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Jan 11

Winter Anime 2016 First Episode Impressions – Part 2

Durararacanogatari

Durararacanogatari

If it feels like it’s not been long since the last batch of shows… well, it hasn’t been. January 8th and 9th contained an intensive burst of shows, which I managed to somehow blast my way through in the past two days. I don’t think I’ve ever been as on top of anime as I have this season, though on the flipside I lost most of my weekend. Hang in there, Slazo. Anyways, this next dozen of shows includes the return of a few split-cour shows in the political worlds collide fantasy that is Gate, and the character filled mad and stylish Durarara. There’s also a smattering of shorts and the latest entry to the Monogatari franchise. The only things missing are Reikenzan and, weirdly, Fairy Tail Zero. I’ll try to include them in the third part later in the week.

But for now, let’s dive into the middle batch of shows from the season!

Oshiete! Galko-chan

I need to applaud Galko-chan. Over the years I’ve figured out I’m dropping some series pretty damn fast. But never has a show within its first frame proved to me that it ain’t worth a damn. Then along comes Galko, immediately asking whether boob and areolae size are related and bang, dropped.

You have three bland girls, the blonde haired, more passionate one, the short, nerdier one with glasses, and then there’s another girl who… is also there. A lot of the show is dedicated to them answering stupid dirty questions or talking about butts and boobs and I really, truly couldn’t care less. The only saving grace was it being only 8 minutes long, so I didn’t have to waste more time on it.

DROPPED

Koukaku no Pandora

Ah yes, I remember being intrigued in the manga of this. Despite its… shortcomings… Let me explain. Pandora in the Crimson Shell: Ghost Urn takes place on a luxury island. While travelling there via cruise ship, Nene, a full body cyborg, meets Uzal, a sort of scientist, who has her own pet full body cyborg, Clarion. Nene hasn’t ever met another cyborg like her, so instantly warms to Clarion and wants to make friends. So far, so good.

Aaaand then the animeisms come flooding in. Uzal’s clearly a shady pervert, dressing up all her staff and robots in various fetish outfits, and forcing Clarion to accept the extremely huggy nature of Nene. Then there’s a random unrelated reporter character who constantly gets blown up. Can’t forget Clarion being regularly drawn as a white outline for no reason either. And then there’s the big one, where to active the Pandora software in Clarion, Nene has to, well, stick her finger down Clarion’s pants. Yes, really. Think of that one bit at the start of Chobits but given way more fanfare and done repeatedly.

Despite all that crap, there are cool moments. I liked some of the designs, especially on the random drones they were fighting. The show does set up some longer term plot and backstory, including a relationship between Uzal and Nene’s aunt, and somewhat introduces the other robots and crap they’ll have to deal with in the immediate future. I’m in no way saying it makes up for the trash-tier antics this show frequently revels in, but it saves it from being a total waste.

UNLIKELY

Sekkou Boys

Another 8 minute short. Let me explain the one joke. The Sekkou Boys are a male idol group of… sculptures! Yes. Really. They can talk and sing and everything, while never moving. And now they have a new manager, who went through all of her academic career in various art schools being forced to paint sculptures, developing a xenophobic hatred of them as the years went by. See. See the jokes.

Actually, it takes pretty much the entire episode to build up to the “guess who you’re managing” punchline, when it isn’t overusing the other limited pool of jokes such a scenario brings. And of course, this being anime attempting to be funny means it usually falls flat on its face. The only laugh I got was from a line about art school having nothing to do with developing artistic talent. But I guess there’s no real problems visually or audioally, so if that premises sounds hilarious to you, enjoy. Me? I’ll pass.

DROPPED

Tabi Machi Late Show

D’aaawwwww. That was the feeling I got watching the Tabi Machi Late Show, which was essentially 8 minutes of bittersweetness. Focusing on a chef duo, the trainee and his master, we see him struggle to make a pomodoro as good as her’s before he heads off to Milan to train further. We see how she inspired him to become a chef, and the cyclicalness of said relationship from her being inspired by her master.

The audio is just simple melodies that work perfectly, as does the very clean artstyle, with watercolour backgrounds and, admittedly, little animation. It is very much a frame by frame piece, but in many ways that suited it. There were only one or two scenes where it felt like it needed more motion and fluidity, but I can forgive that when it suits the production the rest of the time. This isn’t a bonafide must see that will top anime of the year lists… but  it is a sweet way to kill 10 minutes each week. Though whether it’s a new story each week or focuses on these chef’s we’ll have to wait and see. Certainly one to consider if you have the time to spare.

POSSIBLY

Gate Second Season

I mean, there is a longer subtitle to this, but we all know it as Gate, so why bother. A split-cour show, this carries straight on from the first half. I remember that the original first episode didn’t sell me on it back in the summer, but a lot of people told me afterwards I was being too harsh and I should check it out. Dropping in halfway through, I can kinda see why too.

