A whole year of anime is almost over, and what a weird year it’s been. Winter 2020 started well with shows like Get Your Hands Off Eizouken! and Somali and the Forest Spirit, only for the SARS CoV2 novel coronavirus/COVID 19 to derail many of the shows due to air in the following Spring and Summer seasons. Now that anime production has adapted to these new circumstances, the Autumn season is stacked. There is no way I have time to watch everything that looks interesting, but I have done my best, for your edification.
I have mixed feelings about this post, because it will be my final one on AniTAY.kinja.com, because our not-so-benevolent overlords at G/O Media, not content with mismanaging their core sites, driving away talented journalists and flooding the pages with endless advertisments, have in their infinite lack of wisdom announced at short notice the destruction and deletion of all kinja user and community blogs. From tomorrow, the individual user blogs at least will be inaccessible, AniTAY probably by the end of the month. I’m not going to get deep into the politics of this, but screw all of you herbaceous bottom-feeders. I hope you all become bankrupt.
Compared to many of my fellow writers who have posted heartfelt tributes to AniTAY and its users, I’m still a relative newbie. My first post was on March 10th 2019, with a seasonal impressions article, much like this one, about the Winter 2019 anime season. I’d never written publicly about anime before. I guess I got a taste for it, because this will be my 83rd solo article, and including collaborations I have contributed to a total of 104 articles. That’s a lot of time spent feverishly typing at my laptop when I probably could have been doing something more useful, but ultimately less fulfilling. I thought I would offer a little poetic symmetry by making my first post mirror my last.
Of course as site admin and immortal overlord Protonstorm has decreed, AniTAY will live on at our new AniTAY Medium site. Also, our friends at TAY have constructed their own solution, https://www.tay2.org. I will continue to contribute to both, so hope to see you there.
Through AniTAY I met and became friends with many great, interesting and thoroughly odd people. You know who you are. Some of you I talk to more often and more openly than with my IRL friends. I hope one day, in the mythical “after times” when we are once more permitted to leave our little dark hovels and travel the world, that I might even be able to meet some of you in person. I hope you won’t be disappointed when I don’t turn out to have the physique of a demigod, nor the countenance of an angel. I do promise not to wear an Ahegao hoodie, though.
Enough of this maudlin rubbish, and on with Autumn 2020! We have several metric tonnes of anime to wade through. (Note to you backwards US Imperialists: that means a lot.)
Fire Force Season 2: Crunchyroll, Fridays: (eps 1–20 of 24)
Oh, Fire Force. You had been doing so well with just getting on with the story without the stupid fanservice, or at least you toned it down significantly. So WTF was with episode 20 and Tamaki once again losing all her clothes then getting beaten to a pulp and crying out for help again? What exactly are you trying to say with this character? When was the last time she was able to actually hold her own in battle without becoming inappropriately naked or humiliatingly defeated? So disappointing.
Otherwise, Fire Force remains an entertaining and flashy show with probably the most idiotic main characters in all of shonen. Main character Shinra is still mostly just a cipher with a hero complex, Arthur is endearingly dense, if repetitive and Maki… got sent away to a desk job. This show really has an issue with the way it treats female characters. If I weren’t already Stockholm-syndromed into finding out what happens, I would have given up in disgust by now. A recent episode almost managed to have a thought-provoking and tender examination of faith and doubt with Shinra acting as a true friend to innocent nun Iris — and then it all plunged deep into stupid fanservice hell again. Only 4 more episodes to go in season 2. I’ve no idea if there’s enough story left in the manga to fill a third season, but I’ve lost faith that it’ll ever change into something consistent and worthwhile even if it does continue.
Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon Season 3: Crunchyroll, HIDIVE, Fridays (eps 1–7 of 12)
With a much shorter gap between season 2 and 3 than the extended hiatus following the conclusion of season 1, Danmachi is firing on all cylinders with this single, heavily serialised arc. I’ve heard mixed reports regarding the original source light novels’ Xenos arc, with some claiming it’s the very best part of the whole franchise, while others said it is boring. For the moment, I’m firmly in the first camp — I love this story. Protagonist Bell Cranel has always been a sympathetic hero — gentle and kind in daily life, yet driven and reliable in battle. When he meets a sentient, talking monster girl in the dungeon, of course he picks her up and takes her home. Not because he’s perverted or horny, but because he’s a fundamentally good person who’s willing to help anyone in trouble, regardless of their origins. Bell is a hero for our fractured times, willing to see past the “otherness” of those unfamiliar to him and listen to their points of view.
