Fall 2015 – The Season So Far

As another cour gets underway, we’re taking a moment to give our first impressions of the shows each of us are following this season.

DAN

I’m currently following three shows, all of which seem to share a common theme: super-smart people solving serious problems.

Beautiful Bones – Sakurako’s Investigation

Beautiful Bones: Sakurano's Investigation

Beautiful Bones was the first series to catch my eye this season, and so far I’m quite enjoying it. The show follows a high school student named Shōtarō as he accompanies the mysterious and eccentric Sakurako Kujō. Sakurako is a genius osteologist obsessed with bones, particularly those of humans. The pair often find themselves working with the police to solve mysteries surrounding human remains, where Sakurako’s superhuman forensic skills become invaluable.

The series is well-presented, with generally solid animation and nicely designed characters. Other than some odd discrepancies between the characters and the background, the show looks nice and polished. While I initially raised an eyebrow at the display that occurs whenever Sakurano starts her investigation, the sequence has grown on me, and it gives the show a bit of visual flare beyond its attractive but otherwise mundane setting.

I’m liking the characters in Beautiful Bones so far as well. Shōtarō proves himself a bit more useful in a pinch than your run-of-the-mill anime high school boy, and Sakurako is clearly more than her aloof exterior would suggest. The young woman’s childish outbursts in episode 1 put me off, but they haven’t cropped up again, so I consider that a plus. My two main concerns are not knowing how these two otherwise unconnected people met, and whether the show will form an overarching plot rather than the fun but not particularly unique episodic detective stories it has shown us so far. Without a bit more structure, I can see the plots becoming more and more contrived, as Shōtarō and Sakurako somehow find themselves at the center of every murder investigation in Hokkaido.

Watch Beautiful Bones – Sakurako’s Investigation on Crunchyroll

The Perfect Insider

The Perfect Insider

Though it’s clearly a mystery-focused show, The Perfect Insider is a bit hard to nail down at the start. The first episode does a good job of establishing the personalities of our main cast, but doesn’t clearly tell us who they are and what they really do. We are eventually introduced to researcher Sōhei Saikawa, who works at some form of advanced laboratory, and his wealthy student, Moe Nishinosono. Along with other members of the lab, the two visit a facility where the mysterious young genius Dr. Magata is held. When they try to visit the doctor, a murder sends the isolated lab into chaos, and the two must help piece together what has happened.

I’m still on the fence with Perfect Insider, mostly because it takes a full three episodes to really get moving. After a beautifully animated opening, much of the first episode is dry, semi-philosophical dialog between characters we haven’t yet gotten to know. Things do pick up once the cast arrives at the automated island facility that serves as the backdrop for the mystery. The sterile lab looks to be a fine place for a “whodunnit”, and the fact that most everyone involved is clearly very smart but not a police officer or detective means we have the potential for some unconventional investigating.

While the show isn’t graphic, it is unsettling. Listening to socially awkward super-nerds bluntly describe a murder turns the stomach a little, and the implications of several flashbacks laying out Dr. Magata’s youth made my skin crawl for unrelated reasons. It may not be for everyone, but there looks to be enough mystery in this show to keep you guessing for awhile.

Watch The Perfect Insider on Crunchyroll

Young Black Jack

Young Black Jack

Following the theme of shows focused on hyper-competent genius problem-solvers is Young Black Jack; a prequel that explores Dr. Hazama Kuro’s youth as a medical student in the 1960s. I have little experience with the larger Black Jack series, but the show provides just enough background for anyone to catch up quickly. It may seem crazy for a new creative team to try and follow up Tezuka Osamu, but the series has a degree of earnestness that I feel captures a lot of Tezuka’s signature style.

I’m glad to see the show using the 1960s as its backdrop, and it does a good job displaying the political and social upheaval that was happening in Japan at the time. The show even takes us to the war in Vietnam, focusing on a conflict that has had very little exposure lately, and it includes some unsettling flashbacks (brief though they may be) to late WWII in the Pacific, which anime more often than not coyly dances around. Most importantly, the impact of these events on the characters helps contextualize their actions and outlooks nicely.

