First Impressions: Spring 2016 Anime (Part 1)

I knew it was coming, but I still feel like this spring season took me by surprise. Maybe it’s because this is the first season that I can remember since I started watching seasonal anime where I didn’t have some kind of major life transition or important obligation concurrent with the start of the season. Maybe it’s because I was so focused in on Macross Delta‘s premiere that I forgot to emotionally prepare for everything else. Whatever the case, it’s here now and it’s time to take a look at what we’ve got!

Macross Delta 1-84

Look, I’m not going to try to play coy here. There was one show I was looking forward to above all others, very nearly to the exclusion of all others. It was Macross Delta, and although I’d already seen most of the premiere episode (approximately twenty times, but that might still be low) thanks to the pre-air from three months ago, the premiere proper delivered on the promise almost beyond my wildest dreams. I mean, sure it was basically the pre-air episode (minus some cuts that I actually really missed!) up until the very end, but when you love an episode enough to watch it twenty times and then get a burst of incredible fun crazy enough to have you literally pounding the arm of your office chair so hard you’re afraid you’re either going to A) bruise your hand, or B) break your chair, little details like that don’t matter.

I’d actually like to write about Delta intelligibly and intelligently, so I’m considering writing episodic posts for it. I also hear it has much akin with the much-maligned Macross 7, which I want to watch somewhat soon to get a little bit closer to completing my watch of all the main Macross TV series (and Macross is nothing if not a franchise both self-referential and constantly in conversation with itself), so it seems the stars might align for me to start blogging about a show episodically for the first time in quite a while. I mean, other people are already writing really great stuff about Delta. I want to keep up! And also Delta is great so far, and I have things to say!

I also really enjoyed Mari Okada and Tsutomu Mizushima’s Mayoiga (on Crunchyroll as The Lost Village), which truly had… well, it certainly had a premiere. Ballads were sung of hippos. A girl puked her guts out a bus driver. A guy was named Speedstar (I mean, sure, it was his internet handle [cool post on that here], but still. All in all, it was certainly an adventure of a first episode even though nothing really much happened. I actually already wrote up some thoughts on the first episode for my weekly column over on Crunchyroll, so go check those out if you haven’t already if you’re interested in checking out my specific take on the show. The long and short of it is that I think Mayoiga‘s destined to become some kind of crazy ridiculous trainwreck (maybe intentionally, maybe not) and I want to be there to witness it when things get weird.

Joker Game seems to be the “responsible and mature anime fan” show of the season, following up Rakugo Shinju‘s period drama—albeit with the relationship drama replaced with a large crew of super arrogant, super hot spy dudes in suits doing cool spy dude things. That… makes Joker Game sound a  lot less legit than it actually is, though, so what you should know is that I was quite impressed by Joker Game‘s first episode for reasons deeper than the superficial. What Joker Game seems to be is a very well-executed thriller with the undeniable style of cigarette smoke in the air, slick haircuts, and I’m back to style again. Okay, it was a stylish premiere and I really dug that. Who knows if it’ll have non-nationalistic themes (GATE was enough for me on that front) and continue to be good. And this premiere didn’t even hint at what the actual story will be. But style like this is a rare thing, so we gotta appreciate it when it comes.

Joker Game

A Short Interlude: Space Patrol Luluco and Pan de Peace

Space Patrol Luluco: One of the dangerous secrets I hold within me is that I have never much liked Trigger’s stuff. Kill la Kill had many issues even excluding all the fanservice, Ninja Slayer was totally lame, and even Little Witch Academia  failed to engender much affection from me beyond simple appreciation. The fact is that Space Patrol Luluco‘s director, Hiroyuki Imaishi, generally seems to have a sensibility to his stuff that is pretty oppositional to what I like in my shows. It’s got a lot of flash and color and personality in the presentation, but I often feels there’s a lot of emptiness behind it. This doesn’t just go for his Trigger work, but also for some of his other stuff, too (like Abenobashi and his Animator Expo short, “SEX AND VIOLENCE AT MACHSPEED”). Without the substantive spirit of something like Gurren Lagann (or even FLCL, which I didn’t care much for when I first watched it) behind his stuff, Imaishi feels like so many banging pots. And so it is with Luluco, sadly. Dropped.

