Winter 2019 First Impressions: Who Will Land In The Hell Zone?!

boogiepop SMOOCH

It’s been a while since I’ve taken a stab at seasonal coverage, huh? Truth be told, the past few months on the blog have been extremely inconsistent. In 2019, though, expect to see way more from The Anime Hell Zone! This Lexapro is kicking in and I am ready to TAKE ON THE WORLD! SEROTONIN, ACTIVATE!!

Ahem. Since it’s been so long since I’ve done a seasonal first impression list, let’s take a moment to review my personal rating system for first impressions.

Heaven Zone: these look like some real winners! They’re the most highly recommended (so far, anyways…), and are the series that I’m most likely to stick with through the whole season.

Purgatory: these shows haven’t sold me just yet, but they’ve got promise. We’ll see if they can ascend to Heaven by the end!

Hell Zone: these were painful to get through and are absolutely not recommended. If I continue watching anything in Hell Zone, it’ll only be to cruelly mock them!

Though I am training to become a Real Anime Critic one of these days, I’m obviously not getting paid to cover anime seasonals. That being said, I’m skipping over quite a few of the Big Boy Hype shows. I have a finite time on this planet, and I will not waste it blogging about things I don’t care about!

The only series left that I have to check out is Mob Psycho II. I’m waiting to watch it together with my boyfriend, and I know he wouldn’t appreciate me jotting down notes during our anime date night, so that’ll have to wait until the end of the season round-up.

Also, I know that we’re technically on the second week of seasonal anime, but this post is only based on the first episodes (or first two episodes, in Boogiepop‘s case). I’m slow! Sue me!

Heaven Zone

Boogiepop and Others

…or Boogiepop Doesn’t Laugh or Boogiepop wa Warwaanai or whatever you want to call it. This was my most anticipated series this season, and it did not disappoint. I’m a huge fan of 2000’s Boogiepop Phantom, and have been looking forward to see how Madhouse and One Punch Man director Shingo Natsume adapted the first light novel.

Boogiepop and Others throws us into a world of manticores, split personalities, and mysterious drugs that are supposedly causing girls to disappear. The titular character  appears in the form of Touka Miyashita and explains that they are here to protect the world. Time skipping and mystery ensues.

Structurally, this is a very interesting series already. The storytelling is non-linear and thus requires the viewer’s full attention. For example, a character will die on-screen, and the episode will retroactively introduce you to them and show how they fit into the greater narrative. It’s looking like a slow-burn, for sure, which is exactly what I want out of a Boogiepop adaptation. It might not be as ~aesthetic~ as Boogiepop Phantom, but it already has me wound up in its web.

P.S. I’m not going to stop posting the spooky gay smooch from the opening >:)

The Promised Neverland

the promised neverland

The Perfect Neverland is a hugely anticipated adaptation of the Shounen Jump manga series of the same name. It tells the story of a group of children living in an orphanage that may not be quite as it appears…I won’t rob you of the reveal if you’ve yet to see it, but if you’ve been living under a rock, I’ll let you know – it GOOD.

Something I appreciate about this first episode is that isn’t laying the darkness on too thickly. The kids are shown having fun and being care-free. They don’t understand what’s going on, so why would they be acting like anything other than regular kids?  Though there are obvious clues that something is wrong, it isn’t hitting viewers over the head with a grey color palette or over-dramatic musical cues. There’s often a lack of subtlety in “dark” anime, so getting things like this and Boogiepop and Others that know how to create a terse, uncomfortable atmosphere without overdoing it is a real treat.

I have some more feelings about how this series treats kids versus other Tragic Children anime like Made in Abyss, but I’ll write more about that in the upcoming weeks…


dororo anime

Oh, look, another new series that gets atmosphere and tension right! Based on an Osamu Tezuka classic, Dororo is the story of a man who was born without skin, internal organs, limbs, or eyes thanks to a deal his father made with some demons. Years after his birth, he meets Dororo, a spunky little thief.

