[In Which I Review] New anime, Winter 2016

Pip

Citizen of Ireland
Validated User
#11
Yeah, Macross (unlike Gundam) maintains a continuous setting and continuity throughout (I think Macross II is the only thing that's been specifically called out as not canon because it wasn't made by the same people, but I could be wrong), but they do make a serious effort to make sure that each series works as a self-contained jumping on point.
 

Evil Midnight Lurker

What Lurks at Midnight
Validated User
#12
Yeah, Macross (unlike Gundam) maintains a continuous setting and continuity throughout (I think Macross II is the only thing that's been specifically called out as not canon because it wasn't made by the same people, but I could be wrong), but they do make a serious effort to make sure that each series works as a self-contained jumping on point.
The DYRL movie is an alternate version of the first series, and explained as an in-universe movie dramatizing its events.
 

HDimagination

Building something out of Scrap
Validated User
#13
Ah subbed. I saw quite a few likely targets this season. Hopefully this will help me sort out the good stuff from the Dross
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#14
Ah, the traditional Thursday Night onslaught. It's been a while since it's been that bad, with six new full-length shows (+ a sequel) and two shorts. Fortunately for my health and sanity, some of them won't be simulcast until later. Let's first get the shorts out of the way...

Sushi Police has exactly one joke : an elite police task force regulating the quality and authenticity of sushi. Unfortunately, the execution is rather dismal : few of the gags land, and the animation style is an acquired taste at best. You probably shouldn't bother seeking it out.

Old Man & Marshmallow is an office romantic-comedy about a middle manager who loves marshmallow. One of his underlings keeps teasing him about him in a way that makes it clear she's flirting with him ; he's oblivious. Nothing great here, but it's paced decently, mildly funny, and rather okay overall. I may stick with it.

Oh, and I'm giving up on Assassination Classroom. The first season had huge pacing and consistency issues ; mostly, it wasn't that funny. So this new season really had to hit it out of the park to keep my interest... It didn't. It's a below average episode with nothing particularly interesting happening ; it might have worked partway through the season as a breather, but something much more punchy was needed at this stage.

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Active Raid : Special Public Security Fifth Division Third Mobile Assault Eighth Unit (Kidou Kyoushuushitsu Dai Hakkei)
(12 episodes, with a second season already scheduled for Summer)

What's it about ?

The director of Code Geass does Patlabor, basically. I.e. we're following a dysfunctional police unit dealing with mecha-related crimes.

Characters

Asami is a teenage genius fresh off the academy (and some abroad internship) who's tasked with "inspecting" the 8th unit. The unspoken assumption is that she's supposed dig up enough evidence to shut down this embarassment of a squadron ; she sees it more as a personal challenge, and aims to straighten them all up by herself.

Now, at first the 8th does look like a collection of screw-ups :
- The neat freak who despises his co-workers
- The operator who's too shy to communicate with her other than with text messages
- The petite and genial woman who turns out to be the chief, but certainly doesn't act so
- The technician on loan from the partner mecha companies who's way too creepy and touchy
- And of course the asshole who pickpocketed her phone on the train, and arrived late to the operation (with a bemused unrelated perp in tow)

The case of the week involves two teenagers holding up a bank with a pair of mechas (and dumb enough to tweet about it), as well as the ensuing protracted chase scene... Wait, this is way too well-planned a heist to be that simple (a drone airplane passing by just at the right time so that they can hitch a ride ?). The two mysterious people talking in riddles early on are probably involved in this.

The big idea here is that while the 8th at first look like a complete mess operating like cowboys, there's a method to their madness, and they turn out to be surprisingly efficient as an unit considering how much they squabble. When Asami tries to school them on proper procedure, not only do they already know all this crap, but they also know how to navigate through all the cracks in the red tape and avoid the worst of political landmines. Frankly, given the insane constraints they're under (can't do any collateral damage / controlled blackouts HERE because a random building belongs to a prominent politician, and so on...), it's a wonder how they can operate at all, let alone keep track of their quarries and successfully neutralize and arrest them.

Production Values

The character designs leave a bit to be desired, and that sure is a lot of stock footage for the "suit-up" scenes, but the important thing here is that the directors know how to pull off an extended chase scene with lots of twists without losing sight of clarity nor characterization. Being reunited with the Code Geass composer, who can jazz up an action sequence like nobody else, certainly helps.

Interestingly, the main bit of fanservice here is the two male leads being in speedoes for half the "suitup" sequences.

