Monday, 23 October 2017

Streaming: Autumn 2017 anime first impressions

Whew. There are a lot of heavy-hitting sequels this season, and also quite a few cases of series changing streaming services in between seasons, so putting this first impressions post has taken absolutely ages. Shoukoku No Altair, Ballroom He Youkoso are both continuing from the Summer season and on top of that my schedule is already pre-filled with a staggering number of follow-ups to beloved titles, which means that anything brand new has a harder job than usual to get my attention. I also decided to try out a HIDIVE subscription since it isn't all that pricey and they snagged a couple of titles I wanted to see; the lack of apps is still disappointing. I can't get the service running on any of my usual devices at all. Please hurry up with a solution, HIDIVE, or stop enforcing exclusivity!

I don't have much time to moan about the state of streaming in the UK this time, partly because I want to go and clear New Danganronpa V3 as soon as I finish this post and partly because actually, we're in a very fortunate position now. Animax UK is as good as dead, Viewster gave up on simulcasting, and the US anime distributors finally remembered that we exist. If HIDIVE sorted out the app issue and Netflix would just stop blocking legal simulcasting from titles which would otherwise have appeared on Crunchyroll, everything would be close to perfect.


So with all of that said and done, I'll move on to the first impressions of all of the new anime content!

Anime-gataris
Minoa is a carefree girl who doesn't excel at any sports and doesn't belong to a club. What she does have, however, is a barely-remembered snippet from a long-forgotten anime show stuck in her head. One day, while trying to figure out which anime the scene came from, she attracts the attention of a glamorous classmate and somehow ends up teaming up with her to revive the school's abandoned anime club. Minoa doesn't know anything about anime, however her new friend is curious about the show she's trying to remember and more than willing to train a new fan to appreciate the medium. It's a good-looking, entertaining show but I'm not sure; it feels sort of... pointless? How many identical shows about girls reviving school clubs can we handle before fans move on to something more interesting? Genre fans will probably find it charming enough.

I wonder what kind of anime she'll end up liking most

Black Clover
Well. That was generic. I have a friend who has been reading Black Clover for a while in the English version of Shounen Jump, and he has been chuckling every week about how it feels like a massive rip-off of every other popular shounen title from the last decade or so. And it's true, it does. A pair of twins are raised in a church in a land of magic, only for one to end up smooth and competent while the other struggles with everything, unable to use magic at all. The runt of the duo, Asta, pins all of his hopes on the annual ceremony where grimoires are handed out to aspiring wizards, except in the end he's passed over and ends up feeling even worse than he did in the first place. In just one episode the series retreads ideas and themes from Ao No Exorcist, One Piece, Boku No Hero Academia, Naruto and countless other titles, whilst adding absolutely nothing of value to the mix itself to give it a reason to exist. Nothing. The characters aren't even very likeable. If you're a hardcore shounen fan and can overlook the chronic lack of inspiration in the setting, it's decently animated and will probably scratch that hot-blooded shounen itch just fine. But when there are so many better titles this season vying for attention, Black Clover simply cannot compete.

The main character sucks so here's his pretty brother instead

Blend S
Blend S starts off a little like this year's Sakura Quest, with our cute heroine Maika struggling to find a job. She has been doing well with the initial applications, yet she keeps failing during the interview phase because her prospective employers notice that she has a mean glint in her eyes, putting them off every time. All of this changes when she accidentally attracts a peculiar foreign man who begs her to work for him at his cafe. The cafe's gimmick is that each of its cute waitresses has a specific personality flaw to delight its geeky customer base, and Maika will fill the niche of a sadistic waitress perfectly - so long as she can suppress her gentle side in front of the customers! The humour comes from the gap between Maika's true nature and comical skits showing her abusing the overjoyed guys who come to visit the cafe, and of course the other waitresses have similarly strange specialities. There's nothing new here; even the concept isn't especially original given that cafes with deliberately rude serving staff already exist in Japan. It's not going to go down in history as a groundbreaking show. If, however, you want a silly anime comedy about cute girls working together, this will certainly scratch that itch nicely.

