First Impressions- Spring 2018 Anime (Part 2)

Woo boy. The last few days have been pretty busy for me, and that’s kind of limited my time for anime, but just because I’ve slowed down doesn’t mean the premieres have, and there’s still been a hefty amount of premieres in just the last few days with plenty more to come. Going through most of these still seems like a pretty daunting task but hey, I’ve made it this far so might as well keep this train running. Let’s do this.

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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Gurazeni: Money Pitch

Synopsis: Bonda Natsunosuke (26, single), is a left-handed relief pitcher for the professional baseball team, the Jingu Spiders. He became a pro right after high school and now in his 8th year makes 18 million yen a year, and is not what you’d call a “first rate player.” “I don’t know how many years I’ve got left to play after 30.” “Only a few can become coaches or commentators after they retire.” “Pro baseball players need to make their money while before they retire!” Despite the harsh realities, Bonda always repeats the same phrase: “There’s money buried in the grounds.”

First Impressions: This wasn’t on my radar at all and I didn’t even know it existed till CR announced having it, but I like the sports show formula a lot so I figured I might as well give a shot. However it turns out this isn’t really a sports show, or at least not a sports anime in the traditional sense. Instead the focus of this series is more on the financial aspects of being a professional athlete and the need to stand out in order to have any hopes of retiring on a decent salary. It’s a unique angle to be sure and one told through our protagonist Nanba, a relief pitcher who scrapes by on the lower end of the major leagues. Seeing this from that kind of perspective certainly helps to hammer home how unforgiving the pro sports scene can be as there’s a moment where he pretty much has to send a new player straight back to the minor leagues in order to earn his keep, and it makes for some intriguing commentary. At the same time though, the show is perhaps a little too focused on exploring that financial aspect, and as a result Nanba doesn’t feel all that interesting on his own by the time the episode is through, and slightly awkward CG for some of the in-game scenes isn’t helping this much on the visual front. This is yet another middle-of-the-road premiere for me so whether or not I go any further likely depends on how many other potential Friday shows it has to compete with. For now though, it might be worth taking a peek at.

 

Hinamatsuri

Synopsis: Nitta Yoshifumi, a young, intellectual yakuza, lived surrounded by his beloved pots in his turf in Ashigawa. But one day, a girl, Hina, arrives in a strange object, and uses her telekinetic powers to force Nitta to allow her to live with him, putting an end to his leisurely lifestyle. Hina tends to lose control of herself, wreaking havoc both at school and in Nitta’s organization. Though troubled, he finds himself taking care of her. What will become of this strange arrangement? It’s the beginning of the dangerous and lively story of a nice-guy outlaw and psychokinetic girl!

First Impressions: This was yet another thing that wasn’t particularly on my radar so I wasn’t really sure what to expect here. As it turns out, this is something of an oddball comedy involving a father-daughter dynamic between a yakuza member, and a kooky psychic girl. If that sounds weird, the show is pretty much agrees with you, as it doesn’t waste anytime in establishing that premise, and forgoes any kind of actual setup. Normally that would be to the show’s detterent and it sort of is, but even though it brings our two leads together in a mostly unexplained fashion, the dynamic between them is funny enough that it quickly becomes irrelevant and I got quite a few chuckles over how easily Hina wraps Nitta around her finger and how bizarre her reactions are to basically everything around her. Funny as it is though, this sort of thing only really works when the relationship can be equally sincere and the show works well enough on that angle too,  as Hina’s clearly some sort of bio weapon, and Nitta is the first adult she’s met who doesn’t just want to use her as a tool, which could make for something cute, albiet standard. I sure didn’t know what I’d be getting here but I walked away pretty happy with what I got so this seems like something I might keep up with for a while.

Rating: Good

 

Persona 5: The Animation

Synopsis: Ren Amamiya is about to enter his second year after transferring to Shujin Academy in Tokyo. Following a particular incident, his Persona awakens, and together with his friends they form the “Phantom Thieves of Hearts” to reform hearts of corrupt adults by stealing the source of their distorted desires. Meanwhile, bizarre and inexplicable crimes have been popping up one after another… Living an ordinary high school life in Tokyo during the day, the group maneuvers the metropolitan city as Phantom Thieves after hours. Let the curtain rise for this grand, picaresque story!

