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[In Which I Review] New anime, Winter 2016

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#31
Sequel watch !


Durarara!!x2 had a very good start for its last third. Most of it is taking stock of the story so far, as Celty desperately tries to get an explanation of what the heck is going on and WHAT ARE ALL THOSE PEOPLE DOING IN HER HOME, but superbly executed. Izaya & Shizuo also get good scenes, so I'm perfectly content with this.


Koyomimonogatari are the latest instalment of the -monogatari franchise, this time around as shorts only available on a mobile-app. (So ready your eyepatch if you want to watch it.) It adapts a bunch of short side stories, so it's not that great a loss if you miss it. "Koyomi Stone", the first one, is set before Bakemonogatari and fun enough, as an insight into Ararararagi's early character development.


And now for the actual Sunday shows...

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Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash (Hai to Gensou no Grimgar)
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of yet another light novel series about teenagers being trapped in a videogame-like heroic-fantasy world.

Characters

Haruhiro, our point-of-view character, woke up one day in the land of Grimgar, without any memory of his past (or why he sometimes thinks of meaningless words like "mobile phones"). Together with the dozen or so teenagers who were with him in the same situation, he's quickly brought up to speed by the predatory gay (sigh) innkeeper : they're now all new adventures, here's your starting package with your license and just about enough money for room and food while you get basic training. Have fun grinding the mobs !

Renji, the most strong-headed of the group, takes with him the most competent-looking half of them, and they apparently are making a pretty good start. But this show isn't about them. Instead, it's about the leftovers :
- Manato, the level-headed guy who seems like the oldest of the bunch by a bit, becomes the de facto party leader and suggests they all take different Jobs so they'll have a balanced team. Cleric seems like the perfect match for him.
- Ranta is the brash jerkass who always gets into futile spats with everyone, but isn't that bad a dude really. Of course he'd take Black Knight, although of course the level-1 armor must have been a disappointment.
- Moguzo, the big guy who's really a softie who loves cooking, got to be a Warrior (i.e. the tank of the party).
- Yume, the tomboy, became a Hunter despite being unable to hit the broad side of a barn with her arrows.
- Shihoru, the shy big-breasted girl, got to be a Mage. Now, he only she could manage to actually finish an incantation...
- and Haruhiro became a Thief, as Manato figured they'd need one, and that didn't sound too bad.

Now, after a week of training at their respective guilds, they're ready to adventure and finally loot some mobs ! Or, er, be driven away by a couple of goblins, aka the weakest monsters around. Despite outnumbering them three to one. They completely suck, both individually and as a team. But, er, surely they'll get better with trying, as well as better picking their fights ? (Like, maybe only the one goblin, if they can find such a loner ?)

Production Values

Wow, pretty backgrounds ! The animation ain't bad either. The fanservice level was relatively tame until (1) the Thieves Guildmaster showed up and (2) Ranta started to rant about Shihoru's huge knockers, which hopefully won't be a regular occurrence.

Overall Impression

You know what ? I quite enjoyed this, despite not being a fan of the genre. Maybe it's because it's discarding most of the "power fantasy" aspects, with the heroes starting at the bottom level and having yet to win a fight by this first episode's end. This also gives quite some room for world-building and laying out the team's dynamic ; aside from Ranta, they're a rather pleasant bunch I could see myself wanting to watch more of.

I'm giving this a few more episodes to see where it goes.

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Dimension W
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a sci-fi manga series.

Characters

Kyoma, our protagonist. In the future, everyone has switched to the clean and unlimited "coil" power. (Cue technobable about how they're powered through Dimension W.) But not him ! He's one of those rare relics who keeps a gas-powered car, despite the prohibitive price of its fuel. Not because he thinks the coil monopoly of "New Tesla Energy" is shady (although it definitely is), but because he hates the technology itself, for whatever reasons. He makes a living as a bounty-hunter subcontractor, helping out NTE's crackdown on contraband coils in the margins.

