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[In which I review] New anime, Fall 2012

Jhiday

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#1
It's Fall, and you all know what this means : a batch of new anime series start 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 ; but hey, I've managed to do it for nearly two years without burning out, so let's push our luck.

Be aware that new series are going to trickle out over the next couple of weeks (and for once they look like they're about evenly distributed each day). So don't just dismiss the season as a wash because none of the first dozen shows or so are much good. After all, some of the most promising Fall series don't start airing until the 11th.

As usual, note that I shall be skipping :
- Most sequel series. This means no Bakuman, Jormungand PERFECT ORDER or Hidamari Sketch ~random~string#of#symb0lz~, for example. There's no real point in reviewing them, you already know whether you're part of the audience or not (or if you don't, you probably want to check the original instead). There's a couple of shows that purport not to be sequels (Hayate the Combat Butler & Seitokai no Ichizon), so I might give them proper reviews.
- The few kids' show I just can't get any access to. (However, I WILL be reviewing any kids' show I can lay my hands on.)
- Most OVAs, especially "extra episodes". Also, most movies released this Fall won't be on DVD/Blu-Ray for ages.


The first show of the season aired five days early on a satellite channel, so here we go.


From the New World (Shinsekai Yori)
(25 episodes)

What's it about ?

In the future, everyone gets telekinetic superpowers at puberty ! The consequences were so dire that the adults have set up a massive conspiracy (disguised as coming-of-age rituals and education) so that part of those powers get sealed off, and the most unstable kids get "disappeared".

Characters

Saki, our protagonist. Her powers were late to bloom, so she joined the school-for-powered-kids after all her friends (a handy way to get some exposition out on her behalf). Not much in the way of a personality yet, aside from "somewhat scared". (Which is a perfectly reasonable reaction in her position.)

Similarly, her friends fall into familiar categories (the quiet top student, the asshole loudmouth, the innocent guy, etc.) and don't really stand out as characters yet. But then, this is an exposition-heavy first episode, and there's 24 more for them to develop.

Saki's parents aren't really in a position to prevent the "disappearance" of their own daughter (the committee which oversees this is apparently quite autonomous). It really doesn't help that Saki once overheard them talking about it.

Production Values

Quite good ; for some reason this is set in the countryside (did civilization take that much of a hit ?), and we are treated to some decent scenery porn on and off. The character designs are very generic but serviceable.

The direction is very good at creating a very toxic and paranoid atmosphere. It's a bit rough around the edges, with sudden flashbacks often coming out of nowhere, but it helps building an oppressive mood. Especially effective is the opening scene depicting the emergence of superpowers in all its horror.

Overall Impression

This is quite promising. The setup isn't particularly innovative, but it's presented in such a way that it's very creepy indeed. While most of the episode is centered about inoffensive-looking rituals, classes and slice-of-life scenes, the paranoia is slowly ramping up over the course of it.

The downside is that none of the kids really have any depth yet. Heck, Saki's parent display more character and pathos in three minutes than the kids in the whole rest of the episode.

Still, that can be resolved later on, and at least this episode set the stage properly. I'm curious to see where it goes.
 

Jhiday

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I normally don't do full reviews for OVAs, especially those with schedules as erratic as this one ; but I'm making an exception here.

Code Geass: Akito the Exiled (Code Geass: Boukoku no Akito)
(4 50-minute episodes ; next one's out in March or something)

What's it about ?

This is a side-story to the main Code Geass anime, apparently set at some point between the two seasons. Remember how that was mainly a struggle between the Brittanian Empire and occupied Japan, with the Chinese Federation meddling in ? Well, there was also a third superpower that was supposed to be kinda equal to those two, but never really got any screentime : the EU. The point of this story is to shed some light on those guys.

Characters

The titular Akito is one of the many Japanese people who fled to the EU when Japan got conquered by Brittania. Unfortunately, the EU is about as racist a society as Brittania, as it keeps them into camps where they barely survive and uses those non-citizens as cannon fodder for its war. Akito himself is an unbelievably talented mecha pilot, and has a bit of a death wish.

Our actual protagonist here is Commander Leila Malcal, who leads his unit. Because we can't have an EU character who isn't a jerkass, she's actually adopted from a disgraced Brittanian family. She's a tactical genius, sympathetic to the Japanese plight and all-around awesome ; her main flaw seems to be a tendency to avoid confrontation until it's a bit too late (she lets another commander nearly botch the opening mission and get about her whole squad slaughtered before she takes the initiative to have him removed ; and then there's the issues with her adoptive brothers...).

We also meet a group of Japanese gunrunners/terrorists who are very angry indeed. Predictably, Leila recruits them after they try kidnapping her mentor figure for ransom.

Our top villain for the overarching story seems to be Shin Hyuuga Shaing, who takes over the closest Brittanian outpost by the episode's end. That he shares a last name with Akito is probably significant. To make things worse, he's got exactly the same Geass as Lelouch, which feels very strange to me (didn't every Geass user in the original series have a completely different power ?).

None of the characters from the main series have shown up so far, although the next episode preview already promises appearances by C.C. and Suzaku. From what I vaguely remember of the original plot, there's a strong possibility of the latter slaughtering everyone at the end (which would explain why none of those new characters have any impact on R2).

Production Values

This doesn't deviate much from the Code Geass aesthetics : noodle people, and baroque costumes.

The one big departure is for the mecha fight scenes : they're fully CG animated now. They might have been rendered a bit too dark, but the animation is a thing of beauty, making the OVA worth watching on its own. Akito's spider-mecha is dancing around at high speed, with a level of detail to every single movement that forces the admiration ; the camera's wild movements and the spastic jazz soundtrack make it even more dynamic and enthralling.

