As usual, these aren't reviews of entire series, but just my first impressions of first episodes.
- Couldn't find: Romantica Clock (Romanchika Kurokku), but it's only three one-minute episodes
- Barely bothered looking: Rantaro the Ninja Boy (Nintama Rantaro) but it's been running forever. No idea what the latest episode would be.
- Listed under "I": Invaders of the Rokujyoma!? (Rokujouma no Shinryakusha, or Invaders of the Six-Tatami Mat Room!)
- Listed under "N": Nanana's Buried Treasure (Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin)
- Rage of Bahamut: Genesis
- Shingeki no Bahamut Genesis
- Season 1
- Episodes: 13 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: no
- One-line summary: tiresomely cocky Lupin-like bounty hunter has adventures
I've seen critics put this on their Best of the Year lists. I hated it. This puzzled me enough that I went back to read what this show's fans seemed to think I was missing. Answer: they think the regular cast are a delight and/or funny as hell. That explains that, then. I can skip this one with a clear conscience.
In order of my subjective hatred, these characters are:
1. Favaro Leone, a bounty hunter with the ego of a Napoleon and the depth of a puddle. He lives to swagger around and show off, it seems. On earning some gold, he announces that it's his policy always to spend his entire earnings immediately in the pub and thereafter is draping himself over women. He has spectacularly animated action scenes, but it's him in them, so who cares? If I were in the same room as him in real life, I'd gnaw off my leg to get away. He's not even interestingly or amusingly annoying. He's just annoying.
2. Kaisar Lidfald, a knight with no sense of humour. He exists to be a foil for Favaro and be tricked by him. I don't hate him, but I'm indifferent to whether he lives or dies.
3. Amira, a mysterious woman who falls from the sky. She's great, having dramatic motivation and a scary hidden identity. If she were the only regular character, I'd be watching it for sure.
The visuals are rich and flavoursome. We begin with a "knight vs. dragon" spectacular, then jump to what looks like a Spaghetti Western. I'd sensed a possible Sergio Leone influence even before noticing Favaro's surname. There's also a town that I suspect might be named after Wyatt Earp. Meanwhile the show's making a thing out of wordless and explosively kinetic action sequences.
The world attracts me. It has gods, demons and dragons. I like Amira. I like the episode's punchline. I don't have a problem with it being based on a card battle game (which explains Favaro's targets turning into cards on being defeated). I just have no time for the male characters... and the show seems to have been pretty highly rated in general, so you'd be more likely than not to disagree with me if you watched it.
- Rail Wars!
- Rail Wars!
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: no
- One-line summary: anime cliches at (railway) school
It has nothing to distinguish it from all the other generic anime shows it's cloning, except for the unusually high number of warning signs in ep.1 that should dissuade you from watching it.
The set-up is "one boy and lots of girls at railway school". Okay, technically there are two boys, but you can bet your boots that the second one's going to play no significant role. Google tells me that the show's set in a parallel world where Japan didn't privatise its national railways, which is arguably the most impressive thing here since you'd never guess that anyone might have such a dull premise for a parallel universe. Theoretically that's unusual, but in practice I didn't spot a thing and had been assuming it took place in the real world.
The cast are:
Naoto Takayama - male hero and train nerd.
Aoi Sakurai - is an aggressive, super-athletic gun nut in Japan. How? Why? How does someone get to be a gun-toting psycho in a country with such strict gun laws and why would such a person go to railway school? (Not impossible, but it strains credibility.) Do we have to put this down to the parallel universe? Anyway, she sees all men as obnoxious and to be treated as enemies, but within a few episodes she'll have fallen secretly in love with Naoto. Bet your life on it. Has big boobs.
Haruka Koumi - demure, nice and clever, but a hapless blob when it comes to physical activities like running. The animation of this is silly and over the top. Has big boobs.
Hitomi Gonou - their teacher, again with big boobs. Small-breasted women do not exist in this universe.
