Highlight: Fall 2019 anime season

Surprise surprise! We’re back in business with another seasonal anime review! Now in a brand new format!

Fall 2019 marks the end of this review’s one-year hiatus. Indeed, it’s been a good long year to catch up on a few old shows I have never gotten the chance to watch; namely the original Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu, Orange, World Trigger, Noucome, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, and Naruto!

Yes, I now wield the nigh-unstoppable power of Jojo meme.

OVERVIEW

This season feels more or less like Don’t Starve the anime with the primary premise of the two top contenders, Honzuki no Gekokujou and Dr. Stone, revolve around rebuilding modern technologies from scratch. They took two different approaches and both succeeded in glorifying the wonders of modern society; many of whom so commonplace that I always take them for granted.

In a similar setting, there’s also Choujin Isekai, which…to put it bluntly, a radioactive dumpster fire of epic proportion. Watching that show is like watching Gate episode 1 all over except that the original world isn’t even half believable let alone the Isekai part. Beyond the surface level actions, I did not find the same sense of awe, pride, or even despair from the other two shows. While I did enjoy the show on the merit of how bad it is, I cannot recommend this at all.

Just like Azur Lane, just like Azur Lane

There is a flurry of other mediocre shows this season that is unfortunately not bad enough to turn into Winning Failure fool’s gold. These are simply cringey, bland and otherwise should be dropped right after the first episode. Assassin Pride, Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne! and Houkago Saikoro Club come to mind.

SEASONAL SELECTION

HIGHLIGHT
Honzuki no Gekokujou
Ascendance of a Bookworm

Indeed this is yet another Isekai anime among the myriad coming out of Japan every season. But wait! Don’t dismiss little Myne yet! Not until you hear about her OP, game-breaking, over-the-top, God-tier skill…I said wait! Alright, alright, here goes…hold your breaths, her skill is…the ability to write, read and do maths!

Dun dun dun!

Honzuki no Gekokujou_snapshot
And also her weaponized cuteness

The main objective of the protagonist, after being reincarnated into the sick body of a little girl in a fantasy Medieval setting, is to make her own books. With her superior modern knowledge obtained from…mandatory secondary education, she battles her weak constitution and works towards her goal.

Overall, the show takes on the tradesmanship vibe of the critically-acclaimed Ookami to Koushinryou (Spice and Wolf), the slow agonizing sick girl’s family trope from Clannad, the next level slice-of-life moe comedy from Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka (Is the order a rabbit), with the fantastic documentary of modern inventions from Discovery channel.

This, right here, is a smelting pot of all the greatness from the aforementioned shows cooked to perfection by a Michelin three-star chef. Honzuki no Gekokujou has it all: both wholesome and heart-wrenching moments, both ordinary and extraordinary wonders, and both mature and childish antics at the same time. These contrasting flavors exist in a delicate harmony, none so arrogant to overtake the other flavors, as such the flavors take time to manifest and linger on one’s taste bud for only a moment.

Honzuki no Gekokujou_snapshot2
Although this still hits me like a truck, right in the kokoro!

Ultimately, this can also be viewed as a demerit. The pacing is slow and there is no excitement to be had along the way. This is in contrast to Dr. Stone, which runs through its plot a break-neck speed and everything about that show just goes above and beyond to Gurren Lagann‘s level

On top of that the art quality delivered by Ajia-Do, a small-time animation studio with so-so talent in its art department, was merely at industry average, “acceptable” level. I did not even pick up this show from the start on grounds of its mediocre poster art and only picked it up because just about every other show in Crunchyrolls (except Dr. Stone) gave me cancer and I needed more highlight candidates.

The music, voice acting, and the camera work, though, really shone through and more than made up for the animation. Overall, Honzuki no Gekokujou is a magnificent show and I cannot recommend it enough.

RUNNER-UP
Shinchou Yuusha: Kono Yuusha ga Ore Tueee Kuse ni Shinchou Sugiru
Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious

Ever wonder what would happen if Konosuba and Tate no Yuusha (Shield Hero) has a child? This show happens.

The show’s primary premise is the standard “summoned hero defeating demon lord” RPG adventure. However, this summoned hero is unreasonably cautious and he ain’t moving to the next zone until he has farmed enough to kill everything a hundred times over.

ShinchouYuusa_snapshot
How to kill a slime? EXPLOSION!! Another EXPLOSION to be safe! Yet another EXPLOSION, just in case the fail-safe failed!

Shinchou Yuusha has a lot going for it: excellent comedy slapstick, Isekai trope aversion, genuinely smart enemies, White Fox’s industry leader-tier production quality, and a solid plot twist at the end. I cannot go into detail how well done the plot twist was in order to avoid spoiling the show but I can say it does alter my perspective of the whole story and give the second viewing a completely different vibe from the first viewing.

This is what a good plot twist should be; not only to surprise but also to reframe the rest of the story. Plus, there were enough breadcrumbs and foreshadows for me to guess half of the twist before it hits, yet not enough for me to see the entire thing on my own.

