First Impressions – Spring 2015

Hey folks, all three of us at For Great Justice are already back again to give you the rundown on the spring 2015 season! First impressions week can be a killer due to the sheer number of shows we feel obligated to try each season, and this time around we’ve watched over half of the pilots to new shows and thinned through the crap so you don’t have to. Show summaries, our individual thoughts, and “should you watch?” recommendations are below. You ready? We are now. We weren’t a week ago, or even last night. It was a little more like this then:

Help MeWe do this for you guys and great justice. As always, the following thoughts are only based off of pilot episodes. Some shows *ahem – Digimon Adventure Tri* haven’t aired yet. On the other hand, some have already aired second episodes by now. We know, we know. We’ll touch on those when we next post. Anyway, spring! Let’s do this:

BLOOD BLOCKADE BATTLEFRONT (KEKKAI SENSEN)

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“I’ll take one star-studded production and a large side of insanity, please!”

Summary: One night, New York City became the site of a collision between worlds, when a portal to the “Alterworld” opened and surrounded the city in a thick fog. Nowadays the city is referred to as Hellsalem’s Lot, a melting pot of the paranormal, monsters, magic, and batshit insanity. The story follows Leonardo Watch, a young photographer with special eyes who came to the city, and a crime-fighting organization called Libra. The original manga is by Yasuhiro Nightow, famous for works such as Trigun, and this anime adaption features Rie Matsumoto in her second directorial role after her masterpiece debut Kyousougiga aired in 2013.

Yatahaze: I’d be surprised if anyone walked away from this first episode with their head completely wrapped around BBB.

And that’s just how I want it! The setting is an outright clusterfuck and this pilot episode introduced a lot of very bizarre, very loosely-defined variables such as gates and monsters and…hell, even the fog that supposedly separates Hellsalem’s Lot from the outside world isn’t explained. It’s all very intriguing though, and I’m confident Matsumoto will direct the series smoothly while addressing the need-to-knows and keeping the rest a little more intentionally open-ended. My biggest concern lies with the character work; Zapp is a textbook hothead at best right now and while that’s funny, it could quickly become irritating later. I’m all for saying “fuck it” and letting BBB simply be the fun action series with a sweet soundtrack and setting that it will probably be, but giving me a reason to invest in the characters would be even sweeter. But we’ve still got lots more to see and many more characters to meet, ridiculous names and all. More to recommend than be leery about here, so yes, go check out Blood Blockade Battlefront.
Should you watch?: Yes.

Harubro: Well, this is fun! We get to start this off with the show whose pilot was unarguably the best thing this season had to offer.

Set in a strange supernatural discombobulation of New York City now know as Hellsalem’s Lot, Kekkai Sensen (aka BBB) dumps us off right in the middle of the city’s newfound insanity with our main character Leonardo Watch giving chase to what looks to be the adorable companion of the season, a strange monkey that made off with his camera. While giving chase to the monkey, some interesting things happen as the show depicts the normal abnormality of the city, and our boy Leo ends up being rounded up by cool hothead guy Zapp Renfro, who has literally the coolest name ever. Zapp takes Leo to his buddies at the secret society Libra, and more interesting things happen, but Yata’s already run all that by you.

Everything about this pilot was as chaotic as the city it sets out to depict, but don’t take that as a downer. No, in fact, that was probably the best thing this show had going for it! This was seriously a blast to watch, and the pilot laid the groundwork for the rest of the show to expand upon. I’d expect nothing less from a show that shares its director with Kyousougiga, another chaotic show that ended up being a masterpiece. Also previously mentioned by Yata is that the source material has a great pedigree. BBB is also a sight and sound to behold. The visuals of the city are gritty and well-framed all throughout, and what we’ve got of the soundtrack is probably one of the best we’ve had in a while, fittingly jam-packed with that jazz music that always seems to play when shenanigans go down in New York City. My very favorite part was the bit of action we got in the climactic scene of the pilot, which was one of the best scenes I’ve laid eyes on in a while. I love how obnoxious the fights seem to be with this series.

Sign me up for more.
Should you watch?: Indeed!

L-K: Dang, I don’t even know where to begin. This is clearly going to be my favorite show this season, and Rie Matsumoto is holding a solid lead at the top of my “people I want to give money to” list. Everything about this show so far seems to be incredibly promising, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what this crazy new world has to say for itself. I like how there’s a clear Kyousougiga vibe coming from some of the locations, and a user on Reddit also pointed out a sweet homage to Pacific Rim as well, so that gets major points in my book.

The animation for this show looks great, and the sound team seems to do a good job of avoiding the most commonly used go-to sound effects so far. One of the best things about the show is definitely the score, though. It seems like it’s been a good while since we’ve had a great jazz score like Baccano or Bebop, and I for one can’t wait to hear more. The designs as well really set a great tone for the city and its people.

There’s not much else to say other than that the characters also seem fun and interesting, and none of them really bothered me in any way or felt weak or unmotivated. I’m curious to see what Libra is all about, and overall I’m more than excited to see what this show has to offer.
Should you watch?: Shit’chyeah

FATE/STAY NIGHT: UNLIMITED BLADE WORKS

God dammit Tousaka…

Summary: Second season of Ufotable’s adaption of the Unlimited Blade Works arc of Type-Moon’s Fate/Stay Night visual novel.

L-K: Kind of a weak pilot for Fate. I was already really pissed off that Saber was stolen by Caster, but now I’m just waaaaaay ready for Caster to die already, and that’s not really a good place to be at when she’s one of the show’s main antagonists. When it comes down to it though, I’m just not sure how I feel about where the show seems to be going. I liked how Tousaka completely left Shirou behind at the end of the last season, but now it seems to have done a complete 180 (and all for the sake of a typical tsundere), so for the time being I’m rather dissatisfied.

One of the weakest parts of this show is definitely the score. It has this problem like in the 2009 Star Trek, which I like to call “one theme forever syndrome”, but in this case the main theme is actually really dumb, so the whole thing kind of goes tits up for me. The sound effects editing is still nice and weighty, which is good, though some of their choices are a little sub-par for my taste.

I’m still looking forward to see where it’s going, but if they’re going to keep up this making Saber look like a helpless little girl for much longer I’m going to be really pissed. You don’t do shit like that to such a strong character, at least not by putting her in a stupid wedding dress for no good reason and forgetting about her.
Should you watch?: Yeah, but there may be disappointment ahead.

FOOD WARS! (SHOKUGEKI NO SOUMA)

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Who is on the chopping block?

Summary: Souma Yukihira’s dream is to surpass his father Jouichirou’s culinary talent and take over his restaurant, but after a landshark starts giving them trouble, Jouichirou abruptly decides to travel abroad and sends Souma to an elite culinary school with a mere 10% graduation rate.

