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[In Which I Review] New anime, Summer 2014

Rose Embolism

Registered User
Validated User
Silver Will Argevollen (Shirogane no Ishi: Argevollen)
(24 episodes)

What's it about ?

Original Complete opposite of original series about mecha.

Characters

Tokimune, our protagonist, is the greener generic hotheaded idiot out of the three mecha pilots.
FTFY.


Don't forget the other members of the mecha team: the Angry Nagging Boob-Armor Girl, and Veteran Who Will Die Soon pilots. Who are like, totally original and haven't appeared in a hundred or so other mecha shows.

This series is so predictable, so painfully loaded down on unoriginal cliches, that I don't think even the nice scenery can rescue it. Tell you what though- if they do what they SHOULD do, and court-martial Tokimune for insubordination and lock him away in a prison for the rest of the show, maybe I'll come back to it. Otherwise, I see this as an exercise in annoying me.
 

Kurotowa

Weird Science Nut
Validated User
The one potential saving grace for Argevollen is how absurdly advanced the titular mech is compared to other models. This isn't a Zaku to Gundam progression, it's like the thing is from an entirely different setting.

I'm going to give the show a couple more episodes to see if this is an intentional plot point that they'll be exploring. If it gets shrugged off as just a new prototype, that's that. If it's the start of a plot swerve (aliens! time travel!) then I may stick around and see where they take it.
 

Rose Embolism

Registered User
Validated User
Given that the technology for a large part seems to be around the 1950s-60s, and they don't seem to have invented airplanes, I'm voting for "Lost colony of earth". Or aliens. Anything else might be dangerously creative.
 
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Quasar

Feeling kinda smurfy
Validated User
I wonder if Survival Game will get pooped on by Zac Bertschy over at ANN like he did C3. For some reason he was upset by teenage girls playing survival games in proper gear and even practicing gun safety.
Well...his upset was about it making guns look fun and cool and his general hate for gun culture. Which I can understand. That said this one is just too much fun for me to overlook.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Gah ! I take one day off from this thread (for reasons I'll explain shortly), and I end up with a massive backlog of seven new shows. As a result, the special bonus review will have to wait until tomorrow.


But before all that, a few words about Sword Art Online II : well, so far, it's not doing a bad job of not rubbing me the wrong way, like Alfheim Online did. The writing is still pretty poor (go, go, tepid exposition !), but the setup of bringing in Kirito to investigate a bizarre murder spree in a new game setting is a decent one. (Also, anything that marginalizes the absence of chemistry he's got with Asuna is welcome.) I might still watch this after all.

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Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal
(26 episodes, fortnightly)

What's it about ?

20 years (and change) later, a remake of Sailor Moon as an anime, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood style.

For those who have been living under a rock, the 1992 series (and its continuations) was a gateway anime for many, and had a strong influence on the magical girl genre as a whole (kickstarting the transition from the "cute witch" subgenre to the now more prevalent "magical warrior" version). It took many liberties from the original manga, including a lot of padding to allow its source material to be produced. This is supposed to be much closer to the original, with some benefit of hindsight (as it left a lot of room for improvement).

Characters

Usagi, our book-dumb crybaby of a protagonist. But hey, she's only in middle school ; she's got time to grow out of it. Also, she's got weird dreams of a moon princess or something.

Luna, a talking cat she stumbles on (litterally) on her way to school. Later on, she reveals Usagi has a destiny to battle evil and protect the princess ! Take this magical trinket, utter the bizarre Engrish catchphrase, and bam! you're "Sailor Moon". (Which is totally not copyright infringment on the "Sailor V" superheroine who's been making the news lately.)

"Monster-bait" Naru is the one member of Usagi's circle of friends who matters to the plot in this episode : her mother gets replaced by a creepy monster who takes over their jewelry store and uses the lure of insanely huge discounts to gather mindless drones. Our heroine, to the rescue !

