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Jan 21

Winter Anime 2017 First Episode Impressions – Part 3

Semi;Colon;Pride

Do you know why I love the Winter season? Because I can get it all wrapped up in a few weeks! Which is good, considering I need to wrap up 2016 shows ready for the Anime of the Year list in March…

But anyway, that’s then, and Winter 2017 is now. In this third and final part we look at shows that aired on January 10th or later, such as the latest semi colon series, sequels to Konosuba and Super Lovers, and a bunch of shows that take the artform of anime in interesting new directions, for better and worse. Will any of them pass muster?

ACCA – 13-Ku Kansatsu-ka

Length – Regular (24 mins)
Studio – Madhouse (Death Note, One Punch Man)
Director – Shingo Natsume (One Punch Man, Space Dandy)

Aka ACCA 13 Territory Inspection Department. In the kingdom of Dowa, there are 13 states, and the administration of the kingdom is run by ACCA. Jean Otus is the second-in-command of ACCA’s inspection agency, monitoring each state’s agency and ensuring ACCA runs above-board.

The Good – Man, those character designs take me back, with the noses and the fairly regular hair and the looking like real people. Costumes might be a little over the top for government workers but hey, I ain’t gonna stop fashion. I dug the spectrum of characters too, some more serious about their job than others but all with respect for each other. The opening and ending were great also.

The Bad – Some of show felt on a whim, which I get is what they want to portray the five leading officials as being able to do, but it still felt weird. As did our lead character’s almost pinpoint ability to find misdemeanours with seemingly no actual research.

The VerdictKEEPER

I… really dug this. A show about essentially admin really shouldn’t have intrigued me this much, but I liked our vice-head of department lead and a lack of the staff he works with, it looked great, it got a lot done in the 20 minutes and has loads of room to grow. Man, if only my admin work was more like this, haha… haaaa…

Hand Shakers

Length – Regular (23 mins)
Studio – GoHands (K, Seitokai Yakuindomo)
Director – Shingo Suzuki (Coppelion, K)

In Osaka, pairs known as Hand Shakers do battle using the Nimrodes they summon from holding hands. They keep fighting for the right to battle God and fulfil their wish (none of this bit is mentioned in the show).

The Good – This truly is a visual spectacle like others have said, just not in the way you’re expecting. There’s a lot of swooping camera shots and on-screen movement that are more reminiscent of Hollywood than anime. The show also has a great audio score and knows how to use it to aid emotional scenes of sadness and triumph. And there’s a sword of gears. That’s cool.

The Bad – Half the shots feel pointlessly different, a showcase without purpose. The other half tank the framerate, with very noticeable jaggedy movement in the background which suddenly normalises when the camera sits still. The writing also isn’t exactly inspired, a standard “fight for your life” template with the caviet of “don’t let go” which our lead implicitly trusts even when his partner (who he’s known for 5 minutes) tries to break away. And there’s fanservice and bondage nonsense!

The VerdictUNLIKELY

I get the feeling there’ll be a lot of chatter about this show and whether or not what GoHands were trying for worked. It certainly looks fundamentally different from anything else I’ve seen in my time watching anime, but much like Knights of Sidonia and Ajin, the style has a long way to go yet. Plus outside of audio-visuals it’s as generic as generic can be, so I wouldn’t recommend it.

Kemono Friends

Length – Regular (23 mins)
Studio – Yaoyorozu (Minarai Diva)
Director – TATSUKI (directorial debut)

Japari Park is a huge zoo / reserve, where all the animals have transformed into Animal Girls (not explained in this episode) due to mysterious sand stars. A lost child wanders into the zoo without any clue as to how she got there, and so begins a grand adventure to find her way back to normal society.

The Good – Well, most of the designs matched their animal counterparts. And the blue Cerulean aliens did feel different. I liked the human elements of the world too, hinting at the backstory of the world, though I’ve no clue if that was intentional.

The Bad – The CG sucked most of the time, making anything more than basic movement look totally unnatural. Elsewhere, the pacing and storytelling was like pulling teeth, taking forever and a day to accomplish very little. The hippo girl looked nothing like a hippo, giving the lead girl amnesia is a painful trait, and not having her have to go it alone in each new zone kills an interesting storytelling element.