Yatahaze: Alright, look, Food Wars is not a realistic drama. It lives in cliché fanservice-packed anime territory and it’s not ashamed of it at all. At least half of the pilot involves somebody being sexually aroused by (and at one point getting their clothes blown off by) food. So…depending on whether or not you don’t mind ecchi, you should already know if this show will be for you. The hilarious part is – and I kind of hate to admit it – Food Wars might be one of those rare shows that’s so absolutely awful it’s kind of genius. Maybe it’s just cause it’s the pilot, but the animation is actually pretty solid when it needs to be too, as is the sound direction, with a perfectly goofy suspenseful track playing over the real estate agent’s collapse into the wonders of Souma’s cooking. Not to mention the food actually looks pretty great!

But is this show going to be? Hell no! Food Wars has already made it clear that it doesn’t want to be anything more than a sketchy tit-flopping anime “comedy”, and deep meanings and realistic growth aren’t going to crop up no matter how hard you look. That said, as far as pure shits and giggles entertainment goes, it could be fun. The question is how long it can keep up what it’s doing before it gets old. My guess is “not that much longer,” but I’m somehow beyond all reason curious to witness its run for myself, even if just for a few more episodes.
Should you watch?: No. Save yourselves. I feel guilty genuinely giving this my attention…but it’s so great.

Harubro: So, Shokugeki no Souma, aka Food Wars, aka MasterSTAFF.

A cooking show by J.C. Staff right on the heels of Koufuku Graffiti, aka MasterSHAFT. The latter bored me enough that I completely forgot to write a first impressions bit for it last season. The former, though, was one of the most unforgettable premieres I’ve ever witnessed with a show…. for all the wrong reasons.

Food Who— Wars follows the titular Souma Yukihira, a boy who works at his father’s restaurant. The two frequently engage in cooking contests which the father always wins with ease, yet Souma dreams of surpassing his father. Seems like a fairly innocuous cooking show, much like last season, no? Wrong. One girl has this experience upon tasting one of Souma’s stranger concoctions. This happens within the first three minutes, and really sets the tone of this pilot episode.

Afterwards, the Yukihira restaurant is accosted by land sharks wanting to build a residential high-rise on their property, and the goons proceed to hassle and then vandalize the shop. They challenge Souma to make a juicy meat dish after ruining the shop’s meat supplies. It’s during this sequence of events that shit gets really funky in the best, worst ways. Souma obliges, and the next bit is one of the most hilariously bad things I’ve ever laid eyes on. How this surly looking group of adults stands there in absolute awe of this 15 year old boy cooking already got a good fit of maniacal laughter out of me. Then comes the moment when they finally taste his creation. It’s just….just watch it. It’s fucking terrible yet you can’t stop watching. This food is so damn good these folks feel like it literally blows their socks (and a little more) off. It’s literal food porn, there is no other way to describe this.

These Weekly Shounen Jump adaptations have been rather on point in the last year or so, and this… certainly didn’t disappoint. The male gaze is intense in this show, but at least the actual bits with actual food worked up a decent appetite for me. The cooking bits were also fun in their own ridiculous way. I don’t see how this show will top this pilot, so I don’t expect to stick around for long, but God, this pilot was so bad that it was great.
Should you watch?: Laugh your ass off at this ridiculous ass pilot, and decide for yourself if you want to carry on.

L-K: Nah Brah.

GHOST IN THE SHELL ARISE: ALTERNATIVE ARCHITECTURE

Dat self-destructing struxnet type.

Summary: TV broadcast of Ghost in the Shell Arise, with eight episodes consisting of the original four films cut into two episodes each and two episodes of new content. The series serves as a prequel to Ghost in the Shell, detailing how Kusanagi’s squad at section 9 first got their start.

L-K: I was wondering going in if I needed to watch all of Alternative Architecture after being well acquainted with all four of the Arise borders, and I’m quite intrigued by their choice of starting off with the fourth film. I’m guessing their decision was mainly because the first film starts off kind of slowly, as well as the parallel in the beginning of the fourth film with the Oshii’s original 1995 film in the scene where Kusanagi shoots that one bitch in the face. That shit is still cool no matter how many times you see it.

One of the reservations I had about watching the TV broadcast versions is how great the surround sound mix for Arise was, and watching it in stereo definitely takes some edge out of the show. Cornelius’s score especially sounds amazing in 5.1, given that he designed it for surround playback from the ground up to begin with, as well as having mixed it for surround himself, so I do miss that dearly.

The episode was still strong, and it’s interesting to look at what’s been moved around within the fourth border to accommodate the 24 minute runtime. I do think the cutoff point for the episode was a little sudden though, and it was definitely disheartening to see that they left out the original ending animation entirely, since that song is such a jam.

I’m looking forward to seeing what order they put the films in, though at the end of the day my recommendation for this particular venture might be to simply watch the four films in whatever order that ends up being put into, especially if you have surround sound playback capability. I believe they are going to be releasing the two new content episodes as a fifth film at some point, and if so that would probably be the way to go. We’ll see if that recommendation changes in the coming weeks, and I’m definitely intrigued by the new architecture, as they call it.
Should you watch?: Absolutely, but watch the 1995 film first if you haven’t seen it.

GUNSLINGER STRATOS: THE ANIMATION

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Though to be honest, the “Animation” part of the title seems a little misleading.

Summary: In 2115, Japan’s been split into two parallel worlds; one where anarchy reigns, the other a totalitarian state. As the two worlds start to merge, the government initiates Operation Stratos, which plucks random people from the two universes to be sent back to 2015, where they must kill people from the opposite world so that in the future, only one will exist and the collision of worlds won’t happen.

Shhhhh, don’t think about it too hard. If you do, you’ll realize it doesn’t make sense!

Yatahaze: I was giving Gunslinger Stratos the benefit of the doubt because I read Urobuchi came up with the original story. After this and Aldnoah.Zero, I’m starting to think “Urobuchi came up with the original story” and no further information is actually an assured indicator of disappointment. There isn’t one single moment in this episode that piqued my interest, and that’s pretty impressive given the range of events that took place. The settings are cookie-cutter dystopias, the characters are bland at best, and there isn’t a strong flow to the events; it’s more like scrapped ideas were strung together to create a work that, while watchable, still fails to find its own identity. Which I want to say is weird, given that this is based off a massively successful game franchise, but maybe that too is an indicator that things weren’t likely to turn out alright.

What really blows my mind though is how absolutely awful the animation is at most points in this. Just watching it, you’d think there must’ve been 20 different animators contributing work for the same character without any base drawing to branch off from. But there had to have been one, right? It’s based off a game franchise that’s been around for three years now! How could the visuals possibly turn out this unorderly? I’m stumped. Just look at that cap above. That’s an HD cap of a solid frame. How terrifying.

What else bugged me? Hmmm, well, Tohru, the main character is a nearly personality-less lead, his only distinguishing features being his orphanhood and lack of understanding about human evolution. Absolutely none of the info written in the attached summary is inferable with this first episode; I had to Wikipedia that.

Just…skip this one. Please. You won’t regret it.
Should you watch?: No.

