[In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2015

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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It's nearly October, 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 five years without burning out, so let's push our luck.

As usual, note that I shall be skipping :
- Most sequel and continuation series, and there's a good number of them this season. This means no full-length reviews of Owarimonogatari, Noragami Aragato or Haikyu 2, 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). However, I do plan on covering spin-offs that look distinctive or noteworthy enough, which should include the likes of Young Black Jack, Attack on Titan - Junior High, or the latest Gundam iteration.
- The few kids' show and shorts I just can't get any access to. (However, I WILL be reviewing any kids' show and short 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, so no dice for them either.
- Also, most short programs will probably get abbreviated reviews, as there's rarely much to talk about.


Fall seasons are usually quite heavy, but due to the big number of sequels there should be only around 21 "new" series for me to cover (+ 7 shorts) over the next ten days or so. Which should be plenty enough for every taste, really.


If you're interested in reading my past reviews, there's my archive website collecting all of them in an easily-searchable format.

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One Punch Man
(?? episodes)

What's it about ?

Offbeat superheroing, adapted from a very popular shonen manga series.

Characters

This episode is wholly devoted to selling the concept of One Punch Man, our protagonist. He lives in a world where supervillains (and subterranean species, and the Earth's immune system, and...) keep sprouting up and wrecking shit up. There are a number of superheroes in activity to stand up to all of those, and our hero is one of the latest.

We're shown a flashback to his "origin story" three years ago, and it's (purposefully) less than impressive. Random nobody stands up to a crab supervillain to save a kid, discovers he'd actually like to pursue his childhood dreams of fighting evil, goes and trains offscreen so hard he loses his hair, the end. That's it, and it drives the point home that the story doesn't care about the how and why One Punch Man exists.

His gimmick, as the name indicates, is that he can beat any kind of opponent in one punch. (He also has enough resilience to withstand being thrown around a bit before getting a good shot.) And if you think that'd make for boring fight scenes... Well, so does he. It's all about his existential crisis as he mows down no less than five different baddies over the course of the episode. The only time that looks like he's breaking a sweat (because there are several baddies to punch), it's actually a dream sequence articulating his anxieties.

The only other regular-looking character shows up wordlessly, looking at some dead cattle, in the last 30 seconds. Presumably he's going to actually do something next episode.

Production Values

A preview of this first episode aired on NicoNico a bit ago, so I saw this in eyebleed-o-vision and no OP/ED sequences. It looks okay enough ; the direction has good comedic timing and sells the scale of the threats (or the absence thereof) very well. It's also got a good grasp of body language... or the absence thereof, in the case of One Punch Man himself.

Overall Impression

Well, it's a decent joke that's well-executed. The big question is whether it has legs ; won't the "One Punch" thing get old really quickly ? This is a show in a dire need of a regular supporting cast to add some depth to the premise. I presume that's what the second episode's going to tackle,n of course ; and the manga has been going on for long enough that I presume the author knows what he's doing. (I certainly hope he never runs out of really silly supervillains.)

Still, this is a bit of a "wait and see" show ; it's going to need to be funnier than this pilot for me to stick with it.

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Also deserving a mention is Lupin III: L'avventura Italiana, the first new proper Lupin III TV series in ages. As it turns out, the franchise has been very popular in the Italian market, so why not make a new series that's actually set there for maximum pandering ? (It's already been airing over there for the last couple of months.)

This is actually better than it sounds, since Lupin III's shtick involves globe-trotting as a matter of course anyway. I thus have no issue whatsoever for his gang to show up in Italy for a random caper, and then stick around there for a while. The token new Italian semi-regular character does bring some added spice into the well-worn character dynamics, too.

This is the point where I have to admit I haven't watched much Lupin III at all ; it got big well before my time and I've always found the franchise's sheer size a bit intimidating. I do plan on checking out the highlights such as Castle of Cagliostro in due time, but so far my exposure is mostly limited to The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, which was very atypical indeed.

This series is a much more conventional entry point, with pleasant kid-friendly adventures that have enough of an edge to entertain adults too. And heck, I'm a sucker for heist shows anyway, so I have every reason to watch this. (Miyuki Sawashiro voicing a very delicious Fujiko is the cherry on the cake.)
 

