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Oct 15

Fall Anime 2017 First Episode Impressions – Part 4

Fishing for Keepers

It’s a bumper final crop of first episode impressions to round the year out, as I look at 17 more shows that have aired in the past week or so. Though I’m just happy I don’t have to worry about this again until next year…

This last part has it all, from returning shorts like We Love Rice and Fireball, to the return of noitaminA with Inuyashiki, to long-awaited sequels like Hoozuki’s Coolheadedness and Blood Blockade Battlefront, and especially to the sequel to my third fave show of 2016, March Comes In Like A Lion. So what are we waiting for?

Monster Strike: Kieyuku Uchuu-hen

Length – Regular ~ 13 eps
Studio – Various
Director – Hamana Takayuki (Appleseed XIII, Mushibugyou)

Third season of Monster Strike. The end of the world is nigh, as the realms of humans and monsters threaten to destroy each other. As one monster aims to awaken the red moon and eradicate humans to save the universe, can our heroes find another way to save the day before the end of everything?

The Good – I dug a bunch of the monster designs, and this episode did a solid job of setting up the season’s plot of trying to prevent the end of the world. I like the ending idea too, even if the timer is unexplained properly in this ep.

The Bad – Awful writing with constant plotholes the moment you thought about anything. Had a bad habit of introducing returning cast members then immediately abandoning them for most of the ep. Action scenes looked really cheap, with no weight to any of the stabs or punches. And saying the world ends in 12 eps at the end doesn’t do anything to make the rest of the show appealing.

The VerdictDROPPED

I was in a state of constant perplexment or bemusal at the gibberish this show was spewing for its narrative. It couldn’t fall back on its action scenes either, with those just looking and feeling lame, despite the great designs and level of hype the show was pouring onto them. A weak and dismal end for this franchise it would appear.

Love Kome: We Love Rice Second Season

Length – Short ~ 12 eps
Studio – Encourage Films
Director – Unknown

Second season of We Love Rice. Having successfully boosted the popularity of rice in the first season by forming an idol band dedicated to it, our stars must now face their second year of rice school and an exchange student who loves noodles.

The Good – If you like puns, this show fits in a ton.

The Bad – That’s all it has. Characters are forgettable, especially the lead who spends the whole episode moping for no reason. There’s no real narrative. Animation looks bad in crowd shots, despite them usually being stills.

The VerdictDROPPED

I have no idea how or why this is back. The first season went over like a lead balloon, and this is more of the same. When all your series has going for it is a handful of puns, then it’s probably time to reconsider making it. Save yourself the pain.

Fireball Humorous

Length – Short ~ 3 eps
Studio – Jinni’s Animation Studio
Director – Arakawa Wataru (Fireball, Fireball Charming)

Third season of Fireball. The continuing interactions between Drossel von Flügel and Gedächtnis during the war between humans and robots. By the way, this is a Disney show. Really.

The Good – These two have a nice chemistry together, with Drossel able to spin mile long yarns to explain her actions and Ged forced to go along with it even when he thinks he knows better. Stylish posing as well from both robots, with smooth CG transitions.

The Bad – There’s very little actual substance to the skits. The animation never really goes much beyond still A to still B to still C and so on.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

Fireball has always had a charm to it, and with this “season” being only 3 eps not even totalling 10 minutes, I probably will watch this sometime. Still, it’s not a show for most people, even with Disney behind the wheel. But hey, if you want two charming robots riffing off each other, do give this a whirl.

Houseki no Kuni

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Orange
Director – Takahiko Kyogoku (Love Live, Gate)

aka Land of the Lustrous. The 28 Gems live on Earth, fending off attacks from the Lunariums, who want to harvest their pretty, sparkly bodies. Among them is Phos, the weakest, unable to fight or do anything unique, but who finds new purpose in life when she meets outcast Cinnibar.

The Good – Phenomenally pretty. The opening shots of grass alone were stunning. The CG character aesthetic makes perfect sense too when your characters are pure crystal. Phos radiates personality with her movements and expressions, making her an ideal lead. All the characters are fun to watch, and their turmoils interesting. Well paced narrative as well, introducing elements and beats steadily.

