Review-Roundup: ERASED 01, Active Raid 01, Prince Of Stride: Alternative 01

[C12] Prince of Stride - Alternative - 01.mp4 - 00003You know, there’s a difference between writing for teenagers and writing like a teenager, Prince Of Stride…

This time I review:

ERASED 01: A boy with superpowers leads a depressed life – until his mother arrives and gets killed in his flat. His superpowers activate and suddenly he’s back in elementary school!

Active Raid 01: A teenager-girl is supposed to check on one police-unit’s outrageous behavior but gets bullied in return. Said police-unit still saves the day in the end. Also, politics suck!

Prince Of Stride 01: A bunch of kids love parkour but they don’t want to be too free-spirited. So they invent Stride which is Parkour – but safer. As with every extravagant sport what we really want to see is a version that feels as safe as it looks. Stride is exactly that – and the kids love it! Or they supposedly do in this series’ universe…

ERASED 01 Review:

[C12] Boku Dake ga Inai Machi - 01.mp4 - 00001From the very beginning the episode introduces the importance of regret in this series.

What mystery-stories usually strive for is the procedure. You have the crime. You have the clues. You have the criminal. And here’s a guy dealing with all three. There’s something comforting about reducing the search for the truth to a list of things to do – and which the protagonist can do. Maybe the procedural is beyond the audience’s grasp and they’re surprised by it. Or maybe it isn’t beyond them and they can share in the righteousness of catching the bad guy. That’s the baseline for murder-mysteries. It would be very easy to use a supernatural gimmick to just pretend to do something other than that. But strangely enough, ERASED has delivered a VERY strong opening-episode with this.

Two themes circle each other constantly in this first episode: Regret and hope. And seriously, this doesn’t happen often in animes but this episode actually offers a multi-layered approach to this. Textually the most defining moment is when Satoru wakes up in a hospital bed and talks to Airi about dreams. He asks her about her dreams and she says she has one. And then he asks “But what if they don’t come true.” to which she responds that you just have to try again until your dream becomes true. The difference in perspective is immediately perceptible. For Satoru the failings of the past are what count while Airi is looking towards the future and the potential to do well.

And Satoru’s superpower also figures into this as it’s a manifestation of this dichotomy. The reason he travels back into time is because he regrets something happen – even if he isn’t aware of it consciously. And once he’s in the past again his sole desire is to fix whatever caused the unconscious moment of regret. What makes this even more interesting when the episode introduces his mother and also introduces the idea of this superpower having a personal motivation. This isn’t just about him being an idealist but you quickly realize that it’s about him regretting something from his childhood. The way how smoothly various elements of this episode work together here is pretty amazing. What happens on the supernatural level is just a reflection of what happens on a mundane level and this sort of post-modern psychological approach gives the episode a narrative far more compelling than what you would expect.

The pacing of the episode is important as well because it’s just right in taking its time in establishing Satoru’s character to the point where his super-power isn’t just a gimmick but kinda makes sense. And when you get to the inciting incident with his mother you’re at a point where you care about the fate of Satoru. So when the police approach him as if he’s a suspect you can kinda relate to the drama. For once, the way the episode ends with the actual premise works.

The episode falters a bit in the depiction of Satoru’s mother, though. She suddenly becomes this weirdly paranoid detective-like character in the middle of the episode. I always expected the episode to mention that she had been a police-officer or a PI because of how she just started this investigation on her own without telling anyone. And ultimately that’s what got her killed so the killer did feel threatened by her.

It needs to be mentioned that the older Satoru was voiced by Shinnosuke Mitsushima who is more of a live-action-actor. That’s his first foray into voice-acting and it shows. It isn’t necessarily negative but anime-voice-acting has certain rhythms and when those are missing you take notice. Like for example, without looking at the screen it was hard to notice the difference between Satoru speaking to himself or him talking to someone else. The voice-performance didn’t have a lot of reach which would’ve allowed him to underline subtle stuff like that.

As far as first episodes are concerned, this is the best one I’ve seen so far and it will be hard to top that. Between the well-done thematic consistency and the well-paced introduction to the story and premise, the protagonist receives a good characterization here. As far as the actual mystery of the kidnapping is concerned this episode at least offers a good motivation, both personal and thematic, for the protagonist. This series is off to a really good start. Let’s hope they don’t get too distracted by the idea of a 29-year-old as an elementary-school-student.

