Tenchi MuyoAikatsumechaJapanese
Anime 1st episodes 2014: A
Including: Ai Mai Mi: Mousou Catastrophe, Ai Tenchi Muyo!, Aikatsu!, Akame ga Kill!, Akatsuki no Yona, Aldnoah.Zero (Season 1), Amagi Brilliant Park, Argevollen, Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2014
Series: Anime 1st episodes 2014 >>, << Tenchi Muyo >>
Keywords: Aikatsu, anime, SF, harem, fantasy, mecha
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 9 first episodes
Website category: Anime 2014
Review date: 17 January 2015
It's the question we all ask ourselves: "how much anime do I want to watch?" The correct answer is "all of it", but alas that's unachievable. One has to narrow it down, so what about "all the anime that came out in 2014"? That would be a interesting experiment and there will be people who got a good way towards it, but that's a lot of hours. You'd have to watch a complete series every couple of days, forever, to keep up with Japan's anime industry.
My compromise will be to watch the first episode of every anime TV series that came out in 2014. This will be interesting. I'll fail, of course. I won't be able to find everything, but I should be able to see a cross-section of the industry in a way I hadn't before.
A note on titles, which pose a slight problem. Should I list shows under their Japanese title or the translated English title? There is no right answer. I've gone with whatever seemed best to me at the time.
Remember, these aren't reviews of entire shows, although elsewhere I also have a complete review of Amagi Brilliant Park. These are just first impressions, based on first episodes. That said, let's go!
Couldn't find enough information: Anpanman
Listed under "B": Blue Spring Ride (Aoharaido, or Ao Haru Ride)
Listed under "G": A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd (Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai)
Listed under "R": Riddle Story of Devil (Akuma no Riddle)
Listed under "R": Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro (Notari Matsutaro, or Abarenbou Rikishi!! Matsutarou)
Ai Mai Mi: Mousou Catastrophe
Ai Mai Mi: Delusion Catastrophe
Season 2
Episodes: 12 x 4 minutes
Keep watching? No.
One-line summary: What the hell was that?
1. A little girl dressed as a space pirate talks tough until her friends say they'll tell her mother.
2. The opening titles are a homage to 1980s computer games.
3. Warriors in a fantasy world talk about their plans for world domination and possibly killing a rival manga creator. These people draw manga. I think.
Google tells me that this show is an absurdist comedy about a manga club, which also involves things like deathmatch tournaments and alien invaders. That doesn't help. I still don't have a clue what's going on.
Ai Tenchi Muyo!
Ai Tenchi Muyo!
Season 1, although the Tenchi Muyo franchise as a whole goes back over twenty years
Episodes: 60 (or 50 if you don't count recap episodes) x 4 minutes
Keep watching? I might well, if only for old time's sake, but not right now.
One-line summary: Yet more Tenchi
I've since finished it and... it's sort of kinda okay, at best. I wouldn't recommend bothering, really.
I'm fond of Tenchi Muyo, but I've been out of touch with it. GXP hurt me bad and I haven't watched War on Geminar. All I knew about this latest show were that most of the old voice actors were back (good) and that the character designs had been overhauled (hmmmm).
On watching it, the girls looked like strangers. Gyaaah! Fortunately, though, that's because they're all-new characters, with most of the old gang still lurking offstage. This episode's (briefly) introducing us to the students and teachers at a girls' school that Tenchi's been sent to infiltrate.
Is it good? Well, who can say in four minutes? It's shameless. Panty shots are taken to a new dimension and you'll notice cleavage, while the new characters' designs look fairly generic. However it's full of energy. It has jokes. Tenchi gets crushed underfoot a lot and the Washu-like teacher is amusing ("this is my toy").
So far, it looks like fun. A bit sleazy and low-rent, but no more than Tenchi-usual and I expect it'll be making the women far more powerful than the men. I might well end up watching it.
Aidoru Katsudo!
Season 3
Episode 102 "Let's Aikatsu Ready Go!!"
24 minutes
Keep watching? Actually tempted!
One-line summary: Super-girlie show about an academy for idols (pop stars)
To my amazement, it's mighty. Generic, but adorable. It's popping off the screen with pretty colours and warm visuals. The opening credits are lots of fun, the story's all about people being nice to each other and the whole experience is charming.
