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Jul 08

Summer Anime 2017 First Episode Impressions – Part 2

Love is Love

Are we really only a week or so into July? I’m totally losing track of days. Anyway, the Summer season of anime goes marching on, and we’ve got another eleven shows to cover.

This time it’s stuff that aired July 3rd to 6th (mostly), which means we’ve got the noitaminA series Dive, a heap of romance varying from the normal like Konbini Kareshi to the… cuck… like NTR… to… the…

You’ll see what I mean. Lots of different types of romance. For better or worse.

Youkai Apartment no Yuuga na Nichijou

Length – Regular
Studio – Shin-Ei Animation
Director – Mitsuo Hashimoto (DragonBall Z movies 5 & 13, Initial D Final Stage)

Desperate to move out from his uncle and aunty after his parents died in an accident a few years ago, Yuushi winds up moving into a dormitory full to the brim with ghosts, and an exorcist for a neighbour. Will he be able to keep his sanity in this whole new world as he begins his highschool life?

The Good – The dormitory itself manages to both look stylish and decrepit, and the various youkai designs, while nothing original, are varied and weird enough to help distinguish the place. Plus with a few it’s hard to tell if they’re really human or not, a plot thread I see coming to the fore later. Some great moments too, like when the trio of birds present throughout suddenly start talking to prove this isn’t a dream. Characters actually look like highschoolers too.

The Bad – There’s nothing original in the setting of “guys walks into whole new world”, and this episode does nothing to really distinguish itself. Lead character Yuushi lacks a lot of personality too. Some of the effects are also overdone, like a never-ending sea of cherry blossom in the early parts of the ep. Plus the opening few minutes have no impact on anything else that happens this episode, so feel a little out of place.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

We’ve not exactly had a shortage of youkai shows over the past few years, and this is just another on the pile that does very little to distinguish itself. There’s potential in some places, mainly from the exorcism side which isn’t brought up much in this first episode, but I just see a fairly standard slife show but with ghooooosts, woooooo. Not for me.

Koi to Uso

Length – Regular
Studio – Liden Films
Director – Seiki Takuno (Sekkou Boys, Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches)

aka Love and Lies. To fix Japan’s declining birth rate, a law was introduced so that when kid’s turn 16, they are automatically assigned a partner in marriage. But what if you fall in love with someone the old fashioned way? This is the story of two kids in love since childhood but forced to marry others by their own government.

The Good – Solid production values in both animation and soundtrack. This show looked and sounded a lot better than I expected, especially during the tailend. Some good depictions of teenage naiveté towards romance too. And that setting does provide plenty of potential, especially as this seems to be going for drama, not laughs.

The Bad – This first episode wasn’t the fastest of things, taking a long time to establish concepts the viewer had already grasped within the first minute. Plus the whole “we’ve loved each other silently for five years after one conversation” angle was a bit… contrived. Even more so combined with her not having her notice for no reason. And him getting his at exactly midnight. And having government agents deliver it to him in this random park. It feels like a blunt force way to get the plot across.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

Despite this initial episode’s flaws in writing, the presentation quality and narrative potential still make this a fairly appealing show. I could see myself watching the two lead characters trying to fight this scripted future while their potential other half’s have their own things to say. The writing does need to step it up a notch though, especially in a year which brought us Scum’s Wish. One for the reserves.

Isekai Shokudou

Length – Regular
Studio – Silver Link.
Director – Masato Jinbo (Fate Illya 2wei, Nozo x Kimi)

aka Restaurant to Another World. Once a week, “Western” Restaurant Nekoya travels across dimensions to bring high quality cooking to those from other worlds and lifeforms. One day, a random demon girl Aletta finds her way into the establishment, and is given food and work by the owner. How will she adapt to human life and the various patrons?

The Good – Character designs managed to be both simple but different. The premise of this dimension hopping restaurant and its veteran owner has a charm to it too. And it’s always fun to see other species adapting to our world instead of vice versa.

The Bad – For a show about food, this struggles to make it look good compared to other shows like Food Wars or Sweetness & Lightning or even this year’s Acca. One also wonders how far you can actually take that premise, and this show doesn’t seem intent to go anywhere with it anytime soon. There’s also a few “wait what” narrative moments like the dragon being able to see into other dimensions somehow.

The VerdictDROPPED

I don’t think this show is bad, I just don’t think it’ll ever be good because the narrative is focusing on the wrong elements. I mean, why even have the place be in the human world at all, why not just make the restaurant a Tardis? I’d love to be proved wrong, but I don’t see it. Still, if cooking in other realms does tickle your fancy, maybe try reading the Space Battle Lunchtime comics? They’re pretty cool.

Skirt no Naka wa Kedamono deshita.

