This season isn’t shaping up to be as bad as the usual suspects claimed… but it’s not looking great either. It’s too early to tell for sure, but our one possibility for a breakout hit is currently Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry, or A Tale of Worst One according to it’s Engrishy translation. Asterisk War takes the same formula of a blazing hot redhead (heh, I kill me) with a Japanese guy, and turns it into junk, while Comet Lucifer is about as confused as they come. I was intrigued by Owarimonogatari, and disappointed by Heavy Object. At least Ushio and Tora looks to being continuing into the new season. Also, I have no idea where Underwater Ray Romano, uh, I mean Utawarerumono, is going — i never saw the original, either, so I have no expectations.
I understand that there’s also a couple of other shows about sports, divine lolis, non-AMA (or even JMA) approved doctors, colorful apps that should be deleted, colorless apps that should be deleted, brainless bodies trained in chivalry, and diabolk reverse harems. I have no interest in those, and had to drink heavily this weekend to forget ever watching the first episode of one of them. Fortunately, I mostly succeeded.
So, in the descending order that they impressed me –positively, that is:
Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry: Lots of the usual tropes. Battle school, mismatched male and female protagonists (except they’re not), tsundere redhead with flame powers, mysterious backstory for the guy, an important sister, and the guy is a limited badass. But this story twists them and makes them work. It’s a light novel adaptation, but I’ve only followed the manga. There’s no reason to repeat the episode 1 writeup from Chizumatic so go there if you want the details. I, on the other hand, am going to delve into the spoilers. Ju haf bin varned! So…. This show hasn’t given away the entirety of the backstory. There’s more to the principal and Ikki than has been let on. Wait, wait, I don’t mean the principal AND Ikki, at least not like that. No, no, it’s not like The Fruit of Grisaia, where the protagonist has slept with every hot female adult before the show even started!
Pretty far from that, actually. He hasn’t even slept with the “older-than-she-seems” loli we see briefly during the duel. (Watch her, she’s a bit flighty, and devious.) No, it’s more like the principal is there to fix something to do with Ikki, and it’s his backstory.
The opening scene is from when he ran away from home, nearly freezing to death before he was found. It’s hinted that the old man was the spirit of his ancestor, and it’s from that point he develops his other skill, compressing his “entire day of magic into one minute.” Eventually, he ran away from home and won a slot at the school, which enraged his family. He was held back, not because he failed, but because his family pressured the school into not allowing him to fight — which meant he could not get any practical credits, which equaled failing. The fact that he can remain upbeat against those odds is incredible.
But the odds are changing in his favor. Remember that loli? She’s the real boss at the academy, and she is thoroughly pissed at Ikki’s family. So she fired the principal who was enforcing his family’s will, and hired the one we meet in episode one. Then she “arranged” for Ikki and Stella to be roommates, counting on their similarities to forge enough of a friendship so as to constrain his family. Then she makes room for one more student — the single member of Ikki’s family who supports him. His sister, who has an unreserved, un-secret, (and entirely unnecessary) bro-con.
The problem is, I don’t remember anything about a plot from this point on. It’s all rom-com BS. Or I’m fatally mixing it up with the other redhead & under-estimated badass show of the season….
Asterisk: More plot, but less interesting characters. It loses me with the opening* of the anime (and LN), wherein Ayato (Our Hero) catches a ladies’ handkerchief fluttering on the breeze, hears a lady’s voice crying out in dismay from the open window of a pink dorm with pink curtains, and promptly jumps three or four stories into the open window to return it — apparently without realizing he’s just trespassed in — you guessed it — the ladies’ dorm. And no, I’m not awarding you bonus points for figuring out that the lady in question is the mostly-undressed main female, Julis.
So I’m not sure whether I should give the author points for Julis’ insisting that he turn around (still standing on the window sill), but NOT kicking him right in the ass so he falls out. No, she just finishes dressing, thanks Ikki for returning the handkerchief, and then tries to fry him to a crisp. Apparently, her explosions do no physical harm, since the room is not noted as destroyed, or even singed.
