Doctorkev’s Thoughts on the Autumn 2022 Anime Season: Netflix, HIDIVE and Disney+
It’s been a very busy season, with some incredibly high quality anime split across multiple streaming services. Last time, I covered Crunchyroll, still the main destination for the largest proportion of new TV anime in the West, but with its recent purchase by multimedia conglomerate AMC, HIDIVE is aggressively building its catalogue using its adoptive parent company’s (relatively) limitless funds. At one point it seemed HIDIVE was lucky to stream one or two new shows per season, now it’s closer to ten. Netflix continue with their own extremely random strategy of dropping twelve episodes of an anime at a time, often with long breaks in between individual cours of longer series.
And finally Disney+ has boarded the anime hype train. After announcing several acquisitions last year, finally they’ve begun bringing them to English-speaking countries. Their biggest licence is unarguably Bleach. Not only are all 366 episodes of the original run now available on Disney+, but they’re also simulcasting the new final story arc, Thousand-Year Blood War. I’ve never watched the original, so I won’t be covering Bleach. (Note: all of Disney+’s international anime licenses instead stream on the Disney-owned Hulu in the US.)
Their other licenses are more puzzling choices. Black Rock Shooter: Dawn Fall is a sequel to a decade-old anime adaptation of a mobile game, and the original Black Rock Shooter anime is unavailable to legally stream anywhere either in the US or the UK. Your only option is to track down secondhand DVDs. I’m not watching it unless I can source the original. Tatami Time Machine Blues is a six-episode miniseries sequel to Masaaki Yuasa’s beloved (but still very niche) The Tatami Galaxy from 2011. The original still streams on Crunchyroll. Much to my irritation, there’s still no word on a wider international broadcast for Summertime Rendering. Come on, Disney+ guys! What’s wrong with you? Australia and New Zealand have an English version, so it’s not like it doesn’t exist!
Tiger and Bunny Season 2 Part 2 — NETFLIX — watched all episodes, 14–25.
Coming many months after the first half of season two, we pick up the storyline almost straight after the climactic fight with creepy albino duo Fugan and Mugan. Although the twins no longer pose a threat, cut-price joker-like villain Gregory Sunshine continues to cause havoc with a plan to destabilise society and foment anti-NEXT sentiment amongst the non-superpowered populace of Stern Bild city.
This second half starts with perhaps the weakest run of Tiger and Bunny episodes so far. Sunshine’s plan to misuse an experimental ability-enhancing drug is so derivative of decades-old US superhero comics that there’s no mystery as to why so many seemingly normal NEXT-enhanced humans begin to rampage, their powers uncontrolled. The heroes themselves are depressingly slow on the uptake.
Thankfully, as the stakes intensify and the story progresses, Tiger and Bunny returns to its strengths — heartfelt human interaction mixed with flashy action sequences and moral dilemmas. Not-so-subtly seeded plotlines begin to converge in mostly-satisfying ways, though the overall story is very simple but pleasing. The original 25-episode Tiger and Bunny season debuted well before the Marvel Cinematic Universe really transformed what superhero movies could be, and eleven years later the second series may as well have been made only months after the first, so little has it evolved.
Don’t get me wrong — Tiger and Bunny season 2 remains a lot of fun, but it doesn’t do anything new with its superheroics, and sometimes it feels overly simplistic and even juvenile in its storytelling. I love Masakazu Katsura’s character designs, and I especially appreciate the closure brought to unhinged antihero Yuri Petrov/Lunatic’s sad story. With central duo Kotetsu and Barnaby’s tale reaching a natural end by the final episode, I think I’m ready to leave Tiger and Bunny behind now.
Romantic Killer — NETFLIX — watched all 12 episodes
Unfairly overlooked during this loaded season, Netflix sort of quietly dumped this hilarious anti-romantic comedy and no-one seems to be talking about it. That’s a huge shame, because I guarantee that if this was streaming weekly on Crunchyroll we’d hear so much more about it. Teenage schoolgirl Anzu Hoshino’s interests are focused on only three things — chocolate, video games, and her beloved pet cat Momohiki. Anzu couldn’t care less about boys outside of console dating sims.
When Anzu accidentally inserts the wrong rental disc into her console, she unwittingly enrolls herself in an experimental new metaverse-style dating game. Instead of getting hit by a truck and being isekai-ed into an otome game universe, the round, orange, mischievous wizard Riri contrives to fill Anzu’s normal life with intrusive dating game tropes in the hope of ensaring her in a romantic relationship, thereby guaranteeing his wage bonus. Oh, and to make sure she’s not distracted, he confiscates all chocolate and video games from her life, and sends her parents abroad along with Momohiki. Alone in an empty house and suddenly surrounded by stereotypical “Ikemen” (Japanese slang for “handsome guys”), Anzu does everything she can to foil Riri’s underhanded manipulations, desperate not to fall in love with anyone.
