Summer has ended and it’s time to cool off a bit and break out the blankets as we settle into a comfy new anime season. As always, the GoombStomp anime crew is here to give you a rundown of many of the shows airing. What’s good and what’s not so much? We got you covered. (List in no particular order)
My Hero Academia Season 4
Director: Kenji Nagasaki
Main Voice Actors: Daiki Yamashita (Deku), Kenta Miyake (All Might), Tarusuku Shingaki (Mirio)
There’s good reason for My Hero Academia’s continued acclaim and popularity. After 2018’s stupendous third season, the king of modern shonens enters its Shie Hassaikai arc. With a new villain in Overhaul, more Mirio magic, and the usual dollop of awe inspiring action and character driven drama (all conveyed through Bones’s top-notch animation); there’s no better time to embrace the most entertaining anime on the market, especially with our ongoing super hero fanaticism (see Marvel’s box office dominance).
Honestly, that’s all I have to say. You’ve just gotta watch this show! (Bu Harry Morris)
Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of the Underworld
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Director: Manabu Ono
Main Voice Actor(s): Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (Kirito), Ai Kayano (Alice), Kaori Maeda (Selka)
Last year’s Sword Art Online: Alicization nearly bucked the series’ trend of supremely generic isekai by taking the effort to establish and build up a new world as well as finally introduce a male character on equal terms with Kirito in terms of plot relevance. It ultimately got bogged down by its final arc, however, that dragged on for much too long and accomplished much too little. It did set the stage nicely, though, for the second half of the story.
With Kirito now in a vegetative state only vaguely responding to the faintest of stimuli, it falls on Alice to pick up where he left off. In the first episode alone, Alice has already demonstrated to be far more of an interesting character than Kirito or Asuna ever were owing much to the complicated circumstances that led her to where she is now.
The world-building that was swept aside in the final arc of the first season is finally making its return in War of the Underworld but with the last two episodes focusing on events happening in the real world it’s still difficult to tell how well the Underworld will be fleshed out.
Nonetheless, it’s obvious that Asuna will eventually make her appearance and Kirito will eventually regain consciousness. I just hope they stay out of the picture long enough to give this new protagonist room to breathe. (By Matt Ponthier)
Director: Kazuki Akane
Main Voice Actor(s): Natsuki Hanae (Maki), Tasuku Hatanaka (Toma)
Though it’s billed as a sports anime, there’ve only been two actual soft tennis matches in the first three episodes of Stars Align. Even more surprising? That likely wouldn’t occur to you while watching the show.
Everything begins when middle-schooler Maki Katsuragi moves back into town at the same time as the local boy’s soft tennis club is given an ultimatum: win a match in the upcoming summer tournament or disband. Thing is, the boy’s team hasn’t won a match of any kind in four years. They’ve gotten lazy and apathetic. When Maki inevitably joins, he’s disgusted; they’re so bad that a generally athletic newcomer can beat them at their own game. It’s immediately clear that this isn’t the story of a tennis prodigy leading a downtrodden team to victory, but instead the story of a team who got the jolt it needed to take a long, hard look at itself and get better.
This underdog narrative is what’s driving the show forward, but it’s the stunningly realistic depiction of broken homes in the background that gives Stars Align so much heart. Why did Maki and his mother move in the middle of the school year? How does club president Toma deal with being the second, clearly least-favored son in his family? How can a kid possibly remain calm in the face of bullies who take deep jabs at his parent’s divorce? Each of these are answered with the utmost care and firm, unrelenting accuracy.
If you’re looking for a heartfelt drama with strong writing and one of the most best “battle themes” in recent memory, you owe it to yourself to check this out. (By Brent Middleton)
Cautious Hero: The Hero is Overpowered but Overly Cautious
Studio: White Fox
Director: Masayuki Sakoi
Main Voice Actors: Aki Toyosaki (Rista), Yuuichirou Yumehara (Seiya)
With a name like that, one hardly needs a plot synopsis. Fledgling goddess Rista is assigned an S-rank danger world to save in order to be promoted to a first-class goddess. She pours over possible hero candidates to summon and eventually arrives on the stupendously powerful Seiya only to be terribly disappointed to find out he’s sick in the head he is when it comes to preparation.
