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Screenshot of a qTox window

A blog post talking about the history of the privacy-focused Tox protocol.


After the 2013 Snowden US government leaks, it's no secret that many people, including those from the general public, have become quite uncomfortable about the topic of government surveillance.

Up until then, there was always an air of acceptance among everyone that the government was spying on them and that, most likely, all digital communications were being harvested by it somehow, but nobody gave the thought too much thinking.

Well, Snowden changed this and, in the wake of publications of classified materials that showed just how much the US government was eavesdropping on everyone, including domestically on US citizens, it became clear that the idea of being spied upon suddenly lost all its humor in the public's eyes.

Programs such as PRISM became part of the public consciousness and technologies that many had taken for granted, such as Skype, became the target of much distrust all of a sudden.

People were suddenly concerned about their online privacy, and felt betrayed by the revelations.

And so, as a consequence, in June 2013, the first commit was published on github by a user named irungentoo, a commit for a repository named toxcore.

And so was the Tox protocol born.

Design goals

The protocol, in its infancy, strived to achieve some very straight forward goals:

  1. It was supposed to be entirely a peer-to-peer protocol, meaning that unlike many other instant messaging protocols devised up until that point (such as Whatsapp, Signal, Telegram etc.), the tox protocol will not rely on any central service at all, outside of the barebones bootstrap nodes which would be used to get the ball rolling

  2. It would be an end-to-end encrypted messaging system, meaning that the only players involved in the conversation would be the ones that would have the means of decrypting it

  3. Once a contact's friend request is accepted, the two clients would immediately connect directly to each other, without relying on any relays or intermediaries whatsoever (except if any of the contacts decides to use Tor to mask their IPs for additional privacy)

The Snowden leaks revealed that the main reason digital communication was prone to being eavesdropped on was that the most famous and common instant messaging communication programs relied on servers to relay the messages between the participants. This means that the NSA only needed to go to the server operators to convince them to handle these messages to them, either voluntarily or via use of legal coercion.

So the Tox protocol solved this dilemma by simply getting rid of servers altogether. You can't easily spy on everyone if people are directly connecting to each other to talk, without central intermediaries.

A good analogy is the advent of telephone companies. It's easy for the government to spy on phone conversations because, ultimately, there are only a handful of phone companies in any country, so they just need to compromise all of them and then they can access the phone conversations of millions of people. This is possible because all these millions of people rely on just a handful of companies for all their communication.

The less companies there are to compromise, the easier it is for the government to breach the service.


The idea, was a good one. There were some caveats though.

Who came first? The chicken or the egg?

The main issue that hampered Tox's growth was the fact that Tox, by design, was very privacy focused.

Yes, in theory, you could use your real name as your tox profile account's name, you could post your email and phone number in your tox details as well for all your contacts to see.

But, in practice, most people used an anonymous username that was very difficult for others to guess. Moreover, the protocol didn't even mandate for the registration of an email address or a phone number. Basically, the protocol allowed for full anonymity at all times.

This was by design like this.

The issue with this was that there was no easy way to find your friends even if they also used tox.

There was no directory where you could search people by name, email address, phone number or even tox username at all.

Instead, if you wanted to talk with someone over tox, you first had to share your Tox ID with them, which is this long 76 character long hexadecimal string, that they would then use to find you over the internet and send you a friend invite.

Once you accepted the invite, your tox client would connect directly with theirs over the internet, negotiate a secret encryption key with them and then use this to encrypt all your communications with each other.

The key would only exist on your device and theirs, never leaked to any third party at all.

Needless to say, this was a cumbersome process, and it made finding new people a complete and utter hassle. Not only this, but it opened the door for a chicken and an egg dilemma, because if you needed to securely talk with someone, you first had to give them your tox ID (or they had to give you theirs) over a secure private channel before you even started talking over tox.

But in order to do that, you needed to have a private trusted communication channel between the two of you already to send the tox ID through, so what even was the point of tox if you already had that?

Offline messages? What's that?

Another, glaring shortcoming that the tox protocol suffered from, due to its server-less architecture, was the lack of offline messaging functionality.

Skype, Teams, Signal and all these other instant messaging platforms have servers that are, inherently, trusted by all the clients by design.

Servers might not seem like that much of a huge deal, but it allows for useful features like offline messaging to happen without having to overly engineer a very complicated solution.

Basically, if Bob wants to send Alice a message over Skype, for example, but Alice is offline at the time, Bob can send the message, the message gets recorded and timestamped by Skype servers which are, by design, always online, and then Bob can do other things in the meantime, even go offline as well, knowing that the message has been sent.

Now, even if Bob may have gone offline in the meantime, Alice may come online, connect to a Skype server and, as soon as the server sees her coming online, it remembers that Bob had tried to send her a message when she was offline, and sends the message to her now.

Bob doesn't need to be online for any of this. The Skype server did the job for him behind the scenes. This is what's known as offline messaging.

Tox doesn't have servers, though, so none of this is possible.

I'm sure, technically, this can be done in a peer-to-peer application too, if you put enough thought into designing a clever solution.

As long as there are other peers for you to connect to, you can engineer a solution in which they store the message themselves, instead of relying on a server, and relay it somehow to Alice when she gets online, but then you have to design a propagation protocol so that the message is kept alive while peers come online and go offline randomly, make sure that a malicious peer doesn't just flood the network with bogus offline messages meant to DoS all other peers and other such nonsense.

The point is, designing a solution that doesn't rely on servers is not easy and tox just decided to take the easiest approach out: just avoid supporting offline messages entirely.

What this means is that in Tox, if you wish to send any of your contacts a message, both you and the contact in question have to be online!

Sure, tox can hide this fact by queuing the message locally on your computer, waiting for your contact to come online to send it to him but, if you decide to shut down your computer during this time while they're still offline, they won't be getting your message while your computer is shut down, even if they will come online in the meantime.

Basically, all your offline messages to your contact will ever be sent to them only during the brief period when both you and them are online at the same time.

This makes people who live on opposite sides of the planet, and who have huge time zone differences between them, very difficult to communicate with each other over tox, as one is usually offline sleeping while the other is online, and vice versa.

Worse, if you have an urgent message you really need someone over tox to read, your only recourse is to keep your computer online and not sleeping at all times, until they get online, for the message to be delivered.

This is not only a huge waste of power but, many times, it's impractical. Basically, in order to mitigate the lack of servers, communicating parties have to turn their clients into servers themselves.

And, not only this, but because Tox is a trustless protocol by design and peers are designed not to trust each other, even if they are directly communicating with one another, a message that is being received by Alice at a later time than it was when being sent by Bob (i.e. an offline message), gets timestamped by Alice's tox client as the time of it being received by Alice, not the time it had been sent by Bob to Alice.

Or, in simpler words, if Bob sent Alice a message, but Alice was offline on Tox for an entire week afterwards so she couldn't receive it, when Alice does finally come online on Tox and receives Bob's message, the message is recorded in Alice's client as having been sent at the time Alice came online, not a week prior when it had actually been sent by Bob.

This is because, Bob could have hacked his own Tox client to lie to Alice about when he had sent the message, in which case his client could claim that the message had been sent a month prior, or even a year prior. Without a trusted third party server to corroborate the sending event, Alice's client has no way of knowing if what Bob's client says is true, nor can Bob's client even prove that he had sent the offline message at the time he claims he has and not earlier or later.

As such, in Tox, the offline messages you receive from a contact are timestamped on your end as the time you actually receive them, not at the time your contact claims to have sent them to you.

This is the issue with software that's inherently distrustful by design. You always end up lacking features that software with trusted servers have.

Have more than one computer? Sucks to be you!

Oh, this one's a doozy.

You know how, on Skype or Microsoft Teams, you just have to login to your account and then you can send messages from literally any internet-connected computer at your disposal?

Like, let's say you send a message to your boss on at work, close your computer to go on lunch break, and then, while you're gone and eating, you decide to see if your boss answered by just logging into Teams via your phone and check.

You can do this because your Teams account is stored somewhere in a database and, regardless of where you connect to Teams servers from, whether it's your work Desktop machine, your Android phone or your grandma's laptop, the servers are always the same and the database that they use to store information about you is also always the same. Only the Teams clients are different.

Well, Tox only has clients. It has no servers, no databases, no anything.

Basically, if you want to share your Tox conversations across machines, you're pretty much out of luck.

OK, in theory, there's nothing in the Tox protocol that prevents a Tox client from somehow implementing a solution to synchronize conversations across multiple computers using peer-to-peer technology. Maybe someone, someday, will actually implement this and I'll take my words back.

But, in practice, I've personally never seen this done.

Only once did I move my qTox profile from a Linux laptop to my Windows desktop by copying the profile folder on a thumb drive and, thankfully, everything went smoothly and without any bugs whatsoever. That way, I've effectively moved my encrypted Tox conversations across machines.

However, it's worth noting that, at least back at the time, this wasn't officially supported by qTox, meaning that it could have very well not worked. Or, even if it did work, a future update could make it not work anymore.

Basically, if you want to use Tox on multiple computers, the official fully supported way of doing it, is to just generate a new Tox profile on each and every one of them. And that means you'll have to re-add all your contacts across all of them, every one of your contacts will have to accept a separate friend request for each computer you use tox on, your friends will have you listed multiple times in their contacts list, once for each of your computers and, even with all of this, none of your chats will be synchronized across your devices, meaning that different computers will have entirely separate conversation histories.


If you ever wonder why the Tox protocol was never successful, it's not because it was buggy or it lacked advanced features; it's because, by design, it couldn't implement some of the most basic features that most people expect by default from any instant messaging app.

Its greatest strength, the fact that it had no servers or central database, was also its downfall: no servers means no simple way of inter-device data syncing, offline messaging or central user directories to add friends from.

This is why Tox failed

Lack of support for niche Linux distros for certain Tox clients

This is more of a niche thing, as most software doesn't support Linux anyways, but the user base that most Tox clients pandered to, was the privacy oriented, corporation hating, free software loving Linux community.

Sure, there were Tox clients that were geared only towards Windows too, but those were very rare.

So you'd think, given their primary user base, that many client developers would go out of their way to ensure good support for most distros. Well, you'd be wrong in thinking that.

Or at least, I was wrong about this with a tox client named qTox.

qTox was one of the more popular clients out there, and it was my client of choice because it had the widest operating system support of all clients.

So, naturally, that was my first choice for a client.

I also have to point out that I'm a Fedora linux user. I use Fedora Workstation as my daily driver on my personal laptop, and I love this OS, with all its flaws and shortcomings.

One day, I upgraded to Fedora 36, as that was the latest release at the time and then, as usual, I went ahead and enabled RPM fusion repositories on my system.

Then, from RPM fusion, I installed qTox on my system.

Well, wouldn't you know it, I was getting an error upon trying to start the program.

The error? A library called was missing on my system. Of course, I didn't get this error message while trying to start qTox normally from my launcher, I had to try to start qTox from the terminal, just so that I would get a printout on why it was failing to start in the first place on the console.

Well, wouldn't you know it, apparently Fedora 36 upgraded its system libraries and instead of coming preinstalled with, as qTox seemed to be expecting, it came with instead, which was entirely different.

I mean, I know RPM Fusion was a third party repository and that people shouldn't expect much quality control from stuff in it but, isn't the entire point of a package manager that it was supposed to solve dependency issues like this?

And yes, I tried creating a symbolic link named to, expecting it to work out of the box, but it wouldn't. The program would still crash immediately upon start-up with an even uglier error message.

The point is, while Fedora is indeed a bit niche, it's still one of the most popular Linux distros on the planet. You'd think the development team for qTox would try to pre-emptively fix issues like these before people would make the upgrade.

And, for the record, I didn't do the upgrade the exact day Fedora 36 came out. I usually wait a couple of weeks before I upgrade, so they had more than enough time to sort this out. The fact is, they didn't care.

Granted, qTox is just one Tox client. Their development team doesn't develop c-toxcore or any of the many other Tox clients on the planet, so they are just one party at fault here.

And, despite this issue, qTox also offered an AppImage that worked out of the box so I could continue to use qTox even after this.

But still, it's disheartening when you realize that this is the type of bugs you encounter quite often when trying to use Tox.

The titan has fallen

With all of these shortcomings, and without obvious technical solutions in sight, the Tox protocol has seen an excruciatingly slow but painful death.

It bled users year after year, as more and more privacy focused individuals sought to use other software suites that promised privacy but which also offered the benefits of centralized services, like Signal.

Don't get me wrong, I despise Signal as much as the next person, and the fact that I still have to have a phone number in order to use the service is extremely infuriating. But, at the end of the day, Signal is easier to use than Tox. And that fact is simply indisputable.

Couple that with the fact that Signal also is open source, much like most tox clients are, and you really have no reason to prefer Tox over Signal.

As time went on, developers, for one reason or another, started abandoning their tox projects, one after the other.

People simply didn't seem to care about peer-to-peer protocols anymore and, as the Snowden leaks were slowly fading out of the general population's consciousness, so too did the volunteers working on the myriad of tox clients all around the world.

And, after many years, the most popular tox client out there, qTox, had its official repository on github frozen, with the developers leaving behind a message that they're planning on abandoning the project.

Keep in mind, there are still many tox clients out there, and the main project, c-toxcore, the one that actually implements most of the functionality offered by Tox, is still maintained to this day.

But c-toxcore is just a platform-agnostic library that implements the Tox protocol itself. A library is worthless if you don't have front-end clients to expose its functionality.

That's what all the tox clients are supposed to do. Now, qTox is abandoned, so that's out of the question.

If you go to the Tox protocol's wikipedia page, you'll see a table with the most popular tox clients out there, as well as a column in that table mentioning whether they're still supported or not.

And, at least as of right now, most clients reported on that page are said to have been abandoned.

The most popular Tox client still being maintained right now is one named Toxic, a C client implementation relying on the Ncurses library. Issue with this one is that it's reliant on Unix functionality, meaning that it doesn't work out of the box on Windows.

Sure, technically savvy people can go out of their ways to make it work on Windows, either by compiling the source code using Cygwin or maybe using the Linux subsystem for Windows that's available under Windows 11 but, at the end of the day, most normal people won't go through this stuff when there's Skype, Microsoft Teams, Slack and many other alternatives available at their fingertips.

qTox was the last Tox client that still supported Windows out of the box and now that it's also abandoned, a large portion of desktop users will don't have the option anymore to use Tox, sadly.

Sure, this is a huge loss for Windows users, but it's an even larger loss for Tox, as now, a lot of people won't even consider using the protocol anymore, since they won't be able to use it to communicate with friends and family that do use Windows.

The protocol itself is maintained by the previously mentioned c-toxcore github project, which only maintains the library that does all the heavy work behind the scenes and which is used by Tox clients.

The library's latest stable version, 0.2.17, as of the posting of this blog post, was published more than a year ago at this point (13 months, to be exact).

The developers never said that it was being abandoned too, but, personally, if a piece of software doesn't get any updates for more than a year, I really start to wonder if it's still being maintained.

Technically there's also another Tox client that supports Windows called yat, but as of the writing of this blog post, I tried installing it myself and all installation links lead me to a website called that seems to be down.

I also tried to reach that website a week ago and I didn't have any success back then either.

So yeah, I'm not getting my hopes up anymore.

At this point, I'm convinced the Tox protocol is either destined to die sooner or later, as nobody cares about mass surveillance anymore to go through the hoops that is using Tox, or, best case scenario, it becomes a protocol mainly used by third party clients that work only on Unix operating systems and used by a very niche community of privacy focused nerds.

For the past decade that I've been using it, I've never heard anyone mention Tox in day to day conversations, as an alternative to Skype or Discord, and now I'm more than sure I never will.

And with the advent and promotion of the federated communication protocol Matrix, there's even less of an incentive for people to seek out Tox nowadays.

In the end, one really has to wonder: how long does it take for a project to die?

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from AnimeZone

Well folks, it's time for another ranking.

It's time I talk about action, romance and comedy, this time with new TV series that will be quite fun to watch.

OK so, this time around, I decided to mention the websites where you can find each TV show, separately, to make this easier for everyone.

Please keep in mind, though, that content, as usual, is geo-blocked, so even though I say that a show is available on Crunchyroll or on HiDive, I just mean that they were available to me on those services, from my country. It won't necessarily be available in your country as well. So your mileage may vary.

Specifically, when I say that a show is available on Crunchyroll, I mean to say that it's available on Crunchyroll from Romania, and when I say that a show is available on HiDive, I mean to say that it was available on HiDive from Finland (because I use a VPN to access HiDive).

Also, before I get to the ranking, I will say that I started off watching 10 TV series this season but this ranking will include only 9 entries.

The reason for this is that one of the shows, called Kubo won't let me be invisible! only aired 6 episodes, before being postponed to April due to COVID.

Since it would be unfair for me to judge a TV series just from watching half of it, I will reserve my thoughts on it and will write about it in next season's ranking, instead.

Now, on with the rankings!

1. Buddy Daddies

Santa is having a rough Christmas

  • Available on Crunchyroll

Starting off this ranking, we have a very unconventional TV show.

The plot is fairly simple: professional hitmen Rei and Kazuki live together in a large apartment, pretending to be everyday men without anything special going on in their lives.

Rei is an apathetic and stoic shut-in that likes to laze off all day long and play video games while Kazuki is an optimistic extrovert that always tries to be responsible and take charge of the chores and the cooking in that apartment, effectively acting as Rei's caregiver, despite them being the same age.

However, they are both hitmen working under the orders from their handler, a young man named Kyutaro.

Kazuki and Rei don't get along very well but they tolerate each other's presence for the sake of their jobs. Despite them looking like amateurs, they are very good at assassinating their targets, with Kazuki usually going in under a disguise to lure the target into a trap, while Rei usually takes the more brute-force approach of engaging with targets with his guns when things go awry.

This duo always end up fulfilling their missions, earning significant amounts of money.

Whenever they are payed for their jobs, Kazuki splits his own pay with an unspecified woman, asking Kyutaro to send some of his money to her.

One day, these two receive orders to take down a human trafficker who's planning on hosting a large Christmas party on the last floor of a fancy hotel.

On Christmas eve, Kazuki, disguised in a Santa costume, bakes a large cake for this occasion and then tries to slip past the security of the hotel by pretending to be the delivery boy for the cake (with Rei hiding in the trolley).

After they get past the security guys and enter the hotel elevator that will take them to the last floor, a four year old girl named Miri runs into the elevator as well, out of nowhere, just before the security guards can catch her and the doors to the elevator close.

This surprises the two of them, but before they can say anything, Miri begins to sheepishly eat the cake.

She then reveals that she has traveled by train from another city, having been sent by her mother, to look and find her father, who supposedly would also attend the same party. She wants to meet her father, whom she had never seen before.

Kazuki tries to encourage Miri, saying that she will find him but, after the elevator reaches the top floor, Miri runs out in a rush to look for her father, spooking the security guards there and forcing the two to defend themselves and start shooting, giving themselves away.

They start shooting their way to their target, who takes Miri and holds her as a hostage and as a shield for himself.

Stuck at an impasse, Kazuki invents a lie on the spot, yelling at Miri that he is, in fact, her father, causing her to suddenly jump towards him, away from the target, which allows Rei to shoot him, killing him.

Now, stuck with Miri on their hands, they bring her to safety at their apartment to sort things out, only to discover, from the files they were given, that the target that they had shot and killed was actually Miri's father, the one she had been looking for.

Now, with her father dead because of them, the two have to figure out what to do with the now fatherless child on their hands.

And so begins the journey of two hitmen who adopt a four year old girl.

Yeah, that's the basic gist of it.

On the surface, Buddy Daddies appears to be an action comedy about two bachelors that end up having to take care of a child that isn't even theirs. Obviously they want to keep Miri out of danger but they also don't want her in their lives, as she will undoubtedly mess up their plans of finishing contracts.

They also want to keep their jobs a secret from her, both for her safety and their own, yet she keeps trying to nose in.

However, underneath all of that, this show is actually a family drama.

I said, last season during my ranking of a little show called Reincarnated as a Sword, that I didn't particularly care for father-daughter relationships in TV shows, unless they were focused on family drama and were emotional and well done.

Well, this is an excellent example of what I meant.

Reicarnated as a Sword had very little parental chemistry between Fran and the teacher. Yes, they did talk to each other almost like they were father and daughter, but their dynamic was very boring and stale. Teacher would tell Fran “do this, then that!”, Fran would listen to his orders, they would end their quest successfully, and then Teacher would cook a delicious meal for Fran as a reward.

That's the entire dynamic of their relationship, summed up in just one phrase.

Granted, it is a good dynamic, but it's so straightforward it was used as a comedic gag more than anything else in the show.

Here, the family drama does matter, and there is actual believable interactions between Miri and her two dads, Rei and Kazuki.

It's not just a one-note relationship. Miri does love her two dads, she wants to be part of their lives, but she also sometimes goes against their wishes, not because she's a bad child but because, sometimes, the situation calls for her to make her own judgements.

Sometimes she gets angry at Kazuki for being an unreasonable father, sometimes she gets needy and wants things that are very normal for her to want, but, most importantly, she acts like an actual child that has needs.

