One Month In – January Anime Review Part 1

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Initially I had thought it a great idea to do a general summary of the shows I’m currently watching. Nineteen series & over three thousand words later & I regret my life choices. As a result, I’ve decided to split the post into two. Enjoy the first part, while I enjoy some much needed sleep. Never again…

19. Gundam Reconquista in G (Dropped – 17 episodes)

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I tried, I really did. I thought if I could just force enthusiasm & focus on Kenichi Yoshida’s designs that I would find something to care about. It’s the same doomed, destructive logic that caused me to watch two seasons of both Bakuman & Index, desperately hoping things would get better. But at every turn there was Tomino…

Seventeen episodes into the show & I can safely say I barely have a clue what the plot is about. There’s certainly plenty of poorly directed battles, most of which my mind just glazes over until I realise five minutes have gone by without me focusing on a single detail. It’s like I’m losing an hour’s worth sleep for every minute I watch the show. It honestly takes real skill to be so exhausting.

There’s also a constant slew of terminology, names & references, which I’ve managed to separate into three distinct parts: those I need to have prior knowledge of the Gundam universe to understand, those that have been mentioned in the most cursory & roundabout manner, & those the show just hasn’t bothered to explain yet. Maybe I’m somewhat to blame, coming in blind to a thirty year old franchise, but any individual series should be able to stand alone without feeling part of a giant jigsaw puzzle, not least a show for children.

So sorry Tomino, relationships based on hoping the other will eventually change their ways are always destined to fail…

…see you next time.

 

18. Kancolle (Dropped – 3 episodes)

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Unlike Reconquista in G, Kancolle isn’t a straight up terrible show, just one that’s utterly soulless. I don’t think anyone was expecting another Girls Und Panzer, but even the most simple moe show should have some measure of personality. I’ve never played the hugely successful game this was based on, but if it was the show’s intent to base each character off a one sentence description like you’d find on the back of a trading card, then it’s succeeded. This girl is clumsy & earnest, this one eats a lot, this one has a verbal tick that makes me want to punch a wall, etc. The Touhou comparison seems accurate, as everyone appears artificial & empty of life, like we’ve only given the basic outline of characters, so as not upset the fandom that insert their own ideals on the cast. Fans of the franchise seem to like it, further proving the point of self-projection, but there’s little for me here. Friendship speeches & mediocre battles aren’t going to cut it if there’s not a whit of charm to them. Also, if I never hear ‘poi’ again it’ll be soon.

 

17. Koufuku Graffiti

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My thoughts on this are exactly the same as they were in my first episode impressions. It’s basically Hidamari Sketch but with graphically explicit scenes of the girls eating, so if food porn’s your thing, enjoy while I stay in the corner quietly gagging. The rest of each episode is perfectly fine in an inconsequential sort of way. It’s the sort of light, fluffy & ultimately empty calorie type of show that you can play after a long day at work, while your brain relaxes. Just don’t expect to remember anything about it a hour later.

 

16. Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls

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It’s more Idolmaster, just with new girls & a slightly different setting. I recently watched the first series & thought it was fine, even if the actual ‘idol’ part did nothing for me. Watching the girls develop was pretty nice, but honestly I mostly enjoyed the humour rather than the heavy handed drama. If this series follows a similar path I’ll probably continue watching, although saying that, nothing has really grabbed me as yet. The new producer is an improvement, chiefly because he does little & says even less (plus, those eyes!). The girls, on the other hand, aren’t up to much. It feels like the original show took the best archetypes to model its characters on & Cinderella Girls was left with the scraps. There’s a goth-loli with chuunibyou, a lazy child that has to be carried around by a wacky mother type, someone who thinks saying the word ‘rock’ over & over automatically makes them an indie singer with street cred, rather than a school girl in fancy dress performing pop songs for the enjoyment of adult men…

If this was a full-blown comedy series you’ve be able to squeeze out some good gags from this ensemble, but the most you’re going to get is light-hearted hijinks, and clumsy attempts to make you take the cast seriously when the drama hits.

 

15. Death Parade

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I’m still undecided on Death Parade, probably enjoying it more as a concept than an experience. Episode three & the increased focus on the various staff has freshened up the formula a little, but we’re still mostly watching people slowly crack as their inner demons & dirty laundry are exposed. That can certainly be interesting as an analytical experience, but I’d hesitate in calling it fun.

Even more of an issue is the judgement aspect of the game, which comes across too direct in announcing the verdicts, yet too vague in explaining the rationale behind them. Take episode four, which has a mother sent to oblivion because of the aggressive, cut-throat methods she uses to protect her comfortable life. Was it because of her violent tendencies? If so, players that tried to kill their fellow contestants in episode one & the pilot managed to escape a ‘guilty’ verdict. How about taking her family for granted? In which case, her fellow contestant & the same person from the pilot were just as guilty. Perhaps Decim looks for people who he believes would walk the same path if given another chance, but if so his methodology for singling out some people over others isn’t made clear. He’s too much of a closed book. Watching a game in which the rules aren’t adequately explained ends up a confused, frustrating experience. Still, that OP is pretty great.

