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Jul 04

Summer Anime 2017 First Episode Impressions – Part 1

Totally Sane~

It doesn’t feel that long since the last batch of first episodes… but considering the fact I fell somewhat behind in Spring, maybe that isn’t too much of a surprise. Still, July has arrived, which means another season of shows, with a lot more new entries after Spring’s sequel fest. But will any of these forty or so series step up to the plate?

In this first part, we cover July 1st and 2nd (and one show that started in June), including the newest Fate series, the newest ufotable series (and no, they’re not the same show), the fourth Symphogear, the fifth Yami Shibai and a bunch more besides. So why go out when you can stay in with anime? Exactly.

Hina Logi: From Luck & Logic

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Doga Kobo
Director – Hiroaki Akagi (episode director on Rakugo, Space Patrol Luluco)

Spinoff of Luck & Logic. Set in a school for training logicalists in their battle against foreigners from other dimensions, they’ve lost their way somewhat with peace having reigned for a year. Cue Lion transferring in, a princess from another country with little experience but lots of passion. How will everyday school life change with her around?

The Good – Nice to see classmates being civil and happy for each other, even if they’re not all friends. Lion does have an energy to her as well, even when she’s being possessed, that helps carry scenes. I like the design of Belle, her pet(?) foreigner. The show does a good job of pacing things and inserting exposition fairly naturally. The school they attend looks like a nice place to live too.

The Bad – Not one but two bathing fanservice scenes because. Some of the location visuals are just weird (their classroom makes no logical sense). Despite being a show that talks a game about action, there’s next to none, and little reason to care in the long-term either thanks to a weak overall plot. And do we really need another ditzy but passionate lead character? Ever?

The VerdictUNLIKELY

The original was one fantasy action show amongst many, but Hina Logi isn’t even really that. There’s no amazing fights or strong characters to invest in, just some bland fantasy school life with the backdrop of another series drapped over it. The lack of a clear narrative hook also makes it hard to care about the show’s smaller victories in earnestness and visual design. It’s not a bad show, it’s just… meh.

Enmusubi no Youko-chan

Length – Regular ~ 24 eps
Studio – Emon
Director – Wang Xin (Hitori no Shita: The Outcast)

aka Fox Spirit Matchmaker. Japanese dub of a previously 2015 Chinese animated series. The weakest fox spirit of her clan has been set up for an arranged marriage, but runs away and ends up bumping into her betrothed anyway. Also he’s really powerful and important for some reason. There’s another fox clan too, and some price and princess relationship thing.

The Good – The (presumably) leader of the main fox spirit clan certainly had an aura about her that most of the cast lacked. The credits sequence looked good too.

The Bad – Stupidity. Pretty much every main or major character was a moron. From the money and food grabbing sleazebag antics of the guy, to the total airheadedness of the girl, to other cast members just throwing themselves at each other for no real reason. Writing didn’t explain shit either, with actions and events never making sense or even fitting in logically with what had already been established. The show also had numerous action scenes which it downplayed to the point of them losing any and all impact throughout poor musical, writing and animation choices.

The VerdictDROPPED

Idiocy bleeds into every aspect of this show. I gave up trying to keep track of what was going on two-thirds of the way in, because everything was either a convoluted mess or made no logical sense. Add in trash-tier characters, pitiful attempts at “look how dumb they are ain’t that funny” and the worst attempts at fight scenes I’ve seen in years, and you’ve got one hell of a pile of crap here. Please avoid.

Kakegurui

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – MAPPA
Director – Yuuichirou Hayashi (Garo, PES)

aka Compulsive Gambler. In a school for the super rich, what better way to kill time than with gambling, where those who can read their opponents will stride ahead. The winners get richer, and the losers forfeit their very humanity. In this place, a new girl transfers in, a compulsive gambler, to put everybody else on notice.

The Good – Some crazy facial expressions, which kind of remind me of Prison School? The show has a real knack for portraying and elevating the tension of its high stakes gambling too. Personalities of the first few characters are also strongly established from the start, while leaving an element of mystery to the lead girl. Also a very, very good opening sequence.

The Bad – It goes to the well one too many times with the extorted expressions, and I didn’t really need a character breaking the fourth wall mid-match. There’s also some needless fanservice shots for no reason, especially the ending which is somewhat obsessed with that.

The VerdictKEEPER

Kaiji meets Prison School is not a combination I either expected to be a thing or to really enjoy, but here we are. It helps that the show embraces its crazy side and never pretends to be anything else. While this means it maybe steps too far at times, through expression or fanservice, and while the maybe male lead character is… well, just there, it still leaves a strong impression and makes you want to see the next crazy gambling game and clash of personalities. One to watch when it hits Netflix.

