[Review] DARLING in the FRANXX – Episode 1

This is a big ball to untangle, and right at the end of the premiere deluge, which is just unfair to my tired, tired brain. DARLING in the FRANXX has the potential to be an engaging mecha series about lonely kids and cultural pressures to “pair up” that challenges the traditional “man as aggressive, woman as passive” relationship dynamic. It also has the potential to be a queer-erasing mess of overused genre cliches that relies on harassment and fanservice to portray sexuality and romance. And while I want to believe it’ll be the former, I can’t quite shake the feeling it’ll wind up being the latter.

[Review] Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san – Episode 1

Takagi-san is a school comedy with a low-key romantic undercurrent that seems to be skewed towards a middle-grade audience, and it is the most “okay” premiere I’ve seen all season. It is utterly harmless. It is profoundly fine. And I have been staring at this stupid post for 15 minutes now trying to think of something else to say about it.

[Review] Mitsuboshi Colors – Episode 1

I finished Mitsuboshi Colors with a deep sigh of a relief and a cry of “Oh THANK GOD it isn’t lolicon!” There’s more to like about it than just that, mind you, but if you saw the cover art and were side-eyeing it like I was, I figured I should start this review by putting your greatest fears to rest. Based on this premiere, Mitsuboshi Colors is more-or-less a family-friendly show, albeit one with a saucy streak.

[Review] Pop Team Epic – Episode 1

Nobody else wanted to try writing about this one, so your managing editor is in da house to take one for the team. Pop Team Epic appears to be 24 minutes (but really only 12 minutes) (I’m still not even sure it’s actually full-length?) of carefully crafted trolling. There’s a reason the most iconic image is of the two girls gleefully flipping off the readers, you know.

[Review] Sanrio Boys – Episode 1

There are three things you need to know about Sanrio Boys going in. First, it’s a shameless toy commercial that wants you to shut up and give Sanrio your money. Second, it’s a cute-boy show blatantly targeted at (straight) teen girls in the same way many cute-girl shows are targeted at (straight) teen boys, up-to-and-including a gratuitous shower scene. And third, it is somehow, in spite of all these obvious marketing calculations, charming as all get-out.

[Review] Anime Supremacy! is the SHIROBAKO sequel you’ve been waiting for

Anime Supremacy!, written by Mizuki Tsujimura and translated by Deborah Boliver Boehm, tells the interconnected stories of three women—a producer, a director, and an animator—working in the anime industry. Not quite a novel and not quite a short story collection, the book is divided into three main chapters, each following one of the protagonists through part of a single anime season.

[Review] Inuyashiki – episode 1

Ichiro Inuyashiki is down on his luck. While only 58 years old, his geriatric looks often have him written off as a pathetic old man by the world around him and he’s constantly ignored and disrespected by his family despite all that he’s done to support them. On top of everything else, his doctor has revealed that he has cancer and it appears that he has little time left in this world. But just when it seems things couldn’t get any worse, a blinding light in the night sky strikes the earth where Ichiro stands.

[Review] The Ancient Magus’ Bride – episode 1

Chise grew up being tossed from relative to relative, always isolated by her ability to see things that others could not. Feeling she can find no value in her own life, she sells it to the highest bidder – and is bought by Elias Ainsworth, a strange, bone-faced man who calls himself a mage. Elias claims he wants to make Chise his apprentice, and for the first time in her life, Chise feels like she might have found a home. But the road to mastering magic is not an easy one, and Chise’s own magically gifted nature may still be its own kind of curse. Chise’s apprenticeship will demand personal strength and an inquisitive heart, for the dangers of the magical world are dark and plentiful.

[Review] DYNAMIC CHORD – episode 1

Production group DYNAMIC CHORD manages several top boy bands, including rêve parfait, apple-polisher, Liar-S, and the popular KYOSOH. The other three groups aspire to be as good as KYOSOH, even as they attempt to adjust to life as an idol – the click of cameras accompanies them everywhere, and Reon of rêve parfait in particular worries that doing commercials and other promotional jobs will tarnish their image in their fans’ eyes. But bigger problems are lurking on the horizon for the boys – KYOSOH’s vocalist, Yorito, was last seen driving in the rain with the top down, and he hasn’t been showing up for practice. KYOSOH asks Reon to fill in for him, but when a magazine announces Yorito’s leaving the band, will Reon be forced to choose between the two groups? Or is this the end for KYOSOH?

[Review] KONOHANA KITAN – episode 1

Kokohana-tei is a hot spring hotel located in an inn town between our world and the other world, where many people go to visit. The story portrays the lives of fox spirits, who take the form of girls and work at the hotel. Source: Anime News Network Within the first five minutes of Konohana Kitan, newcomer Yuzu is forcibly stripped and scrubbed by two of her coworkers as one girl comments on the size of her breasts and the camera pans jerkily from her curled toes to her flushed face. I begin with this one-two punch of fanservice and “comical” assault because (1) it doesn’t match the soothingly cute tone of the rest of the episode at all, and (2) it immediately soured me to a series I think I’d have otherwise found at worst harmless and at best kinda charming. But, alas, someone thought this nonsense needed to be included, and here we are.

