Summer Season 2017: First Impressions


The summer season is well underway, and all the new anime have finally premiered! Below is a list of the anime I’m watching this season and my first impressions of each. This anime season has some great pinch hitters, and some- not so great additions to the anime universe.

All the below mentioned anime are available for streaming on Crunchyroll or Amazon so you can get started today if anything piqued your interest by clicking the hyperlinks on the show titles.

18if crlogo

34a653188bd5ad4088bb34af932e89de1499367052_fullSleeping Beauty Syndrome has affected a series of young women who have rejected their reality in favor of a dream world where they have all their wishes granted. These witches exhibit terrible power in their dream worlds where they are able to trap and kill people at their will and leisure. One day, Haruto Tsukishiro “wakes up” only to discover that he is stuck in a dream world where he will face to face these witches as he attempts to make his way back home.

The first episode of 18if features the Witch of Thunder who only wants to play with cute, fun things because of a traumatic experience with bullying. Haruto is able to break down the mental barrier that this witch had with his candor and fearlessness of dying in the dream world. Instead of killing her, he is able to wake her up using compassion so she rises of her own volition, thus making the girl stronger in the waking world.

We were treated to a bit of an information download at various points of episode one, and there are times when Haruto is outrunning the witch where the pacing begins to drag. I was also disappointed with the art and animation quality because it just seemed a little flat for a long form show. This wasn’t terrible enough for me to drop the show immediately, but consider this when given 18if a watch: the quality isn’t a smooth as you would expect from the key art that we were presented with, but the story has potential to overtake that blandness.

Angel’s 3Piece!crlogo

51b217ddf76813f060494aaf2348bc6e1499675866_fullExperience a trauma is never easy, and Nukui Hibiki’s traumatic experience has driven him into seclusion as a hikikomori who uses vocal software to create songs online (much like Vocaloid software). One day, Hibiki is sent a message from a prospective client requesting a meeting about his future in the music industry. Hibiki gathers his courage to meet this person in the local park, but soon learns that this client was a trio of three young girls who are expert musicians with legendary equipment. These orphans simply want Hibiki’s help to put on a concert in their church to show their caretakers how much they appreciate their care.

Angel’s 3Piece is quite possibly the most pure-hearted show I have ever seen. There are a few jokes as ice breakers, but overall this is a sobering look at three orphaned girls who just want to show they care. It’s very much a feel-good anime blanketed with great K-On-style music.

I’m not sure where Angel’s 3Piece plans to go with the girls and what obstacles they will encounter as we move forward to this concert. I do know that we will see Hibiki struggle with his previous trauma and working through his own growth in the outside world. Even with the sparkly moe characterizations of the girls, I think this will become a standout show in musical anime with its angelic nature.

Chronos Ruler crlogo

7565f57c352ae7b1a8ef17738153309f1499455994_fullThe story centers on “Chronos Rulers,” those who fight the time-eating demons that appear when people wish they could turn back time. The Chronos Rulers fight a time-manipulation battle against these demons.

What stood out most with Chronos Ruler was the opening featuring a smooth, impactful fighting scene where the CG was blending well with the hand-animation. Though this ended up being the best animated portion for the entire episode, the rest of the action wasn’t tiered much below this in quality which more than made up for the overplayed and drawn out dialogue.

The focus of episode is largely on a girl who recently lost her brother in a car accident. She wants to reclaim her time with him and ends up summoning a creature called a Horologue that eats human time in exchange for your wish. During her story we are introduced to our main characters, Victo and Kiri, who fight these time monsters around the world as a form of revenge because Victo was once attacked by one.

The whole plot is a little hokey, but the show’s appealing aesthetic more than makes up for the mild blandness. However, the creators made a strange move in giving a massive information download during the battle.

Classroom of the Elitecrlogo

3f44a6efc0ab35d49cfa1a9344f7f8841499831762_fullClassroom of the Elite features a dream high school where college entrance and after school employment rates are 100%. The students have limited access to the outside world while attending, but the trade off is that the high school is a small city-state with shops, personal dorms, and of course- that wonderful education. While I am unsure how exactly you get into this exceedingly prestigious school, it seems that almost every kind of student is in attendance including delinquent-types you wouldn’t associate with high test scores.

