Welcome to Episode 49 – over two months after 48!
A quick note: I know we said Gurren Lagann was coming next. At the time we weren’t near completing anything, but we were halfway through Gurren. Well, one loaded cycle later and that series has fallen behind the pack. Don’t worry, we will definitely review it eventually, but for now we have so many great series to share with you!
Later on we have a look at one of the biggest series this year, and also delve into some serious cases of ‘anime fatigue’, but first we go back to one of the simpler comedies from the beginning of 2018…
Dagashi Kashi 2 (S2, 2018, 12x12mins)
Continues on from the first season of Dagashi Kashi, following the adventures of young Kokonotsu, the only son of a rural Dagashi store owner, as the hip and eccentric Hotaru (left) tries to convince him to keep working in the family business and not leave to pursue his dream of becoming a manga artist.
Basically Plot: Follows the son of a rural candy store owner and his friends, particularly an enigmatic female hipster who loves nothing more than his store.
As we mentioned before in our Half-Term Report back in February, this is a unique situation for us in that we are reviewing the second season having never seen the first! Thankfully, this simple, enjoyable comedy is easy to pick up and even easier to enjoy.
The fact that we didn’t notice until a few episodes in that we were actually watching the second season goes a long way to describing the nature of this anime. The story is very minute, and while it isn’t completely pointless it is very much a side note. The characters and their relationships are even more important than usual in shows like this, and while as a whole the character set in Dagashi Kashi feels relatively plain, it is brought to life by a comedic animation style reminiscent of the British Beano comics and a heroine in Hotaru who is charmingly enigmatic.
The comedy is okay, but not amazing when compared to similar shows, and that goes for pretty much everything in this series. While the animation style is eye-grabbing, in the end this is a relatively simple and unremarkable comedy short series that is turned into something worth watching by a character in Hotaru who is incredibly unique and engaging.
ANIME RANKING: #89 – Certainly not helped by the fact we’re placing this series a long time after watching it, the series nice animation and excellent heroine fail to paper over the cracks in storyline. Harsh on paper, but in reality it deserves to sit alongside series such as Re-Life and Masamune-kun’s Revenge.
If you liked this you’ll love: Wagnaria!! (#39) – I feel like we recommend this almost every other episode, but that’s just because when it comes to the classic slice-of-life comedy with a hint of romance, this IS the classic. A fantastic cast play through a series that can be both hilariously slapstick and intriguingly engaging, with relationship dynamics that many other light comedies could only dream of achieving!
Tokyo Ghoul:Re (S1*, 2018, 12x24mins)
Set two years after the conclusion of Tokyo Ghoul, and at a time when the CCG are gaining a hold of the once uncontrollable Ghoul population, the series follows Sasaki Haise (left), the young leader of a new group of CCG officers known as the Quinx Squad. Sasaki’s squad are an innovate idea by the CGG to help them finally quash the Ghoul community, by surgically implementing the Kagune powers of Ghouls directly into officers. Despite the group’s inexperience their unique capabilities put them at the forefront of the complex war between human and Ghoul kind, while behind the scenes Sasaki struggles to contain the voices in his head from his forgotten past.
Basically Plot: In a world featuring human ghouls, the series follows the young and innovative Quinx Squad, inexperienced officers surgically given the power of Ghouls in the hope of wiping their kind out once and for all. However, their commendable leader’s forgotten past may not be as clear as he hoped.
This was the series that promised so much. Not only was it heavily anticipated, it’s opening half of this series left us salivating at the thought of a series as good and complex as its original. Re has certainly captured some of the dark magic that made the original series so interesting, but this is also a series guilty of trying too hard to catch up to its lofty ancestor.
*I went into this at the beginning expecting a spin-off to the original Tokyo Ghoul. However, as many people have discovered, there is a big argument to say that this is more of a third season of Tokyo Ghoul. I still believe that there’s enough of its own story to be classed as a spin-off, however it’s true that how much you know about the original story – particularly the more complete manga – will impact how much you enjoy this. More on that later…
The first Tokyo Ghoul was a fantastic series. Still in our top 10 anime of all time despite being one of the first anime we ever watched, it is a series that delivers a unique brand of dark action against the young-adult backdrop of what is pretty much a hugely complex race war set in the dynamic capital city. What made the first series so interesting was the main character, who through misfortune was pulled from one side of the divide to the other, then through his own judgement moved from the good side to the bad (like Star Wars, in a way). As you soon discover in RE, it turns out that you are still following the main character, and he has now suddenly been pulled to the other extreme – the Ghoul-hunting soldiers.
