Kyoto Animation #2, the Key games

Through the years, KyoAni’s high productions have sometimes been bogged down by weak source material, but they can elevate it too. Look at their early days with gamemaker Visual Studio Key. KyoAni adapted three of them: Air, Kanon, and Clannad, with an Afterstory.

I’ve never played the Key games and I’d be bored if I did. Silly stuff about nice boys being kind to troubled girls who usually have some supernatural issues. The studio, I understand, worked with the same structure–humor, serious, heartbreak, in all these games, probably for all of your girl choices.

The first I watched was Kanon (after Haruhi I would watch whatever KyoAni did). Some people wondered why they bothered to do Kanon when another studio had recently done it (poorly, from what I hear), but they shut up when the episodes started coming out. KyoAni’s was far superior.

From Kanon I remember a couple of things, apart from how beautiful the romantic snowy scenes look. mostly the episode where Makoto the fox girl is slowly dying or rather fading in Yuichi’s arms. At one point the music fades with her, down to a repeating series of crystal notes, as if Makoto was dissolving to her essence. And at the end, they tie the end of the episode to the actual OP, one of the few times I’ve ever cried out an “OH!” watching a show. You see, the one complaint I had had up to then was that the ED sequence, especially the music, seemed tacked on, an abrupt jump, but here, after a heartbreak scene, music flowed into the ED.  “OH!” Possibly unintentional by the creators, but “OH!” anyway.

When I first moved to Japan in 2012, I was on a train to my new workplace, my new life, in Toyama, passing through snowy hills and towns where Kanon could have been set. I had Last Regrets playing on my MP3 player. I started to cry.

Once, watching the new episodes of whatever season it was (before this blog) I watched an ep1 of some show, something about idols, with terrible CGI. Disgusted, I then turned to my Netflix DVDs and watched the first episode of Air.  … A girl popped a soap bubble, and I gasped. “That’s right! This is real animation!” Now, it’s unfair to compare a forgotten idol series watched on my computer to Air on a bigger-screen TV, but I don’t care.

Air was beautiful to look at, summer in comparison to Kanon’s winter, but like Kanon, elegant. Sadly, I can’t remember any more of it apart from the moment when the young girl’s twintails ribbons unwound of their own accord. Because it was based on a multi-ending game, no anime could have nailed the landing perfectly.  For me I couldn’t figure out why the hero was suddenly a crow.

How DOES a linear TV story do justice to all the girls’ endings? Amagami SS had the best solution when it simply rebooted to another girl after four episodes, but that often entertaining high school romance series style doesn’t fit the atmosphere of KyoAni’s Key stories.

Which leads us to Clannad, and Clannad After Story, with an amazing finale that made no sense at all.  Plotwise Clannad was more of the same, except elevated by KyoAni, and Afterstory took us down darker paths than we expected. Two episodes before the finale it seems like Tomoya, who had already lost his wife Nagisa (I argue that for gods sakes he should have chosen Tomoya. Kyou or Ryou would be fine too, even Kotomi if you keep her away from a violin … but NAGISA?? The dullest girl of the lot? but I digress…), he loses her daughter too and collapses in grief.

It should have been the end of the story there, but the creators had earlier snuck in that rising lights image, and the girl and the robot. The ensuing messy thing that followed rose out of the grief, went back in time to Nagisa’s giving birth, but with a happy ending. It was absolutely ridiculous, but with the blobs and lights, and the girl and robots enveloped in the snowstorm (the girl says “Papa” to the robot, a moment that almost rescued the entire sequence). The scenes that followed managed to salvage the point. The people you live with and can help are your life. Plotwise the ending could not hope to succeed. Emotionally it overwhelmed me.

Kyoto Animation gave those three silly Key games an elegance and joy more than their worth, one that I believe no other studio could have given them.

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KyoAni, well I have to write something, #1

When I first heard of the fire and watched the death toll slowly going up, I felt that I had to say something. So I wrote a long, increasingly drunken blog post, which, on Saturday, I decided not to post. It felt too personal. But every day after I felt that I wouldn’t be happy unless I expressed a few things.

Which is basically the point of this blog: I want to talk about something. So I will cut that long post into smaller ones. I might do two, or three, or more, but no matter how many or how few there are things I need to say about Kyoto Animation, the best anime studio in the world. Sorry, no images. You know where to find them.

For this post I must start with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. It came early in my anime-watching life. It was one of the first series I fell in love with (the others being Azumanga and Sailor Moon–the secret’s out!).

I hate to pull a “back in the day” on you, but back in the day, April 2006, no one knew that this series existed. Hell, while they had a good reputation in the industry, most hardly knew that Kyoto Animation existed. There was no hype at all. The only reason I heard about it was because some other bloggers had managed to watch the first episode and had freaked out:

It’s funny … It stars a “combat waitress from the future” … But that’s not what’s really going on …

I was sold and watched it.

