Death Parade

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Remember Anime Mirai / The Young Animator Training Project ? It started as a way for the Japanese government to subsidize the training of a new generation of animators through series of of random high-concept one-shots. But by the third year of it, you could see that studios were using it to test the waters for pilots of longer stories. (Especially obvious was Arve Rezzle, which didn’t have a proper story at all.) Now, for the 2012 edition everyone was focused on Little Witch Academy, to the point of overshadowing the other high-point of the year : Death Billiards. Which is now getting a TV series, two years later.


The unnamed Barman of the Quin Decim is our recurring host. He’s here to deadpanly lay out the rules to whoever enters what is clearly some sort of purgatory : you must play a random game as though your life was on the line ; and only after that are allowed to move on. He wouldn’t advise refusing to play. (Cue shot of many bodies hanging in a back room.)

Our “clients” this week are a newlywed couple who died in a car accident. As they play a bizarre game of darts (with each hit on the target hurting their partner), it turns out that he’s a jealous asshole who had strong suspicions she only married him for his money, and is pregnant with somebody else’s baby.

There are a couple of waitresses who’ll round out the regular cast, but they barely appear yet.

Production Values

Rather good ; it can certainly sell the atmosphere, and make even a game of darts epic.

Overall Impression

Uh oh. Death Billiards was a perfect introduction to the premise, to the point I’m wondering why they didn’t just re-broadcast it. Instead, they’ve produced a whole new “let’s explain the concept slowly” first episode, and it really suffers from the comparison. It covers most of the same beats with more histrionics and less subtlety (including the bemusing decision of clarifying the final fate of the couple), as well as drastically reducing the screentime of that fun sardonic waitress.

This is a bit worrying. Hopefully this was a one-off misfire, and the next episode will hit the ground running now that the exposition’s out of the way. There’s a lot to like here, but it can’t just tell the same story again and again, with diminishing returns.

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

#01 : Boogiepop Phantom

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Sanity slippage, the anime. (Adapted from a light novel series.)


The titular Boogiepop is an urban legend bogey(wo)man ; everyone has vaguely heard spooky stories, and many of the strange happenings in the city are rumoured to be linked to her. In true horror anthology fashion, she barely shows up for a couple of minutes at the end of this first episode, killing off the monster and quickly explaining the plot. If you want to push it, she could just be a “normal” high school girl with advanced knowledge of the occult and wearing a fancy coat and hat over her uniform… but what are the odds of THAT ?

Moto, our actual point of view character for this episode is an angsty, self-conscious high school girl. She’s got issues over her best friend Yasuko becoming more socially proficient (and sexually active), and regrets not pursuing her crush on Yasuko’s former middle-school boyfriend further.

Saotome, said ex-boyfriend, has recently disappeared, and only shows up in flashbacks. Whatever happened to him (Boogiepop claims to have killed him), the thing that Moto stumbles on and has taken his form definitely isn’t him. She’s very lucky Boogiepop was in the vicinity to take out that man-eating monster.

I’m pretty sure that’s the end of Moto’s story, with each subsequent episode focusing on a different character that intersects briefly with the others’ path. As Moto’s narration says, what happened to her was just a ripple effect of a bigger story.

The credits prominently feature (and name) three characters :
– Touka is the only one who gets any actual screentime here ; she’s an ordinary student at Saotome’s highschool who crosses paths briefly with Moto and tries being helpful, despite Moto not wanting any help.
– Nagi is another student at that highschool, although she spends most of the OP looking grim in leather and riding a motorcycle. She doesn’t even show up at all here, although it’s said Saotome had a crush on her. Everyone knows her to be bad news.
– And then there’s some older guy in a trenchcoat, who doesn’t appear at all either.

Production Values

Atmosphere ! This show is all dull greys and browns, which is great at setting up the mood, but not so much at making the characters easily distinguishable (especially as the non-supernatural characters have naturalistic designs). Still, it’s very good at selling the alienation and the anything-could-happen nature of the setting.

Aside from the rocking OP/ED sequences, the soundtrack has very little actual music, instead playing up sound effects for maximum otherworldliness. What little music there is in the action sequences, is disrupted and fragmented. (In a good way.)

