The Summer is over and a new season has begun! It's time to see what the Fall season has in store, baby! Just like last season, I pick out a big chunk of shows (twenty this time, two of them being a series of shorts) and watch them all from start to finish. Unless they're really bad or boring, then I can drop them. I don't like watching bad things that don't amuse me.
The shows this Fall season are...
* Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova
* Beyond the Boundary
* Diabolik Lovers
* Galilei Donna
* Golden Time
* Kill la Kill
* Log Horizon
* Miss Monochrome
* Nagi no Asukara
* Outbreak Company
* Samurai Flamenco
* Strike the Blood
* Tokyo Ravens
* Unbreakable Machine Doll
* Valvrave S2
* Walkure Romanze
Unlike last time, I'll actually cover Valvrave's second season here, just be warned that THERE WILL BE SPOILERS TO SEASON ONE. So skip over that one if you're in any way interested in the series.
The one major change this time deals with Miss Monochrome and Teekyu. These are a series of short animations, with Miss Monochrome rounding out to about under four minutes with ending credits removed, and exactly a minute and a half with Teekyu's opening removed. You will be amazed how much they manage to pack in that minute and thirty seconds. As a result, I'll only be covering them now and later at the end of the season, because there's very little to say about them otherwise.
With that out of the way, let's get to first impressions!
ARPEGGIO OF BLUE STEEL: ARS NOVA
Pictured: Running out of money
When you guys reach BlazBlue, you will read that it was my first drop of the season. It is. However, I write these as I go because it takes an entire day otherwise, and I order all the shows by alphabetical order. I was not expecting to drop another show, yet here we are. I'd just thought I'd make that clear instead of bother to rewrite anything. Because that's how I roll. But anyways, Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova is quite the mess. Now, this is probably a good show, there's a lot of cool stuff in it. The one thing that's wrong with it, however, is really, really wrong and an unforgivable sin.
The show is about a future where mysterious high-tech ships have closed off all of humanity's shipping routes, along with blocking all communication between the various continents and islands. The main cast use one of these ships themselves to fight back. The battle scenes look outstanding and really use CG well. The problem is that CG is used for all the characters. For the main characters, the animations are a little janky, but it's not a dealbreaker. For the many, many minor characters, however, it looks phoned in and terrible, even looking like a completely different art style at times with incorrect proportions at random moments. It's really, really bad, and you can tell that the studio spent every cent they had on the battle scenes. It's not RWBY bad, but it's close, and for a professionally made series, that is inexcusable. I am not watching this.
CURRENT SCORE: 4/10
BEYOND THE BOUNDARY
"Mam, stabbings hurt."
One of the four supernatural action shows of the season, Beyond the Boundary is the one getting the most attention. Since this is a KyoAni production, this is not surprising. This is another attempt of KyoAni to try and broaden their resume, and it mostly succeeds but keeps some familiar tropes and character design around at the same time. The main characters are Akihito and Mirai, an immortal half-demon and a spirit warrior who uses her own blood as a weapon. Akihito lives out his life at school by attending his literature club and hanging out with other spirit warriors, while Mirai is a loner who constantly tries killing the unkillable Akihito for practice, as she's never killed a demon to date. Akihito tries befriending her, but her cursed blood has the attention of other spirit warriors, and she may have a bloody past he's not aware of. The coming super-high class demon isn't helping things either, driving the more monstrous demons a bit mad.
Needless to say, the animation is amazing, as one would expect from KyoAni. There hasn't been much action yet but what is shown is amazing, especially in the intro. The music is normal for the studio, with some nice battle themes mixed in. The K-ON-ish character design seems unfitting at first, but the story isn't exactly a straight up action piece. The first two episodes focus mostly on Akihito and Mirai just living their weird lives, with some demon hunting on the side, but that's alright. There are some really funny characters and dialog here (Akihito's mother, my god), even if Mirai is a bit too clumsy and cute for her own good. She feels like she was meant to have a completely different personality at times, but she's never grating and has just enough hints of depth to work in the cast. It's enjoyable, but it's a bit early to really figure out what it's trying to do. I give it a solid recommendation, though.
