Winter 2015 Week 3 Impressions

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Winter 2015 Week 3 Impressions




I realize that most of you probably won't care too much about all of this, but maybe one of you will, and combined with my desire to do something like this anyway, that's reason enough for me to write up some initial impressions and reviews of what I'm watching in the current anime season. The 3 episode rule is the general rule that you should watch 3 episodes of an anime before making a final decision about whether or not to watch, and that's why 3 week impressions are a fairly common practice.
 
It is worth noting that I am giving sites where legal simulcasts of the shows can be found. As the current western anime licensing practices go, this is almost exclusively Crunchyroll and FUNimation. There are a couple of other very tiny sites (i.e. Daisuki), but Crunchyroll maintains the lion's share with FUNimation simulcasting all shows that they themselves have licensed.
 
Crunchyroll has a paid membership which allows HD viewing, removes all ads, and which allows simulcasted shows to be watched at release. Without the membership, these shows can still be watched, but on a one week delay.
 
FUNimation also has a subscription system in place, but truth be told, I don't know exactly how it works. I believe it is an all but identical system, but this is the first season that I've used FUNimation's streaming, and I have subscribed, so I'm not aware of exactly how limited free watching is. I will note that FUNimation recently released a "subs only" subscription which allows viewing of subtitled anime, including simulcasts, and that was in fact a large part of convincing me to get a 3 month subscription.
 
If you want to watch shows after they have aired, they will generally be available for years (until the license ends) wherever they were simulcasted. In addition, many shows are added to Hulu after they have completed. I have never used Hulu, so I can't personally speak for the watching experience.
 
While it may not be legal, literally all of these anime can be found on the high seas. This is certainly appealing because it is cheaper, and if that is what you want to use, go for it. The site I most commonly used before I decided that I ought to support the industry (and before I got spoiled by HD) is AnimeFreak.
 
In addition, I will give a current score out of 10 at the end of each review. This is by no means the score I will give the show at its completion. It is simply a score for how everything has progressed to this point. Most of these shows have only aired 3 episodes so far, so a lot can still change. Furthermore, while I do try to reflect critical insight in my scores, this is not the only factor in my scoring, and I confess that I am an absolute sucker for feelings and good art. There isn't much to say for my love of melodrama; if a work is loaded with feelings, it's likely that my score for it will be higher than something of comparable quality without the melodrama. On the other hand, I can at least somewhat justify my bias for good art. While there are beautiful shows that are not great from any other perspective, for the most part, if a studio is putting enough time and resources into bringing an A art game, they're probably going to try to make it appealing from a critical standpoint as well.
 
If I continue to write these reviews, I will not be prefacing the posts with that gigantic spiel, but because this is the first time I've posted, it needed to be said, and I didn't think it deserved its own post. But with that, let's just get started.
 
 
 
Japanese: Ansatsu Kyoushitsu
English: Assassination Classroom
Studio: Brain's Base
Simulcast: FUNimation
Premise: The premise for Assassination Classroom is that a strange sort-of alien has blown up the moon, and he's stated that he will blow up the earth unless he can be killed first. From this general summary, you're probably thinking that this is a sci-fi series, and you would be very wrong. Here's the rest of the details. This alien is all but impossible to be killed, so the government decides to give into his request that he be allowed to teach a high school class full of prep school rejects, promising not to harm them. These students are in turn promised 10 billion yen if they can successfully kill their new alien teacher, but as he effortlessly avoids being killed, this alien proves to be a genuinely good teacher.
Impressions: I will begin this by saying that I have actually only seen 2 episodes so far. The 3rd episode has been delayed, and while it can be found in some form or other, I am simply waiting for it to be available on FUNimation. It is possible that the 3rd episode will make a difference, as a new character was introduced who seems to be much more keen on carrying out the students' mission.
Assassination Classroom is the kind of quirky comedy that is created by setting up an outlandish and ridiculous premise and then allowing it to run its course. It's funny and entertaining, and it throws in occasional life lessons, though they are more often than not promptly interrupted by some manner of shenanigans. The art style uses thick lining but is otherwise not especially notable. As it stands, it is good, but not particularly memorable beyond the wild premise.
Current score: 7
 
