The Backloggers Collective — A Fall 2019 Impressions Post

Intro

Hey y’all. I know it’s been a while since we’ve gotten out a post about seasonal anime amongst the three of us, but this post is about to change all of that. We typically do a podcast episode about the season and our impressions based on the first episodes, but we experienced some… technical difficulties during the last podcast which prevented us from doing that this time. So instead, we took the opportunity in our hands to do something different and try something new-ish for us. Let us know what you think!

This is going to be a long post so I’ll keep this part short, but basically with this, we wanted to address some of the shows we found interesting during the season. Hopefully you’ll find something good here in case you wrote the season off early like some of us were going to, or if you’re just looking for Backloggers branded recommendations, then you’ll get that here too.

Anyway, here’s some of those amazing shows that we thought were interesting below. Enjoy!


Mythos

BEASTARS

Hello, yes, I am also sad and suffering with you

Oh my dear sweet goodness, I have been waiting for this show.  I’ve been a huge fan of the manga and I was so excited to see this finally getting adapted!

BEASTARS is a 3D animated show about anthropomorphic animals involved in a private school dedicated to excellence.  In this world, while all races and species are accepted, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any racism, especially between carnivores and herbivores.  This may sound awfully familiar to a certain 3D animated film from a large monopoly corporation. However, while Zootopia definitely deals with similar subject matter, the tone is dramatically different.

This manga starts out immediately with us following a sheep boy running for his life from a predator.  We see in gruesome detail the chase and finally the murder of this student on school grounds. The incident shakes up the entire student body, with typical nervousness between herbivores and carnivores suddenly inciting fear and paranoia with no one knowing who the murderer was.  It’s a hell of a start, and while humor is definitely peppered throughout the show, the drama is very serious for this darker world.

BEASTARS deals head on with issues of blatant racism and classism between various students, with bullying and fights breaking out simply just because of a difference in species.  And while most of the main cast are a lot better about this, with obvious showcases of some potential for a better future, they’re still involved in the issues of this world.

On top of this, our very meek and mild main character, Legosi, is starting to develop some of his wolfish predatorial urges in this youthful time of growth and maturity, causing him to attack another student, Haru, in a bloodlust, only stopping at the last second and snapping out of it.  While Haru didn’t see who exactly attacked her, the guilt from this haunts Legosi as he starts to get wrapped up in more and more serious issues, forcing Legosi to come to terms with an unchecked violent nature he has been attempting to push away his entire life.

This world is dark and is not afraid to show those darker elements, with the PV hinting at a later class trip off school grounds that accidentally leads to a black market that sells animal parts to carnivores.  However, it handles its subject matter very well so far as I’ve read and seen. It understands the issues of race and develops all of the characters deeply to show their importance regardless of what species they may be.  The commentary on puberty with Legosi’s wolf nature also seems very interesting, though I can’t say if it inevitably drops this ball as I’d need to see more of the show and manga than what I have so far.

While 3D animation can be a turn off for some, I think the show handles it very well, with natural movements and interesting use of 3D to morph and change models during surreal and psychological moments in the show.  I highly recommend giving this one a chance. Unfortunately, I believe it was picked up by Netflix so it may be some time before it legally appears in North America.

Houkago Saikoro Club

I love friends. Friends are great!

It’s well known that I have a love for comfy shows but it may be less known that I have a deep-seated love for board games.  Surprise, surprise, when a show that focuses on non-Japanese board games being played in a cute slice of life comes around, I’m on this like bread on rye.

Takekasa Miki is a loner of a person who has never felt a connection to the “fun” activities that other people around her get into.  Nothing really meshes with her so she isolates herself, even whenever people go out of their war to try and reach out. However, she’s forced out of her shell when an incredibly rambunctious classmate, Takayashiki Aya, almost runs her over with her bike and then uses the opportunity to kidnap her into having an adventure together.  Things become interesting when they find the studious class prez alone in the entertainment district after hours. They follow her and find she works at a board game shop, which begins to ignite a passion for friendship and games in Miki.

The setup enables us to see a fun group of friends explore various board games, mostly from Germany and parts of Europe.  Each episode seems to include at least one game (with nods to others) and does a good job of pairing down rules efficiently so we can see our group get into the meat of each game, with all the high stakes drama that you probably remember if you’ve ever played Monopoly and your sister suddenly grabs up the whole damn boardwalk because she brokered a trade deal with your other sister who clearly favored her over me—.

Sorry, got lost in memories there.

The show seems quite fun, especially if you’re a fan of slice of life adventures about developing friendship and are also a fan of board and card games, like myself.  Check it out, if that hits your particular fancy!

Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!