The VerdictDROPPED

Falling below even my low expectations, this truly sucked. It doesn’t help that for a safari, there was next to no “wildlife”, making the show and world feel empty and dead. Add in poor visuals, poor writing, poor pacing… I couldn’t wait for this to end so I could move on, and now I can.

Piace: Watashi no Italian

Length – Short (4 mins)
Studio – Zero-G (Battery)
Director – Hiroaki Sakurai (Parappa the Rapper, Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan)

Aka Piacevole ~My Italian Dining~ Morina Nanase gets a part-time job at the Italian restaurant Trattoria Festa, working alongside various weird and wonderful personalities, including the child chef Maro Kitahara. How will she cope in the working world?

The Good – The backgrounds looked great, and contrasted well with the very simple character designs. The show seemed to know its stuff about cooking too, talking about exactly what made a meal so great (I assume, I mean, I’m no expert).

The Bad – None of the characters were particularly engaging, and the whole “you’re hired on the spot” shtick just came out of nowhere. Hard to see where this’ll go in the future either, besides more Italian meals and some romantic undertones.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

“Bland” is a pretty apt description of this short, and while that sometimes works in cooking, it doesn’t exactly make me want to come back for seconds. If you’re after a show with cooking as more of a focus, try Sweetness and Lightning from last season.

One Room

Length – Short (4 mins)
Studio – Typhoon Graphics (debut show)
Director – n/a

A show that tells the stories of “three sisters raised in your (one) room”. That’s it.

Seriously, that’s all I’ve got to work with.

The Good – Well… it looked pretty… and the whole “everything through the protagonists eye” concept is neat.

The Bad – Of course, when that means our character is mute yet people respond to him it shatters immersion. Also the other characters are boring, and I really didn’t need a camera that wandered over to a fanservice shot just because people had been talking for over 10 seconds.

The VerdictDROPPED

Nope. This is bland, pitiful wish fulfillment where you live next door to a house with several pretty girls and they all like you like you. I would like to believe weeaboos are above this. I would like to.

ChäoS;Child

Length – Regular (23 mins)
Studio – Silver Link. (Strike the Blood, Non Non Biyori)
Director – Masato Jinbo (Fate Illya, Nozo x Kimi)

Sequel to Chäos;Head. Six years on from the last set of New Generation murders, people start dropping dead in unusual circumstances once again. Can Takuru Miyashiro, the rest of the newspaper club and the police figure out what’s going on? And how does it all relate to the events of the past?

The Good – The NewGen murders certainly both old and new were fairly depraved, as intended, getting across the creepy and supernatural vibe. The artstyle also worked fairly well, some of the unique shots were really cool, such as the cellphone camera perspective, and I found most of the Child cast interesting enough to watch.

The Bad – Nothing in the prequel episode covering Chäos;Head made any sense. At all. As for the Child stuff, I really don’t need more “they’re brother and sister but not by blood” trope that anime loves to justify any and all incest. Some of the cast just felt like they were there to pad out numbers, as well.

The Verdict – POSSIBLY

Despite the awful recap’s best attempts, Chäos;Child is pretty alright when it moves on to its own story. The gruesome NewGen murders provide a strong connecting narrative to pull in the cast, the main characters all seem interesting enough (despite a few animeisms) and the show could move in a lot of different ways. That episode zero still makes me apprehensive, but this’ll probably be fine overall.

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon

Length – Regular (23 mins)
Studio – Kyoto Animation (Sound Euphonium, Lucky Star)
Director – Yasuhiro Takemoto (Amagi Brilliant Park, Hyouka)

Aka Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. That means exactly what you think. Miss Kobayashi is a standard middle-aged office worker, until Tooru shows up to be her new household maid. Except she’s a dragon! Who is reeeaaaally into her, and will do whatever is asked of her. Also, this is a KyoAni show? Really?

The Good – This show has style when it wants, producing some over the top nonsense, text dumps and other exaggerations that fit the absurdity of having a maid for a dragon. Plenty of surprisingly detailed shots too, as well as ye olde dragon lore. And the lead’s a middle-aged working lady! Not a highschool girl!

