Hey everybody! We’re back with another round of seasonal first impressions! This time is a bit different… and more professional. Everything is alphabetized (how exciting), and the end of the article features a short summary of all the shows we took a look at, along with some notes about our grading scale. Enjoy!
Eureka Seven: AO
In the distant future of the 2005 series, we get something much more down-to-earth than the Nirvash action of its predecessor. That said, it carries many of the same themes, has similar uplifting music, and follows us through with the whimpy-ass main character (who at least has some connection to Renton). Consider it a Next Generation of sorts.
The original Eureka Seven was an odd beast. It had spectacular animation, a good soundtrack, and certainly some deep thought put in, but had protagonists that were boring at best and whiny at worst. Yes, it got better as the show progressed, but when I started caring more about characters like Anemone more than any of the main cast, you’re not doing well in developing your characters the right way. Whereas for this show, it seems like we’re getting more of the same. Again, there’s the story of a reckless boy with a boring home life that is given a ancestral plot device that’ll lead him to greater heights.
Now, this isn’t to say that I didn’t like it. In fact, it was quite interesting to get back into the E7 universe. Even a bit nostalgic, actually. The characters are all established quite well in their first few seconds. BONES does a good job as always. All that’s left is the potential, which this show definitely has. But it seems like it’ll be a while before it can actually reach it.
7/10 — Dr. Insomniac
Fate/Zero, Season 2
Picking up at the exact second where the first season left off, the latter half of Fate/Zero jumps right into the action with its explosive first episode. Character motivations are made apparent, devious plans are set in motion, and sea monster tentacles are sliced off — all in a day’s work for the crazy bastards fighting the 4th Holy Grail War.
Plot progression in this installment is minimal, but the ensuing epic battle of wits, swords, missiles, and flying horses is sure to entertain fans of the previous series. The art, animation, and audio design are as superb as last time, combining to create an all around excellent production. While some segments aren’t quite as awesome as you might have imagined after that awful cliffhanger, a certain scene involving dueling jets is absolutely breathtaking and makes this episode worth the watch on its own. Of course, if you weren’t a fan of the first season, you won’t like this one either… but I’m not sure how anyone wouldn’t have found it at least mildly enjoyable.
Season 2 appears to be more of the same, and that’s a very good thing. 8/10 — Foggle
The working title for this series was My Little Cthulhu Can't Be This Cute.
I’m not really sure what to think about this show. The art style is sickeningly cute and the jokes miss their mark as often as they succeed, but Nyaruko-san actually works for the most part. In a nutshell, this is a comedy about a Lovecraftian abomination assuming a human form and coming to Earth to kill some intergalactic terrorists and protect an ordinary high-schooler from being sold into slavery… but it’s nowhere near as interesting as that plot description makes it sound. The story is actually closer to “cute girl moves in with some kid, then proceeds to kill demons and try to fuck him”… but it’s nowhere near as awful as that brief synopsis makes it sound.
Nyarlko, the moe~ space monster, is a surprisingly likable character. She knows Space CQC, bludgeons aliens to death with a crowbar, and lets her Pokemon die for kicks. Her dialogue and shenanigans are often funny, and single-handedly keep this anime from sinking too deep into the bowels of mediocrity. Unfortunately, she’s paired up with Mahiro Yasaka, the male protagonist, who is a complete bitch and practically goes out of his way to ruin entire scenes. Nyarlko says something funny or endearing? He whines and hits her. Nyarlko tries to do something nice for him? He whines and hits her. Nyarlko admits she’s in love with him? He whines and hits her. Pointless slapstick is never funny, and doubly so when it’s perpetrated by awful/borderline abusive characters like Yasaka.
As far as the production quality goes, you’ve undoubtedly seen and heard better, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I loved the music in the OP and ED. Okay, maybe I’m a little ashamed to admit that. Regardless, they’re fairly catchy and fun. So far, Haiyore! Nyaruko-san is an at least decent outing for a comedy anime, and perhaps one that will improve with time. Give it a chance to impress you – you might like it.
