Summer 2013 capsules

Turning Girls is the latest web-thingie from Studio Trigger. Now, you may remember this studio was founded with much fanfare by the mad minds behind TTGL & Panty & Stocking w/ Garterbelt ; they also produced the wonderfully-animated Little Witch Academia one-shot for the Anime Mirai project earlier this year. But they’ve yet to produce an actual full series, and won’t until this Fall. In the meantime, all they’ve given us are shoe-string-budget shorts like Inferno Cop and now this.

Inferno Cop had some zany charm, but I quickly got tired of it. This is noticeably worse : an attempt at satire that’s not really funny, and has nothing more to say than “[female stereotype of the week] are annoying and terrible people, dur dur”. Also, it looks absolutely horrible, like something that was quickly thrown together between proper projects (which it probably was).

Don’t watch this crap. Especially when there are non-terrible takes on similar themes (such as the all-fujoshi new season of Genshiken) due out this very summer.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2013.

And now for something completely different : a few words about the first instalment of Ghost in the Shell : Arise.

This is a series of four one-hour OVAs, the first of which was released on DVD/BluRay AND debuted in theaters about a week ago. The pitch is that it’s a prequel about how the Section 9 team got together, so you don’t really need to know anything about the previous movies & series in the franchise.

The good news is that it’s very good indeed. The plot for this opening chapter may be a bit too convoluted for its own good, and it certainly deserves a rewatch to make sure all the pieces fall together, but then the same could be said about many SAC episodes. And it’s certainly got a clever twist that puts everything under a new light… and makes the Major look even more awesome in retrospect. It’s also great-looking, with impressively-animated action sequences that contribute a lot to conveying the stakes.

In many respects this is a fanservice project (“so this is how the Major met Aramaki…”), but it’s well done enough not to feel too contrived. (And it refrains from having the whole of the team coincidentally investigating the same initial event.)

I should probably mention that all the roles have been recast with different voice-actors. It doesn’t jar too much ; sure, Maaya Sakamoto is easily recognizable, but she recaptures a lot of Atsuko Tanaka’s original performance (and there’s precedent for her to play a younger Major anyway). Also, Miyuki Sawashiro seems to have a lot of fun playing a Tachikoma Logicoma, which is delightful.

The next episode is due in November ; it’s going to be a long wait…

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2013.

I give up : I can’t muster the will of giving Gifuu Doudou!!: Kanetsugu to Keiji (“Dazzling Sengoku Period Story: Kanetsugu & Keiji”) a full review. It’s going to be hard to beat as the most mind-numbingly dull show of the season. It may be a cultural thing, but those “legendary” men spending their time monologuing in poetry about the beauty of the world, and patting each other in the back on how awesome they are, just bore me to tears. And this ain’t helped by the retro-ish artstyle that makes all those 6-feet-tall forces of nature look the same to me.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2013 – Page 2.
A few words on Yami Shibai first : it’s a series of horror shorts with peculiar collage-like artstyle… and it doesn’t really work for me. Maybe because the first tale is so deliberately obtuse. (I think I get what the twist is supposed to be, but would it have killed the creators to spell it out ?) It’s not like it’s doing anything particularly original, anyway. But nice artstyle, still.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2013 – Page 11.

A Town Where You Live (Kimi no Iru Machi)

(12ish episodes ?)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a romance manga where some girl from Tokyo comes to live in the protagonist’s house in the boonies and the usual hijinks ensue…

Well, except that’s not what this anime series is about AT ALL. There was a short OVA miniseries a while ago that adapted a late chapter where the Tokyo girl has gone back home and the protagonist seizes the opportunity of a class trip to see her ; this new series occurs even further down the timeline. (Which makes the title a complete artefact.)

Characters

Haruto, our protagonist. He’s suddenly transfered in the middle of the school year to a high school in one of Tokyo’s suburbs so that he can spend all his free time looking around for the girl. If that sounds very stalker-ish… Well, her younger sister would agree.

Aoi, his older sister, whose pad he’s crashing at. Since she’s a busy salarywoman, she’s barely ever around anyway.

Asuka, their next-door neighbour. Since her first contact with Haruto is attacking him with a baseball bat, mistaking him for a burglar, they’re not exactly off on their best foot. So of course they attend the same high school ! She mellows down relatively quickly, and even starts giving him on how to better fit in class (where he’s not making any friends). She’s very obviously projecting some of her own issues onto him, especially her self-consciousness regarding her country dialect.