Fate/Apocryhpa

Length – Regular ~ 25 eps
Studio – A-1 Pictures
Director – Yoshiyuki Asai (Charlotte)

Alternate universe version of Fate/stay night. In this world, the Grail was stolen during one of the Holy Grail Wars, and sixty years later it’s discovery leads to a unique seven vs seven war for its posession, as the nation of Yggdmillenia fights the Mage’s Association, with the Grail itself summoning a 15th servant to oversee the event. So begins the Great Holy Grail War.

The Good – The opening five minutes or so was a hectic action scene that looked damn good, and showcased the strength of characters who would come back later in the episode and series. Apocryhpa also does a good job of explaining events to those not overly familiar with Fate (hi), and characters can make even dialogue heavy scenes fairly interesting.

The Bad – After that initial explosion, the show is entirely setup and exposition. The tailend of the episode also introduces a lot of cast who are presumably major players but get no time to establish themselves in any way. They never really explain why the grail they’re fighting for matters either, or why they have to fight at all, more just going with the “ancient people said so” explanation.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

To be fair, Fate series usually open with a dialogue-heavy episode to set everything up, but there is a lot of talking for what essentially mounts to “7 v 7 for a grail, go”. And somehow, I get the feeling the action that started this episode is as good as it’ll get for most of the series. I have no doubt this’ll be alright, but it lacks that extra something to truly make it must-see.

Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu

Length – Regular
Studio – ufotable
Director – Toshiyuki Shirai (episode director on Fate/stay night, Tales of Zestiria The X)

Based off a browser game in Japan, various spirits are brought back to life to defend history from the Time Retrograde Army. Sent to the past, they must locate and defeat the invaders before they can change and damage history as we know it.

The Good – Solid animation as you’d expect from ufotable, with combat packing a punch and some lovely vistas and CG usage. Character designs also work well, making them look a little out of place but not overly so, but also not overcomplicated. Simple premise and easily identifiable enemies make the direction of the show easy to pick up on too.

The Bad – Not ufotable’s best work, compared to Tales or Fate (which they’re not doing this season, so weird). A bunch of writing contradictions too, from “only two of us” to a good half dozen, and them saving a child, altering history despite that being exactly what they’re there to defend. Neither of the lead characters are particularly interesting either, standard protagonists in a fairly standard setting.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

I actually prefer last year’s attempt at this. While it had lower production values, there was more of a charm and light-heartedness with the concept that is thrown away here as ufotable focus more on the fighting than the setting. Though how this got two adaptations is beyond me. If you’re dead keen on ufotable or the setting, give it a try, otherwise I’d leave this one be.

Senki Zesshou Symphogear AXZ

Length – Regular ~ 13 eps
Studio – Satelight
Director – Katsumi Ono (Symphohear GX, Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s)

Fourth season of Senki Zesshou Symphogear. Hibiki, Tsubasa, Chris and the other agents of SONG continue their duty to defend the Earth from the Noise and those who would do it harm, using the power of song to power up their exosuits and blow shit up.

The Good – A good half of this episode was action scenes, with explosions and fists and swords aplenty. The show also establishes the plot of this season (here are these singing baddies, get ’em) while tying in nods to past seasons without being bogged down in continuity. New viewers will have no problems, basically.

The Bad – The actual plot scenes felt a bit weak, and there’s no doubt this is just going through the motions than doing anything new. There’s bits where they’re fighting humans, not Noise, but any interesting differences that may bring up are never explored. The songs also don’t feel as strong as they used to. And did I really need a shower scene. Really?

The VerdictUNLIKELY

I’ve always been more of a fan of Symphogear than most, even though I can accept that it’s usually an average affair. The riotous action and inclusion of songs to essentially sing your passion works well on the surface, even when the actual plots are more bizarre. This particular series feels like a show running on empty though, lacking any real attempt at substance. I still get a kick out of it, but that’s more from familiarity than quality, so maybe it’s time to put this old girl down.

Knight’s & Magic

Length – Regular
Studio – 8bit
Director – Yuusuke Yamamoto (Welcome to the NHK, Aquarion Evol)

Mecha otaku and programming wonder Mr Kurata is sadly killed in a traffic accident, but reincarnated in another world as Prince Ernesti. Using his knowledge from the last world combined with the magic and mechas of this one, young Ernesti sets his sights on building and piloting his own Silhouette Knight, making friends and discoveries aplenty along the way.

