As usual, these aren't reviews of entire series, but just my first impressions of first episodes.
- Couldn't find: Pic-lele -- cute short-form anime for children about a group of ukulele-playing animals.
- Couldn't find: Pretty Rhythm: All-Star Selection (fourth season)
- Couldn't find: Prince Mackaroo (Ojarumaru) (Akitarou Daichi, 1488+ episodes)
- Listed under "G": Go! Go! 575, aka. Project 575
- Couldn't be bothered: Psycho-Pass Extended Edition
- Parasyte -the maxim-
- Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu
- Season 1
- Episodes: 24 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: absolutely
- One-line summary: Terminator 2 vs. The Thing, in a schoolboy's right hand
- I've since finished it and... I'd strongly recommend this one.
The odd thing is how long this took to become an anime. The original Parasyte manga ran from 1988-1995 and it was a big deal, but that was twenty years ago. New Line Cinema bought the live-action rights, but then left it in development hell until the rights expired in 2013. (Mind-bogglingly, at one point Hayao Miyazaki had wanted to do it as a Studio Ghibli film. I can't imagine what this would have been like.) Anyway, we now have this 24-part anime adaptation.
We begin with a man's skull unfolding like a Venus Flytrap to bite off a woman's head. Attention-grabbing. The show's hero is a schoolboy called Shinichi Izumi, who wakes up one morning to find his hand saying "how unfortunate; I failed."
It's not his hand. It's an alien, although technically that's unproved since it doesn't know where it came from. (We'll call it Migi, which means "right".) It ate his hand and it's unhappy that it was unable to eat his brain, due to some quick thinking from Shinichi and a cord tied hard around his bicep. Having an alien right hand proves to be a bit of an embarrassment at school, but that's nothing compared to the body horror that's coming when the other aliens show up.
Migi itself is paradoxically cute. The other aliens are screaming nightmares, but Migi grows rather fetching eyes, mouths and tentacles as needed. (Oh, and massive decapitation blades.) It also has a nicer-sounding voice than you'd expect, being played by Aya Hirano when you'd expect it to talk like a robotically emotionless killer. (Apparently the live-action movies, in contrast, give it a very deep voice.) "If it were still possible to eat your brain, I'd have done so. Unfortunately I have now matured."
Shinichi's relationship with his alien hand is quite fun. They argue and negotiate with each other. We also see him change within this one episode (his fear of bugs), so I'm looking forward to dramatic evolution over the full series. Having a sociopathic alien parasite plugged into your bloodstream might do that to you, I imagine. Shinichi's relationships at school are entertaining too, but of course we're really here for the horror.
It's gross, but also intriguing and intelligent. I'm really looking forward to this.
- Persona 4: The Golden Animation
- Season 1, sort of
- Episodes: 13 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: to my astonishment, yes
- One-line summary: video game adaptation with a murder mystery and a world inside TVs
- I've since finished it and... I liked it better than the 2011 series, although that's not saying much.
The 2011 Persona 4 anime series was broken, or at best semi-functional as a dramatic narrative. It was slow and had unconvincing character beats, annoying cutesy monster-things ("kuma") and a protagonist who was being characterised as a blank slate. (That's a defining trait of all the Persona games.) In my opinion, the 2011 anime series was made for players of the original Persona 4 game, with only token attempts to make it work for a general audience.
Imagine my surprise when I enjoyed this remake. (Technically it's an adaptation of a follow-up game, but let's not split hairs.)
It's as if the anime's producers had come around to my house and asked me what I thought needed fixing. It goes faster. It actually feels as if a story's being told, as opposed to the drifting of the 2011 show's lack of pace. The characters work. Yuu Narukami ("You BecomeAGod") still has no personality, but we don't spend much time on him and so he becomes mildly interesting for his tendency to mirror the people he's with. To Nanako, he sings her beloved advertising jingle. To her cop dad, he says "os". For the first time, I found myself thinking that there's something quite interesting about having a null void of a protagonist seeking out personas.
As for the supporting cast, I believed in their reactions to impossible things. (Compare with their 2011 equivalents' muted reactions to the magical TV.) Kuma's not annoying, since he spends all of his (thankfully brief) screen time being scared and agitated, instead of non-stop-kuma saying-kuma kuma-kuma.
