Apr 04

Spring Anime 2014 First Episode Impressions

Anime here, anime there, anime anime everywhere


It’s that time of year again, when another season of anime rears its moe head and unleashes a new torrent of shows to be hyped and horrified about. And as usual, I’ll be watching the first episode of near enough everything that airs. Which this season is 61 shows. Sixty-one. Just… what. There’s a bunch of sequels coming out, including surprises like Mushishi and Duel Masters. Yep, that’s still a thing apparently. Actually, there’s a fair few card shows this season with the fifth YuGiOh series and a new Vanguard arc. Elsewhere there’s more Love Live and Soul Eater, a show about Ping Pong and the big return of JoJo as they cover the third section of the manga. Something for everyone then.

And for those of you pointing out the Summer season is now a week or two in, I know I’m further behind than ever. I’ll be aiming to do that all at once before July’s over instead of update based like this one, so keep an eye out for it. Though if you want my early guesses, Terror will be the best show and SAO2 will have learnt it’s lesson and gone from funny bad to just average.

11th July – Pretty Rhythm, Tenkai, Atelier, Date, Mekaku, CatDog, M3 and Kantoku
9th July – Bunny Cafe, Nanana’s Treasure and Ping Pong
29th June – No Game, Shogun, Chaika and Sidonia

What’s that? You want alphabetical links to every show covered in this article? Boy are you in luck.

Abarenbou Rikishi!! Matsutarou; Akuma no Riddle; Baby Steps; Black Bullet; Blade and Soul; Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou; Broken Blade; Captain Earth; Cardfight!! Vanguard: Legion Mate; Date A Live II; Disk Wars: Avengers; Dragon Ball Kai: Majin Buu-hen; Dragon Collection; Escha & Logy no Atelier: Tasogare no Sora no Renkinjutsushi; Fairy Tail; Fuuun Ishin Dai Shogun; Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka?; Gokuhoku no Brynhildr; Haikyuu!!; Hero Bank; Hitsugi no Chaika; Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san; Isshuukan Friends; JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders; Kamigami no Asobi; Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara; Kantoku Fuyuki Todoki; Kenzen Robo Daimidaler; Keroro; Kindaichi Case Files Returns; Kin’iro no Chord: Blue♪Sky; Lady Jewelpet; Love Live! School Idol Project Second Season; M3 ~Sono Kuroki Hagane~; Mahou Shoujo Taisen; Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei; Majin Bone; Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to; Mekaku City Actors; Monster Retsuden Oreca Battle; Mushishi Zoku-Shou; Nandaka Velonica; No Game, No Life; Ping Pong The Animation; Pretty Rhythm All Star Selection; Puchimas!! Petit Petit Idolm@ster; Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin; Seikoku no Dragonar; selector infected WIXOSS; Sidonia no Kishi; Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii; Soul Eater NOT!; Tenkai Knights; YuGiOh Arc-V

Abarenbou Rikishi!! Matsutarou

For the non-moonrune inclined, that roughly translates as Rowdy Sumo Wrestler. Which is a complete lie, as there’s no sumo wrestling at all in this episode. Instead we get to meet our lead guy, king of jerks Sakaguchi. He’s a guy who loves to be a bully in his quest for food and fun, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a student, teacher, friend or family, you’re all targets, even if it involves breaking the law. Ah, but maybe this kid had a messed up childhood or other special circumstances? Nah, he’s just a twat.

During his school hours, he constantly hits on the female teacher there who is the stuff his dreams are made of. During his job he’s abusive and manipulative to his co-worker. So you watch the big strong lug be a dickweed throughout the entire episode until on one drunken charade he goes too far, wrecks a few buildings and gets sent to jail where he belongs. It actually makes a good end to the episode and you could happily stop watching there without even knowing this was a season instead of a oneshot.

But why would you watch it after this anyway. The main character is an unlikeable and unrelatable douchebag, there’s no long term plot, a cast of forgettable faces outside of the lead and it’s all brought together with mediocre animation that tries to do the western style but in a season with Jojo is hopelessly outclassed. If you’ve been hankering for some mano-a-mano action, go watch Hajime no Ipoo and forget this ever existed.


Akuma no Riddle

There’s been a trend as of late to create Battle Royale-esque stuff. I couldn’t tell you if it was Hunger Games or something else, but having a group of teenage trained killers is becoming more common, be they in a classroom, an arena or elsewhere. Riddle Story of Devil is one of the latest, following the tale of Azuma, a talented and ruthless but emotionally lacking girl from some assassin training facility, who makes up one of a dozen killers sent to the Black Class or some regular school, all trying to off their thirteenth classmate, a regular innocent schoolgirl. Her roommate Ichinose, the likely target, is a cheery upbeat schoolgirl in the prime of her youth, but the show drops hints here and there about her not being all she seems. The rest of the class (all female, oh anime) get little chance to showcase themselves out of “hi, I’m x, and my character quirk is this”. There was also a weird sidestory involving Azuma’s principal constantly mocking her and saying she’s worthless which was going against everything else in the show so felt odd and out of place, but maybe that goes somewhere down the line. The songs were fairly standard anime, but the animation did a good job at bringing out the harshness and psychopath lying within the cast.

As you may have guessed from the tone of that and how much I’ve written, the show kept me intrigued and the time spent watching this show seemed to zip by, so I’m certainly going to take a chance on this and recommend it to people who like Battle Royale / Hunger Games. My only hope is that this doesn’t waste its potential, like the similar series Danganronpa did last year.


Baby Steps

Whoa, a tennis anime that isn’t the godawful Teekyuu? About damn time. Over the years I’ve come to adore the sport, and it’s one of the few I keep tabs on. So to see a proper series finally cover it was great (not including Prince of Tennis which I’ve yet to see). So, Baby Steps. Our lead guy Eiichiro sporting the mini mohawk is a straight A student, earning him the nickname Ei-chan. He studies his ass off and makes perfectly clear and concise notes which everybody in his class copies instead of their own textbooks. Deciding that he should throw some exercise into his weekly routine as well, he checks into the local tennis club (despite being berated as an old man for wanting to do exercise… I don’t even).

In said club he meets Natsu from his school (and totally not his romantic interest for the show), before discovering he has no stamina whatsoever, being lapped by a gradeschooler. But after realising Natsu’s passion for the sport and how she wants to go pro, he realises there’s nothing in his life he really finds fun, and maybe tennis could fit that gap, as he resolves to get better at it as the credits roll.

So yes, it’s a standard sports series. The animation for the tennis itself is fine, though the faces feel a little off and there’s little animation outside of the sport. Anime tropes also shine through with a few scenes you could insert into any one of hundreds of shows, and the writing isn’t always with it (why would a tennis coach work a potential newbie so hard they pass out on the warmup). To compare it to another sports show this season, it’s not as good as Haikyuu, but it’s still fairly decent and has the potential to go far once everything’s set up. But I’m biased. It’s tennis afterall. COME ON ANDY!


Black Bullet

In that oh so distant of years 2021, the human race comes under attack from the Gastrea, a race of insectoid creatures who both kill and infect us, with their DNA having the potent effect of overwriting our own and converting us into more of their kind. The only way to stop them is with bullets made of the pure black substance Varanium, which is why in the ten years between then and the start of the show proper, giant monoliths of the stuff have been placed around major cities, with special civic officers tasked with taking out the alien menace armed with guns shooting the black bullets.

Okay, I admit alien invasion can only be repelled by people with x item or power isn’t going to win any awards for originality, but the production values are still all there. Our lead Satomi is a Promoter, with the unenviable task of managing Initiator Enju, a “cursed child” of only 11 years whom, thanks to being born from a partially infected human is infused with the power to fight the creepy crawlies, and in that 10 year timeskip her and her fellow sisters of similar origins have become humanities one real chance at regaining control of their planet.

There are other characters in the show, but sadly with this being anime, they’re all predictable females with varying states of crushes on the male lead. That’s not me being misogynistic, that’s just how anime rolls. But on the plus side, the animation is fairly good, the fight scenes while not complex at this early stage look good, the musical score is decent and I like some of the designs on display, mainly for the Gastrea and the character I assume is the main villain, a masked man who merges evil with psycho just so. This episode was also fairly dialogue heavy, with a lot of world history and mechanics to explain, which is sometimes a good indicator of depth, or at the very least something more involved than let’s say burning passion shooty punchy victory.

So yes, there’s enough here to give me hope for an enjoyable viewing experience. It’s got me intrigued, which is more than I can say for a lot of the rest of this season’s offerings, though whether it backs it up as the show rolls on is far from certain. But I’ll bet on it doing so.


Blade and Soul

Emotionless characters abound everywhere this season, and the lead of this show, Aruka from the legendary Tsurugi clan, is no different. A battle-hardened killer out for revenge against the evil Param Empire after she killed someone from it or they killed someone from her clan… its made clear she wants revenge and they want her dead, but the actual reasoning is left for later episodes. She’s certainly perfected the art of being a weapon, cutting bullets in half after they’re fired and slashing down multiple foes within a second, even taking out the episode’s big bad without so much as a glancing blow. And the show doesn’t shy away from said murder, showcasing both the blood and moment of death without censoring like so many other shows do.

