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Jul 15

Summer Anime 2016 First Episode Impressions – Part 3

Kyubey? Never heard of 'im.

Kyubey? Never heard of ‘im.

The summer carries on, and instead of sitting down in the park with a good book and a cold drink, I’m in my room watching more anime first episodes. Well, can’t be worse than some of the stuff in that last part…

This time around, we have VN inspired series here, there and everywhere! There’s a new Fate series (Ilya never ends), an otome overload in Ozmafia, and another Key adaptation in Planetarian. Yes, we’re really getting two Key shows in the same season. Madness.

Fate/kaleid Liner Prisma Illya 3rei!!

Here we go again, with the Lines and the Prisms. It truly feels like Illya has been a mainstay during the years I’ve done these writeups. While it never has (and realistically, never could) reach the heights of big brothers Stay Night and Zero (one of our current recommendations, thanks Phil), Fate Lolis Edition has always done enough to keep the series ticking over.

This arc, which I think is the final one, involves dimension shifting and the revelation that one of the leads, Miku, ain’t from our world. Unless we already knew that? I don’t keep up with Illya. Anyway, Miku gets dragged back to her home dimension by two new ultra powerful foes, and Illya ends up chasing them through the warp into the strange new world, with none of her usual allies there to support her.

Which is both good and bad from a storytelling perspective. I mean, for new viewers it’s great, as you won’t get lost in a sea of characters and references, and the plot seems to going for a fairly simple “rescue the princess” arc. But by discarding most of that existing cast, you lose out on a ton of interesting personalities and interactions, like those of Rin and Not-Saber. Yes, I know it’s Juvia, but old jokes die hard.

There’s a new girl for this season too, who in the good old Japanese way is an amnesiac, and also apparently Little Miss Opposite, as she burns hot in the freezing cold. Throw in the usual lesbian undertones of this series and some very anime animation, and you’ve got vintage Illya. To be fair, this is a decent enough point to jump in on, but if you’re jumping onto Fate… go watch Zero or Stay Night.

UNLIKELY

Scared Rider Xechs

From the way the show pronounces it, I think they meant scarred, not scared. Anyway, if you were after a heavily inspired toku anime, this is it. Lead kid Yosuke is a Rider (they’re not even trying to be subtle), who can fuse with a weird monster thing called a Substance, transforming into a guy who fights in a skin-tight suit. Which is red. He fights alongside four others. In different colours. They ride motorbikes. Yep, this is definitely a Super Sentai and Kamen Rider “homage”.

That wasn’t the only show I could sense either, as some of the locations gave me flashbacks to Nerv in Eva, and then there’s the good old underground pod with some random person from ages past in cryostasis. Who’s first words are simply that she wants to die, so naturally the lead saves her after he henshin’s for the first time.

Sadly, the visual designs throughout the show aren’t good, especially the enemies who look like someone scribbled them in about five seconds. The only things I thought looked alright were the bikes they rode on, and the female lead who I assume is going to become their teacher. Hard to tell as she gets left by the wayside halfway in so the show can focus on the “action”.

Honestly, the most enjoyable part of the whole show was the first two minutes where the lead strums a guitar in a partially wrecked town. That was before he or anybody else opened their mouths to reveal nobody in this show has a particularly engaging personality. You know, I think I’ll just stick to legit toku shows, thanks.

DROPPED

Tsukiuta. The Animation

I thought I was done with idols, but I guess not. This one has two all-male groups with six members a piece, known as Six Gravity and Procelleum (I think). But this episode is less about the groups and their prep and more about some random girl’s little brother, who gets sent out to an event Six Gravity is holding to acquire some exclusive merchandise.

Somehow he ends up slipping past security, getting backstage and bumping into people who he thinks are staff but are actually the band members. How he didn’t recognise them from the posters in his sister’s room I don’t know, but whatever. They all end up hanging out for the day, until the big reveal at the end lights a spark in the youngster’s eyes and we can all guess where that goes.

