Spring Anime Season First Impressions – Round 1

The first few weeks of an anime season are always the most exciting to me. You get to see how the short little clips and promo art pieces of preview materials translate into actual, full-length episodes. So to share that joy, I’ve decided I’m going to pen short little thoughtpieces (or maybe not-so-short in some cases, who knows) on each show I’m checking out this season. I’ll be doing these at basically arbitrary points, whenever I have enough shows under my belt to make a post of decent length.

BRAND NEW ANIMAL

This is the one, if you’re curious. Technically, I’ve been following BNA for two weeks now. The first six episodes were unceremoniously dump-trucked onto Netflix some time back and Little Witch Academia standbys Asenshi.moe have been subbing them at a roughly weekly pace, so I’ve only seen two of those episodes thusfar, but what I’ve seen puts it at the top as far as promising shows for this season.

I’ve loved TRIGGER basically since the original LWA movie dropped so this will probably surprise nobody, but among their big ticket directors I’ve always felt that Yoh Yoshinari was among the most underrated. His style’s in full force here, but the story being told has much higher stakes than the relatively school life genre-indebted LWA. Michiru (our protagonist) has already questionably-legally immigrated to a city full of beastmen, had her wallet stolen on her first day there, and been inadvertently involved in busting up organized crime. God knows what else is in store for the poor tanuki.

The show’s gearing up to tackle some pretty big ideas, and it’s entirely possible that it’ll fumble the ball there, but the visual chops can’t be denied, and given some surprisingly subtle character design decisions (making our Big Badass Cop archetype a social worker instead, for instance) it might have a more nuanced approach than some might assume. This is some great stuff, folks. Keep your eye on Asenshi’s uploads.

First impression rating: 9/10

TAMAYOMI: The Baseball Girls

On a totally different note, we have this. Tamayomi is, at least so far, a nearly perfectly archetypal slice of school life-meets-sports anime. It’s almost comically orthodox for this particular genre intersection, but that shouldn’t be taken to mean that it’s bad, necessarily. In what I assume is a strength inherited from the manga it’s adapted from, the show has a warm inner glow that goes beyond mere cuteness (although there’s that, too). Add a little dollop of some pretty on-the-nose lesbian subtext–a pair of twins are fawning over protagonist Yomi’s pitcher hand before the ten minute mark–and you’ve got a perfectly good little anime.

I will say, the visual work is shaky at the best of times, and in some cuts the characters are downright badly-drawn, with inking errors like mismatched eyeshadow thickness and such, which does undercut some portion of its charm. My hope is that this is the result of either the current global unpleasantness, the fact that the first episode had to be done a month ahead of schedule for a preview screening, or both. Otherwise, while it’s certainly the least essential of the four shows here, it’s perfectly good and worth watching if you like this kind of thing.

First Impression Rating: 6/10

Kakushigoto

From the mind of Zetsubou-sensei creator Kouji Kumeta comes an oddball comedy about a dad who draws a dirty comedy manga and his quest to keep his beloved young daughter from ever learning that fact. This one took me slightly by surprise, as I wasn’t originally aware of Kumeta’s involvement and was expecting more of a heartstring-tugging father/daughter bonding type of story. What it actually is is great too, though, and as someone who mostly passed over Zetsubou-sensei in its popular heyday I was a bit surprised to find myself grokking the sense of humor here as quickly as I did. They don’t quite operate on the exact same wavelength, but this is one fans of stuff like Nichijou and Daily Lives of High School Boys should keep an eye on. Even if it’s not quite that frantic. This is definitely the best comedy of the season so far, with a gag late in the episode about how Starbucks orders sound like magic spells being my favorite.

If I do have a complaint it’s about the odd coding of Mario, the extremely campy owner of a fashion boutique the main character works near, but he’s not onscreen enough for it to be a major strike against the series yet.

First Impression Rating: 8/10

Tower of God

Roughly once a season, some huge shonen series drops that seemingly everyone and his grandmother watches. I’m only rarely interested in these shows (by and large, despite being a known fan of gaudy fight scenes and overdesigned characters, it isn’t my genre) and have a bad habit of thinking “oh this is the one” about once a year and then dropping it four episodes in. It’s too early to say if Tower of God will be the thing that breaks that trend, but it just might be. This one’s got an interesting IP history, too, being an adaptation of a South Korean web-manhua that’s been running since the beginning of the last decade. The original comic was among the first such properties to ever get an official English translation, and Crunchyroll of all folks are partly bankrolling the anime.

As for the show itself? Dirt-simple story (“girl leaves boy, boy goes on epic adventure to find girl”) meets lavish fantasy worldbuilding. There’s not a lot out there that’s like this, in spite of its simple building blocks, and it tickled a part of my brain that I don’t think has been buzzed since I watched MÄR on Toonami as a kid. Despite the stock protagonist archetype that male lead 25th Bam (yes, that is his name) falls into, the first episode was quite engaging, involving our hero having to figure out how to crack open a black orb in a giant water tank while being hounded by a sea monster. Also introduced here is Ha Yuri Jahad (seen up there in the header picture) who I took an immediate liking to. There’s just something charming about seeing the “rebellious princess” archetype played perfectly straight in 2020 and with a character with such a great design, too. I was also interested by the mysterious, rabbit-like Headon, who seems to be the titular Tower’s caretaker.

I don’t need to tell anyone to watch ToG–you’ll know pretty much right away if it’s your bag or not–but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. If every episode is this interesting this might be the first shonen series in some time that I actually finish.

First Impression Rating: 7/10

So that’s it for Round 1 of the Spring Anime Season impressions. Everything I’ve seen so far this season is at least solid, and I think all four of these shows have the potential to get even better. This is the most excited I’ve been going into a fresh season in some time, and we haven’t even gotten to some of the real heavy hitters yet (in particular, a certain beloved romcom from last year returns next Friday), so I’m thrilled. What about you? How’s your season looking so far?

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