Tag Archives: anime

Spring 2016 Anime Impressions

Since I’m around a year behind in my movie reviews, I’ll post a quick summary of my thoughts on what I’ve seen of this season’s anime and try to keep up to date there!

  • Kuromukuro (2 eps) – a sci-fi mecha show that seems just slightly more realistic in its depictions of characters lives than normal. Just slightly though, and now that I’ve said that, there will probably be a talking alien penguin in the next ep.
  • Macross Delta (1 ep) – I can’t resist Macross! Mecha plus singing and dancing, this time featuring an idol group (whose music quells some kind of berserker syndrome) and the pilots who protect them.
  • Gyakuten Saiban (4 eps) – I’ve played the first game and watched the live action movie, so this series is probably just a retread. The animation isn’t very good, and the translation I’m watching idiotically uses the localized names. However, this series has been fun so far.
  • Hundred (1 ep) – This looks like some kind of standard action-sci-fi harem show, with a very girly boy best friend.
  • Koutetsujou no Kabaneri (2 eps)  – Set in a steampunk zombie apocalypse, the production values are high and there’s some interesting ideas here – though the main character is a bit annoying and the walled cities are reminiscent of Shingeki no Kyojin. The heroine (?) seems cool though.
  • Kiznaiver (3 eps) – I’m watching this one because it’s by Trigger, and after 3 episodes I still don’t know what’s going on.
  • Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko Janai to Omotta (3 eps) – This MMO-related comedy is probably my guilty pleasure of the season, with the MMO-addicted heroine ranting about how リア充 (normal, non-otaku people with girl/boyfriends) should all just die. There’s enough cringe-humour to keep me coming back so far.
  • Re Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (3 eps) – The production quality on this light novel adaptation is high (I particularly like how the lighting changes over time, and how Nouto Mamiko’s character moves), and the setup is strange but intriguing; though the Japanese preference for low fantasy here makes you wonder about the significance of the beginning. The light-novel talkiness of the characters does get a bit annoying, especially when they talk themselves into trouble, but that’s what you get from the genre I suppose.
  • Sailor Moon Crystal third season (3 eps) – The animation has improved massively from the last two seasons, and transformations are no longer CGI. Maybe the studio realised the demand for Sailor Moon and decided to pony up cash? The storyline is a little bit more complex this time too.
  • Terraformars Revenge (4 eps) – This was my brainless action series in the last season, but it seems the plot stepped up a little now, so it’s taking more of my attention.

 

 

My favourites so far are Koutetsujou no Kabaneri, Re Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu, and (almost certainly) Macross Delta.

Yatterman Yoru

I’ve never watched the original Tatsunoko anime (my first introduction to them was the beautiful CGI series Karasu), but they seem to be creating fantastic remake/sequels – though much more mature and sorrowful in tone (eg Casshern Sins).

Yatterman Yoru is another one, and if you know the original anime it’s even more rewarding. Here we follow the descendants of the original villain-group Doronbo, trying to live well and discovering that the current Yatterman-run society is corrupt and tyrannical. The group consists of the little girl Leopard, the herculean Elephantus, and the technical whiz Voltkatze (also the pig Oda), and they pick up others along the way, including the kind-but-delusional Allouette and the apathetic Galina.

The moral reversal, the dystopian setting (featuring a brutal fascist government), and the difficulty the young protagonist Leopard has understanding what’s right and what’s wrong develop Yoru from its kids-show roots. Heck the opening scene features the destruction of Japan!

The character designs are very pretty and distinct, and the references to the original anime (particularly how things develop at the end) are really great. The characters all grow and mature (indeed that’s a theme of the series). My only criticism is the reused material in the last episode that mars the final battles, but I suspect that’s due to a time crunch more than anything else.

Knights of Sidonia Season 1

I love Nihei Tsutomi’s work, as strange and raw as it is – he’s a rare talent with a unique style and vision. In Knights of Sidonia he depicts a setting with many characters interacting with each other – new ground, as his previous work typically depicts lone wanders through bleak landscapes.

The Sidonia is a huge ship carrying the remnants of humanity on a multigenerational voyage away from an Earth attacked and ruined by the nigh-indestructible Gauna, bizarre alien beings. The main character Tanikaze is a rare non-photosynthesising non-clone raised by his grandfather in a closed section of the ship, discovering the wider world for the first time.

