Spring 2017 First Impressions

Greetings, everybody, and welcome to our first impressions on the Spring 2017 anime season, which we somehow managed to finish in between Easter obligations, seasonal allergy fits, and nearly dying in Mad Max-tier traffic. Coming into the season, we noted that there looked to be a swath of potentially decent speculative picks but very few new standouts, especially compared to the somewhat stacked set of sequels. That prediction was more or less accurate, and between Yata, Catche, and Haru, we managed to check out 21 shows, just under half of the total airing this season. What did we love? What did we trash on? And which underdogs scraped by first impressions week this time? Read on to find out!


ALICE & ZOUROKU


Summary:
Zouroku Kashimura likes managing his flower business and being a crabby old man. Needless to say, he doesn’t take kindly to getting told off by a strange little girl named Sana and then chased by her rivals, but he also notices her vulnerable side and offers to let her stay at his house in exchange for helping out with his work. Sana isn’t yet used to the outside world after escaping “the research facility” though, and between her supernatural powers and an oddly personable task force on her tail aiming to bring her back, things look like they might get hairy.

Yatahaze:
It’s clear from the synopsis alone that Alice & Zouroku hinges itself on a mystery setup, but that’s not the tone I took away from most of the material in its first two episodes. Instead, the show offers us yet another “old parental figure cares for a young child” dynamic that’s been particularly prevalent in slice-of-life as of late, this time with an “escape from the lab” sci-fi plot to explain how the two met and provide us with stakes to remain invested.

And yet I’m finding myself walking away from these first two episodes fairly confused. The diversity in tone, which ranges from pseudo-dark, brooding, conspiracy thriller-isms to wacky gag comedy, means the show lashes out in all directions, and I’m still unsure where exactly it intends to focus its efforts from this point on. If it decides to go the slice-of-life route, I’d be more than pleased, though should it follow through on the sci-fi plot, that would be fine with me too. This speaks more to its versatility than anything else; although these first two episodes covered so much ground, their flow largely felt organic and consistent, redeeming (well, almost) how inconsistent the animation was. The direction itself was more or less fine, including a bunch of surprisingly reasonable dialogue and some really beautiful held shots, but the animation was spotty to say the least and downright disruptive once the CG popped up.

I’m also not super fond of Sanae, Zouroku’s grand-daughter, who befriends Sana in the second episode. Her character felt overly cutesy and ditsy, and though I think this mostly came down to her voice actress’ delivery and not any particular writing flaw, it was still enough to make me feel like the second episode barely delivered on the promise the pilot hinted at. On the bright side, Sana and Zouroku’s relationship feels believable and each of them are equally interesting as standalone characters, so if it can prioritize their adventure over that of the supporting cast, we may still be in for a treat.

The saddest thing is that as much as I want to speculate good things about the series, I have no guarantee how interesting it will stay as the weeks go on. As a production, it’s nothing to write home about, but as a narrative, it could quickly devolve into a mess or triumph as a seasonal underdog. Only time will tell, but I’m intrigued enough to give it a chance.
Current score: 6.5/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.

ANONYMOUS NOISE (FUKUMENKEI NOISE)


Summary:
Nino Arisugawa is a girl who likes singing. Upon entering high school, she reunites with two childhood friends with whom she had a couple of painful farewells; Yuzuriha Kanade, a boy who composes music as part of a band, and Momo Sakaki, her first love. What we assume follows is some super angsty garage band love triangle stuff.

Yatahaze:
Theoretically, “shoujo rock band drama” should be right up my alley. I’m a sucker for shows starring kids creatively searching for themselves while navigating through puberty. That was like, my whole middle- and high-school life, and I’m sure I’m not alone there. Sex and drugs are pretty taboo for most anime, but good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll would ideally provide a TV-friendly release for those adolescent emotions.

Well, “ideally” is the key word, ‘cause let’s not tiptoe around the issue, Anonymous Noise certainly has adolescent emotions, including but not limited to blowing your life story out of proportion, avoiding people so you can listen to your music longer, and having a post-traumatic flashback upon hearing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” The drama is laughable, the miscommunication is ridiculous, and none of the characters are written well-enough to give me any reason to care about their trifles and insecurities.

Considering the music is fine, (I actually loved the sudden reveal that Nino’s vocals were abrasive and unpolished), I was almost tempted to stick around. But in addition to the show’s future direction not looking particularly interesting, it also doesn’t look good, literally. The performance scene is thrown together with awkward, twiggy CG, the lighting is super blurry as if to try masking those animation woes, and the general character design is wholly unappealing. It paints this world as ugly and incompatible, and since the show’s goal is to get into the head space of pretentious teenage musicians, it admittedly kinda fits, but that sure doesn’t make it something I’d look forward to watching.

I’ve been in bands built on unhealthy relationships before and Anonymous Noise reminds me well about how awkward those days felt. For that reason, the one-liners and cheap blows admittedly made me crack a satirical chuckle or two, but I’ve moved on from that period of my life, and I don’t feel the need to revisit it in this form. There’s a chance I’ll download the soundtrack once it comes out, but that’s about all I feel Anonymous Noise can offer me.
Final score: 4.5/10
Dropped after 1 episode.

Catche:
What a wild ride.

In just twenty-four minutes, Anonymous Noise had me feeling a lot of things, though most of those feelings fell into the family of confusion, bewilderment, and the like. Anonymous Noise isn’t quite as insultingly lazy as a series that I’ll be getting to later, but it is certainly not able to deliver quality that I would even consider up to par.

The first thing one will notice about this series is that it looks pretty terrible. The art style itself isn’t inherently bad, but the layout of many scenes presents little to no concept of the space which the characters inhabit. This creates a few really bad shots that really helped kill any investment I had in the show from an early point. There’s also some terrible CG animation thrown in during the band’s performance at the end of the episode which is only made worse-looking by the brownish filter thrown over everything.

What really kills the experience, though, are the characters. The main chick acts like she’s had a troubled and scarring past, though this just stems from losing contact with a couple of her childhood friends. Oh the humanity. Then there’s the main dude we see in that first episode, who might be one of the most indecisive, mood swing-y losers that I’ve seen, and we can’t forget his dark past which he makes a point of not telling to anyone. The rest just feel like nonentities or are just grating as shit.

However, it does feel like someone, somewhere in the production of this series, kind of gave a shit, as this does feel a bit more like a unique sort of terrible than the generic terrible to which I have become accustomed (see: Clockwork Planet) so I have to give it some credit for that. Plus, it contained one of the best unintentionally funny scenes so far this year, as our main character is triggered by “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” because she sang it with a friend when they were kids before he moved away. Amazing.
Final score: 3/10
Dropped after 1 episode.

Harubruh:
Anonymous Noise is trash, and therefore I am trash for liking it.

There, I said it.

Immediately on the heels of a poorly-done high school band love triangle anime gone wrong from last season, we have Anonymous Noise in all its awkward looking glory. However, compared with Fuuka, this show appears to be fundamentally different, for better or for worse. For how bland and unentertaining Fuuka was, Anonymous Noise is very shouty and up in your face, much as you’d expect a band of adolescent punks to actually be.

