Fall 2013 capsules

Miss Monochrome has a bizarre genesis. This is a virtual idol character, a bit like Hatsune Miku… except she’s voiced by proper idol/VA Yui Horie (with some mighty autotune, if the end song is any indication). Anyway, this is a series of 4-minute shorts starring the character, trying to become an idol.
The good news is that, after a bit of a dull start, it manages to place some good deadpan jokes. It’s genuinely funny, which is more than I expected of such a gimmick show.

On the other hand, I can’t make head nor tails out of Super Seishyun Brothers, another series of 4-minute shorts starring (unlike the title suggests) two brother-sister pairs. It actually started airing a couple of weeks ago, but I was (unsuccessfully) waiting for a second episode to get translated to get a better feel of it.
So far, it’s a gag show that barely raises a smile at all. It utterly failed to make it clear whether there’s any premise beyond “here are four character with outlandish (but generic) personalities.” I’m giving it a second episode just in case, but it looks completely skippable.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2013 – Page 4.

Hey, there are still more new shows getting released !

Admittedly, that means the like of Gaist Crusher : a kids’ sentai show adapted from some collectible card game. It’s the blandest and most generic piece of crap I have watched for a long time, which is saying something. From off-the-shelf one-dimensional characters to nearly absent world-building (what are the heroes even fighting ?) to character designs that would have been rejected by any self-respecting Saint Seiya clone… There’s absolutely nothing to recommend in this, and no way I’m bothering with a full review for it.

(That I watched this with terrible subtitles that seem to have gone through several languages before reaching English probably didn’t help. But even a decent translation can’t save this show.)

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2013 – Page 14.

Galilei Donna

(11 episodes)

What’s it about ?

“21th-century steampunk” is the best description I can come up with, however nonsensical it sounds.

Characters

Our central characters are the three “Galilei” sisters, apparently direct descendants of the historical figure :
– Hazuki wants to become a top-class lawyer, but is clearly dropping out of her law college.
– Kazuki is a high schooler whose main interest seems to be martial arts, and who hates interacting with her classmates.
– I’m not sure Hozuki even goes to school ; she spends most of her time tinkering in the basement. I love her jet-powered foldable scooter, which can somehow be transformed into a portable rocket launcher.

Mom spends a lot of time blathering on and on about the great legacy they’re carrying, and failing to measure up to (not that any of them care) ; Dad is a lot more easygoing. You can see why they’re separated.

Cicinho is a stylish and charismatic Italian villain who’s after the Galilei inheritance (whatever that is ; Mom and Dad claim to have no clue) and kicks off the plot by having his MIB try and capture the three kids. After the first “subtle” attempt fails (Hazuki’s saved by a college friend of hers ; Kazuki martial-arts her way out ; and Hozuki has a portable rocket launcher) and the ‘rents call on the police to get some protection, he barges in with a lot more men and firepower, and captures them all.

Wait, not all. Hozuki manages to sneak into the basement, from which she launches a giant goldfish-shaped flying ship. Sure, Cicinho has a bigger flying ship, but the goldfish’s got better weapons and AI.

The rest of the family have no clue what the heck. Neither does Cicinho, who exits stage left.

And it turns out that Hazuki’s college friend/rescuer possesses an agenda of her own. Of course she does.

Production Values

Very impressive. Lots of CG for all the flying vehicles, but it’s integrated into the main animation rather smoothly.

Overall Impression

Well, this is certainly a show that knows how to make an impression. But for all the storm and thunder, it’s obviously going to be a story about a broken family reconnecting in face of adversity. While flying around the world in a giant mechanical goldfish.

I can get behind that.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2013 – Page 13.

Samurai Flamenco

(22 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Wannabe superheroes.

Characters

Hazama is a young man who was fortunate enough to start a career as a popular model, but that’s not what he really wants to do. No, his true calling is to be the superhero SAMURAI FLAMENCO!, modeled on the sentai heroes of his youth. Do note that this guy has no superpowers whatsoever : he just puts on a silly costume and patrols the streets of his neighbourhood at night to tell off drunken salarymen, jaywalkers and rowdy middle schoolers. Who often proceed to beat the crap out of him, since it’s not like he has any fighting skills.

Goto is our point-of-view character : he’s a beat cop who happens to stumble on Hazama after a badly-timed costume change. Since he was off-duty at the time, he doesn’t bring him in immediately, and takes the time to listen to the guy’s story. While he facepalms regularly at the moron, he’s not entirely unsympathetic ; he begrudgingly admits to liking sentai shows too, and presumably this had a hand in him becoming a cop. Of course, he’d rather Hazama channeled his thirst for JUSTICE! through non-vigilante and non-stupid means, but for now he’s not turning the idiot over (and goes out of his way to bail his new friend out when he gets into too much trouble).