But boy, that is one dark, dark twist…Not that it was the only one to start off with because, hell, the whole deal with sacrificing a maiden for a legendary sword business is already one heck of a dark twist already. I commend the writer for his courage to break the genre, going from light-heart comedy to full-on Madoka‘s dark. I can see how that alienates some of its core audience who did not sign up for all these grim bits.

Personally, I enjoy a good genre breaker and that makes Shinchou Yuusha a superior work compared to Konosuba.

The protagonist should have stayed dead and the goddess should be demoted and become the next cautious hero though. Seriously, I cannot help but imagine how dark this can go for real. Oh well, I guess a good ending works well enough…

FINALIST
Dr. Stone

Outclassed by Honzuki no Gekokujou in Isekai science game and by Shinsou Yuusha in slapstick comedy. Easily could have been the highlight in any other season.

FINALIST
Boku no Hero Academia 4
My hero academy season 4

I generally don’t give the same show highlight twice and let’s be honest here, United States of Smash from season 3 is still more epic than the current season. Still, it’s a top-notch production and I’m viewing HeroAca as the “backup” highlight just in case I can’t find a decent show to put as the highlight.

WINNING FAILURE
Azur Lane

I’m unsure where to begin…Hmm, how about the fact that the production was so bad that even the studio themselves called “nope” on it?

Yes, I’m totally serious. This anime has stopped the current airing at episode 10 to “improve animation quality” and it’ll be re-broadcast next year with “higher quality animation”. I commend the director’s by-the-book scene composition but the characters’ mouths don’t even sync with the VA at some points and the character’s detail drops to stick figure fighting-tier during action scenes.

That being said, the animation is the least of their problems. The plot coherency just got utterly scuttled in favor of meme. I kid you not! See here:

AzurLane_snapshot
Gates of Meme, come forth!

Let’s see if anyone can follow how the plot goes. Episode 5 was a rescue mission, episode 6 was a slice-of-life x bath episode, episode 7 started in the middle of an endgame-level battle, and one would expect they ought to explain how in the name of Poseidon they time-skipped from a bath episode to the climax…I’m still waiting for that explanation.

On its way down the depth of hell, plot coherency grabbed logic’s feet and dragged logic down as well. I mean, c’mon! No soldier would just stop fighting as soon as the enemy refuses to fight back. That is lunatic! Yes, I’m talking about how Laffey can become friends enough with Ayanami to pull that bonker stuff off. We’re talking about two soldiers betraying their own countries and risking their lives for someone they’ve only met…for three frigging minutes! Love at first sight? Get outta here!

And then, there’s Enterprise. She became God; literally, became, God. She Thanos-snapped half of both sides in a column of expanding light, created her own alternated reality, one-shot everybody just by looking in their general direction and conjuring up spatial rifts to suck them out of existence!

This show is currently worse than Kantai Collection and I don’t even know how anything can be worse than Kantai Collection. Well, at least it has better fanservice, so…uhm, not that bad I guess?

WINTER 2020 IMPRESSION

Starting this season, I’ll also be publishing my initial impression of the upcoming season’s selection.

RISING STAR
Darwin’s Game

A strong contender for the highlight next season.

I have already read through the source material and I can say with conviction that it is going to be a magnificent ride. Nonetheless, there are reasons to concern as the studio behind this is not even on my radar; meaning they either don’t produce enough to warrant my attention, or they are just really bad. From a bit of research, I can judge their animation output is above the industry average and already in the realm of A-1 Pictures. I cannot say anything about their direction or cinematography though and that’s still rather worrisome.

RISING STAR
Kyokou Suiri
In/Spectre

Another strong contender for the highlight next season.

The setting reminds me of Bakemonogatari: a weak ordinary guy teamed up with a loli vampire God to solve supernatural problems. Needless to say, I’m a big fan of the aforementioned show so I’m looking forward to watching this as well. Plus, it’s being animated by Brain’s Base and they are among the industry leaders so I have all the more reasons to hype it.

QUESTION MARK
Magia Record: Mahou Shoujo Madoka☆Magica Gaiden
Magia Record: Magical girl Madoka side story

Oh boy, here we go again…The franchise is right, the studio is right but the source material is…worrisome to say the least. The track record for anime adaptations of games that are not visual novels, especially mobile games, does not paint a rosy picture. Considering ufotable just outright struggled to get Tales of Zestiria done, I don’t particularly expect any difference this time around. On these grounds, I’m expecting it to be a question mark rather than a cash cow. But still, it has a lot more potential than the usual question marks.

CASH COW
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T
A certain scientific railgun T

The cookie-cutter Toaru franchise anime. I don’t expect any change from previous installations seeing J.C. Staff is still in charge of this project. It’s going to be the industry-average animation quality with cringe-worthy writing typical of this franchise again. Still, it’s going to be an okay watch and since I’m already head-deep into this franchise already, I might as well give it a go.

QUESTION MARK
Rikei ga Koi ni Ochita no de Shoumei shitemita
Science of love and how I tried to solve it

This is my wild card pick this season. Based on the trailer, I have zero hope whatsoever for an industry average animation. This art style looks like it’s the year 2000 and the studio, Zero-G, has so far more misses than hits. Nonetheless, I’m sufficiently intrigued by the story so I’m willing to give it a shot.

 

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