You may remember the original Yuuki Yuuna series from a few years back. Young girls appointed by Shinjyu-sama turn into magical girls to fight off threats to the great tree, but at a slow and eventually nasty cost to them. Not a great series, but a surprisingly good one. This new series, Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru -Washio Sumi no Shou-, is a prequel, where three girls–Washio, Nogi, and Mino are the appointed girls and in this episode go off on their first battle, with no training whatsoever. They fight the weird thing, get roughed up a lot, figure out some teamwork, win the battle, and finally do some preadolescent bonding at an ice cream place. Meanwhile, we watching at home are waiting for the inevitable.
Which will come soon. This series is only six episodes, with a sequel to the original following. I don’t remember the details of the original series, but I don’t think any of the girls comes to a good end. I forget which one was wasting away in bed. But there’s no sign of damage at the end of ep1, unless that bandage is foreshadowing. Some things I remember vividly. The world they battle is a colorful and vivid place, and the battles are beautiful to watch. That hasn’t changed. There is also, alas, transformation scenes intended to titillate, that hasn’t changed either. Still, the original series worked up some good themes about duty and sacrifice, and I don’t doubt the prequel will have them, too.
Code:Realize ~Sousei no Himegimi~ starts with an evil guy singing “London Bridge” amid giant steampunk gears, then switches to a British Army contingent trying to catch a “monster” in an old manor house, only it’s a beautiful girl named Cardia (appropriate name, as you will see). Two robbers, Lupin (not that one) and Impey, steal the girl from the army and whisk her away to another manor house, where she meets Frankenstein and we get some details. The girl has corrosive skin that burns what it touches, and a weird “heart,” or “Horologium,” implanted by her father, Isaac Beckford. And people are after the heart (which Lupin wants to steal, get it?), and the girl’s real heart begins to stir, surrounded as she is by charming rogue bishies. Oh, there’s a dog too.
It didn’t do much for me. Dark pasts are hinted at. There’s the mystery of that heart and the poison skin to deal with, and what’s going on with Beckford, but it didn’t add up to much. Might be a nice romance going on, and since none of the bishie boys are terribly annoying, yet, I’m happy for the girl, who, unfortunately, is pretty dull. Losing your memories will do that to a person. But I didn’t find anything that particularily interested me. Some of the backdrops are pretty, but the animation and character designs are just average.
Next it’s Houseki no Kuni, where some girls in a grassy land notice sunspot activity and go off to fight what turns out to be things out of an Eastern religion. The girls tell one lazy, clumsy girl, the green-haired Phos, to go back to their big palace. She does, and after an infodump by Kongo, their leader, they discover the fighting girls broken into pieces and being harvested by the aliens. Because every character is actually a humanoid manifestation of a gem, and the aliens, like us humans, like precious minerals. More stuff happens leading to the first steps of friendship between useless Phos and dangerous, lonely Cinnabar. All with the worst computer graphic animation since Kemono Friends, though it’s not THAT bad.
A shame, too, because this show has some things going for it. The idea of living gems, that get broken and chipped and have to be repaired and polished, who cannot die but can be broken up and harvested, is one of the better concepts I’ve heard for a while. Cinnabar, patrolling at night though there’s no enemy threat then, poisonous to everyone around her, WANTS to be harvested–maybe she’ll be useful for a change. Her and Phos, who seems to be good for nothing, would make a good frienship if only they’d get over their issues, well, Cinnabar’s at least. The CGI is tolerable during the battle scenes, and there are actually some well-directed moments there and elsewhere. The question is will you be able to overcome something that looks so unnatural? Up to you. For me, no.
Two Car is set on the island of Miyakejima, a place that is the motorcycle/sidecar racing capital of the world, unless it’s really the Isle of Man. I looked it up. Sadly this is not true. Anyway, a pre-preseason race of the seven top high school girls racing teams is set to start, including the hometown or home-island heroes Yuri and Megumi. The episode then jumps from the race (the competition includes a couple goth-lolis and a masochist/sadist couple, but the rest seem pretty normal) to flashbacks of our girls growing up, learning to race, falling for their instructor, discovering the other one fell for their instructor, so now they don’t know whether they like or hate one another. A little of both. So they’re a bickering team that will come to blows, as we find out.
