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Jan 14

Winter Anime 2017 First Episode Impressions – Part 2

Bravely Trigger: Flying Academia

This second batch of Winter (which the weather has kindly reminded us we’re still in) includes a variety of shows, like Trigger’s TV adaptation of their super popular Little Witch Academia series, the latest in a long line of Gintama, and JRPG darling Tales of Zestiria.

All those shows alongside pretty much everything else that aired between January 7th and 9th are broken down here, thirteen in total. So let’s ask the age old question and see if any of them are worth watching…

Spiritpact

Length – Regular (23 mins)
Studio – Emon Animation Company (To Be Hero, Hitori no Shita The Outcast)
Director – Li Haolin (directorial debut)

You Keika is the heir of an old famous exorcist family, but this is the 21st century so he’s a fortune teller / tech support / poor. But one night in a junkyard he sees a fight between exorcist Tanmoku Ki and a spirit. Then he gets hit by a truck. Welp. Said exorcist asks You to make a pact with him to fight evil spirits, and so their adventure begins.

The Good – The plot and writing was fairly simple to follow, as were the motivations of the lead exorcist trying to recruit the other lead when he realised he could see spirits. And the show name is clear and to the point about what you’re getting.

The Bad – Some real garbage to get the show where it needed to go. The forced death of the lead character was laughable, the exorcist supposedly being ultra-strong but never doing a single thing to showcase he was anything beyond a beginner, and the nigh-on bullying so he could get the desired outcome. Oh, and the combat was bland and the storytelling kept falling back on clichés.

The VerdictDROPPED

There’s nothing here you won’t have seen a hundred times before, and done a hundred times better at that. The contrast is even more stark in a season where it goes up against Blue Exorcist, which has the exorcists and spirits dynamic on lockdown.

Demi-chan wa Kataritai

Length – Regular (23 mins)
Studio – A-1 Pictures (Sword Art Online, Blue Exorcist)
Director – Ryou Andou (Gate)

Aka “Interviews with Monster Girls”. That pretty much explains it. Tetsuo Takahashi is a teacher at a school and wants to interview demi-humans. Luckily then, four of them go to his school, a vampire, a dullahan, a snow girl and a succubus. Cue interviews. What, you thought this was going somewhere else?

The Good – A show about the supernatural that wasn’t romance or shōnen is really quite refreshing. We get to peek into the politics of it, but mostly at the human element of how they interact with regular people, and the worries that both sides have. Also having one be a dullahan, a very obvious demi-human, makes a stark visual that works.

The Bad – The show takes time to explain demi-humans are rare, then immediately shows four of them in one school. There’s also a few plotholes, like why a succubus who doesn’t like being around loads of people and in close contact became a teacher… Plus, the concept feels like it’s rather limited.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

I must admit the title had me fearing the worst after years of Monster Musume et al, but this show refused to go down any of the well established routes. The big worry is how long a show about just chatting to demi-humans about their lives can actually last. Still, I wanna believe, so if I have some spare time I’ll give it a whirl.

Chain Chronicle: Haecceitas no Hikari

Length – Regular (24 mins)
Studio – Telecom Animation Film (Orange) and Graphinica (Expelled From Paradise)
Director – Masashi Kudou (Hayate no Gotoku Cuties, Re-Kan)

A TV adaptation of a series of movies based on a mobile game. Except the movies are still airing, and take place in a different part of the timeline aaaarrrrgggh. Yuuri led the forces of good to try and overthrow the Dark King <>, but evil won out and darkness once more spreads across the land. Can Yuuri find his courage once again to continue the good fight?

The Good – Opening with the defeat and retreat of the main characters and their army made a nice change, as did the feeling of loss and confusion about what they should do next when giving it their all simply wasn’t enough. There’s also some great animation, both in the opening and with some segments that felt straight out of Assassin’s Creed and Mirror’s Edge.

The Bad – This does feel like a sequel to something I’ve not seen, so a lot of the good dozen or so character’s past and traits are told, not shown. It does also feel like, after the unusual start, to be slipping back into fantasy adventure tropes.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

I kept waiting for the opening to be a flashback or some such, but it never came, so having a show where they may potentially deal with loss is neat. It also looks great in the more active scenes, and you sure get a lot of action for your buck in this first episode. Whether it can keep it up I don’t know, but if you like your fantasy warfare or JRPGs, this could well be the one for you.

