Fall 2015 First Impressions

Well, the new season is here, and I’ve watched a bunch of premieres. It’s time to tell you what I thought of each of them, as well as the lone Summer holdover, Ushio and Tora. As I actually wrote something longer for each of these shows (aside from the shorts), I’ll keep it brief, and link to the lengthier impressions post.

As always, the list is ordered by how much I liked the episodes, combined with how good I thought they were, in a descending order (first is best, last is worst). I’m also going to give each premiere a couple of scores, “Premiere Score” for how well it did its job as a premiere, and “Episode Score”, for how well it worked as a regular episode.

1) Ushio to Tora / Ushio and Tora Episode 14:

Ushio to Tora anime episode 14 overview - Tora isn't bored when he's with Aotsuki Ushio

It might be because I already know what to expect from this show, and that it’s meeting my expectations, but I think a large part of it is that from the very beginning, this show knew what it wants to be, and was never shy about it. Regardless of the reason, this is the episode that I enjoyed the most this past week, and fittingly enough, it’s the only carry-over from the Summer season.

We’re still going along the “revolving episodic structure”, where now the focus changed from fighting off against the monsters Ushio comes across as he searches for his mother, to fighting and proving himself to the other potential wielders of the Beast Spear. This episode was very much about affirming Ushio and Tora’s motivations, and finally forced the recalcitrant Tora to admit he enjoys being with Ushio, even if he didn’t go all the way just yet. Enjoyable, and the face-game is as strong as ever.

2) One Punch Man Episode 1:

One-Punch Man anime Episode 1 notes - Saitama's fighting spirit

This episode looked awesome. The fight sequences were great and used various styles, and even outside of the fight sequences, the show employed more than one style, and made each one look solid, from the more boring “smooth” style to the grittier style emphasizing the usage of black lines. Sound Director Hata Shouji (Fairy Tail 2011) ensures the show sounds great.

So, production aside, how was the show? I loved the action, and would happily watch an entire show of this, but this is also billed as a comedy, and it didn’t make me laugh or chuckle even once. The show also didn’t kick into its proper mood, and it’ll remain to be seen how it handles all the crazy compatriots our ennui-suffering superhero will meet, nor whether it’d actually focus on the ennui and one’s place in society with regards to one’s dreams.

So, a great show, a great premiere, but might not be for me. It’s this high because it was still better made and more enjoyable than the rest of the season. I do recommend checking it out, especially if unlike me, you do like anime comedy.

Also, because it’s fun, here’s One Punch Man in two photos. And here are two photos more, and three photos now.

Premiere Score: 6.5/10. Episode Score: 9/10. Personal Enjoyment Score: 7.5/10.

Full first impressions.

3) Lupin III (2015)  Episode 1:

Lupin III (2015) anime Episode 1 overview - Lupin and Jigen run away from Zenigata

It’s interesting to me that the two shows I enjoyed the most, or that everything I enjoyed the most during this past week had a more old-school feel to it, whether it be Ushio and Tora, or One Punch Man’s less-clean action sequences, or this show. Both Ushio and Tora and Lupin channel forth an atmosphere of another era, the 70s and mid 80s for Lupin, and the 80s to 90s for Ushio and Tora. Lupin III is what it’s always been, as far as I’m given to understand, there’s not much story, and there’s not a whole lot of characterization, just a frenetic collection of physical gags, well but roughly animated sequences, and a sense of fun. For all that it is somewhat frenetic, watching this show felt calming, a relaxed thing, as if you’re meeting old friends again, even for someone who is as unfamiliar with the franchise as I am (having only watched The Castle of Cagliostro).

However, even as I enjoyed this, I have a hard time watching episodic content, the same issue I run into when I try to watch moe slice of life shows, even the ones I like. I’ve been told The Woman Called Fujiko Mine from 2013 actually does have a continuous story, so if you are like me, maybe you should check that out instead. If not, definitely give this one a whirl.

Premiere Score: 5/10. Episode Score: 7.5/10. Personal Enjoyment Score: 7.5/10.

Full first impressions.

4) Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans / Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans Episode 1:

Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans anime / Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans anime episode 1 overview - The price of work

This was a well-made episode, as a Sunrise Mecha show premiere. Not visually, where it’s been all over the place with too many styles employed and corners cut and models not looking too good, but narratively, structurally. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, since basically all Sunrise Mecha shows’ premieres are nearly identical. But that’s not really a slam, it’s an explanation for where this expertise comes from, from hard-earned iterative work.

We’ve had our grey morality, an introduction to multiple sides and agendas that work along, against, and unknowingly of one another. We’ve had nobility versus commoners, the morality of war and what one would sacrifice in order to live. We’ve been thrown into the midst of a situation that then boiled over, and we’re going to have a story, or three (because there are just that many different narratives going on), come out of it.

I will say it was very well done, but I wasn’t excited by it, and will reserve judgment as the show progresses, because as I intimated, I’ve already seen this very same episode several times before. The proof will be in how well they carry it out.

