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[In Which I Review] New anime, Spring 2015

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#1
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 four 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 are tons of them this season. Like, more than the number of actually "new" shows. Anyway, this means no Fate/stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works, Nisekoi or Knights of Sidonia, 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 (i.e. Nanoha ViVid, and most probably The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan).
- 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 Spring won't be on DVD/Blu-Ray for ages, so no dice for them either.


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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Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru no Darou ka)
(12ish episodes ?)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a light novel series attempting a romance/harem comedy setup in a RPG-style fantasy world.

Characters

The high concept here is that the gods of the setting have gone down to mingle with mortals and enjoy normal life ; the only power they have left is to empower some normals so that they can go and adventure into dungeons. Not that the writers care too much about verisimilitude ; all monsters drop generic "crystal" loot for some reason, and adventurers have even got stat sheets.

Enter Hestia, very minor goddess with a grand total of one follower, the both of them living in obvious poverty. Not that she minds that much being alone with him, really. The way she's so possessive and clingy rubs me the wrong way, to be frank.

Bell, said follower, is still a newb and can barely adventure enough to bring food on the table (Hestia helps by working part-time at a food stand). He's got some enthusiasm, but is very weak indeed. "Should not be adventuring below level 3 of the dungeon" weak. But he wants to get stronger, not only to gather better loot, but also hoping to become a good enough prospect for the likes of...

Aiz, an elite member of the Loki house, who saves him from a minotaur. She's so taciturn she barely gets a couple of lines in the whole episode, but I get the impression she isn't as inaccessible as everyone likes to claim. (Wait, what's with having her only level 5 ? For that matter, how can Bell still be level 1 despite his stats improving twice in the episode ? How does this system even work ?)

Rounding up the cast are the rest of the Loki house (including a loudmouth asshole who enjoys disparaging noobs, to the exasperation of his pals) ; Eina, a support guild worker who's mostly there to provide a good chunk of exposition ; and Syr, a waitress who manages to trap Bell into eating at her expensive inn.

Production Values

Quite good ; the fantasy town feels more lived in than average. On the other hand, the camera loves to perv, especially when Hestia is giving it a hand by multiplying the risqué poses.

Overall Impression

Well, this is definitely a romance/harem comedy set in a RPG world. The setting is mildly interesting, but not enough to overcome my apathy over the near absence of a plot (Bell somehow now levelling faster whenever he thinks of Aiz barely counts) and nearly everyone involved's lack of charisma ; Bell is just way too bland, and Hestia actively annoying.

I'm trying to be slightly more selective this season, and this is too mediocre to make the cut.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#3
Food Wars (Shokugeki no Souma)
(?? episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a shonen manga series proving that food porn can go to far.

Characters

Souma, our protagonist, is the son of the owner of a small eatery. While not as good as his father, he can still produce food delicious enough to make customers orgasm on the spot. (This is not an euphemism.) He also inherited a competitive streak, as well as the willingness to experiment with some very dubious new recipes. Well, you learn from your mistakes and all that.

Their restaurant is under attack from a group of very conspicuous real estate sharks, who want to get their hands on this price spot. This is the kind of show where they can seriously barge in and demand our kid hero to prepare a meal, just after making sure to spoil all the meat in stock. Cue a mwahahah or two. Souma of course takes them up on their challenge, and manages to still produce something incredibly delicious. Now get lost, and never come back !

This is the moment Dad chooses to come back from a trip and announce he's closing shop anyway, and sending Souma off to a cooking high school for training. But not any cooking high school : an elite one where barely 10% of the students make it to graduation.

The OP & ED sequences show off a bunch of Souma's future schoolmates... wait, why does one of the dudes wield a chainsaw ?

Production Values

The big selling point here is the intricate fantasy sequences whenever people eat food. They're borderline pornographic ; you know what you're in for when you're hit barely a few minutes in by someone eating a terrible squid-peanut butter combination, and it turning into tentacle rape. (And of course there's a brick joke with the girl actually enjoying the experience...)

You won't be surprised by the fact that most of the fantasy screentime (or even the "real" food orgasms) is devoted to women. Because of course.

