Another season another batch of first episodes for me to discuss. I’m going to say that when looking at what was coming out this season, I was initially disappointed. I mean, part of me likes a bit of a fallow season so that I can catch up on other things but there are very few new shows I’m looking forward to with great anticipation. I’m hyped for more Haikyu!! (the first episode of the new season was good stuff) and Golden Kamuy (YES!!!!) but while there were some I thought would be interesting, I felt let down thumbing through the previews. But having watched a bunch of episodes, the season so far looks, though not amazing, very solid. And maybe this time of year, we need some solid feel-good shows. Only two of these shows I will not continue and only one do I have an overtly negative review for. It didn’t even make me angry or anything, just a deep disinterest. So lets get started!
Majo no Tabitabi
In a fantasy world, a girl named Elaina dreams of growing up to become a witch and at age 13 she does just that, becoming the youngest witch ever to graduate her witch finals. However, once she does, she finds no one wants to take her in as an apprentice. The only witch she can find is a spacy, free-spirited witch who seems more interested in being pampered and spoiled than teaching Elaina anything. After a month of chores, Elaina finally stands up for herself and her mentor reveals she was paid money by Elaina’s parents to take her in and not teach her anything because apparently they SUCK. Her mentor eventually teaches Elaina both magic and to be more assertive and the episode ends with the two going their separate ways and Elaina becoming a wandering witch.
It pleasant. Quite pleasant. Animation wise and tone this feels like a slightly less-melancholy version of Somali and the Forest Spirit in that it is a fantasy story and though we see our hero learning some combat magic, I get the impression our hero isn’t going to wander the world beating up magic jerks and more travelling to make friends, learn about other peoples and cultures and improve her magic game. It appears to be a slice of life fantasy adventure.
The animation is nice but not incredibly amazing or anything. I find a lot of the lower key fantasy series like Somali and Ascendance of a Bookworm have a look that is very polished but not very ambitious. That said, despite the fact that I don’t expect this to be a fight-centric series, there is a pretty impressive fight set piece at the end of act two that looked pretty darn impressive. I expect we will get a few more of those (maybe more in the form of “rescues”) but I suspect more of the series will look pretty but more conventional going forward.
Conventional is a term I’ll be using a lot for this show and a lot of shows this season (though there’s one show the word won’t go ANYWHERE NEAR) and that extends to the characters. The lead here feels like a traditional read for a slice-of-life fantasy: she is naïve but intelligent and wants to learn and I suspect meet knew people and solve their problems. Her mentor is sweet but a bit silly. Still, underneath there’s compassion and love. But its all a comforting sort of conventional and while I don’t see myself raving about the show, I see myself enjoying returning to a pleasant little world of magic and optimism
To rework a bit from Ron Funches:
“Not everyone knows Yashahime. Everyone knows Inuyasha. Inuyasha fucked and had babies. They gave the babies a show.”
If you like Inuyasha, the first episode is… just an Inuyasha. My personal feelings on Inuyasha is as such. I liked Inuyasha but I never loved it. And I got pretty tired of the show spinning its wheels. Then when the show ended, I decided to read the manga. Turns out even without filler, it tended to have a similar problem. But when it decided to, it could be good. I liked the ending, I guess. But I wasn’t particularly excited for more Inuyasha.
The first episode is a completely competent random episode of Inuyasha. It’s a real “monster of the week” story, with hints that said monster may actually be a bigger, more long term threat than he initially appears (or perhaps will awaken a more long term threat). The episode certainly takes place after Inuyasha the show but the dynamics are mostly the same. There are hints that the two leads are both maturing but it’s a good thing the characters noted it because it barely registered for me.
The show definitely wants to count on you being a fan of the old show. The music is the same and though the animation is more polished, it feels like it is meant to be contiguous with the old show (am I using the word right?), like Dragonball Super. Unlike Dragonball Super, while nostalgia will be key, it looks like its going to be an all-new cast, who bookend the show. We don’t get into their backstory but it certainly implies there is more going on than “raised by Inuyasha and Kagome” as one seems to have been living in the contemporary present while the others have lived in the feudal era. I mean, I think they are all Inuyasha and Kagome’s kids. One could be Sesshomaru and Jaken’s kid.