And Rei and Kazuki, understandably, have difficulties trying to meet her needs.

Kazuki, especially, has to act as the responsible father figure, as Rei is usually deadbeat and doesn't do any chores or cooking for Miri. If anything, Rei ends up acting as an older brother figure for Miri, rather than a father, as they end up playing games together and having a fun time while Kazuki does all the chores in the house.

But, at the end of the day, both Kazuki and Rei end up growing in their relationship with Miri.

The apathetic Rei eventually gets to grow a sentimental side, while Kazuki ends up healing from a dark past that has been causing him to live in self-guilt.

The show eventually shows how both Rei and Kazuki had troubled pasts and backgrounds and how Miri ends up saving them and giving them comfort even more than they do for her.

Honestly, when I picked this show up, I was very worried that Miri would end up pissing me off.

Anime TV shows usually have this uncanny tendency of portraying children either as very unrealistic and mature for their own ages, or as complete selfish needy brats that keep demanding things for themselves and ruining the lives of the adults around them.

This show, thankfully, manages to find a good balance between these two sides, when portraying Miri.

She is needy, she wants affection and attention all the time and, sometimes, she does end up ruining things for Kazuki and Rei. Yes, she is selfish.

However, it's done in a believable and realistic way. Nothing that she does is out of the ordinary from what you'd expect for a child her age to do and, at the end of the day, she does love her two fathers, she's respectful and, sometimes, even goes out of her way to make them happy because she wants to see them smile.

There are so many heartfelt moments in this show where I can just point to how innocent and sheepish she is but how that also ends up healing Rei and Kazuki.

This doesn't come close to being as great of a family drama as other anime classics like Clannad, but, at the same time, I'd argue that it doesn't need to.

It stands on its own as a great family show, with impactful events, heart wrenching scenes and truly unforgettable moments that reminded me of why I love family dramas so much.

Despite it being a comedy, there are some heavy scenes in latter episodes that involve the deaths of certain characters, sometimes even good characters. The show isn't as lighthearted as you'd think from a first glance.

My last point is that, from what I've seen online, many people choose to either watch this show or avoid watching it because they believe that the two main characters, Rei and Kazuki, are in a gay relationship.

While the show does touch on the subject of two grown men raising a child on their own, it's not really that kind of show honestly, and pretending that it's making a stance on homosexuality is really misleading, I feel.

It's shown even from episode 1 that Rei and Kazuki dislike each other, and also that Kazuki is interested in women. Yes, they do end up building a family towards the end of the show, but in no way is it even implied that they enter any sexual relationship with each other, so I really don't see why people keep trying to make that connection.

I will say that while watching a season 2 of this would be amazing, it's heavily implied, at least, that there will be no such sequel. I don't wanna spoil anything, but I will say that they wrap things up in the last episode so well that I really doubt this will ever see a season 2.

Granted, I will never complain if a season 2 is announced, and I will definitely be watching it, but I sincerely doubt there will be one.

Oh well, onto the next one!

2. Spy Classroom

The new team is listening to Klaus

  • Available on HiDive

Not to be confused with Assassination Classroom, which is an entirely different and unrelated TV show.

The plot of this show is about a 20 year old genius spy prodigy from the Din Republic named Klaus, who, one day, gets assigned a mission to help his country, a mission so difficult that, if he succeeds, he will be then known as the “Greatest Spy in the World”.

The mission is classified as an “Impossible Mission”, which means that the chances of failure are of 90%.

Due to his impeccable success record, Klaus is confident enough to take this mission and then requests to assemble a team for himself to join him in this endeavor.

Shortly after, we are introduced to a team of seven young girls who have all been summoned from their respective spy training academies for the purposes of undertaking actual missions for their country.

One of the spies is a 17 year old woman named Lily, who, as soon as she arrives in the same room as the other girls, is asked by one of them about her performance at her school.

Lily reveals to everyone that she was a washout at her school. They then all reveal that all of them were pretty mediocre at their own spy schools, which is confusing since they are all aware that they have been selected for what is most likely a difficult mission.

Then, Klaus makes his entrance, revealing to all of them that they had been personally selected by him for participating in the Impossible Mission he was tasked with. Their new team will be known as Lamplight.

The girls ask him why he had chosen them, since they had all been poorly performing spies at school, but Klaus replies that he is the world's greatest spy and that he will teach them all of his skills for the next month, so that when they will embark on the Impossible Mission, they will be fully ready to finish it successfully.

Come next day and it's soon revealed that Klaus, despite being an excellent spy that can do pretty much anything, is actually very bad at teaching, as everything that he sets out to do, such as teach them how to pick locks or how to untie himself, he does very quickly and without any explanation and then just says “That's how it's done” afterwards. The girls cannot pick up anything from him.

This is a problem, and soon it becomes apparent that Klaus really won't be of much help as a teacher, and the girls slowly begin to despair, realizing that, at this rate, they will most likely end up getting killed in the upcoming Impossible Mission.

At some point, when Klaus isn't around, they even suspect that they had been set up as sacrificial pawns by their country, which might be the reason why only disposable washout students had been selected in the first place, as well as a teacher that simply cannot teach.

Because of this, Lily decides to take initiative and invite Klaus out the next day on her own.

As they are walking through the city, Lily ambushes Klaus in a boat on a lake using her specially crafted paralysis poison, in an attempt to force him to disband Lamplight and let all of the go free, since none of them want to go on such a dangerous mission anymore.

Klaus, however, turns the tables on her, soon revealing that he had been suspecting from the very beginning that the girls would attempt a rebellion, and, being the talented spy that he is, frees himself from her ambush.

Later, he reveals to her that he was impressed at the fact that she decided to take initiative on her own and, because of her trap for him, he figured out a plan on how to move forward with his plans on teaching the girls.

The next day, Klaus formally installs Lily as the leader of Lamplight and then, informs all the girls of his brilliant idea: the best way to train them is by practice and, as such, he proposes that all the girls set out to attack him for the remainder of the month.

As he is an absolute genius, it will be very difficult for them to force him to surrender, even if they work together against him. Because of this, he feels like this will force them to learn how to better themselves and also how to cooperate with each other.

And so begins the training month for the entire Lamplight team. Will they manage to force Klaus to surrender and learn how to work together, or will they fail in the process? And, even if they will succeed, will they survive the Impossible Mission at the end of the month?

Yeah, this anime is pretty intense and, I will admit, I did find the premise to be a bit far fetched and difficult to suspend my disbelief towards.

But, as the episodes went on and on, I soon realized that the show isn't meant to be taken too seriously. There are sober and dark moments from time to time, yes, but for the most part, this show just tries to have fun with the idea of spies struggling to hone their skills.

There will be disguising, manipulation, seduction, tinkering, backstabbing and good old fashioned firearm shooting, all across the board.

Every episode contains a series of twists that you didn't see coming and, personally, I found those to be very fun to be on the lookout for.

Every moment, whenever a character says a line, I immediately learned to be suspicious and ask myself “Is this honestly what this girl thinks or is she just trying to deceive him?” at every corner. Or maybe that wasn't the girl being portrayed but someone else in disguise as her?

And, it was so much fun.

And, if you're afraid that the show will be entirely about their training arc and nothing more, rest assured! While a good portion of the show is about them training and trying to make Klaus surrender, they do get to the Impossible Mission and they show how they tackle it and survive it.

Not even that, but they will be assigned another mission after that Impossible Mission is done, which the show also covers before its end, so there's a lot of content to be seen, it's not just about their training.

One thing to note is that some of the episodes are told out of order, in such a way that the Impossible Mission arc already starts from episode 3, while certain episodes covering their training arc, which was obviously supposed to take part before the mission, air after episode 3.

This might seem like an odd directorial decision, but it's actually for a very good purpose to deceive the audience in a clever way. You'll know what I mean if you watch the show.

Honestly, I was expecting for this show to eventually devolve into a harem between Klaus and all the girls and this worried me, as I genuinely grew to respect the characters so much that I didn't wish for them to be used in such a cheap way.

Thankfully the show doesn't go that route. Klaus does end up in a romantic relationship with one of the girls, though, but this is properly set-up across multiple episodes and they do take the relationship seriously, talking about their feelings with each other and dedicating a gorgeous scene for it.

The show's focus isn't on romance, per se, and this is treated as a detour from the main story, but it was a nice touch and I liked its implementation.

Honestly, there's not much else I can say about this show. It was simply a fun and well written spy series that I feel more people should get acquainted with.

The fact that this show isn't on Crunchyroll is such a huge shame. HiDive just seems to be gobbling up some very impressive gems as of recently, although it's nice since it's giving Crunchyroll competition.

Don't miss on this one! Give it a shot if it sounds like your cup of tea!

3. Urusei Yatsura (season 1, part 2)

Ram and Ten smiling

  • Available on HiDive

This is the second part of season one of Urusei Yatsura. You can read my thoughts on the first part here.

Much like in part 1, the show continues its insane absurd plotlines with even more wacky antics involving our beloved characters, this time introducing a fire-spewing alien cousin, octopuses that become giant when exposed to high ambient temperatures, a potion of love, an electronic device that predicts who you should marry to have a happy life and a magical lipstick that forces other people to kiss you on the lips.

The show is just as fun as it was in part 1 and I simply cannot get enough of it.

Episode after episode, I would wait for it in anticipation and, whenever it would air, I would laugh my ass off.

The characters always end up in strange situations involving aliens or sci-fi technology, Ataru keeps on being a pervert that just wants to have his way with every attractive woman on the planet despite still being married to Lum, Shinobu suddenly becomes the target of a mob boss that became enamored with her and wants to stalk her and much much more.

I really want to talk more about all this stuff, but suffice it to say, it's an absolute treat. I cannot overstate how happy I am with this show.

Between this, Revenger and Spy Classroom, my Thursdays were filled with so much joy that I can confidently say, I had a blast.

The fact that a season 2 was also announced for this show for 2024 also makes me very happy. I am so looking forward towards that.

4. Revenger

Usui and Kurima talking under a bridge

  • Available on Crunchyroll

Not to be confused with Tokyo Revengers.

This show's story takes place during an alternate history in the Japanese city of Nagasaki.

One day, a samurai named Hirata, while sneaking during the night with his men, is confronted by another samurai named Kurima.

Kurima slays Hirata and his men in a quick battle and then leaves. A dying Hirata bites into a gold coin, only for an unknown man to retrieve it later on.

A couple of days later, a young man named Usui Yuen walks up to a dejected and depressed Kurima who had taken up shelter under a bridge.

When offered to listen to his problems, Kurima reveals that the man that he had killed, Hirata, was actually Kurima's fiancee's father. The reason he had killed him was because his master, a man named Matsumine, had told him that Hirata was dealing opium, a highly addictive and illegal drug being sold by the British to gain influence in Japan.

Ashamed of having killed his future father-in-law, Kurima sought to run away from his village and hide under that bridge, too afraid to confront his fiancee, Yui.

After Usui talks Kurima out of hiding and encourages him to return to his village to make amends with his fiancee, Kurima sets out to go back, only to be intercepted by other men hired by Matsumine. Surprisingly, they immediately attack Kurima and try to murder him but Kurima manages to jump off a cliff at the last second, making them believe that he had died.

In reality, Kurima had been saved by a young child named Nio and awakens, later, in Usui's shop.

Usui then tells Kurima that he had suspected that Matsumine would betray him and that's why he had sent Nio to save him.

He then reveals that Matsumine was, actually, the one dealing opium and Hirata had simply become aware of this and was planning on exposing him. Fearing this, Matsumine had lied to Kurima and used him to kill Hirata before he could do that, only to then also kill Kurima to cover his tracks, after the job was done.

When asked how he knew all of this, Usui reveals that he had ties to the underground world, connections that helped him find the truth.

Usui then shows Kurima the gold coin that Hirata had bitten into while he was dying and then tells him that he and Nio, along with two others, work as Revengers, one of many groups of assassins ruled and financed by the Christian church in Japan, who undertake contracts of killing targets on behalf of those who are incapable of doing the jobs themselves. As Revengers, they are obligated to accept any contract by those who wish to use their services, the only requirement to acquire their assistance is biting into a gold coin. The depth of the tooth marks in the coin reflect the hatred and despair of the person requesting the assassination.

Usui then tells Kurima that Hirata had bitten into such a coin to request the revenge of his group against Matsumine and that they are planning on going after him.

He asks for Kurima's help, since he had been one of Matsumine's samurai, so he has valuable information of his whereabouts.

Although reluctant at first, finally knowing about Matsumine's dishonorable crimes and his manipulation of him, Kurima begrudgingly accepts to assist Usui and his group in killing Matsumine.

As they break into Matsumine's mansion and take down all of his guards, Matsumine attempts to use a secret exit to escape, only to then be confronted by an angry Kurima who murders his master.

Now, with the deceitful Matsumine dead and the contract fulfilled, Kurima decides to leave Usui and his team of Revengers behind, as he rushes back to Yui's house to make amends and kill himself in front of her as atonement.

But just as he arrives, he soon discovers that he was too late, as Yui is already dead, after having pierced her own neck with a knife, from grieving her dead father.

Now, with his fiancee, father in law, and his master all dead, Kurima is uncertain where to go from here.

Yeah, so that's the synopsis.

Well, to be honest, I didn't like this show at first.

While the idea and execution were well done, I was put off by how dull it was in the beginning.

Without going too much into spoilers, I will say that Kurima does eventually decide to join Usui's group of Revengers, although he is very skeptical of their ideals and function. Each episode, they undertake a bitten coin from some random character and then they set out to kill the target.

It was pretty much a recurrent formula of “now kill this character!”, repeating each week.

However, the show soon began to pick up steam towards the second half, where the plot switches to a giant supply of leftover opium hidden somewhere in Nagasaki, having been stashed away by Matsumine before he had been killed by Kurima, and Usui's group trying to locate it before it can be misused by bad actors to plunge the entire population of Nagasaki into opium addiction.

The show does get very dark at times, talking about addiction, prostitution, slavery, corruption and much much more.

In fact, the main theme of the show, I would say, is betrayal. Matsumine betraying Kurima is not the last time betrayal happens in this show, and you will soon see how much deception is at heart throughout the entire series.

Not only this, but another core motif is Kurima's constant regret and grievance over his dead fiancee, his constant guilt eating at his own sanity and him constantly trying to find a way to deal with it. The show asks whether one who commits a horrible mistake like this can still move on and live with the burden.

And, while it's rare for me to praise a show for its ending, this is one of those cases where, I feel, it is absolutely deserving of the praise. The ending is very emotional and will leave you with a heavy heart.

Yeah, the show has a slow start, but it gets good very fast, especially towards the end. If you're in the mood for a dark but action packed show about a group of people committing assassinations, I will definitely encourage you to give this one a shot.

You will not regret it!

5. Endo and Kobayashi Live! The Latest on Tsundere Villainess Lieselotte

Siegwald hearing voices

  • Available on HiDive

From this point on, the shows I'll be talking about weren't really that great.

Buddy Daddies, Spy Classroom, Urusei Yatsura and Revenger were all excellent shows that I would encourage anyone that likes anime to give them a shot.

This show, while it isn't really bad, and it had some pretty satisfying moments, isn't in the same league as them.

So, what's the plot?

Well, it's about two high school students, a former baseball player named Endo and an otome games-obsessed friend of his named Kobayashi, who talk about the latter's sudden interest in one such otome dating game named A Magical Romance.

After Kobayashi convinces Endo to play the game himself, they both become passionate about it.

The game's story is about a female protagonist named Fiene who, despite not having an aristocratic background, has magical powers and, as such, becomes enrolled in an academy for magic where normally only the higher class get to attend.

There, there would be various routes for the player to take with Fiene, getting her to end up dating various male characters in the game, while going against the game's antagonist, the Prince's fiancee named Lieselotte.

As the story of the game progresses, Lieselotte would gradually lose the support of all the characters in the game and, towards the end, will become engulfed by hatred and controlled by a malevolent witch and turned into a monster before getting killed.

Almost all the routes in the game end up with Lieselotte suffering a tragic ending.

After hearing the game's supplementary materials, both Endo and Kobayashi become convinced that Lieselotte is not actually evil, but simply a tsundere who has a hard time expressing her feelings to other characters and just comes across as evil.

One day, while playing the game together, Endo and Kobayashi decide to do play-by-play commentary on the game, as practice since they are part of the broadcasting club, only for a miracle to happen and the Prince of the game, Siegwald, to suddenly become capable of hearing their voices from within the game itself.

Believing the voices to be from the gods, Siegwald decides to obey the voices and listen to their commands.

Surprised at such a thing, Endo and Kobayashi debate over what they should do, before concluding that this is their chance of saving a misunderstood Lieselotte and deciding to use this miracle to help the other characters of the game actually understand Lieselotte's true nature and try to help prevent the latter's tragic demise.

Using Siegwald as their hand, as he's the only character that can hear them, they set out to help Lieselotte find happiness and achieve the ultimate good ending for all the characters in the game.

However, as the game is glitchy and they cannot seem to be able to save their progress, they only get to have one shot at this.

Yeah, so that's the premise of this show.

Yes, the story seems corny, it being about a misunderstood villainess that just wants others to understand her feelings, but the execution of this idea is downright exceptional on all levels.

While I don't care much for otome games, I managed to get surprisingly invested in this game and the characters that inhabit it.

There's a surprisingly impressive level of detail given to the story of the game, with deep backgrounds to the characters, especially to Fiene, and to the politics and monarchy in the story.

It's also very funny seeing Endo and Kobayashi slowly deconstruct Lieselotte's character piece by piece and revealing to Siegwald, her fiance, about the true intentions behind Liese's actions.

As Sieg learns from them what Liese actually means by her words and actions, he falls deeper and deeper in love with her and becomes more supportive of her.

The protagonist of the game, Fiene, also becomes closer and friendlier to Liese, thanks to Endo and Kobayashi's contributions.

At the end, I was surprisingly invested in all of the events in the game, and I was genuinely wishing for all the characters to have a happy ending together.

In all of this, multiple romances will slowly sprout. Siegwald and Lieselotte's relationship will slowly grow more and more as Sieg becomes more aware of his fiancee's true feelings, Fiene will also get to fall in love with another character and, in the background, even Endo and Kobayashi will soon develop feelings for each other, in the real world, as the plot thickens.

Yes, there are multiple romances happening in this show and all of them are really well done.

And if you're worried that the show will never explain why Endo and Kobayashi's voices are heard by characters in the game, don't worry! This will eventually become the focus of the latter episodes, where magic and gods will become involved. No, I'm not kidding!

This show is wild. It's inherently a comedy because the commentators get to dissect a stereotypical tsundere character and reveal to others what she actually means, but it's also got action sequences where you become invested and wish to see everyone get out of harm's way, including Lieselotte.

All in all, this was a decent piece. Yes, it's cheesy and I will say that it went a bit overboard with the happy ending that it had, but it was nonetheless satisfying.

Moreover, I didn't expect some of the plot twists that the show threw our way, especially towards the end.

Essentially, the show is about Lieselotte managing to fight off the negative influence of the witch thanks to the help of those around her, who support her.

As cheesy as that sounds, I liked the execution of this and, I'll even go so far as saying that this was an excellent rendition of a fantasy setting with strong romantic overtones, as well as an endearing tsundere driving the plot.

While I will admit that the cheesy over-the-top style may not be for everybody, I will say that the ending is going to give you a lot of feel-good vibes.

I doubt that this will ever get a season 2, as it's already a very self-contained story by itself but, if it were, I wouldn't mind seeing it!

6. Ningen Fushin: Adventurers Who Don't Believe in Humanity Will Save the World

Agate singing on stage

  • Available on Crunchyroll

Time for another fantasy anime (although it's not an isekai, this time). In Labyrinth City, we're introduced to a male orphan teen named Nick, who is leading a happy life as an adventurer. He's part of a team of famous adventurers that are well known for their competency.

Making decent money for himself and also being happy with his girlfriend, Claudine, Nick is living the good life until, one day, he gets kicked out of his team by his mentor, Argus, for seemingly no good reason whatsoever.

Disheartened by this, he then gets dumped by Claudine as well, because, in her eyes, he's now just a regular run-of-the-mill adventurer, without the fame of his team to back him up.

Completely disillusioned by what has happened, Nick is overwhelmed and completely depressed, now that he has been abandoned by all the people that he trusted.

One day, seeing his depressed look, a young teen idol named Agate, sees a sulking Nick passing by and decides to give him a pamphlet to one of her concerts, trying to cheer him up and give him a new direction in life.

Nick, although skeptically, picks her up on her invitation and, soon enough, becomes a regular dedicated fan and starts going to all her idol concerts and buying merchandise from her.

Yes, this is a fantasy anime about dragon people and swords and magic, and yet they also have teen idols there, just like in our world. If you find this off-putting, you're not the only one. But assuming you're willing to suspend your disbelief to still accept this, then you might enjoy the show.

Anyways, because of his newly found otaku hobby, Nick still needs money to afford going to Agate's concerts and maintain his life as a loyal fan of hers.

Seeing how he's going to need a job to keep sustaining this lifestyle, he decides to go back into adventuring. Problem is, he needs a team.

