Spring 2018 Anime First Impressions

written by Laurie Tom

A lot has changed since last year. Amazon’s Anime Strike service has been shut down and everything previously streaming on it has been rolled into its baseline Amazon Prime service. While this does not help fans without Amazon Prime, American fans are no longer being charged a few extra dollars for the same content their Canadian counterparts have been getting as part of their baseline service.

Additionally, HIDIVE is coming into its own as an alternate streaming service with its own exclusive licenses. It doesn’t have a free streaming alternative, but the monthly subscription is affordable and their library is deep with several exclusives.

This spring is packed with high profile series, and a lot of smaller ones, that in an ordinary season I would want to watch. As a result, I viewed more first episodes than usual, and I’ll be going through what I checked out in alphabetical order with the goal of identifying two or three to follow for the season.



Why I Watched It: I wanted to play Caligula when it came out as an RPG because of its premise. Students live in a virtual reality school where they’re expected to live their day to day idyllic lives indefinitely. Most of them don’t even realize the world isn’t real, but the protagonist discovers the truth and he and his friends band together to escape. The name come from the psychological term the “Caligula Effect.”

What I Thought: I enjoyed this first episode, as Ritsu gradually realizes that there is something wrong with reality (though his friend Mifue gets the worst of it with her rewritten mom). It begins with a distorted cry for help during a virtual idol’s music track that only he hears, and escalates with bizarre, out-of-character behavior from his friends, until he realizes that the representatives of both of the graduating class and incoming class of students are the exact same person. At that point all hell breaks loose, complete with what I assume are artificial students transforming into monsters. It’s an intriguing start and and I really want to know why this illusionary world has started crumbling.

Verdict: I’ll probably be watching. I think this is an excellent contender for my viewing time. The only thing I’m concerned about is that this is a video game adaptation and I’m not sure how well the rest of the story will weather the transition.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll (subtitled)

Dances with the Dragons


Why I Watched It: Dances with the Dragons has appealing character designs and looks to have nicely animated action scenes. There’s potentially decent worldbuilding with the idea of fighting dragons with “spell equations.”

What I Thought: I like the magi-tech style of combat, in that this is a modern world where magic is just another technology. There is a boundary between human and dragon lands, and juushiki users (awkwardly rendered as “juushikiists” in the subtitles) are sort of bounty hunters who take out the dragons in exchange for pay. However the worldbuilding is uneven, spending a good minute rambling about the discovery of juushiki when there are more pressing issues, like where did the dragons come from (we see ruins of skyscrapers so they can’t be native) and what is an Altar since everyone seems to be impressed by the killing of a semi-Altar dragon?

Verdict: I might come back to this one, but in a crowded season it’s a pass. While it has potential, the first episode is too uneven and there’s too much dead space that doesn’t feel like plot or character development.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll (subtitled) and Funimation (dubbed, subscription required)

Devil’s Line


Why I Watched It: I try to stay away from vampire stuff, but this one looks interesting, pairing a college student (rather than a high school girl) with a half-vampire who is part of a police task force. The original manga is seinen, meaning the story is aimed to appeal to the adult male demographic, so it will likely avoid the usual paranormal romance tropes.

What I Thought: This is definitely a gritty, more mature offering. Vampires are much like humans except that they find blood irresistible, and get a high off of drinking it, which tends to result in the victim’s demise. Offending vampires are hunted down and arrested, though not without some level of sympathy, with the understanding that a vampire that has killed can never go back to a peaceful life without blood. I like this level of real world integration with the fantastic, however, the combat animation is extremely off-putting. It appears to be CG, but not rendered in the standard frame rate for anime so it looks too fluid. Aside from that, a lot of the night time scenes feature thin white outlines around characters and I don’t know if that’s a stylistic choice or a rendering error. Finally, I don’t think the two leads have much chemistry with each other and I found it off-putting how Anzai forces a kiss on Tsukasa at the end of the episode, even if he is half-vampire and happens to see blood near her mouth.

Verdict: I’m going to pass. It has some interesting ideas, but I don’t like Anzai or that sort of behavior from my male leads.