With great good guys, a story must match them with equally despicable villains, and season 3 provides us with sleazy, creepy god Ikelos and his evil-aligned Familia. Foremost amongst these is the obsessive, callous and dangerous Dix Perdix, essentially an amoral slave trader who faces off against Bell in a thrilling fight in episode 7. He is the perfect antagonist for a storyline about lies, fear and racial division. I hope the conclusion is as affecting as the setup has been.
Tonikawa: Fly me to the moon: Crunchyroll, Fridays (eps 1–7 of ?)
Particularly popular in the AniTAY discord chat, this delightful and light-hearted romantic comedy is one of this season’s very best shows. Would you look at that? A Crunchyroll original that isn’t utter garbage? (Take that, Noblesse, Gibiate and God of High School.) Will Tonikawa be enough to redeem a tarnished brand? I’m not sure, but it’s a great show in its own right, and is very different to those other originals that preceded it.
Nasa Yuzaki is a studious young man who one day is run over by a truck and instead of meeting the usual fate of such anime protagonists, he is not spirited away into another world to develop God-Like Powers He Must Level Up JRPG-Style To Kill The Demon Lord, no — he’s saved by a mysterious and beautiful girl (Tsukasa Tsukuyomi). He immediately asks her to date him and she agrees — but only on the condition that they first marry. Having suffered serious concussion, of course he agrees, only for her to disappear for almost 2 years and then materialise on his doorstep with an overnight bag. It’s happened to us all, hasn’t it?
We then proceed to witness their tentative steps at getting to know one another in various domestic situations. Nope, they do not suddenly get hot, horny and naked — not that kind of getting to know each other. These guys have barely progressed beyond merely holding hands and kissing, and they both become so adorably bashful at the slightest touch. Gradually their barriers are coming down though, as they learn to communicate their needs. It’s refreshing to see how genuinely into each other they are — their relationship truly is one of equals — dorky, shy, awkward equals — and they each put the other first in their priorities. Although it’s sweet enough to rot your teeth, I love this gently funny and comforting show.
Yashahime: Princesss Half-Demon: Crunchyroll, Fridays (eps 1–7 of ?)
Although I’d read some of Rumiko Takahashi’s original InuYasha manga, I never bothered with the anime, probably because it never came out on DVD in the UK and it was before streaming was a thing. I also greatly preferred her other manga like Ranma 1/2, Maison Ikkoku, Mermaid Saga and Urusei Yatsura. InuYasha just seemed to drag on and on for me, and I think I gave up reading it at around volume 16 (of 56!) Yet here I am watching this season’s unexpected sequel that follows half-demon InuYasha and human Kagome’s teenage daughter Moroha and her two similarly-aged cousins Towa and Setsuna (twin daughters of Sesshomaru and an undisclosed mother).
Detailed knowledge of the conclusion of InuYasha is probably helpful but is by no means essential. InuYasha himself has disappeared, along with Kagome and Sesshomaru so the main girl trio are all essentially orphans who seem to know distressingly little about their parents. That makes this show’s direct narrative links to its predecessor fairly tenuous, save for the appearance of some secondary characters. So far, it seems to be doing mostly its own thing, though I’ve no doubt the mystery of their missing parents will be tackled at some point.
A generic but fun cookie-cutter shonen show, it breaks the mould slightly by having mostly female central characters, though Towa dresses very boyishly with a white suit and short hair. On multiple occasions I’ve had to keep correcting my 9-year-old son who keeps referring to Towa as “him” or “that boy”. I’m not sure what the show’s intention is in regards to her character design, but so far no-one has commented on her gender identity or choice of clothing. It just seems to be window dressing for the moment, apart from her more prominent (by modern standards) tomboyish behaviour. He co-stars are no more feminine in conduct, only in appearance. They could have been a trio of boys and the story would likely have been little different. Setsuna is a stereotypical no-nonsense quiet character, while polar opposite Moroha is a force of light-hearted, violent nature. She brightens up every scene she’s in with her bonkers antics and goofy style. I’m enjoying this much more than I expected to, even if I don’t particularly care for the minimal plot development so far.
