Oct 19

Fall Anime 2016 First Episode Impressions – Part 2

Rockin' the Show

Rockin’ the Show

It’s onto Phase Two and yes I am behind. Just a tad. Luckily then, this next batch covers the 14 shows that aired on October 2nd and 3rd, including a swathe of sequels.

Did you like Chi’s Sweet Home? Show by Rock? Gundam? Because if you did, you’re in luck. Elsewhere, we have high school girls in clubs, card games, monster hunters and… actually, I don’t know how to describe that. You’ll see which show I mean soon enough…

Chi’s Sweet Home 3

Chi! Ranking pretty highly on the list of “cool shows I never expected to get sequels” is Chi’s Sweet Home. The original two seasons were made up of hundreds of short episodes that did a good job of showcasing the innocence of a cat’s viewpoint on daily life and how it invariably leads to chaos, as anyone who’s ever lived with one knows (and loves).

This new incarnation retains some of the magic from those series, but doesn’t quite realise it. For starters, the show has gone up to a 12 minute runtime from the original 3, and the animation is now CG, which works well for some seasons, but awfully for others. This is especially noticeable in some scenes where Chi is meowing and speaking her internal thoughts at the same time, making it look like she can suddenly speak human.

The bigger letdown though is the writing. I understand Chi is just a kitten, but this seems more focused on hijinks and mischief than genuine cat stuff, losing a good chunk of the warm and fuzzy that helped make the original stand out. And in a year which has already offered some great cat shorts in Nyanbo and She And Her Cat, I just can’t recommend this over them.


Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans Second Season

Gundam’s back! But not the one that aired in Spring. No, this is the sequel to an entirely different show, just to confuse you. And confuse me as well, as I’ve not seen the original. And considering how much of Gundam is usually focused on politics… well, it was always gonna be an uphill battle to jump back in.

But even allowing for that, this doesn’t do anything to help bring in new viewers. Recaps are kept very brief, and the “action” portion of the show which could win people over was minimal at best. Instead we got a few minutes with each set of the overall cast, which means little when I have no clue about who they are, what they did and what their motivations are. They just say a few lines, reel off some faction names and then boom, next scene.

What I did manage to pick up (maybe) is that kids are important for the war effort, which probably has something to do with the risky medical procedure they can do to make people stronger and more in tune with their mechs. But none of the kids shown are really engaging. Heck, only the leader of the presumably good faction gets enough time to establish himself on-screen, but even then he just feels like another guy, not anybody special.

Again, it’s hard to say how many of these faults are simply because I’ve not seen the first season. Maybe if you have, you’ll have a totally different take. And it wasn’t all bad. The music, especially towards the end of the episode, was great. But with the rest of the episode, from characters to plot to animation (especially the latter after the Spring Gundam looked amazing) dropping the ball, I couldn’t recommend this over other Gundam series.


Okusama ga Seitokaichou!+!

Y’know, when the version of a show I’m watching has “uncensored” in the title, it tends to set certain alarm bells ringing. And when within the first of the show’s eight minutes I’m “treated” to a panty shot, I kinda knew where we were going.

The sequel to a previous season I’ve thankfully never seen, this show opens by reminding us that the student council president and vice-president are living together, unbeknownst to most of the staff and students, with lady pres claiming she’s married to mr vice and trying to perform “wifely duties”. And anime being anime, what that actually means is footjobs and trying to flip his switch.

So cue the usual humour of him trying to bail in any way possible, until one final act finally makes him snap… at which point the doorbell rings. The comedy! The jokes! The oh come on, you know this show sucks already.

It’s got pervert humour, albeit slightly less fanservicey because… well, it just shows nudity when it needs to. It’s got forgettable characters. It’s got bog-standard animation, and there’s no reason to care about anything outside of your dick. But hell, I’ve seen porn with better writing, so no, not a chance for this crap.


Magic-kyun! Renaissance

Not gonna lie, having a show with magic and renaissance in the title kinda intrigued me. “Maybe it’ll be a parody of the industrial revolution but with magic? Wait… wasn’t that the plot of Lost Odyssey?” Well anyway, I missed the mark, as this show is actually all about art evoking magic, with a reverse harem template thrown in for good measure.

