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May 25

Spring Anime 2017 First Episode Impressions – Part 5

Noses are so inefficient

We made it! Before June ended too. This is the final part of our spring anime coverage for this year, looking at all the shows that debuted on or after April 13th (and one from before that I missed because I’m so pro).

This final batch of nine shows includes sequels (Saekano Flat), prequels (Atom: The Beginning), spinoffs (DanMachi Gaiden: Sword Oratoria), originals (Sin) and a double dose of everybody’s favourite – card games! Yes, Yu-Gi-Oh is back for its sixth incarnation, but is it, or any of the other shows, good enough to become a last minute keeper? Let’s see…

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭

Length – Regular (23 mins) ~ 11 eps
Studio – A-1 Pictures
Director – Kanta Kamei (Dimension W, Usagi Drop)

Sequel to Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend. Generic otaku guy Tomoya Aki wants to make the greatest visual novel ever, depicting a bland boring background character as the main heroine. To do this, he enlists the help of several of his talented otaku schoolmates who are less than into the whole premise.

The Good – Surprisingly good direction. Plenty of animation shots and scenes in this are angled really well or have visual flourishes that help elevate them. From stairwell confrontations to emotional eye shots to an opening that utilised contrast well, visually this was top-notch. The accompanying musical score was solid too, and this episode focusing mainly on two characters helped ease new and returning viewers in.

The Bad – It’s otaku bait. Mixed in with those good shots was plenty of fanservice, and everything in this episode focuses on light novels, doujins, VNs, porn… the entire otaku hemisphere. “I’d be so judged for what I do” they lament as the most popular girls in their respective years. Some of the flourishes may have been a step too far also, like the weird manga panel borders for flashbacks.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

This show conflicts me so much. I knew it was fairly popular going in, and I can see why, it panders hard but is still a well produced show, with some strong writing if you can look past the influences. This episode also did well to not overwhelm, telling the backstory of the artist and writer in the group… though while also making the guy look like a classic nothing special harem anime lead guy. I’ll add it to my reserve list, but if you have less hang-ups over that than I do, this is certainly worth a look-see.

sin Nanatsu no Taizai

Length – Regular (23 mins) ~ 12 eps
Studio – Artland / TNK
Director – Kinji Yoshimoto (Genshiken 2, Queen’s Blade)

aka Seven Mortal Sins. Lucifer is an archangel consumed by her pride, and is cast out by God. On her way down to Hell, she bumps into religious girl Maria, gifting her some of her power. After clashing with the Sins in Hell, she becomes part demon and is sent back to Earth, determined to take over hell and rule it.

The Good – The song played at the end (presumably the opening song from ep 2 onwards) was quite good and fit the hell theme. Some interesting characters too, particularly among the Sins. The final moments made for quite a shock too, contrary to what I expected.

The Bad – Did we really need all the molestation and perversion and h-scenes? A good half the characters are trying to touch each other up, and while I get it for the head Lust demon, the obsession with porn just dragged down a lot of the show. Writing was fairly garbage too, with character’s power and motivations flip-flopping from scene to scene.

The VerdictDROPPED

I cottoned on to the all-female cast from the promo image, but I didn’t expect anything so rapey. There could be an interesting story here chronicling Lucifer’s descent in anime style… but instead we’ve got a (censored) ero show more interested in showing girls have their way with each other. But hey, if that’s what you’re into… you do you…

Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka? Gaiden: Sword Oratoria

Length – Regular (23 mins) ~ 12 eps
Studio – J.C. Staff
Director – Youhei Suzuki (Hentai Prince and Stony Cat, Urara Meirochou)

Spinoff of Is It Wrong To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? Focusing on the swordswomen supreme, Ais, this series is her journey as adventurers venture past Level 50 to figure out the mysteries and secrets of this world, leading her to a chance encounter with a mysterious boy. But not in this episode!

The Good – Some good animation, especially in the combat scenes. Watching monsters explode never got old. A strong supporting cast of characters too with interesting interactions with each other. The show also very quickly and concisely set up its lore, leaving new viewers like me with few questions about the world.