Similarly the world inside the TV felt more vividly realised to me, while I liked the flying stripy tongue snails.
This is an unfair comparison in some ways, mind you. The 2011 series was for players of the original video game who already knew the story, but now I'm effectively in that position myself. I've watched the earlier series. I know everyone already. How much of my reaction is mere familiarity? I don't know, but I suspect not that much. Most people are capable of liking or disliking a piece of entertainment on stronger grounds than "I know those characters".
It's a version of Persona 4 that works. Amazing. I liked the characters, with the title sequence and its spectacular colours making me feel warm and fuzzy towards them. It's a remake, so basically the same story as before, but with one huge change in the form of a new girl, Marie. What's she doing in the world? Is she even human? I'll keep watching.
- The Pilot's Love Song
- Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta
- Season 1
- Episodes: 13 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: yes
- One-line summary: steampunk pilots on a class-ridden flying island
- I've since finished it and... it's okay.
I liked it. I'll be continuing. I see T.H.E.M. have trashed it, but that often qualifies as a recommendation.
It's set in a steampunk world with vaguely WWI-era biplanes, complete with goggles, leather caps, etc. It also opens with a spectacular mid-air scene, giving us a dogfight and shooting it in a way that's both exciting and owing nothing to the modern paradigm for aerial battles (Star Wars). Instead of fixing the camera relative to any given plane, it's as if the camera itself is another plane in the melee, turning, banking and wobbling unsteadily as other planes shoot past it to wheel in the distance. It's both exciting and refreshing.
We also have a flying hero called Kal-el. He's nothing like his DC superhero namesake, but that in itself is quite funny.
Kal-el and his sister (?), alas not called Kara, are flying off to become trainee pilots and look for the End of the Sky. Don't know what that means yet. Their relationship is amusing, anyway. They're going to be living on a floating island (which looks impressive) and it looks as if this society has unpleasant social divisions. The upper classes live in an area from which plebians are excluded, not to mention often being snotty sons of bitches.
There's also a cute but weird girl called Claire Cruz, who's flamboyantly shy (if that makes sense) and wears a demure, nice dress. She bumps into Kal-el. I liked her too.
In short, everything looks good so far. Cool steampunk airborne world, likeable characters, slightly spiky worldbuilding and a bonkers grand mission. The End of the Sky? Happy to keep watching this.
- Ping Pong: The Animation
- Ping Pong
- Season 1
- Episodes: 11 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: everyone says it's great, but it's a sports anime
- One-line summary: unlikeable schoolboys play ping-pong
It's good. It's very good, in fact. I believe everyone when they say it's top-notch. However it's about sport, so I don't imagine I'll be watching it in the immediate future. (Apparently sports anime doesn't tend to sell well outside Japan and maybe people like me are in part the reason why?)
The art style is... wow. Not only does it not resemble anime, but it doesn't resemble any other kind of animation I know either. It's not Beavis and Butthead, but it has a compelling crudity that makes an everyday school setting look drab and even exciting.
The main characters are Smile and Peco. The ironically named Smile is a surly lump with no enthusiasm for anything. Peco is a cocky, gloating brat who'll rub your face in every point you lose to him, although at least he's got more vim than Smile. He says things like "Hard work is for chumps with no talent." These two are friends, improbably. They're also the best ping-pong players they know, by miles.
Meanwhile another school has brought in a professional Chinese ping-pong player, who's actually being played by a Chinese speaker! It's not just the Chinese equivalent of anime Engrish. That makes a huge difference. Anyway, this chap (referred to as "China" by Smile and Peco) has an ego bigger than Peco's and is massive in his disdain for this Japanese high school backwater he's ended up in. The best scene in the episode involves China and his translator dissecting Smile and Peco's game play in professional detail without even being able to see it. They can judge just by the sound. China is very, very good and going up against him is like walking under a steamroller.
Under absolutely no circumstances to be confused with The Ping-Pong Club, although you'd be lucky to get the chance. I've been looking for that for some time.
It's very good. China's already spotted something unexpected about Smile, although Smile can't be bothered to engage and I can see a fight coming. There's bite in these characters. They're going to rub people up the wrong way and none of them look likely to respond well to having the tables turned. I imagine I probably will watch the whole thing at some point. It's just, y'know, me and sports anime.
