(Ed.’s Note: Due to a scheduling error, Anime Roundup appears today rather than yesterday. It will return to its usual Thursday programming next week.)
Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace premiere – Rampo Edogawa is one of Japan’s most celebrated mystery writers. Two of his biggest influences were Edgar Allen Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Like Doyle, he created a genius detective, Kogorō Akechi, who later acquired a sidekick named Kobayashi. Kobayashi, in turn, went on to star in some novels for younger readers about a boys’ detective club.
All this makes Rampo Kitan a sort of parallel to Sherlock, in that it takes these well-known characters and gives them a modern twist. Kobayashi is a boy drifting through life until something interesting finally happens– namely, he wakes up in his classroom with the gruesomely murdered body of his teacher, clutching the apparent murder weapon. Everyone around him is suitably horrified that he doesn’t seem to react badly to this, but Kobayashi doesn’t care. He decides he’s found his calling in detective work and seeks out Akechi, who in this reimagining is a 17-year-old recluse with special Imperial dispensation to do whatever the heck he wants on account of being so smart.
Nothing much actually happens in the course of the episode; the police go through the motions, but most of the time is allotted to Kobayashi weirding people out and Akechi being smug at great length. If you’re coming to this show as an Edogawa fan, I suppose the fact that these characters exist is the only hook you need, but for something inspired by a writer of detective stories and horror, it’s a disappointment that there is very little detective work going on, and that possibly the most horrifying moment is the discovery that the writers absolutely had to find a way to shoehorn a goth-loli-catgirl in somehow.
There is some terrific visual work, but it’s hard to recommend this show just for that. Out of the entire Sherlock Holmes media spinoff empire, perhaps the best analogy to this show is the movie Young Sherlock Holmes.
Classroom Crisis premiere – In the future, as a narrator shows up late to explain, humanity has colonized the entire solar system, but colonies are still beholden to the national governments of Earth. In Japan’s outpost on Mars, the Kirishina Corporation runs a technical high school where some of the best students get the chance to work on actual spaceships.
When someone important to Kirishina, who also happens to be the new transfer student the class was expecting, is taken hostage by disgruntled miners on a nearby asteroid, the students decide to send their spaceship to the rescue. At this point, you should forget everything you’ve ever known about navigating around the solar system if you want to enjoy the rest of the episode. In this universe, gravity wells basically don’t exist and huge gangs of asteroids can form up anywhere to threaten you.
Because so much time is devoted to the rescue, establishing the main characters has to be limited to giving everyone a quirk to remember them by and hoping that’s enough to make the viewer care. Of the promised romantic comedy elements, not a trace can be found, except maybe for the curious stares a couple characters were giving each other near the end. There’s really no case to be made for sticking around to see how it develops.
International streams: AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Daisuki (territories not specified); Hulu (US); Aniplex (US); Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia); Viewster (territories not specified)
Charlotte premiere – The world is Yū Otasaka’s oyster. Having developed the ability to possess other people’s bodies for five seconds at a time, he’s leveraged this into being a brilliant test-taker, which puts him at the top of the incoming class at an exclusive private academy. Before the end of the day, he’s decided who his girlfriend is going to be and arranged to save her life and start dating. All he needs to worry about is accidentally bursting into villainous laughter in public.
And then he’s cornered, exposed, and given a choice: join the good guys or else.
Psychic power in this world is treated as a temporary illness that strikes around puberty but will go away eventually. (Bets on how long it takes before they explain that actually sometimes it doesn’t?) For the duration, Yū and his younger sister will be confined to a special campus for sufferers.
Yū’s home life is another interesting matter. His parents divorced and his mother subsequently signed guardianship of him and his sister over to his uncle, so they live alone. But both of them have lately been having dream memories of another sibling who Yū is sure never really existed.
Everyone in this show is a little more mature and intelligent than absolutely required, and that turns what could have been a stale collection of tropes into a truly entertaining show. It’s the first pleasant surprise of premiere week.
International streams: Daisuki (territories not specified); Aniplex (US); Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia)
Gate premiere – Well, here’s a new idea: combine hoary old light novel tropes with hoary old war-story tropes. Our hero is a slacker who only really cares about getting his next amateur comic book fix, but he’s also a career member of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. He goes to Ginza one day for a special comics-related event, but fantasy Romans from another dimension choose that moment and time to open up a portal and try invading.
Our hero then morphs into the most competent person in miles, in accordance with both sets of tropes, barking orders to police and civilians, narrating the fight, and even helping a lost little girl find her mother afterward. For this he is welcomed into the officer corps, gets to take part in the counter-invasion, and, according to the opening sequence, will soon have an elf, a witch, and a goth-loli-catgirl swooning over him, while his soldiers blow stuff up real good.
Helicopter gunships vs. dragons was always going to be kind of cool no matter what. Other than that, the tropes mix very badly. Having the main character survive the attack and then only care that it got between him and his comics has a chance of being funny in a light-novel setting; when it’s following scenes of panic and gore that were trying to be deeply serious, it instead calls to mind the stereotype of the geek as pathetic man-child.
