Taku’s First Reactions: Spring 2018

 

Guess who’s back! It’s been a while since I’ve managed to make a post here, but it’s finally time for another one. It’s around that time of season where the first reaction posts start flying in. Everything for the season has aired its first three episodes, with some even airing their fourth and fifth episodes, and I’ve picked up an abnormally large amount of shows this season. I usually don’t pick up more than 3 or 4 shows a season, but I’m watching an incredible 9 shows this season (with a tenth on the way as I’m catching up on Toji no Miko). So, for a return post, I thought it might be fun to do a large piece with short looks at each show I’m personally following and my thoughts on them so far. We’ll go in reverse order with my least favorite first and my tops at the end, so let’s get right into it with…

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#9: Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Happy Kiss!

“Are you happy?”

Starting off this list, we have the spin-off to Binan Koukou, a magical girl parody romp of magical boys taking on the various comical and often ridiculous villains they encounter each week, all with a greater evil lurking just behind. I greatly enjoyed the original “Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE!” and its sequel “LOVE! LOVE!”. Each season was a great and hilarious parody of the many tropes that make the core of the mahou shoujo genre, all while portraying a unique and colorful cast of characters that play off each other excellently. As for the spin-off…not so much. While I have been enjoying Happy Kiss to an extent, it feels like a watered-down and weaker version of its predecessor. Outside of main character Kyotaro, none of the members of the new Earth Defense Club really feel like their own character and they don’t have the same kind of charm and unique personalities of the original cast. The villains have felt like weak and watered-down versions of many first season antagonists and all in all, it feels like the show is trying to copy what the original did while losing much of the charm and natural humor of its predecessor. However, the show does still have fun with itself and its execution and the animation shines in particular during the transformation and attack sequences. While Zettai Saikou Happy Kiss! is a weaker OP than either of the two seasons of “LOVE!”, HAPPY READY works excellently as an insert song and was catchy and memorable immediately.

In summary: Binan Koukou’s spin-off feels like a watered-down shell of what made the first season great. It is still fun, but lacks a lot of the original’s charm. Skip it and watch OG

(Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Happy Kiss! can be streamed on Crunchyroll with a one-week delay on new episodes for free users or same day as it airs for premium)

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#8: Mahou Shoujo Site

“Oh, you poor, unfortunate soul…”

I went into “Mahou Shoujo Site” completely blind. I had no idea about the source material and I didn’t know what to expect from the show. I admit to being slightly biased by the concept of Kizuna AI voicing a character, but ultimately I am a fan of magical girls and attribute that to my interest in the show. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into with this show. I found myself wrapped up in a dark and dreary world filled with domestic abuse, violent bullying, insanity, attempted rape, murderous intent, and revenge. This show is not for the faint of heart as it follows the victim of most of the above, Aya Asagiri, as her miserable life leads to the gifting of a magic stick in the form of a gun which, upon activation, teleports those she fires at to whatever location Asagiri is thinking of, resulting in the murder of two of her classmates. The biggest thing I can say about this show is that it is twisted to its very core. Each character Asagiri has met has their own demented and twisted reasons for involving themselves in being a magical girl and the non-magical girls are just as insane as the main cast. I went out of the first episode sick to my stomach and almost not continuing, due to a mix of the show just being way too heavy from the get-go and coming off as dark and edgy to the extreme. However, more recent episodes have started to establish more intriguing plot and character development and so I continue to watch. God only knows where this psychotic tragedy will take its story next.

In summary: “Mahou Shoujo Site” is not for the light-hearted as the violence is gratuitous and the characters are twisted and demented in their own way. Consider it only if you want advanced suffering.

(Mahou Shoujo Site can be streamed on Amazon with an Amazon Prime membership)

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#7: Persona 5 the Animation

“I am thou, and thou art I…”

