Anime Weeklies Summer Week Two

I'm still getting the hang of doing what I do with comics for anime, but I'm getting closer.  Instead of focusing on *everything* I'm watching and basically getting nothing done, I'm instead going to look at a max of seven series per season.   Currently two of those slots are being occupied by Dragon Ball Super and Macross Delta, so that means five series a week.

For this season, that means: 91 Days, Arslan Senki: Fuujin Ranbu, Active Raid S2, Alderamin of the Sky, and Tales of Zestiria the X.   This might be subject to change as I'm still not attached to some of these series enough to see them through to the end, but for now that's what I'm going for.  Week 3 and 4 will hopefully be up later this week, along with Bottom of the Pile for last week as well as this week, and then Macross Delta Spotlights will make a resurfacing...sooner or later.  I've got nine episodes stacked on my head and it'll be ten before I can catch all the way up.   But once you see them it'll be a daily thing until I'm completely caught up.

On ANY other show, this would be Vegeta's time to shine.  But since it's Dragon Ball...!
Dragon Ball Super 51:  We're roughly a month into this Goku Black saga, where walking trashcan Future Trunks has been forced to travel back into the past in order to protect what's left of his future from an evil monster who inexplicably looks exactly like Goku but dresses like the first and only Z fighter to frequently use Tumblr to post about the pointlessness of life.  This episode is mostly filler, focusing on Bulma explaining where she got a second time machine after Goku Black blew up the last one, and how Trunks knows a future version of Mai.  Goku tries to get training from Whis, but gets denied because the two most powerful beings in the DBZ universe right now are a pair of spoiled children.  (Which, to be fair, is nothing new.)  Meanwhile Vegeta has decided to train on his own, presumably (and hopefully) pissed off because his wife was killed by some tool who looks exactly like his greatest rival.

I honestly can't tell anymore if Super is finding its footing creatively or if I'm just getting used to the quality I'm going to get from the series.  The various flashbacks and storytelling this episode were actually pretty decent and characters are starting to have more motivation behind fighting besides "I need to prove I'm the strongest", and yet at the same time...the pacing of Super is disgusting.  Everything feels like it’s moving at half the pace of what it should, and to a person who  found interest in Dragonball again only because of Kai, that's a sin I can't quite find it in me to forgive yet.   

Setting that aside though, there’s a lot still here to get excited about.  The identity of Goku Black is the biggest standout.  Whoever he is, he’s clearly not human and may not even be from Universe 7!  The next episode teases Goku going along with Whis and/or Beerus to Universe 10 in order to discover who he truly is, which only gets me excited for when Super finally takes the weighted clothing off its plotline and finally delves into the other 11 universes it has.   

And even though I feel like Charlie Brown with the football, I finally feel like Vegeta is going to get an honest chance to shine and take down Goku Black.  He looked so pissed as he headed into his Gravity Room, and with him being only a hair less powerful than the real Goku (Super Kaioken notwithstanding), there’s no reason he shouldn’t finally get the spotlight for a battle.  Except for DBZ’s usual mindset of “LOL Goku wins”, but I am nothing if not eternally hopeful.

I get the feeling Mikleo is about to enter a new stratosphere of popularity...
Tales of Zestiria the X: The first “real” episode of Tales of Zestiria continues the story of Princess Alisha as she tries to escape the destruction being inflicted upon her world, only to find herself in a strange set of ruins that eventually lead her to the world of the Seraphs/Tenzoku.  Having finally watched the first episode, I can say with certainty what I already suspected to be the case: the prologue to this series makes pretty much the exact same mistake as the promotional material leading up to the game’s release did by fooling viewers into believing Alisha was the main character.  


But this “first” episode introduces the actual protagonist of the show, Sorey and his Tenzoku buddy/possible “life partner” Mikleo.   A young boy who somehow found his way to the world of the Tenzoku and has never properly interacted with other humans, Sorey is an adventurous sort who spends his time searching through ruins for secrets alongside Mikleo.   But after disobeying their village elder, they wind up trapped inside of a forbidden ruin, where they run into an unconscious Alisha, who at this point is pretty physically and emotionally banged up after seeing her fellow knights get wiped out and spending the last day or so of her life trying to stay alive herself.
As much as I liked this episode more, I still feel like we’re just barely at the starting line here.  We still have no idea who’s attacking the world or why, and Sorey and Mikleo don’t even have a reason to leave their hometown, so the adventure hasn’t even started yet.   Still, it’s nice to see a rivalry that’s actually friendly for once, and the animation is still just as beautiful as it was last episode.   

