(Very) Early Impressions: Basilisk – Ouka Ninpouchou

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Three episodes in, I don’t even know how to really describe how unnecessary this feels.

Basically, the folks behind Basilisk, written over ten years ago, decided they wanted a Boruto-styled sequel series involving the children of the main duo. This makes absolutely no sense considering the ending of the original series, but I won’t get into that. Thus far, there isn’t anything particularly good about the series, but I think its average rating on MyAnimeList being close to the lowers depths of score hell is a little exaggerated, and biased. (more…)

Early Impressions: Koi wa Amaegari no You ni

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Three episodes in, it’s as fragile in its elegance as the manga is.

Stiff. Animation, story, characters; all these qualities and more can accurately be described to a major extent with that word. Basic movement is a little stutter-y, narrative is as slow and cryptically loaded as a slow-moving series can provide, and the characters lean just a little too heavily on their one convenient persona. Let’s laugh at the guy who has a thing for Tachibana! Let’s laugh at how awkward Kondo is! Let’s feel slight pity for how listless Tachibana is in life due to her injury! Stiff. (more…)

Early Impressions: Violet Evergarden

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Three episodes in, it sure is purdy.

What I find equally purdy (funny) is the amount of praise this series is getting in the anime world. On MyAnimeList, it’s currently within the top 100 based on average rating after three episodes. Does it deserve that hype? I’d say no, but also the potential for a yes later down the line. (more…)

Early Impressions: Blend S

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Three episodes in, it’s pretty bouncy.

Bouncy? In what way? Bouncy in the sense that its quality hinges upon the utilization of its core aspects; those being comedy and character interaction. Much like Working!!Blend S features a number of characters with one (or two… but usually one) distinguishable trait interacting with one another in a restaurant environment. While in Working!! the focus is more on the characters and their lives than the restaurant business itself, Blend S features a heavier focus on the fetishization of Japan’s café business. While technically a coffee shop, the establishment presented features young, attractive girls appealing to various otaku fetishes, whether it be sadism, tsundere(-ism?), or the little sister persona. Does Blend S serve to say anything about this now common practice? No. Does that really make the show bad? Also no.

What it does, however, is limit the ability of self-awareness to service said otaku fanbase. It doesn’t chastise or provoke the idea behind business establishments catering to specific “tastes,” really. It hardly does anything at all with it. This, in turn, makes it immediately “dumb” to those looking for a more involved viewing, and anyone looking forward to a more mentally-involved experience will be sorely disappointed. See, I saw the cover art, the premise, and the studio, and thought to myself, “Well, this could be fun.” Stereotypical and somewhat repetitive, yes, but little tidbits of fun, as well.

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I am one who acknowledges this series’s “dumbness” as an obvious flaw, such that despite how much fun I find the series, I will likely not grace it with a good score. Still, it is enough to say that the fun aspects of the show are appealing enough to make this not utterly unwatchable; Blend S is far more concerned with amusing the audience than anything else. To this end, it does its job well enough. I’m glad I talked myself into picking it up, as with all the mental stimulation and slowness that Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou provides, it serves as a pleasurable counterpart. Much more lively, colorful, and bombastic in its approach to situations. Almost like night and day.

Such fun is present most amicably through the characters’ interactions with one another. It has that same zany appeal as the aforementioned Working!! has to it, if not a lot more clichéd and sexualized. Blend S also has a fair amount of sexual fan service; nothing too prevalent, but enough to be noticeable. This applies to both revealing of skin and dressing them up/customizing their personality to appear more moe. Why even note this at all? It somewhat takes away from the individuality of the female characters, such that they’re all seen as fantastical representations of boys’ desires rather than actual women. Again, why even note this, seeing as most anime are of the same way? This lies within, aside from its dumbness, Blend S’s biggest flaw to me: its heavy indulging in catering.

