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Oct 21

Fall Anime First Impressions

Sanity Not Included

A new season of anime is upon us! But what shows out of the fifty odd do you watch (not Teekyuu, I assure you). Well, we’re here to help. A bunch of us watching various different shows each season, so it seems only natural to talk about them. So behold a (hopefully weekly) new feature where we talk about said new anime. This week I’m joined by Phil, Alexe and Mike as we enjoy the first episode or two of Kill la Kill, Magi, Kyousougiga and Strike the Blood. And if you’re interested in writing about the stuff you’re watching, get in touch, and you could be talking about how amazing, or not, this Fall season is!

Phil on… Kill la Kill (eps 1 and 2)

Kill La Kill is the first original show from studio Trigger. Studio trigger is composed of ex-Gainax employees including Hiroyuki Imaishi (FLCL, Evangelion, Gurren Lagann and more) and written by Kazuki Nakashima (writer for Gurren Lagann) among others.

The show opens in a classroom, the students all seemingly bored with the lesson going on (history lesson relating to the rise of Hitler). While talking the teacher is interrupted by banging on the door as the schools Disciplinary officer barges in looking for stolen property. We find out that a student in the class has stolen a special uniform (called Ultima/Goku uniforms depending on translation). These uniforms come in different ranks (dictated by how many “stars” there are from 1 to 3) and form one of the core aspects of the show. These uniforms imbue the wearer with superhuman like abilities, with higher ranked uniforms making the wearer more power full.

Shortly after this we’re introduced to the protagonist of the show, one Matoi Ryūko a new transfer student to the school. We later find out she’s on a quest of revenge to find her father’s killer, and her search has brought her here. She finds out the student council president, Kiryūin Satsuki, is the one running the show and after Ryūko displays her signature weapon, a giant half-pair sword scissor, demands answers from Satsuki. After getting beaten up by mid-tier mook, Ryūko runs off back to her (now abandoned) home. Here she gains a huge power boost in the form of a sentient sailor school uniform that can transform into “armour”… the reason it’s “armour” instead of armour is because it only covers about 10% of her body.

She heads back to the school, beats up the mook and demands that Satsuki tells her who owns the other giant half scissor as they are the one who is responsible for her father’s death. Here the first episode ends and we’re greeted with the show’s opening (minus the animation part).

The second episode does little to further the plot, but we find out that Ryūko’s new uniform (which she’s called Senketsu, which means “fresh blood”) is something called a “God Robe” which needs blood to be activated. The rest of the show is mostly action against mook #2 (noticing a theme yet?); including the most bizarre tennis match you’ll probably see outside of Prince of Tennis. The match ends, Satsuki makes her appearance at the end, but Ryūko has already lost a lot of blood so runs off, vowing to settle the match next time they meet, ending the episode.

As you may have noticed from the review so far, the show is one that’s meant to be action packed instead of plot driven. Certainly you can’t fault the show for its action sequences as it’s clearly where a lot of the budget has gone. However, if you’re after something with a deep meaningful plot, for now at least, it’d seem you’re out of luck. The show seems to be heading down a “fight of the week” route, so if all you’re wanting is action and craziness you’re set. The soundtrack is excellent and is done by Hiroyuki Sawano, who did the soundtrack for Attack on Titan. The art style is a mix of Panty & Stocking meets Gurren Lagann and works reasonably well, with some CG mixed in for 3D environments (mostly noticeable during episode 1). The dialogue isn’t the greatest and some of the jokes feel like they fall a bit short, almost as though the writers feel they have to meet a “craziness quota” but you can still enjoy the show despite these.

The aspect that might ruin it for you is the fan service. Kill La Kill is full of it, rather needlessly in most parts (well, it’s the same piece of fan service repeatedly for the most part). As mentioned above, when Ryūko is wearing Senketsu in his awakened state, she’s mostly naked with pretty much just the bare minimum covered. Given we’re going to be seeing this form a lot, if fan service bothers you it’d be best to stop watching now.

Overall I’d say the show is worth watching with these two conditions:

  • You can put up with gratuitous amounts of fan service.
  • You just want to switch your brain off for a bit and watch some action for 20 minutes a week.

