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Oct 31

Fall Anime 2016 First Episode Impressions – Part 4

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Hai-to-meet-kyuu

Happy Halloween! But why go outside with all the spooky scary when there’s anime to watch? Yes, my journey through the Fall season continues with another 10 shows that aired on October 6th and 7th.

We’ve got the sequels to Netflix anime Ajin and the king of sports Haikyuu, a new show from the creator of Hellsing and several original shows which turned out better than I expected! It’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised, so hit that link and see which shows brought a smile to my face.

All Out!!

We’re kicking this part off with something I don’t recall seeing animated in all my time doing these first episode impressions, rugby! Though considering it’s more of a Western thing, I guess that makes sense. And like most physical sports anime, we’ve got the chunkier style of lineart and drawings on display, giving more weight to movement. Though there were some weird moments, such as fencing being faded out when characters were behind it, which just looked odd.

But what about the plot? The two lead characters are total opposites, one is the gentle giant, and the other a psychotic midget who gets pissed off whenever anyone mocks his height. No, his name isn’t Edward Elric. Anyway, he gets dragged along to watch a rugby match and decides it looks hella fun and is the sport for him.

Tall and cowardly isn’t quite as enthused, having played the sport in his previous school and watched his best friend get badly hurt, deciding to write off the sport and move on to gentler pursuits. Which is perfectly fair… but not what the lil’ tyke wants, so the poor guy is essentially bullied back into the sport.

Which sends out all kinds of mixed messages. I get that part of what small’s doing is what he believes will help his tall friend get over his past and back into the sport he used to find fun, but the way the show presents it portrays lil’ as an abusive twat. I’m sure this’ll still be a perfectly decent sports show, but that setup strikes me as something that’ll make more problems down the line, so I’ll probably just let this slide.

UNLIKELY

Flip Flappers

Sometimes, for some shows, you just have to buckle in and enjoy the ride, and Flip Flappers is one such example. You won’t get any explanations in this first episode, just a mad journey that twists and turns in ways you won’t ever see coming. It’s definitely an experience unlike anything else I’ve had this year, for better and for worse.

We join lead girl Cocona as she sits an exam and ponders over her next steps in life. Elsewhere, some red-haired girl escapes a prison facility of some sort maybe. The next day, Cocona sees that girl jumping over a train holding a surfboard, and is understandably perplexed, especially since no-one else seemed to notice.

Time passes, the two collide face to face in an abandoned section of the park, and then all bets are off as Papika, the ultra impulsive red-haired floating surfboard riding girl, drags her and a robot friend into the realm of Pure Illusion. In this world they play and explore a winter wonderland, having a grand old adventure which eventually culminates with their return and subsequent capture because of a special stone they found. And trust me, I’ve omitted most of what happens to keep this description short.

The only thing I’ve not really omitted is the explanations, because as I mentioned earlier, you don’t get any! Every single time the show comes close to giving away an answer, something happens so it can dodge the question. It’s almost infuriating, but the show has so much style and mystique it sorta kinda gets away with it maybe? I mean, heck, the animation and designs are brilliant, even if it does alternate between being smooth and jerky from scene to scene.

Which I guess brings me to having to make a decision then. I don’t dislike the weirdness, but it feels a bit too… I dunno, intent on avoiding the plot? I’m curious, but have no idea if that curiosity would be sated. It just makes me worry if I jump on board my quest for answers will involve a one way trip down a deep, dark chasm. One for the reserve list then.

POSSIBLY

Keijo!!!!!!!!

For every rule, there is, inevitably, an exception. Whether you’ve been reading my anime opinions for years or are brand new, you’ve probably cottoned on to the fact I fucking l o a t h e fanservice. It’s degrading, it’s disturbing as Japan loves underage girls and destroys all focus of the show as it devolves into a vehicle for titillation.

Keijo is, fundamentally, a fanservice show. I mean, when your premise is “women try to knock each off inflatable pontoons in a pool using only their boobs and butt”, you can’t really avoid it. But precisely because that is straight up what the show is unapologetically about, it’s… actually… alright…

Okay, there’s a bunch of other stuff that make it cool too. The animation is crisp and intense during the Keijo battles, and that intensity regularly bleeds over into the (all over 18 years old) cast, with the two you see in the image above having a particularly great combat scene, unleashing all kinds of crazy shit and strategies on the other to try and win. Less kyaa, more hyah.

Don’t get me wrong, this ain’t perfect. The downtime is a lot less interesting, and some of the characters introduced, such as the roommates of the lead duo, are dangerously close to one note tropes, like “clumsy” and “shy”, and I think the top ranking player in the academy is… ugh… “pervy”… Stuff like that stops this being a must see, but I mean, god fucking damn I can’t get across just how stunned I am that this show was genuinely enjoyable.

