First Impressions- Spring 2018 Anime

It’s that time of the year again…sort of. We’re technically still a week out from the actual start of the Spring anime season, but since Crunchyroll decided to give out an early preview of one of their premieres, I figured I might as well get a head start on this. This is looking to be one of the most packed seasons of anime I’ve ever seen as just about everything and its grandma looks to be coming out in Spring, and if even half of it ends up being watchable it could most certainly destroy me. Even so I’ll do as many first impressions as I can, and I’m determined to do so even if I’ll probably regret it two weeks from now. Let the suicide tour begin!

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 .


Magical Girl Ore

Synopsis: Saki Uno is a high school girl and rookie idol who has a crush on Mohiro, her best friend’s older brother. When Mohiro is kidnapped by demons, Saki hastily makes a shady contract to be able to transform into a magical girl, which transforms her body into that of a handsome man.

First Impressions: I feel as though I’ve been seeing the main visual for this thing floating around the internet for the last couple of years now, with no sign of when it would actually be a thing. Seems as though it’s finally here though, and it’s certainly…something. Magical girl parodies aren’t exactly new territory at this point and Cute High Defense Force Love did just about every gender bender joke with the genre that I could think of, but that series turned out to be pretty funny, and this seems like it’ll do a good job of following in its footsteps. The gimmick of having girls turn into muscular magical boys seemed like it would kind of one note, but the show gets a lot of mileage out of it by playing up to the raunchier side of magical girl shows rather than how Cute High mostly stuck to riffing Sailor Moon, leading to some pretty unexpected jokes and giving it a little more of an edge. On the downside, the animation is a little choppy (though given this was previewed before the official broadcast date it’s possible it could get touch

ed up a little before then) and the extra bit of edge means the show is a little lacking in sincerity which is kind of essential for a proper parody. It’s possible that last one could get fixed over time though, and there’s enough laughs here to make it plenty entertaining in the meantime. Hard to say how much steam this one’ll actually have in the long run but for now, it certainly has my attention.

Rating: Good

 

Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro

First Impressions: Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro is apparently a pretty big deal in Japan, and is considered something of a classic there, but it’s also something that’s never quite made it’s way to the west so I had what to expect from this (other than the hope that it would be decent, if only because Dragonball fandom is so angry over it being Super’s replacement). Having walked away from the first episode, I have to say I was pretty impressed. Horror is an aesthetic anime often struggles with and I sure wouldn’t expect a kids’ show to handle it well, but while nothing here is particularly frightening, the direction exudes a creep factor that a lot of other shows have kind of stumbled on. The yokai designs are pretty simplistic, but the framing gives them a clear sense of menace, and the unsettling feeling also extends to the protagonist Kitaro who comes off as equal parts helpful and distant in his apparent job as a yokai exterminator. Adding onto things is the fact that the actual production itself looks well…decent. Toei shows have gained an rather infamous reputation over the years for being shoddy looking, and Dragonball Super suffered a lot for the early part of its run, but this came out of the gate looking pretty respectable, and the action animation towards the end is nothing to snuff at. On the downside this seems like it could go into repetitive monster-of-the-week territory pretty fast, and that could end up wearing out its welcome, but for an introduction into an unfamiliar franchise this works pretty well, and I’ll certainly be sticking around for a while.

Rating: Great

Uma Musume: Pretty Derby

Synopsis: The concept begins with Uma Musume (Horse Girls), girls endowed with excellent running capability, and who aim to become top idols and compete in the national sports entertainment show “Twinkle Series.” Players take the role of both teacher and trainer for the girls in the Nihon Uma Musume Training Center Gakuen (Japan Horse Girls Training Center Academy) and help them make their debut.

First Impressions: So this show has had something of an interesting backstory as it was announced as Cygames second anime project after the success of Rage of Bahamut a couple of years, and had been stuck in production limbo ever since. I was beginning to think we’d never actually see this weird thing, but after all that…waiting I guess, it’s finally here and its certainly strange. Idol shows, moe, and monster girl shows are all varying niches of their own in anime (even if some will tell you otherwise) and while there’s certainly been various mixing of these niches I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a show that actually had the audacity to do all three simultaneously (especially with the addition of being something of a sports show). You’ve got horse girls running late to school with carrots in their mouths instead of bread, you’ve got horse girls training for horse track races, and you’ve even got horse girls putting on extensive live shows with apparently no time to practice choreography. All of this sounds like it’d be a wonderfully wacky time in concept but in execution it’s just kind of cute and not much else. Part of the problem with trying to do so many things simultaneously is that the show runs into problem of trying to juggle too many things at once, and doesn’t get the amount of time needed to properly revel in its absurdity. Thus the end result is a monster girl show that feels a little too much like standard moe, and a sports show that seems to have idols tacked on because, why not? I can’t say anything in this premiere was a gigantic turn-off but in a season as stacked as this one, first impressions are a lot more important than usual. Perhaps I’ll give this another go if Sundays seem light, but I’m not sure if I’ll be going ahead any further with it.

