Hey, where are all the season finales we were promised last week? They’re down at the bottom of this post, to keep their spoilery analysis away from people just dropping by for first impressions of the new premieres.
Attack on Titan #26 (season 2 premiere) – The introductions wastes no time diving full-on into the backstory, so here we go: The last remnant of humanity is trying to hold off human-eating giants from behind massive walls. Eren Jaeger, recently recruited to the Survey Corps, has made the shocking discovery that titans are humans who can take on a new form – and he’s one of them. This was soon followed by the discovery of at least one titan infiltrator in the Corps, who Eren defeated after a long fight at the end of last season. Now the Corps has just discovered that there are titans within the walls themselves, and that some people have known this all along. And while most titans are semi-intelligent fighting machines, a new one has appeared that retains its full intelligence in titan form.
If you liked the first helping of Attack on Titan, it is back 100%. The great aerial action is there, the art style, most of the production team, and the full force of the kind of budget you get for a guaranteed hit. If you didn’t like the first season, well, it depends. With a bunch of stuff going on and only three months to handle it, it’s possible this run won’t be bogged down by slow pacing like the last one. On the other hand, it’s definitely not going to let up on gore. First-time viewers should be warned that this show frequently depicts people being eaten alive.
One welcome change from last time is wider simultaneous distribution, so this is a definite candidate for following episode by episode in this column.
International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa); FUNimation (non-delayed dub for US, Canada, UK, Ireland); VRV (US); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Sénégal, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique); VVVVID (Italy); Anime on Demand (German-speaking Europe); bilibili (Asia); Toonami (US broadcast starting April 22)
My Hero Academia #14 (season 2 premiere) – In a world where most of the population has at least minor superpowers, Izuku Midoriya was one of the unlucky “Quirkless”. Then his dedication and determination came to the attention of the superhero All Might, who has a power that can be passed on and was looking for the right student. Izuku is making slow progress mastering his power, but was able to help fight off a surprise attack on his Hero Academy class.
Now the dust has settled, and it’s time for the big school sports competition. As one of the students points out, this is a shockingly normal event. It’s also a shockingly easy way to pad out your shōnen manga with some pre-structured competitive content in between massive hero-villain fights. In fact, it’s already been announced that the sports festival story arc will fill this entire season.
Most of this episode is spent re-introducing Izuku and his classmates and catching up on what happened last season. (There’s also an entire recap episode, #13.5, if you want more detail, but at that point you may as well just watch the whole season, which would be more fun anyway.) So there’s not much movement toward this season’s plot yet, but the overall feel is of being more laid-back this time. It could still be fun, but the stakes feel much lower.
International streams: Crunchyroll (US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa); FUNimation (non-delayed dub for US, Canada, UK, Ireland); VRV (US); Hulu (US); ADN (France, DOM-TOM, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco); VVVVID (Italy); Anime on Demand (German-speaking Europe)
GRANBLUE FANTASY: The Animation premiere – Here’s your first helping of Generic JRPG Fantasy Land this season, with a side of Mysterious Girl Falls From the Sky (also not expected to be the only one this season). Hero-In-Waiting Gran and his Animal Sidekick Vryn come across the timid girl Lyria, who has a mysterious power, so she is naturally being pursued by faceless mooks from a mighty empire. We also meet Badass Swordswoman In Form-Fitting Yet Still Uncomfortable-Looking Armor Katarina, a cackling villain, and an otherwise stock cast of henchmen, simple villagers, et cetera.
Two things stand out about GRANBLUE FANTASY. One is that the art is pretty nice. The other is that Vryn, combining the voice of an obnoxious toddler with the mannerisms of a tough guy, and contributing absolutely nothing to the action, is easily the most annoying animal sidekick I’ve seen in years. If you need a high fantasy fix, I’m pretty sure there are better shows coming shortly.
International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand); Daisuki (territories not specified); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Sénégal, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique)
Alice & Zoroku premiere – So here’s another story about a guy and the mysterious, powerful girl who interrupts his life, except that it’s better in absolutely every way. Instead of the typical timid and helpless teenage girl, Sana is a preteen who is smart, assertive, and articulate. Instead of the typical bland teenage dude, Zōroku is an old man with a business, a granddaughter, and a ready lecture for anyone he sees misbehaving, be they little girls or yakuza.
Sana has the ability to do literally anything she can imagine within a certain energy budget. Having escaped from the lab that raised her, she encounters Zōroku in a convenience store, determines that he is the person who will aid her, and announces that they need to make a bargain where she will grant him a wish in exchange. Zōroku naturally wants no part of this, but after being caught up in the chase when the lab tries to recapture Sana, seeing proof of her power, learning a little about what she went through there, and seeing that she has no one else to turn to, he grudgingly agrees to take her in temporarily.
The double-length premiere is half action, half character-driven dramedy, with a sense that future episodes will lean more toward the latter. The animation quality varies wildly; there are some truly beautiful moments, like the swaying of trees in a storm, or the reveal of what Zōroku’s business is, and some truly awful bits, the worst being a bargain-basement CGI car chase.
Most importantly, the premiere is long enough for both Sana and Zōroku to start growing on you. I wouldn’t mind spending a whole season with them.
Frame Arms Girl premiere – When Frame Arms Girl opens with a panty shot of a robotic doll, it is telling you exactly what kind of show it plans to be.
