Yes, this is coming out earlier than expected. It turns out that Ninja Slayer is just a 15 minute bi-weekly short, and it would be unwise to delay everything else a few days just for that since all the other first episodes have already aired.
(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.)
Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo (Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches)
Notabilites: An adaptation of the popular shounen gender-bender manga.
Hey, I really ended up liking this one! I’d heard good things about the source material already, and while the anime adaptation is not doing much to enhance what’s already there, the presentation is serviceable. There isn’t any need for extravagant action scenes in this (I think) and the characters and comedy are the main selling point, so as long as its got those looking good this should pan out just fine. I need to give special mention to the very ‘minimalist’ OP for this show, I love the style they have chosen here, and the song is great, in fact both the OP and ED are good, which hasn’t been common for a lot of shows this season, so that’s a plus.
The whole body-swapping shtick isn’t considered very original, yet there aren’t that many anime I can think of that actually use it. Yamada-kun seems to be speeding right past the “honeymoon phase” of the whole trope and diving right into experimenting with how it works for these characters, which gives me hope for how the series can play around with the idea in future. The mechanic here is simply that our delinquent MC Yamada will swap bodies with whomever he kisses, this first happens accidentally when he collides with honor-student female classmate Shiraishi. This situation allows for both seiyuus to act completely out of type (which is great to hear), but as the central conceit of the story, it brings a light smattering of social and gender dynamic themes to the forefront. We see how both Yamada and Shiraishi are subject to the expectations placed on them, and the backlash that occurs when they don’t act according to what is presupposed about them.
This made for a fun and entertaining first episode, thus far we got quite a bit of each these roles being taken for granted in quite a stereotypical way (such as Yamada taking advantage of boys creepily crushing on him while possessing Urara’s body) but in future I hope the series plays around with that concept in more interesting ways. Of course, with the premise comes the slightly juvenile antics you would expect (like checking out your gender-reversed body), but this is an ecchi comedy aimed at teenagers, so I don’t mind too much (also who wouldn’t?). I can only hope the other characters to be introduced are just as fun to watch and have as great a chemistry with Yamada as Shiraishi does (since this is technically a harem), so I am really looking forward to watching more.
Notabilities: The rising new studio MAPPA have been delivering interesting, and beautifully animated shows back to back, this is their latest, which features the involvement of some ex-Gainax staff. The writer is also notable for being behind the popular Zero Escape puzzle games.
Well, that was kinda disappointing. Not that this was particularly terrible, but in the sense that the premise and previews indicated everything about this would be either be a magnificent display of hidden genius – or a glorious trainwreck. Turns out that the real Punchline was that it was neither.
We started the episode off with some entertaining action and music, diving right into a ridiculous situation that did manage to eke a few chuckles out of me. We get the first of many panty shots, before transitioning through the (groan-inducing) OP into what was a rather… uninteresting first episode? The central conceit was so straightforward and explained in such a manner-of-fact way that it all just felt rather dull. I expect this might be necessary to ground all these rules before the series gets extremely screwy with intricate time-looping shenanigans and what-not, but there are better ways to go about this.
The expected fanservice was also surprisingly tame, the humour was droll at best and I can’t say that anything in this episode got me excited at all for what is to come. This is rather perplexing actually, since the whole thing is quite lavishly animated, everything is delivered with enthusiasm and it seems like a lot of work was put into it. I was expecting something more similar to Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt but I got whatever this was supposed to be instead… oh well, I’ll continue watching for now.
Grisaia no Meikyuu (The Labyrinth of Grisaia)
Status: Why am I still watching this?
Houkago no Pleiades (Wish Upon the Pleiades)
Notabilities: In order to catalog the downfall of Studio Gainax.
Okay, I was just kidding, it’s true a lot of the people behind Gainax’s greatest titles have left the industry or gone to work at other studios like Trigger, Khara and MAPPA, but this is directed by Saeki Shouji, who has worked on a couple of their titles over the years, most notably as one of the episode directors for FLCL.
Pleiades is the spiritual sequel (or reboot) to a series of ONAs that were made by the same creative team back in 2011. I watched that in preparation for this and I rather liked it. Yes this is the Subaru-sponsored car commercial anime that features magical girl broomsticks that make engine revving noises, but the original Pleiades told a visually interesting, simple and engaging standalone story in the runtime of a single anime episode, so I’m here in total support for more of that.
The first episode of the TV anime loosely mirrors the setup of events that the ONA did, the story is different, though it indeed keeps with the tradition of pretty things just happening with very little explanation. That itself is a problem, but I don’t think this is a shallow show, and I get the sense that Pleiades does realize the overt events of its narrative don’t really make much sense. We have only got hints so far, but to me it feels like the series does have character journeys and a coherent message it’s trying to get at through abstraction of it’s main visual motifs and plot elements. The main concern is whether it even has twelve episodes of story to tell, without spreading the simple concept too thin.
