Tag Archives: first impressions

Fall 2014: Action


Summer’s gone and Autumn [or Fall] has taken its place.  The anime is still coming by the boatload though and on Anifile we are delighted to be able to continue with the previews for the shows coming up. Like in the spring, we are separating shows into different categories based on their primary genre. There are thirty anime eligible for review on this site [As usual, I don’t count sequel seasons of series such as the two new Gundam series] and instead focus on the brand new franchises and see if they’re worth your time. Let’s begin with some action!

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Akatsuki no Yona
(Yona of the Dawn)

Animation Studio: Pierrot
Origin:  Manga [Kusanagi]
Date of Premiere: October 7th

Summary
On her sixteenth birthday, the only princess of Kouka [Yona] is greeted with the sight of her dead father at the hands of her cousin and love interest Soo-won. Before he can kill Yona, her servant Hak rescues her and takes her to an old monk who teaches them about four legendary dragons which can save the kingdom from the tyranny of Soo-won’s faction.

Initial Thoughts
Upon first glance, it’s a decent looking show with average visuals and some grandiose battle sequences thrown in. The plot is somewhat samey with the whole love interest angle despite the fact that one of the subjects killed the other subject’s father; kind of makes things awkward. It seems like a good show overall though but it’s not novel enough to bring to the front of the queue.

Review Priority Rating [RPR]: Medium

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Donten ni Warau
(The Cloudy Laugh)

Animation Studio: Dogakobo
Origin:  Manga [Karakara]
Date of Premiere: October 3rd

Summary
In the Meiji era, the age of the samurai was starting to fade away into the history books. Carrying swords was made illegal, but crime spiked as a result. In response, the government created a huge island prison where the only way in or out is via boat. Three brothers from the Kumo family man the vessels as they transport convicts to the island. However, from first glance, it seems that things aren’t quite as straightforward as you might think.

Initial Thoughts
The last hurrah of the samurai is a hugely significant part of Japanese history and to focus on it in an anime is somewhat refreshing. It’s like how the Western genre revelled in the dying days of the cowboy in the 1880s. It’s the same thing! These trio of samurai-born warriors have a cool look about them and clearly show prowess in different ways. I’m intrigued with how this will pan out as it’s clear that the story goes far beyond simply ferrying prisoners. Let’s see!

Review Priority Rating [RPR]: Medium-High

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Garo: Honou no Kokuin
(Garo: The Carved Seal of Flames)

Animation Studio: MAPPA
Origin:  GARO Tokusatsu franchise
Date of Premiere: October 3rd

Summary
The Valiante Kingdom has begun a massive search for wielders of Maki, both priests and knights. In the resulting purge, the art of Makai is brought to a near extinction. One man, Leon Luis, returns to the Valiante Kingdom at the request of the king’s son when his throne is taken from him by his former advisor. Leon wields the power of the Golden Knight Garo and only its power can help the land be restored to its rightful owner.

Initial Thoughts
Two thoughts came to mind. Knights transforming and ‘The past will come back to haunt you!’ This adaptation of the famous Garo tokusatsu series is a curious retelling of the concept. Unrelated to the live-action series, the anime plans to take a grander approach to the idea of knights with sentai-like powers. This show carries a lot of weight behind it and seems to look pretty cool too!

Review Priority Rating [RPR]: Medium-High

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Kiseijuu
(Parasyte)

Animation Studio: Madhouse
Origin:  Manga [Iwaaki]
Date of Premiere: October 8th

Summary
In this world, Japan has been besieged by intergalactic parasites known as…Parasites. These aliens invade the population not with lasers but by burrowing into humans and animals through their noses or ears taking them over – in VERY disturbing ways. One boy named Shinichi is spared such a fate, or at least for the most part, because he was wearing headphones. He is still infected but only his right arm is infected; it develops a personality and together they fight other Parasites whilst using each other to survive and prosper.

Initial Thoughts
Wow. I thought Terra Formars was going to be the shocker of the season; this probably will give it a run for its money. It is a REALLY scary idea; parasites taking over your body without you knowing it and turning you into some kind of monster that likes eating other people. Even dogs aren’t safe! In any case, I really want to see where this goes and how Shinichi and his partner, Migi [Japanese for right as the parasite takes over his right hand] interact and help one another!

Review Priority Rating [RPR]: High

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World Trigger

worldtrigger

Animation Studio: Toei Animation
Origin:  Manga [Ashihara]
Date of Premiere: October 5th

Summary
The city of Mikado is home to some of the worst Neighbors you’ve ever seen. From another dimension, these beings destroy Mikado and have been for about four years before the story proper begins. The Border group meet this challenge with a brand new class of weaponised young kids, Triggers. Thanks to these Triggers, the city is brought back to a relative peace until a Black Trigger appears and threatens to disrupt the newly formed status quo.

Initial Thoughts
I don’t know. I’m not overwhelmed with the initial premise. I’ve seen this before and I reckon I’ll see this again in the future – demons appearing which cannot be stopped by regular weaponry and as such NEW weapons need to be made. Fortunately, the show in its entirety seems to be quite light-hearted and characterful with a neat main duo. My main concern is that Toei will skimp on the animation [which is somewhat evident IN THE PREVIEW] like it has done with recent shows that aren’t Dragonball or One Piece. If it can give this show a good animation budget then things should be OK, otherwise the look won’t match the feel.

Review Priority Rating [RPR]: Medium-Low

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So we have five action-packed productions in the work. What else do we have? Well, we got twenty-five other anime to cover and seven of them are comedies which we will look at next time!

