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[In which I review] New anime, Winter 2014

Quasar

Feeling kinda smurfy
Validated User
#41
It's Last Exile with the number's filed off. Brother/Sister for Klaus/Lavie. The cutesey steampunk euro look and I bet there is a hint of inappropriate cross class romance. Also to the end of the world (or whatever) sounds "grand stream"-ish,
I liked it, even if I want to start a pool on when the sister dies because of its obviousness.

Makes me wonder what Princess and the Pilot is like.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#42
Argh, tonight had a deluge of episodes for me to check out ! Six new shows, plus five continuations of series I'm still watching... I have no clue why Thursdays are so busy. So let's get on with it, starting with a few words about stuff I'm not doing full reviews for.

Strange+ is yet another of those shorts adapting a gag manga. (Not a 4-panel one, though.) It follows the wacky hijinks of a team of "detectives", and while it's far from subtle, it did get a few laughs out of me. It looks terrible, but that's par for the course for this kind of thing.

I know some of you were waiting for my take on pupa, but what is there to say ? I already had an inkling of what I was in for, and anyway the first episode barely gets anywhere, what with clocking at barely four minutes long. For what it's worth, it's a straightforward horror series about a girl who gets transformed into a cannibalistic monster ; we don't even get to the part where she starts eating her brother. Still, it's good at building atmosphere, and that's what really matters. I'll probably keep watching to see where it goes.

Z/X Ignition is a full-length show, but it was so boring I literally fell asleep halfway through ; and I have no wish whatsoever to try rewatching it to get a better sense of the plot. From what I can gather, a bunch of dark portals appeared all over the world, spawned monsters and "destroyed civilization" ; somehow civilization seems mostly fine a few years later, with some people having somehow domesticated monsters. There's a lot of impenetrable exposition about monster classification and so on, because of course this is adapted from a card game.

To be honest, I have no clue whatsoever which of the characters I'm supposed to be rooting for. They're all very generic, I seem to have missed out the part where their motivations get explained. Not even a lead role for Miyuki Sawashiro (whom I've surprisingly heard nowhere else this season) can make me pay attention to this crap.

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Engaged to the Unidentified (Mikakunin de Shinkoukei)
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a 4-panel gag manga about teenage arranged marriage.

Characters

Kobeni, our protagonist, is a normal high school girl. Who's just learned she's been forcibly engaged to some far-related cousin from the boonies. And he's coming to live with her family right now. Obviously, she's not too happy about this, despite her generally easy-going nature.

Hakuya, said fiancé, does seem like a decent dude. He's got no presence whatsoever, though.

Mashiro, his younger sister, is the big problem. For one, she's also coming to live in. But mostly, she's just very, very annoying in her worship of her brother and her jealousy against Kobeni.

Benio, Kobeni's older sister, is the idol of her high school... but a lecherous, borderline-lolicon at home. Maybe she's just joking, but Mashiro certainly hates her attentions.

Production Values

Perfectly okay for this kind of thing. There are heavy white highlights that give a somewhat pastel look to the characters (if that makes any sense), which looks okay enough.

Overall Impression

Well, this could be a lot more cringe-worthy, what with the forced-marriage and lolicon elements of the premise. As it is, it feels oddly charming.

On the other hand, it's not that funny, and I have better comedies to watch. So I'm not going to bother with it.

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Hoozuki the Cool-headed (Hoozuki no Reitetsu)
(12ish episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a comedy manga about hell bureaucrats.

Characters

Hoozuki, our protagonist, is a key member of Hell's administration ; more specifically, he's the guy who's dispatched everywhere to deal with whatever problematic situations arise. It's way less glamorous than it sounds, as the complaints are usually petty and/or misdirected. Still, that's his job, and he accomplishes with imperturbable (but always slightly irritated-sounding) phlegm.

King Enma of Hell, his boss, is completely overwhelmed by all the complaints addressed to him, and is all too happy to offload the whole of them onto his subordinate. He respects his competence, and spends the second half of the episode trying to make some small talk with him.

Momotarou, the Peach Boy, invades Hell in the first half to kill some demons, with his three animal sidekicks in tow. (If you're not aware, killing demons was his shtick over in his tale.) He thinks himself a man with a mission, but really he's just embarrassing himself, and his sidekicks are tired of his antics. Hoozuki deals with him with barely any use of violence.

(Apparently, each episode will feature two independent tales.)