L-K: Pfft… what?

THE HEROIC LEGEND OF ARSLAN (ARSLAN SENKI)

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“Now scrap the CG or I’ll kill your dear protagonist!”

Summary: Arslan is the young and ignorant crown prince of the fictional kingdom of Pars (based off of Persia), which seems to be doing pretty well for itself…you know, besides the ruthless slavery of captured prisoners from the neighboring kingdom of Lusitania and all.

Yatahaze: According to online sources, the real meat of this story hasn’t happened yet, but this first episode promised a lot of great things to come, and if the non-CG animation quality and direction can stay as strong as they were here, Arslan should provide a solid psuedo-fantasy watch for this season. The battle scenes at the start were, for lack of a better word, just massive; the CG in these shots was a little offputting, but the scenes were big in scope and scale, and surprisingly immersive, as was the rest of the episode when we followed Arslan getting dragged around town by a child Lusitanian soldier on the run. Ecbatana, Pars’ capital, seems like a comfortable city, with citizens lax to the royals and arrogant about the strength of outside forces. When the fall of Pars occurs – and I’m really not spoiling anything, this will likely happen sooner rather than later –the current conditions will support such an outcome. Arslan himself is a fine character despite his youth not bringing much to the table, and it’s already established there will be a three year timeskip for episode two. The rest of the cast was balanced and no single character came off as overly tropey, so that’s a start. And the themes! Slavery and religion and persecution, all with no magic in sight for the time being, hell yes, sign me up! This is a fantasy adventure I can get on board with. Just drop the conspicuous CG. You can do better than that.

Anyway, competent start for what looks like a fair adventure. Totally calling it now that the blond kid is someone important we’ll see again.
Should you watch?: Yes.

Harubro: I thought these characters looked like Hiromu Arakawa’s designs, and I was right.

That’s a good sign for Arslan Senki, as I tend to enjoy the works that Arakawa takes on, previous examples being Full Metal Alchemist and Silver Spoon. This time around, she penned the art for a second adaptation of a long-running series of novels, the Heroic Legend of Arslan.

We start off with a pitched battle between the armies of Pars and Lusitania, the outcome of which sets the stage for the pilot and the rest of Arslan’s opening arc. After the battle, we’re introduced to our titular hero, Arslan, as he struggles with his swordplay training in the rather grand royal palace of Ecbatana. After Arslan finishes up with some princely formalities, he embarks to meet with some of the Lusitanian prisoners of war, curious to hear their perspective of the world. As it turns out, Arslan gets kidnapped by a young Lusitanian boy who drags him along for a grand tour of the capital. The whole chase sequence is executed well, and the dialogue that takes place in the midst of it sets in place some really important themes.

The Parsians regard the Lusitanians as savages, as they summarily kill those who do not abide to their religion and seemingly press children into battle, but the Lusitanian religion proclaims all men to be equal, standing in stark contrast to the Parsian state of mind, where they don’t even think twice about forcing captives into slavery, so that leaves the question of “Which of us is the real savage?” I’m curious to see where they go with Arslan’s development concerning this.

This show is gold, and it has one of the best soundtracks of the season, composed by Taro Iwashiro, who composed the OST of Gargantia, one of my very favorite OSTs. Arslan is definitely an undeniable must-watch.
Should you watch?: Yes.

L-K: Arslan so far seems like it’s basically the definition of a borderline show, and it really could go either way. There are some interesting aspects for the show, and I like the bits about the fundamentals of swordplay and where Arslan says that animals mirror the hearts of those they encounter. I’m hoping that those in particular becomes part of the main themes, and I am curious to see where those themes go. The main characters are kind of annoying though, so we’ll see how long I can bear with it.

The presentation is a little mixed in my opinion. On one part there’s some good detail in the backgrounds, but certain aspects like the CG and way over-the-top sound design leave a lot to be desired. I’m also not crazy about the OP and ED.

We’ll see very soon I think whether this will really be worth my time, but I’m willing to give it a shot at least. It seems so far like it could turn out to be ok, or become one of those shows that’s so close to making it out of mediocrity that it’s excruciating. I think a lot of the deciding factor will be determined by the show’s predictability factor, so I’m curious to see how well it will fare in that regard.
Should you watch?: Too early to tell.

IS IT WRONG TO TRY TO PICK UP GIRLS IN A DUNGEON? (DANMACHI)

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Yes. Yes, it is.

Summary: In the land of Orario, adventurers seek fame by defeating monsters in a dungeon with the blessings of a god or goddess who heads their familia, or family. Bell Cranel, a level 1 adventurer and the only child of the Hestia Familia, wants to become strong some day too, following his grandfather’s advice: save and pick up girls…in dungeons.

Hm.

Yatahaze: Alright, so copy-pasted stock minotaur? Check. Upwards of 5 love interests in the first episode? Check. Endless tit-flop? Check. Spoonfed exposition? Check. Lack of any original worldbuilding? Check. Tsundere? In spades with that one goddess. Dumb over-aggressive guy in the rival group mocking the lead? Check. And hey, they even named him Bete, so if you don’t realize he’s supposed to be the stupid character, then dumb on you, fella.

You know, I’m about done with these derivative adventurer harems. If these shows float your boat, then sure, give this one a shot. I don’t see it being any better or worse than the rest of the bunch, and it certainly isn’t offensively bad, just extremely generic – so generic in fact that there isn’t even a real hook. This episode just…happens. For people who want something profound, you certainly won’t find that with Danmachi, and even for people who just want a solid fantasy adventure RPG-style show, you could still do better with nearly any other possible choice out there.
Should you watch?: No.

Harubro: Honestly, I’m sort of only here because Suzuhito Yasuda designed the characters for this series. If you’re drawing a blank there, he also penned the character designs for Durarara and Yozakura Quartet, both of which are shows that I happened to like.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, or DanMachi, has the rather run-of-the-mill supernatural dungeon crawler schtick to it, but it does a passable job with a few of its attempts at world-building, with bits such as the money exchange for magic crystals dropped by vanquished dungeon creatures, or the various “Familias” of Orario, led by gods or goddesses, who do the various odds and ends of making the city tick. I kind of dig the video game-esque stats that are bestowed upon the adventurers by their leaders, which will be an important point going forward for those of you planning to stick with this series. Danmachi lives up to its title rather quickly, introducing us to the protagonist Bell Cranel being chased down by a CG minotaur, because what the hell else would be chasing an unsuspecting adventurer down in a dungeon? Anyways, Bell gets cornered and is just about to bite the dust before being saved by another adventurer, a girl by the name of Aiz, whom Bell becomes smitten with. Afterwards, things happen, Bell goes to a pub, overhears Aiz’s Familia gossiping boisterously about him, Bell angsts, yadda yadda yadda.

