[In Which I Review] New anime, Winter 2016

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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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 five 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 full-length reviews of Durarara!!x2 (Part 3), Assassination Classroom 2 or the second half of Snow White with the Red Hair, 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). However, I do plan on covering spin-offs that look distinctive or noteworthy enough, such as the bizarre revival of Nurse Witch Komugi-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 Fall 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.


Winter seasons are usually a bit light-weight, but as usual the producers have seen fit to premiere nearly all of them under less than a week, with often five or more a day, in an effort to kill me. Bah, I say.


If you're interested in reading my past reviews, there's my archive website collecting all of them (including the 2000 retro reviews) in an easily-searchable format.


The first actual debut isn't until Tuesday, but I'm creating the thread now so that it's easier to subscribe before it gets flooded. I may review a couple of recent odds and ends until then.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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So, er, my first review is for a show that won't actually come out this Winter. :awkward:
But I had to start with something, and it's review-worthy enough, so whatever.



Macross Delta

What's it about ?

This is another iteration of a franchise that's three-decade-and-a-half old at this point, but hasn't had a proper TV series since 2007. Also, this won't actually start until next Spring, but a "preview special" with most of the first episode aired over the holidays, so here we are.

For added fun, I've never actually watched any Macross ; I assume that by now there isn't any particularly tight continuity beyond the general framework of "space opera with mecha and idol singers", and this should be relatively accessible on its own terms. (Similarly to how Gundam reinvents itself every few years.) If not, well, it's the show's funeral.

Characters

Hayate, our male lead, is a slacker who's just got fired from his slave-wage material handling job on some random backwater planet. Since this is his last day, he might as well enjoy it, and so he decides the best way to unload containers from a starship is to have his workplace mecha dance to the tune of super-famous idol unit Walkure's greatest hits. As you do.

Freyja, our heroine, is a stowaway he finds in an apple container. She's a HUGE Walkure fangirl and came here because there'll be auditions for a fifth member in a week. Except she got to the wrong planet. Oops. For added fun, security forces are on edge because of random outbreaks of the "Var Syndrome" plague, which makes people suddenly go berserk and wreak havoc out of nowhere. Obviously, an illegal immigrant like Freyja is seen as a big security and sanitary risk. Cue chase scenes, with a somewhat befuddled Hayate helping her out because hey, what the hell.

As it turns out, Walkure are also undercover on this planet right now, investigating the Var outbreaks. They're not just idol singers, but also the key members of a military unit fighting the plague off. The idol thing is way more than a cover : they're basically magical girls fighting the plague with the Power of Song ! (With their bodyguards providing support from fighter jets and/or mechas.)

It's obvious from the start that Freyja is indeed quickly going to become a new Walkure member, with Hayate as her bodyguard ; the preview stops just after a cliffhanger that gives a clue of how that's going to happen. (Also, it's plain to see that, in the same way that Walkure's songs soothes the Var victims, it's someone else's song that also starts the plague in the first place.)

There are also a bunch of dudes who start bombing Walkure out of nowhere. Presumably they're going to be explained in further episodes.

Production Values

Very good. Sure, this isn't the entire first episode, and we're still missing proper OP/ED sequences, but it looks great, the action sequences flow well, and the animation has tons of energy.

Also, for a series built around idol songs, it actually sounds quite good ; Walkure's last song as the credits run is quite catchy indeed.

Overall Impression

This is an impressive start. I have no prior knowledge of the franchise, and this didn't impede by enjoyment at all. It's got fun characters, a fun premise, and enough energy to carry my goodwill along without breaking a sweat.

I'm totally watching this when it actually comes out, in April or something.
 

dshaffer

Pervy Catgirl Fancier
Validated User
The Macross series has a continuity, but besides some overall themes and refs to past series, you don't really need to know more then 'They have transforming planes, there is a race of allied giant humans out there, and music is a powerful force for change.' Some things will probably be more enjoyable if you're familiar with past series and make a bit more sense (You can bet half the reviewers are going to mention the Jamming Birds) but nothing you likely cant figure out.
 

Quasar

Feeling kinda smurfy
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Wow. I'm just shocked this is your first Macross.

I didn't really like the special, to the point its totally cool my heels on the show. It looked really cheap to me though maybe thats just the incomplete/draft nature of the material.
 

Albertorius

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Wow. I'm just shocked this is your first Macross.

I didn't really like the special, to the point its totally cool my heels on the show. It looked really cheap to me though maybe thats just the incomplete/draft nature of the material.
Yeah, I'm a real, real hardcore Macross fan, and so far I'm vey much of two minds with this, right now, and I was really excited to see more Macross, too. I like the new VF designs (and I like they named the delta one SV-262 Draken III, give a nod to your inspiration, will ya ^_^) and it has energy, but... I don't know. Back when I watched the pre air episode of Macross Frontier? I was giddy for weeks. It looked gorgeous, it felt complete, the music felt completely integrated with the action (and not in the way this one is)...