The Bad – I didn’t need the whole romance angle with the dragon and the girl, that just feels creepy and wrong on so many levels. And everyone seemed surprisingly okay about a giant dragon flying, breathing fire and generally existing in the world. The consequences of that (and how she’d try to cover it up) are just totally put to the side in place of comedy.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

While lolrandom comedies have never done it for me, there was something to the style and presentation of Maid Dragon. Heck, the inclusion of classical dragon lore lended a… well, not legitimacy, but helped ground things a little. Sadly the show has little beyond that initial punchline, but if you like weird comedy shtick, this one ain’t terrible.

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2

Length – Regular (23 mins)
Studio – Deen (Fruits Basket, Log Horizon 2)
Director – Takaomi Kanasaki (Kore wa Zombie Desu ka, Tokyo Ravens)

Second season of KonoSuba, aka KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World. The adventures of Kazuma Satou, a dead otaku who was reincarnated in a fantasy land to beat a Demon King, goddess Aqua and their companions continue. Can they overcome their debt and the ire of the government and save the day again?

The Good – There’s some good humour here, such as the worst attempts at jailbreaking in history, and the lead’s pervert nature leading to the town turning on him. And the character designs are still great.

The Bad – A lot of the good game parody humour has been replaced by pervert trash and over the top nonsense (ever seen one of those stupid anime court cases which don’t follow reality, you’ll know what I mean). Also, the show tries to do a lot of joke faces but they just look awful, like the animators couldn’t draw, instead of comedic.

The VerdictDROPPED

What a difference a year makes. The KonoSuba of last year had some bad jokes, but managed to focus on something more meaningful in the end, which this episode never came close to doing. It just felt like… well, like so many other real person stuck in fantasy world meets harem humour shows. And that’s not something you should ever try to be.

Marginal#4 Kiss kara Tsukuru Big Bang

Length – Regular (23 mins)
Studio – J.C. Staff (Toradora, Zero’s Familiar)
Director – Kentarou Suzuki (episode director on Bungaku Shoujo Memoire)

Behold the latest male idol band, Marginal#4! They will deliver a kiss to the ends of the galaxy! But when they’re not giving their all for their fans, they’re regular highschool students who have to study list the rest of us, and decide to set up their own school club. Watch both their idol and normal lives unfold.

The Good – It’s nice to see an idol show show the school aspects of life, I feel a lot of them overlook the fact they still have to study and whatnot. Rui’s (blue hair) backstory also helped contrast him from the rest of the group, as a more isolated veteran. Songs were perfectly fine too.

The Bad – I mean, this is still fundamentally another male idol band show, from songs to designs. None of the other three really leap out personality wise, and the core usual themes of “we wanna make people smile” are as prevalent as ever. It’s… kinda hard to care… about anything.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

While there are some interesting angles and comedy with the school club focus, the rest of the show seems firmly rooted in the all-male idol band heritage. If you’re okay with that, by all means give Marginal#4 a whirl, but don’t expect anything revolutionary.

Super Lovers 2

Length – Regular (23 mins)
Studio – Deen (Higurashi, Umineko)
Director – Shinji Ishihira (Fairy Tail, Log Horizon)

Second season of Super Lovers. Haru and Ren are now comfortably living together, but are still trying to figure out the in’s and out’s of their relationship. Will they remain as a couple, or will family, friends and their own personalities get in the way and pull them apart?

The Good – The two leads are in a relationship. No “will they won’t they” or romcom antics, but genuine feelings, which play out well over the course of the episode. The recaps to the first season coming up naturally in conversation worked well too. It just all felt more mature.

The Bad – The animation leaves a lot to be desired, with a bland palette that’s mostly dull tones. None of the characters are particularly engaging as individuals, either.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

Super Lovers 2 impressed me more than its debut back in Spring last year, with a more sophisticated and respectful approach to yaoi than I’ve seen in a bunch of shows. Sadly the gripes of individual characters aren’t enough to carry the show in solo scenes though, but this now seems to be a pretty good BL show for genre fans.

Kuzu no Honkai

Length – Regular (22 mins)
Studio – Lerche (Assassination Classroom, Carnival Phantasm)
Director – Masaomi Andou (White Album 2, Gakkou Gurashi)

Aka Scum’s Wish. This season’s noitaminA show. The seemingly perfect couple of Mugi Awaya and Hanabi Yasuraoka aren’t all they appear to be, as both of them have had long-term crushes on members of their school faculty, and are only dating to ease each other’s loneliness. How will time evolve their relationships with those they love and those they “love”?

