Winter 2017 shows 2

Fuuka begins with a train station and odd lighting.
Fuuka begins with a train station and odd lighting.

The next show, Fuuka, already has two episodes out. Nevertheless I’m not going to watch the second until I take care of my future backlog of episode ones. In it we have a boy named Yuu who has transferred to the big city to live with his occasionally nudist sisters while their parents are away. He lives on Twitter and takes the occasional picture, and a blue-haired girl we later discover to be the titular character, smacks him around because she thinks he’s taking upskirt photos. The next day, visiting his new school, the exact same thing happens. A few scenes and some backstory later and they’re going on a date because Fuuka wants to hear the theme song by an idol who is Yuu’s childhood friend and he somehow has tickets. I bet you can guess where this is heading.

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Episode one feels like a nice, improbable high school love story, lighter on the comedy, probably heavy on the angst later on. Not crazy about love stories myself but I’ve heard good things about this one. Yuu is your typical boring male lead, Fuuka is the nutty, passionate, violent girl of every boring male lead’s dreams. She also has a loud voice, so you know she’s going to form a band (besides, we see that in the credits, unless it’s just symbolic of something). I very much like the work the seiyuu “Lynn” did with her voice, at least in episode one. What bothered me the most was the standard building-up-to-romance scenes, and the bit with Hachiko was excruciating, but they’ve got to set up basic things before the show can press on, first episode issues, forgivable.

Not sure why Minami Kamakura opens with a night scene ...
Not sure why Minami Kamakura opens with a night scene …

Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha Bu stars Hiromi, who’s just moved to Kamakura and starts school that morning. She’s taking her bike though she hasn’t ridden one in years and has completely forgotten how. She crashes into her soon BFF Tomoe, who gives her riding lessons, meets their cyclist homeroom teacher, also new there, goes through the opening ceremonies, and ogles a lot of scenery.

Hiromi is about to meet Tomoe.
Hiromi is about to meet Tomoe.

As do we. When they’re not overdoing the CGI or over-saturating to get the mood right the visuals look fantastic. Really too much so. I know they were going for a joyful first day of school with cherry blossoms everywhere feel, but they could have turned it down a notch and I’d still be gasping. Well, they’ve made their point, and the gorgeous images with the breezy music tells you what to expect. What I really didn’t like was Hiromi, a blithering idiot who doesn’t even know you use petals to move a bicycle. This would be okay for a more comedic show, but kind of ruins the atmosphere here. Well, when she finally learns how to ride a bicycle maybe things will settle down.

That's actually another dimension.  That's why it's so grey.
That’s actually another dimension. That’s why it’s so grey.

Schoolgirl Strikers Animation Channel begins with four girls chasing after an O’bli, a ridiculous looking thing that I hope the show drops soon. It slips away, so we have a shower scene instead, then the hijinks of Yuumi, one of the four girls, and her obsession with school mysteries. There’s more hijinks you’d expect in a cute girls doing cute things show, but their phones go off and soon it’s back to some other dimension or other and another O’bli, which again gives our girls trouble until a veteran squad comes to polish it off. Apparently the more experienced a squad is, the less clothing they wear.

The dumbest line I've heard this week.
The dumbest line I’ve heard this week.

It’s not great but not terribly bad either. The contrast between alien fighting and ordinary schoolgirl life was a bit strange, but otherwise they fill us in on the situation in a way that feels natural–we learn a lot and there’s only one clumsy infodump. Some of it is absurd. How could the school hide the fact that its real job is to train “strikers?” And I’ve already mentioned how dumb the invaders look. On the good side, they’ve started work on the characters. I’m most interested right now in Tsubame, the squad leader who possibly feels unfit for the job, and she has other issues as well, like amnesia. This might not be a very good show, but the fact that didn’t botch the first episode is a promising sign.

Demi-chan begins with a nice bright town at night.
Demi-chan begins with a nice bright town at night.

