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

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Sentient warships !


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

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

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

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

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

Production Values

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

Overall Impression

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

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


(24ish episodes)

What’s it about ?



SATSUKI KIRUIN, student council president of HONNOUJI ACADEMY, where the story is set. She’s the TOP DOG around, with even the teachers knowing better than to challenge her (having her mother on the board helps). She has set up a strict hierarchy inside the academy (and the city enclosed within its walls), and has distributed POWER UNIFORMS to the underlings she judges worthy.

IRA GAMAGORI is one her four main lieutnants, and the one in charge of day-to-day DISCIPLINE. Some dude has sneaked in to steal a ONE-STAR UNIFORM, that gives its wearer super-strength ? Well, TOUGH LUCK for the little punk, as Ira has a THREE-STAR UNIFORM, and intends the make an EXAMPLE.

RYUUKO MATOI, our heroine. This BADASS just transfered in and wants to ask Satsuki QUESTIONS about who killed her father. Her only clue is HALF A PAIR OF GIANT SCISSORS that she’s always carrying around. Unfortunately, even she can’t beat the Head of the Boxing Club with a TWO-STAR UNIFORM, and she barely manages to escape.

MAKO MANKANSHOKU, a MOTORMOUTH innocent student who takes a liking to Matoi after our protagonist beats up her little brother and his gang (who were trying to rob her). Obviously Mako’s quickly taken HOSTAGE by Satsuki and her goons to force Matoi to come back into the open.

THE INDECENT COSTUME is found by Matoi by chance (?) in her family house’s basement. It BARELY COVERS ANYTHING, but that won’t stop it from forcing itself on her. Also, it talks. But whatever : Matoi’s now got her own set of SUPER-POWERED CLOTHES, and can strike back. Go for ROUND TWO !

There’s also a MYSTERIOUS TEACHER hovering over the fringes of the plot and doing stuff like discreetly guiding Matoi towards the costume. Since he looks BADASS when he takes his glasses off, I assume he’s important.

Production Values

Very rough-looking, but with hyper-kinetic action when it matters. If you’ve watched Gurren Lagann, you know what to expect : dynamic camera angles, artful shot composition, omnipresent chiaroscuro, and giant captions all over the screen. Sometimes the background characters devolve into barely-animated caricatures, but that’s part of the charm, and it does have impressive animation when it counts.

Neither the OP nor ED sequences seemed ready for this first episode ; the ED song just plays other a stylized rendering of the title.

Overall Impression

Probably the most hyped show of the season : the triumphant return of Hiroyuki Imaishi (Gurren Lagann, Panty & Stocking w/ Garterbelt) with his new studio Trigger, on their first actual series after little appetizers such as Little Witch Academia. (Let’s just politely ignore Inferno Cop.) How does it measure up ?

The good news : it works. It’s outrageously stupid, of course, but it ties together into a coherent whole despite its wild excesses. There is masterful storytelling at work here, introducing a dense setting and plenty of charismatic characters, while keeping every single shot visually interesting and shoving in as many sight gags as possible.

Everything I expected it to be, and then some. A complete success.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2013 – Page 5.


(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Post-apocalyptic thriller.


After the Earth got contaminated by [whatever], the only “safe” way of searching the cities for survivors is to send teams of genetically-engineered high-school girls, the only people who can explore without protection. Our team is composed of :
– Ibara, the leader, who’s got some experience and some good fighting skills ;
– Aoi, who keeps complaining about everything ;
– Taeko, the other newbie who’s a bit more accepting about things, and is good with animals. Like, it’s hardcoded into her DNA.

The cast also includes their supervisor, “Vice-Principal” Mishima, who’s surveying them from a helicopter high above. He also does stuff like giving TV interviews in the middle of a field operation, because goshdarnit we need some exposition.

Production Values

Very impressive. This is dripping with budget, and the camera loves to show off how it can move around the characters. I’ll be surprised if this level of animation can be sustained throughout.

It’s sometimes a bit weird when the thick outlines for the characters clash a bit with the very detailed backgrounds, but it mostly works out.

