[In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2015

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#32
Isn't this series meant to be a spin-off rather than a sequel? I can't say for sure as I haven't seen either one, but I think I recall reading that somewhere.
Uh, so it is. I was utterly unimpressed by the first anime series, so I hadn't been paying attention to the franchise. But if this is an Index/Railgun-type situation, and it removes the super-irritating original protagonist from the board, then I may give it a look. Well, as soon as it gets available ; Funimation grabbed the rights but doesn't seem to have started streaming it yet.

Gratuitous teaser for the next set of reviews : of the three Wednesday shows I watched last night, the one I enjoyed most was quite unexpected.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#33
Dance with Devils
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Ah, the standard romance show with a heroine surrounded by creepy and devilish-looking handsome boys. Except this isn't a shoujo manga or visual novel adaptation but an original project. And a musical.

Characters

Ritsuka, our protagonist, is your ordinary, slightly naive high school girl. She lives alone with her writer/translator mother, as her older brother is busy being ordained in England. If that last bit wasn't already eyebrow-raising, then there's the whole deal with her Mom being very insistant she wear a fresh new talisman every week. Considering it saves her bacon twice this episode, that sounds like a reasonable precaution.

One day she's suddenly summoned by the Student Council, a quartet of creepy boys of various strikes. There were rumours she had broken some school rule, but they refuse to be more precise. Since her talisman prevents them from doing anything too nefarious, she's just dumbfounded at this group of jerks and their unfounded accusations.

As she comes back home that evening, she sees a bunch of hooded thugs ransacking the place, and her mother motioning her to stay away. Of course, by the time she comes back with the police, everything is back to normal (aside from her mother being mysteriously absent), and they don't believe her. As a perfectly sensible precaution, she decides to stay the night at one of her friends. However, than plan is hijacked by...

Rem, jerk student council president, who "rescues" her from the thugs attacking her again and... wait, did he just incinerate two of them while she wasn't looking ? Anyway, he escorts her back to his mansion, supposedly for her own safety. He claims the student council are investigating a circle of devil worshippers at school, and initially mistook her for one of them... but I have a hard time taking anything he says at face value.

Production Values

As mentioned above, this is a musical. It opens with a glorious villain song featuring an evil Greek chorus being ominous as crap, goes on with Ritsuka going to school like she's a Disney princess under the cherry trees, and also has the student council being introduced as super-creepy in their library den. It's thus slightly disappointing that there's so much plot setup that we don't see anymore of those musical numbers in the second half of the episode. Hopeful the next episodes will balance them better, as they're gorgeous-looking and the clear highlight of the show, both musically and visually. (Though the rest of the show looks quite good too.)

Overall Impression

From previous reviews, you may have notice I have very little time for this genre, especially if the numerous prettyboys aren't particularly distinctive. But this pulls of the stops to get me onboard with a series of glorious musical numbers that are so over-the-top they're incredibly charming. Which is a feat, for a series about rapey boys.

I'm less sold about the actual plot and characters (although I have seen much worse heroines than Ritsuka), but if the show can keep the musical numbers as impressive as this opener, then, to my complete surprise, I'm in.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#34
Wow, I've really fallen behind, haven't I ?

I'll try and round up the shorts tomorrow ; for now, let's have a belated look at the 5 main shows I had left on my plate.




A Corpse is Buried Under Sakurako's Feet. (Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru)
(12ish episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a mystery light novel series.

Characters

Sakurako is a woman obsessed with bones. It comes from family, but she's taken it to a whole new level, taking a hobby of digging them out wherever it takes her fancy. She's certainly affluent enough to do it just about all the time. She has no people skill ; but what she lacks in common sense she makes up for with a very keen detective mind (especially if the mysteries involve skeletons). But while she's delightful to see barge in and annoy people, she's saddled with...

Shoutarou, a generic high school dude. Who's not so much boring as an complete buzzkill. His only purpose is to be annoyed or creeped out when Sakurako does interesting stuff. Well, that and presumably as an audience-standin figure, but he's such an ass about disabling the heroine that I end up rensenting him being there. There's no explanation whatsoever for why the two of them hang out together (it's a story left for later), and there's a relative lack of chemistry between them. Heck, they don't seem to be romantically involved at all... Which, given the age difference, I'm thankful for at least.

Production Values

Very, very pretty, with tons of scenery porn. TROYCA are a very new studio (their only other series of note is the co-production of Aldnoah.Zero), but they certainly aren't lacking budget here.

