A thoughtful response to current anime.

Fall Anime Season 2013 – The Fall of Anime

This isn’t much of a preview, since the season actually started a few days ago, but I was writing this up before I got distracted by videogames (EU4 is addictive) and schoolwork (if anyone asks I was doing schoolwork not playing twice as many videogames). So I figured, I might as well post it, I make few enough posts as it is. Here are my thoughts on the still-largely-upcoming fall anime season. The lineup is here, and I have done my best to translate any titles that are in Japanese. A lot of them seem to be in Italian, though, for some reason.

A stylish girls-with-guns action show set in a future where the Tokyo Metropolitan Area has turned into The Zone from S.T.A.L.K.E.R., I guess. It kinda has an old school feel for the visuals, right down to the CGI on the spider robo-mecha thing with its glowing red laser-penis. Should be interesting to see what sort of commentary they try to make about the whole Fukushima thing, but the politics will likely end up some unpleasant combination of heavy-handed and simple-minded. Maybe it’s better if it’s just there as a setting for girls to have fun blowing things up in.  Blowing things up is fun.

Kyoukai no Kanata (Past the Border):
I remember when I used to get exceted for new Kyoto Animation shows, but now I just say “ugh, another overproduced boring school life story”. The female character designs are ripped straight from Hyouka, the male character designs are ripped straight from Free, and I bet if there’s a fat parrot character it will look a lot like the one from Tamako Market. The one possible saving grace for this show is the supernatural action elements. Kyoto Animation animates with consistently high production values, and while that’s sort of a waste for a show about a club for lazy people to eat cake in, it improves a hot-blooded battle sequence immensely. Maybe a few action scenes will be just what they need to free themselves from their moe addiction and recover the spirit they had when they were making Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid, the spirit that produced Haruhi and which thely lost when they made K-On.

Kyousougiga (TL Note: I Have No Earthly Idea What This Means):
Hard to tell on this one, but it looks like one of those psychedelically wacky shows like Kaiba that people keep recommending to me not realizing that I am a straight-laced upstanding citizen who does not use illegal consciousness-altering substances. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but we have different tastes, and that difference extends to our differing interest levels in an anime about chasing a rabbit through a mirror to a world where things are strange for no reason and nobody even remembers the poems he was parodying anymore.  Off with its head!

Nagi no Asu Kara (From the Day After The Lull):
Getting a real Suisei no Gargantia feel from this show. Not interested in another water-themed, conflict-light show about getting along, making friends, promoting intercultural understanding, and other shit like that. The female lead looks too sweet to be interesting, and the male lead looks too spineless to do anything about it other than blush and try to hide his feelings for her. And there’s not even a giant robot to make wisecracks.

Outbreak Company:
Probably pandering trash, but the premise of an otaku who ends up in a fantasy world is the sort of thing it should be possible to do well. The character designs look like, well, pandering trash, but they’re pretty well done for that sort of thing. And hey, Zero no Tsukaima was decent enough for a while before it turned bad, right? The key is going to be having jokes about the interaction between the main character’s otakudom and the realities of a fantasy kingdom. If the studio takes the easy way out they’ll just have the jokes be the bare fact that the main character is an otaku in a fantasy kingdom. Or worse, the joke will be that he’s an otaku and the fantasy kingdom will just be a pretty backdrop.

Kill la Kill:
Not much information, but everything I see I don’t like. It’s by the people who did Gurren Lagann, which I did not like nearly as much as the anime blogging community in general. The art style is ugly. Ugly in a stylish way, I guess, ugly in a way that will get the anime blogging community talking about how “artistic” it is, but still ugly. It’s about two schoolgirls who fight with swords and I guess one of them has a school uniform that is alive and talks to people? That doesn’t seem like a compelling plot to me. And the name of the show is “Kill la Kill”. I don’t actually know Italian but I suspect it’s ungrammatical. (Maybe they were going for “Killer Kill?”) I’m filing this one away as “hipster nonsense” and preparing to endure the scorn of my peers who rave about how it changed anime forever.

Golden Time:
A school romantic comedy being set in college is nice because it can be a little less naive than one set in high school. Amnesia as a plot device is kinda lame, evoking horrible daytime soap operas, but if it’s just used as the premise it evokes The Bourne Identity instead. And I am kinda taken with the golden-haired girl who blows rose-petals in the promo video. She seems like the kind of woman who could interestingly toy with a man’s heart. One of the other girls had pink hair, but it was an orangey peach-pink instead of real pink.  Close, but no cigar, there.