While you shouldn’t expect Re-Animator-level laughs, Nyaruko-san is a lot better than appearances might suggest. 666/1000 — Foggle
Hiiro no Kakera
It's creepy how the characters can see me through the screen.
Here’s the only real difference between generic shounen fantasy and generic shoujo fantasy: the former will have a weak male protagonist and lots of strong, sexy women, while the latter will have a weak female protagonist and lots of strong, handsome men. Hiiro no Kakera is, by all means, a generic shoujo fantasy anime, but – probably due to Studio Deen’s involvement – it has trouble getting even that basic concept right. This first episode is literally nothing but exposition, delivered in the flattest and most gratingly boring manner imaginable. The story – some shit about princesses and dead gods and blood brothers – is uninteresting and unoriginal, but it’s really just a setup for the romance that’s no doubt soon to follow. This would be forgivable if:
1) The first episode didn’t spend roughly 90% of its time focusing on the plot.
2) The characters weren’t all cardboard cutouts.
One thing I’ve always liked more about shoujo than shounen is that the awful protagonists are usually just clumsy airheads instead of totally inept gene pool failures. Leading lady Kasuga Tamaki certainly has that to her credit; give me someone like her over an Emiya Shirou or Ouma Shu any day. She’s pretty bad, and as generic as they come, but at least she understands how to walk and breathe at the same time. The love interests are also bog standard fare; a male tsundere, a brash yet cute short guy, a soft-spoken and enigmatic tall fellow, and a friendly dude who looks like a chick. Be still my beating heart.
It’s worth noting that the animation is pretty high caliber by Studio Deen standards, which means that it’s about on par with a typical JC Staff production. The voice work is nothing special, but the background music is pretty awesome. In fact, it sounds like something from a video gam– oh. Turns out this series is based on a visual novel. Which means that the music is probably ripped directly from the VN. Oh, Deen.
I actually fell asleep during this show; I drifted off around the 10 minute mark and woke up about 8 minutes later. That never happens. 3/10 — Foggle
A good reason to sell guns.
Get ready for moderate action, mild thrills, and no morals, as this is a series about an insane albino arms dealer and her slightly less crazy crew. Unfortunately, it centers on Jonah, the group’s newest member and emotionless child soldier. So while there’s a lot of potential here for a great action anime featuring large amounts of hilarious and/or terrifying psychosis, it’s mostly squandered (in this first episode, anyway). Don’t get me wrong, it’s still pretty entertaining and fairly interesting, it just hasn’t lived up to my expectations yet.
Jormungand has a lot of characters who will, no doubt, be developed further in later episodes. Episode 1 is mostly about Jonah’s first mission with the crew and the beginning of his relationship (non-romantic, you fuck) with Koko, the aforementioned arms dealer. They make a sale, people die, Koko elicits a couple of slapstick laughs and generally behaves like a less funny version of Mr. Gates from Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid. It’s not exactly enthralling, but it kept me entertained for all 24 minutes and got me interested in watching next week’s episode, so it’s definitely a winner on at least some fronts.
I’m not really a fan of the art style and the animation is obviously low budget, but they do get the job done. The voice acting, on the other hand, is mostly awesome and suitably over the top. Then there’s the music, which is either completely unfitting (the ED) or somewhat odd (the indecipherable auto-tuned Engrish in the OP). I actually liked the soundtrack, but it’s not what you’d expect from a show like this.
Don’t make it a priority, but you’ll probably want to check this one out eventually. 7/10 — Foggle
Kids on the Slope (Sakamichi no Apollon)
Yeah, here is the one show that everybody’s been waiting for. Not just anime fans, but connoisseurs of good TV in general. And does it score? Of course.
First and foremost, the show hits us over the head with what it’s about: Music. Music helps open the soul, penetrating it with warm, gooey life lessons. The moment the show’s theme embraces our main character Kaoru, he gets launched onto the step of a whole coming of age cycle waiting to happen. Then there’s Sentaro, who has more fire in his pinky than the average human does in the whole body. From his first appearance to his solo at the end, his character just launches a magnificent first impression on you like a rocket into a country.
