Thursday 22 October 2015

Streaming: Autumn 2015 anime first impressions

I almost had a clean slate for the start of this season as the majority of the ongoing titles I was watching came to an end recently. Only Ushio To Tora and Gintama are continuing for now. Unfortunately, a lot of the new titles seem to be on the weaker side so it's mostly sequels to old favourites making it onto my schedule for the season. Perhaps I'm becoming harder to please, or perhaps there are just too many wobbly light novel adaptations which all blend together.

Crunchyroll started off with the strongest lineup and for once, they don't seem to have any new titles which are completely unavailable in the UK; Daisuki and Viewster have grabbed everything Crunchyroll missed out on getting proper rights for. Daisuki in particular have quite a few titles this time. As usual, Animax UK held their cards close to their chest and kept quiet about their simulcast plans until several weeks into the season, as though to force me to delay this post. Nothing has actually become available on their website yet though so I'm posting it anyway because I need to catch up with my life.

The awful vampires are back, yay!

Anime De Training! EX
A series of shorts where a dizzy girl strips down and demonstrates simple exercises to encourage the viewer to keep themselves fit in a cute way. There's no plot and the heroine talks directly to the fans as she works out to keep them motivated. The slow camera pans across the girl's stretching body hint that this may not be the right show for me.

A cute girl doing cute things - for the sake of fitness!

AntiMagic Academy 35th Test Platoon (Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai)
The first of several light novel adaptations this season, and the first of several I absolutely detested. From the pandering, copy-pasted fan service every few minutes to the weak male lead who keeps accidentally walking in on half-naked girls and grabbing his female teammates' breasts, this is nothing more than yet another mishmash of familiar cliches from the last few years. The main purpose of the series so far is to introduce the heroine, a cold, professional girl who is forced to go back to school as part of the hero's group of weaklings to punish her for being unable to follow orders. It's an excuse for military-themed boy-girl antics and it's tedious viewing for anyone outside the series' narrow target audience.

Why is this even happening in a military show?!

Brave Beats
This is a lot like the recent Tribe Cool Crew. That's not a bad thing; both are firmly aimed at younger children and full of passionate spiky-haired kids. The lead comes across a strange robot one day and ends up having to fuse with it to use its super dance skills to save his friends. This sets up a typical 'monster of the week' show where Hibiki has to learn to improve his non-existent dancing to become a hero of sorts. While I can't see myself keeping up with Brave Beats on a regular basis, it's a decently entertaining romp and absolutely nuts to boot.

Is this what today's kids dream of becoming? I hope so.

Comet Lucifer
Not a bad first episode. The hero is a normal young boy who enjoys hunting for crystals in his local ruins. A series of coincidences leads to him getting trapped in an unfamiliar cavern with one of his friends and meeting a mysterious girl, who doesn't seem to be human. Oh, and there are a bunch of grown ups with mecha who are up to something. It's done well even if it's nothing that anime viewers haven't seen several times before. Having said that, I'd rather watch a series about the background argument between Sougo's cute female friend and the rich kid who is clearly not all that upset about being 'forced' to marry her. It seemed more entertaining than the main plot.

Aww, he's a sweetie

Concrete Revolutio
Where is the logic in giving FUNimation a week's exclusivity in the US then making all of the other territories wait that week with no access anywhere? And for some reason Daisuki seems to be able to stream it on time in the US even though they already have a FUNimation stream there, yet they can't stream it to anyone else. Anime distribution truly makes no sense at all unless you live in America. I thought that Daisuki would have priority on this title since they were promoting it back at Japan Expo and their logos apparently play at the start of the FUNimation stream, so it's disappointing that - once again - the rest of the world is being treated as a bunch of second class citizens for the benefit of fans in the US.

Ahem. Anyway, Concrete Revolutio is a bizarre, colourful take on the superhero genre which throws magical girls, and comic book style villains together in a colourful blend of zany superhuman action. For some reason, the title it most reminds me of is Giant Robo - there's a similarly ambitious, old school atmosphere despite all of the modern trappings.