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Not catering to customers, catering to horny, adolescent viewers. It just so happens that the three girls (within three episodes) are all beautiful. Just so happens that one is really into video games. Just so happens that one is a cosplay fanatic. Just so happens that they all have incredibly moe features to them. Just so happen to not be involved in any romantic relationships (within three episodes). Just so happen to run into a business that prioritizes moe features. Just so happen to have beautiful females work on ultra-ecchi doujinshi. Just so happens that one of the male workers has an insatiable yuri fetish. It just. So. Happens. Almost in the same vein as New Game!!, all of these uncanny coincidences pile up to support that the series does little to hide its titillating priorities. What series ultimately annoy me to my very core are ones so shallow and vapid.

Still, I expected no less, so why get upset about it? It’s one of those things that, when watching anime, one simply grows accustomed to. Not that that makes it any less irritating to watch, but it’s something that’s inevitable and easy to spot from far away. Aside from such, Blend S is still a fun series to bounce around to, primarily for its kooky characters and decent, although not altogether wonderful animation and design. This could certainly be someone’s best comedy of the season, or most easy-on-the-eyes anime of the season, but it’s definitely not something worthy of quality entertainment.

Early Impressions: Net-juu no Susume

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Three episodes in, it feels like I know everything that’s going to happen already.

A certain bug over on Twitter dot com made a plea for this series, stating that Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou was not the only thing worth watching this season. Desperate as I was to watch anything more, I took him up on his offer, and ended up disagreeing tremendously.

I will keep this post relatively short as I forgot to save screenshots don’t have that much to say about it. Net-juu no Susume is about a thirty-year-old NEET woman—because women can be NEETs, too, guys—who finds solace in the virtual world of online MMORPGs. Looking in from the outside, it’s a combination of industry selling points, a la virtual world and NEETs doing “incredible” things (incredible here being social, I guess?). However, taking a gander from the inside shows that Net-juu is more of a… “love” story between two people who meet and connect in an MMORPG. The main character being a NEET is more just an aspect to the show and not a driving point.

Expectations being slightly tweaked aside, there are two hugely noticeable flaws of Net-juu (thus far): narrative structure/execution and animation. I will compare this series to Sword Art Online, but not because of the MMORPG standard; rather, Sword Art Online had a tendency very early on to skip huge amounts of time to easily establish Kirito as an online veteran… which destroys a lot of chances for empathy and relatedness. Net-juu does this same thing, as the female lead makes an avatar on her netoge game, meets the affectionate Lily-chan, then time skips immediately to them being best friends and the female lead being level eighty-something. Great. All the intimate details and building of the relationship are basically moot. We’re now forced to simply take their relationship as great at face value. Only problem is that one doesn’t give a shit.

Not only this, but there are a ton of plot conveniences and a number of times when the anime tells you how the characters are feeling and thinking, instead of showing you. I’ve grown to be very critical of overexplanation from series, especially when it feels as though it believes I cannot figure out basic facial expressions. The female lead is gaga over Lily-chan. Lily-chan says something really sweet. Female lead then proceeds to guffaw and blush severely, prompting her to say, “My heart is beating really fast right now!” YEAH, NO SHIT. I won’t even get into how formulaic the entire series feels, with very little about the characters standing out as more than one-note minds. Everything is so lazily placed in its role that I can never expect anything to be thrown out of its shell.

And then animation. Incredibly uneven, with a large string of outright bad pieces of character movement. Really quick and not-so-subtly large chunks of movement in the span of seconds really takes me out of the experience. What’s almost funny is that the series leads one to believe that the female lead’s netoge character is incredibly “handsome.” He looks like a second-rate background character. Lily-chan is probably the only character in the show with some remarkable cuteness, and I won’t criticize the show for having no talented character design, as the female lead and Sakurai (a male; heavily hinted to be Lily-chan) both look splendidly the part of the roles they play. It’s only in terms of overall animation and sleekness that make the series almost laughable.