The story is all really generic harem-bait material, but this anime has two real saving graces. I thought the musical score was comparatively outstanding for this show, as was much of the art. This show is rather pretty for the ho-hum-ness of the story, I’ll hand it that. It’s also very obviously a Suzupin series, with the fanservice factor present very often. It’s got mild popcorn potential at best, but it might have more appeal than that to some of you out there.
Should you watch?: Is It Wrong to be On The Fence About A VERY Generic Adventure Anime? (Yes, yes it is.)

L-K: Not even touching this one.

KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA: BATTLE FOR PLANET NINE

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KNIGHTS. OF. SEQUELNIA.

Summary: Second season of Polygon Pictures’ adaption of Tsutomu Nihei’s sci-fi mecha series Knights of Sidonia.

Yatahaze: Norio got full of himself. Ochiai got full of ambition. Sidonia’s back, baby.

And I wish I was a little more caught up (my last Sidonia rewatch was in December and some things have stuck with me and some have not), but either way, Sidonia, fuck yeah. Okay, so recap/mild hypothesizing here: Norio and Mozuku entered the closed off door they shouldn’t enter, got injected with some kind of parasitic creature/machine/thing, and Ochiai is now in Norio’s body. Mozuku is also taken over, as is Numi, and they take the placenta Hoshijiro and make a new thing which went into battle and shot at the Gauna and now there’s a new Gauna by the name of Tsurumi and…

…nope, I’m lost. But like, in a good way, cause this is all blowing my mind. Ochiai clearly has big plans in store for Sidonia.

The aesthetics remain the same as Sidonia’s first season; Polygon Pictures is still behind the wheel with their surprisingly beautiful and smoother than ever CG work. The sheer vastness of space is still conveyed well and the setting is perfectly continuous so far. Even the little slice-of-life bits cropped up again to give us a few scenes with Izana and Lala, and for an episode that really didn’t have to do anything but set us down gently back into the world of Sidonia, this pilot overachieved. The pacing is superb as always and I’m already re-hooked. I was a little nervous I might not dig Sidonia as much as I once did, but those worries are gone; Battle for Planet Nine did not have to battle for my attention.
Should you watch?: Yes, if you’ve seen the first season.

L-K: I started binging on the first season to catch up in time to watch season two and I remembered how much I like Tsutomu Nihei. I’ve been reading Biomega and have been really impressed with his style so far, and now that I have suspicions that the two are in the same universe I think honestly I might just want to read Sidonia first instead. Don’t get me wrong, I was enjoying the show despite my slight distaste for the 3D animation, but ultimately I think there isn’t really a contest between that and Nihei’s style. Since I haven’t seen the second season’s pilot I can’t really recommend or not recommend the show, but I will say that from what I saw it’s a great story and worth taking in, whether you read or watch. I’ll be doing the former.

MIKAGURA SCHOOL SUITE

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“…and if you look to your right and left, you’ll see the people we didn’t color in because we poured our actual budget into Plastic Memories”.

Summary: Eruna Ichinomiya has to enter high school, but she doesn’t know where to go. All she really wants to do is play games and watch Nico Nico Douga videos at home. Then one day, her cousin Shigure Ninomiya gives her a pamphlet for Mikagura Private Academy, and Eruna is captivated by a photo of the school principal’s granddaughter Seisa Mikagura. On the basis of that alone, she enters the academy and finds out only cultural clubs exist, and the place runs on a battle system where students with special powers fight each other as representatives of their own clubs in order to strengthen their social standings.

Yatahaze: The first episode of Mikagura School Suite made it clear that Eruna could see a mysterious winged cat-dog creature not everyone can see. Said creature accepted her into the academy and let her know some of the basics of Mikagura Academy life. Aside from that, Eruna’s only “power” seemed to be the power to annoy the hell out of me. The summary above was objective for objectivity’s sake, and if you didn’t catch the hint, Eruna is in love with girls. And that’s not a problem in and of itself, but when the entire episode was essentially Eruna walking around like “hey, look at how loud and obnoxious and naïve and horny I am,” you might want to rethink the point of this whole show. Her cousin, male, wants to marry her too. Not only is that a red flag, but you think he’d have caught on by now that simply isn’t going to happen given Eruna’s…everything.

And it’s kind of a shame Mikagura’s protagonist is so thoroughly irritating, because the show itself wasn’t otherwise awful. The animation and art weren’t amazing, but they were acceptable, and the school system presents a fair enough twist to what would otherwise be a normal school show despite not being particularly creative. At this point, I just don’t think it’s worth my time to tough out Mikagura; it’s a downgrade of a slew of good things from last season. I saw lesbians done better in Yurikuma Arashi, I saw Juri Kimura voice the opposite of an annoying lead in Shirobako, and I saw wacky school antics done better in Assassination Classroom (“but Yata, you dropped Assclass!” Shhhhh~). Mikagura’s origins as a vocaloid story involving characters with vague powers certainly doesn’t make me have faith in it, especially after last spring’s Mekakucity Actors promised great things then fell on its face despite a solid premise and a studio perfectly fit to tackle the project. And yes, I digress, but the fact remains Mikagura is simply not an outstanding piece of work. Besides its main character and her cousin, there aren’t truly bad things in it yet, but…the main character is a pretty hard hurdle to jump over to enjoy the rest of a show, and I don’t have any reason to believe my opinion of her would change any time soon. Mikagura = not so sweet.
Should you watch?: No.

Harubro: We meet again, Dogakobo… and you’ve brought two series with you this season. Your first offering for me to review being this, the second Vocaloid series to be adapted into an anime. Let’s not talk about the first one, shall we?

Mikagura starts off following Eruna Ichinomiya, a rotten-to-the-core fujoshi looking for a high school to attend upon completing junior high. It’s made very clear from the get-go Eruna’s very diligent in her studies…. of visual novel games, online videos, and other girls. Academic studies, not so much, so she’s looking for a rather easy school to get into with the hitch that the school has to have a uniform that’s cute. Cue the obnoxious male cousin, who hands her a pamphlet for his high school, Mikagura Academy. The unis are to Eruna’s liking, and she takes a fancy to a picture of the school principal’s granddaughter, Seisa Mikagura. Eruna immediately decides to give the academy a go. As it turns out, the entrance exam is kind of a farce, with the real test being when she spots a floating talking cat who lets her know that she passes to exam just on being able to see him. He then shows her around to campus life, and that’s where this show has some better moments.

The one thing that saves Mikagura from a drop is this club battle thing the academy does. We get a brief glimpse into the battles, which serve a purpose for the school. I’m rather curious to see how the club battles go, and that’s really the only thing this show’s got going for it. The animation, art, and soundtrack weren’t anything to really write home about, although unlike Yata, I got a good laugh out of Juri Kimura going from voicing Miyamori from Shirobako, to Eruna the rotten fujoshi. That and the Yoshitsugu Matsuoka freakout scenes are about the funniest bits this show’s got.
Should you watch?: I’m giving it the three episode trial for the sake of diligence, but you probably shouldn’t.

L-K: Yeeeeeah, no thanks.

