Anime Lookout: Spring 2016

The anime spring season: a season of big anime hits and cherry blossoms… You know, I actually don’t really like spring all that much. Maybe that’s just because I live in an area where spring is pretty wet, but it may also be because I always end up with a light load in terms of anime watching content during this time of year.

Still, I can’t deny that I was incredibly excited for this season. Even though I had no clue what was going to be good (besides obvious picks like Concrete Revolutio S2 and JoJos Part 4), everything looked unique and striking. There was Guilty Crown Part 2: Attack on Trains, Tsutomu Mizushima and the bus of too many people, and some new high profile Trigger productions. Really you can’t get much more interesting than that.

And so I went all out. Unlike previous seasons where I tried to restrain myself, I attempted to cover everything that piqued my interest me (Except Kuromukuro, because Netflix), including some sequels and shorts. My soul may have died in the process, but I’m glad I did this, since now I can say I watched almost everything this selection of premieres had to offer… For better, and for worse.

Bungo Stray Dogs

Bungou Stray Dogs:

Beginning this post with one of my more skeptically optimistic picks, we have Bungou Stray Dogs: a show created by the creative trio of director Takuya Igarashi, writer Yoji Enokido, and studio Bones. All three of these entities have made great work in the past, both separately and collaboratively (Ouran is one of my favorite shows, don’t judge me), but their recent efforts together have been, well, not successful. I loathed both Star Driver and Captain Earth, which I thought were messy, half-baked mechas that had all the right ideas, but some of the most slipshod execution I’ve seen in years.

However, when I heard that Bungou Stray Dogs was a manga adaptation I actually started to become somewhat hopeful. Not much mind you, but Ouran was their one big cooperative success, and because that anime was also an adaptation, my heart started to flutter with joy. Maybe Enokido’s writing won’t just be awkward symbolism that feels utterly useless, and maybe Igarashi can finally direct something with energy and flair! Maybe it won’t be a bad show…

I think the world may hate me. Already within the first episode, Bungou Stray Dogs is showing signs of heading somewhere very stupid, very fast; and while I wouldn’t say this a bad introduction, it had a lot of moments that made me sigh in disappointment. The premise for one thing is really awkward. It’s trying to go for cool fujoshi bait by turning a bunch of famous Japanese novelists into bishi boys, which is enough to make any viewer who knows these author’s histories raise an eyebrow in confusion. Watch as Osamu Dazai tries to commit suicide, and laugh because that actually happened in real li– Wait a minute.

Yeah, this series’ comedy is not the best. Despite Ouran having great jokes, in my opinion anyway, this show mostly relies on overreaction gags that lack any subversiveness or clever timing. Some scenes land incredibly well, but others feel indulgent and drawn out. Serious moments fair a little better, with some generally solid pacing and set up that never really bores. Still, when you compare it to Enokido’s other work it feels clunky.

If there is one good thing about this anime though, it’s definitely the animation. The shot composition is tight and symmetrical, and the character designs are also very nice. Each cast member sports unique outfits and characteristics that are really striking. And the action scene at the end of the episode, while brief, was a particularly standout sequence, featuring some nice and dynamic framing.

And yet, despite the fact this episode does show some promise, I came out of this experience feeling like garbage. Even if the execution here is enjoyable, that still doesn’t stop the base concept from being janky and weird. I want to hope that the team behind this series will be able to improve the material in later episodes, but currently the show is okay fun and nothing else. So is Bungou Stray Dogs off to a bad start? Not really. But that doesn’t stop me from having my doubts. I’d be cautious with this one.

Rating: 3/5

Bungou Stray Dogs is available for free North-American streaming on Crunchryoll

Flying Witch

Flying Witch:

When I went into Flying Witch I was not expecting something amazing. I had watched the PVs before hand, and while I was excited to watch the series, it was mostly because I thought it looked like a cute timewaster. To my surprise however, Flying Witch is a blast and one of my personal favorite premieres of this season. Other show may have better conceptual and visual ideas, but few can match the level of charm and polish this first episode displays.

