As usual, these aren't reviews of entire series, but just my first impressions of their first episodes.
- Couldn't find: Fuusen Inu Tinny. Based on a children's picture book series, with a dog who flies around in a balloon.
- Listed under "D": Fuuun Ishin Dai Shogun, aka. Dai-Shogun - Great Revolution
- Listed under "K": The File of Young Kindaichi Returns, aka. Kindaichi Case Files R
- Listed under "L": Futsu no Joshikosei ga Locodol Yattemita, aka. Locodol
- Fairy Tail
- Season 5
- Episode 176, 24 minutes
- Keep watching: No, but I picked a bad time to jump aboard
- One-line summary: wacky dragonslayers
It's either Fairy Tail
's second or fifth season, depending on who you talk to. (The show got relaunched in 2014 after a hiatus, with a new director and animation studio.) I was only luke-warm about it, but a Fairy Tail
fan I know doesn't like this season either. He also loves Black Butler, by the way, and was recommending I give the show another chance and check out its first season.
Anyway, I'd describe Fairy Tale as "One Piece with dragons". I'm a Dutchman if Hiro Mashima isn't swiping Eiichiro Oda's art style (but toned down a bit). Our heroes are dragonslayers and magic-users in a world with dragonslayer guilds and villains who aren't afraid to kill each other. The girls have enormous boobs, even if they're all fully clothed. There appears to be a race of intelligent talking cats. There's some interesting content with dragonslayers having been raised by dragons and with the human-dragon boundary getting blurred in possibly surprising ways.
Clearly much of this episode would have been a big deal for regular viewers, but unfortunately as a newbie I didn't really care. I was surprised at my lack of reaction. Fairy Tail
is a major franchise. It's an international hit and its season(s) to 2013 alone comprise 175 episodes, not counting OVAs. However this episode didn't give me much reason to care about its characters or its revelations. If you feel like trying Fairy Tail
, don't start here.
- Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
- Season 1, but in quite a complicated franchise
- Episodes: 13 x 48 minutes
- Keep watching: I've heard that it's excellent, but not tempted
- One-line summary: magical warriors + Holy Grail War
- I've since finished it and... I was wrong and it is indeed excellent. My mistake was to start with ep.1, not ep.0.
I've seen this series in lists of the best five anime of 2014, but I didn't really like it.
The original Fate/stay night was a pornographic "visual novel", i.e. computer game, but it's since become a porn-free multimedia franchise. (You'd never guess its origins from this episode.) It's supposedly very good, with thematic depth that's had reviewers comparing it favourably with traditional novels. The game has three playable heroines, each with a different storyline that's since spawned its own spin-off industry. Unlimited Blade Works is the second of the three and this isn't even its first anime adaptation, since there was also a movie in 2010.
Anyway, this is a double-length episode and it only stops being dull towards the end. We watch the main character, Emiya, go to school and have uneventful conversations. We see him do favours for people, including the obnoxious Shinji. Someone tells off Emiya for being too nice. We also see his home life, with his bland sister (?) and the tiresome Fujimura-sensei. (She's a teacher at Emiya's school who lives with them and is loud and childish at all times, even when everyone else in the room is acting normally and paying her as little attention as possible.)
I cared about none of these people. Emiya's a nice guy and he has some interesting motivations, including a dislike of necessary ruthlessness and a tragic backstory. However he's also drab and seems to be trudging through life. Everyone else is cold, bland, stupid and/or unlikeable. The silly mistaken ID incident is another scene that lowered my estimation of these characters' IQs.
It also has no sense of humour. It feels dreary. The lighter bits that I think were meant to be comedic were in fact annoying.
Very late in the episode, something happens. A plot? Cool. There's violence, magic and a cold-blooded warrior girl called Saber. This persuaded me that there might be some point to the story after all, but still not enough to make me want to watch episode two. That said, though, I was talking with Tomoko about this and she wants to watch it. It's well regarded. I can see that the plot's kicking in and there's quite a high chance I'll end up watching more despite my reaction here, if only because Tomoko's been looking up the DVDs on Amazon. There are many shows that you can't judge from the first episode, after all. I'm sure the reviewers are right and I'm missing out on lots of good stuff by not continuing this series, but it failed to clear my "I don't care" hurdle.
- Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei!
- Season 2, with season 1 just being Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya
- Episodes: 10 x 24 minutes + an 11th OVA episode
- Keep watching: "No" was my verdict at the time, but eventually I did and loved it
- One-line summary: Magical girls, decent but nothing special
- I've since finished it and... it's fantastic. Scary, funny and a bit perverted. One of my favourites!
