Friday, 11 October 2013

Streaming: Autumn 2013 anime first impressions

The autumn 2013 anime season had a hugely disappointing start when Crunchyroll's first batches of simulcast announcements had one thing in common: most of them had been picked up with no UK streaming rights.

It wasn't until later that new UK anime distributor Anime Limited played their hand, revealing that they were partnering up with the new France-based media service Wakanim.tv in order to get more new titles into the hands of eager fans over here directly. While the details aren't entirely clear yet, it at least means that UK fans won't have to miss out on titles such as Kill la Kill and Samurai Flamenco. If Anime Limited are able to distribute through established streaming services like Crunchyroll as well as their new download-to-own experiment they'll earn my respect as a major asset to the UK simulcast market.

On the other end of the customer service scale, Anime On Demand haven't said a word about any new simulcasts for the second season in a row. It seems logical to assume that they've completely deserted the market at this point. Similarly, it would be fun to try out Daisuki's new iPad app - if only they had some content to watch outside the US!

Anyway, that's enough complaining about what I can't watch. Two of my favourite shows from the summer season, Gifuu Doudou!! Kanetsugu And Keiji and Monogatari season 2, are continuing straight on into autumn. Everything else on the list is new.


Ace Of The Diamond (Daiya No A)
Eijun is a classic hot-blooded shounen manga protagonist; a skilled baseball pitcher with no formal training who loves nothing more than playing alongside his ragtag group of friends. One day, he's scouted by a school with an impressive baseball pedigree and spirited away to Tokyo to get a taste of what real training is like. Ace Of The Diamond is a show with heart, even though there are no real surprises so far. I want to see a few more episodes to find out what Eijun and his friends choose to do next before deciding whether it will earn a place in my regular schedule for the season.


Arpeggio Of Blue Steel -Ars Nova- (Aoki Hagane No Arpeggio)
Naval warfare with a fantasy twist in a modern setting. Humanity is besieged by a mysterious enemy, with their main hope being a mysterious girl who also happens to be a powerful enemy vessel. The plot couldn't keep my interest even during the first episode, and I should also note that Arpeggio Of Blue Steel uses an unusual computer-aided animation style. It looks much better in stills than in motion; there's a sluggish feeling to the movements which I'm not sure I like. The character designs are quite simple and stylised which exaggerates the effect.


Diabolik Lovers
I had already heard quite a lot about Diabolik Lovers before the anime was announced thanks to the interesting reputation developer Rejet enjoys in otome game circles. I'd never had the chance to play the game, though, so this anime adaptation was a must-see when Crunchyroll announced it as their first autumn 2013 show.

Unlike the relatively good-natured, fluffy romance shows of recent seasons, Diabolik Lovers makes an impact right from the start as the hapless heroine is attacked, verbally abused, imprisoned, chased and threatened by the family of beautiful - and unapologetically cruel - vampires she encounters. She's addressed by dehumanising nicknames such as 'Boobless' and 'Bitch-chan'; while the vampire brothers treat one another with grudging respect, to them Yui is nothing more than a convenient toy to play with. It's certainly interesting, and the dangerous atmosphere is a wonderful tonic after the bland 'demons' of last season's Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist.

Diabolik Lovers started its run earlier than the rest of the shows in this list and the half-length episodes leave me wanting more each time. With several episodes under my belt already now, it's safe to say that these nasty vampires have caught my attention. It's a shame that there's no iOS port of the game (yet?).


Galilei Donna - Storia di tre sorelle a caccia di un mistero
Three sisters with little else in common suddenly find themselves the targets of mysterious kidnappers. It seems that their attackers are after the legacy of the girls' famous ancestor - none other than world-famous 16th-century scientist Galileo Galilei. Sadly, Galilei Donna is not my kind of show so it looks as though I'll never find the answer to Galileo's mystery. The visuals are very appealing, admittedly.


Gingitsune: Messenger Fox Of The Gods
A young female oracle works with the silver fox who guards her family shrine, solving problems for local people and learning more about herself and her role in the community along the way. I wasn't sure about fox guardian Gintarou's weird-looking design at first but it grew on me quickly. The show is sweet and enjoyable in spite of its lack of compelling storyline; now I just need to decide whether it stands out enough to keep me coming back.


