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Mar 17

Summer Anime 2014 First Episode Impressions

Fiiiinally THE MOON HAS COME BACK TO AN-E-MAY

“Summer? But that’s still months awa-2014!?” Oops. What can I say. This one’s been through quite a few drafts and many more delays, as you might expect for an article I apparently started writing in July. Yes. Really. I wonder if anything I talk about in this piece is even still airing? Well either way, this season had a bunch of cool surprise entrants and big names to make for a far better lineup compared to the last few years. There’s sequels to “KyoAni does cute boys better than girls” swimfest Free and the punchline of recent years, Sword Art Online. Mr Bebop / Champloo doubles down with Space Dandy 2 and Zankyu no Terror. There’s also the sort of sequel sort of spinoff sort of accoutrement very much Marie-centric Persona 4 Golden and a reboot of some obscure magical girl show called Sailor Moon. And then your usual assortment of butts, boobs and all the other crap that comes with the territory.

And to anybody who’s been waiting for this article, I’m so, so, so sorry. My catchup operation is in full swing, starting here, so hit that button and lets talk about anime!

This time around the shows down there will be in the order I watch them (makes referencing other shows in the season so much simpler) so this alphabetical list actually has a point!

Ai Mai Mi ~Mousou Catastrophe~; Akame ga Kill!; Aldnoah.Zero; Ao Haru Ride; Bakumatsu Rock; Barakamon; Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Crystal; DRAMAtical Murder; Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya 2wei!; Francesca; Free! -Eternal Summer-; Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yattemita.; Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun; Glasslip; Hanamayata; Happiness Charge PreCure!; Himegoto; Jinsei; Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus; Love Stage!!; Magimoji Rurumo; Mobile Suit Gundam-san; Momo Kyun Sword; Nobunaga Concerto; Persona 4 The Golden Animation; Pri Para; Psycho-Pass Remastered; Rail Wars!; Re:_Hamatora; Rokujyouma no Shinryakusha!?; Sabagebu!; Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance; Sengoku Basara Judge End; Shin Strange+; Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen; Shounen Hollywood; Space Dandy Second Season; Sword Art Online II; Tokyo ESP; Tokyo Ghoul; Yama no Susume Second Season; Yami Shibai Second Season; Zankyou no Terror

Bakumatsu Rock

Starting things off with a musical for a change. Set during the Tokugawa period, it’s a ye olde Japan parody of the emergence of rock and roll and its transition from shunned to adored by the public. So instead of meth-fuelled westerners, you’ve got samurai warriors. Our lead guy, identifiable by his red hair and burning passion (surprising, I know) is given a guitar by a random old dude after he hears him sing to help him project his soul, or something to that effect.

But guitars are outlawed, as the government is utilising its ultra popular male music idols to keep the rich rich and the poor poor and doesn’t need any alternative to disrupt its plans. Sadly for the poor goon trying to enforce said law, the power of the Peace Soul guitar (yes, really) moves him and his entire squadron, compelling them to return to base and plead to the leaders how amazing rock and roll is, because burning passion is dangerously contagious. And while I wouldn’t say the songs were amazing, they were inoffensive enough to listen to and I’m pretty sure the opening’s by the guy who sang the first Death Note theme.

But outside of the music, it’s standard anime fare. There’s a rival character who becomes friends with him by the end, a smart guy who explains all the nonsense and some mysterious little kid who appears and disappears on a whim. All with the usual bright colours and costumes to signify their important character status. Nothing to rave about then, but if you want a show with more songs than most, could be your thing.

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Free! -Eternal Summer-

Kyoto Animation seem to be going through a sequel phase right now, as the show that took water animation to new levels is back, and quickly manages to re-establish the old cast and rivalries while jumping forward into the plot for this season, as the gang attempt to recruit members to their newly reborn school swimming club, despite it being too cold out to open their pool.

But with winter now in the past and temperatures slowly on the up, Rin takes over the rival Samezuka swimming club as he aims for nationals while the core four all mull over what their plans for post-school life are. There’s a new cast member in the mix too from Rin’s past which’ll no doubt be a key plot of the season, as apparently Rin looks to take over as main character from Haruka.

Presentation wise, you should know what to expect from KyoAni. A very slick, very polished production, with an equally great soundtrack to back it up too, really pulling me into the show and getting the adrenaline pumping during the races, and a great opening song on top of that. Certainly pulled me into the experience a lot more than the first episode of the first season did. Of course, whether the writing can match that now that the usual strong opening season plots are gone remains to be seen, that was where Chuunibyou, K-On and (to a lesser extent) Haruhi fell foul. What Eternal Summer is though, is the most enjoyable KyoAni show I’ve seen in years, so if I get some spare time I’ll give it a whirl.

POSSIBLY

Glasslip

Anime tend to have certain themed episodes, such as the beach episode and the summer festival episode, but it’s rare to see one lead with them. Glasslip does just that, opening by showing our cast at a festival in their various yukata as the fireworks go off. But if you were hoping for slice of life with glass making, well, you’re halfway there. The glass part of the show takes up literally 30 seconds, leaving the rest of the runtime to be filled with melodrama!

The show utilises its pre-opening segment well to introduce all the characters, but sadly it’s all in one ear out the other as you’ve forgotten who everyone is as soon as the opening changes and they’re out of costumes. What you do gather is there’s a pre-established group of friends with various feelings for one another, and an outsider moving into town who keeps bumping into one of the girls.

But the big problem is that the show seemingly lacks any kind of direction. Sure, the transfer guy causes tension within the group, partly thanks to an inane lecture on perspective that makes no sense no matter what side you’re looking at it from, but overall there’s no goal or motivation for anyone. It’s the purest form of slice of life, with no theme or attempt at comedy to give it structure, and no amount of otherwise sensible character personalities can really take the necessary control and steer the show somewhere.

Combine that with an apparent budget issue once you look past the FX thanks to a ton of still pictures and other money-saving tricks in evidence, and I don’t think there’s anyway this show could do better than average. At best. I do feel bad for slamming a show that doesn’t trigger any of my pet peeves, but I just can’t see anything to invest in here. Sorry Glasslip.

DROPPED

Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen

At first, Argevollen seemed like a confused beast of a mech show. Showcasing a war between two nations which do have names but in this world where Advance Wars exists are far easier to remember as the blues and the greens, it isn’t until deep in the second half of the show you’ve figured out who you’re rooting for and whom the focal characters are.

