First Impressions- Fall 2017 Anime

The fall season has finally arrived and it’s looking to be packed to the gills with anime. There’s a ton of cool sequels coming out, and some potentially exciting new stuff as well so it seems like it could be a season with something for just about everyone. Let’s get started.

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 .

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Black Clover

Synopsis: In a world where magic is everything, Asta and Yuno are both found abandoned at a church on the same day. While Yuno is gifted with exceptional magical powers, Asta is the only one in this world without any. At the age of fifteen, both receive grimoires, magic books that amplify their holder’s magic. Asta’s is a rare Grimoire of Anti-Magic that negates and repels his opponent’s spells. Being opposite but good rivals, Yuno and Asta are ready for the hardest of challenges to achieve their common dream: to be the Wizard King. Giving up is never an option!

First Impressions: *sigh* Of course we’d start off with this show first. So if you’ve been following my Twitter feed for the last year or so you’ve probably seen me ranting about the Black Clover manga, and dreading the fact that it lived long enough to see an anime adaption. Ideally I would steered clear of said anime adaption for my sanity, but for reasons I can’t yet disclose I’m obligated to watch it for at least a little while so here we are. This first episode features the exploits of Naru- I mean Asta who wants to be the Hoka- err… “Wizard King” and has an introverted rival named Sas- I mean Yuno. Asta is constantly made fun of for his inability to use magic and the big dreams he has in spite of that. On the day he’s supposed to receive his magical grimore which signifies he’s become a mage, he fails and falls into despair, but it turns out there’s a bit of a technicality there because he does have a grimore: an evil one, hosting a demon inside of Asta.

Does any of this ring any bells? It should because outside of a few setting details these are almost all of the basic beats of the beginning of Naruto with the exception of the Sasuke knockoff appearing in the first episode rather than later on. To the anime’s credit, it does it’s best to try and tone down some of the beats that were literally ripped straight from Naruto’s first chapter, but even with that it still feels like an incredibly auto-piloty battle shonen, Asta is an archetype we’ve seen a million times before (not to mention having read the manga I know he only gets worse as a character, not better)  and done to better effect, and the show does a pretty lazy job of getting the audience invested in his dynamic with Yuno (which looks to be spread out into the next episode) or its universe, and both elements come off more as a checklist of obligatory tropes than something heartfelt, which is kind of a dealbreaker for me with any shonen thing. Combine all this with the fact that the show looks like a pretty rushed production (complete with blatant CG towards the end), and there’s not a whole ton of appeal here for newcomers. I suppose if you’re new to anime, and you’re looking for a new battle shonen to seek your teeth into you can always do worse, but if you’re looking for one with a bit more originally or heart, I’d recommend My Hero Academia, or Boruto, since even the latter doesn’t pull as much from Naruto despite being an actual spinoff of that franchise. Again this show is far from the worst thing out there, but as offering anything new as a shonen, it definitely doesn’t leave a good first impression

Rating: Decent

Juni Taisen: Zodiac War

Synopsis: For one wish, they’ll risk it all. The time has come for the Twelve Tournament—held every twelve years. For twelve proud warriors, each baring a name from the Chinese Zodiac, they’ll prepare to fight in a bloody battle royal. The victor gets any one wish they desire, but they’ll have to do whatever it takes to earn it. Blood and tears will flow on this battlefield—who will be the lone survivor?

First Impressions: Nishioshin is a pretty notable name in the Japanese creators sphere, and his work on Bakemonogatari and to a lesser extent, Medaka Box, have been generally well regarded material. The latter happens to be one of my favorite manga ever made, so needless to say that the prospect of him doing his own weird spin on the Fate franchise seemed like it could be a pretty good time. This episode certainly delivered on that promise as it was a rip roaring ride from start to finish. The show looks downright fantastic and now that director Naoto Hosoda (best known for 2011’s Future Diary) can stretch his wings, on a better scheduled production, he really makes the most of it, and the opener delivers on some fantastic action sequences that I’m slightly worried it won’t be able to maintain. The actual story itself is a pretty straightforward tournament thing, but direction does a great job of explaining everything through natural dialogue rather forced exposition, and the cast of bizarre killers all seem like they’ll each be entertaining in their own right. My only real point of concern here is that material might go a little overboard on the edge factor and risk harming the broader level of appeal this could deliver on, but Nishioshin’s track record is consistent enough that I’m not too worried about that, and I’m curious to see just how strange some of these character’s backstories can get. There’s still plenty of new stuff to check out this season, but this one’s certainly off to a promising start, and very much worth a peek

