First Impressions: Winter 2016 Anime (Part 1)

Guys, I’m going to be honest. Despite there being a number of shows I’m interested in this season, I’m not really looking forward to the return of the weekly show grind. But I’m doing it anyways, because I don’t know any other way to live. Said another way, I’m just too easily entranced by new anime stuff to stay away for long. And, perhaps more importantly, I believe in actively looking for the good anime out there, not just waiting for them to come to me.

So, here we go again. Winter 2016. Despite all my whining, there are actually a few shows I’m greatly anticipating, as well as a few shows that have already struck my fancy. So, let’s get to it. Take it away, Guppy~

Phantom World

Thank God for Guppy: Phantom World Myriad Colors

There is very little good I have to say about Phantom World. This is not a show of myriad colors; it’s a dull, lifeless adaptation. I have heard the cheers for other shows as “trashy stuff that knows it’s trash,” but for me this always seems to strike the same sour note as those shows that are “smug stuff that know they’re smug.” In short, winking at the audience about how trashy you are is no more appealing than winking at the audience about how clever you are for being self-aware of your tropes. It doesn’t help that Phantom World‘s fanservice is of the egregious variety that, as far as I’m concerned, goes so far that it fails to even be titillating. Oh, yes, that’s the point. Well, it’s not a very good point, particularly when the rest of the episode was rote, dour, and dull.

However, I am obligated to note that all is not lost. I am, for now, staying the course with Phantom World because of the genius idea someone had to create a character who’s entire schtick is based around inhaling the show’s phantom enemies: Reina, or as I have affectionately nicknamed her, Guppy. Guppy is good. Guppy is, easily, the best thing about Phantom World. When she unhinges her jaw and gulps down phantoms, I am happy.

Guppy consumes. All is well.

Farewell, Suckers: Haruchika

I cannot in good conscience recommend Haruchika. I cannot in good conscience pretend to say that I liked Haruchika. In fact, it would be most honest to say that I didn’t really like Haruchika at all.

On a basic level, Haruchika does not look good. At all. The art direction is flaccid. The character designs are ugly and, to make things worse, are depressingly neutered from their beautiful novel designs. The cinematography is bland, and overall the show looks like a B-tier production from P.A. Works. Beyond that, the mystery writing was slow-paced to the point of being entirely unengaging and the characters, despite a cast of decent seiyuu (Chiaki Omigawa reappears, at long last!) and Chika as the standout, failed to come across either likable or interesting. This is a problem because mysteries generally aren’t something I’m a fan of for their own sake (as we discovered last season).

And while the twist at the end is interesting, two high schoolers rivaling each other in love for a teacher at least 12 years their senior is so entirely lame an idea (no matter what their genders may be) that I just don’t care to go on. Haruta and Chika Bloom is a great title, but this premiere gave me no confidence that the show proper will deliver on that idea.

Funsies: Prince of Stride, Active Raid

Prince of Stride: Like Haikyuu, when Haikyuu was consistently good. Prince of Stride really isn’t a nuanced show, but it’s got a voice cast I like (hello to Kise from Kurobas‘ seiyuu, Ryouhei Kimura—and, of course, to Kana Hanazawa). I do actually like sports anime a far bit, and the otome bent and direction give it all enough a feeling of freshness to keep me interested for now. The race at the end of the premiere, in particular, was far more thrilling that I had expected it to be. Prince of Stride may very well fall off the pace in later episodes, but for now I think it got a good start right off the block.

Active Raid: Where Prince of Stride got by mostly on execution for me, Active Raid took a different, albeit more sustainable for the long-term path to being a fun watch. The show’s characters (helped along by the show’s excellent soundtrack) have an easy chemistry together that allows the show to naturally throw their dialogue at each other. Ari Oizawa as a stick-in-the-mud newbie isn’t a role I would have pegged her for myself, but she’s (as expected) charming even as a total prick. Ultimately, whether Active Raid can succeed for an entire season will rely on it A) not getting too serious, B) very carefully managing itself if it does get serious, C) maintaining the squad’s easy camaraderie, and D) doing more with its generally good character designs (I mean, geez, their faces were leaden).

