Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Streaming: Spring 2014 anime first impressions

It seems that French service Wakanim hasn't licensed anything for this season so the UK is back down to three legal simulcast services: Crunchyroll, Daisuki and Animax UK, though calling Animax's delayed content 'simulcasts' is being rather generous and Daisuki is a waste of time for anyone outside the US. The only continuing show I'm following from the winter 2014 season is Nobunaga The Fool, so I have a lot of free slots in my schedule. Let's see what I'm going be watching (and blocked from) this time!

No prizes for guessing which shows I liked best

Baby Steps
Eiichirou is a studious boy who suddenly decides to join a tennis club to get some exercise. It's a pleasantly simple motive and his earnest personality is soon put to the test by the spirited young Natsu. I like the chunky character designs and the realistic way that Eiichirou suffers adapting to the world of sport, but I'm not all that interested in continuing to watch; it's too mild and inoffensive to keep my attention.

His mini-mohawk hairstyle is a little distracting

Black Bullet
A jargon-packed light novel adaptation about a young guy battling against monsters with the help of an adoring - and super-powered - female friend. I'm not really feeling this show; it combines all of the usual genre tropes with some very slick artwork yet nothing about it seems all that memorable. It will probably sell well over here nonetheless.

The first of many spunky little girls this season

Blade And Soul
All I knew about Blade And Soul was that it was based on a MMO by NCSOFT, makers of countless gorgeous-looking, hopelessly generic online games. I hadn't realised at first that this one was going to be quite so loaded with sultry women, though that's not really a complaint. Male characters seem to be relegated to support roles while the girls dance around in sexy outfits and slaughter enemies with a variety of elaborate fighting styles. There's some kind of plot involving the lead character's past as a runaway from an Evil Empire, with hints that she might have been framed by a conspiracy. I stopped trying to understand what was happening when some guys interrupted her as she bathed in a lake then lent her a tiny cloak and took her home, without ever asking her where her own clothes were or questioning whether she might have been doing something before they came along. This isn't going to be an epic fantasy story, it's just a threadbare excuse to see beautiful women doing battle in a fantasy world, and if that's what you're after, Blade And Soul certainly fills its niche. I don't think I'll be watching the second episode.

I can't remember her name, but I liked her

Brynhildr In The Darkness (Gokukoku No Brynhildr)
A nice guy with no personality watches helplessly as his childhood friend dies trying to save him, and ends up carrying on her quest to try to find evidence of aliens. Several years later, he's surprised when a girl who looks just like her suddenly transfers into his class at school. It's not long before weird things start happening around our hero and he finds himself entangled up in something he never expected. The show reminds me of Chaos;Head with its mild gore, pseudo-intellectualism, irritating lead and the abundance of cute girls in the opening and if that's not a good enough reason to stay away I don't know what is.

This show would make me angry very quickly

Captain Earth
The season's new mecha series comes courtesy of the ever-interesting Bones (I'm not counting either of the two historical mecha shows as both blend so many different genres). There are a few elements of Star Driver to be found in Captain Earth but it seems to be a little more conventional so far, and I'm interested to see how it's going to develop. I don't feel that I understand enough about the story from the first two episodes to say much more yet!

You can't make this kind of thing up

Chaika –The Coffin Princess- (Hitsugi No Chaika)
Another mediocre fantasy adventure. While the coffin-carrying 'wizard' Chaika has an interesting design, the rest of the content is the same kind of thing I've seen a hundred times before, even down to the gags. I can almost respect the way that they unnecessarily crammed in a stupid younger sister for the main character as though it's a mandatory requirement these days.

Intelligence is rare in Chaika -The Coffin Princess-

Dai-Shogun - Great Revolution (Fuuun Ishin Dai Shougun)
I can't use words such as clever, original or mature when describing Dai-Shogun, yet somehow this irreverent alternate-history story really appealed to me. Keiichirou suddenly discovers that he's linked to the powerful Tokugawa family and takes control of a giant robot to do battle surrounded by sexy women with large breasts. And for some reason, everyone keeps making remarks about the status of his virginity. The crude humour helps fill the void that was left in my life after the Gintama and Ixion Saga DT anime series ended; it's just a pity that there are already some noticeable drops in the animation quality in the very first episode. It doesn't bode well for the rest.

