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Apr 25

Spring Anime 2016 First Episode Impressions – Part 4

Any excuse to use Ilya's art <3

Any excuse to use Ilya’s art <3

The long road is coming to a close. This final baker’s dozen of 13 shows takes me past the magical 50 series mark for the season. I could’ve watched, like, 3 or 4 whole series in that time. And with six keepers going into this batch, can this Spring lineup surpass my old record for most shows watched in one season? I hope not.

But what is in this final selection? We’ve got most of the series that aired on April 8th or after, as well as a few other random extras. I’m delving back into my childhood with the newest Beyblade, embracing Trigger’s latest project in Kiznaiver, and there’s a surprising number of shorts too. No Sinbad though. Sadface. Well, enough moping and/or stalling, let’s wrap this all up.

Kyoukai no Rinne Second Season

When I started watching this, I immediately got older shōnen vibes. Something about the designs made me think of stuff like Gintama, InuYasha and Ranma. And then I discovered the guy who wrote this IS the guy who wrote those latter two. Which explains that. As an aside, he’s been making manga for almost 40 years, so props to him.

Anyways, far from being a bombastic second season debut, this… feels like filler. Something you’d stick in to boost the episode count, not to welcome back viewers old and new. Two of the side characters in a typical love-hate anime relationship squabble the episode away, while lead dude Rinne watches on, mostly powerless but occasionally horrified because of the sheer amount of money they’re willing to throw away in the process (he’s also the anime cheapskate trope).

There’s not much else to say. The show does a couple of blurb bits to explain the relationship between the shinigamis (who make up most of the cast) and their black cat servants, but that’s it. It honestly doesn’t even feel like it’s trying to win over people, with the same been there done that animation you’d expect from most long running shōnens. The opening and ending songs were decent, but that’s all I’ve got for memorable stuff.

So yeah, I’m left kinda bewildered by Rinne. I couldn’t really tell you what the overarching plot is other than “they catch spirits I think”, and it did nothing to make me want to go back and check out the first season or jump on here. If you’re a fan, feel free to fill me in, because I’m at a total loss…

DROPPED

Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge

Tanaka-kun is Always Listless! And yes, he is. In a really truly ultra-dedicated to being lazy way that mere regular lazy people could only dream of. And… yeah, I’ve described most of the show there. We see him being lazy and struggling on with life while trying to perfect his laziness, yet the show manages to keep doing new and interesting things with such a simple concept.

It helps there’s also a great supporting act in Ohta, the picture of the reliable, sporty guy who helps Tanaka through life as he watches and admires the lazy kid’s plight. The two play off well against each other, and it’s never over-dramatised like so many other comedy shows, making this all the better. Heck, there’s plenty of neat little jokes that raised a smile on even my stoic face.

The animation and music are committed to the bit too, with a simpler and cleaner style for both the characters and the world gelling perfectly with the show’s tone, and lots of nice simple music for the opening, ending and background score.

I did not expect to find this such a pleasant and relaxing experience, and while I couldn’t parade this as a must-see, I never expected to be even considering this at all. If you want something to lay back and wash over you for 20 minutes every week, Tanaka might well be your answer.

POSSIBLY

Kiznaiver

Now seems as good a time as any to say I’m not on the Trigger bandwagon. I’ve had problems with pretty much everything they’ve done bar Little Witch Academia. To me, the studio has yet to reach the heights they achieved in the Gainax-era with Gurren Lagann and Panty & Stocking. But Kiznaiver has a new director, so maybe this’ll be the one to break that trend?

Nope! I mean, don’t get me wrong, Trigger’s style is as wicked as ever. The opening flashback in particular does so much with the colour red it’s jawdropping, and a shame that we then switch to a more regular style, though the characters are still super stylised and the backgrounds ultra pretty to look at. Heck, the kaleidoscopic opening is amazing too. My problems certainly don’t come in the visual department.

They come in the writing. Not the premise, which is that six kids who normally would barely interact are essentially kidnapped, drugged and have devices planted in them without their consent that make them all share pain, including the lead kid who up to that point has been totally unable to feel said suffering.. Their personalities are all over the place too, from stoic to normal to “only in anime”. Also one of them’s called Tenga because references!