Kohana is our lead high school girl, the daughter of a world-renowned flower arranger who could make sparkles out of her art (which is a thing all truly great art does in this show), inspiring little Ko to follow in her footsteps. Or to try, anyway. And so she transfers into the premium school for artists (which in itself is treated as a rarity), only to realise how far behind she is, both in work and art, having never made sparkles before with her flowers.

We meet the rest of the male ensemble in quick fashion, with one who sculpts, one who does calligraphy, one who dances, one who paints, one who plays music and one who sings, with the latter having the nickname of King and seemingly taking the role of lead guy. As for the goal of the series, the boy and girl crowned best in year get to climb a staircase. I guess this is important or something.

I’m kinda divided by this show then, as while there’s plenty to like, there’s also plenty of genre traditions. On the plus side, the art keeps it all lively, and the bright palette certainly makes it more fun to watch. On the down side, most of the male cast seem pretty forgettable, and I’m not sure if this can make the day to day life of its cast all that entertaining. I ain’t gonna write this one off, but I doubt it’ll sparkle too brightly.


Monster Hunter Stories: Ride On

I don’t think there’s been a Monster Hunter anime before, which is kinda surprising. The tales of hunters fighting epic beasties seems ripe for an adaptation, but it’s taken until the cel-shaded MH Stories before we’ve finally got one. And if you ever visualised an MH show for children, odds are Ride On is pretty much that exact show.

Lead kid Lute is dragging his friends across the land (which seems somewhat of a death wish) looking for his egg before the next day’s summoning ritual which’ll grant him his partner Po…Di… monster. After some exploring and running away, they happen upon a shrine in the Forbidden Land complete with egg, which hatches into a mini fire dragon beast. Him and Lute fight and bond together, and presumably in the next episode their adventure will begin for real.

As for that side cast, there’s the intelligent sidekick who can make food, the scaredy cat one who… well, doesn’t do much in this episode, and some dumb animal sidekick who seems there only to be mocked and ignored and go “d’oh”.

Despite that it’s not all bad. Heck, the mix of 2D characters with CG monsters works really well. But otherwise you’ve got a fairly standard kid’s show, with standard kid show writing and characters. Better than some of the lame attempts at comedy I’ve seen, but otherwise nothing special. I don’t even know if I’d recommend this to Monster Hunter die-hards…


Cardfight!! Vanguard G NEXT

I’ve gotten to see a fair few first episodes of Cardfight Vanguard over the years, but the show has always lacked the spark of the better Yu-Gi-Oh shows (original and 5D’s, if you’re wondering). A lot of this comes down to the card game itself being less engaging, more about power plays than the strategy that is at its opponent’s core.

Even more frustratingly, the show opens in intriguing fashion, with the three main leads (I assume) in a tournament, each with their own teams, ready to do battle, which sounded like an awesome point to jump in… except it was a flashforward! This is why I hate how so many shows open with these things.

So instead, the show’s present is about lead kid Chrono having lost his way since his former teammates went their separate ways, and it takes a random challenge and defeat from the Under 20 champion (who I kept imagining as Pegasus from Yu-Gi-Oh) to reignite his passion.

But again, the actual cardfights… just aren’t that interesting to watch. Yu-Gi-Oh takes the time to explain why moves matter, but this is just a rapid fire assault of summon trigger power number bind keyword win, so much so that it’s hard to tell how much more enjoyment you’d get if you actually understood it all. The only great thing that actually stood out to me was the fight music, but that alone ain’t enough to keep me around.


Show by Rock!! #

The last time I saw Show by Rock, it was a short which… well, sucked. I also claimed it can’t have been all that popular, but then I saw the abundance of fanart, so I guess it does have its fans. So the question now is how does the proper version of the show hold up, and it’s… well, better than I feared.

After the obligatory flashforward (which is actually relevant this episode), we head back to the present day, re-meeting the several bands contracted to the main agency as they prep for concerts and contests. Sadly the return of the “Queen of Darkness” puts an end to that, as she schemes to turn all music bad and use that power to control the Sound Galaxy. Or something.

