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[In Which I Review] New anime, Spring 2014

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
It's April, 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 three 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 ; so don't just dismiss the season as a wash because none of the first few shows are much good.

As usual, note that I shall be skipping :
- Most sequel and continuation series. This means no Mushishi, JoJo, Dragonball Kai or Fairy Tail, 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). I WILL however be covering spin-offs that look distinctive enough (such as Soul Eater Not!)... and probably Kindaichi Returns, as it's been long enough that I doubt anyone here has seen the original TV series, and it deserves the exposure.
- 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 Spring won't be on DVD/Blu-Ray for ages.

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



Majin Bone
(?? episodes)

What's it about ?

Generic kids' tokusatsu show, tying in with a card game.

Characters

Shogo, our generic teenage protagonist. His most prominent character trait is that he really likes reading his porn mags, because teenager. Aside from that, he's completely nondescript, for perfect audience identification.

He's got a decently-sized supporting cast, with a generic bossy father, a generic sarcastic older sister, a generic childhood friend who's obviously attracted to him, and her generic mother. Also, her generic dog.

The plot involves "meteorites" falling onto Earth, but those are actually baddies (?) in techsuits. One of them happens to fall in childhood friend's backyard, kicking off the plot : after touching it, Shogo is shocked to learn he can swap into a techsuit too !

There are three mysterious dudes hanging around in the margins, fighting some of meteorites when nobody's looking. They seem quite interested by Shogo becoming a potential ally.

Production Values

Quite good, overall. Unfortunately, while the action sequences are well-animated, the samey character designs for both sides of techsuits make it impossible for me to tell what's going on in them.

Overall Impression

BO-RING. It's an average Tuesday Morning Cartoon, and there's absolutely nothing to make it stand out from the pack. It's not particularly bad, but I can't see myself returning for a second episode. It's not like I had any enthusiasm for writing this review.

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selector infected WIXOSS
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Surprise ! It's another cardgame tie-in ! Except a lot more ambitious.

Characters

Ruuko, our teenage protagonist. She's the kind of introvert who has no friends besides her family circle. Obviously we can't have that, and it's quickly going to change.

Her grandma, for example, would be delighted for her to get some friends. She's way too nice to press the matter, though. I like her morbid sense of humour (that's quite the nasty punchline for Skyline Tetris), and it's easy to suspect she knows a lot more than she's telling.

Ruuko's older brother doesn't seem to be living with them, although he visits often. (Where are her parents, anyway ?) Cue standard sibling antics, as he's a bit of a slob. Out of nowhere, he gives her a starter deck for this new popular WIXOSS cardgame that even girls are into. Except it's not an ordinary deck.

Tama, Ruuko's avatar card, might be Augmented Reality pushed to far. Not only is the character in that small piece of cardboard somehow animated, but she's also talking. Admittedly, not very coherently. Also, only Ruuko can hear her. At least at first.

Yuzuki, one of her classmates, immediately zeroes on her the next day. See, there are only a limited number of players ("Selectors") with those special cards. If you win while battling each other, you get a wish to be granted. (Which sounds very dodgy to me already.) If you lose three times, you're out... and I'm not certain it's only the card who disappears. Anyway, she's sure the newbie is easy prey.

Kazuki, Yuzuki's twin brother, watches the match. Except he can't hear the cards (you have to be a Selector), nor see the very elaborate VR interface the two players are somehow immersed in, so that must be very boring. He compensates by providing some exposition about the rules, as he feels this match is a bit unfair to Ruuko. Not that he should bother, as Tama is somehow super-powerful. Yuzuki is lucky the match gets interrupted (and thus becomes a draw) by the schoolbell. Also, her tentative wish seems to involve being able to bone him, so, er, yeah.

There are various other Selector/card showcased in the OP sequence, so I'm sure we'll run into them eventually.

Production Values

Very good. If there's one thing this show does very well, it's atmosphere. There's a constant sense of dread, not helped by the creepy gory dreams Ruuko starts having after getting Tama. All the fantasy/VR/whatever sequences are gorgeous, if a bit dark.

