Summer 2015 – Act 1 Update

Hey, folks. Summer was looking like one of the weakest anime seasons in recent memory, but Haru and Yata found a few things worth sticking with past first impressions week. With another month under their belt, how many will continue to make the cut this time?

(Hopefully a lot, because…)

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By the way, although it’s been almost one year since this site’s inception, we’re still changing things up a bit and trying to work out some kinks. The midseason update articles used to be awkwardly titled with fractions, but it’s about time for that to change. At the moment, we’re going with this title format for future monthly updates, but if you have any suggestions, comment and let us know!

Anyway, on to the shows:

ACTUALLY, I AM… (JITSU WA WATASHI WA)

Jitsu 4

Asahi and the Seven Bitches.

Yatahaze:
Actually, I Am’s fanservice-low, dorky, and almost charming first episode was enough to give it a passing grade on first impressions week. With the addition of two major new characters, Aizawa (a tiny alien hiding inside a larger nearly-identical shell body) and Mikan (a nosy student journalist), the show’s harem is starting to take form. On their own, these characters are alright, typical for a slightly above average quirky harem. Aizawa’s true nature and Mikan’s pissing fountain gag (that phrase makes much more sense if you’ve watched this) were good for some laughs, as was the whole middle of episode 4, in which Aizawa’s frame ran out of battery, and she had to pose as a figurine for the rest of the episode (see above) to avoid being found by Mikan. It was just silly. I can dig silly.

What I don’t dig is characters overreacting to literally everything. It ruins the flow of a gag sequence and only stalls for runtime. Unfortunately, Actually, I Am seems like it wants to be one of those comedies where every single action is some life-changing revelation. The supernatural elements in this show are funnier when they’re not constantly highlighted through brief monologues (usually by Asahi, but occasionally by someone else too). The dialogue has taken a huge step down, especially in scenes with only one of the girls and Asahi, in which they try to grapple with their feelings for him (or vice versa) instead of doing anything more engaging.

When a show gets a slight pass for me on first impressions week, it’s usually because I feel like it might have the potential to do better or keep a consistent level of engagement. With hints during episode 4 that this show will essentially play out with all the supernatural people at the school latching onto Asahi, I have to weigh the pros and cons of sticking with it. Since the comedy’s already wearing off on me, a few chuckle-worthy scenes scattered here and there aren’t gonna keep me here going forward, and with my first year of college fast approaching in my personal life (yeah, we have lives outside the internet, who would’ve guessed?), now would be an ideal time to drop some watchlist clutter. Actually, I Am isn’t bad; though I rarely watch harems, I’d say this is one of the less cringy of the bunch this year. But is that really a compliment?
Exactly.
Final score: 5/10
Dropped after 4 episodes.

Harubro:
This show is just plain dorky.

They’re all dorks, the lot of them. This is the silliest harem show I’ve come across in a long time, and this is coming from a guy who watched Nisekoi. Harem shows are inherently silly by definition, but Actually, I Am dials the silly to eleven….or twelve.

This show has a season’s worth of reaction faces packed into one episode, thanks to the plethora of exaggerated reactions touched on before. It’s all part of this show’s brand of comedy, but it does get played out rather quick. The strange thing with this show, is right when there’s another overreaction to something that I don’t find particularly amusing, occasionally it’ll pile on another overreaction that manages to get a laugh out of me. Case in point, when Shiragami’s wings unwittingly appeared when she found that tiny Aizawa was caught by Mikan, I couldn’t help myself. This show will keep on trying until it gets a laugh. I simultaneously like that, yet sort of also lament it.

I originally didn’t want to go anywhere near this show due to its strange art style, but it’s grown on me as I’ve continued with the show. It’s a whimsical style to go with a whimsical show. I can’t help but feel as though this show plays out like one from the late 90’s or very early 00’s because of the style and its setup, and I also can’t shake the thought that this show probably would’ve been much more popular had it actually come about in that era. I do feel that it’s worth commending that this show has relied on slapstick and actual interaction (as juvenile as it gets sometimes) for its entertainment, rather than just dumping fanservice to appeal to the lowest common denominator like most harems tend to do.

It’s ultimately a show that I couldn’t care less if I drop it, but it’s stayed just funny enough for it to merit me sticking around for at least another week or two. We’ll see how that goes.
Current score: 5/10
Still watching after 4 episodes. (somehow)

AOHARUxMACHINEGUN

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..Snake? …Snake?! ….SNAAAAAAAAKE!!!

Harubro:
Yeah, as I thought, I didn’t stick around too long on this one.

I think what finally did this one in for me was the combo of the fujoshi-bait scenes and the sheer mediocrity of everything else. I mean, what the hell is Solid Snake doing selling airsoft guns?! How does this girl become a deranged lunatic able to set fear to a hardened ex-mercenary by simply being set loose on a course for a survival game? Seriously, I’ve had enough of this.

The slight amusement factor from this show’s sheer ridiculousness has worn off. Much like I did with my airsoft phase (let’s not talk about it), I’ve moved on from this show to other, more important things. I could be wasting my time in better ways than watching this show.

Says the guy watching fucking Chaos Dragon.
Final score: 4/10
Dropped after 4 episodes.

CHAOS DRAGON

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Can YOU spot the character played by Ryohgo Narita?

Summary: The story is set in Nil Kamui, a small island nation which was invaded by the nation of Kouran whilst their ally D’natia chose only to protect settlements where they had troops stationed. Nil Kamui’s guardian deity, the Red Dragon, didn’t protect the country, which was summarily partitioned between the two greater nations. The Dragon then appears, and wipes out a few villages and armies still under Nil Kamui’s control. We follow Ibuki, an heir to the throne of Nil Kamui, as he joins an expedition that is formed by the countries to investigate the Dragon and either destroy him or bring him to his senses.

Harubro:
I told myself I wasn’t going to touch this show, but here the hell I am. What mess have I got into now?