First Impressions: This was definitely the most anticipated show of the season by a long shot for most anime fans but I can’t say I was quite as excited personally. While I totally dug the Persona 5 game and its story could translate into an anime pretty easily if handled right, I was pretty skeptical about this due to how the Persona 4 anime turned out. That one also seemed like it could translate the game into a solid anime pretty easily, but it instead focused more on pandering to the game’s pre-existing audience than telling a story, and combined with some of Aniplex’s executive shenanigans resulted in something that while okay on its own, felt like a massive waste of potential. Fortunently this adaption has one thing in its favor and its a change in director as rather than being helmed by Seiji Kishi who at this point has become pretty well known for mediocre video game adaptions, this is instead being helmed by Masashi Ishihama who gave us From the New World, which was an absolutely stellar adaption of the novel it was based on. That difference makes itself pretty apparent in this premiere on the visual front as besides the obvious fact of this being a lot better animated than Persona 4’s anime was, this is a lot more sharply directed, with some solid camera work during the opening heist scene, and some really effective scene transitions that help the episode to maintain a swift flow. Unfortunately I can’t quite say I feel as confident about the execution on the storytelling front as the premiere goes through the earliest events of the game pretty robotically, and hasn’t really done much to convince me the protagonist be Rei won’t made as much of a self-insert as possible in order to pander to the fans of the game. Still its probably a bit too early to judge how it’ll fair on that front and there’s always the possibility it’ll get a little bolder with time. I’m probably gonna end up keeping up with this either way since I well…liked the game, but I really hope this adaption will do enough to stand on its own merits

Rating: Good

 

Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online

Synopsis: In the world of guns and steel that is Gun Gale Online, LLENN has been a devoted, female solo player. She is obsessed with two things: donning herself entirely in pink and honing her skills with consistent game play. She soon discovers her love for hunting other players (a.k.a. PK), soon to be known as the “Pink Devil.” Meanwhile, LLENN meets a beautiful yet mysterious player, Pitohui, and the two click right away. Doing as she is told by Pitohui, she enters the Squad Jam group battle.

First Impressions: So allow me to preface this with something I’m sure will shock no one who’s followed me on Twitter for more than 10 minutes: I don’t like SAO. In fact I’d go so far as to say I basically despise it as what I’ve seen of it failed to live up to the promise of the show’s premise and the climax of its first “arc” was such a gigantic slap in the face that I refused to go any further. Even so, I was actually pretty interested in checking this out, the main reason being that rather than being penned by the franchise’s author Reki Kawahara, this spinoff was instead handled by Keiichi Segawa, the mind behind Kino’s Journey. Since I actually do like Kino’s Journey, I was curious to see what Segawa’s take on the franchise would be and the result was pretty solid. Right away its easy to tell that this series is being handled by a different writer as where the game world was more of an afterthought and the focus was more on the characters (inconsistent as the handling was in that respect) this instead puts quite a bit of emphasis on the actual game world. While it doesn’t go into outright info dumping in explaining the mechanics, every bit of this opener is obsessed with making Gun Gale feel like well…a game and puts a lot of emphasis on strategizing and making use of the environment to the point where it actually does feel like you’re genuinely watching skilled players at work. Of course that means that if you aren’t particularly interested in the gaming aspect then there isn’t too much to latch onto in this premiere since it seems like the proper character introductions are being saved for next week. But even if you aren’t the execution is solid enough that I think you might at least be able to get some enjoyment out of the spectacle itself. This isn’t quite among the strongest premieres of the season, but it certainly kept my attention and while I almost never thought I’d hear myself say this again: I’m probably gonna keep watching Sword Art Online. Hopefully this time around I won’t regret it.