Something Good: Erased

We close out this first round of impressions with what appears to be the first legitimate contender for being just an outright good show, Erased. This is one of those shows that makes me itch to write about it episode-by-episode, talking about the individual moments, the strong visual direction, and the thoughtful writing that seems as if they’ll make it one of the true gems (if not the true gem) of the season. All of Erased‘s characters are immediately fascinating, its central conceit well-executed and (apparently) cleverly tied to its themes, and its mood confident without being overbearing.

In short, I’m far too impressed with this premiere to do it real justice in this short space. Go watch it for yourself, and if you’d like to see episodic write-ups of Erased here, let me know!

Erased


And that’s all we’ve got so far! Hope you’re all enjoying the new year, and the new season!

 

14 thoughts on “First Impressions: Winter 2016 Anime (Part 1)

  1. Erased is the only one I’ve tried so far and I was blown away. The atmosphere is just fantastic. I was totally immersed in the story right from the start. It’s great to start out a new season with an unexpectedly great premiere.

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  2. Phantom World Myriad Colors

    Cons:
    – really blatant fanservice
    – LN high school battle show where MC’s team is the worst
    – clumsy exposition
    – harem

    Pros:
    – KyoAni (they have built up enough goodwill that I’ll extend them some trust)
    – The MC’s power of binding drawn enemies in a book is actually interesting and appropriately mythic.
    – The utility pole scene wasn’t a battle, but more of a puzzle to figure out how to propitiate the spirits. If the show continues in that vein, it might be more interesting than a combat show.

    Haruchicka – I liked the MC a fair bit. The puzzle was a bit eh. The love triangle is a bit silly, but calf love is calf love. Probably worth a couple more episodes.

    Erased – This was really good. Sadly, it’s an adaptation, so the Reddit discussion is worthless, being filled with original source readers.

    Prince of Stride – A lot funnier than I was expecting. Comedic reverse harems do have a good history (Ouran, Maid-sama, etc.), so it has potential.

    Give Ojisan to Marshmallow a shot. It’s short and sweet, and quite funny. It has “best couple of the season” potential.

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  3. I feel like little bless-chan has become more salty over the previous year…

    Honestly shouldn’t really comment as I am saving my watching for tomorrow or Sunday having only watched Phantom World, where our opinions are clearly a full 180 of each other, and Ojisan to Marshmallow, which right now is best candidate for my AOTS, AOTY, Female Character of the Year, Best Short of the Season and Year, and a few others.

    Erased, or as I will probably be calling it: BokuMachi, I have heard both being great but also hitting on some points that may make me drop it outright.

    Active Raid about the only redeeming thing I have heard of it is: “It didn’t suck.” which really isn’t saying much about it.

    Prince of Stride just doesn’t sound like my thing so I doubt I will try it.

    HaruChika didn’t even get in my radar though I will probably try it if I remember it being there.

    Outside of that I am really only looking forward to shows that are coming back, AssClass and Shirayuki, and like two shows I can remember of is Grimgar, which after seeing a second PV of it has changed what I thought it would actually be so I am now on the fence of, and Dagashi Kashi, which has me on a fence of it being so whacky and silly that it will actually not be watchable or being such an awful adaptation I will regret actually going through with it.

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  4. Let’s take a shot here… Writing/editing on my tablet, which is much more difficult than using a PC.

    Phantom World Myriad Colors: An interesting if slightly overdone concept… But other than the mystery/puzzle of the dancing telephone poles, that about all it has going for it. The leaden acting, sub par (for KyoAni) animation, and the overdone fanservice drags it way down. I’m with Rohan though, being KyoAni I’m going to give it a little leeway rather than putting on the fast track to Dropsville. (Anyone else and it would almost unquestionably be a first ep drop.)

    HaruChika On the other hand, HC is already teetering on the edge. The vertices of the love triangle are interesting… But pretty much everything else is just blah. And the deliberate and very obvious mistranslation of “french horn” into “euphonium” was beyond annoying. The whole thing feels like it was rushed into production to capitalize on the success of Eupho. PA Works has been running hot and cold of late, but even so this is way, way below their usual standards. Unless it picks up fast, HC is on track for a third ep drop.

    Prince of Stride Though it was rough and tropey in spots, I actually enjoyed Prince. I do hope they’ll up their game during the race sequences though. (To be fair though, they may have been rushed to fit all the setup in the first ep. Wouldn’t be the first anime to suffer that by a long shot.). I’ve never actually watched a sports anime before, so I’m coming at it with new eyes.