Where to find stream: HIDIVE (subtitled and dubbed, subscription required)

Doreiku the Animation


Why I Watched It: A number of questionable people are trapped in a survival game-ish power struggle to achieve dominance over each other, which is potentially right up my alley, so long as the requisite head games are there. Based on a novel series.

What I Thought: It was more trashy than I expected. It’ll probably appeal to people who like fiction with exploitative scenarios. I thought there would be more of a game structure to what’s going on, but basically two people engage in a “duel” while wearing these high tech retainers in their mouths and the loser is then compelled by the device to be a slave to the winner. So far as I can tell, there is no tournament arc and I suspect most of the cast is going to consist of a bunch of unlikable sadists. We meet our protagonists, who’ve yet to engage in dueling anybody, but we do see the result of one duel. Though the winner is taking some understandable revenge, she becomes cruel in ways that she didn’t appear to be before.

Verdict: I’m going to pass. If it was more game-y I could possibly hold my nose through it, but it looks like the show is going to put our protagonists through the wringer, and they won’t be the better for it by the end.

Where to find stream: HIDIVE (subtitled and dubbed, subscription required)

The Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These


Why I Watched It: This is a remake of an epic space opera series that in older days would never have been licensed due to the size and scope of the project, covering a whopping ten novels about the interstellar war between the Galactic Empire and the Free Planet Alliance. It was one of those series that I knew about when I first got into anime as a legend in itself, but never expected to watch because no one was translating 100+ episode series at the time. The remake will be shorter.

What I Thought: The first episode focuses almost exclusively on the Galactic Empire, introducing one of our dual protagonists, Reinhard von Lohengramm. We don’t get much history about the current war so much as the Galactic Empire and the Free Planet Alliance have been at it for a while and Reinhard is rather young and arguably inexperienced for the role of High Admiral. The space battle segments are good for those craving ship-to-ship combat sans mecha, and his tactics are sound. Reinhard is willing to forgo “common sense” behavior, realizing that by doing so he can obtain an advantage. It’s not until the final minutes of the episode that we hear the voice of his rival, Yang Wen-li, on the side of the Free Planet Alliance, who promises his soldiers they will still win despite their losses. With Reinhard’s skill established and Yang Wen-li’s sheer gumption with his fleet-wide broadcast, it’s a solid tease for their eventual confrontation in the next episode.

Verdict: I’ll be watching. I love this kind of space opera and it’s unfortunately not as common as it used to be in anime. I’m not sure how it’s going to manage condensing everything from the original, but it looks really good so far.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll (subtitled) and Funimation (dubbed, subscription required)

Magical Girl Ore


Why I Watched It: When I first saw the promo images of a couple beefcake guys in magical girl outfits, I assumed this was another show about boys transforming into magical girls, but it’s not! It’s about a couple girls who get magical girl abilities that turn them into a couple really buff guys. Naturally it’s a comedy and there are romance complications when the protagonist’s crush seems more interested in her male persona than herself.

What I Thought: For a series built on the premise that the girl turns into a guy and then fights demons while wearing a skirt, it takes an awfully long time to get to that point, with the transformation happening right at the end of the episode, so we don’t even get a fight scene. The show clearly knows how to parody its genre, and the “cute” mascot that looks and talks like a yakuza as part of its speech tic is an inspired touch, but the pacing leaves me concerned and I’m not sure whether it’s intentional that her crush is expressionless as a piece of cardboard.

Verdict: I’m going to pass. I might revisit if word of mouth builds up, but it’s not funny enough to make up for the slow pacing.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll (subtitled)

Persona 5: The Animation


Why I Watched It: Persona 5 was one of the best JRPGs to come out last year, featuring teenage phantom thieves who steal people’s hearts in one world so they can regain their consciences in the real one. This should be a quick and easy way to relive the game (or follow the story in the first place for non-gamers). The game’s voice cast is reprising their roles and the series is expected to run 24 episodes so there should be the room needed to cover the entire plot without compressing and cutting too much.