Golden Time
A gentle romantic comedy about university life from the original creator of Toradora. From that description I wasn't expecting to enjoy this show, and indeed, Golden Time plays out much as I'd imagined. The gags arise from the exceptionally passive, avoidant male characters running into a handful of outgoing, eccentric young girls as they try to settle in to their new university environment. The central plot device of the lead having no memories of his earlier life will probably become more important in the episodes to come.

There's nothing wrong with Golden Time, it's simply not my type of show. Still, I'm a little tempted to keep watching longer to find out why one of the characters seems to be a walking tribute to NANA's Oosaki Nana.


Gundam Build Fighters
Information on the official streaming version is sparse but at the very least, Sunrise seem to have secretly popped the first episode of Gundam Build Fighters up on YouTube for foreigners to enjoy. It still feels as though it's been a long time since I watched a Gundam series - Kidou Senshi Gundam AGE was region-locked until recently and Gundam Build Fighters is more of a kid-friendly battle show with nerdy model-building elements. The pleasant visuals and earnest characters don't quite scratch my itch for mobile suits battling in space mixed with trauma and politics. Having said that, it was impossible not to grin at the Ramba Ral lookalike and the translated gunpla advertisements made me feel like a kid again, in a good way.

Fortunately I didn't get too wrapped up in the first part since I'm not entirely sure that future episodes will be available to people in the UK; it would be great if streaming services would take the time to better explain their distribution plans in advance!


Hajime No Ippo: The Fighting! -Rising-
To my shame, I still haven't finished the earlier series of Hajime No Ippo even though I have all of the US DVDs on my shelf waiting for the right moment. I watched the first episode of Hajime No Ippo Rising anyway and it stood alone quite well, starting off with a long flashback to a major turning point in Ippo's childhood which turned out to be relevant to the opponent he was about to face in the boxing ring. Hajime No Ippo is a great sports show which really hits the spot. I need to get caught up so I can start watching these new episodes properly later on.


I Couldn't Become A Hero, So I Reluctantly Decided To Get A Job. (Yuusha Ni Narenakatta Ore Ha Shibushibu Shuushoku Wo Ketsui Shimashita.)
This comedy with fantasy overtones was originally based on a light novel, in case that wasn't obvious from the tediously lengthy title. And like many of its brethren it suffers from the problem where the writer had a genuinely funny idea for a joke which inevitably stops being funny after being dragged out over the course of a full anime television series. An OAV would have been plenty back in the old days.

The plot is straightforward: Raul trained hard to become a hero and defeat the demon king, except before he had the chance the demon was overthrown and the would-be hero's life completely changed its course. He ends up working in a shop selling magical appliances situated near a Lawson convenience store loaded with real-world product placement. One day, the demon king's daughter applies for a job there, setting the stage for a shameless parade of every popular anime trope in existence, from upskirting to mistaken gender identification. Raul is a dreadfully annoying guy most of the time, lamenting his misfortune and making excuses instead of buckling down and making something of himself. A great deal of the animation budget seems to have gone into exceptionally fluid animation of the cringeworthy fan service moments. It all seems a little pointless, especially as Hataraku Maou-sama! already parodied the idea of demons working in customer service just a few months ago; Yuushibu's one unique selling point was taken away before it even began airing.


Kill la Kill
Fan-favourite studio Trigger have put together a ridiculously over-the-top high school fighting romp with this season's Kill la Kill. With a plot based around a half-naked girl fighting an oppressive school council it's immediately reminiscent of classic Kekkou Kamen - only with a modern vigour to the animation which recalls more recent shows such as Re:Cutey Honey and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Even though I'm expecting the intensity to decrease once the novelty of the early episodes wears off, it looks as though this show will provide some very entertaining moments over the next few weeks.

Kill la Kill will eventually move to its home at Wakanim.tv once things are set up. In the meantime the simulcasts are being hosted directly by All The Anime to avoid further delays.


Kuroko's Basketball season 2 (Kuroko No Basuke season 2)
Kuroko No Basuke finally returns to television with even more intimidating enemies to face in exciting confrontations on the basketball court. The first episode launches straight into the action with a street basketball match and the introduction of new rivals for Kagami and Kuroko. I loved the first season of this show so there's no chance I will be skipping this sequel. I hope that the creators won't make us wait too long to learn all about the last two members of the legendary 'generation of miracles', Murasakibara and Akashi.

I also hope that the real-world psychopaths who closed down many of the Japanese KuroBas events at the end of the first season refrain from sending any threats. Let's allow fans to enjoy celebrating the show without interference this time around.


