Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Streaming: Autumn 2015 anime final impressions

My personal life has been horrendously busy lately, and not in a good way - work has quite literally taken over my life. I didn't even notice Christmas even though I'm supposed to be relaxing now (in some strange universe where working every hour I'm awake is 'relaxing'). I'm not sure how great the quality of my writing will be under the circumstances, but tradition is tradition and now that the autumn 2015 anime season is over I want to post my thoughts about the shows I watched from the fragments of it which my sleep deprived brain can still remember.

Nothing much has changed with the UK-friendly streaming providers, and FUNimation have apparently been selling a few exclusivity contracts to companies like Animax, which is frustrating when Animax's service isn't very good. Exclusivity contracts suck for fans. I still have no idea when anything not on Crunchyroll or Daisuki goes live because Viewster and Animax don't really do schedules or announcements properly. Speaking of Viewster, I think I'm falling out of love with them now they seem to be holding back all of the features I actually want behind their expensive Omakase service. I have way too much Sengoku Basara merchandise lying around to even begin to consider paying a premium for a bunch of anime-related toys I don't want.

Anyway, my ranking hasn't changed much, except that Dance With Devils became available to the UK and upstaged everything else with its inherent stupidity. It turns out that fluffy supernatural shows are exactly what I need when I'm exhausted.

1. Dance With Devils
2. Gintama
3. Diabolik Lovers

The new Mobile Suit Gundam almost made it into the list too. The story gets a little weak from time to time and the strange hairstyles bother me, but those fantastic climaxes as the end of each episode have been way too exciting. It's a shame its UK streaming arrangement isn't that great.

'Twas the season of demons and vampires

New titles

First up, the shows which didn't start their 'simulcasts' for the UK until late in the season. Most of these are on Animax UK which means I struggle to watch them with the random upload dates and poor streaming performance via the website. At least I discovered that the PS4 application, while horrendously difficult to navigate, makes viewing complete episodes possible without having to reload every few minutes.

Attack On Titan: Junior High (Shingeki! Kyojin Chuugakkou)
This was... not as bad as I expected. The first volume of the English edition of the manga was a huge disappointment as its loose translation made it incomprehensible to someone detached from American culture like myself, but the anime avoids this with a more literal translation (not to mention that I can still hear the Japanese gags). It also plays on the success of the original anime adaptation by parodying its music and setpieces.

The tone of this lighthearted comedy spin-off is a little jarring at first, since the gritty original is loaded with heartbreaking twists, death and suffering. Eren's fight for survival against an overpowering foe has been changed into a battle to stop bullies stealing the kids' lunch boxes. Yet I ended up watching it regularly even though it's no substitute for a proper follow-up series.

Reiner is so great

Dance With Devils
It's strange that this new show has come out at the same time as the sequel to Rejet's other title about domineering supernatural boys, but Dance With Devils sets itself aside from Diabolik Lovers right from the first episode by incorporating theatrical musical elements and a more coherent plot - the advantage of telling an original story instead of trying to retrospectively merge events from a convoluted branching story into a single narrative. The ridiculousness of everyone breaking into song whenever a new character is introduced works with the melodramatic setting; the creators know that harem shows about a bunch of impossibly attractive guys becoming obsessed with a single girl are fantasy, and the show revels in its own silliness. I watched the first episode with a male friend who finds otome game adaptations unwatchable, yet he immediately loved Dance With Devils and wanted to watch more when the end credits started to roll.

I also really like Hirakawa Daisuke's character who appears to be a depraved fusion of Laito and Kanato from Diabolik Lovers.

People who don't bother to hide their evilness are the best

Heavy Object
One of many light novel adaptations this season, Heavy Object at least has a military theme rather than the usual overplayed romantic hijinks. Future technological innovations have made war as we know it redundant, so instead four global powers battle it out with sturdy weapons apparently piloted by sexy girls who wear skintight piloting suits (with sailor collars, it seems). So, nothing particularly new or groundbreaking there. The action gets started when a pair of the rank and file soldiers stumble upon a way to take down one of the enemy's superweapons, throwing the established system into question and thrusting them firmly into the spotlight. Heavy Object almost succeeds in being an interesting show on the merits of Qwenthur's insight and wit. Almost. If only the creators had stuck with that instead of incorporating the usual pandering boob-grabbing stupidity that blights this kind of series.

Why do I keep watching trashy light novel adaptations?!

Rakudai Kishi No Cavalry (Chivalry Of A Failed Knight)
Our hero is a wannabe knight who goes to 'chivalry school' but lacks skill. One day, a sexy redheaded princess with unparalleled knightly talents is transferred to his school and assigned to share his room, even though neither of them seems to know about the arrangement. Of course, the way that they first meet is by him walking in on her while she's changing because this is a light novel adaptation and every light novel adaptation has to have the exact same plot these days. There's a joke, a scream, a slap - it's decently animated but this is the same tripe we've already seen several times over in this very anime season and I'm not interested in watching more. To its credit, the lead's forwardness at least sets him aside from some of the other wimps we've had in previous remakes of this same tired idea.

