Spring 2015 First Impressions: Part 2

Continuing right along, part one is here

(Note: Titles have been ordered in a vague rank of most to least interesting, I’ll also be providing some alternate recommendations along the way.)

Arslan Senki (The Heroic Legend of Arslan)

Notabilities: Anime adaptation of the FMA mangaka’s adaptation of the original story by the author of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Both the writer and director are very experienced with a large resume of titles under their belts, some of which I really like.

[HorribleSubs] Arslan Senki - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_21.22_[2015.04.06_15.43.54]

Another one of the titles I was most excited for, Arslan Senki has big expectations to live up to, and I wasn’t too pleased to hear that Liden Films are working on it, who aren’t exactly the most reputable studio. However, while my expectations weren’t exceeded, I wasn’t disappointed at all with this opener, Arslan Senki has my approval. I can tell the anime is struggling to sell the epic scale of this legend, especially with that battle at the start of the episode, but the production values were serviceable all around, this is definitely not going to be a show you watch for the aesthetic, the storytelling will be the main draw.

If you have seen/read Fullmetal Alchemist, the all-too-familiar character designs will be very noticeable, however not-Edward, in the form of Prince Arslan, is a different person to his lookalike. Very likeable despite his sheltered naivete, it will be interesting to see how he grows over the course of this series, and I hope it will be a long journey. While we have got some hints of the ideas and themes Arslan Senki aims to be about, I have a feeling the show has yet to truly reveal its hand, we are in for the long haul, and I don’t mind the slow pace.

Status: Watching

Hibike! Euphonium (Sound! Euphonium)

Notabilities: The Kyoto Animation director involved in lot of their biggest titles, paired with the writer who not only did series composition for Chuunibyou with this same director, but a bunch of other great titles both with and without KyoAni. Also notable for being a Novel adaptation (yes, an actual book, not one of those LN things).

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It’s a bit difficult for me to give a distinct verdict on Euphonium quite yet, I’ll just dig into the details of what we have going on in this first episode. Presumably the last year of middle school for our main character Kumiko and her friend Reina, we begin in a stark situation, the awards announcement for the Kansai Concert Band competition result in their band not quite making the cut. Kumiko reassures herself that their “dud-gold” is sufficient, but Reina is distraught, bursting into tears, clearly frustrated with her own inadequacy and the fact that everyone else seems content with this outcome. This opening scene is dense with characterisation and hints of the kind of story this will become, and it runs just two minutes long, before we cut back to current day – welcome to high school!

The following episode works as an introduction to the main characters, the setting and most importantly, the ethos of this particular school’s concert band – who aren’t exactly the most disciplined. I did sort of feel that the episode spent a bit too long on this introductory phase, the requisite banter between Kumiko and new faces Hazuki and Sapphire distracted from what I feel was the central focus of the episode: Kumiko’s headspace and her reconciling with her past experience with Reina, whom it seems she has difficulty interacting with now. The way Kumiko’s indecisions are framed over the course of this episode are exquisite, we see an understandable struggle as she tousles with the expectations and ambitions she is willing to set upon herself. While initially reluctant to join the band because of Reina’s presence (Kumiko wanted a fresh start by entering this school, but it seems that is not what fate plans for her), she finally decides to confront her, sadly the episode ends right here, indicating to me that this was initially supposed to be a deliberately paced and longer opener that had to be split up into two episodes.

It would be ill-advised of me to not mention that this show is gorgeous, it is full of the thoughtful framing and detailed character animation KyoAni are known for, all the little things came together beautifully to make this rather simple and contemplative episode a joy to watch, the subtleties of body language and expression inform us of the characters in much more visceral ways than words ever could. I cannot understate how appealing these character designs are, this is a very moe show that is brimming with cuteness, a good thing in my books. The last thing to mention is the music, we haven’t had a full-blown concert scene yet, but Euphonium has ably recreated the sounds of a band sucking in a surprisingly realistic way, which gives me hope for the future.

Status: Watching

Kekkai Sensen (Blood Blockade Battlefront)

Notabilities: It’s by Bones, one of my favourite anime studios. Matsumoto Rie, previously behind the acclaimed Kyousou Giga is directing this adaptation of a manga by the creator of Trigun.

