Updated Impressions: Kingdom 3

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After giving Kingdom 3 a few episodes to really get in its full swing, I figured it was time to discuss my initial impressions and how closely they matched the episodes as they’ve come out. If you want to look at the first impressions before getting started, it’s linked here.

Ever since I was aware that Kingdom 3 was coming out, i.e. a few days before the new season started, I’ve been slowly re-watching the first two seasons. I’m currently in the early stages of season 2 and sadly it has already confirmed my biggest concern regarding Kingdom 3 – the audio. For starters the audio seems quieter across the board, I have no idea if this is a recording issue, a source rip issue or what but seasons 1 & 2 are significantly louder at the same computer volume, especially the soundtrack. Which leads me to major problem two, the audio balancing. The soundtrack of Kingdom 3 is so quiet that I keep forgetting it’s even there and have to re-watch episodes with extra attention given to listening for the music to even try and identify and remember it.

Because even when the tracks pick up a bit to reflect the intensity of the battles and such, they are frankly completely overpowered by the sounds of the action. A great example is the Qin charge at the start of episode 4/ end of episode 3. There is a decent, tense battle track playing during the charge but fuck me it so hard to hear over the noise generated by the damn charge.  The earlier seasons were not like this at all. The music was just as immense as the charging noises and you literally can’t miss the soundtrack regardless of what’s happening on screen. The only time Kingdom 1 & 2 are quiet is when there is no music and no action or dialogue. This is a gigantic failing because as I’ve detail over the course of multiple posts, the audio of Kingdom is what really makes the anime worth it. There is nothing in the anime you can’t get in the manga besides color (a nice touch but not essential), movement (let’s face it Kingdom’s animation is extremely inconsistent with large stretches where it looks great and equally large stretches where it some of the ugliest animation ever put to film) and sound.  And sound was where the anime shined the most. The voice-acting was amazing, the soundtrack sounded like a good approximation of period appropriate and it was epic enough to match a story with scale and scope of Kingdom – the unification of China with battles a hundred thousand strong.

Moving right along, though if you can find the focus to listen to the quite-ass soundtrack of Kingdom 3 it is in fact noticeably Sawano’ed. Now I like Sawano’s work but his predilection for electronic sound, especially for tension builds, just does not mesh with the setting and character of Kingdom at all. I’m hoping that when we get to the really big moments the music will improve somewhat but it’s honestly really disappointing that the soundtrack is so different from the earlier seasons. Kingdom 1 & 2 were so unique when it came to sound, I’ve never come across any anime that sounds like it and the music choices were so much better reflective of the story’s location and time period. Listening to the soundtrack of earlier seasons of Kingdom alternatively brings a big old smile to my face or makes my hair stand on end.  It’s iconic and gave Kingdom such a distinct character, and watching all the seasons of Kingdom simultaneously, I think that character came as a result of the love poured into Kingdom by the creative teams of the first two seasons, which had way more overlap than either team has with the new team.

Now far be it from me to claim Kingdom 3 is a cynical cash-grab, it’s nowhere near bad enough to merit that label, but I do think it’s safe to assume Sawano was chosen to do the soundtrack for Season 3 because it was seen as a “safe” move from the corporate end of productions.  That because the man is individually very popular and has a good track record, putting him on the job would make the show more marketable to people in the know.  And not to knock Sawano too much, again I love his work on other shows, but I think he made a significant mistake to let his usual style dominate the composition rather than leaning on the soundtracks of the earlier seasons – like at least use them as an inspiration or something. Maybe the soundtracks will improve as things go on but I do not have high hopes on this front.

Last but not least the voice-acting is, well I want to say abysmal but I mean abysmal compared to Kingdom 1 & 2, overall it’s more like passable.  Minor characters being voiced by different people is annoying if inevitable but far more jarring is the drop in quality by the major players – all of whom have the same voice actors.  Again no idea if this is a recording issues, source rip issue or a directing issue, but almost everyone sounds worse than before.

The calmer strategist types tend to be minimally affected if they even sound worse at all but any character with a louder, more extreme personality and character is basically fucked.  Even Xin has taken a big hit here, with his yelling sounding somehow quieter and yet more grating than it was in earlier seasons.  Huan Yi, Wan Ji, Biao Gong, Lu Buwei and newcomer Ordo all have been it very bad.  I feel like this has to at least partially come from an audio recording/balancing problem because these characters in particular sound quieter and less full than they should.  Go back to the earlier seasons and listen to Huan Yi, Wan Ji, Biao Gong or Lu Buwei for a bit and see what I mean, as for Ordo I would use Lian Po as a point of reference for what Ordo should sound like. And listening to the banter between the two main harem girls is very eye-opening, it’s like night and day between Kingdom 2 and Kingdom 3, with the new season sounding seriously inferior.  I think the director is at least partially at fault here because, looking at both the anime and the manga many of these characters have the most personality in their dialogue and mannerisms and it may just be that the new director doesn’t have the experience or vision to bring that aspect of their characters to life or recognize its value.

Luckily it’s not all doom and gloom.  Now that battles are underway and characters have cuts and sweat over their faces and arms, the characters no longer look even vaguely plastic.  Unfortunately I still think Kingdom 2 with it’s thicker outlines and more emphasis on shading and linework looks better – but Kingdom 3 is now looking very solid.  Kingdom 3’s art has its quirks, particularly how it seems to fade out lighter colors while overemphasizing darker colors but it’s at least been very consistently solid so far and there’s no sign of Kingdom 3 dropping back into the horrible CG of Kingdom 1.

And of course the story is as good as ever, dropping us right into one of the biggest events in the story without any kind of rehash of the earlier seasons was a great idea. Kingdom 3 cuts any waiting time and drops right into the big time, the largest battle in the story where the stakes are as high as they can be and the odds of victory are as slim as we’ve ever seen them.  I do somewhat miss the more frequent narration and directing tricks that slowed earlier seasons of Kingdom down for dramatic effect and build-up, but I can’t really complain with how the story has progressed thus far because this is arguably the most complex arc of the manga in terms of the sheer number of characters, soldiers, number of battles and so forth that need to happen.

Overall Kingdom 3 is looking fairly good and I will be along for the ride, it only really stumbles when you compare it to Kingdom 2.  And that is a shame but nothing about Kingdom 3 indicates that will fall apart or end up being a shit sequel like some other high-profile sequels to old properties.  Thanks for reading, see you in the next one.

First Impressions: Kingdom 3

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Man is this about to get messy.  On the one hand as soon as I bothered to check the season charts and saw Kingdom 3 I raised my fists to the sky and cried out in manly victorious joy.   And on the other I found some things about first episode of the new season somewhat off-putting and a casual glance into the comment sections revealed that not only was hardly anyone being critical but the few who were not getting a great reception.  Fuck it, here we go.

Just to appease any naysayers and set the groundwork for anyone who hasn’t read my prior reviews of Kingdom, let me start with this: I love Kingdom.  It’s probably my favorite manga with Berserk being the only real competition and even the anime, maligned as it so often is for the so-ugly-it-hurts CG of season 1 is still in my top 5.  Any criticisms that follow do not come from a place of hate, they come from a place of passionate love for this series balanced against the cautious cynic in me who had nothing but hope for the similarly long-awaited D Gray -Man sequel only to be brutally disappointed, so much so that I’d honestly rather D Gray Man never got a sequel than get D Gray-Man Hallow.  As of episode 1, Kingdom 3 does not have any serious indicators that it will be bad or will fail, but there are some noticeable changes from Kingdom 2 – and while many in the comments sections seem to see this as a pure upgrade I am not among them.  To me Kingdom 2 was the high-water mark for the anime adaptation, and seeing how it held that position for 6 years a lot of the stylistic choices of Kingdom 2 are what I mostly strongly identify Kingdom with.  And while I’m not against change per se, I am wary whenever a long-awaited sequel comes around and starts changing things that I didn’t have a problem with or even loved.  With that in mind let’s address the most noticeable change fight off the bat shall we?

The visuals of Kingdom have long been a contentious issue.  The first season is rightly mocked for being pretty hideous, Kingdom 2 saw massive visual improvements and now Kingdom 3 is bringing a new visual style into the mix.  It’s immediately and very noticeably different from Kingdom 2 but it’s not necessarily a major downgrade – in fact many commenters think it’s an upgrade.  However the new artstyle has some bizarre quirks.  Certain colors, most noticeably the armor and clothes colors are more vivid than in earlier seasons but other colors seem faded by comparison.  For example Li Mu’s hair looks dull light brown in season 3 despite being golden-brown blonde in earlier seasons.  However it’s the skin and facial expressions which have taken the biggest hit.

