It’s the New Year, which means it’s time for some new anime. Here is what I am watching this season:
Onimai: I’m Now Your Sister!
This was my most hyped anime of the season! People who know my creative output will probably say it’s just on-brand for me to like the little sister show, but for me the genre was secondary to the fact that the Mushoku Tensei team is working on this. Shingo Fujii’s been on my radar ever since I saw his Precure action animation years ago, so of course I was going to tune in for his series directorial debut.
And the production did not disappoint! Call it cursed, but I was really impressed at how this anime managed to convey the protagonist’s morbid and erotic fascination with their new body without ever resorting to the obvious fanservice shots. The character animation adds a lot of nuance to the visual storytelling; the first episode makes liberal use of long distance shots, a challenge for 2D animation because the characters’ features and movements almost inevitably lose detail. Here, though, you can see every subtle movement from a long distance, which lends a sort of voyeuristic feel to the direction. That’s probably why the content might seem so off-putting despite not actually showing much nudity, but since I’m desensitised to that side of anime culture, I’m just left admiring the technical ability involved in creating this.
On the narrative front, I think it’s neat how the action starts after the genderbending has occurred instead of establishing the main character’s personality and attitude to their gender first. This opens up the story to a wider range of possible interpretations, including a transgender reading where the implication is that the protagonist identified with the female gender all along but only realises this because the opportunity fell into their lap. I am actually not that much of a fan of genderbending stories in general because they make it really obvious how the genderbender character is supposed to feel about their situation, but the ambiguity here makes the story more interesting. Also, isn’t becoming the little sister such a neat twist on a played-out character trope?
I am watching this show with my spouse, who complained vociferously about this anime from the opening minutes. He is a fan of the game who came into the anime hoping it would change the story “just to screw with us”, so you can probably predict every single one of his reactions. I have not played the game myself, so my expectations were less specific. The main thing that stood out to me was how ambitious the visual setpieces tried to be, but how janky they were in practice. From the 3D elements to 2B’s swift and elegant fighting style, it always felt like the anime was shooting for a Triple-A, cinematic anime, but lacked the capacity to actually make its visuals look coherent together.
It’s still better than most of the seasonal competition, I will say. But I can’t help but get the impression that this production is setting itself up to fail by trying to faithfully replicate both the story and design sense of a 3D action game. This is a talented animation team working entirely against their strengths.
As a first episode in its own right, it was OK. The emotional moment between 2B and 9S does not feel earned in the context of a script where the characters only exchanged about three lines to each other before the climax, but the ending where only one character remembers what happened does present a lot of possibilities for where the story could go. I am going to keep watching in case it does deviate from a straight adaptation in the later episodes. Even as a non-player, I already know the ending, so I agree with pretty much everyone who says it would be underwhelming if the anime steers the same course.
I barely remember what happened in Trigun when I watched it as a kid, so this new series felt fresh to me. It frontloads the original story’s sci-fi twists in a way that will make returning fans think “They’ve got other cards up their sleeves”, although my memory is so terrible that I would absolutely still have been surprised by the original story beats anyway. So maybe I am not exactly the right person to appreciate what this reboot is doing. But this was still a very fun episode in its own right! The fight at the end was the coolest thing ever!
I was particularly impressed by the character expression work in this anime. With Land of the Lustrous, the animators at Orange literally drew over the faces in 2D to make them as expressive as they were, while Beastars used facial capture. Trigun Stampede feels like something in the middle, capturing the best of both approaches. It’s got a load of cartoonish flourishes, especially for Meryl and Vash, but there’s also an equal emphasis on subtle character movements. Because of this, the anime looks good even when it’s not playing to the conventional strengths of 3D-animated action.
I also want to commend Yoshitsugu Matsuoka’s voice performance here. He puts on a different kind of performance than usual here. Even though he’s notable for hamming things up for comedic effect, his Vash is subdued—endearingly pathetic rather than outright goofy. I almost didn’t recognise him, but it works well within the context of a modern anime, divorced from the comedic sensibilities of the 90s. Vash is really cute in this anime.
In/Spectre Season 2
I wrote a review for the first episode for ANN’s season preview guide (it’s the first one on the page), so I won’t bother repeating myself here. Long story short, I gave it 3.5/5 stars.
I am also trying to catch up with Vinland Saga so I can join the cool kids and watch season 2! Watch this space!
Will Check Out the Source Material
In general, I’m more inclined to check out the source material for things if the story seems interesting but the anime adaptation doesn’t appear to add much new to the experience. Here are some new (i.e. non-sequel or continuing) titles which attracted positive buzz this season. I am interested in checking these out when I get the spare time:
- Ayakashi Triangle: Boo! I can’t watch a censored titty show! I like Kentaro Yabuki’s manga, although a part of me wishes he goes back to pure action manga like Black Cat one day. His ecchi work doesn’t really push the envelope anymore in the web manga era.
- The Magical Revolution of the Reincarnated Princess and the Genius Young Lady (MagiRevo or TenTen for short): This seemed to get the most positive responses when I asked Twitter about their favourite light novel anime of the season.
- The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten: The anime visuals look dull as hell, sorry. But the light novels are very popular, so I may give them a shot.
- Spy Classroom: I really enjoyed the first volume of this series when I read it last year, so I plan to continue it.
I have already read both volumes of Endo and Kobayashi Live! The Latest on Tsundere Villainess Lieselotte and give that series my stamp of approval. Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World for My Retirement, on the other hand, was a middling book. Not recommended.
Okay, that’s all for now. Let me know your thoughts on this season’s anime and if there are any cool shows not mentioned here!