Finally one cool little titbit of information regarding the show is that episode titles are named after songs! The first two are:

  • あざみのごとく棘あれば (“If Only I Had Thorns Like a Thistle…”)
  • 気絶するほど悩ましい (“So Sexy She Might Pass Out”)

Alexe on… Magi: The Kingdom of Magic (ep 1)

Magi: The Kingdom of Magic is the second season of the anime Magi that aired last October by A1 Pictures and based off the manga Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic by Shinobu Ohtaka. Magi follows the adventures of Aladdin a young (questionable) boy who is the titular Magi and his friends Alibaba Saluja and Morgiana as they work to prevent an organisation named Al Thamen from destroying the world, with the help of people like King Sinbad. The first season was 25 episodes long and ended with an anime original ending.

That being said how does season 2 of the anime get around the first season having an anime original ending? By starting with a flash forward, now being a reader of the manga I did not expect to see this scene so early on in the new series but I think it did well to distract from the not so good first season ending and it was nice to see Aladdin who is normally more of a joke character (until things get serious) be more of the badass he really is and it was nice to briefly see all of the new characters I recognised though others may not.

The music as well really gave the scene an epic sort of feeling, and continuing with music, the opening of the new season brings back the band SID who sang the first opening of the first season VIP. The new opening theme is called Anniversary and while it’s nice it doesn’t have the same feeling to it as the first two openings of the first season. The ending theme is Eden by Aqua Timez and again it’s nice but it just doesn’t stand up to the second ending Bravery by Supercell.

But anyway on with the actual episode.

This episode is not heavily plot driven and is more of an ease in to get you prepared for the new season, as such this episode is more of a fun episode.

The play scene, or at least Aladdin and co’s reaction to it, drunken Kougyoku (a princess from a visiting kingdom) and Aladdin entertaining ill girl Princess Dunya Musta’sim are some of the funniest scenes in the episode, at least in my opinion, Magi has such ridiculously over the top expressions\reactions at times which is one of the reasons I like the show/manga, it’s good then that the show can have more serious moments such as Sinbad’s conversation with Aladdin about the other three magi and him trying to set Aladdin up as the magi of his country of Sindria, Sinbad’s conversation with his advisor Jafar about his true intentions (seriously this first episode was filled with shady Sinbad, shady Sinbad everywhere!) and Princess Dunya’s memories and the worsening of her condition.

Magi is probably my favourite series so I look forward to how the anime comes along, my biggest concern with it at the moment is that the manga arc that Magi: The Kingdom of Magic is based on is rather large and only recently finished in the actual manga a few weeks ago so my concern is whether they might finish again with an original ending but I’m hopeful that they might fit everything in on time.

I really recommend watching the first season of Magi and reading the manga and I can’t wait for the coming episodes (even though I know everything that’s going to happen, it’s exciting to see it in anime form).

Mike on… Strike The Blood (ep 1)

“Strike the Blood” takes us to a world set in modern day Japan where demons, vampires and other such supernatural creatures are commonplace, but mostly confined to a completely man-made Island off the south of Tokyo, colloquially known as “The Demon District” where they may live freely. It is here that we meet our protagonist, a high school underachiever and the so-called “Fourth Progenitor” of the vampire race (supposedly the most powerful vampire in existence).

It’s probably at this point that you’d do as I did and roll your eyes loudly groaning at this setup as on the face of it, it has been done at least ten million times prior to this. However I am as surprised as anyone to tell you that this setup and the main character is not only, not unbearable, but is in fact quite interesting to watch. The universe they have attempted to set up is this strange mix of completely ordinary and extraordinary, clearly showing that supernatural creatures have integrated seamlessly into everyday life without focusing on it more than is required. This allows the world to get this strange balance of everyday life and intrigue, as when they attempt to set up future events and foreshadowing, you actually believe that these things can naturally come into play and you’re left interested to see where they’re going to go; this holds the same for the main character for the most part as his backstory is left a mystery.

Unfortunately however, the problem with this show arises as soon as the over-arching plot tries to kick in, with the introduction of the show’s main supporting character. Himegari Yukina is a middle-school-aged, “Battle Mage”, sent by the government organization named “Lion King”, who has been sent to track and kill our protagonist with her seemingly super-human strength, magic abilities and one (clearly marketing driven) self-unfolding spear which she carries around in a guitar case, all while never removing her school uniform.

