Anime Corner: First Impressions: Winter 2016

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the anime is so delightful. Come one, come all, warm your soul upon the joy, the wonder and the sheer insanity of our latest imports from Japan. The winter season has begun, so let’s take a look at what we’ve got this year.

Myriad Colours Phantom World

The line between fantasy and reality has blurred. After a chemical was accidentally released into the atmosphere people began to see imaginary creatures. Most of these ‘phantoms’ are harmless, but every now and again some can cause problems for the general population. When that happens it’s up to super-powered teenagers (because when is it not the job of super-powered teenagers?) to calm these spirits and keep the peace.

I was really worried about this show after the first episode. I mean it’s gorgeously animated, it’s full of eye-popping colours and I really like the concept, but then there was that fanservice and the beginnings of a harem. I was ready to run for the hills, but I stuck it out for a couple more episodes and I’m glad that I did. Yes there are fanservice and harem elements, but they’re a lot more toned down than I was expecting. It doesn’t overpower the series. The characters are nice, if nothing exceptional. Their powers are pretty cool though, just different enough to be interesting. The phantoms and concepts that each episode has dealt with so far are also pretty interesting. The story could do with moving along a bit, I want to know more about this world and the phantoms, also an over-arching plot would be nice. So far it’s just been set up and character stuff. Still I’m content with the show as it is for the moment.

Erased

Satoru Fujinuma has a peculiar condition. When something bad happens he often finds himself sent back a few minutes in time, allowing him to prevent the bad thing from taking place. When someone dear to him is lost though something odd happens. He’s transported back to his childhood, in the days leading up the disappearance and murder of a young girl. By solving the mystery of her death he can hopefully not only save the girl, but the person he lost back in the present. Or maybe things will end up worse. Time travel ain’t easy.

Butterfly Effect the anime. The story here isn’t really anything really original or mind-blowing, but the execution is. It’s not only the gorgeous animation, but also the way it’s directed. This is a master class in the way to structure and show drama. It sucks you in and wrenches all of the emotion out of you, and you enjoy it while it does it. It’s only been three episodes, but I’m already in love. I don’t normally do a ‘Best of the Season’, but that’s what this show is shaping up to be.

Active Raid

In the future, due to a rising rate of crimes involving exoskeletons known as Willwears, a new section of the police force has been put together to combat these criminals. Unit 8 is in charge of protecting Japan, when they’re not destroying buildings and generally goofing around. Can the members of Unit 8 track down the mysterious figures behind a series of Willwear related attacks, in between writing apology letters.

There is some really good anime this season. Compared to them Active Raid is actually a fairly mediocre anime. It’s not the prettiest, it’s not the funniest, it’s not the most exciting. Story wise it’s your typical kind of oddball unit that always manages to somehow save the day, while still making the higher ups mad at them. The Willwears have some decent designs and abilities, but nothing amazing, and the characters aren’t anything special either. So why am I planning on continuing watching this? Because it’s fun. Active Raid doesn’t take itself very seriously. It’s perfectly happy just to be popcorn fodder and enjoy itself while it’s at it. It has this infectious energy to it that makes each episode an easy watch.

Nurse Witch Komugi R

It’s your typical magical girl set up.  Komugi is your typical middle school going main protagonist, she’s kind and fun-loving, while also a little clumsy. She does do a little work as an idol on the side though she’s hardly what you’d call a-list. Then a magical talking animal drops into her life and suddenly Komugi is transforming into Magical Nurse and battling monsters (or else she’ll turn into the Dreaded ‘C’! That’s a cockroach by the way). Hilarity ensues.

Now I may have mentioned before on this blog that I have a real soft spot for Magical Girl anime. I grew up on Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon, and Madoka Magica is my second favourite anime of all time. I keep trying Magical Girls series in the hope of either recapturing that nostalgia, or finding something as darkly beautiful as Madoka, but it hasn’t happened yet. Komugi has potential though. The series manages to balance a fine line between being a genuine Magical Girl series, and a pretty funny parody poking fun some of sillier aspects of the genre. There’s a sense of joy that is woven through every fibre of this anime. It knows it’s silly, embraces it and runs with it. It’s the kind of anime that just makes you smile and I just hope it can manage to keep it up.