When I get in the groove of writing, it’s hard to stop. What was supposed to be a short post turned out somewhat long. I’ll compensate by making the final paragraph fairly short. I expected Net-juu to be absolute trash. It ended up being mostly trash, though not because of heavy fan service but by how standard it all feels. So, in essence, it isn’t what I expected it to be, though it still isn’t any good, despite some merit of heart. Its greatest asset is that I don’t feel dropping it is a necessity.

Early Impressions: Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou

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Three episodes in, I don’t think I’ll have a scenario where I watch zero anime this season.

To be frank, this was the only standalone (as in no sequels) anime this season that I thought had any sustainable (as in no gut feeling, a la URAHARA) chance of being good. Everything this season looked so… tryhard and exploitative of current trends and like obvious cash-grabs. And here I thought I had become less jaded throughout the year. Perhaps I’ll start Blend S

A world where humanity has died out, an empty world of ruins and silence. Two young girls travel around the world looking for something; perhaps a reason to stay alive. The only premise that made me think, “Oh. This definitely has potential to not be complete shit.” It hasn’t disappointed. With only the two characters (aside from episode three) being shown, they’re the only perspectives we get from the world, slowly filling in the details about their past and why the state of the world is what it is. Light-hearted in its development (and character design), it has the essence of being both sugary sweet and disguising serious emotional trauma/existentialism. Complexity in anime is always nice.

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At first, the design of the two girls somewhat threw me off. They’re actually moe-blobs, with huge, round eyes and heads like mochi. How, or why, did the author believe this to be an adequate choice to represent these characters? My mind cracked from its suddenly jaded state, assuming the worst money-grubbing motivations behind making characters cutesy for no reason. As the series continued, I began to assimilate myself to seeing them as they are, and what was initially cynical became more understanding; perhaps these characters are less about being cute and more about being soft catalysts into this dark and depressing world. It is the contrast that makes it so intriguing to think about, with girls one would typically see in something like Yuyushiki being placed in a setting devoid of anything. Isolation and fear of the unknown, and bits of surviving in a cruel world, through the symbols of assuring optimism.

That isn’t to say both of these girls are just happy-go-lucky planks of wood. Chi and Yuu are—because of course they are—complete opposites. Chi is more booksmart, level-headed, and the mother of the two girls. She attains the duties of survival and responsibility through her quiet determination and spirit. Yuu is more carefree, more open with her desires and motivations, such that it leads her into trouble. The daughter in the mother-daughter relationship the two girls share, but has a number of capabilities necessary to their survival (she’s handy with a gun). As paraphrased, Yuu is “the brawn” to Chi’s “brain.” Once again, this aspect of contrast plays in effect to these characters’ bond and interaction on an episodic basis. They wouldn’t seem like they’d be friends outside of this context, yet they understand each other’s needs and moods as though they’re perfect for one another. Time and isolation is implied as the reason for this, yet there is a tenderness between them that is charming from an outsider’s perspective. Yuu cannot read, so her idea of apologizing is drawing a picture of Chi with an aside saying, “I’m sokky.”

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Look at these big, fat paragraphs. Look at how much detail I’m allowed to spew about this anime, despite how it’s literally just two girls driving around desolated areas all day. The proof is in the (contextual) pudding. Reading between the lines, analyzing things from a more intimate detail, and the extraction of what we take for granted becoming part of what brings out true character. Yuu and Chi are so used to living alone that they now take for granted the reality that they may never see a true civilization again. This gives birth to curiosity; how long has the world been like this? Why are they the only two living (until episode three)? What happened to this world? What do these two girls hope to find? One of the best things about Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou is that it has no tolerance for bullshit. There are no distractions. The world is dead. All that is and can be shown are the two girls and their interaction with the non-moving environment. This level of intimacy is almost unheard of in anime. And I applaud it for it.

