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Oct 08

Fall Anime 2017 First Episode Impressions – Part 3

Spooky Scary Skelemages

Part the Third of our Fall anime impressions is here, as the brutality of about a dozen shows being dropped on one day hits home. But the good news is that means we have some of the season’s most anticipated series to talk about.

Idols are back in style, with new Love Live and Idolmaster series. There’s the adaptations of two great VNs in Dies Irae and Code:Realize. Mature toku franchise Garo makes a return to animation. And standing tall amongst them all, the long-awaited anime adaptation of Mahoutsukai no Yome, aka The Ancient Magus’ Bride. What were my thoughts on all of them? Let’s see.

Dies Irae

Length – Regular ~ 18 eps (Prologue, 11 ep series, 6 ep ONA)
Studio – ACGT
Director – Susumu Kodou (Mardock Scramble, Magic Kaito 1412)

A bunch of Nazi officers hold a ritual to try and bring about the destruction of the world, though few know of what happened next. Cue a jump to the future where Ren Fuuji, hospitalised after a near-lethal fight, now tries to stay ahold of his sanity in a city where everyone slowly goes mad. Not that the prologue episode they open with has any of this.

The Good – This show could get gory and brutal when it needed to. Had the Nazi and death metal aesthetics it was shooting for down to a tee as well. And some of the discussions between this episode’s leads were fairly interesting.

The Bad – This really struggled to stay in one scene with one set of characters for any length of time, flashing forward, backwards and everywhere, introducing a lot of characters when only two were ever relevant. And said lead ends up being boringly overpowered and stoic. Plus, everyone in this episode is a villain. Everyone.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

Choosing to start with an “episode 0” is always, to be polite, an insane decision, as you ask your viewer to digest a lot of information that isn’t really that relevant. That premise up there is not anything to do with the episode I watched, and that makes me less relieved and more annoyed they waste people’s time with this ep first. There’s clearly some interest to be had here, it’s fairly well animated and can tell some interesting stories when it holds its focus… but the negatives more than outweigh the positives. Stick to the VN, kids.

Garo: Vanishing Line

Length – Regular
Studio – MAPPA
Director – Seong-Hu Park (directorial debut)

Third anime adaptation of Garo. The Makai Knight, Sword, and a girl called Sophie are both searching for the famed El Dorado, one having lost his younger sister, and the other her older brother. Together they try to solve the mysteries of their past while also fighting the abominations known as Horrors.

The Good – You get a lot of bang for your buck, as this is heavy on the action scenes. The Horrors do come across well as crazy abominations, able to go from human to beast with unnerving smoothness. Plenty of nice animation touches too, from a cat’s reflective eyes to a cool opening sequence.

The Bad – It’s the teenage school of maturity where tits and gore are the order of the day. Women are treated by the show as inferior too, nothing but a rack for the lead to ogle or a damsel in distress for him to save. Action scenes too come off weirdly thanks to constant speed up and slomo, and the camera going more crazy than a Zack Snyder film.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

Garo certainly radiates an aura of bombast, but never feel like it adds any weight to the actual fights. It’s just a bunch of cool looking set pieces with no rhyme or reason. The writing seems more obsessed with that too than the actual mystery of the show. And this is before we get to the questionable gender attitude. Still, I wouldn’t say Vanishing Line is a totally bad show, just not one that’ll mature and evolve into a good one, either.

Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru: Washio Sumi no Shou

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps (2 x 6 ep series)
Studio – Studio Gokumi
Director – Motoo Fukuoka (Danganronpa 3)

Second season of Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero, titled The Washio Sumi Chapter. Three girls are tasked with protecting the god tree Shinjuu, without which the world will end. When enemies attack, they are summoned to its realm to protect them, and fight they must, no matter what it costs.

The Good – The other world has a nice colour palette, full of undersea and luminous vibes. Some great visual shots too, like a suspension bridge covered in shrine charms. Some nice little narrative moments too, like one character drinking their way out of a deadly water bubble. And if you didn’t know, you’d never guess this was a sequel, as everything is explained and makes sense with zero flashbacks.

The Bad – Anime transformation sequences focusing on anime things. The battle is never really that exciting, as it’s fairly obvious teamwork is what’ll save the day, no matter how overpowered they made the enemy seem before then. None of the trio of leads are particularly engaging either.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

There’s some scope for interesting battles down the line, and the premise hints at a more sinister edge than was on display here, so I could see this becoming a bit better in the future, though that depends on how much the truth behind the rituals is delved into. Probably not one I’ll come back to, but not a lost cause.

Time Bokan: Gyakushuu no San-Akunin

Length – Regular
Studio – Tatsunoko Production
Director – Unknown

Second season of Time Bokan, titled The Villains Strike Back. The quest for Dynamonds continues, as our beloved villains do their best to coax them out of various historical figures, while learning some surprising truths about them along the way. Also, the heroes are there I guess.

The Good – Ever wanted a show where the bad guys get the spotlight they deserve? This is that show. A nice bright and colourful palette helps too, plus (to my legit surprise) there were a lot of facts about the lesser known sides of famous historical figures.

