I put on my fluffy socks again for the first time this week, which must mean that autumn has well and truly arrived. While I mourn the loss of summer, I’m not exactly grieving for the end of the summer anime season – though I maintain that there’s not really any such thing as a good or bad anime season, simply more or less titles that appeal to my personal taste.
This time around, I gave nine new shows a try. One has already been dropped after a single episode, though another five seem likely to follow. That leaves four more still in my good graces – at least one of which came as a major surprise. As usual, I’ll be going in order from worst to best, although with the exception of the sole sequel on this list, the following impressions are at this point obviously based only on the first episode.
High School Star Musical
Well, this is the closest thing to an actual anime musical that I’ve ever seen, I’ll say that much for it. Normally I’d give a series more than just the first episode to prove itself, but I’ve already seen enough to know that this isn’t going to appeal to me, or probably anyone else for that matter unless they’re looking for some easy laughs. The writing is so poor that it’s virtually non-existent, the music is hilariously bad, and most of the characters are flat-out terrible people with ridiculously huge superiority complexes. If bitchy singing/dancing pretty boys are your thing then by all means go ahead and watch this, and more power to you. I’m having difficulty imagining even the most dedicated bishounen fan getting through High School Star Musical without sniggering though.
Dance with Devils
I take what I said before back – this is the closest thing to an anime musical I’ve ever seen. And yes, the music and lyrics are every bit as entertainingly horrendous as they are in High School Star Musical, just in case you were wondering. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I did not absolutely hate this title. Don’t get me wrong, it’s by no means a good show, but it’s also nowhere near as awful as, say, Diabolik Lovers, which I was very much expecting based on the synopsis. For one thing, the main character actually appears to have a backbone. For another, it looks like there might be something resembling an honest-to-god plot. INORITE!? So despite the fact that I don’t know if I’ll be able to emotionally handle a whole 12 episodes of this, I feel almost compelled to watch next week’s, if only to convince myself I’m not imagining things. Almost.
Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru
Damnit, I should have known this title was too long to be any good. I more or less forgot that it’s based on a light novel series as well, so in hindsight, I should really have known better – especially given that Troyca’s the studio behind it. Live and learn, I guess. My problems with the show have less to do with the plot and more to do with the execution; while I actually quite like the art direction, the soundtrack seems weirdly out of place, and more worryingly, the characters are already starting to annoy me. Sakurako’s obsession with bones notwithstanding, I suspect her personality is meant to come across as appealingly mysterious and eccentric when mostly it just feels condescending and abrasive. The considerably more level-headed Shoutarou, despite his constant complaints about her behaviour, still follows her around like a sheep. The slightly creepy sexual tension between the two isn’t helped by the fact that the camera keeps closing in on Sakurako’s chest, and mostly I finished the first episode feeling vaguely uneasy for all the wrong reasons. I’ll try a second episode, but I’m not exactly holding my breath.
Okay, did someone spike my cereal with LSD? The opening episode of this show is a total clusterfuck, and I have yet to even figure out if it’s going to be something I’d enjoy or not. It’s like the creators called a meeting, demanded that everyone put their craziest ideas into a hat, and then ended up deciding to use every single one of them. Masked superheroes, aliens, transforming magical-girls, mecha… um, knight things, all introduced in a constant swirl of colour, sound, and confusing time skips. On the one hand, nobody could possibly accuse Concrete Revolutio of lacking in energy or spending too much time on exposition. On the other hand, it was all way too erratic to make me think of it as a legitimately good first episode – and I’m not exactly enamored of the fanservice, either. At this point I’m at least curious enough to watch another episode, but it’ll have to work hard to convince me that it’s worth my time.
