Winter 2015 Anime First Impressions – Week 2 (APR)

Last week was sort of scarce on premiers, but this week had been filled with all the rest of them. So I’m going to start by listing my order on every series up to now, with a numerical score, and then I’ll list my thoughts on the episode. Longer write-ups can be had by clicking on the show’s episode title. The “Post Episode Thoughts” in particular should have my thoughts on the episode, if they weren’t copied here. As always, the list is ordered by how much I liked each episode.

First impressions for Assassination Classroom (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu), Death Parade, Durarara!!x2, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Egypt arc, Junketsu no Maria (Maria the Virgin Witch), Koufuku Graffiti (Gourmet Girls Graffiti), Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (Saekano), The Rolling Girls, and Tokyo Ghoul Root A.

The Rolling Girls anime episode 1 overview - pretty background

The Rolling Girls is very visually flamboyant.

There’d also be notes on the second episodes of Log Horizon S2, Shirobako, and Yuri Kuma Arashi (Lily Bear Storm).

Let’s start with a quick overview of first episodes and scores:

  • Assassination Classroom (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) – 6/10.
  • Death Parade – 8.5/10.
  • Durarara!!x2 – 8.5/10.
  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Egypt arc – 5/10.
  • Junketsu no Maria (Maria the Virgin Witch) – 7/10
  • Kantai Collection (KanColle / Fleet Girls Collection) – 6/10. Dropped. Premier write-up.
  • Koufuku Graffiti (Gourmet Girls Graffiti) – 6/10. Dropped.
  • Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (Saekano) – Only episode 0 OVA. 3/10.
  • The Rolling Girls – 7.25/10.
  • Tokyo Ghoul Root A – 4/10.
  • Yuri Kuma Arashi (Lily Bear Storm) – 6.5/10 for premier, 7/10 including episode 2.

1) Death Parade episode 1:

Death Parade anime episode 1 overview - Tachiko crying

Now this is how you start a new show, with a bang. This episode was very much a continuation of what we’ve seen in the Death Billiards short film, and though it supposedly had been much less subtle, in how they actually spelled out the ending for us, all they told us one was “reincarnated” and one was sent to “the void”, but seeing as we don’t know which is the reward and which is the punishment (and some Buddhists will clearly say the former is the punishment while the latter is the reward), it’s still an open question.

This show is all about humanity, about pushing two humans beyond their breaking point, and seeing how they react. This entire episode is about presenting people to you, but not explaining them, and letting you think things through on your own, but no confirmation will be given either way. Did the wife cheat on the husband this episode, or did she lie to him so he won’t feel guilty over his jealousy killing himself, his new wife, and their unborn child? The show hints to the latter, but nothing is spelled out.

I just find the show incredibly well done.

2) Durarara!!x2 Shou episode 1:

Durarara!!x2 Shou anime episode 1 overview - Celty on her horse

This is like we never left Ikebukuro, like Durarara!! never left us, except that the light novels being pimped have shifted. As Sonohara and Ryugamine run around to see Celty, we can see people still taking up the name of the Dollars to intimidate others, and we can hear Shizuo beating the crap out of someone after one of his typical snaps.

It felt like we’re just back at Ikebukuro also because of the music that played. A combination of the old tunes and some new. But there was music at every single moment. It was overpowering, it was overcoming everything, just as it always had, with Durarara!! as we weaved back and forth between the serious, the hilarious, and the ridiculous.

This episode was very much “Business as usual”, showing us the old routines, while peppering them in with the new (Shinra and Celty’s new “mother”? More time with Izaya’s little sister who’re absolutely crazy (over Shizuo’s brother)). And now it remains to be seen how things will disrupt the balance, but at the same time, as everyone still just goes about their lives.

In other words, it’s time for more Durarara!!, and nothing could make me happier.

3) Shirobako episode 13:

Shirobako anime episode 13 overview - Miyamori Aoi is in charge of /everything/

This episode reminded me of real life, both in the army, and working after graduating from university. You do a good job? No sweat, that means you’re going to get saddled with all the responsibilities, and all the expectations. Of course, if you then fail, you get, “But we expected more of you,” while Tarou gets to coast along. Miyamori must make her own decisions if things are to progress, but then she gets told she can’t actually make her own decisions, because then they might run counter to promises and assumptions based on which they actually got the project.