Overall Impression

Uh oh. There's a lot to like in the concept and many of the details, but the execution doesn't quite pull it off. It feels a bit too rushed and busy, trying to cram too much exposition and too many characters in at the same time. It's also not helped by a very unlikeable point-of-view character ; it's a wonder such an entitled little snot as Asami manages to be even halfway sympathetic at all. Not that the rest of the cast are much better.

And still... I could see this working, if it were to slow the heck down and leave more room for the characters to breathe. I really want to like it, and thus am willing to give it some rope, but it's not quite there yet.

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ERASED - The Town Where Only I am Missing (Boku dake ga Inai Machi)
(12 episodes, noitaminA)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a manga mystery series with a supernatural twist.

Interestingly, while the manga is still ongoing publication, the anime's staff have made it clear they're including its planned ending into their adaptation.

Characters

Satoru, our protagonist, is failed manga author in his late 20s who's making do as a pizza delivery driver. At first he sounds like a highly cynical failure who doesn't give a crap anymore, but that couldn't be further from the truth. See, he's somehow got the bizarre superpower to rewind time a bit after getting a flash that something terrible is about to happen. Nothing specific, but he'll try his darndest to pay attention to his surroundings and notice anything going awry. Such as this truck driver having a heart attack and rushing towards an unsuspecting kid. Going out of his way to prevent that lands him into the hospital for a bit, but the guy is truly a hero. Dropping everything to act upon those not-quite-precognitive flashes... It quickly becomes obvious that an incident two decades ago where a girl was kidnapped and killed and maybe he could have prevented it by accompanying her home is still eating at him and informing his current behaviour (both the introverted cynicism and the hero complex).

Sachiko, his mother, comes to visit from Hokkaido after he gets released. While he doesn't quite welcome her imposing on him without notice, she's clearly worried about him. She's now paying attention to his flashes... wait, did a dude just try kidnapping that girl in the supermarket parking lot, and only stopped when he saw her looking at him and taking a picture of his van's plate ? Doesn't this look a LOT like the kidnapping case two decades ago ? Maybe the slightly creepy older guy that always hung out with her son and got arrested wasn't the true culprit... Okay, until now she may have tried to make Satoru forget about this, but it's time she came clean with him about it and they figure this out together.

Ahahah, nope. Everything goes FUBAR that night. But when Satoru wakes up, he's back in Hokkaido, two decades younger...

(Another prominent character this episode is Airi, a teenage coworker of Satoru's who starts paying attention to him after witnessing his heroics. He isn't amused by his mom's attempts to set them up together, because seriously she's at least ten years younger and still in high school. I have no clue how she'll keep appearing in this show given we've now shifted to a time before she is even born...)

Production Values

Very good. Great attention to the body language, impressive staging for the "Rewind" set pieces... Even Sachiko looking weirdly young for a woman in her 50s is actually called out. Also, it features a great atmospheric score by Yuki Kajiura, without getting overpowered by it.

Overall Impression

Well, that's our obvious candidate for Anime of the Season, right there. Perfectly paced, great characters, a cool gimmick, an intriguing mystery and driving question ("Can Satoru prevent those original kidnappings ? What happens if he does ?")... This is just an enthralling start.

There's tons of promise here, and a good chance it'll actually deliver on a proper ending. Go for it.

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More reviews later.
 
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Unseenlibrarian

Definitely NOT a Monkey.
Validated User
#15
In the manga there's a lot more going on with Airi before he goes back in time- there's a whole sequence with her figuring out about his powers and aiding him with avoiding the trouble that hit at the end of the ep.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#16
By the way, Crunchyroll picked up the streaming license for the latest Lupin III series (as well as the old TV series from the 70s & 80s). You can read my thoughts about the first few episodes back in the Fall 2015 thread. In short : it's a lot of fun, and accessible even if you've never watched anything else in the franchise. If you have any interest in it, go for it !

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Norn9: Norn+Nonet
(12ish episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a sci-fi "otome" visual novel. Interestingly, according to the Wikipedia description it seems to have switched point-of-view characters from the very young dude (who's yet to show up) to one of the girls (which feels much more conventional).

Characters

Koharu is a girl who's forgotten nearly everything about herself (it takes the whole episode for her to remember her name), who one day feels to compel to head for a shuttle that leads her to THE WORLD. Not the stand, but a huge ship (big enough to host a town and some bits of lands inside) that travels across the globe... and maybe spacetime, if the appearance of Koharu's hometown is any indication (The World looks much more futuristic).

