First Impressions- Fall 2016 Anime (Part III)

And here we are at the last stretch of premieres for the fall season. There’s still quite a bit left to go through, so let’s not waste anytime in plowing through them.

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Bungo Stray Dogs s2

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Synopsis: Kicked out of his orphanage and on the verge of starving to death, Nakajima Atsushi meets some strange men. One of them, Dazai Osamu, is a suicidal man attempting to drown himself in broad daylight. The other, bespectacled Kunikida Doppo, nervously stands by flipping through a notepad. Both are members of the “Armed Detective Agency” said to solve incidents that even the military and police won’t touch. Atsushi ends up accompanying them on a mission to eliminate a man-eating tiger that’s been terrorizing the population… In the virtual city of Yokohama are individuals bearing the name of Bungo, “literary masters,” who possess unusual powers likened to that name. Now begins the battle between the mysterious Bungo powers!

First Impressions: When season 1 of Bungo Stray Dogs aired back in Spring, I was pretty impressed with it’s aesthetic since bishonen action shows can be pretty fun when done right, and being animated by BONES just added to the effect. Sadly though I was let down by the one-dimensional characterization of most of the main cast (with Dazai’s suicide shtick in particular getting to be downright obnoxious) and the fairly sub-par writing. Still it was entertaining enough to see the whole way through, and so far the second season seems to be off to an okay start. Kicking things off with a flashback about Daizai’s time in the Port Mafia feels a bit odd, but it’s done a better job of giving him some semblance of nuance as a character than pretty much the entirety of s1 so it’s certainly appreciated. It’s more tonally consistent too, and while I can’t say I’m super excited to learn more about Daizai’s past, this did leave me at least a little curious as to how he ended up leaving. On the downside, starting things off with a flashback means this was a pretty slow premiere by normal standards, but it’s at least made me feel a little better about going through the rest of the season. Hopefully it’ll keep improving.

Rating: Good

 

Keijo!!!!!

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Synopsis: Nozomi Kaminashi is a fantastic gymnast, and in order to help her family out of poverty, has decided instead to become a competitor in a new women-only sport, Keijo. A lucrative endeavor, Keijo is a popular gambling sport where female players stand on floating platform on the water and must push other players off by only using breasts and buttocks. Will Nozomi be able to make it big in the world of Keijo?

First Impressions: And so after going down a long list of premieres we finally arrive at Keijo or as it has been jokingly reffered to by Anitwitter, “pool butt”. I was always shockingly aware that this show was going to be a thing, mainly because I couldn’t believe it actually existed (and by going by anime fanservice standards that says something). Given that I was pretty sure I’d find myself fairly disgusted by this one, but instead I find myself feeling rather torn. On the one hand, it’s exactly as much of a shameless fanservice fest as you’d expect with plenty of booty on display, and nary a couple of minutes goes by without having it literally shoved in front of the screen. On the other hand, it’s so stupid and over the top, I found myself grinning like an idiot the entire time I was watching it, and it was hands down the funniest premiere I’ve seen all season. So bad it’s good can work as a method of execution when a show makes enough of a spectacle out of it’s stupidity that it’s there’s little time to get genuinely angry at it, and so far this episode displays that in spades. While I originally found myself asking how such a sport would even exist in the first place, by the time some of the girls started dishing out ridiculous special moves like “Butt Cannon” (I kid you not that was an actual thing) I just found myself rolling with it. I honestly wasn’t expecting to to enjoy this one, and my base instincts are telling me to stop now while I can, but this season’s been so bland so far, that I may be willing to take my entertainment where I can get it. This show might be enough to send me on a one way trip to oblivion, but I guess I can at least enjoy the ride.

Rating: Great (???)

ALL OUT!!

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Synopsis: The day of the entrance ceremony at Kanagawa Highschool… The story starts when the timid but unyielding Gion joins the rugby team. His classmate, Iwashimizu, who can’t get into rugby because of something happening in the past, the vice-captain, Hachioji, who looks out for all of the members, and their captain, Sekizan, who is more passionate and intense than anyone… All of the members are completely different, but they all keep growing on this battlefield known as youth. Once they give it their all, the ultimate stage awaits them!

First Impressions: Speaking of booty, it’s time to move to the sports show on the opposite end of the gene pool. Much like Keijo before it, this was a show, whose anticipation seemed to be based it’s fanservice but while Keijo features curvy ladies, All Out was looking to have well chiseled, full-bodied dudes. Unlike Keijo though, this seems to be a much more traditional sports show, but as I said with Scorching Ping Pong Girls, the classic sports show formula rarely fails me in general so I’m certainly not complaining. Much of this episode is spent establishing our two leads, Gion and Iwashimizu who are abnormally short and tall respectively. Gion more or less comes off as you’d expect from a loud mouth shorty (and so much so I’m half expecting Funimation to cast Vic Mignonia as him for the dub) and he’s honestly came off as kind of annoying here, but I liked Iwashimizu and while the whole “super timid giant” thing is another archetype that gets overplayed a lot,it’s at least not one that gets abused much in anime and the episode does a good job of  both making him likable and explaining his hesitance to return to playing rugby. How much of a future this show has kind of depends on how much they can tone down Gian’s short fuse (no pun intended) concerning his height, but there was enough potential in this premiere that I’m willing to go ahead and find out.

Rating: Good

Flip-Flappers

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Synopsis: Cocona is a model honor student, cautious and slow to embrace new opportunities. This makes life complicated when a mysterious girl named Papika suddenly appears, fearlessly searching for a wish-granting crystal called the “Shard of Mimi.” When fates collide and they’re given the ability to transform into powerful fairy-like beings, where will the dangerous journey into “Pure Illusion” take them?

First Impressions: And here we are at magical girl show #3 (though you’d really only know from the promotional material since this episode doesn’t feature so much as a single transformation). I went into this one relatively blind, but I did know that the sakuga fan section of Anitwitter seemed to be really excited about it, and after seeing the premiere it’s not hard to understand why. Simply put: this show looks gorgeous. While Yuri on Ice was no slouch either, this one will definitely wet your whistle if you’re a fan of stylized animation, because there’s a lot of it on display here, and it’s supported by some great looking backgrounds and fun looking art design, making for a visual treat from start to finish. It’s a good thing too, because story-wise, this premiere hasn’t really given any kind of indication as to where the show will be headed. There’s a group of scientists lead by a guy named Dr. Salt (I need to see if I can get my name legally changed to that) and some KKK looking villain organization in the OP and the end of the episode, but much of the first episode is spent having our two female leads Cocona and Papika, going on an adventure in some strange fantasy world without much explanation as to what’s happening. Normally having that many blanks would be an immediate turn off for me, but I was just so dang impressed with the visuals that I hardly cared, and I felt like I could have a good time just staring at it. It’s rare for me to give something a pass mainly on visuals alone but while there wasn’t much explanation here, there also wasn’t anything that made me feel like I should steer clear of this, so I’ll happily gawk at it for a few more weeks and hopefully some kind of plot will surface by then.

Rating: Good

 

Drifters

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Synopsis: Toyohisa Shimazu is a fierce samurai who, in the aftermath of a fight with the Tokugawa regiment, suddenly finds himself in a strange corridor far from the bloodied grasslands of the battlefield. Before he can ask any questions, the shocked fighter finds himself sucked through a door in the wall and promptly lands in an unfamiliar place populated by kindly elves. There he meets with two infamous warriors, Oda Nobunaga and Nasu no Yoichi, who have met the same fate as him. However, not all is well in this new world as the brutal Black King aims to destroy everything. Now, with a battle raging between the fiercest warriors from throughout history, could this trio of Japanese Samurai be the only ray of hope in a land threatened by darkness?

First Impressions: Fall 2016 has been a bit odd compared to previous years in anime. Normally the fall season is the dumping ground for big titles, with the potential to make waves overseas, but this season hasn’t really seen anything like that. The sole exception seems to be Drifters, the new series by Hellsing author Kouta Hirano and directed by Kenichi Suzuki of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure fame. With those two elements in it’s favor this one seemed to have everything it needed to be a hit with the one big outlier being the animation studio, Hoods Entertainment, whose biggest anime credit is the poorly received Blazblue anime adaption. But studios only really matter as much as their creative staff, and Drifters seems to be in good hands thanks to Suzuki’s efforts. While it was always going to be a challenge to animate Hirano’s art on a TV production schedule, this is a pretty darn good effort, as it delivers on some cool action scenes, and bombastic visual direction, as Suzuki’s experience with the campy nature of Jojo’s feels right at home here. The story so far seems pretty simple but there’s just enough mystery surrounding it to make me curious where it’s all headed and I have to admit I got a good chuckle out of seeing Oda Nobunaga’s reaction upon learning how badly his conquest of Japan feel apart after he was gone. All in all this was a super solid premiere, and while it’s weird only having one show this season, to carry the torch of having mass market potential, this at least seems like it do a pretty decent job of carrying that mantle.

Rating: Great

 

Classicaloids

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Synopsis: Kanae’s got a two oddball houseguests in her beloved grandmother’s mansion: Moz and Beetho-san. However, these guys, with their crazy antics and supernatural musical powers, claim to be Classicaloid versions of maestros Mozart and Beethoven! Their powerful “mujik” arrangements evoke more than just emotions: they can make the stars fall, spirits dance, or even summon… giant robots? Friend or foe, Kanae is stuck with them, even as more classicaloids begin to invade her life. Will their presence usher in a new musical renaissance in her sleepy town, or will their explosive euphonics cut the standing ovation short?

First Impressions: Of all the shows set for this season, this one seemed to have the most bizarre premise. That also made me pretty curious to check it out since anime’s ability to turn weird into good is not to be underestimated. Surprisingly though, most of this episode seemed to be pretty standard as we were introduced to our lead heroine and the crazy iterations of classical musicians she’s forced to hang out with through a “save the orphanage” plot involving her grandma’s mansion, which was fine but not terribly interesting. Then we got to the last few minutes which featured a transformation sequence and some trippy looking visuals that looked like they were ripped straight out of a Rie Matsumoto show and suddenly the show had my attention. I haven’t a clue what was up with those last few minutes of the episode, but they certainly delivered on the level of weird I expected coming into this and then some, so I’m at least mildly curious to find out. This premiere certainly didn’t quite blow me away but if you’re looking for the oddest show this season, look no further than this one. I certainly won’t.