Leading the show is Tokimune, a newbie in the world of mech piloting, hence why he’s part of a platoon relegated to the boonies. But with their nation struggling in a war their own CO openly admits they cannot win, they roll out, bumping into civilians under attack on the while. While the squad wants to ignore them and prioritise their current goal, Toki steps in and gets his ass handed to him, having his mech destroyed in the process. But he needn’t have worried, because Jamie the civilian was actually transporting some new super mech! Which the enemies then forget to destroy over the next few minutes as our lead lad learns how to pilot the mech and save the day. And what would that mech be called? Oh yes. Argevollen. Of course.

Putting aside my quibbles with the plot, the animation looked as decent as you’d expect for mechas with CG robots blasting the crap out of each other and being the only visual thing of note amongst generic anime characters. I liked the ending song too, but the rest of the music was as forgettable as the cast. If you’re a diehard mech guy, you’ll find your fix here, but without the same unique premise and spark of a Gargantia, Valvrave or Sidonia, it’s not for me.

UNLIKELY

Tokyo Ghoul

It’s interesting sometimes to see just how dark people can take a fairly standard story template. And even then Tokyo Ghoul threw in a few twists to keep me off guard whenever I was getting too comfortable. With Ghouls prowling the streets, trying to sate their desire to feed on human flesh every month or two to sustain themselves, life is not all sunshine and rainbows in Tokyo, before we get to the binge eaters who kill and devour for the joy of it.

Elsewhere in town, lead squirt Kaneki is on a date with a pretty girl who just looooves all the same stuff he does and, yes, she’s the binge eater Ghoul from the opening, how did you know. But before she can deliver the finishing blow, she gets taken out and with Kaneki’s life hanging in the balance they use the nearest available replacement organs. Hers. And yes, the inevitable happens, but the rest of the episode doesn’t glorify the half-Ghoul he becomes, but shows his hellish struggle as his remaining humanity tries to resist its new urges and tastes. And this is before the show pulls back the curtain a little and reveals several cast members to also be Ghouls along with some of the politics of it all before the girl I had pegged as the Shana role forces Kaneki to embrace his new favourite food. No altruism here then.

So yes, it can get quite dark despite the otherwise recognisable plot strings, which is good as neither the animation or the soundtrack particularly standout, so the show will be relying more on that ability to drag characters down into despair as needed, which enthralled me and means I’ll be sticking with this to the bitter end. Huh, why is it that cannibalism always intrigues me as a plot point, I was interested in Pupa because of it too…

KEEPER

Rail Wars!

Huh, this episode of Toqger looks weird, why it’s animat-oooohhhh. Its Rail Wars. Right. I mean, no, not him, but… ah whatever. Lets put the Super Sentai humour aside and start off with the big flaw, the fanservice shots! I’m on a ladder no what are you doing don’t look up my skirt kyaa we fell into an awkward position hahaha fuck off. Stop encouraging this shite weeaboos.

Where were we? It’s a show about railways (dun dun duuuuun), and follows a group of four trainees as they progress through the system trying to become fully fledged operatives. There’s the fairly bland self-insert lead male, the atheletic stupid guy to ensure you, I mean, he, has no contest for his affections, the beast of a tsundere and the smart shy girl. For reason’s that are never explained all the cadets in their year group are forced into the Security Division, and you see montage’s establishing all their strengths and weaknesses, like tsun’s ability to fire a gun terrifyingly well.

Sadly, the writing frequently fails to either expound on points or just shows crass stupidity (two crooks fail to recognise the kids who’d been chasing them across the entire station) so I wouldn’t hold out big hopes, in case the use of fanservice didn’t set alarm bells ringing. The animation is usual anime fare, though it has the rarity of having a better ending song and animation than opening. Otherwise, it’s as stereotypical fodder anime as you could get, with only the train theme and care to detail in bringing those locomotives to life saving this from eternal irrelevance.

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Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yattemita.

Long title? Check. Cutesy girls? Check. Rubbish show? Checkmate. But honestly, I’d have been stunned if this was anything but. The local swimming pool is reopening, and lead girl Nanako wants to buy a new swimsuit, but she can’t afford one. Ah, to be a teen again. But luckily her uncle offers to bail her out in return for doing a quick and easy job on the day of reopening. Easy money.

Not. That job involves her becoming a Locodol, or Local Idol, working with a prettier girl she’s never met before, unrehearsed and in front of a large crowd of people and the press. What a standup guy. While the long-haired Yukari goes through the act like a natural, Nanako stutters and bumbles her way through until a local song redeems her at the end, saving the performance and leading to the two becoming the town’s idols.

So yes, it’s awful. That generic cutesy style you’ve seen in a million shows adds to the forgettable music and dialogue for an uninspired premise. But that’s probably because it’s a 4koma and those make for almost always terrible adaptations. I have no idea who watches or even reads this kind of stuff, I could’ve spent my time better watching clouds go by outside and been just as, if not more, entertained.

DROPPED

Shin Strange+

I shot down the first season of this back in my Winter impressions, so I’ll keep this brief. I have no clue what the added Shin in the title means, at a guess it could refer to the new girl (who looks awful and out of place) which this episode spends adding to the main cast. Yes, it’s only a few minutes long, but when it’s the same combination of stupid people being stupid, references to far greater works and other throwaway jokes told at a mile a minute with the odd snippet of fanservice even that’s too long. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go do something more worthwhile. Like anything.

DROPPED

Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Crystal

As I may have mentioned at the top of the post, FINALLY THE MOON IS BACK. It took its sweet time getting here, the better part of 2 years in fact. What they spent all that time doing though is beyond me, certain it wasn’t to change the visual style, as the entire show is a throwback to the 90s, showcasing quite distinctly how animation has evolved in the past few decades, whether you think that’s for better or worse. About the only part that doesn’t look classical is Sailor Moon’s transformation scene, with a shiny CG model and other neat looking effects making it the standout moment of this first episode. It’s almost like I’m watching a pre-Madoka magical girl show.

The retro feel extends to the voice cast too, with several of the female characters, including show lead Usagi, having the worst attempts at female voices I’ve heard in a long time. Not the 21st century makeover some would’ve hoped for, then. But outside of that lot, the rest of the cast is back in attendance, from Luna the cosmic talking cat to suave and gallant Tuxedo Mask, as well as the lead villain pulling the strings from behind the scenes as he hunts for the Phantom Silver Crystal.

It does mean that you don’t need any prior knowledge of the franchise to jump on the bandwagon, if you can get past the almost outdated style of it all. Do also be warned that this is airing fortnightly for some reason, a very odd choice in this age. Which in many ways sums the show up, an old classic that feels a little out of its depth in the modern scene, and could struggle to connect with the viewers like it did way back when.

UNLIKELY

Shounen Hollywood

A “twist” on the usual idol group shows here, that twist being it’s an all male group. And no, not a random female lead somehow ends up as part of their life with them all hitting on her male harem show either. Instead our male lead, Kakeru, led a fairly by the books life until one day when the local theatre’s manager dropped in at his part-time job having scouted him out as a potential idol of the future, and through relentless nagging wins him over to the cause.