In season 2, which I think was when Kingdom looked the best, there’s not a lot of shadows cast on characters’ faces.  Instead they give more definition by adding extra line work, usually in form of dirt smudges and cuts.  Same goes for the bodies, you tend to see the muscles lines in Xin’s arms whereas Season 3 doesn’t have that thus far.  Season 3’s artstyle seems to be replacing linework with shadows and it’s not quite as good.  Perhaps the best example of the problems with this style are faces of Changwenjun and Changping in throne room.  Their faces are brightly lit as though they are outside or as if there’s a big torch flickering in a dark room – but neither is the case, and there are shadows all over everyone’s faces which present the suggestion of not only lighting where there isn’t any but also the of lines and shading to give the facial expressions more definition, structure and character.  However it makes them look kind of plastic when compared to the artwork of season 2, where there were fewer shadows used but colors tend to be less vivid.  Maybe this will end up working out since it seemed like less of an issue when characters were outdoors and thus would have more natural lighting but frankly I just preferred the duller and more grounded colors of Kingdom 2 and I seriously hope they bring back more line work to add detail to the faces during the course of battles and so on.  Moving on.

The pacing seems faster than before.  Maybe this will only apply to episode 1 because it needs to get so much information across so quickly but the 3rd person narration was minimal and it felt like the episode flew by.  That may continue in the long run or it may just be a quirk of this episode but earlier seasons of kingdom definitely slowed themselves down with lots of narration.  And while I can certainly see some people preferring this faster pace, I kind of liked the slow methodical rhythm of earlier seasons because it gave the show a lot of character and helped to add to the weightiness of conflicts and characters, which is frankly one of the strongest selling points of Kingdom – its ability to imbue individual characters with so much weight and history as to make them feel overwhelming.  No other anime I’ve come across has been able to generate such palpably powerful living legend type characters as Wang Yi and Lian Po.   Maybe I’m being paranoid but it could also mean this will be a much shorter season and so they have to cut down on narration and speed things up, which would be a real shame.  Sadly the issues of episode 1 only get more serious from here.

The music is barely noticeable, seriously when I was gathering my initial thoughts I realized I had no recollection of the soundtrack at all and re-watched the episode with special focus on the music, and let me tell you it was unimpressive and forgettable, so much so I actually did totally forget to pay attention to it for a few minutes in the middle which I had to go over that part again.  This is a huge issue because the massive swelling tracks from the earlier seasons were one of the main attractions of the anime over the manga.  Despite the terrible visuals of earliest episodes of Kingdom the soundtrack was immense and overpowering – it truly helped to sell the sheer scale and scope of the action taking place.  Now I like Sawano and his work but episode 1 is severely lacking on the music front and it needs attention.

It would be much better for the soundtrack to be loud, omni-present and possibly overshadowing the events on screen than for it to be quite and easily lost in the episode.  Because Kingdom is about a colossal conflict with hugely important figures of history – if anything the music needs to be so grand and epic that it would feel out of place or overdramatic in any other series, that’s the level of sound that made the Kingdom anime worth coming back to.  And frankly my biggest concern here is not that Sawano can’t perform, but that the new director and the creative staff do not see or understand the vision and design that made the prior seasons so good.  Because while all 3 seasons have different directors, seasons 1 and 2 had a lot more overlap in the creative staff – at least for the people who are listed so far.  And after the immense letdown that was D Gray Man Hallow, I’m painfully aware of how badly a new staff with a different vision can botch a great IP.

Even more off-putting to me though is the voice-acting.  While the main cast is still voiced by the same people some of there performances felt a lot weaker.  Meng Tian, Teng and Lu Buwei are most noticeable in this regard.  They all come off as much more serious than before.  Part of this was no doubt to do with the seriousness of the crisis at hand, and is therefore defensible – but the paranoid part of me is worried that this a bad call on the part of the new director.  Meng Tian and Lu Buwei both had a great deal more playfulness in their delivery in prior seasons and that is sorely missed here, especially from Meng Tian since his only lines in this episode come before the crisis unfolds.  Teng is also a huge disappointment.  Part of the charm of his character was how he sounded and behaved a kinda goofy, contrasted by his unstoppable power when he goes beast-mode.  There was none of that prior goofiness in his delivery in episode 1 and having read the manga, he will need it for future scenes and conversations.  They also switched out the voice actors of some relatively minor but frequently recurring characters, which is understandable given the time-gap and the ludicrous size of Kingdom’s cast but it’s also a disappointment because we see a lot of these characters later down the line.  Shi Shi is a good example as are Lu Wuwei and Gan Yang.

Now despite the doom and gloom predictions, I don’t think this is a massive downgrade or anything, nor is it enough to make me stop watching – I sat through season 1 so I can handle worse animation in the name of a good story.  But rather than lose myself to the hype I want to be cautiously optimistic.  The last time I was this hyped for a sequel was when D Gray-Man Hallow came out and that was a fucking tragedy, a massive downgrade on every possible front made watchable only because of the good plot.  Now Kingdom has not shit the bed already the way D Gray-Man Hallow did in its first episode but I’d rather worry and be proven wrong than charge into this uncritically and end up disappointed.

The biggest worry for me is the audio.  If all I cared about were visuals and story then I would just read the manga where Kingdom is concerned.  But the music and voice-acting in seasons 1 and 2 were so strong that I felt it was worth watching the anime as well as reading the manga – the sounds of Kingdom were the most crucial component of the anime experience and right now they are not looking so hot.  That may yet change as we get to the actual battles and hype moments but probably my biggest concern with Sawano’s music is that I don’t know if it’s the right fit for Kingdom.  I mean don’t get me wrong the man is amazing but I think his music shines the most when it’s going for the big hype moments or big emotional moments but is relatively unimpressive in between these moments.  Kingdom’s soundtrack should be powerful all the time, because frankly most of what’s going on is hype.  Sure the big duels between important characters are especially important but underselling the drama of the clashes between armies a hundred thousand strong would be a massive mistake.

That’s about all I’ve to say on the subject for now.  Hopefully I didn’t kill too much fanboy hype for Kingdom 3 and truth be told I sincerely hope future episodes prove all my concerns to be unfounded.  I’m so glad Kingdom is back, especially now that it’s tackling possibly the biggest arc of the manga.  I want this to be the best, 10/10 show of the season that beats the fuck out of me for ever doubting it.  But for now, I’ll be holding on to those doubts until I’m proven wrong.  Thanks for reading.  See you in the next one.

Surly Summaries: Winter 2018 Roundup

Darling-in-the-Franxx

You know many moons ago I complained about certain anime seasons being total shit.  Today I look back at my old self and give me a “if only you knew” kind of look.  Because this season is legitimately the worst season in years.  There’s almost nothing that’s actually good or interesting despite their being another huge chunk of shows to actually watch.  Also there’s basically nothing in the way of solid sequels to help pad the season out – the only one off hand that might fill that role is Nanats no Taizai season 2, but having read the manga and hating where it goes I’m skipping that one despite really liking season 1.  Since this season was so barren I figured I’d do a 3 episode test on the few shows i’m actually watching.  There will be spoilers ahead.

Basilisk: Ouka Ninpouchou – I’m actually a big fan of the original Basilisk so I was bewildered to see a sequel.  If you want a spoiler free review of season 1, it’s here, and I do recommend season 1 as it was a good show.  However considering the ending I never would have believed it would have gotten a sequel much less one set only 10 years after the events of season 1.  Having seen 3 episodes of the sequel I can say I was right to be wary.  It’s not so much that it has been bad – it’s just not been good – and it has some problems.  For example why are the young recruits from the two ninja villages, Iga and Kouga, split along gendered lines?  In Basilisk season 1 both sides had men and women fighting.  How are Hachirou and Hibiki related to Gennosuke and Oboro exactly?  Both of those characters died before they had kids.  Speaking of which why does Hibiki look nothing like Oboro and why do her mystic eyes not match up with Oboro’s?  The village leaders insist she’s connected to Oboro but they describe her mystic eyes as neutralizing all hostility while Oboro’s eyes simply destroyed unnatural techniques, i.e. all ninjutsu/ninpou.  My problem is not that this show outright sucks but it looks to me like the team putting it together have a surface level understanding of Basilisk.  Forgetting all the details they have which don’t make sense, their uglier character designs and willingness to kill characters off are reminiscent of Basilisk – but nonetheless the whole thing feels very off and I’m not sure I want to continue.

Citrus – Yuri.  Nuff said.  Ok it could be Shoujo Ai… In all seriousness this show is just ok so far.  The story is very basic and while it’s not as slow and irritating as most shoujo shows are to me it is nonetheless carried by the fact it has lots of yuri fanservice to distract viewers from the thus far lackluster story and characters.  It’s a decent time but nothing spectacular – unless you loving seeing hot girls kiss.