Dr Yurizaki was the scientist who invented coil technology in the first place, but had a very bad falling out with NTE. "Whole family dead" bad, so you'll understand he has a bit of a grudge. He hides out in a decrepit building, working on his mysterious final project, by now being at the article of death (especially with his fancy pacemaker in dire need of a fresh coil).

Schumann is the new chief of NTE's local forces (+ some history with Kyoma), and is ready to acknowledge that his highers-up screwed up in the past. But surely we can all get past that and enter a more agreeable working relationship. So no hard feelings, eh, Doctor ? Er, can you step off the ledge and not push the big red button you're waving around madly ? Oh, crap. (Cue an EM pulse that fries everything coil-powered in half the city.)

Mira was the Doctor's helper android, although clearly he had bigger plans for her than merely looking around for black-market coils for his pacemaker. She's surprisingly human-like in her behaviour, to the point that it's obvious to anyone with a bit of knowledge that only one person could have built something this expensive and complex. Kyoma captured her after they squared off for a bit and he took advantage of the pulse disabling her. After rebooting her, she desperately asks to help out on the black-market-coil crackdown... and I don't think that's for her maker's health. (It's obvious he got some new orders to her during his suicide.)

Production Values

Quite nice indeed ; there's a lot of attention to detail so that nearly every gadget is clearly coil-powered. Also, I'm not enthused by the camera taking a disproportionate interest in Mira's ass (especially in the ED sequence), but it could be way worse.

Overall Impression

It's okay ? There's nothing wrong with the execution, but it doesn't really grab me. Mostly because Kyoma is more than a bit of a jerk, and I don't find Mira particularly compelling as a character either. Since they'll be carrying the show, that's a bit on a issue.

I'm giving it another episode to change my mind, but I think my time is better spent elsewhere.

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Schwarzesmarken
(12ish episodes ?)

What's it about ?

Yet another iteration of the sprawling Muv-Luv Alternative franchise, this time adapting a bunch of prequel light novels. And by this, I mean "with different characters and set in a whole other continent", so this should be accessible enough for anyone new to the franchise.

This is nominally set in East Germany in the 1980s, although with the massive invasion of nasty aliens since the 1960s, it's basically alternate-history science-fiction, with mecha thrown-in for good measure. (Yeah, I'm as weirded out as you by a franchise that started out as standard dating-sim visual novels now churning out grimdark milSF.)

Characters

Theodor, our protagonist, is a young mecha pilot in the elite 666th unit (the titular Schwarzesmarken). He can't have been here for long, as he's still chaffing around basic orders like "don't be a dick, protect your teammates !" This is at least semi-understandable given how he's experienced first hand the brutality of the Stasi (the East German political police), with his whole family but him dying in a botched escape attempt to the West ; this isn't an environment conducive to trust.

Irisdina, his team captain, doesn't help matter by infamously being an informant who reportedly sold out her own brother. She claims she's trying to turn a new leaf in atonement, but he doesn't trust her at all. Once burned, twice shy.

Katia is a West German pilot they rescue on the anti-alien front. Despite this accident of fate being rather suspicious, Irisdina makes the choice to trust her and recruit her for the 666th. Katia is enough of an East-fetishizing idealist ("the war against aliens would go so much better if the West and the East worked together !", yeah don't say this too loud in front of the Stasi commissars) to accept... Although there's obviously more to her than that. Which makes it all the more a pain in the ass for Theodor, who's stuck training her after being the one to rescue her.

Production Values

Decent enough ; the aliens certainly look very freaky, and alien indeed. The show itself doesn't go overboard with fanservice despite the design for female pilot suits it's stuck with in this franchise... but the ED clearly milks it for maximum titillation.

Overall Impression

This is a happy surprise ; instead of being fetishized, East Germany is depicted as awful a place as it should be if you're bothering to set a story there. The only weird bit is that they somehow have a competent army in the 1980s despite the politics being even more awful than in reality, but I take this as a genre convention.

