We’re into the second third of the season’s premieres and I think I’m starting to see my weekly schedule slowly putting itself together out there in the distance. Nothing’s set in stone yet, but I’m getting the feeling that some shows are going to hold up over the long run and others aren’t. The more I watch, the more I have perspective on the stuff I’ve already seen, and the more I feel ready for the season to actually start.
Moe is Good, I’ll Hear No Objections
Sweetness and Lightning
Whew, I survived. I think 12 minutes 30 seconds into the first episode might be a record time for any anime getting me to cry, but Sweetness and Lightning did it – and did so subtly that I was caught almost entirely unaware. And, for me, that’s really emblematic of what made this premiere special. Yes, Tsumugi is cute. Yes, Kouhei is a good dad. Yes, even the Saori Hayami-voiced Kotori turned out to be really charming. But it was the quiet hints at underlying sadness, sadness that only rarely gets shown externally to the world yet still informs perception that gave this show the soft edge it needed to be more than just 25 minutes of a cute anime child bouncing around. That undercurrent of build up, the innocent and carefree speech of Tsumugi – it all lead into a nondescript shot of the night sky, with Kohei expressing just one small wish: “I want my daughter to have a good meal.” That’s it! That’s love. Verdict: how could I not love it?
Everyone likes cute anime girls! Everyone likes video games! And everyone should like Dogakobo, so what’s not to like about NEW GAME!? Well, there is an answer to that (dumb fanservicey stuff), but perhaps the better question is: what is there to like in NEW GAME!? And it turns out, there’s a lot! Super cute and polished character designs, bouncy animation, generally pleasant characters who actually already are starting to feel like a bit more than their basic archetypes somehow, and a workplace setting that’s already allowed for some mildly realistic office moments (like Aoba having to go to the bathroom right after she sits down at her desk to start working). With Sweetness and Lightning holding up the more emotionally grounded moe spectrum of the season, NEW GAME! seems to be positioned to take up a more familiar, lighthearted position. Verdict: it’s cute, it’s good.
Who Remembers D. Gray Man?
My overriding impressions after watch D. Gray Man Hallow‘s premiere is were two-fold. First, nostalgia’s a powerful force. It’s probably been at least three years since I marathoned the initial adaptation of Katsura Hoshino’s manga (starting on Hulu and then moving to one of those super shady streaming sites with mirrors and such), but I was still super duper glad to revisit these characters. Second, it’s almost impossible to remember all (any?) of the plot/emotional context of a 100+ episode show when you’ve been away from it for this long. Things were happening this episode, and while I have vague recollections of the events that lead us to this place, there were clearly many things I didn’t remember at all. I suppose that the characters still stand out so clearly to me, though, is a powerful statement of how important characters are to stories. But as for the show? Maybe I need to do some rewatching… Verdict: completely unsure what to do with this.
Bishounen Anime: Good and What?
Scar-red Rider XechS
Okay, so hear me out. This was fun. After starting off with a legitimately solid tone-setting scene where an emo bishounen plays his guitar and bird flies away trilling, XechS plunges into weird scene after weird scene, none of them stitched together particularly well, before ending with an incomprehensible deus ex machina and a shot of the now-five Riders walking away from an explosion. Throw in some truly strangely constructed character interactions, a female lead who has way more spunk than your normal reverse harem lead, and a feeling of weird non-commitment to the tropes it’s using, and XechS just ends up being downright strange—even as the minutes genuinely flew by. So, yeah, I’m not really sure what to make of Sacred Rider XechS. I’m not sure successive episodes of this quality will keep me watching long-term, but for now I’m oddly intrigued. Verdict: dunno.
Tsukiuta The Animation
This is the good one, by the way. And not just out of this sub-group, but out of all the big bishounen cast anime that I’ve watched this season. This isn’t to say that it was a barn-burner of a premiere, but it was quietly solid in a genre where generic and dull is the sadly low bar to surpass. The unique structure of the episode was the first thing that caught my attention in this premiere (focusing more on the brother of the idol otaku girl than on the idols themselves), but that same construct also allowed Tsukiuta to do what so few of these shows do: allow the characters to demonstrate their identities through action and casual interactions with each other rather than through super-cliched set-ups. That’s not to say this episode was super innovative, but there was a quiet groundedness to it that few shows like this have. While the whole thing could grind dull if it dives into generic single-character episodes, this refreshing premise gives me hope there’s a bit more here. Verdict: not totally sold yet, but earns a second episode, I think.
16 Minutes to Drop: Taboo Tattoo
Okay, I’ll be honest: although I had a little bit of hope, I was about 90% sure that Taboo Tattoo was going to be bad. But I was expecting it to be bad in an “this makes me angry because of its treatment of its female characters” kind of way or a “this has a reprehensible worldview” kind of way, if anything, not the completely uninspiring, vapid thing we got. From absolutely leaden “comedy” elements (I was aghast that these were included, even more so that they were so poorly done) to the positively droll characterization of the the prominent characters, Taboo Tattoo doesn’t even have the database charm other shows of its ilk have. It just feels tired, bored of itself, and purposeless. Even the fight sakuga, despite moving fast, wasn’t all that impressive. Verdict: save your time, this show is really poor. Dropped.
Still to Watch: Mob Psycho 100, Battery, Konobit, Amanchu!, 91 Days.