However, he won’t be the focus going forth, as the show seems to be putting the spotlight on one of the dozen idols with each episode. As for the overarching plot, the two bands announced a dual concert… at a concert which they were both performing at… right. Bar the occasional blip though the storytelling was alright, and certainly better than the forgettable songs they performed. Though on the flipside, the CG animation they used during the performance was by far the best I’ve seen in this genre.

Sadly, that ain’t enough to make me care about this more than, say, Love Live, but if you need another dose of pretty boy singing, this’ll probably be alright.

UNLIKELY

Ozmafia!!

So to help me try and explain this show I looked up the visual novel it’s based off of, aaaaand the description for that was nothing like this show. Heck, the VN sounded way better, and I’m not usually one for otome.

So. In theory, this is about some Wizard of Oz stuff crossed over with some mafia stuff. What this episode was actually about was some new kid who had a selection of the worst anime protagonist traits moving into his new school, ran by a bunch of eccentric personalities all with brightly coloured hair. Oh, and did I mention it’s 4 minutes long? And the last minute was gibberish?

The big problem is that nothing really happens. The newbie gets chased around a bit, staff give themselves the briefest of introductions, and… that’s it, really. No mention of any kind of overall plot. Nothing about this show seemed badly produced otherwise, but c’mon, you’ve gotta give people a reason to watch. Just stick to the visual novel, folks.

DROPPED

Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars

Even with all my notes and experience doing this, sometimes I’ll watch a show and have literally no clue what is going on. Regalia is one of those, as I spent 20 minutes just going “what” at the screen. Leaving aside the opening, which is set 12 years in the past (I think), pretty much the entire episode is just things happening with little to no explanation or justification.

From what I think I understand, there’s these two sisters, but one’s not human, and they’re not technically sisters. There’s also some girl from one of their pasts, and the one sister gives chase and follows her for some reason, but maybe that was a trap, as now she’s fighting some dude, and they can both summon mechs, and they sorta fight but not really and the other girl’s actually an empress and yeah. That’s the show.

The one thing you will pick up on is how Regalia reeeeaaally tries to hammer home how much these two sister not-sisters care about each other, with the fact that they have to split up (well, they don’t have to, but sh) being heartbreaking, but considering you’ve only known them as a viewer for 5 minutes… why would I care? It expects you to be totally invested in a world you can barely figure out the basics of, and that’s never gonna happen.

Throw in some really lacklustre animation, especially in the mech fight, and there’s just no reason to stick around whatsoever. But hey, at least they used Sacred right!

DROPPED

Handa-kun

Back in 2014, we got Barakamon, a pretty good series about a young adult calligrapher moving to a remote island community to both rejuvenate his career and become a better person. The ensemble of young kids in the cast helped draw the usual Yotsuba / Usagi Drop comparisons, but beyond that the show did a good job of treading the line between comedy and maturity.

Handa-kun is a prequel to that series, set back when lead kid… Handa… was in highschool. He’s still a whizz at calligraphy, but now he has a bunch of less enjoyable character traits, including being insanely worrisome and overthinking every scenario, imagining the worst possible scenarios and then some before coming up with idiotic ways to avoid them. It’s classic anime “nobody in real life would eve act like this” comedy. And people wonder why I think anime humour usually stinks.

It’s not all humourless though, as the nine minute intro featuring four kids known as the “Handa Force” was actually pretty neat. They discussed what the anime could possibly be about, and then tried to make their own when they discovered they’d missed the first episode. I’ve never see a show really do something like that, so top marks for originality, but the segment dragged on a bit too long, as after 5 minutes I was clock watching and wondering when the show was going to start proper.

The end result then, is kind of a shame, but at the same time, it’s weird to even imagine why they made a prequel for Barakamon. Why not just make a sequel? From what I’ve seen of the manga, there’s easily enough content to justify it. Stick to the original, folks. Why do I feel like I’m saying that phrase a lot this season…

UNLIKELY

Kono Bijutsubu ni wa Mondai ga Aru!