Burn the Witch: Crunchyroll: (1 of 3 eps) DROPPED
Much lauded as the next work by Bleach’s Tite Kubo… colour me underwhelmed. I’ve never watched an episode of Bleach, but I struggled to even get through one episode of this 3-episode miniseries. It looks pretty enough I guess, with a budget that obviously exceeds that of the average TV production, but it doesn’t look that good, considering this was released theatrically in Japan. It has a whimsical “Reverse London” setting, where the English capital has a hidden world populated by mages and dragons. It just didn’t seem that interesting to me, and when I found myself looking at the timer to see how much time had elapsed… I realised there were multiple other shows I was much more interested in watching. Perhaps I’ll come back to it… Or perhaps I won’t. I don’t really care.
Of the other shows streaming currently on Crunchyroll, I hear that Jujutsu Kaisen (Fridays) is an entertaining shonen, directed by God of High School’s Sunghoo Park. It sounds like the source material is less, well… shit, so if he can marry up his spectacular action sequences with an actually coherent story and sympathetic characters, then this could be a winner. I hope to check it out before the end of the season. I’ve never watched an episode of The Golden Kamuy (Mondays) so I expect season 3 isn’t the place to start. It’s on the backlog. Although I’m not the biggest fan of sports shows, enough people have recommended (Fridays) that I’m keen to catch up to watch this newest, fourth season. The same goes for Is the order a rabbit? BLOOM (also on HIDIVE, Saturdays). It looks to have the same gently humorous vibe as shows like Yuru Camp, but I’d have to catch up on previous seasons first. There are only so many hours in the day.
Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle: Funimation, Mondays (eps 1–6 of 12)
More like “Murder Princess Rampages Through The Demon Castle”, this is probably my very favourite show of the season. Harried Demon Lord Twilight (son of presumably retired Demon Lord Midnight) kidnaps the Princess Aurora Syalis Goodereste from her kindom in order to hold her to ransom and lure the kingdom’s hero (Dawner) to the Demon Castle to fight. Twilight aims to covertly help Dawner collect items level up in order that their eventual fight will be truly epic enough that Twilight looks even cooler for defeating him, winning respect presumably from his father and the other demons.
Poor Twilight never considered that he’d chosen to capture absolutely the wrong princess, as she turns out to be far more demonic than any of his castle’s depraved denizens. More often seen holding his horned head in his hands than cackling like a good Demon Lord should, Twilight despairs that Syalis escapes her cell on a daily basis, accidentally ruining all of his meticulously constructed plans (hilariously complicating the hero’s endless quest with escalating difficulty levels), causing panic and discord among the demonic residents as she maims, kills and robs them to single-mindedly achieve her goals. And her goals are? To spend each night sleeping peacefully, without interruption. If that means murdering hundreds of sparkling sheet-like ghosts to make bed linen with, then so be it. Same with detonating a giant turtle to turn its shell into a bath, or hollowing out a rubber tire monster to wear his skin as an insulating barrier.
Syalis seems to care very little for the feelings — or lives — of her captive monsters (yes, in this situation they are very much trapped in the castle with her) and uses and abuses them in a variety of twisted, and twistedly cute ways. For example her jailers are cute fluffy demon teddy bears with bat wings, who worship the ground she walks upon because she brushes them so lovingly and thoroughly (in order to harvest fur for her pillows — easier than murdering them, like she first considers.) No wonder they let her run free as she wishes.
You could argue that she’s not a very sympathetic protagonist, that she’s a sociopath veering deep into psychopathic territory, that she commits repeated, hateful, heinous acts without any obvious pricking of conscience… and you’d be right. This show gleefully inverts every trope about bad guys and good guys, about RPG mechanics and story progression. The princess doesn’t even care about escape. She views her captivity as a welcome break from tiresome royal obligations. She might as well be on holiday. A slightly disturbing holiday where the main source of entertainment is murdering the other hotel residents — but that’s ok, because they all get resurrected in the underground demon church anyway. The poor Twilight is probably closest to the true “hero” of this story. You’re not meant to have sympathy with the princess. She’s just the plot device. Sit back and enjoy the fluffy, halloween-coloured, pumpkin-spiced confectionery that is Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle.