Seiya is the antithesis of a standard isekai protagonist in how distrustful and abrasive he is of everything and everyone. He refuses to take advice from anyone and will refuse to do anything until he is 150% sure he is prepared for it, much to Rista’s dismay. While this was rather comical in the first episode, the schtick quickly began to wear out its welcome the second and beyond.
Rista, on the other hand, is the show’s saving grace. The runny egg style used to animate her results in some truly screencap worthy faces reminiscent of old Looney Toons that I have to pause the episode for a few seconds to appreciate. Special mention has to be given to her voice actress, Aki Toyosaki, for delivering lines and sounds that so perfectly encapsulate the exasperation felt from dealing with someone like Seiya. Is she alone enough to carry the show? That’s debatable, but at least I have reaction images for any given mood to send to friends now.
Watch on Funimation
Food Wars! The Fourth Plate
Studio: J.C Staff
Director: Yoshitomo Yonetani
Main Voice Actors: Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (Soma), Hisako Kanemoto (Erina), Minami Takahashi (Megumi)
God I didn’t want to write the review I’m writing right now. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Shokugeki… until I didn’t.
Shokugeki no Soma (Food Wars! in the West) returns for its fourth season and I sincerely wish it hadn’t. For nearly three seasons, Shokugeki was a by-the-numbers shounen about fanservice and food and it was wonderful. Though it was fairly cookie-cutter, Shokugeki hit all of the beats rather well: a fun cast, a good sense of humor, and plenty of cheesecake. The twist that set it apart (i.e. the cooking) was extremely well done and clearly held respect for the culinary arts.
Then… Azami came onto the scene.
Azami Nakiri, introduced in the latter half of Season 3, serves as Shokugeki’s primary antagonist as he seeks to bring the entire world under his banner of haute-cuisine. Tootsuki Academy is his first target and anyone who rebels will be crushed under his iron fist. Schlocky enough and in a vacuum he could serve as a good villain, but Azami’s execution leaves something to be heavily desired. Season 4 picks up directly where 3 left off: the rebels continue their fight against Azami and his goons, with Soma leading the charge.
Unfortunately, the show has only continued to decline in quality as the problems prevalent in the previous season have only become more pronounced as the series goes on. So many of the things that made Shokugeki great have taken a backseat: the characters, the cooking, and story are all swept aside by Azami’s incredibly inane scheming.
There’s a frustrating carrot being dangled in front of the viewer as they can see glimpses of a fun show beneath the hot garbage. However, there are far too many places where the series is now lacking for it to be worth any kind of investment. Beyond the story rapidly souring, the animation quality has become noticeably worse. Not that Shokugeki was ever a standout, but Season 4 is egregious in its use of monotone backgrounds, static character shots, and mouth flaps.
There are more things I could rant on about Shokugeki, but suffice to say it’s not worth your time anymore. (By Kyle Rogacion)
Watch on Crunchyroll
The Seven Deadly Sins – Wrath of the Gods
Studio: Studio Deen
Director: Susumu Nishizawa
Main Voicer Actors: Yuki Kaji (Melodias), Sora Amamiya (Elizabeth)
The Seven Deadly Sins tries its hand at a grandiose story of fantastical intricacy, but it lacks the marvellous characters and memorable world to justify such lofty ambition. Still, when Meliodas and co. are kicking ass and cracking jokes, it ticks the right boxes of ‘decently entertaining’ to warrant persevering with.
After jumping ship from A-1 Pictures to Studio Deen, things were looking sketchy for The Seven Deadly Sins – Wrath of the Gods (especially given episode one’s gore censorship and plain unfinished opening). Fortunately, this was promptly rectified in subsequent episodes by uncensoring the bloody bits and delivering animation that’s on par (if not better) than preceding seasons. As polished as A-1 Pictures’ quality is, they fill the space of ‘default anime look’, so their style is pretty feasible to emulate.
