thin slicing the new season, fall 2018 edition

12,000 words, 29 anime, 15,532 diapers changed, and an infinite number of alternate worlds.

The granddaddy of gimmick posts is once again upon us. That’s right– thin slicing has returned!

Thin slicing is based off of Malcom Gladwell’s Blink, a book about– OH FUCK IT. YOU’VE READ THIS SAME BOILERPLATE FOR THIRTEEN YEARS NOW. You either get how this works by now or not. And, yes, it’s the thirteenth anniversary of thin slicing since it began with ranking Nanoha A‘s over Mai Otome. There’s been enough thin slicings for two zodiac wars, multiple Holy Grail Wars, eighteen seasons of Free!, and roughly 15,532 light novels written by Nisio Isin Kazuma Kamachi.

Updates on thin slicing are always on my Twitter account.

For people who want to know how this ranking is done, I suggest reading the archived explanation. If you’re like, “This show is ranked too high!” or “Too low!” then, well, you don’t know how this works. For every show high, there has to be a low. You don’t need me to validate your taste in anime. And, again, for the sake of time, I don’t rank sequels if I never finished watching the original or if there’s nothing interesting about the sequel. It’s a sequel! If you watched the first season, you should know if you should watch the second as well. I generally will skip CG shows and Chinese shows as well. For this season, Thunderbolt Fantasy, JoJo, Senran Kagura, Fate/Extra, Ace Attorney, and Gakuen Basara are among the skips.

A twist for this season: None! I can’t think of one with my mind clogged with nursery rhymes. Did you know that the wheels on the bus go round and round?

Quick recap from last season: Fashion Czar and I welcomed our healthy, wonderful baby girl into the world. She hiccups. A lot.


#MR. IRRELEVANT. Kishuku Gakkou no Juliet
Linden Films

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“All you do Romio is make a fool out of me.”

Good things about Kishuku Gakkou no Juliet (Boarding School Juliet): One, it’s not an isekai anime. Two, it’s not a magic battle high school– just a normal battle high school. Three, it’s not a do-nothing afters school club that does nothing. Bad things about Juliet: One, it’s not William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet featuring Leo and Claire. Two, it’s still a battle high school. Three, it’s not a do-nothing after school club that goes camping around Mt. Fuji.

This show is terrible. The animation is one of the worst for this season with some lazily-animated battle sequences with too many stills and speed lines and a bunch of characters who look the same. Even 1988 thinks this animation quality is terrible. There are no shadows or lighting effects, and the characters sometimes just go into chibi mode– I guess to save animation cost. The CG water effects are on par with ufotable’s. No, that’s not a compliment. Production values are not a strong point, and neither is the plot, which is to say, “Hey, why don’t we take a classic like Romeo and Juliet and toss out everything great about the show and instead make a generic and boring anime?” I mean, the reason given for why the two factions are fighting is that they live on two sides of the same island. Can there be a lamer reason? One side likes vanilla, but the other likes vanilla bean? Also, all the typical battle high school tropes are in full effect. Hey, let’s make a badass female lead and spend all this time showing how badass she is. Then let’s just toss all of that out of a window so we can have a convoluted scenario where a man has to come along and save her. So, of course, after the “Romeo” crashes into a nearly naked “Juliet,” they fall in love, and I hope they both ingest their poison by episode three and this show turns into a camping anime.

(Fashion Czar: “Anime was a mistake.”)

(Wait, this show is based on a manga and not a light novel? I’m spooked. This show is like typical Brian Scalabrine tier light novel material.)


#28. As Miss Beelzebub Likes
Linden Films

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“I won’t believe that you’re so lewd, ditzy girl!”

Beelzebub-jou no Okinimesu mama (As Miss Beelzebub Likes) is a comedy anime that is not funny. There are three jokes that are endlessly recycled, and not in a good “Ararararargi sorry I stuttered!” way. Miss Beelzebub has no modesty– that’s joke one. She also likes soft, fluffy things– boom– joke two. For the third and final joke, her assistant has a hard on for her because of he admired her from afar originally, but, once he started to get to know her, she is not whom he thought she was. He cannot handle that she is not this idealized fantasy he had of her. Why do I feel like this guy should wear a fedora and say “Ma’am” a lot? I might be okay with those three jokes if this show were a two minute anime, but, nope, it’s a full length episode.

The premise of the show is that Satan was overthrown by Beelzebub, and hell slash Pandemonium seems to be an idealized version of Japan complete with doves, shibas, and “Hell Ginza.” Oh, there are also kittens in hell as well as these tribble-like fur balls. Even for anime, this premise is pretty weak. Why is the setting hell? It doesn’t even come to play in the first episode– we might as well be in Shibuya and wouldn’t affect the story. Art style seem to want to be shoujo except Beelzebub has ridiculous boobs, and she provides plenty of fanservice. There is nothing redeeming or memorable about this show except how devoid it is of creativity.

(There are two kinds of people who go on Terrace House. There are people who go on the show with their goal and accomplish it. And then there are those who go on the show thinking they have a goal, proudly announcing it, and doing nothing to accomplish it. For someone who had a goal, it would be someone like Taishi who wanted a love to die for. He got it. Another example would be Shohei, who wanted to record an album and increase social media presence for his band. He got it too.)

(For the other type, there’s Yuya, who famously got chewed out by Taishi for not doing anything to achieve his goal of being an actor. For Opening New Doors, there’s Noah, who said he wants to be a pilot. My only question is how is a twenty year old going to raise over one hundred thousand US dollars for a commercial pilot’s exam by working part time at a yakitori restaurant? If he wants to do the pilot’s exam, he is obviously going to mooch off of his dad. But is being a pilot even what he wants? To be a commercial airline pilot, a lot of airlines require military experience or a college degree. There is a lot of studying involved to be a pilot. He has done zero studying while at Terrace House. Unfortunately Yui hasn’t looked up the qualifications to be a pilot yet or else she would confront him about it.)


#27. Sora to Umi no Aida
TMS Entertainment

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“Grandma, for some reason, I’m going into space.”

  • ALL THE FISH HAVE DISAPPEARED!
  • OUTER SPACE FISH TANK IS THE OBVIOUS SOLUTION!
  • HOW DO WE STOCK THOSE IF FISH ALREADY DISAPPEARED?!
  • SORA TO UMI NO AIDA TRANSLATES TO BETWEEN THE SKY AND SEA!
  • WOMEN CAN FINALLY FISH THANKS TO NEW SPACE GOVERNMENT LAW!
  • SPACE FISHERS TAKE THE SPACE ROCKET!
  • THANK YOU FISH ANIME FOR FOUR MINUTE MONTAGE OF GIRL TAKING CAT PHOTOS!
  • SPACE FISHERY DEPARTMENT LOOKS LIKE ITS FROM THE 80S DESPITE BEING A RECENT THING!
  • WOMEN ARE JUST AS GOOD AT SPACE FISHING AS MEN!
  • SPACE FISHING REQUIRES TEAMS OF THREE REMEMBER THAT!
  • SPACE FISHERMEN HAVE AN UNION!
  • MUST BE GOOD AT SWIMMING TO SPACE FISH EVEN THOUGH HOW DOES GRAVITY WORK AGAIN?
  • SHE JUST WANTS TO GO TO CITY HALL AND NOT INTO SPACE!
  • SHE HAS NO TRAINING BUT PLEASE BOARD THIS MULTIMILLION DOLLAR ROCKET!
  • SPACE FISHING SUITS FOR WOMEN MUST SHOW CLEAVAGE!
  • USE THE FISHFINDER TO FIND FISH!
  • PICK A GUARDIAN DEITY! FROM THE GOD APP!
  • USE THE PREMIUM CURRENCY FOR A CHANCE TO SUMMON AN SSR!
  • YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE GAME THIS SHOW IS BASED OFF OF ON GOOGLE PLAY NOW!
  • PERFECT LTE 4G COVERAGE IN SPACE! FOUR BARS!
  • OF COURSE THE SPACE OCEAN IS FULL OF MONSTERS!
  • USE OUR NOBLE PHANTASMS TO KILL THE MONSTERS!
  • WAIT WEREN’T WE SUPPOSED TO BE FISHING?