Bubuki Buranki (BBK/BRNK)

What’s the Story? Hell if I know. There’s giant robots that fall down from an island in the sky. There’s all these little critters with eyeballs that combine to become the big guy. There’s our gentle, but determined main protagonist who knows nothing about current state of affairs. Yes he’s been out of the country, but don’t they have world affairs programmes? I’m sure the day a 16 year old and her giant robot of death takes over an entire country would kind of be a big news day.

What this anime lacks is context. There’s far too much that we just don’t know, or at least we don’t know how it connects together. The opening is great, but the disparity between that and the ten years later where this anime is set is more confusing than entertaining. Where has the sister gone? More importantly, why the hell is there an island in the sky with giant robots on it? Letting things develop and slowly reveal themselves over time is a great story-telling method, but unless you give the audience something to latch on to that mystery becomes more infuriating than intriguing. Lucky this anime has some great visuals and a few epic battles to tide me over until the dots are connected.

Phantasy Star Online 2 The Animation

The students of the Sega Academy, sorry I mean Seiga Academy (because adding one letter makes it totally different), face a truly devastating future. Those cold-hearted fiends that run the place wish to ban the playing of the MMO Phantasy Star Online 2 (have they no soul?) The student body’s hopes rest solely upon the shoulders of Itsuki, who is a newcomer to the game and tasked with writing a report on his experience. Can our bland male protagonist, sorry, that’s supposed to be genuine and likeable hero, save the day? Who really cares, outside of the advertising team I mean?

I really don’t see the point of this anime. You might as well just have a big flashing neon sign that says ‘Buy the Game!’ and force people to stare at that for half an hour each week. It’d have the same amount of impact. I really just don’t get this anime. Actually that’s a lie. I understand it perfectly, it’s just a huge advert. What I don’t get is who thought this was the right way to go about advertising the game? I mean there are plenty of animes that are just walking advertisements, whether it’s to get you to go read the manga or buy games, but a lot of those anime actually try to get you invested in some form of plot or characters. This anime is basically just sitting around watching other people play games and I’m not sure if the advertisers understand this part, but one of the lures of games is the fact that they’re interactive. It’s not exactly fun to just sit around and watch someone else having fun. Add in the bland characters, lack of any kind of plot and the fact that is has to spend so much of its time having to point out how flawless and good the product is and you end up with a soulless and hollow anime. Avoid this one, I certainly will from now on.

Konosuba – God’s Blessing On This Wonderful World!

Kazuma is very much the stereotypical geeky shut-in. In fact the only thing that can drag him out of the house is a brand new game. Unfortunately it was a bad day to leave the house as an uncharacteristic act of heroism and a tractor lead to his death (weird start to a comedy I know, but then weird looks to be the word of the day here). As Kazuma enter the afterlife he’s greeted by the Goddess Aqua, who offers him the chance to travel to a fantasy land and fight to free it from the evil ‘Demon King’, he even gets to take any one thing of his choosing with him. What does Kazuma pick? Well the Goddess Aqua of course. Let the adventures begin!

This anime is weird, subversive and really funny. Take the classic archetypes of a fantasy RPG and turn them into crazy people then you’ll have the cast of this anime. There’s the healer who wastes her experience points learning party tricks, the mage who refuses to use any magic except explosion magic (a spell that she can only use once per day) and the knight who can’t hit anything and is a secret masochist. Kazuma is probably the most normal character, which unfortunately also makes him the most boring, but then someone has to be the straight man to all this crazy. True the animation isn’t the best, I’ve notice a few awkward or stilted moments and the animators appear to have an obsession with boobs flopping around the place, but so far this anime has managed to hit my funny bone every episode so I’ll let it slide, for now.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday. 

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