First Impressions: Winter 2015

The new year is upon us, and so is a brand new anime season! Well okay, mostly new. My grandmother went in for surgery on Tuesday so it’s been kind of a fucking madhouse around here lately. I did manage to watch some new shows, though. Obviously I won’t be covering everything, as I am still working out the logistics of my plan to become a mighty wizard unbound from space and time. I didn’t get to everything I wanted because again, Real Life Stuff kinda threw a wrench into my cartoon-watching, but I may or may not post a follow-up at some point. With a handful of strong contenders like Parasyte and KimiUso left over from Fall, and a few potential new gems, this is looking to be an overall strong Winter season. As always, the following is just my terrible opinions and you are free to correct me in the comments. So with out any further delay, let’s get started!

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Durarara x2

The first season of DRRR is a show I have somewhat mixed feelings about. The first half of season one is so much fun it’s damn near transcendent. Sexy dullahans on motorcycle-horses, guys throwing vending machines at people, Hiroshi Kamiya as the world’s most magnificent troll? That is some good shit. I would watch the hell out of a Celty x Shinra romcom, or Shizuo chasing Izaya like a Roadrunner vs Wile E. Coyote comedy sketch. Unfortunately for S1, that stuff only constitutes half of the runtime. The last half chooses instead to focus on the trio of Obligatory Generic YA Audience-POV Highschool Kids, and the result is a jarring shift in momentum. I’m sorry DRRR, it doesn’t matter how many cursed swords or internet gangs you give these characters, they just aren’t as interesting as Headless Biker Chick and her Back-Alley Doctor boyfriend. And the opening episode of S2 pretty much proves that conclusively. This episode focuses mainly on Celty as she runs errands around Ikebukuro, occasionally cutting away to check up on what some of DRRR’s other characters have been up to since S1. The episode also sets up what is likely to be the backbone the arc as rumors of a serial killer, nicknamed “Hollywood” for disguising himself in film-grade practical effects makeup, begins to circlulate on the net and the nightly news. But mostly this episode was just to get back into the swing of things, and get the audience back on track with DRRR’s labyrinthine story and massive cast. It has been an unusually long time between seasons, but I’m ready to see what the eccentric denizens of Ikebukuro have in store for us. Flippantly Arbitrary Judgment: Excellent – 4 Motorcycle-Horses out of 5

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YuriKuma Arashi

Welcome to the Ikuhara Show, where everything’s made up and the plot doesn’t matter! I think Yurikuma is probably the most straightforward thing Ikuhara has done since Sailor Moon, which seems likely due to YuriKuma’s truncated running time. It’s certainly interesting to see Ikuhara jump right into the surrealist metaphysical nonsense and never look back, at least for me anyways. There’s still plenty to unpack in this show, though. I feel like this is pretty plainly revisiting Revolutionary Girl Utena’s throughline about social expectations vs. individual identity, with the constant refrains of “invisibility” and the construction of “walls”. The bears as literally man(girl)-eating aggressive lesbian stereotypes would seems to indicate it’s dealing very specifically with social attitudes towards towards the LGBT community. I’m actually kinda surprised to see a show about lesbians that is actually a show about lesbians. The only male characters in the entire show preside over a court and repeatedly ask essentially “Will you remain invisible or express your base nature”, before handing down their explicit approval. That seems about as clear-cut of a metaphor as Ikuahara can muster. Not to get too tumblr-y, but I think “It’s a symbol of the Patriarchy!” is actually pretty on-point in this case. As of episode 2, it also seems like the girls who give into their own desires turn into bears? Which combined with the general horror trappings definitely starts to paint a bigger picture. Girls who indulge in their lesbian desires devolving into inhuman monsters? I wonder what that’s about! Obviously I don’t have every symbol and metaphor figured out(WTF was up with that fish/bear statue?), but I think the show’s main thematic thread is clear enough after two episodes to make a few educated guesses. Flippantly Arbitrary Judgment: Phenomenal – 4.5 Cunnilingus Euphemisms out of 5

