First Impressions of Fall Anime 2016

Magical Girls Raising Project

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Magical Girl Raising Project caught my interest because of its incredibly strong premise and competent execution within its first two episodes. While the potential dark side of being a magical girl has been explored before in shows such as the ever-popular Puella Magi Madoka Magica, they haven’t really been pitted against in such an overt, death game scenario before. Even with such a relatively straight forward premise, this show manages to stay fairly unique in regards to its plot. The magical aren’t really pitted against each other in terms of actual face-to-face combat. No, by using a system that ranks the girls based on the amount of good they do in certain allotments of time, the goal of the game is to essentially weed out the weaklings rather than prove who’s the strongest, all because there’s not enough room in the city for all these magical girls. In the end there will be eight left, meaning there can be legitimate alliances that don’t need to break because they’d eventually have to turn on each other. There’s a place for trust, as well as an allowance for deception.

Watching these characters deal with the situation they’re in is fairly entertaining, but what definitely makes me come back for more is that “death of the week” mentality. Normally I would probably see this as a cheap tactic to illicit emotional response from an audience, but it is honestly quite fascinating to witness these girls in their final moments, as well as what brought them there. That, coupled with the compelling variety of personalities within the game makes for a truly enthralling experience. There’s the main character, who tops the charts week after week thanks to her devotion to being a magical girl. Her good-nature is what makes her strong, but not being able to plunge into the filth herself may be her undoing. She does have an ally who is fully equipped to deal with the scourge of the city, but when she’s gone it’ll truly be anyone’s game. There are others like these two, who progress through the rounds while keeping their morality intact. Still, there are many more classes in play, those who rely on underhanded to either get by, or just because they truly enjoy being sinister.

Needless to say, I’m really enjoying it. It’s not perfect however, as I find myself a little underwhelmed at moments that I wished had more of an impact. For example, the moment they learned that it was a death game in the first place. Most of the girls were just going on the assumption that if you get kicked out, you lose your powers and go back to being a regular girl. I thought that maybe because this wasn’t revealed to them right away that it would be something they stumbled upon halfway through. Someone might lose a friend inexplicably and then go on to investigate the other magical girls who had lost. Instead, they find out about what happened to the first loser, ask the master of ceremonies (or whatever you want to call it) Fav, and are given the answer. The girls collectively gasp and have to rethink their strategies as they now know what’s really at stake, yet it lacks significant impact due to the fact that they’re able to wash over them as a group rather than individuals. I guess I just think it would’ve been cooler if not everyone had been informed at the same time, as that information could’ve changed the balance of the game in interesting ways, depending on who knew first. Oh well.

WWW.WAGNARIA!! (WWW.WORKING!!)

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I don’t understand why they insist on changing the title of the show for English audiences when “working” is already an English word. But aside from that random gripe, I really love this anime. It’s a hilarious show that derives most of its humor from its loveably eccentric cast, much like the original work it spun off from. However, it is not the original Wagnaria!!, and it separates itself in a couple of very clear but perhaps not intentional ways. First off, the show doesn’t stick to the restaurant setting nearly as much, as it has already offered some screen time within Higashida’s home, the school, and the woods that one time, all in only three episodes of airing.

Then there’s the teasing of romance that’s almost immediately prevalent. In the original series it took two seasons to even hint at the possibility of romance, and I think the reason that it worked so well was because the show already had time to establish itself. It didn’t use romance as a means of leading viewers on and keeping them coming back week after week. Wagnaria!! had already earned my viewership through refreshing comedic moments and the charming characters that created them. WWW.WORKING!! instead cuts right to the chase with its playful nudges of potential relationships, and it seems to be working out pretty well so far. When this show divulges a bit from what the original series was, it may just be for the better. I’m really not concerned about the show completely mimicking its predecessor, or even trying to for that matter, but I think it’s worth noting what worked previously and how this show strays from it. It is taking a risk, so I’ll be interested to see if it pays off. Oh, and when I said this show had a loveable cast earlier, I meant everyone but that blonde cook. That dude is straight up a waste of space.

Izetta: The Last Witch

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The idea of this show was quite a neat one indeed. A witch that flies on guns rather than brooms, leading the frontlines of a pseudo-WWII battleground as well as performing incredible aerial feats in dogfighting German(ian) aircrafts, blowing planes out of the sky and shattering tanks with the weaponry she so smoothly conducts through the air. It’s all a great visual spectacle, but from a narrative standpoint however, she’s just plain overpowered. At the very least she shouldn’t be able to pierce through tanks with raining lances. That aside, I do like how she’s able to give hope to those on the battlefield, and I wish it was something explored on a more intimate level.

