[In which I review] New anime, Fall 2011

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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#1
Summer is barely over, and already the first few series for the Fall 2011 season have started airing in Japan. In this thread, I will be reviewing the first episodes of each new series as they come out. At least, that's the plan ; fortunately, this seems to be a small-ish Fall season in number of shows to review, with releases staggered over several weeks (probably still an effect from this spring's crisis).

Note that I will be skipping :
- Most sequel series. For example, a preview episode of Working'!! has already aired, but there's no point in reviewing it (it's exactly the same thing as the first season ; you should know by now whether you're part of the audience, or check out ru's review for the first season). On the other hand, this is a season heavy with prequels/remakes/not-really-sequels, and I'll most probably be reviewing those.
- The few kids' shows that I just can't find any access to. (On the other hand, I WILL be reviewing the kids' shows I can lay my hands on.)
- Most OVAs, especially the many "extra episodes" from already existing series (are there even any original OVAs this Fall ? I didn't notice any...)

Anyway, on to the first show of the season, a net-thingie starting early...


Busou Shinki Moon Angel
(5-minute episodes)

What's it about ?

10-centimeter-tall mecha-musume fighting each other.

Characters

This series doesn't even bother naming its main characters. I know screentime's at a premium, but come on !

Anyway, our protagonist is a white-clad living action figure who escapes from a lab (and from the pursuit of a black-clad counterpart). Wounded, she's eventually discovered by a loner grade-school kid.

Production Values

I was pleasantly surprised. Those 5-minute web-thingies are usually on the lower end of budget ranges, but this actually looks quite good. The fight scenes are very well animated, and much lower on fanservice than you'd expect.

What did I think of it ?

Well, it's the first 5-minute webseries from the last couple of years that I'm considering watching on the strength of its first episode. (Fireball Charming doesn't count.) I'm especially impressed by the pacing : none of it feels rushed, in many ways this feels like a proper anime series... but it's still a complete chunk of story despite its short length.

It's not particularly original, but it seems to have the potential to be fun, without outstaying its welcome. I'm cautiously optimistic about this one.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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#2
Okay, just kidding. Now for the review of the first proper new show of the season :

Fate/Zero
(25 episodes ; 1st episode is double-length)

What's it about ?

It's a prequel to Fate/stay night, but hopefully you don't need to know anything about that one to follow it. Actually, previous knowledge of the franchise might kill the suspense a bit, given how it made it quite clear how things are supposed to end here.

Anyway : every few decades there's a big fight between 7 champions (representing the major Mage families) around the Holy Grail, which can supposedly grant any one wish. Each "Master", besides his own magical abilities, can summon a Servant (basically a ghost of a mythical figure) to help them out.

Characters

Kiritsugu Emiya, an elite anti-Mage assassin. Nobody's quite sure why he's in the game (his résumé makes him look quite suicidal), but he certainly sounds like a major contender. He's quietly supported by his wife, who frankly looks like a dead woman walking. He summons a Saber Servant who's supposed to be King Arthur... despite being quite obviously a woman.

Tokiomi Tohsaka, heir of one of the major Mage family, who decided to cheat by allying himself with (1) the Church (who are supposed to be neutral referees), and (2) Kirei Kotomine, a promising mage/priest who he got into the game somehow.

Kariya Matou was the black sheep of his family, but he stepped in to become one of the player to avoid that fate for his new adopted sister (who happens to be Tohsaka's second daughter, in a bizarre bit of political play). His grandfather's sadistical training (bugs under his skin ? Eww...) have left him drained, but hey, he only has to last until the end of the game...

Kayneth Archibald El-Me... oh, who cares about this dude and his improbably long name. He comes from one of England's most prominent Mage families and holds tenure in the London Magical University, but he barely gets two minutes of insufferably smug screentime. Instead, we follow...

Waver Velvet, one upstart student of his who stumbles into his Holy Grail-related documentation and artefacts and decides to have a go at it. The little shit is obviously going to fail spectacularly given the heavyweights around, but I can't entirely fault him for trying.

That's (at most) six Masters ; the 7th one stays conspicuously absent throughout the episode (although I do have my suspicions).

Production Values

NicoNico's tiny broadcast doesn't help to judge, but this looks quite good indeed. There's no action sequence whatsoever yet, though, so we'll have to wait a bit to see what the series can do there. (The OP - shown at the end - does display some nice animation, but that never means anything.)