As he's searching for people that will accept him into their party, one day, at an inn, he just so happened to share a table with other people who also have their own share of troubled pasts. After a bit of banter, they each decide to confide in the others about their pasts and how they've all been betrayed one way or another.

One of them is the sorceress Tiana, who had been raised in a rich family and had a natural talent towards magic. However, on a particularly unfortunate day, Tiana had been dumped publicly by her fiance who was envious of her talent and good scores at their academy and this led to her abandoning school and moving out of her parents' house, starting to live on her own and adopting a gambling lifestyle.

Another, the ex-priest Zem, who had lived a peaceful life in a quiet village until, one day, after a very young girl said she loved him and him rejecting her, he was thrown out of the village and his status as a priest had been revoked following false allegations of rape from the said young girl as revenge. Saddened at the fact that he now lost his right to being a priest, he ended up becoming a womanizer who likes to play around and have sex all the time.

Finally, there's the Dragon-girl named Curran, a member of the proud dragon warrior race, who simply tells everyone at their table that someone she had trusted had stolen something from her.

All of them have trust issues, due to having been betrayed by someone from their past, which are causing them problems when trying to find fellow adventurers to make a team with. As they drink together to drown their sorrows, Nick comes up with the idea that, since they all have trouble finding teammates because of their trust issues, they should all form their own team together, instead, one that isn't founded in trust or camaraderie, but merely on convenience for the purposes of making money.

This team will later be named Survivors.

And so, they set out to start going on adventure quests together, to start earning money, each to support their own hobbies: Nick to support his otaku hobby as Agate's fan, Tiana to support her gambling lifestyle, Zen to support meeting with women and Curran to support her gourmand activities.

This is the premise of this show.

By and large, this formula is very simple.

Initially, they will be very distrustful of one another, that's to be expected. They will accuse each other of having ulterior motives but, soon enough, as the story progresses, they will eventually begin to realize that they are all honest with their intentions.

I'll be honest, when this show came out, I was genuinely impressed by it.

It went ahead and portrayed realistic trust issues between people who were rightly disillusioned, and showed how they can learn to trust others again, with time.

It also had some creative ideas, like at some point a sentient magical sword gets introduced that allows any two people to combine their bodies to form an over-powered amalgamation with supercharged powers to defeat enemies, but this is only possible if the two people that combine fully trust one another.

I liked that. As an idea, it might sound a bit cheesy but the execution was well done.

The show also has some good mature life lessons, which I didn't expect to find.

Stuff like, how honest people will never ask for you to trust them but, instead, will devise trust-less systems where you don't need to trust anyone at all, they will work by design, or how one should let go of the past and move forward with their lives, particularly when it comes to people who leech off of you.

These are surprisingly good lessons taught in a surprisingly original and refreshing way.

Overall, I feel like this show had good morals to teach and had nice potential.

Still, it does have some flaws.

Even from the first episode, all the flashbacks where each member revealed how they had been betrayed to each other, I felt like the villains in those flashbacks were a bit too cynical and suspiciously evil.

Like how Argus and Claudine were so cynically unfair to Nick, or how Tiana's fiance decided to not only dump her, but lash out at her and attack her character in front of other people just because of his envy towards her success.

None of these people felt realistic. They felt like selfish assholes with no redeeming quality that simply served as plot devices to get our main characters to have trust issues. In fact, their actions felt so unnaturally evil that I even suspected, for a second, that all those flashbacks were actually fabrications and complete lies, and that Nick, Tiana, Zen and Curran were actually hiding details to make themselves look like they were the ones that had been betrayed, when in fact, they were actually guilty in some way.

Like, maybe Nick did steal gold from his team behind their backs and, when he was discovered, he was thrown out of the party, or maybe Tiana did use money from her family to get unfairly good grades at her academy, or how Zen did actually rape a little girl.

I was half-expecting for this show to actually go that route and slowly reveal that all of these people actually weren't as innocent as they initially played out. And, had this show done that, I would have genuinely liked it way more than I do now.

However, it didn't. It's revealed, at least as of season 1, that they are all good people who just have trust issues, and that's it.

Good people that simply had been betrayed by bad people.

That and, the second half of the first season was boring!

I liked the first half, where it was all about trust issues and how they begin to trust each other slowly.

The second half turned into a detective story about a weird apparition that kidnaps children during the night and moves around by jumping from house rooftop to rooftop, named Stepping Man, and how the Survivors want to catch this man and bring him to justice. And they need to figure out who it really is, as the man is using magic to conceal his face.

Yeah, the second half is a Scooby Doo mystery.

Basically, the show lost steam as it went along, and I dislike that.

I feel like it could have gone better had it kept with the trust issues theme, or maybe even go so far as introducing a romance between the Survivors team members, but I digress.

Ultimately, this isn't a bad show. It's got good life lessons to teach, an interesting take on interpersonal relationships and how people can get over them and, while the second half of it was disappointing to me, the ending felt fulfilling enough as it is.

Will I watch a season 2 of this? Maybe. I feel like I could get something out of a season 2, but whether I would watch one or not will depend on the preview for such a season 2 and whether it convinces me or not.

7. The Ice Guy and His Cool Female Colleague

Fuyutsuki stares at Himuro whose feet are frozen in place

  • Available on Crunchyroll

At the beginning of the season, when I was making my list of shows to watch, I had a hard limit for myself. That is, I said to myself that I will only watch at most 10 shows concurrently.

This ended up going down to 9, later on, because, as I said earlier, one of the shows got postponed midway through to April due to unforeseen circumstances but that's besides the point.

When making my list of 10 shows, I wanted to include another romance TV series, just for diversity's sake, and I was stuck between this show and another show on Crunchyroll called Sugar Apple Fairy Tale. Both looked enticing from their previews but I couldn't watch both because, then, I would be watching 11 shows, which was over my limit, so I had to pick only one of these. And, this is the one I picked.

I picked this show rather than Sugar Apple Fairy Tale because, from the preview at least, Sugar looked like it would be the stereotypical young romance story about a pampered woman who is always protected by a boy that's very attractive and reliable but has an abrasive personality, only for them to slowly fall in love with each other.

Honestly I wasn't in the mood for any of that and, because I want for my romance stories to be a bit more mature and, dare I say it, raunchy even, I decided to go for the show that clearly had adult main characters instead, rather than teens. The reason for this was that I hoped for this show to at least go maybe even further than what I expected Sugar Apple Fairy Tale to go.

And, well, I can't say whether that was a good choice for me or not, as I didn't watch Sugar Apple Fairy Tale, so I can't say whether this was a better or worse show than that.

What I can say, though, is that this show was underwhelming.

What's the plot?

Well, in an alternate Japan, a young woman named Fuyutsuki is slowly walking for the first time towards the office of her first job.

She's nervous, naturally, as she has no prior experience as an employee but, while walking through the park towards this office, she sees snowflakes.

This is odd, considering that this is now in spring.

Then, she sees a grown man in a suit, whose feet are literally trapped in a giant block of ice, just standing there.

The man in question is named Himuro and, when questioned by Fuyutsuki how he could end up with his feet frozen like that in broad daylight, during a warm spring, he reveals to her that he is the descendant of a snow woman, a type of Yōkai spirit, and that he has ice powers.

Due to the fact that this is also his first day at his first job, he was so nervous that he lost control over his own ice powers and this is how he became stuck like that.

In an attempt to be helpful, Fuyutsuki offers Himuro a cup of warm tea, which eases his nerves and this allows for the ice around his feet to finally melt so he can walk again.

Himuro is very thankful towards her and even develops a secret crush on her, but they both then decide to go on their merry ways towards their respective jobs.

As luck would have it, and in typical rom-com fashion, it just so happens that they end up working in the exact same office, at the exact same job and in the exact same team as well, along with a human man named Saejima and a woman who's the descendant of a fox spirit (and who has fox ears and a fox tail) named Komori.

Yes, in this alternate Japan, there are some people who are descendants of spirits and who, because of this, inherit powers or physical features which are unusual.

Fuyutsuki learns that Himuro likes flowers and cats but, because of his ice powers going crazy from time to time, he cannot own them because they would just freeze to death, and so she gives him, as a gift, a straw packaging, which can protect flowers from frost, and cat whiskers from Fuyutsuki's own cat, Nyamero, as a good luck charm.

This causes Himuro to fall in love with her.

Yeah so, that's the first episode.

I will admit, I had no idea what to think of this show after watching an episode like that.

On the one hand, the idea of a human woman falling in love with the descendant of a snow woman with literal ice powers, seemed like a cool idea.

The dynamic between Fuyutsuki and Himuro is quite interesting due to the fact that Himuro is the one that has ice powers, and yet he is the very emotional one while Fuyutsuki is always calm and analytical.

On the other hand, though, this is taken to a pretty extreme degree.

Specifically, Himuro acts a bit too giddy whenever Fuyutsuki does anything kind towards him.

Whenever she does anything nice to him, Himuro loses his cool, he has a monologue about how cute or nice she is, blushes profusely and acts like a schoolgirl having a fangirl attack over how amazing her boyfriend is. And keep in mind, this is supposed to be a grown adult man.

I find that to be kind of exaggerated.

That and he also loses control of his powers on the spot and a snow blizzard starts forming around them, even if they're indoors (no, I have no idea how that happens either). Sometimes, even tiny sentient snowmen also instantly pop out of nowhere from his body.

Yeah, it's that kind of show.

Ultimately, this is a workplace romance anime, with Himuro and Fuyutsuki slowly becoming enamored with one another, as well as another relationship also blooming in the background between Saejima and Komori.

I'm going to be upfront and say that I wasn't that particularly invested in these relationships that much. That's because I thought there was very little chemistry between Himuro and Fuyutsuki, at least at first.

That's because everything started with Fuyutsuki just being kind to Himuro, not because she was attracted to him in any way, but just because she tries to be helpful towards others.

So seeing Himuro fall in love with her just because of that felt a bit sheepish and too naive.

But, I kept on watching them go along and, as time went on, their relationship did start to grow on me, thankfully.

The show also takes initiative and does try to go a long way in making them grow closer together, having them experiment by going on a date, having them go to the beach together, exchanging gifts and even, at one point, visiting each other's houses.

And, not only that, but it does feel a bit realistic. The date that they go on doesn't even go well, as they are both very quiet and awkward, the show heavily hinting that this is the first date they've ever had in their lives.

Also, there are points of distress, particularly when Himuro's powers backfire on him and cause problems, such as when the heat from going to the beach causes his body to melt (I won't go into details on what that means; suffice it to say, it's probably not what you're thinking it is). At such occasions, Fuyutsuki goes out of her way to support Himuro and help him as best as she can.

However, as charming as all these events are and as cutesy as this anime tries to be, I will say, it is still underwhelming.

The show ends on a low note, with nothing particularly amazing happening and with an ambiguous “will they or won't they?” kind of ending, which I find boring.

They never did commit to a serious relationship, nor did they even confess, and I find that disheartening.

The entire reason why I picked this show over Sugar Apple Fairy Tale was because I hoped it would go further than most other romance TV series and push some boundaries along the way, beyond them just holding hands.

And to my disappointment, it didn't.

Granted, I know that many would argue that sex is a bit too hardcore for these types of shows (even though I heavily disagree with that), but is expecting a kiss too much to ask for? Or at least them deciding to make it formal and confess to one another?

Look, I'm really not asking for much. Just some type of commitment that at least teases towards something more interesting than “maybe they will end together, eventually!”.

I get it that this is an adaptation from a manga, and romance mangas are infamously known to be very slow with the progression of their relationships, to the point that most describe such relationships as “glacial”.

This makes sense to be this way, as manga is the author's entire livelihood and if they make their characters simply end up in a relationship too fast after only a couple of volumes are out, then they will have to inevitably start drawing a brand new story in a brand new manga with brand new characters afterwards, just so they can keep making an income to pay their bills. In such situations, I can see why the authors would prolong the romance story for as much as possible, to squeeze as much money as they can from their own work.

But, I'm sorry, if Call of the Night could do this better, even though that was also an adaptation of a romance manga, then I expect for this show to be able to do that too.

Call of the Night went beyond what my expectations were and it just ran full steam with its romance, without holding anything back (aside from them having sex, which didn't happen yet). And despite doing this, it still had a satisfying ending where the main couple ended up going a significant step forward, leaving the audience with a sweet taste in their mouth and with a definitive “yes, they are now a couple” ending for season 1.

This show didn't do that. This show just left us on a boring “maybe one day” type of ending, that only serves as an ad for the manga it's adapting, as I doubt this will ever get a season 2 as well.

If I knew this was the type of ending I would get, I probably would have went with Sugar Apple Fairy Tale instead.

But, still, do I regret watching this? No. It was a fun experience, with fun characters and some neat ideas. The romance was very slow and it was more about teasing us at what can happen rather than what does end up happening but still, I wouldn't say it was a bad watch. And I can easily see people getting into this.

Will I watch another season of this, if one ever gets produced? I doubt it.

Season 1 left me hanging enough that I decided I probably will drop this story for good. But hey, don't let me stop you from watching if this sounds like the type of story you'd be into. Go ahead and watch it!

8. Giant Beasts of Ars

A super-soldier facing off against a giant beast

  • Available on HiDive

Well, I guess I should give my thoughts on this show as well.

Honestly, out of all the series I've watched this season, apart from Lee's Detective Agency, this was the most underwhelming.

The plot is fairly simple.

In the world of Ars, a war has been going on for decades between the various human races across the land and giant, mindless monsters that attack their cities.

To defend themselves from these attacks, warriors with great stamina known as Paladins, who partner with beings with magical powers known as Mages, combine their bodies to form super-powered soldiers with great speed and endurance, as they defeat the beasts by attacking their weak spots.

One day, a young girl named Kumi manages to escape from a secret laboratory where she had been experimented on and, as she flees into a nearby city to evade her captors, encounters a jaded and grumpy fisherman named Jiro.

As the two try to figure out what to do and whether Jiro wants to have anything to do with her, a giant beast attacks their city.

It is then revealed that Jiro was actually a Paladin in his past and Kumi is actually a mage as well.

In order to survive, the two form a pact to combine, and they merge their bodies into one to defeat the beast.

After this is done, Kumi decides to leave the city before her captors catch wind of her presence there. Jiro gets caught up with her against his will and, together, they are forced to flee the city.

Now, along with a strange supporting character named Mya, they embark on a flying ship and start traveling across the country, meeting new characters along the way and talking to the different species of folks in that country, as they try to figure out what to do with Kumi.

Sadly, the head of the lab that was experimenting on Kumi, Mezami, is on their tail, trying to get his prototype back.

In the process, Jiro and his gang will slowly discover about a secret plan by the empire to destroy the other races of that land, as well as a prophecy that will bring about the end of the world.

Well, that's the story of the show.

Honestly, I can easily see people talk about this show like it's a hidden gem and, in the upcoming future, looking back at this as a cult classic that only the very select anime fans know about.

The story is interesting, the characters are colorful and the plot twists are suspenseful.

Not only that, but there's a lot of world building in this show. There are talks about the empire governing that country, about all the different races on that land, their customs, their relationships with each other, their histories and so much more.

In fact, there's so much world building in this show that, I'd argue, this backfires against it. This is a prime example of how too much world building can seriously slow the plot progression to a crawl.

My main issue with this show is how slow it is. This is a story about traveling, how our main characters go from town to town to escape pursuit, only to find new characters there that will help them.

While this is fine in itself, it takes a really long time for the show to become interesting and make me feel like it's going anywhere important.

In fact, halfway through, I was seriously considering dropping it, I was so disinterested in these characters and their journey.

I stuck with it, in the end, and while the show did improve towards the end, it was still a chore to go through it all the way and, I'd even argue, it wasn't worth the payoff.

While it did try to add a bit of interesting drama towards the end, it just was too little too late for me to really care about it.

And a plot point about a certain character dying towards the end and how tragic that will be was suddenly and abruptly abandoned before it could go anywhere.

Basically, the show cheapened out and didn't deliver on anything.

Suffice it to say, I was unimpressed.

While I'm sure that many would argue that this is a hidden gem, I will personally disagree and call it a bore.

Granted, I can see this becoming an impressive work if they expand upon this world and continue the story into a season 2, but that's a lot to ask for and I sincerely doubt a season 2 of this will ever appear.

If one does appear, sure, I'll consider watching it.

This is one of those shows that can only shine if and when it gets explored across multiple seasons that show off the world and the characters in depth. As it stands, for now, though, it's just not enough for me to give it much credit.

Season 1 just didn't have enough time to give us an in-depth look into their world, and it didn't have enough time to tell an interesting engaging story either. It ended up trying to do both but, in the process, didn't do either well.

I simply cannot in good faith recommend this show but, if what you read sounds interesting, then you'll probably like it.

Also, if you want to see a romance story between Jiro and Kumi, don't bother! There's little to no romance in this show. Their relationship does improve over time, but it remains platonic, at least as of season 1.

9. Lee's Detective Agency

Lee's Agency Cast

  • Available on Crunchyroll

I'll be honest, I didn't really want to watch this show after I saw its preview. The only reason I did decide to pick it up was because I had already watched Arknights: PRELUDE TO DAWN last season and, from what I read from the synopsis and on the web, supposedly, this show takes place in the same universe as that. While I wasn't that much of a big fan of Arknights, I did like it enough to consider it a decent show. The production quality for it was very impressive, but the plot was average, at best. Regardless, I chose to go ahead and consider watching a second season. When I read that this takes place in the same universe, I decided to give it a shot as well, because I wanted to discover more about that world and its characters.

And, well, while I did get what I wanted, I can say that it felt extremely underwhelming.

First, to make this very clear, this show's first (and so far, only) season has only 6 episodes, much like Arknights as well.

This isn't a problem, per se, as you can fit enough of a story in just 6 episodes, if need be, and this is just proof of that.

Second, unlike Arknights, this series has short episodes. Each episode is only 10 minutes long, so if you wanted to, you could finish the entire first season in just one hour, if you watched all the episodes back to back.

I'm not 100% sure that Arknight fans would like this series, though.

Arknights was a mobile tactical game that had its story adapted into an anime.

With this, I can only assume that this is a different game from the same development company that also got an anime adaptation.

For whatever reason, the development company decided to merge the two games' stories into the same universe.

But, before I go any further, I need to explain what this show is about.

The show focuses around the lives of Lee, Aak, Hung and Waai Fu, who, together, are employed at what's known as Lee's Detective Agency.

This is an agency in Lungmen, where these characters try to solve various conflicts and altercations, usually involving what's known as the Cat Mafia.

If you're wondering why it's called the Cat Mafia, it's because it's a mafia, in Lungmen, that's comprised of anthropomorphic cats.

Yes, in case you forgot, the Arknights universe features people with animal characteristics on their bodies; the Cat Mafia being one example of this.

The first episode of the show deals with a young man named Jaye, who works as an apprentice at a fish shop in the middle of the city. One day, this boy appears to be abducted by a crowd of people passing by the shop and, the shop owner, who was a witness, concerned for his well being, contacts Lee's Agency to look into his disappearance.

When shown pictures of people from the Cat Mafia, the boss believes that they may be the culprit behind Jaye's disappearance, which leads the agency to suspect that this might be their doing.

The episode then goes on showing Waai Fu, as she tries to take matters into her own hands, and track the culprits down.

Yeah, that's the plot.

The Cat Mafia are the stereotypical bad guys of this show. They end up causing a lot of trouble for Lee's Agency, mainly because the agency is involved in cases where they uncover the mafia's underground dealings and they have a vendetta against them.

It's important to note, though, that the mafia isn't always the bad guy of the episode.

There are episodes where there isn't any bad guy, or the bad guy isn't who you think it is.

The show has very light detective tones, although it's mostly just comedy and characters engaging in wacky antics.

The minimalist art style is a very odd decision, to me. While it does have a touch of an anime aesthetic to it, the overly simplified character designs are a bit too cartoon-ish at times, which makes it difficult to take the show too seriously.

Then again, this might be a fitting decision, as the show itself is tangentially light hearted and comedy-focused. It never becomes too dark and it has the feel of a kids' cartoon more than anything else.

My complaint is that, this is supposed to take place in the same universe as Arknights, a very sober and military-focused TV series with tragic undertones.

And yet, despite sharing the same universe as that, this show has almost no resemblance to it at all. Arknights was dark and broody, whereas Lee is very light hearted and cartoony. This makes for a very jarring disconnection between the two.

Moreover, the connections between the two shows are very sparse.

I don't remember seeing any character from Arknights make a cameo in this show. And Oripathy, which is a serious illness that played a very big role in Arknights, gets only one mention in Lee's Detective Agency.

Ultimately, these two shows may share the same universe, but they are only marginally related to each other, plot-wise.

While this makes the show its own thing and stand on its own legs, the fact of the matter is that, if you want to watch this show because you liked Arknights, just like me, you'll be very disappointed in how little the two shows have to do with each other.

But, if I were to judge it on its own merit, even then, the show is quite mediocre.

It doesn't really have an overarching plot with a beginning, middle and end.

The series is just a bunch of episodes, each containing a case involving the agency, that may or may not be related to the Cat Mafia, and how the agency deals with it.