"Dropping out of the womb a year earlier sure makes you high and mighty, doesn't it?"
- Prism Paradise
- Season 1
- Episodes: 38 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: I'm tempted, I'm broken
- One-line summary: the anime of a girls' arcade game, successor to the Pretty Rhythm series
Ludicrous. However if we couldn't embrace ludicrousness, why would we be watching anime?
Laala Manaka is a purple-haired ten-year-old girl from a family of purple-haired girls. (Her brother more closely resembles us humans.) She's also a massive fan of an idol group who retired three years ago, although she has no desire to become one herself. She just likes to watch. Clearly she hasn't realised in what anime genre she's the heroine.
Anyway, according to PriPara
, every girl will eventually receive a PriPara
ticket to the magical candy-coloured PriPara
world, where she'll perform and take part in auditions. This idol world also gives you an idol transformation, with a tartrazine outfit and hairstyle. There are winged cats and talking rabbits, yet the most ridiculous thing in the episode is the hair of Laala's real-world headmistress. It looks like a head-to-floor ice cream torrent, or perhaps a man-eating caterpillar. This headmistress hates PriPara
and confiscates all tickets she can find.
You don't need me to tell you that Laala ends up in PriPara
world, but I admired the way she got there. She finds someone's discarded bag, containing one of these prized tickets... but Laala doesn't think for a moment of keeping it and instead goes looking for its owner. Yippee: she finds her. Her name's Mirei. Good news (for us): Mirei has booked a two-person audition and needs a partner! Bad news (for us): she has an annoying-kuma speech defect-kuma that will bring-kuma up-kuma the urge to kill-kuma. I believe I just mentioned Persona 4. Mirei's also a bitch and bad-tempered, then later also proves to be manipulative in a way that suggests she's a moron. Her plan struck gold, as it happened, but it was absurd. This is cool and makes her an interesting character.
Laala's horror at being asked to audition is amusing. However once actually dancing, she and this total stranger perform a routine in such perfect harmony that professional dancers would take weeks of full-time rehearsal to do it as well. (Clearly the show's producers are doing CGI motion-capture of live dancers, with in this case one human being duplicated as both animated characters.)
I enjoyed it. It's the usual merchandise-driven idol-fixated nonsense for small girls, but I have a lot of time for Laala and I'm amused by the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of Mirei. There's a sincere bit, with encouragement and good advice on Laala's uncharacteristically quiet singing voice. That said, though, I could hardly be further removed from the target audience, I have no interest in the costumes and accessories and more fundamentally I'm opposed to the promotion of vapid celebrity idols as girls' role models. If I watched this show, I'd be doing so with a ton of irony (and probably after I'd watched Aikatsu). Nonetheless I've enjoyed enough first episodes of this kind of idol training nonsense that one day I should probably sit down and watch one of these shows properly. The only problem is that they tend to run for 10000000000000 episodes...
- Psycho-Pass 2
- Season 2
- Episodes: 11 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: yes, but it was close
- One-line summary: SF police state where they arrest the emotionally troubled
- I've since finished it and... it's quite good. I disagree with most of the popular fan verdicts, though.
It's an interesting paranoid SF dystopia, a bit like Minority Report but more plausible. I'll probably watch the whole thing, but I won't be holding my breath for signs of human warmth.
It's a hundred years in the future and mankind has invented the Sibyl System. (This is a reference to Greek myth, obviously.) City-wide sensors scan the brains of all citizens, monitoring their mental states and personalities to look for anyone unstable enough to be a crime risk. If algorithms assess you as insufficiently normal, then the police will come for you. It looks not unlike the data-crunching performed by smart IT firms today to profile their customers (e.g. judging people's credit-worthiness on factors as trivial-looking as how fast you fill out the online form)... except that failing the test might get you dead.
It's as computers have invented emotion-based discrimination, as an improvement on mankind's sexual, racial and homophobic originals. If you're prone to getting angry in the wrong way, expect your career to hit a glass ceiling even before you get arrested and taken away.