Romantic Killer joyfully skews every romantic comedy trope you’re ever heard of, with vicious, murderous intent. Riri ticks every box with the guys he inveigles into Anzu’s life — there’s the emotionally vulnerable yet cool, aloof Tsukasa, the reliable, sporty and friendly childhood friend Junta, and the wealthy, snobbish Hijiri. Riri contrives endless embarrassing situations calculated to get Anzu to lower her guard and fall for one of her “options”.
Anzu is such an incredible lead character. Although she seems like a videogame-obsessed slob with a complete lack of dress-sense (actually, she is all these things…) she’s also an extremely loyal friend, a fantastic judge of character, and absolutely the one person her friends can rely on when they’re in trouble. Although the show is mostly very light-hearted, later episodes become much more serious in places, with some really unsettling psychological trauma. It’s a testament to the excellent characterisation and deft writing that the tonal whiplash isn’t more severe. I loved this hyperactive, demented show. I really hope there’s a second season.
Tatami Time Machine Blues — Disney+ (Hulu in the US) — watched all 6 episodes
So this was a new experience — watching anime on Disney+ of all places. I guess it’s not altogether weird — last year’s Star Wars Visions was a collection of Japanese-animated shorts. Tatami Time Machine Blues, however, is not a Disney-owned property, merely a licence. I’m not sure why they chose this in particular, the sequel to 2011’s The Tatami Galaxy that was directed by Masaaki Yuasa and based on the 2004 novel by Tomihiko Morimi (Night is Short, Walk on Girl, The Eccentric Family, Penguin Highway).
In Japan, Tatami Time Machine Blues was released theatrically as a movie. For streaming, it’s been chopped up into five episodes, with a sixth, a prequel episode, exclusive to Disney+. With a first episode of thirty minutes duration but each subsequent episode running to less than twenty, it’s entirely feasible to watch the whole thing in one sitting, and that’s how I would advise it’s best experienced. In this we’re reunited with the cast of weirdos that populated The Tatami Galaxy, though once more this appears to be in a slightly different timeline to any explored in that series.
No longer directed by Yuasa, though it’s been animated at the studio Science Saru that he helped to set up, it’s now directed by Shingo Natsume who was an episode director for multiple instalments of the original show. He picks up from Yuasa remarkably well — this remains a very funny, fluidly-animated and deeply surreal experience about a group of students who discover a time machine in the unnamed protagonist’s hallway closet. With a twisted, recursive plot structure that brings to mind dense indie time travel movie Primer, it’s thankfully easier to follow than that most opaque of time travel movies.
I’ve enjoyed every anime adaptation of this author’s work, and Tatami Time Machine Blues is no exception. If anything, I think it’s even better than The Tatami Galaxy. If you fell in love with the original’s quirky but empathetic characters, tragicomic plot twists and breakneck narration, you should definitely check this out. It’s more concentrated, coherent, and entertaining.
The Eminence in Shadow — HIDIVE — Wednesdays — watched episodes 1–7
Have we reached Peak Anime with this most ridiculous of concepts? No, we haven’t — that accolade is reserved for one of the shows covered further below. Still, this is a truly ridiculous show that revels in its contrived stupidity, and the viewer can’t help but be caught up in the idiocy. Protagonist Cid is an idiot. There’s no way you can argue otherwise. In his first life in our world, he convinced himself the only way to live fully was to become “The Eminence in Shadow”, some kind of edgelord fantasy badass, fighting against a fictional evil satanic secret society — kind of like Batman but with Fake Awesome Magical Powers or something. Mainly that meant he bludgeoned bad guys to death with crowbars.
Now, because this is Anime (with a capital “A” of course), he’s been reincarnated in a fantasy world where all of his Painfully Edgelordy delusions are actually true — but he doesn’t realise. He continues to play the part of The Eminence in Shadow, recruiting an army of sexy young women to his side to fight his battles against a demonic cult, but he (completely and unbelievably) thinks they’re just playing along with him. Honestly, this premise doesn’t even remotely hang together for a second when examined too closely.
However it’s still a lot of fun, as long as you can swallow the ridiculous plot contrivances and you can endure a truly stupid and annoying main character. I originally resisted watching any of this because it sounded so bad, but the production itself is bizarrely high-calibre. Under a less-enthusiastic director with less-spectacular animation, this would indeed have been an insufferably smug and annoying show, but somehow it’s keeping me entertained. Just.