The Bad – The baddies make a good first impression, but having the same design for multiple encounters grows old quickly. Fight scenes aren’t great either, with the show often cutting away at the critical moment. CG movement struggles at times too to match the show’s tempo.

The VerdictKEEPER

Colour me impressed. Interesting characters, a well-paced and intriguing narrative with plenty of avenues to explore, a jaw-dropping aesthetic… yeah, this show pretty much has it all. The Steven Universe of anime certainly lives up to that moniker thus far, and is one of the season’s must-watch shows.

Hoozuki no Reitetsu Second Season

Length – Regular ~ 13 eps
Studio – Studio Deen
Director – Kazuhiro Yoneda (Yona of the Dawn, Kabukibu)

Second season of Hoozuki’s Coolheadedness. Hoozuki helps run Hell as the Chief of Staff, ensuring the place is perfectly managed, paperwork done and sinners sent to where they belong, in his cool, always level-headed manner. And maybe he’ll get to spend some time tending to his screaming goldfish plants.

The Good – As a second season introduction, talking about how Hoozuki went from child to demon was a great idea. The first half of the episode flowed great, telling how Hell came to be like it is now, and with everyone getting a chance to talk. Opening song was cool too, different to most anime in its tone.

The Bad – Second half of the episode lacked a lot of focus and narrative interest, riding off the coattails of the first. Some of the skits were kind of bland too, relying on the same “he’s so cool-headed” joke. Went to the other show reference well one too many times as well.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

While not the greatest comedy show of the season, Hoozuki proves he deserves to make a comeback after his original series in 2014. The show has a unique charm and vibe to it, being set in Hell, and does have plenty of solid quips and skits. I’m just don’t think that any ep that follows will be as interesting as the first half of this one…

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Bones
Director – Shigehito Takayanagi (The World God Only Knows, Tokyo ESP)

Second season of Blood Blockade Battlefront. When the alterworld overlapped the real world, New York City became Hellsalem’s Lot, a place where all manners of weird and wonderful monsters and superpowered people reside. This is the story of one group, Libra, who fight to keep the peace.

The Good – This show has style out the ass. Some very good looking shots and angles, great use of an upbeat funky soundtrack, and 110% energy throughout. It’s capable of telling all story lengths too, with this have a pre-title plot, an episode plot and an overarcing plot all in 20 minutes. Some interesting superpowered personalities too.

The Bad – Sadly, the kid in the lead role, Leonardo, is kind of bleh, as the punching bag of the cast forced to run around like an idiot. The rest of the cast comes off as far too overpowered, especially Klaus, with none of them ever breaking a sweat. The city is portrayed as such a death hole it’s hard to imagine anyone living there either.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

BBB&B comes across as the definition of style over substance. While the world is more than capable of telling stories, they’re not ones that ever got me invested, through a poor lead character and overpowered cast. Something I’d happily watch gifs of on Tumblr, but would hesitate before committing to watching the actual show.

Cardfight!! Vanguard G: Z

Length – Regular
Studio – OLM
Director – Unknown

Fifth season of Cardfight Vanguard G. The Diffrider crisis continues, with evil dragon Ryze continuing to have his minions possess top ranking Cardfight players for his own ends. Can Chrono and the rest free their friends and put an end to Ryze’s ambitions once and for all?

The Good – Bright coloured hair because that’s a card game show pre-requisite. Doesn’t confuse new viewers too much after the first few minutes. And this got into the action pretty quickly, with a high-stakes game taking up the second half of the episode.

The Bad – Cardfight continues to be a card game where you throw cards and numbers at each other with no strategy, or at least none that is ever explained to the viewer. The show ends on kind of a false cliffhanger too. And most of the characters come across as bland goody two-shoes or obvious villains.

The VerdictDROPPED

Stop me if I’ve said this before, but Cardfight does not make an interesting card game show. The plot’s can be these cool multi-season epics, but when the actual way the characters fight is just throw things at each other until someone loses, why would I ever get invested? Sorry Vanguard. You’ll just never be Yu-Gi-Oh.