Notionally Goto has a girlfriend, but it’s a long-distance relationship, and doesn’t impede on the burgeoning bromance.

The OP sequence shows off a lot more characters (and the ED focuses on the so far barely present female cast), but this first episode is squarely about establishing the two leads.

Production Values

Very nice looking. The OP sequence promises some actual sentai-style action down the line, but that’s for much later ; the “action” scenes so far solely consists of people beating SAMURAI FLAMENCO! up. But with lovingly animated detail.

Overall Impression

I had no clue what to expect of this show… but certainly not “realistic” superheroes. It’s a pleasant surprise, though ; while a lot of the appeal may depend on how much you love sentai shows (because everyone involved in producing this surely does), but this is a lot of fun to watch. And it’s a very polished first episode, perfectly establishing the premise and the two leads.

I’m genuinely curious about where this is going, as it should have enough time to develop its story properly. I’m onboard.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2013 – Page 13.

My Mental Multiple-Choice Power Is Completely Ruining My School Romantic Comedy (Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Love Comedy wo Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru)

(10 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a light novel series taking the piss out of dating sims.
(I believe the official nickname is “NouKome”.)

Trigger warning : there are some actual jokes in this. Do not drink while watching.

Characters

Kanade, our generic high-school protagonist, is afflicted with a very bizarre condition : he’ll randomly have seizures where multiple choices appear in front of him. (1) The choices are framed by over-the-top dramatic music and narrated by Jouji Nakata. (2) He MUST choose to avoid the pain. (3) The choices are most often between two equally silly and embarassing things.

Yukihira, the girl sitting behind him in class, is one of the few classmates of his that don’t recoil as soon as he freezes, about to be doing something very stupid. That’s mostly because she’s a complete troll, and finds him entertaining.

Ouka is another of those few people he’s on speaking terms with. Mostly because she’s always ridiculously cheerful and doesn’t seem to care about his antics. As the daughter of the CEO of some vast conglomerate, she’s always smuggling in various samples for her classmates to try out. Today’s batch includes blue pills for middle-aged women (why are you even bringing this to high school ?), an actual money-making machine (which looks even more illegal than improbable), and some bug-shaped candies (ingredient list not disclosed).

Most classmates refer to them as part of the “Reject Five”, which implies there are two more oddballs yet to be introduced (they show up in the OP/ED sequences).

Their pint-sized teacher knows about Kanade’s condition, but still takes every opportunity to troll him.

One more thing : those multiple choices aren’t delusions. When Kanade chooses that “a pretty girl falls out of the sky” (instead of “my fat neighbour falls out of the sky”), then you can be damn sure a pretty girl is going to fall out of the sky (and onto him), physics be damned.

Production Values

While this doesn’t have that much of a budget, there’s some flair in the direction, and it looks good enough to sell the jokes. I especially love Yukihira’s body language, as half her shtick wouldn’t work otherwise.

The fanservice is more than mild, as you’d expect from this kind of thing. Still nowhere too outrageous, and the OP sequence where all the female cast do backflips without actually showing anything has to be seen to be believed.

Overall Impression

What. The. Fuck. Was. That.

If the premise isn’t bizarre enough for you, then the early 4-minute TV reportage showing a montage of people endorsing the value of choice will probably do the job. (I was sold at “[famous Japanese historical figure] could have (1) assassinated [other famous Japanese historical figure] or (2) rolled around with a dolphin. He chose the first option, and history was made.”)

I haven’t laughed this hard while watching an anime series for a good long while. Some of the jokes will make you cringe, not all of them land, but there’s such a rapid-fire string of them that it doesn’t matter. Random absurdity with good comedic timing : it just works.

There’s always the risk it may run out of steam before ending, but so far, so good.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2013 – Page 13.

BlazBlue: Alter Memory

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Fighting game adaptation.

Characters

Ragna the Bloodedge is probably our protagonist. He’s a grim guy with an enormous sword who fights people like him. There’s every indication he’s been at it for a while, killing the same people repeatedly in an unbreakable cycle. There’s a bounty on him.

Noel Vermillion is part of the police force or whatever who are tasked with hunting him down. Her boss has actually instructed her to stay out of it while he does the actual footwork ; since he takes a bloody beating over the course of the episode, she feels free to take over the investigation.

There’s a green-haired guy who seems to take great delight in watching all this happen, and manipulating people. Sometimes he floats upside down.

Production Values

You know a show has run out of money when the OP sequence clumsily recycles many shots from the action prologue you’ve just watched. The ED sequence is barely animated at all, but at least it’s a bit stylish. Which is more than you can say about the rest of the show, which looks like shit.

