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Jul 11

Summer Anime 2017 First Episode Impressions – Part 3

Don’t you have a pet eagle?

Our coverage of the summer anime season continues, with another eleven shows that aired from the 7th to the 10th. Who says we can’t be up to date here?

Spearheading this section we have Welcome to the Ballroom, a highly anticipated series about… ballroom dancing. Will it be the next Yuri on Ice? Elsewhere, we’ve got monster girls in Centaur’s Worries, orphans in Made in Abyss and Tenshi no 3P, and a bunch more. But are any of them keepers?

 

Made in Abyss

Length – Regular ~ 13 eps
Studio – Kinema Citrus
Director – Masayuki Kojima (Monster, Master Keaton)

The Abyss is a pit that stretches down many kilometers into the Earth, and is the only unexplored place left on the planet. Full of primordial creatures and ancient relics, many seek their fame and fortune in its depths. One orphanage trains kids to explore, and Riko, one of its residents, one day discovers a mysterious robot boy. The mysteries are only just beginning…

The Good – Great world design, both visually and narratively. The image of the giant Abyss and the town around it is a striking visual which the episode closes on, and there’s lots of avenues to explore with the narrative now, like all the main cast being orphans and Riko’s (deceased) mother. Riko also is an interesting character herself, determined, inquisitive, and a tad mischievous, but good-hearted. Robotic boy Reg also comes across well. And the few musical numbers of this episode impress.

The Bad – There’s a few animation and narrative blips, especially during the opening chase, with a few more in-betweens needed for the visuals, as well as not having Riko be smashed along the ground, crash into a stone wall and fall down a deep pit and survive it with no injuries at all. Also giving the robot the age old amnesia arc seems a bit weird and tiring.

The VerdictKEEPER

I love the world that Made in Abyss crafts, as well as the characters and music, which in turn definitely wants me to come back for more. While I do have a few complaints, they’re all minor and easily fixable as the show continues. Meanwhile, the possibilities the story has to explore, from character’s (and their parents) to the nature of the relics to the origins of the abyss itself, all excite me. I can’t wait to dive further into this world over the next few months.

18if

Length – Regular ~ 13 eps
Studio – Gonzo
Director – Kouji Morimoto (The Animatrix, Memories)

Haruto is locked within a world of dreams, inhabited by a mysterious girl in white who claims to be his sister, a cat claiming to be a professor, and witches who control this realm and bend it and its inhabitants to their will, while their real world selves sleep eternally. Can Haruto free them all, or be lost in an endless dream?

The Good – This show certainly capture’s the dream aesthetic, with lots of unusual swooping shots, scale distortions and visual weirdness. I like the fundamental narrative of trying to set these all-powerful witches free from their dream prisons of their own creation, too.

The Bad – Writing was all over the shop, with little making sense. I get that’s partially on purpose, but even the resolution was a confusing mess where I struggled to follow anything the lead character and witch were actually saying. Trying to big up death after Haruto had already been eaten once was also bizarre, and the animation was kinda bland despite the dream aesthetic. Haruto’s also a pretty boring lead character, lacking personality or any real interest in his surroundings.

The VerdictDROPPED

I can see what they were trying for, afterall, dream prisons have been used in other series to great effect (like Gurren Lagann and Gravity Falls), but this show lacks the strong writing needed to keep it all together. Instead, it often contradicts itself and builds up characters who ultimately feel fairly meaningless, saying their importance but never showing it. Maybe the game version of this (it’s a multimedia project) will work better, but this anime version ain’t worth a damn.

Vatican Kiseki Chousakan

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – J.C. Staff
Director – Yoshitomo Yonetani (Food Wars, Tiger & Bunny movies)

aka Vatican Miracle Examiners. People from the Vatican examine miracles. Simple. Well, until they head over to the Church of Saint Rosario, where a woman has conceived without intercourse, kids are trying to summon demons and the devil’s influence seems to be everywhere. And that’s before one of the fathers is murdered…

The Good – The core premise is pretty cool. This isn’t ye olde religious zealots either, the investigating duo use science and technology as much as scripture and intuition. The two seem pretty sharp as well in their quest to unravel what’s happening. Some nice details too, like the one guy e-mailing somebody in Italian instead of Japanese.