“Light source? Check. Friendly companion? Check.
Overpowered abilities? *sigh* Unfortunately, check.” — Mile

Yes, with a name that long, this one’s an isekai but if that’s a turn-off for you, consider this:  Because the main character worked hard to excel in their past life, they ask the “god” that reincarnates them to only give them average abilities.  A nice setup, sure. Now, say that god decided to make that an average of all of creation’s abilities, so our heroine is resurrected to find she has powers somewhere in-between an amoeba… and an eldritch god?

While a funny start, what I appreciate about this show is that the main protagonist, as overpowered as she is, is desperately just trying to get through life without inferring how capable she is.  She asked for an average life, and dammit, she’s gonna get it! However, new friends and new scenarios arise that present her with unique chances to help those around her and explore a fun new world, an exciting experience for someone who was a fan of isekai before her resurrection.

This is another one of those isekais that I enjoy because it’s more about a lovable cast of characters enjoying a fantastical life together in slice of life fashion, rather than any typical “kill the demon king” kind of scenario.  I think that while there are quite a few isekai out there now, the experience of exploring unique fantasy worlds can still be fun, especially if we’re more interested in the world and our characters than some random “save the world” quest or harmful tropes surrounding “chosen characters”, unfortunate gender discrepancies, and boob armor.  So something simple and fun like this that has heart and just wants to bring a smile is alright with me.

If you’re a fan of slice of life and doofus main characters, this one is pretty fun so far!


Owningmatt93

OreSuki: Are you the only one who loves me?

“Aw shit, here we go again…”

At first, OreSuki may look like a harem story that you’ve skipped over hundreds of times before. With the plot and art appearing like a generic protagonist pursuing multiple girls and trying to choose between which one he wants to be with, it’s not surprising that multiple people looked at this show and went “Oh, it’s this kind of show. Pass.”. Despite the PV hinting at something greater being behind the scenes of this show, it wouldn’t be too farfetched to say that other shows have advertised themselves on similar ideas and have fallen flat within the first episode.

OreSuki is different though. This is not your typical harem story, nor is it your typical love triangle either.

The first episode presented us with this fake-out that showed us some of the more true colors of this show. As the two main heroines, “Himawari” and “Cosmos”, confessed to our main character “Joro” about their love for Joro’s best friend “Sun-chan”, the nature of this show begins to unravel. As Joro heads home, he lets loose on his personality, changing from every other harem protag in anime to a guy that’s just bitter about how he had the perfect plan to have these girls fall for him sabotaged by his best friend. To make matters worse, a third beautiful girl  with obsessive tendencies that has equally as bad of a personality as Joro confesses to him, to his utmost dismay.

This all sounds like a huge gimmick that the show is using, but with each episode, the nested love triangle connections between this group of “friends” become even further twisted by manipulating each other with only their own goals in mind. There are no “good” characters in this show, only characters that selfishly will do what it takes to be with the person they love. 

To top it off, this show frames everything with a comedic twist. No matter how serious the show may become at any point, the writing makes it so these scenes are offset by a subversive hilarious backbone, giving it the makings of a real romantic comedy. It’s by far the funniest anime of the season in terms of sheer absurdity.

Assassins Pride

“And that’s why wooden swords aren’t in the meta! Learn the tier list scrub!”

This is a show that’s a bit of an odd one; there’s no real defined way as to which the story wants to present itself towards a particular genre. There’s action, a hint of mystery, some fantasy elements, all tinged with a backdrop of drama and political intrigue. It’s a huge toss-up of the season, but from the first episode, it seems to have the makings of a show that could end up being a sleeper hit. 

As absurd as this sounds, the current setting of the show is in a city shaped like a chandelier, with each district/light bulb being connected by railways. That description alone is what began my intrigue into this show, but what’s going on beyond that could become even more interesting.

As our main assassin guy Kufa does shady things ordered to him by his superiors as one would expect, he’s not an emotionless character as I think many other shows would try and frame him as in this scenario. He obviously has a wide range of emotions just as any normal human being would, but his job definitely hinders displaying those at certain times. This is shown from the first episode by him having to defy his orders given to him by his company and save the questionably noble Melida from being executed by order of her father. 

From the scenario of the first episode alone, it’s clear that there’s a huge power hierarchy between nobility and commoners. This isn’t exactly an original plot point of any anime, but how it’s framed as the city being shaped the aristocrats and those in power is definitely a selling point in my book.

Even still, if it manages to turn into just a battle anime with assassins and magic users fighting fantasy creatures in an urban fantasy-like environment, then I don’t think it will be a disappointing show as the main duo’s motivations is enough to keep the show afloat for me.

Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious

“Hey Seiya, you get to be one of those popular isekai characters now!” — Ristarte

Have you ever played an RPG where you were just terrified of being wrecked by tough enemies? Ever had a game grinding session where you just wanted to be an insane level to make the game easy mode? Well, this show is right up your alley then.

With our main dude Seiya being isekai’d with some of the powerful starting stats that this fantasy world can possibly imagine, he’s the perfect candidate in Ristarte’s mind to become the new hero of this world. Well, minus the fact that he refuses to even set foot outside before he reaches a specific level and unleashes several of his most powerful attacks on a singular slime. He’s the pinnacle of cautious to the point where it’s downright frustrating to watch at times, yet that’s what makes this show as hilarious as it is.

This show has the comedy level of Konosuba, except that the events are spun in a light-hearted way instead of taking Konosuba’s more crass and blunt approach to its comedy. While there’s plenty of comparisons to make between these two shows, I would argue that in what I’ve seen from Cautious Hero so far, it’s safe to say that its character dynamics at least between Ristarte and Seiya are still keeping that level of blatant misunderstanding and general level of incompetence within our main cast while not stooping to a level that doesn’t outright feel like characters are being constantly bullied, even though it may feel that way from Ristarte’s point of view at times.

This could actually be one of the most promising isekai anime of the season as well, with it staying within the vein of being a hero in a fantasy world and also keeping that level of progression that these stories typically have. I’m interested to know what the challenges our heroes will face as the series continues on and I hope that the show doesn’t lean into the territory of using the main character’s gimmick to repeat the same joke over and over again. It doesn’t seem like that will be the case, but with these sorts of stories, I always have a hint of skepticism when it comes to keeping originality without ditching the gimmick of the story.

As long as it stays entertaining with the same level of comedy though, I think this show will succeed no matter what decision its story makes.


Tofu

Stars Align

It might be a soft tennis club, but there ain’t no soft drama in this anime

If you follow our podcast at all, it should come as no surprise that I’m a sucker for sports anime. I’m an even bigger sucker, however, for visually stunning sports anime. It should come as no surprise, then, that after I watched a PV for Stars Align, I was sold (That, and I missed watching Prince of Tennis years ago, so that didn’t hurt, either).

On a surface level, Stars Align is a show that pulls you in just on the simple argument of, “I am beautiful, vibrant, and full of life – how could you not at least give me a shot?” The fade in of the title card with splotches of watercolors bleeding in behind it; the almost painted skylines and spaces in the backgrounds of any given scene; the subtle, varied energy of the soft tennis club members; and the fluidity of the sport itself all serve as a perfect visual prelude to what the show itself has in store.

If the visuals aren’t enough, the music will blow you away – Jin Aketagawa is manning the helm for the show’s sound direction, and I’m honestly not sure how the man has the time to do this with as many shows as he has thus far. Aesthetically speaking in visual and sound design, Stars Align is just beyond words.

You’ve seen the basic premise before – a young, passionate club or individual – in our case, the bespectacled Toma Shinjou – loves the sports club they belong to, but due to some unfortunate circumstances – in our case, a lack of any show of achievements – the club is set to shut down. But, wait! Our other main lead, who is a childhood friend, transfers back into town in the form of the star-loving Maki Katsuragi. Toma loves soft tennis, and Maki could not possibly care less, which is unfortunate, considering Maki has some incredible reflexes that would make him an excellent asset to the team.

Through an entire episode of cat and mouse, Toma manages to rope Maki into playing so they can win a match in the upcoming summer tournament and save the club from being dissolved. The motivation? Money – about 40,000 yen’s worth, and it’s all out of Toma’s pocket. Being the only child of a single working mother, Maki happily takes on the request.

We’ve definitely seen this before, yes, and that’s what the previews showed us and banked on getting people into the show. What it did not show, however, is the consistent undercurrent through the first episode of family breakage and trauma. There are a number of uncomfortable scenes that manage to break up the pollyanna feel of what you might expect from the show, ranging from speculation of strained family relation to full-on physical abuse.

It is not played up for melodrama, and it is not in this show to simply be an edgy twist on a tennis romp for the season – it hurt to watch, it felt real, and it left me hurting for our young leads and wanting to see life serve them something easy to return. So, while the show is certainly one part fun coming-of-age sports show, it feels quite clearly as though Stars Align will be balancing this out consistently with some heavier tones.

I guess it also wouldn’t hurt to mention at this point that the original creator, director, and scriptwriter of the show is Kazuki Akane, the director behind Escaflowne, Noein, and the Code Geass OVA series, Akito the Exiled. If you stick around for Stars Align, I think it would be safe for me to tell you to strap in for a ride.