Rating: Good

 

March Comes in Like A Lion

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Synopsis: Rei Kiriyama is a young student who excels at the game of shogi. Having lost his entire family at a young age, Rei now lives with his kind neighbor Akagi and her two young sisters, Hina and Momo. The four enjoy a quiet life from day to day, dealing with first loves and other challenges, while Rei continues to compete in shogi games and learn new skills. While they each have sadness in their pasts, this new family will get through any challenge together and with love.

First Impressions: This show was another one of the few things I was anticipating this season for a couple of reasons. Firstly because I’ve heard a lot of good things about the manga over the years, and second because it’s being directed by Akiyuki Shinbo of SHAFT fame. What’s interesting about the latter is that this the first time in a long while he’s actually outright directed something. While he’s credited with pretty much everything SHAFT does these days, it’s usually someone else doing the groundwork, and his style of visual direction has become the go-to method for most of their productions (for good or for ill). This made me pretty curious as to what his genuine handiwork looks like these days, and going by the first episode it’s more or less what you’d expect from a SHAFT show at this point, with plenty of trippy looking shots, and on the nose visual metaphors. Fortunately it works pretty well here, as most of the premiere’s first half features very little dialogue, allowing the visuals to tell the story, and without having any familiarity with the manga, it was pretty easy to gather from that that the protagonist Rei is suffering through some form of depression, while also feeling very cut off from those around him, and the fact that it was convey how much those feelings weigh on him so clearly speaks wonders to the show’s direction. The second half of the episode is a bit lighter, but still carries plenty of atmosphere, and it all made for a premiere that had me entranced from start to finish. My only real nitpick is that there’s little indication of where exactly things are going to go for the rest of the series, but the presentation here sold me enough that I’m more than willing to keep watching and find out.

Rating: Great

 

Occultic;Nine

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Synopsis: The multitude of small, miniscule “discomfort” later develops into a case so large it is beyond imagination… Yuuta Gamon is a 2nd year in high school. He runs “Kiri Kiri Basara,” an affiliate blog that rounds up occult forum posts, for a shot at quick money, and challenges himself to the occult night and day to “hack and slash away!” the many supernatural phenomena existing in the world from a scientific standpoint. However, with that blog of his as a catalyst, a group of downright maniacal and insane comrades have gathered about.

First Impressions: And here comes the latest entry in the semicolon sci-fi visual novel adaptions, and the first one not picked up by Funimation (that honor went to Aniplex USA for better or worse). These shows have always been odd little ducks, combining surprisingly realistic nerd banter with crazy sci-fi plots, with the quality of the latter having varied from series to series. From my experience with these though, I’ve always had something of an appreciation for said nerd banter, and the attention to detail in that portrayal has rarely failed to click with me. That said, the group of nerd turned heroes this show is throwing at us are definitely the kookiest so far ( and I admittedly had to roll my eyes at the ultra-busty loony girl)  and the protagonist in particular talks so fast it’s hard to keep up with what he’s saying at any given moment. Much of this first episode is spent introducing them, so exactly how much interest you’ll have in this largely depends either how high a tolerance you have for that kind of thing, or how distracted you are by the visuals (it’s got quite a look). Both things worked out pretty well for me here, and while I can’t quite say it’s done a great job of setting up the inevitable mystery, there was enough to this show’s overall atmosphere to keep my attention. Guess I’m strapped in for semicolon number four.

Rating: Good

 

Kiss Him, Not Me

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Synopsis: Kae Serinuma is what you’d call a “fujoshi.” When she sees boys getting along with each other, she loves to indulge in wild fantasies! One day her favorite anime character dies and the shock causes her to lose a ton of weight. Then four hot guys at school ask her out, but that isn’t exciting to her at all — she’d rather see them date each other!

First Impressions: On the note of relatively honest portrayals of nerds, we have Kiss Him, Not Me. I’ve been aware of the manga’s existance for a while and recall having briefly skimmed through the first chapter or two of the manga and enjoying it. With all that, I was expecting to find this show pretty cute, and it more or less met that expectation. I wasn’t particularly amazed by anything here but the soul of the show is definently the heroine Sae, who while perhaps a little over stereotypical in some instances, comes off as a fairly honest portrayal of a fujoshi (at least going by the ones I know, but I’m not going to pretend I have any kind of expertise in that area) and a likeable character. Her harem on the other hand just feels like a stock of archetypes so far (right now I’d have to say glasses guy is the best) but there’s always room for that to change, and this was a pleasant premiere from start to finish. If you’re in the mood for a light shojo series this season, this one should fit the bill, and I’m certainly willing to check out more.

Rating: Good


Well that’s pretty much it for me and my first impressions. There’s still a few other shows I haven’t covered including a couple of things I’ve already watched but if I did a write up for every show this season I think I’d end up driving myself mad, so I might as well stop here before I exceed my limits. All in all this is a fairly weak looking season, which is about what I expected coming into it, but there’s a couple of standouts here, and a few shows with the potential to turn into something good, so with any luck, I’ll have a much better outlook on things three months from now. Until then, stay animated.

First Impressions- Fall 2016 Anime (Part II)

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


Ratings Scale

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

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

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

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

Excellent: Really outstanding show. Absolutely worth following .

*All series synopsis from Anime Planet


Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru

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

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

Rating: Bad

Show By Rock !!#

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

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

Rating: Good

 

Gakuen Handsome

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

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

Rating: Good

 

Trickster

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

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

Rating: Decent

 

Scorching Ping Pong Girls

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

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

Rating: Great

Matoi The Sacred Slayer

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

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

Rating: Decent

Nanbaka

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

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

Rating: Good

 

Yuri on Ice!!

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

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

Rating: Excellent

 

Sound! Euphonium 2 

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

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

Rating: Great


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

First Impressions- Fall 2016 (Part I)

Well looks like it’s time for yet another new season of anime, meaning a lot of new shows to check out. To be honest this is the first time I’ve gone into a season without much of anything to anticipate since there wasn’t much that really stuck out from the previews and there’s surprisingly few mass-market potential shows for the fall. On the bright side though, going into most of this stuff blind means there’s always the chance a few things could end up taking me by surprise, so time to start going down the list.

Ratings Scale

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

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

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

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

Excellent: Really outstanding show. Absolutely worth following .

*All series synopsis from Anime Planet


Time Bokan 24

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Synopsis: The history in our textbooks are all wrong?! In the 24th century, humankind accomplished the invention of a time machine, “Time Bokan”. As they discover the truth about history, they realize that the history written in their textbooks are all wrong! To correct their knowledge of history, the government developed an organization called JKK. Our hero Tokio is recruited by Karen, a girl from the future to join the JKK. Together they travel through time to discover the true history, along with fighting the “Akudarma” a villainous group whose goal is to prevent the discovery of the truth!

First Impressions: So while I haven’t been anticipating much this season, this was one of the shows I was somewhat curious about. Time Bokan is a fairly established property in Japan, and one of the biggest ones belonging to Tatsunoko, who created a few major superhero titles for Japan back in the 80’s. My own experience with it though, is mostly limited to having played Tatsunoko vs Capcom on Wii a few years back, and having seen Winter 2015’s Yatterman Night, which actually turned out to be a pretty fantastic riff on superheroes and the classic Saturday Morning Cartoon formula of animation. This however, plays those tropes pretty straight, which is more or less what I expected, and for what it is, it’s fine. I didn’t find too many of the gags funny (outside of one ominous reference to 2016) but I think it’ll work out pretty well for it’s intended audience, and it was interesting seeing what this franchise is like when it’s more in line with it’s original incarnation. Whether or not you’ll find it enjoyable will mostly come down to your level of tolerance for Saturday Morning Carton fare, but I still have a bit of a soft spot for that kind of thing, and there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with it either so I might give it another ep or two

Rating: Decent

 

Bloodivores

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Synopsis: 60 years ago, a strange case of insomnia struck the population, forcing them to stay awake for more than a full week. The victims, completely sleep deprived, all went mad. To cure this illness, a new medicine was produced, but the side effects turned the patients into vampires. Humanity went to war against this new species and triumphed, but some of the vampires managed to survive. Born from a Human and a Vampire, the main character Mi Liu, “The Child of Hope”, is to represent the new hope that will connect the two species. Ringleader of a bank robbery, Mi Liu is arrested and transferred to a special prison of the National Defense Agency that monitors Vampires. Trying to break free with Anji, Mi Liu is attacked by strange monsters and he finds out that the prison location corresponds to the birthplace of Vampires, the old capital “Blue Town.” Why are Vampires trapped in Blue Town? What are those strange monsters attacking them? Our heroes must fight to solve those mysteries.

First Impressions: So this is the second in upcoming Anime co-productions of Manwha stuff, with the first being last season’s The Outcast. I made the mistake of giving that show enough of a pass to go beyond the first episode, and it was ultimately pretty bland, so I more or less expected something similarly bland here and it exceeded my expectations. Bloodivores’s first episode doesn’t do much in the way of explaining it’s setting or establishing it’s characters instead hoping that it’ll manage to hook people with it’s “shocking twist” where it threatens to be a Deadman Wonderland wannabee. Unfortunently the episode doesn’t do nearly enough to make said twist feel genuinely interesting, and doesn’t even offer the benefit of being unintentionally hilarious in some instances despite having a show title that was pretty much asking for it. The closest thing would be the ending, which if watched without seeing the next episode preview, almost makes it feel like a 1-episode series which is certainly how I’m going to view it. I’m already pretty averse to vampire shows in general so between that hurdle and it’s general blandness I sure won’t be sticking around for the rest. Pass

Rating: Bad

 

Bubuki/Buranki- The Gentle Giants of the Galaxy

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Synopsis: It’s been ten years since Azuma Kazuki has been in Japan, and upon his arrival he is taken prisoner by a group of armed men. Azuma is saved by his childhood friend, Kogane Asabuki, thanks to a living weapon she wields on her right hand, known as a Bubuki. Learning about these weapons, Azuma becomes a Bubuki wielder himself and sets out on a journey.

First Impressions: The first season of BBK/BRNK aired way back in the Winter season and offered what is perhaps the closest 3DCG cel shading has gotten to actually emulating the look of 2D anime to date, while piling said visuals on top of a nonsensical plot involving giant robots and Super Sentai teams. This season looks to be offering more of the same in that respect, but already seems to have a clear advantage in terms of sheer entertainment value by introducing Azuma’s younger sister Karuko into the plot, having managed to more or less steal the show with 10 minutes of her first scene. The show’s animation has also stepped up a bit as it’s gotten even more comfortable with the emulating the visual humor of most 2D anime, and the series itself is still knee deep enough in stock anime tropes to avoid feeling boring. Far as the actual plot goes, there’s still not a whole lot beyond the usual popcorn entertainment, but at this point I’m far enough in that it’s sort of a moot point, so I’m just gonna keep having fun with it, and hope the visuals at least continue to improve. Bring on the robots.