As the school is introduced through the eyes of our Devil May Care perspective character, Kiyotaka Ayanokoji, he as well as his new acquaintance, Suzune Horikita, constantly wonder how this school is able to allow the kids to live in such lavish indulgence, especially with the promise of 100,000 Yen to be awarded each month to every student to spend how they please.

The shoe drops when the class realizes they didn’t get their excessive stipend, and it’s here that the homeroom teacher reminds the students that the money is granted based on merit. Since the kids ended up falling behind in their studies, arriving late, and stopped paying attention in class all because of the 100,000 Yen. It seems that the money and facilities caused the students to become complacent and think the school was going to be a free ride.

This is a very obvious reveal based on background clues as the show progressed, but I did find it surprising that the entire class is punished for some students breaking the rules. It’s a very militaristic tactic that I’m surprised a school would implement so loudly.

I’m very interested in seeing how the rest of the show continues. Kiyotaka Ayanokoji and Suzune Horikita would be terrible main characters alone, but together they are great catalysts for each other. Classroom of the Elite can go either way on the good/bad spectrum, and I’m hoping this first episode is an indicator of what’s to come with great clue placement and pacing.

Convenience Store Boy Friends crlogo

d7ce1f6d630b4dc268b7a84cbb9ba0351499362706_fullFirst off, I would like to say that this isn’t a show about a group of boys who all work at a convenience store and love each other. Based on the male character designs we would have all assumed such, and since I’m relatively mentally deficient, I didn’t read the show description before watching the first episode. Boy was I disappointed and disgusted by my own urges.

Convenience Store Boy Friends features Mishima Haruki and Honda Towa who are both interested in different girls, but don’t have any gumption to begin their own relationships. As the two make it through each day with awkward conversations, they start speaking with their seniors and work through their feelings, thoughts, and emotions. It’s a story about the ebb and flow of young love with a static background and meeting place of both school and the nearby convenience store.

I really love that this local Lawson-look-alike store acts as a catalyst for the relationships in this series. Our protagonist boys meet their prospective girlfriends at the convenience store almost every day, and these girls actually because fast friends with each other through an encounter in this store.

The budding romance and character interactions are great so far, and they feel very real. While Honda is a lazy, playboy type- his feelings for the class representative are genuine and come across quite well, especially when he attempts to put her body dysmorphia to rest. It’s comforting to see relatable and honest relationships and reactions from the people in this show. I’m really looking forward to these high school romances.

DIVE!! download

divevisualThe Mizuki Diving Club is in danger of being shut down, but when a new coach appears on the scene Yoishi Fujitani is presented with an opportunity of a lifetime: training for the Olympics. However, his junior, Tomoki Sakai, is just as dedicated to this sport, and it’s here that a fight for the proverbial gold begins. 

Dive!! is a shiny and “full-bodied” anime with a typical sports-style art. The first episode does a great job imparting Tomo’s love of diving to the audience, but fails to make us understand why. While we will have more time to come around to Tomo’s point of view, I feel as if we were supposed to be closer to his fascination than I personally was at the onset. There are even a few points where Tomo dogs on diving, leaving me to ask “But, I thought you liked it?” 

If you go into Dive!! expecting something like Free!, you’ll be disappointed. At its base, Free! Is about the boy’s relationships and how swimming brings them together, and this is the idea that makes Free! such a hit. Dive!! is about a boy and his teammates who love diving trying to make it to the Olympics. Dive!!, at its core, is an advertisement for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Fastest Finger First crlogo

27cc90a73f5954ddcaed89713b3949e21499190589_fullKoshiyama Shiki and Fukami Mari are freshman pulled into the fast-buzzing sport of the Quiz Bowl Circle. Shiki is quiet and easily overwhelmed, whereas Mari has the uncanny ability to hit the buzzer and answer the questions before the entire question is heard. As Shiki watches Mari, he learns there is a point in a question where the answer becomes obvious, and he begins to gather his courage to become the fastest person to hit the buzzer.

