Spring 2016 – The Season So Far

Another season, another roll of the dice for the Con Artists as a new set of shows is chosen.   There may be minor spoilers in these reviews, so please proceed with caution. Read on to see what we think so far of Spring 2016.

SCOTT

It’s shaping up to be a pretty good season so far, though I don’t see any amazing standout hits like last season had.  I’m following six shows this season (five if you don’t count Uchuu Patrol Luluco and its super short episodes), and I’ll list them in ascending order of enjoyment.

Seisen Cerberus no Fatalities

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Get a load of this crowd of losers

With Heavy Object not continuing this season, I can feel a void in my heart that can only be filled by something equally stupid.  Well, Seisen Cerberus no Fatalites to the rescue!  It isn’t bad, per se, it’s just that everything about it is aggressively mediocre.  A young man whose parents were killed by an evil dragon is becoming a warrior to hunt it down.  Accompanied by his sword trainer and a wisecracking mascot sidekick, he’ll get stronger, gain allies, and maybe even… find love.    But first – oh.  Are you falling asleep over there?  I’ll bet you are, because I’m nodding off at they keyboard just typing this.

If there’s anything to (quasi) praise the show for, its the simplicity and straightforwardness of its plot.  Everyone the protagonist meets is immediately and obviously his ally or his enemy.  When a girl shows up, she instantly clings to him like Saran wrap for no obvious reason.  When the obvious leering midboss bad guy shows up, he’s instantly a total jerk and everyone hates him.  Perhaps the only twist so far is that our hero, Hiiro, is… just… incredibly bad at being a warrior.  I’ll admit I chuckled as he was nearly suffocated by baby slimes for days at a time.  Good luck fighting Dagon Zoto, the dragon whose fire eats souls, kid.  In short, this is a show to watch with your brain fully off and in Saturday morning cartoon  mode.

Watch it on Crunchyroll.  But only if you’re ready for some highly generic entertainment.

Joker Game

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In a similar vein to Night Raid 1931 comes Joker Game, a slightly revisionist history show about a Japanese spy agency set up to give Japan equal footing in negotiations and war against Western powers, just as the world is rumbling towards the big one.  I’m of mixed feeling about the show so far.  In its favor are its high animation quality, interesting premise, and well-written dialogue.   The show discusses a lot of interesting ideas, and seems to have some pretty solid insight into what top-class spying could have looked like.  The breadth of the stories thus far (raiding the house of an American living in Japan, working the French Resistance) also holds promise.

There are also a number of factors working against it, however.  The main cast, seen above, is basically all middle-aged men in Western formal wear, and I can’t tell any of them apart.  The show also doesn’t seem to know where it wants to go.  The first two episodes were about the military’s liasion to the spy agency learning the true value of what spies do.  All right, sure, he’s a character audiences can identify with going in, and I can see where this would go.  Then, episode three is about one of the other characters in essentially a one-off story in France.  It was a good story, but I don’t have any investment in whoever this is yet.  Hopefully the show can coalesce what it’s going for before too long.

Watch it on Crunchyroll.  Just don’t expect too much.

Koutetsujou no Kabaneri

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You sure did, buddy, you sure did.  Now grab a mop.

I’m not sure what to make of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri, but I’m enjoying the ride so far.  Set in a zombie post-apocalypse in Japan where the zombies are unkillable by normal means and the survivors live in towns only accessible by the rail network, it’s certainly an interesting setup.  Fear of the populace being turned consumes the warriors that pass for law and order, and violent and immediate execution is the only remedy for being bitten (considering that the warriors have no means of stopping even a single zombie, or Kabane).   So at first I figured that the show was going to be about life in town and on the rails, and the terror of being an ordinary citizen or train worker.  That could be very interesting.

But then along comes an inventive youth with a mighty steam-powered pilebunker that is able to kill one of them as his town is invaded.  So, will the show be about him, his invention, and mankind’s slow retaking of its world from the Kabane, fighting them from near the trains whose steam sustains their weapons?  That sounds AWESOME!

But then along comes some girl who dual-wields guns and can kick the heads off of Kabane with her own method of destroying them and some kind of limitation on using her abilities.  The kid with the pilebunker ends up joining her, and now we’ve got a show about a few super-powered people fighting off the Kabane?  Well, that could be OK too, and the show is entertaining so far, but I kind of feel like we missed an opportunity for this thing to be really unique.

Watch it on… Amazon Prime Instant Video?  Seriously?  Didn’t see that coming.

Uchuu Patrol Luluco

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She’s totally gonna stop you.

