Fall 2015 Anime: First Impressions

We’re only two or three episodes into the new anime seasons, but it’s already proven to be an interesting, and vastly disappointing, crop. I’m saddened to think about all the time and effort that went into most of this season’s titles. A number of them didn’t make it past my one-episode rule, and about half of those which did make it, lost my interest by the end of their second episode. Most unfortunate.

As for which is which…

gakusen-toshi-asteriskv1Asterisk War

&

Chivalry of a Failed Knight

These two titles are so similar to each other that they are virtually identical.

Both feature teens going to special high schools that train users of some kind of techno-mystic martial art superpowers combining futuristic technology and magic, including their swords. Both are set in cities with several such schools, which compete against each other in combative contests. Both star young men who are outcasts for whatever absurd reason, trying to overcome their status and rise to the top. Both feature coincidental meetings with pink or red-haired princesses who use fire magic, are trying to be more than their royal upbringing has made them, and who are obviously attracted to the protagonist after an initial conflict sparked by him accidentally seeing her in her underwear. Both feature several girls who are interested in the boy, harem style. And both of them have some sort of conspiracy lurking in the background.

Enough similarities for you? Seriously, I keep forgetting which of these is which.

There is precisely one reason why I am continuing to watch Asterisk War and dropping Chivalry of a Failed Knight.

rakudai-kishi-no-cavalryI was watching the latter anime’s second episode, and my reaction pretty much went like this:

“Ah, this looks like it’ll be a mildly amuuuuWHAT THE FREAKING CRAP?!

Apparently, the main protagonist was an outcast in his own family because he didn’t naturally possess godlike power (yeah… that’s not a sane family, that). His little sister, and this is his biological little sister, mind you, loves him. So much that she decided she’ll show him every kind of love. So when they meet for the first time after months or years apart, she pushes him up against a wall and kisses him, full on the mouth, for several seconds.

Cue my wig-out.

Very shortly afterward – and, note, the big brother did not resist or protest his little sister kissing him at all – the princess who has the hots for him sneaks into the bath with him, and “washes his back” with her bare breasts. Which we see. In detail.

That’s two taboos in one episode. The second episode. I know anime tend to have these risque moments and don’t bother justifying them, but there are limits! Incest kiss? Bare breasts? What the hell are they thinking?!

No, no, no, no, NO.

Asterisk War, at least, has not been that brazen. In fact, outside that first meeting between the princess and the protagonist – which, itself, was more modestly done than the similar meeting in Chivalry – they seem to be behaving for the most part. Unlike Chivalry undressing their princess three episodes in a row.

So, Asterisk is still in, but pushing the cheesy envelope, and Chivalry is out!

Now excuse me, I must go and flood my brain with bleach.

sakurako-san-no-ashimoto-ni-wa-shitai-ga-umatteiruBeautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation

Intriguing, entertaining, and in.

For those who don’t know what an otaku is, it’s the Japanese version of a fanboy or fangirl, but typically with their interests taken to obsessive heights. They can be obsessed with any number of things, including the usual entertainment of comics and movies and games and such, but also things like weapons, history, food, architecture… pretty much anything.

The titular lady, Sakurako, is a bone otaku. She is obsessed with bones. As in skeletons.

That may strike most people as a bit strange and morbid, but for someone who’s watched CSI, NCIS, and, especially, Bones… eh, not so much.

Sakurako was raised by a fairly well-renowned forensic scientist, and she learned all the tricks of the trade. She may be a bit obsessed, but in a good, productive way. She can tell you a great deal about a person or an animal based on their bones. Even better, she can look at something living and breathing and tell you about their bones, such as if they were recently broken. In short, she’s a born and bred investigator.

She has a young friend, Tatewaki, who apparently reminds her of another friend she once had and lost, and he’s sort of her assistant. The two of them tend to stumble across cases, both with very old remains and very new ones, and they help the police solve them.

I was intrigued by the first episode of this anime, but, unlike several other titles on this list, it was the second episode that really hooked me. Tatewaki finds a child, a little girl, wandering around at night and takes her to the police, and the case evolves from trying to identify and return her to her mother, to trying to solve her mother’s murder, to trying to save the woman’s near-dead baby while the drugged-up murderer returns for the little girls. It was all very gripping, very tense, and in a real-world sort of way.

Oh, yeah. I am following this one.

dance-with-devilsDance With Devils

Dropped.

Episode one was intriguing, sort of, but also annoying. Episode two convinced me to drop it.

