Anime of Winter 2016: First Impressions

So! Latest crop of anime! We have a few titles returning for their new season, as usual, and a bunch of brand new ones, also as usual. I think this might be a record number that made it past my one-episode rule. So what did I think of those successes?

Well…

active_raid_-_kidou_kyoushuushitsu_dai_hakkeiActive Raid

Full name: Active Raid: Public Mobile Assault Unit Eight.

Technically, I suppose this is a kind of mech anime, with a pretty unique spin on such. The “mechs” are just personal suits, not that much bigger than the human wearing them. Putting them on involves wearing very little, stepping into some chamber, having them sort of just appear on top of whatever you’re wearing. Then you have some increased capabilities, but apparently that only lasts until your battery runs out. Then you freeze up, and the whole thing disintegrates around you, wherever you are, leaving you potentially very exposed.

Kinda seems like a pile of crap, if you ask me, more trouble than it’s worth. But, still, any edge in battle, so the crazy criminals love them, and are apparently being given them by some crazy mastermind who has wealth and connections for whatever reason. Yeah, the plot seems kinda rough and plain so far.

But, one thing do enjoy is the main character. Or, rather, her introduction the real world where things do not magically go the way she wants them just because she follows the rules with mad zealotry spouting the word “justice” all the time. Honestly, it’s more entertaining to watch these people she works with navigate their way through an unending labyrinth of rules and regulations, only to be blamed for everything that goes wrong because their hands were tied, than it is to watch the actual fights. For me, that says something.

ansatsu_kyoushitsu_tv_2nd_seasonAssassination Classroom Season 2

The return of one of my favorite anime! 😀

I haven’t been commenting long enough to give Assassination Classroom any attention of my blog, but it most surely deserves it!

When I read the original synopsis, I was pretty hesitant about this anime. Something about an octopus-like alien thing threatening to blow up the Earth by a certain date unless he’s killed, but he wants to teach a high school class first, so the students are recruited to kill him? I didn’t know what to make of that! But, one-episode rule…

…and I found myself laughing my head off!

It’s one of those times where they take something ordinary (school life) and smash it together with something unusual (assassination) and the result is priceless! This particular recipe has hilarity, drama, action, suspense, journeys of self-discovery and development, social commentary, and more! I love it! This one, I am definitely going to try and own!

dimension_wDimension W

Some sort of inter-dimensional power source, typically called a “coil,” has become abundant throughout the developed world, providing the human race with an inexhaustible source of energy. But, of course, there’s something else going on, something dark and sinister and hidden. So it’s another tale set in a utopia that is actually a dystopia. Fairly common.

Also common twists on tropes: the tough-guy main character that does some shady business, albeit in roundabout service to the law, meets an artificial girl, in this case, a robot, that has skills of her own and is somehow central to the overarching plot and conflict.

So it’s not like it’s absolutely original. But, thus far, I find Dimension W has some charm to it. I can’t hazard a guess about how it will be in the end, but for now, I am enjoying this tale. I think what sold me at first was when the robot girl slapped the guy for seeming to abandon her to the whims of a murderous psychopath, and after he’d just taken down an entire gang single-handed, her slap nearly broke his neck and knocked him unconscious. On a more subtle level, it looks like she’s going to be good for him, help him get over some prejudices and old grudges against modern technology. (I believe he lost someone he cared for very much to the “safe” technology that dominates society)

divine_gateDivine Gate

There is such a thing as too much poetry, too much drama, too much setting of the mood.

So, there’s something that gives certain people elemental super powers, yet most of the world is skeptical of the existence of this much-rumored “Divine Gate.” A bunch of super-powered high school students use their abilities to protect people in unusual situations, which are the result of the powers moving behind the scenes. Each of them has something going on, some issue that weighs heavy on their soul, which is the subject of much voice-over poetry. And both before, during, and after the crises, the drama is dragged out.

So, there’s several points where it could improve. I think this one is going squarely under the “to be binge-watched at a later date” category.

boku_dake_ga_inai_machiErased

Full title: Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, which translates to “The Town Without Me.” I prefer “Erased.”

At first glance, a perfectly normal person, with a normal life, in a normal world. He hasn’t gotten at all ahead in life, being thirty and delivering pizzas. He has a mother who he doesn’t always get along with, but they’re family and they love each other. Oh, and he has the ability to be taken back in time, just a few minutes, to experience the same moments over and over until he puts right something that is going wrong, saving people’s lives in the process.

When he was very young, one of his classmates was kidnapped and found murdered. The authorities fingered a man for the deed, paying no heed to the main character’s protests that he was innocent, he being only a little boy at the time. Now a ghost suddenly comes back from the past, with deadly, devastating results. At the moment the crisis reaches its peak, he is taken back, as he has been many times… but this time all the way to his childhood, in the 80’s. There, with knowledge of the future, he is to set right what went wrong all those years ago, bringing a villain to justice, saving lives, including one most dear to him, and avoiding a terrible fate himself.

That’s all established within the first episode, so I don’t feel like I’m spoiling anything here. 😉

So far, this feels fairly original. Decades-old mysteries, a deadly threat lurking nearby (I’m fairly certain I know who it is already, but that would be spoilers), a child with the life experiences of a man, a time limit to save a life in the past and thus save lives in the future, etc. There’s the drama, of course, and the man within the child remembers the good times he once had more clearly. The danger is a powerful, yet common, and it resonates deeply throughout the soul of man. We are, after all, given the biological imperative to protect our young, so seeing children in danger is something which demands our attention!

So far, this is proving an interesting, well-crafted story that I am driven to follow! 🙂

gate_jieitai_kanochi_nite_kaku_tatakaeri_2nd_seasonGate

Another returning favorite! 😀

Much of the first season was about the modern world’s first interactions with a fantasy world of magic and goblins and such, and vice versa. Now the story continues right where it left off, but with more elements coming into play.

For one thing, this medieval empire has stepped on so many lives that it’s only natural for there to be a movement at work to destroy the whole thing, every last trace of it. We’ve been introduced to them now, and, after everything they’ve been through, their malice seems to be justifiable, but it’s still nothing short of insane.

Madness itself seems to be something the heroes are struggling against, though most of them don’t realize it. Those who do are currently proving themselves willing to go above and beyond to keep it at bay, to protect their friends.

Basically: I love this anime! 🙂

hai_to_gensou_no_grimgarGrimgar of Fantasy and Ash

I think the plot of this one will turn out to be, “A bunch of teens were playing a fantasy game when either they or copies or them were taken and put into a realistic version of the game.”

That realism, by the way, is the sort that is a turn-off for me. If you want a deeper glimpse into my perspective on this, you can go read this here. Short version: I hate when people take something intended for entertaining children (in this case, the fantasy genre and fantasy games) and turn them into something graphic, bloody, and horrifying (like having the “heroes” gang up on and brutally murder a single goblin so they can rob his body and pay their rent).

At first, I thought this was going to be a typical drama/comedy about the gang of misfits and incompetents proving their worth. Instead, we have something that strikes me as one of the more twisted titles I’ve encountered. Mind you, as I say that, I do take some care to avoid a certain flavor of anime that includes Berserk, Tokyo Ghoul, etc. This one may be a milder form of such, at least for the moment, but I am feeling a bit more wary all the same.

kono_subarashii_sekai_ni_shukufuku_woKonoSuba

Full title: Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! In English: KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World! I’ll stick with “KonoSuba,” thank you.

Take the typical everyday high school boy who pushes someone out of the way of a speeding car, dying in their place. Now make that boy a shut-in, who actually only vividly imagined the speeding car when it as, in fact, a tractor. Make that imagination so potent that he suffers a heart attack and dies from his fantasy. Not the most graceful, dignified way to go, eh?

Now take that dearly departed soul and put him in front of a goddess who outright laughs at him for the manner of his death, but is here to offer him a chance to live again in a fantasy world, with the mission of slaying that world’s demon king. He can take one thing with him, anything he likes, including a number of potential gifts and super abilities. What does he choose? The goddess who’s been laughing at him, tethering her to him to share his fate.

As you might expect, neither party is particularly happy with the other. She’s a goddess, but next to useless outside healing, and very snotty. He’s smart, and knowledgeable, and very lucky, but he’s not exactly an outstanding hero either. Add in another couple “problem child” girls, albeit such that wield formidable power, and you have a quartet of misfits.

This is the sort of recipe that turns out either great or terrible… or possibly just mildly good, apparently. I am not riveted to this one, but I may casually follow it as it goes along.

luck_logicLuck and Logic

Boring.

Over-dramatic.

Dull.

Technical.

Humorless.

Unexplained.

Annoying.

Uninteresting.

Dropped.

And that’s all I’m going to say about it.

musaigen_no_phantom_worldMyriad Colors Phantom World

This one has more high school misfits involved in strange, supernatural situations. In this case, spirits and ghosts and such exist, and when they get out of line or cause people trouble, these exorcist clubs at school send their members to deal with the situation, by sealing the spirits up… somehow. That part wasn’t really very well-explained.

Among the unusual talents thus far shown: a boy who draws things to either summon them or seal them up; a girl who invokes certain eastern-style elements, involving rubbing certain erogenous zones in provocative ways (because of course), to use the essence of them in her physical combat; a girl who can simply inhale and swallow the ghosts all at once; and a girl who sings and delivers a psychic blast of sorts via the vibrations and frequency.

It was not the characters or the plot, really, that I enjoyed in the first episode. It was the ghosts. The first episode had dancing light poles challenging humans to to the limbo. I’m not sure I’ll keep following this one, but the light-pole limbo was just fantastic. 🙂

phantasy_star_online_2_the_animationPhantasy Star Online 2

This is not a sequel. The title refers to the video game featured prominently within.

At a prestigious Japanese high school, the main character is a jack of all trades and substitutes in pretty much every club, frequently. He’s recruited as the new student council vice president, which the other council members oppose until they realize they have an inhumanly competent peer helping them out. One special task he’s given is to join and start playing this online game he’s been hearing about but has never touched before. He’s to write reports about his experience, and I’m guessing that he doesn’t know the impact these reports will have.

It’s not uncommon for people to be anti-gaming and try to pressure schools into banning games from school grounds in particular and students’ lives in general. The student council president wants to avoid that, being a closet gamer herself, I think.

At the same time, she’s interacting with her new vice-president incognito online. She may want to keep his objectivity, but I imagine she’s also somewhat interested in this very-talented individual that happens to be her age. School dramas are like that. Besides that, however, I have no idea where this is supposed to be going. I may casually follow it, or binge it sometime, but I don’t really feel any compulsion to watch it, ya know?

prince_of_stride_-_alternativePrince of Stride: Alternative

This is a most unusual anime for me to be at all interested in. I have virtually no interest whatsoever in sports of any kind (outside the martial arts), and dramatizing them just doesn’t appeal to me very much. So here we have an anime that is about a track-and-field team… or, more accurately, a team/club of foot-racers, and I didn’t think it was going to appeal to me at all. I’m not, like, addicted to this one or anything, but it’s somehow promising in ways I’m still trying to figure out.

Perhaps it’s because they aren’t dramatizing it to add some sort of unrealistic element to it to somehow make the show more appealing? Perhaps it’s because the sport is one that won’t need either montages to get through expediently, or extensions to prolong, or mapping out every detail of what should be an organic, unpredictable game? Perhaps it’s because something like running and dodging through all sorts of urban settings could actually be a useful skill in real life, yet also prove to be a fun sport, yet also be less glamorized than, say, swimming, football, or basketball? Perhaps the characters’ motivations are not over-the-top dramatic? I dunno.

What I do know is that the first episode was surprisingly thrilling for me to watch. I’m letting it build up to watch several episodes in a row, see if the thrill can last.

nijiiro_daysRainbow Days

Not my usual fare, this. I’m more “thrilling action” and “pretty explosions” than “intertwining love stories.”

Several boys, a group of friends, get into romantic entanglements with particular girls. First episode involves the classic tale of a boy meeting a girl and, teenage hormones in full production, becomes captivated by this girl he’s barely met or spoken to. It’s fairly hilarious, and rings pretty true to many a boy’s first major crush. I’m hoping he’ll learn some balance in time, but, for the first episode, it was hilarious watching the dramatic misunderstandings and the melancholy which so often beset him right after.

I highly doubt I’ll make this one any sort of priority, but it is a notable achievement for a chick-flick to not repulse me, so I’ll likely get around to it sometime. A bit of me wants to see the boy’s continued train-wreck attempts at getting to know the girl he’s crushing on, and I want to see things become fair game between him and his friends as they start dating girls too.

schwarzesmarkenSchwarzesmarken

This title takes place within the same continuity are Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse. I think it takes place some time before it, but it seems they’ll not overlap with each other either way, so I guess that relationship is virtually irrelevant.

Recap for those unfamiliar with either title: during or shortly after World War II, I believe it was, aliens invaded the planet, and their endless horde of monsters has been creeping forward ever since. Humans are fighting back with everything in their arsenal, including giant robots. A number of nations are working together, or at least not shooting at each other while sharing knowledge as needs demand.

In this part of the story, taking place in East Germany, the situation is dire, as the unending army of horrific alien monsters has reached their lands and pushed them far back towards West Germany. Yet they still cling to their hatred and prejudice against the West, just as the Communist government clings to the notion of oppressing its own people, cold and ruthless. Then a West German female soldier comes crashing onto the scene, bubbly and naïve and spouting about how East and West Germany can be friends!

…oy vey.

It made it past my one-episode rule, but we shall see if it can keep my attention when I binge it sometime.

akagami_no_shirayuki-hime_2nd_seasonSnow White with the Red Hair

And this makes “Returning favorite number three!” 😀

First season was charming, and this continues in season two!

Prince Zen and the herbalist Shirayuki are clearly an item, and clearly devoted to each other. However, they are thrown a curve ball when a neighboring prince, the same one that originally made Shirayuki’s life difficult, invites her to a ball in gratitude for straightening him out. She accepts, and the invitation is somewhat timely as a mysterious person seems to be going around the kingdom looking for her. So she’s sent away for a short time while Zen and the others try to track down this interloper who seems to want to take Shirayuki away from them.

So, some soft suspense and action, but mostly enjoyable drama.

Hopefully this time we will actually see Zen and Shirayuki dance together sometime!

In Conclusion:
Active Raid is in but not a priority.
Assassination Classroom is in, in, in, in, IN! 😀
Dimension W gets the benefit of the doubt. It’s in, though not at a high priority level.
Divine Gate feels kind of “meh” but I’ll binge it sometime later. So, not really in.
Erased is definitely in.
Gate is still absolutely in, and a high priority.
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash makes me feel nervous about watching it now. It’s dropped, at least until a more decisive verdict after an eventual binge of several episodes.
KonoSuba looks interesting, and hilarious, so it, too, is in.
Luck and Logic is dropped.
Myriad Colors Phantom World is mostly dropped, but sort of like that person who’s not actually in the pool, but has one toe in it.
Phantasy Star Online 2 is in limbo, not quite in or out.
Prince of Stride: Alternative is a rare thing: a sports-based anime I like. It’s in.
Rainbow Days is also in limbo.
Schwarzesmarken is on the far side of limbo, towards the “dropped” section.
Snow White with the Red Hair remains firmly in! 🙂

Hmmm, the three returning shows are much stronger in my book than any of the new crop. None of them are really captivating, though Erased and Prince of Stride certainly show some promise. Hmm, lots of them got past my one-episode rule, but virtually no new personal hits. Funny how that works sometimes, isn’t it?

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2 Responses to Anime of Winter 2016: First Impressions

  1. IAmDonovan says:

    Hey, you can delete this comment, but I just wanted to tell you that I read that book you recommended, Batman No Man’s Land, and I loved it! I wrote about it and another DC book here https://coolbeans4.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/two-dc-novel-book-reviews/ 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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