Having said that, the actual designs are nice and bold, and the ruffians Keiichirou hangs out with have the greatest hairstyles of the season.

He's cooler than this picture makes him seem, honest

Dragon Collection
Speaking of Ixion Saga DT, after its brilliance I decided not to skip over any dumb-looking game tie-in titles in case I missed another hidden gem. Unfortunately, this means that I had to sit through the first episodes of three kid shows about card games and monsters. Dragon Collection is the first of them and it turns out that it's just a regular cartoon about a kid falling into a fantasy world and bickering with silly villains who wield magical collectible cards - not my sort of thing at all!

The guy in the middle is called Meatmania

Haikyuu!!
The second new sports series of the season and the more hot-blooded of the two. Since I've heard a lot of good things about the Haikyuu!! manga it's great to see that Crunchyroll managed to grab the streaming rights - and amazingly it's also coming to home video one day in the US courtesy of Sentai Filmworks. Hinata Shouyou is a kind and passionate volleyball player whose amateur team gets completely obliterated by a powerful opponent in their very first match. He's delighted when he graduates and gets the chance to join a high school volleyball club - then shocked to find that the strongest player from that fateful match is going to be one of his teammates there! It's plain to see where this is going as the two learn from one another against a backdrop of exciting volleyball matches, and I think I'll keep watching. It's fun.

Flattering picture opportunities for the lead guy are rare

Herobank
There's not much to say; it's another kids show full of dodgy CG graphics and spunky redheaded boys with bushy eyebrows. The plot is the usual nonsense about a hero who gets tangled up with an interactive game, but the best part of the show is Nakai Kazuya's funny voice - he's immediately recognisable as the big guy who vaguely resembles Frankenstein's monster.

The seiyuu casting is awesome even if the show is not

Inugami-san To Nekoyama-san
A simple three-minute gag series about a doglike girl who loves cats, and a catlike girl who likes dogs. They both hit it off immediately and Inugami's stifling affection for the catlike Nekoyama is funny to watch. Though it's refreshing to see a less dramatic yuri-themed series with relatively outgoing characters (a necessity for a quick-fire comedy) I'm not really interested enough to keep watching on a weekly basis. I don't dislike it, though.

It's a simple premise and it works

Is The Order A Rabbit? (Gochuumon Ha Usagi Desu Ka?)
Cute girl overload! A ditzy schoolgirl moves in with a host family and starts working in their quiet café, learning about friendship, coffee and creating latte art. There's some kind of secret about the weird ball-like rabbit which is perpetually perched on someone's head, but I don't think the plot is going to be very complex here. It's a slice-of-life festival of cuteness, and as I can't stand that kind of thing I won't be watching any further. One aspect of the show which came across as being a little jarring was that the purple-haired girl would occasionally draw a gun on people in 'self-defence'; it seems unnaturally aggressive even if it's just played for laughs.

This show is aimed at someone who isn't me

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
Crunchyroll scored the hottest title of the season right from the start when they announced the acquisition of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure; both the new Stardust Crusaders and the previous television series. Since I've already seen the first two parts, I launched straight into Stardust Crusaders once it began. The first episode was as frantically paced as usual, with half a dozen important-looking characters introduced (or in some cases, reintroduced) alongside some funky combat and a huge amount of backstory. I can't resist this series' flamboyant charm! Every episode feels unnaturally short because the intensity never lets up for a single moment.

Automatically the manliest series in the list

Kamigami No Asobi - Ludere Deorum
The first of this season's otome game adaptations, and so far, the best. The plot of Kamigami No Asobi - Ludere Deorum is silly even by the standards of its genre, with the heroine having been spirited away to a mysterious school to teach a bunch of grumpy gods about love and humanity. Why? Um, because Zeus said so. The guys are exaggeratedly pretty and appealing (they're gods, after all) and even though the first episode does little more than briefly introduce the scenario, it's grabbed my attention. Shimmering winged horses, blooming flowers, skimpy 'god' costumes complete with transformation sequences: I'm in love with the over-the-top campness of it all. One complaint so far is that Baldr's clumsy habit of falling over in compromising ways is a little too much for me. It's annoying when female characters act like that, and apparently giving a guy the same trait doesn't make it any better.