Rating: Great

Sengoku Night Blood

Synopsis: One day, Yuzuki is enveloped by a mysterious light suddenly emanating from her cell phone and finds herself in an unfamiliar place. The scenery spread out before her almost resembles Sengoku period Japan– But this is another world known as “Shinga” where non-human creatures such as vampires and werewolves reside. Long ago, the various tribes of Shinga lived together peacefully under the protection of the Himemiko who possessed special blood. However, one day the Himemiko suddenly vanished. With the protection of the Himemiko gone, the world has fallen into a period of strife.

First Impressions: And here’s our otome game adaption of the season. Sengoku era stuff generally bores me to tears unless someone puts a really fun spin on it, and otome adaptions generally aren’t my cup of tea either, but the premise of figures like Totomi Hideyoshi or Nobunaga being vampires sounded like enough of a dumb fun idea to be worth a peek. Unfortunately the show doesn’t really seem interested in fully capitalizing on that and instead just focuses on showing off the boys and awkwardly tossing in the female-insert who they’re all meant to faun over. Needless to say I didn’t have a particularly good time with this one, and found myself checking the runttime counter halfway through it. That’s okay though, because I’m not really the target audience for this kind of thing, and I’m sure those who are interested will get their mileage out of it. As for me, it’s a pass.

Rating: Decent

Infini-T Force

Synopsis: The story of the original manga begins when a girl named Emi uses a pencil that can grant any wish. Emi gets caught up in the robbery of a convenience store, and her life is in danger. She uses the pencil to wish for a “hero that will save everyone.” Four heroes appear in response to Emi’s wish to change the course of the future.

First Impressions: Tatsunoko superhero properties have been a staple of anime for decades, but they’ve always been pretty obscure in the west, with the closest to any significant level of relevance being Casshern Sins and to a lesser extent Gatchaman Crowds. With all that in mind, a Justice League esque team up of their most iconic heroes seems like as good an introduction as any and as far as that goes this is off to a pretty okay start. The biggest point of note here would be the show’s 3DCG animation which looks surprisingly solid compared to 90% of its anime contemporaries, and a lot of the action sequences actually managed to look pretty cool. It helps that the character designs lean more towards actual CG models than trying to emulate the 2D anime look and while it’s still a bit choppy in a few places, this is probably the best implementation of it I’ve seen on a TV budget production. Storywise things are a bit more of a question mark with things involving a few rumblings of a mysterious villain who wants to destroy other dimensions for some unknown reason, but it’s not too difficult to follow, and the personalities of the individual heroes seem interesting enough that I’m sure we’ll get to know them beyond their costumed personas. For now, I’m mostly just in this for the prospect of watching a CG anime that actually looks like a proper CG production, but hopefully this’ll evolve into something interesting

Rating: Decent

Urahara

Synopsis: Harajuku… The place where culture, kawaii, and fashion come together. Three high school girls Rito, Mari, and Kotoko are planning to open a temporary store called Park. One day, aliens from space come to Earth to take away the culture of humans. That’s when a mysterious girl who calls herself Misa appears. Now, in order to protect the Harajuku that they love, these three girls must be prepared for anything!

First Impressions: I recall skimming through the manga (?) to this a while back on CR’s manga app and thinking it was pretty weird, but while cute girls doing cute things can be something of a mixed bag in execution this seemed like the sort of thing that could be amusing in animated form. It certainly still feels weird in animated form, but not necessarily in a good way. The show’s animation is…limited to say the least and the direction feels kind of maniac with transitions that make things feel more like a motion comic than a show, and combined with the intentionally scribbled looking backgrounds, it didn’t feel as energetic as it was clearly meant to. It doesn’t help that for a cute girls doing cute things esque show, the girls don’t feel particularly endearing in any major sense, and the seiyuu performances felt kind of dull, which sort of seems like it’d defeat the purpose here. The one saving grace of this whole thing is the wonderfully cartoonish premise of aliens who literally suck up other cultures, but the overall aesthetic weirdly serves to hamper rather than elevate the fun to be had, and it all left me feeling rather cold. If you’re down for moe for moe’s sake, maybe you’ll enjoy this, but I think I’m gonna move on.