#26. Ulysses: Jeanne d’Arc and the Alchemist Knight
AXsiZ

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“I’ve read erotic books.”

Japan’s strange Francophile tendencies continue with Ulysses: Jeanne d’Arc and the Alchemist Knight, a quasi-historical (?) tale involving Joan of Arc and the Philosopher’s Stone. I mean, it would be historically accurate if not for the fairies, the magic, and the 1995-era clothing for the characters. I cannot overlook this trash character design. The outfits look like they were designed for a third rate idol group composed of gravure models and failed Terrace House residents. The outfits are too busy compared to the non-main cast to the point they do not even remotely resemble the same world, and there are design elements that seem very out of place in medieval Europe. The Englishmen look like they have Japanese-style ponytails. I cannot believe that the country that gave us Uniqlo cannot do basic outfits for its anime characters. Everyone has to be embellished up to a ridiculous fashion that rarely fits the setting.

As for plot, well, this light novel turned anime indulges– no, engorges– itself in all the typical tropes. Oh, there’s a wonderful girl who gets the line praising her beauty and abilities. Oh, there’s a harem forming around the loser male character. Oh, let’s have the wonderful girl randomly beat up five soldiers twice her size to establish that she’s even more badass. Oh, the loser male lead doesn’t want to kill but instead use his powers to protect those around him. Oh, there’s a narrative shock (in this case, a timeskip). The only scene missing would be when the loser male lead collides into the wonderful girl and get a fistfull of bosom. The show also assumes all the viewers are idiots. It wasn’t enough to show England and France at war with a 1400 date, but they had to have a teacher tell his students that, “Someday, this would be known as the Hundred Years War.” Really? That little respect for the audience? Then again, it is a light novel turned anime.

Worse than the boring, uninspired setting and characters is that Joan of Arc doesn’t even show up in the first episode. Whelp. Nice going guys. I’m going to assume that the sword lady in blue who is heavily featured in the OP and ED is Joan. Why wouldn’t the show at least tease the titular character and have her make a cameo appearance in the first episode? And why put her in the OP and ED to spoil her appearance? I

(The fairies of this world look pretty much like the fairies from Humanity Has Declined except the fairy that pals around with the male lead. She’s a normal sexy lady but only smaller and can fly. Everyone else looks like Ponyo crossed with a garden gnome. Andohbytheway, I keep thinking about Humanity Has Declined from time to time. It’s a really underrated show that makes one think about their own existence.)

(Probably the most ridiculous part of the show is when the sexy fairy lady explained that Jesus got his powers by eating a rock.)

(Fashion Czar: “That mini-skirt exists in the 1400s?”)


#25. Anima Yell!
Doga Kobo

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“There’s a whole sport that cheers on other sports.”

Anima Yell only took thirty seconds to establish it is a low budget cheerleading anime without service shots. Yawn. I have no clue how this vapid show became an anime. The first ten minutes of the show involved a gag where the main character kept confusing “chair” with “cheer.” I wanted to shut off the show at that point, but thin slicing must march on. The main character also does silly things like making a “friend resume” that looks like she just printed out her Tumblr. This poor girl and the cast of Free! really need to learn how to send links on their app phones.

The only interesting part of the show is trying to figure out why Arima, the “character who is already good at this sport but somehow has to slum it with a bunch of losers” a la Ko in Cross Game, Hinomaru in Hinomaru Sumo, or Tobio in Haikyuu!! is slumming it with Chair-chan. It turns out that her old team was jealous of how good she was and were bullying her. Really? The coach wouldn’t be like, “Dude, you fuckers are all KAT’s and Wiggins’ outdoor cat. She’s Jimmy Butler’s and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s love child. You fall in line because she is the only one who doesn’t suck.” Anyway, I’m just disappointed that the reason was not that Arima’s best friend got sucked into an isekai as the result of a cheer gone wrong that opened a portal to another world, and, therefore, she is not too scared to cheer as it might open another portal.

(What is the verdict for people who eat potato chips by sticking their hands into the bag vs. those who completely open the bag as if an Xenomorph popped out of it?)


#24. Dakaretai Otoko 1-i ni Odosarete Imasu.
CloverWorks

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“Wanting to be ‘hugged’ is different than being ‘liked’.”

You know what kind of anime I want to see in 2018? An anime about workplace sexual violence that handles the serious topic with the most delicate and respect– whelp, nevermind. Dakaretai Otoko 1-i ni Odosarete Imasu. / The Most Huggable Man Has Threatened Me is a yaoi anime about a popular male model sexually assaulting his coworker that just want to show off hot men eating sausages. I have issues with this show, and they go beyond just how cavalier it treats workplace sexual assault or the fact that the main characters look like they were cheap reproductions of Haruka and Makoto from Free!.

One, subtlety is foreign to this show. It gets straight to the point. Bam this happens so bam that can happen so bam this guy can be the bottom. The Fashion Czar told me that the hands gave away the fact it’s a BL show in the first scene, and the OP reinforces it. Why do yuri (i.e. Citrus) and BL shows always have to show the lead characters basically engaging in sex in the OP? It is like these genres do not trust the audience to stick around if they do not see hot same sex action in the first five minutes. Two, the pacing is way too fast. We don’t get to know the characters except the Haruka clone (Junta) is a narcissist who wants to be “hugged” by all and his self worth is tied up into a magazine ranking. He is also somehow a mid to late-twenty year old male model who is still a virgin and has never been kissed. Oh, Japan, with their hyper specific fantasies. Three, the characters might as well be drawings on pixiv with how much characterization they are given. We know nothing about the Makoto clone (Takato) except he has blonde hair and quickly pushes Junta into bed while exclaiming, “Please let me fuck you.” He then proceeds to chase a terrified Junta around the apartment with a raging boner. Four, if the “Please let me fuck you” Keystone Cops-esque sequence didn’t hit it home, not only does Takato want to deflower Junta, the two of them are costars/coworkers in a yaoi medical drama. Dakaretai Otoko tries to create the perfect yaoi storm. The quality of writing is somewhere between a Smash Brothers fan fic and a Kevin Anderson Star Wars novel. Lastly, did I mention theme and pacing? It does not even take a full episode before Junta is worn down and lets Takato lick him all over. Congrats. They are the anime yaoi version of Tammy and Ron Swanson.

(Time To Exposition Dump: 30s.)

(FZ: “He’s wearing cargo pants? No gay man wears cargo pants. This guy is crazy. Get out boy.”)

(Please stop making a cassette revival a thing. They are terrible. It’s 2018! I refuse to use any media where I cannot instantly hit a button and get the track I want. Meanwhile, I should have trademarked “Sany” as there are sure a lot of Sany Walkmons this season.)


#23. Akanesasu Shoujo
Dandelion Animation Studio

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“I know the 4:44 Ceremony would work and take us to another world.”

