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Oct 06

Fall Anime 2017 First Episode Impressions – Part 2

My, what a big gun you have!

Time for us to continue our journey into the Fall anime season, as I realise I’ve watched about two dozen new shows in under a week. And I’ve got about as many left to go in the week to come. Aaaaaaaaaaaah.

This time, we cover mostly shows that aired between the 4th and 6th, though a few others have snuck in too. There’s the return of Kino no Tabi after 14 years away, the obligatory MMO show in Net-juu no Susume, and the first ever all-female staff anime series in Urahara. Aaaand there’s also keepers! But was it any of those shows, or something else entirely? Hmmm.

Konohana Kitan

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Lerche
Director – Hideki Okamoto (Da Capo II, Nana and Karou)

In a world where various animals, foxgirls, humans and more reside, there’s an inn atop a hill. This series revolves around its newest employee, a young foxgirl named Yuzu. She’s clumsy but means well, as she adapts to a life of work.

The Good – This has the sickly cute aesthetic down pat. Some good support cast members working at the inn for various reasons or who know how to press the buttons of their staff. Some nice shots too, like Yuzu wistfully looking as her old guardian vanishes forever.

The Bad – Yuzu is a standard bland protagonist for this type of show, and the plot is mostly vanilla fluff, hammered home by how forgiving both staff and guests are. And there’s multiple bathing scenes for your fanservice needs, because of course there is. And if you don’t like sickly cute aesthetics…

The VerdictDROPPED

If you like cutesy vanilla shows, then don’t get me wrong, you’ll probably really enjoy this. But with a pretty boring lead character, next to no actual plot and a vomit-inducing artstyle, even the few positives of this show do next to nothing to make me want to keep watching.

Urahara

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – EMT Squared and Shirogumi
Director – Amika Kubo (directorial debut)

First ever all-female staff anime. Three highschool girls help to run a fashion shop in Harajuku, when a bunch of aliens come to suck up all of Earth’s culture. Using alien artifacts the bad aliens dropped, the three must harness their powers of creativity and imagination to repel the invaders and save Earth.

The Good – A unique aesthetic and directorial style, from the way scenes are composed to the total lack of straight lines and colourful palette. The three leads somewhat defy tropes too, just being gals with passion for their various hobbies, especially Mari. Using imagination to attract and defeat culture stealers makes sense too.

The Bad – Everything feels… airy fairy? Things just happen and the trio kinda just react as if the events aren’t really a part of reality. It’s so jarring and makes it hard to invest in anything. Also if aliens steal buildings why does everyone keep telling people to stay indoors? The unusual artstyle comes off as cheap at times too, with stills or unfinished looking elements.

The VerdictDROPPED

Dropped feels almost too crass, as I do like a lot of what this show has to offer. But the non-impact everything seems to have and the utter calmness as Earth is ravaged is maddening. If I watched this show, I’d go bald. Which is a shame, as directorially this does great. Just… take something seriously. Anything. Please. Gah.

Tsukipro The Animation

Length – Regular ~ 13 eps
Studio – PRA
Director – Juria Matsumura (ep director on Digimon Adventure tri 1)

This year, the annual Tsukipro Concert takes place at the Budokan, and four of their hot upcoming bands have to create four new songs to perform and prove they’re ready to take the mantle for the company. This series focuses on the four members of SolidS as they make that journey to stardom.

The Good – Keeping the focus tight on one band makes it a lot easier to get to know characters, and the show sets a long enough timeframe to let developments happen naturally. Very pretty at moments too, especially the cherry blossom. And the usual musical focus is nice as always.

The Bad – None of the members of SolidS really come across as interesting in this episode, and the show timeskips a bunch for no real reason. The usual CG performances look pretty mediocre too. Not really sold on the 2D animation either, something feels off at times.

The VerdictDROPPED

There’s been male idol shows before and there’ll be male idol shows again, and this just sits there as one more for the pile. It does some things alright, but it does nothing particularly well, and gives you no reason to really pick this over any of its competition. Not even the music feels like it has any life to it, so why bother.

Infini-T Force

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Tatsunoko Production
Director – Suzuki Kiyotaka (Imarine Project, FLCL 3)

The villainous Z is out to destroy other worlds, and in the process ends up warping a few of their heroes to Earth. Meanwhile, one particularly morbid girl ends up granted the power of creation, and so the heroes must protect her to stop Earth being wiped away too. Features characters inspired by classic popular hero series such as Casshern and Gatchaman.

The Good – The 3D CG artstyle feels much more akin to western or game CG than anime’s usual iffy attempts, and looks at its best in the action scenes where there’s more fluidity and movement. Having the story with characters of various experience levels also helps differentiate it from usual origin stories. And having a female lead who doesn’t really seem to care whether she lives or dies works well instead of a damsel in distress.

