Winter 2017 shows 3

The government building under duress to start Idol Jihen.
The government building under duress to start Idol Jihen.

In Idol Jihen they’re starting to elect idol girls to the Japanese Diet. We meet one girl, Natsuko, working in the fields, soon discovered by, Sachie, I believe, already a diet member with the Heroine Party. For reasons no one, including me, can believe, she thinks Natsuko has potential to win the seat vacated by some guy who choked to death. Next thing we know the dour diet member Shizuku is training her, then dumping her because she doesn’t have what it takes, only to appear at Natsuko’s low-energy performance to help out, thereby shutting up the male candidate from the Rougai Party, about the only thing I liked in this episode. Meanwhile, cronies at the (all the male diet members are evil, I think) Rougai party plan the idols’ downfall.

This is a campaign speech.
This is a campaign speech.

Considering what’s about to be sworn in in my country, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to have idols in the Japanese Diet. Too bad everything else about this episode is wretched. The story lurches forward, jumps ahead so you don’t know what’s happening anymore, and what IS comprehensible are the usual idol making it to the top scenes with no interesting variations at all. I would hope they might add some political satire to the story, but I don’t think anyone making the show is capable of that. Let’s move on.

Some stars popping up before Shiny Chariot makes a grand entrance.
Some stars popping up before Shiny Chariot makes a grand entrance.

Lucky for me, the next show on the list was a perfect palate cleanser: Little Witch Academia. You’re probably familiar with the story. To begin the series, untrained, seemingly unmagical Akko is on her way to begin witch school. She meets snobby witches and another who’s just annoyed by her. But she also meets a nice one named Lotte, who gives her a ride. But they screw up and wind up in Arcturus forest, where the annoyed witch, Sucy, uses them to gather a magic item, but THAT goes wrong as well. Fortunately, Akko’s hidden witchiness kicks in, and the three make it to the school on time. More important, she now has two excellent friends.

Damn, that's one versatile giant chicken.
Damn, that’s one versatile giant chicken.

I swear, after watching that last show I was close to crying near the start of this one, when Shiny Chariot was doing her act before an entranced, six year-old Lotte. This is how it’s supposed to be done. The characters are well-presented, their actions fluid and funny, and you have the trademark Trigger style pumping energy through the whole thing. What’s not to like? Plus you get a giant chicken with both flame and stone breath! And a snake on its tail! The story itself is going to be fairly traditional, and I don’t like fish out of water stories, but I’ve already grown to like Akko’s sheer determination to do what she shouldn’t be able to do, and in Trigger’s hands it will be fun as hell to watch.

The school of heaven, or something.
The school of heaven, or something.

Gabriel Dropout features Gabriel, angel high school honors student, sent to Earth to observe, learn, and help people. She discovers video games and becomes a complete slob. Also at her earth school are her friend Vigne, a nice, responsible demon, Satania, a demon full of EVIL-HA-HA-HA! who wimps out a lot, and the unpleasant, manipulative angel Raphiel. Um, that’s about it.

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Nothing much to it. It’s really sort of a bore until Satania and her evil laugh (seiyuu Oozora Naomi is clearing having fun) shows up, and then they drive her schtick into the ground. Raphiel is just unpleasant. The Gabriel/Vigne dynamic is interesting. Both are aware that they are not behaving like they’re supposed to. Gabriel had the upper hand in this because Vigne feels bad about it, but she doesn’t care, calling her earlier, saintly days as not being truthful about herself. Raphiel raises the question about “goodness” actually being a front to get her perverted kicks. Satania is like Vigne in that she’s not really that evil, but at least she tries to be, and so she’s dismissed as a fool. I might watch another episode, shows like this often need time for the routines to settle down, but we’ll see.

Hard to tell but these are thieves running away.
Hard to tell but these are thieves running away.

