Summer 2015 First Impressions — Part 1

Index
  • Part One: Gakkou Gurashi, Gatchaman Crowds Insight, Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace, Gangsta, Chaos Dragon and Okusama ga Seitokaichou
  • Part Two: Prison School, Classroom☆Crisis, Gate, Monster Musume no Iru Nichijou, and Various Shorts
  • Charlotte: Episodes 1 and 2

The Summer season avalanche hit last weekend. But as readers will know, I was busy working on my latest two posts back then. I hadn’t even started a single show, until I finished writing those pieces.

That means I am behind. Very behind.

I’ll be catching up now. About 5-6 shows per post, coming out over the next week or so. Last season I did 3 parts, with many titles per post, but short impressions. I want to spend more time talking about each show this time.

(Note: As with last season, titles are vaguely ranked from most to least interesting, whether that be based on episode 1, the staff, or any other factors. I’ll also be providing some alternate recommendations of existing, similar titles along the way.)

Gakkou Gurashi! (SCHOOL-LIVE!)

Notabilities: Masaomi Ando directed 2013’s White Album 2, and a bunch of Fairy Tail episodes, with lots of other credits here and there.

Gakkou Gurashi School Live Episode 1 Anime Review - Spoilers: There's Zombies.

Gakkou Gurashi is a show that understands the inner workings of visual execution, particularly those common and recognisable to most anime viewers. It needs to understand all the basic tools, tropes and tricks, in order to not only emulate them, but polish them to a mirror sheen.

This is a fantastic looking show. Not just because the direction is spot-on, but it is also full of crisp animation and energetic use of vibrant colours and backgrounds. The character designs are detailed, but also very naturally morph into more chibi-style for comedy moments, and back again, with it barely being noticeable, the cuts and comedy are so quick, that the show is regularly funny. This is despite the content of most, if not all the gags, adhering to anime tropes we all know, almost in regiment. It speeds through these jokes so quickly and with so much confidence, I couldn’t help but be engaged through the entire episode.

As for the characters, I’ll introduce them, they are all very cute and well-acted, both vocally and visually.

Gakkou Gurashi School Live Episode 1 Anime Review - Takeya Yuki
Takeya Yuki. The main character: hyperactive, absent-minded but very sincere. Wears a cute hat.
Gakkou Gurashi School Live Episode 1 Anime Review - Naoki Miki
Naoki Miki. A friendly girl, but can be uptight at times. Trying to be an understanding friend to Yuki.
Gakkou Gurashi School Live Episode 1 Anime Review - Ebisusawa Kurumi
Ebisuzawa Kurumi. A sporty girl, cool attitude. Has a shovel. And twintails.
Gakkou Gurashi School Live Episode 1 Anime Review - Wakasa Yuuri
Wakasa Yuuri. The senpai of the group. Mature and caring, but also prone to get very angry.
Gakkou Gurashi School Live Episode 1 Anime Review - Taroumaru
Taroumaru. A dog.

Gakkou Gurashi is also a show that possesses a lot of subtleties, both visually and in the character writing. In fact, it does this so well I am struggling to even figure out how to explain it. It has some subtleties which are “not-subtle” that we are expected to think are subtleties, and an actual layer of “true-subtlety” that we hopefully pick up on if we are attuned to the meta-aspects the show is tackling. I hope that by stating this, you’ll be able to see how it does this when you watch the show for yourself.

Status: Watching

Recommendations: Joshiraku and K-On! are the only cute girl comedy shows I’ve seen that possess a similar level of visual polish.

Gatchaman Crowds Insight

Notabilities: The first season of Gatchaman Crowds aired this time two years ago. No-one expected a modern reboot of a 70’s kids show to be so ambitious in tackling such big and relevant ideas. From crowdsourcing to gamification to artificial intelligence to internet politics and even to the nature of heroism itself, Gatchaman was a surprise hit. Its sequel could literally go anywhere and do anything. I’m excited to see what it has to say this time. Also Hajime. Hajime is the best-ssu.

Gatchaman Crowds Insight Episode 1 Anime Review - Hajime Ichinose, Berg Katze, Ninomiya Rui, Utsutsu, Gelsadra

This season of Gatchaman started up with an episode 0, which both served as a short recap of the first season and also a reintroduction to our cast. The main purpose of #0, outside of its big, flashy action scene, was to show how our old ending was far from ideal. Giving everyone free access to the power of the CROWDS is one that relies on believing in only the positive aspects of humanity, and here, we see that inevitably, groups will conspire to misuse it. That happens in the form of new enemy organisation, VAPE.

As Episode 0 closes, it leaves us with a completely new face, in the form of Misudashi Tsubasa. By focusing on her solely for the beginning of episode 1, we know now that she will be our emotional anchor for the story, not Hajime. The first season suffered from having Hajime as our initial viewpoint of investment because she is far too much of a force of nature within the world and themes of Gatchaman, such that she was far from a relatable or nuanced character: Hajime was a statement, a symbol, a banner to rally behind. As such, Ninomiya Rui was the character we followed the struggles of in season one, but his central question has been answered, and Gatchaman is all about raising and answering the questions it presents, so here is a new one.

