Deca-dence (2020, Nut Studio)
Beings known as "Gadoll" suddenly appeared wiping out most of mankind. In an effort to survive the mobile fortress Deca-Dence was built by soldiers known as "Gear" who serve The Power corporation, doing their best to fight them off and survive.
One day, Natsume's father and his team set out on another expedition to explore the world convinced there were secrets about the world they didn't know about. Natsume had sneaked along and not expecting to run into Gadolls, her father is killed and she loses her arm. She does her best to work as a Tanker, people who supported the Gears, hoping she would be approved as a Gear one day so that she could become stronger. While carrying out her duties, she meets Kaburagi and soon learns he is an ex-Gear. Natsume's wish to become a Gear was ever closer now but also the truth behind the world they lived in.
Promo art caught my attention on this one. It's quite heavy on lore as it wastes no time in giving you a lesson (literally) on the world setting during its first episode. It even leaves the opening animation out which usually ends up a bit of a spoiler in itself hinting at certain events.
It feels kind of like Iron Fortress Kabaneri early on, another post apocalypse show but with something else instead of the zombies and the fortress is a lot bigger too which is more like a mobile town compared to the train.
Direction is quick and fun setting a good pace for such a short original show. Scenes transition quickly but also smoothly. Just when you think you've settled down with all the details it just flips everything over although it does give you some subtle hints.
Natsume is your familiar cheery girl full of energy and is full of expressions. Nothing seems to get her down and seems to be the kind of person that would brighten up someone's day. Just Natsume alone is entertaining enough never mind watching her grow along with Kabu. It gives enough screen time to the supporting characters to give it a good build up and wraps it all up well at the end of the show too.
It kind of has a Trigger vibe to its direction and presentation even though this new animation studio was founded by a producer from Madhouse. It's an action comedy, sci-fi show where character names are printed in big bold font, comical expressions, strange tech, silly creature designs and overly-enthusiastic characters. The only thing it doesn't have from a Trigger show is the sensual fan service.
Art work looks good even though the creature designs aren't all that detailed. At least when it's in "detailed mode" anyway. I guess it gives you a clear distinction between the characters in the show other than just saving time on detail but, it still kind of puts me off as the aesthetics feel like it's going from a serious POV to a early morning kid's comedy show. On the other hand, I guess it's similar to Mob Psycho and that's a good show too.
Other the other hand backround art by Chiptune and Nara Animation look good enough to pause and admire (you can check out a lot of it on the official site). Eye catch art is particularly detailed. It has great theme songs too; OP is high tempo enough to get you psyched up for the episode and the ED "Kioku no Hakobune [Ark of Memories]" is by one of my favourite artists Kashitaro. While I don't recognise any big name voice actors; most are fairly new to the scene but the Japanese voices seem spot on and deliver their characters really well.
It's good as long as you don't mind the "simplified mode" aesthetics side of it which put me off a bit but the overall story and direction more than makes up for it. It's got an interesting plot to keep you watching and has many good moments. There's more than meets the eye and all the pieces just fit together so well in the end. First two episodes alone will get you hooked otherwise it's probably not for you.
If you enjoy Trigger shows that are filled with enthusiasm and energy you'll probably enjoy this sci-fi, action comedy (but without the fan service). If Chika alone is worth watching Kaguya-sama then it would be Natsume for this show.
Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files (1992, Pierrot)
Deliquent 14 year old Yusuke Urameshi dies in a car accident one day while trying to save a little boy. To his surprise he learns he wasn't supposed to die yet and is offered a chance to return to the living. After showing the potential to become a Spirit Realm Detective, he is allowed to be ressurected on the condition he helps the underworld investigate various supernatural incidents such as powerful criminal demons out to cause chaos or humans mixing with demons when they shouldn't. As Yusuke continues to serve the son of the underworld overseer he faces ever stronger foes but also befriends many of them. He even finds himself forced to take part in rigged underworld tournaments where rules mean little.
Number 4 is an ominous number in Sino language countries as it has the same pronunciation as "death". 14 is even worse as it sounds the same as "death definite" so maybe they they chose to make Yusuke 14 when the accident happened.
I actually watched half of this back in high school but didn't have access to the rest of the show so thought I'd watch through it from scratch. I only started watching it midway about episode 28 onwards.
It's a cliche Shonen Anime setup; high school student with super powers and a childhood friend as the romantic interest. You've also got your hero defeating the bad and your usual "never give up" kind of immortality that always lets them get back up no matter the situation. Same with your familiar trope of characters, rash reckless Yusuke, easily love-struck Kuwabara, nice polite Kurabara and your rude lone wolf Hiei.
However, right from the start it kicks off with a tear jerker as you see how many people Yuusuke's death has affected that also makes him determined to return to life and, it kind of catches your interest.