The Seven Deadly Sins – Wrath of the Gods is more than living up to the standards of prior seasons. Sure, it suffers from the same story flaws, but it’s reassuring that the sins are in safe hands with Studio Deen. (By Harry Morris)
Watch on a Japanese Netflix account. Otherwise, available on other Netflix regions at season end.
High Score Girl II
Studio: J.C. Staff
Director: Yoshiki Yamakawa
Main Voice Actors: Sayumi Suzushiro (Akira), Kouhei Amaski (Haruo)
As I’ve written about before, High Score Girl is a wonderful tribute to the incredibly spirited era of 90s video games. From the clacking cacophony of the arcade to the warm comfort of your own home, video games in the 90s were a constantly evolving medium. High Score Girl is a snapshot into that time, centered around the friendship and blossoming romance between Haruo Yaguchi and Akira Oono, two kids who have found solace and a mutual connection through video games.
Season 2 picks up directly after the events of the previous season, with the love triangle between Haruo, Oono, and Hidaka rapidly building towards some eventual conclusion. While the central conflict for this season is one of romantic tension, High Score Girl does a fantastic job of making it feel natural. It allows its characters time to breathe, giving the viewer a glimpse at just how much they value video games and the friendships that have come from them.
Though Haruo is ostensibly the protagonist, Oono and Hidaka both have ample screentime that lets their own personalities shine. The best love triangles are the ones that feel completely natural, where the conflict centers around the interplay of circumstance and personalities.
Of course, a show about video games wouldn’t be complete without, well, video games. Aside from the excellent character writing, High Score Girl does an amazing job of using real-world franchises. It doesn’t simply reference games like Street Fighter or Golden Axe, it will actually get in-depth on the mechanics and the community that developed around these video games. High Score Girl indelibly captures the spirit of 90s video games without being beholden to nostalgia. It’s a period piece that’s developed its own identity, a story that works with the setting, not because of it. (By Kyle Rogacion)
Rating: Highly Recommended
High Score Girl Season 1 is available for streaming on Netflix, with Season 2 coming out at a later date.
ORESUKI Are You the Only One Who Loves Me?
Studios: Barnum Studio, Connect
Director: Noriaki Akitaya
Main Voice Actor(s): Daiki Yamashita (Amatsuyu), Haruka Tomatsu (Sumireko), Sachika Misawa (Sakura), Haruka Shiraishi (Aoi)
It’s no secret that the school-based rom-com is one of the most predictable sub-genres in all of anime. The childhood friend, the oblivious main character, the inevitable school fair and beach trip; we’ve all seen it before. Right from the jump, it’s clear that the entire appeal of ORESUKI is based around taking these tropes to task. Unfortunately, that base appeal wears thin rather quickly.
The main character, Amatsuyu “Joro”, starts off playing a typically shy high school student with a childhood friend who greets him every morning and a crush he serves with on the student council. Suddenly, both of these girls approach him and want to talk one-on-one. They each find a bench (one of the funnier running gags in the opening episodes) and confess…that they have a crush on his best friend.
The problem is that while ORESUKI is built on being a different kind of romantic comedy, it rarely translates into an enjoyable one. While there are a few laugh-out-loud moments, many of the jokes are hit-or-miss. Instead of a nuanced re-imagination of the typical rom-com character archetypes, nearly everyone involved is simply exposed as being selfish or hateful. The result is a cast of unlikable brats that are hard to care about (save for the cunning and Joro-obsessed Sumireko).
Because the show jarringly forces the cast to “deal with” the revelations made in the first few episodes, it remains to be seen if its shock value-contingent narrative will stay interesting now that so many of its cards have been laid on the table. Nonetheless, those looking for a different type of rom-com experience might want to see how things pan out. (By Brent Middleton)
Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia
Director: Toshifumi Akai
Main Voice Actors: Nobunaga Shimazaki (Ritsuka), Rie Takahashi (Mash), Kana Ueda (Ishtar), Takahiro Sakurai (Merlin), Tomokazu Seki (Gilgamesh)
Recent Fate series have already been relatively unapproachable, expecting viewers to have a fair bit of knowledge going into them to get anything out of them. Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia may just take the cake, though. It’s not only an adaptation of a gacha-style phone game, but an adaptation of the 7th and final story arc at that. While the anime somewhat tries to contextualize how we reached this point, it still expects the viewer to know going into it, meaning not even all Fate fans will be able to jump right in if they haven’t played the game.