Premiere Score: 9/10. Episode Score: 7.5/10. Personal Enjoyment Score: 6/10.

Full first impressions.

5) Concrete Revolutio Episode 1:

Concrete Revolutio: Choujin Gensou anime Episode 1 notes - Hoshino Kikko reaches out to Hitoyoshi Jirou

This show draws quite a few comparisons to Winter’s Rolling Girls (see my first impressions post of that show), because of the vibrant and very colourful art-style, the zany world-building, and the slight sense of “huh” both engender, but the most prominent comparison to me is that neither show delivered a real premiere, but something that feels more like half of one. Concrete Revolutio’s art-style was definitely very interesting, and it reminded me of western cartoons from the 1980s and 1990s, and was generally well-done. The sound design was tinny and jingly and not to my liking. The full-fledged transformation sequence was a nice surprise though.

But, let’s discuss world and plot. We’ve been thrown into a situation, and given knowledge of how things will turn out via some time-skips. We’ve been told quite a bit of the male main character (who will disobey rules for what is just), and through him of the Bureau of Supernatural Beings (that its rules and methods aren’t always just), we’ve also had a lot of light setting-building via off-handed comments (such as the laws Witches must obey, the different “layers” of reality, etc.), but the big issue is we haven’t really been given enough information, or enough emotional content of the main characters to care for their revealed plight, nor have we been given enough of a narrative “hook” to find the world or Bureau’s escapades interesting.

So, we have all these pieces, thrown against the ceiling, to see what stuck. I understand what’s going on, and I understand part of where they’re going with it, but the show failed as a premiere which should be designed to make me want to keep on watching. I will keep on watching, to see where they go with it, but I can’t help but feel that this episode was missing its core.

Premiere Score: 6.5/10. Episode Score: 6.5/10. Personal Enjoyment Score: 7/10.

Full first impressions.

6) Heavy Object Episode 1:

Heavy Object anime Episode 1 notes - Qwenthur Barbotage and Milinda Brantini Discuss

I’m going to save you the time and give you the one word summary of this premiere: “Bland”. Lazy main character, lecherous and impulsive best friend, quiet and emotion-less seeming “Princess” mecha pilot, domineering female commander whose boobs are something both the camera and a character constantly linger on, and tepid fan-service round out this show’s barrage of tropes. More than that, for all it supposedly deals with the future, the concepts employed mostly paint this show as a mirror to World War 2, and use archaic concepts of chivalry and duels that feel very out of place. But hey, “Sci-fi” is often just painting our world in a different dye so one could comment on it without coming off as excessively political.

But there was nothing much of interest here, beyond the main character with the improbable name of Qwenthur Barbotage constantly speaking of money and wishing to be rich. This episode definitely lacked a solid hook, and rather introduced us to uninteresting characters in an uninteresting setting. Will give it another episode or two to see the hook and how it plays out.

Premiere Score: 3/10. Episode Score: 6/10. Personal Enjoyment Score: 5/10.

Full first impressions.


Shorts:

1) Kagewani Episode 1:

Kagewani Anime Episode 1 overview - Content creators know what really matters

It’s not filtered. This is what the moment looked like.

There’s not a lot to say here. The art wasn’t very good, the sound design, which is critical for horror, actually was. This episode made me realize why low-budget films so often turn to horror, because they use padding to stretch the content, as they don’t have the funds to have “proper” content, and for horror, drawing things out in order to create tension is a viable strategy. But still, we don’t know what the show will be like, or anything about the main character. It didn’t really interest me, but I’ll give it another episode.

Premiere Score: 6.5/10. Episode Score: 5/10. Personal Enjoyment Score: 4/10.

2) Kowabon Episode 1:

Kowabon Anime Episode 1 - Not scary

There’s not a lot to say about this 3 minute-episode, and the little there is to say isn’t that good either. It was pretty boring. It felt even more like “What would a Film Student who has to make a project would come up with?” The “horror” was about as unscary or tense as you can get, not at all like Kagewani that at least really nailed the atmosphere, and music. The “monster” when it appeared and the manner in which she appeared seemed lifted wholesale from The Ring. I’m not interested in seeing where they’re going with it, so this is the first show of the season to be: Dropped.

Premiere Score: 6/10. Episode Score: 3/10. Personal Enjoyment Score: 2/10.


Overall First Impressions of the Season: As you can see from the various scores given above, most of the premieres were fine, fine as a first episode, or fine as a premiere. Many of them had only really pulled one off. What’s the difference? I expect a premiere to grab me, to present a hook that’ll make me want to learn what will happen next, to the characters, to the setting. A twist, explosion, or just presenting good characters is very much necessary in the first episode. But all too often these days, it feels as if anime directors have begun subscribing to “The Three Episode Rule”, where you only decide whether to drop a show or not after three episodes, and are leaving their first episodes limp, half-done, lacking that attractive core.

