«

»

Oct 25

Fall Anime 2016 First Episode Impressions – Part 3

I'll have a yuri on the rocks

I’ll have a yuri on the rocks

Welcome to the third part of Autumn, featuring a whopping 17 shows! Good thing a lot of them were shorts then, otherwise I’d have gone insane. Not that I haven’t already, considering the “quality” of some of them…

This part contains everything that aired October 4th and 5th, including sequels to Natsume’s Book of Friends and Sound Euphonium, as well as a Strike Witches spinoff, the totally not misleading Yuri on Ice and… sigh… a new season of Teekyuu. Let’s begin this onslaught.

Soushin Shoujo Matoi

Matoi the Sacred Slayer is certainly an intriguing one. I mean, first and foremost, it shatters one of anime’s longest and dumbest traditions by having parents! For both main girls! Who do things and are plot relevant! Actually, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as there’s a lot going on and this episode keeps up quite the pace to do it all.

So. There are these beasts from another dimension (I think they’re called Plasma?) who are after ancient shrine artifact or something. Both lead girls work at the local shrine, with the secondary lead set to become a shrine maiden when her father and mother retire, and she ends up becoming mildly obsessed with exorcisms after a visit from a police researcher.

Speaking of which, the lead girl’s father is a detective, who is investigating a weird case with an artist as the suspect. Of course there’s more to it, as said artist was possessed by Plasma… maybe. He seems to be possessed, then unpossessed, then possessed again over the course of the episode. This all builds to a big battle at the shrine where our poor lead girl who just wanted an ordinary life transforms into an exorcist who looks strikingly similar to her mother.

The show does a great job of threading all these lines together, but its not without a few annoying chinks. Both father’s have pervert moments (which is especially creepy for the detective), the aftermath of the exorcist transformation leaves the lead naked, and the show takes next to no time to explain anything. Add in some animation which feels like a poor copy of Trigger’s style, and… well, I’m being harsh as I can see loads of potential in this, but there’s just too many small slip-ups to keep the faith. Sorry.

POSSIBLY

Nanbaka

A prison escape series? Don’t think I’ve seen one of those since… er… Deadman Wonderland? This exists on the opposite end of the spectrum though, going for laughs and comedy while DW was doom and blood battles.

So what we get is our group of four guys, all famous for escaping from prisons the world over, trying to escape the most inescapable prison in the world, Nanba Prison. And how is it defended? With the usual assortment of comedy deathtraps, including giant boulders, closing walls and laser grids. If it’s a cliché, it’s here!

But as they make it all the way to the outside and can see freedom, the warden for their block comes along and KO’s them all out in rapid fashion. Sigh. Cue the transition to slice of life hijinks with prison escapees, as they prattle about the inane and drool over women. The show does attempt a more serious moment, with one of the cast having eternal black shackles and hunting down the warden who put them on him… but it falls totally flat after the rest of the show.

To add to it all, the four main characters all look like rejected designs from other shōnen series, combining anime tropes left, right and center to try and make something stick… but ultimately the end result is bleh. Which sums up everything about this show really. Bleh.

DROPPED

Soul Buster

Okay, first things first, what the hell was up with the effects on this show!? See those lines on the picture? They were there on Every. Single. Scene. Some scenes even got random paint splatter effects on-screen for no reason whatsoever! Weird doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Anyway, the plot of Soul Buster seems fairly similar to that of Future Diary. There’s a bunch of players, each with their own special card, which they must protect with their life. Those cards also act as summons, and surprise surprise, Bland McBoring aka the lead character gets a super special card which summons a (presumably) super special lady.

There’s a ton of fluff narrative on top of that about him being affected by repeating nightmares and some old emperor in a tomb and the past civil war in China being reborn and… it all just kind of goes in one ear and out the other. Nothing in this half-length show motivates you to give a shit. The characters, the writing, the art… it’s all just… boring. You wanna see a bunch of strangers in a large-scale fight to the death while they’re protecting things? Watch Future Diary, not this.