By all means, this show should not work for me. Brain’s Base seems to be one of the few studios whose works seem to get uglier with each season, and Noise really doesn’t attempt to buck that trend. The character designs are awkward and what bits of actual animation that are attempted are choppy as all hell. The CG in the performances was laughably bad, with the wild camera work and filters applied to the scene only making things worse. There’s nothing really of note to these characters or their backgrounds, but I do think the angsty adolescent drama bits take the cake, and this show looks to be a veritable cornucopia of the stuff. Anonymous Noise has just a passable enough mix of this crap that I’m curious to see where this prospective train wreck leads.

Now, let’s talk about Anime Strike. I was looking forward to this and a handful of other shows this season, only for them to be licensed by Sentai who seems to have cut an exclusive streaming deal with Anime Strike, which is Amazon’s bid to get a slice of the pie that Crunchyroll, Funi, and Daisuki have been enjoying for a bit. Most people seem to be no harm, no foul on the subject, but I’ve got a bone to pick with Amazon’s double pay-wall gameplan. I buy maybe two or three things a year tops from Amazon currently, and my interest in Clarkson, May, and Hammond waned significantly in the time period between Old New Top Gear and the Grand Tour, so no, I don’t see the $100 a year admission fee before the $5 a month gimme as a good investment of my money. Not to mention they do a shitty job of marketing these shows that they do get the exclusive rights to.

Don’t ask me how I got my hands on this.

Back to this stupid show: Anonymous Noise is an angsty, melodramatic, rowdy mess of a performance and I like it in spite of that! Do I love it enough to continue with it, especially considering I have no idea when new episodes drop due to some exceptionally shitty marketing? We’ll see.
Current score: 5.5/10
Maybe watching after 1 episode.

ATOM: THE BEGINNING

2017-04-17

Summary: Five years after Japan suffers an unexplained natural disaster, two researchers work to further the field of robot development with the creation of their new robot, Six.

Catche:
This is an Astro Boy prequel, apparently.

A fair bit of warning, I haven’t seen any sort of Astro Boy anime outside of a few brief clips of the original 1960s series, so if I come across as an ignorant rube to any Astro Boy aficionados out there, I apologize.

Now, despite my extreme inexperience when it comes to this franchise, I managed to thoroughly enjoy myself while watching this first episode. I’m sure that I’m supposed to have some inkling as to who many of these characters are supposed to be already, but in spite of that, the series manages to lay out the basic beats of each character in a manner which made it pretty easy for me to just jump in. The same goes for the world they live in: it’s seemingly been set up in order to still be accessible to the newer fans.

If there’s anything that really stood out to me in this episode, it’s the robots. I’m specifically referring to the fact that I’m pretty sure none of them were made rendered with CG. I shouldn’t have been as excited as I was to see that, but with so many anime rendering mechanical things with CG, I was just expecting that to be the case here. When I was proven wrong, I just felt really fucking happy.

I’m really not sure where Atom is meant to go from here, but based off of the OP, I assume that it’s meant to be some sort of robot fighting arena thing, which I am up for if the series can keep up this high level of quality. I can only hope that this doesn’t go the route of Tiger Mask W and begin to rely too heavily on nostalgia for which I have no reference.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 1 episode.

ATTACK ON TITAN SEASON 2 (SHINGEKI NO KYOJIN SEASON 2)

2017-04-17 (6)

Summary: The second season of Attack on Titan, picking up shortly after Eren and Annie’s battle through the Stohess District.

Catche:
You heard right, the big hit series of 2013 is back, like, four years later. It’s also pretty much exactly the same, and whether that’s good or bad is going to be highly dependent on your feelings about the first season.

Attack on Titan has a lot to offer. It still looks pretty great; the action moves at a fast pace and feels really visceral. When it’s in its groove, Titan is a lot of fun to watch, but in its downtime, the series can become a bit dull, and can be weighed down by a tone that is often a bit too grim for my tastes.

Having read some of the manga a couple of years back, I honestly can’t say I’m all that excited for the direction which I know the series will take after the current arc, but focusing on just where the series is right now, it’s just fine.

The first episode features the arrival of the Beast Titan, which is an oddity among its kind as it is covered in hair and can talk (a twist which is dampened a bit if you happened to watch the “Ilse’s Notebook” OVA where titans being able to speak was prematurely revealed). It’s a pretty strong moment and started the series off with a bang, but much of the rest of the episode feels a bit odd just jumping right back into the middle of things after four years.

The second episode feels a bit less awkward, assuming the viewer has already reestablished their familiarity with Titan, but it immediately jumps into a very character-focused story about Sasha, the potato chick. Now, cards on the table, I’m not a big fan of Sasha’s character. She’s often really goofy and obnoxious, qualities common in many comic relief characters in anime, but which ring in a dissonant fashion when played against the generally grim sensibilities of the series. Still, the episode did a decent job of fleshing her out and even doled out one of the series’ few moments of triumph so far, as she managed to save a young girl and reunite with her father (though this scene was immediately followed by Connie coming home to find his whole village destroyed, immediately undercutting any positivity).

I don’t think that Titan needs to be more upbeat per se, but I do think that the series tends to lay the hopelessness on a bit a bit too thick, in a fashion that can occasionally make it really difficult to give a shit about what happens to the characters (which is a problem which also plagued the oft compared The Walking Dead) which really kills momentum when the story slows down.

I hope the adaptation can clean up some of the rough storytelling of its source material that we’re coming up on, but if not, the series will still be fine. However, that would still be a steep fall for a series what was once on top of the anime world.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.

CLOCKWORK PLANET

2017-04-17 (7)

Summary: In the future, a genius clocksmith named Y manages to save a dying Earth by use of clockwork, thus creating a new, “Clockwork Planet.” One thousand years later, a boy named Naoto Miura encounters a mysterious clockwork automaton by the name of RyuZU.

Catche:
I should have known straight from hearing the synopsis that the concept of a clockwork-based world would be quite stupid, but little did I know just how obnoxious the experience of watching just one episode of Clockwork Planet would be.

Looking more like something from 2007 than 2017, Clockwork Planet features the unique design aesthetic which one could call clockpunk, which generally just means sticking a bunch of gears haphazardly all over everything. Nothing feels thought out, with most devices looking neither aesthetically pleasing nor physically practical. The character design in general leaves something to be desired, but the design of the main character (with both his hair and clothes being weird shades of bluish green) clashes heavily with the browns and metallic tones that dominate much of the setting.

The story and characters really aren’t worthy of much mention, as they don’t seem to even try to ascend beyond the tired tropes that each of them represent. The main character’s obsessed with clocks, but is unfortunately a shitty clocksmith and can’t fix a single one. However, when a cute robot randomly falls through his roof he still manages to fix her. Unfunny fanservice jokes ensue and I can’t help but feel dead inside.

Clockwork Planet sucks, and not even in an interesting way. It’s cheap, clichéd material hoping to make a quick buck.
Final score: 2.5/10
Dropped after 1 episode.

THE ECCENTRIC FAMILY 2 (UCHOUTEN KAZOKU 2)


Summary:
The sequel to The Eccentric Family, a fantasy slice-of-life set in modern Kyoto where shapeshifting tanuki and cocky tengu roam amongst humans. Following the events of the first season, the Shimogamo family returns to their daily life while Professor Akadama’s estranged son and apprentice Nidaime returns to the city to settle an old grudge with his father.

