[In Which I Review] New anime, Winter 2015

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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Validated User
#1
It's January, 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.

There aren't actually that many shows to review this season, with most of them premiering this week. (Although there are a few stragglers due in late January or even early February.)

As usual, note that I shall be skipping :
- Most sequel and continuation series. This means no Durarara!!, JoJo or Aldnoah.Zero, 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 be covering spin-offs that look distinctive enough (i.e. the new Yatterman, and maybe The iDOLM@STER - Cinderella Girls).
- 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 Fall won't be on DVD/Blu-Ray for ages.

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


Today there were two shows debuting, but because of scheduling concerns I'm only covering the one I actually wanted to watch for now. Absolute Duo will have to wait until tomorrow.


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Love Bullet : Yuri Bear Storm (Yuri Kuma Arashi)
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Kunihiko Ikuhara's new project, after Utena & Penguindrum. As the title implies, it involves lesbians and cute bears all trying to eat each other, and defies description.

Characters

Lulu & Ginko are two bears who managed to pass through the Extinction Wall humankind has erected to protect itself from their kind after they gained sentience ; they're posing as transfer students at the Arashigaoka Institute, which offers plenty of delicious teenage (and female) prey. Lulu is the one who waxes rhapsodic, while Lulu is merely voicing her constant hunger.

Kureha, a student here, seems to be our protagonist. Apparently she smells even more delicious than her classmates, but walks too rarely alone for the two bears to attack her. And then she starts carrying a hunting rifle around, as despite the teachers' many warnings the next victim was...

Sumika, Kureha's lover. Cute as a button, and thus the perfect sacrificial lamb. (If she is indeed dead, as it all happens offscreen.)

Yurizono, the charismatic class representative. (Yes, we have several students whose name starts with "Yuri". Including the bears' cover identities.) She was already a friend to both Kureha & Sumika, and is determined to investigate the latter's murder. As the episode ends, she stumbles on the bears eating more victims and immediately identifies them as the new transfers student, so I guess that cat's out of the bag already.

There's a long weird sequence where an otherworldly court passes judgment on the two bears (for crossing the Wall and eating Sumika), with the final verdict that it's normal for bears to eat humans, and so they can proceed with eating Kureha (who they had captured just before). And then Kureha wakes up, completely dumbfounded.

(Said court are the only presence of the Y chromosome in the whole show.)

Production Values

Gorgeous. It's even more colourful than Penguindrum, with rounder character designs that contrast with the gruesome subject matter. The mad architect is also back, with immense symmetrical buildings and endless staircases everywhere.

There's a bit of fanservice with some female flesh shown, and an improbable absence of nipples.

Overall Impression

This is just lovely. Sugary as heck with really dark undercurrents, not a single wasted scene as the show marches on through tons of exposition and character introductions without feeling rushed, and a pregnant atmosphere of weirdness and unease that makes it feel like anything can happen. (And it does, as I didn't anticipate Sumika biting it so quickly.)

For me, this lives up to the hype : the master is at work again, and I'm in for the ride.
 

Mengtzu

Another Kill Team...
Staff member
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#2
That's quite different from the manga, despite having mostly the same characters. And yeah, Morishima Akiko can draw guys, but that's not why you'd hire her.

Glad to hear it's good, looking forward to seeing it and I hope it's a solid boost to Morishima-sensei's profile.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#5
This is one case where I'm glad for French!Crunchyroll.


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Absolute Duo
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a light novel series where teenagers attend a school to improve their magical battle proficiency. Like every other light novel that gets adapted into anime, then.

Characters

Thor (*snigger*), our generic male protagonist who doesn't even get to feature on the series' main poster artwork. Unlike most everyone else here, his "soul weapon" is a shield, not a blade. Also, he's very, very bland.

Imari, a girl he meets just before the entrance ceremony and with whom he's got some actual chemistry. (Which might be partly due to reconstituting the main couple of VAs from SAO. Or maybe it's just that Haruka Tomatsu can improve anything by her presence.) So of course the sadistic and impossibly young school headmistress announce that all the applicants must duel in pair, with only the winner getting to enter ; and Thor is thus forced to beat her and make her drop out. (Maybe she's not entirely written out, but I'm not holding my breath.)

Julie, the nearly-mute moeblob he's then paired with and has to room with. No real personality on display yet.

Some more supporting cast get a bit of screentime, but none of them are striking enough to deserve mentioning.

Production Values

Those are some very uninspired character designs, with the girls often wearing some fetishized clothing that doesn't look like fabric, and high heels that seem wholly unsuited to the somersaulting around they do in the OP sequence. But at least there's not too much fanservice.

Points off for the impenetrable pre-credits sequence, which seems to think that drowning the screen in bloody darkness looks good and dramatic.

Overall Impression

Is this a prank ? An attempt to ram every single light novel cliché into the one show ? And it takes itself dreadfully seriously, of course. This goes beyond mediocre and into laughably bad... Except I'm falling asleep instead of laughing. It's just that boring.

Don't bother with this one.

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Cute High Earth Defense Club Love! (Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love!)
(12ish episodes ?)

What's it about ?

