GATE: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri (“The Self-Defense Forces Fight Like This in That Place”)

(24 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a light novel series about Japan being attacked by heroic-fantasy forces coming from another dimension, and fighting back.


Oh, dear.

Look, I can see why the show concentrates on setting up the core premise instead of developing the actual cast. Selling the high concept is important, after all. It may go a bit too far in overstating the novelty of it, especially with this amazingly tepid “cliffhanger” revealing that the access point between the two dimensions is called “the GATE”. Never would have guessed that.

And we do have an actual protagonist. Itami, off-duty lowly JSDF soldier who was at the right enough place during the initial attack to provide vital direction to the first responders and prepare the way for the actual defense forces. As a result, he gets a promotion, medals and much publicity he doesn’t really care for, as well as being part of the first serious wave being sent through the Gate and to try and occupy the neighbouring dimension.

For maximum audience identification, he’s also a massive otaku (who missed Comiket because of this). And he’s also having random visions of girls of assorted fantasy races who are probably going to be future love interests. The pandering, it hurts. And that’s the core problem with Itami as a character : he never feels like a coherent whole, but instead like a collection of traits the audience should like. He doesn’t feel like an actual person, you see ?

It doesn’t help that everyone else in this episode is amazingly one-note and forgettable. There’s some fuss about the Prime Minister driving much of Japan’s reaction dying before they get to the “invade the other world” part, but we’re given little reason to care about why that would matter. Please focus a random crying orphan girl instead !

Production Values

Nice enough ; you can always count on A1-Pictures to produce competent animation that’s not very flashy but does the job. And hey, the very generic designs for the heroic-fantasy armies may be part of the point.

Overall Impression

I’m sure there are many people ready to pounce upon the “JDSF, fuck yeah !” jingoism that constitutes the backbone of this show. And on some level, it is indeed a bit problematic. But that really wouldn’t matter if the series made a much better effort at making me care. Featuring some actual characters instead of paper-thing cutouts would help. As would a bit of world-building beyond the obvious.

But this first episode leaves me with very little confidence that it can deliver anything on that front. Everything here was by-the-numbers and obvious. There’s no twist (aside from the JSDF actually winning a fight for a change), no particular insight, the “enemy” have no depth whatsoever, and the blatant emotional manipulation showing up here and there gives me little hope on the plot suddenly becoming more even-handed between the various factions.

I just don’t care. Pass !

Source: [In Which I Review] New anime, Summer 2015

The Heroic Legend of Arslan (Arslan Senki)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a series of fantasy novels by the author of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. They already got adapted into a couple of anime movies and a short OVA series in the early 90s ; this revival is inspired by the recent new manga adaptation illustrated by no less than Hiromu Arakawa (of Fullmetal Alchemist & Silver Spoon fame).


Arslan, our title character, enters the series as the 11-year-old Crown Prince of the kingdom of Pars. As such, he’s lived a very sheltered life. He’s a bit of a wimp, but comes of as a kind person who actively wants to get out of the warm cocoon sewn by the many people trying to protect him so that he can learn new perspectives. that’s quite admirable, and the people seem to love him all the more for it.

King Andragoras, his father, is beloved for a completely different reason : he seems to always be off to another battle to protect the kingdom and its allies, and he manages to win some impressive victories with very few casualties on his side. Thanks to him, Pars is very prosperous, and its capital quite safe.

Queen Tahamine, despite living in the palace full-time, seems to have even less time than her husband for Arslan. Mind you, she’s also very cold towards Andragoras himself ; something tells me he’s been sleeping on the (jewelry-incrusted) couch for a while.

What clearly becomes apparent is that Pars’s prosperity wasn’t built merely on its king’s pure awesomeness ; it’s also because they enslave whoever they beat on the battlefield. Arslan doesn’t see much of a problem with this : submitting to slavery still gets you a better meal everyday than in whatever hellhole country the slaves came from. But his viewpoint his challenged by the attitude of the latest captives, Lusitanians, whose faith in a staunch anti-slavery religion brings them in direct opposition to the Pars system. They’d rather die than submit.

Half the episode is spent on a massive chase scene, as an unnamed Lusitanian kid escapes captivity by taking Arslan hostage. Who doesn’t actually mind that much, and saves his captor a couple of times (and even goes out of his way to allow him to escape). Again, it’s all an opportunity to learn different viewpoints, however dangerous that may be.