As it's aimed at the teenage boys demographic you've got your usual groping jokes but it's a lot tamer than modern day shows and actually stops happening eventually. In fact I'd say it's got some strong female characters but generally, the show isn't exactly good influence with school gangs and fights that's for sure.
Pacing is good so you don't feel like anything's dragged out too much that it becomes tiring and it doesn't completely depend on one kind of direction such as just fights to keep the show interesting despite being an action oriented Shonen show. It picks up and gets darker as well as more interesting while still keeping some form of comedy in place such as your usual quabble between the main cast. You feel the scale of each threat as they grow bigger than the last.
Art work is pretty good for this early 1990s show. It has some nice scenario illustrations when it starts a new case. You see a lot of re-used animation and scenes such as the crowds which, isn't really unusual for a long running cel animated series since you can't just copy and paste like modern day CGI assisted animation.
Sometimes the characters don't look match their character designs either when they're unleashing their skills. Still, you do see some attention to detail such as in the eye catch you can see the characters using their respective weapons if you play the frames slowly, even though they could have gotten away with blurbs since that's what you see. Same could be said of Yusuke's hairdo where you can see he doesn't always have his hair geled back.
It's quite a gruesome show. Even though it's not humans there's a lot of demons being decaptitated. There's a lot of talk about killing and other nasty things which other mainstream shows such as Dragon Ball and One Piece don't have as much of. Might be why I had to stay up late to watch it because they never showed it during after school hours in Hong Kong, only late night.
Fights are also pretty much your Shonen action show setup filled with flashy skills. I'd say it's fairly much Dragon Ball style but with skill names announced. You've even got your defeated enemy who becomes friends because he doesn't want them defeated before they do.
Audio wise it's got some great ending theme songs. Don't think there's a single theme song I don't like from it. While there's 5 different ending themes, there's only one opening theme song. However, the OP animation changes about half way through the series at episode 67.
Being a 1990s show you've got lots of evil laughs. Mayumi Tanaka happens to play Enma Junior in this show who also plays Krillin from Dragon Ball and Luffy from One Piece. Chopper's voice actress Ikue Otani is here too as Shura; she seems to get a lot of little guy roles.
At 112 episodes it's no short series but I guess you could call it main stream at that length. For the most part it maybe your Shonen action show full of fighting, powers and transformations but it has it's good moments as you watch the gang stick together through difficult times. Each arc has its own satisfying closures instead of your simple happily ever after kind of wrap-up. It might not look it but it's got some fairly heavy romance throughout the show despite a cliche one (and hints of BL too between it's pretty boy characters). Even the ending theme songs reflect it too.
However, there's a lot of flashing lights that are really fast compared to modern day shows so beware.
On the other hand if you're after a traditional folklore Japanese Yokai show, I would go with Gegege no Kitaro instead as this show's Yokai are mostly fictional ones.
I didn't bother with the movies since they're more like spin-offs from the Manga original to the Anime series.
As a bit of trivia, every character's name actually has a meaning. Urameshi is usually said by hateful spirits, "I will haunt you." while Kuwabara means "Heavens, help me!" which works for their personalities and the show's setting. Nintendo's playing cards also make a cameo appearance and Kuwabara's home actually reminds me of Nobi's house from Doraemon so have fun spotting those.
Worth A Watch
Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki-kun (2021, Project No. 9)
Fumiya Tomozaki is the top online player of the fighter game "TackFam" but in real life, he believes he was born a bottom-tier character and those living life to the fullest have the "game of life" in easy mode. One day he realises the second ranking player "Noname" was gaining on him and to his surprise, is asked to meet up offline. What's more, it turns out to be the most respected girl in his class Aoi Hinami who not only looked pretty but was a complete prodigy.
Unfortunately for him, Aoi was completely shocked at what the top player she had respected was like in real life; a complete loser who had given up on life. That didn't stand well with her because losing to him must mean she was a loser too. And so, Aoi decides to give Fumiya a number of goals to help him succeed in the "game of life".
Silly sounding, huh? Saw a bit of this light novel based series on TV and looked kind of interesting so thought I'd try it. Aoi pretty much tries to gamify everything setting up side quests for Fumiya to achieve in real life. The girls are all pretty much your standard harem setup with your perfect personality, over-enthusiastic, quiet etc but still fun to watch. It works so I guess why they just keep using the same personalities in most Anime shows.
Nintendo fans should recognise the parody of Smash Brothers on the Switch right away... Quite a few game references since this show is game related. It's fairly much like an Anime version of those "positive thinking" tips you'd usually see in the odd news article, basically presented in a more fun way using video game analogies and silly girl characters.
Animation is rough because it looks like the characters are sliding across the screen sometimes but the art's pretty good. It's got some fairly detailed food art and a fun OP to boot full of game related lyrics. On the whole it's fairly much a harem show with a familiar secluded guy suddenly finding himself surrounded by pretty girls so you've got a bit of fan service mainly in the form of awkward camera angles but also a swimsuit/hotsprings ep (bit different from usual). Also hints of lesbian relationships as the girl fondle each other.