Akanesasu Shoujo (The Girl in Twilight) is yet another attempt to bring back cassette tapes. Nope. Sorry. Not going to happen. Worse audio quality and worse usability than both vinyls and CDs? I have zero nostalgia for cassettes. They can burn in hell along with baggy sweaters that also seem too small at the same time, wallet chains, and friendship bracelets. This show has its heroine being able to travel to an alternate dimension via cassettes and is pretty much Chuu2 with cassettes and the delusions come to life. I have a few questions. Why cassettes? Does no one in 2018 Japan have an app phone to listen to music with? When the girls go to the alternate dimension, they remark that no one will believe them. If only some sort of device capable of taking photos and even maybe video clips existed? It’s 2018! I can’t believe it’s 2018 and only Yuri on Ice and A Place Farther Than the Universe has used social media realistically. Last time I was in Tokyo, everyone were either checking their Instagrams, tabelogs, or playing Monster Strike. Anime is the coal industry of the entertainment world. Let’s stick to the jokes about finding ero hon underneath the bed again.

So far the main heroine’s characterization consists of that she carries around a Walkman and that she likes chikuwa. Why is she holding raw chikuwa? What teenage girl would eat that like it? How does she transport them such that she can whip them out anywhere? What restaurant lets them bring in their own food? If her family makes chikuwa, wouldn’t she be sick of eating them? Her other most defining characteristic (besides tapes) is that she likes a niche Japanese food item. What kind of character building is this? The lazy kind or the awful kind?

The animation of the show is decent enough that I suspect it is advertising for a gatchapon mobile game… and… yep, this anime is based on a gatchapon mobile game. While the animation is okay, the action sequences are quite bland and predictable. And, of course, there’s a fanservice bath scene because why the hell not.

(Fashion Czar: “This is boring guys. This show doesn’t need to be so long. And are these the sand snakes from Beetlejuice?”)


#22. Ken En Ken: Aoki Kagayaki
Studio Deen

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“She’s not very good at chasing sheep.”

Ken En Ken Aoki Kagayaki (Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary) is a long-running Taiwanese RPG series with 13 games since 1990. I am sure the games are okay, but, in anime form, this show is a snooze fest. First off, the world-building is terrible. The world looks bland and boring as do most of the characters. Ken En Ken lacks a wow factor, a cool twist, or even interesting design. The world lacks pull, intrigue, and color. The show starts with some kids chasing a runaway sheep, and then it turns into shots of a CG army murdering people. As to why there are insect mecha, robotic prosthetic limbs more advanced than our society’s, or magic swords in this world is not explained or hinted at. For fantasy realms, world building is a fun and necessary component, and this show just skips it. The characters are also very uninspired. Oh, there’s a kick-ass lady who gets a magic sword capable of slicing insect mecha. Oh, there’s a slave boy who learned engineering overnight. Oh, this random girl who mysteriously appears near the slave boy turned out to be the grand empress or something (somehow the royal palace guards did not know what the grand empress looks like). Yawn. This show makes me sleepy. Alexa, set an alarm for a hour. I am going to take a nap.

Okay, I am back. The pacing of the show is also fairly slow with a disjointed narrative with a bit too many flashbacks. The characters end up doing things, but it is rarely clear why they are doing those actions. At this point, the slave boy is the most “characterized” of the cast and that’s only because he built a robotic sheep. The main heroine has just gone from village to village making money. This show is yet another example of a show that tries to speed from A to B to C in terms of plot at the expense of everything else. Nonetheless, the show’s animation is competent, and while the character designs are a bit high contrast to the rest of the world, they aren’t light novel gaudy.

(Fashion Czar: “RIP Fifi.”)


#21. Bakumatsu
Studio Deen

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“I’m interested in that long weapon of yours.”

Isekai might be around for a decade, but otome games are around forever. Bakumatsu is yet another mobile otome game turned anime about hot samurai guys halfheartedly swinging over-sized katanas around. The twist here is that the show is a pseudo-sekai– the plot is the same as Star Trek First Contact: Our main heroes end up in a world ruled by an evil samurai because of time travel shenanigans. Someone evil used time travel powers conquer Japan and add belly cutouts to the main characters’ outfits (I’m serious). Time travel also explains why almost every popular named samurai in Japanese lore manage to end up in the story, exactly like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. To recap, we have the evil version of Madoka/AYNIK/Steins;Gate/Boku dake ga Inai Machi/Charlotte/Endless Eight mixed with Star Trek First Contact and Bill and Ted. Somehow, the dumb ass characters on the show who let this time travel happen managed to figure it out and instantly agree that evil time travel is to blame for their dystopic world. “Bill thinks the sexy ninja with hip cutouts who doesn’t seem like she belongs in an otome game stole a stopwatch that can travel through time. She obviously traveled through time and overthrew the government by recruiting samurai from the past. Bill’s a genius!”

The ridiculous amount of pretty boy samurai present is tiring. While the show does restrain itself and not do an introduction card or be too overt with any possible BL ships, I think anything more than five is too much to provide proper characterization for. The end result is that I don’t know any of the characters enough to give a samurai’s ass about them. Maybe if you like the mobile game, the show and characters will make sense to you, but if this anime is supposed to get me to play the mobile game, it is doing a bad job.

The setting design of time-corrupted Japan is horrible. There are WWII-era pill boxes. There are cannons with curved barrels. The setting looks like a nightmarish water park more than a Japan where evil has prevailed. Also, there are Roomba-esque robots running around. Let’s say that the stopwatch lets the evil doers travel into the future. At that point, why would they go back to 1400s Japan? Why not stay in the future and Netflix and chill? Or go to the future and bring back something useful like Gundams instead of Roombas?

(Fashion Czar: “At least their outfits aren’t super ridiculous. Okay, some of them have open navels, but at least some of them are dialed down for this type of show.”)


#20. Uchi no Maid ga Uzasugiru!
Studio Deen

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“Is there a job where I get to have a pretty, tiny, young white girl?”

Uchi no Maid ga Uzasugiru! (UzaMaid!) starts with a bunch of bad CG fighter jets racing across Tokyo’s sky and goes into a cutesy OP that doesn’t make me want to watch the rest of the show. Ugh. I already know what it is going to be about, and wrestling bears will not be on the menu. There might be something promising in this show, if it weren’t for the fact the main character is a potential pedophile. Oh Japan, reducing pedophilia into a manzai comedy. The poor tiny, young white girl is the normie. The crazy Japanese meido is the pedophile. What results is that the girl just wants to be left alone but the meido terrorizes her as if this were a horror show. But it’s not! It’s a “sunny and bright” comedy with gags such as the meido sniffing the girl’s panties, lines like “I’m not interested in girls who have begun to menstrate,” and bad parenting like how the girl’s dad is oblivious of what is going on. At one point, the dad doesn’t care that this meido he just randomly met wants to take a bath with his daughter. Instead, he goes out and hires someone to make sushi in his house. The only way that is acceptable is if he is going to get the sushi chef to poison the sushi and feed it to the meido as the only option to stop her.

Also, this show has the dead parent trope. One minute, the poor girl’s mom is alive and the next scene she’s dead. Again, the dad doesn’t seem too concerned that his daughter is taking her mom’s death poorly. Therapy? Who needs that? Imma just gonna hire a lolicon meido. Uchi no Maid ga Uzasugiru feels like an insult to better meido anime, and at one point, the meido goes, “This is my combat gear,” when referring to her meido outfit. Somewhere, Mahoro and Kogarashi are shaking their heads.