Rating: Great

 

Devil’s Line

Synopsis: Tsukasa, a college student, is rescued from an attack by a devil, one of many vampires that can blend in among the human population. Anzai, her savior, is a half-devil who exploits his supernatural gifts as a member of a shadowy police task force that specializes in devil-related crime in Tokyo. As Anzai continues to keep guard over Tsukasa, the two quickly forge a tentative bond—one that Anzai fears will test his iron-clad rule of never drinking human blood…

First Impressions: Well it wouldn’t be a full season of anime without a vampire show in here somewhere and well…here’s our vampire show. I’m not really the target audience for these so most of the time I skip over them unless given a compelling reason to do so, but given this was the first show that Sentai Filmworks announced would be getting a simuldu-I mean “dubcast” I figured I’d give this a peek. Given the sheer amount of vampire anime at this point, having a distinguishing gimmick is kind of essential, and in this show’s case the gimmick is that the desire to drink blood is something akin to a drug addition and vampires have to stave off said addiction to live normally. We find out about this through our heroine Tsukasa and one of her close friends who’s fallen so in love with her that he’s gone around raping and killing random women to avoid the urge to do the same to her. That as you might imagine was the point where I kind of had to shake my head at the show, and its attempt to try and make this guy sympathetic didn’t help much either. So…yeah I wasn’t really into this but I figured that’d be the case so it’s not a particularly big deal. It’s a decent enough looking show that I imagine it’s actual audience will be mostly satisfied but now that my curiosity’s been satiated I’m gonna move on.

Rating: Bad

 

Cutie Honey Universe

Synopsis: Cutey Honey is an android created by Prof. Kisaragi. Within her is the ‘Fixed System of Air Elements’, a device that can create anything out of air. The evil organization Panther Claw desires this device. While trying to steal it, they kill Prof. Kisaragi. Now furious, Honey makes a vow to get revenge, and destory the Panther Claw.

First Impressions: Cutey Honey is one of those things I’ve heard about for years but never really saw in context. Having recently been baptized in to the weird mind of Go Nagai through winter’s Devilman Crybaby and enjoying the experience, I figured a new Cutie Honey series would be a good opportunity to dip my toes into the franchise. Sadly I can’t quite say this show was particularly made for newcomers as basically everything about this premiere assumes you know the basics of Cutey Honey and forgoes any form of character or setting introductions and just assumes you already know the details about Honey and her backstory. Since Cutey Honey is basically about as iconic in Japan as most of the big superhero comics are in the states, I can sort of understand the approach but it did sort of suck as someone coming in blind. Thankfully it’s not too hard to follow regardless though what I watched was something. The horny nature of some of Go Nagai’s work is about as well known as their amount of edge, and even before watching this I knew Cutie Honey was among the hornier of Nagai’s works. Even so, I wasn’t expecting it to be quite this horny, as it features everything from aggressive lesbians, to clothing damage, and a rather odd instance of BDSM. It was pretty overwhelming to say the least and perhaps a tad uncomfortable in some places, but it certainly kept my attention, and its sort of easy (for better or worse) to see how this influenced authors of later generations. Sex aside, this is solid looking production given Production Reed is a pretty small studio and while its not quite gorgeous, it does have some pretty nice visual direction, and both theme songs are pretty catchy. I can’t really say there was too much in this premiere that appealed to me personally, but it definitely didn’t make me any less curious about Cutie Honey so if nothing else, I may keep up with this for that.

Rating: Decent

 

Golden Kamui

Synopsis: In the early twentieth century, Russo-Japanese War veteran Saichi “Immortal” Sugimoto scratches out a meager existence during the postwar gold rush in the wilderness of Hokkaido. When he stumbles across a map to a fortune in hidden Ainu gold, he sets off on a treacherous quest to find it. But Sugimoto is not the only interested party, and everyone who knows about the gold will kill to possess it! Faced with the harsh conditions of the northern wilderness, ruthless criminals and rogue Japanese soldiers, Sugimoto will need all his skills and luck—and the help of an Ainu girl named Asirpa—to survive.

