Anime Roundup 7/14/2016: Too Much Fun

One late streaming announcement this week: ADN has picked up Tales of Zestiria The X for French-speaking Europeans. And now back to the premieres..

D.Gray-man-1 D.Gray-man HALLOW premiere – In Fairytale Britain, a villain called the Millennium Earl is creating demonic constructs and sending them out to take over the world or somesuch. Opposing him is a vaguely religious order armed with everything from magical powers to amped-up mundane weapons. At the center of it all is Allen Walker, a particularly talented exorcist, who is slowly being taken over by the personality of one of the Milliennium Earl’s former allies. There are people in the power structure moving against him, and something unfortunate is about to happen to his mentor.

While most of this episode is spent catching new viewers up, there’s still room for some supernatural monster-killing action. It does a decent job at both. All around, it’s a perfectly serviceable action-adventure.

The big caveat for a Western audience is that it takes the European setting and religious trappings and does very weird things with them. It operates at about the same level of fidelity in its depiction of Japanese culture as a typical Western cartoon.

International streams: FUNimation (US, Canada); FunimationNow (UK, Ireland); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Sénégal, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique)

Show-By-Rock- Show By Rock!! Short!! premiere – The semi-anthropomorphic girl band Plasmagica is back, for about three minutes or so. That’s just long enough for a brief talk show appearance and a parody of the sort of commercial that pop idols tend to appear in. The style of Show By Rock!! does turn out to work much, much better at this length. It’s harmless and fun. Unfortunately, it’s not available to most of the world.

International streams: FUNimation (US, Canada); FunimationNow (UK, Ireland)

Xechs-1 Scar-red Rider XechS premiere – Not for some time has a title needed this much parsing. Although “Scared Rider” is the spelling in all the official graphics, it’s clear in the context of the show that they do mean “Scarred Rider”. As for XechS, this team of transforming fighters with bizarre motorcycles is the sixth of its kind, so I guess it’s an idiosyncratic spelling of the German number sechs. (German is second only to English for shows that want cool-looking foreign words in their titles.)

It does do the job in setting the tone for the show, though, because this is one serious wedge of cheese. The setup is a by-the-numbers alien interdimensional invasion that can only be stopped by a superpowered team of angsty guys. Their new leader is going to be a beautiful teenage girl who all of them are going to fall a bit in love with, because this is an adaptation of an otome game — one marketed toward women.

Being designed for the straight female gaze, there are a few interesting role reversals, like male characters with unnecessary gaps in their clothing, and a couple of guys being first seen in a shot framed on their crotches. But the production values are minimal, and so is the effort put into the writing.

International streams: FUNimation (US, Canada); FunimationNow (UK, Ireland); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand)

Cute-High-1 Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! LOVE! premiere – Things are quiet enough that a team of magical boys can enjoy a relaxing soak in a public bath while recapping some of the events of last season for viewers. Until they suddenly aren’t quiet, because a giant hourglass bursts in and destroys the boys’ magic bracelets and it is alien-induced monster-fighting time again.

Pretty soon, the team is outfitted with brand-new costumes and new transformation sequences that parody the modern Sailor Moon, and they are deploying the power of LOVE! against their enemy, who is being controlled by an ominous pair of twins and an adorable alien squirrel.

So yeah, this is still a very silly show. The opening scene does drag on a bit, but once things get moving, they keep moving. It also still has serious and meta things going on just beneath the surface, as this week’s enemy is the fear of change and the passage of time personified.

It’s still a keeper, and new viewers should be able to jump right in here.

International streams: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia); FUNimation (US, Canada); FunimationNow (UK, Ireland); Anime on Demand (German-speaking Europe)

Servamp-1 Servamp premiere – Ever since his mother died and his weird uncle was the only relative willing to step forward and take him in, Mahiru Shirota has tried to be the person who will do what no one else does. So it’s only natural that when he finds a listless, seemingly abandoned kitten, he takes it home. The kitten, who he names Kuro (“Blackie”), turns out to be the daylight form of a vampire minion; Mahiru learns that by feeding him and putting a collar on him, he has temporarily made Kuro his servant. But that will only last 24 hours, unless Kuro drinks his blood. Neither of them is the least bit interested in that, so you just know it’s going to happen by the end of the episode.