The animation in the fights (for as long as they last) is fluid and the backgrounds looked neat, though beyond those the art is a little lacking, including Aruka herself who looks pretty bland which is probably why there’s a nighttime bathing in a pool naked scene to make up for her total lack of personality. The writing seems decent too, outside of scenes like that, with little details added to those paying enough attention. It’s just… with such a powerful lead character you never feel like she’s in danger, and combine that with the fact she’s silent for most of the show despite being the girl carrying it, and I just can’t get behind this as much as I’d like. A shame.


Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou

I’m always wary of anime romcom’s as of late, because usually they miss the point completely in their attempts to pander to weeaboo culture, and *deep breath* The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behaviour (yes, that is what the title means) is, sadly, no exception. We have our lead guy, living on his own for the first time in more classical Japanese accommodation along with the girl he has a crush on a school, a seemingly emotionless book reading fanatic (picture Yuki Nagato and you’re mostly there) called Kawai., or Ricchan for… short… If it was just those two characters I could put up with this, but then you get their roommates. He gets a masochistic pervert, and she has a drunken nutjob obsessed with love, and if you’ve been watching anime at all in the past 5 years you can made an educated guess at the direction this is all going and the “comedic” style of the show. Combined this with standard anime animation, standard anime songs, and you get standard rubbish forgettable anime number 56663, and I can’t think of a reason to watch it over most of the other stuff airing this season.


Broken Blade

This could be tricky, I didn’t make many notes while watching Broken Blade. Not because my eyes were glued to the screen either. Set in a world without fossil fuels, everybody instead uses their innate ability to control quartz crystals to power vehicles, guns and whatever else they require. All except our lead Rygart, who is the one in a million guy whom is an unsorcerer, meaning he can’t do shit.

You catch up with his childhood friends who have become the king and queen, and discover the fourth member of their old crew is a commander in the opposing force that’s advancing on the capital as this episode progresses. Which is just an excuse for mech battles, with our lead getting to pilot one from an ancient civilisation pre-magick, emerging to save the day just as the credits roll. So it’s all very standard mech show setup, except this time it takes forever to explain not a whole lot. The animation is serviceable enough, with some neat looking crystal effects and wideshots making up for an otherwise bland visual look. Lump in some forgettable characters, bland writing and a lack of action and this show isn’t going places anytime soon. Maybe it’s a slow burner, but I’ve seen enough mech shows with far stronger opening episodes to put me off Broken Blade.


Captain Earth

Bones have apparently gone into overdrive as of late, with two shows last season and another three by them airing in Spring. This first one, Captain Earth, is presumably from the same minds who brought you Star Driver, being another glorious original mecha anime production. Except this one lowers the fabulousness levels a bit, instead trying to make the show more grounded.

Our lead kid Daichi, for example, has had a muddled life ever since his father died in a space “accident”, and we see a lot of flashback’s into his past, including his relationship with both his uncle and an alien kid called Teppei. The show loves drawing parallel’s between the then and now, regularly flitting from one to t’other but never confusing the viewer in doing so. And then interjected amongst all of that we have an alien (I say alien, they look human, so there’s probably more to come there) invasion from the other side of the moon, as they fulfil the flamboyance quota that Bones need to have in their originals.

Add to that already eclectic mix space clan politics, a cast of intriguing characters who shine despite having minimal screen time, a next episode preview promising some brilliant space mecha battling all served with that delicious Bones animation and audio and oh boy am I ever on board. The first Bones show I’ve got behind since Tempest.


Cardfight!! Vanguard: Legion Mate

One of the many card game shows airing this season, Vanguard moves into its latest arc. After blue hair, sorry, I mean Aichi, saved the world from destruction in the previous arc (I assume), somebody up on high must have been pissed, erasing him from reality so nobody remembers who he was or anything he did, except for Kai, now taking the lead role of the show. And helps other remembers through the power of card games! Okay, this show isn’t breaking any new ground, the game itself seems similar to WeiB Schwarz but I’ve no idea which came first, but the problem is it makes for a less entertaining viewing experience than YuGiOh. Or maybe I just think that because I only see the first episodes of arcs. They once again do a whistlestop tutorial of the mechanics for new viewers, and the show touches upon the vast pool of characters it has whom are prevalent in the opening and ending, so this probably isn’t the best point to join in if you’re intrigued. Animation is standard fare, as is the music, and with several other card game shows this season, Vanguard could be out of its league.


Date A Live II

Having done this for a while, I flicked back through my notes to last fall when this aired and woah boy, I was pretty scathing of Date A Live as it went on its merry way to nail almost all of my pet hates in anime. Could this second season right those wrongs and redeem the series? Nah.

To catch you up, 30 years ago a brutal spacequake in Eurasia caused by the first Spirit resulted in 150 million dead. But this show doesn’t go down the post-apocalyptic route telling a fight for survival, but instead features a male guy surrounded by a harem of girls as said lead male Shido tries to micromanage all these Spirit girls and keep them happy, as emotional instability would cause them to start triggering disasters again. You can see the sort of romantic themed hijinks the show is gunning for with the imbecilic female cast overreacting to every little thing.

So it’s more of the same dumb shite that the first season exhibited, except this time with a large and established cast that the show makes very little effort to recap for you, though you can make approximate guesses with a title so plot-lacking. From the conclusion of the episode it looks like the girls are more out of control than ever, and what will Shido do when more volatile females are added to the mix! No doubt hilarity of the “please kill me it’s better than watching any more of this” kind will ensue. Please don’t let there be a third season or I might just spacequake Wales to the ground while watching the first episode of that.


Disk Wars: Avengers

For not the first time, Marvel’s taking a crack at making an anime. Disk Wars starts us off with Stark and his legion of scientists having developed portable storage devices for people, or DISKs (there’s some forgettable meaning to the acronym). Sadly, we never discover why he thought that was a good idea as the villains of Marvel abuse them to get out of prison and attack the announcement party, spearheaded by supervillain Loki. And because this is an anime, so not constrained to western licensing bullhickey, you get to see everyone, be they Avenger, X-Men, Fantastic Four, even Spiderman fits into the show. Alongside those familiar heroes are an ensemble cast of kids who’ll presumably become the Beybladers, sorry, I mean disk holders for the various good guys, though they subscribe to usual kid show tropes of them being idealistically compassionate and having parental angst and able to perform impossible feats (several of them sneak around Stark facilities just fine).

The animation is exactly what you expect from a kid show, but it still does a good job realising the western superhero designs with anime slants, and the writing is exactly what you’d expect, though it’ll probably be in the second or third episode stuff starts getting explained and the plot kicks off properly, with this first being show, don’t tell. But all in all this is vastly better than past Marvel anime efforts, so if you dig superheroes comics over shonen manga, and can put up with the logic and sensibilities or a kids show, this’ll be worth you time. For those of us more eastern-inclined though, probably not.


Dragon Ball Kai: Majin Buu-hen

Let me open with a confession. I’ve not watched, and have barely read Dragonball, outside of Team Four Star’s brilliant abridged version. But from that and talking with fellow fans, I know enough about the series to not be lost watching this. For those  languishing in confusion though, Dragonball is a show where manly men scream at each other a lot while fighting, from before the turn of the millennium and was famous for, amongst other things, having tonnes of filler. Kai is a modern version of Dragonball Z which cuts most of that filler out, resulting in a faster and more enjoyable product, kind of like FMA Brotherhood. But otherwise, it’s still the same animation and voices, with the only modern additions being the opening, ending and midcards.

Rejoining the story seven years after Cell was defeated, it’s Gohan’s time to shine as we watch his epic, relentless, death-defying… first day at high school. You meet his classmates who I assume are plot important. There’s the jock, the girl who must be on a permanent period from how angry she is, and someone who could pass as Android 18’s twin sister. We’re also told about what an awesome guy Mr Satan is, and how Satan City was named after him (yes, they revere Satan), and… well, it’s DBZ, talking about the plot seems a little silly at this point.

But how do you make a fair impression on the highlights of a show over two decades past. The animation? It’s passable, and probably looked good at the time, but the lack of motion is obvious, along with some surprising shaky frames I thought would’ve been dealt with by modern tech. The voices? Some of the men sound really girly, but my main comparison is TFS’s take so that’s just me knee-jerking to something different. If I did have one bone to pick though, the lack of a recap after the length of time Kai was on hiatus for is a weird omission, and won’t help new viewers one jot. But does the show care about that? It’s Dragonball, its name as one of the defining shows in the medium is already set, and the West will eat this up if nobody else. Great for fans then, but don’t use this as a starting point if you’re interested in the world of kamehameha.


Dragon Collection

A kids show, about card games and with a burning passion lead who shouts through his problems. The only way this could be any more stereotypical is if he had ridiculous hair. Anyway, in this universe Dragon Collection is… well, it’s a normal arcade card game. The entire world doesn’t revolve around it, which makes a weird change to the status quo.