The Bad – The heroes get a whole new support cast, but they might as well not be in the show (which this ep even makes a joke out of). The villains literally win *every* battle, and only blast off on a technicality. Plus everyone has a tendency to overreact or crack terrible jokes or wave their ass around because that’s hilarious right.

The VerdictDROPPED

As nice as it is to see a show where Team Rocket wins, so to speak, that gets old quickly, especially with the crappy humour and the inevitability that the heroes have to win no matter how legit the villains were. What’s more, with the way the show presents itself it’s hard to take the educational part seriously. Better than the first season of Time Bokan, but still not something I’d watch.

Code:Realize – Sousei no Himegimi

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – M.S.C
Director – Hideyo Yamamoto (New Prince of Tennis, Strike the Blood)

aka Code:Realize – Guardian of Rebirth. Cardia is a girl isolated within a mansion, called a monster for the deadly poison that permeates her skin. But one night, she is kidnapped by a man called Lupin, who promises to steal her heart. The journey to unlock her past and the secrets her father hid within her begins now.

The Good – I like the characters in this, from the stylish designs of their outfits to the charming personalities each of them has. This does a good job of slowly feeding in elements of the narrative too, laying in plenty of hooks both obvious and subtle.

The Bad – Some elements of this episode just don’t make sense, like the dog randomly leading Cardia out for no reason, forcing the drama. Having the magical gem heart be on top of Cardia’s chest instead of her… chest, also opens the door for needless fanservice.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

Apparently I own the VN version of this so I should probably get on that as this seems like a solid show and premise. The characters are engaging, the narrative well paced and the animation does a solid enough job of bringing everything to life. Only a few questionable choices and Cardia being a bit bland, especially with the overplayed amnesia angle, stops this otherwise good show being a keeper.

The iDOLM@STER Side M

Length – Regular (plus Extended prologue)
Studio – A-1 Pictures
Director – Harada Takahiro (assistant director on Cinderella Girls) and Kuroki Miyuki (assistant director on Occultic;Nine)

Idolm@ster but with guys. This charts the origins of 315 Productions, with help from super popular male idol group Jupiter Reborn, who at one time wanted nothing to do with money grabbing agencies. However, 315’s focus on passion and satisfying the fans first helps attract them to it, and so a legend begins.

The Good – The “we’ll do it ourselves” attitude of the three members of Jupiter Reborn makes for a great change from the usual company produced idol show. The extended prologue also gave them a real chance to show individual personality away from the bright lights and the fans. Music was solid too, with non-CG performances.

The Bad – Good old Idolmaster habits returned, like not showing the producer’s face or that of the “player character”. To the extent that when said player has a chat with the three which helps them find their path, it’s totally skipped despite being central to the plot. The end of this prologue also set up a worrying direction.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

Didn’t expect to find myself almost sticking with an Idolmas show, but here we are. My main problem is that the show seems to want to divert away from the interesting characters and narrative of this prologue to go back to more normal idol show territory, with multiple bands and agencies and meeeeh. Hopefully my fears are proved wrong, but only time will tell on that front…

Dynamic Chord

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Studio Pierrot
Director – Shigenori Kageyama (Queen’s Blade OVA, Yamato 2520)

This series follows the plights of the bands and groups working for the Dynamic Chord agency. Yes, it’s more male idols. This season’s full of them.

The Good – If you like music and songs, boy, this show has a lot of them.

The Bad – Bland character designs and visuals, with terrible animation in songs that looks like the worst of Flash productions. Constant long musical montages with no real thread to the scenes they show or purpose for being there, destroying the flow of the narrative. Lots of characters who are never even given a name let alone introductions or a personality. Tons of weird cuts and questionable use of sound effects.

The VerdictDROPPED

One of the worst first episodes I’ve seen in recent memory. It looks bad, the plot is buried under song after song, and none of the character’s do anything to make you want to watch their endeavours. This isn’t a funny bad show, or a show where I’m saying it’s shit because I think the humour or lewdity annoyed me, this is just, on a fundamental production level, utter trash.

ClassicaLoid 2nd Season

Length – Regular
Studio – Sunrise
Director – Umabiki Kei (ep director on Gintama)

Second season of ClassicaLoid. Life within the house of ClassicaLoids is only going to get more chaotic when Kanae’s little brother she never knew about shows up on her doorstep, complete with pet pygmy hippo. But is the newest addition to the house all he appears to be?

The Good – Bright and energetic as before, with the Musik sequences being nice to behold, especially the new one. The kid does his role of feigning innocence while wrecking havoc to perfection, and sets up a nice long-term hook for the series. And classical music is always nice to hear.

The Bad – Pretty much every character is anime eccentric, which is to say, an idiot. Feels like none of the cast have really evolved since the last first ep I saw either, there’s just more of them. Character art also feels like it’s too overlayed at times, looking out of place against the backgrounds.