This is an original project (with tie-ins in other media - light novel, manga, videogame...) which asks : wouldn't it be funny to do a magical girl series starring a bunch of dudes ?

Characters

This stars five high school students, four of whom have unfortunately very similar voices. They also like to discuss some very boring topics, such as what vegetable they like best in a hotpot. The one who's a bit distinctive is the perky freshman who likes ugly animals.

He's in luck, because a pink wombat shows up and gives all of them super-powers, making them magical boys. Cue "hilarity" as they now have frilly outfits and find themselves compelled to pose while making silly introductions.

Our mook of the week is a depressive classmate of them who somehow got transformed into a rampaging asparagus. They beat him by showering him with the power of love... and finish him off with the power of fists.

There's also a cameo by the aloof trio of the student council, who will probably be rivals or antagonists later on.

Production Values

The visuals at least make a good try at selling the joke : the magical boy outfits walk a very fine line between being bright and frilly while still looking like male clothing.

The episode gratuitously starts in a public bath, although there's not that much flesh in display.

Overall Impression

And the answer to the above question is... not if that's your only joke. And that's unfortunately the case here : it's mildly funny, but can't carry a full episode on its own, let alone a series. It doesn't help that the main characters don't have much personality, and find themselves having some awfully boring conversations when left on their own devices. (Yes, I get that's a joke. But it's still tedious to watch.)

I was open to this series in concept, but the execution is far from strong enough to pull it off. Too bad, but at least it tried something a bit different.
 
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Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#7
Kantai Collection
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of an online card game where you battle through girls who are moe anthropomorphizations of naval ships. It's a franchise with an impressively big, Touhou-like fandom, which has also spawned light novels, manga, and now this anime series.

Characters

Fubiki is our naive newcomer protagonist who's just joined the fleet (whose headquarters are basically a boarding school with luxury leisure facilities). A bit clumsy and slow, she has trouble conveying that she's never seen combat before. Still, she's admirative enough of her seniors that she vows to improve and reach their level.

We're introduced to various other members of her squad, including her two roommates (the nice one and the slightly snarky one), and the three oddball sisters in the adjoining dorm room.

Akagi is one of the MVP of the fleet, whom Fubiki becomes admirative of and imprints on as a rolemodel. As an aircraft carrier, she's a member of the archery club (and her arrows morph into fighter planes once they near their target).

When they're deployed, the girls/ships are basically sliding over water, with bulky equipment depending on their class. It's a weird visual indeed. They fight against a dark fleet who are basically their evil counterpart.

Production Values

Quite good indeed, although it never really manages to turn its odd character designs into really engaging visuals. It looks okay, but it doesn't have the creativity to do anything really cool or interesting with it.

Overall Impression

Zzzz... The characters are one-note and quite dull so far, the battles aren't anything special, and overall it feels like a wacky high concept in search of a story to be developed around it, and dramatically failing. What works for an online cardgame just falls flat in this format.

Nothing to see here, pass your way.

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The Testament of New Sister Devil (Shinmai Maou no Testament)
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a light novel series.

Characters

Basara is an ordinary teenager whose father suddenly announces he's remarried, and brings two stepsisters in to live with them. And who then proceeds to leave the country for work or whatever, leaving Basara very confused over how to handle those two girls.

Mio, the older one, of course gets the worse possible impression of him after he stumbles on her in the bathroom. (Sigh) It doesn't help that Maria, the younger one, is a bit of a troll who enjoys making him look like he's got a sister complex.

The twist is that Dad never remarried ; Mio is actually the heir to the previous Demon Lord (and Maria her succubus servant), who manipulated him to get a base on Earth. So yeah, get lost, Basara.

The other twist is that Basara is a young warrior on the side of Light, and can handle his own against the two of them enough to drive them out. Okay, didn't see that coming.

The other other twist is that Dad was fully aware of what was going on ; it turns out that the previous Demon Lord was much more peaceful and easy to deal with than the guy who's taken over since, and so it would be a good idea to harbour Mio until she's strong enough to reclaim the throne. You know, it would probably have been a better idea to clue Basara in on all this at some point before it's almost two late and the "sisters" get ambushed by agents of the new regime...

Production Values

Awfully cheap-looking throughout, and the constant fanservice doesn't help make it look better.

Overall Impression

This is an episode that starts off awful and then gradually improves until it reaches the dizzying heights of "almost clever enough to be watcheable". That's quite the dramatic turnaround indeed, and it's certainly never boring.

On the other hand, it's never actually good either. The occasional fanservice outbursts (and the incest teases) aren't exactly endearing, and I'm pretty sure this story has already been better executed elsewhere. So I kinda doubt I'll be giving it the benefit of the doubt and another episode.
 

Solarn

Registered User
Validated User
#8
There are basically two reasons for anyone to read Testament over other LNs with a similar premise: the competence porn courtesy of Basara (including avoiding or talking through every single instance of "hilarious" misunderstandings beyond the ones in this episode), and the copious amounts of ludicrously explicit fanservice. The anime exhibits neither and in addition paces the first episode out very weirdly, basically ending it at the worst possible point.
 

