Urahara stars three girls who hang out in a shop in Harajuku that is “the physical manifestation of their dreams,” i.e, it’s all very cute. They’re in high school but seem to work there, I’m not sure. Anyway, a strange customer comes in and praises the creativity of the place and exits. Next thing you know, there are aliens invading and sucking up Earth’s cultural landmarks, and now they’re headed for Harajuku! An escape pod lands in front of the girls and out comes a cute little girl and a talking fried shrimp who gives us the backstory: the aliens cannot create culture so steal it from other planets. The girls each take an “amatsumara,” which the little girl stole from the aliens before escaping and the girls transform into super-heroines and drive off the aliens.
In other words it’s perfectly normal people confronted by evil aliens, befriended by a mascot character, gain powers, win the day. Except it’s all cute and full of bright fashion and lots of sweets, especially donuts for some reason. That would be fine, but it’s incredibly boring. At the beginning they try to feature each girl at length, especially Rito, but fail to make them interesting. They talk endlessly, with endless little agreement lines that drag the episode down. Really, the script needs a serious trim, though it was clear they had nothing to replace it with. It looks very pretty and they try to be stylish with a lot of multiple camera at once, but it can’t hide the fact that the show has next to nothing going with its animation. It’s also confusing. What was that at the end with the defense missile which was turned into a parfait by the girls’ defense system, or whatever? The show tries very hard to be stylish but there’s nothing there.
In Just Because! we watch as a boy named Eita moves with his father into a new place near where he used to live four years ago, meaning he might meet some of his old middle school buddies in high school, except it’s midway through their third year and most of them have other things on their minds, entrance exams, job interviews, etc. While he and his dad visit the school we meet a lot of the regular students who go about with their usual stuff, including old buddy Haruto, and a couple of girls who recognize him. There’s a girl named Natsume who is obviously going to be significant. Oh, everybody uses Line a lot.
It takes a while to figure out exactly what’s going on because it hops about to new characters a lot, and it didn’t help that there was a flashback with Haruto that I didn’t realize was a flashback at first (“Wait, why are they in middle school?” I thought). But it does a decent enough job of clarifying through normal, infodump-free dialogue that I got the gist of it in time, and I appreciate a show that doesn’t overexplain. As for what’s going to come later, I have no idea. A romance maybe, some bittersweet slice of life about lives and friendships changing … Maybe a little of both, and more. It’s maybe a little too sedate, but we’ll see what ep2 brings.
Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou has two girls, Chi and Yuu, in a little tractor, puttering about a huge, ruined building looking for a way out, which they eventually find, and we discover the world here doesn’t have much life in it except for them. Only more ruins, mostly war-related. We get a flashback of them being evacuated by an adult man but that’s the only reference we get. They wander around some more, discover some guns but while Yuu can shoot, there’s little point to it. They find a plane, find rations (the most important thing) and later fight over them. They wonder why people fought wars and where they can get more food. That’s about it.
The first episode was impressive, but I wonder how much they can keep it up unless something or someone new enters the story. Chi and Yuu are interesting friends but they can’t carry a series on their own. I would also like some backstory, I mean, it’s not just that everyone died; there aren’t even any bodies around. What the hell happened? I wonder how much we’ll get because the girls obviously know very little about what happened themselves. In the meantime, I suppose I can always look at the lovely if slightly depressing art. All the ruins look good, and while there’s a minimum of music, the pieces they used were elegant. Interesting to see how this one pans out.
We move on to another show about two people traveling with guns: Kino no Tabi, a remake or spinoff or something from the original Kino’s Journey, which along with Haibane Renmei, is one of those great anime that I have not yet watched. Well, this new version will do for now. After a fireside scene where Kino speculates on why he keeps traveling, he and his bike Hermes (that confused me for a while) come to a country where there is no prohibition on killing, and they are confused to find it a rather happy, orderly place with huge crepes. Eventually we find out the reason, and Kino cheerfully moves on.
I can’t compare this to the original, but I liked much of it. It’s great to look at, lovely background art, and it moves at a patient, sedate speed, yet the events in ep1 show that this isn’t simply going to be a “stop and smell the roses” show. The scenery might be beautiful but the people can be terribly violent and ugly. I’m worried that the show might wind up giving little moral lessons for each country Kino visits, but at least in this first country it’s not really a moral but a sort of paradox. Well, if nothing else, Kino only spends three days in each place, so the settings will change.
Finally for this post, Dies Irae, where some evil blond guy takes a long walk through a nasty palace until he’s floating above modern-day Tokyo doing a staredown with an average anime boy. We jump back in time and … not sure, really. 1939 Berlin, and the blond guy, called Heydrich is a star minister of the Reich, advised by a clairvoyant named Krafft, who knows more than he’s letting on. Oh, there are two crazy people with powers fighting in the streets, and a building burns down, three women Valkyries join up with Heydrich but have difficulty with the two crazies until Krafft manages to persuade Heydrich to use his full potential …
I hear the visual novel is really good. I can’t say the same for this episode. It’s another example of having a character show up and not explain anything about him or her because, hey, the true fans know him already, right? The hell with those of us who haven’t read it. It’s not that they don’t explain who everyone is, but they don’t do enough to show us why such-and-such a character is meaningful. What resonates for the fanboy doesn’t reach us at all, and we stare at the screen, a little bewildered, wondering what the fuss is all about. Not only that, but while much of the art is okay, the animation sometimes takes considerable time off and characters freeze. That aside, it’s nice and gothy if you like that sort of thing.