Spring 2016 First Thoughts

MacrossDelta

Spring is always a breath of fresh air. At least, that’s what we always hope for with anime since Summers tend to be lackluster compared to all the other seasons of the year. How do the most recent shows match up? Our impressions run the gamut from low to high this time around, and I don’t think we’ve figured out just which shows are our favorites just yet.
Introduction by Kylaran

Macross Delta

Kavik Ryx’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 4
Initial Impression: B+

Macross Delta is the anime equivalent of the “This is your brain on drugs PSA.” And when they ask any questions at the end, my only one is, can I have some more.” To say anime is an addiction is cliche at this point, but I am feeling Macross withdrawal as I write this. I say this at the risk of wearing out the metaphor; but this is Macross at the highest potency. After all, this is an anime about tactically deployed pop idols flying with rocket skirts, and their dancing robot accompaniment. To reach this level of insanity, most creators would see their creation blow up in their face. But then again, if Macross Delta is the anime equivalent, then Kawamori Shoji is the Heisenberg of anime, capable of taking a multitude of terrible ideas and an overblown production and end up making something glorious in the end.

Kylaran’s Second Opinion
Episodes Seen: 4
Initial Impression: B+

If there’s one show of the season that stands out as fun so far, it’s this one. With the Macross franchise crossing over from a playful animetic display of 80s idol power into a series purporting ideal of modern AKB-type idol groups, we’ve reached a point in the series where the character design of intergalactic songstresses is starting to get ridiculous. Luckily for all of us, Delta seems to know exactly that it can’t take its dazzling, holographic lights and synthetic pop too seriously; it’s on track to deliver decadent music sequences and riveting action scenes with a well-balanced approach to seriousness and fun. While Macross Frontier took the traditional Macross formula and added a modern day twist, the newest entry into the series might just give its main cast the chemistry needed to propel the franchise to greater heights in the modern anime world.

Kuromukuro

Reckoner’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 3
Initial Impressions: C+

Kuromukuro marks the debut of P.A. Works into the mecha genre, and so far I am not entirely sure what to think of it. The cast is characteristically PA Works flavor in every way, and if it were not for that whole mecha battle thing it would not come off too different from their usual idyllic high school life anime that they are known for. What is clear is that the mecha designs are lame, and the CGI makes me weep for the days of 2D animated robots. Whenever one of these mecha is cut, we see some poorly created CGI sludge burst out that I take is supposed to look like blood. Whether this is meant to be reminiscent of the gruesome violence of Evangelion remains to be seen, but so far Kuromukuro is almost too light hearted for its own good if that is the case. Some of the characters can be amusing, but the show really needs to do something before I feel like taking a snooze.

Kavik Ryx’s Second Opinion
Episodes Seen: 3
Initial Impression: B

Maybe it’s because of the recent pair of P.A. Works disasters or my disappointment with contemporary mecha —both of which have driven me to drink. But even with those in mind, Kuromukuro has left me feeling cautiously optimistic. So far, this anime has passed the smell test with its protagonists, a doppelgänger princess who’s destined to be a fry cook on Venus —Mars in her case— and a time displaced samurai suffering from future shock, a trope I never bore of. Just as well, action is deliciously visceral, if hampered by dated CG. However, as a narrative, this series is still very much a blank slate, offering few clues with regards to plot developments or character arcs. I am willing to hedge my bets on this one. But I hesitate to say anything definitive until the story picks up momentum.

FlyingWitch

Flying Witch

Kaikyaku’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: A-

Sweet and charming is the best way to describe Flying Witch. It’s a relaxing slice-of-life style comedy with natural feeling humour arising out of everyday situations with a supernatural twist. Makoto the witch is endearing and her cousin Chinatsu’s reactions to the witchy things going on around her are really well done. While there isn’t much of an overarching plot, at least not yet, this is a series with a lot of heart, creative designs and an air of optimism that makes me smile. One of the best of the season so far.

Slashe’s Second Opinion Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 3
Initial Impressions: B-

Light-hearted and charming, Flying Witch is a slice of life tale about a high school witch moving in with her countryside relatives. Fundamentally, it’s Natsume Yuujinchou without the drama or tragedy. There’s a small brilliance in its execution, beginning each episode with a “monster of the week” hook in the pre-opening scenes, which arouses just enough curiosity for viewers to want to hang on til the second half for the payoff. This style works well to explore the characters and the world in an interesting and natural way, despite the slow-pacing of the show. However, the complete lack of tension makes this show rather forgettable and a little empty for my drama-loving side, but it’s perfect for when I need to unwind.

Space Patrol Luluco

TIF”s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 4
Initial Impression: JUSTICE

Short-form anime have been something of a guilty pleasure of mine, and I have grown more and more impressed with the ways in which studios are handling their production. Typically these are small, fluffy slice of life shows or utterly random comedies, and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Regardless of what has come, we now have the infamous Studio TRIGGER trying their hand at the short-form anime, and so nothing will ever be the same again. Done with their usual frenetic aplomb, Luluco has all the energy and schizophrenia of Kill la Kill without you having to sit through 22 minutes of it each week.