Set a few months afterwards, we drop in on the group during one of their latest training sessions along with their returning president, ready to take them to the next level of idol stardom. He gives them utterly awful intros to read and tells them they shouldn’t be embarrassed about saying them loud and proud. And with that total confidence installed in him he announces they will become the newest incarnation of that theatre’s last famous idol group, Shonen Hollywood. He’s one of the only characters to show any personality at this stage though, with just snippets from the rest of the cast, like one being a child prodigy and another being a fan, desperate to succeed for their own individual reasons.

But on the plus, the animation style was cool, looking better than most similar shows, what with the cast having regular sized eyes. And noses! Which… says more about anime in general than the show, now I think about it. The ending was neat as well, actually referencing something said earlier in the show and throwing some Muppet style puppets into the end song animation. But a few neat tricks and touches don’t make a spade… not a spade, and with neither cast nor premise making this show anything more than bland, I couldn’t get into it.

DROPPED

Sword Art Online II

Roll back the clock to Summer 2012, the season before I started watching every single episode one available. There was a show. A show highly recommended by one of my best friends. A show with a great premise. A show written by the same guy as another then airing show that was one of my favourites of the year. A show with brilliant visuals and a strong soundtrack. A show with seemingly interesting characters. A show for which it’d take a miracle to be anything less than amazing. That show, as you may have guessed, was the show that won my -1st award for 2012 for its hilariously terrible writing, pacing and directing. Sword Art Online.

But while half the audience saw it for the crapshoot it was, half loved it, and so unsurprisingly here we are, for season two, covering the GunGale Online arc and beyond. A year has passed since the catastrophes of Aincrad and Alfheim, with Kirito showing Asuna around a park and waxing lyrical on the technobabble. But earlier in the day he’d been face to face with one of the leading suits investigating the SAO incident (and never mentioned during the ALO arc, obviously) to tell him of a new threat to the VRMMO world. Some dude called Death Gun is killing people in reality via a gun in GGO, and it’s with heart attacks, not the brain drying method of the first season.

And so despite Kirito realising that even he can be surpassed by the best gamers in the world who make livings off of GGO, the suit persuades our silly billy to go forth and investigate. At which point we get our first brief look at the game in action, showcasing Kirito’s bitch for this season, not Asuna or Sugu, but new girl and master sniper Sinon. It all looks the same, it all feels the same, and this time it doesn’t even have the stellar premise to back it up while the early signs of the writing going down the toilet are already in evidence. I doubt this’ll fare much better than the original quality-wise, but everybody loved to hatewatch that show, so maybe if I get some spare time I’ll set up camp and watch the car crash waiting to happen.

UNLIKELY

Pri Para

Cast your mind back to last season and you’ll remember there was a Pretty Rhythm series building up “hype” for the next season proper. And here it is, Pri Para, doing everything in its power to drop the Pretty Rhythm name… huh. It’s the same old mantra though, idols define popular culture for kids and adults alike. The lead girl unaware of her talents this time is Lala, a literal loudmouth who loves watching idols but due to the gods never favouring her with a PriTicket cannot become one.

But then on a day like any other she finds the dropped bag of another idol, a girl called Mireille, which apparently makes her worthy of idoldom, gaining her ticket and venturing into their world to return it to her, and whaddaya know she becomes the latest PriPara idol sensation in the process, thanks to her possessing the legendary Prism Voice, which presumably replaces Prism Jumps. The songs were of the usual cut above the rest standard for the show, along with the bright and cheery colour palette. Mireille though seems a lot more sneaky than the usual girly girls, having engineered the entire event to get herself an audition partner. Plus her manager, pictured above, is exactly the kinda guy you think, which works well here, and the rest of the support cast ain’t poor either.

And writing wise, the way the show set stuff up in this first episode leaves plenty of room for future stories, with the headmistress of Lala’s school loathing idols with a passion. Y’know, this review seems awfully positive now I look. It’s still a kids show, and it still has most of the Pretty Rhythm mannerisms, but if its your bag, this could be the best PR yet.

UNLIKELY

Barakamon

The closest comparisons I can give to Barakamon are Usagi Drop and Yotsuba, which is already high praise. Our lead guy, Handa, is a calligrapher par excellence but without any passion to his work. Sadly he doesn’t take that critique lightly and knocks out the museum curator for saying it, leading to him exiling himself on an island in the middle of nowhere upon a friend’s recommendation, to help lose steam and find himself. What he doesn’t expect to find is Naru.

One of the local kids, she constantly pesters and hovers around Handa, making him blow a fuse several times before coming to accept and bond with her as he moves in and meets the rest of the residents. So it’s a little more wacky than it’s inspirations, with Naru not being quite as intriguing a protagonist as Rin from Drop, but the series still has it’s heart in the right place and a flare of its own. The artstyle is also a little more anime than those two, but it suits the increase in zaniness.

Will it surpass those shows? Unlikely, but that doesn’t stop it from being an interesting show in its own right. Likeable characters and some good music tracks, especially with the ending song and animation, and this could fit in comfortably in the noitaminA lineup. If you can get behind more heartfelt stories instead of needing tits, action or lame jokes every 5 seconds, you’ll love it.

KEEPER

Sengoku Basara Judge End

Sengoku Basara is one of those shows that you’re always aware of and has its own devout fanbase, but is never really something you see as a must watch. It’s what you’d expect from that screenshot, manly samurai men from the good old days of Japan slash and beat the hell out of each other as they aim to conquer all of Japan. Well, conquer it under certain rules, any other way would be cheating, and we can’t have that.

The show opens with a recap which really only helps if you’ve watched before because it proceeds to drown you with names and faces. It’s not a complete washout, the multiple factions in this episode all share a similar goal and the fast pacing keeps everything fresh even as you struggle to process events. And it’s a real looker, both with character designs and the fights themselves, though the more peaceful scenes aren’t nearly as engaging and have to rely on random acts of violence to keep it going.

In short, this is one for fans of the series. Man, what a shocker. But if you’re in the mood for some shounen action, this episode certainly did a good deal to sell me on the franchise, so maybe it’s worth checking out the whole schebang if you’ve got the time to spare.

POSSIBLY

Aldnoah.Zero

What does Aldnoah mean? Amazing, that’s what. Some time ago, when humanity was visiting the Moon, we discovered a Stargate. No wait, sorry, wrong series, a Hypergate. Using it we terraformed Mars, and while exploring there we discovered ancient tech called Aldnoah (not a random word afterall) which led to a split in humanity, and inevitably because we are who we are, we went to war, Earth Humans versus Martian Humans.