DROPPED

Nobunaga no Shinobi

Short but sweet is a good summation of Nobunaga’s Shinobi. Especially when a quarter of the three and a half minute runtime is the opening. Luckily, the concept is really simple. Nobunaga recruits a shinobi he first met as a kid into his army, and so enters the young lady.

She’s good at what she does, has brains and understands the difference between herself and Nobunaga’s existing samurai. And she has a bald sidekick / friend who has a crush on her, which is a-dor-a-ble. The art style is simple, though maybe a bit too much so at times, regularly forgoing actual animation (that shot above is the only time Nobunaga has a mouth, for instance), but it works in a way, adding to the charm of the series.

Yeah, I… like this. I went in expecting lame comedy or some other Nobunaga gimmick (lord knows how many anime series I’ve seen that are related to him), but instead I got something fun and cool. I mean, I dunno how it’ll fare in terms of overall narrative, but as it’s just a few minutes per week… fuck it, I’ll take the risk.

KEEPER

Natsume Yuujinchou Go

Natsume’s Book of Friends is one of the few anime series that has survived the test of time, with this new entry  marking its fifth season. The premise is simple. Reiko, a girl who could see youkai, ended up taking the names of a ton of them into her “Book of Friends”, and so binding them into her servitude. Now her grandson, who can also see them, has to deal with all the pissed off spirits who want their names back.

It’s one of the simplest premises for creating a long running series in all of manga, which is probably why it’s been running for over 13 years. This fifth season just carries straight on, with youkai approaching Takashi, mistaking him for his grandmother and demanding he make things right for them. While this is usually their name, the twist for this episode is that the spirit instead wants a possession back that Reiko stole from her.

As for the aesthetic and audio, I was reminded a little of Mushishi, though that was far more creative with its use of the spiritual than Natsume. There’s also a bunch of oddities in the writing, such as the quest for the doll being solved as quickly as it was a problem, and lead Takashi telling us that being choked out by a youkai will be the end of him before it instead triggers some kind of memory tapping ability which I assume is already established? It just feels sometimes the show will use any out to get to where it needs to be.

But perhaps weirder than all of that is how this all feels very status quo. I’ve read the first volume of the manga, and this episode’s content could just as easily start the second. I mean, has anything changed or evolved in that timespan? At all? Sure, it makes it simple for newcomers, but if nothing changes, why would I ever get invested. If you’re a long time fan, feel free to correct me, but this show seems so vanilla I just can’t see the appeal.

UNLIKELY

Cheating Craft

So, remember that one bit in Naruto where they had to do a really hard test? And that after a bit they all figured out the way to pass was to creatively cheat so the examiners didn’t notice? This show is that, but… terribly executed.

In the world where this show is set, one exam means everything. Pass and you’re made, fail and you can kiss the sweet life goodbye. Parents will apparently spend millions on teaching their kids, or giving them high-tech cheating equipment, just to ensure their success. It’s silly, but hey, as a way of making drama and stakes, then sure, it works.

But then it goes full retard. See, this episode is there to do some world-building before the main cast shows up next week, setting up the gravity of the test and such, but then we watch one “masterful” cheating student literally shoot people with his pen. Then jump next to his friend doing the test legit and copy him. While shooting away more cheaters. Then punching them. Then the school explodes. Then a nuke goes off. Sir Cheatalot is left as the last man standing as he walks away, a tear in his eye for his fallen friend.

What. The. Actual. Fuck. You can’t just go from having examiners able to spot and disable high-tech gear to some jack-a-ninny leaping around like a moron. It made no sense, and destroyed any and all atmosphere this half-length show was gunning for. And because of that, no chance.

DROPPED

To Be Hero

Another short (this one’s half-length) that has a terrible sense of humour? Anime, you surprise me so.

