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!

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!

Last new anime

Last batch of the anime reviews of this season! I did manage to stay on top of it, which helps: if it’s not a huge mountain of reviews to write, it’s easier to start (for some reason).

Dive!!: The Muzuki Diving Club is set to be shut down if none of the boys make it to the Olympics. A new coach arrives to set them straight — but being on a strict training regime is hard for teenage boys…
A Noitamina sports series, that’s always something. This one took us two episodes to see if we liked it enough — there’s very little action involved, but on closer inspection there are some conflicts brewing right underneath the surface too…

Youkai Apartment no Yuuga na Nichijou: Yuushi lost his parents and now lives with his uncle’s family. He wants to move out as soon as possible, because they seem to regard him as a nuisance. His chance is to attend a highschool with dorms, but then the dorms burn down! He does manage to find a cheap room to tide him over. There is only one catch: about half of the inhabitants are ghosts, spirits and monsters, and they co-exist with the human tennants.
This, too, took us a second episode to see what it was like. The verdict is positive: the first episode is mostly Yuushi being scared of the youkai, but he gets used to them quickly, and from then on it becomes much more interesting to see how the humans and the youkai intersect and influence each other.

New Game!!: Second series for New Game!, which kind of starts up slowly because the studio doesn’t have a project they’re working on, so there’s some time to evaluate the previous release — which gives a nice way to re-introduce the characters. It’s more of the same, so it should be good — though I would have appreciated a little less focus on underwear in this first episode…

There are two series that I did not review. One is Fate/Apocrypha, but since we’re not into the whole Fate franchise, I felt it was safe to disregard. The other is Hajimete no Gal. I did download that, but when there’s an uncensored version and it starts with a close-up panty-shot, you know enough.

More new anime

Keeping up!

Youkoso Jitsuryoku Shijou no Kyoushitsu e: The government has create an elite school where exactly 100 students per year are admitted. They live in dorms and get a lot of points that translate to cash each month to cover their living expenses. Kiyotaka enters this school, keeping to himself while his classmates play around with this new-found wealth. He only talks to Kikyou, who is actively anti-social, so that doesn’t help either. When one month has passed, the reality of how this school works is starting to set in…
It all looks gorgeous, but the main characters are unlikable — and the ones that go out of their way to be friendly seem untrustworthy. I’m not sure what the writers are going for, but they will have to go without us.

Mahoujin Guru Guru: A remake from a series from 1994, a parody of 8-bit RPGs with their pixellated overland maps and standard plots. Nike has been groomed by his parents to become a hero, and when the king announces he is looking for one, he is pushed to answer the call. He is also paired with a girl his age, who is the last magician of the forbidden Guru Guru magic school — and she doesn’t have any common sense knowledge of the world.
It’s very… energetic. It’s fun, but it’s really, really ‘shouty’. It has some good puns (some of them non-obvious visual ones), but all in all one episode was enough zany-ness for us.

More new anime

Vatican Kiseki Chousakan: Priests Nicholas and Hiraga are special ‘miracle investogators’ from the Vatican. They get sent to South America to investigate a nun’s virginal pregnancy: the nun claims she was impregnated by God. She lives in a large complex with a church, hospital and boarding school — but there are more things going on than meets the eye, and one of the priests of the church is murdered in some ritual demon-summoning attempt…
The palette is quite dark and drab, and we get lots of long shots of overwhelming architecture, which serves to emphasize the smallness of humans, I guess. The two priests go about their investigation quite straight-faced, but it is immediately apparent that everyone they meet has a dark side to them that they try to hide. And that’s supposed to be really dark and edgy I guess, but it just didn’t grab us at all.

Konbini Kareshi: Two friends start highschool, and of course they meet girls there. And they also meet them again in the convenience store close to the school.
Super-slow, unnecessarily long shots, the male faces lack any kind of expressiveness, stilted animation… Sure it’s a romance, and I can stomach slow-moving romances quite well, but this is just overly bland and doesn’t ‘sparkle’ anywhere.

Shoukoku no Altair: Mahmut becomes a Pasha in an Ottoman analogue, just before the prime minister of the much larger Austro-Hungarian analogue is found in the border area, shot with Ottoman arrows… This is a prelude to war, and the Ottomans can’t win it — twelve years ago, things went wrong, and there are many Pasha who are desperate to avoid more bloodshed. But Mahmut is a clever fellow and he sees through the machinations of one of the Austro-Hungarian ministers and manages to defuse the situation.
Such a lush setting, with lots of little details and an interesting political system. But Mahmut lacks any kind of personality, so it’s like you’re watching two-dimensional card-board cutouts move through super-detailed backgrounds. It did not grab us.