Production Values

Well, it's certainly got a distinctive artstyle, well-detailed and full of background jokes. It's good at conveying how both alien and mundane Hell is, and that's key for the joke to work.

Overall Impression

On an intellectual level, I appreciate what this series is doing. It's got a decent joke at its core, the dialogue is witty, and it looks like nothing else being aired right now. I had every reason to want to like it.

Unfortunately, it's Very Japanese Indeed : it relies heavily on folklore and pop-culture jokes I have no familiarity with. As it is, I just can't connect with it, and enjoy it ; I'm going to have to give it a pass.


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Magical Warfare (Mahou Sensou)
(12ish episodes)

What's it about ?

Wow, that's probably the most generic title you could give to a light novel series, and I'm surprised nobody used it before 2011. But hey, it's quite accurate to both the premise and the genericness of its execution.

Characters

Takeshi, our generic high school male protagonist, was leading a perfectly ordinary (and generic) life. The one wrinkle on his genericness was that he already had an actual girlfriend, which is quite rare for this type of thing. (Actually, there seems to be something quite unsettling going on at his house. Were the writers seriously implying his mother was having sex with that boy who could be his brother, or am I just completely misinterpreting it ? It's hard to tell when none of them are talking to each other and the whole scene lasts for less than a minute.) Anyway, his life is completely wrecked when he meets...

Mui, a teenage magician on the run. Of course mere minutes later she faints in a way that leads to an accidental kiss, and of course she starts getting violent when she notices. The big idea here, though, is that he gets magic powers because he's been splashed by her magical gun's discharge. Curiously, his new powers are completely unrelated by what he's been hit with ; he now has "evasion" powers, which are actually the best kind right now (for reasons I'm about to explain).

Tsuganashi is her brother (or so she claims), who has apparently been brainwashed by whoever the bad guys are. She was looking for him, but she's now hunted by him and his posse, and Takeshi gets caught in the crossfire. Let me point out that this posse are very, very stupid : two out of three of them lose their magic powers due to their sheer incompetence, as that's what happens when you use magic to directly attack a magician in the mundane world. The third one happens to also have evasion powers, which are kosher to use (and work great in combination with conventional weapons).

Isoshima, Takeshi's girlfriend, also accidentally gets splashed into becoming a magician. She gets shapeshifting powers, the immediate effect of which is for her breasts to grow to an uncomfortable size. /facepalm. Takeshi's best friend Ida also got splashed, so Mui decides the best way to "protect" them is to bring them to the magic school in the magic world. (Hopefully Ida will be able to learn how not be on fire all the time.)

Production Values

Decent enough. Sometimes it manages to build some atmosphere, but then we're back to utter blandness. Great credits sequence at the end, though.

Overall Impression

Urgh. There are glimmers of vaguely interesting ideas here, but they swim in such a sea of stupidity that it's hard to get invested in this. The plotting verges on the nonsensical, with "shocking" twists that make everyone involved look terminally dumb. Not that the characters are particularly compelling, anyway. And frankly, it's not like the promise of shifting the setting to a magic school inspires me much confidence.

No way I'm giving the benefit of the doubt to this.
 

Quasar

Feeling kinda smurfy
Validated User
#43
Strange+ is yet another of those shorts adapting a gag manga. (Not a 4-panel one, though.) It follows the wacky hijinks of a team of "detectives", and while it's far from subtle, it did get a few laughs out of me. It looks terrible, but that's par for the course for this kind of thing.
Did not expect it to be a short. This seems to be a common thing for me. A premise I kind of like seemingly ruined by putting it in a short format.

I know some of you were waiting for my take on pupa, but what is there to say ? I already had an inkling of what I was in for, and anyway the first episode barely gets anywhere, what with clocking at barely four minutes long. For what it's worth, it's a straightforward horror series about a girl who gets transformed into a cannibalistic monster ; we don't even get to the part where she starts eating her brother. Still, it's good at building atmosphere, and that's what really matters. I'll probably keep watching to see where it goes.
I really wonder why it's a short and whether that was the plan all along. An atmospheric horror anime seems exactly the wrong thing for a short.

Magical Warfare (Mahou Sensou)
I got a bit confused when I started watching this because I thought this was the Mahouka anime. Found it bland enough that I stopped part way through.
 