Anime’s main intrigue for me and many other people used to be that it was exotic, that it could carry concepts that normal television just wouldn’t. And to see something like jazz go into a medium that doesn’t exactly hold onto such a genre helps spark that curiosity for the odd back again. To see such fury at the norm go to such lengths like this, it’s glorious.
10/10 — Dr. Insomniac
It happens. It happened. It will happen. We all grow up, we all learn who we really are, we learn who we’re not, and we learn what truly makes us who we are. The coming of age story, the slice of life, and anime itself gets a real kick in the teeth and a reminder of exactly what makes the medium of animation so special in the first place. It’s not really any surprise considering the pedigree behind the show, but that aside it is nice to see a slice of life show- the first since Beck, realize exactly what it is people enjoy about the genre. Learning, loving, hating, changing, and the difference between being real and being fake.
Taking a break from all the disjointed noise of current anime, remembering the genre before moe took over, and bringing back the genuine emotions that truly make it special. This is only the first episode, but it already has shown us more than most slice of life series do these days in their entire run. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you’re reading this, you must watch this show. And you will remember why anime, and animation itself, appealed to you in the first place. Relate and love.
10/10 — Spark Of Spirit
Kuroko No Basket
The underdog success story in Shonen Jump finally has its own anime! For those unaware, Kuroko No Basket is a sports manga and possibly the best and most unique in maybe a decade. It took a while to build up a fanbase in the Shonen Jump rankings, but it has since become one of the most popular series. So it getting an anime now is a real treat for the fans who supported it since day one.
But what was always weird about this getting an anime adaption is that Kuroko is all about weird and flexing movements, much like real basketball, only much faster with extremely unpredictable sudden movements that would require competent animation to pull off. Unlike, say, Eyeshield 21, Kuroko No Basket is not insanely cartoony, nor is it slightly goofy in seriousness like Prince Of Tennis. It treats Basketball with the utmost respect, yet isn’t afraid to push it as far as realistically possible, while keeping itself grounded. Each character (actually, EVERY character- even minor ones) also has their own play-style and personality, which would require more than your typical shonen anime animation to pull off right.
Fortunately, the director behind this is actually (so far) very adept at adapting the manga. Few moments in episode one are ripped directly from the panel, and often feature different angles, more character interaction, and has seamless flow from scene to scene. Kuroko himself is a hard character for animation to get right, as the silent pages of a manga show his stealthy and quick moves a lot sharper than animation potentially could, but the direction and animation is used quite well here in how close the whole tone is to the manga without either copying it wholesale or failing miserably. Not just the animation, but the music and sound effects are chosen wisely to perfectly match the action on screen… While that doesn’t seem like much, the wrong tone for the sound could completely throw off the story’s focus, so I’m glad to say it doesn’t. I look forward to how future arcs will be adapted.
However, despite all that, this is still the first episode. It’s not going to blow anyone away. The first few chapters of Kuroko No Basket are kind of dry, and standard. Kagami is a jerk at this point, the story is barely moving, and most of the rest of the characters aren’t defined at this point. So I don’t think this episode will sell anyone on this series if they aren’t into sports series. But, hey, it took a while for the manga to catch on, too. As an adaption, it’s quite impressive, but as an episode it’s merely the beginning to something much better.
As an adaption: 5/5
As an episode: 3/5
Verdict: 8/10 — Spark Of Spirit
Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine
Lupin is (finally) back and crazier than ever!
It’s been 27 years since Lupin’s last television series concluded its run. Indeed, the final episode of Lupin III: Part 3 is 8 years my senior. For those of you who have never seen an episode or movie before (SHAME ON YOU), it’s a really goofy franchise about a master thief, his three amigos, and the police inspector trying to capture him. Key staples of Lupin III include hilarious animation, off the wall storylines, and boobs. And let me tell ya, this new iteration has more of all three than every previous series combined. Woman Called Fujiko Mine is either a prequel to or a reboot of the original 1971 series… it’s not really important. What is important is that Lupin’s back, baby!
