Winter 2017 – First Impressions
Ah, being asked by a cute girl to pretend to be her boyfriend! It’s the teenage experience we can all relate to surely! Boys are getting asked by cute girls to act like their boyfriends all the time and cute girls just can’t seem to find a functioning relationship and therefore have to resort to asking people they barely know to act as if they’re their boyfriends… What a realistic and relatable scenario!
I’ve yet to see a single series I really want to review but I’ve had a little bit more time than during the previous seasons. So, I’ve watched nearly every new series that has to come out and this is a short list of first impressions for the series I have seen. So far, my favorites are Idol Jihen (which is a hot mess and REALLY weird), Little Witch Academia (with really good visuals)and Fuuka (which I probably would make fun of constantly for melodrama and having your typical idiot-protagonist).
Fuuka 01/02 Review:
The amount of time this series has wasted on this stupid scene is unbelievable! It’s not half as cute as this series seems to think it is! There’s nothing cute about two people being SO stupid as to walk by each other repeatedly (!) without noticing each other.
As a romance-series, Fuuka’s first two episodes are “fine”. There’s something distinctly perfunctory about how “fine” Fuuka is. For a story about some hapless dude involved in a love-triangle, the series neither excites nor subverts. Everything just the way you’d expect it to be. A meet-cute, a childhood-friend, a struggle for identity, moments of embarrassment, the value of kindness and the series even has the gay best friend spouting romantic advice. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like a series can go wrong in how boorish its creative choices are.
But it’s hard to get into the rhythm of the series and it never feels like the main-dude is a particularly sympathetic or engaging character. The reasons for that are two-fold.
One, the writing of the show is bad. It isn’t incompetent which means everything the characters make sense from a certain perspective – but it never feels real. Instead of being relatable, there’s something artificial about what the characters say and do. The dialogue in those first two episodes can best be described as witless. At one point, the gay best friend is using a metaphor to describe Fuuka’s situation and the main-dude complains that nobody would talk like that. But the metaphor isn’t fancy enough for that familiar joke, so it ends up feeling like someone wrote the bit who understands how that bit works but who lacks a sense of humor. Another example is the “first-date”-scene which makes sense in theory but in execution it’s one of the most awkward moments in direction I’ve ever witnessed. Instead of being cute, plot-wise it isn’t only pointless, it’s also nonsensical from a story-perspective (guess nobody realized there’s a thing called ‘peripheral vision’).
Two, the series’ perspective can be pretty much summarized as male-wish-fulfillment. 90% of the cast have been female so far – and they all have a huge interest in what the main-dude is up to. Fuuka taking a liking to the main-guy simply just happens (despite the fact that she repeatedly states that she believes the main-guy to be a pervert) and then the series introduces the childhood-friend who’s now an idol and STILL in love with the main-guy (for whatever reason). The series (like many other such animes) is obsessed with the idea that no matter how much of a nerd/loser you are, kindness is like some sort of light that all girls are drawn to as if they’re moths.
I guess the only good thing you could say about these first two episodes is that they’re uncomplicated. If you’re looking for a romance-series, this series certainly has a pretty good handle on the tropes and the familiar character-beats. But it isn’t as witty as some of the better romance-series out there and thanks to poor writing the characters of this show aren’t half as charismatic as they would need to be to carry you through this typical love-triangle.
Also… if your show’s about a love-triangle… maybe don’t name the show after one of the girls the dude has to choose between. It kind of makes things a tad too predictable.
Idol Jihen 01 Review:
Hey, at least she isn’t Trump, right?
An idol is running for president.
Only an anime could be this ridiculous. And yet… the first episode kind of works actually. If there’s one quality this first episode seems to hint at, it’s “It knows what it is.”. And this self-awareness has led this series down a path where it just might succeed despite its ludicrous premise.
While the series is indeed about idols being these idealistic forces of positivity, the series equally exaggerates the villains by making them scummy politicians. Rather than making this about gender or mere attitude, it does come off as being a contest between the idealistic idols and a corrupt establishment (dominated by men). And the series even opens by saying that Japan has been ruined by this corrupt establishment.
This isn’t to say that Idol Jihen claims to be political commentary of any sort. Instead, this first episode reminded me of battle-shounen-shows. The obsession with power, the idea that emotions are directly tied to how strong you are and the belief that any challenge can be pummeled into submission with that power: Replace the fighting in shounen-shows with idol-stuff and it’s pretty much the same thing.
By embracing the weirdness and ridiculousness with a straight face, the series has the chance to be more fun than it has any right to be. Essentially anything that shows the audience that the show knows as much as them what this show is about and how ludicrous the premise is. But rather than trying to make complicated plot-excuses for why the show is the way it is, such a show would move forward and escalate for the sake of entertainment.
This has the potential to be surprisingly good show – or it just ends up being the hot mess the premise would make you believe it is.
Masamune-kun no Revenge 01 Review:
I wonder if this show will ever address what it indirectly says about those people who apparently will give a free pass to anyone who’s “hot”.
The big thing about this first episode is that it seems strangely ironic to me. Maybe it’s secretly satire…? Someone who has read the manga can probably judge that better than me who has only seen the first episode… but it’s weird how the series has positioned itself with its premise here.