The most standout idea in this anime is the inherent focus on the buzzers and quickness aspect. I know a little about Quiz Bowl, but nothing about the theory behind knowing the answer to questions before they are finished. Considering Shiki’s shyness and intellect, the Quiz Bowl Circle is the perfect outlet for him to gain confidence.

The same entertainment you get from watching Jeopardy, you will get from the quiz sections of the show. There is also the added element of watching Shiki and Mari experience their first club and learning that their knowledge and abilities can be used for something truly enjoyable. It’s important to understand that everyone has some special talent and there is an outlet somewhere for that talent; I think that Fastest Finger First will help Shiki realize that his bookworm-like knowledge can be used and that he isn’t quite as useless as he thinks.

Other than the sport in focus, Fastest Finger First offers quite a bit characterization and fun. It’s a great little show that will hopefully be a new standout and set a new precedent for featuring the underrated academic clubs in schools. Plus, the animation for button pressing is fantastic.

Gamers crlogo

8f61d08e713fc25ad54cf12079836b5f1499856494_fullAs anime and gaming culture becomes more prevalent and accepted, we see a rise in anime and manga centered around such hobbies. I am sucker for these “picture-in-picture” shows, and Gamers deals a blow that is different, new, and all around fun.

This all begins rather cookie-cutter, what with the nerdy kid (Amano Keita) in school meeting the most popular girl (Tendou Karen) in a game store. They hit it off rather well as they talk about games, and eventually Tendou invites Amano to join the school’s competitive gaming club. After a visit around the club room and hours of video games in what seems to be the coolest, most inviting club on campus- Amano turns down the offer to join. Amano doesn’t play games for competition- he plays for the stories, graphics, and his love of games. This was the first time I’ve ever truly related to an otaku character in an anime, and I know I’m not alone.

Gamers’ show description bills itself as a harem-type show, but (as of episode one) this anime seems to be more of an accidental slice-of-life comedy where Amano just happens to be around women who like games. It’s wholly refreshing to be watching a show that gives us the perspective of a character most JRPG and light novel gamers can relate to without all the rigamarole of sloppy romance. Going forward, I hope that Gamers keeps the harem set-up far in the background, and if it can manage that I have no doubts that this will be a great summer season comedy.

Hell Girl: Fourth Twilightcrlogo

7e087e095c437dd1e69f964ed21d57db1500005005_fullAi Enma aka Hell Girl, is an urban myth said to appear in front of anyone who accesses “Jigoku Tsushin” at midnight and posts their grudge. Hell Girl will then spirit your enemy to Hell at the cost of your soul when your time finally comes. Now, a strange girl has appeared before Ai brining to question both girl’s pasts and intentions.

After ten years, Hell Girl has returned and for the life of me, I can’t really remember what happened in the story line so long ago. Luckily, this first episode helps remind old fans how sending people to hell works and the various characters Ai (Hell Girl) has working for her. However, though previous fans are blessed, Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight dives straight in without lending any time to be new-viewer-friendly. I am a little worried that this may act as more of a detriment to the show’s resurgence, but I also understand that fans nowadays are a little more open to the idea of cold starts.

Overall, the first episode of Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight was a great re-introduction into Ai’s world. We focus on an instance of bullying that turns the victim to Hell Girl where she wishes for her bullies to be dragged to Hell. Knowing the girl isn’t serious, just upset, Ai holds off until the girl learns her real tormentor.

Right off the bat, I believe we are introduced to the main plot of this season which centers around Ai taking undeserving people to Hell simply because someone wished them to be led there. To Ai, this is a job and a contract she is carrying out with the sender also getting their just deserts at the end. If Ai does gain a conscience- which I have to assume she will considering her recent hesitant streaks both with this episode and the previous second season, I do wonder if this will be the final act of of the Hell Girl series.

Hitorijime My Hero download

hitorijime-my-heroIt’s difficult for us to get a good boys love anime anymore. Or, maybe it’s always been tough and I just grew up in a time when boys in love was just in it’s prime. Either way, Hitorijime My Hero is the newest kid on the block to try and get women to watch TV.