CURRENT SCORE: 7/10
Hello, first drop of the season! I didn't really expect much from BlazBlue's anime adaptation, but even those already low expectations were dashed. To anyone expecting an action packed blast, you're not going to find it here. For those new, BlazBlue is a popular fighting game series from Arc System Works, more known for the Guilty Gear series and the recent Persona 4 Arena. They know how to make fighting games. They are also terrible writers. Trying to make any sense out of BlazBlue or Guilty Gear is like asking a madman what the voices in his head are trying to tell him, and all of those voices all have different voices in their heads. What matters is that they're super anime in every sense of the word and crazy things happen when you push buttons. Also, one hit kill moves. They are nuts and I love them. All I was expecting was awesome fighting. That's not what happened.
A studio I've never even heard of somehow had no budget and was then tasked with making a show off of a series of games with narrative as obtuse as a rubik's cube. Seeing as they had no money and possibly some of the worst source material ever for any sort of story, they started crying on their desks, hiding their faces and despair. The fight scenes are incredibly boring and really lazy, thanks to having no budget for any sort of cool looking animation. The lightning fast fighting mechanics of the game are thrown out as slow moving and unoriginal here, and characters tend to go off model as well. The world is poorly built and the backgrounds just look like an afterthought, and the major characters never look like they actually belong anywhere in this world. They look so elaborate, and the extras ...not so much. The only compliments I can give the series are just compliments I can give the game, meaning this fails on every possible level as an adaptation. What's worse, I have no idea if this wants to be for newcomers or fans. Newcomers will be horribly confused by a lot of this and the poor transitions, while vets will just be bored by the lame action poorly handled story elements. But hey, at least Noel is the single most adorable thing ever, but she's also this in the game, so that means absolutely nothing. Dropped like a large stone on a nazi.
CURRENT SCORE: 3/10
"The gradients will go no further."
I picked up Coppelion due to it being the second available show of the season for me, not really sure what to expect besides girls in school uniforms exploring a post-apocalypse city and gradient filters, since this is a Go Hands production. They sure do love those filters. It's 2036 and Tokyo was ruined during a disaster at the local nuclear power plant twenty years ago. However, an SOS went out, so the Japanese government have sent in Coppelion, an elite squad of genetically engineered young girls named Ibara, Aoi and Taeko. They can survive in the wasteland and wish to find the survivors in the ruined city at all costs, all while dealing with their issues over being artificial humans meant to be tools for a government body.
Coppelion's art style is surprisingly impressive. The gradients bugged me at first, until a big dramatic moment in episode two with a crumbling building. The gradient filters give off this constant sense that you're in an unnatural area, and the colors change to reflect more dangerous moments. I also thought the big outlines that occasionally appear were a neat touch, sort of giving the show its own flavor. The character designs are good, but the backgrounds look amazing, really creating a great atmosphere. The writing, however, is what elevates this series. Coppelion isn't just a high concept action show with a cheesy gimmick of high school girls surviving the apocalypse, it takes all its subject matter seriously. The reason the girls are dressed the way they are is never directly stated, but heavily implied it's a publicity stunt for the Japanese public. That's clever. The fact that the girls were made in a lab is a major part of their character, and they all struggle with it in different ways, like Ibara's breakdown during the second episode. However, the show is also smart enough to focus on the immediate issue, with harrowing rescues of the survivors and simply trying to survive the lethal environment. It's not scared to tackle dark subject matter either, and does so with a surprising amount of heart and maturity. Episode two really sold me on this show, I can't stress that enough, and there's a lot of promise here. Easily one of the better shows premiered, hoping it can keep it up.
CURRENT SCORE: 9/10
Men's Rights Activism!
Comedy of the year, calling it now. Diabolik Lovers is softcore vampire rape porn made for the female gender. It is also amazing and hilarious and I love it. This is the anti-Twilight. It is morally disgusting on every possible level, but instead of being completely unaware of this, it embraces it at every seconds. Diabolik Lovers knows exactly what it is and just goes the distance, adding in a heaping mess of self-aware stupidity along the way because it understands exactly what its target audience wants. If you are watching Diabolik lovers, it's either because you know exactly what this show is and that turns you on, or you know exactly what this show is and you want to laugh.
The story itself is about an incredibly moe heroine who ends up being sent to a mansion of six vampire brothers as a sacrifice (revealed in the forth episode). Each episode follows a basic formula; heroine acts frail and tries to escape, does something to mildly annoy one of the brothers, she gets her blood sucked. Rinse and repeat. During all this, however, are moments that go full on fetish mode in hilarious ways. For example, the crazy yandere vampire boy stabs the peas on his dinner plate while talking to his teddy bear, the red haired one throws the heroine in a pool and demands that she call him the best, the one with the fedora keeps calling her "Bitch-Chan," and two of the brothers play darts to decide who gets to drink her blood. The amount of fucks this show gives are absolute zero, and that is commendable. It's not so much a disaster as a show that knows exactly what a disgusting thing it is, shrugs, and just goes for the gold. We need more softcore smut shows like this, because this is actually entertaining for a change.