The Bad – If you’ve seen a sentai or superhero show from Japan before, this isn’t exactly different. Guys transform, fight baddies, there’s a few big villains who teleport away when things go awry, and so on. The CG style doesn’t make for a lot of variety in facial expressions either. City folk are pretty dumb too, struggling to notice a giant flying building land.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

I expected nothing, so to find a production this solid was a pleasant surprise. If you like the Japanese hero format of storytelling, this is a neat series that’ll leave you satisfied. The CG works, the spotlighted characters manage to come across well in the time they’re given, and I’m a sucker for the idea of being able to draw things into life. Not a bombastic must see, but not one you should overlook either.

Ousama Game The Animation

Length – Regular
Studio – Seven
Director – Tokihiro Sasaki (Ojisan and Marshmallow)

aka King’s Game. When Nobuaki and the rest of his class get texts telling them they’ve been entered into a King’s Game, none of them believe it, except Nobuaki who has survived one before. Nobody believes his warnings, until midnight falls and the deaths start rolling in…

The Good – Nobuaki being mentally damaged from the previous King’s Game made sense. And this show has no problem with straight up killing its cast as needed. Nails the aesthetic it’s going for too.

The Bad – Can you say edgelord. Between the overdramatisation, entirely stupid and forgettable cast (including the lead character), and the culling of a good half-dozen people who couldn’t even have reacted to the order, it’s just laughably terribly executed.

The VerdictDROPPED

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the premise of King’s Game, as a sort of battle royale variant, but the execution wants the show to so badly be this ultra-serious high-stakes event but ends up becoming a comedy of errors instead. If you want a last man standing type of show this season, just watch Juuni Taisen.

Ame-con!!

Length – Short
Studio – EMT Squared
Director – Ishii Hisashi (Ame-iro Cocoa 3)

Fourth season of Ame-iro Cocoa. Having opened a coffee shop in Hawaii, Nozomu finds out that keeping people interested in his establishment is far from easy.

The Good – The show got across its premise and the character’s current problem and potential solution well in 90 seconds.

The Bad – 40% of this show’s runtime was opening and ending. Meaning very little was actually accomplished, as the episode ends right where you’d expect the actual story of the episode to start. Kind of generic art too, and none of the characters established anything about themselves.

The VerdictDROPPED

I’d amazed this got a fourth season, seeing as the only thing I know of this show is it got a grand total of 2 pre-orders in the UK for the first season’s release. It’s inoffensive enough, but also utterly bland and forgettable, not giving the viewer one real reason to come back for more.

Just Because!

Length – Regular
Studio – Pine Jam
Director – Atsushi Kobayashi (directorial debut)

It’s the final term of high school for these students, going about the last moments of this phase of their lives, when a transfer student from their middle school past returns. How will these final months play out now that an old memory has returned?

The Good – Great depiction of teenage silliness, drama and personality. There’s awkward moments, happy moments, melancholic moments and everything in between. The show also does a good job of developing stories and character simultaneously, as well as having some nice music and pleasant environments.

The Bad – Character animation leaves a lot to be desired, with slightly jerky movement and a facial artstyle that isn’t the best. It’s also fairly slow-paced, and has no big hook, relying on teenage melodrama to drive interest. Hard to tell sometimes when the show is doing a flashback, too.

The VerdictKEEPER

Melodrama’s a tough genre to pull off, as too much one way and it’s dull, too much the other way and it’s silly or stupid. But Just Because does a good job of treading that line, while progressing its characters and storylines. It’s far from a perfect production, with Pine Jam’s character art and animation leaving a lot to be desired, but I found myself enjoying this regardless, making it my first keeper of the Fall.

Pikotarou no Lullaby Lullaby

Length – Short ~ 3 eps
Studio – DLE
Director – Tanaguchi Takashi (Yami Shibai 3, Onara Gorou)

Pikotarou improvises a story for three minutes based off an image by the anime’s director, Tanaguchi Takashi. The same VA also does all of the voices. Also this might not be a Fall series but shhhhh.

The Good – The paper cutout style does a lot with very little. And I think from a creative stand point that’s a cool premise.

The Bad – Gibberish three minute story with no real point or purpose, that just meanders until a very blunt and sudden ending. Barely has any animation. It’s just… dull.

The VerdictDROPPED

As an idea for a round of a gameshow, improving stories based off an image works well enough. But as a standalone series with next to no production values… yeah, no.

Taishou Chicchai-san

Length – Short
Studio – Studio A-Cat
Director – Watanabe Shuu (ep director on Naruto Shippuuden)

Travelling to Tokyo to attend university so he can become a good head of his family, Hiragi is somewhat shocked when he is transformed into a smaller, cuter version of himself upon his arrival. Perhaps it’s linked to his ability to see the dead…?