Japanese: Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE!
English: Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!
Studio: Diomedea
Simulcast: Crunchyroll, FUNimation
Premise: Imagine the most stereotypical magical girl premise that you can, and then replace all of the girls with dudes.
Impressions: During the first episode, I found Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! to be absolutely hilarious. Taking the standard magical girl tropes of defending love through stock transformations, colorful uniforms, and overly choreographed posing is an extraordinarily amusing sight to behold when the girls are replaced with guys who have no intention of cooperating. However, the appeal grows stale fairly quickly. I'm 3 episodes in, and while there are certainly still moments of great hilarity, I can feel myself growing tired of the repetition. Humor is derived from a denial of expectations, and when the attempts at humor are predictable, it's less funny. The episodic nature of the first few episodes certainly hasn't helped, and perhaps the stagnation will be slowed by a more continuous story arc, but even then, I can't see my score rising over the course of the season.
Current score: 6
 
Japanese: Death Parade
English: Death Parade
Studio: Madhouse
Simulcast: FUNimation
Premise: Oh man, I don't want to spoil the premise too much because that's what makes the first episode so great. Basically, two people show up at this bar and are told that they will set their lives at stake and play a game. I will say that there's an original short called Death Billiards that was created a little while back and which was then serialized into Death Parade. I watched it before watching any of the series, and I think it's worth watching first (wherever you can find it), but in truth, it's very similar to the first episode, so if you skip it, you wouldn't be missing all that much.
Impressions: From the premise, you're probably thinking that this sounds like Saw, and hopefully without spoiling the nature of the show, I will simply say that I wouldn't call it a slasher or horror show. That being said, it should come as no surprise that this show can be very dark and very heavy. If that's not what you're looking for, then I would stay away. However, if you're looking for something interesting, it's definitely worth a watch.
Current score: 8
 
Japanese: Junketsu no Maria
English: Maria the Virgin Witch
Studio: Production I.G.
Simulcast: FUNimation
Premise: Taking place during the Hundred Years' War in France, Maria is a powerful witch who uses her magic to get in the way of battles. However, because she is disrupting the natural workings of the world, Archangel Michael comes down to force her to stop. He decides that if she is absolutely certain that she is benefitting the world, she must be willing to sacrifice her own happiness and pleasure to continue doing so. As such, once she loses her virginity, her magic will also be taken from her.
Impressions: The premise described actually takes pretty much all of the first 3 episodes to set up, and this is mildly disappointing because it's hard to gauge what direction the show will go in from here. Despite how it may sound, it has so far been fairly tasteful Maria commands a succubus and an incubus, so there are unsurprisingly quite a decent number of sex jokes, but this is different from the shows where sex appeal is used primarily as a means of gaining viewers and selling Blu-Rays. Sex is part of the premise, and this makes it harmful to throw in excessive fanservice and pandering. I personally am not a huge fan of historical settings, in part because I'm not big on history, and in part because they lend themselves to a very earthy palette, and I find that aesthetic a bit drab for my tastes. Nevertheless, the show is solid, and if it is done well throughout the rest of the season, I can certainly see my score rising.
Current score: 7
 
Japanese: Kantai Collection
English: KanColle
Studio: Diomedea
Simulcast: Crunchyroll
Premise: KanColle is based off of a free-to-play browser game. It is set in a world in which girls representing Japanese warships are outfitted with weapons in order to fight off a group of monsters originating in the ocean.
Impressions: All in all, KanColle is pretty meh. Because the source material isn't really designed for the storytelling nature of anime, the show seems to be having a hard time deciding what it is. At first it seems like a fairly typical slice-of-life with military elements thrown in, but then at the end of episode 3, a major atmosphere shift occurs which could signal a change in direction for the show. But then again, who knows. The art is pretty standard stuff, and there are a lot of sequences using CG. The CG is decent, but it's still noticeably different, making the frequent transitions between hand-drawn and CG a bit jarring. Should you watch it? Eh. If you want to see cute girls shooting shooting torpedoes at things, I guess, but even then, eh.
Current score: 5
 
