written by Laurie Tom
Winter is a slim season this year, though there are a couple gems. Because of the partnership between Funimation and Crunchyroll, most new anime brought to the US now is streaming on the former (if dubbed) or the latter (if subtitled) and I’m watching entirely on Crunchyroll again. Though there are other players in the licensing market now, like Amazon and Netflix, the former does not regularly simulcast and the latter never does.
Amazon has started it’s own Anime Strike streaming channel for an additional $5/month on top of Amazon Prime membership (US members-only), but with only a handful of exclusives and two winter simulcasts it’s hard to justify at this point. The dollar goes so much farther with their competitors.
ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.
Why I Watched It: This is one of the season’s more mature offerings, featuring an adult cast containing bureaucracy members of a fictional country divided into thirteen states. The art style is distinctive, following the designs of its manga origin, which gives the cast a unique look compared to other series.
What I Thought: We follow the POV of Jean, a sleepy-lidded deputy chief of the Inspection Department, a sort of auditing bureau that ensures the thirteen districts are compliant with the national government. It’s a political job in a department that is beginning to look unnecessary given the long years of peace since its establishment, but there is something brewing and Jean is canny enough to sense it. It’s clear that he’s intentionally projecting a false image of himself that is a lot wealthier and disinterested than he actually is. This first episode is clearly setup and the storm is still to come.
Verdict: I’ll be watching. I like that Jean is a canny and observant protagonist. We don’t get inside his head in this first episode, so we don’t know his reasoning for anything, but his actions are curious enough that I want to know more.
Why I Watched It: I admittedly didn’t have high hopes for this one, because it looks like the anime version of manic pixie girl upending a normal guy’s life, but the hype going in was good so I figured it was worth looking at.
What I Thought: Fuuka relies on a well worn anime convention to get started, the meet cute that goes wrong due to an unexpected panty flashing, which results in the titular Fuuka spiking protagonist Yuu’s phone into the ground. He wasn’t taking a picture, but her behavior is so outrageous that the memory of her is burned into Yuu’s brain. Fuuka’s a free spirit without a cell phone who still listens to music on CDs and she horns her way into Yuu’s life, leaving him wondering how he ended up with a girlfriend by the end of the first episode. It’s not my fantasy, but I do like how Yuu is a complete Twitter addict as I’ve never seen the medium depicted in anime before.
Verdict: I’ll probably pass, though I might come back to it at some point, because I know of a development later in the manga that takes this beyond the standard romantic comedy and I’m curious how the event will be handled.
Interviews with Monster Girls
Why I Watched It: I wasn’t originally, since I feel like anime’s fascination with cute monster girls who look mostly human except for ears/tail/horns/etc has been done to death in the wake of Monster Musume, but early word of mouth is good, so I decided to check it out.
What I Thought: This is not my kind of show, but it’s surprisingly light on fan service and the first episode is what it says on the tin. Demi-humans have always existed in low numbers in this reality, and high school teacher Takahashi finally gets a chance to meet one who happens to be a student at his school. From there he inquires about the myth versus reality of being a demi-human by interviewing students, the first of which is a vampire. The interesting thing is that the demi-humans aren’t treated that strangely by the rest of the student body. They’re different, but not something to be feared. The myth vs. reality angle doesn’t tread much new ground though, especially starting with a vampire, which has already been reinvented to death.
Verdict: I’ll pass, but it’s a new angle for people who aren’t tired of the monster girl phenomenon.
Ms. Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
Why I Watched It: This is the one monster girl show I was going to check out, because of the unusual gender flip in that it’s Ms. Kobayashi, a woman, who gets stuck with a unusual houseguest in the form of a western dragon who can turn into a cute young lady.
What I Thought: The gender flip does add something to the monster girl genre, as the things that concern Kobayashi are different from that of a heterosexual male protagonist. She’s more concerned that Tohru doesn’t burn down her apartment than cohabitation with a stranger. Watching Tohru try to disrupt Kobayashi going out for drinks with a coworker (under the mistaken impression it’s a date) was entertaining as Tohru makes it clear that she harbors romantic feelings for her. I think the idea of having a dragon maid would be funnier if Tohru was in her full dragon form more often, but that would take away from the cute monster girl look that appeal to fans of the subgenre.
Verdict: I’ll pass. It’s cute, but I don’t think there’s enough here to sustain my interest.
Saga of Tanya the Evil
Why I Watched It: Reason one was the wacky premise of a Japanese salaryman reborn as a little girl where he becomes a super-powered child soldier. Reason two was that World War I is seldom visited in anime but it’s my favorite historical conflict and the series takes place in an alternate WWI.
What I Thought: I was expecting to be more put off by Tanya, and to be sure, Tanya is “a monster in the body of a little girl” but she (he?) is interesting in watch in the way that some villainous protagonists are. It’s not that we like her, but we want to see what she does next and what her game is. The world building is more interesting than I expected. Air mages replace the airplanes of the real World War I, and the story takes place from the Empire (German) viewpoint, but there are several noticeable differences between real world history and the alternate one in how the war started, early grand strategy execution, and the progress being made.
Verdict: I’ll be watching. This show is definitely not going to be for everyone, but the other Empire characters are more relatable human beings (no cardboard Nazis transported to the wrong time period) and having a sympathetic cast around Tanya could balance things out.
Laurie Tom is a fantasy and science fiction writer based in southern California. Since she was a kid she has considered books, video games, and anime in roughly equal portions to be her primary source of entertainment. Laurie is a previous grand prize winner of Writers of the Future and since then her work has been published in Galaxy’s Edge, Strange Horizons, and the Year’s Best YA Speculative Fiction.