Anyway, it feels a bit early to say. I don’t mind watching more Inuyasha but its clear with a new cast there will be new dynamics, even if the show is clearly trying to echo the old with the intro promising a girl Shippou joining the cast. As JBear pointed out, weirdly the most nostalgic part of the show isn’t the music or familiar plot beats, it’s the moments after the OP and ED where there’s an image or clip with the music where the sponsors would go.
Sport Climbing Girls
A girl goes to a new school and wants to join a club but finds many not her speed. That is, until she finds a rock climbing wall for the climbing club. She tries it out and does very well for a beginning but irritates another student by calling it a “game” and is challenged to climb a wall or not join the club. She uses her wits to making a good showing at the challenge and though she loses, she stays in the club and her strategic skill is acknowledged.
Its not nearly the bad show I thought it was going to be. See, the preview made the show look quite horny, with some butt and down the shirt shots of the girls climbing. The only reason I watched the first episode is that it also looked like there was some silly conceit in the preview that the characters would metaphorically turn into animals. But neither the horniness nor the weirdness came up in the episode. Instead, it was simply a competent climbing anime. The characters are pretty rote but it made the sport look fun, interesting and deep, which I think is key. However, I feel like the show has one similarity to the much better animated Hanebado!; I think it is a show that it not horny in most respects but has an occasionally male gaze-y camera, which it really doesn’t need.
Other than that? The challenge that the main character receives is really dumb. The character challenges a newcomer to a duel for having the audacity to call a sport a game and not being into it as much as her. I can rationalize this pretty easily with classic teenage snotiness and gatekeeperism but it definitely feels like a silly escalation of events in order to add stakes to the plot and a real challenge to our hero. And its strongly hinted there is something of a club member deficit, so maybe don’t scare off club members!
Anyway, its not a bad show… yet. Maybe the gaze-cam implied by the preview will get worse in subsequent episodes rather than being relatively subtle as it is here. However, it is also not particularly interesting as these things go and I don’t have a particularly strong drive to watch more. The animation is serviceable, the story telling is generic and the characters are… also generic. It doesn’t really click as a show I really need any more of. But it was a pleasant enough diversion and it did make rock climbing look like an interesting sport. I’ve seen shows fail before, like Hinamaru Sumo for the sport of sumo and Kamogawa Jet Girls for the sport of shooting each other in the vagina while riding on jet skis.
Yūji Itadori is an unusually strong kid, easily able to break world records of physical feats. But the only club he wants to join is the Occult Club because they don’t mind him going to visit his grandfather in the hospital. After his grandfather dies of natural causes, a mysterious fellow student approaches Itadori and reveals that schools generally have cursed items to ward off evil and that their school’s item, a powerful severed finger, is missing. Turns out his club borrowed it to exam it… and unleashed evil “curses”, monsters born of human suffering. Itadori and the other kid race to school to save his friends but ends up swallowing the finger and becoming possessed by an ancient evil. But what the evil doesn’t expect is that Itadori is so friggin’ strong, he can actually still control his body with relative ease. Now the entity and Itadori presumably are going to reluctantly team up for some monster hunting.
This reminds me of Demon Slayer. Demon Slayer’s first episode told a fairly traditional shounen battler set up story but with extremely nice animation and telling the story very well. Though Jujutsu Kaisen isn’t quite as impressive in terms of animation, it is still one of the best looking shows this season, stem to stern. The story itself, like Demon Slayer, in no way adds nothing new to the supernatural shounen horror action genre but the lead is likable, his friends are fun and the humour generally works pretty well.
I don’t expect our show will give our hero much time to breathe before flinging him headlong into a larger mythology with action and factions and non-stop fights and exposition. But I really do hope they take the time to focus on the fact that our lead is in a very sad situation. He just lost his one parental figure and I hope we get a bit of weight to the loss going forward and the idea that our hero might have great friends old and new but must go home to an empty house. I don’t expect this to happen but it would add some pathos to a character whose life is about to become a series of battles against monsters and, if previous shounen is any indication, quirky humanoid villains.
