The new season has started in Japan on January 2nd, and you know what that means: we’ll be watching the first episode of (almost) everything that we can put our grubby mitts on, and I’ll be typing up reviews! I’ll all tag them with ‘first episode review’ (like this entry), so if you have no interest in anime and don’t want to read about it, then feel free to mute that tag!

With that out of the way… let’s go!
Itsu Datte Bokura no Koi wa 10 Centi Datta: A highschool romance: a popular boy from the movie club, who even won some prizes with his work, and a girl from the art club. They always go home together, and they find it hard to see the other with others from the opposite sex, but they’re not official dating. Somehow, they can never bring themselves to being less than 10cm apart…
Technically not a new series: it started halfway the fall season, so we never watched that first episode. We really liked it: they’re kinda cute, and the art is pretty. I also like the character designs.

Uchuu yori mo Tooi Basho: Mari feels that her highschool life is slipping away from her without anything happening. But she is too risk-averse to even take an unplanned trip into the city for one day, so nothing actually ever changes. That is, until she meets Shirase, whose goal it is to travel to Antarctica, where her mother disappeared. She works a lot of side jobs, and saved up a lot to make her dream come true. Mari recognises her as the adventurous and driven spirit that she needs to latch onto to have the adventure she craves.
I really empathise with Mari, being risk-averse myself. I mean, how would a highschool student go about travelling to Antarctica? But I’m also certain that it can be done, with enough resources and determination. The series is also funny, and I want to see more.

Last new October anime

Wow, like usual it’s quite the slog! But we’ve seen it all now!

Yuuki Yuna wa Yuusha de Aru 2: Second season of teenage girls fighting to protect their tiny sliver of reality against incursions from the chaos beyond the barrier that is maintained by their tree kami. The second series seems to set up a new team of girls, but by this time we’ve already seen how this plays out. I think there’s a new twist somewhere in the series, but the first episode doesn’t suggest anything of the sort.
Verdict: We just can’t be bothered. Pass.

The Idolm@ster SideM: Based on the popular idol-management game, but this time we’re following a team of guys! The main character (of at least the first episode) used to be a lawyer — now he works together with two others to get a dance routine down.
It’s quite refreshing to see young men work hard for a change. The team really starts from the bottom, which is more inspiring than seeing established groups. Still, it’s something we’ve seen before, and it doesn’t really interest us anymore.
Verdict: No.

Himouto! Umaru-chan R: Second season of Himouto, about the perfect Umaru who turns into a total slob at home. She only reads manga, plays games and watches anime — and eats snacks. Her long-suffering brother tries to get her to tune down the otaku bit, but it is Umaru’s desire to make more friends that gets her to open up more.
Usually, second seasons of these kinds of series are not that interesting, as they tend to keep treading the same ground. But Umaru is slowly changing, and that’s interesting to see. Not the high-flier of the season, but fun.
Verdicht: Yes.

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond: Second season of Kekkai Sensen, set in a New York that has been invaded by multiple realities. So there’s aliens, demons and all sorts of weirdness mingling in with the humans. Life is chaotic and, apparently, very cheap. Leonardo, who has been gifted with super sight, is the only slightly normal person in Libra, a group dedicated to fighting against the chaos.
This first episode goes full throttle and introduces all the characters with their special powers, and we’re right in the middle of things. There’s little in the way of long-term plot, but it does a good job of showing us the kind of white-knuckle ride we’re in for! If you liked the first series, then you will most certainly like this.
Verdict: Yes, please!

Wake Up, Girls! Shin Shou: Second season of Wake Up, Girls!, the idol group that’s struggling to outgrow their local appeal and to make it nationwide. It’s really more of the same from the first series, and our patience for this stuff has worn out: it’s not bad, but it’s predictable.
Verdict: Nah.