Overall Impression

Now, this is more like it. It’s got an intriguing setting and some genuine suspense. It’s well-paced, and looks great. Admittedly, only Ibara is a compelling character among the three leads, but she’s enough to carry the show at this stage. Hopefully the others will either grow some more dimensions, or leave the stage quickly (if the cliffhanger is any indication).

Bottom line : I want to see more of this.

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

Sunday Without God (Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi)

(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Remember the parable about God creating the world in six days, and resting on Sunday ? Well, here he finished the job in five days, rested on Saturday, and just left on Sunday. As a result, people don’t really die anymore, unless those special people called Gravediggers bury them and give them eternal rest.


Ai, our protagonist, is the cutest little Gravedigger ever : loved by her whole village and her adoptive parents. Sure, she had to bury her own mother and her father is a mystery, but she’s happy, right ? And nobody’d ever lie to her about being a Gravedigger, right ?

“Humpnie Humbert”, who readily admits this is a bullshit pseudonym (taken from some fairy tale). Unfortunately, this is also the name Ai’s mother gave as the father’s (which should ring alarm bells to anyone with a lick of sense), which causes a lot of confusion. But not among the villagers, as he’s already killed them all. Well, shot them until they became zombies, given how the world is now. Why ? He doesn’t say. He much prefers deriding the cruel joke the townfolk inflicted on Ai : Gravediggers don’t have parents, they come from nowhere when they’re needed. Ai’s mother must just have been deluded.

The sad thing is that I can’t tell whether this asshole is right ; there are some hints that Ai does have Gravedigger powers… or maybe not.

Production Values

I watched a preview streamed from NicoNico (the show is set to have proper airings starting Saturday), so this means no OP/ED sequences, and eyebleed-o-vision quality. It’s still very distinctive artistically, with oversaturated colours all the time (making it seem like all the scenes are shot at dawn or dusk) and a love for Dutch angles. It certainly contributes to the surreality of the whole piece.

Overall Impression

Well, the least I can say is that this is a show that makes an impression. There’s a contrast between the bleak premise and Ai’s cheerfulness (Aki Toyosaki in full squeaky mode) that makes it way more depressing than if it was just played straight. It’s not just yet another zombie show, as it quickly builds up a very distinctive atmosphere.

It doesn’t entirely work, though. There are bits where the banter between Ai and the mysterious stranger goes a bit too much comedic to really mesh with the oppressive mood, making the tone of the episode vary quite a bit more than it needs to be really effective. It’s a bit too much all over the place.

There are some bits that do work, though. The progressive reveal of that one villager’s head wound, that’s somehow always out of sight from the camera until he pulls on his hood and you can plainly see that his skull’s shape is just horribly wrong, is a very nicely paced sequence. As is the scene where Ai has cheerfully dug up graves for the whole village in advance, and wonders out loud what she’s going to do now. Great moments, but the show doesn’t quite find its groove yet.

But I’m intrigued enough to give it at least another episode to see where this is going.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2013 – Page 2.


(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Demons start appearing in downtown Tokyo. Fortunately, there’s an app for that.

Adapted from a DS strategy-RPG. From what I gather, the various games in the “Devil Survivor” series are mostly unrelated plotwise (much like the “Persona” games), which is why adapting the second game makes any sense.


Hibiki, our protagonist. He’s the cold, emotionally-detached type, and very good at processing the plot. Which comes really handy here.

Daichi, his wacky best pal. He hooks them up on a bizarre cellphone app that predicts their imminent death in the very subway station they are currently in… but offers them a second chance at life. They just have to fight off some demons with whatever their phone app can summon.

Nitta, a random girl in the same high school that Daichi is a bit infatuated with, happens to be in the same place at the same time, and also got the app. She’s a bit damsel-in-distress-y so far.

Emergency services have no idea what the heck. Fortunately, the Meteorology Agency (no, seriously) quickly take over the scene, having predicted the whole thing for thousands of years. They’re especially impressed by the super-demon Hibiki can somehow summon.

Hovering on the fringes of the plot, there’s a white-haired pretty boy ™ who looks very interested in the whole thing.

Production Values

Decent, I guess ? It looks very generic, though, and the very basic designs for those first few demons don’t help. The ED sequence rocks, though.

