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May 16

Spring Anime 2017 First Episode Impressions – Part 4

Ma… do… ka? Never heard of her.

A lot’s happened since the last installment of anime impressions, most notably the death and rebirth of Nyaa. That and a few other things (Mario Kart, Persona) have kept me distracted, but the good news is we’re getting there, slowly but surely.

Today we’re covering shows from April 8th to 12th, which isn’t as many as it might sound. Eleven in total, including the Netflix-bound ID-0, the return of the man who penned Oreimo in Eromanga, and several sequels, including Rinne, Natsume and The Eccentric Family. But did any of these shows rise to the occasion?

Kyoukai no Rinne Third Season

Length – Regular (24 mins) ~ 25 eps
Studio – Brain’s Base
Director – Hiroshi Ishiodori (Peach Girl, Kiss Him Not Me)

Third season of RIN-NE. The adventures of the perpetually poor shinigami Rinne Rokudou continue, as he and his friends purify spirits while living their daily lives.

The Good – This episode didn’t get bloated down with backstory, telling a simple narrative about licenses and family that was easy to jump into, with a narrator providing any extra context or character introductions. The humour also worked fairly well, providing plenty of comedic highlights, especially with Rinne’s lazy scumbag of a dad.

The Bad – That humour also meant anytime the show had a remotely serious moment it’d immediately undercut it, making it hard to take anything seriously. The ending was also kind of a non-entity, with the problem resolving itself for no real reason and the entire episode feeling kinda worthless. Also we had a bunch of other character tagging along only really because they’re secondary so they should probably be there.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

While I appreciate the jokes, they did seem to come at the expense of nigh-on everything else. Plus despite some family backstory and world building, the whole ordeal felt rather pointless by the time the credits rolled. I’m a little more positive about this than I was last year, but not enough to recommend this mix of old school anime tropes and stylings.

Re:Creators

Length – Regular (23 mins) ~ 22 eps
Studio – Troyca
Director – Ei Aoki (Aldnoah.Zero, Fate/Zero)

In this modern world, humans love nothing more than to create and consume stories. But one day, Souta Mizushino is a first hand witness when characters from various anime and stories start showing up in our world, with a mysterious girl seeming to be the cause. How will they adapt to live in our world of gods, and what happens when they meet those who created them?

The Good – That’s a fascinating premise very rarely used, with characters from other worlds coming to us instead of vice versa. The show also managed plenty of beautiful scenes and moments, from one girl using a sword and gun as a musical instrument, to great looping and zooming shots. Plus there’s a great soundtrack from veteran Hiroyuki Sawano helping to highlight the tension and action.

The Bad – Some of the directorial shots got a bit out of hand, such as one weird protag PoV shot with his glasses on that just looked bad. The first minute of the show is also wasted setting up an event that is then not spoken of at any point throughout, which is one of a few questionable writing choices.

The VerdictKEEPER

In a world full of “oh no I got transported to a fantasy land” you almost never see the reverse. The Devil Is A Part-Timer is the only other example that comes to mind. That alone makes for an interesting show, but combine that with some brilliant visuals, superb soundtrack and mostly great writing and directing, and you’ve got a complete package that is one of the strongest first episodes of the year. A must-see in my opinion.

Eromanga-sensei

Length – Regular (23 mins)
Studio – A-1 Pictures
Director – Ryouhei Takeshita (Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun)

Izumi Masamune is a light novel writer in highschool, using the money he makes to pay for he and his little sister’s expenses now that they are the only family they have. But one day he discovers “Eromanga Sensei”, the artist working with him, is actually his little sister, who hasn’t come out of her room in a year. How will their relationship develop? Considering it’s by the same writer as OreImo, oh gee, I wonder.

The Good – The background story is well told. Girl is adopted into a family, but when she loses her new parents, shuts herself away. We also had actual real brands, like Ascii Media Works, in the show. The motivations for both characters, working to support themselves and make friends and admirers all works well too.

The Bad – Besides the obvious plot “twists”, and the fact that everything here is a rewritten version of something from OreImo, there’s also a bunch of cringeworthy or just plain stupid jokes and quips, like the sis’s constant denial of knowing who Eromanga is even when she’s talking about it being her. Heck, neither main character ever really feels… real, getting enraged or saying typical anime rubbish in typical anime ways.

The VerdictDROPPED

I actually watched the first season of OreImo, for reasons beyond me in hindsight, but regretted that choice because of that show’s fairly uninteresting plot and characters. A few years later… nothing has changed, apart from perhaps a potentially even pervier and more otaku-bait setting. There’s nice elements, but it’s mostly garbage, and I ain’t hanging around for the Kuroneko equivalent. Next!

Uchouten Kazoku 2

Length – Regular (23 mins) ~ 12 eps
Studio – P.A. Works
Director – Masayuki Yoshihara (Uchouten Kazoku, Bannou Yasai Ninninman)

Second season of The Eccentric Family. Taking place in Kyoto, this tells the story of a family of tanuki living amongst their own kind, tengus, and humanity. However, the return of the old tengu leader’s son marks the beginning of a change in the landscape of the community…

The Good – We don’t get drowned in backstory, this show just jumps straight in to daily life. Backgrounds are well done, and there’s a few really great perspective shots like the one featured and another when our lead has transformed into an elephant. Character designs do a good job of being human but a lil’ off too.

