Summer 2016 – First Impressions, Part One

Preview week has begun in earnest, and I am dead. The season actually feels pretty frontloaded this time – Orange and Love Live Sunshine have already both confirmed my hype, and DAYS has shown up as an unexpected new challenger. There’s also the usual scattering of mediocre-to-abysmal shows out there, but hey, every medium is mostly crap. It already seems like this season will have a handful of shows worth keeping up with, and that’s good enough for me!

Tales of Zestiria

You can check out the full list of reviews over at the preview guide, or see my individual scores with individual links below!

Orange – 4.5/5

Love Live! Sunshine!! – 4.5/5

ReLIFE – 4/5

DAYS – 4/5

The Morose Mononokean – 3/5

Momokuri – 2.5/5

Tales of Zestiria – 2.5/5

B-PROJECT – 2.5/5

First Love Monster – 4/5 (though it turns out this show is actually going to take its “romance” seriously, so down the chute it goes)

Rewrite – 1.5/5

16 thoughts on “Summer 2016 – First Impressions, Part One

  1. I thought it was extremely amusing when you were the only person who was interpreting First Love Monster as a satire, and thusly the only person who didn’t despise it. I had thought it was gonna be another Lost Village situation, but it looks like you are reversing course on your interpretation.

  2. I’m really confused why everyone seems to dislike Rewrite’s first episode. I felt that this episode was pretty solid, but maybe it’s just that I’ve never played a visual novel or watched a visual novel anime adaption before, so I have nothing to compare it to. Anyway, here are my thoughts:

    First, I’m treating this as a plot-based anime, not a character-based anime. It has quite an amount of exposition, which is normal for first episodes of plot-based anime, and it seems to have multiple interrelated plot lines. I wonder how the anime will resolve those. It doesn’t spend that much time on developing characters, but it’s so funny that I can ignore that. (My favourite joke was the ribbon girl looking at the spilled coffee after almost being attacked by that giant bug. My sense of humor is weird.)

    I think this anime will have the theme of “nature”, which is a very unusual theme for anime. It started with the history of earth, which is an unconventional start that caught my interest. And then there’s the fact that this is an environmental city, and the city tour went to some global environmental group. Finally, there’s that giant insect, and giant insects were prevalent on earth in ancient times.

    • I still haven’t watched it… Guardian Enzo seemed to appreciate it a lot though. I am intrigued at least by the fact it’s Romeo Tanaka, whose Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita I enjoyed a lot.

        • And one of mine. If it’s got the same surreal sense of humour colour me interested (though Jinrui also had a far more distinctive visual style that this admittedly mediocre-looking show).

  3. Somehow, even though the adaptation is bad, I feel a strange need to defend Rewrite. Mainly because of the tendency for the idea that it’s a normal ‘Key work’ to be perpetuated, even though Jun Maeda is mostly out of the writing this time around. Rewrite is probably one of the hardest works I can think of to adapt – simply because of how it’s structured.

    The first problem is Romeo Tanaka, who’s considered one of the best writer’s working in the industry – but forced to work within Key’s structure. Essentially he’s a writer who has absurdly good characterization skills (he actually captures outsiders in vein equal or better than Wataru who wrote Oreigaru), an extremely vast vocabulary, and a vast knowledge of everything out there from science to politics. For Rewrite they got him to work on the scenario, but they strung him up with a few other writers, including Higurashi’s Ryukishi07. Also he had to maneuver within the standard Visual Novel structure of having a long and drawn out comedy common route before heading off into heroine routes.

    So, what you end up with is a 30 hour long comedy common route which is Romeo just going nuts with trying to come up with as many insane jokes as possible, 5 heroine routes that have totally different writing styles altogether, and a special ending route that basically harpoons everything that came before it and can be viewed as a completely different game altogether.

    Yet even within that framework, Romeo still managed to write a Key game that not only brings out the flaw in every other Key game, but trumps them to create a sustained meditation on environmentalism, the banality of human conflict in the face of larger powers, and the nature of relationships itself. Sadly, you won’t be able to see the whole vision come together until you manage to pass through all 50+ hours or so of it.

    Since he made it his specific vision to destroy every single Key trope that he could get his hands on, the two heroine routes he wrote within the Visual Novel itself are pretty much anti-thetical to anything that Key has ever done with its own Heroine routes. One of them, in fact, turns into this complex apocalyptic plot that also commentates on organized religion and the weakness of people who seek belief.

