Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fall 2013: What I'm Watching (Part 1)


The Fall season is officially underway, and there are a lot of new anime out there. This First Impressions guide will cover the fifteen shows that I have decided to watch. A number of shows I have had to just pass on for various reasons, but 15 is still a large number, so once again, this will be split into two parts. Shows will be covered largely in alphabetical order, with a couple of switch-arounds made so that I can watch two episodes of every show covered before writing about it, and also so no shows have aired episodes that I’ve yet to watch.

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Beyond the Boundary

A much cuter deadman wonderland.

Akihito is a half-human, half-youmu high school boy whose supernatural youmu side practically makes him immortal (of the super-healing variety). Mirai is a “Spirit World Warrior” who hunts youmu for money, except that her ability to manipulate blood has made her an outcast among their kind. The two cross paths one day, and from there, various supernatural events start happening.

This is the latest work from Kyoto Animation, best known for everything from Key adaptations like Kanon and Clannad to the Haruhi Suzumiya series to K-ON! to Nichijou to Free!Beyond the Boundary is, in one way, like none of those shows. Based on a fairly unknown light novel series, the show is a dark fantasy with a more well-defined action component. Of course, Kyoto Animation is also well-known for their incredible animation, and the show looks fantastic, with very fluid animation throughout, especially in the action scenes. There’s also plenty of their usual cuteness and comedy to go around, if you like that about their shows. There’s really not too much to say about this show; it’s definitely worth checking out, as the action and fantasy components as well as the characterizations are all compelling enough to get one interested, and besides, this is the first time KyoAni has done a true action series since… their 2009 Munto reboot with a ridiculously long name?

Beyond the Boundary is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

Gingitsune


Animated by Diomedea, not White Fox.
Makoto Saeki is the shrine maiden at her family shrine, and as the 15th oracle in her family line, she is able to see Gintaro, a messenger fox of their shrine’s deity. Gintaro is able to see into the future, and he and Makoto go about life helping the people around them.

I have already talked about this show, so if you’ve read my previous post, you know that this is currently my favorite show of the season. It’s definitely an iyashikei show, designed to be relaxing and based more on the pleasantries of everyday life. There is some mild drama involved in these episodes, but they get resolved within the episode for overall pleasant viewing. The best part of the show, though, is the relationship between Makoto and Gintaro, which I’ve already written an entire post about. Their relationship continues to be the high point in episode 2. My favorite moment is when Gintaro asks Makoto if she would rather have been born into a family that did not have successor duties and allowed her to do what she wants, and her response is that she doesn’t need anything more because she can see Gintaro. That should certainly be a sentiment that resonates well with Christians and our relationship with God. Make no mistake, this may be a Shinto-based anime, but there is plenty of spiritual value in this show for Christians. (And if you’re not a Christian, it’s still an excellent show.)

Gingitsune is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

Golden Time


Did Taiga just grow up all of a sudden?

Banri Tada meets up with a number of new people his first day of law school. First of note is Mitsuo, a guy that he quickly befriends when both of them get lost trying to get to the law building. Second is Kouko Kaga, a girl so intent on marrying Mitsuo that she followed him all the way to the law school, despite his enrolling there specifically to get away from her. From there, they and others around them discover the various surprises that college life has in store for them.

This show is based on a light novel from the same author as Toradora!, so if you’re a fan of that show, this one is worth looking into. The opening episodes are fairly introductory, though the second episode does start going more into what the characters, particularly Kouko, are thinking. There’s also some good ol’ college hijinks to go with it all. It might not seem like a very exciting first impression, but Toradora! was a bit of a slow starter, too, and the best stuff is very likely yet to come. Still, there’s definitely the potential for greatness to come, so keep an eye on this one, especially if you’re tired of all that high school stuff and want to graduate to the next level up.

Golden Time is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

Infinite Stratos 2


Not included in this picture: a school-sized harem.

Sequel Alert: This is a direct sequel to Infinite Stratos. Do not watch if you haven’t watched the first season.

That statement isn’t just a statement of the continuity of this sequel. How much you can tolerate and/or enjoy the first season will determine how much you like this sequel. For those who haven’t seen the first season, it’s about a bunch of exoskeleton-mecha, the IS, which can normally only be piloted by girls, and centers around the one guy that can pilot one, Ichika. He gets transferred to a school specializing in teaching IS combat, and gets numerous girls to fall in love with him. It’s a harem combined with sci-fi action, and there’s plenty of harem antics, including plenty of denseness and stupidity from the male lead, to accompany the flashy IS fights. It’s one of those shows where personal preferences will largely determine whether you find the harem antics funny, stupid, or stupidly funny, and whether the action scenes are worth whatever you might think of the harem antics. If you could last through the first season and think, “I could go for more of this,” then this second season should be right up your alley. But if the first season made you go to internet forums to rant about how shows like this are “killing” anime, then it’s probably best to stay far, far away.

Infinite Stratos 2 is available for streaming on Crunchyroll. The first season is available for streaming on Hulu.

