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Apr 13

Spring Anime 2017 First Episode Impressions – Part 1

Attack on Yesteryear

Good news, I’ve managed to wrench myself away from Persona and watch some of the new anime airing this Spring! There’s roughly 60 shows airing this season, which means I’ve got my work cut out to keep up with this lot and the holdovers from last season in Little Witch Academia and Yowamushi Pedal.

In this first part, we look at the anime that starting airing in March and April 1st / 2nd. Which includes two major sequels in My Hero Academia and Attack on Titan. Could either of them live up to their past hype? And how about new show Alice and Zouroku, pegged to be one to watch this season. Hit the link and let’s find out…

Boku no Hero Academia Second Season

Length – Regular (23 mins) ~ 25 episodes
Studio – Bones
Director – Kenji Nagasaki (Gundam Build Fighters, No. 6)

Second season of My Hero Academia. 80% of the population have Quirks, this show’s name for wazzy superpowers, so there’s loads of superheroes and supervillains. Lead kid Izuku Midoriya really wants to be one, but has no Quirk. Luckily he gets to inherit one from the greatest hero of them all, All Might. If only he can learn to control it while he attends superhero school…

The Good – The character designs and superpowers are as varied as ever, from humans with one or two abnormalities to straight up alien monstrosities. The recap at the start of the episode does a solid job of telling you what’s happened without going into unnecessary detail too. And the idea of a superpowered olympic event is kinda cool.

The Bad – If 80% of the population have quirks, one wonders why there’s so few… human designs in the school. Or the hero world at large. And some of the character designs just look off, in a badly drawn way rather than weird. The large cast also means no-one really stands out, and the lolrandom gags all kinda fall flat too, being more bewildering than laughworthy.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

Once again, My Hero Academia fails to really light a fire, though for different reasons this time. One of my big problem’s with the initial premise was it had a great idea and then became just like every other shōnen. Lo and behold, season two, it’s just like every other shōnen. I just don’t get what people see in this. Sorry.

Monster Strike Second Season

Length – Half-Length (13 mins)
Studio – Studio Hibari
Director – Kazuya Ichikawa (Flying Witch Petit, Monster Strike)

Second season of Monster Strike. All teenagers can access an app on their smartphone that lets them summon monsters. Some of them use this power for good, to repel bad monsters who slipped through the cracks into our world. And apparently the lead had amnesia in the past, that never got mentioned…

The Good – The romance subplot was kinda interesting, showing existing relationships and feelings established in the original season. I liked the monster designs, there was some good music, and there’s something kinda charming about a foreigners taking anime tropes at face value as normal practices. All late schoolkids have toast in their mouths, right?

The Bad – This is a full CG show, so a lot of the motion shots look baaaaad. The writing wasn’t great either, highlighting things you couldn’t possibly know or see, and offering plotholes (you can transport a train to another dimension but not a dragon). None of the characters seemed to have a whole lot of personality either.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

I feel the whole “monsters in your smartphone app” premise has been done better elsewhere plenty of times already (see – Devil Summoner 2). And while I liked foreigner Mana poking fun at a lot of what silly anime fans might think is normal Japanese behaviour, overall the show felt substandard visually and narratively, which is kind of a death sentence…

Gin no Guardian

Length – Half-Length (13 mins)
Studio – Haoliners Animation League
Director – Masahiko Ookura (Blue Drop, Yukikaze)

Sui Gin is an amazing gamer, so Riku Lei gives him a device to tap into his powers and protect the world. Wait, what? None of that came up. He was just a random poor kid in the past, and fighting hordes of undead in the present. No games. No devices. No explanation…

The Good – Some cool visuals in this show, from the sneering blood moon to the literal thousands and thousands of undead in the present day fight scenes. Showing the present day and using flashbacks to explain the narrative is a nice method too to interlace action with exposition.

The Bad – Unless you forget exposition and tell us next to nothing. The flashbacks made it all a little disorienting too, as in the past scene we see another flashback to some prior event, making the timeline a bit of a mess. Also we got some fanservice shots and poorly drawn faces on not important characters.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

Bar the odd hiccup this show does seem to have a solid aesthetic, but its ability to relay it’s narrative or provide depth to its characters beyond “here they are looking cool” is severely lacking. Maybe that’s something that gets ironed out after a few episodes and with more context, but this episode alone isn’t enough to really sell the show outside of some alright action scenes.

Shingeki no Kyojin Second Season

Length – Regular (24 mins) ~ 12 episodes
Studio – Wit Studio
Director – Masashi Koizuka (Assistant Director on Attack on Titan and Seraph of the End)

Second season of Attack on Titan. One of the most popular anime series of the decade is back! Eren, Mikasa and the rest continue to fight the colossal Titan’s intent on devouring humanity. But with Titan’s in the walls and living amongst them as regular folk, humanity’s prospects have never been bleaker.