Pan de Peace: On the other side of the short spectrum, we have something that’s largely lacking in ambition—but also something that exists in a universe where people carry baguettes in their backpacks to school, and for that alone I’m sticking with Pan de Peace for  another episode. Plus, I happen to really, really like bread. So, feed me.

And now for the pure fun stuff, starting off with My Hero Academia, which had a great first episode that stuck really closely to the manga. All my hopes for this show were more or less confirmed by this premiere—Kenji Nagasaki (Gundam Build Fighters) was absolutely the right choice to tackle a show like this. Nobody in the industry right now understands the kind of naive glee of innocent youth the way he does. And man, if there is a show that embodies the naive glee of innocent youth, it’s totally My Hero Academia. This anime LOVES heroes, and it loves them deeply, generously, and honestly. I’ve had some good conversations with people already about some of the deeper genre and media landscape implications of HeroAca (partially in relation to One Punch Man), but the core essence of My Hero Academia is one entirely without guile and completely given over to hope and kindness. We can talk about some of the other stuff later; for now, let’s just root for Izuku.

We’ll finish off the day with Bakuon!!, which is certainly an anime I watched. On the whole, I enjoyed the premiere. There’s a bit of dumb humor in it that I appreciate and it’s fun seeing the mangaka geek out and run his mouth about these bikes through his characters, but I’m not sure if it’s got enough hook to keep me watching throughout the season. In fact, the most fun I had with Bakuon!! was actually on Twitter when a couple people I follow who actually know about and like motorcycles in real life started tweeting about the episode. I felt like I learned something, which is cool and actually a bit unique.


 

And that’s all I’ve got for the season so far! Macross Delta is here and that’s all that really matters to me right now, but there’s a bunch more stuff I’m looking forward to on the horizon.

Bakuon!!

17 thoughts on “First Impressions: Spring 2016 Anime (Part 1)

  1. My spring is off to a very solid start. I had 13 shows on my initial list, and so far I’ve only dropped one of the first six I’ve watched.

    Welcome Back, Old Friends
    Macross Delta – unlike you I never actually watched the preview episode, so this was me basically going into it with fresh eyes. And I loved it. I can already tell where the dividing lines are going to fall with fans (Too much CG! Too magical-girly! etc.), but at its core this is what Macross has been giving us almost 35 years (and even for me it’s been 30 years now since Robotech first blew my mind) – music and mechas, concerts and space battles, art and science in both synergy and conflict. What I really appreciated about this premiere is that it felt both classic and modern at the same time – the franchise might have laid down its roots in the 80s, but it’s not stuck in the past. Delta feels completely like a 2016 production, both tonally and aesthetically, but so far it also feels like a totally natural evolution from the prior installments and of Kawamori’s own experiences (even having only watched one episode of AKB0048, I could still see some of the nods to that franchise).

    Kaitou Joker 3 – The first two seasons were loads of fun, and the first episode of the new season doesn’t feel like it’s missed a beat; it wasted no time setting up a new treasure-hunting arc and introducing some new characters (including Yoshitsugu Matsuoka playing someone other than a hot-blooded protagonist for a change – it looks like he might be one of the antagonists this time), but it still had all of the charm and joie-de-vivre that pulled me into the franchise in the first place.

    Hello, Nice To Meet You
    Bakuon and The Lost Village – I could see myself giving these two a full-season run, or dropping them in a few more episodes. Both of them showed me some promise…and a lot of potential pitfalls. I think Bakuon is the likelier of the two for me to stick out, if only because with anime I’m more partial to comedy and slice-of-life than I am to suspense and horror (if indeed Lost Village is going that direction), but these two shows are going to stand or fall on how well they execute what they’ve set up.

    Space Patrol Luluco – Also unlike you, I’ve generally enjoyed Trigger’s brand of humor. Haven’t watched KLK, but I loved Little Witch Academia, Hacka Doll (a Trigger/Creators-in-Pack co-production) was one of my favorite comedies from last fall’s season, and even Inou Battle had its moments despite being overall pretty forgettable. Luluco had me laughing out loud several times (especially with the “Megatron” transformation), and that’s reason enough for me to keep it.

