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Fall 2015: First Impressions October 2, 2015

Posted by navycherub in Anime, first impressions.
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Last updated: October 8th – Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon, Beautiful Bones -Sakurako’s Investigation-, Dance with Devils

As you probably know, every season there is a veritable deluge of new anime to choose from. As you probably also know, most of these shows are not worth your time. This has not stopped me, however, from watching just about everything I could reasonably get my hands on since the introduction of Power Ranks on this very blog inadvertently gave me possibly the worst habit of all time.

The bright side is that my bad habit is to your benefit, and I can sift through every single new premiere and let you know if I think they are worth checking our or not. As you’ll see, that will come in the form of a couple paragraphs and a dreaded score. Fear not, though – these scores are more like guides, and each one has a basic meaning attached as follows:

  • 1/5 : I found nothing salvageable about this show. Even if you are a fan of the genre, the studio, or the writer, it is probably in your best interest to give it a skip.
  • 2/5 : At the most, a genre recommendation. There probably isn’t anything special or exciting here, so it is easily skippable, but if you really like shows like this you might give it a shot anyway.
  • 3/5 : Solid attempt at whatever this show is trying to do. Very little or nothing outstanding can be found in this show so far, but it has established a solid base that a decent show can be built from.
  • 4/5 : Great premiere. Captures your attention, keeps it, has the requisite hooks that make you want to come back for more next week. The only reason I can see you not trying this out is if you absolutely hate the genre or something similar.
  • 5/5 : Watch this now. There are little or no missteps whatsoever to be found here; load this show up right now and bask in the glory of what is surely the beginnings of something magical.

Pretty simple, right? So with that in mind, let’s jump into these shows.


*New* Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon

2/5

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Also known as: Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai

There are a lot of shows like Anti-Magic Academy this season, but I don’t think any of them are executed nearly as well as Anti-Magic Academy is. All of the genre trappings are there: the overpowered main character, the inexplicable lack of male friends, the fanservice scenes involving bunny suits and impossible accidental boob grabs. These things are surprisingly few and far between, though; the real meat of the show comes from the action. The platoon gains a new member and we are immediately given an infiltration mission, in which we get to see what all the team members have to offer. Naturally, they are mostly incompetent, but the show is very much in on the joke and plays that off in a lighthearted and fun to watch way. The action itself is really cool, though; when protagonist Takeru cut a bullet in half with his sword, the slow-down and general execution of that scene actually got me a little excited. It isn’t a smart show, but it knows how to have fun and keep the energy up.

That’s what makes it so watchable, really. Where the writing could have taken the lazy and boring route of having the characters talk to the camera about their jobs, the world they are in, and so on, Anti-Magic Academy chooses to just show you it all. It becomes much more engaging than its siblings simply by actually having things happen, having the characters interact and have clearly stated goals. It certainly isn’t smart or innovative writing, but at least it is writing, as opposed to an animated encyclopedia about a world that doesn’t actually exist. There isn’t anything here to recommend to someone who knows they are not fans of this general premise, but if you are, then this show seems to stand at the top of the trashcan.


The Asterisk War

2/5

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Also known as: Gakusen Toshi Asterisk

After watching The Asterisk War I decided to take a walk to 7-11 and buy myself a Slurpee. On the walk I couldn’t stop thinking about what I just watched and how similar it was to so many other things I’ve watched over the past weekend or so. Exposition, boobs, and maybe some action – they are all the same thing with different flavoring. What really sticks out, though, is how none of them feel the need to give the viewer a hook, any reason at all to stick around for the next episode. Maybe I’m wrong – I’m sure there are people out there who would watch these premieres and be absolutely blown away by a half hour of the basic premise of the show being explained to them via long dialogues between characters who shouldn’t have to tell each other these things. However, I also think that’s really silly, because if that’s all it takes, a synopsis serves the exact same function without the tedium and in much less time.

Anyway, the conclusion I came to was more like a question, a hypothesis, but it’s a conclusion of sorts all the same – are these light novel adaptations why the “three episode rule” is so popular, or at least prevalent in our collective minds? Is it because of these shows that don’t feel the need or desire to actually do anything in the first episode or two that force us to watch three episodes or so just to find out what a show will really be like? I mean, I don’t expect the premiere of a show to have everything that the show will eventually become, but to have nothing is kind of ridiculous, right? I’ve also seen people say it is because they expect most of their fanbase to have already read the books and not need to be sold on the show, but that also makes no sense, because if the viewer already knows the ins and outs of the story, why would they need the first episode to spell out the synopsis you can find on the back of a book?

Anyway, The Asterisk War. As I said in so many words, nothing really happens in this episode. They tell us about the six schools that compete every year, and the main character’s school hasn’t been successful in a long time. If this means there is a tournament setup or something like that, I wouldn’t mind it at all; shows like this need structure or else they tend to fall apart for having too many ideas and not enough time or competence to execute them. I’m up for that. There really isn’t anything else to say.


*New* Beautiful Bones -Sakurako’s Investigation-

2/5

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Also known as: Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru

Sakurako has a little obsession with bones. A really big one, actually – she spends all her days thinking about, playing with, and finding bones for her collection. She doesn’t seem to work, nor need to, so she has all the time in the world to pursue her strange pastime. This has also stunted her maturity, though, which comes through when we see her throw tantrums and talk back to the police. Luckily she has Shoutarou, a completely normal high school kid who is friends with Sakurako for an as-of-yet unexplained reason. Shoutarou has been around her long enough to keep her under relative control, even if that means a little pepper spray every once in a while.