What originally starts as a random gate opening between realms has become the political and military meeting of the worlds I hoped it would be, though the brief recap does almost nothing to educate new viewers on the events of the first season. Plus, with there already being an established cast full of relationships, it became hard to gauge the significance of some actions or names. Though to its credit, I never felt utterly bewildered.

You get the usual themes of some people being traditionalists who don’t want to make peace with outsiders and the classes of society (with beast people here taking the subpar denizens role), and it even found time for a few laughs. But no time for those three girls who I assume are important, as they’re relegated to a few seconds at the end, appearing more in the end credits than the episode.

Visually, it looked pretty good but not spectacular, and I could say the same of the audio. Certainly, this seems to be a show that’s better looked upon as a whole than from episode to episode. It has made me want to give the show another try though, so if I get some spare time this season I’ll be sure to watch the first half. Which I guess is about all you can ask of a second season of a show you’ve not seen.

POSSIBLY

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

Oh boy, after thinking I’d have an easy ride in this batch with so many shorts, along comes the double length Rakugo. If you’ve no clue what that means, welcome to the club. Turns out it’s an old style of Japanese theatre, where one person sits on a mat and conveys a story purely through voice and body motion.

It’s very stylised too, from the musical choices to the animation, representing the era it sits in perfectly… whatever that is. I’m pretty certain it’s not modern-day, but it’s also not distant past. Sometime in the last century, I think.

Leading guy Kyoji, having just been released from prison, and with no family or savings to his name, goes to beg rakugo master Yakumo, having been inspired by a performance he did at the prison during his sentence. Despite having never taken an apprentice, Yakumo sees something in the kid, and so begins this journey.

There’s plenty of supporting cast too, including Konatsu, a women in her late 20s or early 30s (I think), who was the daughter of another rakugo prodigy who used to work with Yakumo. Kyoji inspiring her, as well as the strained relationship between her and Yakumo revolving around her deceased father, are another key point of the show, and help to break up the rakugo focused scenes.

And while it’s great that the double length gives them far more time to establish and evolve characters and story threads, it does also mean that some scenes, including the rakugo performances, can drag on. It’s nothing to massively complain over, but you can be sat there waiting for the next scene to come for a while at points.

Now I reflect on it, I’ve always had some sort of weak point for old-fashioned Japanese folk stuff made with passion. I mean, it’s why I watched Hanayamata a while back. But I feel like this show has a chance to truly shine and tell an interesting story. Maybe it’s like the rakugo it depicts in the end, a bit rambling at times, but still manages to leave you with a smile on your face.

KEEPER

Divine Gate

Wow this show loves its mute pallets. To try and get across how constantly miserable the main character Aoto is, you get to see the city he lives in constantly portrayed as grey and rainy. Sadly, it just comes off as being drab and boring, especially contrasted to the odd bouts of hyper-colour in the alternate world they sometimes slip into.

Aoto can use water magic, despite not having a “Driver”, a tool which brings out magical talents, making him quite the interest to the local academy and other darker factions, despite his supposed parent murdering past. They even assign him teammates when he refuses to join, as he’s pestered by a water deity who would be his supervisor, and a guy and girl duo who specialise in fire and air (I think).

There’s also a myth about a Divine Gate, and a weird little kid in trippy visions Aoto has who says he can almost reach it, which would make his dreams come true, despite Aoto claiming he has no dreams. Add in some bleak backstory, and you’ve got a very melancholy first episode that perhaps goes a bit overboard on the depression.

The animation wasn’t brilliant, but it still looked solid, especially on close up shots, and I can see this getting more of a chance to stretch its legs in future episodes. But with a lead so utterly miserable, it’s hard to really care about his plight, and the rest of the cast aren’t exactly must-see personalities either. Despite that, I could see some depth that might shine later, but the journey to reach it means I’ll pass for now.

POSSIBLY

Bubuki Buranki

Yes, this show has a silly name, but it does make sense when you watch it. The first half shows a happy family living in a country paradise, where the kids run happily around, and the giant mech Buranki sleepwalk causing the ground to shake. We get to meet an old abandoned mech called Oubu, and see the kids and mother showcasing some weird energy powers. Life is great.

Sadly, kids are stupid, and the female of the twins (I’d give them their names, but I swear they changed several times during the show) accidentally wakes up the Buranki hordes, sending them into a rampaging frenzy and forcing their sick mother to use up the last of her strength fending them off and sending them down to the planet below. Oh yeah, they were on a planetoid in orbit, didn’t I mention that?

That first half is great, but then the show decides to timeskip 10 years forward. We’re introduced to new characters and concepts thick and fast, but with half the runtime already spent you end up being totally lost. Some of them have Bubuki, weapons with eyes that are part of a complete Buranki, and they can all do various things. Then there’s a security force for the decrepit Tokyo with eyes very similar to the Buranki out hunting our lead boy for a “heart”. And who knows where the sister or father went.