People who haven’t seen this franchise yet, I beg you, I absolutely BEG you, to watch the same first episode I did, The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00, I beg you again. The episodes on DVD are not in the order that we watched it. The show did not air in chronological order, mostly.

The reason I’m begging so much is that the Mikuru Asahina episode is the best first episode I have ever seen, not only in anime, but on any TV show, maybe in fiction. No one had ever introduced their show in such a bewildering and delightful fashion.

Through ep00, which is a depiction of a bad, obviously amateur movie (KyoAni depicting the bad light and editing faithfully), we meet all the main characters except the most important one, until the end. Moreover, we have a narrator guiding us through the mess; he’s trying to help us along but he’s also snarking at things he doesn’t like, and is often saying the exact thing we’re thinking (Who changed Mikuru into a T-shirt?). By the end of the craziness this speaker is our friend, and turns out he’s the main character, Kyon. We had learned in a roundabout way that, whatever more happened in further episodes, we could count on Kyon. There’s also some weird light, the evil cute witch girl jumping on Mikuru for apparently no reason, and that cat who ups the weirdness by, well, I won’t say–none intended for that crap movie they were making, oh, and the green-haired girl laughing. All in that jaw-dropping first episode.

No one had seen anything like it. Haruhi Suzumiya became a viral and by episode 3, a mainstream hit. A sensation.

KyoAni kept up the animation quality though the story dipped a couple times before it regrouped and gave us what I call the “Yuki Rocks Trilogy,” and a magnificent final episode (air-date 14, DVD 7, please watch this one last to get the great finale the series deserves (Mahler!)–obviously I am an “air date” man).

Soon every anime fan had heard of Kyoto Animation, and what they were capable of.

2019 Summer 4

Nice blue fantasy world sky to start Cheat Magician.

Isekai Cheat Magician is yet ANOTHER show where some high school kids are plucked out of our world and into a generic western fantasy RPG setting. This time it’s Taichi and Rin, who get sucked into a magic circle and find themselves on a grassy plain and are immediately menaced by a killer horse. Fortunately some adventurers rescue and befriend them. They reach a town and the kids decide to become adventurers too, though they don’t have any magic, or so they think. Turns out their power is through the roof, and so the sexy magician Lemiya is going to start training them in episode 2. Through it all, Taichi and Rin act like it’s all a minor inconvenience.

Taichi broke the magic level detector!

I’m having trouble thinking of anything to say about this show. It does all the isekai tropes, except in a slower, duller way than usual. There was the brief spat between the kids because Taichi tried to sacrifice his life to save Rin and leave her all alone in that strange place, but even that was done in a dull way. Well, we do have an inkling of how they got there–someone tried to do a conjuring spell but was interrupted by an evil organization who are now going to look for them, so we know what the main story arc is going to be. As for the characters, Taichi has some guts. Rin has nothing but a ponytail. The rest are generic RPG characters, even the giggling green leaf that maybe got crushed. Maybe it will get better once the plot gets rolling.

I have no idea what those things are.

In Machikado Mazoku an average, clumsy, impoverished high school girl name Yuko, awakens with horns and a tail. Her mom sighs and admits the family’s dark past, that they’re from a line of demons and that their power was mostly sealed away by the good guys, magical girls mainly. Now that Yuko’s true form has been awakened she has to kill a magical girl and spill her blood on the demonic object that her mom was using as a doorstop. She finds a magical girl, Momo, who not only rescues her from a truck but takes pity on her and gives her some bread. At school the next day her friends have no problem with Yuko’s horns and tail, think they look cool, and tell her there’s a magical girl in class A, Momo in fact, who again doesn’t consider her any threat at all and even gives her some combat advice.

As you can guess this show is crazy low-budget slapstick throughout, and some of it works. Everyone gets some good lines, and Yuko handles her transformation in an appropriately silly fashion. There’s no question of where this is going, either, since we see Yuko and Momo being best buds in the OP, and the show also hints that Momo is actually quite lonely. At least Yuko has a nice mom and little sister; Momo sits alone in her big house with nothing but a cat. On the other hand, part of the curse Yuko’s family lives under is near-poverty, and nothing in the show, demon heritage aside, suggests they deserve that. On the whole, if you like cuteness and silliness you might like this show. As for me, I’ll probably skip it. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good enough.

Your typical Academy City suspicious building.

Next is To Aru Kagaku no Accelerator, starring, well, you know. First, some thieves rob a compressed air research facility which was, this being Academy City and all, also developing a weapon to defeat Accelerator. The thieves then visit the hospital where Accel’s getting some bandages removed and Last Order is planning a celebration with some of the sisters and acting cute. The bad guys, led by a typical Index-style crazy girl, retreat with a drop of Accel’s blood–genetic material!–so he chases them down, grins evilly a lot and, well, it’s over quickly.