Higurashi When They Cry: Gou: Funimation, Thursdays (eps 1–7 of 24)
If you’ve never seen any of the preceding seasons of horror anime Higurashi, have a look at our recent article where we discuss the 2006 Studio DEEN anime. Initially marketed as a remake, this latest season appears, in fact to be something slightly different… To all intents and purposes, it seems to be telling more or less the same story as the first season, even mirroring the structure, content and episode number of the first two arcs. Yet… there are little differences noticeable only by those in the know, and some glaring spoilers that make this an unwise starting place for the uninitiated.
Higurashi (2006) was the poster child for yandere memes, you’ll no doubt have seen some pictures of grinning anime girls wielding sharp objects while splattered in blood. Yes, this is that anime. Don’t run away! It’s actually good! The new character designs are by Monogatari ‘s Akio Watanabe and look much more modern than DEEN’s weird deformed murder-toddlers. I can’t talk too much about this here for fear of spoiling it, but this is an intriguing mystery/horror show with an engaging cast. Sometimes the slice-of-life aspects can drag a little, but I really recommend checking this out. Watch the 2006 original first, though. You can stream it on HIDIVE in North America, UK viewers are stuck with DVD or Blu-ray.
Akudama Drive: Funimation, Thursdays (eps 1–6 of 12)
Akudama Drive is a fast paced, colourful and unhinged cyberpunk fantasy created by Kazutaka Kodaka and Rui Komatsuzaki, respective writer and character designer for the Danganronpa games. This has a very similar vibe, in that it stars a collection of larger-than-life characters with overdeveloped character traits. Whereas Danganronpa featured students with “ultimate abilities”, this features criminals (referred to in-universe as “akudama”) with incredible skills. One is an undefeated street brawler, another is a master hacker, another is a courier who has never failed a delivery. They are all wanted for execution by their dystopian future Kansai district’s authorities, and are engaged by a mysterious employer to steal and then deliver a mysterious item. An apparently normal girl is swept up in proceedings and dubbed with the name “Swindler”. No character has a proper given name, but are referred to only by their role. I particularly like the Doctor whose seemingly magical abilities can re-attach severed limbs. I’ll be writing more about this in an upcoming AniTAY collab article, but I recommend this — it’s a lot of fun, and the episodes speed by.
Talentless Nana: Funimation, Sundays (eps 1–6 of 13)
Another show I can’t say too much about without spoiling the underlying premise, this starts off very much like a low-key My Hero Academia clone, with a group of superpowered students sequestered away on a remote island to train their abilities in preparation for war against the nebulous “warriors of humanity”. Eagle-eyed viewers might notice something a little… “off” with the initial setup. I almost stopped watching this halfway through the first episode because it seemed pretty generic and uninteresting. I was encouraged to keep going by the reactions of some other AniTAY discord members… and I’m glad I did. This is not the show you think it is.
What seems like just another superpowered high school shonen show turns out to be a tense thriller with not a little hint of Death Note in its mental battles and chess-like manoeuvering. This is another of my top picks for the season and is well worth sticking with through the deceptive opening episode.
Wandering Witch — The Journey of Elaina: Funimation, Saturdays (eps 1–7 of 12)
It’s been a while since an anime trigger such mixed feelings in me. Wandering Witch is an episodic travel show, very much in the vein of Kino’s Journey. Each individual episode is mostly stand alone, though a few elements or characters do recur. It presents itself as a series of vignettes related by the titular witch Elaina, coloured of course by her rather abrasive, self-aggrandising personality. How you relate to this show will be heavily influenced by how you like the central character.
