Sunday, 18 January 2015

Streaming: Winter 2015 anime first impressions

Another season, another round of frustrating region locks which shouldn't exist as companies license anime for streaming in the UK then... don't stream it in the UK. FUNimation is the number one enemy of everyone in the English-speaking world outside North America these days, and for the time being that's still the case. However, a few promising tweets have indicated that this might soon be changing. I'm pleased to see that a lot of news websites have been highlighting this story as it will make it harder for FUNimation to pretend it never happened once expectations have been set.

As usual, Crunchyroll provides the best value for UK fans with speedy announcements and plenty of information. They haven't managed to pick up as many titles as I'd have liked this season due to FUNimation's meddling, but they have a reasonable selection. Daisuki has more on offer than usual with three interesting streams running at once and their multilingual subtitles are always appreciated.

None of the other streaming services had even announced any brand new streams by the time all of the new titles for the season had started their broadcasts, so anything that will be handled by Animax UK, Viewster or Wakanim will have to wait for my final impressions at the end of the season. Animax UK seems to be in its death throes with the usual lack of communication; as I type this, Gundam: Reconguista In G is more than five weeks late and the last website update was twelve days ago despite having three winter simulcasts which haven't been finished. Wakanim has been out of action for a while, making Viewster is the only one of the three likely to provide anything worth watching.

A generous number of autumn titles are continuing into the winter season, so my schedule is already half full. The titles I've decided to keep following are Akatsuki No Yona, Bonjour♪ Koiaji P√Ętisserie, Gundam: Reconguista In G, Parasyte -The Maxim-, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal and SHIROBAKO. I have a feeling it's going to be a busy winter.

LOVE!

ALDNOAH.ZERO season 2
After a twist end - which would have had more people on the edges of their seats if they hadn't already telegraphed the outcome with a previous cliffhanger - ALDNOAH.ZERO is finally back on the air. The second season has barely begun and there have already been plenty of complicated explanations and a bombastic action sequence. It's got a lot of detractors and it doesn't always make sense, but what the heck. I'm sticking with ALDNOAH.ZERO as long as it keeps providing excitement and a first class soundtrack. If it ends up having a good story one day too, that's just a bonus.

A picture of Slaine and a gun, as is traditional
Binan Koukou Chikyuu Boueibu LOVE! (Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!)
What did I just watch? This show is fantastically entertaining! While magical girl shows have been exploring darker themes for some time now, the boys of Binan Koukou Chikyuu Boueibu LOVE! bring back fond memories of older titles with their colourful parade of camp poses and cheeky dialogue. I love it. It's not very smart, but it's ridiculous, fun and loveable.

The spunky Yumoto is an obvious favourite right from the first episode but I'm looking forward to seeing more from the other magical boys in future episodes. It's a shame that Ishida Akira's character probably won't be returning in future...

There's not a trace of seriousness to be found
Durarara!!×2 (Shou)
I watched the original Durarara!! just long enough ago that it's difficult to remember the exact sequence of events, so I'm glad the first episode of this sequel kept new content to a minimum. All of the highlights of the first series seem to have returned: Celty's still cool, Shinra's still cute, the voice acting is still amazing and Izaya is still a colossal creep. It's interesting that there are already three cours planned for this adaptation of the remaining books; I wonder what's going to happen?

Somehow this dork is my favourite character
ISUCA
This stream won't start until 23rd January 2015. I'll reserve my impressions for a later date.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders season two
It's back, and it finally looks as though the guys might meet up with their nemesis this time. The usual psychedelic gloriousness that is JoJo has been sorely missed each Friday, so I'm looking forward to catching up. I've somehow avoided reading the manga so I'm sure there will be plenty of surprises this season!

The heroes are cool, but Koyasu needs more lines!
Juuou Mujin No Fafnir (Unlimited Fafnir)
How many times are we going to use see storyline where there's a special power only girls can use, except for one plain schoolboy who subsequently has to attend classes full of attractive females uncertain around the opposite sex? Juuou Mujin No Fafnir adds a formulaic fantasy storyline about invading monsters, pandering elements of sexual discrimination and makes the hero a clueless soldier. There's also a long-lost little sister character to ensure it's as generic as possible. This is everything I can't stand about recent light novels in one show. Ugh.

Imaginative dialogue is not one of this show's strong points
Kantai Collection (KanColle)
I was quite curious about KanColle given its astronomical popularity but as I have no interest in either cute girls or warships, I found that my attention strayed dozens of times during the first episode alone. Aside from the dodgy CG, I can see the Strike Witches crowd having a lot of fun since KanColle shares a similar atmosphere without being quite as brazen in its fan service. I'll pass.

I expected to see more Shimakaze - here's Nagoto instead
Kuroko no Basket (Kuroko's Basketball) season three
It's been close to a year since anime viewers were tuning in for KuroBas yet before the new opening had finished playing everything had come flooding back; it felt as though the second season stopped airing just last week. The first episode helpfully recaps the important clashes from the current tournament so those with shakier memories should be able to continue straight from where they left off without any problems.