It's easy to see how it's lasted for so many episodes. Firstly, it's so comfortable with its storytelling that it can devote entire scenes to character business so simple that in another show you might say that nothing was happening. It's about friendship and relationships, with the moral of the episode being that competition needn't mean rivalry. Secondly, the cast are so kind and generous that it's a pleasure to be with them. No one's evil or mean-spirited, although that teacher who calls everyone "Honey" is perhaps a bit of a plonker.
It has quirks, though. (a) I hadn't expected the cliff-climbing and skydiving. (b) The new idol costume is hideous, like a pink frilly miniskirt version of the 6th Doctor's outfit. (c) Everyone keeps talking about how beautiful Akari's new roommate Sumire is, but all the girls in the cast have the same generic anime face and can only be distinguished by their hair, clothes and eye colour. (d) The show ends in a magical girl transformation sequence into idol costumes and a spectacular song and dance set-piece that's obviously been done with computer animation. I was mesmerised. Is it motion capture? I don't think it can be. The dance movements are too mechanical and Barbie-doll for that. However it looks stunning, in its eerily inhuman way.
It's a gorgeous show. It's "I want to be an idol" nonsense that raises accessory and mobile phone fetishisation to the level of fantasy magic items, but it has sweet characters and a heartwarming moral. Tomoko says it's really popular in Japan. Would kill most boys who tried to watch it.
It also has the cutest, catchiest theme song of these A-shows.
Akame ga Kill!
Akame Kills!
Season 1
Episodes: 24 x 24 minutes
Keep watching? I've heard it praised, but it's probably not for me.
One-line summary: A group called Night Raid is assassinating the rich and powerful in its struggle against the corrupt Empire.
It looks quite good, for an assassin show. Our hero, Tatami, is a big-headed and fairly stupid warrior who's going to the Imperial capital to try to make his fortune and help the poor people in his village. He immediately gets swindled out of all his money, which is good because it's his own fault and he needed taking down a peg.
A family of super-rich Good Samaritans takes him in and we hear about current events. Night Raid sound like terrorists. We'll see them in action and at first it looks as if they're killing good guys, which perked up my interest and suggested that the show might even have moral complexity.
Ahhh, no. That was insanely evil. It seems I am indeed cheering for the assassins, then.
This first episode is quite good for what it is, I think. It's playing with our expectations and giving us the deaths of outrageously vile abominations. It looks solid, the action works and it's going for its material with gusto. There's little nuance in the worldbuilding, though, and I'm not sure the story's really going to mean much if the ruling caste are all this monstrous. Besides, it's another assassin series. I might have been tempted had it only been twelve episodes, though.
Akatsuki no Yona
Yona of the Dawn
The Girl Standing in the Blush of Dawn
Season 1
Episodes: 24 x 24 minutes
Keep watching? I'd be happy to.
One-line summary: 16-year-old princess vs. real life in a fantasy setting with arranged marriages and assassinations
I've since finished it and... it's awesome.
It's like Fushigi Yuugi, but realistic. It's another Chinese-themed fantasy world (or are those names Korean?) with a slightly airheaded girl, romance, royalty and threats to the kingdom. It looks quite good and I've heard praise of this series too.
A princess (Yona) is being very teenage, swooning over her studly cousin (Soo-won) and getting annoyed when he's not seeing her as a woman. Meanwhile she's dismissive of her Predestined Boyfriend (Hak), who's one of her father's bodyguards/generals and is equally rude to her because she's an airhead. (That's my name for him, not the show's, but if you can't see that Yona and Hak are fated to be together, you've presumably never experienced any fiction.) However this is a world where royal marriages are about politics, not love, while her father expects anyone close to him to be assassinated.
I know of one reviewer who calls this her favourite anime of 2014. I can easily imagine this turning out that way. Yona has a lot of learning to do, but she's going to have a tough road ahead of her, both emotionally and in terms of threats to her and to the kingdom. Looks very solid so far.
Arudonoa Zero
Season 1
Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
Keep watching? Yeah, I'd like to see what happens next.
One-line summary: SF series set in the real world, but with an interplanetary war with Mars
I've since finished it and... it's really good! Quite a lot better and more interesting than I'd expected.