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Wolfwood2

Registered User
Validated User
#44
Hoozuki the Cool-headed (Hoozuki no Reitetsu)
(12ish episodes)


Overall Impression

On an intellectual level, I appreciate what this series is doing. It's got a decent joke at its core, the dialogue is witty, and it looks like nothing else being aired right now. I had every reason to want to like it.

Unfortunately, it's Very Japanese Indeed : it relies heavily on folklore and pop-culture jokes I have no familiarity with. As it is, I just can't connect with it, and enjoy it ; I'm going to have to give it a pass.
Whereas I actually did like it for all the reasons you think you should have liked it. Definitely going to give it a second episode.


Magical Warfare (Mahou Sensou)
(12ish episodes)

Overall Impression

Urgh. There are glimmers of vaguely interesting ideas here, but they swim in such a sea of stupidity that it's hard to get invested in this. The plotting verges on the nonsensical, with "shocking" twists that make everyone involved look terminally dumb. Not that the characters are particularly compelling, anyway. And frankly, it's not like the promise of shifting the setting to a magic school inspires me much confidence.

No way I'm giving the benefit of the doubt to this.
I am watching this now, though I may not make it all the way. About six and a half minutes in, I have to think that Takeshi should be way more alarmed that this strange girl pulled out a gun and shot at him. And it left an impact crater and hole in the wall behind him, so it's not like he would be thinking it was a fake gun. He barely seems to have noticed. ???
 

Catharsis Cat

Live Action Anime Girl
Validated User
#45
Did not expect it to be a short. This seems to be a common thing for me. A premise I kind of like seemingly ruined by putting it in a short format.
How short are we talking about? I rather like the 2 or 3 shorts per episode myself, but I can't stand the rapid fire slice of life style that seems to be a bit more common.
 

Quasar

Feeling kinda smurfy
Validated User
#47
How short are we talking about? I rather like the 2 or 3 shorts per episode myself, but I can't stand the rapid fire slice of life style that seems to be a bit more common.
Strange+ was 3:30 with credits. I expected it to be a full length 22 minute show. Ditto Pupa.

But yeah. I found Aiura to be the absolute worst in that regard.
 
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Catharsis Cat

Live Action Anime Girl
Validated User
#48
Strange+ was 3:30 with credits. I expected it to be a full length 22 minute show. Ditto Pupa.

But yeah. I found Aiura to be the absolute worst in that regard.
That's totally different from what I thought when you said shorts, but thanks for the info. I will probably at least give it a shot anyway.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#49
Sakura Trick
(12ish episodes)

What's it about ?

High-school romantic comedy about lesbians. (Adapted from a 4-panel gag manga.)

Characters

Haruka, our main point-of-view character. She would be the straight man in half the jokes if she wasn't a lesbian girl. A bit airheaded and clumsy.

Yuu, her longtime girlfriend. They were already friends each other in middle school, and are now pushing it to the next level. More brash and fiery-tempered.

There are quite many other lesbian girls in their class... oh, fuck it, this is so boring I fell asleep and can't remember anything about them.

Production Values

Studio Deen recruited a SHAFT alumnus to direct this, and it shows ; he's trying his darnedest to spruce up those talking heads with every visual trick in his bag : unusual shots, some good use of colour, and of course many close shots of young girls' thighs.

Overall Impression

How can this show be so DULL ? Admittedly I often run hot and cold on 4-panel gag manga adaptations, but the jokes here just aren't very funny, and the characters are instantly forgettable. It feels like the show's only selling point is "Lesbians!", and that just won't cut it.

Don't bother with this one.

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No-Rin
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Romantic comedy (with a heavy focus on the comedy) set in an agricultural high school in rural Japan. Adapted from a light novel series.

Characters

Kousaku, our male lead. He's completely obsessed with this one idol, to a frightening extent. Body-pillows and everything. He even was regularly sending him the cucumbers he's grown !

Minori, his childhood friend. It's very transparent why she follows him around, though she's yet to make any actual move. No clue what she sees in this jerk, aside from being one of the very few eligible prospects from their small village.

Kei is the "serious" member of their trio of friends, and often takes the straight man role. There's an obvious attraction between him and the stuck-up top animal husbandry student (the threes are in the produce major), but they'd both die before acknowledging it.

"Becky", their teacher, is that stale joke about desperate single 30-somethings taken up to eleven. I don't think her students wanted to know about that night she took selfies naked and covered in oil, but she's telling them anyway.