Rating: Good

 

Izetta, The Last Witch

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Synopsis: The time is pre World War II that looks like Europe in an imaginary world. A large scale war abrupts and bloody battles are taking place through out the world. Eylstadt is a small country without a strong military force or natural resources. Finé who is the crown queen of Eylstadt decides to use a secret weapon against larger countries which was unheard of at that time to battle against larger countries. The secret weapon was using a witch named Izetta and her magical force to fight the war. Izetta is young (same age as Finé) and the last surviving witch with burning red hair.

First Impression: This was another show I kind of had my eye on since it apparently involved witches and WWII, the former of which generally turns out pretty well for anime, and the latter being of the most fascinating periods of world history in general. However my hopes for this show’s potential were slightly dashed when I saw that the scriptwriter was none other than Hiroyuki Yoshino, who’s works include anime original trainwrecks like Guilty Crown, and spotty adaptions like the first season of Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic. So far though, this show seems to be off to a pretty safe start. The first episode does a lot to take advantage of it’s fictional WWII setting, and the encroaching threat Germany (or Germania in this setting) placed on the rest of Europe at the time. It also does a fair job of introducing us to the first of our female leads Fine, who seems to be playing her part pretty well as the strong-willed princess archetype. Combine that with a solid visual presentation, and it all makes for a good opener though I’m still worried that Yoshino’s usual antics will eventually catch with it. For now though, I’d say it’s certainly worth checking out.

Rating: Great

Tiger Mask W

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Synopsis: The main characters are Naoto Azuma and Takuma Fujii, two young pro wrestlers. They were trainees at a small wrestling organization called Zipangu pro wrestling, but it wound up getting crushed by the wicked pro wrestling organization Tiger’s den. In retaliation, Naoto trains at the base of Mt. Fuji and becomes the new tiger mask, and Takuma meanwhile deliberately joins Tiger’s den and becomes Tiger the dark. The legacy left behind by the original Tiger mask is inherited by a new wrestler…!

First Impressions: Coming into this one, the only things about it I really knew were that it was based off of some wrestling property from the late 60’s and that it was being handled by Toei Animation, meaning that I had to set my expectations for the visual presentation from mediocore to absolute garbage. Fortunently it’s leaning closer to the former and actually surpassed my expectations a bit as while the animation doesn’t necessairly look impressive or anything, it’s certainly passable and the penciled in artstyle of the character designs gives the show a nice aestheic. As for the plot itself, it’s about as pre-90’s as you can get when it comes to anime with everything from super hammy acting to ridiculous character names such as “Tiger the Dark” and “Miss X”. Fortunently I happen to be pretty fond of goofy pre-90’s anime tropes so pretty much all of it worked to it’s favor for me, and while the story so far seems to more or less be nonsense, there’s so much goofy charm here that I quickly found myself caring, and the fact that I didn’t have to stop to complain about it looking ugly sure helped out a lot too. This show certainly isn’t going to set the world on fire, and if goofy 80’s nonsense isn’t your thing you’ll probably find yourself bored pretty fast, but for me it’s certainly worth at least a couple more episodes to bask in the glory of anime’s yesteryears . Also the ending theme song is one of the most amazingly try-hard edgy things I’ve heard in recent memory so there’s that.

Rating: Good

Magical Girl Raising Project

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Synopsis: Magical Girl Raising Project is a popular social game that has an ability to grant players a 1 in 10,000 chance to become a real life Magical Girl with unique magical abilities to help people. However, at some point, Fav, the magical administrator fairy, decides to cut the population of Magical Girls in half. The game quickly changes into a twisted, wicked battlefield as the 16 magical girls get dragged into a battle for survival against each other.

First Impressions: It seems as though we’re somehow getting three magical girl shows this season, and as has been the case for the last few years, it means the inevitablity of being handed one that wants to be the next Puella Magi Madoka Magica. This show is the latest wannabee, meaning that the episode follows some pretty familiar beats in introducing us to not-Madoka who’s as pure white a shojo heroine as they come and having our friendly not-Kyubei mascot character asking her if she wants to be a magical girl in a scene that feels “suspiciously” ominous. This show’s main gimmick apparently seems to be having the girls duke it out (presumably to the death) rather than having to deal with some unfair system of rules like Yuki Yuna is a Hero or Madoka itself. That could end up being pretty cool or really hacky depending on exactly how the show goes about it (and the opening scene isn’t doing it any favors in not feeling like it’s trying too hard) but for right how the show seems perfectly fine, and while it’s re-treading what’s a lot of familar territory to anyone who’s seen Madoka at this point, it’s at least re-treading good material and does a solid job of setting things up for the main event while throwing in a neat little twist regarding our heroine and one of the other magical girls she befriends that could turn into something pretty interesting. At any rate, if you’re in the mood for Madoka-lite you could certainly do worse, so I’d say it’s worth a peek.

Rating: Good

Monster Hunter Stories: Ride On

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Synopsis: In a world where people and monsters are at odds, some learn to coexist. Known as Riders, they awaken the powers of monsters and live alongside them in secrecy. Now, one young boy journeys to find his own companion and become the world’s greatest Rider.

First Impressions: This show has been partially on my radar ever since it was announced way back when last year, though mostly because it was being animated by David Productions and with this being slated for a 48 episode count I feared it would hurt their work on Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable. Fortunently that show’s production has remained relatively smooth, but it’s certainly clear from the opener here that David Pro has poured a lot of time and effort into this show. The art for the backgrounds is surprisingly detailed, and the animation looks great with even the show’s 3DCG monsters looking pretty tolerable. It’s all a lot more than I expected for a kid’s show since those tend to get the short end of the stick on production values, and it’s easily the best looking thing I’ve seen so far for the season. The story and characters so far seem about as standard as you can get for this kind of show, with your typical smartmouthed but well meaning protagonist destined for greatness, his reliable childhood friend, ominous prophecy, etc, but there’s enough charm here to keep it from feeling a little too bland, and the visuals are strong enough that it’s almost worth giving a look soley for that reason. Not sure exactly how far I’ll go with this one given that it’s visual presentation is the only big asset here, but that impressed me enough that I’m willing to give it another episode or two.

Rating: Decent

 

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans Season 2

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Synopsis: The Earth Sphere had lost its previous governing structure, and a new world was created under new systems of government. While a temporary peace had arrived, the seeds of a new conflict were being sown in the Mars Sphere, far away from Earth.

First Impressions: Last year’s Iron-Blooded Orphans was my first real Gundam show (depending on how you count Gundam Build Fighters), and it made a pretty good impression on me between it’s solid cast of characters, potrayal of child soliders and of course sweet mecha action. Given all that, this was one of the few things I was seriously anticipating for the fall, and so far the second season seems to be off to a relatively solid start. Much of this episode is spent re-introducing old characters while tossing in some new ones, and there’s a couple of moments where it feels a little too on-the-nose with the former, but otherwise does a good job of picking up where things left off. Now that Tekkadan’s made a name for themselves and Gjallarhorn is breaking apart I imagine much of this season’s conflicts will center around what both sides are willing to do to hold on their power, and that could be pretty interesting. Of course, Gundam’s track record with second seasons after a long break is apparently pretty spotty so it’s hard to say if it’ll stay as consistent as the first, but things seem fine for right now and it’s riding on more than enough goodwill that I’m eager to see where it all goes.

Rating: Great


And that’s pretty much it for the first batch of Fall shows. I’ll likely have my next round of impressions ready some time in the middle of the week, provided my schedule doesn’t get messy. Thanks for reading.

Toon Talk: Monthly Retrospective- September 2016

So I don’t really have much in the way of a clever segeway this time, but quite a bit went down in September, so might as well hop straight to it

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Crunchyroll and Funimation do the Fusion Dance

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There’s been a lot of feuds between U.S. anime licensors, and as the market has started to revolve more and more around the viability of streaming, the one that’s shaped the industry for the last couple of years has been the one between Funimation and Crunchyroll. A few years ago seemed to be more or less common knowledge that the two companies didn’t particularly like each other due to the latter’s checkered past, and those rumors of bad blood have persisted to this day, so the last thing anyone was expecting was an alliance between the two. It does however, make a great deal of practical sense from a business standpoint given the rising cost of anime licenses, the threat of streaming giants like Amazon Prime and Netflix, and the apparently fast growing anime market in China, all of which have the potentially to doom the two companies to irrelevancy so it’s a good way of fighting back.

As many have already pointed out by now, there’s a lot of potential good and bad to this little alliance. The good is that between the two companies, you’re effectively getting 70-90% of the new shows for each season in one place, with both companies lowering their subscription prices to make everything more affordable for fans. It also means more dubs, and now that Funimation doesn’t have to spend as much time, if any at all on subtitle translations (which they’ve been kind of iffy on for a while anyway) they can put more time on dub production, allowing us to get their simuldubs closer to the start of Japanese airing, and dub fans can get their fix faster. On the downside though, while this alliance won’t have any real effect on companies like Aniplex USA or PonyCan whose continued partnership with CR and their monopoly on properties belonging to their respective parent companies grants them immunity, and Viz who’s selective about what anime they get to begin with, it could end up cornering companies like Sentai, who already seems to be taking quick measures in making some of their simulcasts exclusives. It could also end up having an adverse effective on the quality of the dubs as well since Funimation has but only so many resources, and taking on more shows could hurt them, not to mention that having even more dubs potentially shipped to Texas wouldn’t do much for the sake of variety either. Of course there’s always the chance Funimation could expand their dubbing operations to LA or elsewhere so I suppose we’ll have to see how that goes. For now though, it looks like we’re witnessing the start of a new age, and regardless of what exactly it entails it’s clear there won’t be any turning back.