ORE MONOGATARI!! (MY LOVE STORY!!)

Ore 1

All these faces are the stuff of gold.

Summary: Takeo Gouda is an extremely tall and muscular high-school freshman with a tough face who’s really a misunderstood sweetheart. He’s had crushes before like any kid, but they all seem to fall in love with his handsome neighbor and childhood friend Makoto Sunakawa instead, despite Makoto never reciprocating their feelings. One day, Takeo notices someone attempting to molest a girl on a train, and immediately springs into action, apprehending the scumbag and taking him to the police. Rinko Yamato, the girl he saved, becomes friends with the two boys as the seeds of love sprout yet again in Takeo’s heart.

Yatahaze: In a genre like shoujo that relies on girly frills and a bubbly art style, letting someone of Takeo’s stature and appearance be a main character is funny by itself, and as you’d expect, My Love Story’s hook is Takeo himself. Beyond that, I’d be lying if I said this show was changing the game. The rest of the character designs and art are still very shoujo-esque and My Love Story has already boarded the “internal monologue about feelings” train that all shoujo do. Despite that, this show works. Rinko is a little overly cutesy for now, but Makoto already has a lot of character depth, and both of them as well as Takeo are generally likable characters. The problem I think My Love Story will encounter often and encounter quickly is predictability; after all, so far I wouldn’t call this a genre deconstruction, but a show that makes one simple tweak to the shoujo genre’s key rules. As that stands, for now, Takeo’s personality is strong and endearing enough to carry the rest of the show. While the situations probably won’t differ between those of your average shoujo, this is a good enough start to My Love Story. With two cours-worth at the palms of its gigantic hands, let’s see how long it can keep this up.
Should you watch?: Yes. If you dislike shoujo, it may not do much for you, but it certainly isn’t a poor start to the show.

Harubro: Another season, another shoujo anime. This season is lacking in the shoujo material, so Ore Monogatari is my obligatory shoujo watch of the Spring. I’m a sucker for the shoujo genre, so there is that, too.

Actually, I think this show may be good enough on its own to justify watching it, even if one may not particularly dig shoujo stuff. OreMono follows the quite literal gentle giant Takeo and his childhood buddy, the typical shoujo pretty boy Makoto. The stone faced, gold hearted Takeo has had tons of unrequited crushes in his young life, but all the girls he falls for fawn for his friend instead, who always fails to reciprocate the girls’ feelings for him. OreMono kicks off after Takeo confronts a guy molesting a girl whilst on a train. Takeo and Makoto turn the scumbag in, and the girl, Rinko, expresses her gratitude by bringing Takeo some hand-made sweets. It’s actually very obvious that she’s fallen for the big guy, but the very dense Takeo mistakenly thinks her to have fallen for his buddy. Cue the beginning of what could be a decent love story.

While it does have a general bit of tropey-ness to it, I adore the unorthodox choice of making the the main subject of the girl’s interest not just another shoujo pretty boy. As mentioned before, Takeo’s inability to read Rinko’s feelings correctly should provide a fair amount of fuel for a story. I agree with Yata that Rinko is a tad cutesy, even by main shoujo girl standards, and I find her rather squeaky voice just a bit jarring to listen to at length. Madhouse definitely did their job of making this show pretty, but with some of their recent works, I’ve noticed they pour a lot of effort into the opening episodes and then let the quality falter in later episodes. Hopefully this can buck that trend. The ingredients are all present for a decent watch here, as there’s a decent dynamic between the main trio. I just hope this show doesn’t stall out somewhere along the line.
Should you watch?: Do you like shoujo or romantic stuff? If you do, then give this a go.

OREGAIRU 2

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Our sequel romantic comedy is great, as we expected.

Summary: The second season of Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru (Oregairu) / My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (TOO)

Yatahaze: After rewatching Oregairu’s first season in preparation for this one, I was glad (I guess?) to see my feelings about it haven’t changed. It’s a clever and witty rom-com with fantastically flawed leads who are far more mature and multifaceted than those in most anime high-school romantic comedies. Its side-characters vary from just as interesting to dull gag fodder, but overall it was a very well-done series that explored and poked holes into their naïve philosophies while remaining empathetic to their plights.

Enter studio Feel, who despite not having the greatest track record, took over from Brains Base to animate the second season with new, polished, and upgraded character designs. For the most part, I dig them – there isn’t a single character you can’t identify despite how similar some of them look, and the voice cast remains the same from the first season, and none for the worse. Characters are still very much themselves, and the only gripes I had with this otherwise slow but steady episode were some sketchy looking CG shots in the re-animated flashback scene at the start of the episode and a spotty lighting job in the Service Club room that blurred the scene a bit, as opposed to Brains Base’s clearly-outlined and more realistic backgrounds. The narrative style remains the same, and that’s the most important thing. So yeah, with both feet back on the ground, Oregairu is here again, and I’m ready for more!
Should you watch?: Yes, if you’ve seen the first season.

Harubro: Another season, another highly anticipated sequel. This time, it’s OreGairu, one of my all-time favorites — indeed, one of the more popular shows in the last couple of years that was really as good as the hype led it to be.

Aesthetically speaking, one couldn’t really be blamed for thinking this was an entirely different show going in. Feel’s adaptation is vibrant and well-lit in comparison to the original season. I even like the adjustments the studio made to the character’s designs, making it their own, yet retaining all their familiar features.

Oregai-two, as we’ve informally referred to this for a while, picks up with a brief flashback to the climax of the culture festival from the previous season (which I love that Feel decided to adapt with their style) and leads to our familiar cast of characters chilling in another familiar homeroom scene with the various cliques having discussions of the upcoming class trip. All the while, one of the dudebros from Hayato’s group enlists the help of the Service Club for his romantic pursuit of the fujoshi. Needless to say, the show engages in the familiar dialogue, much of it at Hikki’s expense, as always.

Sounds….. familiar, eh?

Though the style has changed, the substance remains. Whether it’s Hikigaya’s pragmatism and jaded attitude towards society, Yuigahama’s airheaded “one of the girls” mentality, or Yukinoshita’s still ice-cold demeanor, the “feel” is essentially same. These characters and the conversations they engage in are as lively and biting as they’ve ever been.

I really needn’t say more, I think. I’ve been waiting on this one for ages.
Should you watch?: Definitely. Watch the first season, if you haven’t already.

L-K: This show wasn’t really as funny as I remembered it. I realized during my re-watch that it’s really trope-y for a show with such good character writing. I do still like the main characters, but the shows weak points are starting to wear me down. Ultimately I found myself asking whether or not I even cared anymore, as the score is pretty ugh and as I’ve said repeatedly I really don’t give a shit about high school stuff. I guess the deciding factor will be where they take the narrative and whether best gir—I mean, Yukinom wins.
Should you watch?: Yeah I guess.

PLASTIC MEMORIES

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Plastic memories, genuine emotions.

