[In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2013

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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And now for the leftovers from last night...

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Unbreakable Machine Doll (Kikou Shoujo wa Kizutsukanai)
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Steampunk light novel trash.

Characters

Raishin, our generic grim-faced protagonist, who joins the Machine-Doll Academy for REVENGE! (It's not quite explained yet revenge against whom, or why.) He hopes that winning the Machine-Doll Fighting Tournament will be the first step towards this ; unfortunately, he scores second-last among the thousands of test-takers, and only the Top 100 can enter the Tournament. Fortunately, his teacher/guidance advisor informs him of a loophole : if you beat one of the 100, you can take his place.

Yaya, his Machine-Doll, is very annoying indeed. She's ultra-clingy and keeps trying to get into his pants, despite him showing no such interest (I presume she's mechanical, after all). On the other hand, she's very powerful, if the opening action setpiece (stopping a runaway train) is any indication.

Shouko, Yaya's creator, stayed back home : she's mentionned, but not seen.

Charlotte is the kind of Alpha Bitch you always see in stories like this. Her doll is a dragon voiced by Jouji Nakata, of all things. Our "hero" targets her to take her place... until she's ambushed by a bunch of other guys who had the same idea first.

Production Values

Well, at least it does look quite good.

Overall Impression

Sigh. I don't want to use the "light novel trash" label too lightly, but this really deserves it. Contrived setup that gives the protagonist a devoted girl without any effort of his own ? Check. Angsty male lead with Nice Guy tendancies ? Check. Generic technomagic setting that barely hides the standard tournament arc ? Check.

A less jaded viewer might find something of interest here ; after all, it does look quite pretty. But I won't bother.

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Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta
(13 episodes)

What's it about ?

Yet another urban fantasy story, but at least it's more of an ensemble piece than usual.

This seems to be either a remake or a prequel for the original Yozakura Quartet series (that I haven't seen) ; that allows it to narrowly bypass my usual "no sequels" rule.

Characters

Hime, who may or may not be the leader of this teenage group, and somehow holds the title of "Mayor" of this town (with beleaguered adult attendant in tow). So far, that mostly means being in charge of organizing this festival. She's a normal human being, although quite good with a quaterstaff.

Kotoha, on the other hand, is half-youkai. She's clearly the most powerful of the lot, as her voice can make any object materialize out of thin air. Also, she's voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro, and thus awesome.

Ao is a blue-haired catgirl with not-very reliable divination powers (not much good at giving a picture of a lost little girl's parents). On the other hand, she's quite adept at jumping around all other.

Akina is the one dude in their group, and claims to be a normal human (I have no clue whether the light show he can put out is all trickery or actual powers). He's manning the lost kids desk for the festival.

The plot involves a mysterious guy wreaking havoc on the festival by... making the goldfish gigantic. Apparently it's a test to take the measure of our heroes.

Production Values

Not too flashy, but with some meticulous care for body language. Cool eyecatches, too.

Overall Impression

The immediate question : does this stand on its own, or is it impenetrable for the newbie ? The good news : it works quite well at establishing the characters, even if I'm a bit hazy about what the actual premise is (besides there being this town where humans and youkai coexist happily). And there's a very good twist after the credits.

I'm starting to have some sleep issues by now (marathoning these reviews is taking its toll), and this is one of the shows suffering from it. But I can clearly recognize it's well-put together and deserves more of my time.
 

ru

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Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta
I remembered why this series never quite gelled for me - the bad guy is incredibly tiresome. It took me a while to get used to the new animation, but actually I think the slightly looser style suits it well.
 

s/LaSH

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I'm rather taken with Arpeggio Of Blue Steel. You can kinda tell that you're looking at CG character models some of the time, but they seem to have cracked making good-looking cloth and hair in a drawing-mimicry style (not the same thing as physically accurate dynamic cloth and hair, let me tell you), and it lets them do really nice consistent lighting.

And that's just part of general excellent use of colour. This isn't a show where the sea is blue and ships are gray. OK, the ships are gray, but depending on the time of day the light and the sky change, and you can easily tell which are the human ships because they're not covered with freaky hypertech tattoos.

Oh, and I do believe that all the humans blink periodically. Which is a very nice touch when compared to the... others. The artificial look of CG isn't a drawback if you're actually doing artificial characters.
 

Rabbit

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I couldn't become a hero, so I reluctantly decided to get a job (Yuusha ni Narenakatta Ore wa Shibushibu Shuushoku wo Ketsui Shimashita)
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Oh, a Devil is a Part-Timer clone !

Characters

Raul, our protagonist. He used to be the swordsman leader of a team of wannabe heroes on their way to defeat the forces of evil... but then the Demon Lord got beaten by someone else, the country cancelled their whole hero project because of budget cuts (it's not like they needed it anymore), and thus he had to find a new career in retail. It's not quite working out, despite his best efforts.