Together, these two spend the premiere episode of Beautiful Bones mostly helping the police solve a mystery surrounding two dead bodies in an apparent double suicide. Sakurako’s knowledge of bones and such is fairly interesting, but presented almost exclusively through long monologues, which just isn’t very engaging. Also, the police just let Sakurako do whatever she wants, whenever she wants. She makes one officer stop his car in the middle of the street, and she inspects the crime scene however she likes while all the police around her are decked out in masks and hair nets. It is a little silly to watch that contrast – clearly thought was put into portraying the police approaching a crime scene appropriately, but it all becomes kind of pointless when Sakurako waltzes in without any regard for procedure. I wouldn’t put it too out of the realm of possibility that the police have a favorable relationship with her – her skills are obviously very useful to their line of work – but the way they reacted to her at the station doesn’t lend much credibility to that idea.

Beautiful Bones also has a tone problem, in both its narrative and its visuals. The show carries itself very seriously, thanks mostly to Shoutarou’s narration. The actual content doesn’t earn that, though – it is pretty straightforward eccentric detective stuff, not a heavy drama. More noticeable, though, is the visuals. The background art is actually really nice, and the character designs are, too (they remind me of Natsume Yuujinchou, though it isn’t actually related). Somewhere along the line, though, the animators found out about filters and subsequently went nuts. Filters are everywhere, almost constantly, making scenes where they are involved frequently hard to look at. Sometimes it does look legitimately nice, but too often the filters just go overboard.

It’s not all bad, though. Beautiful Bones has the potential to grow from here and become an interesting show. The relationship between Shoutarou and Sakurako already has some chemistry, which is really important to this kind of show, even if Sakurako is a giant baby. I am interested in seeing if it can become more than the sum of its parts, or if it will stay in a comfortable middle.


Comet Lucifer

3/5

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Also known as: Eureka Seven

There’s a boy. The boy does some small job, but he has a larger destiny to fulfill. The boy accidentally finds himself in the midst of a plot much larger than he is, and we will follow his journey as he is forced to grow up, make big decisions, and find a magical girlfriend along the way. Maybe right away.

We’ve all heard this story before, and we’re going to continue hearing it for a long time. That isn’t really a bad thing, because it’s a pretty universal feeling – everybody goes through puberty, everybody grows up (well, physically at least). Watching it happen in the span of 26-52 episodes elicits nostalgia and by the end it is pretty difficult to have written a story that doesn’t feel, at the very least, complete. So far, Comet Lucifer has done its job at hitting all the early beats that define a coming-of-age slash adventure story. It even has some of the better CG I’ve seen in anime in a while – the mechs blend pretty nicely with their 2D surroundings.

I suppose the reason I wasn’t wowed by it is because it did everything on the checklist (the boy, the magic girlfriend, the mecha, the weirdly specific hobby, the future world, the big organization with ~goals~), but it also didn’t really promise anything special. It hasn’t differentiated itself at all from all the similar stories that came before it. That’s OK for now; the show still has time to stretch its limbs and show what it has to offer. Heck, it’s also probably OK if it doesn’t do anything special, because it is pretty good at executing the basic idea it wants to weave. That’s why I’m not really hung up about this by-the-books premiere, but also why I’m not really ecstatic about seeing more.

If you are shopping for a nice coming-of-age story told competently and without frills. Comet Lucifer has exactly what you’re looking for. Otherwise, though, you might just want to wait a few weeks and ask around about if it ever became something greater.


Concrete Revolutio

3/5

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Also known as: Concrete Revolutio: Choujin Gensou

Good news! Screenwriter Shou Aikawa and director Seiji Mizushima are back together again for another ambitious original anime project! Bad (?) news: it is kind of a mess right now!

Concrete Revolutio feels about as incomplete as the second word in its title. In a world where a war happened, and also there are superheroes, there also need to be people who help out those superheroes. Or eliminate them! It depends I guess. For this purpose, they have established an organization, the Overpopulation Research Laboratory, better known as the Superhuman Bureau. Our main character Jirou is a member of the Superhuman Bureau, and he does a lot of things in this premiere. Like, turn into a giant robot, or something?

To be honest, this show is really hard to follow, but by the end I think you realize the details don’t matter. At least, they don’t matter yet. As it stands, the story of a government organization protecting/researching/eliminating superhumans is actually a pretty simple one, and everything that happens basically plays to that simple goal. There’s a lot of other stuff going on, like the general plot of the episode about a scientist and an alien and saving the next ten years of science, but none if it matters except to get the show from one ridiculous bulletpoint to the next. We also get some flash forwards about the main two characters in the (near?) future, but it’s hard to care about that right now because we literally know nothing about these people yet.

I’m still kind of excited, though. The general feel of the show is a lot like Blood Blockade Battlefront; stylish, but with even more breakneck pacing and stuffing of ideas than that show’s premiere. Also, the plot is a confusing mess and I can’t really tell what the point of anything is, but I felt the same way at the beginning of the same pair’s mystery anime Un-Go and came out of that one with a show I still really, really like, because it came together really well. However, that works both ways – Star Driver and Captain Earth were both plot alphabet soup, but only Star Driver ended up having enough substance to be worth it, while Captain Earth never even got off the ground.

