Anime Roundup

Weeks between posts, haven’t updated the anime list in three years, and over 120 spam sitting in the buffer. You’d think I wasn’t paying attention to the site much, or something. Well, I’m bored with all the games I’ve been playing, so what the hell, I’ll actually write about anime for once. So here goes with a few notes on what I’m enjoying these days.

edit: added break, and adding pictures.

Irregular at Magic High: Probably the most disappointing thing to me is the paucity of chapter titles. Two or three novels are combined into a single arc, and given “title, part VII” styling. Don’t ask me why that bugs me, but it does. That probably makes me different from the majority of people who would be more bothered by the bro-con elements. So anyway, the premise is that Tatsuya Shiba and Miyuki Shiba are brother and sister in the same year at “First Magic High School”. There are nine such schools in 2095, based on the discovery and categorization of magic in the early 21st century. Owing to a certain incident in their childhood, and some family issues, Miyuki lives for her brother, and the only emotion he can feel is his affection for her. Not love, as he is sensible enough to understand that territory is off-limits. It’s not played for laughs — it feels like it was just tacked on in the story so there’d be a salacious aspect. Not a lot of skin in this show; the few times a short skirt or underwear shows up, it’s notable. (Global cooling. Seriously.) as the background slowly rolls out, it’s clear that there’s a strategic struggle underway at the nation-state level, and these two, especially Tatsuya, are involved. Mostly, at the edges, since they’re in high school, but sometimes at the front lines. It starts out like an “outsider trying to be recognized at an elite school” but it starts becoming evident that there’s something… odd about this guy. Once the bro-con aspects are minimized, more of the quirks and background starts to come forth. There’s never a single big reveal, but as clues start dropping into place, it becomes apparent that Tatsuya is potentially a major player on a strategic national scale — and he’s already played once, just before the series started. (Watch the opening segment closely–that big boom wasn’t during WWIII.)

Miyuki's fantasizing about her brother again. He's all 'Whatever!'

It’s a holdover from the last season, being a full 26-episode series. Even that won’t get but half or two-thirds of the way through the light novels. This isn’t the most engrossing of series, because Tatsuya is just so damn overpowered and emotionless, and backstory/world-building are the hardest to convert from light novels to anime. But the world building, slow as it is, makes this a story to follow. The fact that there’s no conclusion is probably the biggest negative; the light novels are still going on. I wish the animation was better though. I think that’s annoying me more than the titles. Which is why it’s second in terms of my “must watch” this season; the other one being….

Aldnoah Zero : Gen Urobuchi did the story idea and part of the script, which is feeling a bit like the first half of Code Geass with all the stupid left out. It’s not for people who like their anime all happy; the death toll has been pretty high. Not Attack on Titan brutal, but it’s no party. It’s an alternate earth history; in 1972, the last mission to the moon discovered a hypergate to Mars. Humans took it and colonized Mars, where a scientist discovered the secrets of an alien technology called “Aldnoah”. He swore others to his service and taught them how to use the power (which is apparently genetic-based) and set himself up as emperor. In the mid-nineties, Mars and Earth went to war, with Earth taking a pasting that involved the destruction of the moon by the hypergate running out of control. Now (c.2009), an uneasy truce exists as earthlings (considered an inferior, embarrassing race by the Martian faction) try vainly to catch up to the remnants of the Martian military that set up shop in the remnants of the moon, orbiting Earth. These ‘Orbital Knights’ have factions within factions, and the wheels start turning when Princess Asseylum Vers Allusia, the emperor’s granddaughter, comes on a state visit, to promote peace. She comes across like a bit of a naive airhead, and promptly gets assassinated in the first episode, triggering a spontaneous invasion by the orbital knights. And guess what? Mecha. Of course, the Martian mechas are totally superior, leading to earth’s forces getting their butts kicked.

The primary trio in this story are the princess, Inaho Taiduka, a high-schooler, who is a near-autistic tactical genius, and Slaine Troyard, assistant/tutor to the Princess. Slaine and Inaho are both Earthers, but Slain has spent the last several years as honored guest/prisoner/tutor to the princess. How he landed that position… well literally, he landed it. As in her private garden/bath, in a rocket. They were both children at the time; exactly what was going on hasn’t been explained yet. Other major characters: Inaho’s sister Yuki is a Warrant Officer in the military, and their military teacher is the disgraced, alcoholic Lt. Koichiro Marito, who is suffering from PTSD. Darzana Marbaradge is the captain of the naval vessel they escape on; it turns out she has a history of sorts with with Lt. Marito, whom she’s never met before.