ēlDLIVE

Length – Regular (23 mins)
Studio – Pierrot (Tokyo Ghoul, Yona of the Dawn)
Director – Takeshi Furuta (Saint Seiya Soul of Gold, The Comic Artist and his Assistants)

Chuuta Kokonose is a normal school kid, apart from the fact he’s had a voice in his head for as long as he can remember. Then one day, he’s teleported to a space station and told he’s been selected by a galactic supercomputer to become a space cop. In his aptitude test, it’s revealed that the crazy voice was actually an alien living inside him, and so Chuuta’s new life begins!

The Good – For a kid’s show, this avoided a lot of the usual idiocy. His mistrust in his inner voice made complete sense too when they showed a flashback to his past and how trusting it then had been fatal. There’s also some neat designs amongst the space police, like the moon / banana alien.

The Bad – Did we really need him to be a minor pervert? Also the show seemed way too happy go lucky, merrily throwing our lead kid into a life or death situation. The lack of adults trying to help a kid who constantly talks to himself was somewhat worrying too. And while the heroes had some good designs, the baddies looked really generic and uninspired.

The VerdictDROPPED

Okay, I’m being harsh, especially on a kids show, but none of the characters were particularly interesting, the story seems very setup to be a fight of the week affair, and the show never really delves into its one or two possible openings for deeper storytelling, instead going with “lol what a nut”. Sorry ēlDLIVE.

Nyanko Days

Length – Short (2 mins)
Studio – EMT Squared (Kuma Miko, Ame-iro Cocoa)
Director – Yoshimasa Hiraike (Amagami SS, AKB0048)

Tomoko Konagai is a shy girl who loves cats, owning three of them. And they’re all personified in this as actual little kids! It’s a fluffy cutesy comedy! I’m not allowed to be negative in the premise section! Yaaaaay!

The Good – It er… it er… the designs were alright? It was paced… okay?

The Bad – Her kittens are little girls with cat ears. That’s it. That’s the show. Also none of them have any personality. And why is the ending 30 seconds, that’s 25% of your runtime…

The VerdictDROPPED

Admittedly, a two minute short is always going to have a hard time, but when it’s such a nothing show I can’t even make up a pretense of caring. Remember She & Her Cat from last year? Go watch that.

Tales of Zestiria The X Second Season

Length – Regular (23 mins)
Studio – ufotable (Fate/stay night, God Eater)
Director – Haruo Sotozaki (Tales of Symphonia)

Second season of Tales of Zestiria The X. Sorey is a human who grew up among seraphim who no-one else can see yadda yadda he’s the Shepherd (chosen one) yadda yadda on a journey to save the world. It’s based off a JRPG, so you can guess half the blanks.

The Good – Ufotable’s gorgeous animation is as on point as ever, even with few action scenes in this episode. The show does a good job of briefly setting the scene without overly long recaps. Oh, and Rose, whom most of this episode expands upon, is an awesome character. I liked the ending parodying Tales’ traditional skits too.

The Bad – That opening is maybe a bit too brief, with new viewers having no clue about the lead’s journey, current purpose or why he’s doing certain things. And that laser focus on Rose means pretty much everyone else becomes quasi-invisible. Plus ufotable apparently aren’t great at CG, with some of the vehicles looking awful.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

I mean, if you want to sell people on Rose, this episode does so in spades, but an inability to show the progress made and a willingness to sweep everyone else aside stops this being truly great. I get split-cours are an awkward one to fairly judge, but considering this exact same focus was the issue last time around… I just can’t. That or I have terrible luck with this show.

Idol Jihen

Length – Regular (23 mins)
Studio – MAPPA (Yuri on Ice) and VOLN (Ushio to Tora)
Director – Daisuke Yoshida (animation director on Kiba and Super Kuma-san)

Aka Idol Incidents or Idol Dietwoman. In an era where corrupt politicians care naught for the wants of the people, idols will rise up and save the day! Representing seven different political parties, these idol “dietwoman” will sing and dance to bring smiles back to the people. Politics!