I'm also pleasently surprised by the tone ; yes, this is quite dark indeed, but there's a point to it, and the show is in no hurry to kill off massive amounts of main characters right off the bat for shock value (unlike Total Eclipse). Indeed, it wisely focuses on East Germany itself rather than the actual fight against the aliens, giving the characters a chance for a decent resolution of their story despite this being a prequel (after all, the aliens will still be around for the sequels).

On the other hand, it's everything but subtle, the main characters are more than a bit annoying, and I'm just not in the mood for grimdark milSF. But hey, nice try.

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Rainbow Days (Nijiiro Days)
(25ish 13-minute episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a shojo romance manga series. Interestingly, it seems to follow the point of view of the boys.

Characters

Natsuki, our protagonist, is your standard highschool student, of the nice guy (bordering on Nice Guy) mold. He has three friends (Tomoya, Keiichi & Tsuyoshi) who mostly spend time being a jerk to him, each in slightly different fashion. (The credits suggest that they'll each get their own arc and love interest in further episodes.)

Kobayakawa is a girl who he keeps running into and he's fallen in love with. There's no sign whatsoever she's into him ; indeed, there are hints she's having a tryst with the math teacher (also Keiichi's older brother), although that could all be a misunderstanding.

Production Values

Perfectly okay ; especially the attention to body language and facial expressions to build the mystery about Kobayakawa.

Overall Impression

This turned out to be a lot of fun. The half-episodes help keep proceedings tight and and to the point, the cast have good chemistry, and the gags flow well enough.

It's not like there's a flurry of non-harem romantic comedies this season, so there's a good chance I'm going to stick with this one. It's fun.
 

Ikselam

a heavy bear to cross
Validated User
#32
Dimension W

Kyoma, our protagonist. In the future, everyone has switched to the clean and unlimited "coil" power. (Cue technobable about how they're powered through Dimension W.) But not him ! He's one of those rare relics who keeps a gas-powered car, despite the prohibitive price of its fuel.
I feel like there was a Rush song about this show. Maybe on the 2112 album?
 

Quasar

Feeling kinda smurfy
Validated User
#33
Koyomimonogatari are the latest instalment of the -monogatari franchise, this time around as shorts only available on a mobile-app. (So ready your eyepatch if you want to watch it.) It adapts a bunch of short side stories, so it's not that great a loss if you miss it. "Koyomi Stone", the first one, is set before Bakemonogatari and fun enough, as an insight into Ararararagi's early character development.
Seeing Oshino again was nice.
 

CynoT

Nuclear Energy Advocate
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#34
I'd assume the guys are the "9" while the girls are the "Norns"? (since well, there's three of them)
Are you sure? Because the title actually breaks down to Norn + Nonettes. You can see that as the production group in the credits. It could be the usual "Japanese folks don't understand Latin nor French" but could be something else.
 

Scholar and a Brutalman

Registered User
Validated User
#35
Koyomimonogatari are the latest instalment of the -monogatari franchise, this time around as shorts only available on a mobile-app. (So ready your eyepatch if you want to watch it.) It adapts a bunch of short side stories, so it's not that great a loss if you miss it.
Apparently at least one of the short stories is quite important to the series, since it leads directly into the next book
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#36
And now for the last few stragglers. Well, one straggler and two Monday show that were so underwhelming I put off writing about them for a couple of days.

By the way, Snow White with the Red Hair is still as fun and engaging as before the break, it's the one bright spot on Mondays.

(I've Had Enough of Being a Magical Girl is basically a similar premise to Nurse Witch Komugi R, i.e. a magical girl parody, except as 3-minute shorts and actually half-way engaging. Nothing to write much home about, though.)

--------------

KonoSuba – God's Blessing on this Wonderful World! (Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!)
(11 episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of yet another light novel series about a gamer dude being transported to an heroic-fantasy world with RPG-ish mechanics.