This new season is a bit different from past ones. For starters, this is much closer to the original Monkey Punch Lupin III manga, which means that it’s a lot darker (though still extremely comedic), a lot more violent, and – of course – much heavier on the fanservice. The first episode has tons of T&A, and feel free to jump for joy since none of the characters in this show are children. Refreshing, right? As the title implies, this series is more about Fujiko than Lupin (though he’s still a main character), and she’s topless for at least 20% of the episode. There’s also a surprising amount of blood in the (fairly brief) action scenes. Seriously, don’t watch this one with your kids who loved the Miyazaki movie.
The comedy is wonderfully hilarious, partly because of the awesome writing (provided by Dai Sato of Cowboy Bebop fame). But the real stars here are the art and animation; Lupin III: WCFM is magnificent and an absolute feast for the eyes. Everything is detailed to the extent of a full-blown comic book, the characters move with a shocking amount of fluidity, and the facial expressions/backgrounds are simply a joy to behold. Throw in a totally amazing jazz soundtrack and perfect voice acting, and you’ve got a masterpiece on your hands.
This is the best incarnation of Lupin ever, and I don’t say that lightly. 10/10 — Foggle
First of all: WOW! That animation can pass for movie quality. I’m not sure if its just the great effect of its art being stylized to resemble the manga in motion, but this series (or at least this first episode) seems to have amazingly high production values. The voice acting is top notch as well. As far as I’m concerned, Lupin, Fujiko, and Zenigata sounded exactly like they should.
The episode itself was a typical Lupin III style heist except with the main focus on Lupin competing with Fujiko, each of them using their own particular talents as thiefs/criminals to try and get to the jackpot first, with Lupin mainly relying on over-the-top and elaborate stunts, stealth, and general craftiness to get what he wants, whereas Fujiko uses her skills in seduction and manipulation to work her way closer to the valuables she’s after. The writers (and the entire anime staff in general) CLEARLY understand these characters well and know how they function, which is a terrific thing for any Lupin fan.
I know that this series is primarily supposed to be about Fujiko and Lupin, but I do sincerely hope that we get to see Jigen and Goemon worked into the main cast as well, and of course I’m sure we’ll get plenty of classic style confrontations and clashes between Zenigata and Lupin in future episodes to come.
Overall this seems to be one of those few reboot (or prequel if you want to call it that) anime that actually works really well, rather than feeling like a cheap cash-in to make a quick buck based off of popular name alone. This first episode, at least, was crammed full of style and just enough substance to keep it entertaining the whole way through; though, lets face it, at its core Lupin III IS style over substance, but it does it right, which is why its an awesome series.
9/10 — Ensatsu-ken
One of this episode's few legitimately humorous moments.
Medaka Box is purportedly a parody of the awful cliches that bog down high school slice of life and battle shounen anime. After watching the first episode, I’m not really feeling it. This series actually seems to play most of those tropes completely straight and is so lacking in good humor that it basically turns into one of the shows it’s trying to make fun of.
This episode opens with multiple T&A shots of Medaka, the main character. In case you’re wondering, yes, the protagonist of this show is a fanservice character. Feel free to jump for joy (or not). To her credit, she actually has a likable personality and seems like a pretty strong character, but it’s hard to appreciate the intelligence and motivation of someone whose huge boobs are quite literally thrust toward the camera at every given opportunity. She also looks almost exactly like the female lead from Highschool DxD, which gives me horrifying flashbacks about how traumatic watching that train wreck was. Meanwhile, Hitoyoshi, the male lead, is basically just a whiny version of Kyon. He sucks hard. Not much more needs to be said, really.
