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Nov 08

Fall Anime 2016 First Episode Impressions – Part 5

That chest is supernatural...

That chest is supernatural…

OH MY GOD WE’VE MADE IT. Well, actually I finished up a few days back, but redrafts yo. This final part of my Fall anime impressions mops up the stuff that aired on or after October 8th, as well as revisiting a few shows I missed along the way.

There’s the latest semi-colon show, even more music and idols, and two very unusual but well made shows, one of which being noitaminA’s last series of the year. Did anything make it through this last hurrah?

Long Riders!

Wait, didn’t we already have a bike show this year? Bakuon? Remember that show’s five minutes of fame? Well, this one isn’t quite the same, as while that was about moe highschool girls riding motorbikes, this is about moe highschool girls riding regular bicycles! Massive difference. Who says creativity is dead.

We have our lead duo comprising of Ami, a vanilla girl who hasn’t really done much with her life (like almost every other moe club anime lead), and Aoi, her bestie and the cooler of the pair (like almost every other moe club anime #2). But one day Ami sees someone riding a folding bicycle and this awakens her passion. Just ignore the bit where Aoi was a proficient cyclist.

Anyway, Ami buys a bike that same day, and on the morrow they embark on a nice little cycling trip. Except Ami, apparently hyperventilating from excitement, forgets to eat and barely sleeps, so she crashes and burns partway through the journey. Luckily some more moe highschool girl cyclists help them out, they all finish the journey and oh whaddaya know they all go to the same school too!

So yes, it’s a very anime take on a hobby, but I didn’t hate it. The animation was cookie cutter cutesy fluff, but the show did a good job of using its CG elements in the long distance scenes, and the background music was good too. Heck, I’ll go as far as to say I didn’t mind any of the main cast. It’s still not something I see myself coming out to, but as “highschool girls do x activity” shows go, I’ve seen much worse.

UNLIKELY

Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari

I try to avoid having “types” of anime I like, but there’s no doubting I’ve been a fan of the middle-aged-man-with-young-kid genre. Usagi Drop, Barakamon, Sweetness and Lightning, they’ve all passed the test at some point. Poco’s Udon World is the latest show in that incredibly specific genre, so it seems almost destiny for it to be a keeper.

This time our thirty year old male is the son of an udon restaurant owner, returning to his home in the sticks after a stint in the big city of Tokyo. Both his parents have deceased, so he seemingly has the restaurant to himself… until he discovers a little girl in the pantry, who promptly runs away.

But a few more encounters later, and the two do bond, which leads to the reveal that she’s a tanuki! Which caught me off guard a little, despite the foreshadowing. The other recurring plot point is nigh-on everyone he meets going “aren’t you gonna reopen the restaurant” even though it’s been shut for a while and he flat-out says no numerous times. Like, let the man live his own life, jeez.

The end result is a show that lacks a lot of the simple charm those other series I listed have, with the focus being more on the individuals than their bond, at least in this episode. Which is a shame, as elsewhere this show’s quite good, with a nice, simple and slightly washed out colour palette, cool opening and endings songs and some intriguing backstory elements to dive into. I just worry that the tanuki / udon elements could descend the show into capers, which isn’t what this story needs.

POSSIBLY

3-gatsu no Lion

If you’ve been following my impressions all season long, you’ll know how much I’ve been taken for a loop, from massive dry spells to old rules being shattered to the oddest of success stories. But in a season of crazy, this might just top it all. Even Flip Flappers. Not because it’s surreal but because of how surreal it makes the everyday.

March Comes In Like A Lion (a weird name in and of itself) is a show about a pro shogi player still in highschool, called Rei. That’s it. But instead of any shōnen elements like exaggerated battles or a hundred strong cast of crazies, this show focuses on Rei’s internal turmoil. He barely even talks for the first half of the show, locked within his own world that success brought upon him. Though how it’ll translate to a long-term narrative, I’m not sure.

But what really takes the show to the next level, besides that unusual tone, is the directorial and animation style. It’s just… so… unusual. From the lifeless look of Rei to the wide variety of art styles used in different shots, from the show’s ability to be wrapped in Shinji-esque self-loathing to the odd anime highschool hijink, it never takes the normal path. Not even in a wacky way, but in a “you don’t see shows like this” way.

It makes the whole thing a nightmare to describe, but to use a cliché, “you have to see it to believe it”. Add to all this some great montages with striking shot choices and good music, which carries over to the opening and ending, and the narrative intrigue of what the heck’s happened to Rei in his life and where he’ll go next, and I just have to know what happens next, and how it’ll be showcased.

KEEPER

Occultic;Nine

Oh boy a ; show. For those not in the know, the Science Adventure series (to use its other name), has included some of the very best anime series ever, such as Steins;Gate. Occultic;Nine is the newest entry to the franchise, but er… let’s just say, it’s no Steins;Gate.