Characters

Kazuma, our protagonist, was your typical obsessive and reclusive teenage gamer, barely getting out of his flat once in a while to buy the one store-exclusive special edition of a game. On one such fateful day, he saw a female classmate of his about to be run over, and jumped to push her out of the way. And died. Well, technically she was in no actual danger from the slow-moving tractor, and he died of cardiac arrest, so it was a really stupid and pointless death. Nethertheless, he wakes up in the afterlife in front of...

Aqua, one of the goddesses dealing with triage. Once she can stop sniggering at his totally lame death, she mentions the standard deal : either he goes to heaven (really boring, with no games), or gets reincarnated as a blank slate. Or he can take the special offer : see, there's this one heroic-fantasy world under the threat of a terrible Demon-Lord, to the point that few of the locals want to reincarnate there. So the offer is for Kazuma to reincarnate there, with his memory and skills intact, PLUS a special bonus ; here's a list of possible talents, he can choose anything in here.

Being a rules-lawyering gamer to the extreme, Kazuma choses to take Aqua with him. Cue hilarity as it's technically a valid choice, and she gets shanghaied with him against her will. Her only way back is for them to defeat the Demon Lord. And hey, a goddess is bound to be useful, right ? As it turns out, not much, actually. She's got no combat skills, knows next to nothing about the world because she never bothered with the small stuff (Kazuma barely gets by on genre savviness alone), and she didn't have time to get any money. Also, INT and LUCK were her dump stats, if it wasn't already obvious. (In contrast, Kazuma has very puny stats asides from INT, and a super-high LUCK which is actually said to be useless in this setting.)

The OP sequence playing at the end suggest our heroes are going to be joined by a Paladin and a Mage in their quest very soon.

Production Values

This is another Deen show that looks much better than the studio's reputation would have you think. It's especially good at body language and facial expressions, which is essential to selling the jokes.

On the minus side, the camera seems to be quite obsessed with Aqua's crotch and ass. Especially her half-see-through skirt.

Overall Impression

Hey, this was really funny ! The two leads have amazing chemistry together, and there were actually a few jokes I hadn't seen before (such as the starting town having no weak mobs to grind with anymore, as they were wiped out ages ago). Even the usual ones are sold by the very good comedic timing.

This looks like a ton of fun ; I'm in.

--------------

Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle (Saijaku Muhai no Bahamut)
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of a "magic school" light novel series, because there must always be at least one each season.

Characters

Lux, the male lead, used to be a prince of the Empire of Arcadia until it got overthrown by a rebellion and got replaced by something vaguely more egalitarian (with a magic academy to train a new elite). Because light novel crap, his first scene involves accidentally breaking into a female bath, because of course it is. But he's totally a nice dude, we swear !

Lisesharte is the girl he stumbles right in front of, and rightfully incensed. Wait, they still have princesses in the new regime ? Because she's one, somehow. Anyway, cue the inevitable duel.

Of course, despite all this mayhem Lux still gets enrolled into the academy, where he's about to meet a whole set of haremettes, heavily showcased in the credits.

Production Values

Decents enough, I guess ; I've already forgotten about it.

Overall Impression

On the one hand, the show does make an attempt at setting up an halfway interesting geopolitical background that had me mildly interested. But then we're already back to the same old trite clichés, which are EXACTLY why I'm so down on the "magic school" subgenre on principle : it's an excuse for the writers to get lazy and pad their story out with one-size-fits-all hijinks. It's not even a particularly good execution of those, either.

Also, I half fell asleep while watching this, can barely remember any of it, and stalled for days before getting around to writing it up. I think my subconscious is telling me something there. Like, really not to bother with this one.

--------------

Aokana: Four Rhythm Across the Blue (Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm)
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Oh, another visual novel adaptation which crosses over with the sports genre ! Except this one has a male target audience.

Characters

Interestingly, our main character for now is Asuka, the ditzy cheerful girl. She's just now getting into Flying Circus, a sports that involves sommersaulting around with flying shoes.