    Active Raid A pure hot mess from end-to-end. Leaden voice acting, muddled plot, and quite possibly the lamest henshin sequence since Kancolle… And then they repeated it virtually frame-for-frame. (At least Kancolle had the good grace to be embarrassed by it’s sequences and didn’t inflict it on us more than a couple of times over it’s entire run.). Teetering on the edge of being a one ep drop.

    Erased Frankly I’m nearly stunned into silence by Erased. When he glanced at the mailbox the change in physical point of view hit me – and I knew where and when he’d been Revived. I literally said ” Oh my God” out loud. An unexpected twist on a hackneyed plot device, outstanding voice work, impressive animation and direction… Erased is off to a stunningly good start. I almost dread the next ep – can they avoid the worst tropes of this situation? But based on the first ep, I’m also looking forward to seeing how they handle the inevitable and inescapable elements/tropes.

    And something about Katagiri Airi is ringing my bells. I have this sneaking suspicion she’s more than just a character there to hold up a mirror to the protagonist. (And thus, like Companions to the Doctor, serve to allow him to explain or be explained to us.)

    Yeah, nearly stunned into silence, but can’t shut up and stop the gushing. :). If Erased is going to be your full episodic write up show for this season I am so there with you. I’ve missed the intense discussions they generate. Though you’ve got a lot on your plate right now, I bet I’m not the only one who would put my money where my mouth is and toss a few bucks into a Patreon campaign.

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  5. In short: I didn’t like Myriad Colours though I’m still waiting for headphones girl, and then I’ll most likely drop the show. (Guppy is an excellent nickname!)

    I’m so far the most positive on Haruchika; I somewhat liked it, actually. But I agree it’s not very well done. A piano piece while people are pracitising wind? Why?

    Prince of Stride was entertaining, but I’m cautious about the running scenes (queasiness alert).

    Active Raid was just boring with not a single thing to draw me in. No second episode for me.

    I’ll second Ojii-san and Marshmallow; the short format is perfect for this one.

    And now for two shows, I was looking forward to:

    Erased is just awesome. I’ll leave it at that, because the show best speaks for itself.

    The second show actually exceeded my expectations: Shoujo tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu had a great premiere: in the first five minutes, we’re introduced to our main character; he goes from school to work to home, and he interacts (briefly) with people of all ages (from children to old people). This gives the show a good texture to start with. It helps that all characters are well individuated through bodylanguage, so you can easily tell who is who. And Koruda is delightfully weird. Well, the director has a good track record with me, having directed two of my favourites with Steins;Gate and Ichigo Marshmallow.

    Still waiting for Dagashi Kashi and Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju in particular. After last season’s dud (with exceptions), I’m really excited for this one.

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  6. Where I’m at so far:

    Phantom World: Well it’s…okay. I’m not crazy about it, but I’m not as down as Bless, either. I saw enough potential from it to invoke the three episode rule, and I’m hoping this follows the trajectory of Amagi, which also started off with a first episode full of slapstick and fanservice, and then settled down into basically a good show after that (albeit still one of the lesser entries in KyoAni’s catalog).

    Oji-san to Marshmallow: Oh, yes, this is a keeper. Thank you Rohan and Dawnstorm for pushing it, because I probably would have passed it over otherwise. Really enjoyable first episode.

    Tabi Machi Late Show: An interesting little short. It has a pretty distinctive artistic style that I like, albeit with very limited animation (I assume that’s a deliberate stylistic choice), but more importantly it told a good story, and the two characters we met were both quite likable. This is only going to be a four episode series anyway, so it’s an easy keeper.

    Please Tell Me, Galko-chan: No, please don’t. I will give this show credit for having some really nice artwork, especially for a short. However, most of the humor centered around the characters having very frank conversations about human anatomy, in the way that only curious but ignorant teenagers can discuss such things. I, however, was never interested in getting into those conversations even when I was in high school, and I’m even less interested in them 20 years later. So I will be giving this a pass.

    Summary: 2 keeps, 1 on probation, 1 dropped.

