Welcome to our regular anime cycle recap. If you’re new to this, then you’ve picked one hell of an anime cycle to join us in!
What is an anime cycle?
Despite the advances of online sites such as Netflix, the vast majority of Japanese animated series are still televised weekly on TV. Traditionally, these series will last around twelve or thirteen episodes before their weekly spot is replaced by another series. Almost all channels start and end their series within a few weeks of each other, meaning that these twelve/thirteen week runs are able to form four cours, or cycles, over the course of a year, named after the four seasons (the current cycle is Spring 2018).
It’s here, the cycle we’ve all been waiting for! Unsurprisingly, it’s been hard for many original anime series to grab our attention, due to the incredible amount of major anime franchises airing right now!
From the return of two of our first ever reviewed anime to the continuation of two of the biggest anime in recent years, this is a cycle with countless heavyweights fighting for your attention. Which heavy-hitters are finding the going tough, and which are establishing themselves as timeless classics? Let’s have a look at the series we’re watching right now, starting with the return of one of our favourite franchises:
Tokyo Ghoul:re (S1*, 6/12x24mins)
Set years after the events of Tokyo Ghoul at a time in which the CCG are beginning to take control of the ghouls who once run riot in the city, the series follows Haise Sasaki (left), a young Ghoul Investigator and leader of the revolutionary Quinx Squad. While Sasaki is half-human, half-ghoul, the other members of the squad have undergone surgery to give themselves the same abilities as ghouls. While young and unrefined, their unique abilities put them at the forefront of the battle against Tokyo’s monsters, while Sasaki battles not only against the enemy but also against the memories in his head of who he once was.
*First of all, for people thinking but unsure about whether to watch this: it turns out that this series is much more like a season three of Tokyo Ghoul than an original spin-off separate from the main story. This caught me out, and part of me wonders whether I would have understood this more if I had completed the Tokyo Ghoul Manga series first. Regardless, while this series does work on its own merit, I would certainly recommend watching the two seasons of Tokyo Ghoul before watching this.
While everybody knows how bad the second season of Tokyo Ghoul was, this was a series that I was confident of before stepping into it and my confidence, so far, hasn’t been displaced. As mentioned above this series has many similarities with the original Tokyo Ghoul series, and considering the franchise currently sits at number nine out of 100 in our Anime Ranking, that is certainly not a bad thing. Tokyo Ghoul had quite a western feel in the way it portrayed YA themes and that continues here in Re, showcasing a darker, more thoughtful version of the action anime.
This series does have some interesting differences from its predecessor, though. So far there’s been much more focus on the collective group, looking into the individual personalities of the members of the Quinx Squad, something that the original series never really did. On the other hand, the original show’s best element was how it portrayed both sides of the war, the ghouls and the humans, something that Re has hinted at but not managed to do yet. Whether this series sits up there with its predecessor will probably rely on how it portrays the wider world in which the Quinx Squad are operating along with Sasaki’s inner battles. However, this is definitely a case of so far, so good.
Food Wars: The Third Plate (S3, 17/24[tbc]x24mins)
The continuation of the third season of Food Wars, as the last remaining rebels struggle to survive at a Totsuki Academy taken over by Nakiri’s father (behind) and his Central regime looking to uniform gourmet dining.
We mentioned after the first half of this series how it felt like the series was beginning to slow. Food Wars is a unique series, but there’s only so far you can take a show about continuous cooking competitions before the over-the-top reactions become repetitive. Thankfully, the second half of this season has taken advantage of the story set up previously to create a more engaging storyline. Unfortunately, there is still more work to do.
If you’re a huge fan of Food Wars, then this run will probably be a huge improvement for you. With a clear storyline to follow, the series feels much more interesting, with a clear focus for Yukihira and a much bigger purpose for the array of support characters, the series’ main strength. However, many of the same problems I had with the first half of this series remain, with the main one being the food battles. At the beginning of Food Wars these were really funny, yet also quite dramatic ‘battles’, but having seen countless iterations of this they are now feeling like predictable events with reactions that are constantly trying to outdo the last – there’s only so many times something can be ‘the best dish ever made’.
Food Wars desperately needs something to spice up its headline events, the food wars. While the show is still on the right track the ride is certainly getting bumpy, and it might need to revolutionise itself before the series as a whole grinds to a standstill.