Ringo is a new transfer student, and it's obvious she's Kousaku's favourite idol incognito after her surprise retirement.

Production Values

There actually seems to be quite a bit of budget behind this, especially in the opening dream sequence where Kousaku fantasizes about his idol.

The fanservice level is quite high, and you're going to see a lot of big boobs bouncing.

Overall Impression

If you make an entire show out of stale old jokes exaggerated to a ludicrous degree, can the result be worth watching ? The answer here seems to be no : it's just a painful trainwreck all around. (The "Becky" sequences, in particular, are both extremely memorable and a joke I'm in no hurry to watch again.) It's mildly funny and quite fascinating, but you still want to escape.

No way I'm keeping up with this when Silver Spoon is already airing.

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Wake Up, Girls!
(50-minute prologue movie + 12 episodes)

What's it about ?

The formation of an idol group, in way more detail than you can be entirely comfortable with.

Don't skip the movie, it's the essential first step of the story (and as such I see why Crunchyroll licensed it).

Characters

Ms Tange is the president of a very minor Sendai talent agency, and after a few setbacks she decides to try and cash in on the idol craze. With barely any budget or actual know-how, of course. Frankly, she's the kind of horrible person that are dime a dozen in the entertainment industry : callous, cynical, has no shame whatsoever, and is a complete jerk all around. And that's before she takes off with all the agency's money and leaves everyone else hung to dry.

Matsuda, her long-suffering assistant, does seem sincere, but he's wildly out of his depth, and content to follow her orders to prey on naive teenagers. I'd pity him if I didn't know better. (Because, seriously, enablers like him are also part of the problem.)

The girls they've picked up are, frankly, the bottom of the barrel. Okay, there's the "leader" who does have some professional experience as a fashion model, and the one who won a singing competition, but after that, it's just "whoever answered the ad" : a waitress at restaurant who hopes this is going to be better than being pinched by customers (ahah, you fool), another waitress from a maid café who sees this as her big break, a rich 13-year-old girl who's endearingly naive about the industry, and a girl-next-door type who sounds horrible even when not singing.

Mayu, on the other hand, is their jackpot. She's the former MVP of top idol group "I-1", which she left for mysterious reasons. Whatever it was, it left her with some deep trauma, and no wish to be an idol ever again. (It also left scars in her family, with her apparently now single mom having had to move back from Tokyo to her parents', and taking some unsavoury jobs.) She only went to the agency to escort her best friend. But of course she's eventually talked into joining, impressed by the eagerness of those hopefuls.

Production Values

Quite good indeed ; there's some neat attention to body language at every step. Interestingly, the dancing sequences are not CG (which is all the rage these days), but traditionally animated.

Overall Impression

I have no clue what this series is going for.

On the one hand, this is a multimedia project designed to launch the title idol group ; heck, all the girls have the same first names as their voice-actresses/live-action versions, for convenience's sake. (All of them being complete newbies recruited for this definitely shows, with some of them being painful to listen to.) And it definitely carries the message that idols have a positive impact on people's life.

But on the other hand, it makes a point of showing in great detail how scummy the idol industry is. Aside of Matsuda (who's still young and naive), every producer is a terrible person with very shady methods. The fan messageboards are toxic garbage. The humble debut is as unglamorous as possible. And there's no escaping how this unit got its start as a cynical cash-grab.

I'm going to keep watching this, as it's a fascinating detailed look which barely whitewashes the milieu. As long as it keeps up with that angle, I'm interested. Even though I fear it's going to hedge its bets eventually.

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Nisekoi ("False Love")
(26ish episodes)

What's it about ?

High school romantic comedy. (Adapted from a manga series.)

Characters

Raku, our male lead, wants to become a honest and productive member of society. That's a bit hard when he's the heir of a yakuza gang and there are dozens of henchmen expecting him to succeed his crimelord of a father. (For now, those are family-friendly mobsters whose only visible mischiefs are feuds with other gangs, but that may change later on.) They do respect his wishes for the time being, but they sure hope he's gonna change his mind.

Kosaki, the nice girl in his class. It's heavily hinted that she owns the key to the locket he exchanged with his childhood love 10 years ago, and she's been testing waters in attempts to confirm that... but actually, that's so obvious I'm expecting some kind of swerve.