I think what got me curious about Chaos Dragon wasn’t the actual show itself, but its conception process. This show is literally the results of a handful of acclaimed writers coming up with an RPG and actually playing it out over the course of six days. The writers’ actions in the game were then taken and translated almost verbatim into the show we have here. Heck, each writer was encouraged to go wild when they got to create their own characters, and it shows, because the character designs and archetypes for this show are very befitting for some of their respective writers.

Just who are some of these writers, you ask? Well, there’s Kinoko Nasu, who penned the Fate/stay night and UBW series, the glorious madman Gen Urobuchi, and none other than Ryohgo Narita, of Durarara and Baccano fame. I can be forgiven for being at least a bit curious about something these big three cooperated on, right?

The show itself is probably the edgiest edgy show to edge that I’ve come across this year. Early into the pilot, Ibuki and some friends of his are chased down by some Kouran soldiers. Through strange circumstances, Ibuki is forced to form a contract with the Red Dragon to use the latter’s immense power, which comes at the cost of taking the life of one of his close friends. (This actually happens a couple times.) Needless to say, this takes a drastic emotional toll on the boy. Naturally, he crosses paths with some folks from Kouran and D’natia that seek information on the dragon, and they end up setting out to find said dragon. Thus, we have our story.

In spite of the talent at work behind the show, it does have its flaws. The actions in the battle scenes look sloppy, the exposition is tactless, most of the characters feel dull and flat, much of the drama of the show comes off as corny, and the tone of this show is so undeniably nationalistic that it’s laughable. It’s not a far stretch to picture Nil Kamui (the small island nation) as Japan, Kouran (the “covetous, great ancient country”) as China, and D’natia (the great ally to the east that kept bases in Nil Kamui) as good ol’ ‘Murica. One can almost instantaneously make the connections there.

As try-hard as the show is, it’s definitely not the worst game-based show that I’ve seen (looking at you, Devil Survivor 2), at least at this moment in time. I wouldn’t recommend this show myself, but there’s probably more than a few people that could get a real kick out of this show. The show is far more fun for me when I imagine these characters as their respective writers, with that made all the more enjoyable now that Narita’s character (an eccentric undead merchant, because of course, Narita) has appeared. Speaking of obvious characters, of fucking course Urobuchi would be the assassin.

All that trash talk, and yet I find myself still on this bandwagon. I blame the Narita/Urobutcher combo for keeping me curious about this one.
Current score: a very tentative 5/10
Still watching after 4 episodes. (don’t count on this lasting)

CHARLOTTE

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Don’t worry, Hoshinoumi. You could probably beat the Phillies without cheating.

Yatahaze:
I really wasn’t expecting Charlotte to hold my interest. But then they introduced a character who played post-rock. That sure got my attention.

And then they revealed after coming out of a vegetative coma, he’s restricted to a hospital and has fits of insanity.

Takk for nothing, Charlotte.

I kid, of course. My surprise is genuine though. The show’s clever use of its characters’ powers is used to great comedic effect, and that’s where the its greatest strength lies. Much like Maeda and P.A. Works’ prior applauded show, Angel Beats, the characters are at their prime when they goof off. Silly faces are always a plus and at times the comedic writing reminds me of the sharp, punchy, and calculated stuff KyoAni whips out. Scenes like the kids using their powers to make Misa look like a badass (not that she isn’t already) and Takajou abusing the hell out of his teleporta- er, I mean, high-speed projectileism are pure gold. And of course it ain’t a Jun Maeda show without the obligatory filler baseball episode.

I can’t ignore Charlotte’s forced feels and predictable foreshadowing though. Again, think of Angel Beats. I know a lot of people loved the sadder moments of that show, gave ‘em the feels and whatnot, but I felt it to be rushed and kind of insubstantial. The same producers at work here have me worried Charlotte will muddle its potential as a straight-up comedy when it tries to become more complicated. The scientific research threat should feel, well…threatening, but it doesn’t at this point and likely never will. Ayumi is also still really annoying, and this is before she’s really important to anything (see the predictable foreshadowing).

But again, those are all predictions. Judging solely off what we’ve gotten so far, Charlotte is currently one of the better comedies this season. Not flawless, but perfectly respectable and legitimately funny. For how much longer, that is the question.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 4 episodes.

Harubro:
Man, am I happy that this show is working out.

So after that fun little pilot, Charlotte got right to work, with Yuu joining Tomori and Takajou (the two who chased him down) at their school, Hoshinoumi Academy, which translates into “Sea of Stars.” Yuu is roped into assisting the two with their student council “duties,” which are finding other kids with special powers and either putting an end to their shenanigans, or having them transfer to their academy, which shelters super-powered kids from folks wanting to use them as guinea pigs.

So that’s the situation thus far, and it looks like our crew is all together with the student council’s addition of Yusa Nishimori, a popular idol who happens to channel her deceased pyromaniac sister Misa. This is much to the joy of Takajou, who is obsessed with the idol. His fanatic episodes lead to some humorous reactions from his fellow council members. This show is definitely one chock full of slapstick, but the characters do bounce pretty well off of one another.

To make it totally unfair, Charlotte also had a gratuitous baseball episode this week, one which turned out to be one of the more superb gratuitous baseball episodes ever featured in a show. The student council tries to set straight a pitcher who uses telekinesis to induce filthy break into his pitches. A pick-up baseball match ensues, with some super-powered antics adding to some late inning drama.

Also of note, is the show’s various celestial motifs, manifested in the name of the school I mentioned earlier, Ayumi’s avid interest in astronomy, or the general theme of the OP, which is one of my favorites this season has to offer. I’m curious to see if it’s got some connection to the kids’ powers, or whether it’s purely for some sort of aesthetic. I hope the show starts to touch on this subject soon.