I've been saying this since the end of season one, but I hope we'll finally get to see Akashi Seijuurou in action this time...

Crunchyroll is planning to stream the show on a two-week delay this season. I can't wait that long for each new episode so I guess Daisuki's simulcast has my attention this time.

I'm rooting for you in the first match, Kise!
Military!
A madcap short series which makes absolutely no sense. Recommended if you like squeaky girls, zany humour and heavy weaponry. It's a little too hyper for a person with no interest in gunplay to follow.

If the episode was any longer my brain would have melted
Saenai Heroine No Sodatekata (Saekano -How To Raise a Boring Girlfriend-)
A typical otaku teams up with a gaggle of hot, lusty girls to make a doujin game with them, except his life already seems to resemble a bishoujo game as they work on the project. It's not terribly funny or original even though it's a parody. You'll know whether you like it within the first five minutes, since the show doesn't waste a second before diving straight into outrageous fan service. At least the artwork is nice.

I've already forgotten her name and I only just watched it
Seiken Tsukai No World Break (World Break: Aria of Curse for a Holy Swordsman)
This series takes a mildly interesting idea about teenagers learning to use special powers based on who they were in their past lives, and turns it into yet another by-the-numbers fantasy romp with harem elements and a lead male with a unique ability. To make it even more cringeworthy, one of the girls who fawns over the boring male lead was his adoring little sister in their past life. Also, one of the female leads has big breasts, which she uses to harass the guy, while the other has small breasts, which the guy makes rude comments about for cheap laughs. Why do so many light novel adaptations use the exact same story elements? And more importantly, why do they continue to sell? The lead's cool two-tone hairstyle was the only thing I enjoyed about the first episode.

I'm out of here
Sengoku Musou (Samurai Warriors)
I still hadn't seen the Sengoku Musou SP: Sanada No Shou anime which came with Sengoku Musou 4 when this series began since I don't have a PlayStation 4 to justify the cost of the game's anime edition. Crunchyroll kindly saved me the £30 by including the OAV along with the first episode of the new television adaptation. The animation in the special episode was surprisingly cheap-looking for such an epic series but it did its job of dancing through the series' timeline and introducing the story of the two Sanada brothers, making it a simple primer for new fans who haven't played the games or kept up with their Japanese history studies.

With that out of the way, I continued on to the television version and soon realised that my favourite Musou characters appear to have been swept aside to keep the focus on the Sanada brothers - especially Nobuyuki. Oh well. I should have expected that. The battle sequences have been improved over the OAV and the staff packed as many characters as possible into the first episode. I wonder whether new viewers were able to keep track of who everyone was.

Objectively speaking, I don't think this is a perfect adaptation in terms of production value or scope but that doesn't really matter; it's cool to see the Sengoku Musou world animated and I'm definitely going to keep watching!

I cannot explain why I find Hideyoshi cute in anime form
Shinmai Maou No Testament (The Testament of Sister New Devil)
What a title. The first episode got off to a good start by having Fujiwara Keiji's silken voice introduce the lead (whose name is Basara), however things went downhill fast when he immediately walked in on one of his sexy new stepsisters in a restaurant's toilet for no reason and proceeded to terrify her. The true plot of the series then gradually came out: these new sisters are demons intent on stealing his home, and Basara's family just happens to have ties to their world. Cue hilarious sexual harassment jokes and the occasional reference to demonic politics. The raunchy comedy elements don't work for me when one of the sisters is annoying tsundere and the other is a baby-faced succubus. It's like a hellish remix of elements from every other popular light novel series of recent years; I guess if you're keen on demon girls, Shinmai Maou No Testament might be worth watching. Otherwise, it's probably better to rewatch Hataraku Maou-sama! instead.

It's a girl in a toilet - better roughly push her against a wall!
THE iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls
It's a shame we couldn't just get another season about the 765 Pro idols from the original THE iDOLM@STER. I liked them. The designs in Cinderella Girls don't appeal to me nearly as much (though Rin's cute), the shy new Producer is too awkward and the music isn't as catchy. While fans of the girls from the mobile games are likely to find a lot to appreciate about this adaptation, I think there are better uses for my time.

I've already decided that she's the best idol in the show
Tsukimonogatari
It's last on the list but this four-episode special was originally the first winter title to become available courtesy of Daisuki's free stream. It took me weeks to finish watching this as Daisuki's video player kept freaking out towards the end of the single extra-long episode they streamed due to a server error and it was painful to keep starting over then getting stuck at the same point. The other streams I tried seemed fine; maybe it would be better if they broke Tsukimonogatari up into smaller chunks to make it less frustrating if things go wrong?

Anyway, Tsukimonogatari is another short story from NisiOisiN's supernatural Monogatari universe and by now everyone should know exactly what to expect: lots of dialogue, a mystery to solve and undercurrents of unusually perverted fan service. The focus is on the 'specialists' who tackle apparitions behind the scenes, and we learn a lot more about them this time through Yotsugi, the doll-like entity who has been a frequent guest star in recent arcs.

