April 14th, 2016.
A Solid Start:
Ok, let’s talk about the elephant in the room first, the subtitles available for the show. Specifically, this dude’s lines. I’ve been using gg’s fansubs, and the /a/non subs for this person are even worse. I get that this character is a hothead who trashtalks his allies and his friends, and who even keeps referring to things as “shit”, but these lines were so incongruous with the rest of the episode and content that they just pulled me straight out of the show. It’s not that my suspension of disbelief was shattered, but how strongly I was reminded that I’m watching a show, and how artificial it all suddenly felt, because of how it drew attention to itself. This alone makes me consider waiting for the show to be out on Netflix in 6 months (it’s a 25 episode series) and check it out then. But I’m likely to check out one more episode even so. We’ll see.
So, aside from that particular character, who also acts as if he’s crazy on adrenaline or some other drugs, how does the rest of the show look and sound? It looks and sounds very well indeed.
The CG at the start of the episode as some old-fashioned samurai mecha fight in the snow is really great, and the CG later on isn’t as good, but it’s also not jarring. The smaller enemies and larger mechs at times clearly feel artificial, but since they’re man-made objects, and some are alien in origin, it’s not too bad either.
The character art isn’t always as sharp and crisp as it could be, with faces now and then being “wider” and a bit out of proportions. The designs are pretty standard for a P.A. Works or J.C. Staff “Bunch of highschool kids”-style series, with designs being relatively crisp, faces being expressive, and some more subtle line-work now and then. The backgrounds are lush and vibrant. The show isn’t really breaking new ground visually, but it’s executing what it’s going for quite well. The adults actually look better and more interesting, in terms of design. Shame the show isn’t about them.
Animation was fun in the moments that had them, and the show sure did go out of its way to keep our naked samurai decent. It was amusing on a meta-level, and well-done from an animation stand-point.
On the audio front, opinions will be mixed. There was a constant background music for most of the show that was light and not too obtrusive. I thought it was fine, but I could see some people being bothered by it. The music in the episode’s last act as the enemies descended and then the fight went on was an improvement. The voice actors gave a solid if unexciting performance.
OP (I assume) – No art yet, whichever it was. Not a fan of the music. Like, there are good parts, but it just keeps going on and on with various pieces not really gelling with one another, and it doesn’t sound all that good.
Themes / Story:
Going by the show’s promotional material, Ogino Mika, who appears to be the best friend of protagonist Shirahane Yukina, is going to be a sidelined supporting character, while the precocious blonde mecha pilot Sophie Noelle, who got all of 30 seconds in this episode, will be a main character. That’s an interesting way to present those two, I guess.
Also, I’m sure we’ll return to it still, but I’ll be even happier if we won’t. A sci-fi setting with mysterious artifacts and a frozen ancient samurai who pilots a mecha, and “demons” that are actually invaders from another world or dimension. Cool, right? And the scientists who explore all of these things. Also cool, right? So of course we focus on the scientists’ kids, and the show had done a good job for the first episode of presenting Yukina and her mother, head of research, who expects her daughter to be capable of achieving anything she wants. The show also portrayed well that what Yukina most wants is for her mother to show direct interest in her, where she wanted her to tell her she’s being silly with her future plans, just so they could talk, rather than being reduced to a background image and a caretaker for who I assume is her younger brother, only named.
The characters are fine if unexciting, aside from the aforementioned shit-talking shit-loving gung-ho mecha rider. But the show has actually gone more than most shows (though perhaps less than most P.A. style dramas) in how much characterization it’s given them in the first episode.
The connection between local lore and folktales and ancient artifacts found was a nice touch, but it’d still remain to be seen how much the world actually lives. A bunch of characters felt very “anime”-esque, like the researcher who kept taking photos on his phone of anything that happened, or the aforementioned Sophie who ignored the other girls as they ran after them.
So, what do I think of the first episode overall? It’s not exciting just yet, but it’s done a very solid job. I’d have certainly checked the second episode if not for my reservations on translation quality, but as it is, we’ll see. The show can still end up as nothing, as many mecha shows, and shows about a bunch of teenagers have in recent years, but it’s off to a good start.