Spring 2017 First Impressions

If the winter season was the season of comedies, then this is the season of action. We have sequels to Rage of Bahamut, Attack on Titan, My Hero Academia, Berserk, and even Naruto. In addition to these high profile sequels, Re: Creators has shown a lot of potential as this season’s new action spectacle. I’ve always been partial to action anime, but even if you’re not, there’s quite a few other shows to check out beyond those I just mentioned. As usual, I’ll be going over the first episode of each new show that I watched and categorizing them based on how much I would recommend them.


Little Witch Academia


Synopsis: Akko Kagari is an ordinary girl who joins the renowned witch academy for witch girls, Luna Nova Academy. When she was younger, she went to Magical Festa, a magic show hosted by a witch named Shiny Chariot. Akko was so mesmerized and inspired by Shiny Chariot’s performance that she dreamed to someday be a “cool” witch like her. This young and impressionable Akko takes Shiny Chariot’s words as her own motto: “Never forget, a believing heart is your magic.” (from ANN)

After two impressive OVAs, it’s inevitable that the TV adaptation of Little Witch Academia would disappoint some people. The animation, while good for a TV anime, isn’t as good as the OVAs, and the episodic plot feels like it has potential to be more. Still, it’s been quite good so far and there’s every indication that it will be improving. Akko’s goofy earnestness has always had a certain charm to it, and that hasn’t diminished yet. Even the standalone episodes have their own magic that makes them fun to watch in spite of their not moving the plot forward. Whether its a loose bee that makes people fall in love, or Akko having to enter Sucy’s dreams to wake her up and save the school, LWA is always a fun show. Based on comments from director Yoh Yoshinari and the introduction of an actual villain, this cour seems to be leading toward a much more focused plot, and I’m eager to see LWA live up to its potential here.


Attack on Titan Season 2

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Synopsis: Eren Jaeger swore to wipe out every last Titan, but in a battle for his life he wound up becoming the thing he hates most. With his new powers, he fights for humanity’s freedom facing the monsters that threaten his home. After a bittersweet victory against the Female Titan, Eren finds no time to rest—a horde of Titans is approaching Wall Rose and the battle for humanity continues. (from ANN)

After four years, Attack on Titan is finally back and continues like it never left. This season begins right after where season one left off and starts off with a bang. The first episode alone introduces three new mysteries: the discovery that there are Titans built into the walls, the Titans suddenly breaching Wall Rose with no explanation, and a huge titan with the ability to speak and command other titans. This being Attack on Titan, it is unlikely to give answers any time soon, but part of AoT’s strength is being able to maintain interest in spite of that. Like season one, this season keeps the tension high by never letting you forget just how dangerous the Titans are, both through characters talking about how close they are to death and by showing them brutally kill a soldier who stayed behind to delay them. The direction occasionally oversells this, but usually maintains just the right amount of intensity to keep you excited. All in all, if you liked season one, you’ll definitely like this.

My Hero Academia Season 2

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Synopsis: With the League of Villains temporarily defeated, both U.A. High’s faculty and student body ruminate on what this near-death experience means for their future. There’s not much time for quiet reflection though, because the Olympic-sized U.A. Sports Festival is on the horizon, and professional hero agencies will be watching to scout the tournament’s top performers. (from ANN)

MHA didn’t have quite as strong of a premier as Attack on Titan, but it still has a lot of potential with what it set up. This episode was largely recap of season one and setup for the upcoming sports festival that looks like it’ll take up the majority of the season but was still enjoyable if you liked season one. Having heard it mentioned before, I was worried that the show wouldn’t be able to create proper stakes for it, but it’s going strong so far. The sports festival isn’t just a chance to show off everyone’s powers, it’s a way for Midoriya to prove that he’s a worthy successor to All Might. This is doubly important since All Might is quickly losing strength and can now only be a hero for 50 minutes and needs a true successor. It isn’t just Midoriya’s conflict, either. This episode also revealed that Ochako’s reason for being a hero is to support her family’s struggling construction business, a far simpler goal than everyone else, but also more grounded and relatable. MHA’s strength has always been in its strong execution of simple ideas, and this is no exception. I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of this season.

