Saturday, August 15, 2015

Summer 2015: What I'm Watching (The Anime-zing Race)

For the second half, let’s look at the shows still running in The Anime-zing Race. This part will cover the following shows:

Actually, I Am…
Aoharu x Machinegun
Classroom Crisis
Rokka: Braves of Six Flowers
Ushio & Tora

Actually, I Am…
Japanese title: Jitsu wa Watashi wa

I've got a secret... to tell the truth...
Asahi Kuromine is what people call an “open book”: no matter how much he might try to hide something, his body language and poor choice of words make it impossible for him to lie or keep anything secret. Which means that his crush on the cool beauty Youko Shiragami is blatantly obvious to everyone in the class. Well, except for Youko herself, who’s rather dense. Oh, and also a vampire. Which Asahi discovers when he goes to confess to her. And since Youko would have to leave school if her secret was discovered, Asahi now has the near-impossible task of keeping the biggest secret he’s ever kept. And there may be other weird girls around at school, too…

This show is effectively a harem romantic comedy, albeit one that centers around one particular couple while other girls hang around to make things more interesting. And rather than going for more fanservicey hijinks, the show simply makes use of fun personalities and the various secret identities the girls have. It’s a show that’s both fun and charming, feeling almost like one of the romcoms of older anime days (not that I have that much experience with those), which all help make it one of the favorites for the race.

Aoharu x Machinegun
Japanese title: Aoharu x Kikanjuu

You’ve ridden the blue spring, now time to shoot it!
Hotaru Tachibana is a justice-obsessed girl who looks and dresses like a boy. She ends up running afoul of host club member Masamune Matsuoka, and has to pay off a debt to the club. This time around, though, rather than servicing the club like another androgynous girl once did, she ends up participating in survival games with him. Eventually, she and one other member look toward becoming the top survival gamers in Japan.

This is the third anime based on survival games (shooting each other with pellet guns) we've had in the past couple of years, with 2013's Stella Women's Academy High School Division Class C3 taking an ostensibly cute-girls-oriented approach and pushing it in a more dramatic direction, while 2014's Sabagebu! was more of a madcap black comedy that uses survival game sequences that take inspiration from famous movies. What about this show, then? The original manga this time was a shoujo series, so expect another dramatic approach, with possibly a romantic angle to be included. At any rate, right now it mostly finds itself in the middle of the pack of the race, and will likely need to find some strong angles to approach its drama to break forward.


Picture above: no one actually named Charlotte?
Yuu Otosaka realized one day that he had the power to transfer his consciousness into anyone else, albeit for only five seconds at a time. Nevertheless, that is enough for him to use his power for good, like… peeking up girls’ skirts and cheating on tests. Okay, maybe not the good of *others*, but that’s a small detail. However, one day, he gets caught in the act by another superpowered girl, Nao Tomori, and together they face the reality of these superpowered teenagers.

So this show is the latest original anime from Jun Maeda, who was the original creator of Key's visual novels Air, Kanon, Clannad, and Little Busters!, as well as the original anime project Angel Beats!. Of all those shows, Charlotte is probably most like the last one, especially considering that both shows are animated by P.A. Works, bringing their high production values yet again. With an interesting storyline, some solid emotional moments and some fun moments with these "incomplete" superpowers, this show has definitely established itself as a frontrunner in the race.

Classroom Crisis

Yet another anime in a classroom... except not really.
In the future, the planets of the solar system have been colonized, which means space travel is a major industry. And the A-TEC division of the Kirishina Corporation specializes in developing rockets for racing machines, combining classroom instruction and gainful employment within the corporation to further push the boundaries of rocket development in pursuit of new innovations. Clearly, such a division is absolutely critical to the future of human development... so of course, because they're not actually bringing the corporation any tangible benefits right now, the higher-ups have sent the director's younger brother Nagisa Kiryu to the A-TEC class to dismantle it from the inside-out... but not if teacher Kaito Sera and his class has any say in the matter!

What sounded like just another high school rom-com with a futuristic setting turned out to be something quite different: namely, a politically-charged business drama. That at least makes the show a fair amount more interesting overall. If the show can take advantage of the unique aspects of its premise, it could very well turn out to be the dark horse show of the season.