You see, unlike most slice of lifes, Flying Witch makes an otherwise rote story feel new and fresh. At it’s core, the anime is still very much a slow paced watch, filled with pretty countryside backgrounds and little plot; but the twist of the main character being a witch really adds a whole extra layer to this show’s writing. I love how the episode builds up Makoto as this ditzy but average girl, and then reveals that she’s secretly a talented witch half way through the episode. The show then gets even better by using her powers to create some great jokes. The humor here is definitely light fluff, but the timing and reactions of the side characters upon seeing Makoto’s powers made for some chuckle-worthy moments.

The biggest highlight though, has got to be the mandrake scene at the end of the episode, which really helps explain why I love this show. Most slice of lifes would just be cutesiness and nothing else, but Flying Witch is able add spice to the proverbial pot simply by being creative with the elements at it’s disposal. Rarely does one a show like this have a scene where a terrifying, but strangely cute plant, screams bloody mary across an entire town. That moment alone is worth the price of admission.

Of course it also helps that show has a seasoned director working on the production. Katsushi Sakurabi isn’t really known very well by most anime fans, but his work at J.C. Staff consists of a lot of unique and interesting cult classics like Yomigaeru Sora: Rescue Wings and Asatte no Houkou. Here he directs with a soft touch, combining Makoto’s witch abilities and the small town setting to create a – pardon my vocabulary here – magical atmosphere. All of the character designs are adorable, and the voice acting is actually pretty naturalistic when compared to most other anime.

Overall, while Flying Witch may not be the most revolutionary entry in the slice of life genre, it is still a breath of fresh air. I had a lot of fun just getting swept up in the world of this one, and if the show can keep up its cute comedy and ad on to the fun premise, then I have no doubt that this will be one of the best shows this season. I highly recommend it.

Rating: 4.5/5

Flying Witch is available for free North-American streaming on Crunchyroll

Hai Furi

High School Fleet:

Initially I wasn’t going to cover High School Fleet since every PV and promotional image suggested a boring and average slice of life anime. Moe girls running through paths of blooming sakura trees as they live their average lives in a small seaside town. Frankly, if I want that I can just watch Tamayura or Aria the Animation. However, to my surprise, it turns out I was very wrong and I really should have paid more attention to this thing’s plot synopsis.

High School Fleet is a Girls und Panzer rip-off. Now before you run away and decide never to watch this show, let me say that just because this is a rip-off does not mean it’s a bad. In fact, that definitely isn’t the case here. High School Fleet’s first episode is a really fun watch, filled with cute girls and funny naval battles. Like Girls und Panzer, it understands that part of the enjoyability of the show comes from the contrast between the generic iyashikei look and the tense CGI warfare. These battles create a lot of subtle comedy, and it also helps that Production IMS delivers some generally solid animation.

All told though, not everyone is going to like High School Fleet. Those who are just looking for  pure cake and sugar are going to be disappointed, and those who are looking for pure CGI ship battles are also going to leave this premiere unsatisfied. If you’re like me though and enjoy the hilarious juxtapositions this show has to offer, then you’ll likely have a blast with this opening episode. It may look generic, but in reality it’s anything but.

Rating: 3/5

Haifuri is available for free North-American streaming on Crunchyroll

Sakamoto Desu ga

Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto:

Sakamoto was definitely the most hyped up comedy of the season, and for good reason. It’s based off a well like manga series, and the premise is the kind that lends itself to a lot funny jokes. I mean, the coolest guy in the world doing cool things sounds like a blast, right?

In practice though this episode is a bit messy. Now that isn’t to say it’s bad, far from it in fact. Sakamoto has plenty of great moments, but it’s also very clear that this Studio Deen production is not only very low budget, but also kind of standard. Animation-wise this anime is very mediocre. There isn’t a whole lot of movement, and besides the overall campy tone, the direction and pacing feels a little clunky. Some jokes are beautifully timed and delivered, while others are left hanging for too long, especially the volleyball joke which occurs three times throughout the episode. It feels like a lot the shots and pacing were ripped straight from the manga, which is kind of annoying.

