[Review] A Centaur’s Life – episode 1

Follows the school life of a teenage centaur named Himeno, and her friends, who happen to be mermaids, angels, and other mystical creatures. Source: Anime News Network Over the course of both watching this show and writing this review, I was assured from multiple sources that lots of people really like the manga, and that it improves drastically after its first chapter. I cannot judge this future potential, because it is not here in front of my eyes. And if it is indeed true, this premiere does the single worst job of selling that promise I’ve ever seen.

[Review] Princess Principal – episode 1

Five girls live in 19th century London, a city within the Albion Kingdom divided into east and west by a large wall. The girls serve as undercover spies enrolled as students at the prestigious Queen’s Mayfair school. The girls make use of their individual abilities to remain active in the underground world of disguise, espionage, infiltration, and car chases. Source: Anime News Network Minor bones of contention aside, this has the makings of an engaging and poignant action title. Princess Principal starts strong with a car chase sequence that wouldn’t be out of place in Lupin III (look if the show wants to have a jazz-influenced soundtrack and an anachronistic samurai whose team role is “cuts stuff,” I’m gonna make comparisons), introducing both its steampunk and magical elements in an active, showing-over-telling sort of way. The streets of alternate-history London are intricately designed and manage to look grimy and cluttered without distracting from the central action on screen.

[Review] Chronos Ruler – episode 1

Koyuki is a high school student who’s cheerfully trying to lead preparations for graduation even though she has recently lost her only living relative, her brother. While visiting her brother’s grave, she encounters a strange creature called a Horologue, which is attracted to human regret and eats the time of its victims, causing them to age in reverse. She is saved by Kiri Putin, a serious-minded swordsman who works with his “brother” as a Chronos Ruler, agents who attempt to thwart the activities of the Horologues by slowing down or speeding up time to fight. In defeating the Horologue, the two are able to help Koyuki understand that dwelling on her regret forever isn’t safe or healthy. Source: Anime News Network Well, that happened. I don’t mean that in the sense that this premiere was terrible. It did some very good things, and it did some very bad things in equal measure, and in the end it averages out to “just okay.” You could probably waste some time with it without regret.

[Review] Action Heroine Cheer Fruits – episode 1

The “local heroine fighter” of a certain city became popular and a national star. Because of this, “local heroines” debuted in various other places, and their action live events became a hit trend nationally. In Hinano City, high school girl Misaki Shirogane and other girls become local heroines (at the urging of Misaki’s aunt, the prefectural governor) and vow to produce action live events. Source: Anime News Network For three years I’ve mourned the ending of Samurai Flamenco and its creators’ decision to torch their own house following the series’ abysmal sales. And at long last that series has returned to me under a new name, with all its heroic enthusiasm and queer attraction intact: Action Heroine Cheer Fruits!

[Review] Hitorijime My Hero – episode 1

Masahiro Setagawa doesn’t believe in heroes. With his dad out of the picture and his mother just as likely to bring her work (read: lovers) home as to spend all night out with them, he knows that there’s no one to come save you when you’re in trouble. To that end, he’s thrown his lot in with a group of thugs, doing their bidding if only to have a place to belong. Then one night, after the notorious Bear Killer (a man in a weird T-shirt who takes down thugs) attacks his gang, Masahiro meets Kensuke Oshiba in the park with an abandoned kitten. Masahiro helps Kensuke take the kitten home and feed it, only to discover that Ken’s older brother Kousuke is the Bear Killer himself! A year later, Masahiro and Kensuke are starting high school. Masahiro has cut ties with his former associates, become friends with Kensuke, and finally found the hero he’s always wished for in Kousuke. But with Kousuke set to become a math teacher at their high school and Kensuke’s old best friend Hashiba suddenly returning, do the boys have any hope of a normal high school life – or love? Source: Anime News Network   No.

[Review] Welcome to the Ballroom – episode 1

Feckless high school student Tatara Fujita wants to be good at something – anything. Unfortunately, he’s about as average as a slouchy teen can be. The local bullies know this, and make it a habit to hit him up for cash, but all that changes when the debonair Kaname Sengoku sends them packing. Sengoku’s not the neighborhood watch, though. He’s a professional ballroom dancer. And once Tatara Fujita gets pulled into the world of the ballroom, his life will never be the same. Source: Anime News Network In a shocking turn of events, the most highly anticipated anime of the summer season is real good. There’s not a lot of competition for Best in Show so far, mind, except for maybe Made in Abyss (if it can avoid the worst excesses of its source material). But Ballroom is more than that. It has the vibrant promise of an all-time great.

