even then I think it's solidly
entertaining and above all simply fun. The show has an infectious joy
of people playing this game and having fun at it, and it communicates
that well along with the inherent comedy of Maple and her friends
quietly breaking the game by doing things that the developers didn't
- In/Spectre: I like this style of show (it's from the same author as Blast of Tempest) but sometimes it has a little more talking with a little less compelling things than I'm entirely happy with. People making clever plans is all well and good, but sometimes I want a bit more. However, the show routinely does excellent character interactions, with the core cast interacting with each other in nice and often funny ways. Seeing Kotoko being taken down a peg is never not amusing, and everyone has believable chemistry with each other.
- Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken (#3): This is an excellently made
show about animation, with some appealing characters and all of that.
But it hasn't really clicked with me and watching it often makes me
feel that I'm sort of being lectured at (with a lot of love, but
still). Some of the little things the show does with the characters
don't appeal, either.
Many people really love this and I'll probably watch episode four (which is apparently very good). But episode five is apparently all about giant robots and the various issues around the genre, which sounds exactly like what I'm not interested in at several levels.
That Eizouken hasn't clicked with me makes me feel both sad and guilty, because this is theoretically just the sort of thing that I should really enjoy and watch as an anime fan. It's even made by one of the best directors working in anime, someone whose previous shows I've generally quite enjoyed or at least appreciated. But my gut is just not interested and these days I listen to it.
(My gut actively looks forward to Magia Record, enjoys BOFURI a lot, and is okay with In/Spectre.)
My (Twitter) reactions to the first episodes of the Winter 2020 anime season
As before I'm collecting here all of my tweeted reactions to the first episodes I've seen (in the order that I saw them).
- BOFURI #1: I rather liked this, but I was biased towards it because
I've enjoyed what of the manga I've seen. I'm scoring it solidly
entertaining in a deliberately silly way; Maple is gleefully (but
unknowingly) breaking the world in her own fun way.
- Eizouken episode #1: That was a bunch of fun and a paean to animation,
and I like these kids. I definitely hope that this show is going to
go interesting places; I'll find out next episode.
- In/Spectre episode #1: This is my kind of stuff in general so I'm
biased, but this was sharp, interesting, nicely done, and with all
sorts of lovely touches in dialog and action. And I like these two
(I can't call them 'kids', all things considered). They bicker well.
- Magia Record episode #1: That was a decidedly interesting start, often told in an interesting way that I liked. Iroha is an intriguing person with undercurrents, the whole show looks good (and had some decent action), and I want to watch more. →
This pretty much covers anything that I feel likely to watch. I've heard good things about the story of Infinite Dendrogram, but from all reports the implementation in animated form is not particularly impressive. There's also Heya Camp, but two large parts of what I loved about Laid-Back Camp were Rin and the actual camping and I understand that neither of them are in these shorts, which doesn't make me very enthused.
(There's also sort of Dorohedoro, but it's apparently so mired in what is sometimes called the 'Netflix jail' that it wasn't even covered in the ANN review of this season's first episodes.)