First Impressions – Winter of 2015

We told you we’d be back soon. Like, really really soon. Here we are. Yes, it’s first impressions time again, and while winter is generally a slow season for anime, there were a lot of series that caught our interest when we looked at its chart back in December. We didn’t check out everything – last fall made us learn the hard way that just because you watch more doesn’t mean what you watch will be good – but we did check out everything that seemed important and intriguing to us or surprisingly good to other anime critics. Like last fall, we won’t be posting scores this early. This is simply our thoughts on the pilot of each show we watched, followed by whether we thought it seemed worthy of continuation. We’ve also added little summaries to each entry below, just in case you’re out of the loop (and there’s nothing wrong with that!). Let Justice-sensei put your ignorance to ease.

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 8.09.55 PM

ALDNOAH.ZERO SEASON 2

w2015-1i-az-capSummary: Picking up after a 19-month timeskip from where Aldnoah.Zero left off, Season 2 is the show’s second cour. Spoiler – nobody died.

Harubro: Welp. This pilot just completely undid everything from the first season’s glorious self-immolation in that final episode last year. I knew ahead of time that the main characters had somehow survived that confrontation, despite being shot, but Slaine’s motives now are absolutely maniacal. This episode is written like a bad fanfic. And a gutless one, at that. Set 19 months after the aforementioned decisive battle, it looks as though the Martians are set for a final push against the Earth forces. A much more confident looking Slaine is apparently at the helm of this decisive charge. But wait! The knight in orange returns complete with a cybernetic eye, having somehow rebounded from that gunshot to the head! Admittedly, I’m much more disappointed that he wasn’t eyepatch man. He doesn’t even seem to have a scratch, though he looks to be slightly more sociable now. He even seems able to activate Aldnoah power now! What can’t the based Inaho do, amirite? Though it is chock full of machination after machination, much like its predecessor, I knew going in that the writing for this show was going to be lackluster. I’m only in this show for the fireworks, and it’ll hopefully provide at least that much.
WATCH?: Only if you like fireworks.

Yatahaze: Oh man, what a mess.

Yes, Inaho is alive. Yes, the Princess is (sort of) alive. Yes, Slaine has officially come to the dark side. The pieces are all set up and after a three-month break, everyone’s ready to watch Gen Urobuchi’s illegitimate child suck Hiroyuki Sawano’s dick again. What, too vulgar? I’m just getting started. A.Z had so many issues with proper characterization in its first season and unfortunately so far, all of those issues remain. Of the characters who had decent development in season one, Slaine’s now dryer than he was before, Marito’s gone, and the Princess is uh…not conscious. The rest of the Deucalion crew is as helpless as they were then. The only welcome change is that Inaho (believe it or not) is less robotic now that he’s literally a cyborg, but even then, he’s not much more interesting than he used to be. Character gripes aside, the stage is set for what should be some interesting tension, however I fear the show will prevent that due its habit of writing “the important scenes” really well but not giving a shit about any of the others, preventing said important scenes from landing any emotional impact. Keep in mind that Aldnoah also loves plot twists for the sake of having plot twists (see episode 12), and these twists almost never work out well.

The simple reality of the situation is that A.Z’s worst enemy is and always has been itself. I’m still in it for the long haul, but I want a better, more well-rounded half this time around, and I’m still not sure if I’ll get that. For all its hype, it didn’t do a whole lot to indicate it could be that better show I’m hoping for, so for now, most of the rest of this season: 1, Aldnoah: 0. I’ve always wanted to make that pun.
WATCH?: Did you see the first season? Do you feel inclined to continue?

ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM

w2015-1i-ac-capSummary: A class of misfits has to find a way to kill their tentacled alien teacher before he destroys the Earth. Easier said than done.

