Sunday, 26 July 2015

Streaming: Summer 2015 anime first impressions

It took forever for the UK-accessible simulcasts to get started this season. I would have posted earlier except there aren't that many titles even including the delayed ones; this is going to be a very quiet season for me in terms of anime viewing. Crunchyroll, Daisuki and Viewster have all announced a few titles but Animax UK hasn't done anything yet - not that communication tends to be one of their strong points.

Arslan Senki, Gintama, Ore Monogatari!! and Shokugeki No Soma (Food Wars!) are all continuing into the summer. Most of the new titles I want to see are locked away by rights holders based in other regions, leading to one of the weakest UK-accessible anime seasons in ages. There are several good shows airing right now so why do we mostly get the fluffy school comedies?!

At least we got GANGSTA. at the last moment

Aoharu x Kikanjuu (Aoharu x Machinegun)
Hotaru is a tomboy with a fierce hunger for justice. Upon moving into a new apartment, she ends up crossing paths with her new neighbour, Masamune, a flirty host with a suspicious affinity for firearms. After getting the wrong idea about him, Hotaru confronts Masamune and ends up challenging him to an airsoft gunfight in the middle of his club. In the process she discovers that he not all that bad after all and eventually ends up being forced to join his survival game team, thus setting the scene for the rest of the series.

I'm not sure whether I want to keep watching or not. Aoharu x Kikanjuu isn't very original - and I'm not keen on guns - yet the humour is fresh and the character designs are certainly appealing. Dropping it for now but I might well come back to it later on.

He's surprisingly capable for a vulgar flirt

Chaos Dragon: Sekiryuu Seneki
This is a formulaic fantasy adventure about a young would-be prince trying to reclaim his birthright in his trampled nation. Of course, there has to be a twist at the end to make the show stand out and in Chaos Dragon's case it's a rather bloodthirsty one, which will either add an interesting psychological twist or (more likely) just annoy me each time it happens as I sense the writers trying to manipulate my emotions unsuccessfully. I couldn't get into this show at all so I'm dropping it; the plot of Arslan Senki is similar anyway and its characters are much, much better.


Most of the designs suck but I like her

Charlotte
Yuu is a guy with a seriously bad personality. He also happens to have the power to possess anyone close to him for five seconds, which he exploits for his own purposes as often as he can. It's thanks to this power that he's able to attend a good school and manipulate the girl he likes into spending time with him - by almost getting her killed. Unfortunately, his tricks are eventually discovered by some other students with special powers of their own, and he's forced to transfer to their school and use his gift in a more productive way. The concept is interesting, even if the execution is a little weak and the lead comes off as a dumber version of Lelouch Lamperouge or Yagami Light. I don't think it has what it takes to hold my attention for now.

You suck, Yuu

Classroom⭐︎Crisis
This was almost an interesting show except that I watched the first episode twice and still felt no real emotional involvement, so I'm dropping it. It's a fairly standard science fiction setting where the main characters are all exceptionally gifted students. For some reason they're all treated like adults as a result, with salaries and a horrifying amount of autonomy when it comes to decision-making and budgeting. I think I'd enjoy it a lot more if they aged the characters up, made them more interesting and dropped the school setting entirely; the core science fiction antics are moderately entertaining without having everything else piled on top.

The designs are pretty good I guess

Danchigai
A useless guy lives with four mischievous sisters, who molest and tease him. It's sort of like Nisemonogatari without the plot, witty writing or sexy designs. I guess some people out there might still not be sick of the same recycled sister jokes? Bleh.

Will this stuff ever become funny?

Durarara!!×2 (Ten)
The gaps between each part of the new Durarara!! series feel about right. I still remember everything that happened in the previous batch of episodes this time, while having a season off has kept the show's madcap presentation feeling fresh. I don't have much more to say at the moment; it's a series I already like so adding it to the schedule for this season is an easy decision. The gradual increase in stories about the series' (grown up) gangster characters is making it more and more interesting.