[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.

[Review] Vatican Miracle Examiner – episode 1

To detect lies, refuse fakes, and reach the miracle of God – that is their mission as Vatican Miracle Examiners. Hiraga, a scientific genius and Roberto, an expert on the decryption of cryptography and ancient documents are not only good partners but also “Miracle Examiners” working for the Vatican. They are secret examiners, who are requested to examine and identify the authenticity of miracles from all over the world. Source: Anime News Network In the ’90s and early 2000s, there was a subgenre of (usually) shoujo that I like to call “Catholicsploitation.” Whether they were series that liked the aesthetic of Gothic fiction without necessarily grasping the deeper themes that tradition sprang from, or just liked the mysterious visual appeal of an extremely minor religion in Japan (‘sup, Anno), surface-level use of crucifixes, demonology, homoerotic boarding schools, and starched white collars were kind of a thing for a while. Y’know, your Hellsings, your Godchilds, your Angel Sanctuarys, that one arc in Descendants of Darkness, and so on (seriously, how have we not had a Vampire Chronicles anime?).

[Review] Altair: A Record of Battles – episode 1

Mahmut is a young member of Türkiye Stratocracy’s council who holds the political and military title of Pasha. The council’s combination of warmongers and pacifists divide it. The threat of war and danger from the belligerent Empire put Türkiye’s safety at risk. As the country’s youngest military leader, Mahmut is determined to keep the peace. But with so much at stake, a long history of enemies and alliances draws the young man far into a political world he hopes to keep in check. The Pasha’s journey is not easy, and war may prevail despite his efforts. Source: Anime News Network It is not a good sign when your show starts off with a gigantic disclaimer worthy of South Park. Not a disclaimer the show itself put on, mind. This was a handy bit of ass-covering laid on by Amazon after the fact. My alarm bells were piqued and got gradually louder for 24 consecutive minutes.

[Review] 18if – episode 1

Haruto Tsukishiro wakes up in a dream world and sees a mysterious girl named Lily. He meets Katsumi Kanzaki, learns of the existence of witches, and gets involved in various incidents. Source: Anime News Network Sometimes the best way to describe an anime is to say “it’s very anime,” and that’s kind of where I am with 18if. Set in the dream-world (or perhaps just a dream-world), this premiere follows Haruto as he bounces from realm to realm, gets rescued and guided by a girl in white named Lily, receives a hefty dose of exposition from Cat Professor Katsumi, dies once?, and eventually confronts the Witch of Thunder who’s been tyrannizing the people here.

[Review] DIVE!! – episode 1

Since he was a young boy, Tomoki Sakai has been in love with the sport of diving. After years of practice and stalwart determination, there’s no place where he feels more at home than in those brief seconds of flight before he’s submerged into the water. Unfortunately, he and the other boys of the Muzuki Diving Club (MDC) aren’t doing enough to please their sponsors, and the club is on the verge of being disbanded. Enter coach Kayoko Asaki, a fiery woman who is determined to pull the boys of the MDC back from the brink. Her mission: get the MDC to the Tokyo Olympics in one year’s time. Tomoki and his friends have a long road ahead of them as they begin their fight to fulfill their dreams. Source: Anime News Network Y’all, I promise I did my best to watch this premiere without comparing it relentlessly to Free!. I swear. It’s just that the show wants me to make that comparison, is the thing.

[Review] Convenience Store Boyfriends – episode 1

First year high school students Haruki Mishima and [Towa] Honda are looking forward to their new school life. Meanwhile Nasa Sanagi, sole member of the cooking research club, continues with his club activities from middle school, striving to work on the theme that his adviser laid out for him. Second year student Natsu Asumi, although he matured a little since the height of his impudence during his first year, has nevertheless chosen to remain alone this year. Third year students Mikado Nakajima and Masamuna Sakurakoji watch over him with a smile. All of them will pay the nearby convenience store a visit after school. Source: Anime News Network The above description of Convenience Store Boyfriends (can I just call it ConveniBoys for short?) doesn’t seem to tell you much about the series, but it does in fact accurately depict the amount of meandering that happens in this premiere. Two teenage boys start high school. One of them has a crush on a girl he knew when they were little. The other has a crush on the class rep. They run into each other at the local convenience store a few times. Everyone is very bad at communicating. Roll credits.

