Anime Corner: First Impressions Spring 2016

Last season had some pretty good anime on show, from Erased to Konosuba there was plenty to enjoy, though there were a few clunkers too (as some upcoming reviews will point out), but can the Spring line up match up, or possibly even surpass it? Let’s find out! (Be prepared for a long one folks.)

Ushio and Tora

The unlikely bromance between a Japanese high school boy and the demonic spirit that wants to eat him continues. When Ushio found the Beast Spear, a mystical spear forged long ago for the sole purpose of killing monsters, I bet he never imagined he’d end up fighting in so many crazy battles or becoming such good friends with the creature imprisoned by the Beast Spear, Tora. Now the biggest monster of them all, Hakumen no Mono, looks set to finally makes its comeback, but all the friends and allies Ushio and Tora have made have now forgotten them. Can Ushio get the youkai back on side in time for the final battle? And what’s with all those guys that look like Tora?

Ushio and Tora is back baby! The wait for season 2 has been killing me, though it looks like the end will soon be nigh. One part of me can’t wait for the final battle against Hakumen no Mono, but then that means no more adventures with Ushio and Tora. I have fallen head over heels for this show, I love all of the characters, I love that even apparently inconsequential characters can come back later and make a big impact. I love the gorgeous energetic animation and retro feel to all the character designs (well this is based off of a 90s manga). The writing is also pretty darn impressive, managing to turn stuff that should be cliche or groan-inducing into something genuinely dramatic and heartfelt. The whole mindwipe stuff that started of this serious should have been infuriating, a nice big reset button to stop our heroes getting too ahead in the plot, but instead its shown as a tragic turn of events and a clever plot by the villain. Episode 29 was a bit more worrying, it was mostly exposition and introduced plot developments that happened off screen. I get the sense that we’ve skipped over an arc or two to make the anime fit into however many episodes are left. I faith that the team behind Ushio and Tora can correct this though.

Space Patrol Luluco

Luluco is just your normal high school girl and that’s the way she wants to stay, unfortunately her life is anything but normal. Luluco lives in the part of town where aliens have settled into residence, but not every resident is peaceful, some of them bring SPAAAAACE crimes to the peaceful town. When Luluco’s dad is accidentally frozen (What? It happens), Luluco is forced to join Space Patrol and protect her home. It’s not all bad though. A cute transfer student happens to arrive by meteor (that also tends to happen).

I don’t tend to watch that many of the shorter anime, 7 minutes or so per show just never feels like enough to me for either plot or character development, I’m just starting to get into things and then it ends. Space Patrol Luluco feels a little bit different, I’m still sad that it’s over so quickly, but at the same time I’m satisfied with what I got. Each episode is a little pocketful of joy with the typical Trigger outrageousness, whether it be the hilarious and bizarre characters or the ridiculous action. The animation is simple but expression and packs what is becoming the typical Trigger charm.

The Lost Village

A bunch of people take a shady bus tour into the middle of nowhere. They’re goal is to find an urban legend, a village cut off from the outside world where they can all escape the world and start over. They find the village, but starting over isn’t going to be as easy as the group thought. The past isn’t so easy to forget, and there’s something out in the woods.

I can see what this anime is trying to do and on paper it all looks pretty good. You’ve got a bunch of characters out in the middle of nowhere, each of them a little weird and clearly each with some kind of tragic back story that is forcing them to run away from life. You’re got the paranoia of being surrounded by strangers and a building suspense as you wait for the bodies to start dropping, you just know that most of these people are going to end up dead. There’s something wrong though and I can’t put my finger on what it is. I can only really put it down to the execution of the story so far. So far it’s a slow burn as we set up characters and intrigue,  but there’s just too many characters (you can tell most of them are just fodder) and so far the anime hasn’t given me a single person that I want to invest in.  I don’t care about any of these people and so far I’m only really sticking around to see the order in which they get bumped off, which isn’t really a good reason to watch a show. It’ll give it bit of time though, maybe some of that story potential can shine through.

Re: ZER0 – Starting Life in Another World

Natsuki Subaru was on his way home from a convenience store when he suddenly found himself standing in a strange street. He’s been transported to another world full of magic, spirits and half-human creatures. He’s also picked up a magical ability of his own, when he dies he gets the chance to redo events. Can Subaru put this ability to use save the harem of girls he will no doubt gather and even defeat the crazy lady with a love of disembowelling?