We start with a standard story of a delinquent who meets a rabble rouser that fights the gangers in the area. Mashahiro Setagawa is that deliquent, but instead of being a ruffian, he is actually bullied and treated as the gang’s lapdog. Kousuke Oshiba is the rabble rouser and a high school teacher who has earned the nickname “Bear Killer” from his actions taking out gangs.

Kousuke develops an urge to protect Setagawa, though he states he isn’t interested in men, but don’t they all say that in the beginning? Luckily, Kousuke is Setagawa’s best friend’s brother which provides both the boys easy access to each other.

Based on some context clues, I think it’s safe to say that Kousuke’s behavior caused the school to let him go for a time, a leave of absence of sorts. However, there was need for a math teacher and the school has rehired Kousuke. Here, we will be presented the classic power relationship between the two boys.

Overall,  Hitorijime My Hero is relatively basic in terms of boys love at the moment. I’m hoping it will become less predictable as were go forward, but considering the genre it’s likely that we will be keeping the status quo.

In Another World With My Smartphone crlogo

a1d53837f8bb8b7afbff7398b5aa5a3d1500336559_fullMochizuki is killed in an accident in our world, and God meets with him in limbo to apologize for the mistake. Because God is remorseful for cutting Mochizuki’s life short, he allows Mochizuki to be resurrected in a fantasy world with his current body- though it’s been upgraded to a God-mode version with the ability to use all magic as well as other perks. Another perk that God allows is the smartphone that Mochizuki keeps and uses to access our world’s internet.

When Mochizuki lands on the new world, he is given an objective map (like in an RPG) and the ability to call God on his phone to make his journey that much easier. There is even a spell that Mochizuki can use, which is one of the rarest forms of magic in the world, that will allow him to essentially fast travel to destinations. This anime is exactly what Konosuba was parodying.

There isn’t a lot I can say positively about this show. It’s riding on the fantasy world game trope, but instead of making this a normal part of the world like in Danmachi or Konosuba– it’s obviously on par with cheating to the point that Mochizuki states this is chicanery.

The harem element is rather strong as of the first episode, too, and while we can attribute this to God’s favor (which it likely is) the fact that Mochizuki is presented with a following of beautiful girls as well as a free-pass to most happenings in this world is almost infuriating. There is an overwhelming lack of conflict or introductory conflict where there should have been inklings, and it’s very obvious that this is a self-insert show to add to a crowded genre of “other world” stories.

Knights & Magiccrlogo

1f571a99f01ae300e972894262c94de21499006389_fullWhen life ends in tragedy, what happens? It’s an interesting question, and one that anime has recently told us ends with you surrounded by beautiful women in a fantasy world. However, one particular individual is spirited off into a world of robotic knights called Silhouette Knights- reborn as Ernesti Echevalier, a noble son. Using his inherited knowledge of machines and programing, he plans to make his own giant robot inadvertently causing an adventurous chain reaction across the land.

Keeping in kind with the typical setting of recent action-adventure anime, the protagonist somehow ends up in a fantasy world. What sets Knights & Magic apart is that Kurata is reincarnated as Erenesti, the son of a noble knight. However, Kurata is able to remember his previous life perfectly- to the point where his reincarnation reminds me all too well of Saga of Tanya the Evil. It’s unclear under what circumstances Kurata landed in this world, but he comes to as a grade-school aged child who knows the word “robot.”

We are pushed rather quickly through the next few years of Erni’s life only to end up back where we started for the most part, and while that’s not surprising for a first episode, it did feel like we were supposed to get something out of it all. What we are presented with is a the start of a big bad and the musings of a slow and dull story of a kid piloting a magic robot.

Love and Lies download

b20dc80f0689ad7ea44c9af546e2e93e1487451337_fullIn a society where the declining Japanese birthrates sunk so low that the government mandated human breeding protocols to ensure the continuation of their race, four kids fight for true love. A good social commentary anime will also pique my interest, and Love and Lies is the perfect example. The older generation appreciates the simplicity of allowing the government to control this aspect of their lives, but the younger generation (for the most part) loathes this control in the Romeo & Juliet kind of way.

