«

»

Jan 28

Winter Anime 2018 First Episode Impressions – Part 4

One last ride, darling?

And as the first month of the year comes to a close, so too do these first episode impressions. But we’re going out with a bang. We’ve got two Fate shows! The return of Studio Trigger! A double dose of Seven Deadly Sins sequels! And yet another show from yesteryear makes a comeback! But will any of them be worth a damn?

This part includes… Beatless // Darling in the FranXX // Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan // Fate/Extra: Last Encore // gdMen // Gin no Guardian 2nd Season // Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens // Hakumei to Mikochi // Hakyuu Houshin Engi // Killing Bites // Nanatsu no Bitoku // Nanatsu no Taizai: Imashime no Fukkatsu // Saiki Kusuo no Ψ-nan 

gdMen

Length – Third-Length
Staff & InfoaniDB ~ MAL
Streaming OnCrunchyroll

aka gdgd men’s Party. Semi-sequel to gdgd Fairies 2. Light and Yomi enjoy playing video games, and one night get the chance of a lifetime when Alpha invites them to another world to save the princess. So they begin their adventure in this skit-based comedy.

Well this isn’t a franchise I expected to return. Or wanted to see back, based on some of my scaving archived notes of gdgd Fairies 2. This all male version doesn’t fare much better either. The animation is terrible, looking like some amateur’s attempt at using the Source Filmmaker, and the story… well, might as well not exist, considering it’s just a method to get them into a fantasy world for a selection of comedy skits.

Shame most of those jokes fall completely flat. From fast talking gibberish to lolrandom moments like Thomas the Tank Slime above, the show feels like it was made up on the spot, hammered home in a segment towards the end where they literally just ad-lib over some random footage they find. Other bad jokes included characters mocking the speech patterns of others before they’ve said a word, and two gaming fantasy nerds not knowing what leveling up is. What a load of tripe.

The VerdictDROPPED

If you want a show that pokes fun at JRPGs and fantasy, you can do so much better. Senyuu and Konosuba come to mind off the top of my head, or you could embrace live-action and watch the amazing Hero Yoshihiko. As for gdgd… hopefully it stays dead for longer than five years this time.

Hakumei to Mikochi

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Staff & InfoaniDB ~ MAL
Streaming OnHIDIVE & Wakanim

At under 10cm tall, Hakumei and Mikochi may be little, but they’re leading big lives. The two girls live in a house in a tree, and this series follows their day to day adventures as they scale mountains and make friends both big and small.

Anybody familiar with Borrowers or Arietty will be at home here, as this has the same concept of miniature people in a big world. That chibi charm, so to speak, radiates throughout the rest of the show too. From giving insects adorable voices, to lovely relaxing musical tones, to a town full of people so eager to help out when Mikochi loses her wallet, everything works towards giving you that warm fuzzy feeling.

Hakumei and Mikochi work well as leads too, coming across like an old married couple. Haku is impulsive and energetic, while Miko is chill, has a great knack for detail, and gets along well with everyone, but despite their differences, you can always see how much they care for the other. Having the episode be split into two different stories also gives each character a chance to take the lead and showcase what makes them shine.

There’s no denying said storytelling is simplistic though. The first half involves them climbing a mountain without much effort despite their size, and a magical red kite who never seems able to stick to one colour palette, while the second half is just wandering around a port town. And while that works well here for a debut, a lack of long-term narrative is going to be a problem if the charm starts to wear off…

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

I’ve never really used the term “healing anime”, but that’s this to a tee. A pleasant, relaxing and, pardon me for overusing the word, charming experience. It lacks the hook or spark to be a keeper, but I still had a nice time watching this for 20 mins, and if you’re down with this type of show, you’ll love it too.

Hakyuu Houshin Engi

Length – Regular ~ 23 eps
Staff & InfoaniDB ~ MAL
Streaming OnCrunchyroll & Funimation

aka Soul Hunter. Remake of the 1999 original. With his family and clan wiped out by a temptress demon, it falls to Taikoubou to fight 365 evil spirits and seal them away to return the human world to a time of peace.

