First Thoughts: 7 brand new anime series to check out this July 2014

ANIME is an incredibly productive force. In the first ten days of July we’ve already seen over 20 new series being released. First Thoughts is my recommendations based upon the first or first few episodes, of course you never tell which direction a series will head but at least these shows have promise.

Sword Art Online II
Genre: Action & Adventure

I’m with the general consensus on SAO: the first half of Season One was amazing and managed to do everything right from the action to the romance, everything. Yet as Kirito wakes up from the online world, walks down that hospital corridor looking for his true love, I thought, “Yes, what an incredible ending! Ambiguous but heart warming… oh wait there’s still more episodes” only to be met with the anime version of utter tripe. I’ve heard of creators going from amazingly talented to downright awful but this happened in the same season! How is it possible to lose quality so quickly?! Anyway, after seeing Season Two announced it left me curious to how are they going to breathe life back into this.

Season Two takes place one year after the events of the first. Kirito and Asuna are dating, and in spite of displaying an absurd lack of chemistry they ensure us that, yes, they are still in love. Yui, their ‘daughter’ still exists and even more trouble is being caused in the online world of gaming. A new villain has arisen who can cause heart attacks in players with his mysterious weapon entitled ‘The Death Gun’ (not a wordsmith this villain) and Kirito is asked to investigate.

This series does seem promising, even though it’s let me down in the past. The story grabs me, there’s genuine mystery, and it even suggests that it’s going to discuss deep philosophical issues surrounding artificial reality. Give the series a try – just brace yourself at the halfway point.

Tokyo Ghoul
Genre: Horror, Dark Fantasy

There’s a strange trend in anime recently (actually for quite a while) of having one of the main characters have a patch over one eye. Some people think  it adds mystery, others think it makes them look cute. Still, I’ve seen weirder trends.

Tokyo Ghouls follows a concept we’ve heard many times before: Man becomes a monster, tries to reject it but it ultimately overcomes him. However, just because the story follows a well-trodden road doesn’t mean it can’t be taken in new directions. Kaneki is a shy book-worm kind of man who’s fallen for the charms of a girl he notices at the coffee shop. After taking a chance and asking her out he cannot believe his luck when she accepts. At the end of the date he’s being a gentleman and walks her home. It comes to the time where they have to separate and, well, we’ve all been here; do I kiss her, do I ask to come in for coffee – for the most part we don’t expect her to grow tentacles out of her back and pierce our internal organs, because that’s more of a third date situation.

Unfortunately for Kaneki that’s how his date turns out. After a freak accident saves him he’s rushed straight to hospital,and it doesn’t stop there for Bad Luck Kaneki. Now one of his eyes keeps turning black and bloodshot, food tastes disgusting to him and he keeps craving human flesh.

What hasn’t been explored all too much on the monster subject is the idea that these monsters are well-known to the public and constantly explored in mass media, meaning that this will ultimately leave him a lot more exposed and possibly facing law authorities who are trained to handle this situation. The show is pretty intense, but in a good way. I think the show has a lot of potential and could create a solid series.

Akame Ga Kill!
Genre: Action/Adventure, Fantasy

After the initial disappointment of the show not being related to Kill La Kill, I began to watch it unsure of what to expect. I’ve heard that it’s currently in line to be the next fan favourite but there are many shows which are called that straight off the bat. As soon as the show started I couldn’t help but think that this show looks exactly like if they made an anime on Dragon Quest. The style, combat, costumes looks lifted from a traditional JRPG; all we need now is a party of warriors and a quest.

I was very sceptical from the start. The anime wasn’t doing much to thrill me in terms of story, characters or plotting. Tasumi is a swordsman from a small village who sets out to make it big in the city as a monster hunter to earn money for his starving village. During his time in the city there are recurring hints about political corruption, high taxation and the balance of state power, which actually did start to impress me but left me unsure whether the series was going to stick to discussing this or just pick it up and throw it away to look smart. Reaching the end of the episode I left empty about Akame Ga Kill!. It didn’t seem to want to offer much; however as if the series could tell I had doubts it surprised me and pulled the rug out from under me. The series took a whole new turn into very dark territory, and not only did this pique my interest but also gave me a lot of hope for the future of this show.