Inuyashiki: Inuyashiki is a 58-year old salariman who looks like he’s 85. His family ignores him — when he hears he has cancer and has only three months left to live, he doesn’t have anyone to call. His only friend is a dog, and one night when he is walking her, he is killed by a crashing spaceship(!). The aliens reconstruct him as an android (still looking like himself), but they only have combat models in stock! So when he sees a group of teenagers attacking a homeless man, he intervenes, and his automated systems activate!
The CGI of the cyborg animations is really gorgeous. And having an elderly super hero is interesting, but we found it hard to empathise with this guy who acts like a total doormat. We just didn’t like him, and an unlikable main character is kind of a deal-breaker. Premise is interesting though, but the way it developed just didn’t sit right with us. (Also: alien technology that autonomously knows how to interact with earth technology? Hm.)
Verdict: No.

Sangatsu no Lion 2: Second season of the series about Rei, the teenage professional shogi player. The first episode establishes the important shogi players, and shows Rei being part of the science/shogi club. He seems more at ease now, and that’s good to see.
We loved the first series, and this picks up where that left off with the same feel and style.
Verdict: Yes!

Evil or Live: Set in a school/camp to ‘cure’ internet addiction in teenagers. It’s a rough environment with drill sergeant-like ‘instructors’ who don’t mind beating you to get you to comply. Hibiki gets abducted to this camp, and het gets beaten up to set an example. When he tries to get away, he meets a guy who promises to set him up with any girl he wants, if only Hibiki does what he says.
It’s violent and creepy, in the same vein as Deadman Wonderland and Prison School, and it’s shitty.
Verdict: Oh, please, no.

And… that’s it! We’ll now return you to your scheduled blog experience!

Sjokugeki no Soma: San no Sara: It’s the third season of Shokugeki no Soma, and by this time we were expecting to be bored of it. But Yukihira has decided to get in over his head again, and he is brooding on an unconventional trick to defeat someone who is a lot higher in the school hierarchy… And we just want to see what happens next. The fact that it’s focused on food helps to keep us interested as well, of course…
Verdict: Yes.

Two Car: On a particular island, there are some roads without a speed limit. Two girls take their racing motorbike with sidecar to school every day: they are the racing club on their girls’ high school. And there’s a national competition between racing teams from girls’ high schools that they compete in. It’s just too bad that they’re not much of a team…
Before the episode was finished, klik had to leave for work, and it’s telling that we never bothered to pick up where we left off. If you’re a total gear-head, then you might want to watch this — but if not, then perhaps not.
Verdict: Nah.

URAHARA: Three friends run a fashion shop and sweets cafe in Harajuku. Everything about them is kawaii, has cartoon faces and has bows etcetera. And then aliens invade! These are the Scoopers: aliens that don’t have any creativity or culture of their own, and thus they plunder the culture from other planets. But a talking fried shrimp(!) gives them secret weapons that makes them magical girls in order to find the Scoopers!
I’ve walked through some streets in Harajuku — I’m not wholly convinced that this depiction of that place is 100% truthful. I guess it’s aimed at younger girls who have an interest in both fashion and magical girls. If you’re really into the style of icons like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, then this series is in your sweet spot for sure. But if not, then… less so.
Verdict: Let’s not.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau: Chakuro is the archivist of ‘the mud whale’, a rock drifting in a sea of loose sand. He is a Marked: humans who possess telekinetic powers, but they don’t usually live past 30. The ‘whale’ is ruled by the Elders, who don’t are Marked and thus live far longer. One day, they find a warrior girl on an island they come by. The most powerful criminal on the whale kidnaps her and Chakuro to leave the whale, to escape the influence of the Elders.
Such a vibrant and novel setting, so vibrantly rendered! Lots of “show, don’t tell”, and we get to see so much of the ‘whale’ and the people on it in such a short span. Not derivative of anything I know, and the characters are rendered with lots of loving detail. If this were an RPG setting, I’d play in it in a heartbeat. Instead, I’ll settle for watching the series.
Verdict: Yes, please!