What did I think of it ?

Do you like exposition ? I hope so, because this is 45 whole minutes of it. This is a series of flashbacks fleshing out all the main players, while explaining the premise ; there's even a ridiculous scene that has Emiya & Kotomine thumbing through each other's résumés at the same time. It isn't too clunky, but it does mean that not a lot happens besides talking heads. As said above, there isn't a single action sequence in sight, and we barely get through to the first few summons (in consequence, we don't really get a sense of the Servants' personalities, if they have any).

What we see of the characters, though, is somewhat interesting ; I especially like Waver's scenes, as he looks like he'll be fun to follow. Most of the other players are adults who seem quite adept at scheming, so there's potential for compelling intrigues there. Which is needed, given how the ending is a foregone conclusion ; fortunately, it looks like the show isn't even pretending to hide this will lead to a Emiya/Kotomine final showdown.

Overall, this wasn't a dazzling start, but there's some potential. Hopefully it won't have the same problems as the original work... well, at least got rid of the supremely annoying protagonist, which is a step into the right direction.
 

Jhiday

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#3
Hunter x Hunter
(at least 45 episodes... welcome to endless shounen hell !)

What's it about ?

In a world with various big monsters roaming around and hidden treasures, the big thing to be is a Hunter, whose job is to deal with those. But there are lots of hopefuls and not many who actually manage to pass the tests...

This manga already got an anime adaptation 10 years ago, but from what I gather it never got to the end (the manga is still ongoing). This is a full-blown remake ; hopefully they'll manage to make a proper ending this time around.

Characters

Gon, our spiky-haired protagonist. His father abandoned him at birth because of his Hunter's job, so he's convinced being a Hunter must be AWESOME! for Daddy to do that (/facepalm).

Mito, his aunt (although that's never actually stated anywhere in the episode), was quite opposed to him leaving the nest, but he's talented and wilful enough to overcome her objection before the mid-episode mark. Presumably we'll barely ever see her again.

On the boat to the test center, Gon meets two other characters of note who are obviously going to tag along : Kurapika, the sullen last member of the Kurta tribe, who wants to become a Hunter to track down the culprits (I lay at least 50/50 odds that's actually a girl) ; and Leorio, a tall lecherous dude who's in it for the money.

A fourth team member is shown in the credits, but hasn't appeared yet.

Production Values

Perfectly okay for an action shounen show. For comparison purposes, I checked out the first episode of the original series ; the new version is much brighter and slightly more stylised, at the cost of some atmosphere ; also, it seems to move quite a bit quicker than the original (which barely had Gon leaving the nest by the end of the first episode, but made it much clearer what the family situation was).

What did I think of it ?

Hello, generic shounen action show ! There's nothing particularly original here, so it falls down to the worldbuilding (nothing much of interest yet) and the character dynamic to make it watcheable. And, well, while I'm all for Miyuki Sawashiro and Keiji Fujiwara deliciously snarking at each other, I'm not sure I want to sign up for 45+ episodes of it.

I'm not dropping it yet, but it's definitely a candidate for the chopping block if too many other shows I want to keep watching are released on Sundays (which is a very probable scenario).
 

Anglachel

10th level Vice President
Validated User
#4
Considering Hunter x Hunter is by the Yu Yu Hakushu dude, and seeing how THAT series completely shifted gears after a bit, you might need to give it a few episodes to get a real feel for it. Though that's probably true of most shonen

Edit:

When is Persona airing?
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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#5
One of the reasons I'm not ditching Hunter x Hunter outright is that I quite enjoyed Level E, by the same mangaka, and that also took a few episodes to get going too.

When is Persona airing?
Thursday night.
 

Katsue

Young Witch
Validated User
#6
There's some bizarre stuff going on in Fate/Zero. For one thing, Kiritsugu's wife seems to be a homunculus, and Matou Zouten's black bug room is, well...

Then there's the throwaway lines like how the Einzberns were sticklers about the purity of their blood, and how bringing in Kiritsugu was a big deal, which makes you wonder where they rate on the Hapsburg scale of inbreeding. Also, there's a mysterious serial killer, but that's very par for the course in a Nasuverse show.
 