The execution of this alternation is something of a double-edged sword for this series. In one sense it is remarkable how they’ve managed to keep that dark streak in the series while freshening it up with a relatively new adventure following white-suited CCG soldiers, with the Ghoul community seen as the minority. RE manages to deliver those chilling moments from the first series along with some excellent action scenes. However, it is fair to say that the new lead characters, however individual, are quite unoriginal – it feels like they could have been plucked from any modern teen action series. While the dark moments remain, too much of this series has a mainstream anime sheen that stops this rendition from having the consistent edge that the original did.
The main problem this series has though is its story, and not the quality of it but its sheer size. The original Tokyo Ghoul story was incredibly deep with a multitude of developing characters that play key roles in the war’s many factions. Re makes a big mistake in trying to pull so much from its original and using it here, hence the ‘Tokyo Ghoul 3’ tag it has gained. Now, as someone who loved the first season of Tokyo Ghoul, and struggled through the second, I feel like I am as qualified as the majority of viewers of this series to understand what’s happening, but even I feel like I understood barely half of the hints in this series. These are not just entertaining easter eggs, either – these nods back to the events of Tokyo Ghoul feel like major plot points in the emotional side of this series, and the way Re simply flows through these moments with the complete assumption that the viewer has an encyclopaedic memory of Tokyo Ghoul will leave many viewers looking at the screen confused.
I must clarify, though, that this is still a good anime. In the grand scheme, Re is a really solid modern action series that delivers drama, action, a decent story and a strong collection of characters. However, attaching the Tokyo Ghoul name to this means it has to compete with one of the best action-fantasy anime around, and in its desperation to reach that level Re has bitten off way more than it can chew and produced a story that, despite its good points, leaves you with so many more questions than answers.
There is a second 12-episode season coming later this year, as far as I know, and you hope that by the end of that Tokyo Ghoul:Re will clean out its story because if it manages to do so, this series could still match its previous namesake.
ANIME RANKING: #54 – Despite being a long way off the original, this series sits pretty in the middle of our list alongside names such as The Perfect Insider and No Game No Life.
If you liked this you’ll love: Terror in Resonance (#46) – Another modern, clean action series with a dark edge, Terror in Resonance is an excellent little series delivering an interesting story about two children causing terrorist incidents in Tokyo. While it has its dark and occasional exceptional story moments, this series also delivers an interesting melancholy overtone made by the fantastic partnership of director Watanabe and composer Kanno, the team behind Cowboy Bebop!
It’s understandable that after Tokyo Ghoul’s shocking second season, and after 3 years without it, this series is going to take time to relight the franchise. However, with this series’ score on MyAnimeList sitting closer right now to S2 than S1, is it possible that we’ve just had too much of a good thing?
This all comes back to what always looked like a completely overloaded Spring 2018 cycle, in which there was at least four series you would call headline acts running at the same time. Usually they are spread out across the year, but this incredibly weighty grouping – featuring more than one classic reboot a la Tokyo Ghoul and at least two of the biggest series of recent years continuing – has completely muddied the waters.
Out of all seven series we looked at in our Spring ’18 Half-Term Report, and we could have looked at more, we are only keeping up with two of them! Compare that to the cycle before where we kept up with four of the six series, with only one continued from before, and you see that this recent turn has been particularly problematic.
We have fallen four episodes behind on the new Food Wars (#22 on our Anime Ranking), three behind My Hero Academia (#11) and two behind on Steins;Gate 0 (the original sitting at #15). These are huge shows, but we’re not watching them with the same intensity anymore. I do not think the huge amount of major series running together has helped, but particularly with these three there’s a sense now that we’ve seen it all before.
We’ve said that about Food Wars many times, but now other big names are falling into the pit. Tokyo Ghoul:Re was fun – a lot should be said about the fact that this series was one of the two I did keep up with – however it tried too hard to recapture its previous self, and it led to a series that wasn’t quite sure of its own place. Food Wars and, to a lesser extent, My Hero Academia are also two majorly popular series that feel as if they are just going through the motions. The wow factor is being lost, and I’m desperate now for a big name to do something that really blows us away.
On that note, Attack on Titan season three begins soon…
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