BlazBlue: Alter Memory premiere—The most entertaining moment in this show happens after the end credits when a character voiceover would normally be previewing the next episode. Instead, you get the main character attempting to invoke his special power in order to break the jinx on anime adaptations of fighting games.
Unfortunately, it’s already fallen to the curse. Fans of the BlazBlue game series will be delighted every time a new character appears on screen and they can check out how their favorites look in fully animated HD. For anyone who isn’t a fan of the game, it’s just a bunch of people in ridiculously overdesigned outfits beating the stuffing out of each other. Actually, they aren’t even doing that much yet. Mostly they’re muttering portentiously about cycles and repitition.
It’s not that bad, but it’s certainly counting on people to already be invested in the characters. If you’re not, there’s not much reason to stick around.
International stream: FUNimation (US, Canada); Wakanim (France)
Magi: The Kingdom of Magic premiere—Following a climactic battle where he showed that he is truly worthy of being called a mage, young Aladdin and his friends relax and plan what to do next, while King Sinbad schemes.
I didn’t watch the first season, but this episode does a fine job of introducing the major characters without feeling like a recap. It also gives the viewer a look around a richly detailed world which looks unlike anything else in recent anime. In fact, I can hardly remember which I didn’t watch it before…
…oh, yes, there we go. Aladdin’s allegedly hilarious character flaw is that while he’s only, like, 10 years old, he’s a total perv. Here he’s supposed to be ministering to a young woman who’s unwell, and he still manages to find an excuse to stuff his face into her cleavage, and later to start climbing up her skirt.
If you can get past that, well then, the rest looks pretty good.
International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, South Africa); Dasuki (territories not announced); Hulu (US, Canada)
Tokyo Ravens premiere—Harutora Tsuchimikado is a direct descendant of Abe no Seimei (a figure from Japanese folklore who occupies much the same position that Merlin does in British folklore), but hasn’t inherited any magical powers, so he just wants to enjoy summer with his friends. Unfortunately, the magical world can’t let him be. First the heir to be head of the family shows up to hold him to a promise he made years ago about being her assistant. Then a rogue magician sashays in and fights off a whole team of government agents, apparently just so she can embarrass him in front of his would-be girlfriend.
It’s clear that Harutora is going to get dragged off to Tokyo and enmeshed in magical doings somehow, but so far it’s not clear exactly how. In the meantime, the star of this show is the artwork, which is upstaging all the characters with its gorgeousness.
International stream: FUNimation (US, Canada)
Gundam Build Fighters premiere—Sei Iori is obsessed with Gundam models, or “GunPla”, and he longs to do well in the world championship of “GunPla Battles”, where models are pitted against each other in a VR setting. Unfortunately, although his build quality means his models are excellent fighting machines, he’s terrible at piloting them and always loses matches to his chief rival, Sazaki. Then one day, Sei meets a strange boy who may have magical powers and is a natural at piloting GunPla models—and potentially championship-winning team is born.
Because this show exists just to encourage viewers to buy merchandise, all it really needs to do is provide fight scenes between mecha that never coexisted in the mainline Gundam series and some words of encouragement about putting your heart into building models properly. Everything else is gravy. But there is gravy, in the form of characters who aren’t cardboard cutouts, hints of a decent plot, and animation that isn’t half bad. This is…actually a good show.
International stream: Gundam.info/YouTube (Worldwide)
Unbreakable Machine-Doll premiere—In steampunk England, practitioners of “machinart” use automatons to channel magical powers. Raishin Akabane and his automaton Yaya have come to the world’s leading academy of machinart to battle their way to the top and thus allow Raishin to gain unspecified revenge on unspecified persons.
The story opens with a terrific action scene as Raishin and Yaya stop an out-of-control train, and most of the second half is a battle introducing a bunch of characters and automatons that will probably be devloped further in later episodes. In between, it’s mostly Yaya talking incessantly about herself in the third person. Yaya believes that Raishin is the only man for her and that he just needs a little encouragement to see it that way. Yaya is insanely jealous every time Raishin looks at another female, even a little girl. Yaya announces to everyone that she is Raishin’s concubine. Yaya tries to make it so. Yaya is just about everything that’s wrong with this show.