Tuxedo Mask is a mysterious dude wearing a mask and a tuxedo who shows up during the battle and lends a hand when she's in trouble. He's apparently looking for the "Legendary Silver Crystal", a macguffin the baddies also seem to be after. Oh, and he's totally this tall, dark-haired dude Usagi bumped into as he was casing the joint. (Wearing a tuxedo !)

Four other Sailor soldiers are shown in the OP sequence, but only one of them barely makes a cameo at the very end of the episode.

Production Values

The artstyle takes a while to get used to ; it's a weird mix of Naoko Takeuchi's idiosyncratic style, more classic shoujo elements, and modern shading techniques. As a result, character designs appear very busy, but they still can move around not too stiffly. And more importantly, Usagi can still handle the broad physical comedy and weird faces the script throws at her, without looking out of place.

The backgrounds are beautiful, with similar watercolours to the original anime. The roses patterns showing up whenever Usagi pauses to introduce a new character are a bit clunky, though.

The OP song doesn't quite work yet ; maybe it'll grow on me. The ED song fits in much better.

Overall Impression

First, a disclaimer : I'm a hardcore fan of the franchise. I'm going to watch this to the end, regardless of actual quality.

What's really striking about this first episode is that it's not striking at all. Nothing here feels like a mission statement of its own identity. It follows the manga's first chapter very closely, down to including nearly every original line of dialogue. Even when that's obviously a terrible idea. (Why the heck is Mamoru wearing a tuxedo in broad daylight ?) And while no previous adaptation (either the first anime or the live-action series) messed with this first chapter much, that's clearly not gonna fly in the long-term. If only because this is set to be 26 episodes long, and the manga barely has 14 chapters (and that's including "Petite Etrangère", most of which is devoted to setting up the second arc this series is explicity not covering). This series is going to have to stray a bit from the manga's framework at some point, and the sooner the better. (After all, the manga's breakneck pace obeyed more to real-life publishing constraints than to narrative necessity.)

There are a few early hints on how this is going to happen. The most obvious is the heavy emphasis on Usagi's dreams of the princess, which are happening quite earlier this time around. But it's going to take more episodes until we have a full picture.

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Aldnoah.Zero
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Gen Urobuchi writing more mecha anime !

And wow, this is a convoluted premise. It's an alternate universe where the Appolo program went on to attempts to colonize Mars... Except they found "the Vers Empire" already there, remains of an old civilization with advanced technology ; they did not take kindly to the intruders. 15 years ago the conflict escalated to the Moon being partly destroyed (wreaking havoc on the surface), with Vers breaking their Hyper Gate (which allowed fast space travel) in exchange. It's been a ceasefire by default since then.

Characters

Asseylum, the Vers princess, is an young idealist. Despite the objections of nearly everyone else in power in the empire, she's decided to go on a diplomatic visit to Earth to try and broker peace. There are a lot of people in Vers who want her to fail, and for some Earth extremists to try something against her.

Slaine is an Earth-born orphan whom Asseylum rescued a few years ago and made her servant/friend/confident. Everyone else hates him, and she didn't have enough pull to bring him with her. Basically, his life sucks.

Most of the episode is from the point of view of Inaho, an ordinary Japanese highschool student, and his circle of friends. While he's about as blasé as them about the world's terrible situation, at least he still pays attention to his surroundings. Also, "ordinary" highschool students now have to participate in drills, piloting mecha in preparation for the rebuilding of Earth's armies after it got crippled.

Yuki (Inaho's older sister) and Lt Marito are the soldiers supervising their training. Marito has turned to booze because of their task's pointlessness. Not because it's peacetime, but because he has no doubt Vers outclass anything Earth could drum up. He was on the frontlines back then, he knows the score.

There's a bunch of Mysterious Terrorists who fire tons of missiles at Asseylum's limo just as she's passing by Inaho and his friends. And if you believe she's truly dead, I have a bridge I can sell you.

Vers take the bait, though, and start attacking Earth, doing things like obliterating Manhattan. They don't even have a cohesive plan of attack : the many houses of the Empire are competing for who gets to "win" first. It looks like they're going to have more trouble with infighting than with Earth's pitiful defenses.