Summary: In a world where androids have begin to spread in popularity, a production company named the SAI Corporation designed the Giftia, a new model with extremely human-like qualities – so much so that human and Giftia are indistinguishable. That said, even the Giftia aren’t immortal – far from it, in fact – and when they near the end of their service lifespans of about nine years and four months, they must be terminated by SAI Corp’s Termination Division, comprised of people and androids working together. Tsukasa Mizugaki is an unanticipated new recruit in said division, and he discovers the job isn’t as breezy as he thought it would be.

Yatahaze: It’s a hit-or-miss idea that largely relies on execution, so Plastic Memories was either gonna be trash or great, and I’m pleased to announce that it’s the latter. The characters don’t have stereotypical personality traits, the animation and faces are expressive, and the art is competent. While the narrative structure was a little weak and I have some unanswered questions (why are the androids able to shower and drink…and pee?), I assume the series will address those with time.

While it’s not on the level of 10/10 thematic and artistic beauty that say, Time of Eve is, Plastic Memories is at least willing to go the extra mile to make you feel for its characters. The retrieval team does something akin to hospice care for androids, and it’s interesting that in two of the three instances the pilot episode has shown us, the androids approaching the end of their lives took what is essentially death more easily than their loved ones did. One family simply cried, but acknowledged their android had to go and let the process happen peacefully. In contrast, the elderly woman Chizu in the second half of the episode refused to let the team in for almost a week, and it was only when her childlike android Nina convinved her to let go that she finally did. And then there was the couple who rooftop-jumped on the run from the SAI officers mid-episode, hinting that not just familial love but romantic love between human and android would also be a topic the show delves into. And thus, as should be the case with a show like this, there were also already glimpses into the philosophy of what it means to be alive; is it the body that matters, or just the memories and personality?

While it was never directly mentioned, there was some obvious foreshadowing that Isla, Tsukasa’s Giftia partner at work, is nearing the end of her life as well. How the series chooses to explore this will likely be a huge part in my final opinion of the show as a whole, as she’s already a likable main character. And there was a bit of comedy as well, though it was a little more hit-or-miss. Isla’s antics were almost all at least a little funny ( I thought the way she shifted the tone with the “I have to go to the bathroom” bit at the very end of the episode was – apparently unlike most people – actually surprisingly well-executed and a nice breather from the tense emotion before it), while Michiru and Kazuki’s naturally intimidating personalities came off as a little trite, but overall, I don’t have many negative things to say about Plastic Memories yet. Even if it treads a little too hard on the feels without earning it later on and/or doesn’t end up the most in-depth or “deep” anime to tackle artificial intelligence (and I’d be surprised if it does), it still looks like a promising and interesting show. Keep an eye on this.
Should you watch?: Yes. Also, do it on a phone with like 2% battery left like I did. Enhanced feels.

Harubro:…aaaaaaand here we are, Doga Kobo’s second entry this season, Plastic Memories.

This show’s pilot was as good as Mikagura’s was “meh.” Compared to the other, the worldbuilding is much more natural, with a very inspired concept at the root of it. I was very worried about how this show may turn out after seeing the PV, but after this pilot, my fears have largely been put to rest.

I find the idea of the Giftias interesting. Yeah, the humanlike android thing has been done time and time again, but the various ways this show could take their limited lifespan has my curiosity very piqued. Very much so because the people that have these Giftias tend to adopt them as surrogate family members, which that aspect in and of itself, has tons of potential. The first one of these Termination pick-up scenes really set a subdued tone for this series, as you see this old couple see their Giftia off as if he was their own son. Though this couple was aware of the consequences of keeping a Giftia past its set lifespan, inevitably there will come people not so willing to let their precious surrogate family/companion/whatever go, as was the case with our group trying their hardest to retrieve another expiring Giftia, only to be summarily turned away by a stubborn old woman. Their resulting attempts that follow and the bits of comedy and drama that result were all done well.

There are so many ways Plastic Memories can go from here, and I hope this show expands upon some of the ideas it’s introduced or hinted at, such as the lifespan of the Giftias, the feelings of the Giftias concerning themselves and their state of being, the ethics of human attachment to AI’s, the list goes on. I’ve mentioned before that Doga Kobo makes good shows when they try, and it looks like this is the one of their pair this season they chose to put real effort into. Thank your lucky stars.

You’ve got my attention, Plastic Memories, and I hope you don’t let me down.
Should you watch?: Yes.

L-K: For a show that’s such a typical anime premise, I have to say I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I can’t really say I’m crazy about how dramatic it is, but I do like androids, and it seems to be tackling the subject from an interesting enough perspective. The main characters were just about strong enough for me not to hate them, and it does look rather good. I’m not too sure if I’ll be impressed when all’s said and done, but I’m willing to see this one through a little further.
Should you watch?: Sure, why not.

PUNCH LINE

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

Summary: Yuuta Iridatsu isn’t having a great day. The bus he was on was hijacked, and he was almost saved by an idol superhero named Strange Juice before he caught a glimpse of somebody’s panties, bled Niagara Falls out of his nose, and tackled one of the hijackers out the bus, over a bridge, and into the water below. He was again saved by Strange Juice, and again, caught a glimpse of her panties, and then the world blew up. A cat spirit named Chiranosuke explained that Yuuta himself has also turned into a spirit because someone possessed his body…and oh by the way, if Yuuta can’t control his libido (of which it apparently takes a mere two looks at panties to destroy), the world is doomed. To get his body back, he must find an Indian book called the Nandala Gandla supposedly hidden in his apartment. Oh, and Strange Juice and one of the girls on the bus happen to actually be his roommates. Who would’ve guessed?

Yatahaze: Does that sound as ridiculous as it should? Because I wanted to make it clear that Punch Line is pretty ridiculous – so ridiculous I don’t even know what to think about it. On one hand, it’s a show about panties. The joke is panties. Nothing else lives up to the panties. On the other hand, it’s not a terrible show; the female cast is enjoyable if not a little stereotypical and the art style is fitting and wacky – so much so that I had to remind myself at least twice per minute that this was done by MAPPA and not Gainax or Trigger. The direction was solid and the non-panty comedic timing was superb. Little things like Chiranosuke opening up his computer to immediately and without exaggeration close a tab of two other cats having sex on his browser, or Mikatan Narugino/Strange Juice’s transformation sequence which involved a fantastic reality-check cut and a hilariously anticlimactic costume change drove the episode along and showed Punch Line’s punchlines weren’t only panties.

The community-oriented look into Yuuta’s apartment building and the silly childish humor already give off vibes similar to World Conquest Zvezda Plot, and MAPPA is no slouch when it comes to art. For these reasons, I’m sticking with Punch Line for now, but this series really hinges on potential. A time reseting thingy was brought up in this pilot and if this show can play its cards right, all these various splashes of “what the fuck” could turn into something really special. The opposite could also happen, and if Punch Line just becomes Fanservice Central with no interesting progression of character development or story, I’ll be among the first to let go, but somehow – and I’m really not sure how – I didn’t end up wanting to yet.
Should you watch?: If you loathe panties, don’t watch this. If you think you could shove the panties-dom aside and enjoy the show for its other aspects, you might enjoy this. This is one of those really tough speculative picks, guys.