Overall Impression

Well, that's a way to get me intrigued by a card-game show : have it drowning in murky paranoia. Oh, sure, there are still scenes designed to showcase how awesome the damn thing is, but it's easily compensated by the impression that it's all a trap and that this is going to end very badly for all involved. The usually super-cute Tama looking like a bloodthirsty berserker during battles compounds that feeling.

I'm seriously getting some Madoka flashbacks here. I doubt this is going to be anywhere as good, but there are worse aesthetics to ape.

Okay, show, I'm intrigued. Where the heck are you going with this ?
 

redwulf25_ci

Clown Pope of Wushu
Validated User
selector infected WIXOSS
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Surprise ! It's another cardgame tie-in ! Except a lot more ambitious.

Characters

Ruuko, our teenage protagonist. She's the kind of introvert who has no friends besides her family circle. Obviously we can't have that, and it's quickly going to change.

Her grandma, for example, would be delighted for her to get some friends. She's way too nice to press the matter, though. I like her morbid sense of humour (that's quite the nasty punchline for Skyline Tetris), and it's easy to suspect she knows a lot more than she's telling.

Ruuko's older brother doesn't seem to be living with them, although he visits often. (Where are her parents, anyway ?) Cue standard sibling antics, as he's a bit of a slob. Out of nowhere, he gives her a starter deck for this new popular WIXOSS cardgame that even girls are into. Except it's not an ordinary deck.

Tama, Ruuko's avatar card, might be Augmented Reality pushed to far. Not only is the character in that small piece of cardboard somehow animated, but she's also talking. Admittedly, not very coherently. Also, only Ruuko can hear her. At least at first.

Yuzuki, one of her classmates, immediately zeroes on her the next day. See, there are only a limited number of players ("Selectors") with those special cards. If you win while battling each other, you get a wish to be granted. (Which sounds very dodgy to me already.) If you lose three times, you're out... and I'm not certain it's only the card who disappears. Anyway, she's sure the newbie is easy prey.

Kazuki, Yuzuki's twin brother, watches the match. Except he can't hear the cards (you have to be a Selector), nor see the very elaborate VR interface the two players are somehow immersed in, so that must be very boring. He compensates by providing some exposition about the rules, as he feels this match is a bit unfair to Ruuko. Not that he should bother, as Tama is somehow super-powerful. Yuzuki is lucky the match gets interrupted (and thus becomes a draw) by the schoolbell. Also, her tentative wish seems to involve being able to bone him, so, er, yeah.

There are various other Selector/card showcased in the OP sequence, so I'm sure we'll run into them eventually.

Production Values

Very good. If there's one thing this show does very well, it's atmosphere. There's a constant sense of dread, not helped by the creepy gory dreams Ruuko starts having after getting Tama. All the fantasy/VR/whatever sequences are gorgeous, if a bit dark.

Overall Impression

Well, that's a way to get me intrigued by a card-game show : have it drowning in murky paranoia. Oh, sure, there are still scenes designed to showcase how awesome the damn thing is, but it's easily compensated by the impression that it's all a trap and that this is going to end very badly for all involved. The usually super-cute Tama looking like a bloodthirsty berserker during battles compounds that feeling.

I'm seriously getting some Madoka flashbacks here. I doubt this is going to be anywhere as good, but there are worse aesthetics to ape.

Okay, show, I'm intrigued. Where the heck are you going with this ?
Didn't realize this one was due out yet! Sounds like I was right to have it on my interest list.
 

MadMac

Registered User
Validated User
I'm suddenly morbidly curious to see how many card game themed shows can be crammed into one season. WIXOSS sounds slightly interesting but I think I'm going to hold off on until it's confirmed that it's actually going somewhere.
 

HDimagination

Building something out of Scrap
Validated User
Subbed. Been looking forward to the new season, as winter was pretty much a washout for me, which was frustrating after picking up and watching more anime last year than ever before.