Zestiria makes no attempt to hide from its video game influences either--the BGM music here is identical to that of Tales games, but that’s not a bad thing as the music is often the best part of the series (aside from the combat).  And the end of the episode featured an adorably hilarious Skit between Sorey, Mikleo, and Alisha done in the typical Tales style.  So while the plot hasn’t hit the ground running just yet there’s plenty to enjoy so far.

The writing might be trash but the direction for this series is excellent.
Taboo Tattoo:  I know, this isn't in the five but I'd already written this up before I came up with the idea, and I just couldn't throw the words away. I can already tell this is going to be the anime that gets under my skin for the season.  I’m going to give it another three episodes to grab me but right now it makes me want to slap everyone responsible for its production.


In the second episode, things open up a bit more as we learn that Seigi’s Tattoo the Void Maker is both “triggerless” and capable of consuming him if he loses control, and he’s forced to join up with Bluesy Fluesy (who I’m calling Izzy from now on) in order to learn to control his abilities, not get his Tattoo “repossessed”, and help her keep the remaining Tattoos out of the hands of the Serinistan kingdom.  


...Which, as we learn later in the episode, is actually a very good idea.  The show introduces us to the Princess of the Kingdom as she’s staging a coup, and feeding her father to her pet monster(!) before sending a pair of homicidal jerks after the triggerless tattoo, which results in the possible death of Izzy’s partner and the possession of Seigi’s friend.  


Now, before I lose my shit...there are some positives to Taboo Tattoo.  The animation is absolutely gorgeous, and at several points in the episode I was blown away by the cinematography.  The way they utilize colors and shadows to create tension and drama is quite a bit above what I usually expect of J.C. Staff as an animation studio, but they’ve really upped their game.


But everything else about this episode just feels like it’s trying so hard to be “adult”.  From the rape-y “sadist” creep that confronts Izzy to the scene in the school where Izzy fondles a girl’s massive tits for several seconds...it all just feels like a teenager’s idea of what being “adult” is like.  And that’s before I get to the fact that I can only tolerate the characters in this series--I don’t actually like any of them.  


Ohhhh, snap!  If the entire show were filled with lines like this, Alderamin would be funniest anime of the season.
Alderamin on the Sky: Just like there are some tropes that drive me up a wall, there are those that--while a little tired and worn, still amuse me.  Alderamin has one of those in that it’s created another “lazy genius” character.  Sorouku Ikuta is a young teenager being forced to take the Military Officers Exam by a childhood friend, Yatrisino (“Yattori”) Igsem.   As the two of them--and other well-known children from high-ranking families--sail to the location of the test, their ship is struck down and they find themselves stranded behind enemy lines...with the princess of their nation.  


Currently I’m not sure what to make of this story just yet.  For obvious reasons there’s something appealing to me about the lazy genius character archetype, but I’m going to need a more meaty story and hopefully much more world-building before this series really grabs me.  I will say the art style is quite pretty and attention-grabbing, and Ikuta actually has the potential to be funny given his obsession with pretty girls and utter dislike of attractive guys (because who likes competition).  


There’s a touch of magic in this show with little elemental familiars that seem to be bonded to each individual character, but the show doesn’t delve too deeply into how that works in the first episode so I’ll have to wait a while to figure all that out.  Right now, this show’s doing okay but it’s going to need to set up more than just an ambiguous “other side” threat and maybe explain the landscape of the world before I say anything more.

Seemingly, spending months on the run for your life causes you to become a bad-ass REALLY quickly.
Arslan Senki: Fuujin Ranbu:  Maybe it’s just because I’ve grown accustomed to the characters and thus have a more invested stake in what’s going on, but season two of The Legend of Arslan has been leaps and bounds better than the first so far.   Granted, it’s only two episodes in but the fact that all the groundwork has been laid and now we can get to the meat of the story has made things substantially better.


