[In Which I Review] New anime, Summer 2015

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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It's July, 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's a good number of them this season. This means no Gatchaman CROWDS, Working! or Determination to Fist, 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 usually cover spin-offs that look distinctive or noteworthy enough, but I'm not sure I'll bother with the likes of Dragonball Super or Aquarion Logos.
- 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.
- Also, most short programs will probably get abbreviated reviews, as there's rarely much to talk about.


Since this is an "off" season (Winter & Summer usually have less new shows than Spring & Fall), there should be around 21 new series for me to cover (+ 9 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.



... Nothing is actually out for me to review yet (I'm not masochistic enough to watch My Wife is the Student Council President without subtitles), but that should come quickly ; I'm mostly starting the thread now so people can subscribe and stuff.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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Out first show of the season is My Wife is the Student Council President (Okusama ga Seitokaichou!), a series of 8-minute shorts adapted from an erotic comedy manga series. I have to say I feared the worst from the title. An underage wife ?

The good news is that the premise doesn't involve any actual marriage yet and merely involves the student council president being, er, very "sex-liberated" (condoms for everyone !), and aggressively pursuing her vice-president. So far, he's not receptive at all to her stalker ways ; which anyone would be even without the huge stick in his ass.

The bad news is that it isn't really funny. I just can't laugh with the show, as I find the title character more horrific than cute. And the boring, by-the-numbers point-of-view character doesn't help matters.

Don't bother with looking this one up.

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GANGSTA.
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a crime manga series featuring sex, drugs and ultraviolence.

Characters

The show follows the "Handymen", a two-man team of hit-men/middlemen/whatever-you-pay-them-for-men, operating in the wretched hive of scum and villainy of Ergastulum. They take jobs that the big gangs would rather have a "neutral" party handle, although they also help out the local population on occasion. While they're violent thugs, the idea seems to be that the city would be even worse off without them "regulating" the doldrums of its criminal underground.

Nick is the muscle of the pair ; an Asian-looking dude who wields a sword and does moves out right this side of wire-fu. He's impressively lethal, although he can also leave people alive if he doesn't like them. Also, the big gimmick of the show is that he's deaf, overcompensating with heightened sight. He communicates mostly through grunts and sign language, although he can talk (in the very slurred way deaf people often do) if he gets angry enough. It's certainly quite intimidating.

Worick, his partner, understandably handles most of the talking. And boy does he keep babbling. Fortunately, he's got enough charisma not to be too annoying. He mostly uses guns, and holds his own enough to run a playful kill tally against Nick.

Our plot this episode involves a small gang of upstarts thinking they're all that and making a move into "forbidden" zones against their superiors' orders. Clearly they've bitten up way more than they can chew, as the mafia lords commission the Handymen (through the intermediary of an unsurprisingly corrupt police officer) to get rid of them. Which they do without breaking a sweat.

Alex is a prostitute often hanging in the back-alley behind the Handymen's office. Her abusive pimp was part of the upstart gang, so in theory she should have been wiped out with the whole of them ; however, the pair obviously grew sweet on her, and spared her. She's back in the alley by the end of the episode, but Worick does ask her to mind the phone whenever he's away (since obviously Nick can't answer it). Clearly she's under their protection now, and there are worse positions to be in within this hellhole of a city.

Production Values

Quite nice indeed. The fight scenes are decently animated, and there's some good direction to keep the action fluid. It does good work at selling Nick's deafness. It's also mercifully way less brown than you'd expect of such a premise, although only the OP & ED sequences really get wild with colour.

Amazingly, it's way less exploitative than you'd expect, given that one of the three main characters is a prostitute we often see on the job. Those short scenes are rather tastefully done.

Overall Impression

Hello, Black Lagoon clone ! And hey, there are worse shows to emulate, especially when it's actually rather well executed. The characters are fun, the city has lots of atmosphere (I like that the Handymen spend some time helping out random "citizens"), and I'm already getting interested in the struggles of influence between the major gangs. (Which includes the police, presumably.)

