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Jul 19

Summer Anime 2016 First Episode Impressions – Part 4

100-Prequel Man

100-Prequel Man

Just as quickly as we started, here we are at the end. Well, I say quickly. Sure, it’s been less than three weeks, but these deluges always leave me knackered. And with a mere four keepers going into the last stretch, will this summer season step it up right at the last?

In this final part, we go beyond the realms of traditional anime with Naria Girls and Thunderbolt Fantasy, endure a double dose of despair from Danganronpa, and take in a new show from the man behind One-Punch Man in Psycho Mob 100!

Mahou Shoujo Naria Girls

Every now and then I get the pleasure of watching something I’ve never seen before in anime. Sometimes that’s great. Sometimes… well. Naria Girls is definitely one of the weirder series I’ve seen recently, but sadly, not in a good way.

The 2D portions of this show are narrated stills, the likes of which would fit in just fine in a visual novel. But then there’s the 3D parts. You get to see CG character models of the three lead girls spin around in bizarre ways like some kind of B-tier video game. But the way they move, you’d swear they were mocapped. Except nobody in reality would move in the way they do, so… I dunno.

But the weirdest bit in a show full of weird bits, is the dialogue. 90% of the time it’s just nonsense. Not technobabble or anything else relevant, just… actual benign gibberish. It almost sounds like the three voice actors are just… chatting. Any direction in the conversation is very lose, as they natter about random themes until something happens.

There is more of a plot in the 2D segments, but it ends up feeling like background noise to the… banter, I guess? I have no intention on watching any more, but the experience was something, and as it’s only an 8 minute short, I’d almost recommend you watch one episode just so you can say you have. No more than that though.

DROPPED

Thunderbolt Fantasy

Every now and then I get the pleasure of watching something I’ve never seen before in anime. Wait, didn’t I just say that? Well, don’t worry, unlike Naria Girls, this was a very pleasant surprise. But first I should say, in case the picture above didn’t give it away, this ain’t anime in the regular sense. It’s more like… I dunno, Robot Chicken? Thunderbirds? It features oriental dolls with very fluid movement. Honestly, I’d love to know how they made it, as it’s cool as heck to watch.

It’s also bolstered by some strong production values, as this first episode features a whole bunch of sword fights between several different characters, which combined with some neat visual effects and a great musical score, helps ensure that every combat scene is a standout moment. Especially a certain suicide, which was… mesmerising. Yes, let’s go with that.

The story is more traditional fare, with some brother and sister protecting an ancient sword and being hunted by a cult of baddies. The brother dies (and as this is penned by Butch Gen, you can assume he ain’t coming back), but luck ends up finding her two new protectors, who really play well off each other, making for some good comedic scenes.

The only bit of this show that wasn’t memorable were all the names. They’re all very oriental, like something out of Dynasty Warriors, and I could never remember any of those characters either. But everything else about Thunderbolt Fantasy made a strong impression, and I really want to see more. That visual style combined with Butch Gen’s writing means this has to be one hell of a journey, and I couldn’t recommend it more.

KEEPER

Time Travel Shoujo ~ Mari Waka to 8-nin no Kagakusha-tachi

Or Time Travel Girls for short. Though this series isn’t nearly as fantastical as that title might make you think. If anything, it’s pretty standard school life fare for the first half. Our lead girl is a moron, and her best friend is a snooty girl who still cares for her friends despite her “better than thou” attitude. And she’s crushing on some boy they’re both friends with, who almost dies when a football whacks him in the chest.

No, really. He has a heart attack, and they have to use defibrillators to save him. A little extreme for a regular shot, to say the least. Anyway, life goes on, until the show takes a sharp right turn when the lead picks up a book round her friends house that reacts with her necklace to teleport her to the historical period she was looking at.

The rest of the show splits between showing the lead in the past, getting to know William Gibert (I assume he’s a famous figure, must admit I’ve never heard of him) while adapting to ye olde standards, while her best friend investigates an abandoned research lab of the lead’s father, who is implied to have connections to what’s happening.

