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Oct 09

Fall Anime 2016 First Episode Impressions – Part 1

Be-witch-ing

Be-witch-ing

Fall is usually anime’s busiest season of the year, and with over 70(!) new shows airing this month, that holds as true as ever. After a few bombastic seasons though, the lineup seems a little lacking bar a few noteworthy sequels. But maybe that’s all a ruse to cover up hidden gems?

In this first part I cover 15 shows from September and October 1st, including the return of Digital Monsters to TV screens, a double dose of idols and Working’s fourth season. Ready? Because I’m not…

Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars (Restart)

Well, this is a weird one to start off the new season with. If Regalia rings a bell, that’s because it originally started airing back in the summer season. Except the production quality was so low, the studio decided to shitcan it after four episodes, spend some more time on it, and start re-airing it in the Fall. And here we are.

Credit where it’s due, the extra time does seem to have paid off a little bit. The mech fight that makes up the tailend of the show looks a lot smoother, and the story’s been tightened up a little. I mean, some of the events still seem to happen for no real rhyme or reason, such as the little (but actually elder because anime) sister having to fight, and I swear every sentence that comes out of this episode’s main villain contradicts the last… but it’s not as bewildering as before.

There’s not really much else to say that I didn’t cover in my summer write-up. It’s no longer a total mess… but it ain’t groundbreaking or must-see either. Which is probably the best Regalia could hope for.

UNLIKELY

Heybot!

Heybot was one of the few shows in this season I knew about before watching it, as there’s been adverts for it during the Super Hero Time programming block which houses my beloved Sentais and Riders. But even then I could tell it looked, to use the show’s favourite word, “boneheaded”. Or as I would say, “shite”.

I mean, at this point, if you’ve seen one Japanese children’s comedy show, you’ve seen them all. Lots of abnormal character expressions drawn in different styles? Check. Mile a minute pacing? Check. Shit happening and unhappening for no reason? Check. Nobody ever shutting the hell up to let things process? Check. And of course, last and definitely least, toilet humour. I just. No.

Let’s try and talk about the positive aspects, like… well, it’s a bright and colourful show. The flashforward at the beginning was great, showcasing a big battle in space and all the characters grown up fighting their nemesis. Hell, if I was a kid, that’s the exact show I’d want to see, not the cesspool of terrible writing, characters and “humour” we actually got.

And while I’m here, let me do one last piece of bitchin’. In one scene, the show said “don’t try this at home” while the lead was trying to change the batteries of Heybot. Remember when you owned a Game Boy? Remember how terrifying changing the batteries was? No? Me neither. Rant over.

DROPPED

Dream Festival!

It’s idol time! Actually, I think I’m getting to the point where I’m recognising the pool of male idol voices in anime, which is worrying. Anyway, this show starts in fairly comfortable territory. We have the lead kid Kanade who is able to push himself beyond his limits, and that talent gets him scouted by the director of an idol company.

While he’s understandably reluctant at first, when he sees the heart, soul and passion of everyone who busts their ass to be an idol, as well as the smiles and cheer he can bring to so many, he decides to leap into their world. Like I said, this ain’t particularly original.

But it is kinda fun. There’s no pointless melodrama or confrontation, the card system from Aikatsu is adapted to be something controlled by the fans and used as a showcase of how happy they make people feel, and the animation’s cool… though the age-old use of CG for performances in idol shows is a mild disappointment.

Look besides that though, and there’s some neat characterisation (like the direction who is kinda mischievous and knows just how to push people’s buttons), some nice music and a clear goal for all the characters, which all adds up to make a good show, and one I’d recommend to idol fans. Hell, I might give it a try, all things considered.

POSSIBLY

Nyanbo!

The first show of the season, and it’s about a spinoff character from Yotsuba&! Yes. That Yotsuba. One of the all-time great manga’s that’ll never get animated. So enjoy the few seconds she appears in the credits for, it’s the closest we’re ever gonna get…

Luckily, Nyanbo is a really warm and fuzzy series to watch that makes up for that bittersweet feeling. The Nyanbo themselves are essentially cardboard box cats who exist in our world, invisible to us, hunting for missing spaceship pieces so they can return to the stars. They’re also CG characters dropped into real life shots, which makes for a cool and unique aesthetic.

It falls down a little when the Nyanbo have to interact with other living creatures, like a bit with a real cat, but otherwise it works well, and the nice personalities of the five cast members mean you can’t help but smile. It’s almost like… well, almost like reading a chapter of Yotsuba. Neither sets the world alight, but both warm your heart, and clocking in at five minutes a week, there’s no reason not to dive in. I’m down.