Yatahaze:
With just one skim of the spring charts, there was no question what my #1 show of the season would be. The Eccentric Family was my most beloved anime of 2013 and it proudly ranks among my top 10 all-time favorites. With P.A. Works’ crew returning to adapt new material written by the original novel’s author Tomihiko Morimi (also responsible for the brilliant The Tatami Galaxy and the newly-adapted The Night is Short, Walk on, Girl), it would take a disaster for The Eccentric Family 2 to flop.

And so far it shows absolutely no signs of doing so, immediately whisking me away to the magical, silly world of the first series and never letting my attention drift. The wondrous spirit the original had is clearly still present, and I liked how this episode used a mixture of familiar and new settings to drop us back into this universe without only retreading shots and angles from its first season. Likewise, while the first focused on a few eccentric tanuki families, this time it looks like we’ll be treated to an ongoing feud between a tengu father and son through Yasaburou’s eyes as a friendly companion of sorts to the both of them. We already know Akadama’s in his twilight years and in comparison Nidaime made a demanding first impression; if he truly was the weaker of the two before, he certainly doesn’t seem so now.

I have a hard time imagining anyone who watched The Eccentric Family all the way through was left with a lukewarm impression, so I don’t have much else to say about this sequel other than us fans of it sure seem to be in good hands. As predicted, The Eccentric Family 2 is running away with the title of spring 2017’s Best Anime. If you haven’t seen the (very easily marathonable) first season, be smart and catch up so you can hop aboard.
Current score: 9.99 [I still superstitiously refuse to 10 shows before they finish]/10
Still watching after 1 episode.

EROMANGA-SENSEI


Summary:
Masamune Izumi is a light-novel author in high school who’s stuck with taking care of his shut-in little sister, Sagiri. One day, his illustrator announces a livestream, and since he’s never met his collaborator in person before, he tunes in only to find that it’s…well, guess who?

Yatahaze:
From the author of OreImo comes yet another show about pseudo-incestuous otaku.

That should be all you need to know about Eromanga-Sensei. If either of those buzzwords immediately made you flinch away in disgust, the admittedly competent production and occasionally funny comedic timing on display here aren’t going to change your mind. If incestuous otaku are somehow your thing, well, you don’t need me to tell you to go watch this, you’ve almost surely already gotten to it. As part of the former group, I tried entering in with as open a mind as possible, but I still wasn’t left with anything other than a few silly gags and some buddy-buddy talk between the siblings that reeked of uncomfortably problematic undertones. Oh, and the second episode featured a middle-schooler who introduced herself with the glorious phrase “Dicks. I love them.”

Truly the greatest literature of our generation.

Judging from recent backlash elsewhere, there will probably be a small part of the aniblogging community which thinks I’m a hack for writing this off and “not facing my discomfort head on” or what have you, but at the end of the day, I don’t have to ask myself if I’m really going to get any rewarding insight out of watching a couple awkward siblings create lewd light novel trash with each other and then bash on people who don’t appreciate their relationship. I could struggle to feign interest in hatewatching this for weeks, only making myself look like an asshole in the process, or I could just let it go now, and there’s nothing wrong with admitting – if you’ll indulge me in the terrible wordplay – that my little persistence can’t be this resolute.
Final score: 4/10
Dropped after 2 episodes.

Harubruh:
Truth be told, I never watched OreImo, having heard just about everything I need to hear about it from just about everyone, to steer clear of it. I will probably never check it out, seeing as I already know its final destination.

I’m willing to give just about any author a second chance, save for the guy who penned the crime against humanity known as Big Order. For example, for as compromised as SAO was, I’m finding The Isolator, Reki Kawahara’s new title, to be a marked improvement over his earlier works. Thus, despite my better judgement, I decided to give Eromanga-sensei a chance whilst expecting the worst.

The first episode seemed relatively inoffensive, all things considered, as it introduced the step-siblings (oh boy) Masamune and Sagiri Izumi. Masamune is a high-schooler who makes money as a light novel author, with the art being drawn by non other than his shut-in step-sister Sagiri working under the pseudonym “Eromanga-sensei.” Masamune, as your run-of-the-mill-seems-like-a-decent-guy protagonist, is shown trying to nudge his step-sister to come out of her room when he delivers meals to her door. Sagiri, well, she’s about as awkward as you’d expect a shut-in of that age to be.

The mutual reveal of the twos’ roles to one another was probably the most problematic bit of the whole pilot, with Sagiri nearly stripping in front of a live stream she forgot to shut off, only for her brother to intervene before matters got out of hand. Despite that, I left the first episode somewhat encouraged, but still not counting out some sort of drastic downturn, because, y’know, it’s only one episode into the OreImo guy’s new work and all that jazz. Episode two rolls around, and, uh… holy cow. It started going there.

The better part of episode two centers around a class rep from Sagiri’s school making a house call in an attempt to get her to start coming to class, who proceeds to demonstrate an utter lack of mental filter when speaking to Masamune, professing her love of dicks. I swear, I am not making this up. The rest of the episode kind of flew on by after the “I love dicks” bit, with Sagiri overhearing a conversation between the class rep and her brother, and then the introduction of the token rival light novelist trying to steal Eromanga-sensei’s talent away for her next work.

Oh boy. All the ingredients are in place for a total shit-show, and there’re still more characters to be introduced! What joy. I’m stuck in genuine debate as to whether I want to continue with this, because despite the red flags already flying high on Eromanga-sensei, I do enjoy hearing Yoshitsugu Matsuoka’s voice go through his whole range of tones as his characters grow increasingly desperate and panicky.

I mean, I don’t think this will be worse than Big Order. What’s the worst that could happen?
Current score: 5/10
Maybe, probably still watching after 2 episodes.

GRANBLUE FANTASY THE ANIMATION


Summary:
Adapted from a JRPG mobile game set in a world of islands floating amidst an endless sky, Granblue Fantasy follows Gran, a boy who wants to set out to find a mythic “Island of Stars” that his father sought to find. He gets his chance at the adventure he desires after a run-in with Lyria, a girl with an ability to summon beasts, and Katalina, her guardian, as they flee from the big bad Empire.

Harubruh:
The latest show in what seems to be a stream of mobage anime adaptations, Granblue Fantasy really looks to be one of the most interesting prospects of this particular trend.

I mean, holy hell, this show is gorgeous. I’ve seen a lot of people cry foul on Granblue’s art as far as characters go, but I actually dig the scratchy, uneven sort of outlining done for the characters. I’m all for studios playing around with their art, especially when it works for the better as with this show. A-1 Studios, for all of their heavy workload, is still demonstrating that they can crank out some superb stuff. The CG dragons of doom, though, could still use some work. CG is getting there, guys, trust me.

On a related note to the art — I already enjoy Bump of Chicken’s music in general, but holy hell, Granblue Fantasy’s OP is without a doubt one of the prettiest OPs I’ve seen from a show in at least a couple years. Even if you don’t check out the rest of the show, I implore you to at least take the OP in, it sure is fantastic. Bump really does lend itself well to some stunning OPs time and time again.

The story is your prototypical boy-meets-girl fantasy adventure, but Granblue’s world is captivating enough to garner my full interest. Gran and Lyria are your prototypical JRPG adventure power couple, but this series is looking like it’ll assemble a rather interesting cast, as per the grand JRPG tradition. I’m sitting here hoping that Granblue builds up some lore for this world it’s set in, because holy cow, some of these landscapes (or skyscapes, I guess) are neat.

