Episode 15 of Anime Pocket Reviews is here, and signals the start of our journey towards the magic 50 anime mark!
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out our 30 Anime Ranking, where we chart each and every anime we’ve seen so far!
Anyway, here is some more shows as we take our first steps towards the 50 Anime Review! Where will these shows rank, I wonder…
Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma (2015, S1, 24x24mins)
“I don’t plan on losing to some bunch who never stood in front of clients. Now that I’m here, I’ll be taking the number one spot.”
Shokugeki stars Soma Yukihira (centre), a young boy who works with his father cooking in their family-owned diner, and dreams of one day surpassing his father’s incredible cooking skills and running the diner himself. However, one day Soma’s father tells him that he has to travel around the world for his work, and he tells Soma to use the opportunity to go to a culinary school and refine his skills. Soma is reluctantly forced to go to the culinary school, still believing in his heart that having to pay to learn how to cook is a waste of time for someone who’s been cooking since he was little. However, he realises when he gets there that the school – the legendary Totsuki culinary school – is actually a battleground for some of the finest young chefs in the world. With a graduation rate of 10%, only the finest cooks can get in, and most of them don’t survive. However, Soma is sure he will become number one at the school and announces it to everyone (see quote above), which angers some of his fellow students, including Erika, an upper-class girl-prodigy nicknamed God’s Tongue (middle-right); the Aldini brothers from Italy (far-right); and the master of meat, Ikumi Mito (right and front).
This is a really fun show! The ‘action’ in Food Wars is so absurd it verges on mockery. It hits you like a train of stupidness at the beginning, and you can’t help but laugh as the over-dramatized nature of the show. I should note that despite this, I never felt at any point that I was laughing at the show; I was always laughing with it. The story is pretty good too; it feels like a sports movie where the kid is trying to make it against the professionals.
However, this isn’t the case for Food Wars. In lead character Soma the show has one of those ‘God Characters’: someone who you know will be able to overcome any and all situations he finds himself in. This does drag the series down a touch, because it makes what is a fairly cool story quite predictable, and a little less believable. The rest of the main characters follow a similar pattern – given the graduation rate is only 10%, you would have expected at least one known character to be sent home, but each and every one is excelling – and there is a slight cliché problem with some of them (the poncey upper-class girl with blonde hair; the nerd with a bowl-cut and glasses…), however each has a unique trait and a small backstory, which gives them all a sense of individuality.
Overall, this is a really energetic, and slightly melodramatic show that keeps you wanting more! Yes, it lacks originality an areas such as characters, storyline and drawing, but it is just so passionate that you find yourself really invested. And hey, who doesn’t love a cooking show? I personally think this is a really good anime!
If you liked this you’ll love: Akame Ga Kill – While the genre ‘action’ could only be loosely branded on Food Wars, it still has a ferocious pace, and that’s what makes this interesting. Akame shares that incredible pace, and also has similar depth of character and drawing. I also think Akame has a better, more honest and brutal storyline than Food Wars, while also looking at developing someone who starts as a cocky main character. Akame Ga Kill is an ideal follow-up to Food Wars.
ReLife (2016, S1, 13x24mins)
Sci-fi, Comedy, Teen, Drama
“Forever seventeen, dude!”
The story follows Kaizaki Arata (centre), who at the age of 27 is unemployed (looking past a part-time job at a convenience store), and about to be cut off from his parent’s finances, without which he can’t make ends meet. Seemingly at rock-bottom, he is greeted on his way home from another unsuccessful job interview by Ryo (far-right), a cheerful man who offers him a chance to get out of his problems. He invites Kaizaki to take part in the ReLife programme, an experiment that will allow him to take the body of his younger self and spend a year in high-school. Unsure at first, the promise of a year’s worth of living expenses and a potential job opportunity at the end persuades Kaizaki to take part. He joins Aoba High School, and despite his terrible test scores outing him as something of a delinquent he begins to make friends with his unassuming classmates, Using his adult knowledge (street smarts) to help make sense of his classmates’ problems: such as the incredibly smart but lonely Hishiro (middle-left); and the stubborn but unstable Kariu Rena (far-left), who has a crush on the intelligent but naïve Oga (third from left).
Released online without any TV network, all thirteen episodes of ReLife were available at once instead of being staggered over 13 weeks (in which case the series would run until late September)*. That’s a huge advantage for a light show like this. I’m actually quite surprised at how quickly I run through this series, however I do feel that that might be somewhat down to me slowly running out of really good anime series to get into, minus the excellent shows of this cycle that, limited by TV, are only a handful of episodes into their run. As with many light-hearted, college-based TV series such as ReLife, this is a really easy show to binge-watch. Much of that is thanks to a set of characters that are definitely deeper than the majority of school-based anime I’ve seen, despite constantly playing the dumb-but-streetwise (and vice-versa) card with many of the characters. Each character has their own problems, and the show is strong enough to create characters, such as Kariu, who know they have problems but find it impossible to change, as is the case when you’re that age. It does that, and looks at genuine school problems, but also balances it with decent comedy and a general good-showing of comedic sense.