That's a pretty good opening episode. It's the year 2014, but fifteen years ago we fought a war with Mars. Now we're still rebuilding the planet, schoolchildren do military drills and the Moon is now the Satellite Belt. (There's a superweapon that pulverised it.) A Martian princess is coming to Earth as a peace ambassador, but there are factions on both planets who'd love to see her fail.
I have absolutely no problems with this episode. It looks strong, the politics are interesting and the show's not afraid to shock. Season 2 has already started airing (January 2015).
Amagi Brilliant Park
Season 1
Episodes: 13 x 24 minutes
Keep watching? YES YES YES
One-line summary: Welcome to the worst theme park in Japan
I've since finished it and... it's really good!
One of the best opening episodes I've seen of anything, simply for its inventiveness and for its density of twists. It starts with a boy being asked on a date at gunpoint. Seiya Kanie is smart, handsome and in love with himself. Isuzu Sento has no romantic interest in him, but she's going to shoot him if he doesn't say "yes". Together they go to Amagi Brilliant Park.
They had me just with the opening scene. 24 minutes later, I was convinced the show had blown all of its ideas and surprises in this opening episode and there was no way the rest of the show could live up to it. (Seiya's promised to achieve something nearly impossible and the rest of the show's going to be about him trying to do that, although there's also some backstory that should be interesting to watch unfold.)
It's funny. Isuzu's analysis of Seiya had me laughing. It's got surprising ideas and deft, supple writing. It's got a threat that really means something to its characters. I'll be watching all of this.
Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen
Season 1
Episodes: 24 x 24 minutes
Keep watching? Not really tempted, personally, but it looks fine.
One-line summary: Mecha war anime
It's a fairly straightforward war anime, with robot battle suits, i.e. mecha. Two countries have been at war for a long time, but you needn't worry about the bigger picture. We're down on the ground with the grunts. They get sent out on missions halfway through dinner and get teased for their cluelessness by the other soldiers in the platoon. The mecha look pretty cool and our hero (Tokimune) is going to find an even cooler one. I'm not big on mecha war anime, but this one looks like a solid, middle-of-the-road example that's doing its job efficiently.
Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky
Esuka & Roji no Atorie: Tasogare no Sora no Renkinjutsushi
Season 1
Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
Keep watching? Tempted, although it doesn't look as if it's going to be eventful
One-line summary: Pastoral fantasy with lots of imaginative details in the worldbuilding
It's based on a Japanese role-playing video game that's apparently the 15th in the Atelier series, but the first of them to become an anime. Escha and Logy are alchemists in a fantasy world where mankind is in decline and people are trying to recover ancient technology. (Given Japan's economic and demographic decline over the past 25 years, it's hard not to see resonance in all these anime that take a similar premise, e.g. Humanity has Declined, or in a slightly different way the insignificance of Yona's country in Akatsuki no Yona.)
That's just the premise, though. The show itself is modestly charming and full of quirky details. Escha's best friend is a steampunk automaton with clockwork sticking out of her head, while floating in the sky is a ruined castle. Alchemy is real. (What is it with alchemy in anime?) Mankind travels in hot air balloons and co-exists with Furry Fantasy Beings.
It's gentle and pleasant. Everyone's happy. What's stopping me from continuing is the fact that this is a world in which nothing exciting will ever happen and that this episode was about fixing a windmill. (The flying ruin in the sky might end up proving me wrong, though.)
* * *
That was surprisingly good. I like anime, obviously, but normally I look for shows that sound good or interesting. Here I'm turning off all filters and watching any show I can find that came out in 2014, so I'd been expecting to be overwhelmed by dullness, dreck, perversion, moe and/or disturbing fanservice. So far, though, I haven't been. The only show here that's about boobs and panty shots is Ai Tenchi Muyo!, although admittedly there's also some buxom in Akame ga Kill!.
None of these shows even look bad, although I've abstained on Ai Mai Mi: Mousou Catastrophe. It might be brilliant or terrible. Short of watching more episodes, I've no way of knowing.
I could easily imagine myself watching all of any of these. What's more, the one I'll be continuing (Amagi Brilliant Park) is one that had slipped under my radar and wasn't one of the shows I'd heard praised.
Next up: "B".