Soul Eater Not!

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a spin-off manga from Soul Eater. Not that the original series is required reading/watching : the premise is reintroduced from scratch, it focuses on new characters, and this seems to be set around the start of the main story anyway.

Characters

Tsugumi, a girl who discovers she’s a weapon. So she goes to the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning Death Weapon Meister Academy, where she can learn to control her newfound abilities and save the world. Sure, Death City and the academy are quite overwhelming as places, but she’ll be fine, eh ?

Meme, a weird girl who seems to have memory issues. She’s on track to become a “meister” (the people who wield the weapon-people, with totally no sexual subtext whatsoever to their teaming-up, no siree). She’s nearly immediately assaulted in the corridors by a couple of sleazy assholes ; Tsugumi, who had befriended her a bit, finds her resolve and runs back to help her.

Anya, a rich/noble girl who’s come to study as a meister and mingle with the plebeians. She can’t overlook the attack against Meme, so she offers to wield Tsugumi and get rid of the two jerks. They make a pretty good combo… which is a bit awkward, as Meme wants to partner up with Tsugumi too. That’s not the kind of triangle she was expecting to be in the middle of…

A good chunk of the original series’ cast drop in to make cameos. Of most significance : Maka, as the experienced upperclassman Tsugumi takes for a role model, and Pr Sid, who presides over the welcome course.

Production Values

It’s studio Bones, so of course it looks nice and the action sequences are impeccable, but as a whole it looks much more generic and ordinary than the Burton-esque original series. The jerk sun is still around, but it looks a bit alone. It’s especially weird as the plot still calls for demented designs – there’s a dude who can turn anything but his head into a knife !

Also, no more Taku Iwasaki music. The replacement’s not bad, but it’s just not the same.

Overall Impression

This is a nice angle for a spin-off ; the original series never really bothered with world-building, rarely giving any sense of how DWMA was supposed to work and fit into the world. Here it’s front and center, free from the constraints of any wider plot. I already get a much better understanding of DWMA than I ever did before ! (Like, that Death City is supposed to be in America.) And the new main characters form a good framework to explore all of this.

I’m on board.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Spring 2014 – Page 6.

Black Bullet

(12ish episodes ?)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a light novel set in a semi-apocalyptic future where super-powered teenagers are the main defense against a virus that transforms people into monsters.

Characters

Rentaro, our male lead. A badass fighter, his guns are loaded with bullets made of the rare metal that harms monsters. (Hence the title. How can he afford these ?) He’s part of one of the many small private companies that sell their anti-monster service to the authorities (who are otherwise complete redshirts).

Enju, his partner, looks 10 at best. The idea here is that she’s one of the “cursed children”, who got partially infected by the virus but resisted it enough (thanks to a heavy drug administration) that they can live a relatively normal life, and then more : they’ve got super-strength and are able to destroy the monsters at hand-to-hand combat. Aside from that, she’s an annoying brat with a crush on Rentaro.

Kisara, the head of the company, and his obvious love interest. Have I mentioned yet they’re both still attending high school ? (This is a very relaxed apocalypse indeed.)

The cast is rounded out by a creepy professor doing lab work in the basement. I don’t want to know what she’s cooking.

Oh, and then there’s Mysterious Masked Dude, who lurks around being ominously amoral.

Production Values

This is an action show, and the fights have some good animation indeed.

Overall Impression

This is quite competent on a scene-by-scene basis, but as a whole it doesn’t quite click for me. Is is the bizarre juxtaposition of the horror-style virus apocalypse and the mundane lifestyle of the protagonists ? Some of the characters being very annoying ? The clumsy exposition that’s often completely out of place ?

It hasn’t managed to make me care about these people. I’m not giving it another episode to change my mind.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Spring 2014 – Page 6.

Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara

(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a series of light novels parodying dating sim clich├ęs.

(Apparently the official nickname for the series is “Gaworare”, following the Haganai model of nonsensical abbreviations that avoid any of the title’s keywords.)

Characters

Souta, our male lead. He’s afflicted with the ability to see “flags” above people’s heads : death flags, friendship flags, love flags, etc. They notify him of these people’s potential futures ; he goes out of his way to break all of them. Now, that makes sense for death flags, but his self-inflicted solitude reeks of a martyr complex.

Nanami, a girl in his class (who happens to be part of the royal family of a poor kingdom, but she doesn’t like to talk about it), is our actual viewpoint character throughout the episode. Because she’s nosy as heck, she quickly notices his strange behaviour and demands explanations, which he eventually gives. She calls him on his bullshit for avoiding any kind of friendship or love, and obviously can’t stop being fascinated by the weirdo.