I’ll wrap it up here, as this is starting to become lengthier than it should be. Bottom line: a respectable idea with a slow, but effective build. I’m not ready to recommend it fully, as there’s much that can still be shown to ruin it for me, but for now, it’s ripe with potential. It may be the only anime I’m watching this season, but it feels like a journey in and of itself, building the bridge within my mind that leads to many different pathways as a multitude of series would give me.

Early Impressions: URAHARA [Dropped]

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(This series has since been dropped. There will be no entry for it for the foreseeable future.)

Three episodes in, it ended up not meaning anything.

With this gone, I am now down to only one seasonal anime to view on a weekly basis. If anyone has something to recommend that is not complete garbage, please feel free.

With the first episode of URAHARA, I was charmed by its attempts at appearing somewhat off. I had anticipated that it would take this incredibly avant-garde color palette and premise to places that would end up being intriguing to dissect. Through three episodes, I saw no signs of anything of the sort, so as my patience continued to wane, as did my interest in continuing along with the series. Truth be told, I didn’t even watch three whole episodes, only two and about twelve minutes of the third, only to skim through the rest to see if I would miss anything. I wouldn’t.

Three girls are within their own world of Harajuku (I believe it was called) when aliens come out of nowhere and start taking various artifacts of human culture to have for themselves. A talking shrimp puff that doubles as a scarf for a mysterious little girl explains that the aliens cannot think creatively for themselves, so they steal landmarks of creativity from other planets to compensate for it. The three girls are given powers (I genuinely cannot remember how or why) that allow them to combat these thieving aliens and the rest, well, kinda plays out like a villain of the week, Saturday-morning cartoon. All the clichés are present with none of the charm from the characters or consequences of the plot at hand.

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Skipping ahead from my normal structure, art is something that made me both stay at first and leave at the end. It’s very simplistic design, with a lot of rough-around-the-edges style of animation that made it seem incredibly amateurish. Once again, I was suspicious as to whether the series was doing this purposely as a form of parody or satire, which made me question the style they presented (lots of girly, light colors). With no evidence of anything of the sort, I can say with almost certainty that the animation is simply atrocious and the studio behind it takes numerous shortcuts that reek of low budgeting and laziness. Hell, characters don’t even have the same succinctness to their jawlines scene-after-scene.

There are some things I could say about the story of URAHARA, but there’s a deterrent to my further elaboration: what story? Aliens rob Earth of their culture, then a giant bubble surrounds a certain portion of the girls’ town and then… they do stuff. They do normal girl things and hardly worry about it. They talk to each other and develop their friendship. And at the end of each episode, an alien conveniently swoops in and starts shit, only to be defeated without much effort. That’s about as much as I can remember articulate. Simply put, it’s pretty dull, with only the expectation that better things are yet to come leading me along with this nonsensical production.

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It would at least be tolerable if the characters weren’t cardboard cutouts of… anything, really. There is so little differentiation between these three girls that it barely matters what any of them do. One is a blunt, yet shy fashionista (who I liked at first). Another is a soft-spoken and absent-minded accumulation of girliness. And the last, I guess she’s the “main” one, is the main character. Any veterans of the industry can immediately fill in the blanks with only “the main one” as context, sadly. Altruistic, you before me, normal in almost every regard, nothing stands out except their “chosen one” background. These three have little expression to them, nor do they have a lot of intriguing chemistry. Chemistry they have, but it’s nothing one hasn’t seen before. Almost akin to the chemistry one sees between background characters that’s never elaborated on.

I thought I’d picked a sleeper when the synopsis of this anime popped out at me. The burst of color, absurdist premise, and the hunch in my brain made it seem ripe with potential; for the first episode, I still believed it to be there. Time has gone by and nothing has shown for it. It’s dull and empty. Unbelievable that a plot this strange and an environment so colorful and bouncy can be this boring. I almost want to make my own URAHARA and fill it with strange symbolic gobbledygook parodying Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura, while also establishing a point of emphasis on the way girls with superpowers in anime are expected to behave in the eyes of the general public. Oh, what could be with enough work.