Overall Impression

Excuse me if I fail to summon any enthusiasm describing this crap. It’s hard to give a toss about a token plot that’s just an excuse to show some fights… which aren’t worth your time watching them anyway.

I barely could withstand an episode of this ; no way I stick with it.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2013 – Page 12.

Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta

(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Yet another urban fantasy story, but at least it’s more of an ensemble piece than usual.

This seems to be either a remake or a prequel for the original Yozakura Quartet series (that I haven’t seen) ; that allows it to narrowly bypass my usual “no sequels” rule.

Characters

Hime, who may or may not be the leader of this teenage group, and somehow holds the title of “Mayor” of this town (with beleaguered adult attendant in tow). So far, that mostly means being in charge of organizing this festival. She’s a normal human being, although quite good with a quaterstaff.

Kotoha, on the other hand, is half-youkai. She’s clearly the most powerful of the lot, as her voice can make any object materialize out of thin air. Also, she’s voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro, and thus awesome.

Ao is a blue-haired catgirl with not-very reliable divination powers (not much good at giving a picture of a lost little girl’s parents). On the other hand, she’s quite adept at jumping around all other.

Akina is the one dude in their group, and claims to be a normal human (I have no clue whether the light show he can put out is all trickery or actual powers). He’s manning the lost kids desk for the festival.

The plot involves a mysterious guy wreaking havoc on the festival by… making the goldfish gigantic. Apparently it’s a test to take the measure of our heroes.

Production Values

Not too flashy, but with some meticulous care for body language. Cool eyecatches, too.

Overall Impression

The immediate question : does this stand on its own, or is it impenetrable for the newbie ? The good news : it works quite well at establishing the characters, even if I’m a bit hazy about what the actual premise is (besides there being this town where humans and youkai coexist happily). And there’s a very good twist after the credits.

I’m starting to have some sleep issues by now (marathoning these reviews is taking its toll), and this is one of the shows suffering from it. But I can clearly recognize it’s well-put together and deserves more of my time.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2013 – Page 12.

Unbreakable Machine Doll (Kikou Shoujo wa Kizutsukanai)

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Steampunk light novel trash.

Characters

Raishin, our generic grim-faced protagonist, who joins the Machine-Doll Academy for REVENGE! (It’s not quite explained yet revenge against whom, or why.) He hopes that winning the Machine-Doll Fighting Tournament will be the first step towards this ; unfortunately, he scores second-last among the thousands of test-takers, and only the Top 100 can enter the Tournament. Fortunately, his teacher/guidance advisor informs him of a loophole : if you beat one of the 100, you can take his place.

Yaya, his Machine-Doll, is very annoying indeed. She’s ultra-clingy and keeps trying to get into his pants, despite him showing no such interest (I presume she’s mechanical, after all). On the other hand, she’s very powerful, if the opening action setpiece (stopping a runaway train) is any indication.

Shouko, Yaya’s creator, stayed back home : she’s mentionned, but not seen.

Charlotte is the kind of Alpha Bitch you always see in stories like this. Her doll is a dragon voiced by Jouji Nakata, of all things. Our “hero” targets her to take her place… until she’s ambushed by a bunch of other guys who had the same idea first.

Production Values

Well, at least it does look quite good.

Overall Impression

Sigh. I don’t want to use the “light novel trash” label too lightly, but this really deserves it. Contrived setup that gives the protagonist a devoted girl without any effort of his own ? Check. Angsty male lead with Nice Guy tendancies ? Check. Generic technomagic setting that barely hides the standard tournament arc ? Check.

A less jaded viewer might find something of interest here ; after all, it does look quite pretty. But I won’t bother.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2013 – Page 12.

Non Non Biyori

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Slice-of-life series about girls living in the countryside.

Characters

Hotaru, the newcomer from Tokyo. She’s a bit overwhelmed by all the country things she’s not used to : the decrepit school with only 5 students (all in different levels) ; the buses that come every two hours ; the dearth of stores ; the animals…

Renge, the young first-grader, still a bit naive and random. Loves playing the flute. The heart of the group.

Natsumi & Komari, the two sisters. The former is wilder, the latter more serious (and shorter, despite being the oldest of the group).

There’s some guy in their class, but he barely has any dialogue, and they mostly acts as though he didn’t exist. Poor guy.
(Also, their teacher is lazy.)

Production Values

Scenery porn ! Perfectly pleasant to watch.

Overall Impression

Are you healing yet ?

This is a very slow-paced series that’s all about feeling nice and agreeable. Some jokes here and there betray its 4-panel gag manga origins, but the main focus is on how nice the countryside is… or not, as some of the drawbacks are played for laughs.