During the first episode we see Yukari Nejima and Misaki Tazaki, who have been in love with each other since they were in grade school. Both of them finally get the courage to confess their feelings on the night of Yukari’s 16th birthday, the day he learns who his marriage partner will be.

Love and Lies features an appealing, Shojou-esque art style and soft colors. The character interactions feel quite natural with little room for improvement as the creators seem to have a good grasp of teenage awkwardness. It’s terribly easy to get sucked into this soap-opera drama, and while I know the protagonists won’t be able to make any lasting change to the marriage policy, I am looking forward to them at least trying and coming to terms with their predicament.

My First Girlfriend is a Gal crlogo

873c27e421082f024bb235c590bd35fd1499834799_fullHashiba Jun’ichi and his trio of perverted friends begin another school year without girlfriends or prospects, all asking themselves why they are still virgins while their classmates are getting laid left and right. The boys figure out that the best way to release themselves from their stagnation is to get with a Gal. Their plan involves Hashiba making the first move, then after he has his time with her, the rest of this friends will follow suit. Gals are notoriously slutty, after all. However, instead of refusing to date Hashiba after learning of his intentions, Yukana (the Gal) agrees and thus begins the incredible journal of Hashiba Jun’ichi.

I actually had high hopes for this series since I was a huge fan of Galko-Chan a few seasons back. However, even with a similar art-style, My First Girlfriend is a Gal is a severe disappointment with too much focus on a group of creepy, sex-obsessed boys- one of which is a pedophile.

It’s natural to have “urges,” but it’s disgusting to read porn magazines in class while talking about different a classmate’s breasts. What My First Girlfriend in a Gal lacks is any moniker of seriousness or class when it comes to handling teenage relationships, and it’s these sort of shows that trivialize the trashy behavior exhibited in the boys.  

What I hope this series becomes is something that shows the world that not all gals are promiscuous, and I hope that the boys experience some growth in regards to their sexual intimacy issues. However, what I truly think will hurt this show the most is the devious behavior of Hashiba’s friends, and the fact that every show featuring a gal-type character attempts to prove they are not as sexually adventurous as the tabloids lead you to believe. My First Girlfriend is a Gal will suffer from being a repeated trope in the crowded romcom genre.

New Game!!  crlogo

68af8ecae409291f8d6278a82cbf9b491499909337_fullNew Game first premiered last summer season (July 2016), garnering a ton a fans. The first season introduced us to Suzukaze Aoba, a newly graduated high school student who got a job working as a character designer at Eagle Jump, the studio who made her favorite game: Fairies Story. To her excitement, Aoba is assigned to work on the next game in the Fairies series, and she is working under Yagami Kou- the lead character designer for Fairies Story. It’s a dream come true for Aoba, and it’s here that she meets a myriad of amazing friends and learns the trials and tribulations of working on a a game.

Season two is underway, and we pick up a little after the release of Fairies Story 3. Eagle Jump is slow, and our character design team is helping other departments with their work. However, a there is a character design contest coming up, and Aoba now has a chance to be the lead designer on the next game.

The first episode of the new season does a great job reminding fans and introducing new fans to who the girls are and each of their personality quirks. Luckily for people looking to get into New Game, this is a very viewer friendly show, and there isn’t a learning curve for understanding the characters in any way. Though, to see their growth, I would suggest you watch season one since many of the girls have gone through some transformation.

Overall, the feel of New Game!! is exactly the same now, and the year-long break didn’t hinder the art or animation in any way. There is a air of newness and excitement with the upcoming character design contest. I can’t wait to see who becomes the new lead designer, what the game is going to be about, and how the girls grow through this experience.

Princess Principal  download

princess-principalIn the budding industrial age of a steampunk steering London sits the prestigious Queens May Fair School. It’s here that five beautiful young girls, one a princess, attend school and also work as spies for the government performing various activities across the city.