Overall Impression

/facepalm

I'll give it to this show : it doesn't commit halfway ; it takes the "food porn" moniker and goes to town with it. It's got decent comedic timing, and the score knows how to emphasize the (well-animated) action.

But dear gods, that's some creepily obnoxious fanservice indeed. Well-executed, but there's no way I can recommend watching this, unless you're really into that kind of thing. I knew from a few minutes in that I'm not, and won't be bothering with another episode. One was hard enough to watch.
 
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Kurotowa

Weird Science Nut
Validated User
#4
I suspect Shokugeki no Souma is one of those ones where the different medium has a major impact. In the manga the foodgasms get a splash page, sure, but it's just one page and then the story moves on. The reader spends exactly as long on it as they feel like. Meanwhile in an anime the director controls the amount of time and emphasis put on the moment, which from the bits being posted is rather a lot.

I'm not surprised that this creates a very different perception of what the show's emphasis is.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#5
A few words on Vampire Holmes, first. It's an adaptation of a... smartphone game app (!) as a series of barely-animated shorts ; the premise is that this Holmes completely sucks at using reason... not that it stops him from solving the crimes. It's supposed to be funny, but this one joke is way too slight to support even a 3-minute short, let alone a whole season of it. Don't bother with this one.

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Re-Kan ("Sixth Sense")
(12ish episodes ?)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a 4-panel comedy manga series about a girl who can see and interact with ghosts.

Characters

Amami, our main character, has always been able to interact with ghosts, and knows all the one haunting the neighbourhood. (She can also talk with cats.) They can be a bit annoying at times, always demanding her attention, but they're mostly benign and sometimes even helpful. Amami is genial enough to have gotten used to it.

Inoue, one of her new highschool classmates, is our actual point-of-view character for this episode. She claims not to be believe in ghosts, and is thus quite irritated by Amami's behaviour... but the truth is that she's got a weak sixth sense and can thus sometimes see the ghosts a bit if she squints. That doesn't sit well with her, and she spends most of the episode in denial.

Most of Amami's other classmates have gotten used to her quirks rather quickly (although some of her stories still give them cold sweat once in a while).

Production Values

From some of the people that gave us Survival Game Club ! It's decently animated, although the computer-painted backgrounds give it a weirdly empty and almost SHAFT-lite atmosphere. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The fanservice levels are almost surprisingly low.

Overall Impression

Inoue, shut up. Seriously, the show would be far more enjoyable without your outbursts ; the quirky ghosts, their interactions with Amami, and your classmates' reactions are fun enough not to need you shouting all the time. Just calm down, please ? It's obvious you're in denial over your own abilities, and the sooner you accept it the better.

The next-episode preview promises that next week will focus on another classmate besides Inoue, and I breathe in relief ; I wouldn't bother with a second episode otherwise. As it is, it's the show's last chance to convince me to keep watching.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#6
Seraph of the End (Owari no Seraph)
(12 episodes, + the second half this Fall)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a post-apocalyptic manga series featuring vampires as the villains. Which actually doesn't happen that often these days, so it's quite refreshing.

Characters

For reasons that are left vague on purpose, a good chunk of humanity suddenly died one day. The vampires claim it's a virus unleashed by humanity themselves ; allow me to take that with a grain of salt. Anyway, children under 13 were immune, so the vampires came in and took in as many kids as they could. Not out of charity, of course ; they're cattle.

The series follows a group of orphans that were in the same orphanage and considered themselves family, and have been captive for four years ; the oldest are now 12. I'm not even bothering to remember all those names, as this is clearly the kind of series where they're doomed to nearly all be killed horribly.

Yuichiro, our protagonist, is one of the oldest, and the lone wolf of the group ; he joined last, and has some sort of horrible backstory (why the heck would his mother call him a monster ?). His pathetic attempts to lash out against the vampires are borderline suicidal, and he's only still alive thanks to...

Mikaela, the other oldest, who's decided that voluntary offering himself to some noble vampire was the best way to protect his siblings and keep them decently fed. And he was merely buying his time ; today he's stolen a gun and a map that can lead them outside. They're all escaping tonight.

Of course it's a trap, laid by said noble, Lord Ferid. Dude likes to toy with his food, it seems. On the other hand, he's slightly too cocky ; Mikaela sacrificing himself allows just barely Yuichiro to take him out... but only after he's killed everyone else. Yuichiro can only escape alone, in an effort to make his family's death mean something.