Infini-T Force: All the heroes of all the Tatsunoko Productions properties, such as Casshern and Gatchaman, get dumped into a single series, under the pretense that someone has been destroying (their) worlds, and they all end up in ours to team up. It’s all gorgeous CGI with only a little bit of uncanny valley — which is good, otherwise the whole production budget would have to be spent on hairspray for the Final Fantasy-level of hair-do’s.
If you’re a big fan of even one of these heroes, then it could be fun. It’s certainly not as bad as it could have been for a ‘constructed’ series, and the fight scenes are quite dynamic and fun. But in the end, we weren’t that interested.
Verdict: No.

Hoozuki no Reitetsu 2: Second series of the hilarious Hoozuki no Reitetsu, about the second-in-command of Japan’s hells. In this first episode, we get a little view on his history and his pettiness! We really enjoyed the first series and the OVAs, and this promises to continue in the same vein.
Verdicht: Yes.

Boku no Kanojo ga Majime Sugiru Shobitch na Ken: Haruka confesses his love to the Kousaka, the class president. She accepts, and then innocently starts asking him things like what his sexual fetishes are, leaving him totally flustered.
So… it’s one of those series. We turned it off after about five minutes. What did go wrong in our culture that we created things like this!?
Verdict: No, please make it go away!

Garo: Vanishing Line: People who succumb to despair turn into super-powered, grotesk, cannibalistic ghouls. Only this ‘knight’ riding on a weird motorbike, wielding a sword and conjuring up magical armour from his talking skull ring, is strong enough to battle them. Which he does, of course.
It’s weird and grotesk. The action scenes are super beautifully rendered though they are so super-fast it’s hard to keep track of what’s happening. The rest is rather standard: the characters don’t really stand out, and the main character is kinda annoying. So basically it’s a super-standard battle series with very little to distinguish it from the other gazillion battle series.
Verdict: Nope.

Dies Irae: Fujii has a phobia for knives, and when he visits a sword exhibition with his annoying childhood friend/neighbour, he gets ‘possessed’ by a guillotine. Then there are some (reported) mysterious murders where the victim is decapitated, and then a couple of nazi officers turn up, ready to kill basically everyone — because they’re evil nazi’s, right?
Disclosure: we didn’t watch the episode 0, but the first episode. And this made no sense to me at all. It has a weird vibe and alludes to violence porn too, not my kind of thing. And it is telling that the nazis are portrayed like monsters, but there is no thought given to all the things the Japanese military did in WW2. Self-criticism is not a cultural value in Asia, it seems.
Verdict: Most certainly not.

Sengoku Night Blood: A modern girl gets transported to another world which looks like the Sengoku period, with the same warlords — except some are human, others are catboys and the Toyotomi clan, which picks her up, are vampires… But all of them are, of course, super-hunky boys, and of course the girl is super special…
Reverse harem with both supernatural and historical elements. Our protagonist doesn’t seem to have any discernible personality: the focus is obviously on all the hunky vampires and catboys.
Verdict: Nah.

Imouto sa Ireba Ii: Itsuki, a writer, is a serious creep about younger sisters. Good thing he doesn’t have any! But his bizarre preferences are reflected in his writing, much to the annoyance of his editor, who (rightly!) rejects Itsuki’s work. Things are not made any better by his friends hanging out at his apartment.
Wow, what a bunch of stupid characters doing stupid stuff for a whole episode long! The only character that isn’t immediately disliked is Itsuki’s younger brother, who runs the whole household. Other than that, I see no real redeeming value anywhere.
Verdict: Hell no!

Anime-Gataris: Minoa attends a private girls’ school, and she vaguely remembers an anime from her youth. When she discusses this with a friend, the wealthy ‘princess’ classmate perks up. Turns out she is a total anime fan, and not stiff at all when discussing it. Minoa suggests (re-)starting the anime club, and gets roped into organising it.
Not much real content here: it’s super-thin on plot development and character pieces. It doesn’t really sparkle, and seems like total otaku-bait. Not that interesting.
Verdict: Nah.

