Fall 2015 – Virtually Every First Episode Retrospective

The preview guide is once again nearing its end, meaning it’s time to run down every single one of these goddamn cartoons that never stop coming out for one second ever. The actual hits this season were pretty limited, but that’s pretty much what I expected going in – even in my preview post, I was only actually looking forward to a bare handful of shows. Most of those shows turned out to be either solid or display some potential, though there weren’t any real positive surprises outside of just how nicely composed One Punch Man turned out to be. But what the hell are we even doing here if we’re not watching cartoons, and I gotta earn my too-many-words keep, so let’s run ’em all down anyway. TAKING IT FROM THE TOP!

Actually Good Cartoons (I Know, Right)

One Punch Man: This premier was both the most aesthetically impressive and most generally recommendable show of the season – if anything from this crop is going to make waves outside of our little fandom community, it’ll be One Punch Man. That’s not a dig, of course – I may rag on other crossover hits like Attack on Titan or whatnot, but One Punch Man is legitimately excellent so far. Its simple premise is elevated through wonderfully understated deadpan humor and gorgeous action setpieces, and the show jumps gracefully from crisply designed core art to expressive exaggeration for the animation highlights. If you’re at all a fan of action, comedy, or animation specifically, One Punch Man is an easy keep.

One Punch Man

The Perfect Insider: And falling all the way on the opposite end of the accessibility spectrum, we’ve got Perfect Insider. From its focus on pretentious dickbag characters to its incredibly subdued, “adult slice of life” (one of my favorite genres!) storytelling to its washed-out visual design, Perfect Insider seems designed to polarize. Fortunately, for me at least, I fall on the side of enjoying all of those choices – I really like shows about witty but deeply flawed people, there are few shows about adults having grounded, character-revealing conversations that I wouldn’t enjoy, and even though the art design doesn’t result in a lot of conventionally beautiful compositions, I like both the lived-in feeling of the world and the character designs. You’re either going to love or hate this one, but I’m having a lot of fun with it so far.

The Perfect Insider

Owarimonogatari: I mean, it’s more friggin’ Monogatari, what did you expect? The promotional materials for Owari even stuck Ougi front and center, so I was already expecting some serious Ougiservice – but this arc definitely managed to carve out its own identity and impress in a very specific way.

Unsurprisingly, I was less interested in the locked room mystery of Araragi’s past than the ways this episode articulated the relationship between Ougi and Araragi. From the first season forward, I’ve often found the narrative of Monogatari less interesting than simply the way it portrays bodies in space, their visual language relative to each other and the way the frame instills their positioning with a sense of purpose and intent. This has shifted somewhat for the various arcs (for example, Hanamonogatari’s base narrative is incredibly compelling even without the show’s visual ornamentation), but it returned to the foreground for this one, where Ougi’s visual bullying of Araragi made for a riveting throughline. Her snakelike movements, her casual violation of Araragi’s space, and the ways the camera emphasized her general inhumanity were all a treat to witness. Ougi’s an intense presence, and you could really feel that in this claustrophobic special.


Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: And Okada Gundam storms out the gate with a very respectable premiere! Okada’s got a great knack for character writing, and that really helped this relatively busy episode hold together. By the end I already felt invested in a good half-dozen characters, had a reasonable understanding of a few others, and was on board with several overlapping threads of conflict to come. It wasn’t a truly breathtaking episode or anything, but it was absolutely solid – strong fundamentals, strong execution. Fine ideas executed well are totally cool with me.

Iron-Blooded Orphans

How Are We Already Getting Into Speculative Shows What The Hell

Concrete Revolutio: There was certainly a lot going on in this episode! Crazy pop-art aesthetic tricks and clashing styles of superpowers and secret organizations and multiple flash-forwards. Concrete Revolutio came off as so eager to get its ideas out that it wasn’t really able to find a solid emotional or narrative footing – there’s a bunch of cool stuff here, but not yet any reason to care. Whether this show works or not will likely depend on how it treats its characters in episode two. But if you’re looking for something that’s wacky for wackiness’ sake, we certainly already have that here.

Concrete Revolutio

Comet Lucifer: And forming a nice parallel with Concrete Revolutio, we’ve got Comet Lucifer – a show whose current problem is that it’s playing things too safe within its genre. Comet Lucifer’s first episode was a textbook “boy looking for adventure finds magical girlfriend and giant robot” premiere, and by that I mean it feels like they actually just copied the example that was in the textbook. The show is competently composed and looks nice, though, so if it can gain a bit more personality, it could do well.