All that said, Babylonia still displays all the hallmarks of a good Fate show. Characters are bursting at the seams with flavor and personality (historical accuracy aside), fights are so flashy and bombastic every kick to the guy feels like a punch to your own, and magical explanations are just the right amount of hand-wavy convoluted. Ancient Mesopotamia is gorgeously animated and conveys a sense of grandeur with the numerous panoramic shots that pull far away from of characters.
As someone who has played the phone game, it’s difficult for me to tell how accessible this adaptation is for newcomers. Knowing the direction the story will eventually go in, though, it’s at least worth giving a shot to decide if you want to stick with it because if adapted properly this show can result in some of the most butt-clenchingly intense moments seen in anime. (By Matt Ponthier)
Watch on Funimation
Studio: Bibury Animation Studios
Director: Motoki Tanaka
Main Voice Actors: Yui Ishikawa (Enterprise), Yui Horie (Belfast), Ayane Sakua (Prinz Eugen)
If you’ve spent any time within the animu fandom you’ve heard the term “gacha”. The word derives from the onomatopoeia “gachapon”, referring to the sound made by a hand-cranked toy-dispensing machine popular in Japan. The concept behind gacha (chance-based toy collection) has bled over into the Japanese gaming world in a way that only Japan knows how to do: by combining it with waifus.
Azur Lane is one of many franchises that has built itself around the gacha phenomenon. In the style of Kantai Collection (“KanColle”), the series follows a massive cast of anthropomorphized World War II-era battleships in their military and personal escapades. Beings known as “Sirens” have invaded Earth and taken control of the seas. Thinly veiled counterparts to real-world nations take up the fight against the Sirens, sending off legions of shipgirls to do battle against the invading forces, as well as Not-Germany and Not-Japan who have begun to use Siren technology for their own purposes.
If the premise sounds ridiculous, well, you wouldn’t be wrong. If you decided to watch Azur Lane for the plot you will be sorely disappointed. However, if you came for fun fights and cute girls you came to the right place (though “right” may be subjective). Speaking of cute girls, boy howdy there are A LOT OF THEM. In the first few episodes you’re quickly introduced to a cast of over a dozen characters who, while they’re all distinct and unique, quickly become overwhelming to keep track of. Azur Lane has no qualms about what it wants to be, but whether or not that’s for the best remains to be seen. (By Kyle Rogacion)
For fans of series like Girls und Panzer, Strike Witches, and Fate/Grand Order, Azur Lane will be up your alley. For everyone else: keep walking, nothing to see here.
Ascendance of a Bookworm
Director: Mitsuru Hongou
Main Voice Actors: Yuka Iguchi (Maine)
Book-lover Urano finds herself reincarnated in another world as the 6 year-old girl Maine after the usual isekai circumstances cut her life short. As long as she has books to read, though, it doesn’t matter where she lives her life. The only problem? Books are extremely rare and expensive in this world and Urano turned Maine’s family is very poor.
Ascendance of a Bookworm progression-wise is very similar to the on-going Dr. Stone. If Maine can’t obtain a book, she could just make her own. She uses her know-how from her previous life to experiment with all sorts of writing and drawing materials, ranging from Egyptian papyrus, to Mesopotamian clay tablets, to Chinese woodblocks. Her genuine desire for books is supremely charming, as well as all her reactions when her bright ideas don’t quite go according to plan. Not to mention the reactions of those around Maine when she seemingly whips up a new invention from thin-air.