JBear also pointed out the series emotional crux might take a lot from Ushio and Tora and very early Inuyasha were the hero’s partner is a monster who would supposedly murder everyone they wanted if not for the fact that they have something that restrains them and forces them to behave and fight against demons and monsters and such. My hope is that in the first two examples, those characters are mostly talk (Tora won’t shut up about eating people but he clearly isn’t gonna) but maybe this creature in the lead is a genuinely threat that our hero must fight against before it gets humanized. It you are looking for a fun and beautifully animated shounen action series, you can do worse than this.
But I will say, it won’t be your only choice…
Dragon Quest: The Adventures of Dai
In a fantasy world (specifically the Dragon Quest one, which is probably obvious at this point), a boy named Dai was raised by monsters on a remote island. One monster, Lump Elder, wants Dai to grow up to be a mage but Dai wants to be a full on capital H Hero. When a bunch of adventurers land on the island, Dai greats them but they soon reveal themselves to be villains, stealing Dai’s best friend Golden Metal Slime (or Gome-Chan for short). Dai rescues the slime from being sold to a king and the king is so impressed with Dai’s heroism that he gives him some sort of hero crown.
In many ways, it doesn’t get more basic than this. While Jujutsu Kaisen was based on a modern manga, The Adventures of Dai is an adaptation of a manga from the late 80s. I’ve actually read all of it and it is the platonic ideal of a late 80s/early 90s manga. Its not terrible complicated but it is still a fun read with bad guys turning good after getting beaten up and characters fighting in epically long battles. Since this seems to be a very direct adaptation, I suspect there’s no reason for the show to change much and I’m sure the appeal is seeing the show become completed in anime form for the first time (there was an anime but it was only 30-some episodes, I think). So if you are looking for something different from a shounen manga, you’ve come to the wrong place.
But that’s not a complaint. It’s a comforting adventure show in that respect and the animation is largely quite good. The one downside in the show is the very low-rent CG animation that’s being used for the monsters. It looks not much different than a show from at least a decade before in that respect and with so much work getting into it, it’s a shame we are stuck with somewhat shoddy looking monsters.
Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to seeing the show completed for the first time. I always look forward to when an older series gets adapted. That often (though definitely not always) are better looking series and in terms of pacing it seems like it is easier for them to gauge what that should look like, with no worries of catching up to the source material. Note that this isn’t always true. There was a Hoshin Engi series from a few years back that was apparently a mess and a recent Cooking Master Boy series that was hurting its already silly source material with a weak adaptation. But this looks really promising in that regard with some nice animation from Toei. I don’t know yet if they’ll break it up into seasons. If they don’t, I foresee some places where it looks a little weaker for budgetary and time constraint reasons. Hopefully it will all come out looking nice.
So some “Raillord”, who are adorable girl conductors have some sort of conference.
This is easily the worst thing I’ve watched this season. Not, I can’t even call it bad. I just… don’t get it? I feel like apart from looking at adorable little girls in conductor outfits, I’m not sure what this is. I feel like it requires me to be something of a train nerd to get it what they are referencing and how all these train girls might have different personalities reflective of the real world trains they might represent. But I think even then you need to be on some specific venn diagram of really being into both trains and kawaii for this to work. The jokes don’t seem to land and are dependent on the adorableness of the joke makers. At five minutes, this one is far too long.
With a Cat and a Dog, Every Day is Fun
A cartoonist owns a dog. She also owns a cat.
I mean, it makes me smile. Its also so short that Bananya feels like the Irishman in comparison. Each episode is 1 minute and thirty seconds long, including end credits. The humor comes from the personalities of the pets which are pretty basic dog/cat personalities: the dog is endlessly optimistic and friendly and the cat is full of rage. The formula seems the same: the cartoonist notices her dog being silly and finding the beauty in it. The cat is less impressed and then we see a giant photo of a cat in the back ground with imposing music.
Being very short, this thing didn’t make me cringe and I enjoyed it. So if you want a very short show for whatever reason… this is one.
There’s one more show I need to talk about that I watched on the weekend but its… a lot. I will unpack in a future post.