Overall Impression

Oh, dear. I love mystery shows, and Sakurako's excentricities are a lot of fun to watch. So why partner her with the worst Watson figure ever ? I get that some degree of contrast between them is required, but he's so persistently annoying that he nearly entirely kills the show for me by his lonesome.

I'm giving this a second episode against my better judgement because of the genre, but it'd better shape up soon.

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Everything Becomes F : The Perfect Insider (Subete ga F ni Naru)
(noitaminA, 11 episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a 1996 mystery novel. It has already been adapted in manga, visual novel and live-action drama formats ; so next is the prestige noitaminA anime series.

Characters

Moe, our protagonist, looks at first like an ordinary college student ; somewhat brattish and superficial. But over the course of the episode, it becomes clear that she's got more depth than that ; she's quite clever, inquisitive, and is quick to catch on. Also, her family is connected enough to help the plot along.

Saikawa, the teacher overseeing her circle and thesis, tries to remain as stonefaced as possible while shutting down her attempts to be too friendly. (The question whether she means any of it remains open at this point.) Most of the episode happens in his office. Anyway, he's investigating for research purposes a bizarre murder case...

Shiki, a teenage genius, was accused of having killed her parents a few years ago. Because of her claims a doll did it, she was declared non compos mentis, after which she vanished. It seems that all this time she's been holed up in a lab on a remote island ; Moe managed to snag an interview with her (on Saikawa's behalf) that we see in flashback.

Hey, let's hold the circle's vacation on that island ! It'll be fun, they may learn more, and nothing wrong can happen !

Production Values

Hum. This is the kind of serious show that is intent on spending many minutes with Moe doing very mundane stuff before anything of significance happens, as proof that it's adapting Serious Literature. Which feels like a mistake, as the attention to detail regarding Moe's body language shines much more when she gets to interact with other people.

Also, awesome visuals for the OP sequence.

Overall Impression

A mystery show on noitaminA ? It'd have to be a complete trainwreck for me to skip it.

And, well, it starts off very pretentious indeed ; but it all comes into focus when the flashback interview with Shiki comes into play. She's an eerie presence, and Moe's uncanny cheerfulness in contrast raises many questions (especially as we learn more about the backstory).

I'm quite interested in seeing where this is going.

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I Was Abducted by an Elite All-Girls School as a Sample Commoner (Ore ga Ojousama Gakkou ni "Shomin Sample" Toshite Gets♥Sareta Ken)
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a light novel series about... well, that's the nice thing about the premise being laid out in an awfully long title.

Characters

Kimito, our protagonist, is a completely ordinary high school student. One day, he's suddenly abducted by a bunch of MIBs, who turn out to be the agents of a secret and elite academy for super-rich girls. The principal lays out their conundrums : the academy's alumni are so sheltered that they don't resist contact with the real world, and become agoraphobic shut-ins. So the idea is now to gently break the students in by having them interact with the one guy carefully selected by the staff. And just to be on the safe side, they got a gay dude.

... Which is news to Kimito ; it seems his childhood friend trolled the MIBs while they were researching him. But given the alternatives (with the distinct threat of castration), he's not going to protest his heterosexuality too much.

Reiko, as class representative of the first-year class Kimito is now attending, helps out a bit to prevent him getting mobbed in. She's just as sheltered and naive as the lot of them, though.

Aika is another girl he runs into (cue accidental groping, because of course). She's even more proactive about learning "commoner" stuff from him, as she sees it as the panacea to her socialization troubles. And hey, the two of them already have decent chemistry as friends within a few minutes.

Production Values

Okay enough, I guess. And just about as much fanservice as you'd expect from the premise.

Overall Impression

Urgh. Some of the individual bits are okay enough, and it goes out of its way to avoid the common ojou-sama stereotypes, but there's not getting around the fact that the latent homophobia inherent to the premise and much of the gags really, really bugs me. And that's a complete deal-breaker for me.

I'm out.

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AntiMagic Academy 35th Test Platoon (Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai)
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Oh goody : this is the third light novel adaptation about teenagers in magical high school this season. Third time's the charm ?

Characters

Uh, the AntiMagic Academy is a more interesting setting than most of its ilk : it's an explicit military training facility, preparing the next generation of witch-hunting inquisitors. Students are divided into Platoons, who go onto proper field missions all the time.

Takeru, our male lead, heads the titular 35th Test Platoon. They're known as complete screw-ups who keep idling around instead of performing their missions. His laid-back leadership may be part of the issue... or maybe it's the only way to handle such a rag-tag of misfits.

Usagi, the sniper, always gets distracted and can't aim for crap. Suginami, the mission control, spends more time teasing them than actually giving them intelligence. (And her hacking always gives them more trouble than it's worth.) Also, they're kinda lacking a proper heavy hitter.