Episode one manages to pack a lot of information and exposition into it without feeling forced or rushed. The pacing was impressive, and I enjoyed a lot of the scenery and dreary color pallets. Much has yet to unfold, but I feel confident that this will end up being something of a hidden gem this season.

I’m also interested to see how the character of Dororo is handled in 2019, as he’s apparently coded as being transmasculine. I’m not terribly well-versed with the original manga, and I’m afraid to look too far into it and risk being spoiled, but from what I understand his character is somewhat progressive – at least for a series from the 1960’s. This season’s Heaven Zone seems to have a lot of interesting gender dynamics, now that I look at it – there’s the androgynous Boogiepop, the tomboyish Emma in The Promised Neverland, and now Dororo. This should be a fun blogging season for my gay analysis brain!


Domestic Girlfriend

domestic girlfriend rui hina

After an awkward mixer, Fuji finds himself having sex with Rui, a girl he just met. Little does Fuji know, Hina – his high school teacher AND the woman of his dreams – is Rui’s older sister. Oh, and to make things even more convoluted and dramatic, they’re about to become his new stepsisters. Fuji’s dad just so happens to never mention to his son that he’s got a fiancée, but surprise, they’re already all moving in together! Drama!

This one’s got the same batshit premise as Citrus, minus the trashy over-the-top elements that made me actually enjoy Citrus. It seems that Domestic Girlfriend wants to take a more serious crack at teenage love and sexuality, but without Scum’s Wish levels of angst.

Episode one presents us with a surprisingly respectful sex scene and has Fuji nervously wondering if he made the right decision. If that had been all the episode was – the sex and then ruminations on his sudden loss of virginity – I would have been satisfied. Instead, we get the sudden move-in, and a whole lot of Hina being a trope-tastic anime girl who “”accidentally”” walks out of the tub half-naked in front of her new family and takes cutesy Misato-style gulps of beer. Hina doesn’t feel like a fully realized character so much as an amalgamation of waifu-bait cliches, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt since it’s only episode one. Oh, and Fuji tries to kiss his unconscious teacher, which is Very Rapey of him, thus killing any impressed feelings I had from the maturity of the consensual sex scene in the beginning.

Domestic Girlfriend is probably going to be mediocre at best, but I’m a sucker for messy love triangles, so I’ll watch along for a little longer and see if it grabs me.

Hell Zone

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka

magical girl special ops

I make it a point to check out whatever iteration of Gritty Magical Girl gets shat out each season. I love magical girl anime when they’re played straight, and I always hope that one of these darker series will turn out as well as Madoka or Yuki Yuna Is A Hero. Unfortunately, they usually end up sucking ass. Subversive magical girl series only work if they actually lean into the true tropes of the genre, but instead, you get things like Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka that try to get by on shock value alone. “It’s magical girls, but with blood! Get it, because they’re usually cute? Get it? GET IT?”

This was so dumb, my brain felt like it melted watching it. There either wasn’t much of a plot, or I had just glazed over too much to process what was there. The concept of having magical girls in the military could be fun, but it felt like the show was trying to present that premise earnestly…which is absolutely fucking insane. Actually, the whole episode was insane, but somehow in a really boring way. They had a hack representation of an ex-magical girl having PTSD flashbacks of evil teddy bears, a man casually talking about how his limb just got amputed while being in literally no pain or shock, and there were FOUR time skips in one episode. Also, NOTHING about this felt magical girl at all. Apparently they thought if they just said the words “magical girl” and put these people in goofy outfits that would be enough.

I don’t know, it’s bad. Go watch Release the Spyce instead.

Girly Force

Yeah, wow, I couldn’t even get through this full episode. I’m a sucker for Cute Girls Doing Cute Things But In Military Settings, and this was not what I wanted. The first, like, ten minutes is like a Transformers movie – loud, confusing, and looks like it’s from 2007. It’s a whole lotta bad CGI planes, and then some boring looking dude gets kissed by one of the lady pilots before she even utters a line. It’s dumb. Goodbye!

There actually aren’t that many series that piqued my interest this time around, but it looks like there should be a few winners in the pack. I’m sure I’ve missed something great, so if there’s something else I should check out that, let me know!

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