[Review] SENGOKU NIGHT BLOOD – episode 1

Adaptations are hard, folks. Adapting a video game is particularly difficult. And a visual novel? Maybe the toughest of them all. Lots of characters, multiple routes, a protagonist specifically designed to have minimal personality so the player can map themselves into the role… none of that transfers well to the more passive, streamlined medium of television. It’s tough. I get it.

So have sympathy for those tasked with VN adaptations, dear readers. And if ever you find yourself in a position to write the premiere for such an adaptation, think back to the first half of Sengoku Night Blood—and do exactly the opposite of what they did.

[Review] Black Clover – episode 1

Asta is a young boy who dreams of becoming the greatest mage in the kingdom. He only has one problem, he can’t use magic. Luckily for Asta, he receives the incredibly rare five-leaf clover grimoire that gives him the power of anti-magic. Even though he can’t use magic, he plans to become the Wizard King. Source: Anime News Network In trying to come up with a pithy way to introduce Black Clover, all I could think was “It sure is a shounen.” And yep. It sure is. That’s not an inherently bad thing, of course, and I wouldn’t call Black Clover “bad” either, exactly. It’s just very rote, is all, full of character types and plot points you’ll recognize if you’ve spent so much as an hour with a Weekly Shonen JUMP title before.

[Feature] Know When to Fold ‘Em: Princess Principal and the feel-good feminism of “Loudly Laundry”

Many of Princess Principal’s stories discuss the hardships inherent in the sharp social and economic divisions present in its world, such as the poverty that’s influenced many characters’ lives or the walls that prevented our two protagonists from being together. But it’s the upbeat and inspiring Episode 7, “Loudly Laundry,” that offers perhaps the show’s most nuanced depiction of inequality to date, asking our central cast to acknowledge their own privilege—and encouraging them to find a better way forward.

[Review] In Another World with My Smartphone – episode 1

Mochizuki Touya is the unfortunate victim of a bolt of lightning thrown carelessly by God. Because he really wasn’t supposed to die at fifteen, God is willing to cut him a deal – Touya can be reborn, or rather, re-placed, at his present age in a new world in order to continue living. To sweeten things, the world will have magic, which Touya will be able to use, his physical abilities will get a boost, and he can bring any one thing with him. Touya opts to take his smartphone, which God kindly equips with the appropriate maps and translation functions for his new life. And that life looks like it’s going to go pretty well – within moments of awakening, Touya has been paid for his other-world clothes, formed a party with twins Elze and Linze, learned he can use all seven forms of magic, and introduced his new world to ice cream – and this is only the first day. Source: Anime News Network If you’ve been watching anime at all these past five years, you’ve seen this series before. A teenage boy dies and gets sent to a fantasy world. He meets some cute girls around his age and they go adventuring together. There’s a bunch of world-building about Guilds and magic systems. Our protagonist turns out to be Very Special And Talented. Okay, sure, the kid gets to use his smartphone to help people invent ice cream, but beyond that this is a straightforward, by-the-book, boilerplate isekai light novel adaptation. I, uh… kinda liked it?

[Review] Angel’s 3Piece! – episode 1

Kyō Mekui is a high school student who tends to skip school due to a trauma in his past. Kyō secretly creates songs using vocal song synthesis software as his hobby. Three girls who just entered fifth grade — the crybaby Jun “Jun-tan” Gotō, the strong-willed Nozomi “Zomi” Momijidani, and the somewhat sleepy Sora “Kū” Kaneshiro who takes life at her own pace — email Kyō. These three girls, who were raised together like sisters since childhood, want Kyō to help them break into music. Source: Anime News Network I like to go into premieres blind, so I knew nothing about 3Piece beyond the cover art. “Eh, worst-case scenario, it’ll just be a bland cute-girl show,” I thought as I signed up to review it. Such a fool I was. So young. So naive.

[Review] Made in Abyss – episode 1

An enormous pit and cave system called the “Abyss” is the only unexplored place in the world. Strange and wonderful creatures reside in its depths, and it is full of precious relics that current humans are unable to make. The mysteries of the Abyss fascinate humans, and they head down to explore. The adventurers who venture into pit are known as “Cave Raiders.” A little orphan girl named Rico lives in the town of Ōsu on the edge of the Abyss. Her dream is to become a Cave Raider like her mother and solve the mysteries of the cave system. One day, Rico starts exploring the caves and discovers a robot who resembles a human boy. Source: Anime News Network It’s impossible for me to maintain anything even remotely resembling critical distance with this review, so I’m not even going to try. Made in Abyss is a dieselpunk fairy tale that combines a rich world, curious kids, and energetic adventure with an undercurrent of lurking danger and quiet melancholy. I was over-the-moon in love with it by the 30-second mark and gushing about it to the rest of the AniFem staff before the opening credits had finished rolling. I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure Kinema Citrus had this series custom-made for me.