Animegataris

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – WAO World
Director – Kenshirou Morii (Nora Princess and Stray Cat, Animegatari)

After having a dream about an anime from her childhood, Minoa gets approached by her classmate Arisu, who despite her refined aura is a big anime fan. Inspired by her passion, Minoa coaxes her into creating an anime club at their school. But there’s more going on in the clubroom than first meets the eye…

The Good – Arisu’s passion and extended monologue about anime couldn’t help but make you smile. Plenty of references and nods to anime both old and new. Having a metaplot helps to add a bit of depth and distraction from anime girl club genericness. The final line of “don’t drop us after the first episode” killed me too.

The Bad – Seen one otaku bait highschool club anime… All the most popular people in school are closet weabs because of course they are. The metaplot with the talking cat and the magical beret felt tacked on at times. The show also resorted to using the same jokes quite a lot.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

Despite this being for the main a standard high school otaku club anime… anime, there were some neat elements that elevated it above some of its peers. The epilogue showed it’ll be a mixed club, the metaplot helps to break up the anime fanwanking, and some of the jokes got a smile out of me. I don’t see this being good, but it’s not terrible either. Plus it’s an anime with anime in the title. We’re through the looking glass now!

Imouto sae Ireba Ii.

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Silver Link
Director – Shin Oonuma (C3, Watamote)

aka A Sister Is All You Need. No, wait, come back! A talented novelist with a little sister complex tries to write his next big hit. Alongside him are his friends and colleagues, including his step-brother Chihiro and girl Nayuta who was saved from depression from his work, so wants to bone him. Okay, yeah, maybe you should have left…

The Good – When the show put aside the imouto garbage, it could tell a competent story. Two novelists whose works have moved and inspired the other is a nice undercurrent, and a lot of the support cast were interesting enough to watch. I enjoyed the Yes / No puzzles they posed too. Also had a good ending sequence of a timelapse of him reading her debut work.

The Bad – Anything about imoutos. The lead’s freakish obsession with them, including a several minute disgustingly depraved scene at the start was sickening. Having half the line’s of Nayu be about wanting to fuck were also blergh. The show did this weird thing with stamping the screen at the end of each scene / punchline too.

The VerdictDROPPED

I’m trying to work out from the timing whether Eromanga from Spring was why this series exists. There’s certainly some parallels to be drawn, though while that show is utter garbage, this one has a few redeeming qualities hidden in the backstory and support cast. But with a title like that, the odds of them defining this show are non-existent. Trash will be trash, sadly.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – J.C. Staff
Director – Kyohei Ishiguro (Occultic;Nine, Your Lie In April)

aka Children of the Whales. On an island in the middle of the sand ocean, there are two kinds of people. The Marked who can use magic and live short lives, and the Unmarked who can’t but live much longer. One day, when exploring a nearby island, Chakuro, the island’s archivist, discovers an outsider. Her discovery sets into motion a change of events that will transform everything about the world they know.

The Good – Very pretty background imagery from start to finish. I like the simple art of the character designs too, which also makes a good contrast for the intricate magical symbols. Clearly a world with a ton of backstory to it too, which the narrative does a good job of slowly exploring while forwarding the plot and foreshadowing.

The Bad – The animal sidekick has a really weird face. Hard to tell from filters used sometimes what colour something is meant to be, like the sand ocean looking made of water half the time. Having the outsider be kind of blank and emotionless feels a bit too tropey at times, too.

The VerdictKEEPER

When the two shows I think of as points of comparison are Gargantia and Shinsekai Yori, you’ve done something very right. A great aesthetic merges well with a simple soundtrack and intriguing lore to make this a show you can’t help but want to see more of, and to learn more about. Super excited for this one.

Himouto! Umaru-chan R

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Doga Kobo
Director – Oota Masahiko (Yuru Yuri, Gabriel Dropout)

Second season of Himouto Umaru-chan. Umaru is a pretty and athletic highschool girl who’s also a big recluse and otaku. This is her life of fun and worries alongside her friends and older brother. Also she has like three identities / artstyles.