Of all the shows airing this season that I’m eagerly looking forward to during the week, I think this is second on my list behind Uchouten, which I’ve yet to check out. Also, Katalina, who is voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro, likes cats. This show’s got a pretty stacked hand, guys. If you feel up for a decent fantasy anime, it looks like Granblue Fantasy will be a solid bet.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 3 episodes.

GRIMOIRE OF ZERO (ZERO KARA HAJIMERU MAHOU NO SHO)


Summary:
The Kingdom of Weinas initiated a campaign to drive witches and “beastfallen” (half-humans) to the furthest reaches of its land, but neither demographic wants much to do with the other. Ever since his village and family were torn away from him, a beastfallen known as Mercenary has lived on the run…that is, until he bumps into the witch Zero, who makes a deal with him that she will turn him human if he helps her find and take down the witch Thirteen, who currently possesses a book of magic Zero wrote: The Grimoire of Zero.

Yatahaze:
I wish I had more to add about Grimoire of Zero, but that summary more or less covers everything that the first episode does, and that’s all we’ve got to work with so far. I also wish it left me with a better impression of the show’s technical ability, because from what we’ve seen it’s not a particularly outstanding production, with limited expression work, kinda bland set design, and writing that’s far from gripping. But with only one episode to gauge its worth, nothing about the show has turned me off to its potential.

It’s not uncommon for us to trash on fantasy light novel adaptations (and to be fair, the bar is really low), but there’s nothing wrong with one when the writers make it evident they actually care a bit about worldbuilding and characterization. This one doesn’t have the technical polish or witty dialogue found in the season’s other successful fantasy bashes WorldEnd and Rage of Bahamut, but it makes up for that by establishing some grounded rules to keep in mind and seems confident enough in itself that despite the low-key, exposition-heavy premiere, viewers may find themselves rewarded in the long run. Either way, this season’s on the slim side and we’ve definitely not seen all that Grimoire of Zero has to offer yet, so I’ll be sticking with it a little longer.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 1 episode.

Catche:
There are quite a few fantasy world-based anime this season. Unfortunately for Grimoire of Zero, it definitely stands out the least of any which I have seen. That isn’t to say that Zero is bad, just that it doesn’t stand out much. It’s got a setup that feels a bit familiar with a kind of world that I’ve seen many times.

Now, revisiting tried and true devices in order to tell a story isn’t inherently a problem, but what hurts Zero here in this first episode is its high level of exposition, getting in the way of any real character coming through, as the characters just spend time explaining to us and to each other the basics of how things work (many of which you probably could have gathered from context).

“So Catche,” I hear you ask, “Is there anything worthy of note in this, the most ‘alright’ of the Spring 2017 premieres?” Well, I’m glad you asked, dear reader, because despite all of its rather bland qualities, there are still a few aspects of the show that are worth taking some note of. The design of the main character is fairly unconventional; considering that he is a big, furry tiger-guy, rather than just some generic anime boy (I relish the small things sometimes). The series also seems to have frontloaded a lot of its exposition, meaning that the content going forward should be a little bit more colorful.

The first episode didn’t leave a great impression, but that doesn’t mean that it was an inherently bad one either. Considering some of the other new series airing this season, it certainly could have been worse.
Current score: 5.5/10
Still watching after 1 episode.

HINAKO NOTE


Summary:
Hinako has a nervous habit of stiffening up like a scarecrow whenever people try talking to her. That didn’t stop her from coming to Tokyo with the goal of joining a theatre troupe though, and after she arrives at her new dorm, Chitotose Manor, her new friends encourage her to start one of her own.

Yatahaze:
Hinako Note’s premise seems fine, but like most overly cutesy “fuwa fuwa” shows of this type, the premise doesn’t really matter; as long as the series in question can provide a relaxing atmosphere and a couple silly gags per episode, it usually doesn’t hurt to stick with. Some of the more detailed synopses I read made it sound plenty more interesting too; a girl who works at a bookstore…who eats books? That’s gotta be at least a little funny, right?

Wrong. When it comes to “cute girls doing cute things” gag comedies, the worst thing one could do is fail to leave an impression, and Hinako Note sadly fits that bill. It’s a fine production; the animation is minimal and the art direction is reserved, but nothing really looks “bad.” But by golly, it drags by at a glacial pace, lacking any sense of energy. Even the gags are pretty questionable – the mileage out of that “eating paper” thing is exhausted well before the episode comes to a close, and Hinako’s “scarecrow” quirk doesn’t even make any sense considering she’s portrayed as drawing the animals closer to her, the exact opposite of what a scarecrow is supposed to do. If you like these types of shows unconditionally, I guess this is your token inoffensive offering of the season, but if you only care for something like this done with a bit of enthusiasm, you’d have better luck elsewhere.
Final score: 4.5/10
Dropped after 1 episode.

KADO: THE RIGHT ANSWER (SEIKAISURU KADO)

2017-04-17 (12)

Summary: One day, a giant structure in the shape of a cube appears in the skies above Haneda Airport. Upon its descent it completely engulfs a plane and all 251 passengers within. The plane and the passengers are unharmed, but encounter the mysterious Yaha-kui zaShunina, who notifies all of Japan that he wants to speak with the Japanese government.

Catche:
It’s a bit difficult to write concretely on the story of Kado, due to its general structure. Kado seems to utilize something of a “mystery box” plot, a type of plot which gained a fair bit of prominence among American television series with the popularity of Lost. This structure leans heavily on establishing a sense of overarching mystery, which Kado certainly does with the arrival of Yaha-kui zaShunina (yes, that is a dumb name) and his ship(?) called, what else, Kado.

I’m of two minds when it comes to this method of storytelling. On one hand, building a series around a bunch of compelling mysteries really helps to keep people wanting more each week. On the other, if those mysteries aren’t wrapped up in a satisfying manner, the rest of the series will just feel like a waste. Right now, Kado is at such an early stage that I can’t tell whether or not it will be able to pull this off, so for the time being, I’ll say that it does a passible in its delivery.

However, I can say pretty concretely that the series looks gross. CG in anime is still a very hit-and-miss affair, particularly when it comes to depicting people. Kado certainly isn’t the worst use of CG that I’ve seen and generally maintains a consistent level of quality, but seeing one of these CG people in motion can still feel a bit off. Worse, though, is the weird attempt to mix more traditional 2D animation with the CG, with minor characters and a few elements and locations coexisting with CG objects and the main cast. The end result really holds the series back, making it feel more mediocre than it actually is.

I’m going to stick with Kado, but even after more than an hour of content, it still feels like a speculative pick.
Current score 5.5/10
Still watching after 3 episodes.

THE LAUGHING SALESMAN NEW


Summary:
Paraphrasing from the show itself: “Moguro Fukuzou is the Laughing Salesman. He’s no ordinary salesman; the merchandise he deals in is hearts. Human hearts. See, everybody’s lonely, and he wants to make that loneliness disappear. He doesn’t need a single yen either; after all, there’s no greater reward than seeing a satisfied customer.”

Yatahaze:
Even changing the narrative tense from first-person to third-person, that summary was hard to write in the same way The Laughing Salesman is hard to watch. NEW is a revitalized adaptation of the 1960s manga by industry giants Fujiko Fujio, and while this one is clearly set in 2017, the art style and character designs remain similar to their older counterparts. It’ll understandably be a divisive visual choice; I think it worked very well considering the story and undeniably separated it from all the other anime airing this season, but it’s totally fair if it’s just too off-putting for you.

