Fall 2016 Season Kick-Off!

Fall is hands down my favorite time of year. After the insufferable heat of summer, to me there is no feeling in the world like stepping outside into the chill fall air and looking around to see the myriad wonderful shades of color in the turning leaves. Yup, my idea of a good time in the fall is pretty much a good book, a pumpkin spice latte, and a nice secluded tree under which to enjoy them.

So now you’ll understand where I’m coming from when I say I wish the fall anime season weren’t quite so stacked with solid shows, because at this rate I don’t think I’m going to have much of a chance to enjoy the aforementioned fall pastimes.

Shows I’ll Be Following

Keijo!!!!!!!!

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A.K.A., the boobs ‘n’ butts anime. Ass much as Keijo!!!!!!!! sounds like a throw-away fanservice anime (and tit kind of is), the shameless enthusiasm with which it plays every ridiculous idea one hundred percent straight is actually pretty amusing. Last time I chest, I usually pass on anime like Keijo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! that scrape the bottom of the barrel for just enough plot and character development to carry the butt-ton of fanservice that is the rear point of the show. And to be fair, Keijo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! will probably start to fall behind better shows as the novelty of its cheeky premise wears off over the next few episodes. Butt as long as its focus remains on tushing the boundaries of its hooter of a premise rather than fanservice for the sake of fanservice, Keijo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! will remain with its backside firmly planted on my weekly anime schedule.

Matoi the Sacred Slayer

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Judging from the first episode, Matoi the Sacred Slayer looks like the kind of anime that probably isn’t that great by most standards, but still pushes all of my buttons as an anime fan. It’s got cute, expressive character designs, lots of bright, colorful magic effects, and a plot that seems poised to offer plenty of fun, mindless action. Sure, the first episode was a bit of a mess, and the set pieces lack the directorial or animation prowess of many higher-profile series, but to be honest, none of that really matters to me because the show is so darn entertaining. I’m going to keep my expectations low for this one, but judging from how much I enjoyed the first episode, Matoi the Sacred Slayer is probably going to remain a fixture on my fall schedule.

Magic of Stella

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I have a weakness for a certain brand of cute in anime, the kind of cute that is slightly chibi and round and a bit clumsy and filled in with lots of pastel colors. This kind of cute is abundant in this season’s “moe game development” anime Magic of Stella, so of course I quite liked it. Most of the plot so far is pretty predictable, and the characters with a few exceptions are pretty forgettable, but Tamaki Honda is just so cute in her own slightly disheveled and helpless sort of way that I can’t help but love her. It’s no New Game, but I can think of worse ways to get my quota of cute this season.

March comes in like a lion

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The visuals in the first episode of March comes in like a lion are so packed with meaning that I could spend hours writing about it and not do it justice-but since this is a SHAFT anime, I expected that going into it. What I did not expect was the degree to which it differs from SHAFT’s other popular anime, visually and otherwise. The source material for March comes in like a lion is a slice of life story that’s fairly grounded in real life, so it doesn’t seem like it would lend itself well to the abstract backgrounds and overtly philosophical dialogue of series like the Monogatari and Madoka franchises. That said, this premiere is all the proof I needed that SHAFT are one hundred percent capable of adapting their signature style to something a little less fantastical than their usual fare.

Bungo Stray Dogs 2

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I watched the first season of Bungo Stray Dogs and was less than impressed with it, and that’s a gentle assessment taking into account my failure to realize the real-life basis for the characters and their abilities until the tail end of the season. When new cast announcements started dropping for the second season a while back, I was very concerned that this season would repeat the biggest mistake of the first- introducing a bunch of new characters at the expense of actually developing any of the existing ones. However, if it weren’t for the presence of one key character in the new season, you might have a hard time convincing me that the two seasons are even from the same show, such is the difference in quality of visuals and storytelling between them. I’m legitimately impressed so far with the way the first two episodes of season two have revealed Dazai’s complex backstory, and the two new characters that have been introduced are legitimately interesting as well. I am still a bit concerned about this new (?) faction that is being introduced and where exactly they are going to fit into the show’s already overabundant cast, but I am holding out hope that the second season can redeem the best parts of the first and tie the story together in some meaningful way. Failing that, at least we should be in for some more interesting abilities and enjoyable fight sequences, if last season was any indication. Either way, I’m in for the long haul on this one.