Can we unite all of humanity under one cause? 

No. Well, that’s my answer to the question, and one I hope the show itself will also arrive at. The first season came to a far too optimistic conclusion, in painting a stark dichotomy between humanity’s best instincts in Hajime, and its worst instincts in Berg Katze. As we saw in the final episode, the two merged into one, and now Katze can talk from within Hajime’s… ribbons.

I could write reams and reams over where and how the show could go there with this, but then what would I have to say about subsequent episodes? Have a cute picture of Gelsadra instead.

Gatchaman Crowds Insight Episode 1 Anime Review - Gelsadra a cute
Okay, I’ll just quickly say that her powers also point to this being the case, she wants to make everyone align under the same “atmosphere”.

Status: HELLA ART DESIGN

Recommendations: I’ve yet to see either, but Higashi no Eden and C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control are two shows with very interesting concepts in a similar vein to Gatchaman. Also, if you are feeling adventurous, there’s always Serial Experiments Lain.

Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace

Notabilities: Director/script combo Kishi Seiji and Uezu Makoto team up again. These two have done a bunch of shows, from last season’s Assassination Classroom, to last year’s unexpected hit Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru and a personal favourite of mine, Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita. However, this combo are also known for their wild inconsistency. Ranpo Kitan is also notable for being an anime-original that is loosely based on the works of famous mystery writer, Edogawa Ranpo.

Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace Episode 1 Anime Review
The first mystery case in Game of Laplace actually spans the first two episodes, which is good, because episode 2 is already out! Thus, I’ll be talking about both.

The format of mystery presented in this show is Totally Not My Thing, but I think Game of Laplace executed that conceit very well. At least for the first case, these aren’t really the type of mysteries where the audience is able to solve the puzzle before the reveal, instead we are supposed to follow along and find entertainment in watching the protagonists piece it together.

And it is compelling. Divorced from grounded characterisations and situations that resemble real life whatsoever, the first case presented to us, The Human Chair, kept me engaged start to finish. There’s two reasons for that, the first of which is that it places our protagonist in the position of the primary suspect, meaning he must solve the case, and this protagonist happens to be quite the eccentric individual. Kobayashi Yoshio is an appropriate lead for the setting and concept of this series because he is pretty much as non-human as can be. He is treating life as a box of mysteries to be solved. He’s probably not even going to be much of a developing character, or at least I don’t expect him to be, but the ways he bounces off fellow detective Akechi is interesting enough. Souji rounds out our trio as The Normal Guy, who pretty much steps in to ask the questions the audience would, a proxy of sorts.

Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace Episode 1 Anime Review - OP Speed to Masatsu by amazarashi

Naturally, all the above sounds like it would be ripe for a mystery show lacking character, these guys certainly aren’t as compelling as Sherlock Holmes for instance. What makes it engaging is the flowing way the series pretty much just solely focuses on each scene to furthering the plot, we learn necessary information every scene, no time is wasted, its sharply constructed. In addition, when extended dialogue segments run on, we aren’t just presented with talking heads, Game of Laplace is visually stylish. Almost reminiscent of the Monogatari series with its colourful quirks, as in the above screenshot, it had many cool and rewarding little visual cues and tricks, which fit right in with the absurd nature of the mysteries presented.

Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace Episode 1 Anime Review - OP Mikazuki by Sayuri

Status: The OP/ED are so good. I don’t know if I’ll watch the whole series though, its not my kinda show.

Recommendations: If you want a similar case by case series, look to Kamisama no Memochou or Denpa Teki na Kanojo, if you like your mysteries infused with a bit more character and an overarching story, try Gosick or Death Parade.

Gangsta.

Notabilities: Manglobe is one of the most oddball studios out there. They don’t put out titles very often, but when they do, you can expect their anime-originals to be some of the most off-the-wall, experimental and unorthodox anime you’ll ever come across. Examples range from their TV debut in 2004 with Samurai Champloo, to 2008’s Michiko & Hatchin, and then all the way to last years’ fabulously weird Samurai Flamenco. With all of these titles, Manglobe has partnered with some of the best auteur writers and directors around to produce something special and different. Gangsta comes from the director of one of their strangest titles yet, Ergo Proxy. I don’t expect this to be quite as out-there as that, based on the synopsis, but God Only Knows what’s in store…

Gangsta Episode 1 Anime Review
Let’s not mince words. The OP/ED themes are bloody gorgeous and dripping with style. The show itself is in the same vein.

Despite the above Notabilities section seeming to suggest I expect a lot from this show, my expectations were actually slightly more muted going in. First reason: I don’t like gangsters. Secondly, this is a Manglobe manga adaptation, and their adaptation work is hit and miss at best (TWGOK vs Hayate, for example), that combined with the series composition writer not having any great show under their belt really dampens my expectations.