Predictability aside, this show is actually shaping up very well. Mahiru is more than a collection of quirks; he’s a good guy with a serious sense of responsibility, and he’s already confronting the moral issues that come with controlling a vampire. Kuro puts up a front of not caring, but it’s already obvious he does have something of a conscience, and he also appears to have history with the other vampires in the area. This looks worth continuing with for at least one more episode.

International streams: FUNimation (US, Canada); FunimationNow (UK, Ireland); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Sénégal, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique); Anime on Demand (German-speaking Europe)

Regalia-1 Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars premiere – Two mecha controlled by little girls beat each other up and stuff explodes. 12 years later, one of those girls, Rena, is living a seemingly untroubled life with her little sister Yui. Yui is now in her teens, but Rena hasn’t aged at all. The reason why is revealed when her old opponent shows up to call her out for a new battle. But then it also turns out that Yui isn’t exactly an ordinary schoolgirl either.

It’s hard to find anything truly new in the mecha genre these days, but Regalia has an interesting idea to work with. The question now is whether the rest of the show can do it justice. So far, we’ve only gotten the basic setup and a battle with a generic thug.

I’d like to give this another episode to see if the execution rises to the occasion. (Yeah, I remember what happened last season when I said this. Hope springs eternal.)

International streams: FUNimation (US, Canada); FunimationNow (UK, Ireland); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand)

Saiki-1 The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. premiere – Kusuo Saiki is a teenager with all the classic forms of ESP: telepathy, precognition, pyrokinesis, you name it. He laments not ever being able to be surprised, but he gets along all right, despite being surrounded by idiots.

This show is airing as one short segment every weekday, and then all five for the week compiled into one normal-length episode on Sundays. (FUNimation is listing the short episodes as “specials”.) There’s not much difference in the presentation, other than the full-length one gives you the full-length theme song with extra puns.

A typical segment thus far runs like this: Kusuo narrates as people act like idiots, but steps in to keep anyone from hurting themselves. Segments 4 and 5 come out the best, skewering a couple of anime character tropes. Overall, this show will probably work best for hardcore anime fans looking for a cheap laugh.

International streams: FUNimation (US, Canada); FunimationNow (UK, Ireland); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand)

Planetarian-1 planetarian premiere – 30 years after a devastating attack, the only people visiting an abandoned city are scavengers. Then one of them stumbles into a planetarium tended by a still-operational android hostess who knows nothing of the war. The planetarium projector no longer works, but the scavenger finds himself taking pity on the android, Yumemi Hoshino (placed in Japanese order, her name sounds like “Dreaming of Stars”).

planetarian is a project that includes both this five-part show and a movie, which could explain why the production values of the show are positively cinematic. It’s one of the best-looking shows this season, and easily the best-sounding. This would be on my list of shows to possibly follow if it were available to more of you.

International streams: FUNimation (US, Canada); FunimationNow (UK, Ireland)

Hitori-1 hitorinoshita – The Outcast premiere – Chulan (in the original Chinese) or Soran (the Japanese reading of his name, used on the Japanese soundtrack) was abandoned at an orphanage by his father after his grandfather died. One day, he feels a need to reconnect with his roots, so during a break from college, he heads back to his old village to visit his grandfather’s grave. This trip just happens to coincide with the disappearance of the grandfather’s corpse, a zombie outbreak, and the arrival of a mysterious young woman who might be the sister he never knew he had.

The source material for hitorinoshita is a Chinese webcomic, but hoo boy does it have the anime tropes down. There’s the hapless hero who knows nothing but has a connection to great power, the idiot savant fighter girl, and the two of them about to be forced to get along because she is transferring into his college class.

Great care has clearly gone into getting the setting right, but the animation itself is bargain-basement and the story is nothing special. This show is worth noticing as the first of possibly many Chinese-Japanese co-productions to come, but as an actual show it is not very good.