The Bad – This show plays up the drama a bit too much, with dialogue flowing too fast at times, and the music amping up just normal talking scenes. This show doesn’t understand the idea of taking a moment, put it like that. There’s a lot of characters too, with few of them getting any screentime to establish anything other than their name and title.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

While I’m totally down with a religious version of Mythbusters meets Midsummer Murders, and the leading duo of Robert and Kou (especially the latter) have good chemistry, this show’s inability to slow down stops me from buying in. Maybe it’s just a rushed first episode so they can focus later on, but it feels more like the directorial style is to flatout sprint from start to finish, giving a lot of moments far less impact than they should have. I still imagine this’ll be solid… but not as spectacular as it could’ve been.

Shoukoku no Altair

Length – Regular ~ 24 eps
Studio – Mappa
Director – Kazuhiro Furuhashi (Hunter x Hunter, Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn)

aka Altair: A Record of Battles. Mahmut has recently been made a Pasha of Turkiye, an expert in combat also trusted with keeping the peace from enemies both within and outside. But with many snakes around who want nothing but war, can one young boy really maintain world peace?

The Good – This show wears its themes proudly, a mix of Turkish and Ottoman culture, which creates a vibrant and rarely seen look in anime (best point of comparison is probably Magi). Mahmut is also a good lead character, talented but overeager to prove himself at times. I really enjoyed his use of his hawk (I think) as well in combat.

The Bad – The flashback scenes often felt randomly placed, and with no dialogue made it a bit tricky to pick up on what was happening. A bunch of the support cast also doesn’t really get to do anything this episode, having a few lines of dialogue with Mahmut but little else. The episode also neatly ties up everything at the end, leading to the narrator having to essentially tell the viewer not to wander off, with things being far from over.

The VerdictKEEPER

It’s always cool to see anime exploring areas and cultures outside of “Japanese high school”. Throw in an interesting lead character, an intriguing support cast who I speculate will come into their own as the series progresses, and a bunch of conflict from other nations and personalities, and you’ve got another show I see flowering into something great. And that bird man. I can’t get enough of him.

Hitorijime My Hero

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Encourage Films
Director – Yukina Hiiro (Chuu Bra, Gakuen Heaven)

Masahiro is the lowest delinquent in his local gang, a kid with nowhere to really fit in. That all changes one day when Kousuke, aka The Bear Killer, runs the gang out of town. Now a highschooler, the two reunite when Kousuke transfers to his school to teach maths. With him continually protecting Masahiro, feeling between the two start to blossom…

The Good – Good to see connections between all the major cast members established early. Having the previous gang destroyer become a teacher was a nice little surprise too. Plus the opening was alright.

The Bad – This show taking place in two time periods made things quite confusing at times, as the jumps from one to the other weren’t always obvious. It didn’t help either that it built up the older timeline first before essentially throwing it away. None of the lead characters really showcased any personality either. Female characters were practically non-existent too.

The VerdictDROPPED

While there’s a few neat threads to this yaoi, like the kid who hates heroes essentially falling for one, this episode makes it all so convoluted, especially with the time jumps. Not having any interesting characters to engage with only further heightened my disinterest with it all. You’re not short of romance shows this season either (though admittedly this is the only yaoi one), so I’d look elsewhere for your loving kicks.

Action Heroine Cheer Fruits

Length – Regular
Studio – Diomedea
Director – Keizou Kusakawa (Dog Days, Fuuka)

Local heroines have taken Japan by storm, with live action events being held all over the country. After replicating a performance for her little sister, Mikan and An are drafted to represent their town. Can they rise all the way to the top of the ranking and come face to face with their idol?