In any case, I don't really feel like being all that generous about the show when it's a new property I have no attachment to, Daisuki's player is unreliable and the release schedule is designed to insult me, so I'll be dropping it. Sorry, Concrete Revolutio. My money isn't good enough for your production team.

Another victim of the anime industry's apathy towards Europe

Diabolik Lovers: More, Blood
It's back! The second Diabolik Lovers television series loosely follows the story of the More, Blood game, so the first episode establishes that Yui is being 'shared' by her captors until the four Mukami brothers appear to steal her away. They've spiced things up a little for fans of the games and audio CDs by including a few teasing glimpses of the antagonists from the more recent game Dark Fate as well, which means that things might diverge from the game storylines a little later on. I hope they do since More, Blood was the low point of the game series for me and the Mukami family deserves some interesting new content. Since the art style and format of the anime are exactly the same as before I'm expecting to enjoy this, even if it will doubtless attract more of the weird viewers with no lives who watch it religiously each week just to vocally make fun of its fans.

I really wanted a picture of the Mukami brothers...

Fushigi Na Somera-chan (Magical Somera-chan)
A seriously hyperactive comedy show. There's not much to say; I watched the first three-minute episode and my senses were assaulted by a colourful collection of utterly nonsensical gags. Perhaps you have to be in a certain mood to appreciate Somera-chan's weird charms?

The art style is scary, yet not bad

Hackadoll the Animation
The three leads are ditzy AIs whose function is to entertain their user by recommending appropriate content to them in order to make their life better. Since they aren't too good at their jobs they're sent to assist a cynical girl, who is rather surprised when the app she's using suddenly produces three real, talking, half-naked female helpers to stalk and annoy her as she tries to go about her daily life. While this is the most pointless thing ever, watching it straight after the weak Lances N' Masques made it seem fantastic in comparison. I like the designs and colourful palettes even if the content is the animated equivalent of watching paint dry for anyone who happens to be immune to the sexy clothing all of the females seem to wear.

A representative snapshot of the simple-minded lead

Haikyuu! season 2
The first episode of Haikyuu! season two is a perfect example of how to drop the viewer back into the middle of an ongoing sports series. All of the major characters had chances to shine and show off their personalities while the plot moved forward and set itself up for the next challenges our heroes are going to have to face. One of Haikyuu!'s strongest points has always been its likeable cast and I look forward to cheering for them every weekend this season.

It's back! And I still don't know anything about volleyball!

Itoshi No Muco (Lovely Muuuuuuuco!)
A cheaply-animated slice of life series about a perky Akita Inu and its everyday adventures with a shifty-looking owner. They have a strange bond. I couldn't get past the minimalistic style and had to drop the show; it's carried by the funny canine expressions and voice acting but it's too hyper for me.

Poor Muco deserved better animation...

One of several shows this season which use unusual CG-style animation rather than the typical anime style I personally find much more appealing. The premise of JK-MESHI is simple; schoolgirls discuss meals and the viewer watches them enjoying the food. However, last season had Wakako-zake, a series of shorts which fetishised the enjoyment of food in a much better way. It's difficult to avoid drawing comparisons. Here the girls look bad, the food looks bad, and an actual animation budget would have gone a long way towards giving this broader appeal. No thanks.

Why does the food look so simplistic in an anime about food?!

K: Return of Kings
I'm passing on this until I get around to watching the movie which came before it. Perhaps it will be possible to fit it in before the season is over...

I hadn't heard of this series and quite liked the look of the promotional artwork, which reminded me of Yamishibai. It turns out that there's a reason for that; it's the brainchild of the same creator and has a very similar style. The first episode tells the story of some foolish youths who wander into a forbidden forest and discover a hideous monster. Our hero arrives too late and seems to have some kind of mysterious connection to the beast. The series' brand of horror is based around its semi-realistic artwork with muted colours and lots of jump scares; I don't think it's as interesting as Yamishibai so far.