It's another Fate/stay night, but in an alternate universe where they're all magical girls. It's way more fun than Unlimited Blade Works, but for now I think again "no".
Ilya is a Japanese schoolgirl, but also an albino with red eyes. Her mother and older sister are like that too. Are they vampires? She also has a repressed lesbian best friend (Miyu) with a massive crush on her, but who's taciturn and emotionless. Miyu hardly ever speaks, or even reacts. They're magical girls together. They also have other friends at school, one of whom is particularly young and says inappropriate things, e.g. if they're going to the beach, everyone needs sexy swimsuits. She's one reason to stop watching.
Anyway, this is Season 2. It's been a month since Magical Ruby (Ilya's wand) fell from the sky and turned her into a magical girl! Since then, she's been collecting cards. Uh-huh. Couldn't the character have been driven by something internal and character-based rather than an arbitrary quest plot? Unfortunately, though, Ilya and Miya have finished collecting all the cards and so this year they'll be stabilising ley lines! Don't ask. It looks impressive, at least.
I don't hate any of this at all. It looks fine. It can be funny, e.g. Miyu's lesbian crush and the ice cream, the car-kidnapping or the irreverent attitude of our heroines' wands. "In a bottomless well, we'll have no trouble disposing of the bodies." There's also a startling cliffhanger.
It occasionally has a male gaze, unlike most magical girl shows. I think it was the fanservice in the end credits that stopped me from continuing, but my decision was on a knife-edge and I'd have been more than happy to keep going. It's lively and light-hearted, while the cast look entertaining and the plot's already having fun. Fundamentally, though, this episode didn't suggest anything I hadn't seen before. It feels familiar. Solid, but dispensable.
- Future Card Buddyfight
- Season 1 (of at least three)
- Episodes: 64 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: No, but it's a little better than you'd think
- One-line summary: Brat meets alien dragon monster in trading card game anime
It's a trading card game anime, but it's okay.
On first exposure, mind you, I hated it with a burning passion. I'd found the American dub on YouTube. The problem isn't the acting quality, though, but the fact that these are swaggering characters who talk big and are beyond insufferable with standard American-voiced cartoon acting. (I'm clearly in a minority with this opinion, but what can I say?) This isn't just my usual problem with English-language dubs, by the way, but something more specific that, for me, comes with the accent. I think I'd have loved an Australian dub. An Irish dub? An Indian dub? All those sound entertaining. A French-accented dub where everyone talks like Inspector Clouseau... bring it on!
I watched it in Japanese, obviously. It was either that or not watch it at all, but there's some American-accented Engrish even in the Japanese dub. Ouch. (I apologise to any Americans who might be reading this.)
Anyway, this show has two heroes. One is a dragon called Drum Bunker who's going to Earth to find the perfect Buddy for Buddyfighting. The other is Gao Mikado, a small boy with a planet-sized attitude and a mother who puts him through brutal martial arts training. He calls himself "banchou", which means the leader of a group of juvenile delinquents. (There is no group. It's just him.)
The important thing, though, is that this show isn't set in the real world and it doesn't star trading card nerds. It's SF and Buddyfighting is real fighting. When you play a dragon card, this summons a real dragon. The police use Buddyfighting. This is good because it makes the show watchable, if you can stomach the episode's secondary message of "buy lots of cards in search of the rare ones, kids!"
There's a daft moral. "Luck only comes to those who are prepared to take it!" However Gao and Drum Bunker are an amusing combination, since they're both abrasive muscleheads and hence immediately clash with each other. Gao being bullied by his mother is fun. The show also succeeds on a basic wish-fulfilment level, since having a dinosaur-sized Dragon Buddy would indeed be cool. I won't be watching any more of this show, but I'd be perfectly happy to do so. I'd certainly watch it a thousand episodes of this before exposing myself again to Bushiroad's previous cardfighting series, Cardfight!! Vanguard. It's entertaining.
- Francesca: Girls Be Ambitious
- Season 1
- Episodes: 24 x 11 minutes
- Keep watching: I loved it!
- One-line summary: comedy undead
- I've since finished it and... it's cheap, repetitive and fairly skippable
That was cool! It's a gag mini-anime with zombies, but it made me laugh.
"Who's Francesca?" I hear you cry. Answer: she's the "local moe character" who was created to publicise Japan's northernmost big island, Hokkaido. Since this is Japan, she's a zombie. A cute zombie, naturally. More precisely, she's an undead idol who loves Hokkaido food (not brains) and wears a frilly goth dress and a medical eye patch.