Cardcaptors returning? Sure, that’s one of the most successful magical girl series of all time. Basilisk? Okay, I’ve met some people who love that. But Houshin Engi? I don’t know anyone who read or watched that. At all. And believe me, this ain’t the show to inspire a new generation of fans.

That’s mainly because of the pacing. It’s fast. Ridiculously fast. This debut episode feels like an entire arc hammered into 20 minutes. You see lead Taikoubou get given his mission, thrown out of heaven(?), fight the antihero / archrival, infiltrate the enemy base, cause a rebellion that leads to a massacre, be super depressed then upbeat again, make some allies, and tell us all his backstory.

Each beat or twist barely has time to settle in before the show leaps onwards, never giving anything time to breath. Throw in trying to adapt to a new lexicon of abilities, races, characters and more, and you end up giving up on following along, watching as a detached observer rather than an invested fan. Which is a real shame, as if the show took it’s time, some of the big moments, like the entire clan death scene, would mean so much more, but end up coming across as almost comedic thanks to the unrelenting speed of it all.

Which is a shame, as there’s some nice elements to this. I like a few of the character designs and visual effects, especially of the antihero Shinkohyou, and the mount who screams Moomin. But when I factor in the pacing, along with the often contradictory writing (I destroyed your clothes to protect you, here’s a new set that look exactly the same) and unfinished feel of some scenes (Taikoubou is missing a face towards the end), I can’t help but wonder why bother bringing this back at all.

The VerdictDROPPED

Maybe the manga or original take their time and tell a better story, but this remake sure as hell doesn’t. A show so desperate to tell as much as it can, it never really tells anything that matters, and in a world that is far from lacking for shōnen action, there’s no reason to give this a second look. Back to the last millennium with ya, Engi.

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens

Length – Regular
Staff & InfoaniDB ~ MAL
Streaming OnCrunchyroll & Funimation

In the city of Hakata, 3% of the populace are hitmen. All have various talents and motivations, as the numerous gangs of the underworld collide with the police and the public in a never-ending power struggle. And with a hitman of hitmen on the prowl too, life in Hakata is always turbulent…

This is one of those shows that focuses in on a city and the various players within it, kind of like Durarara. Except where that was a bit mental with the dude who threw vending machines and the motorbike riding dullahan grim reaper, Tonkotsu Ramens is more restrained, with the gimmicks of its cast of hitmen and detectives including one crossdressing and another being a samurai.

Another element this share with its inspirations is the large cast of character. This debut episode jumps from faction to faction, person to person at quite a pace, and rarely settles with any individual for too long. It can get a little too confusing and overwhelming at times, especially with the vintage anime trick of opening with a flashforward, but by the time the credits roll you’ll have understood the broad strokes of the narrative and who the main players are, if nothing else.

The end result of that is a show that builds the world of Hakata well, but struggles with the finer points. Throw in some decent but not particularly noteworthy animation and character designs, as well as the background city designs being mostly flat, and a soundtrack that does the job but little else, and you have a show with plenty of potential, but maybe not the ability to truly deliver on it. Oh, and if you’re into crossdressing, boy does this show portray it’s one transvestite as a psycho…

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

I do have high hopes for Tonkotsu Ramens, but I’m not sure if it’ll ever quite live up to them. Durarara foreshadowed newer characters while focusing on a core few and slowly expanding over time, whereas this tries to establish almost everyone from the get go. I appreciate what it wants to accomplish though, and you don’t see shows like this too often, so if a city of hitmen (and hitwomen) intrigues you, do give this a whirl.

Beatless

Length – Regular ~ 24 eps
Staff & InfoaniDB ~ MAL
Streaming OnAmazon

In a future where humanlike AIs walk alongside us, a group of five run amuck, causing chaos throughout the city. Arato would’ve been just another victim, until the AI Lacia came to his aid. Now the two have made a contract together, will they unravel the mysteries of AI and what’s happening to their hometown?