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RETRO REVIEW: Puella Magi Madoka Magica


To round off the Winter 2011 lineup, Masako had the review that so many of you requested for. So here are his first impressions on the magical girl show which turns the very concept on its head! It’s Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Please note that this was before the absolute mindbendingly twisted events past episode four and goes to show how effective this anime was at duping its core audience! :O

Rail Wars!


So today we kick off my summer 2014 anime first impressions review roster with an anime which is trying to glamourise the world of trains and the Japanese railway network had it been maintained as a fully-nationalised entity. Chronicling the exploits of a young man yearning to be an engineer, Rail Wars! is a blatant attempt to make the world of locomotive transportation seem appealing to those who might not have thought it so prior to watching. Does it succeed in doing this? Not really, but it tries.

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I’m not gonna lie, the first thing I thought of when I saw our main lead Naoto Takayama was this popular meme . To me he seems like a walking placard for the train industry as does this story of him graduating from the JNRC [Japan’s National Railway Central Academy] and finding his feet whilst traipsing the halls of Tokyo station. In this world, the rail network is run by the government and the threat of privatisation is hanging in the air like a bad smell or diesel train…you see what I did there? I’m trying to be like Naoto. I like trains. Once he graduates, he’s carted off to the Fourth Guard Squad, which is otherwise translated into the Misfits Division. Along the way he meets Aoi [the gun-nut gal], Haruka [the busty brainbox] and Sho [the Joey Wheeler of the group] who all miraculously graduate and end up in the Guard Squad initially run by Nana, a somewhat homely and mis-placed leader who treats the squad like it’s an after-school club. The team spend their days wandering around their home station acting as station security, which is mostly pointing people where to go and whatnot; exciting stuff. However there are moments when things do pick up such as a bomb scare and a theft of a woman’s purse which act as perfect chances to show off the team’s skills or a chance to get some hot angles of Aoi being cool or Haruka bumbling around with her bosom somehow and Naoto being…well, liking trains.

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I appreciate that Takumi Toyoda [the writer of the light novel which this anime is based on] wanted to follow a different path or line [see what I did there?] and tell a story revolving around an often overlooked mode of transportation and yet is essential for modern travel, especially in Japan. To use the railway as a backdrop for a story is a novel idea these days and that I respect, but there’s a reason why it’s not been done before or at least not as often; it ain’t half dull sometimes. I don’t find it boring, but I can imagine most people would get tired of the characters spouting different line numbers, train sounds or the ungodly amount of information that Naoto and his childhood friend Mari [who turns up in episode three] spew forth. It feels like that the story is trying too hard to convey the train aspect of the narrative to the audience where actually you don’t need much. YOU’RE IN A STATION AND TRAINS NATURALLY APPEAR THERE – that’s all you need! So how does Toyoda and Yoshifumi Matsuda [the anime’s director] combat this potential turn-off? Well, I think it’s kind of obvious, isn’t it? Cute girls and awkward fanservice intertwined with the train porn – that should be enough to toot one’s horn!

railwars_3That’s when we get to the show’s biggest flaw – its sheer and unashamed use of fanservice to keep the audience watching it. One moment in particular is when Naoto first meets Aoi and Haruka. Naoto is helping a kid retrieve a balloon which got stuck in a tree. He is struggling but from nowhere comes Aoi who does backflips and unnecessarily acrobatic moves to denote that she’s the tough, spunky one who don’t take no crap from nobody. Immediately behind her is Haruka whose contribution is to have her skirt fly up, Marilyn Monroe style, to act as a signifier of what her role in the story will be – the pin-up. Granted Haruka is supremely intelligent and often outthinks the rest of her team but her busty figure and tendency to lean over a lot suggestively negates her intellect at the end of the day. This scene is only ninety seconds into episode one. Wow. This show doesn’t like to beat about the bush. As for Nana, the squad leader, she’s also pretty busty and has a child-like serenity to something which should be taken seriously. The whole notion that the squad meet in a small ‘storage room’ and treat proceedings like a school club [it even looks like one!] is such a glaring allusion to the show’s ultimate composition. It’s a high school show and these guys are the hall monitors.

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However, I will give the show credit for something in particular; I don’t hate the characters themselves. True their makeups are completely stock, but their personalities are likeable. Sho, the other male character, is pretty funny sometimes and to see him run around after the others is pretty amusing. Haruka may be fanservice-orientated but she is a really nice person who is really clever. If she wasn’t so well-endowed and prone to clumsy antics which contradict her bright brain, she’d be a great love interest for Naoto. Aoi may be a hothead but she’s a good egg ultimately. Her love for guns and using her fists to settle arguments overshadow her genuine desire to do a good job and protect the station from thugs, that’s pretty noble; she is insecure and believes that being brash and partial to violence will mask that insecurity. I just wish that this show wouldn’t rely on tropes to keep people watching or overload the viewer with facts about trains that most people will forget in five minutes because they don’t care. Perhaps try and find a happy medium. Sadly, that doesn’t happen here.

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So should you skip Rail Wars? Yes and no. If you’re looking for something which is quite clever, sophisticated and refined then you won’t find it here. It’s a very conflicted tale trying to be a weekly twenty minute commercial for trains and the world around them. Yet it also tries to appeal to moe fans and those looking for some all-too-familiar fanservice who might have to put up with some stuff about trains. Naoto is fairly forgettable as a main lead, he’s not a weakling or a jerk; just plain vanilla…except for the fact he likes trains. Despite all the negative remarks I’ve made, I still think this anime is not that bad. Sure, it’s a mess but it’s a charming mess…sort of like Kämpfer in a way. For that I will spare a bad review but neither would I recommend it. It’s OK, probably a show for when you have nothing else to watch.

Rail Wars! is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

RATING: CAUTION [A bit of a narrative mess, but the characters have potential in the long run.]

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