The story is basically nonexistent and is really just an excuse for the characters to do silly stuff. Students ask for Medaka’s help (since she’s the student council president, AKA God in animeland), and she obliges. Hitoyoshi is forced to tag along because he’s her childhood friend and she wants to fuck him. Did you laugh at that last sentence? Because that’s one of the “jokes” in Medaka Box. The childhood friend is not only a guy, but the protagonist is more in love with him than vice versa! What a hilarious subversion.
As you can probably tell, most of the jokes in this show aren’t funny at all. But the ones that are feel a bit too similar to material from other, more popular series. The delinquents are all practically Cromartie High School characters. Some of the dialogue bits and situations encountered by the characters gave me eerie Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu deja vu. Many of the visual gags were already done before in Excel Saga, while a joke near the end of the episode is lifted almost word for word from the manga. I’m not saying that any of the comedy in this anime is outright stolen from others, but most of the stuff that could actually be considered somewhat funny comes across as extremely unoriginal. Ripoff or not, rest assured that you won’t be laughing at all during this show since it has an awful sense of humor.
The music sounds like an orchestral rendition of the soundtrack from Pokemon Red, which may or may not be a good thing (I haven’t decided yet). Regardless, nothing about the art or sound design is very memorable. The animation, on the other hand, is great, energetic, and occasionally ridiculous enough to be funny. That’s the only redeeming quality of this series, really. The animation is so goofy and vibrant that I honestly wanted to like Medaka Box… I just couldn’t.
Keep this box closed. You’ll thank me later. 4/10 — Foggle
Mysterious Girlfriend X (Nazo no Kanojo X)
I was wondering that myself.
The ED is a montage featuring multiple shots of the (approximately) 12-year-old female lead in suggestive poses and risque clothing… and she’s drooling in all of them. Honestly, I could end my write-up here and you’d still get the point. But I won’t. I sat through all 23 minutes of this episode, and goddamn it I’m going to talk about them.
This is a series about a boy who drinks a girl’s drool off her school desk and then experiences withdrawal symptoms when he goes for long periods of time without ingesting any. This is a series about a boy who falls in love with a girl after drinking her spit and a girl who falls in love with a boy because God told her to have sex with him. This is a series about a girl who violently vomits saliva in all directions on a regular basis.
This is a series that tries to turn drool into a fetish.
Mysterious Girlfriend X clearly has great production values; the art and animation are nice while the music is soothing and the voice acting is superb. But does any of that really matter when the actual content of the episode makes me feel sick? No. It doesn’t. I may be shallow, but this anime is still repulsive and terrible.
Please excuse me while I format my hard drive in an attempt to remove any and all traces of this show’s existence from my computer. -1/10 — Foggle
Does this screen cap make you want to watch it? Didn't think so.
An ozuma is a gigantic sand whale. The series and its first installment are both named after this creature. One appears for about 10 seconds at the beginning of the episode and is then never seen nor heard from again. Instead, this first episode (one of only six) revolves around a ragtag group of obnoxious and/or boring humans doing literally nothing. They meander about aimlessly until they’re attacked by Theseus (some kind of military group), and then they escape unharmed and uninhibited. Riveting stuff.
Ozuma stars Sam Coyne, an eager young lad who aspires to someday capture one of the series’ titular beasts. I have no idea how he thinks such a task is possible, as the sand whales are larger than Tokyo Tower, but I digress. Whilst riding his poorly animated jet bike through the dystopian wasteland made entirely out of sand, he spots a seven foot tall woman (Maya) being chased by the bad guys, and saves her. Since she has about five lines total in this episode, I’d say she’s probably the most likable character so far. For the next 15 minutes, the story goes absolutely nowhere and characters are barely established, let alone developed. Spoiler alert: the doctor is almost definitely a traitor since an ominous music cue plays at the end of her first (and only) scene.