A world where androids and humans exist alongside each other, along with the distrust and arguments of how human AI really is. In the right hands, this has produced some true classics, such as Ghost in the Shell. Beatless… is no GitS. The show never really takes the chance to dive into its themes, laughing off almost all attempts to explore whether AI can have a soul, and taking place in about as cliché a future setting as you can get.

The lead cast are equally bland. Arato is a highschool kid who cares about androids (the weirdo), and Lacia just shows up randomly because he asked for help, and demands he accepts all the legal ramifications for her actions so he doesn’t get killed, in a scene the show clearly thinks is way more epic than it actually is. Neither have it in them to lead the show, as is further highlighted when they return home and the little sister character takes over, because anime. In fact, all three highschool boys in this have imoutos. Just kill me now.

Not everything is trash though, as the villains steal the show. Their group of five using each other’s strengths to combat the army comes across as a vastly more interesting scene, especially with a few unusual powers like the one girl who makes fields of flowers whose petals are actually microbugs that can infect AI. For those five minutes I really enjoyed the show, before we headed back to “Onii-chan” and the lead boy staring at AI racks.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

If I look past the leads, I can see the shell of an interesting show. The villains are cool, the backstory nods could build to something neat, the arguments about not being racist to robots have potential, and there’s a few neat visual and design flourishes. Then I stop squinting and see a fairly bland anime doing bland anime things. I’d love to be proved wrong, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Killing Bites

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Staff & InfoaniDB ~ MAL
Streaming OnAmazon

Welcome to a world where genetically modified humans can transform into werewolf-esque versions of certain animals, and fight each other in matches known as Killing Bites, to settle an ancient feudal struggle, as well as for the gambling pleasure of businessmen. This revolves around new challenger Hitomi, who shares her genes with the most fearless and vicious creature of them all, the honey badger…

Within a few minutes of starting Killing Bites, you know exactly what kind of show it is. There’s gore, there’s fighting, there’s fanservice and even nudity. But while some shows become obsessed with racking up as many panty shots as they can, this series keeps itself mostly focused on the fighting, ensuring it stands above other fanservice fighters.

This is showcased by the fight between Hitomi and her lion-embued opponent, which is not only fun to watch, but also runs longer than any other action scene this season that I can recall. And while there’s a few moments of exposition, they’re kept pretty brief, letting the actual fight be the focus rather than wazzy techniques. Even a lewd shot towards the end of the episode is there more to set up a trap than to be just pure fanservice.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t high art. The story of people betting on fights with superhumans or said supers being puppeted by others is nothing new, and yes, you will still see Hitomi walking around semi-naked for most of the episode, with the OP and ED being fanservice ridden as well. Lead guy and viewpoint character Yuuya has a few nice moments, but is mostly a whimpering dweeb who you could happily cut from the show. And it’s hard to see this progressing from fight of the week. All I’m saying is when the fights are solid and you have a muscular girl leading instead of skimpy anime girl #35667…

The VerdictUNLIKELY

If you told me to go watch a show from the Ikkitousen genre, I’d like to think this is the one I’d pick. Sure, there’s fanservice galore, but the show never feels totally defined by it, and the fights are probably better than the competition. This ain’t no ringing endorsement, but in terms of lewd anime, I’ve seen much worse, so make of that what you will.

Nanatsu no Taizai: Imashime no Fukkatsu

Length – Regular ~ 24 eps
Staff & InfoaniDB ~ MAL
Streaming On – Pending

Second(ish) season of The Seven Deadly Sins, aka Revival of the Commandments. With the kingdom saved from the tyranny of the Holy Knights, the Seven Deadly Sins, a group of seven warriors led by Meliodas, continue to protect the realm from all kinds of threats, including ten ominous shadows from the south…

I missed Seven Deadly Sins the first time around, but I’ll admit from what I’d heard I expected something much worse. What I got instead was a functional shōnen that’ll keep fans of the genre happy. This episode acts as both a recap of the past and setup for the future, and does the two pretty well. A dream and award ceremony show us previous battles and introduce the Seven Deadly Sins, while also foreshadowing what’s to come, with the episode ending by introducing all the new baddies.