CURRENT SCORE: 7/10
Kidnappings are such a drag, man.
Galilei Donna is a very, very stupid show. That said, it's part of the fun. The series follows the descendants of Galileo, three sisters who have access to some sort of secret that a powerful criminal group desperately wants. Of course, they aren't aware what that secret is, and they would be doomed if not for the youngest of the sisters, Hozuki, build a giant flying goldfish mech and that her pet goldfish helps her pilot. Also, the last name of the family? Ferrari. Because they are Italian. And the first bad guy keeps using random Italian words while talking about the world cup and not wanting to miss it. Because they're in Italy. Do ya get it yet?
The premise of this show is very, very stupid, and the first episode ends with the bad guy just leaving after seeing the goldfish mech and deciding he'll try again another day. It's like a throwback to a much dumber, more formulaic time, and I am perfectly okay with that. There's some really stupid and really crazy ideas here (seriously, goldfish mech), and it's just fun with how the show is taking all this seriously. Based on one episode, it's off to a good, stupid start, and can hopefully keep things going. What did surprise me is that it has some good direction. The scenes of the three sisters nearly being kidnapped are edited together perfectly and really made me feel like these characters were in real danger. A mix of stupid writing and good direction? I have no idea where this could possibly be heading.
CURRENT SCORE: 7/10
The show's one big negative is all the furry porn that will soon result.
Gingitsune is yet another entry in the slice-of-life but with mythical things genre. The show follows the everyday life of a young shrine maiden named Makoto as she helps people with their problems. However, her powers as a priestess aren't developed, so she usually acts as the in-between for people needing help and the god's messenger of the shrine named Gintaro the fox, who has the ability to read people's fortunes and see slightly into possible futures. The two argue but are ultimately close, having had been partners since Makoto was four, and hyjinks constantly ensue for them. You know, the normal stuff, but Gingitsune manages to stand out a bit through sheer charm.
This show is really just pleasant. Right off the bat, Makoto and Gintaro are simple, fun character with a funny dynamic. They're nothing new, but they just work together so well that it never really feels like a problem. The first episode gets off to a good foot, introducing a good side character in a headstrong classmate of Makoto, along with her laid back but helpful father. There isn't too much to say now, but the series does have some plans set up for bigger things and I'd like to see where its headed. Just a nice little show, really.
CURRENT SCORE: 7/10
This is just where Japanese people momentarily disappear to when they fall in love.
Golden Time is another show right out of my comfort zone, but some praise from another one of my internet nerd friends got me to follow it. The show is about Tada Banri and Kaga Koko (yes, I am not making those names up), two freshmen college students who are trying to make the best of their youth. Tada is trying to assert himself and discover more of life, while Kaga is kind of nuts and keeps chasing around her crush Mitsuo, who changed schools just to get away from her. She is a stalker, so I can't blame him. Tada and Kaga end up having some similarities in an odd way and kick it off as friends, deciding to make the best of the various possible new experiences around them. Also, I think they fall in love at some point maybe. The opening being the two in a void of pink and hearts subtly implies this.
Golden Time is downright adorable at times, but hilarious the rest. Kaga balances between funny crazy and endearing effortlessly, and her chemistry with Tada feels genuine. Tada himself works as a nice guy main character, a little dull but sweetly relatable. He fits well with this story, as do all the supporting characters. The show has some emotional drama, but it doesn't feel melodramatic. He's brought up and discussed, but it's not distracting or annoying. It's actually refreshing to just have these characters talk out their disagreements in a polite manner and finding common ground. The comedy bits are also great, like the wild parties of the tea club (they are truly demons) or the occasional hints of how far Kaga obsesses over Mitsuo. There's a good balance here, even if the art design and musical score don't really do too much for the show. It's a strong contender for one of the better shows this season, for sure.
CURRENT SCORE: 8/10
KILL LA KILL
Improvising is yet another skill humans possess.