The Good – The show wastes little time on recapping (we’re spiderman with swords, they’re giant things, we fight, also Annie), and has the same flair for visuals and audio use that the first season did. Titan designs are still as mad as ever. And I love the personality of some of the characters in the face of almost certain doom. Also the ending is cool and has a slightly ethereal vibe at times.

The Bad – Very little actually happens this episode. The show’s old habit of revealing something then doing literally no follow up is in full effect. In fact we go back in time! Only major plot progression is an abnormal Titan who speaks and has a “know thy enemy” outlook. And while it was always gonna be hard making an opening after the original, this one feels like a pale imitation. And Eren and Mikasa get like a minute. That’s it. Next episode is Sasha. Hope you’re not invested in the leads!

The VerdictUNLIKELY

Same problems four years later. Attack on Titan talks a big game, but inches its narrative along so slowly it’s hard to give a rat’s arse. You’re told certain people are awesome, and then they die that same episode (thanks for pointing that out in S1 Mike). Audiovisually Titan is as on point as ever, but that was never the series’ problem. Writing was. And still is. If you’re deadset on watching, I’d wait ’til the end and binge watch, as week by week you’ll end up pulling your hair out.

Granblue Fantasy The Animation

Length – Regular (23 mins) ~ 14 episodes
Studio – A-1 Pictures
Director – Yuuki Itou (Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid)

Adaptation of an ultra popular mobile game that’s never been localised. One day a strange girl called Lyria has managed to escape the evil empire and is on the run, gifting her power to local village boy Gran. And so their runaway journey begins.

The Good – The show looks good in stills. I really liked the opening and ending too, with Bump of Chicken contributing another great song after their March Comes In Like A Lion one. And I dunno if it’s intentional, but the use of blue in several of the main cast was cool, not overdone but certainly present.

The Bad – There’s nothing here you’ve not seen in a million other fantasy shows. Vyrn, the baby dragon sidekick thingy, often looks weird in motion when he’s not properly flying. Actually, most of the cast never seem to quite gel when moving. Or have any personality whatsoever. Oh, and the combat is laughably nonsensical too, with no strikes feeling like they have any impact.

The VerdictDROPPED

I don’t know what drew people to the game, but I assume it wasn’t the story, because man, this doesn’t have one. Here’s some vague powers go to this vague location for reasons also fantasy creatures. Anime isn’t exactly short of this kind of thing, especially over the last year or two, and Granblue is just another drop in that ocean.

Alice to Zouroku

Length – Double Length Debut (44 mins), then Regular (23 mins) ~ 12 episodes
Studio – J.C. Staff
Director – Katsushi Sakurabi (Flying Witch, Lostorage Incited WIXOSS)

Special little girls wield the power of imaginations, known as Dreams of Alice (Wonderland reference). But sick of her treatment as a lab rat, and with mysterious help, the Red Queen, Sana, escapes to town, being taken in by grumpy old man Zouroku. But with her captors in constant pursuit and a real world to adapt to, will Sana be able to cope and live happily ever after?

The Good – The show made good use of effects such as rain and the more weird elements of the girl’s special powers. The introduction of the various factions at play is handled well, as are the subtle hints at kid’s powers before they’re shown. Zouroku’s grumpy persona and confidence to lecture both mafia members and supernatural girls is great. Also HE DRIVES A MINI COOPER. That means a lot to me.

The Bad – Sadly the animation of cars in this show is awful, as the CG models awkwardly start and stop. Character’s faces look a bit odd half the time too. And the writing has a tendency to either go to the well too many times or be limiting for no reason, such as grumpy Zouroku firing off about nothing or a lack of imagination in use of powers or some weird “police won’t help” shtick. And the double length format makes the tailend of this episode drag.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

There certainly is an interesting dynamic between young Alice and old Zouroku, but it’s bogged down by weirdly subpar writing and animation at times. At times characters and events feel natural, at other times that they’re acting for the sake of following established routines, and it just gives the whole thing an inconsistent vibe. It’s still a solid show, just not enough to win me over.

Tsugumomo

Length – Regular (23 mins) ~ 12 episodes
Studio – Zero-G
Director – Ryouichi Kuraya (Episode Director on Overlord and Battery)

Kazuya Kagami’s most treasured possession is an obi left to him by his dead mother. So he’s surprised when one day he’s attacked by an evil spirit in a wig and saved by the spirit of that obi. So begins their master and servant relationship, which only gets more complicated as more girls arrive on the scene because spoilers harem.

The Good – The combat scene was pretty decent, especially as it was essentially two girls with the same power’s fighting. The show sometimes took the high ground in potentially predictable lewd scenes, subverting them with a calm attitude. And Kazuya actually figured stuff out on his own without endless explanations.