Darling in the Franxx – So far this is the best show of the season.  Episode one was top tier with a great battle, weird monsters, tons of explosions and a bizarre looking mech.  I love Zero Two, the whimsical horned girl who has a nasty habit of overwhleming and damaging her partners.  What partners you ask?  Darling in the Franxx pulls a Pacific Rim and it takes two people, this time male and female to pilot a Franxx and fight the monsters, klaxosaurs.  Also emotions and one’s state of mind have a major effect on piloting the Franxx so managing the teenage pilots is going to be a big part of the show.  This in fact leads me to my main issue with Darling in the Franxx.  The world looks like a wasteland and what little politics have been shown give the society a distinctly dystopian edge, though it may be a justified one considering the monsters at their doorstep.  Excuse my sounding tyrannical but this society needs to control the kids better.  Not counting the anomaly that is Zero Two, most of the problems in making the kids combat effective come from their attitudes screwing with their compatibility.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to either control the kids with strict rules to create a less emotional children a la Shin Sekai Yori or to have the kids constantly doing the kind synchronization training Shinji and Asuka did in Evangelion to fight the twin angel?  I feel like either process would have better results than letting these kids run amok and destroying their own squad with huge egos and shitty behavior.  Also the pairs seem to be random considering the swathe of comparability problems, so maybe that needs work too.  Minor criticism of the setting aside this show is great and you should watch it.

Grancrest Senki – In season less barren than this I wouldn’t have even given this show a look.  It’s pretty bog standard fantasy action fare with simplistic and boring politics, bland characters and unexplained magic.  It has a strong military bent to it but while individual parts of the battles are great, overall it’s not that impressive.  I’m probably dropping this because what little charm it had has already worn off.

Killing Bites – This show is trash and I love it.  There’s something special about shitty action shows that know how trash they are just not giving a single fuck and plunging headlong into more fanservice and basic action scenes.  It’s not the kind of show which should ever be taken seriously and because of that it’s kind of fun.  Definitely a better way to pass the time than the last show I talked about.

Koi wa Ameagari You ni – Honestly I don’t get the appeal of this show.  The art style looks pretty but the main girl and her best friend on the track team have all kinds weird proportions.  Both of their upper legs are way too long, main girl’s neck looks too long in close up shots and track club senpai has noticeably bigger eyes than main girl and even her eyes look a little too big for her face.  The romance is between a quiet, seemingly anti-social high school girl and generic nice guy 45 year old.  I guess some people are into that but I certainly don’t see why.  It’s not a bad show and I’ll probably keep watching but it’s not a great time either.

Kokkoku – This one is weird.  So there’s this dirt poor family that has a rock which can stop time and after two members of the family are kidnapped at random they use the rock.  Unbeknownst to them they are being monitored by a cult which worships the rock and it’s time powers and they complicate matters immensely by taking yet another hostage and trying to kill Juri, the main girl.  At the rate this show is going they might have to resolve the entire plot in the pace of one time stop, which seems like a bit much but whatever.  Also the main family has extra powers like teleportation and being able to turned people who aren’t frozen in time into people frozen in time.  This show has a good mystery thriller vibe and the episodes are flying by, but it seems like a lot to resolve quickly so let’s see where it goes.

Violet Evergarden – This is the outright prettiest show of the season and good luck to anyone trying to top this show’s visuals.  The story has only been ok thus far as it centers around writing letters and the main girl, the titular Violet Evergarden lacks most human emotions.  But that’s ok because the Violet has spent most of her life fighting in a war that recently ended and everyone’s struggling to adjust – she just struggles all the harder because she has no concept of living a peaceful  civilian life like most people.  I’m personally fascinated by the concept of people accustomed to war suddenly struggling with peace so that’s a big plus for me.  Definitely give this one a try.

Season’s Greetings: Summer 2016 Follow-up

This season follow up is going to be a bit different than normal.  Rather than talk about everything I’m watching in brief and say this show is good, like Mob Psycho 100, or this show is ok, or this show has been dropped, I want to talk in more detail about a couple of shows which I feel mostly strongly about for this season.  There will be spoilers ahead, you’ve been warned.

Arslan Senki:  This is a fantastic sequel, which makes me very sad because it’s already half way over.  I still don’t know why the show is stuck with only eight episodes but damn has it made each episode count.  We’ve had some good battles of the small and large variety, major political developments like Andragoras’ escape and subsequent banishment of Arslan.  The setting has drastically changed as the focus has shifted to the coast, a welcome scenery change and more importantly a place where Farangis’ skimpy outfits look much more appropriate as many people in the region are indeed wearing less clothing.  Perhaps most importantly though, the show has given Hermes some surprising depth as a character.

Now Hermes worked fine as someone solely consumed by revenge, and to some extent he still is that guy, but now we have much more insight into his background and character.  How it took multiple betrayals for him to truly turn to hatred, how the masked sorcerers have been intent on using him since the beginning and have egged him onto his path of destruction.  Best of all though was the reveal that he had a woman he truly cared about and in his own way appears to still care very much about.  Hermes’ revenge has become more justified than ever, though his actions have still gone too far to be considered just, and the man himself has become more nuanced and human than he was before.  In season one he was just the raging anti-hero-turned-villain who had nothing but cruelty and rage to his character, now he has much more.  Love exists in him somewhere, his rage has multiple sources from which to boil.  Hermes has become a far more interesting character with a single episode of backstory to flesh him out.  Well done Arslan Senki, well done indeed.  Also Andragoras has become even more hate-able and I’m all for his eventual downfall.

Hitori no Shita: The Outsider:  I’m not going to lie I don’t have a lot to say about this one.  It is not visually impressive though I don’t think it looks bad either.  Most of the characters are a mess thus far, some are edgy, some naive, some so blatantly fake you’d have to be dumb, deaf and blind to miss it and some who orgasm while sitting atop a corpse, not fucking a corpse mind you, just sitting on it.  That said there are few things I find interesting.  Everyone of note in the show has superpowers but instead of the superpowers being generic or inventive and having all kinds of variety, all of the powers revealed thus far have some connection to Chinese lore and mysticism, a welcome change for me as a guy who’s into lore and mysticism himself.  But what truly saves the show is the main girl Baobao/Houhou.  Baobao looks like the girl from the ring, has a great deadpan voice even if her reactions aren’t always deadpan, and she fights incredibly well with her knife.  In the first episode she reminded me a lot of Shiki from the Kara no Kyoukai films, which I like, as she mowed down a horde of zombies with her knife alone.  And episode two showcased her fighting prowess again but also hinted that she is far stronger than what we’ve seen already as her final attack on the main guy, powered up by his special kung fu, happens off-screen.  I can’t say this show has a lot of promise but it does promise a lot of action and I’m down for that, especially watching if I’m watching Baobao fight.

Nejimaki Seirei Senki: Tenkyou no Alderamin:  This is a show I’m guessing has been badly overlooked.  The title alone is a headache to read and none of the characters or locations have memorable names because all their names are shit.  That said the show looks decent both visually and in terms of plot and characters.  The setting in particular shows tons of potential as pre-WWI tech is fused with magical spirits to add some flair to the combat.  Likewise the politics of the show seem notably more interesting than normal even though the show hasn’t really done anything with them yet.  Most importantly though I wanted to talk about the male and female leads.  The leading lady is not all that interesting as an individual but I definitely like how she is much stronger on a physical level than the main guy and can use her skills to either save his ass or beat his ass whatever the situation.  The main duo draws inspiration from the relationship between Ferris and Ryner Lute from Legend of Legendary Heroes when it comes to their chemistry, and they improve on that formula by not having the main girl beat the main guy pointlessly for laughs.  The main guy is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a Ryner Lute clone though he’s still very different.

Now I was lukewarm towards the main guy in episodes one and two but episode three seals the deal for me.  The whole time he acts like a playful dick, save for a few moments when he gets serious and almost kills the princess, who’s very forward towards women.  That last bit mostly seemed to be played as joke but in episode three the squad he ends up being assigned is controlled by it’s sergeant, the daughter of a woman the main guy slept with before the show started.  This is what sold me, because it means his forwardness wasn’t just for laughs and stupid light novel dialogue, this guy has actually got some action and with a milf no less.  This is pretty rare for anime and I find myself impressed that they went this route, it added a lot to my investment in the main guy.  I don’t think this show will ever be great, but I do feel like it’s being overlooked and underrated by many.

orange:  Orange is the show that I feel is doing the best job of wasting it’s potential.  It’s hard to say where this show starts fucking up but if I had to pick a starting point I’d say it fails at a conceptual level.  See the thing about orange is that you could take a lot of what it already has and tweak it to make a much more interesting show.  Before I get to that let me explain why I feel the premise is wasted on what is essentially a shoujo romantic drama.  For one thing I’m not a shoujo man, I can’t stand seeing people freeze up and get flustered over the most insignificant shit.  I remember what it was like to be an awkward teenager but shoujo characters amplify that by an order of magnitude beyond my own experience, and I wasn’t even a confident outgoing guy.  This is especially true when the premise of this show gets involved.  See the problem with shoujo genre and the premise of the show, sending a letter back in time to clear your regrets and save your friend, is that they don’t mix very well.  For example it’s very hard to see how Naho playing the final round of a softball game and getting her team to win helps save Kakeru from dying or clears any meaningful regret.  Look I get that people have stupid regrets that stick with them, every now and then my brain loves to remind me of this one screw up I made during a middle school basketball game, but that screw up has no bearing on my life and I don’t really regret it anymore, I just laugh at my stupid mistake from the past.  So how the fuck did Naho not playing that one round of softball stick with her after she had a life, a marriage and kids?  It just seems so stupid.