The game's male lead, Masaya, is relegated to a support role for now : he's brooding in the background about how he used to be good at FC until a fateful incident two years ago, and offers a few useful pointers (as well as recognizes Asuka's innate talent).

There are other girls. Kinda tells you how much I payed attention, eh ?

Production Values

Well, it certainly does the job of selling a definite sense of wonder about flying in general, and Flying Circus in particular.

Also, magic skirts are thankfully in effect.

Overall Impression

Zzzzzzz... Sorry, I just don't care. The characters are very boring, Masaya's angst is laughable, and the spectacle inherent to the gimmicky sport isn't enough to carry the show on its own.

I'll pass.
 

redwulf25_ci

Clown Pope of Wushu
Validated User
#37
And now for the last few stragglers. Well, one straggler and two Monday show that were so underwhelming I put off writing about them for a couple of days.

By the way, Snow White with the Red Hair is still as fun and engaging as before the break, it's the one bright spot on Mondays.

(I've Had Enough of Being a Magical Girl is basically a similar premise to Nurse Witch Komugi R, i.e. a magical girl parody, except as 3-minute shorts and actually half-way engaging. Nothing to write much home about, though.)

--------------

KonoSuba – God's Blessing on this Wonderful World! (Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!)
(11 episodes)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of yet another light novel series about a gamer dude being transported to an heroic-fantasy world with RPG-ish mechanics.

Characters

Kazuma, our protagonist, was your typical obsessive and reclusive teenage gamer, barely getting out of his flat once in a while to buy the one store-exclusive special edition of a game. On one such fateful day, he saw a female classmate of his about to be run over, and jumped to push her out of the way. And died. Well, technically she was in no actual danger from the slow-moving tractor, and he died of cardiac arrest, so it was a really stupid and pointless death. Nethertheless, he wakes up in the afterlife in front of...

Aqua, one of the goddesses dealing with triage. Once she can stop sniggering at his totally lame death, she mentions the standard deal : either he goes to heaven (really boring, with no games), or gets reincarnated as a blank slate. Or he can take the special offer : see, there's this one heroic-fantasy world under the threat of a terrible Demon-Lord, to the point that few of the locals want to reincarnate there. So the offer is for Kazuma to reincarnate there, with his memory and skills intact, PLUS a special bonus ; here's a list of possible talents, he can choose anything in here.

Being a rules-lawyering gamer to the extreme, Kazuma choses to take Aqua with him. Cue hilarity as it's technically a valid choice, and she gets shanghaied with him against her will. Her only way back is for them to defeat the Demon Lord. And hey, a goddess is bound to be useful, right ? As it turns out, not much, actually. She's got no combat skills, knows next to nothing about the world because she never bothered with the small stuff (Kazuma barely gets by on genre savviness alone), and she didn't have time to get any money. Also, INT and LUCK were her dump stats, if it wasn't already obvious. (In contrast, Kazuma has very puny stats asides from INT, and a super-high LUCK which is actually said to be useless in this setting.)

The OP sequence playing at the end suggest our heroes are going to be joined by a Paladin and a Mage in their quest very soon.

Production Values

This is another Deen show that looks much better than the studio's reputation would have you think. It's especially good at body language and facial expressions, which is essential to selling the jokes.

On the minus side, the camera seems to be quite obsessed with Aqua's crotch and ass. Especially her half-see-through skirt.

Overall Impression

Hey, this was really funny ! The two leads have amazing chemistry together, and there were actually a few jokes I hadn't seen before (such as the starting town having no weak mobs to grind with anymore, as they were wiped out ages ago). Even the usual ones are sold by the very good comedic timing.

This looks like a ton of fun ; I'm in.
That animation does not look like Deen. Did someone give them a budget? And as I mentioned in the main anime thread according to the light novel . . .

Spoiler: Show
Not only did she not need saving, he broke her leg when he tackled her.
 

Quasar

Feeling kinda smurfy
Validated User
#38
Zzzzzzz... Sorry, I just don't care. The characters are very boring, Masaya's angst is laughable, and the spectacle inherent to the gimmicky sport isn't enough to carry the show on its own.