One episode is about a VIP that asks for the agency to protect his money in case the mafia were to kill him (spoiler alert: he does get killed), another is about an old friend of one of the detectives at the agency making a sudden appearance, and another episode is about the Cat Mafia abducting one of the agency's members.

Again, there's no plot connecting all these episodes. They just depict various cases that involve this agency.

If you're in the mood for a TV show that follows the lives of detectives of a particular agency in Lungmen, then be my guest and give this a try!

Just don't get your hopes too high. The show isn't very deep, nor complex, and the amount of thinking the audience has to do to follow the plot lines of the episodes is quite minimal.

But, this also makes it very accessible for children as well, as nothing in this show feels like it was geared towards adults. Basically, this is a family friendly series.

Personally, I won't be watching a season 2 of this if it ever comes out. But I can easily see how others can end up liking this.

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from AnimeZone

Continuation of part 1, which can be read here.

4. Arknights: PRELUDE TO DAWN

Amiya looking straight into the camera It's now time to talk about the show which is, arguably, the most popular one on this ranking. This show is an anime adaptation to the very popular tactical RPG/tower defense video game available on Android and iOS called Arknights. The game is very popular among the gacha game community, as it adorned a pretty big fanbase. Its recent rise in popularity over the past couple of years meant that an anime adaptation was inevitable.

And, well, we finally got one.

Now, for starters, let me just say that I am not a fan of the game. I don't play gacha games.

So this review is coming from someone that's completely new to the series and has no idea whether this TV show is a faithful adaptation of the game's story or not.

With that said, I will say that I liked this show quite a bit.

For one, it's the show in this ranking that looks to have had the highest production budget behind it. I cannot say this for sure, as I didn't research this, nor do I believe that the exact monetary budget figures behind these anime are even publicly available, but at the very least, it definitely looks like the most well funded TV series out of all of them. From the very fluid animation, exotic camera angles and panoramic shots, the very nicely drawn backgrounds and the exquisite sound design, all the way to the stellar ending and opening sequences.

Everything in this show felt premium when looking at it.

I don't know if the development company behind the game itself, Hypergryph, financed this project or not, but this show seems to have burned a lot of money.

The show was a treat for my eyes and ears. After the bad taste left behind by Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer and its infrequent horrible and choppy animation, this felt like such a breath of fresh air. I know that many would find it cheap for a reviewer to praise a show over something as technical as its budget but, after seeing these two shows back to back in the same season, I simply cannot in good faith not talk about such things. At the end of the day, the quality of the animation and the sound design does make a difference, and that simply has to be acknowledged.

And the quality of production was consistent too. From episode one to the last episode, you could tell that every minute had a lot of hard work and artistry baked into it. There was never a time when I can say that “This scene could have looked better, or this scene felt rushed and didn't get the screen time that it deserved”.

Another great thing about this show is that it had a slow pacing, with most of the screen time dedicated to world building and character development.

So, let's get into the meat of the plot now!

On the futuristic post-apocalyptic dystopian planet of Terra, which is filled with many people, some of which with various animal characteristics on their bodies like rabbit ears, the people are preparing for another cataclysmic event that happens from time to time, which usually destabilizes society. In the city of Chernobog from within the Ursus Empire, though, a rogue militant group called the Reunion is trying to take over the city and its population. In this city, the protagonist, a male doctor, is awakened abruptly by the leader of Rhodes Island, Amiya. Rhodes Island is a large moving city owned and operated by Amiya's pharmaceutical company.

Amiya had traveled all the way from Rhodes Island to Chernobog along with a team of military personnel, to retrieve the doctor just in time, as the city is falling apart due to Reunion's assault over it.

Reunion is a terrorist organization comprised entirely of people infected with Oripathy, a disease caused by the highly precious mineral known as Originium. People with Oripathy face severe discrimination in that world, as the disease is believed to be contagious (although scientific evidence disputes this), and are treated as second class citizens by many of the governments of the planet.

Reunion was formed to overturn these governments and try to violently take control of the world by means of military force, such that the infected can finally fight back against their discrimination. And Reunion is willing to achieve these goals at any cost.

By using the upcoming cataclysm as an opportunity, Reunion took advantage of this and managed to invade and destroy most of Chernobog.

Thankfully, Amiya and her team managed to find the doctor in time, as the doctor was already a member of Rhodes Island and a specialist in medicine, and extract him successfully from his underground facility.

Rhodes Island is also primarily composed of infected, Amiya being one of them too, but it strives to deal with the discrimination against the infected peacefully, without trying to overturn governments or cause societal uprising, in the way that Reunion is doing. Instead, Rhodes Island's primary goal is to finally find a cure for Oripathy, which was always believed to be uncurable, and end the disease once and for all. The doctor that they saved from Chernobog, was their primary researcher for this cure and the reason why he was so valuable to Rhodes Island and why they made it their mission to save him from the Reunion's assault on the city.

Now, they must escape from Chernobog, defeat any Reunion forces that might put their lives in danger on the way, and return safely to Rhodes Island, with the doctor safe and in one piece.

There is one issue though: the doctor has amnesia for some unknown reason, and is incapable of recalling any of the research he had already done on the cure.

OK so that's a bare-bones synopsis for you.

I will admit, I like the setting for this show. The plot seemed very unique and engaging and I liked the post-apocalyptic touch to that world.

Couple that with the military tactical feel of the show and how it feels like it tries to delve into the nitty gritty details of each battle (keyword being feels, although it's actually superficial; I'll get to that in a moment), and I will say, I was hooked.

Not only that but the idea of the infected having almost magical abilities that they can use in battle (called Arts) which reduces their lifespans the more that they use them, was also a very nice concept, albeit a bit underused in this story.

Honestly, with the production quality that this show has, I can very easily see many fans of the game falling in love with this adaptation. Hell, I'm not a fan of the game and even I almost fell in love with it.

Still, there are a bunch of issues that I have with this show.

For one, the first season is only eight episodes long, which is a very odd number to end a season on. I heard that this makes sense for the story of the game, as they couldn't realistically stretch the plot to twelve episodes without adding in unnecessary filler, but I disagree. Even if there was not enough material to stretch it to twelve episodes by itself, I do think that adding filler to it wouldn't have hurt anyone. Adding extra episodes in which the characters just bond with each other or interact naturally, would have been nice. That would have also given us more time to know the world that they live in too. Given the high budget that this show seems to have had, I think they had enough resources to pull that off, if they wanted to.

Second, the plot of this show and the story really makes it obvious that this was from a tactical mobile game. The show makes the doctor look like a tactical genius, as he's the one coordinating the movements of all the troops from Rhodes Island, despite him starting off as simply an extraction target. The problem with this is, the show really doesn't have enough tactics or strategy in it. While the battles are given time and explored quite nicely, they are never dissected enough to actually explore tactics or possible strategic options.

Yes, this is a natural limitation of the medium of animation. Unlike a game, where the player can actually control the movement of each individual unit in a squad, in anime everything has to be linear and set in stone. And this is understandable.

But I was hoping for something along the lines of Code Geass where Lelouch's input and strategy leads to outcomes which are impactful and change the flow of the narrative in obvious ways. There, Lelouch deciding how to position the units and move them almost like they were pieces on a chess board, was explored far more and made him feel like a very intelligent and gifted tactician.

In this show, while the Doctor is said to be a brilliant tactician and the reason why Rhodes Island is capable of successfully finishing missions, this is never actually shown on screen. All of his commands, his strategies, his plans on the battlefield, are kept off screen and we don't know what he actually does to make the mission end successfully, it just does. And I find this very boring.

Had the show been more tactics focused and tried to implement strategizing on screen, I would have liked it way more. As it stands, though, most of the battles end up looking very boring and menial.

Finally, my last complaint which I have for this show is simply the amount of characters that it has. Almost every episode, it feels like a new character is introduced to us and, I'll be honest, I don't see the point. Most of these new characters may have some tactical role in the game, I'm sure, but in the anime, they just feel shoehorned in. None of them play any major role in the story and I wouldn't be surprised if some only appeared for just one episode, almost like it was a cameo. Maybe this was to please the players of the game, I don't know. I just found it pointless and, by the time the last episode rolled in, I couldn't even remember most of their names.

But hey, at the end of the day, I will say, it was a fine watch. While it's easy for me to say that the show could have been better had it done thing A or thing B, at the end, I did already enjoy it enough to be willing to view a season 2 of it. And a season 2 was already announced, so now I will say I'm looking forward to that, when it will come out.

Could the show have been better? Sure. But is it fine already as it is? Personally, as someone who isn't a fan of the game, I can say, I do believe that it's a fine experience as it is. It didn't convince me to play the game, mind you, but it did get me sufficiently invested in this story to seek out a season 2. And honestly, what more can a show like this even strive for?

5. Reincarnated as a Sword

Fran glaring menacingly And, finally, we arrive at our last entry on my ranking. This was my least favorite show of this season. And trust me, I was really getting bored with this show.

Let's start off with a synopsis, shall we?

Our story starts out with an unnamed human that ended up dying in a car accident. Immediately afterwards, he awakens back to life in the form of a large sword on a platform in the middle of the forest.

This man doesn't remember the name he once had from his previous life, but does remember that he had used to be human before reincarnating. He realizes that he isn't on planet Earth anymore just by looking at the sky and seeing the mystical fantasy creatures roaming around him, and very quickly accepts the fact that he is now just a nameless sentient sword in the middle of the forest in a fantasy world.

Despite being a simple sword and having no voice or any human characteristics whatsoever, he can access his personal menu, almost like he is in a video game, and check his RPG stats and the list of skills that he has.

There, among his skills, he finds telekinesis. So not only is he a large and cool looking sword, he also has his own skills as well, despite having no wielder yet.

Using his telekinesis skill on his own, he is able to make himself fly through the air without any difficulty and starts killing goblins and other fantasy monsters in that forest by simply smashing into them and piercing their bodies.

By doing this, he discovers that all living creatures in that world contain small crystals hidden in their bodies and, when he breaks those crystals, he ends up absorbing that creature's skills into himself, becoming capable of using it as his own skill afterwards.

When realizing this, he starts killing many monsters from that forest, one after another, slowly but surely increasing his skill count over the period of many days.

He does this so that he can become a powerful sword that will please his future wielder, when the day will come that he will meet such a person.

However, after defeating more and more difficult monsters as time passes on, and absorbing all of their skills, the sword realizes that it had cleared the area around its position in that forest, there's no more creatures worth fighting there anymore, and decides to venture outward to other parts of the forest to gain more power for himself.

When he flies out by himself, though, after a certain distance from his original location, he loses his ability to fly though, and becomes stuck in the ground, unable to move anymore.

Why he cannot fly anymore isn't explained by the show, it's just to limit him from going off on his own adventure I guess.

Now, incapable of flying by himself anymore, he is stuck on the ground, all alone and sad, desperate for someone to come pick him up.

After a couple of months pass, a carriage just so happens to pass nearby through the forest and this carriage just so happens to get attacked by a giant bear monster.

The carriage was transporting valuable materials owned by a rich person and, when seeing the bear attack them, the rich person orders the slaves who were accompanying him to block the monster and try to stop him.

Among these slaves is a young Black Cat girl named Fran who, due to her contract as a slave, is magically forced against her will to fight the monster by her owner, even if she would otherwise be powerless.

Seeing her fellow slaves be slaughtered by said monster in front of her eyes, realizing that she stands no chance of defeating the bear by herself, Fran then hears the voice of the aforementioned sword in her head, as the sword is speaking to her using his telepathy skill.

The sword was nearby and it asks Fran to grab it and use it to save herself.

She obliges and, just as the bear monster is about to kill her as well, the sword transfers some of his skills into Fran and gives her the magical boosts and skills necessary for her to easily defeat the giant bear and save everyone there.

Happy that his own life had been saved, the slave owner that controlled Fran congratulates her for her deed, before asking her to give him that sword so that he can take it for himself.

Realizing that Fran is just a slave and is magically bound to that man, meaning that she cannot act through her free will, the sword kills him and burns his contract with Fran, effectively nullifying the magic keeping her bound and allowing her to become a free person finally.

Fran, happy that she can walk as a free girl now, adopts the sword and names him “Teacher” because the sword teaches her what she should do.

She tells him that it's always been her dream to evolve, something which many other adventurers in that world achieve, but no Black Cat has ever done before, and so she embarks on a journey with him to do just that.

The Teacher, for his part, accepts her as his wielder and decides to dedicate the rest of his life to protecting this girl and aiding her in her quest to evolve.

OK, so that's a fairly short description of what this show is all about.

Yes, this is an isekai anime, and yes, it displays all of the cliches that normal isekais have.

I said once that I was sick of watching isekai anime, particularly the kind that have overpowered protagonists that always overpower all threats that come their way.

When I watched the preview for this TV series, the reason I decided to pick it up was because it really looked like the show was going to be about the main character, Fran, struggling and having difficulties in fighting against her opponents, and that gave me hope that maybe she wasn't going to be overpowered like so many other isekai anime.

Especially since she looked young (maybe around 11 years old or so?) I really wanted to believe that this was going to be a story about growing up and struggling against life's difficulties as she tries to carve her way as an adventurer. I wanted the story to be about facing hardships and suffering, this is what I hoped I would get.

And while this is kind of what we get here, a lot of the hardships she encounters are very quickly overcome by the simple presence of the Teacher character who's always there to help her out.

Yes, that's right. I hate his character. To me, the Teacher is the sole reason why I dislike this show as much as I do. Well, OK, maybe not the sole reason, but he's a good chunk of the reason why I hate this show so much.

He acts like an all knowing father figure to Fran, always guiding her, always lending her his overpowered skills and always telling her what she should do and how she should react.

He always holds her hand throughout the entire journey (figuratively speaking, as he obviously has no hands) and that frustrates me to no end.

I really like to feel like this is Fran's story, as the show sets up the fact that she has a very couragious and rebel personality, she's a fighter, she doesn't want to conform to the rules and be ruled over by others. She wants to be the first Black Cat to evolve in history.

These are all great traits to have in a main character, and I like all of this.

But the story doesn't feel like it's hers, it feels like it's the sword's story instead.

While, ultimately, she is the wielder of the sword and she technically calls all the shots of what they should do and where they should go next, it's actually the Teacher that informs her of what she should level up next, what dungeons she should crawl through, what her next skills should be and where to get them from.

Fran really feels like she would be powerless without the Teacher's help. And that annoys me.

Someone that's a fighter like her, a rebel, shouldn't need to be guided all the time by the sword. She shouldn't need to rely on Teacher to do absolutely everything in her life.

Every time they fight in a battle, the story tries to trick you into thinking that they're at an impasse, that they might not make it out of there alive, that they might die.

But, soon enough, the sword always finds that one skill that he had in his vast repertoire that he didn't think to use before but now realizes is very important, transfers that skill to Fran or tells her exactly what to do, and then boom! The day is saved and the bad guy is defeated. Hooray for teamwork, I guess.

Yeah, Fran almost never has any input whatsoever. She just does or uses whatever the Teacher tells her to do or use in the heat of battle.

She doesn't realize an enemy's weakness by herself, she doesn't figure out a brilliant strategy to save the day, she doesn't acquire her own sets of skills to use in battle. Everything she does or has is from the Teacher, and she 100% relies on him.

Only once, was there an episode where Fran was separated from the Teacher and she had to fend for herself and protect other fellow adventurers from danger.

And I really liked that episode. It looked like she was in actual danger and I wanted to see how she was going to get out of that situation.

And, to her credit, she does last a significant amount of time surviving on her own. The problem?

In the end, it's the teacher that still finds her and saves her at the last second!

She only needed to survive for long enough for the Teacher to be able to locate her and save her. I really hated that.

Had he not arrived there in time, it's heavily implied that Fran would have died.

Hell, at any battle in this show, it's implied that Fran would die had Teacher not been there to help her. She has no backbone for herself.

I get the idea that she's just a little girl and would otherwise be powerless without Teacher being there for her, but this is taken to such an extreme degree that I genuinely feel like the prejudice against Black Cats being worth only as slaves is actually kind of accurate, in that world.

She actually is powerless. She doesn't prove to be adventurer material and she failed to convince me that she deserves to evolve.

Maybe it's my cynical nature, but it looks, to me, that even if she ends up evolving (which, for the record, doesn't happen yet by the time season 1 ends), it'll only be from the hard work that the Teacher had put into it, not her own.

It's not that a Black Cat managed to surpass all odds and managed to finally evolve, it's that it just so happens that a legendary brilliant intelligent sword picked a wielder for itself, and that wielder was a Black Cat. The sword is so overpowered and brilliant that whoever would have been its wielder would have evolved in the end, regardless of who it was. So Fran isn't anything special.

Fran just is treated like a child in this show, not a hero. And that's my main gripe with it.

Watching a child listen to a real adventurer tell her what to do might seem fun to some people, and if it does sound fun to you, go ahead! Watch it! This show is absolutely for you!

But it didn't for me. I wanted to see an adventurer's journey, to see how they start from scratch with nothing on them, build up their strength on their own merits and gain power and reputation through hard work and determination.

From my perspective, Fran didn't earn anything. She just received all the merit and power from her Teacher and that's why she's so powerful now.

Yes, nobody from their world knows that the reason she's so powerful and resourceful is due to her sword, they keep this a secret from almost everyone. But we, the audience, know. And that's ruining it for me.

And, just for a second, let's talk about the Teacher too.

While Fran has, at least, the personality traits and determination to be a hero (she just doesn't do anything with them), the Teacher has none of that.

The Teacher is just a boring man that is a blank slate of a protagonist. He has no personality outside of wanting to be a cool sword and wanting to help Fran out, he doesn't seem to care that he comes from our world and that he had a past life at all. No knowledge from his past life seems to come into play here. Hell, the fact that this is an isekai is actually pointless.

The Teacher could have started off as just a powerful sword with Telekinesis in this story, without any memories from a prior life or any mention of reincarnation whatsoever, and this wouldn't have impacted this story at all.

Why even mention that he came from our world at all? That never played any relevance to the plot at all!

He doesn't seem to want to return to our world, he doesn't care that he reincarnated, he never tells Fran that he came from our world (nor does she seem to care, for that matter).

It's all just pointless.

Some might argue that the point of the show is to enjoy the bonding between the Teacher and Fran, how they look like they have a father-daughter relationship in this story.

And, sure, I guess. They do act like there is some pseudo-parental relationship between the two.

But I mean, if I really wanted to watch an anime about the relationship between a man and his daughter, I would watch other better stuff like Usagi Drop or even Clannad. Those shows are far superior in what they do and they even have great drama in them, something which this show is too lighthearted to even attempt.

And this might sound very cold-hearted, but I really don't care much for father daughter relationships. In shows that focus on drama, sure, maybe they can work if the plot and story supports it and it's only about the family.

But this show isn't about family, it's about adventuring. The father-daughter stuff is just background fodder that's meant to be used for comedic effect, not a pivotal plot point at all in this.

And the Teacher's relationship to Fran, while it does feel paternal in some sense, is just plain boring and uninteresting to watch.

They never fight, he always assumes the role of reason and responsibility, she always does what he tells her to do and is subservient to him, she never questions his reasoning, it's all just boring.

For someone that used to hate being treated as a slave, she seems pretty fine with letting others tell her what to do all the time.

And maybe I could have overlooked all of this stuff, had the show at least been original and avoided all the isekai cliches in the book. Sadly, it doesn't do that either though.

Cliche after cliche, I thought I was going through the rundown of all the stuff that I personally hate in isekai: the underdog story, how there are always people that question Fran's power, how they always don't believe that she deserves being promoted in ranks the way that she is, how she gets the fame that she does, how everyone constantly underestimates her because she's a child or a Black Cat.

And how she always has to prove them wrong, to humiliate them, to make them be remorseful for doubting her power, all of that stuff.

I am so sick of these cliches and by the time the final episodes rolled in, I just wanted for the show to end. I couldn't stand it anymore.

But, for all the woes that I said about this show, I will admit, it does have some stuff I liked about it.

The cliffhangers that each episode ended on kept my interest piqued enough to make me want to watch the next episode, every week.

The world building is decently handled, enough to make me curious about the video game mechanics of this world and how people live in it. There's constant talk about magic, the difference between skills and spells and stuff, how people unlock new abilities, how they summon familiars. This show introduces quite a few handful of concepts and ideas which I really liked and I would personally like to be explored a bit more.

And for as much crap as I gave the Teacher for being overpowered and always having a skill that ends up saving the day at the end, I will say that there were quite a few times when I was genuinely feeling like they are actually in danger and they could die.

It was a trick to make me invested, honestly, but the fact that this show still tricked me is impressive on its own.

That's more than I can say for other isekai shows like How not to summon a Demon Lord where I never once believed anyone could realistically put Diablo's life in danger.

And, for what it's worth, I did eventually like some of the characters in the show.

I would have wished that Fran would have ended up at least growing as a character by the end, how she learned a lesson and became wiser on her own without Teacher needing to be there to tell her that, but she never did.

Fran remained as stagnant as a character throughout most of the show.

But alas, I digress.

Honestly, if you're sick of the common tropes that isekai anime usually do and want something new or original, I'd say, avoid this at all costs.

There's nothing new or innovative that this show does that's that groundbreaking.