What I Thought: The first episode was engaging and impressive for compressing what was probably the first 2-3 hours of gameplay into a half hour time slot. We’re told all we need to know about Ren Amamiya’s past, how he came to his new school, and what’s happening in “present day” (the story starts in media res and is mostly told in flashback during Ren’s interrogation). The first episode even manages to make explicit how Ren and Ryuji were able to visit Kamoshida’s palace in the first place, which I don’t think was spelled out in the game. I suspect series newbies will be a little, though not horribly, lost but fans should feel right at home.

Verdict: I’ll be watching at some point, though I’m not sure if it will be during the spring since there’s so much else going on and I already know the story. This is definitely going on my list though.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll (subtitled)

Real Girl


Why I Watched It: The premise, about a boy who prefers the 2D stuff finally meeting a real girl who might be interested in him, isn’t something I’d usually watch. It feels like male nerd wish fulfillment, but Real Girl is based on a manga for girls, so I assume there is a twist to it that makes it more appealing to the female demographic. The character designs are appealing so I figured I’d give this a shot.

What I Thought: The two protagonists are not people I would normally like, but they’re human. Hikaru Tsutsui doesn’t like real girls because they tend to pick on him for being a nerd and he only has one friend, who is also a nerd, so they both get ostracized together. When he meets Iroha Igarashi he immediately dislikes her because she’s fashionable for her age and has a “loose” reputation. Of course she’s the type of girl who would show up late to class without a care (whereas he’s a model student with perfect attendance). What they go through feels very real, especially with how real people hurt each other without wanting to be cruel.

Verdict: I might watch this one. It’s a crowded season, but Iroha is a really unusual female lead. It’s rare to have a more experienced girl in a romantic pair, especially in shoujo anime. That might be why the episode is entirely from Hikaru’s POV, but I hope that switches later.

Where to find stream: HIDIVE (subtitled and dubbed, subscription required)

Tada Never Falls in Love


Why I Watched It: Sweet high school romantic comedy between a high school boy, Tada, and the girl, Teresa, who has come to his school as an exchange student. Though the trailer video plays up both the romance and the comedy in a high school setting, the early promotional art shows Teresa in a tiara and ballgown, suggesting she is probably a princess. The show is by the creative team behind the Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun anime, which I had greatly enjoyed.

What I Thought: Tada is not manic funny in the way that Nozaki was and while the first episode isn’t bad, it’s definitely a slower burn. Teresa is heavily implied to be royalty and has come to Japan as an exchange student. It turns out that she’s a total Japanophile, specifically of a period drama called Rainbow Samurai, which weirds out Tada because she acts like it’s the greatest thing ever, while to him it’s an old TV show. Tada himself doesn’t seem that remarkable other than he really likes photography, and that’s how he meets Teresa, when she keeps getting in the way of his lens. So far they have such little chemistry together that even sharing an umbrella in the rain doesn’t feel romantic, though I guess that’s the point, given the series title.

Verdict: I might come back to this one, but it’s crowded season and with Wotakoi being the clear romantic comedy winner and Real Girl also being a contender, I don’t think I’m going to be seeing this one in real time.

Where to find stream: HIDIVE (subtitled and dubbed, subscription required)

Tokyo Ghoul:re


Why I Watched It: The first Tokyo Ghoul anime veered away from the manga and went with a wildly different and original ending, so it’s very odd that the sequel manga is being animated, because it means that people who only follow the anime will have no idea how we got to this point. I’m not sure if concessions are being made to onboard those viewers, or the assumption will be that the audience knows the original manga.

What I Thought: The opening episode is different enough that I doubt I have much more context than someone brand new to the franchise. The government has recently created the Quinx Squad, which are humans with the abilities of ghouls in order to better combat them. Since ghouls require human flesh in order to survive, humans naturally don’t get along with them. We get a bunch of new characters and meet most of the Quinx Squad. The ending confirms where Kaneki is, for fans of the first series wondering why he wasn’t in most of the episode, but I feel like I really needed more answers, not just to Kaneki but to the Quinx Squad’s existence in general, to hold my interest.

Verdict: I’ll come back to this later. Despite the bumpy adaptation the last time around, :re has a new writer and new director, and if the first episode is anything to judge, this series will be tonally different. It’s bloody, but doesn’t seem to be striving for a horror feel, making it more of a dark action show, which feels like a better fit than the action horror hybrid the first one was trying to be.