MadMac

Registered User
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#7
I watched about 20-30 episodes of the original Hunter X Hunter back in the day. It's definitely an odd show. I was left feeling like it didn't quite work, and it's main contribution to Shonen was as an idea mine for more successful Shonen properties. For example it gets compared to Naruto a lot for reasons that will become obvious in a few episodes, and the entire concept of Toriko feels like it was lifted wholesale from a certain one off story.

That said, it isn't a bad series by any stretch and for all I know it becomes amazing 100 episodes in.

I haven't been commenting yet because I haven't gotten around to watching anything this season except Squid Girl, and I think everyone knows what to expect from that one.
 

Jhiday

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#8
C³ (Cube x Cursed x Curious)

What's it about ?

Generic harem show where the male lead receives a big box with a weird girl in it.

Characters

Haruaki, said male lead. As generic as you could expect. His (offscreen) father is a collector of weird stuff and apparently built the house so that it'd be flooded with positive vibes. I'm not quite seeing it.

Fear, the girl in the box. Completely unfamiliar with modern civilization, she claims to be the personification of negative emotions or whatever. In practice, think the destructive potential of Squid-Girl, but without any of the charm. She's really, really annoying, and the corny ending to the episode where Haruaki learns she's not that bad rings horribly false to me.

Konoha, Haruaki's childhood friend who happens to live in another part of the house (it's more than hinted that she used to be somewhat like Fear way back when they first met). She fits the archetype perfectly.

The ED (or the OP played at the end, who knows) suggests that there's a third girl involved (of course !), but she's yet to show up.

Production Values

This is a Silver Link production, aka the people who did BakaTest. It certainly shows, with tons of little showy effects to liven things up visually in a SHAFT-lite style. It doesn't help, especially given how much they focus on Fear's panties (to say nothing of her way too long nude scene).

What did I think of it ?

This is rubbish. I'm not entirely averse to harem shows, but they live and die on their charm (see Asobi ni Iku yo! for a good example). This has no charm whatsoever, and is just painful to watch (especially any scene with Fear... which is about 90% of the episode).

Avoid like the plague.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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Validated User
#9
Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!

What's it about ?

Darned if I know. The story focuses on a school where quarrels between classes are solved through massive martial art battles - this episode's campaign between classes S and F involves more than 500 combatants on each side. But somehow, despite this episode being an extended fight scene, it looks like we're heading for a harem setup. Sigh.

Characters

The cast is absolutely massive : discounting the red shirts, there's at least 10 apparently important characters on each side. Very few of them get any depth, obviously.

Yamato, our de-facto protagonist, is the tactical coordinator for class F. He's quite good at it (with assistance from the geek squad), but completely crap in an actual fight. He's been harbouring for years a love for...

Momoyo, whom supplementary material assure me is NOT his sister, despite him addressing her as such throughout. But they've been childhood friends for so long that she simply cannot see him that way. She's a superb martial artist, one of the "Great Four" (whatever that means), and decided to side with class S just because. Frankly, they do need her.

Hideo is the leader of class S, and as such the main target. He's an arrogant moron, and you won't be surprised when he's defeated because of terrible tactical choices made through overconfidence. (There's a limit to how much his underlings can cover for).

Class F's top fighters include a set of four elite female champions who all seem to pine for Yamato ; as well as Hideo's sister, for some reason. Their "leader" is a completely inept girl who needs permanent care.

Class S also has a set of sub-commanders who do all the work... and an entire squad of girls dressed as maids, for some reason.

There are two weird women (one of them covered in bandages) hovering on the sides of the fight and apparently looking for Momoyo. They're our only clue of a wider plot being around.

Production Values

Mostly okay. I've never been been fond of the "still shot after a martial art move" cost-cutting device, but it's not used too much as to be grating.

This is surprisingly low on fanservice, despite most females wearing bloomers and some clothing damage being implied half-way through. Indeed, the only character who spends most of the episode half-naked is Hideo.

What did I think of it ?

What. The. Heck ?

I'm really not sure what to make of this. The school battles are decently executed, but don't feel like they can sustain a whole series (cf. also BakaTest). The sheer number of named characters makes it hard to care about most of them. The romance stuff makes me roll my eyes. And I have no clue what the deal with the two women is.

I'm tentatively giving it one more episode to see whether a coherent direction emerges, but this seems like a mess.
 
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