This one hurts a little to rank so low. I went into “Persona 5 the Animation” with admittedly high expectations (Maybe A-1 Pictures should have been a warning flag, but regardless) as the game it adapts is my second favorite game of all-time behind its franchise predecessor, Persona 4. The game has an amazing and unique style and is one of the most stylistically beautiful games ever released, with a gripping story and excellent character interactions as well as a fully realized world. “Persona 5 the Animation” feels like a mere shadow of the game it is trying to adapt. To begin, there are plenty of images out there on the internet, so I don’t even need to mention the “A-1 animation”. The animation has been poor in several places, most notably with All-Out Attack sequences in two different episodes that look significantly worse than that of the game’s. The plot has been condensed and smashed together so much that we’re nearing the end of Kamoshida’s palace by Episode 3. While I expected some condensing of the plot of a 100-hour game, it hasn’t allowed the characters time to blossom into their own and they lose some of their individuality from the game. The stylistic nature at times is vastly toned down from that of the game, causing the visuals to lose some of their charm from the source material. While I know I’m harping a lot on the game’s source material, that is because the game is something I am very passionate about and seeing such a lackluster adaptation hurts as a fan. While I have a lot of negative to say, I can admit the show does a fantastic job from the audio department. Frequent use of game soundtracks work both for fans and newcomers, as the fans will recognize their favorite tracks and said tracks still work very well for the anime. Lyn and Shoji Meguro once again deliver their magic in the form of the show’s OP, “Break In to Break Out”, and ED, “Infinity”, which each retain a healthy serving of the musical style that suits the game so very well. All in all, “Persona 5 the Animation” has been a bit of a disappointment so far, but I’ll still continue to tune in every week because, hey, it’s Persona 5.

In summary: “Persona 5 the Animation” feels like a stripped-down, bare-bones version of the game that so effectively captured my heart last year. Consider it if you’re a fan of the game, play the game if you haven’t.

(Persona 5 the Animation can be streamed on Crunchyroll with a one-week delay on new episodes for free users or same day as it airs for premium)

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#6: Hinamatsuri

“In the grown-up world, you earn a reward that’s appropriate for the work you do”

“Hinamatsuri” is one of the shows that I wasn’t particularly looking at from the start. It’s not a show I had anticipated for a while like Persona 5 or some of the forthcoming shows on this list, but I had seen people talk about it a lot on social media and decided “Why not?”. After the first episode, I was immediately charmed and it has become a mainstay of my weekly offerings. While it’s on the lower half of the list, I’ve enjoyed every week of this show so far. Nitta and Hina have a great father-daughter relationship and the rest of the cast are all unique and interesting in their own right. I’m personally a fan of Hitomi as I love her character design and her bartender scenes have shown maturity beyond her age, while Anzu’s side of the story shows her perseverance and determination through her struggles in the human world. The show’s animation shines as well, with surprisingly quality animation for what could otherwise be forgettable scenes.  The OP, “Distance”, and ED, “Sake to Ikura to 893 to Musume” aren’t too standout compared to their peers, but each is nice and has its own charm. Overall, it’s been a fun and charming experience with a lot of entertaining and enjoyable characters getting into their own hijinx that keeps bringing me back.

In summary: “Hinamatsuri” brings the charm and heartwarming stories each week, bolstered by a diverse and fun cast and some quality animation work. Give this one a try, it’s worth at least one episode

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#5: Layton’s Mystery Detective Agency: Katri’s Mystery-Solving Files

“I, Katrielle Layton, will take this case!”

Let me preface this entry by saying the following: I have never played a main series “Professor Layton” game. I haven’t played any of the original Layton games, nor have I played titular protagonist Katrielle’s debut entry. The most experience I have with the Layton franchise was its crossover entry, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. From what I’ve heard from friends, the anime so far is not following the story of the game, instead opting for an episodic format. This makes entry for a newcomer like myself far easier and I’ve been hooked from the get-go. The show goes back and forth between comedic, fun cases and surprisingly deep cases for a children’s show. Katrielle is a marvel of a protagonist and it is extremely entertaining to see how she pieces her way through each puzzle, with all the charm and fun energy in the world seemingly at her disposal. While I may not care as much for Noah and Sherl as side characters, Katri is a joy to watch and carries the anime on her back through some weaker moments. The one-off supporting members that frame each episode’s mystery serve as interesting and diverse additions to the cast as well. The animation is about what you would expect from a children’s show, cartoonish and fun while never really straying outside its standard style. Each new clue is highlighted by the magnifying glass, framing each new talking point and allowing the viewers to put the pieces of the puzzle together along with Katri. The most standout piece of music from the show for me personally has come in the form of its OP, “Change” performed by Kana Adachi. It has easily won my heart and is likely one of my favorite OPs from this season. Even if you’ve never played a game in the Layton series, I recommend giving “Katri’s Mystery-Solving Files” a look as it promises a fun romp each week.