Akane, a very rich girl who wants to become friends with Souta, and won’t take no for an answer. Nice visual gag with the friendship flags who keep sprouting faster than he can break them. (Has Ai Kayano swallowed a helium tank for this role ? Because seriously.)

Given what we see in the OP and ED sequences, tons of other girls are going to throw themselves at him.

Production Values

Thoroughly average, although it does get some decent visual gags out of the “flag” concept.

Overall Impression

The obvious comparison point here is NouCome, another light novel adaptation that poked fun at dating sims. The good news is that it’s a lot less obnoxious, letting the characters some room to breathe, and taking a relatively deadpan approach to the premise. The bad news is that it isn’t that funny, and the characters can’t avoid the shallowness required by the plot.

It’s watchable and mildly funny, but it’s going to have to step up its game if it wants to keep me.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Spring 2014 – Page 6.

Still, the World is Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii)

(12ish episodes ?)

What’s it about ?

An adaptation of a shojo manga about fantasy politics, or something like that.

Characters

Nike, our female protagonist. As the fourth princess of the Rain kingdom (and the one who lost rock-paper-scissors), she’s been packed off to marry the Sun King, and thus broker peace between the two countries. She’s not very enthusiastic at the prospect, but it’s her duty so she’s damn well going to do it. She makes a point to arrive early and meet the people incognito to get a better handle of her new home. This might not have been the best-planned idea, as all the inns are full of soldiers (the Sun Kingdom has been expanding aggressively, and it shows), her Rain-money is worth next to nothing here, and port cities are full of traps for suckers.

Such as Those Two Morons, who quickly rob her in the night. Normally she’d have no problems dealing with them quickly (she’s got powerful control over winds, hence how her ship could arrive two days early), but she hasn’t eaten for a while and is out of stamina. Urgh. Well, at least it takes a while for TTM to get wind that there’s a hit on her from those sections of the Sun Kingdom who are unhappy with the marriage, so it takes them a while to get back on her trail.

She’d been rescued by the daughters of a relatively nice innkeeper, who offer her some (basic) food and (cramped) roof out of charity. When TTM show up and kidnap the elder daughter by mistake, she’s quick to find them and beat them up. (Apparently she manages to tame them enough to force them to give her a ride to the capital city, three days away.)

The Sun King, whom she eventually manages to get to, turns out to be a good-looking young man, instead of the bloodthirsty barbarian she was expecting. And he has made the kingdom a better place to live (irrigation systems, etc.) during the three years he’s been in charge. Anyway, this political marriage does have a greater purpose : it never rains over here, so could Nike please do something about it ?

Production Values

Perfectly alright.

There’s not much fanservice, mostly confined to a bizarre fourth-wall-breaking scene with Nike’s sisters.

Overall Impression

While I do have so mild interest in where the fantasy politics are going (it looks a bit too black & white so far, but let’s give it some time), the selling point here is Nike, who’s a very engaging protagonist. She carries the show here, and has the shoulders for it. She’s got agency (despite the premise), heart, and the bouts of selfishness and violence that round her out as a person. The show as a whole features some decent slapstick, although the occasional fourth-wall breaking feels a bit forced at times.

Still, there aren’t many shows featuring such a good female protagonist. That alone makes me want to stick with it at least for a while.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Spring 2014 – Page 3.

Captain Earth

(25 episodes)

What’s it about ?

A new original mecha project, from the people who brought you Star Driver.

It’s slightly less excentric.

Characters

Daichi, our teenage protagonist. He’s got tons of backstory, provided by many fragmentary flashbacks. The gist of it : (1) Dad was an Astronaut, and died years ago. (2) As a kid, Daichi was lurking around the space base, and found that there were some weird kids his age living inside. They fraternized, but he eventually got caught, and he never saw them again. Then Dad died and he left the island. Now, as an angsty teenager at the crossroads of his life, he’s come back. Just in time for an alien attack !

More specifically, the aliens come from the other end of the Solar System, and warp in one at a time with their mechas. With tons of sexual subtext. Daichi is “guided” to the mecha’s cockpit by the less talkative of the weird kids from back then ; since he wants to do something, and has heard that his dad was a “Captain” (i.e. probably already fighting aliens at the time), he accepts to step into the cockpit.

Which leaves Teppei, the other kid from back then, and the official pilot for the mecha, completely dumbfounded. Why is it already gone ?