Sadly, a lot of the writing in the show is utterly bland. There’s the odd smart moment, like when a maid from the past points out how inappropriate anime highschool clothes are, but I ain’t sticking around for a couple of smart lines per episode. The artstyle reeks of generic anime #3425 too, and since neither of the leads are engaging either, this gets a definite thumbs down from me.

DROPPED

Hitori no Shita The Outcast

Now that I think about it, you really don’t see zombies much in anime, so I guess blah de blah The Outcast is a little different in that regard. In some random little town in the sticks, they discover their graveyard has been totally dug up. Normally that’d be weird but little more, but when one of those graves belongs to the grandfather of the Zhang family, it’s a bit more serious.

We see both his granddaughter and grandson come to town the next day to investigate, both learning of the other’s existence for the first time. Unfortunately for the brother, she’s mildly psychotic, cleaving zombies left and right while trying to bury him alive. Fortunately, after she gets bored and leaves him for dead, he uses lightning powers (maybe) to fend them all off. And then he maybe forgets things? Or not? Really hard to tell from the poor dialogue.

The episode ends with the girl being told to observe him more anyway, so she enrolls at his college, so expect total hilarity going forth. The show just comes across as this weird combination of trying to be funny but ultra serious at the same time, and it never pulls it off. It feels like the show can’t be bothered to explain much either, never hammering home exactly why somebody digging up Grandpa Zhang’s corpse is a big deal.

The animation’s pretty alright in combat, but feels a little washed out for regular scenes. Admittedly, part of that could be down to a mostly nighttime setting or the sombre tone it tries to evoke, but it comes off as more boring than atmospheric. Which sums up the show in a nutshell, really. There’s some alright ideas, but nothing engaging, which is a shame, as the opening gave me hope for something much better.

UNLIKELY

Qualidea Code

Qualidea, which for some reason my mind keeps trying to type as Quadelia, is another show that starts with the ever cheery end of the world. Well, not quite, as the adults manage to fend it off somehow while putting all the kids into cold sleep to protect the future. In the midst of doomsday, we meet our two leads, Cana and Ichiya, before leaping forward to the present day.

The aliens are still invading, but now three schools have arose to fight them. The one led by our two leads is full of fliers, but Ichiya has a very holier than thou attitude so he often leaves them behind to try and win the fight himself. The other two schools seem to favour trains and boats, with their leaders running the gambit of anime personalities. Though Hime, the boat boss, is a really motivated, and motivating, girl, and stands out as the highlight by far.

All of them also have their own various powers, called “Worlds”, with lead Ichiya able to summon energy spheres and manipulate gravity (hence the flying), while Cana can buff all her nearby allies through song. There’s also a points system in place, intended to motivate students via friendly competition, but a few, Ichiya included, end up engaging in friendly fire in their quest to be number one. Only Hime (best girl) seems intent on winning a war instead of being the best.

The animation during the fights is fun to watch, and the show has some neat musical moments too. Add in plenty of conflicts within the show, both internal and against the aliens, and plenty of room for character growth, and this is an all around good show. Sadly, it lacks the final spark that makes it standout in the genre and be a must see (yes, I know, I’m picky), but it’s still one worth keeping an eye on.

POSSIBLY

Ange Vierge

I’ll never complain about a hot tub scene in anime again. Half of this bloody episode was spent watching endless amounts of anime girls in hot tubs. 12 MINUTES! All with the usual clouds of steam and beams of light to cover up anything you wouldn’t want Little Jimmy seeing.

When it’s not about… that… Ange Vierge features girls defending this world and four others from coming to an end at the whims of the Ouroboros, who are trying to destroy the five crystals that protect the world or something. Why? Who knows. Repelling them gives the girls points and lets them rank up from C to UC to R and wait this is a card game adaptation isn’t it?

Sadly Saya, the lead, is a bit too eager to prove herself, with her overzealousness giving her team a harder time. And while their leader, or driver, as the show calls her, is an understanding passive type, Saya would rather somebody administer tough love to help her become even better.