[Review] Fastest Finger First – episode 1

Shiki Koshiyama is a book-loving boy who joins the quiz club at the urging of Mari Fukami, a girl who is an experienced quiz competitor. Source: Anime News Network Here is a confession from me to you, readers: I generally don’t go for high school anime. I don’t hate them on any kind of principle, but they have to work harder to woo me than a series about adult professionals or even shows about teenagers that take place outside school. It speaks well of Fastest Finger First (pleasingly abbreviated FFF, with Crunchyroll dropping the 7O3X part of the Japanese title) that it hooked me enough to be curious about the next episode.

[Review] Elegant Yokai Apartment Life – Episode 1

Yūshi Inaba is a 16-year-old boy whose parents died three years ago. He moved into his uncle’s house, but resolved to move into a dormitory in high school. Those plans were dashed when that dormitory burned down. He eventually finds an apartment with cheap 25,000-yen (about US$220) rent. Yūshi finds out too late that the apartment is home to supernatural creatures such as ghosts, yōkai, and mononoke, and his daily life becomes embroiled in the eccentric apartment. Source: Anime News Network Are you looking to watch a gently comedic slice of life show about supernatural creatures? Because this is another one of those. It’s inevitably going to draw comparison to Natsume’s Book of Friends, a comparison it almost certainly can’t live up to. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad series. Rather, it’s just Another One. If this is the kind of genre that appeals to you, it’s well executed enough that you’ll probably have a good time watching. If it’s not your scene, this one isn’t doing anything revolutionary enough to change your mind.

[Review] Restaurant to Another World – episode 1

A restaurant called “Yōshoku no Nekoya” (Western Cuisine Cat Restaurant), which is located on the first basement floor of a building at a corner of a shopping district near an office area. While it normally feeds salarymen, there is a secret in Nekoya. Every Saturday when the shop takes a day off, Nekoya is teeming full of “special customers.” For the office workers, it is a familiar place with familiar dishes, but for these Saturday customers — “people from that world” — it is nothing but cuisine never seen or heard before. Source: Anime News Network As I began watching this premiere, something funny started to happen – time was slowing down around me, until even the most infinitesimal sigh of non-anticipation stretched across the crossroads. Seeing this, I realized that the only way to guide my way back to a semblance of reality – to another world, where I could be watching literally anything else – was to mark the time stamps of the episode that caused this strange phenomenon. I leave them here for your perusal.

[Review] Battle Girl High School – episode 1

In the year 2045, the world has been contaminated by Irōsu (mysterious invaders who suddenly appeared), and humans find themselves restricted and contained. Standing boldly against these invaders are ordinary girls everywhere, without a powerful army or even weapons. The Shinjugamine Girls Academy is a school for these “Hoshimori” (Star Guardians) destined to fight the Irōsu. Source: Anime News Network The first 66 seconds of this premiere spend 24 of those seconds introducing 14 young schoolgirls who will presumably become equally important. That’s 14 character introductions in 24 seconds as they sit in a classroom, doing their best to extol the one trait which will tell each of them apart, as their names flash up next to each of them on screen. It’s a lazy, overdone approach to introducing large ensembles, and one which suggests endearing audiences to the characters is a low priority. And frankly, Battle Girl High School is pretty lazy and overdone overall.

[Review] Love and Lies – episode 1

Lies are forbidden. Love is even more forbidden. The time is in the not-so-distant future. In Japan, your marriage partner is selected by the government when you turn 16. Yukari Nejima is a 15-year-old boy who lives in a corner of Japan and has never made much of himself. In grades as well as sports, he ranks below the middle of the pack. However, he conceals a passionate love in his heart. Source: Anime News Network In an alternate-history version of Japan, the effort to combat declining birth rates (a very real concern there, as you may know) leads to a government-enforced system of marriage where people are paired up based on various factors (grades, family, etc.) for the primary purpose of procreation. It’s the kind of nightmarish, dystopian premise that’s overflowing with possible avenues for pointed social commentary, and Love and Lies… uses it to tell a milquetoast high school romance?