Chitoge, the new half-American transfer student. It's antipathy at first sight ; it doesn't help that she has a terrible personality and accidentally stepped onto his face while jumping the wall into the school. They do mellow a bit after a while (an evolution nicely underlined by chapter titles progressively shifting from calling her "Monkey Girl" to her actual first name). On the other hand, they're both taken aghast when their respective fathers order them to (at least pretend to) be lovers for three years, in order to broker peace between the two gangs. Hence the title.

Production Values

It's impossible to forget Akiyuki Shinbo & studio SHAFT are at the helm here : weird angles for shots, editing used as punctuation, text hidden in the background, the trademark head tilts, some great use of colour... heck, even Kouki Uchiyama often sounds like he's doing a Hiroshi Kamiya impression.

It helps that the show has enough budget to animate lavishly the rare actions sequences. Nice music, too.

Overall Impression

Let's not mince words : this series' key selling point is the presentation. The plot and characters are serviceable, and there are some good jokes, but it'd be instantly forgettable in lesser hands. I've seen an interview of the manga creator being delighted that SHAFT would adapt his series, and I can believe it. This is way better than it deserves, if the series is as pedestrian as a quick browse through a few pages lets me think.

But while this is certainly a great-looking (and -sounding) anime series, it doesn't really add up to anything. It's still a generic romantic comedy with a formulaic hook. It's not like, say, Sankarea, whose impressive execution added tons of atmosphere and edge. We're firmly into well-trodden territory here.

But hey, I'm such a Shinbo fanboy I've watched through aggressively terrible SHAFT series (hello, Maria+Holic !) ; there's no way I'm skipping this. After all, it's perfectly okay.

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World Conquest - Zvezda's Plot (Sekai Seifuku ~Bouryaku no Zvezda~)
(?? episodes)

What's it about ?

A weird sci-fi-ish and conspirationist tale that features half-naked girls on their way to taking over the world. Words fail me to describe the plot's sheer mentalness.

"An anime-original project by the director of Wolf's Rain and Darker than Black" doesn't help, as it's completely unlike those shows.

Characters

Asuta, our point-of-view character. He immediately earns brownie points for non-genericness by telling his father to get lost through a phone call, and running away from home. Unfortunately, before he can even get any food there's a big city alarm : terrorists are attacking !

Kate is a young girl on a bike he meets in those empty streets. Despite looking (and sometimes behaving) like a grade-schooler, she claims to be the leader of the Zvezda organization, and on her way to conquering the world. No, seriously. There's even a ridiculous flash-forward showing she'll eventually succeed somehow. After a while she starts wearing a "combat" suit that barely covers anything.

She's got a bunch of followers : what looks like a dude in full armour ; a woman who can slice a tank in half with her sword ; and another remote-controlling a robot. Also, for some reason, Asuta's dad as a low-ranking (and completely incompetent) footsoldier.

The authorities seem at a loss on how to deal with Zvezda, as sending a bunch of tanks against them has completely failed. There's also a couple of mysterious girls uttering some ominous dialogue hinting that they may have a clue what's going on. Good for them.

Production Values

Well, it looks good, and the action sequences work. Shame about the stripperific outfit for the 8-year-old, though.

Overall Impression

What. The. Hell ?

I'll give it that : it's certainly bizarre enough for my curiosity to be needled, and me to try out another episode. It feels like a bizarre satire of... something, but I'm not entirely sure what. It does have some good comedic timing, at least. But unlike, say, KILL la KILL, I can't see any method to the madness. For now, it feels like a random collection of elements that's just kind of a mess.
 

Quasar

Feeling kinda smurfy
Validated User
#50
No-Rin
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Romantic comedy (with a heavy focus on the comedy) set in an agricultural high school in rural Japan. Adapted from a light novel series.

No way I'm keeping up with this when Silver Spoon is already airing.
I liked this (mostly). It would be my favourite new (non short) show based on one episode so far. I think. Not that there's much competition. Haven't watched Nisekoi, but I have been reading a bit of the manga.

And I wouldn't really compare it to Silver Spoon (a drama) anymore than I'd compare 28 Days later to Shaun of the Dead.

As I said elsewhere maybe this will ease my frustration I seem to have with the whole Yugo/Aki relationship.

World Conquest - Zvezda's Plot (Sekai Seifuku ~Bouryaku no Zvezda~)
(?? episodes)
This struck me as just dumb and a total waste of my time. Not that I'm really surprised as I had seen the trailer, but lots of folks seemed keen on it so I figured I'd check it out.
 
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