This anime reminds me so much of Konosuba from last season, not that it’s a hilarious comedy with an obsession with boobs, but more in my reaction to it. I looked at the little blurb on Crunchyroll and groaned a little inside, Japanese boy transported to another world harem nonsense ensues, but like I said, Konosuba gave me similar reaction when I read about it and that turned into one of favourite anime of last season, so I decided to give Re a shot, and I’m so glad I did. It does try to make fun of fantasy tropes, but by far the more interesting part of this anime is the world it’s created and the story driving through it. There are plenty of mysteries to explore through the series and so far the use of the redo ability has been well handled. Subaru has gone through the same day a few times and it never got repetitive, though Subaru was a little slow to pick up on what was going on. I’m interested to see where this anime goes now that Subaru has finally cleared the first save point.

Hundred

Mysterious life forms known as Savages have pushed humanity to the brink of extinction. On a battleship a school has been set up to train its students to use ‘Hundred’ powerful weapons that can create unique battle armour which is the only way of defeating the Savages. Hayato joins up in the hopes of becoming a Slayer and mastering his Hundred. He has to deal with a bit more than a lot of studying and training though, as on his first day he ends up in a duel with the school’s student council president and his roommate Emile seems to know a lot about him already.

I actually can’t believe this anime can exist. How can any shows sustain this many clichés and stereotypes and not collapse in on itself, it’s like the writers were trying to make the most generic anime possible. You’ve got the dopey main hero who also happens to unbelievably powerful, but only when the plot demands it. You’ve got the harem of girls already starting to assemble and outfits that fit so tightly I’m surprised the characters can still breathe, there’s the little sister character, the tournament style school battles, the monsters that have come out of nowhere to almost wipe out humanity. Throw in a catgirl and a giant robot and we’ve got the complete set, wait I think there might actually already be a catgirl in the show but I don’t want to waste my time going back to check. Don’t even get me started on the fanservice (too late), the accidental boob grab is a terrible cliché and yet there appears to be a Japanese mandate to include in the beginning of every anime. Hundred looks set to fill the quota on every other shows behalf though as it’s happened that many times (it’s already gotten to the point where it’s just kind of hilarious how often it occurs). The only interesting character is Emile, considering that she’s the main love interest yet has disguised herself as a guy (I have no idea why, but it’s something different and that in itself is a godsend in this anime).

Cerberus

When he was younger Hiiro’s parents tried to seal away an evil dragon that was terrorising the three kingdoms. Something went terribly wrong though, costing the lives of Hiiro’s parents as well as thousands of wizards and soldiers. Hiiro survived and has spent the last ten years training to be a swordsman capable of avenging his parents and slaying the dragon. Now the evil dragon has finally returned. There’s only one problem, Hiiro kind of sucks as a swordsman.

I like Cerberus, I don’t think it’s a particularly good anime, but I like it. The story is kind of generic and I keep getting Dragonheart flashbacks thanks to the connection between Hiiro and the dragon (is it wrong that I keep imagining it speaking in Sean Connery’s voice?), but it does enough stuff in its own way that I’m happy to sit and watch where it all goes. Now in your average anime Hiiro would come across as a bumbling goofball until the moment arrives when he gets to show off his badass side, here in Cerberus though we keep getting to the part where Hiiro should be badass and ends up just falling flat on his face (the dude can’t even kill baby slimes for crying out loud!), throw in a love interest who’s clearly in her own private little world and an interesting villain who plans to use the fear generated by the dragon to make a killing selling his weapons (Wait, a villain with a clear and logical plan, what fresh spore of madness is this!).

Joker Game

With World War 2 looming on the horizon Lt. Col. Yuuki sets up a spy training organisation known as “D Agency”, the graduates, having passed superhuman tests and been trained in a variety of essential skills, make perfect spies. Whether it be infiltrating foreign countries or catching enemy spies at home the stakes are always high, but that’s ok, it’s not a proper game without some risk.

A historical drama mixed with a spy thriller, I really do love the variety anime gives us. I’m so really interested in how this anime it going to tackle this time period, I don’t watch a lot of stuff set in this era but the most prominent viewpoint is that of the British and Americans, it’ll be interesting to see the Japanese perspective. Add into that some well thought out mysteries and lots of little spy tricks like dust explosions and covering one eye to get used to the dark, and you get a realistic yet intriguing series. This is one I’d definitely recommend so far.

Twin Star Exorcists

Rokuro Enmado once dreamed of becoming the world’s greatest exorcist and vanquishing all of the Kegare, evil spirits that haunt a parallel world, but after a tragic event Rokuro no longer wants to be an exorcist. Enter Benio Adashino. She’s one of the strongest exorcists around and thinks a lot like Rokuro used to. Can she help Rokuro to return to his dream and become an exorcist once more, more importantly can the two of them actually get along? That last part is actually pretty important as an oracle declares that the two of them are the ‘Twin Star Exorcists’ who are destined to marry and give birth to the one who will destroy the Kegare forever.

I’m kind of on the fence about this anime, mostly because I can see it going one of two ways. It has the potential to either be an amazing action series with some great character development, or it could be a generic action series that gives up on interesting characters in favour of explosions and one annoying as hell mascot character. It could go either way at the minute. I do like our main characters. I like that Benio is a badass in her own right and clearly has a back story all her own, she’s not there to be just a love interest or to be saved. Rokuro is pretty intriguing too, I want to know more about the event that turned him away from exorcism and to see him reclaim his dream.  I’ve heard the manga’s pretty good so I’ll stick with this for a while, that mascot character is pretty annoying though.

Bungo Stray Dogs

Nakajima Atsushi has never believed in himself, kicked out of his orphanage and on the verge of starving to death his life looks set to change when he meets a man trying to drown himself. The man, Dazai, is one of the few gifted with a special ability. He works for the Armed Detective Agency, private investigators who handle crimes the police can’t, usually involving other gifted individuals. Unbeknownst to Atsushi he is also gifted, and dark forces have their eyes set on him.

There’s some tough competition this season but I think Bungo Stray Dogs is set to be my favourite new show of the season. The whole bunch of oddballs forming a team to tackle super powered crimes is nothing new, but so far this series has found just the right balance between wacky antics and cool battles. I like the characters, the powers are pretty interesting and things are going to get very dark very quickly if episode 3 is anything to go by.

Kiznaiver

How do you put a stop to war, to prejudice and hatred? Can you even put a stop to conflict or is it just too ingrained in us? Perhaps if we could all just understand one another, share our pain and feel what it is to be in someone else’s position. Well a bunch of crazy people have decided to put this theory to the test by kidnapping six teenagers and performing surgery on them without prior consent. Now the kids literally feel one another’s pain, when one is hurt, all of them are hurt. But can this lead to a genuine connection?

Another show from studio Trigger and this is a weird one. The concept alone is really a interesting one and I look to forward to seeing were they’re going to take this, then you add in some colourful animation, interesting character designs and some typical Trigger nuttiness and you have a show that has my attention. I like the characters too. They’re supposed to be stereotypes, but there’s clearly more to them than first meets the eye, also I really like the concept of a new version of the seven deadly sins. Much like the show they’re fun and interesting and I can’t wait to see where the story takes them.

Flying Witch

Makoto is a trainee witch whose only real magical talent is to fly on a broom. As a part of her training she moves out to the countryside to live with her cousins. There Makoto practices her magic and learns about her surroundings, enjoying the quiet country days. Of course that’s when a weirdo isn’t stopping by to visit.

Tranquil is properly the word for this anime. It’s not big or flashy, there’s not much in the way of drama or character development, but then I don’t think that’s the point of this anime. So far it’s just a series of skits stitched together to show how Makoto is getting on and what she’s learnt today. It’s a very quiet and reserved show, and after all the action or infuriation brought about in other shows this series this is a nice little breather. I can’t see anything majorly exciting happening here, but if you’re in the mood for something with a slower pace and a pleasant atmosphere give it a shot.

Whew. Sorry this post has gone on a bit. See you in a week for your average long-winded review.

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

One comment

  1. Karandi · May 6, 2016

    Thanks for your thoughts on these shows. It is great reading so many different perspectives about these.

    Like

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