The Good – The songs were pretty alright, and the atmosphere as upbeat and colourful as you’d hope for from an idol anime. Plus the two characters did make for an interesting contrast with each other.

The Bad – The core premise is just so dumb. Idols as politicians? Why would you vote for someone who sings and dances over someone with policies? Add in some moments of poor writing (people are surprised about a hill) and bad flow in the middle of the episode, and the show just feels like a misfire.

The VerdictDROPPED

Seriously, Idol Dietwoman? I know there are shows that have idols and politics, like Macross, but the idea of idols as the politicians themselves is just absurd, and doesn’t really add anything to the idol mechanic, or at least not in this series. I don’t think Love Live has anything to fear here…

Little Witch Academia

Length – Regular (24 mins)
Studio – Trigger (Kill la Kill, Kiznaiver)
Director – You Yoshinari (Little Witch Academia)

TV adaptation of the Little Witch Academia movies. Akko Kagiri is a normal girl who, inspired by a childhood performance from Shiny Chariot, decides to become a witch and attend Luna Nova Academy. It’s not that easy though, especially for someone with no magic to begin with, and that’s only the start of her problems…

The Good – Trigger’s unique flair for motion and style is on display throughout, and I really did warm to the lead trio throughout. The twist with Sucy caught me a little off guard, and the show did a good job of planting seeds and then coming back to them. The “Muggle vs Pureblood” stuff will likely make for a good long term narrative too.

The Bad – If you’re going to make one girl so pivotal to the main character, it helps to show them for more than a minute so we get a better emotional attachment (Letter Bee is an example of this done right). And while the show’s style is cool, it does sometimes feel a bit much.

The VerdictKEEPER

Trigger pass a first episode test for the first time… though this is a TV version of their best work, so maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. Probably also helped I’ve never seriously watched LWA 1 or 2, so had less background knowledge to conflict with. Either way, I loved what this show was selling, so I’d be a fool to let it pass me by.

Gintama.

Length – Regular (24 mins)
Studio – Bandai Namco Pictures (Heybot, Aikatsu)
Director – Chizuru Miyawaki (Gintama)

Sequel to the 2015 series of Gintama. Sakata Gintoki is a samurai in a post-samurai era, just trying to pay rent and make ends meet, so he takes on odd jobs. Also aliens. And space warfare. And comedy.

The Good – The comedy elements of Gintama hit home, with plenty of self-referencial humour about their new timeslot, and even taking shots at the sensation that is Love Live. We also got a solid setup for who the big bad is, at least in this arc, helping direct the show in the future.

The Bad – Sadly, to set that all up the jokes fell away halfway through for almost non-stop exposition. This rivalry is no more because this group split and this dude vanished but his brother might be alive and then there’s… yeah, I have no clue. I don’t even really know what the core premise is, or what Gintama’s about.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

Y’know, I’ve never actually seen an episode of Gintama, so I’m glad to tick this off. Maybe if I’d watched the prior 300+ eps, I’d understand why MAL thinks this is the greatest thing… but I didn’t see any magic here. The jokes were alright, but the show just bored when it tried to get serious, spending far too long on setup. I’d stick with other long running shōnen instead.

Gabriel DropOut

Length – Regular (23 mins)
Studio – Doga Kobo (New Game, Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun)
Director – Masahiko Oota (Yuru Yuri, Love Lab)

Gabriel White graduated at the top of her class in angel school, but after spending some time in the human world, decides that being Little Miss Perfect is far too much effort and becomes a shut-in gamer… well, you know the stereotype. Roll on the misadventures of angels and demons in the realm of humans!

The Good – I’ve always liked the “straight” characters in Japanese comedy, and the one normal girl in this quartet is no exception, providing an oasis of sanity. I don’t mind the concept of angel’s being more demonic and demon’s being more angelic either. And the ending using two different singing voices to represent angels and demons worked well.

The Bad – The comedy sucked. Here’s a god-tier angel and oh look video games have made her a stereotypical NEET. Here’s a demon who “oh ho ho”‘s a lot but is actually stupid, here’s an angel who toys with people and makes them dance like puppets. It’s all that lame anime humour which makes me cringe because real people aren’t this dumb.

