First Impressions- Winter 2018 Anime

It’s the start of a new year everyone, and that means a year of new discovers, new political scandals, new potentially world ending disasters, and most important of all, new anime. The winter season is generally a pretty sleepy one, and the division with certain anime streaming services could easily make this worse, but there’s actually quite a bit of potentially interesting stuff this season, and there’s always the possibility of a sleeper hit or two. As always there’s quite a bit of stuff to get through, so let’s get to it.

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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A Place Further Than the Universe

Synopsis: Scenery that we have never seen. Sounds that we have never heard. Scent that we have never smelled. Food that we have never tasted. And the surge of emotion that we have never experienced. This is the expedition of recollecting the pieces torn apart and sensation left alone. When we reach that place, what will we think? Howling, 40 degree angle. Raging, 50 degree angle. Shouting, 60 degree angle. A wilderness beyond the heavy sea. The furthest south, far from civilization. At the top of the Earth. We will find lights through the girls’ eyes to live tomorrow.

First Impressions: This one kind of fell under the radar for me, as while it looked kind of interesting, I assumed it was probably going to be a cute girls doing cute things kind of deal. What I got instead seems to be something that could actually turn out to be really exciting. The feeling of having never done anything adventurous in life that helps to kick off this story is something I can relate to pretty easily (I’m quite boring in case you couldn’t tell) and the premiere does a great job of capturing that desire to do the impossible while also leaving me immensely curious as to how our two heroines will actually make their supposed journey to the Antarctic. In addition to it’s solid hook, the show also has a pretty nice visual aesthetic going for it, as while its director Atsuko Ishizuka is generally known for her use of bright and outlandish colors in her shows, this has a much more muted look to it, and it serves the angle of realism that the show is apparently going for. I sure wasn’t expecting much from this one, but it looks like our first new anime of the year is actually off to a solid start

Rating: Great

 

Ms. Kozumi Loves Ramen

Synopsis: Koizumi is a high school girl who looks like a cool beauty at first glance, but actually has an unexpected side of her that loves ramen.

First Impressions: This is another show I didn’t give much attention to in previews, but Winter’s generally a decent time for anime comedies, and going by the incredibly stylish OP song, this seemed like it could be pretty entertaining. The actual show itself on the other hand, left me feeling a little mixed. It’s premise seems very straightforward as it centers around a girl named Kozumi who’s passionate about ramen, and another who follows her everywhere because she thinks she’s cute. On the surface that seems like an okay enough setup for a comedy, and the ramen itself is detailed enough to make for some solid food porn. The problem lies in that Kozumi’s admirer is basically a stalker, and despite being turned down at the end of each of the premiere’s three shorts, the “joke” is that she can’t take no for an answer, and keeps trying to hang around Kozumi anyway. This could kind of work if the show gave the impression that Kozumi tolerated her enough that she might gradually warm up to her or something, but she’s clearly disinterested and it just makes the stalker girl’s antics come off as more pestering than endearing. Maybe I’ll consider giving this another shot if the season seems light on good comedies, but right now this looks like something I’m gonna take a pass on.

Rating: Bad

Laid-Back Camp

Synopsis: Rin enjoys camping by the lakeshore, Mt. Fuji in view. Nadeshiko rides her bike to see Mt. Fuji, too. As the two eat cup noodles together, they behold the beautiful scenery around them.

First Impressions: Continuing the trend of things that fell under the radar for me was this show, which coming in seemed like it probably wasn’t going to be for me. Series about cute doing cute things have to have a really strong hook to maintain my interest, and while it certainly wasn’t a hook I expected, cute girls doing camping trips seems like something I can get behind. I myself am a former Boy Scout and go on yearly trips with my dad’s troop so I know a pretty good deal about camping and the show manages to capture that feeling surprisingly well. From accurately setting up an A-tent to acknowledging how much of pain it can be to start campfires, the attention to detail was really impressive and it really felt like the kind of experiences I’ve had going on weekend camping trips. It helps that the show has a nice visual atmosphere as while the character designs are pretty standard as far as moe goes, the backgrounds really capture the rustic beauty of nature, and the last shot of Mt. Fuji towards the end pretty much nailed it home. As far as the characters themselves go, so far nothing about them stands out to me enough to assume they’ll be much more than the usual moe archetypes, but the two girls we’re introduced to so far are likable enough, and the show feels so relaxing that I can probably get over that if it can maintain the overall aesthetic of this premiere. I sure didn’t have any real interest in this one coming in, but while it’s brand of moe just happens to be attached to something I’m actually familiar with, it captures said thing well enough that I’m more than willing to give it a few episodes.