Some tips from her future letter are more obviously helpful like getting Kakeru to play soccer but still it seems like Naho is undoing minor shit thus far and it seems altogether to childish and shoujo-y for lack of a better term to have any impact on me.  And the only time this is subverted and real dramatic stakes are in play is held together by pure contrivance.  See the dramatic twist was that Kakeru’s mom committed suicide when he was hanging out with the group in episode one, and to the show’s credit that was a dramatic event and shows that this show can go beyond shoujo bullshit.  However what many fail to realize is that the whole thing was contrived bullshit.  See future Naho knew about the consequences of Kakeru hanging out with the group but she didn’t write them in the letter so they could have the dramatic suicide reveal later.  But the thing is, Naho would never have done that, if she behaved in character future Naho would have told present Naho about the suicide and how to prevent it and present Naho would have made sure it didn’t happen.  But future Naho doesn’t do that, so that the writers can have their dramatic reveal.  This is bullshit, you should never have to make your characters act out of character to make something happen, it’s bad form.  Moreover you don’t have to, it would have been so easy to make this show far more dramatic without resorting to contrivance.

What they should have done was make orange a drama thriller with some romance on the side.  In this orange, which for ease of use will be dubbed Bloodorange, you introduce drama not by failing to tell consequences but by having consequences future Naho doesn’t predict.  See in Bloodorange, the idea would be the letter works perfectly a few times, so it seems reliable, but then new scenarios it doesn’t predict pop up, or actions that didn’t lead to consequences before lead to worse consequences now because of the changes made to this timeline.  The point is that Naho should be able to find security in the letter’s advice only to have that security ripped away when changes to the timeline render it less helpful and possibly useless.  You could even subvert the letter early on by having minor changes to the predicted scenario occur, say maybe on the third regret the event was a bowling event instead of a softball game, but where the outcome is not affected by the prediction so it still works out, making the letter seem reliable while planting the seeds of the idea that it can be flawed for later use.

Because the thing with orange is that it has one great idea going for it, namely that what causes Naho and Kakeru the most pain is Naho’s inaction or hesitation to act.  It’s a great idea and one which would fit perfectly into Bloodorange, where Naho is forced to choose between following the letter’s advice, failing to act at all or ignoring the advice but acting on her own instincts because the consequences of each action is no longer known.  By the end of either show, Naho should grow up and become more assertive, gain confidence and put more faith in herself so that she can save herself and save Kakeru.  This would be even better if in the future she was single and a wreck, or had married Kakeru only to lose him and become a wreck.  That way future Naho wouldn’t be undoing regrets by advising her past self but instead attempting to save herself and her friend/boyfriend/husband in the process.  Bloodorange, needless to say, would be a fucking awesome drama thriller and I’d love to see it. Unfortunately orange is not Bloodorange nor will it ever be Bloodorange.  Instead we have a romantic drama, with heavy shoujo influences which just bores me to tears.  I dropped this show after episode three because it was such a slog to watch and because it’s best moment came from a contrivance.  And it makes me mad because in Bloodorange I see how you take most of what this show is already doing and change it up a little bit to make a much more interesting show, one I’ll likely never get to see.

Qualidea Code: Let me be clear here, Qualidea Code is not very good.  The visuals are unimpressive and possibly substandard.  The premise is generic and boring.  The enemies look terrible.  But here’s the thing, I already knew that from before the show aired, because in the synopsis it said the alien invaders were called UNKNOWN, and I thought “damn if you can’t even come up with a name for the enemy this show will not be creative at all.”  However I think there is something here worth celebrating and that’s the characters.  Not the characters as the actual individuals, those aren’t that good as of yet, it’s more of what they represent.  Qualidea Code has taken a bunch of light novel character tropes and put a new spin on them.  Most importantly the main guy is not the strongest and is unlikely to ever be the strongest.  This is especially good when you consider that the main guy is a dick whose obsessed with his spot on the school ranking system.  This guy wants to be number one and will do all sorts of reckless shit to get there.  He gets some additional depth in episode three but I think the most important thing to take away from his character at the moment is how he is the one obsessed with ranks and isn’t the strongest one, as that kind of role typically falls to the leading lady of light novel shows.  Speaking of the leading lady, I do think it’s a good thing that she’s highly ranked despite having no offensive power because her support is so good, but otherwise she’s not too interesting.  The main other characters of not are the main guy’s rival and the strongest girl.

The rival character borrows the archetype seen in shows like Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, Rakudai Kishi no Calvary and Shokugeki no Souma, wherein he is a dangerous and powerful character but is unrecognized as such because of how the ranking system works.  However unlike the protagonists of those shows, who typically go out to challenge the current ranking system and prove it wrong, this rival guy doesn’t give a shit about the rankings at all.  He’s totally unbothered by his low and continuously dropping rank because it doesn’t hinder or interest him in the slightest.   It’s nothing spectacular but it is a nice touch and works well as foil to the main guy, who is obsessed with rank and thrives in the current system.  But best of all is Hime.  Hime is basically a girl version of Naruto at the end of his journey, she’s a total idiot, very good natured, and unstoppably powerful.  Hime is particularly interesting to me because a, she is far and away the strongest character in the show, b, gives no shits about rank while being ranked number one thus proving another good foil to the main guy, and c, is these things while being a total idiot and a girl.  Anime has a lot of strong women but in most shows with them the women aren’t usually the most powerful character in their show and I’ve never seen any show with a woman who acted so much like shounen protagonist before especially not when most people around her act more like jaded light novel characters.  Regardless of the coming execution of these characters I do think Qualidea Code is interesting for it’s willingness to try and put a whole new spin on some well established character archetypes.

And that about wraps this up.  If you made it this far thank you for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one.

Season’s Greetings: Summer of Shit

Jesus Christ… I’m at a loss for words.  I knew that not too many shows looked interesting to me this summer season, but I can’t believe how even among those few many of the ones I was interested in are turning into total crap right away.  I’m pretty sure I’ve said before, in other seasonal first impressions posts that “this is the worst season ever” or “this is worst season I’ve seen in a while,”  but this legitimately is the least appealing season I have ever come across.  Those other “worst” seasons looked terrible at the time, this one I feel will remain terrible for some time, unless the upcoming seasons see an even further dip in creativity and quality shows, and I hope that doesn’t happen.  Anyway like normal, I’m going to bitch and moan about what I’m definitely not watching and then go into a bit more detail on what I’ve seen.

This summer is looking so pro-BL it’s kind of mind boggling.  I remember when Free kicked up a storm a few years back but that summer season had nothing on this one.  Off the top of my head I can think of two boys idol groups anime, one show about a guy who’s into BL manga, one show about male cheerleaders, the sequel to what is essentially a magical girl show but with pretty boys instead of girls, and the reverse harem Hatsukoi Monster. There’s also Sacred Rider XechS or whatever which isn’t explicitly BL but has a bunch pretty boys in action roles.  Oh and Fukigen no Mononokean which also isn’t explicitly BL but stars a pair of pretty boys with opposing personalities as the lead roles.  And Servamp, (how the hell did forget that one?) which has a main guy that looks like he walked out of Kaichou wa Maid and stars only pretty boys as far as I can tell.  By comparison I think there’s only two or three shows that look like trashy fanservice romps for dudes, most notably Masou Gakuen HxH which was at least very upfront about it’s intent, the description even says it’s about a dude going to a special school with busty girls in skimpy flight suits.

In addition to man and fanservice shows we have a bunch of sequels, all of which are looking increasingly suspect or were just never wanted in the first place, like Active Raid season 2.  Berserk 2016 is another great example as the all CG art has gotten a lot of fans worried, though in my case I’ve yet to really get into Berserk and don’t care either way beyond my usual dislike of CG in comparison to traditional animation.  What makes me more worried though is that some of the sequels that look good to me are either under-performing in a big way or are being made unusually short for reasons I don’t understand.  Anyway, onto the shows I’ve actually watched.

91 Days: The first episode of this was actually pretty good.  After being burned big time by Gangsta and Joker Game I was beginning to worry when I saw another story involving gangsters and/or the 1930’s.  However while I can’t say 91 Days has totally won my approval with just episode one, it is looking much more like a Baccano than a Joker Game or Gangsta, and I love Baccano.  So I’ll hold out some hope for this one.

Arslan Senki Season 2: This is by far the best show of the season, which pisses me off because I know it’s only eight episodes.  I’ve never heard of anything airing weekly getting less than ten episodes, and now the best show of the season as of yet gets only eight… I swear this season was designed to piss me off.  On the plus side Arslan Senki season 2 had far and away the best start of the season.  There have already been some big battles, major political events, and the re-emergence of certain factions from season 1.  Best of all though episode one immediately forced me to reassess my complaint that season 1 should have been the end of the main conflict, because it gave a clear reason why Arslan didn’t go forward and take back Ecbatana, he had to go defend the border from a new wave of invaders.  In doing so, the show has proven itself to be more nuanced and complex, a better reflection of the chaotic malestrom of the ancient world.  This is both intriguing and impressive, and from a purely artistic standpoint I applaud Arslan Senki for being willing to get more complex while still being very clear and easy to understand, not many anime do that very well.  That said I am also a bit worried.  The eight episode season alone is cause for concern as it means Arslan Senki season 2 is already currently a quarter of the way through it’s run.  But more importantly I’m concerned that the more complex and nuanced Arslan Seni gets, the longer it will take for the conflict to end, and the lower the chances are that I get to see it all put to animation.  Other than that far off concern, this was a huge relief in a season I was being let down by, well done Arslan Senki, well done indeed.