The dishy(?) hero of Kagewani

Komori-san Can't Decline! (Komori-san Ha Kotowarenai!)
A short series about a girl whose unique feature is that she can't turn down any request to help someone else, even if it makes her suffer. This is one for the crowd who like watching schoolgirls interacting in a comical way. Personally, I find Komori-san's selflessness more annoying than charming and the whole thing falls flat.

The season's number one doormat

Lance N' Masques
Lance N' Masques has no real identity. The character designs are wobbly as it is, and when the characters are frequently drawn off model or with weird light palettes it makes for an unappealing visual experience. The reason I'm starting by moaning about the art style is that the show itself was such an insipid blend of typical fantasy hero melodrama that I couldn't think of anything to say about the story. Modern day Japan, complete with cute braindead girls, a cartoony horse who is also a cute girl, an excessive number of maids and a wisecracking superhero from an ancient order of masked knights? Definitely not my cup of tea. It's a mess.

The hero has an irritating complex about being a knight

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans (Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu No Orphans)
It's a new Gundam series! I'm struggling to get a good grasp of how I feel about it so far; it's definitely grittier and less weird than the recent Reconguista In G but I think it's going to be a slow burner. It's difficult to avoid comparing it to Gundam Wing as a few characters seem like identical clones of the heroes and heroines of that show. Still, it's been too long since we got a proper Gundam television series and the bug-eyed protagonist seems interesting enough. So far, so good.

Uh, the guys look naked when they're piloting, don't they?

Monster Strike
I'm not a big fan of YouTube being used for simulcasts but when it's the Japanese side streaming a series globally themselves it's definitely better than the alternative of not getting to watch it! Monster Strike is based on a massive smartphone game and on the surface this anime adaptation is firmly aimed at kids, though it's been scripted playfully to give it a wider appeal. Our hero cracks jokes at his own expense after he moves back to what should be a familiar neighbourhood without being able to remember any of his old friends. The novel choice of ending song was also quite surprising. Monster Strike is free for everyone to watch so there's no reason not to check the show out if you're curious. I ended up enjoying it much more than I expected, even if it's ultimately just one of countless monster battling game commercials disguised as television shows.

He takes having a poor memory way too far

One Punch Man
The long-anticipated anime adaptation of One Punch Man has been touted as one of this season's highlights and it's not hard to see why from the first episode. The generous animation budget, thumping JAM Project theme song and amusing characters all serve to grab the viewer's attention right from the beginning. My only concern is that I'm not sure where any of this is going; is it trying to be a fighting series or a gag show? So long as the script stays tight I'm willing to keep watching to see how everything plays out once it's settled into a rhythm.

It's a pity that Daisuki's player skips a lot for me and there's no way to watch One Punch Man on my television. Exclusives are a pain for consumers. There's the alternative of Animax UK, but as they're always late, don't announce when content will appear and sort of suck it feels like being trapped between a rock and a hard place. They also don't seem to know what the series is called (One Man Punch, indeed).

The animation is really nice

Onsen Yousei Hakone-chan
This is a series of three-minute comedy shorts based on a manga about a cute female onsen spirit and the regular humans who meet her one day. It's fun, and about as deep as a puddle. Even though it had a similar cheesy boob-grabbing joke in the very first episode it was still way more enjoyable than The Asterisk War.

I like Hakone-chan, she has personality

Well, that was surreal. This modern adaptation of Fujio Akatsuka's classic Osomatsu-kun gag manga takes the premise of the mischievous Matsuno sextuplets and adds in a bunch of crazy references and art styles; the episode starts off looking like a classic black and white series (complete with grain) before transforming into something quite different - several times. The blatant UtaPri reference was my favourite. It's much fresher than I expected it to be and if I wasn't already watching Gintama it could be the comedy of the season. I think that Osomatsu-san would actually work better as a five-minute gag series, though, because that much silliness all in one go is a bit too much for me.

