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Apr 04

Spring Anime 2016 First Episode Impressions – Part 1

Diamond's are a JoJo's best friend

Diamond’s are a JoJo’s best friend

Feels like barely any time at all since the last season of first episodes, and now here we go again. Apparently, Spring’s supposed to have some solid stuff, but we’ll see. In this opening batch, I review the first 12 shows of the season, which all aired on April 1st / 2nd (or in one case, last month). We’ve got a Makoto Shinkai adaptation in She And Her Cat, the latest arc of weeaboo favourite JoJo, a new Trigger short in Space Patrol Luluco, and a bunch of sequels to things I ain’t seen. Enjoy!

Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko: Everything Flows

Starting off these impressions with something that’s already finished airing! She And Her Cat: Everything Flows is a 4 episode short series (8 minutes each) based off a Makoto Shinkai short from way back in 2002. If that name means nowt to you then what the heck dude, he’s done some of the best anime films of recent years, including Five Centimeters Per Second and The Garden of Words.

Anyway, in this show we watch a college girl struggling to make ends meet, as she juggles her education and a job while trying to pay for her two bedroom flat all by herself, now that her roommates moved in with their boyfriend. Except its all told from the perspective of her cat, Daru. So you never see what happens beyond the big scary door that leads to the outside world. It’s certainly an interesting way of telling the story, and she comes across as such a strong-willed, kind individual you can’t help but join the cat in rooting for her.

Production values aren’t as skyhigh as Shinkai’s usual work, but it still looks neat, with the occasional super gorgeous moment as well as simply artsy opening and endings that are nice and relaxing, just like the music the show uses. And while said opening and ending eat up roughly a quarter of the runtime, you don’t really begrudge the show that as they’re so well executed. If anything, I found my time with this show coming to an end all too soon.

So it’s a relaxing, feelgood show (I assume) which runs for about half an hour total. It probably won’t win any awards, but with charm like this, how could I say no?

KEEPER

Mayoiga

I’m… not quite sure what to make of this one. As the show starts, we’re introduced to a cast of kids and young adults on a bus trip to the mysterious Nanaki Village. And by “cast”, I mean there’s 30 odd people. Who all get to introduce themselves in the first five minutes, ensuring you’ll only remember a few of them, such as Lion, who… wears a lion hoodie…

The reason they’re all on this tour is due to a variety of different reasons, some petty, some deep, they want to start a new life. Which is all well and good, but the way it’s directed, this is clearly a horror show. So you spend ages waiting for Battle Royale to start… but it doesn’t. This show is going for a slow build before everything tumbles over a cliff (I assume), but it gives you very little to latch onto in the meantime.

I mean, take those characters. Of the few who get any notable screentime, there’s Mitsumune who appears to be the lead guy from a viewer’s perspective, who has all the personality of toilet paper. Then there’s a girl with serious superstition issues who breaks down crying every five seconds, a dickweed guy who keeps victimising any and everybody, the bus driver who’s just been dragged into all of this without knowing anything… and Lion. Who with her “don’t mess with me” vibe is the only interesting person. No wonder I actually remember her.

As for presentation, the animation is fairly bland and lifeless, highlighted by an opening almost entirely comprised of stills. For audio, only the ending song had any kind of notable beat, but it was all pretty forgettable. Maybe when the shit hits the fan, this’ll start to showcase more personality, but this first episode didn’t really inspire confidence or intrigue, so unless people suddenly start raving about it, I’ll give this a miss.

UNLIKELY

Ushio to Tora Second Season

Ah yes, time to play the good old sequels to stuff I’ve not seen game. Ushio (lead human whose hair also goes ultra long when he fights for some reason) and Tora (lead demon / spirit who will devour him one day though they’re totally besties) team up to fight some ancient evil demon, who I assume thanks to the ending of the first season, starts off the show piiiiissed.

Said demon’s genius plan to spread fear and slow down Ushio from sticking the Beast Spear in her this time is to make almost everyone forget who he is. So you get to see his romantic interest go from “yay running through cherry blossoms” to “stop stalking me” in a matter of seconds. There’s also a bunch of other previously established cast doing various things because of this, such as trying to forge a new Beast Spear because apparently the current one shatters in the future, but as a new viewer you’ll have no clue who any of them are.

Obviously it’s harder to fairly judge a sequel when you’ve not seen the original, but… I dunno, it just strikes me as very standard action shōnen fair. I didn’t really care about any of the characters or fights and nothing from the plot grabbed me either. The animation uses the more westerny actiony style you see in stuff like Hajime no Ippo or Fist of the North Star, but this is far from its best outing, and the music is equally forgettable.

If you liked the first season then you’ve already made your choice, but I don’t see anything engaging here to make me want to go back and watch it. It’s not that it’s bad, just another series among many that I won’t remember by this time next week.