The Bad – There still were needless lewdity scenes in the show, as well as a tendency to forget elements brought up earlier. He gets stabbed in the arm and jokes about needing a cast, but this is forgotten in an hour or so. They bring up that the two need to keep the noise down, then shout in the bathroom. And there’s no explanation in this episode to why people are chasing after Kazuya. At all.

The VerdictDROPPED

It’s a bland action show where the gimmick is spirits and also there’s a harem and lewd elements which, based off the opening, are only going to ramp up as time goes on. It’s not a terrible show, but there’s nothing interesting going on at all. Even the animation and soundtrack are mostly lifeless. Nothing in this show motivates me to care, so it’s dropped.

Souryo to Majiwaru Shikiyoku no Yoru ni…

Length – Short (4 mins) ~ 12 episodes
Studio – Seven
Director – Hideki Araki (a lot of stuff that looks like porn)

A girl who used to have a childhood crush on a guy from her class reunites with him, except now he’s a priest. But when she drinks too much and he has to take her home, she realises that hasn’t stopped his lust, and she wonders whether this is all okay as the two enter an intimate relationship.

The Good – I mean, I like the priest guy’s design. He makes bald look good. And er. Uh…

The Bad – So spoilers, a chunk of this show is just porn. And then it just ends halfway through. I get why from a broadcast viewpoint, but from a narrative one it’s just weird. The girl could be any old shmuck, the animation is bland, and the writing practically non-existent.

The VerdictDROPPED

This show isn’t even 5 minutes long and yet I feel it’s wasted a chunk of my time and life. Just go google some hentai animation or something, you’ll probably leave more satisfied. Bet it has a better story than this too…

Sekai no Yami Zukan

Length – Short (4 mins)
Studio – ILCA
Director – Noboru Iguchi (Yami Shibai 2)

Enjoy various short spooky scary stories from across the world. Apparently it’s aiming for a 60s / 70s pulp horror vibe. I assume that roughly translates as terrible.

The Good – Some of the drawings looked good, and the show did, on occasion, tap into a creepy vibe with them.

The Bad – Emphasis on drawings. This was almost entirely motionless, just panning over still images. The spooky storytelling never goes beyond mild, and it just feels like it ends when it was maybe about to get going.

The VerdictDROPPED

Save for one or two moments when I was happy to be looking at a nice piece of art, this show sucked hard. There’s been a lot of attempts at short horror storytelling in anime over the past few years, but this is one of the weakest endeavours, never really getting going with storytelling and the loosest possible definition of animation. Don’t bother, it’s not worth it.

World Fool News Part II

Length – Half-Length (10 mins)
Studio – ???
Director – ??? (I literally can’t find this information online)

Second season of World Fool News. It’s an era of change for WFN, what with a new nice old lady hosting the weather and a reverse logo spin in the title sequence. So continues the weird news coverage in front of and behind the camera, but this time they’re being watched by someone with unique intentions…

The Good – The sequence before the opening did a good job of setting up the antagonist(?) and why he might be interested in the team. I did get a rise out of some of the jokes too. And the show felt the right length where it could tell its points without dragging on.

The Bad – The animation style… I see what they’re going for, but it feels a bit bleh and unrefined. Especially the weird way mouths tend to open when they’re talking. And none of the characters really jump out personality wise bar one or two. Hard to really gauge the overall direction and tone of the show too.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

At first I thought this was just a news parody, and I’d argue it was working better as that without the behind the scenes content. It feels like someone had an idea but wasn’t sure how to execute it, so just went with the flow and made this. It’s okay, but nothing memorable or noteworthy or particularly worth sticking with.

Furusato Meguri Nippon no Mukashibanashi

Length – Regular (22 mins)
Studio – Tomason
Director – Takuo Suzuki (Yattokame Tanteidan)

Second season of Folktales From Japan. It’s folktales from Japan. Animated.

The Good – The animation style was weird in the first half, but worked. Splitting the show into two stories helped ensure neither one dragged. It nailed the more simpler and relaxing vibe it was going for in its kid show focus.

The Bad – Some of the story telling was a bit suspect. Hey kids reach for the sky and when you do you’ll be exiled. Instead of executed. Jesus. Both stories had a fairly downer ending actually. And I swear they had nobody to voice the old people as they all had the same really bad sounding voice.

The VerdictDROPPED

This lacks any kind of substance or intrigue to make me want to stick around. I guess with the first season having had 250 odd episodes though, maybe they’ve just run out of good stories. Either way, not for me.

Oh hey that’s the first part done and no keepers. And only one reserve. Oh boy. Maybe fortunes will change next time with PriPara and Boruto? Stay tuned.