Let’s see … skipping the next few on the RC list for being sequels or BL. That brings us to Demi-chan wa Kataritai, where Takahashi, a biology teacher who’s always wanted to meet and interview a demi-human, ie, a succubus or vampire or dullahan or snow girl, people who are around but are a tiny minority. Oh the surprise when he meets one of each type on the same day! Okay, that bad plot bit aside, we continue as he sort of meets most of them to varying degrees. Sakie the succubus teacher finds his curiosity a little rude. Hikari the vampire is open, friendly, and a little mischievous. Machi the Dullahan tries to interact but finds most people are uncomfortable with her, with the head not attached to the body and all. We don’t really get much of the snow girl in episode one. No problem, we’ll get to her eventually.

demichan1-1

There are several reasons why I loved this first episode. Let’s start with Takahashi. He’s a normal, decent, open-minded, big lunk, suddenly confronted with people that society considers strange. We watch as he tries to learn more about them, risking and accidentally giving offense along the way, apologizing when he should, trying to learn. Junichi Suwabe (Itami in Gate) gives him just the right balance between maturity and wonder. Then consider Hikari, wonderfully voiced by Kaede Hondo, yes, a vampire, but also a young, friendly, lively schoolgirl. Now, put the two together in the same room: a delight, Hondo’s irrepressible youth and playfulness dancing around Suwabe’s experienced, mature comments. They talk together a lot in episode one and I wanted more.

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Along the way the show skewers some cliches (Yeah, a stake in the heart would kill me, too) and describes how these Demis co-exist with “normal” people. It raises questions: how do we meet someone that is fundamentally foreign to us, when we might accidentally give offense by asking the wrong way? How do you not hurt the foreigner when we don’t know how to react to their differences? Then there is the matter of what the foreigner needs to do to cope, while not alienating the so-called “normal” person.  This show is already working with these questions, and there is potential for more. Put that together with the terrific characters Takahashi and Hikari and I am looking forward to episode two.

A map of the continent of, er, Yggdra.
A map of the continent of, er, Yggdra.

Chain Chronicle first gives us an assault on a fortress and the Black King. It’s lead by Yuri with the support of a lot of your average magical types, and a little sprite thing called Pirika that gets smushed. Indeed, the whole assault fails and the King announces everything shall fall into darkness. The battle is pretty good, though I had a hard time telling the good guys and the bad guys apart. But that’s the first ten minutes, and the remainder of the episode shows the alliance breaking up and soldiers going home and Yuri mentally scarred by the whole thing. Then as they’re trudging home, they encounter an evil black fog and a kid named Aram that helps them fight it off, either by inspiration or by replenishing mana. Yeah, apparently it’s based on a game.

Yuri and Aram meet during a battle.
Aram and Yuri meet during a battle.

Nothing stood out for me at all. Since we don’t know the backstory I can’t really empathize with anyone. And then consider that after the good battle scenes, the majority of the episode is showing the good guys skulking away. Aram, who is supposed to be a spark of light for them, just annoyed me. I suppose I’m interested in how Yuri, now in a sort of disgrace, will redeem himself, but that’s about it. I probably won’t watch another episode, and that’s a little unfair, I know. It’s a clumsy first episode at times, but I’ve seen worse. It isn’t bad, and I can’t get the whole epic story much less all the damn characters all at once, but I don’t see anything special here. Maybe I’ll watch ep2, probably not.

Two super-powered police girls are about to swoop past this moon.
Two super-powered police girls are about to swoop past this moon.

And finally for now, elDLIVE, starring Chuuta, a nice kid who’s heard a voice in his head all his life. He hasn’t learned to ignore it or not respond, so all the other kids think he’s weird, nice but weird. We meet various friends and relatives until he’s whisked away to a space station and is told he’ll become part of the Space Police if he passes a test, which he does when his voice takes on physical form and sticks itself out of his chest.

Chuuta's first mission.
Chuuta’s first mission.

Apart from Chuuta’s occasional adolescent longings (and a hilarious look at classmate/policegirl Misuzu’s legs, oh, and that teacher) this is very much a kids show. It’s bright, the aliens are cartoonish, apart from a crescent moon creature called, heh, Melies. The “voice” when it takes on physical form, is so cute I can’t stand him, or her. It’s also self-aware and occasionally funny; I enjoyed the most Captain Brick Laine’s cavalier attitude toward things, and his name is pretty good too. But it looks like it’s going be comic SF romps on Earth or in orbit around it. Where is it going to go? They’ve already explained the voice in Chuuta’s head. Apart from that bad flashback he sometimes has there’s nothing more the show can do apart from warming Misuzu’s heart toward Chuuta. Well, if they can keep up the humor it might not matter.

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