This one? Well, it looks pretty. It also looks more or less exactly like all the Aquarion series do, down to the... let's just say improbable action scenes. And I say this liking M7, even liking a lot some parts of it. Dunno, maybe it's because it feels like a bit too much, way too fast. Dunno.

I did like to see old school zent stuff, and that new battlepod/battle armor mix looks nice enough. We'll see.

It's just that I' not in a cloud, like I got after watching Frontier for the first time. And that's a damn shame, because it felt really good ^_^

EDIT: Jhiday, if you're able and willing to, would you give a shot to the special for Macross Frontier? They did the same for MF that they've done for this one, and I'd love to see what would you think about that one.
 
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s/LaSH

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The opening minutes of Macross Frontier still give me shivers. I've got to check out Delta - even if it's not up to the same standard, Frontier built a whole lot of goodwill in my brain.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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Wow. I'm just shocked this is your first Macross.
Remember, I only got started on Gundam less than three years ago, well into my anime-watching history. This is the kind of franchises I take a lot of time to get around to watching, as I want to experience them fully, and that's a big time investment.

EDIT: Jhiday, if you're able and willing to, would you give a shot to the special for Macross Frontier? They did the same for MF that they've done for this one, and I'd love to see what would you think about that one.
The only reason I won't take you on your offer... is that I'm planning on starting an "All of Macross" marathon very soon. (Basically, as soon as I'm done with this season review and the few instalments of my Gundam threads I have left on my plate.) That's better, ain't it ? :p



Anyway, on to the Wednesday shows ! (And a Tuesday show Funi released late. But missing those "Sushi Police" shorts for now.)


Prince of Stride - Alternative
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

"Stride" is a fictional sport that's basically a five-people relay parkour race (with a sixth person coordinating them by radio). So this is a sports series (complete with the classic "save our club" narrative)... adapted from a female-targeted, male harem visual novel.

Characters

Nana, our heroine/audience stand-in, loves Stride and enrolled into this high school because she watched a video of their Stride club having perfect form... But that was a while ago, the members she saw are on the verge of graduating and already left it, and there are so few members left it's on the verge of disbanding (they certainly don't have enough people to properly enter races right now). She wanted to be the manager (aka the traditional female role of a sports team that's a glorified gofer), but she'll do as their Relationer (the radio coordinator).

Heath, the club president, at first looks like a slacker that gave up, but he did ensure the club's temporary survival by merging it with the shogi club, and made sure that the members kept in shape. He even deviously trained Ayumu, the shogi club's president, despite his stated disinterest into the sport.

Hozumi, the third "veteran" member, is the super-enthusiastic cute-looking guy. If you've ever watched a male harem, you know the type.

Takeru is another freshman who's joining the club for the same reasons as Nana... except he's way more obsessive and creepy about it, already seizing up potential recruits before he even enters the club room.

Riku is the victim candidate he's pounced on. You can easily see why : he's so fast that all the sports clubs want him, and his impressive amateur parkour run when he's late for his first day in school makes him a shoe-in. Unfortunately, he's a bit reluctant and seems to have some history with the club somehow (I suspect he's the brother to one of the seniors who left in bad blood or something). Cue 2vs2 race between the seniors and the freshmen to settle this... And to his credit, Takeru doesn't throw the race at all. The seniors are that good.

Production Values

Quite good. Atsuko Ishizuka (of No Game No Life fame) is directing this, and you can tell by her signature oversaturated colours. It's nice to see her handling a show that doesn't require creepy incestuous fanservice. (And even the manservice here is relatively tame, compared to, say, Free!)

I'm slightly warier of the race sequence being slightly bigger on impressionist little touches than proper scene-setting, which makes me worry about the show's actual animation budget. But maybe they're saving up for the proper races later on ? At least they still flow quite well.

Overall Impression

This is way better than I expected. Sure, the cast are walking clichés, ticking all the classic male harem archetypes, but they still show a decent degree of personality and have good chemistry. Moreover, the show has communicative enthusiasm for its madeup sport, as showcased by the whole school preparing the obstacle course and watching, which may be a bit overkill for a club on the verge of disbanding. But who cares ? It makes Stride look cool and fun, which is all that matters.

Good enough for me to give it a bit of rope... and it's not like there's anything else on Tuesdays anyway.

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Myriad Colors Phantom World (Musaigen no Phantom World)
(13 episodes)

What's it about ?

Already our first "magic school" light novel adaptation ? Well, at least its premise is introduced by an actual fun infodump (followed by a less fun and kinda unneeded second one, unfortunately) : you know how our eyes are tricked by optical illusions. Well, imagine a world where people's eyes were readjusted by a random global accident that allows them to see all the "phantoms" they couldn't see yet. Oh, and the teenagers born since then can even fight them, because this is a battle anime of course.

Characters

Haruhiko, our male protagonist and point-of-view character, is the kind of super-nerd who feels the need to exposit at length about the setting to random classmates who already know all this stuff. In other words, supremely annoying. He takes part in after-school phantom-hunting activities to bring a bit of dough in, but he's not too good at it. He's partnered with...

Mai, who's a very good if messy phantom fighter. It's just a shame that her casting magic involves massaging her own body. Also, any of the bounties they'd win are negated by her tendency to leave off massive collateral damage on her path.