I did find it interesting to note how starting work on the project 10 months in advance is cutting it close, and they wished for a year. That should tell you how things look like for studios, and even more-so, directors, who work on series airing in two seasons, one after the other. You can already see the seeds of what led to the last-minute crunch in the first half of the season. You can do it, Miyamori!

4) Yuri Kuma Arashi (Lily Bear Storm) episode 2:

Yuri Kuma Arashi anime episode 1 overview - Ginko and Lulu make their escape

In case you missed it, here’s my write-up for the first episode as well, both of the write-ups are lengthy and in-depth. The first episode didn’t have a “hook”, it didn’t have anything to excite us or propel the story forward. Neither did it have much of a story. What did the second episode do for us? It’s given us some more character motivations, mostly in the form of possessive jealousy. It’s taken the symbolism and grounded it, both by using it again, and by being clearer about it. But where is the story going? Why should we actually care about the characters? It’s not there yet, the show still lacks any real oomph, feeling more like symbolism hanging in the air. This episode was definitely better than the first, and it was quite nice, but it wasn’t great.

5) The Rolling Girls episode 1:

The Rolling Girls anime episode 1 overview - Masami and Kuniko face off over ramen

Flamboyant, right?

This episode suffered from many of the issues which plagued Yuri Kuma Arashi’s premier – there was no hook. While there was certainly quite a bit to arrest our attention during the episode, there was no real “Snap!” moment, something to make us go “We have to know what happens next!” Not from a plot perspective, and not from a character perspective. And yet, it’s been a better episode, as we did see Masami (Maccha Green) and Nozomi (they’re not sisters) interact, and we did get to see what makes them tick, a little bit. We also ended with a sort of cliffhanger, which wasn’t important because of what might happen to the kids on the rollercoaster, but because Matsuo is rushing to the scene.

This show had so much visual flair and energy that you could probably fill three different shows with what we’ve seen on display. The characters models, the action, and the backgrounds all looked great. There was so much going on though, that though the show was rich on symbolism or surreal things, it’s hard to know what one should focus on. Though I’m generally good with anime people/organization names, I barely remember any from these shows.

But, from what I understand from the premise, previews, and the main character roster, the first two episodes are setup, we’re setting up the situation before our group of girls takes off to the road. This episode wasn’t all that strong, and it didn’t make too much sense (a lot feels as if it was there to reinforce what the show said earlier, those people, those teens, are striving to find their own sense of individuality, and flaunt it), but it seems it’s a casualty of what is a two-part premier cut in half. I have high hopes that next episode will present the needed “hook”, and that the third episode will show us what the show is really all about.

6) Junketsu no Maria (Maria the Virgin Witch) episode 1:

Junketsu no Maria anime episode 1 overview - Maria wonders what's rubbed

Doesn’t get more risque, or funnier, than this.

Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be a comedy? A couple of references to “The Jaw, why the jaw?” would maybe make a 13 year old boy giggle. Of course, the main premise, the one that’s going to result in awkward situations, with Maria unable to have sex, still did not come up. The art and animation in the series were incredibly uneven, looking on-point (even if not sharp, because that’s not the design) in one angle, to looking rather sloppy a moment later. The sound was great though, with everything from sound effects, to music, to acting being really well done.

I enjoyed it. What exactly did I enjoy? It seemed interesting, I liked the ideas, I liked the atmosphere. More as a light-drama/fantasy slice of life than as a comedy, but I liked it.

7) Log Horizon S2 episode 14:

Log Horizon Season 2 anime episode 14 overview - Kanami shouting at Froggy-nardo

Log Horizon remains Log Horizon. We’ve had a diversion where we’ve seen Kanami journeying east with an unlikely group of characters, which also serves to do more work of world-building, a gold-farming bot that gained consciousness, and one of the powerful NPCs who did not disappear. Kanami, sadly, feels like a cross between Naotsogu’s attitude and Marie’s personality, and there wasn’t anything of actual importance in this episode, or even any real character-work. I mean, we don’t really know these characters portrayed, and this episode didn’t really make us care for them. I guess it’d be useful in the future, but it was just sort of “there, see who Kanami is.”