We jump in after a 15 year truce brought a temporary end to the fighting, as Princess Asseylum of the Martian Vers Empire is assassinated during a peace visit, ending the ceasefire and allowing our extremely overpowered Martian friends to drop their asteroid style ships and eviscerate anybody in the vicinity. But we the Terrans will fight back, even if it’s hopeless. Because that’s how this type of plot goes.

The show mainly focuses on a group of Earth schoolkids, in the process of training or being a trainer, with the rest of the airtime going to the Princess and her servant friend as they head to Earth. The show also finds time for a deluge of backstory, going into way more depth than I mentioned, with a variety of characters shown in the background yet to be introduced along with mining the history of our two species and planets.

Combine that with a really well written story (Gen Urobuchi is doing the first three eps, so it shouldn’t be that surprising), brilliant backgrounds and fluid animation, some great music to accompany the visuals and a bitter sense of humour which is always a plus for me, and it’s fair to say this will probably be one of the better summer shows. The only real worry is there’s clearly mech fights coming sometime but this first episode gives not a hint on how they’ll play out, but I can’t see this dropping the ball there after nailing it almost everywhere else.

KEEPER

Mobile Suit Gundam-san

I almost overlooked this show. Correction, I wish I’d overlooked this show. It’s one of those fairly poorly animated you need to have watched the entire product to get the joke and even then it’s not that funny things. Watch as the “colonel” dances around nakedly while fetishising the colour red. Yes. Really. The rest is more of the same, jabs at various Gundam works and tropes over the years, but the jokes certainly fell flat for me as did the garbage animation. With Fall having both a new Gundam and the continuation of Build Fighters, go watch those instead.

DROPPED

Akame ga Kill!

Oh, you mean Kill wasn’t an acronym or had some alternate meaning but actually meant killing things? Man, wonder where I got that jaded opinion of shows with Kill in the title, eh? Akame ga Kill certainly loves the red stuff, with death and gore aplenty staining this first episode. Tatsumi, a master swordsman from out in the sticks decides to try and make it big in the city along with a few friends to save his village from separation. And then they split up for… some reason…

His naiveté continues to hinder him as he loses his wallet, but fortune gives him a break as a passing noble lady takes him into her home to give him a place to rest. Except this being anime, there is no peaceful night’s sleep as Night Raid, a famous group of assassin’s target the family and kill everyone in their way. Tatsumi fights to defend his saviour’s honour until the show reveals that the lovely family are indeed psychotic killers. And does Tatsumi act like a bitch at this revelation and his dying friends? Nah, he slices her in two and joins Night Raid.

So corruption is abound in the capital, providing the perfect backdrop for this series, and there’s no censoring from what I can see, people bleed when they are cut. Whether the budget can keep up with the ambition remains to be seen, outside of the important shots there were a lot of stills and shortcuts in the animation, with the opening being weirdly underwhelming in the modern era of anime. I can’t see it being held back too much, even with some dumb jokes and fanservice cropping up, so it’s definitely one to have as a reserve, if not a must watch.

POSSIBLY

Space Dandy Second Season

I used up most of my good material on Space Dandy back in Winter where myself and Reaf were soundly unimpressed by it, and its return is largely more of the same. Right down to the opening and ending, which unlike most split cour shows, haven’t changed. Though given that they’re good songs with cool animation, I guess I’ll allow that one.

In fact, this didn’t let me down nearly as much as I expected, with the zaniness cranked down a few notches, though considering each episode is by a different director, who knows if that’s an overall theme or just the luck of the draw. The same old lack of care for continuity is still in effect, people die, wars happen and all of it will be reset next time so why do I care again? The show can barely follow its own logic, let alone sustaining a plot.  But as before, that cost in substance is made up for with style, as Dandy shows a natural flare for colour and visual style. Even a few of the jokes got a smirk out of moi thanks to the humour being mostly non-fanservice based.

But while on the whole this is slightly better than my last Dandy experience, at its core it’s more of the same, the potential for a good show drowned out by its pandering humour that could never be Japan’s Futurama. I’d be more peeved, but this isn’t the last time Mr Bebop and Champloo will be coming up in this article, so I’ll bet the house on his other show.

UNLIKELY

Sabagebu!

High school! All female! After school club! What an original concept. This one revolves around the “survival game club”, or Airsoft as we’d probably call it. Huh? C3-bu? No idea what you’re talking about, no way a show did this exact thing in the last year, no. Anyway, our bright-haired club members (abnormal hair colour equals personality kids) manage to essentially bully and blackmail Momoka, an eternal transfer student to sign up for their club, before realising they got more than they bargained for as she nails a triple kill in her first game.

To aid pacing the show splits itself into three segments, which for what I assume is a 4koma adaptation works wonders. These are used to gradually introduce the cast and concepts of the show (they’re all oddballs, who knew), with the narrator doing his best to keep up, regularly breaking the fourth wall for some of the funnier moments of the show. Sadly the animation doesn’t live up to the rest, mostly looking bland and lifeless, especially in the character designs, and even the inclusion of IMAGINATION aka explosions and blood in the action scenes do little to help, and the music too is forgettable.

Sabagebu is a show that wants you to get caught up in it all and go along for the ride, but offers you little in return for the investment. It’s not all bad, but it’s been done better elsewhere so unless you really want another of this kind of show, just skip it.

UNLIKELY

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

He’s a shoujo manga artist whose compassionate works are at complete odds with his stoic demeanour. She’s had a crush on him for a while but never found the courage to ask him out, letting her overactive imagination get the better of her. So when her big chance comes, she proclaims herself to be a big fan and ends up being drafted in to help him create his series.

Oh yes, it’s vintage romcom fodder with clichés here, there and everywhere. None more so than the start which suckered me into thinking this was straight up romance thanks to its music and poise until the fan punchline drove it down the comedy path. In fact, poise is what this show does best, the opening song and animation are good and the manga drawings prevalent throughout never look cheap or out of place.

But for the main the show stays within safe romcom territory, where the characters will likely infinitely loop in this same state rather than progressing, and the additions of the rest of the cast over the next few episodes will likely introduce more common genre traits. If all you want out of Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun is a standard romcom with a manga slant, you’ll be happy, but for those who look for something more (hi), this ain’t it.

UNLIKELY

DRAMAtical Murder

It would be completely nonsensical to suggest that I already know most of the plot to Dramatical Murder for some reason, but for the benefit of this I’m going to pretend I don’t. Not that I would. Anyway, leading kid Aoba (blue hair denotes important character) who all the important people in town are firm friends with. And then there’s some gang warfare going on. Also a game called Rhyme which involves… something, but is bad. Because we say so. Also cyber animals! E-mail viruses! Split personalities! More!