Reincarnated as a Sword — HIDIVE — Wednesdays — watched episodes 1–7
Oddly, this (yet another) isekai power fantasy about some dude reincarnated in a ridiculously overpowered form (this time as a sentient, levitating magic sword) streams exclusively first in China via the Bilibili service, only then 1 week later in the rest of the world. If you’re a filthy pirate who acquires anime via torrents or less legal sites, then you’re probably a week ahead. May you be beheaded by cute, angry catgirls with enormous swords.
This reminds me a lot of 2021’s So I’m a Spider, So What? in that it foregrounds a central reincarnation gimmick and expounds its plot using a great deal of voice-over narrative, either from the main character, or from a disembodied voice that announces power-ups and skill use. Yes, it’s fantasy written by someone whose only reference material is JRPG video games, that are themselves derivative of Dungeons and Dragons, itself derivative of much older fantasy novels. It’s recursive derivation all the way down to the tale of Beowulf, baby.
So anyway this is a world where adventurers fight orcs, battle demons, level up, learn new battle skills, buy armour from dwarves… You get the idea. What elevates it above other similar low effort dreck is that it features a super-cute catgirl, Fran. I knew anime was good for something. Poor Fran is a mistreated slave (don’t run away, it’s not one of the unsettling trend of those disgusting slavery-apologia isekai abominations) who stumbles upon the newly reincarnated and powered-up sword guy. He helps her to escape slavery, saves her life from monsters, and begins to teach her how to fight and fend for herself. Fran wants to get stronger and evolve, Pokemon-style, into a mightier form, and therefore bring glory to all catgirl-kind, or something. She’s so cute it doesn’t matter. The plot is nothing special, but it’s braindead fun. Me watch cute catgirl smash ugly things. Catgirl smile. Me happy.
Bibliophile Princess — HIDIVE — Thursdays — watched episodes 1–7
A change to the usual scheduled isekai/fantasy/ecchi/violent anime that usually clogs modern streaming-pipes, this is a delightful throwback to old-style shojo (manga/anime aimed predominantly towards a young female audience). As much as I love shrieking catgirls splattered with the blood of their defeated enemies, I still like a slower-paced and gentle character-based drama every now and then. Especially when the main character is a pretty, smart and ravenously curious reader like Bibliophile Princess’s Elianna. Just like in real life, I love intelligent women. This is a show about a quiet, bookish girl who attracts the attention of her nation’s handsome prince, and is completely oblivious about it.
If this was a standard anime romcom, then that obliviousness would persist probably for several hundred episodes, and the central relationship would never be resolved. This is not a standard anime romcom. It’s much smarter than that. Elianna’s lack of confidence (and self-knowledge) is believable for someone who’s spent their entire life so far with her nose in a book, in a society where such studiousness is frowned upon in a young female. Her gradual realisation of her mutual attraction with the prince is very sweet, and their relationship progresses in a gentle way.
The prince clearly values her not just for her beauty, but for her insight and intelligence. It takes multiple episodes for Elianna to understand this, she’s so crippled by impostor syndrome that she underestimates her own value, even when using her vast knowledge to help improve government policy. Because the central couple already form a tight relationship within the first half of the show, I’m not sure where the story is headed after this, and that’s refreshing. Bibliophile Princess does run the risk of appearing somewhat twee, and so far the stakes have been pretty low, but I’m intrigued to see where it goes next. Maybe Elianna will discover the complete works of the Marquis de Sade or something. God help the prince then.
Urusei Yatsura: — HIDIVE — Thursdays — watched episodes 1–6
She’s back! Lum has returned! Rejoice! The original Urusei Yatsura anime was foundational in my developing obsession with anime back in the mid 1990s when the Anime Projects, a tiny little Welsh company, licensed (almost as small) US distributor Animeigo’s subtitled translation of the first few episodes of the original 1981 anime. I still have my PAL VHS tapes of the first four TV volumes (four episodes apiece) and the first movie. I kept buying Viz Comics’ English manga release until it was cancelled in 1998. Thankfully that’s restarted lately, and I’m slowly collecting the newly-translated omnibus volumes. So to say I was looking forwards to this new version of the anime would be an understatement.
Although the 1981 series was insanely popular (with 195 episodes, 11 OVAs and 6 theatrical movies), manga author Rumiko Takahashi always had issues with the direction that the anime took. The first couple of seasons were directed by visionary director Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, Patlabor) and he added his own brand of surrealism to Takahashi’s already bonkers fantasy sci-fi. This was most obvious in the beloved second movie Beautiful Dreamer, which Takahashi reportedly hated, and it’s true that although it’s an incredible movie, it’s not at all representative of what Urusei Yatsura is.