I did like her powder blue hair bobbles

Boku No Kanojo Ga Majime Sugiru Sho-bitch Na Ken (My Girlfriend Is Shobitch)
The official English title for this series doesn't really make any sense until you go back to the source material's name before it was toned down for the mainstream: Boku No Kanojo Ga Majime Sugiru Shojo Bitch Na Ken ('My Girlfriend Is An Overly Serious Virgin Bitch'). Ok, then. Haruka is a typically boring high school boy with typically boring high school boy fantasies and no interest in either his overly affectionate childhood friend or his overly affectionate little sister, until one day when his life becomes more complicated after he asks the girl he likes out. And she says yes. It doesn't take very long before Haruka begins to realise that something isn't quite right about his new girlfriend. She's deeply obsessed with sex, but not in a fun way. Instead, she's constantly (and I do mean constantly) asking inappropriate questions, making inappropriate suggestions or offering to do inappropriate things, with absolutely no consideration for the time or place. Her desperation to be a good girlfriend and keep her partner satisfied goes way beyond unhealthy and straight into creepy territory. The crummy animation and the camera's fixation on filming up girls' skirts at every opportunity doesn't help. It's like a sexed up version of AHO-GIRL with more pandering and no charm. And I bet nothing ever actually happens beyond the never-ending teasing. Bleh.

She's not even particularly cute!

Code:Realize ~Sousei No Himegimi~ (Code:Realize ~Guardian Of Rebirth~)
I played the US release of the first Code: Realize game very heavily when it made its way over as I was so happy to see it receiving an official translation, and even though I already know the story it was exciting to see this anime adaptation appearing in the list! It's an otome game, of course, but it has a much stronger plot than more lascivious titles in the genre as well as a very quirky setting. Arsène Lupin, gentleman thief, rescues a mysterious woman from the British army and whisks her away to a safe house filled with other handsome men with conspicuously important names from works of literature. In spite of some missing memories, the girl, Cardia, actually has a personality and some rather worrying physical issues, making her a thousand times more interesting than the usual 'meek, pliable schoolgirl who is instantly attractive to everyone for no reason' archetype. With the government on their tails, the unlikely allies will have to piece together Cardia's past quickly so that they can make informed decisions about how to resolve their situation.

My only complaints so far are that the artwork is very weak compared to the beautiful illustrations in the game, which can't be helped, and that they're hurtling through the plot very, very quickly. My favourite characters are missing out on development and some of the important world building is being skipped entirely. There are also a few spoilers for later developments even in the very first episode. Not a problem for those who have played the game, but potentially alienating for newcomers who won't realise that the original story was presented much more competently. Even though I suspect there's very little new content here, I'm going to watch this weekly just to hear the excellent voice acting and revisit the Code: Realize world.

I appreciated Fran even if he had scarcely any screen time

Dies Irae
What did I just watch? It was like a normal generic fantasy adventure story, except all of the characters are Nazis from World War II; some are even directly based on real people. The main plot seems to revolve around ethnic cleansing. Perhaps this could be an interesting, risk-taking exploration of a deplorable regime... or perhaps they just pulled out a bunch of evil-looking people, then gave them cool powers and dumped them into a typically stupid fantasy show. Guess which it is? The description of this visual novel adaptation on Crunchyroll made it sound like a by-the-numbers high school fantasy show, so I'm guessing that after the 'episode zero' introduction that I watched there's going to be a significant time skip and all of the soldiers who act like smug teenagers will be replaced by smug teenagers who act like soldiers, and then the annoying youths from the present will clash with all of these horrible characters from the prequel episode to save the future. Ugh. There doesn't seem to be much point in continuing. Perhaps the 'story' in the first episode makes more sense to those who have already played the original games since the lurching script won't be so much of a problem for them.

It occasionally looked nice in between the terrible parts

Dynamic Chord
This latest male idol anime is up against The iDOLM@STER Side M this season, which would terrify most competitors. Dynamic Chord, however, manages to establish its own identity, and it's not competing for the same audience at all. The sixteen (!) male leads are members of four distinct rock groups with their own individual images and sounds, and they are already well established stars by the time that the story begins (mirroring the real world, as they've been reasonably popular based on their game and CD outings for a few years now). The first episode introduces two of the bands, KYOHSO and rêve parfait, with the former having some trouble with their highly strung vocalist. The brief scenes pushing the story along are interspersed with a large number of music videos and live show clips, and here I should mention that the music is much better than usual for a modern band-themed series. The insert song Against the Rules by apple-polisher, which is possibly the dumbest-sounding group name ever, is actually rather good, and I was mildly surprised that they didn't add a subtitle with the title and group name each time a clip played so that new viewers could rush out and buy the music - there are so many songs and boys being thrown at the audience in the first episode that it's genuinely quite difficult to keep track! Where Dynamic Chord struggles most is the animation. 'Minimal' would be a very generous way to describe it; the characters hardly move at all and the camera simply pans across still images whenever possible. The character artwork is highly detailed and distinctive which takes some of the sting out of the lazy animation since it does look very good in still pictures, While I would hesitate to recommend Dynamic Chord to most anime fans, if you enjoy the music and voice cast it's still worth watching so long as you have a HIDIVE account and can justify the extra expense. I'll probably check it out again when the home video version rolls around.