Yes, in typical VN adaptation style they’ve tried to jam all the routes into one show and the resulting trainwreck fails to retain anything from any particular route. I mean, it took me to the end of the show to work out which “plot” was the main one the show was gonna run with, as some people vanish from the world only to return in a braindead zombie state, maybe because of the machinations of some underground cult. I had flashbacks to Durarara, except that shows great and I want the new season of it already.

Back to this, the animation’s pretty lame, especially whenever the camera dares to pan, the characters are bland and lifeless despite their vibrant designs being the stylistic highlight of the show. The humour falls flat, none of the plot threads are given any depth or time to evolve, just put on the table and then left, and the opening and ending are generic forgettable rubbish. A pretty poor adaptation then, like so many VN anime. How do I know it’s a VN? I don’t. Why would I? STOP LOOKING AT ME.

DROPPED

Jinsei

Okay, so stop me if this is a new one. They’re in an afterschool club, everybody bar Yuuji Everyman is a female, and they all have different personality tropes. On days like this I forgot why I got into anime in the first place.

Jinsei’s gimmick is that the cast is all part of the Second Newspaper Club (because the first took all the actual smart and talented people). One day the president decides to include a life advice column, so gathers up three girls representing science (the socially inept nerdy moron), athletics (the musclebrain moron) and humanities (the ditzy innocent moron). And so the trio set out to answer perfectly normal questions but anime being anime, stupid shit happens. They settle one debate with a water balloon fight, and there’s a date between the guy and the nerd which… actually goes fine, which was the most surprising part of the show.

I’m struggling to think of nice things to say. There are some neat touches, like the athletic girl dodging stuff and the next episode preview involving them guess what’ll happen next week based off the title, but it’s all drowned out by everything else. The animation is bland, the lead guy doesn’t even look finished, and it devolves into straight up pandering and fanservice at times. I’d rather watch something with a personality.

DROPPED

Hanayamata

Ha, a show about cherry blossoms and girls dancing, no way this’ll pass the test wait why am I enjoying this. The show opens as it means to go on, as the lead girls dance in traditional costumes while the petals fly everywhere. I swear Madhouse blew half their budgets on having the blossom flow throughout most of the scenes.

Our lead girl, Naru (I remembered her name, always a good sign), is Little Miss Average, having never found a passion beyond the fairy tales she’s adored since her childhood. Until one day when she bumps into a minute blond girl dancing around on top of her local shrine and, mistaking her for a fairy, asks her to whisk her away to a new world.

That lil’ tyke is Hana N Fountainstand (not joking), an American transfer student with a passion for yosakai dancing who tries really hard to recruit people to join her new club and, after an episode of humming and hawing, Naru joins in the fun. Rounding out the cast is Naru’s longtime friend Yaya who is infinitely talented at whatever she turns her head to, which includes having her band do a better song than the actual opening.

Not that that’s bad, all the music in this show is great. The animation too is really good in the dancing scenes, though all the lens flares and petals in the world can’t hide how still the rest of the show is in comparison. So why did I fall in love with this? Simply put, I think it’s passion. Hanayamata has a heart and soul unlike so many other series, and that was what won me over. I couldn’t say if it’ll keep it up or whether the fairly non-existent plot will be developed, but it brought a smile to my face, and that’s an achievement in itself.

KEEPER

Himegoto

Clocking in at only 4 minutes, it’s Secret Princess Himegoto. The joke being he’s actually a guy. Running away from mafia goons who made him dress up as a maid for reasons I really don’t want to know, his highschool council happens upon him and sends the mafia running, inviting the pretty lady to join them before discovering his secret. Cue lots of shenanigans and throwaway jokes, including a backstory for Himegoto that’s a dead ringer for Hayate’s from Hayate the Combat Butler.

It looks better than some of the Flash garbage you see in shorts, but it’s still forgettable along with the soundtrack and almost all the jokes. The short runtime helped it occasionally be entertaining and fast paced enough without outstaying it’s welcome, so I wouldn’t say this show has no hope at all, but I wouldn’t expect anything to come of it.

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Re:_Hamatora

I make no secret that shounen shows usually intrigue me more than any other genre, and the same was true when Hamatora first aired earlier in the year, though it didn’t pull me in enough to make me a regular viewer. And now, watching the first episode of the second half of it’s split cour run, that viewpoint hasn’t changed, but I have been reminded why I still mean to watch this one day.

The show picks up where presumably the first half left off, with Nice having died in hospital. Except we’re watching a shounen so he’s alive and kicking before the ending plays, with this episode focusing on how the team adapt to his supposed death in the meantime. Hajime steps up and takes Nice’s place on the team as the agency tries to defend pop idol and fellow Minimum power holder (people have powers by the way) Hikaru.

There’s still a bunch of anime style humour, and nobody except maybe Hajime seems to have evolved since I last watched, but the animation still looks good and this time around they’ve gained a surprising flair for transitions from scene to scene, which is unusual for animation thesedays. The opening was great too, a cool song merged with a nice animation style. So in short, it’s another solid shounen show for fans of the genre, but not a standout.

POSSIBLY

Ao Haru Ride

“Hang on, I’ve seen this artstyle before.” That was my first thought on Ao Haru Ride, pairing luscious watercolour backgrounds with some distinctive eye designs that are a deadringer for some show I’ve seen before, though I have no clue what one. I remember that show having the same problem this one had too, with characters looking fine in motion but not so pretty when standing still.

But what of the story? Well, a few years ago a young couple in middle school almost came to be, but out of context words and other life circumstances split them apart, as we fast forward to the end of our leading lady’s first year in highschool, where she has completely changed her personality to fit in more. And then who should she see, but her childhood flame wandering around. Turns out he’s been back all year too, and has also changed from the kid she used to know. Will they still get together despite their personality overhauls? Well, this is a romance anime, the answer’s probably yes.

Ao Haru Ride actually did a good job of using their modified personalities to have them point out flaws in each other and contrast that relationship with their old dynamic from the five minute backstory the show opens up with, which along with a nice musical choice during their reunion (which I assume will be the opening going forth) ensured this show had a dab hand for setting the tone. Even so, this doesn’t do anything special or original to be called a must-see, but if you want a solid romance show, this is as good a bet as any.

POSSIBLY

Momo Kyun Sword

48… 49… 50 and boom. Fifty seconds for the first fanservice shot. Which is actually kinda slow for this type of show now I think about it. But in less than a minute Momo Kyun Sword confirmed the kind of show it was. To be fair, it wasn’t as utterly fanservice focused as I feared, but still far too prevalent for anyone whose brain isn’t in their penis.