There’s plenty of potential there, but the show manages to be both inconsistent and has a penchant for thinking it’s being way more dramatic than it actually is. At one point pain is spread evenly after a fall down some stairs that would apparently kill (it wouldn’t) one character occurs… but then within a minute or two all pain is replicated instead of being shared. And then the teacher who did it all poises it like this is the foundation of how they’re going to save the world, christening the six as Kiznaivers. It’s laughably inane.

I’m sorry Trigger, I appreciate you guys put your heart into your works more than any other studio, and the results are always, if nothing else, unique. Kiznaiver does have a great premise and it will be a visual tour-de-force. I just don’t have confidence in your ability to tell stories anymore, and this did nothing to convince me otherwise. But as always, I’m open to being proved wrong…

UNLIKELY

Hai-Furi

Cutesy little girls in an all girl school. So what’s the gimmick this time? The two childhood friends want to be Blue Mermaids! That is, working on battleships to sail and protect the seas. Flash-forward nine years (because what self-respecting anime doesn’t start with a flashback or forward) and they’ve both joined nautical highschool, assigned to ships for two weeks. Yes, they let highschool girls run battleships without supervision.

After some anime tier hijinks while they get to know each other and we get introduced to all the other girls piloting this ship, the show decides to jump off the deep end halfway through, with the girls under attack from their instructor on another ship. The whole thing’s set up so you think it’s a training exercise, but after firing a “dummy” torpedo and nearly sinking the other ladies ship, they’re branded mutineers.

This could be cool but the whole thing’s executed in such a weird way and it never makes any sense why the girls couldn’t just radio ashore and talk everything over. It’s drama for the sake of drama, and doesn’t really help the show as much as it hopes it does.

Visually, it’s the same old cutesy garbage, the audio’s just as forgettable, and there’s nothing here to make it stand out. I’ve watched some of these nautical life-at-sea shows before based off of the battles (Ozma and Arpeggio) but this doesn’t come close to what those tried to achieve, instead falling flat on its face. Next.

DROPPED

Flying Witch

Ah, back to nice simple titles that explain a lot for me. Makoto is our leading lady this time, and in case you couldn’t guess, she’s a witch. Having reached what they classify as adulthood at 15 years old, she moves out from her parents place to live in the sticks with her distant relatives and attend highschool there.

The show is in essence a slice of life, except with the residents interacting with a witch. Which she’s not supposed to tell people so why she goes around flying on brooms and pulling out mandrakes in public is anyone’s guess. Combine that with having no sense of direction, and yeah, she’s a classic anime ditz.

Again though, this show seemed less caught up in magical hijinks, and more about a couple of regular people adapting to this new element in their lives. We see the little sister starting off scared before being overrun with excitement, and the other girl character Nao trying to process it all as life goes on, while the lead guy (already being aware) just rolls with it.

Add in a nice-if-nothing-special artstyle, and some crazy touches when needed (the mandrake was mildly terrifying due to the way it flopped around), and you’ve got a bunch of potential here. I don’t know if this’ll continue to focus on the s’life or the magic, but there’s plenty of potential here, so I’d say if the premise intrigues you, check it out.

POSSIBLY

Beyblade Burst

Man it’s been ages since I last watched Beyblade. So I was unsure what I was going to make of Burst. Well, first things first, the character designs are ridiculous. Tyson and co in the original made sense, but these are just ridiculous for the sake of being ridiculous. Is this what appeals to Japanese kids nowadays? Back in mah day…

Anyway, when Valt, our lead kid, isn’t being a burning passion moron who makes Tyson look like a NASA employee, we do get to see one or two beybattles. Nothing complex or even remotely intense as of yet, with all the battles being done within a minute or so, but the animation on the blades and their fights is still good. They also have bitbeast-esque monsters too, but they’re just there to look pretty and seem to have no effect on the actual battle, making them feel more kinda tacked on because it’s something the show used to be associated with.

Actually, that describes Beyblade Burst quite well. People who knew they had to make a new Beyblade series so just went by the book and checked all the boxes. I know the original wasn’t bursting with creativity, but it felt like the people making it at least gave a damn about having it all tie together.

