Friday, 24 April 2015

Streaming: Spring 2015 anime first impressions

Somehow I managed to cram a little anime into my schedule despite being busy with work and following the exciting new Sengoku Basara 4 Sumeragi updates every day. Since I'm boycotting Animax UK on the grounds of it being rubbish, my only sources for simulcasts this season are Crunchyroll, Daisuki and Viewster (along with NowTV for a rare non-anime stream in the form of Game Of Thrones). Anime Limited seem to have worked out their problems with Crunchyroll and that means that one of their licenses is available both there and on Viewster this season, which is fantastic news for people who hate sitting through ads like me. It would be even better if that show wasn't Plastic Memories, the weakest of the three television series they've picked up this season.

I believe that the only shows I follow which will be continuing into the next season are Comical Psychosomatic Medicine (for a time), JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Kuroko's Basketball and Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal. I guess it's time to pick out some new titles to join them!


Arslan Senki (The Heroic Legend of Arslan)
Like many fans my age, I enjoyed the previous anime adaptation of the Arslan Senki books back in the early 90s when it made its way to the west. While I've long forgotten how the story played out, this brand new adaptation has already charmed me after just one episode. With more run time to play with there's a lot more focus on characterisation than before and the new aesthetic does wonders to update the traditional fantasy series for a modern audience. The only thing I'm not so happy about so far is that Viewster has agreed to having an exclusivity contract in the UK which means the episodes might sometimes air on some random day of the week instead of on a fixed schedule. So far they have been doing a good job.

Weird eyebrows and cool, brave warriors

Danna Ga Nani Wo Itteiru Ka Wakaranai Ken (I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying): 2nd Thread
It's more of the same in this adorable short series loaded with Japanese pop culture references and love. The developments in season one seem to have been ignored for now - not that it matters. The charm of the show is watching the couple interacting normally with one another without any of the melodramatic shyness which afflicts most 'romance' titles.

He may be a geek but he's still weirdly manly

Dungeon Ni Deai Wo Motomeru No Ha Machigatteiru Darou Ka? (Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?)
I was expecting this to be absolutely terrible, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover that DanMachi is more entertaining than most recent formulaic light novel adaptations. The young hero is a typical lame fantasy adventurer whose main life goal is to seduce hot women. Of course, he's surrounded by attractive girls who seem happy to watch over him as he drags his feet and tries to become powerful enough to appeal to a powerful swordswoman he meets in a dungeon one day. It sounds like the worst thing ever on paper so it's a credit to the anime staff that they've managed to create something watchable out of the concept; still, I won't be following the show any further.

I can't decide whether the weak lead is annoying or not

ETOTAMA
This isn't aimed at me. ETOTAMA is so deeply calculated to appeal to its target demographic that it doesn't even try to hide it, but the end result is quite fun. A bunch of attractive young ladies patterned after the animals of the zodiac (plus the cat, who missed out when the original twelve animals were chosen) lurk around the new home of a bespectacled male student and fight for recognition in a psychedelic super-deformed battle arena. The result is like an insane blend of Di Gi Charat, Fruits Basket and Angelic Layer. Watanabe Akio's designs seem more popular than ever these days.

Better than I thought, which isn't saying much

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works season 2
After a fantastic opening the first season of Unlimited Blade Works gradually ran out of steam for me. Has the break between seasons helped rekindle my interest? Not really. The romantic hijinks are more annoying than interesting, and since the core of the problem is that I don't like any of the characters very much I don't think things will improve. The visuals look absolutely amazing, though. It's worth watching each week just to experience the spectacle and enjoy the rare snatches of Seki Tomokazu's deliciously pompous Gilgamesh.

A scene which would have been improved by more Gilgamesh

Gintama
Brilliant. I'm so happy this dorky comedy is back and I'm going to watch every episode the moment I get home each Wednesday. There's nothing much else to say; it's the same tried and tested Gintama formula so if you liked the first adaptations this one is unlikely to disappoint.

It's like it's never been off the air

Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation
The concept of Gunslinger Stratos had potential on paper yet it turned into a mess of generic tropes in execution. Based on a series of games, it boasts a decent staff and well-animated action scenes. It's a shame that this isn't backed up by intelligent writing or interesting characters because so far it feels like the most unadventurous attempt to recycle every other series in its genre that I've experienced in a while. There's an interesting twist ending to the first episode which hints that things might get better, but by that point I'd already slogged through 20 minutes of mediocrity and lost interest in taking things any further. It might be worth persevering with for people with more gaps in their schedules.

Nothing about this guy is likeable

Hibike! Euphonium (Sound! Euphonium)
I dropped K-On! after the first season because I'd had my fill of idealised schoolgirls and their idealised high school club lives so there wasn't ever much chance I'd be excited for Kyoto Animation's latest adaptation. Many of the details of Hibike! Euphonium are different. This time, the lead is already a musician, she has slightly more braincells than Yui, the light music club is now a brass band and there actually seem to be male students at their school. The core formula is quite similar, however, and there's the pervading sense of cloying cuteness that appeals to fans of the genre while simultaneously making me want to run a mile in the opposite direction. If you're curious it's definitely worth checking out.