 

Summer 2016 Anime Come To An End

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Yesterday marked the end for a few of the summer’s remaining stragglers and now there were some definite winners and losers as to which shows successfully crossed the finish line. Among the winners were shows like Mob Psycho 100, which despite having a slower start than it’s predecessor OPM, managed to outdo it in the end, with it’s combination of stronger themes and a more rounded cast of characters, along with Sweetness and Lightning which managed to maintain it’s perfect level of fluffiness and genuine warmth right through to the final episode. 91 Days also managed to stick the landing in achieving the mafia movie aesthetic it was going for, and Thunderbolt Fantasy managed to consistently stay the most entertaining work of the season bar Jojo’s with Boochi instead opting to go for clever writing rather than a heavy amount of thematic depth. As for the losers, they were more or less the shows that seemed to be doomed from the start. Taboo-Tattoo was one of the most entertaining anime trainwrecks I’ve seen in a while, but that certainly isn’t enough to detract from how utterly trashy it was, and while I gave Hitorinoshita- The Outcast a pass on it’s first episode, it proved to be a gigantic slog the whole way through, with both shows definitively being the worst things of the season. On the bright side though I can at least say that nothing really ended up cratering which is always nice and while Berserk 2016’s overall reception is still pretty negative, the strength of it’s source material still shone through fairly well, and I’m cautiously anticipating the second half in 2017 (hopefully they’ll have improved the CG by then). All in all I have to say that looking back, it was a pretty good season for anime. Not exactly a standout, but there were enough humble offerings to get by, and the bigger titles managed to pull their weight well enough to compensate, so I can at least say that it’s nowhere near as bad as the Winter season was. Here’s hoping I can say the same thing about the fall…

 

Zoids Rising From Beyond the Scrapyard?

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So this last one isn’t exactly big, or potentially even animation related, but it’s fairly important to me on a personal level so here it is. While I watched bits of Gundam as a kid and enjoyed what I saw, it was the Zoids franchise that more or less defined my childhood where giant robots were concerned and arguments concerning the practicality of actually making a Liger were frequent playground discussions when I was growing up. I’ve seen at least parts of all four Zoids shows from the 00’s including Zoids Genesis which somehow never made it here despite Viz dubbing it, but the franchise as a whole has mostly been in complete radio silence for the last decade, so the prospect of a new series or a potential reboot both sound pretty appealing to me. Though while it’s certain that there’s a new Zoids project in the works it’s possible that it could be anything from a new video game to a live-action movie going by the visual Takara Tomy uploaded and an anime may or may not be a part of whatever’s coming. Of course it would be nice to get a new Zoids anime (and maybe even picked up by Viz for old time’s sake) but whatever this is, it’s nice to see one of my favorite childhood franchises being brought back from the dead so I’m pretty excited.


Well that’s more or less it for this month. Sorry if this one seems a bit short since I was juggling both this and my first impressions of the Fall anime shows at the same time. September came with a pretty big change in the world of anime for the U.S. and as we head into October, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

The Sounds of Dubbing II- Planetarian

Well here we are again. I said the last time that if I ever did another one of these it would be shorter, and what’s shorter than a 5 episode OVA? I figured something like this would be pretty simple enough to plow through, so let’s take a look at the dub for Planetarian


Dub Rating Scale

Bad– Really horrible voice direction and cringeworthy performances or scripting. Perhaps a couple of decent performances in the mix but  an overall bad product to the point where even if you aren’t particularly concerned about acting it’s immediately apparent how awkward it is (ex. Revolutionary Girl Utena, Penguindrum, 4KIds One Piece, Guin Saga)

Serviceable– A dub with a mix of performances ranging from good to mediocre. The good mostly outweighs the bad and the scripting and voice direction are workable. Not particularly good by any means but okay sounding enough that if you ignore the existence of the Japanese version and just want to listen to the show in English, it’ll do the job though it may not have much in the way of rewatchability (ex. Majestic Prince, Prince of Tennis, Gatchaman Crowds)

Good– A solid and competently put together dub. The majority of the performances work with only at best a couple of dull sounding ones and a possibly a few that are outstanding. Scripting and voice direction hit the right marks and even if the Japanese version is more technically competent in a few areas it’s a good enough production that you can stick with it and not miss out on much. Worth revisiting every now and then (ex. Gargantia on the Verderous Planet, Psycho-Pass, From the New World)

Exceptional– An extremely well made dub. A lot of really outstanding performances, great voice direction and a well crafted script. Can be perfectly comparable to the Japanese version in terms of technical competence and in some rare instances can stand out as the superior product. Definitely worth revisiting and recommending to others (ex. Cowboy Bebop, Fullmetal Alchemist, Death Note

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Synopsis: Much of the world has been destroyed after a mysterious war, and some of those who survived have staked out a living in collecting whatever valuables they can find, earning the title of “Junkers”. One such junker travels into an abandoned city and discovers a robot girl named Yumemi, who works at a long forgotten planetarium. Yumemi invites him to stay and see one of their shows, and while the Junker is initially disinterested in the idea, his curiosity gives way, and by growing closer to Yumemi, he soon rediscovers his own long-forgotten love for the stars.

Intro: Of all the shows Funimation managed to snag for the summer 2016 simulcast season, this was definitely one of the most surprising as shows based on works by the company Key are generally more associated with Sentai Filmworks in the west (or Aniplex in the instance of Charlotte, but that’s it’s own animal). What wasn’t surprising though was them deciding to pick it as one of their Broadcast Dubs for the season as Key works also have a pretty much perfect track record of being dubbed and between the two Key shows this season (the other being Rewrite whose first episode was so terrible I couldn’t even last 15 minutes) it’s the stronger one by far, so it was a pretty sensible decision. But how good is the dub?

Voice Direction

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So between the general high reception for Key shows, and their reputation for being incredibly melodramatic, when I heard Funimation was going to dub this one, I was kind of expecting it to be in the hands of one of their more high profile ADR directors like Colleen Clinkenbeard or Christopher Bevins. Instead it was put in the hands of Clifford Chapin (Damidaler: Prince v.s. the Penguin Empire, Divine Gate) who’s a little fresh when it comes to the field of ADR work. Having only seen his work on Divine Gate (with the show itself being an utter travesty) I didn’t have too much to go off of in the way of expectations, but he manages to deliver here. The direction is solid, albiet a little subdued, and manages to fit the needs the show pretty well. There’s not really much to highlight on in this area, but it’s more than enough to get the job done and for what’s relatively one of the biggest things he’s solo directed, it’s a nice effort and I’m curious to see if he’ll be handed larger projects some day.

 

Scripting

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Script wise there isn’t really a whole lot of note here. Given the nature of the show itself, I wasn’t particularly worried about the idea of the script not being tight enough, and it does the job of being faithful to it’s source without being too much of a direct translation to sound unnatural, which for me is all most dubs really need to accomplish, and it’s certainly preferable to having to go on a tirade about it. The most interesting here though is the identity of the script writer itself, Emily Neves, who’s know primarily for her voice work and directing (specifically at Sentai) with this being her only writing credit besides a couple of episodes on The Rolling Girls. For her first full writing credit, this is a pretty good start and while it’s not exactly memorable, it ideally shouldn’t be in most instances, so I’m on board for her doing more stuff if it means lessening the odds of getting some of Funimation’s more…liberal translations.

Casting and Performances

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As Planetarian is a show with only two real characters there’s not a whole lot to talk about here either, but I was pretty surprised at the casting of the Junker as it turned out to be none other than David Matranaga (Clannad’s Tomoya, My Hero Academia’s Todoroki) who’s probably best known for his work on Clannad, the most well known of Key’s work. I suspect that was probably the reason for his casting here, and it seems to have been a pretty good call. While it feels a little strange to go from Daisuke Ono’s baritone to David Matranaga’s slightly lighter voice and I somewhat prefer the former, it still sounds gruff and weary enough to fit the nature of the character, and his delivery during the show’s big climax manages to hit it’s mark. On the other end of things we have Jill Harris (Three Leaves, Three Colors’s Sakura, The Disastrous Life of Saki K’s Chiyo) cast as Yumemi, and for my first time having actually heard her work, it’s a solid performance. It’s decidedly less robotic than Keiko Suzuki’s in the JP track (and definitely less filtering being used to disguise it as a robot voice) but I think it’s mostly to the dub’s benefit, as melodramas such as this one rely heavily on giving the audience an emotional reaction to the material, and that’s easier to achieve when it sounds more human. While neither of the main two performances were exactly groundbreaking, they both struck a pretty good chord with me, and for Jill Harris in particular, I’m looking forward to seeing more of her work in the future.

Final Thoughts: All in all this is a humble little dub for a humble little melodrama. Not much sticks out here aside from David Matranaga’s casting, but it’s perfectly fine, and there isn’t much in the way of negatives here either. As far as comparing it to the other Key dubs I’ve seen, I’d say it’s not as good as what I remember from Angel Beats (though that was a Steven Foster dub so I’m not sure how reliable my memory us on that one) or AiR, but it’s a whole lot more consistent than Clannad’s was so it’s certainly not a step down when it comes to that legacy. This might be a low-key effort, but for a show like this one it’s perfectly sufficient, and if you haven’t seen the show yet, you certainly aren’t missing out on much by checking out the dub.

Rating: Good


And there’s Planetarian. See that was much shorter than the first one. Feel free to let me know what you thought about the dub if you’ve seen it and if you’re curious about my general metrics for critiquing dubs, you can take a look at that here. Till next time.

Toon Talk: Monthly Retrospective- August 2016

Well September just started…so what better time than now to talk about all the stuff that happened in August? As far as animation news goes, it was a relatively quiet month, but the discussion on the other hand has certainly been pretty lively…though not necessarily for all the best reasons. Let’s dive into it.


Summer of Steven Heats Up Some Controversy

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August brought us the remaining Steven Universe episodes of the Summer of Steven (plus one) and with them both joy and headache. With the back half of this event seeing the show delving back into Gem lore, it’s produced an interesting array of topics to discuss, but the one that caught the most attention for better or worse was the episode “Bismuth” and it’s titular character. Particularly in having brought up the issue of whether or not it’s okay to kill one’s oppressors through the eyes of Bismuth who wants to crush the Homeworld Gems at any cost and Steven who believes in trying to reach an understanding with them without resorting to murder (or shattering in this case). This being a kid’s show, we’re obviously meant to sympathize more with the latter view point and it’s caught the ire of fans who feel it’s too heavy handed (The fact that Bismuth resembles and has the voice of a black woman only added to this outcry) and that the show should have handled it with more grace. .