The major plus for this show is the plot. It’s smart, tight, and keeps me guessing. There’s a cliffhanger every episode, and I never know what’s going to happen. Time and again, I go, “oh this is where they’re going to do ‘trope X’, and instead they take a hard left. Very few refrigerator moments (only one comes to mind thus far), and lots of small touches. The first two episodes are just ok, but the tension keeps mounting as back-stories come out and conspiracies keep surfacing. Some of the most reprehensible bastards show their honor, while heroes can betray their allies. The writers never take the easy route. The OP by Kalafina (Puella Magi) is good, but I can’t call it superb; the animation is serviceable. Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.

Sword Art Online II: Third, or maybe fourth-ranked. Continues to disappoint, but not so much as to drop. It’s lost a little something because Asuna isn’t in it (much), but the last couple of episodes have ratcheted up the tension. Since the end of the first series, the “seed” that Kirito and Asuna brought back (basically, a core program for a skinnable VRMMO) has been used to produce many different games. Gun Gale Online is one based around modern & near-future science fiction; it’s a VR shooter. Only someone’s killing people for real in it. The government isn’t quite sure it’s for real, but given that he’s the person who personally took down two previous attempts to hijack VR games for nefarious purposes, one government agency is willing to pay Kirito to investigate a suspect in GGO. So now he’s in the middle of a 30 person battle royal deathmatch called “Bullet of Bullets” He’s semi-teamed up with Shinon, a traumatized young girl who’s terrified of/fascinated by guns, but now he’s realized that it is very likely to be a deathmatch for real….because the suspect is a survivor from Laughing Coffin, the PK guild of murderers in Sword Art Online. Kirito’s own ghosts come back to haunt him as he remembers the fight to destroy them.

Kirito suddenly realizes he hasn't told Shinon that he's male...oops. Nice riff on the 'walking in on the undressing girl.'

Blade Dance of the Elementalers: Harem comedy/drama. Stop me if you’ve seen this before: Only guy who can commend a power normally only used by women, gets sent to an all-girls’ school, collects a harem, and battles evil. Infinite Stratos in a fantasy setting. Hell, the first scene in the show is the “Walk in on the naked bathing tsundere” trope! Doesn’t get much more derivative than this, does it? Well, at least not until episode six or so, when the series big bad shows up and things start getting serious. There’s also some differences before that. The primary one being, we’re walking into the middle of the story.

Three years ago, Kazehaya Kamito, pretending to be a girl named Ren Ashbell, won the Blade Dance, a magic/spirit/melee competition held every few years. Now, summoned by the Greyworth, the lady witch (perhaps in the pejorative sense), he returns in his male guise. Running into Claire Rouge, a redheaded Lingyang Huang (well, more Shana or Louise) clone (Ibuki Kido does the voice though), he ends up saving her by binding the spirit she was trying, and failing, to contract with. When he gets to the school, he’s also glommed onto by the British aristocrat, Cecilia Alcott. Uh, I mean the blonde Rinslet Laurenfrost. Then there’s the upholder of all things martial and serious, Houki, er, Ellis. And then there’s the not-quite-getting-it white haired Laura–I mean loli, Terminus Est, who enjoys waking up in Kamito’s bed, naked except for knee socks. She’s the hyper-powerful sword spirit that Kamito contracted with to save Claire. The final haremette is a former Princess, Fianna Ray Ordessia, which might be where the comparisons start breaking down; she’s got Charlotte’s warmer personality, but it’s more of an act than a genuine trait. She’s also a lot more straightforward about vamping Kamito, having the shortest hemline, biggest bust, and most forward personality.