Kyousuke, Asuka’s “friend” and overall nice guy. Perceptive enough to point out that, whatever they may pretend, Haruto & Asuka have a lot of chemistry together… not that it takes too much to notice it.

Eba, the girl Haruto is actually looking for, doesn’t show up at all in this episode at all, although since she’s prominently in the OP/ED sequences she’s bound to appear at some point. Next episode will apparently feature flashbacks to the original setup, with the old supporting cast.

Production Values

There’s something a bit old-fashioned about the artstyle here : thicker black lines, saturated colours… Or maybe I just watched a bad transfer. Anyway, it looks somewhat rough, and doesn’t seem to be used for any artistic purpose.

Overall Impression

Well, it’s always intriguing when an adaptation starts off at a very late point from the original material. I can understand why they did it : the early premise sounds generic as heck, and the story of what happens after Eba has gone back to Tokyo and the status quo is shattered seems more interesting. It does result with a series that barely has any relation to its title anymore (since it’s not set in the town where Haruto used to live).

On the other hand, it seems to be a running joke that Haruto has way more chemistry with anyone but Eba, and his current behaviour looks very unhealthy indeed. So it’s not like the two of them being reunited feels like something we should be looking forward to. There’s kind of a sense that their romance has run its course and he really shouldn’t be trying to rekindle it. And I’m not entirely sure I trust this series to pursue this to its logical conclusion.

It’s an intriguing series, I’ll give it that. But I have enough doubts about its direction that I’m not sure I’ll see it through.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2013 – Page 11.

Hyperdimension Neptunia – The Animation (Choujigen Game Neptune: The Animation)

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

An adaptation of a action-RPG game franchise that’s very loosely based on the Console Wars. The setting (“Gamindustri”) is divided into four countries : Lastation, Lowee, Leanbox, and “Neptunia”, which doesn’t seemed to be based on any real console.

Characters

Neptune, the ruling goddess of Neptunia, starts off the series by proclaiming a cease-fire with the three other nations in a grandiose ceremony. But it turns out this aura of dignity is just a fa├žade for the masses ; in truth she’s a lazy bum who didn’t even write her own speech. Since she just plays around all day without doing much, her popularity is declining, which is Bad News for Neptunia. So she goes off on a training trip to get a bit better at her job.

There’s a bunch of supporting characters around her, most prominently her younger sister Nepgear, who’s a bit more responsible but not much more competent (mostly due to her much lower power levels). The others probably had more personality and purpose in the games ; here they’re just nagging on Neptune to take her job more seriously.

Noire, the goddess of Lastation, is very tsundere indeed : she accepts to help training Neptune but staying verbally abusive throughout. Not that Neptune doesn’t deserve it, but Noire’s treatment of her own little sister Uni is a bit more questionable.

The other two goddesses, Blanc (for Lowee) and Vert (for Leanbox) don’t get much screentime yet, with Blanc mostly showing up to make it clear she’s a workaholic who neglects her little sisters.

There are some vaguely nefarious people who show up towards the end in shadows to make some ominous comments.

Production Values

Colourful and utterly generic. This fantasy world doesn’t feel like a real, lived-in place at all.

Also, there’s some horribly contrived fanservice in some places, and those transformations sequences don’t help.

Overall Impression

Terrible on every level. Every single character is annoying, with the token attempts at depth for Neptune & Noire falling flat. The plot is indigent, and barely uses the “console wars” premise at all. (A quick glance through descriptions of the original games shows that those sounded slightly more interesting. But not much.) Nothing of any interest happens. The “transformation” gimmick is just baffling.

Maybe the games are fun to play ; this certainly isn’t fun to watch.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2013 – Page 10.

Gatchaman CROWDS

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Cooler-than-thou sentai show.

(This is a revival from a long-lived franchise, but it doesn’t look like you need to know anything about previous incarnations of it.)

Characters

Hajime, the latest inductee into the Gatchaman program, a secret underground corps that protects Earth (and apparently some other planets) from otherworldly menace. Technically she’s the audience-surrogate who gets told all the exposition, but she’s so downright loopy she’s a bit hard to identify with. She’s a joy to watch as she bulldozes through any attempt by the other characters to keep things serious, though.

Sugane, the “proper” Gatchaman main field agent, who does his best to do things by the book and contain the unrelenting enthusiasm of his new junior. He just so happens to attend the same high school as her. (And there’s an entrance to the underground Gatchaman base in the park next door. Hmmm…)

Paiman, the inevitable mascot panda-like alien who gives orders from the base and tries to keep discipline up. Well, at least until the middle of the episode where it just kinda gives up in the face of Hajime.