The Good – I liked An as one of the leads, a talented athlete willing to do what’s right and throw herself around in the name of both having fun and letting others have fun. The classical super hero touches were cool too, from rider kicks to a retro opening theme.

The Bad – Other lead character Mikan was so… light? She has so little impact despite being a main character it feels weird. Plenty of dumb and cringe moments too, from cops ignoring confessions to An not wearing the mask that makes her look like the hero despite that being the whole point. The animation itself is fairly bland too, and side characters pop up for all of two lines before vanishing, never to be seen again.

The VerdictDROPPED

I’m being a tad harsh on this one, but there’s so little flair or real uniqueness to it. Local idols have been done several times before, and a bunch of mostly generic cutesy school girls doesn’t help proceedings either. An is a fun character, but she’s the only light in a bland ocean, so I’d leave this one behind.

Jikan no Shihaisha

Length – Regular
Studio – Project No. 9
Director – Masato Matsune (Chaos Dragon: Sekiryuu Seneki)

aka Chronos Ruler. A pair of brothers fight off time-eating demons that materialise when someone wishes for days gone by. But every fight is another sacrifice they must make on their path to redemption.

The Good – Victo, one of the brothers, carried the show, managing to be both light-hearted and seriousness when needed, as well as the main fighting force and more “damaged” member of the duo. Show also did a good job of ensuring time was a running them throughout, from designs to abilities and more, as well as having some neat callbacks and good writing. Plus some cool battle music.

The Bad – The other brother, Wu, did little of consequence in this episode, despite being the more serious and stalwart one. The show also puts a good chunk of time into developing its one and done ep character, making her role seem more than it actually is. Also it’s weird how Victo is surprised throwing a few cards at a demon doesn’t in fact slay it.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

I imagine Wu’s lack of meaningful presence in this episode is something that’ll be fixed as the show goes on, especially with the actually shocking reveal at the end, but there’s not much setup in the way of long term plothooks here. It’s definitely a solid production, and one that’ll no doubt please people after something more akin to standard shōnen, but lacks that final spark to make it essential.

Ballroom e Youkoso

Length – Regular ~ 24 eps
Studio – Production I.G
Director – Yoshimi Itazu (Mitsuami no Kamisama)

aka Welcome to the Ballroom. Most anticipated show of the season. Tatara is a kid with no ambitions in life. But one day Sengoku saves him from bullies, and introduces him to the world of dance. While originally just going with the flow, watching a dance competition makes him fall in love, as he finally finds a motivation and goal for the future.

The Good – A nice visual style, with characters having more defining lines on their faces, and full Clamp-esque (read: noodle people) posing while dancing. A hardworking lead character in Tatara, and some great accompanying cast in this episode, all showing off their personalities and impacting the plot. There’s plenty of scope for this to evolve too as we delve further into the world of ballroom dancing. A good ending too.

The Bad – Tatara going from begging to dance to being a smartass with his opportunity felt a bit weird, as did his apparent ability to dance all night long. Dancing seemed to just be keyframes at this point too, with no real flow. A fairly mute palette to the show too for the main.

The VerdictKEEPER

One of only two dance focused series in recent times, Welcome to the Ballroom certainly stands out on premise alone. And while it’s not quite as strong a start as said other series (Yuri on Ice) thanks to the more traditional starting out from nothing template, this still has a flair of its own, and an interesting cast of confident, talented and interesting individuals, which play off well with the passion of Tatara. It’s not hard to see why this show got people excited, and I’m no different. One to watch this season.

Centaur no Nayami

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Emon
Director – Naoyuki Konno (Togainu no Chi, 009-1)

aka Centaur’s Worries. Set in a world where humanity evolved to be various types of monster people and there are no “normals”, we focus on the daily school life of Himeno, a centaur, Nozomi, a draconid, and Naraku, a goatfolk, and the rest of their class as they move through their childhood life.