It wasn’t for me, but unfortunately, the substance and goal of The Laughing Salesman was. The closest immediate anime comparison I can make is Hell Girl, which similarly starred a recurring lead who made backhanded deals with episodic characters in need of learning a lesson. Except here, they really don’t; between the timid office worker and bullied secretary who star as the first episode’s main fools, neither have character flaws damning or depraved enough to make Moguro’s schemes feel justified. I almost hate to say it, but The Laughing Salesman could’ve benefited from a page out of the Hell Girl handbook: making mountains of molehills and dramatizing events to a macabre extreme. It’s clear this thing wants to work like a fable, but it doesn’t give us a reason to root for Moguro to succeed. If anything, I just pitied the main characters for essentially being told “don’t have problems, or someone will take advantage of you and make them even worse! You sure were dumb for letting that happen, huh?”

It’s a shame the series looks poised to continue that repetitive, overblown, and mean-spirited idea, cause it’s otherwise very well-produced and artistically succeeds at its goal. If you’re on board for watching jaded middle-aged adults stumble down ruses designed to lead them astray from the daily pain of being human, then this is certainly a show for you! Such people exist, obviously, but I’d like to hope that none of them are reading this and fancy me as their next target.
Final score: Better than it deserves, whatever that is/10
Dropped after 1 episode.

Catche:
Tis a shame, but even a well-produced series can fall apart early with poor execution. Such is the fate of dark comedy/horror series Laughing Salesman New.

I really don’t have much to say about this series. I like a lot of aspects of it, but the format which it has taken will pretty much damn it to mediocrity unless some major shift in the series’ storytelling were to occur. The major formatting problem here lies in its need to contain two stories per episode, leaving both with about 10 minutes of screen time to tell a complete story. Now, it is possible to tell a complete story in that timeframe, but it is difficult to do and even more difficult when using the sort of “monkey’s paw” narrative that Laughing Salesman New goes for, as those usually require some decent build up to feel well-thought out and like they have any variety.

If the series were to switch to having only one story per episode, I might give it another look, but as things stand right now, I don’t see much use in continuing to watch it.

Still got a bangin’ OP, though.
Final score: 5/10
Dropped after 2 episodes.

LOVE TYRANT (RENAI BOUKUN)


Summar
y: When Guri, an angel tasked with creating couples by use of her Kiss Note, accidentally writes down the name of Seiji Aino, she comes to convince him to kiss his crush, since she will die otherwise. However, it turns out that his crush, Akane Hiyama, is violent and psychotic, causing Seiji to have second thoughts. Through a series of shenanigans, Guri ends up deciding to pair off all three of them together in the Kiss Note.

Yatahaze:
If you weren’t a fan of ecchi anime back in the mid-2000s, Love Tyrant does its best to show you what they felt like. Throughout the entirety of this premiere I kept having to ask myself whether what I was watching was a parody or not. Normally I’m pretty keen with this stuff – unwaveringly preaching the Mayoiga gospel should demonstrate my pedigree – but I’m honestly lost with Love Tyrant. If it’s spoofing shows from that era, it’s doing a fantastic job. If it’s not, then it’s a masterclass in showing how ridiculous anime can be when they stick to weathered clichés and don’t give a fuck about how they’re presented.

Sadly, either way, it’s not a particularly funny experience. Chalk it up to Poe’s Law or what have you, but while all the outrageous pieces are there, the only way the show can keep momentum is by continuously throwing the viewer for a loop, and the result is a disjointed mess. If time were limited, I’d applaud Love Tyrant for cutting straight to the chase and sparing us the effort of trying to normalize Seiji, but its pilot is actually an instance where the show would’ve benefited from milder moments. The cheap laughs and bizarre non-sequiturs don’t feel as crazy as they would’ve if we had a “normal life” sequence at the start of the show to contrast them with. Even if the characters are comedic, “everyone shitting on each other” is a concept that can only go so far. I can see why the unpredictability would interest some people, but by the end of the first episode, I already felt like the show had worn out most of its material, and it’s not like we haven’t seen any of its individual elements somewhere else before.
Final score: 3.5/10
Dropped after 1 episode.

Catche:
Love Tyrant briefly managed to reach a level of anarchic stupidity that allowed it to transcend the fact that it most certainly is a bad show and managed to become sincerely entertaining, at however base a level. Alas, this was not to last, as by the second episode, the series had lost any of the really, really dumb momentum that it had gained.

You see, Love Tyrant fell into that all too common trap of trying to tell an actual story, when any strength that the series had stemmed from its eschewing of any concrete sense of reason and just seemingly throwing a bunch of random ideas together.

That second episode did contain some of the anarchic nature of the first, but also contained a story about a teacher-student romance which it did take at least semi-seriously. Now, there’s nothing specifically wrong with trying to have some serious stories in a more comedic series. However, if you’re a self-evidently trashy series which revolves heavily around a Death Note parody called a Kiss Note, that really doesn’t apply.

Another piece of trash for the trash gods. Farewell Love Tyrant, we shall most certainly see your like again.
Final score: 4.5/10
Dropped after 2 episodes.

MY HERO ACADEMIA 2


Summary:
The second season of My Hero Academia, taking place right where the first left off: the aftermath of League of Villains’ thwarted attack on UA and the start of the school’s Sports Festival.

Yatahaze:
When My Hero Academia’s first season concluded last summer, it struck me how much I’d grown to love this cast of teens with so much heart and soul. Bones’ adaptation seemed compromisingly strict to the source material, stretching arcs out when a snappier pace would’ve suited them better, but the execution never felt so sloppy that it hindered my enjoyment of the show. There are only so many ways you can keep a shounen series’ plot progression interesting, and I’d much rather Academia fully explore its characters and concepts from the get-go than throw them in only once people start to lose interest later on.

As you might expect, the start to this sequel contains the same spirit that the first season showed us, with some members of the hero class making pretentious fools of themselves and others continuing to befriend their classmates. The jovial, kind-hearted vibe is still here despite Katsuki, Todoroki, and a new face challenging the rest of the class’ notion that everything can be all fun and games. In the background, the adults ponder what to do as a result of the villains’ attack, fleshing out deeper aspects of the world in the process. Though it seems like this first arc will prominently feature the kids through the festival (itself a clever worldbuilding element that tries to answer “What happens to the Olympics in a world that’s 80% superhuman?”), there are plenty of questions the series could ask and just as many good times to be had in between. I don’t expect the deepest of philosophical inquires from My Hero Academia, but it tries its damn best to be a fun ride and I can’t imagine it failing us now.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.

Catche:
Yet another highly anticipated sequel rears its head, except this time, I was a bit more on board with the hype.

I enjoyed the first season of My Hero Academia quite a bit, and it actually landed smack-dab in the middle of my Top 10 for the Year of 2016. What can I say? Sometimes excellent execution of a tried and tested formula is all it takes to get me on board, for I am a simple man. However, I think at this point it is clear to many that My Hero Academia is more than just a familiar melody with a new set of lyrics.