Overall Impression

As it happens, the first show on the list is the one I’ve already seen twice, and one of my all-time favourites. The shifting-POV, non-linear storytelling at play here is a thing of beauty, as each subsequent tale builds into a cohesive bigger picture. It’s relentless, it’s creepy, but it still leaves a ray of hope at the end of the day, thanks to Boogiepop herself.

I love this show, and I’m really tempted to rewatch it right now. That’s going to be a tough act to follow.

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

Parasyte – the maxim – (Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu)

(24 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a reputed horror manga series.


Shinichi, our protagonist, is an ordinary high school student with barely any more quirks than a bug phobia. He’s got normal parents and normal school friends. He’s the epitome of generic and unnoticeable… Until that night where a bud from space (?) invaded his right hand. He managed to stop its progression thanks to quick thinking. The thing didn’t manage to reach his brain, so it starts negotiating.

His right hand is now a being with its own mind. It can talk (after a little time to learn the language). It can sprout eyes. Indeed, it can alter its shape into bizarre forms at an impressive speed. But it’s symbiotic with Shinichi, deriving sustenance from what he eats, so it really wants the two of them to cooperate, however freaked out he is. Frankly, it’s all the more creepy as it rationally explains why its survival depends on his well-being.

Shinichi was the lucky one. A few other people in the country had a similar encounter, except it went to their head. The abominations that were born are truly horrific. Also, they feed by killing people (often their former family), and leave the shredded bodies lying around.

Production Values

This series is a perfect example of how a good horror series doesn’t need to show anything that would require the heavy censorship that mars lesser shows. It opens with somebody’s head being swallowed whole, but with careful enough framing to avoid showing too much gore. The mere depiction of the body horror is enough to be utterly creepy and disgusting. And it’s certainly a show that has way too many ideas on how to twist flesh around in unnatural shapes.

Fun score, too. I’ve never heard of the composer, but he makes good use of dubstep and other genres to instil uneasiness.

Overall Impression

This is a very focused first episode, with Shinichi and his right hand carrying the show. The good news is that it works : they have excellent chemistry, and the visual flair involved in its transformations makes it worth watching on its own. The transformations are just incredible of fluidity and uncanniness.

Now, it’s not quite clear yet where this is going ; and the script takes a non-linear approach that doesn’t add much. But I’m willing to give it a bit of time to settle in. I want to see what’s the right hand’s next move.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2014 – Page 5.

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.

Tokyo Ghoul

(12ish episodes ?)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a seinen horror manga. There are Ghouls roaming in Tokyo : inhuman monsters who feed on people. Once a month or so is enough for survival, but there are some “binge eaters”…


Kaneki, our protagonist, used to be a totally average high-school boy before he had an unfortunate encounter with a Ghoul, which he barely survived at all. For some reason the surgeon attending him thought it was a good idea to put him back together by sewing in some of the Ghoul’s organs ; which I hope is a plot point, because seriously. Anyway, he’s now half-Ghoul, which means he has all the cravings for human meat of the real thing, but has no wish whatsoever to lose his humanity. That’s tough, dude.

While the police seems to stand clear of all this, there’s some masked dude going around killing Ghouls. He may be behind the “accident” that killed the Ghoul assaulting Kaneki, since he was already on her trail early on.

With that Ghoul removed from the picture, already some others are crawling in to take other her territory. Lots of factions and infighting at play here, it looks like.

Production Values

This is a very striking production, from the distinctive designs to the colour work, to the non-obvious direction. It’s got budget, if only at least for the first episode.

This is not a series for the faint of heart, although the goriest shots are obscured by heavy censorship on the TV version.

Overall Impression

Impressive. This succeeds on every level : a toxic atmosphere, the quick descent of the protagonist into the deep end, striking visuals… The very good use of Kana Hanazawa helps, too. It’s creepy, paranoid, and quite disturbing.

Now, do I want to keep watching it ? Probably, yes. I have some niggling doubts about where it’s going, but it’s an auspicious start. There are many ways for it to fall apart quickly, but so far, so good.

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

M3 : The Dark Metal (M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane)

(24 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Mecha fighting eldritch abominations.


