Anime roundup 1/21/2016: The Undercard

In this week’s viewing: The remainder of premiere week makes its case; should you bother paying attention?

Komugi-1 Nurse Witch KOMUGI R premiere – Komugi Yoshida is the daughter of a doctor, so when she finds an injured bunny rabbit in the local park, she knows just how to fix it up. In gratitude, the bunny thanks her and bestows the power of a magical girl on her!

This is awkward, because Komugi already has a very busy schedule, what with middle school, and being an aspiring idol singer, and hanging out with her friends, who include a much more successful idol and a girl who wants to talk like a rapper all the time. But it comes in handy when Komugi is whisked off to her first ever bit part in a movie, because the studio is being menaced by an anthropomorphic camera-monster which is randomly knocking people and objects into lower-budget animation.

Nurse Witch KOMUGI R is one patently ridiculous thing after another, and it knows it’s ridiculous and doesn’t care. It’s light, silly fun (minus one sour note if you were a big fan of Yatterman Night) which has no real ambitions beyond making you giggle. Not the sort of thing it’ll be possible to get much commentary out of, but recommended to anyone who needs a mood lift.

International stream: Crunchyroll (Americas, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Middle East, North Africa)

Nante-Mou-Ii-1 Mahou Shoujo Nante Mouiidesukara premiere – Having only four-minute episodes to work with means this can’t do much more than reiterate the premise: a girl is chosen by a weird stinky creature to be a magical girl, only the outfit is a bikini. It’s not as awful and creepy as parts of anime fandom feared, but there’s nothing special about the delivery of the joke. Meh.

International stream: Crunchyroll (territories not specified)

Schwarzesmarken-1 Schwarzes Marken premiere – In the 1970s, aliens landed in Central Asia. Now it’s 1983, and they’ve spread throughout Asia until their western front is at communist East Germany, which fights back with mecha. Off the battlefield, intrigue and suspicion swirl as a West German pilot defects and others suspect their leader of having become a hero by betrayed those who trusted her to the Stasi.

Clearly the reason for this show was, mechs vs. aliens in exotic communist Europe. And that part works out fine, if that’s what you’re here for. But the whole scenario falls apart the moment you start asking questions like: How is East Germany still a functioning state if the Soviet Union is no longer a going concern? How does it still have the resources for everyone to spy on everyone else if it’s busy holding the line in a desperate war?

The aliens are suitably nightmarish, but exist to just patiently scuttle forward and get blown up real good. They have no apparent motivating intelligence; they might just as well be any other army of zombies, orcs, etc. which operate at about the level of a videogame entity.

It’s an okay show for mindless action, but it’s mindless in every other way too.

International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia)

Grimgar-1 Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash premiere – Grimgar is yet another story about people pulled into an MMO-like world, but only the viewer knows this. The protagonists can’t remember anything before they came to at a mysterious obelisk. Occasionally they spontaneously use words like “mobile phone” but don’t know what they mean anymore.

The setting is a lush world of mountains and forests with a pencil-and-watercolors look, and our heroes are a group of largely likeable people for once. It doesn’t look like a bad world to be marooned in, all told.

But then it gets to the standard light-novel boob argument. And for every arty shot, there’s one which is aimed straight up the skirt of one of the girls, or would be if they were allowed enough clothing to actually have skirts. Oh, and did I mention the creepy queer guy?

Like Myriad Colors Phantom World in last week’s roundup, Grimgar turns out to be another story of talent and budget wasted on what is ultimately yet another adaptation of a horrible, derivative light novel series. Since it’s too late to do anything about it, I can only hope this sells a ton of merchandise and finances a better show.

International streams: FUNimation (US, Canada); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia); Anime on Demand (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein)

KonoSuba-1 KONOSUBA – God’s blessing on this wonderful world! premiere – After antisocial shut-in Kazuma Satō dies an ignominious death, he is greeted by Aqua, the goddess of something or other that involves wearing no underpants, who presents him with a choice: go to heaven and spend eternity being bored, reincarnate into a whole new life, or be dropped with his current body and memories intact into a gamelike world that desperately needs more inhabitants.

Choosing the game world, Kazuma gets to bring one thing with him. He’s annoyed with Aqua at this point, so as a petty revenge he chooses to bring her along to be trapped with him.

So yet another people-trapped-in-game story begins, but unlike Grimgar it doesn’t have relatively pleasant protagonists or notable art going for it. The game world is so by-the-numbers that the adventurers’ guild even has a magic doohickey to print out character sheets. The director has no problem with framing shot after shot to focus on Aqua’s bare behind.

Magical fantasy worlds are supposed to appeal to the viewer’s wish to escape the mundane world. The only thing this show makes me want are a flamethrower and a map to wherever they keep all the light novels that haven’t been adapted yet.

International streams: Crunchyroll (worldwide outside of Asia, Spain, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, and German, French, Italian and Dutch-speaking territories); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand)

Norn9-1 Norn9 premiere – Once upon a time, a traveller came across a little girl who had forgotten her name. He gave her some strange clothes and instructed her to put them on when she got big enough and wait for a ship to come take her away.

So it does, and it turns out to be a fantastical ship full of fields and trees and a summer lake. Also on board are two other girls and eight boys, all with special powers and a deep trust in an organization called World that is allegedly sending them to where they can use their powers to promote peace.

It’s a beautiful, slow idyll until the moment that something explodes, and the crew realizes that ship is under attack.

It’s not clear yet where or when this is taking place. The ship is super-advanced, but the newest girl is from what looks like a Meiji-era society, and the opening credit sequence suggests that they might all actually be on the moon, or at least that there’s some kind of civilization there.

Scratch the surface, and it could be another generic teenager-gets-recruited-into-special-academy series. But it’s a million miles away from the tired, boobtastic hijinks of the standard superpowered teenager anime, and a soothing balm after everything else premiere week has thrown at us. I think this might be worth continuing with.

International streams: Anime Network Online (Americas, UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Scandinavia, Turkey, Middle East, South Africa, North Africa); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Hulu (US)

Assassination-Classroom-2-1 Assassination Classroom part 2 premiere (aka episode #23) – With 22 episodes under its belt, Assassination Classroom has developed a large enough ensemble that it can fill an entire episode without anyone attempting to kill their teacher. Instead, it’s a couple of summer vignettes focusing on the loveable dork underneath the alien guise.

First, Koro-sensei decides to liven up the end of a class trip by sparking some romances with a trip to a spooky cave. When that doesn’t work, the class cheers him up by instead trying to set up two other teachers who are along to oversee the ongoing assassination efforts. Then, back home, Koro persuades a few of the kids to come to a summer festival, where they discover that all the fighting practice has made them really good at midway games.

For the most part, it’s still light, goofy fun, with occasional ominous overtones as everyone recalls that they have one term left to kill the teacher if they don’t want him destroying the world. And it’s still not being simulcast to enough of the world to even consider it for our lineup. If you are in one of the lucky countries, and you’re looking for a comedy with heart, check it out.

International streams: FUNimation (US, Canada); ADN (France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco)


And that’s it for the premieres. Next time, we’ll catch up with our holdovers from last season, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans and Utawarerumono The False Faces, check out further episodes of Norn9, ERASED, Active Raid, and BBK/BRNK, and set the lineup for the rest of the season!

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