Dances With the Dragons (S1, 6/12[tbc]x23mins)
Set in a fantasy world where humans and dragons live in opposite, conflicted nations, the story follows two offensive jushikists, magic-wielding mercenaries Gaius and Gigina (right & left) who live on the breadline, taking jobs from whoever will pay them until they find themselves part of a conspiracy to bring the politically unstable world crashing down.
This is a rare original series, and one that has shown enough promise to keep us hanging on. There is plenty in this that is symptomatic of the many unimaginative and unremarkable series that litter each cycle, such as a simple animation style and a tendency to oversexualise its female side-characters and simplify its villains, but behind the cheap-looking glass there are some highlights here. The two main characters are interesting people, smart and wise-cracking mercenaries in a world that shows heaps of potential. The combat in this series is interesting, also, but the key to this series, whether we enjoy completing it or don’t finish it at all, will be in its politics. It feels as if there’s a really interesting plot developing somewhere below what we see, and whether the series is clever enough to take advantage of the long game or keeps on its current ‘one step at a time’ path will likely decide the fate of this series.
Steins;Gate 0 (S1*, 5/23x23mins)
A story running parallel to the original Steins;Gate, the story takes place in a world line in which Okabe (centre-right) fails to save Kurisu (centre-left). Traumatised by the experience, Okabe leaves his science adventures behind despite the protests of the time-travelling Suzuha (left-middle), becoming a normal high-school student in an attempt to forget about his past. However, Okabe ends up meeting Hiyajou Maho (second left), Kurisu’s former university teacher, who introduces him to the Amadeus System. Developed by herself and the American scientist Alexis Leskinen, the machine builds on Kurisu’s work to turn memories into data. The two of them have created an artificial Kurisu computer programme, and upon discovering that Okabe once knew her, they take him on as a participant in their experiments with the machine. However, Okabe, finding himself face-to-face with a lifelike Kurisu begins to remember all the trauma he once went through for her, even though she doesn’t know who he is.
*Similar to Tokyo Ghoul above, this is another series that is returning after a long time away with an ‘original’ story that is somewhat rooted in its predecessor. While we were lucky in that we rewatched Steins;Gate before Zero arrived, it is our belief that there is less of a need to have watched the original here than there is with Tokyo Ghoul. Steins;Gate 0 is a much more original story that TGre, and it does help you out with the important plot points with flashbacks, so if you are concerned about starting this before watching this without watching the original, you should be fine! If you want a seamless experience, I would recommend watching the final 4/5 episodes of the original series, as this starts after the original’s closing events.
Steins;Gate was one of the most thoughtful sci-fi series out there, with a complex web of time-travel that helped create a really deep story that delivered anime tropes and meaningful dialogue in great harmony. The most interesting thing to note about Zero’s story is that the time-travel that the first series was built upon is all but gone. The sci-fi element of the original series is still there, but with Okabe no longer playing the scientist he once did, Zero is a story that is much more psychological than sci-fi.
Amadeus is a genius idea, and asks a fantastic amount of questions of everyone in this story. Kurisu is back in Okabe’s life, but in such a way that her death, and his decision, is compounded even further. This little computer programme looks like it could be enough to pull this series through a twelve episode series, however for a two-cycle run as this is supposedly marked for, there will need to be more stories running under this. Thankfully, Maho looks like an excellent addition to the Steins;Gate cast, while Suzuha’s identity being unknown and the recent appearance of her long-lost time-travelling partner mean that there is plenty of story fodder already available.
For this version of the story to compare to its esteemed predecessor it will have to build strongly upon all these facets, while probably delivering a more natural drama-comedy balance than it has up to now. However, Zero has certainly shown enough qualities so far to not only stand next to its original but potentially eclipse it as a fantastic psychological drama!
My Hero Academia (S3, 6/25x23mins)
The third season of My Hero Academia, following Izuku (right, green) and the other students of UA High School as they learn to become superheroes. However, with the increasing threat of the League of Villains (left), the students may have to learn on the job.
I have been really impressed by this latest season. While series such as Food Wars are struggling to keep original (and remember that Black Clover that was supposed to challenge this series?) My Hero Academia seems to have an ability to produce simple but engaging storylines that make good use of a multitude of characters. For what it’s worth My Hero Academia shows no sign of pushing its boundaries, and by the end of this season we will hopefully have some pretty substantial character development, but for now fans of My Hero Academia will be very pleased with a series that keeps up with the fantastic content we’ve been given so far!