But again, twelve minutes of naked anime girls in hot tubs. And I don’t mean two or three, literally dozens of characters. It’s like they felt they had to fit in every single character from the card game this is based upon. Naked. Considering the action isn’t all that special either, I’d just pass on this, there’s way better pickings this season.

DROPPED

Active Raid: Kidou Kyoushuushitsu Dai Hachi Gakari Second Season

Now that I think about it, this is the only sequel to a winter show in the entire season. And unlike some split cours, Active Raid made it feel like time had actually passed between then and now. One of the team members has been reassigned to another part of the country, while another has quit to become a garbage man. Well, until he’s dragged back against his will during this episode, anyway.

So we once more follow Unit 8, tasked with solving cases involving Willwear, a kind of exoskeleton people use. This time around they’re tasked with stopping an unaware suicide bomber, which in a frankly stunning moment the show proclaims that it’s therefore of African design. Like. Fuck. What. My jaw actually dropped, because Jesus Cunting Christ that’s not okay.

On a different track, two new girls joined the team to make up for members lost, though one did nothing of note and the other had a defining characteristic of “can’t face anybody unless she’s wearing glasses”. Otherwise, everyone seemed to settle back into their old routines. So you weren’t lost as a viewer, but at the same time, god knows what happened last season.

Add in a bunch more iffy writing, including a part where the team don’t really seem bothered in trying to hunt down the man behind the crime, despite engaging him in combat during the mission, and animation that’s alright (like, I think the mech designs are perfectly fine) but nothing special, and I just can’t recommend this. Sorry.

DROPPED

Danganronpa 3 – The End of Kibougamine Gakuen – Mirai-hen

Who needs middle arcs? I remember watching the original series of Danganronpa, which passed my first episode test, and sighing in depression as it transformed from a cool Battle Royale concept to stale, formulaic two episode arcs of murders and courthouses. But now here we are, at the final arc. Sure hope you’ve played the games, because otherwise you’re straight up fucked. Like me.

So, since the original survivors escaped Hope’s Peak, apparently there was an apocalypse of sorts as various champions of Despair, inspired by Junko from the original, went around murdering millions, leading to the Future Foundation being formed, containing those Dangan 1 survivors plus a bunch of other characters who I assume graduated from super school and plot device, Hope’s Peak.

With Despair seemingly on the ropes, they attack Future HQ and end up managing to lock all the section chiefs inside, including Dangan 1 leads Naegi and Kirigiri, and Monokuma, the mascot bear who you’ve probably seen around, tells them it’s time for another death game. Just… like… last… time…

Yeah, it feels kinda awkward as we’ve done this song and dance before, and the result wasn’t exactly good. And knowing that this is a game franchise, I kinda feel it’s gonna get dragged down by the same formulaic aspects once again. The show doesn’t really introduce any of the new cast either, so you’ll just be latching onto the Dangan 1 returns and not caring about the rest.

However. I accept a lot of these might be because I’ve not played 1, 2 and Ultra Despair Girls for any length of time. If you have, you’re already far more invested than me, and may well find a lot more to enjoy here than I did. But if you are a newbie like me, this ain’t the place to jump in.

DROPPED

Mob Psycho 100

“From the mangaka of One-Punch Man” is a phrase worth a lot of stock after that show became one of 2015’s most popular series. And while I’m fairly jaded towards anime comedy (no idea if you noticed that, lel), even I can admit OPM did a darn good job. But I wasn’t sure whether he could replicate that into multiple shows.

The core concept of MP100, which the show neglects to tell you, is that Mob, the leading kid / psychic, will explode if his emotional capacity reaches 100%. Whatever that means. Either way, he’s pretty dumb, unathletic and totally naive, as proven by the other lead, “paranormal megastar” Reigen. And obviously he has no powers whatsoever so totally relies on Mob, and pays him pittance.

But Mob goes along with it all, sometimes questioning why Reigen does so little but always being duped. The total mismatch rules of OPM are still in full effect too, as Mob annihilates all of his foes in this episode. The fights do look cool while they’re happening though, but the show in general is a mismatch of styles, with a bunch of stills, explosions of colour, line art, and faces ranging from intensely detailed to… well, vegetables. It’s even more frustrating as when the show gets it together it looks the bomb, especially in the opening, which has the best visuals and audio of the entire season.