There's a school training exercise that our heroes win by knowing how to put coal in a steam train's boiler. This is slightly interesting (if pointless) information, but why should a railway school in modern Japan be setting challenges that can only be solved with detailed knowledge of steam trains? This is Japan we're talking about! Japan!
There's a panty shot and a "A falls on B and ends up in an accidental boob-grab" scene. The lady doesn't mind.
There's a chase sequence with purse-snatchers. When their targets catch a train, do our heroes radio ahead to have them stopped by the police or station staff at the next stop? No! Do they take photos of the purse-snatchers on their mobile phones when they were standing a few centimetres away, separated only by the train's glass door? No! (Do mobile phones not exist in this parallel world either?) The eventual fight with the purse-snatchers is also silly, as is our heroes getting an official scolding for catching two criminals. (Students shouldn't run off like that, apparently.)
Having not the slightest intention of watching more of this, I've looked it up online and happily read lots of spoilers. It's going to become a harem show, in which all the girls are focused on the oblivious Naoto. A balanced harem, obviously. With big boobs. Avoid.
- Recently, My Sister Is Unusual
- Saikin, Imouto No Yousu Ga Chotto Okashiinda Ga
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 23 minutes
- Keep watching: yes, but that's because I'm a terrible person
- One-line summary: stepsister neo-incest romantic comedy, except not funny
- I've since finished it and... if you've got a rhino's hide, it's genuinely good.
Absolutely not. It looks terrible. No, on second thoughts I see there's also a live-action movie with nudity. I could compare them. Ah, what the hell. I'll have watched worse.
It really does look like trash, though.
Yesterday, Yuuya gained a step-sister, Mitsuki. Tomorrow, their parents are flying to India for six months, perhaps on Creaky Plot Contrivance Airways. Yuuya and Mitsuki will be living together on their own! What might happen? Answer: if it were up to them, nothing. Mitsuki's being sullen and distant, which bothers Yuuya since life's going to be almost impossible if they don't start talking to each other at some point.
However neither of them yet know about Hiyori, the perverted sex pest. If she weren't a ghost, you'd arrest her. She can possess Mitsuki and make her behave in a manner that makes the broadcast TV version bristle with censorship bars and will be even more family-unfriendly in the Blu-ray edition. She can make Mitsuki humiliate herself with Yuuya, or else perpetrate lesbian rape upon herself. She also has access to a chastity belt. How? Why? I've no idea, especially since chastity is the opposite of what Hiyori has in mind. All you need to know is that a significant chunk of the episode revolves around bladder difficulties.
Yuuya also has an annoying schoolmate who believes that having a step-sister is the pinnacle of all male desire.
I'd sooner watch it than Rail Wars!
, though. It's offensive, but at least that means it has a personality.
What can I possibly say that might make this show sound less dire? Well, T.H.E.M. hate it. That must be worth something. I also quite like Yuuya and Mitsuki, who might still be worth watching in spite of Hiyori. Nonetheless I'm half-expecting to be unable to complete the show because it's too appalling, despite my worst efforts, or else to end up writing a review full of bile and acid. Well, never let it be said that I don't spread my viewing net broadly.
- Riddle Story of Devil
- Akuma no Riddle
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: yes
- One-line summary: 12 assassins in a competition to kill their 13th classmate
- I've since finished it and... I liked it.
Looks evil and messed-up. Definitely watching this one.
I might look like a hypocrite here, because I often dislike assassin shows. I avoided Akame ga Kill!, for instance, but that's because I dislike thieves, assassins, etc. being portrayed as heroic or cool. (I'm also not a fan of Lupin III.) Here, though, our hired killers are freaks, bitches, obnoxious problem children and/or generally louts with repellent personalities. Cool they're not, but it's going to be fun when they're let loose.
