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Apr 11

Spring Anime 2016 First Episode Impressions – Part 2

From Hero to Hiiro and back again

From Hero to Hiiro and back again

The season rolls on. With more shows and less time than ever, it’s taking me a while to watch and review stuff, but here now is the next batch of eleven series that all aired April 3rd and 4th.

Sadly some shows just weren’t available, like Beyblade and Duel Masters (sadface), but the good news is we’ve got impressions on mecha dahlings Gundam and Macross, along with the latest arc of Sailor Moon Crystal and a few fantasy and comedy shows. Lessa do this!

 

Kidou Senshi Gundam Unicorn RE:0096

Gundaaaaamn son. I’m gonna assume if you’re reading this you know exactly about the king of mech franchises. Giant robots and space politics mashed into one cool as shit end result for approaching 40 years. This entry in the franchise, Unicorn RE 0096, was originally a series of OVAs, but has now been adapted for television audiences.

Trust me though, you can tell it comes from the higher budget and less time constrained format, because goddamn this looks the bomb. The environments, the mechas, the fights, they all look great. Even the character designs feel cool, despite having a very retro look to them, but it works. The audio direction of the show is top-notch too, with tons of little touches and a standout opening and ending.

Sadly, there is a problem. You are thrown straight in at the deep end. As someone who’s never sat down and properly watched a Gundam series or movie (sorry), the show bounces from character to term to reference to event at a rate of knots, and certainly left me very confused about certain events and why x thing was important. You also have the episode cut off in a weird place, clearly because of the change to TV’s 20ish minute chunks.

I really don’t want to sour you on this though, if you have more than a very basic knowledge of Gundam like myself, this is a brilliantly made show. Heck, when I’m more familiar with Gundam I’ll definitely watch the OVAs. Just right here, right now… a bit too overwhelming for moi.

POSSIBLY

Boku no Hero Academia

One of the latest Shōnen Jump crazes, My Hero Academia focuses on Izuki Midoriya, also known as Deku, a powerless kid in an era where 80% of the populace has superpowers. Thanks to this, heroes (and villains) are more and more commonplace, and while he lacks any powers of his own, Deku is still desperate to become a hero, despite the world telling him he can’t do it.

Sadly, this is one of those shōnen’s which also loves its dumb humour, with plenty of overexaggerated bullying, action and animation. It doesn’t consume the whole show, but it notably takes what should be a really interesting “inverse shōnen” concept down a peg. There’s one scene where pretty much an entire classroom is bullying Deku, and you wonder how the teacher is still employed when he has no control over his kids whatsoever.

As for the rest of the main cast, there’s the arrogant strongest superpower in class childhood rival who’s been picking on poor Deku since he was 4, and lastly, Deku’s idol who inspired him to do this in the first place, All Might, who we discover is no longer the untouchable god he once was, and whom it looks like will take Deku on as his apprentice as the credits rolled.

My biggest problem here is that despite the fairly original idea, the execution feels very much same old. The animation is bland, the soundtrack forgettable, and while the opening promised a large cast of characters, I find myself struggling to care about even the core cast introduced in this first episode. Manga readers will probably chide me for being too harsh, and maybe they’re right, but despite the odd flash of intrigue, this show’s just feels too formulaic to be good.

UNLIKELY

Macross Delta

If Gundam is the king of mech franchises, then Macross is the queen (Transformers? Never heard of it). Just a few year’s younger than its big bro, the series is infamous for mechs, songs and romance, and Delta, the newest entry, looks to be no different.

There’s a lot going on in this opening ep, but asides from one or two moments, you’ll never be lost. We have our blue haired lead guy Hayate, a lazy git who’s lost his motivation in life, but has more than a knack for piloting mechs, essentially making them dance when he’s behind the wheel. Then there’s the lead girl who starts off as a stowaway, running away from an arranged marriage to try and join Walkure.

Wal-who? Ah, they’re the music group from this iteration of Macross, using the power of song to repress Var Syndrome, a disease which makes people go psycho violent and do all the destruction they can. And this being Macross, there’s also lots of space battles and mech fights and reveals like how the lead girl is actually a Winderemere (though we don’t know what that means yet) and songs and… c’mon, it’s Macross, you should know the drill.

While it’s production values aren’t as high as this season’s Gundam, this show still looks pretty sweet, with the chaos that descends in the second half of the episode looking amazing. The songs that Walkure sing are also great, with one being used to close the episode out of nowhere, making for a surprising cliffhanger of sorts. Though the way it finishes in the middle of a fight, it feels more like a double length cut down the middle.

So yeah, I really dug this. It was fun to watch, and with a history and precedent as rich as Macross’s, I’m pretty confident this’ll turn out great. Treasurer Mike’s beloved franchise does it again.

