Another isekai’d character, another clueless highschool couple, or maybe another superpowered teen… is there anything new to watch?
Here we go with another new season of anime. A new season full of possibilities and as yet undiscovered gems as well as the potential for disaster. It’s exciting hitting play on the latest first episode release and waiting to find out what is in store for you as a viewer. That said, as someone who has reviewed a lot of seasonal anime since starting the blog in 2016, I’m definitely noticing that as I scroll through the new season titles in MAL I do find myself wondering if there will be anything ‘new’ this season.
I mean, we have our sequels (My Hero Academia, Fruits Basket, Moriarty the Patriot, How Not To Summon a DemonLord, Megalo Box, Zombieland Saga etc) as well as a spin-off from That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime (and why are we getting a spin-off and not the continuation of season 2 which we’ll get next season?). There’s another anime about traditional Japanese music and a jaded teen (feeling a little deja-vu with Koto no Oto though that probably isn’t fair given I haven’t tried it yet). There’s the cute girl doing something cute with a motorcycle, a stupid comedy set in highschool that just looks mean spirited, a sports anime focused on rhythmic gymnastics (how far left field are we going to go for sports that haven’t yet been exhausted), as well as some basic action, romance and isekai stories. If I were going to overly generalise I could just sigh and say this season is offering much the same as any other.
To be honest, I’m pretty excited about this season. While I am only going to be episodically watching 6 anime, I have quite a long list of anime that I’ll be trying at least the first three episodes of to determine whether they are to be watched or dropped.
Why am I so excited about another season of anime?
Because every anime has the potential to surprise. Whether it tells a story I’ve seen before or completely catches me off-guard with a plot-twist (not always a good thing), every anime has the ability to be a new favourite story that I’ll happily buy on DVD or Blu-Ray and add to my physical collection to pull out when I just need something that makes me feel happy. Not every anime will succeed and a lot will end up being forgotten soon after they air, but just because it is a story I’m familiar with doesn’t mean it won’t offer something new or that they won’t be entertaining even if they don’t.
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There is the theory that there are only seven basic story plots out there and that with another twisting and turning you can make pretty much every story fit one of them (or some combination of them). While some theories have eight plots or even twelve, the basic notion from people who spend a lot of time studying narrative structures is that basically every story ultimately fits a pattern regardless of the dressing on it. What makes one hero’s journey stand out from another isn’t the plot but how that plot is presented and the characters that are undertaking the journey.
Which is absolutely true when we look at anime.
The six anime I am reviewing episodically this spring are:
- Fruits Basket: Final Season
- Moriarty the Patriot Season 2
- How Not To Summon a Demon Lord Season 2
- Mars Red
- Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song
- I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level
Of those, three are sequels. Fruits Basket is a reboot of an old anime based on a manga that I skim read online when the original anime didn’t finish the story just so I had some closure. Going into this final season of the anime is a dream come true in finally seeing the story finished in anime form and this anime has done an exceptional job. However, stories about cursed families, teens feeling lost and having to form connections, stories using a zodiac motif, none of these things are new. Fruits Basket knows exactly how to tug the right emotional heart strings and how to blend drama and comedy and usually get the mix right but calling it original would be quite the stretch.
Even the character archetypes we see within the story are all characters we’ve seen before. Honda the overly optimistic protagonist who heals everyone with niceness. Kyo, the angry rebel who actually is just a hurt boy with a sweet heart. And so on through the cast. What makes Fruits Basket special is the way all these elements come together rather than because any particular part is ‘new’.
Of the non-sequels Mars Red is based on a play, I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years is based on a light novel, and Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song is an original anime. I’m very curious about how Mars Red will play out as an anime. The first episode was dramatic and as Irina put it in our review, quite theatrical. But how does that work for a whole season of anime? And if it does work, it will be quite a different kind of anime to what I normally watch, but it still won’t actually be ‘new’ so much as just a bit different for this medium.
Slime 300 is exactly what you would expect in that the first episode offered nothing new. It doesn’t really stop it being enjoyable because it is quite the fun and relaxing watch, possibly more so because it is like a comfortable slipper. You know exactly what you are getting into and it is warm and comforting. No surprises can be a good thing if you are looking for something relaxing and mellow (and nobody likes finding surprises in their slippers anyway). The only question with Slime 300 is whether or not it does enough to make it a familiar favourite or whether it slips away into obscurity at season’s end. Either way, people watching it will get what they want from it because people wanting something new or wanting exciting action are unlikely to start it.
Vivy so far has most impressed me with its story but again, not for originality. It is more that I like the kind of story being a fan of Terminator and other time-travel tales where we are trying to head off a future catastrophe. It will be interesting to see how Vivy deals with inevitable paradoxes in that premise, and more interesting to see how the AIs are handled as characters throughout. The first three episodes however, definitely impressed and while we have a basic unlikely hero being called into action plot being set-up, there’s enough in the setting and character areas to keep this feeling fresh and interesting. Still, as with all original anime, there’s this small warning in the back of my mind cautioning me against getting too enthused about an anime until it is clear it knows where it is going.
Overall, while finding something totally new is unlikely in an anime season, I still think there’s plenty on offer each season. A new spin or direction, new characters to fall in love with or hate, new visuals and settings and soundtracks to draw you in and make your emotions swoon or to raise an eye-brow at and wonder how they ever got the green light… A new anime season is full of possibilities and stories that might be familiar but at the same time will be entirely their own creation (for better or worse).
I love the start of a new anime season because there’s so much hope and possibility. The end of the season is good as well as stories come to a close, but by then for a lot of those stories, it is pretty clear where they need to go. Surprise endings rarely land well because they usually make little sense in the context of the story and final twists only work when they have been signposted all along.
For me, when deciding to watch a show it isn’t a matter of whether I think the story will be similar to another – that might actually be in its favour – but rather whether after watching the first episode I feel there’s any entertainment to be had. Will I like the cast? Is there a question I want answered? Does the tone intrigue me? Was it fun to watch? These are all more important questions for me in deciding whether I’ll watch a show than whether it is an ‘original’ story.
I know others might disagree or want something else from their anime, but for me, entertainment triumphs. It is why I am an anime fan.
Images in this article from:
- Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song. Dir. S Ezaki. Wit Studio. 2021.
- I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level. Dir. N Kimura. Revoroot. 2021.
- Mars Red. Dir. S Sadamitsu. Signal.MD. 2021
- Fruits Basket: The Final. Dir. Y Ibata. TMS Entertainment. 2021.
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