The show's premise is all kinds of wrong. A certain girls' school has what it calls the Black Class. This doesn't refer to ethnicity, but to the fact that twelve of the girls are professional assassins who are going to be competing to kill the thirteenth. Their first job is to identify the target, but that's almost certainly the bright and friendly Haru Ichinose. Haru's lovely. Haru's kind to everyone and goes around with a smile on her face and a song in her heart. Haru fits in about as well as a kitten in a crocodile pit and there must be some kind of twist coming or else this is going to be a really short (and distressing) series.
There are some obvious questions to ask, e.g. "what the hell?" More specific ones might include "who's paying for this?", "is there some kind of underlying motive?" and "why should anyone want Haru dead?" Is this a regular competition and she's just the latest random victim, or is there a reason why it had to be her? Does she even know what she's in for? She didn't actually choose to be in the Black Class, surely?
Disturbing. Hopefully it'll get horrific. Great stuff!
- Robot Girls Z
- Robot Girls Z
- Season 1
- Episodes: 9 x 10 minutes
- Keep watching: yeah, okay
- One-line summary: famous giant robots reinvented as magical girls
- I've since finished it and... meh.
It's a parody of Toei giant robot shows, with Mazinger Z, Great Mazinger and Grendizer as magical girls. Seems amusing enough and the show's only three episodes long, or five if you include the 2015 Robot Girls Z
+ internet episodes. (There might well be more of the latter, but if so they haven't appeared yet.) I see no reason not to watch them.
Each normal-length episode is split into three segments, by the way, each about ten minutes long with its own episode title. You could thus argue that the show's first episode is just a ten-minute segment. That's what I watched.
The theme music and title sequence are fun. The girls have nude transformation sequences, but nothing too salacious, while their enemies include a version of Baron Ashura. Yay! I'm always up for more of him/her. As for the magical girl battles, our heroes are capable of slicing the tops off skyscrapers and of flattening half the city in their virtuous (but silly) rage. They are anthropomorphised giant robots, after all.
If it were 26 episodes long, I wouldn't bother. At three episodes, yeah, sure.
- Ronja the Robber's Daughter
- Rounya the Robber's Daughter
- Sanzoku no Musume Ronya
- Season 1
- Episodes: 26 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: bloody hell, um, um, um
- One-line summary: robber chief becomes a father
- I've since finished it and... it's beautifully crafted, but I think also disappointing.
Everything about this looks wonderful except for two things: (a) the director's name, and (b) the robbers. I haven't been this torn in ages. I eventually decided to drop it, but then I discovered that it's based on a super-famous children's book by a super-famous Swedish author I've never heard of.
What the hell. Shall I watch it?
THE GOOD #1 - it's a Studio Ghibli TV series and it looks it. Its forests, its landscapes and the joy it takes in the beauty of the natural world are so evocative of Hayao Miyazaki that I can't believe they're not doing it deliberately, or at least knowingly. The character designs are practically exploding with Miyazaki-ness too. Those robbers on ropes are so cute! Characters even run in a Miyazaki-like way. It looks more Ghibli-like than I'd have thought possible on a TV budget, but all that CGI must have been a budget-saver. It's been rendered to look hand-drawn, but you can tell.
THE GOOD #2 - sounds as if I'm a bad person for not knowing of Astrid Lindgren. This particular book has already been made into a 1984 live-action film (winning a Silver Bear at the 1985 Berlin International Film Festival), a 1994 musical, a stage play and of course this anime. It sounds as if it's worth watching just to experience the story. Japan's anime industry doesn't tend to go abroad for source material, since it's easier to draw on the massive pool of Japanese-language material, but in this as in other ways, Ghibli's an exception.
THE GOOD #3 - That was a genuinely disturbing harpy.
THE BAD #1 - this series pretty much sank and disappeared. It certainly didn't get anywhere near the attention you'd expect given those first two reasons, part of which will be:
THE BAD #2 - Goro Miyazaki, son of Hayao. He's getting work because of his father's name, but his Wizard of Earthsea adaptation got panned and I haven't heard of anyone getting excited about his subsequent work either. Not a good sign.