So this series revolves around Momoka (meaning peach girl), who was born from a giant… yep, and adopted by a lovely elderly couple. And then at some point some spirit animals decided to train her up to protect the village, not that the village would ever be attacked. Enter some undead ogres, looking for pieces of the 3000 Year Old Peach which is all-powerful because it is. Let’s be honest, the item isn’t important, it’s a “go collect the thingys” show. As for her personality, well, she’s a burning passion moron, looking untouchable in one scene before doing something unfathomably stupid in another. She also slices through wood and stone with her wooden sword before it crumples on the first ogre she hits…

And then of course there’s the lewd nonsense which she gets really touchy over begging the question of why she wears such a costume in the first place. Oh yes, because anime. Add that teribad humour with the bland storytelling, and not even the show’s redeeming features like decent action and some cool designs on the animals and ogres can do anything to salvage this series or make you care as a viewer. Can this type of show go away now?

DROPPED

Love Stage!!

D’aaawww, young love. 10 years ago, the son of a famous showbiz family was thrown into a marriage commercial at the last minute against his wishes, bundled into a dress to act as a girl and co-starring alongside the guy who would become a famous actor of the age over the next decade. Fast forward to the present day, where circumstances mean that the commercial will be brought back once again, with the bouquet catching couple now center stage.

As you may guess, our lead guy, now a full blown otaku who just wants to be a manga artist is once more forced into crossdressing (probably for the best, he ain’t no Mashiro from Bakuman), and once again stands alongside our famous acting friend, who’s had a flame for his childhood co-star since that day, thus leading into the comedy of our otaku’s lack of confidence as he pretends to be female and just about manages until the episode ends with a kiss.

To its credit, the show actually has a flair to it, with good use of colour and a solid artstyle despite the eyes looking a bit weird at times. The comedy supported and progressed the show rather than being played up for randomness or exaggeration, and the characters avoided tropes even if I wouldn’t call any of them interesting. I don’t see this ever evolving past the same routine you see in this first episode, but that’s not all bad. If you’re looking for a gay romcom, you might find happiness here.

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Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya 2wei!

I thought this was just another split cour show until my notes revealed it’d been a year since Illya’s first series. While they may have successfully collected all the cards back then, it turns out that didn’t solve the magic problem it was meant to, so Rin and not-Saber, and therefore Illya and Miyu, are drafted in once again to fix the mess.

The show looks as good as ever, though it falls back a little too much on a chibier artstyle and when you have characters running around with a > < expression on their face it just pulls you right out of it. The soundtrack is solid, and the characters themselves do show small signs of progression in the one month it’s been since events began, but then anime rears its ugly head once again with lesbian undertones and the lead characters being more cute vehicles than intriguing personalities.

It’s tricky to judge. On the one hand, with this being a Fate show it does try to have a plot, though this episode is more a refresher of what’s happened before with little new happening until the end twist of there now being two Illya’s (magic ain’t gotta explain shit). But as I’m writing this with knowledge of a certain Fall season show’s existence from the almighty ufotable which probably won’t be as cliché anime as this can be, Illya’s somewhat outclassed this time. Though on one last positive note, I’ve never seen characters drown during a transformation scene before.

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Magimoji Rurumo

Animation! A medium through which you can realise anything. Wishes! The power to tap into your wildest fantasies and make them a reality. And so our lead guy wishes for a pair of girl’s panties. Fuck anime fuck anime fuck anime.

He does get them, but part of that contract is his life is now forfeit, so when the witch comes to retrieve them and reveals that for giving him her stuff she faces a life in prison, the two of them somehow bond and beat the death penalty, ending with him getting a book of 666 wishes. But when he uses them all up, he’ll die (nah, I doubt he will either)!

So we have a generic pervert with few morales apart from where it’s required to not make him a total asshole, and a “shy” (read – stoic and personalityless) witch because that’s all Rei and Yuki were right. Cue pervert humour, subpar animation, a forgettable soundtrack and shoddy writing. I found the animation of the ending song where he taught her to ride a bike sweeter than anything the main show has to offer. And when that’s the case you know the show’s crap. Don’t bother.

DROPPED

Yama no Susume Second Season

Just like Fate earlier, this was another show where it felt like the first season was only yesterday. Turns out it was almost two years ago now. Damn. As somebody who likes hill climbing myself, I openly admit my opinions about an anime on mountain climbing are a little biased, but even so this show still did a good job. We watch our quartet learning to pitch a tent and cook camp food. By which I mean we actually learn, they use proper tent terms and the show walks you through the steps so you could feasibly do it yourself after watching.

Sadly the characters themselves, who are apparently mostly in highschool despite their junior school appearances, are pretty bland and cutesy to accompany the artstyle, with the show relying on the ride for intrigue as opposed to the characters. Anime clichés are almost nowhere to be seen, bar a brief bath scene in the episode and one nude shot in the opening, though neither is fanservice focused. And with the show only clocking in at 10 minutes or so, it doesn’t have time to become stale or drag on.

So once again I find myself not able to commit to Yama no Susume, but knowing that one day, when I have some free time to kill, this is one mountain I will climb.

POSSIBLY

Ai Mai Mi ~Mousou Catastrophe~

Putting “catastrophe” in your show’s title is just asking for trouble, and sure enough, Ai Mai Mi “delivers”. Despite clocking in at 3 minutes (this writeup will take longer than watching the show), this still felt like a total waste of time. In this sequel (no I don’t know who recommissioned it either) the Six Brushes society are peeved because somebody did a better manga than them and one of their members died maybe. I assume the main character is the culprit, hard to say when they barely appear.

And that conversation is pretty much the entire episode. You also get a terrible pixel art opening and terrible real world parody ending. The animation inbetween isn’t awful, but it is lifeless and forgettable. The entire show just… happens. In one ear, out the other. And why would you watch something like that.

DROPPED

Persona 4 The Golden Animation

For those who don’t know what a Persona is, it’s the future of JRPGs. Or maybe the present would be the better term. With the demise of the ultra-popular Final Fantasy’s it was this series that took it’s place, and P5 is one of the most hotly anticipated games of the genre. That said, having an adaptation of Golden so soon after the original P4 got one was a shock. What would A-1 do differently? Besides not having every character be bearded.

This first episode cannons through the opening, with Yu moving into Inaba and getting Izanagi, altering a few events along the way to accommodate that increase in pace. The show blazes through so quickly that there’s still 5 minutes after the credits roll, which get dedicated to the Golden’s new (best) girl, Marie, as she introduces herself and manages to tell a not terrible poem, and from the looks of the next episode preview with Kanji and her in it, seems the show will hammer the accelerator and focus on her journey more than Yu’s.