Episode one is an excellent introduction, with fantastic action animation and colours that pop out of the screen. Each successive episode is very different, in a way you might expect for this type of show, but the quality is wildly inconsistent. Take for example the episode that contains two rather dark vignettes — one about a field of murderous flowers, the other a depressing tale about slavery. Neither of these stories are developed in interesting ways, Elaina herself is a mere observer who recognises she’s stumbled into some really messed-up situations… and decides to to nothing but move on and try to forget about them. I get that it’s portraying her as a character who doesn’t like to get involved if she doesn’t see it is her place… but then what the hell is the point of even telling a story about her? Some episodes are so frustrating in their total refusal to say or do anything with their concepts or characters. You cannot just hang a show on its pretty visuals and hope everything falls into place. It feels so undercooked. I know this would have been a good show if the stories had been punched up a bit… Perhaps that’s a fault of the original light novel material?
Other episodes like the most recent grape-stamping and wall-breaking stories were more light-hearted and better developed. I’m sticking with the show in the hope that these type of stories will be in the majority, rather than the needlessly dark and pointless entries that marred episodes 3 and 4.
The Day I Became a God: Funimation, Saturdays (eps 1–6 of 12)
Much like with Wandering Witch, your enjoyment of The Day I Became a God will be deeply influenced by your tolerance of the central character. Hyperactive, potentially delusional child/young adolescent Hina Sato dons a nun-like outfit and claims to be a manifestation of the Norse god Odin, complete with powers of precognition. She inserts herself into the normal family life of cardboard cut-out main character Yota Narukami and claims that the world will end in 30 days. (Major Mahoromatic vibes there, BTW.) Weirdly his parents are ok with this, and the fact that she does indeed seem to possess supernatural knowledge convinces him that there is in fact something special about her.
And Hina certainly is “special”, in that she’s a noisy little shit who just doesn’t shut the hell up. This is unfortunately an example of that excruciating Japanese comedy trope of the loudmouth character who shouts random crap at the top of her lungs purely for the other characters to get embarrass and react to her. Sorry, but just because someone acts noisy and embarrassing doesn’t make them funny — it makes them goddamn annoying. Hina contrives to involve Yota in all manner of random shenanigans, and seems otherwise unconcerned about the world’s imminent destruction. Why care about that when you need to film a homemade movie for school? Or rescue a failing ramen restaurant? Or win a high profile Mahjong tournament purely through the power of bullshit? It can’t focus its attention for a moment, and despite occasional hints of some kind of background conspiracy involving some hacker kid, nothing even approaching a plot has appeared yet. The single interesting episode so far examined the grief of a side character’s family, and even then, Violet Evergarden tackled the same concept, and more effectively. My patience for this show is wearing fairly thin, I’m mainly sticking with it because I’m assuming something horribly tragic is going to happen to Odin and I want to have a front seat when it does.
Moriarty the Patriot: Funimation, Sundays (eps 1–5 of 12)
“Eat the rich — the anime”. Set in late 19th century England, this follows the early career of famous Sherlock Holmes antagonist William James Moriarty from his formative years as an orphan to his young adult life posing as an aristocrat, developing his “crime consultant” business. An unexpected delight, this is an incredibly timely show, despite the period setting, as the gap between rich and poor in the modern day widens ever further. Never before have I felt such yearning to eviscerate, grill and cook some unsuspecting billionaire plutocrats. Moriarty quietly and sneakily rails against the class-based discrimination of his day to bring his own brand of vigilante justice to the downtrodden and oppressed. Truly he is a hero for our times, and an attractive blonde bishonen for those who find such things important.
Animated by Production I.G., the show never looks anything less than immaculate. It’s a shame that its 24 episodes are split in two, with the second cour not airing until Spring 2021. I do wonder if a certain nemesis detective will appear at some point on the horizon. It almost doesn’t matter if he never appears though, Moriarty and his associates are all interesting characters and I am so here for the rich, stuck-up bastards to get their painful comeuppances.