The only real sensible improvement in Burst was that destroying your opponent’s blade is now an auto-win. I’m sure as the regional tournament rolls on and the battles get more airtime this’ll improve a fair bit, but now I just wanna go watch some of the classics rather than this rehash…

UNLIKELY

Hakuouki: Otogisoushi

The first of a bunch of shorts in this final act, and a spinoff of the main Hakuouki series which I must admit, I’ve never heard of. The good news is that Otogisoushi only has a 10 second opening, leaving it plenty of time to do its thing.

Its thing being flash animated samurai girl running around looking for her father, searching in the most weird of places and then zeroing in on anything bald or round like some lovelorn puppy. No, really, that’s it. I guess this would make more sense if I’d watched the main series?

Anyway, the characters look perfectly fine for all the lack of movement they have, and the show keeps the pace snappy, but with jokes this bland and one-dimensional, it’s nigh-on impossible to find any motivation or reason to watch. So I won’t. Next.

DROPPED

Concrete Revolutio: Choujin Gensou – The Last Song

I’ve heard plenty of good things about Concrete Revolutio, which… makes this show I watched all the more perplexing. Obviously, there’s a degree of total unfamiliarity with any of the characters, which is only amplified when half of them seem to have multiple forms ensuring I had no effing clue who was who, what faction they were with or what their end goal was or… anything, really.

What I’m trying to say, is the show makes no bones about throwing people in at the deep end. As for this particular episode, we see what is essentially a galactic police android request the main groups help to track down some illegal alien, which turns out to be a guy who can transform into a giant mech. Things happen, everyone changes side a thousand times and throws powers around ineffectually, and nothing really feels all that resolved at the end.

It doesn’t help that the main crux is a very blanket “all superhumans are criminals” statement which half the cast acknowledges is inconsistent, but heaven forbid we change the law of assuming an entire species is bad. It’s pretty dumb, is what I’m saying.

That’s a shame too, as the show is a riot of colour and has some sweet animation, with some great character design work and pretty solid music. Maybe one day when I go back to see some of the stuff I missed when I took a hiatus in 2015 I’ll give the actual first episode of this a try and find the show a more welcoming experience, but if you want to use this as a jumping on point, I really don’t recommend it.

UNLIKELY

Sansha Sanyou

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but this… is a show… about cutesy schoolgirls… doing nothing! Like, really, the closest to a theme this thing has is they all meet up each lunchtime and talk about mostly food related asinine gibberish.

There are three girls. Brown hair loves food. Yellow hair has a happy face but sometimes says mean things. Purple is the only one even slightly fleshed out, coming from a now bankrupt upper-class family, so still holding onto some of those traits while being a total cheapskate unable to make friends.

So as expected she overreacts to everything the other two say and do, as she desperately tries to make sure they stay her friends because she’s terrified they’ll abandon her, even though they clearly won’t. Oh, and there’s some former butler of hers having really stalkerish tendencies as he makes sure she’s coping in the real world.

Animation is bland as you’d expect, though the opening and ending did suit the fluffy nonsense nature of the show with some upbeat “we’re fwends” songs. That’s about the most positive thing I have to say though, so I’ll throw this on the reject pile along with the thousand other identical series.

DROPPED

Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou

As you can probably guess from that image up there, Tonkatsu DJ… really doesn’t look like anything else going. I guess Ping Pong is the closest thing I can think of, but if anything it’s more in common with western cartoons. It’s really quite refreshing, even if it’s not gonna win awards for animation.

We see a talented but unmotivated kid working in his family’s tonkatsu (type of Japanese food, similar to a breaded fillet, I’ve actually had it before, it’s nice) restaurant. Sent to deliver a takeout order to a nightclub, he’s let in by the owner and gets the privilege of seeing famous western DJ Big Master Fry (yep) in action. At which point he realises DJing is pretty similar to what his father does in the restaurant. Totally inspired by Fry, he decides to become a master at both.

One other point of note is that this show is a short, clocking in at 9 minutes per episode, so it’s pretty rapid but still manages to not mess up the pacing or flow, especially as there’s no opening or ending eating up the runtime like most short-length stuff does. I can’t say  for definite whether this’ll turn out great in the end, but it’s so different and distinct to what Japan usually puts out I can’t help but want to give it a try.

KEEPER

Usakame

This is a spinoff of Teekyuu. I have something of a track record with that show. In that all the first episodes I’ve seen from four of its SEVEN FUCKING SEASONS has… well, yeah, filled me with bile and loathing.