Enter Ouka. Who used to be a proper graduated inquisitor, but got sent back to training after she turned out to be way too intense and lethal on her missions. The academy make a point of assigning her to the 35th Test Platoon ; she doesn't get it, and keeps soloing everything anyway. While she is very good at witch-hunting, she's way too vicious about it, and it leads to an immediate clash with her "teammates".

Production Values

You can always count on studio Silver Link to make a show look better than average ; not so much with the animation than with the colour design.

Overall Impression

This is a complete shock : I actually quite liked this. WHY ? Let's take a review :
- Making the setting explicitly military-based shifts the plot beats to something more palatable. There's virtually none of the standard high school tropes at play here. Even the "competition" between platoons (with explicit points) is framed around real-world missions that give a clear indication of what the academy is grooming its trainees for. (Instead of generic tournaments with no obvious purpose but having super-powered teenagers let off steam.)
- We come to a nearly fully-formed cast. Instead of "Here's our male lead encountering a bunch of potential haremettes in quick succession", it's "here's our fight unit, which happens to have one dude and three girls". The one dude feels a lot less special and singled out by the narrative. Focusing the episode on only those four and the bare minimum of supporting cast also helps out.
- It's quite fast-paced. In one episode, we get the whole cast introduced, two missions, already some character development, and foreshadowing for the antagonists. As it turns out, cutting down on the cliché fluff and being mercifully light on techno-babble leaves out a lot of room for actual stuff to happen.
- There's a lot of good casting. Yoshimasa Hosoya is a very interesting choice for the male lead, as his baseline is "angry dude". Takeru is way more nice than his average, but there's still a heavy subtext of barely-contained anger to his interpretation. Which gives him an edge over most of his type. Also, having Ryoko Shiraishi and Rumi Ookubo for the comedy sidekicks is always a boon, as they know their stuff.
- Nobody's a princess.

None of this is rocket science ; and it's not like this is a great show by any regards. (For one, it still has a "dude falls onto the tsundere's breasts" gag.) But it's all little touches that make it a show that I'm actually mildly interested in following, instead of just wanting to strangle the writers for their laziness.

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Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Wait, you thought you could have an anime season without the gratuitous fanservice-ladden boobfest ?

There are a couple of upcoming videogames tying in with this, but with different narrative focus ; this is basically its own thing.

Characters

Tokonome was an ordinary girl with merely an unfortunate surname (it can also be read as "Virgin") until she got snatched by MIBs and stranded on a mysterious island where people keep attacking her. Or assaulting her.

It quickly becomes clear that the place is a gathering place/academy for super-powered girls. Half of them are "Exsters", who turn into weapons when aroused ; and the others are Liberators, who do the arousing and can wield them. And they gang up on the newbie as a way to test her strength.

This is actually way more organized than it sounds ; the women supervising the whole island set up the whole thing, and there's even betting between the numerous bystanders over who will win.

A Mysterious Girl shows up just after our heroine (wait, were they all sent by missiles ?), and they quickly partner up. Unlike Tokonome, she actually has a clue about their abilities and what's going on ; she forces Tokonome to transform so that they can handle the S-M duo sent against them. Also, she's so stoic and silent that her finally actually speaking in the last scene of the episode is quite the shock.

Production Values

Of course it's studio Arms at the wheel ; and this is even more softcore-porny than their average, with exposed boobies, clothing damage that barely covers the crotch, and onscreen lesbian sex. Also, nobody seems to be wearing a bra.

Overall Impression

On the one hand, props to the writers for putting a bit of thought to their excuse plot, which is way more elaborate than necessary. On the other hand, this is still crap, with annoying main characters, even more annoying antagonists, and a deep sense of unease throughout that makes this feel very unarousing indeed.

One episode was well enough, thank you.
 

Quasar

Feeling kinda smurfy
Validated User
#35
I Was Abducted by an Elite All-Girls School as a Sample Commoner (Ore ga Ojousama Gakkou ni "Shomin Sample" Toshite Gets♥Sareta Ken)
(12 episodes)

Overall Impression

Urgh. Some of the individual bits are okay enough, and it goes out of its way to avoid the common ojou-sama stereotypes, but there's not getting around the fact that the latent homophobia inherent to the premise and much of the gags really, really bugs me. And that's a complete deal-breaker for me.

I'm out.

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I wonder about that. I read a chunk of the manga version and after the initial setup the homo jokes disappeared pretty much. Somehow I suspect that won't be true of the anime.
 
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