As the autumn leaves begin to fall, another season of anime opens up with brand new shows and stunning sequels. Get cozy while watching girls do some cute DIY in Do It Yourself!! and be inspired to step out of your comfort zone, or be dazzled by the latest entry of the Gundam Franchise with an adorkable protagonist in a mobile suit. The choice is yours to make, but hear us out before you commit this Fall Season 2022! More to come in our AniBitez Fall 2022 Part 2!
Akiba Maid War: Maid cafes are serious business
It’s 1999 in Akihabara, and 17-year-old Nagomi Wahira has begun her dream life as a maid at the Ton Tokoton maid cafe — or so she thinks. On her first day at work, Wahira discovers that her boss owes protection money, that rival maids have cruel sides, and that the 35-year-old Ranko Mannen, another Ton Tokoton newcomer, has no issues gunning down people without breaking her poker face. Despite its cheerful and colorful surface, the maid cafe industry turns out to be a world of crime, cruelty, and violence.
Given the title and the tone of its promotional material, I wasn’t surprised that this original anime would be more than a “normal” experience. That still didn’t prepare me for its premiere, which begins with a shocking murder and ends with a deliciously irreverent shoot-out that has a cute pop song playing over the brutally one-sided slaughter. It’s an incredibly memorable introduction but also a potential double-edged sword. As entertaining as the second and third episodes are, they are a lot more subdued in comparison, and I spent a lot of the time recalling Episode 1’s climax and wondering if the rest of the show will ever match its insanity.
Plus, the maid characters, who are supposed to be the stars of the show, are a little dull right now outside of a few individual moments. There’s certainly room for this to change, but as of the third episode, the amusingly irresponsible and shameless Ton Tokoton manager is the only character I look forward to watching. I’ll be following Nagomi’s maid cafe career till the end, but I hope it didn’t reach its peak in the first episode.
Blue Lock: There’s no “I” in team, but there is one in Striker!
If I had a nickel for every time a soccer-related anime in the last 6 months had the word “blue” in the title (Ao Ashi), I’d have two nickels. Blue Lock is an intense but refreshing take on the sports genre that pits 300 of the top soccer strikers to compete for a spot on Japan’s national soccer team. The show challenges the value of teamwork by contending that against the realities of becoming a professional athlete. Blue Lock shows that to compete at the highest levels of the sport, athletes must embrace their ego-centric “type-x” nature to become the ultimate scorer.
Yoichi Isagi finds himself selected by the “Blue Lock” program along with 299 other prospective strikers and living in essentially a soccer prison facility designed to develop the next superstar striker/psychopath. This facility probably has more in common with Squid Game than soccer and is designed as a battle royale where failure will end a prospective player’s soccer aspirations forever. The show’s intense tone stems from the participants essentially fighting for their soccer lives in the program designed to showcase a participant’s true nature. Isagi’s relationships with his assigned teammates are strained because they’re ultimately competitors who could try anything to claim that single spot for themselves.
By focusing on brutal competition instead of loyalty and teamwork, Blue Lock is quickly becoming one of my top shows this season with its unique take dramatizing the real-world sports talent grind. I just hope that this facility can afford a few sports psychologists for these insane teenage athletes.
Bocchi the Rock!: The life of a socially anxious guitarist
Right now, Bocchi the Rock! is hands down my favorite anime of the Fall 2022 season. It’s a comedy about a skilled but socially anxious teenage guitarist named Hitori Gotoh, who inadvertently joins a band led by the cheerful Nijika Ichiji. Much of the humor comes from the absurd real and imagined situations that are derived from our protagonist’s anxiety. What I didn’t expect was how strong they would be both in concept — committing seppuku with a guitar was not on my bingo card — and delivery.
It’s hardly novel for anime to feature changes in character art and aesthetics for comedic purposes, but I was nevertheless smitten by Bocchi the Rock!’s visual variety — live-action is used at some points — and their impactful execution. A skit in the second episode had me in stitches due to the way it deformed Hitori’s design. The visual creativity and boldness are a gem, although other elements like the sharp dialogue and Yoshino Aoyama’s performance as Hitori, who sounds like a poor tormented soul instead of a typical cute anime girl, also contribute greatly to the humor.
The visual impressiveness isn’t limited to the comedic scenes. Beyond the photorealistic backgrounds, which ground the show without offsetting the eccentric elements, there are shots that convey a strong sense of space and a good amount of impressive character animation. I was genuinely stunned by some of the movements in the show.
So far, Bocchi the Rock! is hitting all the right notes, and I hope it maintains its streak until the last episode.
Do It Yourself!!: One PUUUUUUUUUUN!!!!!!!
I have a soft spot for DIY home projects. Some of my fondest memories are watching episodes of This Old House with my dad as a kid, taking woodshop classes in middle school, and putting up drywall as part of a community service project. I think learning how to make something yourself is a valuable skill that helps one appreciate the work that goes into the things they use in their everyday lives. This also seems to be the thesis of Do It Yourself!! where conveniently named high school girl Yua Serufu and her friends in the titular club work on their projects, relationships, and personal development.