Who me? No!

As I expected, a simple standalone episode to start things off. Reintroduce the important characters and give Accel a lot of chances to be his bad self, oh, and gratuitous fanservice of course. Nothing we haven’t seen before. I wonder about the Sisters attending a party for Accel, but Last Order might have something to do with it, anyway, it’s not like this franchise has ever made much sense. I just hope its less senseless than the sprawling mess that was the last Index series. It probably won’t be so bad. After all, the nutty Railgun series was almost coherent compared to Index.

We won’t stay in the real world long.

Tsuujou Kougeki ga Zentai Kougeki de Nikai Kougeki no Okaasan wa Suki Desuka?, which I will call Okaa-san Online like everyone else, stars Masato, an average high school boy, and Mamako, his hot and rather stifling mother. He fills out a questionnaire and then gets whisked to, sigh, a MMORPG come to life, which is, what, the third one this season? Still, Masato is happy to be there, but less happy when his mom shows up too. Some generic king gives him the rundown–it’s a beta game, choose your sword, etc. Mamako pulls out two swords instead of one, and turns out to be ridiculously overpowered, though quick to gush over Masato’s low-level attack. This is too much for Masato, who says some mean things and then feels bad about it. So they set off to recruit other adventurers.

I suppose the only thing you can do with “sucked into a game world” story by now is to add an interesting twist to it, and the story makes it quite clear that it’s all about mother and son bonding with the fantasy tropes just there to be mocked. Fortunately it’s not a bad first episode. There are some good gamer jokes, aided by the fact that Mamako is stuck in the Famicom days. She also does a good job embarrassing her son constantly, in a sweet, loving way, and Masato’s exasperated reactions were usually good and well-timed. I look forward to next week where Mamako will continue to point out that her son’s choice of adventurers are all female. A-la! … Okay, she never said “A-la!” in the episode, but she’s the type who could.

The inside of a slimy dungeon.

Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatte Iru Darouka: Familia Myth II, or DanMachi season 2, starts with your average dungeon crawl scene to remind us who the characters are, but it didn’t work. It’s been four years since season one and while I remember Bell and Hestia, of course, some of the others I can’t really recall. Anyway, the Apollo Clan pick a fight with them and Bell gets beaten up by Hyakinthos, about the only one of the Apollo group that can fight. Next thing you know, Hestia and Bell are invited by Apollo to a fancy ball, and they are challenged to a war game, whatever that is. We’ll find out next week. But at least Bell got to dance with Aiz in a lovely little scene first.

Bell and Hestia haven’t changed.

As I said, I don’t remember all the details, except that the gods can act like jerks. Why Apollo is mad at Hestia’s group I guess we will find out. At least Hermes has taken a liking to Bell. As for the episode itself, it was more of the same, a better-than-average fantasy adventure comedy with some fun characters. Hestia gets to show off both her kind and goofy angry sides. I just Bell would just hurry up and level up already. I’m tired of seeing him roughed up.

A gritty, rainy urban street.

To finish this series I looked at BEM, where the Lower (poorer) district of a city is being threatened by a watery monster who can flee to the sewers and kills people by drowning them. Also a young detective named Sonia who spoke too honestly to her Uptown boss and got banished here. She chases a thief, gets rescued from a car by a guy in a suit, and then finds the thief drowned. Next day, after learning just how corrupt this district is, various people get drowned again, the guy in the suit fights the monster, Sonia shows up and freaks out a lot, as you would expect someone who has never seen a monster like this before. In between the suit guy and two younger colleagues talk about how to become human, and it is worth it?

The good guys, I think, pause to talk philosophy.

Apparently this is a very old franchise, but it looks modern in its style and smartphone usage. It also tries to be very stylish and sometimes succeeds–the jazzy BGM helps. But while I was intrigued by the three heroes talking about humanity, and the monster having happily thrown his away, not every worked. You’d think the public would be more aware that there was a serial killer on the loose, and we got no reason as to why the monster just wanted to kill and laugh evilly. As it was he was just a generic serial killer to get the plot rolling. Sonia as the “girl scout” cop was too generic, and at the end of the episode, she seems to have recovered from her shock too easily. Still, this could turn into an entertaining series.

That’s it for this season. Since there’s nothing I saw that I feel I want to write about every week I think I will go back into hibernation mode until my current situation is more settled, which may mean in the Fall. Well, enjoy the series you liked.

2019 Summer 3

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I wouldn’t mind communting in the setting Re:Stage takes place in.