So we have another meet-cute that turns into a duel. Julis is ranked #5 in the academy; he’s an unknown transfer student. She’s famous, and everyone swarms the lawn that they end up fighting on to watch, but just as he’s about to take her down, well, he has to take her down. Physically, to take her out of an assassin’s line of fire. Again, no points for guessing the boob grope happens here. The assassination attempt happens so quickly that only the two of them notice…and Claudia, the blond sex-bomb-school-council-president, who shows up right then to cancel the duel. Her job appears to be negotiating with other schools, keeping order at their school, and gainaxing. In reverse order of importance, of course.
Now this is where we get into Asterisk’s one superiority: it has a plot. Sort of. Sometimes. Remember the … asterisk above? That’s because it wasn’t the opening scene for the anime. In the light novels, it was alluded to in the fourth or fifth, but the anime makes it explicit. A girl and a guy fighting, not a duel, but a gladiator match. She loses, badly, and she’s evidently Ayato’s older sister. This happens three years before the show begins.So later, in the president’s insanely huge office, they talk about his sister. Claudia’s done some poking around and the only record remaining is a badly corrupted record of his sister checking out one of the magical technobabble weapons at the school the night before she went missing. They don’t even have any records of whether or not she was a student; everything’s been erased. (You think they could ask someone that had a class with her, or a teacher, but no, her academic record is as blank as Barry Sotero’s). But that’s ok with Ayato, because he’s not here at the school to find her. Just his purpose in life, right? WTF? Seriously, man?
There’s some more unimportant stuff like meeting his roommate, and running across Julis again just as she’s challenged to a duel by an obnoxious loser who has (what else?) lost to her three times already. But I’ve got to go into spoilers to call bullshit on this matter
Untewarerumono: I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt, although nothing much happened in the first episode. There was a little action at the beginning, but then we spend the rest of the episode getting to know the amnesiac and the catgirl that kind of adopts him. We do learn two things: One, he’s physically far weaker than the animal-people, but he’s better with mechanical things. Two, the catgirl’s a perv — she peeked on him in the bath.Owarimonogatari: I would have given this a bump over Untewarerumono (it has one more vowel, after all), but I know it’s going to be dragged down by Shinbo being Shinbo. Worse, it’s all going to be about the clever dialogue, which sometimes actually makes up for the fact that there’s really nothing going on but people talking. Amazingly, this time it was kind of interesting. Remember Oshino, the weird “urban shaman”? Well his niece, who has sleeves way too long… and no pupils at all… shows up at the school. The first thing that happens is that Arargi gets caught in a closed space (shades of Haruhi), and has to solve a three-year old mystery to get out. One that changed his life, and turned him into a loner, and slacker at his studies… Just remember… unreliable narrator is unreliable. Look for the gaps in the story. I hated someone by the end of it. Betrayal of trust is horrible crime. Betrayal of responsibility and trust is far worse. Comet Lucifer: Hi, I’m the protagonist Plucky McGeek! Now let me see if I can summarize this… in a mere twenty-two minutes i get hit by a comet that turns out to be a tiny-but-valuable stone, forget to run an important errand, show no respect for traffic laws, pick up a cute friend running from her own wedding, get run off the road (by her Rich, Self-Centered Betrothed) into a deep deep deep DEEP hole in the middle of the city (don’t worry, we weren’t so much as scratched), found a bigger valuable stone but lost the first, and gained a magical DFC girlfriend, a mecha, and a passel of enemies. And I wasn’t able to ditch the wedding runaway, who is probably going to come on to me because of her desire not to marry Rich Self-Centered Betrothed. Oh, and there was boring nonsense narration at the beginning.
EDIT: I forgot Heavy Object I left this one out, but it’s not worth it. The fundamental conceit of the series is that there’s these huge war machines against which all others are just wasteful toys. Only these two misfits (really, one of them) manage to keep getting into situations where they have to destroy them with little more than their wits, and a bit of derring-do. They become famous for it, even as they’re considered huge headaches for the military. So why doesn’t everyone create specialized units trained to do what they do? Additionally, They’ve got Frontlya, um, Frontilya, errr.., (Oh the hell with it; I can’t spell her name, and with that chest, she’s just Front, ok?) all wrong. Character art and the LN’s make her out to be outwardly cold and a bit haughty–with a temper, but they’re drawing and treating her like she’s more playful than anything else. Maybe that’s what the author intended, but it didn’t read that way to me.