The episode closes on Arslan musing that he still has a lot of time to learn and grow into the role of the future king, what with his father probably keeping on being an awesome king for a few more decades… Hahahaha, no way. Cut to a mere few years later…

Production Values

This is an epic production, and it almost looks like so. Certainly it’s got a good attention to detail in the world-building. It’s just a shame that the CG armies look so lifeless and awkward…

It does have the cool LoGH gimmick of putting up an introductory caption whenever a major character first shows up in a given episode, which is well-appreciated given the size of the cast and the number of so far interchangeable captains in the Pars army.

Overall Impression

This episode had one job : selling me on Arslan as a protagonist I want to follow, as epic stuff happens around him (and it takes him some time to really shape up enough to actively participate). That’s a success : he’s just such a nice guy that you can’t help cheer for him. He’s not perfect, and he’s certainly got his cultural blinders on, but he’s willing to improve, and that makes up for a lot.

This is far from my favourite genre, but I’m willing to give it a go. Let’s see what it’s got in store.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Spring 2015 – Page 2.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru no Darou ka)

(12ish episodes ?)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a light novel series attempting a romance/harem comedy setup in a RPG-style fantasy world.


The high concept here is that the gods of the setting have gone down to mingle with mortals and enjoy normal life ; the only power they have left is to empower some normals so that they can go and adventure into dungeons. Not that the writers care too much about verisimilitude ; all monsters drop generic “crystal” loot for some reason, and adventurers have even got stat sheets.

Enter Hestia, very minor goddess with a grand total of one follower, the both of them living in obvious poverty. Not that she minds that much being alone with him, really. The way she’s so possessive and clingy rubs me the wrong way, to be frank.

Bell, said follower, is still a newb and can barely adventure enough to bring food on the table (Hestia helps by working part-time at a food stand). He’s got some enthusiasm, but is very weak indeed. “Should not be adventuring below level 3 of the dungeon” weak. But he wants to get stronger, not only to gather better loot, but also hoping to become a good enough prospect for the likes of…

Aiz, an elite member of the Loki house, who saves him from a minotaur. She’s so taciturn she barely gets a couple of lines in the whole episode, but I get the impression she isn’t as inaccessible as everyone likes to claim. (Wait, what’s with having her only level 5 ? For that matter, how can Bell still be level 1 despite his stats improving twice in the episode ? How does this system even work ?)

Rounding up the cast are the rest of the Loki house (including a loudmouth asshole who enjoys disparaging noobs, to the exasperation of his pals) ; Eina, a support guild worker who’s mostly there to provide a good chunk of exposition ; and Syr, a waitress who manages to trap Bell into eating at her expensive inn.

Production Values

Quite good ; the fantasy town feels more lived in than average. On the other hand, the camera loves to perv, especially when Hestia is giving it a hand by multiplying the risqué poses.

Overall Impression

Well, this is definitely a romance/harem comedy set in a RPG world. The setting is mildly interesting, but not enough to overcome my apathy over the near absence of a plot (Bell somehow now levelling faster whenever he thinks of Aiz barely counts) and nearly everyone involved’s lack of charisma ; Bell is just way too bland, and Hestia actively annoying.

I’m trying to be slightly more selective this season, and this is too mediocre to make the cut.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Spring 2015.

#16 : Saiyuki

(50 episodes, + 51 more for the 2003 sequel, + various OVAs…)

Before we start…

This one has been sitting on my shelves for years. I got a Collector’s Edition of it as a gift package from co-workers when I left my job in 2009 (!), and never got around to watching it since then. (I had trouble transferring it to my phone for easy viewing on my commute.) Now, they knew I was an anime fan and there was little chance I’d already seen it, but they clearly valued quantity over quality in their selection. (The package also included Kiddy Grade, Basilisk, a half-naked figure where you can remove the top if you also tear the head off, the whole Mai-HiME manga, a lone DVD collecting a few episodes of No Money, and the Cutie Honey live-action movie. The last of which I actually enjoyed watching, so it wasn’t all crap.)

All this to say I’m not expecting a masterpiece here, but it can’t be worse than some of the other stuff I got.

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a shonen fantasy manga, vaguely based on Journey to the West.


Sanzo, a monk (with a gun) who receives instructions from the gods to head to a land far to the west where baddies are trying to resurrect an old demon, which has a side-effects of making all the beast people turn evil and attack humans. So get there quick, deal with it, and put an end to this crap.