THE BAD #3 - This is the real reason I'm nervous. Remember what I said about Riddle Story of Devil
? This is the flip side. It's a show about warm-hearted, adorable robbers. When the episode begins with one of their robberies, it's as harmless as a prank and doesn't suggest that they're doing anything wrong at all. You want to cuddle them. They're cute. They love their family. You can't possibly hate a man who's this thrilled about becoming a father, even if his wife can be hard and sour. (I actually like this, as a grace note amid all the niceness.) Ghibli are using all their Ghibli superpowers to make you fall in love with these robbers...
...which is exactly what makes me hate them. They're a criminal gang. If you're going to give me robbers, give me their victims. There are a lot of them and they appear to be living reasonably well in a flipping castle, which implies significant levels of predation in a pre-industrial rural society. I object to turning such people into a cuddly grandad. However this is only the first episode and I should probably be allowing more benefit of the doubt, since the original children's book is such a big deal that it surely can't be just an exercise in glib amorality.
It's a charming episode, full of things to love. I laughed at the frog gambling bet. The childishly squabbling robber bosses were a laugh. The art and animation are beautiful, while the cast are funny and heartwarming. I can live with the CGI.
But, you know... lovable robbers.
- Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro
- Abarenbou Rikishi!! Matsutarou
- Notari Matsutaro
- Season 1
- Episodes: 23 x 22 minutes
- Keep watching: another tough one... yes
- One-line summary: World's Most Appalling Human Being in a sumo sports anime
- I've since finished it and... it was a slog.
If I didn't know this would become a sports anime, I'd definitely be watching this. I'm tempted anyway, in fact. Um... this could be difficult.
Notari Matsutarou was an award-winning sports manga that ran from 1973-1998. Yes, that's right. Twenty-five years. It became a ten-episode OVA series in 1990-1991 and now once again has been brought to horrible life.
Its anti-hero, Matsutaro, is a neanderthal. (Not literally, but he might as well be.) He's fantastically strong. He's also been held back about ten years and is still in school, despite being several times larger than his teachers, let alone his classmates. Looking at his attitude to studying and indeed to everything else, he'll probably die of old age before he graduates. He's an appalling person and this episode is gleefully showing us all the anti-social things he does, portrayed so vigorously that it's given several reviewers a fit of the vapours.
It's also a bad idea to be a jerk in his vicinity, because it'll turn into a "Who's The Biggest Jerk" contest and you'll be crushed like an ant. More specifically, you'll be stuck with him for the rest of the day, your truck will be driven through a wall and you'll end up in a police cell. Our hero's other antics include:
(a) Stealing candy from a baby, followed by an old man's lunch. "Nothing tastes as good as someone else's packed lunch!"
(b) Causing a truck to be driven at a bunch of children. The baby only lives because it goes between the truck's wheels. I think the children are even his siblings, although I'd have to rewatch the episode to be sure of that.
There's a teacher at school he fancies. His pick-up techniques are not recommended. Basically, he's a huge, vulgar, cheating gorilla and he belongs in prison. This is not your standard earnest shounen protagonist. He's more along the outrageous lines of a Great Teacher Onizuka, except ten times more badly behaved and stupid. (Onizuka was at least a good guy underneath, but Matsutaro so far has shown no redeeming qualities.) Whatever he does (e.g. becoming a sumo wrestler), it's certain to be colourful. It's possible that the series will show him learning from his mistakes and eventually becoming a decent person, but to be honest I think that's a long shot.
The art is old-fashioned, incidentally. The pretty teacher is drawn in a more traditional anime style, but the other characters reminded me of Steve Parkhouse. It's a good style.
That was fun. The only reason I'm hesitating is the word "sports", but I need to get over that prejudice of mine. Yes, I do believe it's time for me to start following the adventures of a brainless mega-destructive lout. That's also made up my mind on Ronja the Robber's Daughter
, since they're both comparatively long shows (26 vs. 23 episodes) and I'd been on the fence about both anyway. I'll definitely watch Ronja at some point, but for now it's Matsutaro for me. Less morally unsavoury.