Rating: Decent

 

Kakuriyo- Bed & Breakfast for Spirits

Synopsis: Aoi is a female college student who inherited the ability to see spirits from her late grandfather. She prides herself on her cooking, and one day while feeding some agricultural spirits, a god and the master of the “Tenshinya” appears and takes Aoi away. He says that due to her grandfather’s debts, she must become his bride. Aoi hates this idea and instead declares that she will pay back her grandfather’s debt by working at the Tenshinya.

First Impressions: I wasn’t really aware of anything about this going in, and just glancing at the key visual I kind of assumed this was based off of a shojo manga or an otome game. In  truth it’s based off a light novel series which is kind of neat considering those usually star blatant male inserts, so a female lead is an interesting change of pace. That however is probably the most interesting thing about the show just going off the first episode. While Aoi thankfully isn’t a total blank slate, we’re barely given time to be introduced to her before getting thrown into the show’s premise and the shows premise unfortunately happens to involve her literally being trapped into an arranged marriage she knew nothing about. Given that bit, her ability to see spirits, and her being thrown headlong into the world of ayakashi, this sort of comes off as a discount version of The Ancient Magus’ Bride, but where as the marriage scenario in that was a backdrop thing that’s tossed to the wayside pretty quickly and Chise’s emotional state beforehand help to ease the discomfort a bit, the undertones here give the impression that’s going to be a lot more in the forefront of this show. On the brightside Aoi’s at least not willing to be sold off without a fight, and the show’s already introduced another ayakashi who doesn’t seem to have any particularly creepy motives so hopefully it can at least run with that for a while. As far as the technical front goes, nothing about this stands out particular (kind of par the course for modern GONZO) but it looks decent that nothing there should be an immediate turn-off. While I’ve put a lot of emphasis on the uncomfortable setup the show otherwise seems okay and it’ll probably make the whole thing less creepy as it goes on, but as I said before with Uma Musume, first impressions are gonna be pretty important this season due to sheer volume, and on that front, this show is likely another pass for me.

Rating: Decent

 

Fist of the Blue Sky- REGENESIS

Synopsis: It is just before WWII, Kasumi Kenshiro hides as a quiet, absent-minded professor teaching literature at a small women’s college in Tokyo. Once the 62nd Grand Master of Hokuto Shinken, “God Fist of the North Star,” and known has Yan Wang, or “the King of Death,” who preserved the peace in the “City of Devils.” A fighter of thugs and drug dealers, Kasumi seeks anonymity and a quiet life until the death of his lover, and former brothers, forces him to return to Shanghai to fulfill his destiny and avenge the deaths of his associates.

First Impressions: I’m a pretty big fan of Fist of the North Star, and I’ve always been curious to check out its prequel series, Fist of the Blue Sky, so a new anime adaption seemed like as good an opportunity as any to do so. Having actually watched it through, I mostly walked away with a giant shrug. Part of what made Fist of the North Star an entertaining watch was the simplicity of its setup as Kenshiro wandered a post apocalyptic world, helping the innocent and punching bad guys into play-doh. This looks to be a little more complicated that as we’ve got some kind of conflict between Chinese mafia gangs, and another plot-line involving a mysterious little girl and her bodyguard. While nothing here was super difficult to follow, the lack of a clear focus did make it a lot less engaging than i was hoping, and it takes till the end of the episode for these threads to connect. Of course the actual issue here is the animation which is done courtesy of 3DCG anime studio, Polygon Pictures. 3DCG anime is already something that causes a lot of backlash on its own, and while I’m personally pretty neutral on it and Polygon is generally one of the better studios in that field, handing them a martial arts action show probably wasn’t a good idea. The animation is frankly clunky looking, even by their worst standards, and while that can normally be offset by how CG can benefit fight scenes, there aren’t really any to be had in this premiere so audiences are left with 20 minutes of clunky CG models mostly talking. I can’t say this is gigantic disappointment but I was hoping for a bit better and while my curiosity might compel me to give this another episode, if you aren’t already interested in Fist of the North Star, this seems like an easy skip.