The scary senpai seemed more interesting than the leads

Houkago No Pleiades (Wish Upon The Pleiades)
Not sure why I watched this in the first place when I couldn't finish the original net animation shorts back in the day. It's a sweet, inoffensive astronomy-themed anime. It feels very safe and by-the-numbers, so if you're amused by the Subaru car tie-in or hoping to be whisked away to watch magical schoolgirls then it might be exactly what you're looking for. In my case it's difficult to imagine being bored enough to find this cute fluff interesting.

I wish they'd included more overt car references for comedy

Ore Monogatari!! (MY Love STORY!!)
Kind-hearted Takeo is a hulking teenager who has the misfortune of being friends with a handsome, popular guy. Takeo has consequently become used to being overlooked by every girl he ever had a crush on, until one day he rescues an adorable young lady on the train and his very own 'love story' begins. Naturally, there are a lot of misunderstandings to untangle along the way.

This twist on a classic shoujo love triangle has received a lot of positive buzz for a while now, and even from the first episode of the anime adaptation I can see why. Everyone is so lovely! It sucks you in and makes you want to watch over them protectively.

Although I secretly like his friend too, Takeo is a sweetie

Owari No Seraph (Seraph Of The End)
The Owari No Seraph original manga has been getting a big push in the US version of Weekly Shounen Jump. I came into this television series completely blind, which made the shockingly abrupt opening sequence much more effective than it might have been for someone who knew what was going to happen in advance. We're swiftly introduced to a pair of orphan boys who have been abducted by a clan of vampires who have effortlessly crushed the rest of humanity. The first episode is dedicated to the boys' attempt to escape captivity, and where things go from here is anyone's guess. The amount of melodrama is beyond ridiculous and there's not a trace of sophistication to be found. Still, it's the first pure shounen action story which has interested me in ages, even if it is more than a little reminiscent of Attack On Titan. And I'm beginning to really like Hayami Saori's voice.

The evil vampire noble is awful, yet sort of cool

Plastic Memories
In the near future, incredibly lifelike androids have become popular as companions and people treat them just like members of their own families. Unfortunately, the androids have a short shelf life and they need to have all of their memories completely destroyed after less than a decade; it's just long enough for people to become attached without yet being ready to say goodbye to their synthetic friends. The naïve main character has just started working for the agency which retrieves the worn-out androids and he's partnered up with a super-cute girl - who also happens to be a veteran android suffering from anxiety about the fate she's soon going to be facing herself.

It was obvious right from the start where the main plot was heading and I don't really have enough free time to see if it takes any unusual twists getting there. So far it looks very solid but skippable.

Isla, the lead's cute, slightly flaky android partner

PUNCH LINE
I wanted to like PUNCH LINE. It looks gorgeous and it's full of energetic sauciness. How, then, did the first episode somehow end up being so boring?

The bland lead male has a unique problem; when he sees a girl's panties he becomes so overexcited that he ends up destroying the universe. This happens several times in the first episode because for some reason the poor guy can't avoid stumbling into various situations where a girl ends up accidentally flashing him. There's so much dazzling excitement going on that I found myself completely desensitised to both the fan service and visuals very early on, which made slogging through the whole episode in one sitting a chore.

The biggest mystery about PUNCH LINE is why it's part of the noitaminA brand at all; surely it's only going to appeal to a younger demographic which still consider panty shots the pinnacle of fan service? I could see it being a big hit as a Shounen Jump title.

Sorry PUNCH LINE, Gintama does puerile comedy better

Shokugeki No Soma (Food Wars!)
So good! I knew I was going to be adding this to my schedule after the first few minutes. It's a typical gourmet fighting manga story with a veneer of outrageous fan service laid over the top. So far everyone's having a good time and the male lead is self-motivated and likeable. My friend was laughing helplessly all the way through the first episode; it's sort of pathetic, but who cares, it's my kind of pathetic. Very entertaining. This is how to combine a silly premise with fan service.

Equal opportunity ridiculousness

Takamiya Nasuno Desu!
Exhausting! This show crams as many jokes into its two-minute run time as other comedies spread over a full-length episode. I forgot that Takamiya Nasuno Desu! was actually a Teekyuu spin-off until I'd already started watching it; as I don't follow Teekyuu any in-jokes went over my head but it was still reasonably funny, in a hyperactive way.

What did I just watch?

Triage X
Not my kind of show at all. A team of top-heavy women (and an angry guy with a dark past) are pitted against the sinister forces of the underworld in this medically-themed action series. I actually watched the first episode twice to try to work out why it annoyed me so much, and I think the reason is that it feels like a sleazy 90s OAV without the budget or charming lack of shame. The women wobble around cradling guns and rattling off one-liners but the constant fan service is surprisingly weak somehow; it's not to my taste at all. The show is probably ok if you're in the mood for little more than mindless action and lovingly drawn bosoms of all sizes.