Things I'm looking out for:

Knights of Sidona (Sidonia No Kishi)
The Irregular at Magic High School (Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei)
Fuun Ishin Dai Shogun
Break Blade
Atelier Escha & Logy ~Tasogare no Sora no Renkinjutsushi~ (although I only realized that this was an adaptation of the Atelier games, which I only know about from seeing them savaged on unskippable, after I read the premise and was intrigued. We'll see.)
Akuma no Riddle
 

Yo! Master

"Delicious"
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Yay (as always with these threads) :)

Now tell me what to watch this season!
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior (Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou)
(12ish episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a romantic comedy manga.

If you're wondering about the bizarrely elaborate official English title, it's probably an attempt to play off the pun in the original title (it literally means something like "We're all from the Kawai Lodging House", but it sounds a lot like "We're all pitiful").

Characters

Usa, our protagonist. He's looking to start his life anew with high school. (There are hints his middle school years were wild.) Hence why he moved to a new town, and begged his parents to let him live on his own. Finding a quiet and intellectual girl to settle down with would be nice, too.

Ritsu, a quiet and intellectual girl in the next grade. And she happens to live in the same lodging house he's just moved into ! Heaven ! Well, aside from the fact that she's not about to let him get into her personal space, and seems to have pegged him as a weirdo. But hey, room for progress, right ? Also, that kendo sword looks dangerous. (There's a fun joke explaining how she can seemingly pull it out of thin air.)

Sumiko, the elderly landlady of the lodging house, seems to fit the "nice but strict old lady" archetype... But that's at least partly an act, and she's more mischievous than she looks. There's a reason the rent is dirt cheap, after all.

Shirosaki, Usa's roommate, is part of that reason. He's more than a bit of a creep, although he's mostly harmless. (After all, he's openly a masochist. Sumiko quite enjoys playing along.) He's less annoying than I'd have thought, as he makes a good sounding board for Usa's own fetishes.

Mayumi, another of the residents. A working woman in her 20s, she comes back early from a trip after dumping her boyfriend for two-timing her. From everyone else's reactions, it's obviously not the first time this happens. She's an impressive drinker, which however does not mean she can hold her alcohol well.

There's mention of a college student also residing in Kawai Complex, but she's currently away. The OP & ED sequences suggest she often antagonizes Mayumi.

Production Values

Perfectly alright. There are some sudden abstract backgrounds & overlay text marking punchlines that initially made me think this was adapted from 4-panel manga, but apparently not.

Overall Impression

Well, that was fun. There's something to be said for run-of-the-mill romantic comedies : it doesn't set the world on fire, but it's very pleasant to watch. Nothing wrong with occupying that niche.

There's a good chance I'll keep watching this.

--------------

Blade & Soul
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a fantasy Korean MMORPG.

Characters

Alka, our taciturn protagonist. A member of the Blade clan, she's on the run for allegedly having killed her master. She doesn't spend much energy denying it. Impressively badass with knives.

The Whatever Empire are obviously the baddies here, bullying everyone one else under a thin layer of legality, and hunting our heroine down. Unexpectedly for this kind of setting, their goons got guns, which gives them an unfair advantage. Well, except against Alka, as she can cut bullets down. Some of their female leaders are obviously Important, but don't get much definition yet. Also, their most elite members can wield some magic.

Morii became the teenage leader of a small backwards village after her father died. The villagers are supportive, but what can they do against the might of the Empire wanting to "buy" their lands ? Well, they can hire a passing Alka, but that backfires tremendously, as the Empire sends a disproportionate force to take her down once they notice she's there. Nearly everyone dies. Oops.

A decent amount of screentime is spent on a bar-owner, and her one customer who looks interested in taking the bounty on Alka's head, so presumably they'll show up again.