Also, take those three party members with you :
– Goku, the monkey boy with the extensible staff, who’s an annoying brat ;
– Gojo, the half-demon rogue with the bizarre vaguely scythe-like weapon ;
– Hakkai, the “nice”, always smiling mage with the pet dragon (who can turn into a car)

Oh, sure, they’re all beast people, but they’ve got power limiters on, so there’s no way they’ll turn on you. And you’ve all worked together in the past, so this quest is bound to go swimmingly, hey ?

Production Values

Urgh. Studio Pierrot got a bad reputation in the 00s for churning out low-quality shonen adaptations, and this is certainly one of them. Cheap animation, so many shots where only the mouths move (badly), to say nothing of the numerous still shots… Also, the disintegration effect for when beast people get killed looks terrible, which is a problem as it gets used all the time.

Overall Impression

You know, show, if you’re going to have Sanzo slowly realize over the course of the episode that the revival of the Demon King is what makes the beast people go insane, why do you have the narrator state it in the first thirty seconds like it’s common knowledge ? Between this and the bizarrely chosen flashbacks (that don’t really establish how those people worked together previously), you get a very incompetently-scripted “gathering of the team” episode.

Which is a bit of shame, as there’s quite a bit to like in there. Aside from Goku, the characters have charisma (helped by top-notch voice-acting) and get nice little introduction scenes. I could see some fun chemistry developing here, as they spend the whole series having adventures on the way to their goal. Sure, it’ll look like crap, but otherwise it should be inoffensive enough. (As I outlined above, I WILL watch this… eventually.)

Source: [In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000 – Page 3

Yona: The girl standing in the blush of dawn (Akatsuki no Yona)

(25ish episodes)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a fantasy shojo manga series.


Yona, the titular 16-year-old spoiled little princess. About a third of her dialogue involves fussing over her (admittedly unusually bright red) hair. Daddy the King has covered her in presents and attention ever since his wife’s death, and the only point he’s being a bit strict on is who she’ll marry.

Soo-won, her cousin and childhood friend, is especially verbotten. He’s grown to be a handsome man and Yona has definitely noticed, but Daddy says no. It’s not really clear why, although his talk of the attackers killing Mommy has convinced Yona that it’s being in the royal family that’s dangerous, and thus Daddy is trying to protect Soo-won. I’m pretty sure something else is going on here.

Hak, young general and friend to both of them youngsters, agrees with me and smells a rat. He doubles the guards around the palace and leaves Yona to Soo-won, because he’s not blind and knows his place.

… Maybe he should have been even more paranoid, as Yona soon stumbles on Soo-won slicing through Daddy with his sword. What. The. Heck ? Hak arrives just in time to protect her, but we’ll have to wait until the next episode at least for an explanation.

The OP & ED sequences show Yona on the run with Hak and a few more attendants, so I guess that’s the direction the story will go with.

Production Values

Quite nice. And all the dudes are handsome because shojo, of course.

Overall Impression

Well, I’m a bit intrigued, but I suspect the answer to this is quite pedestrian (naked power grab by an idiot who should just have waited a few months to get to the throne painlessly), and there’s something vaguely unpleasant in the atmosphere here. It doesn’t help that Yona herself is more than a bit annoying at this early stage of her character arc.

I’ll pass, as I just don’t see myself watching 25ish episodes of this.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2014 – Page 4.

The Seven Deadly Sins (Nanatsu no Taizai)

(24 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a fantasy action-adventure shonen manga.


The backstory here is that 10 years ago, seven “traitors” turned against their country and killed a big number of knights. Of course, by now they’ve become urban legends : they haven’t been seen since, and the details are starting to get wildly exaggerated. (Do they even look like their wanted posters ?)

Elizabeth is a young woman who’s looking for them… and frankly, with that big clunky armour she kinda looks like someone unsavoury. This show won’t have any of that, so she spends most of the episode in a skintight undersuit that gets more and more cut up as it goes. Anyway, she’s convinced the Seven Deadly Sins are actually great people that prevented the knights from doing something terrible.

She ends up in the Pig Hat, an odd tavern owned by a quite young-looking dude. How odd ? They have a talking pig. (Who gets rid of any leftover or spilt food.) Also, nobody can quite remember the tavern being on this hill for more than a few days. And the food’s kinda terrible.

The twist is that the tavern’s owner is Meliodas, the Seven Deadly Sins’ former leader. He’s lost track of the others, but Elizabeth’s welcome to try and help him find them.

Production Values

If even I can find the animation pretty lacking, then it must be quite terrible.

We’ve also got a bizarre case of Hiroyuki “Attack on Titan/KILL la KILL/Aldnoah Zero” Sawano’s bombastic score being grossly miscast. It’s just not that kind of series.