In between the two, we get to see Meliodas, the lead, knock the stuffing out of some mook, in the only fight of the episode, making it tough to judge how good the fights are in this series. We also get glimpses into the personalities of the main cast, though none particularly leap out as must see characters, though I did like their character designs, having a hint of Toriyama to them. Well, except the pig.

Heck, he grates a lot, never shutting up about power levels and other nonsense while adding literally nothing to the show bar bad jokes. Haha, he thinks he has a power level of 3000 but it’s actually 30, we got that the first time, didn’t need to hear it another dozen.

The writing in general isn’t all that strong either. People question why the people who saved their kingdom are being awarded medals. The princess acts like she’s never travelled with them one moment, then hangs out and is clearly on good terms with the lot in the next scene. And the entire support cast get thrown under the bus when their power levels are outed as half of any of the main crew. It doesn’t do a lot to make you invested in the show’s world, put it that way.

The VerdictUNLIKELY

For those who need a shōnen fix, this’ll do, but it’s never gonna be one of the genre classics. None of the cast steal the show, and fights seem fairly by the book. But if you are interested, this seems like a good jumping on point, as I was never lost by having not seen the rest of Seven Deadly Sins, which is pretty neat for a shōnen sequel.

Gin no Guardian 2nd Season

Length – Regular ~ 12 eps
Staff & InfoaniDB ~ MAL
Streaming OnCrunchyroll & Funimation

Second season of The Silver Guardian. I wrote about the premise of this last time and commented the actual episode had nothing to do with it, and it’s the exact same this time too. This episode’s plot was three kids play Grave Buster and try to pass the beginner’s test. Who knows what the actual plot is.

I do not understand this show. The OP and ED show a series with different characters, and set a world apart from what actually happens. In fact, this episode makes no efforts to establish anything, literally just dropping you into this weird game world of Grave Buster. No mention of the past, no setting up of any plot, and no explanation of why we’re here or why to care. The best you get is a montage at the end during an extended version of the ED… which also explains nothing

What we do get is four characters undertaking the beginner’s exam of this game. There’s the lead character who’s special and strong with some shiny scarf but who shows next to no personality, reacting to other’s more than doing anything himself. There’s some idiot who wants to bone the one female and make friends and who’s biggest contribution is his death. There’s Titan, some former champion of other games maybe who apparently can’t beat a tutor. And said tutor who is hellbent on failing them all despite this being a lesson for beginners. I don’t even.

Throw in some bad enemy designs including the blandest golems I’ve ever seen, shoddy writing including the main twist of the girl being able to kill someone without looking at them because obviously that’s impossible in video games, and a handful of bad anime jokes like randomly calling people perverts, and boy is this a trainwreck. The story of this episode doesn’t even wrap up in this episode, thanks to it spending too long on the one fat guy lusting over the girl…

The VerdictDROPPED

So I looked back at my S1 impression and was surprised to see it was the one with the CG fight scene of one against thousands. And then I look at this, and have no way in my mind of connecting the dots. It feels like a totally different show. Maybe one day the writing team will settle down and figure out how this storytelling business works, but today is not that day.

Darling in the FranXX

Length – Regular ~ 24 eps
Staff & InfoaniDB ~ MAL
Streaming OnCrunchyroll & Funimation

In the far future, humanity relies on mechas called FranXX to fight off mysterious lifeforms. The mechas are required to be piloted by two, a boy and a girl. A boy named Hiro, unable to link with his old partner and therefore worthless, and 002, a girl with horns who devours all she teams with, meet up by chance, and find meaning in each other and their FranXX.

Ah, Trigger. Well, not just Trigger, since for this they’ve teamed up with A-1 Pictures. It shows in the animation too, feeling more Trigger-lite than their usual insanity. There’s some of the magic and pizzazz you’d expect, but it’s diluted amongst more normal shots. Though that still makes it better and more visually distinct than almost all the competition, excepting Devilman and Evergarden.

