The holidays are here!
The dust has finally settled on one of the most loaded anime cycles in recent memory in Spring 2018, however the wreckage it has left behind looked pretty barren for a while. Summer 18, particularly in comparison to the last cycle but also in general, has a really small amount of big-ticket anime. For the first few weeks I was scratching my head, looking for a series to get into!
While the blockbusters are currently in short supply – much to the benefit of the two major fighting series that are still running, and the major title making its return that we’ll look at later – a few small flowers have blossomed in the light left behind by the passing of the giants. Here, we’re going to have a look at our favourite new series in this cycle, starting with a cult favourite in the making!
Key: Title (Season, episodes watched / total series episodes [to be confirmed] x runtime)
Cells at Work (S1, 5/13x23mins)
An animated series about the working of the human body, the series follows the cells inside our bodies as they perform the countless tasks keeping us healthy and working every day. The story primarily follows AE 3803, a young red blood cell trying her best to deliver oxygen to cells across the body through all the ailments that befall it, from wounds to allergies, bacteria to food poisoning and everything in between!
It became clear rather quickly that this was likely to be one of, if not the most talked about series of the entire cycle. Fairly reputable beforehand thanks to its manga, Cells at Work has exploded in popularity over the last few weeks. It’s hard to really describe this series to people who may not have seen it without it sounding childish and silly, and that’s probably the show’s best feature. A really simplistic storyline allows the playful creativity of this beautifully elementary series to flourish, while the scientific accuracy of its story and flawless execution of its many characters and parts plentifully satisfies the mature side.
This is a series that leaves you smiling from beginning to end. the only worry is that these characters won’t develop at all (because they’re cells) and also if these scenarios become repetitive this series could slide but, given the complexity of the human body, you would hope this wouldn’t be the case. I sure hope this series keeps its rhythm, because its first half has been a real breath of fresh air!
Hanebado (S1, 7/13x24mins)
In their early years of school badminton two young players, Ayano Hanesaki (right) and Nagisa Aragaki (left), cross paths. Ayano humiliates Nagisa, beating her so emphatically that she never manages to shake it, turning into the aggressive, hard-headed captain of Kitakomachi High School’s badminton team. Ayano, meanwhile, begins to question why she’s playing badminton at all. A traumatic experience in her past causes her to turn away from the sport she once loved after that game, until she too joins Kitakomachi with her best friend. Nagisa notices her immediately, and demands that she joins their badminton team so she can avenge that fateful day. However, they soon discover more about each other’s pasts than they expected.
I’ve never really gone out of my way to watch sports anime, however the bright nature of this series drew me in. Hanebado can be fun and uplifting when it’s needed, but more than anything this is a series with a really enticing story, much more so than in other sports anime I’ve seen. There is a plethora of varied, exciting characters in this series with good backstories, however it’s the humanity of the lead characters Ayano and Nagisa that makes this such a good watch. The sports itself is also very well portrayed, finding a balance between being bright and also sweaty, hard work – much like the show as a whole.
I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by Hanebado so far, predominantly because it doesn’t just want to be a feel-good series. That being said, the camaraderie is a big part of this, and any other sports series, and I sure hope Hanebado manages to keep that as the character’s relationships continue to get strained under the pressure of competition.
Attack on Titan (S3, 4/12[tbc]x23mins)
Action, Drama, Fantasy
Following on from season two, Levi’s makeshift scouts squad begin conducting experiments with Eren’s titan hardening ability as a way of sealing the wall when they hear that Pastor Nick, a man with knowledge of the walls, is tortured and murdered. Immediately suspecting a plot to keep the secret of the Titans quiet, Levi (centre-left) puts his squad into hiding, moments before their base of operations was raided by Military Police. Guessing that they are after Eren (centre-right) and Historia (centre), Levi hatches a plan to unearth the government scheme. However, when the table is turned on him and the squad by a figure from his past in the serial-killer Kenny the Ripper, Levi and his young squad are forced to confront a new enemy – not Titans, but other people.
This is the big one, the series that gets everyone in anime’s ears pointing up. Attack on Titan’s second season failed to live up to the outstanding first, but with a change of focus season three is already looking like another incredible experience.
Levi has always been a much-loved side character of the series and this season, while not getting rid of the main trio that make this the title that it is, has brought him way forward. Levi is certainly the main character so far in this season, and that has helped the series take on a much deeper, almost edgier style than season two. This slightly darker switch has primarily come, though, from the change in storyline – a monumental change from being the heroes fighting unconquerable monsters to being kind of monsters of their own, working in the shadows against the corrupt government.
We’re four episodes in and there’s not been one Titan fight, and there doesn’t look like being one anytime soon. This is a new look for the series and, fronted by one of the series’ darkest side characters in Levi, has all the ingredients to surpass the first season, so long as the final execution is right.