Charlotte certainly isn’t outstanding or particularly ambitious, but it is an amusing watch which I can comfortably say I’m on board with for the long haul.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 4 episodes.

CLASSROOM CRISIS

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“Wow, it looks great!” “I wonder if anyone will be able to tell the logo is just two copyright circl-” “Shut up.”

Yatahaze:
“Classroom Crisis, calm down. Eat this.”
“WHY?”
You get a little ridiculous when you’re hungry.
-munching-
”Better?”

Better. What a turnaround. Generally when I say “oh man, this show would be so much better if it tried to be a completely different show,” I don’t actually expect the show in question to become that better show. Yet here we are with Classroom Crisis, toned down, done with crashing ships into asteroids and busy with crashing reality checks into dreamers.

Dreamers like Kaito Sera. Kaito’s a strong main character; he cares a lot about his job and his students and was previously disillusioned about how much he ended up costing the company. With a lenient boss gone, Kaito has to experience working not just on machinery, but proper paperwork. And while he’s certainly a prodigy, he’s not really a reliable leader, getting down easily and struggling to cope with the sudden changes A-TEC is faced with. Changes made mostly by student/almost-top brass Nagisa Kiryu, a member of one of Kirishina’s founding families. Nagisa has his own agenda against his family, and Kaito and company’s improbable (and sometimes silly) ways of overcoming the odds are part of his plan to improve A-TEC, not obliterate it. At the same time, there’s enough tension between the higher-ups and the class (and briefly inside the class itself) to provide tons of great material down the road.

And if that doesn’t work (though let’s not jinx it), we’ve still got silly faces. Silly faces everywhere.

Yep, a dumb joke or two by Angelina can’t crash this ship that easily. With a solid focus on Kaito and his class improving themselves and their operations along the way, Classroom Crisis is rolling along smoothly, the underdog of the season. To the boardroom and beyond!
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 4 episodes.

Harubro:
Don’t let this show’s relatively low MAL score (6.51 at the time I wrote this) fool you, Classroom Crisis has put on an impressive performance thus far.

Perhaps the reason this show isn’t so popular with the mainstream viewer is because it’s perceived to be moving slowly. The thing is though, is that rather than moving slowly, Classroom Crisis has actually proceeded rather methodically and now it has a solid foundation for the rest of the story to hopefully take off from.

It is kind of tough watching the A-TEC kids get treated as harshly they did, but the show has done a reasonable job showing why the Kirishina Corp. thought they had it coming. We were shown that A-TEC had an established pedigree of making innovative breakthroughs in rocket design that seemed like perfect justification for their seemingly unlimited budget, we saw that the class of recent had stagnated whilst they continued to burn up company budget and resources, whether with fruitless R&D or wanton destruction of valuable rocketry. We then see how any corporation would realistically react, with budget cuts and the shuttering of their swanky facilities. Textbook case of cause and effect, really.

The entirety of the fourth episode has set the stage for this show. After using Kaito’s newfound executive powers (given to him by Kiryu to sabotage his alliance with the union) to use their own system against them, the kids at A-TEC look set to begin a project that the survival of their program depends upon. They have limited resources, limited time, and a limited budget with some company superiors that are hellbent on shutting A-TEC down for good. That alone seems like it would warrant a watch, but it’s an added bonus that the ensemble cast seems to have some really good chemistry.

Classroom Crisis is one of the prettier shows in a season that seems rather lacking in animation quality, or just quality content in general. This is a pretty vivid show packed with some fun reactions out of some of the characters. I’m sufficiently pleased all-around.

Lay-duce, your debut has done well so far. Keep it up.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 4 episodes.

DURARARA!!x2 TEN

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Ten/10.

Yatahaze:
The “Ten” in this cour’s title can be roughly translated to “Motion”. That’s both fitting and ironic; the former because this cour is already all the fuck over the place and the latter because holy cow what animation quality?

Thankfully Studio Shuka’s poor animation is basically the one and only drawback to Ten thus far. While I love Durarara when it jumbles its plot threads into a smorgasbord of wacky elements and diverse motives, there’s also a time and a place for more focused, reserved, and human storytelling. After last winter’s Shou represented all that is clusterfuck about Durarara, it dawned on me that while this action-packed and busy approach to the plot is a lot of fun, it’s also easy to miss some essential character development, especially with a plethora of new characters introduced earlier in the cour. Beyond that, some other characters have lurked in the background for a long time, never fully receiving the screentime they should have. It’s by fixing this problem that Ten is already shining.

Because of their self-contained nature, it’s probably best to delve into each episode so far one at a time. Remember Mika Harima? I’d forgive if you didn’t. She’s the beanie-wearing, neck-scarred obsessed girlfriend of Seiji Yagiri, the bland brother of Namie Yagiri, Izaya’s secretary. Haven’t touched base with this group in a long time. Way back when, Seiji was awestruck by Celty’s preserved head, something that frustrated Namie because she had feelings for him (yes, that’s fucked up. All of Durarara’s characters are fucked up. Moving on…). Around the same time, Mika, then merely a stalker to Seiji, broke into his apartment and was promptly attacked by him. Seiji brought her to Namie, who, realizing this was a golden opportunity, surgically restructured Mika’s face to look like Celty’s. This was good, she thought, but then Seiji became infatuated with Mika instead and the relationship between those two actually blossomed.

That wasn’t quite what Namie expected or wanted.

And so she tries to call Mika out while Izaya’s in the hospital, the only time she’d be able to act for herself without his overlooking eye. This encounter goes horribly wrong. Mika’s prepared to fight for her love, even if it means taking the head and scooping out its innards with a trowel to eat them (and again, I warned you all of Durarara’s characters are fucked up. Stop squirming). Namie takes advantage of Mika and pins her down, asking if she has any last words before spilling acid on her face and…yeah, turns out Mika has a lot of words. Turns out Mika’s been gathering information this whole time. This character we haven’t truly revisited since the earliest stages of season 1 is up to date with everything. Watching. Observing. Everything.

