Danmachi and Yuki Nagato 2-3

April 18, 2015 Leave a comment

danmachi2-1
Watching Danmachi episode 2 I wonder a couple of things.  First, where is the plot going?  We got Freya deciding she wants Bell, so she lets loose a giant killer ape to kill him, or Hestia, not sure which.  I thought she’d use, ahem, other means to get his attention.  Second, while I understand Hestia wanting Bell to get some good equipment so he will be stronger, it seems to me he was getting abnormally stronger anyway, maybe dangerously so.  So why the rush?  Third, why the hell hasn’t she given him that new knife now that the ape is trying to kill him?  Okay, she forgot about it.  I can understand that.  I’d forget things two if a fifteen-foot ape was chasing me.  The fourth question involves that ribbon, so I won’t post it here.

Finally, she gives him the knife.

Finally, she gives him the knife.

As for episode 3, I should have seen it coming.  Hestia would take FOREVER to give Bell the weapon.  She could have given it to him right there at the gate, but no, she has to run all over the place while the monster almost kills him, and then there’s a long speech, and repetitive (because of the Hephaestus flashbacks already told us that the knife was alive, etc) … Okay, if she actually had to bind him to the knife, or whatever she was doing with his back, I guess she couldn’t have done it with those iron bars in the way, but it doesn’t excuse the repetition.  At least when Bell finally gets the weapon he uses it and his abilities well.  And it’s the first time he’s looked determined the entire show.  I’ll suppose they’ll get to the Hestia collapsing business sooner or later, though next week we’re going to meet the girl with the enormous backpack.

Cute, though.

Cute, though.

The disappearance of Yuki Nagato doesn’t fill me with questions as Danmachi does, it teases me with overtones and raises expectations only to dash them with normality.  Episode two has the Christmas party, and backstory about how the school is going to shut down the literature club if Yuki doesn’t get five members.  She’s despondent until she meets a crazy girl, you-know-who, painting designs on the ground–to get Santa, not aliens (why she’s not after aliens I don’t know.  They didn’t have to change that), who inspires her to get proactive about new members, meaning she hands out leaflets, but she does not wear a bunny costume.  They have a Christmas party, but Kyon doesn’t wear a reindeer hat, nor does Mikuru stumble with the turkey.  Little things like that.  Just as well I get distracted by the references, since so far the story is pretty dull.  And no Kyon thoughts …
yukinagato3-1And with episode 3, the references continue.  Ponytails, not interested in ordinary humans, various weird things being brought to the clubroom, Yuki being asked if she was an alien, ponytails, stealing Mikuru for the club, and they even used some of the original soundtrack when the club room started getting crazy.  In terms of this series, however, we see Yuki being told again that she should be proud of her accomplishments, then have Haruhi not only steal the literature club from her, but also the episode.  Maybe it’s a good thing.  Yuki is certainly cute now, but also dull and passive.  On the other hand, Haruhi is a force of nature, and an obnoxious one if she’s not a god and we’re not watching her through Kyon’s eyes.  The show has tipped toward her, but there’s nothing in the nature of this series we’ve seen yet that tells me if it’s a good thing.  Oh, wait, that “just by appearance” line … did Kyon think that and have Haruhi read his mind?

Twos: Snafu, Euphonium, Kekkai Sensen, Pleiades, Teekyuu4

April 16, 2015 9 comments

romcomsnafu2-1Ooh, ouch.  Why is everyone in My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU so unhappy and messed up?  It makes my brain ache to see the mental gymnastics everyone does to be miserable and keep a straight face or just find reasons to be miserable.  Hachiman is the main misery-man, to be sure, and this week he found yet another opportunity to throw himself on the grenade to help out people he doesn’t know or doesn’t like too much, at the cost of his own pride or reputation.  And once again he’s surprised to find out the people who genuinely like him are hurt because he hurt himself.  Sooner or later you figure he might spare himself some pain and let others take the hit for things they deserve and know it, but Yukino, Yui and Hayato all get on his case for it this week and he just shrugs it off.

Another Hachiman fan.

Another Hachiman fan.

The motivations for Hina and Hayato could be considered selfish, but, apart from the dangers of falling into a rut, there’s nothing wrong with wanting things to stay the way they are for a while.  Hayato offers no reason why he wants this, but why should he?  Hina’s motives are harder to read after she said, about the status quo she enjoys now, that she hates herself.  Hate herself for wanting to keep things as they are for now?  Or because the way things are mean she is kept at a distance from boys, so she can safely fantasize about them with no danger to herself?  Or maybe she just hates herself and that’s why she wants the distance?  Well, better that than getting involved like the emotional martyr-suicide routine Hachiman performs every other episode, I suppose.
euphonium2-1Hibike! Euphonium has some troubled kids in it too, but they’re much cuter and the troubles are less painful.  They’re more like everyday worries about people who haven’t found their goals yet and are caught in the goals of others.  This is played out nicely in the band club meeting where they’re asked to choose their instruments.  Kumiko, who learned the euphonium because no one else was willing to play it, thinks maybe she’d like to switch to trombone, but Suichi is there (and we still don’t learn why Kumiko dislikes him, or acts like she does), and an old friend who’s there, Aoi, lets Kumiko’s past musical proclivities slip to the eager Asuka, and it’s bye bye for the trombone.  Kumiko’s caught in the flow of others’ desires again.