Not satisfied with merely pointing out the lacking qualities of “judging a book by its cover this series goes a step further and say it’s about superficiality. It’s about people who hide stuff out of shame or because they’re secret assholes and who are in love with simplistic ideas of beauty and purity. And of course, what the series is angling for is the moralizing “It’s the inside that counts.”-message with its protagonist finding sympathy for the main-girl he wants to take revenge on while he’s building true friendships, helps people overcome their secret shame/problems etc. . And the main-girl already gets praise and recognition for being blunt and revealing people’s true self.
But at the same time, the series itself is very superficial as well: The idea that a chubby kid gets bullied, gets rescued by a girl and then falls in love with her is a superficial portrayal of romance, for example. Or the fact that the main-chara has left his embarrassing secret behind (his fatness). His shame is purely moral in that he wants to take revenge (at the same time, though, the series clearly expects the audience to sympathize with the cause of his revenge). Other than that, he seems to be perfect (which makes the whole premise feel like wish-fulfilment). It really feels like in his case the series wants to say he’s the only character who’s as beautiful on the inside as on the outside. And all the quirks he still has are just there to make him charming. Then there’s the fact that there’s no forgiveness or empathy for superficiality. Whenever the main-girl is cruelly being an asshole to a guy, the episode is clearly saying “She’s right in calling that guy out! That guy’s a creep!” (except for the main-dude, of course). There’s no reflection going on in this first episode, just a rush to judgment.
Well, and it’s just another anime trying to share its delusions of school-life with the audience. Been there, done that.
Maybe if the series were to come to realize what it’s actually about, it can find a way to step away from its trope-laden premise. But considering just how cheesy the premise is, I’m skeptical this series will even try to subvert its tropes in favor of discerning the problems of superficiality in society. Actually the premise makes me think the series wants to put as much distance as possible between itself and its darker premise by focusing on fluffy romance and anime-school-life-shenanigans.
Gabriel Dropout 01 Review:
*sigh* First episode and they already do puns…
This is a premise-driven comedy-series. Angels and demons are on earth leading normal lives and the comedy comes from subverting your expectations of what angels and demons would do on earth. Now, in a way this subversion isn’t that subversive actually as it takes its cues from school-life-tropes and the first episode seems to suggest that all the series has to say is show angels who aren’t really good and demons that are surprisingly good.
As a character Gabriel is only noteworthy in her portrayal of an obsessive Otaku. This series certainly highlights the evolution of how animes look at Otakus these days. After all, wouldn’t you expect Gabriel to be a Hikikomori? Shouldn’t Gab’s habits make her a social outcast? Shouldn’t her obsession with games distract her from real life? Instead, though, the series opts to portray her as a slob who has gotten tired of her overachiever-personality. But she has friends and dealing with reality may be a hassle to her but it isn’t an obstacle.
In general, the series uses its cast of angels and demons to portray characters who started out as stereotypical angels or demons but during their stay in the human world have grown to become more complicated people. That’s how you get angels with weird quirks and demons with misconceptions of what being evil actually means.
Of course, the whole thing lacks depth as the first episode is merely trying to be a comedy – and that’s where the episode isn’t as good as it should be. Gabriel’s descent during the first four minutes takes WAY too long without having a good punchline. Besides, the whole bit is based on an utterly unbelievable plottwist (computers don’t do that…).
As a first episode, this has been more disappointing than engaging. The whole bit with the characterizations has already gotten old at the end of the first episode. And the actual hijinks aren’t nearly subversive enough to be funny. After you’ve understood what each character’s deal is, the bits have become somewhat predictable. I’m certainly not interested in watching a second episode of this.
Little Witch Academia 01 Review:
For a lighthearted, adventurous fantasy-series this bit is oddly “realistic”. Financial troubles? Really?
Visually and tonally this first episode hits it out of the park. It’s a fun and lighthearted adventure with three girls doing witch-stuff. You got ridiculous monsters, flashy magic and relatable characters. What gets left behind is the story itself.
The story of the series is very slight so far. There isn’t a really good plothook in this first episode – except a lazy McGuffin in the form of that magical staff. I wonder how often the series will fall back on using that thing as an excuse to solve plot-challenges in the upcoming episodes.
As an introduction, it was an impressive beginning but it was also equally forgettable for how little it offered in terms of bait that would keep the audience around. I mean, we’ve all seen/read Harry Potter (and the whole witch-school-thing isn’t that fresh anyway), so the series needs to make a more compelling case to leave an impression. Let’s see what the next episode brings…
- I’ve recently discovered that someone translated an interview with the director of Flip Flappers (You can find it here). I think, it mostly proves my assertions from the last review right. This series is essentially a simple story and somebody slapped all this psychological, high-minded bullshit on it to make it more “interesting”. Especially interesting is the carefree tone of the director. And from how he describes the Uexkull-reference, I think he still doesn’t understand why the Umwelt-theory doesn’t apply to humans. That guy sounds like someone who’s treating highminded ideas as some sort of toybox that is supposed to make his series “deep” somehow. Then again, he even says himself: “I knew going in that it would be a risky theme to tackle from a business/financial standpoint as well, but I figured “hey I’m still young, and if I screw up this director thing I can still make a living as an animator” (laughs), so I decided it would be worth the risk of trying something challenging.” If I met him, I’d probably throttle him for his naivete. Well, I guess, everyone around him who seemingly didn’t tell him how clueless and wrongheaded his approach to his first series has been are more at fault than he is.
- So, feel free to talk about what shows you enjoyed the most so far in the comments. Especially mention those I maybe haven’t covered here yet 🙂 .