Well shit.

And as soon as that anticlimactically wraps up with Seiji forcing both of them to stop, episode three is whipped our way, focusing on mob man Akabayashi, Akane’s uncle. To make a long story substantially short, Akabayashi was a drug dealer and tax collector who had the unfortunate luck of meeting up with Anri’s Saika-controlled mother one night. Her slash infects his eye, so he does what any classy guy would do: yank it straight out of his head and declare his love for her.

Fucking Christ, even I forget how weird Durarara occasionally gets.

Considering she’s already married, Mrs. Sonohara turns him down, but the encounter convinces Akabayashi to resolve his ways and crack down on thugs in the future. That he indeed does, also trying to make the world a better place for Anri (though whether either of them truly know much of anything about their connection is uncertain) and Akane.

Flash forward to episode four now, where the spotlight’s on Akane and Varona, two childish women (though one is an actual child, so that makes sense) who want to kill Shizuo…or do they? The similarities between these two are fun; both were daughters of mafia bosses, both don’t really understand the nuances of Ikebukuro yet, and both are struggling to figure out what exactly they’re doing here now. Varona was one of the more interesting characters introduced last cour, so it’s great to see more of her. The Russian Sushi guys are great any time they’re on screen, and while Shizuo’s reputation precedes him both in-universe and out, it’s easy to forget he’s one of the more human characters in the whole franchise. His relaxed back-and-forth conversations with Tom are fun to get a peek of every once and a while, and the whole episode had a weird but intriguing sense of balance between them and Varona. Just damn well written.

Just like, damn. Well written.

There ends up being one write-up every time that practically turns into an essay, and this time, this is that write-up. I wasn’t sure a breath of fresh air would also open up this many potential places for the series to go, but I’m sure glad it did. Durarara!! x2 Ten is pretty fucking great at the moment.
Current score: 8.5/10
Still watching after 4 episodes.

Harubro:
….aaaaaand strangely enough, Durarara isn’t the first time I mention Ryohgo Narita in a writeup, but let’s not worry about the other thing he dabbled with this season.

Durarara is just gonna keep Durrrrrrrrr-ing. The first few episodes of Ten are backstory-driven and stage-setting rather than the action-driven scenes that were peppered throughout Shou. Despite his chronologically non-linear approach, there’s always an ebb and flow to Narita’s writing, and relatively calm moments like we had like this week’s episode with Tom, Shizuo, and Varona are why I regard his works as a treasure. Every event is important to him. Every action, no matter how minute, has an effect and a consequence that is eventually experienced by every character he brings to life, and I really do mean what I say. He is able to write from so many differing perspectives, all with differing takes and mentalities on the happenings of Ikebukuro. He convincingly makes monsters feel human and humans seem like monsters, and makes us understand their perspective, whether it’s an agreeable one or not. That’s really the beauty of it all, and part of why I enjoy this series the way I do.

Current score: 8/10
Do you really have to ask if I’m still watching this after 4 episodes?

FOOD WARS (SHOKUGEKI NO SOUMA)

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for the love of god, bring the first OP back

Yatahaze:
With the Totsuki Resort elimination camp arc complete and all the Polar Star members moving on, the last two weeks took a breather to bring back an old friend. Yep, Jouichirou dropped by for a visit to check in on Souma and say hi to Fumio and-

wait, what?

And thus comes the revelation; Jouichirou attended Totsuki as a kid himself. Not just attended, but he even lived in Polar Star and was the second seat of his class behind fuckin’ Dojima. Souma’s visibly shaken up by this. He’s slightly more modest now, having learned a bit of humility from the other competitive chefs and Totsuki alumni, but a no-stakes makeshift shokugeki between father and son marks the first time Souma’s utterly lost at anything since he arrived on campus. Jouichirou’s experience is simply too much, but he lacks something Souma could still obtain, and it could very well be the reason he sent Souma to Totsuki in the first place: a diploma.

It was a short but vital two-episode arc for Food Wars, simmering down and establishing some welcomed backstory before the briefly mentioned Fall Classic comes up. Erina also seems to have some connection with Jouichirou – what exactly, we’re not sure yet, but it’s pretty clear she thinks of him fondly. Imagine the existential terror when she finds out he’s Souma’s dad. Or maybe she already knows and that’s why she’s acted so stuck up. Tsunderes are moody like that. Whatever the case, Food Wars is Food Wars. Keep it coming.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 16 episodes. Didn’t think I’d be saying that last April.

Harubro:
Huzzah, we get to talk about Food Wars again! I’d have never thunk that I’d ever dig a cooking show as much as I’ve enjoyed Food Wars, but there’s a first time for everything, eh?

So the summer camp from hell at Totsuki Resort arc came to a close since we last reported on this show, and a good bit of stuff happened since Soma and Tadokoro challenged Shinomiya to the Shokugeki and narrowly escaped expulsion before the final challenge to make 200 servings of an egg-based breakfast buffet dish for the resort’s workers and patrons. Now, we’re having ourselves a nice little breather period before the insanity resumes, but with this being our beloved Food Whores, even the breather periods are gonna have some fun. Said fun is brought about this time by Soma’s father, who returns to Japan to check out his old digs at the Polar Star Dorm at Totsuki Academy. Big suprise, Old Man Yukihira was #2 in Totsuki’s Elite 10, and happened to stay in what is now his son’s digs.

Anywho, Soma’s dad is curious to see what his son has learned in his time at Totsuki, and the two have a cook-off, apparently their 490th, which Soma loses to make his record against his father 0-490. Gotta give credit to the kid for trying his hardest. Of course, with this being Food Whores, the judges trying the food were so enamored with the food presented to them that they had the hallucinations that we’ve come to adore with this show, with our personal favorite this week being Tadokoro’s Sleeping Beauty-esque vision of the apple prince waking her with a kiss.