Persona 5 (S1, 6/24[tbc]x24mins)
The story follows Ren (left), a high-schooler on probation sent to live with a stranger in Tokyo. Ren suddenly begins having weird dreams where he is told by a man named Igor about his rehabilitation, and the need for him to complete it in order to avoid upcoming ruin. Warned about his future conduct and made an immediate outcast at his new school, Ren finds a friend in Ryuji, a student made into an outcast himself by the school’s hard-lined gym teacher. The two of them stumble into the world of the Metaverse, a supernatural realm containing the twisted desires of human beings. When a humanlike cat named Morgana (right) explains the ability for them in the Metaverse to unleash their Personas – personifications of their own desires – and rid the world of the twisted desires that are causing them grief, Ren and his friends are sent on a journey through the murky world of adulthood, but as their group grows and their missions leave a noticeable mark on society, the group begin to attract the wrong kind of attention.
This is a bit of a strange one, because we have actually played, and loved, the Persona 5 videogame from 2017. Much like a good book, this adaptation will leave a lot of people who played the game disappointed, as it is an attempt at copying the videogame’s story to the letter. The problem is that the runtime for the videogame was around 100 hours, whereas a 24-episode series as this is supposed to be will run for less than 10 hours. To try to condense a videogame into less than ten percent of itself is physically and creatively impossible, so it’s no surprise that those people who played the videogame and were hoping for a similar sensation from this anime will be, and are, disappointed.
That being said, I think there’s plenty of good stuff being done here for people who are completely new to Persona 5. While the fight scenes are in desperate need of direction and creativity, there is a decent enough story here, while the acclaimed art style of the videogame original is somewhat captured in the anime, creating a series that looks really stylish! Knowing how the story plays out, I would suggest hanging onto this series if you can, because as more characters are added the show’s cool sense will hopefully balance really nicely with the moral-based story, even if the action leaves a lot to be desired right now.
Caligula (S1, 6/13[tbc]x23mins)
Based on the videogame of the same name, the series follows Ritsu Shikishima (front-left), a high-school student living a simple, pleasant life until he hears a subliminal plea for help in the latest hit single by idol μ (Mu). When he asks everyone around him if they heard it, they turn a cold shoulder to him. A school ceremony breaks down into chaos when the song suddenly turns the students around him into monsters bent on capturing him. When Satake (front-right) saves him from the attack he finds himself awakened to the reality around him. Trapped in a digital world determined to keep him blissfully unaware, he joins a makeshift group of students who have broken the spell, on a mission to save everyone from the spell of Mu and the Musicians.
This is a very interesting series with plenty of potential but not much substance so far. With a potentially complex and moral-strewn idea behind it, this series should deliver some great moments when it reaches its conclusion. Up to now, though, it has let itself down with overly simple stories about acceptance and friendship, while creating a cast of characters that is certainly quantity over quality. That being said, Caligula does have a recognisable and distinctive colour palette, creating some nice neon-laced visuals. Caligula’s so far ill-fated attempts at being philosophical are keeping me hanging on, here – much like Dancing with the Dragons above, if this series can tidy-up its story somewhat this should be a show with an excellent conclusion, given the ideas that its world is built upon.
As expected this has been a cycle where, so far, the new series have struggled to make an impact.
In reality, the likelihood is that either Dancing with the Dragons or Caligula won’t make the finish line. I should add that we have recently watched the opening episodes to another new series from this cycle in Comic Girls that looks promising, but at the same time we have omitted from this review the titan that is Darling in the FRANXX to save space – quick note, it’s still looking just as strong as it did last cycle.
It was always going to be an uphill task for the newbies, but regardless, here is our ranking as this cycle reaches the halfway stage:
7. Caligula – Promise but genuine problems with execution.
6. Persona 5 – Streamlined copy of broad material, but with a unique flavour.
5. Dances With the Dragons – Solid fantasy, but could do much better.
4. Food Wars: The Third Plate – Established franchise beginning to tire.
3. Steins;Gate 0 – Re working a classic, and standing toe-to-toe with it.
2. My Hero Academia 3 – Still delivering excellent action and characters.
1. Tokyo Ghoul:re – The uniquely dark feel of its predecessor is refreshed expertly!
What are you favourite series right now? Is it a case of too many big names stopping the new titles getting through, or do these current original shows simply lack the creativity to compare to the big names?
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