The one intriguing element, which was that the band’s lead member had gone back to her planet (I assume Earth), is also thrown away, as she’s dragged back by a giant robot at the end of the episode to restore that status quo.

Despite my dour tone, it’s not all bad. Stylistically this show is a riot, with standout character designs, nice music and… chibi-anthropomorphic CG song performances… Not something I ever expected to see or write about, but there ya go. Sadly, the plot doesn’t live up to the visuals, and none of the individual characters are engaging. So sure, it’s better than I expected based off of the short last season… but I still wouldn’t champion this.


Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru

I’ve seen shows about swords that are people before. Heck, my favourite shōnen anime is Soul Eater, a show all about that idea. But Touken Ranbu still managed to do a good job amongst stiff competition. Featuring over a dozen swords of famous Japanese generals and such from ye olde days, and turning them into people, we see them tasked with protecting history from an army of demons bent on changing it for the worse.

Before that though we get the usual extended scene running through the entire (male) cast of seventeen or so swords turned people, including our lead kid who only got recruited yesterday and is the second half of a pair. So it comes as a shock when he’s designated the leader of his first mission by their mysterious “master”.

While there’s not enough time to flesh out any of the cast besides the leading duo, the show still does a solid job with what it’s got, and nobody felt like a trope. What’s more, I dug the simple yet stylish character designs, and even the baddies they had to fight looked cool and contrasted well with their foes. The only downer was both how brief and poorly portrayed the combat scene was, as what looked like a whitewash was apparently actually a forced retreat for our heroes.

Despite those gripes, and the simple fact having such a large cast isn’t usually the smartest of ideas (especially if more show up later), what’s on offer is certainly solid, and could well be worth picking up if it… picks up. One for the reserve pile.


Ao Oni The Animation

The best part about shorts is that they offer a distilled experience of what the show is about, meaning you can very, very quickly work out if it’s gonna be good or not. So it took me no time at all to cotton on to the fact Ao Oni sucks.

You see four kids enter a mansion, and then roll Nat 1’s on their perception as the monster who lives there, Ao Oni, kills them off one by one. Well, I say kills, they all keep talking and moving even after they’ve been hung, eaten or stomped, because death is so hilarious hahaha.

What else? It uses flash animation, a minute of its three was taken up by a misleading into and ending song, and… now I actually am out of things to say. Basically, it’s trash, don’t bother.


Kaitou Joker Fourth Season

Kid friendly Lupin returns for his fourth season, and if you read my thoughts on the third season back in Spring, well you’ve made my job a lot easier, as it’s pretty much the same show (surprise), with style out the ass and writing that is mostly ass.

Okay, that’s harsh, I found this one mildly more enjoyable, mainly as they made an attempt at sticking with the same bag of tricks instead of inventing nonsense with each new scene, and some of the jokes actually hit home, especially when the episode’s villain just ignores Joker and goes after his alien friends, much to the lead’s chagrin.

But there’s still a huge amount of dumb logic that people just assume they can get away with because it’s aimed at kids, like when Joker and his sidekick infiltrate a high-tech facility by… wearing mole costumes…

It also doesn’t help that despite trying to set up a narrative arc for the season in this episode, very little of what happens feels like it truly matters. Maybe if I was five again I’d be all over this (what did I watch when I was five… Wacky Races I guess?), but I’m not… so I ain’t. I dunno, I think of kid’s stuff like Adventure Time and Steven Universe raising the bar and then I see this and it’s just… not even close.


Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but this is an anime about an all girls high school club! In fact, the character designs sort of gave me a Saki vibe, except this is about table tennis (or ping pong), not mahjong. Don’t worry though, this is better than Saki. Not that that’s hard.

We have lots of girls who mostly look like they’re 10 years old, and all the leads have bright hair colours. There’s the ace of the team who’s proud to be her school’s number one and loves the attention and affection it brings, and then there’s the shy transfer student who causes a storm when she creams all the mooks, and then beats the club captain (ranked at #4) in a closer fought match, gaining her loads of attention to the chagrin of old ace.