In summary: “Katri’s Mystery-Solving Files” brings 24 minutes of fun and mystery each week, strengthened by one of the most charming main characters this season. Watch it.

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#4: Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online

“Let’s do our best, P-chan!”

Now, I know that a lot of people are going to be turned away from this show by the “Sword Art Online” in the title and just as many are going to watch it just because of that. But, “Gun Gale Online” is a very different show from its predecessor and takes a different spin on the story. The first part of the series focuses on our main protagonist Karen, an outcast due to her height, and her in-game persona, a short cute gunner clad in pink named LLENN. Gone are Kirito and his harem replaced with LLENN and her new friends in the virtual world featured in the first half of Sword Art Online’s second season. LLENN/Karen so far has proved an interesting character with a lot of relatable character traits for me and those I’m close with, escaping her real-world insecurities by becoming the person she wants to within GGO. Alongside her during her adventures in the virtual world are the vicious Pito, who helps to guide LLENN in her early days in the game and introduces her to the Squad Jam, and the mysterious M, a stoic sniper who accompanies LLENN in said Squad Jam. The entire battle royale feeling of the event gives me the feeling of something akin to popular battle royale games “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” and “Fortnite”, which I found interesting due to those games’ current massive popularity. The animation is noticeably different from that of the original series with Studio 3Hz of “Flip Flappers” and “Princess Principal” heading up the production. Gun battles are fast-paced and frantic with LLENN’s speed taking the spotlight in several, as she darts between bullets and through enemies. The show once again features Eir Aoi performing its OP, “Ryusei”, and bringing the same quality as she has to previous SAO OPs and LLENN’s voice actor brings a nice relaxing chill-out jam in “To see the future”. It’s definitely worth a try even if you’re one of the franchise’s many detractors.

In summary: Gun Gale Online brings its own spin to the Sword Art Online franchise with an interesting main character and crisp gun battles. Watch it even if you might be hesitant.

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#3: Lupin the Third: Part V

“So, everyone in the world is a cop now, huh?”

Oh, have I been meaning to get a chance to talk about “Lupin the Third” for a while. The adventures of master thief Arsene Lupin III have been one of the longest main-stays in Japanese culture and for good reason. I watched “Part II” of the TV anime years ago and recently got the chance to finish up “Part IV” from 2015 and “Lupin” is a spectacle with enough class and style to win over anyone. The franchise’s diverse and colorful cast, from the suave and charming thief Lupin, to the stoic gunman Jigen, to the stalwart Detective always on their tail Zenigata, brings an absolute romp each time their outings are put on display and this year’s take on the franchise is certainly no different. Part V takes a much more modern approach to the series, putting an emphasis on the pervasiveness of social media and the onset of the digital age. Lupin’s globe-trotting hijinx bring him to the reserved master hacker, Ami Enan, which embroils him in an international manhunt with an emphasis on social media. It brings the franchise’s standard heists and adventures into a premise clearly inspired by the widespread onset of social media. The show’s animation is as high-quality as ever, not straying far from the franchise’s 2015 entry’s style, and action scenes are fluid with constant motion. There’s never a boring moment with Lupin and the music lives up to the high standards set by its recent predecessor. While I personally think more highly of the franchise’s 2015 excursion in Italy (a fantastic show which I will likely talk about again here), “Lupin the Third Part V” will be a welcome addition to the franchise for both newcomers and franchise veterans alike.

In summary: Lupin maintains its track record of interesting characters and fabulously animated adventures, with a heightened focus on modern concepts. Watch it, then watch 2015 and the rest of the franchise.

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#2: Steins;Gate 0

“No matter the world line, I’ve witnessed time machines toy with everyone’s fate”

(Be warned, there will be Steins;Gate spoilers contained within)

Oh, boy, this is a big one. Out of all the shows I had lined up for the Spring season, Steins;Gate 0 was the one I was easily the most excited for. The original Steins;Gate was a gripping science-fiction thriller that deserves every bit of the hype it receives from the anime community and my best friend is an avid fan of the spin-off. So, to say the bar was set high from the outset would be a vast understatement. So far, the first set of episodes have lived up to every bit of hype the show has received for me personally. The tone of the show feels much darker from the outset, with a more reserved and quiet Okabe scarred by the horrors he witnessed throughout the events of the original show. With the absence of Kurisu due to her death in the beta world line, her role as the leading female is filled by two new additions to the cast: the snappy scientist that formerly worked with Kurisu at the university, Mayo Hiyajo, and an A.I. based on the memories of Kurisu, Amadeus. The show’s direction and overall shot composition is as dramatic and gripping as you would expect from Steins;Gate. Each and every moment with Okabe and Amadeus tears at the heartstrings and the shifts in his emotions are clearly and masterfully put on display. The show’s soundtrack is absolutely stunning, taking both original tracks and songs featured within the visual novel it is based on. “Fatima” is easily the strongest OP of the Spring season and “Last Game” makes a good case for being one of the season’s best EDs. All in all, Steins;Gate 0 is a thrilling masterpiece that has lived up to the high bar set by its predecessor throughout the first few episodes