I still love this guy (and his girlfriend)

Gakkou Gurashi! (School-Live!)
Yuki and her friends love school so much, they want to live there full time! They're all members of the ridiculous 'School Living' club which tries to maximise the amount of time the girls spend in the school building. This is the kind of series I can't stand (complete with ditzy pink-haired lead) but what sets Gakkou Gurashi! apart from its peers is the way it's actually completely messed up. It's eventually revealed that the silly lead is living in a fantasy world while everything around her has been torn apart by a zombie invasion, and her small group of school friends has to offer her support while camping at the school to survive.

I'd already read the episode description in advance so I shouldn't have been surprised, but the way that the gap between Yuki's perception of reality and the truth was revealed was surprisingly solid for such a stupid-looking show. The opening theme is good too.

I'm scared now

GANGSTA.
I've been hooked on the GANGSTA. manga for a little while now and so I was rather excited to hear that it was to receive an anime adaptation. It took several weeks before Anime Limited and Viewster confessed that they had the rights and would be streaming it to the UK, during which time I almost gave up hope entirely!

GANGSTA. is a typically gritty show about two 'handymen' who take on various legally-dubious jobs nobody else wants to (or can) do. It's a mature title and there are more references to drugs, sex, violence and illegal activities in every episode than in the rest of the summer anime season combined. Thank heavens. There are only so many cutesy pink-haired schoolgirls blushing and falling over I can take before I need something a little rougher. One of the many things I love about the manga - aside from the likeable characters, stylised artwork and intense storytelling - is that creator Kohske has bothered to create a plausible setting for her story. The city is full of a mix of people with different backgrounds, ethnicities and beliefs, and everyone has some kind of complicated story to tell to explain how they've learned to survive in this hellish environment.

So far, it seems to be a decent adaptation of the manga. Nic looks a little chunkier in anime form and the music ranges from passable to dodgy, but I'm happy overall with the direction they've taken. I was most curious about how they'd handle the sign language and other challenging disabilities; so far, so good. It's going to be tempting to import the Japanese BD release if I keep enjoying the show.

I love almost everyone in this series!

Gatchaman Crowds Insight
Even though Gatchaman Crowds Insight began with a quick recap of everything which came before, I still felt confused by its hyperactive, colourful storytelling several times during the first proper episode. It's probably the kind of show where that's ok, so I 'll just sit back and enjoy the ride.

This sounds just as silly with context as it does without

GATE (GATE: Jieitai Kare No Chi Nite, Kakutatakaeri)
A fantasy series which wears its wish fulfilment premise on its sleeve. Our hero Youji is an excessively passionate otaku who gets mixed up in an unexpected adventure when a portal to another world opens up in Ginza while he's passing through on his way to a doujinshi fair. He's a dork but not a useless one, and his reflexes kick in as soon as he sees dragons and monsters attacking people on the street - Youji happens to be a trained SDF soldier when he's not fooling around and those skills help him protect the people around him.

Unfortunately, these heroics mean he's promoted and given the task of joining the squad which is being sent through the 'gate' to explore the other world after their invasion failed. The promotional artwork seems to hint that this will involve attractive elves and fantasy tropes aplenty.

It's refreshing to see an all-too-rare adult lead with an actual job (and no annoying little sisters, so far). I'm not sure whether I'll continue but there's potential for this to be a decent watch.

At least he has a nerdy friend to talk to

God Eater
Based on the successful game series, God Eater didn't do much in its first episode other than sandwich some character introductions in between a bunch of action scenes. I've never played the original games and felt rather lost, though things did improve right before the end of the first episode when three cooler characters showed up and started kicking butt. A lot has been said about the unusual visuals but I actually rather liked the art style right from the beginning of the episode and didn't mind the limitations of the CG. It's a shame that the plot left me cold; this might be too inaccessible for someone who has no experience with the games and little patience for futuristic military-style antics.