[JIGGYMUX] Kekkai Sensen - 01 (MBS 1280x720 x264 AAC).mkv_snapshot_00.52_[2015.04.06_17.42.05]

The first big let-down for me. I really wanted to like this one, this is considered one of the favourites for the season, but personally I was not impressed. Matsumoto’s style was the biggest attraction here, she is a fantastic director who has an extremely distinctive and wacky style (with a penchant for also handling the clever, quiet moments well too), which was put to phenomenal use in Kyousou GigaKekkai Sensen also has one crazy pastiche of a setting, so her style seemed like a good bet. Turns out that was not the case, the shounen vibe is strong in this show, the attempts to exhibit the badassitude of these “rule of cool” characters fell completely flat, particularly egregious in the excessive use of Kill la Kill-style title cards for abilities. To me it seems like the style of this director and the base content of this show do not go well together at all. It doesn’t help that the story, while being reasonably well told, is so straightforward (with a really annoying villain) that it completely failed to grab me.

This is frustrating to see, because Kekkai Sensen is a fabulous looking show. Bones are known for their eye-catching animation, especially in action sequences, as their fight choreography is top-notch – which remains true here, but I wish it all didn’t feel so much like style-over-substance. If you did end up liking this show, and can’t wait for more like it, I suggest checking out Zetsuen no Tempest and Noragami, both by Bones, they also share a similar urban fantasy setting.

Status: Cautious

Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu (The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan)

Notabilities: The first Haruhi-related thing to be animated in over five years..

[HorribleSubs] The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_23.04_[2015.04.07_14.58.36] 

Nagato Yuki from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is one of my favourite anime characters, in theory I should be thrilled that she is getting an entire spin-off show to herself, but that excitement has long since passed. What made her such a good character has been altered significantly, the same extends to the rest of the cast, it doesn’t just stop there however, everything that made the original Haruhi anime so interesting is not present here in any capacity. These characters, despite possessing similar looking (but of a very different style) character designs and retaining seiyuus, are acting out a series that is related in name only, it might as well have (and probably would have benefited from) being a completely new thing. There’s nothing offensive or bad here, it’s competently produced, has lots of cute moments and comedy (though I can’t bring myself to find any of it funny) and I will probably be watching it all the way through anyway despite not enjoying it because I am stubborn like that.

I question why this show even exists, who is it even for? If you are completely new to the franchise, there’s nothing here for you, you should go watch Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu instead, and if you are an existing fan, you are likely to be disappointed anyway.

Status: Maybe if this makes bank we will get Haruhi season 3…*sobs*

Show By Rock!!

Notabilities: Also by Bones. The director/writer on this have worked on a wide variety of shows, including some previous titles by the studio too.

[HorribleSubs] Show By Rock!! - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_12.42_[2015.04.05_22.52.16]

Yeah, I’m not going to really try summarising this one, I was just as confused and perplexed as everyone else by absolutely everything that went on this episode. It was a bundle of fun however, and very visually interesting, showing off some of the best character CGI I have seen in anime. It isn’t really my kind of show at all but I am very happy it exists – it’s doubtful I’ll end up watching the whole thing, though I will definitely be checking it out again next week.

Status: Uh… Um…

Teekyuu 4 and Takamiya Nasuno Desu!

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The fourth season of Teekyuu returns, alongside a new spin-off. Both of them together run shorter than five minutes in length, and have essentially remained unchanged, with dialogue so fast you can barely read the subtitles and humour that doesn’t really make me laugh out loud but I enjoy anyway. We continue with the tradition of following a random series of events of no rhyme or reason, with the girls doing just about anything other than playing tennis. Teekyuu continues to save anime just like it had been doing all along.

Status: Watching

Denpa Kyoushi (Ultimate Otaku Teacher)

Notabilities: Zilch.

[HorribleSubs] Denpa Kyoushi - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.07_[2015.04.06_13.36.31]

As with the other title I saw from A-1 Pictures this season (Gunslinger Stratos), Denpa Kyoushi seems to be in poor form production-wise, maybe after pulling out all the stops for the shows they did last season, things got a bit too hectic over there. The character designs look bland and ugly, the animation is very limited and I couldn’t really point to any visually inspired looking moment the entire episode.