Log Horizon
I'm not sure who thought that anime viewers needed yet another series about players getting stuck inside an online roleplaying game so soon after Sword Art Online. It wasn't an original idea in the first place, but the previous series was so overwhelmingly popular that Log Horizon was bound to invite comparisons even if it takes a very different approach to its concept. After watching the first episode, I've decided that Log Horizon is more like a blend of Ixion Saga DT (without the saucy jokes) and the .hack series than anything else. The lead character - who has an irritating habit of fiddling with his glasses every time he's on camera - is a relaxed, sociable guy with a cool head. He teams up with a burly fighter and cute-as-a-button female assassin to investigate the new expansion pack responsible for them all being trapped within the game. There are also a number of gags about MMORPG mechanics which are hit and miss.

On a personal level, one of the appealing aspects of fantasy stories are that they are set in a completely different world full of people who are immersed in the setting. I'm not overly keen on the current fashion to use those elements with annoying modern-day gamers in the lead roles. Still, Debauchery Tea Party is a pretty amazing name for a raid group.


Miss Monochrome
Well. It's a short series with four-minute episodes, and seems to be a love song from seiyuu Horie Yui to the inimitable Inoue Kikuko. The lead character, Miss Monochrome, is a pretty young android striving to become a famous idol in order to cross paths with Kikuko someday. The thin plot is mostly a vehicle for some star seiyuu to have some fun, and the CG ending sequence full of singing and dancing is rather memorable. And rather scary at the same time.


My Mental Choices Are Completely Interfering With My School Romantic Comedy (Ore No Nounai Sentakushi Ga, Gakuen Love-Come Wo Zenryoku De Jama Shiteiru)
I shall adopt the short form of the title, Noucome, for the sake of my own sanity. I won't need it for long, however, as this show was so painfully dumb that I can't bring myself to continue past the first episode. The main character is a wimpy schoolboy who is afflicted with a condition which presents weird multiple choice questions at sudden moments during his daily life. The moments of decision paralyse him with pain until he picks one of the options, and then he has to deal with the consequences - which are usually embarrassing and invoke as much juvenile humour as possible. In other words, the premise makes very little sense. It's also not very good.


I think the show might be trying to make some social commentary about the importance of decisions in between the insipid fan service and cliches, which somehow makes it even more depressing.


Nagi No Asukara
I wasn't feeling Nagi No Asukara at first yet it improved greatly over the course of the first episode and now I'm planning to watch a few more. I even noticed myself looking forward to finding out what happened next several times during the wait between episodes, which is always a good sign.

The main characters all live under the sea thanks to some supernatural abilities, and they've joined a new school on land where they have to mix with land-dwellers. Although most of the people on the surface are jerks there are a few who haven't completely forgotten their ties to their undersea cousins, and it looks as though lead girl Manaka is going to be growing closer to the calm land-dweller Tsugumu very quickly. Once the mundane introductions are out of the way there are signs of charming character interactions and the underlying mythological plot about the relationship between the two different groups of humans could be interesting.


Non Non Biyori
Have you ever wanted to watch a version of Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni where nothing actually happens? If so, Non Non Biyori is perfect. Cute girls making incomprehensible noises, a tiny school with a bunch of female students surrounding a token guy, and a quiet countryside setting. It's all very peaceful. And consequently, very boring. I'm conscious that I'm comparing it to other titles a little too much, but for some reason the lead girl resembles every character in Lucky☆Star rolled into one.

I knew the show was going to irritate me the moment the soundtrack brought out the wholesome recorder music to evoke a rose-tinted school atmosphere; no thanks.


Samurai Flamenco
A cynical city cop ends up crossing paths with Masayoshi, a handsome male model who dreams of being a hero, except that he has nothing to work with other than some costumes and his burning obsession with justice. Masayoshi cruises the streets by night as the masked crusader 'Samurai Flamenco', picking fights with anyone he notices showing a lack of consideration for others. This tokusatsu-inspired 'buddy' show is obviously trying to tap into the audience which flocked to Tiger & Bunny a while ago, and with a strong creative staff it has a good chance of succeeding. The relatable adult main characters and comedic tone appealed to me so much that I watched the first episode twice in a row.