From the people behind Gurren Lagann comes Kill la Kill, an absolutely ridiculous action show that's far smarter than it initially appears. You know, like Gurren Lagann. The series takes place in an alternate history where Hitler's fascism became the defining government system for Japan, with Satsuki Kiryuin heading the terrifying Honnoji Academy. It's a high school, but one where students can be killed for simply missing a club meeting, and the best and most loyal students all wear the powerful goku suits that give them special powers. Enter Ryuko Matoi, who's come to this school to find the person who has her missing scissor blade and killed her father. While she's no match for the goku suits at first, she finds a living sailor suit made by her father that gives her incredible powers (in exchange for blood) she deems Senketsu. The downside is that the uniform in powered mode reveals a lot of skin, much to her embarrassment. Hey, this is from the TTGL guys, what were you expecting? She's allied by the manic Mako and her homeroom teacher, who has a past with her father and might be that creepy guy you keep finding at bars hitting on 17-year-old girls.
Like TTGL, Kill la Kill is a very deceiving series. It appears to be a stupid excuse for fanservice and insane action scenes at start, but it quickly starts to show more layers. For one, the villains aren't all pure evil. The boxing captain in the first episode only takes Mako hostage as a last ditch effort and doesn't take any joy in it, only seeing it as a desperate tactic. They seem more like a product of a flawed system, much like Viral in TTGL. The skin showing in Ryuko's suit also has a narrative point to it, one so insanely silly that it becomes genius. There's definitely some hidden layers here, but you'll still get a kick without the depth. The action in this series is fucking insane, blasting the rest of the season out of the water. The animation style and character designs are also exploding with energy, keeping things moving at all times. Despite some budget limitations, the show looks fantastic and has a really overblown style all its own. The cast is also fantastic. Ryuko makes for a great hero, not exactly invincible, but by no means weak. Satsuki makes for a great villain as well, able to face off with Ryuko with only a sword in the second episode. She's a no nonsense badass who demands respect by simply standing. Mako also ranks as one of the funniest supporting characters in recent memory, made better by her super active animation. She's going to be on a lot of favorite lists this year. Kill la Kill is a fantastically fun time, and one that comes off as more intelligent than you'd think at a first glance. Stupid isn't the word to describe it, more overblown.
CURRENT SCORE: 9/10
"This is, like, the third time this has happened!"
Log Horizon is the third attempt at an anime about people getting trapped in an MMO. Unlike the previous attempts, Log Horizon is actually good. So you can complain how been done the premise is all you want, but I don't care because it's actually good. The set-up is similar to SAO's; people who were playing a long established MMORPG found themselves suddenly in the game itself somehow, with no understanding of how or why. Strategist Shiroe and his friends, the perverted Naotsugu and the female ninja Akatsuki, quickly form a team and try to figure on just what's going on and how this new world functions, discovering how to use their in-game powers and how to survive in this new world.
The budget and art design of this show is nowhere near the heights of its contemporaries of .Hack and Sword Art Online, but there's already far more to like here. Unlike .Hack//Sign, the story is quickly paced and instantly establishes a lot of how this world functions and the personalities of our cast. Also unlike Sword Art Online, the first episode avoid tone issues by keeping things relatively happy and only hinting at darker stuff for later. It actually enjoys what its doing and seems to be trying to avoid the pitfalls of its rivals. There's promise here, especially with how likable and lively the cast are (Naotsugu alone is practically my spirit anime), promising a good mix of action, comedy and drama that SAO and .Hack severally lacked. Also, I could listen to the opening song forever and never stop smiling. It's like if all those Sonic Adventure Knuckles raps were semi-good and even more cheesy with a blast of energy. It's awesome.
CURRENT SCORE: 7/10
And yet we still don't know how you met mother!
Miss Monochrome is a new series of animated shorts, based on a mascot for a virtual idol program similar to Vocaloid. Now that sounds terrible, and I thought so as well, but I heard enough good things to finally try it out. Turns out its my kind of humor. Miss Monochrome follows the title character, an android and popular idol, as she tries to become the biggest idol in Japan. The problem is that she's an android and has some lapses when it comes to basic knowledge and human logic, thus comedy ensues, but not quite in the way you'd expect.
Miss Monochrome is not so much wacky as it is dry. Each three minute short (one minute is for ending credits) has one or two jokes to it with slow build up and no sense of an energetic punch-line ...and it works. It works really, really well. Monochrome's almost emotionless reactions to just about anything make her surprisingly funny, like when her best friend (which is a roomba) vacuums up paper and can't reach its charging station in time. She buries it, leaves a note, and goes about her day, barely showing any reaction. It's so absurd that it's really funny to me, not in a laughing constantly way, but more in a constantly amused way. It's like waiting for a punch-line, only to realize that part of the joke is that there will never be a punch-line, just absurdity. It may not be your thing, but it's only three minutes, check it out and decide for yourself if it's worth following. I'm definitely sticking around.