I'll pass.
I was OK with it, but maybe that's because it looks to be more of a romance and those are thin on the ground. Just this and Snow White I think. Of course I still might bail after a couple more episodes. The sport does not seem that interesting, and generally made up sports like this are the only ones I can stand.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#39
I was OK with it, but maybe that's because it looks to be more of a romance and those are thin on the ground. Just this and Snow White I think.
Eh, it barely feels like more of a romance show than any of the other VN adaptations (and Norn9 already has couples forming !). Also, you're missing Rainbow Days, the one straightforward shojo romance adaptation this season. And DAGASHIKASHI, I guess.



So, with Ajin in Netflix-limbo, Reikenzan AWOL, and the new Precure not due till February, this is as good a point as any to look back at the Winter season as a whole.



OUTSTANDING : (2 + 2 sequels)

- Showa Rakugo (period work-com in the theatre business, manga)

- ERASED (time-travel mystery, manga)
2nd episode thoughts : Still very impressively setting the stage, this time for the "past" period.

(+ Durarara!!x2, Koyomimonogatari)



GOOD ENOUGH : (6 + 2 shorts + 2 sequels)

- HaruChika (mundane mysteries at a brass band club, novels)
2nd episode thoughts : If they could make a whole episode about a blank rubik's cube work, they're pretty much golden.

- Active Raid (frantic mecha police work-com, original)
2nd episode thoughts : Starting to find its feet already.

- BBK/BRNK (epic super-powered battle adventure, original)

- KonoSuba – God's Blessing on this Wonderful World! (transported to a fantasy world with a gag bent, LN)

- Grimgar of Fantasy & Ash (transported to a fantasy world with a serious bent, LN)

- Girls Beyond the Wasteland (eroge-making club, kinda female-haremish, VN)
2nd episode thoughts : Now that we've actually got the cast together, it's working much better.

- SHORT-ISH : Rainbow Days (high-school romance, manga)

- SHORT : Sculpture Boys (gag idol work-com, original)

(+ Lupin III in Italy, Snow White with the Red Hair)



ON THE EDGE : (4 + 3 shorts)

- DAGASHIKASHI (rural romantic comedy, manga)

- Dimension W (sci-fi crime thriller, manga)

- Prince of Stride - Alternative (male-harem-ish sports, VN)
2nd episode thoughts : In real danger of losing me if it doesn't pick up a bit.

- Norn9 (sci-fi battles, kinda male-haremish, VN)
2nd episode thoughts : Really not sure whether this will keep my interest, given the bland characters. At least it's busy enough to keep things moving.

- SHORT : Old Guy & Marshmallow (abusive romantic comedy, manga)

- SHORT : I've Had Enough of Being a Magical Girl (magical girl parody, manga)

- SHORT : Tell-Me Galko-chan ! (raunchy gag, manga)



ER, NO : (9 + 3 shorts)

- Schwarzesmarken (grimdark alternate-history with mecha, LN)

- Luck & Logic (super-powered battles against alien critters, card game)

- Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle (heroic-fantasy battle harem magic school, LN)

- Four Rhythm Across the Blue (female-harem-ish sports, VN)

- Phantom World (battle harem magic school, LN)

- Phantasy Star Online 2 The Animation (a whole school doing an advert for a MMORPG, game)

- Divine Gate (underground super-powered battles, game)

- Pandora in the Crimson Shell (sci-fi transhumanist lesbian lolicon-bait, manga)

- Nurse Witch Komugi R (magical girl parody, remake of a spin-off)

- SHORT : Sushi Police (gag)

- SHORT : My Landlady is in Puberty (loliconbait-ish gag, 4P manga)

- SHORT : Tabi Machi Late Show (cooking)



YOU KNOW WHAT ? This feels like a great season. Several outstanding shows, a good plate of complementary solid shows in a wide variety of genres and tones, and not much that's actively awful.
 
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