It’s a game our lead, Hiro, has been psyched to play for a while, but when he finally does the arcade machine sucks him into the game’s reality (which nobody standing next to him in store notices) and trouble becomes his immediate friend, as he accidentally aids the baddie Meatmania. Yes, that’s really his name. Making friends with a Drake Puppy, Hiro gets his bearing in the strange new world and fights Mr Meat by summoning the adult version of the lil’ dragon whom was stored in, yep, cards. And how are the battles of the beasts fought? With strategy, or cunning use of strengths and weaknesses? Nah, with guts.

So in short, it’s another ten-a-penny kids show. On the plus side, it’s only half-length, meaning it’ll be more focused than other similar shows, but when that’s the kind of compliment I’m going with you know it ain’t worth it.


Escha & Logy no Atelier: Tasogare no Sora no Renkinjutsushi

I think we’ve found the winner for this season’s award for longest title. For those to whom Atelier looks like just another word, it’s actually a long running JRPG franchise, popular enough to have had its yearly installments make the leap across the pond for the past few console generations. Escha and Logy is the newest original entry to the franchise (as of now, I know Shallie is out soon in Japan), with both titular characters being alchemists (Eschatology is the pun, yes). And in this word alchemists aren’t just nutjobs trying to find the secret of turning crap to gold, but people who can craft and repair pretty much anything given the right materials.

Now even on paper that sounds like it’d work great as a game, but in anime format? Not so much. With the game not having a strong focus on narrative and plot like a Shin Megami Tensei or Danganronpa, it’s an awkward adaptation, montaging over the much needed action to break up the very simple plot (thing is broken, we repair thing, thing is no longer broken, huzzah). The main written focus of this episode is the cultural difference of Escha and Logy, the former living in the old-fashioned Colseit while the other comes from cutting-edge Central. Which probably explains why the Research and Development division they comprise the majority of is repairing thing instead of doing R&D.

Visually the background are well done if a little still, and the world itself does seem sensibly designed, reflecting that cultural divide I mentioned. But even with the hook at the end of exploring some ruins in the sky nobodies been able to get to, I just don’t think the duo make for that interesting a pairing (needless to say there’s a romance subplot). It’s like the show needs some gameplay or something to sustain interest. One to experience rather than watch then, and from that point of viewpoint if you own a PS3 or Vita most of the series is pretty cheap right now.


Fairy Tail

Ahhh, Fairy Tail. Long term readers will know I’m a sucker for shōnens, on the proviso it follows the golden rule of not making the protagonist a moron. Fairy Tail laughs at that rule by having the majority of its cast be morons, ensuring that every single joke is pointing out how ridiculously stupid someone or something is, because that’s so hilarious and doesn’t get old and irritating fast no siree.

Anyway, I assume this continues straight off from where the last series ended when it was cancelled. Sorry, I mean caught up with the manga. We’re in the middle of some great guild wars, with rival guild Sabertooth peeved to have lost out in their last battle, leading to the death of one of its members Lector! Who is a Happy-esque cat whom you see for all of 5 seconds so who cares. If you’re new to Fairy Tail, this first half will all be lost upon you, but the second part does go a little way to rectifying that, as most of the leads go to a dragon graveyard and talk to a dragon from ye olde days to have the next plot arc set up for them and the next 100 odd episodes.

The animation itself is good enough and some of the effects are cool, but the character’s eyes are all out of proportion or… have something off about them. They don’t feel natural, to say the least, which combined with what I think is a voice actor shake-up (I could be wrong, but I swear Natsu’s voice was different). The music of the show still does a solid enough job, and the writing and humour are still of the same standard as before (terrible). If you want a shōnen with good writing and interesting characters, look elsewhere. Want rubbish designed to pander to the worst of weeaboos? Then Fairy Tail will be right up your street.


Fuuun Ishin Dai Shogun

Let us take a trip in a TARDIS to Nagasaki in 1875. While there, we’d meet Keiichiro, a kid who’s managed to conquer all his foes in the city and unite it, after his epic final battle never happened thanks to his opponent’s waving the white flag. In his rage of being denied the fight, he ends up getting dragged into a series of love house murders which have him as their ultimate target. Why? Because he’s from some famous bloodline who can pilot supermechs, which he inherits the ability to do because he’s a… yep, anime strikes again, because he’s a virgin.

Oh yes, it’s dumb humour, but in ye olde times. Watch as the cops are led by a moron who thinks Keiichiro is both gay and a transvestite, watch as his goofy sidekick does nothing to help, and watch mech fights! Except you won’t, as Kei’s mech doesn’t obey him and the enemy retreats after one punch, so if you’re expecting action don’t get your hopes up. The animation is pretty lacklustre, along with the designs and characters, with Granny being the only memorable one thanks to her psychotic tendencies. If you like this kind of cheap humour, hey, maybe you’ll get a kick out of it, but I can’t stand this kind of rubbish.


Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka?

My word, it’s been a while since I’ve seen something so cutesy, I think I’m going to throw up. I mean, sure, the chart I use to track each season’s anime had given off the impression this show had a cast of cutesy girls (I refuse to use the m word), but i didn’t think that’d be the entire theme of the show. Is The Order A Rabbit (yes, that is the translation) is dedicated entirely to a cast of three cutesy girls with cutesy personalities doing cutesy things in a cutesy coffee house. With  a cutesy bunny who’d fit in neatly alongside the cast of Roundcat. Oh, and there’s more cutesy girls to join in the future. Huzzah.

Overlooking the fact kids this young aren’t meant to be tanking coffee, it’s all the innocent fun and hijinks you’d expect. Lead girl Cocoa has transferred to the totally not Venice town as part of her school work experience, with the family whom owns the Rabbit House coffee shop looking after her. She’s full of energy and a mathematical prodigy, but lacking in common sense. Then there’s Chino, the manager’s daughter, who has that missing element but has a meek and withdrawn personality, while part-timer Rize is strong and a talented artist but just dreams deep down of being a pretty princess. Oh, oh I’m feeling queasy again…

You know exactly what you’re getting here then. No overarching plot persay, just a theme to base the various scenes within. It didn’t linger particularly long on a segment or joke, keeping it fresh, the backgrounds looked rather pretty and certainly the show has its aesthetic down pat. But overall, it’s just not really my cup of tea. >_>


Gokukoku no Brynhildr

Within seconds of the female lead of this show being named Kuroneko the flashbacks to Oreimo began. I watched the first season back when I didn’t know better. Anyway, her, along with our male lead Ryouta, used to search the starry sky every night looking for aliens which Kuroneko claimed to have met before, choosing to show them to Ryouta. But on the way to them, the two had to cross the side of a dam and inevitability struck, with them slipping to their doom. Except its anime, so he survived and her death was ambiguous at best, so he resolved to continue searching the skies that she no longer could. Cue a timeskip to… highschool! Oh anime, you so anime.

Our leading lad is somewhat surprised when Kuroha Neko transfers into his class, but don’t worry, she’s totally not that girl from his childhood. Honest. And she can predict the death of students, watching on as one almost drowns until she’s saved by a freak accident. But another is due to die, that being our lead, who wants to prove she can predict the future by getting himself killed. Genius. Forcing her hand she showcases extraordinary powers because she’s a magician, by which she means product of science.

If the phrase Shana Clone has come to mind, you’re not far off. And that’s about all you get to see, besides some random flashbacks (other show’s this season have done the flashback / flashfoward trick so much better) which only leave you more confused. The animation and humour styles are standard anime (so forgettable unless you’re not jaded yet), but the writing is decent enough and I can’t recall the last show I watched with a purely instrumental opening. Sadly, this show is just too generic and samey for me to get into, but it has the potential to be better somewhere down the line, however unlikely.



Sports anime! You know the drill, it’s a show full of manly men playing manly things, like volleyball! Wait. To be honest, I assumed this was another basketball show like Kurobas going into it, so seeing the net at the start was a shock (as was what I swear was an Attack on Titan parody). Our leading short ginger guy, Hinata, got into the sport a few years ago, having watched another little star go places on the pro tour. So he cobbles together a team through his endless passion and takes them to a middle school tournament, where in a stunning twist they’re matched against the favourites for their first game.

And there’s no miracles here. they get their asses kicked, but not before our lead has a chance to showcase his stuff and prove it’s not the size of the man in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the man. You get to see him rally his team a few times, and the show does some neat tricks to help, such as showing clips of Hinata’s past inbetween shots. Afterwards it also doesn’t mess around with a lot of after the fact content, fastfowarding on to highschool where he discovers he’s in the same school as his opposing team’s ace, Kageyama, setting up their rivalry which’ll almost certainly be one of the key plots of the show.

Despite all my praise, I must say there’s nothing here you won’t have seen before in other shows from the genre. It’s just all well executed. The animation is solid if not spectacular, though Production IG know where and when to ramp it up, everybody wears scowls and frowns because SERIOUS sport played by MEN, it’s already been established everything is not gonna go our heroes way, and the music that accompanies the show does a good job of enhancing the experience. There’s plenty of potential here, so if you’re into sports shows this is well worth watching.