Let’s move away from the supernatural and cute girls and watch a historical show with a lot of serious men killing and torturing each other. Onihei is a sort of police procedural drama, only set back hundreds of years ago. We watch as a man named Kumehachi is arrested, tortured (won’t squeal), and imprisoned. Our hero, Heizo, takes a liking to him. Later both learn about a massacre supposedly performed by Kumehachi’s old boss, and he begs Heizo for the chance to arrest and expose this impostor. Some surprises and plenty of flying blood.

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It feels like an old detective show from the 70’s, down to the jazzy soundtrack they use, only there are swords, not guns. It looks to be a crime of the week setup, which doesn’t interest me that much. On the other hand, it’s very well done. It looks great. It conveys the past world vividly. The characters are all interesting. Heizo is a decent family man who doesn’t blink when there’s torture to be done. The story felt a bit hackneyed. I thought that girl who overheard the villains’ plans must have misheard, or better, been a plant. But this was an introduction episode and I suppose they felt they should keep the story simple so they could introduce the characters. But is a half hour long enough to tell the complex stories they could, even after we know the characters? Not sure I’m in the mood for this sort of thing, but episode one was quite good.

ACCA-13 begins with a beautiful blue sky.
ACCA-13 begins with a beautiful blue sky.

Another “serious” show, if that means no slapstick and more adult material, is ACCA 13-ku Kansatsu-ka, in which our hero, Jean, working for ACCA by going around inspecting, is told ACCA’s being shut down because either no one needs inspections now, or no one wants them. After unearthing a bit of corruption in Famasu Prefecture, he heads back and learns they’re NOT being shut down, but his inspection tours from now on are going to be nearly endless. We also meet his sister, coworkers who constantly give and receive omiage, and some higher-ups with various secrets and sinister motivations, and some bozo in another department who’s obsessed with him. As for Jean, he just wants to have a fag.

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I suppose it is a serious show compared to most anime programs, but its charming oddities keep the mood light. The country is shaped like a bird. It comes from a manga by Ono Natsume, and not only do her character designs alone raise a smile, but she doesn’t seem to do “dark.” “Adult,” hell yes, that’s another of her strengths. The story starts, unobtrusive, not shouting, like just another working day in the life of Jean, with plenty of intrigue bubbling under the surface, arson, possible coups … next week they’ll probably work up the arson problem. I will almost certainly be watching.

Hand Shakers gets right into a battle, then interrupts it with a flashback.
Hand Shakers gets right into a battle, then interrupts it with a flashback.

Finally, for this post … wait a minute until my get my sight back … Hand Shakers, where a nice boy named Tazuna, obsessed with fixing things and bothered by a recurring sister-deathbed memory, visits a local professor named Makihara (or IS he?), and finds a cute girl on what looks to be HER deathbed, only she doesn’t die but instead wakes up when he holds her hand. Then they’re under attack by some bondage asshole and his masochistic partner (chains are his “nimrod,” or weapon). Tazuna and the girl, Koyori, run for it until he figures out his own nimrod (gears), and we don’t see what happens but it looks bad for the SM guy. In next week’s preview we see Koyori being taken into Tazuma’s home and getting naked.

He holds a girl's hand and reality goes to pot.
He holds a girl’s hand and reality goes to pot.

Okay, the look is astonishing. They use more photo stills than drawn animation, I think. It’s all realistic skies and rooms, chains and gears. Must take forever to render all of that. Very impressive, but I’m not convinced they enhance the show all that much. In its core this is a story of an odd but nice kid being taken to another dimension where he has to fight all the time, along with his hand-shaking partner. The super-duper photo effects work well when there’s a battle going on (the chains are amazing), but when things are quiet all this extra visual noise is often a distraction. The movement of the other students is stilted in a CGI way. Not only that, but did they have to make sure every girl’s tits moved like they’re in 1/2 gravity? That and the SM relationship between chain guy and his partner also turned me off, but maybe he’s not a regular character. I might watch some more to see what they do visually next, but I don’t think the story is enough to keep me watching for long.

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