The Bad – It’s hard to tell what at all happened in the last season, and a lot of characters show up with little reason other than to be there which is meaningless to new viewers. There’s also a few plots that don’t really lead anywhere, like the hunt for some snake thing which gets totally sidelined halfway in.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

I never really got what made this series quite so popular. The animation is alright but nothing great, the tanuki and tengu elements are interesting but never really properly explored, and most of the characters are so caught up with whatever makes them a special snowflake, it makes the rest of their personality somewhat forgettable. I dunno, maybe this show just suffers from bland first episodes?

ID-0

Length – Regular (24 mins) ~ 12 eps
Studio – Sanzigen
Director – Gorou Taniguchi (Active Raid, Maria the Virgin Witch)

While excavating for space ore in her i-machine, a device that allows you to put your consciousness in a robot, excavation student Maya gets separated from her teammates, but is luckily saved by space pirates. Split from her old way of life, so begins her journey with her newfound colleagues.

The Good – The designs of the i-machine mechas all looked great, especially for the pirates. Their cavalier personalities worked well on screen too, providing an energy and helping hammer home how unlikable and uncaring the more “official” characters were. Some great visuals in combat scenes too.

The Bad – CG animation for human’s looked as bad now as it ever has. There were also a few poor writing choices, like the idea there’s no force eject consciousness on i-machines, and a post-credits scene where one of the big threads of the episode is magically fixed.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

Netflix seem to love these CG animated series, from Sidonia to Ajin and now this. Luckily the mech focus helps bypass a lot of the problems the medium still has, making for a show that’s mostly great in the visual department. And while the writing doesn’t really venture far away from common plot tropes, and the main character is fairly bland, overall this is a solid production lifted by a strong support cast. I’d say it’s worth at least giving a try whenever it hits Netflix over here.

Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho

Length – Regular (23 mins) ~ 12 eps
Studio – White Fox
Director – Tetsuo Hirakawa (assistant director on Flowers of Evil)

aka Grimoire of Zero. In a ye olde fantasy era of witch hunts and beastmen, one half-human half-beast mercenary bumps into the newly emerged witch Zero, who tasks him with protecting and escorting her with finding a tome that could destroy the world, that being the Grimoire of Zero, which she herself penned in ages past.

The Good – Great world building and backstory establishing. This episode gives you a real sense of the thoughts of the populace, why there are beastmen, the core themes of the series and who the two leads are, as well as talking about the mechanics of magic and sorcery. The interactions between the main characters are great too.

The Bad – Some of the writing feels a bit off, from references to body pillows which don’t exist in this setting to wild animals not behaving as they would to the whole “I hate witches and I hunt witches” shtick of the lead beastman which is seemingly remembered and forgotten as appropriate for the story at that moment.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

There’s a lot to like about Grimoire of Zero, which makes it easier to look past the fairly standard animation and soundtrack, but the writing ends up feeling a little railroaded at times. It needs an event to happen, so it does what’s needed to make it happen, regardless of the logical sense. I do still want to check this out, time depending, but it’s not quite gripped me the way some other shows have this season.

Fukumenkei Noise

Length – Regular (23 mins) ~ 12 eps
Studio – Brain’s Base
Director – Hideya Takahashi (Keijo, Pokémon The Origins)

aka Anonymous Noise. Nino is a girl who loves to sing, and in her childhood made two strong friends in Momo and Yuzu, before they both vanished. Now in highschool, she has kept up her singing, hoping her voice will reach them again, to discover Yuzu performing in the light music club and Momo preparing to transfer in. Music, romance and drama await now the three are united once more.

The Good – The dynamic between Nino and Yuzu is interesting, and this episode only hints at the tip of the iceberg for it, with Nino inspiring Yuzu, but Yuzu clearly having some hang up. Background visuals are great, from ocean waves to poster designs, and there’s a few great still shots too, plus a cool scene where Nino looks to be singing her soul out.

The Bad – The third player, Momo, feels heavily tacked on this episode, especially when his importance is suddenly revealed after the episode focusing hard on Yuzu-Nino for the most part. There’s a bunch of continuity quirks too, from characters repositioning to story beats that don’t add up. She’s also pretty bad at singing, despite being sold as amazing. And the big one is the character designs, which always feel badly proportioned when in motion.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

This music / drama / romance triangle certainly has some interesting ideas, like Yuzu kind of hitting a dead-end without Nino to inspire him, but lacks the writing to really capitalise on them. Bland music and off-kilter designs don’t exactly help its case either. It’s okay, but I can’t help but think back to my AotY 2013, White Album 2, which has some similarities but far better execution…

Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii desu ka?