There are hints of a possible greater story but as it stands right now it simply is Maine’s adventure to obtain a book, which puts it in a slightly awkward position in terms of what kind of audience it’s targeting. Regardless, Ascendance of a Bookworm has a bright world, a likable cast, and the ingrained satisfaction of producing something from scratch. If it does eventually evolve into something more than that, even better, but it’s already worth checking out for some feel-good moments alone. (By Matt Ponthier)
Watch on Crunchyroll
Director: Morio Asaka
Main Voice Actors: Asami Seto (Chihaya), Mamoru Miyano (Taichi), Yoshimasa Hosoya (Arata)
It’s been six whole years since the enthralling second season of Chihayafuru, and even more since the series’s inception in 2011. Fans of the show are already going to watch this much anticipated third season no matter what, so I’d like to take this moment to instead tell newcomers why they should watch this delightful series.
Chihaya is a spunky high-school girl with one passion, and one passion only: karuta. She barely manages to scrape together a karuta club for her school and away they how go with practice, exhibition matches, and tournaments.
Few people outside of Japan are even aware of this distinctly Japanese card game but Chihayafuru does an excellent job explaining the rules and the strategies involved. The way Madhouse animates these matches of wit and reflexes is nothing short of mesmerizing. There is an unbelievable amount of layers involved in what seems like a simple game at first glance, and being shown all the different ways to play is absolutely fascinating. By the end of the second season, I was looking up professional matches just because I was that interested in the game.
Meanwhile, the manner in which Chihaya and her teammates grow both as players and people is downright inspirational. Their internal conflicts and struggles can be both relatable and heart-wrenching. It’s easy to feel proud for the characters and their accomplishments and connect with them on an emotional level. It’s these factors that make Chihayafuru such a enchanting series and one that absolutely deserves more attention! (By Matt Ponthier)
Rating: Highly Recommended
Watch on Crunchyroll
Kemono Michi: Rise Up
Director: Kazuya Miura
Main Voice Actor(s): Katsuyuki Konishi (Genzou), Akira Sekine (Shigure)
The way Kemono Michi starts off will be familiar to many: Genzou Shibata, a professional wrestler, is in the middle of a major match when he suddenly gets summoned to another world by a princess determined to save her kingdom. It quickly becomes clear, however, that Genzou is anything but a by-the-numbers isekai protagonist. His infatuation with any and all animals and lifelong dream to open a pet shop elevates a by-the-numbers premise into one of the most creative twists on the genre yet.
Genzou falls head over heels for every animal and animal-like being he comes across, be it catgirls or fire-breathing salamanders. Anthropomorphic thugs on the street become terrified of him because he’s determined to relentlessly pet their fur. Lady-beasts blush passing by because of how aggressively he flirts with them. Seeing him and straight woman Shigure (his mischievous money-minded companion) take on quests is genuinely entertaining not because of the action sequences, but because of how Genzou interacts with his adversaries.
A couple of the recurring gags are already starting to wear out their welcome four episodes in, but nearly every scene perfectly nails its comedic timing nonetheless. The lively cast that Kemono Michi has built up thus far is promising, and I can’t wait to see what hi-jinks the crew gets into over the comings weeks. If the show can keep rolling out genuinely hilarious situational and slapstick humor and keep the fantasy themes fresh, this is easily set to be one of the most lighthearted and enjoyable isekais of the year. (By Brent Middleton)
Watch on Funimation.
Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun!
Studio: Bandai Namco Pictures
Director: Makoto Moriwaki
Main Voice Actors: Ayumu Murase (Iruma), Ryohei Kimura (Asmodeus), Ayaka Asai (Clara)
This is a show that seems like it came straight from a time capsule dated from the early 2000’s, when beta protagonists that stumble upon every fortune imaginable were in vogue. While Iruma-kun seems to have missed the memo that times have moved on, it’s almost refreshing to see a show that’s so by-the-books.
After his parents sold his soul to a devil to pay off a debt, the titular Iruma finds himself going to the titular demon school. There he tries to stick out as little as possible to avoid being outed as a human and inevitably does just the opposite. Every action he takes snowballs into some sort of life-threatening predicament that he somehow fumbles through into a glorious conclusion that earns him praise. While the outcomes are always apparent, seeing how Iruma stumbles into it provide a decent amount of laughs.