Just making them big doesn't always make them sexy

Urawa No Usagi-chan
A fluffy series with short episodes (is there a proper term for this format yet?). The gimmick this time is that the show was designed to help promote Urawa city in Saitama, so there are lots of very unsubtle nods to the local area. It's nice enough and if I had more of a tolerance for shows about cute girls doing cute things for no reason I'd probably keep watching. Sadly, I don't.

This season seems full of cheerful pink-haired schoolgirls

Uta No Prince-sama: Maji Love Revolutions
It's been a while since UtaPri was last on the air and no otome game adaptation that's come since has managed to top its self-aware enthusiasm. The first episode didn't really do anything other than reintroduce the huge cast of gorgeous male idols and set up a plot where the senior Quartet Night group is pitted against the heroes of ST☆RISH for the glory of appearing in a major event. The plot doesn't matter though because this is UtaPri and it's wonderful.

It knows it's dumb and it loves it

Yamada-kun To Nananin No Majo (Yamada-kun And The Seven Witches)
My partner has been reading the manga version of Yamada-kun via Crunchyroll and taunting me with out-of-context references to the ludicrous plot twists in this upbeat body-swapping comedy. The anime has a cheap, simplistic feel compared to many of the other titles in this season's list, yet the seiyuu performances and strength of the original source material make it more watchable than most. Even though I don't usually like school-themed comedies, I'll keep on watching as long as I can spare the time to keep up.

I bet every other blog used a picture of the exact same scene
--

There are also a bunch of usual sequels and spin-offs for shows I don't follow:

Baby Steps season 2
Daiya No A (Ace of the Diamond) season 2
Future Card Buddyfight Hundred
Grisaia No Rakuen/Meikyu (The Fruit Of Grisaia)
Kaitou Joker season 2
Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic (Hello!! KINMOZA)
Nisekoi:
Saint Seiya: Ougon Tamashii (Saint Seiya: Soul Of Gold) - also on Daisuki
Teekyuu season 4
Tesagure! Bukatsumono Spin-off Purupurun Sharumu To Asobou
Yahari Ore No Seishun Love-Come Wa Machigatteiru. Zoku (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU season 2)

And here are the legal English-subtitled streams that people in the UK (and many other places) aren't allowed to watch at all for some illogical reason:

Region locked Crunchyroll titles

Kyoukai No Rinne (RIN-NE)
Re-Kan!

Region locked FUNimation titles

Ameiro Cocoa (Rainy Cocoa)
Kekkai Sensen (Blood Blockade Battlefront)
Koukaku Kidoutai ARISE: Alternative Architecture (Ghost in the Shell ARISE: Alternative Architecture)
High School DxD BorN
Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku (Mikagura School Suite)
Nagato Yuki-chan No Shoushitsu (The Disappearance Of Nagato Yuki-chan)
Ninja Slayer From Animation
Show By Rock!!
Denpa Kyoushi (Ultimate Otaku Teacher)

This sucks, there are several titles I was interested in which are locked away, most notably Kekkai Sensen and RIN-NE. It's assumed that Sidonia No Kishi: Daikyuu Wakusei Seneki (Knights Of Sidonia) has gone to Netflix again. I don't have a Netflix account and never watched the previous delaycasts so the sequel isn't very interesting to me.

--

I think the announcements for this season have all finished now so I may as well post these impressions. Any late arrivals will have to wait for the end-of-season roundup as usual.

Is doing this a new trend in anime?
My guesses for the three shows I'll enjoy most this season are as follows, though to be honest it's very hard to pick favourites so far.

1. Gintama
2. Shokugeki No Soma
3. Arslan Senki

Saturdays are ridiculously busy this season. At least I can use the following day to catch up.

Monday: Nothing (though I'm streaming Game Of Thrones instead)
Tuesday: Nothing
Wednesday: Gintama, Ore Monogatari!!
Thursday: Comical Psychosomatic Medicine, I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying
Friday: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Shokugeki No Soma
Saturday: Sailor Moon, Kuroko No Basuke, Fate/stay night, Uta No Prince-sama, Owari No Seraph
Sunday: Arslan Senki, Yamada-kun And The Seven Witches

4 comments:

  1. What the name of the anime that the top image came from, the image where the guy is up against the wall starring at e girls hand .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was from the first episode of Plastic Memories :)

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    2. Thank you so muuuuch! I literally created an account on this website just so I could ask. And you responded, and now I cja finally have some closure. I feel like I was a deep spirit who haunted some street corner, and someone finally righted the wrong that was done to KE and now I'm passing over. Sorry I just rewatched the pilot episode for bleach so I'm "all up in that neighborhood" if you know what I mean. SERIOSULY though, THANK YOU!!!! Great blog to, can I increase your amount of followers by 1, or LIEK the page? I'll check right now.

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    3. Hahaha, thank you for your impassioned response! Let me know if you need any help identifying screenshots in future, it's fun.

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