The Bad – They’d treat monsters as a threat, then wipe them all out with ease. The monsters flip-flopped just as much, raining acid everywhere then just standing around waiting to die. The level system made little sense too, with nobody above Lv5 despite being on the 50th floor and being sold as damn strong. And the lead girl was pretty dull, with a perplexing form of anxiety which made little sense. Also random fanservice shots.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

I’ve not seen DanMachi, but this spinoff showed me a spark of something cool, so I can see now why people dig it. The dungeon setup feels very reminiscent of the granddaddy of game-esque fantasy anime (was SAO really five years ago), but so does the fairly shoddy writing, right down to the threat level flipping from zero to infinity on a dime. And while most of the cast is strong, they alone can’t make this show great. Maybe next Gaiden, DanMachi.

PriPri Chii-chan!!

Length – Half-Length (12 mins)
Studio – OLM
Director – Takahiro Ikezoe (Ozma, Show by Rock)

One day Yuka, a young human girl, discovers a mysterious being who turns out to be an underground dweller. The blob, named Chii-chan, decides to live with her to see more of life on the surface, before discovering there are more aliens than just himself in his new world.

The Good – I enjoyed the ending, a somewhat parody of Dig Dug. The reveal about Yuka already having an alien living with her was well played, and made a few things fit into place retroactively. The narrative of this episode was well paced too.

The Bad – Chii had a whole bunch of anime alien tropes, from bizarre obsessions to a silly long real name and more. Everyone who wasn’t a main character seemed to lack object permanence, vanishing for chunks of scenes before reappearing to interact. Plenty of silly anime overreactions too.

The VerdictDROPPED

It’s a short(ish) silly comedy that feels like something we’ve seen and done a bunch of times prior. There’s nothing original here and little to latch onto, so I’ll be giving this a miss.

100% Pascal-sensei

Length – Half-Length (12 mins)
Studio – OLM
Director – Yo Miura (Otona Joshi no Anime Time 2)

Pascal is a total moron who somehow ends up teaching an elementary school class. Also he’s not human, but nobody really questions that. Cue the comedy.

The Good – …er… well, I guess one or two of the jokes worked (like the previous homeroom teacher retiring to become a YouTuber). Pascal’s design was alright as well. And the ending was a unique experience.

The Bad – Mostly trash children’s comedy of look at the idiocy isn’t it hilarious no not really. The final third of the show was also a separate story that had nothing to do with anything and was totally pointless. And why was there a CG Beyblade at one point?

The VerdictDROPPED

It’s bad when I’m clockwatching on a short within a few minutes. This had no substance, painfully little humour and really needed to be trimmed down. Japan has this fascination with stupidity in comedy, especially for younger viewers, and it’s just awful. I feel sorry for those kids. I really do.

Tomica Hyper Rescue Drive Head: Kidou Kyuukyuu Keisatsu

Length – Regular (24 mins)
Studio – OLM
Director – Takao Kato (Busou Renkin, To Love-Ru)

To combat ever evolving threats to the public from criminals and the environment, Hyper Rescue developed special mech units known as Drive Heads, piloted by kids (because) who work hard to keep the people of Japan safe and sound.

The Good – Nice animation, especially when the show actually embraced motion. The mech designs fit the purpose too. And some of the background audio was actually solid, and helped enhance scenes and drama.

The Bad – Awful writing. Putting aside the fact kids pilot these machines for no reason, the crises and responses were laughable. Police trying to stop a giant mech with a roadblock. A bus caught on a sinkhole but with a clear path to drive away. Overexaggeration of disasters to the point where everyone involved would obviously already be dead. It was all just so inane.

The VerdictDROPPED

I get its a children’s show to advertise toys, but even so I’d like to think a child could see through this, or just gravitate to one of the many many alternatives for this type of series. Heck, I’m rewatching DekaRanger (Power Rangers / Super Sentai) which is over a decade old and that’s so many leagues above this it’s unreal. If you want rescue mechs, watch that, not this.

Future Card Buddyfight X

Length – Regular (25 mins)
Studio – OLM / Xebec
Director – Shigetaka Ikeda (Future Card Buddyfight, Rozen Maiden)

Fourth season of Future Card Buddyfight. The adventures of master buddyfighter Gaou continue. Having parted ways with his last buddy, he now searches for a new partner to take his dueling to the next level, and unexpectedly finds one when he is drafted to represented the Dragon World in a clash of parallel worlds for the title of greatest buddyfighter.