Re:Stage! Dream Days has a middle school transfer student named Mana on her first day. As she’s getting a tour of all the clubs (the highlight of the episode) the guide, Minori, quickly glosses over what is obviously the idol girl club, dead giveaway. Mana then stumbles onto its clubroom, which looks like a tea ceremony room, and is nearly tricked by the devious but idiotic Mizuha to sign the acceptance form, so desperate are they for members. Another girl, Sayu shows off what they do by performing a popular number, and the second time around Mana is singing and dancing right along with her. This too is highly suspicious, even more so because Mana almost immediately runs away. Could she be related to another Ms. Shinkimiya, who won the Prism Stage competition last year? Of course, but we don’t get the dark backstory this week. Anyway, I think she joins because she and Sayu are perfectly in sync when they dance, and both “feel something.”

restage1-1I watched this just to see if it would offer any interesting variation on the school idol theme, and I was briefly intrigued by a bit early where idol girls were being dark and gothic with black wings and all, but it was just a video. I didn’t see anything new in the episode at all. I should add that there was nothing terrible about it, either. Just average. Mizuha can be fun to watch. Sayu has a nice touch of tsundere. There’s nothing remarkable about Mana, however, and she’s the main character. However, it’s all cute, and they’ll bring in new characters later on, but that doesn’t mean I want to see them.

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or “omeditou”

Naka no Hito Genome starts with online gamers getting an invite to a closed game, because they’re all so good. So Akatsuki sneezes and winds up in some forest with a grumpy girl named Karin, who punches him. Then they’re chased by a really giant panda, meet a swordsman killing a rat, and then Akatsuki befriends the panda. Already the show is choosing outcomes I don’t expect. They’re brought to the other players by a guy in a suit and an alpaca mask and told they’re in a streaming game and must pass 100,000,000 views, or else. The game, called “Let’s” I think, has variations, and each kid plays a different one, horror, sengoku, healing, etc. Four of them then do the second task and bicker a lot, except for Akatsuki, who’s too nice to bicker.

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The most common question asked around an ouiji board.

As I said, I didn’t expect what I got. It wasn’t as dark, the dysfunctional kids each show a sympathetic side, and there’s generally more comedy than I expected. I suppose we’ll get some real threat soon enough, because unlike a game, these kids might actually get killed. On the other hand, I don’t know if the challenges are going to be that interesting to watch. The only other one we see is an Ouiji board sad ghost girl whom Katsuki befriends (he befriends everybody), and there wasn’t anything new to it. Well, the point could be how the characters react to the predictable challenges, with, for instance, Karin the horror game player freaking out at the sight of a real ghost. Don’t know if I’ll watch it but I enjoyed the first episode more than I thought I would.

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Right off you can tell what kind of show HenSuki is.

Kawaikereba Hentai demo Suki ni Natte Kuremasu ka?, or HenSuki as sensible people call it, stars Keiji, your average nice high school boy who is in the calligraphy club and so already has a harem. One day he gets a love letter–and a pair of panties, but the girl didn’t sign it, so he must figure out which girl it is. In the meantime, every girl starts throwing cryptic flirts at him. In the end he settles on the pretty and buxom Sayuki, telling her he knows her secret and is fine with it. Next thing you know she’s got her shirt off and is wearing a dog collar. To be continued …

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Keiji, with his harem and imouto.

I can’t say the episode did much for me. Keiki goes around pondering this stuff or talking it over with his buddy Shoma too much. On the other hand it sorta kinda if you look really close has an Amagami vibe to it, with a metaphor and everything. This time/girl it’s pets. He pats his sister’s head, they meet a dog, and finally, Sayuki wants to be treated like one. And I suspect that every girl in that club will get their turn with Keiki and bring their own kinks and metaphors to the mix, though I don’t now if the show will reboot like Amagami does. But while Amagami was fun and playful, this show, so far, sort of just lays there. Maybe it’s just episode one blahs, but if it doesn’t pick up the pace, or find some kind of rhythm, I’ll stop watching, even though I’m curious as to each girl’s kink.

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I THINK this it the opening show, but it bleeds i from some credits.

Arifureta Shokugyou de Sekai Saikyou starts with Nagumo falling down a pit to the lower depths, where he encounters a killer rabbit, which is killed by a huge bear, which then goes after Nagumo, ripping his arm off, but he lands in some holy water or something. Flashback to just before, when he was helping to defend his classmates as they are trapped in, er, the Great Orcus Labyrinth, and then he’s betrayed by a classmate, hence the fall. Like that shield hero guy, he immediately snaps into vengeful survivalist mode, kills a monster, eats it’s leg, and suddenly his hair turns white and his stats go up. This puts him into gleeful vengeful survivalist mode and he eats more monsters. With his new powers he constructs a slick-looking gun, kills the bear, and prepares for more revenge. Oh, and there’s a blond girl who just hangs there.

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Eating monster meat will do that to you.