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The Rolling Girls

Full disclosure: I find subtlety and plausibility grossly overrated. I much prefer shows content with indulging in their own exuberance and bombast to those that attempt to ground themselves in a subdued voice and rigid rule-sets. So when I see a show like Rolling Girls; a show whose outward aesthetic is like a sexy three-way between Kill la Kill, Zvezda, and Kyousougiga; a show that seems to almost openly mock the very of ideas worldbuilding or grounded narrative; it makes me pretty excited to be an anime fan. There isn’t a whole lot to actually go on yet, as even the titular Rolling Girls have yet to make their relevance known, but it’s definitely a deliberate premiere. Working in just enough information about the characters, their relationships, and the nature of their world, the first episode lays the groundwork for a million different narratives. It is like seeing a giant fluffy cake with all the best toppings and my favorite kind of frosting. There’s still a chance that it will end up too sweet, or too dry, or that the waiter will trip and smash it into my face. But right now it just looks like a beautiful delicious cake that I can’t wait to sink my teeth into. Flippantly Arbitrary Judgment: Above Average. 3.5 Comically Oversized Safety Pins out of 5

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Maria the Virgin Witch

This show seems like an early frontrunner for “Most Misleading Anime Title of the Year”. Of all the things I would expect a show with both the words “Virgin” and “Witch” in its title to be, “decently-written historical fantasy” was certainly not one of them. And yet, that seems to be exactly what Maria is. The Hundred Years War was a notoriously bleak era of European history, and that Maria embraces the reality of that as its storytelling backbone is both surprising and refreshing. There’s no glory or honor to the war here, just the very matter-of-fact acceptance of its role in the peoples’ lives. Leading heroine Maria is an interesting character, modelling herself after Joan of Arc, as an unappreciated-in-her-own-time symbol of Purity And Good. But we all know what happened to Joan… right? I have to wonder just how long Maria is going to be able to keep up her naive antics before she gets a rude awakening. Or maybe she won’t and the show will double down on the comedy, who knows? I actually could have totally done without the torrent of fellatio jokes, but all things considered, this show is well above my expectations. I’m actually looking forward to more. Flippantly Arbitrary Judgment: Above Average – 3.5 Arrows to the Knee out of 5

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Aldnoah.Zero 2

Oh, boy… The first season of Aldnoah ended up being a pretty strong argument against letting any other people handle Urobuchi’s work, a sentiment that would be echoed by season 2 of Psycho-Pass. I’m not sure Aldnoah has what it takes to top the disaster that was PP2, but it’s sure as hell gonna try! Aldnoah is a show whose best-written character is used solely as a karmic whipping-boy, and whose worst-written character is now apparently a magic unkillable cyborg. Wow. Just wow, Aldnoah. To the surprise of probably nobody, the big game-changing cliffhanger at the end of S1 turns out to be little more than a narrative gimmick to keep the buzz going between seasons. Well, I guess I can’t fault the show too much since it actually worked. I mean, there was pretty much no way the show was going to stick with it. It had nothing else to go on. Inaho was essentially the sole foundation the story had, flimsy as it is, so I was genuinely intrigued to see the show dig out of the hole it had landed itself in. Well, Aldnoah managed to pull one over on me! It didn’t even try digging out, it just kept burying itself. I guess the show figures it will eventually dig straight through to the other side of the planet if it goes deep enough, even if it ends up a dirty, mangled, barely animate corpse by the end. Yeah, I’ve pretty much given up on poor Aldnoah. I actually went back and checked up on bunch of sources for S1 voice credits to see if the new Sister-Princess had even appeared at all, and I shockingly discovered her absent. That’s pretty much Aldnoah’s level of storytelling in a nutshell: kill of a major character as a cliffhanger, and then immediately replace her with a convenient doppelganger pulled practically out of thin air. No rhyme, no reason, no setup, just twists for the sake of twists that have absolutely no affect on the actual narrative. Season one managed to have a few fleeting moments of genuinely strong storytelling, but this single episode has pretty much lit all that good will on fire and pissed on the ashes. Flippantly Arbitrary Judgment: Wretched – 1.5 Cyborg Messiahs out of 5

