Sword Art Online is the five million selling light novel series by Reki Kawahara (who also penned Accel World) which, having been dutifully animated, is the disputed front runner for most popular series this season. One of the final things female protagonist Asuna says in the latest (tenth) episode, before the cringe-inducing hokum from male lead Kirito, is that she dreamt of the real world and worried that her time in the titual Sword Art Online, would be lost.
Blood-C received a lot of stick when it aired. Upon announcement of the sequel film Blood-C: The Last Dark, the series was labelled as a nothing more than a twelve episode trailer. It's not entirely unjustified when taken on a plodding, twelve week schedule; in aggregate though the series' strong points shine through safe in the knowledge of the next episode's position on your playlist.
Where have all the young men gone? Sure there are the military men, barely old enough to hold a meaningful rank, but the Strike Witches 2 universe is entirely bereft of any young boys. Perhaps ages six through sixteen are spent in secret training to reduce the number of assaults due to the girls' complete lack of clothing below the waist. Or perhaps the Neuroi, the opaque alien aggressors, are an analogy of male puberty. Regardless, the opening three episodes of this second season start out much as the first and it isn't until the cringeworthy third episode that the uncomfortableness of watching young girls with no lower clothing on suffering through compromising situations sets in. The change of studio from the beleaguered GONZO to AIC Spirits hasn't changed the aesthetics, but it has reduced the crotch shots and increased the piercing light of censorship. Otherwise, for better or worse, the premise and execution are left entirely in tact.
After the events of the first season, the Neuroi were pushed out of Britannia and into Romagna, however as a communication channel was about to be opened with the now humanoid enemy, another force descended to Earth, consuming the all in their path. City after city is razed in this new offensive and entire squadrons of Strike Witches are decimated with the ferocity and volume of attacks. Yoshika meanwhile has graduated from school and is considering what to do next when word of an attack involving her comrade Lynne comes over the radio. The desire to protect her friends is too great, so it is that the 501st reforms to combat this renewed threat.
It comes as quite a surprise that Shukufuku no Campanella is in based on a visual novel rather than an RPG; the hints are remarkably strong with quests, line-dancing combat and job-classes, even the opening scenario seems ripped straight from Chrono Trigger or Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. What lies beyond this superficial resemblance however is a cutesy, pastel coloured romp through a fluffy, high-fantasy world that keeps the conflicts light and the humour inoffensive but with a dash of eye-rolling raciness that remains the only hint of its adult game heritage. Without a stronger narrative to support it, the series relies on its cast which for the first three episodes are entertaining enough, but whether the series can last for twelve episodes on twee intentions is another matter.
Intentional or not, medieval fantasy series always fall under the shadow of Berserk. Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu doesn't do itself any favours by featuring an effeminate, silver haired leader or an desirable, unusually powerful ally. There are certainly other parallels to be drawn but the first three episodes prove wholeheartedly that the series has its priorities straight by focusing first on characters, then on narrative and some way down the list on the mythos-specific idiosyncrasies. In short, it's forging its own path and being thoroughly entertaining while doing it. Its title may be outlandish but the strength of the cast and its willingness not to cower before gore or tragedy means it is a promising start to an intriguing full-length series.
In the kingdom of Roland, ravaged by war and rotten with corrupt nobles, a magical academy that takes in orphans and the children of criminals has two particularly special students. One is Ryner, a slovenly and unmotivated boy who has cursed eyes known as Alpha Stigma which give him immense magical power. The other is the charismatic Sion who was subjected to ferocious bullying while young due to his birth as a bastard child of a noble father and common mother. Now though, he has the support of a shadowy and lethal family of bodyguards as well as the conviction to ascend to the throne with the aim of purging the country of its ruinous ills. Both will be instrumental in the upcoming turmoil - war and civil unrest - and the old legends of powerful demons and heroes may yet play a part in that.