Never fucking change, Shokugeki. Never change.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 16 episodes.

GANGSTA.

Gangsta 4

“SO THERE’S A WAR OUTSIDE…” “Worick, you’re not Kendrick Lamar.” “I LOVE MYSELF.”

Yatahaze:
Of all the shows airing this season, I think is the one that’s closest to being really good but just can’t seem to come together completely. The story’s shaping up more; episode 4 gave us more insight on Worick and Nic’s past and established some plot points in greater detail. Worick was from a rich but neglectful family, and the two formed their friendship when Nic was assigned as his bodyguard. It seems Nic is a Twilight, a term we now understand as a descendent of a Celebrer (failed super-soldier drug) user who still retains some of the strength and side effects of the drug. Twilights are now recognized by their “dog tags” in Ergastulum. Their superhuman reflexes are cause for concern, and hints that an Anti-Twilight faction used to exist cropped up in the latest episode. There are also apparently laws to try to keep things in check, and when Gangsta wasn’t subtly infodumping loads of backstory onto us, it was visiting a suddenly cornered Mr. Monroe, attacked by a rogue, violent Twilight with no respect for said laws.

Plotwise, Gangsta is moving along alright. As far as the characters go, those flashbacks helped give more identity to the main duo and characters like Nina, Dr. Theo, and Chad round out a fair enough  recurring cast. The still unnamed Twilight antagonist hasn’t proven his worth just yet, but he’s already clearly more of a threat than the dozens of dull thugs lining the city’s alleys so far.

No, all that is fine. Gangsta’s execution is just…weird. Not bad, but like, awkwardly slow-moving and only half-natural. The action scenes are hard to take seriously, deprived of any decent animation quality. The flashbacks were integrated well in episode 4 (in other words, things flowed well from scene to scene), but within scenes, Gangsta uses poor camera angles, focusing in on dry, grey, nondescript backgrounds and minimizing character animation as much as possible during anything with lengthy dialogue. Gangsta’s doing what it can out of the apparent low budget it has, so kudos for that, but I can’t shake the feeling that with more polish, it could still be so much better.
Current score: 6.5/10
Still watching after 4 episodes.

GATCHAMAN CROWDS INSIGHT

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GEEE~RURURURURURURURURURURURURURU

Yatahaze:
All things considered, Gatchaman Crowds said what it was trying to say with thematic perfection. The only imperfect quirk it had was…what it was trying to say. Crowds (both the first season of the show and the in-show software) was based on idealism in the technological age; the idea that given the opportunity to do good on equal ground, everyone will work for mutual benefit and not abuse their privileges. Obviously this wouldn’t be the case if attempted in real life, and that’s where Crowds ultimately stumbled, feeling empty and cheated of a realistic ending.

Or it at least it had up until now. Insight strikes like a bullet train, raising an objection to the plausibility of that scenario and hammering it into your head as people – in the most recent instance, even our beloved Gatchaman – quarrel about if CROWDS is worth using or not. As if the show were answering its fanbase’s most constant question, episode 4 made clear that a team dreaming of sunshine and rainbows can only hold onto their positivity for so long. Eventually conflict will happen, and Hajime’s right; conflict sparkles.

Conflict like Sugayama placing his appointment as prime minister on the public’s phone vote which he could realistically lose. Conflict like Millio weighing the odds of keeping a CROWDS supporter like O.D. on his show if the public suddenly shows they don’t want it. Conflict like Joe/u (goddamn these spellings) and Tsubasa holding extreme opposite viewpoints on a scale of idealism and pragmatism. And Rui; oh man, he’s way off the deep end here. Rui wants CROWDS to be used by everyone. Rizumu asks him to his face is that includes people like him. With a “yes,” she’s in the hospital, and Rizumu’s done, accomplishing getting his message through for now. To Rui, CROWDS is the end, the goal. Rizumu, however, only uses CROWDS as a means to extinguish the system. Onlookers like Gelsadra and the elderly speak through in sentence-long snippets every so often; “Why can’t we just get along?”

But Insight recognizes people are more complex than that. Opinions differ. Goals differ. Emotions differ. That recognition didn’t penetrate all of Crowds from the start, but I’m sure glad it’s here now.

Turns out it might be all this series ever needed.
Current score: 8.5/10
Still watching after 4 episodes.

Harubro:
In all seriousness, somebody needs to make an AMV consisting entirely of Gatchaman Crowds Insight (hell, throw the first season in there, too) set to the music of “Why Can’t We Be Friends” by WAR. I feel like it’d be a pretty good fit.

I feel Yata has satisfactorily covered the “idealism” aspect of Crowds, so I don’t really feel the need to make an overly redundant analysis there. Something I really love with this series is how well it dabbles in the gray area of topics that get portrayed as black and white or “them” vs. “us.” Are the CROWDS beneficial to humanity, or are they a detriment? People are inclined to want to pick one answer or the other as an end-all and be all. However, it turns out that as with almost all tools humanity lays its fingers on, you’re bound to get folks who abuse them to their benefit. Insight has shown a lot of tact on its exploration of conflict.

Is it strange that I find myself more in agreement with Rizumu’s way of thinking, rather than Rui’s? It goes without saying that I disagree with his rather dastardly methods, but I’m generally in agreement with his take on human nature. Chalk it up to me being a pessimist, or pragmatic, or whatever the hell you want to call it. Rui’s steadfast belief in humanity is something I that do find admirable yet disagreeable. He did get screwed over pretty badly in his confrontation with Rizumu. Tough luck, kid.

I’ve got to hand it to this show, the quality of Insight has proven to be a vast improvement over its predecessor. They’ve been wiser about the lighting and palettes used for the show, and it makes Gatchaman that much more well-rounded of a show than before.

GATCHA-MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 4 episodes.

GOD EATER

fuck this

No.

This is all you get.