The Good – By having no “standard” humans, this immediately removes a lot of conversations about differences and politics and such that are well trodden ground, while also giving us a bunch of subtle design differences from character to character. There’s a level of charm to most of the cast too, as they earnestly care about and support each other. Some nice musical pieces too.

The Bad – The narrative is about as generic as it gets for school slife. Characters are also pretty vanilla, with no real personalities or driving force. Weird to have the opening in the middle of the show too.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

Nice as it is to have another monster human show that isn’t sexualized garbage, this is still fundamentally just another slice of life show featuring schoolgirls. Yeah, sure, one’s a centaur, and maybe that affects one or two conversations, but on the whole this is something you’ve seen many times before, except that girl now has horns or wings. I’d stick with Winter’s Interviews with Monster Girls for a monster show that breaks the mould.

Princess Principal

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Studio 3Hz / Actas
Director – Masaki Tachibana (Barakamon, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0)

In Industrial Revolution London, a wall divides the east and the west, but risking life and limb in a society divided are a group of five spies, based within the academy they attend. Because they’re all school girls. This is their life of espionage, action and assassination.

The Good – Good music and great backgrounds really help set the scene of 19th century London. This episode moves at quick a lick too, with plenty of moving parts, twists and setups that pay off in the climax. Opens with a strong chase sequence too, that helps showcase the more supernatural powers element of the show. Some interesting characters with plenty of depth to mine, and an ending that didn’t shy away from the whole death element of this type of work.

The Bad – With both a world to establish and an episode plot on top of that, this did become convoluted and confusing at times to keep track of everything. The twist was setup in a way you couldn’t possibly have predicted as a viewer too. And cars move like three times as fast as they should. No idea why.

The VerdictKEEPER

This is jampacked with plot and backstory, and while that does mean this first episode is bursting at the seams, it does create a compelling setting that offers up plenty of potential. And with a good chunk of setup now out of the way, I see future episodes expanding on said potential and letting the rest of its cast shine. Now if only I could figure out why the show’s called Princess Principal…

Tenshi no 3P!

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Project No. 9
Director – Shinsuke Yanagi (And You Thought There Is Never A Girl Online?, Momo Kyun Sword)

Kyou is a shut-in who spends his days making Vocaloid songs, and is one day asked by a fan if he wants to meet up. Said fan turns out to be three elementary school orphans, all talented with musical instruments, who want to enlist his help in making a concert…

The Good – Some solid songs as you’d expect from a music-orientated show. Kyou’s shut-in status isn’t overplayed either, with him having bad anxiety but not being crippled by it. And if you like your retro musical instruments and gear, well, you’re in for a treat.

The Bad – Introducing elements of sexuality to a show with elementary schoolers is treading a very dangerous line, even if it is mostly minor. Weird how a trio of orphans have this church to themselves too. We also have two other female characters who are built a little then essentially discarded, with one classmate sticking up for Kyou aggressively for no reason. Oh, and the song performances had some bad CG shots and mostly still animation, with no life or energy to match the song being played.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

Tenshi may have been better in some areas than I expected, like having a hikikomori lead character who wasn’t useless, but general weirdness in narrative and a lack of emotion to the music really drag it down. Why elementary school girls? Why not better utilise the first two girls who you spend a minute or two building? Why only switch to CG models for shots that don’t really need them? There’s just too many red flags to buy in, even if I imagine things will turn out okay in the end.

Wooooah, is that four keepers in one part? That might be the most ever! Made in Abyss, Shoukoku no Altair, Ballroom e Youkoso and Princess Principal prove there are good shows to be found this season. That or I’m going soft.

Join us at the tailend of the week for the final batch of Summer goodness, including the second season of 2016 hit New Game and a whole bunch of shorts, including the return of my beloved Teekyuu. Can’t wait to find out what I’m gonna write about that particular show this time, heh.