I’m running behind with my reviews — weekends are always a viewing-heavy period for us, and with some home projects taking some time (of which later more), I haven’t had time to write proper reviews.

Ousama Game: The Animation: Nobuaki transfers into a class of 32. At first he is decidedly anti-social, but he opens up to his classmates. But then everybody in the class gets a text message from ‘the king’: they have 24 hours to comply with his orders, otherwise they will be punished — which always involves death. Nobuaki recognises this: he is the only survivor of a class that also had to play the “King’s Game”…
It’s one of those series in the genre of “gradual elimination” that’s been popular ever since Battle Royale came out. There has been a gradual shift in making the participants the victims only, with external circumstances enforcing arbitrary rules that determine who gets to live and who not. We don’t have any interest in the genre, and this one didn’t win us over either.
Verdict: Thanks, but no thanks.

Houseki no Kuni: The land of jewels is populated by people made of… gemstones. There is an ‘avatar’ for each gem, and they are ranked by hardness: the hardest of them are warriors, who need to repel attacks of Buddha-like figures who descend from the moon to capture them to turn them into jewellery. The softest of them, Pho, can’t be a fighter, according to their (human?) master, who is dressed like a Buddhist priest — but they can be the writer of the encyclopedia. Not a job they were waiting for!
High-concept, original setting with lush visuals and oddly elongated, androgynous character designs and casual Buddhist imagery strewn in. Five minutes in, and it’s so fresh and new (and, dare I say, sparkly) that we wanted to know what happens next.
Verdict: Yes.

Mahoutsukai no Yome: Chise is an orphan. She can see spirits, so people find her creepy and her relatives basically pass her around. She is sick and tired of it, and basically sells herself into slavery. She is bought by a magician, whose head looks like a stag skull… He is the first one who is genuinely friendly to Chise. She has certain powers, and he wants to make her his apprentice — and his bride.
Set in some kind of Victorian-era England, with deep forests where fairies dwell. The magician is certainly friendly, but it takes Chise quite some time to understand what is happening to her. It’s not very dynamic or fast-moving, which means it takes the time to show how the characters react to each other: it seems quite character-driven.
Verdict: Yes, thank you.

Code:Realize: In a steampunk Victorian England, a master thief, a genius engineer and a doctor live together in a hidden mansion. One day, they steal the daughter of a lord, who has some kind of energy source embedded in her. She is poisonous to the touch, and she has been retrieved by the army, who are operating on the orders of a hidden organisation with nefarious plans. They convince her that she is better off with them, instead of languishing away in her father’s deserted mansion.
I like steampunk as much as the next guy, but this just felt bland. There’s not much that catches the attention, and it’s “lazy steampunk”: there are cars, but they run on steam! Yes, but I would want to see how things are different once you use steam instead of internal combustion… And the three male leads are of course flawless and super capable, while the female lead doesn’t know anything and needs constant reassurance from them.
Verdict: Meh, we’ll pass.

Dyanmic Chord: The singer of one popular all-male band (and this time it’s an actual band: they play instruments) drives around in the spring rain with his roof open. He is absent from the rehearsals, even though they will go on a world tour soon. The vocalist of a more junior band (presumably from the same management) is asked to fill in during the rehearsals.
At the end of the episode, I didn’t know who all these pretty boys with improbable hair were supposed to be. Nor did I understand why I was supposed to care about what happened to them. The animation is laughably bad: lots of pans across stills or minimal animation, many repeated shots, long shots of the boys’ concerned faces without any dialogue… It’s thoroughly bad.
Verdict: Hell no!