Production Values

Fairly nice.

Overall Impression

Wow, exposition overload ! Sure, the premise's not exactly simple, but boy is there a lot of information to pay attention to on display here. We get every infodump cliché in the book, from TV and radio broadcasts to the students studying their history course. I hope this was just a hurdle the first episode had to pass, and that we're going to get more time for the characters from now on ; they had very little room to breathe here.

What the show does well, though, are the big action sequences, from the attack against the limo to the Vers attacking. That's some very impactful massive damage, indeed. On the spectacle front, this doesn't disappoint. I just hope there's going to be enough substance to justify it.

Still, I'm hooked, unless the second episode turns out to be a massive disaster.

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Shounen Hollywood: Holly Stage for 49
(13 episodes)

What's it about ?

This series is the sequel to a 2012 light novel about a male idol group.

Characters

"Shounen Hollywood" was an idol group... 15 years ago. This isn't their story. This is about their successors, a group of five teenage wannabes who've be scouted by the original group's producer.

Frankly, even while watching the episode I couldn't bother keeping track of each of the five's actual personalities. It doesn't help that the producer is intent on having them adopt ridiculously fake stage personas, all equally punchable.

Aside from the insane producer, the one character who sticks out is the hideous gay caricature who trains the kids. Urgh.

Production Values

Well, if it's good-looking teenage dudes you want, you'll get them. They all kinda have the same face, though.

And of course all the songs are crappy J-pop.

Overall Impression

There are actually some decent jokes in this. But that's not enough to save this shapeless, plotless mess which seems bent on making me dislike all its characters. (Not hate, as that would imply some actual impact.)

You can sell me on idol shows if you've got the right kind of energy. This doesn't have what it takes. It looks like an exercise in tediousness I have no wish to see any more of.

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Barakamon
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a heartwarming manga about a gruffy big-city adult rediscovering himself when put in contact with country kids.

Characters

Handa used to be an up-and-coming talented calligraphist, being featured in galleries and the like, until he committed career-suicide by blowing up when a respected veteran called his art comformist and trite. Like, he up and punched the old dude. His dad ships him off to a small island in the boonies so that he can cool down a bit.

His new place is seriously in the middle of nowhere. A bus comes around once a day. (A helpful farmer gives him a ride for most of the way from the airport.) It's got a "village chief", who rents him this house. Modern comforts aren't really an option. And everyone knows everyone else, of course ; it's a small community. I get the impression many Japanese people would need subtitles to understand their local dialect, as it's thick as heck. (Handa's certainly baffled a lot of the time.)

Naru is the local scamp, and she's been using the house as her "base". (So have a few older girls, from the look of it.) How she keeps finding her way in after Handa locks her out is a mystery, but it's certainly very funny. Have I mentioned she's cute as a button ? Because she is. And I like that they got an actual kid to voice her.

Later on, Handa's introduced to more kids. You can tell he's delighted.

Production Values

Aside from some decent scenery porn, there's one thing this show does very well : perfectly-timed slapstick. It starts with the Punch, and it continues through everything Naru does. Heck, even Handa joins the fun after a while (that sidepunch-to-sea move is marvellous).

Overall Impression

Ah, yes. The old staple story where the city dude comes to the country and discovers folk wisdom. Well, it's more that he starts getting his head out from the ass where it was firmly entranched, really. It's not so much that the villagers are particularly wise, but more that they give Handa a lot more opportunities to realize what a conceited ass he's being. He's out of his comfort zone, and he can't just isolate himself in a bubble anymore.

Also, this show is very funny indeed. 95% of good comedy is timing, and this series has that down perfectly. Seriously, it's making calligraphy not boring, out of all things.

This looks to be one of the highlights of the season. It's a lock for me.

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Akame ga KILL !
(24 episodes)

What's it about ?

Generic videogame-style heroic-fantasy that takes a sudden turn into wholesale slaughter. (Adapted from a shonen manga series.)