Oh, Trigger.  No matter what you put your creativity to, it never fails to amuse.  Uchuu Patrol Luluco and its 5 minute episodes is no exception.  Whether it’s characters talking, disasters incoming, or things exploding, the show is a constant blur of activity and fun.  With an over-the-top art style and ridiculous plots, it’s not ever to be taken seriously, but it doesn’t have to be.  Luluco, newly drafted into the Space Patrol, must take on whatever nonsense mission comes her way, while working alongside heartthrob Alpha Omega Nova and probably-a-criminal Midori.  It doesn’t hurt that the Chief of the Space Patrol is basically Inferno Cop.

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Yes.

Watch it on Crunchyroll. Hold onto your hat, this one moves fast.

Kiznaiver

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Why look here, it’s a second Trigger anime, and another example of their seemingly boundless creativity at work.  A bunch of high school kids with incompatible and undesirable personalities (unwittingly) undergo dangerous government surgery and now whenever one of them gets hurt, they all share that pain equally.  These newly created Kiznaivers (from Kizna, “bonds”) must now learn to get along and keep each other out of harm’s way until their government-appointed mission is complete.

Of course, their fellow classmate/government agent who orchestrated this plan is tight-lipped about that mission.  There’s no time to question her about it, because she’s got a seemingly infinite series of smaller missions for them to perform and apparently limitless resources to control their movements.  The show seems to be equal parts action and character building between the team members, which has been doing well for the show so far.  I’m already intrigued to see what will happen next, and what challenges await this odd team as they get better at whatever Kiznaiver-ing entails.

Watch it on Crunchyroll, and get ready to have no idea what will happen next.

Flying Witch

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It’s pretty rare that a pure slice-of-life anime makes it to my top spot, but Flying Witch has claimed it with ease so far this season.  A young witch in present-day Japan returns to the country to live with her uncle’s family and complete her witch training.  There, every day has its own adventure: meeting the locals, talking with other magically-inclined beings, farming, cooking, and casting the occasional spell.  It’s a slow-moving show, but it disguises that by having each episode be almost a series of somewhat-connected vignettes.  The characters are all nice, there’s no conflict, and it’s got a pretty good, if gentle, sense of humor.  In short, it’s a very strong entry in the “iyashikei” (“healing”) genre of anime, alongside shows like Kamichu.

I forget who wrote it, but to paraphrase them, “I don’t know what stressful part of life in Japan would merit this horse tranquilizer of a show, but it must be pretty terrible.”  Watching the show is like having a nap – not a lot happens and you come out feeling refreshed.  None of the above is to imply that it’s a bad show – far from it, or it wouldn’t have made it to the top of my list.  It has good animation quality, enjoyable writing, and a seriously addictive opening theme.  It can even be laugh-out-loud funny, as I found when our witch-in-training found a mandrake and gave it to her newfound friend as a gift.

Flying Witch 2.jpg

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Why does it have a face?!?

There she is, standing there holding this plant, which is writhing in every direction and making a low, terrible moaning sound continuously, with the biggest smile on her face – mandrake is, after all, a very potent component and a valuable gift!  And the other girl, who is emphatically not a witch and found out witches exist like 20 minutes ago, is fighting every polite-Japanese-person urge in her body to find some excuse to refuse this awful gift.  The scene went on for a couple of minutes, and I was laughing through much of it.  The show is, in a word, delightful – just make sure you understand that it’s going to be a purposefully slow ride.

Open the windows, make some tea, and settle in to be lulled into a blissful catatonic state on Crunchyroll.


Dan

With Genericon behind us, it’s been a lot easier to keep up with more shows, so I’ve upped my watch list to five, and I’ll probably go back and check out at least one or two more in the future. This season’s offerings feel a lot more varied and boast many more shows that I’m at least interested in. Here are the ones that caught my attention the most.

Bakuon!!

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Rarely has one out-of-context screenshot expressed my feelings so clearly

Let me be perfectly clear: I am not watching this show for fun. I’m watching it to test my tolerance for BS. Bakuon!! is a class-A example of most things that irritate me in anime. It takes what could be an interesting premise – a high school girls’ club dedicated to motorcycles – and then uses it as a vehicle (ba-dum-tish) for creepy, unrepentant fanservice and painfully unfunny comedy. The “jokes” make me grind my teeth, and every single character finds her own way to tick me off at least once per episode.

As I’ve stated in the past, I miss the biker girl archetype that popped up now and then in anime from the 80s and 90s. Even if it’s a ways away from that, Bakuon!! had the chance to show a group of friends bonding over an interesting and naturally exciting activity. Instead, Bakuon!! is basically K-On! with a lower budget and cruder humor. If you think the baby-faced tsundere in the boob-enhancing bike suit is in poor taste, just wait until you meet the talking transgender prostitute motorcycle. The humor in this show is… not my cup of tea.