There’s a hacker girl who finds all this stuff very interesting. As you would.

Production Values

Studio Bones always deliver impeccable work, but they went the extra mile for this one. There’s some impressive detail to the body language and visual slapstick that gives tons of personality to the kids in flashbacks.

Overall Impression

Well, this is certainly a very busy first episode, dropping tons of hints of what’s going on, and trusting the audience to follow along. That’s fine by me : there’s obviously been tons of thought put into the small details of the setting, so I have no problem with giving most of the screentime to the character-building, and leaving plot explanations for later on.

Now, the key question here is whether all this self-confident and well-executed storytelling is in service of a theme more complex than “he’s Captain Earth and he fight aliens”. Surely there’s more to it ? But it’s hard to tell yet.

There’s so much talent at play here that I’m willing to give it some rope, though.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Spring 2014 – Page 3.

One-Week Friends (Isshuukan Friends.)

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a (shonen) romance manga.

Characters

Hase, our male lead, is your ordinary highschool student : bumbling, awkward, but overall quite a nice guy. (And not a Nice Guy, fortunately.) The series focuses on his attempts to become “friends” (or more) with…

Fujimiya, that one loner girl in his class. Who goes out of her way not to make any friends. After a week of talking to her and getting through her shell, she finally explains herself : she has a brain disease that makes her memory partially reset every Monday. She’ll definitely forget about the people she had a good time with, hence her behaviour.

Hase doesn’t care, and vows to befriend her again every week.

Production Values

Decent enough, with some nice pastel tones everywhere.

Overall Impression

The question with such a gimmicky premise is obvious : how do you make it last for 12 episodes ? (Or more, considering the manga is still ongoing.) Won’t it get awfully repetitive ?

This first episode doesn’t really run into the problem, as it’s tasked with setting up the premise. Now, that doesn’t quite work either, as a good chunk of the audience is going to know what the series is about already (it’s in the title !), and there’s not much more than the high concept to it. Sure, there’s value in spending time to build up the two leads’ chemistry, but it’s all a bit slight.

I’m giving it another episode to determine how it plans on going forward, but I’m very skeptical.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Spring 2014 – Page 3.

Brynhildr in the Darkness (Gokukoku no Brynhildr)

(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a seinen manga series where an ordinary dude’s life is turned upside down by the apparition of a mysterious girl with superpowers.

Characters

Ryota, our protagonist. He’s still deeply shaken by the death 10ish years ago of his childhood friend “Kuroneko” (real name unknown), after they both fell from a dam while she was trying to lead him to the place she’d seen aliens at. In her memory, he comes every evening to local telescope to try and find aliens, as the lone member of the school’s astronomy club.

“Neko Kuroha” (LOL at the obvious pseudonym), a sudden transfer student who totally looks like Kuroneko would by now. She denies any knowledge of Ryota, though. She’s very mysterious indeed : she’s in contact with some people with prophecy abilities, and she herself seems to be a high-level telekinetic. (She calls herself a “witch”, but then explains to Ryota that her abilities come from surgery and drugs. Hmmm…) There are also tons of holes in her background. (How could she even transfer in without knowing multiplication tables ?)

The plot here is purposefully muddled : Neko has been notified that two students in this school are to die from very improbable accidents, and she tries to “subtly” prevent their deaths. The second one’s Ryota, of course, and he goes out of his way to force her to use a more hands-on approach. Because he wants to know what’s going on, of course.

He stops listening halfway through her explanation, though, when he notices that Neko doesn’t have Kuroneko’s highly-distinctive birthmark. So they’re really two different people after all ? (You know, she’s just mentioned surgery…)

Production Values

This series is the demonstration of the power of a great OP sequence. Yes, it’s got some nice music (if you enjoy dubstep), but the key here are the well-designed visuals implying that Neko and her friends are reanimated corpses. It’s by far the best OP sequence this season, although admittedly half the shows that have aired skip it to fit more story, so there’s not much competition. Anyway, it’s done a great job of selling me on the premise.

The actual show can’t really match up, but it does have some good animation for the action sequences, and it’s got way less fanservice than you’d usually expect from studio ARMS.

Overall Impression

As stated above, the OP sequence sold me. It helps that the flashbacks are nicely paced, and some of the final twists are intriguing. The two leads have some decent chemistry, too, and the writing has got an appreciable attention to detail.

I’m cautiously optimistic about this one.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Spring 2014 – Page 3.

