Spring 2018 #3

Hinamatsui, oddly enough, begins in a completely different time and place with a different Hina.

Sometimes during these runs of new shows I get a moment where I want to stop; nothing looks good, or the descriptions of some shows fill me with boredom and sometimes dread. I was afraid Hinamatsuri would be one of those shows. Happy yakuza guy reluctantly takes in a 13 year-old girl. It’s going to be charming and sweet, right? Well, problem is, the girl, Hina, has psychokinetic powers and isn’t afraid to use them if she doesn’t get her way. Good thing Nitta is rich. Anyway, we get the usual What are you doing here, first day of school, and shopping for clothes scenes. Also, she helps him out when he gets in trouble with his boss.

hinamatsuri1-1You can probably guess by my opening that this is my first pleasant surprise of the season. They manage to make the inevitable and necessary scenes listed above interesting in one way or another. After Hina breaks Nitta’s valuable vase collection, well, he’s upset about that, but this yakuza tough-guy is also peeved that she puts the pieces in with the burnable garbage (Nitta also displays good straight-man skills, something the show is going to need since Hina speaks in a dull monotone) She falls asleep in class and no one notices except the girl sitting next to her. When she finally settles down it’s partly because Nitta isn’t ordering her to kill someone, and when she does it’s done as a favor. There’s a nice, breezy feel to the whole thing. Maybe I’ll keep watching this season after all.

Akkun to Kanojo starts with the top of Non’s head.

In Akkun to Kanojo we have the titular character acting extremely cold toward his so-called girl friend. “You suck” is about the nicest thing he says–to her face. But when she’s not looking he’s stalkerly obsessive of her, stealing pictures of her and admiring her humming. When his pal Masago asks why he doesn’t just take a photo when they’re together, Akkun has lines about getting too close to angels, which doesn’t make sense since they ARE actually dating. The girl, Non, doesn’t care at all. His sneers are smiles to her and sets her into a dreamy-dreamy mood. And there you have it.

Most of what you need to know.

Kind of like that Takagi show last season, except there’s even less of a setup here. Boy is extremely tsundere to a girl, who likes him anyway. I wondered how they were going to get through a whole episode of this when the time ran out–it’s only three and a half minutes long. Considering that, this might be acceptable, if they can add enough clever variations or bring in more characters.

Let’s see, Gurazeni sounds interesting, but it’s a sports anime and I’m behind, I never finished the second season of WIXOSS, Mahou Shoujo Site … glanced at it, don’t really want to watch cruelty for the sake of it every week. Boku no Hero Academia … didn’t even watch season one, then it’s ANOTHER baseball anime, AND a sequel to boot, so no Major 2nd for me. I might break my rule and watch Amanchu!~Advance~ but probably won’t write about it …

Devil’s line begins with an appropriate night sky.

After spilling a lot of blood in the opening scene, Devil’s Line settles down and watches a college girl named Tsukasa thinking, rightly, that there’s been somebody trailing her recently. Meanwhile, special police are working to catch a vampire who’s killed three woman recently (the victims in the prelude were all men, so we’re talking about a different vampire serial killer), and squelching any of it to the media, making it an urban legend. Anyway, after we see a special force member killing a vampire (mercy killing), we go back to Tsukasa and her would-be boyfriend, and the stalker, and what follows you could see a mile away, alas.

Tsukasa, looking confused, and she has every right to be.

A lot of this doesn’t really make sense. If a little scrape on Tsukasa’s cheek turns him on that badly, what about all those buckets of blood he must see all the time on the job? Tsukasa getting turned on didn’t exactly make me suspend my disbelief, either. However, the previews and promotional material show that they become a couple, so whatever. I did like the idea of vampires being like addicts always in danger of giving in and getting a fix, plus the twisted erotic overtones, suggesting what kind of addiction we’re talking about, and how the vampires virtually indistinguishable from regular humans. I also liked the flight and fight involving Jill. It was fast and would have been more fun to watch if they had lit it up a little more. So, some good use of the vampire motif, some decent action, and a little kinkiness, but the stories might be a little silly. We’ll see.

Cutie Honey Universe begins with … well, c’mon, it’s Cutie Honey.

Skipping more stuff I come to Cutie Honey Universe. I’m not a big retro anime fan, and I’m not watching the new Lupin III, but for some reason I watched Cutie Honey. This maybe tells you more about me that I’d like to admit … Basically we have a nasty looking woman named Sister Jill (an old character I later learned), leaving her harem and announcing that she’s going to destroy the Panther Claw, which would make her one of the good guys. Then it’s off to visit Honey and her friend Nat at their private school that gives off huge yuri vibes, but Panther Claw has taken over a jewelry vault, and once there Honey meets a new boss named Genet, who is obviously Jill. Stuff happens. Jill shows up with her whip, most of Honey’s clothes come off, the usual.

I LOVE this screenshot, but I’m not sure why.

If this season remains as dismal-looking as it does now I MIGHT watch another episode, but really this is just more of the same, just kinkier than I remember the 1973 series to be, and the strange movie. It’s old school in the character designs AND the rather leaden pacing. Things get a little better in the battles, when the visuals get low-budget psychedelic and they play some good synth background music, but it’s not enough. The animation is nothing to write home about, and neither is the rest of the art. The only thing that interests me is Jill’s dual personality. She’s obviously got a thing for torturing Honey, but to say she’s against Panther Claw is a nice twist, that or there’s some backstory I never saw …

Actually, Caligula begins with several seconds of darkness, so I decided to wait until they turned the lights on.