Rating: Good

 

Katana Maidens~Toji no Miko

Synopsis: Since the ancient times, the Kannagi priestesses have used their swords, or Okatana, to exorcise the creatures known as Aratama that brought chaos upon the world of man. These maidens were known as Tojis. They are a special task force within the police. They are allowed to have their Okatana on their person because they are government officials, but they mostly consist of middle school and high school girls who go to one of five training schools throughout the country. Though they mostly live normal school lives, if they are given a mission, they take their Okatana and unleash their powers, fighting to protect the people. This spring, the top Tojis from five schools across the country have been gathered for a customary tournament where they will use their abilities and fight for the top position. As the many Tojis trained and prepared for the upcoming tournament, there was one girl who was even more determined than the others on improving her swordsmanship. What lies before the end of her Okatana?

First Impressions: So I’ll be completely honest in saying that decided to watch this show literally immediately after going through the first 5 episodes of Devilman Crybaby and checking out the first ep of Maid in Abyss on Prime Video since Anime Strike finally kicked the bucket. That seems to have been a pretty poor decision because despite having spent 23 minutes of my life on this show’s premiere, I couldn’t really tell you anything that happens in it. It’s among the latest in the moe action show genre that seems to have gradually become a thing over the years and the plot has something to do with girls with swords fighting ugly CG monsters and apparently having rough internal politics. Even though my mind was admittedly elsewhere while watching I can’t say that anything about this really grabbed me. The characters introduced so far seem like the general archetypes you’d expect from this type of show and while it’s certainly not the ugliest looking show around, it’s pretty bland on a visual front, and that made it’s occasional instances of awkward CG stand out more. In fairness, the show seems harmless enough, and if moe action shows are your jam, then I guess you might get something out of it, but for right now, I have enough to watch for this to be an easy pass.

Rating: Decent

 

Junji Ito Collection

Synopsis: The works of one of the most famous Japanese horror manga artists, Junji Ito, finally gets animated! This will be an omnibus animation where each episode will star different protagonists such as the famous Tomie, Soichi, and Fuchi!

First Impressions: Junji Ito is known throughout the world as a master of horror manga, so idea of an anime adapting some of his best short stories certainly seemed interesting enough. The premiere kicks off with a short story about a creepy boy named Souchi who goes around placing curses on people he doesn’t like. It’s an interesting story in and of itself but admittedly it didn’t really work too well as a horror story, and the visual direction, while competent, didn’t do much to make any of it particularly scary. However I was a little more impressed with the second short, as even though it only went on for about a minute, it at least ended on a grotesque enough visual to make me feel like we could be in for some neat stuff later on. I’ve been curious about Junji Ito’s works for a long time, so it’s pretty much a given that I’ll keep up with this, but while I certainly wasn’t bored by this premiere, I’m hoping the next episode has some better stories to adapt.

Rating: Decent

 

Record of Grancrest War

Synopsis: The fantasy action light novel series takes place on a continent ruled by chaos. The chaos breeds disaster, but the Lords of the continent have the power of “Crest” (a Mark of the Saint) that can calm the chaos and protect the people. However, one day the rulers throw away their creed of protecting the people, and instead start to fight each other with their powers to gain dominion over each other. The novels center on Silka, an isolated mage who scorns the Lords for abandoning their creed, and a wandering knight named Theo, who is on a journey to train to one day liberate his hometown, which is under tyrannical rule. Silka and Theo make an everlasting oath to each other as master and servant, and work together to reform this continent dominated by wars and chaos.

First Impressions: So I knew going in that the author’s previous series, Record of Lodoss War (or more specifically it’s OVAs) has generally been held up by the anime community as something of a classic, and while I haven’t gotten around to that one yet, it certainly helped to put this show on my radar. I can’t exactly say that this premiere blew me away, but it certainly holds a decent amount of promise. The show’s fantasy setting seems a little on the generic side, and the rough looking quality of the production right out the gate certainly doesn’t help with that, but it makes up for these deficiencies in other areas. One point in it’s favor is that it at least does a semi-admirable job of making its magic elements stick out from the rest of the show visually, and it manages to avoid feeling too infodump-y when it comes to exposition, which is always something I’m happy to see dodged when it comes to LN adaptions. The thing that really works for me so far though is the dynamic between it’s leads, as while they meet under some pretty contrived circumstances, the chemistry between them works well enough to make me curious about what they plan on accomplishing together, while leaving plenty to be explored for both. Overall this was a perfectly competent premiere and while I can’t exactly say this show is a standout, it looks like it’ll scratch my fantasy itch just fine