Nova's boobs and crotch assist him (clumsily) in his job. I'm not quite sure whether they're the same characters as the boobs and crotch of the other fighter on his team in the prologue, but the camera spends as much attention on them.

Firo is an antagonistic kid who shows up one day and demands to be hired (and, being homeless, a place to stay). Despite being the heir of the Demon Lord. Incredibly, the manager accepts, to Raul's bemusement. Cue the usual "fish out of water" jokes. Eventually Raul and Firo find some common ground, what with being relics of a war nobody cares for anymore ; by the episode's end, they're more or less friends. (Also, you can see the "twist" coming from a mile away.)

Production Values

It's almost rythmical : Boobs, crotch, ass. Boobs, crotch, ass. Repeat ad nauseum. Otherwise, it's just about average-looking.
What's interesting is that this plays out how you imagined "Devil is a Part Timer" would, ie the demon girl acts in a demon way, especially the evil laugh and the scene where she is being taught to serve customers. Of course "Devil..." actually had Maou play things straight and just be an outstanding employee but when I first heard the premise it was this kind of antics I imagined.

Damn the boob shots are distracting. A pity because I think this has the potential to be a good show.
 

Wolfwood2

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What's interesting is that this plays out how you imagined "Devil is a Part Timer" would, ie the demon girl acts in a demon way, especially the evil laugh and the scene where she is being taught to serve customers. Of course "Devil..." actually had Maou play things straight and just be an outstanding employee but when I first heard the premise it was this kind of antics I imagined.
You know what I couldn't stop thinking about once the show set up its premise?

The government of this fantasy world trained a bunch of people to be invincible killing machines and then told them they were redundant and cut them loose. They're damn lucky that a bunch of the heroes-in-training didn't look around and decide that if they couldn't get the glory of beating the demon lord, they ought to replace him.

I imagine after a year of retail hell, finding a way to profit from your highly trained ability to kill anything that moves would start to seem real attractive.
 

Kurotowa

Weird Science Nut
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I imagine after a year of retail hell, finding a way to profit from your highly trained ability to kill anything that moves would start to seem real attractive.
That's because you're looking at it from a logical world-building perspective. Instead it's being used as a fantasy allegory for young people coming out of college with a Liberal Arts degree that can't find a job better than burger flipping or retail monkey. Well, that or whatever the Japanese equivalent is to the uselessly decorative college degree.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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BlazBlue: Alter Memory
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Fighting game adaptation.

Characters

Ragna the Bloodedge is probably our protagonist. He's a grim guy with an enormous sword who fights people like him. There's every indication he's been at it for a while, killing the same people repeatedly in an unbreakable cycle. There's a bounty on him.

Noel Vermillion is part of the police force or whatever who are tasked with hunting him down. Her boss has actually instructed her to stay out of it while he does the actual footwork ; since he takes a bloody beating over the course of the episode, she feels free to take over the investigation.

There's a green-haired guy who seems to take great delight in watching all this happen, and manipulating people. Sometimes he floats upside down.

Production Values

You know a show has run out of money when the OP sequence clumsily recycles many shots from the action prologue you've just watched. The ED sequence is barely animated at all, but at least it's a bit stylish. Which is more than you can say about the rest of the show, which looks like shit.

Overall Impression

Excuse me if I fail to summon any enthusiasm describing this crap. It's hard to give a toss about a token plot that's just an excuse to show some fights... which aren't worth your time watching them anyway.

I barely could withstand an episode of this ; no way I stick with it.

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Tokyo Ravens
(24 episodes)

What's it about ?

Oh, look, another rural fantasy show !

Characters

Harutora, our protagonist. He's part of a branch of a powerful mage family, but doesn't feel he's talented enough to undergo mage training. He'd rather stay in this little town with his "normal" friends forever.

Said friends include Touji, the usual perverted best friend ; and Hokuto, his tomboyish not-girlfriend, who's really pushing for him to become a mage.

Natsume, his cousin, is the actual heir of the family, and poised to become the super-mage. They're still somewhat on good terms, but have grown apart, especially as she usually lives in Tokyo. Harutora assumes she's in town because it's summer vacation, but that may not be the whole story.

Suzuka, a girl who shows up out of nowhere, looking for Natsume for nefarious purposes. She's a big deal enough for a bunch of MIB to try and contain her as soon as she shows up ; she makes short work of them. After the initial confusion where she mistakes Harutora for Natsume, she leaves him with a message for her. And forcefully kisses him in front of Hokuto, just for kicks.

Production Values

That's some very clunky CG for Suzuka's summon, and the MIB's black vans. But overall, this isn't half-bad looking, if a bit generic.

Overall Impression

I don't know. There's nothing particularly wrong with any of this : it's decently paced, it introduces the characters and the main conflict well, and overall it's perfectly competent.

But it doesn't quite grab me ; it's not a genre I have that much time for, and it doesn't do anything particularly new or fun with it. And I don't feel like signing up for six months of it. It's a busy season where I need to make choices among the many "not loving it" shows, and this one doesn't make the cut for me.
 
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