Cute girls doing cute things is an anime genre with a long and distinguished history. However, I’ve never encountered one like Do It Yourself!!. The anime encapsulates the enthusiasm of pursuing an activity like Laid-Back Camp and features a cast of characters with more variety than a bag of trail mix, all with art and animation reminiscent of Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!. The show’s singular pun might wear out its welcome by the end of the season, but a bad dad joke never stopped me from enjoying a good show.
My one hope is that the show does spend a little bit more time focusing on the finer details of carpentry, since I anticipate that Do It Yourself!! will instill a passion for creation in the same way that Laid-Back Camp inspired people to explore the outdoors.
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury: Gundam with corporations, duels, and yuri
This Gundam series takes place in the new Ad Stella setting, which, aside from familiar Earthling and space people tensions, features dynastic corporations and a space colony-like school run by the powerful Benerit Group where mobile suit duels are used to settle matters of “money, authority, apologies… even marriage partners.” The top duelist gets to be betrothed to Miorine Rembran, the daughter of Benerit leader Delling. Miorine is understandably displeased with her father, but luckily for her, the meek transfer student Suletta Mercury and her powerful Aerial mobile suit may give her the power to defy him. Meanwhile, Suletta’s mother is plotting against Delling.
It’s an interesting setting, with room for plenty of interesting inter-student relationships and corporate power play. The first three episodes have delivered quite a bit of the latter, but it hasn’t sold me on the main characters yet. Suletta is cute but has a lot of compelling information limited (at the moment) to a short story, and although I like Miorine’s feisty nature and grouchiness, hearing her state her rebellious intentions over and over makes her feel one-note.
I’m fairly certain that the leads will improve in time, and hopefully, the third episode’s ending signifies a break from conflict and introduce some needed fleshing-out of the school and supporting characters. What I’m less sure about are the production values’ future. The 2D mecha action is entertaining and supported by an epic score but feels less polished than the Prologue’s. Meanwhile, the talking scenes are showing visible cracks even at this early stage. It’s nice to have a Gundam series with a female lead, yuri pairing (which seems to be evolving into a bi-harem), and corporate maneuvering, but I’m worried about how the show will look by the time the second cour begins next April.
SPY x FAMILY Part 2: Everyone’s favorite anime family makes a grand return
Fans of SPY x FAMILY will be thrilled to return to the world of Ostania as the series returns for a second cour. Loid, Yor, and Anya Forger are all back to their usual antics as a deep-cover operative, seductive assassin, and smug telepathic while still trying to blend into society as a normal, functional family. They are soon thrown back into the action, however, when they find themselves tackling an unknown terrorist threat, uncovering the top-secret “Project Apple,” and living with Bond, a bowtie-wearing dog who can see into the future.
SPY x FAMILY Part 2 is a blast to watch because like the first cour, the show knows how to have fun even when it needs to be serious. There is an optimal balance of action scenes and wholesome moments, and many of the serious or intense situations are interrupted by slap-stick comedy, usually in the form of Anya making over-the top expressions or Yor just being Yor. WIT Studio and Cloverworks’ mastery of this makes the show interesting, as it ensures viewers are constantly engaged and get to see multiple dimensions of each character. Tanezaki Atsumi, Hayami Saori, and Eguchi Takuya all reprise their roles as the Forger family, and do a stellar job of capturing each of their quirks.
So far, SPY x FAMILY Part 2 is definitely off to a strong start. As someone who hasn’t read the manga before, I am looking forward to seeing the Forgers continue growing together and how they deal with the next international conflict they will inevitably find themselves involved with.
Urusei Yatsura (2022): A classic chaotic comedy returns!
The 80s classic returns with a reboot that captures the spirit of the original with some modern upgrades. Oni aliens have invaded Earth, and after inadvertently thwarting their invasion, our “hero” Ataru now has to ward off the oni princess Lum, who mistakenly believes that she is engaged to him. Ataru must somehow balance these constant misunderstandings between Lum and his girlfriend Shinobu in a string of hilarious encounters. Funnily enough, Ataru is voiced by Hiroshi Kamiya, who seems to now be typecast as the lecherous scumbag (Araragi from Bakemonogatari, Shinji Matou from Fate/Stay Night).
While other shows like the Osomatsu-san reboot adds a modern spin, Urusei Yatsura stays firmly in the 80s and is following its established material so far. The new production team adds many amusing visual gags, amplifying the show’s chaotic nature to parodies of frustrating rom-com tropes, like when Lum unleashes a storm on the town to prevent Ataru and Shinobu from seeing each other, but the star-crossed lovers end up doing so anyway. The humor plays on the drama shifts from being incredibly devoted to Ataru to the point where she would marry him even though he was about to become a literal hermit, but then immediately wants nothing to do with him upon seeing Lum and believing that he had gotten engaged to the oni princess behind her back. The show is sprinkled with trope-breaking scenes like this, and Ataru’s relationship troubles and hilariously awful parents combine to create a comfortable, reliable comedy.
As a fan of the original, I’m definitely happy to revisit such a classic. Definitely do not sleep on the OP — it is one of the catchiest this season for both the song and visuals.
Stay tuned for the next part of the Fall 2022 Anibitez!