Blend S: Maika wants a part-time job to save up for studying abroad, but since her face is so menacing, she gets rejected every time — even though her personality tends towards the polite end of the scale. One day she is ‘discovered’ by the perverted owner of a cafe where every waitress plays a certain personality type. Maika’s appearance is perfect to fill the role of the sadistic member of staff, and that is indeed a handy excuse to explain her horrible service. The clients (and the owner) are hooked! And of course, we also meet some of the other staff, whose roles in the cafe don’t fit with their personalities either.
It’s not bad as such, but I’ve never subscribed to the idea that every series needs at least one character with one of the set of prototypical personalities. Watching a tsundere character was interesting the first time around. But the fifth… not so much — it just lacks any kind of nuance. So imagine each of those personality types being played out in the setting of a cafe with cute maid outfits. I just can’t care.
Verdict: Thoroughly ‘meh’.

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou: Two girls are on a journey on their three-wheeled tracked vehicle through an urban landscape destroyed by war. They don’t meet anyone (and don’t see any bodies). Finding weapons is easy, finding food is not. We do not know where their journey will take them, or what they are leaving behind.
It is equal parts depressing and interesting. We were hooked by the end of the opening credits: we wanted to see what happens. It’s more of a philosophical look at the human condition and to what really matters. The character designs are quite simple, but very effective.
Verdict: Yes!

Just Because!: After four years, Eita’s family moves back to a suburb of Tokyo, and he will attend the tail end of high school. He meets up with his friend Haruto by chance, who just happens to attend the school that Eita is transferring in. They play a bit of baseball, while around them clubs are going about their various business, subtly interacting.
I was really impressed with the attention put in the backgrounds and scenery: a box of random junk squirreled away in a corner of an irregularly used meeting room; or a messy table with flyers about entrance exams and cram schools in the middle of the central hall. It’s things like that that make the setting really come alive, and it provides context for the characters. The story seems to be a romance and to move slowly, which is just how we like it.
Verdict: Yes.

Kino no Tabi – the Beautiful World: Kino is travelling (again) with her motorrad Hermes. She spends exactly three days in every ‘country’, and in the first episode, she comes to a country where murder is not prohibited by law. Along the way, she meets all kinds of characters, and the situation develops like you’d expect, but it’s a fun, slow-paced ride.
We’ve watched earlier episodes of Kino’s Travels, and we liked it quite a bit. It’s going to be an episodic “country of the week” series, but it has a really cool slow-moving vibe.
Verdict: Yes!

Konohana Kitan: Yuzu is brought to Kokohana-tei, a luxurious hot-spring hotel where the attendants are all fox spirits (like Yuzu). She isn’t used to being around people, so she has a lot to learn about being a good attendant. But her earnest manner sees her through!
Kokohana-tei looks a lot like the bathhouse from Spirited Away, and I guess that is no coincidence: the guests all seem to be spirits. It’s slow-moving and has cute girls, so what’s not to like?
Verdict: Oh yes.

Net-juu no Susume: Moriko quit her job and now has all the time of the world to spend on MMOs… She finds a new one to play and starts playing as Hayate, the handsome hero. Hayate quickly teams up with Lily, a healer, who helps him get started. Hayate and Lily team up a lot, and when christmas rolls along, Hayate wants to prepare a surprise for Lily.
It’s interesting to see how the game affects Moriko, and to see glimpses of the lives of the other players (some of whom are closer than Moriko knows). It’s not very action-packed, and it seems to focus more on the interpersonal aspect of MMOs rather than the game aspects. It makes for some low-adrenaline viewing.
Verdict: Yes, I guess.

New anime

So October has rolled around, which means the new TV season has started as well. And that means we’ll be watching the first episode of new series, and decide what to collect for future viewing. And because you’re awesome, you get to read my reviews too!

Black Clover: Asta and Yuna are foundlings. Yuna is a powerful wizard, but Asta is unique in that he can’t use any magic — even though he is convinced that when they get their grimoire when they turn fifteen, his magic will awaken and he’ll become the Mage King. Asta is better positioned for that, though — but when Yuna gets attacked, the dark magic within Asta awakens!
Asta is amazingly shouty — I don’t think I’ve heard him say a single sentence in this first episode on a normal volume. He is bratty and annoying, but Yuna isn’t much better. And the story is… well, I would have sworn we’ve seen this a thousand times by now.
Verdict: Nah.

