Spring 2015 Anime – Week 2 Impressions

God this week was fantastic. The best I’ve had in a while. We have some more premieres to talk about, first and foremost. While nearly every anime has finally aired, the internet is much more actively aware, and worried, that Digimon Tri still doesn’t have an air date yet. And this particular Digimon anime has been very anticipated by long-time fans of the series. It was the anime I was probably most curious to watch, so I really hope it’s not delayed out of this season and it’s just getting a really late start. Besides that, we had some more solid first episodes, and an amazing round two for almost everything else. So let’s finish off those first episodes, and then we’ll move on to the second episodes.

Blood Blockade Battlefront (Episode 1)

What an instantaneously enjoyable introduction to this wild, supernatural-ridden world, complete with a jaunty soundtrack and a great, confident sense of style. As I heard that this was from the mangaka of Trigun, my initial expectations were both hopeful, and measured. I am not a big Trigun fan, but I respect that the man has good ideas. Blood Blockade Battlefront was immediately more like my type of anime. Though, the premiere alone isn’t enough to sell me on the whole series, it’s enough to make me follow it without hesitation.

The world of this anime isn’t much unlike our own. It’s a modern day city based entirely off of our own, except for the fact that aliens or strange creatures just roam about in this world, living amongst the humans, which is very reminiscent of say, Men in Black. This is because the aliens are more than just a typical invading species, they are pretty much integrated into society. You walk into a bar and you may be shooting shots with a strange gooey membrane on the stool next to you. This city is cut off from the rest of the world, meaning this society isn’t common, but to the people within it, this is everyday life.

And then we meet our main character, one who, very annoyingly, was animated to always have his eyes closed. This immediately severed some of my emotional connection because eyes communicate a lot in anime, but I was very happy to learn that this was for an important reason. The eyes of our protagonist contain his power, and he only opens them to use them. Now, the fact that his eyes are always closed is something positively noteworthy about the character. He is meek, polite, and within this first episode, grief-stricken and ashamed of his own weakness.

Then we meet…EVERYONE ELSE. A group of super-human combatants with a wide array of powers that the director just flaunts with the typical high-octane anime vigor. Big splashes of kanji erupt on the screen to announce the names of all their crazy abilities and the design of the characters are definitely memorable. The type of anime that just makes you naturally start pondering cosplay ideas. I like the characters. I don’t love them, but they all have a lot of presence and charisma meaning at the very least, they should make the story entertaining. We did have a villain…I think. He shouldn’t be the main villain, but he may be the first. He doesn’t seem that great, and is probably the only weak link for me right now.

The story itself is very much still shrouded in mystery. It just hasn’t unfolded yet so I will need another episode or two to weigh in on that. The potential is there. Nearly any type of journey can begin with this excellent foundation. On the other hand, the visuals and music just drove the impressiveness home. The animation isn’t godly like Fate/Stay but it’s full of energy, great looking characters, and over-the-top style. This should be an action anime to follow, and depending on the story, it may become one of the mainstays of the action anime greats.

Episode 1 – 9/10

My Love Story (Episode 1)

Madhouse continues it’s long-running streak of adapting only great anime by bringing us this romantic comedy with a big twist. An anime full of heart and uplifting notions, and a main character who is just the embodiment of nice guys all around. The only difference is that he’s massive, and despite being popular with all the guys, he is never a hit with the ladies. This main character is what sets it all apart.

My Love Story is a true old-fashioned romance anime in the sense that the tone, dialogue, and pacing are all one for one with the likes of say…Kimi ni Todoke or other great, but archetypal romance. Sparkles and warm color palettes often invade the screen to create evocative scenes, while chibi gags keep the comedy alive. What it boasts is a very distinguished main character that changes the fundamental of romance in a clever way. Oh, and one of the best opening scenes of a romance anime thanks to it’s fairy tale aesthetic.