Final score: 2/10
Dropped after a quarter of an episode.

HIMOUTO!! UMARU-CHAN

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that’s it, that’s the show.

Harubro:
How is this show still entertaining the hell out of me the way that it is?

Perhaps this is just how it’s meant to be with Dogakobo. Their 4-koma shows continue to be their most watchable offerings, as Himouto has apparently made clear. I mean, in no way should a 16 year old girl in a hamster hoodie rolling on the floor in the middle of a tantrum set off by her unsuspecting older brother be funny, but this show does it again and again, and I keep finding myself laughing uncontrollably.

It helps that the few regular supporting characters we see are their own type of endearing dorks. There’s Ebina, a somewhat clumsy girl from the countryside who is Umaru’s best friend that happens to live in the same apartment complex. She appears to have some sort of crush on Taihei, and the show has already had some fun with that. Then there’s Motoba, a seemingly scary girl who always looks to be glaring at everyone, when in fact the glare is just from her being incredibly shy and socially awkward. So socially awkward in fact, that when she accidentally encounters Umaru in her hamster form, Umaru manages with ease to fool her into thinking she is actually with Umaru’s little sister. The two proceed to befriend each other despite the possible mess Umaru has worked herself into.

The dialogue works, the slapstick hits, the OP is fucking bonkers in the very best ways, and as with all good Dogakobo shows, the reactions and faces in the show are gold. For what little if any plot there may be, I don’t really think Himouto has much in the way of rewatch value, but this show is just so damn goofy that it gets me laughing. That’s worth sticking around for one watch, at the very least.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 3 episodes.

PRISON SCHOOL (KANGOKU GAKUEN)

Prizoon 3

I want to say you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find a non-subtitled SFW screencap of Prison School, but uh…you would.

Yatahaze:
Anyone who hasn’t seen Prison School is about to be really confused. Anyone who has will get what I’m talking about.

*deep breath*

How can a show this bad be this fantastic?

Prison School is getting a ridiculous amount of mileage out of such a dumb premise. The execution is consistent and smooth. The comedy is perfectly timed. The prison break idea is a logical and strong start. For some people there’s simply no overlooking the heaping loads of intense sexual content, and that’s understandable, but the way Prison School uses it (and the other boys’ welcoming acceptance of it) as just an average part of Kiyoshi’s fucked up current life is beyond great. Kiyoshi and Gakuto’s banter is great. The other guys are great. The ludicrously abusive student council is somehow great. The chairman is great. The future looks great. Prison School is great. There, I said it. What else do you want from me?
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 3 episodes.

RANPO KITAN: GAME OF LAPLACE

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Poe is turning over in his fucking grave right about now.

Yatahaze:
I don’t have to do this very often, and I’m thankful for that, but uh…

Forget every single thing I praised Laplace for during first impressions week. This show does not understand how to write and portray a mystery. This show does not understand tension. This show doesn’t even understand how to sustain a natural conversation. And worse yet, if it couldn’t do any of those things, it could at least play the horror card, but Laplace isn’t scary either.

I’ll start off by disclaiming I was and am still not familiar with Rampo’s original stories. To what extent Seiji Kishi and the staff behind Laplace are truly adapting his source material is unknown to me. However, as weird as a lot of Laplace’s stuff is, it’s not inherently bad. My understanding is that Rampo’s stories were filled with this kind of erotic grotesque nonsense, and when you go into a show tagged “horror” and “mystery”, that’s kind of to be expected. I was prepared, and it’d be alright, but it just doesn’t add anything, especially during full scenes where it’s in the foreground, like…well, with fuckin’ Black Lizard.

But back to the point; Laplace mainly fails because its storytelling and execution feel extremely haphazard. Kobayashi doesn’t actually solve anything in episode 2, he just whips out a series of wild guesses he has nowhere near enough information to feel confident claiming, but voila, they’re all right. The two self-contained episodes since have had strange pacing issues that harmed the aforementioned tension episode 1 was somehow capable of demonstrating. The Shadow Man short story of episode 3 was confusing without being enticing, and the perpetrator of that episode as well as the almost-punished victim of episode 4 was about as sleazy a stock villain as they come.

The characterization is weak, which makes the characters themselves less entertaining, and by extension, their actions as well. One of the few consistent positives in Game of Laplace is its general art style (and it’s worth noting the show’s OP and ED are by far my favorite pair this season), but that doesn’t make up for how pointlessly bizarre and fundamentally unsatisfying the show is as a whole. Maybe it’s the crew behind this commemorative adaptation that’s fucking things up, or maybe I just don’t “get” Edogawa Rampo’s ideas. Either way, Ranpo Kitan has worn off its welcome and hasn’t given me any reason to stick around further.
Final score: 3/10
Dropped after 4 episodes.

Harubro:
“Oh goodness, Seiji Kishi, what in the world went wrong here?” …I feel this is a question he gets asked a lot.

I was really on the fence about Laplace for the first three weeks. It had no shortage of flair, but I have to question how it goes about its procedures. Instead of at least giving some slight clue to the viewers, Laplace seemed to solve its cases by randomly giving the most ludicrous explanation it could come up with. Perhaps those explanations sounded ridiculous because the dialogue and just the general character interaction in the entirety this show are horribly flawed at best, and undeniably pitiful at worst.

This show is in its entirety unnotable and completely forgettable. Nothing about this show leaves a lasting impression. Even fucking Chaos Dragon was able to accomplish that much. Its attempts to be shocking or to convey any sense of tragedy with Paper Bag Guy’s episode fell flat. There’s no real buildup, no suspense. The show just passes by as though it were a 23 minute long sigh of boredom. After watching this, one is bound to feel as disconnected from any of the goings-on of the show as Kobayashi is around his peers. Have I lamented enough?