This Art Club Has A Problem! I mean, a highschool club only having four members with half of them actually doing the club activity sounds like a huge problem to me, but this is anime I guess. No, the problem it refers to is of the romantic kind. Of the two relevant people, one guy and one gal, the girl has a crush on the boy. But the boy only loves the purest of girls, by which I of course mean 2D waifus only. Anime, ladies and gentlemen.

To be fair, she has her own fixation, seemingly intent on drawing apples for the rest of her days, but the show mostly focuses on the total hilarity of all of the girl’s emotional reactions to whatever waifu boy says and does. Sarcasm aside, there was one interesting moment where the usual blind to love trope of the boy went a bit too far and caused her to break down in tears in front of him… but that didn’t inspire character growth in either of them. Sigh.

Okay, it’s not all bad, the artstyle is pretty good, to the extent I had to check a few minutes in whether this was a KyoAni show or not, and the writing and pacing, while obviously fixated on the one joke, never lingered or dragged, which the two ten minute plots in an episode structure only helped with.

So in summary, it’s a fairly bland been there done that story idea bolstered by some good production values. Still not one I’d champion as worth watching, but not one to be instantly rejected either.

UNLIKELY

Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE! LOVE!

For the first part of this show I sat mildly bewildered as a bunch of dudes sat in a hot bath talking about random gibberish. I think those two have feelings for each other but are two shy to say it, so maybe it’s boys love? It wasn’t until almost halfway through that they got attacked by some hourglass monster and the penny dropped. Magical. Boys. Season. 2.

So, the Earth Defense Club, as they’re collectively known, with their sentai powers of… Love Making… yeeeaaah… anyway, they get their powers taken away! And then get them back straight away! And they’re stronger now! It all felt just arbitrary and no fourth wall breaking joke could stop it coming off badly. So yeah, it’s standard monster of the week gibberish, but with magical boys. And admittedly, glorious transformation sequences.

While there was a few endearing (read – dokidoki) moments, for the main the writing was bland and at times, nonsensical (they fight, they stop, and one minute later they fight again with only a change of scenery, so why stop fighting from a narrative perspective), and none of the characters were particularly engaging either. Heck, the blonde brat was making me want to tear my ears off.

Don’t get me wrong, I think having a show about magical boys is a cool concept that’s not really been done a lot, but that seemed to be where the creativity of this series stopped, so no thanks, Battle Lovers.

DROPPED

Planetarian ~Chiisana Hoshi no Yume~

Two Key adaptations in one season!? Utter madness. Arguably the alpha studio among visual novel developers (though Type-Moon and 5pb/Nitroplus might protest), they’ve made a bunch of cool stories in their time, but the anime versions always seem to struggle in one way or another.

Planetarian should, in theory, have an easier time than, say, Rewrite, as it’s a lot shorter, so you don’t need to make sweeping changes to the narrative or worry about countless routes. In theory. What actually happens in this episode is… well, not a lot.

The backstory is that a city got bombed out 30 years back, so is now a ghost town. Junker’s go around trying to loot whatever worthwhile stuff is left, and we follow one of them who ends up bumping into a robot girl working at a… planetarium! See. She tells him he’s the first customer in 30 years, and tries to make him stay and see the show, but all the equipment is slightly totally broken, which combined with her verbal diarrhea and inability to comprehend “it’s over” piss off the guy so much he can’t walk away. Yeah, I didn’t get that one either.

Another oddity is how the episode falls about 5 minutes short of the standard 22 to 24 minute runtime. The show doesn’t feel rushed or like anything had been omitted, but those extra minutes could’ve been used to help set up an overarching plot. There’s nothing wrong otherwise, I mean it looks and sounds fine, but there’s no real hook and Little Miss Never Shuts Up is more irritating than cute. Y’know my advice? Stick to the visual nov-okay, that’s my new catchphrase.

UNLIKELY

Amanchu!

Just as I was fearing this third part of the summer season wasn’t going to have a single halfway decent show, along came Amanchu to raise my spirits. Set in a coastal town, we follow two girls who are about to start highschool.