The Good – There was a life and energy to the show and Umaru (and her rival Sylphie) throughout. Splitting the episode up into 4 or so skits helped keep the jokes fresh, and resulted in a couple of interesting relatable scenarios. I kind of liked the use of the three designs for Umaru too, showcasing different sides of her personality. The opening was similarly tripolar, but that worked well.

The Bad – This ticks a lot of boxes between the female otaku girl, the almost all female cast and the onii-chan support role that you’ll have seen many, many times before. The show goes a bit too mad at times too, overdramatising nonsense which is a tired anime cliché. Some of the support cast were pretty meh, too.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

While far from a must-see, this turned out better than I thought. I never saw the first season as it was back in the year I missed, but this second season debut certainly showed some energy and charm to give it some legs. I feel I’d get tired of the format pretty quickly, but hey, if you’re into this type of show, this’ll probably sate you.

Onyankopon

Length – Short
Studio – Kyotoma
Director – Unknown

Onyankopon watches over us from another realm, using the power of song and dance to help people with their everyday problems, like dieting, love and more.

The Good – Having a song based around whatever the minute long conversation and problem of the episode is was kinda cool.

The Bad – CG looks really bleh, especially on the human models and the backgrounds. Jokes mostly fell flat as well, especially as you essentially had them twice, once in the convo and once in the song. The live-action ending was overly drawn out too.

The VerdictDROPPED

Another weird gibberish short which looks bad, isn’t funny and relies on random jokes instead of actual storytelling. Just go watch Fireball from earlier, it’s the best comedy short of the season.

Wake Up, Girls! Shin Shou

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Studio – Millepensee
Director – Shin Itagaki (Ben-To, Teekyuu)

Second season of Wake Up Girls, titled New Chapter. Several years after their debut, the Wake Up Girls are no longer just fighting their rival idol bands, but a decline in popularity of the medium. Can the group successfully launch their first album and finally secure their place at the top of the mountain?

The Good – Having a backdrop where idols are lowering in popularity makes for a different type of narrative. This does a good job of catching you up on past plot too. Several of the girls got time to let their personalities really shine. Having a larger focus on the managerial end was neat too, instead of blind passion like most of the genre.

The Bad – Despite their supposed lack of mainstream popularity, they still seemed to just randomly have success thrown at them instead of earned. Having their rivals they’ve known for years suddenly be weirdly antagonistic was odd too. A few too many anime idiocy moments as well.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

I feel sorry for Wake Up Girls sometimes. It’s an alright franchise, but had the misfortune to start at the same time as the unstoppable Love Live. There’s definitely some interesting parts to this, with the more behind the scenes aspects and a generational shift impending, but it feels like its taken a step backwards since its debut to try and fit in more with other idol shows. I dunno. One day I’ll get to these series, but… not today.

Evil or Live

Length – Regular ~ x eps
Studio – Emon
Director – 董易 (assistant director on Hu Yao Xiao Hong Niang)

In an era where Internet Addiction runs riot through our youth, a rehabilitation clinic has been set up by the government to help lead those people back to the righteous adult path. Of course, what looks to be a happy school is actually a ruthless military prison, where the kids are beaten and pushed to their breaking points…

The Good – A unique directorial style, merging lots of filters, live-action, various angles and a cinema style letterbox format. It really did go full in on the whole “your life before is over” idea with the bloody beatdowns and prison attitudes of teens.

The Bad – Every character is a douche. From the abusive adults in charge, to the manipulative kids who are the ringleaders, to our lead who treated his own family like crap, to his mother who essentially threw him into this life of hell. This really does go full egdelord in its abuse, and the derogatory attitudes towards females doesn’t help either.

The VerdictDROPPED

It’s hard to know who I’m supposed to be rooting for when everyone who opens their mouth turns out to be a twat. Even more perplexing is who it’s aimed at. Adults who feel the internet ruins everything? Maybe this’ll get popular, Prison School and Classroom of the Elite seemed to do well enough, but to me, despite the great directorial touches, this is about as unappealing to watch as it gets.