POSSIBLY

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda

I had no clue what this show was until the English title of “Kiss Him Not Me” appeared on screen. While I’ve never read the original manga, I’m aware of it back from when I did monthly manga write-ups. And yes, it is as fujoshi-centric as that title implies.

Our lead is a fat high school girl who loves shipping any and every guy pairing she sees, because in her mind a prince should always be with a prince. This life carries on until her anime husbando gets killed off, and she has the perfectly reasonable otaku reaction of locking herself away in her room for a week. When she’s finally forced to emerge, she’s transformed into a pretty cutesy anime girl from her week-long shutdown.

Needless to say, the guys of her school, who were all already aware of her existence (anime) are now totally smitten, with the second half of the show involving her and four dudes on a date as she tries to ship them and hide her otaku tendencies. Fortunately, she reveals all by the end, so that overplayed comedy style shouldn’t be the focus of the series.

But while that was underplayed, some stuff was overplayed, including the fujoshi elements which made the lead look more creepy than cutesy, and the “everybody wuvs our heroine no matter what” was kinda bleh. Elsewhere, the animation style was fairly standard (only her hair really stood out to me) and all of the male leads had no personality whatsoever, so I just can’t find a whole lot of positives to stick around for. Sorry fujoshi fans!

UNLIKELY

Girlish Number

An anime all about voice actors and the people who make anime? Part of me wants to say this show was inspired by Shirobako… but I didn’t watch anime last year, so I dunno how much that’d hold true. But while that series focused more on the production side, this is more revolving around the VAs of the industry and their perspective.

Our lead girl, Chitose, has only been in the biz for one year, so is still a relative newbie. Through her eyes, we get to meet a bunch of other VAs, including two veterans who look set to be the other main characters. One’s a younger blonde girl, the other a more cool but easy to slight blue haired lass, and the two seem to share a loaded history and high opinions of themselves from their interactions.

That was probably the best thing about the show, the way all the characters, managers and other staff interacted, and the two-sided nature to what they were saying was really fun to watch. Even the studio staff like a producer who just blags his way through everything and the director who smiles and nods with whatever he says had an interesting dynamic, and with the two of them putting our lead on a pedestal in a new project, that’ll presumably cause more drama and tension and okay, you get it, I enjoyed this show.

Add in some KyoAni-lite animation which did a good job in bringing the cast to life and showcasing their personality shifts, some nice songs from the idol-lite elements of the show and good humor about what a wonderful industry anime isn’t, and I’m sold. More please!

KEEPER

Bernard-jou Iwaku.

If you thought I’d covered every short in shortdom in my last part, bad news, here’s another one. This three and a half-minute series is about a bunch of school students in a library. We’ve got a bookworm, a girl who loves appearing intellectual but doesn’t actually read, and someone who’s way, way too into books. Also a librarian, but she doesn’t do anything in this episode.

Cue the jokes! Characters spouting nonsense! References to books and anime and other otaku culture! Monologues that last way too long! Actually, after that last one, the two main characters are shown bored out of their minds, which was about as apt a description of this show as you’re going to get.

Animation is fairly standard for a short in that it’s both basic and lacking in motion most of the time, and also like most shorts the characters are just vehicles for jokes. Oh, and the title translates as Miss Bernard Said because one of the character’s self-made nicknames is Miss Bernard. For some reason. And that’s the entire show, so I can move on.

DROPPED

Lostorage incited WIXOSS

Wixoss? Not heard that one in a while. I remember being fairly indifferent to it back when it debuted in 2014, and I care even less now. But then again, when you’re a card game show that tries to sweep the card game bit under the carpet, I guess that’s what happens.

So, the plot. We have two girls who were childhood besties, but get separated by family issues and lose contact for a few years. And when our lead returns to her hometown, she finds her friend has moved. I mean, nevermind the bit where the two of them go to the same class at school and apparently don’t recognise each other’s names or appearances. I wish that was a joke.

To try and fit in with her new schoolmates, she picks up a Wixoss deck but discovers one of the cards is alive when she opens it, as she’s chosen to be a Selector, meaning she’s in a life or death game with her memories and existence on the line. She doesn’t get a choice, running away counts as an instant defeat and there’s no prize or reason bar survival. It makes for really cheap drama, with that being the theme most prevalent in the entire show.

Hell, when you finally get to the card battle she tries to avoid throughout the entire episode, they omit almost all the strategy and rules (this is lead’s first game, so you really expect it to play a bigger part), and just focus on the drama and the very contradictory nature of the card game itself. It’s the beats of the battle sans the actual battle and setup, which comes off terribly.