Japanese: Koufuku Graffiti
English: Gourmet Girl Graffiti
Studio: Shaft
Simulcast: Crunchyroll
Premise: Ryou is a middle school girl who has lived by herself since the passing of her grandmother. She has always loved to cook, but ever since her grandmother died, she has found that cooking has lost its spark. However, when her cousin visits out of nowhere, she realizes that what she's been missing is someone to share a meal with.
Impressions: This is one of those situations where my biases really come into play. Is the story riveting? Not in any sense of the word. Would the quality of the show receive critical accolades? I highly doubt it. Do I like watching it? Hell yeah. For the most part, the show is just a slice of life about eating food and getting to know people. The storylines focus on what it takes to be happy, and I love that kind of heartwarming plot. For the most part, the art is pretty good but pretty normal. But then the food comes in, and it's absolutely beautiful. Like, I don't think you guys understand how nicely drawn and animated the food is. And then when they're eating, the artstyle undergoes a slight shift towards shoujo manga territory, and it's presented to be slightly erotic, focusing on lips and throwing haze and sparkles over the characters, and it's all very Shaft. Some people don't like Shaft's somewhat artistic approach to animation, but I'm a big fan, and I love it here. They even throw in the typical Shaft head tilts for good measure. So while I have no delusions about this being a grand masterpiece, and while I don't think the show is really for everyone, I can't help but give it a good score.
Current score: 8
 
Japanese: Kuroko no Basket 3rd Season
English: Kuroko's Basketball 3
Studio: Production I.G.
Simulcast: Crunchyroll, Daisuki (S1) (S2)
Premise: "Teikou Middle School basketball club: an incredibly strong team with over one hundred members and three consecutive championship wins. Amongst their brilliant record, was a generation of five prodigies known as the "Generation of Miracles." However, there was a strange rumor concerning the Generation of Miracles about one more player recognized by the five prodigies... a phantom sixth man." That is literally copy-pasted from the MAL page for the manga. That description is plenty good.
Impressions: This is another show where I haven't actually watched 3 episodes of this show yet. Only 1, in fact. Crunchyroll is sort of simulcasting this season, but on a two week delay. It is available for free in HD and as an actual simulcast at Daisuki, so that's better for most people. However, I don't really like Daisuki's interface, and I have and love my Crunchyroll premium account, so I'm just taking the two week delay. Honestly, this is the 3rd season, and I've watched both of the previous seasons, so I really didn't even need to watch the 1st episode to be able to give impressions.
Having said that, it's important to keep in mind that this is the 3rd season, and unless you watch the first 2, this one is going to make almost no sense. The first episode is sort of a recap, but it crams 50 episodes into 10 minutes, so there's obviously a lot missing. Because I haven't reviewed Kuroko's Basketball before, this will kind of be a review of the entire series, so it might be a bit longer.
Moving on, Kuroko's Basketball is a show about high school basketball in the way that Pokemon is about raising pets. That might be superficially what it's about, but if we're being real, it's actually about having crazy abilities and being super powerful and fighting other super powered people. The truth is that it's an otherwise traditional action series that uses basketball as a setting. It's really good, but let's not get deluded about how much actual basketball is going on.
I'm not really into sports anime, and I'm fairly certain that none of you are either, but before you dismiss it for being about sports, let me say this. You don't have to like sports to like sports anime. Sports anime pushes the same appeals that any other anime does. Action, suspense, drama. Kuroko's Basketball hits these marks quite well. The animation is powerful and every move feels like it packs a punch. The story is engaging, and the characters' actions make you love them or hate them so that you always have a strong desire to see your favorites prevail. Of course it has its flaws. The slow pacing, while not atypical (here's looking at you DBZ) can cause games to feel like they're dragging, and the solutions to problems are the stereotypical "train more, try harder, be better" solutions that we've come to expect from action series. If I can take a moment to plug my personal favorite sports anime (out of the very few I've seen), I would definitely recommend Haikyuu! I won't write up a full review here because that would basically double the length of what was supposed to be Kuroko's Basketball 3rd Season impressions.
Current score: 7
 
