Welcome back to Anime Pocket Reviews, and after the end of the Spring 2019 cycle, we’ve got plenty of series to work through!
Two major franchises begin our seasonal recap, and later on we review one of the biggest anime series of the year. First, though, we take a look at a series that is quickly developing a cult following of its own:
Bungou Stray Dogs 3
(2019, S3, 12x23mins) Action, Fantasy
Following on from events in season two, the city falls back into calm with the elimination of The Guild. However, a new villain emerges. Led by the mysterious Fyodor (right), the ‘Rats in the House of the Dead’ launch an underhanded attack against both the Armed Detective Agency and Port Mafia. With time against them, the fated enemies must decide who to fight: each other, or the elusive invader.
Basically Plot: When a new enemy threatens both the Armed Detective Agency and Port Mafia, the two groups are put on a collision course with each other once more.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Bungou Stray Dogs is the model action anime, the blueprint that other series must look to follow. As a franchise, it’s never been particularly remarkable, but it always delivers something to get excited about in every season. Season three is vintage Stray Dogs, an ode to the series that doesn’t really deliver anything new but is engrossing to watch nonetheless.
It might even be slightly harsh to say that BSD3 hasn’t delivered anything new, as the new enemy has the potential to provide more interest going forward. What we primarily mean by that is that the story itself feel almost like a cardboard copy of Bungou Stray Dogs Season Two. Season three opens with a four-episode backstory on the series’ shadow-protagonist Dazai that opens up the lore of the world a little more. Following that, a new enemy with new powers is introduced and, once more, the two ‘enemies’ are forced to fend of a new arrival in the city. To drill it down even more specifically, this season also ends with a big battle where Akutagawa and Nakajima reluctantly combine forces. However, just because the stories are similar does not mean it’s no good!
As with season two, this is a thoroughly enjoyable series for many reasons, including but not limited to the classic action storyline. The main draw for this series, and the previous BSD before it, is the sharp drawing style. At a time when many action series are going for fine, soft and plentiful lines (think My Hero Academia, Shield Hero, One Punch Man etc.), Bungou Stray Dog’s thick, almost caricature-esque and simplified action drawings are an immediate draw for those looking for something a little darker and down-to-earth in their action series. BSD also has a great roster of characters, which is this series’ only obvious negative besides the repetitive story; many exciting characters in this franchise are reduced to almost invisible roles as a handful of characters dominate throughout. On the other hand, the new bad guys, something of a Russian Mafia, look really exciting and in Fyodor, they have a potentially awesome super villain who we can’t wait to see more of!
All in all, skimming through the series you realise very little actually happened. Nobody has died, everything is back to normal and everyone is happy. Well, maybe not happy… mildly acceptant? Anyway, it’s very much a case of same old for BSD. However, same old is a golden series full of great action, exciting characters and an engaging storyline. Bungou Stray Dogs remains an essential watch for action anime fans and fans of the series will be very much satisfied with this latest instalment.
ANIME RANKING: #20 – BSD remains where it was following a solid but by no means seismic series, sitting alongside series such as Darling in the Franxx and Yuri on Ice.
If you liked this you’ll love: Tokyo Ghoul (#22) – While a infamously unreliable series, Tokyo Ghoul’s first season remains one of the best action anime of this century and shows many of the same patterns seen here. Set in the Tokyo metropolis, this blend of fantasy and reality sees superpowered groups collide in a fantastic action spectacle that is simply a must-watch!
Attack on Titan Season Three, Part Two
(2019, S3, 10x23mins) Action, Fantasy
Continuing the story, after their successful mission against the corrupt royal family and Kenny the Ripper, with a new government in charge the Scouts are able to launch their mission to retake Wall Maria, leading Eren (left) and the others back to their hometown where the titan invasion began. According to Eren’s father, the answers to the tian crisis lie in his late father’s basement, but the titans are prepared for their arrival, both sides aware that what happens in this fight will dictate the fate of all mankind inside the walls.
Basically Plot: The Scouts launch their mission to retake Wall Maria and uncover the long-rumoured titan secrets in Eren’s father’s basement.
Attack on Titan has long since been one of the biggest and best anime series out there, regardless of genre. Much of that acclaim, however, is thanks to the incredible first season dating all the way back to 2013. Attack on Titan season two was okay but noticeably unremarkable in comparison. However, this season, and specifically this conclusion, has taken AoT back to the dizzying heights achieved in season one and possibly even beyond that.
Honestly, it’s hard to overstate just how much of a success this 10-episode run has been. Put simply, we were extremely hyped for this following Attack on Titan Season Three, Part One, but this season wildly surpassed our expectations. Predominantly set in the location where season one’s jaw-dropping first episode takes place, season three instantly feels like the culmination of the 40-odd episodes seen before this. It is almost the Avengers of anime, with every character from this hit show forced to fight against the odds. After many episodes where underhand politics and shady developments take the spotlight, the series returns to its gritty beginnings and everyone contributes to a true action spectacle full of pain and loss, something AoT does better than any other.
The feeling of S3 being the entire franchise’s crescendo is then emphatically backed up with the kind of earth-shattering revelation we all hoped to see in the mythicised basement, something hinted at throughout the show up to this point. We wont spoil it, but the revelations made feel like the series turning a distinct corner, as if everything up to now had been one story arc and the series was about to embark on its next big tale. Long-running stories were concluded, dreams were realised and hearts shattered; some people were killed, others permanently changed, and the series’ course is now on a totally different trajectory. It’s the kind of storyline only a long-running series can produce, and even then I can only think of a few other series brave enough to even try it, let alone pull it off as seamlessly and naturally as Attack on Titan have.
Add to this some fantastic direction, the series’ famously-good use of music and its dark art style and you can see why many people are calling this one of the greatest anime series of all time, us included. To make every season previously feel like simply build up to this is quite remarkable and paints the picture of a half-season that will live long in the memory.
ANIME RANKING: #1 – It only took a few episodes for us to realise Attack on Titan was returning to number one, leapfrogging the incredible Durarara. A peerless showing in every sense.
If you liked this you’ll love: Land of the Lustrous (#19) – It is particularly hard to recommend a follow-up for something that has no real parallel. Instead, we’re offering a ‘yin’ to the Attack on Titan ‘yang’. Land of the Lustrous is an up-and-coming action fantasy that, on the face of it, is as far from Attack on Titan as you can get. However, with a mysterious invading enemy, this action series full of meaningful characters and a strong sense of tragedy delivers some of the best fight scenes (sword based, I might add) that you will find. Bright, colourful and dynamic, this series, with only one season to its name so far, is certainly one to watch!
Make sure to follow The Culture Cove for the latest anime reviews and recommendations! Keep an eye out for the upcoming episode 62, featuring hit comedy Isekai Quartet!