While I can certainly understand where people might see some unfortunate implications here (as a black person myself I wouldn’t read too much into that race bit, but I obviously can’t speak for others) for the most part it just feels really overblown. Steven Universe has always embraced empathy and understanding as it’s core values, and Steven’s world view is pretty much consistent with that of the show itself, so taking issue with it this late in the game feels odd. I recall seeing similar complaints over the final moral conflict in Avatar: The Last Airbender back in the day, and I’d be lying if I said that was executed perfectly, but it was handled decently, and this was done much more tactfully in comparison. Even though it’s clear we’re supposed to lean more towards Steven’s point of view, the show itself points it out as just that, his point of view, and not only is Bismuth’s perspective made fairly sympathetic, but the conclusion points out that there can be negatives to Steven’s pacifistic views, and that he’ll have to live with those consequences if he wants to maintain that viewpoint. If anything it serves as further proof that Rebecca Sugar and co really know how to throw these kind of ideas at children without talking down to them, but I suppose there’s always going to be the question of if they aren’t pushing things far enough. Well at least the latest episode gave us the show’s best musical number yet, that also doubles as a collaboration with Japanese animator Takafumi Hori and it’s really neat, so hopefully we can all at least agree to be happy about that one…right?

 

Ash Loses the Pokemon League…Again

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It’s that time of the year again (well couple of years I guess but whatever) where all of Ash Ketchum’s hopes and dreams must be crushed in order to keep the Pokemon anime train going. As someone who’s used Pokemon as Saturday morning background noise for over a decade, I’ve seen my share of ridiculous losses (the Darkrai deus-ex machina in the Sinnoh League being the worst offender) but this one particularly stings. The XY season has seen Ash make some real strides as a trainer, learn some good lessons and build up a roster that actually looks pretty darn competitive. Adding to that was the show introducing rival trainer Alan, who had decent dynamic going with him, and had already beaten him a couple of times before the League tournament had even began. Combined with the fact that this season may very well be the last one with traditional leagues, it seemed like things were really in favor of Ash’s victory this time, and even skeptics like myself felt the slight twinge of hope that it might actually be possible this time…then reality struck.

Needless to say that even though I wasn’t surprised at the outcome, I was kind of disappointed, and I wasn’t the only one apparently as that sentiment seems to have echoed across the internet, and even the Japanese fandom seems to be pretty upset about it. Of course this is all more or less status quo at this point, and long past the point of being a joke in and of itself, but that’s basically the problem. To the anime’s credit, there is a tremendous amount of value in teaching kids the lesson that failure is a part of life, and that you can’t let setbacks stop you from achieving your dreams and it genuinely worked…the first couple of times. You can only repeat the same lesson so many times before it starts getting ridiculous, and while it’s easy to make the argument that each Pokemon season is meant for a different generation of kids, and therefore shouldn’t be judged in a general sense of continuity, that frankly just makes things even worse.

Why should it be the exact same lesson every season? Shouldn’t the writers find other big themes to explore at this point? While it’s unfair to say the Pokemon anime’s been running completely on auto-pilot (well BW came closest and the ratings suffered for it) it’s definitely been afraid of changing the status quo and their over-reliance on it has only become more blatant over the years. It’s depressing because there are any number of ways to shake things up a bit and many of which don’t have to necessarily involve removing the anime’s most iconic characters (which seems to be the driving fear behind these stunts). Of course status quo has long been the way of the franchise in general, and the upcoming Sun & Moon games look to it’s first real attempt to break free from it. With some luck that sentiment might end up carrying over to the anime too (and the fact that we have yet to hear any information on the Sun & Moon season of the anime makes it somewhat plausible) but at this point I’m not sure I have enough faith in the anime producers to think they’ll make the effort.

 

Bleach’s Ending Has It’s Fans Seeing Red

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Speaking of controversies, there was another one that occurred the same morning as Ash’s latest downfall (well officially the Monday after but unfortunately the speed of manga scanlators is not to be underestimated). After years of the manga’s final arc stretching onward from fight to fight, with the ending feeling a lot further out of reach than it should have, the story finally concluded…very, very abruptly. The outcry over Bleach’s supposed cancellation has been going on since the beginning of July where it was made clear exactly how much time was left and that it wasn’t nearly enough to resolve everything, leading to all kinds of conspiracy theories on how Bleach’s author Tite Kubo somehow got screwed over by his editors. Personally I’d say it’s more likely that his editors got tired of his stalling and/or gave him a specific deadline that he had to rush out the remainder of the manga in order to reach, but we can only really speculate either way. I was however, able to come across the most plausible explanation behind it and the downfall of the series in general through a rather detailed video analysis (which I’d link but it seems to have been the latest victim of Youtube’s nonsensical policy enforcement changes) and while we’ll never know the exact answer, it’s at least clear that Kubo was running on borrowed time .

As for the ending itself, it was about as good as could really be expected after all this. I’ve long since lost interest in Bleach’s actual plot, and things got so rushed towards the end that the final chapter had to quickly shoehorn in Ywatch’s motivation while simultaneously pretending the series had an actual ongoing theme (and felt incredibly tacked on in both accounts) but it was nice to see what Ichigo and his core group of friends were doing as adults. That in itself seems to have caused the biggest controversy of all though as the fandom at large seems to have been incredibly displeased with the manga’s final romantic pairings of Ichigo ending up with Orihime and Rukia with Renji. While I recall seeing a similar outcry during the end of Naruto when the titular character ended up with Hinata and not Sakura, the blowout here seems to have been much worse and so much so that there’s been numerous videos and pictures of angry fans destroying their Bleach collections in frustration. While I don’t want to make this entirely about pairings (though having spent much of this year powering through the Bleach anime I can say that Ichigo and Rukia’s relationship felt incredibly platonic, and even Kubo himself apparently said so during a commentary in the Hellverse movie, so this all seemed like the most probable outcome) I do think it’s more than a little silly to see people destroying merchandise they paid for just because they were mad about who ended up with who, and they could have at least sold them and got their money back or something. Thank goodness Eiichiro Oda’s made it so One Piece won’t ever have these kinds of problems.

 

Voice Acting Blaz-blues 

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Well this last bit isn’t totally animation related, but I consider voice acting to be a pretty vital part in what makes this stuff work so it’s worth pointing out. Voice acting saw it’s own share of controversies in August  as a couple of big things came to light. The first was video game publisher Aksys Games deciding not to include an English audio track for Blazblue: CentralFiction the latest game in the franchise, despite having dubbed all the previous entries. From what’s been publicly stated this seems to have been an issue of speed more so than any financial woes (which is usually the simplest explanation when stuff like this happens) and they feel like not dubbing it will get the game out to the audience faster. While there’s certainly a lot of truth to the idea, it feels incredibly short sighted, since they are in effect taking something away from their audience and that typically never ends well.

Though some will make the argument that people will still buy the game regardless and that it’d be “worse” for them to delay it for such a reason, what’s often missed a lot of the time is that in a similar vein to how anime releases with dual-audio work, people are generally pretty willing to wait if it means getting a more ideal product. Though it’s certainly true that interest fades over time and it’s best to get stuff out while the iron is hot, they’re a lot more likely to lose sales by including one audio track then they are to gain or maintain them, as history as show that stuff typically sells better when people are given more options. It sucks that things had to come to this when it could have been avoided, and it’s all the more frustrating for the VA’s who were involved with the games and had gotten attached to their characters over the years. Of course there’s always the slight chance they could change their minds or include an English audio option later on, but if the game sells regardless, then what reason would they have to go back and spend more money on a option they don’t “need” in order to make money? It’s a lose-lose situation either way, and while those who prioritize getting stuff quickly might be pleased with this outcome, the rest of the fandom seems to have been left in disappointment.

This isn’t the only VA related issue to have happened during the month though, as when voice actress Krystal LaPorte was asked why she didn’t reprise her role in the second season of Chika the Coffin Princess, she revealed through a long statement that she’d been somehow exiled from Sentai Filmworks for reasons unknown. It’s bizarre to think something like this would happen for no reason, but it seems to have really been the case, and it’s very alarming. While it’s pretty much impossible to speculate about why this happened, it’s ridiculous that it occurred at all , and it’s beyond depressing to see a voice actor being treated like this, or frankly anyone for that matter. I sincerely hope there aren’t similar horror stories for other VA’s regularly employed with Sentai, but even if it isn’t this just seems both incredibly heartless and downright unprofessional, and really hope more people call them out on it. With all that said, I suspect that we’ll probably never learn what Sentai’s exact reasons were for all this, but for now it’s definitely knocked down my respect for them a few pegs.


And there’s my thoughts on August in a nutshell. Yeesh, that was a lot more negative than I thought it would be. Here’s hoping September turns out to be a lot brighter.

The Sounds of Dubbing- Garo: The Animation

And looks like it’s time for yet another new segment. This one’s…about dubs.  It probably seems a bit redundant As anyone who follows my Twitter feed probably knows by this point that I sometimes contribute to a dub-related podcast called Dub Talk with some of my online pals, but it’s something I’ve been considering for a while now, and every now and then I’d like to talk about this stuff while it’s still fresh in my head. Of course I still plan on contributing to Dub Talk provided my shenanigans here don’t somehow get me exiled so I’m not sure how frequent a thing this’ll be but I guess we’ll have to see how that goes. This first posting will be a bit long, but if I end up doing more of these I’m planning on keeping them relatively short. Anyway, let’s get started

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Dub Rating Scale

Bad– Really horrible voice direction and cringeworthy performances or scripting. Perhaps a couple of decent performances in the mix but  an overall bad product to the point where even if you aren’t particularly concerned about acting it’s immediately apparent how awkward it is (ex. Revolutionary Girl Utena, Penguindrum, 4KIds One Piece, Guin Saga)

Serviceable– A dub with a mix of performances ranging from good to mediocre. The good mostly outweighs the bad and the scripting and voice direction are workable. Not particularly good by any means but okay sounding enough that if you ignore the existence of the Japanese version and just want to listen to the show in English, it’ll do the job though it may not have much in the way of rewatchability (ex. Majestic Prince, Prince of Tennis, Gatchaman Crowds)

Good– A solid and competently put together dub. The majority of the performances work with only at best a couple of dull sounding ones and a possibly a few that are outstanding. Scripting and voice direction hit the right marks and even if the Japanese version is more technically competent in a few areas it’s a good enough production that you can stick with it and not miss out on much. Worth revisiting every now and then (ex. Gargantia on the Verderous Planet, Psycho-Pass, From the New World)

Exceptional– An extremely well made dub. A lot of really outstanding performances, great voice direction and a well crafted script. Can be perfectly comparable to the Japanese version in terms of technical competence and in some rare instances can stand out as the superior product. Definitely worth revisiting and recommending to others (ex. Cowboy Bebop, Fullmetal Alchemist, Death Note)


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Synopsis: Since ancient times, monsters called Horrors have plagued the land corrupting and devouring humans. Only the Makai Knights and Alchemists of the Makai Order have been able to keep them at bay, but over time the people of the order were branded as witches and hunted down by the rest of humankind. 17 years after the witch hunts ended, a young man named Leon stands as one of the last remaining Makai Knights and the inheritor of the legendary Makai Armor, GARO, but despite his duty to stand as humanity’s protector, his desire to avenge his mother’s death during the hunts burns even stronger.