It's ok, just not compelling enough to keep my attention

Himouto! Umaru-chan
A sugary gag series about a cute young girl who turns into a super-deformed slob the moment she gets home from school. It's told from the perspective of her strait-laced older brother who has absolutely no patience for her eccentric antics. I was expecting short episodes when I saw the promotional artwork, but it's actually a full series about Umaru-chan's weird double life. Not my kind of thing, unfortunately.

She looks more like a hamster than a human

Joukamachi No Dandelion (Castle Town Dandelion)
The lead is one of several children in a large family. Even though their father happens to be the king, they try to live an ordinary life with a few small differences: the children all possess superpowers, and every single thing they do is being filmed in order to determine which of them will be voted the next ruler. It's a strange, whimsical blend of a fairy tale story in a modern setting which feels a little like Tiger & Bunny. The fixation on underwear jokes and blushing girls ruins some of its broad appeal.

I don't think I'm missing anything by skipping this one

Makuranodanshi
It's a mini situation drama, except it's animated. Each episode is about a 'sexy' boy speaking a monologue aimed at the viewer as the camera pans around his (clothed) body lasciviously. It's sort of pointless unless you're a fan of the seiyuu or character design being featured that week. I might try out a few more episodes to see whether the later guys are more interesting than the first few - though even if they are, with such short episodes it's unlikely to capture my imagination.

Meh

Million Doll
Idol shows have become reasonably common these days and this is a fairly standard one, though the story is told from an unusual perspective. Suuko is a sassy idol blogger who becomes offended when she overhears a young man trashing the group of local idols she's watching on stage. She resolves to fight back by promoting the group. The cutest part of the show is probably the brief segment right at the end of the episode where the two different kinds of fan talk about various slang used in the idol fandom. Million Doll is also notable for having the most trauma-inducing CG opening sequence of the season.

I have to agree with the guy, this idol is a cutie

Monster Musume No Iru Niichijou (Everyday Life With Monster Girls)
A completely puerile 'romantic' comedy about a mild young man and a bevy of attractive demihuman women. The first episode introduces us to Miia, a sexy lamia girl who is head over heels (head over tail?) in love with the hero... whose name I've already forgotten. I'm assuming there will be harem elements later on if the opening - and title - prove accurate.

MonMusu isn't especially subtle with its fan service and Miia tears her clothes off at every opportunity, desperately trying to seduce the main character. She would probably succeed, too, if they weren't being watched over carefully by the authorities to make sure they never actually consummate their relationship. The result is a series packed with sexually-charged imagery and no real resolution; the perfect formula for its particular audience. It's easy to see where the show has found loyal fans and in principle I do like the way that the girls actually act like demihumans this time, rather than like regular girls with cat ears stuck to their heads.

Somehow, the show almost ended up on my list in spite of its inherent sleaziness. Part of the reason that I decided to drop it is that I don't really like Miia; she's needy, flat and her slightly crazed "Darling!"s remind me too much of Lum from Urusei Yatsura. Which was a much better series.

Having an enormous tail looks quite useful

Oku-sama Ga Seito Kaichou! (My Wife Is The Student Council President)
A typical setup where a snarky high school boy is suddenly shocked to discover that a girl is moving in with him, having been betrothed to him in secret (their absentee parents are friends). Worse still, she's the student council president and he's her vice president, so they're stuck with one another both at home and at school. The show tries to put a new spin on familiar ground by having the girl be extremely open about sex, causing the male lead endless discomfort. I'm curious about the uncensored version which has been promised at a later date but not curious enough to sit through another ten minutes of this insipid story to find out what all of the fuss is about. Bleurgh.