Harubro: Let it be known that I do not type these shows’ reviews by alphabetical order. It took 4 or 5 shows for me to finally be genuinely impressed with a show without being totally confused, as you’ll eventually see. Directed by the hit-or-completely-miss Seiji Kishi, AssClass’ setting is completely and utterly bonkers, but hell, it works. A good chunk of this pilot is just spent dumping info at you so you’re not totally in the dark going into this one. Indestructible Tentacle-sensei blew apart the moon and proclaims he’ll do the same to Earth in a year unless a class of social rejects and misfits he just so happens to be teaching can successfully kill him. Crazyballs, amirite? AssClass is semi-typical shounen fare after that, but that isn’t in any way meant as a knock against it. This show is unexpectedly solid, and the way the show bounces between its light moments and its ominous moments is handled pretty well. The art is well done, I love the wide variety of color and light used here. The animation is nice and steady, but nothing particularly special. This show looks to be a pretty decent popcorn show at this rate. Sign me up.
WATCH?: Yes.

Yatahaze: Now let’s establish something real quick: I am new to the hype train of AssClass. Supposedly it’s a Shounen Jump hit and it aired an animated special or whatever. I have not read the former or seen the latter. I went into this show and its premise totally blind, expecting it to be the winter season’s popular but overrated hit.

And overrated it will probably be, but it’s also so ridiculous it actually kind of works. The plot is absurd but simple: Class E of some high school has been tasked by the government with the mission of killing their tentacle-monster teacher, lest he survive until March, when he will then destroy the Earth. The creep is fast too; he can fly and reach up to Mach 20 speed, deeming all the students’ attempts to kill him thus far futile. Believe it or not, there’s no indication of this heading in a hentai direction, and there were actually decent (though kind of bare bones) character dynamics established. This Class E is made up of individuals who were outcast, never paid attention to, and generally neglected up until now. They may be trying to kill this teacher creature (who they dub Koro), but they do admit that he teaches well and actually cares about their education. I’m still not totally sold on Nagisa, this episode’s main human character, but the student cast seems so large right now that I’m starting to wonder if multiple kids will emerge as mains throughout AssClass’ run.

This show revels in its goofiness in an amateur fashion, but as of right now, it’s original enough to get away with doing so. It’s too soon to say I’m blown away by AssClass, but it sure turned out better than my low expectations going in. Unless something drastically changes what this show is going for, it will probably remain a nice popcorn show of the winter season, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
WATCH?: Yes.

CUTE HIGH EARTH DEFENSE CLUB LOVE

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 4.57.05 PMSummary: Some “normal” kids ponder the worth of an obscure soup ingredient before a pink wombat-thing takes over their teacher’s body and gives them magical boy powers to turn another kid who turned into the aforementioned obscure soup ingredient back into a human with the power of love. Yup.

Yatahaze: So yeah, the show I think we all most easily dismissed during the winter 2015 preview I ended up watching. People seemed to be pleasantly surprised with superlongtitleEarth Defense Club, praising it for not being total garbage and supposedly actually kind of funny.

“Kind of” being the key words. If I had to compare it to something else, I’d say it’s basically a magical boy show trying to be Samurai Flamenco and failing; it’s got less thematic weight and (believe it or not) less homosexuality. Earth Defense Club (lol) knew it wanted to be that kind of over-the-top parody on shows about normal kids given derpy superpowers, and it is that kind of show, but nothing more. Past the wombat, the chikuwabu gags (which will probably fly way over your Western head), and the two sane men’s snarky remarks, there’s really not a whole lot left, and all of those things got predictable before the end of the episode. Diomedéa’s subpar visual style and a frustratingly one-sided supporting cast of characters didn’t help matters either. While I don’t regret sitting through it and it was a hell of a lot better than I thought it would be, Earth Defense Club still didn’t convince me it was worth my time to revisit each week. Sorry, no love for the love squad.
WATCH?: No.

DEATH PARADE

w2015-1i-dp-capSummary: Two people suddenly appear, both amnesiac, at the bar Quindecim. The bartender introduces himself as Decim and requests that they play a game. They don’t have much of a choice as far as the game part goes, and their lives are dependent on the result…or are they?

Harubro: Wow. This was one hell of a way to start a show.