Usakame, to its credit, doesn’t fill me with that same intense hate. It still sucks, don’t get me wrong. The jokes fall flat, the pacing is still blink and you’ll miss it (despite being slower than Teekyuu) and the animation is lazier than ever, with most of it being keyframes, including the opening. The artstyle was nice, but that was about the only thing I liked.

Oh wait, they did actually almost show them playing tennis. They were on the court, had the rackets, discussed the sport… just never played it. Maybe if they hadn’t used a third of the show’s four minute runtime on the opening and ending they’d have had time? Y’know, to play the sport. That this whole franchise revolves around. Just once. That’s all I’m asking for. Please.

DROPPED

Wagamama High Spec

Rest assured this short is anything but “High Spec”. I don’t even know what it means in the context of this show. Anyway, clocking in at just three and a half minutes, with a minute of that being the ending and another 30 seconds some random papercutouts moving around (think of the Team Four Star news updates if you’ve seen those) to give you some meaningless trivia that’s meant to be funny, Wagamama leaves itself with just two minutes of comedy.

Except it’s all the same old shit. An all female council (I assume, one member was missing in this debut episode) have a load of paperwork to do, but its hoooot and we’re laaaazy so instead of opening a window or working elsewhere or, y’know, dealing with it, they decide to strip down to their undergarments. Such jokes.

But then! They get the aircon working! And it’s stuck on hot! More jokes! I… can’t even keep up this thin pretense. It’s awful. Just awful. Throw in benign animation and a complete lack of personality on any of the cast and you can throw this show out the window.

DROPPED

Big Order

And so we reach the final show, and one I had completely forgotten was airing this season. From the mangaka and team that brought you Future Diary, a show probably most famous for having a character define the yandere trope, we now get Big Order. Though I probably should’ve realised it sooner considering the leads of this show, Eiji and Rin, are an almost exact match for Future Diary’s leads Yuki and Yuno.

But er, I wouldn’t exactly call Eiji a hero. The first kid given a chance to make their wish come true from chaotic neutral spirit Daisy, he… causes the almost total destruction of the world. It’s never really addressed how, just that his power went out of control. Then there’s the not-a-heroine Rin, who tries to murder Eiji and stabs his sickly sister in the shoulder. Did I also mention she’s immortal? Yep. Goody two shoes leads? Who needs them.

Backed into a corner, Eiji is forced to start using his power once more, which as it turns out isn’t destructive persay, but is to dominate anything within his domain, with the episode ending seeming to be him mindwashing Rin, as she screams in agony while the credits roll. With some council of power holders on the hunt for him too apparently, I’m guessing the rest of this series is him and her vs the world.

In the visual department, the show does a good job at realising the post-apocalyptic landscape, as well as having a variety of character designs once you look past the dejavu inducing leads. Their’s also weird skeletons who represent people’s powers and they look cool too, if a bit perplexing as to… why they’re there…

I’m… really on the fence about this one though. My rating’s flip-flopped a few times between watching the show and finalising these write-ups. It’s not that it’s a bad show, and it’s not that I don’t dig having a protagonist who isn’t lawful good, it’s just… I dunno if I’d root for them? With Light (Death Note) and Lelouch (Code Geass), sure, they were dicks, but you understood why too. Eiji isn’t like that. Plus his powers still feel a bit… broken?

Fuck man, I dunno, maybe I’m overthinking it. I’ll just stick it on my reserve list. Lemme know if you watch it, I wanna know what other people think…

POSSIBLY

And with that, another season of anime is done. Well, in terms of first episodes anyway. Now comes the bit where I can actually watch these shows. But do you know what the best thing has been? This season truly has something for everyone. I’ve made my seven choices in She And Her Cat, Macross, Joker Game, Kuromukuro, Kabaneri, Sakamoto and Tonkatsu DJ, but I’ve seen plenty of people raving over Trigger’s two new shows Luluco and Kiznaiver, the Ace Attorney adaptation, shōnen darling Academia, motorbike mad Bakuon, bear comedy Kuma Miko…

Basically, this is a good season. Great, even. And with that, I’ve said my piece, so now it’s your turn. Go pour yourself a drink, watch something cool, and we’ll all meet back in the summer. Good? Good.