Where to find stream: Funimation (subtitled and dubbed, subscription required for dub, but not for sub)

Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku


Why I Watched It: After enjoying Recovery of an MMO Junkie I was really looking forward to another romantic comedy about a couple of geeks, this time in an office setting rather than an MMO. “Otaku” is a Japanese word for “enthusiasts” and particularly gets attached to those with nerdier pursuits.

What I Thought: This first episode does a wonderful job of conveying what it’s like being an adult geek, from discovering a fellow geek in the office to trying to hide your hobbies while hanging around muggles. In Narumi’s case, her ex-boyfriend actually dumped her when he discovered she’s a yaoi fangirl. Fortunately for Narumi, changing jobs to avoid her ex lands her at a new company where she gets reacquainted with her taciturn childhood friend, Hirotaka, who is similarly interested in geeky things. After being a sounding board for all her venting, he asks her why she doesn’t date someone who doesn’t mind that she’s a fangirl. The episode ends with Hirotaka giving an amazingly nerdy proposal to Narumi for why she should consider dating him (he’ll always be there when she needs another player in a video game!) and I completely loved it.

Verdict: I’ll be watching. Since they agreed to date at the end of the very first episode, I assume the rest of the series will be the ups and downs of two nerds getting used to dating each other. The other two characters in the show look like they’ll end up being a beta couple and at least one of them is confirmed an otaku in the first episode.

Where to find stream: Amazon Prime Video (subtitled, subscription required)

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’s short fiction has been published in Galaxy’s Edge, Strange Horizons, and the Intergalactic Medicine Show.

Anime Catch-Up Review: Tokyo Ghoul

written by Laurie Tom

tokyo ghoul

Tokyo Ghoul is a messy bag that almost made me quit watching twice, but the thing is, when it’s good, it’s powerful stuff. It’s unfortunate that the audience has to deal with so many ups and down that it gives the impression that the showrunners really had no idea what they were doing when they adapted Sui Ishida’s manga.

The premise is that there are monsters called ghouls who look like ordinary humans until they attack, during which they can project additional weaponlike appendages from their body and the whites of their eyes turn black. Their presence is known to the world and there is a government agency that monitors their behavior to keep them in check since they prey on humans for food.

College freshmen Ken Kaneki is attacked by a ghoul named Rize when an “accident” at a construction site crushes them both. Though severely wounded, Kaneki is not dead, and the surgeon at the hospital transplants Rize’s internal organs into him to keep him alive. Not long after that he discovers he can no longer eat human food without throwing up, and to his horror, the only thing that smells tasty to him is recently killed human.

Tokyo Ghoul starts dark and ends dark, but it doesn’t consistently stay that way. After his rough introduction to ghoul life, Kaneki settles into his new reality in a surprisingly comfortable fashion, considering that he’s now a human-eating monster.

Part of this is due to the fact that Kaneki is quickly adopted by Anteiku, the advisory body of ghouls that maintains harmony between their fellows in the 20th Ward of Tokyo. In addition to mediating in-fighting over hunting territory, Anteiku also provides for ghouls who are unable to hunt for themselves, generally by finding the bodies of humans who’ve committed suicide. This allows Kaneki to eat without the moral burden of having killed someone.

The other part is that ghouls are quickly portrayed as not that much different from humans. Some will only use their powers to protect their families and others will abuse them for personal gain. Ghouls marry, have children, and depending on the individual, may choose to do their best to participate in human society. What makes them different is that they must eat humans to survive.

The first half of the series focuses on the ghouls around Kaneki and what their day to day lives are like. Some of those episodes are good, like the storyline with the government investigators, when Kaneki realizes that he’s the only one who can see both ghouls and humans as people, but other episodes never rise above being a general action show, and just about any scene with Shu Tsukiyama is nauseating. That character alone almost made me stop watching. I’ll take buckets of gore over watching Tsukiyama getting off on huffing Kaneki’s blood one more time.