Professional bands are way cooler than high schoolers

EVIL OR LIVE
Another Chinese-influenced anime joins the roster this season, and they're definitely getting better in terms of quality. I didn't like EVIL OR LIVE in particular - it's a weird (if topical) dramatisation of wayward teens being imprisoned against their will in a punishment camp which functions like a school to prevent them from becoming worthless, ungrateful members of society. Our hero is a melodramatic jerk who indulged too much in his gaming addiction until his parents, allegedly, booked him into this camp to have some sense beaten back into him. It's all very depressing until he meets a mysterious stranger who seems to wield a lot of power over the guards compared to the rest of their fellow prisoners. The animation is average, which actually means it's one of the better shows of this kind to date and the plot certainly has some potential depending on the direction they choose. One confusing element of the show is that the lead's name has been localised into Japanese (Hibiki) whereas most of the other cast members keep the Chinese pronunciations of their names. It doesn't seem to be a plot point at all, so it's rather jarring; the cultural context of the show is very clearly Chinese right from the peculiar opening montage. I think, as usual, that I'd rather have watched this with Chinese voice acting instead of the haphazardly-localised Japanese version.

No idea why it's letterboxed or why he groped the other dude

Gintama (Porori-hen)
It's back again! Rather than having a straightforward name from a specific manga arc, this season of Gintama is titled Porori-hen, marking a departure from the heartbreaking drama and action of the serious story arcs which have dampened the Gintama comedy in recent years. It seems that the animators are winding back the clock and adapting a few of the sillier storylines which had never made it to the animated version before now. Hurrah! I like serious Gintama, but the series is in its element when it's being rude, shocking and funny. This should be good. I'm not sure that I can handle both Gintama and Osomatsu-san on consecutive days this season.

The first few minutes confirmed the shift back to comedy

Hoozuki No Reitetsu (Hozuki's Coolheadedness) season 2
In any other season the return of Hoozuki No Reitetsu would be cause for celebration. Here though, it's competing with both Gintama and Osomatsu-san in the comedy niche and that's a very tough battle to take on. The first episode was a strong one, unexpectedly delving into Hoozuki's backstory before he became one of the most influential workers in Hell and also introducing a major figure from Japanese mythology, who seemed fun in her own way. I think there's enough room for three ridiculous comedy shows in my heart this season after all.

Singlehandedly justifying my HIDIVE subscription

Houseki No Kuni (Land Of The Lustrous)
I'm not quite sure what to make of Houseki No Kuni. The first episode wasn't all that interesting, plot-wise; a bunch of humanoid gemstones in tight black outfits and tiny hotpants live under the care of a stern-looking monk, where they have to fight quite brutally whenever invaders appear to try to capture them for their beauty. The heroine, Phosphophyllite, really wants to join in and fight too, but their master has forbidden it because she's too frail to be able to handle the strain of physical combat. Instead, she's given a job chronicling the gems' lonely world. To accomplish this, she approaches another outcast with the dangerous power to cause harm to friend and foe alike.

Most of the first episode involved Phos running around addressing every individual gem by name in a rather stilted way so that the audience could be introduced to as many of the characters as possible right from the start. The story is light, and nothing that hasn't been done before, but where Houseki No Kuni stands out is that it employs CG animation in a very striking, creative way. In general, I hate CG animation. It singlehandedly ruined the otherwise-decent Berserk continuation, and it never succeeds in conveying human emotions the way drawn artwork can. Houseki No Kuni acknowledges those drawbacks and embraces them; each of them gems is rendered with beautiful, dazzling signature colours which make the most of the medium, glistening and shining throughout every scene. The designs are otherwise very simple and cartoonish, with no attempt to make the exaggerated computer-animated expressions look natural - instead, overblown reactions are part of the style. And it works. It sounds simple yet it's all rather beautiful, to the point where I'm almost tempted to keep watching for the visuals alone. While there's no way I'll have space for it in my schedule from what I've seen so far, it's possible that I may well come back to it later if feedback from other fans is good.