The main “team” assembled in this episode feels so random that even the characters point it out. We have :
– Akashi, a sullen high school student, emotionally crippled by the death of his family a decade ago.
– Iwato, his easygoing best friend. Both of them are quite good at fighting with mecha. (Are those mecha classes ? a club ? It’s not quite clear.)
– Maamu, the creep in another class that keeps muttering exposition at herself, explaining in detail how everyone’s going to die because of the nasties running around, uhuhuh.
– Emiru, the over-eager temp-worker who wants to climb up the ladder. Anything’s better than cleaning toilets, and this is her one chance. Too bad she’s kinda crap at it. Also, the way she latches onto Akashi despite his complete lack of interest can’t be healthy.
– Raika, who used to be a properly licensed mecha worker (although not too good at it), and sees being sent back to training as a demotion.
– Three other members have yet to show up… Wait, there’s this Minashi guy who shows up out of nowhere in the middle of an unplanned op, and that’s totally not creepy.

It’s heavily implied they all were caught in the same creepy event as kids.

Their supervisors range from the utterly bored to the callous assholes.

The cosmology goes this way : there’s some sort of parallel dimension that keeps leaking into our world. It’s populated by crystals that eat the poor people who get trapped in there, and transform them into “Admonitions”, dangerous and nearly-indestructible mindless monsters. Which are then spouted back into our world where they wreak havoc. You’d think everyone would be terrified of the dark, but we’re way past this stage, and most people have just gotten used to it.

There are also “Corpses” ; the one we see looks like a ghost piloting an organic mecha. If you hear their song, it’s rumoured you die within 9 days.

The authorities plan to train the team so that they can explore the parallel dimension, which sounds like a great idea that can’t lead to any sort of disaster.

Production Values

This seems to have some budget, and it pays off in every level : the CG mecha move beautifully, the monsters are creepy, and there’s a dense atmosphere making any night scene menacing.

As a result, the light occasional fanservice is a bit jarring.

Overall Impression

This is the kind of show where you fully expect at least half the cast to be dead by the end of it. Unfortunately, you kind of want them to. Only Iwato’s kinda likeable, with all the other being various degrees of annoying. It doesn’t help that I can’t make head nor tails of Akashi’s flashback backstory, which makes it hard to relate to him.

Still, it’s certainly got some ambition ; I kinda want to give it some rope to see where it’s going. It’d better find its feet soon, though.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Spring 2014 – Page 8.

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.


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.

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.


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.

Winter 2014 Capsules

Double Circle is quite a bizarre project. It spends most of its short screentime introducing its cast of quirky oddballs (that aren’t too interesting yet), until the reveal that they’re actually a sentai hero team. This is quite a gear change, to put it mildly. Apparently this series was produced by Toshiba to promote its clean-energy and environment-friendly projects ; that it’s barely visible in the final product might speak of a core problem. Anyway, it’s fairly generic and the irregular release schedule makes it pretty sure to fall off my radar by the time the next episode is out.

Pupipo! is more conventional stuff. This manga adaptation tells the story of a gloomy girl who’s the only one who can see the many ghosts surrounding her. Presumably they stick around her because she’s the only one who can interact with them ; unfortunately, they’re quite jealously demanding her attention, and she has to fend off any attempts from kids her age trying to be friends with her, lest they get attacked. This understandably puts a crimp onto her social life. This all changes one day when (1) she meets a girl too stupid and stubborn to back off like everyone else, and (2) she finds “Po”, a mysterious creature that looks like a fuzzy pink ball and is scary enough to make the ghosts start behaving a bit.

It’s a standard coming-of-age story, clearly aimed at young girls ; but it’s decently done, and quite good at developing its atmosphere. The gloomy protagonist has a striking design, as well. And it’s short enough not to overstay its welcome ; I could quite see myself sticking with it for the whole season.

via [In which I review] New anime, Winter 2014.

Okay, I tried watching Future Card Buddyfight, but there’s only so much I can stand from a blatant cardgame advertisement. Everyone gushing about how awesome Buddyfight is ? Check. The whole world revolving around it, to the point that this cop offers a criminal a choice between surrender, and duelling him at a cardgame ? Check. School classes that include unpacking new cards at the start of the lesson ? Okay, that’s a new one for me, but whatever. Blatant token introductions for a dozen of bit characters that are obviously going to be featured later on ? Par for the course.