(I guess one interesting touch is that the little girl is supposed to be half-Russian, and, as such, her theme music sounds a bit like the Tetris theme.)

(Fashion Czar: “The fact she has a pet ferret tells me that she isn’t so cute.”)

(Terrace House Opening New Doors is so damn good, and one reason is because of Tsubasa. She’s like both a shonen sports anime character and a tragic shoujo heroine. One thing both character types have in common is the deceased parent, and Tsubasa lost her mom early on. But one difference is that she has an awesome and supportive dad who has always been there for her. For her shonen side, she’s trying to lead a ragtag bunch of women’s hockey players to the Olympics. On the shoujo front, she is vying for her romantic interest against an assortment of Karuizawa harlots, including a gravure model.)


#19. Zombie Land Saga
MAPPA

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“From now, you’re the only one who I won’t call ‘legendary.’”

Zombie Land Saga kicks off in 2008, and that feels like a more appropriate setting since High School of the Dead‘s manga would be peaking and isekai and battle magic high schools have not entered the picture yet. But, alas, with any anime that is not set in feudal Japan, present day Japan, or in another world, there will be a time jump to get us to 2018 (there is another show this season that starts in the future and jumps back to 2018). I did not expect the main heroine to get hit by a truck immediately– that was some collision– and transition into an OP that feels like the offspring of Detroit Metal City and emo goth. If the title didn’t have “zombie” in it, I would have expected the poor girl to awaken in another world.

So the basic premise is that girls are killed in various and gruesome ways. Instead of just letting them die, someone has been turning them into zombies and collecting them. Why? Because he likes zombies? Nope. He wants to make an idol group out of them. Yep. Zombies are free slave idol labor. There must be an easier way to create idols than farming zombies and then dressing them up in make-up. Why not force some yakuza gangsters to get a sex change in Thailand and have them undergo a year’s worth of idol training instead? I guess zombies would be cheaper in the initial cost but the make-up will be more costly in the long run. He tries to justify his plan by saying that because regional idol groups have been going out of business left and right, it’s a perfect time to open up a new regional idol group. Hey, DVD rental stores are closing right and left. It’s the perfect time to open up a new DVD rental store.

This show does a great job at dodging questions. When one of the zombie girls regains her human consciousness, she asks the guy why is he doing this. His response? “A bit of this, a bit of that, and next thing you know you’re out of the grave.” Nothing is explained. He carries around dried squid to feed to the zombie girls. Why? In what segment of zombie lore do zombies hunger for dried squid and not human flesh? The main girl wonders about the craziness of putting on an idol concert: “I’m the only one who is aware! The rest of just zombies! Tae-chan might bite someone!” The response? “Biting someone never harmed anyone.” Also, if it were not gimmicky enough to have zombie idols, the group does not do cute idol-type music. Instead, they do death metal. There are layers to this show. Bad layers, but layers nonetheless.

Animation by MAPPA is surprisingly good, and I feel like the animation quality is too good for a show that screams Studio Deen.

(MVP of Zombie Land Saga is the zombie puppy, Romeo. The ED with him walking around time is surprisingly chill and soothing compared to the rest of the show.)


#18. Merc Storia
Encourage Films

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“Love between a liquid a solid never works.”

You know my motto for 2018: If it ain’t isekai, it’s a free-to-play mobile game. Merc Storia: Yujutsushi to Suzu no Shirabe (Merc Storia: The Apathetic Boy and the Girl in a Bottle) is a free-to-play mobile game turned anime. Sigh. Convenient exposition holes riddle this show. We are told there are special people called “Healers” who can heal the heart of monsters and make them not kill people. Somehow, the main character is a healer despite not showing any aptitude towards such during the childhood scene. He just becomes one. Also, in the childhood scene, his dad brings him a jar of water for a gift. Then the jar of water turns into a water fairy girl. Then we see him wandering a strange, large city with the girl. What happened to his parents? Did they die? Why did the mom let him leave? Why isn’t anyone phased by this girl who is also a jar of water? Stuff seems to happen but none of it seems well-explained. Maybe if I download the free-to-play mobile game, things will become clearer to me. A-ha!

The poor boy is also a wuss who runs from conflict. Great. The water girl likes diamonds and sparkly things. Great. The mascot character looks like a Dragon Quest slime crossed with Jigglypuff. Great. To further round out the stellar cast, there’s an evil monster that gets expertly healed by the boy despite the boy running from lesser monsters earlier, a guy who just goes “-jamo!”, and a monster that vomits a rainbow. Of course, the water jar girl somehow wears a Sherlock Holmes-esque outfit at some point because why the hell not. This fantasy RPG world that they are trying to world build somehow knows about the sage of 221B Baker Street. I do wonder if Japan has a harder hard on for Sherlock Holmes or Joan of Arc. I kinda remember Sakurako’s Beautiful Bones trying to be a female Sherlock, and there’s the terrible Ms. Sherlock on HBO right now (their one and only international TV series). But has Japan ever done a male Joan of Arc?

(The water girl also makes a mahou shoujo joke as if magical girl anime airs regularly in this fantasy world. If she drops a few f-bombs, maybe she can turn into the anime Deadpool.)

(FZ: “The girl in the jar is really cute!”)


#17. Hinomaru Sumo
Gonzo

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“I don’t have a big body, so my spirit can’t be small too.”

Why are all shonen sports protagonists short and that is something that they must all overcome? Why do they always have to join schools with bad teams and have to build them up? Hinomaru Sumo continues that tradition with the titular Hinomaru, who really likes sumo wrestling even though he is short, and he quickly joins a school with a real sumo wrestling program. I am confused how does he just enroll in a different school. We have seen this scenario so many times before that the sport being sumo instead of basketball or volleyball, and the hook either needs to be better implemented or have an unique twist I want characters who are interesting, but Hinomaru just wants to sumo. He wears his mawashi belt out in public and catches train molesters with sumo. Sumo defines him to a point of dullness.

The action is not very exciting either as sumo does not lend itself to spectacular streamable highlight reels. Hey, it’s a bunch of large, mostly naked men pushing on each other. Though, I do think we are overdue for a BL anime about sumo wrestlers. The character designs, though, are atrocious. Hinomaru looks way too muscular to be a sumo wrestler, and his scars are distracting as they go off-model and seem to move around his body. Other than Hinomaru, the other characters look a bit too old. The high school looks like it is filled with people in their late twenties.

(Fashion Czar: “Very weird to see anime faces on sumo bodies. Are sumo bodies so purely muscular? Like so ripped?”)

(One thing I appreciated about Yuri on Ice is that Yuri’s main issue is that he stress eats. He’s not short. He has a complex issue that isn’t just solved by growing taller or jumping higher. I do wish more sports anime would give their protagonists deficiencies other than being short.)


#16. Karakuri Circus
Studio VOLN

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“I like the circus. It makes people smile.”

Karakuri Circus starts off with, “I like the circus. It makes people smile.” Bold statement there, Cotton. And then the narrator wonders, “What if there were an Evil Circus?” and suddenly evil clowns massacre everyone watching the show. The entire premise of the show is shown in that quick thirty second segment. Who needs to waste time on exposition? We need to see the killer, blood thirty clowns! This show continues the anime tradition of showing a parent and then showing that parent dead a few minutes later. The grandpa, helpfully, leaves his grandson a coin wall instructions to take a white luggage case and run to a nearby circus if the grandson’s dad dies. Besides being very specific instructions, the grandfather reveals that all the men in their family have huge rooms filled with creepy dolls. Where are the women in this family? Are there women?