Again, I can’t really hate on a show for having a deeper backstory and scope than what we know thus far, and while some people poo poo CG characters, they look great here. But still, the pacing of the second half was completely out of whack, and let down an otherwise solid production. I can see it recovering with more time to establish the extended cast, and maybe I’m being harsh, but for now, a reserve, not a keeper.

POSSIBLY

Luck and Logic

Logic defines everything. No, really, in Luck and Logic, it truly does, as it’s the… I guess power source of their abilities. One in a million people awaken to having Logic powers, and use them to fight Paradoxes, weird creatures that descend out of gates in the sky and essentially infect someone, turning them into a rampaging monster. They’re rated like earthquakes, so the higher the number, the bigger the threat.

Our lead, Tsurugi Yoshichika, used to be a really strong Logic fighter, until he burnt himself out one day. But then, during one attack, a girl named Athena finds his old logic card (yes, there are cards, and it’s only really mentioned at this one point) and so becomes his weapon (or Covenanter to use a stupid name), and by combining their powers with the fighters already on the scene, they save the day.

The fight scenes are fairly pretty, and definitely have a vibrance missing from the rest of the show. There’s a bunch of stuff going on behind the scenes too, with mandatory conscription for anyone with powers and the relationship between user and weapon being pretty much like marriage. Then again, considering pretty much every cast member bar our lead is female… yep, it’s an anime.

I don’t see it living up to some similar shows with human weapons, such as Soul Eater, but there’s enough here to hold your interest, even if it doesn’t particularly break any kind of mould. Luck & Logic won’t offend, but it won’t inspire too, so I guess maybe if you’ve got time you could check it out.

POSSIBLY

Durarara!!x2 Ketsu

Guilty confession, I never finished the first season of Durarara. Don’t get me wrong, I loved what I saw, but the sub group I used back then kinda fizzled midway through and for one reason or another I never got back to it. And now, here I am watching the first episode of the third and final part of season two, which took not only five years to come out, stunning people that it actually happened, but also becoming the first ever triple split-cour show.

A lot has happened between where I left off and where we are now (unsurprisingly), but even with new characters I didn’t know, factions I’d never met and a lot of the episode taking place in Celty’s (headless motorbike rider who has Reaper-esque powers) room, I still loved this. It’s mad to look upon when you step back and think about it rationally, but everything makes sense in the twisted, insane logic of their home, Ikebukuro.

To further prove a point, I have shit all notes for this show because it was just a joy to sit back and watch, and knowing me, that’s a feat in and of itself. It still looks great, the opening song introducing all the characters and recapping events is still amazing, the ending with the glorious artwork of all the characters standing on each other remains alive, and… fuck.

Durarara is amazing. And now it means I have like 50 episodes to rewatch and catch up with, because there’s no way in hell I’m letting this slip away from me again.

KEEPER

Nurse Witch Komugi-chan R

Idol shows! CG dancing and bland J-pop? Check. Heroines with bright hair colours? Check. Lead’s a ditz? Check. Weird cute but out of this world animal sidekick thing? Check. Okay, okay, it’s not all the same old shit, I mean for one the idols here have some experience singing and dancing. And oh yeah, it’s a magical girl sentai-esque show more than it is an idol one.

It also went down the comedy route, with the pet being a bit shady, a girl who says pretty much nothing but yo yo yo, and oh noes censor the cockroach that’s too horrid for kid’s TV. Some jokes worked, most failed. Then there’s all the things having silly names like Chan-G and Amazoni-N, which is meant to be a wordplay joke but just comes off as stupid from how much it’s overused, and it even finds time to make a bunch of references to other, better shows hidden within the episode.

Now I think about it, I’m pretty sure the only idol show to ever pass these first episode tests was Love Live a few years back, and that was thanks to a certain passion, flair and standoutness it exuded, while most of the kiddy orientated shows floundered in the same template. And no amount of Komugication is going to save this one from damnation either.

DROPPED

Koyomimonogatari

If you know what the Monogatari franchise is, you’ll fit right in here. Lots of dialogue over nothing of much importance (hello Hyouka, it’s been a while), but it doesn’t matter because the ride is done with such style and depth you’ll still watch on. That being said, for franchise newbies there are vastly better entry points than this.

Still, the half-length Koyomimonogatari is a well made show, with all the Shaft nods and headtilts you expect, and judging by the opening, a heavy focus on Hanekawa. Speaknig of which, the song for the opening was great, and the animation style of the ending was brilliant too. The story has a beginning, middle and end that’s well told, and… yeah, it’s cool.

But again, this is definitely more for fans of the franchise, and doesn’t have the overarching plot or cast to make it a must see experience like its bigger brothers.

POSSIBLY

Six possiblies!? I must be going soft.  Only really one new show that managed to step it up another level though in Rakugo, while Durarara just reminded me of how brilliant it was. And is. Will our final part see me return to my usual angry form? Will my one to watch of the season, Ajin, live up to my expectations? And will there be a fanservice centric show, because goddamn, the closest we’ve had is KyoAni and I refuse to believe anime has risen above its biggest fallacy of the past few years. Find out later in the week!