I never did get around to watching Death Billiards, this show’s original short, but I feel I probably don’t even need to watch it at this point. Man, this pilot was intense! While quite a few bits of this show were predictable, the whole afterlife thing and the couple drama thing, what was unmistakably Death Parade’s strongest part was its execution when that game of darts got into the nitty-gritty. The setup for the match, pitting what seemed like a quaint couple against each other and making them show their true colors to one another. Speaking of colors, Madhouse done real good producing this show. The animation, coloring, lighting, the framing, and the voice acting were all outstanding.

Man, this show is hardcore. I’m really curious to see where this show decides to go.
WATCH?: Yes.

Yatahaze: In our winter 2015 season preview, I predicted Death Parade would be amazing if it could develop its recurring cast instead of sticking with a “battle of the week” format. The OP and next episode preview hint that the former is the route they’re planning to go down (yay!), though this first episode is extremely reminiscent of Death Billiards. Death Parade’s pilot, like Death Billiards, is a work reliant on tightly-paced tension and atmosphere, both of which are phenomenally well done for under a half-hour. Even though I knew what was coming, the ride and payoff were still more than rewarding. If the OP (and hot damn, what an OP!) is anything to go by, the expanded bar cast will likely add great flair to this otherwise grim series. No matter where it tries to go, Madhouse is definitely qualified to take it there. The execution is amazing, the premise is gripping and I already want more of this mor(t)al rollercoaster. It could easily be the show of the season.
WATCH?: Yes.

DURARARA!!X2 SHOU

w2015-1i-drrr-capSummary: The highly anticipated first of three sequel cours to the 2010 Brains Base hit Durarara!!

Harubro: It’s baaaaaaaaack! After 5 years, Durarara has returned! Same cast and same characters, with a (sort-of) new studio (with much of the original staff returning) in charge of the show. As a fan of Ryohgo Narita’s works, I’m absolutely thrilled. For a while, I was losing hope that my favorite part of the Durarara novels wouldn’t get the adaptation it deserved. Now I get to watch the madness unfold, and I finally get to see my favorite characters of this franchise take the spotlight. X2’s pilot picked up right where the old series left and spent most of its time reintroducing us to most of the cast. Even though this episode is almost totally new material, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic while watching this show. Adding to the nostalgic feel is that much of the old soundtrack has been brought back. That’s certainly not a complaint, as the original show had an OST for the ages, in my opinion. Studio Shuka did a great job making me feel like I was back in the old show. The animation and art are on-par, and the few tweaks done to the art in this new season make it look a tad more like Suzuhito Yasuda’s original designs for the series. I’m fairly certain with three seasons that this anime will stay faithful to the novel, much like the original did. I missed you, Durarara, and I’m glad you’re back.
WATCH?: Yes, if you’ve watched the first series.

Yatahaze: It’s been 3 years since I’ve seen DRRR’s first season. It’s been 4 since I’ve watched it in Japanese. Needless to say, for me this episode was more of a reintroduction to the ways of DRRR than anything else, and it served its purpose as that quite well. Very little time was spent reestablishing anything from the first season; it really dropped you in there and let it all come back to you on its own. Shou’s pilot was (I suppose) a Celty-centric episode, though it did show us a glimpse of nearly every character from season one. It was also very busy and didn’t breeze through in chronological order, something Ryohgo Narita does and Takahiro Omori adapts really well.

And the otaku references. Oh man, the otaku references. DRRR does that great thing where they discuss “otaku” culture really naturally, freely and conversationally, without a whole lot of stress on stereotypical otaku-isms. That’s not even mentioning the seemingly endless billboard cameos. Though they’ll likely only be noticed at their most obvious, it’s clear Studio Shuka put a lot of detail into the backgrounds, giving the show layers of visual narrative to playfully dig through while you watch. Maybe some people don’t like that DRRR’s grand return wasn’t more extravagant and flashy. Due to my forgetfulness, I’m perfectly content with what we got, and I’m looking forward to more. Supposedly the real mayhem kicks off next episode.
WATCH?: Yes, if you’ve seen the first season.