Rating: Bad

King’s Game: The Animation 

Synopsis: Kanazawa Nobuaki has transferred to a high school far from where he used to live. Due to an incident at his old school, Nobuaki is afraid of getting close to his new classmates and keeps himself at a distance, but he starts opening up because of a sports day inter-class relay. Then, a single text message from someone calling themselves the “King” is sent to everyone in class. Nobuaki’s classmates think it’s a simple prank, and don’t take it seriously but Nobuaki knows that a death game is about to begin, and struggles to oppose it…

First Impressions: So with Juni Taisen out to fulfill everyone’s needs for a crazy over the top battle royale thriller, this show comes off as the unfortunate other of the season. Though where Juni Taisen manages to impress as high quality trash, what we get here is pretty boilerplate and bar the course for this sort of thing. Loner MC who knows how this all goes down and fears the inevitable? Check? Everyone quickly turning on each other? Check. Girlfriend who’s clearly meant to be stuffed in the fridge as “motivation” for our MC? Checkity, check, check. Stupid as this all was though (and boy howdy is it stupid) it certainly wasn’t boring, and the execution is so incredibly off the walls that it all came off as unintentionally hilarious and Mamoru Miyano delivering his finest quality ham as the MC of this show only served to add to the silliness. If it had more to compete with I’d probably give it the boot right here, but I’m pretty sparse on Thursday shows for the moment, and if this show can maintain it’s level of a “quality” for the remainder of it’s run I can at least have a few good laughs if nothing else.

Rating: Decent

 

Recovery of an MMO Junkie

Synopsis: Morioka Moriko (♀) is 30, single, and a NEET. She has dropped out of the real world. Searching for a safe place, the place she ended up… is the online world!! In this online game, Moriko starts a new life as a handsome young man with silky hair named Hayashi. However, she’s an obvious noob and ends up dying numerous times when a lovely girl named “Lily” lends her a helping hand. Meanwhile IRL, she ends up having a shocking encounter with a mysterious handsome salaryman named Sakurai Yuta. After meeting him, the real world starts to change and starts affecting her online world as well?!

First Impressions: I was kind of wary about checking this one out as everything about its premise was giving me PTSD flashbacks to spring 2015’s Netoge, and that show was…problematic to say the least. Far as this show goes though its…really hard to say just exactly what its goals are. The episode partially introduces to our heroine who seems to have quit her office job to become a NEET, but the majority of its runttime is spent building up a romance between her male avatar, and a female avatar she befriends through an MMO. The obvious twist here is that the female avatar belongs to a guy (and given our heroine seemed to be really into the idea of romancing “her” I’m kind of curious what her reaction will be when we get there) but it’s hard to say if the show’s going to use this for something cute, or potentially meanspirited. The developments between the two are handled well enough that I don’t think it’ll opt for the latter, but Netoge exists and the cynic in my heart can’t help but be worried this could turn into something weird and gross. Either way there’s not really enough to make any kind of serious guess about its future so I suppose its earned another episode from me.

Rating: Decent

 

Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World

Synopsis: In an imperfect world, the stories make it beautiful. Meet Kino, a traveler exploring beyond her boundaries into unknown mystical places! With only her guns and talking motorcycle Hermes by her side, she learns about unique people and their customs through the fascinating stories they weave. But to see everything, she can only spare three days to each land before moving on to the next adventure.

First Impressions: Throughout my years as an anime fan, Kino’s Journey is a title I’ve often heard celebrated as a beloved classic but one I’ve never had the opportunity to get around to. Now that the show’s been “rebooted” in a sense, now’s as good a time as any to check it out, and the first episode impressed. Going off of my understanding of the show’s premise, the story follows a young traveler named Kino who travels to different countries in order to observe their lifestyles, with each one centering around some sort of theme or philosophical debate. This first episode starts with Kino going into a country where murder isn’t prohibited by the law, and where I could have seen this story easily diverge into over the top silliness, the way it handles the concept, and the last minute twist regarding how this law actually works is all handled well enough that I walked away from this with quite a bit to think about, and this is apparently something that happens quite a lot in this show.