Young Black Jack
Okay, so first off, the title of this show should really read as Bishounen Black Jack. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but holy crap – Iwatobi called and they want their missing swimmer back. In all honesty though, I don’t think this show is going to be my kind of thing. It’s super dramatic and sparkly, and takes itself so seriously that it actually struck me as pretty funny – the problem here being that I don’t think Young Black Jack actually intends to present itself as a comedy. Production-wise, it’s an odd mixture of styles: Hazama, with his broad shoulders, waspishly skinny waist, and all that sparkling looks like he just stepped out of a 90s magical-girl series, or possibly a 90s yaoi one; the minor background characters, on the other hand, have that distinctive cartoonish 60s-Tezuka look; and to make things even weirder, some of the music sounds as though it was ripped from a retro shounen sports anime. I don’t think it’s going to be a bad anime per se, and it’s certainly going to be a fun one for many viewers, but it’s not really to my taste. I’ll give it another episode but may well end up dropping it.
Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider
The first episode of Perfect Insider doesn’t give me a whole lot to go on; it’s extremely dialogue-heavy, and seems far more preoccupied with setting up character dynamics than it does presenting the audience with an actual plot. Since this title also looks and feels a great deal less dramatic and theatrical than Sakurako-san, our other murder mystery of the season, I assume many viewers will favour that over Perfect Insider. In general though, I think I prefer the more understated and less fan-pandering atmosphere of this story, and am happy to exercise a little patience to see where it goes from here. A slow build-up may not make for a mind-blowing opening, but that’s of comparatively little importance to me if it leads to something I can really sink my teeth into. And hey, if nothing else, neat OP!
Good news first – if you’re fond of this franchise then you’ll probably like this newest addition well enough, and if you’re not familiar with the franchise at all, it should make for a fine introduction. After all, how much backstory do you need to be able to enjoy the comic adventures of a gang of loveable crooks? Neither the story nor its characters are particularly deep, but it’s entertaining enough to watch in its own right. What’s more, the show’s fairly light-hearted and likely episodic nature means that it’s going to be really easy to watch on a once-weekly basis. The slightly more disappointing news is that after that wondrous OP, I was expecting something… well, more. Seriously, that OP is absolutely everything Lupin should be – jazzy, retro, and hella stylish in a way that reminded me a bit of Cowboy Bebop’s. The episode that followed, while certainly retro in look, didn’t quite deliver that same sense of pizzazz, so I enjoyed it but also couldn’t help feeling oddly underwhelmed. I’ll most likely keep Lupin on anyway, because it looks to be pretty fun regardless, but it’s not the top-notch material I would have hoped.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
I doubt this is going to be my favourite title of the season, but it was far and away the best premiere. I know – I’m as shocked as you are. In fact, probably the only reason I’m not giving Iron-Blooded Orphans a higher score based on the opening episode is because I’m neither a Gundam nor a mecha fan, and generally prefer fantasy over sci-fi. Given that, I wasn’t going to watch this one at all until I saw everyone else’s extremely positive reactions and then remembered that Okada Mari was in charge of the writing. Which isn’t to say that I’m a die-hard Okada fan, but when one of the only most prominent woman in the industry who’s best known for her character-driven dramas gets behind a Gundam show, I’m inclined to sit up and pay attention. I honestly have no idea whether I’ll continue to be as impressed later on down the track, and I’ll likely drop the series should the mecha aspect become the primary focus. However, if the quality writing, excellent sense of timing, and surprising subtlety of this first episode is any indication, then Iron-Blooded Orphans is in very capable hands.
The premiere of the second season of Noragami reminded me just how much I enjoyed this the first time around. I dig the urban fantasy genre and I dig pretty much everything about Noragami’s general style, from the sharp artwork to the rocking soundtrack. Since it hasn’t been all that long since season one finished (especially if you count those admittedly less than stellar OVAs), I’m glad to see that the story is wasting little time in getting set up for its new Bishamon-centric arc. Really my only issue with the show at this point is with the juvenile fanservice – the panty shots are just plain dumb, and do an otherwise very solid and entertaining series absolutely no favours. Thankfully though, these moments aren’t too common, and I’m more than ready to see what my most anticipated fall title has in store for the rest of the season.
Question of the post: How’s the fall season looking for you? What had the best and worst opening episodes, and were there any big surprises?