Comet Lucifer

Beautiful Bones: I’d heard this show was going to be about a couple that were already in a relationship, so I’m kinda miffed about that, but on its own this was a competent enough premier. Its mystery wasn’t that engaging, but there was a solid rapport between the two leads (even if that banter ended up getting overshadowed by the awkwardly similar and better-written Perfect Insider). The internal monologues, overbearing music, and over-filtered visuals all came off as abrasive, but those might all be issues specific to an insecure premiere, and good character chemistry is more valuable than almost anything else. I’m far from sold on this one, but I’m gonna give it some more time to really show its colors (which hopefully won’t continue to be gaudy rainbows).

Beautiful Bones

Okay Shows I Guess, If You’re Into That Sort Of Thing

Dance with Devils: Holy crap, it’s an actual musical. Like, with songs and shit. By embracing the deep strain of camp inherent in the reverse harem genre, and carrying it to its logical endpoint (a friggin’ musical), Dance with Devils is able to come off as entertaining even if you’re not in the market for pretty, emotionally abusive husbandos. I probably won’t follow this one, but I had a good time with it. I mean c’mon, it’s a musical where bishounens sing about inviting you into labyrinths of depravity. It can’t be that bad.

Dance with Devils

The Asterisk War: By executing on its genre fundamentals with some real fundamental competence, avoiding lingering on stupid fanservice more than was strictly necessary, and remembering to include actual reasons to watch the next episode, Asterisk War earned the highest grade I’ve ever awarded to one of these inescapable fantasy high school light novel adaptations. Congratulations, The Asterisk War. I don’t think it’d actually be painful to watch you.

The Asterisk War

Mr. Osomatsu: Hey whadayaknow, it’s an actually pretty funny anime comedy. Mr. Osomatsu’s first episode didn’t present all that much more than a bunch of parodies, but some of those parodies were articulated very well, and this particular brand of self-awareness actually kind of works for me. I’m probably not going to stick with this, because it’s not funny enough to make up for its apparent emptiness on a character/narrative level, but if you’re looking for pure gags, this one’s okay so far.

Mr. Osomatsu

Young Black Jack: Basically just an incredibly boilerplate medical procedural so far, spiced up with a whole lot of shirtless Black Jack. There wasn’t really anything that differentiated this show from the countless medical procedurals that air over here, meaning it basically was asking to be judged on those terms – and on those terms, Young Black Jack definitely does not hold up. But if you’re looking for a pretty simplistic medical drama with a whole lot of shirtlessness, here ya go.

Young Black Jack

Garo: Crimson Moon: Less interesting in both a visual and narrative sense than last year’s Garo, and I didn’t even keep up with that one. The backgrounds were lovely, but outside of that, this felt like an episode that didn’t realize it was a premiere – it was basically one of those underwhelming monster-of-the-week adventures you normally get a few weeks in, when the regular writer’s taking a break and the audience has been successfully tricked into caring about meaningless episodic stuff starring this particular cast.

Jeez, that got pretty cynical. Er, did I mention the nice backgrounds?


Bad, But Just Like, Regular Bad

Heavy Object: Fun for the whole family, as long as the whole family prefers exposition and make-believe worldbuilding to actual storytelling. There were a couple nice conversations in here, but they were basically buried under the avalance of unstorytelling and fanservice gags.

Heavy Object

Attack on Titan: Junior High: Remember those jokes you made at the screen while watching Attack on Titan with your friends? Well someone apparently thought those jokes were clever enough to build an anime around. Witness your shame. You are not funny.

Attack on Titan

Lance ‘n Masques: The only thing that pushes Lance ‘n Masques out of the Kill With Fire column is that beautifully surreal scene where a loli somehow plummets three hundred feet away from and then down a cliff. Just look at that loli fly.

Lance 'n Masques

pff stupid cliff i got this

Lance 'n Masques

wait maybe i don’t got this

Lance 'n Masques

seriously reconsidering how much i got this

Lance 'n Masques

it is difficult to express how little i continue to have got this

Not Regular Bad

Starmyu: All the cute boys of Dance with Devils and… absolutely nothing else at all. Seriously. This anime is wet paste.


Shomin Sample: I figured the thing I’d most remember about this show was all the ojou-samas, but it turned out to be all the homophobia. Good one, Shomin Sample! You really got me there.