Takeo is our lovable main character, and he’s huge. Like bigger than a football player, huge. He looks menacing, bullish, and angry, but that’s all from a first glance. Takeo is about the nicest character in the anime. His best friend, Makoto, is the one with the looks, charm, and charisma. Unfortunately Makoto just turns girls down left and right. Growing up, every girl that Takeo had a crush on just ended up falling for his best friend regardless. It’s because of this that the romance gets interesting when we finally meet a girl who unabashedly falls for Takeo, and not Makoto.

The love interest is a nice character too. She may be a bit to sparkly and innocent for my tastes, but in a tone as good-natured as this, I wouldn’t have it any other way. What causes the real suspense here is not whether the girl will admit her love to Takeo, but if Takeo can ever get over the belief that every girl who shows attention to him is just using him to get to Makoto. Because of this, we have an interesting dynamic where Takeo agrees to spend time with the girl, only because out of the goodness of his heart, Takeo wants to introduce the girl to Makoto in a way that won’t get her shut down. It’s all charmingly sad in a weird way that just works.

The animation is pretty, although it’s typical romance stuff. The true distinctive quality of the show is chibi-fying the giant Takeo for comical bits, making him a great source of fun. The music didn’t have anything distinctive. I think the true charm of this anime comes from the natural chemistry (or lack of) between the three main characters, and the understandable way that this love can be so miscommunicated. I don’t know if this will ultimately be a love story with sad, emotional moments as much as just heartfelt, uplifting ones. Only time will tell, but this is already an greatly executed romance with a twist that anyone can appreciate.

Episode 1 – 8.5/10

Punchline (Episode 1)

Style over substance anime bother me. As such, Punchline bothered the crap out of me. The next anime from Studio Mappa, the already famous studio that brought us Zankyou no Terror as their first project, followed by Shingeki no Bahamut. Those anime were surprisingly good, but Punchline may be their first misstep. The potential is there, but the focus, and the goddamn premise is just too ludicrous to take seriously. Which is a shame because this anime looks heavenly.

Panties. This anime is pretty much about panties. We have our hero who is a young boy that gets turned into a spirit, and his whole journey, or challenge, is to find a way out of his spirit body. The obstacles that come in the way? Panties. Fan Service. Sexual innuendo. Our hero turns into Punchlines equivalent of Super Saiyan whenever he gets sexually excited. The danger of this anime is that if he gets excited while already turned on…he’ll trigger a comet that comes crashing down to earth.

Oh don’t worry, because the ridiculous plot also comes with the continuity breaking ability to rewind time. This hero is bestowed with the ability to rewind time in order to avoid the situation that got him hot and bothered in the first place. So if that’s the kind of man on a mission you like, be my guest. We have a vibrant cast of characters, which are basically all the girls that live in him multiple room apartment complex, and they all have some kind of weird stuff going on. One is a wannabe super hero who runs around fighting crime using a giant bendy straw as a weapon. She’s the only one we’ve met, but they may have the capability of saving the anime, as long as they aren’t making it worse by being panty fodder.

The art. Good god the art is still so refreshing. It’s just headache inducing that this production effort is going into such a trivial, unbearable storyline. There is no storyline. Just pantylines. That’s the whole gist of it. This anime is one of the best looking ones of the season…but you shouldn’t watch it, YET. I’m giving it another episode or two out of desperate hope that it becomes something more substantial. I will happily let you know if that’s the case in a future post.

Episode 1 – 5/10

Sound Euphonium (Episode 1)

Well, this isn’t Your Lie in April. I’ll tell you that much, but this anime isn’t bad, actually. Sound Euphonium is a music anime that focuses on concert band as the performers of choice. I am always worried that a music anime simply can’t juggle the focus on characters and music at the same time well, but I think Sound Euphonium knows what it’s doing. It’s all sparkly and clean in the animation department, and the characters have all been very, very fun. It might take more than that though…

The story just isn’t meaty enough to be a good drama, nor the dialogue thoughtful enough to be a good slice of life. It’s kind of somewhere in between and it needs to grasp that identity before others, including myself, get bored. I do always appreciate a music anime for bringing one of my true passions to life in a story, and I think this anime is being very faithful and attentive to that instead of using music disgracefully.