Kaneki starts out a timid and passive protagonist, refusing to kill and can barely be convinced to fight, but while it’s easy to see both sides of the human/ghoul conflict through him, he’s actually not that interesting because other people tend to drive the events around him, leaving him a passenger in his own life.

That is, until the mid-series finale, which is probably one of the darkest episodes of any anime that I’ve managed to stomach.

It’s not that it’s overly gory, but it’s emotionally visceral. Natsuki Hanae renders an riveting performance as Kaneki that takes the audience along with all the agony he’s experiencing, and combined with what we can hear but can’t see, the episode is intense enough that it can be uncomfortable to watch. It is probably the best episode in the series and very well done, but at the same time I don’t think I want to watch it again.

Post-trauma Kaneki is very difficult to reconnect with, which is the reason I almost dropped the show again, but after a few more episodes, I realized he was finally the protagonist that I had wanted from the beginning. It just took three quarters of the series to get there.

The second half brings the conflict between humans and ghouls to a climax, and the narrative does a good job of portraying both sides as neither good nor evil as it ramps up to the finale. A minor character might be just another enemy to the other side, but the audience goes in knowing that everyone matters to someone else.

The ending, while it doesn’t wrap up all loose ends, is thematically powerful enough that I can almost forgive everything else that slipped along the way, but there’s no getting away from the fact Tokyo Ghoul is stuffed with missed opportunities, unanswered questions, and odd pacing issues.

As far as the gore goes, Tokyo Ghoul censors all the worst bits. Partially eaten bodies are always just out of sight. There is definitely blood, sometimes buckets of it, but the worst bits of on camera violence are the ghoul against ghoul combat scenes, who due to their regenerative powers, can afford to be run through. Even the torture scenes in the mid-series finale don’t actually show what’s happening.

Because of the subject matter and the uneven presentation I find Tokyo Ghoul difficult to recommend. It’s not consistently dark, particularly in the first half, so I’m not sure horror fans would make it to the end without getting bored, and because of the very premise of the story I can’t recommend it to anyone with a sensitive stomach.

When Tokyo Ghoul is at its best it’s really good, but there’s a lot of slush in the middle and mileage may vary depending on the viewer’s acceptance of less horror-oriented fare in what is essentially an action horror series.

Number of Episodes: 24

Pluses: Interesting take on the ghoul monster, government ghoul hunters are pretty effective antagonists despite not having special powers, neither humans nor ghouls are uniformly bad people

Minuses: Main character Kaneki feels like he’s just along for the ride for much of the show, storytelling is really uneven, fate of many characters left unresolved

Tokyo Ghoul is currently streaming at Hulu and Funimation and is available both subtitled and dubbed (dubbed at Funimation only, only partially complete at this time). Funimation has licensed this for eventual retail distribution in the US.

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 Crossed Genres.

Summer 2014 Anime First Impressions

written by Laurie Tom

July means the start of the summer anime season, so I’m taking a look at most of the new shows that have caught my interest. Typically I watch 2-3 series as they air so I don’t intend to finish all of these, and I’m still watching last season’s M3: the dark metal, leaving less room for newcomers.


aldnoah.zeroWhy I Watched It: Someone favorably compared it to Crest of the Stars, one of the most underrated anime space operas ever, and I really wanted to watch something with a strong sf bent.

What I Thought: Definitely one of the most interesting premises this season! In an alternate timeline, the Apollo 17 mission discovered a Hyper Gate to Mars on the moon, and humanity’s mucking around there resulted in the Martian Vers civilization (which is human) revealing itself. By the time the year 2014 rolls around, there is a tentative peace between the two sides, but that is broken in short order when a terrorist act on Earth provokes the technologically superior Vers into attacking. Pleasantly enough, it looks like there might be a subplot involving one of the older (read: non-teenage) characters and a Terran/Martian conflict that happened in 1999. Aldnoah.Zero is the only series this season that had me at the edge of my seat as the first episode closed.

Verdict: I will be watching it. It looks like there will be heroes and villains on both sides of the conflict and I’m particularly drawn to the character Slaine, who seems to be a Terran living and working among the Vers. For people who love worldbuilding, there is a ton of backstory in this first episode, and it never feels like a giant info dump.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll, Daisuki, and Hulu.