KEEPER

Kaijuu Girls

Another five-minute short, though sadly this one isn’t related to an A-list manga. No, Kaijuu Girls is about girls who have Kaijuu souls residing in themselves, and learning to control and harness their emerging powers for good.

As someone who’s not seen Godzilla or any of the Japanese Kaijuu films really, I have no clue who the three lead girls are meant to be based off of. If you did know, maybe that’d explain their personalities? You have the lead girl who is very monotone and lacking emotion, the glasses girl who is smart but a tad awkward, and the cat girl… well, think Yoruichi from Bleach and you’re pretty much there. Not exactly screaming interesting.

The show uses the age-old Flash animation style, and while that works perfectly fine, there’s nothing to hook you in the visual or narrative department. I always feel bad for dropping shows I don’t hate, but if there’s nothing to invest in, there’s no reason not to either.

DROPPED

Digimon Universe: Appli Monsters

Digimon! Digital Monsters! Digimon are the champions! The franchise has been undergoing a minor renaissance as of late, with the Tri movies, game localisations in Cyber Sleuth and Next Order, and the recent home video release of the entire first season by Manga. And now there’s an all new series in Appli Monsters. And yes, as you can see, the main character still wears goggles. Gotta keep traditions alive, man.

This time around the franchise has looked to apps for inspiration, with every app you might use on your mobile device housing its own Digimon. Oh, sorry, “Appmon”. Despite having Digimon in the title, this series does everything it can to stick App on the front of everything instead. There’s AppliDrives (Digivices), AppRealising (summoning), and you can bet Appvolution is probably around the corner.

In the actual narrative, lead kid Haru spends a lot of time pondering if he can be a main character or not, with his Appmon Gatchmon (from a search engine app) coaching him on. By episode’s end though, he’s gotten over the hump through some leap of logic, and they beat the baddie of the episode. Sadly that fight is maybe too committed to the bit, as Haru searches for something tangentially related to the mon they’re fighting to trigger a nonsensical winning strategy.

It’s a tad awkward, reminding me of the weaker moments of Cyber Sleuth when it would go too far with its own concepts and become gibberish. I mean, the original show managed to draw a perfect line between fantasy and reality, something this show can’t pull off. But the core concepts are still strong, and the animation vibrant enough that I can see this picking up after the first arc. It’s no Adventure… but it’s no Frontier either.

POSSIBLY

WWW.Working!!

Working’s one of those shows that’s been around as long as I’ve been into anime, making its debut way back in 2010. Now we’re into the fourth season (I think) of the day to day adventures of restaurant Wagnaria’s employees, and this episode focuses a lot on their newest hiring, using him as an in for new or lapsed viewers. Like me!

The show sits firmly in comedy slice of life, with the new guy often set up as the straight guy in gags as he gets used to all the various quirky personalities he now works with. There’s a tsundere, a girl who seems out of it, a lazy older woman, a dimwitted manager, two chefs who I think are gay for each other maybe, a dude who’s family got him into debt, the daughter of the family he owes said debt to, and probably a few more I forgot or who didn’t appear.

Yes, that’s a lot of characters, and while the show tries to work around it by having only a few in each scene and ensuring the focus is kept tight on just three of them, you still won’t remember anyone’s name, just the personality archetype which sets up their gags.

Speaking of which, those gags do avoid many of the pitfalls of awful anime comedy… but they don’t exactly hit home either. I mean, I can see why this show has gotten to a fourth season, but it’s still very vanilla. Outside of a possible romance angle I don’t see any of the cast developing at all, which makes it hard to get on board. But if you’re fine with status quo eternal, by all means give it a whirl.

UNLIKELY

Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku

Magical girls may be one of the genre’s most synonymous with anime, but I swear the actual amount of them we get is very few. I guess nobody wants to try and pick a fight with the likes of Madoka or Sailor Moon. So Magical Girl Raising Project was a pleasant surprise, and one that does fairly decently, all things considered.

Our lead girl has been a massive fan of magical girls since she was very little, not caring what others thought of her obsession. So it’s no surprise she’s addicted to a free-to-play app game all about them, which leads Fav, the mascot, to declare her perfect magical girl material, transforming her into totally not Madoka and watching as she helps everybody around town with their troubles.

She’s far from the first though, as we meet a bunch of her co-workers, based off witches and ninjas and other RPG character classes, even discovering her one childhood friend who loved magical girls as much as she did got to become one too. Oh, he’s a boy, for the record. He changes gender when he transforms. Don’t ask. Everything seems rainbows until Fav decides maybe having FIFTEEN magical girls for one city is a bit much and announces he’s gonna half that number. Hmmm.