I would probably watch it if this was the whole show

As the peculiar opening sequence ended I wondered to myself whether the Monogatari series was starting to lose its shine; I'm getting a little tired of NisiOisiN's clever dialogue and the seemingly endless parade of weird girls who attach themselves to young Koyomi. Leave it to the staff, then, to blow me away with one of the strongest opening episodes of the entire season. New girl Ougi (she popped up a little in previous arcs) proves deviously interesting right from her official introduction as she gets Koyomi wrapped up in a spooky mystery, pulling out every trope in the book in a playful way to create something far more fascinating than the sum of its parts. Ok, I'm sold. I'll keep watching the rest.

I will grudgingly admit that she is sort of cute

Sakurako-san No Ashimoto Ni Ha Shitai Ga Umatteiru (Beautiful Bones -Sakurako's Investigation-)
Not sure how I feel about this one. It has a few irritating elements - the hero is a 'normal' guy flustered by looking after the socially awkward Sakurako, and her leaps of logic don't seem as clever as the series thinks they are so far. I'm still not quite sure whether her affinity for bones is supposed to be supernatural or the result of an ordinary obsession taken to extremes. The series also lost some points by spending way too much time explaining the cleverness of its own title in the very first episode. But in spite of all of these misgivings, murder mysteries are inherently interesting and Sakurako is extremely attractive even if she's fetishised a bit too much for my taste. If I have space in my schedule I might come back and give it another chance later on; perhaps it will have finally settled on what kind of tone it wants to have by then.

There's something off about her exaggerated antisocial attitude

Seraph of the End -Battle In Nagoya- (Owari No Seraph -Battle in Nagoya-)
I'm not expecting to find this season of Owari No Seraph any more intelligent than its predecessor. It turns out that pretty artwork, sexy vampires, Hayami Saori's voice and a Sawano Hiroyuki soundtrack is all it takes to persuade me to continue watching this mediocre shounen action series which takes itself way, way too seriously. I'd probably call it a guilty pleasure if I felt any shame about watching melodramatic bloodsuckers and silly shouty young boys trading blows pointlessly each week.

I reserve the right to eat my words later on if the show becomes more ambitious in its scope.

It's really hard taking decent screenshots without pausing

Subete Ga F Ni Naru: The Perfect Insider
Well. The first episode of Subete Ga F Ni Naru was a strange one; I came away feeling confused and... bored? Nothing really happened aside from a few mundane conversations between ill-defined acquaintances to set things up for what I assume is going to be the main story involving a mysterious genius who allegedly killed her parents. I don't think this series can be judged on its first couple of episodes at all. Whether I decide to give the rest a chance is down to how much free time I can spare, especially since there haven't been many hints to persuade me to keep watching.

The weird female genius in this show reminds me a little of Sakurako in Sakurako-san No Ashimoto Ni Ha Shitai Ga Umatteiru, except she's portrayed as an actual human being instead of a stunning supernatural walking plot device. It's interesting to contrast the different approaches the staff had when they're airing side by side this season. Subete Ga F Ni Naru probably has more potential if it ever drops some of the meandering conversations and manages to get around to explaining what it's actually about.

Hard to tell whether he's interesting or dull

Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note
A typical light-hearted slice of life school series with short nine-minute episodes - wait, this is a detective story? The overarching plot is about loner Aya meeting four self-confident boys who are notorious members of the soccer team 'KZ'. She ends up having to join them for special lessons, makes a strange first impression and then right at the end of the first episode the detective premise is suddenly introduced with the mention of a missing bike. I'm guessing the story flows better when the episodes are watched back to back. The animation looks extremely cheap, yet the exceptionally pretty character designs excuse any complaints on that front.