CURRENT SCORE: 8/10
NAGI NO ASUKARA
There's another men's right activism joke here, somewhere...
Nagi no Asukara is a tale of the mythical and mundane colliding, that being the regular human world and the citizens of the sea. In this world, humans originally came from the seas, and the people that still live in the water can come out on land for awhile, as long as their special coat of skin that keeps in their moisture functions properly. The story told here is of four sea kids attending Jr. High on the land, due to their school closing down, and the growing drama of one of their own, Manaka, growing feelings for a fisherman's son named Tsumugu, much to the chagrin of best friend Hikari. This isn't just a spat between friends, however; the sea people and land people have incredibly strained relationships right now, with racism on both sides and the land becoming less and less interested in following ancient traditions related to the sea. Tensions are rising, and Hikari is terrified of losing the people he cares deeply about, especially since being with romantically involved with a land dweller means being banished from the sea.
This is a really, really good drama. To a point. The mythology of this world and just seeing how the underwater village functions is really interesting. All the rich history is easy to take in, and the characters are easy to understand. The racism and growing tensions are handled very maturely, with powerful conflicts arisen, without having to show a message down your neck. There's a lot of good here, but what's bugging me is the character writing. I like that they make some characters jerks but with reason and an understandable viewpoint, but what I don't like is all the character examinations by other characters. A lot of the time seems to just be characters being upset without really tackling the issue presented, and it gets a bit annoying. Chisaki in particular, who's defining conflict is loving Hikari and trying not to be obsessive about it or not knowing how to handle the conflicts around her. Someone really needs to grow some balls in this cast. Tsumugu is better, but his complete lack of emotion comes off as unnatural a lot of the time. That said, these are minor complaints and hardly hurt what works. I think there's something special to be found here, and I hope to find out soon.
CURRENT SCORE: 8/10
Ah, the Rukia Kuchiki school of learning modern Japanese.
This should not be a good show. It is somehow the most promising show of the season. How did they do this. To back up so you can understand why I thought this would be terrible, Outbreak Company is about an otaku shut-in named Shinichi. He takes a job offering that meets his talents (of being a colossal nerd with sad hobbies), only to get drugged and woken to find himself in a world of fantasy. The Japanese government has made Shinichi a sort of middle man who will be in charge of spreading Japanese otaku culture to the new world they discovered via dimensional anomaly and try and creating a lasting peace between the two worlds. Shinichi is more excited that this fantasy world of the Holy Eldant Empire is just like one of his Japanese animes, but it's instantly hinted that this isn't just going to be all fun and games.
That description brings up a pandering mess, yet Outbreak Company doesn't really pander to the otaku audience. Instead, the incredibly pathetic Shinichi is treated both as a joke (he is the biggest nerd ever) and as an actual human being. He did face problems growing up the way he did, but he's still a good person as you see more of him. He also has an interesting role in this new country as a very honest person and someone who doesn't share the prejudices of the society around him, such as with the half-elf maid. He's somehow going to be a positive influence on this world, and its inhabitants are all colorful and interesting. It walks a fine line between hilarious comedy (the timing in this show is absolutely amazing) and drama that tackles some relatable issues in an odd way I've never seen before that somehow works.
I swear, I'm not crazy. I know I sound crazy but ...this is really good. Like, possibly one of the best shows of the season good if it keeps this up. Someone had to have made a deal with Satan over this.
CURRENT SCORE: 9/10
Fun Fact: Japan already has a nude female superhero. I wish I was joking.
Well. I certainly wasn't expecting that. Samurai Flamenco is a sort of comedy about fashion model Masayoshi Hazama, who has very little talents because he's so focused on being a hero. It's all he's ever wanted to be, as off-duty cop Hidenori soon finds out. The two bond over their shared interest in superheroes, although Masayoshi is on a whole other level of obsession. He dresses up as a costumed hero and goes around trying to stop petty crime, and while he's bad at it, he's certainly dedicate dto his ideals and may just reach out to someone, even if he keeps causing trouble for Hidenori.
