Noticing an open spot in my viewing schedule this season, I thought it would be a good time to check out some recent series that I missed but wanted to check out. I figured that I might have the time to complete an series or two this season, and went to Twitter for input on which anime I should try:
There are so many anime I want to watch, but I have so little bandwidth. If I only had time for one, which of these series should I pick up?
— Twwk (@thetangles) July 29, 2020
You’ll notice that the vote was pretty close. I also received feedback commentary there and on Facebook that tilted me toward one anime or another. If anything, I was further away from deciding which series to watch after the poll than before! But it then occurred to me that I should just do what I always do: Try a series, and if it doesn’t catch my fancy, drop it. And so, that’s what I’m doing: I’ll be watching the top three vote getters from that poll—BNA, Mob Psycho 100, and A Place Further Than the Universe—along with returning to a series I stalled on, Vinland Saga (which crushed Golden Kamuy in a second poll I tweeted), and will drop any series that I lose interest in as I go along. If I know me, that means I’ll probably give up on at least two (maybe for a second time with Vinland Saga), but who knows?
And I’d love for you guys to join along in the adventure! After I watch four episodes, I’ll report back here and briefly let you know what I’m thinking. And we’ll start today with my thoughts on the opening episodes of the first three and episode ten of the latter.
BNA, Episode 1
You know how one can have an appreciation for a film but not really enjoy it? Like, I appreciated The English Patient, but also agreed with Elaine Benes: “It sucked.” That’s how I feel about TRIGGER. Everything is so beautiful—SSSS.Gridman, Kill la Kill, Kiznaiver, DitF—but I have never completed a series from the studio. In all truth, I usually don’t even get past four or five episodes. Even Gurren Lagann, the show that launched the studio, wasn’t particularly great for me: I slept through most of the second half before hobbling to the finish line. But BNA might be the series that bucks the trend. The animation is of course incredibly engaging, with these beautiful shades of blue and magenta and gray, a style that recalls older anime series, and characters that move in brilliant ways. And the first episode was engaging enough, with a cool story of humans versus beasts that offers an easy immediate opportunity for social commentary. But most importantly, I like the two leads—and I haven’t felt strongly about any characters in a Trigger series since the pre-Trigger TTGL. That’s meaningful, because if you can get me with the characters, well, the rest just doesn’t matter as much.
Episode grade: B
Likelihood for completion (1-5): 3.5
Mob Psycho 100, Episode 1
This is a little bit of a cheat—I’ve seen the first episode of MP100 before…or at least I thought I had. And Crunchyroll indicates that I’ve actually seen two episodes. But I only remember about half of episode one—the entire second half, in which Mob and Reigen encounter the ghosts in the cave, is brand new to me. And I’m glad for that, because this series was tucked away in this category of “I’m supposed to like this series but I found it boring,” and now I realize I may have been way-off base. I’m not a big fan of One Punch Man, but I appreciate it and I found myself enjoying season two much more than season one, and that, too, gives me hope that this series, from the same mangaka, might eventually capture me. I know it’s already beloved by so many others, including several who have told me that it’s a better series than OPM. I’m looking forward to seeing it.
Episode grade: B-
Likelihood for completion (1-5): 2 (The length is gonna keep this score low)
A Place Further Than the Universe, Episode 1
There’s a certain something about being 16 or 17 years old. You’re rapidly maturing and beginning to understand the reality of things (and wanting to enter adulthood and affect that reality), but are still childish enough to embrace the fantastic, and those two qualities combined—well that that could get you in trouble. I think I’d forgotten what it’s like to be that age, because despite being animated my Madhouse, I took one look at the synopsis and instead of thinking how fun I thought, this is stupid. But I started to sit up and take notice when the New York Times named it to a “best of” list, which is when I realized just how acclaimed the anime is. The first episode demonstrated why this might be so, carrying an immense charm while conveying that feeling I mentioned above, which is challenging to do as the show could easily fall into “stupid.” Most anime that sends kids on an adventure does it in another world with different rules (see Made in Abyss), but this series is determined to do it in the here and now—and judging by just the first episode, it looks like it might pull it off.
Episode grade: A
Likelihood for completion (1-5): 4
Vinland Saga, Episode 10
Vinland Saga is a high quality series, from the storytelling to the animation. But I couldn’t take how dreary it all was—not so much the killing, but in the character development for Thorfinn. I know the manga is long and there’s much to tell, but man, when I dropped the series, I was almost a dozen episodes in and I still disliked every quality about the main character; there’s barely enough there to make me empathize with him, despite the loss he’s endured. Returning to the show reminded me of that, but having taken a considerable break, I was just able to enjoy the story in episode ten as I exercised my brain to try to remember what happened previously. But I can tell you this: I’m not going to be able to take another nine episodes of vengeful, one-liner (“I’m gonna kill you!”) Thorfinn. I may not be able to even take two more episodes of it: I need something to happen, something redemptive, and I need it now.
Episode grade: B-
Likelihood for completion (1-5): 2
I’ll continue to revisit these shows with the aim of posting an article every time I watch four episodes, which right now means one episode of each series. But as I start dropping shows (if I do), I’ll be doubling up on some. I’m excited to see how this goes—and you can see if any of your favorites from among the four survives until the end!