Winter 2016 First Impressions

Winter 2016 First Impressions

A new season begins and brings with it a slew of new shows for me to write about. I wasn’t lying when I said 2016 was the year of opinions, so we’re going to start the year off right with some nice, near-baseless opinions. I’ve watched the first episode of everything I plan to keep up with this season and only tabbed out once per show. It’s safe to say I’m an expert on the anime of Winter 2016.

If a show isn’t listed here, that’s because I’m confident I won’t enjoy it, it’s a short, or it’s had seasons in the past. I’m trying to keep these quick, so I’ll have to leave out a few of my compliments and complaints for each.

I’m going to regret this, but I’ll give a predicted score for each of these. If you’re interested in what these scores correlate to, check out my MAL profile.

Prince of Stride: Alternative

On one hand, it’s a free-running relay sports anime. On the other, it’s a reverse harem filled with uninspired character designs (though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a mancrush on Yagami). The otome-game roots don’t seem on course to take over the show, so I actually don’t think the harem part of this will be much of an issue for those of us who just want a solid sports story. As long as there’s no conflict where two of the guys fight over what’s-her-name, I’ll be satisfied.

A common thing to say is that the show feels a lot like a Haikyuu!!, and I have to agree. Yagami’s speed and the way the show presents that speed are both similar to Hinata, and the shows open in a similar way. A powerhouse school falls off the horse and then some impressive first-year talent shows up to bring the club back to…stride. Of course, feeling like Haikyuu!! is a huge compliment. I think Prince of Stride actually beats Haikyu!! in the sound department. The squeaks of sneakers is slightly better in Stride, the hand-offs sound as cool as spikes, and the little details like the sound of metal when Heath vaults over the bars are fantastic. I’m looking forward to seeing what this show can do.

Predicted Score: 7/10

Myriad Colors Phantom World

Praying mantis twintails are in vogue this Winter

This show is stupid. I can already tell that it’s really dumb and will probably only get dumber. This show is stupid, but sometimes it’s creatively stupid. I’m not trying to say that “it’s stupid, but it knows it’s stupid, so it’s not bad” is a justification (don’t want to give Fate/Stay Night fans any ideas), but I have to admit that KyoAni gives us fanservice and clichés in ways that (just barely) keep me from shaking my head.

Mai has huge boobs and we’re forced to ogle them over and over, but that limbo scene was (just barely) absurd and self-aware enough that it doesn’t instantly put me off. I’m not interested in seeing that trick pulled every episode, but I can handle a few moments like that. Similarly, the cliché accidental groping is ‘subverted’ into an accidental peeping scene, but it was (just barely) ridiculous enough to forgive it. Again, I’m not interested in seeing that kind of thing many more times. I really want to put the emphasis on how I’m just barely making it through this.

All in all, this won’t be good, but I doubt it’ll be a trainwreck. Not that it matters. The girls are attractive and it’s KyoAni, so we all know we’re going to watch it anyway. I’m not going to pretend I haven’t resigned to my fate. Get me my “Reina Best Girl” badge. And a lobotomy.

Predicted Score: 5/10

Active Raid

I got Psycho Pass meets Robo Cop vibes from this—albeit a jovial Psycho Pass and a less sharply satirical Robo Cop.

The characters aren’t all that interesting on their own, but their interactions are. The Willwear was pretty damn lame this episode, at least in terms of what the suits are capable of. That could just be because this was the first episode and the show is saving its tricks for later, but I doubt it. I don’t expect many exciting action sequences from this one.

I don’t have much to say. Hard to judge this one this early. I’d say it’ll be this season’s GATE, but we already have one of those, so I’m just going to give up on thinking of something clever.

Predicted Score: 5/10

Erased

Definitely a contender for best of the season. Right out of the gate we have a whole cast of (mostly) interesting characters, a gripping conflict, and some fantastic voice acting. The dialogue itself is quite impressive as well. There are so many details I want to talk about but I’ll save most of them for the essays I’ll definitely be writing about this show.

For now, I can say that I’m sensing this show is going to explore a bit into relationships between adults and children, or just relationships with large age gaps in general. What Yuuki/Shiratori had to say about “the most popular boy” in class revealed a lot about his past and character in very few words. His possible innocence combined with the repeated suggestions of romance between Airi and Satoru really suggest to me that this is going to be a theme.

Beyond that, Satoru’s dilemma about “the heart of his mind” and the memories his mother tried to get him to forget parallel each other nicely. I was surprised the show managed to tie together those details so tightly in just one episode. I hope that’s an indication of the skill the rest of the show will be written and directed with. If Erased follows this path, I expect a thrilling experience.

Predicted Score: 9/10

Dagashi Kashi

I think their eyes are like that because they’re all wrung out on sugar and caffeine. That’s an intentional joke, right? Either way, it’s too funny to not assume that’s the case.

Ugh.

So, all these characters are fun to watch with the exception of Coconuts. He looks like a bland MainCharacterMaster3000 and acts like one, too. I’m not looking forward to all the comedy being interrupted by him inevitably failing to acknowledge Saya’s (and probably Hotaru’s) feelings, or walking in on them naked. Not that Tou walking in on Hotaru is any better, but at least Tou would be excited about it.