Blue Spring Ride

bluespringrideWhy I Watched It: The preview clips tapped into my memories of middle school and high school. A girl has a crush on a boy in middle school who moves away and then returns in high school, but they can’t pick up where they left off.

What I Thought: Oddly enough, the more fanciful part of Futaba Yoshioka’s life is the one I relate to, with the crush moving away and coming back again. But I suspect the number of people who can claim similar experiences is relatively low. For everyone else, this is a story about the girl who was super popular with boys in middle school, hated it because it alienated her from all the girls, and entered high school determined to look like an unwomanly slouch so guys would stop hitting on her and she could have female friends. Futuba largely succeeds, though it’s also clear that she is not being herself, so much as exhibiting these behaviors just to ward off guys. The friends she gains too†yeesh†she could do better. When Futaba is accused of stealing from the school store, her friends don’t even take her side. Her love interest, Kou Mabuchi, seems like a decent enough romantic lead. Futaba thinks he’s being a bit of a jerk, but I think it’s more that he’s trying not to jump into a relationship based on memories in middle school.

Verdict: I will probably be watching it. (It’s actually a toss up between this and the next show on the list.) Being based on a romance manga it’s expected the two main characters will eventually get back together again, making it a predictable watch, but I found this to be one of the more moving romances.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll

Nobunaga Concerto

nobunagaconcertoWhy I Watched It: Holey moley! I thought this would get passed by all the western simulcasts due to its non-standard art style and focus on Japanese history, but I’ve been proven wrong. I was interested because the premise is that a modern day high school student goes back in time and becomes Nobunaga Oda, the famous warlord who starts the campaign to unite Japan, and the art style is clearly period influenced.

What I Thought: Better than I thought! The show does require some suspension of disbelief, mostly in two forms: 1) No one suspects that Nobunaga’s recent strange behavior is due to the fact they’re looking at an imposter that physically resembles him and 2) Saburo accepts everything that’s happened to him real fast (being stuck in the Sengoku era, taking Nobunaga’s place in history, etc). The fun part though is that Saburo still intends to do things his way while making sure that history stays the course. I’m a little concerned that the real Nobunaga ditches his life and responsibilities so easily though. Is he ever going to come back on the show?

Verdict: I really want to say I’ll be watching, but I can’t guarantee I’ll have the bandwidth. I will probably end up dropping this or Blue Spring Ride depending on how later episodes pan out.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll

Persona 4: the Golden Animation

persona4goldenWhy I Watched It: Revisiting Persona 4 is like seeing an old friend. It’s impossible not to feel nostalgia for what had been wonderful times, yet I can’t help wondering if things will be the same again. Persona 4: the Animation aired just a scant three years ago and is still one of my favorite series. Can they really make it any better?

What I Thought: The show is clearly geared towards people already familiar with Persona 4 as the opening showcases all the main characters (and surprisingly a lot of the minor ones!) as they start the school year. The first third of the episode is beautiful. Those credits, that music! It’s exactly what Persona should be. Then the rest of the episode gets awkward fast, probably because it’s trying not to redo the series from three years ago, but certain scenes have to happen. A lot of information necessary to non-fans is skipped, and the key fight scene in the first episode seemed like it was trying painfully hard to one-up its predecessor, with the end result backfiring and pushing my suspension of disbelief.

Verdict: Since Persona 4: the Golden Animation is based off of Persona 4: The Golden the game (the extended cut of Persona 4 containing new events, new subplots, and a new character) I might come back to it as some point as watching an anime series is faster than playing an RPG, but I’m sad to say this is going on the backburner. The first Persona 4 anime series is still excellent and would serve as a better introduction for people who haven’t played the game.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll, Daisuki, and Hulu.

Sailor Moon Crystal

sailormooncrystalWhy I Watched It: Any anime fan over a certain age will remember the debut of the original Sailor Moon on North American TV back in 1995. It had a lot of filler since the manga ran concurrent to the TV show, and for American audiences there was a boatload of editing and censorship. Sailor Moon Crystal is a fresh adaptation of the original manga (presumably with no filler) and will not be edited for American audiences this time.