Whoever did the gem effects needs to be given more work

Imouto Sae Ireba Ii. (A Sister's All You Need)
The title was enough to concern me and the first couple of minutes almost made me switch off right away; this series is surely the absolute pinnacle of the unhealthy obsession with sexualising precocious younger sisters that's been a hallmark of anime for the last decade. After running through pretty much every single little sister fetish point in the book, the series mercifully dials everything back and sets out its plot, which is a fairly average story of a light novel writer struggling to balance his lust for younger sister characters with his reasonable successful career. He has a group of friends who know about his job and also his obsession, and strangely he also has a little sister of his own, who seems to pass as his little brother, taking care of everything to make the lead's life easier. I think the most shocking thing about this pandering drivel is that somehow, in spite of the constant lewd remarks and desperate fan service, it wasn't actually that bad. I'm still dropping it though.

I suspect that the foul-mouthed silver-haired girl is popular

Inuyashiki: Last Hero
As one of the few anime fans who never bothered with Gantz, I was hoping that Inuyashiki wouldn't appeal to me - the creepy smile of the old man on the manga cover has always made me write it off as something too highbrow for my simplistic tastes. Unfortunately, Inuyashiki is excellent and I really enjoyed the first episode, so skipping it is no longer an option. The titular Inuyashiki Ichirou is an old salaryman, with a kind heart and a completely unappreciative family, who is involved in a strange accident one day. He appears to come out of it unharmed, except that his body is no longer that of a dying cancer sufferer. Instead, he's become some kind of humanoid robot equipped with futuristic weaponry and various other electronic augmentations. Being a decent guy, Ichirou casts aside his timid personality and uses his new powers to stand up for a homeless man during an assault. The exhilaration from this encounter gives him a new reason to live right as he thought that his life was soon to be coming to an end. I was drawn in the moment the exciting, retro sci-fi opening started playing and even the obvious CG-aided animation didn't put me off - the CG comes into its own in the second half of the episode when Ichirou starts transforming, but looks weaker at the start during the character-driven segments. Inuyashiki succeeds at everything it sets out to do. The sad moments are genuinely heart-wrenching, the action is exciting and the resolution to Ichirou's first run-in with some street thugs is pleasantly sensible.

The hero's relationship with his adopted dog is awesome

Just Because!
A transfer student joins the senior year at a high school in an area where he used to live, and his arrival stirs up complicated feelings in the other students. Some of them are old acquaintances while others view him as an opportunity for a new friend in their final year together. There's a lot of minor drama about school matters such as club closures and sports, and relatively little to latch onto in terms of ongoing plot. So far, Just Because! is sort of like Orange, except without the time travel, emotion or strong characterisation. The soft colour palette highlights the attractive artwork and the animation is reasonably good throughout the first episode. This doesn't change the fact that nothing really happens, though.

I didn't pick a good picture to show off the pretty designs

Juuni Taisen: Zodiac War
Did someone commission nisiOisin to write a version of Fate without all of the references and baggage that an actual Fate series involves these days? Juuni Taisen is currently enjoying a major promotional push to celebrate this anime adaptation, and the first episode was certainly attention-grabbing. Twelve eccentric characters representing the animals of the zodiac have been gathered together for the latest in a series of grisly battles to the death, with the eventual winner being offered the chance to make a wish (as well as being permitted to survive). Murder, treachery, psychotic scantily-clad combat bunny-butlers; there's something for everything in this bloodthirsty celebration of violence. Whether it will actually go anywhere is yet to be seen, but consider my interest piqued.

Weird half-naked bunny guy is surely too fun to survive long

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond (Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond)
I didn't have a great time streaming the first Kekkai Sensen on an ad-riddled service, especially since its infamous delays exacerbated the difficulty in accessing each episode on time, so it's great to see the sequel showing up on Crunchyroll. The first episode was a simple enough romp with mild-mannered hero Leonardo being swept up in a sudden fluffy of crazy action, supported (occasionally) by his powerful friends and colleagues at Libra, who receive brief reintroductions along the way. There's a great opening too; while I am not a huge fan of Unison Square Garden overall the theme song worked really well. If the staff can keep the stylish action consistent for the rest of the season this should be a fun ride.