As the anime continues to explore Koyomi's relationship with Shinobu and his vampiric nature, it's becoming more and more of a problem that there's still no solid news on when we'll be able to see the anime adaptation of Kizumonogatari - the story which explains why the two of them ended up working together in the first place. I feel as though I'm missing out on a lot by not having read the original novels, which is a major drawback in any adaptation.

A picture of Yotsugi rather than Shinobu, for once
--

Finally, there are the usual sequels and spin-offs for shows I never watched:

Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor - Exodus (Fafner Exodus)

It's a short list!

I'm grateful that it looks as though Crunchyroll and Daisuki have everything we're going to be given access to at all since few of the other sites publish a fixed schedule to let me plan my time. As usual there are plenty of titles which have legal English-subtitled streams with arbitrary viewing restrictions in most of the world.

Region locked Crunchyroll titles

Dog Days″ season 3
Koufuku Graffiti (Gourmet Girl Graffiti)

Region locked FUNimation titles

Absolute Duo
Ansatsu Kyoushitsu (Assassination Classroom)
Death Parade
Junketsu no Maria (Maria The Virgin Witch)
Kamisama Hajimemashita◎ (Kamisama Kiss season two)
Rolling☆Girls
Shounen Hollywood: Holly Stage for 50 season 2
Tokyo Ghoul √
Yoru no Yatterman (Yatterman Night)
Yuri Kuma Arashi

I complain every time but nothing seems to change. Thanks for nothing, FUNimation. I'd definitely have watched at least half of those locked shows if you weren't deliberately withholding them from international fans.

The situation with Dog Days is quite strange; it was announced that Crunchyroll had the rights for a small selection of Asian countries but it's been posted on the UK lineup page. The previous seasons are available to the UK so it's strange to see the third in limbo.

--

There might still be some straggling licenses which haven't yet been announced (several services don't seem to fully understand the meaning of simulcasting), but I'm not waiting any longer to post my first impressions. Anything else will have to be included in the season-end roundup. Tokyo Ghoul √ is supposedly on the way from Anime Limited at some point, presumably after they find someone who will stream it for them in a timely fashion. If only Crunchyroll would work with UK distributors to help sort this mess out.

Slaine...
My guesses for the three shows I'll enjoy most this season are as follows.

1. ALDNOAH.ZERO
2. Kuroko's Basketball
3. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

Yuri Kuma Arashi and Kamisama Hajimemashita would probably have featured on this list if I was allowed to watch them. Since I'm not, the action shows have made the best impression so far.

Blessedly, my already-busy Thursdays are nice and light this season. To make up for it, Saturdays are going to be full of anime!

Monday: ---
Tuesday: Akatsuki No Yona, Binan Koukou Chikyuu Boueibu LOVE!
Wednesday: Kiseijuu
Thursday: Gundam: Reconguista In G, SHIROBAKO
Friday: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
Saturday: Sailor Moon, BONJOUR♪Koiaji P√Ętisserie, ALDNOAH.ZERO, Kuroko No Basuke, Durarara!
Sunday: Sengoku Musou

4 comments:

  1. Hello again! I just came here, and I could'nt avoid seeing your opinion about Saekano (Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata).

    The episode you saw is the episode 0, and the moment I saw that chapter I almost drop it... But, I gave an opportunity and watch the episode 1. It was a completely different thing from episode 0. Still, it has a lot of fanservice, but the characters... were unique. Specially the "Boring Heroine/Girlfriend", which strangely, for being the heroine, it's not part of the harem "per se". You have to watch to believe it. It's a very unusual harem, and even the otaku protagonist is not a normal person.

    I don't know if you could like this anime or not (in my case, it became one of my favorites of all time, I just have to rewatch it again, even when I am not that fond of fanservice and harem), but I think it's a bit unfair judge Saekano by only episode 0.

    Here is an article in English about that anime in case you want a second opinion, mine it could be a bit optimistic and simple in comparison.

    http://kotaku.com/saekano-uses-well-written-characters-to-explore-rom-com-1709222269

    Any case, have a nice day n_n

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for trying to change my mind! Hmm, perhaps I should try the second ('first') episode when I have time, like between the winter/spring seasons if there's a gap. Hearing that you liked it so much even as someone who isn't keen on its genre makes me curious.

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    2. Oh, I'm glad then n_n

      I realize that late anime in their first episode introduces a lot of fanservice and then tone it down in the next episodes, sometimes the fanservice content almost doesn't exist in some cases. Probably it's a method to attract watchers, although it could be a "doble edge weapon" ("arma de doble filo" in Spanish, in other words, it could work well for some cases, terribly wrong in others).

      In conclusion: never judge an anime for its first episode. Probably with two or four episodes is enough to have a well-thought opinion.

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    3. Hehe, we have the same expression in English ("double-edged sword"). If only there was enough time to watch everything! Though I bet Seiken Tsukai No World Break would still annoy me even if I sat through the whole thing.

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