MadMac

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Well, it's a decent joke that's well-executed. The big question is whether it has legs ; won't the "One Punch" thing get old really quickly ? This is a show in a dire need of a regular supporting cast to add some depth to the premise. I presume that's what the second episode's going to tackle,n of course ; and the manga has been going on for long enough that I presume the author knows what he's doing. (I certainly hope he never runs out of really silly supervillains.)
Being familiar with the manga, I think you'll be impressed with it's longevity. And no, there's no lack of a supporting cast, I'd say that's one of the strong points, actually.
 

Cannonball

So bouncy!
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Being familiar with the manga, I think you'll be impressed with it's longevity. And no, there's no lack of a supporting cast, I'd say that's one of the strong points, actually.
Aye! To put OPM into perspective, the manga was deemed so good that a second mangaka (Yusuke Murata - of Eyeshield 21 fame) was brought in later to redraw the entire series. Just so it could be published in Jump.
 
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Jhiday

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Lance N' Masques
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Dashing knights ! (Adapted from a light novel series.)

Characters

Yotaro, our teenage protagonist, has been trained since childhood to become a knight, as part of the order of the Knights of the World, a peacekeeping organization who have their own island country. He'd actually like to live a normal life, but that's not easy when his body feels compelled to white-knighting whenever girls around him are in any kind of trouble. Girls his own age find this a bit creepy, really. (The goofy mask and the huge lance he carries around don't help.)

Makio, on the other hand, is 6 years old, and thus finds "Knight Lancer" awesome. She hasn't twigged that her hero is the same person as the more ordinary-looking Yotaro, but that doesn't prevent her from inviting the latter home when she learns he's hungry. Said home is super-huge, has a number of maids on the payroll, and is inhabited exclusively by Makio. (Mom is dead, Dad rarely comes.)

Yuifa, the maid closest to Makio (despite strict orders from Dad not to get too close), is of course suspicious of this boy more than twice her age she's brought back home. You can't blame her for being a bit overprotective, especially as gangsters barge in later on to try and kidnap her charge. (They're defeated by the Knight Lancer, of course.)

Looking for Yotaro are his quirky entourage : a cranky girl, a snarky horse-girl, and a stern maid. Sure, whatever. They find him at the end of the episode.

Production Values

I'm not fond of the character designs, who all look very same-y and generic combined with the super-pastel colour palette, but there's a lot to like in the actual camera work. The proportions go wildly out of control in the action sequences (and Yotaro's lance in particular keeps changing sizes), but I'm pretty sure that's a stylistic choice. Especially with the nice sight gag of the huge third thug unfolding from behind the two others despite having no room to hide before that ; the direction knows how to play with this for maximum effect.

There's no notable fanservice, which is a relief given the lolicon potential. Even Makio being nude for a chunk of the OP sequence looks rather tasteful.

Overall Impression

Wait, that's it ? I kinda expected some hook to come in at some point, but nope. It's all about white-knighting, with one-note characters that range from the okay to the unbearable (Yotaro's entourage, urgh...). While it does have some self-awareness, it's still rather shallow, and I just can't bring myself to care. It's got style, I'll give it that, but not enough to overcome its innate blandness.

I'll pass.
 

Bremen

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Aye! To put OPM into perspective, the manga was deemed so good that a second mangaka (Yusuke Murata - of Eyeshield 21 fame) was brought in later to redraw the entire series. Just so it could be published in Jump.
Yeah. OPM is one of those concepts that really seems like it shouldn't work as anything but a one shot joke, except that it somehow manages to not only work, but shine. It's probably my favorite manga of the last few years, and has plenty of content for them to animate.
 

Evil Midnight Lurker

What Lurks at Midnight
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Yeah. OPM is one of those concepts that really seems like it shouldn't work as anything but a one shot joke, except that it somehow manages to not only work, but shine. It's probably my favorite manga of the last few years, and has plenty of content for them to animate.
And a lot of its action sequences should really shine when animated.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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And a lot of its action sequences should really shine when animated.
The anime series hasn't really shown its hand either way yet, but usually Madhouse are quite reliable on that front. We'll see.