Aoi bucks the trend.

Aoi bucks the trend.

Then there’s the band’s goal.  The new advisor, Taki, asks what what it is: aim for nationals or just have a good time?  Let’s vote!  A rather unfair thing to put on the kids, who vote for nationals maybe because it’s what’s expected of them (some comment that they’ll just fuck off in practice anyway), with Kumiko abstaining.  Meanwhile, the scary (to Kubiki anyway.  To the rest of us she seems like a perfectly nice and polite person) Reina, one of the few characters in the show who knows what she wants, votes for nationals, but we know she means it.  So the girls start on their quest to find their own desires and goals, while playing as a music unit with people who may or may not care.

Kekkai Sensen 2, with its stand-alone story intended to introduce more characters, is as fun as episode one.

I didn't say it made sense.

I didn’t say it made sense.

Some traditional overall character-building elements pop up, such as the reason Zapp kept attacking Leo on his delivery job and eating the pizzas, but it’s almost an afterthought in what is basically a abduction, chase, and rescue story, which is itself traditional, but told with a lot of style.  Basically Leo spots a dry-cleaning truck which is actually something more.  The demons or whatever they are are actually running a cannibal racket, and they spot Leo spotting them, nab him and take him to the Alterworld, I believe, for dissection.

I have no idea what Leo was trying to do here, but it looks cool.

I have no idea what Leo was trying to do here, but it looks cool.

And I spent a lot of the time wondering what the hell Libra was talking about half the time, with the igniting, and what Leo was doing to fight back.  I still don’t quite get what he did with his eyes.  That’s the trouble with shows that try to dazzle you with style: you can lose track of the plot.  But it comes together beautifully.  When the blood trail is ignited and Chain (a werewolf) follows the flame, it was silly-grin time for me.  And they manage to bring up a couple of points.  Leo has a great power but he can’t fight much, and when word gets around that he’s got these eyes of god, a lot of people are going to go after him.  I suspect the show’s going to use that a lot.  That, and the blonde ghost girl we meet at the end.  Also, both the OP and the ED might be the season’s best.
pleiades2-1Houkago no Pleiades 2 works the Suburu/Aoi friendship angle, and it’s confusing because their estrangement is a mystery.  Actually, the first section had me bewildered, and the girls too.  Suburu goes to school and finds that all of her magical-girl pals are now attending; Suburu and Aoi even have the same shoe locker and desk.  They didn’t transfer in the mundane way, either.  They’re just all … there.  The president talks (well, squeaks) about it being their strings of fate entwining.  Okay, whatever.  Pretty handy way to get them in the same place, however.  Just ignore reality.
pleiades2-2But it does throw a wrench into the friendship reparations.  They really had never ceased being friends, and, according to Minato, Suburu’s life adviser and arch enemy, whatever distance they feel is that they haven’t accepted that the other has changed, or themselves.  So they grab a couple of fragments together using perfect timing, and everyone’s happy, well, until Minato shows up again and snatches one.  What’s with this guy, anyway?  Never mind, it’s cute and pretty, though I hope they’ll go somewhere besides Aoi for the next few stories.  And why do I think they need more characters, especially on Minato’s side?  In spite of the five-girl team, the story feels a little empty.  Maybe it’s all that big sky they keep showing us.

This show has everything!

This show has everything!

Finally, Teekyuu 4 2 (or 38) has the girls visit an aquarium, a devilquarium, and post a gag every 3.1 seconds!  That might be the record, but I’ll be damned if I’ll go back and find out.

New shows: Spring 2015 #6

April 14, 2015 Leave a comment
Urawa starts pretty, however ...

Urawa starts pretty, however …

Finally, the last installment!  And we start with something I probably would have ignored if I had known: Urawa no Usagi-chan, about a high schooler named Usagi who, er, likes to have good days and walks to school, where she’s met and teased by her good friends Minami and Tokiwa, I think.  And that’s it, since it’s only three minutes long.

Again, the backgrounds do indeed look pretty, but ...

Again, the backgrounds do indeed look pretty, but …

I understand this show is an ad campaign for a city, and judging from the opening episode I gather they want you to think Urawa city is very pretty and dull, and it’s run by inept animators.  At one point two people offscreen call out to Usagi, but since two unrelated girls who were actually on-screen are moving their mouths in unison, I assumed it was THEM talking, so why weren’t they looking at Usagi?  It gave me a bit of a disconnect.  The animation looks very clumsy, and it’s a shame, because there’s some lovely watercolor background art.  Really the only good thing in the show.  The pacing felt off and the dialogue was incredibly boring.  Let’s move on to a show with some production values.

