Anime roundup 10/9/2015: I Need a Hero

In this week’s viewing: The start of fall premiere week runs the usual gamut from tired formulas to fascinating experiments.

Lance-1 Lance N’ Masques premiere – Makio Kidōin exists to personify the term “moeblob”. She’s a naive, lonely, absolutely trusting, insanely cute little girl who worships heroes. She’s also the heir to a huge conglomerate and lives all alone with security arrangements that seem deliberately created to get her kidnapped. But not to worry, because that stranger she took in and fed and made a bad decision about snuggling with is a hero!

He’s Yōtarō Hanabusa, member of a knightly order trying to uphold chivalry in its own peculiar way, which involves giant lances and a code that says any girl who gets saved by them is getting her hand kissed whether she likes it or not. (Note for impressionable male viewers: Please do not grab the body parts of people you have just met and attempt to kiss them without first obtaining consent. Thank you.) But Makio is so gosh-darned incredibly cute and helpless that he’s going to be obligated to spend an entire series saving her.

Somewhere in the background, there are more knights, a talking horse, and a whole bevy of women in maid costumes. Everyone looks set to embark on yet another by-the-numbers otaku-bait light-novel adaptation.

This does have one thing going for it: it’s got some terrific background art and excellent color work.

International stream: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Australia, NZ, North Africa, South Africa, Middle East)

Heavy-Object-1 Heavy Object premiere – Have you ever said, “I’d love to see some OGRE tie-in fiction, but it has to have the awkward and squicky stylings I’ve come to love from Japanese light novels”? Well then, today is your lucky day! The titular Objects are as near to OGREs as makes no difference, except that they have human pilots.

Our hero here is Quenser (or Kwenser, or Qwenser, or Qwenthur, depending on whose transliteration you go with), a cadet mechanic who is the sort of guy to check out the rack on every young female in the vicinity, but who will hesitate to save the life of one because OH NO he might have to touch her chest. When he and his buddy Hevia are stuck shoveling snow, they briefly consider inventing the snowplow but then decide to wander off and try hunting some venison for dinner. After an obligatory chewing-out by their hot commander, Quenser then has to do some maintenance on an Object and nearly kills the pilot. (Let’s not go into why a military force stationed in freakin’ Alaska wouldn’t have brought snowplows, or why everyone thinks it’s such a good idea to work on a machine with a pilot strapped into it. The writer certainly isn’t interested in coming up with an explanation.)

The Object pilot is supposedly going to be a major character as well, but so far her main job in this show is to have boobs.

The odds of this suddenly turning into an excellent military drama, or an excellent any kind of drama, look to be roughly zero. Don’t worry, though, military action fans, I’ve got something for you later in this column.

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

Utawarerumono-1 Utawarerumono -Itsuwari no Kamen- premiere – The first Utawarerumono series was that rarest of anime beasts, a video game adaptation that was actually good. That leaves a big challenge for this new series, but it’s rising to the challenge.

The setting is reminiscent of far northern Japan, with snowy mountains full of pine forests and inhabitants with Ainu-esque clothing and food. Then again, the people have animal ears and tails, the preferred best of burden is a giant flightless bird, and local fauna includes giant insects and some kind of intelligent gelatinous lifeform.

The protagonist, who eventually is named Haku, may be from our world; he’s first seen wearing something that looks like hospital clothing, and he’s out of shape compared to the natives but good at figuring out machinery. He’s taken in by the traveller Kuon, who is fascinated with him but insists that he must become a productive member of society.

So far, it’s an interesting and beautifully rendered world, populated by people I’d like to get to know better.

International stream: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Turkey, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand)

Kagewani-1 Kagewani premiere – With 8-minute episodes, Kagewani doesn’t have room to introduce much of a story. Most of the premiere is devoted to a YouTube star who is trying to grab some more ratings with a Loch-Ness-monster style fake video, only to have the shooting interrupted by an actual monster. Meanwhile, professor Sōsuke Bamba is on the case, and disturbing hints are dropped that this isn’t his first time around the block with mysterious monsters…

Kagewani makes good use of the time it has, and also stands out from the crowd with a photorealistic cut-out animation style. You’re going to either love or hate the look.

International stream: Crunchyroll (Worldwide except Asia)

Lucifer-1 Comet Lucifer premiere – Sōgo Amagi just wants to zip around on his hover-scooter and collect crystals, but one day a meteor lands on him and he finds himself clutching a rare special crystal. Then a friend wants to use him to get away from an impending arranged marriage, then he has to save both of them because they have fallen into a mine. Then he suddenly finds himself dealing with a mysterious unconscious girl falling into his arms, and a mecha no one has seen before appearing from nowhere to protect them.

Sōgo doesn’t do anything to bring this on himself, it all just happens to him because the story requires it to. In short order he’s been saddled with two helpless girls and probably The Fate Of His Entire Planet because he is The Chosen One. It all feels like it’s been assembled from knockoff parts for other series.