To Be Hero involves this one father who’s a toilet seat designer and ladies man, and his daughter who hates him for it. One day he takes a dump, gets sucked down the loo, meets with some weird committee and gets transformed into a fat slobbish lecher who’s a “superhero”. Well, he squashes an alien bug with his shoe, if that qualifies him as such

That’s it! Cue a cavalcade of pervert humour and terrible comedy. I’ll give it one thing, the animation does have some style to it, especially in the opening and ending sequences, but when the stuff its animating sucks so hard, why would I bother watching for the odd “hey, that’s a nicely animated shot” moment.

DROPPED

Bishoujo Yuugi Unit Crane Game Girls Galaxy

…oookaaay, didn’t expect to see this one back so soon. Or ever. The Crane Game Girls made their debut back in Spring, and this second season is more of the same. Emphasis on more, as it’s doubled in length from five minutes to half-length.

In the last season, the trio achieved idoldom, with millions of fans who helped coach them on as they stopped a meteor from destroying us all. Sadly, the bad guys ain’t given up yet, sending their own idol trio to fight ours. Which group will win? I dunno, and I find it hard to care too. If I’m reeeaaaally trying, the energetic bad idol was mildly entertaining, but that’s as far as I’ll go.

Elsewhere, the animation is still an unpolished flash / net style, and the songs felt like they were recorded on a microphone someone bought for a fiver, sounding quite fuzzy and staticky. The writing… well, okay, it was more focused now than it had been, but it still offers nothing of intrigue to bring the viewers back, so I’ll pass on this one too.

DROPPED

Bungou Stray Dogs Second Season

I kinda assumed Bungou Stray Dogs was gonna be the standard split-cour format, with me being dropped into a new arc and drowning in characters. But no! Instead this episode wound back the clock by 4 years and told the story of our “wishes he could die” lead back when he worked for the Port Mafia.

Our undying friend is supported by the “lowest ranking” member in the organisation, who can see five seconds in the future but refuses to kill anyone, and an amazing accountant stroke information broker who holds many secrets of the organisation. So when the latter goes missing, the other two step in to find their old friend.

Considering if I recall correctly the first season was supernatural investigations and comedy, this feels quite different. The comedy aspects are downplayed, the supernatural is barely a factor, the animation was solid and the character designs look nice, fitting the story it now seemingly wants to tell.

There are some drawbacks from the shift, like the lead seemingly having L-tier powers of observation and instincts,  which combined with his premonitions and “doesn’t die” shtick make him more than a little overpowered, even if he does constantly court death. That and a few other writing blips meant that Stray Dogs still isn’t quite the shōnen series for me… but I fully admit I’m being a harsh bastard, and this is well worth checking out for yourself.

POSSIBLY

Anitore! XX

I’m… so confused… The four minutes this show ran for involved a bunch of girls moving into a new place and cleaning it up, with some scenes done from the singular (and silent) male’s perspective, and you can guess where his gaze went hahano.

Each female gets what feels like 10 seconds on-screen, before we loop back to the first girl who does some stretches while the anime teaches its viewers how to do them too. Oh, and another girl shows up at the end to move in with them!

Confused? Me too. I actually had to look up the premise to discover this is a) a sequel and b) about idol wannabies doing stretches to prepare themselves for the industry. None of this was mentioned in the episode. At any point. Ever.

So put all this knowledge together, and you’re got a benign short with generic animation and some light fanservice tendencies! Y’know, I think I’ll pass.

DROPPED

Nazotokine

The next show in our impromptu shorts showcase is Nazotokine, clocking in at just seven and a half minutes (or more accurately, six sans opening). The lead is a secretary of a PR company’s CEO, who’s seen as cute, has a bunch of cool friends aaaand is secretly an anime otaku because of course she is. Actually, she’s a toku fan as well so she gets my nod of approval. Still need to see the new Kamen Rider now I think about it…

Anyway, one day she gets teleported away to the alternate dimension known as Quizum (it literally just happens out of the blue), where some floating animal thing in a hat tells her that in order to return to Earth she must solve riddles. And who can possibly solve riddles without a magical girl transformation sequence and costume? Well, I mean, everyone can, but welcome to anime. As for what said riddles involve, and whether they’re serious or anime stupid… I can’t say, as the show ends just before she does her first challenge.

