Welcome to a jam-packed episode 41!
As mentioned previously, the reviews are beginning to flow in now thanks to the changing of the anime cycles. The excellent Summer cycle is turning into Fall, where two major series – the return of Food Wars and the beginning of the hugely anticipated Black Clover – look to be flying the flag up to Christmas. It will be interesting, though, to see what unlikely successes we are talking about when our Half-Term Report comes about!
More on Fall ’17 later, though, because right now we have some excellent shows to share with you. Later we review two of Summer’s biggest hits, but first, a gothic adventure to get your teeth into…
Blood Lad (2013, S1, 10x23mins)
“I like to use people, but I can’t stand people using me.”
Set in a fantasy demon world, the story follows Staz Blood (front), a young yet very powerful vampire who rules the eastern territory of their world. Despite his dark reputation, Staz himself is very laid back, more interested in his collection of human-world merchandise than evil deeds. So when an innocent human girl (middle-left) accidentally stumbles into the demon world, Staz is overjoyed. Immediately taking her under his care, the girl awakens vampire instincts that had been long dormant inside him. However, mere moments after sheltering her, his territory comes under attack and the girl is killed in the chaos, turning into a ghost. Staz, having lost that feeling he had for her, pledges to bring her back to life, setting out on an adventure to discover the secrets of human resurrection.
Basically Plot: A teen vampire living in the demon world finally finds a human girl in his domain, only for her to be killed moments later. Desperate for that instinctive feeling again, he sets out on a quest to bring the ghost back to life.
Blood Lad was an enjoyable series to watch. First of all, I really enjoyed the gothic side of the series – many of the series that have massively saturated the ‘action comedy fantasy’ genre are bright series with morally strong characters, following a plot that, at its core, has a positive message. However, while you would never call Blood Lad a dark series, it has ditched the stereotypical ‘kids done good’ storyline, replacing the traditional hero lead with the morally unsure Staz, a more realistic teen struggling to understand his feelings. The world does a good job of this also – from an early stage you quickly discover the back-stabbing nature of the demon world, the lead character tricking and being tricked in equal measure throughout.
However, past the slight tweaking of ideals you will find many classic – maybe even cliché – traits in this series. Despite only being ten episodes long, Blood Lad does a good job of fitting plenty of story into its small time-frame, expanding on the world as their search develops, the original idea becoming just one part of a wider story. A lot of anime that don’t even reach the 12-episode mark leave you feeling dissatisfied at the end, but Blood Lad probably does better than most with its conclusion by taking a completely new route. Instead of trying to hurriedly wrap everything up at the end, the series actually leaves almost every question unanswered, ending on a cliff-hanger that almost certainly leads to a second season the producers assumed they were going to get but never did! Yet you don’t feel let down by this ending, partly because you are able to piece together what you imagine would happen in the future – and there’s a manga which I’m sure would tie up said loose ends – and partly because there’s no sudden change in pace that usually accompanies a series’ finish.
Overall, while not necessarily a series that is going to blow you away, Blood Lad does a good job with its own take on the classic Japanese fantasy adventure, finding a mark that is still just about PG – some over-sexualisation of female characters, another fantasy genre trait, nearly bringing the series tumbling over that line – while also offering enough edge to keep it from feeling like yet another action comedy. With a well-developed story and relatively short run-time, this is certainly a series I would recommend.
ANIME RANKING: #51 – While it has offered something different to the action-adventure genre, unfortunately many better versions of this story have come before it. Still, this decent score puts it in good company, sitting alongside series such as Nanbaka and No Game No Life.
If you liked this you’ll love: Mob Psycho 100 – While the story varies slightly in terms of direction – Mob Psycho lacking the clear objective that drives BL – these two fantasy series share a similar style of action, blended well with simple comedy. Two quiet but powerful stars lead excitable casts through these stories, and with Mob Psycho offering a slightly harder-hitting tale than the more PG Blood Lad, we think it’s an excellent follow-up for fans of this series!
Aho-Girl (2017, S1, 12x12mins)
“I’m so sorry that she’s such an idiot.”
Follows the adventures of Yoshiko (top), a seriously dumb high-school student who constantly gets zeros on her tests and has a weird obsession with bananas. She is a hopeless person, and it has been left to her neighbour, the smart and upstanding Akutsu (bottom), to be responsible for her, no matter how much he hates her.
Basically Plot: Follows the misadventures of Yoshiko, a painfully dumb high-school girl, and the people forced to take responsibility for her.
I was a huge fan of this series. There’s been quite a few half-length episode mini-series in recent times, and Aho-Girl has to be one of the best examples of this. First of all, while I can imagine that the comedy style wasn’t for everyone, I thought the comedy in this show was really good throughout. What will make this show something of a ‘love it or loathe it’ thing is that it is not in the slightest bit modest. A show that spends at least eight of the twelve minutes shouting, punching or showing its panties, Aho-Girl is probably the most slapstick show I’ve ever seen in anime. However, fantastic timing and one-liners throughout keep the laughs running and also keep the show’s head above the ocean of mediocrity that was always threatening it.
However, what separates this from most of the other mini-series I’ve seen – Tonari no Seki-kun being a recent example – is a sense of story and character. It’s only slight, and takes no time away from the jokes, but by including an almost chronological story and a strong enough collection of characters has allowed Aho-Girl to almost feel like a fully fledged series! Add to that an equally vibrant and colourful animation style and you have one of the most original and lively comedies we’ve seen in a long time.