Japanese: Rolling☆Girls
English: Rolling☆Girls
Studio: Wit Studio
Simulcast: FUNimation
Premise: I'll begin by admitting that I'm not fully sure that I understand the entire premise because it seems a little unnecessarily involved. But here's what I've gathered. Ten years prior to the show, there was a war called the Great Tokyo War, and since then, the prefectures of Japan have split into independent nations. The nations are trying to take each other over, and each nation is protected by what amounts to a superhero (called a "Mosa" or "Best") plus a bunch of normal people (called "Mobs" or "Rest"). The real story is supposed to be about four "Mob" girls who go around dealing with problems, though that has only now started with episode 3, so we'll see where it goes.
Impressions: Again, the story seems to be a little overly complicated considering what the actual plan is intended to be. Yet on the other hand, creating this strange alternate world is very clearly deliberate as the first scene describes how Japan's splitting has allowed the prefectures to develop their own unique colors. And colorful it goddamn is. This anime is absolutely gorgeous. The character designs are colorful and unique, many of the backgrounds are beautiful watercolors, and the animation is sparkly and fluid and really accentuates just how colorful this world is. The story isn't by any means weak, but the art is where this show truly shines.
To further reiterate this, in the first two episodes, there is quite a bit of action in the form of superhero "Mosa" battle sequences. I'm not sure how much action there will be going forward, but I really hope there's more because it's honestly kind of breathtaking. And as if that weren't enough, it's got some sick music, which is especially noticeable during the battle scenes because it's kind of a light Japanese punk rock, and it's very nice in conjunction with the crazy fights. I didn't do this for any of the other reviews, but for real, you need to see this to understand what I'm talking about
 
And that's all from the first episode. In fact, the first fight is pretty much the opening scene. Enough said.
Current score: 8
 
Japanese: Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata
English: Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Simulcast: Crunchyroll, Hulu
Premise: Tomoyo Aki is an otaku who, upon a chance encounter with the most beautiful girl he has ever seen sets out to capture that moment in a galge/VN. Along the way, he must work with other cliched characters to create the perfect galge.
Impressions: From the premise, this sounds like your standard harem romcom, with the MC even being voiced by the king of harems himself Yoshitsugu Matsuoka. To some degree it kind of is, but it's so much more than that. The levels of meta humor are off the charts. To begin with, everything is set in motion by one of the most cliched setups in all of otaku culture. A guy is riding his bike and reaches the foot of a hill whereupon he looks back up the hill to see a beautiful girl surrounded by cherry blossoms, hair blowing gently in the breeze. Yet immediately, this is subverted because rather than trying to find this girl, our protagonist decides that he wants to make a game that begins with this cliche. Then there are the characters. Most of the characters are extraordinarily trope-ridden. There's the childhood friend tsundere with blond twintails and the mysterious kuudere with long, dark hair. Yet, when he actually meets this girl who inspired him, she has all the makings of a side character, primarily because she acts much more like a normal girl, the likes of which are relegated to side characters in anime. Not even in the "normal girl" trope kind of way where they're like "I'm such a normal girl with average grades and average looks". But in the actual normal girl kind of way where she can hang out with a guy without getting extraordinarily flustered and blushy. She is still a little bit trope-y in that she's very deadpan, but it's a fantastic contrast between these other characters who act exactly as an anime character is expected to, and her, going about her life as a normal person is expected to.
The manner in which everything is carried out serves to highlight these meta points, and it's all very well done.
Current score: 8
 
 
These last two actually began airing last season and have continued on, as they are 2 cour. However, they are still currently airing, and I believe that they are both worth mentioning.
 
Japanese: Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso
English: Your Lie in April
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Simulcast: Crunchyroll, Hulu
Premise: Arima Kousei was a child piano prodigy, but after his mother passed away, he had a breakdown while playing in a competition, and from that day on he was no longer able to hear the sound of the piano. He continued his life content with the world that had lost its color for him until one day he meets a Kaori Miyazono and suddenly everything begins to change.
Impressions: As stated, this show has been going on, so it's already over halfway through. I will do my best to keep this spoiler-free. Short of the classical music flavor, the premise for Your Lie in April does not seem particularly new, and it isn't. But everything about it is captured beautifully. The symbolism and visual metaphors can occasionally be heavy-handed, but they create a contrast and vibrancy that would be lost if muted at all. In addition, the music is brilliant, as is to be expected of an anime whose focus is music. Everything is carefully orchestrated to create an experience that is overflowing with emotion.
And as stated, perhaps that's my weak point. I love when a show can force me to have feelings, and Your Lie in April has done this more strongly than anything I've ever watched; every episode leaves me feeling emotionally drained. People may condemn such extremely emotional scenes as melodrama, and that's fine. I love it, and I will relish every moment.
Furthermore, maybe I'm slightly biased because I love A-1 Pictures. They made Anohana and the Silver Spoon adaptation, and those are among my favorites. Whatever the reason, I'm very much enjoying Your Lie in April for everything it is.
Current score: 10
 