There are a huge mass of interesting little details about the society and technology of Sidonia that distinguish it from other “adrift in space” shows. There’s also plenty of mysterious backstory, many characters with their own strange agendas, and the threatening Gauna whom the Sidonia is running into again.

Nihei’s drawing style contains a lot of sketching lines, but the anime is 100% CGI, an unusual decision that I think works, particularly with the weird Gauna.

The story covers a number of significant events, including betrayals, deaths, discoveries, and technological advancement, and the first season finishes with a bang. The second season is currently airing and so far it’s just as fascinating.

Cross Ange

The Sunrise group responsible for Gundam Seed and Destiny dipped into a different kind of show with this seinen sci-fi action series that covers a lot of ground storywise, and incorporates many graphic deaths, betrayals, torture, and sexual assault.

The main character Ange (played by Mizuki Nana, in a challenging and unusually belligerent role) begins as a somewhat callous member of royalty, and through betrayals and deaths ends up an abused and bullied prisoner fighting dragons in a mecha. She’s feisty, selfish, and cold, and definitely is not the kind of character you can wholeheartedly identify with – but she faces a lot of difficult situations and struggles through them. There is a large cast of other flawed characters played by great seiyuu (perhaps underused), whose relationships change quite a lot during the course of the series. Notable is Tamura Yukari, playing a character who goes through many changes, including sycophant, bully, depression, rival, and more. Kuwashima Houko plays a little girl character, and given her history with the director I was very worried for her character’s survival.

The storyline is interesting, though at times a bit difficult to follow (one character changed her name in the past, and I had trouble figuring out what she did), with multiple reveals, a lot of backstory, a number of discrete chapters, and lots of things happening. There’s a lot of nastiness – discrimination, bullying, sexual assault, torture, and familial rejection – and it’s interesting to see an anime by a mainstream production house depict these so openly. On the negative side, the villain and a couple of other characters were a bit one-note, and some reversals towards the end undercut the drama.

There are many lesbian scenes but the director apparently didn’t regard this as a yuri anime – certainly it’s very gritty and there are at least as many negative relationships as there are positive.

While some will find the series gratuitous in a few ways, I really enjoy stories like this that move through a lot of events and perspectives on the world, contain characters who conflict and change, and beat down flawed protagonists – so I liked Cross Ange a lot.

Shinmai Maou no Testament

I don’t usually watch this kind of anime, but I was dragged into it, and it does have its own appeal. As expected it’s perverted and accordingly significantly censored, the action is rather perfunctory and the animation limited. I found it quite funny at parts though, particularly the little succubus who runs around causing trouble for everyone else. Like everything else these days, another cour will continue the series.

Tokyo Ghoul Seasons 1 and 2

Tokyo Ghoul is a manga adaptation that follow a well-trodden but disappointing arc: beginning with an unusual premise and descending into much more generic shounen super-powered fighting.

The setting is Tokyo openly infested by ghouls, with a special police force assigned to combat them. The main character becomes a ghoul against his will, discovers a new craving for flesh (and no other food), and finds himself in the strange combative society of ghouls. As the series progresses, there are more mysterious characters with special powers and more fighting, until an opaque three-way battle that closes out the season. Be warned, the series is gory and contains scenes of torture and viscera-consumption.

The second season almost seems like a different anime, following the police and making the previous protagonist an unpredictable character who pops up now and again. It’s far more concentrated on the fighting, and it’s difficult to understand what’s going on at all.

The manga appears to have a strong following, and reading online descriptions it appears that significant storyline-relevant material was omitted from the second season. Nevertheless while the animation (particularly the one-eyed ghoul at the end) and atmosphere are thick, too little story content is depicted.

Like Fate Zero, Knights of Sidonia, and Durarara 2, Tokyo Ghoul is scheduled to continue in another cour, with the last season ending rather unsatisfyingly.

Durarara 2

If you enjoyed the original Durarara, you’ll probably enjoy this return to Ikebukuro, which follows the same style of the original: a plethora of characters on multiple fast-paced interlacing plot threads that are rapidly cut-between, featuring supernatural and superhuman feats, violence, and anonymous internet chats.

I found the show hard to follow without devoting significant mental efforts; this season concludes with a non-ending, as this series has apparently been split into 3 cours, scheduled for later this year and early 2016.