Still not sure which guy I like best; Loki is winning so far

Kanojo Ga Flag Wo Oraretara (If Her Flag Breaks)
No anime season is complete lately without a fluffy light novel adaptation with a premise that's slightly too offbeat to explain without sounding crazy. Souta is a typical boring schoolboy who can see invisible flags above other people's heads when they're nearby. These flags reveal a person's hidden intentions, and by destroying them Souta can change that person's destiny - and by extension, his own. It's not long before Souta has somehow attracted the attention of his new classmates (well, the gorgeous female classmates, at least) and a harem starts to form around him. There's no characterisation whatsoever; it's utter nonsense and if you've watched this kind of thing before you'll know whether you like it within the first few minutes. I didn't.

The blonde is ok but the hyper girl is too much for me

La Corda D'Oro -Blue Sky-
The second of the two otome game adaptions airs on the same day as the first, making comparisons inevitable. Our lead and her handsome male friend (who is blatantly in love with her yet too shy to admit it) travel to watch their friend performing in a concert, somehow ending up transferring to his elite school and moving in to the dormitory there before the day is over. They're immediately hand-picked for a major musical event as part of the orchestra club, and this presumably forces our heroine to confront her worries about the violin while she deals with the never-ending stream of hunky guys she's about to be surrounded with.

I've never been able to get into the La Corda D'Oro series for some reason. I think it's a combination of the school setting and pervading feeling of sweetness; I prefer my romantic dramas to contain some unwholesome elements if possible. The sheer number of guys in the credits is usually a bad sign, too. How can they all get a decent amount of screen time? I probably won't be watching the rest of La Corda D'Oro -Blue Sky- this season however attractive the colourful artwork looks. If I hear good things I'll come back to it later on.

He's not my type at all but it was a funny picture

Magica Wars (Mahou Shoujo Taisen)
The first episode of Magica Wars is all about Aoba Naruko, who is apparently the magical girl representing the Miyagi region. The show is little more than a parade of regional specialities and shrieking, and it's kind of fun. Who knew how much I was yearning to see a mizutama-adorned magical girl covered in tanabata decorations beating up a herd of runaway zundamochi until now?

These four-minute long episodes are harmless fun. Having started with the best prefecture in Japan I'm not sure whether the rest will be able to compete; I wonder how long it will be before I end up dropping the show.

Having a plot isn't always all that important

Mekakucity Actors
An unemployed wastrel has a life-changing experience one day when he's forced to go outside and lands right in the middle of a hostage situation. While the series is very slick and full of Shaft's pleasant visuals - which suit the trendy subject material down to the ground - I didn't find myself all that interested in what was going to happen next. It's almost as though there's too much coolness to allow the viewer a chance to become attached to anything. Perhaps part of the problem is my lack of familiarity with the Kagerou Project universe that this series is based off; it's always hard to keep an existing fanbase happy at the same time as attracting a new one, and I feel as though I'm missing something.

The computer girl has a point

Mushi-shi Zokushou (sequel series)
It's more Mushi-shi. Completely unlike the other titles in this list, Mushi-shi provides an oasis of mysterious calmness each week. Even the most boring-sounding stories have a fascinating allure with Ginko around to observe them. It was obvious that this one was going to earn a slot in my weekly schedule no matter what happened, so thankfully the content is good enough to live up to those expectations.

It's strange how the subdued visuals stand out

Nanana's Buried Treasure (Ryuugajou Nanana No Maizoukin)
The opening song is seriously catchy! Nanana's Buried Treasure ended up being a lot more watchable than I'd expected. Juugo seemed like yet another arrogant male lead with perverted tendencies at first, but he's actually not bad, and he seems genuinely interested in the ghost girl he's forced to live with. Although I'm not sure whether I'll ever finish the show, if the central mystery about Nanana's killer is ever solved my money is on memorably-named landlord Maboro Shiki being the culprit.

They both have such pretty eyes

No Game, No Life
An unlikeable pair of genius gamers are transported into a world where everything is - quite literally - a game, and they go from being unemployed losers to successful swindlers in an instant. This is blatant wish-fulfillment which knows its target audience and isn't trying to appeal to anyone outside it. Is anyone in Japan not sick of clingy 'little sister' characters yet?

The colourful palette is easily the best part

Oreca Battle
Another kiddy show with half-length episodes (it seems to be paired with Dragon Collection). There's nothing much to say; it's got cards, monsters, nerds with encyclopaedic knowledge about monsters and hotblooded youngsters with thick, colourful eyebrows. The decent production values don't make it any more enjoyable to someone so far from its target demographic.

