Summer 2014 – First Impressions (Part 2)

bishoujo_senshi_sailor_moon_crystal-01-usagi-luna-comedy-scratch-pain-charmThis post reviews: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Crystal, Aldnoah.Zero, Barakamon, Akame ga Kill!, and Sabagebu!

Since Space Dandy 2 and Sword Art Online II are both sequels, they will not be reviewed in these first impressions posts. I was already planning on watching both shows this season, so there was no major decision to be made when watching the first episode and there’s little to add on those anime right now. I’ll have more to talk about those sequels as this summer continues.

 

Watching:

Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Crystal

bishoujo_senshi_sailor_moon_crystal-01-usagi-sailor_moon-transformation-tiara-blush-looking_upWhat I enjoyed most about the new Sailor Moon is how it retains the charm and appeal of the original series. Yes, it’s important to note that this episode was a direct copy of the first episode of the original anime, so you’d figure that it would still have the same charm and appeal… but that’s exactly what I want from Sailor Moon: Crystal. Had the series tried to reinterpret the story or had it gone in a different direction, such as changing Usagi’s character or the dynamic between the characters, then I’d be troubled by this updated version. The distinctive and modernized visuals are less cartoony or chibi than the original, with this having a more elegant and mature feel, but it doesn’t detract from the asinine humor and childishness of Usagi. What I want from Sailor Moon: Crystal is the same magic that made Sailor Moon fun and amusing, and the first episode of Sailor Moon: Crystal indicates that this series will be virtually the same as the old series. Hurray! And since I enjoyed the old series, I figure I’ll enjoy this new one, too. The one thing I’m still uneasy about with Sailor Moon: Crystal is that the show will air every two weeks for a year. It’s a schedule I am not happy with but it’s something I’ll need to deal with if I want to watch this anime.

bishoujo_senshi_sailor_moon_crystal-01-usagi-happy-smiling-dumb-blonde-pigtails-twintails bishoujo_senshi_sailor_moon_crystal-01-luna-black_cat-moon-friendly-adorable

 

Aldnoah.Zero

aldnoah_zero-01-slaine-soldier-moon-calm-looking_down-military_uniformWow, what a way to start an anime. Not only was Aldnoah.Zero impressive on the surface, with its visual appeal, its promise of action and the climactic end to the first episode, but the anime was effective at establishing its cast of characters, its premise and its setting with no wasted efforts. Every scene had a purpose and a message, and the episode flowed seamlessly, hallmarks of excellent writing and directing. The dialogue was clever yet it never felt forced or unnatural, especially for Inaho. Though the personalities are somewhat unremarkable for now, it’s still early in the series and there’s room for them to grow and mature as the war for Earth begins. That’s not to say the characters aren’t pleasant or amusing, just that there’s nothing innovative or unique about them yet. Another notable aspect of Aldnoah.Zero is that it doesn’t mess around. The scene where Asseylum was attacked by homing missiles and the obliteration of New Orleans shows how critical and determined this anime is. People died. There isn’t some magic bullshit that’ll save everyone and give us a happy ending. We watched people vaporize. And that’s something you don’t see a whole lot of anime do, especially since it was utilized to make an impact. Often times, a show will chicken out right at the end, but no, Aldnoah.Zero killed a significant proportion of its bystanders. And why this point is so important is that this will carry over to the war and be a lasting quality for this anime. Although this episode featured the start of the war, we can already tell how grave and somber this anime will be and how the lives of the cast will be in jeopardy every week. I’m absolutely thrilled with the first episode of Aldnoah.Zero and am more enthusiastic than ever before. If you haven’t given this anime a chance yet, I strongly recommend it.

aldnoah_zero-01-cruhteo-commander-moon-staff-antagonist-blonde-military_uniform aldnoah_zero-01-inko-inaho-students-scared-bomb-light-fire-shock-awe

 

Akame ga Kill!

akame_ga_kill!-01-ieyasu-tatsumi-sayo-friends-adventurers-village-snowAlthough I often use the word ‘shounen’ as a negative term, habitually when describing traits or attributes of an anime that are stereotypical of shounen anime/manga, I want to describe Akame ga Kill! as a good shounen anime. Or at the very least, it had a solid first episode. What elevates Akame ga Kill! above the other shounen anime is that it was able to demonstrate genuine humor, satisfying action, and an intriguing setting all while still being very, very shounen. The series found a satisfying balance comedy and action, and both those aspects of Akame ga Kill! were well above-average. I actually found myself smiling at a few of the jokes which is challenging for something that isn’t a true comedy. The action sequences were adequate with swords and guns and whatnot, but the fact that people are killed in Akame ga Kill!, and often in violent ways, made each skirmish satisfying in their conclusions. I’m ecstatic to see a collection of protagonists who aren’t afraid to kill other people in order to achieve their goals. And the fantasy setting centered on a corrupted government is fine by itself, but seeing the culture extend beyond them to the townsfolk makes for a more interesting premise than in most shounen stories. Often times, you see the big, bad government being the villain in these shows while the citizens are victims and need to be saved… but here, they’re just as guilty of the crimes and pay for their sins with their blood. Perhaps what I like most about Akame ga Kill! is that it’s a shounen anime that wants to be more than a shounen anime. And the aforementioned points validate that statement. Unfortunately, Akame ga Kill! is still very, very shounen and that can be seen elsewhere in the show. The whole fight/rescue/knowledge of underground ghoul organization for Ken to join assassination organization for Tatsumi to join is very, very shounen. Right from the start, when Tatsumi looked up at the blood red moon and they were posing in the sky for no reason… you could tell this anime was going to be super shounen. And the collection of strange, diverse characters… yeah, that, too. Not to mention the hero with his robust sense of justice and the big, bad faceless government and people doing evil things for the sake of being evil… yeah. Not everything about Akame ga Kill! is good, but it’s good enough. I am optimistic that the series will retain these qualities and manage to stay consistent throughout, but I can’t help but feel the humor and violence might dip now that the introduction is over. All I hope for is that there isn’t a training arc starting with episode 2 and going on to whenever.