First Impressions: And here we have another highly anticipated adaption and one actually was fairly excited about. I’ve heard great things about the Golden Kamui manga over the last couple of years and very much enjoyed what I read of the first couple of chapters from a while back. Combined with a director who’s already had some experience with period pieces such as Gosick, this seemed like it would have all the makings on a really solid show. As far as the first episode goes though I’d say it…mostly lives up to that potential. The material itself is strong, and while we’re thrown into the whole gold hunt setup pretty quickly, the episode still manages to establish Sugimoto as a compelling if somewhat ruthless protagonist, and the dynamic between him and Asirpa already seems like it could be a lot of fun. The big issue here unfortunately, lies in the production itself. Given that Geno Studio is fairly new, and was more or less built off the corpse of the now defunct Manglobe (whose own productions were pretty inconsistent) I can’t say that I was expecting this to look gorgeous, but I was expecting it to look at least passable enough to get by. It mostly succeeds in that area too (albeit with quite a bit of corner-cutting), but with the unfortunate monkey’s paw of giant 3DCG bears. Like I said with Fist of the Blue Sky, 3DCG usually just gets a shrug from me in most circumstances, but the 3DCG used for the bears is too photorealistic to properly blend in with the painted looking 2D backgrounds, and combined with the thick lined character models, the result is a bizarre looking mess whenever all three elements are on screen at once. Fortunately these bears are disposed of by the end of the episode, and I can at least hope that the rest of the show’s animals won’t look that way, but it is a kind of annoying concern for what’s otherwise a perfectly fine premiere. Luckily the material here is good enough that I’m pretty sure this issue shouldn’t be a complete turnoff to most viewers, but I figured I might as well give fair warning. As for me, I’m gonna keep watching and hoping that we’ve seen the last of those monstrosities.

Rating: Good

 

Stein;s Gate 0

Synopsis

First Impressions: I’ve generally made it my business not to go over sequels anymore when doing these since it seems kind of pointless but this is a unique enough case to make an exception (and to be honest I wasn’t really sure exactly what this was before diving in). It’s been many a year since I watched Stein;s Gate (about 6 to be exact which is actually kind of terrifying) and while I found the first half of the show to be a little too self-indulgent and slow, the consistent payoff of it’s second half made it a very enjoyable watch for me, and turned it into one of 2012’s standouts, even if it wasn’t exactly my favorite show from that year. That said, I’d be lying if I said I ever really wanted more Stein;s Gate. Convoluted as the story was, it more or less wrapped up perfectly and I didn’t really see the need for it to be revisited in any capacity but it seems it made far too much money for one series to be the end so here we are. I hadn’t actually paid attention to anything surrounding this beforehand so I didn’t know if it was a spinoff or a sequel, but it seems that it’s a little bit of both.

This one starts off in the middle of a bad route where Okabe apparently fails to save Kurisu and his continual failure to save her over multiple timelines has caused him to retire from time travel shenanigans entirely. Suzuha however hasn’t given up on her quest, and with the signs of the end times approaching, it seems like Okabe won’t be able to stay out of the game for long. Needless to say anyone coming into this blind, might as well give up as this requires you to at least remember the events of the first half of the show, and since again it’s been about six years since I last watched this series, I myself had to spend about half the episode trying to remember who all these characters were. Even as a “sequel” though, going this route seems strange since well…the story wrapped up nicely the first time. I suppose this is sort of the only way they could do more of it and have it make sense but it does seem like a kind of cynical exercise. Joke’s on me though, because I’m still pretty curious where this is gonna go regardless and exactly how much mileage they’ll end up getting out of this. It seems baffling to me we’re getting another 24 episodes of this but I guess I’ll be going along for the ride.

Rating: Good

 

Last Period: the journey to the end of despair

Synopsis: “I’m never going to give up!! For that reason, I became a Period!!” Evil demons known as “Spiral” -made of souls who died in agony- threaten the people of the world. In order to stand up against Spirals, people founded the “Arc End”. Individuals whose skills are recognized are admitted to Arc End to become “Period” to fight for peace. Hal, who failed the Period admittance test 38 times, was accidentally admitted as an “Assistant Period” in Arc End 8th Squad. Forming a team along with other new members, Gazel and Liese, he is finally able to take his first step towards reaching his goal!