Hero Bank

If there’s one thing I don’t understand with kids shows, it’s that why when the most remembered and successful series are those with thought and effort put into them, that a billion and one cheap rubbish shows designed to hawk some crap are still so prevalent. Nobody will remember them in a year, whereas we’ll be talking about Avatar for decades. With that somewhat ominous intro, let me welcome Hero Bank to the stage, full of over the top action and cheap humour pandering to the same old stereotypes. Set in a world where money (supposedly) talks, these Hero battles are the most popular thing ever, with everyone watching or playing.

And everybody cares about our protagonist. Not because he’s the best, but because he has burning passion and isn’t in the game for the money. And as a sufferer of burning passion he’s got a stupid haircut and a tendency to SHOUT EVERYTHING. Anyway, back to the show, people rent or buy suits to duke it out, with spectators boosting fighters by giving them money on whatever whim they choose. And for some reason the programmers let rental suit expiries lead to having the participant being in the nude, which when our lead is a kid, begs the question “why aren’t they all arrested”.

Either way, the lead twerp gets his own special suit to fight in and beat the bullies picking on his gang, begging the question of why they didn’t just deck them in the real world. Oh, and to get the suit he blindly signed a contract, putting him and his friends 10 billion yen out of pocket. The fights themselves are fairly bland, involving no strategy whatsoever, and a forgettable sidecast of the nerdy one, the big one and the academic one. If I had to find something to praise, the Money Ghost character, whom I assume is the villain, using one kid’s adoration of his friend to make him jealous is pretty neat, but that doesn’t justify a  cheap cash-in show like this.


Hitsugi no Chaika

Guess what Chaika the Coffin Princess carries around with her all the time. Bingo, it’s gigantic eyebrows. Oh, and a coffin. The show opens with some higher being telling Chaika she has an important role to play in the fate of the world. But not him teaching her how to talk apparently, which seems somewhat crawl as she utters broken phrases and single words in her struggles to communicate. While lost on a mountain she bumps into a guy called Toru, and the two of them bond while fighting a unicorn, thanks to him being a “steel soldier” capable of Iron Blood Transformations, while she is a magician who uses a sniper rifle as her wand.

As the show goes on we get a sense of the wider world, revealing some of the politics at play and the crux of this first episode (and a few more), a relic from a past war held onto by one of the nobleman whom fought in it, which another nobleman claims to need. And yes, Chaika’s also after it for her own reasons, hiring Toru and his sister Akari who can do the same transformation as her brother, which I assume makes them stronger and more resilient.

The show loves a good reveal too, be it an alliance, a new special power or the identity of the artifact which they’re all fighting over. It’s surprising in a way how much they pack into this first episode. Heck, even with all three leads suffering from various forms of idiocy, they’re all still competent where it matters and the show avoids lapsing into awful humour (well, almost, there is one slip). The animation looks fine, but gets a boost for the special effects, making the fights especially look good, and the world seems to have plenty of backstory and intriguing characters to utilise, which the episode’s cliffhanger does a good job of showcasing. I found myself quite enjoying this, so don’t let me down Princess Coffin.


Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san

I’m reminded of the cowbear stuff from Katamari, except that was actually entertaining.

Meow Woof The Animation revolves around a cat loving girl with a dog’s personality meeting a dog loving girl with a cat’s personality. The two are introduced by a mutual friend leading to… perverted lesbian humour! On the plus side, it looked pretty decent for a short. But I feel that above image sums up all my other thoughts. Next!


Isshuukan Friends

That title translating to One Week Friends. Yes, it’s a show that tells you the premise within the title, which seems somewhat of a novelty in today’s world. The female lead, Kaori, acts distant and cold towards everyone in school, never making any friends and preferring to be alone, something which our male lead, Hase, can’t fathom, extending the olive branch of friendship. And having it thrown straight back at him. But he doesn’t take no for an answer, bonding with her over the week before she’s forced to reveal that every Monday her mind resets wiping almost all her memories (she still remembers her family, that’d be a bit too dark sadly). But of course, with Hase being what we in the biz call an idiot, resolves to always be there to make friends with her every single week, meaning the show will presumably be a week to an episode, showing snapshots of their awkward relationship until she gets better.

There’s also another guy as you can see in the picture, called Shougo, who thankfully doesn’t do much more than act as Hase’s sounding board, which considering how alike they look is probably for the best in this opening episode. And speaking of looks, the entire animation style looks like a KyoAni title but without the same budget. Fine enough, but not all there. That said, the opening sequence does look good, with its more simplistic art style somewhat suiting the nature of a slice of life show.

This series could go one of two ways, either a feelgood struggle where the two eventually live happily ever after, or a slow trip into depression and insanity every Monday morning. What is certain is outside of that gimmick this’ll just be regular slice of life, as they fret over exams or sing at karaoke or eat stuff. There’ll probably be a beach episode, a festival episode… you know the drill. Basically, it could be good, but the chances of it realising that are fairly slim.


JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders

I was never big on the original series of JoJo, I make no secret about it. I saw it as too hyperactive and the colour palette as a parade of Quality Street wrappers, though I could see perfectly clear why it became popular. So I was more than a little intrigued to see what it’d be like jumping in on the second season.

Carrying on where that show left off, Stardust Crusaders covers the third arc of the manga, and features the grandson of Part 2’s Joseph, Jotaro. Finding himself possessed by an evil spirit, he does the surprisingly smart move of holing himself up in a police cell to protect others, so it’s up to old Joseph to drag him back out and reveal all. The evil spirits are actually Stands, and he and Jotaro have one because Dio is back, in Jonathan Joestar’s body (from Part 1) no less. Fate wants them to fight again, and its around there this episode ends, having spent its runtime on exposition and a Stand (seriously that’s a terrible name) fight. The animation style is still western chunkiness meets the overly manly designs of Dragonball and Toriko, and works well a lot of the time though still making a few scenes just feel off. They’ve stopped them eating and vomiting Crayola’s as well, neutralising those problems I mentioned with the original series.

So it’s all good right? Well… it could be because this is mostly just setup, but neither the episode nor the next week preview captured my interest at all, feeling like just another shōnen rather than the king of manga some of its fans would have you believe., so I’ll let the Bizarre Adventure train pass me by once more. But hey, if you loved it last time, then… well, you’ll be up to date on it. Enjoy your ride.


Kamigami no Asobi

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to the Playground of the Gods. Well, the gods and one human by the name of Yui. Having spent her life living and maintaining a shrine while also practising swordsmanship, her life is turned upside down when a voice calls out to her through a glowing blue sword and teleports her away to a strange new world, where she meets a slew of pretty boys whom tick the boxes of every personality trope there is. Yep, it’s a reverse harem show, with the twist being all the males are Gods whom have grown out of touch with humanity, forcing Zeus, the principle of the school they now reside in, to re-educate them using Yui as a human tool for their education too.

As for why such divine beings would go along with all this and why nobody questions Zeus’s authority is anyones guess, but it’s quite damning to the Japanese god duo that they are the least recognisable of the cast. The animation is about what you’d expect for this kind of show, with lots of emphasis on pretty flowers and nature and the doki doki situations involving the guys because kyaaaaa that’s what you’re here for right? Don’t expect the plot to be anything more than a weekly roulette wheel of which divine vehicle for a personality trope woos the lady, and while the god slant could provide for some interesting moments and clashes, it’s not enough to make me care.


Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara

The humble flag. To you and me, a patriotic symbol, but to weeaboos, a dating sim term representing critical moments in a romance. And our lead guy, Souta, can see not just romance flags pop up on people’s heads, but also friendship and death flags. As such, he’s isolated himself from others, but with this series being set in a highschool that lasts all of 5 minutes.

Co-starring with our fairly personality lacking guy is Nanami Knight Battlefield, as cliché a tsundere as you can get, who also happens to be the umpteenth princess of some faraway island, hence the ridiculous name. Then there’s Akan e, heir to a financial magnet and seemingly popular, but unable to make any true friends. The three of them start to bond for… no real reason whatsoever, actually, but they all share troubled pasts. Heck, the mere mention of Akane’s past triggers her death flag (not the death trap of a building she walks into, no siree), leading to Souta having to use love (yes, really) to convert it into a romance flag. And then the ending sequence hammers it all home with a bazillion girls confirming this as a harem show. Oh joy.

Ignoring the terrible and cliché writing, the animation’s also fairly bland, a match for the characters it portrays and… well, the whole production feels a bit, I dunno… cheap? A bit like some marketing execs threw a bunch of tropes together expecting something to stick out of the end result. In summary, if you want to watch a show that gets the joke of dating sims, watch The World God Only Knows. You want to watch a show that is a joke, then Flaggy McPleaseMakeItStop should be right up your street.


Kantoku Fuyuki Todoki

Oh boy, the age old Flash animated short. These are, without exception, awful, and this show does nothing to break that trend. You have Rompers, whom looks like a baby, and Director, following the stereotypical anime representation of anime directors, and it’s happy times as the two of them are getting married, letting this show focus on Rompers adapting to life with an otaku.

