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Jul 16

Summer Anime 2017 First Episode Impressions – Part 4

Dev Lyfe

And just as quick as we started, here we are, at the end of the summer first episodes. Well, okay, that’s not strictly true, there’s a couple airing in the tailend of July and one or two in August but… I dunno, maybe I’ll get round to them another time.

Anyways, this part contains July 11th to 14th, which includes most of the season’s shorts, amongst others. There’s comedy, there’s history, and there’s Teekyuu, because of course there is. In better shows, we have the second season of New Game, and the SAO of the season in Smartphone yadda yadda. It’s the first show on the list, so just scroll down to see the title, I ain’t typing it out twice.

Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni.

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Production Reed
Director – Takeyuki Yanase (Himegoto, Hakone-chan)

aka In Another World With My Smartphone. Touya is accidentally killed by God in our world, so to apologise, he reincarnates him in another world, giving him superior strength, speed and magical abilities, as well as letting him take one item. So Touya awakes in a new world, armed with his smartphone, and ready to start his all new life. SAO was five years ago now. Why are we still doing this? Will it ever end?

The Good – This is a smooth opening episode that deftly guides you through the rules of its world one element at a time. Here’s the guilds bit, here’s the magic bit, here’s the limitations of his phone and so on. There’s also a few bits of good humour (a clothes merchant wanting to buy all his other-world wears giving Touya his first chunk of cash), and all the main cast are fairly likeable.

The Bad – Touya makes Kirito from SAO look like a bitch. With God’s blessing he’s overpowered as hell, capable of outpowering, outspeeding and outcasting everything. And with his phone to research stuff, he has access to an infinite encyclopedia too. And nobody really questions this seriously. There’s also the inevitable all his companions are / will be female bit.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

So it’s not like this shtick offends me, or that I have a problem with human in a fantasy world series, even if it’s been overdone as heck post-SAO, but you can’t look past that Touya might as well be a god in this world, and it’s incredibly hard to see how he’ll ever struggle outside of which female he interacts with at any given moment. It’s not a bad show, it’s just… not an interesting one.

New Game!!

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Doga Kobo
Director – Yoshiyuki Fujiwara (GJ-bu, New Game!)

Second season of New Game! One year since Aoba was hired by video game developed Eagle Jump, the daily lives of their all-female employees continue, as they start to collect ideas for their next title. Will Aoba finally step into the spotlight and achieve her dream of becoming a character artist?

The Good – All the characters are still likeable and have good chemistry together, plus this episode highlights how several of them have evolved. Setting this up as one year later and with no big project also provides a good jumping in point for new viewers. Plus there’s the usual bright and colourful animation and decent soundtrack.

The Bad – A few random animeisms like fanservice shots and overexaggerated faces for no reason. This episode also takes a long time to find its way, meandering around with idle chitchat for a good chunk of the runtime. And it’s weird how it focuses on a core seven staff then at the end has dozens of people standing around who’ve never even been seen prior.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

Yes, I’m biased, as a man who did a coding degree. Heck, the (now lead) programmer was my favourite character. But there’s a charm to New Game that has always helped elevate it, which combined with its partial realism makes it a stronger series than a cutesy all-female show would normally be. It’s still a bit too fluffy for me to call it must-watch, but it is a solid series well worth checking out if the premise interests you.

Musekinin Galaxy Tylor

Length – Short
Studio – Seven
Director – Hiroshi Kimura (Recorder and Randsell, Danchigai)

aka The Irresponsible Galaxy Tylor. Alternate version of Captain Tylor. Tylor is a laid-back guy who works with his robot friend to recover and sell junk from the fringes of their galaxy. But one day he gets more than he bargained for when he rescues a girl, who turns out to be very important indeed. Probably. That part wasn’t in this ep.

The Good – Does a solid job of setting up the world they live in, and the not-great lifestyle that Tylor currently lives in.

The Bad – Not much makes sense. There’s some major leaps because of the short format, such as the rescue scene being the robot makes three holes then there’s an explosion and then there we are, all saved. Lack of animation hurts it too, with a lot of still scenes. Tylor doesn’t exactly jump out at you as an interesting character either.