For additional non-fun, how about throwing in some political commentary? Your reviewer is not able to follow the dogwhistles well enough to figure out the exact message it’s sending to its local audience, but when you’ve got a prime minister called Hōjō expressing a rather flexible idea of what constitutes self-defence, even I can tell you there’s a historical allusion going on.
Even if you generally love light novel adaptations, you probably want to give this a miss.
International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, Europe excluding French and French-speaking territories, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, North Africa, Middle East); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia)
Gatchaman Crowds insight premiere – This premiere is a twofer. Episode 0 is an online-only extra which gives a brief summary of the first Gatchaman Crowds series and then lets the Gatchaman team strut their stuff. It’s mostly new material, so even if you recall the first series well, it’s worth watching.
If you’re new to the show, then you definitely need to watch episode 0, because episode 1 rapidly piles on the new ideas. Events at the end of the first series granted superpowers of a sort to every man, woman, and child with a smartphone, but, shockingly, there are those who think this was a bad idea. Some of those feel strongly enough to organize themselves to use these superpowers to do evil.
The situation is rapidly complicated by the arrival of Gelsadra, an alien who can the emotional state of nearly any sentient being to become visible as an icon floating above their head. Two people are immune to this power, and figuring out what they have in common will be an interesting exercise. On top of everything else, a new Gatchaman is chosen and granted powers, but this time it happens in front of a TV crew broadcasting live, and the unfortunate individual has to cope with instant celebrity.
Gatchaman Crowds insight shows every intention of following in the footsteps of its predecessor with a story about adjusting to rapid technological change. If you want idea-driven sf that’s also fun, you’ve come to the right place. I expect only the best from this show.
International stream: Crunchyroll (Americas, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, North Africa, Middle East)
Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers premiere – This is a light novel adaptation? Really? You’d never know it, from the complete lack of high school students, boob jokes, incipient harems, or any of the other standard otaku bait we’ve all come to expect from light novels.
All right, there is the unnecessary bunny outfit, but I’m willing to overlook that for now.
What we do get from Rokka is a visually appealing fantasy world based primarily on Mesoamerica, a striking orchestral score, and characters that won’t make you cringe.
Oh yes, and a plot. Adlet Mayer has trained since he was a little boy to become the strongest man in the world, so that he can be one of the six heroes chosen to defeat the Dark Lord when next it manifests, which appears to be soon. In order to make sure he’s recognized, he crashes the royal fighting tournament, humiliates the finalists, and demands the right to fight the princess, who also happens to be the kingdom’s greatest swordsperson. Instead, he’s thrown in prison indefinitely for his presumptuousness.
But Adlet has caught the eye of the princess, and when the day comes, he finds himself freed and chosen as one of the six champions. This episode doesn’t get as far as the advertised twist that will happen when all the heroes gather, but it was enjoyable getting to know the main characters first.
International stream: Crunchyroll (Worldwide except Asia)
Ushio and Tora premiere – Ushio is just another freakishly strong middle-school student living in a temple until the day he accidentally falls into the basement of the storehouse and discovers the demon that’s been pinned to the wall there for 500 years. Unfortunately, the demonic aura released by opening the basement is now attracting minor demons, so Ushio makes the demon a deal: he’ll remove the mystical spear that keeps the demon trapped, if the demon will help clean up the lesser demons.
This is not the sort of demon that keeps a promise, but unfortunately Ushio has the necessary talent, bloodline, or whatever to operate the spear, and so soon they’re destroying demons together.
This is solid but standard shonen fare. Ushio and his new demonic pal are developing a macho camraderie; his female classmates are strong and spunky in normal life but transform into cowering damsels in distress the minute things get weird; Ushio and his dad the priest bond by having shouting and punching matches over breakfast.
It’s all pretty much what you should expect from the adaptation of a Shonen Jump manga that was very popular in its day, including strong production values. Not bad at all.
International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, Europe excluding French- and Italian-speaking countries, Australia, New Zealand, North Africa, South Africa, Middle East); ADN (France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco)
Actually, I Am… premiere – This is the show that was listed in the preview as My Monster Secret, which is the English-language title of the manga it’s based on. As advertised, it’s the story of how Asahi Kuromine is incapable of hiding anything from anyone, including his infatuation with his classmate Yōko Shiragami. Goaded by his friends into approaching Yōko about his feelings, Asahi inadvertently discovers that she’s a vampire, but swears to keep this secret no matter what.
Just that much, I could recommend. Asahi and Yōko are adorkable kids who could be just right for each other, and under other circumstances I’d be interested in watching this romance develop. Everything not directly concerned with them is setting up for a bog-standard harem comedy, unfortunately.
For those really into this sort of thing, the opening credits and the end of the episode variously promise that the females stalking and harassing the hero will eventually include: an alien or possibly android; a horned demon; a succubus; and others of types I couldn’t identify immediately. If that inventory suits you, have fun.
Hey, this season is working out pretty well so far! Charlotte, Rokka, and Gatchaman Crowds insight are all definitely in for a second episode, and I’m thinking about giving Ushio and Tora a second look as well. Next week, the rest of the premieres, and one last stand for The Heroic Legend of Arslan.