KEEPER

Kuma Miko

This was kinda an unusual one. Firstly because I expected it to be a short, but it actually manages to last its 20 minute runtime fairly well. It’s about a girl, Machi, and a bear, Natsu, and the lives the two lead. She’s essentially a shrine maiden, tasked with keeping the peace between humans and the bears in their village, who can all speak English due to ancient mumbo jumbo where a bear gave a sacrificial virgin cunnilingus. Really. Don’t worry though, it’s not that kind of show. Honest!

I’ve never been really into Japanese comedy, and that goes doubly so for anime, but this… was alright. Nothing laugh out loud worthy, but it didn’t annoy or bore me. The show has a very deliberate style to its comedy, which makes a nice change from the usual hyperspeed trash. It knows when to emphasise, and how to use that in sillier ways that aren’t overexaggerated, and comes off so much better for it.

The animation is far from stellar, with a lot of still shots, though that in part comes with the territory. And while a lot of the character designs are fairly generic, Natsu does look pretty alright as anime bears go. The ending animation was kinda reminiscent of Paper Mario too, which was cool. Speaking of which, the opening and ending songs sounded kinda like b-sides, so… make of that what you will. And you even got an animated 4koma after the credits!

I still don’t champion this as a must-see, but as an anime comedy that’s not screaming in your face at a mile a minute, it’s certainly well made enough to be worth considering. And I never, ever expected to say that of this show.

POSSIBLY

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu

I believe we have our winner for stupidest name of the season, folks. Re: Life in a Different World from Zero follows a lot of modern fantasy anime tropes, taking a teenage male from Planet Earth and putting him in insert faraway land here, where many species intermingle and there’s magic and a billion other RPG tropes.

The writing of this show is certainly a little more interesting though. I’d call it Side Quests The Anime, as after the usual stranger in a strange land mantra plays out, he ends up pairing with a girl who has a massive compassion to help those in need above her own quests, getting constantly distracted.

Once the comedy moves past the “ermahgad I must be the protagonist” spiel we’ve seen done to death, it actually has a few moments that raised a smile out of even me, and everything in this first episode ties up neatly at the end. There’s also some neat world building, including some from the cool animal spirit Puck, and the animation isn’t gonna win awards but gets the job done just fine, with the capital city feeling like a capital city.

The only thing this first episode doesn’t do, as I found out after the fact when reading season charts, is introduce the main premise, which is that the lead kid can rewind time. While it’s a staple that’s been done a lot recently, it’s got a good track record, with Erased, Life is Strange and All You Need Is Kill from the last year or two alone, so I’m not gonna complain.

Saying that, there still is the obvious flaw “it’s a fantasy anime” and this doesn’t do anything you’ve not really seen before, but the execution is fairly solid, and I don’t think it’ll descend into a harem. I could well be wrong, but this is one to consider if the genre’s your thing.

POSSIBLY

Kaitou Joker Third Season

Take Lupin, make it a kids show, and you get Mysterious Joker. I’m guessing this is fairly popular too, as it enters its third season. Our leading Phantom Thief has just made his 999th theft, and has set his eyes on the Crystal Key for the big 1000.

So he and a bunch of other phantom thieves raid a museum, joined by new character Phoenix, and after surviving traps and twists manage to make a shark create a whirlpool so the transparent (read – crystal) key is sucked to the centre and grabbable. Yes. Also there’s an evil faction who wants Joker dead and has put a bounty on his head, because 1000 thefts wasn’t enough for the police (who completely no show this raid, by the way, along with the entire guard detail of the museum).

It’s very colourful, it’s very chaotic, and it’s very DUN DUN DUUUUUUN, like a lot of kids shows. Which also means it kicks logic to the curb, and not in the good way. Sure, the show tries to give off the “oh look how smart Joker is outwitting this trap”, but it’s all nonsense logic that applies at the moment it’s needed and forgotten just as fast.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s vibrant and looks great (even in stills this series has always caught my eye), and for young kids I can totally see the appeal, but as someone who’s always looked for something more, something coherent and well-written, I’d go mental watching this.

DROPPED

Pan de Peace!

A short! The one and only short in this part actually, clocking in at just 3 minutes 15 seconds. 30 of which is, obviously, the opening. Anyway, this is a show about a girl who really likes bread, and makes friends with other girls who really like bread on her first day at high school.

Er, other things. One of the girls really likes another of the girls as they’re childhood friends, and wants to have her children… there’s another girl in future episodes who also loves bread…

I’ve really got nothing. Its fluffy cutesy animation featuring fluffy cutesy girls and a fluffy cutesy plot. Who needs substance, right?

DROPPED

Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Crystal: Death Busters-hen

For years now I’ve been meaning to watch Sailor Moon, but I can just never seem to find the time to actually view it. Which is why back when Crystal started airing, I was excited to see it… until I did. It was a show I found fairly disappointing, a nostalgic in the wrong way kind of production. But that was then, and this is now, as we’re at the third season, Death Busters, and things have… well, kinda improved. A little.

