As usual, these aren't reviews of entire series, but just my first impressions of their first episodes.
- [REVIEWED UNDER "C" ] Chaika - The Coffin Princess (Hitsugi no Chaika)
- [REVIEWED UNDER "M" ] Monogatari - Hanamonogatari + Tsukimonogatari
- [REVIEWED UNDER "S" ] Sega Hard Girls (Hi-sCool! Seha Girls)
- Season 1
- Episodes: 25 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: looks good, but no
- One-line summary: volleyball
It's about volleyball, so it took me a little while to warm up to the episode. In the end, though, I was impressed.
Shoyo is the Hero Who Burns With Passion And Doesn't Know How To Quit. He's also short, which doesn't help in volleyball. His team are about to enter their first tournament, sending him to near-religious fervour as he informs his team-mates that they're going to win. Definitely. No question. They then meet their opponents, who are competing to play at national level, look about eight feet tall and are led by a scary intense bastard.
Shoyo still insists that they'll win. Shoyo, meet reality.
The volleyball works well on-screen. It looks quite exciting, with everyone hurling themselves around the court and doing improbable leaps. Shoyo is a delusional whack job, but he eventually becomes awesome in his inability to give up even against ludicrous odds, while some flashbacks tell us that he went through hell to get even this far. His school didn't have a boys' volleyball club, for starters.
More interesting than Shoyo, though, is his enemy, Tobio Kageyama. The latter's an uncompromising son-of-a-bitch who'll slap down even a teammate who's out of line. He's unpleasant, but he's also deeply honourable. For my money, the best thing here is the Kageyama-Shoyo relationship.
It's a good show. I'm not planning to watch any more, but that's just me and sports anime. A second season has already been announced and apparently the original manga is big as well. Recommendable.
- Hamatora: The Animation
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: it was close, but no
- One-line summary: superhero detectives
It's okay. I'd have probably kept watching if the regulars were female, if that's any indication.
It's set in the modern world. Our heroes have superpowers, but they're not the X-Men. This is Japan, so they're cocky boys working for a penniless detective agency. Clients send them cases and they solve them. Nifty. Of course sometimes they find themselves having to fight superpowered henchmen. Everyone's powers are combat-related, by the way, instead of being useful in detective work.
There were bits I liked. The pre-credits sequence appeared to show someone robbing a bank for 430 yen (i.e. a few dollars), although I soon realised I'd misunderstood. There's a girl with a tail. This first episode's case has a mildly amusing punchline.
I have no real opinion about this show. It's anime superheroes. It's fine. You'll see a man throw a car. There's nothing wrong with what I've seen so far, but there's also nothing that makes me interested in these people. Another reason for caution is that it's directed by Seiji Kishi (Humanity Has Declined, Persona 4). What I've seen of his work elsewhere has been underwhelming. Nonetheless this is a solid, energetic episode and I have no real objections to it. Looks fine.
- Reply Hamatora
- Season 2 of Hamatora, after a three-month break
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: still close, but again no
- One-line summary: superhero detectives
There's lots of good stuff here and my only negative indications are faint, subjective ones. This week's case includes an entertaining parody of harem anime, which I enjoyed. The show still hasn't grabbed me, that's all.
Underneath, it just feels a bit perfunctory to me. The characters banter and quip, but that feels like it. It looks as if something dramatic happened at the end of season 1, which is good... but its follow-up here is weightless and smells like a cheat. The porn mag discussion, for instance, is comedy dialogue in a scene where I'd been looking for something more. Similarly the fight scene at the end is just a fight scene, without dramatic significance. Fundamentally, I don't see why I'm being expected to care about these people.
That said, though, the harem anime deconstruction is funny and I'm glad I've seen this episode. It's amusing to see Hikaru being told that he's being a git in avoiding commitment and instead trying to be nice to everyone. The computer game bit is fun. There's also anti-superhero prejudice that's adding a bit of depth and making me think that someone's been watching X-Men.
This is basically a good episode. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It's hard to say that it's not ticking all the boxes. However I'd hesitate to recommend it.
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: yes
- One-line summary: charming schoolgirls learn dancing
- I've since finished it and... I really liked it. It charmed me.
I cheated. I'd heard praise of this one, so I pushed on with ep.2 even after finding ep.1 to be only okay. Sure enough, that was the charm.
Naru Sekiya is a fourteen-year-old shrinking violet. She's not a nerd, but she hates the limelight and having people looking at her, despite secretly also wanting to be dazzling like her friends. She reads. She does sword training with her father... and then, one evening, she meets a fairy called Hannah N. Fountainstand. This strange blonde girl appears to be magical (although later on she's an ordinary schoolgirl, albeit a transfer student from America) and she's dancing.
It's yosakoi dancing, which is a traditional Japanese dance that's very energetic and usually needs a team. Naru thinks Hannah's dancing is wonderful, but she's both attracted and horrified by the idea of dancing herself. Guess what Hannah wants Naru to do?