D Gray Man Hallow:  In case you missed my awesome rant about this show I’ll spell out my opinion in brief, this is a piece of shit.  For some reason D Gray Man Hallow is trying to a reboot and continuation at the same time, the story is continuing but they literally redid everything else, new voice actors, new outfits, and new tone, and it’s all shit.  I’m actually blown away by how thoroughly they fucked up the first episode.  I’ll probably keep watching but only to see how badly they continue to mangle the show, because this shit is not the real D Gray Man and I will dedicate myself to proving it to all the people looking forward to this show.  Episode two was a bit better but it was still pretty bad and all changes still bothered me.

Fukigen no Mononokean:  This was a bit less interesting than I anticipated.  I’m pretty big into mythical creatures and lore and decided to give this show a shot based on that, but I have a feeling the focus is mostly going to be on teasing a yaoi relationship between the mostly cold and mean exorcist and the happy,warmer pretty boy who can see demons.  I could be wrong and hope I’m wrong, but honestly episode one just wasn’t all that appealing.  And episode two didn’t do much to improve my opinion.

Hitora no Shita:  As of episode one, this is looking to be one of the better shows of the season.  Apparently it’s from China and the characters have Chinese names even though the show is dubbed in Japanese.  In any event episode one kicks off with a some supernatural events, zombies and a deadpan girl who kicks ass with a knife.  In fact said girl gets into a fight scene with said zombies and it really reminded of a similar scene from the Kara no Kyoukai films, which I’m a pretty big fan of.  Definitely piques my interest amid all the shows that have let me down thus far.

Nanatsu no Taizai: Seisen no Shirushi:  This is isn’t out yet and according to Anichart won’t be for sometime.  I assume, since it’s only four episodes, that all the episodes will be released in one go, like Hanamonogatari, and it’ll function more as Nanatsu no Taizai spin-off movie more so than any kind of meaningful sequel.  I don’t really mind assuming that’s the case, though I wish we a got full sequel instead.

Nejimaki Seirei Senki:  This could honestly go either way.  It has an unbelievably bad naming sense, with character and country names that look like someone mashed he keyboard with their eyes closed and said ‘aw fuck it, good enough.’  The setting thus far has been bland and unexplained, though their is the possibility for loads of potential here as both steampunk tech and tiny spirit creatures are involved, meaning we might get some good tech vs magic or tech-magic combat.  The only thing that’s really good thus far is the main guy, who’s a bit of an ass and is upfront about everything, but does borrow elements of Ryner Lute’s character from Legend of the Legendary Heroes, and I dig Ryner so maybe this will turn out alright.

orange:  This could be very hit or miss.  The premise is that a girl writes a letter to herself ten years in the past with a list of instructions to get her past self to correct her mistakes.  If the characters get developed well enough and the drama and tension are there, I think this will work out pretty good.  That said episode one didn’t necessarily inspire confidence, the main girl undid an inconsequential mistake, and if the other mistakes she has to correct are like that, then the show will probably suck.  Also the girl whose parents run a bakery was like over-animated in her movements, it was bizarre to look at.  That said the back-and-forth dialogue and character interactions were pretty good so it’s totally possible this show gets really good.  Episode two likewise did not inspire much confidence but wasn’t bad either.

Psycho Mob 100: This looks decent, maybe it’s the hype or high expectations getting to me but episode was just decent.  I dig the super expressive art style and flashy psychic powers, but the characters aren’t really doing it for me as of yet.  Given a bit more time I think this has a good chance of getting really good, but episode one was just wasn’t a particularly good start.

Qualidea Code: This looks ok.  To be honest A-1 Pictures has been putting put a lot of trashy shows and corporate cash grabs recently so it’s nice to them putting a show that looks a cut above shitty light novel adaptations.  That said episode one wasn’t great, it was just decent.  But it looks like there will some cool superpowers in play and it’s possible the story could go somewhere.  I would not bet on this being any better than entertaining in the long run but entertaining is fine most of the time, so I suppose there’s no harm no foul.

Rewrite:  This was a mess.  I know some people are excited because this by the people who did Clannad and Angel Beats but personally I was wondering the hell was going on most of the episode.  It has some very tropy characters, none of whom were interesting as of yet.  The setting is an interesting take on a modern city, with this being a super pro-green city that functions as an experiment (I think), so that’s good.  But there’s a bunch of supernatural stuff going on and it was a nightmare of weird shit, it has minimal cohesion and none of it has been explained yet.  Like there’s a girl who controls these ribbons of cloth who kills the main guy in a dream (or maybe alternate timeline) and then sneaks into his room to bite him vampire-style (I think, they didn’t really show what she was doing) and then she fights a giant CG octopus.  There’s also these sort of plant based fairy things, a couple of strange people at school who probably have super powers and… I guess what I’m trying to say is that this is all of the most insane bullshit that was in both Clannad and Angel Beats, mixed together and then cranked up to eleven.  I’m not saying this can’t be good, but my gut reaction is that this will fall apart like Angel beats did in later episodes.

Sacred Rider XechS:  This was honestly pretty shit.  It had a bunch of generic monsters and pretty boys in fighting suits with superpowers.  I’ll give it another episode or two because there is so little else I’m eager to see but my guess is that I will drop it.  The only thing I liked was the girl who apparently has unique powers saying I want to die, she was ok.

Taboo Tattoo: Taboo Tattoo is just weird.  Very little happens in the first episode besides a pair of flashy fights, which I’ll get into a second.  The characters are not interesting yet and I’m not a fan of the character designs.  Likewise the cityscapes are full of terrible looking CG buildings and the other backgrounds are flat and boring.  Then there’s the fights, they are a mixed bag.  The second fight was very basic but it was very easy to understand and it looked decent.  The first fight is super weird.  It starts really good, it’s comprehensible, we see the ground, we understand the sense of space, and so on.  However as the fight progress the “camera” moves all over the fucking place and we stop understanding the sense of space, the fight stops being fluid too.  Like at first we see the steps, and wind ups to a punch but later the fight is constantly cutting straight to the hits without show us how the hit got there because the camera flys away from the fight for a second in between all the hits, it’s just bizarre.  The impact of the hits is handled really well throughout though.  Honestly this show feels like it was pumped out on the cheap, the script is boring thus far, the powers are not interesting yet, the backgrounds are awful, and it has this trope I’ve come hate over the years where “X fictional country from [insert third world region] somehow becomes a superpower thanks to random natural resource.”  I keep seeing this trope (it’s in Black Ops 2, the Avengers and Dimension W as a few examples) and I personally fucking hate it because I think it’s dumb, especially in a modern or near future setting, this isn’t the days of yore when Assyria invented iron forged weapons and armor and totally crushed the bronze armed and armored world, even if an African country today or in the near future got rich off a natural resource nothing would change the power balance of the world, because it hasn’t happened in the Middle East which currently has the most of one of the most valuable resources in the world.  And if it ever looked like it could happen the current top dogs would crush the nation and take resources anyway, it’s called preemptive warfare.  And episode two was just some trashy, boring high school scenes and introductions for some of the edgiest characters in anime since Akame ga Kill.  Also if you’re going to set the evil kingdom in Africa, make it’s inhabitants look African, not just like any other anime characters, even Dimension W paid more attention to detail than this show.

Tales of Zestria the X:  Maybe this would be ok if you’ve played the game, I haven’t so I don’t know, but episode one was a total clusterfuck.  So much happened without any explanation, the chronology was weird and it was just a bunch of nonsense and eye candy with no coherent flow of information.  I’ll probably keep going to see if it goes anywhere put I won’t be surprised if this isn’t great because to be honest I have never been all that big a fan of Ufotable’s work after Kara no Kyoukai and Fate Zero, and the God Eater anime felt much the same in episode 1, which I admit was all I saw because of how chaotic it was, though even God Eater was not quite incoherent as Zestria the X has been so far.  And then episode two rolled around and nothing improved, we’ve been introduced to even more characters and weird shit and none of it has any explanation beyond “old legend,” also there was a hideous CG mountainside the main guys where running around in and they can’t fucking pronounce the main guy’s name.  It’s spelled Sorey, with two syllables but what everyone says sounds more “slay” with just one syllable.  I’m dropping this one and unless you’re a fan of the game I don’t recommend it.

Season’s Greetings: Spring 2016 Follow-up

Hello everyone!  As I described in the first seasonal first impressions post this is a good season, lots of good shows to go around.  So now that almost every show has 3-4 episodes out, I’ll tell you a bit about the shows I’ve been watching.