If I hadn’t read the Random Curiosity synopsis I wouldn’t have known WHAT was going on. It hops from one moment to the next and doesn’t even bother to explain what he and his classmates are even doing there, let alone why someone betrayed him, though with his popularity with the girls I have a good idea. All the gore turned me off, but I liked the scenes where he mentally and physically regroups, apart from his missing arm, and figures out what to do next. I’m also glad they skipped over scenes of him being the class weakling and cut right to the action, even though it confused me. And while Nagumo’s wails of despair got tiresome, overall it was executed well enough to make me consider watching the next episode.

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The city … at night … etc

Cop Craft starts with our hero Matoba, a detective in the city of Sn Theresa on Kariaena Island, somewhere in the pacific, and his partner doing a sting operation. Turns out the goods is a fairy in a bottle. One of the crooks goes nuts, kills the partner, and runs off. Next day Matoba is sent out to meet a noble from, er, Semaria in the fairy land (a gate opened), and she is made to be his partner to track down the fairy, who is apparently noble, and so Matoba can get some revenge for his partner. Thus a magical dysfunctional partnership cop show begins.

copcraft1-1Exedilica, the magical partner, and Matoba form an average relationship of this sort, at least in episode 1. She has magical powers but is completely new to Earth and naive about everything. Add that to her curiosity and we have Matoba saying “Don’t touch that” a lot. Also, she can’t believe that Matoba would make deals with crooked informants when he needs information.  Matoba is too weary and annoyed to respond much. What interests me more is the place where they work, not only the gate but the city, which seems to be little more than a place for sex and drugs, indeed, the comment on the fairy in a bottle is that some good drugs might be extracted from her. What is the relationship between us humans and the people on the other side? I don’t know if the series will answer that in more than a superficial way. The story is guns-a-blazin’ with some good animation, a little gratuitous at times, but certainly not a bad first episode apart from the awkward ep1 meeting scenes, which hopefully are out of the way now.

2019 Summer 2

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Joshikousei starts with a look at an average Japanese house.

This second installment starts with Joshikousei no Mudazukai, where some girls enter high school and live their pointless lives. There are apparently a lot of girls to watch in this series, but episode 1 focuses on three: Kikuchi, Saginomiya, and the episode’s focus, Tanaka. Tanaka reminds me a lot of Azumanga’s Tomo except she has a single-minded goal, to get a boyfriend. So we follow her around as she asks other characters to introduce her to boys–she didn’t realize she had enrolled in an all girls school until the opening ceremony, we’re talking that level of dumb. Kikuchi handles the straight man duties and Saginomiya sits there saying little but handing out fungi. Oh, and they all get nicknames because Tanaka doesn’t have anything better to do in class, and their teacher likes college girls, he would like to make that clear right from the start.

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Comparisons to Daily Lives of High School Boys are fair, only these girls aren’t all that goofy, except for Tanaka. And while I’m sure the other characters will get more attention, Tanaka tends to dominate every scene she’s in, and it got tiresome after a while. Baka girls I can handle, but willfully baka ones get on my nerves. As for the others, Kikuchi (nickname: Nerd) handles her straight-man duties well, whether her lines are spoken or just thought out, and Saginomiya (nickname: Robo) is maybe a little TOO quiet. The brief moments with the other girls only give us a quick look at their personal quirk, but again, it’s only ep1. In spite of Tanaka, the show hopped merrily along from one quick scene to the next and most of it was fun to watch. If I have time (and I don’t know if I’ll have time for any shows this summer) I’ll give it a chance.

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Dr.Stone’s opening shot isn’t very pleasant.

Dr.Stone is next. It starts with a friendly big oaf named Taiju finally confessing to the lovely Yuzuriha, only a weird green light envelops the planet and turns everyone into statues. Skip to the year 5738, and by keeping conscious thinking about Yusuriha, he breaks free. He finds his sardonic genius buddy Senku already awake in an eden-like Earth, and together, brains and brawn, they set upon survival and coming up with a way to free all the other statue people, those that haven’t fallen apart, that is.

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The show sets up some big questions, like how the hell did this happen anyway, and why only humans and birds? Taiji and Senku awaken early, and the show only suggests that they did so by concentrating. Senku counted millions of seconds and Taiju focused on that girl, but surely that can’t be the only reason–even Senku wonders about it. We get some quick lessons on chemistry and brewing, and identifying poisonous mushrooms to boot. This could be an educational show, but with other characters they tease in the ED or OP, I wonder if there isn’t going to be some conflict and fighting. Taiju, after all, acts like a shonen manga hero. I like the two boys’ relationship. Senku comes off as sort of a bad guy, but he clearly likes Taiju even while he insults and teases him. All in all and intriguing first episode.

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Enen no Shouboutai wants you to know what year this is.