The VerdictDROPPED

A subpar short, lacking any of its big brothers charm… or animation… or writing… or anything. I can’t think of a single reason to recommend watching this, so, er… don’t.

Mahoujin Guru Guru (2017)

Length – Regular ~ 24 eps
Studio – Production I.G
Director – Hiroshi Ikehata (Robot Girls Z, FLCL 2)

aka Magical Circle. 25th anniversary adaptation. Demon King Giri is free once again after the old protective seal wore off, so the king puts out a call for new adventures. Hurried along by their parents and guardians, Hero Nike and Mage Kukuri end up answering the call and begin their journey to save the world.

The Good – I.G have done a great job of bringing a retro artstyle to live with more modern production values, making something that looks old but flows new. Having sprite-scenes straight out of a JRPG looks cool too. And there’s a few genuinely good jokes, like equipping money and having the Laughing Man symbol show up as a magic circle.

The Bad – Sadly, Japan being Japan, there’s a lot of random humour, from parents forcing their barely teenage kids out the door to everybody being stupid to some varying degree for comic effect. Plenty of narrative “because that’s the way it is” moments too, like having a hall of heroes walk away instead of saving the kingdom.

The VerdictDROPPED

Charming as the artstyle is, this is fundamentally another JRPG parody show that spends too long crafting stupidity instead of actual comedy. I could count the number of good jokes on one hand, and in a regular sized show, that just ain’t gonna cut it.

Clione no Akari

Length – Half-Length ~ 12 eps
Studio – drop
Director – Naoya Ishikawa (Magical Chocolate, Kuttsukiboshi)

Minori is a sickly orphan, constantly bullied at school for being so slow. Takashi and Kyouko, a guy and a girl who care for each other, worry about her but don’t have the strength to reach out and help. Apparently later on Minori vanishes, then two months later there’s some weird e-mail, but none of that happens in this episode.

The Good – They may not be likeable, but most of the cast is fairly true to teenagers in school. Minori is the almost designated bullied person, and then you have the rest at various levels of popularity. There’s scope for some good gradual storytelling down the line too…

The Bad – …until you read the premise and realise it probably ain’t going that way. Also, Minori’s slowness is to the point of disability, making you wonder why she’s not in a more specialised class or has other support. This is going to go at a glacial pace as well, considering this episode only barely establishes the fundamentals in 9 minutes.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

I don’t mind the drama elements and the slow pacing too much, but that premise sounds like such a left-turn from the show this first episode sets up, and there’s certainly nothing in terms of production or narrative that grips or invests you. Maybe it’ll turn out okay, but I’m not confident.

Ikemen Sengoku: Toki wo Kakeru ga Koi wa Hajimaranai

Length – Short ~ 12 eps
Studio – Jinni’s Animation Studio / TMS Entertainment
Director – Shigeyuki Watanabe (directorial debut)

aka Ikemen Sengoku: Love Won’t Start by Crossing Through Time. A student slips through time to the era of Nobunaga, and ends up becoming his retainer. How will the reality of history differ from the textbooks?

The Good – They played tennis? The rare 2D drawings looked okay too.

The Bad – Chibi CG models that didn’t look all that great and didn’t allow for any kind of motion or emotion. A bunch of silly moments like people getting way too close to each other and the whole tennis scenario. Plus this just drew out a single joke for a good minute or two instead of coming up with fresh comedy.

The VerdictDROPPED

Every season has a Nobunaga show, and here’s this one. Lame comedy with a cheapo artstyle because it’s a short. Never seen that before. If you’re set on a Nobunaga short, watch Nobunaga no Shinobi, that at least manages to do something somewhat different and comedic.

Teekyuu 9

Length – not Short enough ~ 12 too many eps
Studio – Millepensee
Director – Shin Itagaki (Teekyuu, Teekyuu 2, Teekyuu 3, Teekyuu 4, Teekyuu 5, Teekyuu 6, Teekyuu 7, Teekyuu 8)

Ninth season of Teekyuu. Plot? This show has a plot? I’ve been watching first episodes of this wank for years and I’ve never picked up on one. I think there’s tennis involved. Maybe. Sometime.