The show's not-heroes are cops. They even have Judge Dredd talking guns, which choose their own settings based on their reading of the target's emotional state. (The cops get no say. If the gun takes a dislike to its target, it'll set itself to "kill" and there's nothing you can do except not shoot.) The episode's villain is a terrorist who's planting bombs in the city, except that he's doing so non-lethally and his arguments seem reasonable. There's action. There's even a scene where a cop seems to show sympathy, trying to talk the bomber down instead of killing him. (Note that I said "seems to".)
It looks intriguing. I'm planning to watch it all from the start, i.e. season one. My only concern is whether or not I'll enjoy it. Emotional engagement doesn't look like a priority. Nonetheless there's a lot you could do with these ideas. "Psycho-Pass" is indistinguishable in a Japanese accent from "psychopath", for a start, while the name "Public Safety Bureau" is almost Orwellian. In some respects it's arguably a totalitarian state, in that sense that it's a dictatorship by a system based on thought control and thought crime. In other ways, though, it's indistinguishable from London, New York or Tokyo.
- Season 1
- Episodes: 15 x 4 minutes
- Keep watching: I've already finished it
- One-line summary: girl who can see ghosts befriends a daft occult freak and a blob
- I've since finished it and... it's pretty cool.
We start with a small girl looking at a painting of the end of oblivion.
Next, we meet grey drooling penis-shaped ghosts, obnoxious and jeering. They're watching our heroine eat. Black shadows surround her... and then up pops a geek with rectangular-angled spiral eyes. I think those are spectacles. At first I assumed the geek would be gone in a few seconds and her story role would be simply to wind up our heroine, but no. I'd underestimated her. She's loopier than that. She takes being told to go away as a declaration of friendship, for instance. I rather like her.
Anyway, the first girl thinks it would be better if she were left alone, because of her ghosts. (Geek Girl is having none of this, obviously.) Ghost-Seeing Girl then finds a pink blob in a box marked 'please take me home'.
And that's our four minutes. Cool. I'm up for this.
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 4 minutes
- Keep watching: I've already finished this too
- One-line summary: horror series - nice girl becomes demon
- I've since finished it and... I liked it so much that I bought the manga.
It's cool. I'd have still watched this even had it required a non-trivial time investment.
We meet a brother and sister, Utsutsu and Yume. They're nice. It's set in the real world, or so we think until a creepy scarred woman in a big hat warns Yume to "go home before you see the red butterflies".
We then see some rather striking red butterflies. Yume rightly calls them beautiful. Less so is the dog that bursts at her in a mass of Lovecraftian tentacles, followed by an explosion of gore. Insides become outsides. Yume's still alive, but now she's... different. "Brother, why are you looking at me like that?"
What makes this episode more than just a gross-out, for me, is the juxtaposition. Yume and Utsutsu are very likeable and she's still her innocent self after her transformation. Well, inside, at least. We hear her voice. I definitely need to see where this is going.
- Puchimas!! Petit Petit Idolmaster
- Season 2 of Puchimas
- Episodes: 74 x 3 minutes
- Keep watching: maybe, since I'm on a binge of THE iDOLM@STER
- One-line summary: short-form spin-off of popular game and anime series THE iDOLM@STER
- I've since finished it and... it's pure fluff, but cute and oddly watchable. I had no trouble getting through it.
It's a very random episode, which I suspect is atypical of the show as a whole. However I like THE iDOLM@STER and they're only three-minute episodes, so why not?
THE iDOLM@STER is a mobile phone game where you're an idol manager. One producer, lots of girls. The franchise has various anime adaptations, of which this isn't even the oddest. This is a silly little thing where every girl has a tiny chibi counterpart called a Puchidol, like a talking pet. Obviously it's not meant to be taken seriously for a moment.
This episode is a parody of Japanese folklore, with NEET island and the producer having a giant 'P' for a head. The folklore stuff turns out to be Ritsuko's idea of a movie proposal, but the producer still has that 'P' head even in real life. Oh, and Haruka's Puchidol will spawn if it gets wet, like a Gremlin. Was this funny? Not really. However it seems amiable enough and I shouldn't think this is a typical episode anyway.
Don't bother watching this if you've never seen THE iDOLM@STER. You'll have no idea who all these characters are and the show will probably do nothing for you. However I'm optimistic.