International stream: FUNimation (US, Canada)
My Mental Choices Are Completely Interfering With My School Romantic Comedy premiere—Choices are what made the world as it is today. A fun opening montage reminds us of this by showcasing decisions down through Japanese, world, and pop culture history.
Then we are introduced to Kanade Amakusa, a person very aware of the power of choices, because he is tormented by a demonic voice that constantly demands he choose between options for what will happen next. If he doesn’t choose quickly, he’s wracked with excruciating pain until he does. Most of them are a choice between performing a humiliating action, or performing an even more humiliating action. As a result, he’s an outcast at school and constantly embarrassing himself in front of strangers.
This is supposed to be funny. It’s not (except for the historical montage). It’s just painful to watch.
International stream: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, South Africa, “all French-speaking territories”)
Phi Brain season 3 premiere—In a world apparently full of mysterious labyrinths built to kill anyone who enters and then fails to solve the puzzles in them, Kaito Daimon has spent two seasons tackling them. Now his mentor is suffering from amnesia, someone is switching labyrinths back on and making the puzzles harder, and someone else is threatening a group of other people who are probably also returning from previous seasons.
It looks like appeal of the show is supposed to be: solve puzzles with the main character, and enjoy seeing everyone from the previous two series. But the actual puzzling is a very small part of the show, and if you’re not familiar with everyone already, the show can’t be bothered to stop and explain why you should care.
International stream: Crunchyroll (North America)
Samurai Flamenco premiere—Hidenori Goto is a cop leading a perfectly ordinary life until one night, he investigates a strange noise in an alley and finds a naked man claiming to be a superhero. That man is Masayoshi Hazama, who works as a model but never gave up his dream of being a hero. Attempting to start by fighting small evils, he’d confronted a drunk businessman who happened to be smoking, and discovered that his suit wasn’t fire-retardant.
Goto sees him home safely and assumes Hazama has learned his lesson. But before long, Samurai Flamenco is on the prowl again, getting into trouble again, and calling Goto in desperation. By the end of the episode, despite Goto’s efforts to stay unentangled, a sort of buddy relationship is evolving between the two of them.
Samurai Flamenco was advertised as a comedy, and the primary vehicle is clearly going to be Hazama’s inept attempts at superheroism. But Hazama himself is kept sympathetic rather than ridiculous; he’s hopelessly naive, but with the kind of idealism and dedication that makes you want to see him succeed.
It was also advertised as SF, but so far nothing has happened to place it in the genre. That’s no barrier to me recommending it, though.
International stream: Crunchyroll (Americas, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa); All the Anime (UK); Wakanim (France)
Galilei Donna premiere—Sisters Hazuki, Kazuki, and Hozuki Ferrari are descendants of Galileo Galilei, plus their mother is an inventor and their father is a scientist, but they aren’t living up to that heritage very well. Hazuki is supposedly working on a law degree, but instead spends her time cultivating a drinking problem. Hozuki skips school because she’s caught the inventing bug and would rather be tinkering in the basement, and Kazuki just doesn’t like being around other people much. But school is the least of their problems after all three are simultaneously targeted for kidnapping, and then a mysterious group blasts its way into their house, demanding the “Galileo Inheritance.”
And then there’s the setting. Galilei Donna takes place in a future with some kind of antigravity technology, where the skies are dominated by beautifully rendered floating ships that look like giant sea creatures with multitudes of oar-like flippers. The opening sequence, a raid on a methane hydrate processing facility, looks almost cinematic.
The character animation has gotten the short end of the budget, but the writing is strong enough to match the eye-candy ships. This is the best premiere episode of this season.
International stream: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Scandinavia, unspecified French-speaking and German-speaking parts of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa)
And that’s the lot of them! Neppū Kairiku Bushi Road and Pupa didn’t make it onto the air, though both have announced actual casts and staff, and Pupa now claims to be premiering in January. Kyōsōgiga and Yozakura Quartet didn’t get international streaming deals.
Samurai Flamenco and Galilei Donna are on the list for a second-episode viewing next week along with the best from last week, and we’ll rejoin Hunter x Hunter at least long enough for its centennial episode.