Some (human) dude catches him just outside the vampire city, and tells Yuichiro he's going to make him the ultimate anti-vampire weapon. Sure, bring it on.

Cut to four years later, with our hero all grown up and in nicer clothes, and... why the heck does the next-episode preview show some sort of high-school-like setting ? Please tell me that's a joke. Or a pre-apocalypse flashback for our new character.

Production Values

Quite nice. Hiroyuki Sawano's bombastic score is perfectly at home here, especially as he's adapting himself to better fit the mood.

Overall Impression

Well, subtle this ain't ; but it's remarkably effective at setting up the protagonist's backstory, however predictable the end result may be. That helps smooth over Yuichiro being a bit annoying in those early stages, but only up to a point ; a lot depends on what happens next and how it builds a proper supporting cast.

Still, it bought itself a second episode ; let's see where it goes from here.

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Gunslinger Stratos - the Animation
(?? episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of an... arcade third-person-shooter videogame ? Admittedly, based on a idea written on a napkin by Gen Urobuchi and developed by his pals at Nitroplus, so there's at least an actual high-concept to adapt.

Characters

Tohru, our teenage main character, is the archetype of the "don't rock the boat" philosophy. He knows this futuristic Japan is even more rigged towards the powerful than the current-day, and loves to hammer the nail that sticks out ; so he purposely avoids being at the top of the class so as not to stick out.

Kyouka, his classmate and obvious love-interest, has the opposite viewpoint, and no qualms about excelling. But then, she comes from a powerful family. Anyway, she's acting very sweet in her attempts to woo him (foiling his attempts to avoid the most popular girl in class), and much more forceful against whoever gets in her path.

Kyouma, her brother, is top among them. How dare this low-class, orphan scum dally with his precious sister ? (Nevermind that she's the one actually coming onto Tohru.) He's also pissed off that the guy purposely lost to him in gym class. (Which involves paint-guns and energy swords, because 3PS.) He's accompanied by a groupie who alternates between supporting him blindly and realizing that hey, wouldn't it be better for Kyouka to be out of the way ?

By the way, the teacher (what are you wearing, m'am ?) has totally noticed what Tohru is doing. She's clearly got an agenda, here.

The plot kicks off when Tohru witnesses a computer mirage of crows attacking his little sister (something he's also been dreaming of)... despite him not having a sister ! The chase scenes leads to Tohru and a following Kyouka to fall into a whole underground city neither of them had a clue was there.

Here, some people are having bloody and spectacular gunfight/parkour battles (which I presume is the meat of the game). Our heroes are stuck in the crossfire with only their harmless PE guns and blades, as well the one gun from a nearby corpse (which thus can't have been that effective)... Yup, they're screwed.

... Or they would be, if the guy closing in on them didn't have an obvious reason to keep them alive. (At least, I assume so ; the cliffhanger ending is WTF-worthy on its own.)

Production Values

Gorgeous. The action sequences are well-animated and a lot of fun, and the characters know how to act even when the focus isn't on them.

Overall Impression

Well, that was fun. This is the first show this season to have a well-designed killer cliffhanger that makes me actively want to know what the heck happens next, and enough going on in the background to keep me awake even when Tohru's narration is droning on exposition. It helps that Kyouka's shtick is quite funny indeed. Actually, I kinda like all the characters in this.

I enjoyed this quite a lot. It's on a good track to keep me onboard.

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Plastic Memories
(12ish episodes ?)

What's it about ?

This is a rarity this season : a show that isn't an adaptation or a spin-off of anything. Is that even allowed ?

Anyway, it's S-F exploring the impact of human androids on society.

Characters

Tsukasa, our protagonist, somehow landed a job at the Terminal Service department of an android production company without having any clue of what they do there. He's heard of the impressively human-like "Giftia", but never actually seen one ; and he certainly didn't notice they were three of them in the office.