Ah, wait. Why am I rationalizing what the least annoying fanservice scene would be? Why did Spain win the 2010 World Cup? Why do bad things happen to good people? I wish I had the answers.

If Coconuts doesn’t drag this show down, it could be a fun ride. Most of the comedy didn’t work for me, but the characters themselves made me smile.

Predicted Score: 6/10

Sekkou Boys

Predicted Score: 2002/10

Haruchika

Chika is awesome.

That being said, this show has a hand in one too many honey pots at the moment. Music, mystery, and romance all seem to be of equal importance so far. What I think is working best so far is Chika’s desire to be a “cute girl” conflicting with her innate personality, and the tag-team of Haruta and Chika. The show’s title leads me to believe that tag-team will be at the forefront of the plot, so that’s a good thing.

Kusakabe isn’t all that mysterious of an “enigma”, though it’s only been one episode so far. I also find it troubling that we as an audience were so misled as to who wrote the message on the board. Haruta put on way too strong of an act in what wound up being a roundabout way of revealing he loves Kusakabe (which is another potential issue itself. I was not getting Reina and Taki vibes from this). Yet, this scenario also set up the tone for other mysteries and Haruta’s capabilities for solving mysteries. If he wrote the message himself, nothing he did this episode counts towards proving he has an aptitude for sleuthing.

Maybe I’m taking this too seriously, but it definitely confused me and made me concerned as far as the mysteries go. Again, I don’t really know what we’re in for with this show, so all of this might not matter. For now, Chika and the rest of the cast are cool enough for me to enjoy watching.

Predicted Score: 7/10

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

The plot progressed as normal, introducing conflicts between Yotarou, Konatsu, and Yakumo and establishing everyone’s motivations and personalities. The show sets up all the basic building blocks of story, but those blocks happen to be made of gold. The artwork doesn’t stray too far from the norm, but far enough that you can instantly recognize the show’s style. The music is absolutely incredible. The rakugo performances have that uniquely Japanese/Eastern feel of loving diligence in performing tiny tasks. If you’ve watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, you should know what I mean.

Yet, every time this show struck for drama, I just didn’t feel a thing. I couldn’t help but wonder how the drama failed with such a moving soundtrack. Yotarou’s boss visiting and Yotarou’s expulsion both felt so out of place in comparison to the deftness of every other scene. Once Yakumo had a change of heart out of nowhere and decided to bring up the dream he shared with Konatsu’s father, I really didn’t know what to think anymore.

I still have high hopes, though. I’m giving this one the Haruchika treatment and reserving any strong opinions on the grounds of first episode growing pains. I like Yotarou too much to not enjoy this anyway, and the creators seem too smart to sink this ship.

Predicted Score: 8/10

Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm

I desperately want to fly. Like, so much that it’s probably weird. Naturally, a show about people who can fly gets me very excited.

Sadly, this was boring. The flying scenes are a snore and don’t make me feel like anyone is actually flying at all. Flying Circus doesn’t make any sense and was not entertaining as a competition—at least not with two buoys. On top of that, this episode wasted a lot of time introducing characters who don’t matter yet when it could have been setting up the plot and conflict. Why did we need to meet Madoka, or watch that asinine fanservice scene where Hinata sees a random girl changing? Mashiro was rather useless this episode, too, but at least she added some comedy.

On the topic of comedy, that’s probably this show’s high point so far. Some jokes missed their mark, but for the most part they worked. A couple of the characters fall into super-standard archetypes, but Asuka is adorable. Overall, Aokana is very mediocre.

Predicted Score: 5/10

Dimension W

This show is gorgeous, plain and simple. The colors, environments, and character designs are all a pleasure to look at, not to mention the quality of the animation. I want to know more about the entire cast and the world they live in, meaning this first episode accomplished everything it should have.

The directing of this episode already inspired me to begin on a new essay, and writing about a show is the highest praise I can offer one. I don’t have anything more to say. Fantastical and beautiful. Dimension W is fighting Erased and Shouwa Genroku for best of the season.

Predicted Score: 9/10

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash

Four words all episode and yet he’s the best character.

Ah, yes, the greatest of the generic light novel adaptations. Grimgar beats out such prestigious titles as Sword Art Online and Is it Wrong to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon?. The competition was fierce, but we have our victor. I can hear the light novel readers already: ‘It’s actually kind of dark and realistic, totally the opposite of Sword Art Online.’ Even if it does get dark, I’d only care for the Dark Knight kid and the guy who likes to cook. MainCharacterMaster3001 is just that; priest man is devoid of personality; hunter girl’s personality is to be cute and capable; mage girl’s personality is literally just ‘shy’ (yet she is somehow fine with not ever wearing a bra). I don’t care at all.

However, the show looks quite nice and is the best-handled out of all these adaptations. There’s an actual atmosphere to this world, so I can’t ignore that. If this show really wants to be unique and ‘dark’, here’s what needs to happen: someone dies in one of the fights and it’s clearly their/someone’s fault, so afterwards the party has to endure a bunch of drama and blame-gaming about what happened. I suppose these characters would have to have personalities before they could fight amongst themselves, so that’s still an issue…

I guess it’s the best of the worst. Fingers crossed it doesn’t abuse its female cast any more than it already has.

Predicted Score: 4/10

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