Tasumi joins forces with a group of assassins who are pretty badass and fight for completely different reasons to what the government has told them. The fight scenes involving these characters were very exciting to watch, and I look forward to seeing more of it.

Free! Eternal Summer
Genre: Sports, Comedy, School

I really enjoyed the first season of Free!. I do try to avoid sport anime shows as they tend to be over-troped, considering that anime already follows it’s own tropes and then sport shows just pile more on. Sports anime shows just blend together for me, unless they’re truly exceptional. Despite this, while I wouldn’t call Free! truly exceptional I really enjoyed the first season. Sure the characters and event types are the same in all other sport shows but here they’re genuinely funny; the humour adds so much to this series. It’s not just the humour though, while they are archetypes they’re also fleshed out  with actual fun personalties.

Free! Eternal Summer is the second season to Free!, who appear to be going down the Hollywood road of handing out subtitles instead of numbers. The show takes place the following academic year to the first season. The swimming team still only have four members, Rin has been to promoted to captain at the rival high school, their old swimming club has been reopened, new faces appear and some strange guy is following them around. Also Haru still has a weird obsession with water which I’m still sure can’t be healthy.

The second season follows on perfectly from the first, everything that made me enjoy the first season is still present: the humour, characters and just delightful atmosphere. If you’re a fan of the first then you won’t be disappointed, and if you enjoy sport or comedy anime and haven’t already, check out Season One!

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
Genre: Romance/Comedy

I have to admit, romantic shows aren’t really my cup of tea, but I did want to recommend something a little different in the list to suit a wider taste and this series is actually very amusing. It starts off (as nearly every romantic comedy does in any region of the world) with a misunderstanding. Chiyo confesses her love to a boy she’s had her eye on, yet he mistakes this as her confessing that she’s a huge fan of his. Now, why would he think that you ask? Is he just incredibly egoistical? Well Nozaki is actually a very successful romantic manga artist, and since Chiyo is in the art class he assumes that she just wants to help out. Chiyo keeps making situations to get close to Nozaki, but he just gets inspired by the events to continue his work. At points I laughed out loud to myself which not many series are able to accomplish.

Sailor Moon Crystal
Genre: Magic, school

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the show the studio decided to recreate the original series with a polished art style to match more modern standards. It certainly has its weight in nostalgia if you watched the series when you were younger (as I imagine a lot of you did). If you’re new to the series I’m not sure I can recommend this as strongly unless you are of a younger age. The show has that 80s/90s serial charm to it; every week she would find herself facing a new challenge but they would keep that string romance going between Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask despite the fact it was painfully obvious who he was, yet with a lot of children shows now there’ll either be an epic continuing story or purposely reset every week and focus on the light-heartedness of it. I did enjoy the series when I was younger,  but watching this does leave me questioning if it lives up to modern story-telling. I remain curiously optimistic and recommend it for the nostalgia value.

Genre: Mecha/Action

I shall definitely be keeping an eye on this one. The last episode has left me curious about where it’s going to go and how the characters we’ve been introduced to affect these events. Which is a great compliment to give to any first episode. Aldnoah.Zero follows a parallel universe where during the 60s space race they found relics on Mars, these relics both allowed us to hypertravel to Mars and gave us a greater understanding of technology. People began to occupy Mars but decided to splinter away from the Earth government; this caused a horrific war  but eventually lead to a 15 year cease fire. It seems Mars has been looking for an excuse to attack Earth again and when a goodwill mission goes terribly wrong they are given that chance.

In the first episode I already enjoy the set-up, plot and what we so far see of the mecha they shall be using. I enjoy action but I also really enjoy it when they can also be smart about it, I really hope that this series can deliver on that.

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