I’m not sure what was worse, the random musical numbers that contribute nothing and slow everything down to a plodding trudge, or the obvious attempt to make devil worshiping sexy. I know that teens are obsessed with what is forbidden and dark and dangerous and evil – there are a number or reasons for that which I will not get into right now – but there comes a point where we have gone beyond the borders of reason and rationality. I see no reason to try and make absolute evil “exotic” as well.

And speaking of what they try to make sexy, these handsome boys are apparently all of a mind where girls are to be manipulated, used, and discarded. Just playthings, really. So the boys are all abusers.

Sorry, no.

Just… no.

Even the pussified vampires of Twilight renown are more tolerable than this, and I never thought I’d hear myself saying that!

k-return-of-kingsv1K: Return of Kings

This is the second season of an anime simply titled K. I enjoyed the first season, and then there was a movie, and now a second season, all taking place on a single, coherent timeline.

I am really glad they continued this anime! 🙂 While the first season’s conclusion was very well done, I always felt that there should have been more. They obviously had more material they could work with, so it was a bit disappointing for the tale to end without exploring those avenues.

Between the movie and this new season, I am glad they are! 🙂

Basic premise: several decades ago (this is in a modern setting with a few futuristic elements), some people found these things they call the Dresden Slates, and something happened to give seven people strong psychic powers, and each of them has shared that power with others to form a court or “clan” of sorts for their “king.” The plot follows the interplay between these powerful figures and their friends.

Watching this anime can sometimes be a bit like swimming in the deep end of the pool, but I’ve generally found it to be exciting, hilarious, even heart-warming. The only real complaint I have so far is purely aesthetic, when the animation style suddenly shifts to something more CGI for some reason. Just pick a style and stick with it, eh? 😉

lance-n-masquesLance N Masques

This one actually did not intrigue me with its first episode. I was always fully intending to drop it. …just as soon as I saw saw what happened with such-and-such specific plot.

Really, this just doesn’t seem to be a very well-conceived show. We have some kind of order of modern-day knights, complete with huge, long, heavy lances, which they wield either on horseback or just on foot like a very long club. They supposedly stand for virtues like honor and chivalry, yet they hire out like mercenaries. The main character was trained to be a knight, but he ran away or something? He wears a mask and cape when he fights, and when he rescues a girl, any girl, he gives this long, overly-eloquent speech by reflex, and it tends to convince these girls he just met that he’s a creep of some sort.

ADD moment: the first time I saw that, I imagined one of my characters from the stories I write just whacking him over the head and telling him to not be so formal.

This modern-day knight saves a little girl – “little” is in, like, six years old – from a fall, and gives this speech, and she becomes enraptured with this masked hero. Who, the moment he disappears, takes off his mask, and she does not recognize him (she’s the only one to not recognize him). She brings this complete stranger to the mansion she lives in, alone except for the maids who all love her, but her wealthy father commanded them to keep a distance between them and her. The man is clearly stupidly obsessed with status. And then the knight’s old friends find him, and we have an imposing “maid” figure, a chatty bimbo, and… a horse… which can sometimes talk and is sometimes looking like a human when arguing with the bimbo… what? Anyway, they find him, they all stay at the mansion with the little girl, who, when her father wants to take her away to America and isolate her again, they “rescue” her, and she becomes the knight’s princess. And it’s all very strange and campy and over-dramatic.

So, now that the little curiosities I had have been satisfied, I’m dropping this one.

mobile-suit-gundam-iron-blooded-orphansMobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans

This latest addition to the Gundam franchise may turn out to be its grittiest.

The title, Iron-Blooded Orphans, seems to refer to these young boys who have survived on the Martian streets, and were only taken in by people who could use them as labor, as experiments, and as meat shields. There is a strong bond among the boys, of course, as their crappy situation takes a turn for the violent, and they face the danger together.

As it turns out, there’s some complicated interstellar politics at work, and when the Martian princess chooses the same military division these boys belong to as her guards on a trip to Earth and back, some faction decides to assassinate her, and kill all the witnesses. This does not go as planned, of course, as these boys are resourceful, scrappy, and a bit lucky.

Interestingly, the princess chose them as her guards because she wanted to see and learn about real people going through real suffering. Well… she’s certainly getting what she asked for.

I am definitely following this one. I haven’t put my finger on just what it is about this show I like so much, but I am very much enjoying it, and praying all our favorite characters don’t up and die within the next episode! 🙂

noragami-aragotoNoragami Aragoto

This is another “second season” show.