Strike the Blood:
The name is ridiculous. The premise could be cool if the girl in charge of maybe hunting down and killing the world’s most powerful vampire took an adversarial role towards him and was constantly having to bop him over the head with a paper fan when he started drinking some innocent civilian’s blood, but that’s not at all what the promos looked like. Instead, he’s going to be a dark tormented soul, and she’s going to be the only one who ~*understands*~ him, and look, I just gotta say, vampires are inhuman monsters that should be staked through the heart and left out in the sun to perish, ok? You don’t team up with them to do badass supernatural battles, you strike their blood until nothing remains but dust.  The Twilight series will be the ruin of humanity, I swear.

Yuusha ni Narenakatta Ore wa Shibushibu Shuushoku wo Ketsui Shimashita (I Didn’t Become A Hero, So As Much As I Hated It I Had To Get A Job):
I guess this is an anime based off a copycat light novel series that got published after Hataraku Maou-sama’s success? It seems like a similar premise, a hero and a demon lord working together at a low-status job, only in this case the hero is the guy and the demon lord the girl, and they live in a fantasy realm instead of being transported to ours. But really, Hataraku Maou-sama was a good show not because of the premise but because of the execution, and the execution here looks weak. The animation looks low-quality, the characters’ facial expressions seem excessively “wacky”, and they didn’t put any jokes in the promo clips which is a bad sign for an ostensible comedy. I’ll probably check it out anyway, but mostly so I can talk about how much better Hataraku Maou-sama was.

Log Horizon:
“Fantasy MMO world that suddenly becomes real life” is a lame setting. Like, if you want to set your anime in a fantasy world, why not just set it in a fantasy world? Why add needless indirection by making it an MMO? Do kids these days have such stunted imaginations that they can’t comprehend a world of magic and adventure except by reference to World of Warcraft? At least the show seems like it’s going to take a comedic approach. You pretty much would have to, with a premise this silly; if you took it seriously it would be a disaster. If this show ends up more Tower of Druaga than Sword Art Online, it might be worthwhile. Tower of Druaga never stooped to justifying its use of videogame tropes in the narrative, though, and that might have made all the difference.

White Album 2:
This is not the second season of the White Album anime, because that already happened. Rather, it’s an adaptation of the sequel to the game on which the first White Album anime was based. And it doesn’t seem like much of a sequel – from what I can tell, it’s a completely unrelated game by the same company that got labeled as a sequel to try to exploit the value of the brand. But hey, the brand has a lot of value in my book. The original White Album anime was engaging and moving and left me wanting more. This show doesn’t seem like it will be “more” in any real sense, but if it’s by the same people maybe that’s good enough. And there really aren’t enough anime adaptations of melodramatic porn games these days, so we gotta cherish the ones we get.

Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai (I Want To Be The Strongest In The World):
I couldn’t even stand to watch the promos. A show all about women with large breasts and skimpy outfits groping all over each other and squealing. Haven’t seen a show this not-technically-porn since Queen’s Blade.

Meganebu (Glasses Club):
I guess glasses fetish is a thing for girls too, huh. Come to think of it, I should have known that, it came up in Ouran High Host Club.  Have fun, ladies.

Walkure Romanze:
Chivalry is cool as heck! Yeah! Knights, and jousting, and if the knights happen to be chicks with pink hair and moderately-sized breasts, so much the better! I dunno that we can expect the Japanese to do any better a job accurately depicting chivalry than westerners tend to do depicting bushido, but the aesthetic is cool at least. The animation quality looked a little off, though, and I think this is an adaptation of a porny porn game, so I’ll try not to raise my hopes too high.  The armor mostly looks nice, but if there’s going to be a lot of jousting going on in this show, I don’t know that I can suspend my disbelief on the practicality of breastplates with the tits jutting out. It seems like that would be a huge liability vis-a-vis your ability to win tournaments. You are trying to avoid a solid hit that knocks you off your horse, in that context cleavage basically becomes a trap for a lance-point that funnels the entire force of the blow into your center of mass.  Exactly what you do not want.

Gingitsune (Silver Fox):
I’m wary of shows that involve too much Japanese mythology, because there are always so many cultural references I don’t get and I end up feeling lost. And apart from that it seems likely to be a slow-paced, barely animated slice of life anime for people who wish their imaginary friends were real and giant magical foxes. Bleh.