Hypnosismic — Division Rap Battle — Rhyme Anima: Funimation, Fridays(eps 1–6 of 13) — DROPPED
I was quite taken by the first episode of this extremely odd musical/rap-based anime. Spectacularly gaudy, with insane set-piece after set-piece, I grinned all the way through the sheer absurdity. Then it settled down into a slower, more repetitive groove and I decided to check out after 6 episodes. It doesn’t help that I’m not remotely interested in rap culture, I find much mainstream rap incredibly cringeworthy and this Japanese animated rap… ewww. I especially hate it when they drop random English terms that would have been awkward enough had a native speaker used them. There’s not much story other than some kind of big rap tournament run by the government that seems a poorly disguised ploy to keep several powerful factions under control by keeping them competing against one another. But… I don’t care. The characters are threadbare and mostly interchangeable, there’s far too many of them, and did I mention I don’t give a shit about rap? So I don’t think this show is for me. Past the stylish and fun first episode, I saw everything it had to offer and it came up empty.
Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear: Funimation, Wednesdays, (Ep 1 of 12) — DROPPED
Earier in the year, I surprised myself by thoroughly enjoying Bofuri — the only anime with the dreaded term VRMMO in its premise that I have bothered to watch. Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear looked similar, so I thought I would give it a try… And I was bored stiff. So generic. So boring. VRMMO player wears overpowered furry bear suit in-game and does overpowered bear suit things. Ok, I get the joke… is that all there is to it? Oh, she gets isekai’d into the game world later on? NOPE. I’m out. Waste of my time.
Other vaguely interesting shows on Funimation this season include: The Irregular at Magic High School (Saturdays). When I say “interesting” I mean “popular”. I’ve never seen this show, and when i heard than incest was a prominent theme… I’ll probably never watch this. The Gymnastics Samurai (Saturdays) looks vaguely interesting, but I’ve heard mixed reports. Adachi and Shimamura (Thursdays) is another school yuri romance that seems popular. These are a bit hit-and-miss with me. Citrus was horribly exploitative and I never quite got into Bloom Into You. I don’t mind a good romance if it actually progresses somewhere — without being creepy. But if it takes until the final episode for the main characters to even hold hands… I’m out of there. Where are all the adult romances? What’s that, it’s mostly teenagers that watch anime? Uh… Oh dear. Feels very out of place.
Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya: Vow in the Snow: HIDIVE: premiered Oct 12th
A surprise drop onto HIDIVE, the latest installment of Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya has arrived! Don’t run away! Ok, I know some of the previous seasons were nothing more than super-creepy loli garbage, but season 4 (confusingly titled Drei) was fantastic, and this movie functions as a flashback sequel that fills in the backstory not just to that season but the show as a whole. And it is great. Seriously some of the fights in this film (and the preceding season) are among the best the entire Fate franchise has to offer. Do yourself a favour and seek these out on HIDIVE. You won’t regret it, and there are no underage incestuous mana transfer scenes.
Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya: Carnival Phantasm: HIDIVE
Related to the above movie in that it also sort of follows on from Drei’s continuity, this is an insane hour-long piss-take that ploughs the same furrow as the earlier Carnival Phantasm episodes. Full of obscure running jokes, it does help to be very familiar with Fate as a whole, though especially with Prisma Illya. Illya herself hardly appears in this spin-off, just like she isn’t featured at all in the above movie either. It focuses mostly on the supporting characters like evil priest turned ramen-shop-owner Kirei Kotomine and Sakura’s hateful brother Shinji. For all you Shinji-haters out there, you’ll be pleased to know a huge section of this special is dedicated to thoroughly shitting on and generally torturing Shinji. This is laugh-out-loud funny in places, though as with previous Carnival Phantasm episodes, the humour is very hit-and-miss even if you do get the obscure references.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: 14 episodes: Crunchyroll, Funimation
Finally, I went back to watch an older show that’s been on my backlog for ages, and I’m glad I did. What a delightful, if occasionally problematic anime. Tohru the dragon is a magnetic character, full of love and energy, contrasted against the far more stoic Kobayashi. With an eclectic cast full of adorable eccentrics, every episode was gently funny and heartfelt. Some of the more echhi humour didn’t quite land with me, especially when it involved grade school children, but otherwise I’m really glad they’re making a second season of this for release next year.
Thanks for reading my (very long) rambles, but this has been a packed season, and Winter 2021 is looking to be even more so. I’ll be back at the end of this season for my now traditional Autumn 2020 Postmortem as well as another article looking back at 2020 — a year in anime. Join me then, on anitay.org or tay2.org!
Originally published at https://anitay.kinja.com on November 15, 2020.