There are a few positives in the animation and some of the character designs, but those small upsides can’t outweigh the garbage writing. Not a chance.

DROPPED

Drifters

A new series based on a manga by the guy who wrote Hellsing? Well, you’ve got my attention, certainly. I must admit my enjoyment of Hellsing comes more from the Team Four Star version than the original, but it’s still a cool show, and you can see some of the influences here in character designs. Especially the eyes. But enough of the comparisons, how does Drifters hold up on its own?

We start off in the middle of some feudal Japanese battle, but that’s more pretext to have the lead character get badly injured. As he tries to stumble home, he walks into what almost appears to be the reception counter for the afterlife, and gets sucked through a mysterious door, being dumped in a strange new world.

There he meets up with a couple of famous Japanese historical figures with circumstances similar to his. Yes, one of them is Nobunaga, how did you know. There’s also a girl / guy (I honestly couldn’t tell) from 400 years earlier, but I don’t know enough about Japanese history to know how famous they are. The three of them get acquainted as we come to realise there’s quite a lot of these Drifters, but that’s about it for this episode, though there are a few funny moments, such as Nobunaga having the 15 years after his death explained to him.

Elsewhere, the artstyle is nice and distinctive when it’s not trying and failing to be a CG show, though it does use a fairly limited palette outside of the brilliant ending sequence. But the writing just seemed to spin in circles and the fight scenes obeyed whatever logic they felt like, which combined with the slow pacing didn’t help this show’s case. There was some stuff to like, but not enough overall to keep me coming back.

UNLIKELY

Haikyuu!! Karasuno Koukou VS Shiratorizawa Gakuen Koukou

While I’ve not watched Haikyuu, I have watched it become one of the biggest sports anime in modern times, winning a ton of fans thanks to its production values and interesting characters. I’ve been meaning to catch up with it sometime (I own the first volume of the manga for the same reason) but never have, so would this third season premier finally be the excuse I needed? Well… not quite.

Let’s talk positives first, and that this is still excellently produced. Scenes are interesting, there’s a neat attention to detail when required, the banter between characters is fun, their designs look cool and they know how to build up hype for the next big match. In fact, they do that last one a little too well, with the hype machine lasting all episode long. And the reason for that is that this entire season of ten episodes is dedicated to one match. One. Fucking. Match.

Sure, that match is the final of the national qualifiers for our lead’s home state and the biggest basketball match of his career, but cooome oooon, even Yu-Gi-Oh doesn’t have ten episode fights. There’s some other irritants too, with weird stock crowd noises that don’t match the setting, and then there’s the female cast all being essentially reduced to cheerleaders.

I kind of wonder if Haikyuu’s buying a little too much into its own hype with this season. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cool show, but I don’t think it’s at the level where it can start taking it easy like a blockbuster shōnen could. And somehow I feel after nine torturous episodes of basketball there’ll be more than a few who move on to faster fresher titles. I’d love to be proved totally wrong, but in an industry where pacing and progression are key, this season of Haikyuu falls short.

POSSIBLY

Ajin Second Season

Well now I’m conflicted. The first season of Ajin aired back in winter, and I was pretty excited to see the adaptation of my favourite seinen. Except it was done so via disjointed CG reminiscent of a cut price Knights of Sidonia (but not at Berserk levels of bad though, don’t worry). And while your eyes do mostly adjust to it after a few minutes, it still doesn’t look good. Hopefully it improves when it hits Netflix (as this is one of their babies), but I never went back to the first season so who knows.

But let’s look past the visuals and focus on the content. The first minute or two acts as a recap and highlight reel, reminding you our two leads are still on the run, and that Japan is under threat from a Farmer Giles lookalike immortal Ajin who is waging war on the government to secure equal rights for his species. Good old moral grey areas. We also have a government scientist on the third side of the triangle, who hates Ajins, which makes for fun when our leads propose teaming up with him.

It’s odd to see how in some ways the plot has come on leaps and bounds, but how in others its the same old status quo, especially with our leads. I appreciate it finally looks like they have more of a direction than “run away from the law” but the fact it took a season to get there isn’t promising. Still, this opening episode of season two does set up a more concrete direction for the narrative, so that’s a plus.

But not to beat a dead horse, but the production values really hold this show back. It’s hard to get immersed when odd facial expressions and stilted movement keep pulling you out. I feel bad shitting on it when I know the manga’s good, but Ajin deserves so much better than this.

UNLIKELY

Oh my god, are we done yet? Nearly. One more keeper in Girlish Number boosts the total up to six, but who knows if we’ll get any more. In our final part we have the newest ; show (no, really, that’s a thing) and the newest noitaminA, a block that’s produced two keepers and a possibly this year. And maybe even some bonus content? We’ll see~