Zapp's rubber-faced antics made a welcome return

Kino No Tabi: The Beautiful World (Kino's Journey: The Beautiful World)
The anime industry continues to revive classics from the past with this unexpected return to the Kino No Tabi series. The original anime adaptation was very enjoyable, so I was sad to see that its stylised artwork had given way to more generic, modern designs. It's not as though there's anything wrong with the new art - it's perfectly attractive and the jarring CG is used sparingly - but somehow making Kino cuter and more feminine slightly shifts the focus away from the true star of the series: its stories. Thankfully, it looks as though the formula is the same as always; Kino travels to a new land in order to witness its unique quirks then quietly moves on with only her vehicle for company. With so many of the tales from the source material still unavailable outside Japan it feels like a missed opportunity to see them remaking popular stories from the previous adaptation in between the new content. But it is what it is. I'd be a fool to miss out.

I do miss watching anime with more daring design work

Konohana Kitan
Potentially invaluable as a cure for insomnia, Konohana Kitan is the tale of a young fox-girl who starts working at a large inn (complete with hot springs) and has to learn the ropes from her new colleagues to avoid upsetting any of their customers. Not all of the regulars are happy to meet this shy, bumbling new addition to their team and Yuzu will have to work hard to impress them! It's a total snooze-fest if you aren't attracted to the moe aesthetic and gentle pace; all that happens in the first episode is that Yuzu causes a non-problem and one of her snippy coworkers shares in the responsibility, except that it doesn't matter anyway because the customer involved is an extremely relaxed guy. The social aspects of the setting could have been interesting, except that there is no reference to anything seedy going on with this inn which apparently employs a bunch of underaged girls as live-in workers. The fox-girl element could have been interesting except that it appears to be wholly irrelevant; it's not mentioned anywhere in the plot and seems to be a simple excuse to add fluffy ears, tiny fangs and tails to the entire all-female regular cast. There are regular bathing scenes in between the cuteness to keep the intended audience interested. It's not for me.

Yuzu-chan isn't as bad as I make out, just dull

Mahou Tsukai No Yome (The Ancient Magus' Bride)
I watched one of the three OAV episodes which came out a while ago for this series, and felt a little lost. So I skipped the rest and waited for this TV adaptation which starts the series from the beginning, and things now make a lot more sense than they did before. Would it be best to go back and finish the other OAVs now and potentially spoil the unfolding plot, or wait until after the television version finishes its run?

Our skull-faced hero, Elias, is a mysterious mage who spots Chise's potential and buys her at auction (!) when she's at her lowest ebb, mistreated and abandoned by everyone she knew. It turns out that Chise has a special power to attract (and even interact with) spirits that other people cannot normally see. Elias takes her home and explains that he's going to train her in magic, while Chise, still clearly traumatised, attempts to process all of these unexpected revelations. They even explained the 'bride' thing at last; apparently Elias is hoping to make Chise his wife at a later date, and he goes right ahead and admits this to her face. I'm glad that he's not rushing into that side of things as it would make him seem rather abusive, but it's an interesting plot point and one that I hope will be explored later when poor Chise has regained her confidence and matured a little more. It's interesting enough to keep watching and the details in the scenes set in the UK are commendable. If I manage to get all of the anime I'm watching this season under control I'll definitely go back and finish the OAVs too at some point.

The obvious screenshot most bloggers will have chosen

March Comes In Like A Lion (3-gatsu No Lion) season 2
A low key return to this wonderful series ostensibly about competitive shougi, which delves deep into matters of the human heart whenever it's not focusing on intense battles of wits. The first episode was a reintroduction to Rei's circle of friends and acquaintances with some teasing about the opponents he's likely to be facing in future episodes, and once again I'm sold. The genuine emotional resonance underpinning Rei's everyday encounters with other people make March Comes In Like A Lion a very special show.

Rei's school friends deserved to be in a picture this time

Netojuu No Susume (Recovery Of An MMO Junkie)
The implications of the official English title (above) are rather different to those of the original, and more literal, English title, Recommendation Of The Wonderful Virtual Life. But I'm not sure which is closest to the truth, as there was neither recovery nor recommendation in the first episode of this new series. Moriko is having a hard time and has made the decision to become a 'voluntary NEET' and sit around at home playing games. Her previous MMO has ceased service, so she tries out a new one and becomes addicted almost right away. Her generically handsome male character encounters a pretty, friendly healer girl while struggling with a quest, and before long Moriko has joined this girl's guild and made friends with her buddies. In fact, it's not long before traces of affection make themselves known in spite of their guild's strict 'no romance' policy. There are hints that Moriko might be closer to real world friendship than she realises, but nothing firm has been revealed so far. It's nice to see an older female lead in this kind of show rather than the typical wimpy teenagers who usually star. I'm curious, if nothing else.

