It’s my first post & I’m already over a week behind with these season previews. Certainly bodes well for the future of this site. Anyway, brief impressions on the first batch of shows airing according to chronological air date. Note that I’m not including Absolute Duo as I’m perfectly happy for other people to suffer through that show for review purposes.
Yuri Kuma Arashi
Of course the first noticeable show of the season also turns out probably the most divisive, as has been the case with Kunihiko Ikuhara previous shows, Revolutionary Girl Utena & Penguindrum. Chances are you’re either already used to his notoriously stylistic visual approach of repeated symbolism, metaphors & themes, or are just very confused. Newer fans into anime often don’t gel with his works, either considering them random for the sake of it or just plain pretentious.
Well, like it or not this is still pure-strain Ikuhara we’re dealing with here, even though, aware he only has 12 episodes to work with, has jettisoned many of the traits like in-depth characterisation & slow, methodical plot structure that made his earlier works so well regarded with fans. Comparatively, it feels a much more slapdash affair, moving at breakneck speed & using the cast as mere tools for whatever tale is being weaved. It’s understandably upset a few people, but I personally respect the choice of focusing chiefly on his abstraction-as-commentary trademark style to tell a story. The themes & ideas he’s playing with appear relatively simple & easy to digest (yet: let’s not tempt fate) next to previous works, seemingly concerning sexual relations in both the positive & negative forms they can occupy (so far the Bears seems to represent a form of forceful & destructive form of intimacy, although maybe I’m completely barking up the wrong tree). It feels like a far more sexually explicit portrayal of some of the individual character arcs in Utena. Trying to repeat the multi-faceted complexities of Penguindrum would have been too much for this show to take, so I’m content with the lighter focus.
Production is by Silver Link, and considering the spectacular-looking (if often terrible) anime they’ve previously put out, Yuri Kuma Arashi feels rather lacklustre, with many static shots & poorly modelled characters. Mind you, design-wise it looks fantastic, with Penguindrum art-director Chieko Nakamura reprising her role here, even if many of the buildings have more of the minimalistic art-deco trappings usually found in Shaft series (although that might not be too much of a shock considering Silver Link’s roots). Also of note is that certain, more organic areas, such as the flower garden on the school’s outskirts contain faded watercolour designs, reminiscent of Utena’s (& Simoun’s) art director, Shichiro Kobayashi. I’m not sure if he has a smaller role on the animation team this time around or if it’s a homage, but it’s a pretty cool call back.
So yeah, I’m looking forward to digging deeper into the the show. It has many of the standard Ikuhara tropes that I’m mixed over, like his, let’s say celebratory attitude to overt female nudity, or reliance on dysfunctional sexual relationships (has there ever been a brother-sister duo in this works without an incestuous edge?), but overall there looks enough meat on the bones for me to chew through.
Also did I mention how unsubtle the imagery is yet?
Kantai Collection (Kancolle)
A far more simple show to talk about, given that it’s based off based of an online game, the main pull of which seems to be as a fan-invested trans media project that’s lead to a shit-tonne of amateur doujinshi. Personally, I quite enjoy some of the military elements to the character designs, even if the faces are way too generic moe for my tastes.
I was actually cautiously optimistic about this. Sure, the director’s previous credits are almost universally awful, many being ecchi series like Ro-Kyu-Bu or Sekirei, but the screenwriter contributed to such works as Steins;Gate & Level E, so that could count for something, right?
Well, unsurprisingly, what we’ve ended up with is a fairly standard, if ultimately rote military moe series. It’s all the usual power-of-friendship speeches, blushing at senpai & endearing obnoxious one-note character quirks. It’s basically the Strike Witches of the seas, with thankfully slightly less focus on cheesecake shots & naked bath scenes. It also doesn’t help that not only are the characters pretty much identical to Arpeggio of Blue Steel’s girls-as-battleship concept, but the establishing premise is a complete rip off as well. Well, at least Kancolle doesn’t pretend to actually focus on an actual plot rather than how cute the girls are, unlike the first half of Arpeggio adaptation, so I won’t have to drastically adjust my expectations mid-season.
The fight scenes are fast & fluid, if only serviceably directed. There’s little really to say. You’ll know by now whether you’ll want another of these shows in your life. I think I’ll just re-watch Girls Und Panzer instead. At least that series was self-aware enough to understand & embrace its ridiculous nature.
Binan Koukou Chikyuboueibu LOVE!
Speaking of shows that understand & have fun with the tropes they employ, Bouei-bu is another of the current trend of shamelessly absurd pretty boy anime (Meganebu, Bakumatsu Rock, Shounen Hollywood), being all bright/garish colours, insane characters & under-the-surface homo-lust. I’ve never been super taken with any of them as yet; I’m just not invested enough with their particular style of humour to get past all the flashing lights & screaming. It all feels too much for something I view as merely pleasant. As much as I appreciate the show’s enthusiasm for parodying pretty-boy, & later magical girl tropes, anime has been doing that for so long that frankly I was a little sick of it 10-15 years back with the likes of Excel Saga & Abenobashi.
If that sounds overly critical, I will say Bouei-bu certainly pulls it off better than most, but I think that particular ship has sailed for me. Personally, I find the shows biggest strengths lies in the incidental moments & cohesion of the story; for example, the initial rambling conversation about the somewhat redundant nature of chikuwabu somehow escalates to a battle with the personification said underappreciated ingredient, looking like a rebellious street thug complete with giant pompadour. Give me more of that & I may just give this a shot.
But, seriously though, what the hell have they done to poor Koala from Hunter x Hunter?