(And as logic made me wonder why we didn't see any of this fantastic mecha action in R2, I remembered that most of mecha combat has gone airborne by then, making such ground combat obsolete.)

Overall Impression

A lot here depends on how much time you have for Code Geass's glorious dumbness and awkward Japanese nationalism. If you didn't enjoy the ride then, there's little chance you'll appreciate this, as it's pretty much in the same vein.

The big question mark on this OVA series was that, well, it focuses on the part of the setting nobody cared about the first time around, and doesn't feature Lelouch at all (as his charisma held the original show together). The good news is that it does work and feels like a worthwhile addition to the story, instead of just a random cash grab (hello, Nunnally in Wonderland !).

I'm definitely on board for whenever the next instalment comes out.
 

ru

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From the New World (Shinsekai Yori)
that was rather good. I like the "1000 years in the future" part of the setting. Creepy, as you say - I wonder if it's going to go Ten Little Indians on us. I'm more interested in the folkloric elements like the monster cats, though.

anyway, an auspicious start to the season.
 

MadMac

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Always nice to get a good show out the gate. (I haven't watched it yet, since Crunchyroll moved the air date to Tuesday for whatever reason.)

I'm feeling unusually optimistic this season. There's a lot of shows that at least look like they at least have potential to be good.
 

Jhiday

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(I haven't watched it yet, since Crunchyroll moved the air date to Tuesday for whatever reason.)
There's a clear reason for this : the show does air on its main network on Tuesdays. It's just that that network's premium satellite channel gets to air in 5 days early.
I can appreciate delaying the Crunchyroll air date until most of the Japanese audience can actually watch the show.
 

Fabius Maximus

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From the new world looks very nice. I also like the idea that it's not going for the old "they have powers and we must kill them" but the idea that you really have to know how to control these powers, and if you can't they'll kill you because the alternative is a bunch of teen age Akiras.

the lack of technology is interesting-- but if everyone has metnal powers, even at a lower level, a lot of tech might no longer be needed.
 

ru

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From the new world looks very nice. I also like the idea that it's not going for the old "they have powers and we must kill them" but the idea that you really have to know how to control these powers, and if you can't they'll kill you because the alternative is a bunch of teen age Akiras.
it's notable that all the exercises they were doing were about fine control..

the lack of technology is interesting-- but if everyone has metnal powers, even at a lower level, a lot of tech might no longer be needed.
i was briefly confused by the writing appearing on blackboard, until I realised that is was the same sand-painting thing they were doing later. I can't recall whether they had electric light.. but they must have some technology to broadcast Traumerei across the village.
 

Jhiday

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My Little Monster (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun)
(13ish episodes ?)

What's it about ?

Standard shoujo romance : a girl falls for the angry good-looking bad boy. After all, he stalks her, threatens to rape her, kisses her forcefully and casually backhands her, injuring her in the process ; this must be love, right ?

Characters

Shizuku, our protagonist. She's very, very cold and misanthropic, and has no friends whatsoever, chosing instead to focus on her studying. I like her and her dry, cynical attitude (although she'd probably very annoying in real life). One day, she's tasked with delivering transcripts to the recently-kinda-suspended...

Haru, our male lead. While he's very violent, he's not that bad a guy ; he's just very awkward around people, has no sense of his own strength, and very little social knowledge. He likes Shizuku because she's the only person who's not afraid to look him in the eye, doesn't exploit him (unlike that pack of "friends" that hangs around him early on), and just straight up tells him what's what when she's fed up with his haphazard behaviour.

What with some of the OP imagery and Haru's body language, I'm starting to wonder whether the title might not be a metaphor (although this episode's coy on the subject so far).

Production Values

Brain's Base bring in their usual baseline of quality, although this is in their lower range. Most of the budget here seems to be spent on the body language, making sure that the lead characters are always doing something quirky or a weird face in every single shot.

What did I think of it ?

Ignore my generic annoyance at the usual shoujo romance tropes in my first paragraph (although all of those things do happen over the course of the episode) ; this is actually a very fun romantic comedy, with perfect comedic timing and hilarious sight gags and dialogue. The two leads have tons of charisma and chemistry, and are a delight to watch interacting. This is very much played for laughs, which makes the shoujo clichés more palatable.

It reminds me somewhat of KareKano ; while it's nowhere that good a show, there are worse models to follow after.

A pleasant surprise, setting a high bar for the other shoujo romance shows also airing this season.
 

ru

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My Little Monster (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun)
this was a surprisingly hilarious first episode, but I don't know how long it'll keep it up.

I like Shizuku - it helps that her character design reminds me a lot of Maka from Soul Eater. Her VA does a good turn as well.

Not so sure about Haru - he seems too naive to be believable. Sure, we're seen awkward short tempered characters, but he takes it to the point where i found myself wondering if he was meant to be mentally handicapped.

Brain's Base bring in their usual baseline of quality, although this is in their lower range. Most of the budget here seems to be spent on the body language, making sure that the lead characters are always doing something quirky or a weird face in every single shot.
yeah, I noticed that too. The little looks and reaction shots are really well animated, making the characters very expressive. I actually like the slightly old-fashioned/unaccentuated look of the animation in general; gives the series a slightly more grounded feel to it.
 

MadMac

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I had zero expectations for My Little Monster, (Didn't even remember it was on the list.) making this quite the nice little surprise. Keeping up the energy and humor of the first episode is a high bar to clear but this is definitely on my watch list for now.
 
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