Yeah, that’s a lot of comparisons, but right now that is also the easiest way to parse my feelings about Concrete Revolutio. What it really needs to do now is slow its roll and establish a voice and identity for itself and prove it isn’t a whole lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. I’m rooting for you, Concrete Revolutio.


*New* Dance with Devils

3/5

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Also known as: Reverse Harems Are Saved

I was starting to get pretty worried for the state of reverse harems this season. No one really like Diabolik Lovers, we just watch it because it is hard to look away. STARMYU doesn’t actually have a female lead, but I was ready to take it as close enough until it disappointed me. Osomatsu-san was fun for an episode but that is clearly not the direction the show is actually going. Dance with Devils seemed to be the last bastion of this oft-neglected genre, and despite my fears, I’m happy to say this is a show I can get behind.

We should start with the biggest distinguishing part of Dance with Devils, the thing that I think you’ll see people talking about for at least a couple days – the musical numbers. That’s right. Unlike STARMYU, which plays faux-musical with its spontaneous song and dance numbers, Dance with Devils doesn’t play around with its fun little gimmick. The show is unafraid of letting its characters break into song when it feels the mood is right, and the songs themselves seem to play a number of roles, from world-building to character development to just getting the stuff you know is coming out of the way in as amusing a manner as possible. In other words, all the kinds of songs you would expect from a Broadway musical, defining character motivations and so on. The songs themselves are actually a bit short, at least in the show – about a minute each – but they do their jobs well, and I’m sure if the show catches on they will sell plenty of CDs.

The cast of boys is also relatively small, which I also appreciate a lot; there are only four here, not counting the main character’s maybe-brother. The show is also not at all restricted by a school setting in terms of character design, at least so far – they are all wearing uniforms, but they are so different they might as well be wearing anything. They don’t actually have very distinctive personalities yet, but that’s not too much of an issue since this is only the premiere and the focus seemed to be on the main character and her family.

That said, the plot isn’t actually very interesting, not yet anyway. There is stuff about devil worshipers, including the boys who may also be devils who worship devils or some nonsense, and a group of people who want to attain the forbidden grimoire, which apparently no one has ever seen. I found myself wondering how anyone knows it exists if no one has ever seen it, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is, Dance with Devils appears to be not only competent at its basic job but also comes with a neat little extra in being a musical. If you’ve been looking for a reverse harem guilty pleasure show to watch this season, here’s your gem.


Fafner Exodus (2nd Season)

2/5

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Also known as: Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor – Exodus 2nd Season

Fafner is back once again, and it jumps in right away as if it had never left. Heck, Crunchyroll lists it as episode 14 of Exodus, so maybe this was even by design. Honestly, if you have gotten this far into the now-extensive Fafner franchise, you probably don’t need someone to tell you whether or not you should keep going.

I’m still going to do that, though, and I’m happy to report that this new cour of Fafner Exodus takes the show in a pretty different place than it has ever gone before – literally, too. Soushi, Kazuki, and all their unfortunate friends are out and about defending themselves from the Mir, depicted in the typical CG, competently-choreographed battles we have grown accustomed to. We also get to see plenty of what has come to be my personal favorite part of Fafner here, too – the citizens of Tatsumiya spending their down time appreciating the brief peace and their company. There are, of course, political and military machinations happening in small bits throughout the episode, but for the most part, this premiere is actually a pretty peaceful affair.

The end of the episode does bring some hints to where the plot will go from here, though – specifically, Soushi explains his connection to the Mir, the Festum, and how they can potentially use their contacts like him to figure out a way to end the conflict. That scene is capped off by a humorous attempt by Soushi to explain things in highly technical terms, find out he simply can’t be understood that way, and summarize his feelings in a much more down to Earth and reasonable way. This stuff was also discussed a lot in the last season, so hopefully there are also concrete plans in the writers’ heads as to how this story could play out to an actual ending.

Just kidding. Fafner will never end.


The File of Young Kindaichi Returns

2/5

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Also known as: Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo Returns 2nd Season

This second season was announced a little while ago but it is still a bit of a surprise to me. The Kindaichi franchise is fairly popular in Japan, but the manga is essentially not translated at all and no one seemed to care when The File of Young Kindaichi Returns came out last year. Not that this was much of a surprise to me; Kindaichi isn’t a particularly exciting show, despite being a mystery show in the same vein as the generally more engaging Conan franchise. It doesn’t help that it seems as minimally animated as possible, and the mysteries themselves aren’t very frequently interesting enough to warrant the three or four episodes they typically span.

None of this really seems to have changed in this sequel of sorts. We start right off the bat with a case in Hong Kong featuring Hell’s Puppeteer, the eternal archenemy of our hero Hajime. That is promising already, because it always feels more meaningful when an arc features the main villain of the series; he really is imposing in a mysterious way. I also really like how the series is frequently willing to leave Japan, so I am all for the Hong Kong setting. Also, the first suspect this time is Hajime himself (!), meaning that he will probably have to work overtime to solve this case.

However, all of this is kind of undermined by a few problems that all have persisted from the previous show. The anime just about never carries itself with any feeling of urgency, even as Hajime is going around committing crimes. The animation is partially to blame for this, but it also has to do with the uneven pacing and lackluster voice acting. No one seems to care, from the staff to the characters. There is also the issue of this case involving hypnotism of some sort, which is really lame. Kindaichi doesn’t frequently dip its toes in supernatural waters, and it is disappointing when a who-dun-it resorts to it. That being said, one of the best and most memorable mysteries from last season involved an “alchemist” whose antics were all explained in a creative and interesting way, so maybe there are grander plans in store for this story. Then again, we did just see Hajime stab a guy, so who knows.