Seriously, TRIGGER WARNING : there are some utterly brutal deaths in here that will take you completely by surprise. It's a very bloody show that loves its shock tactics.

Characters

Tatsumi, our generic sword-wielding hero, fresh from the countryside. (Wearing a modern high-school sweater, for some reason.) He's come to the Imperial Capital to raise his profile and find a way to save his village from poverty. He had a couple of pals with him originally, but he lost track on them on his way after some bandits attacked. He's been warned the City has more dangerous monsters than the Dragons he's been offing by the dozen until now... and they're human beings.

Boobs Leone, a nice girl who just happens to have the right connections to make him rise quickly in the Imperial Army's ranks ; the rube just has to give her all her money and she'll make it happen. /ZOINKS/ It takes him the whole day to notice he's been swindled.

Fortunately, there are some good souls in this city after all. He's invited off the streets by Aria, a cute rich girl who lives in a mansion with her equally nice family. Sure, he has to help her shopping, but but they do have actual connections, and they provide him with a nice exposition dump.

Enter "Night Raid", a band of assassins led by the titular Akame. They target the wealthy, and are borderline impossible to stop. They strike quickly, violently, and without remorse, leaving a trail of bodies behind. Tatsumi immediately realize they are a whole other level above him. He's fortunately not on their list, but his new benefactors are. That just won't do, eh ?

Production Values

Those are some seriously awful character designs. Ugly, generic, and making no sense whatsoever with the setting. The action sequences are decently animated, but hardly worth your time on their own. Also, copious fanservice, and people being sliced in half are regular thing. (And why the heck is that one freakout completely devoid of animation ? Doesn't it just cripple the scene's raw emotion ?)

... And then the music starts kicking in, and I realize it's by Taku Iwasaki. Darn it, I never drop anything he scores.

Overall Impression

This series is mean and nasty and it just stole my lunch money. Not only is the writing quite awful ("You're the boobs from earlier !" is actual dialogue), but it's downright deceitful and sadistic. It revels in its excessive violence. Sympathetic characters are thrown away for shock value. It's exploitative trash, and it knows it.

It's a rare series where I feel insulted after watching the first episode.

I'm giving it one more episode to convince me there's some substance beyond the shock value, but I'm not hopeful. Otherwise, I'll just stick to the soundtrack.

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DRAMAtical Murder
(12ish episodes ?)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of visual novel which seems to have some explicit boys' love content. I'd kinda guessed from all the pretty boys in the main cast.

Characters

Aoba, our protagonist, works in a junk store called "Mediocrity", which immediately sets the tone. Er, let me rephrase that, as this just sounds too mean in retrospect. It sets a relatively playful tone, really. Aobo's relatively well-adjusted right now, although he does have tragic flashbacks of being called a girl because he had (and still has) long blue hair. Er, yeah.

A big thing in this setting is the AI helpers everyone has with them ; Aoba's is called Ren, and takes the form of a black cat. (It's a popular new model ; some other people have them as different kinds of animals.) Those are really nifty, and the world as a whole has tons of augmented reality.

Aoba's got many handsome friends (or "friends"). The hairstyler who's a bit too touch-happy is instantly memorable. The gang leader who stops some hoodlums from attacking him is okay. After that, they grow progressively more forgettable.

Nobody gets murdered here, nor is there any sign of such a thing being about to happen. The worse that happens is a racketting attempt, and the cops shutting down a rave party.

Production Values

Actually quite nice ; there are tons of interesting visual ideas that contribute to the world-building and make this very fun to look at. The techno beat permeating the whole soundtrack's quite fun too. The character designs are ridiculous, but they kinda fit in this highly-modded world.

Overall Impression

I feel a bit cheated. For some reason, I expected the start of a murder mystery ; but nothing of the sort seems in the offing, and instead the main character ends up challenged into some crappy AR fighting game at the end. This might work as a visual novel ; here, it feels like all the world building is being swept off down the drain.