Intro: So coming into 2016, GARO was one of the dubs I was looking forward to the most. The show itself ended up being a welcome surprise for me during it’s initial run as it managed to hit all my personal aesthetics for a good action show and in a lot of ways felt very reminiscent of the 2003 version of the Fullmetal Alchemist anime in terms of character writing and tone. With that much going for it, it pretty much goes without saying that I had some really high expectations for the dub, but now it’s time to see just how well it met them. I’ll be talking about the dub in three categories: firstly the voice direction, then the dub script, and lastly the casting and performances.

 

Voice Direction

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With the amount of dubbing projects Funimation juggles at any one time, it’s hard to say who’ll end up directing what, so I was hoping this one would end up in the hands of one of their stronger ADR Directors. Thankfully that expectation was met when it was revealed to be in the hands of Caitlin Glass (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Ouran High School Host Club, Noragami Aragoto) who has established a pretty solid track record. Going off of the dub commentaries on the release, and some of her own postings on Twitter, it seemed like she was pretty passionate about this series, and it certainly shows as the direction here is really solid. Everything manages to hit right tone, and none of the performances feel like they’re being restrained as it’s clear she went the extra mile to make the delivery work. I will say though that the dub’s frequent use of Spanish, while a nice way to make use of the show’s setting, feels a bit awkward in a few instances considering that none of the actors (save Monica Rial) use accents. I’d have personally preferred those bits having either been left out entirely or  being paired with accents all across the board if the dub was really committed to making the most of its setting, but this is more of a nitpick than anything, and the direction here is otherwise strong.

 

Scripting

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Speaking of a commitment to the setting, in an effort to stay faithful to the show’s medieval setting, the dub staff opted to go for an “ye olde Shakespeare English” style of dialogue, and to that end got two particular scriptwriters (and a third who also contributed, but not to as large an extent) who are known for doing that sort of thing. The first is Patrick Seitz (Maria: The Virgin Witch, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure) who was credited as the show’s lead script writer and wrote much of dub’s first half. His work on Maria: The Virgin Witch was pretty impressive as it added a lot of subtlety and clever wording to a series whose primary conflict is partially based around sexuality and that carries over pretty well here. His style of prose adds to a lot the show’s humor (with one line from the first episode being particularly memorable) while also knowing where to keep things grounded and keeping things faithful to the source material while staying consistent with the medieval style dialogue.

The other script writer however is none other than J. Micheal Tatum (Free: Eternal Summer, Future Diary) whose track record is…frankly pretty bad. Anyone whose seeing my ravings on Twitter probably knows it by this point, but while I’m fan of his work as an actor, I’m most definitely not a fan of his scriptwriting, and most of his work in the latter department has left me feeling frustrated more often than not as he has one or two styles of dialogue that he sticks to for every show he does, and a penchant for being loose with his script translations even when he doesn’t need to. He penned the entire second half of GARO’s dub, and the difference is pretty noticeable. Much of the subtlety in the dialogue is lost, occasionally coming off as snarkier, which for a series that was more or less thriving on how well it executed normally standard fantasy action tropes, definitely hurts. Fortunately this is one of his better scripts as there aren’t any big instances of this going so far as to make the dub feel like an entirely different show from the Japanese version, but there are a couple of key moments where his script changes alter the context of what’s happening a bit. For instance in German’s final scene:

JP Version: Be careful, my son is up there. Leon Luis. The one who inherited the blood destined to seal away Horrors, the Golden Knight, Garo. And I am also one who seals away you bastard Horrors, German Luis. Also known as Makai Knight Zorro.

English Version: I’d be careful if I were you, just so happens my son is up there. Leon Luis. You may have heard of him. It is in his blood to protect this world from those such as you, legend calls him the Golden Knight, Garo. I know his strength. God do I know it. For he is my son and no father has ever been prouder. You may call me German Luis, Makai Knight. Also known by the name, Zorro.

The dub version only throws in one extra line, but it’s enough to alter the subtext of the speech as in the Japanese version, it’s meant to symbolize German acknowledging Leon as a true Makai Knight, where as the dub has him come off more as a proud parent, which isn’t entirely inaccurate but slightly misses the point while also just coming off as a cheesier line in general and one that isn’t terribly consistent with German’s hands-off behavior as a father.  All that said, the script’s just faithful enough that I can give it a general pass, and there’s a few good lines in the second half, but with as high as my original expectations were, this soured me on the dub a bit.

 

Casting and Performances

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For all my eagerness to see the dub, I had a hard time guessing who would voice the protagonist Leon, but Ricco Fajardo (The Heroic Legend of Arslan‘s Daryun, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash‘s Haruhiro) proved to be an excellent choice for the character, being a perfect ball of raw teen angst during his initial character arc, while not overplaying enough to make him unlikable. Having the up and coming Justin Briner (Seraph of the End’s Mikael, My Hero Academia‘s Izuku) for Alfonso was also a pretty nice choice, and casting Monica Rial (Dragonball Z Kai’s Bulma, Casshern Sins‘s Ringo) as Ema was a pleasant surprise since it’s rare to see her in roles where she gets to play mature sounding women and it was a good match for Romi Park’s performance in the Japanese version, since her voice has always been difficult to pair off due to how distinct it is.

Of all the performances in this dub though, there are two that really stand out. The first would be Vic Mignogia (Fullmetal Alchemist‘s Edward Elric, Bleach‘s Ikkaku Madarame) as the main antagonist Mendoza. He’s picked up a fair share of villain roles in recent years, as opposed to his more well known pretty-boy typecasting and turned out to be pretty good at them. so when I first heard he’d been in this dub, I was really hoping it would be as Mendoza, and he certainly delivers. His performance gives off a perpetually creepy falsetto and combined with the Shakespearean prose of the dub, really helps in giving the character a sense of presence and menace. I don’t like it quite as much as I did Takaya Hashi’s performance in the Japanese version since Hashi’s unique baritone was kind of hard to match, but it comes pretty close and it’s certainly an impressive effort. The real standout though, would have to be David Wald (Akame ga Kill‘s Bulat, Fairy Tail‘s Gajeel) as German as it’s a really fun performance that captures both the goofball womanizer and serious sides of the character to perfection and even the scripting issues in the show’s second half aren’t enough to take away from how strong his delivery is. Overall, the dub’s performances are solid all across the board with the only weak link perhaps being Ivan Jasso(Prince of Stride: Alternative‘s Kyosuke) as Bernardo, the dark knight, since this was one of his first major anime roles, and his performance sounds a little awkward in a few instances, but on the whole the dub was very well cast and no one feels out of place.

Final Thoughts: Well I had some really high expectations for this dub, and I have to admit those weren’t quite met. The voice direction here is strong, and the casting’s pretty much the same in that department, but the some of the scripting issues with the dub’s second half hurt things a bit for me, and while good voice direction and performances can sometimes be enough to overlook those kinds of problems (see Attack on Titan) it wasn’t quite strong enough to do the job here. As a whole, it’s a really solid dub, and more or less in line with what you’d expect from Funimation’s usual level of consistency. Which is totally fine, but it’s not the standout I was hoping and since I’d set my expectations for this fairly high, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed. Despite those feelings though, I can still give it a fairly safe recommendation, and if you haven’t seen the show before there’s certainly nothing to lose in checking out the dub.

Rating: Good

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Woof. I had a lot more to say than I thought I would, but as I said before I’ll try my best to keep these shorter if I do any future installments. Anyway, those are my thoughts on the GARO dub, but feel free to let me know what you thought of it. Also if you’re curious to know about my general metrics for critiquing dubs, you can find my full thoughts in this article here, where I go into  a bit more detail on the subject. Thanks for reading!

Toon Talk: Monthly Retrospective- July 2016

So in a bid to stay committed to actually doing semi-regular posts here, I’ve decided to try my hand at doing retrospectives for anything interesting that happened over the last month (I’d go for doing this weekly, but I’m not sure I’d have enough to talk about). It’ll mostly just be me shooting the breeze and talking about anime, western toons, dubs or whatever recent news seems interesting. Anyway, let’s get started.


Summer Anime Begins

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Well I already gave my first impressions about a few of the summer shows, a couple of weeks ago, and my initial assessment was that summer looked to be as dry as a desert. Between now and then though, I’ve had more time to decide what I’m actually going to bother sticking with and most of what I’m watching looks to be solid enough to carry me through the season. 91 Days and Sweetness & Lightning are still the big flagships here, but Mob Psycho 100 looks like it’ll be as interesting as it is pretty, and I’m still enjoying some other stuff like Orange and Love Live Sunshine. I also decided to try New Game the other day and I’m enjoying it, but so far the biggest surprise of the season really seems to be Thunderbolt Fantasy. It’s hard to imagine that a show by Gen Urobuchi involving puppets wouldn’t at least be entertaining, but I wasn’t prepared for how over the top in turned out to be. Everything about it is loud and silly, but it knows how to make that work to it’s advantage and while the story itself is pretty much your standard JRPG fare, the execution is strong, and there’s hints that some of Urobuchi’s usual insight might rise from beneath the show’s campiness. This season’s certainly strange for me in terms of how stuff is paced out (I usually have at least one or two shows every day but most of what I’m watching is crammed Friday through Monday) but if most of the big stuff holds out, it could be a fairly solid season overall, even if not a terribly remarkable one.