Which means a ton of toku references and the usual teribad humour with the mere three minutes being three too many. To give it one tiny bone, the artstyle looked alright for this kind of show, but the animation itself, much like the rest of the show, was dire. Just don’t.


Kenzen Robo Daimidaler

Mecha anime. I wouldn’t say I have high hopes for this kind of show, but there’s usually a lot more potential in giant robos beating the crap out of each other. It’s why I watch the Super Sentai series. Sadly, within the first five seconds of this you’ve already seen a naked girl suiting up ready to pilot her robot, and if you know anything about anime you already know where this is going and who it’s aimed at. Yes, pervert rejoice, in Daimidaler our lead character has to charge his Hi-ERO particles by fondling girls. Doing so allows him to perform super human feats and pilot the titular mech, which is probably the worst designed robot I’ve seen in anime.

Putting the titillation crap to one side (despite the nudity shown at the start and during the opening, the show itself then avoids it for the rest, having sunk its claws into its target audience), the plot involves the organisations of Prince and Penguin duking it out for the future of the world. Said Penguin army features those minions you see in that picture, and honestly they wer ethe only enjoyable aspect of the entire show for me, even managing to be slightly funny thanks to their flamboyant fabulousness, and were the only well designed aspect of the entire show. The rest, from the writing to the animation to the characters is just fuel for those people we don’t talk about, including the lyrics to the opening which paraded it like it was something to be proud of. Don’t watch this kids. You’re better than that. Go enjoy a good mech show like Valvrave or Gargantia instead.



If that word and that frog isn’t ringing any bells, this is Sgt Frog. I bought the first volume of the manga at MCM way back in 2010 and… still haven’t read it, so had no clue what to expect. Welp. This is only a short show, clocking in at 3 minutes, and is supposedly a second season, though it seems to start at the beginning of the story. You have a silly boy who loves aliens, his smart and athletic sister along with a cutesy kiddy style of animation that’s synonymous with most of these shorts. Except one day while proving aliens don’t exist the sister does exactly the opposite, revealing our titular frog, beginning the plot and ending this episode. So yeah, it gets to the point and doesn’t stand around shouting “look how funny this is why aren’t you laughing”, which combined with its popularity in Japan makes this a show worth considering if you’ve yet to hop aboard the ribbit train. That or you could watch the 358 episode full length series. Yeah, that’s what I thought.


Kindaichi Case Files Returns

A detective show! You don’t tend to see these often what with Conan and Lupin having cornered the market somewhat, which explains why the original Kindaichi series aired way back when before the Millennium Dome existed (yes, the 90s are old now, its terrifying). But now, nearly 15 years after it ended its back and without meaning to put a downer on it, I’m not sure why.

With this first episode being the first of a murder mystery arc, it has pretty much the narrative and pacing you’d expect, setting up the scene and all the characters involved, the motive which in this case is some priceless jewel, but to get it they need a certain model who knows its location. Sadly, the female lead of the show turns out to be a dead ringer for her and is kidnapped by mistake, giving our lead all the motivation he needs. Speaking of which, Kindaichi is about what you’d expect, a drooling moron in normal situations, but give him some ultra tough problem and suddenly he comes alive. The writing’s mostly solid for this type of show, though there are a few obvious questions that aren’t asked, such as how a little kid came to have his phone or why the kidnappers didn’t realise they had the wrong girl within a matter of minutes. Animation style is that generic anime style you’ve seen in a million other shows, the opening and ending songs are neat but nothing particularly special, and… well, that kinda sums up the show. If you need a mystery fix, this’ll probably tick all the right boxes, but don’t go expecting anything epic.


Kin’iro no Chord: Blue♪Sky

Music shows have always been a guilty pleasure of mine. So when Blue Sky opened up with a child prodigy of a violin player, I was instantly intrigued. Sadly for our lead lady Kanade, she never lives up to that potential, peaking early in her life, and when an anonymous letter questions whether she’s reached her limit, she’s forced to question where she wants to go. And so after being invited to a musical competition thanks to her childhood friend Ritsu, and some pretty forceful persuasion on his part, she’s persuaded to once again reach for the stars.

Over the course of said competition you get a lot of the cast established, and it was with rising horror I realised that they were all personality trope fulfilling males, which can mean only one thing. Reverse harem! I should’ve seen it coming, with the show also displaying the childhood rivalry for Kanade’s affections between the accomplished Ritsu and more laidback Kyoya who’d been travelling with her up to that point. Add in a few other guys hitting on her and yep I see where this is going.

Thankfully, it doesn’t dominate the show, with the music still being given plenty of time to shine, albeit at the cost of the animation and designs. There’s a few other nods that effort is going on outside of the wooing department, Ritsu appears to have some sort of injury and there are other females on the cast, albeit few and far between, but only time will tell whether this show shines brightly or becomes overcast. Get it, because its called Blue Sky and… oh fine, be that way. Next!


Lady Jewelpet

I’ve been doing this for long enough now to remember the yearly shows when they come around for another lap. The last time I saw Jewelpets they were running cafés and while it wasn’t for me it seemed like the kind of thing youngsters could get a kick out of, the usual inoffensive rubbish we watch growing up. This show on the other hand… Well, we start by meeting our lil’ leading lady, Momono at a wedding, where her cousin is getting married to the beautiful Lady Diana, but after the ceremony our girl is teleported to the Jewel Kingdom to be tutored and educated in the art of being a Lady. Which nobody deigned to tell her, despite apparently her whole family being in on it. I’m pretty sure that’s abduction Japan.

But otherwise its the same parade of rainbows you’d expect, with added female archetypes. You have to be pretty and proper and act gracefully at all times and show the appropriate level of blushing as you’re woo’d by personalityless pretty boys ugh. Add in some more terrible writing (lets assign you a challenge, not tell you the goals then mock you for being the only one to not beat it instantly), more stereotypes (hello army lady with an American accent and terrible Engrish), and the obligatory passion filled idiot sidekick Ruby (I bet she does that pose sometime, you know the one), and you’ve got an annoying forgettable kids show that’s more of an insight into Japan’s culture stereotypes than anything else.


Love Live! School Idol Project Second Season

The girls are back in town! Back in Winter last year, the original season of Love Live stunned me by proving to be one of the best shows of the season, and came damn close to making my 2013 Top Ten. And it wasn’t just me who enjoyed it, it’s popularity grew and grew as more people discovered it, eventually leading to this much deserved second season.

So, between seasons time has passed, with lead ditz and u’s center girl Honoka now taking up the role of student council president as a thank you from students grateful to her and u’s saving their school in the first season. You get time to catch up with all the band members, and remember how tropey and parody…ey some of them were, before the announcement of a second Love Live competition with the stake’s raised sends them into a furore. Except Honoka, having spear-headed their efforts for most of the original is now reluctant to throw away their remaining time together, leading to the other eight girls spending the rest of the episode convincing her it’s worth one more shot.

The songs are as strong as ever, including a surprise Disney parody at the start of the episode. The animation is as eh as ever too, with the usual mix of cliché moe faces and mannerisms you’d expect from this sort of show, along with the idol show tradition of having stiff CG models for the ending. To this day I still have no clue why that’s a thing. But the important element that helped raise the original from just another song and dance was its writing, with u’s having a difficulty journey up until they failed. With this second season though, its been set up that this is their last chance at Love Live, and with most of the first seasons plots already resolved (form the band, save the school, convince Kotori to stay) I’m not certain that this second season can match it. If it keeps it’s focus and continues to remember the journey is more important than the destination though, this’ll do just fine.


M3 ~Sono Kuroki Hagane~

That little bit translates to The Dark Metal, though what that is or the identity of M3 remains a mystery after this opening episode. Like most mechs shows, the core is very simple, as our guys fight their guys to save the species. The beatniks this time are Admonitions born from the Lightless Realm, a place with no life or light. And as it slowly expands, it’s up to humanity to adapt and beat the Admonitions, but that’s not so easy when they still retain some of their old human memories. Add in the Corpses of which very little is known apart from their songs bringing death to all whom hear them, along with other organisations on the human side of things and a cast you never really get time to become comfortable with in this first episode and there are points where it feels like you can’t keep up.

That leading cast were all chosen by the IX organisation for unknown reasons to enter their special course to train anti-Admonition and Corpse pilots, which in a mad coincidence happens to be everyone who gets more than a minute at the start. There’s the girl who just wants attention, the experienced girl who wonders why she’s held back, an emo girl into the doom and gloom of it all, and two male guys who have… well, no personality now I think of it. There’s also a few more to be added but they didn’t appear pre-selection so are all absent. Can’t overwhelm your viewer too much!

The animation is perfectly fight, but the nature of the show makes a lot of scenes look dim, dull and drained of colour, be they at night or from within the Lightless Realm itself. There’s potential for story at least, thanks to the classic trick of having a pre-opening set tangental to the rest of the show to provide foreshadowing, while the Admonitions flit from being bizarre to generic depending on the specific one they’re fighting and what it’s up to. Will it live up to it all? Maybe, but there’s a fair chance this show will get bogged down in all its doom and gloom too.