The Good – This did a solid job of establishing the premise of who the lead is, why he’s travelling, how the sword he holds is important, his quirk and then the long-term plot of the show in just a few minutes. It didn’t overplay elements either to the point of silliness. And there’s something delightfully meta about having a chibi affliction.

The Bad – Nothing gets resolved at all, with the show even hand-waving other people reacting to this chibi person in their city. It also feels like maybe there’s a few too many elements to the plot, as there’s more that’s yet to be introduced, apparently. Plus how do you not notice yourself suddenly shrinking…

The VerdictUNLIKELY

While this show does feel like it’s overreaching at times considering the few minute runtime, I do like the way it builds up its elements, and the whole “oh no I’m chibi” angle. It doesn’t make me that invested or hook me, but as a different type of plot device that ties into anime culture, it’s cool.

Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World – The Animated Series

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Lerche
Director – Tomohisa Taguchi (Persona 3 The Movie 4, Twin Star Exorcists)

First anime adaptation of Kino no Tabi since 2003. Kino and his motorbike Hermes travel across the land, visiting many countries and places for a few days at a time to see the world for themselves.

The Good – Very reminiscent of old fairy tales, telling of the magical but with a dark twist. The narrative does some great circular moments too, and all the elements feel well built up when the conclusion arrives. Visuals and soundtrack help the show to give off a pleasant, relaxing aura too.

The Bad – Kino is really bland as a lead character, coming off more as an observer than catalyst or participant, to the extent where he often straight up rejects interacting with characters or advancing the story himself. The same can be said for his bike Hermes too.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

This show has a great feel to it, an episodic fairy tale kind of adventure which has the potential to tell many interesting stories. Its big problem compared to other shows of a similar vein, like Mushishi, is the recurring character just isn’t that engaging for a viewer. Not quite a keeper, but definitely one I want to look further into.

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – White Fox
Director – Takaharu Ozaki (Persona 5 Day Breakers)

aka Girls’ Last Tour. War brought the world to its knees, with only Chito and Yuuri surviving. They travel across the wasteland in their tank, scavenging for supplies, taking in the sights and wondering how it all came to end so, as the two best friends spend their days making memories and clinging on to life.

The Good – This show nails the post-apocalypse aesthetic, from the emptiness to the landscape littered with defunct tools of war. A number of great sombre musical tones help amplify the atmosphere too. Chito and Yuuri also play off well against each other and their surroundings, making themselves a fun duo to watch in both happy and sad moments.

The Bad – Facial animation is kind of weird, as ovals that can deform weirdly when needed. It’s also hard to gauge the staying power of a show which is just two girls in a tank travel an empty world. There’s no real obstacles for them to overcome either, besides the whole survival aspect.

The VerdictKEEPER

I have fears about the longevity of the concept, but Girls’ Last Tour is one I’m willing to give a shot. Chito and Yuuri are an endearing pairing and the world they play off of makes for plenty of great moments in this episode alone. Good music, nice vistas and a focus on the here and now instead of endless flashbacks also help it stand out. Definitely worth trying for yourself.

Net-juu no Susume

Length – Regular ~ 10 eps
Studio – Signal MD
Director – Yaginuma Kazuyoshi (ep director on Pokémon Generations)

aka Recovery of an MMO Junkie. The obligatory MMO show of the season. Our lead girl is a 30 year old “elite NEET”, who recently quit work and now spends all her time playing a new MMO. Her male character is quickly aided by a female character she meets, actually played by a guy. This is their story, in-game and out.

The Good – Hayashi and Lily, the in-game characters, play off well with each other and are pretty cute as a couple. It’s also cool to have two adults as the real life cast members, instead of teens as per usual. There’s some pretty environments too, and the ending is a nice concept well done, looking through the screen at the humans playing.

The Bad – There’s nothing here you ain’t seen before, from fantasy MMO setting to characters playing as the other gender. And having the lead be “screw irl life, I’m an elite NEET” is just as boring a trope as it gets. Some weird aspects too, like the show going for ominous vibes for no reason at times.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

There were some cute moments in this episode, but c’moooon another MMO show with shut-ins and genderswapping and tick tick tick goes the boxes. Maybe the more straight romance angle will help make the show, but I can’t see the execution being anything more than generic. And there’ll always be more MMO fantasy series. There’s. Always. More.

So there you have it. Two keepers in the teenage melodrama of Just Because! and the post-apocalyptic travels of Girls’ Last Tour. And the really good news is Part 3 is set to be stacked, and should include Dies Irae, Garo, Love Live and Ancient Magus’ Bride! So set your hype dials to maximum ready for when that arrives next week.