Kill la Kill

Lately it seems that everyone's been using scissors.
Ryuuko Matoi attends Honnouji Academy for one purpose only: to find the person who killed her father. Of most interest to her is the Student Council President Satsuki Kiryuun, who rules over the entire school with an iron fist and holds the other half of the scissor-blade that Ryuuko found after her father was killed. That Satsuki’s various lackeys in ability-powering Goku uniforms keep going after Ryuuko to kill her is definitely a complication, but maybe a secret uniform she finds below her house can help her…

This is supposedly the show that will “save” anime, which presumes that anime needs saving in the first place (I sure don’t think it does). Still, this is a fun action show with a whole lot of style and flair to it that gives it a very different sort of feel. Studio Trigger is currently best known for producing a handful of shorts, such as Inferno Cop and Little Witch Academia, the latter of which I’ve talked about as having an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign. Director Hiroyuki Imaishi is best known for his work at Studio Gainax on Gurren Lagann and Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, and the artistic flair in this show is definitely reminiscent of that in his past works. There’s a fair amount of insanity to the show, too, which is always good in my book. Just be warned that there’s also a fair amount of fanservice, though not nearly enough to call it an ecchi show.

Kill la Kill is available for streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Daisuki.

Little Busters! Refrain

I hope your tear ducts are ready for this.

Sequel Alert: This is a direct sequel to the first season of Little Busters!, so make sure to watch that first.

Based on the visual novel from Key (the company that made the original AIR, Kanon, and Clannad games), this is the continuation of the story of Riki Naoe and his group of friends, the titular Little Busters. These first episodes seem to be part of an arc centered around Yui Kurugaya, and right away is bringing out not only the classic Key drama but also the supernatural elements their shows tend to have. Saying any more would be a spoiler, so if you’ve seen the first season and want more, check it out. For those that haven’t seen the first season, know that while the show might not seem quite at the level of Key’s previous adaptations, the best stuff is supposedly to come in this current season, and the first season still has some good moments, especially once the later arcs start, and beyond all that is just a good feeling one gets from how close-knit this group of friends is, so why not give it a shot?

Both seasons of Little Busters! are available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

Log Horizon

MMORPGs really do have a way of sucking you right in, don't they?

In an event known as The Apocalypse, thirty thousand people across Japan and several hundred thousand people over the world find themselves trapped in a world rather reminiscent of the MMORPG “Elder Tale”. Among those trapped are Shiroe, a mage and strategist, Naotsugu, a warrior and tank, and Akatsuki, an assassin and ninja. The three of them band together to defeat opponents and try to figure out what is going on.

While this sounds like a blatant attempt to cash-in on the success of Sword Art Online, there are already a number of notable differences in this show. Most notable is how this show has an overall more lighthearted tone to it, while still allowing for some drama in the characters’ situation. I had always felt that SAO’s death game aspect was really underdeveloped, to the point where when that plot was resolved, the result felt too cheap for what should have been a really grave situation. The greater mystery and overall more lighthearted approach to Log Horizon has for the moment definitely made it the more enjoyable MMO-based show. (Also, the main character is a mage, and I like mages.) It’s definitely worth checking out, even if you weren’t a big fan of that sword art show.

Log Horizon is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

Outbreak Company

An otaku's fantasies come true... but what about the people on the other side of them?
Shinichi is the son of a visual novelist and a galge character designer and is a hardcore otaku who loves all things moe. Having been a shut-in since soon after entering high school after a girl rejected him for being an otaku, he decides to seek employment—and lo and behold, he finds a job offer for someone with vast otaku knowledge. He applies, gets accepted, goes to meet his employer… and then gets drugged and wakes up in a completely foreign world. Turns out a portal to a fantasy world had been discovered in Japan, and the leadership of Japan needed ambassadors to not only help forge a relationship between these two worlds, but also to help promote aspects of Japanese culture in that fantasy world as part of a cultural exchange. And by aspects of Japanese culture, the government has chosen otaku culture in particular, for some reason.

This show sounds like it should be a horrible show, but as the show plays out, it turns out to be actually really good. Perhaps that should have been expected, as the original light novels were written by the same author of Scrapped Princess, which is a really good fantasy series. While this one definitely has an otaku flavor to it (try not to lose yourself catching all the references in the show!), as a fantasy story about a guy who ends up in a different world, it’s executed very well. Shinichi is a very likable character who is not shy about his interests, and the various characters he meets, including the maid Myucel and the young princess and ruler Petralka, are all good characters in their ways. Furthermore, the show is not afraid to go into some of the deeper implications of the situation, as Shinichi encounters numerous cultural differences and social issues, such as a rigid caste system, which complicate the job he was given. The end result is a show that is at times lots of fun and at times incredibly thoughtful and provoking, which may be the last thing you’d expect from reading a synopsis of the show. This is definitely a show worth trying out, and not just because the fact that Shinichi is called a “moe evangelist” could also potentially provide for some of the most off-the-wall Christian parallels this side of AKB0048.

Outbreak Company is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

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