 

The Summer of Steven Makes Some Waves

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Speaking of summer, we’re currently in the middle (?) of CN’s “Summer of Steven” promotion as new episodes of Steven Universe’s third season come out every weekday. So far the episodes have mostly been a little on the slow side as the show steps back from the Gem stuff to go back to Beach City, but I don’t mind it. There’s been a lot of arguments over the interwebs over how “relevant” some of this stuff is, but as compelling as the Gem stuff is, it’d get pretty tedious if the show was doing that all the time, and I certainly appreciate the breathers. As for this particular batch though, they’ve been pretty hit or miss (or what qualifies as a “miss” by SU’s typically high standards) with the “Beach City Drift” episode probably being my favorite of the side stuff almost entirely due to the Initial D reference while stuff like “Restaurant Wars” is kind of forgettable aside from a couple of good gags. Of course there’s been a few bits of Gem stuff in the mix here and there but while “Alone At Sea” and “Mr. Greg” are the ones that draw the most attention (and rightfully) so I also appreciate bits like “Greg the Babysitter” since it’s always nice to see flashbacks of Greg and Rose’s relationship, and those have gone a long way in turning Greg into one of the best characters on the show. It’s not exactly the big wave other fans seemed to be hoping for, but even slow SU episodes are still pretty solid, and it’ll make it all the more rewarding when the show starts ripping out hearts out with major Gem stuff again, so I’m looking forward to riding out the rest of this summer

 

One-Punch Man Hits Toonami, and Jojo’s Follows in Style

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With the rather unexpected arrival of Hunter X Hunter to the Toonami block earlier this year, it seemed pretty much inevitable that One-Punch Man would follow suit, and has since made it’s debut a couple of weeks ago. Unsurprisingly it’s looking to be a smash hit for the block (no pun intended) and the dub looks to be off to an equally great start. Max Mittleman is a perfect Saitama, and I really appreciate that the staff at Bang Zoom went the extra mile in terms of casting, since little things like Bryce Papenbrook and Paul St. Peter to respectively voice Titan and Leomon look-alikes in the show really add to the joke. On the downside I’m not too sure how I feel about Zach Aguilar’s Genos yet, but he nails the delivery where he needs to so I’m not too worried and if the show manages to keep things up, OPM’s dub seems like it could be a contender for one of my favorites this year

Of course while OPM is certainly a big edition to the block, another one looks to be arriving in fall by way of Jojo’s. With the amount of issues concerning that franchise’s status here, and Toonami’s current abundance of long runners, I was pretty sure we wouldn’t be seeing it on the block, and figured that even if we did it’d probably be Stardust Crusaders or the still-airing Diamond is Unbreakable. Seems I was wrong on that account as we’re not only getting it but we’re starting from Phantom Blood. My initial feelings about were…mixed to say the least since I’ve already seen/own the dub so for my part I would have preferred a fresher dub premiere, and the fact that Jojo’s could potentially hold onto it’s timeslot till Toonami dies a second time didn’t help things. At the same time though, it’s a pretty smart business decision to have a slow like that running as long as possible so it’s no mystery why Adult Swim opted for it, and since Warner’s garbage release kept a lot of people from checking out the dub anyway, I suppose it might as well be a dub premiere, and the dub itself is certainly strong enough that I don’t mind listening to it again. I’m just hoping that Jojo’s Toonami run doesn’t cause Viz to delay on releasing the later parts of Jojo’s because I’d really rather not wait 2 years for a Diamond is Unbreakable dub. I guess we’ll have to see how that goes.


And that’s the month for me in a nutshell. See you again in 4 weeks…provided I actually remember to stick to this.

 

First Impressions- Summer 2016 Anime Season (Part 3)

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Well it’s been a long week, and there’s been quite a few more notable premieres, so without any further ado, let’s jump right in and check out the last batch.

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. Definitely worth seeing if you get the chance

Excellent: Really outstanding show. Absolutely worth following .

*All series synopsis from Anime Planet

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Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars

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Synopsis: In the country of Rimguard a mysterious event shook the country and its people just twelve years prior. As time passed, memory of the incident began to fade while peace reigned over the land. Sisters Yui and Rena live a quiet life in the Enastria Empire until a large mecha suddenly attacks their peaceful home, changing everything. The girls become caught in a vortex of destiny and godly revival.

First Impressions: So looking off of the promotional images and trailers, this show was something of an anomaly to me as it’s moe character designs detailed mechas looked like they were from two completely different shows. That same level of confusion carries into the show proper as similar to Zestiria’s first episode, this one does absolutely nothing to explain it’s setting or really anything about what’s happening as we’re caught between the relationship with two sisters and something involving giant robots. The lack of explination on the premise and setting are always things that could be explained later of course, and I’d be more willing to give this a pass if it at least tried to sell me on the dynamic between the sisters Rena and Yui, but both feel as cookie cutter as their character designs, and despite the reveal towards the end of the episode that one’s some kind of supernatural being, while the other’s an empress, it doesn’t even feel all that significant because the show hasn’t even given them actual personalities. If there’s one saving grace here, it’s that the show’s 2D mecha animation looks really good, and that’s something of a rarity these days given that mecha’s largely moved onto 3DCG but unless you’re really interested in seeing more of that, this doesn’t really have anything else to offer. Maybe I’ll give it another episode to see if it explains anything, but if this one seems like a pretty clear pass.

Rating: Bad

 

Planetarian

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Synopsis: For thirty years, companion robot Hoshino Yumemi has patiently waited to show someone the stars. Left in an abandoned planetarium, she sits hoping for customers that will never show. That is, until a Junker– a plunderer of goods and artifacts from the ruins of civilization—stumbles upon the crumbling establishment. Will he help her repair the planetarium, or will she be alone once more?

First Impressions: This the other Key adaption of the season next to Rewrite but compared to that show, this one’s stronger by a long shot. Post apocalyptic sci-fi settings are a dime-a-dozen but it’s interesting to see that applied to something that looks to be much more of a drama than anything, and I appreciate that there’s a genuine sense of mystery in regards to what exactly happened to the world, and why robots are now apparently considered dangerous. More importantly though, the first episode does a really solid job in setting up a nice dynamic between the Junker and Yumemi, and I have to say it’s kind of refreshing to see one of these types of melodramas actually featuring an adult protagonist, since the usual bouts of angsty teenagers can get tiresome after a while. Of course we’ll have to see how well the writing can follow suit, and going by the usual formula for Key shows, Yumemi’s days are almost certainly numbered, but this has the potential to make for a solid drama piece, and it’s certainly one of the highlights in a mostly sleepy anime season so far.

Rating: Great

 

Alderamin on the Sky

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Synopsis: The Katvarna Empire is at war with the neighboring Republic of Kioka. In the Katvarna Empire, the lazy, woman-admiring Ikuta hates war, but due to certain circumstances, he grudgingly takes the High Grade Military Officer Exam. No one would have expected that this 17-year-old young man would eventually become a soldier called a great commander by others. Ikuta survives this world engulfed in war with his superior intellect.

First Impressions: I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one since it seemed like it could be a decent fantasy thing, but something about the way the promotional material looked reminded me of GATE, and that show’s problems are pretty self explanitory. Thankfully this seems fine so far, and first episode manages a nice balance between introducing the characters and doing a fair amount of worldbuilding without having to resort to infodumping, and it’s always nice when something based on a light novel actually manages to avoid going that route. Nothing about the story so visual presentation so far is particularly striking, but it at least seems like it has the potential to turn into something more interesting. My only major issue so far is that the protagonist seems like a bit too much of a lecherous jerk and while the show seems to be doing a pretty good job of reining that in so far, I’ve seen enough anime trip up on that to feel slightly cautious. For now though, if you’re looking for a decent fantasy anime this season, Alderamin in the Sky seems like it’ll fit the bill

Rating: Good

 

91 Days

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Synopsis: During Prohibition, the law held no power and the mafia ruled the town. The story takes place in Lawless, a town thriving on black market sales of illicitly brewed liquor. One day, Avilio receives a letter from a mysterious sender, prompting him to return to Lawless for revenge. He then infiltrates the Vanetti family, the ones responsible for his family’s murder, and sets about befriending the don’s son, Nero, to set his vengeance in motion. Killing brings more killing, and revenge spawns more revenge. How will the 91-day story of these men guided by a tragic fate end?

First Impressions: Out of all the shows confirmed for the summer season, 91 Days seemed like the one with the most potential. Mafia dramas are usually entertaining, if something of a rarity in anime, and having one set specifically at the time of the Prohibition Era is even more of an attention grabber given that it’s a time in history that not too much media has really touched on. Of course as much potential as there was in that setting, there was the question of whether or not it would actually live up to it given that the show’s staff doesn’t have a particularly notable track record one way or the other. So far, though the show is looking to be off to a roaring start. The show doesn’t waste anytime in getting to it’s main set up, and while some of it feels a little heavy handed, it’s framed in a way that’s very reminiscent of more hollywood-esque mafia dramas, and that’s a solid aesthetic to work with. It also does a great job in introducing us to our protagonists, and I particularly like that Avilo seems to be pretty dangerous unto himself, and that’s certainly a neat angle for a story like this one. It also helps that the show doesn’t skimp on making use of it’s setting, and the first episode already shows a good amount of detail in demonstrating how much the mafia had to operate under the radar in order to sell alchol in those days. Of course given that the theme is apparently centered around revenge there’s a chance it could end up turning into something hamfisted, but for now the show seems to be living up to it’s promise, and that easily makes it one of the strongest premieres this season

Rating: Excellent

 

Time Travel Girl

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Synopsis: Mari Hayase is on a mission to go back in time and meet eight of the most prominent scientists and inventors in history. With the help of her two friends Waka Mizuki and Jun Mizuki she’ll find herself up close and personal with famous figures like Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and so many more! What’s her purpose and mission? Hopefully not getting stuck in the past!

First Impressions: For as many genres as anime encompasses, you’d think the anime-equivalent of a PBS special wouldn’t be all that weird a scenario, but it certainly does feel kind of strange to have. For what it is though, it seems cute enough, and probably a good way for kids to learn up a bit on science, though I imagine the fact that Thomas Edison is one of the ones being referenced here and not Nicholas Tesla might be enough for people to question whatever level of accuracy it’s going for. Outside of educational aspect though, there’s not anything of any particular note in regards to the story or characters, though I was amused that they at least pointed out that Mari’s schoolgirl attire would be considered incredibly inappropriate attire for the 1600’s. Since this is likely to just be the anime version of a middle school science lesson, I’m not sure how much entertainment value this’ll really carry for me but nothing about this was a huge turn-off either so maybe I’ll give it a couple more episodes.

Rating: Decent

 

Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! LOVE!

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Synopsis: The Battle Lovers are back! With things a bit calmer since the whole Zundar fiasco, the boys can get back to what’s important in life—like hanging around the bathhouse and lazing around! But when the Loveracelets start calling, they’ll have to jump back into the action. Will the arrival of two new students mean more allies or more chaos? Love is not over yet!