That narrative arc actually is kinda interesting, and the other thing I have to praise, weirdly, is the sweat. No, seriously, it’s not see through or any of that anime shite, but it does make the players look like they’ve been running around hard for a few minutes, which is good. I enjoyed the flashback opening too, featuring a psychotically good player… who sadly never appeared again this episode.

As for the rest? Well, seen one high school girl club anime… There’s dumb cutesy gibberish, jokes about breasts and fairly standard animation that does like to make matches standout compared to, say, Ping Pong. That show stills rules the roost when it comes to table tennis, but this one isn’t a total write off if you need another fix.


Gakuen Handsome

You get to watch some utter rot doing this. For every standout experience I get to suffer through a lot of crap, and Gakuen Handsome is the latest in the line of godawful. A kid transfers into a private school after being out of town for 7 years, and we come to see how half the people in that school have fucking daggers for chins.

That’s the joke. I think. I mean, fanart from before the series airs depicts them all as normal, so maybe it’s just a directorial choice? They only really keep the spikes on close-ups, otherwise they look normal in more distant shots. Also I think everyone’s gay? The show has an obsession with romance and all the main cast are male so.

And then there’s the animation! It looks like Paint. No joke, if you took Sugar Neko Girls and smoothed out the edges a bit, you’d be at the level of this. It doesn’t even bother with animation half the time, using loads of stills, even when people are talking.

It’s fucking garbage. Even at 3 and a half minutes I could feel my life wasting away as I watched. Nope, nadda, no way. Next!


Trickster: Edogawa Ranpo “Shounen Tanteidan” yori

Trickster, brought to you by Edogawa Ranpo’s The Boy Detectives Club, certainly starts off strong. By opening with a monologue on how death is a privilege of the living, it does a great job of showing the pain of one of our leads, who is seemingly stuck as an immortal.

Our other lead, a boy detective, bumps into him by chance when chasing a missing dog, and gets to see some of his powers in a (poorly realised) scene where the dog hits the immortal’s… energy shield thingy… and gets killed instantly. Which leads to said detective taking an interest in this new kid and chasing him across the city.

Elsewhere, there’s some adult detectives chasing after “Twenty Faces”, a master of disguise who seems to be verging on supervillain status. There’s also a bunch of unexplored relationships between the adult and child cast, with both being aware of the other and using the same intermediary, which should make for some interesting interactions down the road.

Despite the intriguing elements, there are still some oddities, including a few bizarre contradictions. After spending the episode building up the immortal kid’s powers and how invulnerable he is, he gets cut randomly. He also seems bi-polar, with some of his words and actions going against what was happening in the previous scene. Add in some exceptionally stupid background cast, and sadly I just can’t commit to this despite its strengths.


Stella no Mahou

Ah, another high school all girls club anime? And they’re doing something otaku related? Cool, I’ll just get my coat then. My fears were short-lived though, as this turned out quite a bit better than I thought.

I mean, to get the negative’s out of the way, yes, this does give off some of the fluffy aura that shows like K-On made more commonplace. And the lead’s fairly directionless. And the kids look like they’re barely out of primary. But none of those detract a lot from the core of the show.

That core being that the club makes games. They’ve only been around for one year, but their senpai who formed the unit graduated, with our new lead somewhat taking her place as illustrator. The existing members all play off each other well too, with the more serious coder, laid back writer and fun-loving musician making jokes that hit home to a fellow developer. And now they have the band… well, not back together, but whole, they aim make to make a game for a competition, which seems to be the long-term goal.

Of course, when you think of anime about people making games, you think of last season’s New Game, which did a great job at showing Japanese game dev life. This isn’t at that level, but it does share the bright palettes and more optimistic demeanour without making it all seem easy as pie. It also helps they’re making regular games and not stuff sitting at the more weab end of the spectrum. So while I still don’t think it’s a must see, if you’re after something a bit similar or are craving a show similar to New Game, give Stella a try.


WELP! This one took a while. Most of it was redrafting too. The good news is Part 3 is already well underway, with Natsume’s Book of Friends, Yuri On Ice and a boatload of shorts such as… Tee… kyuu… 8…

I’m… just gonna stand over here. Screaming. Eternally.