Meanwhile her co-star in this show is Exorcist, a tiny girl in a Dracula cape and nappy who happens to be the manager of the Community Safety Vengeful Ghosts Extermination Department. She kills the undead with her minigun. Note: "minigun" doesn't mean "mini", but instead is the kind of thing you fit on tanks. Bill Duke used one in Predator to cut down a forest. Anyway, I laughed my head off to see a grumpy small girl ordering adults out of the way as she opened fire with her minigun.
Not all zombies are bad, though. Some are romantic and silly, which annoys Exorcist and she tells them off. This is funny too.
We then get statues coming alive, including the famous (in Japan) Dr. William S. Clark who said the "boys, be ambitious!" quote that's been stolen for the title of this anime. The statues are less funny than Exorcist and don't even seem to own a minigun. However they do wake up Francesca, the "ultimate undead", and immediately ask if this might have been a mistake. Francesca's brain climbs out of its skull and runs away. Her zombie dog starts eating her. The end.
This is brilliant. I've no idea whether it'll still be brilliant in ten or twenty episodes' time, mind you. It would also be silly to call it a must-watch, since it's fluff that doesn't even sustain a consistent level of entertainment for eleven minutes. However I laughed a lot and enjoyed it greatly.
- Free! Eternal Summer
- Season 2, with season 1 being Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club
- Episodes: 13 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: Naaah
- One-line summary: Pretty boys in a swimming club, but it's also good
I'd heard that it's excellent, but also that it's about a swimming club. I'm not interested in swimming. Hmmm.
It's also a manservice show, for what it's worth. It's full of pretty boys in micro-trunks, showing off their muscles. It's blatant girl-porn, but that's not a problem. It's funny, e.g. with their presentation to the school assembly. The important thing is that a fangirl audience also demands character and relationship work, so by all accounts this series is well worth watching on those grounds too. I'd be lying if I said I got all that from this episode, but I can see solid foundations being laid and it's easy to imagine something worthwhile being built on them. There's the cold-blooded "I don't care about the result" guy who lives to swim, but has a rival who's determined to slap some fire into him. We have the cherry blossoms scene. The boys discuss what they'll do after graduation. (There's also a boy with little pointed teeth, like a shark. That was weird.)
I have no trouble believing all the praise I've heard. It's still about a swimming club, though.
- Le Fruit de la Grisaia
- The Fruit of Grisaia
- Grisaia no Kajitsu
- Season 1
- Episodes: 13 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: I wanted to, but I also assumed I'd hate it
- One-line summary: Annoying harem-esque antics, but with a dark underside
- I've since finished it and... to my surprise, I didn't hate it at all. It gets a lot better. My fears were misplaced and I now think it's a strong, brave show.
I'm interested, but it's also annoying. Should I watch it? Hard decision.
What's annoying is the fanservice and the girls' characterisation. The Sole Boy (Yuji Kazumi) is a hard, efficient, emotionless machine. The girls are variously silly, clumsy, delusional and/or incompetent to the point that you can't work out how they're still alive. (That would be the one who steers her car into the path of a lorry because she's easily flustered.) They dress in maid outfits or give us yet more sodding panty shots. I could really live without those. One of them strips naked in Yuji's bedroom.
Apparently this is another anime based on a pornographic visual novel and, frankly, that explains everything. One could perhaps try to defend this anime by arguing that there's a little manservice as well (Yuji's muscles) and that one of the girls is hard and scary, i.e. not an airhead. That's true, but overall they're still a shower of sexually objectified loons and I could feel my patience on a short fuse as I watched them.
However there's also an intriguing story. Yuji appears to be some kind of spy or assassin, sent to what he's promised will be a "normal school". It has six students and nothing is normal here. For a while we think the girls are just silly anime characters, but then comes the semi-cliffhanger and we realise we're in a world of lockpicks, explosive-making and guns. There's a backstory of death. Next episode: school killer Yumiko.
I imagine it's going to get brutal. We're going to see some broken people under those fluffy exteriors. However I bet it also gets harem-y.
I'll probably hate it. I'll probably find it really interesting. Gyaaah. In fairness, Michiru Matsushima was funny. She's the one who's determined to be a tsundere and she wants to be bossy and in charge, but she's also very bad at it and easily flustered to boot. I was particularly amused by her habit of complimenting herself when she thinks she's managed to get it right. This show is getting two follow-up series, for what it's worth, making a trilogy. Should I try an episode or two and see if I survive? It's calling to me...