DROPPED

Uchuu Patrol Luluco

This ain’t just any random little short, it’s Space Patrol Luluco by… Trigger! You know those guys, right. They made Kill la Kill and Little Witch Academia, amongst others, and are renowned for their distinctive style which is certainly on display here. Visually this show manages to both be lazy and look dang sweet, kinda like Inferno Cop (whose identical twin brother also appears in this).

Sadly Trigger’s humour is also here in abundance. A normal girl called Luluco is stuck in a town where abnormal humans and aliens live together, and by the usual weird sequence of events she gets roped into the Space Patrol and has her average life shattered with hilarious consequences hahaha look at the madness isn’t it all weird and crazy and funny roflmao such jokes many lols kill me now.

Okay, I admit part of that’s me never getting this style of humour, and I can’t mark this as a complete write off thanks to the visual flair (even the ending does something I’ve not seen before). With only an 8 minute runtime it doesn’t drag on either, but it doesn’t exactly inspire me to go watch more. So like most of Trigger’s work, then.

UNLIKELY

Kagewani Shou

Another 8 minute short, because it’s the start of the season and they usually seem to be some of the first shows airing. Don’t think that means Kagewani is a let down though, as this second season opener surprised me in many good ways. And it didn’t do the usual short trick of eating up runtime with openings and endings, instead getting straight to its story.

The visual style and use of audio was very reminiscent of another show, Yami Shibai, and to a certain point, so was the storytelling, focusing on horror and spooky scary. But this show did a far better job of it than that one ever has, merging the sketchbook characters with fairly realistic yet still animated backgrounds. And with the plot not being episodic like that other show, it gave them time to build the horror and tell a better story.

It’s not perfect, as the scares will never really surprise you, and the beast itself is more of a weird design than anything, but it’s certainly one to consider if you’re after a more horror focused show. I’d certainly consider going back and checking out the first season if I get time… though I say that a lot for “possiblies”, so who knows.

POSSIBLY

JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Diamond wa Kudakenai

I have somewhat of a reputation for not being the biggest JoJo fan around. What some people see as the best madcap journey going, I see as an incoherent mess. But it looks like JoJo’s here for the long haul, and so now we’re on to the fourth arc, Diamond is Unbreakable.

But that’s where a lot of my negativity stops. Having now established the ground rules for Stands (the powers they fight with), a lot of the bizarre seems to have gone away, with fights making a lot more sense. We get to see the two new JoJo’s (I assume they’re both new, again, I didn’t watch 1/2/3), and their fight against the most evil of criminals who’s just godawful because we told you so.

But it’s cool, there’s a slickness to the presentation and it’s mostly got the colour diarrhea under control apart from a few Stand scenes. The cast are kinda likeable too and look pretty cool, even if one of the JoJo’s appears to have merged his hat into his hair.

If you were already a JoJo fan, you’ll no doubt have seen this already and be laughing about how it’s the best thing ever, but as someone who isn’t, this is the closest I’ve come to being sold on it. There’s still a fundamental silliness at times, but I could see myself looking past it this time. You done good, JoJo.

POSSIBLY

Terra Formars Revenge

If you notice one recurring theme in this part it’s that a lot of these shows are sequels. Luckily we get a fairly brief recap near the start, explaining that cockroaches sent to Mars evolved into sentai villain mooks and also made a disease that kills people, so we sent a crew of the young and stupid to go get some samples and make a vaccine. Cool? Cool.

Sadly shit goes wrong, the bugs mob the ship’s engine, and the six escape pods all fly off in different directions, so we spend our time focusing on just one of the six squads as they desperately fight off hordes of generi-looking identi-enemies. Don’t worry though, they already got all the samples they need, apparently, as that plot arc resolves itself.

The lead guy is Akari, and he plays it about as stereotypically as you can. He made friends with some hospital kids and promised them it’ll be all right, he’s dumb but funny, has burning passion moments where he goes über strong for no reason and so on. A totally, utterly boring individual.

The show also parades itself as being darker than it is, which with some of the dumbest villains I’ve ever seen is hard (they have no clue how or when to press attacks). Add in some bland as hell fight scenes and a stupid shower sequence fanservice bit, and I really can’t be arsed. I’ll give it one positive, which is the music is pretty alright, but that’s all I got.

DROPPED

Future Card Buddyfight DDD

Buddyfight! Hope you like your card game anime. Unlike Yu-Gi-Oh though, which usually manages to stay in the realms of sanity, this one is just batshit. Everyone has hairstyles that make Yugi look normal, cards can be linked to alternate dimensions and battles go a mile a minute with little to no explanation.

I mean, sure, I get it’s a sequel, but the stats these cards have are almost never mentioned. You just have to infer things after the fact if you’re new to it as monsters smash other monsters. Anyway, as with most card game sequel series, there’s a new gimmick! This time around it’s Impact Monsters (along with lead kid Gao’s Sun Dragon deck, a new type of attribute to the card game), which… lets you transform your buddy monsters… I think?