The "deaf" gimmick is a bit weird, but at least the show makes enough effort to sell it without feeling too contrived. As a pilot episode, this works very well.

I'm sold.
 

Wolfwood2

Registered User
Validated User
The "deaf" gimmick is a bit weird, but at least the show makes enough effort to sell it without feeling too contrived. As a pilot episode, this works very well.
It almost sounds like it's not even a gimmick, but just an attempt to have some greater representation in fiction without it being a 'thing'. There's this character and he's deaf, as some people are. If so, that's nice.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
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It almost sounds like it's not even a gimmick, but just an attempt to have some greater representation in fiction without it being a 'thing'. There's this character and he's deaf, as some people are. If so, that's nice.
Well, his deafness is at front and center of the episode, and the implication may be it gives him quasi-superpowers, anti-Daredevil style. Well, that or his mysterious special ops background, if that's what all the fuss about "dog tags" is about.

But the show certainly makes a point of showing him behaving (and speaking, eventually) like an actual deaf person, and that's what makes it work. There's great attention to detail at play here.



And now, for something completely different :



Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace
(11ish episodes, noitaminA)

What's it about ?

Surely you're aware of Edogawa Ranpo, the godfather of Japanese mystery fiction ? The guy Detective Conan took half of his pseudonym from ? The creator of characters such as Akechi and the Fiend with Twenty Faces, who often get referenced or namechecked in mystery anime & manga ?

Well, later this month is the 50th anniversary of his death, so here comes this tribute project. It's notionally adapting some of his stories (starting with The Human Chair), but with the original mysteries reframed completely in a contemporary setting and different characters involved. In many ways, it's not entirely different from UN-GO, a similar project from a few years ago.

Characters

Kobayashi, our 13-year-old protagonist. Despite appearances, totally a boy. He wakes up one day in his classroom with a saw in his hand, and the mutilated corpse of his teacher at the other end of the room. Normal people would see this as the start of a very bad day ; Kobayashi is actually thrilled to the gills at something interesting finally happening to him.

Hashiba, the class rep and student council president, does his best to defend his friend in front of the police... and gets progressively more and more weirded out by the way Kobayashi is lighting up instead of showing any hint of panic. The really obvious solution would be for him to be the culprit, but I hope there's more to the mystery than that. And it'd be kind of a waste to lose the one normal dude in the series whom everyone can explain the plot to.

Akechi, a 17-year old detective on the case. Notionally he's in high school, but he's got a special license to avoid going there in exchange of helping the cops out on weird cases like that. He's exactly the kind of excentric genius you'd expect to find in this type of story. Kobayashi makes a beeline to become his apprentice (and is certainly clever enough to track his home address down). Akechi's answer is that if the kid solves the case, it doesn't matter whether he accepts ; Kobayashi will get dragged down into this world anyway. Of course, it wouldn't be fun if Akechi didn't stack the deck against him, such as calling the cops on him.

Kobayashi is totally game for this.

Production Values

The show makes the weird decision to keep all the characters in silhouette until Kobayashi bothers to truly pay attention to them. (You'd expect the cat-eared new teacher to warrant his attention sooner than she did, but apparently not.) Together with several other staging decisions, it contributes to make the proceedings eerily artificial... and hey, it's not like classical mysteries aren't artificial constructs anyway.

I think it's great at setting the mood ; the jazzy music also helps.

Overall Impression

You had me at "mystery", but this has turned out to be actually quite good. Very well paced, an intriguing and fun protagonist with incredible cheerfulness and communicative enthusiasm... Clearly the staff had a blast creating this. It oozes fun and love for the genre from all pores.

This has the potential to be very good, and in any case it'll certainly be fun. I'm all in.
 

Kinni

Writer of Ten Thousand Ideas
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I was hoping that one would be good, so I'm excited.
 

Quasar

Feeling kinda smurfy
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Really do need to watch Black Lagoon one day.