Length – Short
Studio – Magic Bus
Director – Mitsutaka Noshitani (directorial debut)

Shizuka is a shy girl who had trouble around guys, and runs away from a mixer, only to be picked up by Ryou, another girl who isn’t a fan of mixers and guys. After getting drunk and taking her back home, it’s revealed Ryou is actually a crossdressing guy, who then has his way with Shizuka. I feel sick.

The Good – Ryou’s character design does a solid job of being both feminine but believably a guy when the reveal happens. Also this is uncensored. So there’s that.

The Bad – Rape is bad. Portraying a crossdresser as a rapist is worse. What’s more, I’m pretty sure he got an underage girl drunk. So many red flags. And the whole “you’re mine now, deal with it” bit at the end… blergh.

The VerdictDROPPED

No. Just no. I have no problem with crossdressing or transsexuals in anime, or even with porn in anime (when it makes sense), but this is just a trap raping a girl and essentially making her his victim. The short format ensures there’s no… “nuance” to it either. I’d rather watch just about anything else.

Aho Girl

Length – Half-Length
Studio – Diomedea
Director – Shingo Tamaki (directorial debut)

Yoshiko, one of the stupidest girls I’ve ever seen in anime, is a true moron who loves eating bananas. She constantly torments her friend A-kun in her attempts to seduce and aid him, which leads to plenty of over the top responses from him. That’s it. That’s the show.

The Good – It is nice and mildly satisfying seeing truly stupid characters get ragdolled around. One or two of the brutal one-liners hit home too, like one about how “humans don’t fall in love with monkeys” said straight to Yoshiko’s mother’s face. The support cast seem alright too.

The Bad – It’s that straight guy style of humour that Japan loves played to its zenith, meaning characters too stupid to possibly exist. As such, 95% of the jokes fall flat on their arse, and make you just facepalm and pray for the show to end. The opening is also pretty lazy. And did I mention how much I hate Yoshiko?

The VerdictDROPPED

Even putting aside my disdain for stupid characters, this show offers literally nothing else besides its brand of comedy. I’ve no doubt some will find it hilarious. I did not. The only redeeming factor was the lead guy knocking Yoshiko around for her asinine behaviour. Not that that’s enough to make me even consider carrying on with this crap.

Tsurezure Children

Length – Half-Length
Studio – Studio Gokumi
Director – Hiraku Kaneko (Valkyrie Drive, Seikon no Qwaser)

Watch various skits of young love, covering all types of relationships, confessions and romance. Will these kids find their happy ending?

The Good – Each skit only lasted a few minutes, allowing it to start, tell it’s jokes and story and end without getting old, and having them all revolving around a core theme helps tie it all together too. It was all very endearing too, with characters that you want to root for.

The Bad – The artstyle is a little bland, and there’s no real long-term investment happening in any of the characters due to their seemingly one and done nature.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

Didn’t expect to be as charmed by this as I was, but the variety and pacing helped keep this engaging, and the characters, while nothing particularly in-depth, all played off well with each other. I couldn’t call this an essential show of the season, but it’s one I would like to see more of if I find the time.

Nana Maru San Batsu

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – TMS Entertainment
Director – Masaharu Okuwaki (12-sai, Lupin III Dragon of Doom)

Upon his arrival in high school, Shiki is thrown into the crazy world of quiz bowl, where it’s fastest finger first to answer all the questions. Having led a sheltered bookworm’s life, what new friends will he make and experiences will he enjoy as he tries to become the quiz king.

The Good – The quizmaster’s energy and passion is cool to see, as he stands out above the rest of the cast as the reason to give a damn about quiz bowls. The show did a good job of accentuating the drama too, but still finding time for jokes (like the tennis club’s attempt at “promotion”). Also having the titles be Q – role name A – person was cool.

The Bad – Weirdly inconsistent writing, from different ways of dealing with wrong answer’s to people getting really hyped over the main character answering a question but not the girl rapidly answering several before. And people answering questions before they could legitimately know the answer. Speaking of the girl, her voice felt… odd. I rarely comment on vocal choices, but she is definitely a weird one.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

Well, this is certainly something different for what I guess is a… sports anime? Sadly I don’t see there being much nuance or future in “push the button fast”, even if the show goes for a trying to predict the quizmaster angle. Add in my gripes with the writing and two fairly bland lead characters, and I don’t see this being a big thing. Though I guess if you want an alternative shōnen / sports show, this could fit that bill.

Netsuzou TRap

Length – Half-Length ~ 12 eps
Studio – Creators in Pack
Director – Hisayoshi Hirasawa (Danchigai, Ozmafia)

aka NTR. Yuma and Hotaru are childhood friends both now in relationships with their high school sweethearts. But when Yuma asks for advice, she gets more than she bargained for as Hotaru starts hitting on her and “practicing” the ways of romance. And so begins a tangled web of relationships and romance.