The plot was that Gao finally got his Buddy Rare, which turned into an egg, which turned into Bal, a little dinosaur thing. But then the bad guy who totally isn’t inspired by Kaiba tries to take it off him, so they Buddyfight. Heck, the battle of this episode did feel like Kaibi vs Yugi in many ways, but the show just goes too wacky or zany to make any meaningful sense or be watchable. Sure, it’s colourful, but there’s no depth to any of it, so I’ll have to pass.

DROPPED

Gyakuten Saiban

If that name means nothing to you then maybe this one will – Ace Attorney. Yep, good old Phoenix Wright’s gotten himself an anime. Which considering how anime meets visual novel meets game the series is… makes sense, actually.

But, um, maybe it’s a bit too much like a game? The entire court of law process seems to have been turned into a ghastly spectator sport, with clear witness dickery, confetti raining from the sky and words so strong they project force powers. It’s hard to take murder seriously when that shit’s happening.

There’s also the fact this being an anime means they can’t give you the cliff notes beforehand, so to speak. So when testimonies contradict autopsy reports, you can’t really play along as the audience because you’ve no clue what they say, you just have to nod and go “yeeessss, of coooourse”.

Combine this with lackluster animation that kinda has to stick to the stills from the games for a lot of the time (and even outside of that is just bleh), and it’s an underwhelming experience. I can certainly see why people play the games, as even in anime form a lot of the charm still comes through, but I have no doubt this is a series best played, not watched.

UNLIKELY

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk Second Season

Sequel Alert! Sequel Alert! Okay, not quite, this is the second half of a split cour. And, y’know, I actually kinda liked Asterisk War. We jump straight in to the fifth round (the Last 16) of the Phoenix Festa, some 2v2 fighting tournament where the winner gets any one request granted, because I think the lady organising it is a god or other divine entity.

And those fights, or at least the one we saw, seemed pretty cool. All the teams had their own unique fighting style, and while our lead couple had the more generic defense orientated come from behind method that’s sort of the norm, there were still plenty of cool visual effects and strategising involved in their fight. To win said matches, you have to break your opponents badges, and they do just that to move into the quarter finals.

Throw in plenty of backstory nods that didn’t lose you even if you’d not seen the first half, such as the implied academy rivalries, and a bit where the announcers remind viewers of the prominent teams still in the tournament, and you’ve got a fairly well made production. The opening and ending were pretty solid for both audio and animation too.

I should say though, there’s nothing particularly unique about Asterisk War. It’s more that what is offered is presented well, so if you want a cool fight show where anything goes, I’d champion this as a good choice to make.

POSSIBLY

Endride

I’ve seen lead characters with a passion for a lot of different things over the years, but gemstones is a new one on me. He loves them so much he wishes one would suck him up into an alternate world, but I mean, what are the chances of that, am I right?

Meanwhile, inside the gemstone, we learn of the political struggle happening in that world. The son of the former king tries to assassinate the current one, to restore honour to his family name after a presumably nefarious usurping, but gets defeated in combat and locked away. Cue our Earth lead crashing into his world and the two of them going on the run.

I mean, to give the show some credit, they fit a lot in this first episode, especially considering the first third establishes a fairly mundane life routine for our Earth kid. Take the battles for example, they all fight with Warp Relics, weapons they summon out of hammerspace in their chests, and one of those fights is against a beastman who’s a dead ringer for Leomon from Digimon. There’s plenty of little touches too, like the “surface world” the gemstone dwellers refer to actually being Earth.

However at the end of the day, this is still a fairly by the books fantasy shōnen. Neither character is alive with personality, those battles I mentioned are fairly mundane and the animation never reaches beyond serviceable. I don’t wanna make you think this is a bad show… I just don’t wanna make you think it’s particularly good either…

UNLIKELY

Ragnastrike Angels

I struggle reviewing ultra-short shows like this. I mean, it’s 30 seconds long. I could talk about the purpose of the show, with it being made to help shill some mobile game. I could talk about what happens, with some girl watching what appears to be the apocalypse and a giant beast running havoc while some nice piano music is playing. I could talk about the production, with it being pretty decently animated. I could… I could… er…

Basically, it’s hard to leave a lasting impression when you last as long as the Countdown theme. It was better than I expected, but not a must see, and that’s about the best I’ve got.

POSSIBLY

So ends the first part of this impressions overload, but I’m only a quarter or so of the way into the season so there’s plenty more to come. Just the one keeper for now, and that’s a show that’ll only take half an hour or so to watch in its entirety. Not sure when Part 2 will be up, as I’m somewhat busy watching WrestleMania, but it will have cool stuff like Macross, Gundam and My Hero Academia amongst others, so staaaay tuuuuned~