I thought this would be a good time to add to my ”Occasional Okatu” series. Two of these anime are ongoing, and from what I’ve seen so far, well worth watching. There’s also one that was on a while back, and as I recently had the chance to watch it again, I thought I’d pass it along.
First off is the anime that’s already been on, “The Ancient Magus’ Bride” (“Mahoutsukai no Yome” in Japanese). This is an outstanding anime on several levels. The artwork is incredible, the characters are more than two-dimensional cut-outs spouting lines, and the world it builds is quite believable. It is set in England, where Chise Hatori, a Japanese girl, goes to be sold at auction. She does this of her own accord, having been shunned her whole life because she can see the spirits that inhabit the world alongside humans. What she doesn’t know is that she has powers far greater than seeing spirits. She has the power to draw magic both from her surroundings, and the magical spirits she can see. There is a price for this gift. Chise, and those like her, rarely live long due to the strain their powers place on their human body. She is bought by Elias Ainsworth, a huge non-human magician who pays a fortune to possess her and her abilities. This seems a dark set-up for a story, but as the characters move forward, both Chise and Elias begin to change. Chise learns that the world is not as dark as her experiences have lead her to believe. Elias, on the other hand, learns what it is to be human, and what it feels like to care about someone else. This is a 24 episode series, so not something you’re going to knock down in an hour or two. That said, it is worth taking the time to watch.
As far as the two currently-airing anime, I’m not really sure which I like better, so I’ll go alphabetically. “Boogiepop and Others” (“Bugīpoppu wa Warawanai” in Japanese) is a story with more sub-plots than I’ve ever seen in an anime. It is based on an earlier anime, “Boogiepop Phantom” from 2000 that I have tried to watch but couldn’t do due to the truly horrible quality of the animation. The story tells of the urban legend of a mysterious figure dressed in a flowing cloak and a tall, odd hat. Some see this figure as Death personified, while others see it as defending humanity from the evil that stalks us in the shadows. The series opens with Boogiepop’s identity being reveals: she is a manifestation of the personality of a high school girl, an entity that emerges when humanity is in danger. If you like dark fantasies where the distinction between the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’ aren’t clear-cut, this is your cup of tea. The artwork is quite good, the characters are interesting, and I think the premise will be engaging enough to keep you watching.
The last anime is “The Rising of the Shield Hero” (“Tate no Yūsha no Nariagari” in Japanese) a dark take on a classic story line: the hero summoned into a video game like world. In this case, four young men are summoned from different versions of modern Japan to defend a kingdom from an impending wave of disasters. There’s a twist that happens in the first episode, when the title Shield Hero is falsely accused of a crime. Thrown out and denied help, yet expected to do his part in defending the kingdom, he takes matters into his own hands. With his powers limited to defense, he buys a slave to fight for him and begins the process of learning how to fight and operate in his new world. He’s not a complete anti-hero, he treats his slave less like property than as a valued helper, but not all of his actions are quite ‘above bard’. The characters development is good for the genre, the story keeps you watching, and while I’m not a big fan of the animation, it gets the job done.
Unlike some of my past recommendations, all of these anime are available through popular sources like Crunchyroll. Like usual, here are links if you want to watch:
“The Ancient Magus’ Bride” (https://www.crunchyroll.com/the-ancient-magus-bride)
“Boogiepop and Others” (https://www.crunchyroll.com/boogiepop-and-others)
“The Rising of the Shield Hero” (https://www.crunchyroll.com/the-rising-of-the-shield-hero)