The Good – Ernesti’s earnestness (top quality joke, do not steal) being a driving force behind everything he did, and wanting to better himself, his friends and the traditions of his world make for a really strong protagonist, and the reincarnation shtick played an element without dominating scenes. The mechs did have a cool look that fit the world too, and I liked the evolving designs of the main cast and their clothes as this zipped through early childhood.

The Bad – The lead girl was maybe a bit too hands-on with Ernesti at times, becoming her defining character trait. Some of the plot was fairly predictable too (they get mobbed by hordes of baddies while camping, what a shock). Said enemy designs were as bland as it gets too. Plus you could cut the reincarnation angle and not really lose anything (at this time).

The VerdictKEEPER

While the show had it’s odd dumb moment, overall this was quite an enthralling tale of a kid who just really wants to pilot mechs and will do whatever it takes to do so. Ernesti brings life and energy to the show, that infects not just the rest of the cast, but you as a viewer too. Throw in solid designs, animation and music and you’ve got a fun show that I wanna see more of.

Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Studio Hibari
Director – Kazuya Ichikawa (Monster Strike, Flying Witch Petit)

aka Cleanliness Boy! Aoyama-kun. Aoyama played for Japan’s under-16s football team, helping bring them success. But he’s also an extreme germaphobe, refusing to head the ball or do anything that’ll make himself dirty. Can he fit in with a regular school football team, or implode from all the mess?

The Good – I like the artstyle, even if it’s driving me mad I can’t place it. Support character Kaoru also did a good job of keeping the show grounded in reality, playing the straight man role. Aoyama’s playstyle was surprisingly well thought out, and a few of the jokes did get a smile out of this, especially the one at the very end.

The Bad – Most of the jokes though were the usual anime crap. Look how wacky and craaaazy this guy is, being a germaphobe, and yet how everyone still puts up with his bullshit. He literally has fangirls swooning over him because he washes his hands a lot. The show goes for a bunch of slo-mo shots too that just look awful and unfinished.

The VerdictDROPPED

A footballer obsessed with cleanliness isn’t exactly comedy gold to begin with, but combined with Japan’s style of humour it really falls flat on its face. Throw in (heh) animation that ranges from okay to pretty dang bad, a mostly forgettable support cast and some weirdo who just shows off his midriff whenever he can for no reason… yeah, no, I’ll pass.

Battle Girl High School

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Silver Link
Director – Noriaki Akitaya (Bakuman, Active Raid)

There’s a lot of girls all attending this one school who are trained to fight the Irousu, weird alien creatures trying to contaminate the world. Luckily the girls are all in various exosuits to combat the menace. But after saving the world a few times, the girls are losing their edge, so it’s time to put them through the ringer once more…

The Good – With so many characters, one or two managed to stand out by having some semblance of a personality. The setup of this being far from their first rodeo opens up interesting storytelling possibilities too. And if you like shipping, oh boy, there’s so many couples here.

The Bad – I couldn’t name you a single character because there’s so many of them. At least a dozen students, before you count faculty. Nobody really gets any time to shine, which combined with mediocre animation makes the fights feel underwhelming too. Plus the “they need to refine their skills” angle is always told, never shown.

The VerdictDROPPED

Admittedly with that title I didn’t have high hopes, but boy this underwhelmed. A bunch of random attempts at cutesy girls fighting generic enemies with the barest minimum of narratives to support it. Which is even more annoying with the “we’ve already saved the world twice” shtick which could’ve added much needed depth. If this is what you want, watch Symphogear, at least that has some bombast.

Yami Shibai 5

Length – Short
Studio – ILCA
Directorno idea

Fifth season of Yami Shibai. More random spooky scary folk tales from Japan.

The Good – The distinctive artstyle still holds up, five seasons in. Good use of audio to ramp up tension too.

The Bad – They ran out of stories a long time ago, as this mess of a tale proves. There’s no payoff, and barely any attempt at justification for the weirdness. Just a stressed slash little bitchy mother getting annoyed at her child as her life doesn’t pan out the way she expected. Shortcuts in an already almost no animation format really don’t help it either, with sound effects to no motion.

The VerdictDROPPED

When this series started, it was a fairly solid and quirky short which told actual horror and ghost stories. Now it’s a pitiful shell, working off dregs. I’m not sure how or why a good chunk of shorts end up being this kind of spooky scary storytelling, but I do think it’s time to let that genre rest for a while, as this show only further proves.

Well the tailend of this first part might’ve been a let down, but we’ve still got two keepers in Kakegurui and Knight’s and Magic, so things aren’t so bad afterall. Join us later this week for another ten or so series, including the latest noitaminA show and totally not a Free ripoff, Dive. See you then.