Stryke

Bang and a Boom
Validated User
#9
Love Bullet : Yuri Bear Storm (Yuri Kuma Arashi)
(12 episodes)

There's a bit of fanservice with some female flesh shown, and an improbable absence of nipples.
Also there a scene with the two bears licking nectar off flower petals which needs to win some kind of award for 'trains going into tunnels' visual subtext. Given where the flower is also positioned on the naked girl then yeah subtext may not exactly be the word.

Very very weird show. Kind of entertaining though.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#10
Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend (Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata)
(12 episodes if you include this "prologue", noitaminA)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a light novel series lampooning romantic comedy clichés.

Characters

This series follows the members of a high school club aiming to produce a romance videogame, including :
- Tomoya, the one dude and apparent "leader" of the club, the idea guy giving direction to the group.
- Utaha, the main writer (who also makes light novels on the side). Very sardonic and critical of the clichés of the genre, she's quick to make fun of Tomoya's terrible exposition in his narration and dialogue. Also aggressively vamping on him, with enough plausible deniability to leave him confused.
- Eriri, the main artist (who also publishes bestselling doujinshi on the side). A proponent of flash over substance, and thus in content conflict with Utaha. It doesn't help that she's Tomoya's childhood friend and doesn't like this newcomer macking on him.
- Michiru, the musician, an oddball who mostly stays in the background so far.
- Megumi, the one "normal" girl in the club, with no apparent artistic ability. She's used by Eriri as a model for her artwork. Paratext indicates that she's the girl Tomoya is actually interested in, and thus the "Boring Girlfriend" in the title.

This is a hot springs episode, with all the (lack of) plot advancement this implies.

Production Values

It takes some gall for a show to open with a gratuitous and very fanservicey hot springs scene, only for one of its characters to immediately launch into a rant against this kind of thing (with another very weakly trying to defend the practice).

Aside from this, it's a decent-looking show.

Overall Impression

Hum. Usually you get this kind of thing as an OVA, not on TV before the first episode even airs. (Especially as it's clearly set somewhere in the middle of the series, and isn't a real prologue.)

But while this episode, by its very nature, doesn't establish or develop the plot in any way, it gives a very good overview of the character dynamics at play here, as well as the metafictional humour it's going for. And there's quite a lot to enjoy here ; Utaha's dry wit and trolling are the major attraction, and play well with the rest of the cast. There's nothing particularly original, but the execution is strong enough to overcome my pre-release fears about the plot direction.

This must be the first ever hot springs episode I've ever found promising. That alone makes me think it's doing something right, and pushes the show onto my to-watch list.

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Maria the Virgin Witch (Junketsu no Maria)
(12ish episodes ?)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a seinen manga series about a witch getting fed up with the Hundred Years' War.

Characters

Anne, a young French girl who goes to visit the Witch with her mother to get medicine for her grandma, a longtime friend of the Witch who's too sick to come herself this time around. Anne's also worried about her father, who's been called to fight in the War ; maybe the Witch can do something about that too ? (Her mother prudently points out she shouldn't be too public about her trust in the Witch ; the Church has ears everywhere...)

Maria, the Witch, for some reason decided to make herself look like an old crone for this meeting. First impressions are important, you know ? (She actually looks quite young, whatever her actual age is. And, as the title indicates, still a virgin.)

Artemis, her succubus servant, who breaks the illusion, because it's funnier that way and she enjoys trolling her mistress. Just back from a mission to "incapacitate" the army leaders, if you catch her meaning. (Again, she enjoys teasing Maria over the details.)

Joseph, a messenger from the French crown who's been regularly trying to get Maria on their side, to not much success. So he tells her he's been reassigned to fight in the army. Maria tries to make it look like she doesn't care about him, but it's obvious (and particularly to Artemis) she's at best fooling herself.

Towards the end, Maria clearly explains her agenda : she's furious about the Church's treatment of Jeanne d'Arc and the horror of the War in general ; so she's using her powers to make it stop. (If this saves Anne's father and Joseph, then that's a complete coincidence, of course.)

A few other witches are sharing popcorn next to the battlefield, with an English one (with no particular loyalty to her country) taking the naive newcomer role.

Production Values

Quite good indeed. Way less fanservice than you'd expect from the premise, as the show is busier selling the jokes and the characters.

Overall Impression

This is an intriguing start, especially for what isn't in this first episode. That would be the start of Maria's quest (as it's already well in progress), as well as more than a token acknowledgement of what she's actually doing against the war. No, right now the priority is to shed plenty of light over her motivations, whether in that anvilicious rant, by establishing links to people in direct danger, or more subtly in the way the war itself is depicted.

Every effort here is made to have the war look as pointless as possible. There are no stakes whatsoever, as the battles don't seem to have any purpose beyond keeping the war going. Jingoism is artificially fanned. While the freshly-recruited rank and file die in droves, for the well-equipped professional mercenaries it's just another day at the job. Nobody high-ranked is shown anywhere near the battlefield. It's a dreary war that has taken a life of its own and grinds decent people down for no reason. It's thus no wonder why Maria would want to stop something so horrible.

Now, there's no clue where this is actually going ; we're firmly at the world-building stage for now. But it's been enough to hook me.
 
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