As a jumping in point, you could start here if you really wanted to. There isn’t any pressing overarching story you’d be missing, and Hajime’s rivalry with Hell’s Puppeteer is always freshly reintroduced when he shows up. However, I also can’t highly recommend the show itself in the first place unless you have a mystery itch you want to scratch. In any case, don’t forget the previous season of Kindaichi Returns is still up there on Crunchyroll if you want to give it a go.


HAIKYUU!! 2nd Season

4/5

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Also known as: VOLLEYBALL??

If anything is salvageable this season, it seems to be the sequels. Haikyuu!! is especially successful if only because it jumps right into the thick of things; there is very little reintroduction to be found here, outside of some very cute scenes at the beginning showing us how the characters have matured and come to understand each other much better over time. This doesn’t last too long, though, as their coach quickly comes to the team with an announcement: they can go to Tokyo for a training camp involving practice games against some of the best teams Japan has to offer. That is, if they can pass their exams first.

It’s a solid setup – Haikyuu!! has never really shied away from letting its main characters experience failure, but a training camp and practice games will inevitably let us see a lot more flexibility in that front and more. Karasuno will even be able to play against a college team, which is also established really well in this episode, as Hinata and Kageyama visit the school of the team they will be playing against. That sequence is also really nice in a very Haikyuu!! way; seeing Hinata freak out about how large the school is (“it’s so big they need signs!”) is pretty adorable. There is also a confrontation with a member of the team, which involves goofy soil metaphors and alternatively creepy and hilarious faces once again on the part of Hinata and Kageyama. As they leave the campus, our heroes only grow more determined after their verbal beatdown of sorts, pledging to become strong enough to beat the team that beat the team that beat them.

If that last line sounded a little silly, it’s mostly because sports anime tropes are a little silly. Haikyuu!! owns up to that and strives to execute them with a certain sense of self-awareness that makes it not just palatable, but straight up enjoyable. I talked a lot about how the plot is going in a good direction, but the animation and feel of the show is just as good as the first season so far, too. We haven’t even gotten to any intense games where the animation really shines, either. If you haven’t seen the first season of Haikyuu!! and have any interest in it, I recommend getting to that soon – now’s a great time to be into the show.


Heavy Object

2/5

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Also known as: While You Wait for GATE…

The premiere of this anime from the writer of A Certain Magical Index sure has a lot of words, but astonishingly little to actually say. Heavy Object is piled high with exposition from the beginning to the much anticipated end – we learn a little bit about the world this story takes place in, and more than you might have ever wanted to know about its fictional war machine, the titular Object.

From what I could gather, it is the future, but war hasn’t gone away, even though rich people are even more rich than they were before. Who knew! We don’t actually see much war, though. Why? Well, because of the Object, of course; the Object, developed by Japan a certain island nation, is the ultimate war machine, capable of surviving ridiculous amounts of pain. It has even come to the point that war is essentially only played out between Objects, so if you’re not piloting an Object you basically don’t do anything. This is actually where our main characters come in; we find them shoveling snow, so bored with their lives that they have a discussion explaining all of this even though they both clearly already know this stuff.

This constant exposition about Objects takes up essentially the entire episode, but Heavy Object does have at least one other pressing concern – the boobs! Right from the get-go, while the two male leads discuss the same things I assume they talk about every day, we get flashes of the heroine showering for no particular reason. Later, the main character and heroine meet, and the heroine is wearing a skin-tight suit in the freezing cold, giving the main character a chance to monologue in length about her body. Finally, while the heroine is being strangled to death, the main character finds himself with the ultimate moral dilemma – save her life, or avoid tarnishing her virginal body? Compelling stuff.

The end of the episode flashes forward a bit, showing us a conflict that our heroes will soon be thrown into, which already sounds way more interesting than literally anything that happened in this episode. I can’t say that this premiere did anything to make me care about their potential fates, or even have any confidence that the writing in the show could actually handle drama, though.


Lance N’ Masques

2/5

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Also known as: White Knight: The Animation

In the opening scene to the first of many light novel adaptations this season, a small girl named Makio attempts to complete some sort of Ninja Warrior-style obstacle course for reasons that remain unexplained. I assume she is simply bored and the experience of living has already grown dull for her despite her age. This almost ends in tragedy, as she falls off the side of a cliff while climbing up it without any sort of safety measures in place, because she is a child and her brain probably hasn’t developed enough to have thought that far ahead. She is promptly saved, though, by our main character Yotaro.

The experience of watching Lance N’ Masques can be summed up pretty well by the simple image of Makio falling and Yotaro catching her – if this sounds like a few dozen anime you’ve seen before, you aren’t wrong. The hero Yotaro is the usual self-sacrificing heroine savior. The show even goes as far as to make fun of itself by having Yotaro lament his “white knight syndrome”, and we are shown at least one instance of him saving a girl but ending up scared of him as he goes into creepy savior-mode after rescuing her. That doesn’t last too long, though; we are quickly introduced to at least two girls who like him well enough. The previously mentioned Makio is immediately smitten with Yotaro’s hero form, presumably because she is only a child and later is shown to have an obsession with heroes in general (dubbing him “Knight Lancer” because, well, he is a knight who uses a lance). She likes Yotaro himself, too, despite not knowing he is her hero, simply because he is willing to talk to her. The other girl is Alice, who we know nothing about so far except for that she really likes Yotaro and has a horse named Shirohime who may or may not also be some sort of horse-girl. The setup writes itself and is as compelling as one might expect from a show like this – there isn’t any particular reason these girls like Yotaro so much, they just do because they need to for the rest of the plot to move forward.