Episode-Rating: 8.5/10

Active Raid 01 Review:

[C12] Active Raid - 01.mp4 - 00001Plenty as it turns out! According to this series the anime-industry will have a of influence over politics in the near future! So animes get added to the list of red tape that stupidly stops this police-force from doing the right thing… like firing an EMP-grenade in the middle of a city for example…

There are always a couple anime-series around which clearly prioritize formula over substance. But there aren’t many where you can say style gets prioritized over substance. This is the case here, though, as the first episode goes for a very fast-paced action-packed start. Exposition is kept at a minimum and there’s even a moment someone interrupts someone else’s exposition. The actual episodic story is also simple enough to get right to the action as is the world of this series. It’s the future, crime is on the rise and there’s an outrageous experimental division being real rascals while saving the day time and time again. The episode’s quick, the premise is simple and the action is straightforward: I mean, what could go wrong?

If you want to be really nitpicky there are a couple flaws to talk about but future episodes can fix those, I’m sure. The one thing that really took me out of the episode and made it less than enjoyable was Asami Kazari, the main-character. It’s less the concept of her character than more what happens to her in this episode. The episode starts strong with her getting assigned to the squad essentially to judge their competence but she thinks arrogantly what they actually mean is that she should become the boss of that division. That’s a good setup for some comedy. Of course, she’s arrogant for thinking that and it doesn’t make her necessarily a likeable character. But even I felt bad for her at the end of this first episode because holy shit, she has gone through hell in this first episode. That whole Unit 8 bullies her constantly. And the script allows them to do so from a superior position even. Nobody EVER takes her serious in this episode and the one she thinks on her feet at the end she immediately becomes the butt of another joke. The comedy in this episode crosses the line of being justified and simply becomes mean-spirited.

Aside from that, the series clearly tries to establish the 8th Unit as a team of unlikely heroes with good intentions and a lot of talent – except they don’t handle orders very well. What’s very striking about the episode is how much it disdains law and order as a social construct. There are all these moments of someone chafing at the restrictions imposed by politicians and guidelines for police-operations. And the moment when one of the mecha-pilots can’t fire because a bridge full of people is in the way this cynical heroism emerges that says “You people are dummies and without you I could do my job better but since I’m a good guy, I guess, I just have to try harder… poor little old me…” (the comment about that account for the criminals getting a lot of followers in a short time goes into the same direction). The episode tries to present a positive, cheery attitude towards its action and themes but there’s a lot of underlying cynicism when one of the guys has to blackmail an official to get clearance or this extended comedy-bit about anime-studios supposedly being big enough for lobby-work in this future. It feels a bit out-of-place in this otherwise bright-eyed piece of mecha-justice.

In general, this episode gives off the impression as if the characters disdain procedure and rather love to shoot from the hip. Asami got practically crucified for her belief in knowing the procedure and wanting to correct the ways of Unit 8 in this episode. Also, I’m not really sure what this episode tried to imply with this whole “But we’re minors!”-bit. Just like with Asami, the Unit’s behavior felt a bit too arrogant for my tastes. I mean, were they sure they could win the fight without killing them…? And this Unit doesn’t really do any investigations. They kicked these mechas’ asses without wondering why this was happening.

Also, if we want to nitpick… Okay, two mechas rob a bank. First of all, how the hell did they get there without anyone noticing?! Then, what did they steal? And when Unit 08 kicked their asses did they still have what they stole? It also should tell you something about the tone of this first episode that the word ‘negotiation’ never came up concerning the two minors who were piloting illegal mechas. And people are seriously cheering when four mechas land in their backyard to start fighting.

This episode’s more positive elements including the camaraderie between the Unit-08-members and the heroic aspirations of the unit coupled with the quick-paced action work great. But weirdly enough there’s also a good portion of cynicism in this episode. And I don’t think these two things mesh very well in this episode. Asami essentially gets bullied in this episode because of her arrogance and Unit 08 would like to do the right thing but the rest of the world is too stupid to get out of their way. It leads to a certain dissonance how Asami’s arrogance becomes a subject of punishment while Unit 08’s cheekiness gets applauded. That whole attitude makes it seem as if good intentions make all kinds of actions forgivable. I have to wonder if this series just has a very cynical sense of humor or if the series will try to reconcile this with the bright-eyed heroism displayed in the rest of this episode.