Baby Steps

(25 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a tennis manga series.

Characters

Eiichirou, our protagonist. Nicknamed “A-chan” for his consistently perfect grades. He has high-level OCD, and his cleanly-written, perfectly-designed notes are admired by the whole class. He’s perfectly okay with lending them out freely (he has spares !), too. See, making all those is integral to his learning process ; that’s the way he can cope with his studies.

Until a year ago, he had no interest whatsoever in tennis ; cue several-episode-long flashback. See, he was aware he needed to practice some sort of physical activity. Most sports clubs were out, as he has only little time available in his busy studying schedule, but that “free tryout!” pamphlet for the tennis club looked interesting.

Natsu, a girl in the next class over, happens to be in that club. Now, he’s no good at dealing with girls, but her dedication to tennis (she secretly wants to become pro) has peeked his interest. She seems to like him too ; she does call him a weirdo all the time, but it’s not mean-spirited.

The idea here (layed out in the flashforward prologue) is that Eiichirou is going to apply his meticulous approach to tennis, apparently with some success.

Production Values

Most of it is okay ; there’s some good animation for the tennis bits… but the character designs are very awkward, obviously lifted from the page without too much care on how they’ll look animated. In particular, the episode ends on a close shot of Natsu where I’m completely unable to discern what expression her face is supposed to be displaying.

Overall Impression

Now, that’s a semi-interesting premise for a sports show : the nerd who uses maths to supplement his play. I’m sure it’s been done before, but the characters are likeable enough, there’s some decent comedic timing, and I’m intrigued enough not to drop it immediately.

I’ll give it one more episode to feel out where it’s going.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Spring 2014 – Page 3.

Haikyuu!!

(25 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a volley-ball manga series.

Characters

Shoyo, our protagonist. He’s actually quite good at volleyball, with great speed and jumping ability. Unfortunately, his middle school doesn’t have much of male volleyball club. And by that, I mean he was alone in it for two years, barely got a trio of first-years in his final year, and just about managed to rope two of his friends (who know next to nothing about the sport, being in other clubs) to participate in the district tournament. That they even manage to score some points in the one match they get to play is a miracle. Especially as they’re facing…

Kageyama, one of the local rising stars, very serious about everything he does, and very angry at most of his teammates for underestimating the scrappy underdogs. This is serious, guys, stop taking shortcuts ! And he’s entirely aware of Shoyo’s potential.

By the end of the episode, Shoyo moves to high school, giddy to be joining a proper club that’ll let him have a rematch with his rival… Wait, what are you doing here, Kageyama ?

Production Values

Perfectly okay for this kind of thing.

Overall Impression

Well, it’s a generic sports series, featuring hot-blooded rivals. It’s got the usual message of “never give up !”. It’s competent on every level, with well-placed flashbacks laying out the backstory in the middle of the match, but there’s no real spark or originality to it.

I’m not interested.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Spring 2014 – Page 3.

Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! (Abarenbou Rikishi!! Matsutarou)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a sumo wrestling manga that started in the 70s and ended more than 10 years ago. I have no clue why anyone would greenlight such a thing (transforming it into a de-facto period piece, set decades ago), but there you have it.

Characters

Matsutaro, our protagonist. Despite being an adult, he’s still in middle school. And failing it badly. He bullies everyone else in his class, including the teachers. Let’s not mince words : he’s a complete asshole.

His mother is busy offscreen, working many jobs to bring some food back to her numerous children. Matsutarou bullies them too, even stealing candy from the baby’s hand because the big oaf is that hungry.

Old man Nishio seems to be his only “friend” ; Matsutaro even helps him out working at his little mine, showcasing his immense strength. Unfortunately, the mountain is getting razed down, so he’ll soon be out of a job.

Any amount of sympathy I might have left for the little big scamp goes right out the window after the two steal a truck, get drunk, and kidnap the pretty teacher at his school. It’s quite satisfying to see them in jail at the end of the episode, because seriously.

Production Values

Barely animated and with terribly oldschool character designs, but then that’s pretty much the only approach you can take with such source material.

Overall Impression

If you’re wondering what any of this has to do with sumo wrestling, well, yeah. I can only presume that he’s eventually going to start that career and set himself on the straight and narrow, but fuck it : this episode has made a very good job of unselling me out of following his adventures. That the teacher is somehow going to follow him to the big city and become his love interest (if the OP & ED sequences are any indication) only adds insult to the injury.

No way I’m watching any more of this.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Spring 2014 – Page 3.