Where it really leaves IS behind though, is in two things: First, Kamito is not a dense-as-hell idiot. He’s got it pretty much together, has a grip, knows these girls are all after him, but Est is a sword, and although he does have a soft spot for Claire that keeps him from playing the field, the real reason these girls don’t interest him is that they’ve all already lost. His heart belongs to Restia, the spirit he was bonded to back when he won the Blade Dance. What happened three years ago, why he’s separated from Restia has not been fully explained yet, and why Claire’s sister triggered a disaster that Fianna tried and failed to stop (thus being disowned), but it appears to strongly tie the three togethereven though they didn’t know each other at the time. Once Fianna and Restia show up, the pace of the show starts to accelerate, and I have to hand it to whomever’s doing the BGM during the fights, it’s good. I wish I could say the same of the animation, but too much speed lines and too little motion. Jio Inzagi is the bad guy, a multiple-spirit contractor out to become the legendary Demon Lord. Kamito is about the only person who has a ghost of a chance against him, and he’s lost a lot since three years ago… and then Restia shows up, backing Jio. I’m hoping the series continues to be more like the last few episodes, and less like the Infinite Stratos episodes that preceded it.

RWBY: Way too much fun (and drama) in small packages. The episodes are longer this season, and the story picks up where it left off. Aside from the best food fight ever animated, it’s sporting a darker tone than before. The forces of evil are up to no good (aren’t they always?) and Team RWBY is up to their necks in their own investigations. But they don’t realize that the bad guys are doing their own investigating…of them.

Dual wielding breadsticks vs. a two-handed loaf. The greatest food fight in history!

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6 Responses to Anime Roundup

  1. GreyDuck says:

    I expect never to see the RWBY S2E1 food fight topped in any animated show. That was amazing. (Also, hilarious.)

    Irregular at Magic High lost me after the first arc. As amazing as the worldbuilding may be, the action in the show pretty much consists of Our Hero Being Awesome, then explaining afterward exactly HOW he was so awesome, followed by his sister fawning over him. Over and over and over. Sigh.

    Aldnoah Zero didn’t grab me at first but I’m glad I gave it three episodes. Now I’m fully on board. Here’s another hyper-capable and seemingly emotionless lead, admittedly. Yet Inaho manages to be an interesting character. Poor Slaine, though. He just keeps getting the crap end of the stick…

    I’m watching a couple other shows this year… one of them (Rail Wars) out of a twisted kind of masochism, mind you…

    • Ubu Roi says:

      I watched a couple of episodes. I decided pretty quickly it was a show for rail otaku sprinkled with generous helpings of T&A to sell it.

      And yes, your explanation of Irregular is spot on, although by the third arc, the other students are starting to steal the spotlight a bit. For a bunch of “weeds” they’re a talented group. If I didn’t know better, I’d say this show is a sly argument against standardized testing, because it’s pretty clear that each of them is considered “second tier” by virtue of a magical SAT score, but they have all developed ways to cope with their so-called weakness.

      • GreyDuck says:

        What’s amusing is that JNR seems at times to be sponsoring Rail Wars. If so, I wonder if they knew what they were getting into?

        If my viewing schedule thins out I might go back and pick up where I left off with Irregular. We’ll see…

  2. topmaker says:

    Aldnoah Zero is not on my list, but (thanks to you) Irregular is, as well as Blade Dance. Irregular seems to be a better read than watch, but I think they have done as good a job as they could with the necessary condensing into watchable arcs. I don’t quite see where they will pull of Yokohama without giving short shrift to Juumonji and Misaki.

    Rokujouma no Shinryakusha is not bad, and I’m finishing Captain Earth which grew on me despite some really obvious flaws.

    You guys make me want to start RWBY just for the food fight.

    • GreyDuck says:

      Captain Earth got better? Because it really, really needed to…

      RWBY is clearly the work of a small American studio on a shoestring (relatively speaking) budget. I enjoy it but at the same time I won’t recommend it unreservedly. The voice acting alone can occasionally curdle one’s blood. It’s fun, occasionally funny, and there’s an interesting story hiding under that clunky Poser 3D animation.

      Watch the four trailers (Red / White / Black / Yellow) and just the food fight in S2E1. If that doesn’t sell you, no harm no foul.

  3. Ubu Roi says:

    The animation is amazing for what they were working with, but in comparison to what we’re used to watching, it does result in the occasional cringe. If you do pick it up, watch the first season trailers; they are apparently canon, and the last one makes a scene in season 2 really funny.

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