    The part which you mark as “wince-worthy’ actually comes from the most poetic and otherworldly route within the Visual Novel itself – which is called Moon. Taken out of context, it sounds a bit ridiculous, but within the route itself, it forms into something else altogether. It’s also a route that takes all the themes of the previous routes and transforms them into something new altogether. Also does not help that the translations so far have been horrible at capturing his style – which is extremely minimalistic and only really states what is necessary, but in a hyper-poetic and natural way. It’s a science fiction route that, in two to three hours, places all the characters in this beautiful and surreal setting that doubles as a long meditation on exactly what entails higher intelligence and the struggle for life through the Evolutionary process.

    Basically, tl;dr bad-looking adaptation for an amazing Visual Novel. Hopefully you get to pick it up one day without being daunted by the humor of the ridiculously long common route (I just took it as a crazy long comedy serial, and it helps that Romeo writes brilliant comedy).

    • I find myself very curious about Rewrite. It’s been a long time since I’ve read the VN, and it was an odd nostalgia to be back in VN anime land. But man it was jarring to be constantly reminded of the artificiality of these characters as if they screamed ‘Hi! I’m from a VN!’ with every other sentence.

      Still, I’m curious to see where this goes, given that Romeo Tanaka himself is the script writer.

      • I have very bad impressions of this animation though. Romeo’s comedy is very weird and works a lot better in text – mainly because he writes all of the slapstick in a very pinpoint manner, and also his comedic beats when mixed with his ridiculous vocabulary are excellent. He can pull any kind of parody out of his magical hat.

        For example, the “It’s a mammoth” joke works in the Visual Novel because Romeo spends like 13 lines to develop it to the punchline, and we also don’t get to see it yet so its entirely in our imagination. Of course he also abuses the hell out of Kotori’s weird accent with random English katakana and pushes all her banter to the breaking point of insanity. Both the heroines he was in charge of have crazy hilarious styles of speaking – one being kooky and the other being sarcastic & pedantic.

        And randomly grabbing stuff from Moon as well as the opening was just rushing it. If only they took all of his prose at once and just had it rush by like the Tatami Galaxy, that would have been a crazy risk.

        I only wish for one day that all of the good writers in the industry be redeemed, rather than have to suffer their work being torn apart by bad adaptations.

    • Thank you for this post! I started reading the VN out of curiosity but was iffy on things at first, and I think you helped me get to the right mindset to get what it’s going for. It started off slow and very Key, but things have really picked up, especially since Akane’s introduction. I’m still in the common route and really enjoying the ride at this point. “MC gets ridiculed by countless anonymous posters after getting into a shameful spat with an internet toughguy” was not something I expected to see in this game, haha.

      • My tactic for the VN, by the way, was to skip everything not written by Romeo. So I read Kotori’s and Akane’s route and ctrl-ed everything else until I got to Moon.

        From what I’ve heard, Ryukishi07’s route (Lucia) was also quite interesting, but it was too divorced from the style and themes of the main story. Some people recommended going to that only after completing Terra. The other two routes were written by Key writers, so I didn’t trust to even touch those at all.

        • Huh. I’m just going through the whole thing, personally. I’m most interested in Tanaka’s sections, for sure, but I’d like to experience all of it.

          (Also, holy moly this gets serious! I knew it was coming, but it still surprised me when it happened.)

          The anime adaptation looks godawful to me even after the second episode, which is really disappointing. Bobduh, I swear this is actually good. I wish we had gotten a more Monogatari-esque adaptation that allowed more space for scenes to breathe and more incorporation of the original text, rather than this… whatever the hell this is.

          • It’s more like everything by Romeo Tanaka is so thematically cohesive that if you go through the other routes in between, it would be a complete mood shift.

            For example, the Key writer routes are all like comedy and fantasy battle stuff, but Akane’s Route turns into a gritty and emotional commentary on religious organizations and environmental apocalypse. While Kotori’s route, though weaker, is like an intense survival scenario that screws over no small amount of Key cliches.

            Moon and Terra are also the most thematically similar to these routes, so it’ll feel tighter IMO if there was none of that dead air from the other heroine routes in the middle.

            Well, in the end the good stuff is still really good though. It probably has some of the most unforgettable scenes at times in any work of art out there (especially Moon)

  4. Hm. I’m thinking of giving ReLIFE a go, based on your review, but when I check places like MAL it says it’s finished airing already? Even though it’s the start of the season, and it just began airing July 1st?

    Can anyone explain what’s going on there to me? How and why did it air thirteen episodes in a single session, as it seems to have done? It seems quite puzzling for an anime studio to do such a thing…

  5. Crunchyroll released the entire series at once like Netflix does. Apparently a Japanese app did the same thing so CR followed suit to avoid having fansubbers release the whole series before they did.

    I enjoyed the show, and its one of those series where you’ll know if it’s your thing after 2 or so episodes.

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