It doesn’t stop there, though – Yotaro himself is already hinted at having some sort of grand destiny to fulfill. His father, for example, is a famous knight who was the once-in-100-years knight to be chosen by the lance Rhongomyniad (say that five times fast). He also has some sort of flashback/dream sequences involving his dad telling him that he needs to become a strong knight in order to “protect the princess”; the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I guess. All of this is, once again, just the setup for the fantasy plot to eventually happen while also not feeling like it came from nowhere.

Really, there is nothing offensively bad about Lance N’ Masques. It plays out exactly how you expect it to, and it does so with minimal winks or nudges suggesting that it is actually bigger than it seems on the surface. If the basic premise of this show sounds anything like something you can tolerate, you might even like it – just don’t expect anything more than that.


Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans

5/5

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Also known as: Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans

Of all the premieres that I have watched so far, I don’t think it would be unfair to say that Iron-Blooded Orphans has the most confidence in itself. We jump right into the world of the show – we see the titular orphans going about their normal routines, protests for the cause of Mars’ autonomy, and a princess who is in over her head right from the get-go. All of this is presented naturally, and most of the work of piecing it all together is essentially left up to the viewer; of course, it is hardly work at all, because Iron-Blooded Orphans presents itself in an active, straightforward way that invites the viewer to care enough in the first place.

It does that through what essentially amounts to a series of natural feeling conversations that lend themselves to exposition and character development at the same time. Not to say there are absolutely no “as you know…” moments in the episode, but when they come up they are used for a greater purpose than simply explaining the setting to you. Just as an example, McGillis and his Garma-looking buddy talk for a bit about how it is possible for the ship they are in to work, and how they are able to live in space. This could have just been a weird out-of-place setpiece that only existed so we would know about this technology, but the conversation takes a more meaningful turn as McGillis waxes philosophical about the allure of power. Such a simple yet elegant dialogue decision manages to tell us more about McGillis’ goals and motivations than entire episodes of other shows this season have done for any of their characters. It’s so satisfying to watch a show that knows exactly what it wants to do and has the competence to actually do it.

Of course, it is a Gundam premiere, so there is some action at the end, too. Wonderfully animated and choreographed animation, I might add – seeing the orphans dash around in their weird Ghost in the Shell tanks is really entertaining. That’s not all, though. Just like the dialogue and interactions earlier in the show, this battle does a lot of legwork in proving to us that the orphans know and trust each other. From the signal flares to the land mines to even just the straight up action, the battle’s twists and turns are essentially all dictated by how well the orphans work together as a team, a family of sorts. Once again, I am left completely satisfied because Iron-Blooded Orphans uses its time so surgically efficiently. Hardly a moment is ever wasted, because telling the story is so important and ingrained in every decision the show makes.

At the end of the episode, we see the Barbatos come out and smash the living hell out of an enemy machine. It’s an incredibly short but visceral scene, and in a weaker show it would have been the moment that grabs my interest and makes me come back for more next week. In Iron-Blooded Orphans, though, it’s par for the course, because there isn’t really a moment in the episode where I wasn’t utterly engaged by what was going on. I am truly excited to see what comes next, and even if the rest of the anime is terrible, this episode would still stand out as a prime example of how to do a premiere totally and completely right. Heck, I think I’m just gonna go watch it again.


Mr. Osomatsu

4/5

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Also known as: Osomatsu-san

In the 60’s, the “Gag Manga King” Fujio Akatsuka began his comedy manga serial Osomatsu-kun. Osomatsu-kun was a comic about completely identical sextuplets, the oldest of which (and also the leader) being Osomatsu himself. Because the characters all look exactly the same, they each had a quirk or catchphrase to identify them by, and from there the manga played out with that basic premise being the core that held everything together. It has also gotten two anime adaptations over the years.

Well, two, until this came out. Osomatsu-san brings the six brothers and all the other characters from Osomatsu-kun back to the TV screen, which they are all very happy about. However, they are also pretty aware that their style of humor probably wouldn’t garner them much popularity in this day and age. The rest of the episode plays out from there, as all of the characters have wildly different ideas about how they can update themselves and become more popular with modern audiences. Of course, all of these ideas are simply complete ripoffs of other popular anime from recent times, ranging from Uta no Prince-sama to Kuroko no Basuke to, naturally, Attack on Titan.

About halfway through the seemingly endless series of parodies, it started to grow dull – reference humor isn’t usually worth much more than the initial feeling of “oh hey, I know that!” and the next step of putting what you know in a bizarrely different situation is also only fleetingly humorous. Seeing a man dressed as Love Live‘s Honoka taking down the Colossal Titan is amusing but not for very long. Luckily, Osomatsu-san also seems to know this; the number and level of absurdity of the parodies grows ridiculously fast, eventually becoming a joke about parodies rather than a parody joke as it began. There is a certain sense of assurance in that, and my fatigue over the parody overload was quickly overwritten by laughter again.