Gamers!: Keita is a total game otaku, so when the ‘school idol’ addresses him when he is shopping for games, he loses his composure. Turns out that she is an avid gamer too, and she wants to recruit him for the gaming club. He joins her and another guy from their year, and it turns out that the gaming club is filled with ‘sweaty tryhards’, who play games not to enjoy them, but to win them. That’s not Keita’s style, so he declines her invitation — which might make him the pariah of the whole school…
So yes, the gaming club is a bunch of gaming nerds, but they want to win and want to train to get better. So it’s not like Genshiken at all, but more e-sports. Could be interesting in a low-key way.

More new anime

So far, I’ve managed to keep up to date with the reviews. (That is, up to date with writing the reviews after we watch the episodes, not keeping up with the new episodes as they appear.)

Nana Maru San Batsu: Shiki is a shy boy, a real bookworm. And because he didn’t dare speak up, he even didn’t get the class librarian position! But the Quiz Bowl Club president gave him a paper with 100 quiz questions, and he knew all the answers. And his classmate Mari, who he’s interested in, is really into the demonstration that’s given during club orientation. She convinces him that he should join, together with her.
So it’s probably a sports anime, but since it’s a non-traditional subject, it feels quite fresh. The designs aren’t that detailed, and it’ll probably not be as good as Chihayafuru, but it’s worth giving it a chance.

Princess Principal: A gravity-nullifying mineral is found, and it’s used in massive airships, giving the Kingdom of Albion a massive advantage. But then there’s a revolution, and the empire splits into the Empire proper, and the Commonwealth. Five girls, one of who is the princess of the Empire, attend a prestiguous boarding school for girls in the Empire — and they are all spies for the Commonwealth. Using their abilities and their covers as schoolgirls, they conduct sensitive missions.
Pure steampunk with lots of political intrigue and (at least for the first episode) a really clever plot. It looks gorgeous too. One to watch.

More new anime

Trying to stay on top of the queue…

Koi to Uso: The Japanese government has decided to do something about the low birth rates. So when you turn 16, you get a partner assigned to you, based on various characteristics — and romance with anyone else is forbidden! So what should you do when you, like Yukari, fall in love with your classmate? And then she confesses she loves him back? He gets his notification on his cellphone, and to his absolute delight it’s her name! But when he gets the official notification on paper, there’s a different name on there…
I really like how grown-up this is (“should we kiss? let’s kiss” without any of the two freaking out) and I really like the romantic set-up. The character designs are very good as well, with lots of little details. I want to see more of this.

Made in Abyss: Riko and her friends live in the Guild Orphanage, raised to become spelunkers in the enormous Abyss — 1000 meters across, depth unknown, and filled with strange creatures and artefacts. What they find is used to run the orphanage, but Riko has a tendency to keep things for herself. Especially when she finds a robot boy during an expedition!
If there was an RPG based on this setting, I would play it. It’s such an interesting place, the characters are interesting, the set-up is interesting, and the designs are really cool. Can’t want to see more of this!

More new anime

Hitorijime My Hero: Masahiro is always alone at home, so he spends most of his evenings roaming the streets. He falls in with a group of no-goods who use him as their errand boy — until one evening the group is targetted by the so-called “Bear Killer”, who defeats them all. Turns out that this is the elder brother of Masahiro’s only friend, who makes him promise to drop out of the group and start high school like a good boy. And then later, it turns out that he will be their math teacher at their new school.
It’s almost refreshing to watch a yaoi series, since there’s not a single female in sight — there are enough series where this is the exact reverse. But the characters are kinda bland and these stories never go anywhere anyway.

Jikan no Shishaisha: There’s a rumour that if you make a wish at the clock tower in the old graveyard, you can wish for time to be reversed. This is very attractive for Koyuki, who lost her older brother a few years ago. But she is stopped by Victor and Kiri, a pair of Mysterious Men who battle the time demons. Where Kiri is serious, Victor is playful — he has his reasons for making the most out of every day…
So, this is probably supposed to be adventurous and action-packed and mysterious, but I was completely uninterested. Bland designs, bland characters, bland story — we’ve seen this all before. Snoozefest.

Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni: Touya gets accidentally killed by a lightning bolt. As an apology, God will allow him to take his smartphone to the fantasy world where he will be reborn (or actually, transported as-is). He also ups Touya’s stats quite a bit, giving him quite the edge. He makes some new friends (two girls, obviously) and they form a party to earn some cash. They can also teach him about magic.
Even though it quickly becomes apparent that Touya is a hypercompetent in this world, he approaches the situation sensibly and with humility. It’s not slapstick like Konosuba. With some careful plotting, it might retain its freshness.