KOUFUKU GRAFFITI

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 5.14.39 PMSummary: Ryou Machiko lives alone after her grandmother’s death, and though she used to enjoy eating when there were people around, she now finds her own cooking unappetizing. When her cousin Kirin hopes to attend school in Tokyo, Ryou offers to let her stay over each week so they can eat together.

Yatahaze: I probably should’ve expected this.

To call this show cookie-cutter non-Monogatari SHAFT would be an insult to cookie cutters. The voice acting was tepid and the dialogue was as basic as basic can get. And the general premise of this? Do you like scenarios in which middle school girls are responsible enough to live alone and get treated like Moe Jesus? How about squeaky lolis? Now suck nearly all the typical SHAFT fanservice out. Does that sound like your kind of show? Go for it then. For me, I think it’s safe to say MasterSHAFT turned out mediocre. Actually, it really suffered more from too little original substance, especially weak voice acting – something I certainly didn’t expect from one of the most dialogue-heavy, visually unconventional studios around. It’s not bad per se, but it sure is bland, forgettable, and stale – all unpleasant adjectives when it comes to food and entertainment.
WATCH?: No.

MARIA THE VIRGIN WITCH

w2105-1i-mw-capSummary: Set sometime around the Hundred Years War, Maria the Virgin Witch is about a virgin witch named Maria (who could’ve guessed?) who despite getting talked about on the down-low to evade the Catholic Church seems to have a nice relationship with many of the nearby villages’ peasants. As the war kicks into gear, she grows increasingly frustrated with the villagers getting conscripted and decides to intervene in their fighting.

Harubro: Well, this unexpectedly ended up exceeding any and all expectations I had of this show, and I didn’t have all that much with this show to begin with. I tend to try to avoid shows of the ecchi variety, but Maria actually ended up having one of the more solid pilots of the Winter season. This show, despite being an overall decent show, is probably the most difficult one for me to write about this season. I find the actual semi-historical setting sort of refreshing, the conversations have a nice flow to them when they’re not referring to blowjob jokes. I really dig the art style with this anime, it’s sort of 90’s-esque in a good way. The animation can be good, at times, and then others, you can sort of tell this was made on a pretty tight budget, which is also very 90’s.  The action scenes were okay, though. The overarching plot of the Church vs. the witches may have potential. With all the 90’s flavor this show has, it kind of surprises me that the original manga for this is from 2008. All that aside, I’m still just a tad on the fence with Maria, if only because this show seems a tad unnecessarily sexed up when it doesn’t have to be. I’ll stick around for a bit and see where it goes.
WATCH?: Sure.

Yatahaze: Yeah, I had a feeling this would be a nice fantasy sleeper for the season. My hunch was correct. The plot is a little underdeveloped and childish still (“you can protect them but don’t lose your virginity hardyharhar”), though this episode showed a lot of promise, more so in its depiction of medieval Europe than anything else. The battle was gloriously stupid, each side obviously composed of unprepared peasants. The church rule/villager trust dynamic is already played very well too. The dialogue is smooth, mostly devoid of cliché fanservicey lines, and the art style is great, the more colorful, creative, and…sexual witch character designs popping out compared to the dirty poor peasantry’s. The whole episode overall was fun to sit through and I want more. Time will tell if Maria the Virgin Witch will actually be good, but step one is not blowing the first impression. So far, no problems.
WATCH?: Yes.

SAEKANO – HOW TO RAISE A BORING GIRLFRIEND

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 8.17.33 PMSummary: Otaku/blogger Tomoya Aki meets a beautiful girl one day on vacation. Back in school, he attempts to recruit Eriri Spencer Sawamura and Utaha Kasumigaoka as character designer and scenario writer for a game detailing his vacation encounter.