Everything done here has been done way better elsewhere and it's just boring to watch if you've already seen any isekai before.

And, when compared to actually good isekai TV anime like Mushoku Tensei or Re:Zero, this doesn't even hold a candle to them. If you want to watch a good isekai and already have seen many others, I suggest you skip this one.

However, if you've never watched an isekai before and this is your first one, I'd honestly say, this is a good introduction to the cliches.

Granted, it's not an amazing show but it will keep you invested through most of it and you'll probably find the underdog trope used in this more believable since the main character, Fran, is both a child and a Black Cat, so it's at least justified that many characters in this story would have prejudices against her, compared to other shows where that's completely unexplained and out of nowhere.

And the world building was good enough and the video game mechanics were so interesting that I genuinely feel like I wouldn't necessarily skip over a season 2 of this, if one were to be announced.

I won't say I definitely will watch a season 2 of this if it were announced, but I won't say “no” to that possibility either. It will depend on the mood I'll be in when deciding and whether the season 2 preview will be interesting enough to convince me to give this story another shot.

And say what you will, but this is a better outcome than the last entries for my rankings of previous seasons (i.e. Vermeil in Gold and Shikimori's not just a cutie) where I actually decided that I definitely won't be watching a season 2 of those, even if they will be produced. So there's that!


from AnimeZone

Oh baby, it's time for another ranking.

This season has been a bountiful one. Suffice it to say that I wasn't sure how much I was gonna like the lineup for this fall, due to the fact that none of the anime previews that I watched before the season began impressed me at all. But, after having finished all the shows right now, I can say, I like them.

Before I get to the actual ranking, I have to say two things.

First, while I did really like Call of the Night the previous season, so much so that I now personally consider it one of my favorite romance animes of all time, I will say that even the best entry on this list can't compare to it.

Call of the Night was just, simply put, too good. And comparing anything to it would be a bit much, as the bar that it set is very very high, and it probably won't be cleared for years to come.

Second, while I watched only five shows this season, the original plan was to watch six, actually. Issue is, the sixth show that I wanted to watch and which, ironically, had the most interesting looking preview out of all of them, was called Pantheon, and it was set to stream on HiDive.

Pantheon looked interesting at first, but I never got to watch it due to the fact that HiDive didn't seem to want to make it viewable in Europe at all. And this is annoying because HiDive, unlike Crunchyroll which has the decency of telling you in which regions of the planet it's allowed to provide that show in, HiDive hides this information from you. The preview for the show was available to me without any restrictions so I, naturally, assumed I could watch it. But no, I couldn't, only the preview was available. When I tried to access the show itself, it finally told me that I wasn't allowed to, from my country.

I suspect they only licensed the show to show it in North America, which, if true, would be a very cheap move honestly. And it is a shame, since the preview made it look like a very cool sci-fi TV show with interesting social commentary and nice drama built into it. I would have really liked to view it.

You may say, “Well, you're already using a VPN to access HiDive from Romania anyways. Why not just switch your VPN server to an US one and watch the show from there?” and that would be a fair point. I definitely could watch it, if I really really wanted to, that's true. But, the fact is, I have a personal rule not to consume content which is not already sold to me.

If HiDive licensed that show to stream it only in North America, then I see no reason why me, as an European, should watch it. They never payed for the show to be streamable on my continent so using a VPN to bypass the geo-restriction, while technically possible and even legal, is morally ambiguous enough for me to say that I don't want to do it.

So yeah, there you go. Instead of the six shows I originally planned on watching this season, I only got to watch five. Oh well.

Now, let's get to the ranking!

1. Urusei Yatsura (2022)

Ataru grabbing Lum by her horns

Before I go into any details about the plot, I have to clarify that what I'm about to write about is the Urusei Yatsura anime from 2022, animated by studio David Production. I have to say this because there's also a separate anime under the same name, adapting the exact same manga, back from 1981 animated by Kitty Films, studio Pierrot and Studio Deen (if you're wondering, yes, it's the exact same Studio Deen that animated the very first Fate/stay night anime, the one back from 2006).

Yes, the manga this show is adapting is very, very old. Hell, it's older than me.

And this surprised me, given that it's been so long since the manga already stopped being published. I couldn't wrap my head around why they decided to make a new adaptation of such old material right now. And not only that, but they decided to animate not one but two seasons worth of content, which basically makes this almost a 24 episode anime (although it might be a bit fewer since the first season only had 11 episodes).

The seasons run back to back, which means no wait time for season two. There was only a one week pause between the airing of the last episode of season one and the first episode of season two.

But enough about that! Let's get into the meat of it!

The plot revolves around a young high school boy named Ataru Moroboshi.

He's a particularly unlucky individual, given the fact that he was born on a Friday the 13th, also in the worst day of the Buddhist calendar, immediately following an earthquake and after a black cat walked into the hospital room where his mother gave birth to him.

He is, what a monk in the show describes, as “bad luck incarnate”.

Ataru is not only chronically unlucky though, but he's also very lecherous.

He constantly wants to take peeks at naked girls, looks after women doing jogging around the city and is just a complete pervert whenever he gets the chance to be one.

This usually lands him in hot water with his childhood friend, Shinobu Miyake, who Ataru is infatuated with and tries to get into a relationship with.

Shinobu is an uptight girl who hates that part of his personality, but still wants to remain his friend and tries to guide him on the correct path, although he always goes astray.

Ataru wants for her to consider a serious relationship with him but, given that he constantly ogles other women, Shinobu always ends up dumping him.

One day, this routine of theirs is interrupted, though, as a technologically advanced alien race with people with horns on their heads calling themselves “Oni”, arrive and prepare to invade Earth.

Earth's military is no match against them, and they will not be able to win in a fight.

Luckily for them, the Oni don't outright take over the world immediately: they have a rule that they will not invade any planet until they win in a game of tag against a randomly computer-chosen person on that planet first. If the randomly chosen person gets to catch the daughter of the Oni's leader by her horns in a game of tag, then they will refrain from invading the planet.

And, much to nobody's surprise, the unlucky person that gets chosen to protect Earth by participating in this game of tag is Ataru.

But before Ataru can decide whether he even wants to participate in this game or not, the daughter of the Oni's leader arrives at his home on Earth: a scantily dressed very attractive young woman named Lum.

Upon seeing her sexy figure, Ataru immediately agrees to participating in this game, without even wanting to hear about the details of it.

As far as he's concerned, all he needs to do is catch Lum by her horns and then he wins.

He agrees to this and then, the next day, he's in the middle of a giant stadium, surrounded by spectators, both from Earth as well as Oni, each cheering for their own party to win.

The rules are simple: if Ataru manages to grab Lum by her horns within the next ten days, from sunrise to sunset, he wins and the Earth will not be invaded. If he doesn't, the Oni will conquer the planet.

Ataru, being as simple minded as he is, immediately dashes towards Lum, thinking that he just needs to grab her body.

But as he is getting closer, Lum immediately escapes from his grap by flying into the air.

It's at that moment, when Ataru realizes that Lum can fly very easily. And not only that but she can also send electric shocks through his body if he does get in contact with her. Things he was never told about.

Enraged that they hadn't told him this before he had agreed to play the game, Lum casually replies that he never should have agreed in the first place before learning all the details about it, including about her powers.

After a long day of struggle, Ataru ends up being defeated. And then he loses the second day as well. And then the third. And so on, until the ninth day, when Ataru is again, bested by Lum's flying abilities. Now, Ataru has only one day left to catch her.

At this point, all of humanity lost hope in Ataru winning.

His parents are sad that he'll most likely end up as a social outcast due to dooming the fate of Earth with his incompetency, and Ataru is losing his mind, trying to think of a way to not lose the next day as well.

Seeing no other means of motivating a growingly desperate Ataru, Shinobu approaches him and promises to him her hand in marriage if he wins the game.

Renewed by the prospects of marrying his childhood friend, Ataru becomes reinvigorated with motivation and renewed energy for the next day.

The tenth day arrives and now, Ataru is more motivated than ever to win.

He focuses his mind on only one thing: Shinobu marrying him, and with that one goal set in his mind, he manages to actually summon enough strength and speed to surprise even Lum, all this time while chanting the word “marriage” like a maniac.

With this new motivation, he manages to grab Lum's bra and remove it from her body, embarrassing her with the display of her naked breasts to all the spectators on that stadium. Lum, becoming immensely embarrassed, stops focusing on the game at hand and lunges after him, trying to get her bra back and, in this moment, Ataru uses her bra as bait to fool her, get on top of her and grab her horns. And, after doing that, he immediately yells, “I'm getting married!”, very happy that he won.

After being congratulated for saving Earth from invasion and after all the festivities are over, Ataru is finally preparing to enjoy the end of that day until Lum suddenly gets close to him and tells him that she's ready to marry him, in front of the audience and the TV cameras everywhere.

Ataru, very confused at first, doesn't get it until, she clarified, that she was taken aback by his spontaneous marriage proposals in the last day but, alas, she became smitten by him. It was then when Ataru remembers all the times he had mindlessly chanted “marriage” and the “I'm getting married!” at the end, when he realized that Lum had misunderstood his intentions back then and she thought that he had proposed to her.

Before he could correct that mistake, though, Lum grabs ahold of him in a public display of affection, which enrages Shinobu who was nearby and then, she immediately cancels off her plans of marrying him, thinking that he had cheated on her once again.

Now, Ataru is stuck being married to a weird sexy alien, all while having to deal with even more vitriol from his childhood friend.

Yeah, so that's the synopsis of episode 1.

The plot may sound very absurd at first and that's because, well, it is absurd.

But that's the general gist of the show: it's comedy through absurdity, especially through wacky characters.

Urusei Yatsura is, at its core, a comedy. And if what I just described to you sounds funny to you, and you'd like to watch that, chances are you'll like this show as a whole, because that's what this entire TV series is like: just the protagonist being a simple minded idiot that does something stupid, him struggling to overcome some challenge of supernatural or alien nature, and then him getting his comeupins, in the end.

I know that not everyone likes comedies that base themselves off of absurd plot points (and hell, even I thought I hated nonsensical comedies before) but this show managed to turn me around and show me that, when done right, this type of comedy can be very effective.

The absurd nature of the show cannot be overstated enough, in my opinion, as you'll later get to episodes where a rich boy arrives at his school by means of parachuting down from his private jet, a duel on school grounds, where the participants have to use a giant canon to shoot apples off each other's heads, a crazy shrine maiden that is so bad at exorcising evil spirits from people, she ends up inflicting curses on them instead, and an interdimensional portal hidden in Ataru's closet at home that teleports him to Neptune, of all places where he meets with one of Lum's childhood friends.

Oh, and there's also an episode where a love rival of Lum's ends up cloning Ataru, just so that she could distract Lum enough so that she can seduce her husband, to get back at her for having stolen a former lover of theirs in the past.

This show is very creative in the setups that it does for each episode and, it's important to note, almost all of the damages or headaches brought about by each encounter end up creating problems for Ataru, one way or another. But none of them are without cause, and Ataru is almost always responsible for the problems that end up simply biting him back in the ass.

This show is first and foremost a comedy, and it's important to keep that in mind going forward, because the main character, Ataru, is extremely unlikable. He's very lecherous, he tries to throw Lum out of his house after she tries to move in with him, tries to get back with Shinobu at every chance that he gets, despite still being married (or any woman for that matter except for Lum) and he just acts full of himself and is short of temper. The fact of the matter is, I never understood what Lum sees in him.

He does things which almost always cause problems for those around him, including himself, he tries to brush them off but the problems just keep getting worse and worse and, it always eventually culminates with him being the one to bear the brunt of his own actions.

If there's any moral to this show, it's that actions always have consequences. Ataru is almost always used as the example of what not to do in life.

So, don't expect to sympathize with him throughout! Most of the time, he's just an asshole for the sake of himself and satisfying his always-hungry libido.

But, I am of the belief that you can have a good TV show even with a very unlikable protagonist, and this show is proof of that!

The absurdity is just too delicious to pass up, and while I normally don't like shows where the protagonist feels like he never learns his lesson and ends up repeating the same mistakes over and over again, ultimately, I did enjoy this one just for being so insanely unhinged at how much it likes to punish its own characters.

And yes, as much as I hate Ataru as a character, after seeing through how much bullshit he has to go through all the time, I can at least admit that he is very unfortunate.

But, while this show is mostly a comedy and Ataru is mostly used as an example of how not to be in life, there are some heart warming moments between Ataru and Lum sometimes. In fact, I can remember two episodes when they did have tender moments as a couple, when Ataru is being an asshole and unfair to Lum, her getting fed up with him for acting that way to her, and then Ataru realizing that he was in the wrong and coming to terms that she deserves better.

It's not much, but I found the moments between them to be quite heartwarming and cute, even though this never evolves into being a romance. And it did have good lessons to teach about relationships and valuing what you have, while you still have it.

If you're ever in the mood for a funny comedy that is unhinged and has zero grounding in reality, be my guest and please give this a view! Watch episode one and see if it is to your liking. I've never watched a show as fun as this one in quite a long time, and I absolutely think this is worth a try!

The best part about all of this is that, thankfully, there's at least 11 more episodes left of this show for me to watch, so you might hear me writing about this next season, too! Stay tuned, folks!

2. Chainsaw Man

Denji confronting a zombie Oh boy, I've been waiting to write about this one for a long time now.

This show, is simply amazing.

Chainsaw Man is an anime adaptation of the manga of the same name, which began being drawn by Tatsuki Fujimoto and published by Shueisha, beginning from December 2018. You might recognize Fujimoto's name from a different manga series called Fire Punch, which he is also the author of.

I heard great things about this manga and, after watching this TV series, I can definitely say that I now see why it was so popular.

The story follows a young boy (around 10 years old-ish?) named Denji who, soon after his father's death by suicide, is confronted by a member of the yakuza who informs him that he will be inheriting his late man's huge debt towards them and that he should start sending them money soon or they will come after him, despite his very young age.

Being from a very poor family and having no relatives or friends to rely on, Denji is at a loss and unsure how he can collect the necessary money to give back to prevent the yakuza from killing him.

Just by pure chance, though, he meets a young dog-like creature named Pochita, who is a chainsaw devil.

Devils exist in that world, and are supernatural beings, usually very powerful, who draw their power from their own infamy. The more popular and infamous a particular devil is, the more powerful they become.

Pochita has a small chainsaw on its head, which is very deadly. This gives the young Denji an idea of a way to make the money that he needs.

Fast-forward to present day, when Denji is a 16 year old teenager, and we find him living with Pochita (now his pet) in severe poverty. It turns out that soon after having met Pochita, the young Denji decided to become a Devil Hunter for the yakuza, someone who kills evil and dangerous devils for a living, which in turn is making him a modest income. Due to his very high debt to the yakuza, though, almost all the money that he's making from his Devil Hunter job goes to them, and he has to live in complete poverty by eating very meager meals, living in a modest apartment by himself and constantly wishing for a better life.

He tells Pochita that he desires a simpler life and of finding a partner.

Soon, though, the yakuza boss that he is directly in-debted to, asks him to fulfill another demon killing contract that the yakuza took, and instructs Denji to go to a secluded location to destroy the said demon target.

Already used to this job after so many years, Denji sees nothing out of the ordinary with this contract, and proceeds to the aforementioned location.

However, as he reaches the abandoned warehouse where the devil was supposed to be hiding, the yakuza boss that had hired him reveals to him that, in fact, the part of the yakuza that he oversees have actually made a deal with a very powerful devil there called the Zombie Devil (which was supposed to be the target of Denji's contract) and that they have intentionally brought Denji there, under his orders, to trap him.

The Zombie Devil had become aware of Denji's role as a Devil Hunter for the yakuza over the past couple of years, and sought to kill him so that he wouldn't pose a danger to him anymore.

Then all the yakuza members in that warehouse turn out to have already transformed into zombies and, at the Zombie Devil's command, all attack Denji and dismember him brutally, before piercing his heart and throwing him in a garbage container along a very injured Pochita.

Denji's warm blood just so happens to drip into Pochita's mouth, though, and that revives it and it activates its Devil instincts, prompting Pochita to make an offer to the dying Denji.

Pochita tells Denji that he will replace his destroyed heart, fuse with his body, and give him the powers that he needs to escape from that warehouse alive. In return, Pochita wants Denji to fulfill the wish that Denji had said he had, which is to live a peaceful life and find a partner.

Afterwards, Denji is brought back to life from Pochita's influence and grows back his missing limbs before transforming into a human-devil hybrid monster (called Chainsaw Man) with chainsaws bursting out of his forehead and his two arms.

With an almost endless amount of stamina and strength, along with incredible healing abilities that even allow Denji to regenerate lost limbs from scratch and even survive having his body torn in half, this Chainsaw Man proceeds to tear the zombies into pieces, savagely slaughters all of them and then murders the Zombie Devil in a show of pure gore.

The next morning, the warehouse is visited by a special division of the Public Safety Devil Hunters, which is an organization of government-sanctioned Devil Hunters, whose duties is to eliminate devils whenever they become strong enough to pose a serious danger to public safety.

Their leader, a girl called Makima, finds a weakened and almost fainting Chainsaw Man on the ground, and hugs him, which makes him transform back into Denji's regular body.

After seeing the remains of the zombies in that place and the now dead Zombie Devil, Makima offers him to come with her coworkers back to their base and offers him free food, while also comforting him. Denji, after having lived his entire life in poverty, immediately takes her up on her offer of free food.

Later, it is revealed that Makima, not only is willing to offer Denji a free place to live in, she is willing to offer him a job as a Public Safety Devil Hunter with a decent wage for himself and a comfortable life.

Bewitched by her feminine charms and the possibility of living a comfortable life outside the poverty he's been enduring up until that point, and now that the yakuza he's been indebted to are all dead and he owes nobody anything anymore, Denji accepts her offer and agrees to work for Makima, ready to start a new and far better life for himself.

He still mourns Pochita, though, as the small devil that used to be his pet now functions as his heart, and no longer lives as anything more than an organ to him.

OK, so, now that the synopsis is out of the way, let me say why I like this show so much: it's the action and copious amounts of gore in it.

If you're squeamish about blood, decapitation, dismemberment or other very graphic body injuries, I sincerely recommend you don't watch this show, because this story loves to include all those.

This feels like what an R-rated movie should be like but in a TV series package instead: it's filled with unadulterated violence, extreme amounts of deaths, both from good and bad characters alike and heavy themes about mourning others and responsibility to society all around.

I can't recall the body count that this show has but all I'll say is that if you do plan to watch it, don't get attached to any character, because they can very easily die at any point.

While this type of story would normally be ripe to paint by numbers cliched settings like a “monster of the week” formula that would make the show become very bland and boring after a certain number of episodes, this plot resists this temptation and opts for a more dynamic approach to story telling.

While I can't say too much without going into spoilers, I will say, that this show doesn't do that.

It's not just Denji going against various devils every week, trying to figure out how to defeat them and all that boring stuff like I feared it would be. Yes, there's a bit of that in there but that's a very small part of the story.

It quickly becomes about a grand conspiracy planned by an evil organization that's trying to kill Denji specifically, political games at which Makima is the head of and a plot about revenge against a devil entity so powerful that it killed more than 1 million people in the blink of an eye, called the Gun Devil.

It's also revealed that while the Makima character is, at first, shown as a very feminine and charming character that Denji becomes bewitched by and even sets his goal to make her his girlfriend, it's very soon implied that she can have ulterior motives of her own as well, and that she might be far more cold blooded and scary than anyone could have ever imagine.

This show also includes scenes in which the characters (even the good guys) engage in stuff that wouldn't be OK to include for younger audiences such as alcoholism, government authority, the role of the yakuza in society, smoking, french kissing, guns and more. It's clear that this manga was intended for adults only, and this is something you simply have to accept about this story: it's not geared towards children, nor even teenagers. This is full blown adult entertainment, and the only thing this show lacks is sex.

And yeah, there's gore. I'm not going to sugarcoat this, there's a lot of explicit gore in this show. At one point, Denji's body is even ripped apart in half. In another, grown men have their bodies twisted until they explode in a shower of blood.

This is one of those shows that I can very easily see polarizing a good deal of people: those that like gore and those that don't.

If you like gore or don't mind it at all, give this show a watch! The story, the characters, the heavy themes in it, they are such a treat to enjoy.

However, if you do have issues with gore and don't like excessive use of it, you might want to avoid this show. I wouldn't recommend you watch it at all!

All in all, it was a treat for me and, especially since this was in the last anime batch of 2022, I feel comfortable enough in saying that this takes the cake as the best action TV series anime that I've watched this year! Before, that cake would have been held by Engage Kiss but now I can say that this is superior to it (mainly because of the story, as this is way more cohesive and intelligent than Engage Kiss even hoped it could be, but also because the gore is just so much more delicious in this one).

I really want this show to have a season 2. If nothing else, I would definitely be buying the Blu-ray edition if it ever comes out in my region.

If you're in the mood for hefty amounts of blood and carnage but that also is backed by an intelligent and well written story too, give yourself a treat and watch this show! You won't regret it!

3. Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer

Amiya looking straight into the camera This is a continuation of my thoughts of this show back when it first began airing back in summer. I posted that in my summer's blog post. If you want to read on my thoughts of part 1 of this show (i.e. the first 12 episodes of it), you can read all about them here. Now that I've actually finished watching all of it, I feel like I can better discuss some of the things I liked about it and some of the things I disliked about it.

But now you may wonder: now that I watched the other half of it, do my criticisms of its first half still hold up? Well, yes, they still do.

I talked about how the show was plagued by technical issues that were very jarring, particularly the jagged and choppy animation that would appear every so often throughout the show's episodes. And, as much as I hate to say this, this issue still persisted even in its second half.

It's very clear that this show did not get a very big budget and they had to cut a lot of corners everywhere they could get away with it, just so that they could finish this project. And this is very apparent, the more you watch the show, particularly during its fighting sequences.

I'd like to say that this isn't too big of an issue but, sadly, I really can't. Particularly during the last couple of episodes, when you'd expect for them to dump most of their animation money in, this problem emerged once again, ruining a lot of scenes.

At some points, the animation was so choppy and poor that it was literally distracting, as I couldn't believe how much they were half-assing it.

This is one of the worst animated TV series I've seen in quite a few years. Usually I let things like this pass, as I just see it as a problem with the animation industry as a whole, but this suffers from this problem so badly that I simply cannot ignore it.

Even when I was deliberately trying to turn a blind eye to this issue, some scenes just kept bringing my attention back to it, it was that bad. And I'm sorry, when I can't enjoy your show because of how distracting and cheap the animation looks, you're doing something horribly wrong.

But yes, if you're still willing to go out of your way to let this pass and still want to watch it, it is quite an enjoyable experience.

The story progresses even further and we slowly reach the end of Animus' golems.

The knights slowly destroy all of his golems and, eventually, they have to fight Animus himself to prevent total destruction of Earth.

There's nothing more I can say about this story without going into spoilers, so I'll stop here.

What I will say, though, is that, thankfully, this is a finished story. Yes, the show has 24 episodes but, at the end, it has a very nice and satisfying conclusion to the knights' stories.

Like I said before, not all of the knights will live through this story, some will die along the way. But those that do survive to the end will be rewarded with their own conclusion, as the last episode of this series will feature a time skip that will show us how all of their lives ended up 10 years into the future.

I liked the time skip ending. It felt like it was leaving us on a sweet note, now that all the drama and suffering is finally over with. If I had one gripe with the time skip ending, it's that I felt like it was a bit forced how all of the knights still ended up so tightly knit together and how they still interact with each other, almost on a daily basis, even after 10 years have passed since the events of the show took place, but I digress.

That and, we learn from the time skip, that certain knights get together and become a couple despite there being absolutely no precedent for this relationship set in the regular timeline of the show.

I would have liked for the show to do at least some setup to these relationships so that, 10 years into the future, it would have made sense for them to bloom as much as they had. I say this because it felt like certain relationships were completely shoehorned into the ending, where no precedent had ever been set before for them, the characters involved in those relationships never had any chemistry on screen together or hell, I don't believe they even spoke that much to each other during the course of the show at all, if at all. It just felt like some of those relationships were added just to make the ending feel more fulfilling than it should have been.

But yeah, moving on.

I suspect the only reason that this show exists nowadays was because some higher up that had sufficient influence in studio NAZ, grew up with the manga that this show is based on, and really wanted for them to animate the story.

So he pulled whatever leverage in the studio that he could, eventually convinced other higher-ups to take on the project, but he was afforded only a limited budget to cover a standard 12 episode anime to produce.

There simply was no way to fit the full story of the manga in a single 12 episode anime. That much was obvious to anyone, so the natural expectation from everyone involved would have been that only half of the manga's story would actually be animated in a season 1 TV series, and then, if and when this season would become popular enough to warrant the continuation of the story into a season 2, then they would proceed to do that as well.

The problem was, the manga had already ended more than a decade prior, so the popularity of this story had already waned quite a bit. Had they gone this route, there was the real danger that only season 1 would get animated, very few people would watch it and buy merchandise for it, it would soon become apparent that there simply wasn't enough interest in the general population for them to continue and a season 2 would never get greenlit, as a consequence.

Had this happened, the story would have been left in infinite limbo, never to be completed, much like many other anime projects that had so much potential but never got to be continued due to lack of interest in them.

Whoever wanted this project done must have known all of this, or at least suspected that it was a very real danger, and so they opted for a different solution instead: try to squeeze as much additional money as they can to animate this and try to animate the full story in a single 24 episode season, rather than the 12 episode concept that they had already received money for.

And so, this is how we got this show. This is the reason why the show seems to be financed by a really limited budget, as, originally, it only had enough money for 12 episodes only, money that was then stretched to accommodate the production of 24 episodes instead.

This might also explain why the show had such a fast paced story progression, since they knew the most they could produce was 24 episodes and they needed to finish the story in this episode span, without any further stretching.

They had no guarantees that a season 2 would ever be greenlit and so they did their best to squeeze the whole story in one season only.

This is just a hypothesis, mind you, and I could very well be off base, but this feels like the most realistic scenario to explain what we got here.

And when I say that the story progression for this show is rushed, I really mean it.

Had I personally had unlimited budget at my disposal, I would have allocated at least 40 episodes for this show, not the meager 24 that it ended up getting. It really feels like the story needed way more screen time to let some of the characters breathe and evolve at a more natural pace.

Too many things felt very rushed, to a degree that actively hampered my enjoyment of the story.

All the battles felt very underwhelming due to how quickly they needed to end, so that they won't take up too much valuable screen time. There was never enough strategizing or planning in any of them.

The protagonist eventually ended up evolving and becoming very powerful very quickly, without any explanation either. I really felt like more screen time needed to be allocated to him training, focusing on improving and forcing himself to grow.

As the show stands, he simply ended up looking like he was a complete and pathetic wimp that somehow ended up turning into an overpowered maniac in the span of just 3 episodes. That felt very jarring and unnatural to me.

That and also, there are times, especially towards the end, where the knights talk about camaraderie, how they trust each other very much and how they all bonded together and grew stronger together, even though this has never been shown before at all.

Had the show had more episodes to show us, they could have used that extra screen time to actually show us how they bond together, how they interact in their normal day-to-day lives, how friendships will sprout between some of the knights or, maybe even, some romantic connections. Had they had the time to do this, this might have made the 10 year time skip ending that I talked about earlier feel way more natural, as then I would believe that these people would continue to stay friends and partners for that much longer into the future.

I genuinely believe that this show needed more time to develop the characters and let the story simmer and evolve at a slower more natural pace.

But alas, that's not what we got. And while it's very easy for me to pretend that I know exactly what's wrong with this show and how easy it is to fix it, had they done this one simple thing, or had the studio heads been more generous with the amount of money they were willing to spend with this project, at the end, it's all just speculation.

I don't know what happened behind the scenes and, even if all my speculation is true and I predicted everything correctly, the fact of the matter is, sometimes a studio just isn't willing to spend inordinate amounts of money on someone's dream project. And that's perfectly understandable.

This world is filled with limitations and it's sometimes impossible to have all the resources needed at your disposal to accomplish your dream exactly the way you want to. Sometimes, you have to compromise on your dream to make it happen. And I suspect this was one such case.

Do I wish the animation was way better? Sure, I do. Do I wish the story progression was much slower and there were more episodes dedicated to this show to let the characters grow naturally? Absolutely.

And, if this show really went with the multiple seasons route, and only got 12 episodes animated per season, at a time, there would have been a real chance we could have gotten a slower pace, more character driven story that would have been far better.

But, there's also the real risk that only 12 episodes would have been animated and the rest of the story would never have been animated at all, leaving us with an unfinished tale that never got a proper conclusion.

You might say that that's unlikely for this to happen but, realistically, this has already happened so many times in the past, with so many other fictional properties, particularly in anime TV series, that I feel it's 100% reasonable to be worried about this.

And I genuinely feel that that would have been a worse outcome than what we ended up having now.

So yeah, at the end of the day, despite my complaints and ramblings, I am still grateful that we got the show that we got, as flawed as it is; because I am not a manga reader and I, realistically, would never have picked up the manga to read the end of the story, regardless of how good the 12 episode anime would have been, had they gone with the multiple seasons route and a season 2 never got greenlit. And, because of that, I never would have been exposed to this amazing story, with these great characters and this satisfying conclusion.

So yeah, I'm glad that this got animated the way that it did. And I'm glad I watched it all the way through!

Kudos to studio NAZ for taking up the mantle and adapting this great story, when so many others ignored it up until now! They really do deserve our gratitude!

And kudos to Satoshi Mizukami for creating this amazing story! Despite its flawed animated adaptation, it was still enjoyable!

Part 2 of this blog post can be found here


from AnimeZone

Continuation of my original blog post.

5. When will Ayumu make his move?

Urushi is shocked and embarrassed because of Ayumu making an unexpected compliment to her If that wasn't enough, it's time for another slice of life, this time, that takes place in high school. Last season, I talked about my favorite 2022 spring anime TV series, In the heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki, which was a TV show based off of a manga drawn by Sōichirō Yamamoto, a mangaka that is also known for Teasing Master Takagi-san. Well, he also drew the manga that this show is adapted from. And while Teasing Master Takagi-san and In the heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki are both charming stories that are very entertaining, this one falls a bit short. It's not a boring story, per se, but this is the point where the shows I'm listing didn't excite me anymore, nor did they leave me wanting for the next episodes, as much as the previous entries in this ranking did. But enough talk! What's this show about? Well, it's about a high school freshman named Ayumu Tanaka and his relationship with a second year student in the same school as him named Urushi Yaotome. Together, they form the shogi club in their school (at least unofficially, as having only two members is not enough to qualify them as an official after-school club). Using the school's storage room as their unofficial club room, the two play shogi in their free time. Ayumu is a very affectless and serious character who is very honest with his feelings and shows little restraint when speaking his mind. He is secretly in love with Urushi and wants to reveal this to her but, per the tradition that was very common back in his middle school years, he keeps this to himself and promised to only reveal his feelings to her if he ever defeats her in shogi, in a fair match. The problem? He is very bad at shogi and Urushi, who has been playing shogi ever since she was very little with her grandfather, always easily defeats him even when she's playing with handicaps against him. Given the current status quo, Ayumu is afraid that he'll never become good enough at the game to properly confess to her. Urushi, herself, is suspecting that Ayumu has feelings for her, as he almost always blurts out random statements about how he finds her very cute, how he wishes to spend more time with her and how he constantly wants her to be happy, always stopping just short of confessing to her. And she keeps on trying to force him to confess his feelings to her but, as Ayumu had promised himself to not reveal his crush on her until he beats her in shogi, he always refuses to give in. Besides these two, the story includes other colorful characters as well such as Maki (Urushi's best friend who likes to tease her and tries to find ways to hook her up with Ayumu whenever she gets the chance to), Takeru Kakuryu who is another male first year student at the same school and who used to go to the same middle school as Ayumu and has also been childhood friends with him and Sakurako Mikage, another one of Ayumu's childhood friends. There's also a secondary relationship blooming in the background of this show between Takeru and Sakurako, in parallel with the main relationship. Sakurako likes to hypnotize Takeru to always do her bidding, usually moving him out of the way whenever he's too dense to realize that he'd get in the way between Ayumu and Urushi when they're trying to be alone. The characters are all very colorful and have interesting interactions between them. The two romances that this show follows develop quite slowly but they do make progress towards the end. My main gripe with this show is that it takes things very slowly, and focuses more on their high school lives more than on romance, covering things such as getting enough newcomers to join their club to officially register, going on school trips and dealing with family issues. Granted, the reason I prefer this show compared to Shikimori is not just a cutie is because the characters here are so charming and interact in such interesting ways with each other, whereas in Shikimori, all the characters felt very dull and uninteresting. Moreover, while Shikimori did try to cover various engaging arcs such as the gymnastics competitions between their classes, these felt very boring to watch as they didn't feel anything more than menial detours that acted as filler rather than focusing on the romance story instead. Here, these side stories also act as filler, but they feel more natural and less forced into the plot. And whenever side stories like these ones take place, the show still doesn't miss a chance to sneak in some romantic moments between the two leads whenever it gets the chance. The show doesn't end on a particularly high note and I will say that the ending of season 1 was pretty disappointing, all things considered. I was hoping that they would evolve Ayumu and Urushi's relationship a bit more than they ended up doing but, alas, this is one of those shows that will require a season 2 to fully develop. If a second season is announced for this, I'm sure I'll watch it. On its own, though, season 1 isn't particularly amazing. It does a good job at introducing these characters and making us root for their relationships to bloom but that's as far as it goes. It was enough to make me want to watch more of this story unfold so I'll keep an eye out for another season in the future.

6. Tokyo Mew Mew New

Ichigo at the end of her transformation into Mew Ichigo Didn't expect for a magical girl anime to be on this list, did you? This is probably the strangest entry on this list and the reason for that is the background for this show. Tokyo Mew Mew was a manga that was published between 2000 and 2003, written by author Reiko Yoshida and illustrated by Mia Ikumi and which was also adapted into an anime TV series by Studio Pierrot, that aired in Japan between 2002 and 2003. For any American audience, you may recognize it by its 4Kids localized version called Mew Mew Power. The Studio Pierrot adaptation of this manga had 52 episodes in total (Mew Mew Power was canceled prematurely and only localized the first 26 episodes). The original anime was a wide success in Japan back when it aired and now, it's cemented as one of the all time classics in the magical girl genre in that country, along with other great staples like Sailor Moon. It's lesser known outside of Japan due to its canceled localization but some fans are still aware of its existence, at least. So, why am I talking about this now? Well, because Tokyo Mew Mew New is not a sequel to the original Tokyo Mew Mew anime, but a remake. Yes, they decided to remake this two decades old show, for whatever reason, going back to adapting it from page 1 of the manga. This is such a baffling decision to me, I can't even begin to describe it. I suspect the reason for the existence of this show might have been the early death of the manga's original illustrator, Mia Ikumi, that happened in March 2022. Whatever the reason, I decided to give this remake a shot, mainly because I did follow the original Tokyo Mew Mew and wanted to see if the remake was as good as the original one was. And....well.....I guess I can safely say it's not as good as the original but it's not technically bad either. The show follows a first year high school girl named Ichigo Momomiya who has a crush on the most popular boy at her school, Masaya Aoyama (like all the other girls there). However, one day, she gets lucky enough to meet with him and ends up deciding on going on a date with him even, at a local zoo nearby. Fast-forward to their date, together, and, suddenly there is an interruption, she becomes separated from her date and is taken by a mysterious girl to an isolated location where she is struck by a strange ray of light. She wakes up after this ray of light had hit her, meets up with Aoyama again but, as they are about to leave, a giant monster attacks them and threatens to kill them. Ichigo tries to protect Aoyama as best as she can but he is hit and goes unconscious. She tries to face off the monster on her own until a stranger instructs her to transform into Mew Ichigo and use her powers to destroy the creature. She receives a golden pendant and uses it to transform, eventually leading to the monster's complete destruction from her final move. In the end, she managed to save the day. The overall theme of the show is about protecting endangered species and saving the environment. Ichigo, along with four other women, had been imbued with the DNA of various endangered species of animals across the world, giving them supernatural powers to fight against evil aliens who want to take over Earth by using pollution to exterminate the human race. That's the general gist of the story. She has to protect her secret heroine identity from her friends and classmates, maintain a balance between her high school, social and heroine lives, and also keep her activities hidden from Aoyama, while also trying to develop a relationship with him. All the while she has to gather the other women imbued with animal DNA, lead their team and also deal with the instabilities that her new cat powers created in her body, such as giant cat ears and a cat tail popping out of nowhere on her human body whenever she gets flustered. It's a simple story, yet quite effective. I didn't re-watch the original Tokyo Mew Mew to properly compare this remake with it, so my memory of the original is a bit hazy, but I will say that I did notice some glaring differences between the original and the remake right away. The most obvious of the differences is Ichigo's age. In the original Tokyo Mew Mew she was only 12 years old, at the beginning of the story, which means that she was in middle school. In the remake, she's already in high school, which makes her significantly older. I don't know the reason for the remake aging her up like this, nor do I know which version is more faithful to the manga, as I never personally read it. If I had to take a guess, I'd probably say that the original is more faithful but that's purely speculation on my part. Other differences include Mint having her brother be shown on-screen, her having to make difficult life changing decisions in this show, Ryô Shirogane having a slightly altered personality in which he is less bossy and less abrasive with Ichigo compared to the original and other minor changes. Also, the remake feels more like an educational anime, as each episode feels like it's striving to have a moral lesson towards the end, which is something I don't remember about the original at all. Basic life lessons like “learn who your true friends are”, “know when to ask others for help”, “give enough time to difficult life changing decisions” and “trust and have confidence in yourself so that your true potential can come out”. All of these are good lessons to teach, mind you, but it gave the already “monster of the week” formulaic show an even more paint-by-numbers feel to it. Overall, though, the original and the remake don't diverge too much from the main plotline from the manga. While these differences are significant, the overall beats and story points presented in the manga are showcased in both of them quite faithfully, which means that the two shows cover around the same story, pretty much. Meaning that if you already watched the original and were satisfied by it, there's really not much to see in this remake. You could watch a more updated version of the story for improved animation and more colorful visuals, sure, but that's the most you'll get out of it. However, if you were a huge fan of the original or if you're old enough to have children and want to introduce them to the same stories that you grew up with when you were a kid, this is a new way of presenting them the same old story as back then. The visuals are improved and they're very pretty looking, so at least that's something the remake has over the original. And while this is indeed a remake and its entire purpose is to replace the original completely, it does pay homage to the original in the very last episode of season 1, where it played a modified version of My Sweet Heart in the background, which was the original's opening theme song. I personally found that to be a polite nod to fans of the original. So I'm split on this one. I don't think it's a bad show by any means. The modern character designs and more fluid animation are a nice improvement over the original, but I still have to designate the original as the superior show for this story, if nothing else, at least because it finished the full story of the manga in its 52 episode run. Tokyo Mew Mew New, as of the writing of this blog post, only ran for 12 episodes, which is the standard nowadays, meaning that it left the story hanging until/if a season 2 of this show is approved, to continue it. And until Tokyo Mew Mew New will fully manage to cover the entirety of the original manga the same way that the original did, I'll always deem the original to be the superior show because it is a complete story. Until then, this is a cute little alternative but an inferior piece, nonetheless.