Enen no Shouboutai takes place in a world where people spontaneously combust and turn into nasty fire-demon things. This happens at a train platform where young Shinra is standing, but before he can help take out the demon the Special Fire Force shows up and takes over, though he does save Oze, a firefighting nun (there’s a lot of theology behind these demons, with the victims being called lost souls) from falling debris. Shinra is actually on his way to the first day of his new job as firefighter, where we learn that he smiles weirdly when nervous, thanks to a childhood tragedy that they refer to a little too often. Anyway, he goes on his first mission with his new team, nearly freaks out but gets a pep talk and finishes the job, thanks to his ability to fire up his feet and move really fast.

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Shinra, being nervous.

So it’s a rookie with a dark past joining a team of eccentrics and learning to bond and work as a teammate. I’m on the fence with this one. First of all, it looks great. They do a great job with the flames and other visual effects. While we haven’t learned too much about the other characters yet, the creators did a good job of introducing them. Shinra’s unnatural nervous grin is the source of both comedy and sorrow, as some people look upon it as sinister, and it’s an effective character trait, a giveaway as to what he’s thinking, whether worried about the battle or getting a glimpse of a colleague’s cleavage. On the other hand, the pacing was clumsy at times, like they are going for a BBB vibe but don’t have the energy to actually get there. And as I said, they draw upon Shinra’s tragic past too often; it got especially annoying during the battle scene where you just want to see the team in action. But that can all be sorted out, this is a promising start to an interesting concept of a series.

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Granbelm has a lovely overhead shot of a small town to begin with.

In Granbelm we have a girl named Mangetsu admiring a huge full moon before remembering a bento at school she forgot to pick up. When there her world is magically transformed into the ruins of a medieval town where glowing mecha piloted by girls about Mangetsu’s age are battling it out. Soon she’s on the run from one or another of them while a third (Shingetsu) rescues her and gives her (and us) the much-needed but absurd backstory about magic on Earth being sealed away except for these full-moon battles, but where is Mangetsu’s mecha? Of course Mangetsu, rather clueless when things are normal, has no idea. Soon enough, the battle resumes, she runs, then transforms magical girl style, conjures up her own “Armanox,” builds a striking level of rage, and does some uncharacteristic ass-kicking of her own. To be continued says the caption, as if we didn’t know …

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Like a lot of the other shows here there’s a lot they have to explain, like why they’re fighting in the first place, why Anna is so angry all the time, and what happens when they lose a battle. Is it going to go Madoka Magika on us and kill off a lot of people? Or are the battles more sort of symbolic like in Utena? And should we care? I wasn’t terribly thrilled by the first episode. The mecha look interesting but I’m not a mecha guy. The battles are all right but it was hard at first to figure out who was who and what they were doing, and without a reason for any of it, it was hard to keep me interested. Of course, they’ll explain more as the show continues, nothing in this episode really stood out. Except when she was in battle-rage mode, Mangetsu was an uninteresting airhead, and none of the other characters really interested me either.

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A deceptively placid mood to start Araburu.

Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo is about four girls in the school’s literature club. It starts them reading a sex scene, which is acceptable because it’s literature, not porn, right? Soon after that the cute Niina announces that she wants to experience sex, and suddenly it’s all that the girls can think of. We mostly follow Kazusa, an ordinary girl whose childhood friend Izumi has grown up to be good-looking, which inspires jealousy from the other girls, and strange thoughts of her own which she can’t handle yet, especially when she catches him masturbating. But we also get a glimpse of Hongo, a budding writer who goes onto sex chatrooms to try to get an inkling of adult relationships and try out the phrases she reads in books. And there’s prudish Sunezaki,  who gets a compliment from a boy that she can’t believe. I expect the series will be all about girls trying to figure out these hormones they suddenly have.

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The show sounds lewd, and though some of the talk is, there is no fanservice or pandering of any kind. These are your average, intelligent highschoolers coming to grips with adolescence. It’s also quite good, honest in how it portrays this difficult time, and you can sympathize with every character. If I can think of an issue it would be that so far all the girls in that school are either virgins or sluts, no in-between. But that’s hardly a reason to stop watching. There is no specific goal in the series apart from their internal struggle; we just glide from one scene or conversation to another, with plenty of food metaphors tossed in. I wonder if that’s going to be an ongoing thing. Which reminds me, it’s about time for dinner here, but I think I’ll stay away from pork miso soup for now …

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I won’t be fully back until quite some time, if ever, but right now I have the time to look at the new shows and tell you what I think about the ones I choose to watch, which means certainly not all of them. As usual I probably won’t watch the horror or sports stuff, good as they might be. Same with excessive fanservice, well, maybe. Stupidity isn’t an issue either. As usual, I will start each review with a screenshot of the show’s first comprehensible moment unless the blackness goes on for too long, which should tell you something about the show, anyway. Here we go!