Harubro: Oh boy, I guess this is one way to start Noitamina’s new addition. This conspicuously self-aware bit with the girls at the onsen really sets the tone for Saekano’s pilot. Now, when I say “pilot,” what I actually mean is that this episode is supposed to be a prequel, “episode 0,” (aired January 8th) as opposed to the actual show, which started on January 15th. Nice try, Saekano. I’m not buying it. Might I say though, A-1 Pictures has really stepped their art game up in the last couple of seasons, and it’s only getting better! It seems as though they’re experimenting with some rather SHAFT-y antics here. As with almost any A-1 show, the scenery is nice.

Yeah, the scenery.

The scenery
.

You can see where I’m going here. As I kind of expected, this looks to be just another pretty harem anime. The ED was nice, though. I might be fair and give it three episodes, but I don’t think I’ll regret dropping this one. For shame, Noitamina.
WATCH?: Only if you’re a fan of that kind of scenery. I’m not.

Yatahaze: Maybe what you will regret is counting that episode 0 as a pilot. I only watched what I consider to be Saekano’s true pilot, the official “episode 1”, and with all the negative response I’ve seen Saekano gather over the last week, I think I made the right move holding off on picking the show up until now. Even great shows sometimes have awful OVAs (Oregairu, Problem Children, name some more, I know you can), and that’s all I could see people liken episode 0 to – a shitty fanservice OVA. That kind of episode can seriously taint your impression of the show if you see it before the show’s canon content. Harubro gave you his first impression of episode 0, but here’s a first impression of Saekano actually trying to be itself. What is normal Saekano?

Well, normal Saekano is a harem in which a loud and proud “I only like 2D girls” otaku tries to recruit two female closet otaku to help him make a game about an encounter he had with another actual girl. Normal Saekano is, as episode 0 apparently also was, filled with SHAFT-esque animation antics, surprisingly smooth movements (though that just might be due to its pilot status) and objects and characters occasionally outlined in unconventional (non-black) colors. Each of the three main characters so far fit an obvious harem stereotype; the cheeky tsundere, the quiet aloof chick, and the somehow well-liked dry male lead. However, for all their stereotypicalness, they also call each other out on their cliché behavior, not often enough for it to feel like Saekano is trying to be something above average, but just frequently enough to suggest that they may have deeper connections and more complex personalities. The premise is obvious harem-bait and the camera has some serious male gaze issues, but at its worst, Saekano’s first episode was dull and inoffensive. At its best, it was mildly suggestive that it could be something more. I’ll need at least one more week to decide if it’s worth my time at all, but Saekano isn’t a standout watch so far. It may be the best harem this season, but that’s obviously not saying much.
WATCH?: Do you like harems? Go for it, then. For me, the jury is otherwise out right now.

THE ROLLING GIRLS

w2015-1i-rg-capSummary: A decade after the “Great Tokyo War”, Japan’s prefectures are split up into independent nations led by “Mosa” and their “mob” followers, each trying to take over the others’ territory. Shit’s really whacky.

Harubro: This is how you start off a show! The Rolling Girls unarguably had the best debut of any show this season. It’s so zany and fun to watch. This show is incredibly gorgeous, with unarguably the highest production value of any show this season. The Rolling Girls is like Kyousougiga levels of gorgeous. Yeah, it’s that good. That opening sequence explaining the setting reminded me tons of how Tsuritama opened. Mind you, this is a different type of show, but that’s not the point. The world of Rolling Girls is one where governments have vanished after a big conflict, leaving each prefecture to be led by individual gangs that seem to be pretty hostile with one another. Mind you, as foreboding as that sounds, it’s apparently worked out quite nicely. This is a very vivid show, with a bunch of colors that pop everywhere. This helped to make that battle between Shigyo and Maccha Green just…epic! What a treat to watch that was. Actually, just about everything with this show was a treat to take in. I mean, this show is stunningly beautiful. The scenery is just god-tier, as is the storytelling. The show doesn’t just nonchalantly dump a bunch of info on you, it hands you discreet morsels of info to let you just soak the whole experience in, which is how it should be. I love it. Wit Studio has totally hit it out of the ballpark with this pilot, and the fact I’m already comparing it to two shows that I’ve 10’d before is a really good sign. It’s nice to have a clear frontrunner this soon, and this show is a very welcome surprise for the spot.
WATCH?: Yes, yes a thousand times.