The tomato attack made me hungry!

Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! (Abarenbou Rikishi!! Matsutarou)
I have mixed feelings about this show. The aesthetic and the opening sequence are magnificent. On the other hand, the main character is a disgusting, disrespectful lout with no redeeming qualities at all. I hate him. Even if he's going to mature over the course of the series, can I really keep watching someone so unlikable being horrible to everyone around him?

Stealing food from old people and babies is unforgivable

Soul Eater NOT!
A spin-off related to the Soul Eater series, except with the shounen action replaced by cute slice-of-life hijinks. The characters are much less interesting than the cast of the original - a few of whom seem to have made cameo appearances already - and I'm not seeing much reason to continue past the first episode. The disruptive 30-second advertisements on Animax's delayed stream don't exactly help me immerse myself in the series.

It's like Soul Eater only less watchable

The Comic Artist And His Assistants (Mangaka-san To Assistant-san To)
I was torn between liking this show and despairing at its shameless mediocrity; it's a comedy about a perverted manga artist and his deadpan assistant(s?) except it's so unapologetically juvenile that it makes me want to cringe. I can probably live without ten minutes of non-stop recycled breast jokes each week, so I think I'll give the occasionally-funny manga hijinks a miss.

I think I'd already heard every single joke decades ago

The File of Young Kindaichi Returns (Kindaichi Shounen No Jikenbo R)
The classic detective series has returned! I love mystery shows and have recently been on a Meitantei Conan kick. Although I've never enjoyed Kindaichi as much as its more fantasy-inspired rival, the new anime seemed like an opportunity to give it another chance.

Kindaichi Hajime is a young genius with a poor reputation at his school because he slacks off and acts like an idiot instead of using his talents appropriately. At the start of this new series he heads to Hong Kong with his friends Saki and Nanase and ends up directly involved in a complicated kidnapping case. Right from the start the differences between this show and its most obvious rival are evident: it's relatively realistic with real-world technology, and Kindaichi doesn't have access to the same convenient help that Conan can summon whenever he gets into trouble. The feel of the show is also 'brighter' somehow even though the leads seem less invincible than Conan and his friends. A lot of that is due to Kindaichi's open, agreeable personality.

Mystery shows are always addictive even if they aren't perfect. Kindaichi Shounen No Jikenbo R will earn a spot in my schedule if I have enough free time this season, otherwise it might be cut from the list to make room for something else.

Smart, but not smart enough to avoid a well-deserved slap

The Kawai Complex Guide To Manors And Hostel Behavior! (Bokura Ha Minna Kawaisou)
What a title. Our hero moves into an old communal building and discovers that the life he was hoping for is nothing but a dream. His housemates are weird, from the perverted voyeur he shares a room with to the hyper-aggressive beauties who live on the other side of the complex. There's some very agreeable use of colour accompanying the decent animation quality. It's no Maison Ikkoku, though.

I'm not sure how the guy in the rear isn't in prison yet

The World Is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai Ha Utsukushii)
I was quite curious about this series from its description and so far it's been everything I hoped. Kind-hearted princess Nike is sent away to marry a ruler from a foreign land. However, she doesn't even meet her betrothed until the end of the first episode after getting caught up in some dangerous adventures on the way to the palace. Everyone is charming (even the pantomime villains who break the fourth wall at every opportunity) and it already looks as though Nike is going to have a hard time getting along with the young king she has to wed. I'm hooked.

Lead seiyuu Maeda Rena is a new name to me. She has an appealing voice which reminds me a little of Hayashibara Megumi in her prime.

One of the season's best heroines
This looks like a pretty good spring season based on the new shows. I haven't had much difficulty filling up my schedule!

--
There's the usual batch of sequels and spin-offs which don't interest me too:

Date A Live season 2
Fairy Tail series 2
Love Live! School Idol Project season 2

Live action dramas available include Gokuaku Ganbo, GTO Taiwan and S.D.B. National Police Agency Special Defense Bureau (Tokubou ~ Keisatsuchou Tokushu Bouhanka), all courtesy of Crunchyroll. None are high on my priority list but if I have time I'll try to watch them. Crunchyroll also announced a whole raft of additional live action dramas with unknown regional availability.