The main character was better than i expected looking at the preview art. Her personality’s got a bit of range to it, from kind and cheerful, to moody and pessimistic. I like how naturally pensive she is. I like characters who think a lot, much more than characters who don’t think at all, which gives her a bit of a charming persona. All the other characters are great too. I’m already looking forward to seeing them all again, especially the hyperactive one who’s just joining band to try something new.

The animation and art is gorgeous, particularly the characters. None of them have truly unique colors or flashy clothes, but the animation, combined with the personalities they possess, make them stand out just as strongly. This is easily one of the prettier anime of the season, and it’s one reason I’m still willing to continue the anime. You would think that the music, given the subject matter, would be sublime at worst, but so far the music hasn’t really ramped up for anything. I don’t even recall any particular scores save for scenes of the band practicing. I’m sure the music will be good, we just haven’t gotten to it yet.

Sound Euphonium is getting kind of bad rap for it’s story, and I’ll agree in that it’s not the most captivating thing out there. But the presentation is Grade A stuff and the characters are Grade…B, which is still terrific. Granted, we won’t know if the investment is worth it until the end, but I think it’s worth following for anyone who’s a fan of music anime at this point.

Episode 1 – 7/10

Heroic Legend of Arslan (Episode 2)

I had my doubts. I humored hesitation. I was worried that I would get too excited for this anime to actually enjoy it, and luckily this second episode relieved me of all that worry. Arslan is fantastic. It’s nothing, absolutely nothing new, as far as story hook go. Instead, it’s a war story told with the utmost maturity, confidence, and humanization I have ever seen in an anime so far.

The first thing that this episode proved was that Arslan does indeed grow as a character. He’s not this hollow preacher of an ideal. While he still maintains his polite figure, he has grown as a combatant, and is much less naive than his young self from the prologue. We get to see some of his worry. His failures to impress his father were subtle, but effective. Arslan was relatable this time, and that was the key. This was also the episode that traumatized him. With so many overly dramatic action anime out there, I was worried his terror from war would feel…plain, but it was all the more gripping with each progressing moment.

This is a story about many heroes, and more than one got the spotlight this week as well. Daryun, the valiant, understanding one was also seen to have issues with the King. His character was probably the best in the episode, and his restraint from talking back to the king despite the incredulous words spewing out of his mouth brings the type of maturity I like to see in the characters I grow to like. Just the overall detail put into the dynamics between everyone in Arslan’s Kingdom is solidly built. The kids whom he saved in the prologue are part of his honor-bound guard giving what could have been just cannon fodder, a more personal position.

The story in general is also already steeped in intrigue. Sure, the trap was predictable, but I don’t think the anime was going for a genuine surprise instead of just showing up front how blind and harsh the King can be at times. The fact that this oh so powerful King isn’t fit to rule has been hinted at in more than one instance. Vahriz’s words to Daryun about serving Arslan personally was a tantalizing statement making me think a coup or something of the sort is about to go down.

The action was also, thankfully, incredibly exciting. The CG soldiers had me thinking it would feel lifeless, but everything from the battle dialogue to the “wow” moment of the oil trap was just pure, well-directed war. Arslan was also doing really well with the sword, and I appreciate the slow, methodical combat they show instead of exaggerating it with flashy moves. Even Daryuns horse got to stomp on someones face during his epic charge through the enemy ranks.

I have literally no complaints about this episode. The world is realistically build, the war is harrowing and intense, and the characters are all deep enough for me to take very seriously. This doesn’t have comic relief, but it’s also not quite a dreary anime either. Arslan himself is kind of balancing the gray area of the tone really well. For anyone that wants a good war-focused anime, we may already have a prime contender.