There’s nods everywhere for people who’ve played the games, most of all being the anime soundtrack containing a bunch of songs from the games and a brand new song sung by the same girl who did Shadow World (which takes over as opening theme for this episode). As for the animation, honestly a lot of it looks like A-1 phoning it in to focus on other shows, though the first Izanagi fight scene is utterly ridiculous, and I struggle to see any future encounter topping it. And that exaggeration and increased pace is the problem. P4 fans will be able to fill in the gaps, but new people will be left behind, and the enjoyment comes more from revisiting old memories than making new ones. Something to watch when you want a trip down memory lane, but with the P4G game still so fresh, that time won’t be for a while yet.

POSSIBLY

Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus

It’s been a year of surprising returns, with Sailor Moon and Mushishi back on our screens. But none made me happier than knowing Kuroshitsuji, or Black Butler, was coming back once again. Ciel and Sebastian’s journey to hell and back was one of the first series I saw when I was getting into anime, and now A-1 have dusted it off once again, complete with manga plot instead of the anime original content that comprised the second season.

And barring a few tweaks, it’s business as usual. Same voice actors, same animation style, and… same plot. This first episode decides to reintroduce viewers to Black Butler with the briefest of backstories and then the all too familiar for past viewers “some adult tries to off the young Earl because what can a kid do then Sebastian outclasses them and kills them because he’s (join in with me) one hell of a butler” story. On the new and positive side, the ending (which presumably will become the opening) was really well made.

And while this episode’s plot might have been a trip down memory lane, with the rest of the series set to cover the Noah’s Ark Circus… arc… and a bunch of foreshadowing for the observant, the future seems bright for Kuroshitsuji. Heck, the ending points out just how invincible the two of them are, and that arrogance, especially from Ciel, was something I always loved about this show. Yes, it’s sequel bias, but I’m ready for this next stage of the journey, and as a circus hater getting to see Sebastian wreck one is a win win for me.

KEEPER

Zankyou no Terror

It takes a lot to truly impress me, but… damn. Just damn. Mr Bebop you have outdone yourself. I could summarise this in a sentence by saying all my notation on Zankyou no Terror is positive. Visually? Knocks it out of the park. Fluid animation on display in near enough every scene, and countless brilliant shots that fully utilise perspective and varied animation styles, with an opening and ending that excel even moreso. The soundtrack? It accompanies the show beautifully, and the opening and ending eschew the usual pop rock same old for two distinct and memorable pieces.

And then there’s the characters and story. Our two leading guys are polar opposites. Touji is hyper and happy while Arata is cool and calculating. Or are they the best of friends, Nine and Twelve, the last remnants of a long burned down orphanage? And then you have Lisa, a girl bullied at school and with a fair few psychological issues as society pressures and prods her around, forced to join in with the two’s acts of terrorism. Yes, terrorism. Add in an ex-detective now teacher at their school, with a mind already putting together the pieces of their latest explosion.

The whole production flows naturally and is really well written. Important lines and events are set up in advance without you even realising it until the trigger is pulled and the show looks at you with a knowing smile. You just can’t teach that kind of quality. And if it keeps it up throughout, you’ve got a bonafide Anime of the Year contender. Make it so Watanabe.

KEEPER

Psycho-Pass Remastered

What’s that? Will I rewatch my Anime of the Year 2012 in a remastered format? Oh gee I wonder.

KEEPER

Fiiiine, I’ll say more about it. Set in Neo-Tokyo, computer system Sibyl’s judgement is law, and the police exist merely to enforce that will. Akane is a new inspector to the force, discovering her years of training and dissertations mean little when dealing with not just the oddballs she’s apprehending, but also those she’s working with. But how exactly does Sibyl define a latent criminal? I mean, couldn’t the system get it wrong? So begins Akane and her colleagues journey, transforming from mindless hunting dogs to the detectives they all once aspired to be.

It looks great, it sounds better and as a show Butch Gen fully committed to, the writing is top notch. If you’ve not yet seen Psycho-Pass, and it still amazes me how many people haven’t, I’d argue for it being an Anime of the Decade candidate and an absolute must watch series, beating Ghost in the Shell at its own game. Heck, the massive fan demand and critical acclaim is what’s led to the second season and movie existing, because as it turns out, quality does sell when it’s this good.

However, the jump to double-length episodes to get through a two-cour show in just one season means you can clearly tell where about’s the episodes originally started and ended, with the pacing and flow going off kilter as one episode transitions to another, and while not strictly related to the show, the original run has a more extensive choice of fansubs. But even so, this is still a masterpiece, and there’s no excuse not to watch it.

Nobunaga Concerto

For some reason, I thought this might be decent, despite being one of a million shows with Nobunaga in the title. And having watched Nobunagun which went from “this’ll be cool” to “eeeehhhhhh”. Cue the show opening with some nasty stiff CG animation jerking about whenever anything dared to move. And sadly it didn’t matter how nice the background scenery looked or how great the animation of the opening and ending was, as those awful character models in motion destroyed any chance this show ever had.

The plot involves some kid who doesn’t care two figs for Japanese history falling back in time and replacing a sickly Noubnaga because the two look almost identical, leading to all of Oda’s family thinking he’s gone insane as he acts at complete odds with his former self. And the reason our kid doesn’t try to explain his way out of this predicament? Why, that’d mean he’d have to relearn history in the present because he changed it in the past!

You’ve also got a bunch of other characters who act exactly as you’d expect people from this time period to, leading to the humour of them encountering modern-day mannerisms and gadgets, such as bug spray. There’s also the Dick Dastardly tier plotting of his “brother” Nobuyuki but honestly neither the characters or writing are memorable.

As for the soundtrack, the ending song was cool, but again any non-2D animation in it was just horrid, and add in that bland writing, and despite avoiding a lot of cliché plotholes, I just don’t want any more to do with this concerto.

DROPPED

Rokujyouma no Shinryakusha!?

I don’t recall the last time I saw a show adopt the Haruhi formula, but that’s exactly what Apartment Invaders does. Our lead dude Satomi moves into his new place, a small and cheap room, but after a few nights of bizarre happenings he realises a ghost has been living there for a while and rather wants her room back.

But  wait there’s more! A magical girl claims the room is full of dark magical energy. And an underground lady who wants it as a shrine for etheric energy. And and some alien chick whose mission is to make room owner Satomi accept her as his queen. And and and her assistant. And and and and the landlady who gets a wee bit pissed after all of them start knocking seven bells out of each other on her property.