Factor in comedy that falls into the utterly ridiculous tropes that anime worships, and the lack of a simple core premise which held One-Punch together in its weaker moments, and you just end up with a show that could never step out of its big brother’s shadow. I don’t think this’ll be worth it, but if you’re more into comedy anime than moi, maybe give it a try.

UNLIKELY

Danganronpa 3 – The End of Kibougamine Gakuen – Zetsubou-hen

“But didn’t you just” Yes. Okay, let me try and explain. There’s two new seasons of Danganronpa airing this summer. One is the Future of the series, which is cunningly called “Future”. This one, Despair, is set in the past, before Junko locked a bunch of kids in Hope’s Peak and made them kill each other. And in rolling back the clock, it breaks out of the holding pattern that destroyed the original and will, I think, destroy Future.

Set at the aforementioned Hope’s Peak back when it was a normal high school and bastion of… well, hope, we meet the newest member of staff and tutor for the class we’re focusing on… Chisa! Who was the girl who got killed at the end of Future’s first episode. And just like how she was the best part of that show, she shines brightly here too. Seeing only a quarter of her class show up (attendance ain’t mandatory), she proceeds to go all over campus corralling the rest of her students, using her own charming and psychotic brand of motivation that was fun as hell to watch.

As for the class, I’ve not played Danganronpa 2, but I’m pretty sure most of these guys and gals are from that game, including my personal favourite rock and roll queen Ibuki, but even if you’ve never met them before the show does a great job of quickly introducing who they are and their personality. The only character missing that I expected to see is Junko, the origin of despair, but there’s plenty of time for her to rock up yet.

Throw in a far cooler opening and ending, a fresh plot direction that isn’t endless murders and court scenes (hopefully), a really strong lead in Chisa who anchors the whole show, plus the intrigue of how (and if) things fall to despair, and you’ve got a way way stronger show than its sister series, and one that totally won me over.

Who’d have guessed these two shows would be poles apart…

KEEPER

Battery

These final shows have a tendency of sending me on rollercoasters. In Winter it was Ajin, and in Spring it was Big Order, both shows I was intriguing in but couldn’t manage to win me over. And this time around we’re ending with the noitaminA show of the season, a programming block that most recently aired Erased and Kabaneri, two contenders for the top ten series. So. This time for sure, right?

Well, Battery is a bit more traditional than any of those, as it’s a sports anime, focusing on Japan’s beloved baseball. We meet a pair of brothers, with the elder being somewhat of a minor prodigy at pitching. Their family is moving in with their grandpa in a new town as the elder brother moves to junior high, and ends up bumping into a local catcher who’s as passionate about the sport as he is.

So Harada (pitcher) and Go (catcher) end up motivating each other to perform better, and both of them want to elevate their school team from the minor leagues. Their performance ends up motivating the lil bro too, wanting to try and outshine his brother in the future, which’ll be a cool plot point, as Harada doesn’t want him to break his younger body in training, mimicking what his grandfather said to him.

The animation is more on the plain side, though it does the job well enough, and maybe it’ll step up when the actual matches begin, like the cool watercolour opening and ending do. So while it lacks anything spectacular to take it to the next level like Erased and Kabaneri did, it’ll still definitely be a well produced series that turns out alright. If you want a baseball show, jump aboard.

POSSIBLY

Am I done? I think I’m done. Thunderbolt Fantasy and Danganronpa 3 Despair join Days, Orange, Amaama to Inazuma and Taboo Tattoo as my six keepers, which seems to be the going rate this year. And there’s a few cool reserves too in New Game and Cheer Danshi.

Now to do what I usually do and watch completely different things for a week. Like Kara no Kyoukai! And Wander Over Yonder! And video games! And NEW EPISODES OF STEVEN UNIVERSE AAAAAAAAAAA!

Okay, I’m good. Probably. Next article will probably be August’s Recommendations, so stay tuned for that~