8) Assassination Classroom (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) episode 1:

Assassination Classroom anime episode 1 overview - The students aiming at Koro-sensei

Similarly to Junketsu no Maria, wasn’t this show supposed to be a comedy? The situation is certainly “wacky”, but if it’s supposed to be a comedy, it’s doing an even worse job at it than the regular anime “Non-comic comedy” shows (most of them, which I find terribly unfunny :P). It feels closer to a show such as Akuma no Riddle (Riddle Story of Devil. Now that name localization is a comic work), where the show attempts to be slightly more serious.

The show did a sort of alright work at that, exploring how the class is looked down upon by everyone, except their teacher, whom they have to kill. It certainly gave off some Great Teacher Onizuka vibes, but it didn’t yet show the heart possessed by that show. Also, the show greatly limited Fukuyama Jun’s vocal range, and his expressive ability.

It was sort of “alright”, enough for me to give it another episode, but it better show more than humdrum atmosphere, or at least make it clear what sort of show it even wishes to be.

9) JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Egypt Arc (2nd season) episode 1:

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders is back! And it suffers from the exact same issues plaguing the first half – monster of the week, Jotaro and co. not being particularly engaging as characters, or even that fun and over-the-top in how they solve stuff. The author’s inexplicable obsession with dogs continues, but this one seems like it’d live, and it’s over-the-top. But just having random over-the-top stuff such as Kakyoin and the licking does not make it “JoJo”. I hope this season shapes up fast, as I’m tiring of the current way things are going.

10) Koufuku Graffiti (Gourmet Girls Graffiti) episode 1:

Koufuku Graffiti anime episode 1 overview - Kirin bemoaning her home diet

Someone call child support.

I enjoyed this episode less than I did Kantai Collection’s premier, though I thought it was better. Those two statements not only are not contradictory, but actually fit well together. Both of these shows try to give you that “cute girls doing cute things” idealized but not-actual “slice of life” vibe. Koufuku Graffiti does a good job at it, including the subtext where one girl who’s at 8th grade essentially mothers her childish cousin, and dreams of cooking for someone and becoming a wife to be any woman’s (and specificially her own) goals.

This show does it fine, but I just find it so incredibly dull that I won’t be any more entertained watching this show, with all of its talk of how cooking for others and eating with others is great, and its orgasmic (no, really) faces while eating food, than I’d be if I were to stare at the wall for 20 minutes. So I’m not going to keep on watching this mostly harmless show.

11) Tokyo Ghoul Root A episode 1:

Tokyo Ghoul Root A anime episode 1 overview - The Clowns strike back

There’s nothing funny about watching Tokyo Ghoul Root A, sadly.

I actually liked Tokyo Ghoul’s first season. So it pains me to say this, but this was the worst and most needless of Tokyo Ghoul episodes up to this point. I’ll go as far as to say that this episode could’ve been cut into 3 minutes, which is about how much of it was actually animated. They drew everything on, rather than move us to the point of what matters to Kaneki, and why, and how his surrounding will react to it.

Yes, he made a decision, but only the ramifications of it, and seeing why it was made, really matter. This episode also looked bad, was badly drawn, and had a building collapsing for over a minute as a metaphor for how wasteful of its time and empty of any real ramifications it was. If it were a premier, rather than the first episode in the second half, I’d have bailed out. I’m giving it one more episode.

12) Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (Saekano / How to Train a Boring Girlfriend) episode 0:

Saekano / Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata anime episode 1 overview - Meta-discussions

So is turning to such meta-comments and aiming them at yourself.

This was an OVA episode. This was a terrible OVA episode, and I suffered through it as much as I’ve suffered through NouCome’s premier, almost. The fan-service thrown at us from the first second was used for the sake of a punchline, that our main character cares more about missing a geeky discussion than watching nubile nude girls. But of course, it was still mostly there for fan-service. Then we’ve had a character in-show make the smart meta-observation that big expository infodumps and meta-discussions are boring to sit through. And you know what? Making it slightly more self-aware did not make it any less tedious to get through. It was a show so in-love with itself and referencing how shows work, that it was terrible. Of course, all the non-meta content was basically a bunch of girls in compromising positions throw themselves over dull MC-kun who doesn’t care for them, and a scene where they sexually assault him.

This OVA was everything that’s wrong with anime right now, and having it be the show’s opening shot was a terrible idea. I do hope the actual premier fares better, which shouldn’t be all that hard.

Overall Thoughts:

I’m liking this season alright, thus far. The “Non-comedies” are at least interesting me with their direction. The “good shows” for the most part are unclear about where they’ll go and don’t have the oomph to arrest my attention, but they’re good enough that I’ll keep tuning in until I find out. I still need a solid romance in my schedule, which hopefully Saekano will become, or I’ll turn to my backlog.