Wait, no. The real mastermind behind Gatchaman is “JJ”, the tall mysterious dude who inducted Hajime (in what’s totally not a rape metaphor) and gives orders through riddles transmitted by magic notebooks.

There are three other members to this team (with the implication that there are lots of other teams elsewhere) : the sullen brooding dude who makes the least effort possible, the awful-gay-stereotype guy, and the nearly-mute small swimsuit girl. None of them appear to be doing much in the field, and gay-stereotype-guy outright mention that he can’t transform into powered armor.

Our heroes fight otherworldly abominations that look like giant rubik’s cubes when they aren’t camouflaged as stuff or absorbing people. There’s also a creepy dude who shows up for three seconds at the very end, just to be delighted about seeing Gatchaman are real.

Production Values

Awesome. I love this show’s aesthetics, with colorful crazyness creeping into the edges of a relatively normal setting until it erupts into full-blown futuristic nonsense like the Gatchaman base. I’m less fond of the bizarre shading in people’s hair, but it does help them stand out. Overall, this is very nicely animated, with tons of attention to body language (which is half of Hajime’s craziness).

Also, the score is pretty kickass, never afraid of featuring zany “Gatcha!” choruses.

Overall Impression

Downright the most stylish show this season, doing it best to dust off the sentai genre. On that level, it works : it’s very entertaining, and it’s delicious to look at. Additional points for featuring a quirky girl as its central character.

Now, the big question is : is there any substance in here ? Well, jury’s still out, although there’s some interesting use of social media throughout. I like the idea that Sugane is participating in what looks like a “good Samaritan” social app, which is a fun concept in its own right.

There are some false notes here and there (the gay-stereotype-dude, and JJ being a bit too creepy for the show’s own good), but this is a promising start. Let’s hope the show builds upon it.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2013 – Page 8.

Silver Spoon (Gin no Saji)

(11 episodes ; 2nd season already scheduled for next Winter)

What’s it about ?

Slice of life comedy set in an agricultural High School, in Hokkaido.

Characters

Hachiken, our protagonist. As a city boy coming from an elite junior high school, he sticks out like a sore thumb here. (There are some mutterings about family issues that got him to join a boarding school as far from home as possible, but it’s not elaborated upon yet.) Good at academics, but does it really matter when the curriculum involves lots of very specialized science and physical activity ? It doesn’t help that he’s not good with animals and is grossed out when learning where eggs come from.

Mikage, his obvious future love interest. Loves horses, and has already joined the equitation club. Not really much personality beyond that.

The new students are divided into groups of five for practical courses ; in Hachiken’s group there’s the faint-of-heart guy who wants to become a vet, the short guy, the jock who somehow still has enough energy to be very enthusiastic about the baseball club, and the very big girl.

Production Values

This is clearly a low-budget production, with just enough animation to sell the jokes.

Overall Impression

Uh oh. This doesn’t quite work. There are some decent jokes here, but a bit too many of them rely on poop humour. The characters don’t have much depth, and Hachiken is more than a bit annoying with all his complaining. And as a whole, it feels very bland, without much of a hook. It has a semi-interesting setting, but that’s it.

It may just be a slow start ; I’m willing to give it a bit of rope. But there’s nothing particularly enthralling here yet.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2013 – Page 7.

No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Unpopular! (Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui!)

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Slice-of-life comedy about the daily struggles of an asocial girl.

(Unlike what the absurdly long title would lead you to expect, it’s adapted from a manga, not a light novel series.)

Characters

Kuroki, our protagonist. An introverted nerd who hasn’t managed to hold a proper conversation with anyone outside her family since entering high school a couple of months ago. (Not that it went much better in middle school.) Even saying goodbye to the teacher manning the schoolgate or ordering food at the local WcDonald’s is an ordeal. She doesn’t understand why making friends or getting a boyfriend is so HARD in real-life, when she’s so good at it in games.

By the way, I hope you can withstand her pathetic, self-deluding and aggressive inner monologue, because it drones on and on throughout the whole episode.

Our only other major character introduced in this episode is Tomoki, her younger brother, who’s completely normal and a bit annoyed by his sister randomly barging into his room to passive-aggressively demand some help.

There’s a group of four of her classmates that she keeps bumping into (not that they ever notice her), with her abusive narration reeking of jealousy at their easy socializing.

Production Values

Not very high, but studio Silver Link know how to spruce up a pedestrian narrative with lots of nifty effects (sometimes veering on the downright abstract) to keep it visually interesting.

