It begins once again! After watching what had to be the largest number of new first episodes ever, I’ve managed to narrow things down to *only* nineteen, plus the one series continuing from earlier seasons. Here are my first episode impressions, focusing on the non-sequel shows this week.
Am I missing out on any must-sees? Have I rated anything surprisingly high or low? As ever, please share your thoughts in the comments~
3 – Bloodivores ep 1
4 – Drifters ep 1
11 – Haikyuu!! S3 ep 1
12 – Nanbaka ep 1
14 – Yuri!!! on Ice ep 1
15 – 3-gatsu no Lion ep 1
My favourite first episode barely made it onto my want to watch list pre-season, but Flip Flappers was really good fun. Schoolgirl Cocona doesn’t know where to go next in her life, but ends up forcefully dragged into a wonderful world of edible snow by the hyperactive Papika, in search of an item that will grant their wishes. This episode had so much style, brilliant animation and direction, and I love the character designs. The plot shows tons of potential, with all sorts of things from secret organisations to mysterious twins making brief appearances amidst the chaos. And then came the ED theme – very catchy song, and the accompanying animations and art were fantastic. All I hope is that there’s some substance beneath the style, and that it remains this entertaining until the end.
Bloodivores wasn’t even on my want to watch list, so perhaps I should give up the whole pre-season predictions thing!? It had quite an interesting take on ‘vampires’; these bloodivores live among regular humans, though by the looks of things they’re made to wear GPS collars that go off when their feeding instincts kick in, and they’re also discriminated against in other ways. Plot-wise, our main characters are no saints, starting the series with an armed robbery and car chase. They’re no murderers either, but those are the charges they face after being framed for reasons unknown. And the next episode preview promises a survival game? Lots of interesting exposition, but this episode also left plenty unanswered (deliberately, I hope), leaving me wanting to know more…
Skipping down to the opposite end of my list, Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku‘s first episode opened on a scene full of blood and bodies… nice of them to warn the viewer of what’s to come, as the rest of the episode was deceptively cute and innocent, with its wide-eyed shoujo character designs, lovely costumes and pleasant music. The mascot character strikes me as a creepy mix of Danganronpa‘s Monokuma and Madoka Magica‘s Kyubey, both in terms of look and personality. The overall budget-Madoka vibe was hard not to notice, hopefully the series will distinguish itself from its popular predecessor in the episodes to come. It gets plus points from me for allowing boys to become magical girls though~ Not much else to say, it did a passable job of introducing the world and the main characters, but less things of interest happened in the episode compared with everything else.
At #8 we have ClassicaLoid. I don’t know what I just watched, but I liked it a lot! Otowa Kanae is forced to sell the wonderful, heavily music-themed mansion that used to belong to her grandmother, which means the two freeloaders living there have to go. However, those two freeloaders happen to be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven! Though not as we know them, with the former more interested in rollerskating and causing mischief, while the latter attempts to cook the perfect gyoza. There was very little in the way of classical music (aside from that playing as BGM) until right at the end, when the house is threatened with demolition – at that point, an electronic version of Beethoven’s 6th Symphony starts playing, the construction workers start dancing, and their vehicles turn into giant robots… which also dance. Bizarre.
Just avoiding last place is Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru… My word, has there ever been such a large number of good-looking characters in one series prior to this? Bishounen sword boys having snowball fights, bathing, painting their nails, throwing horse manure(!?)… yes. Just yes. Fanservice does seem to be the majority of Touken Ranbu’s selling point, but the plot, which involves protecting true history from those who would change it is intriguing. I was also surprised by how well animated and choreographed the fight scenes were too – if they fit one of those into every episode or two, it would certainly be enough to satisfy my craving for action, and give me a justified reason for picking this up beyond the eye candy. 😛 It debuts low simply because of how large the cast is, far less time for properly introducing individual characters, but hopefully they’ll get around to that in the coming episodes.
Nanbaka gives Touken Ranbu a run for its money in the bishounen stakes, though the character designs are more wacky. Bare chests, long bright-coloured hair, fangs, heterochromia, crossdressers… sold. But the comedy was good too! Seeing supposedly uncontainable prisoners try to escape a supposedly inescapable prison is quite a different setting, and with both the guards and inmates displaying hilarious levels of idiocy, I can’t see myself getting bored by this. All the standard booby traps made an appearance, from crushing walls and rolling boulders to spike pits and timed self-destruct mechanisms. Dialogue was well written and fun, animation was adequate, very bright and colourful. There also seems to be something of a mystery plot, revolving around Jyugo’s shackles, though I doubt that will be the main focus.