The only crew (and inhabitants) of The World are about a dozen teenagers, who seem to have been recruited similarly. (The big difference is that Koharu somehow got her hands on an uniform before she even got inside.) They spend most of their time on the chores required to living on The World (fishing, growing crops, etc.), and frankly I have no clue how they do this with so few people given the sheer size of the thing. On the other hand, The World appears to be self-driving, randomly relocating itself to whatever crisis they are meant to solve. (The show remains mysterious as to what those are yet.)

Oh, and a tower explodes at the end. Good way to keep my interest up, show !

(It's apparently called "Norn9" because there are 9 dudes aboard, and somehow the three girls - including Koharu - don't count. Whatever)

Production Values

Quite sharp-looking ; it's certainly very good at selling The World as a setting with a huge scale and on a completely different technological level from anything else.

As you'd expect for the source, there's a decent amount of manservice, mainly in the form of a bunch of the guys spending noticeably more time than narratively necessary swimming around.

Overall Impression

Usually I'm not in the audience for otome adaptations, but I have to give points to this one for sheer ambition. Sure, it spends most of its time faffing around with nothing particularly interesting happening, and the main characters don't deviate much from the usual archetypes, but it almost feels like there's an actual plot and purpose to the show.

I'm probably going to be disappointed, but I'm giving this a second episode.

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Review for the third VN this season (already as many as for the whole of 2015 !) will have to wait until I rewatch it, because I've already forgotten all about it since this morning.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#17
I don't really have the energy to do full reviews after a heavy evening (especially as Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu ambushed me with a double-sized first episode), but let's have a look at today's shorts. Namely, Ultra Super Anime Time Block.

USATB is an interesting timeslot broadcast by TokyoMX for the last few seasons. Basically, rather than a normal 24-minute-long anime series, it's a collection of three completely unrelated shorts, each 8-minute-long. I'm all for this kind of thing, as there's room for shows that can't sustain a whole 24-minute episode, without falling into the other extreme of 2/3-minute episodes that end up being rather unsatisfying (but are very common because that's easy to fit somewhere into the schedule). Of course, that depends on the actual shows proposed being any good. So how's this season's selection ?


Please Tell Me! Galko-chan adapts a gag web-manga where the gimmick is that the narrator goes out of her way to ask (rather crude) questions to the cast. The joke is that while main character Galko looks the part of the classic truant "gal" girl, she's actually mostly normal and there are mundane explanations for her gal-like outbursts. Oh, and everyone has puns for their names. (Otako is the otaku-like girl, and so on.) As a whole, it's mildly funny, if a bit overreliant on gross hygiene gags. There are worse ways to spend 8 minutes.


Sculpture Boys (Sekkou Boys) is an original concept about a bunch of male idols... Well, the first episode is mostly focused on their new manager, just fresh out of art college. With not much artistic talent, and completely burned out of painting sculpture after sculpture after sculpture, she moved on to a field where she would only deal with actual people. Or so she thinks, as her new charges are... a quatuor of classical busts. Talking (and presumably singing) busts. (After all, as the agency's president says, there's no danger of them sleeping around, so that's one less headache to deal with compared to "normal" idols.)

The premise is patently absurd, but the show manage to sell it by ignoring the actual title characters for most of the episode, and instead building to the manager's inevitable freakout. Even if you're aware of what the series is about beforehand, the joke is so well-paced that it still works. I'm not sure there's 12 (even short) episodes of material here, but I'm willing to give it a try.


Tabi Machi Late Show is about professional cooking or something ? It's deathly dull and barely animated at all. The only good news is that it's only 4 episodes, so its slot will be taken over by something different in February (a new iteration of the Kono Danshi franchise) and March (a remake/extension of Makoto Shinkai's 1999 short She & Her Cat, of all things ?).
 

Quasar

Feeling kinda smurfy
Validated User
#18
and March (a remake/extension of Makoto Shinkai's 1999 short She & Her Cat, of all things ?).
I am wondering about that. I liked that quite a bit being a cat lover and a Shinkai fan, but am wondering just how you expand that out.
 

q_3

Hello. Can you hear me?
Validated User
#19
Slice of life about an adult woman from the perspective of her cat? I can see that filling 8 minute episodes quite nicely. Of course, I can also see it crashing and burning...
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#20
Oh dear gods, I skip a day and there's now EIGHT shows on my slate. Let's try and get this done, starting with the best of them.



Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
(13 episodes, at least the first one of which is 46-minute-long)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of an award-winning josei manga set in the late Showa era (the 1970s) about rakugo performers. In case you're not aware, rakugo is an old and codified form of Japanese theater that involves a lone actor sitting down and acting out all the characters of his chosen routine.

Characters

"Yotaro" (a nickname for a good-for-nothing in rakugo slang) used to be a lowlife and is just now getting out of jail, with nowhere to go. But he's vowed to go straight, as he's been touched and inspired by a rakugo act performed during his time in prison. Rakugo is now going to be he way of life, and thus to learn the trade he throws himself before...

Master Yakumo, the unrivalled 18th master of the art. He's famous and respected enough to have thousand-place venues sell out, and his records are regularly played over the radio. At first he seems like a haughty jerk who only takes on Yotaro as an apprentice as a joke (never bothering to teach him anything), but there's clearly more to him than that. He certainly can't have been performing in prisons for the money. Also, he's acutely aware that he's not getting any younger, and the artform may die out with him. And then there's the whole case of...

Konatsu, his ward, and the daughter of his former rival, who died in a mysterious "accident". While the then young girl jumped to conclusions after seeing a bloodied Yakumo cradling the corpse of her father, there can be more charitable readings of that brief flashbacks. Especially as he took the young orphan in and lets a lot of her provocations go. It's never explicitly stated, but the obvious reason why he never took an apprentice until now is because he wants HER (despite women rakugo performers not being a thing in this age), but she's too proud to ask. Heck, taking in Yotaro can be seen as another provocation in that direction, as he won't explicitly ask her either.

The elephant in the room is obviously Konatsu's father. A big point here is that he had a completely different style from Yakumo's, joyful and hilarious when the current master is colder in its precision and awesomeness. Konatsu has trained in that style in secret, and Yotaro is picking up on it thanks to her being the only one willing to help his training so far. (It may also be better suited to his natural talent, however much he admires Yakumo's style.)

The next episode preview promises a flashback to Konatsu's father & Yakumo training under the former master, which should both be instructive, entertaining (since it's Yakumo narrating), and clear the air so that everyone's character arc can progress further.

Production Values

Studio Deen has become a bit of a running joke over the last decade, with terrible adaptations marred by poor quality control. The good news is that not only do they have some proper budget for this project, but they're also using their one good director they poached off SHAFT to do Sankarea. Now, unlike his previous show there's nearly nothing SHAFT-like here ; it just wouldn't fit the material.

Rakugo is a very stylised artform ; the performer can't move too much, and is limited to a few standard props for sound effects. The whole piece must be conveyed through body language, facial expression, and masterful voice-acting as they keep switching between characters. This show manages to reproduce all of this perfectly through exactly the same means. Also, it would be all to easy to depict all the character switches through jump cuts, Smeagol/Gollum style ; that device is used with restraint, and only after the animation has taken the time to actually depict the performers switching characters.

It should also be mentioned that we've got veteran voice-actors at the top of their art. Akira Ishida turns one of his best performances in ages Giving the appropriate maturity and gravitas to Yakumo. Tomokazu Seki is well within his usual niche as Yotaro, but performs splendidly. And I just can't wait to hear Yuu Kobayashi perform some actual rakugo, as she's one of the finest comedy voice-actresses of her generation.

Overall Impression

I expected this to be very good, as a premise so off the beaten path (adult characters, in the 1970s, and all about the beauty and joy of acting) doesn't get adapted to anime without strong source material and a will to convey it properly. I didn't expect it to be THIS good and enthralling, to the point that it took me a while to notice how long the first episode was.

By the way, this length was the right choice to start off the adaptation. Not only does it carry the story towards a stronger catharsis, but it also gives ample room to have the characters actually perform rakugo, and show off how awesome a spectacle it can be. Yotaro gets to perform a full "Burglar Goes Straight" routine, and it's never boring. Ditto for Yakumo's "Vengeful Woman" skit. (And if the choice of those pieces feels a bit on-the-nose... Well, that's obviously on purpose from the characters themselves, who put a lot of themselves into their performances and often have a point to make. Ditto for Yakumo's offscreen performance of a "scare 'em straight" piece in prison, of course.)

This is one of the strongest starts for a show this season, with a depth, a heart and sheer quality of execution that's to a whole other level compared to nearly everything else. I want to see more of these fascinating, pluridimensional characters and their struggle against the impeding death of their chosen artform, so I will definitely watch this to the end.
 
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