The first episode of this new season honestly isn’t worth much mention, as it mainly serves as recap to acclimate viewers to the series. The second episode is where the series really begins to pick up, as it more fully introduces the Sports Festival and builds up the plot going forward. In particular, we get some further information on Todoroki, who had always been built up as a major player, but hadn’t been elaborated on until this arc.

This time we’re getting a two cour Academia experience, which means there should be plenty of cool shit and speechifying in store.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.

RAGE OF BAHAMUT: VIRGIN SOUL


Summary:
The sequel to Rage of Bahamut: Genesis, set 10 years after Favaro, Kaisar, and co. save the world from being destroyed by Bahamut. A dragon in human form, Nina, arrives at the capital and promptly finds herself involved in chases between Lord Charioce’s men, who have successfully brought the devils down a few pegs in the social hierarchy, and Azazel, who’s gone around avenging their poor treatment as the mysterious “rag demon.”

Yatahaze:
Back when Rage of Bahamut: Genesis first aired, I found myself enamored with how fucking loony its attitude was. Zombie takeovers on ships getting attacked by krakens, macho men chasing each other on horseback on rooftops, it was just full of bizarre combinations of fantasy staples, all backed up by a main cast with bravado and charm to spare. Its back half lost me a bit – I definitely enjoyed the show more when it didn’t give a fuck about what it was doing – but the whole “save the world” plot was entertaining in its own ways too, even if it took one too many cheap twists to generate additional drama. By the end of its run, it had seemed to recapture the essence I enjoyed at its start, and Virgin Soul has already put its right foot forward as a worthy spiritual successor.

This largely comes down to Nina, who in Favaro’s place (I wonder what he’s up to these days) takes over the role of “dorky action hero” far too well. Perhaps the best new protagonist of the spring, she injects the show’s darker sociopolitical events with a boost of geeky horniness, offsetting the grittier drama by basically just being a teenage goofball. Between her and the series’ knack for producing hilarious in-between frames, there’s already a ton to laugh about this season.

It’s not like the show has to go out of its way to achieve that, either; Bahamut has seemed to refine its sense of tone, making Nina’s sillier moments and Azazel and Kaisar’s tense run-ins flow surprisingly well together. It helps that the worldbuilding itself is easier to comprehend this time around and to an extent, it makes Azazel’s vengeance feel justified, rebelling against an undeniably unjust slave society. I’d love to get our grinning bro with the brimming ‘fro back soon, but re-introducing every other main character from the first season with a lively new lead and an intriguing new predicament is far more than the minimum that Rage of Bahamut needed in order to get me back on board. It’s got 2 cours to work with, so there’s already some spotty CG at play, but aside from that, Virgin Soul promises to be one of the best adventures of the year.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.

Catche:
Rage of Bahamut: Genesis, which aired in the fall of 2014, has a special place in whatever obscure crevice in my body once held my soul. During that time I was watching anime very infrequently, after a series of poor recommendations from friends kind of soured me on the whole thing. I’d watch the odd series like if it got really, really big. Bahamut, for a few reasons, managed to remind me how much I really enjoyed anime, and I’ve been sticking with it ever since. So, needless to say, I had some high hopes when the sequel was announced.

Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul is currently one of my favorite shows of the season and I can only hope that it will keep close to this level of quality across its two cour run. For now, though, I’m just content to have some more Rage of Bahamut.

In comparison to the first season, the setup here is a bit broader and more complicated. Many of the major players from last season make their return to play a large role here, but ten years have passed since the events of that season and a fair bit has shifted. Most of the returning characters fit quite well into this new story, though Bacchus’ return (while entertaining) feels a bit more forced, particularly when you consider the greater tensions between humans and gods at this point. Surprisingly enough, Favaro, the main character of Genesis, has yet to appear at all in these first two episodes, which really helps sell the new season as its own story.

If there’s anything that is a bit worrying going forward, it’s that there isn’t a clear direction as to where the series is headed. It seems that even two episodes in, we’re still being introduced to more and more players and factors in the city’s tense situation. It is clear that the new king is our antagonist, but the way this season is meant to play out is still a bit of an enigma. This sense of intrigue is exciting, but a lack of clear direction can really come back to bite the series in the ass if it doesn’t eventually come together.

I’m really happy this one has turned out so well, fingers crossed that it stays so good.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.

RE:CREATORS


Summary:
Souta Mizushino is a fairly average high-schooler who’s into games and anime and all that jazz. Or rather, he’s into them before various characters from hit franchises wind up on Earth and request his assistance while they figure out why they were suddenly spirited away from their own respective worlds to the “land of the Gods” – people who can create anything their imagination desires…in other words, us.

Yatahaze:
If nothing else, I admire Re:Creators for its premise. Correct me if I’ve overlooked something, but I’m pretty sure this is the first major isekai franchise to bring its fantasy characters to Earth instead of humans to a fantasy world while also starring inhabitants from our own world recognizing those characters as fictitious figures which already exist within their popular culture.

There’s a lot of room to roam around that concept with implications that range from hilariously mundane to downright scary, but so far Re:Creators has been slow to embrace that diversity, most of it coming through tiny conversational details that reveal the way the new arrivals think. From the game librarian Meteora being in awe of the “multi-layered information” on Earth to the magical girl Mamika freaking out at the fact that someone she injured bled, the various heroes reflect mindsets of their in-show series’ genre territory as well as their own roles within their works, and because Re:Creators appears to pluck inspiration from so many genres itself, it’s easy to get a taste of philosophy one minute and some pretty rad battlin’ the next.

Ironically (or predictably, depending on how you approach it), the series’ weakest character is actually the one important human we’ve followed so far; Souta himself admits in his opening spiel that we should think of him as this story’s narrator, not its main character, but he’s otherwise treated as the latter while all this crazy shit unfolds around him. What’s more, he’s extremely bland, the series failing to grant him any sense of unique personality. With the cast looking like it’ll expand in number sooner rather than later and a ~mysteriously knowledgeable~ antagonist pulling the strings, hopefully Souta will be less prominent before too long.

But that doesn’t change the fact that for all we’ve seen so far, I’m still kinda lost with where Re:Creators is ultimately hoping to go. It’s hard to take these characters seriously as people because, well, for the most part, they’re really written like characters, and their human counterparts aren’t much more fleshed out. I like seeing zany worlds collide, but that doesn’t sustain my interest for very long if I’m not given any reason to care about who’s involved. And so far, it’s not what Re:Creators has done that worries me – it’s who’s behind it, and how much time they have to dawdle around. I’ve been underwhelmed by virtually every big-name project Ei Aoki, Hiroyuki Sawano, and Troyca have touched for the past 5 or so years, and while I don’t dislike any of their styles by principle, I can’t ignore the time commitment a 2-cour show like this pushes on me, and I don’t think I have enough trust that they’ll carry a unique and well-thought out vision through to its end here. I already found my attention drifting while watching both episodes of Re:Creators, and with a premiere as fairly eventful as this one has, that doesn’t bode well for my future investment.

And so while nothing about Re:Creators was an instant turn-off for me, I can’t ignore my gut, and I’m just too skeptical about its future trajectory. There’s definitely narrative potential here and the production work is some of the better stuff out there in this utterly dismal, CG-filled season, so if action is your calling card, by all means, give this a shot. For me, this may not be a permanent drop – if I hear great things and critical opinion stays favorable when it finishes up, I may marathon the series before year’s end. But right now, the odds are just too stacked against Re:Creators for me to want to tough it out.
Final(?) score: 6.5/10
Dropped(?) after 2 episodes.