Putting aside the “that’s dumb and will only result in-oh Fav’s a Kyuubey knockoff”, the show is pretty pure and is fairly well put together for a magical girl series. Instead of fighting random big bads, it’s more focused on the good they can do, and that’s an interesting different take. Sadly that ending hook and the no doubt predictable drama and fighting that will emerge pull me right out of it. I’ll keep it as a reserve, but if you like the idea of magical girl warfare, I can see this being the show for you.

POSSIBLY

Bloodivores

Certainly a striking name for a show. But what is a bloodivore? Well, the show never really sits down to explain it, but at a guess, they’re humans who need blood to survive. No, not vampires. Or Tokyo Ghouls. Not at all. Noooope.

After doing anime’s favourite and already old trick of opening with a flashforward (a car chase with the most poor looking crash in anime history), we see the events that led up to it, as our four lead characters try to rob a bank while the police are dealing with a protest rally.

Predictable, half of them do something incredibly stupid, including the classic line of “who cares about the plan”, as though bank robberies are just a casual fling. Unsurprisingly, the police catch them all, and sentence them to death for murdering 15 people. Except they didn’t. Before we get a chance to figure out who set them up though, they’re all filled with lead. Sentence completed, show over, nice shock ending.

Two seconds later you see the next episode preview with everybody alive and well. What the fuck. How am I supposed to care about anyone in this show if that’s the attitude you have, which combined with the usual teenage angst and idiocy and not doing anything with the theme, really put a dour note on everything. They could be werewolves or wizards for all it matters, which overshadows any small triumphs elsewhere. A shame.

UNLIKELY

Time Bokan 24

Y’know, sometimes I feel sorry for Japanese kids. We may have our share of shite cartoons aimed at their generation, but it seems even worse over there, with Time Bokan 24 being the latest in a long line of shows to prove my point. Y’see, as it turns out, the history we all know is a bunch of lies created by the one company that publishes all the textbooks in the future.

Enter the Time Bokan 24, a time travelling unit from the future who aim to discover and restore the “True History”, which is “funnier” than the stuff we all know. So in this episode we discover that Cleopatra was actually a comedy duo known as Cleo and Patra hahaha how hilarious. That’s the tip of the iceberg of the terrible writing this show has.

Nothing makes sense. In the opening, our lead girl is being chased through time, breaks her ship, crashes in our period, then leaves again one minute later as though nothing had gone wrong, and the baddies just give up the chase. Also she nicks a kid from our time period for literally no reason. There’s no permanence, no logic, just what gag would work for this moment.

If I’m being nice, yes, some of the mechs look funny and I enjoyed the bad guys being a nod to stuff like Team Rocket and Nadia’s villains, but I’m really struggling to find anything else positive to say. You want a funny kid’s show all about the past? Go watch Horrible Histories. It’s a million times better than this junk.

DROPPED

Bubuki Buranki: Hoshi no Kyojin

It took me a while to remember what this show was a sequel to, as the first episode was way back in Winter, and when you see triple figure new shows each year… well, that’s my excuse. Either way, I seemed pretty positive on it back then, and the show doesn’t seem to have dropped a beat this time either.

With Azuma, the lead kid, stuck on a plane for most of the episode, it falls to the rest of his team to protect Taiwan, which they’ve moved to after the first season which was set in Japan. Here we meet an all new mecha and it’s team of four Bubuki limbs and users, along with their heart. And who wields said heart? None other than Azusa’s little sister, Kaokuro. Neat twist.

Her exaggerated personality and unbreakable will to protect her country that she was kinda abandoned in by her family drives most of this episode, with fights mostly on the back-burner to make way for the introduction of new friends and foes. Certainly, I didn’t feel lost as an outsider, which is always a good sign.

The other major point to make is the show’s cast are entirely CG, but don’t worry, they all look and move way better than, say, Sidonia or Ajin. The only irritating parts were the odd an-i-me moments, like fanservice or shouting loudly about nothing or eschewing logic for gags. They didn’t detract too much, but enough to knock this out of definite viewing territory. I do recommend giving this a try though, bar those niggles it seems to be a dang good show.

POSSIBLY

Shuumatsu no Izetta

Sometimes I’ll look at the promo art on an anime season chart and think “that looks alright”. It’s not an exact science, but more often than not something which looks different plays out different. Izetta was the show this season that most caught my eye, and you can notch this one up in the win column.