The doll in question is Gōrai (probably on sale in figurine form now, kids!), mistakenly delivered to heroine Ao due to the one genuinely funny bit in the whole episode, an ongoing dispute between a crow and a delivery drone. Once Ao inadvertently activates Gōrai, she then has to be hectored into fully assembling the robot. There is probably deep comedy potential in confronting a toy kit with a bazillion little pieces that have to be assembled just right while being lectured by the toy itself, but it sadly goes untapped here. Later, more robot toys show up and challenge Gōrai to a fight, for which Ao has to set up an accessory and activate her phone. (Buy the app too, kids!)
Apparently even someone at the producer level was uncomfortable with the fanservice, so there’s a late explanation that Gōrai’s apparent underthings are really a leotard. However, (a), how does a topless leotard even work, and (b), this doesn’t come anywhere near excusing the fact that the show never manages to go more than thirty consecutive seconds without aiming a camera up Gōrai’s skirt, even after establishing that she is the equivalent of a 10-year-old.
Gross capitalism and squicky fanservice – how can you beat that combination? Feel free to suggest a suitable blunt object.
The Silver Guardian premiere – Nobody noticed in the run-up to the new season, but Chinese-Japanese joint venture Haoliners has another new show. The good news is that their animation continues to improve. The bad news is this one needs better writing.
There’s a guy named Suigin off in some other dimension, fighting an undead horde of unbelievable size. There’s a girl named Riku in our world, pining for him. There’s a flashback that’s supposed to be about how they met, but the only thing it really explains is that Suigin’s old classmates were a bunch of jerks. According to the opening sequence, whatever’s going on involves lots of magic and lots of enormous bosoms.
This probably won’t be the worst series Haoliners has made, but I’m not feeling a need to keep watching.
International streams: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia)
Alice & Zoroku and Attack on Titan are definitely in for a second viewing. I’m ambivalent about My Hero Academia, but that’s a question to be kicked a couple weeks down the road. Next week, we’ll have a bunch more premieres to choose from.
Now, spoilers ahoy!
Saga of Tanya the Evil #12 (finale?) – The Republic has evacuated the remains of its army and navy to North Africa, where an alternate Charles de Gaulle is now rallying the troops to start taking territory back. Alternate Germany is realizing too late that the war isn’t over yet. Still there’s a chance to end things soon if no other major powers decide to get involved. Hey, look, a couple other major powers are about to get involved!
The story is far from over. The series may be. That certainly felt like a finale, with Tanya given a chance to reflect on her experiences. The rationalist has not developed faith, but she’s certainly learned not to underestimate the power of emotion in guiding human decision. That’s a step forward from her previous life, where she worshipped at the Chicago School of Economics (which famously assumes that all human behavior is rational).
If that was the end of the show, I’m sorry to see it go. Tanya the Evil is, at its heart, the story of two jerks having a pissing contest. To have made at least one of them sympathetic enough to root for (most of the time) but not so much as to outright valorize all her actions is a real achievement. High production values and excellent directing certainly didn’t hurt.
I hope it’s just taking a breather to let the production schedule catch up, and that we’ll be seeing more of Tanya later this year.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans finale – Well, look at that – a mostly happy ending! I mean, other than that both main characters are now dead, the mafia continues to shape society, and the battle between Tekkadan and Gjallarhorn ends with a cruel mockery of a famous moment from the original Mobile Suit Gundam. Julieta’s victory pose mimics one made by the hero’s title suit in the original, as it fires one last heroic shot before being destroyed.
Despite Elion’s win, he clearly understands that he needs to make some concessions in order to keep Gjallarhorn on top. So Kudelia gets Martian autonomy and a treaty eliminating the status of Human Debris, and nearly everyone gets to relax into a largely peaceful life. Kudelia and Atra raise Mikazuki’s son Akatsuki (“dawn”) together, but despite their earlier awkward declaration of being attracted to each other in addition to Mikazuki, the ending shies away from depicting anything other than friendliness between them. Likewise, Chad “going out drinking” with Yamagi…or is it just going out drinking? Raising the possibility of non-heteronormative relationships and then frantically avoiding actually depicting them in any depth is a real letdown.
But, minor quibbles overall. I think this series mostly fulfilled its promise, and it’ll probably be a better viewing experience for anyone who can now watch it a few episodes at a time.
CHAOS;CHILD finale – Time for one last twist: Onoe has been collaborating with Sakuma all the way, and planning to backstab him at the last minute by de-framing Takuru. Sakuma’s desire to experiment on Takuru was real, as was Onoe’s desire to protect him, but Onoe’s real reason for existence was to keep things interesting for him. By seeing that, Takuru concludes that he really is responsible for the murders, and accepts confinement in a psychological facility. (Probably the best place for him for a while anyway, after all he’s been through.)
For a moment, CHAOS;CHILD rises above its otherwise workmanlike execution when Takuru decides to remake Onoe and she begs him not to give her a normal, purposeless existence. That was easily the best scene in the show. It’s a glimpse of what might have been achieved if there’d been two seasons to work with.
As it is, CHAOS;CHILD still at least gets the job done. I’ll recommend this to anyone who appreciates a decently-constructed mystery and has a strong enough stomach to make it through the first episode.