Rating: Bad

 

Gundam Build Divers

Synopsis: The Gunpla Force Battle Tournament is a big event held in GBN once per year. Competing in the final round are Avalon, led by the champion Kyoya Kujo, and the elite 7th Panzer Division led by the cunning Rommel. Starting with Kyoya’s Gundam AGE II Magnum, a variety of Gunpla take to the field to determine which is the strongest force!

First Impressions: Gundam Build Fighters was actually my first real entry into the Gundam franchise (fight me) and I had a blast watching it since it turned out to be the crazy super robot show I never knew I wanted. It’s sequel, Gundam Build Fighters Try wasn’t quite as good, but I have enough love for the concept that I was more than willing to check out this new iteration. So far though this one seems to have dialed things down a bit as where the previous Build shows were a little more over the top, this seems a little more grounded which is slightly disappointing. Equally disheartening is that this seems to be a much rougher production than either of its predecessors as while they weren’t quite on the same level of quality as a full-blown mainline Gundam show, they were still pretty polished, and very pretty looking for kids shows. This in comparison has a lot more off model shots and some notable animation shortcuts, and since this is the first episode where the show is supposed to look at its best, that’s a little concerning. Having said all that I’m here for one thing: to watch giant robots punch each other. In that respect, the episode delivers as the first big fight of the series at least has enough direction going for it to make up for the shoddier animation, and even with my nitpicks, it didn’t take long for me to get swept up the atmosphere of watching these Gundams duke it out. So…yeah I’ll probably keep up with this for a while. It’s certainly no Gundam Build Fighters, and it might not even end up being a Build Fighters Try but so long it gives me the super robot fights I crave, I’ll be lining up to take a big sip of that every week.

Rating: Good

 

Legend of the Galactic Heroes- Die Neue These

Synopsis: The war between the monarchical Galactic Empire and the democratic Free Planets Alliance has raged ceaselessly across the galaxy for over a century, with the fleets of both powers having fought countless battles. Currently the conflict revolves around the strategic Iserlohn Corridor, one of only two passages of space through which the two forces can access each other. Here the Empire has built the nigh-impregnable Iserlohn Fortress, whose deadly weaponry has thwarted repeated efforts by the Alliance to capture her. Phezzan, a neutral mercantile state, controls the other corridor. The long war has resulted in an indecisive stalemate, but there are two men from the two worlds who will change everything: Wen-Li Yang, a gifted strategist from the Alliance who wants nothing more than to retire and be a historian; and Reinhard von Lohengramm, a man from the Empire whose ambition knows no bounds. Their loves, struggles, triumphs and failures play across an interstellar stage of intrigue, war and death.

First Impressions: Ever since I decided to pick up Viz’s release of the original Legend of the Galactic Heroes novels, I’d been really looking forward to this adaption since if handled properly, could make for a pretty good anime of the year competitor. Of course since then, I’ve burned through a decent portion of the 80’s OVA and when I learned that this version was going to start off with 12 episodes and 3 movies, I couldn’t help but feel a little apprehensive about the possibility of it being rushed. Fortunately, this first episode did a lot to dissuade those fears as it actually covered a lot less material than I was expecting, even under my ideal scenario. This premiere gives us a brief backdrop into the universe that surrounds this series, and the three major powers fighting over it before thrusting us into its first major battle and introducing us to one of our two main leads, Reinhardt. While a lot of this episode mixes between Reinhardt sitting around strategist and occasionally showing the aftermath in the battle itself, it maintains a consistent enough flow to never feel boring and it’s aided by a sturdy looking production. While CG battleships can be something of a mixed bag when it comes to visual execution, they actually blend in pretty well and it allows for the battles to have the sense of scale I had envisioned when I read the first novel. It also looks like it’ll hold up pretty well in terms of music as while competeting with the orchestral score of the 80’s OVAs was always going to be something of a losing battle, this makes a pretty solid effort, and the opening theme is something that’s probably going to be stuck in my head for a while. On the downside the other lead of this show, Yang, somehow ended up getting robbed of screentime for the entire episode, which is a little annoying on a personal level since he’s the best character, but hey I guess it just means he’ll get to steal the show next week so there’s that. I realize nothing I’ve said here is particularly helpful to newcomers so I’ll just say that if you’re in the mood for big space battles, and pretty boys (as well as some well timed political insights) you’ll be in for a good time. Go give it a watch

Rating: Great

 

Lupin the 3rd Part V

Synopsis: In the new series, Lupin III will travel to France — the home of his grandfather and namesake, Maurice Leblanc’s master thief character Arsène Lupin.