Bakuon:  I initially didn’t pick this one up because it was just a “cute girl on motorcycles” moe show, and moe shows generally aren’t my thing.  But after being persuaded to watch it, I can wholeheartedly say that you, out there on the internet, show watch this show.  Bakuon is still a moe show and but it’s a really funny show, it’s full of wacky shit like a motocycle club senpai who just wears a helmet with a ribbon on it all the time, or how the main character’s training motorcycle straight up talks and she’s super dirty because “she’s been ridden by so many men” by her own admission.  This show will never be great but it will likely be entertaining if the current episodes are anything to go by, and I’m fine with that.  Seriously give this one a try.

Big Order:  This is a steaming pile of shit that I didn’t talk about in the prior first impression’s post because it hadn’t come out yet.  It has a main girl that looks like Gasai Yuno from Mirai Nikki, this show is written by the same author who did Mirai Nikki, but don’t let that fool you, it’s shit.  It has some of the worst CG I’ve ever seen, weird considering how much CG has advanced as shown last season.  The characters are boring as fuck and the main guy brings the term OP male lead to a whole new level.  And if that wasn’t bad enough the show is terrible with it’s music, like it has this upbeat shounen music during a scene that was supposed to be this big dramatic reveal, and it makes the scene look stupidly bad.  Literally the only cool thing about this show was the idea that the main guy caused the apocalypse when he was a kid and hasn’t really mentally recovered from that.  Skip this one.

Boku no Hero Academia: This already one of the biggest shows of the season and for good reason, it’s really good.  Sure, it’s a pretty typical shounen story but it’s the best kind of shounen there is.  The animation and character designs are great, and there’s tons of different super powers.  All Might is the most American anime character of all time and he’s cool, I like how he has a super skinny, sickly body when he isn’t using his powers.  And because this season is only supposed to be 13 episodes, there is no way it will run the risk of getting drawn out and boring like so many shounen shows eventually do.  Anyway, it’s been very impressive thus far and if for some reason you aren’t watching it already, start watching now.

Bungo Stray Dogs: This show is really picking up.  The first episode was fun but not all that impressive and same goes for the second episode, but episode three was a lot better.  We got to see more superpowers, met what looks like the main villain, and he’s pretty good, and we learned more character and plot details that will dictate the next few episodes and maybe even the entire show.  It’s certainly picking up and I see some major action in the show’s future, which I know I’m looking forward to.  I also love the way they animate the various superpowers and just the variety of power’s they’ve shown already.  Bungo Stray Dogs may have gotten off to weak start compared to the big name shows of the season, but it looks like it will only get better from here, you should probably watch this one.

Concrete Revolutio Season 2:  I’m honestly a little bummed by this show so far.  The first episode was fucking amazing, easily one of the best episodes of anything airing this season.  However the episodes that have followed have been a bit more middle of the road.  It’s still good, but episodes two and three felt very episodic which was weird since the first was clearly narrative driven.  In the first season the episodes started episodic and then were tied together in a larger narrative and it was awesome, so I’m a bit confused as to why episodes two and three did away with that for the most part.  The show is still good but I feel like it has a vision when it’s working on the narrative and it’s got a lot less vision, or maybe drive is the better word, when it does the episodic stuff.  I hope it gets back to the narrative and picks up again.

Endride:  This is truly god awful and for a while I didn’t know why.  See on anime charts this was categorized as an original show and it technically is, but it’s basically a tie in for some cheap, free to play iPhone game that came out at the same time.  Do Not Watch This Fucking Car Crash.

Joker Game: This has been one of major disappointments of the season.  It looked like it could been a smarter, more nuanced and more mature anime show but that’s not what we got.  What we got was a super heavy handed, bland, not at all mature or smart show about how spies are total badasses, except that they haven’t showed us how they guys are badasses at all.  I think I might give this show an episode or two more to pull itself together because I like the time period and the 1930’s look of the setting and characters, but thus far it has been boring.  I’d say skip this one, you aren’t missing much so far.

Kiznaiver: I just can’t get a read on this show at all.  The first episode was weirdly like a random Bakemonogatari OVA, the second was funnier but still a bit heavy on the drama, and the third was mostly boring until they revealed that the last guy was a masochist, which was funny considering all the characters have to share their pain.  It looks great, very good animation, decent character designs and the dialogue is pretty good too.  But the story just hasn’t coalesced into something at all so far, it just seems kind of aimless even though it clearly isn’t supposed to be.  Watch it if you want, but if it doesn’t get some direction soon I have a hard time seeing it get good.

Koutetsujou no Kabaneri:  This show is one the main contenders for show of the season and boy has it earned it.  The animation is super detailed, the overall look the of show is gorgeous.  The steampunk tech combined with feudal Japan was a great idea, and add a super zombie apocalypse and it’s great.  Beyond the visuals the show has a lot going for it premise-wise, the main guy is a much better version of Shingeki no Kyojin’s Eren Jaeger, and the super zombies are scarier than most of the titans ever were.  The only thing about this show that might bug people is how it starts with the drama and tension through the fucking roof, which is stylistic choice Tetsurou Araki, the director, seems to use a lot.  In case you don’t know Tetsurou Araki has directed Shingeki no Kyojin, Death Note and High School of the Dead, and all of those were jumped started to hook everyone early, and it usually hurt the show down the road.  I’m a bit worried that trend will hurt this show too, but so far it hasn’t happened.

Maiyoiga:  Maiyoiga is one of my favorite shows of the season.  It had a bit of a slow start but as of episode four it has gotten really good.  It will likely get super violent and gory, the director tends to  do that, it’s directed by the same guy who did Another.  It has a ton of characters and some of are way more insane than they appear.  In addition the hidden village the show takes place on is fucking with people’s heads and terrorizing people with these thunderous roars.  It looks set to be an exciting and messy show, do pick this one up if you haven’t watched it yet.

Sousei no Onmyouji:  You know most people this season will say Boku no Hero Academia or Koutetsujou no Kabaneri is the best show of the season and that’s totally fair, both are great.  But for my money, Sousei no Onmyouji is set to be my favorite show of the season.  Bear with me here.  It does have more potential to suck than the shows I just mentioned, and the third episode sort of shows how that could happen, it wasn’t very good, but the first two episodes were my favorite first two episodes of the season.  It does a lot of visual tricks, maybe too many flashbacks, but it makes the show look cool.  Like the outlines of the characters are black in the normal world, but they get same kind of red outlines the characters in No Game No Life had when they go to the demon world, and then the demons, holy shit they look hideous between the grainy texturing and the scratchy, jagged outlines they have.  Plus I just love the obscure and unusual lore and powers of onmyouji, and the show delivered there.  Plus they’ve done a great job of making the main characters similar enough to understand each other, and eventually get it on as prophesied, and still opposite enough to totally hate each other at the moment, they have similar power levels, undergo similar tragedies and had similar goals.  But then they react to trauma in opposite ways, Benio gets driven while Rokuro says fuck it I’m done, they’ve got the speed vs strength dichotomy down pat, and stuff like that.  I think they did a great job with action so far and while it has plenty of weak points, what it does well, it did so well that it won me over, even though I wasn’t even going to watch it first.  Watch this show.

 

Seasons Greetings: The Spring of Hope 2016

Hello and welcome to the Spring 2016 season of anime first impressions post of some random guy on the internet.  You see before the season started  I was looking at the seasonal chart and thought, “shit there isn’t much here that looks good.”  However after watching some of the shows I was iffy on, I can happily say this will probably be the one of the best anime seasons we’ve had in a while.  Rejoice my readers, for this is a season of hope and joy.  And shit, never forget the shitty anime coming out alongside the all the goodness, I certainly haven’t and with that in mind let’s start with bashing the shit shows before returning to positivity.

This may be a season of hope but there’s still plenty of shit to watch out for.  Terra Formars returned in a spectacular fashion this season, as in spectacularly bad.  Where the original was a gritty, edgy show that was followed in Attack on Titan’s footsteps, season two is a brighter shounen style story that totally kills what little Terra Formars had going for it in season one.  In other shitty sequel news, the Asterisk War season 2 is out and barring literal divine intervention will be the same generic piece of shit the first season was. Also a show called Hundred s out and it looks just like the Asterisk war, so you can watch two shitty generic teenage power fantasies at once.  The Ace Attorney anime adaptation is here as well and while it could be good, I have hard time trusting most game adaptations, there are a few really good ones but most flop.  The same applies to the Onigiri show which is also coming out this season.  Other notably bad shows to look out for are Seisen Cerberus which looks hilariously bad, Pan de Peace which appears to basically be Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka but focused on bread instead of rabbits, and Re:Zero something or other, which sounds like it could have been interesting if not for the fact it sounds suspiciously like Erased (which I didn’t like very much) and came out the season after Erased, which gives it the unfortunate appearance of being a cheap Erased knock off, to me at least.  Now onto the good stuff, or at least the stuff I watched/want to watch.

