First Look: Ayaka

First Glance: Ayaka

Alternative title(s): Ayaka: A Story of Bonds and Wounds
Anime original by Studio Blanc
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Yukito Yanagi had been in foster care for the majority of his young life, but one day he is called back to the group of islands where he spent his early years. There, it is revealed to him that he has particular abilities to fight a type of creature known as a “Mitama,” or “Mitama monster.”

Zigg’s verdict: Shallow Water

I feel like I should like Ayaka more than I do. After all, this is a completely original new story that’s not an awful isekai or a morally bankrupt fetish show. It has decent production values, there’s some not-awful magic effects, and the action seems, if not inspired, at least basically competent. By those standards it’s practically a unicorn, especially in a season that seems largely barren of much else of value.

Thing is though, a story has to be more than the sum total of its component parts, and on that count Ayaka falls apart pretty quickly. There’s a cloying genericism that suffuses the entire production, a sort of underlying dullness which sucks the energy out of anything that might be interesting or novel at first glance. Lead character Yukito is an exceptionally bland loner, while his companion Jingi is trying so hard to be a hip, edgy rebel that it just sinks him deeper into a well of cliche. The monsters seem to be pretty rote yokai-adjacent creatures who are made of nasty CGI, and the setting is an equally familiar pastiche of rural Japan that’s so picture postcard perfect it’s a hairs breadth away from comedy.

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