Drifters

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Given its pedigree, I was expecting good things from Drifters. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s stylish as hell, more than a little weird, and has Kohta Hirano’s fingerprints all over it. I am embarrassingly ignorant of Japanese history, so I don’t have much context for who all of the historical figures in the show were in real life, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it won’t matter that much anyway. Drifters looks to be a highly stylized, action-packed gore-fest with a badass protagonist. I haven’t had a chance to enjoy an anime like that in quite a while, so I’m quite looking forward to it.

Poco’s Udon World

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I suspect the majority of you may disagree with me on this, but I think I’m going to like Poco’s Udon World more than last season’s Sweetness & Lightning. I know saying that so early is probably jumping the gun in a big way, but judging from the first episode,  Poco’s Udon World doesn’t seem to adhere to a given episode structure. The story flow actually reminded me a great deal of the lackadaisical pacing of Flying Witch, which is to say that it felt quite a bit more easygoing and natural than Sweetness & Lightning, even though there was considerably less real character development in its first episode than in S&L‘s. Of course, all of this is speculation based on a single episode; but this kind of slice of life story lives and dies on its atmosphere, and Poco’s Udon World most definitely knocked it out of the park with its first episode. Here’s hoping it can keep it up for the rest of the season.

Izetta: The Last Witch

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I heard quite a bit of fuss over Izetta: The Last Witch going into this season, especially with regard to its animation and star-studded staff. After the first episode, I’m pretty sure I think it may have been over-hyped just a tad. The initial plot setup comes across a bit forced and the dialogue oozes melodrama (especially the Germanian forces, my goodness), but the action set-pieces are some of the best I’ve seen this season, with choice bits of gorgeous animation that completely sold me on the emotion of those scenes, even as I had no idea what on earth was going on for most of them. Plus, I really like Izetta’s character design- the red hair and eyes totally give the impression of a fierce character with fiery determination. Regardless of how I end up liking the show, I’m pretty confident I’m going to adore her character.

Flip Flappers

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Flip Flappers is, in a word, delightful. In a season full of anime with gorgeous visuals, I have not yet seen this show’s equal in terms of the way its visuals, especially the lush backgrounds and rich lighting effects, establish its atmosphere and sense of place. The whole first episode has this airy sense of freedom and adventure about it, reminiscent in some ways of Saturday morning kids cartoons, but with a more mature approach involving things like Cocona’s struggle to make important decisions about her future. Flip Flappers has quite a bit of heart wrapped up in its simple plot and charming cast. Here’s hoping that it continues to live up to its stellar first episode in the weeks to come.

Magical Girl Raising Project

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I’m of two minds about the premiere of Magical Girl Raising Project, a.k.a. Mahoiku. On the one hand, I am a fan of the whole “dark mahou shoujo” thing, and I think Mahoiku does a decent job of parlaying the idea of a magical mobile game into a surprisingly solid and interesting basis for the mahou shoujo mechanics of the show. That said, the anime’s direction is more than a little uninspired. Part of the draw of a series that features so many magical girls is their cute and cool character designs, but it’s hard to get a feel for those designs when most of the shots in the show are claustrophobically zoomed in on their faces. Which brings me to Mahoiku‘s other major flaw- its characters spend way too much time yapping. I understand that this is a light novel adaptation, but that doesn’t mean that every last bit of setup needs to be conveyed via dialogue! An action set piece to give us a taste of what to expect in the future would have gone a long way towards grabbing my interest right off the bat; but instead of immediately clicking on the next episode, I found myself more than willing to pause and write this little blurb. Which, for a show that I was really excited about to begin with, isn’t that great of a start. I’ll keep Mahoiku on my roster for the time being, since I really do like its unique premise and the promise of dark, edgy things to come, but the first episode doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of hope that it’s going to deliver on its potential.