Nisekoi returns with a nice bird that has nothing to do with the story.

Nisekoi returns with a nice bird that has nothing to do with the story.

Ah, Nisekoi returns!  The harem series that may never commit to a girl, saved by SHAFT’s visual oddities and a good cast.  Episode one decides it’s best to reintroduce the characters and put them through their paces, then giving us a substantial plot development (Raku has his locket back) and stringing us along for a few minutes before we learn that it’s still broken, typical Nisekoi behavior.  The second half has Chitoge trying to change her look to get Raku to notice her.  You can imagine how that turned out.

The gang, doing their usual things.

The gang, doing their usual things.

If I was watching for the first time I might not get to episode two.  Meeting everyone again is the usual strategy for second seasons, and that part wasn’t bad.  But that second half was maybe the weakest sequence of either season.  Touyama Nao’s voice work salvages it from being entirely hopeless, but she can’t carry the scenes alone with the material she has.  As for the locket still being broken, I think the creators raising expectations only to dash them is meant to be part of the comedy.  Maybe the only way to watch this series is to know it’s going to tease-tease-tease but never do anything.

If you look closely you can see Sidonia drifting in on the right.

If you look closely you can see Sidonia drifting in on the right.

Then, another season two show, and I’ve been looking forward to this one.  Sidonia no Kishi: Dai-kyuu Wakusei Sen-eki starts with Nagate showing the rookies his simulator skills, but then gets really creepy as Kunato and Mozuku investigate Ochiai’s old lab and get infected by gauna samples, which are really Ochiai’s mind, or something.  Whatever it is, it’s chilling to watch.  They then, infect poor Numi and gain access to the placenta.  Whatever Ochiai’s up to, he does seem to have Sidonia’s welfare in mind; as Kunato he speeds weapons to the Pilots, and later, during another thrilling attack scene, we find out what he did with that cute gauna placenta …

Um, I'm sure they'll do their best.

Um, I’m sure they’ll do their best.

Oh yeah!  Now I remember why I liked the first series so much.  This episode was creepy, cute, exciting, and shocking in turns.  The battle looked as good as last season’s, the soundtrack remains thrilling yet alien, and the gauna are still some of the creepiest alien monsters I’ve ever seen in SF.  And Izana got to pout.  Not much more to say, well, they still haven’t got the CG working right, but the rest of it is so good that like last season I don’t care.  Excellent start.

Yamada-san starts with poor test scores and an angry teacher's hand.

Yamada-san starts with poor test scores and an angry teacher’s hand.

Yamada-san and the Seven Witches stars Ryu, high school delinquent, who, while falling down the stairs with the club’s honor student Shiraisi, that they’ve switched bodies.  There follows some of the usual switched-bodies business you seen in anime, and then there’s the attempts to bring themselves back to normal, and discovering that it wasn’t falling down the stairs that did it, but the inadvertent kiss that happened during.  Wish they could have realized that before they threw themselves down the stairs a few times.  Not only that, a newcomer, Miyamura, does some, er, experiments and we learn Ryu can swich with anybody.  And so the fun, I guess, really begins.
yamada7witches1-1The first scene was excruciating, but after that it improved.  We find out Shiraisi’s being bullied, and Ryu, in her body, isn’t going to tolerate that.  The two mismatched people find they can help each other out.  And there’s obviously more to the mystery, since we’ve only met one of the witches so far (assuming that Shiraisi isn’t one).  It’s got opening episode bugs in it, like it hasn’t really got a feel for how it’s going to present itself, but it turns out not as bad as those first few scenes.  This one’s a maybe.

… And that seems to be it.  There are a couple shows that haven’t arrived yet, but they don’t look like things I would follow.  I can’t say I’m thrilled by the offerings this season.  Of the new (not season 2) shows, Kekkai Sensen had the best opening.  Others looked just okay.  It’s not fair to pass judgment on shows after one episode, unless that episode is terrible, and I’m sure I will decide to drop something which will then turn out really good, but that can’t be helped.  Now I have to figure out which ones I’ll keep watching, watch too many, fall behind, and drop some of them.  The usual.

New shows: Spring 2015 #5

April 12, 2015 Leave a comment

You know, I don’t know how many shows and now beginning my fifth new series post, I haven’t seen anything that has amazed me yet.  Apart from Teekyuu, of course.  Let’s see if anything in this post can get me interested.

I forget how this show starts.  Sorry.

We start with a retelling of a fairy tale.

Ore Monogatari!! … Not very.  We got Gouda, a huge guy with a big heart whose best friend Suna gets the girls he wants (and turns him down).  Then Gouda rescues a girl named Yamata from a subway groper, and she starts acting really nice to him.  Much of the episode after the groper has to do with meeting the girl a couple of times (she pops by to thank him and later they meet to retrieve her cell phone), and Gouda second-guessing the girl’s intentions and trying not to fall for her, because, you know …

Luv!

But he can’t help it!