How much of this is on Edogawa Ranpo, and how much of this is on Seiji Kishi and crew? I don’t even know, and this point, I don’t even care. Here’s where I call it quits. Stick to Assassination Classroom, Kishi.
Final score: 4/10
Dropped after 4 episodes.

ROKKA: BRAVES OF THE SIX FLOWERS

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Jet fuel can’t melt the strongest man in the world. Adlet did 6/7 to make money off the Demon War. Illuminati.

Yatahaze:
My enjoyment of Rokka fluctuates to an absurd degree from episode to episode and scene to scene. The action is extremely spotty; when the characters are battling each other, it’s usually great, but when fiends are involved, the CG looks terrible and the choreography is messy. The dialogue is spotty too; when characters just hurl infodumps out their mouths, the scenes drag soooo hard, but when they’re given time to banter a bit, it freshens the mood up considerably. Hit-or-miss, frustratingly leaning a bit towards miss. Kind of like the Atlanta Braves.

I jokingly mocked a bunch of Rokka’s series synopses on first impressions week for spoiling that one of the seven Braves must be an impostor. They made it sound like that development would happen right away, but no, four episodes later, we only just got there. I have enough hope Rokka will play its cards right from this point on. People have said the series ends up more of a mystery as it progresses, which the show might as well try its hand at. Adlet’s kindheartedness and willingness to trust without support makes him a prime candidate for getting screwed by the seventh Brave…if the seventh Brave has harmful intentions…or if he’s not the seventh Brave. I really don’t know where this will go. Good potential aside, another week or two will ultimately decide my takeaway on Rokka.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 4 episodes.

Harubro:
Well, I may have been impressed by Rokka’s debut, and I still think I had every right to be, but the show’s not particularly meeting the lofty expectations I had after said debut. Instead, it is outperforming the low expectations I had before I watched the pilot. I think I’m comfortable saying that this is the show that (at the moment) sort of sums up the middle of the pack for me.

The quality’s taken a real downturn since the pilot, and it shows. The character animation has become wildly inconsistent, and the battles are far more simple and much less fun to watch. Watching Rokka is half ephemeral struggle to survive dying for boredom due to infodumps, and half “wow, this show is rather passable when it’s not crushing me half to death under the weight of all this infodump.” This show really is at its best when the characters are allowed to interact and do their own thing rather than dump exposition on us. Case in point, Adlet and Flamie’s little skirmish was the most entertaining bit of the show since the pilot. The polar opposite personalities paired with polar opposite fighting styles made for a bit of enjoyment.

As Yata mentioned, I wish that the preview synopsis we checked out for this show hadn’t totally spoiled that “one of us is an impostor” part. I thought with the pace that characters were meeting in this show that we still weren’t in for that bit for a couple weeks, but hey, all seven Braves serendipitously showed up at the exact same place at the exact same time! How ingloriously convenient.

I may be deriding this show quite a bit, but I can commend Passione for making a vast leap of improvement over Rail Whores with this show. I’m still on board with Rokka, but don’t count out the chance I hop off before the next writeup arrives.
Current score: 5.5/10
Still watching after 4 episodes.

SHIMONETA: A BORING WORLD WHERE THE CONCEPT OF DIRTY JOKES DOESN’T EXIST

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S.O.X.’s sex sux.

Yatahaze:
Shimoneta was vaguely funny for a while. Vaguely funny in the sense that for J.C. Staff’s 3rd best show this season, it still provided occasional lowbrow lols despite being overshadowed by the steady Food Wars and the new outrageous Prison School. Hell, it was dumb, but at least it had an actual plot! That redeems its general stupidity, right?

But then a rape scene happened.

Nope. No thank you. I don’t think anything else needs to be said.
Final score: 3.5/10
Dropped after 4 episodes.

Harubro:
Going into week 4, I was asking myself, “How the hell am I still watching this stupid show?”

Then came what can only be described as an actual rape scene that went farther than any I’ve bothered to stick around for thus far. Yes, even farther than the infamous “ASADA-SAN” incident a while back. I didn’t have to worry about that question for much longer.

This show was already operating on a particularly weak premise (seriously, how would those draconian morality laws help Japan’s issues in ANY way?), and the juvenile nature of its attempts at vulgarity. If I wanted some unfunny jokes of a sexual nature, I’d fuck off and watch Dane Cook. It’s not even a good looking show in comparison to its fellow J.C. Staff offerings. God, this show is so inanely stupid that it hurt to watch. Why must I subject myself to crap like this? Few shows have actively angered me the way this one did as I fruitlessly waited for some sign of quality. This show was bad enough that I’m actively considering re-evaluating my method for rating shows, because I feel I still have this show rated higher than it needs to be.

I’m ashamed I stuck with this, hoping for another Food Whores. Unrealistic expectations be damned.
Final score: 3/10
Fucking dropped.

SNOW WHITE WITH THE RED HAIR (AKAGAMI NO SHIRAYUKI-HIME)

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“Court herbalist?” Sounds like some slang for dealing out dat 420, mang.

Yatahaze:
I get the impression sometimes that this show doesn’t know what it wants to do. Like, Shirayuki is one of the more strong-willed, confident, and composed heroines in a shoujo I’ve seen in a while, but the first few episodes were spent capturing her, threatening her, and putting her in situations where she should be a damsel in distress. Should be, of course, because that’s not how Snow White with the Red Hair is playing out. If anything, Zen is the easily-worried, romantically clumsy one of the pair. It’s a nice change of pace from usual shoujo fare. Bonus points already.

Unfortunately, while the setting looks really nice (as does everything in this show, God bless you, Bones), it’s ultimately kind of bland. The kingdom’s politics are rarely if ever hinted at, and I can see why some people think that’s not really an issue since this is set in peacetime, but when you work in the fucking castle you’d think some more of this would be mentioned. Maybe that’s just cause the focus has been so highly on Shirayuki instead of Zen, but most great romances work with a strong pair of characters together, not one completely overshadowing the other. That’s kind of what Shirayuki’s doing, though again, that’s also the show’s biggest strength, because an intelligent, compassionate, and original (despite the name) character is what an otherwise color-by-numbers fantasy shoujo needs.