This is a sincerely beautiful show that takes advantage of the muted colors to show steam and shadow movement consistently. It has dynamic angles and great quick, streaky fighting scenes. One of the complaints I have about animation is the vapid use of still frames, or only animating one thing in the frame at a time. Princess Principal does an amazing job keeping gears, mist, steam, lights, and so forth moving in the background if these things would be moving in real life. The use of CG is known, but it’s not obvious and it blends insanely well with the hand animation, likely because of the coloring and blending choices.

What the first episode of Princess Principal does well is that it’s able to introduce all the characters as well as giving us a look into how they do business. The most interesting bit is how Ange handles the defector the spies are asked to work with. At the end of it all, you have to wonder if Ange had just played the defector into her hands.

The ladies in Princess Principal are experts in their field, and all seem to have been raised just to spy. They are an elite troop that the English government is able to not only rely on, but also trust in a variable period in history. This show reminds me a lot of Gunslinger Girls, and if that’s a pedigree we can trust- then we can expect a wonderful show out of Princess Principal.

I will be working on Princess Principal as a part of my Thoughts & Feelings Column this season! Start reading here!

The Reflection crlogo

41beaabd6f91ddf47a04c43f7a84c0a71500717872_fullThree years ago a strange mist and light rained down across the world without anyone knowing why. Many people died from the this encounter, and many others have development mutations. Some people use these mutations for villainous purposes, some heroic.

Our stage is set in New York City, and just hearing that context can make you think of Marvel comics. In fact, all of The Reflection is reminiscent of Marvel-type comics. The thick lines, backgrounds, setting, and heroes all remind you of Inhumans (terrigen mists) and the X-Men (Magneto ideals, subjugating the mutated) comics. Stan Lee is even doing the next episode previews. Because of this direct homage to U.S. superhero comics, I really believe that The Reflection will become a great starter anime for new fans.

As a show, The Reflection works on a few fronts. It is delivering a commentary on society as a whole as well as American culture. The stark, thick lines and simple animation make the show stand out in the current anime market where most shows look to be in the same vein. There is also the story of tightly costumed heroes with different styles- which isn’t the typical sentai trope, though it’s becoming far more common since My Hero Academia become so popular with kids and adults alike. It’s also got bits of humor dispersed in a very Marvel comics kind of way (think Brian Michael Bendis’ Spider-Man run).

I love comics, The Reflection is hitting two key points in my wheelhouse (anime and comics), but it’s really very well executed and the story moves quickly enough to keep you interested in what is going to happen next to all these characters and where this is all going to go.

The Reflection is a stand out this season, and I really can’t suggest you watch it enough. If you don’t have time, I will be working on The Reflection in my Thoughts & Feelings column this season, and you can start reading here!

Restaurant to Another World crlogo

10b117017d07aa836665f0608ef46ad11498717948_fullDuring the week, Western Cuisine Nekoya serves delicious western style cuisine for the Japanese patrons, and on Saturday for twelve hours the chef cooks this same food to a myriad of races and cultures from a parallel fantasy world.

The status quo for most “Other World” shows centers around an adolescent protagonist who is amazed by the fantasy world they have managed to make their way to. It’s a trope that became quickly tired, and even I throw some scrutiny on this genre of anime. However, Restaurant to Another World has managed to remind us how enjoyable experiencing something foreign and new can be because the focus isn’t on a kid traveling to another land- this time, the focus is on this reality’s food and the foreign visitors who open the door to our world.

Like most cooking-type shows, there is a great level of detail that goes into making the dishes look delectable. I won’t say that this is Food Wars quality food, but it’s very close in regards to character reactions and enjoyment of the foreign spices and flavor blends.

Most of the first episode deals with character establishment and giving us an idea of who the Chef is as a person. It’s a reminiscent mix of Polar Bear Cafe and Sweetness & Lightning which really makes this quite a perfect show. I believe that as long as no concrete plot is introduced, this slow-life restaurant will steal hearts this season.

Again, all the abovementioned anime are available for streaming on Crunchyroll or Amazon so you can get started today if anything piqued your interest by clicking the hyperlinks on the show titles.

I will be covering Princess Principal and The Reflection in my “Thoughts and Feelings Column” this season, so look forward to a look at episode one of each this week!

Please comment with any questions, or if you just want to discuss.

As always, thank you for reading!

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