By the end of the episode, I had lost all interest. Nice try, though.

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Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun)
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a shoujo 4-panel web-manga lampooning the romantic shoujo clichés.

Characters

Chiyo, our point-of-view character. She's madly in love with this tall, good-looking dude in her class. And she's about to make her confession. Except she bungles it, and ends up as his assistant.

You see, Nozaki-kun, under the nom-de-plume "Sakiko Yumeno" (which sounds like a young woman, and certainly not a dude being voiced by Yuuichi Nakamura in full deadpan mode), is a popular shoujo manga artist published in the "Monthly Girls" magazine. It's not like he's particularly passionate about it (the man seems to have no romance whatsoever in his life), it's just that he's very good at it. Cue cynical examination of various tropes of the shoujo romance genre ; the "let's ride together on a bicycle" staple gets a particularly thorough beating this episode.

The OP sequence hints that there will be more supporting cast added up shortly ; one of them shows up just after the ED credits.

Production Values

Bouncy and colourful ; it's got good comedic timing, and that's what matters.

Overall Impression

This is mostly quite funny indeed. I say "mostly", because Chiyo's romantic moments don't quite work until the show starts undercutting them swiftly. And, well, not all jokes land ; that's par for the course for this kind of series. But it's rapid-fire enough that you never get bored of it.

If you think shoujo romance is a genre that can get stale, then this is the perfect antidote. (It may make you incapable of ever reading any other such show with a straight face, but that's the sign of a job well done.)
 

MadMac

Registered User
Validated User
Heh, seven reviews in one stroke, well done sir.

Out of this batch Barakamon and Monthly Girls both go straight to my watch list, Aldonoah.Zero gets the three episode test, and Sailor Moon, well I'm going to watch Sailor Moon, but that's not a statement of quality particularly.

Considering I had no new shows going into this weekend, I'm feeling pretty good about this season.
 

No-Brand Hero

Heroicus Genericus
Validated User
(Why the heck is Mamoru wearing a tuxedo in broad daylight ?)
Because it's not Mamoru, it's Tuxedo Kamen. They're a split personality at first, and Tuxedo Kamen doesn't wander around in civvies.

It honestly made less sense to me when the original anime series had him show up in his usual outfit right there, as though Mamoru himself were searching for the Ginzuishou rather than having no memory of the things Tux does until much later.
 

Rainfall

Registered User
Validated User
Yuki (Inaho's older sister) and Lt Marito are the soldiers supervising their training. Marito has turned to booze because of their task's pointlessness. Not because it's peacetime, but because he has no doubt Vers outclass anything Earth could drum up. He was on the frontlines back then, he knows the score.
Marito is my fouvourite character. At first he looks like your typical sucky uncaring waste of a teacher figure. Then you see him with another adult he can trust, outside of earshot of the students. And it's not that he doesn't care, it's that he cares too much. Not only is he watching highschool kids train with live ammo, but he's also watching their brains being pumped full of propaganda while knowing their most likely fate is to die quickly and pointlessly when the war resumes. Not if, when.

Maybe it's being roughly the same age as him, but I found that part really well done and affecting.
 

Bull

Professional Game Convention Drunk
Validated User
Cool. I was hoping Monthly Girls would be good, but I was keeping my hopes reasonable after being let down a bit by Comic Artist and his Assistants this past season. And I'll have to check out Barakamon at some point, since I'm seeing some good buzz for it from you guys.
 

Shay Guy

Registered User
Validated User
Because it's not Mamoru, it's Tuxedo Kamen. They're a split personality at first, and Tuxedo Kamen doesn't wander around in civvies.

It honestly made less sense to me when the original anime series had him show up in his usual outfit right there, as though Mamoru himself were searching for the Ginzuishou rather than having no memory of the things Tux does until much later.
I saw that in the other thread, but isn't the odango-atama bickering more of a Mamoru thing than a Tux thing? Or is it just that we usually see Tux in combat, or otherwise interacting with her in Sailor Mode?
 
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