This episode leads off with the once-captured king escaping and making his way to Peshawar, the major fortress of his kingdom.   You start off wondering how long it’s going to take for that to pay off, and in the meantime you get this neat little tale of Prince Arslan dealing with basically an army of savages from the plains who’ve rode in with the intention of plundering Peshawar Fortress.    And that story on its own would’ve been enough for me to comment about how impressive Arslan was this episode--how he felt like a proper leader, and how much he’s grown since the first episode of season one where he was literally taken hostage by a boy that was basically the same age as him.   Now he’s flat out telling conquering kings that he’s going to take their empire from them since they don’t know how to rule properly (a total “Ohhh snap!” moment) like a bad-ass.


But then almost out of nowhere the end of the episode drops a bombshell.  The king isn’t going to take the entire season to finally show up at Peshawar--he’s there NOW, and he’s pissed at Arslan for...trying to win the kingdom back and save him, I guess.  And in the most political move we’ve seen from King Jerkface yet, says that to make up for it Arslan should go out and create an army to take back the crown city, and not return until said army is at least 50,000 soldiers strong.   Because spending months in chains he still apparently learned absolutely nothing and his answer to problems is “throw more soldiers at it”.   Of course in reality this is basically exile for Arslan, and he’s starting from Square One all over again.  It’s frustrating and yet totally awesome because it introduces a new kink into the story that you want to see develop.


So yeah...Arslan Season 2 is totally justifying it’s spot as one of the top five anime I’ll be covering this season.  
....No seriously, recommend this show to your friends.
Active Raid: Special Public Security Fifth Division Third Mobile Assault Eighth Unit 2nd: That name is impossibly long and yet perfectly fits all the bureaucratic nonsense these guys so often have to cut through.  If you missed last season, Active Raid S1 was almost definitely my favorite anime of the Winter season--a show that merged the best parts of Super Sentai with Patlabor and You’re Under Arrest?  Yes, please.


Anyhow, season two picks up with Unit 8 being lauded for their events at the end of the first season.  Once held back by bureaucratic red tape, the team has been granted a far wider berth as they’re regarded as heroes in Japan--so much so that the team has expanded to include two new members, and even manage to get back the “retired” Sena by the end of the ep, in which they deal with a bratty girl given a Willwear by a mysterious fellow who intends to use her as a suicide bomber.  Surprisingly topical, even if they do handle the situation with a bit too much levity given the world’s goings-on lately.


The show feels much more comfortable than it did last season--perhaps a sign of writer Naruhisa Arakawa settling into his job on the series?  The jokes are just as funny but the weird pacing of last season’s first episode is gone.   For me though, the best part is just how well this show manages to fit as a Super Sentai replacement.  Characters are quirky without being grating, and funny without being bufoonish.  The tension at the end of the episode between the team’s “Red” and “Blue” members is something that current Sentai with its incessant focus on “friendship” even when it doesn’t necessarily make sense would never dare to do, even though these two are completely aware that they need each other to do their jobs.  It reminds me of when Sentai was capable of writing a series aimed at “everyone” rather than just the targeted age group, and I can only hope it’s more popular in Japan than it is Stateside, because I already want a Season 3.

It's sad that any anime not set in a fantasy world or some version of Japan automatically stands out lately.
91 Days: Found the sleeper hit.  Combining a unique setting (1920’s Prohibition era) with pretty animation, and mafia overtones, there’s little chance 91 Days doesn’t finish with a strong contingent of people proclaiming it as the best show of the season.  It's also one of those shows that goes out of its way not to feel like an anime.  There’s no hint of fanservice so far and a lot of the typical anime tropes so far have yet to rear their ugly head.  And while that does help them stand out, I’m actually not sure it’s the best thing they’re shirking their roots--at least to a point.  


The main character, Bruno Avilio, sees his parents and younger brother all murdered as a result of in-fighting with the mafia family his father was connected with.  After seven years away from the city, he makes a return with the intention (doubtlessly) of wiping out the family that ruined his life by getting in selling bootlegged liquor made by his childhood friend Corteo.  


As someone who’s been watching anime for nearly two decades it’s nice to not have to deal with some of the foolishness that anime can be known for and yet, there’s a small chance this series can get lost in the shuffle due to its lack of dramatic flair.  While I’m by no means clamoring for them to bring in any nine year old girls who “onii-chan” every five sentences or the like, I think they could’ve grabbed more people if they’d gone further with the “gang war” idea they’re clearly setting up, and done a better job delineating between each gang with plot-relevant *and* intricately designed characters on each side.   
Still, I’m along for the ride for now, and hoping things continue to be as dramatically tense as this first episode.

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