Overall Impression

Oh, hello generic shonen adventure #1564 ! And bye, because between your one-dimensional characters, your lacking quality, and your by-the-numbers plot, there’s just nothing to make me care.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2014 – Page 4.

GARO THE ANIMATION (Garo: Honoo no Kokuin)

What’s it about ?

This is the latest spin-off from a (live-action) heroic-fantasy tokusatsu franchise. By all accounts, it seems to be stand-alone in its own continuity.


17 years ago, the Valiante kingdom, represented by its ailing king, its kid prince, and its totally-not-treacherous chief advisor, started a witch hunt. Anybody who looked like a mage or a witch was hunted down. They weren’t above invading neighbouring cities, either. Hundreds fell, but their main target evaded them : the just-born baby of the first witch burnt at the stake, rescued by a knight in a wolf-like armour.

Herman Lewis is now telling this tale to the prostitute he’s in bed with, and she rightfully protests that it isn’t much of a story if the kid was never found. But you see, Herman knows the real story : the actual mission of witches and mages is to fight off and seal Horrors, shapeshifting abominations who prey on human beings. It’s obvious they’re pulling the strings behind the witch hunt. It’s probable many of them have infiltrated society and are replacing key people. Like, for example, this very whorehouse, fraught with rumours of clients never coming back…

Leon Lewis, Herman’s adoptive son who just happens to be 17, proves that he can hold his own when he’s attacked by a bunch of Valiante soldiers (covertly led by a Horror) while Dad is busy at the whorehouse. Which was the point : Herman is now convinced Leon is ready to come back to Valiante’s capital city and put an end to the witch hunt.

Production Values

Quite good, if maybe a bit too darkly lit. The CG wolf armours are a bit jarring, but you get used to them, and they are meant to be a striking contrast from everything else.

Overall Impression

Well, this is a decent start for a dark heroic-fantasy show. The tokusatsu elements are subdued enough to fit in relatively smoothly. The main characters have decent charisma, and the show as a whole does look good.

Still, I’m not entirely sure I’m in the mood for this. There’s no nuance to the baddies whatsoever, and the violence can get pretty gruesome at times. (Hey, let’s quickly imply the captured witches get raped !) I wouldn’t accuse the show of misogyny, but it does feature a lot of violence against women. And it’s just a very dark and gloomy premise.

I’m giving it another episode, but I’m doubtful I’ll stick with it.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2014 – Page 4.

Rage of Bahamut – Genesis (Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a heroic-fantasy cellphone videogame… But since it revolves around multiplayer card battles, I assume the writers took a vague look at the background flavour text and made up the plot of whole cloth.


Favaro Leone, our protagonist. He’s a cocky bounty-hunter who cares more about the thrill of the chase than actually making a living out of it. Especially if the tale can earn him a good night with the ladies. Most of his bounties are spent on placating the locals for the collateral damage, anyway. But behind the smarm, there’s a competent lone operative in there, who knows how to deal with powerful summons despite having little more than his short sword on hand. That’s a good thing, as he often gets way over his head.

Kaisar Lidford is his “rival”, insofar as the dude wants revenge on Favaro for ruining his life and reducing him to become a bounty hunter. I get the impression there’s a long line of those.

Amira is a woman who randomly falls from the skies (or so it looks like) and wants to head for the semi-mythical iced fortress of Helheim (a name that should have raised alarms bells in my head way sooner than it did). Since she’s heard Favaro bragging of knowing a shortcut to the place (while drunk in a tavern), he’ll do as a guide. She accepts his offer of sealing it with a kiss.

The next morning, Favaro wakes up with the hell of a headache. Getting drunk ? Check. That bounty target’s brother coming for vengeance and his super-big summon ? Er, he must have dealt with that somehow. That broad transforming into a scary demonwoman ? Er, must have dreamt that, surely. Why does his mouth taste like he’s swallowed dragonfire ? This is a terrible hangover indeed. Let’s get washed up.

Wait, why does he have a small demontail now ?

Production Values

Wow, just wow. This is by far the most impressively animated first episode of the season, and I can’t see anything compete with it. It shows off one impressive action setpiece after another, from the purely gratuitous (hello, giant wheel !) to the plot-important (with Amira shifting to demon form and kicking all kinds of ass). All the characters have tons of expressive body language, and move smoothly all the time.