Mahou Shoujo Taisen

Gainax. That one word will send most weeaboos on a rollercoaster of emotions. At one time, they were the undisputed kings of animation. But the years have not been kind, with Khara and Trigger sucking up all the talent, leaving the shattered remains to fend for themselves. The studio’s latest attempt to change their fate is a 4 minute magical girl show, featuring cutesy gals designed by the public to represent each prefecture of Japan.

This first episode focuses on Naruko, hailing from the Miyagi prefecture. She means well, meaning she’s ditzy and just a little bit crap, though her pompous bird sidekick is quick to have you symphasizing with her, as Tenma shouts at her to ignore the police and public in her quest to… destroy green fluffballs? It’s what you’ve gotta do to be the best… But you needn’t worry about her, the status quo will be reset after each episode because who wants endings that mean anything I mean how would you tell terrible jokes with that little restriction.

Rant aside, the animation looked good as you’d hope from Gainax, and with such a large pool of characters for the show to utilise there’s bound to be at least a few interesting ones, either character wise or design wise. And at 4 minutes, it’s not gonna drag, though on the flipside that also means the plot will be near non-existent. But hey, you want a few minute pretty thrill each week, this’d be perfect fodder.


Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei

This was one of a group of shows I’d had hyped up to me before going in, and it mostly lived up to the boasts. The emergence of mages triggered a Third World War, decimating half the world’s population and forcing peace to be brokered, leading to mages being idolised by the countries of the world, taking their position as high society, which leads us to this show focusing on magical… highschool… it’s always bloody highschool…

But even in the upper classes there are divides, with the school splitting students based on their potential into the first class known as Blooms, and the second class of Weeds, with our leading brother and sister combo being the lower and upper class respectively. And yes, before you ask, the sister has a crush on her precious onii-chan, its like you’re watching an anime. We get to meet some of their classmates too, not that they get much time out of introductions and fulfilling certain personality tropes. The show does more setting up too, showing familial issues with our leads parents, and that they’re worried some of the other students might catch onto them, hinting that maybe there’re ulterior motives to come.

As for the animation, Madhouse have done a good job here. The magic looks great, and not just for all the shiny spell flinging, there’s variety too with combat quick-drawing and traditional elemental spells to more utilitarian uses like high speed travel and cleaning. It doesn’t destroy the budget either, with great designs and fluid animation elsewhere, especially in a traditional fight scene that sadly doesn’t get as much time as it deserves. If I had to nitpick one flaw about the production (besides the incest crush) the leading guy has a very monotone voice, though speaking of audio, its brilliant to hear LiSA back and singing the opening theme.

I’ve praised Mahouka an awful lot here, but this first episode really does a good job. If I had to worry about something though, it’s that this first episode gives no indication of the way the plot will go. It could become an epic battle, it could become bland highschool hijinks, though I doubt it. It showed more than enough potential to get me on board, for certain, so I’m sticking with it.


Majin Bone

The Earth is under attack from meteors! Well, not really, it’s actually mech battles taking place in subspace that are leaving destruction in their wake as a group of unusually dressed individuals (by normal standards, by anime standards this is all normal) attempt to protect the planet from weird alien mech invaders. And with the CG budget for the episode blown on a cool opening fight, we segway to our lead guy, an idiot who hoards adult magazines. Yay. He starts hearing a weird noise, eventually tracking it down to a rock in his best friends garden after their dog starts having a fit. Turns out it houses some ancient tablet which chooses our guy and fuses with him to form the Dragon Bone mech suit. So it’s a fairly normal setup for what I assume is a mecha battle show. The mechs were pretty well animated, fights looked fluid and they had a range of abilities which’ll no doubt be explored as it goes on, but animation elsewhere was rough, especially with the character faces, and the ending animation literally just phoned it in (nice song though). There’s better mech shows out there, but if you’re impatient and need a fix now, this could be halfway decent.


Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to

Look up a moment. See that picture? Well, for 37 blissful seconds, I had faith in this show. A half-length runtime signifying it wasn’t going to overstretch itself, and protagonists who looks to be in their 20s making them too mature for idiocy. Then that line was said and all those initial hopes went down the toilet. Yes. It’s exactly that kind of shit tier show.

So lets talk about some of the other stuff. His editor looks a bit weird. Her bodies too tall for her face or something like that, seems disproportionate. The actual “manga” drawings are pretty well done bar the obvious flaw. The animation style of the ending is cool and was the highlight of the show. And now I’m out of things to say and this impression still feels a little short.

I know, if you’re interested in the whole “series about manga authors” thing, why not read Bakuman? All 20 volumes are available now, and having finished it myself it’s one of my all time favourites. It’s created by the same duo who did Death Note, and Obata’s art has only gotten better between now and then.


Mekaku City Actors

You ask somebody what the biggest franchise in otaku culture is, and they might well say Vocaloid. Heck, even the western world is slowly becoming aware as Miku and company make the leap over here, and the franchise has spawned numerous spinoffs from the creatives it attracts, such as Black Rock Shooter and the Kagerou Days project, which this is based off. A series of songs focusing sort of focusing on life after death but with a lot of nuances, it’s deep enough to have had a manga adaptation and now this animated version. And who else but the insane Shaft to bring it all to life?

Because goddamn, this is the weirdest thing Shaft have worked with since Sasami. Combine an already crazy narrative with their distinctive style and flare for unusual shots and you’ll be utterly bewildered but entranced as you watch. Heck, if I wasn’t already savvy to some of the plot thanks to fellow Anicomer Alexe keeping me in the loop, my logic driven brain would be going through meltdown. Each episode focuses on a different song and specific event, with this first one revolving around Shintaro, a standard shut-in, and Ene, an AI friend he got e-mailed out of the blue one day who totally isn’t Miku. One day the poor guy breaks his keyboard, forcing him to venture outside and navigate the shopping crowds. But lucky he ain’t, as his first trip outside in years resulting in the shopping complex he’s in being taken over by baddies, and despite him and Ene saving the day with a little help from a couple of eccentric personalities who I assume are main characters yet to be introduced, the poor guy collapses.

But is that how it all goes down? It’s only shown from his viewpoint and literally ends right there, and I know there’s more to this story behind the scenes, thanks to that larger cast of characters you see up there. And then Shaft come along and vomit references that will shoot straight past you as a first time viewer. Who is the weird girl at the start and end? Who is the girl he crashed into in the mall? And what do all these random still images mean? You won’t have a clue, much like how FLCL and Kyousougiga only start to truly make sense on the second or third viewing, but whether you like that style of storytelling or not is your call.

So with MCA looking the part and having a complex story for the viewer to unravel (they even throw in an unusual mini-story after the credits just incase you thought you were finally safe), why do I still sound so cagey? Well, it’s the worry that figuring out the puzzle is the only selling point. Neither Ene or Shintaro are the most captivating of individuals, one having no personality and the other being the usual otaku bashing trope you’ve seen elsewhere. That’s only two of the cast, of course, but if the others are similar then I just don’t know how much enjoyment there is to be had here.

And I mean, c’mon Ene, who actually shitposts about anime in the real… world…


Monster Retsuden Oreca Battle

This fulfils two of this season’s more common themes, being both kids show and card game show. It’s a ruddy epidemic. This time, subject name is new to, but good at subject game, those being Fire and Oreca respectively. Not sure how you can define being good at a game where a roulette determines the outcomes, but whatever.

But one day without warning, all the monsters on the cards vanish, and the kids get attacked by an army of… of tomato shaped UFOs which fire more tomatoes. Emphasis on the kids get attacked, the adults look on like they’re all suffering seizures or something. In the process of fleeing, Fire and his nerdy friend meet up with a card that survived, a little Tamagon monster, which leads to them eventually being transported to the Oreca world, where Fire must fight with his favourite critters for his right to survive.

Sadly, that’s where the episode ends, so it’s hard to judge what the fights themselves will be like. But if you put the lame humour to one side, this wasn’t all bad. Sure, Fire suffers from the ridiculous hair trope, but he didn’t seem afflicted with burning passion (despite the name), it’s only a half-length show which usually helps with pacing, and the CG monsters he’d be fighting looked darn good for this kind of cash-in show. I’ve certainly seen worse this season. Maybe I’m being too lenient, but with a few more episodes I could see this turning out decent. Maybe.


Mushishi Zoku-Shou

I have a confession to make. I’ve not watched the original Mushishi besides the odd episode. Which meant I was going into this second season almost blind. The good news though, is the show itself seems somewhat aware of this, having been almost a decade since Mushishi last graced our screens. This episode takes the perspective of somewhat from outside the mushishi culture looking in (much like its new viewerbase), as a sake brewer manages to create a beverage so good it fools the mushi, the representations of life, themselves. This means that Ginko, the lead of the series and the guy you’ll see on all the promotional material, barely appears, only providing brief exposition when our junior viewpoint character bumps into him.