The characters, situations and storylines are dramatic almost to the point of absurdity, but I feel this fits with the tone of Tezuka’s work. Hazama in particular is gripping to watch, as he struggles with financial, social and physical dangers. He actually has to fight to succeed, and even with his skills, he’s under visible strain. His friends and colleagues haven’t gotten as much time to shine yet, but at least one of them has already revealed a history that paints them not as a joke, but rather someone else struggling with their own demons.

Visually, the show is fairly standard. It’s a little hard to tell if some of the choppier bits of animation are deliberately trying to evoke the style of the older material or if it’s due to time/budget constraints, but they’re not a big deal. If there’s one thing that bugs me, it’s that more “normal-looking” characters like Hazama seem out of place next to the more exaggerated characters, though I mostly stopped noticing after the first few episodes. I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying the show, and I hope it keeps up its sincere energy as it goes on.

Watch Young Black Jack on Crunchyroll

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SCOTT

I’ve picked up a record five shows this season, four due to my legitimate interest in enjoying what looks like a good story, and one because sometimes a show looks like such a train-wreck that you can’t look away.  As usual, I’ll be covering my shows in increasing order of enjoyment thus far this season.

Heavy Object

heavy object

After watching the first episode of Heavy Object, I thought I would drop it immediately.  The combination of a dumb title, wildly unrealistic setup, obvious fanservice, and some of the doofiest-looking mecha in anime history puts this show easily at the bottom of my list.  I don’t normally put extra pictures in these mini-reviews, but you gotta see this thing to believe it.

Majestic, like an eagle... piloting a blimp
Majestic, like an eagle… piloting a blimp

The “Objects” are these giant (40m diameter) balls that are just coated in guns.  Ever since one of these things sunk the entire US Pacific Fleet and took a nuke to the face without trouble, they’ve been the standard weapon of every country in the world.  In many cases, they’re the only weapon, as they’ve made any other conventional force obsolete.  Speaking of countries, there are now four mega-countries that fight between them for control of Earth.  The setup, as you may be able to tell, is almost complete nonsense, and hard to swallow even if it is the major conceit of the show.

Also not helping the show’s case is quite a bit of fanservice, some of which comes from the Princess up there in the top picture, and some from her commanding officer, a “Japanophile” (the show’s term) who dresses like a slutty officer and acts like a dominatrix in uniform.  The first episode’s low point occurs when a restraint system starts to crush the Princess, and our heroic male lead can’t decide if he’s able to try and help her out of it because he might touch her breasts.  His agonized internal monologue about this goes on for over a minute, during which she looks to be in serious agony.  I almost dropped it right there.

So why stick around at all?  For one, as I said, it’s such a delightful train-wreck of a show.  For another, the overall arc of the show does have a little promise.  It’s broken up into a few multi-epsiode arcs, each taking place on a dramatically different battlefield (Alaska and the Strait of Gibraltar are the two venues we’ve seen so far).  The two male leads generally must figure out how to defeat one of the enemy’s Objects, usually while on foot and with only a minimum of equipment and their wits (though they sometimes have the Princess’ Object to provide some support).  This is a David and Goliath fight taken to an extreme, and that aspect of the show, at least, is enjoyable to watch.  Not recommended currently, but I’ll let you all know how it turns out.

Watch Heavy Object on Hulu (If you really must)

The Perfect Insider

the-perfect-insider-key-art

At the bottom of my “actually good shows” list is Perfect Insider, and it has been an interesting ride so far.  I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out after the first episode, which was almost exclusively dialogue between two characters, but things have started to become a lot more interesting.  The major plot of the show involves a number of characters placed in an isolated environment with what appears to be a murderer on the loose.  On top of that, there’s a closed room mystery going on, with a character killed from behind a door that has been locked for 15 years, in a facility under constant video surveillance.

The various characters thrown together in this environment are everything from security guards to researchers to programmers, plus the two main characters, a professor and his star student/obsessed groupie.  Everyone involved is a smart person, and so much of the show looks to be them trying to figure out how the murder could have taken place, interspersed with additional problems introduced by the killer.  The interactions between the characters drive much of the plot, so drama and backstory also look to play major roles.  This is the kind of show that could be great if it pulls off some impressive twists or has really solid motivations for its well-written characters, so it’s something to keep an eye on.  It’s currently at the bottom of the list because it doesn’t really seem like it’s moving anywhere fast, and because the characters may not pan out as interesting people.