Also, why the hell is Asami yelling English phrases from time to time…?!

Episode-Rating: 6.0/10

Prince of Stride 01 Review:

[C12] Prince of Stride - Alternative - 01.mp4 - 00000Sometimes animes can do with a little LESS imagery…

Is Parkour still cool? It certainly is too cool for this series. There’s something edgy about creative free-running in an urban environment. But I certainly can picture an editor saying: “So how does school-life figure into this?” And here we are, a series that’s not about parkour at all but about stride. You know, since there’s nothing edgier than running through your school with only students as an audience. And of course, there’s a tournament, a legitimate tournament. And of course, the whole school’s available to prepare a course for the race. And of course, the school-paper has nothing better to do than to write about a forgotten club getting active again. And of course, it all sounds like bullshit.

The episode starts nice with this section of Nana remembering a Stride-race and deciding to become one, too. It’s only once the camera pans out that you’re not only confronted by the usual exaggerated portrait of sports most animes indulge in but the situation Nana finds herself in is sitting in a field of grass with dandelion-seeds or something flying around. It’s a corny image that adds barely anything to the equally corny portrayal of sports in this opening. In Kuroko’s Basketball for example, stuff like that is easy to forgive because it achieves a sense of coherence in how corny it is. Kuroko’s Basketball has a specific tone, certain rhythms and it doesn’t deviate from that. Here, though, the series has yet to find that rhythm.

What I’ve realized with this episode is that I’m so over the concept of a girl being the manager for an all-boys-team and she gets the position on the merits of her attitude instead of her capabilities. While these series just love to endow the guys with all these insane talents that help them in competitions, you get this female manager whose prime qualities are likely just pretty, compassionate and idealistic. She’s just there to cheer them on and deal with all the boring shit while the dudes can have their dramatic showdowns. That’s exactly how Nana seems in this first episode where she wants to be the team’s manager but ends up becoming their “relationer” or something.

That stuff Nana does in this episode deserves special attention because until then I didn’t know this was a sci-fi-series. What her tablet does goes into sci-fi-territory. And it becomes laughable once you realize that all she does is to tell one runner to start running while the other approaches. I really think you wouldn’t need any sort of sophisticated tablet to coordinate such a thing even if the race is happening in an area as labyrinthine as a school. Just a bunch of walky-talkies and a couple of people keeping watch would’ve done the job as well and you wouldn’t had to cut between those computer-screens and the race. The rush of the race is how you master certain hurdles and by cutting away too much you disrupt the mounting tension of a race. And a lack of tension is exactly what’s happening in this episode as it seems to be more concerned with its idealistic moralizing than making itself seem exciting.

The reason why series like Bleach or Naruto work as shounen-series is because all their idealization is hidden behind these layers of fantastical stakes related to a fictional system of power. All the theatrical emotions and operatic motivations only come to the forefront during important moments. Without that layer of superficial power, all that’s left is to go straight to the moralizing and then all those exciting sports-sequences are just there to remind you about how important teamwork is and how nice it is to have friends and so on and so forth. Just to bring it back to Kuroko’s Basketball: That’s why that series had stuff like The Zone or why all the characters had gimmicky special moves. You create this superficial layer of fictional bullshit to have stakes beyond the dramatic, emotional ones – which you then can bring out during the REALLY important moments.

This first episode, though, is far too concerned with telling us why Stride is great. There is way too much dialogue about stuff that this episode would be better off just showing us. And the setup is what you’d expect: Rundown school-club with past glories being the underdog at an upcoming tournament they try to win. That’s really all you need to know. There’s nothing that stands out here. Sure, the characters all have their individual gimmicks but they aren’t so special that you wouldn’t be able to immediately understand them out of context. A lot of the ideas are simply too generic at their core to have an impact. The episode starts out generic and then continues on still being generic. It goes through the motions of being a sports-anime but where with good series you can see these layers I was talking about, here all this stuff is simply transparent and all you see are the blatant emotional beats of its storytelling.

Episode-Rating: 5.0/10

About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on January 9, 2016, in Active Raid, Anime, ERASED, Prince Of Stride: Alternative, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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