I mean, those alarm bells start ringing awfully early on when most of the leading girl’s shots focus on her oversized bosom, and her hyperactive tendencies only hammer that home. Then there’s the dialogue of the show, where everyone talks at a mile a minute but never really makes any progress. Any plot advancements feel more forced than natural, as though the writer realised it was time to change scene.

Though I’m still a bit confused as to what the show’s actually about. There’s a religion vs science vibe going on throughout the whole thing, with both sides trying to prove the other wrong. The lead kid runs some blog and wants to make more ad revenue. And at the end of the episode he discovers a murder scene (after playing with the murder weapon like a moron) but the show has been so immature up to that point it’s hard to believe anybody sobering up and giving that reveal the gravity it requires.

There are a few good elements, like the use of colour palette’s, and a few of the side cast being way more interesting, like the black mage girl and her spirit friend stop me writing off this show completely, but the show is so drowned in anime nonsense, I doubt it could ever be good.

UNLIKELY

Sengoku Choujuu Giga

Y’know, as shorts go, this one isn’t half bad. But if you saw that title and thought “oh boy Kyousougiga!”… well, firstly props for knowing that show exists, but secondly, no, this isn’t related or as creative as that gem.

What the show does do in its three-minute runtime though, is pretty decent. Everything (bar the ending) is done in one scene, which is really neat. We watch a bunch of anthropomorphic equivalents of historical Japanese characters, including, yes, Nobunaga, as they interact. See, he’s got a new rifle and reeeeaaaaally wants to try it out.

It’s a short and simple sketch, but it hits the right beats, and the inkstroke characters on ye olde paper background looks cool. It achieves its aim of bringing the Choju Giga scrolls to life. But while I can appreciate that, it doesn’t make the show a must-see. I just nodded, went “that was neat” and moved on. As shorts go it’s alright, but there’s so much competition this season that “alright” doesn’t cut it.

UNLIKELY

ClassicaLoid

Despite the name, no, this isn’t a Vocaloid spinoff. Music is still at the core of the show though, as ClassicaLoid features plenty of classical musicians seemingly coming back to life, like two of the leads, Beethoven and Mozart. Just… not quite as you may remember them.

Beethoven’s obsessed with making gyoza, and Mozart seems more like a child let loose in a candy store as he mucks about. Then you have the two normal characters, a deadbeat boy who comes off as a pain in the arse, and highschool girl Kanae, who is the only sane member of the cast, working hard and leading a normal life around idiots who just won’t go away.

The crux of the show occurs when workmen come to demolish the mansion she lives in, but after being fine with it all show, hearing the old organ her grandmother loved triggers a change of heart and leads to Beethoven drowning the area in trippy Musique. After which, all the workmen just up and leave. We see after the fact that they know of ClassicaLoid’s and were acting on behalf of the (presumably) villains, but it makes no sense why they’d stop demolition because someone performed for a few minutes.

There are positives, like the bright and colourful nature of everything, and obviously classical music makes for good backing tracks, but when only one of your cast isn’t, to put it mildly, a flaming idiot… and even then isn’t that interesting a person… there’s just no real reason to stick with this.

DROPPED

Hagane Orchestra

More shorts! This is the penultimate one, don’t worry. Clocking in at four minutes and based off some mobile game I’ve never heard of and will probably never appear outside of Japan, I was a little cautious, but the good news is this was actually pretty decent.

Mainly because it broke the fourth wall and just straight up admitted this was a mobile game anime. Girls were aware of the on-screen pop-ups describing them. Their attempts to self-promote the game in Akihabara failed terribly. The protagonist was demoted to a background character who only got one line in at the very end. Heck, the fanservice character was arrested and carted off halfway through the show!

All the jokes did, to some extent, hit home. Which makes a nice change. Speaking of those, the ending being somebody doing a coffee picture of characters from the game was a neat touch too, even if that social media fad has been and gone.

Despite this, I don’t feel the show has the substance to go the distance, but it’s certainly one of the better shorts airing this season and well worth checking out for yourself.

POSSIBLY

Idol Memories

You can tell we’re getting near the end as I’m onto the shows I missed the first time around because they weren’t subbed at the time. Starting off with Idol Memories, which is yet another idol show in a season that’s felt full of them. There’s no special gimmick here though, unless you count the entire second half of the show being the VAs (who I assume are also idols) chatting about what happened, which I guess makes this a half-length.

Anyway, we focus on six girls who form the two groups of Shadow and StarRing, who are all besties to the extent I struggled to tell who was in which band half the time as they trained and hung out together. Just don’t ask me to tell you things like names or personalities though, as besides the two group leaders butting heads a little, they didn’t really… do… anything… Just the usual “gotta be the best” so they can win a special tiara.

It really is just cookie cutter idols. They dance in CG, the songs are the usual generic J-Pop, they have bright hair colours… I suppose there’s an evil idol academy of sorts, which is different, though I’m not sure whether they’re gonna be bumbling villains or a genuine threat. Or why there even needs to be an evil idol academy, actually.