One Punch Man for instance had a very good first episode (which I didn’t love large chunks of, due to my reaction to anime-comedy), but we know the show is going to be about Saitama and his allies, so it wasn’t a good example of the show to come. Then we have the new Gundam, with a great premiere, and a solid first episode, that I just didn’t care for. On the other hand, Lupin III doesn’t really introduce us to the cast, and just gives us a good episode.

Honestly, the shorts were bad, Heavy Object’s premiere was bad as a premiere and underwhelming as a regular episode, and everything else was fine. What is lacking for me right now is the excitement and enjoyment factor. Hopefully the shows surprise me, as well as those who haven’t aired yet.

Notable absentees: I might check Utawarerumono and Comet Lucifer once a few more episodes come out, based on what I hear. I might even check the comedy Osomatsu-san, because of how positive the feedback thus far had been.

Dear readers, what do you think of the premiers thus far? Anything that surprised you, for better or for worse?

6 comments on “Fall 2015 First Impressions

  1. Artemis says:

    The Woman Called Fujiko Mine does indeed have a continuous storyline for much of the show – and quite an involved one at that, particularly compared with most of the other shows in the Lupin franchise. That said, I’m hesitant to compare Fujiko Mine to anything else in the Lupin franchise at all, because even though it involves most of the same characters, it has an utterly different vibe and style, and generally feels like much more of an experimental and standalone series. I know plenty of anime fans didn’t care for it, though I personally liked it a lot.

    As far as what surprised me for premiere episodes this season, I was pleasantly taken aback by Iron-Blooded Orphans. For me, that felt like by far the strongest opening that I’ve seen so far – and I don’t even like Gundam. I’m not a mecha or even really a sci-fi fan, so I highly doubt that it’s going to be my favourite overall show, but I was very impressed with that introduction.

    • Guy says:

      The bit about Fujiko Mine will be a reply to both you and megaroad1 downthread. It’s sort of funny, because how can one be a fan of a show because they like its most idiosyncratic portion, and if they like the rest of the show, are they expected to like the bit that is nothing like them? All in all, I like Lupin, but it is the episodic nature that stops me from diving in. Fujiko Mine is indeed more than a mere structural change, because the structure has ramifications. Well, we’ll see when I finally watch it, and I hope I like it, even if it’s not really much like the rest of Lupin – it’s been on my plan to watch list on its own either way, for a while.

      And yes, as you can see from my notes above, Gundam definitely had the best “premiere”, that episode did everything a premiere should’ve done. Characters, situations, explosions… yeah, it nailed that bit. Those shows usually begin failing afterwards, here’s to hoping this one doesn’t.

  2. I know Lupin III 2015 was my favorite out of the premiers I’ve seen so far, though One-Punch Man and Osomatsu-San turned out much better than I expected. Also as someone who’s a pretty big fan of the old Lupin cartoons, I can assure you that Lupin III actually DOES have some pretty distinctive characterization, and will in this series, too. Not much depth or development, but the characters at their best are as full of personality as the Looney Tunes gang. Of course, given that you’ve only seen the first episode of the 2015 series (which barely introduced the characters at all) and Castle of Cagliostro (where much of the characterization’s different,) you’re more than justified in your conclusion. Also, I probably enjoyed this more since I have a soft spot for episodic series. They may offer less long-term engagement, but they usually have far more consistent quality than plot-driven shows, and for me that’s a huge plus. (Though it should be noted that the new Lupin series will have a few ongoing subplots connecting the episodic adventures.) Tomorrow the Perfect Insider premiers, so I’m really excited to see how that turns out as well!

    • Guy says:

      Oh, of course Lupin and the characters have characterization, but that’s part of what I was getting at, you can delve into basically any episode or two and learn what you need to know of the characters. They’re always themselves, and the same selves, more or less, whih you referred to. If I’m wrong, then that’s cool. It’s cool either way. I guess we’ll find out, at least as long as I keep watching the episodic content.

      And yes, The Perfect Insider is one of the shows I’m more interested in, and that’s less than 90 minutes from this comment :)

  3. megaroad1 says:

    I loved Fujiko Mine but like Artemis said above, it has a very different feel to the rest of the Lupin III franchise. Darker, with more emphasis on the art than other installations.

    So far, Gundam and Owarimonogatari (I like the Monogatari series but I can see how people who don’t appreciate it’s style might have been bored to tears) have been pretty impressive. One Punch Man was a visual wonder, but like you, I expected to laugh more, and I didn’t. But that can still change. Beautiful Bones-Sakurako was ok, but the rest of this season has been underwhelming to say the least.

    • Guy says:

      I like Monogatari (but don’t love it), but I’m behind, and I usually wait for its BD releases to watch it anyway, so I don’t watch it as it airs.

      These posts will have last week’s Beautiful Bones episode, so you’ll have to check my post next week, or the first impressions post I posted for that, but I agree, it was ok, I liked it overall, though it was far from perfect.

      I don’t find this season underwhelming, because it matches my expectations from it, more or less. I am underwhelmed by how more and more anime just fail at making their premieres engaging though.

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