It really shows too. Gangsta’s debut excels in some areas but falls completely flat and even borders on dull in others. The pace is slow to the point of frustration, we learn almost nothing important through the first half of the episode, and all the dialogue feels completely non-consequential, even placeholder-feeling.

On the other hand, the production is excellent: chiselled character designs, dusty backgrounds and clean animation depict this Serious and Mature setting perfectly. Gangsta is graphic, expect violence, sex and blood. Director Murase Shukou has this very slow, atmospheric and almost contemplative feel to his work, and that is very much present here, creative camera angles make the downtime look interesting, and the fight scenes feel much more dynamic with his great choice of framing. Having the camera close to the ground, and hearing sounds of a fistfight in the background, followed by then seeing a body fly into our vision is great. Lots of creative methods to display action without having to animate much, but the fluidity is there when necessary… and there’s a lot of fluid, red fluid.

Gangsta Episode 1 Anime Review

Gangsta Episode 1 Anime Review

I was considering dropping the show despite its strengths, because the premise just does not interest me whatsoever, and the more adult themes like drugs and prostitution weren’t exactly handled with much tact. However, by the end of the episode, I found that these stone-faced badass characters did hide beneath their surface a sense of deep melancholy, and a certain feeling of… sensitivity?

Gangsta Episode 1 Anime Review
Sidenote: The OST in this show is great. Very distinctive and confident, regularly adding to the atmosphere of each scene.

Status: Watching

Recommendations: Previous Manglobe works mentioned above, particularly Samurai Champloo, also, watch Cowboy Bebop, you can never go wrong with Cowboy Bebop.

Chaos Dragon: Sekiryuu Seneki

Notabilities: The only reason this is halfway notable is because in some stage of the creative process Urobuchi, Nasu and Narita were involved.

Chaos Dragon Episode 1 Anime Review - Eiha a cute
The only decent character design in the show. I felt wrong screencapping anyone else, they all looked so garish and ugly. From their angular eyes to their clown-costume-like outfits.

What I want to make clear first, is that while Chaos Dragon’s existence was sparked, and given life to by the three prolific writers mentioned above, in addition to the artists Simadoriru and Izuki Kogyoku, they aren’t even involved in the creation of this. It’s indeed an adaptation of the Red Dragon light novel series, which was in turn based on their DnD tabletop games. However, the staff that are actually hands-on for this are nothing to write home about: both director and lead writer are relative newbies, and the only notable name is Aikawa Shou (Fullmetal Alchemist 2003) being credited for scripts.

So, what do we have here? What this is, is something of an oddity, it’s an anime borne from chinese whispers, it would seem. Chaos Dragon is awful. There’s no two ways about it. From production to writing to direction, awful on all accounts, but instead, there’s a more interesting angle to take on it:

The three creators mentioned above have a very distinct voice, each of them notably eccentric in their attitudes. We see fingerprints of their style clumsily imitated through all facets of Chaos Dragon. From the tedious exposition of Nasu, the Grimdark Twist and Faustian Bargains of Urobuchi, to the large casts and disjointed freneticism of Narita. It was like all the worst excesses of these writers was churned together, all good elements diluted, and the result is… whatever this was.. 

Chaos Dragon just as chaotic as its title would suggest, this show to me, feels like it was spawned from the drunken jokes of a bunch of writers having fun, taken in earnest by an entrepreneurial business who knows these creators print money, and then handed to an incompetent team with no idea what to do with it. When the main character was forced to murder his lover (for reasons), as gratuitous amounts of blood sprayed out, and trashy metal music kicked in, I knew I was watching something special.

Status: I tried not to laugh, but I did, then I felt bad. Morbidly curious.

Recommendations: Err, the other works of these creators? Well, if you want a DnD-style fantasy series, you got Hitsugi no Chaika, which is a light and breezy action-adventure with great battle scenes.

Okusama ga Seitokaichou! (My Wife is the Student Council President)

Notabilities: Read that synopsis. I picked this solely because of that. It seems like the kind of thing the Japanese government would fund in a futile attempt to cull the low birth rate and ageing population.

Okusama ga Seitokaichou

It wasn’t that, it wasn’t about that at all. That being said, I quite liked this 8 minute short. The two leads were actually interesting, in how they were oddly open about their sexual desires, in a way anime characters are generally not. What was surprising was how it was pretty much Misunderstanding RomCom stuff for 7 minutes, but near the end, we suddenly start seeing full nudity. I’m watching more, because this did want me to know what would happen next, and the comedy was decent.

Status: Watching

Recommendations: Err, only show I can think of like this is B Gata H Kei, which I have not seen. However I’ve seen HenNeko, which uses its perverted main character idea pretty well, and actually has a good romance.

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2 thoughts on “Summer 2015 First Impressions — Part 1

  1. Gakkou Gurashi is an oddball for me. It’s absolutely Not My Kind Of Show. But the visual execution did enough for me to atleast give it another episode or two.

    Like

    1. It’s not my kind of show either. I wasn’t expecting much going in, but it was a very pleasant surprise how polished it was. I enjoyed everything in this episode (not just the twist). Looking forward to watching more.

      Like

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