Funimation’s dub continues from the first season, and is just as good as it was then. Justin Briner fits Midoriya’s character quite well, and its hard to imagine anyone doing All Might better than Christopher Sabat. All in all, it’s a worthy dub, with no noticeable loss in quality for being a simuldub.

Berserk (2017)

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Synopsis: Spurred by the flame raging in his heart, the Black Swordsman Guts continues his seemingly endless quest for revenge. Standing in his path are heinous outlaws, delusional evil spirits, and a devout child of god. Even as it chips away at his life, Guts continues to fight his enemies, who wield repulsive and inhumane power, with nary but his body and sword—his strength as a human. (from ANN)

Berserk is back with a two episode premiere and is just as bad looking as before. The CGI hasn’t changed much since the first season, although there’s a little more 2D animation as before. Also like before, the writing is more than enough to make up for it. Even though these episodes were mostly setup for the rest of the season, a lot still happened. The two standouts were easily Guts and Griffith finally meeting again and learning Farneese and Serpico’s backstory. Guts and Griffith’s relationship was always one of the best parts of Berserk, and hasn’t lost any of its potency here. Griffith’s betrayal during the Eclipse was shocking (assuming you weren’t spoiled like I was) but this finally confirms that he’s still the same Griffith we knew from the Golden Age Arc. Griffith was always ruthless in pursuit of his goals, and his betrayal and ascent to God Hand makes sense in light of that. If discarding the Band of the Hawk was necessary for his advancement, than Griffith would do that. His only reason for visiting Guts here is to finally confirm to himself that he has nothing left to hold him back. His return marks a major change in the world of Berserk, and I’m excited to see how it plays out. The other major event of these two episodes, Farneese and Serpico’s backstory, is equally compelling. It’s a clear reminder of just how damaged a person Farneese is, but the show never actually condemns her. She’s a victim of circumstance, in her case absent and indifferent parents, just like everyone else in Berserk. Serpico’s the only one who really cared for her, and his loyalty seems to be the main thing grounding her now. This section was also noteworthy in that it was animated entirely in 2D, with stark white backgrounds that perfectly emphasized Farneese’s loneliness. I just wish the rest looked that good. Berserk is still one of the ugliest anime currently airing, but the writing is still more than enough to make up for that. If you can get past the CGI, I highly recommend watching it.

Re: Creators

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Synopsis: Aspiring artist and writer Sota Mizushino sees himself more as a narrator than a protagonist in his life story, but he soon has no choice but to become a real-life character in a light-novel anime. While watching a battle scene in Elemental Symphany of Vogelchevalier, one of the current season’s top anime, his tablet glitches out, and he suddenly finds himself in the middle of the scene he was watching. As the battle reaches its peak, the heroine, Selesia Upitiria, has to rescue him, only for the both of them to reappear in Sota’s room. Selesia soon discovers that she isn’t the only one who’s been transported to this “realm of the gods,” as other anime characters have joined them in this new world to search for their creators. (from ANN)

Well I’m impressed. In a season full of good action shows, Re: Creators still manages to stand out. The idea of characters from various otaku media coming to life and meeting their creators is a clever one, and Re: Creators is already using it well. There’s a bit of parody here, but that’s mostly been from the naming scheme. All of the “fictional” characters have names and abilities straight out of a generic light novel, and the show is clearly aware of how silly those can be (one character creates a shockwave by using a sword to play her gun like a violin). The bulk of this episode was devoted to action scenes, and I have no complaints there. The animation and direction are both excellent, with a lot of dynamic cuts of characters flying around and throwing swords at each other. Ei Aoki has plenty of experience directing action scenes in anime like Fate/Zero and the first Kara no Kyoukai movie, and he brings all of that to bear in Re: Creators. The whole thing is kind of silly, but it manages to be cool at the same time. A character flying around with swords spinning around her looks pretty silly, but that doesn’t mean it also isn’t really cool too. It’s no surprise that Re: Creators has this mixture if you look at writer Rei Hiroe’s other work, Black Lagoon, which perfectly understood how to mix silly action and self-awareness to create a sense of cool. Hiroyuki Sawano’s soundtrack helps here as well, bringing the same intensity as his work on Attack on Titan, as well as some exciting vocals. It isn’t completely clear where things are going with the plot, but the fights were more than enough to carry the episode. This first episode alone, had some of the best fights of the season so far, and that’s in a season with My Hero Academia, Attack on Titan, Rage of Bahamut, and Berserk. All in all, if you like action, Re: Creators is a must watch.

Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul

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Synopsis: 10 years after the world escaped destruction due to the revival of Bahamut, humans at the royal capital gather wealth, the demons are enslaved to assist with the capital’s revival, and the gods lose their power due to a decrease in religious piety. The world is thrown off balance as humans, gods, and demons hold their own ideas of justice. (from ANN)

As a follow-up to one of the best action shows of 2014, Virgin Soul had a lot to live up to, but it’s working out pretty well so far. This first episode introduced our new main character, Nina, an upbeat girl who seems to get along with everyone, can lift an insane amount of lumber at her construction job, and gets horny whenever she’s around attractive men. She also turns into a dragon when she gets horny enough. That last part has yet to be explained, but clearly shows that Bahamut hasn’t lost the sense of fun that made the first season so enjoyable. Nina isn’t quite as memorable as Favaro was at the start, but she’s still charming and has a lot of potential. While this episode was mostly focused on introducing Nina and setting up a storyline about a city that enslaves monsters, it also made time for plenty of action. MAPPA’s animation is as good as it’s ever been and makes the action scenes even more exciting. There’s a bit of CG, but it’s good quality CG and doesn’t stand out too much compared to the traditional animation. If you liked the first season, then there’s no reason not to watch this.

What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us? (Suka Suka)

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Synopsis: Humans have been driven to extinction by “Beasts.” The duty of fighting the Beasts fall to “Fairies,” who are destined to use their powers to wield “Holy Swords” called “Kariyon” and eventually meet their destiny of death. A sole human being named Willem wakes up after several hundred years, and continues his fight against the Beasts. (from ANN)

My expectations for Suka Suka were pretty low going in. With a title and premise like that, it sounded like another generic light novel adaptation, but I’m glad I was wrong here. Before it even properly introduced Willem and Chtholly (the names are definitely from a light novel), Suka Suka had a montage of them wandering through the city in the sky while the song Scarborough Fair plays. Combined with some excellent storyboarding, this sequence both introduced the setting and created a quiet, thoughtful atmosphere, similar to last year’s Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash. As they wander around, you get to see how big the city is, how it’s designed, and how the people there live, which is a far better way of introducing the setting than just telling the audience what it is. The other major hook from this episode is Willem’s past. Willem and a friend he talks to both occasionally hint at it, and the end of the episode mentions that Willem is one of the last humans left alive, but few answers are given about how that happens. This could have come across as clunky and forced, but all of the hints given are natural, the sort of things that just come up in ordinary conversations. The last thing that stood out was the introduction of the children that Willem is going to be taking care of. They haven’t been developed much yet, but they’re all charming little bundles of energy that act like real children. I had low expectations going in, but I’m glad to be wrong. Suka Suka is off to a good start and is worth checking out, even if the premise sounds like a generic light novel adaptation.

Sakura Quest

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Synopsis: Five girls work in the tourism bureau of their small provincial town. The town revives its “micro-nation” tourism program, which originated from a nationwide movement during Japan’s bubble economy period, and hires the five girls as “monarchs” (tourism ambassadors). (from ANN)

Right off the bat, Sakura Quest invites comparisons to Shirobako. Both star a young woman just starting out in an industry, both seem designed to teach the audience about that industry, and both were animated by P.A. Works. Sakura Quest doesn’t make quite as strong of a first impression as Shirobako; tourism in rural Japan isn’t quite as interesting as anime production, but Sakura Quest still has a lot going for it. Yoshino is likeable from the start and her struggles are instantly relatable. Her big problem is that she’s about to graduate from college and can’t find a job anywhere in Tokyo. She takes the job promoting the rural town of Maruyama thinking it’s only a short term gig before she discovers that it’s actually for an entire year. She spends a lot of the episode trying to get away from that, although it’s fairly obvious from the premise that she’ll end up staying there. The promotional material implied that there will be more main characters, similar to Shirobako, but this episode focused mostly on Yoshino and establishing her character and role in Maruyama. Sakura Quest’s tone is far more laid back than Shirobako’s frantic energy, and it looks like it’s going to be more of a slice of life than a drama. Slice of life isn’t usually my genre of choice, but Sakura Quest is still enjoyable and fans of the genre would probably like it even more.