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Katsute Kami Datta Kemono-taci E begins with a map, and thus a history lesson.

We start with, er, Katsute Kami Datta Kemono-taci E, where we get a brief history lesson about two WWI-era countries fighting, along with a long battle scene with lots of blood, severed limbs, until a bunch of soldiers in spotless white just walk up to the wall, turn into monsters, and the battle is over pretty quickly. The army should have sent them in before all those other soldiers got killed, but anyway. We then get some background on the special force, known as Incarnates, how they were developed thanks to a scientist called Elaine, who likes a Sergeant called Hank. But an incarnate later goes berserk and kills people on both sides, and so Elaine, on the brink of peace, decides to kill all the incarnates before they can do the same, only she’s betrayed by a colleague who goes by the name of, heh, Cain Madhouse–with a name like that you’d think they’d know better, and months later what she predicted is happening, Hank vows to take out the monsters himself … and the daughter of a fellow soldier ends the episode with a gun and a gleam in her eye.

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But they’re not as shiningly heroic as they seem here.

I suppose it’s not terrible. I suppose Hank and that girl will go through the series hunting down the incarnates who we were introduced to early on, average soldiers who are nice enough when not on the battlefield, except they’re going to go berserk and all that. But we didn’t get enough time to really get to know them, so it’s hard to work up any sympathy now. Hank is interesting because he’s an incarnate too, could go berserk, and knows it. I guess the main story starts next week with that girl, but I’m sure I really care that much. The animation is okay but the character designs are only average. If you don’t like blood and gore this is not a show to watch.

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Tejina Sempai is one of those few shows that begin the first episode with the actual opening credits.

Next it’s Tejina Senpai, where a dull-looking high school boy, required to join a club at his new school, wanders into the chemistry prep room now Magic Club headquarters, where an overenthusiastic bumbler named, er, Tejina I guess, tries to show off a few magic tricks but winds up vomiting out of stage fright or getting herself literally tied up in compromising poses. The boy is appalled by Tejina’s awful magic but intrigued by the things high school boys are usually intrigued by. And so we get a series of sketches where Tejina tries to do magic tricks and screws up (okay, the key in the melon pan wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t really a magic trick), while the boy observes and does occasional damage control.

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The description on Random Curiosity suggests that this is a story with character development and all that, but it’s set up as a series of gag sketches of failed magic tricks. That might change once we get the other characters they tease into the story. Tejina sort of reminds me of Dagashi’s Hotaru in how she introduces a new thing in every sketch and riffs on it (only here it’s not snacks but magic tricks), but Hotaru is steely-eyed and capable in her insanity while Tejina is just a bumbler. Watching Tejina fail over and over got dull with only the occasional ecchi bits redeeming it. The boy redeems things a little because he doesn’t put up with much shit. He even locks Tejina in a box for awhile. The whole thing might have gotten on my nerves more but the episode is only about thirteen minutes long.

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A hot sun over a castaway island to begin Sounan desu ka?.

Also that long is the next show, Sounan Desu ka?, where four high school girls find themselves stranded on an island after their plane crashes. One of them, Homare, learned survival skills from her father, and soon she’s crushing fish for their juices and eating bugs while the other three act disgusted, but we’ll assume they’ll get used to it. Between these gross moments and the light fanservice it seems the series will build from basic things (finding water, etc) to building a place for themselves in the middle of nowhere.

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In case you’re wondering, that’s a dead fish in there.

I don’t know how much of the disgusting stuff I can handle–this show tops all the blood and gore in Katsute, but the show knows how gross it is and tries to make it fun. All the other aspects are lighthearted and a little silly. Apart from survivalist Homare we get the smart one, the jock, and the spoiled rich girl, none of which knew the others in school, oddly. Right now Homare dominates the scenes, which makes sense, but the other girls seem fun and I hope the show begins to focus on them and just give Homare the odd lecture or two when we need one. Overall, in spite of the danger and the grossness, this is a cheery little show, and we’ll learn some survival lessons to boot.

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Kanata no Astra begins with rocks orbiting a planet.

Kanata no Astra starts with a scared girl floating in space who is then apparently rescued, then there’s a flashback as to how she got there. Turns out Aries Spring (the girl) is off to a five-day camp on another planet. There’s a too-long scene at the space terminal where her bag is stolen and then retrieved by a boy we later learn is the Kanata of the title, and then there’s a meeting with the other campers, all of them unpleasant. Bickering, they arrive at the planet McPa, where an unexplained glowing ball sucks them in and flings them out to elsewhere in the galaxy, where there is, rather conveniently, a ship they can get to, after rescuing Aries. Having caught up with the flashback the dysfunctional gang are forced to team up and planet hop until they can get back to Earth, or at least rescue.

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Teamwork.

