In what feels like an increasingly barebones season, at least one show is starting off on the right foot.
Shiroi Suna no Aquatope
While I prefer to approach my anime these days knowing as little as possible, I was admittedly pretty wary of this one going in; P.A. Works has always had a spotty record with me, particularly in more recent years (the likes of Appare-Ranman! not exactly being the pinnacle of great storytelling). Moreover, their dramas tend to be draaaaamas – typically of the “and everyone’s complex personality was due to a traumatic past but all internal conflict was resolved when they cried together at the end” variety.
Happily, Shiroi Suna no Aquatope, although a slice-of-life rather than a drama (according to MAL, anyway), doesn’t seem to be taking itself with the same ultra-seriousness as many of the previous anime titles with the same names behind them. Aquatope’s first episode does have its share of more melancholy moments, but it balances these out adroitly with several genuinely charming moments of humor – I was especially fond of the fortune-teller sequence, although there were several other small titbits thrown in there, particularly in the first few scenes, which also did a really nice job of introducing its setting in a way that I found both reasonably lighthearted yet deeply nostalgic.
Needless to say, it remains to be seen whether the show will keep things on an even keel as far as the melodrama goes, especially since this may well turn into some magical realism/supernatural-type affair (again, not a great good sign when it comes to P.A. Works – I’m looking at you, Red Data Girl/Charlotte/ Iroduku/basically everything since 2012 except Uchouten Kazoku). I’m also a bit leery of the main characters; I like the potential I see in ex-idol Fuuka’s storyline but am worried it could turn into a series-long pity-party. Meanwhile, I’m more lukewarm about Kukuru, whose character design and general energy make her seem closer to 12 than an 18-year-old in her final year of high school.
Having said all that, so far at least, I definitely don’t hate this. And hey, if nothing else, Shiroi Suna no Aquatope is clearly more than competent from a technical standpoint – as is to be expected, it’s absolutely lovely to look at, especially if you happen to be into aquatic-themed stories. Let’s just hope it doesn’t go totally off the rails like the last water-centric title from this studio, eh?
D_Cide Traumerei the Animation
If I was to sum up my impressions of the D_Cide Traumerei premiere in a single word, that word would be “forgettable”. Aside from the awkward-looking CG that makes everything look like a cutscene from an urban Final Fantasy knock-off, absolutely nothing stood out to me about this show. The characters felt incredibly flat and the script incredibly paint-by-numbers – I could practically see the writers consulting their notes between scenes as they worked out how to string together the story beats and get from plot point A to plot point B in the most expedient way possible.
… And that’s pretty much all I have to say about D_Cide Traumerei. No, really – although it’s certainly not an innovative show, it’s also not an actively terrible one, so I can’t even really rag on it all that much. It’s just sort of there, inoffensively serviceable and eminently bland and soulless, making seemingly little effort to distinguish itself from any other action/adventure urban fantasy around. In short, I have a hard time imagining anyone getting especially excited about this one, just as I had a hard time concentrating long enough to finish the episode.
Oh yeah, and bear in mind that even though it’s listed as an anime original on MAL, which may technically be the case in terms of release date, the story is actually based on a mobile game (hence “the Animation” part of the anime title). I only realized this after watching the premiere, but it explains a lot.