Watch The Perfect Insider on Crunchyroll

Beautiful Bones – Sakurako’s Investigation

beautiful bones

This show seems like an attempt to cash in on the popularity of crime procedurals, but it does so in a well-animated, well-researched, and well-written way.  Sakurako is a woman who has grown up around bones and come to love them more than living people.  She also has an incredibly sharp mind and eye for detail, often able to quickly solve a mystery that is baffling the police.  Shoutarou, a local boy, is something of the Watson to her Holmes, asking the obvious questions and slowly coming to the realization that Sakurako has long figured out.

What the show has going for it so far is the breadth of cases that Sakurako has been able to solve.  As she not only loves bones but also the biological processes that keep a living creature alive, she has been able to solve everything from a fresh double suicide to the cause of death of a rotting corpse, to saving a baby from death by heatstroke.  The show works hard to avoid always having the same type of crime to be solved, or from using the same body of knowledge to solve it, so it keeps things fresh.  To its great credit, it also never has Sakurako declare that her judgement is absolute, only that it’s the most likely explanation for what she’s found, which make it much more believable.

There are a few worrisome points that may derail the show, however.  Most pronounced is the relationship between Sakurako and Shoutarou.  There’s really no reason given as to why they work together, or what each of them gets out of the relationship, so the primary interactions between the two main characters have no context.  The show also has dropped a few hints that there may be some larger plot brewing, and such a development would probably take too much away from the strong procedural aspect of the show, so I hope nothing overarching develops.

Watch Beautiful Bones – Sakurako’s Investigation on Crunchyroll

Utawarerumono – The False Faces

utawarerumono-the-false-faces

I’m enjoying the new season of Utawarerumono much more than I would have expected, and in spite of its shortcomings.  With quality animation, a strong pair of protagonists, and a setting that is just begging for them to explore it, the show has all of the elements it needs to be a success.  Set an unknown amount of time after the first show, it has much the same premise – an amnesiac human is released into a world populated by beast people, and must make his way in this strange new world.  This time around, instead of rapidly turning him into their great white savior, the show seems content to allow him time to explore this new world and meet its inhabitants, and I couldn’t be happier that this is the route they’ve picked.

A number of things give me hope for the show.  For one, its characters are largely adults instead of teenagers, so there’s none of the trope-y nonsense that age range brings with it.  For another, the relationship between Haku (the guy) and Kuon (the woman who becomes his protector) is low-key, slow moving, and generally mature, which is a sentence so rare in anime that I might as well have said that they’re both unicorns as well.  Other positives include the excellent costuming, which looks different without seeming unrealistic, and the slow but intriguing world building.

What could hold the show back is its roots as an H game, and some of that is starting to creep in, particularly in the last episode, which seemed like it was 50% bath house.  I’m also concerned that, in at attempt to “assemble the team”, characters are coming along and having their problems solved by Haku much too quickly to be realistic (or good for character development).  Finally, there’s the show’s theme song, which (while good) promises quite a bit of fighting action.  I’m not against having some combat, per se, but a show in which Haku and Kuon travel around the world, meeting people, seeing the sights, and occasionally fighting something is so much more interesting than the original Utawarerumono‘s eventual non-stop super-powered showdowns.  Come on, Utawarerumono 2 – make the right decision!

Watch Utawarerumeno – The False Faces on Crunchyroll

Mobile Suit GUNDAM – Iron-Blooded Orphans

gundam orphan

This show has been the most interesting show for me this season since it started, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.  Set in the future on a colonized Mars, the show follows the members of a private mercenary group that have been tasked with protecting a local advocate for Martian independence.  The show has a vast cast, including the many members of the mercenaries, their nearby friends, Kudelia (the advocate) and her family, the repressive colonial government, and the Earth-led inspection bureau.  Yet despite all the characters, the show does an excellent job of both keeping things interesting and from becoming too overwhelming to follow.  This is good, because there are a lot of moving parts and different factions, all with their own agendas and motivations, the kind of stuff that is the hallmark of the best of Gundam.