By now the band of five Sailor’s is together and hanging out in arcades, but a lot of the focus of this episode is on foreshadowing and introducing the two new characters, who are the antagonists / rivals / will probably be friends afterwards for this arc. We don’t really see a lot of their personality behind the cool demeanours just yet though.

There’s also a fight which lasts one fifth of the time it takes them all to transform and make their roll call, and while I think the animation’s improved a little, it’s still nothing special. And Usagi / Moon’s voice is still very, very weird, even more so now she’s surrounded by other perfectly normal sounding girls.

So, er, yeah, it’s a new arc of Sailor Moon. They do explain any confusing elements from previous arcs (here’s our daughter from the future) and you certainly won’t be lost, but I still can’t help but feel with a license like this you’d go the extra mile and it just… never does. If anything, it makes you want to go back and see / rewatch the original. Maybe that’s the goal? They win either way, I guess.

UNLIKELY

Bakuon!!

Oh boy, it’s another anime about a highschool club which has an all female cast. What’s the gimmick? Motorbikes! Okay that’s at least slightly different.

I honestly would love to be more enthusiastic about this. There’s a girl who always wears a helmet and never speaks, and totally, totally isn’t The Stig with a ribbon on his helmet. There’s some blond twintail who adores Suzuki bikes. There’s the frizzy haired girl who opens the show who loves bikes but isn’t that great with people and gets frequently ignored, and the lead girl who is the usual ditz who leads this type of show who is dragged into the world and falls in love with it. And her parents are abroad! Of course.

Oh, and the one bike speaks and laments being ridden by so many men. There’s actually a couple of bits of smut humour and boob size references, because goddamn we gotta check all the clichés. It’s not totally terrible, I mean, the instructor’s comical design worked, some of the music in the show felt cool, and they used actually company names instead of misspellings or parodies.

But on the whole, it’s just another forgettable club anime in a genre already bloated with them. Cute girls ride bikes. The end.

DROPPED

Seisen Cerberus: Ryuukoku no Fatalité

Yaaaaaaay more bland fantasy anime! Dragons and swords and a mysterious guy as a lead with a backstory involving dragons and swords! Basically, he was the child of a pair of heroes, but when they tried to trick and seal the ultimate bad dragon Dagan Zot, shit went wrong and to save their son, the pair essentially merged dragon and boy together. Not that he knows that.

We then timeskip forward 10 years or so to some random town, where he, now a teenager, is allowed in by border security for some reason despite looking about as untoward as you can. Wandering around, he bumps into and essentially befriends some random street kids, who are hell-bent on picking a fight with the nation’s ruler, who also has a stone that grants wishes (or something to that effect). Stuff happens, sword kid has to fight the guard and ends up accidentally summoning his dragon, roll credits.

I was bored out of my skull. The animation and soundtrack were the most bland uninspired tosh you could crap out, and the writing wasn’t much better. He’ll go through an arc where he learns to control his powers and about his backstory, they’ll go topple some super big bad, maybe learn a twist or two, yadda yadda yadda.

Remember when I talked about Re Zero earlier? That too may have been fairly by the books, but it had personality and charm which made up for it. This has neither. Just don’t bother.

DROPPED

Hundred

Well that’s an easy to remember name. Of course, it doesn’t mean what you think, it’s the name of the gem various teenagers use to summon special weaponry that’s the only thing capable of defeating insert bad guy race here. Supposedly it could be any one of a hundred different types, hence the name.

Our lead guy, Blandy McBland, also called Kisaragi Hayato, has the highest Hundred compatibility score ever recorded… whatever that means, so travels to academy ship Little Garden where there’s a school for Hundred users. And through various silly events, in part thanks to his new roomie Emile who’s TOTALLY NOT A GIRL COUGH COUGH, he ends up in a fight with the council chairwoman, which’ll take place next episode.

I really can’t highlight that Emile bit and how stupid you’d have to be to not notice. Even before they make it a plot point, even before you see the promotional artwork where she’s clearly a chick, you’d assume she was female, and she looks so similar to a girl in a flashback the show opens with (this isn’t a plot point yet though, go figure) it’s just an automatic assumption. The rest of the writing isn’t brilliant either, as clichés and cringes abound.

Saying that, I do like some of the designs of the Hundred suits and the Savages they fight, and that flashback gives me vague hope the show could get dark if it needs to (Hayate has a big blood complex as a result, for example). But it checks so many other “uh oh” or “been here before” boxes (90% of the cast is female, for example) it’s hard to get even remotely excited. But I’d love to be proved wrong.

UNLIKELY

Just under halfway through what’s airing this season. Macross joins She And Her Cat as my two keepers, and at this rate I’m gonna have a nice peaceful Spring and a chance to catch up on older stuff like Nadia. Part 3 will be up sometime later this week, and will include the show that’s most caught my attention in the past few months, Bungou Stray Dogs. Hopefully it’s good!