Ranpo completely went under my radar, but then I tend to struggle with enjoying anime detective shows. At least the little bits I've tried. I might say its the kid-detective aspect, but I did grow up on kids/YA fiction about kids solving crime so I'm not sure its strictly that.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
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Wakaba Girl is a typical adaptation of a 4-panel gag manga as a series of 8-minute-long shorts (extended OP sequence included). It's basically a "cute girls being cute" affair, with the central gimmick of its heroine Wakaba coming from a very high-class family and being delighted to attend a normal high school where she can make normal friends. Cue many jokes from her being more than a bit sheltered.

It's cute, reasonably well-paced and funny, and doesn't overstay its welcome. That's plenty enough reasons for me to keep watching.

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Classroom☆Crisis
(12ish episodes ?)

What's it about ?

Er... A weird science-fiction/work-com/school thing ?

Characters

So, the future. Like many other countries, Japan has set up a colony on Mars where they focus on building awesome stuff. "Tokyo-4" seems to be mainly administrated by the Kirishina Corporation. They own an elite technical Campus called A-TEC, where they've gathered the most promising youngsters and seems to function as a glorified R&D lab.

Nagisa, a new transfer student to A-TEC, has been kidnapped by terrorists before he even showed up. The Kirishina board scramble madly to find a way to get him back. The 7,5 million ransom is of little concern, given that this guy is apparently more important than it seems, but the deadline is very strict indeed.

Under the guidance of their mellow teacher Kaito, the A-TEC students start looking into a way to mount a rescue operation. And since this is going nowhere soon, matters are taken into their own hands by...

Iris, the daredevil of the group. The kind who drives to school on a bike that can't be street-legal and disregards any safety advice. She "borrows" the small shuttle prototype A-TEC had been working on, and gamely aims for the terrorists' hideout. There's little left of her vehicle by the time she gets there, but she does reach the place mostly unhurt.

The punchline is that there were never any terrorists ; Nagisa merely wanted to prove a point. Namely, that A-TEC spent about a billion on a rescue mission (to say nothing of wrecking a 15-billion prototype), despite the ransom being several orders of magnitude lower. In other words, the Kirishima Corporation is wasting billions on a money sink that's far from delivering anything in proportion. So, as a member of the board and a relative to the CEO, he's here to downsize A-TEC, or maybe even shut it down entirely.

Since there would be no story otherwise, I presume we're going to get a "Save Our School" narrative next.

Production Values

I've never heard of studio "Lay-Duce" before, but they do a good job here. The opening scene with the board's panicked meeting being intercut with scenes of Iris driving to A-TEC is in particular very well-paced.

Overall Impression

Well, this is certainly trying something different. And it does have its good points, such as the well-structured opening scene, or the final reveal. The problem is what's in between : Kaito is asked to carry the plot, and his utter lack of charisma drains a good chunk of energy from the show.

I'll be honest : without the sudden twist, I would have been too bored to continue. Nagisa's impressive villainous scenery-chewing buys it another episode. Don't waste it.

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GATE: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri ("The Self-Defense Forces Fight Like This in That Place")
(24 episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a light novel series about Japan being attacked by heroic-fantasy forces coming from another dimension, and fighting back.

Characters

Oh, dear.

Look, I can see why the show concentrates on setting up the core premise instead of developing the actual cast. Selling the high concept is important, after all. It may go a bit too far in overstating the novelty of it, especially with this amazingly tepid "cliffhanger" revealing that the access point between the two dimensions is called "the GATE". Never would have guessed that.

And we do have an actual protagonist. Itami, off-duty lowly JSDF soldier who was at the right enough place during the initial attack to provide vital direction to the first responders and prepare the way for the actual defense forces. As a result, he gets a promotion, medals and much publicity he doesn't really care for, as well as being part of the first serious wave being sent through the Gate and to try and occupy the neighbouring dimension.

