The Summer 2018 anime season is underway, and there are a lot of new shows to choose from. Let's take a look at a few of the series on offer.
Gang leader Ash Lynx has been brought up to inherit Papa Dino's crime empire, but he has more important things in mind. He has to find out what the mysterious "banana fish" his traumatized brother keeps talking about is, and he has to see where meeting Eiji Okamura, a photographer from Japan, takes him. But will Ash be able to pursue his goals in peace? Unlikely.
The Good: The first good thing about Banana Fish is that it's Banana Fish. Personally, I was
too busy rereading Fruits Basket 87 times in a row to read the whole thing back in high school, but my best friend adored this manga, so I've always a soft spot for it. It takes place in New York City, my home town, and it's a relatively faithful depiction so far. The premise is gripping - in the first episode alone, we're introduced not only to Ash's gang activity, but to his relationship with a brother suffering from PTSD, the mystery of the banana fish, and the other important character, Eiji. Finally, the anime managed to avoid the regrettable tendency of the 1980's manga to depict black characters with offensively exaggerated donut lips - now, the black characters are drawn respectfully.
The Bad: There's a lot of casual homophobia in the first episode. While Ash and Eiji do develop a romantic relationship in the manga, so far the only explicitly gay character is Dino's lackey, who goes after a teenage boy instead of approaching men his own age. All the characters use derogatory language when talking about homosexuality in general - it's seen as a perversion, not a normal state of being. Whether or not the series is actually homophobic rather than just depicting homophobia can't be determined just yet.
Free! Dive To The Future
In the third season of Free!, the seniors embark on their post high school lives, and the younger characters continue the Iwatobi Swim Club.
The Good: The third season of Free! seems to be picking up where its predecessors left off, mixing gorgeous animation and dedication to one's sport with emotion-based character development. In this episode, we get to see the seniors begin their post high school lives, which is fascinating. In sports anime, seniors usually fade into the background to make way for the incoming team, and it's rare to hear from them again in any detail. Free!'s selling points are its characters, not the outcomes for any particular team. The creators know this, and use it to their full advantage.
The Bad: Free! Dive To The Future is really an anime for fans who are acquainted with the entire Free! franchise. If you haven't read the light novels or seen the spin-off movies, you're going to have trouble keeping up with this first episode, because it doesn't explain what it's already covered elsewhere. So, if you've only seen Free! Iwatobi Swim Club and Free! Eternal Summer, you may want to check out the supplementary material before diving into this one.
Also - the fact that Makoto and Haru aren't roommates is stupid. They're moving from a tiny fishing town to one of the most expensive cities in the world. Why are they paying for separate housing? Obviously, it's to avoid confirming that they're a couple, but it just doesn't make logistical or financial sense regardless of their relationship status.
Ayano Hanesaki is a genius badminton player who has given up on her sport. When she meets the serious Nagisa Aragaki, she finds herself being sucked back into the world of badminton.
The Good: So far, Hanebado doesn't seem to be taking the fan service route, which is a huge relief. Sports anime focused on female characters is often more about cutesy, moe-inducing faces and jiggling boobs than it is about actual athletic ambition or character development. It's nice that Hanebado seems to be taking its heroines seriously so far.
The Bad: The problem with the first episode of Hanebado is that so far, most of the emotions feel unearned. Nagisa and Ayano clearly have some deeply held feelings about badminton, but there aren't enough hints as to what that might be. While the first episode isn't required to reveal this information in full, the fact that viewers know almost nothing makes it hard to take the overwrought emotions seriously. Rather than arousing curiosity or sympathy, the drama comes off as maudlin.
Cells At Work
Cells At Work is kind of like the anime version of Osmosis Jones. It follows a spunky red blood cell trying to get used to her new job bringing nutrients to different parts of the body. As she tries to complete her duties, she learns about the dangers and delights that exist in the world of cells.
The Good: When I first found out that Cells At Work was being made into an anime, I was so excited I screamed. I love the manga, and I love the concept - thankfully, the execution is wonderful. The characters are quirky and fun while still retaining a connection to the biological concepts they represent. The art is cheerful and vibrant despite the gory premise. So far, it's a total delight.
The Bad: My only quibble is that I wish that some of the White Blood Cells were female-coded. It's a little disheartening to have all the tough warrior characters be male, while many of the more docile characters are female. That being said, the series has only just begun, and it's entirely possible that there were be more badass female-coded cells as time goes on.
Happy Sugar Life
Satou Matsuzaka has fallen in love with a young girl named Shio, and she'll do anything to protect that feeling - even if it means having to kill someone.
The Good: This anime forces you to empathize with a young woman who is incapable of feeling love for anyone besides the small child who she appears to have abducted. It's an intense anime that combines cutesy imagery with dark material in a way that's oddly compelling. MyAnimeList calls the series a "shivering pure love psycho horror story" which implies that things are about to get a lot darker, fast.
The Bad: Satou's mind is an uncomfortable space to try and occupy, even for a twenty minute episode. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - depending on how the story is told from here on out, it could be a fascinating thrill ride you can't look away from, but it could also be horrifying and gross. A lot depends both on what kind of love Satou is truly feeling for Shio, and how the narrative treats that love. If Happy Sugar Life starts glorifying the relationship, I'm dropping the series, but I'm trying to stay optimistic.
If you want to check out our thoughts on some of the season's other offerings, check out Ashley's ratings. Do you agree with our ratings? Let us know!