Let’s see whether I don’t grow bored of it by the second episode.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2013 – Page 11.

Arpeggio of Blue Steel : Ars Nova (Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio: Ars Nova)

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Sentient warships !

Characters

Gunzou Chihaya, our protagonist. Two years ago, he was a moody naval officer in training : the seas have been conquered by the mysterious “Fleet of Fog”, which showed out of nowhere and completely broke communications between nations ; so his future career is looking kinda pointless (it’s not like humanity looks like it has any hope of turning the tide). Also, his dad was a famous captain who got KIA (although there are some nasty rumours of him defecting), which earned him a fast track to the elite naval officer class. Which is how he got to see…

Iona, aka I-401, a Fog submarine “captured” by Japan 7 years ago ; they were kinda hoping to study it, but they haven’t made much progress since. When Gunzou touches her, she reacts and manifests her girl-shaped avatar ; she explains that her only purpose is to find him, and obey his orders. So, off they go, now labeled traitors by both sides.

Some of Gunzou’s oddball classmates (the masked dude, the guy who behaves like a delinquant, and so on) have somehow joined his crew at some point after the flashback. They’re acting as mercenaries for various human factions.

The current-day plot involves our heroes protecting a Japanese base while it launches a secret weapon towards America. This isn’t a hostile manoeuvre : Japan doesn’t have the resources to mass-replicate it, and sends it that way to America in the hope the Fleet of Fog can’t intercept it. The plan fails : the rocket is destroyed halway through its trip. So it’s time for plan B : give another copy to our heroes, and have them deliver it to America. If anyone can cross the seas and survive to tell the tale, it’s them.

The episode ends with a preview of some of the major Fog ships (and their avatars) our heroes are going to face. I note that we haven’t seen yet any clue as to who actually controls the Fleet of Fog. (Aliens ? A secret human conspiracy ? Who knows ?)

Production Values

Lots of CG animation ; actually, it looks a lot like even the characters are heavily cell-shaded CG models. It actually looks quite good… most of the time. (There are a few ugly shots indeed.)

Overall Impression

Well, this is certainly an intriguing premise. I’m not quite sold, though : the main cast are clich├ęs without much personality so far, and I’m not sure yet whether the girl-ship thing is too stupid even for me. There are some definite pacing problems, too.

But hey, I’ve given a second episode to worse shows than this. Let’s give it a bit of a chance.

Gundam Build Fighters

(50ish episodes ?)

What’s it about ?

Why bother with a space opera plot ? Let’s just have some kids play around with Gundam models.

Characters

Sei, our protagonist. He’s very good at building Gundam models, including custom ones ; on the other hand, he’s complete crap at this “Gunpla Battle” VR fighting game that’s all the rage.

Sazaki, his rival. This kid oozes smugness ; he’s good enough at Gunpla Battes to beat Sei without breaking a sweat, despite having way worse models to play with. He’d love to partner up with our hero : between his skills and Sei’s top-class models, they’d be a force to be reckoned with. Sei refuses, on the ground that Sazaki is a jerk who treats models badly.

Reiji is a foreign-looking dude that Sei randomly bumps into in town. He’s the kind of alien who’s never heard of Gundam Battles (despite a street ad playing right in front of him), and has trouble with complex customs such as paying for the food he takes. After Sei saves him from an angry foodseller, he promises to always be there for his rescuer, giving him a magical pebble to summon him. That promise comes handy when Sazaki is laying yet another virtual beatdown on Sei : Reiji comes out of nowhere, and wins the match within minutes despite never having played it before.

Supporting characters include Sei’s mom (hello, Kotono Mitsuishi), who’s bravely tending to their modeling store despite not being too well-versed into those things (it’s his currently-not-around dad who used to be into it, even competing nationally). Also, Mr Ral shows up as a guest referee for the climactic match. No, seriously, this is a thing that happens.
[For those who haven’t been following my Gundam marathon : Ramba Ral was a minor but memorably badass villain in the original Mobile Suit Gundam series.]

Production Values

You can bet Sunrise is making the mecha battles look as good as ever : this is a glorified toy commercial, after all.

Overall Impression

This must be the stupidest thing ever associated to the Gundam name I’ve ever watched. And I’ve been through Mobile Fighter G Gundam.

But hey, it’s gloriously fun to watch. I’m not exactly the target audience (I watch Gundam for the plot, not the mecha ; I have trouble telling apart the various Gundam models, let alone recognize what the heck Sazaki is using – that’s a doll model from Wing, maybe ?) ; but it is a pleasant-looking show that goes through all the usual toy commercial tropes with gusto.

A niche product as far as most of you are probably concerned, but I’m in.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2013 – Page 11.