Sidonia no Kishi: Daikyuu Wakusei Seneki (Knights of Sidonia 2nd Season)
The first season of Sidonia was a refreshing change of pace from the kind of anime we get nowadays. That didn’t just come down to it being one of the few full-CG late-night anime, but also that it was a more contemplative and atmospheric hard sci-fi title, part of a dying trend. The characters looked awkward as hell, the frame-rate was low (CG still has a long way to go) and the tropey harem/fanservice elements were out of place, but Sidonia played to the strengths of its delivery medium. This was manifested in its ability to portray a sterile and creepy setting, create legitimately threatening alien enemies, and deliver on clashes with them in larger-than-life cinematic action sequences. The terrifying vastness of space and the precarious insignificance of humanity relative to it was something the series never failed to drive in, so even while the plot lost me by the end of season one, I’m greatly looking forward to the sequel.
And, it continues doing just that! Despite the switch of director (the assistant director took charge) the series hasn’t really changed what it does best. It has been a long time since the original so it will take me some time to get used to the CG again, and the show needs to completely re-earn my investment in its story and characters all over again, but I have good confidence it will be able to do so. The episode didn’t progress too much plot-wise other than checking back in with the characters and introducing a new parasite threat (in appropriately chilling manner), but I am ready for wherever Sidonia will take us this season.
Status: The new OP is awful but I’ll tolerate it.
Nisekoi is back, and not much has changed (or ever will change). Well, some things have indeed progressed, after last season’s finale, Chitoge has finally realised that she is in love with Raku, which sets us up for an episode devoted to her trying to catch the attention of her crush. The brand of comedy here was quite predictable I’ll admit, but it all came from an understandable place and made for some great gags. This was a one-man-show of an episode, entirely sold by great voice acting and Chitoge’s exasperated facial expressions. There was an all-too-innocent air of teenage love being expressed: so preoccupied with trying to appeal to Raku via changing her appearance, Chitoge fails to state her feelings outright.
Well, it’s not like that was ever going to happen anyway, continuing with Nisekoi tradition, we check in once again with the “main plot” (stifles laughter) regarding Raku’s locket. Yes, nothing truly has changed, but I can’t help but enjoy watching this, and a lot of credit goes towards Shaft for making this such a pleasant show to watch, not just with the attractive character designs, the beauty extends to the backgrounds, shot framing and colour compositions. It will be a long time before I get tired of Nisekoi, which is probably a good thing, because it’s not like it’ll be ending soon anyway.
Kyoukai no Rinne is as delightfully straightforward and old-school as it gets, the creator behind this definitely hasn’t changed her style too much over the years, and that’s not a bad thing. With a premise almost identical to that of Re-Kan!, this show sets itself apart via sheer polish and execution. The chara-designs are of Takahashi’s iconic style, they look great on-screen, and while there isn’t that much animation going on at all with this show, everything looks clean and consistent, nothing went off-model and the backgrounds make everything very easy on the eye.
Now, there are almost 200 chapters of the manga out already, with the anime scheduled for 25 episodes I don’t have great confidence we will get anywhere significant, it feels like it’s going to be quite episodic and slow-paced. But I am okay with that because I enjoy what we are getting so far, the dynamic between Sakura and Rinne is fun to watch and the series has a great sense of humour, always popping up with the comedy at unexpected moments which got a few good laughs out of me.
Status: Watching (for now)
Ore Monogatari!! (My Love Story!!)
Notabilities: Veteran Madhouse director Asaka Morio, who has worked on a lot of their greatest titles is involved. This show features a lot of the same team that were behind Chihayafuru.
I’ll be honest here, I don’t have much of interest to say about this one. Shoujo romances are known for opening strongly before petering out (also having a high track record for inconclusive anime adaptations) and Ore Monogatari looks to follow along with that trend. The difference is that unlike its peers, I didn’t find the first episode here to be particularly strong at all. It’s all very nicely directed and looks super pretty, but I can’t really get behind the story we have going on here. That may in part be due to the odd voice acting, the main two sounded so unnatural and stiff that I couldn’t really get invested in them as characters whatsoever, there were a lot of attempts at endearing moments, but they didn’t land for me. I’ll give it another chance to grab me next week.
Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku (Mikagura School Suite)
Notabilities: Not much outside of being part of a burgeoning trend of multi-media projects originally based on series of popular Vocaloid songs. Last year’s Mekakucity Actors is another example.
The story of Mikagura is not of great importance, the setup here appears to be largely an excuse to have a bunch of these (supernaturally endowed) characters end up in a school together. The first episode focuses mostly on Eruna and her entry to this academy, acting as a loose framework for comedic gags. I didn’t find anything funny here, the comedy is based in the lazy repetition of overreaction and slapstick. It’s cool that our main protagonist here is unabashedly open about being into girls, but this is rarely taken seriously and just serves as a setup for more unfunny jokes. Lastly, as I mentioned here the character designs in this show aren’t very appealing and the show is visually barebones throughout. There isn’t much else here for me to say, but if the style of this show sounds appealing to you, I suggest checking out Mekakucity Actors instead.