Overall Impression

I am not impressed. The obvious comparison point is Persona 4, what with being adapted from a game from the same company, and having the same director. And however flawed that one was, this is noticeably worse. It just lacks spark ; the plot is nothing new and really piles on the clichés, the dialogue isn’t much good, and the atmosphere doesn’t work.

Unless you’re a fan of the games, I have trouble recommending this one.

via [In which I review] New anime, Spring 2013 – Page 3.

Humanity Has Declined (Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita)

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

The most cheerful post-apocalyptic series you’ll ever watch.


Our unnamed protagonist lives in a small rural village as a mediator to the fairies, on behalf of the UN. This basically makes her in charge of the female population here, mostly by virtue of having a clue and not being afraid of abusing her authority.

She lives with her grampa, a scientist also studying the fairies. And he’s very obviously calling the shots in the village, for about the same reasons.

The locals seem to suffer from a severe case of the stupids, and are barely able to function anymore. It’s funny until starvation because of their own incompetence becomes a plot point.

Fortunately there’s the fairies… and whoever’s running the mysterious FairyCo that’s been dropping free (awful-tasting) food recently.

Production Values

Well, that’s a good way to make a post-apocalyptic setting very creepy indeed : over-saturated bright colours everywhere, and the more pink the better. And that’s before the headless chicken start showing up, or the action moves to the utterly absurd FairyCo factory.

Overall Impression

Warning : this show doesn’t bother to explain anything about its setting : why has humanity declined ? Is this village typical of the world ? What state is the UN in ? (Our protagonists don’t seem to have access to any technology or outside help.) What’s with the fairies ? Indeed, it seems to revel in the explosive decompression of throwing the viewer into this strange land, even spending a lot of time on pointing out that our heroine just had her hair cut for undisclosed reasons and not being comfortable with it : is there any significance to it ?

Fortunately, we have a strongly-defined central character to latch onto, with enough shrewdness and cynicism to compensate for the braindead villagers. What prevents her from being obnoxious is that she doesn’t really get away with it, thanks to her grandfather’s vigilance.

But what really sets this series apart is the sharp contrast between the sugar-coated presentation and the very black humour at its core (the bleeding bread scene in particular has perfect comedic timing). There’s also a strong sense that it knows exactly where it’s going and the haphazard pacing is deliberate.

Somehow, this looks like one of the most original and refreshing shows of the summer. (Yes, more than that one with the talking yeast.) Very worth checking out.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2012 – Page 6.

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0

(11 episodes, 2009)

My previous exposure :
None, besides the notion that it deals with an big-time earthquake in Tokyo (which of course makes for an interesting watch with hindsight). Also, it aired on NoitaminA, so there were good chances of it not being crap.

What’s it about ?

The Tokyo Bay is hit by a big one (I’ll let you guess the magnitude). Disaster ensues.

The series focuses on Mirai, our de facto middle-schooler protagonist ; she was with her younger brother Yuuki to a robot show on the Oidama island when the earthquake hit. They’re helped by Mari, a young delivery-woman in her twenties who took a shine to them and needs to take the same direction to go home anyway. The whole series follows their long trek back home in the aftermath of disaster.

What did I think of it ?

This is a very, very low-key show. Realistic to the utmost, it examines in painstaking detail what the aftermath of such a disaster entails. Some people do dumb or selfish things (especially in the crowd scenes – I’m sure I saw someone getting trampled to death), but there’s also a lot of genuine solidarity (and tons of professionalism from the rescue workers). What saves the series from being a glorified PSA is that all this stuff stays in the background, letting the focus rightfully fall onto our three leads.

And that’s basically the limitation of the series : a lot of your appreciation of it relies on how much you can bear with Mirai, who starts off as a complete brat and becomes somewhat more tolerable as she suffers through the ordeal. In comparison, Mari feels unreally saintly, with an incredible amount of patience for those kids she’s just met. For such a character-focused drama, the characters feel a bit flat, and the show suffers from it.

Still there are moments of genuine emotion that truly work. Episode 5, where we meet a grandfather who’s just lost his grandchildren who were visiting him, and still keeps helping as much as he can, is a tear-jerker. And the big twist in episode 10, that Yuuki died two episodes ago but he kept appearing on-screen because Mirai was in denial about it, despite being a hoary old cliché, was well-enough executed that it gave the concluding gravitas that the series really needed. It’s transparent emotional manipulation, but it works.