KagewaniShou

Kagewani: Shou

AC’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 5
Initial Impressions: B-

Yeah I know, Kagewani rubbed some audience the wrong way because of the unconventional art style. I personally find the artistic approach rather appealing, and the storyline equally intriguing. The first season ended with a cliffhanger, and Shou continues nicely from where it left off. With Banba now being one of the monsters, and a new adversary appearing, the dynamics of the storyline have changed. The bulk of the story has always been the same: a random scene where the Monster of the Week comes and eats anyone unlucky to be around it. It used to be fun guessing what kind of monster will we be seeing for each episode, but now I am just intrigued to see what happens to the main characters other than the monsters themselves.

Super Lovers

Slashe’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 3
Initial Impressions: C-

If Love Stage blurred the line between yaoi and shounen-ai, Super Lovers now exists as the blur between shounen-ai and mainstream animation. Despite the shounen-ai categorization, Super Lovers is not some fluffy male-on-male love story, but the story of a struggling young man living with an adopted brother. Director Shinji Ishihara (of Log Horizon and Fairy Tale fame) has a lack of experience in the genre, and it shows. The dramatic undertones of the story are improperly utilized and timed, jumping too quickly from one tragedy to another before one can get a proper feel of the emotional weight. There is a distinct lack of ham to generate proper squee moments for shounen-ai fans (present company included), which is almost inexcusable considering DEEN‘s extensive experience in the genre. With a lackluster sound direction, Super Lover simply amounts to an inoffensive but palatable watch, saved only by its source material’s more engaging backstory.

Kabaneri no Iron Fortress

Reckoner’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 3
Initial Impressions: B

The team that brought us Attack on Titan reunites with Tetsuro Araki at the helm for Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. Like Attack on Titan, this is another gritty survival story for humanity set in a steampunk world, but instead of titans we have zombies. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress also has the same bombastic style, action and music. The one unique twist in this show is the Snow Piercer-esque trains that move between fortresses called “stations.” On some level there is a reaction one feels to this anime as being cheap exploitation of Attack on Titan’s success. However, even if this quite literally ends in a train wreck, it is undeniably good popcorn entertainment. Studio Wit pulls no stops in its production of Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress and it may be the best looking show of the year so far.

BokunoHeroAcademia

My Hero Academia

AC’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 4
Initial Impressions: B-

A young boy grows up idolising a superhero and dreaming to be one, only to have his hopes dashed because he has no superpowers. This just screams shounen all over the place. My Hero Academia is the quintessential shounen series of the season, and is just the show for lovers of the genre. I’m a bit ambivalent about the show; frankly, a lot of the character archetypes tend to grate on my nerves. There’s the whiny yet selfless protagonist, a hotheaded rival, the love-interest chick, and the plethora of characters with quirky superpowers. But there are two things going on for me about My Hero Academia. One, they usually have entertaining fights, and this show has them. Two, and more importantly, this show has a lot of heart, which I have to give props. It’s been above average so far, but I just wonder how long this series will stretch.

Kylaran’s Second Opinion
Episodes Seen: 4
Initial Impressions: C

Superhero powers are cool and fun until someone loses an eye. With the way My Hero Academia‘s turning out, the person losing theirs just might be me because my overall impression is that the action isn’t riveting and the comedy is flat most of the time. There’s probably more than one reason to why the show is so boring. It could be the fact that the main character is your typical powerless wuss that doesn’t seem to have anything interesting about him apart from his work ethic. Or it could be the fact that none of the villains thus far have been interesting. Perhaps it’s the fact that the show doesn’t even have truly interesting super heroes because 80% of the population has newly discovered magical powers. Whatever the reason, it still remains to be seen in My Hero Academia will remain a typical shounen show at best or perhaps help us rediscover our love for superhero anime.

Mayoiga

TIF’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen:  4
Initial Impression:  B-

Some people believe that Okada Mari has nothing to prove as a series composer or storywriter.  Some people also think avocados aren’t gross, slimy, spawns of Satan.  While I have generally enjoyed most of the anime she’s provided writing for, I can say that she is to anime writing what Kanno Yoko is to anime music.  They are both influential people with huge fans, but they also come up with some just fucking incomprehensible garbage.  Mayoiga has started out as a grand mystery series with lofty goals and a cast to match, but all I can think about right now is how much I want all of these spiteful, self absorbed, social rejects to get murdered in satisfyingly grisly ways.

Kavik Ryx’s Second Opinion
Episodes Seen: 4
Initial Impression: B-

Nanakimura, where you can check out but never leave. This is a problematic because A, these are some of the last people I want be stuck with in a haunted village, and B, because I hate the fucking Eagles. There is a certain hubris in trying to juggle a cast of 31 over the course of a scant 12 episodes. If there is any sign that Mayoiga is doing something right, I can pin a name and personally on over half the cast. Unfortunately for each hopelessly optimistic tour guide and weapons fetishist who make the cast more colorful, there are an additional two character whose two notes are an alternation of enthusiasm and hysteria. The bipolar nature of the script makes me question why I am as invested as I am. But each episode leaves me with the nagging feeling that I don’t want to miss where this goes, good or disastrous.

