A new season is upon us! That’s always pretty exciting, and this season in particularly looks extremely strong. So let’s start with that wonderful seasonal ritual of finding petty reasons to drop shows so our lives aren’t consumed by anime altogether. Hurray!
Bokura wa Minna Kowaisou: The first of the two Brain’s Base shows I was looking forward to, and the one I had more reservations about. The premise seemed pretty mundane, and what I skimmed of the manga didn’t seem too promising, and… well, the first episode kinda bore that out. The visual design was excellent – I loved the rich color palettes of the backgrounds, there were tons of great character expressions, lots of dynamic shots, and all the little visual gags added a lot of creative energy to the production. Unfortunately, all this visual excitement was working in service of a boilerplate narrative and a bunch of stale, simplistic gags. The protagonist was Every Protagonist, the love interest had some funny expressions but otherwise didn’t stand out, every other character was basically a platform for standard, self-aware anime gags, and the writing overall was just bleh. If you’re not tired of default anime romcoms, this one’s got a lot of visual energy going for it – personally, I’m checking out for now. Your thoughts, Mr. Justice?
Nagi no Asukara 26: Even when Okada shows kinda cheat, the endings still tend to get to me. This one was no exception, and I think that as an isolated episode, it was excellent. The story resolved pretty much the only way it could at this point – “feelings feelings feelings” – but that actually kinda worked, and bringing back the focus on change at least gave some purpose to the stasis of this second half, even if it didn’t actually justify it. I liked pretty much everybody’s final character bits, it was nice to see Hikari’s dad again, and Tsumugu is still the best. Nagi no Asukara went on maybe eight or so episodes too many, and it didn’t really strive for anything too profound, but it was an endearing and in some ways impressive show all the same. I’m glad I watched it. 7/10.
Selector Infected WIXOSS 1: I had pretty minimal expectations for this, what just having finished a mediocre Okada show and this being a glorified card game commercial, but DAMN! Pretty solid work! I really liked the background designs here – they reminded me of KyoAni’s better backgrounds, where it looks like scribbled pencil drawings done over in watercolor. But here the palettes were much more subdued, which made sense, and a lot of the shots seemed designed to evoke that urban alienation of shows like Serial Experiments Lain. I’ve been told the art director is from the studio that did the backgrounds for Aku no Hana and Penguindrum, so that makes sense. The writing was also pretty great – there were a lot of small, very genuine character moments, and it all flowed extremely well. The Madoka influence seems extremely strong here, with a few moments (“I don’t even have a wish yet!” etc) almost functioning as direct callouts. But of course, a lot of this is just standard for what smart writers do with the raw materials of magical girl shows, from Utena and Madoka on down. Either way, I was very pleasantly surprised by this first episode, and look forward to seeing what terrible things happen to all these endearing characters. How about you, Mr. Justice?
Mahouka 1: Considering I’m actively going back and subjecting myself to Sword Art Online, you’d think I’d be able to survive one episode of this season’s flavorless power fantasy. But oh my god just kill me now. This main character is actually a living version of the overtly badass smart tortured calculating chiseled Kirito-parody I invented for the SAO writeups. I generally find otaku-aimed self-awareness in these shows more aggravating than funny – drawing attention to the fact your story is a jumble of inert cliches doesn’t actually make them any better. But here we get the opposite case, where a story is just blatantly poorly written and yet still convinced of its own seriousness, leading to profundities like this one being played entirely straight by our calculating, broad-shouldered young hero. How have we retreated to this? I figured the self-aware, self-parodying nature of most light novels meant they were at least aware that “oh onii-chan, it’s so unfair that you’re discriminated against even though you’re the smartest, most tough and handsome boy at our tediously convoluted magical high school” is an overtly awful place to start your narrative. Apparently I was deeply, terribly mistaken. Mr. Justice, how do I make the hurting stop.
Captain Earth 1: All sorts of bits and pieces I liked in this episode. The crisp color palette, beautiful backgrounds, and solid animation, for one thing. The little tidbits of coming-of-age dialogue, for another – this show’s writing pedigree seems pretty clear. The strong dual-narrative flashback structure. The confidence in its clear edge of inherent silliness – something that can be pretty hard to own, but is apparent in all of Yoji Enokido’s productions. The music. The slow burn of its pacing, coupled with the excellent jump-cuts as soon as just enough information or tone is established. I can’t help but see small echoes of basically everything Enokido’s worked on in this, and pretty much every element of this first episode breathed confidence and excellence. Most importantly, I was just grinning like a fool the whole time – it all worked, it all came together, it was all there. Nothing was terribly surprising, but nothing had to be – good execution makes for good anime, and this show could turn out to be very, very good. Any last thoughts, Mr. Justice?
One Week Friends 1: It’s kind of funny that my main reason for being excited about this show was it sharing a series composer with OreGairu, because the shows really couldn’t be any more different. And that’s a good thing – OreGairu did what it did very well, and so far One Week Friends is doing what it does very well, too. The warm aesthetic and lightly defined context work very well with the earnest, heartwarming tone – this is a small story about a few people, and so the sets are small, the dialogue is simple, human, and precise, and the scenes play out in earnest fashion. And the male MC does a lot of good work here, too – after all these distant audience-inserts, perverts, and monologue-lovers, it’s refreshing to see an upbeat, heart-on-his-sleeve guy who doesn’t really fit into standard masculine archetypes. In fact, he seems more like the kind of character who’d normally be the energetic best friend – but put him in the protagonist spot and the story moves. The PVs promised more drama to come, so I’m hoping the show will handle that tone as well as it did the lightness of this first episode. Think we’ll get out of this one with no tears, Mr. Justice?
Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii 1: It’s almost inconvenient how solid this first episode was. It wasn’t really on my list, though the premise seemed reasonable enough – I had no creator-related reason to expect it to be good, and I’ve got too many shows already. But I watched it kind of on a whim, and it turned out to be actually pretty charming – not incredible, and the aesthetics are only serviceable outside of some silly reaction faces, but the protagonist seems totally great. In a lesser season, I’d be happy to have a show like this bolstering my schedule – here, I might just have to drop it and feel guilty about it. But this was a fine first episode for an understated fantasy/drama/romance thing. You gonna keep up with it, Mr. Justice?
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 1: Oh JoJo. It is so very lovely to have you back. If you’ve seen the first season, you know what to expect here – hot-blooded, broad-shouldered, totally absurd and self-indulgent masculinity with a side of self-effacing humor and a whole lot of visual flare. JoJo is about as pure fun as a show can be, and this new season doesn’t disappoint – in fact, it’s clear that David Productions are a far more well-equipped studio than they were last time, because JoJo has evolved from a beautifully colored slide show to a vividly animated buffet. Not only is there exponentially more character animation on display, there are also all kinds of great, dynamic tricks of direction – the first season proved this team could squeeze coal into diamonds, but this time they’re squeezing diamonds into even shinier diamonds. Couple that with a few new color-scheme ideas and the introduction of a whole new set of powers, and this first episode sets the stage for what is sure to be an exhilarating season to come. The world is brighter for JoJo’s presence in it. How does JoJo being back make you feel, Mr. Justice?
And that concludes my first week of previews. I’ve still got a few stragglers coming, though – I’m on board for Ping Pong, Mekaku City Actors, M3, and Knights of Sidonia, along with Mushishi Season Two once I catch up to it. But for now, I’d say I’m already pretty satisfied with the lineup – a few great episodes, a lot of show potential, and the promise of a much better season than the last. Any last thoughts for our readers, Mr. Justice?