--

Finally, there are the usual missing titles; shows which UK viewers cannot watch via any kind of legal stream. It's always weird listing the shows which companies don't want to monetise in any way here. Funimation's licenses are off-limits as always, which blocks us from Daimidaler: Prince V.S. Penguin Empire (Kenzen Robo Daimidaler), Dragonar Academy (Seikoku No Dragonar), PUCHIM@S 2 and Selector Infected WIXOSS. Strangely, Daimidaler and Selector Infected WIXOSS have Crunchyroll streams too for a bunch of countries yet the UK is still missing from the lists. Did Funimation gain exclusivity for the UK rights too even though they don't stream here, or does the blame lie with one of the UK anime companies grabbing all of the rights they can without having any streaming infrastructure in place? It seems unfair. I think I shall adopt a policy of forever boycotting any UK releases where we were excluded from the original simulcasts in future.

The Crunchyroll titles with no UK rights seem to be Broken Blade TV EDITION, Majin Bone, One Week Friends (Isshuukan Friends), Ping Pong, Riddle Story of Devil (Akuma No Riddle) and The Irregular At Magic High School (Mahouka Koukou No Rettousei).

In spite of all of the blocked titles I don't think we've done too badly. Most of the missing shows look pretty terrible to me and not having to watch the first episode of the generic-sounding The Irregular At Magic High School is almost a relief. Sidonia No Kishi (Knights Of Sidonia) has gone to Netflix for a summer release so I guess there won't be any legal simulcasts at all. M3 ~Sono Kuroki Hagane~ is the only completely absent title I'd have liked to watch. Perhaps I still can - there's apparently still one mysterious title that Crunchyroll hasn't announced...

This pick-up line is ok when it's the truth, I guess
Guessing my top three shows for the end of the season is rather tricky. At the moment it might be something like this.

1. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
2. Kamigami No Asobi - Ludere Deorum
3. Nobunaga The Fool

Lastly, here's the weekly schedule as it currently stands. I've managed to pick up some shows which come out at the weekend and avoided the frustration of Animax UK's delaycasts! Since the latest season of the completely-unrelated-to-anime Game Of Thrones finally has a legal delayed simulcast option via NowTV in this country, that will be occcupying a slot at the start of each week to avoid too many spoilers. I'm so excited to be able to watch it on time for once.

Monday: Game Of Thrones
Tuesday: Magica Wars
Wednesday: Dai-Shogun - Great Revolution
Thursday: Nothing!
Friday: Mushi-shi Zokushou, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
Saturday: Kamigami No Asobi - Ludere Deorum, The World Is Still Beautiful, Captain Earth
Sunday: Nobunaga The Fool, Haikyuu!!

6 comments:

  1. I'm not very interested in the majority of anime now but it's so nice that more Mushi-shi anime has been made. It has a special atmosphere like you have to be in a meditative mood to watch it. I hope this sequel can continue to be as fascinating as it previously was.

    More Jojo, but unfortunately I don't like this part very much...I bet that some of the battles later on will look completely spectacular, though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm looking forward to finally seeing (well, hearing) what the ending theme is going to be like for Stardust Crusaders. I've only seen bits of this part of the story before so it's weirdly familiar even though I don't actually know exactly what will happen...

      Mushi-shi is really classy. I love it so much :)

      Delete
    2. Not going to name the ending song in case you see this comment before watching it, but my reaction is that it’s something pretty surprising and catchy :o It fits imo.

      Delete
    3. Haha, thanks for not revealing the ending song - I just watched the episode and it was certainly a surprise! Since I liked the group behind it back in my youth I was quite pleased by the choice (the funky visuals helped).

      Delete
  2. I'm honestly confused by your comment about Chaika "unnecessarily cramming in a stupid younger sister for the main character." The MC's actual sister is never really portrayed as stupid or in any way less capable than him. Context makes me think you're talking about Chaika herself, but she's hardly unnecessary; she's the lynchpin to the entire plot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps I took her a little too seriously when she declared herself an idiot during her first scene, but she wasn't making a good case for herself while smashing up that restaurant and complaining about their lack of money ^^;;

      Watching the scene again, I was too harsh about her after a string of little sister shows made me overly sensitive. I still don't like her (or the show) much, though.

      Delete

I'm really sorry that I had to switch on authentication for comments. The blog had started to receive dozens of spam comments each week. I hope that this new setting will help!