If this scene looks familiar, there's a reason for that

Shomin Sample (Ore Ga Ojousama Gakkou Ni 'Shomin Sample' Toshite Gets♥Sareta Ken)
I only have myself to blame; it's obvious from the title that this was going to be another irritating light novel adaptation about a plain boy being surrounded by cute girls with the usual tedious fan service hijinks. I watched the first episode in spite of this, and got exactly what I was expecting. Our hero is abruptly summoned to an all-girl high school full of wealthy heiresses without any knowledge about the 'real world' outside the school gates. His task is simple. All he has to do is teach all of the dizzy girls about how the 'commoners' live so that they can prepare themselves to face the real world - while pretending that he's only interested in men (to avoid any awkwardness). He somehow befriends a squeaky redhead moments after arriving who latches onto him for special training about the mundane lives of regular people. Series where all of the ladies are presented as ignorant or different in order to make the drab lead suddenly seem more interesting naturally rub me up the wrong way. Sigh.

Hardcore muscle freak Kirito, probably fantasising about guys

Valkyrie Drive -Mermaid-
For some reason Animax UK started their delayed 'simulcast' of this series from episode two, so after waiting in vain for a few days I watched that episode first. Then it was impossible to watch it on PS4 because the age check didn't work, so I had to watch it in my browser with a constant stutter every few frames. I'd be more annoyed about the terrible simulcast situation if I wasn't already expecting it.

Valkyrie Drive -Mermaid- is, I think, a fighting series of the type where the primary goal is to see the all-female combatants stripping one another down rather than demonstrating their martial prowess. The girls are paired up according to whether they can transform into weapons or wield other girls as weapons, and for some reason it's necessary to get one another excited before any transforming or weapon-wielding can take place.

On one hand, this show is nothing more than a terrible parade of jiggling boobs and impractical clothing. On the other, the designs are appealing and it doesn't have any irritating, nervous 'ordinary guys' falling over and accidentally groping someone, so it somehow comes across as progressive in such a weak anime season. I might give it a proper try when it's out on Blu-ray and I can watch it without censorship (and start from the first episode instead of the second).

My favourite lady so far, because I'm a bad person

--

Series I watched

This list is rather short; two titles are covered above and the rest continue into next season!

Diabolik Lovers: More, Blood
Poor Diabolik Lovers. It was completely upstaged this season by its own stablemate Dance With Devils, which somehow succeeded in being more entertaining and fresh despite being more of the same thing. Having said that, I felt that More, Blood was a pretty good anime overall. It dragged a little in the middle when the Sakamaki brothers vanished completely and we were introduced to each of the Mukami siblings in turn. I'm not terribly keen on Ruki or Yuuma, and Azusa's ponderous speech doesn't really lend itself to the kind of unwholesome peril I watch this show for.

Still, the series redeemed itself nicely towards the end when it blended elements from the newer Dark Fate game into its storyline and gave us some nice anime-original scenes. And then it ended rather abruptly. Can we have a third season to finish the story now, please?

I missed my favourite characters while they were absent!

One Punch Man
It's difficult to know how to describe One Punch Man. It's not one of my favourites, yet I enjoy every second of it. It embraces every stupid shounen action manga trope and then turns things up a notch, simultaneously parodying and exemplifying the genre with its bonkers cast of overpowered misfits. It sits in the strange space between Gintama and Dragonball, and the anime staff haven't cut any corners in making its television adaptation thoroughly entertaining to watch. Will Saitama ever receive the recognition he deserves for saving the world in every episode? I need a second season!

A show full of dorks

Owarimonogatari
Well played, Ougi. I was wondering about dropping the Monogatari series at the start of this season and now I'm a bigger fan than ever. Opening with a creepy mystery story was great fun, and the ripples from that storyline continued to work their way through the next arc. Shinobu's story wasn't quite as gripping until the end, when it pulled off a very pretty climax and answered some of the questions that had been lingering in my mind for a while. I wonder when I'll get to see the upcoming movies.

Ougi completely stole the show

Seraph of the End -Battle In Nagoya- (Owari No Seraph -Battle in Nagoya-)
Owari No Seraph isn't really at its best when it's showing complicated political stories. What it is good at, however, is egostistical vampire nobles and melodramatic scenes with the show's star-crossed brothers Yuu and Mika, so it's fortunate that the writers remembered to include plenty of both in this second season. Thinking back, very little has changed since the end of the first season; the named vampires are still overpowered, Guren is still bleeding everywhere, Shinoa is still a cutie, none of the lingering mysteries have been addressed properly and Yuu still badly needs to be disciplined before he gets everyone (including himself) killed. It was Mika whose character development took the greatest leap this time around - in itself surprising given how little screen time he seemed to have. I'm pretty sure I'll keep watching this as long as they keep animating it, in spite of the fact that the story isn't all that good.

A rare Owari No Seraph screenshot without any vampires

--

So, that was autumn. Though I wasn't following all that many shows, the quality was extremely high - Owari No Seraph and Ushio To Tora were the weakest titles and even then they've been entertaining enough to deserve a place in my schedule. I'm looking forward to what the future holds.

I don't know why but I thought he was cute

Haikyuu!!, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, Ushio To Tora and Gintama should be continuing into the winter season. I just hope there'll be enough time to watch everything!

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