January 10th, 2016.
I want to get this out of the way first, because it’s not the show’s fault, but it still impacted my enjoyment, but this show’s encoding is shit. I suspect it’s Funimation being Funimation, rather than the source material, but so much artifacting. Gah. Even in 1080p, yes (Notice: Further research shows these issues exist in the raw as well, and this isn’t Funimation’s fault).
So, the show looks more or less as it did in the preview, and my thoughts of it remain as they’ve been since, so confirmed, basically – lovely water colour backgrounds, that manage to look soft and fuzzy without being faded and indistinct. The character models are pleasant to look at, with varied outfits, distinct designs for each character while still looking close enough to iconic MMORPG classes, and sharp execution.
Moreover, as expected from director Nakamura Ryousuke (Mouryu no Hako, Psychic School Wars, and Piano no Mori, he also directed a couple of Aoi Bungaku episodes and a bunch of Death Note and Monster episodes, the last of which he was also an Assistant Director of), there were a bunch of small moments, soft and slight animation moments that captured the characters well. Ranta leaping out of bed, Shihoru bringing the hat over her eyes as she was about to start crying, etc. The characters breathe, as the setting provides a beautiful backdrop.
Voice acting was solid, but not extraordinary, I wasn’t too much of a fan of the background music, but it wasn’t too bad either. Brittany and Barbara were a bit “much”, in terms of design and execution, both visually and acting-wise, but I guess it’s “Anime.jpg” territory there.
Oh yes, the show had definitely displayed what I call “The A-1 Ass-focus,” and some of the “soft animation moments” had attention given to slight breast jiggle. So between this show and Phantom World, lovers of both asses and breasts will be serviced, but it’s up to fandom to vote which they like more >.>
ED – Nice, overall. I liked the violins, gave it an Irish jig, at the start. But not much more than that.
Themes / Story:
So, we can’t have a “trapped in an MMORPG” show without comparing it to one of the other shows in the sub-genre, right? Right. So, let’s compare it to Log Horizon, but perhaps not in the way most people expect. We’ll get to that later. But first, this episode was slow. I can’t help but remember that when Log Horizon first aired, after its first 5 or so episodes were out I looked back and thought, “Man, every 2 episodes here could’ve been squished into one.” And so it feels here. It was very slow, and though we got some concrete information and mannerisms on several of the characters, and got to see them interact and a couple slightly exceed their tropey boxes (“Shy girl”, “genki clutzy girl”, “den-mother healer”, etc.), they mostly stayed within.
It was actually nice seeing how, well, incapable these kids are, 6 of them can’t even take on two goblins? They’re like level 0 adventurers. I suspect this is so we could see how much they grow as the show goes on. The exposition provided by Brittany was very MMORPG, where you have to pay for the right to pay more for better equipment, and to fight more dangerous enemies. But it also serves as a gate-keeper, so people will only advance as they are ready. The sequence with Barbara was drawn out needlessly, we only needed to know they’re going to spend a week training, but what was the rest of it for, except for the fanservice quota?
I liked how Manato had pointed out that it’s a fight to the death for the goblins as well, and what they’re doing isn’t some quest to eliminate evil, but killing other sentient beings (who we see just having fun and relaxing a night) for their own survival, as work. The show’s very slow and deliberate first episode set the atmosphere for a more thoughtful and ruminating show, and them forgetting the old world will help in that we’ll get to see people, like you and me, try to live, really live, in this sort of world, without some goal or despondency born out of comparing this place to the last one, and of trying to get back home, or despairing of it. So why not just have kids born in a fantasy world? Hm, maybe because these kids are still more relatable for us, not growing into this sort of atmosphere.
This wasn’t a bad episode, but it wasn’t a good premiere, lacking any sort of hook, any sort of dramatic or action draw. I think this episode might’ve worked far better as a second episode, after an episode that did provide a hook, perhaps even giving us a one episode flashback. But so it goes. A bunch of characters, who feel like slightly more-real tropes than most anime shows have wading around, but nothing to do with them just yet. So it’s us with the existential malaise, rather than the characters. Ending the episode with them running out of money so the desperation would behere rather than soon would’ve been a good move as well.
I’m still with it. I like thoughtful works, but still need to make me care, and slightly less hijinks to spend the time on what matters wouldn’t have gone amiss, and if the hijinks are what should matter, then perhaps the slow atmosphere was overdone. Well, we’ll see where they take it.