Anime Winter 2019 First Episode Impressions

Happy 2019! Another year, another winter anime season. And with it comes my reviews and recommendations for which ones you should check out with your precious time. Note that all anime from this list are based off of mostly the first episode of the series thus far, as opposed to the standard 3 episode rule – I just don’t have the time to watch 3 episodes of each season. I generally recommend you either watch it, consider it, or skip it for now as opposed to giving straight number or letter grades. As always this is based on my taste and yours may vary. I do my best to avoid spoilers where possible, so apologies if this is way too vague.

Promised Neverland (Yakusoku no Neverland) – Crunchyroll – WATCH IT

This is probably my early pick for anime of the season. It has the pedigree of being one of the current forefront Weekly Shonen Jump anime and the production value put into it shows. It’s the kind of series where the more you know about it going in the more you risk not getting the maximium payoff from the reveals in the first episode, so just go watch it (after reading the rest of this post). If you must know more, it is a thriller / mystery anime set in an orphanage, with plot elements and pseudo-battles along the lines of Death Note.

Dororo – Amazon Prime – WATCH IT

Based off of a Osamu Tezuka (best known for Astroboy) manga set in historical Japan, and directed by the director of the Ruroni Kenshin / Samurai X anime, Dororo combines supernatural elements with tight swordfighting choreography for a gritty and compelling plot. Not a lot of shows will make me go out of my way from my VRV subscriptions to follow, but Dororo is worth it.

Roommate is a Cat (Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue) – Crunchyroll – WATCH IT

My pick for sleeper feel-good anime that not enough people will watch. It reminds me of the wholesome slice of life feels that Barakamon gave me, with the same dynamic of an older grumpy creative type who finds inspiration and companionship in a younger more energetic being. In this case an adopted cat. If you love animals you definitely should be watching it, but even if you’re not particularly attached to them, this is a great one to throw on after a rough day and you just need a metaphorical blanket of fuzzies to cuddle with.

Rising of the Shield Hero (Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari) – Crunchyroll – WATCH IT

It starts off with a double length opening episode, but between the high production values and world building, it was definitely worth working through. I am a bit of a sucker for Isekai anime, but specifically I like the ones that do something a bit different with their mechanics and character development. While so far a seemingly straightforward mechanical Isekai, it does play with the protagonist being more an antihero than the typical wish fulfillment trope of the genre. Note that the inciting incident is a false-rape accusation, which is bound to lead to some discussion online, but moving past I’m interested to see exactly how the protagonist grows after that and if his characterization will continue to develop or if it will be one dimensional.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War (Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai: Tensai-tachi no Renai Zunousen) – Crunchyroll – WATCH IT

One of the most hyped romance manga has its adaptation. If you like your overthinking 4 dimensional strike / counterstrike tactical . It can be a bit intense at times for what would otherwise be a cute romance, so it’s not for everyone, but the production values alone and storyboarding make it a visual treat with unique framing I don’t remember seeing before. We’ll see if the 2-3 “conflicts” per episode format sticks or if they allow for longer conflicts that last the full episode.

Quintessential Quintuplets ( 5-Toubun no Hanayome) – Crunchyroll – WATCH IT

Another hyped romance anime, this time of the harem variety. I’ll admit I’m not always a fan of harem anime, but this one stands out a bit, mostly due to dealing with a lot of issues I have with the genre. It’s not super fanservicey, all the competitive girls are in play from the start (instead of being introduced overtime), and the main character doesn’t seem to be an idiot or super oblivious (though it’s obviously too early to be sure). It’s a fine line to walk, but depending on how the harem interactions and characterization of each girl progresses, it could go super well and be elevated among some of the greats of the genre. Also Ichika best girl.

Boogiepop Never Laughs (Boogiepop wa Warawanai) – Crunchyroll – BINGE IT

So Boogiepop is a bit different from my standard WATCH IT / CONSIDER IT / SKIP IT scale in that while I can recognize that it has great production value and a clearly well developed pedigree (it basically kicked off the light novel genre in Japan), the nature of the storytelling leaves it best suited to be watched in a marathon, a la Stein’s Gate or Durarara / Baccano. I’ll definitely be coming back to this once it’s finished airing, though if you like week to week speculation and discussion with the rest of the community, give it a shot.

Kakegurui xx – Netflix – SEQUEL

I really enjoyed the first season of Kakegurui, so I’m excited to see the second season. Since the first season I’ve started watching my anime through strictly legal means, so I’ll have to wait till it’s released in Netflix for that before making a full assessment. But by virtue of enjoying the first season, I’m in on this.