Without spoiling too much (because the show is good, and you should watch it), the end of the episode serves a similar function that the parody-of-parodies joke did; we are promised what seems like a show all its own come next week, and it looks to be a very good time. Honestly, without that promise, I wouldn’t have come out of the episode with as much hope for Osomatsu-san‘s future as I have now, but it seems like the writers of this hilarious reboot have it all under control.


Noragami Aragoto

3/5

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Also known as: Noragami Season 2

It’s been a little while since we’ve seen Hiyori and her strange friends, and Noragami Aragoto seems to know that, perhaps too well. The first episode of this new season goes almost all-in on reintroducing the characters and concepts from the first season. We start by seeing Yato and Yukine desperately trying to find odd jobs, as usual. Hiyori goes to school and talks with her friends about normal things like entrance exams before accidentally slipping out of her body, as usual. The gang ends up encountering and defeating a phantom, as usual. Finally, they find some rest and relative peace while hanging out with their extended cast of friends, as usual. We even get unapologetic repeats of jokes like Yato telling us about his grand plan to become rich enough for a shrine, while also wasting his money on frivolous things in a failed attempt to speed up the process.

This isn’t necessarily all bad. It is very amusing to see Yato get a babysitting job for a very tired mother; it’s a slightly different side of Yato than we usually get to see, and a big part of the appeal of the odd job setup in Noragami is getting to see the characters in a bunch of very different but mundane situations. This also involves an adorable sequence where Yato teaches Yukine how to properly handle a baby, while Hiyori looks on, before a phantom inevitably appears to ruin everyone’s time. From there we get a cool phantom battle sequence filled with the nice colors and fluid animation we have come to expect from Noragami.

The end of the fight – and at least some part of the episode – does start to set up what seems to be the larger plot of this season. Bishamon, the god of combat, has a bone to pick with Yato; the beginning of the episode hints at some sort of bad blood between the two thanks to events from the past. We don’t get that as much, though – instead we get to see Bishamon going about her daily routine, saving spirits from phantoms and enlisting them as regalia. Bishamon has contracted too many regalia though, and she is growing weak and ill from the stress. Meanwhile, the naturally rebellious Yukine is starting to look toward Bishamon as Yato tells him to stay away, and Yukine is starting to grow impatient with Yato because Yato hasn’t made any progress in fixing her human body. The characters can’t tell, but the viewers can clearly see that Yato is simply scared of losing his friends – Yukine to Bishamon, Hiyori to the human world.

Conflicts and potential are abound as Noragami enters its second season. This wasn’t a spectacular episode, but the original show was strong enough and the seeds sown here are interesting enough to make me suspect Noragami Aragoto will be exactly what fans would have wanted from a sequel.


One-Punch Man

5/5

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Also known as: holy shit

In a stunning turn of events that probably surprised no one paying attention, One-Punch Man is here and it is amazing. If you’re familiar with the franchise, go watch the first episode right now – you won’t be disappointed. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple years, the premise is pretty simple. Saitama is the titular One Punch Man, and can do exactly as the title says – beat any evil monster that might show up with just one punch. He is, pretty naturally, really bored now because nothing is a challenge, and feels a sense of loss as a result.

The rest of the show plays out after establishing this idea, so I’m not going to spoil it here. The more important part is, it’s super entertaining stuff, and this adaptation is lovingly crafted from top to bottom. Sure, we’ll never get an anime that really looks as good as Yusuke Murata’s gorgeous art – Eyeshield 21 was too long and cheaply made to really even try, and the recent Majin Bone‘s characters in the anime are only a faint shadow of his original designs. That’s totally OK though, because what we lose from Murata’s intense attention to detail is immediately made up for by the fluid, intense animation in every single fight we were graced with in this episode alone. Things blow up, a crab gets mutilated, Saitama is blown across the street, and every single one of these things looks beautiful while also being appropriately intense. One-Punch Man gets your blood boiling in the best way possible. Heck, I’ve had to stand up and walk around the room just thinking about it.

The humor is also alive and well – it comes fast and hits hard, just like Saitama himself. I think I laughed every single time Saitama punched a creature and it exploded in a gory mess, because every time it was ridiculous and overblown. There are also more traditional gags though, like a group of subterraneans ditching their plan as soon as they see Saitama, or Saitama in full One-Punch Man garb fiddling through his coin purse trying to pay for his groceries.

In every way, One-Punch Man is a joy to watch. I can see someone being put off by the gore – if you’re not into that kind of thing, be warned, because there’s a lot of it and even though it is all from fictional creatures with otherworldly insides, it is still pretty graphic. Other than that, though, you’d have to be soulless to not see the humor and fun in this show from premise to execution. Go check it out as soon as you can.


Peeping Life TV Season 1??

2/5

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Also known as: Peeping Life

I wasn’t aware this show was coming out, but last week during the lull between seasons I stumbled upon the season of Peeping Life that Crunchyroll had available before this show came out. That series consisted of pretty short “episodes” that were actually self-contained skits, all taking place in one room, all involving just two people having a conversation. The animation, according to the description on Crunchyroll, was actually CG models over rotoscoped comedians, and that showed for good and for bad. It was definitely a strange thing, and felt like a weird cultural artifact, but I was pretty amused by the relative normalcy of it all, completely contrasting the over-the-top humor that anime typically associates itself with.