    Still planning to watch: Erased, Shouwa Genroku, Shoujo-Tachi, Four Rhythm

    I have no interest in Active Raid, and with Haruchika and Prince of Stride being Funimation shows they would’ve needed rave reviews for me to pursue them, which neither is getting, so I’ll be passing on those three.

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  7. I agree that Haruchika doesn’t look good at all. Chika eyes creeped the hell out of me! Prince of Stride is fun, but I wished they explained what Stride is.
    I don’t know about the other shows, as I have not watched them (and probably not planning too) but this season is just weird, yeah?

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  8. Happy new year, Bless. All the best to you in 2016.

    First episode of Erased was great. Although I do hope the whole series isn’t set in 1988; I fell in love the Satoru’s high school friend, and the jokes he made about her being a millennial made me laugh each and every time.

    I haven’t gotten a chance to see the other stuff airing this season — partially because a lot of it looks like it’s not worthing watching, though also because I’m trying to catch up shows like Noragami and Concerto Revolution.

    Anyway, keep up the great work. A weekly Erased post would be great now that you’re almost done Hyouka.

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  9. I too, was blown away by Erased. Nonplussed by Haruchika and Phantom world. The only clear loser of the group though, is Active Raid. See! Gratuitous coupling! (of rail-cars) Maybe something there for the rail Otaku, but character-wise, design-wise, story-wise, it’s theweakest of this grouping.

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    • The original designs for Haruchika are fairly a boilerplate Shoujo look, with their odd, Egon Shiele-like proportions. Though hardly ground-breaking, I do prefer them to what PA works ended up with.

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  10. Not to complain but you missed maybe better shows than Erased . Friday is actually loaded again And Sat was just as amazing ! Now you think I would be more jaded toward anime being much older but havinh watched a lot of anime I am really pleased !

    I am not counting the 2nd Cour or ongoing anime! Like you said!

    First let me get this off my chest ! The lack of schedules / annoucements for shows was downright disrespwctful toward the fans . Yes Funimation had their shws done but really bo timev listings.

    CR wuth their last minute annoucements was double the BS IMO. They even said Japan was off the same time as US for the Holidays. When does that ever change .CR had a lot of theor shows rooled off early last winter! CR isnt what it used to be.

    Second the animation qualitly is hust fantastic for a lot of of shows!

    Third I am all wound up finally not only getting a bunch of Sci-Fi genre but qualitly along with it.A side note maybe the Best Sci-Fi / Space show ever is on SyFy the Expanse You can take anime or movies and yool into this no- nosense show every week. I mean you have Mars / Earth fightinh like Aldonah Zero. You have mining like Classroom crisis! You have a cop like Blade Runner.

    Back to anime I thought Haruchika was gorgeous animation. Maybe thewhodunnit was a little dry but I like Chika she is a live Wire!

    With Prince of Stride i got more of a Yowamushi Pedal feel there is even one runner who looks like Makishima.

    You might like Norn9: Norn+Nonet this has potential but is limited to TAN?

    FRiday I was like wow ! It has returned to be King of the week IMO .

    Divine Gate might be better than Erased ,Rminds me of Blood Battle Blockade but more serious

    Of course Heavy Object is much more interesting Yes there is the fanservice but our duo are exciting as two humans battling weapons they shouldnt be! The weapons tech is very cool . And we have Index ( A Certain Msgical Index ) on the show Well VA Yuka IGUCHI sings the ending!

    I was kinda let down by Assassination Classroom ( it was more of a recap) and the animation want was as good.

    Same thing with Gate / they shortned the show to 22 mins .

    In defense of both they do foolow the manga closely

    Now for even a bigger surprise that rivals Divine Gate / Erased is Bubuki Buranki another gorgeous animation with what looks like a solid story

    HAIKYU!! looks solid

    DRRR 2 lets Celtly have her due in what is a crazy view of things and events thatb take place!

    I watched a lot but they are the highlights

    BTW RWBY is intense and going darker ! Everything before was just a warmup!

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  11. Best show of the season so far has to be Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, which started off with a double size episode, about a freshly released from prison ex-gangster who wants to become the apprentice of Japan’s best rakugo storyteller. It has the confidence to actually include complete rakugo routines rather than just excerpts and actually managed to keep me interested all the way through. A full ten minutes just showing the main character talking with occassional audience reaction shots: that takes guts.

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