First Impressions- Fall 2016 Anime (Part II)

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It’s now the middle of the week and there’s been quite a few anime premieres since the last write-up, with some good, some bad and mostly just a lot of “eh”. Let’s go down the list.


Ratings Scale

Bad: Stay away far away from this one.  Not worth watching

Decent: Has some okay elements to it. Might be worth giving a  couple of episodes to see how it goes

Good: Fairly solid show. Should be worth keeping up with for now

Great: Really good show. Definently worth seeing if you get the chance

Excellent: Really outstanding show. Absolutely worth following .

*All series synopsis from Anime Planet


Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru

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Synopsis: In the year 2205, the past becomes threatened by the historical revisionists who seek to change it. Protecting history becomes the task of a boisterous band of swords that are brought to life, including the glamorous Kashu Kiyomitsu and the kindly Yamatonokami Yasusada. Beyond their battles, these legendary swords from different eras lead charming daily lives.

First Impressions: I came into this one pretty much blind, but apparently there are two Touken Ranbu adaptions in existence. One is an upcoming production by Ufotable that promises to be heavily action-oriented and the other is this one…which is apparently a moe slice of life show featuring pretty boys. Shows about cute girls doing cute things already face a pretty hurdle in getting me to watch them since it usually requires having other elements to the show to keep it from just being about that since it gets old rather quickly, and that goes doubly so for shows about cute boys doing cute things, since being a heterosexual dude means those are effectively not made for me. This seems to more or less be what’s expected of these kinds of shows at this point, with plenty of quirky pretty boys, and enough homoerotic undertones to potentially ship characters without the show having to commit to actual relationships. As said earlier, it all more or less equates to being not for me, and having an action scene and some decent animation isn’t really enough to negate that. I’m sure it’ll do fine with it’s intended female audience, but for me it’s an easy skip.

Rating: Bad

Show By Rock !!#

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Synopsis: Metropolis of music, MIDICITY. A kitty girl wearing gothic lolita clothing named Cyan is scouted by Maple Arisugawa, the president of a music agency. From there, she meets chuchu the honor student rabbit girl, a net geek dog girl named Retoree, and an alien sheep girl named Moa. Together, they form the band named “Plasmagica,” and aim for the top of the world. However, the path there is long and tough, and keeping in high spirits is important. By battling against other strange bands, Plasmagica slowly grows toward a top-grade band. In the end, they’ll be a band that becomes the driving force of MIDICITY’s music industry… Maybe?

First Impressions: Speaking of cute girls doing cute things, we somehow ended up with a second season of Show By Rock. The first one didn’t particularly wow me, but it’s fun characters, and nonsensical “power of music” plot made it a pretty easy watch (and the fact that I needed to help review it for the Dub Talk podcast certainly helped things). This season’s looking to be about the same in that respect, and we’re already getting an even crazier storyline than the first one with this apparently involving robots and time-travel, which is sure to be pretty entertaning in it’s own right. However the main priority for this first episode basically centers around the other girls of Plasmagica struggling with their music careers now that Cyan’s gone and those moments are just sincere enough to stand out from the rest of the madness going on within the episode. Although it pretty much goes without saying that Cyan won’t be gone for too long, and the last bit of the episode has already laid the groundwork to throw her back into the swing of things, so I suppose it’ll be back to the usual song and dance (and I mean that quite literally) before long. (but enough about Plasmagica, I just hope the ShinganCrimzon boys get more screentime since they’re the real stars of this show). With that, Show By Rock’s second season seems like it’ll be the same relatively pleasant ride as the first and while I’m not exactly chomping at the bit to watch more of it, it’s certainly a good show to watch on quiet Sunday afternoons.

Rating: Good

 

Gakuen Handsome

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Synopsis: The top-class boys school in the prefecture, Baramon Private Academy. The protagonist who just transferred there encounters various tough guys at the school. As soon as you pass the gates, there was handsome— The outlaw teacher, the captain of the soccer team, his childhood friend who he hasn’t seen in seven years, etc… This is a school love story filled with very uniquely extreme feelings.

First Impressions: I’d heard a few whispers about this a while back and it seemed like it could be pretty entertaining since I’m pretty much all for genre riffs. This one is basically mocking aforementioned cute boys doing cute things type shows by making both the character designs and animation as ridiculously cheap as possible…which is more or less the entire joke. That could get old pretty quickly but forunently this is a short, and 3 minutes seems just about right for this kind of thing. It certainly had me laughing the whole way through, so this’ll probably make for a good afternoon distraction

Rating: Good

 

Trickster

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Synopsis: Kensuke Hanasaki meets a mysterious boy named Yoshio Kobayashi who, due to an unexplained fog, cannot die though he wishes for death. Intrigued by this boy, Kensuke invites him to join the Boys’ Detective Team and their work around the city. But danger awaits and their fate will lead them down a dark path.