ANIME RANKING: #57 – Despite its small run-time and simple story, this fantastic slapstick comedy has found itself in quite esteemed company, sitting ahead of Kiznaiver and just behind ‘Is it Wrong…?’!
If you liked this you’ll love: Tanaka-kun is Always Listless – We’ve made no secret of our love for this series here. While it’s hard for any series to match the volume and excitement of Aho’s slapstick comedy, Tanaka-kun follows a similar pattern, swapping out the excess falling over and panty shots for a more mellow style of one-liner, following the adventures of the sleeping Tanaka. There is also slightly more story to Tanaka-kun, along with a beautiful animation style that we’re sure you’re going to love!
My Hero Academia (2016-17, S1&2, 38x23mins)
“All men are not created equal. This was the reality I learned about society at the young age of four. That was my first and last setback.”
MHA takes place in a parallel world in which people with superpowers – known as ‘quirks’ – have become the norm, with 80% of the world having some sort of ability. The story follows Izuku Midoriya (front-right), a young schoolboy with dreams of becoming a hero when he goes up. However, unlike the majority of people Midoriya was born quirkless, and as a result is bullied in his class for having no powers and ridiculed for even applying for the acclaimed U.A High School, an elite academy for potential heroes.
Basically Plot: In a world where everyone has superpowers, being a professional hero is many kid’s ambition. The story follows Izuku, a kid who, despite being born ‘quirkless’ is determined to be the greatest hero of all time.
I am a little disappointed I haven’t fully reviewed this earlier, because My Hero Academia has quickly become a behemoth in the anime world. In reality, I could fill two whole APRs with My Hero Academia, but in sticking with the format I have the unenviable task of reviewing two fantastic series in one small, easily digested segment!
I was late to season one – I think I’ve mentioned already that I started S1 as S2 begun to air – but from the very beginning MHA had the feel of a ready-made classic. The plot can be described in a few words, but develops in the classic Japanese manga style into a far-reaching story that develops a wide and exciting world full of potential while still retaining that steel spine through the middle – the beautifully simple idea of a kid with no natural ability but heaps of passion working hard for his dreams.
As you can imagine, there are some pieces to this classically Japanese tale that feel slightly unoriginal. The plotline, while not necessarily predictable, follows a similar sort of path as other series of this ilk, particularly in the second season. Also, the action sequences themselves are not always very imaginative. However, any slightly cliché feelings running throughout are diluted to the point that you barely notice them by an extremely creative and detailed cast.
There is a wealth of action series out there with a cast of fighters that have hugely varying moves, and My Hero Academia will surely rank up there with the best in the business. Unlike most power-based series, in MHA superpowers are the norm, meaning that not everybody’s ability is specifically designed for combat, leaving a door open to more comical abilities. For every All Might, who’s basically Superman, there’s a Denki Kaminari, who can electrocute everything around him, but the shock turns him dumb, making him useless. For every Aizawa – a teacher whose face is covered in tape, who can negate any ability by staring at the individual – there’s an Asui (bottom-left in title picture), a girl who has the characteristics of a frog. The school kids are all just that, also, and it’s this depth of character mixed with comedic variety that is the real success of this show, and turns what should have felt like a cliché and uncreative second season – consisting of a battling tournament, internships culminating in a boss fight and more school battles – into one of the most exciting anime series I’ve seen this year!
Overall, My Hero Academia, with it’s simple but beautiful premise, is guaranteed to become one of the most recognisable anime around. While the series is so clearly adapted from a weekly manga, suffering slightly from ad-lib plot creation with a linear storyline, MHA’s incredibly vibrant cast and exciting action setups have helped create what has to be one of the best anime of 2017. Questions will be asked about its ability to create more deep and compelling story than it has in season two, but with season three already announced I would hugely recommend getting into this now, before it inevitably explodes further! In the same way that people now talk fondly of classics like Cowboy Bebop or Neon Genesis Evangelion, I’m convinced that in 10/15 years My Hero Academia will be fondly remembered alongside other select generational successes such as Attack on Titan and Code Geass.
ANIME RANKING: #11 – A huge result for a mega series, making it the highest ranked power-anime and smashing its way into the elite Top 20, ahead of huge names such as Akame ga Kill, Cowboy Bebop and Yuri on Ice!
If you liked this you’ll love: RWBY – The hugely popular web-series differs slightly in tone but follows a very similar story of kids learning how to become heroes, frequently on the job. Natural-born powers are swapped for beautifully manufactured weapons, and while RWBY lacks the same level of comedy and deep character of the excellent MY Hero Academia, this thoroughly enjoyable series contains some of the most fluid, beautifully choreographed fighting sequences thanks to its machinima style, and is sure to strike similar chords for My Hero Academia fans!
The art of the power-fighting anime. In such a saturated market, MHA’s quirks have set it apart.
Just to be clear, I am defining this self-made class of show as a series that predominantly revolve around individual fights involving people with superhuman qualities. Mecha shows like Code Geass and similarly story-led series including fight sequences are not counted in this. There’s some terrible examples of this sub-genre – 2016’s Asterisk War and Hundred series are two stereotypical efforts that jump to mind – but excellent examples of this are as varied as they are spectacular. From mythical clashes like the Fate series, to modern fantasies such as RWBY, there is barely a yard of space left in a genre that has been done excellently on numerous occasions. Yet, My Hero Academia’s latest reinvention of the superpower shows that if you are creative enough, and love your project enough, then you can still bring something new to this vast table.
Make sure you follow The Culture Cove to see the best anime reviews before anybody else! Look out for episode 42, where we review another of Summer 17’s successes, the second season of New Game!