The major thing that I noticed thematically was the level of grittiness in the show.  Many of the mercenary characters (who are the main group the show follows) live in poor conditions.  The equipment they have is often substandard, and only clever strategies and skill will see them through combat with technologically superior foes.  Even their Gundam is little more than a relic from a war hundreds of years ago, certainly nothing special (at least not yet) other than it being the only Mobile Suit they have (most of them pilot “Mobile Workers”, which are cheap-o-matic mass-produced mini-mechs).  Already, characters have died in combat on both sides, and it hasn’t been with fanfare or drawn-out speeches, but brutally quickly instead.

I’ve been consistently impressed with the story, the high caliber of animation, and the multi-faceted but still understandable relationship between the many sides that forms the framework for the show.  It’s also a show without the slightest hint of fanservice, although every time the men get into their mechs, the spine-connected control system means it’s shirtless o’ clock (and these guys are clearly alumni of the University of Liftsconsin), so maybe there’s some rare female-directed fanservice going on.  The only thing to say against the show is that it doesn’t look like there will be many major roles for women in it (Kudelia, the only woman of note, fulfills a very Relena Peacecraft kind of role), but that’s OK by me in the current male-fanservice-saturated anime market.

Watch Mobile Suit GUNDAM – Iron Blooded Orphans on Crunchyroll

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SUSHMA

I’m currently following three shows. I love two of them and I am praying for the other one. Let’s see how it goes.

Beautiful Bones – Sakurako’s Investigation

Beautiful_Bones

I LOVE iterations of Sherlock Holmes. There’s something thrilling about having a well written mystery and then having it solved by a snarky individual who totally shows up society academically, but can’t hold a conversation with another human being (When is the next season of Sherlock coming out dang it?!). That is the fun of Beautiful Bones, or Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru (A Corpse is Buried Under Sakurako’s Feet). I had to put that title in there. Just look at it!

Beautiful Bones follows the eccentric Sakurako and her love of bones. When I say love I mean totally obsessive, “sees a body lying on the ground and marvels at how it decays” kind of love. Sakurako isn’t good with people but she is exceptional at solving mysteries and doing detective work because of her extensive knowledge of bones, and the human body in general. She is normally taken out by a student named Shoutarou Tatewaki and the pair always seem to find a body wherever they go. Shoutarou calls the police like a normal person and Sakurako acts like a weirdo for a while and then helps the incompetent police solve the mystery as to what happened to said person. I love quite a few things about this show.

One is it’s production value. The show generally looks good all the time and does a lot of research on various subjects. The writers give Sakurako not only great detective abilities but a great deal of scientific knowledge too. She explains various facts about the human body which are interesting to hear about. The second thing is the fact that so far Sakurako hasn’t displayed any supernatural powers. We have enough shows about super powered teens solving mysteries (like where the Baker Lady’s cat went…how thrilling…). Sakurako genuinely knows a lot about human anatomy and to a certain extent, human motivation. She is able to deduce what she thinks happened just using intuition, intelligence and deductive reasoning. This leads me to my third (And probably favorite) element of the show. The reasoning behind people’s deaths is a plausible one. As I stated before Sakurako is not psychic. While a lot of what she deduces makes sense logically the show plays into the real world concept of “we can no longer talk to those that died”. We have to make inferences about what they were thinking at the time of death or why they made the choices they did that may have lead to their death. All of these things are hard to process and the show always leaves you with a “what do you think?” sort of feel. There’s no way to know the true answer and I appreciate Beautiful Bones’ honesty about that notion.

As a final note, Sakurako and Shoutarou have a wide age gap. It’s clear that Shoutarou is attracted to Sakurako for both her beauty and her intelligence but his motivations for hanging out with her are unclear. The recent episodes revealed that Sakurako sees a lot of her dead younger brother in Shoutarou (their names even vary by only one letter; his being Soutarou). I desperately hope that there is no romance between these two because that could get creepy in a hurry, but so far so good. This show is definitely worth a watch for this season.

Watch Beautiful Bones – Sakurako’s Investigation on Crunchyroll

Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen

Utawarerumono_False_Faces

Unlike my fellow Con Artist, Brendan, I liked the first Utawarerumono. I liked that it had a mature protagonist and that he surrounded himself with (mostly) likable teammates. I also liked that it didn’t dissolve into cheap harem nonsense despite the original source material being an H-Game. In lieu of all this, it was only natural that I check out the second iteration of Utawarerumono.