You can’t just transfer things from one medium to another and expect the same effect. Sure, you can adapt the same jokes, but the key phrase here is, “Adapt.” The pacing of each joke needs to be reworked and timed. Still, the well executed parts do shine. When the star align, this thing is a blast, with the bird saving scene standing out as one the episode’s best highlights. Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto may not be the most polished series, but the enjoyable comedy more than makes up for some of the mediocre jokes. I wouldn’t recommend you jump right in, but if this looks like you’re kind of thing, you’ll probably enjoy it. It’s just too bad the production is lacking. They got the director of The Daily Lives of Highschool Boys on board and they didn’t even give him the tools to make something truly amazing.

Rating: 3/5

Haven’t you Heard? I’m Sakamoto is available for free North-American streaming on Crunchyroll

JoJo Part 4

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable:

You may not know this about me, but I’m a BIG JoJos fan. Okay that’s actually a bit of an exaggeration. I’ve never read any of the manga, and I really didn’t know anything about this new part going into it. However, that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve always loved this shonen franchise. Every part offers something new, and while the first half of Stardust Crusaders floundered a bit, the second half was a rollercoaster that I’ll never forget. I also finished that two weeks ago, so the hype I had for this sequel was off the charts. Did it live up to my expectations?

Well, of course it did. We’re talking about JoJos after all

In all seriousness though, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 4 is a perfect example of what I like about the JoJos formula. From the moment the episode begins, the art design pops on screen, and you get to see a bunch of cool, well executed fights, along with the same fun camp that dominates the series’ tone. It’s funny, entertaining, and the show is held together by some great artistry from David Production. Diamond is Unbreakable may lack the flashy animation of Stardust Crusaders opening scenes, but the pop art aesthetic and slick character designs more than make up for it. Unlike the bulging muscle men of Part 3, everyone here looks nice and inviting, not to mention cool and distinguishable.

The plot and characters are also pretty entertaining. Obviously narrative and character depth have never been a major priority for this show, but it helps that we have a nice change of pace that make this new setup instantly engaging. Instead of a world hopping road trip, we’ve not got Twin Peaks-esque small town mysteries, with main character’s Josuke’s life being turned upside down just by meeting his secret relative Jotaro Kujo. The story only gets crazier from there, with the introduction of such masterful character traits as, “Josuke doesn’t like it when you insult his hair,” and it handles all of these elements with a self aware grin and chuckle. It treats everything seriously, but it also gets that it can’t be extreme hyperdrama at all times, occasionally taking a break from the fights for calmer interactions between characters and light exposition. If nothing else, the show moves along at a nice and breezy pace, never stopping long enough for the train to come to a halt.

This first episode may not be the best of the best when compared to some of JoJo’s previous heights, but it’s already set up some solid ground for what will likely become another enjoyably bizarre adventure. Basically, if you haven’t’ hopped on the JoJo’s boat already, I highly encourage you to go watch the first three seasons. You’ll have a lot of fun while watching them.

Rating: 4/5

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable is available for free and legal North-American streaming on Crunchyroll and Viz.com

Joker Game

Joker Game:

Pretty much every season has at least one adult-drama prestige project, and out of all the shows currently airing, Joker Game is the major contender for this spot. The series is not only a novel adaptation, but it’s a Production IG work with the same series composer as Silver Spoon and ERASED. Combine this with the World War II spy premise, and you’ve got yourself an instant sell for most artsy anime fans.

And luckily, Joker Game actually lives up to its prestige hype pretty well. Mind you, I personally thought the episode slowed down a little too much in the middle, but otherwise the whole experience was very refined. For one thing, the animation and design work here is smooth and fantastic. Character designs pop, and the direction is very slick and stylish. The pacing is also pretty nice, setting up the premise in a way that’s quick and efficient. Almost every scene moves by at a decent clip, and while the characters have yet to develop any really defining personality traits, the central focus is compelling enough to make this episode a brisk watch.

That premise is a bit of a problem though. You see, I don’t know how many of you know you’re Japanese history, but the country was doing some terrible things in 1937. Don’t get me wrong, the country is perfectly fine now, but considering stuff like this happened around then, it’s not surprising that the show is attempting a more apolitical stance on the Japanese military. For the most part the show succeeds, portraying the spies working at the D-Agency as being more interested in fun and games of spy work rather than supporting the war effort. This creates a nice contrast between the members of the core spy team and the main character Sakuma, who is very much loyal to his country’s cause. I’m not really sure which side the anime will ultimately take, but considering this show seems to be more focused on the actual spy cheese, I highly doubt it will go full Nationalist by the end… Or at least I hope it doesn’t.