Meanwhile, the animation was fairly standard, with some CG elements thrown in for seemingly no reason (I think the hat animal was one too, but hard to say as it was still a lot of the time). I mean, it wasn’t awful, but I ain’t dying to know the outcome, so let’s just move on.

Wait actually no let’s not let’s stay he-

UNLIKELY

Teekyuu 8

“Dropped Forever Into The Fucking Sun” may have been the judgement I bestowed upon Teekyuu 7. <> That’s not a new opinion either. Long-time readers will know I’m not exactly the most forgiving audience, but most shows usually show some potential over the years. Not Teekyuu! This fucker has been shit from top to bottom and start to finish, and somehow we’re here again with its EIGHTH series! Not including the fucking spin-off!

What is it? Well, it’s ultra fast ultra unfunny nothing to do with tennis whatever random bullshit they can think of to fill two minutes inconsistent garbage trash fucking fuck. Oh, and this one even threw in a few fanservice shots because why fucking not.

Can I move on with life now? Please? Fuck it, I’m gonna go rewatch Shelter as a palette cleanser…

DROPPED

Kiitarou Shounen no Youkai Enikki

Our penultimate short (of this part) is a four-minute affair all about The Great Youkai War, which took place when a little boy and a little girl got in a tiff about whose turn it was to clean or something.

We get a couple of minutes of decent fighting action with some cool music, before they look at the chaos around them and realise maybe getting everybody they know and care about to fight over something so trivial was maaaybe a silly idea, so they make peace and the day ends with them all partying it up.

So the animation’s perfectly alright, but the storytelling is nigh-on non-existent. And somehow I imagine the one saving grace of action and music isn’t going to be a thing every single week. Another short for the reject pile, then.

DROPPED

Mahou Shoujo Nante Mou Ii Desu Kara. Second Season

The final short! Another four-minute ‘un, this marks the return of the trash magical girl show! No, not like that, it’s trash because that’s where she found the obligatory magical girl animal pet sidekick thing. Though, now I look back at my notes, I guess it was pretty trash-tier too.

We rejoin the cast on a hot summer’s day, where little miss magical abuses her swimsuit and water based transformation to help her and a friend beat the heat, while they reflect on the events of the first season, which… seem to out the mascot as an even bigger pervert than I first thought (hence why he’s tied up and being mauled by the cat in the screenshot, probably the show’s neatest moment).

The episode ends with them meeting their other magical girl friend in her café, challenging our lead to a magical girl duel for some reason. Sadly that hook isn’t enough to really make me care for this show, and while the writing felt a tad better than before, and the animation is fine enough, I can’t envision this playing out into anything interesting. Shorts aren’t doing well this season…

DROPPED

Hibike! Euphonium Second Season

From shorts all the way to the opposite end of the spectrum, with a double sized return for Sound Euphonium, coming from arguably the best studio in all of anime, Kyoto Animation. Then again, I remember their last show, Phantom World, which I gave the nod despite some… questionable choices, which backfired on me halfway through. But hey, the first season of Euphonium has received rave reviews, so I was cautiously optimistic.

Getting the obvious out of the way first, yes, it was very pretty to behold. KyoAni know how to do the grand and the minute, and this show had its share of visually memorable scenes and neat little touches. It wasn’t that that left the most lasting impression on me though.

See, both the writing in this show and the characters… feel real. Real in a way that the cast of pretty much all other KyoAni, and all other anime series, don’t. And I don’t just mean this because they have normal hair colours. Everything you saw you could believe was happening in a school somewhere, thanks to those little touches I mentioned earlier.

An awkward pause here, a friendly jibe there, and nods to baggage from years gone by all help sell the world and characters of the show, and the show rarely takes the easy way out with its narrative. Which all makes the small moments matter that much more, as the show slowly travels towards its long-term goal of the Kansai competition (we rejoin just after they win the Kyoto contest) and potentially Nationals.