Shirobako and Parasyte continue to keep this season feeling strong, while the returning shows aside from Durarara!! did not leave a favourable impression, but Durarara!!? Man, I’m so glad to have it back. I’ve only dropped two shows, and I’m looking to drop 2-4 more, but we’ll see how the season shapes up.

With all of the premiers airing, which ones stood out to you as especially good? Which stood out as especially bad?

15 comments on “Winter 2015 Anime First Impressions – Week 2 (APR)

  1. iblessall says:

    Agree on Rolling Girls lacking a narrative/charater hook. If anything, the visuals were the hook–but, at least for me, that’s not quite enough.

  2. Lin says:

    “Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be a comedy? ”

    Where did you hear that? Junketsu no Maria’s not a comedy. There won’t be any awkward situations. The premise is there for dramatic reasons.

    • AH says:

      It’s not a comedy as its main genre, but there are a few silly gags. Not that funny ones though. I liked the rest of the episode well enough that I can handle occasionally going into that territory.

    • Guy says:

      Comedies aren’t only about premises, but I’ve read a couple of seasonal previews that mentioned reading the manga some, which made it seem like it’d be a comedy, which is what this author is best at.

      Well, it’s not a comedy thus far, but since it’s good, I hardly mind.

  3. Artemis says:

    Durarara!! is obviously going to be my favourite show of the winter season, but as for brand new shows, I can’t go past Death Parade – definitely the best premiere episode of the season, and most likely going to be right behind Durarara!! for me for the remainder of its episodes. The only other new shows I picked up at all are Yumi Kuma Arashi and Binan Koukou Chikyuboueibu Love!, and while neither strike me as terrible, I also don’t particularly care for them. I’ll give both another episode, but I’ll probably drop them after that.

    • Guy says:

      I saw your post, even had (and still do) it open to comment on, but then my photo-apocalypse happened.

      So, if you end up with two airing shows, what’s next on your backlog list? And yes, you see I listed Death Parade above Durarara!!, because that first episode was entirely spectacular.

      • Artemis says:

        I folded to peer pressure and have started watching Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis, and I’m also gradually making my way through Flag. I’ll save my thoughts on both until I’m finished, but overall I’m enjoying them.

        • Guy says:

          I guess with your “Best shows of 2014” list coming up soon, you catch up on shows from the year mentioned, eh? Well, I know how it is. Have fun! (And the Bahamut finale is worth the couple that precede it).

        • Artemis says:

          Yeah, I’ll do that list sometime near the end of the winter/start of the spring season. I’m about halfway through Bahamut now and am glad I was finally convinced to watch it.

  4. João Carlos says:

    I read Assassination Classroom after I saw the first anime episode. Few mangas made me laugh so much as AC made me. That is the reason why that manga frequently comes as third at manga rank.

    There are very serious arcs, but in general is visual comedy, mostly when Kuro Sensei uses disguises or make stupid things (yes, it constantly make stupid things and someday the students just guess “why we dont killed this idiot yet?"), or when the students use really creative methods for try kill it (a giant pudding with a bomb inside), or when they use stupid methods ("please sensei, drink this poison I made" and sensei answers "yes" and drink it) that apparently work better than any professional assassin method used against the octopus (the best sniper of world had a nervous breakdown...). Think it as "Tom and Jerry", with the students trying to kill the teacher with anvils (mmmm.... they dont tried that method yet….).

    I think that visual comedy can work well in an anime, mostly because the main character voice actor (Kuro Sensei, who is the seiyuu?) is funny too.

    From what I read, second episode will have some funny happening, but things will go funnier from third episode on. Probably they will let the first serious arc for the end of first core. If the show have a second core, that will end with other serious arc.

  5. Trainmon says:

    If you do need a backup for a romance this season, I’d highly recommend watching NANA. It’s so good I have it at #2 in my favorite anime list (behind only Black Lagoon).

  6. Paul Teevan says:

    Seaosn 2 of Tokyo Ghoul made me think of Season 3 of Heroes, in that I got a “writers choosing and abandoning plots at random” vibe

    • Guy says:

      Haven’t watched S3 of Heroes. S2 suffered from the writers’ strike, where due to time-limit some plot-threads were dropped.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.