Wait and See

Alice and Zoroku

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Synopsis: A group of young girls possess a mysterious power known as “Alice’s Dream,” which gives them the ability to turn their thoughts into reality. Detained and experimented upon, these youths are locked away in secret until one of them manages to escape. Her name is Sana—a girl with the power to ignore the very laws of physics. When this willful powerhouse crosses paths with a stubborn old man named Zouroku, his carefully-ordered life will never be the same again. (from ANN)

Alice and Zoroku wasn’t really on my radar prior to the start of the season, but its caught my interest now. There have been quite a few “young girl living with surrogate father figure” anime in the past few years, but Alice and Zoroku spices it up by also making it a supernatural thriller. Combining the two genres doesn’t sound like something that would work, but it’s off to a good start. Sana’s powers, her escape from the research facility, and the mysteries surrounding the company running it are interesting enough, but Zoroku was the best part of the episode. He’s an ordinary guy who got involved with everything by chance, but he’s not fazed by any of the supernatural fights and abilities he sees. His grumpy old man demeanor helps ground everything and can be pretty funny when he’s dealing with Sana. The best part of the episode was easily when he smacked Sana and the twins sent after her and lectured them on how many people they could hurt, ignoring the fact that they were just throwing wrecking balls at him. His attitude is a nice counterbalance to all of the crazy things happening around him, even if he hasn’t gotten a lot of development beyond that so far. Sana has mostly been defined by her powers and backstory so far, but there’s plenty of room to develop her personality more in future episodes. As is, her backstory and conversations with Zoroku are more than interesting enough to carry the story for now. The main problem with Alice and Zoroku has been the lackluster visuals. The character designs all look flat and kind of rough, and the action scenes rely too much on bad CGI to be really effective. None of the 2D animation is particularly noteworthy, either. Aside from one excellent shot of the flowers in Zoroku’s shop, the visuals are mostly mediocre. It’s hard to tell where Alice and Zoroku is going right now, but it has a lot of potential so far. I’m interested in seeing how it turns out.

Love Tyrant

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Synopsis: Guri is an angel with a mysterious item that turns any two people who kiss into a couple. She appears before a high school boy named Seiji Aino. However, there is a yandere high school girl named Akane who loves Seiji. (from ANN)

Without having seen everything, I think it’s safe to say that Love Tyrant is the craziest anime this season. The premise is blatantly stupid, from the rapid-fire gags to the obvious Death Note parody (Guri uses a “Kiss Note”), and only gets stupider as it goes on. By the end of the episode, the main character is in a forced relationship with a lazy cupid, a yandere who regularly stabs him, and the yandere’s younger sister who’s actually in love with the yandere.  It’s stupid, but the show is very aware of that and doesn’t even try to take itself seriously, barely taking any time to introduce the cast before going back to ridiculous jokes. Love Tyrant opts for the gag a minute method of comedy, figuring that at least a few will be funny, and it’s right. Not every joke lands perfectly and the rapid-fire pace and relentless stupid get a little tiring after a while, but it’s funny more often than it isn’t. It’s dumb enough that I doubt I’ll watch beyond the first episode, but it’s worth trying if you like this sort of comedy.