It is strongly hinted that 'Lily' is really a boy, which would fit

Osake Ha Fuufu Ni Natte Kara (Love Is Like A Cocktail)
It feels as though this should be a companion series to Wakakozake. Our heroine is a capable office worker by day, then in the evenings she goes home and lets down her hair (literally) by indulging in some alcohol. With its short three-minute episodes there's not much time for an actual plot, though they do squeeze in recipes for the cocktails they show which is a nice touch for viewers who share the lead's taste in drinks. I was briefly confused at why she had a pet bartender living in her house but it seems that he is, in fact, her husband, and having him make interesting cocktails for her seems to be one of the ways this couple bonds. As a non-drinker I'd rate this as charming yet skippable; cocktail fans will get a lot more mileage out of the show's offerings.

Perhaps I'm supposed to find her tipsiness cute!

Onyankopon
Pure nightmare fuel. Onyankopon seems to be the name of a god in African mythology, and of course the syllables in that name happens to sound like some kind of cute mascot character to Japanese ears. Cue Onyankopon, a terrifying three-minute CG series about a magical feline who rushes around with a gaggle of animal followers, solving problems for indecisive schoolgirls by making them sing and dance. It's probably amazing if you can handle the garish hyperactivity, but for me the scene where the girls kept saying everything would be cute in an increasingly crazed tone of voice just made me want to run away from the screen.

Their eyes stare right through me

Osomatsu-san season 2
They're back! I'm so excited about the new season of this wacky comedy reboot that it's probably impossible for it to live up to my expectations, and the staff are clearly aware of this. So aware, in fact, that most of the first episode parodied the ridiculous Osomatsu-san fever which swept Japan last year with painful accuracy. While there were only a few scenes set in the 'real' present day with the characters as we know them from the first series, it's clear that this sequel intends to retain as much of its momentum as possible and it's safely earned its spot on my schedule.

Can't wait to see these losers every week!

Ousama Game: The Animation (King's Game: The Animation)
Nobuaki is the sole survivor of a brutal classroom killing game, and he's just moved to a new school in a rural area to put his past behind him. Unfortunately, the mysterious entity which set up the previous killing game has followed him to his new home, and it doesn't take long before his new classmates are caught up in a brand new version of this ominous 'King's Game', forced to perform humiliating, dangerous or just plain weird tasks according to the anonymous instructions being sent to the students' mobile phones. If they don't comply, they die. Nobuaki isn't a great lead, mostly because he's clearly still deeply traumatised and yells most of his lines in a hysterical tone; it's supposed to make things tense, I guess. In actuality, it makes him seem crazy and most of the interesting drama is wasted on shouting matches between the loudest kids. The premise is completely different but this reminds me a little of Mayoiga (which was likewise an interesting concept sabotaged by less-than-competent execution). The first episode failed to meet my expectations so I'll be waiting for more opinions from later episodes before revisiting this series. There's potential there if the pacing and characterisation issues sort themselves out.

None of the kids acted naturally even before the game began...

Sengoku Night Blood
A normal girl is flung back in time (?) to an alternate version of the Sengoku period, except that the famous warriors from history are now gorgeous werewolves and vampires rather than grizzled men. After meeting Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his vampiric entourage on the battlefield, it's discovered that her blood has a mysterious power to empower the warriors. I'm probably the last person who can make fun of the premise given that I enjoy otome games and have an obsession with one of the most unashamedly ridiculous Sengoku-themed titles in recent memory, but man, Sengoku Night Blood is dumb.

It's based on a mobile game so there's a colossal cast of lookalike bishounen warriors for the player to choose from. The originals are drawn by an assortment of famous illustrators for the genre but here most of the characters look similar, except with different clothes and hair colours. Furthermore, the main character makes the lead from Amnesia seem spunky - it hurts me to say that as an Amnesia fan - in that she's just sort of there, with no real personality or dialogue worth remembering. She's not even drawn on model very often since the staff clearly spent all of their time on the guys and finished up her scenes as an afterthought. The artwork for the guys is pretty, but that's the only positive aspect of the show that I can recall; the fighting feels like casual sparring, there's no chance of a decent romance with so many eligible partners bulking out the cast and the supernatural elements feel tacked-on in order to try to increase the game's appeal. It's not even fun to play 'spot the warlord' because none of them really stand out; Kenshin is pretty, Masamune has an eyepatch, Kanbee looks like the little brother of the one from Sengoku Musou etc. Mitsunari's entire reason to exist seems to be to keep adjusting his spectacles. I'll pass on this; sometimes even when they make a show incorporating elements from all of my favourite things, the results can still be sort of terrible.