That’s actually the best part, the mind games he goes through out of years of experience.  The girl actually likes Suna, he thinks, so he must once again ignore his own heart.  It’s a natural turn of mind for the downtrodden, to mistrust luck and kindness, but he comes off as kind of a lunkhead to keep thinking this way, even if Yamata does inspire Suna to say the first positive things he’s ever said about a girl (and why? we wonder.  Maybe he’s actually encouraging Gouda in his own way–Suna’s hard to read so far).  Of course, Gouda IS a lunkhead, so while his mindset might get irritating, it’s also normal.  But the show looks like a fru-fru love story with all the trimmings, except the lunkhead hero.  Can Gouda carry the predictable plot on his own?

A tree.  Don't know why it's so dark, though.  Maybe it's a fade-in.

A tree. Don’t know why it’s so dark, though. Maybe it’s a fade-in.

Okay, so Ore Monogatari didn’t exactly answer my plea for something amazing, how about Kyoukai no Rinne?  We got Sakura, a girl who saw something she shouldn’t as a child and now can see spirits, though they’re not very scary, just annoying.  A new classmate named Rokodou shows up, one of those bitter, wounded types, at least that’s how he appears, whose job it is to escort lost spirits to the afterlife with the help of a big wheel-thing.  And, by sheer coincidence, a classmate’s cellphone seems to be haunted, though why she didn’t do what everyone else did and change her cell phone number, or report it to the police as a stalker is beyond me.

A representative of the spirit world.

A representative of the spirit world.

Rumiko Takahashi created this, which is not a bad thing, but made me wonder if the whole thing would be … old fashioned.  But for the first episode of a long-running franchise it does pretty well.  Rokodou’s outer bitterness is undercut by his continually hitting Sakura up for small change (the heavens apparently run on it) to do his magic.  Sakura has seen enough spirits to be blase about them, thus saving us episode one freakouts and permitting her to add blunt, world-weary asides as a straight man.  Though frankly I want her to get a little angrier and maybe bash Rokodou on the head every now and then.  I like it when Takahashi’s characters get bopped on the head.  Not bad.  Don’t know if I’ll keep watching it.  I’m still waiting for the show that will amaze me.

An appropriate starry sky to start Pleiades.

An appropriate starry sky to start Pleiades.

So how about Houkago no Pleiades? you ask.  You must be joking!  A remake of a show being pushed by auto-makers about a girl named Suburu who must collect cosmic engine car parts with her magical girl friends?  … And, actually, turns out it’s not that bad.  We meet Suburu, high school astronomy nut who goes up to the school observatory to watch a meteor shower and finds herself in a gated garden instead, where she talks with a redheaded guy, then chases a little squishy thing down a hall where some magical girls are hanging out.  The squishy thing is their president, an alien, and they’re out to collect parts of his engine so he can go home, but they haven’t had any luck yet.  Suburu joins them on a light-show adventure on brooms that make car noises, and their fortunes change.
pleiades1-1A magical girl story about car parts, really.  But they did a nice job of keeping me interested.  Suburu’s WTF bits were mixed in with the other girls’ banter (and they had some entertaining lines, to boot), so I didn’t get bored.  The light show was pretty.  They have some emotional depth to work with between Suburu and Aoi, a magical girl she used to know but drifted away from.  It was comical and gentle.  No, it’s not the amazing show I was looking for, but it was a pleasant, pretty first episode.

A kind of weird, arty beginning for a series about a cat-girl.

A kind of weird, arty beginning for a series about a cat-girl.

Also pleasant, is Etotama.  We start with a bizarre battle in the remains of a city, looking like a post apocalypse setting, but more colorful, where two cute little animal girls duke it out and a narrator reminds us of why cats aren’t in the zodiac.  Then switch to an average high school guy named Takeru who moves into a place, discovers a portal to the gods, and out pops our heroine, Nya.  Guess what animal she represents.  The rest of the episode is spent having her trying various come-ons to let Takeru let her stay there, like pandering to his otaku fetish types (Takeru has shown no indication that he IS an otaku).  Another girl, er, Uni-Tan, arrives for the sole purpose of providing exposition, and then the Dragon-tan(?) shows up to beat up Nya for a while, for reasons too silly to mention.

I'm not so sure.

I’m not so sure.

Yes, it’s ridiculous, silly, and overly cute, but I rather liked it.  Nya manages to touch all the fetish bases without making herself disgusting or overly annoying, and her energy reminded me a bit of Nyaruko.  Meanwhile, the actual zodiac members are such a bunch of goofballs that you wonder why Nya wants to join them anyway.  In fact, Nya admits she doesn’t know anymore.  We get a little fourth-wall breaking, but not too much to make it feel forced.  The battles are CG and look a bit clumsy, but it was so bright and pretty that I didn’t really care.  Still not the show that will amaze me, but it’s another pleasant one, especially if you like cat-girls.

One second into Punch Line and Yuuta's already shocked about something.

One second into Punch Line and Yuuta’s already shocked about something.