Boku no Hero Academia:  This is basically reverse X-men with way more style and teenage shenanigans.  The first episode got off to a very promising start and considering all the hype behind the show already I would imagine it’s going to be one of the biggest hits of the season.  Let’s hope it lives up to those expectations.

Bungo Stray Dogs:  I was a little concerned that this show was going to end up edgy as fuck and while the flashback scenes the main character has about being told to die in a ditch qualify as edgy, overall the series had a lot more life and humor to it than I was expecting.  The first episode was not great, but it was pretty good, good enough to convince me to keep watching.  Honestly it only felt like a relatively weak opening episode because we got a lot more strong starts than normal.  Overall though I think this one will end up being pretty good and is worth paying attention to.

Concrete Revolutio Season 2:  I was a big fan of Concrete Revolutio and the first episode of season two did not disappoint.  Unlike the first episode from the first season, which was a clusterfuck, this episode neatly tied a bunch of the flashforward scenes from season one together and showcased the character story that laid the foundation for those flashforward scenes.  Concrete Revolutio season 2 is off to a great start and I’m ready for more wacky, colorful goodness to come.

Endride:  This honestly isn’t very good.  It’s basically Arata Kangatari but with a weirdly rock/gem specific focus.  It will probably suck but I’m planning on watching a little longer, if only because the bad guy has the same ridiculous eyebrows as the dad character from Luck and Logic and fights with what is basically a giant clothespin with spear tips on one end.

Joker Game:  I’m a bit torn on this one.  One the one hand I like setting, 1930’s Japan, and I dig the Baccano-esque character designs.  Unfortunately the show also came off way heavy handed in a few scenes which hurt that first episode.  I do like the dynamic between the patriotic main guy and all the jaded spies and I think this has a lot of potential to be good, I’m just a bit worried that if the heavy handed shit continues a lot of that potential will be wasted.  Either way it certainly has my attention for now and I do hope it turns out well.

Kiznaiver:  I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this one.  The first episode certainly flew by and the concept is interesting but because the first episode had so many establishing details to get through not much really happened that gave me an idea of how good the narrative would be or how much I would like the characters.  Speaking of the characters some are Kill la Kill-style teens, while others feel more like they walked out of the Monogatari franchise instead.  In fact the first episode felt surprisingly like a Shaft show in comparison to Trigger’s other work, which I view mostly as a positive because I like a lot of Shaft’s stuff.  I think this will be good but so far the first episode just hasn’t given us much to go on.

Koutetsujou no Kabaneri:  Welcome to Attack on Zombie: Steampunk Smackdown.  In all seriousness this had one of the strongest first episodes of the season.  A few things did bother me, like why would the people be super thorough in investigating a train during the day and then drop the drawbridge for one at night no questions asked just because one was expected and the other wasn’t?  That doesn’t seem reasonable to me.  Also the melodrama is already being played up a lot and that doesn’t work as well during an opening episode than it would had it occurred later in the season.  The artstyle is also a little weird to  me, like if some took the super-realistic Attack on Titan designs, dropped all the shading and borders and then tried to copy Ufotable’s God Eater.  This isn’t to say the art is bad, it works for the most part, it’s just that  every now and them people sort of move in ways that make them look funny or just look wrong.  Aside from all that the show does look like it’ll be good.  The main character is a more interesting take on Eren Jager and I’m glad that zombificaton disease can be thwarted.  Also we have a steampunk feudal Japan, which is cool.  This is definitely looking good so far.

Magi: Sinbad no Bouken: This hasn’t come out yet and that annoys me.  However I’m a big fan of Magi so I’m looking forward to it.

Mayoiga:  This is one the stranger shows out this season.  The first two episodes are out but I still don’t know exactly what to make of it.  Some people are saying it’s going to be another Another and to some extent I get that vibe but it also feels like end up going in a totally different direction.  I just don’t really know what to make of it so far but I kind of love how everyone has ridiculous names and a smattering of stupid over the top personalities.  This one has a lot of potential to be bad but I’m not ready to condemn it just yet.  If you like weird, mystery shows this is probably for you.  Otherwise maybe steer clear of this one unless you hear good things about it.

Shounen Maid:  This show is stupid and it’s aware of that.  It reminds me of Hayate no Gotoku minus the tsundere and plus more fujoshi influences.  The first episode wasn’t all that good but I’m willing to see if this show becomes something entertaining or funny, or if it falls by the wayside.

Sousei Onmyouji:  This show kicked ass in the first episode.  I was going to skip this one because it sounded dumb and to be honest as much as I like the lore surrounding onmyouji, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a really good show focused on them.  The only shows I can think which feature onmyouji heavily are Tokyo Raven, which was alright, , and Nurarhiyon no Mago season 2, which was good but was more about the youkai than the onmyouji. The show’s description does not do it justice at all, it sounds boring and run of the mill, and to be fair it could end up that way.  However the first episode was like a great mashup of Kill la Kill and Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magicka, in other words it was awesome.  Rarely has a show that looked like something I would normally skip shown itself to be something I can get hyped for, I think the last time that happened for me was when Cross Ange came out and that kicked ass, so I’m really looking forward to this one.

 

Season’s Greetings: Winter 2016 Follow-up

Ok so I didn’t bother to watch too many shows this season, which means I had no idea just how many CG only, or CG heavy shows came this season.  Usually I think only 1 or 2 shows per season will go for the only CG look, but this season has least 4 I can think of at the moment and I’m probably forgetting a couple more.  So not only does this season not have many original series that sounded interesting, it has a lot of shows that look awful.  Also the show that most of the anime reviewers I like think is the best show of the season, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, doesn’t interest me in the slightest, but you might want to check it out.  Anyway let’s run down the shows I actually watched and see hoe they did in their first three episodes.

Ajin:  Ajin only has two episodes out but it’s been pretty interesting so far.  I’m not a fan of it being all CG, but I will concede that the CG is better than most CG I have seen, so it’s a bit more bearable.  The characters are in dire need of development at the moment but at least the show has been compelling after the main character is revealed to be an Ajin.  The special effects have mostly looked like shit due to the CG but I kind of like the way the weird shadow form of the Ajin looks.  So far it hasn’t been great but it has the most potential to be great of anything this season.

Boku Dake ga Inai Machi:  Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, or Erased, is arguably the best show of the season.  The story is interesting, the dialogue is solid, and so far the character interactions bring a lot of life to the story.  Since the story is mystery in genre not a lot has happened in the first few episodes, but it has not been boring the slightest because even if the action on screen is slow the main character’s mind is always racing and I commend the voice actor’s performance because he really does convey the blistering speed of the main character’s thoughts with his narration.  I have hopes for this show and so far it has not disappointed.

Dimension W: Dimension W is the other contender for top show of the season.  The scifi tech is mostly nonsense so far but it doesn’t really matter since the main character is the one mostly carrying the show so far and he doesn’t like the newfangled gadgets.  Mabuchi Kyouma, the main character, is amazing so far, he’s basically a mishmash of Jet, Hei and Kogami.  It has been a while since I’ve seen good “grizzled veteran” type of character so I’m happy with this guy.  The action is very fast paced and engaging, while the mysteries of New Tesla and the robot girl, hint a much bigger story than we’ve seen so far.  It’s a bit too early to say if this show will congeal into a compelling narrative or not, but either way it has my attention.

Divine Gate:  This show sucks.  I made it through three episodes because I liked the character designs, but I’m just fucking done with this show.  The all CG environments look fucking atrocious and when the characters use their powers they also go full CG, which looks hilarious because their movements are way too stiff and robotic to look natural.  The characters are boring, the supernatural elements are a nonsensical mess of mythology and random stories like the Wizard of OZ.  Normally I would find that interesting but it has no coherence at all and no overarching explanation that makes me buy into it.  And last but definitely not least is the sheer abundant edginess that makes the whole thing so unrelatable.  I mean for fuck’s sake I liked Akame ga Kill, which a ton of people hated for being too edgy, and this show is too edgy for me.  Do not pick this one up if haven’t started watching already.

Gate Season 2:  I initially said that this season of Gate was just like the first season and I hate myself for doing so.  So far this season has pissed me off more so than entertained me, and some of the new characters are such one-note stereotypes it fucking hurts to watch.  Granted Gate was never exactly a high quality show but at least it used to be consistently entertaining, now it’s trying to add more dark and gritty elements to the story and it’s almost hilarious how badly they fit into this show.  If the show doesn’t improve a lot int he few episodes then I will drop it

Luck & Logic:  Luck & Logic will not be a great show.  Unless it has some serious tricks up it’s sleeves, I doubt this show will become anything noteworthy.  That said it is one of the more entertaining shows of the season and I have no plans to drop this one.  It should also be noted that this show has possibly the best CG in TV anime, and it’s not super heavy on the CG anyway.  The story leaves needs to start going somewhere soon because if we spend more episodes developing characters without moving he narrative forward, it could get boring.  I do have to congratulate the creator though for at least making the invincible main character a defensive type instead having him go full on Kirito style and just overwhelming all his enemies with swords.  I don’t expect much from this show but I don’t expect it to ever get really bad either.