Catche:
This show is kind of bad?

Re:Creators may look good in a very superficial sense, but a lot of its direction in terms of shot direction in action sequences is rather lackluster. It lacks the necessary flow to keep the energy of the battles, and the attacks lack the feeling of visceral power. A solid amount of presentational flair can help to compensate for these shortcomings, but Re:Creators doesn’t seem to be aiming for anything too interesting in that regard. The result does, as I said, still look good, but none of it feels truly satisfying.

In terms of plot and characters, there really isn’t much to talk about. The plot moves at too fast a pace with too little time allotted for characterization for anyone to come off as anything more than flat cardboard cutouts with roles slapped onto them. For this reason, I’ve had a lot of difficulty trying to find something to latch onto here.

Still, there’s nothing that’s offensive to my tastes yet and there’s no reason that it can’t improve once the exposition-fest finally ends. I’m going to stick with Re:Creators for now, but if it can’t find its footing soon, expect this one making the dropped list.
Current score: 5/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.

THE ROYAL TUTOR (OUSHITSU KYOUSHI HAINE)


Summary:
Appointed to the post of Royal Tutor to the youngest four of the five princes of the Kingdom Granzreich, Haine Wittgenstein is an extremely diminutive professor whose marked lack of height belies an incredible intellect. However, these four princes and their rather “unique” personalities will test both his wit and his patience.

Yatahaze:
I wish I had something constructive to say about The Royal Tutor other than that it has a pretty “okay” concept: in a kingdom with a cooperative royal family and one clear successor to the throne already prepared for the job, what happens to the younger offspring? Apparently this world’s king realized that in case disaster were to strike, he’d need his backups to be just as ready to ascend as the scheduled heir is, and to that end, he hires Heine to beat some knowledge into his other sons’ heads.

But though the idea introduces matters of lineage, responsibility, and class to the equation, the show doesn’t do much with them. The four extra sons each have a defining trait or two (highlighted by Heine pigeonholing them upon his arrival at the royal palace), but they don’t appear much more multifaceted than that. Combine their minimal characterization with dull dialogue loaded with tsundere clichés and mostly static visual design and you’ve got yourself a pretty uninteresting watch. Whatever potential The Royal Tutor has in its premise alone, that’s not reflected in its execution, which feels more like a series of painfully-dragged out visual novel conversations than it does a realistic or witty take on its subject matter or even just a fun story for its own sake. There isn’t anything offensive about The Royal Tutor, but I also see no reason to recommend it unless you just really love your sparkling pretty boys and don’t mind a heaping side of forgettable humor.
Final score: 5/10
Dropped after 1 episode.

Harubruh:
The Royal Tutor was something of a spur of the moment pick for me, as I didn’t plan on watching it as the Spring season drew near. However, I decided to give this a shot as I occasionally watch anime during my lunch breaks on the work days.

Needless to say, I think I have my token comedy of the season of that spur of the moment choice. It’s no secret at this point that I enjoy a solid character-based comedy (or just any good comedy) and that’s precisely what The Royal Tutor is. With the four princes showcasing four wildly different personalities, the somewhat serious Haine acts as a foil to their antics. The first two episodes are an introduction of sorts to these somewhat uncooperative princes, as their new tutor attempts to earn their trust and gauge their educational needs through a simple test.

Though the youngest three’s tests go largely as I’d expected, the surprise came with Kai, the oldest of the four, an imposing guy of few words with a seemingly perpetual death glare. As it turns out, he’s a total softy with a love of animals. It seems predictable after having watched it, but that bit of subversion caught me by surprise the first time, and I kind of hope the rest of the show builds on stuff like that.

Before this, I hadn’t really heard of Bridge, the studio in charge of the show, aside from a certain disappointment of an anime otherwise known as Devil Survivor 2: The Animation. It’s hard for me to believe it’s been four years since that crippling disappointment, and to be fair, I don’t blame Bridge for hiding under a rock for a few years after that stinker. However, here in 2017, they’re back making a decently good looking show in The Royal Tutor. Something about second chances, am I right?

I’m always in need of a decent comedy these days, and that’s pretty much all there is to The Royal Tutor. It’s forgettable as Yata mentioned, but I’m interested enough to stick around with this as a mid-week attempt to lift my usually shitty post-work mood. Anything helps these days.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.

SAGRADA RESET


Summary:
While in the seaside community of Sakurada, people have their own special powers, but should they leave the town, their knowledge of such powers is stripped away, effectively making them unable to use them. Kei Asai’s power is a superhuman memory, which his friend Sumire Souma suggests could work in tandem with the powers of Misora Haruki, a lonely girl who can reset the world up to 72 hours backwards but has no memory of doing so after the fact.

Yatahaze:
Most of the series I come out of first impressions week mocking have little chance of performing strong in the first place, but Sagrada Reset’s interesting premise makes it feel like even more of a letdown. To call the show “dull” or “boring” would oversimplify things, because although this setup is prime for mindfucky sci-fi shenanigans, a viewer isn’t likely to stick around unless they have a reason to care about the characters or the setting. Sakurada itself isn’t much of a problem; it’s an innocuous, fairly normal-looking town, which adds a neat twist to the theory that people who have power in a place would use it, however mundane those powers are, like defying simple laws of physics.

Why that subversion exists in the first place soon sadly becomes clear; none of these characters behave like people at all. I was ready to blame the subtitles on this one, but I’ve been informed that the original dialogue is just as longwinded and unnecessarily verbose, with tons of speaking but hardly anything of import being said. The cast is essentially just a collection of talking heads spouting a constant stream of nonsensical philosophy at the viewer, most of which has to do with how alike or self-examining they are. Some of its better lines include this and this, if that gives you any idea how utterly unnatural this shit is. I’m still not entirely convinced the show wasn’t written by a Martian trying to wrap their head around the human psyche, accidentally overlooking the vital element of organic conversation. Whoever scripted the show, they’re clearly either on a higher plane of intelligence than humans are capable of or they’re just downright socially inept.

Add in the uninteresting direction and lackluster sense of presence in general and Sagrada Reset is a total flop. It’s not clever, it’s not enjoyable, and worst of all, it managed to make a unique concept feel completely barren of passion and intrigue. Bad justice.
Final score: 2.5/10
Dropped after 1 episode.

SAKURA QUEST


Summary:
It’s been a few years since Yoshino Koharu arrived in Tokyo for college, but job opportunities have been scarce for the undergrad. A miracle seemed to strike when an old modeling company arranged to send her to the countryside village of Manoyama by request of the head of their tourism board for a paid promotional stunt, but…well, they were thinking of a different, long dead Yoshino. Now she’s stuck acting as the village’s “Queen” for a year, a job she’d really rather leave to someone else but can’t afford to.

Yatahaze:
Heralded by many as perhaps the season’s strongest new offering, Sakura Quest continues in the same vein as its spiritual P.A. Works predecessors, Hanasaku Iroha and Shirobako. Both involve women making a name for themselves through good, honest work, the former a teenager and her grandmother at a resort town inn, the latter a quintet of college grads suffering their way through stress and deadlines behind the scenes in anime production. Both shows also involve a huge, lively cast of quirky supporting characters and themes about inspiration and effort. I’m always glad when we get a more adult-oriented look at the world in anime beyond the typical high school setting, and with Sakura Quest poised to star a dreamy 20-year-old, it had a lot of hype to carry through on.