So the grandson, Masaru, gets targeted by circus assassins. He bumps into a random guy, Narumi, who tries to protect him against the assassins. Of course, Narumi has a health condition where if he gets a seizure, he must make someone laugh or else he dies. That is a weird specificity. Also, I feel like the show is being a bit inconsiderate to people with actual seizures by making it seem so, uh, ridiculous. Narumi has, I assume, a second medical condition where he cannot stop screaming. Dude has exactly one mode– screaming baby– and I am a recent expert on screaming babies. Masaru and Narumi eventually get cornered by the circus assassins on a train, and the assassins commit the ultimate crime by making the train late. Somehow, by sheer “Boruto just so happens to crash a train into his dad’s face” luck, the train derails into a circus. It just so happens that some lady whom Masaru’s grandfather trained in the art of puppeteering is at the circus and saves them. What. Are. The. Fucking. Odds. Meanwhile, dozens of people are hurt and possibly killed by the derailment of a train into a jammed parking lot and no one seems to be concerned or hunting down the circus assassins. No CCTV camera picked up on what was going on? To enjoy Karakuri Circus, one must either really enjoy clowns, be hopped up on brownie edibles, or have a real high tolerance for typical anime bullshit.

Animation production is passable, and it’s handled by the relatively new Studio VOLN. VOLN’s first anime was the resurrection of Ushio and Tora, which is also written by Karakuri’s mangaka, Kazuhiro Fujita. The modernization of an old art style looks decent, with some flashy modern animation mixed the old scratchy marks on faces.

(FZ: “Wait, someone wearing a proper sports bra in anime?”)


#15. Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken
8-Bit

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“If a guy is a virgin at 30, he’s a magician. At 40, he would have been a sage.”

Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken (That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime) is yet another isekai about a poor salaryman dying and entering another world as an overpowered immigrant. The first part of the first episode has the standard narrative of a trash isekai anime: he’s a boring 37 year old virgin (a wizard almost a sage as he likes to say). He lives an uneventful, normal, boring life, and the only thing missing from his boring life is a girlfriend. Maybe he should join Terrace House instead of moping around. Of course, because Tokyo is full of violent crime, he dies in a random bout of violent crime in Tokyo. There were about 900 homicides in all of Japan last year for 127 million people. Baltimore, a city of 600,000, had almost 350 homicides last year. The protagonist’s last words were a mix of jealousy towards his coworker for having a girlfriend plus asking his coworker to delete his hard drive. Is there an isekai trope we’re missing at this point? Is the next isekai twist that a 35 year old office lady will get murdered in broad daylight in Tokyo and then be reincarnated in another world?

The second half of the first episode just had pretty geometric powers and acted like a fifteen minute exposition dumb concerning this fantasy world plus all the cool powers the protagonist got because of random “wishes” he made as he died. From the part where the protagonist dies to the credit roll, it’s a very dry exposition dump with tons of RPG jargon. Then the credits roll and we get to see all the cool non-slime characters.

Is Japanese society in 2018 so depressing that the escapist fantasy isn’t just to escape to another world but also to die tragically and then escape to the other world? “Nah, instead of quitting my job and finding a new approach to life, I hope I either tragically die in an accident, die from overwork to show my devotion to my company, or die from violent crime in Tokyo.” What makes Slime so intriguing and damning is that given the options the author has for putting the self-insert protagonist into another world, he/she chose death. Is it because 2018 Japan salaryman life is so soul-suckingthat they want a permanent out? What happened to just being whisked away? Or a portal like Escaflowne, Restaurant to Another World, and Inu Yasha? Or just starting out and staying in a damn fantasy world like Ruin Explorers and Slayers that doesn’t have RPG trappings? Why do we need levels and guild quest desks and cash money shops and tiers of adventurers? When did death as an escape from being a salaryman become part of the fantasy narrative? Maybe being a salaryman in Japan does suck.


#14. Conception
Gonzo

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“Don’t use me for wank material.”

I couldn’t decide between “Don’t use me for wank material” and “Set the course for intercourse” for the opening quote for Conception. That is all you really need to know about this show. On one hand, instead of starting off the anime with an exposition dump, the show starts off with silhouettes of muscular, sexy ladies. The director of this show must love thighs and asses as there are quite a few shots where a female character would be talking yet the camera still points to her thighs or ass. On the other hand, it is an isekai anime because of course it is. Maybe there will be an isekai anime about a hikikomori who watches too much isekai anime, dies of heart disease, and then gets reborn into another world where he has to use his knowledge of various isekai anime to survive.

The twist for Conception is that the male protagonist gets summoned into a world where he has to conceive twelve children by twelve different priestesses i.e. the Dwight Howard Quest. The title Conception implies that there will be a lot of hardcore procreation, but I doubt it. My guess is that it will probably be some nonsense like the sex scene in Demolition Man. Also, there is a scene where the male protagonist has to remove a strap from a priestess. He tries to untie it and fails for a solid two minutes. Humanity is so, so, so, so, so doomed.

The “fantasy” world itself is confusing as parts of it look like a medieval fantasy world. There are other parts of it that look like some sort of Star Trek setting complete with buildings with satellite dishes. I hope they get House Hunters Isekai and Terrace House Boys & Girls In Another World.

The male protagonist gets to summon cool swords and weapons from his sacred seals. What do the twelve priestesses get to summon with theirs? Demons. The priestesses pull evil demons from their thighs while the male lead accesses the Gate of Babylon from his nipples. I wonder what the implications of this are. Mmmm? Animation production from Gonzo is their typical low rent stuff. The fact they are producing a series based on a PS2 game probably in 2018 is also weird. Characters seem stiff and movement is a luxury. The demons also look as if they came from another series and do not fit the rest of the art style.

(The weird racoon/bear thing that flies and is in shackles is a very bad imitation of Danganronpa teddy bears.)

(Fashion Czar: “Yep, this was exactly what my pregnancy was like.”)


#13. Release the Spyce
Lay-duce

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“High school girls are invincible!”

Release the Spyce is no Princess Principal. We toss out the steampunk vibe for a modern day setting (I’m just glad it’s not an isekai at this point), and we toss out the stylish Victorian uniforms for… uh… idols mixed with Journey and a touch of Batman? If the costume design of this show were slightly better, it would go up on the rankings. They are just terrible. Why would modern day spies slash ninjas wear mini-skirts with bare midriffs and only armor on their forearms? They look like a third rate idol group. They look neither cute nor sexy just tasteless and trashy. The premise, though, is okay. They are a group of superheroines who go around battling a group of supervillainess, and the are powered by spices (err SPYCE). It’s just funny to see them go, “Okay, we need to spyce up!” and bite into a basil leaf or a stick of cinnamon and then go destroy a bunch of evil robots. Nothing like sniffing some cardamom to enable bullet time.

Don’t get me wrong. I am okay with dumb premises– I write an anime blog and have done so for almost twenty years now. I think biting into a thyme leaf for supernatural powers is a dumb idea that could be entertaining if it reveled in its dumbness. But, somehow, Release the Spyce is not self-aware of how silly the concept it. I am okay if it were self-aware. I am okay with it being serious. But the show does not seem to know what it wants to be. Also, I cannot take those awful outfits seriously. Again, how can the country that gave us Uniqlo and Muji also give us these terrible costumes?