Musaigen no Phantom World:  This show worries me a bit.  On the one hand the first two episodes were entertaining, and while I still don’t think the show will ever be great it looked it was going to be fun.  Episode three though was mostly pretty boring because even though it brought up an interesting concept, the character interaction just wasn’t there, the weren’t enough gags or character development to justify dedicating an entire episode to the concept of memories and how they define us and change.  Now I can see this show either trying to congeal into a narrative or just sticking to an episodic adventure and working either way.  That said I can see it failing either way too.  If the episodic episodes are not consistently funny/good, like episode 3 wasn’t, then this show will fall apart.  If, on the other hand, the show tries to tell an engaging story I would hard pressed to imagine the story would anything other than generic slice of life romcom with a supernatural slant because that’s what the show looks like.  I’m not saying it can’t be done, this is the same studio that did Kyoukai no Kanata, which looked roughly the similar to this show and still had an engaging story, but my gut says this story should stay away from any kind of serious narrative if it wants to succeed.

 

Season’s Greetings: The Different Dimensions of Winter 2016

It’s that time of the year everyone, we’ve all been forced to say goodbye to the shows we loved from last season and are moving onto the nex…  oh shit.  I know I ragged pretty hard on the last fall season in that first impressions post but it had nothing on this season.  In contrast to last season this winter has fewer sequels, but sadly most of the new IP coming do little to encourage.  Of the shows on the chart, only a whopping 3 shows really caught my attention before they aired.  Now to be fair I’m betting a lot of people are looking forward to the Shirayukihime season 2 or more Durarara and I’m not, so that makes this season a little better for some.  But most of what I’m seeing is frighteningly unimaginative at first glance.  There’s another music based cutesy moe show following the buzz about Hibike Euphonium, which I  haven’t seen yet I admit.  There are 3 special high school for special teenagers who fight monsters shows, which ironically enough have been better than I expected so far.  Including those 3 shows there are 4 shows dealing separate dimensions, one of which looks like one of the best shows this season.  There are 3 magical girl shows, though I think one is actually about cyborgs that just so happen to look like magical girls.  We have what looks like another Infinite Stratos that may also be an idol show in Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm.  Oh and there’s a BL anime or two because it seems like every season needs at least one of those these days.  Then there is Bubuki Bunraki which sounds like an edgy scifi version of Soul Eater, wonderful.  And there’s also a show about famous statues forming an idol group which is one part hilarious and one part WTF in its very conception.  But that’s enough bitching for now, let’s just look at the first episodes I’ve seen thus far.

Ajin:  This one has aired an episode yet but it was one of the only shows that really jumped out at me, so I’m looking forward to it.

Boku Dake ga Inai Machi:  This show had a very strong first episode that managed to cram a ton of information into an episode with a mostly relaxed pace.  It was an episode that was relaxed and introspective, while also having moments of explosive movement and loads of dramatic tension.  Even more impressive, it provided enough information to help us really get into the characters while presenting enough questions to setup an engaging mystery narrative.  This one is off to a good start, and looks to be one of the highlights of the season.

Dimension W:  Dimension W is one of the other shows that caught my attention right off the bat and damn did the first episode support my intuition.  The vibes I’m getting from this show is one part the early parts of Comet Lucifer and one part Psycho Pass.  The main guy in particular reminds a bit of Kogami from Psycho Pass with maybe a splash of Jet from Cowboy Bebop or Hei from Darker than Black.  Anyway the first episode had well animated and choreographed violence, introduced us to a scifi world that looks like something we might actually head in theory as the world we live in today is trying to lessen our reliance on gasoline.  I know scifi generally doesn’t catch my attention very often so I’m not the most qualified to make comments on the genre but this one looks like it might be one of the next big scifi hits.

Divine Gate:  Divine Gate was a show I was initially not even going to try because it didn’t seem all that creative.  Episode one was passable at best, though I admit I’m loving the way the characters are animated.  I’m still pretty uncertain about this one, I can easily see it being formulaic and boring, but it could also at least be decent.  I have hard time seeing this one being really good and can only really recommend it if you like the concept or if you’re like me and are looking for interesting animation, though the CG I’ve seen this far is so atrocious it’s almost funny.  I’ll be keeping an eye and this one but I don’t expect much.

Gate 2:  I know a lot of people don’t give a shit about Gate, but for whatever reason I found it to be fun enough to keep watching.  This episode was mostly par for the course with the series, it was just ok but looked nice and I had enough fun to keep watching.  If you liked the first season you probably already watched the first episode and if you didn’t like it, this one is not going to sell on the idea you should.

Luck & Logic: I was going to skip this one for sounding just like Divine Gate.  The first episode reminded me a bit of Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance or Mujin no Fafnir, in its cast and the way the main character is handled.  I may still drop this one for being boring and unimaginative, at best I have hard time seeing this show being anything more than just ok but fun.  Right now the main thing holding my attention is how it’s character design kind of reminds me of the Rolling Girls whose visual style I was big fan of.  My opinion of this one is mostly the same as Divine Gate because the concept is almost the same as Divine Gate.

Musaigen no Phantom World: This show actually has two episodes out and while it falls under the special school for special students archetype, I’m liking this one so far.  The character designs are good, and the action is engaging.  So far there are already a lot of varied powers and monsters which is good.  It does remind a lot of Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de, but I like this more than that show already.  The main guy in particular is fun because he’s huge history and folklore nerd, which is so my thing.  Thus far I also like the silly humor especially when it breaks the fourth wall or makes references to other anime.  There is some silly fanservice as well, fanservice that isn’t revealing but are generally used well as situation humor gags that makes more funny than sexy or frustrating.  Overall I’d say this will be the series that is the most fun this season, not by any means the best show of the season, but one I will look forward to each week.

Season’s Greetings: Fall 2015 Follow-up

So now that almost every show this season has 3 episodes under their belts, I figured it was time to give y’all an update on my thoughts for what I’m watching this season.  So without further ado…

Shomin Sample: This show is pretty bad thus far and I’m not expecting it to get any better, mainly I’m watching to see how it compares to Ladies vs Butlers so I can lambaste them both at a later date.

Owari no Seraph Season 2: It’s been very mediocre thus far and I don’t really expect to get much better, but this season has the potential to much messier in its human drama so I’m sticking around.

Comet Lucifer: This show still could turn out to be good but I’m dropping this one.  I’m not invested in the 13 year old cast at all and the girl driving the plot has the brain of a 2 year old.  That on its own isn’t terrible but I just got a double helping of that with Su and Papi in Monster Musume so I’m not in the mood for more at the moment.

Garo Guren no Tsuki: So far this show has been ok, but aside from the drastic shift in the setting very little has changed.  I’m glad they decided to reuse a bunch of the voice actors from Garo Hono no Koukuin because I think those folks did a great job.  I don’t really like the new protagonist, Raikou, or his attendant Kintoki, both their voice acting and their character designs leave much to be desired.  Seimei, voiced by the same seiyuu who did Emma in the first Garo is great but she’s the only one who really stands out thus far.  This could still be ok but unless something changes soon I doubt it will be as good as the first Garo.

Concrete Revolutio:  The first episode of this show was a clusterfuck, but since then the show has rapidly improved.  It’s chronology still jumps around some, but it’s handled much better than it was in episode one.  The characters and storytelling have made leaps and bounds, overall this show is looking much better and it’s got my interest now.

K Return of Kings: I’ve been a bit disappointed by this one.  It’s moving very slow right now, which isn’t inherently a problem but it looks this season will have major direct confrontations much earlier, so it should be moving faster.  Also a number of major developments have happened since the end of season one which I don’t think have been properly addressed, though they might have been in an OVA or special that I missed.  It still has a lot potential but it needs to either broaden the scope of things a bit, pick up the pace or advance the plot because it’s been pretty stagnant for the first three episodes.

Owarimonogatari: I love the Monogatari franchise and so far this particular branch of that sprawling series has been up to snuff.  I’m not entirely sure where it falls chronologically but I’m glad we finally are addressing the enigma that is Oshino Ougi.  That said of all the Monogatari shows this is probably the one that is the most densely packed/makes my head hurt the most thus far, so be warned it’s not for the those with a short attention span.

Noragami Aragoto: This has been great thus far.  Season one was very strong but had a lot more light hearted moments whereas this season has been darker and heavier from the get-go.  There isn’t much else to say about it this one, if you aren’t watching it you are missing out.

Utawarerumono Itsuwari no Kamen: This has been consistently good for all three episodes.  The characters are good thus far, the animation is gorgeous, and the action looks great.  I’m a bit worried that visuals aside this season may not live up to its prequel, but it looks damn good regardless and thus far it has delivered every episode.

One Punch Man: This is probably the best show airing at the moment.  It’s funny, the animation is interesting, and the fights are awesome.  All the episodes are good thus far and unless something drastically changes for the worse I have a hard time seeing how this show could be bad.  It makes for a very fun time so far.