Overall Impression

Hello, cringe comedy ! It’s basically an entire show based on mocking how socially inept its protagonist is, without pulling any punches. Kuroki is clearly responsible for a good part of her own misery, and her misguided efforts to better herself are obviously doomed to fail. She’s a walking trainwreck and this is painful to watch.

It’s also hilarious, fortunately. It helps that a lot of this feels authentic and barely exagerated from actual nerd behaviour : it hurts to watch because it’s true, and a good chunk of the audience has been in similar places. And while she’s not shown in a good light, to put it mildly, Kuroki still manages to be an endearing character to watch. We want to see her get a bit better, although she’ll probably fall flat on her face repeatedly on the way.

This strikes a difficult balance between its uncompromising depiction of its protagonist, and avoiding to be too annoying ; while there’s room for this to go horribly awry later on, so far so good.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2013 – Page 6.

Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Demon summoning is totally real. Even in Victorian England.

Characters

William Twining, our protagonist. He’s one of the most promising youth of his generation, bright and coming from a rich family… wait, scratch that, his uncle (and legal guardian) has just gone bankrupt and disappeared, leaving our hero unable to pay for his tuition. Farewell to his dream of being part of the elite… But maybe he could search the family house (the only thing not repossessed yet) for something worth money. And in a hidden basement, he stumbles on a magic circle, with which he accidentally summons…

Dantalion, one of the leading contenders to Hell’s throne during the interim period where Lucifer is busy sleeping. It turns out that William is the descendant of the guy who can decide such things (mostly by beating everyone else up back in the day), so Dantalion tries his best convince him to do so. The problem is that Willian is a staunch rationalist and won’t believe in demons whatever happens. Could you annoying cosplayer get off his lawn already ?

Obviously, everyone in Hell is bound to want a piece of William once they learn how much he matters.

The supporting cast is rounded up by William’s butler (who’s sticked around because he still believes Willian will get rich and powerful eventually), and the very annoying young Isaac Newton, who believes in tons of supernatural stuff.

Also, Dantalion transfers into William’s school (and it looks a lot like he’s the one who paid for his tuition somehow), which can only lead to crazy hijinks.

Production Values

Perfectly alright.

Overall Impression

I was kinda on board with this until William’s repeated denial of the occult (despite everything that happens around him) got very annoying. After a while, his rationalism just stops making any sense and becomes bloody aggravating. Which is a shame, since there are some decent jokes in this… But if it gets tiring now already, I doubt I can withstand 12 episodes of it. Especially as I get the nagging suspicion there’s going to be a tournament of some sort.

Nice try, but no thanks.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2013 – Page 5.

Fantasista Doll

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

It can’t be a real anime season without a card game show.

Characters

Uzume, our middle-school protagonist. She used to be good at card games in elementary school, even winning a tournament, but that’s pretty much behind her now. Well, at least until someone slips in her bag a special card-reading-device and a few cards during train rush-hour. She’s then tricked into activating her account (with way too much personal data), which summons…

Sasara, a card-generated warrior who can materialize to defend her from attackers… well, provided Uzume combines her card with some actual equipment cards, otherwise she just shows up nearly naked. Oops. Once that’s dealt with, she’s quite powerful.

Uzume’s opponent in this battle, obviously wanting to get those super-special cards, uses a ninja warrior and has lines like “I won’t forget this ! Next time I won’t hold back !” Urgh.

There are four other card-beings in the lot Uzume got, all with different one-note personalities (the motherly one, the barely-speaks one, etc.). They’re outraged when Uzume asks them to do her chores, declaring her the worst master ever. Oh, come on.

I’m pretty sure the scientist-dude stalking Uzume in one scene is the same guy who shows up later wearing a fancy uniform and a cape, standing ontop a lamppost outside her room at night, to declare her worthy of the Dolls.

There are tons of other members of the supporting cast that don’t really get much depth, such as Uzume’s bossy little sister, her “big sister” figure who seems to be in high school, and her various school friends.

Production Values

Decent. There’s one cute design idea : having the Dolls appear as flat ghosts on transparent surfaces. It’s barely used at all in the show proper, though.

Overall Impression

Sigh. There are a few okay jokes here, but there’s no escaping that this is an obvious toy commercial (at least, I hope that’s the idea) with a generic plot and flat characters.

I’m very tempted to give it a bit more of a chance, as it’s sometimes funny, but it’s too lackluster to make the cut in such a busy season.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2013 – Page 5.