But brief glimpses into the world is all you need to be enthralled, and I expect the show will be all about letting those small snippets combine to make a much greater whole, focusing on telling interesting stories within the world and its occupants, be they human, mushi or otherwise, rather than a cavalcade of action or moronic titillation. It’s a must see show for people whom realise you don’t need either of those to make something truly great, and has forced me to bump the original series way up my to watch list. And if that wasn’t enough, it also has one of the best opening themes I’ve heard in a long time.


Nandaka Velonica

I enjoyed this more than I should’ve. A 10 minute show aimed at kids, which dictated the entire tone and artstyle of the production, but still managed to remain a little intriguing. Some intergalactic communications network want to stick an antenna on Earth to add us into their coverage, but what with us being such a backwater planet and humanity so wasteful and eager to repeat our mistakes, we don’t even have a planetary leader for their president’s daughter to get to sign the contract. So cue our alien princess meeting some random Earth kid ye olde manga style and setting up what I assume will be a show about her learning Earth culture and coming to love it while pretending not to care. Except I could look it up as it’s already finished, only running for 10 episodes over March, which combined with that short runtime means if you’re intrigued, its only a couple of hours and could be worth a punt.


No Game, No Life

Gamers, have you heard? There’s an unbeatable team of four players all with blank names, capable of taking out guilds with over a thousand players without taking a hit. And who could control such fearsome characters? Well, a brother and sister of course. I mean c’mon, this is an anime.

One day the duo get a message from an anonymous sender asking them what they think of the world they were born in, and whether they wish they’d be born in a world defined by the games they dominate at. They leap at the chance and get warped to the world of Disboard by its god, Tet. After adapting quickly to their new surroundings, the two flourish, able to use their talents to gain money and possessions without fear of robbery or worse.

While on paper this sounded like another Sword Art alike, it’s actually more reminiscent of Mondajitachi which aired last year. Except that series had strong, charismatic leads with more interesting powers and personalities than the cliché incest tag team this show uses. It also showcased a bigger variety of games, while this first episode played it safe with stuff like chess and poker, so hopefully it’d evolve to include more unusual stipulations.

The animations and visual style of the show look great, thanks to having Madhouse at the helm, and the soundtrack is solid enough too. So all in all, a better show than I expected, but one still held back from animeisms like its leads, and the next episode preview severely hinting that it’s gonna head down the fanservice humour route, which is always an alarm bell for mediocrity. Not something I’ll be watching now then, but maybe later in the year if I get some spare time.


Ping Pong The Animation

In my meager five years of watching anime, I’ve seen a selection of unusually stylised shows, but even amongst those Ping Pong ranks up there as one of the most bizarre. That’s not to say it looks bad though, quite the opposite, but the unusual visuals and filmographic shots used take a while to adjust to. Our lead guy, nicknamed Smile for reasons you could never guess in the time to read this sentence, is a great table tennis player, being leagues ahead of the rest of his school’s club to the aggravation of his seniors. The only player who can beat him is Peco, who usually plays truant because of how much better he is.

Bored of that lack of challengers, the duo head to a rival school whom recently gained an infamous player as a transfer student in action, nicknamed China. Relegated to Japanese schools because of a single mistake he made back home, he’s already massively pissed and proceeds to absolutely school Peco when challenged, while realising Smile is holding back instead of playing at the far higher level he can. All in all, a surprisingly normal plot for a show like this, barring the unusual choice of sport.

But the style suits it brilliantly, and the show does seem to be relying on that to convey the story and win fans, which combined with a great opening song and brilliant ending animation results in a show that sticks in your mind. But the question is can the writing keep up with the visual flare, and I just don’t know. Unless you’re really won over by the first episode, it’ll probably be worth waiting for others to take the leap to see how much substance there is to go with the style.


Pretty Rhythm All Star Selection

To me Pretty Rhythm’s most notable characteristic is that it airs in the same block as Super Sentai and Kamen Rider (on a related note, the latest KR series, Gaim, is worth checking out, best Rider they’ve made in a long time). Anyway, I assume the last PR show ran short of its year long runtime or the next one is taking longer to make then planned, because All Star Selection is a one cour affair where three of the past Pretty Idols prepare Lala (the mauve haired girl in the image) for her debut in the summer season. These segments act as buffers with the main event being an episode from the past.

Sadly all the girls, while looking stylish, merge into one moe blob with me unable to distinguish who was who and forgetting all names in a minute, resorting to “the clutz” and “that girl who wore the hat earlier” to tell them apart. The episode they choose explains the premise of the franchise as unsubtly as you can manage, while sticking the words Pretty and Prism in front of every other thing just to make sure you remember what you’re watching. The lead girl of whichever series is that aforementioned clutz who it turns out when she overcomes her lack of confidence for just a moment is amazing at dancing. Mind blowing originality here.

Oh come on, don’t look at me like that, what do you want me to say about a highlights show. The costume designs are the standout feature as you’d expect, but the laziness elsewhere is staggering, only important characters actually get drawn, with all other people reduced to gradient coloured cutouts, even if they have a line or two to say. But if you’ve been looking for a way into Pretty Rhythm, this crash course building up to the new series proper is probably the best chance you’ll ever have, though you could just as easily ignore it and jump in when summer hits if you’re that bothered by this.


Puchimas!! Petit Petit Idolm@ster

Time has not improved my outlook on Puchimas. I was scathing towards it in our last encounter, as tiny not that well drawn chibi version of the Idolm@ster cast get up to “adorable” hijinks for hilarious effect. By which I mean you sit there stoically for a few minutes, the show ends, and you recall the terrible animation and awful attempts at humour and ponder how that time could’ve been better spent. Obviously this is aimed at Idolm@ster fans which, surprise surprise, I ain’t one of, but I’d have hoped they had seen through this rubbish the first time around. I guess not. Hopefully this spinoff gets put to bed sooner rather than later.


Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin

Tomb Raider The Animation! Man I wish. Still, if that sounds like something you’ve wanted to watch then this isn’t far from that, albeit with a few animeisms thrown in for bad measure. Nanana’s Buried Treasure takes place on Nanae Island, a place built from the ground up for academia with countless schools and courses, attracting a mostly student population, all built by seven prodigies led by who else but the titular Nanana. And as luck would have it our lead guy Yama gets to start rooming with her when he moves to the island. The twist? Well, she kinda got murdered 10 years ago so she’s a ghost. A ghost with very weird rules too considering she can choose to be solid or ethereal as she pleases (see that picture for an example).

Of course with a boy and a girl in the same room in an anime, yes, he’s a mild pervert, yes, she’s a blockhead, yes, most of the support cast are also schoolgirls and yes, they’ll probably have crushes on him before the show’s over), but looking past all of that there’s more potential here than most. Nanana loved adventure, with the sequence before the opening featuring her running through a trap filled cavern to get to a treasure chest back when she was alive, like some kind of raider of tombs. Such was her love for them that Nanae Island is riddled with countless hidden items from her collection, with her amassed fortune totalling billions of yen, before you include some of the magical relics also hidden away.

That will presumably be the crux of the show, though no magic happens in this first episode, with it instead ending on a robbery by the Matusri group of villains with a totally not Milky Holmes lookalike detective entering the scene to solve the crime. Come to think of it, Yama’s landlord is also a deadringer for Katsuragi of Eva. But if you ignore these… homages… along with the other cliché anime annoyances, this show has plenty of room to provide both action and plot. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a great show in the making, this could implode in numerous ways, but I’d have more faith in it than most.


Seikoku no Dragonar

This is another of those shows where the pre-title segment has little to do with what follows. A god takes pity on our lead guy, Ash, who sacrificed himself to save a girl, so deigns to heal him and his missing arm, before we segway via the opening into his highschool life! And what is this highschool’s gimmick? It’s for the chosen branded people, training them to utilise their Pals, whom take the form of Dragons. The connection between a branded user and their Pal is so strong only they can use them, with contact with others causing them to lose their shit. Except for Ash (of course), whom can safely be with any Pal, despite not having his own yet. Kids will be kids though, and the mockery he receives led to him being a problem child, causing him to bump into the school’s other problem child and princess of the country, also distained because of her personality and family’s long past crimes.

There is some world politics as well but its background noise, and then there’s the ecchi! Oh yes. It’s not as bad as other shows from this season, with no full on nudity (yet, this is airing on AT-X), but you do have dream sequences where Ash is sexually harassed by a mostly naked girl performing a “ritual” to prepare him for his Pal. And that Pal, in a (not so) shocking twist, turns out to be a young human girl instead of a dragon. Which was a mild disappointment, the dragons all look cool in this, thanks to both a cool texturing effect and fluid fight and racing scenes they feature in.