Production Values

Well, there's quite some budget behind this, from the scenery porn to the lavish animation. I don't feel like the general aesthetics quite come together, though ; that may be from the busy and showing-too-much-flesh character designs. Also, this is quite a bloody and violent show, although not to the point of being unbearable.

Overall Impression

Hey, an heroic-fantasy show that doesn't suck ! But that's not enough to make it much good, though : it feels very soulless and by-the-numbers. I mean, it's hard to make it any more cliché than a burnt down starting village, eh ? None of the characters get to display much personality, and nearly all the villagers who do, die horribly without any chance to defend themselves.

The bottom line : this show didn't manage to make me care about what happens next. I'll pass, thank you.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Thirding that. :) I always like these threads of yours and I'll be following along with interest.
Thanks for the vote of confidence !

For the record, most of the shows I'm looking forward to this season are sequels, with barely a few exceptions. So I'm completely open-minded about most the really "new" shows. We'll see within a week how that works out !




So, first, a few worlds about Insufficient Direction (Kantoku Fuyuki Todoki), a series of Flash-based shorts adapting the autobiography of Hideaki Anno's wife. If you think that sounds interesting, you'll be disappointed by the final product. It's the perfect example of a private joke taken too far. For one, there's no actual explanation of the premise at any point in it ; I only discovered it later on when I did a bit of research to write this. For two, she's inexplicably depicted as a toddler throughout. Since this first episode covers their marriage ceremony, that's more than a bit disturbing. But the most damning flaw of this thing is that it doesn't seem to have much more insight to offer than "otaku are weird and kinda creepy" ; the Director character could be just about anyone and it wouldn't change a thing.

Don't bother with it.

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Riddle Story of Devil (Akuma no Riddle)
(13 episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a manga about a high-school class full of assassin girls. With heavy lesbian subtext that could become text anytime soon.

Characters

Tokaku, our protagonist. An elite teenage assassin with a dark past... wait, that describes most of the cast. Her distinctive features is that she's very taciturn, has no sense of humour, and we spend most of the episode inside her head. It's not a pretty place.

Mr "Dice" Kaiba, her handler, has had her transferred to this Academy's "Black Classroom" so that she can kill the one student there who isn't also an assassin. This dude is a complete dick, played with obvious glee by Tomokazu Sugita. I love the way he chews scenery.

Haru is so much the odd girl out in the class that everyone immediately pegs her as the target. She's nice, wants to be friends with everyone, has no reflexes whatsoever, and just doesn't smell like a killer. She's even played by Hisato Kanemoto at her most sugary. Yeah, there's of course going to be a twist at some point. Tokaku's immediately smitten, although she'd be the last one to acknowledge it. Good thing they're going to be roommates !

For some reason only three other girls are present for the first homeroom class (only the transfer students, I guess ?), and all of them are credible psychopaths, given the way they keep snarling all the time. This includes the one with MPD, of course. A few others show up later at the dorms, and they're pretty much of the same cloth.

Whoever the mysterious mastermind behind all this is, she's set up cameras everywhere. And that's taking into account Tokaku disabling a good number of them as soon as she enters her room. It's hinted that there have been other Black Classrooms organized before, too.

Production Values

Well, this clearly belongs to the Death Note school of directing : lots of darkness, dynamic camera angles and overpowering music to mask the fact that not so much is happening, and the animation is nothing special.

There's less fanservice than you'd expect, despite the episode including several shower scenes.

Overall Impression

Wow, this show doesn't believe in subtlety, does it ? But frankly, the premise is so contrived that it wouldn't work any other way. It needs that frantic energy and the constant overacting to avoid collapsing into a mess.

So far, it works. But there's the question of whether it'll be allowed to go anywhere, given that it's based on an ongoing (and recent) manga series. That's the problem with these high-concept stories : they rarely allow for partial resolutions that an anime adaptation can satisfyingly end on. I've been burned enough in the past to be skeptical over this series' chances to buck the trend.

Still, it's an entertaining start. With my expectations adjusted, I'm open to keeping it on my watching list.
 
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