    See You Again, Maybe?
    Re:Zero – This one was not on my initial list of 13, but the kids were curious about it at anime club yesterday, so we watch the first half of the two-part opener. It wasn’t bad…a little slow in the buildup, but a decent introduction. The animation is really nice, probably some of the prettiest that I’ve seen so far this season, but the protag is once again the socially inept, shut-in otaku that’s typical for these kind of stories, and a lot of the humor is extremely meta and self-referential, enough to turn some people off I’m sure. My kids seemed to like it, though, and I can understand why it’s getting a high initial rating on MAL. I’ll probably go back and finish out the first episode, but I’m not sure yet if it’s something I’d want to keep going with.

    It’s Not You, It’s Me
    Ace Attorney – I was hoping for a smart, stylish adaptation here. What I got was a slavishly faithful adaptation that was clearly made for the Saturday morning KidVid block, not for me.

    Upcoming: Will catch up with Joker Game today, and plan to catch the debuts of Twin Star Exorcists, Bungou Stray Dogs, and Anne Happy today and tomorrow.

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    • I really dig your thoughts on Delta as being both modern and classic on the same time. I always feel like I’m looking at it through the AKB0048 lens (modern) before I look at it through the Macross lens. Also, since I’ve heard it has more akin to 7 and II, neither of which I’ve seen yet, there’s still some perspective to be gained.

      I’m with ya on Mayoiga and Bakuon!! being potential drops. Both of them have to hit a very specific quality bar each week to keep me watching, and if they aren’t able to do that they’ll likely fall behind.

      RIP Ace Attorney. Seems like basically no one likes the adaptation, sadly.

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      • I’m not sure how much perspective II will afford on Delta or the rest of the series, since it’s the one Macross project that Kawamori had no involvement with at all. He wasn’t interested in doing a sequel at the time, and these days it’s not treated as part of the official continuity anyway. Although I’ll admit that I’ve never actually seen II myself – I know my college roommate borrowed it once, but I must have been out somewhere else when he watched it.

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          • Unfortunately, no. Because of the rights disputes with Harmony Gold over the terms of the original SDF Macross license (which they claim gave them international licensing rights to the entire franchise, and the Japanese claim only gave them rights to the first series), licensing Macross for streaming or anything else is basically a non-starter for any would-be American licensors, unless they were willing to foot the costs of dragging Harmony Gold into an American court to settle the question (the Japanese courts already ruled against HG, but they don’t accept Japanese legal authority on the issue).

            So basically, if you live outside of Japan then fansubs are your only option, although a couple of the Japanese domestic BD releases do have English subs if you love the franchise enough to import them (the Macross Plus BDs are subbed, for instance). Interestingly, the DVD and BD listings for Delta’s first volume on both Amazon Japan and CDJapan say that it’s going to have English subs, too. No confirmation on the rest of the volumes, but it’d be kind of odd to do them for just one volume and not the whole series.

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  2. Finally Macross Delta arrived!
    I was looking forward to it so much and it did not disappoint.
    Nice MCs and the songs were really good.
    So far my favorite of the Season and it will be hard to beat, because the other shows were not that good.

    Bakuon – I really enjoyed this one. Hane is great, Raimu-senpai is great, all the girls are great 😛
    Had many laughs and the show won me over the moment Hane was riding her Bike uphill while making the “vroooom vroom” noises.

    Mayoiga – Solid first episode. Can be interesting. We will see what happens in the next weeks.

    Re: Zero – Did not know anything about it. Was not as bad as the other shows and has Megumin’s VA!

    Pan de Peace – Good start with cute girls eating bread.

    Boku no Hero Academia – I did not read the Manga, but I hope it will get better in the upcoming weeks. Maybe all this Superhero stuff is just not my thing, as I did not enjoy One Punch Man either.

    Kuma Miko – This was nice and funny. Absolutely relaxing to watch.