Japanese Title: Gate: Jietai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri

Outbreak Company, but with an army company.
One day, a mysterious gate opens in the Ginza district of modern Japan, and many fantasy creatures and knights invade, killing many citizens before they themselves are massacred by the superior firepower of Japan's Self-Defense Force. Thanks to his work in keeping the incident from becoming much worse than it could have been, otaku and SDF member Youji Itami is promoted to lieutenant and joins a battalion that crosses through the gate and into the fantasy land beyond. As the fantasy country on the other side tries to figure out how to deal with their failed invasion and the force that now appears on their own turf, and while various other world powers eye the resources in this new land, Youji leads a small task force to try to make peaceful contact with the locals.

While the premise obviously has some similarities to Outbreak Company, this show takes an overall darker and more militaristic approach, with the fantasy country's "attack first, ask questions later" approach to colonialism and the very vested interests the US and Chinese governments (among others, possibly) are shown to have in the land. It's admittedly not my preferred sort of tone for this show, but for now, it's making good at least on a fun trio of main girls that join up with the SDF: the sorceress Lelei, the elf-girl Tuka, and the goth-loli "prophetess" Rory. There are some interesting ideas in here, as well as the potential to maybe go down a bit too far with Japan's more radical nationalistic ideals, but if the show can manage to keep everything in check and explore inter-world relations well without pushing anything too far, it might stick around for a while.


An MMORPG, but without the massively multiple players.
On the day the virtual reality MMORPG "Yggdrasil" was to close its service, one player, "Momonga", stays online right up until closing time. However, once midnight passes and the servers close, he finds that, rather than being kicked off the game, he is now trapped in it! What's more, all of the NPCs have come to life, now having very distinct and human-like personalities. Oh, and since his in-game avatar was a fearsome skeletal wizard, that's now the form his body takes. Now, as the ruler of his guild-dungeon and all the "boss" characters within, he must investigate what the world has become.

"Trapped in an MMORPG" shows are really starting to become common now, huh? This one manages to have its own interesting angles it pursues, such as how most of the characters are "awoken" NPCs, with the potential presence of other human players a mystery at the outset. The most interesting part, though, is how Momonga has to maintain an air of an oppressive-looking overlord, despite his actual personality being much more mild-mannered. This makes for some very amusing contrasts as we get into his thought processes. All in all, it's a show that has turned out to be surprisingly interesting, which bodes well for its potential standing in the race if it can keep things up.

Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers
Japanese title: Rokka no Yuusha

Nice mole you've got there.
Legend has it that when the Demon God is about to wake and bring destruction upon the world, the Goddess of Fate will choose six Braves to defeat and seal the evil, which happened both 700 years ago and 300 years ago. Adlet Meyer, self-proclaimed "strongest man in the world", seeks to become one of those Braves, and sure enough, he gets his wish. However, he finds that this time around, the road to sealing the Demon God will have some unique challenges, first with the presence of a "Brave-killer", and later, the discovery that there's one too many among their number... which certainly means one of them is an impostor, right?

As an action fantasy series with an obvious mystery element, this show goes at a surprisingly slow pace, with the big reveal only coming at the end of the fourth episode. It does help keep my interest in the show, as more time can be given to exploring the characters' various thoughts and motivations. Likewise, I'm not as interested in who the fake Brave is, as much as why exactly they have taken on that "fake" role and how they and the others react. There's certainly some interesting directions this show can go, and its performance in the Race has been improving, so we shall see how well it can hold up.

Ushio & Tora
Japanese title: Ushio to Tora

Don’t let the art style fool you; it’s still 2015.
Sequel Alert?: There was an OVA series based on the original manga done way back in 1992, but this version of the show is a complete reboot and can be watched straight away.

Ushio Aotsuki was cleaning his house's storage room when he found a secret cellar that contained... a ferocious youkai, pinned to the wall by a spear. Turns out that spear is a seal for this youkai. When other mysterious spirits attack, Ushio is forced to remove the spear and ask the youkai, whom he names Tora, to help him. Tora just wants to eat Ushio, but between that spear, which has special anti-youkai powers, and the fact that other spirits threaten his intended meal, he finds himself teaming up with Ushio more often than not.

Here's a show that really is a blast from the past. Based on an old manga and with an art style that harkens to 90's shounen shows, this show knows how to have a good time. Between the antics of the leads and the action that surrounds the show's plot, this show is plenty entertaining, and has moments of a deeper storyline to it as well. It's another show that has performed consistently well in the race so far, so we'll see if it has enough to convince me to go through with all 39 planned episodes of this show.

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