However, like many light, easily digested, school-based anime series, there are certain problems that hold it back from being anything other than a bit of fun. While the characters are good for a show such as this, they don’t develop in any meaningful way through the thirteen episodes. Also, the story doesn’t develop at all throughout the first ten episodes. The storyline is somewhat saved by a good conclusion in which is included an excellent ‘twist’, and maybe one of the most surprising I’ve ever seen in anime so far! I say ‘twist’ like that because it wasn’t a normal twist in terms of it changed the direction of the story: it was more like an Easter egg.
As you would expect from a brand new series, the drawing in this is really good. The colours are bright but not overpowering, and include plenty of detail. The drawing also changes to suit the situation, from minimalist drawings for comedy, and detail for more emotional moments – something that’s always a sure-sign that you’re watching a decent comedy series.
ReLife is a really weird one for me, in terms that it’s one of the hardest to conclude my opinions on. Nothing really happened, and the relationships and characters were good for the genre, but certainly not the best I’ve ever seen. However, I still enjoyed watching this series! The drawing is good, the soundtrack is clever, and as the series continues you begin caring about the characters, compelling you to watch the next episode. This is definitely a good series for fans of the slice-of-life genre, particularly surrounding high-school.
*Bonus knowledge – ReLife is also set to become a stage play later this year.
If you like this you’ll love: Toradora – Another high-school, slice-of-life styled series with a decent group of characters. Toradora is slightly more romantically-inclined than ReLife, but growing up is a sub-plot in this series in the same way that it is in ReLife, meaning these two will feel very similar.
Konosuba: God’s Blessing on the Wonderful World! (2016, S1, 10x24mins)
“I am a goddess! Do you not see the beautiful water-coloured hair and eyes?!”
The story follows Kazuma Sato (far-left), a shut-in NEET that is killed in embarrassing circumstances. In the afterlife he meets the goddess Aqua (middle-left), who after mocking him offers him the opportunity to be sent to a different, MMORPG-themed universe, so long as he helps the people of that world destroy the Devil King. In return for Kazuma going to the world Aqua allows him to take anything he wishes – such as a powerful weapon to fight with or even money – with him into the new world. Kazuma, provoked by the goddess’ reaction to his death and him as a person, decides to take Aqua with him. It emerges that outside her work Aqua is actually quite unintelligent, and becomes somewhat of a burden on Kazuma. Unable to return to her normal life until the Devil King is defeated, Kazuma and Aqua attempt to build a party of adventurers. The two people who join them – the explosion-obsessed Megumin (far-right) and the masochistic knight Darkness (middle-right) – are just as useless as themselves, and the story follows the hopeful adventurers as they struggle through basic challenges.
This is a series that is very light on story or anything like that. In fact, this might be one of the lightest shows I’ve ever seen. The story is at points similar to a sit-com, where the group will achieve something and then something else will happen which puts them back where they started. At other times it just skips things altogether: for example there’s a point in episode 9 in which Kazuma starts talking to random people, before explaining in a monologue how he met them ‘the other day’. It’s silly – and if we’re being honest, really bad – moments like this that make the story itself almost irrelevant.
However, what this show does have is a smart sense of comedy, and a lot of fun! This is one of few anime shows I’ve seen that doesn’t use a change in drawing style to enhance its comedy. The jokes in this are usually inner-monologues from the leader of the group Kazuma about the incapability of his teammates. It may sound slightly cheap, but in fact it felt a lot cleverer and more sophisticated than the majority of other comedy anime I’ve seen.
This isn’t necessarily an anime you would recommend, but it’s certainly something light that could bridge the gap between one show and the other. Good comedy – and certainly more sensible comedy than you would believe from a glance at this show – does just about enough to paint over what could only be described as obscenely bad storytelling, if it weren’t for this show feeling more like a sit-com than an actual series with a storyline.
If you like this you’ll love: Is it Wrong…? – Almost an identical world and an almost identical idea of a wannabe-adventurer who’s seriously unprepared, assisted by people who should be more prepared but aren’t. The only real difference between the two is that Is it Wrong is more romantically/sexually inclined than Konosuba, and all together more serious. However, these two shows are still incredibly similar, so if you watched Is it Wrong and are still eagerly anticipating season two (like myself) then this is the show for you!
That’s three quite lighthearted and funny series here, with a big focus on being thrown into a new world, and finding new friends. If you could be in one of these three situations – going to an elite school, starting your school-life again or going to another world entirely – what would you choose? Whose feet would you walk in? Let us know!
Make sure you follow The Culture Cove to see the best anime reviews before anybody else! Look out for episode 16 of Anime Pocket Reviews, which will be a SPECIAL looking at the first six episodes of some of the biggest anime airing right now, including Taboo Tatoo, Orange (which we’ve already mentioned previously) and Beserk!
See you next time!