Rating: Good

 

Sanrio Boys

Synopsis: The project’s premise follows Kouta Hasegawa, a high school boy that loves the yellow Pom Pom Purin dog. By mere coincidence, he ends up attending the same school as Yuu Mizuno, a boy who likes the bunny My Melody. Yuu tells Kouta that there’s nothing to be ashamed of for liking Sanrio’s cute characters. Together, Kouta, Yuu, Shunsuke Yoshino, Ryou Nishimiya, and Seiichiro Minamoto learn to accept their love of the characters instead of feeling embarrassed.

First Impressions: I’ve said this before in previous seasons but male idol shows generally aren’t my kind of thing for all the reasons you can probably guess and even the ones with a decent hook usually have to go the extra mile to impress me. So needless to say I was pretty surprised when I walked away from this premiere satisfied. I suppose the biggest point in this show’s favor is that rather than throwing out all the bishies to the audience at once, the first episode is instead laser focused on the protagonist and how his love of cute things helped to make him into an introvert. Nothing about his story is particularly unique, and it was pretty easy to guess where its big dramatic turn was headed, but it was told just well enough to make me feel for him, and that certainly works out better for me than most male idol things I’ve tried. It also helps that the show has some surprisingly solid animation for its genre, and the visual direction is pretty effective too, helping to give it something of a more distinct look compared to its competition. It’s entirely possible the rest of the show is going to be a lot more ensemble focused, and said ensemble could just be the usual archetypes for this kind of series, but enough about this premiere impressed me that I’m willing to go along with it for a while longer.

Rating: Good

 

Pop Team Epic

Synopsis: The self-described “crappy anime” centers around two 14-year-old girls, the short Popuko and the tall Pipimi. The story summary on the anime’s website quotes William Shakespeare’s Tweflth Night play, “There is no darkness but ignorance.”

First Impressions: I’m not even sure what to write here honestly, and I probably shouldn’t even bother. Nothing I could write would accurately depict the kind of experience this show is, and anything I’m capable of saying would spoil it. Just…go watch it I guess?

Rating: WHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTT??!!!!!!!

 

Citrus

Synopsis: Yuzuko Aihara, a high school girl whose main interests are fashion, friends and having fun, is about to get a reality check. Due to her mom’s remarriage, Yuzu has transferred to a new, all-girls school that is extremely strict. Her real education is about to begin. From Day One, happy-go-lucky Yuzu makes enemies, namely the beautiful yet stern Student Council President Mei. So what happens when a dejected Yuzu returns home and discovers the shock of her life: that Mei is actually her new step-sister who has come to live with her? Even more surprising, when Mei catches Yuzu off-guard and kisses her out of the blue, what does it all mean?

First Impressions: Well I knew going in that this was a yuri show, and giving that explicitly yuri based titles tend to be on the trashier side of things, I tempered my expectations accordingly. Having actually watched the first episode, I can’t exactly say it wasn’t what I expected but it was definently better than I thought it would be. For one thing the show surprisingly well directed. It knows its audience is here to see girls making out, and lays out the fanservice accordingly while never getting so explicit that it affects the context of whatever’s happening. The show also looks pretty good, given that yuri titles tend to look like lower end productions, and it helps in making the episode’s sexual moments to be a bit more effective. Of course while there’s certainly a lot of nice window dressing here, it’s still a pretty trashy affair, and the first episode even ends in a makeout session, so if you were somehow hoping for an earnest lesbian romance, you’re probably gonna have to look elsewhere. As for me, I wasn’t really expecting much, and I still kind don’t, but the overall presentation in this premiere was just competent enough, that I’m willing to take a plunge on another episode.

Rating: Decent

 

Slow Start

Synopsis: 16-year-old Hana Ichinose who unbeknownst to her classmates was a year late in enrolling into high school. Although it may not seem like a big deal, it is a big deal to her. She wants to catch up with everyone else someday.

First Impressions: Me and moe have had something of a rough relationship over the years, as “cute girls doing cute things” is not my cup of tea, but it has also generally gotten better about knowing how to throw in some kind of hook for wider audiences. This show however, feels as though I’ve somehow gone back in time 10 years because it almost the literal personification of stereotypical moe. The character designs have the absurdly big eyes that people used to poke fun at, the artstyle is pretty bland, and the girls themselves are walking archetypes to the point where the heroine’s defining trait is literally that she looks too young to be in high school. If there’s one bright spot here it’s the character animation, which is so good in some instances that it almost feels outright offensive given that the characters themselves don’t really display enough personality to justify it. I had thought moe was past being this by the numbers but I guess I was wrong. As always, I’ll be fair in saying that if cute girls doing cute things is you’re jam, this should do a perfectly adequate job of filling your needs, but I personally need a little extra spice in my cute girl shows, and this was just too much of a slow start to keep my interest.