Sigh, I’m just not in the market for this. It actually looks quite fine, and there are some decent jokes, but I just can’t get any enthusiasm into watching this. The two annoying protagonists (good samaritan kid and his new dragon-buddypet that just can’t stop complaining about everything) just get on my nerves way too much.

via [In which I review] New anime, Winter 2014 – Page 2.

I tried, but I just can’t gather the will to write at length about Robot Girls Z. It’s a very gimmicky show (mecha-girls patterned after mecha from vintage shows such as Mazinger Z) that falls completely flat for me. I have no nostalgia for those old series (they were before my time), and the actual machines are what I find the least interesting in that genre anyway ; crossing them with moe girls doesn’t help. And it’s not like these shorts really do anything with the premise aside from pure fanservice.

via [In which I review] New anime, Winter 2014 – Page 4.

Strange+ is yet another of those shorts adapting a gag manga. (Not a 4-panel one, though.) It follows the wacky hijinks of a team of “detectives”, and while it’s far from subtle, it did get a few laughs out of me. It looks terrible, but that’s par for the course for this kind of thing.

I know some of you were waiting for my take on pupa, but what is there to say ? I already had an inkling of what I was in for, and anyway the first episode barely gets anywhere, what with clocking at barely four minutes long. For what it’s worth, it’s a straightforward horror series about a girl who gets transformed into a cannibalistic monster ; we don’t even get to the part where she starts eating her brother. Still, it’s good at building atmosphere, and that’s what really matters. I’ll probably keep watching to see where it goes.

Z/X Ignition is a full-length show, but it was so boring I literally fell asleep halfway through ; and I have no wish whatsoever to try rewatching it to get a better sense of the plot. From what I can gather, a bunch of dark portals appeared all over the world, spawned monsters and “destroyed civilization” ; somehow civilization seems mostly fine a few years later, with some people having somehow domesticated monsters. There’s a lot of impenetrable exposition about monster classification and so on, because of course this is adapted from a card game.

To be honest, I have no clue whatsoever which of the characters I’m supposed to be rooting for. They’re all very generic, I seem to have missed out the part where their motivations get explained. Not even a lead role for Miyuki Sawashiro (whom I’ve surprisingly heard nowhere else this season) can make me pay attention to this crap.

via [In which I review] New anime, Winter 2014 – Page 5.

Diabolik Lovers

(12 15-minute episodes)

What’s it about ?

This season’s token “otome game” adaptation : it’s a well-defined genre where the female protagonist can romance a variety of boys.

Trigger warning : rape. Plenty of it.


Yui, our teenage female protagonist and audience surrogate. Her father has sent her off to live in this mysterious creepy mansion, without much of an explanation. There are hints that she may unknowningly be more than an ordinary teenage girl (at the very least, she didn’t know she was adopted), but that’s news to her. She has enough sense to try and run away (as well as phone for help) once she catches on what kind of place this is, but of course it’s all for nothing.

The mansion is inhabited by six creepy prettyboys, covering the usual stereotypes : the angry one who casually punches walls, the childlike one, the one with glasses, the aloof one who seems to be in charge, the borderline rapist… Wait, scratch that : since those brothers are all vampires, they all take turns invading her personal space. Their casual ability to teleport makes it even creepier.

Production Values

This may be an effect of the reduced running time, but this looks quite good : it’s got lots of atmosphere, and sells the spookiness of the setup all too well. The character designs aren’t particularly original, but they’re not offensively generic either.

Overall Impression

Are there any otome games that aren’t about rape ?

Okay, there may well be, but this certainly aren’t one of them. It takes all of three minutes for Yui to be assaulted, and the guys keep going at her throughout. No actual sex yet, of course, and I doubt there will be any, given the transparent vampiric metaphor. But there’s no mistaking what this is all about. The characters are shallow and the plot a mere excuse for as many assaults as possible in the short running time.

It’s a relatively pretty package, but there’s no disguising that it will only appeal to a very narrow audience who enjoys this kind of stuff. I’m not part of them, so I’ll pass.

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