Samurai Flamenco is an interesting series to be watching after the perfection that was Gatchaman Crowds. There's some similar ideas here, but not nearly the same level of ambition or thought. That said, what is here is quite good. Masayoshi's obsession with heroes isn't in the flash but the message, and it's surprisingly inspiring. He gets the crap beat out of him by some kids, but says his mind exactly while trying to get them go straight, and sort of succeeds in one case. The guy is delusional, but very likable in all his dorky beliefs. He really just wants to make the world a better place with the values he learned in his childhood from all his favorite Toku heroes, and they're certainly good values. There's also some good bits of humor, not too exaggerated but entertaining all the same, especially with how he and Hidenori meet. It's a nice take on the superhero genre, and I give it a solid recommendation if you're a fan of caped crusaders.
CURRENT SCORE: 7/10
STRIKE THE BLOOD
Guys, I know this sounds crazy, but I think this guy with "Blood" in his name may be a vampire...
Well, that was average. Very, very average. Strike the Blood is a show that promises to be neither bad nor good, just sort of there. The premise is that a high school student named Kojo has become one of the twelve most powerful mythical beings alive, in the form of a vampire. he inherited the powers from a powerful vampire who once held the spot he holds now, but he wants nothing to do with it. He lives in a city on an island near Japan's mainland where the various magical creatures of the world made their home, watched over by world governments and living among humans. So, he does not lead a normal life. Complicating things is Yukina, a shaman working for Lion-King, the organization that watches over and regulates magical beings, who was sent to watch over him and make sure he doesn't do anything dangerous with his incredible power. Oh, and she's the most generic tsundere ever.
Strike the Blood is the third supernatural action show I've checked out this season, and it's by far the weakest. Silver Link is working on this one, and it's easy to see that they were far more focused on putting money in Watamote and last season's Fate series than this. The look is very dull, although the animation is surprisingly constant and manages some good action. But compared to the other three shows, Unbreakable Machine Doll, Beyond the Boundary and Tokyo Ravens, Strike looks like BlazBlue (seriously, that show is so damn cheap). The subject matter is also nothing new, and there's a lot of reliance on standard tropes with no new ideas or twists to the formula. At the same time, nothing here really bugs me. It's just sort of pretty okay, but forgettable. Not a good start, but at least it's not BlazBlue (I really did not care for that show). Hopefully it can get something new in there to keep my interest.
CURRENT SCORE: 5/10
They just got back from Man of Steel.
Ah yes, Teekyu. It's certainly a show that exists. Teekyu is a series of shorts about a tennis club and their wacky adventures in tennis. Actually, it's not about tennis. It's about fucking insanity. It's a minute and a half rapid-firing barrage of puns, jokes and references that barely leaves you room to breathe. And I think I really like that somehow. The first two seasons are pretty much the same as the third, lots of self-awareness and endless talking that may fly over your head if you don't pay attention closely.
What little characterization that exists as the normal one, the rich one, the insane pink haired one and the pervert who is also out of her mind. Okay, everyone but the normal one is insane (or the rich girl is just a troll). This matters little, because the never ending jokes just keep flying. It works in some sort of bizarre trance like way, sucking you into its random energy and not letting go for about two minutes. This shouldn't work, but it does. It's fun and only two minutes an episode, there's really no reason to at least try it out and see if this madness is something you like.
CURRENT SCORE: 7/10
So, how is your sex life?
This is easily the best of the supernatural action show this Fall, at least at the moment. Out of Tokyo Ravens, Strike the Blood, Beyond the Boundary and Unbreakable Machine Doll, Tokyo Ravens is the most even of the four. It deals with the Tsuchimikado family, the main family's Natsume and the branch family's Harutora. They belong to a family of shamans (for a lack of a better term), but Harutora is unwilling to get involved in his family's duties, as he lacks basic spiritual senses and abilities of his family. This changes when one of the strongest shamans (seriously, it's hard to find a good exact word) in the world comes by his peaceful town and raises chaos, looking for a returned Natsume to steal her powers and learn a forbidden ritual to bring back her dead brother, and various other shamans over in Tokyo may be planning the same. After a tragic loss, Harutora stops running and becomes Natsume's shikigami (or familiar, as the subs put it), becoming involved in the chaos in Tokyo.