Blood Lad

(10 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Comedy about vampires that don’t bite anyone.

Characters

Staz, the vampire ruler of a section of Hell. Except he has no interest in sucking the blood of humans, as he’s very grateful for them creating all this delightful pop-culture. Basically a gaijin otaku stereotype.

Deku, his beleaguered second-in-command, who’s baffled by this boss who barely ever gets out of his room and shows no interest in vampiring or conquering more territory. But still beats any other boss wannabe, especially this asshole who’s just showed up with his stupid people-eating plants.

Yanagi, an ordinary Japanese high school girl who’s stumbled into Hell (without any clue how) and should consider herself very lucky to be in Staz’s territory, all things considered. Well, except she gets eaten by one of those darn plants halfway through the episode, so she’s a ghost now. But Staz is totally going to restore her to life ! (Given how he takes his inspiration in Dra-Gunbol manga, I wouldn’t keep my hopes up…)

Other members of the supporting cast include a mysterious traveller whose dimensional door is probably responsible for this mess ; a three-eyed bar owner (and her humanoid symbiote or whatever) who’s not much help with figuring what can be done ; and a meek shapeshifter who joins Staz just at the time he needs a decoy while going off in the human world to buy more popculture stuff escort Yanagi back.

Production Values

This looks quite cheap indeed ; there’s some nice effects where the camera shakes around a bit to make the storytelling feel more hip, but that’s not enough to hide the lackluster budget.

Also, the camera never lets you forget that Yanagi has big boobs.

Overall Impression

It’s decent, I guess ? There are some good jokes (and a good deal that fall flat), I like some of the deadpan snark being thrown around, and the various hell creatures are fun.

But let’s be honest : the only reason I haven’t dropped it yet is that it’s only 10 episodes, and thus there’s a reduced risk of it running out of ideas and stopping being mildly funny in such a short runtime. I don’t trust it to go anywhere anyway (especially with a still-ongoing manga), but hopefully the joke won’t get stale too quickly.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2013 – Page 5.

The Eccentric Family (Uchouten Kazoku)

(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Did you know that in modern-day Kyoto, there’s a three-way deadlock in power under the surface between the humans, the tanuki & the tengu ? Nope, me neither.

(Adapted from a novel.)

Characters

Yasaburo, our protagonist, is a tanuki. As a trickster and talented shapeshifter, he laughs at your narrow conception of gender and spends the whole episode looking like a high school girl. I like him : he’s fun and has a nice, snarky sense of humour. And he’s a protagonist that actually does stuff ! How novel !

Pr Akadama is an old tengu and used to be Yasaburo’s mentor ; he’s but a shadow of his older self ever since he broke his back in an ill-fated prank. Nowadays, Yasaburo still looks after him because he feels guilty about said prank, but he’s just about the only one who still cares about the old geezer. Except maybe for…

“Benten”, aka Satomi Suzuki, was Pr Akadama’s other pupil. She’s a normal human, but that hasn’t stopped her from learning how to walk on air from the old master. It’s more than heavily hinted that there was something romantic between the two of them, but he clearly hasn’t worked out. The crowd she freys with right now sound like bad news, but she’s still the scariest person in the room at any time. She’s entirely unapologetic about having suggested the prank to Yasaburo at the time, but it’s clear she regrets it. Not that she’ll ever admit it.

It looks like further episodes in the series may explore a bit more Yasaburo’s siblings and family, but so far they’ve just been cameos. (Younger brother is cute ; older brother doesn’t approve of Yasaburo’s antics.)

Production Values

Very nice : this Kyoto is bursting with life. There’s a lot of care to adjust the body language of each character to their true nature, and that without taking into account Benten, who owns every shot she’s in. I also love the initial camera trick of zooming in and out on the city to comically make a point about what’s happening in it.

Overall Impression

I expected this to be semi-inpenetrable to someone who doesn’t know much about Japanese folklore (wait, tengu are crow spirits ? Why didn’t I notice that before ?), but this turns out to be perfectly accessible to the uninitiated. It’s basically a love triangle that ended very poorly for everyone involved, but the episode succeeds in making clear that there’s a lot left unsaid and to be explored. Kyoto feels like City of Adventure where anything can happen and factions secretly and discreetly feud against each other. (Surely there’s an interesting reason why Akadama was having both a tanuki and a human as students, given how the three groups don’t usually mingle ? What the heck was he up to ?)

This is reminding me of Durarara!!, minus any apparently boring character around. This can’t be a bad thing, right ? Definitely following this one.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2013 – Page 5.