This show is fairly much the complete opposite of the gloomy Sing Yesterday where characters are brooding around while this show gives you tips on staying motivated in life.
It might look like a harem show with a bit of fan service (it's actually considered a romcom officially) but it's actually a fairly good show full of friendship where you see Fumiya changing bit by bit and slowly earning better status in society. If there was an Anime show of a self-improvement book, this would probably be it and, keeps it cheery and fun (for the most part). Aoi is one tough coach and I guess it's the imbalanced cast of characters that stops me from listing this in the recommended.
Doesn't look like there will be future seasons but since the light novel's still on-going (up to volume 8) and this only covers up to 3, maybe there will be.
Sing "Yesterday" For Me (2020, Doga Kubo)
Yesterday wo Utatte
Pessimistic, aspiring photographer Rikuo Uozumi just graduated from college. Now he works part-time at a convenience store to make ends meet. While feeding the crows with unsold lunch boxes he meets a mysterious girl named Haru Nanoka with a pet crow. She had missed the last train apparently and asks for a lunch box too.
Soon he learns that his old crush Shinako who he had met in university, was still in town even though he thought she had moved away for a job. It turns out Haru was one of her former students too and Haru had fallen for Rikuo at first sight during a chance meeting many years ago. Unfortunately, Rikuo doesn't remember the vague encounter but finds themselves having a lot in common.
Despite learning of Rikuo's crush, Haru wasn't going to give up winning his heart. Meanwhile Shinako wasn't quite ready to accept Rikuo yet as she too is still stuck in the past. Every time she sees her late love's younger brother, Rou, she is reminded of her lost love. What's more, Rou had also developed feelings for Shinako during the time she has spent with her family.
And so we watch as the various characters try to overcome their pasts and, move on with their modern day relations and life.
This is a coming-of-age show so it's quite mature and very relatable I'm sure compared to your familiar high schoolers with powers setup; the whole graduating and trying to find a job phase of life. It's not your romcom show so there's a lot of brooding going on. Not exactly your cheerful show but if you've ever been down in the dumps for a long time you might find a lot to relate to.
It actually reminds me of the classic 1990s romcom Maison Ikkoku where a woman can't get over her late lover but, continues to give hope to another man to keep him around for fallback. Only difference is that was an actual romcom full of entertaining whacky characters while in this show it's a lot more gloomy and closer to your everyday person. Well, I guess it does have a girl with a pet crow and a young man with safety pins for earrings...
Both shows just are also set in the days before mobile phones so there's plenty of extra opportunities to put those cliche moments. If you grew up during the pre-broadband internet days you'll probably relate even more.
Haru's enthusiastic personality kind of cheer things up a bit as she teases Rikuo but it can still get quite gloomy. Fortunately few episodes in the gloominess stops and it starts to hit the middle ground where they're setting up back stories for each character. Your usual misunderstandings in romcoms start brightening it up from all the brooding around as they start to slowly move on from both their relationships and other rough patches of life but, their nice personalities and indecisiveness always ends up throwing a spanner into the works; again much like Maison's web of relationships.
However, while every event in Maison was actually meaningful, here you're fairly much given warning signs of a train wreck waiting to happen as you see no wrap-up late into the show despite the characters' attempts to move on. I guess that's why it's called, "Sing Yesterday" since everyone's stuck in the past for the most part. Some have compared it to Welcome to NHK but I haven't watched that to compare.
Art isn't exactly the best but it's consistent. It feels kind of odd knowing Shinako's voice actress Kana Hanazawa also voices Akane from one of my favourite action sci-fi show Psycho-Pass but, I guess her other roles such as Naho from Orange, Mayuri from Steins;gate (also a great sci-fi show) works here.
Personally I didn't like the wrap-up because it felt like the whole show's direction was completely pointless; just as it felt like it was getting somewhere too. Kind of like they decided to throw the script out the window and wanted to re-write the story so that it's based around pity instead. Or possibly because the writer wanted to explore other kinds of love compared to your average romance since the tagline is, "What is love?" such as sacrificing one kind of love to protect another. The main characters are so nice they end up being driven by guilt for any harm they do throughout the show and I think they come to an understanding of what each other are like in that way. It does give some hints from the start of the show of where it was going; especially if you watch the disc release's bonus scenes but that doesn't really make it any better.
So if you're up for a mostly serious, slice-of-life and romance drama show, you might like this (if you can get pass the gloomy start). It's not a happy show that's for sure as you watch people wallow in guilt and it's probably one of those love or hate it shows. I would just go with the classic Maison Ikkoku which more or less falls into the same premise but its wrap-up just feels a lot more well-deserved than what happens in this show.