The Good – At just nine minutes, this show flies by, pacing itself just right. There’s also clearly a complicated relationship between the guys and girls, alluded to by the ending, which is ripe for exploring and maybe explaining why Hotaru is seemingly trying to steal Yuma.

The Bad – It never goes into rape territory like a show earlier in this part, but there’s definite elements of molestation which goes with the “NTR” (netorare, aka cuckolding) territory. Didn’t really need a full length opening either eating up a chunk of the show’s runtime. Neither guy really gets a chance to do anything in this episode either.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

I can see this show entering some uncomfortable areas down the line, and it’s hard to say if this’ll treat it seriously or just go “lol lesbians”. Sadly I’m leaning into the latter from the lack of focus on the male perspective, and the show spending way more time showing a girl on girl kiss than a girl on guy one, but there’s still some potential here, so maaaaaybe it’ll turn out alright if you like more unusual romance series.

Saiyuuki RELOAD BLAST

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Platinum Vision
Director – Hideaki Nakano (Servamp, Aoharu x Kikanjuu)

Sequel to 2004’s Saiyuuki Reload Gunlock. In an era where demon’s from the west cause chaos across the world, a travelling priest and his three followers are on a journey to wipe out the demon’s and restore order to the world. Leaving a trail of corpses in their wake, this is their journey.

The Good – The show had no qualms about getting violent, with the four leads viciously hacking into demons and claret spraying everywhere, and giving them different fighting styles. It also did a good job setting up the negative tone of a world that has descended far from where it used to be. Ending credits told a nice story through still images too.

The Bad – All four of the leads were fairly bland, having near identical personalities along with anime tropes of being loud, hungry, sleeping a lot and dishevelled. Writing though it was a lot clever than its actual execution too, going for a moral message that the village should’ve remained upbeat when everyone around them was dying and they were in extreme danger. The “resolution” didn’t really fix anything either.

The VerdictDROPPED

Maybe there’s more to this if you watched the show a decade plus ago, and it’s not like you can’t just jump in here, but there’s nothing really to this. It’s four bland dudes on a journey to slay “demons” (orcs and elves) and little more. And cool action stills can’t make up for poor writing. One that should’ve been consigned to the history books.

DIVE!!

Length – Regular
Studio – Zero-G
Director – Kaoru Suzuki (Pupipo)

This season’s noitaminA show. On the verge of being shut down, the Mizuki Diving Club is given one last chance, if it can field athletes to the next Olympic Games it can remain open. With a new coach to aid them and passionate members who want to succeed, will they make it, or will this be their last hurrah?

The Good – Some good background music. The “role model” character of Youichi strode a good line of confidence but supportiveness, and made sense in his role as star athlete and catalyst for the main character. The female coach imposed her presence well in the little time she got. I liked the face designs too.

The Bad – For a show about diving, man the diving sequences looked bad. Jerky animation that needed a bunch more in-betweens. Some weird effects too, like this water reflection on character’s sides when it made no sense for such an effect to be there. And Tomoki, the lead, has a weirdly standoffish personality when away from the pool. He’s distant and kind of a jerk for no real reason. It’s not even teen angst, so it just makes him come across as a prick.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

I feel when this picks up and maybe explains Tomoki a little more this show will improve a bit, but until then this is a rough first episode. Heck, when you can’t even make the thing your show is named after look good, you’re in trouble. This is easily the weakest noitaminA show in a while, and as many have pointed out, a somewhat obvious attempt at recreating Kyoto Animation series Free’s success. But without either the visuals or characters capable of carrying this show, I don’t see this turning out well.

Konbini Kareshi

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Studio Pierrot
Director – Hayato Date (Naruto, Tokyo Underground)

The story of six high school girls and six high school boys and their relationships. Also the local convenience store where they keep meeting up.

The Good – Some really great musical choices, from a strong opening to a good ending song to several great pieces in montages. This episode does a good job of putting the four main characters centre stage too, and letting their personalities and backstories shine through their actions before they’ve even said a word. A well put together show, in other words.

The Bad – The extended cast, most of whom appeared for the first time in a montage at the end of the episode, aren’t gonna help keep this show focused. Some of the photographic backgrounds also looked weird. And there’s the undeniably vanilla feeling to everything, with nothing unique or defining about the series or characters.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

Konbini Kareshi is a fairly plain romance show but with good production values, especially in the audio department, that help it shine brighter than most of its contempories. Whether it can find a voice of its own or keep this up for an entire season is another matter, but I certainly wouldn’t object to watching a few more episodes if I get the chance.

So, no keepers, but three possiblies… that are all romance. Typecast? Me? Nooooo.

Join us next time for the third batch of Summer series, including this season’s most promising show, Welcome to the Ballroom. Could it be the next big thing? We shall see.