Kiznaiver

Kylaran’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen:3
Initial Impressions: D-

Despite Okada Mari’s previous successes in adopting tales for the TV screen, writing an original story still seems to be a challenge. The main protagonist is incredibly bland, with absolutely nothing about him relatable; all the other main characters seem to be walking tropes; the dialogue does nothing to make characters interactions any bit real; strange shared-pain-body-swapping-shenanigans serve as the basis for the story’s silly premise; and, none of the visuals are unique in any way. I don’t mean to say some viewers won’t enjoy Kiznaiver, but it’s not obvious that the show will improve much more in the future: there isn’t even any strong voice acting or music to redeem itself.

Slashe’s Second Opinion
Episodes Seen:3
Initial Impressions: D

There’s no way to not compare Kiznavier to Kokoro Connect, albeit with a flimsier premise, a shittier execution and a dumber logic. Which is downright tragic, when you realize “ALIENS” makes for a more believable premise than Kiznaiver‘s “connecting the pain receptors of a group of strangers to make the connect with each other and eventually expand this project to unify the city”. The cast is larger than life than the usual affair, but rather than coming off as interesting and memorable, they feel more like caricatures than actual characters. It doesn’t help that the show is just downright stupid at times, making cheap, unnecessary jokes at the expense of its own intelligence. All of which is par for the course for TRIGGER, which some might find enjoyable if they are able to appreciate their unique brand of humour. For everyone else, I suggest you look elsewhere.

Sakamoto

Sakamoto Desu ga?

Kaikyaku’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 2
Initial Impression: C+

Sakamoto is cool, cooler, coolest! He’s so cool that he commands everyone’s attention without even trying. He’s so perfect it’s funny… well sometimes. This show does have a few good moments and has defied my expectations a couple times, but the build-up is not always worth the payoff. Mostly it’s a bunch of characters who look and sound like they’re in their 40s pretending to be highschool students. I’m not quite as enamoured with Sakamoto as everyone else at school seems to be, I’m afraid.

Reckoner’s Second Opinion
Episodes Seen: 3
Initial Impressions: C

This is a prototypical anime comedy that creates a concept that can barely last more than a few episodes. Sakamoto has managed to crack a few laughs from me early on, but with every scene it becomes clearer how the show only tries to exploit the same formula over and over again with little variation. Moreover, the formula simply is not funny enough to justify an entire television show to be made out of it. There is only so many times I can watch Sakamoto thwart his adversaries and inspire people with his ultra-coolness in absolute preposterous manners before it starts to elicit a big yawn. My advice is to stick around for a few episodes and bail when it starts to bore you.

Joker Game

AC’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 4<
Initial Impressions:B+

Pre-WWII Japanese espionage? HELL YES. This is a breath of fresh air in a time where every other anime series seems to be about MMORPG or high school drama. Espionage is a dirty game and it’s intriguing to see how the different spies are working in the shadows for the glory of their country. Joker Game is following the episodic format: every new episode is independent of the plot of the previous one, with espionage being the common theme. While it’s refreshing to see each character’s experience in dealing with their spy activities, it is a bit disappointing for audience who want a continuous central plot. For me, it’s something different and I welcome the change. I’m also interested to see where the story will end: if it indeed loosely follows actual history, we all know that Japan isn’t going to get a very pleasant ending.

TIF’s Second Opinion
Episodes seen:  3
Initial Impression:  A-

Fighting for early contention as anime of the season, Joker Game feels like a unique breath of fresh air in a medium saturated by garbage. Not that Joker Game is flawless, but comparing it to the hordes of moe shows, battle harems, porn, and other junk out there makes those flaws seem inconsequential. The first two episodes, in particular, were a glorious treat of brain games and human chess, with a lot of “gotcha” moments that made me smirk. The most recent episode seems to belie an episodic nature that the program may be aiming for, which I am not in favor of. Random World War 2 spy stories might be entertaining, but would be disjointing, and would ruin the “theme” that the first two episodes tried to set up.

Shounen Maid

Slashe’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 3
Initial Impressions: B+

With this season’s award for most misleading title, Shounen Maid is not another trash anime revolving around trap shenanigans; but rather a story about a recently orphaned boy adopted into wealth by his eccentric uncle. Determined to earn his keep, Chihiro refuses to be pampered, choosing instead to it take upon himself to fulfill the housekeeping duties left completely neglected by his uncle. Despite the joke premise of the “boy maid”, there’s a surprising amount of heart here – from his growing fondness and trust with his uncle, to the quiet yet deep love and concern from the people around. The script is smarter than the usual affair, with characters that are more perceptive than their ditzy demeanor suggests, while deftly subverting the traditional “miscommunication” plots all too common in slice of life comedies. With ten more episodes and little familiar ground for the story to tread, I am curious where this charming slice of life will go, as we continue in Chihiro’s journey.

One Response to “Spring 2016 First Thoughts”

  1. In Kuromukuro’s defence, its 26 episode schedule gives them ample room to flesh out the current and new characters.
    But yes, the show’s still keeping its cards to itself, which means less patient viewers will flock to faster-paced, bombastic series like Kabaneri.

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