Kousaka Masanobu, apparently (?!)

Shokugeki No Soma: San No Sara (Food Wars! The Third Plate)
Yep, this is Shokugeki No Soma. The first episode was a gentle reintroduction to the series with nothing much happening other than some gentle backstory leading up to Souma's next confrontation, which is looking to be a direct confrontation with one of the infamous Elite Ten. Speaking of the Elite Ten, they were apparently properly introduced to the anime in an OAV which was never made available in the west, so the first half of this episode felt like a weird recap of an arc I've never actually seen. Mildly annoying; I suppose they presume anyone who missed the bonus episode will at least have read the manga. Still, I'm obviously going to continue watching Shokugeki No Soma as I enjoy the hot-blooded cooking and the good characters are fun enough to help me forget how irritating Erina can be; perhaps she'll finally stop being such a jerk this season!

I was going to use a picture of food but he'll do

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Girl's Last Tour)
Chito and Yuuri are a pair of girls who we first encounter driving through a dark tunnel on some kind of military vehicle, squabbling and getting on one another's nerves. When they finally emerge, they end up exploring an old battlefield full of ruined equipment and desperately foraging for leftover food to eat. It appears that the girls are survivors of some kind of dreadful war which has wiped everyone (?) else out and left them alone in a freezing wasteland with little to do other than continue their journey and chat along the way. The exaggerated art style is difficult to ignore and not to my taste at all, but the real problem here is that nothing happens; it has the same pacing as a slice of life moe show except that the setting is considerably more bleak. There's a vein of political comedy mixed in too, so blunt that I doubt it's going to do anything to change anyone's mind if they happen to disagree with the fairly obvious sentiment that war isn't a good idea. This is not for me. Slow pacing works brilliantly for some people while boring others half to death.

The frequent CG animation emphasised the weird designs

Taishou Mebiusline Chicchaisan
Taishou Mebiusline is an adult BL game with an interesting setting involving folklore, Japanese history, fantasy and a bunch of attractive guys. Taishou Mebiusline Chicchaisan, however, is a series of anime shorts where all of the characters are shrunk down into cute, parody versions of themselves (strangely, other background characters appear to remain full-sized). It's harmless so far, but as with all of these mini spin-offs of existing material, they're not all that great if the audience has no experience of the characters to help them appreciate the comedy of making everyone cute. It's ok, just pointless. Can we have an adaptation of Taishou Mebiusline first, please?

He is annoyed because he is small now

The iDOLM@STER Side M
A strong return to form for The iDOLM@STER series after the Cinderella Girls spin-off which never really appealed to me. The first extended episode follows Jupiter, the rival boyband from The iDOLM@STER 2 who have been down on their luck ever since the events in that game. It's wall-to-wall Jupiter fan service, with three performances and lots of catching up in between the concert scenes; great for me, since I enjoyed the game and quite liked Jupiter back at the time! Jupiter aside, this new anime adaptation is actually based on the Side M mobile game I've never played, so once the series gets going I suspect that it will end up much the same as the first The iDOLM@STER anime series except with guys. So as long as there are some interesting characters amongst the bloated cast of fresh-faced idols it might be worth watching - except that this season is so jam-packed with sequels that it's impossible to justify a series in which I'm not already heavily invested. Since I already know Jupiter the first episode didn't tell me too much and I had to watch the second too, which was a high quality, by-the-numbers story of some unlikely allies banding together to form a new idol group under the fledgling agency we met in the Jupiter story. It's one I'd like to come back to one day if I ever have time.

The new boys aren't going to be as cool, are they?