Strike The Blood
Kojou is a put-upon young man (and an infamously strong vampire) who suddenly finds himself stalked and attacked by a spunky young schoolgirl who wants to slay him. However, she bungles her attempt and ends up becoming sympathetic to his situation. The nice artwork can't compensate for the fact that this is thoroughly generic stuff with a set-up I've seen a thousand times before. It's harmless and watchable, but then I could be spending that time doing something else. There's no sign of anything compelling lurking beneath the surface of Strike The Blood.


Valvrave The Liberator (Kakumeiki Valvrave) season 2
Valvrave The Liberator is back! The first season was an addictive roller coaster of melodrama and thrills, and this sequel wastes no time in recapturing that atmosphere right from the first episode. The new T.M.Revolution/Mizuki Nana theme song needs a little more time to grow on me, but other than that there's not much I can say about Valvrave that wasn't already mentioned in my earlier posts.


Walkure Romanze
If last season's Silver Spoon presented equestrian life as being full of hard work and passion, Walkure Romanze takes a different approach, set in a glamorous jousting school full of attractive women and horses who strip the girls' clothes off when they're upset (while this only happened twice in the first episode, it was so bizarre that I can't let it slide). The way that the sandwich-guzzling horses are depicted is strangely childlike; they're more like My Little Pony characters than like actual animals - at least, when they're not simply acting as plot devices to force girls into compromising positions or push the ditzy lead character into the arms of the male lead. Even though I love horses, this season I'll be getting my game adaptation fix from the superior White Album 2 instead. Walkure Romanze is a little bit too silly for its own good.


Wanna Be The Strongest In The World (Sekai De Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai!)
On that note, Wanna Be The Strongest In The World is a show which handles silliness much better. Sakura is a popular young idol thrust into the world of professional wrestling after refusing to let a wrestler insult her friend and career. With no experience in the wrestling ring, all she has to work with is her tenacity. The series is loaded with lowbrow fan service shots of the girls wearing skimpy wrestling outfits and jiggling about, but there's something charmingly dorky about it all which really appeals to me. Pro-wrestling is automatically entertaining as well, so I'm going to keep watching this one for now.


White Album 2
The singers in White Album 2 don't become pro-wrestlers with huge bosoms, but that doesn't mean it's any less fun to watch. The original White Album was a game I never played which was adapted into an anime I never saw. It spawned quite a few good songs though, and fortunately the sequel is based on a new storyline set ten years after the original. The characters are all new too; anime fans won't be penalised for watching White Album 2 without having experienced the earlier works.

It's occasionally obvious that this is a visual novel adaptation from the style of the conversations, but other than those moments I thought the first episode of White Album 2 was presented very well indeed. The lead character is a motivated, pleasant guy who helps out in school and thinks carefully about what he wants to achieve - there's none of the whining or sarcasm which often plagues works aimed at this demographic. The handful of girls (and guys!) who appeared in the first episode were all interesting too rather than being instantly recognisable as simplistic archetypes. It looks as though the lead is going to revitalise his school's light music club in the weeks to come with the help of the school's beautiful idol, Setsuna, and a mysterious pianist. I can't wait to see the drama unfold.


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The UK also has access to a handful of brand new sequels to shows which don't interest me.

Bottom Biting Bug season 2
Infinite Stratos 2
Little Busters! Refrain
Teekyuu 2

The lone drama offering on Crunchyroll this season is Hakuba No Jisama ('Hakuba No Oujisama Junai Tekireiki').

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So, what's missing? BlazBlue Alter Memory, Freezing the Vibration, Tokyo Ravens and Unbreakable Machine-Doll all went to FUNimation in the US, their English-language streaming rights doomed to be locked away from most of the rest of the world.

Similarly, Kyoukai no Kanata (Beyond The Boundary), Magi: The Kingdom Of Magic, Meganebu!, Outbreak Company, Phi-Brain season 3 and Yowamushi Pedal are all Crunchyroll titles without UK rights. The first season of Magi was streamed by apparently-defunct UK streaming service Anime On Demand; now that it's gone, so has our chance to see more Magi. I'm pretty disgusted that I have to miss out on following the continuation of the story since the Crunchyroll stream is US-only. Phi-Brain is slightly annoying too as I've been watching the Blu-ray release and would have liked to see the newest episodes without waiting a year or more for permission...

Finally, Coppelion went to Viz in the US. The remaining autumn shows are still unannounced and at this point it seems unlikely that any of them will be simulcast.