Overall Impression

What. The. Hell ? How come the adaptation of a friggin’ cellphone cardgame is so good ? This is a feast for the eyes, and I really hope the budget keeps up in further episodes. But even if the action scenes’ ambition gets toned down a bit later on, the show can still fall back on its core strength : its likeable protagonist having fun adventures. Let’s be honest : how long has it been since we got a good, straight heroic-fantasy romp ? Because that’s definitely what this is.

I’m flabbergasted. Don’t let the videogame tie-in discourage you : this is the deeply unlikely gem of the season.

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

Lord Marksman and Vanadis (Madan no Ou to Vanadis)

(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a series of fantasy light novels.


Tigrevurmud (sic) Vorn, our protagonist. Lord of the small province of Alsace (/facepalm), he leads a token battalion among the much wider forces of Brune. At least, that’s his backstory, as by the time the series starts he’s the last man standing, with patrols from the enemy country of Zhcted (gesundheit) scouring the battlefield for stragglers. But while he doesn’t have any illusions over his survival odds, he’s going to make the most of the few arrows he’s got left.

Eleonora Viltaria, one of the seven war maidens (“Vanadis”) of Zhcted, stumbled upon him ; she quickly overwhelms him, but she’s fallen in love with his bow skills, and so takes him prisoner. Officially she’s asking for ransom, but she deliberately set an unreasonable price to be sure she’ll get to keep him. Refreshingly, she’s NOT a tsundere ; she exudes power and self-confidence, and is charmingly frank about her motives and plans.

Her entourage, though, aren’t too happy with her latest conquest, as they suspect she wants more than merely his bow skills. Some of them are already trying to undermine him.

Zaian Thenardier (sigh) was Tigre’s “rival” among the Brune forces, i.e. a bully who kept provoking and insulting him. The episode closes on the announcement that he’s attacking Alsace, because mwahahahah he’s an evil little prick. It’s obvious where this is going : Eleonara “conquering” Alsace so as to protect it and keep Tigre under her thumb.

The OP & ED threaten to turn this series into a full-blown harem series, with several more scantily clad young woman about to join in.

Production Values

As has become the norm from studio Satelight, this is much brighter and shinier series than you’d expect from the actual subject matter. The fanservice level is quite high, as the camera never lets you forget that Eleonora has boobs and legs.

Overall Impression

I had very low expectations coming into this. I’ve come to dread adaptations of fantasy light novels in general, as they’re often the height of mediocrity ; the pervert camera is highly annoying ; and the laughable naming scheme is just distracting. It doesn’t help that the script makes the questionable choice of starting off with Eleonora’s claim of ownership over Tigre (which has no impact whatsoever out of context), and then delves into several nested flashbacks to explain it all. (There’s even a terrible infodump from the narrator.)

And still… there’s the nugget of a semi-interesting premise here. The core couple are surprisingly engaging characters, with more charisma, depth and maturity than the norm. (The supporting cast, not so much.) They’ve got great chemistry. I’m shocked to be thinking this might actually work and be quite watchable, if the harem elements don’t overwhelm it.

Against my better judgement, I’m giving it a second episode. Make the best of it.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2014 – Page 2.

Blade Dance of the Elementalers (Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance)

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a fantasy light novel series.


Kamito, our generic male lead. He’s the second guy to ever manage taming an elemental spirit, and the first one was known as the Demon Lord or somesuch. Subtle foreshadowing ! Anyway, he’s a complete anomaly in a world where Elementalers are usually female.

Greyworth, headmaster of the Elemental Academy of the same name, has specifically headhunted him so that he can participate in the next Blade Dance tournament.

Claire Rouge (sic) is the first student he meets on the grounds, and it’s irritation at first sight. Impulsive, reckless, she feels humiliated by their first contact, and is bent on having him contract with her as her slave to offset this.

Other major characters introduced here include the head of the Student Guard Corps, the archer who also wants him for herself, and the teacher irritated by everyone’s antics. (He’s been put into the problem student class, because of course.) Also, a maid. “Why is there a maid ?” Wise words, Kamito, wise words.

Production Values

Very cheap indeed. The character designs are especially bad and generic. And of course, tons of lame fanservice : it starts with a “caught bathing naked” scene and goes on with multiple panty shots throughout the episode.

Nice score, though.

Overall Impression

Oh, dear. This is by far the worst thing I’ve watched this season. Even Momo Kyun Sword and Akame ga Kill weren’t this irritating and facepalm-inducing. The beyond-generic plot is merely an excuse to string along a series of cliché harem antics, with characters who grow more and more annoying as the episode goes.

This is awful on just about every level. Avoid like the plague.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Summer 2014 – Page 7.