Boku no Kanojo ga Majimesugiru Sho-bitch na Ken

Length – Regular ~ 10 eps
Studio – Diomedia
Director – Nagayama Nobuyoshi (directorial debut)

aka My Girlfriend is ShoBitch. When Haruki finally musters up the courage to confess to his long-time crush, Akiho, he quickly learns her definition of being a good girlfriend is maybe a bit lewder than he imagined. And that’s before he has to deal with all his other female friends antics…

The Good – Er. I guess Haruki was a fairly nice lead, a little awkward but always with his heart in the right place. And the few moments the show got away from perversion were okay.

The Bad – This show’s entire premise is about girls talking lewdly to the lead characters. That’s what literally every joke in every skit ends up revolving around. I couldn’t tell you anything about their personality other than double entendres and glomping. Even the scene transitions are the heroine lifting her skirt up and down.

The VerdictDROPPED

I’m thankful we’re in an era where totally fanservice and perversion focused shows like these are pretty rare, but it doesn’t look like we’ll ever be totally rid of them. My advice for these is the same as always, go read a hentai doujinshi or play an 18+ visual novel. They’ve probably got better writing and will definitely leave you more “satisfied”.

Inuyashiki

Length – Regular ~ 11 eps
Studio – Mappa
Director – Keiichi Satou (Tiger & Bunny, Karas)

aka Last Hero. This season’s noitaminA show. At the age of 58, but looking like somebody well into his retirement, Ichirou lives a hard life, made worse when he is told he has 3 months to live. At his darkest moment, he and a fellow kid are annihilated by a freak spaceship… until he wakes up the next morning. Except he’s far from the same guy now…

The Good – A 58 year old man as a lead character is almost unheard of, and this did a great job of showing his suffering, both before and after transformation. The robot stuff did look kind of cool too, very overenginered and complex to fit the aliens. Cool opening and ending sequences too.

The Bad – So, if the aliens wanted to replace the two so nobody would notice… why make them ultra robots? That’s even more noticeable. And I think the writer has it out for children, portraying them as overly evil at times. Ichirou isn’t the most captivating of leads either.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

It’s certainly good to see Inuyashiki get an anime adaptation, but it just never clicked with me like other shows this season. Ichirou can’t bring any energy to the show, and there’s a few writing hiccups along the way that just kinda had my eyes rolling. I imagine this is one that takes time to get truly rolling, but I’m not sure if the end result will quite be good enough. Maybe that’s just old man Slazo with old man pessimism, though.

3-gatsu no Lion Second Season

Length – Regular ~ 22 eps
Studio – Shaft
Director – Shinbou Akiyuki (Madoka Magica, Bakemonogatari)

Second season of March Comes In Like A Lion. Rei Kiriyama’s journey continues. An 18-year-old pro shogi player who’s live somewhat revolves around the sport, has managed to come out of his shell somewhat around his friends and distant family. But he still has a long way to go, both in life and in shogi…

The Good – This show is dripping in style, from the opening and ending to the use of many different aesthetics and stills to hammer home each scene and moment. Some great background music too. The show also does a good job of mixing more serious moments with comedy. And if you saw season one, it’s great to compare and see how far Rei has come.

The Bad – Maybe overboard on the stills and changing styles, as it feels like this episode doesn’t really know what it wants to be at times. There’s also very little of substance in this ep, focusing more on less important characters and general activities than shogi or Rei. Opening and ending song aren’t as iconic as the original ones, either.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

Despite my bias, despite the fact it’s awesome to see how cheerful and relaxed Rei is having seen the prior 22 episodes… this is not the best of returns for my Number 3 show of 2016. It lacks focus both narratively and artistically, dawdling instead of striding forward. It’s still a well made production, but doesn’t quite capture the mind as it did 12 months ago…

Huh, that was a surprising way to end it. But that does mean we have a mere five keepers from the year’s final act. Land of the Lustrous and Children of the Whales join Just Because, Girls’ Last Tour and Ancient Magus’ Bride. How will they turn out? And will I cave and watch MCILAL2 anyway? Come back in a week or two to find out when I do my three episodes later analysis…