First Impresssions: This was another blind watch and one that turned out to be a mostly pleasant experience. From what I can gather this is based off of gatcha game, and rather than going for any kind of serious plot, this is instead more of a loving parody of fantasy games, and one that seems intent on riffing into the nature of gatcha games in general. I’ve personally never played any gatcha games (unless Xenoblade Chronicles 2 counts) and kind of refuse to so i can’t exactly say this concept really appeals to me, but I have enough passing awareness that I got a few chuckles out of those jokes. It helps that its particular brand of self-awareness is more light-hearted than an overhanded parody which makes it kind of relaxing, but the lack of edge also means that it could get pretty boring if you’re not really in the mood for it. Fortunently I mostly happened to be so this premiere hit a decent enough sweet spot for me. I’m not super pumped about watching more of this, but I could always use something simple and quiet so it might be worth a couple more goes

Rating: Decent

 

Doreiku the Animation

Synopsis: 24 people enter a survival game. Each has a device called an SCM (slave control method), which can make their opponent into their slave. Each person has their own reason for participating in the game.

First Impressions: I was a little apprehensive about checking this one out since everything about it’s premise sounded like it would be pretty gross. But like with Devil’s Line this is another one of Sentai’s picks for a dubcast and combined with my morbid sense of curiosity I felt at least a bit compelled to give this a peek. Weirdly enough I walked away from this premiere feeling pretty…okay. Much like with Kakeguri, this show combines games of chance with sexual desire, but where as Kakeguri was actually pretty chaste for how over the top it was, this leans much more into the sex related side of that deal and wants to be taken a little more seriously. That as you might imagine, makes this a considerably less fun show than Kakeguri but it’s first game has some pretty decent direction going for it, and while it’s definitely concerning that said opening game is the result of sexual assault, I suppose I can at least give the show credit for not sexualizing it since I honestly wasn’t expecting even that much. A lot of my feelings here are the result of low expectations but since I was really expecting to be repulsed by this show, the fact that I wasn’t is a reaction I’m still trying to process. It certainly wasn’t over the top enough to make for a fun trash show though, so I’m not sure if I have any desire to give it another episode. For now I can at least say it’s far from the grossest premiere of the season. Looks like Magical Girl Site will hold that crown

Rating: Decent

 

Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku

Synopsis: Narumi Momose has had it rough: every boyfriend she’s had dumped her once they found out she was an otaku, so she’s gone to great lengths to hide it. When a chance meeting at her new job with childhood friend, fellow otaku, and now coworker Hirotaka Nifuji almost gets her secret outed at work, she comes up with a plan to make sure he never speaks up. But he comes up with a counter-proposal: why doesn’t she just date him instead? In love, there are no save points.

First Impressions: And finishing out my spring anime impressions we have Wotakoi. It took a while for this premiere to finally be snatched from the jaws of Amazon’s incompetence but it was well worth the wait because it is without a doubt the strongest opener for a comedy out of all this season’s offerings. A workplace comedy between a fujoshi and a game otaku sounded like something that could potentially be a good time but I still can’t say I was expecting it to be quite this well…relatable. I’ve always been a little back and forth as to how much of my nerdy tendencies I feel comfortable displaying at work so I could relate to both Narumi’s desire to keep things on the down-low and appear normal, and Hirotaka just straight up whipping out his handheld during a lunch break as that’s also become a pretty regular part of my routine. So as you can probably imagine, I got a lot of laughs out of those little moments and it helps that both of the leads come off as almost immediately likable and they have a pretty solid chemistry going to the point where their sudden hookup at the end of the episode is equal parts hilarious and completely believable. The show itself is pretty good looking too, and the opening theme in particular has some of the most bubbly character animation I’ve ever seen, and helped to set the mood before I even really got started with this. So…yeah this show’s a definite keeper. It might suck having to battle through the trenches of Amazon for this every week, but if the rest of the show is as good as this opener, it’s a battle I’m more than willing to wage.

Rating: Great


And looks like that’s it for Spring stuff. There’s certainly no shortage of shows this season, and while there aren’t a ton of must watches this time around, there’s enough variety here that you’re almost guaranteed to come across something that gels with you, there’s already quite a few things I’m probably gonna keep up to date with. Time will tell if the quantity of shows here will get to be a little too overwhelming, but till’ then: stay animated.

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