Special mention must be given to the art and animation for being utter shit. I truly have no words for how jarring and awkward this show’s artwork is. The character designs are an ungodly blend of the ones from Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Revolutionary Girl Utena, The Idolm@ster, and Dragon Ball, which is ridiculous to the point of being nauseating. Think I’m kidding? Watch the episode yourself. Strangely enough, most of the characters wear ordinary work clothes… except for Mimay (Sam’s girlfriend? maybe?), who sports some weird pink cloth JRPG armor with a heart engraved in the back. Oh, and everyone frequently goes off-model, too; Mimay’s and the Captain’s gloves sometimes disappear and reappear between shots while the entire cast is prone to becoming shorter or taller at a moment’s notice. As a side note, this series marks the first time I’ve ever witnessed draw distance issues in a cartoon.
Ozuma is apparently based on an unpublished manga by Leiji Matsumoto. It’s not hard to figure out why it was never released. 2/10 — Foggle
One man gets born when his country’s soccer team fucks up, while his brother is spawned when it succeeds, directing their lives from here on out. When the former starts finding his future on the rocks, he looks back to his past and wonder of space to help figure things out. And to do that, he’ll require help from his space-faring brother.
Now this is the kind of show people should be looking up to. It knows its humour, while having its heart in the right place. As someone whose own life is under contemplation at the moment, this show really hits me. The kind of shit that the main character, Mutta, is going through manages to be grounded into cynicism while still showing glimmers of hope at the same time. It’s quite profound in what the characters are up against, as well as rooting itself into emotional realism. Though it may be a bit slow-paced for some viewers, Uchuu Kyoudai is something I would recommend to anyone in need of an anime that doesn’t talk down to you.
10/10 — Dr. Insomniac
A dark and gritty superhero anime, Zetman kicks off with an exceptionally depressing first episode. Jin is a homeless kid (and possible test tube baby) with a moderate sense of justice who comes to see a prostitute(?) as a maternal figure after his grandfather is brutally murdered by a serial killer. Society as a whole pretty much sucks in the world of Zetman, which features posh bastards gambling on fights to the death between forcefully mutated humans and doctors who care more about money than helping people, among other things. Honestly, the first episode of this show is too dark; nothing feels natural and most of the characters’ actions come across as manufactured. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call the series’ opener soulless, it definitely seems artificial and dishonest. It’s depressing for the sake of being depressing, and that definitely cheapens the experience.
Jin appears to be a decent character, but this episode was definitely more focused on telling his origin story than establishing much in the way of traits or flaws. That’s actually a good thing, in my opinion, as any of kid Jin’s possible character development would likely be rendered meaningless in the following episodes where he’s much older. Everyone else either exists to push him along on his path of almost-justice or to be a complete asshole to him; there’s no middle ground. Just another example of how fake this series feels when compared to other action anime.
The animation isn’t the best, but the action is very stylish and cool. It’s not super fluid or anything, but it makes up for this with some nice camera angles that give the impression of a moving comic book. It’s pretty neat. The acting ranges from decent to great, and the music is also pretty good, with the ED being funky as hell. Really, the ED is awesome; I liked it more than the actual show.
You could certainly do worse than Zetman this season, but it’s hard to recommend something so artificial. 5/10 — Foggle
TOTALLY WORTH WATCHING!
Kids on the Slope (Sakamichi no Apollon) – 10/10
Uchuu Kyoudai – 10/10
Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine – 9.5/10
Fate/Zero, Season 2 – 8/10
Kuroko No Basket – 8/10
GIVE IT A TRY, MAYBE!
Eureka Seven: AO – 7/10
Jormungand – 7/10
Haiyore! Nyaruko-san – 6.5/10
Zetman – 5/10
AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!
Medaka Box – 4/10
Hiiro no Kakera – 3/10
Ozuma – 2/10
Mysterious Girlfriend X (Nazo no Kanojo X) – 1/10
Our Rating Scale
Many websites rate shows on a scale of 7-10, with the other 6 numbers on there simply for posterity’s sake. That’s fucking stupid. We here at AR proudly use roughly 250% as many numbers as IGN when scoring anime!
10 – Masterpiece
9 – Superb
8 – Great
7 – Good
6 – Above Average
5 – Average
4 – Below Average
3 – Bad
2 – Terrible
1 – Unwatchable