Rating: Bad

 

Kokkoku: Moment by Moment

SynopsisIn order to save her brother and nephew who have been kidnapped by a mysterious religious group known as the Genuine Love Society, Juri and her family cast a spell using a stone hidden by her grandfather to enter the world of stopped time known as Stasis. However, when they infiltrate the kidnapper’s base, they’re met by other people who can also move about freely. With grotesque creatures lurking about, will they be able to escape the parallel world and return to their normal lives?!

First Impressions: Since I assumed this was going to be locked under the recently defunct Anime Strike, I didn’t pay any attention this one in previews, but now that I actually CAN watch stuff on Amazon without the double paywall, I figured I’d give this a shot. This is the first series by Geno Studio, aka the zombie version of the anime studio, Manglobe and for a first show this seems…pretty middle of the road. We spend most of this first episode getting used to the main character and her family, the latter of whom come off as intentionally unlikable, and from there it transitions into the setup for a strange sci-fi thriller involving the ability to stop time. As the show has yet to really clue us on on what the premise will actually involve, the premiere is very much on the slow side of things, and middling production values don’t really help it stand out visually with the exception of some strange looking 3DCG when demonstrating the effects of stopping time, and it’s outrageously cool opening theme. This seems like it’s going to be one of those cases where I can’t really give my two cents on the show until I actually know what the heck it’s about, and since that’s apparently going to require at least one more episode, I guess it has my attention for now

Rating: Decent

 

Mitsuboshi Colors

Synopsis: In a certain corner of a certain park in a certain Ueno area of Tokyo exists the secret base of the “justice organization” called “Colors.” A group of three elementary school girls lead Colors, and the members of the group roam the park day and night (actually just until evening) to protect the peace of the park.

First Impressions: I feel like someone in Japan must have heard me complaining about how boring Slow Start was, because every ounce of this show feels like the superior version of that. I may not be big on the premise of cute girls screwing around for 20 minutes, but “kids being kids” is one of my favorite forms of slice of life shows (part in part why Ed, Edd n Eddy remains my favorite cartoon of all time) so little girls, screwing around and generally just being goofy kids, is something I am absolutely down for. There’s always something magical to me about seeing how much excitement little kids can make out of mundane activities, and both of this episode’s two shorts do a really great job of demonstrating the different personalities of the main trio while also making, some of the most believable little kids I’ve ever seen in anime. Their interactions with one of the town’s lazy cops made for some consistently solid jokes, and I walked away from this premiere feeling way more entertained than I was expecting. If the rest of the series can be as charming as this first episode one, than this is absolutely gonna be a keeper for me.

Rating: Great

 

School Babysitters

Synopsis: Ryuichi and Kotarou are brothers who lost their parents in an airplane crash. They’re taken in by the chairman of Morinomiya Academy, who lost her son and daughter-in-law in the same crash, on one condition: Ryuichi has to babysit the kids at the daycare room in the school! This room was opened to help the school’s teachers who had kids to take care of, but it suffers from a lack of staff until Ryuichi becomes the first member of the babysitter club formed to solve that problem.

First Impressions: Well I guess this must be the season where children take over anime because here comes another show about little kids. At first glance this seems like a show dedicated to showing off how cute little kids can be, and as someone who’s actually helped out in a few preschool classes, I’ll admit I’m a pretty good target for this sort of thing, and much like with Mitsuboshi Colors, I was impressed with how well this was able to make the kids feel like well…kids. What I wasn’t expecting though, was for this show to actually have a pretty solid emotional hook. While the two brothers losing their parents in the beginning of the episode is shot through so quickly that it almost feels like an excuse for this premise to exist, it turns out to actually be a deliberate measure as Ryuichi doesn’t really realize the impact that the loss of his parents has had on him, until he’s in a situation where he realizes he’s the only one left who can look after his little brother, and the scene hit so hard that it had me tearing up a little bit. It’s hard to say how much that feeling of loss is going to end up ultimately playing into this show, and I really hope it does, but if it doesn’t it at least has a strong cuteness factor going for it, and that makes this a pretty good pick up for me.

Rating: Great

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