The Good – Interesting core premise I don’t think I’ve seen before, of having a couple who came together from unrequited love with those they fancied. The animation style looked nice, more drawings come to life than traditional anime, and shots like those above were used throughout to great effect. Soundtrack was great too, as was the ending animation.

The Bad – It was kinda hard to figure out the lead’s family dynamic. She kept referring to Narumi as her brother, but whether they had the same parents seemed to shift from scene to scene. Maybe the show’s a bit too melancholy too, even if that is the point.

The VerdictKEEPER

notiaminA strikes again! A very bittersweet love story of two lovers who love other people in their lives, which strikes its mellow and sombre tone perfectly, thanks to good writing and a great visual style that is both distinct and quite familiar. If you look for something a lil different in your romance, and you don’t mind the melancholic tone, definitely give this a try.

Rewrite 2nd Season: Moon-hen / Terra-hen

Length – Regular (24 mins)
Studio – 8bit (Infinite Stratos, Grisaia)
Director – Tensho (Kiniro + Mosaic, Grisaia)

Second season of Rewrite. This will focus on the Moon and Terra routes of the original visual novel. Kotarou Tennouji now finds himself deep into the mysteries of the world, with only a girl called Kagari providing his motivation to continue.

The Good – Plenty of distinctive shots really helped hammer home the post-ultimatum feel of this episode. The core relationship between the two leads evolved well over the course of the episode, and the show did a good job of tying it all together in the end.

The Bad – But man was it a slow and tedious and very confusing ride to get there, with lots of scene skipping and countless realities to confuse you. This also does next to nothing to really establish the events of last season or explain why what is happening is happening

The VerdictUNLIKELY

Rewrite once again manages to both offer some compelling elements while making everything so utterly and totally confusing. Time loops and multiple realities and magic and romance and no clear path of how the show will ever proceed. Y’know, this does make me want to try out the VN, whenever we get it. But it doesn’t really make me want to watch more of the anime.

Sengoku Choujuu Giga ~Otsu~

Length – Short (3 mins)
Studio – ILCA (Yami Shibai, Doamaiger D)
Director – Takashi Sumida (directorial debut)

Second season of Sengoku Choujuu Giga. Depicting Japan’s Sengoku era heroes and villains as animals, watch both the important and everyday events of their lives unfold before your eyes.

The Good – A brilliant artstyle of ink drawings on a canvas that lends it a unique aesthetic. And this episode was mostly a song, which is always fun, especially as this one wasn’t idol J-Pop.

The Bad – I mean, there’s very little in the way of plot, especially if you’re not familiar with Nobunaga and company. I don’t even know what this specific episode was really about…

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

This show has a weird charm, and while it’s still not enough to make me want to watch more (much like the first season), I can’t help but respect it. And considering they’re only a few minutes long each, if that artstyle intrigues you, there’s no reason not to watch a few eps.

Yami Shibai 4th Season

Length – Short (4 mins)
Studio – ILCA (Kowabon, Onara Gorou)
Director – Masaya Kaneko (directorial debut)

Fourth season of Yami Shibai. An old man wheels around his old timey picture show, telling children various horror stories based on Japanese urban legends.

The Good – I do like the style, and this show has a capacity to generate atmosphere through doing very little.

The Bad – The “ghost story” of this episode was so utterly farcical you couldn’t help but laugh at it. Especially the outta nowhere twist ending that just hammered home the nothingness of it all.

The VerdictDROPPED

Maybe it’s from a lack of material, but this show has steadily been getting worse with each first episode I see. I’m not even sure how this got to four seasons, as it’s not exactly an all-time classic, but I feel the time to put this show on the shelf has arrived.

Ding ding ding, that’s time. 41 shows whittled down to just 5 keepers. ACCA and Kuzu no Honkai join Yowamushi Pedal, Rakugo and everyone’s darling Little Witch Academia. Did I make the right choices? Well, come back next week, and I’ll do a three episode analysis on each of them! Now don’t mind me while I go catch up on my spandex hobby…