In complete honesty, I didn’t really enjoy Noragami that much. It wasn’t that bad, mind you, but not that great. The supernatural aspect seemed a bit vague in a terrifying way, the drama was overdone, the main human character served pretty much no purpose whatsoever… and so on and so forth. I got to the season’s climax and found myself thinking, “I’m not really invested in these characters, am I?”

Still, it had its amusing moments.

Season two seems like it will have something a bit more substantial to it, partially by making some of these supernatural characters a bit easier to “connect” with.

I won’t follow this second season every week, but I may binge-watch it sometime.

one-punch-man2One Punch Man

This is a satirical superhero show. Superhero geeks like me will probably appreciate this more than anyone else.

For one thing, it totally makes fun of all the drama found in heroes and villains alike! 🙂

The main character, Saitama, is super strong. In fact, he’s so strong that he absolutely destroys his opponents with only one punch (thus the title). He finds this… boring. Having overwhelming strength is, in fact, not very exciting. And therein lay the opportunity for great amounts of humor. Just take all the drama, break it all with just one punch. That’s it.

Mind you, and this is a fair warning, there is a certain morbidity to the humor. Things which are, you know, terrible, but you just can’t help laughing at, ya know?

Another fair warning, it can be a bit graphic. In the sense of, “This is what’s left when an unstoppable force meets what is not an immovable object.” It’s pretty bloody, really, so not for children. While I can handle the blood spatter just fine, it was easily one of he most disconcerting things I have ever seen, when the hero pulls out a crab-man’s eye stalk and the rest of his innards come with it. Yeah, just a touch disconcerting, that!

So, you are forewarned! This is a hilarious show, but also morbidly so and sometimes quite graphic!

I am following this one! 🙂

utawarerumono-itsuwari-no-kamenUtawarerumono Itsuwari no Kamen

I only watched the first episode or two of the original Utawarerumono (seriously, long enough name?), but it kinda lost me pretty quickly. My opinion of it was not helped by how I came across Guin Saga at almost exactly the same time. Both feature strange, amnesiac men with feline masks stuck to their faces being found in the middle of nowhere and quickly rising to prominence by the use of their intelligence. Still, I was intrigued by the trailer for this sequel.

FYI: the original title translates to, “The One Being Sung,” and the sequel adds, “The False Faces” to that, so: The One Being Sung: The False Faces.

False Faces features another amnesiac man being found in the middle of nowhere, but without a mask this time. He seems to be fairly intelligent, with a fondness for putting as little effort into things as possible. The girl who finds him has a good work ethic, and keeps him in line and on task, but she also has something of a naughty side to her. I was hooked within the first episode just by watching these two interact. No need for some grand, epic danger to thrust the stranger into the town spotlight. In fact, I rather appreciate how they had his first notable act be fixing a water-wheel mill. He’s not too good for much physical labor, but he’s got a good head on his shoulders, and the town folk are grateful.

Thus far, I am just enjoying this show for the characters and how they handle the various difficulties which come their way.

Yeah, I like this one! 🙂

A few one-sentence honorable mentions, for the better anime which had potential, but failed to clear my one-episode rule:

Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon
They have a bunch of tropes, but it’s far to campy, cheesy, over-dramatic, and the characters are mind-numbingly stupid. No thank you!

Aria the Scarlet Ammo: Double A
Anyone who is familiar with Soul Eater and Soul Eater NOT… that’s what Double A is to the original Aria the Scarlet Ammo, only I like Soul Eater much better than Aria, so this down-grade is even worse.

Attack on Titan: Junior High
So, they take one of the best, most epic, most thrilling and intense anime I have ever seen, and create an elaborate spoof out of it, with massive setups for awful punchlines. No thanks!

Comet Lucifer
Another one that has lots of tropes, but does them terribly, including several fateful meetings in rapid succession, and more than one instance of unexplained, “How are they even still alive?” Too much cheesy drama. No thanks!

In Summary:
Asterisk War is debatable, but I lean towards following it, at least for now.
Beautiful Bones, yes.
Chivalry of a Failed Knight, NO.
Dance With Devils, NO.
K: Return of Kings, yes.
Lance N Masques, no.
Iron-Blooded Orphans, yes.
Noragami Aragoto, yes and no. I’ll binge it sometime.
One Punch Man
, yes.
Utawarerumono Itsuwari no Kamen, yes.

So that’s five, maybe six new shows that I will follow. I think that might be a record low. Not a stellar crop this season, eh?

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