Izetta: The Last Witch is set back in an alternate version of World War 2, with countries and locations muddled a bit to make it a more fantasy-based show. This first episode plays it mostly straight though, featuring not Izetta, but Finé, a princess of a small country trying their best to resist Germania’s invasion.

While she’s on the run, we get to see both her smarts and resolve put to the test and the struggles of those who associate with her, as well as seeing this weird coffin being transported in the background. Surprise surprise, at the end it’s revealed to have been housing Izetta, who saves her childhood friend Finé from a crashing plane. Oh, and she rides a rifle instead of a broomstick, which is a really cool image.

I… yeah, I enjoyed this, if it’s not obvious. Everyone played their roles to a tee, and using real world history as a ground makes it easy to digest even if the names are still sinking in. It looked nice, set up some interesting threads and has plenty of potential to expand into something great. Sign me up for more.

KEEPER

ViVid Strike!

So apparently the word Vivid triggers me in anime terms, as I instantly thought back to Vividred Operation and had alarm bells going off everywhere. Luckily, this show isn’t like that one. Nah, it’s bad for entirely different reasons.

The show opens as we see Fuka and her adopted sister dealing with some bullies on their way to the orphanage. “If only I was stronger” she laments. We learn over the rest of the episode her not-sister was adopted by a rich family, took up martial arts, and got stronger. But according to Fuka she now had a dark look about her, despite doing exactly what she said she wanted to do.

Those contradictions define a lot of what Fuka says and does. She looks down on the upper class despite hating those who look down on others. She refuses to do martial arts, but is fine with being a sparring partner. The show does this a lot, inventing a problem then immediately sweeping it away instead of facing it head on, which kinda sucks.

It’s not all bad, the fights themselves are decent, as everyone has a different stance, and the reveal that one of the mooks had beaten the world champ caught me totally off guard, but that’s it for highlights. The animation and character designs are bleh, and I’ve already moaned about the writing. Strike this one off the record.

DROPPED

Uta no Prince-sama Maji Love Legend Star

Much like Working earlier, “Uta Pri” feels like it’s been going on forever. The fourth season since its debut in 2011, and the second I’ve seen the first episode of, it appears past me and current me can both agree on one thing. Lead girl Haruka’s eyes are fucking weird. She looks dead inside.

So, what is this? Male idol bands. Feels like there’s been a lot in the past season or two. And of course, all EIGHTEEN male cast members are in wuv with Haruka. The show gives us a catch-up from last season, where the three bands of Quartet Night, Heavens and Starish fought each other to a draw in a contest to be the opening act for someone or other, so now it’s time for the true showdown.

So it’s announced that on Christmas Eve the three bands will compete again, and to ensure there’s no bias, they’ll all be written by one girl. Haruka! How this ensures that when she has a history with one of the bands I don’t know, but I guess that explains why they’re all fixated on her.

There ain’t much else to say. I mean, if you want to know just how much depth the male cast has, none of them are called by name at any point in this episode. The big positive is, as you’d hope, the music, with both the songs and animation in those parts oozing style which was missing elsewhere. So basically, watch the song performance’s on YouTube, and skip the “actual” show, and you’ll have a way better time.

UNLIKELY

Tiger Mask W

As a wrestling fan who watches WWE and Lucha Underground, I was a little intrigued by this one. Sadly though, I quickly learned that normal rules were out the window, as a dude called Yellow Devil cut gashes in several people and did other impossible feats.

Three years later, we see how the two trainee’s of Devil’s victim are progressing, with both pushing themselves to the max in their own way. One stayed with family, while the other joined a training organisation, and they both end up at the first Japanese show of a returning promotion in three years, since crazily Yellow Devil’s antics didn’t win them fans.

Basically, it’s manly men grappling a bit and doing crazy stunts in tight pants and tiger masks. But the constant lack of real world logic really hurts the show, as people run in and interfere with the show without any security or police or anybody doing anything. The overuse of dramatic shots also cripples the fights, making them look more nonsensical than serious.

Honestly, the biggest kick I got out of the entire show was seeing the New Japan Professional Wrestling logo on someone’s shirt. I guess they got a sponsorship deal or something. But when that’s your one highlight… yeah. If you’re after a great fightman anime, go watch Hajime no Ippo, it’s far better than this.

DROPPED

The first wave is down, but I’m already a week behind. Blame my total lack of free time right now, but I will aim to have these going up at least once a week. There’ll probably be five parts this time around too. We’ll see. Part 2 should have Gundam, Monster Hunter and Dorito Faces The Animation. No, really. Stay tuned to see what I mean…