New shows Summer 2016 #1

Time for the Summer season! I hope its better than the previews at Random Curiosity suggest. I could barely find any shows that I have any interest in watching, though I’m sure there’s a gem out there somewhere, waiting for its chance to pleasantly surprise me. As usual I will do my best to go by the RC preview order, and I will take a screenshot of the first intelligible image we get. And so we start with … oh, can’t find Fukigen na Mononokean anywhere, so we’ll skip that one for now and turn to …

Shows like Berserk always start with black or blood-red.
Shows like Berserk always start with black or blood-red.

Berserk, part of a big franchise I’ve heard of but never seen or read before. Horror’s not my thing, neither are big, never-ending franchises, but I thought I’d give the new anime a chance. We, after some muttered prophecies by people we’ll meet in ep2, start with the usual mercs-abusing-tavern people scene, interrupted by our hero, Guts, who beats an asshole up and leaves. Then he hitches a ride with an old guy and a young girl, with a fairy-guy named Puck (of course) tagging along. Exposition about danger and hints about Guts’s nasty past. Soon we’re getting lots of death as skeletons and nasty tree-things try to kill Guts and fail. And a line, “If you can’t live the life you want to, you might as well die,” is repeated, though no thoughts yet on whether Guts is enjoying his.

Well, he seems to be having a good time here.
Well, he seems to be having a good time here.

Lots of blood and gore, evil-sounding atonal orchestral music that sometimes lapses into heavy metal, everything dark and shadowy. This episode works hard on its atmosphere. Too hard, as a chorus of men chanting a dirge “Blood and guts and guts and blood” just made me giggle. I’d heard the CG was very good in this series, and some of it was impressive, especially the rain (of course it rained throughout), but it’s hard to tell when everything was so dark and moody I didn’t know what I was looking at. Sometimes capes and shadows appeared to be nothing more than gray blobs. And when there was no fighting the character movement looked like Sidonia’s but with cruder, sketched faces. Fans of the franchise will watch it anyway, but I see no reason to keep watching.

Hard to see, but that's a jacket in a darkened apartment.
Hard to see, but that’s a jacket in a darkened apartment.

Next it’s ReLIFE, where an unemployed, 27 year-old, NEET in training named Arata, stumbling home from a drinking session with his friends (to whom he pretends to have a job), meets a strange man named Ryo, who offers him a deal to take a pill and age down to teen level, where he will “enjoy” a third year at a high school. He drunkenly accepts and finds himself going through the worst first day of school of his life, with more to come, I suppose.

relife1-1

So far, so good, with a few mistakes. Usually fish out of water stories scenes make me squirm, and we had some moments of that on his first day, but hopefully we can get through that and meet the side characters soon. It didn’t help, however, that Arata brought some of embarrassing moments on himself. What the hell was he thinking when he packed cigarettes in his school bag? It’s not like he never went to high school before. Not bringing a pencil case was less stupid, but it makes you wonder if the guy wasn’t a failure in his first chance because of sheer forgetfulness. However, things get better in those moments where he interacts with his new classmates, soon to be friends (we see them all in the OP), when he isn’t typecasting them, that is. The show is packaged in a humorous, mostly breezy manner which helps a lot. Worth keeping an eye on.

One of those cherry-blossom fade-in openings.
One of those cherry-blossom fade-in openings.

Hatsukoi Monster stars, I think, Kaho, rich girl who’s been given everything she needs her entire life, and despises herself for it. So she goes off somewhere else to be a normal high school student and falls in love with a boy in her apartment, who turns out to be a grade-schooler. So the first half is her falling in love, the second half is her getting dragged into playing with the boy, Kanade, and two of his equally bishie friends, who are also grade schoolers. Not surprisingly, Kaho is taken aback by all this but is determined to see this, er, romance through.

hatsukoimonster1-1

This might be the weirdest setup to an anime series I’ve ever seen. Discovering that Kanade is a boy is surprising enough, but seeing him play with his friends, with all the wiener references, was just about too much for me. What’s more, Kanade does more occasional heroic, mature things like saving her life and all that, which makes Kaho at least all the more confused about this kid’s maturity. As it stands now I don’t know if this setup can handle twelve or thirteen episodes, but maybe they’ll focus on Kaho. I’m not going to watch a lot of episodes of grown men acting like schoolboys.

Rewrite begins by looking at the stars.
Rewrite begins by looking at the stars.

I would have just put out what I had already written if I had known Rewrite was going to be a double episode. What’s more, so much happens in episode one that it feels like several episodes of a KyoAni-made Key series. We get Kotarou, normal Key high school boy with superheroic leaping ability, having a lush dream where he’s killed by a beautiful girl’s ribbons. What’s more, in real life, someone keeps biting him, cutely, in the middle of the night. And then it’s off to school where he meets a lot of Key girls, meaning they’re all disgustingly cute to the point of diabetes, and they’re all weird. I’ll just mention Kotori now, since she’s a good friend and gets the most screen time. They decided to hunt for a school witch, leading Kotarou to some other school, where he’s chased a lot, nearly killed, then rescues the ribbon-killer girl who then helps him out by defeating a monster. Then he meets the witch.

Two average Key girls.
Two average Key girls.

I left out a lot. This was a busy episode, and it wasn’t bad. I like Key shows when in the right hands, and while 8bit concentrates more on the action and slapstick than KyoAni did, most of it worked. It set up the mysteries well, told the jokes well, and none of the girls are terribly annoying–yet. My only complaint is that I got a little overwhelmed. By the time Pani the sprite told Kotarou, while fleeing the ribbon girl, that she and her vampirish buddy Gil were made of garbage, my brain began to shut down, and that was before the Colonel Sanders statue showed up. Not to mention the love/hate bits with Ohtori, the threats of classmate Toshino, and countless other things I can’t remember. Well, if 8bit wanted to impress us with an opening episode, it did its best.

Orange has some bleak trees for its opening shot.
Orange has some bleak trees for its opening shot.

Finally this time we have Orange, where we see some adults fiddling with a time capsule, and all of a sudden we’re in the past, and nice, average girl Naho gets a letter from her future self telling her what to do, including NOT to invite the transfer student Kakeru to hang out with her friends after school that day. Nevertheless, she (or her friends) do anyway and everyone has a lovely time. Then Kakeru vanishes for two weeks. Next time we see him it’s at the sports festival, where the letter tells her to NOT refuse to pinch hit. This time she follows the letter, and later gets closer to Kakeru. And so we go, onward in a sort-of straightforward shoujo romance.

Kakeru, who's probably doomed, and Naho.
Kakeru, who’s probably doomed, and Naho.

Well and good, but the letter is giving mixed signals. Don’t invite Kakeru to hang out, then stating that she would fall in love with him, the Kakeru isn’t around in the future, so look after him, okay? The letter is supposed to prevent regrets, and much of it has to do with Kakeru. Is it warning her not to fall in love? Or preparing her for the inevitable? The letter couldn’t have known that Kakeru would have been with Naho if she did pinch-hit anyway, so maybe Naho’s going to have a boatload of regrets anyway. Well, it’s an interesting setup either way. I could do with less memory-laden friends scenes, but the characters look interesting enough, apart from Kakeru and Naho, who are a little dull. The character designs are a little different than you see these day. Rather refreshing. Too soon to tell if this is going to pan out, but I’ll keep watching for now.

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