Lastly for now, we have Punch Line, a noitaminA show, so maybe it will amaze me!  … Let’s see, there’s a bus hijacking and a kid named Yuuta watches as a magical girl or two fight off the attackers and show off their panties a lot, which has a big nosebleed followed by unconsciousness effect on Yuuta, who wakes up, sees more panties, and winds up dead, or half dead, needing to find the “Nandala Gandala” spellbook in order to get his body back (says a talking cat who does backstory duties for us).  While searching for it in his apartment building he encounters lots of girls who flash their panties, and an asteroid destroys the earth, but it’s no biggie since he can reset it.  And so on and so on.

It was either this shot or a panty shot.

It was either this shot or a panty shot.

They’re going for the “throw everything at the viewer right off and completely disorient them” trick, which usually doesn’t work (Kyousougiga, Rolling Girls) unless there’s a core narrative to latch onto (Kill la Kill).  We don’t really get one here.  Oh, there’s Yuuta trying to get his body back, but I didn’t really care.  There is the “see panties and explode,” repeating bit, but that bugged me the first time it happened and dismayed me when I discovered it was going to be a key point in the series.  That mysterious silver-haired villain (aren’t they all?) is barely worth talking about.  The various girls are kind of fun, and might be worth watching, if the show can lay off the panty shots, which it can’t, you know, because of the plot.  Well, maybe it’s a big tease and they’ll have a completely different story next week, but that could be just as annoying.  Well, parts of it, such as Strange Juice’s (not)transforming scene, were fun, and it certainly was lively.

Sigh, still no amazing show …

New shows: Spring 2015 #4

April 9, 2015 Leave a comment
The new Kiniro Mosaic starts with an appopriate pastoral scene.

The new Kiniro Mosaic starts with an appropriate pastoral scene.

We’ll start this post with Hello! Kiniro Mosaic,  If we’re going to have a cute-girls-doing-cute-things series, not that I’m against them, I wish they’d give us more Is the Order a Rabbit!, but I guess there’s nothing wrong with this show.  Just a little dull, and these high school girls really ought to be in middle school, but whatever.

kiniro21-1
It’s a new school year, and Shino and Alice are in different classes, which makes them act sad.  This goes on for a while.  Then it’s Karen’s misadventures with her new homeroom teacher, Kuzehashi-sensei, who acts kind of scary but is actually rather nice.  The girls follow her about, looking for dirt.  Then they start following Shino around to learn more about her.  This is Alice’s idea.  You’d think living together, sleeping in the same room, going to the same school, and meeting on breaks and at lunch, would give her plenty of information, but no.  The other girls help out for even less fathomable reasons.  Altogether a cheerful and dull first episode, like before.  Though it does feel livelier than last season.  Not less dull, just more lively.

Rainy Cocoa starts with the protagonist and some credits.

Rainy Cocoa starts with the protagonist and some credits.

A short one next, called Ameiiro cocoa, about four guys working or hanging out at a coffee shop.  They sort of insult each other for a minute or two.
rainycocoa1-1It stops right when a new guy walks in.  Only two minutes long.  Not really worth it.  Because we all know there can only be ONE two-minute short show that’s worth our time, right?  And here it comes!

Rarely does the opening second sum up the series so well.

Rarely does the opening second sum up a series so well.

Teekyuu! season four!  At long last!  THE GREATEST SERIES EVER has returned!  I can finally dry my eyes!!  ANIME IS SAVED!!

I didn't know that!

I didn’t know that!

In this episode we meet a new character, an alien girl, who gets a tour of the school from the other girls.  And I estimate one gag every 3.2 seconds, which is an excellent start.  Now I have a reason to live again!

A typical Japanese suburban house.

A typical Japanese suburban house.

What?  There’s more?  A SPINOFF?!  This could only mean Nirvana!  Takamiya Nasuno Desu features Nasuno, Teekyuu’s rich girl, as she recruits a guy named Yona to be her butler.
Nasunob1-14.28 seconds per gag.  Not impressive compared to Teekyuu’s opening, but it’s a first episode and have to establish characters and backstory, so I’ll cut it some slack.  All right, I’m done with shorts for now.

The starry night doesn't really describe the story.

The starry night doesn’t really describe the story.

Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku stars Eruna, a blithering idiot who hasn’t decided what high school to join yet, until her cousin shows her the brochure for the one he’s going to, and she falls for the cute uniform, or rather, for one cute girl wearing the uniform.  The entrance exams and interview (with a flying cat she calls Bimii) seemed set up for her to pass, well, Bimii says that the ability to see him means she’s passed.  On her first day she learns she has to join a club, and that the clubs do battles for more space and better food, and oh, by the way, the cute girl has Eruna join her club, and there’s a battle next week she has to win.  Welcome to Mikagura Academy!
mikagura1-1Not bad.  We don’t really know how the school and the battles work yet.  We only meet a bunch of characters from different clubs.  None of them really got me interested, but Eruna is a good mix of stupidity, sloth, lust, and genki.  And while the series plays as a comedy, the opening scene has a scene where a girl flees from a guy, who then does something to her with a bunch of lights.  A battle, we presume, but it’s much darker in tone than the rest of the episode, and suggests that the series might be more than just Eruna drooling at things.  Worth another episode.