You know what this means kids, it’s a harem show! Except with anime humour and hijinks, and the “Haruhi” of the show being the room they’re all fighting over. It’s almost a shame then that Silver Link have done such a good job visually realising the variety of characters and animating the show in general when the writing is this bland and not even close to the standard of Melancholy. I mean, I’m betting on it devolving into the same cycle of jokes over and over until they’re stale and some new character crawls out of the woodwork. That or romantic comedy and fanservice (though this first episode does a decent job in not succumbing to it). Or maybe it’ll be them adapting to the normal worl-nah. This isn’t quite a lost cause, but I’d sooner rewatch Haruhi. Yes, that includes Endless Eight.

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Happiness Charge PreCure!

The really knowledgeable among you will note this didn’t air in the summer, but apparently I forgot to include this write-up back in Winter, so here ya go. Happiness Charge marks ten years of the Precure franchise, a series focused on lovely happy cutesy girly girls that complements the Super Hero Time block (good news by the way, Ninninger doesn’t suck). Anyway, I have no clue how much continuity this show actually has, but it feels like we get thrown in right at the deep end with some blue haired Precure called Hime getting her ass handed to her by a Terribad (no idea if that’s the actual name or just the subbers, but amazing choice), before some other Precure bails her out and laments Hime’s uselessness.

And so, sick of being alone and teribad at her job (wahey), our girl is given a friendship stone and uses it the only way she knows how. By lobbing it randomly and bonding with the girl it hits. Which would be the happiest and friendliest girl around, who I’ll call “red hair” because I can’t remember her real name. Shenanigans unfold including that ultra dangerous scenario depicted in the picture, she becomes a Precure, they both go through long transformation scenes and the episode ends there but you can assume they’ll save the day with friendship and sparkles and other lovely stuff.

Elsewhere… well, it’s what you’d expect. Lots of colours that ultimately feel bland and lifeless, a predictable J-Pop filled soundtrack, CG models in the ending that don’t really fit the show’s style and the sickeningly happy attitude of everyone bar the villains. Seen one, seen them all and you’ll know the happy happy joy joy that this genre thrives on, but it’s all just a bit one-dimensional for us more adult viewers.

DROPPED

Tokyo ESP

It’s Christmas time in Tokyo… in a show airing in the summer… But for a group of espers, what better time to go on a rampage, taking the Houses of Parliament hostage by lifting them up (if you ever played Paper Mario on the N64, it’s like that), and massacring countless security, military and civilians in an effort to become the dominant beings and control the city.

Of course, not all espers are meanies, with the good faction being led by the “White Girl” a (surprise) white-haired girl who in the past has used her psychic powers to help those in need before vanishing, giving her a cult status, whom is built up throughout the episode before making her appearance at the very end. There’s a few other kids as well with lesser powers who foil one of the beatnik’s plans, but do little to stand out yet.

What takes this show to the next level though is the action and bloodshed. There’s no black and white cuts or avoiding the critical moment, you see every slash, every limb fall and every drop of claret, which combined with some brilliant visual effects, solid animation style and cool soundtrack really gets the blood pumping and helps you look past the very occasional jerky animation.

If I did have to name a flaw though, there isn’t much of a long-term plot yet outside of “good espers fight bad espers”. I mentioned the rights stuff which they use as reasoning for taking the government hostage, but it’s never expanded upon, and it sits alongside the predictable populace terrified of power they don’t understand, making it hard to tell if the writing will be able to step it up and match the great aesthetic. But Tokyo ESP’s won me over enough to make that journey, and if you want a cool action show, I’d recommend it.

KEEPER

Yami Shibai Second Season

With a runtime just shy of 5 minutes, Yami Shibai certainly doesn’t drag things out. More than a little reminiscent of Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids, we saw a weird masked man travel around with one of those old-timey Japanese card movie theatre… things (if you know what they’re called, do tell me), taking a nice happy tale and adding a darker twist to it, as in this episode a traffic warden’s ventriloquist puppet gains a mind of its own during a routine school assembly.

Except instead of embracing pure despair like Gruesome Tales was apt to do, the ending of this episode stuck with its traffic safety moral, and despite the darker undertone, it took away a lot of the atmosphere and felt more than a bit out of place for what the show was going for. Then again, that could just be this episode, it seems like this uses an episodic format, and it obviously did well enough to get a second season. Plus the animation of having kinda cut-out people jiggle around works well, so I guess if you’re looking for a Japanese take on GTFGK, spend a few minutes and see if this is for you.

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Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance

Oh man, I can taste the finish line. But hey, it wouldn’t be an anime season if there wasn’t one last fanservice slash harem show to suffer through. So the flimsy premise this time is that only shrine princesses can make contracts with spirits and wield them in battle, until for the first time in a millennium a guy gains the power to do it. So Kamito is sent to the school where all young (and female) elementalists train, and the usual “oh no I fell on you breast and / or crotch first” antics ensue.

The non-perversion plotline involves him being there to find his old spirit friend, which by the sounds of it he’ll have to win a competition to do (but don’t worry, he’s already the most powerful guy at the school without training, begging the question of why he’s even there…), likely battling against the girl you see in the first minute of the episode. If only that was the focus and not tsundere after tsundere, panties joke after panties joke. Combine that with a bland opening, the most generic big-eyed anime styling possible and almost no actual fighting (one girl swings a whip around for a bit but it’s used more as bondage than weapon), and… yeah, no. Fuck off.

DROPPED

Francesca

Closing out this season’s lineup we have the half-length undead romp, Francesca. The formerly deceased are arising from their slumber, but luckily a little kid wielding a Heavy-esque minigun is there to take them out. So with Japan seemingly safe from this new menace, a statue and some other (presumably famous if you’re familiar with Japanese history, which I ain’t) guy decide to resurrect the most vicious and sadistic undead of all time, Francesca. With one swing of her hair she wipes out half her own forces and is set to rampage when… something hits her and she transforms into stereotypical anime girl 3683. Oh.

The show looked pretty decent outside of a few scenes that brought the words “Flash animation” screaming to mind, and not the good Wakfu kind. Heck, a few of the jokes actually got a smile out of moi, thanks to a few undead being given personalities instead of the cliché design. But on the flipside you had the 90 second ending after a very rapid opening and the writing which meant I couldn’t really tell why Francesca was revived or who she was fighting for. So it’s the kind of short show throwaway you’ve come to expect, with nothing memorable to make it worthwhile, but nothing disappointing to turn you away.

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Well shit me, that took longer than planned and then some. Still, as I said, this is where the catchup begins. Expect to see a roundup of Q1 manga releases within the next week, and then Fall 2014 Impressions and my Top Ten for the year gone by in April. And maybe I’ll throw in a few reviews among them.

Or you could! The blog is always looking for people to review and write about anything and everything animation or picture book related, so please get in touch with Reaf or Jake and they’ll help you out. Catch y’all around!