Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka?
- Trailer: Preview trailer
- What it’s about: Gods have come to the world, and have decided to have some fun by running it as an RPG. Through performing heroic tasks and killing monsters in the gigantic labyrinth known only as the Dungeon, their followers gain incredible power, wealth, and status. To date, the goddess Hestia has only managed to attract one person into her Familia – the idealistic young adventurer Bell Cranel. But after a chance dungeon encounter provides Bell with the more concrete goal of becoming as strong as possible as quickly as possible, things begin to change for both of them.
- Why you should watch it: It’s a fun, fast-paced fantasy action show. DanMachi makes the conscious decision to just embrace the tropes of stories like this and run with them, and the result is a polished, charming coming of age story. It manages to balance comedy, action and plot pretty well, and throws in light romantic notes to keep things interesting. The creators have effectively managed to boil down the source material to exactly what’s needed to keep the show moving forward – there’s no wasted space and at least one big “spectacle” scene in every episode. Hestia herself has proven a very popular character, but it’s Bell who carries the show as the naïve but well-meaning (and increasingly bad-ass) protagonist. In short, it’s great light entertainment aimed at a primarily young male audience.
- Caveats: Well, it’s inevitably going to draw comparisons to Sword Art Online, much of them deserved. I do wish that a show about adventure had been a bit more…adventurous with the story it wanted to tell. Still, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to the classic tropes if you can put a new shine on them, and DanMachi pulls that off quite nicely. The harem elements start to grind as Bell picks up an increasingly preposterous set of admirers without realising that a single one of them is interested in him romantically. Critics nit-pick the loss of the detailed stats and explanations; it’s a valid criticism, but I think it managed to strike a nice balance between exposition and leaving some stuff for the source material itself to expand on.
- Themes: Nothing all that ground-breaking – it’s a pretty typical “power of heart” shonen action show, where not giving up is the key to both victory and the hearts of beautiful ladies alike.
- Similar works: Sword Art Online is easily the closest comparison. They even share the same voice actor in the lead role.
A Piece of Phantasmagoria
- Trailer: None that I can find. The episodes are only three minutes each, though, so a trailer seems a bit redundant.
- What it’s about: The world of Phantasmagoria exists only in dreams, populated by a bizarre set of groups and individuals. Each episode provides a small glimpse into a different section of the world, steadily assembling a picture of a strange world of interconnected and bizarre locations. From a town made of bread to a sea of glass, from a factory converting rainbows into paint to the movie projector that overlays the stars into the night sky, the inhabitants of Phantasmagoria interact in unusual and unpredictable ways with the place they call home.
- Why you should watch it: It’s a sedate, dreamlike series of shorts. Bedtime stories, really. The calm narration, the surreal but peaceful people and events, even the simplistic visuals and sound design all seem to come together to present something truly unique. This is a pretty classic take on animation. It’s imaginative, it’s weird, and it’s wonderful. It’s not really a show to binge through, though. Just take an episode or two at a time before bed or when you feel the need to calm down a bit.
- Caveats: The show has very, very crude animation even for its time, and it looks even worse in comparison to the slick presentation of the average show today. It’s also quite hard to find a legal subtitled copy of the series, though there are always certain places on the web that will have it available.
- Similar works: Bartender has a very similar feel to this show. As does Mushishi, to a lesser extent. Outside of anime, take a look at Salvador Dali’s Destino.
Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru
- Trailer:Note that the promotional materials for this show were created to be deliberately misleading, painting it as a simple Slice of Life show. Nonetheless, here’s the official preview trailer
- What it’s about: Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero. That is, she’s a proud member of her middle-school Hero Club, and she spends her days helping others with tasks great and small. As it turns out, however, the club is a front. It’s an excuse to gather together girls with the potential to use Holy Magic in defense of the world against the alien Vertex threat. This looks like a dream come true for the valiant Yuuki, but nobody seems to be able to give a straight answer about the details of the threat they face.
- Why you should watch it: The show is quite explicitly modeled after the hugely successful and influential Mahou Shoujo “deconstruction” Madoka Magica – just look at the character designs and colour schemes and you’ll get a good idea of the roles each of the girls are going to play in the show. That said, the series takes its own path, spending a great deal more time developing its characters and showing them living their lives, and all the while the audience waits for the other shoe to drop. The audience gets a sense that something is off, something is wrong, but without anything specific to put a finger on. This tension is maintained marvelously. The show slowly builds upon itself, reaching a crescendo, allowing for all of the built up emotion and uneasy feeling to spill over. The result is a consistent ride of trepidation that never lets up.Backing this up is some seriously gorgeous artwork for the “battleground” world and an energetic soundtrack that keeps up handily with the action set pieces.
- Caveats: First off, this is unapologetically a Mahou Shoujo series, complete with fan-servicey transformation scenes and butt-kicking middle school girls. What “twists” there are are also spread across the whole series, so you’re going to be spending a great deal of time watching general Slice of Life scenes with the characters interacting in a relatively normal middle school environment.
- Themes: Sacrifice and altruism, friendship and family. Power comes with a price, but that price is worth paying to protect those you care about. As the show explicitly states, anything is possible if you try hard enough with your friends.
- Similar works: Madoka Magica, Selector Infected WIXOSS.