Yatahaze: I really like eccentric anime. Not the same “eccentric” tropes that come off as unique to the first-time anime viewer and appear in far more series than they realize, but shows that are legitimately eccentric, incomparable to anything else. I suppose it’s kind of weird then that though Rolling Girls’ pilot came off as that super unique eccentric blast at first, in retrospect it really just mashed together a lot of my favorite eccentricities from recent anime into one show. The silly politics of World Conquest Zvezda Plot? Check. The Yozakura Quartet-eqsue slice-of-lifey focus on young’uns embracing their setting’s weirdness (and ramen)? Check. The “powerful” characters and “filler” population dynamic similar to Kill la Kill? Check. The lively and bright poppy art style reminiscent of Gatchaman Crowds and, as Haru mentioned, Kyousougiga? Check. The general feel of something as absolutely crazy as FLCL? Not quite there yet, but it’s possible.

Rolling Girls is a melting pot (or maybe a ramen bowl – or a race full of ramen bowls) of super weird stuff. I especially love the lack of background information given to us; it makes you feel this show’s setting rather than try to comprehend it, something I’m sure will happen with time when people start to pinpoint where the show’s trying to go. For now, Rolling Girls is a definite highlight, even if- no, especially because I’m not sure what it’s trying to do. Forget the destination, the journey seems like one of boundless imaginative fun. Count me on board.
WATCH?: Yes.

TOKYO GHOUL √A

w2015-1i-tgSummary: The second cour of Tokyo Ghoul, picking up directly (and boy, do I mean directly) where the first left off back in September.

Harubro: It took me a couple minutes to figure out how to type that root symbol. (alt + v) It’s actually supposed to be pronounced “Root A.” Did you know that? I didn’t. I totally thought it was “Checkmark A,” but whatever. It’s a silly piece of punctuation used to denote that this is a silly sequel of Tokyo Ghoul. I don’t mean silly in a laughing manner, I mean it as a “what the hell kind of deviation did they decide to run with now?” sort of silly. This show ran with what is one of my biggest pet peeves with anime adaptations, the deviation from source material, and it’s just a freaking mess how they went about this. Supposedly Ishida, the franchise’s creator, wrote the story for this, but I’m not so sure this deviation is going to work out. I thought this show’s OP was the ED. It’s kind of lame in comparison to Unravel. Best part of this show was the ACTUAL ED. Aside from that and the passable animation, this pilot was a complete wreck, and if it doesn’t right itself in some manner with the next episode, I’m out.
WATCH?: Your call.

Yatahaze: In my opinion, Tokyo Ghoul’s problem is that its antagonists aren’t humanized. Considering this show is trying to lay all its cards on the table of the “humans vs. ghouls” conflict, I should feel conflicted. I’m not. Save for Amon and whatshisfacethatonefriend there’s not a single human in Ghoul I care about the fate of, and even then, that’s only because those two got slightly more screentime than the rest of their race. The new ghoul group vs. ghoul group conflict isn’t faring much better, really hurting due to last season’s totally fucked up pacing in the homestretch. I was drawn in by Tokyo Ghoul’s first season because at its beginning, it was trying to do something sort of unique, psychological, and filled with emotional turmoil. It’s been far too long since those sentiments have returned, leaving us with a mess of cringeworthy shock value clips and little else. As you might’ve guessed, I’m not that eager to continue.

However, I feel like this is a terrible sequel pilot – not that it was a terrible episode per se, but it literally began as if there were no three month break and ended as if there would be another one right then and there. It was more a conclusion to last season’s mess than a hook to reel the audience back in to new plots and developments, and in that regard, I almost feel like I can’t judge it as the season’s pilot. As I mentioned, I don’t really want to continue Ghoul, but I’ll give it a week or two more to see if this season’s new offerings are any more appealing than last’s. If not, I’ll be dropping it for good.