TwoCar
TwoCar is a series all about cute pairs of doe-eyed girls competing in sidecar racing, a sport I have only heard about tangentially despite my region being important enough to feature in the very first episode (the Isle of Man's famous race is, apparently, prestigious enough to serve as a key plot point here). On one hand, the sport as it's portrayed seems suitably dangerous and exciting to justify having an anime made about it; one girl drives the bike at speed while the other clings to it in various risky positions in order to optimise the vehicle's balance and give them an advantage in a race situation. Obviously, this requires a lot of trust and teamwork; I imagine that the risk of serious injury is significant. There's a lot of potential in TwoCar, which made its first episode rather disappointing. Instead of the hot-blooded partnerships that could have kept my attention, the teammates seem to spend all of their time bickering and fussing, and everything about the characters felt formulaic at best. The rival pairs were even worse, with little to make each duo stand out except one gimmicky trope per team. If you like motorsports or cute girls, it may be best to ignore everything I just wrote and watch it anyway. Personally, I'll pass.

Gothic lolita fashionista bike racers, because why not?

Urahara
The first episode of Urahara is like an insipid version of Paradise Kiss with a splash of Uchuu Patrol Luluco, as three youngsters blissfully witter about their plans to sell clothing in a pop-up store in Harajuku for what feels like hours, until all of sudden aliens invade Japan. The trio meet a strange young girl with a talking tempura scarf, who gives them all magical girl power-ups and sends them off to battle armed with gear resembling edible fashion. It's based on the web comic PARK Harajuku: Crisis Team! and the main reason to watch is probably the zany, colourful artwork, which is certainly very appealing. The premise itself is only average, though it could easily become one of those strange titles which captivate an unexpected audience and gain a following anyway. The Harajuku fashion movement doesn't really do much for me so I'll give this one a miss for now.

I liked how they got scouters in their magical girl costumes

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Here are the sequels and spin-offs for shows I don't follow. There are loads of these too; it really is a season of sequels!

Ameiro Cocoa (Rainy Cocoa) Series: Ame-Con!!
Cardfight!! Vanguard G Z
ClassicaLoid season 2
Himouto! Umaru-chan R
Love Kome: We Love Rice season 2
Love Live! Sunshine!! season 2
The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls Gekijou (Cinderella Girls Theater) season 2
Time Bokan: Gyakushuu No San Akunin (Time Bokan 24 season 2)
TSUKIPRO THE ANIMATION
UQ Holder! ~Mahou Sensei Negima! 2~
Wake Up, Girls! Shinshou (New Chapter)
Yuuki Yuuna Ha Yuusha De Aru: Washio Sumi/Yuusha no Shou (Yuki Yuna Is A Hero)

Region locked English simulcast titles (unavailable here):

GARO -Vanishing Line-
Infini-T Force
Kujira No Kora Ha Sajou Ni Utau (Children Of The Whales)

Thanks as always go to Netflix for cutting some anime out of the legal simulcast market entirely. I tried out their free trial to watch Hikari No Otousan last month and concluded that a subscription was a total waste of money; almost £8 per month to watch a load of old content they cannot supply on time and their catalogue is a pale shadow of the US service. Bleh. I wish they'd put their niche stuff on other services from time to time.

The big shock for me is that Funimation only licensed GARO -Vanishing Line- for the US. For some reason, availability of the wider GARO series is very poor in the UK but given how heavily it's being pushed with even the live action show making it to the US, I was sad that the latest spin-off ended up as the sole major title of the season where the UK was forgotten.

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The usual guesses for my top three shows this season are probably better informed than usual since so many are sequels:

1. Osomatsu-san
2. March Comes In Like A Lion
3. Inuyashiki



Crunchyroll did its usual trick of leaving one unannounced show on its lineup page for weeks to make me delay my first impressions, only for it to end up being RWBY volume 5. I won't be tricked again, Crunchyroll!

Here's how my current schedule looks:

Monday: Osomatsu-san
Tuesday: Juuni Taisen, Shokugeki No Soma
Wednesday: Nothing!
Thursday: Nothing!
Friday: Inuyashiki, Kino No Tabi, Shoukoku No Altair
Saturday: Code: Realize, Hoozuki No Reitetsu, Kekkai Sensen, Mahoutsukai No Yome, March Comes In Like A Lion, Welcome To The Ballroom
Sunday: Gintama

Thank goodness for the two-day gap in the middle of the week where I can catch up on the weekend episodes. I'll need it. I'm also grateful that this season had more than its fair share of shockingly bad titles (Ousama Game, Dies Irae, EVIL or LIVE) as whittling down the list of candidates was very tricky this time.

1 comment:

  1. An amazing list of some of the most amazing Anime out there. But I will suggest people to watch One Piece and Hunter x Hunter as they are just awesome.

    ReplyDelete

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