    Everything else so far was okay, but not good. Except for Ace Attourney. This show is terrible. As I watched the first episode I could feel getting dumber and dumber from minute to minute. That was awful.

    Looking forward to Bungou Stray Dogs, Anne happy and Kiznaiver and Koutetsujou no Kabaneri.
    Kiznaiver had an episode 0 airing a few days ago, where the director said some stuff about it and the VAs did rope jumping to tighten their friendship. I did not know that Mari Okada was responsible for the Script and Series Composition.

    Looking forward to the next weeks and which series will be dropped from my list.

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    • My Hero Academia is a bit of a slow starter even in the manga, and the anime adaptation isn’t particularly fast-paced either. Personally, the charm works for me, but I could see it not working for others.

      Macross Delta should be hard to beat all season, imo. >:)

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  3. I’ve watched the first season of Macross Delta, and it was entertaining enough until the fighting started, when I tuned out because of the CGI (a personal issue I’ve had with most Kawamori stuff). I’m not sure I’ll keep with it, not because I don’t like the show, but because I’m not sure I want this to be my first impression of Macross. Undecided.

    Joker Game is a joke. Wether I’ll keep up with it or not depends whether something else appears in its time slot. It’s entertaining enough, but “mature and adult”? Most run-of-the-mill shounen fighters are more mature. I wish the main character really would commit harakiri; he’s that annoying. And none of the “spies” are any better. Not my thing.

    Luluco is okay for a short. I can stick with it because its short. Pan de Peace is fun, too. But so far my favourite short is the one with the baby seas: Goma chan.

    Re:Zero is entertaining as long as its not focussed on the main duo. I like the supporting cast.

    My favourite so far is Kuma Miko which is pretty much what I expected. As a word of warning, they did have bestiality jokes, but as far as I can tell they’re mythologically motivated, and I don’t expect them to become a staple. We’ll see.

    Hundred was awful, and Cerberus was bad (but at least this one had its own identity). I’m not sure what to do, since those are the only shows I can watch in their time slot.

    Boku no Hero Academia, for me, is the anti-One-Punch-Man. OPM had an excellent first episode, but it also had nowhere to go but down. Boku no Hero Academia had a middling first episode, but the main character is cute, and you can tell they’re still setting things up: I sense a big potential for improvement.

    Asterisk War is its old self – a really unexceptional but also really competent magic school battle show. And Twin Star Exorcists looks fun, too.

    Bakuon was okay, and pretty much what you’d expect.

    Mayoiga is fine, so far. When you have a huge cast and little time you need to put style over substance and make the focus social. It seems they know that. The character designs make it easy to remember who is who (even if it’ll take a while to remember the names). But they seem to have forgotten about the backgrounds?

    Rest of the season? I’m pinning my hopes on Tanaka-kun for best new, and on Concrete Revolutio for best over-all. And that is that.

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    • Someday I’ll understand why CGI is such a killer for people, but I don’t yet. I mean, I think it looks bad in a lot of places, but it’s never been a make-or-break thing for me like it seems to be for other people. Not saying you’re wrong to be annoyed by it, just that I personally don’t have that reaction.

      I did put “mature and responsible” in quotes for Joker Game intentionally! I dunno how it’s going to turn out. I might not even be hooked enough to try the second episode.

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      • I’ve been wondering, lately, if it’s a brain thing with the CGI. That is, if people like me simply process the images differently. I can’t help “seeing” the math behind the shapes and movement. It’s too… smooth. It’s not about being ugly. For example, I wasn’t exectly a fan of the look of the rotoscoping in Aku no Hana; I thought it was ugly. But I did like how they used it to heighten some details at the extent of others, and overall I liked what they did animation-wise.

        I pretty much stopped watching western animation, because CGI has taken over. Even though I did like Nemo and Shrek and others, my interest just dwindled, and now my motivation to seek out new stuff is close to zero. The same will happen with anime, if CGI takes over.

        At the exteme end of the scale, there’s motion sickness, though that tends to be more camera control (which is different, too, when it comes to CGI than your avarage cels). For example, I wanted to watch Sidonia, but literally couldn’t without feeling sick.