Juuni Taisen: Twelve professional killers of a family associated with one of the signs of the zodiac convene every twelve years to start a ‘battle royale’. There can be only one survivor, and one wish will be granted. Of course, all the warriors have super (-like) powers, and most of them seem very unpleasant.
It’s like the Fate franchise, but without the supernatural explanation as to why this is all happening. The series seems well made, but with nasty characters and blood spattering everywhere, it doesn’t make for the kind of viewing experience we’re after.
Verdict: Nope!

TsukiPro the Animation: We’ve watched all of six minutes of this, and we were done with it. I mean, sure, series about boy bands are popular in a certain market segment, so a series featuring six different boy bands must be an instant hit, right? Except we’re not part of the target audience, and it just seemed like an endless parade of stereotypical characters to us.
Verdict: Hell no!

We’ve finished watching Ore Monogatari!! (which translates to ‘My story!!’). It’s a high school romance. The main characters are the gentle giant Takeo and the petite (and unfortunately, squeaky-voiced) Yamato, and their romance. The oddly matched pair obviously love each other, and that’s that.
And most high school romances then start messing with the relationship: one or both lovers are manipulated by jealous others, misunderstandings grow into real problems, family interferes, or whatever. It’s like a relationship shouldn’t work out because you need drama to keep your audience engaged, right? But OreMono proves that you do not need to mess with the couple to create an engaging series. Whatever happens, the feelings these two have for each other are genuine and unshakeable, and nothing that happens can ever shake that. Most of the people close to the couple are very supportive, maybe because it’s so obvious the two really love each other.
That doesn’t mean the series is boring — each and every of the 25 episodes is interesting and funny! But every plot gets resolved in at most two episodes, which means it’s always fresh. And every episode had us laughing by some funny situation as well.

If you like the genre, then you will really like it.

I lied… sort of.

So it turns out there was a single series that started really late, and I did not write reviews of some of the series that we did see… So this post is to rectify that.

Kakegurui: At this private academy, money is pretty much everything. And the kids attending the school have set up a major gambling operation: if you’re not ridiculously rich, then participating in the gambling is pretty much the only way to get ahead. Then a transfer student comes in, and she likes high stakes gambling so much, she immediately threatens the school’s hierarchy.
Did not enjoy this — there is not a single character in sight that you could have any sympathy for. It looks good and is well animated (though there’s not much action in a gambling scene), but it turned us right off.

18if: This guy wakes up in his dream — but it’s not his dream, but the dream of a lonely girl who lives out her power fantasies in her dreams. It falls on him to comfort her to escape her dream and wake up in his own life again — but that doesn’t happen.
Quantum Leap-like stuff, but then not interesting. And it seems like the writers thought: “Oh, it’s a dream anyway, so anything goes!” Meh.

The Reflection: So there’s one scene set in Japan, and then the narrative switches to New York where there is a battle between mutants/super-heroes going on. There has been an event called ‘the Relfection’ which gave people super-powers, and there’s some kind of special police force to round up any super-villains.
I think that the designs are meant to evoke super-hero comic books, but it is really super-ugly. And I don’t now how you could make a fight between super-powered individuals look slow and boring, but that is exactly what the director did. What should have been very exciting just bored us to tears. Not even having Stan Lee do the next episode narration can help this trainwreck.

Fate/Apocrypha: Another offering in the Fate franchise. This time, there is a group who normally participate in the Grail Wars, but this time they go like: “We will have our own Grail War!” Of course, others want in on that sweet, sweet Grail War action too!
This pre-supposes you know all of the Fate lore before jumping in, and since we don’t and it’s going to be all Dark And Mysterious, we’ll give it a skip.

…and that’s the real wrap!