2015 new winter shows #3

Saekano begins with female flesh, and irony.
Saekano begins with female flesh, and irony.

There’s really no story to Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata 1. Instead, it’s an episode-long character and background information episode that mocks the concept even while doing it. For instance, the girls are introduced by Tomoya, the unabashed nerdy male lead, while one of them, Utaha the scriptwriter, complains about the infodump way he’s going about it. We also learn, through narrative techniques that Utaha would prefer, that the five girls and one boy are doing a dating sim for comiket. And that he’s probably closest to Kato, the girl no one notices but him. That’s about all we learn. The rest of it is stuff like an onsen scene with lots of flesh while the girls complain about anime that start that way, and countless scenes of the girls jerking Tomoya around, often literally.

Utaha is a hands-on type of scriptwriter.
Utaha is a hands-on type of scriptwriter.

This would be all right in a show where the fourth wall isn’t there, but there’s no indication that the characters are aware that we’re watching. In that train scene, Tomoya continues to give the girls introductions while they sit there and wonder why he’s doing it, and so do we. He’s not talking to us … In the onsen scene, it feels like they’re trying too hard to be self-referential. On the other hand, some of it IS funny, because there’s something resembling plot AND attempts to screw around with the plot at the same time, like the heartfelt but predictable speech by Tomoya undercut by the girls finding new ways to mess with him. So, can this series succeed in using old anime tropes and explain them away by mocking them? Can it get away with showing an excessive amount of female skin (and almost all the girls do) by making references to it? Can it have its cake and eat it too? Well, it’s great to look at, and it IS sometimes funny, and its attempts to do whatever it’s doing knocked me off my pins a few times.

Koufuku Graffiti starts with oinarisan and sexy eating.
Koufuku Graffiti starts with oinarisan and sexy eating.

Koufuku Graffiti stars Ryou, a high school girl living alone after her beloved granny dies (parents are away on business, as in most anime families). She’s mostly over that, but she’s worried that her cooking has gone off without grandma’s influence. Then a cousin named Kirin, the same age as her, but looking and acting much younger, comes to stay a night or two after a fight with her mother, and they both realize things about themselves and family through the all-encompassing concept of delicious food.

koufukugraffiti1-1

Though Shaft has proven it can pull off different types of shows using their trademark style, this still seems like an odd fit. It’s not that the episode doesn’t work; it’s a pleasant if a little dull way to begin a series, but with the camera angles and art style I kept expecting something weirder and kinkier to happen. They save the latter for when Ryou eats–even Kirin notes that she looks erotic. In fact, all the food scenes have a sensuality to them that Shaft’s dirty minds happily exploit. But it feels low-key compared to what they usually bring us. I wonder if Shaft can contain themselves to just food and eating. Never mind. It looks great, and the story seems pleasant enough.

Fafnir starts with a city being attacked before moving on to the fanservice.
Fafnir starts with a city being attacked before moving on to the fanservice.

Next it’s Juuou Mujin no Fafnir, where we get a backstory of dragons attacking earth, then vanishing, only for people to appear with dragon powers, useful for defending us against the real dragons, which apparently have not disappeared after all. In more mundane matters, our hero, Yuu, is sent to an all-girls “Type-D” school as the first male “D.”, and the first thing that happens is that he catches one of the girls naked. There follows the usual scenes introducing Yuu to his beautiful and skeptical classmates, and then he watches them train, which means a mild transformation, allowing us to ogle each girl in succession, while we get dull talk about defeating dragons. Next week, a real dragon will show up.

... and bores the hell out of the audience.
… and bores the hell out of the audience.

A shame I won’t see it. This was a completely routine episode one, uninteresting in every way, and made worse with the transformation bits. Did we need to see so many? There is nothing to Yuu at all, and all the girls we’ve met are all types, when they show any personality at all. The mock-battle scenes have the screen fade out and images fizzle, which I suppose is supposed to look cool but instead made me wonder if the file was messed up. Nope. Often even a weak show will have just enough of a crisis at the end that I decide to watch next week. With this one I just don’t care.

Cinderella Girls' opening is appropriate enough.
Cinderella Girls’ opening is appropriate enough.

I watched the last iDOLM@STER series and liked it well enough, but am I ready for a spinoff? All these new girls to remember, the silly emotions, etc. On the other hand, the first series was a pleasant surprise for everyone. This new series: The iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls, starts differently in that the new production company hasn’t even been formed yet. We meet Uzuki, a girl who failed her first Cinderella audition but is still determined, idiotically say “yes,” to a creepy guy who wants to be her producer. Next, he tries to recruit another member, Rin, who is much more sensible and tells him to fuck off. But he’s persistent.

Someone get Uzuki an agent for her protection, or a cop.
Someone get Uzuki an agent for her protection, or a cop.

The man is tall and frightening, and when he speaks (which isn’t often) its in a deep undertone. It’s supposed to be funny. They’re trying to show the producer as creepy-looking but misunderstood. Doesn’t matter. If you solicit adolescent girls on the street for anything, you’re creepy. And Uzuki’s blind acceptance of anything the man says and asks made for some disturbing viewing. When the girls finally sit and talk, I expected Rin to set Uzuki straight, but apparently she’s not immune to flattery herself, and so now the man has two girls. At least with two of them they can compare notes. I don’t think I want to watch any more of this.

Assassination Classroom wants you to know what class it is from the start.
Assassination Classroom wants you to know what class it is from the start.

I had heard enough about Assassination Classroom that I was pretty certain I wouldn’t care for it, but I quite enjoyed episode 1. We start with just another day in school, only the kids all whip out rifles and shoot at the teacher, a squidlike thing with a happy face. Then we follow student Nagisa (who I thought for sure was a girl for half the episode) into flashback land and learn the origin. This teacher, Koro-Sensei, blew up most of the moon and will do the same to Earth unless this class can kill him, and he’s got super powers. So we watch a few attempts at his life and get accustomed to this weird situation, as the kids also do.

assclass1-1

Since I knew what the setup was, it would take more than that to entertain me, and much of the time the show did just that. I loved the OP with the students happily dancing at their desks, and the government’s explanation to the kids. I also like that Koro is a humane, caring teacher that this class (full of dead-end kids) responds to as students, and that he doesn’t mind all the attempts on his life, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the class. And when Nagisa is forced to put his life on the line in one attempt, Koro admonishes the classmates that made him do it. Anime loves giving us weird, neurotic, ditzy teachers, so it’s ironic that one of the few good ones we’ve seen is an alien set on destroying the earth. But how far can they take this? Are we in for weeks of failed assassination attempts? I’m not sure I want to watch that, but episode one surprised me; let’s see if they can keep it up.

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