Rating: 4/5

Joker Game is available for free North-American streaming on Crunchyroll

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress:

Tetsuro Araki. The man who launched a thousand memes. Saying that he’s not a controversial director is like saying Guilty Crown is a masterpiece. Because, come on, even if you like that show you know that’s not true. The man’s love of intense drama and never ending dynamic shots make him an easy comparison to Michael Bay in the eyes of many anime watchers. But is he really that bad?

Personally, I’d say no, but then again some of his filmography is very hard to defend. While he may have added some much needed excitement to Death Note’s drier mystery source material, he’s also created infamous trainwrecks like Highschool of the Dead. Even with all these complaints though, it’s hard to deny that the man has a strong grasp of what makes certain anime popular. Attack on Titan skyrocketed into the public consciousness almost as soon as it started airing, and this is likely due to his artistic decisions and populace appeal. His works are entertaining popcorn fests, and while not every one of them is equally enjoyable, I appreciate that he exists as a high profile worker in the industry.

When it comes to Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress though, I’ll have to admit I set my expectations pretty low. Original projects have never been kind to Araki, and this one looked particularly troubled, with a long delay after its initial announcement. It also didn’t help that the Guilty Crown disaster writer came on board to handle the series’ scripts… And yet, I have to admit I kind of enjoyed this first episode. I really did not expect to become a hypocrite this fast.

Of course, calling Kabaneri’s first episode great would be a bit of stretch, since the only reason this episode really appealed to me is because of just how overtly schlocky it is. Araki is clearly giving this project his all, for better and for worse, filling every split second with intense grandiosity. The episode starts brutal and violent and then ends with possibly one of the most hilarious cop outs I’ve ever seen, creating an experience that is equal parts entertaining and unintentionally funny. It isn’t subtle in execution, but once it grabs your attention it never let’s go, piledriving crazy set piece after crazy set piece until the episodes’ abrupt ending.

Kabaneri is also a pretty nice-looking show. Araki may be hated for his constant hyperdrama, but if there is one thing he is often good at, it’s showcasing some great visuals. While the animation and detailed shading is inconsistent, what it lacks in reliability is more than made up for by the pure aesthetics of it all. Not only are the characters very attractive, but the backgrounds and setting are rich and vibrant. Even though this episode lacks strong plot details, you definitely get a strong feeling of what this strange island apocalypse is like through the stellar presentation alone. Put all of these elements together and you’ve got yourself a premiere which, while neither smart or entirely competent, is fun. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress may not be the most intelligent show around, but sometimes a fantastic spectacle is enough to win me over.

Rating: 3.5/5

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is available for paid worldwide streaming on Amazon Prime

Kiznaiver

Kiznaiver:

Kiznaiver is a weird anime. Most premieres give me a strong sense of what to expect from future episodes, both tonally and plot wise. Bungou Stray Dogs is going to be bishonen de jour, Kabaneri is going to be a violent action fest, etc, etc. Right off the bat though, I don’t really know what to think or expect from Kiznaiver. I went in this episode hoping to get a positive or negative impression, but instead my opinions are decidedly mixed and confused.

On a basic premise and execution level this episode was really nice. There was plenty of dynamic animation and colorful design work, some decent setup, and a bunch of solid character introductions. And yet, even though a majority of this episode was dedicated to building the world and core themes that will likely litter this anime, I came out of the experience with little to no strong grasp on its potential direction. Now that these kids have their telepathic connection, what’s going to happen? What are all these allusions to fighting going on outside the city, and how will this all connect back to Katsuhiro’s past?

This first episode raises a lot of questions and delivers a lot of gorgeous scenery, but rarely does it answer anything. That could be the point, with the show creating intrigue for those who were initially skeptical about the project; but for someone like me who wants something more concrete, it’s a bit of disappointment. The thematic ideas of sharing pain and characters learning to strengthen their empathy sounds like a great backbone for this show, but this episode gives no clue as to what the overall conflict will be and ends abruptly. Mari Okada is handling this series writing, and currently I’m not very impressed. While I’m getting some ideas about future character development, the dialogue and pacing here is kind of janky. Scenes flow awkwardly into each other, and the tone of the episode is hard to pin down. Mysterious? Melancholic? It’s a bit unclear.