Boruto: Naruto Next Generations

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Synopsis: In an apocalyptic future, Boruto Uzumaki, son of Seventh Hokage Naruto and Hinata, battles the tattooed Kawaki above the ruins of the Hidden Leaf Village. After Kawaki declares that the age of the ninja is over, the story flashes back several years to the eve of Boruto’s entrance into the Ninja Academy in a rapidly modernizing Hidden Leaf Village. When Boruto spies a boy his age being bullied and steps in to help out, that boy turns out to be Denki, the son of a CEO, who’s being forced by his father to join Ninja Academy in order to be strong enough inherit the family business. Boruto encourages Denki to stand up to his father, but later notices an evil aura radiating from him. Boruto is bound to make a dramatic arrival to his first day at the Academy! (from ANN)

Boruto’s first episode impressed me more than I expected. The story of Boruto meeting Denki and saving the day when the train goes out of control was simple and straightforward, but it was also fun and reminiscent of Naruto’s early days. The premiere was mostly focused on introducing Boruto and showing how the Village Hidden in the Leaves has changed since Naruto ended. It’s a little strange seeing the Village turn into a modern city with trains and cell phones, but it makes sense. The technology level in Naruto was always a little vague, but none of the changes feel out of place. A lot can change in a generation, after all, and it’s still recognizable as the same Village.  Like its titular character, however, Boruto can’t quite escape Naruto’s shadow. Naruto was hardly a bad show, but its flaws began to escalate as Kishimoto’s story ambitions started to outstrip his writing ability in the later arcs. It’s completely possible that Boruto will improve on its predecessor. The manga is being written and drawn by Ukyo Kodachi (who wrote the Boruto movie) and Mikie Ikemoto (one of Kishimoto’s assistants), respectively, with Kishimoto himself only serving as a supervisor, so it may be able to avoid Naruto’s issues. The animation was also surprisingly good for a long-running shounen, showing off Boruto’s fighting skills with some impressively detailed cuts. Even the character designs are an improvement over the early parts of the manga, where some characters (Hinata and Sasuke) looked just wrong. If it stays like this, it’ll be one of the best looking long-running shounen around.

Based on the flashback at the beginning, Boruto is in it for the long haul, and this episode was set before even the manga started, so it’ll likely be some time before we find out if Boruto will surpass its predecessor or not. Based on this first episode, I’m cautiously optimistic about its chances.


Clockwork Planet

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Synopsis: Naoto’s a high school dropout and brilliant amateur tinkerer. He lives in a world that has been so over-exploited that the entire surface has become one vast machine. When a box crashes into his home containing a female automaton, it’s a harbinger of change that will rock the entire globe, and give Naoto his chance to be a hero. (from ANN)

Well that was disappointing. The synopsis of Clockwork Planet sounded like had potential to be an interesting sci-fi story, but what we got was far from that. Even the premise that’s explained by narration at the start is poorly thought out: the world had reached its end for some reason, so a man named Y rebuilt it out of gears. That alone is pretty contrived and doesn’t tell the audience much of anything about the setting, making it hard to get invested. The main character, Naoto, also makes it hard to get invested. He spends almost half the episode talking to himself instead of interacting with anyone, and doesn’t have enough personality for that to work. All that’s really been established about him is that he apparently lives alone and really likes gears for some reason. His goofy rambling when he greets all of the clocks at his house comes off as more irritating than endearing, and nothing about him really stands out. RyuZU, the automaton he meets, implies that his kindness toward automata is unusual, but this doesn’t have much weight since we never see anyone else interacting with automata, so there’s nothing to contrast it with. While Naota is getting to know RyuZU, there’s also a political subplot going on in the background, but we know so little about what’s going on that it’s hard to get invested. Like Naota, the show seems to have an obsession with gears; backgrounds are full of random gears on everything, even when they don’t appear to have any purpose. Setting up a world is one thing, bust just tossing gears everywhere makes it look silly and not like a place where people actually live. The final straw for this show is the fanservice, which is awkward and tasteless. RyuZU has to be topless when Naota is fixing her, and the bonding ritual between them involves her sucking on his finger in a sexual manner while the camera zooms in on it. There’s also a “joke” about a secondary character who looks about twelve walking out of her room and forgetting to put on clothes. The fanservice is unnecessary, uncomfortable, and unsexy. Aside from a pretty decent action scene at the beginning, there’s no reason to watch Clockwork Planet.

And that’s everything that I’ve seen. This season is on track to surpass last season, and I hope it does. As usual, I haven’t watched everything, so if there’s anything good that I’ve missed, feel free to comment and tell me about it. You can never have too much anime.

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