Harubro: Well, this one takes the cake for Strangest Show of the Season.

I’ve known about Punch Line for a while, and in spite of its sort of raunchy nature, I was sort of eager for this show to come out. The first, because MAPPA is the studio behind this, no matter how totally Trigger-y this show is, and the second, because at the root of Punch Line is my most beloved genre of comedy: Wordplay. The characters’ names are all some sort of play on words. Hell, the Japanese pronunciation of the show’s title is a pun for panty shot. Go figure, huh?

Our protagonist’s name, Yuuta Iridatsu, means “out-of-body experience,” quite fitting for the poor guy’s situation. As Yata mentioned, he becomes a disembodied spirit after a really bad ride on the bus, only to find out his body has been possessed by who-knows-what. Yuuta also happens upon some supernatural ability of his which is set off by him becoming aroused. Yuuta, being just another adolescent boy, becomes rather easily aroused upon the simple sight of girls’ underwear. The catch to his powers? If he becomes too aroused, which takes just two sightings of panties, his power summons an asteroid that rains ruin upon the Earth. The season’s best supernatural cat, Chiranosuke, informs Yuuta of his situation and instructs him to locate a certain book which contains the key to taking his body back. As it just so happens, the book is somewhere in his apartment building.

This show is all really goofy and it knows it, and plays into it. The idol superhero Strange Juice fights with a super-straw and her transformation scene is comedy gold. As Yata mentioned, the way the cat casually plays off having the porn up? Gold. Punch Line’s punchlines ain’t all panties in your face. Heck, the premise of this show, Yuuta having to control his adolescent urges lest he end up destroying the world, should be good for some laughs.

The presentation? Solid, for the most part. In my opinion, the music is laughably terrible, but that’s maybe because I have a distaste for the wonky dubstep sounding stuff. That’s really the only strong knock I have against this show thus far, and that’s a promising sign, because this show could have started much worse.
Should you watch?: If you don’t mind the silly panty shots, this could be a decent wild card show for you.

L-K: This show is reeeeeally stupid. I can’t really think of much more to make fun of it for, other than that it doesn’t really have any apparent appeal other than being another weird ecchi show, which isn’t my thing at all obviously. The comedy just isn’t nearly funny enough and it doesn’t look nearly as good as it needs to to be as stupid as it is, and well, what else do I need to say? Most likely dropping very soon.
Should you watch?: Nope.

RE-KAN!

Re-kan

Re-Kan in one picture. You’re welcome.

Summary: Hibiki Amami can see and talk to spirits. People think she’s weird. Spoiler: she is.

Yatahaze: It’s sometimes hard to judge shows that have such brief summaries before you watch them. This was one such example, and I really couldn’t predict anything about Re-Kan before I sat down to view it. Or tried to, rather. It nearly put me to sleep. The writing had no solid flow, the character interactions were weak, the voice acting was painfully forced, and sans a few gag cuts here or there, nothing was able to keep my attention for longer than a couple seconds. I’d even like to say “at least it wasn’t offensive,” but no, Hibiki can also talk to cats, and a perverted chibi cat followed her around all episode. If I have anything positive to say, it’s that the backgrounds were generally…acceptable…and some of the ghost gags actually made me chuckle, but they made up not even a minute’s worth of this tedious and lifeless episode. Kind of a fitting adjective for a show with ghosts in it.
Should you watch?: No.

RIN-NE (KYOUKAI NO RINNE)

Rin-ne

Wears a jacket, is poor, can be selectively seen…are you sure this isn’t Noragami?

Summary: After she was spirited away for a week as a child, Sakura Mamiya gained the ability to see and talk to ghosts. This has always annoyed her, but one day, Rinne Rokudou, a poor kid her in class who had never showed up to school before, is now present, and when he wears a special robe, nobody but Sakura can see him. He explains that he is a shinigami and his job is to guide spirits away from their binding regrets and towards the wheel of reincarnation.

Yatahaze: And I’m pleased to report Rin-ne fared much better than its other “girl can see ghosts, show starts with an R, and has a five-letter title with a hyphen in the middle” counterpart. The first episode involved two spirit stories, each smoothly wrapped up without any loose ends, even if they were a little predictable. The characterization is sparse but there, and the pacing and comedic timing were nice. The 90’s-ish Rumiko Takahashi art style is very Takahashi-esque, so if you enjoyed her previous work such as InuYasha, the art should appeal to you here. Rin-ne’s start is low-key and the animation isn’t that flashy, so I don’t know if it will entice for a full two cours like it’s set to have, but for now, it seems like it should be a decent enough popcorn watch each week.

Oh, and this episode featured a chihuahua spirit and teenage kid’s spirit merge and chase Rinne and Sakura through the spirit realm. Take that as you will.
Should you watch?: Sure.

SERAPH OF THE END: VAMPIRE REIGN (OWARI NO SERAPH)

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Wit’s running out of wit.

Summary: In 2012, a man-made virus ravaged the world and left only children unscathed. At the same time, vampires rose from the earth, subjugating the human children left and leading them underground for protection in return for them donating blood. At age 12, Yuuichiro and Mikaela, two human kids among the Hyakuya Orphanage attempt leading an escape back to the outside world. Seraph’s pilot episode loosely follows their plans of escape and the living conditions underground. As you might’ve guessed, both are poor.

Yatahaze: Let’s start with the positives: this show looks great. The art style is crisp with well-lined character designs that pop out in each scene, and uh…

…that’s about it?
Seems like a lot of hype for a relatively uninteresting shounen revenge adventure.

I mean, the premise is a little hard to take seriously, and Yuuichiro gives off some massive Eren Jaeger vibes, from his standard facial expression to his commitment to killing the enemy, and even as far as his breakdown when all the children get obliterated. It’s just too reminiscent of Attack on Titan, especially for the studio that did Titan, and while on paper that should (and will) definitely be a selling point for most people, this pilot did not carry the energy you’d expect, and the worldbuilding wasn’t that fleshed out. Since this was almost entirely a flashback episode, I can understand that, but the next episode preview showed…school scenes? Really?

Titan’s explosion into the mainstream was inevitable. It was well-marketed, extremely well-animated, had an enticing core premise, was packed with enough intensity and angst to make 13-year-old Limp Bizkit fans reevaluate “cool”, and the antagonists were genuinely terrifying monstrosities with mysterious functions. Since Seraph is trying to be that show but with…stuck-up vampires…it just doesn’t click for me. I’ll keep it up for a few more weeks since it’s one of the most hyped shows of the season and I want a more informed opinion on it, but as of right now, I wouldn’t particularly recommend Seraph of the End.
Should you watch?: Meh.

Harubro: Do you hear it? The sound of the hype train? Because it’s here, and its name is “Seraph of the End.”

