Noblesse premiere – During school hours, Rai is an awkward but hot high school student hanging out with his friends. Off hours, the head of the school is his servant and they fight Union, a vaguely defined group of criminals with very, very anime hair.
If you read the premise, then you know that Rai is an ancient vampire. If you didn’t, this premiere is uninterested in actually explaining that. Rai just stares at his friends while they explain modern customs to him, and he stares at his minions until they do whatever it is he wants to do. The most extensive conversation he has with anyone is trying to persuade a former victim/tool of Union to stay at his place long-term.
Union likewise goes largely unexplained. It attacks some soldiers at the beginning of the episode and has arrived to hunt down Rai, so we understand that it is Very Bad but not really what it’s up to. Likewise, Rai is good, because he has buddies and everyone looks up to him, even though he has no detectable personality or basis for his authority.
Presumably fans of the webcomic are all excited that it’s getting an adaptation, but this does nothing to appeal to anyone else.
Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World premiere – Iska is a fighting prodigy who is the youngest ever knight of his witch-fighting realm, but he also likes setting witches free, so he gets sent to jail for a year. Then he is freed to take on the strongest witch to attack in many years, only to have her falling head over heels for him. Literally.
Iska and his new love interest are set up to have parallel lives, one as a gifted fighter and the other as a princess, but really, this is all about Iska. He’s constantly surrounded by people exclaiming how awesome he is and what a mighty sword he wields, and he defeats his new love interest without breaking a sweat. Princess Alice gets one moment of admiration at her powers and that’s it.
Alice and Iska do bond a bit over their mutual ambition to end the endless war, but everything else feels very forced by the author’s hand. Every character is someone that anime fans have already met in a million other shows; the story is coasting on the hope that viewers will play along and know who they’re supposed to cheer for without really getting any reason to.
Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear premiere – Who can save a village being menaced by a giant snake? Alas, all the high-level adventurers are busy, but up strolls a strange girl in a bear outfit, who proceeds to summon up a pair of pouty magic bears, rides to the rescue, and kills that snake all by herself with her awesome bear-suit powers.
That all takes place inside a VR MMO. In our world, the Bear Lady is named Yuna, and she supports herself by being a day-trading genius. She skips school and has no annoying parents to contend with since she’s paid for them to go on a long vacation. In short, Yuna has no real obstacles in her life inside or outside the game. She also has the emotional depth of a puddle.
Once again, we’re supposed to cheer on the protagonist of a story because they are the protagonist, and not because they are actually likeable or anything. It doesn’t help that the tone of the show oscillates wildly between attempts at tragic melodrama and wacky comedy. Another one to skip.
Akudama Drive premiere – In the future, the Kansai region of Japan is beset both by rigid policing and cybernetically enhanced criminals, the Akudama. When one of the most notorious Akudama of all is scheduled for a grand public execution, someone intervenes, with a challenge and a promise that draws in a whole gang of master criminals who are too crazy to turn them down.
Half of this episode is an over-the-top battle royale with the feel of a heist movie: these are criminals, but the authorities aren’t exactly sympathetic themselves. The other half of the episode concerns a law-abiding citizen who is transformed by circumstance into a petty criminal, and then stumbles into the path of the Akudama. But she turns out to be equal to the moment, saving herself in a burst of inspiration. This is our protagonist, and she earns it.
The unnamed city where all this happens is practically a character in itself, a visual riot of lights and mirages, airship buses and semi-submerged trains, high-tech fortresses and back-alley food stalls. But the people in the foreground more than balance it out, every one of them larger than life.
This is a show with one clear ambition: to be a violent spectacle that equals the best Hollywood can produce. It succeeds. It also manages to bring in, believe it or not, some personable characters and a sense of fun. Also, cats. (Small spoiler: despite all the violence, no cats are harmed in the least.)
The Day I Became a God premiere – Narukami Yōta is just hanging out shooting hoops with a friend when he encounters a little girl who announces that she is Odin, chief of the gods, and that she will be staying with him for the forseeable future, all 30 days of it until the world ends. Then she tries to fix Yōta up with the girl he has a crush on.
You would never guess that this comes from a studio (Key) and creator (Maeda Jun) known for melodrama, the way Odin spends half the time overreacting to things and the other half trying to push Yōta around. There is a sense that their 30 days together probably end with a tragic parting, and what Odin is seeing ahead is the end of her world. But at the moment, the idea that Odin’s time with Yōta is limited is kind of a welcome thought.
There’s almost enough here to make it worth sitting through Odin’s overacting, and fans of Maeda Jun are probably going to check it out anyway. But there are so many good shows this season, you might want to put this on the back burner.
International streams: Funimation (US, Canada, UK, Ireland); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Francosphere, Scandinavia, German-speaking Europe, Russia); Animate Gamer (Taiwan); bilibili (China)
But that’s not all! Magatsu Warheit Zuerst was supposed to premiere the same night this column was due, but the Funimation stream is experiencing technical difficulties, so we’ll get to it next week.
Also next week, we’ll take a second look at Akudama Drive, Wandering Witch, Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle, Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon, Talentless Nana, Jujutsu Kaisen, and the show formerly known as Higurashi: When They Cry – New and try to decide how to follow only five of them at most for the rest of the season.