This was a double-length episode. I really don’t like it when shows start this way. They usually drag. This one did at times. I already mentioned the terminal scene. Then were seemingly endless repeats of a tragic event in Kanada’s life–once or twice would have been fine but I think they did this one five times. We get it already! Elsewhere the pace just dragged and I began to get tired of most of the characters. However, when they start cooperating, like when they saved Aries and Kanada, things got better. We began to see some decency and resiliency in them that I enjoyed. I expect we’ll get more bickering and cooperating as they get to each planet and use whatever resources they find there to replenish and move on. It could be a fun show to watch, and maybe the story will tighten up when the episodes go to normal length.

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Is that supposed to represent food?

Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru? stars Hibiki, a high school girl who loves to eat and so is beginning to overfill her uniform. She swears to lose weight and so tours a new gym where she meets Akemi, the school idol. Hibiki is put off by the bodybuilders, but it turns out Akemi has a muscle fetish, and the trainer Machio is handsome–and ripped, so both girls are after him. After that we learn about the bench press and squats, Hibiki is tormented by both, so gets a lot of advice and pep talks. That’s about it.

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Well, it made ME want to exercise, and I’m the laziest person around. Apart from that the show is just what you’d expect. I was surprised and pleased that there are few gratuitous body-part ogling bits. There is a little, but how can you do a squat without showing off your butt. When the show does lean toward naughtier thoughts, like in the photo above, it’s done for laughs. However, if you want male fanservice this is the show for you. It also does a good job at slipping information in without distraction, like the calorie count of everything Hibiki eats, or a quick explanation of whatever muscle Akemi is drooling over. They also show us how to do the exercises, and mocks the cliche infotainment content it’s forced to use. In other words, a very light and silly show about strength training, always encouraging and positive. Could have been a lot worse.

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Maou-Sama begins with a title shot of the game the hero is about to be sucked into.

Maou-sama, Retry!, stop me if you’ve heard this before, well, no don’t, or you won’t finish this paragraph, has a guy who runs an RPG and plays a demon lord named Hakuto Kunai in it, and before he can shut it down, gets transported to that very world, where he has to figure out what to do next. He immediately meets a young girl named Aku who is running from a demon that Kunai defeats easily. Because Kunai is about the only person in that world to ever treat her nicely, Aku leads him to a shrine full of bodies and an oracle that grants him an evil ring before she crumbles to dust. Then Kunai and Aku go to Aku’s filthy village, and are now on their way to the capital to figure out what’s going on.

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I don’t know if I like Kunai yet, but that’s a cool pose.

Sure, it’s like a half-dozen other shows out there, and its opening episode is not really different. Our hero, or antihero, has to get his bearings in a world that is familiar but strange, check his levels and strengths, etc. The twist in Maou-Sama is the balance between happy, cute fantasyland with its cute girls and the really shitty situation that many of the inhabitants live in, and that our hero as demon lord is responsible for their miserable lives and bloody deaths, at least up to now. In fact, he was summoned here possibly to do more of the same, at least, that’s what the evil ring hits at. So we’ve got evil intentions and human decency both tugging at Kunai, though I doubt the former will have much chance. Too early to tell if the show will pan out, but apart from Kunai not being shocked but more annoyed by appearing in the Kingdom of Holy Light, the episode was solid enough. Kunai could be a lot of fun. Aku is too generic right now. Worth watching again.

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As you can see, Uchi no Musume begins in the woods.

Finally for this installment we have Uchi no Musume no Tame naraba, Ore wa Moshikashitara Maou mo Taoseru kamo Shirenai, where an adventurer named Dale, out on a minor quest to tide things over, has a small demon girl stumble up to his campfire. She leads him to where her dead presumed father lies, and Dale surmises by the girl’s broken horn, that her dad had committed a crime and were exiled. The girl doesn’t speak his language and is unbearably cute and helpless, so Dale feeds her and takes him to his town, where he and the owners at the inn (Rita and some guy) dote on her, finds out her name is Latina, and tries to figure out what to do with her. Inevitably, cuteness wins, and Dale decides to adopt her, even though he’s an adventurer and gone a lot of the time, and she’s a demon, after all …

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Another European style fantasy series, only with excessive cuteness overwhelming it, which is a shame. I wanted to know more about the relationship between, say, the demons and humans, and there’s the intriguing fact that the devil language Latina knows is the origin of the spells Dale uses for magic. But I don’t think the show will bother to explain any of that beyond the basics. This is an adorable little girl series and most of what we’ll get is adorable little girl hijinks. Before the episode ended I was already getting weary of that. The world they’re in is one of those happy old city places where mostly everyone is nice, and while I’m a fan of peace and quiet such places get boring fast. The OP suggests that Latina will help Dale defeat monsters later on, but I am not sure I have the patience to get there. Well, if you like cute little girls, you’ll probably like this show.