Set in a very near future where most of humanity above the age of 13 is killed off by a mysterious virus, coinciding with a takeover by throngs of vampires, Seraph starts off with a foreboding monologue showing the die-off and our eventual protagonists being captured by the vampires.

We then time skip a few years, and the children left after the apocalypse have been rounded up and are systematically harvested for their blood by their captors. We meet our two main characters, Yuichiro and Mikaela Hyakuya, who hail from the same orphanage. They lament their situation, the angsty Yuichiro angsts while the rather upbeat Mika tries to keep him in line as they both dream of escaping and defeating the vampires.

This show has serious Attack on Titan vibes that it never does shake off, and that is no coincidence. The same studio and staff behind AoT also worked this show, Hiroyuki Sawano produced the music for both, and both share a bleak post-apocalyptic setting. Both have an angsty hothead protagonist and both shows summarily crush said protagonists’ hopes and dreams without delay, giving both their fiery resolve to exterminate their respective menaces. This show doesn’t quite stick with me the same way Titan did, but maybe that’s because I’ve always thought the vampire thing was horrendously played out ages ago.

I was actually interested enough in this to read the manga ahead of the anime, and what I got out of this is that the story is pretty much standard shounen fare. They do skip out on much of the first chapter’s material in this pilot, but I feel it’s stuff that can and will be flashback’d to later on this series. There is actually a mild bit of material that was passed over, which I believe was merely done for time’s sake, which I’m willing to forgive if it eventually gets covered.

Since it’s not really packing in the story area for me, I was looking for how Wit Studio would execute this show, and they did a good job with what they had to work with, as I think the big reason I took this series up was the manga’s art style and the black and green motifs that appears frequently throughout. Hiroyuki Sawano’s music is uncharacteristically unobnoxious in this pilot, and that’s a good thing. Wit Studio’s signature watercolor backgrounds also return for much of the pilot, and I’ll hand it to the show that the voice acting was solid all throughout.
Should you watch?: Meh. It’s got some popcorn potential, and you’ll likely see it on Toonami before too long, anyways.

L-K: Seraph pretty much misses the mark on everything so far. The backgrounds and environments looked alright, but god damn does this story feel thrown together by a marketing team that has no idea how to write. Practically nothing grabbed my attention and I don’t really see any reason to continue it, which, honestly I’m not surprised about. Definitely not bothering to finish this one.
Should you watch?: No.

SOUND! EUPHONIUM

Hibike 1

GODSOUND YOU! BRASS EUPHONIST

Summary: Kumiko Oumae, a high school first year, is indecisive about what club she wants to join. She was a euphonist in the concert band in middle school, but after their school received a “dud gold” which greatly upset a few students such as trumpeteer Reina Kousaka, Kumiko wished to separate herself from band. Kitauji High represented a means of doing just that; after all, Kumiko complains their school band is awful. Despite that and Reina also attending Kitauji, after meeting a few new friends who express interest in band, Kumiko decides to join anyway.

Yatahaze: That’s about all that’s happened so far. Euphonium is being adapted by Kyoto Animation, a consistently visually high-quality studio with some of the best attention to detail and backgrounds you can find in modern anime. Euphonium simply looks beautiful. Kyoto Animation also has a knack for great high-school shows, but they’re not infalliable. K-On!, one of the studio’s biggest hits and one of my least favorite anime ever, took the “cute girls doing cute things” slice-of-life trope and sucked all the interesting music club moments out to leave us with a mush of fluff, fluff, and more fluff. It became popular with some people for that very reason, but for someone who expected at least some solid music from a show supposedly about music, there was little to appreciate. I don’t want to make comparisons between K-On! and Sound! Euphonium too often, but their similarities thus far are striking; from the music “plot” and the mostly female cast to the studio responsible and even the exclamation points in their names. That is to say, as of right now, if you liked K-On!, you’ll also probably enjoy Euphonium. I did not enjoy K-On!, and thus KyoAni has to go out of its way to prove to me it can really craft a great high-school slice of life about music.

And has it? Not yet. As of right now, the characters feel very dry. Kumiko herself isn’t particularly interesting to follow, nor are the stock energetic character Hazuki Katou or the stock timid character Sapphire “Midori” Kawashima. Reina presented the first major conflict of Euphonium’s pilot and already feels more human than the rest of the cast, but for a studio with character writing that tends to comfortably fall somewhere between acceptable and brilliant, Euphonium’s cast leaves a lot to be desired. If the show does indeed focus more on the slice-of-life than the music, I at least want to be interested in what’s happening, and as of right now, I’m simply not. The soundtrack to Euphonium was nice and somewhat understated, but just that: nice – and nothing more. Right now Euphonium seems pretty and cute for the sake of prettiness and cuteness, much like K-On!, and if that trend continues, I won’t be sticking around with it much longer. That I’m not completely turned off yet is more due to the shortage of real events so far and the studio behind it than it is any true hope I carry for the show itself, but Euphonium didn’t fuck up enough to make me drop it right away.
Should you watch?: Maaaaaaaybe. If you’re a diehard slice-of-life fan then of course, but I wouldn’t recommend it to most people. Not yet, at least.

Harubro: Ahh, my somewhat estranged favorite studio, Kyoto Animation, returns once more with Band Geeks, the anime… or as I’ve affectionately dubbed it, Brassholes.

I never watched K-On, as it went through its run while I was still taking sort of an unintentional break from anime. I guess I’m fortunate for that having happened the way it did, because it didn’t spoil Eupho’s pilot for me like it sort of did for Yata. That said, he’s completely right that the characters came off as a tad uninteresting. This does seem like it’ll be a run of “cute girls playing instruments cutely” sort of thing, but I hope this show at least puts some sort of effort into demonstrating some of the nuances of playing in a school band. I’ve heard a few people joke around that they’d give this show a 10 if anything concerning spit valve maintenance makes it into the show, which I’m kind of inclined to agree with, but that would kind of go against the whole cutesy thing I think this show will inevitably go for.

That said, supposedly Kyoto Animation adapted this series straight from a novel. No, not a light novel, an actual novel. You wanna know what the last show was that KyoAni adopted from a bona-fide novel? My very favorite anime, Hyouka. I know that may be sort of a stretch to make that connection, but it does give me an ever-so-slight glimmer of hope for this show. KyoAni already did a brilliant job making this show look and sound pretty, as they do consistently better than almost any other studio in the business. That’s a good thing, because sound is very important in a music anime, and even more important when it’s literally in the show’s title.

I sincerely do hope that this show will keep me invested in it beyond it merely being another KyoAni project. Here’s hoping.
Should you watch?: If you’re a Brasshole, probably. If you’re anyone else, you may wanna hold off for now.

Aaaaaaand that’s that. What did you guys think of the new shows this season? Leave a comment below, start some discussion, do your thing. Until next time, this has been For Great Justice doing great justice. See you again in a couple weeks.

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