Overall then, I’m not sure about Dragonar. It has some intriguing elements, cool animation and, well, dragons, plus I actually liked the lead characters, but there’s also the titillation and anime tropes which look set to be a series staple if the next episode preview is anything yo do by. It’s a show I’ll consider, but not enough to put it ahead of other more promising offerings from the season.


selector infected WIXOSS

With a name like that I had little to no clue what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t card games. Our leading lady, Ruuko, is struggling to make friends at school, so to help her her brother gives her a deck of cards of the latest craze, Wixoss. Except when she opens them up she discovers her deckmast-sorry, LRIG card houses a living, talking being called Tama. Which she finds remarkably normal, all things considered. It also attracts the attention of Yuzuki and her LRIG who drags Ruu straight into battle before we learn anything about the rules or other cards she owns. Those aren’t explained in the entire episode by the way, so if you were expecting to play Wixoss yourself anytime soon, that ain’t happening.

But amongst the fun and games are more serious segments. Having those LRIG cards makes you a Selector, destined to battle other Selectors in your quest to become the Eternal Diva, someone who can makes wishes come true, but all it takes are three losses and you can never realise that dream. There is some darker foreshadowing too, with weird beings getting stabbed and town’s disappearing in Ru’s dreams, and Tama being overly eager to battle and conquer, and it’s those elements that add to the other fairly generic animation (though some background shots are nice too). My problem is that from what was shown in this episode the writing will probably let the show down later, and I’ve seen a bunch of cutesy shows with dark foreboding fail to live up to their promise, so pardon me if I don’t get overly keen on this one.


Sidonia no Kishi

I’ll forgive you if the Muse song is the first thing that came to mind. But that thought is soon blown away when you start watching by another one, namely “fuck me this is pretty”. I don’t mean that in the KyoAni way, or the hey this show remembers what colours are way, I mean this could pass itself off as a movie. The CG here is utterly phenomenal, from sweeping vistas of space or the towering city to mech and aliens engaged in battle. The only time it slips up is on close ups of people, with them looking a little porcelain and moving stiffly, but the show is aware of this weakness and does a good job of playing around it.

And the plot? Well, at its core it’s simple. An alien race called the Gauna are fought by mech pilots. Our lead, Nagate, spend his life underground with his father, and the story jumps in when a lack of food and supplies forces him to venture towards the surface. Where within his first few hours he’s broken two of his fingers, been slammed into a metal container at high speed, smashed out of a several story high hospital window and had his lights knocked out by a pilot student. This ain’t no slapstick humour either, the blows look brutal and you wonder just how much more punishment he’ll take over the rest of the series.

But Sidonia takes the simple plot and weaves countless layers upon it. The city is run by a mask wearing individual, but the people question whether it’s the same girl time after time. They’re in war with those aliens, but have had no conflict in over a century, yet remain in wartime conditions, with anti-military groups vocal about their way of life. Humanity itself has taken massive leaps forward, with three genders and photosynthesis just a few of our new tricks. And those are but a few of the details either mentioned or displayed in this first episode. With so much going on it can be a bit overwhelming, so hopefully the show knows how to utilise the mech battles to provide a simpler touch while the viewer digests the complexities.

I really can’t praise this one enough. I mean, this list has Keepers, but even amongst those it’s rare to see a show with such magic straight out of the gate. Within 5 minutes I was sold on this show, and despite one out of place fanservice shot, the entire show just kept nailing it again and again. It sounds great, it looked better, has a cast with all the potential in the world to grow thanks to them not being tropey, a world filled with rich history for the narrative to mine… just… damn. This is both an award winning manga and the first Netflix original anime (despite their minimal involvement) for a reason. If this doesn’t make it to my Top Ten list for the year, something went horribly horribly wrong.


Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii

Here’s a puzzle for you, what happens when sun meets rain? No, not rainbows, the answer is this series. Nike, the fourth princess of the small Rain kingdom apparently hits the jackpot by getting a political marriage to the Sun Kingdom’s King, the most successful and prosperous nation in all the lands. But what of guy is he, when her fellow princesses describe him as a bastard lecher and his people idolise him for all he’s done for their land.

So Nike decides to arrive a few days earlier than planned to scope out the country and its people, leading to the same predictable shenanigans as she’s mugged and finds out her money is worthless, before being rescued by some kind local family, and ends up repaying the favour to her muggers tenfold. Because she’s an airbender! Yeah, I’ll admit that one caught me off guard. The episode ends with her arriving in the capital and meeting her betrothed, finding out he actually seems like an alright guy. Such a lovely guy that there’s a conspiracy within the military for the pair of them to have accidents because I mean who wants a happy and successful country right.

Which leaves the question of where this show will go. World politics? Romantic comedy? Continued thwarting of the rebel plans? More than likely a bit of everything. As for the animation, it’s not amazing but has the odd flourish where required, and the show mostly avoids taking the low road of fanservice, but then again this episode is pretty much all Nike so its early days. I don’t see it having the same political depth as a Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, or a particularly standout cast, but its hard to say based off this one episode alone. This could be worth a punt, but only if you have the time to spare.


Soul Eater NOT!

Indulge me for just a moment (though if you’ve read this far, you’ve probably indulged me for a little longer than that). The original Soul Eater anime ranks as one of my all time favourites, a phenomenal shōnen series that merged a great cast with interesting stories, brought to life by Bones’ great animation. So what relation is Not? Well, while the main show focuses on the powerhouses of the DWMA world, Not is about the freshers, giving the perspective of an outsider looking into this crazy world of Weapons and Meisters for the first time. And about shoving in a boatload of cameos from the oldies.

The show is led by newly awakened weapon Tsugumi, having just arrived at the academy and looking for a partner to… partner with… She meets Meme, an airhead on a gigantous scale, and rich girl Anya, whom came along to learn more about commoners, seeing Tsugumi as the means to that end. You also get to see that unlike at the top, some of the people who join the academy have ulterior motives, meaning there’s a lot of trouble to be navigated on the road to becoming fully fledged students.

So in short, it’s a slice of life shot set within the Soul Eater universe. If you came here expecting more epic fights, you’ll just have to pray the remainder of the main manga gets adapted. Which brings me to a weird point, there’s very little of Not to adapt right now, with the third volume only recently coming out, so there’s no way this’ll last more than a single season. Add in an animation style that’s cutesy focus makes it look like a step backward from several years ago, and not even the return of the classic voice actors can alleviate the nagging feeling that while this’ll still be good, it sadly won’t be on the same level as its predecessor.


Tenkai Knights

Light years away there exists a world known as Planet Cube, staggering similar to our own except for one key difference. All the inhabitants are robots! Oh, and yes, it’s a cube. The colourful forces of good robots fight the monochrome hordes of bad robots while looking like a mix of Lego bricks and miniature Gundam models. But only the power of the four Tenkai Knights could possibly defeat the baddies once and for all. And just as said war is about to end, the Tenkai Dragon arises and wipes out nearly everyone from both sides to put an end to the wait a minute.

Backstory set up, we catapult back to Earth to watch a couple of schoolkids discover the model versions of said knights and… yes, the lead kid has the red one and red hair… but through a series of events they get transported to Planet Cube to inhabit and resurrect the actual Tenkai Knights who had been laying dormant for aeons after the baddies captured them (and didn’t destroy them, weirdly). Will they escape and save the day (hint – yes). Okay, I’m having a go at the script rather unfairly, because outside of these niggles I’m pointing out it was fairly on the ball, the cast of characters being fairly smart and likeable instead of burning passion idiocy, the animation was decent enough and the action orientated stuff with the robots was cool to watch. Nothing complex here, but certainly if I was a youngster I’d buy into this more than most of the trash aimed at kids I’ve talked about this season.


YuGiOh Arc-V

First there was Duel Monsters. Then the hip to the mizzax GX. Then motorcycle ridden but actually decent 5Ds, followed by… whatever Zexal was. And now comes the fifth series of YuGiOh, Arc-V. Three years ago the dad of our lead bailed on a duel for the title of King of Games or whatever it is this time, making his purple haired barbarian wannabe opponent champion by default. And now in the present, he decides to challenge his son and our lead, Yuya, in the hope of dragging his down out from whatever hole he’s been hidden in ever since, in front of a stadium filled to the rafters because YuGiOh is the greatest spectator sport.

If you’ve seen a series of YuGiOh before you’ll recognise the usual similarities, from the crazy hair to the underpowered yet useful creature the lead uses (not a Kuriboh variant this time though), and the old 2500 vs 3000 ATK battles are back once more. They’re also still dueling with holograms, but modern tech now means they’re solid and can be interacted with by humans.  But sadly, it’s whats changed that defines this series. Classic YuGiOh, for all its bells and whistles still mostly followed the rule sets, making for interesting duels that you could replicate. Arc-V eschews that in favour of having fields filled with Action cards, which players run to and utilise, essentially making them arbitrary “escape x situation” devices that shatter the illusions of skill in dueling. Combined with Pendulum summons, you can see the writers of either the show or the game are running out of ideas.

Otherwise it’s service as usual, with standard animation, music, character designs and personalities, story, all of it. It’s just a shame that the duel have resorted to such cheap tricks which in a roundabout way you could label as cheating, otherwise I might’ve been game to renew my interest in YuGiOh. Stick with the classics folks.


That’s it, all done, Spring is no more. But if you’re still got time to kill, why not check out some of the Winter shows, or maybe one of my 2013 top ten. They’re all good. Honest.