Well, now Peeping Life has its own place on TV, with full length episodes, a catchy BRADIO opening, and lots of classic anime characters in mundane situations. Astro Boy gets some dating advice from Dr. Ochanomizu, Black Jack has a cold, and Doronjo needs to get her bike fixed. There are also at least some more normal skits – the awkward couple from the older Peeping Life stuff gets their own segment to end this episode – but it seems like the show will be going mostly for the inherent appeal of putting memorable characters in amusingly normal places, and having amusingly normal conversations.

However, its own sense of humor is also potentially its downfall. Almost none of its jokes are jokes are jokes in the sense most people are used to or even want – punch lines are essentially nonexistent in the world of Peeping Life. It isn’t really a Seinfeld-esque comedy, either, because there isn’t any commentary and the mundane situations are actually that – entirely mundane, played entirely straight, practically going out of its way to portray things like having an argument with your girlfriend on a plane as only that and nothing else.

Add all of that up, and Peeping Life is pretty clearly a hard sell. I like the show, but it isn’t “funny”, and easily has the potential to come off as irritating if you are particularly averse to this kind of humor. The best news here is, if any of this sounds appealing to you at all, you could probably watch just the first skit in the episode and know right away if this show is for you. At the very worst, you’ll have still gotten to listen to the awesome BRADIO opening song, which might be worth the effort alone.


Shin Atashinichi

3/5

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Also known as: Shin Atashin’chi

A little background: Atashin’chi started out as a manga in the early 90s, and was later adapted to an outstanding 330 episodes and some movies between 2002 and 2009. For one reason or another, the people in charge have decided to bring it back six years later.

Not that I’m particularly complaining, because this is a nice little show and the previous entry is a huge seemingly impenetrable monolith that isn’t really available anywhere for me to enjoy. Atashin’chi is a slice of life show with all of the trappings you might expect from that – three skits per episode, a cast of un-aging and unchanging family members, and the rather normal day-to-day problems they experience and work through (or don’t) together. The mom wants to kill a roach; the daughter has a crush; the son wants to wear sunglasses (this is actually the plot of a skit). We even got three episodes just today, so a solid hour or so of content, it doesn’t seem like the show has any ambitions to be much bigger than that, or to change up the formula at all really, but it also doesn’t need to.

The animation in the show is very limited, but the overall aesthetics of the show are actually pretty nice to look at. There are a lot of bright colors highlighted by white lines, which makes stills look distinctive. Backgrounds are also frequently filled to the brim with objects that don’t often move or change but give the world these characters inhabit a sense of being lived in. The character designs are also deceptively simple, being blatant caricatures of the kind of people these characters are supposed to remind you of, while consequently being extremely malleable, making things like huge ears indicating a character listening from far away or an especially contorted face of a stressed out woman seem completely natural. All of these aesthetic choices combine to help the overall joke of the show: normal, relate-able situations portrayed simultaneously ridiculously and down-to-earth.

Honestly, I can’t say this show is funny. However, it is very comfortable and easy to watch. It seems like the kind of show that would make a very relaxing watch after a long, stressful day, which is essentially the hallmark of a decent slice of life show if you ask me.


STARMYU

1/5

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Also known as: High School Star Musical

Our main character Yuuta and his friend Forgettable-kun are new students at Ayana Academy, a fantasy school where music is the most respected form of study and people dance and sing on whims. He wants to be like the cool dancing kids with the crazy hair, so he tries to get into the Star program, where he will be put on track to become a pretty idol like the upperclassmen he looks up to. Unfortunately, he has his work cut out for him, as in an unintentionally accurate representation of real life, those very same upperclassmen are the ones who will choose which students are worthy of being in the cool kids club.

First of all, Funimation made a mistake. STARMYU is the abbreviated version of the title, sure, and it evokes the same feeling as other shows like UtaPri and such. But, come on – High School Star Musical? How could you not see the inherent ridiculousness of that title? Surely more people would want to see at least one episode of High School Star Musical, whereas STARMYU tells me nothing.

OK, tangent aside, I have to say this show is really boring. It is nice that the dance we saw in the episode was in 2D, but none of the designs are actually appealing at all. It doesn’t help that the uniforms are plain browns and slightly-not-brown yellows with clashing green highlights that seem to only exist to complement the hair color of a single character. Also a problem is that the show takes itself way too seriously – this is an idol show, with cute boys doing cute things, singing happy upbeat songs, and none of that meshes well with the complete tonal shift that is the actual plot of the show. The background music only accentuates this problem, too, being a constant barrage of self-serious intensity to make us feel anxiety for the main character in this crazy nonsensical anime school.

None of it works. None of it goes together in any way that makes sense. Even if you are really desperate for a boy idol show in between seasons of Uta no Prince-sama, I can’t say this is worth the effort. At least the title is hilarious though.


UTAWARERUMONO -Itsuwari no Kamen-

4/5

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Also known as: Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen

I haven’t seen the first “season” of this franchise, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Utawarerumono starts off by throwing us into the thick of things – our protagonist finds himself in a place he doesn’t know, can’t remember his name, and is attacked by a creepy CG slime monster. He is saved, though, by an animal girl named Kuon, and he decides to stick around with her since he has no idea what to do now or where to go. They visit some places, eat some fancy food that is essentially just a burrito, take baths, and meet some people. It’s a pretty straightforward fantasy world, so things weren’t really explained much but it didn’t really hurt anything; if anything, it was more engrossing because it let its setting do the talking for itself.