First Impressions: So last year we got a show known as Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace that was loosely based off of a few old Japanese mystery novels by famed writer Edogawa Ronpo, and directed by Seiji Kishi. That show was,  to be frank: a hot mess, so imagine my surprised when it was announced that we were getting another bishonen show based on Ronpo’s novels, and only a little more than a year after the last one. So is this one looking to be better? Honestly it’s hard to say after this first episode. While Ranpo Kitan ultimately proved to be a trainwreck it at least had some interesting visual direction and mild attempts at horror, this on the other hand seems to be a more stock bishonen action show that just happens to feature characters based off of Ranpo’s. I do find it kind of interesting that the protagonist Hanasaki seems to be kind of in line with the offputting and slightly creepy personality of Kobayashi from Laplace, but this show’s version of Kobayashi is apparently a super-angsty pre-teen who apparently has some kind of weird fog surrounding him that kills things. Much of this episode is spent trying to establish something of a dynamic between them but it’s not terribly interesting, and Kobayashi’s whining got pretty old after the first couple of minutes. The one big positive here is that it’s certainly a much better looking production than Laplace was since much of Kishi’s direction in that show was to hide the fact that the animation was pretty stiff, and while nothing about this particularly impressed me outside of that, there wasn’t anything here that completely turned me off. I’ll probably give this one another episode or so to see where it goes, but if nothing stands out by then, I’ll probably drop this one off.

Rating: Decent

 

Scorching Ping Pong Girls

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Synopsis: The world of middle school girls’ ping pong enters an age of heated rivalry as the throne at its apex is surrendered… Tsumujikaze Koyori, a girl who loves ping pong, has just transferred to Suzumegahara Middle School. Along with her friends who strive to be the national champions, can Koyori bring the winds of change to the school?! The curtain is about to rise on a scorching hot tale of girls who love ping pong!

First Impressions: Well this one wasn’t really on my radar, but the sports show formula in general is one that usually works pretty well for me and while I was a bit late to the party in seeing it, I really enjoyed Maasaki Yuasa’s Ping Pong: The Animation. This show certainly isn’t that, but I certainly enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would at first glance.  The first episode does a solid job of setting up the dynamic between our two lead girls as it quickly establishes Kamiya as some who enjoys being at the center of attention, and Koyori suddenly stealing her spotlight despite her humble personality is clearly starting to get to her. While this sounds like a potentially irritating set-up the show does a lot here to establish both girls as fairly likeable, and though it’s hard to say if they’ll be given too much depth beyond their apparent moe archetypes, this definently feels more like a genuine sports show than a cute girls doing cute things one like the character designs and artistry here would suggest so there’s a lot of room for potential. There’s also some decent visual direction with the matches despite the simplicity of the artwork, and those sequences pack enough punch to get the job done despite the show’s limited production values. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one way or the other, but it turned out to be one of the strongest premieres I’ve seen so far for the season, and I’ll happily get on board for more

Rating: Great

Matoi The Sacred Slayer

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Synopsis: Matoi Sumeragi works as a part-time shrine maiden at her friend, Yuma’s, family shrine. While Yuma is a trained exorcist and next in line to become the shrine maiden, Matoi is content to pursue a normal life. Unfortunately, “normal life” comes to a crashing halt when she and Yuma find the shrine damaged and Yuma’s parents wounded. Things only escalate as Yuma’s “Divine Possession” ritual aims for, not Yuma, but Matoi, imbuing her with the powers of a god in a fight against evil spirits.

First Impressions: And here’s magical girl show #2 of the season. To be honest I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to watch this one since it’s TAN exclusive, but it seems as though Sentai doesn’t have it behind a paywall for the moment so I was at least able to check out the first episode. That said, I’m not sure if I’d have been missing out on much if I hadn’t seen it. It’s certainly one of the better looking premieres this season, and while I’m not too big on the character designs, the animation’s pretty smooth and the characters were certainly expressive. Far as the actual story goes on this one, it’s tonally all over the place as it seems very unsure of if it wants to be dark and serious, or lighthearted and fun, with some of the dialogue choices being downright weird, such as the heroine, Matoi mentally proclaiming about her desire to live an ordinary life right in the middle of her loved ones being attacked. It doesn’t help that said desire feels a little too par the course for most anime protagonists at this point and the fact that the episode doesn’t even put much focus on that wish until after she mentions it doesn’t help things. I might be willing to give this another episode or two, but I certainly can’t give it any strong recommendations at the moment so check it out at your discretion.