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Once again, the anime industry's deranged fixation on region locking things across territories where they should be split by language means that I'll be importing fewer shows than I might have otherwise. Since I can't watch Magi and Meganebu!, my top three is probably going to look something like this:

1. Valvrave The Liberator season 2
2. Diabolik Lovers
3. Kuroko's Basketball season 2

Sorry, it's a terribly stereotypical top three for my demographic profile. Samurai Flamenco might sneak in there too by the time the season ends.

My viewing schedule at the start of the season isn't very evenly distributed. I have a regular commitment on Thursdays yet four different titles arrive at once that evening. Meanwhile, on the days I'm free there's hardly anything! At least nothing will get in the way of Wednesday night Japanese magazine translation sessions.

Monday: Diabolik Lovers
Tuesday: Gifuu Doudou, Monogatari
Wednesday:
Thursday: Kill la Kill, Nagi No Asukara, Samurai Flamenco, Valvrave The Liberator
Friday:
Saturday: Kuroko's Basketball, White Album 2
Sunday: Wanna Be The Strongest In The World

15 comments:

  1. Fill me in..when will Pupa aired??

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    1. I wish I knew the answer to that - it doesn't help that the official website has had so much downtime lately!

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    2. I've seen the manga before it's pretty gory and gorgeous. But somehow i'm afraid it turns into a normal battle manga, the psychological theme there is pretty disturbing after all.

      Actually...i was the one that PM you in KOEIwarriors inbox, telling you about the Japanese VA dlc for DW8. But it seems you never reply me.

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    3. Oh! I didn't know I had a message! Thank you for that, I can see it now :(

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    4. Well...you should've bought the JP's version of DW8 instead of waiting for it...we never even know that DW8XL even brought outside. What happens if DW8XL were not a dlc release but physical release? Waste of money right?

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    5. FYI, DW8Xl already announced. And no infos as of yet if the english release is physical or digital.

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    6. I know. I'm happy waiting for it - the Sengoku Basara series is my favourite so I'm solidly following that until I've completed 4 to my satisfaction. Tecmo-Koei Europe will probably provide a physical release for SW8XL here since it does reasonably well in this country, that's why I wanted to support the Japanese voices DLC pack to show that there was an audience for that kind of thing!

      With the previous DW game I got too excited and finished the UK version before the Japanese voices DLC was released on PSN. I regretted that; I don't really like the dub.

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    7. I see. BTW, You misspelled DW with SW.. i dont think you like SW afterall. Afterall SW only until SW4..let alone SW8

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    8. Yes, sorry, I made a typo because the keys are close together...^^;

      I like SW too. And Musou Orochi.

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    9. BTW, you might need to play a waiting game with SW4 again if you plan to buy it. Cause apparently some tweets made by the producer..they're not decided yet with western release of it. I'm guessing to take that as a decision that a possible western release of SW4.

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    10. Yeah, the SW series has had a weird history overseas. For some reason people in the UK seem to like Three Kingdoms warfare more than Sengoku material. I will import it if we only get the Vita version in the west (or nothing at all) since I want the console version :/

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    11. Calm down it's not like they'll release it overseas yet, you should know the fact that SW3 bombed really hard that even the XL and Empires version didnt released overseas. Usually KOEI...well kinda keeps promises from the fan(evidence? The dlc from DW series, i dont know about SW since it's led by different team), if they planned to release it overseas then they'll release it on both consoles unless it's an expansion one.

      Hmm..seems like Capcom needs to jiggle up some sangokushi basara then if they want to take an eye of UK fans.

      Talking about SW, i was kinda jealous that you guys(basara fans) didnt need to worry about new charas,gameplay and such only worries about who'll become npc and how many charas. While we are vice versa of you, we're not so worried about npc and charas(They didnt get cut anyway, and they'll bring back all characters,the negative? WEll i'm supposing it will be gameplay and graphics), cause it's 10th anniversary next year.

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    12. Mm, I'm trying to avoid most of the SW4 hype in the hope that they'll decide what to do about the overseas release by the time I'm finished with Sengoku Basara 4. At least they confirmed Hanbee/Kanbee already since I was surprised at how much I liked them before. I'm not so sure about Mitsunari's new design, though...his older appearance was stunning.

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  2. What anime is the first picture ? It looks really good

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    1. It's Nagi No Asukara (Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea) and it is, indeed, really good :)

      It's still up on Crunchyroll if you have access and since it's finished it should all be free.

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