FranXX isn’t subtle in its writing either. From an opening talking about one winged birds needing each other to survive and that a flightless bird is as good as dead, to a sendoff for Hiro’s old partner where she practically says “rip me”, to a priest telling his children to literally shed their blood and slaughter themselves for humanity… you’ll never struggle to see the direction this episode is taking.

Still, when the road is as enjoyable as it is, I ain’t complaining. I loved all the scenes where Zero Two and Hiro interact, her bluntness and spontaneity cutting straight through his melancholy ramblings. And the climax where they partner up, transforming an already cool feral mech into something absolutely glorious to fight the neon underground dinosaur enemy is brilliant. Hell, I love most of the designs, like Zero Two’s subtle beast touches, to the professor with a half mechanical face, to the entire island they live on. Plus there’s enough hints and wide shots to make the world they live in intriguing, and I really want to know more about the backstory and how it all came to this point.

Throw in a blood pumping score, some brilliantly directed and animated scenes (I loved seeing Hiro run alongside the dinosaur), two compelling leads and… yeah, I’m gushing. But I just couldn’t look away from this, and it feels awesome to finally say that about a Trigger show five years after they debuted.

The VerdictKEEPER

The Trigger series I’ve been waiting for. Maybe it’s because it’s a mecha, maybe because it’s a collab, but for whatever reason everything clicks,and I’m fascinated to see what direction the show goes in and how everyone evolves as the scope no doubt expands. You might even call this my winter dar- okay I’ll stop now.

Saiki Kusuo no Ψ-nan 2

Length – Regular ~ 24 eps
Staff & InfoaniDB ~ MAL
Streaming On – Pending

Second season of The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. Kusuo’s psychic power’s continue to bring him no end of misery from the friends he cannot escape despite his best efforts. Will he ever be able to live a normal life?

I was surprised at how well the original Saiki K went over in anime fandom. A slew of 5 minute shorts revolving around one straight guy lead surrounded by idiots is hardly anything new, but people dug it. And now we’re back for a second round, with five of those shorts stitched together to make full length episodes.

The problem is the jokes tend to get old. All five skits revolve around Saiki trying to do something normally while avoiding his friends that will inevitably drag him into their craziness. From them invading his Christmas to being on all the programmes come New Years, the recurring joke is that no matter how much he flails and uses his psychic powers, he can never be free of the idiots who surround him. There are a few nice meta gags alongside the idiocy, like one character asking for more screentime or Saiki throwing Gintama under the bus, but they’re the exception, not the rule.

The multiple skit format does keep things nice and fresh though, with the show having nailed pacing. I like a bunch of the character designs too, including the titular Saiki, and the animation does a solid job of accentuating sound effects and reactions. If only the punchlines weren’t so one note, maybe I’d be more into this.

The VerdictDROPPED

This is a show where I get why people enjoy it, and from a production standpoint I think it approaches making a comedy series the right way. I just don’t find 95% of the jokes funny. Maybe you will, but it’s not for me.

Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan

Length – Half-Length
Staff & InfoaniDB ~ MAL
Streaming OnCrunchyroll & Wakanim

aka Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family. Spinoff of the Fate franchise. Emiya cooks various delicious meals for his friends and family, including Saber, Illya, Taiga and the rest of the Fateverse.

So, one of my notes for this literally reads “Oh Emiya baby, narrate recipes to me more”. As worrying a statement that is on reflection, it does go a long way to describing this show and its charm. Afterall, there’s no big plot to discover. Emiya buys ingredients and explains why he’s cooking such and such meals for New Years Eve and New Years Day… then does so. Saber and the rest might chip in, but for the main, this is just a cooking show.

That simple nature lends an innocent charm to the whole production, helped by the relaxed tones of the artstyle and the blissful expressions of the cast. There’s surprising attention to detail in places too, with shots like Emiya buttoning his apron and spinning some celery looking way better than they have any right to. On the flipside, you also get a lot of stills, as we pan over various market stalls or kitchen equipment.