It’s a beautiful package altogether, and you absolutely owe it to yourself to watch this.

Babylon

The real crime here is all of y’all not already watching this show

Now, while the surface-level premise for Stars Align might seem familiar, I definitely cannot say the same for Babylon. It is, in essence, a crime thriller that has thus far been largely based around politics, and that alone was cause enough to get me interested, considering the fact that I can’t recall ever watching an anime with that kind of focus.

Long story short, in a not-too-far-off future, public prosecutor Zen Seizaki is working in the newly-established Shiniki district of Tokyo to investigate a pharmaceutical company for false advertising. However, the case is not what it appears to be, and before he knows it, Zen is pulled into a much darker, more sinister case, which leaves him battling against his own sense of justice. I know that sounds like some gritty, edgy, cliched Law and Order offshoot, but in truth, where this show has gone in such a short period of time is fascinating and incredibly enticing to watch unfold.

I would love to talk with you about Babylon all day, honestly, but the thing is, you just have to watch it – and you’re in luck, because the first three episodes dropped all at once through Amazon. No exaggeration, when I finished the third episode, my mouth was hanging agape because I could hardly believe what I was seeing take place. It’s absolutely insane, and the possibility of where the show could go with its premise and the story and world it has crafted so far has gotten me excited in a way that not many other shows in this industry have in what feels like a long time.

The show is beautiful, with vibrant colors bringing the Shiniki district to life, but also giving us some much-needed grit for when things aren’t quite going as our heroes might want them to be. Couple that with an incredible score and a short, understated OP that is a perfect fit for the show, and you’ve got the perfect atmosphere and tone that this show needs in order to tell its story.

No Guns Life

Pushing the meaning of “smoking gun” to a whole new level

Okay, so I checked off “heartfelt sports anime” and “gritty political crime thriller” with my last two picks. I’m pretty sure that this means I can just do something dumb now, and I will – I’m going to recommend the hell out of No Guns Life. If the sound of a future cyberpunk show about a detective with a giant revolver for a head with character designers and editors behind Boogiepop and Black Lagoon doesn’t excite you, I don’t know what to tell you.

No Guns Life is weird, wild, and completely over-the-top. It looks and feels like an unholy fusion of Black Lagoon and Gangsta., and it has all of the ridiculous dialogue, gnarly action sequences, and just plain rule of cool fun that you would find in those series. We don’t really know that much about out gun-headed detective (in the fiction of the series called a “Resolver”) Juzo Inui, and really, I don’t need to. He’s a hard-boiled detective with a heart of gold, who just happens to have a gun head, and the show doesn’t need to do much more than that to at least be entertaining. Thankfully, though, it does.

From the one episode I’ve seen, No Guns Life does a marvelous job of bringing its grimy, crime-riddled neon world to life. The characters that inhabit it are all quite varied though the show’s concept of the “Extended” – people who have cybernetically enhanced with bodies, whether it be something as small as an ocular implant, or as large as an entirely different body shell to take hold of. It’s fun to watch the mishmash of folks that walk the city streets, and it’s even more fun to see them fight.

While the story isn’t really deep or gripping like that of Stars Align or Babylon, it doesn’t really need to be. If you go into No Guns Life with an understanding of what it is,  you should probably know at this point that you’re just here for a good time. Maybe it’ll develop some wild, wickedly engaging story, and maybe it’ll just develop a continual series of cool action set pieces to keep us in the show’s world for a little longer. I don’t really care either way as long as I get to see more of Juzo and the misfits he’ll most assuredly meet and work with as the show goes on. It’s a ton of fun, and I would highly recommend giving it, well, a shot.


Outro

My face when I saw how long this post ended up being

Well, hopefully despite the length, this post gave you a good idea of what this season has in store for us. There’s definitely some really good shows here, no matter what you’re looking for genre-wise. Lots of crime and isekai shows, comedy shows are a big one this season, and of course, if you just want some general drama shows, it’s got those too.

We say this pretty much every season, but this season is definitely one with some great shows that I’d highly recommend checking out and are must-watches overall. Of course, there’s plenty of other shows we didn’t get to talk about too, so even if none of these really spoke to you, then there’s plenty out there that probably will. We didn’t even get into sequel anime, and we know how much people are hyped for Shokugeki no Souma S4, Chihayafuru S3, My Hero Academia S4, and others too.

We really wish we could have talked about more shows in this post, but hopefully in the near future, we can get some posts together about some of the interesting shows from this season so that we can talk more about them in detail.

Thanks to those that stuck with this post all the way through and read it. We really appreciate it and we hope you got something out of what we had to say about some of the seasonal shows!

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