The VerdictDROPPED

There’s a moment at the start of the show where she’s staring at purchasing a video game item, and it kinda dawned on me then this show was going to suck hard, as she was having her own epiphany. I get it, anime comedy isn’t usually my thing because it chases jokes that I don’t define as humour, but I never get why there’s so little variety in it all. Is it that hard to write a comedy where the characters aren’t mostly morons? Sigh.

Chiruran: Nibun no Ichi

Length – Short (2 mins)
Studio – LandQ (assisted on Robot Girls Z and Ozma)
Director – Fumie Muroi (directorial debut)

Aka Chiruran 1/2. The Shinsengumi are a bunch of samurai who help keep the peace in Kyoto, but this series takes a look at them in their downtime. Watch the shenanigans of their day to day lives unfold.

The Good – The visual style works well, somewhere between chibi and fully formed. And the show had a simple theme that it made a bunch of jokes off of, as well as very quickly establishing what it was all about.

The Bad – 30 seconds on the opening in a 2 minute show? Plus there’s nothing original here. It’s just average humour in a well trodden setting with characters who’ll never develop any true depth or personality because of the format.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

As I mentioned earlier on, two minute shorts are somewhat of a death sentence. This did more with its runtime than Nyanko Days earlier, setting up the “they’re warriors who rib each other” shtick quickly and easily, but it lacks any charm or originality, especially compared to the still airing short Nobunaga’s Shinobi, which shares some elements with this but goes so much further.

Yowamushi Pedal: New Generation

Length – Regular (23 mins)
Studio – TMS Entertainment (Orange, Detective Conan)
Director – Osamu Nabeshima (D.Gray-Man, Zetman)

Third season of Yowamushi Pedal. After successfully winning the Inter-High last season, the member of Sohoku High’s bicycle racing club must now evolve as their third year senpais move on and let the second and first year’s take control. Will Onoda and co be able to evolve and defend their title, or will they be knocked off their perch by the competition?

The Good – The show does a great job of showing how the three main characters have different specialties and how they modify their bikes to fit them. This episode also conjures the changing of the guard feeling it’s after, with all the elder cast moving on without dragged out farewells. The animation style suits the series too, with chunkier lines and crazy bike waggling to better convey the racing.

The Bad – The inconsistency between all the faces is disconcerting. Some have massively pointy chins, while some have eyes that change style from scene to scene. There were also a few writing blips, like spending the episode pointing out how the lead is a climber, then chastising him for not being a sprinter.

The VerdictKEEPER

Back in Fall 2013, when this first aired I could see the potential of Yowamushi Pedal, and sure enough it’s blossomed into something great. I like the characters, I like (most of) the writing, and I do get a sense of progress considering this is the third season. No idea when I’ll fit in time to watch the 50+ episodes of the first two, but hey, this convinced me that that journey will be very much worth it.

Onihei Hankachou

Length – Regular (23 mins)
Studio – M2 (Onihei)
Director – Shigeyuki Miya (Blood Lad, Lupin III Green vs Red)

Heizou Hasegawa is tasked with keeping the peace in 1780s Edo (wait, he was the main character?). To do so, he must do battle against cunning thieves and sadistic murderers, and the almighty Devil Heizou (not mentioned in this episode…). Can he and his men ensure the residents of Edo can sleep safely?

The Good – Everybody fits the old timey Japan style well, from names to clothes to personalities. The show has some good visual moments too, like portraying emotions in the torture scene near the start, and the cool blue filters in the prison. Also the opening is pretty great.

The Bad – The show tries that filter trick too many times, often using it to a scene’s detriment. It’s also a nightmare to really tell characters apart, and this looks like it’ll only get worse as it goes on. The writing’s all over the shop too, timeskipping for no reason and having characters act one way then pivot in the next scene. And the CG people in crowd shots look awful.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

Onihei isn’t a bad show, it just spends a lot of time not accomplishing a whole lot. The regularly confusing writing and characters only serve to hammer that home, and it’s not like there’s any shortage of old timey Japan shows airing at any one time, like this season’s Rakugo.

Well there’s another two keepers joining Rakugo. My backlog just keeps getting bigger! Next week we’ll have the third and final part, looking at Konosuba 2, another ; series and Hand Shakers, which is apparently another visual spectacle like Flip Flappers. We shall see…