KyoAni didn't have to go far for location shots.

KyoAni didn’t have to go far for location shots.

Kyoto Animation’s Hibike! Euphonium has Kumiko entering high school, with the cherry blossoms and everything, and is serenaded by the school’s brass band, which, she points out, sucks.  Geez, even Yui was more polite, though I recall Chiaki’s first line in Nodama Contabile was “He sucks.”  Turns out Kumiko loves the euphonium.  Her two new friends, Hazuki and Sapphire, want to join, and it’s clear Kumiko wants to as well, but that would mean working with a trumpeter named Reina, with whom she had a falling out during a previous band concert award result.  Reina was upset that they didn’t advance in the competition, Kumiko was only mildly disappointed.  The episode is spent following Kumiko around, watching her as she stares into space, meeting various characters, and impatiently waiting for her to decide to join the club after all.

Kumiko, on the right, discovers that Reina, foreground, is in her school.

Kumiko, on the right, discovers that Reina, foreground, is in her school.

I’ll probably watch Hibike! Euphonium through to the end simply because it’s KyoAni, but I wasn’t smitten with episode one.  It had the usual production values and all, but it was more subdued than I expected, almost somber.  It always seems to be cloudy there, the classrooms are all a dull grey, even their uniforms are a boring brown.  The pace is slower than I expected, and there was less of a sense of fun that you normally get with KyoAni shows.  So in tone I would compare it to Hyouka, but even that had Houtarou’s hallucinations to brighten things up.  And how interesting is it going to be when many of the big scenes are going to be of a brass band playing?  They just sit there and blow.  Still, it’s KyoAni we’re talking about here.

Another opening bit that doesn't say much about will follow.

Another misleading opening shot.

Now, back to a silly show.  Triage X starts with some people planning an attack, which we then see carried out pretty much as planned, except the main assault guy, Arashi, talks about removing cancers from society, and also hands the cancer/victim a gun by which he can commit suicide. unconventional even for a group of people using medical terminology to justify their killing.  Later we see Arashi’s mundane high school life, including a nice girl who likes him, and then a phone call and back to the murdering.
triagex1-1It’s done by the guy who did Highschool of the Dead, so two things are a given: women with ridiculously big boobs and a nasty “ends justifiy the means” mindset.  That the mindset is masked by medical metaphors makes it disgusting and a little ridiculous.  It makes them all sound like a bunch of cultists , all following that old guy who can’t say a single sentence that doesn’t convince me that he’s completely insane.  Yet they follow him anyway.  The boobs and other kinkiness, and there is a lot of kinkiness here, those things I can handle, but the rest of it I can’t take seriously enough to watch.  If I want silly violence there are already two better shows this season I’ve watched for that.

New shows: Spring 2015 #3

April 8, 2015 Leave a comment
Gunslinger Stratos opens with a bewildering quote which maybe helps explain the story a little.

Gunslinger Stratos opens with a bewildering quote which maybe helps explain the story a little.

Gunslinger Stratos has Tohru, an average kid in a future where Japan has been divided into corporate zones, and depending on your abilities and training, you will be shipped off to do some preordained job.  Tohru just wants to have a quiet life.  He has a rich girl, Kyoka, after him, and her jealous brother doesn’t like it at all, and there’s a jealous smaller girl who doesn’t like his oneesan complex.  They play futuristic paintball at school to help establish the relationships.  Meanwhile, Tohru has weird dreams about a little girl, and when he sees her in real life (his real life, as we can see she’s a hologram), he chases after her, the structure collapses, and WAAAAAH!

Like I said:  WAAAAH!

Like I said: WAAAAH!

I was not expecting to be suddenly tossed into our world, where people obviously from Tohru’s world occasional try to kill each other.  In fact, the episode had me interested and guessing much of the time.  If they can keep us guessing like that, this could be a fun ride.  On the other hand, people spend a lot of time fighting each other, and that doesn’t interest me that much.  Also, they tried to discombobulate us a little too hard.  When we see our world and that little kid and the huge guy fight I didn’t know who was who and what was up, so I got a little bored.  And when we get some backstory it might kill off some of the fun mystery.  Still, not a bad first episode.

Plastic Memories begins with a puddle, begging to be stepped in.

Plastic Memories begins with a puddle, begging to be stepped in.

Plastic Memories had a weepy episode one, and since I don’t like to weep that much I’m worried about future episodes.  We have Tsukasa on his first day of the job–retrieving android companions that are near their expiration date, sort of a android repo-man, I guess.  He meets his unpleasant coworkers and gets teamed up with a “giftia” (android) named Isla for his retrievals.  We learn early and often that Isla fears her own expiration, notably the loss of her memories, and her eccentric behavior makes me wonder if she’s not past her own due date, or maybe it’s job burnout.