Ep.1 is nice, but it's basically about Naru trying to do nothing and hide. That's fair enough. That's who she is. She's going to have to get over that and indeed she does, eventually. However it's ep.2 that had me in stitches, with Naru's friend Yaya actually getting jealous about her and Hannah. The Naru-Hannah relationship is played exactly like a romance, you see, complete with Hannah inviting Naru to do things that make her blush, followed by Naru shyly saying "yes". They're just fourteen-year-old schoolgirls, but that's what it looks like and Hannah does everything with maximum energy in front of everyone, with no sense of embarrassment or modesty. (Her way of saying "hello" is to jump on you.)
Anyway, Yaya makes this a love triangle, which is funny. "Are you emotionally prepared yet?"
I'm fond of the characters. They're kind and thoughtful, albeit often slow to realise things about themselves. Their earnestness is cute and they're all likeable and funny. Their voice actors are using the kind of distractingly high-pitched voices that could disrupt radar or kill bats, but before long I'd stopped noticing that.
Like I said, I cheated here. If I'd only watched ep.1, I don't know if I'd have continued. Possibly not. If I watched every show that looks okay and might be good, I'd have no time to eat or sleep. However ep.2 won me over. Definitely recommended (and now I've finished the whole show, I can say that with more confidence).
- Happiness Charge Pretty Cure
- HappinessCharge PreCure!
- Season 11 of the PreCure juggernaut
- Episodes: 49 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: bwahahaha
- One-line summary: magical girl + lazy writing
It's the eleventh series in Izumi Todo's Pretty Cure franchise, currently past 500 episodes. It's a magical girl show and I'm trying very hard not to call it a rip-off of Sailor Moon. (I'm sure that would just show my ignorance.) This episode is energetic and colourful, with occasional strong bits, but I found it too silly to watch except in Irony Mode. The characterisation's glib and the target audience must be pretty young.
The lead character is a Princess called Princess. (Her name's Hime, but that's the word for "princess".) She's basically Sailor Moon, in that she's rubbish at being a magical girl and keeps losing and running away. Even other PreCure girls don't like her, saying it's her fault that the world's full of Terribads. (Alternative translations of their names might be WorstEeevils, SuperNaaasties, etc.) The Terribads are being sent by Queen Mirage of the Candy Cane Kingdom, who gives a speech at the beginning that basically says, "I'm the villainous gloating villain with no motivation and I'm going to be evil!" It's not really called the Candy Cane Kingdom, though. That's just what it looks like.
Anyway, Hime has a talking mascot animal, which calls itself a fairy and looks like a ladybird panda teddy bear. She also has a magical mentor, who's a beautiful young man with blue hair and no personality. Blue Boy tells Hime to find a friend, whereupon the script makes both Hime and the audience reel in shock. Talking to someone I don't know? You mean, I could dare to try to make a friend? (Blue Boy gives Hime what looks like tie-in merchandising.) You mean with this, I can make a friend?!?
It would be possible to make this beat work, but you'd need to be portraying the character less glibly and bouncily. If you can believe in this moment in this episode, I have a bridge to sell you.
Anyway, we now meet the non-superhero Aino Megumi, which I misheard as "Aino Megami" (i.e. "Goddess of Love") and nearly died. Nonetheless I liked Megumi. She's friendly, she's loved by everyone and she helps small children retrieve things that fell in the water. (People in the PreCure universe don't take off their shoes before wading into streams, it seems.) There's even a bit later on where she tries to defend Hime from a Terribad, which is almost emotional in a way they'll never be able to recreate, since immediately afterwards she gets superpowers and a costume. She's going to be a series regular. Here, though, she's just an ordinary girl and so her courage is more powerful.
She does though have a dumb character beat. Hime wears cute dresses, but Megumi dresses practically. Hime realises that Megumi must lack self-confidence and so gives her a lecture on fashion. Megumi responds with ecstatic near-worship, not at the silly fashion ideas but at someone giving her permission to dress up and be girly! "You think I can wear cute clothes too?!?" The strength of her reaction would suggest a social leper, which she plainly isn't.
Other important facts about PreCure superheroes is that mobile phones are part of their magical transformation. You put PreCure cards in the PreCure mirror and make a call. The girls in their transformed outfits look like dress-up dolls, except for a wristwatch so cheap-looking that I can only think it was designed primarily as a merchandising opportunity. There's also creepy motion capture dancing in the closing credits, although at least it's better than the slow-motion dream zombies of Aikatsu. In summary, yikes. It feels dumber and younger-targeted than I'd expected, with brain-damaging names. Do you yearn to follow the repetitive girly superhero adventures of Cure Lovely, Cure Princess, Cure Honey and Cure Fortune? If so, watch this show!
- Hero Bank
- Hero Bank
- Season 1
- Episodes: lots x 22 minutes
- Keep watching: no
- One-line summary: good but evil
It's amazing. I'm open-mouthed in admiration of its gall. It's evil brainwashing propaganda, but so gleefully that it becomes a rather deft self-parody. What's more, the show also happens to be really good, despite being yet another boys' game tie-in anime that exists to sell merchandise.