So wait, now I’m back at square one. Is this show good or not?

Yeah, it’s pretty good. My largest qualm is that we’re just getting to Shirayuki working in the castle, having passed the exam only last episode. Ryu and Garak are solid side characters, making up for the other (hopefully less important) goofballs chasing Shirayuki in episodes 2 and 3. The romance aspect of this show is delicate but straightforward, something that clearly works in its favor. Its tone is shaping up to be more of a laid-back slice-of-life inside the castle than an adventure outside it, something I don’t really mind. The characters’ voice acting is strong and the dialogue is average at worst. A little more focus on the essential characters going forward would help elevate Snow White with the Red Hair even more, but it’s already more than pleasant enough.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 4 episodes.

Harubro:
Ah yes, Snow White with the Red Hair.

In an inexplicably unbalanced season where almost every show of interest airs on Saturday, this show comes as sort of a sigh of relief for me, being that it comes out on Monday. It’s an added bonus that Shirayuki is my current gratuitous shoujo fluff show.

Though this show will almost immediately draw comparisons to Yona of the Dawn, it’s turning out to be a different show thus far. Yes, yes, I know there’s the strong-willed girl with the “special” red hair and the unavoidable shoujo romance element. The shows do share a bit in common, but I’m finding Shirayuki to be a more enjoyable watch off the bat than Yona was.

Perhaps it’s because this show started out on a positive note, rather than the almost overdramatic beginning that Yona had. Maybe it’s because the interaction between characters flows much more naturally in this show than the other, and thus gives more depth to the cast. This is definitely the prettier show of the two, but we all know that’s kind of no contest when Bones gets involved. I find Shirayuki to also be the better protagonist of the two because of how steadfast and resolute she already was at the start of the series. I really dig her choice to pursue becoming a court herbalist so that she can enter Zen’s castle on her own merit rather than the prince’s word…which she’s already well on her way to reaching her goal.

Zen is everything you’d expect a good shoujo prince charming to be – he’s kind, an excellent swordsman, occasionally wise despite his youth, and rather protective of the girl he seems to have fallen for. He commands and returns the loyalty and respect of those close to him, and he genuinely cares for his country and his countrymen, regardless of social status. Zen definitely feels livelier than most shoujo princes, though. Yet again, this comes down to how well the staff has handled the show.

Watching this show has been, for a lack of a better word, relaxing. Sure, it’s had its share of tense moments already, but there’s a refreshingly easy-going and upbeat air to this show that keeps me coming back. It’s not too flashy, it’s certainly not edgy (thank the lord), but for some reason, this show just has an “it” factor that keeps me invested in it.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 4 episodes.

WORKING!!! (SEASON 3)

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The show’s titled Working, of course, because nothing ever does.

Yatahaze:
As predicted, episode 1 was a weird little bobble just getting us back up to speed with the cast. Actual stories started soon afterward, Souta taking one for the team and confronting his weird relative Minegishi, and Satou finally successfully asking Yachiyo out on a da-

– wait…

WHAT?!

DID THIS ACTUALLY JUST HAPPEN?
STOP THE FUCKING PRESSES.

There are certain elements I expect to never change in shows like this. Some characters just have chronic attributes. For example, Souma will always be a conniving shit. Kyoko will never do actual work. Yamada will forever be a petulant useless dish-breaking attention-seeking doofus. And for a while there, I was expecting Satou to never succeed asking Yachiyo out for anything. I’m not really sure if we can call the date a success, but for one of Working’s most grounded characters, it was nice to see something go relatively okay for once. The fallout will probably be just as entertaining, and Souta’s suddenly realized he might like Inami, too. Just like that, Working’s third season has its mojo back.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 4 episodes.

Harubro:
After the many long seasons of teasing us, the unfathomable has finally happened.

We finally get to see the event that literally anyone who follows this series has been eagerly waiting for! Satou finally takes Todoroki out on a date. For those of you not familiar with this show, you haven’t the slightest clue of the amount of anticipation there was for this scene.

This scene that we’ve all waited for.

Yessssssssss. Proud of you, Satou.

Anyways, it’s been business as usual for Working, and I’m loving every bit of it. Working has really started making moves, like Takanashi having a semi-existential crisis over finding Inami sort of cute, now that she’s controlling her urge to punch dudes pretty well. All in all, it’s fair to say love’s in the air at Wagnaria. I can totally see Souma having some laughs to that at the expense of his colleagues, as he always has.

If you asked me who my favorite character in this show is, I’d answer with two: the Yamada siblings. Why? Aoi is the most endearingly adorable fuck-up I think I’ve seen in a show. She can’t go a day without tripping and busting a load of dishes, or having her pesky plans to get acknowledged by her colleagues drastically backfire. And her brother, Kirio? Another endearing fuck-up, whose search for his younger sister brings him ever-so-close, only for something to draw his attention away, whether it’s his unrequited crush on Inami, or the abuse he gets subject to from Takanashi. Those Yamadas are two of a kind, and their antics never fail to elicit some good laughs from me.

I feel I need to give some credit to this show’s ED – yeah, the OP is good, but this show’s ED is one of my favorites this season. I’ve said it before, I’m a sucker for a good OP/ED sung by a show’s own voice actors. Working has an established history of making OP/EDs like that, and I think it’s an underrated and overlooked aspect of this show, along with many others.

Working is now as it has always has been— a light-hearted, well-executed, and easy to watch addition to one of the best working slice of life series ever made.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 4 episodes.

Well, that’s that! We’ve got some important announcements coming up in the near future, so stay tuned! And as always, feel free to leave a comment or two, chit-chat about any of these shows, and get some discussion going here. We don’t bite.

Until next time, guys.

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