The end result is a totally forgettable idol show in a season stacked with them, and when you factor in some pretty poor writing (the bizarre exercises are the highlight of this, with girls squashed under tires and balancing multiple water bottles on their heads) and the blandest of bland characters, and there’s no reason to choose this one over any of the others.

DROPPED

3-Nen D-Gumi Glass no Kamen

“Glass Mask 3D”, if you were wondering what that nonsense title means. Our final short(!), this is a four-minute affair about some secret group of schoolkids who aim to improve the lives of others. Except this is an anime, so they do it in some totally dumb incomprehensible way and achieve the exact opposite of their intended result.

For example, in this episode they try to help a kid confess his love via text message… but end up breaking his phone and smearing the word “love” on it in lipstick, like this is even one percent a good idea and will solve everything. It’s dumb. Dumb dumb dumb. And I hate dumb shows.

If I must be positive, the CG works alright, and the ending using a western style of CG while a character outside the main cast questions what the lyrics even mean… was kinda fun. Just a shame the actual show sucks so badly then. Next!

DROPPED

12-sai. ~Chicchana Mune no Tokimeki~ Second Season

I know the last time I watched this, back in spring, I came out relatively nonplussed. This time around, things were a little bit better, probably because it focused on the second couple in the show, who are more interesting to watch as their relationship has a few wrinkles compared to the other one.

Fundamentally, this show is about 12-year-olds and their relationship dramas as they begin down the road known as puberty, and while it doesn’t make for the greatest viewing experience, I still appreciate how accurate it feels. From the still immature guys and gals who probably still make cootie jokes, to the few in relationships which the show zeroes in on, as they try to navigate the minefield of becoming adults. Heck, half of this episode is about a zit, which good old childhood worries blow completely out of proportion.

The other half of this episode is all about kissing, with girl Yui fretting over whether she’d kissed her boyfriend when they fell over each other. And amongst all this you have the “playboy” from prep school who is kind to all the ladies, and I guess is the rival love interest for Yui this season.

If you’re into relationship dramas that can spin out the smallest of worries into a half episode narrative, then you may well love this, especially as it does a good job of nailing the 12-year-old mindset and appearance. You don’t even need to have seen the first season, as I jumped in here fine, and focusing on the more interesting couple helped. I just struggle to relate to little league drama stuff, which makes this show feel weaker than it actually is. Sorry.

UNLIKELY

Fune wo Amu

And just like that, here we are. End of the road. The final show. We made it, kids.

Fune wo Amu is the latest noitaminA show, a timeblock that has produced many classic series in its lifetime, and still does to this day, with Erased being one of the standout shows of the year and a shoe-in for my Top Ten 2016 (and Kabaneri might make that list too). But back to this show, and it’s one of the odder shows to have aired in the timeblock recently. And not even because it’s weird in the way anime usually is. It’s odd because the premise is about making dictionaries.

Yeah. Right? Weird. The show starts off by introducing us to the old dictionary making team, a combo of an older gent and a more middle-aged man chatting about their work, and how the latter now has to dedicate more time to his family as his wife struggles against a progressive disease. But before he stands out, he promises to find a new, young talent to replace him.

Cut to the weirdest salesman the company has, bumbling over himself and doing a pretty poor pitch, which gets him reprimanded by his superior who happens to be in the same show. But in that conversation, the weird kid starts saying multiple definitions of the word air for no real reason. So the next day, when the exec relates this story to his fellow management, including that middle-aged gent… well, you can guess the rest. The young guy is made the new dictionary assistant. It all makes for an interesting concept, but one where I have no idea how it’ll pan out over the course of a season.

Elsewhere, the animation is hit and miss. Hit in the normal scenes where it’s more restrained (which looks good), and the older character designs are really well done, giving me Summer Wars vibes at times. But it’s miss in most of the scenes where the show “cuts loose” with Movie Maker transitions and disjointed fantasy elements. The only one of them that works is the ocean of kanji, but that’s because it fits the core concept of the show.

Throw in some nice pieces of background music in the show’s quieter moments, and interesting writing that does a good job with the unusual concept… and I’m not sure how to rank it. My doubts over the long-term interest of the premise, and that sometimes bizarre choice of scene direction holds me back from calling this one a keeper, but it offers something so intriguing and unusual it stays in the conversation as a reserve. I guess we’ll see how it plays out.

POSSIBLY

And just like that, we’re done! Not just with the season, but the whole damn year! In a season where I feared next to nothing would pass, seven shows stood out. Nyanbo, Izetta, Nobunaga no Shinobi, Sound Euphonium, Yuri on Ice and Girlish Number join 3-gatsu no Lion from this part. And if by some miracle I keep up with that lot, there’s a few interesting reserves in Flip Flappers, Trickster and Fune wo Amu.

November Recommendations are coming soon after a few delays, and in December I’ll revisit a few first episodes I missed over the year for various reasons. But for now, my friends, we can sit back, relax, and ponder which of all these shows will become my Anime of the Year. Lay your bets…