The Good – Character designs in Buddyfight are always unique, with plenty of interesting details. And a lot is accomplished in this first episode, while not dwelling on the events of past seasons. It makes sense why this season gives them stronger cards too, since it’s a multiverse-esque tournament with players getting the best cards from many realms.

The Bad – How do you play Buddyfight? Buggered if I know, the fight just involves the two spamming cards with no explanation and is over in literally 3 turns. It also seems weird that Buddyfight is so prevalent in various worlds, and odd that people think that multiple time tournament winner Gaou is ever in any danger at all.

The VerdictDROPPED

We’ve been here before with Buddyfight, and unsurprisingly the problems prevalent in its season three debut are still there in season four. Nothing means anything. It’s just a riot of explosions and power plays with no substance to any of it. There’s a reason Yu-Gi-Oh stands atop the genre, because sure, they over narrate their moves, but at least they display strategy. Man, how I wish I was watching that instead of this. Hint hint.

Atom: The Beginning

Length – Regular (25 mins) ~ 12 eps
Studio – Production I.G / OLM
Director – Tatsuo Satou (Bodacious Space Pirates, Martian Successor Nadesico)

A prequel to Astro Boy (I don’t have to explain to you what that show is, right?). In an era were robots are commonplace but have no thoughts or soul of their own, two college researchers laboured day and night to make an autonomous robot capable of protecting the people, leading to the creation of A106, or Six.

The Good – Variety in character design. I don’t just mean outfits either, we had various builds, noses, age groups, even disabilities. The robots all looked good too, like they were designed for their purpose and that was it (bar Six, obviously). Audio was good, with some really crisp robotic clunking. The opening and ending both had a unique style to them that made them pretty neat. And the show did some great reveals with personalities, angles and relationships, making a neat web for the main cast.

The Bad – We really didn’t need one character shouting to no-one in particular “oh my god it’s x” especially when the stuff he was saying didn’t matter to the core narrative. It also felt weird how calm people were in a potential crisis situation and how little people in charge did to stop it. The two leads are maybe a bit too stupid and weird at times too.

The VerdictKEEPER

Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising that a show which has a stacked list of creators and assistants turned out pretty dang great. Having not read Astro Boy or Pluto (I know, I’m the worst), I’m not sure how much this ties into the granddaddy of our genre, but I do know I want to see more of these characters and their exploits and the evolving world they live in. Also more robot crunching. I can’t get over how good those moments sounded.

Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS

Length – Regular (24 mins)
Studio – Gallop
Director – Masahiro Hosoda (Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods, Heroes ~Legends of Battle Discs~)

Sixth season of Yu-Gi-Oh! Yuusaku has semi-retired from duels, instead choosing to fight members of the villanous Knights of Hanoi. This battle leads to him partnering with a runaway AI, which he must try to protect from multiple factions by dueling his way to safety.

The Good – If you come to Yu-Gi-Oh for silly hairstyles, then good news, there’s a few of them in this one. Plus establishing multiple factions early gives the story plenty of room to evolve, and this episode did a solid job of setting up backstory ready to be mined as the months roll on.

The Bad – The card games aspect felt like an afterthought in many ways, with no duels being shown all episode. The digital / VR focus made it impossible to tell who was where in reality too, with people dying in data form in places you assumed were real. And some of the gimmicks, like data surfboards, felt more than a bit unnecessary.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

If you didn’t tell someone this was Yu-Gi-Oh, there wasn’t a whole lot to give it away in this episode, so I have no idea if the nonsense mechanic from Arc-V returns. On the one hand, it feels like they want to put more effort into the story, on the other, half of said story makes so little sense you’re waiting for the one constant, duels, to appear to ground you. Maybe it’ll turn out okay, these are multi-year series afterall, but this isn’t a strong start.

And there you have it! Atom: The Beginning joins Sakurada Reset, Seikai Suro Kado, Re:Creators and sequel Nobunaga no Shinobi 2 as my five keepers for the spring out of the 57 total. I now get to spend June catching up with this stuff before July and the Summer season roll around and we start all over again, so look forward to that.

Until then, stay tuned next month for more articles. What will they be? You’ll have to wait and see…