…wait, I’ve not even said what the show is, have I? Sound Euphonium is about a school orchestra. There’s probably 50 or so characters within the club, half of which don’t say anything this episode (or probably ever), but the one’s who do manage to get across their personality even with limited time. And I don’t mean that as “she’s the shy one, she’s the tsundere etc” but actual depth of character.

And yes, as you’d hope and expect in a show about music, both the background pieces and the songs they perform are superb. I could go on and on about them, and the show in general, but we’ve already hit six paragraphs, so instead I’ll simply urge you to check this out. People said this could well be KyoAni’s greatest masterpiece, and by jove, they might just be right.

KEEPER

Brave Witches

A Strike Witches spinoff? Er. I um. I have to go… feed my… coat… yes… Okay, okay, fine. I must admit, it wasn’t as bad as I feared. People talking about SW made me expect ass shots galore, but there were only a couple. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t gonna sing this show’s praises… but it wasn’t terrible.

Instead of focusing on the war against the Neuroi, a species of black and neon red space aliens, this episode is about the younger sister of one of the Brave Witches (at least I assume she’s part of that squadron), and her journey to join her sister in Europe. Lil’s got loads of stamina but not much skill (or as we sometimes call it, burning passion), but somehow someway she finds a way to beat the talented school jerk and win her spot on the squad.

Weeellll, I say somehow, it’s because it rains which throw the far more talented one slightly off her game. But hey, who wants reliability when you can get somehow who flourishes in one in a million scenarios! Hell, I phrase this like she passed the test, they both failed, but her compassion in saving the other one from a perilous situation meant that she was allowed in. Anime!

Speaking of anime, there may have been less ass shots but there was still fanservice, including a scene with the two sisters in the bath because of course. Oh, and the girls grow animal ears and tails when they’re using magic. At least the backgrounds looked kinda nice, and the CG elements were done well. So basically, not one I’d write off (in itself a surprise), but not one I’m gonna pursue unless people really hype it up.

UNLIKELY

Yuri!!! on Ice

“Yuri? That means lesbians, right?” Normally, yes, but not this time. The yuri aspect of this show is that two of the leads are ice-skating teens called… Yuri! One’s Russian and has dominated the junior scene, and is now preparing to move up to the big leagues. The other, our lead, is Japanese and made it all the way to the finals of seniors, but choked, crashed, and burned.

We jump in well into his slump, having lost his coach and motivation, returning to his hometown for the first time in years to try and rekindle his spirit. In doing so, he catches the eye of the five-time world champion, also from Russia, who I guess was looking for a new challenge, as he decides to coach both Yuri’s and raise them to his level, despite the tension between the two.

I’ve omitted a bunch to make that explanation shorter, but trust me, the writing is pretty dang great, making me emphasise with the lead, while showing the complexities of Yuri’s life and how he has seemingly been trapped by living up to the expectations of others.

The animation’s slick too, bringing the figure skating of the show to life in brilliant fashion, and you can even tell the differences between the true pros and those not quite at their level, though if I’m being picky the show could use a few more in-betweens in these sequences to help everyone flow smoothly. Don’t worry, it still looks great, but a tad more work could make it shine even brighter.

Speaking of animation, this show probably has the most interesting opening of the season, both in visuals and audio, and the ending was a cool concept well executed too. Actually, the soundtrack of the whole show was top-notch, fitting each scene to a tee. Add it all up and I’m kinda enraptured. You can really sense the passion and attention to detail here, and I can’t wait to see more.

KEEPER

And with that I blast past the halfway point. I was worried at one point this season was gonna suck hard, but Sound Euphonium and Yuri on Ice have bailed me out somewhat. Join us at the weekend (probably) for Part 4 containing Haikyuu, Ajin and the dude behind Hellsing’s latest show! See you then~