So in the end, that lack of clarity is the biggest problem with Kiznaiver’s opening episode. There are plenty of cool and interesting concepts here, but the lack of any real narrative hooks really starts this series off on the wrong foot. It could get better from here on out, or it could get worse, and frankly that’s going to make it a very hard sell for some viewers. I want to see where it goes, but at the same time I’m not sure if it’s be worth it. Good thing I can just watch the OP on repeat!

Rating: 3/5

Kiznaiver is available for free North-American streaming on Crunchyroll

Kumamiko

Kumamiko – Girl Meets Bear:

Yikes, this is a divisive one. Okay, so a lot of people went into this expecting a Barakamon-esque, surreal slice of life comedy. The premise is, after all, based around a small village that is home to a young shrine maiden and a giant talking brown bear. However, what the actual episode contains is not only wildly different, but kind of adult. The first half may be cute jokes about city vs rural life, but once you hit the second half, oh boy does the tone and focus reveal a lot about why this show is not considered children’s programming!

Simply put, there are quite a few jokes about sex with bears. And cunnilingus. To say many people are going to be off put by this is an understatement. The slow pacing and adorable designs courtesy of Kinema Citrus would have you believe you’re in for a cool relaxing experience, but that’s not the case here. Not only does the comedic timing rely on a lot of awkward pauses, but it’s also more interested in poking fun at weird folklore than just having Machi (the girl) and Natsu (the bear) get involved with  generic slice of life activities.

And I kind of like that? I found that juxtaposition of rural pastiche with the more late night TV jokes to be a nice change of pace. Not a consistently nice change of pace mind you, but a nice change nonetheless. There’s obviously A LOT of room for improvement here. The jokes should get some better timing and hopefully the more saucy humor won’t be as drawn out as it is in this episode, but in general I think the series is heading in the right direction. It’s sweet, but it also has a little bit of bite to it. So it may not be great material, but it’s a passable little slice of thirty minutes. Just make sure you go in with the sex jokes in mind, because they will not sit well with you otherwise.

Rating: 2.5/5

Kumamiko – Bear Meets Girl is available for free North American streaming on Funimation.com

The Lost Village

The Lost Village:

Even though I haven’t seen a lot of his stuff, I think it’s okay for me to say that Tsutomu Mizushima is a pretty good director. Under his creative vision we’ve gotten compelling dramas like Shirobako, fun schlock like Prison School, and a whole bunch of other interesting and varied anime. Are all of his shows good? No, of course not. Everyone has their stinkers, and I still won’t forgive him for being a part of that mediocre xxxHolic adaptation, but Mizushima has more than proven himself.

Despite this praise though, if there’s one thing that can make me kind of cautious when going into a show it’s the premise of 30 people traveling on a bus to a creepy unknown village… Also this show is written by Mari Okada. Now I love and respect Ms. Okada quite a bit, but I would be lying if I said she has had the most consistent track record (just look at Kiznaiver’s first episode). Still, even if the writer was the most skilled craftsmen in the industry, the fact that this show is trying so many characters into a 12 episodes would be an instant red flag for me no matter what.

That being said, I enjoyed the first episode of The Lost Village, though probably not in the way the creators intended it to be enjoyable. I mean right off the bat this series pretty much emanates so bad it’s good material. The microphone character introductions, the unsubtle folk song about ripping off limbs, exploding basketballs – everything here is a bit too over the top. Part of me thinks this is intentional, I mean Mizushima is primarily a comedy director and Okada does love herself some high grade cheese, but sometimes I really questioned that interpretation. There were just a few too many serious background tracks and mind trip dream sequences to make that idea valid, not to mention the fact that this thing is directed so intensely.

Seriously, every shot in this episode is heightened and tightly choreographed, which would be fine if the writing was scary, but it definitely isn’t. The script did a lot of things: it made me interested in the cast, set up the premise well, and kept a steady sense of momentum; but the one thing it did not ever do was make me feel tense or worried about what was happening onscreen. The animation may be nice and the character designs are inviting, but unless this show can really prove itself as an effective piece of horror, then I’m not sure I can make it through the series without giggling.