Even putting aside it’s interesting philosophical intrigue, the show itself looks incredibly gorgeous. While Twin Star Exorcists was a very uneven show to say the least I’d always thought that Tomohisa Taguchi’s visual direction really stood out in spite of the show’s scripting problems, and he really gets to show a lot of his full capabilities here as the show’s backgrounds really help to create a wonderful sense of atmosphere that makes the world feel real, and the more maniac camera movements towards the end do a lot to sell the tension of the episode’s twist, and it all comes together to create something that can feel as haunting as it does pretty. All in all this was an impressive premiere, and while I’m a newcomer to Kino’s Journey, this certainly helped to make me a fan.

Rating: Great

 

Dies Irae

Synopsis: At the start of a great war, an important leader in the German security bureau takes on a mission to fight supernatural mutants himself.

First Impressions: This was another show I was kind of wary of for a couple of reasons. Firstly that it involves the literal Nazis and secondly that it’s apparently so self-indulgent, it can give the Fate franchise a run for it’s money. Still I figured I should give it a fair shot, but I mostly walked away from this episode feeling…confused more than anything. It seemed like this episode was supposed to be centering around some perfect definition of a supreme Aryan Nazi deciding he wants to be an evil overlord, but this got shuffled between a couple of out of place characters duking it out for some unexplained reason, and mountains of meaningless prose. Goung by the fact that this was titled episode 0, I can only assume this was meant to be a prologue of sorts but even then it felt unnecessarily jumbled and the fact that has the visual aesthetic of an low-end early 00’s anime doesn’t help much either. I suppose the one bright spot here is that I didn’t walk away from this feeling disgusted (which is what I was expecting) but I sure wouldn’t call this an entertaining experience. In a weaker season I’d give slight consideration to giving this another episode, but there’s already enough interesting looking material that there’s honestly no real need. Pass

Rating: Bad

 

GARO: Vanishing Line

Synopsis: Highly advanced town – Russel City. While people enjoy its prosperity in the town, there is a huge conspiracy secretly going on which will shake the world. Sword, a man who notices its movement determines to throw himself into battles and reveal the conspiracy, but only to find a clue – “Eldorado”. At that time, Sword happens to meet a girl Sophie who has been looking for the meaning of “Eldorado”, a message left by her missing brother. These two, attracted by the word “Eldorado”, somehow feel invisible ties each other and start to act together. Their journey with mixed feelings now begins.

First Impressions: When Vanishing Line was first announced a few months ago, it seemed like it could be interesting, but didn’t particularly grab my attention as something to be excited about. However when it was later confirmed that this was going to be the newest GARO anime, my interest piqued significantly. While GARO’s pretty popular as a tokusatsu series in Japan, the anime versions have been a little more troubled. The first anime had cool aesthetic and some solid writing but didn’t particular stand out in the season it debuted in while the second anime Crimson Moon, was a dumpster fire that tried to make GARO a little more “anime” but felt all over place, and looked pretty ugly. It seems the third time might be the charm though, because everything about this premiere comes out of the gate full throttle (and given the biker motifs this probably won’t be the last pun I make about this) with some great looking character designs, stellar animation, and an overall aesthetic that pretty much screams western appeal. We’ve got everything from a beefcake protagonist with a love of bikes and pretty girls, to a super jazzy soundtrack and while this first episode doesn’t offer much in the way of setting up the story, the amount of flair in brings is more than enough of a hook to draw in interest. Given MAPPA’s current workload it’s hard to say how much they’ll be able to keep this up, but given the director, was responsible for the best episode of the first GARO anime, I’m at least sure it’ll cram in as much visual spectacle as it can in the meantime. With how packed this anime season is, it’s anyone’s guess if this’ll get looked over the same way the first anime did, but it’s definitely got a better aesthetic going for it as far as drawing in bigger crowds goes, and however this turns out, I’m certainly ready to go along for the ride

Rating: Great

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