It’s not a groundbreaking show in any way, but it’s clearly earnest in what it’s trying to depict, and it works on that level.

via [LTTP/WIW] Various anime from the 00s and beyond.

Appleseed XIII

(13 episodes, distributed on streaming and as OVAs)

What’s it about ?

The adventures of a SWAT squad in the future, fighting terrorists and conspiracies.


Deunan, our protagonist. Trained to survived in the wilderness by her father since her early childhood, she’s the gung-ho rookie of the squad. I’ll give this to Maaya Sakamoto : she’s got enough charisma to pull off her character whining non-stop for the full duration of the episode and still not have her be too annoying. Although she comes very close here.

Briareos, her BFF since forever (or maybe more ?). After a bad accident, he had to be turned into a cyborg to survive. He’s still following her devotedly to protect her (especially from her own reckless behavior).

Dia, an innocent bystander who turns out to be a special cyborg or something, and will presumably be important to the plot later on.

The plot of the week involves a bunch of terrorists (“the Argonauts”) storming the Russian Poseidon embassy to retrieve one of their agents. (Did I mention there’s a heavy Greek Mythology theme permeating everything ?)

Production Values

This is a full CGI series, with some degree of cell-shading when people are involved. To be frank, it looks terrible. The character designs for people don’t quite work, and most importantly the body language looks awfully off. It’s not a problem when everyone on screen is in power suits, but the humans move like creepy ragdolls, pushing them deep into the uncanny valley. It looks like cheap videogame cutscenes (you know, the ones that aren’t pre-rendered), which is all kinds of disappointing.

The backgrounds and the scenes without humans look much more impressive, but that’s only a fraction of the overall screentime.

Overall Impression

Ouch. I don’t know anything about the Appleseed franchise, but this is a decidedly underwhelming offering. The artstyle is a complete failure, and Deunan is obnoxious beyond belief. I think there may a decent story beyond those roadblocks… and then I realize I’ve seen this kind of story done much better with Ghost in the Shell – Stand Alone Complex. Which had the advantage of not making my eyes bleed.

I’ll give it another episode to check whether the heroine gets less annoying and I can enjoy it for the plot, but I’m not optimistic.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2011 – Page 11.

No. 6

(11 episodes)

What’s it about ?

In the future, after a near-apocalypse, most humanity has settled in a few super-awesome cities where they live carefree existences in a hi-tech environment… Well, at least that’s the official story ; considering there’s a Ministry of Peace around, I really doubt it’s as utopian as it claims.


Shion, our point-of-view character. A very mellow and easy-going high school kid who feels a bit constrained by society’s straightjacket. The utopian setting means he’s on the fast track to elite university and possesses very good first aid skills. He lives with his mother in the kind of house that clearly establishes him as very high in the food chain. (Or maybe everyone’s got one of these in the utopia, but I really doubt it.)

Safu, Shion’s classmate, who’s clearly interested in him, but gets politely relegated to the friend zone, to her despair. We also get to see her grandmother, who’s clearly bored out of her mind considering the dozens of hand-knit sweatshirts in her closet. (Utopia, my ass !)

Nezumi, an escaped convict who takes refuge in Shion’s house (who had left the window open). To his surprise, Shion doesn’t report him to the authorities, and actually hides him and nurses him back to health. Now, Nezumi clearly ain’t has bad as the newsflashes make him out to be, but Shion’s reaction is hard to explain unless you just accept it as part of his personality… And, well, I’m told the original novels played up the gay subtext a lot more, which I have no trouble believing.

Production Values

It’s Studio Bones : of course it looks good. The direction’s not particularly subtle, though (witness the numerous close-ups on the kids’ RFID tags !).

Overall Impression

This is obviously an ambitious project, earnestly trying to be meaningful and deep… but I’m not convinced it works. It’s way too unsubtle in its depiction of the udystopia, and I get the nagging feeling we’re heading for “Shion and Nezumi grow close together while running away from the authorities”, which isn’t a story I have the least bit of interest in.

I’ll give it another episode to try and convince me there’s more to it, but I’m not hopeful.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2011 – Page 6.