More international streaming sites have announced their spring simulcasts, and I’m afraid it looks like the entire world will get to see a couple of high school romantic comedies, but most of the good sf this season is stuck with limited releases. So the lineup for this column for the next while is going to be just Space Brothers, Gargantia, and Hunter x Hunter.
Attack on Titan first look – Hundreds of years in the future, humanity has nearly been killed off by giants. The kingdom of the survivors is protected by walls built too high for even the giants to breach. Until one day, a supergiant that can spit electricity shows up and breaches the wall of the town where Eren, his best friend Armin, and his sister Mikasa live. After seeing his mother killed and his hometown destroyed, Eren vows to join the scouts who fight the giants…
The warning first: this is not for the squeamish. Visuals in the first two episodes include but are limited to people being crushed to death, severed limbs, people being eaten alive, and a giant humanoid with no skin.
If you can get past that, the rest of the look is very unusual for anime. The setting is more or less based on late-medieval Germany. (I’m guessing the manga this is based on was inspired by European folktales– certainly the overall story so far has a very Brothers Grimm feel to it.) Most of the giants look almost like gigantic children sleepwalking across the countryside.
Eren and Armin are your basic hero and best buddy so far, but Mikasa is an interesting character. Not only is she the one always talking sense into Eren, but at the end of two episodes, she’s the only surviving character who hasn’t been reduced to tears at some point, and the only one to display any actual talent for fighting. When Eren wants to save Armin from bullies, the bullies laugh and see another victim coming– but when they see Mikasa coming up behind him, they turn and run. She’s also got most of the closing credits sequence to herself. This bears watching.
Valvrave the Liberator second look – Since the first episode came across as a big fakeout, what’s the show actually like? Well, on the one hand, you’ve got the mysterious undead body-swapping powers that come with this particular giant robot, which are nothing like anything I’ve seen in a giant robot show before. On the other hand, you’ve got giant Willis ducts, forced melodrama to stretch out the romance subplot for at least the first dozen episodes, and A3 back in the cockpit a few hours after being shot through the head.
Valvrave has ambitions, but I don’t think it has the talent to achieve them. It wants to be all dark and mystical and serious, but it’s already falling back into familiar high school drama ruts. (Admittedly, the high school half produced my favorite moment this episode– the bully insisting that the Dorussians can’t just come in and terrorize the whole school, because that’s his job.)
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet #2 – Gargantia’s technology base looks to be about 1950– they need electricity to run their industrial equipment and the captain’s motorized wheelchair, but on the other hand a talking machine is a completely new idea, and the effect of Chamber going up against the pirates is roughly equivalent to bringing a Gatling cannon to a knife fight.
Chamber is so fantastically useful at this point that it’s a good bet he’s going to be lost, stolen, or deactivated sometime soon, leaving Ledo to flail about on his own. Probably around the time that Hideauze whose teeth Ledo was killing time with turns up.
And all of a sudden everyone knows the Roman alphabet, and where did that come from? Hunter x Hunter is set in a world completely different from our own, and the dominant writing system is one unique to it. (The Greed Island cards are rendered in Japanese for the convenience of viewers, but are understood to really be written in the HxH syllabary.) That was more than a bit jarring. Chalk it up to the author of the HxH manga getting careless because he was already focusing on the next story arc, I guess.
All in all, Greed Island has been a hugely fun story arc if you’re a gamer. If you’re not, then next week is the time to pick it up, as it gears up to shift genres again.
Space Brothers #53-54 – Along with the announcement that it was going to run for one more season, Space Brothers got moved to a new timeslot, so we can talk about two episodes this week! Unfortunately, they’re two more random recap episodes, which leads to speculation that the renewal caught the scriptwriter and production staff by surprise. Bad form, whatever the reason.