The girls’ relationship is an interesting one, but all the observers talk about them being their normal selves so much I got tired of it. On the other hand, they’re a team that is incomplete with the other and they both know it and try to work around their differences, which, apart from that instructor thing, and he left for the Isle of Man long ago, aren’t many. If you like racing you might enjoy the races and the commentary about strategies (though frankly there were a few too many butt-shots for me), or you might want to learn about the different rival teams, and needless to say they’re all cute. Overall the tone feels light-hearted. No blood-feuds here, not yet, anyway.
Blend S starts with our girl Maika getting turned down for part-time jobs because she has scary eyes, which she doesn’t really have except in certain circumstances. After another bad interview she is sort of accosted by the manager of a maid cafe that needs a sadistic waitress to go with their tsundere and imouto ones. So we watch the not-sadistic-at-all Maika learning how to be nasty. The other girls we meet have their own struggles, but they manage to get through and it’s all done for laughs.
Don’t know if I’ll keep watching, but the first episode was pleasant. It was fun watching Maika try hard to be sadistic, especially when they already have a genuinely sadistic girl who does the imouto duties. Not sure how that worked out. The episode had the usual introductions and scene-setting to do, but it was done with a minimum of fuss. However, the show began to drag when the shifts were over and the girls went to the arcade, so I’m not sure it can hold up when not in the cafe environment. Also, Dino, the manager, constantly got on my nerves for hitting on Maika, though to be sure he’s usually brutally punished by the Mafuyu and Koyo when he does. But overall it’s a happy, light show.
Houzuki no Reitetsu returns! We go back to hell to watch more hellish punishments with bureaucratic jokes thrown in. To start with we learn how Houzuki died and became a demon, though they don’t explain how he became such a cooly efficient one. We also learn a lot about Hell’s early years, and the woman who preceded Houzuki as bureau chief–she was quite good at her job but kept inventing hells for such obscure sins that they eased her out of the position. Then we turn toward one of Houzuki’s only grudges–against the people who offered him up on a sacrifice, and the old bureaucrat’s request to refurbish her mansion. The boys Kaoauri and Nasubi are back, and I’m happy to say so is Shiro the dog.
I don’t notice any difference between this one and the old season. Houzuki is his usual deadpan self, the show still mixes traditional art with modern cartoonish drawing. It has the same easygoing, meandering pace. But there are two problems: first, it tries too hard to throw stuff at you that it become dull. It’s usually right before they cut to another angle, and it’s meant to be sort of a punchline or a topper, but it gets repetitive. Also, to get some of the jokes you need to understand the references, which I don’t. The resolution of what to do with those burning people at the palace bewildered me. No idea of what happened there. But that’s okay, I’ll probably watch this season. Hard to believe a show about Hell can be such a cheerful one.
Finally, Mahoutsukai no Yome, the new show with perhaps the most buzz this season. We start with Chise selling herself into slavery for reasons not clear except she doesn’t have much else going on, and is quickly bought up by a tall guy with a dinosaur skull face named Elias, and whisked to his country house in England to be his apprentice. It isn’t until the end of the episode that he announces his other motive. Chise is too surprised by the fact that she’s not going to be kept in chains or made to do anything disgusting to worry too much. She also encounters some fairies, and you know what fairies are like. Elias rescues her, then mentions the “bride” bit.
The first episode is paced with calm dignity and everything in it feels a little restrained, as if they don’t want to give anything away so early, like what the hell a “sleigh beggy” is. The dynamic between Eiias and Chise is of course just getting started, but I’m relieved so far that Elias doesn’t seem like a total creep, though the fact that he bought her in the first place and hugs her a lot bothers me a little. As I mentioned, Chise is too surprised that everyone she meets is actually nice to her to actually care about this … actually, it’s too soon to make a decision about Chise, either. Is she going to obey orders all the time and get put in danger, or is she going to get personal decisions to make? There’s potential in this show.