The 3-Episode Rule: Summer 2019

August 20, 2019

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 Hello dear readers! I apologize how late this is, a lot has been happening personally and for the blog/podcast behind the scenes this summer! Just as busy as IRL stuff, though, has been the anime world! There have been a lot of shows this cour that have both wowed me and lost me, so for this list (which is again going to be based on more than three episodes, sorry) I’ll try to give a little more insight as an apology!

 

3 Series to Watch

 

Dr. Stone

        Set 3000 years in the future, Dr. Stone follows the world’s smartest teenager and his friends as they try to bring the world back to fruition after everyone is mysteriously turned to stone. What makes this series so special is the fact that it is what I consider a “new school” jump series. In my mind, this type of series is the one aimed at the youth through Shounen Jump but not via action or violence. Pioneered by series like Death Note and recently revived in anime format through a show like The Promised Neverland, this type of show creates conflict through intellectual confrontations rather than pure action. Yes, Dr. Stone does have its share of fights but the fact that they are based in real science, that inventions and creations are based in real science, and that the show gives a tour of how humanity got to where it is today elevates it beyond simple shounen combat and power scaling. All of that aside, the characters are all well defined in their roles, the production quality is pretty good, and the entire package is just well done. I mean, there is a disclaimer at the end of the episode that warns kids not to try the stuff depicted at home because it is real: How cool is that?

 

Vinland Saga

          This show right here is easily the frontrunner for anime of the season, and even anime of the year. Put together by WIT studio (of Attack on Titan fame), everything about this show oozes quality. The story follows Thorfinn, the son of a legendary Viking warrior, as he grows up and faces the hardships of reality. I really don’t want to say more about that because it is just that good. For all of you that have read the manga, it does start differently than the source material but that didn’t hinder this in the slightest. The animation is god-tier, the story is realistic and full of deep characters/character motivations, the music elevates every scene, and the composition of each shot doesn’t waste any moment of the viewer’s time. Each episode I’ve watched to date has been balanced amazingly, with action and development working hand in hand while still retaining a realistic vibe. For a long time, I’ve heard Vinland Saga spoken in the same breath as Berserk when it comes to the best of the seinen (focused towards an older male audience) genre and now I can see why. Watch this show everyone. If you like action, well-written characters and scenarios, lots of politics, and a sense of realism this show is for you. I’d even go as far as to say it is worth the amazon prime subscription (since it’s only legally on amazon prime).

 

Kanata no Astra (Astra Lost in Space)

          This is a dark horse series for one to watch and I know a lot of people will be upset that it beat out a certain show about certain fire people but hear me out: This show (written and illustrated by the same person that did a personal favorite of mine, SKET dance) does a lot of things at once and does them well and in a generally unique way. Following a group of students as they literally get lost in space, this show tackles themes of identity, self-discovery, and self-confidence through the lens of a comedy/mystery/survival/action series. Astra is another example of a series that I love because it breaks the trends of so many other shows in that it isn’t combat-based. Again, there is action in the series but the intrigue of the main cast surviving, solving certain mysteries, and uncovering different political issues overshadows it all in the best ways. On top of that, the series is completed which means that the anime will be covering the entirety of the plot. Never underestimate the value of being able to watch a show where the main cast achieves their goals!

 

3 Series to Backlog

 

To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts

          This is a show that I feel like I’m watching right now just because I started it and have to see it through. The premise is fairly interesting, with the main character needing to hunt down and kill former military squadmates that have gone crazy due to experimentation during their years of service, but the rest of the series is just kind of meh. To me, the character designs vary too much from generic to overly-done, the animation quality fluctuates too often during times where nothing going on, and the vibe of the show is just kind of generic. Again, the plot is actually fairly unique and interesting and it is building to some cool confrontations, but the presentation, pacing, and style just isn’t my, well, style. I remember reading the manga a bit and, just like Vinland Saga, this series starts off differently. However, I feel as though that hurt this show because it doesn’t allow viewers to think about the plot in a different way. Essentially, by presenting the main gimmick (so to speak) of the show right off the bat instead of keeping the intrigue of some character motivations, the attempted mystery elements or even the moments where characters try to figure out the motivations of others fall flat because the viewer already knows the answer. It’s tough to truly get my point across without spoiling anything so  just walk away with this: Wait on this series because even the other shows on this backlog list are worth your time way more.

One Piece (Wano Arc)

          This is the show that I don’t really need to explain why you should backlog it: This is an arc that sstarts in the 800’s of episode count. Why am I counting this as a separate show, then, instead of just a continuation of One Piece? Well, it’s because this is without a doubt the best One Piece has looked/been written/been produced since the pre-timeskip days. This arc alone is worth watching (or reading if you would be so inclined) thorough all of One Piece. It brings decades of plot points together, presents them in a gorgeous and unique art style, and rewards fans of the series with some truly spectacular moments. Notice I said “fans of the series” here: The Wano Arc is best enjoyed as a culmination of everything before it. You need to really make sure that you know One Piece to get the most out of this so as tempted as those youtube or twitter highlights might be, at least read up on the series before jumping in here. There is just too much greatness before this to ignore.

 

Fire Force

          To many, this is going to be the hottest (haha) take of the year for me but it’s my list so I’m going to give my honest opinion: Fire Force is just OK. Animated by David Production (of JJBA fame), this series takes place in a world where people can spontaneously combust and turn into fire monsters and follows the firefighters that respond to such instances. The good here is that the animation is spot on, the music and voice acting is great, and even the basic premise is very unique and intriguing. What, then, could overrule all of these points? Well the fact that this show very quickly falls into the typical shounen tropes of years past. By that I mean that this show will introduce a variety of characters with a variety of powers, will smack them together in combat, and use that combat to further story points rather than have progression through intelligent interaction. Oh and pacing? Throw that out the window fam, I’m not even going to talk about how this show seems to ignore allowing characters to have meaningful downtime. On top of that, again like many shounen series of the past, the show tries to introduce too much. I praised the more old-school shounen series in My Hero Academia and Demon Slayer because they now what they want to do and they do it, and here I just can’t say that that is the case. This show, in my opinion, tries too hard to go beyond the premise that I found initially interesting by introducing too much political intrigue, useless or fruitless mystery, and unnecessary character allegiances (maybe I’m influenced by events that occur later on since I read the manga but oh well). Take note, though: THIS SHOW IS NOT BAD BY ANY MEANS. Rather, I have personally found that the power creeping and political intrigue and twists and turns and poor pacing have all combined to take away from what I initially liked about the show: The Premise. When I was a kid, this show probably would have been fire (again, haha) but as an adult that can see the flaws and the tropes and the pacing issues it just didn’t do it for me.

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