The half-length format ends up benefitting the show too, with the pacing allowing for just the right amount of time for beginning prep, middle cooking and end eating. Plus Fate fans will get a big kick out of seeing Saber and Illya, with more cast set to appear down the line based off the OP and ED, like Rin and Sakura. So, yeah. A lovely lil’ cooking show.

The VerdictPOSSIBLY

I expected to laugh this off, but got suckered in by the cuteness of it all. I would never call it must-see television, but this is probably the best debut episode of a Fate show I’ve seen. Go figure.

Nanatsu no Bitoku

Length – Short
Staff & InfoaniDB ~ MAL
Streaming OnHIDIVE

aka Seven Heavenly Virtues. Spinoff of Seven Mortal Sins. Not to be confused with Seven Deadly Sins. While Hell is going through turmoil, a group of angels sent from Heaven look for a Messiah to be the saviour in their eternal battle.

Surprisingly this wasn’t as lewd as the original. I mean, you still had nipple slips and a bajillion panty shots despite the short being less than four minutes, but when your parent show involves molestation and rape… yeah. As for why angels are wearing skimpy outfits… er… moving on.

I assume the format of this will be each episode featuring one of the seven angels finding a Messiah candidate and training him in their own way that no doubt leads to fanservice, and little else. Elsewhere, the animation is about what you’d expect, with the female cast being ultra shiny and most shots putting lewd before framing. What’s that? How about the characters? Well, maybe some of the angels have personalities? Who knows, I doubt that’ll ever be the focus of this. Unless their personality is lew-

The VerdictDROPPED

Just watch porn, it’ll be way more lewd and way better written.

Fate/Extra: Last Encore

Length – Regular
Staff & InfoaniDB ~ MAL
Streaming On – Pending

Hakuno’s peaceful school life is turned upside down when reality begins to crumble around him, and he’s stabbed by one of his only friends. Cheating death and hunted for failing to kill, he tumbles through the disintegrating world and finds an ally in Saber. Can he continue to survive and claim the Holy Grail after all hope was lost?

Boy does this show love some overcomplicated exposition. Several characters monologue about how the Moon abducted Master candidates, the world is a digital lie, that the fires of Limbo drive people mad, and lots more I’ve either forgotten or misremembered. This accompanies other oddities like an infirmary being full of corpses, cameos from Rin and Sakura that end as suddenly as they begin, and enemies not going straight for the kill on the lead character for no reason. Maybe if I’d played the game or was more clued up on all things Fate I’d get it. Whatever it is there is to get.

What the show does do well is backgrounds. The school its set in looks cool, and the giant incinerator ominous. And when the killing frenzy begins, the backgrounds becoming nightmarish, sometimes garish and bright, something swirling patterns, and it all sets you on edge. Saber’s fight scenes looked great too, even if they had to tone down the brightness to a damaging degree on some of them. The less said about Hakuno’s though, the better, especially the limpest stabbing I’ve ever seen in anime…

Speaking of Hakuno, he’s incredibly dull as a lead. The only personality he seems to showcase is having a feeling of hate that he can’t explain, and apparently being able to see weird stuff other students ignore. Otherwise he lifelessly walks from scene to scene, and even when being hunted down barely reacts. A shame too, since some of the other characters (who all have bright hair and outfits because anime), like Shinji and Misao, did crazy things like having facial expressions and interacting with each other. If only they were the leads instead of blankity blankface.

The VerdictDROPPED

Maybe if I understood half of what was going on in Fate/Extra, I’d get it and love it. Sadly, this show has no intention of clueing anyone in, just dumping exposition and introspection with barely a second’s thought for those watching. Throw in a boring lead character heading the show, and no amount of cool backgrounds or fun fights can make me want to hang around. I’ll stick with the cooking show, ta.

And so there you have it. Four shows pass the test, making this one of the lowest scoring seasons in years. Trigger’s glorious Darling in the FranXX joins KyoAni’s Violet Evergarden, the childlike joy of Mitsuboshi Colors, and mah gurl, Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card-hen. But as I mentioned in Part 1, this ain’t over yet. So join us next week, when I give five possiblies and one unlikely the three episode treatment and one more shot at joining those four…