In the end though, I wouldn’t tell anyone to outright dismiss The Lost Village. There is potential here, and if the show ends up becoming more self aware, or somehow turns into something actually scary, I might consider it a worthwhile watch. But as it stands, The Lost Village is popcorn pure and simple. Not bad per say, but definitely messy and imprecise.

Rating: 3/5

The Lost Village is available for free and legal North-American streaming on Crunchyroll

Macross Delta

Macross Δ:

Macross is probably the biggest anime franchise that you’ve never heard of. Due to licensing issues (cough cough, Harmony Gold), the only installments that have ever been brought over stateside uncut have been Macross Plus and the original TV series. It’s a pretty big mecha franchise in Japan, featuring some well loved and iconic mech designs, along with an interesting storied history of TV sequels and OVAs. I’ve personally only seen 4 episodes of the original, but I’ve always been intrigued by it. It’s a mecha universe with a scope almost equivalent to that of Gundam, which made this new installment an instant watch for me.

So how is Macross Delta? Well, I can safely say that it’s one of the best premieres of the season, while also probably being the most baffling. The reason it’s good are pretty obvious from the outset. The animation from studio Satelight is nice and fluid, the character designs are diverse and cute, and the music and general presentation of this episode is spot on. It also does a very good job at hooking  the audience, with a ton of well directed aerial fights and a big idol show stopping number that takes up the final third of the episode. There’s clearly a lot to like here.

And yet it’s all so strange. I mean, the conflict revolves around a virus that’s activated through unknown sound waves which can only be countered by weaponized idols. Yeah, you heard me right, idols. Idols that fight in a war. WITH SONG. Saying the show is a little out there in concept would be an understatement. I was constantly wondering, am I missing something? The show never really explains how these concepts work after all, and while I was entertained, I also felt vaguely worried. Where is this series going?

However, while the crazy premise may cause some whiplash throughout the episode, everything here is so polished and frenetic that it’s hard not to sit back in awe. If I had one major complaint that isn’t just personal confusion, it would be that the CGI here is very bad. It’s often obscured through clever direction mind you, but they don’t seem to have very good software, and the shots that try to blend 2D and 3D together kind of look like garbage.

Otherwise though, this episode is a great watch. I was not only hooked from beginning to end, but the final moments were such a fantastic spectacle that I ended up watching them TWICE. Normally an opening episode can’t even get me to consider any sort of rewatch, so I feel like Macross Delta deserves an award for that alone. Do I have any clue whether or not this show will still be good a few episodes from now? No, but I am definitely along for the ride.

Rating: 4.5/5

Macross Δ is sadly not available for free legal streaming

My Hero Academia

My Hero Academia:

I actually read a few volumes of the manga before this show was even announced, and so I had some pretty high expectations going in. After all, Bones is one of my favorite animation studios in Japan, and Kenji Nagasaki has made waves with his previous work on Gundam Build Fighters (I also liked Classroom Crisis, but that was probably just me). And it also helps that the source material is solid shonen jump de jour, filled with excellent art and endearing characters.

Luckily my expectations were well placed, because the first episode of My Hero Academia is an incredibly good start for this show. I mean right off the bat, it’s incredibly gorgeous to look at. Going into this season, I was definitely worried that Bones wouldn’t be able to handle three major productions, but after having seen Bungou Stray Dogs and Concrete Revolutio S2 maintain stellar quality, I’m very impressed that the studio has been able to handle such a big workload. This first episode is no slouch when it comes to sakuga and well animated action sequences. While a lot of scenes are pretty direct translations of the manga, the fight scenes are way more dynamic and interesting than they ever were on the page. Everything is fast and frenetic, and while it may not be as mind blowing as One Punch Man’s opening fights, it’s certainly impressive and enjoyable to watch.