On to the slice of life duo: I’d heard the hype about the manga, but I find it hard to get excited about shows without any real plot until I’ve watched an episode and seen what the writing and characters are like. 3-gatsu no Lion pretty much demanded a place on my list! The story focuses on Kiriyama Rei, a young schoolboy and professional shogi player. Beyond that, and the fact he has an uneasy relationship with his adopted father, we don’t know much about him at this point, but he’s clearly not happy. Three people who do seem very happy are the Kawamoto sisters, who invite Rei over and treat him like part of the family. The characters and writing do seem very good. The animation and directing was exceptional, no surprise as Akiyuki Simbo is one of my favourite anime directors. The BGM was great, and both the OP and ED were performed by Bump of Chicken, which is a very good thing indeed. 😀 Loved the cats (and owl?) as well.
Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari was another slice of life series, with a similar feel to 3-gatsu in that our main character Souta is feeling quite down. He’s 30 years old, and there are hints that he may have issues at work. His father has recently died, and we learned in a flashback that they argued a long time ago, with Souta refusing to take on the family business making udon. But rather than three happy sisters, it seems Souta will have a hyperactive, wheat-stealing tanuki child to keep him company (he reminds me of Barakamon‘s Naru, but less mischievous). Seriously, Poko is so cute, and that’s the sole reason this ranks higher than 3-gatsu no Lion. With people still coming from far and wide to visit the udon restaurant, and with Souta having found his father’s recipes, I’m guessing a change of career is on the horizon~
Action-packed, gory, and a suitable replacement for Berserk, Drifters may not be animated in dubious 3DCG, but the 2D wasn’t stellar either. I liked the colour scheme though, everything very dark, except for the reds which were strikingly bright – same style used for manga-ka Hirano Kouta’s more famous work, Hellsing. There’s not much we can say about the plot at this point: famous warriors who supposedly died in historic battles are instead being sent to a fantasy world (with elves – auto picked-up) for reasons unknown, via a white corridor full of doors. Time doesn’t seem to work the same way in this place, with main character Toyohisa Shimazu soon followed into the corridor by a man in modern military equipment. I look forward to seeing what this is all about, but I’m hoping for something a little more interesting than a battle royale/survival game given the weird setting.
In the middle we have Lostorage incited WIXOSS – a new series in the WIXOSS franchise as opposed to a sequel to the earlier Selector series, so I’ll include it to round things out. Main character Suzuko returns to the town she lived in as a child, but as her only close friend there has moved house. Entering high school as a second year, her classmates have already formed their groups of friends, and can’t even spare the time to show her where the classrooms are. Her father is busy with work, and she never sees him; her mother has passed away. This episode did a great job of building up a lonely atmosphere, but Suzuko remains positive, as she has happy memories of the place… guess what this new version of the cursed game preys on? There was no subtlety or deception this time – the moment Suzuko met her LRIG, she was told she’d be playing to keep her memories intact, and her only reward for winning the game is freedom from it. Very creepy.
Shuumatsu no Izetta is set in an alternative world, in the middle of World War 2. We know it’s an alternative world because Germany is called ‘Germania’, Britain is called ‘Britannia’… and poor France somehow ended up stuck with ‘Thermidor’. 😛 Oh, and there’s witchcraft too. Our main character is the princess of a country that’s on the brink of invasion by Germania – this episode saw her escape a shoot-out on top of a train, negotiate with Britannia for military aid, and eventually get captured by the enemy, so it was action-packed from the get-go, without a dull moment. I got a slight shoujo-ai vibe once the titular Izetta awoke from her slumber to save Princess Fine… maybe I’m hoping for too much there, but given the lack of male protagonist so far, you never know! No doubt we’ll learn more about who Izetta is and how the two know each other in the next episode.
Finally, we have Yuri!!! on Ice. Objectively, a lot better than some of the other shows I’ve rated above it, both in terms of character and setting introduction and the godly production values. That was a very pretty first episode. I liked the humour too. But… it didn’t really hold my interest for whatever reason. Unlike a lot of sport anime set in schools, which take a while to build up to actual games or tournaments, our main character here is already a professional skater (albeit not performing well), and we saw lots of nicely animated figure skating from both him and his idol (and now coach) Victor. Maybe I’m just not as interested in watching people spin around and jump as I am in seeing individuals or teams actually play against each other? I wish I knew, but either way it more than deserves a few more episodes time to try and win me over.