Unbreakable Machine Doll:
Robot girlfriends are cool as heck! And it seems like the protagonist here has earned the right to have one by building one, instead of just finding one laying around like in Chobits or receiving some as gifts like in Busou Shinki. The combat tournament elements are something of a concern; Busou Shinki got dragged down by its action sequences, and there was a really awful-looking CGI dragon in the promo videos. But they were playing up the romantic-comedy aspects most of the time in the promos, so I’m hoping the tournament is mostly just premise and we get lots of fun flirting between an unbreakable machine doll and an ambitious artificer.

Non Non Biyori (Non Non Nice Day Outside):
The promos for this are incredibly boring – two minutes worth of looking at drawings of countryside. I actually think they’re being ironic here, it sort of reminds me of the Lucky★Star promo that was just a closeup of Konata’s face staring at the viewer and making a buzzing noise, but it leaves me in a bind because it doesn’t really give me much basis to evaluate the show. Kyoto Animation could get away with it because they’d just done Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, but what has Silver Link done recently? Oh, I guess they did Watamote. Fair enough, then. From what I hear, the manga has jokes in it, so that’s probably a good sign?

Aoi Hagane no Arpeggio (Arpeggio of Blue Steel):
A very pretty show, lots of lovingly-detailed battleships firing lasers at each other, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into. Ever since the disappointment that was Tide-Line Blue, I’ve wanted to watch an actual good show about the crew of a super-powerful submarine changing the course of history. This could be that show! The one thing I’m worried about is the girl that’s the personification of the sub. The “mystical artifact that grants you your powers is also a girl you have to romance” plot element almost never goes well. The only show I can think of that was any good with it was Code Geass, and I think Code Geass was the worse for it.

Tokyo Ravens:
I like the character designs, but a supernatural combat anime is going to live or die on the basis of its fight scenes, and the ones in the promos were just appalling. The CGI looks really, really bad. Whatever happened to the good old days when, if you wanted to have your characters fight a monster, you would draw and animate a monster? The monster was bad, but it was nothing compared to the hyper-detailed Jeep model somebody put a lot of effort into. I’m sure the Jeep looks great in a vacuum, but the anime style is all about glossing over the fine details and using stylized representations to evoke recognition. Throwing a photographically-detailed car model in there is jarringly out-of-place. I promise not to laugh at how bad your drawing of a Jeep is, ok? I am on your side here, anything is better than these mountains of CGI.

BlazBlue Alter Memory:
I’m not sure it’s physically possible for a fighting game adaptation anime to be any good. People don’t usually play fighting games for the story, you know? I couldn’t get a good look at the promo video because it kept flashing obnoxiously, like a strobe light, and I decided I did not need much more reason than that to reject this show.

Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Love Come o Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru (The Multiple Choice Questions In My Head Are Going All-Out To Interfere With My School Life Romantic Comedy):
Basically it’s “Would You Rather: The Anime”, I guess. A cheap premise, generic looking character designs, an adaptation of an interminably-titled trash light novel, or all of the above? I only need one choice: the choice not to watch this show.

Samurai Flamenco:
Not much promo material for this. It’s a Japanese superhero show that’s airing on Noitamina, so that’s something. Noitamina is no guarantee of quality, but in theory it means they’re at least trying. And it’ll be fun to see the American genre of superheros through a Japanese lens. Tiger and Bunny, even though it wasn’t all that good, was charming for this reason, and Samurai Flamenco will probably at least be charming as well.

Galilei Donna:
The descendants of Galileo Galilei, the famous astronomer, have magical powers. OK. The descendants of Galileo Galilei, despite living in Tuscany, all have Japanese names. Great. They are being pursued by an evil organization that wants to institute “Galileo Tezoro”, which Google Translate is not giving me any help in deciphering. You know what? Good luck with that.

I guess there is some uncertainty as to whether or not this is actually going to air, since the season is already started and there are still no details or real promos, but what the heck. If it were going to air it seems like the sort of thing that would be worth watching, oppressive psychological horror where the people you love become terrifying monsters.

So altogether, the only shows I’m really looking forward to this season are White Album 2, Unbreakable Machine Doll, and I guess Pupa if it airs.  This season looks pretty weak.  I also plan to check out Coppelion, Kyoukai no Kanata, Outbreak Company, Golden Time, Yuusha ni Narenakatta etc., Log Horizon, Walkure Romanze,  Non Non Biyori, Aoi Hagane no Arpeggio, and Samurai Flamenco.   That’s twelve shows in total, but I’ve had to lower my standards pretty far to get that many.  I’ll consider myself lucky if four of them turn out watchable.

Some of the shows on the list have subs out already, so I’m off to go watch them.  I plan to have a threshing post up in about a week and a half and we can see just how bad things are.

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