Episode 2 – 9.5/10

Assassination Classroom (Episode 12)

And we’re back after a one week break. Where we left off, Assassination Classroom was on the upswing after several episodes of rather uneventful affair, and unfortunately we are kind of heading down that path again. This week’s episode was basically a baseball game. It was almost filler status, were it not for the fact that the game was actually kind of entertaining.

So the story is pretty much at a standstill this episode. Literally nobody is even trying to kill Koro Sensei this time. We, instead, zero in on our character of the week, the baseball player. It was more of the whole Class E discrimination ordeal which resulted in a game between our duds and the other studs. Because this is basically what the episode amounted to, I wasn’t entirely captivated this time around, but luckily this game was done rather inventively.

For one, this game allowed the players to bend, and othertimes downright break the rules to deliver us a rather interesting battle of wits. The way they connect different baseball movements and positions to killing methods and techniques was really cool, and at least made the game feel assassination-ish. The game climaxed in a really absurd, yet enjoyable play where our students intimidated the other students in order to win the game. I mean, I couldn’t take the game quite seriously, but I was able to have fun with it, and that counts for something.

Episode 12 – 6/10

Fate/Stay Night (Episode 14)

Fate is coming as strong as ever with one of the best episodes in the series. While I was always enjoying the show, there were a couple things nagging at the back of my head that was keeping me from enjoying it as much as Fate/Zero, but this episode deftly executed on all of those flaws and even had me nearly jumping out of my seat in anticipation. Of all the episodes to air next week, Fate is my most anticipated. I’m expecting a GOOD fight.

One of my worries I mentioned before was that this war just didn’t feel consequential enough. Rin and Shiroe were juggling their school life and a fight to the death with unrealistic ease. It was like it didn’t really matter what happened in the war, because it still wouldn’t affect their life. This episode was the first time Rin and Shiroe didn’t even mention, nor care about going to school. After a massive emotional blow by Archer’s betrayal, followed by the emotionally overwhelming love confession, Rin is as serious as ever. I also laughed out loud when she was hit extra hard by Illyasviel’s trap. A good bit of comic relief.

My other worry is that Fate/Stay just is not as dark as Fate/Zero. The nihilism and ruthlessness of the characters were absent making this was just all the more merry. Fate/Stay Night has already distinguished itself from Fate/Zero by balancing serious moments with light-hearted school life but it was merely chipping away at the gritty drama. Well, this episode handled that as well because Gilgamesh is not screwing around. He introduced himself with all the cruel wickedness of a monster and triggered one of the most exciting fight scenes in a while.

So everyone is pretty much acting in top gear. Shinji is finally showing his cowardly roots instead of antagonizing people. Rin’s tsundere wall is slowly breaking away, Illyasviel garnered my sympathy by her desire to learn about her father, and Shiroe is becoming a bit more wise to the war at hand. On the servant side, we got an extra long focus on Caster, and this episode did wonders for her. Roughly half of the episode was her flashback where we got to see her first meeting her master. It was a great vignette that gave her much more personality. Something that she really needed, elevating her character past some of the other Servants.

So all that’s left is the spectacle of the action, yes? Well, we didn’t get much of it here. This episode was setting up powerful character drama and interplay that cliffhanged us into what should be an absolutely stellar fight. The animation still looked absurdly gorgeous. It’s still the best looking anime on air, and they just have not been dropping the ball on that. I can always count on each episode to at least have exquisite aesthetics every time.

Fate’s story has finally taken an extremely gripping turn. This season in general is using the slow and steady foundation of the first season to really deliver on every character’s progression through the story. It made me nearly leave my seat to cheer for Illyasviels servant as it jumped onto the battlefield for her revenge, but we’ll just have to wait till next week to see what actually happens. I am expecting it to be one of the best fights in the franchise. There are no longer things nagging at the back of my head. Fate is in a great spot right now.

Episode 14 – 10/10

…continued on page 2 —>


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