It's about money. The opening theme music is "Make Money! Dunce Hero", while the closing credits sing "earn money!" over a fountain of gold, coins and notes. Similarly this first episode is called "Bling Bling Enter the Gold Appears!!" Hero Bank
, you see, is a computer battle game where you download a battle suit (for money) and then fight an opponent while watched by spectators from around the world, who similarly are paying money online to cheer you on. (It's not clear how this works.) When you beat your opponent, they explode into a spray of coins, like Super Mario Bros. The whole thing's been set up to milk all parties for as much moolah as possible and I get the impression that its players aren't supposed ever to stop wanting to buy a more expensive battle suit.
Our hero, Kaito, is a schoolboy, but more unusually he's also the head of Big Money Company. (That's him and three friends.) They work to earn money to spend at Hero Bank
! "If we had more money, we could buy strong heroes and customise them, but..."
This is outrageous. What's more, the show knows it. When Kaito acquires a new battle suit (Enter the Gold), it's got a big yen design on the front and Kaito has the kanji for yen painted on his face. The show's dramatic decisions involve signing contracts, while the most amusing danger Kaito faces in combat is the expiry of his suit's rental period. The latter is clever and funny, by the way, and includes (male) nudity.
I enjoyed the character designs, which are more like Western cartoons than anime. They're bold and funny. Kaito's friends include a near-clone of the Karloff-model Frankenstein's monster, complete with neck bolts and a flat-topped head, but with a treble clef drawn on his head where you'd expect scars. He can make prophecies, with the help of his intelligent mouse. Meanwhile Kaito's battle suit is a 1950s teddy boy with a quiff, while his enemies include a boy with a skull-like head and a narcissistic professional footballer with a sexy woman purr in his voice. I loved all that.
I like the writing too. They combine the mandatory Confronting the Bullies scene with The First Battle, which shakes up and improves both. Kaito's "sign the contract" decision is mirrored by a near-identical but more Faustian challenge to one of his friends. "Do you want power?" It's seduction by evil and I don't have a clue which way the friend's going to jump.
It's really good. It's doing interesting things in a genre that I'm liable to hate with a passion, despite elementary school age characters and a bouncy cartoonish tone. It's even subverting the expected order when it comes to nudity, with the boy being the one who gets a naked magical transformation sequence. However I'm not kidding about the evil brainwashing propaganda thing.
- Secret Princess Himegoto
- Season 1
- Episodes: 13 x 4 minutes
- Keep watching: yes
- One-line summary: schoolboy bullied into a life in drag
- I've since finished it and... it's great. I want more!
It makes me laugh. I got hooked in four minutes.
We begin with... a panty shot. Expired time: less than a second. That surely some kind of record. However these panty shots are a kind of subversion, because the lead girl is really a boy in drag. His irresponsible parents travel abroad and keep loading him up with debt, which has put him in the power of bullies who make him wear girls' clothes (eh?) and tell him that he'd better be prepared to sell his body (??!?).
His name is Hime (i.e. "princess"), by the way. Those parents must have really hated him.
Anyway, some actual female girls save him. This isn't an entirely good thing. "That debt the student council will pay off. But in exchange you're going to spend the rest of your high school life as a crossdresser and serve as the student council's dog."
It's mental. I love it. Hime's new friends have names including "Unko" (i.e. "poo") and "18-plus". There are skirt flips... of Hime, by the girls, while introducing him as the student council's new slave at school assembly. I'm definitely watching the rest of this.
- Hozuki no Reitetsu
- Hozuki's Coolheadedness
- Season 1
- Episodes: 13 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: provisionally, yes
- One-line summary: hell's bureaucrats
- I've since finished it and... hurm. Not that great.
It's different. I don't love it, but it's caught my interest.
Hozuki is a demon in hell. Well, an oni. "Demon" is as good a translation as any. He has a face like a snake, little vampire teeth, a horn and a cold-blooded nature. He carries a kanabou (spiked club as used by samurai and Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan), which is probably a reference to the Japanese saying "giving a kanabou to an oni". That means giving an additional advantage to someone who's already strong. However Hozuki also likes cute animals, concern for the environment and growing very strange goldfish plants.
He's also the right-hand man of Lord Enma, the ruler of the dead. Enma's a bit of a buffoon, so Hozuki does all the day-to-day administration and ensures that all the damned are being appropriately tortured.
The episode itself was okay, although I can't help wondering what kind of plots to expect from this show. We're in hell. None of the demons have a problem with this and indeed the title sequence is their happy "this is hell" song. I can't imagine this turning into either a serious or a dramatic show and it's hard to see any significant disruption to its status quo, so my best guess is that this is going to be the infernal equivalent of a slice-of-life show. Hozuki sorts out administrative problems. The Torture By Wild Beasts Department has staffing issues, there's an exchange programme with heaven, that kind of thing.
Here we have fun being had with Japanese folklore (Momotaro) and very deadpan comedy with Hozuki's idea of relaxation. "Can't you see how cheerfully and open-heartedly I spend my days?" Those goldfish plants are mesmerising, at least.
Would I recommend this? I don't know, but I'm curious about it. I'll watch more and report back.