(Steins;Gate spoilers end)

In summary: The return to the Steins;Gate franchise brings a dark and gripping story, filled with the same enigmatic and fantastic cast the series was built upon. Definitely watch it.

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#1: Uma Musume: Pretty Derby

“They will continue to run, aiming only toward the goal in front of them.”

Yes, you’re seeing it right. I did, in all seriousness, just rank “Uma Musume”, the show about race horses reborn as half-horse half-girls at a racing academy, above “Steins;Gate 0”. In terms of objective quality, I would have to admit that Steins;Gate 0 is the superior of the two shows. But, “Uma Musume” brings a special quality all its own. Uma Musume has completely won my heart over and keeps me genuinely excited for each week’s episode. I look forward to every Sunday seeing what new adventures and races Special Week, Silence Suzuka, and friends will take on this week. Special Week is an instantly charming protagonist, taking all the most charming points of the “genki girl” and putting them on display, and I’ve grown to adore the quiet and reserved but fierce competitor of Silence Suzuka. The rest of the cast, featuring Touka Teio, Gold Ship, Mejiro McQueen, El Condor Pasa, and plenty of others, each bring their own special qualities to the show and make every episode a fun experience. The races are more hype than this show could ever have hoped to be, keeping me on the edge of my seat and cheering for my favorite girls as they race their hearts out. P.A. Works and Cygames have outdone themselves with this one, with each episode looking aesthetically pleasing and turning up the gas when the show calls for it. The music varies between the more mellow and fun tracks you’d hear from a slice-of-life anime to the bombastic, brass-heavy sounds you would expect to hear on a horse racetrack. The OP, “Make Debut!”, is bombastic and fun combining the show’s idol element with that same heavy brass and the ED, “Grow Up Sbine!”, is so poppy, bouncy, fun, and overall extremely catchy that it was stolen my heart completely. Even past the animation and characters, the show features loads of references to real-life horse races and events, packing them in at every chance. This referential style to something I’m not overly familiar with has done something I wouldn’t have expected going in, genuinely making me interested in Japanese horse-racing. “Uma Musume: Pretty Derby” has been an absolute treat and something I’m not ashamed to rate over Steins;Gate 0, for as fantastic as the latter is.

(Side note: If anyone can find videos of horse races featuring any of the show’s characters, like Special Week, Silence Suzuka, El Condor Pasa, and the rest, link them to me!)

In summary: Uma Musume brings the charm in loads and packs more hype than the show ever needed to have, transforming it into a fantastic hidden gem that more people should be watching. Absolutely watch it.

With that, we reach the conclusion of our little reactions piece! It’s certainly looking to be an entertaining season as I am genuinely enjoying most of the shows I’m watching, even if I have my faults with some entries on the list. Each show has given some merit to its existence, even if that merit is just source material fanboying with Persona 5, and I could find reasons to recommend each and any one of these shows to someone. Hopefully, this will be the first of much more regular posts to be coming soon. I’ve got a ton of ideas backed up that I’ll hopefully be inspired to write, so stay tuned!

I couldn’t talk about this season’s shows without thinking a lot about my favorite OPs and EDs from the season, so I’ll include a little post-note with my Top 3 of each.

Top 3 OPs
1. Fatima – Kanako Itou (Steins;Gate 0)
2. Make Debut! – Spica (Uma Musume)
3. Change! – Kana Adachi (Katri’s Mystery-Solving Files)

Top 3 EDs
1. Grow Up Shine! – Spica (Uma Musume)
2. INFINITY – Lyn (Persona 5 the Animation)
3 (Tie). LAST GAME – Zwei (Steins;Gate 0)
3 (Tie). To see the future – Karen Kohiruimaki (Gun Gale Online)

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