Occultic;Nine

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Out of all the anime this season, Occultic;Nine perhaps runs the greatest risk of being all style and no substance. Its first episode is super chaotic, with multiple disjointed story threads haphazardly jumbled together with little to no explanation. Presumably the connective tissue that ties them together will come in later episodes, but for the time being it’s difficult to nail down exactly what Occultic;Nine is about. And I love it for that. The first episode’s breakneck pacing, machine-gun dialogue, and snappy camera work serves to establish a manic, unhinged atmosphere that is absolutely perfect for a show about paranormal phenomena and the oft-ridiculous pseudoscience surrounding them. To be honest, it feels like a major gamble on the part of the directorial staff, if only because this kind of off-kilter presentation is bound to turn some people off to the show entirely. But if the first episode is any indication, those of us who stick with it are in for one heck of a ride.

Shows I Probably Won’t Be Following

ClassicaLoid

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I was really hoping ClassicaLoid was going to be a music anime focused on adapting the music of the great composers of yore in fun and interesting ways…which it technically is, but unfortunately the majority of the show appears to be given over to aggressively mediocre comedy and inexplicably ridiculous caricatures of the aforementioned greats themselves, rather than their music. I’ll give the show one thing, it’s imaginative and crazy on a whole new level, but imagination unfortunately isn’t enough to hold my attention through the long stretches of annoyingly bad dialogue and boring character development. There are definitely some people out there who might enjoy ClassicaLoid, but I am not one of them.

Trickster

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Trickster‘s first episode tries to be edgy and serious and dramatic and fails completely at all three. Apart from a few flashes of interesting characterization (the hikki girl with the computer gadgets seemed cool, if trope-y), there was really nothing to recommend it among the crop of excellent action/drama anime this season. The plot is pedestrian at best, with generic characters offering little to no reasoning or motivation to back up their actions- basically a group of uninteresting people doing illogical things because the plot requires them to. It would be infuriating if the show offered enough reason for me to care. Perhaps fortunately, it does not.

Not Yet Aired

Fune wo Amu

I don’t know much about the original story or its movie adaptation, but I am intrigued by the concept of an anime about writing a dictionary. It’s a premise that could easily turn into a yawn-fest, but I’m banking on the possibility of some good character drama to keep things interesting. Plus, it’s been a while since I was disappointed by a noitaminA anime. Fune wo Amu is supposed to simulcast on Amazon Prime, but at the time of this writing, no official page for the series exists on Amazon’s site. If and when it does get uploaded, I’ll tweet my thoughts about it (@tsd_seiyuuki) and write a separate post if there’s enough depth to warrant it.

Luger Code 1951

Honesty, I’m rather surprised that Luger Code 1951 hasn’t been announced for simulcast anywhere yet, as it seems like the kind of action anime that would be an easy sell for many anime fans. The trailer and key visuals I’ve seen so far have been pretty impressive as well, so I was hoping to get the chance to check it out this season. Unless it ends up being a complete flop in Japan, and barring any complications with the licensing rights, I’d expect to see someone license it eventually, so even if we don’t get a simulcast I’ll still check it out as soon as I have a legal means for doing so. A story about werewolves and code-breaking has the potential to be really good or really bad depending on how they play it, but as long as there’s a chance that an anime will finally delve just a little bit into the wonders of cryptography, I’ll hold out hope that it ends up being good.

In Conclusion…

As you may have noticed, this season is stacked with some really great shows, the majority of them featuring solid stories, and many of them offering an ample serving of that sweet, sweet eye candy. I think I managed to pick out the most promising shows of the season (at least those that don’t require viewing of previous seasons I missed), but if there are any I missed that you’d strongly recommend I check out, please let me know in the comments below!

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