2017 Summer 4

Made in Abyss gets off to a lovely start.

We start this session with Made in Abyss, and a young girl named Riko, who with her friend Nat is excavating for old artifacts, and, in spite of the area being pretty much picked clean (this is a training session for apprentices), she finds quite a few, but then a dragon, about to eat an knocked-out Nat. She distracts it with her red whistle (whistle color signifies status) and before it can eat HER something blasts it. Turns out to be an unconscious robot boy. The rest of the show follows Riko, Nat, and their Shiggy as they try to hide the robot from their mean orphanage director, etc, getting in more trouble as they go, until the robot wakes up and wonders what the hell is going on and who he is, the usual philosophical questions when you’ve been overzapped with electricity.

I’ll say right out that this is worth at least one more episode. The early scenes are wonderful. The later ones are marred by the situation, kids getting into trouble and hiding from their teachers, but even then we get to discover more about the strange world they live in. If you don’t count Riko’s explanations to Reg (robot-kun) there is only one infodump, it comes at the very end of the episode, and it only makes me want to learn more about the world, the mysterious hole, and its artifacts and monsters. There’s a certain amount of preciousness about it, the show obviously intended for young viewers, but not enough to keep me from watching more. Finally, the art is fantastic. The childish character designs clash with it a bit, but not enough for me to care.

One more. I can’t resist.
18if’s gaudy opening.

Next it’s 18if, where after we watch a purplish opening bit, we get someone who calls herself the Witch of Thunder who cavorts with her minions, and convert two not-cute strangers into more minions, then a boy named Haruto, who wakes up in a dream world, and then that witch is popping out of his cell phone. He’s rescued by a girl in white named Lily, but wakes up in the same dreamland, more adventures with that witch, and a cat-guy who is a scientist investigating this world, until Lily shows up and there’s a big confrontation with the witch, who apparently is a real girl who went into a self-induced coma after some classmates were awful to her. Next week, Haruto, Cat-guy and Lily will presumably rescue another stuck person.

Bleh. It tries to look modern but look too closely and you can see how cheap this show is with poor background art and character designs, and its stumbling narrative. Since it’s a dream world, anything goes, however, a lack of rules doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have internal consistency. Every character (except maybe the cat-guy) is a bore. Nobunaga Shimazaki (Haruto) is wasted in this show and sounds bored, like he’s simply waiting to say his next line. I’m a little curious about who Lily really is but not enough to keep watching.

We’ll probably see a lot of candles in Vatican Kiseki.

Vatican Kiseki Chousakan stars Roberto and Joseph, two young priests and apprentices to the Vatican group that goes around verifying miracles. After an opening bit where a nightwatchman chases off some demon-summoning kids and then sees a crucified blond guy floating in the air, we get our heroes being sent to South America to check on a virgin birth story, but they’re really there to gather info on this suspicious church and a tile that fits into another with a Satanic saying on it, which, really, one of those kids could have dropped. They wander around the enormous church/school/hospital grounds and gather information, while some of the folks there act weird, especially the one who bites the sausage. Dolores, the pregnant girl, has stigmata too, but Roberto and Joseph just wave it off as common. And a priest is then murdered, a statue of the virgin cries, etc etc.

Hey look! I got a stigmata!

No standalone story here. I guess they presume we already know all this Catholic stuff already. They spend more time introducing everybody. Really, does anyone who speaks a word in the show need his name put up there for us to note? On the good side, they set up the overly heavy atmosphere of big churches and rituals quite well, which is good because the animation doesn’t look that impressive. They take their time with the story, I think a good thing in this case, laying out clues here and there, and they scatter the scary stuff around almost like a spice. There’s a sober mood to the whole thing. Not bad, but not really what I’m after these days.

Altair starts with ruins.

In Shoukoku no Altair is set in the sort-of fictional land of what the translators call Turkiye, where Mahmut, young genius kid, is becoming the youngest person to achieve the rank of Pasha. He’s motivated by seeing firsthand the horrors of the last war with, er, (checks notes) the Balt-Rhein Empire. He begins his tenure as Pasha by kicking a hot dancing girl out of his bed and learning that a Balt-Rheim guy was murdered at the border, they say, by Turkiye assassins. He races off to uncover the conspiracy and save his mentor, who’s name I didn’t catch.

What we got her is intrigue, possible war, conspiracies, with lots of pseudo-Ottoman and pseudo-European trappings. It worked well as an introductory episode, a standalone story that also introduced the problems Mahmut and Turkiye are going to face in the future. I especially liked Mahmut’s elderly mentor, who feels responsible for that old war and will do anything, even give away his life, to prevent a new one. Hope it doesn’t come to that. I, however, didn’t much like the superficial treatment of the two empires, and the capture of the baddies was a trifle silly. Still, silliness has rarely hurt an anime before. I understand that the story is quite long, and I don’t know if I want to get involved with a two-cours (at least) series of this nature at the moment, so I’ll pass.

I don’t know why Ballroom no Youkoso starts with a plane, but whatever …

Ballroom no Youkoso, if you couldn’t figure out already, is about ballroom dancing. Basically we have an aimless middle-schooler named Fujita who wants to love something, “so I can change!” Through events not worth mentioning here, he winds up in a new ballroom studio run by the charismatic Sengoku and has a nervous trial lesson. That wasn’t enough to make him sign up (way too expensive anyway) but watching the dvd another teacher slipped into his case (the show’s most vivid moment–“Look at me!”), gets him interested indeed. So he goes back and begs for lessons. Fujita immediately develops a ridiculous work ethic, a lot of blisters, and grudging admiration from Sengoku and the cute classmate who’s already training there.

I think we all know what’s going on here. Determined kid works his butt off to achieve what looks to be an absurd goal while meeting friends and rivals. I wasn’t crazy about how quickly Fujita became a fanatic, and even if you can buy that, dancing all night is ridiculous. However, Sengoku is a lot of fun, both supportive and a tad egoistical. Too soon to tell about the girl yet, and we have yet to meet any other dancers. The dancing itself is nice to look at. Though the necks and limbs seem absurdly stretched, it feels consistent with the show’s aesthetics. I guess it boils down to if you want to watch ballroom dancing.

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