First Impressions: So in many respects, this one was actually my most anticipated show for this season. Lupin the 3rd pt 4 was my first entry into the franchise and I was blown away by how stylish and consistently fun in managed to stay over the course of its 26 episode run. Since this latest iteration has the same director, it pretty much goes without saying that I was really excited to check it out, and having the theme being centered around technology is an interesting take for a franchise that’s been around as long as this one and its off to a rip-roaring start in that respect as Lupin trying to work around the constant visibility of social media is a neat setup for his thieving shenanigans. Interestingly it does seem as though this version actually does hold some kind of connection to pt 4 as well as possibility some of the earlier incarnations, but much like the others this is pretty standalone and requires no previous knowledge to be able to jump in and have a good time. It’s a good thing too because in much like pt 4 before it, this is a really nice looking production and in addition to some slick animation, this premiere features what is quite possibly one of the coolest car chases I’ve ever seen on a TV animation production schedule. Sadly I kind of expect this to fall under the radar given the amount of bigger franchises and new series it has to compete with this season, but for what it’s worth this is hands down the best premiere I’ve seen thus far, and I highly recommend checking it out.

Rating: Excellent

 

Tokyo Ghoul: RE

Synopsis: Haise Sasaki has been tasked with teaching Qs Squad how to be outstanding investigators, but his assignment is complicated by the troublesome personalities of his students and his own uncertain grasp of his Ghoul powers. Can he pull them together as a team, or will Qs Squad first assignment be their last?

First Impressions: I really like the Tokyo Ghoul manga, and while people were pretty divided on its original anime adaption, I had a lot of respect for how it handled the material, even if the execution was murkier in Root A. Having said all that, I can’t say I was particularly excited for this. I’ve only read a little of the Tokyo Ghoul: RE manga and I’d normally be more than happy for an easy opportunity to see more of that material, there’s quite a few things holding back my optimism. For one thing, the anime diverged pretty heavily from the manga with its final episode, and while that normally wouldn’t be too big an issue for what’s just supposed to be an adaption, this is keeping in step with the manga’s continuity instead, meaning the anime’s ending is more than likely going to be retconned and it’s going to leave any anime only watchers seriously confused. My other point of contention is that for all its speedbumps the first anime series held up well on its own thanks to the efforts of its director Shuhei Morita who ended up being replaced for this iteration. For the most part the first episode hasn’t really done much to dissuade those fears. The obvious retcon is already in place, and the visual direction has been dialed back a bit from horror vibes to something a little more shonen-y. The bright spot here is that the material itself is pretty good. Whereas the first series focused on the perspective of the Ghouls, this one instead focuses on the perspective of the investigators that hunt them, with one of said investigators being Kaneki who seems to have somehow lost his memories. Its an interesting enough hook to keep things engaging and while I can’t say I’m super invested in the mystery surrounding Kaneki, I’m at least curious to see where it goes. All my groaning aside, I’m invested enough in TKG that I was probably gonna watch this even if it sucked, and while I still can’t help but feel a little irritated at how muddied the whole situation surrounding this show is, hopefully the actual material will be solid enough to ease those frustrations

Rating: Good

 

Real Girl

Synopsis: Hikari Tsutsui is a high school boy who is satisfied with the virtual girls he encounters in anime and games. He does not have many friends and he lives in his own world. One day, when he is stuck on pool cleaning duty, he is approached by Iroha, a “real girl” who is showy and popular with boys.

First Impressions: I’ve been hearing a few interesting things about the manga for a while, so I was somewhat curious about  the anime adaption for this. A romance between an otaku and a “normal” girl seems like it’d be pretty standard fare for anime at this point, but somehow or other it kind of isn’t (well at least without some kind of harem or power fantasy clause) so it makes for an interesting setup. The premiere is largely focused on getting us into the headspace of the male lead Tsutsumu who kind of strattles the line between annoying and sympathetic in his self-deprecation, with just enough of the latter to be fairly likeable. While the circumstances leading to him getting involved with Iroha are kind of contrived even by anime standards, the emotional circumstances of him coming out of his shell over the course of the episode are mostly believable enough to compensate, and the dynamic between the two of them is kind of cute. Unfortunently the show is held back by a pretty lackluster looking production as it’s noticeably ugly looking, and while its not totally devoid of direction, there isn’t quite enough of it to make up for the empty backgrounds and off model character shots. This made it a pretty uneven premiere to be sure, but I walked away with just enough interest that I kind of want to see where this is headed, so unless it gets flooded in the wave of other shows this season, I’ll probably give it another episode or two.