And by engrossing, I mean this show is comfy as fuck. I haven’t been so relaxed watching an anime in a long time, but despite a frantic and strange opening scene or so, Utawarerumono hit a stride of totally on-point chill atmosphere. Watching Haku and Kuon do mundane things like use a millstone or eat fantasy burritos is such a nice experience that I didn’t even notice time passing and the end of the episode creeped up on me before I even knew it. If you’ve ever played an Atelier game or watched the adaptation of Escha and Logy, this is a really similar experience.

The aesthetics of the show are also really nice. The animation is fluid and easy on the eyes, and the music is simple but fitting – it does a good job of elevating the atmosphere of the show and kept me properly sucked in to the world of Utawarerumono. I also really like the dynamic between the main two characters – there’s a very Spice and Wolf feel when they interact, and I’m sure Haku has even more to learn from Kuon, and I would love to see their relationship grow as they become more comfortable with each others’ company.

Now, I haven’t played the game or seen the old show or know anything about it really, but I have to throw out this conspiracy theory: is Haku a gamer from our world or something like that? It seemed like he was wearing hospital garb at the beginning, and he knew the word “slime” but Kuon didn’t. There seems to be something going on there, and maybe there have just been too many stuck-in-a-video-game stories recently, but that seems to be an option at least.

Tangent aside, I don’t know if this is what the whole show will be like – the end of the episode goes back to the monster thing attacking people – but if it stays anything like this, it will be a real treat. I actually enjoyed this so much that it made me want to go back and watch the 2006 show, which I am told will only make me enjoy this show even more. If only these premieres would stop coming out so I could actually do that.


Young Black Jack

4/5

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Also known as: Dr. Abs’ Bizarre Adventure

I’ll start this off by admitting something: I don’t have anything close to extensive experience with Black Jack as a franchise. I have seen a few random episodes here and there, and I have even read an odd chapter here and there mostly thanks to people dumping them on imageboards every once in a while. From that small pool of knowledge, my impression of Black Jack is a collection of mostly individual stories where the titular main character helps out people he can find, often involving sacrifice and life lessons along the way.

All that being said, this prequel story has delivered just about everything I would have expected from a story about Black Jack’s youth and more right off the bat. The events of the episode are fairly straightforward; there is an accident involving a bus and a train (the bus driver probably needs to be fired if you ask me), and many patients are sent to a nearby hospital as a result. This hospital happens to be where Black Jack is studying right now, and he notices one particular patient, a child, who has lost two limbs in the accident, told they cannot be reattached by a very busy doctor. Black Jack suspects he can do it, and with the assistance of an older intern and another doctor addicted to some sort of drug, he ends up being able to help the boy. Black Jack doesn’t get the full amount he asked for the operation, is shown to be shaken up after performing his first real surgery, and the episode ends promising us that we will see him grow into the amazing doctor we know he will be.

Though the plot itself is pretty simple, it all works really well in terms of selling us this show as Black Jack’s “origin story”. When the intern, Meiko, finds him, he is being a weird kid, practicing surgery in the air. As he notices he could help the boy, he asks the ridiculously high price of 5 million yen to the kid’s parents for the operation, and when he only receives 500,000 of that price, he keeps his word and gives it to the doctor who helped him, keeping no money for himself. Finally, and definitely my absolute favorite part of the episode, we get a very unexpected moment of weakness from Black Jack post-operation, as he freaks out about having done his first operation. His hands are shaking, and he isolates himself; this gut punch came out of left field but did an amazing amount of work alone toward humanizing him and making it feel like the story has a real plan for his growth in the future.

I honestly didn’t go into this show expecting too much, and I came out wanting the next episode to be out right now. These kind of “classic reboot” style shows aren’t usually executed to their fullest potential, but if Young Black Jack can keep up this momentum, it will be one of my favorite shows this season for sure.


YuruYuri Season 3

3/5

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Also known as: Yuru Yuri San☆Hai!

Akari and all of her friends are back for yet another season of hi-jinks and good spirited humor. As expected, this season premiere assumes familiarity with the characters and their dynamics right off the bat – not that their relationships are all that subtle or difficult to parse, but the franchise is far enough into its life that it is not going to stop and remind you of every broad stroke it has painted so far. There are also some OVAs, Yuru Yuri Nachuyachumi! and Yuru Yuri Nachuyachumi!+, that take place before this third proper TV entry, but so far they don’t seem like required watching even though you should probably track them down and watch them some time in the near future if you’re a fan, anyway.

No, this premiere essentially forgoes “plot development” (as much as there is in Yuru Yuri) in favor of giving us some good old gags that are all reminiscent of older ones, reminding us of the small charms that make Yuru Yuri a comfortable experience. Watch as Chinatsu tries and fails to execute a plan to kiss Yui, marvel as Kyoko gets in unfortunate arm wrestling matches. Despite being an ensemble piece of sorts, the strongest of the three acts in this episode is easily the last one, where Akari attempts to show off to a younger girl and falls on her face (literally) as her efforts continue to be for naught. Really, they are all good skits, and none of them overstay their welcome, which has always been Yuru Yuri’s strong suit. It’s not high brow humor, but it isn’t trying to be, and it is smart enough to know when a joke has run out of steam.

If there is any obvious negative to this premiere, it is simply that the opening song isn’t nearly as catchy or creative as the previous two seasons have had. That isn’t even really that big a deal, though – if you are into Yuru Yuri, and you want more, this season is all set up to deliver, nothing more, nothing less.

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