If this picture doesn't annoy you, give it a try

Rokka No Yuusha (Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers)
I'm not quite sure where Rokka is going but with such beautiful designs and colourful characters, I'll be sticking with it to find out. It's a typical fantasy story about six destined warriors coming together according to prophecy, with a unique, vibrant setting. In the first episode we're introduced to a free-spirited warrior princess and a cocky fighter who meet in unfortunate circumstances when the latter is thrown into prison. The two of them end up being chosen as two of the titular Braves and set out on their journey to find the others. Even though I have a few doubts about the writing so far, it sounds like a recipe for this season's Akatsuki No Yona so I'm looking forward to watching more.

She's so pretty!

Ushio And Tora
What a blast from the past! The previous Ushio To Tora anime adaptation was released some considerable time ago so it was a surprise to learn that we were getting a remake of this classic shounen adventure. Ushio is a young boy whose father tends their family's temple. One day, he discovers a strange furry youkai trapped in an unused cellar and eventually ends up setting the beast free. The story doesn't end there, however; Ushio takes responsibility for the decisions he made and ends up becoming Tora's master, preventing him from running wild and bothering other human beings. The animation quality seems decent so far, even though everything has a deliberately dated look to stay true to the original manga's cartoony designs. I hope that the anime takes the story past the content in the previous OAVs this time.

The hairstyles in this show are amazing

Wakaba*Girl
A typical feel-good series about a group of female high school students who act more like primary school students. These always rub me up the wrong way and Wakaba*Girl is no exception. The prim Wakaba has just started high school and she fits in better than expected, making friends with three other girls almost immediately. That's it. I'm guessing that there won't be any drama or ongoing plot beyond watching over the young ladies week by week to see them stammer and bumble their way through a fulfilling school life, so I'm out.

Mao, Nao, Moe and Wakaba - all too cutesy for me
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Then there are the sequels and spin-offs for shows I don't follow:

Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA 2wei Herz!
Miss Monochrome: The Animation season 2
Non Non Biyori Repeat
Senki Zesshou Symphogear GX: Believe In Justice And Hold A Determination To Fist
Teekyuu season 5
The iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls
Wooser’s Hand-to-Mouth Life: Phantasmagoric Arc (Wooser No Sono Higurashi Mugen-hen)
Working!! season 3 (Wagnaria!!)

And here are the legal English-subtitled streams that people in the UK have no access to, for reasons as yet unexplained:

Region locked Crunchyroll titles

Jitsu Ha Watashi Ha (Actually, I Am)
To Love-Ru -Trouble- Darkness 2nd

Region locked FUNimation titles

Akagami No Shirayukihime (Snow White with the Red Hair)
Aquarion Logos
Bikini Warriors
Hetalia: The World Twinkle
Junjou Romantica 3
Kangoku Gakuen (Prison School)
Kuusen Madoushi Kouhosei No Kyoukan (Sky Wizards Academy)
Overlord
Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace
Shimoneta: A Boring World Where The Concept Of Dirty Jokes Doesn't Exist (Shimoneta Toiu Gainen Ga Sonzai Shinai Taikutsu Na Sekai)
Sore Ga Seiyuu! (Seiyu's Life!)
Venus Project: Climax

Lame. I would have loved to watch several of these shows, such as Hetalia and Akagami No Shirayukihime.

--

I waited as long as I could before posting this as Viewster tend to be slow to get their licenses announced and I have no idea what Animax UK is doing (if anything). Any late 'delaycasts' will be added to the eventual end of season roundup instead.


The top three shows so far are as follows; they might switch positions but I'm enjoying all of them a lot.

1. Gintama
2. Arslan Senki
3. GANGSTA.

Thanks to all of the missing titles blocked in the UK, I don't anticipate many problems keeping up with my schedule this season. The Viewster titles often tend to slip and air on the wrong days so it's a good thing that the start of the week is clear to let me catch up.

Monday: Nothing
Tuesday: Nothing
Wednesday: Gintama, Ore Monogatari!!
Thursday: Nothing
Friday: Shokugeki No Soma, Ushio To Tora
Saturday: Durarara!!, Gatchaman Crowds Insight, Rokka No Yuusha
Sunday: Arslan Senki, GANGSTA.

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