Grand Blue (S1, 5/12x23mins)
Iori (front) is a young freshman looking forward to his dream college life, leaving his family home and moving in with his uncle at his diving shop by the ocean. However, the moment he opens the door all he can see is a sea of drunk, naked men. He runs away in shock only to be chased down the street by two of them. Despite his desperation to get away, Iori is swept up by Shinji and Ryujiro (left) and becomes as drunk and naked as them, ending with him having to go to his college initiation in nothing but his boxers. Seemingly with little choice Iori becomes a member of their diving club based out of his uncle’s store, and so begins his life under the extended family roof.
Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at an anime as I did during these first few episodes. I love comedy titles, but many of them follow similar Japanese tropes such as naïve characters and poor social skills. However, Grand Blue doesn’t just feel like a more hard-nosed and mature comedy – there is a disclaimer before every episode basically saying ‘don’t do what you see here’ – but the characters are also much more confident in themselves than in most Japanese comedies. A series full of college kids, these are all individual and purposeful people colliding with each other in the way many western shows about that final stage of youthful innocence are.
A slight romantic edge keeps this show’s Japanese vibe, and some of the jokes and animation are clearly out of the Japanese anime comedy handbook, but this really does feel like a show with a lot more freedom and plenty of the crass that makes shows about this time of someone’s life so engaging. So long as this doesn’t fall too far down the love story rabbit hole, I can’t see this being anything other than an excellent comedy series.
Banana Fish (S1, 4/24x22mins)
Set in America, the story follows Ash Lynx (front-left), a former child sex slave and now the young and merciless heir of his adopted father Dino Golzine’s (top left) crime empire. With a dark and unchangeable past, Ash Lynx works to look after his incapacitated older brother and has long wanted out of the family when a mysterious substance is given to him in the last moments of a runaway’s life. The man hands him a silver bullet and utters the words ‘Banana Fish’, the same words said by his brother during an incident in Vietnam which led to him killing his squadmates in a drug-fuelled frenzy. Ash wants to discover what, or whom, Banana Fish is, and despite being stopped by Dino at first Ash goes behind his adopted father’s back, bumping into two Japanese people reporting on American gangs and becoming friends with fellow teenager Eiji Okamura (front-right). However, when Dino kills Ash’s best friend in response and targets Ash next, the battle lines are drawn, and Eiji finds himself part of a crime war threatening to spill out of control over the substance in the silver bullet.
This is an interesting series on many levels. Adapted from a famous manga series that run in female-targeted manga magazines from 1985 until 1994, this was something of a trailblazer as a crime series designed to appeal to females that also worked for a male audience. The time of the publication comes through in the anime adaptation, with the series having a very old-school vibe, from its colouring to its motion, and even the proportions of the male characters strike back to its 80s shojo beginnings. However, what strikes you immediately and most poignantly with Banana Fish is that this is, putting it bluntly, a gay crime series.
From Ash being groomed as a sex toy for older men, to the relationship he strikes with Eiji and even the fashion sense of many of the characters – before anything even happens you know where this series lies, and that offers a really unique edge to what is, even without that, a very solid crime series.
I would personally like to see the series move at a faster pace, certainly in the background, but we will definitely stick by this series until that happens. With a 24 episode run expected and the weight of one of the biggest manga series of its kind ever made behind it, this is a series you can be confident in expecting to deliver.
Of course, there are also some major continuations from the mammoth Spring cycle. While I didn’t want to pull apart the minute details of series that we’ve featured already in the last Half-Term Report, I feel like I should pop back in and report on how these 2-cour series are fairing.
Persona 5 has been the most impressive continuations. Growing out of its videogame shell, this series feels like its own experience now and has begun to shine as a result. My Hero Academia Three is, as you can imagine, a prime example of anime consistency. You know what you’re getting with it, and it delivers its high standard in every episode. Steins;Gate 0, unlike the others, is a series still trying got break out on its own right now, but with the story beginning to crank to the franchise’s uniquely dark levels of drama, this is a series that still has good potential.
On a side note, in the void left behind by mainstream series Black Clover is having something of a renaissance for us after months in the wilderness!
Despite some major continuations, and the literal Titan’s return, this really does feel like a cycle for new series.
While we personally found it harder to find good series to watch early on – with series such as Angels of Death, Lord of Vermilion and Island missing our mark, hence us being behind on some of these titles – now we have a solid collection of reliable and varied series we are having loads of fun, potentially more so than the heavy cycle previous!
So, with all these new faces, how do they compete? Here’s our Half-Term Ranking for Summer 2018:
5. Banana Fish – A very promising young series yet to really ignite.
4. Hanebado – A good series that needs to keep its characters together.
3. Cells at Work – Incredibly entertaining and original, but potentially repetitive.
2. Attack on Titan – A story switch has set up this major title for success.
1. Grand Blue – Incredibly mature and fast story that makes this feel like an almost revolutionary Japanese comedy!
Make sure to subscribe to The Culture Cove to see our full anime reviews before anyone else! Why not check out our last episode of Anime Pocket Reviews, featuring sci-fi series Terra Formars!