Basically, I’m not quite invested in the narrative and characters as it stands. It’s hard to care about any of these characters or what they do because of the focus on action so far in the series, as well as the fact that I just don’t find the writing that does involve them to be very compelling. The princess once saved Izetta from a good old fashion witch burning, so she feels indebted to her. She’s also a little impressed by her ability to rally the troops, and in turn gives Izetta something to believe in. That’s about as far as their relationship seems to go, and while the princess doesn’t want Izetta’s help in the war at first (because she’s her fwend), she eventually gives in because Izetta will just do it anyway.

I guess what really doesn’t vibe with me in this series is how it has both the political side of the war as well as the action on the forefront. We get to see the leaders and start to understand their plans for battle, but in doing so it all feels so inhumane, undermining of the lives of the soldiers actually fighting as if they were just pieces in a game of chest. But of course if that is the feeling they’re trying to evoke, I still think they should hit a bit harder than that. Currently it just makes everyone look like a kind of a dick, and I’m barely feeling any emotional impact from the consequences of the decisions made at the top. On the other side, I would much prefer a greater focus on the battlefield and the action taking place. It would be more interesting to me if Izetta was instead a friend of a soldier, following and aiding them through the war while truly taking in the death and despair around her. Instead, she just flies in and fills all the troops with hope and whimsy while they don’t even bat an eye at the hordes of human lives she single handedly annihilates in one false swoop. What I truly want is not for a witch to make war more fantastical, but for war to make a witch feel far more grounded.

Also, her outfit is totally ridiculous. It’s cute, but completely absurd. No one would wear that into battle, it offers no protection, camouflage, or anything of use to a fighter except maybe distracting the enemies with her bountiful cleavage.

March Comes in Like a Lion

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This show is beautiful, unclear, and immensely touching, and I would expect nothing less from SHAFT studios (just like Gourmet Girl Graffiti lol). There is something cripplingly dark within the past of our protagonist Kiriyama, but unlike most stories with a “tragic backstory” aspect, March Come in Like a Lion doesn’t aggrandize it, making it some sort of selling point as to why you should be intrigued with this show at all. Instead, it serves as an underlining emotional trouble that’s only shown in the few moments between the comforting distractions of friends and “sort-of” family, when Kiriyama is truly alone. And while what happened in his past is of interest to me, it’s not built up as a climax, because if it was it would almost surely underwhelming.

Subtlety is what March Comes in Like a Lion is all about, something that feels soft and real, yet also secretly sharp and cold. It’s portraying the essence of family, what it feels like to belong somewhere, the pain that comes with all the second guessing, and the emptiness that coincides with eventually returning to a barren apartment. And aside from just the plain loneliness he feels in life, Kiriyama also feels alone at the top, being the incredibly prolific shogi player that he is. What makes this show so utterly captivating isn’t following Kiriyama though, so much as the people that surround him. The Kawamoto family is the most stupendously charming group of people that I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing, one that truly embodies the essence of warmth and love. A family that doesn’t need a lot of money or a big house or fancy clothes, all because they have each other. And while that does sound a little contrived, that characters themselves make it feel like something uniquely memorable.

And much like Wagnaria!!, March Comes in Like a Lion knows how to bank humor off the personalities of its delightful (yet a little less quirky) cast.

Flip Flappers

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I honestly still don’t have a clue as to what this showw is about, but I still find it pretty entertaining. It is another action spectacle, one that doesn’t beat its audience over the head with its premise, because it barely has one! Basically, it’s a show about shipping magical girls for the sake of science. A sharpwitted, cynical girl meets a dimwitted optimismist, and for some reason they end up getting along. Together they travel through some fantasy dimensions or whatever, to obtain gems or something. The worlds of “pure illusion” are really “pure imagination”, as they can be literally anything. It’s a playground of the imagination for the creators, but no matter how wild things get there’s still the bond developing between these two girls that keep it all tied together. And so far, it’s been pretty fun to watch. I’m not sure if I’ll eventually become bored of it though, so we’ll see.

And that’s it for my impressions of the season so far. I didn’t even mention Sound! Euphonium 2, but if you really want to know my thoughts on that then you’ve probably already read my episodic reviews. This season has been pretty good to me so far, and I haven’t even watched the other SHAFT anime yet. But how do you feel about it? Any thoughts about the shows I’ve mentioned here, or ones that I haven’t mention that you think I should be watching? Probably Keijo or Yuri!!! On Ice huh? Well, as always, thanks for reading. Oh, I should have more about that whole “fanservice” thing I’ve been writing up next week, I just thought I should get my impressions out sooner rather than later.

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