akame_ga_kill!-01-tatsumi-protagonist-hero-sword-adventurer akame_ga_kill!-01-akame-night_raid-heroine-assassin-sword-katana-red_moon-calm-emotionless

 

Sabagebu!

sabagebu!-01-mio-momoka-platypus-mascot_character-comedy-laughingEasily the biggest surprise of the season, Sabagebu! is a delightful, wacky comedy that will make you smile throughout. Hell, it’s a real challenge for an anime to make me laugh at its comedy but Sabagebu! actually made me laugh several times. Without any other strong comedies this season (with the exception of Space Dandy 2), Sabagebu! is a definite keeper. Beyond that, Sabagebu! has other merits too, though none surpass the excellence that is its entertainment value. The cast of characters are all oddballs but none are too excessive or one-dimensional. Each character possesses some qualities that make them fun, but the series doesn’t define their characters by these traits. The survival game club dynamic does feel a bit like ­Stella Jogakuin Koutou-ka C3-bu, but that one was entirely more serious and analytical than this carefree comedy doppelganger. In fact, Sabagebu! reminds me more of Love Lab than last year’s all-girl survival game club anime. The art and animation are upbeat and colorful, which complements the variety of comedy this anime enjoys and contrasts pleasantly with the dark and dirty survival game themes. Overall, I found this to be one of the best anime this season based on this first episode and the potential for the series. And though I am incredibly biased toward comedies, I think everyone should give Sabagebu! a chance.

sabagebu!-01-mio-momoka-desert_camo-helmet-comedy-uneasy-dread sabagebu!-01-momoka-airsoft_gun-pistol-goggles-survival_game_club-firing_range

 

Undecided:

Barakamon

barakamon-01-seishuu-calligrapher-newspaper-lying_down-tired-accomplishedBarakamon had a better first episode than some of the anime I’m keeping, but it wasn’t enough to bring it out of the Undecided category. The reason for the indecision on Barakamon is that I am unsure how the anime will perform for the remainder of the season. The first episode was wonderful. Fantastic, even. I was pleasantly startled at the genuine characterization of Seishuu and even more astonished to see a significant amount of character development in the first episode. The comedy was polished, able to make me smile on a few occasions, and I found the characters to all be meaningful in how they interact with Seishuu. The problem with the series is that I’m not sure what the anime can do to top it. I have a sinking feeling that this show will find itself in a rut where Seishuu has a new problem each week and the islanders help him with their quirky behavior and whatnot and then he’s able to draw words prettily again. I’m not sure if I want an anime with that pattern or a show of that dynamic, even if this was one of the better first episodes this season. I’m just very weary of the potential this series has and whether I’ll enjoy it throughout. I enjoyed this episode greatly and would be overjoyed if the anime performs this well throughout, but I don’t see it at this point. That being said, I’m eager to give this anime a second episode to see if it confirms my suspicions or proves me wrong. However, even if the show does fall into a predictable pattern every week, I’m planning on keeping this anime so long as I enjoy each episode individually.

barakamon-01-seishuu-yuujirou-mayor-dread-smile-comedy barakamon-01-naru-seishuu-comedy-chibi-caught

 

Dropped:

None of the shows reviewed in this post were dropped.

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  1. #1 by Artemis on July 13, 2014 - 4:35 AM

    I felt a little undecided about Barakamon based on that first episode as well – it wasn’t a question of whether I liked it, so much as it was whether I liked it quite enough. Episode two really managed to capture the perfect blend of humour and low-key sweetness for me though, so it’s definitely a keeper on my list now.

    • #2 by avvesione on July 14, 2014 - 3:28 AM

      Yeah, I had the same impression of Barakamon as you. I found the second episode to be much better than the first one and decided on keeping it. I think I just needed that confirmation that the first episode was legitimately good and that the series could continue at that level of quality.

  2. #3 by Joojoobees on July 13, 2014 - 7:44 AM

    Heh, heh. I predict you are gonna keep waiting for Barakamon to disappoint you, but find yourself enjoying each individual episode. It might even make a strong showing when you post your “best of” list later on.

    • #4 by avvesione on July 14, 2014 - 3:31 AM

      Nah, after two episodes, I’ve come to the conclusion that Barakamon is legitimately good and worth keeping this season. The second episode was a full step above the first one, helping erase my doubts about this anime and justifying my decision to keep it.

      • #5 by Joojoobees on July 14, 2014 - 7:53 AM

        Tch. And my prediction fails to come true yet again.

  3. #6 by medievalotaku on July 25, 2014 - 8:50 AM

    I was also pleasantly surprised by Sabagebu. As you said, this show is the best comedy this season. Sonokawa’s tooth for a tooth mentality creates some especially fun scenes.

    • #7 by avvesione on August 10, 2014 - 1:34 AM

      Sabagebu has been a personal favorite of mine this season and I’m thrilled to hear you’re enjoying it, too. Momoka is probably the best part about the anime, but I am enjoying its unpredictable nature and the fact that it doesn’t have a narrative, too.

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