With Jojo Bizarre Adventure’s David Production at the helm of this shiny new remake, the apparent purpose is to adapt the manga more closely (excising popular characters like “Lum’s Stormtroopers” and their leader Megane, as they were Oshii’s inventions) and this is no more obvious than in poster girl Lum’s character design. Takahashi’s ink-painted manga volume covers always depicted Lum with iridescent, multicoloured hair that would have been impossible to replicate using 1980s cel-painted animation techniques, at least not on a TV budget. That’s the reason Lum was given her now iconic luminous green hair. Now with the advent of digital animation, Lum’s hair is now much closer to her original manga appearance, and I think it looks great.
I’m going to write about this more in the upcoming The Anime You Should Be Watching AniTAY collaboration article, so I won’t go into much more detail about the remake here other than it’s a beautiful and accurate adaptation of the 1978 manga, updated only in the technology used to make it. It may be a hard sell to younger anime fans as its sensibilities are still firmly planted over four decades in the past, but Urusei Yatsura was popular for a reason, and part of that no doubt was its timelessness. Scummy men like hapless protagonist Ataru Moroboshi will always lust after unobtainable women and fail to appreciate what they have on their doorstep.
Akiba Maid War — HIDIVE — Thursdays — watched episodes 1–7
Finally — the MOST Anime Of All Anime Of All Time — this utterly demented, hilariously violent hardboiled organised crime drama starring the warring maids of 1990s Akihabara. Yes, maids. As in maid cafe maids. Maids with guns. Maids with baseball bats. Battle-scarred maids drunk with vengeance. Maids who lovingly serve their masters freshly-cooked omurice decorated with heart-shaped tomato sauce splodges while flirting and smiling sweetly. The deliberate juxtaposition of cute whimsy and blood-soaked brutality epitomises the truism that you can make an anime about almost anything, and with enough love and effort it will be amazing.
And Akiba Maid War is amazing. Don’t believe me? Skip to 16 minutes through the first episode and witness one of the most hilarious, unhinged five minutes of spectacular violence mixed with pop-idol like singing, dancing and light sticks. Imagine if Quentin Tarantino did enough drugs to have a bad trip while being spoon-fed by maids in an Akihabara cafe, then this animated insanity would be the product of his confused mind.
Akiba Maid War knows it’s ridiculous and doesn’t care, taking itself completely seriously while relishing its integral absurdity and black humour. It follows through on everything it attempts with absolute conviction, whether that’s heartbreaking deaths, heartwarming camaraderie or twisted jokes. Nothing like this exists outside of anime. Nowhere else will you see piggy-ear wearing maids (from the hilariously-titled “Oinky-doink cafe”) murdering bunny-ear wearing maids in a musically-choreographed street gunfight.
Every episode I fear the premise will run dry, yet each new instalment features yet new fresh insanity. I can’t wait for the next episode, this show makes me laugh like a drain. Also — the lyrics, visuals and musical styles of opening and closing sequences are hilariously incongruous. Whoever pitched this show was a lunatic, and whoever greenlit it was unhinged. Bravo, I say. Bravo!
Other shows of interest:
As usual, AniTAY podcast host Requiem tries to get me to watch all manner of terrible thing. Apparently Love Flops (Renai Flops), also on HIDIVE is so bad it’s good, but Requiem’s assessment of good and bad is fatally flawed and cannot be trusted. Maybe I’ll get around to it.
Netflix’s Exception looks interesting, if only because it’s a shiny CGI SF show featuring character designs by Final Fantasy/Vampire Hunter D’s Yoshitaka Amano. The basic hard SF premise of cloned humans and planetary colonisation gone wrong sounds interesting, but I’ve not had time to check it out yet.
Also on Netflix, Oni: Thunder God’s Tale is a stop-motion Japanese animation. I loved Rilakkuma and Kaoru, so I’d like to take a look, it’s only got four episodes. Talking of stop-motion, the wonderful PUI PUI Molcar has a second season coming soon (it’s already streaming in Japan), hopefully to Netflix — DRIVING SCHOOL. If you’ve not yet checked out the first season of these very funny shorts you should do so. Where else will you witness a world where guinea pigs have been bred to be cars?
For a long time it looked like Adult Swim’s short 4-episode horror anime Housing Complex C wasn’t going to find a home in the UK. Just recently it’s turned up on free-to-view streaming service All4, of all the random places. (They do also stream other Adult Swim stuff too, so maybe that shouldn’t come as a surprise.) I’ll check it out for next time.
Thanks for reading to the end of my thoughts on the Autumn 2022 anime season! I’ll be back at the end of the year for a postmortem not just for this season, but for the whole year of anime! See you then.
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