Length – Regular (24 mins) ~ 12 eps
Studio – Satelight / C2C
Director – Junichi Wada (The Disappearence of Nagato Yuki-chan, Ragnastrike Angels)

aka *deep breath* World End: What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us? …what a stupid title. Anyway…

Humanity is practically extinct, with furries now everywhere and running the world. Willem is one of the few human’s left, 500 years later, and ends up acting as a caretaker for a military and mercenary warehouse full of special weapons. Those weapons being little kids known as fairies.

The Good – Good idea for a setting, where humans are the weird out of place entities, and furries, beasts and the magical rule the world. Designs for the regular citizens of the city looked good too. Also some nice musical pieces, both for the montage and the ending. And Willem is implied to be a father, which is a nice change for this type of anime.

The Bad – Harem nonsense. Every character in that warehouse is a girl, from the kids to the staff, and they all immediately find Willem the greatest thing. There’s also a chunk of poor writing, from stupid characters to silly plans (wear disguises in this city making us even more obvious)  to just various anime bullshit. The show also stacked itself with irrelevant content, like a meaningless montage and confusing flashbacks.

The VerdictDROPPED

A few good ideas cannot save this from the usual assortment of degrading light novel tropes. The main character is dull as ditchwater, the harem of females are as forgettable as the next, and any interesting concepts that could be explored such as the world or history are buried underneath hijinks and animeisms. I’m sure some will adore this, but I’d sooner rewatch Sword Art. And what the actual fuck is with that title.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku

Length – Regular (23 mins) ~ 11 eps
Studio – Shuka
Director – Kotomi Deai (Silver Spoon 2, Natsume 5)

Sixth season of Natsume’s Book of Friends. Natsume has been able to see youkai’s since he was little, and end up inheriting his grandmother’s Book of Friends, a list of youkai she took the name of and bond to contracts. Those youkai come from far and wide looking for freedom, and Natsume must now try to free them all even when they’re out for revenge.

The Good – Some great musical choices, both in the opening and ending as well as for montages and background pieces. The format of this episode reverting Natsume’s mindset also provided a clever way in for newer viewers not familiar with the now sizeable cast. A few striking scenes and lines as well, such as the “we’re not friends, we just sort of fell together” bit at the end.

The Bad – Some writing blips from characters taking a while to figure out the obvious to lack of consistency in layouts to… well, the non-challenge of the solution that still takes an entire episode to figure out. This episode does feel very throwaway too, with nothing lost or gained by the time the credits roll.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

When I talked about Go, the fifth season, I concluded that it was hard to tell if this series had ever made any progress. That feeling persists here. There’s nothing bad about this show, but everytime I see it it follows a very familiar template of meeting a youkai, something goes weird, they fix the thing, see ya next ep. If you’re okay with that or a long time fan, then definitely try an ep or two, but if you want more variation and progression, this’ll drive you mad, so don’t bother.

Kenka Banchou Otome: Girl Beats Boys

Length – Half-Length (8 mins) ~ 12 eps
Studio – Project No. 9 / A-Real
Director – Noriaki Saito (episode director on Btoom and Log Horizon)

Hinako is a girl who has grown up without ever knowing her parents (not explained in this ep) and one day meets a boy named Hikaru, who claims to be her brother (badly explained) and sends her off to a school famous for delinquents, where everyone fights to be the top dog.

The Good – The school sure does look the delinquent part, run down and absolutely coated in graffiti. The fights look solid enough too, with punches and kicks flying all over. And I quite liked the ending animation.

The Bad – For a school that idolises one on one fights, most of them… weren’t. Also there were no teachers, or staff, or anyone or authority anywhere to be seen. Plus it’s hard to tell most of the cast apart, as they almost all get such little screentime outside of the main character… who is using a false name (and went along with that for no reason). The writing is a mess, basically.

The VerdictDROPPED

There’s very little here of any interest, but the fact it’s airing in the same season as Machiavellianism, a show which has plenty of similar themes such as school fighting and gender imbalance yet executes it all far better, only hammers home that point. Even with a reduced runtime this can’t sustain interest. Don’t bother.

Room Mate ~One Room side M~

Length – Short (4 mins)
Studio – Typhoon Graphics
Director – Takashi Sakuma (episode director on One Room)

Spinoff of One Room. Watch three guys living in one apartment through the eyes of their new manager. How will their arrival change things up?

The Good – …er. I… liked the guy who had drama as his thing? He seemed not totally stupid?

The Bad – The show attempts a first-person never see the protagonist trick, but the camera never stays in one viewpoint for more than a single shot. The three characters all have bland, forgettable personalities. Heck, the entire premise is non-existent. And the show ends on a very questionable shot with one of the guys naked and sweating above something.

The VerdictDROPPED

The one thing One Room had going for it last season, the first person viewpoint, is ruined here by bad directing. And the art style’s less pretty. Just… there’s nothing here. At all. Look at pictures drawn by an artist. Any artist. You’ll get more out of it.

So a few alright shows that get added to the reserve list, and a great one in Re:Creators that I already have high hopes for. Though considering most of this season’s output, maybe that’s not quite as big an accomplishment as it could be. Come back next time for our final part featuring Atoms and Boring Girlfriends and whatever else is left.