The Good – 60 of the 150 seconds were openings and endings meaning I could listen to music and pretend this was a good series.

The Bad – It’s mile a minute terrible comedy. Haha, look at this alien girl lose all her money and take dumps. Hilarious. Characterisation? Narrative? Pfft, who needs that, here she is at a hostess bar. Animation is mostly non-existent.

The VerdictDROPPED

This is not the worst first episode of Teekyuu I’ve seen. And seeing as how this franchise needs to sell like five BluRays per season to ensure its continued existence, I bet it won’t be the last one either. So I guess I’ll see you in season ten, Teekyuu.

Nora to Oujo no Noraneko Heart

Length – Short ~ 12 eps
Studio – DMM.futureworks / W-Toon Studio
Director – Kenshirou Morii (FMA Brotherhood 4-koma Theatre, Wake Up Girl Zoo)

aka Nora, Princess and Stray Cat. One day Nora is transformed into a cat by the witch Patricia. She tells him and his three (female) friends that the only way to return him to normal is to give him a kiss. If that sounds like a visual novel… well, it is.

The Good – Having everybody know who the cat is avoids some cliché comedy pitfalls and allows Nora to showcase personality. The four girls all feel different enough as well, and the show moves allow at a solid pace, with scenes not too short or too long.

The Bad – Visual novel, so obviously the all female cast are romantically inclined towards Nora. And having the method of restoration, kissing the cat, be so simple makes you wonder how on Earth it’ll be stretched out over an entire season.

The VerdictDROPPED

There’s some potential for comedy and romance and drama here, but I imagine most of it will be drowned out by visual novel inspired lewdity. Plus the premise has no long-term prospects at all. But hey, maybe one day I’ll check out the game, it sounds like there’s more to that version.

Hajimete no Gal

Length – Regular ~ 10 eps
Studio – NAZ
Director – Hiroyuki Furukawa (Masou Gakuen HxH, Shin Strange+)

In his second year of highschool, Junichi is still part of the lonely virgin’s club. Determined to break that spell no matter what, and coerced into by his companions, he asks out the school gal, Yame. And is stunned when she goes along with it. So begins this romcom.

The Good – Yame herself was an interesting character, taking no shit from the weirdos but having a fun and mind-messing side. A couple of the other female cast members seemed okay at first glance. And we got a Hentai Kamen reference, which is always cool.

The Bad – Oh boy pervert humour. The three support guys are all creeps of the highest fucking order, fantasising about fucking little girls and talking in a manner that would get them committed. Lead Junichi is just as bad, trying to rise above but crumbling like a brick at the first sign of resistance. Also tons of fanservice (weirdly filtered in the version I watched, despite there being nothing 18+) and an unbelievably forced “sure, I’ll go out with you” ending that comes out of nowhere.

The VerdictDROPPED

I thought we’d gotten past this type of show, but I guess not. Isn’t pervert humour hilarious? No. It makes me want to vomit. There’s a few flashes of something that could be decent, with a guy out of his depth trying to survive, but it’s drowned under panty shots and “boy I wanna get laid”. Basically, it’s trash.

Youkoso Jitsuryoku Shijou Shugi no Kyoushitsu e

Length – Regular
Studio – Lerche
Director – Seiji Kishi (Angel Beats, Persona 4) / Hiroyuki Hashimoto (Is The Order A Rabbit, Magical Girl Raising Project)

aka Classroom of the Elite. At a state-funded highschool which virtually guarantees you placement in college or work upon graduation, all you have to do is perform to survive. But there’s a lot going on behind the scenes, and it’s your rank that determines how you fare, and for the Class of 1-D, where all the worst prospects are placed, it’s going to be one long uphill battle.

The Good – This show does a good job of explaining its premise, both at the start and when the twist at the end happens. You can also quickly cotton on to character personalities, while the lead trio get enough time to establish themselves a little more. I also liked the animation and music, and the directness and fast pacing kept things going well.