7. My Stepmom's Daughter is my Ex

Yume has her back turned to Mizuto in an indignant manner Don't you just love it when a story's description is right in the title? Yes, this one is exactly what it sounds like. Back in middle school, a reclusive bookworm boy named Mizuto Irido and a shy and nerdy girl named Yume Ayai decide to begin dating. They enjoy their days at school, relaxing together, laughing and going on dates, making full use of their free time. However, after a series of issues that arise in their relationship and an ever-growing period of silence between the two, it soon becomes apparent that their romance is destined to never come to full fruition. When they graduate and enter high school, they decide to formally break up and move on with their lives, even though they end up in the same school and even the same class. Knowing that their relationship is ended, they believe that outside of school, they will not have to interact with each other at all any longer. Unfortunately for them, fate has a sick sense of humor, and only two weeks after their breakup, they are reunited in the most surprising of circumstances: Mizuto's father and Yume's mother, by pure coincidence, have not only met each other as well, but they also decided to marry. This means that now, Irito and Yume are step brother and step sister, and they will, from now on, be forced to live together in the same house. Their parents are oblivious to the fact that their children had dated before, so they don't see any issues with this arrangement. They think that this is the first time Irido and Yume met. Not wishing to divulge their secret past to them, Irido and Yume, after seeing how happy their parents are together, decide to bury their past and start their relationship anew, this time as step siblings. Will they manage to succeed and build a life of family together, or will their past attraction to each other resurface back and complicate things again? This one, I had high hopes for. Incestuous relationships have always been a taboo topic in the anime community but I've always found the idea fascinating, personally. I'm always open to seeing how anime explores such themes in a way that's refreshing. Hell, for this reason, Yosuga no Sora is one of my favorite anime of all time, just because it took the incestuous route and ran with it all the way through. So I was curious to see what direction a plot like this would take. But aside from the fact that this premise is quite interesting, I soon realized that this show might not be to my liking as much as I hoped. The idea behind some of the episodes is nice. Basically, Irido and Yume try to make it a game that whenever one of them does something that's unlike what a sibling should do, then they lose and then have to owe the other a favor. And they go out of their way to try to act as siblings to each other, for the sake of their parents, even though there are times when old feelings of attraction and sexual tension make things very awkward between them. But the reason I came to dislike this show as much as I do is a very simple fact: Mizuto and Yume hate each other a lot. And they don't even hide this. They bicker over the most menial of things. They are sarcastic to each other, try to one-up each other in conversations, make snarky remarks to one another, and generally like to squabble all the time. This happens almost every time they are alone on screen together, and it drives me insane. I get the fact that they are ex-lovers and have a lot of vitriol for each other, but this show makes it so unbearable to watch these two interact. And this is a problem when the show is a romance in the first place! You want for the main couple to be together, that's the whole point of a romance, and yet, the more episodes I digested, the more convinced I became that if these two ended up together a second time, they would make for a horrible couple. It's not that they had no chemistry together, they had negative chemistry. Watching this show felt grating. The sexual tension between them played a role only in the first couple of episodes. After that, it gets ignored entirely, and every move they'll make on each other from that point onwards is entirely because of unfavorable social circumstances that forces them to get closer. And this is something I hate in bad romance plots: the fact that the two characters that should end up together would not normally get back together on their own, but circumstances around them force them to. If two people aren't compatible enough to make a good couple, having the world around them push them to be together feels not only like a cheap move from a simple storytelling perspective, it also feels unwelcome because it sounds like they just so happened to fall in love again and they aren't even meant for each other. When all that drives a couple together is destiny's hand and not the chemistry between the partners, I usually dislike the story. And this, sadly, is one of those shows that feels like this. The story also has other cliches which I'm not particularly fond of. One of them is that of the perfect male lead. Irido has the uncanny characteristic of being the perfect calculated and cool male protagonist. He always comes across as intelligent and laid-back but, when push comes to shove, he always proves to be very reliable and even kind. One example of this is when Yume tries her best at learning at home and preparing for a set of exams at their school, she studies diligently and does her very best to come out on top of their class, and, despite her best efforts, Irido still manages to easily beat her in terms of exam scores, he even is intelligent enough to intentionally hold back his own scores just enough so that she can beat him occasionally too, just because he wants to be kind to her. How he manages to be better than her at learning even though he's lazy and doesn't struggle at all with learning like she is, is never explained. He just is portrayed by the story as being smarter than her and better at learning. That's just it. Or how all the mistakes and issues in the relationship are shown to be caused solely by Yume is also a point of contention for me. He never is shown making any mistakes, the plot always taking his side. And it's always left to Yume to realize that she's the one that's been selfish all along, and that she should recognize that she was in the wrong, having deep monologues of self-guilt. Don't get me wrong, Yume is selfish and very emotionally insecure, the story goes a long way of stating this. So it makes sense for her to realize that she's the one always at fault. My complaint is that Irido never makes any mistakes though, and the story never has to force him to realize that he also has flaws and weaknesses to explore, just like Yume does. In this sense, the male lead of the show is portrayed as mysterious and cool and the female lead is just portrayed as the “girlfriend that's wrong and should learn from her mistakes”. From this perspective, the show feels very biased towards Irido. Other times, the characters make decisions which make very little sense. For most of the season, Irido is presented as being calm and calculated, always putting his father's happiness above his own and wishing to go past his history with Yume and deciding to fully endorse his new role as purely a step brother to her and nothing more. In another episode, Irido is portrayed as having frequent interactions with a girl from the same school, Isana Higashira. She's a very nice and energetic girl, she gets along really well with Irido, they are very casual with each other and like to spend time together and they almost never argue with each other. Moreover, Higashira shares the same reading hobby as Irido does, so they constantly have subjects to talk about with each other. Their chemistry together came across as much better than the chemistry between Irido and Yume, so much so that I was starting to hope for an alternative relationship between Irido and Higashira instead. And when the story teases such an alternative in one of its latter episodes and Higashira finally confesses her love to Irido, he turns her down, simply because, in his own words, “he still has feelings in his heart for someone else”. That someone else is heavily implied to be Yume. Yes, even though he had decided long before this that his relationship with Yume should end, and that he should treat Yume as no more than a step sister for his own father's sake, he still ends up turning down a much more viable and better romantic route because he still has “left over” feelings towards her that he still couldn't get past. That felt so illogical and contradictory to me. He had never been shown up until that point as having lingering feelings towards Yume. He had never had internal struggles with himself or didn't even seem to seriously consider Higashira's offer. He just revealed out of nowhere that he still has feelings for Yume. Even though he constantly bickers with Yume at every chance that they get and is shown, multiple times, to be even annoyed by Yume's actions. The one thing I can say that did impress me ever so slightly, was this show's ending. I was expecting this show to chicken out and take the easy way out with its ending, going with a non-commital resolve between the step siblings that while they might still have leftover feelings for each other, they will acknowledge that their parents' happiness is more important than their own and, as such, they decide to continue exploring platonic ways of being together, making Irido's turning down Higashira's confession towards him, an incredible waste. This was what I was 85% expecting by the time the final episode rolled in. And, I will say, the show didn't take this route. While I can't spoil the ending, I will say it didn't do that but, instead, it took the riskier and more morally ambiguous route of pulling them closer into a taboo relationship that goes contrary to what they had initially set out. One of them decides to go against their own agreement and pushes the boundary to something that isn't in step-sibling territory anymore, leaving the other confused and marking their future as step siblings very uncertain. It advanced the romance significantly and it made for an unclear conclusion over what they should do from that point on. I liked that. Had they gone with the aforementioned easy route, I guarentee you, this would have ended up at the bottom of this ranking. But its ending was risque enough that it saved it just enough to make this my second to last TV series in this ranking, instead. Make of that as you will. If a season 2 is announced, chances are I will wanna watch it, if nothing else, at least to see how they continue after such an ending.

8. Vermeil in Gold

Vermeil has a demonic smile And last but not least, the final romantic comedy of the season is here! This was pretty obvious it wasn't gonna be that great even from the first episode. A first year high school student named Alto Goldfield is a very diligent and well mannered student at the prestigious Ortigia Academy of Magic, except that he is very bad at summoning his own familiar, a basic class that, if he ends up failing, will have disastrous effects on his academic life. Being given one last chance by the teacher, Alto commits to mastering summoning magic and tries to finally summon his own familiar beast. Using an old book which he just so happened to come across, he managed to summon a demon woman named Vermeil, though. Summoning demons is something unheard of in that world. Moreover, demons are feared creatures that possess extremely potent magic. Knowing that the school finding out that he had summoned such a dangerous creature might get both him and his new familiar in trouble, Alto decides to make up a lie and pretend that his familiar is actually a normal human, concealing her nature as a demon (even though, mages having humans as familiars is also unheard of and also is bound to attract attention). Vermeil has the shape of an easygoing and seductive mature woman, with horns on her head and with an insatiable thirst for Alto's mana. She is very much attracted to Alto's mana and wishes to extract it from him via kissing and other intimate means. Alto, at first, is resistant in partaking in such activities with her but, ultimately, she always manages to convince him to give in and feed her so that she can maintain her physical form in that world. That's pretty much the premise for this show. Alto wishes to become a top-tier mage as he grows older, despite the difficulties that such a feat would require, and is not willing to allow anyone to stand in his way. Along the way, Vermeil's loyalty towards Alto will be tested by bad actors, as well as her true nature being revealed to a few other people too. Yes, this is an ecchi show and, to give it some credit, it does imply that a lot of action takes place between Alto and Vermeil at night; action which isn't particularly family friendly to describe. And if that's enough to convince you to watch it then great! This show is absolutely for you. But unlike many other ecchi anime TV series, this one doesn't have a harem. There is another girl that is a potential love interest for Alto: his childhood friend, Lilia Kudelfeyt. She is also a very talented and diligent student, from the same class as him, and she also has a one-sided crush for him. She gets jealous over Alto very easily, especially after she finds out about Vermeil's existence as his familiar. But, while Lilia is a strong ally for Alto, the show rarely treats her as a love rival for Vermeil. Instead, Vermeil is the one getting most of the attention from the story, her being the focus for one antagonist's evil plans, and with the latter episodes even being dedicated to Vermeil's past life, the one she had lived before being sealed in the book that Alto had released her from. Alto will discover later on about Vermeil's past and learn the one secret that she never wanted him to know about her: about the mistake she had made when she was a child, a mistake so grave that convinced her to self-seal her own self into that book, willingly. OK, let's get some things out of the way: when this show is pure romantic comedy and ecchi, it's funny. I like the rivalry between Lilia and Vermeil, I like Alto's wimpiness and embarrassment whenever Vermeil becomes proactive and tries to seduce him to give her more mana and I love how the show tries to force nudity and lewdness whenever it can. I like all of this stuff. What I don't like is when the story starts taking itself seriously. That's when it gets very cliched and boring. Alto is very smart and always knows how to figure out a strategy to surpass everyone else in his class. That's simply a given for this story. Not only that, but he also just so happens to possess huge natural reserves of mana in his body, that feed Vermeil and allow her to become very powerful once she absorbs them from him. This makes her almost invincible when she is fully powered up, allowing Alto to pretty much steamroll anyone that opposes him. Yes, a little strategy is required in the very first battles when Alto has to figure things out on how to win, but, later on, all that goes out the window and it doesn't take any thinking anymore. He just ends up relying on Vermeil to do most of the work, he gives her the mana she needs and that's pretty much it. Alto's ridiculous mana reserves almost become comical in a later episode, when he has to put out a magical flame in a giant crystal. He far surpasses everyone else just with the amount of mana he can put out. Stories like these when the protagonist is just naturally giften are very boring to me. The show never explains why he has such huge mana reserves, he was just born with them. Simple as that! And, combine that with Vermeil, who can take from those reserves and then obliterate anyone that stands in their way, and you can very easily see how much of the tension in battles is very quickly evaporated. Vermeil is simply strong enough that there's no reason for me to even worry that they'll lose. She just is that powerful. And that makes things boring for me, because I know that Alto and Vermeil will always win, whenever they're together. When I learn not to worry that the main characters might lose just because they are extremely overpowered, that's when the story loses me. Towards the end of the show, the story mixes things up a bit by revealing to Alto Vermeil's secret past and making her become emotionally weak and powerless, but that doesn't add much in terms of quality. The story tried to pull a forbidden love motif by revealing to Alto a terrible mistake that Vermeil had done when she was a child, something which she is very ashamed about, forcing him to confront the reality that his familiar is dangerous and that he should not trust demons. The forbidden love trope is a trope I am very much a fan of. My favorite love story of all time is a story between a man and a man-eating monster. To me, when a forbidden love story is done right, particularly when it has tragic undertones, it can have a very emotionally powerful effect. This, however, lacks in execution. While the idea of the protagonist falling in love with a terribly evil entity has the potential to be very interesting and controversial, the actual story is as shallow as it can be. Alto does indeed end up siding with Vermeil in the end, declaring that he does love her and accepting her for who she is, regardless of her being a demon and regardless of the terrible mistake she had made in her past. This allows her to grow in power once again and ruin the bad guy's plans at the end. The reason this forbidden romance story falls flat is because of the simple fact that Alto isn't really risking anything when making this decision. Yes, had Vermeil been indeed a malevolent and demonic creature that wished for humanity's ultimate destruction, Alto declaring his love for her and being willing to overlook such a fact would be very controversial and thought provoking. But, in reality, Vermeil is far from being malevolent. Despite her being a true demon, she has no evil plans whatsoever, she is a kind person and, while she does have self-serving interests, she never wishes harm on anyone. The mistake she had committed in her childhood is hardly anything anyone could blame her for, as the story goes out of its way to portray her in a good light during that flashback and ensuring that even the bad stuff that she does is never out of true malice. Consequently, the only controversial aspect about Vermeil and Alto's relationship is simply the fact that Alto is in love with a demon. The fact that this demon has no ill intentions whatsoever makes Alto's decision to side with her very boring and clean. There is no controversy about his committal, because there's nothing he stands to lose. He isn't supporting a being that wishes to destroy humanity, he is just in love with a woman that just so happens to be a demon. That's all there is to it. What made My Stepmom's Daughter is my Ex a better TV show than this one was the fact that it took a risk towards its end. It decided to not end with a cliched ending in which the step siblings wish for the greater good and decide to not continue with a romantic relationship anymore, but, instead, it went with a more ambiguous route in which they become selfish and decide to follow their own love and interests in the end, a very human and understandable approach. That was a controversial ending because, many would argue, the moral way of handling that is for them to commit to being step siblings and drop any form of romantic attraction between themselves. And yet the show goes against this and takes an immoral direction, despite this not being a clean ending. Vermeil in Gold took no such risks. It simply says the cliched line “Don't judge someone just because of their race”, a more specialized lesson than “Don't judge a book by its cover”. And while that is undoubtedly a good lesson to teach, I won't argue that, it's also a very boring moral to shout. Wouldn't it have been more interesting had Vermeil actually been demonic in some way, maybe having innate desires to destroy the world? Would Alto still be willing to fall in love with such a being, had he known of such a deep and visceral desire? Or would he struggle far more and be indecisive about it, due to the deep moral implications that a relationship with such a demon would have? If his love for her would overcome that barrier, then it would be a far more impressive expression of affection than what he actually ends up showing. Couple that with a stereotypical boring overpowered villain that has no remarkable personality traits outside of being laid-back and uncaring and doesn't even have a plan (at least not one that's ever explained to the audience) and you get a very by the numbers show. The romance between Alto and Vermeil is also very boring, as despite him being willing to declare his love for her by the end of the show, the nature of their relationship remains as stagnant as it was in the very beginnings. Alto never learns to truly appreciate Vermeil's personality, he never grows lustful over her invitations, every single time her having to force herself on top of him whenever she becomes hungry for more mana and Alto just passively accepting her, just barely. He never reciprocates any feelings to her, which makes his declaration of love to her all the stranger when you realize how out of nowhere it was. This show was boring, uninteresting, paint-by-numbers, an overall mediocre execution of a good idea that had a lot of potential. Granted, it's still better than my least favorite TV show from last season (i.e. Shikimori's not just a cutie) because this one at least attempted to have an interesting story (it failed at it but there was at least AN attempt). If a season 2 is announced, I genuinely doubt I will be picking this up again. There are good ideas behind it, for sure, but it just didn't have the guts to go through with some of its ideas. Which is a shame because I genuinely like forbidden romance stories. Alas, even for my least liked show of this season, I still don't regret having watched it. It had its fun moments and I appreciate the effort at least.


from AnimeZone

I'm back and I'm ready to talk about some more anime! This time around I've decided to talk about not just my top three anime TV series which I've watched this season, like I did last season, but, instead, I'll talk about all the anime TV series that I've watched the past three months and rank them according to my favorite to least favorite. And boy, is there a lot to talk about! Strap yourself in and get yourself a cup of warm coffee because this will be a long one!


Love is in the air this summer and believe me, this felt evident to me. Because this season, I've watched not two, not three, not four, but five romance anime TV series. You might not think much of this statement if you're an avid anime consumer but, for me at least, five shows is usually enough to fill in my entire list of TV series I'm willing to watch for an entire season. Granted, I've also watched some series which were not romances this season too, but, suffice it to say, I've been inundated with a lot of content that felt more fitting for Valentine's Day than it did for summer. And let's just say some shows were better than others; by a long margin. I usually dislike having too much of one genre monopolize the shows I'm watching but I decided to make an exception this time around and see exactly how much abundance of romance I can take for three months in a row before I get sick and tired of it. And, surprisingly enough, I can say that I'm genuinely happy at the end of this period, without saying that I'm sick of this genre and that I don't wanna see another romantic comedy for the rest of my life. In fact, some shows really sparked renewed interest in me for this particular genre. And I'm really happy about this because they were done very well. And the others, which didn't feel that amazing and were mediocre at best, they still managed to put out some decent content for me to enjoy. So that was a nice step up. After the disaster which was last season's Shikimori's not just a cutie, you'd think I'd be done with romance TV shows for a while, as that show really left a bad taste in my mouth with regards to that genre, but, thankfully, this season's lineup fixed that bad taste and restored my hope in romance TV shows. And I'm really thankful for that. Now, before I get into the ranking, as promised, I will mention that this lists only TV series that began airing in Japan in July of 2022 and does not contain movies or OVAs at all. It's just multi-episode TV series. Moreover, the ranking you'll see is not a ranking of quality or of any quantifiable objective measurement of a show's achievements. Rather, the ranking is based solely on my subjective enjoyment of the shows in question, and how much fun I've personally had with said TV series, starting off with my most favorite shows and ones which I was the most anticipating the next episodes of, and finishing the ranking with the shows which I was looking least forward to watching and those which were, let's say, not leaving a good impression on me at all. Finally, I need to mention, that all the screenshots shown in this blog post are screenshots from the shows I have watched and I do not claim ownership over any of the content in the them, at all. The content is owned by the animation studios which animated each show, respectively. But enough talk, let's get straight to the point!

The ranking

1. Call of the Night

Creepy shot of Nazuna's face Let's start the list off with the first romance show! Call of the Night is the one I am most happy with, this season. Back when I read the synopses of all the shows for this summer, this one caught my attention immediately. Without going into spoilers, the show is about a middle school boy named Ko Yamori who, bored and dissatisfied with his life, and also unable to sleep, decides, one night, to go outside and start roaming the city streets on his own. He wanders aimlessly by himself, trying to find a purpose for his own existence, when, just by random chance, he meets, out of the blue, a strange creepy young girl who introduces herself as Nazuna Nanakusa. Nazuna has a very odd aura around herself, worrying Yamori at first, but she manages to appear friendly enough to not immediately scare him off. She reads Yamori like an open book, making it obvious that she's aware that he's just a troubled kid that wants more to his life and is looking for purpose, and offers a way to help him fall asleep by inviting him to her apartment and convincing him to lay in bed next to her, to comfort him and lull him slowly to sleep. Yamori, naturally, is very skeptical of her intentions and immediately wonders what ulterior motives she might have planned for him but, ultimately, allows himself to go along with her invitations. Still, after joining her in her bed, he closes his eyes and only pretends to fall asleep. Thinking that her prey succumbed to slumber under her influence, Nazuna seizes the opportunity and discreetly sinks her sharp fangs into Yamori's neck, beginning to suck his blood. Since Yamori was actually awake this whole time, he immediately freaks out and pushes her off, confronting her about this whole thing. Realizing that he had been awake all along and knowing that it would be very difficult for her to make up a convincing lie, she admits the truth and reveals to him that she is, in fact, a vampire and she merely wanted to suck his blood while he was asleep for sustenance. That was her only ulterior motive and she never planned on harming him any more than that. Yamori is taken aback by this, but is intrigued at the thought of vampires being real and living among humans. He realizes that this might be his ticket to a more interesting and fulfilling life and, as such, he asks Nazuna whether she can make him her offspring and turn him into a vampire, just like herself, so that he could enjoy the night life forever. Nazuna explains to him that she doesn't like creating offspring like other vampires do, but acknowledges his desire for a nocturnal life and decides to go along with his wishes and show him how beautiful the nocturnal life of a vampire can be, by using her flying abilities to show Yamori the city at night from the sky. This only makes him more emboldened to want to become a vampire. The only issue is that, in order for him to become Nazuna's offspring, he has to fall in love with her. And, it was when hearing this, that Yamori remembers that he had never been capable of understanding romantic love and is incapable of having these feelings. And so begins Yamori Ko's journey of learning how to fall in love with a vampire. This plot synopsis may seem a bit cheesy and cliched but the execution of the first episode was impeccable. It's very difficult for a first episode to hook me in such a way as to make me immediately root for the main characters to end up together, but this managed to achieve this goal flawlessly. Usually it takes me a couple of episodes for this effect to kick in, but Call of the Night managed to do it in the first episode. The show is a mixture of romance and thriller, with some very light horror moments as well strewn about every now and then. It focuses on world building, for the most part, slowly introducing the nuances of being a vampire in this world, showing off new characters that Yamori slowly meets with, describing his relationships with other humans as well as new vampires that also arrive nonchalantly into his life, and also has displays of comedy in various episodic adventures with the main cast. The story doesn't rely much on magic or fantasy elements, despite vampires existing in that world. Instead, most of the events are solidly grounded into reality and explores how vampires can coexist with humans in such a world, how they keep their existence a secret from humans, and what are the consequences of being a vampire in the first place. Yamori will slowly have to learn what love feels like, what it means to find a purpose in life in the first place, sort his feelings out, but also confront the difficult decision of whether he truly wants to become a vampire in the first place since, as he later learns, there are also unwanted consequences if he does that, as well. The show is based off a manga of the same name, drawn by a mangaka under the pseudonym of Kotoyama. The mangaka's true identity is never revealed but it's heavily rumored online that she is female. And this story does feels like it's made by a woman, as all the female characters in it feel very human and realistic, displaying a wide array of emotions, being selfish and having their own ulterior motives but also displaying sympathy and compassion every once in a while. The female characters never feel like they become smitten by the male protagonist as soon as they set their eyes on him for the first time, they aren't shallow as girls are usually portrayed in romantic comedies geared towards men, and are refreshingly complex and make, sometimes, unexpected decisions. The show is also very light when it comes to fanservice, with almost no moments of nudity in it at all. Instead, the show relies on a psychological means of establishing a faithful audience, with the romance feeling organic and slowly developing over time. It also doesn't shy away from making progress feel well earned, as it also highlights lust and how that doesn't necessarily equate to love. Finally, my final compliment towards it is that it also has some gorgeous shots of the city in the nighttime. The mostly empty streets, the artificial illumination, the dark blue tint of the sky, they all combine together to form very impressive and immersive pictures of the night, emphasizing the reason why Ko is slowly becoming enamored with the idea of adopting a nocturnal life. While not all episodes have nice shots of the night, the few episodes that do really make us fall in love with the city they live in, and this is further accentuated by very fine background music from the musical group Creepy Nuts, which have very stylish but also relaxing songs which are very unique and matching to this show's overall style. Here are some more screenshots to show you the art style: Night shot from the city sky number 1 Night shot from the city sky number 2 I've rambled over this show enough for one day. Suffice it to say, it was an excellent watch and this is a prime example for what I want a romance to be like: it doesn't have to go too fast that it feels forced, it doesn't need to have fanservice to be good either, but it also doesn't need to be so slow (i.e. like the way Shikimori's not just a cutie was) that I feel like I'm mostly wasting my time watching over the characters' lives rather than see them grow in their relationships. The show doesn't need to emphasize on kissing and sex talks but it adds them when the situation makes it appropriate to include such scenes, and it doesn't shy away from them either. The pacing of the relationship felt just right. If I were to give out a small spoiler, I will say that Yamori still didn't become a vampire by the end of the show (keep in mind that only season 1 has aired by the time this blog post was written), so if you're hoping for an ending to conclude the story, sadly this doesn't have it (yet). There's still room for a season 2 to continue it and, by God, do I want a season 2 for this. I enjoyed this show even more than I enjoyed the previous season's best show (i.e. In the heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki) and the reason for me liking both of those shows is still the same: the shows were just fun to watch. They didn't need overly complex stories, 5 dimensional multi-layered characters or over-the-top action or fanservice, they just simply needed to be fun. And this show met my expectations and greatly exceeded them even. The fact that this show was never picked up by Crunchyroll is a huge shame. Hidive got this show, instead, and I personally feel like Crunchyroll is missing a great gem because of this. Don't waste your time anymore by reading this and go watch it! It's simply amazing! And the ending, while not overly spectacular nor flashy, did make me feel very satisfied, as an ending for a romance is supposed to feel like, as it ended on a great moment and reached a significant milestone in Nazuna's and Ko's relationship. It's just a huge treat.

2. Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer

Yuuhi is throwing Sir Noi Crezant out of his apartment And now, time for the first TV series in this ranking that isn't a romance! This, Engage Kiss and Tokyo Mew Mew New, are the only shows which are not romances for this season. So let's get the ball rolling: one day, college student Yuuhi Amamiya wakes up, only to find a strange talking lizard on top of him on his bed, telling him that he was chosen to be the Lizard Knight, a warrior with supernatural powers that has to, along with the other chosen Beast Knights, aide a princess to save the world from an evil wizard that wants to destroy it with an Earth-sized mallet in space called the Biscuit Hammer. The lizard will be his familiar, Sir Noi Crezant, an honorable creature that seeks to help and guide him in this quest, while also promising to grant him any one wish he wants if he accepts this duty. Now, you might think that this plot synopsis sounds like something that should describe a medieval fantasy setting involving dragons and magic. But what makes this show unique is that this is no isekai, this takes place in contemporary Japan, with modern technology and in a modern setting. And while there is a lot of magic involved in this show, the powers that Yuuhi and his other fellow Beast Knights have are pretty subdued and not overly flashy or powerful. Yuuhi has the ability to create telekinetic force fields in midair that allow him to block incoming attacks, allow him to slow his fall from great heights so that he can survive it without any injuries, and perform other mildly impressive tasks. Initially, Yuuhi refuses to accept this duty and is apathetic towards this quest, to the point of even trying to get rid of his familiar whenever Sir Crezant continues to try to persuade him to join. However, soon after meeting his familiar, he is attacked by a golem, a non-sentient aggressive creature that serves the aforementioned evil mage, and, just as he is about to be killed by this golem, he is saved by the princess, his next door neighbour, Samidare Asahina. Asahina, despite having the shape of a weak girl around Yuuhi's own age, has supernatural strength that allows her to easily destroy the attacking golem and save Yuuhi's life. Her cheerful and optimistic persona, along with her great charisma and charm, manages to convince Yuuhi to help her in her quest of saving the planet from the evil mage, but while also revealing that the reason she wants to do so is that so that she can destroy the planet Earth herself, as proof that she loves it and wants the planet to have its existence ended at the same time that her own life ends. Despite this extremely strange statement that surprises and disillusions Sir Crezant with respect to her motives, this convinces the apathetic Yuuhi to immediately agree to join her as her personal knight, going so far as even agreeing to see through that Earth is indeed ultimately destroyed by her. This was a very strange beginning to this story. I personally didn't know what to expect from a show as weird as this. And what was even stranger was that I soon realized that the manga that this show is based off of is old. The original Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer manga debuted in 2005 and finished being published back in 2010. So the source material for this show is more than a decade old. Why did it take so long to get an animated adaptation? And why now, of all times? Who knows. What I will say is that, while the story drives this show apart and makes it reach second spot on my ranking, there is a huge difference in quality between this show and Call of the Night, which ended on first spot in my ranking. Despite them being adjacent to each other in this ranking, there is a significant drop in quality between them. For one, this show is plagued by technical issues, the most glaring of which is cheap looking animation. The show was animated by studio NAZ and, while initially not very noticeable, it soon became apparent that they were saving a lot of money on the animation budget, causing some scenes of animation to look jagged and the frames of animation to look disjointed. This isn't an issue for all the episodes, mind you, but the quality is all over the place, with certain episodes having higher animation budget than others. I didn't notice this very soon but it became apparent the more I watched the show. Another massive issue that this show displays is pacing problems. It's very apparent that the studio decided to adapt a very significant portion of the manga and cover a lot of ground in its adaptation, but the problem with this is that the story progress of each episode feels rushed as hell. This problem can be noticed easily even from the first two episodes. There's constant exposition dropping, character introductions and the fight scenes feel like they last half the time they should because the show needs to keep on going to squeeze in as much story as it can. This does serve the action sequences to make them feel fast paced but, on the other hand, it also makes the action feel short lived and sporadic; and this, unsurprisingly, is a huge problem given that the main genre of the show IS action. But alas, despite all these technical problems, the story does shine through. Soon enough we are presented with Yuuhi's personal family issues, his emotional struggles with having lost his parents a couple of years before the events of the show took place, and his coming to terms of being a hero and doing his best to, at the very least, not hold back the other knights who are trying to save the world as well. Including Yuuhi, there are twelve total knights who were chosen to save the Earth, under the command of princess Asahina. Yuuhi is the Lizard Knight (since his familiar is a talking lizard); there are also a Horse Knight, a Dog Knight, a Cat Knight, a Mouse Knight and so on. Each knight has his/her own sets of abilities, their own life backgrounds, their own personalities and their own hidden agendas and goals. Yuuhi is the first knight that gets introduced to us but slowly, as the episodes go by, more and more knights will enter the stage as well until, finally, all the knights will be assembled and they will come together under Asahina's command. Along the way, we are also introduced to the evil and mysterious mage that's trying to destroy the planet, Animus, and another strange girl with supernatural powers that will help Asahina and the knights out, named Anima. The plot quickly becomes very interesting and despite all the knights seemingly willing to work together to defeat the evil mage, there are hidden goals, that some knights harbor, which are less than noble. Moreover, Asahina's own plans of destroying the Earth herself are only revealed to Yuuhi, who is loyal enough to help her in achieving these goals, even though they both know that this will mean that, after defeating the evil mage, they will eventually have to turn against and fight the other knights who will, most likely, try to stop them from destroying the world too. The knights will, at first, confront the golems that are being thrown at them by Animus, every time defeating the golems and forcing Animus to retreat and have him create newer, even stronger enemies for them to fight, next time. In this sense, the show is kind of a “monster of the week” TV series, albeit there are times when things don't go as planned for them. Particularly, this story isn't afraid of killing off the good guys. There will be deaths in this show and some of them will be more expected than others. Ultimately, I will say that not all the twelve knights will make it out of this battle alive. And while the story is rushed very much, the show does take the time to acknowledge that characters die and try to have the others mourn for them, which is nice. The story mainly focuses on Yuuhi as he struggles to become reliable and find his way as a knight, facing the challenges that he faces and trying to make difficult decisions, but, what I like the most about it is that Yuuhi usually comes off as feeling particularly sympathetic. He is weak, he acknowledges this himself, he struggles to become stronger, he cries when his friends around him die, he is resentful and vengeful against family members that have wronged him in the past but is also forgiving when he realizes the truth. The characters in this show are complex and this is why I like them. They make interesting decisions that may come across sometimes as unexpected. But that's the hallmark of a good story. Overall, while this show does have a lot of technical flaws and doesn't even come nearly close enough to be comparable to Call of the Night, it does have a charm of its own. This is also the only show I've watched this season that didn't end yet, as this appears to be a 24 episode anime series, rather than the standard 12 episodes, so the story is still ongoing. I might write about it in next season's blog post as well. Either way, if you're a fan of classic action TV series with interesting plot developments and complex characters, and the technical issues I've mentioned above aren't deal-breakers for you, I suggest you give it a try.

3. Engage Kiss

Kisara in her powered up form To be honest, I simply can't believe this show made it as third in my ranking. When I picked up this show initially, I thought it was a huge mess, with a lot of issues, and I genuinely believed that this would easily end up as my most disliked show of this season. This isn't to say that the other shows that come after it in this ranking are so much worse than expected, it's to highlight how much this show managed to improve as I kept on watching it, to earn this spot on the list. Needless to say, the first couple of episodes of this show aren't spectacular. The show just throws us into the lives of Shu Ogata, and his girlfriend, Kisara, who work as a private military company (PMC) in Bayron City, an artificial city floating near Japan in the Pacific Ocean. The role of PMCs in Bayron City, is to deal with demonic outbreaks in the city, incidents that usually involve demons ranked by their difficulty to be eliminated, who have recently mysteriously been popping up seemingly out of nowhere, for the past couple of years. Nobody knows the reason why these demons keep appearing or what their goals are but, to handle them, the city's own government auctions off missions to exterminate these demons to the PMC willing to be paid the least amount of money in order to destroy them. The higher ranked the demon is (i.e. the more difficult it is to exterminate), the higher the pay usually is for the PMC that takes the job to kill it. And Shu and Kisara form one such PMC, the I&S Office. Shu is the one that formed the office and Kisara is his only employee. In reality, they are a couple barely managing to live together, as Shu is actually a deadbeat boyfriend that, despite being very low on money, is very picky with the jobs he's willing to take, sometimes refusing to work for multiple months at a time, wastes his money on gambling whenever he earns even a meager income, keeps borrowing money from his girlfriend, Kisara (usually from her high school student allowance), and also from his ex-girlfriend, Ayano Yugiri. Ayano works as the president for a different PMC as well, AAA Defender Co. Shu used to work with Ayano a couple of years back while they were together, but decided to leave her company once they broke up. But despite them not being together anymore, Shu still relies on Ayano's help from time to time, asking for favors from her, much to Kisara's chagrin. Ayano herself hates Kisara and believes that she is a bad influence on Shu. Shu is a skilled gunman, usually sniping at targets from a distance although, realistically, he is pretty much functionally useless and the only reason his PMC manages to finish contracts and kill demons is almost solely due to his girlfriend, Kisara, who is, in fact, a demon herself. Kisara is a very old demon that had made a contract with Shu a couple of years prior to aide him in a particular mission and now works for him. She is very powerful, fast, strong, has a very sharp and long blade that she wields, and she is capable of passing through the floor and walls if she chooses to do so while fighting. However, she also becomes weak at times and relies on Shu to provide her with energy by kissing him on the lips every so often. Such kisses power her up and allow her to overpower usually any type of demon they confront. There is a catch though: the kisses she gives him come at a cost that is later revealed in the series. So....yeah, that's the summary. I'll be honest, this show seemed prime and ready to be an action ecchi series with a “monster of the week” type of formula and with some romantic comedy shenanigans that pertains to the constant jealousy between Ayano and Kisara over Shu. And I really wasn't in the mood for that. I thought very little of this show and my suspension of disbelief was sometimes hampered by scenes so stupid that my jaw almost dropped to the floor. An example of this was when Shu and Kisara were fighting a demon in one of their missions, he realized that the demon was getting away and decided to eliminate it himself, made a phone call to a courier company to deliver him a weapon that would help him defeat the demon and then, mere seconds after the call, while the demon was making its escape, the courier company's truck arrived at the scene immediately, almost like on cue, slammed against the demon with their truck while it was making its escape and caused to demon to be defeated, just because it was ran over. That was so effective that Shu didn't even need the delivered weapon in the end. That scene was so ridiculous in so many ways I was half expecting for it to be out of a comedy sketch on Robot Chicken. And no, this show is NOT a comedy. It's supposed to be taken seriously, despite scenes like this littered all over. The fact that the main character is so unlikable also doesn't do this show any favors, as he is constantly borrowing money from his current and former girlfriends, wastes that money on gambling and cigarettes and then relies on Kisara to somehow still make dinner for the two of them despite them having almost no money left for food. Seriously, the demon in this show is a better person than her boyfriend. And somehow, Kisara still chooses to forgive him and continue to be enamored with him. Yeah, liking this show is pretty difficult. But, I still persisted. I refused to drop the show yet as this was, ironically, the setup that I've been waiting for, for many months now. A dead weight protagonist like this with so many flaws is incredibly refreshing to watch after so many seasons of consecutive good-guy overpowered protagonists that have little to no identifiable personality traits, no flaws whatsoever, and who are as shallow a character as shallow characters can get. At least Shu felt like a human being in this story, a terrible extremely flawed human but a human nonetheless. The show also makes a point of showcasing many sinful human behaviors: obsession over power, money, sex, compromising one's duties for one's own selfish motives and, believe it or not, all of these will eventually come into play in the plot, later. Shu is a terrible boyfriend by all means and, at some point, even cheats on Kisara as well, but it's later revealed why he does all of this stuff. It's revealed why he's such a husk of a human being and it eventually makes sense. Moreover, he does have one noble goal that is always on his mind: to find out the truth behind a demonic incident that had occurred many years back when he was still a very little child that resulted in both his parents and his younger sister going missing. Ever since, his ultimate goal has been to find out the truth behind that incident, which was covered up by Bayron City's government, while also seeking to find his younger sister, Kanna, who he occasionally still meets in his dreams at night, which leads him to believe that she is still alive somewhere. Along the way, Shu is getting tips from a mysterious anonymous informant that allows him to be at the scene of demonic incidents before any other PMC (whose identity is later revealed as well) and he later realizes that there is a pattern to all of these demonic incidents that he's been handling and that there might be a mastermind coordinating all of them in the background somewhere. And not only this but this mastermind might also be somehow connected to his parents' disappearance many years ago. Couple all of this with a religious nun that appears out of nowhere later on, that also has a connection with Shu's past, and this is a wild story to take in. Make no mistake, there is a LOT of plot in this show. The episodes feel like they are on fast forward most of the time, due to how much plot needs to be crammed in, in each and every single one of them. This show felt from episode one that it wanted to be a romantic comedy ecchi show that had a lot of gratuitous kissing and sex scenes between Shu and Kisara and Ayano. And, had it had the time, I wouldn't put it past it to not devolve itself to that level. But there's just so much story that needs to be shown, so much exposition and world building that has to go into each screen time minute that it just never had the chance to take that route. Instead, what we get is a truly insane action-mystery TV series, that forces our characters into unraveling plots of government conspiracies, figuring out the identity of an insider that's been leaking information to the mastermind, uncovering the entity that's been behind all of this and then dealing with the aftermath of all the demonic incidents that had taken place, which have all been carefully orchestrated by said mastermind to allow for the unlocking of a portal that will unleash demons upon that city and bring about the end of humanity. And yes, Shu's sister is also alive. And she'll play a role in all of this too. Needless to say, this show is not just insane, it's simply unhinged. There's action, there's emotional moments between Shu and Kisara as their relationship is also put to the test many times, there's mystery and then there's also the occasional romantic comedy moments. And sex, there's also a lot of sex. I can't go into any more information without going into spoilers but, suffice it to say, I take every bad thing I said about this show back. It is absolutely worth the watch, at least just to see how absolutely mind melting an anime can slowly become if it decides to go the unhinged route. Every episode is crammed full with plot exposition, incredible well animated action sequences and just an unbelievable amount of suspense. And, while I wouldn't call this a romance in any way, it does have some genuinely heartfelt moments between Shu and Kisara, with an almost heartbreaking moment near the end of the show. And I didn't even cover half the plot with everything that I just wrote about it. If this sounds like your cup of tea, be my guest: try it! If you want your action series to be more grounded into reality, I suggest you give this one a skip though, as the overwhelmingly insane plot will most likely throw you off.

4. The Maid I hired recently is Mysterious

Lilith is giving a warm smile If all of the above entries seemed too insane for your tastes and you want something a bit more grounded into reality, here's a slice of life romance series! Ever heard of the The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated! manga? If you had, you should know that this series is based on a manga from the same artist as that one. The story follows a young rich boy named Yuuri who, one day, learns that both of his parents had died in a tragic car accident and that their family's mansion and all of their wealth is now passed down to him. He has no siblings and no relatives close to him to rely on, so he is left alone with all this sudden wealth. Moreover, immediately after the deaths of his parents, all the servants that worked at his mansion and had served his parents, decide to offer their resignations, effectively leaving Yuuri to live by himself in his family's house, with no one else to support him. Yuuri is saddened by all of these events, unsure how to proceed with his life as he is now completely alone. But, thankfully, soon after, a mysterious young maid named Lilith arrives at his mansion's doorstep, out of nowhere, and almost forces herself into his life. She offers to work as a maid for him full time, without demanding any pay for herself. This, naturally, along with the fact that she appeared right after everyone else had left him, makes Yuuri very suspicious of her. This is even further emphasized by the fact that she refuses to provide any reasons for why she wishes to help him in this way. Alas, Yuuri is eventually persuaded by her to allow her to work for him, although he continuously is wary of her presence, always suspecting ulterior motives from her and, sometimes, even spying on her to make sure she doesn't do anything evil behind his back. When I first read the plot synopsis for this show, I genuinely thought that there was an interesting backstory to this mysterious maid, suspecting that she does have ulterior motives of a sinister kind or that there may be some more to this story than first meets the eye. But soon after beginning to watch the show myself, I realized that this was not the case at all. While Yuuri does have good reasons to be suspicious of her and is, initially, very wary of her presence, it's soon revealed that there are no sinister motives behind the maid's actions, at all. She simply wishes to serve Yuuri as his loyal maid, help him with chores around the house, cook delicious meals for him, wash his clothes and provide company and guidance for him, as she is a bit older than him and tries to be a helpful guardian towards him. Yuuri, for his part, slowly begins to fall in love with her, feeling his heart begin to race whenever she's around him, realizing that he's bewitched by her delicious food and even feeling very lonely when she's not around him anymore. Funnily enough, due to his young age, Yuuri always confuses all of these feelings of affection towards her as him being mind controlled by her in some way, as he goes out and accuses her of casting spells on him, but inadvertently revealing that, he, in fact, is attracted to her, much to her embarrassment. And when he confronts her about this, she even further confuses him by cheekily keeping her true intentions vague and not denying any of his accusations, responding with an ambiguous “Who knows?”, which only acts to increase his suspicions of her. This gag is repeated many episodes between them, which, at first, I thought was cute and charming, but eventually this dynamic between them grew old very fast for me. I was getting bored by Yuuri constantly suspecting her of evil intentions, when the episodes clearly showed that he is just a confused little boy that is mislabeling affection and feelings of love, with mind control. Thankfully, the show eventually grows out of this routine and it's revealed that Yuuri does, eventually, grow to trust her more and more as time passes on. Moreover, along with advice from his female best friend and classmate, Tsukasa Gojouin (who is an avid fan of forbidden romance stories and immediately figures out that Yuuri is, in fact, in love with his maid), Yuuri soon learns that his feelings of suspicion are, in fact, feelings of love towards Lilith. And afterwards, he becomes protective and even possessive of his maid, going out of his way to make sure that nobody else takes her away from him. This is a classic love story. I like this show because it's very grounded in reality and has the feelings of romance between the two grow steadily and naturally over the course of its season. Also, I am thankful that the show does eventually provide an explanation for Lilith's desire to serve Yuuri, as it's later revealed that there is a connection between her and Yuuri's family, from the past. And I'm very pleased that Yuuri, despite being very young (his age is never revealed to us but it's heavily implied that he's in middle school), he still manages to sort his feelings out, in the end, and accept that his feelings for Lilith are natural and he should cherish their time together. Other maids will also appear slowly over the course of this show, helping the characters further discover their feelings for each other. Overall, this was just a simple feel-good story. It doesn't have a complex plot, it's very grounded into reality and it explores the wonders of coming of age and coming to terms with one's own feelings. While the show never progressed to the point of advancing Yuuri's and Lilith's relationship too much, by the end, it leaves us off with a satisfying conclusion in which, while Yuuri still didn't fully figure out the true nature of his feelings, he is far more accepting of his affection now and is open to fully allowing Lilith into his life as more than just a maid. Personally, I found this to be a very charming and innocent story of growth of love between two people. And the ending felt appropriate and pleasant, giving a satisfying conclusion to a short story. It's a timeless tale of love that is family friendly and easily accessible to anyone, of any age. It is a humble story with not that many plot twists but, in the end, a good story doesn't need to be complex or exciting all the time. Sometimes, the best stories are the straightforward ones.