Heavy Object
(24 episodes)

What's it about ?

Exposition, the anime ! Adapted from a light novel series, of course.

Okay, here's a quick summary of the premise : in the future, conventional weapons (and even nuclear missiles) have been rendered obsolete by the titular "Heavy Objects", ball-shaped mechas with impressive firepower and even more impressive shielding. So now wars have become skirmishes between Heavy Objects. This first episode goes into much more extraneous detail than that, but that's the gist of it.

Characters

Qwenthur (sic), our protagonist, is a mechanic student who's enlisted into a military outpost in the middle of nowhere, so as to study the Heavy Object stationed there. It's an old, non-specialized model, which is all the best for him to learn as much about the tech as possible. And then, PROFIT ! (He's very vague about how merely knowing how those things work will allow him to easily become an engineering tycoon. Surely the field is already crowded as heck ?)

The thing you quickly notice about Qwenthur is that he. never. shuts. up. Which is doubly bad, as he's also our narrator : even with his mouth closed, his inner monologue will drown the audience with tedious and clumsy exposition. I usually don't mind Natsuki Hanae, but by 3/4ths of the way through this episode I was yelling at the screen to just shut the -- up.

"The Princess" (who may have an actual name) is the Heavy Object's actual pilot. Supposedly super-elite and stuff, but she spends most of the episode idling around on standby, or taking a gratuitous shower to liven up Qwenthur's droning narration. (And of course additional material states she's 14. Urgh.)

Major Capistrano is the local commanding officer, at the grizzled old age of 18. She's actually coordinationg the operations of at least 4 other Heavy Objects, if her tablet display is any indication. Or maybe it's just a casual game/training program she plays ; she certainly looks horribly bored doing so.

The show makes it look like there are only five people total on the base (with Qwenthur's hardass boss at the mecha maintenance shop, and his best pal/rookie radio operator), despite the vague suggestion more soldiers are around.

Production Values

Well, the direction makes it darnedest to liven things up, with decent battle visuals for the Heavy Objects and some desperate fanservice scenes, and even the music swelling around to try and make it epic, but nothing can overcome the dreary exposition.

Overall Impression

Oh, dear. I came into this cautiously optimistic, as the same author's Index series led to a decently entertaining anime series... but gods, this is unengaging on every level. I'm used to screenwriter Hiroyuki Yoshino being widely inconsistent in his adaptations, but this is an unfortunate failure to weed down the inherent wordiness of the source material. The already rather flat characters become mere vessels for the exposition, what little humour filters through isn't particularly funny, and the script even goes out of its way to state that Heavy Object warfare just isn't very interesting period. Why should we care, then ?

Very disappointing, and I won't be bothering with any more episodes.

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Hacka Doll the Animation is a series of shorts adapting... a news phone app ? Seriously ? It's certainly not a ringing endorsement, as it stars a trio of bumbling AIs who completely fail to be of any use to their hapless owner. Which is actually mildly funny, all told, as they've got good comedic timing together. Very dumb, but entertaining enough for me to give it another episode. (After all, it's only 8 minutes a week.)


Oh, and Noragami is back ! It's still as stylish as ever (that god-tier Taku Iwasaki score !), although this episode spends a lot of time recapping the premise, the main characters, and the basics of the Hato/Bishamon feud which is apparently going to take center stage. But so far, so good.
 

Quasar

Feeling kinda smurfy
Validated User
Hacka Doll the Animation is a series of shorts adapting... a news phone app ? Seriously ? It's certainly not a ringing endorsement, as it stars a trio of bumbling AIs who completely fail to be of any use to their hapless owner. Which is actually mildly funny, all told, as they've got good comedic timing together. Very dumb, but entertaining enough for me to give it another episode. (After all, it's only 8 minutes a week.)
I do wonder how quickly it will run out of steam/get annoying. That joke can only go so far. At least for me.
 

Rainfall

Registered User
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Liked Heavy Object well enough...

Or rather I liked the general idea and the music. Commander Lady was also fun. Aside from that... Yeah.

The problem with it is rather simple:

SHOW. DON'T TELL. ANIME IS A VISUAL MEDIUM YOU DUMBASSES.
 
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