The simplicity of the story carries over into its design as well with a bright, yet flat, color palette; simple, yet distinctive, character designs; and tropey, yet charming, archetypes. By all intents and purposes, Iruma-kun should be a boring show. It doesn’t try to be anything it’s not, though, and sticks to the strengths of all things simple and basic, and that lends it more of an entertainment factor than you might think if you’re just looking for some laughs.
Watch on Crunchyroll
BOKUBEN: We Never Learn Season 2
Studio: Silver Link
Director: Yoshiaki Iwasaki
Main Voice Actors: Ryota Osaka (Yuiga), Haruka Shiraishi (Fumino), Sayumi Suzushiro (Uruka), Miyu Tomita (Rizu)
After a shockingly short amount of time, BOKUBEN is back for another season and it’s… exactly the same as before, for better and for worse. Namely, the degree of eye-rolling misunderstandings will vary wildly depending on which character each given episode is focused on.
If it focuses on either the logical Rizu or the energetic Uruka, then expect an entire episode dedicated to one obnoxious understanding that should never have happened in the first place. If it focuses on Fumino or Kirisu-sensei, then expect an amusing display of exasperation that you’ve probably felt when dealing with a friend before. If it focuses the petite Asumi, then you’ll actually be treated to a relationship and interaction that actually makes sense and is a genuine joy to watch with no strings attached.
So roll the die and see which girl you get each episode because this series is still a paradigm of inconsistency.
No Guns Life
Director: Naoyuiki Itou
Main Voice Actors: Junichi Suwabe (Juzo), Daiki Yamashita (Tetsuro), Manami Numakura (Mary)
No Guns Life is in a tricky situation right off the bat by presenting a relatively serious story… with a protagonist that has a gun for a head. Without some levity Juuzou would be impossible to take seriously. Fortunately, a kiss to his muzzle by a lovely lady and a flustered reaction later provided just that in the opening moments of the first episode, setting the appropriate tone for the rest of the show.
Juuzou is mechanically modified “Enhanced” and acts as a fixer to problems caused by other Enhanced citizens. He eventually comes across the fugitive, Tetsuro, and decides to shelter him from the overbearing mega-corporation that controls the city. There’s nothing profound here beyond watching android-like superhumans go at it against each other, and that’s fine considering how well done the fights are.
The world has a griminess to it that matches the grizzled appearance of its inhabitants. Juuzou plays the part of a standard hard-boiled investigator type but with a dash of goofiness when he gets thrown off his game. Mary the mechanic is usually the one instigating such chaos and can be a hoot to watch. All in all, No Guns Life will be a fun ride, just don’t expect anything groundbreaking from it.
Watch on Funimation
Didn’t I say to make my abilities average in the next life
Studio: Project No.9
Director: Masahiko Oota
Main Voice Actors: Azumi Waki (Mile), Sora Tokui (Rena), Masumi Tazawa (Pauline), Fumiko Uchimura (Mavis)
“Hey Jim, this genre called ‘ee-say-kyy’ is really hot right now. We should get in on it.”
“I dunno Tom, I only like to make moe blob, slice-of-life, cute-girls-doing-cute-things series.”
“Why not both?”
Thus, is how I imagine this show came to be. Our reincarnator, Mile, wants nothing more than to be average in her new life, and requests as much. Problem is the outlier of an ancient dragon in the world means that the average “of all living beings” is much higher than the average of “all human beings”.
This is a power fantasy, through-and-through with a moe blob coat of paint. Instead of club activities, Mile and company have fun adventuring out to destroy golems much higher than their own levels. Instead of building a harem of girls, we get saccharine, sweet interactions between girls. It’s a fluffy, light-hearted show that will elicit a chuckle hear and smirk there and not much more. Fan of either genre will probably be able to get something out of this, though.
It’s worth noting, however, that the show took a bit of a turn in recent episode that feels rather sudden. Whether this is beneficial or detrimental is yet to be seen.
Watch on Crunchyroll