Gotta disagree with Haru here though, props for österreich’s debut song as the OP. Kunimitsu Takahashi is a great musician. I enjoyed his work in The Cabs a ton and they’re still one of my favorite bands, so if the “come back for the OP, stay for the show” phenomenon happens, maybe I’ll last longer than I otherwise would. Maybe.
WATCH?: Did you watch and enjoy Tokyo Ghoul’s first season? If so, sure. If you’re feeling meh on it or didn’t like it, this won’t change your mind yet.

UNLIMITED FAFNIR

w2015-1i-uf-capSummary: Dragons want to take over the world. Sometime in the recent past, girls with superhuman abilities were born who possessed the power of the dragons. They are called D and gathered at the Midgar Academy. Yu Mononobe is the academy’s newest student – and the world’s first male D.

Harubro: Oh, I knew Fafnir was going to be bad. I wanted to see if this show was hilariously bad, and it is. The art is crap, the setting is crap, the exposition is downright terrible, the characters are cardboard cutout stale… You get the picture, right? The only the remotely entertaining about this show is whenever they start talking about D’s. Yeah, D’s. Apparently in Fafnir, the world is crawling with evil dragons seeking mates known as D’s, all of whom happen to be girls, except for our singular male protagonist, Yu. He is the only male D is the world, apparently. Cue the immature laughter. It gets better. These D’s are gathered and sent to an isolated academy, including our only male D, for reasons I don’t care to explain. Yeah, one oblivious guy with an all-girls academy all to himself. If it’s gonna be a tropey show, you might as well use up ALL the overplayed harem tropes in the book in your first episode! The show’s only entertainment value comes from snickering like an immature middle schooler at all the D. I already dislike the harem genre as a whole anyways, but this is probably the worst one I’ve come across in a while. Crap harem is crap harem.
WATCH?: Only if you want to snicker like a twelve year old at the D talk. (No, don’t watch this.)

YATTERMAN OF THE NIGHT

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 5.00.12 PMSummary: At a remote location, a couple well-meaning descendents of previous criminals from the Yatter Kingdom reside, generally content with their impoverished but optimistic lifestyles. One day, the woman among them named Dorothy gets sick, so the two men, Voltkatze and Elephantus, as well as Dorothy’s young daughter Leopard, attempt to travel to the kingdom to find better medicine for her. As they approach however, they find out the Yatter Kingdom, passed down in stories as “heroic”, may not be deserving of their admiration.

Yatahaze: Though I initially wanted to put off Yatterman of the Night due to its connection with two longrunning previous anime with limited positive reception that I hadn’t watched and had no intention of watching, to my pleasant surprise, this rendition of the tale is essentially the opposite of those two shows. Yatterman of the Night is told not from the perspective of the Yatterman franchise’s heroes, but its villains…or rather, the villains’ descendents, who as this episode makes clear have not done anything harmful themselves. Considering this series is led by a nine-year old main character, you’d expect it to fumble tackling that thematic thread of heroism and prejudice, but if this pilot is any indication, Yatterman of the Night is going to be an enjoyable if not slightly mood whiplashy ride.

I will say this show is probably going to be more impressive from a thematic and aesthetic standpoint than a character one though. First things first, this episode is a little rushed, almost the kind of thing you’d see later in an anime as a backstory episode to fill the audience in on character motivations. They’re pretty simple for our main trio, but then again, our main trio does consist of simple characters. There isn’t a lot of depth yet to any of them and the immediate resonance of this episode has more to do with the pitiable situation they find themselves in than it does any emotional connection to the characters themselves. I also found Eri Kitamura’s voice acting of Leopard a little irritating; she didn’t really nail the innocent child role without straying too far into over-dramatization. Her work will probably grow on me with time and the rest of the voice cast seemed fine, as did the dialogue, so no problems there. I mentioned the aesthetics being well done too; Yatterman’s visual style is dirty and dusty, setting it apart from its original work. It goes a long way into depicting the descendents’ island as an inhospitable place of misery, one filled with dilapidated shacks and graves from generations past. These details emphasize the remoteness of the place and contrast well with the kingdom’s picturesque lit-up night skyline and the vast expanse of the stars above.