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Yatterman Night

If wildly reinvented variations of old-school Tatsunoko-owned Super Sentai properties is going to be a thing now, I am pretty fucking okay with that. I mean, by all accounts, they’re at least three for three on that front so far. Between Casshern Sins(actually produced by Madhouse), Gatchaman Crowds, and this new Yatterman anniversary project, I’m actually kind of looking forward to seeing what’s next. Maybe a new Tekkaman reboot? They haven’t done one of those since the 90s. But I guess I should probably talk about this show. It’s actually a deceptively simple idea: what happens after the heroes beat the bad guys, and what does it mean for future generations? The first episode centers on Dorothy, a young widow living on a desolate, rundown island enclosed by massive walls. The walls separate Dorothy’s tiny island from the Yatter Kingdom, a sprawling peaceful metropolis built by the heroic Yattermen after their daring defeat of the evil Doronbo Gang. The reason Dorothy and her friends live in squalor instead of the haven of Yatter Kingdom? Dorothy is the descendant of the Doronbo Gang’s original leader, and her family has been in exile for untold generations. But Dorothy doesn’t lament her situation. She gives birth to a happy baby girl, Leopard, and is determined to make the best for her. Unfortunately, the living situation takes its toll on Dorothy’s health, and young Leopard is nearly killed when she approaches the Yattermen for help. The Yattermen of legend and their majestic kingdom are not the noble bastions Leopard believes them to be. And if the Yattermen aren’t truly just, then perhaps her family’s punishment isn’t either. Yatterman Night is not only an interesting inversion of traditional Super Sentai stories, it’s a confident production all around. This episode was full of aesthetic flair and impressive camerawork, as evidenced by the above ahoge-halo. The script is solid too, with naturalistic worldbuilding and endearing character-writing. It’s difficult not to feel for the plight of Leopard and Dorothy’s makeshift family. This was easily one of Winter’s strongest premieres, and if YatterNoct can keep up this level of production, it could definitely end up the sleeper hit of the season. Flippantly Arbitrary Judgment: Phenomenal – 4.5 Talking Pigs out of 5

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Absolute Duo

I’m not going to mince words here. Absolute Duo is absolutely generic. This show is about as formula Light Novel Action-Romance as it gets. Absolute Duo is the latest in an endless line of shows popularized by the likes of Shakugan no Shana and Zero no Tsukaima almost a decade ago. And if Absolute Duo is an indicator of anything, it’s that the formula has not evolved very much in all those years. The only major change is that all of these stories now also have to take place in Anime Hogwarts. This time that role is filled by the prestigious Koryu Academy, where our hero Thor(no, really) has to manifest his soul-weapon called a Blaze(the Shana comparisons ain’t for nothin’) and battle his fellow students for a chance to attend. There’s just a couple problems. Thor is an “irregular”(yes, that is the actual word they use) whose Blaze is not a sword or spear, but a shield! How gimmicky! And one of his fellow combatants is the cute Imari who he’d just become friendly with! Oh no, the drama! But Thor is determined to solve the mystery of his Dark Past! And then–ZzzZZZzzzzZZz… Oh sorry, I fell asleep on my keyboard just typing that. Yeah, you’ve seen this show before. Maybe not in this exact arrangement, but virtually every individual element of the plot and characters is basically cut and paste whole-cloth from other more successful stories. If this kind of story is Your Thing, there’s not really anything here that is going to change your mind in either direction. But honestly, I think it would be more worthwhile just to watch Shana again instead. At least that show has the illustrious Queen of Tsundere, and a decent soundtrack. Flippantly Arbitrary Judgment: Below Average – 2.5 Nonsense Fantasy Terms out of 5

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2 thoughts on “First Impressions: Winter 2015

  1. Prodef says:

    Hi Redcrimson!
    Nice preview guide. Looking forward to the next part because I especially want to see your opinion on shows like Saekano, KanColle or Death Parade.
    I was too late for DRRR to catch up for the second season but I read good things about it on twitter, so if the second season can deliver I might have to bump up the first season in my backlog.
    YuriKuma was a no-brainer for me since I already watched Penguindrum and loved it (still have to get around Utena, duh). It’s a shame it’s only 1-cour because a bit more of a setup would definitely help it.
    Still have to watch Maria and Rolling Girls but I will just because I hear so many positive feedback about them.
    I give Aldnoah another episode but else it’s dead. It had a pretty good setup from last season (depends on what you call “good” actually) and just wasted the potential.
    Yatterman had a very strong premiere but I’m kind of scared it could fall apart any second and devolve into a generic comedy-adventure.
    Absolute Duo, won’t bother. Like no one really likes this (except maybe some people on /r/anime hehe).

    Like

    • Recrimson says:

      Death Parade was one of the things I didn’t get to, mainly because I also never got around to the original short. I might end up waiting to marathon that one since I’ve heard it’s very much an Overt Plot show. KanColle doesn’t really seem like my thing, plus I’m a Touhou fan so… Unless I hear positive buzz about it, I don’t think I’ll get around to it.

      Thanks for the comment! Also, go watch Utena! Like, seriously.

      Like

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