Shomin Sample

Chivalry of a Failed Knight: A decidedly lesser entry in the “secretly skilled boy goes to magic school to unravel a family secret only to first walk in on changing and then be challenged by a pink-haired tsundere who’s actually the best in the class but is somehow defeated by him and falls in his debt and also in love with him and hijinks ensue” subgenre.

Chivalry of a Failed Knight

Anti-Magic Academy: Like Chivalry only even shittier.

Anti-Magic Academy

AND I’M FREE. Wait, that stupid Valkyrie show airs later today. I WILL NEVER BE FREE.

26 thoughts on “Fall 2015 – Virtually Every First Episode Retrospective

  1. No Noragami Aragato? I know it’s a sequel but, hey, I still thought that first episode was great, and it seems like a spot on continuation of the first series and the better of the shows by Bones for this season. Any reason why that’s not included?

    • Because I only watched a couple episodes of the first season! I didn’t check out any of the sequels to stuff I hadn’t seen.

  2. Thanks for watching all those awful shows so I don’t have to. Only watched the first section + concrete revolution and Garo.

    Really hope concrete revolution will amount to something, I like how many stuff it mixed and I actually didn’t mind the bad direction though I’m not sure I would handle it for a whole season.

    And yea new Garo was a disappointment, I don’t really mind monster of the week format but they would have to be extremely inventive to grab me. Actually finishing the other Garo series and its pretty decent!

    Also didn’t expect new gundam to grab me this much. Really enjoyed the premiere. My sister was half asleep during most premiere but on the edge of her seat for this one heh.

    • I’m hoping Concrete Revolutio’s just doing that common premiere thing of trying to show us every trick at once, since as you say, I’m not sure I could handle a whole season of that.

  3. Re. Comet Lucifer: Well, have you ever seen Now and Then, Here and There? That’s kinda how its first episode went…

  4. Word Vomit.

    I sometimes look back and remember how my season preview started with 1-2 sentences per show. Congratulations on managing to save it relatively short here. I mean, you’ve got a much lengthier write-up linked for each show, so you don’t need to write more. Then again, neither do I, but I’m weak ;_;

    Perfect Insider and accessability.

    I’m not sure I agree with you on Perfect Insider being on the other side of accessability from One Punch Man. I mean, it has a lot of things going “against it”, but it’s not very dissimilar from Fate/Zero’s premiere, or how the first three episodes of Steins;Gate went, or Death Note and some other shows. It seems that when it comes to mysteries, this aspect can’t be explained away, I mean, it’s so common that I can’t reconcile that these shows are widely popular even amongst those who are less wont to watch anime in spite of those aspects, but that perhaps this very aspect holds some appeal on its own.

    Beautiful Bones and Relationship.

    You know, I was going to feel the same, and I know many others who picked up the show being sure there’d be a “solid and existing (romantic) relationship”, but then I realized, there’s another show this season similar things are said of – Rakudai Kishi. Considering that, I’m now going to take any recommendation claiming “actual relationship” from source material fans with a small mountain of salt.

    I mean, relationship is one thing, but we compare it to life, or to more widespread media, while it seems many of these fans compare it to shounen RomCom anti-romance, where it might be a thing, but that’s ashes and dust in our mouths 🙁

      • Wow, what a terrible article, and what a terrible notion. Yes, “”Anime romance”” is different from western media romance, and from actual real life relationships. And that’s exactly its failure.

        I won’t say it’s different from “western romance”, as if the Japanese are some alien culture. It’s different from real relationships, far more than what western media depicts, which isn’t that close either.

        And that piece, completely disregarding that most romantic anime are in an even less stable situation than western dramas, seeing as they’re built on serializing manga that could be cancelled at any moment, or light novels, which do push their romance to the end to drum up sales, because they can keep stringing you along as long as the non-romance goes on. It’s exactly the opposite of what they claim, the romance in romantic anime is at the end exactly as a way of keeping attention and drawing out the source material for sales.

        Not to mention it’s terrible, because it’s a non-story. The whole premise of these shows isn’t telling a story of how a couple come together, but to push back the actual story of their relationship. And that the “story” ends just when it should begin is a travesty.

        That article is also poorly written, giving a list of no interest, before delving into actual discussion, but oh well.

        • I was under to impression that relationships Japanese dramas were similar to anime, however, I haven’t seen many so I could be wrong.

          Anyway, my point is that it’s just how romances in anime are normally constructed. You’re forever going to be disappointed, not because it’s bad but because it doesn’t fit your preferences.