Isla goes beyond her job responsiblities.

If you’ve only got nine years to live, why not jump off balconies?

As I said, I don’t know if I want to watch a weepy goodbye scene every episode.  Also, I was distracted by side thoughts.  The memories are erased (the owners are even present at the termination for fear of lawsuits), but surely there are people, governments, and corporations that would want to keep them for themselves.  If nothing else, think of the experiential data trove they’re just destroying!  Or perhaps the owners would want the memories as a keepsake.  Also, is the 81,920 hours of lifetime arbitrary?  Isn’t SAI Corp working to increase that limit?  Or is it not profitable for them?  A lot of ethical dilemmas to deal with here.  It’s to see how the show decides to deal with these kind of issues that makes me watch another episode or two.  But if it’s turns out to be a tearjerker of the week I’ll drop it quickly no matter what.

Er, a random place where girls I don't know reintroduce themselves.

Er, a random place where girls I don’t know reintroduce themselves.

Next, it’s Tesagure! Bukatsumono Spin-off Purupurun Sharumu to Asobou, apparently the third season, odd because I don’t remember hearing about the first two.  I had been warned that it was going to be more-or-less plotless and have lots of adlibbing, like Gdgd Fairies, so I was patient through the first part, where the girls reintroduce themselves and then bring in a completely different pack of girls to help them with a spin-off.  We watch the second pack, playing goddesses in training, in a classroom, and there’s some ad-libbing after that’s over.

GIrls from the earlier series I don't recognize meet new characters, which, surprisingly, I do.

GIrls from the earlier series I don’t recognize (right) meet new characters, (left) which, surprisingly, I do.

I didn’t make the connection until one of the girls whipped out a manga panel with a blank word balloon, but the “new” characters are played by the Lady Go! girls, and the characters they’re playing are from their daily “Submit your own dialogue” corner.  This is a plus, since it means Mikako Komatsu and Sumire Uesaka (should have guessed, since her character is Russian) are involved, and personally I like that corner.  Also, though the character designs are a little crude, I didn’t dislike them, and the adlibbing felt more natural than the scripted dialogue.  I might watch it again, though I probably won’t write about it.

We start with a letter in progress.  Was it ever sent?

We start with a letter in progress. Was it ever sent?

Kekkai Sensen starts with a girl in a wheelchair reading a letter from her brother about his exciting life in New York.  Turns out NYC is more exciting than usual these days as it got partly destroyed and sort of invaded by demons, nothing the city can’t handle of course.  So now it sits, shrouded in fog, and supernatural and mundane forces all go there to do the things you’d go to New York to do anyway.  So it’s humans hanging out with demons, and threats about portals or something opening up thanks to an asshole demon called Femt, I think.  As for our hero, Leonardo Watch (the American names here are good, but not Baccano! level), he’s looking for a group called Libra, who try to keep the peace, and thanks to a monkey and a bank robbery and whatnot, help save the city from a demon, or a portal, or both at once, thanks to his magic “Eyes of the Gods,” and a flea.

kekkaisansen1-1

A typical day in NYC.

And it’s fun as hell, though they throw fights, explosions, light shows, and backstory at you so hard it gets hard to focus after a while.  Leo isn’t a terribly interesting main character yet, though he has a sense of personal shame that the show can work with (just what happened to his sister when the demon showed up, anyway?).  Femt is a leering, ridiculous villain, but for some reason I actually thought he was fun and not irritating.  How did they do that?  The Libra characters, we’ll wait and see.  The episode was full of entertaining twists of plot, but I wonder how much of that will remain when they start with the story arcs?  And it looks great.  I’ll keep my eye on this one for a few more episodes.

Show by Rock has sakura in the real world, but we won't stay there long.

Show by Rock has sakura in the real world, but we won’t stay there long.

What we’ve got with Show by Rock! is a shy guitar-playing high school girl who is afraid ask the light music club if she can join.  While procrastinating with her application form she plays a music game, wins a pink heart guitar and is whisked away to a terrible, frightening world of CG animals, where she sees a boy band performance get disrupted by a giant music-power-sucking skeleton.  But that pink guitar starts talking, she turns into a goth-loli catgirl, and the battle is on, while I watch with a quizzical but amused expression on my face.

One look at Cyan ...

One look at Cyan …

... and a minute later.  Which do you prefer?

… and a minute later. Which do you prefer?

This might be the weirdest show I’ve seen this season, not because of the story; that’s a basic character with dreams goes to a fantasy world where she must fight battles, and the characters, good guys, villains, are all predictable.  No, it’s weird because it can’t decide what form of animation to use at any moment.  At first it’s our earth and normal-looking anime.  Then it’s Sound World and their CG effects, and Cyan becomes a guitar-playing Hello-Kitty, then it shifts again and she’s still a cat-girl, but the animation has returned to “normal.”  It’s actually disconcerting to have it jump from one to the other so quickly.  I guess the CG will be used for the concerts and music battles, a shame because it’s the look I like the least.  But the story is cute and funny enough that I’ll keep watching for now.  Also, I was rather taken by Cyan’s voice, and have learned that her seiyuu, Eri Inagawa, is debuting.  I find it hard to believe.