The above screenshot encapsulates the reaction I had to pretty much everything in this show. That includes the supposed attempts at “comedy”, along with the more unpleasant occurrences later in the episode. It was when our otaku teacher Kagami berated the pictured girls for bullying their fellow student Minako, going so far as to quote the laws they have broken, (seemingly unaware that he has just engaged in the same methods, including threatening to release their private information) while heroic music played in the background that I realized I was utterly sick of Denpa Kyoushi and its reprehensible views. If you are interested in the idea of an eccentric teacher who seeks to inspire their students in unorthodox ways, I suggest checking out the currently airing Assassination Classroom or the widely respected classic that is Great Teacher Onizuka.

Status: Dropped

Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation

Notabilities: Nothing, besides the fact that Urobuchi was attached despite barely being involved in it.

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Now, I usually try and finish watching all of a first episode of a show before making judgement calls, but as with Re-Kan! I found myself so completely unenthralled by the first few minutes of Gunslinger Stratos that I couldn’t keep going. When I learnt this was an adaptation of an arcade shooter game, it suddenly all made sense: everything about this show is as visually and conceptually uninteresting as our “sheeple” main character. Everything looks dull and is poorly animated throughout, even the OP (which should display the show at its best visually) had bad looking action, which doesn’t give me much confidence for any fight scenes to come, if that is the main attraction of this title. The moment that made me give up was when boring exposition was being shoved down my throat by a schoolteacher wearing this.

Status: Dropped

Closing Message

Part 3 will be coming out when the last dated show is set to air, which is Ninja Slayer From Animation on the 16th. Still no word on an airing date for Digimon Adventure Tri and Lupin III (2015) though, which sucks, because I was planning to try those too. That should give me ample time to finish the long-delayed third part of Winter 2015 Final Thoughts.

As with last time: I politely request readers of the source material to keep their comments spoiler free in their discussion of the titles mentioned in this post.

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6 thoughts on “Spring 2015 First Impressions: Part 2

  1. Exactly my feelings with Hibike! Euphonium and the main character, to the point where it feels like I’m almost watching two dissimilar shows if just judging by the dissonant tone and the uneven levels of script sophistication. The somewhat saccharinely hamfisted innocence and enthusiasm about cute girls joining a band, and the main character’s more grounded and compelling (in my opinion) headspace.

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    1. I’ll also add that it’s because of the former point that I’m hesitant about this show. I look forward to music genre shows that try to illustrate their own takes on the philosophy of music, but music being reduced to cute girls having fun with cute instruments isn’t something I’m that interested it.

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      1. I’ll admit that “the cute stuff” may have distracted from the focus of the episode, but I mentioned later that it felt to me that this episode felt like quite a deliberately paced two-part opener. I think some of the scenes that involved introducing Hazuki and Sapphire, as well as their friendship with Kumiko were required to support the decision she makes at the end of the episode. This too, applies to Asuka and the band, a lot of the jovial bits were directly enforcing the band’s lackadaisical nature, it may be that you are not a fan of the cutesy style KyoAni uses in these sequences, which is fair enough.

        Another scene that was “comedic” but I think was absolutely necessary was the banter between Kumiko and that boy, this scene was probably my favourite in the episode, as it not only was highly enjoyable comedy, but it served to illustrate her personality and show how pre-occupied she is about Reina (notice her eyes jump when Reina is mentioned, etc).

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      2. Right, I absolutely agree with you about Kumiko and that boy, but there is a dearth of difference between that exchange and Kumiko’s exchanges with Hazuki and Sapphire. I suppose you can chalk that to them only just having met, but that communicates a whole lot more cliche trope than I’m comfortable with. I’m not a fan of KyoAni’s “cutesy style,” though that may have to do with my lack of patience for those scenes. Still, It’s why I claim that it feels like two different to me. Maybe those two Kumikos will start to equilibriate more in the future.

        I do see what you mean by a two-parter, but that does require faith on one’s part to see that two-parter through. What I mean to say is that I don’t think the first episode is enough of a hook for me.

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    1. Hello!

      In my case, Nagato Yuki-chan was quite disappointing, but friends of mine who are also fans of Haruhi have reported enjoying it quite a bit. So if you are still curious or uncertain about it later on, just try the first episode alone, since it will give you a good idea about whether it will be the type of show you like.

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