International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas); Viewster (UK, Ireland); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia)

One-Punch-1 One-Punch Man premiere – Saitama was once just a guy looking for a job, but a chance encounter with an evil lobster-man reminded him that he once wanted to be a hero. Three years of intensive training later, he’s the strongest hero in the world, able to defeat any monstrosity with a single punch, and terribly bored about it all.

So, unfortunately, is the viewer. Although this episode also features two city-wrecking monsters and a dream sequence about Saitama finally meeting a foe worth battling, it all falls flat somehow. It does a fine job of communicating how dull Saitama’s life is, but makes no case that sharing it is going to entertain you much. Despite the huge hype for this show, I can’t recommend it.

International streams: Daisuki (Americas, Europe, South Korea); ADN (Canada, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia); Selecta Visión (Spain); Anime on Demand (Germany); Viz (US)

Orphans-1 Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans premiere – There’s really no point in trying to summarize what has gone before, because the Gundam franchise now sprawls across three entirely different future history timelines, and the series rarely have anything to do with each other anyway. Let’s just say you can count on military sf with mecha and leave it at that.

In this timeline, Mars is a used-up colony of Earth which still harbors hopes of independence. A charismatic young leading activist is going to be travelling to Earth to negotiate with authorities there directly, and a paramilitary force has been engaged to provide her with security on the trip.

Our heroes are the third-string team on the security force, a motley band of orphaned child soldiers, and they are the ones assigned to protect the young lady. Where most series would have everyone all excited about their chance to shine, the team commander immediately smells a set-up, and by the end of the episode, his suspicions are proven true.

This episode does an excellent job of introducing many members of an ensemble cast. It even manages to feel unhurried, giving characters a chance to react with expressions and gestures rather than everyone just spitting out their lines as fast as possible. The commercial at the mid-episode break will remind you that this is really about selling merchandise, but one other thing you can count on with Gundam is that it doesn’t use that as an excuse to half-ass the story. This looks very good.

International streams: Daisuki (Worldwide except Japan); (Asia, Oceania); also delayed streams at Crunchyroll, Wakanim, and AnimeLab

Concrete-1 Concrete Revolutio premiere – It’s year 41 of the Shinka Era, which, if it matches up with the Shōwa Era of our timeline, means AD 1966. Tokyo is a forward-looking, optimistic city bustling with men in suits and women in hats and more aliens, ghosts, cyborgs, and other supernatural beings than you can shake a stick out.

This episode is about the beginning and end of the collaboration between Superhuman Bureau team members Jirō Hitoyoshi and Kikko Hoshinoko. In 1967, Jirō, having worked out that Kikko is a magical girl, recruits her. Five years later, Jirō abruptly leaves in an incident that has a surprising connection to the one that brought them together.

Though the hyperactive colors and stylized design give Concrete Revolutio the feel of being outside any historical era, the Sixties are there in the clothes and the cars and countless little homages to the styles and tropes of the era, such as Kikko being called a “witch girl” rather than the later term “magical girl”.

Concrete Revolutio is the complete package: great in characters, story, and look. This is the best of the premieres so far.

International streams: Daisuki (Worldwide except Japan); FUNimation (US, Canada); ADN (France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand)

Peeping-Life-1 Peeping Life TV Season 1?? premiere – In the geography of comedy, Peeping Life wanders the lonely middle of a line drawn between Seinfeld and The Goon Show. It’s a series of skits about mundane life, rendered in CGI with motion capture. Despite the title of this series, Peeping Life has had a long run already, but what’s new this time is that it’s pulling in some characters from classic anime franchises.

So we get the sort of show where Doronjo, the villainess from Yatterman, goes to get the badguys’ escape bike fixed, only it happens to be at the shop where one of the Yattermen works, and then it turns into an argument about mansplaining and extortionate labor costs. Or where Astro Boy has a talk with his creator about the finer points of kabedon, or where Osamu Tezuka’s brilliant surgeon Black Jack has to see a general practitioner about a cold, only the other doctor is clearly another of the villains from Yatterman.

Some of the established mundane characters from previous series will be appearing too, such as the “Idiot Couple” we meet as they fly to Guam. (Next week, according to the teaser, they get to face Homeland Security.)

This is a show which is well worth somebody’s time, only that somebody probably doesn’t even identify as an anime fan and almost certainly isn’t reading this post. I’m not going to be including it in the weekly commentary, because it’s the sort of thing that doesn’t lend itself well to commentary. It’s just an unadulterated slice of absurdity. If you like that sort of thing, you really need to check this out.

International stream: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand)

Well, we’ve got some decent pickings here. I’m letting Concrete Revolutio, Iron-Blooded Orphans, Utawarerumono, and Kagewani all advance to the next round. Next week, we’ll finish off the premieres and see what kind of lineup we’ve got shaping up for the rest of the season.

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