Even if we ignore the obvious flaws to this character like calling her a “magical girl” and pointing out Japan’s propensity for sexualising girls of that age, we are still faced with the simple fact that she is a weak character. With the exception of some apparently amazing abilities (we get to see them for all of 12 seconds before the main protagonist calls a stop to it), she’s just a generic anime schoolgirl. She’s upbeat, wide-eyed, playful and easily embarrassed, absolutely nothing we haven’t seen before. This is a shame since until her arrival in the story, things were actually starting to look interesting, however with her there, the plot is being CONSTANLY derailed to focus on “Ecchi” moments with her and by the end of EPISODE ONE, it began to get frustrating as I actually found the setup interesting until this point.

In terms of overall tone, I can’t help but feel that by the end of watching this, I’m going to be comparing this show to another known as “Ikki Tousen” (aka, “Battle Vixens”) a LOT, as it appears to employ the same storytelling styles of having a serious and interesting undertone which no-one will ever get to see because everyone is repelled by the constant and distracting panty-shots, which I believe could be a shame in the long run.

All-in-all I think that while it’s too early to call this one “worth watching”, the story (when it shows up), the animation and the potential for it to be quite fun will keep me watching it for the time being, however if these trends continue (and there’s no real reason why they wouldn’t), I doubt that I will be able to stick with it to finish out the season. Due to all of this, sadly, for the time being at least, I’m going to say that you can give this one a miss.

Sean on… Kyousougiga (ep 0)

I remember trying to describe Kyousougiga before, and failing utterly. But I also made a wish that Toei would return to the magical world the show inhabited in the future. So the announcement of a TV series was met with exstatic glee by moi. Although now I have to try and explain the show. Here goes nothing.

This “zeroth” episode is a slightly edited version of the original OVA, released back at the end of 2011, except brought into glorious high definition. Our leading lady, is shown running about a city with her siblings, leaving destruction and chaos in their wake as they’re chased all over by hoardes of nameless generic agents, culminating with her home running a car into a nearby mountain with her mallet. Thus begins the insanity.

The plot (and I use that word so very loosely) progresses, and we meet the Council of Three. Myoe, the monk whom begrudgingly cares for our trio of troublemakers. Yase, a demon capable of transforming from a prim and proper lady into a psychotic monster, and Kurama, a priest whom levitates and generally remains the placid neutral party while Myoe and Yase knock seven bells out of each other with their more explosive personalities.

Eventually, our lead troublemaking gal is, after searching for an elusive black rabbit, transported to the Council’s realm and any remaining attempt at normality falls apart as she’s forced to battle with a giant mechanised beast, within which she finds what she’d been searching for, not a mere black rabbit, but Lady Koto, whom is… god? I think? Trust me, even after rewatching it I struggle to comprehend the events of this show.

But by far and away the biggest character is the world itself. An explosion in a rainbow factory is an understatement, this show adores colour and radiates fun. Creatures and places are destroyed before being rainbowed back to life, countless household objects drifting through the sky is regular, and the antics of our cast are an everyday mundane occurance to the natives. Behind every door is a new phenominon, a new secret to be revealed or question to be answered. It was that magic and mystery that originally enticed me into watching this show.

But for people who have seen the show and remember all this? Well, the only major addition is the opening, an upbeat and catchy ditty that fits the show to a tee, so props to Tamurapan. And for those whom haven’t? I liken this show to FLCL, in that it’ll leave you just as utterly bamboozled but with a big daft grin on your face. Whether the new content that’ll come over the season lives up to this, time shall tell, but I’m optimistic.

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And that’s all we wrote this week folks. As I mentioned at the start, if you want to join in with your opinions and recollections on whatever you’re watching, lemme know, I’m at most Anicom sessions. Should be at least another one or two shows next week besides as I catch up with other stuff I’m watching like Coppelion, and Mike’s (foolishly) stated he wouldn’t mind covering another show. Maybe I’ll give him something that doesn’t suck. Or not. Laters peeps!