Maybe I'll catch up with the 'detectives' at the end of the season

The Asterisk War: The Academy City On The Water (Gakusen Toshi Asterisk)
Well, The Asterisk War didn't even make it three minutes into its laboured explanation of the setting before having the hero accidentally walk in on the heroine while she was changing. Cue lots of blushing, slow camera pans and feisty tsundere retribution. Ugh. The series is a pretty-looking version of the usual 'teens with superpowers' formula which has the students at a prestigious complex of schools battling it out with cool-looking energy weapons. There are all of the typical high school mishaps along the way, like accidental groping and panty-flashing. I can see the appeal - it's tailor made for people who love permanently-angry pink-haired girls in thigh high stockings - but I feel as though I've seen this series a hundred time before. And each time, it sucked. It was easily the worst show of the entire batch - if not the worst show of the year. I can't stand it.

It's just embarrassing watching this kind of recycled tripe

The Peeping Life TV season 1??
A comedy of the kind I would never watch in English either, where terrible-looking CG versions of famous classic characters exchange manzai-style gags. You probably have to really love the characters or the style of humour to find this watchable; I couldn't get past the visuals at all.

It was too grating, sorry

Young Black Jack
I'm not sure why this alternate version of Tezuka's famous Black Jack didn't click with me. It has all of the ingredients to be an interesting show; a good pedigree, a handsome, motivated lead and intense medical emergencies in every episode. Is it something about the pacing, or perhaps because Black Jack is less mysterious as an inexperienced student doctor than a mysterious black market legend?

I don't remember Black Jack being this dashing and muscular


Then there are the sequels and spin-offs for shows I don't follow. There are a lot this time:

Cardfight!! Vanguard G: GIRS Crisis
Hokuto No Ken: Ichigo Aji
Is The Order A Rabbit?? (Gochuumon Ha Usagi Desu Ka??)
Kindaichi Shounen No Jikenbo R (The File of Young Kindaichi Returns)
Miss Monochrome -The Animation- season 3
Oshiri Kajiri Mushi (Bottom Biting Bug) season 4
Shin Atashin'chi
Shinmai Maou No Testament Burst (The Testament of Sister New Devil Burst)
Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor - Exodus (Fafner Exodus) season 2
Teekyuu season 6
Utawarerumono: Itsuwari No Kamen
World Trigger: Isekai Kara No Toubousha
Yuru Yuri San☆Hai!

And here are the legal English-subtitled streams that people in the UK have no access to because we're not as important as people who happen to live in America:

Region locked FUNimation titles (unavailable elsewhere)

Aria the Scarlet Ammo Double A (Hidan no Aria AA)
Attack On Titan: Junior High (Shingeki! Kyojin Chuugakkou)
Dance With Devils
Doamaiger D
Garo The Animation -Guren No Tsuki- (Garo The Animation: The Crimson Moon)
Heavy Object
Noragami Aragoto
Ore Ga Ojousama Gakkou Ni 'Shomin Sample' Toshite Gets♥Sareta Ken)
Rainy Cocoa season 2 (Ameiro Cocoa: Rainy Color He Youkoso!)
STARMYU (Koukou Hoshi Kageki)
Valkyrie Drive -Mermaid-

FUNimation stole as many of the interesting female-orientated titles as they could; I was hoping that Viewster would help out but then Animax suddenly announced they were going to stream the ones I've marked in bold at some unknown time in the future instead. I'm not sure whether I'll ever get to see them now. There are still a few additional titles in limbo which haven't been announced anywhere at all.


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 with the delayed titles they seem to have obtained (if they're doing anything at all). 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. Diabolik Lovers
3. Haikyuu!

The Viewster titles don't tend to air on time but here's how my schedule currently looks. It's not too bad.

Monday: One Punch Man
Tuesday: Nothing
Wednesday: Gintama
Thursday: Nothing
Friday: Ushio To Tora
Saturday: Haikyuu!, Owarimonogatari
Sunday: Diabolik Lovers, Mobile Suit Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans, Owari No Seraph


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