 

14. Tokyo Ghoul Root A

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For as many issues I had with the original Tokyo Ghoul, I do think the core story of Kaneki’s making & breaking was a fairly solid, occasionally breath-taking tale. It was reminiscent of Berserk in that regard; only with a lot more filler arcs with cardboard chewing villains. This (mostly) anime original sequel appears to have noted that and opted for a change in tone. Unfortunately, their big idea appears to be turning the show into Deadman Wonderland. Outside of some poorly integrated exposition in the second episode, the bulk of Root A so far has focused on increasingly ludicrous battle scenarios with either stoic dullards or cackling madmen. At this point I barely know who most of the cast even are, with more showing up with every episode for the sole purpose of having random, meaningless battles, occasionally having rapid-fire flashbacks in the middle of their scenes to explain their connection to previously introduced set of characters you also know next to nothing about. There’s no purpose or emotional connection to any of this. It’s basically watching a child playing war with their collection of toys, but with more blood because this is totally hard-core, man!

Despite that rant, I don’t hate the show as much as I feel I should. Unlike DW, it’s still somehow entertaining on a sheer spectacle level. But unless the show does a 180 degree turn, it’s destined to become an utter train wreck. One that will probably sell like hot-cakes.

 

13. Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE!

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While I’m not feeling Bouei-bu as much as some, you’ve got to respect its sheer flair & commitment to absurd scenarios. Having the director behind Daily Live of Highschool Boys doesn’t hurt either. That said, for all the homoeroticism, terrifyingly cute hideous mascot characters & sexual pun attacks, it’s basically just another magical girl show, a genre I can normally take or leave.

 

12. Akatsuki no Yona

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It’s been something of a slow month for Yona, wrapping up the Blue Dragon’s arc & focusing on new king, Soo-won’s, interactions with some of this generals, with both plot points feeling like they could have been compressed into a single episode. I’ve come to expect it from the show at this point, with definite moments of downtime between each new arc. Having a significant portion of screen time away from the main cast also hurts the show. As nice as some of the fights are (by Studio Pierrot’s standards at least), or the political machinations, it’s really Yona’s interactions with her merry band of men that sell this series, with the use of chibi expressions & in-group banter improving with every passing episode. I see the story as what would happen if Chihaya from Chihayafuru found herself in a classical bishōjo story. Not that I feel the show can match that high mark, but there’s a similar feeling in tone to the cast’s antics.

 

11. Aldnoah Zero

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There are some people that think Aldnoah Zero is a mess & they would be completely right. There are also those that think it’s terrible, to which I would completely disagree. At around the point during the first season’s finale where a loli maid drove a Humvee containing a princess through a minefield of bullets, whatever shreds was left of my disbelief were finally blown to the wind. At which point I realised I should never have taken its premise or characters seriously as it was all one big joke. The robotic main character with a copy of the script, the confused young man whose role is to suffer & make fujoshi go all gooey, the princess who can pull a Jesus resurrection hat-trick: none of it. Maybe the writers of the show feel differently, but nuts to them. Season two is even more idiotic & nonsensical than the first, & I couldn’t be happier! Give me all the deus ex machinas, plot contrivances & pseudo-science as you want. Forget false idols like Guilty Crown or Valvrave; this is true successor to Code Geass. Down on your knees!

Although seriously, how can anyone ever give shit to Slaine when there are characters like that incompetent, parasitic, sycophantic slug, Edde, who would happily ignore her previous master’s dreams & endorse genocide in order to suck up to a new member of royalty. Gods, how I despise her!

 

10. Garo

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With the start of a new arc, it’s clear that Garo is currently in downtime mode before it starts build the story up & introducing this season’s themes & conflicts. It’s fair enough I guess, although still a tad disappointing given that the rising action & consequences from Leon & Alphonse’s battle with Mendoza should have provided what followed a more purposeful sense of momentum. Sadly that finale momentarily distracted me from remembering the majority of season one was a set of monster of the week battles, and we’re not getting anything different this time around. I don’t think Garo is necessarily bad at this formula but the majority of these scenarios come across a little run of the mill, following the same route and conclusion every time. There really isn’t much to chew on. That said, this season has given us a bunch of merchants creating a part-metal/part-body horror Jet Alone version of the Garo armour & using it to fight a giant bear. If the show could do more of that, and actually have fun with its premise, or at least move the plot alone, instead of rehashing another ‘inner demons create literal monsters’ story, it would easily be higher on this list.

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