For maximum audience identification, he's also a massive otaku (who missed Comiket because of this). And he's also having random visions of girls of assorted fantasy races who are probably going to be future love interests. The pandering, it hurts. And that's the core problem with Itami as a character : he never feels like a coherent whole, but instead like a collection of traits the audience should like. He doesn't feel like an actual person, you see ?

It doesn't help that everyone else in this episode is amazingly one-note and forgettable. There's some fuss about the Prime Minister driving much of Japan's reaction dying before they get to the "invade the other world" part, but we're given little reason to care about why that would matter. Please focus a random crying orphan girl instead !

Production Values

Nice enough ; you can always count on A1-Pictures to produce competent animation that's not very flashy but does the job. And hey, the very generic designs for the heroic-fantasy armies may be part of the point.

Overall Impression

I'm sure there are many people ready to pounce upon the "JDSF, fuck yeah !" jingoism that constitutes the backbone of this show. And on some level, it is indeed a bit problematic. But that really wouldn't matter if the series made a much better effort at making me care. Featuring some actual characters instead of paper-thing cutouts would help. As would a bit of world-building beyond the obvious.

But this first episode leaves me with very little confidence that it can deliver anything on that front. Everything here was by-the-numbers and obvious. There's no twist (aside from the JSDF actually winning a fight for a change), no particular insight, the "enemy" have no depth whatsoever, and the blatant emotional manipulation showing up here and there gives me little hope on the plot suddenly becoming more even-handed between the various factions.

I just don't care. Pass !
 

Quasar

Feeling kinda smurfy
Validated User
Overall Impression

I'm sure there are many people ready to pounce upon the "JDSF, fuck yeah !" jingoism that constitutes the backbone of this show. And on some level, it is indeed a bit problematic.
i've wondered about that. I meant I've been deluged by US military jingoism my whole life in media so its hard for me to get that upset overvthe rare pieces of such things from other countries. Would people feel the same if Gate was about US marines instead?

Actually the whole premise made me think of Stargate ( I guess more the movie). Not that it was especially jingoistic.
 
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Wolfwood2

Registered User
Validated User
Look, I can see why the show concentrates on setting up the core premise instead of developing the actual cast. Selling the high concept is important, after all. It may go a bit too far in overstating the novelty of it, especially with this amazingly tepid "cliffhanger" revealing that the access point between the two dimensions is called "the GATE". Never would have guessed that.

And we do have an actual protagonist. Itami, off-duty lowly JSDF soldier who was at the right enough place during the initial attack to provide vital direction to the first responders and prepare the way for the actual defense forces. As a result, he gets a promotion, medals and much publicity he doesn't really care for, as well as being part of the first serious wave being sent through the Gate and to try and occupy the neighbouring dimension.

For maximum audience identification, he's also a massive otaku (who missed Comiket because of this). And he's also having random visions of girls of assorted fantasy races who are probably going to be future love interests. The pandering, it hurts. And that's the core problem with Itami as a character : he never feels like a coherent whole, but instead like a collection of traits the audience should like. He doesn't feel like an actual person, you see ?

It doesn't help that everyone else in this episode is amazingly one-note and forgettable. There's some fuss about the Prime Minister driving much of Japan's reaction dying before they get to the "invade the other world" part, but we're given little reason to care about why that would matter. Please focus a random crying orphan girl instead !
A very different approach from the manga, which I've read. In the manga, the attack on Tokyo is about one page and then we immediately go to the JSDF setting up camp on the other side of the Gate.

Also the manga spends a lot less time in Itami's head, which I think actually works much better. I mean, you get the occasional thought balloons but you mostly learn about him through his actions. There are certainly no random visions of fantasy girls. He's still an otaku. but it's mostly an informed attribute since about 95% of the time he's out doing exciting stuff (or at least interacting with people). He's also a decent guy whose reaction to seeing people dying is going to be "Holy shit, there are people dying!" not
"Oh, but they might cancel Comiket."

I'll likely give it another episode or two to see how it looks once we're actually into the main plot.
 
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