Rating: Decent

Nanbaka

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Synopsis: Four men are assigned to Nanba, the world’s most formidable prison. Jyugo, a man who attempted to break out of prison and ended up extending his jail time; Uno, a man who likes to gamble with women; Rock, a man who likes to get into fights; and Nico, a man who likes anime. A super exciting action comedy about the daily lives of the prison’s inmates and guards.

First Impressions: Crunchyroll announced the rights to this one way back at AX, and while I’ve been mildly curious about it ever since, I also wasn’t sure how much I’d actually enjoy it since this seemed like another cute boys doing cute things kind of show. Fortunently the prison break aspect of it, offered just enough of a spin on things to keep me entertained throughout the first episode. While a lot of the jokes just seem to more or less be base anime humor, I found myself laughing at it more often than not, and that the show briefly seemed to follow through on the one joke about the main character apparently being bi was an unexpected touch. I could see things eventually getting a bit to repetitive if the core joke is them not being able to escape, but for the first go around it worked pretty well. My one big complaint though would be the last few minutes of the episode which threatens a potentially “edgy and serious” subplot that didn’t really match the tone of the rest of it, but if the show can put that to the side, this’ll probably do the job as a solid anime comedy for the season.

Rating: Good

 

Yuri on Ice!!

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Synopsis: Yuuri Katsuki carried the hope of all Japan on his shoulders in the Figure Skating Grand Prix, but suffered a crushing defeat in the finals. He returned to his hometown in Kyushu and hid away in his family’s home, half wanting to continue skating and half wanting to retire. That was when the five-time consecutive world champion, Viktor Nikiforov, suddenly showed up with his teammate, Yuuri Plisetsky, a young skater starting to surpass his seniors. And so the two Yuuris and the Russian champion Viktor set out to compete in a Grand Prix like none the world has ever seen!

First Impressions: Sayo Yamamoto is perhaps one of, if not the most prolific female anime directors in the industry, and one of the best directors in general having brought us projects like Michiko and Hatchin and Lupin The Third: the Woman Called Fujiko Mine. I’ve only seen the former, but it impressed me enough to be down for pretty much anything she does, so when I heard that she was working on a male figure skating show for this season, it quickly became one of my few highly anticipated shows to come from it. So far from the first episode, it’s managed to meet my expectations and then some. There’s been some good looking premieres this season, but this one completely blows all of them out of the water as the animation here is absolutely gorgeous(Yuri’s skating sequence towards the end of the episode is easily one of the best looking scenes of the entire year), and Sayo Yamamoto manages to combine her strong sense of visual direction, and her own penchant for framing sexuality through shot composition to make for a downright stunning presentation. Also notable is that this is the first show she’s credited on for writing too, which I was slightly worried about coming into this, but so far it seems to be getting the job done, and the premiere does a solid job of getting us into the head of our protagonist Yuri. The one thing that did strike me as a little bizarre here is that of Yamamoto’s work so far, this one looks the most like a standard anime, even going for some of the usual go-to visual gags which feels kind of weird, considering how western centric her other stuff has been. That’s more of an observation than a dettererent though, and so far Yuri on Ice is easily the best premiere of the season so far. Sayo Yamamoto has done it again.

Rating: Excellent

 

Sound! Euphonium 2 

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Synopsis: Having won first place in the Kyoto Concert Band Competition, the Kitauji High School Concert Band prepares to go up against the many esteemed bands competing in the Kansai competition.

First Impressions: When I first watched season 1 of Sound Euphos way back in Spring last year, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be my kind of thing since it seemed a little too low key for me. Despite those reservations though, it managed to win me over with it’s quiet character drama and incredibly dedication to realism in it’s framing and animation(though at this point it may be better known for some of the awkwardness concerning the yuri subtext between the leads). It wasn’t exactly a super standout for me, but it worked well enough to make watching the second season an easy sell and so far it’s off to a solid start. While a double length premiere might seem a bit much for a show as quiet as Euphos, it manages to earn the extra time by picking up pretty much exactly where things left off the last time, as the band continues preparing for Nationals, and more club drama rears it’s ugly head when a former member decides she wants back in. As always it’s pretty low key but it works, and it’s well supported by some incredible shot composition, with Naoko Yamada’s excellent direction, reminding us why Kyoto Animation is good at what it does. Sound Euphos probably won’t ever set the world on fire for me, but it’s consistently pleasant, and in a season as rough as this one, that’s more than appreciated.

Rating: Great


That’s it for this batch of fall show impressions. Yuri on Ice seems to be the only true standout of the season right now, but there’s still a few premieres left to go through this week so hopefully something else stands out. My last batch of impressions should likely be ready sometime Saturday so until then, stay animated.

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