International stream: Crunchyroll (Worldwide except Japan, China, and Korea)

Alderamin-1 Alderamin on the Sky premiere – Ikta is a lazy guy who just wants to nap the day away, but he’s a super-genius tactician without even trying, so he has to travel with his friend Yatori to a far-off island so he can help her cheat her way to the top of her military-school class.

Ikta is also not great with people. When they meet another teen on her way to the school, Ikta grabs her hand and plays with her hair and Yatori is like, yeah, he totally gropes everyone unless he’s forcefully told not to. When they meet another young man, Ikta goes into a bizarre pantomime of alpha male dominance. When a 12-year-old girl enters the picture, Ikta’s initial reaction is all about estimating how many years she is from being beddable. But did we mention he’s a super-genius? Ha ha, what a fun guy!

This is the show most likely to make you want to punch your monitor this season, unless you are either (a) part of the very specific demographic it’s aiming for, or (b) a devout enough Christian to be more outraged by the misuse of Christianity in D.Gray-man. Avoid with extreme prejudice.

International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia)

Ange-Vierge-1 Ange Vierge premiere – Someone has created yet another game about collecting teenage girls to do battle with evil forces. There is a standard format for the opening episode of a show based on such a game: start with a successful fight, then have everyone come back to the base to tuck into a pile of exposition, then go back to fighting mode at the end.

Ange Vierge makes one notable change to this formula: for the entire duration of the talky part, everyone is nude. This is actually a brilliant marketing move. If the game doesn’t work out, they’ll make up some of the cost of the show by selling the uncensored version on DVD.

Anyway, there are a bunch of girls, and they all have personality quirks and semi-tragic origin stories, and none of it is particularly original or interesting. The same goes for the game itself so far. There is no reason to watch this show.

International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia)

Qualidea-1 Qualidea Code premiere – Qualidea Code starts as a war story. As their city is bombed, a girl tries to keep her little brother’s spirits up while they try to make it to shelter.

But wait, no, after a quick timeskip, it’s an otaku-oriented show about an arrogant jerk genius hero and his clumsy but hot sister.

Wait, it’s actually a military school show! When the alarm sounds about alien invaders, one class musters as a naval force, and another takes an armored train to the battle site to shoot at the enemy.

Wait, but another class shows up riding broomsticks and dressed in wizard robes…

Wait, it’s actually Macross! When the battle is joined, the sister from earlier whips out a microphone and begins exerting some kind of magical power by singing.

Qualidea Code is like someone was inspired by Roadkill and tried to build an anime series from spare parts salvaged off the rusting hulks of other shows. Much like in Roadkill, the result doesn’t run very well and bits keep falling off of it. At no point does any character act like an actual person rather than a bulleted list of traits, and the setting goes no further than the generic alien invasion being fought by teenagers who don’t all get along. Skip it.

International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Sénégal, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique)

Mob-Psycho-1 Mob Psycho 100 premiere – Arataka Reigen is a psychic fraud who aspires to become rich and famous for his powers of exorcism. His secret weapon is middle-schooler Shigeo “Mob” Kagayama, who happens to be a genuine psychic of unbelievable power. Arataka has convinced Mob that exorcising “small fry” is part of his training to become a master psychic, a trick which has worked so far because to Mob, even the most powerful haunts really are no big deal.

So this has basically one joke, but it works for the duration of the episode, and anyway you’re not going to be thinking about that very much because of the amazingly creative animation. The basic look is ostentatiously cartoony, set off with some spectacular visual flourishes when things get wild. It’s like someone mixed Beavis and Butt-Head with Yellow Submarine.

This show is based on a source manga by the same person responsible for One-Punch Man, but they have little in common other than some sylistic quirks such as a prediliction for characters with way overdeveloped cleft chins. If the writing can step up a little, this would be a treat to keep watching.

International stream: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia)

We still have the premieres of Danganronpa 3 and the return of Active Raid to go, but it’s time to start talking about what to consider following for the rest of the season. Orange and Cute High seem like shoo-ins, and I’d like to give The Morose Mononokean, Servamp, Regalia, and Mob Psycho 100 a chance. So next week, I’ll be taking a second look at all of those, plus catching up with Re: ZERO.

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