Ms Kazuki, the sub-manager (whom the actual manager swiftly pawned the newb to) explains : Giftia have a life expectancy of a bit more than 9 years, after which their memories and personality start breaking down, and Bad Things happen. The role of the Terminal Service is to make rounds of all the owners as the time limit nears, trying to persuade them to relinquish the Giftia back to the company. (A later scene shows that they can get either a partial refund, a discount on a new Giftia, or even the same Giftia back, but with a new OS and a blank mental slate.)

Michiru is the co-worker who's been tasked with his on-the-job training. It's a bit awkward at first, especially as she's barely been a year here and is younger than him. Anyway, it's their partner Giftia (in her case, the kid-looking Zack) who does all the negotiating job ; the humans are there to supervise.

Isla is the Giftia assigned as Tsukasa's partner, as the only spare one. (And even then, Ms Kazuki was reluctant and trying to keep her off active duty.) She's got years of experience and a reputation of being very good at it... which makes it all the funnier when her attempts this episode turn out to be entirely inept. Repeatedly. (My suspicions are that either she's starting to break down, or, more probably, that she's just been wiped clean.)

We get to see a few Giftia owners this episode ; not all are accepting of the Terminal Service showing up. Which is understandable, given several of them seem to be using the androids as substitute children/grand-children... or lovers, as implied about the dude who made a runner with his.

Production Values

Good enough. And I commend the director for going out of his way to sell the jokes ; there's some great comedic timing here thanks to some well-executed shot-to-shot transitions.

Overall Impression

There's always at least one show each season that comes from nowhere and takes me completely by surprise ; the one that makes this entire project worthwhile just by existing. This amazingly hilarious S-F comedy often had me in stitches, and the premise feels strong enough to be developed over a full series.

Clearly, this is this season's hidden gem. Even the terrible stinger joke can't ruin it for me.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#8
As it turns out, I won't be doing a full review of Magical Lyrical Nanoha ViVid ; it relies way too much on prior knowledge of what happened in StrikerS (the third anime season in the franchise). Gods know what a newcomer would make of our kid heroine's Vivio ability to transform into an adult body, or of the Numbers in general. Or the whole "your majesty" thing. Quite frankly, I'm tempted to go and rewatch StrikerS myself. (After all, it's a perfectly okay show only let down by being a sequel to the notably superior A's second season.)

So, let's take the point of view of someone who's watched all three prior anime seasons, but hasn't bothered reading the ViVid spin-off/follow-up manga. Is this worth watching ?

The good news is that it's surprisingly relatively light on loli fanservice. Oh, it's there ; we get a few gratuitous shots of Vivio's underwear, and a lingering transformation sequence that takes the time of having her every garment explode. But I was expecting much, much worse from this manga's reputation. As it is, it's a bit of an annoying distraction but still tolerable. First season level, basically.

The show itself manages to be just entertaining enough for me to keep watching. Vivid is cute, and her interactions with her two moms is heartwarming. (Lol on the writers still being coy about the Nanoha/Fate relationship, but then the series is from the point of view of a 4th-grader.) It even makes a game attempt at giving the Numbers distinct personalities, helped a bit by half of them being in jail at this point. (But I hope not in Jail, that would just be gross.)

What really makes the show interesting to me, though, is reading between the lines of Vivio's narration and dialogue, in the light of the context provided by StrikerS. That gives a completely different dimension to Fate's freaking out over Vivio's adult form, for example. The constant tight rope act of doublethink between Vivio's innocence and the viewer's foreknowledge is quite stimulating indeed.

There's not much of a plot yet, aside from a crazy girl randomly assaulting people as a background thread. But that's good enough as a starting thread, and leaves plenty of room to reintroduce the rather complex premise and the tons of characters ; which is what this opening episode really needed to do. (StrikerS was 8 years ago, after all.)

So far, so good.
 

Unseenlibrarian

Definitely NOT a Monkey.
Validated User
#9
Yeah, I was thinking 'Oh, hey, this is actually pretty good' the whole way through on Plastic Memories and then hit the stinger joke and just sort of sighed and shook my fist in the air.
 

Rainfall

Registered User
Validated User
#10
Plastic Memories is indeed very good. Maybe a bit too good, I'm not sure I can endure through the very well done and very heartbreaking emotional moments. :(

... "Heartbreaking" might not be the right word for it though. It's not about big tragedies and bad things happening. More like... "bittersweet" I guess? Hmmm...
 
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