New Shows: Spring 2015 #2

April 6, 2015 Leave a comment

While waiting for the Yuki Nagato premiere to show up, I spent five minutes on Vampire Holmes.

The first shot doesn't show Holmes's head, and considering the character designs, it's a good thing.

The first shot doesn’t show Holmes’s head, and considering the character designs, a good thing.

Holmes here is a detective who only solves cases when he needs money, and the one he chooses this week has him chasing a hound.  We see it from the perspective of his backup, Hudson, who spends most of his time being the straight man.  One or two decent jokes, and some of the worst art and animation I’ve ever seen.  I’ve seen animated gifs drawn by middleschoolers on photoshop that look better than this.  One more episode to see if the humor gets any better.

A nice purple sky before we pan down to the school.

A nice purple sky before we pan down to the school.

Next, the Disappearance of Yuki Nagato, a spinoff of you-know-what where there isn’t a god at the high school, and in fact no one has any powers at all.  It’s basically a shy Yuki trying to get the attention of Kyon, with the cheerfully meddling help of her good friend Asakura(!).  In ep1, Yuki wants to have a Christmas party in the literature club room, so she, Kyon, and Asakura(!) go to find a turkey and whatnot.  Tsuruya and Mikaru show up and playfully disrupt things for reasons the show doesn’t really make clear.  Just a sweet romantic comedy, with a cute but boring heroine, except it has Haruhi undertones all through it.

yukinagato1-1
It can’t be helped, just seeing the characters begs for it, and the creators play it up.  Yuki and Asakura being friends is weird enough, but Asakura hums the Haruhi song at one point.  Kyon still has a thing for Mikaru.  Haruhi actually passes by at one point and there’s a weird moment of recognition.  Kyon has a line about a belly fetish and Yuki doesn’t understand.  Yuki holds up a sign while Mikaru calls out, etc.  But is the new concept going to be interesting without the in-jokes?  I’m not sure.  I liked Yuki as a monotoned alien interface with cool powers.  I haven’t warmed to this new one yet.  At least the episode gave Kyon some interior monologues, good idea there.  That was one of the original series’ many strengths, and it’s for the better if we have more of him plus something more for him to snark at.  Well, we’ll see.

A suburb at night before Kagami shouts something.

A suburb at night before Kagami shouts something.

Denpa Kyoushi stars genius slacker Kagami, who’s forced by his abusive sister to go out and work as a temporary physics teacher at his old high school.  Quickly he is embroiled in the life of Minako, who’s being bullied by former friends because she won’t hang out with them anymore, because they’re delinquents and rather nasty.  So he turns the tables on the nasty girls and inspires Minako to keep pursuing her goals of being a seiyuu (actually, he’s against that for silly reasons) and a hero.

I hear you man.

I hear you man.

So it’s basically a “maverick teacher comes to teach and turns the students around” story.  Not crazy about those.  What’s more, using his nerd abilities to mock-punish the nasty girls was predictable and not terribly effective.  Once they had dried their eyes, the students could go to authorities and give him all sorts of trouble.  Kagami wasn’t terribly fun to watch, apart from his idea of using an online game to suss out the social dynamics of his new class, which I liked.  I assume he went back to teaching physics after that.  And there was nothing particularly funny about any of it.  Maybe it will turn out to be a good show, but even so, I grow weary of school politics shows pretty quickly, so I’m going to pass.

Right before the vampires show up.

Right before the vampires show up.

Owari no Seraph starts with the usual city at night sequence where everyone falls over dead, cars and planes (no autopilot I guess) crashing, etc, and then the vampires march in and round up the children.  A few years later and we have Yuichiro and Mikaela, who were friends at an orphanage before and are now, but a depressing, blood-siphoning type.  Mikaela has curried favor with a vampire count who likes his blood and, the show hints) other things, who has stolen a gun and a map out of the place.  Hey, Yuu!  Let’s go!  Round up our fellow orphanage family members!  Yay!

Yuuichiro and the kids showing great stealth while they escape.

Yuuichiro and the kids showing great stealth while they escape.

It’s telegraphed hard, so it’s not much fun to watch.  A bunch of kids walking into a trap so the count can get his bloody jollies driving them to despair before killing them.  I almost turned off the series right there, but instead watched the inevitable, the Mikaela’s final, obvious line, and Yuuichiro’s escape, to the outside world where it’s suddenly snowing and humans are waiting, because it’s a prophecy, you see … Okay, first, it looks really good, and while I don’t care for the character designs the art and animation is quite nice.  And I haven’t found a dark series this season, yet, though I can live without one.  But the first episode works so hard at pushing our emotional buttons in predictable places I wonder if the show has anything else it wants to show us, not to mention the pompous, movie-like closing credits.  Maybe I’ll try another episode, but I’m not expecting much besides pretty art.

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