Rating: Decent

 

Tada-kun Never Falls in Love

Synopsis: Mitsuyoshi Tada, who has never known love, is taking pictures of the cherry blossoms in full bloom when he meets Teresa Wagner, a transfer student from Luxembourg. Upon arriving in Japan, she got lost, separated from her travel companion. Mitsuyoshi helps her and brings her to his grandfather’s coffee shop.

First Impressions: While this probably isn’t one of the more anticipated anime originals of the season it was one of the ones I was the most interested. Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun was a pretty fun shojo comedy so a series with pretty much all the same staff carrying over seemed like it’d be a good time. Although whereas Nozaki-kun was mostly a comedy and it’s romance angle was part of the punchline, this looks to be a little more sincere on the latter front while still carrying over a quick paced sense of humor. The result is mostly plesant and I got a few good laughs out of it. While none of the characters particularly standout so far, the show makes them likable enough, though between the two leads, Teresa is probably the more compelling of the two even if I kind of wish they were stalling on the obvious “twist” that she’s some kind of royalty. I can kind of do without the annoying best friend character but aside from him this seems like it could be a cute little romcom and it was certainly a plesant premiere. There’s no shortage of big shows this season but if you’re in the mood for something a little more low-key, this may do you fine.

Rating: Good

 

Megalo Box

Synopsis: A desolate land stretches out from the city of poverty. A motorcycle speeds recklessly, blowing clouds of sand and dust. The rider is the protagonist of this story – he has neither a name nor a past. All he has is his ring name, “Junk Dog” and a technique for rigging MEGALOBOX matches with his pal Gansaku Nanbu, which they use to support their hand-to-mouth lives. JD is bored, resigned, and unfulfilled. Yuri has been the reigning champion of MEGALOBOX for the past few years. He has the skills and presence of a true champion. This is a story of JD and his rival, Yuri.

First Impressions: And here’s yet another anime original that I was kind of curious about. The only thing I really knew about this going was that it’s supposed to be some kind of anniversary project for the boxing manga classic Ashita no Joe, while also apparently being it’s own thing (unless it involved robotic boxing arms and no one told me). It’s certainly a strange prospect to be sure, but the end result led to a pretty solid premiere. This seems to be continuing the recent trend of throwbacks to the grungy 90’s OVAs aesthetic as every aspect of this show oozes that sense of style, from the jazzy soundtrack to the artstyle that seems to be deliberately filtered to make the show look less modern. That 90’s vibe also applies to the show’s protagonist as well since Junk Dog is the sort of quiet tough guy who’s basically designed for folks who grew up on those kinds of anti-heroes and his struggle between trying to get by and his aspirations of becoming a real boxer seems like the perfect setup for a classic slum underdog story. Sadly it looks like it’s going to be another episode until we can see if the show has the animation and visual direction fully needed to match its boxing elements since we hardly get anything here, and while I wouldn’t expect full on Hajime no Ippo levels of action choreography, getting even a couple of intense matches could make for a fun treat. So far this show is mostly an exercise in aesthetic but it happens to be an aesthetic I’m down with so until the show gives me reason to think otherwise, it’s probably gonna be a safe watch for this season.

Rating: Great

 

Dances with the Dragons

Synopsis: Jushiki, a system for reproducing natural phenomena and paraphysical acts such as the creation of matter, allows humans to wield a power which they once feared as “magic.” Its mastery has brought advancements to all fields of life, while facilitating the extermination of the once-rampant “Dragons” and “Others.” Gaius and Gigina, two combat-type jushiki wielders, run an office in a chaotic frontier town called Eridana, and make a living using their art to solve problems and collect bounties. One day, a dragon-hunting job falls into their laps. But the job is just the start of a plot that goes far deeper…

First Impressions: So I didn’t know much about this going in other than it was apparently an LN adaption and that it has a pretty wacky title. What I walked away with was an…experience to say the least. Infodumping and light novel adaptions basically go hand in hand at this point and I normally just roll my eyes at the technobabble but this episode opens up one of the most incomprehensible pieces of exposition in recent memory and doesn’t get any easier to follow from there. By the end of the episode the only things I was really able to piece together is that our heroes are a pair of bishies who fight dragons and in addition to apparently having a hot elf girlfriend, one of them has what is hands down the most unfortunate light novel name I’ve ever seen: Gayus (the jokes almost literally write themselves). There’s also some kind of political craziness going on behind the scenes but the show doesn’t really offer any real clarity on it nor does it really do a good job of really introducing us to our leads aside from the whole hot elf GF thing. On the positive side it is quite pretty looking and the action animation is solid but I can’t say anything else about it seemed particularly appealing. It might make for a fun trash show but aside from that I’d say give this one a pass

Rating: Bad

 

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