        I wouldn’t quit on Delta because of the CGI; but watching the action scenes can become a chore (because in those CGI combines with speed, and that combination loses me).

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        • I get what you mean. I have no problems with watching 3D animation, but I can sort of see the “math” behind CGI scenes sometimes too. It really depends on what the production is and how they’ve integrated it, though. Obvious 3D in the middle of an otherwise 2D production definitely tends to break my immersion. Like the CG scenes in Love Live (much as I like that series) stick out like a sore thumb to me, and I definitely get a very “mathematical” sense from it when you have nine CG characters dancing and posing in perfect sync – even the best human dance teams in the world aren’t that precise. But other recent productions like Yuki Yuna and Euphonium have integrated 2D and 3D elements so well that most of the time the “seams” are almost unnoticeable unless you’re really looking hard for them. The issue also disappears for me if the entire production is in 3D. Something like Final Fantasy Advent Children, for instance, I can just enjoy for what it is, because there’s so much “math” on the screen that no one element sticks out from any of the other elements.

          And you can still find 2D western animation, although it is getting more difficult. Not so much with the big-studio multiplex releases, but they’re still making some 2D films over in Europe, and there are also some indie animators out there doing their own thing. GKids does a good job of getting those kinds of movies distributed to some of the smaller independent theaters; there’s one not too far from where I live that picks up a lot of the European films, like Ernest & Celestine, or Song of the Sea, as well as anime films.

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          • I didn’t notice the CG at all in Yuki Yuna, or if I did, I didn’t care. There’s a very good chance I’m missing a lot. Euphonium, though, would on occasion give me (minor) headaches. I just powered through those, because I liked the show enough for it to be worth it. Note that backgrounds are less likely to bother me.

            Kawamori’s CGI almost always bothers me. I remember watching Arjuna. They had those concept art pieces at the end of the episodes, sometimes, and I just wished the show had looked like that. The CGI is very intrusive in that show.

            Idol choreography tends to be often in CG (most recently in Nurse Witch Komugi). It always looks ridiculous.

            I’m aware of European animated films (being European myself), but they can be hard to track down. They’re often on TV, but I don’t really have a TV anymore. My subjective impression is that France is one of the biggest producers of traditional animation (though they have their fair share of CGI films, too). Since I’m not actively looking, though, I wouldn’t trust my subjective impression too much.

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  4. I somehow thought you dropped SDF-M back then and apparently now you’re a Macross superfan! Either I’m mistaken you with someone else or I’ve missed a lot of things in this blog. Any quick thoughts/post on the Macross shows you’ve seen?

    Would be great to see dissection on Delta from a fresh perspective. I mean, I love everything about SDF-M, but older fans can be, er, rather biased about the whole modern idol thing.

    I’m watching Ace Attorney if only for nostalgia’s sake, and would watch Bungou until my favorite author (Dame Agatha Christie) shows up at the very least. Joker Game’s pretty decent. Mayoiga feels like an anime version of a Twilight Zone episode, what’s with the purple prose and gallow humor. Is there a Big Twist coming? There’s probably a Big Twist coming. I hope it’s not something like all these people were already dead, heh.

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    • Uh, yeah, I love Macross!! Definitely didn’t drop it! And my thoughts are that SDF is my favorite, Plus is really good and I slowly appreciate it more and more as I think longer on it, Frontier is fun, flawed, and ultimately has a great conversation with the rest of the franchise (it makes SDF better, I think). And Delta looks to be awesome. I want to write more on basically every series in the franchise, and I still have more to watch!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. There’s one big difference between Delta and Seven: the male lead isn’t a complete asshole, unlike Basara. In one episode of Delta he’s shown more character growth than Basara managed in fortynine.

    I liked Delta’s first episode a lot, though not enough to watch it twenty times, because it manages to quickly showcase everything that makes Macross Macross: mecha, missile swarms, the power of music overcoming indoctrination and blood lust and a first hint of the inevitable love triangle. Yet it doesn’t feel like a retread because the way it showcases these themes is modern, taking inspiration from Symphogear or AKB0048. It gives me hope for the rest of the series.

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