… Checking my notes for Caligula, which is SO DEEP that I had to watch over a span of two days because it was so overwhelming! Right, so we got Ritsu Shkishima, high school boy of an intellectual bent, hanging out with his less intellectual but still dependable friends while he ponders things like the definition of happiness and the Johari Window and wondering what’s in that lower-right box, and then things start going weird on him. His buddies turn into zombie like people who go and fight some weird guy, he hears hidden messages (never a good sign) in the latest pop song by Miu, etc. Meanwhile, his friend Mifue is having some reality issues of her own, with her anorexic mother getting replaced by another, and Miu, floating and glowing, outside her window. Then it’s graduation time and all hell breaks loose, or does it, because we saw an earlier scene …

It gets to be too much for Ritsu.

Well, the art is not good, the character design is adequate at best, the animation is pretty awful, and god knows what’s going to happen with the story, but I was entertained by episode one. It made a point of sidestepping every assumption I had about how the story was opening up while sneaking things in while I wasn’t noticing, like the repetition of sentences (“books are good, but make sure you study,” or the whole thing about extra stomachs for ramen), so until the end I wasn’t sure if reality was breaking down or Ritsu and Mifue were just going nuts. Alas, the chaos at the end suggested the show was going to slide into a more traditional story from now on, and that’s the last thing this show needs. Everything about episode one was crap apart from the writing, which was excellent. I’ll keep watching this is the storytelling remains good.

Knock knock.

Piano no Mori starts with a goofy-looking guy playing Chopin at a competition, while various characters we will probably meet later look on. Then we flash way way back to another guy, Shuuhei, who wants to become a pianist, transferring to a new school where he meets the much-younger goofy guy, Kai, and a few bullies. He hears about a haunted piano in the forest, which Kai shows him later. But the only one who can get notes out of it is Kai. Bring in teacher and former (tragic accident) pianist Ajino, who declares Kai the chosen one. Oh, and Kai has a hot mom, as Shuuhei discovers to his embarrassment and poorly-hidden delight.

pianonomori1-1I’m on the fence with this one. Any show that will play a piece of classical music (even a brief one like the Chopin etude they did here) in its entirety deserves some respect. Unfortunately they then play variations on “Little Brown Jug,” and now I never want to hear that song again. They CGI the piano playing so it looks accurate but gets close to uncanny valley territory. Also, while I can believe that Kai is a prodigy, I can’t believe he can play so well with no formal training at all … well, it IS a magic piano. On the plus side, while I’m not terribly interested in Kai’s journey in music, his friendship with Shuuhei works well, and the fact that Shuuhei is NOT the chosen one is bound to complicate their friendship.

Golden Kamuy is kind enough to tell us when it is.

Golden Kamuy brings us “Immortal Sugimoto,” whom I’ll call Saichi, a war veteran who hears a story about missing gold, the whereabouts of which can be decoded from the tattoos of some missing prisoners. When the guy telling him the story sobers up and decides Saichi now knows too much and tries to kill him, Saichi gets an idea that this weird story might be for real, especially when the man’s corpse (watch out for bears) has the tattoos. There are more bear issues, but a young Ainu woman named Asirpa helps him out, and naturally they team up to find the gold.

By the way, that’s a giant dead bear lying on top of him.

Good, nicely-paced episode, with the infodumps and Ainu lore coming out naturally. Saichi is an interesting mix of reasonableness and ferocity, and the show takes pains, in case you believed he was just interested in getting some money, to give him a sympathetic reason for doing so. He also takes one look at the diminutive Asirpa in action and decides this is a person he can trust. Right now, Asirpa comes off more of a monotoned, unschooled “noble savage” type, though she looks cool as hell. Not sure I want to see a show where people get skinned for their tattoos every week, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with this first episode.

jikkenhinbegIn Jikkenhin Kazoku we follow Tanis, the one “normal” person in a family full of genetic experiments. Brother Snow can turn into a dog, we also have a spider girl, a plant girl, and a mind-reader, and they’ve been in an institution until recently. Now pushed a bit by Tanis, they try to do normal things, in this episode that means going out to a Chinese restaurant. Fifteen minutes.

jikkenhin1-1There are serious overtones at work here with the public perception of what they are, and how much they should really try to conform to society, because they ARE freaks, after all, and it nearly drives Tanis to despair. However, much of the episode was inept. There were long pauses that can’t be waved away as reaction takes, and every member of the household, apart from the plant girl maybe, was unpleasant in one way or another. So while they might explore some interesting themes, I really don’t care what happens to any of the characters, and I find “fish out of water” shows tedious anyway.

A lovely image to start Fumikiri Jikan.

Finally, in Fumikiri Jikan, two girls, Ai and Tomo, wait at a railroad crossing. Ai believes that waiting like this every day is a waste of her youth, while Tomo plays straight man. Turns out, their youth (love, heartbreak, etc) is NOT being wasted at this railroad stop, for Tomo at least …

fumikiri1-1Three clever minutes. While they made it clear early on what the situation here was (Tomo likes Ai), the show handles it well, and I didn’t see the irony of supposedly wasting youth coming. This could be a nice palate cleanser.

There.¬† Now I think I’m only a week behind …

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