Magical Spec-Ops Girl Asuka (Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka) – Crunchyroll – CONSIDER IT

At first glance the premise sounds like a rip off of Madoka Magica, mixed a bit with Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought Here. Granted, I’ve never seen the former so I can’t really comment on that comparison. That said, it has the potential for decent action, interesting character designs and mixed with some…  sigh… “deconstruction” of the genre. If you overlap for a love of gritty magical girl anime and military action this is probably something you’ll be into.

Endro! – Crunchyroll – CONSIDER IT

Cute girls doing cute things set in a classic JRPG setting with the twist that the demon they eventually defeat going back in time to try prevent them from becoming heroes in the first place. If you’re into fluffy slice of life hero work (not unlike Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero… except without any angst or suffering) then this might be for you.

Price of Smile (Egao no Daika) – Crunchyroll – CONSIDER IT

So I’m basing this rating off of the first episode only and honestly I wouldn’t pass it off that alone. The young monarch who has a childhood friend growing up who is her knight trope is a bit overdone, and the mecha action presented honestly wasn’t that spectacular, at least compared to what we’ve gotten in recent years. That said, based on what I’ve heard about the second episode it’s actually going to get real dark real fast which has some potential if you’re into geopolitical intrigue and strategy.

Grimms Note the Animation – Crunchyroll – CONSIDER IT

This one survives only on premise alone – retelling classic fairy tales in a twisted manner, while also (potentially) tackling themes of fate and self determination. That said, given that it was meant to market a mobile game that recently shut down, I don’t have high hopes that the production quality is going to get better. The characterization and combat mechanics of the main characters could also get stale overtime given they seem to be locked into whoever they are now, without presenting any opportunity for power scaling or growth that might be necessary for such series. If it turns pretty formulaic then it’s probably liable to be dropped eventually.

Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan – Crunchyroll – Short – CONSIDER IT

So I’m always a fan of when anime have different episodes directors that allow for them to express their unique style. Given that the premise of this show is to have different directors and voice actresses give their take on Ekoda-chan in 3 minute shorts each week (and then spend 20+ minutes talking about behind the scenes process) this is a pretty low investment take to see how different directors approach the craft of making anime, even if you don’t watch the full interviews. From an intellectual exercise, that alone makes it compelling.

The Magnificent Kotobuki (Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai) – HIDIVE – CONSIDER SKIP IT

Directed by Girls und Panzer’s (which I never finished) Mizushima, this one has a similar premise: cute girls doing cute things in warfare, only this time in planes.  Here the CG characters aren’t necessarily done poorly, and it’s actually executed upon pretty well. I’d also imagine that if you were a plane / aircraft otaku, the combat sequences would be to your liking. That said, it’s not my particular brand of action, so I’ll be skipping.

Kemurikusa – Amazon Prime – CONSIDER BINGE IT

So the big hype for this series is that this is by director Tatsuki of Kemono Friends fame. That said I never watched Kemono friends and while I’m not necessarily against CGI characters in anime, there is something to be said for style preferences. The post-apocalyptic atmosphere seems all well and good, but I’ve found that in my limited time if the plot and nature of the world described isn’t as easily discerned this is something I probably want to come back to later.

How Clumsy are you Ueno-san (Ueno-san wa Bukiyou) – Crunchyroll – Short – SKIP IT

Normally I’m a big fan of comedy shorts since they are lower investment and worth a good laugh (especially watching on the subway). That said, comedy is hit or miss and this one just missed me. While I can get behind cute flirtations between classmates (Tonari no Seki-kun comes to mind), it’s all in the timing and delivery and reactions. Having a build up to the reaction or payoff is crucial and this one just has too much noise for the payoff to be effective. That and the flirtations are much less wholesome which given the age may turn some people off.

Domestic Girlfriend (Domestic na Kanojo) – HIDIVE – SKIP IT

I’ll give this show props for having a more mature take to sex than most other drama and romances in anime would have. That said, everything else about the situation is just way too contrived and overdramatic – it’s basically on the level of wish-fulfillment telenovelas or korean dramas. If that’s what you’re into more power to you and I guess that this may be the show for you but that’s definitely not what I’m about

Girly Air Force – Crunchyroll – SKIP IT

The other girls in airplanes anime, though a bit more farfetched in premise (at least as far as these things go). I do find it interesting that the main characters are Chiense versus Japanese, but the inevitable harem-nature of the show mixed with subpar / unexciting aerial dogfighting leads to me skipping it for this season.

Pastel Memories – HIDIVE – SKIP IT

More cute girls doing cute things at too slow a pace for me to even bother finishing the episode.

Dimension High School – HIDIVE – SKIP IT

The potential for a mixed media series that goes between the live action and anime realms was interesting. However, the execution left something to be desired in the animation quality (again, nothing against CG, so long as it’s done well) and the premise was a bit too hard to follow.

Also here are the leftover series I’m watching from last season

SAO: Alicization

That Time I got Reincarnated as a Slime (Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken)

 

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