Japanese: Shirobako
English: Shirobako
Studio: P.A. Works
Simulcast: Crunchyroll
Premise: Anime about making anime.
Impressions: Shirobako is what it sounds like. It's an anime about making anime. There are 5 main girls who had a high school dream of making anime together, and naturally, for the sake of entertainment, there are some amounts of drama going on, but in the end, Shirobako tries to present the anime production process as realistically as possible. Even the conflicts are presented as real issues that anime creators face.
As you would expect of such an anime, there is a lot of meta. Real life people and anime are referred to by changing the names slightly, and some episodes have conflicts which are relevant to the actual production of that episode itself. It's very interesting and fun to watch and it is all in all well made, but the fact of the matter is that if you're not especially interested in the anime industry as a whole, there isn't a lot of reason to watch Shirobako.
Current score: 8

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Winter 2015 Week 3 Impressions :: Comments

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Post on Tue Jan 27, 2015 4:21 pm  yang777

Hassan and I checked out the magical boy show. The first episode was really funny, and the next two were still funny, but to a lesser extent. They seem to be sticking to the standard magical girl/henshin hero episode formulas, which is kind of outdated because of its repetitiveness in today's entertainment world, but my nostalgia is helping me look past that. I think we'll probably keep watching to see how it pans out since we love henshin heroes so much.

That food one makes me think of Yakitate Japan, because food =P

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Post on Tue Jan 27, 2015 10:42 pm  Aznmastermind5

Wow you put a lot of effort into this, I commend you for these nice reviews. I may never watch most of these but at least I know more about them now.

I agree that fight scene was nice. There's something about Japanese animation, they makes action sequences more cool and entertaining relative to other animation.

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Post on Wed Jan 28, 2015 12:07 am  ChaoticGrowth

@Hussein: Yeah, I do feel that the standard henshin hero formula wouldn't hold up quite as well in the current age of entertainment, but that doesn't mean that it has no place. While it's not quite my cup of tea, if you enjoy the genre, more power to you. If I can help anyone find something they enjoy watching, that's already better than I can ask for. And there is another food anime coming next season, Shokugeki no Souma, which will probably be more similar to Yakitate Japan because it has a competitive cooking element and over-the-top reactions to tasting food, so look forward to my impressions on that.

@Remy: Thanks, I did work pretty hard on it. I watch a lot of anime every season, and it really feels good to be able to tell people my thoughts, so even though I don't expect you guys to watch many, if any, of the anime I reviewed, I enjoy being able to write some sort of review on them.

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Post on Wed Jan 28, 2015 2:14 pm  yang777

Ooh, I'm already looking forward to your review on that food one for next season!

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Post on Wed Jan 28, 2015 4:23 pm  yin666

Hussein and I really liked Yakitate Japan for some reason =P

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Post on Wed Jan 28, 2015 7:42 pm  Ethanmn

Wow, nice reviews! I honestly have time to watch NONE of these, even if I wanted to since OS programming is kicking my butt, but if I ever do find time I'll definitely look here for some good recommendations.

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Post on Tue Feb 03, 2015 7:31 pm  rift88

Oh man I would love to check out some of these shows based on matt's extremely well written reviews but the internet here at Ft. Leonard wood is about as fast as a slug traveling through over powdered sodium chloride (strange simile i know but give me a break, I'm probably sleep deprived while writing this) Can't wait til I get real internet again. Gonna have a shyte-ton of anime and stuff to catch up on.

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Post on Tue Feb 03, 2015 11:45 pm  Aznmastermind5

I'd like to know what over-powdered NaCl is

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Post on Wed Feb 04, 2015 12:32 am  ChaoticGrowth

It's the kind of salt you use when you're deprived of sleep and can't decide which preposition you want to use.

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