Fortunately, it did just that. While it’s a little simpler and less visually-polished than HanaIro or Shirobako (an excusable fact considering P.A. also has the artistically stunning Eccentric Family on their plate this season), the production still has a perky attitude to it. Ditto for Yoshino, whose main personality of “I didn’t (knowingly) sign up for this, please let me leave” works for now, but feels a little less compelling than how Ohana or Aoi did at this stage of their respective shows.

As expected, the supporting cast is an odd, rambunctious bunch, each character dealing with their own goals and idiosyncrasies, and together their rapport is realistic (if a bit informal) and full of life. It’s nice that Sakura Quest has a premiere full of potential, but it’s even nicer that it’s just a funny show to watch, full of goofy non-sequiturs and perfectly executed punchlines. You can only work with people so long before they start to drive you up the wall, and I’m excited to see how Yoshino adapts to this ragtag crew in the boonies, as well as how they reshape her own expectations of adulthood. It’s not off to an outstandingly groundbreaking start or anything, but it’s also giving me plenty to enjoy and nothing to worry about. This season, asking for much more than that just seems unreasonable.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.

Catche:
I haven’t seen Hanasaku Iroha and I haven’t seen Shirobako, and so I’m coming into Sakura Quest without much expectation based around this “trilogy” of thematically connected P.A. Works series. So far? Well, it’s the best new show of the season.

I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t, at least in part, due to the dearth of high-quality new series in a season dominated by sequels, but Sakura Quest is quite good. It’s well produced, with solid animation and, though not the most gorgeous series I’ve seen, it is still part of the upper tier of this season.

Being a fairly relaxed-feeling slice of life series, it isn’t exactly “my type” of series, but there’s still a lot to enjoy for a higher being such as myself. The story’s main narrative thrust of finding a space for oneself in a post-college space certainly resonates with a person who happens to be in college.

For now, Sakura Quest has gotten off on the right foot as one of the highlights of a season with few of them.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.

TSUKI GA KIREI


Summary:
Both entering their third year of junior high, Kotarou Azumi aspires to be a writer and Akane Mizuno is part of the school’s track team. The two of them awkwardly meet in public and are later assigned to the same team of their school festival’s setup crew, which leads to them chatting on the social media platform LINE.

Yatahaze:
Oh, adolescence. Even in the most privileged of contexts, surrounded by supportive families and friends like these two are, hormones and nerves tend to get in the way of pure young love. Make no mistake, Tsuki ga Kirei is pretty pure as far as romantic dramas go; it’s mostly gorgeous to look at (despite some unnecessary CG) and its emotional stakes aren’t superficially heightened for the sake of it.

That’s both its biggest drawing point and the thing that has me most worried. Because Akane and Kotarou are both outwardly timid, only really egged on in conversation by their parents embarrassing them or the necessity of a situation, Tsuki ga Kirei is a pretty conservative production. That speaks to the mild-mannered nature of Japanese society fairly well, but it doesn’t inspire intrigue on its own. When there is dialogue, it’s conversational and smooth, filled with hints that these characters are comfortable within their own social circles but less so with each other.

Well, at least at first, because by the end of the second episode, Kotarou’s run-ins with Akane have encouraged him to stop pretentiously quoting Osamu Dazai and start thinking for himself. That’s one clear piece of character development for a show that’s otherwise moved as slow as a sloth and doesn’t appear to have a high ceiling for crazy shenanigans. Tsuki ga Kirei is very much a “show, don’t tell” kind of series, and it’s up to the viewer to infer what they can out of these kids’ daily interactions. There’s plenty of material to enjoy in that regard, but unless you’re specifically looking for something so…I dunno, vanilla, there’s no other hook to the show. This season has proven slim enough that this much will suffice as something watchable, but I’d love to find a deeper reason to care about what happens here. As kind-hearted and pretty as it is, I could currently take it or leave it.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 2 episodes.

WORLDEND: WHAT DO YOU DO AT THE END OF THE WORLD? ARE YOU BUSY? WILL YOU SAVE US? (SUKASUKA)


Summary:
500 years after the surface was taken over Beasts and mankind was all but destroyed, leading the surviving races to take refuge on floating islands in the sky, Willem Kmetsch, the world’s final human, takes on a job at a military warehouse. He thinks he’s there to guard weapons, but when he arrives, he’s greeted by several little kids, and they don’t have the weapons, they are them.

Yatahaze:
What Do You Do at the End of the World? Are You Busy? Will You Save Us? isn’t only content with giving Sufjan Stevens a run for his “long title champion” money, it’s also a surprisingly reasonable fantasy light novel adaptation. It premiered late, but the wait was worth it: the setting has me intrigued, Willem is a little generic but not tiresomely so, and the rest of the cast (and the world itself) plays off him with impressive range. Between his mischievous business buddy and the warehouse’s finicky guards, he’s acutely aware that he’s not like everyone else in this world and appears to have made his peace with it, just getting by however he can.

The casual racism and omnipresent social hierarchy make WorldEnd this season’s most fleshed-out new fantasy world, which is a compliment that could only be ruined by some disastrous characterization and direction, neither of which are present here yet. I’m still skeptical about the series’ ability to sustain my interest for a whole cour, but the pace in this first episode was snappy, even if its opening market scene was a little unoriginal and irrelevant. There weren’t any ecchi gags, tasteless fanservice scenes, or cringeworthy one-liners (aside from the characters’ alphabet soup names, but I’m almost fond of them for that reason), and between the core premise of cute kids somehow being “weapons,” and the last human alive trying to find a fulfilling role in life, there’s plenty to work with here. With only one episode out, I don’t have the biggest handle on where WorldEnd is planning to go, but it performed well enough to make me eager to find out.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 1 episode.

Catche:
Upon first seeing WorldEnd’s crappy light novel title, I assumed that it was going to be a good outlet for me to just really vent a bit of hate. With a mix of disappointment and pleasant surprise, I’ve got to report that WorldEnd is actually a pretty okay time.

The first episode starts off with what I assume is a flash-forward type thing which serves no purpose other than to say that shit will go down… eventually. The info revealed here is a bit too vague to set up a concrete mystery going forward, and leaves the episode feeling rather uneven as everything slows down shortly after. It’s the worst part of the episode and really shouldn’t be included.

Much of the rest of the episode is fine, if a bit forgettable (though the inclusion of “Scarborough Fair” as an insert song caught me a bit off-guard). Though the flash-forward indicated that the situation will eventually go to hell, the main body of the episode implies that this may also be incorporating some slice-of-life, which is to the series’ benefit since it helps to differentiate it from the multitude of other fantasy series that have turned up this season.

Last season, The Saga of Tanya the Evil was a series which I expected to hate, but which I ended up really enjoying. Perhaps the same will be true for WorldEnd. Only time will tell whether this currently okay series will manage to elevate itself to a greater level of quality.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 1 episode.


And that’s everything for us this time! Which of this season’s premieres performed well enough for you to stick with? Which could you not stand? And perhaps most importantly, do you feel like we missed out on anything worth our time? Let us know by leaving a comment below or reaching out on Twitter. ‘Til mid-season, this has been Yata, Catche, and Haru writing for great justice. We’ll see you then.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s