Because it is still an anime, we need to cram as many tropes as possible into an already complicated show. To begin with, there is the framed photo of the dead dad that the main girl says goodbye to as she leaves for school. She will probably never say goodbye to her dad again for the rest of the series. Secondly, the main girl is a new girl slash transfer student who worries about making friends. Thirdly, someone gives the “She’s smart, cute, popular, athletic, etc.” line about the school princess. Next, not only are the girls idol spies slash ninjas, they all have part time jobs because why the hell not. They are rich enough to afford high tech spy gadgets and cars yet they play music and sing in front of a train station. Finally, the protagonist likes to go around licking people she just met, and this behavior is not treated as being weird. Only in anime.

Anime production is average, and there are a few confusing aspects, like how a Mini-Cooper can not only seat five with room to spare for rocket launchers, and the aforementioned costume choices. There is also a, sigh, convenient way to wipe memory as to not disturb the status quo after a battle levels a neighborhood. There are also plenty of great quotes from this show including, “You’ve got a talented tongue,” “I can’t believe we’ve been found out by the po-po,”, and “He’s a frog that has had ninja training.”

(Mitigating factor: I love the ninja frog. He’s so far my favorite new character of fall 2018.)

(Fashion Czar: “I like that it’s a gang of muscular bad guy ladies.”)


#12. My Sister, My Writer
NAZ

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“I’ll give you my five-hour speech about how great light novels are–”

The most unexpected thing to see in an anime in 2018 is the opening sequence to My Sister, My Writer (Ore ga Suki nano wa Imouto dakedo Imouto ja Nai / The One Whom I Love is My Little Sister But She’s Not a Little Sister) that features all twelve motherfucking sisters from Sister Princess reprising their roles and saying their signature lines. All twelve. In 2018. I’m impressed and that is the sole reason why this light novel turned anime is not near the trash fire of space fishing. Is Sister Princess even relevant anymore? My old Sister Princess mailing list died out over a decade ago. Can anyone even name more than three of the sisters anymore? Sister Princess wasn’t even the franchise that set got the siscon light novel movement going. OreImo would be to the siscons as the Sword Art Online would be to the isekais.

Anyway, I could sit here and just write about Sister Princess— you know what? I’ll just do that. My Sister, My Writer is yet another show with about writing light novels (are there no other professions left in Japan?) and about siblings who are horny for each other. If you can think of a trope, My Sister, My Writer has it: Ridiculously long light novel name that gets pared down for English release? The classic “She’s the smartest, prettiest, etc.” line that happens twice, sexy light novel editor, sexy light novel illustrator, etc. Sister Princess was more of a Tenchi Muyo clone. Sure, Wataru had twelve sisters, but he was more interested in advancing his studies than actually boning his sisters, and not all his sisters wanted to jump him. Some genuinely thought of him as an older brother, and some had outside interests (like Rin-chan and her robots). That show was cheesy with an overly sweet and simple plot, but it was enjoyable and had some comedy arising from the interactions of twelve very different sisters. Sister Princess< RePure/em> was fascinating because it was so different from other shows in 2002. Narratively, RePure barely connected to the original season, and the three extraneous characters plus “thirteenth” sister were forgotten. Wataru was also never referred to by name again, IIRC. Instead, each girl got about half an episode’s worth of vignettes for the character. Some were music videos, others were interconnected stories, but most were one-shots. It was a fascinating departure from traditional anime structure. Only Amagami comes to mind as a harem series so expertly dicing up the traditional harem formula. Of course, the best vignette would be Chikage plotting on how she would drug Wataru and then use his body for “experiments” afterward.

Unfortunately, the Sister Princess craze kinda died way before Haruhi arrived in 2006. It only makes it stranger to have an 16 year old franchise lead off an anime in 2018. Who was it supposed to appeal to? My Sister Princess mailing list?

(I listened to Love Destiny, probably a top ten anime OP, while writing this section. One thing we debated about in the mailing list is if the “ai ai ai” portion meant “love” or “to meet” because that’s what happened in 2002. I miss the days when seiyuu performed the OP/ED. Everything just feels so corporate and sterile now. Sigh. Bump of Chicken or Unison Square Garden again.)

(Fashion Czar: “Is this the third show this year about a light novel author with a sister complex?”)


#11. Tonari no Kyuuketsuki-san
Studio Gokumi

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“I hate you, technological advances!”

Tonari no Kyuuketsuki-san (Ms. Vampire who lives in my neighborhood.) is a rare anime whose English title much longer and more convoluted than the Japanese title. It could have just been “My Vampire Neighbor.” My first thought of this show was that it seemed to go for a gag every minute or two, which would be the pace of a 4koma turned anime, and it is. That isn’t something that is done much these days with light novels and mobile games generally being the source materials of choice. The show is pleasantly funny in how matter-of-factly it treats itself. The premise is that there’s a middle school-ish looking vampire living in a suburban area of Japan and a middle school girl basically forces herself into the vampire’s life. Cutting to the chase, the girl moves in with the vampire, and she calls her parents who just basically agrees to it. “Oh well, our twelve year old daughter wants to live with a vampire. How can we say ‘no’ to that?” The fact it treats ridiculous moments like that one with such a straight face is impressive.

I think because of the 4koma origin the pacing for the show isn’t bad. Unlike most comedy anime, it moves along fairly well without a lot of dead time. I also think I would have enjoyed this anime more if it didn’t have a tinge of loli yuri. Do we really need yet another anime about little girls who get blood licked off of them by a vampire? Do we really need another anime where the vampire is a tiny Western girl? Do we really need yet another anime where the vampire doesn’t actually drink blood but instead gets it delivered by Amazon.jp?

(I’m no vampire expert– meido expert– but wouldn’t microwaving blood destroy all of its nutritional content? The vampire takes a lot of care in making sure that the blood is kept refrigerated, and then she just microwaves it to make it hot enough to drink? Wouldn’t that damage the composition of the plasma?)


#10. A Certain Magical Index 3
JC Staff

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“They can dry things off without magic! The science in Academic City is amazing.”

At this point, you know if you’re in or you’re out of the “A Certain” franchise by now. For Oharuhi-sama’s sake, this is season three of A Certain Magical Index, which means that it’s the third of the Index series plus there’s two Railgun series plus an Accelerator series planned for 2019. Kazuma Kamachi has written almost 50 novels in this series by this point. The only other franchise/author this prolific would be Monogatari and Nishio Isin, at half the novel count. Yes, Kazuma doubled Nishio Ishin. You know who doesn’t need a lot of time to decide if she’s in or out on Index? The Fashion Czar proclaims, “I’m gonna say that Railgun is a better show” less than four minutes in.

Anyway, the show starts with a sixty second recap that tries to recap the movies plus 51 episodes of anime. It does not go well. I barely remember any of it beyond Index getting bullied by cleaning robots. The cat, Sphinx, still hasn’t grown up at all, and is still a driver of the story. How many stories being with “Sphinx runs away, and Index chases after him” at this point? One thing that I’m quickly reminded of is that not much makes sense in this show anyway, and there are plenty of gratuitous panty shots. I really have no idea why I decided to thin slice this show except to point out how many fucking novels it spans now.

(I forgot that Tsuchimikado looks like the guy from Dagashi Kashi. Also, Fashion Czar comments, “Showing his belly button is a strong look though.”)


#9. Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara
PA Works

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“If I weren’t a mage, would the fireworks be pretty right now?”

The most pretentious line to kick off an anime goes to Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara for “I wonder when it started… when I stopped enjoying fireworks.” PA Works’ newest show has significantly higher budget than Sakura Quest, which might have been a better show. Animation is brisk, colorful, detailed, and a bit fun. However, the original story seems as half-baked as any isekai anime. The protagonist lady is a witch, kinda like the witches in Flying Witch— you know– friendly, cute witches. However, the time is 2078, and she has some serious depression issues. Of course, her grandma’s solution to all of her issues is to toss her on a time train and send her back to 2018. Oh, grandma.