One has lived there all her life and is obsessed with the ocean, regularly going scuba diving and just spending as much of her day in and with the ocean as possible. The other is a girl who only recently moved to the area, still tightly holding on to her past. They inadvertently meet up, and end up hitting it off on the first day of school, as bike girl (she rides a motorbike, so that’s just what I ended up calling her) respects dive girl’s unabashed forwardness.

It all makes for a nice relaxing show with interesting characters (I adore dive girl’s grandmother, for example), and lots of potential for storytelling with bike girl’s past and being forced to accept her present, plus, y’know, diving and underwater visuals, which Free proved is always fun. The show looked pretty great too, and the soundtrack was soothing, like… well, the ocean.

Which is why it breaks my heart that half the time the characters have faces like those in the picture. If it was just for gag scenes I’d have no problem, but a good third of the show has those dumb eyes and expressions which screams “we’re too lazy to draw them properly”. It’s such an irritant, and takes what would otherwise have been a keeper down into the “hopefully people tell me they ease off on that” territory. Sadface.

POSSIBLY

Nejimaki Seirei Senki: Tenkyou no Alderamin

If you stopped trying to read that name after the first word, don’t worry, everyone in the west calls it Alderamin on the Sky. Much easier. Set in a fairly typical fantasy war setting, we see some adolescents preparing to take a military test when the ship they’re sailing on capsizes in a storm, and the lot of them end up stranded in enemy territory.

The two main leads are Ikta, a lazy womaniser and superb tactician who isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and Yatori, the redhead, skilled at close quarters combat and who is the daughter of some famous family. There’s a few other guys and gals rounding out the cast, including the third princess of the empire the group comes from, who seems to terrify half the cast based off the reverence they give her.

The world itself also seems kinda cool, with a mixture of magic and tech. There’s blimps, which are a recent invention, but most of the cast also have imps which can cast some basic magic, and be used with tech (one of them equips one as a magazine for his rifle). I’d assume the politics and strategic content is gonna get more prevalent as the show carries on too.

But while it’s a solid show, it lacks that little spark to make it truly stand out. It doesn’t help that there’s a couple of dumb moments, and Ikta seems to be drifting towards “perfect protagonist” status which is never a good thing, especially since the show tells us in the future he’s called the “Invincible Lazy General”. Don’t worry, I’m sure it’ll still be a good show, so feel free to tell me I nitpick too much if it’s one of the season’s best.

POSSIBLY

91 Days

Not sure when period pieces became a thing, but there seems to be one every season this year. What’s more, the last two, Rakugo and Joker Game, both passed my test, so maybe 91 Days could carry on that run? Or at the very least let us in on what that title means, as there’s no clue in this episode. Instead we get a whole bunch of timeskipping, from a flashforward to a flashback to when the leads are kids to the present day, with them in their, guess what, adolescence.

Angelo, the lead, who gets the pleasure of seeing his parents and brother shot and killed in front of him in the flashback, vanishes for seven years before returning in the present day, where he seems to have adopted an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” attitude to the underworld.

So he and his bestie from childhood go off to try and sell moonshine, before ending up caught in the middle of a gang squabble. Some quick ingenuity later and they escape with a couple of other mobsters, joining their posse. Maybe. I mean, it was hard to tell the why of anything in this episode, as the show seemed intent on giving as little exposition as possible.

The rest of the show does a good job of evoking the atmosphere of the period though. Not as good as Baccano, but still well enough. Sadly when you compare the two in other areas, like characterisation and handling plot threads, and 91 Days struggles to really stand out. Nothing this show has to offer is bad, but nothing makes you feel like watching more.

UNLIKELY

No more keepers! And only two possiblies. I’m almost surprised at how much this dozen underwhelmed, to be honest. Hopefully the final part (going live next week), which contains Danganronpa, noitaminA show Battery, and Mob Psycho 100, from the guy who did One Punch Man, produces better results. Though I wouldn’t complain about a quieter season either…