It’s also just a nice introduction to the themes and world of My Hero Academia. This episode only covers about half of the first chapter (which is a very long intro chapter to be honest), but it never feels slow or boring. Exposition is light and frothy, the characters are instantly endearing through their excellent character animation, and the whole product is a generally smooth experience. I have no doubt in my mind that this will become one of the biggest hits of the season. Not only because the heroes in an everyday world premise lends itself to a lot of crowd pleasing action scenes, but also because it’s a genuinely an optimistic and charming piece of fiction. Sometimes you want a deep superhero deconstruction, but other times you just need a fun rollercoaster ride.

Rating: 4.5/5

My Hero Academia is available for free North American streaming on Funimation.com

Space Patrol Luluco

Space Patrol Luluco:

I’ve never really loved any of Hiroyuki Imaishi’s works. While I definitely respect Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill, I can’t say that they really connected with me. I find his tendency towards crazy bombast over plot and characters to be annoying to say the least, and in the case of Kill la Kill I just straight up didn’t care about anything that was happening. Weirdly enough though, I think I might really like Space Patrol Luluco, which is something I was not expecting.

Now, let me explain myself. As I said before, one of my major problems with Imaishi as a director is that themes and style are often the major focus of his works. Don’t get me wrong, I love myself some themes, but I also like it when they’re backed up by more than just pretty visuals. You’ve got to have some relatable characters. Gurren Lagann had Simon I guess, and Kill la Kill had Satsuki if I’m really stretching it, but my main issue is that, for the most part, everyone remains an archetype. Compelling archetypes mind you, but archetypes nonetheless.

A lot of these same issues apply to Luluco also. I knew I was in for a series about adolescent discovery and change as soon as Luluco started rambling on about how crazy her city is, and the alien comedy certainly cemented that impression. However, I’m kind of okay with that. This may just be a personal preference, but in a short series like Luluco, style over substance stuff like this works a lot better than it does in long running TV series. It makes sense Luluco is a stereotypical normal girl caught up in a crazy world, and I understand why Imaishi’s frantic style is implemented here. Luluco has a messy life, one where insane things happen on a daily basis, and what better way to represent this than through flashy animation and rapid fire jokes. Of course, it also helps that I’m very biased toward coming of age stories like this. My first thought when I finished the episode was that this show reminded me of FLCL, and honestly that is totally my jam.

So, is Space Patrol Luluco worth a watch? I’d say yes, but then again it really all depends on personal preference. Imaishi’s directorial style is quite divisive, and while it mostly works for me this time, other people might disagree. There’s no denying, however, that there’s a lot passion behind this show from Studio Trigger (this is their 5th anniversary project after all); and the ED is also stellar. Luluco may not charm me as much in future episodes, but for now I feel pretty confident in giving it a recommendation.

Rating: 4/5

Space Patrol Luluco is available for free and legal North-American streaming on Crunchyroll

Twin Star Exorcists

Twin Star Exorcists:

Last Fall when talking about The Asterisk War, I said that the only way these crappy light novels could ever be considered good one day is if the staff working on them decides to really work hard at the adaptation process. And now that principle has been proven by Twin Star Exorcists, a stunning adaptation of a rote shonen m– Okay, so we’re not quite there with the light novel theory yet, but this still pretty close in practice!

Then again, that might be selling the source material of Twin Star Exorcists a little short. From what I’ve heard, the manga is a perfectly fine slice of shonen antics, but the main thing that makes this anime stand out is the amount of effort put into its visual presentation. While the actual animation quality is only passable, the framing and art design is not. Distinct eye-catches and cinematography are scattered throughout this episode, turning a pretty standard premise of a Rakuro, a former exorcist with massive potential, meeting Benio, a girl who fights against the demonic Kegare with skill and precision, into a full blown spectacle.

The writing is definitely not the series’ strong point, with the script blowing past plot details in order to make room for exhilarating fight scenes. This works for the most part, but it definitely raises questions about how this decision will stack up in future episodes. That fact alone makes it hard to confidently recommend this series, especially considering how generic its concept is, but that doesn’t stop Twin Star Exorcists from having an engaging first episode. It may not wow like My Hero Academia, but the effort from the staff here is very clear and pronounced. They clearly care about making this an enjoyable show, and in a world where so many anime feel like their studio mandated, that’s a pretty big accomplishment.

Rating: 3/5

Twin Star Exorcists in available for free North-American streaming on Crunchyroll

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s