There’s just a lot of issues. She gets sent back to 2018 without any preparation or supplies. She just has her future app phone that isn’t compatible with our 2018 networks. She isn’t even sent back with her purse, so what was the plan? Have a 17-ish year old girl just wander around rural Japan? Second, grandma sends her back to meet her younger self, except grandma is in England at the time training at Hogwart’s. Grandma knows this. So she get sent back with potentially no one who can help her. Three, time magic is irreversible. She can’t come back to the future.

There are some random touches that I do like, like how her great grandfather reads an iPad instead of a newspaper. The 2018 school photography club is full of photography wannabe elitists who either use iPhone cameras or film cameras– not a digital SLR to be seen. There are some cute cat bandages. And, of course, the protagonist starts to break out of her depression after meeting a boy, who just might be her grandfather for all we know right now.


#8. Bloom Into You
Troyca

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“The love that I read about in books and hear in songs sparkle. That’s what I expect.”

Yuri anime is pretty much the opposite of harem anime. In harem anime, the protagonist goes twenty-six episodes before deciding on an end girl. Sometimes, it takes literally hundreds of episodes. Yep, I’m looking at you, Tenchi Muyo and Raku Ichijou. Most of the plot is generated by the male lead leading on a flock of poor haremettes. Yuri, though, pretty much flips the script where the relationship is quickly established (usually kissing in the first episode as well as tons of kissing in the OP), and then the couple deal with the ramifications of their relationship (which usually do not involve bigotry against homosexuality). Yagate Kimi no Naru (Bloom Into You) is that typical yuri anime. The main couple gets established quickly, and, while they haven’t kissed in the first episode, I’m sure it’ll come quickly.

Bloom Into You seems like a serviceable show. The pacing is okay, and the animation production by Troyca is quite good. I’m actually surprised at how simple the animation is but still manages to be effective at conveying what it needs to convey. The tea brewing scene was very well done and reminds me of Today’s Menu at the Emiya Household. The backgrounds are pretty and colorful. The characters seem a bit bland, but that seems par for the course for most harem and yuri anime. The hook for this show is that the characters are all part of the student council, and the student council meets at some idyllic and cozy cabin far away from the actual school. How does putting the student council, which I assume need to interact with various other groups, in a secluded cabin a good idea? Why not put the art club or camping club out there instead?

Maybe I just want an yuri anime with a bit of chill. Maybe a yuri version of Yuri on Ice where it takes a little trial and tribulation for the coupling to occur, and that the characters have hopes and dreams independent of their lover. Then again, I also want a season free from isekai anime…

(The snack tray for the student council party included Pocky, castella cake, and potato chips. Seems like a hopping good time.)

(Andohbytheway, Bloom Into You is in the same manga magazine as Yotsuba&!, Eromanga, Kan Colle, and A Certain Magical Index.)


#7. Goblin Slayer
White Fox

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“I want to be an adventurer.”

By starting off with that line, Goblin Slayer establishes that it is not an isekai but yet another fantasy RPG world. At first, I thought it was yet another plucky-go-lucky fantasy anime with RPG trappings because of the art style. Well, nope. A poor girl gets raped by goblins in the first ten minutes. It’s definitely not DanMachi. The show is named after the titular Goblin Slayer, and, interesting enough, no one has real names. They’re all just called their professions like “Priestess.” The fact that the characters have classifications more than names plus how dry and sterile Goblin Slayer himself is, the show feels like some sort of dark fantasy nature documentary. One point he explains the goblins the same way a biologist would explain bacteria. Mr. Slayer (Goblin-kun if you’re nasty) brutally kills these goblins so matter-of-factly and coldly while explaining what he’s doing that I’m reminded of Kiritsugu.

There is quite a bit of RPG trappings in Goblin Slayer: The first three minutes feature a tutorial on the guild system in this world. There’s a literal quest board. Like any MMORPG, there’s a party formed with tanks and dps and are impatiently waiting for a healer to log in. Once the party is in a dungeon, the tanks run ahead and leave the squishy backline behind.

I hope that this show suddenly doesn’t transition into a pluck-go-lucky fantasy anime (really hard to go there after so much goblin rape) or reveal that Goblin Slayer-kun was once a salaryman from Tokyo. The only twist I will permit is that the guild has been manipulating everyone with those guild necklaces and actually makes the wearer see human enemies of the kingdom as goblins. It turns out that they have been slaying and hunting persecuted people, families, and refugees the whole time. We need to go even darker.


#6. Tsurune
Kyoto Animation

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The archery club is made up of archers.


#5. Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai
CloverWorks

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“May 6th, I met a wild bunny girl.”

In the library. And no one else seemed to notice. Is this Haruhi Suzumiya? The very, very badly titled Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai (Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai: Puberty Syndrome Abnormal Experiences During Adolescence Due to Sensitivity and Instability) is either a poor man’s Monogatari or a rich man’s Chuu2. I can’t tell yet. If it lands in the middle, that’s not a bad thing. What impressed me about this show is that the characters talk to each other like normal people. Like, for example, the main protagonist, Sakuta, and his best friend have a conversation about a girl in school. Instead of the traditional, “She’s the smartest, prettiest, most popular, etc.” line, they have a genuine discussion about the girl and what how she seems to act at school. The main heroine, Mai, isn’t typecast immediately as the tsundere, yandere, kuudere, puppydere, or dandere immediately. At one point, Sakuta does something to annoy Mai, and Mai looked agitated for a second. They start to leave, and Sakuta asks if anything is wrong, and she responds back with “I thought about getting mad, but I held it in.” It’s a seemingly normal answer that feels abnormal when presented in anime form.

The story seems to revolve around “Adolescence Syndrome,” which might as well be a stand-in for physical manifestation of “bad shit that happens when growing up” or animal-based oddities latching onto teenagers. So far, the supernatural aspect seems a bit more half-assed than in Monogatari, but I’m sure it follows the same “one haremette per oddity per arc” structure. Animation is above average with CloverWorks trying really hard on getting as many CG moving students as possible in some of the shots. Character design seems a bit lackluster though, and I think it’s because all the students have realistic hair colors for Japanese students (i.e. a lot of brown and black) and no one wears their uniform in a strange way. I think having a character or two with blonde or red hair would alleviate this issue.

(My favorite exchange was Sakuta teasing Mai about her bunny girl outfit: “That bunny outfit was so erotic that I couldn’t forget about it.” Mai then blushes and sighs, “Wait, you actually didn’t do anything weird when you saw me. Oh well, I’m totally fine with being the subject of erotic fantasies for young boys.”)

(The title for this show is so long, I could not even read a quarter of it during the eye catch.)


#4. Sword Art Online: Alicization
A-1

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“Why are you such a goody two-shoes?”

The Sword Art Online train is not stopping for anything. Six years after the original aired, we have the Alicization arc. We start off in yet another virtual world, except Kirito and his Slaine Troyard-ish friend resemble Goten and Trunks this time around. The first half of the hour long premiere was mostly a snoozefest with fantasy tropes galore and predictable plot points. I mean, they are embarking on an epic quest to search for ice to refrigerate their food which ends with a tiny girl tied up in more chains than Gilgamesh used on Hercules during the Unlimited Blade Works route. Then after a very abrupt transition, we are tossed into Gun Gale Online where the entire cast is quickly re-introduced and are very, very gun-happy. Kirito then provides an exposition dump where he explains that he’s working with a secretive company to make a new type of VR experience, a “Soul Translator.” The Soul Translator manipulates a person’s Fluclight (I guess the equivalent would be Ghost in the Shell’s ghost) into tricking them with false memories. I can see that going well. Kirito’s new game is that alien probe that teaches Jean Luc Picard how to play the flute.