The one major fault of Tokyo Ravens is that it's a bit layered in Japanese culture, and it can be hard to wrap your head around some of what gets thrown around at first. However, once you get used to it, an entertaining action show is found underneath. At first, some of the writing bugged me (the girls easily envious over any contact with other girls thing), but then I reached the end of episode two and started to realize just what this show is trying to do. Harutora is a likable guy, and his introduction arc of accepting the world he was born into is well handled. He's relatable, and while I didn't really like Natsume at first, the show characterizes her with the bare minimum of dialog during the ending scene of the second episode. There looks to be a lot of interesting stuff on the way, but the highest strength here is the presentation. While it doesn't have the biggest budget (those CG creatures are eh), the art design is fantastic. There's a great use of colors and some really creative designs, like fake water that dissolves into paper talismans or talismans that turn into bees. That's really interesting stuff. The soundtrack is also grand and effective, with a good mix of moods. A few tracks sound right at home in a Hollywood production, and the opening theme is both catchy and oppressive. There's a lot of personality here, so I have high hopes.
CURRENT SCORE: 8/10
UNBREAKABLE MACHINE DOLL
I am indifferent to trains.
This here is a series that I can't quite make up my mind on. The third big supernatural action show of the season, Unbreakable Machine Doll follows Raishin and Yaya, a puppeteer magician and his high class puppet. The two have joined a magical school that excels in magical machinery, engines and technology that run on magic from puppeteers. Raishin wants to be the Wise Man, the strongest in the school, and despite ending up as the second lowest student in the school, he's a strong fighter and works together with his puppet Yaya better than nearly anyone else and their puppets. However, there's more to it. Raishin has a bone to pick with the top of the school, and Yaya acts more human than any other doll present on campus. She's absolutely devoted to Raishin (to the point of mad obsession but played for laughs), signaling that there is far more to these two than meets the eyes.
The budget is high and the art style is great. All the characters look memorable, and the whole world is a treat to just watch move. All the steampunk and magical aesthetics look really impressive, as do all the wildly different dolls. When the show isn't going nuts with the lighting filters, it looks fantastic, and the action is equally impressive (minus the CG bits of the opening train scene in episode one). Great presentation, great opening funny ending theme, it does a lot right. What prevents me from rating it higher is the writing. All the characters have hints of greater depth, but they're starting out as tired stock archtypes, from the ultra tsundere Charlotte to the blandly main character Raishin. Only Yaya stands out, if only because she's batshit. She is endlessly trying to get into Raishin's pants and strangles him if he even thinks about another woman, and this shouldn't be funny, but it's so cartoony that I laugh each time. Except that one time that the show heavily implied she tried forcing herself on him in the dark. That was a bad idea for a joke. There is fanservice and nudity as well, but it's not too bad or distracting, and it occasionally fits the moment, like the shower scene. The writing is what's going to decide if you're going to like this show or not, so give it a shot and see if the visuals and possible promise are worth it. Also, the show shows both Raishin and Yaya's naked butts at one point and they are fantastic butts, 9/10.
CURRENT SCORE: 7/10
It's not easy being an unholy abomination of a robot. And green.
Fucking Valvrave, man. I knew I was in for some insane shit, this being Valvrave, BUT GOD DAMN, WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED. I was hooked back in right in the first two minutes, as it was revealed that all of space was secretly controlled by evil space vampires. That's amazing. The first episode starts right where last season stopped, with Akira using the hacking abilities of her Valvrave to help out the other Valvraves and throw the plans of Dorssia in the crapper. Meanwhile, Haruto and L-Elf barely manage to survive a curb-stomp battle with Cain, with major revelations of the Valvrave's origins. The Valvraves run on runes, and Haruto is the entire source of them for the whole fleet. Runes, if you're wondering, and pretty much everything that make humans human, so L-Elf is allowing him to use his body's runes as the power source for the mechs as the students continue to fight for their country's freedom and Haruto becomes resolved to break free from this curse after its all over.
Valvrave is what you get if you combined Gundam and Code Geass with some super robot and a massive batch of Lovecraft, and it's amazing. Valvrave is an insane concoction that just has me gripped in its maw, and it just has so much going for it. Haruto's struggle with being a space vampire (I will never tire of saying that) is a good one, and his absolute hatred and disgust of what he's become and what he has to do to save his friends really works. The series is becoming a long sequence of squashing all the idealism out of him and his friends (Shoko isn't a fan of emotionless politics), and this really works with the theme presented with all the supernatural horror and eldritch elements oozing out. The thing I really like is how damn exciting some of these guys are to be casting away their humanity, like Akira (by far my favorite character) and Saki. There's a lot building here, and some of these characters are just so refreshing that I can forgive a lot of the flaws of this series, like the heavy use of formula. The darker elements are really working for me, and I can't wait to see this go full on horror action with giant robots. That would be fucking awesome.