I get the feeling that Yatterman of the Night’s pilot tried to highlight its potential as a whole series, and that it certainly succeeded at, cause I’m intrigued. While I feel like the character development could step up a notch, I still enjoyed what I watched, and if this pilot functions more as an introduction than what we’ll get from here on out as a standard Yatterman episode, that could be a good or bad thing. Right now, it’s heavily leaning towards good.
WATCH?: Yes.

YURIKUMA ARASHI

w2015-1i-yk-capSummary: In the aftermath of a meteor shower that for some reason caused bears all over the world to simultaneously attack people, humanity, for their own safety, created the “Wall of Severance” to hold the bears back from civilization. Now several bears have broken the wall and blended in amongst humanity, and a school full of lesbians is their new target. Actually, the whole world may be full of lesbians. The whole world may also be the bears’ target. Probably both.

Harubro: I am at a total loss of words for this one. I went in expecting Lesbears, and while I didn’t leave disappointed, I wasn’t expecting quite this type of delivery. As Kunihiko Ikuhara packed this full of symbolistic bits and vignettes reminiscent of his other works, I left Yurikuma’s pilot much more befuddled than I was after starting on his previous work, Mawaru Penguindrum. I mean…

…what is this?

What is this?

WHAT IS THIS? I’m a tad lost at first, but I will carry on with this one. I’m a tad slow with Ikuhara’s shows, but I’m sure I’ll eventually understand.
WATCH?: Shaba-da-doo.

Yatahaze: Do you know of a man named Kunihiko Ikuhara? His previous works include Revolutionary Girl Utena and Mawaru Penguindrum, both huge hit-or-miss series depending on whether or not you like heavy surrealism, symbolism, intentionally uncomfortable “fanservice”, and slowly revealed plots. Within the first few minutes of his new series here, I could tell Yurikuma Arashi would be no different.

And the good news for those of you who do like Ikuhara’s auteurist style is that I do as well. Ikuhara’s shows have a tendency to drop pieces of their plots in their earlier portions in a disconnected manner, leaving it up for the viewer to figure out what’s happening. After one episode, I don’t think anyone really knows what Ikuhara’s doing with this, but that’s okay. The symbolism is as prominent now as it’s ever been in his work this early, what with the snipped yuri flowers, the wall, the foreshadowing and callbacks to isolation, etc. We’re already given things to work with. Time will tell when Yurikuma Arashi actually clicks, but I, like most fans of Ikuhara’s shows, trust that this is all carefully planned and will undoubtedly pay off.

Now if you’re not an Ikuhara fan or not familiar with his style, I can see why you might scratch your head at the positive response to this. His work requires a lot of patience and analysis, at times so much so that it can suck you out of the experience while you try to determine what the fuck’s going on. His subject in Yurikuma Arashi also happens to be lesbians…and bears…and lesbian bears, and as silly as that might seem, it’s not portrayed comedically. If this already doesn’t sound like your kind of show, that’s totally understandable, but if you were turned off because you think Yurikuma Arashi has no potential and nowhere to go, well then I’d have to disagree. The bottom line is how much you enjoy this show will almost solely depend on how much you enjoy Kunihiko Ikuhara, not that there’s anything wrong with that…for people who enjoy Kunihiko Ikuhara.
WATCH?: Your call. I’m sticking with it.

And that’s it for our winter 2015 first impressions! Come by again soon and we’ll hopefully keep up with these shows a little more diligently than we did with last fall’s. Speaking of which, we’re also continuing a handful of carryover shows from last fall. You know the ones: Log Horizon 2, Parasyte, Yona, April, and last but certainly not least, Shirobako. Yata also picked up the Nihon Animator Mihonichi expo project as a weekly watch, so next mid-season write-up, he’ll talk a little about that. Until then, see ya, people. Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment about any of the season’s shows below. Let us know what you’ve thought about winter’s debuts.

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