Meanwhile, because the Soul Translator is experimental and potentially dangerous, Kirito is implanted with a vital sign monitor, which beams his information directly to Asuna. I have no idea how many HIPPA laws this technology violates. Also, isn’t a bit creepy to have your vitals monitored by someone other than Mark Zuckerberg? Kirito and Asuna then trip all the death flags culminating with a kiss. Of course, a random ass dude from the first season shows up with the poison manufactured in the second season and stabs Kirito with the poison. My guess? Kirito has to be sent to the new virtual world full time while everyone tries to save both the virtual world and his physical body.

You should know if you are in or out of Sword Art Online by now, and old fans will most likely enjoy the new high-quality production. I think it is still worthwhile to start from the beginning as a case study for the isekai fantasy RPG boom that has happened in anime the past few years. I am also reminded that we need more virtual sex scenes in anime.

(I feel bad for Agil. He’s been demoted to background character, and we don’t even see him in GGO. He just stands there is a mostly empty bar while polishing the same glass over and over again.)

(Fashion Czar: “Oh Kirito, he has to dismantle another VR conspiracy.”)


#3. SSSS.GRIDMAN
Trigger

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“Yuta’s been swallowed by junk. Old computers are scary!”

I am not the biggest fan of kaiju or Ultraman, but I am interested in Trigger’s take on the classic Gridman in SSSS.GRIDMAN. Animation, music, and production values are just extremely good. They are what I expect from Trigger, and the music especially has a heroic theme to it. The story, though, seems typical shounen kaiju fare– there’s a plucky high school boy who suddenly developed amnesia (which leads to a great line, “Looks like your memory loss has turned you into a transfer student”) and how can pilot Gridman by jumping into an old mainframe computer. I’m interested to see where the show goes and if it can escape being trapped in a vortex of tropes. Besides amnesia, there’s the trope where despite fighting and massive damage to the town, the show introduces an arbitary mechanic to nullify the worst damage (like Shakugan no Shana’s bubble). Another trope is that the protagonist’s parents have left him alone for three months just when he got amnesia. We also get the classic shot of the family photo, except the faces of mom and dad have been obscured by reflection. The main issue of SSSS.GRIDMAN is how will it try to redefine itself. Is it going to be Gatchaman Crowds or Yattermen Night?

There’s a few things that I don’t understand. One, the hospital closes? And 7pm is considered late for the hospital? Two, why is Over Justice in this show? Three, what is this show’s connection to the Trigger Cinematic Universe? Where’s my post-credits scene with Luluco crash landing in this world? Still, the animation and pacing is good enough to keep those minor questions out of my head and interested in more episodes.


#2. Run with the Wind
Production IG

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“Do you like running?”

Nira the Shiba inu? Production IG? Trivia King? Jojo? Prince Kanbaru? Nico-chan? Wait, is this a shonen sports anime? Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru / Run with the Wind is the latest literary novel turned into anime from Shion Miura, the author of The Great Passage. I enjoyed both the novel and anime adaption of The Great Passage, and Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru seems just as promising. There is an ease of the characters interacting with each other, and while they all start out as seemingly tropes, their characterizations are quickly built out. There is also no exposition dump like one would find in a light novel. Situations and back stories are explained via dialogue and flashback scenes, and the motivations and fears of the characters are not immediately presented. They are slowly revealed via interactions with each other, like how a good story should. Run with the Wind feels like a modern sports anime where the sport isn’t the goal but rather the vehicle used to intertwine the lives of these ten men.

To top it off, Production IG’s animation is also great with some smooth animation and colorful palette use. The running motions are very good, and they spent time making sure Nira is as fucking cute as possible. Background music is solid too. My only gripe is that Kakeru kind of looks like college Tobio from Haikyuu!. His character design could be a bit more distinctive.

(This show has the best eyecatch of the year with Nira being prominently involved. Why, yes, I’m a sucker for cute puppies. Nira is the best pupper of this season with the Bernese from Tsurune being second. I guess zombie Romeo is third.)

(This season was difficult to thin slice because, well, of the lack of sleep, but also because there were two standout shows, Run with the Wind and the next show in this list. There were a lot of shows in the second tier held back by something.)


#1. Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san
Production IG

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“Cat ear guys love story!”

There is something extremely charming about Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san (Skeleton Bookstore Employee Honda). Maybe it’s because the show is about the titular Honda-san as he tries to describe the chaos that was once his life as a bookstore employee. Maybe it’s a fascinating look at Japanese bookstores, which seem so different than any Western retail store. Maybe it’s all the poor jokes made at the expense of foreigners trying to buy BL or R18 doujinshi. Maybe it’s the low cost yet effective yet sometimes cute yet stylish enough that I’ll let it pass art style. Maybe it’s just because the show isn’t an isekai, a fantasy RPG, a mobile game, or any trope-filled cute anime girls or hot samurai guys retread. Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san is a charming show that has plenty of comedy and heart.

The Flash-esque art style would not normally be my favorite, but the character designs and backgrounds are done well. While animation is up to the standards of Tsurune, I rather have a show take a chance on its art style than go traditional and low budget. Don’t judge a book by its cover. I also appreciate that the show is half-lengthed, so it never feels long or wears out its welcome.

The cast are all literal Halloween costumes. Honda-san is represented as a skeleton, and he’s the only one with a name. Everyone else is referred to by their costume, like Paper Bag, Pest Mask, Rabbit Head, and Armor, which kinda makes the show Halloween-ish in a strange way. I’m guessing all of these characters represent people Honda-san used to work with. Comedy is generated by their interaction with each other, their industry peers, and, of course, the awful, awful public. Their interaction with customers remind me of whenever Leslie has an open forum in Parks and Rec and call the crazies show up. “I need to find a three volume, wholesome shoujo manga for my daughter. Does Berserk count?” My only qualm with the show is that it is afraid to say the name of any company or book title so they bleep out part of the title. I can figure out maybe three-fourths of them, but I feel like I am missing quite a few jokes.

Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san is different. It’s not an isekai. It’s funny. It’s smart. It’s charming. It’s got a talking skeleton. It’s got a lot of BL books to sell.

7 Responses to “thin slicing the new season, fall 2018 edition”

  1. This Index is not the Index we watched and loved(?) earlier. Ep 4-5 will be a big surprise.

  2. Congraulations on the birth of your daughter.

  3. Rating SAO over Zombie Land… I think this is officially the point at which we part ways. Your tastes are not even remotely similar to mine anymore. Sorry Jason, you’ve changed.

  4. Sigh. I have been following your blog for 8 year or more. Still remember you gushing with praise for monogatari series,mahoromatic. But lately i never understand your taste in putting number 1 anime in thin slicing.
    I guess taste changes with age. It has been a nice ride tough

  5. I’ve been following this site for years and years and years, and there’s quite a few thin slicings with which I never agreed. I just like his wittiness.

  6. Forget SAO rating over Zomebieland, the real tragedy here is ImoImo rating over *anything*.

  7. It’s funny how much different Goblin Slayer and Slime turned out to be from your first impression, but I agree with your findings if we take only the first episode.

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