Reina is a random shy and reserved classmate Haruhiko befriends after he sees her eating messily a whole bunch of phantoms at once. Mai is all for including her in... and at this stage, you can agree with her wondering what Haruhiko even brings to the team anymore.

Ruru is a cute little phantom girl Haruhiko has befriended/tamed. She doesn't actually do that much besides being a bit obnoxious.

There's another girl stomping off the activities room in a huff, and she's featured prominently enough in the credits that she's probably joining the team soon.

Production Values

Oh, dear. You can tell that KyoAni took delight in animating the shit out of that three-minute exposition sequence at the beginning that explores in a visually appealing way the high concept behind the series, because after that their talent is wasted on way too detailed shots of Mai's torso as she casts her magic. Urgh.

Overall Impression

Presumably you know by now that any show in the "magic battle school" genre faces an uphill battle with me. This one hurts its case by starting semi-promisingly and then falling off a cliff into the same tired old clichés, bothersome exposition, and creepy fanservice. It's also self-aware enough to make it worse.

Urgh, I'll pass. I have no time for this crap.

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Haruta & Chika Blossom (Haruta to Chika wa Seishun Suru)
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a (proper) novel series about the low-key mysteries faced by a high-school brass band club. Kind of a cross between Hyouka & Sound! Euphonium, basically.

Characters

Chika, our protagonist, used to be quite the tomboy volleyball star, but she kinda burned out ; she felt that she was wasting her youth training all the time, and go for a less time-consuming afterschool club activity that leave her time for, you know, meeting boys and stuff. Like, maybe the brass band ; that flutist looked cute and feminine on TV. If her high-school debut is the occasion to reinvent herself into a much more demure girl, then perfect. Unfortunately for her, she's terrible at keeping that front, especially after she's reunited with...

Haruta, with whom she used to be friends when they were young kids. Well, he remembers it more as her bullying him all the time, but same difference ; I think he's enjoying a bit turning the tables by making her true tomboy nature whenever she interacts with him. Anyway, he's already a member of the brass band. As a mystery buff, he's on the forefront of investigating the weird case of the weird graffiti painted in red on the blackboard, eventually laying out the cipher for everyone else's benefit.

Mr Kusakabe, the supervising music teacher, is a bit of an enigma himself ; he recently abandoned a promising conducting career to teach in this random school. And he's plainly the target for the mysterious message. Haruta's interest is tickled, obviously. And Chika has a bit of a crush on him...

Contrary to Chika's expectations, there's now barely five members in the brass band. Aside from the club president, there's just a pair of twins that everyone keeps mixing up whenever they're not playing their (different) instruments. (And props on the casting department for finding someone who sounds very much like but slightly different than Chiaki Omigawa for the other one.)

There's a flashforward showing the band performing with several times more members (including one who's obviously going to be the focus of the next episode), so presumably some heavy recruiting is in the offing.

Production Values

I'm really not fond of the character designs, but studio PA Works do show off their usual skill at animating body language ; Chika's shifting personas wouldn't work as well without their care for her facial expressions. And they can draw actual play of instruments, which is very welcome.

Overall Impression

You had me at "low-key mysteries" (and this first one has a nice twist), but Chika turns out to be a fascinating and endearing lead, with Haruta as a fun foil. It's a nice and well-executed setup that leaves ample room for future stories.

It's also refreshing to watch an anime series with a gay person in the main cast who's not a caricature, but a fully-fleshed out character who's not defined by their sexuality or pandering to the audience. How rare is that ?

This is a must-watch for me now.
 

Rabbit Éclair

high in vital bunnytonium
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Haruta & Chika Blossom (Haruta to Chika wa Seishun Suru)
I may yet come to regret my semi-popular post where I described this show as, "through intense research and experimentation, anime science has managed to produce a Slice Of Life substance 30% more generic than any material previously known to man," based on its anilist description. (Seriously, though, music club on the verge of being shut down + tagged slice of life.)
 

Quasar

Feeling kinda smurfy
Validated User
I may yet come to regret my semi-popular post where I described this show as, "through intense research and experimentation, anime science has managed to produce a Slice Of Life substance 30% more generic than any material previously known to man," based on its anilist description. (Seriously, though, music club on the verge of being shut down + tagged slice of life.)
Well almost anything without supernatural gets thrown in the sol bucket (part of why I hate that terrible descriptor). And I don't know there's any fear of club destruction, just that its a school band with like 5 people.

That said its a kind of a hyouka/euphonium mashup. And it looks kind of plain for a PA Works show. Its like its got no budget.

I like Haruta though...he's an unusual guy being a gay lead in a non camp/fujoshi show.
 

Evil Midnight Lurker

What Lurks at Midnight
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The only reason I won't take you on your offer... is that I'm planning on starting an "All of Macross" marathon very soon. (Basically, as soon as I'm done with this season review and the few instalments of my Gundam threads I have left on my plate.) That's better, ain't it ? :p
Is it possible to subscribe to a thread that doesn't exist yet? :D
 
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