The VerdictDROPPED

There’s a lot to like about the aesthetic of ClassicaLoid, both visually and in the music department, but the show it makes with those elements still leaves a lot to be desired. I don’t really care for any of the characters, especially when they’re all portrayed as morons and freeloaders. Just not the show for me, I guess.

Love Live! Sunshine!! 2nd Season

Length – Regular
Studio – Sunrise
Director – Sakai Kazuo (Love Live Sunshine, Mushiuta)

Second season of Love Live Sunshine, fourth season of Love Live. The members of Aqours, having come so close last time but not quite making nationals, continue to improve their idol skills to try and win Love Live and save their school from closing in the process.

The Good – Music is as top-notch as ever, both for songs and background pieces. Does a great job of easing new viewers into the plot, and showing how this season is going to advance. And most of the nine girls get a chance to stand out as individuals at some point.

The Bad – Whether intentional or not, this feels like a poor re-run of the original Love Live, with very similar plot beats. Most of the characters seem set on being various personalities too at the expense of being natural, shouting out nonsense and posing madly. Not much actual idol focus in this ep either.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

It’s almost depressing, watching this. Some of the characters are endearing, and I like a bunch of the narrative beats… because I saw and liked them back in 2013 when I watched the first season of Love Live. This struggles to ever be its own thing, and just makes me want to go back to Maki, Nico and the rest instead. Sorry Rabu Ribu.

Two Car

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Silver Link
Director – Masafumi Tamura (Ange Vierge)

On an island in Japan, where the roads have no speed limits, racing has become popular. Yuri and Megumi, who have grown up there, now aim to be the sidecar racing champions, but will have to beat six other talented duos to claim the prize. Have they got what it takes, or will they infight and throw it all away?

The Good – I mean, racing is cool. Not enough racing anime in the world. Some pretty solid animation and nice looking vistas. The seven duos all manage to be distinct from each other, and this episode does a good job of introducing them while mainly focusing on the backstory of the lead duo.

The Bad – The sudden come from behind last to first victory was almost painful in its predictability and nonsensicalness. Some of the race animation wasn’t great either, with jerky looking overtakes. Hard to gauge how interesting the show will be outside of racing, too.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

There’s the making of a solid series here, with a hook you don’t often see in anime thesedays, some solid characters who play off well with each other, and not too shabby visuals. Whether it can tell interesting stories both on and off the track going forward will be the big challenge, but I’ll be keeping my eye on this one.

Blend S

Length – Regular
Studio – A-1 Pictures
Director – Ryouji Masuyama (Gurren Lagann Parallel Works)

Maika is searching for a part-time job, but always struggles because of the nasty glint in her eyes. Until one day, she’s approached by a café manager, who specialises in having trope waitresses. Tasked with playing a sadist, will Maika be able to adapt to a life of work and mean-spiritedness.

The Good – I like a lot of the characters in this, and the usual distance between their regular personalities and those they portrayed for work (yes, gap moe). The show also does a good job of keeping the pacing moving from one skit to the next, never dragging any out. Opening was pretty solid too.

The Bad – Despite all the window dressing, this is still just cutesy girls doing cutesy things. The manager is kind of a creep too. Animation is fairly standard moe, and it’s hard to judge the long-term potential of a show about playing to tropes.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

I can’t tell if I’m going soft or getting old, but I kind of enjoyed Blend S. Maybe because it’s nice to have a cutesy style show but not with the usual cast of forgettable idiots. Or maybe because sadists and tsunderes are more interesting than dopey characters. Either way, if you want something cute but not dull, this seems to be the show for you.

Mahoutsukai no Yome

Length – Regular ~ 24 eps
Studio – Wit Studio
Director – Norihiro Naganuma (Yowamushi Pedal Movie, Hiyokoi)

aka The Ancient Magus’ Bride. Most anticipated show of the season. Having been able to see the otherworldly since birth, Chise has led a traumatic life, with plenty of misfortune. But when she ends up selling herself just to find a home, she’s taken in by a mage called Elias, who promises to make her both his apprentice and his bride.

The Good – Chise is a superb lead, with plenty of scars and trauma helping to make her more complex than most other anime characters. Elias works well too, as this mysterious old mage who’s very appearance gives off so many questions. The world they live in is an interesting character too. Solid animation as well.

The Bad – This episode takes things rather slowly, and maybe answers one too few questions at this point. Also there’s the obligatory anime bathing scene. Some of the scenes opt for pretty over logic too.

The VerdictKEEPER

Sure, I’m biased. I mean, I watched the OVAs and have been waiting for this series to air for forever. But Magus radiates a lot more charm and mystery than most shows. The two leads characters are interesting both as individuals and a pair, the world of supernatural critters allows for plenty of intriguing narrative options, and the show looks pretty good too. You’d be crazy not to give this series a try.

So that’s a bunch of the heavy hitters gone, but only one new keeper in Ancient Magus Bride. Maybe our fourth and final part will add a few more when it arrives in a week or so, as we mop up those stragglers. Like Inuyashiki. And March Comes In Like A Lion 2. We’re going out with a bang, that’s for sure.