CURRENT SCORE: 9/10
"And that's how you tame a horse that wants to sexually molest you."
I picked this show because I thought it looked cool. Then I noticed that it was put in the harem category. Then I felt a sense of dread fall over me. Then the first episode ended and I was all like "oh hey, I don't think I've seen a set-up like this before." So I have mixed feelings. Walkure Romanze is a series about a school of knights training for jousting tourneys, and most of them are girls because this is anime and anime knows it's main audience. The show seems to be the story of the former jousting champ Takahiro, at least at first. He's planning to become a coach for another knight this year, but is in a funk due to his injury. However, his friend Mio, who idolizes him, gets herself in the world of jousting entirely by accident and he decides to help her to become the best at the sport. Which is necessary, as she has never ridden a horse.
Now the game this was based on was definitely a harem, and this set up was to give the player options. If the anime avoids that, this could actually be good. The idea of the real main character being what would normally just be the main love interest is a cool idea, and she definitely has a lot of room to develop as a character. At the same time, I'm wary of this series. The art style is nice, but there's a lot of stupid excuses for fanservice (that horse...) that feel very out of place, along with Takahiro having almost no personality. At the same time, there's little that really annoys me. I've seen far worse panty shot heavy shows, and the show seems to be wise enough to keep most of the focus on introducing characters and developing the main character of Mio quickly. I'm going to stay for a bit and see if there's something more here, but if the creators try to instead push in as many character routes as possible, I'm probably going to drop this. It could go either way.
CURRENT SCORE: 6/10
ARPEGGIO OF BLUE STEEL: ARS NOVA - A promising show, but ruined by god awful CG animation for the entire cast. 4/10
BLAZBLUE - Absolutely lazy and dull adaptation for what is meant to be a crazy and energetic fighting game. 3/10
MISS MONOCHROME - A dry sense of humor that's quite funny in it's subtle absurdity. 8/10
TEEKYU - Absolutely manic, but enjoyable if you can keep up with the storm of puns and jokes. 7/10
VALVRAVE S2 - Addictive and exploding with twisted creativity, Valvrave continues to be a breath of fresh air in the mech genre. 9/10
KILL LA KILL - An absolute blast of an action show with energetic animation, a great cast of lively characters and a surprising amount of strong writing, Trigger really made their name here. 9/10
OUTBREAK COMPANY - A show far better than it has any right to be, hilarious with it's otaku lead and also interesting in its main plot and how otaku culture is to be used. 9/10
COPPELION - Surprisingly well written post-apocalypse drama, with likable characters and good drama, mixed with a fantastic sense of atmosphere. 9/10
NAGI NO ASUKARA - Despite some less than stellar character writing at times, there's a great drama to be found here with relatable conflicts and engrossing mythology. 8/10
GOLDEN TIME - A fun romp about the prime of youth, with a great sense of humor and endearing characters, just bursting with charm. 8/10
TOKYO RAVENS - A promising action series with cool effects and two solid leads, along with the fantastic visual direction. 8/10
SAMURAI FLAMENCO - Fun and brimming with idealism, the tale of a wound-be-hero is a bit inspiring and very endearing. 7/10
BEYOND THE BOUNDARY - Fantastic animation and fun characters, but could use a bit more action to get things moving. 7/10
GINGITSUNE - A cute slice of life with a nice chemistry between the shrine maiden and her prideful fox friend, just downright enjoyable. 7/10
UNBREAKABLE MACHINE DOLL - Generic characters, but absolutely fantastic presentation and a fascinating world keep this a fun ride. 7/10
LOG HORIZON - Not going to be blowing people out of the water, but Japan finally got an MMO anime down right, with a good mix of fun and drama. 7/10
DIABOLIK LOVERS - Absolutely unapologetic sleaze that manages to be hilarious in just how far it goes. 7/10
GALILEI DONNA - Incredibly stupid, but fun in a cheesy way. 7/10
WALKURE ROMANZE - Appears to be a generic harem romp, but the hook that the main guy is training the true hero of the story could be an interesting one. 6/10
STRIKE THE BLOOD - Dull animation and generic characters mixed with lame humor hurts, but there's some good action mixed in, could go either way. 5/10
See you again in two weeks with an update! Also, don't be mean to half-elves, they're people too and are incredibly moe in maid outfits.