What I Thought: I’m not sure the new art style really works for me, even though it’s closer to the original manga. It’s been a long time since I watched the original series, and I was never the biggest fan, but the update has a pretty fine first episode. Usagi has always been a reluctant heroine, and that hasn’t changed. She’s still a terrible student, a clutz, and goof-off, but will run to help a friend no matter what. Even though the plot of the first episode is familiar, it feels like we’re moving at a faster pace this time around (not a bad thing), and I like that snapshots of her previous life are introduced earlier. I have to admit that parts of the opening credits made the little girl in me squee and I like the new feminist lyrics to the opening song where they declare they don’t need to rely on men to help them.

Verdict: I probably will not watch this on simulcast since I’m already familiar with the show, but I’m pretty sure I’ll catch up with it another time since I would like to see a more faithful adaptation than what we got in the 90s.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll and Hulu

Sword Art Online II

swordartonline2Why I Watched It: The first half of the first Sword Art Online series was gamer anime heaven for anyone who has ever played an MMORPG. The second half†not so much and is best skipped and erased from existence. But the first half was so good that I’m willing to give the second series a chance.

What I Thought: It feels a little forced, trying to find a reason for Kirito to keep logging into new games when he should be among the last people who would ever want to play an MMO again, but the opening was still better than I thought it would be. The mystery is intriguing. Someone is assassinating top players in the virtual reality game Gun Gale Online and when they die online, their hearts stop in the real world, which should not be possible, and there is no brain damage done (people were killed through their VR helmets in the first SAO). It doesn’t quite make sense that the government would ask a teenager to log in for the investigation, but they do and Kirito reluctantly agrees.

Verdict: I’m fence-sitting on this one. It has promise, but I’m really concerned the writing will drop off as it did in the second story arc and I’m afraid that Asuna, the best female character of the first series, is going to be sidelined as the sit-and-watch girlfriend. The opening episode is just good when I needed it to be excellent.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll and Daisuki

Terror in Resonance

terrorinresonanceWhy I Watched It: Good pre-release buzz about a series involving two high school terrorists with a plan to bring Japan to its knees. Obvious question is: Why?

What I Thought: I suspect this will probably be a fairly popular show, the animation is good and the premise unusual, but it’s just not my cup of tea. While I don’t find the conceit behind high school aged terrorists unbelievable, there are a couple of things that happen towards the end of the first episode that stretch my believability (and being a dramatic work set in the real world, it really needs that believability). I also dislike that bullied girl Lisa is essentially blackmailed into becoming an accomplice to her mysterious new terrorist classmates. There’s some backstory behind the two boys escaping an institution of some kind and it was a rough time for them, but the show makes it pretty clear that they are not good people.

Verdict: This is one of those shows that I might come back to later after it’s been fully released and I hear more about it. Right now I can’t relate to any of the characters except Lisa, and I’m not sure I want to relate to anyone else.

Where to find stream: Funimation and Hulu

Tokyo Ghoul

tokyoghoulWhy I Watched It: I like stories where good characters have to grapple with terrible choices, and it doesn’t get much more awful than suddenly discovering that you’ve turned into a ghoul with cannibalistic urges to eat other humans.

What I Thought: It’s not quite as gory as I feared it might be, which is a relief. You might know that’s a half-chewed dead body in the darkness, but the show doesn’t come out and show it. What I’m surprised about is that ghouls are public knowledge in this world so people are aware of them and there seems to be a limited sort of understanding between regular humans and them. Unlike getting turned in a vampire and hungering for blood, getting turned into a ghoul and hungering for flesh is not sexy, and Tokyo Ghoul takes pains to show main character Kaneki trying to deal with his new condition when he’s both completely ignorant of how ghoul society works, and is repulsed by the thought of eating human flesh.

Verdict: I will be watching it. But it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s a dark show and I’m pretty sure that Kaneki will end up sliding down the slippery slope sooner or later. Eating humans does not appear to be optional for ghouls. Human food causes him to throw up.

Where to find stream: Funimation and Hulu



laurietomLaurie 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 venues such as Galaxy’s Edge, Crossed Genres, and Solaris Rising: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction.