Anime Taste Testing: Spring 2018 (Part II)

hisone to masotan header
As I noted last week, my usual first impressions post covering the premiere episodes of the new anime season was split into two this season, as I ended up checking out around 20 titles – double my usual number. This second post covers all titles released from April 8th onwards, while everything released before that can be found here.

Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online
Score: 6/10

sword art online gun gale
Well that was… surprisingly okay. Possibly also boring as hell if you have zero interest in either guns or online/immersive combat competitions, as the series looks to be interested in showing plenty of detail there, but as far as the writing is concerned, it was actually relatively decent. Granted, the dialogue was a little awkward at times and I have no idea what I think of the characters themselves yet – we were thrown straight in on the action and stayed there for the entire episode bar a few seconds at the end – but the latter isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as there was nothing overly complex or difficult to follow in terms of plot. Those completely put off from Sword Art Online the first time around may still want to check this one out, as a) the series is obviously still technically competent and b) we have an entirely new cast, so I’m not expecting even a token mention of Our Lord and Savior Kirito.

Nil Admirari no Tenbin: Teito Genwaku Kitan/Libra of Nil Admirari
Score: 4/10 (Dropped)

nil admirari no tenbin

It’s all too easy to tell that this is based on an otome game. Which wouldn’t be so bad if only the show weren’t so laughably dramatic at all times, because I’m not inherently against a healthy dose of manservice (no matter how unsubtle) just to help balance the anime industry out a bit. That said, this isn’t enough to keep me invested in a series if the story is all over the place, if the characters are one-note, or if the visual presentation is completely left by the wayside. All are true for Nil Admirari to a greater or lesser extent, but the color palette and animation look especially cheap, and the melodrama is taken to such heights that many scenes came across as almost parody-like despite how serious the anime seems to want to be. This makes the OP even more baffling in comparison, but hey, I’m sure at least some fangirls out there are celebrating, and I won’t begrudge them that.

Caligula
Score: 5/10 (Dropped)

caligula

I’m pretty evenly split on how I feel about this one. I’ll start off with the good: visually, Caligula is one of the more creative and better-looking shows to have aired so far this season. Better yet, it presents a story that I think has some real potential, assuming it doesn’t throw all its psychologically-themed build-up to the winds by abandoning it for a long-winded, shounen-esque battle affair. Unfortunately, the story also comes across as incredibly fragmented – while I suspect it was intended as unsettling and mysterious, I only came away from the premiere feeling impatient and confused, and completely unsure whether I even wanted to bother watching another episode. That’s basically where I’m at still, and I really wish my first impressions hadn’t been considerably weakened by the last couple of minutes in particular. It was like two different shows had been haphazardly stitched together, neither of which complemented the other. Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m just not sold on this one.

Piano no Mori/Piano Forest
Score: 6/10

piano no mori

Piano no Mori was one of the titles I was looking forward to the most this season, so I wish I had enjoyed the premiere more. Not that I disliked it – the discrepancy between our two main characters, particularly their respective family situations, touches on some surprisingly mature subject matter and makes for a kind of dynamic we don’t see all that often in anime. Moreover, the creators obviously put some serious consideration into the music itself – clearly one of the show’s most important components. That said, I’m not overly fond of the character designs, which are lacking in detail and look a bit silly even when depicted as adults rather than elementary school children. Meanwhile, the CG whenever anyone actually plays the piano is outright terrible. There’s also a certain disconnect between the genuinely serious and quieter moments of the show, and those that seem almost laughably overdone as far as the drama is concerned. It’s like nearly all the cool things about Piano no Mori are cancelled out by the bad or the lackluster. I’ll be keeping it on for the time being, but am hoping it has something a bit more impressive up its sleeve within the next couple of episodes.

Golden Kamuy
Score: 7/10

golden kamuy

I actually thought this was a pretty good first episode – probably among the best of all the premieres so far at that. I was immediately attracted to the setting, which is undoubtedly unique as far as anime is concerned, and immediately attracted to Sugimoto as a character – the whole rough exterior/heart of gold (pun intended), while not particularly unique, is portrayed in a way that’s interesting and entertaining enough that I didn’t even roll my eyes or smirk too loudly when the dude punches a bear (resulting in one of the most old-school, ‘hardcore shounen’-esque screencaps I’ve seen in a long while). And for what it’s worth, while everyone only seems to want to talk about that damn bear, I personally didn’t think the CG was all that egregious – in fact, the CG in Piano no Mori bothered me far more. I’d much rather talk about how the indigenous Ainu are finally getting some attention in anime, or how completely badass a character Asirpa is. I’ll happily look past a one-time, badly-animated bear for a great story with a solid cast, and I’d hope most other anime fans would too.

Fumikiri Jikan
Score: 7/10

fumikiri jikan

This was a surprising amount of fun, especially since each episode is only about three minutes long. I have no idea whether the rest of the series will be as entertaining (and weirdly cute, given the cliché character archetypes), but I really dig that this is a potential lesbian relationship that’s approached with both humour and a sweet kind of earnestness. If this friendship actually does eventually grow into something more, I will be thrilled.

Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori
Score: 6/10 (Dropped)

rokuhoudou

Rokuhoudou, if not the most exciting or innovative out there this season, is at least the best alternative to any of the other newly released bishounen-centric titles. It looks to be completely episodic in nature, with the cast of pretty/handsome guys making up the only main and recurring characters. None of them seem to be assholes, which is a great deal more than can be said for many pretty boy group anime out there, and as such Rokuhoudou is entirely non-offensive and even rather sweet – these restaurant workers merely help to solve the emotional problems of each person who enters their establishment, largely through the power of great cooking and conscientious listening skills. If that sounds boring to you then you’ll probably want to skip this one, as there’s really nothing more to it than that. However, it could also be seen as a good show for anyone wanting to switch off their brain for a while and watch something that might just give them the warm fuzzies – combined of course with some genuinely kind and pleasantly-designed bishounen.

Butlers: Chitose Momotose Monogatari/Butlers x Battlers
Score: 4/10 (Dropped)

butlers chitose momotose

Oh joy, another anime with a ridiculously overpowered student council made of up equally ridiculously hot guys. There’s one for every taste – the exquisitely handsome and elegant lead who every girl in the school obviously swoons over, the long-haired smart/cool type, the ‘edgy’ bad boy, the really short cutesy one… you get the idea. Also, all of the student council members are assholes, and the only thing that differentiates this title from any other like it is that a) the lead ass also has some weird relationship with his missing sister, and b) the show has a bizarre combination of intensely serious moments mixed with dumb slapstick comedy. I’d recommending watching Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori if you really need your bishounen fix, because there’s little original or appealing about Butlers.

Hisone to Maso-tan/Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Maso-tan
Score: 8/10

hisone to masotan

This, right here, is set to be the best new anime of the season by a long shot – and that’s gotta be worth even more coming from someone who doesn’t typically care for military or pilot-themed shows. First off, Amakasu is the kind of female protagonist I constantly dream of for anime but only ends up coming along once a decade or so – her ‘personality quirk’ just equals plain common sense for me, not to mention being a great source of genuinely funny comedy (again, a huge rarity in anime – someone who always says exactly what’s on her mind and is a nice person? The horror). The rest of the cast likewise brings a ton of energy to the show, and the little nods to Evangelion, rather than making me roll my eyes, had me smiling fondly. Because derivative this series most definitely isn’t; in fact, it’s one of the most sparkling, creative, enjoyable titles I’ve seen in a long time. It’s also visually gorgeous, with a very distinctive art style that might take a little getting used to, but which is obviously extremely lovingly drawn and animated. If you had to pick only one title to watch this spring, Hisone to Maso-tan should be it.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii/WotaKoi: Love is Hard for Otaku
Score: 6/10

wotakoi

Despite the weird and completely unnecessary fixation this show seems to have on a certain body part (sigh… are we really still not over characters commentating on other cast members’ breast sizes?), this was a fairly enjoyable episode. I’m not quite sure what I think of our main character, who seems strangely judgmental given her own self-proclaimed otaku status, but I do like what I’ve seen so far from Hirotaka, who helps make up for Narumi’s personality problems, and I think the other two could bring some potentially fun dynamics to the table. Wotaku also just seems like a fun, easygoing title in general, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a (decent) anime about working adults rather than teenagers going on this season. Definitely at least worth a look.

Dorei-ku The Animation
Score: 5/10 (Dropped)

doreiku

Dorei-ku is a classic example of a potentially great idea that’s completely wasted on sex. Sure, this makes up a good portion of the human condition and all, but there are so many more, far cleverer or original ways to play a story about a piece of technology which essentially creates master/slave contracts than to have everything be about that. From the first scene to the last though, sex is almost literally all we get: a woman is raped and then gets revenge by seducing her rapist into playing pachinko (instead of calling the cops); two people meet up and for some idiotic and poorly-explained reason, strike a deal to become ‘comrades’ (only one of them – I’ll give you one guess which, the guy or the girl – will apparently sorely regret it); and some other woman is I guess into hardcore bondage, because Reasons (which I’m sure we’ll find out about next episode, oh joy). I have the distinct feeling that every woman in this show will, at some point down the line, be turned into a sexual object by the series creators, who seem to be trying way too hard to be dark and ‘edgy’ in terms of both plot and nitty-gritty visuals. It’s trash, and not even entertaining trash at that.

Question of the post: What new season anime have struck your interest this second week, and what titles have let you down?

Note: No, I haven’t checked out the Full Metal Panic or Steins;Gate sequels. No, I’m not going to.

10 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Spring 2018 (Part II)

  1. Apparently Golden Kamuy’s director claimed the CG bear was his attempt to artistically make the bear “emanate a difference presence (and atmosphere) from the humans.”

    Considering the (generally expected) internet backlash against the CG, I’m surprised the director thought this was the best time to experiment with such a new CG animation technique. I mean, experimentation was what caused Hand Shakers’…very unique style to come out in the 1st place.

    Will you be looking at Persona 5’s anime? I recall the source game’s story was (re)designed as a semi-reflective piece on Japanese domestic/social issues in light of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.

    PPS. How much of an impact did Tohoku generally have on the Japanese national conscience; since even creative minds like Shinkai Makoto claimed Tohoku inspired the themes of Your Name?

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    • I’m honestly not fussed about the bear, and I’m surprised it caused as much of a stir as it did. It’s not like the bear is gonna be a recurring character, and overall it really didn’t sway my opinion of the premiere one way or the other.

      No, Persona 5 really isn’t my thing. As far as your question goes, you’ll have to keep in mind that I didn’t move to Japan until 2012, and that I’ve never lived or even yet visited the Tohoku region. However, I’m quite sure the earthquake and subsequent tsunami had an enormous impact on the Japanese national conscience. It impacted so many people in one way or another and also I think brought the country together in both grief and recovery – not to mention sparked some pretty fierce (and still ongoing) debate about nuclear power.

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  2. Dorei-ku, actually is a decent premise. The bondage girl, trust me, didn’t start out like that. And that ‘partnership’ isn’t what it seems to be. That’s just ’cause I watched the live-action and read the first few chapters of the manga. It is sex-centric for sure, but there’s more in there the first episode was just bleh.

    I was really looking forward to Piano no Mori… but I couldn’t handle the weird CGI/2-D animation mix. It’s too jarring to me. Maybe after it finishes airing I’ll give it another shot.

    Fumikiri Jikan I feel like is going to be the hidden gem of the season, so long as it keeps doing what it’s done so far.

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    • Yes, as I already noted, the premise itself I think has a lot of promise. The execution of said premise, however, was outright terrible, resulting in one of the trashiest premieres episodes I’ve ever seen.

      I hope more people pick up Fumikiri Jikan. It does indeed seem like something of a hidden gem at the moment.

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      • I literally smashed my head into my keyboard after re-reading because my critcial reading skills are not what they use to be. Sorry for being repetitive. If I might dare to ask, what IS the trashiest premiere episodes? Is there anything worse then this one? lol

        Same here, I’ve been boosting it to people I know that like short, but sweet series.

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        • No problem, I do the same myself sometimes!

          I think Dorei-ku is probably the single trashiest episode of the spring season, but it’s not actually the worst premiere even so. That honour has to go to Mahou Shoujo Site, which rather than being trashy was just repugnant in every way imaginable. It was basically torture porn, and given that the main character is a 14-year old middle school girl, it’s almost fetishistic in the way her abuse (again, of every kind imaginable) is depicted. I don’t suggest you watch it, and I made it only halfway through the episode before giving up in utter disgust.

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  3. @SAO Alternative: I put that on auto-ignore. This may sound strange, but it’s never been saviour Kirito that turned me off the original. It was mostly the writing: just interesting enough that I could never forget the potential, but comparing what’s actually there to the potential… hurts. I had this constant feeling of irrititation while watching. I found Accell World (same source-author) a tad better, so who knows… it depends how much I’m in need of a show to unwind on that day I suppose, whether I come back or not. Is it a weekend show? If so, chances are slim.

    @Libra: I’m torn between being bored and somewhat attracted to this show. It’s nothing special, but… books! (That’s perhaps not what people think of when they say “fanservice”, but I get a minor kick everytime they walk into a bookshop or library.)

    @Caligula: I clicked play and dropped it almost immediately. The art was just that unattractive for me. Didn’t give it a fair chance, and nobody so far has said anything to give me a reason to.

    @Piano Forest: I agree pretty much with everything you said here. I agree that the CGI looks terrible, but… it’s complicated (more when I get to Golden Kamuy). Have you seen the film? I’ve got it on DVD, and it’s good fun but nothing exceptional. I think I like this take better on the concept level; the film feels a bit more childish. But if you take execution in mind… the jury’s off. The film never shows the characters grown up; I think they might have made it a children’s film vs. a seinen show? (I’m bad at figuring out target audience.)

    @Golden Kamuy: I’m not sure why, but I don’t like Sugimoto. I don’t hate him either, and I can’t really say what about him I don’t like. Asirpa is great, and I’m really interested in the Ainu angle (but that makes me think I should seek out documentaries and self-presentation on the web just so I can tell how well it’s done). I didn’t much mind the bear, but I have a problem with the camera in this show. Sometimes, the camera rotates to give a 3-D effect in a way that triggers my motion sickness. I’m both grateful and disappointed that they made the skinning scenes look… easy. I’m getting to like this show a little more with episode 2, but at the same time I’m beginning to realise that it’s never going to be more than a middle-of-the-road show for me. (I’m not sure if this makes sense to anyone, but I have a feeling similar to Jojo here: I’m maybe able to enjoy parts, but it’s not for me.) Motionsickness is by far the biggest danger to the show for me, though. (CGI often encourages that handling of the camera, even if it’s not a CGI problem per se.)

    @Rakuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori: Surprisingly, this is one of my favourite premiers this season. It’s extremely good at presenting a relaxed atmosphere (and they have my favourite cat this season). I watch anime primarily to relax before/after work, and this one works like a charm.

    @Fumikiri Jikan: I’m not sure yet we’re getting recurring characters at all. It might end up being different people/same crossing. I liked the first episode.

    @Butlers: Didn’t watch it, and what you say doesn’t make it more appealing.

    @Hisone to Masotan: Instant favourite. If you’re averse to illegal viewing and not in Japan, you’re out of luck though: Netflix detention. I love the character designs: simple but expressive. I love the cinematography. It’s a gorgeous, gorgeous show. And, yes, great main character.

    @Wotakoi: People are talking about the boob-jokes, but I’ve completely forgotten about them. It’s a decent premier, but I’m an a-romantic, and I’m heartily tired of “we’re just friends” leading into romance. Every. Single. Time. It’s not really something I hold against the show – it’s fine. That’s the problem with a trend – you can’t single out a show for being the problem. On their own, most of them are fine, but the aggregate is annoying. Experience tells me I’ll get over it.

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    • If you weren’t a fan of the overall writing in the original SAO, you’d be fine skipping Gun Gale Online as well. I think it’s decent, but not great by any stretch of the imagination.

      I completely understand about Rokuhoudou. If I had less to watch this season, it would certainly have made my weekly viewing list. As I’m extremely pressed for time though, I have to be pretty ruthless with what anime I pass by, even more so than usual. I’m literally stretched as far as I can go right now.

      I’m lucky in that I do live in Japan and so can watch Hisone to Msao-tan legally. It’s a huge shame that it’s otherwise confined to the Netflix doghouse in terms of legal options though, and I personally wouldn’t blame anyone for seeking out alternative ways to view this one. It’s an absolute delight.

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  4. Pingback: Anime Blog Posts That Caught My Eye This Week: April 27, 2018 | Lesley's Anime and Manga Corner

  5. Pingback: Anime Taste Testing: Spring 2018 (Part III) | OTAKU LOUNGE

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