          • That this is how “anime romances” are usually constructed does not mean it’s a good thing, or that it gets a free pass. I’ve watched more than enough anime with “romances” to know how it is. I’m not expecting anything else usually, so I’m not disappointed because my expectations aren’t met, I’m disappointed because it’s bad, and because they keep making those bad things.

            Sometimes we are disappointed, such as when shows promise us we’ll get something else (such as season 2 of Chuunibyou), or when the first episode promises a lot more (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun), or because we’re mistakenly told a show will have a proper relationship, when it doesn’t (Sakurako-san).

          • I find the complaints that anime isn’t “realistic” rather strange sometimes. That’s not what anime is for right? It’s fun because it’s different from normal TV shows.

            Then again, it’s true that if anime was completely unrealistic then it would stupid. Instead, anime tends to be realistic in some ways and unrealistic in other. Where it’s realistic changes depending on the type of show.

            I am guessing that whoever told you it was a proper romance probably meant in contrast to most anime romances which tend to be harems or have shallow tsundere female leads. Rather that in respect to a “real” relationship.

            Uhh, this got slightly off track…

          • Well, I don’t think realism is a requirement either. But the fact remains in anime romance there are bunch of cliche and bullshit.

            What’s the heart of the problem perhaps is not even escapism (i.e. to create an imaginary world if its own logic not for its aesthetics, but only for compensating what we fail in real life.) The heart of the matter is the lack of creativity, new ideas and new ways to represent an idea. I mean, even if you have to tell a story about how the hero gets all the girls, try to think of a better excuse than “well, he is kind and nice, so girls fall in love with him” or “well, he just grasped her boobs, so the girl falls in love with him.” (or even worse: the boy talks the girl out of some cliched childhood trauma, etc.)

    • People often complain about the early episodes of Steins;Gate though, right? You may have a point, but I’m not sure about that example.

      And yeah, that sort of playacting non-romance is just worse than no romance, since at least no romance doesn’t actively attack my belief in the characters.

      • And you don’t feel toyed with.

        About Steins;Gate, maybe? But that this show still made it to being popular, and people still make it through those episodes, I think it’s not that big of a barrier.

    • I think there’s a big difference. Death Note starts strong, the first episode already gives us a Death God, the first of many EPIC NOTE-WRITING WITH OMINOUS MUSIC! sequences, a student with a god complex, and a body count high enough to bury other series entirely under hills of corpses. That’s something to grab your attention right there. Fate/Zero might be more on point, though the big difference is that Fate/Zero gives us geeky world-building whereas Perfect Insider is more on the “philosophical mumbling” side. But I wouldn’t consider F/Z very “accessible” – it’s mainstream, sure, but inside the anime community. I wouldn’t use F/Z as a “gateway anime” for a newcomer, it’s sure to put him off imho (the Nasuverse in general will do that).

      Steins;Gate is perhaps the closest example, though the first episode already ended on a climax, and it was peppered with anime-isms all through. And even so, it IS widely criticized for starting too slow.

      Personally I enjoyed all three those shows, and am definitely intrigued by Perfect Insider. Part of it being that I basically work in the same environment and job as the protagonists, so of course I’m fascinated by default.

  5. Oh, Bob.

    It’s frustrating because while you’re arguably the best critic on the net when you’re serious (definitely the best in anime), you’re so much better when you’re being silly.

  6. No Utawarerumono Itsuwari no Kamen? It’s the sleeper hit of the season, sort of like a reverse Hataraku Maou-sama.

    It’s not a sequel by the way, so you don’t need to watch the 2006 version, there are just a few small references that won’t impact your enjoyment of the series in any way.

  7. I’d recommend taking a look at Utawarerumono, Bob. The two mains are giving me spice and wolf vibes. The world building in the first few episodes seem pretty solid as well. I’m pretty sure you don’t need to watch the original to watch this one.

    • I’ve caught up on that now, and you’re definitely right. It looks to be one of the best shows so far, actually.

  8. Are you gonna be following the new Lupin III series, or are you waiting for someone to license it first? I’ve seen the first few episodes, and so far it’s really fun! Out of curiosity, are ANN writers allowed to review series that haven’t been licensed yet? It’s something I’ve been wondering for a while. Thanks.

    • The new Lupin III is one of the most promising of this season. Great storytelling and great animation. If you are bored by the pseudo-realism of mainstream anime with all its dull character movement and expression, Lupin III is for you. Like Kill la Kill, Lupin III respects the nature of anime as a medium, and has therefore created a world of its own.

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