The Bad – Said twist comes off as full edgelord though, with an entire class punished instead of problem individuals, and when said punishment affects their health and wellbeing, it’s kind of jarring and breaks immersion. The leads are also pretty bland too, from the emotionless male one to the confrontational female one, with neither exactly making you emphasise, even if they are some of the smartest in their class. And a few fanservice shots. Because.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

I knew the reveal moment would make or break this show, and sadly it did more damage than good. Making a school about inequality, where you’re judged before you even begin can work well as a concept, but showing no nuance and going full on with the punishment is just so lazy it makes you question the entire ordeal. And that’s before you factor in the two fairly stoic leads. Basically, this show has promise, but I just can’t see it being all that enjoyable.

Gamers!

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Pine Jam
Director – Manabu Okamoto (episode director on Re:Zero, Akame ga Kill)

Karen is on a mission, to recruit the best gamers at her school into her club so they can improve and win competitions. This search leads her to Keita, a guy who just plays games for the enjoyment of it. Can she win him over? Also apparently this is a romcom and there’s a bunch of other male and female cast members but not a lot of that comes through in this episode.

The Good – Kinda different to see a gaming anime focused on competitive instead of development or just playing. There’s a nice varied cast of male and female characters too, with plenty of faces introduced ready to be developed further down the line. Plus the animation was colorful and they actually put in effort to represent actual games in the show.

The Bad – A selection of fanservice shots, a lead guy who comes across as unfathomably stupid at times, numerous attempts at comedy by talking about the downfall of characters like that’s gonna be utterly hilarious, and… well, no real long-term plothook, outside of maybe they’ll keep trying to recruit the lead? You could comfortably end this show after this episode though. Also an opening moment that makes no sense when you see it, and makes no sense by the end of the episode either.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

This wasn’t the “amg gurls play gaaames” harem show I half expected. And I do like the cast of the show, and feel that down the line when they’re all properly established, you could definitely get some good laughs and drama out of it all. But I don’t see this show ever reaching that point, thanks to some facepalm moments, animeisms and a main character having to constantly be the foil for others (and himself). Hopefully I’m wrong though, I’d love the fighting game girl to become a thing on social media.

Jigoku Shoujo: Yoi no Togi

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Studio Deen
Director – Takahiro Omori (Baccano, Samurai Flamenco)

aka Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight. Fourth season of Hell Girl (third was back in 2008). At a mysterious website at midnight, you can type the name of somebody you want to curse straight to Hell. Maybe, just maybe, Hell Girl will answer the call and help you with your problem. Just beware, for if you do seek your vengeance, you too will go to Hell upon your demise…

The Good – Hell Girl looked visually different from the rest of the cast, giving her a creepy not of this world vibe. You don’t need to have seen past seasons either to jump in here, with a fairly simple premise and episodic formula. The plot does keep you guessing who the real villain is until the very end too.

The Bad – Pretty weak narrative, with a metaplot that barely attempts to exist, hell characters who have no impact on the plot, and an ending that pretty much makes everybody look like a dick making for an unsatisfying resolution. Plus the “hell torture” scene which the show builds up to throughout feels really weak. Animation is fairly meh too.

The VerdictDROPPED

So do you rate a narrative as good because it has plenty of twists or bad because it leaves everything a mess with no real resolution? With this, I lean to the latter, as it seems to want to make you leave hating everyone. Either way, combined with some weak animation, mostly forgettable cast and no long-term plothooks, I don’t see the return of Hell Girl setting the world ablaze. Another one for the history books. Wait, didn’t I already use that line?

I’M DONE! No keepers in this part though, so the final score remains at six. Kakegurui and Knight’s & Magic from part one, and Made in Abyss, Princess Principal, Shoukoku no Altair and, of course, Ballroom e Youkoso from part three. Now for the bit where I actually get to kick back and find out if I made the right calls.

So join us next week for three episode impressions of those six, and then more content throughout the summer! And of course, first episode hell will resume this October with the biggest of all anime seasons, the Fall! Can’t wait…