First Impressions: After being away for a year and a half Cute High Defense Club returns, and promising more love than ever before. The first season managed to be an effective parody of magical girl shows and certainly had a lot of laughs, but given that the show only has one real joke, I was kind of worried if it was going to actually get enough mileage out of it to last another season. So far though, it seems like it’ll do just fine. Admittedly the first half of the episode felt a little too self-indulgent to me even if I was sort of amused it decided to seemingly drop all subtext in favor of being straight up gay, but once things jumped back to the magical boys aspect, the laughs kept coming, and the series doesn’t seem to have lost any of it’s edge in the spoofing department as the new transformation sequences and attacks are even more blatant Sailor Moon parodies than the last ones. Time will tell if it can run out of new ways to tell the same joke, but for now Cute High Defense Club still seems to be chugging along.

Rating: Good

 

Hitorinoshita- The Outcast

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Synopsis: Chou Soran leads a very common college student’s life until he finds himself caught up in a terrible incident that happened in a small village. As he was walking through a graveyard, he is assaulted by zombies. Thinking that it was over for him, a mysterious girl carrying a sword suddenly saves him and disappears.

First Impressions: This is another show this season that’s something of an anomally, though in this case it’s due to the fact that it’s based on a Korean manhwa. Manhwa are effectively the Korean equivalent to Japanese manga comics, except they rely heavily on imitating the style of manga, and generally try too hard in doing so. Those roots are certainly evident here, because as soon as I saw the opening song I could tell this show was trying too hard to be cool, and that sentiment stuck with me throughout the entire episode. It’s similar to the other edgy teen action show of the season Taboo-Tattoo in that respect and includes your hapless protagonist with powers suddenly thrust upon him (or seemingly anyway since we never actually see him use said powers) and a mysterious action girl who’s clearly there to be eye candy. This plot here seems to have something to do with zombies, but the show hasn’t offered much in the way of explanation on that front, and hasn’t done much to make Soran endearing, instead just making him come off like gigantic idiot more than anything (there’s a moment in the episode where he’s amazed at the mysterious girl taking down zombies, instead of being terrified at having actually seen a bunch of friggin zombies). For all that though, I do have to say that it was at least entertaining in a bad kind of way, and did feature what I consider to be the funniest thing I’ve seen this far so season where at one point the zombies all literally turn around to gawk at what a moron Soran is. Given that this show could at least make for a fun trash-watch but similar to Taboo-Tattoo I can’t really recommend it unless you’re into irony watching (and since I’m already considering watching that show for those purposes I’ll likely have to choose between the two of them at some point).

Rating: Bad

 

Qualidea Code

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Synopsis: This is a world where humanity is always at war with the Unknown. The kids who were evacuated to a cold sleep facility during the initial invasion decades ago wake up from their slumber to find that they’d manifested superpowers called the “World.” To protect Japan from the Unknowns appearing from the Tokyo Bay, these kids would start their own battles at the defensive strongholds of Tokyo, Kanagawa, and Chiba.

First Impressions: *UGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH* This show now marks the third try-hard otaku thing I’ve sat through this season and my patience is starting to wear pretty thin at this point. In what’s starting to become a rather irritating pattern, this is another series that doesn’t offer much in the way of explination in regards to how it’s world works and the most I got is that there was some kind of war involving aliens called the Unknown and now some kind of military organization, partially helmed by kids with chunni superpowers are fighting them(said military also seems laughably incompetent considering at one point in the episode the loli commander girl has to be told by a subordinate what “friendly fire” means). Speaking of chunni kids we have our protagonist Ichiya who stands out as the biggest prick out of all the shows I’ve sampled so far. In typical chunni fashion he thinks he’s the destined savior of the world, and believes that all the other people he works with are scrubs, and spends the entire episode being a jerk to everyone he meets without giving him anything resembling a redeeming trait other than a “tragic backstory”. Even his childhood friend isn’t safe from his attitude as he at one point sharply tells her to commit suicide for having told everyone about the embarrassing nickname she gave him, and even as a joke that’s pretty disgusting. To make matters worse, this doesn’t even have the saving grace of being amusingly bad like Taboo-Tattoo or The Outcast, and looks visually bland as sin. I might have tolerated those other two, but this one’s a definite strike out, and stands as one of the worst in a season of bad premieres.

Rating: AAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHH


And that’s it for me and first impressions as Mob Psycho 100 is the only notable premiere left and I’ll be reviewing that one for the Fandom Post. While there seems to be a few potential gems, I have to say that overall this is looking to be just as weak a season as Winter was with the potential to be either better or worse, depending on how the larger stuff fares. It’s certainly disappointing, but I can probably manage so long as there’s at least a few things worth holding onto.

Review: Gundam Build Fighters- Building A Better Toy Show

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Synopsis:  In the future, Mobile Suit Gundam has taken the world by storm, and building small models of them called Gunpla and having them fight each other has become everyone’s favorite past time. Sei Iori is skilled at making Gunpla and dreams of competing in the Gunpla World Tournament but his skills as a fighter leave much to be desired. However when he has an encounter with a mysterious boy named Reiji, he finds that Reiji has an incredible natural talent for Gunpla battles, and together the two of them decide to compete on the world stage.

Review

Mobile Suit Gundam has long stood at the top of the mecha genre, and almost every incarnation of the franchise has enjoyed massive success due to it’s compelling depictions of space-faring war dramas. At the same time though, it’s success has also been partially due to the fact that it’s robot designs are really cool, and it’s sold countless numbers of plastic model kits throughout the decades. Given all that, there’s been a few attempts to cater the franchise more directly towards kids in order to sell more kits, but they’ve generally proved unsuccessful and this show’s predecessor, Gundam AGE stands as the most infamous example, having been a commercial failure the likes of which the franchise had never seen before. So needless to say that when Sunrise announced yet another attempt to market Gundam towards kids as it’s next project, audiences were pretty skeptical, but where others before it had failed, Gundam Build Fighters managed to succeed.

So what exactly is it that makes Build Fighters work? Well first and foremost it’s in the fact that it’s extremely honest about what it is. Whereas Gundam AGE tried to have it’s cake and eat it too by attempting to have both the serious war drama aspects of the other Gundam incarnations, and enough kid-appeal to sell toys, Build Fighters drops any and all pretenses of seriousness by opting to be a more straightforward kid’s show. It knows exactly who it’s for and runs with it, quickly establishing itself as a shonen-style tournament series, equipped with a fun cast of characters and a solid dynamic between the lead characters, Sei and Reiji, that feels extremely reminiscent of Yugi and Yami Yugi from Yu-Gi-Oh as the two use their individual talents and opposing personalities to strengthen each other. Of course that means the series is chock-full of the kind of goofiness you’d expect from that kind of thing, and sometimes gets a little too out there for it’s own good (looking at you Gunpla mafia guy) but it knows where to draw the line and even manages to avoid falling into the trap of trying to tell a “serious” story with it’s absurd premise rather in favor of focusing primarily on the toys it’s trying to sell.

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This actually leads into another one of the show’s larger strengths in that it’s genuinely dedicated towards having a good time. Around the beginning of the series, one of the characters asks how anyone can be expected to take a battle involving toys seriously, and it feels like a question that the show is almost asking itself, as the attempts by similar series to do so are usually what turns people off to them.  However it responds in earnest by saying that the characters can take it seriously because it’s a fun game to them, and that sense of spirit becomes the show’s core mantra. It goes almost out of it’s way to show how passionate the characters are about what they’re doing and it’s kind of refreshing to see something like this enforcing the importance of having fun without having to resort to the awkward attempts at fantasy that shows of this genre so often rely on. In fact, the show displays a surprisingly negative stance towards taking this stuff too seriously, and it helps that rather than having some evil overlord caricature for it’s villain like a lot of similar kid shows, the bad guy here’s just a greedy jerk who wants to keep making money off of selling toys (way to bite the hand that feeds you guys). This bit of self-awareness  isn’t exactly unique, but it does give the series a bit of an edge, and it’s a stance I wouldn’t mind seeing toy shows take more often.

For everything I’ve said here though, the real key factor towards Build Fighters winning formula comes down to the fact that it makes Gunpla battles look pretty darn cool. We’ve all dreamed that the toy robots we’d smash into each other as kids, were could really duke it out someday, and this show brings that childhood fantasy to life in the most over-the-top way possible. Director Kenji Nagasaki and his team of staff (who would later bring us the My Hero Academia anime adaption) really know how to bring out the best in action sequences, and each of the show’s fight scenes are a spectacle to behold as it holds absolutely nothing back in making them as energetic as possible. Adding to the effect is Yuuki Hayashi’s musical score, which carries just as much impact as the fights themselves and many of the show’s tracks really help to boost it’s sense of flair (not to mention the series also has the ever reliable J-rock band, BACK-ON handling it’s opening theme songs and bringing their A-game for both). The overall visual presentation here is so fantastic that I can honestly say I’d totally play Gunpla Battle if it were a real thing, and for something that effectively exists to sell toys, that’s about the highest level of praise you can give it.

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RightStuf has recently put out a release of the series courtesy of their partnership with Sunrise, which includes both a Blu-Ray and DVD release. I bought the latter and it’s a fairly standard set that include a few basic extras such as clean opening and ending animation,  and the original Japanese commercials. Out of these the most interesting one is an extra called “Battle Selection” which serves as a nice little compilation of the show’s best robot action highlights. It’s also worth nothing that the release does also technically include the dub, but it’s an Animax Asia dub rather than one done in the US and the quality is so poor that I couldn’t really recommend watching it outside of mild curiosity. Still, it’s nice to have at least and the release is a pretty good bargain for the amount of episodes it contains so if you enjoyed the series, I’d recommend picking it up.

So in the end, Gundam Build Fighters succeeds by doing the one thing a lot of other similar shows ironically don’t: trying it’s darndest to make you think that what it’s selling is the coolest thing ever. This sense of passion might not make it totally immune to some of the same goofiness as things like it, but it’s certainly infectious, and it’s hard not to get caught up in it’s high level of energy, and even higher-level presentation, as the robot fights alone are almost enough to sell the show. It might be a blatant toy commercial, but it’s certainly a good one, and for that reason if nothing else, it’s definitely something worth checking out.

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Overall: 8.5/10

Available for streaming on Youtube. Available for purchase from RightStuf