Remember when I said I was praying for one of my shows. Well folks, this one is it. I want Utawarerumono to be good. It has a fairly mature cast (we have dissolved a little bit here in the last two episodes but I’m hanging on to faith) and a neat fantasy setting. I desperately want to know more about the world the characters inhibit. The world is composed of people with Kemonomimi set in a pseudo-Feudal Japan (remember in that Arslan track where I said I wasn’t good with history??).

A man with no name meets a cat girl named Kuon and she sets out to help him out and take him around. Haku is lazy, whiny and so far is the only person in this world who doesn’t have any animal anatomy. He eventually gets a name (Haku) from Kuon and we are slowly discovering he has a talent for mechanical things, strategic planning and academics. His calm demeanor and straightforward personality win over various people who I can only assume are going to join his “party” and help him defeat the baddie in the opening theme song.

What makes the show frustrating is that is has a really neat premise but it could swing a multitude of ways. There’s an obnoxiously insulting homosexual character already present and the show seems to be cramming in young girls one by one, so my fears of a harem forming are slowly creeping in on me. There’s also an issue where the show needs to find itself. It’s at its best when the team is traveling and we the viewer get to learn little details about how society and such work. Hopefully the show can hold it together and keep the exploration of the world as the focus.

Watch Utawarerumeno – The False Faces on Crunchyroll

Noragami Aragoto

Noragami_Aragoto

There’s a funny story about how I discovered Noragami. I won’t bore you with it here but man….I’m sure glad I found this one. Noragami is a massive breath of fresh air in an industry swarming with creepy little sister shows, and tired “let’s all be in a school club and do quirky things!” shows. Noragami Aragoto is the sequel to Noragami and is proving itself to be amazing.

For anyone who didn’t watch Noragami the general idea is that we are following the world of the Gods. The Gods have their own social structure and rules. They fight phantoms to keep people safe, but if nobody believes in them they can fade from existence forever. Such is the problem for a nobody God named Yato. Yato grants wishes for a mere 5 yen in the hopes of becoming like all the other hip Gods and having a shrine and good looking women to serve him all day. He’s kind of a bum and when he ends up taking on the wish of a young woman named Hiyori, you the viewer are thrust along for the ride.

What I love so much about the show is how much attention to detail is pays. There are rules for the Gods, rivalries and reasoning behind why they do what they do. The phantoms they fight are both gorgeous and terrifying and the show touches upon the idea of death and loneliness in a very powerful way. It helps that the show is beautifully animated and has a fantastic and varied set of characters. Everyone has depth and dimension and peeling back the layers to figure out what motivates everyone is half the fun. Yato has a shady past that comes back to haunt him, and all the while we are introduced to characters that he’s bonded with or wronged as their paths cross over and over again.

Season 2 gives us the back story behind the War Goddess Bishamon. Bishamon was one of my least favorite elements of Season 1. She’s a weird hotpants wearing police chick(?) and she has a deep hatred for Yato for reasons that were never fully explained. I could not have been more wrong (okay well…her outfit is still RIDICULOUS). Bishamon gets the spotlight in this season and we get a look into what causes her character to feel hatred towards Yato. This season is intense and heartbreaking as the world of the Gods gets more expansive and we dive into strong and dark emotions. I cannot recommend Noragami enough so definitely take a watch and get on Noragami Aragoto if you haven’t already!

Watch Noragami Aragoto on Hulu

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10 thoughts on “Fall 2015 – The Season So Far

  1. nice- I’ve heard a lot of different opinions about Beautiful Bones and it seems people either like the show or really don’t like it. I guess time will tell, but i’m hoping the show ends on a strong note- imo the show is fine~

    Like

    1. So far, those of us watching it have definitely enjoyed it. We’ll have to see how it turns out in the long run, but for now it’s a good bit of mystery with a morbid twist. Recent events show that we might have a longer-running mystery on our hands as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. haha- i am watching it and I do like it a decent amount- it is pretty entertaining and the cursed man and bone diamond ring stories were interesting- i tend to get a bit bored when the anime takes a more generic approach to solving the mysteries..
        but yeah- i like the anime, not my favorite but a good watch

        Like

      2. yes! I am watching everything here except for Gundam- And of course! I am actually growing to like concrete revolutio quite a bit and picked it up beacuse of your rolling reviews ^_^

        Like

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