That being said, I have to give Bakuon!! two big points over K-On!. For one, the show actually features the girls regularly participating in the activity the show is based around. Rather than devolving into teatime every five minutes, the show actually deals with the challenges of owning and riding a motorcycle, so at least it has that. Secondly, some of the gags are legitimately funny, even if they’re in the minority. Also, it features The Stig’s Possibly Un-Aging Japanese Schoolgirl Cousin.

Some say she's the best character in this show, and isn't that damning with faint praise?
Some say she’s the best character in this show, and isn’t that damning with faint praise?

Please don’t watch Bakuon!! on Crunchyroll. Do not give these chucklemongers attention.

Joker Game

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I’m not quite sure what to think about Joker Game yet. It’s a neat concept: a WWII-era spy thriller from the perspective of Japanese agents operating around the globe. However, with a largely interchangeable cast, there’s no one for me to really latch onto or root for. Still, I find the scenario interesting enough to keep watching for now.

The aspect of the show I’ve enjoyed the most is watching the closest thing we have to main character, 1st Lt. Sakuma, change his opinions on spies over the course of the introductory episodes. As a stoic military man raised in the fanatical years of Japanese military expansionism, he initially despises secret agents and their methods, but has to learn their true value. His attempts to understand the steely commander of the spy agency also make for some great investigative moments. This is all quite cool, even if it does disappear once the show starts to get into more episodic fare.

My hope is that Joker Game starts to form a core narrative that we can follow between individual adventures and gives enough personality to its cast that they become worth investing in. As it is, it’s an intriguing idea without quite enough character to make it worthwhile yet, but it holds promise. We’ll see how it all turns out.

Watch Joker Game on Crunchyroll

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress (Koutetsujou no Kabaneri)

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It’s clear watching Kabaneri that Wit Studio has found its comfort zone, and is not about to be pried out of it with anything short of a crowbar wielded by the burliest of men. Kabaneri finds the last remnants of humanity struggling to defend its last few walled settlements against an unstoppable horde of implacable creatures, and only people with unique skills, abilities and equipment can stop them. It’s practically Attack on Titan Season 2.5, and despite the less than original setup, I’m pretty okay with it.

The show delivers plenty of gory action as human warriors desperately attempt to fight off waves of unstoppable zombies (Kabane), despite being hopelessly outnumbered and incapable of finishing them off. The animation and production values are high, and the story keeps up a brisk pace as we’re introduced to our heroes. I like the main protagonist, Ikoma, quite a lot. He’s defined by his determination and inventiveness, but also obsessive and selfish, despite his goal being to give humans a fighting chance against the Kabane. I’m less enthused about Mumei, the snarky superhuman ninja girl who makes Ikoma’s struggle obsolete by the end of episode one and reacts to every single situation with violence or threats.

It’s still too early to tell how Kabaneri will play out, but I’m enjoying the action so far. The setting and characters are enjoyable enough, though certain aspects don’t seem quite as well planned out as Titan did. Still, if the show can avoid its spiritual predecessor’s pacing issues and come up with interesting scenarios for our heroes to deal with as they flee or fight against the horde, it should be a fun ride on the bloody rails.

Watch Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress (Koutetsujou no Kabaneri) on Amazon Prime Instant Video

The Lost Village (Mayoiga)

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Like Joker Game, The Lost Village features a huge ensemble cast that can be hard to keep track of. At least these characters are a lot more identifiable, even if their situation is less intense than WWII spy capers. In this show, a group of disaffected young people and their put-upon bus driver have come to an abandoned village hidden in the country to try and start a new life away from the society that has wronged them in different ways. Each of these people has different reasons for leaving, from simple boredom to severe social issues, and their personalities start to clash even before they reach their destination.

Once they do reach the hidden village, they find it totally abandoned, but recently lived-in, and there are signs of creepy goings-on everywhere. Here, the show tries a bit too hard to convey how creepy this place is supposed to be and how mysterious its past is. The conflict between the crew of social outcasts is much more interesting to watch as their backgrounds and dysfunctions are slowly made more clear.

On the downside, the cast is an extremely mixed bag, with several being genuinely interesting, sympathetic or simply fascinating to watch, while others (I’m looking at you, stupid survivalist nyaa girl and execution-enthusiast lady) lack more than a single defining characteristic. Hopefully this will be rectified as the show goes on, though whether this is by giving the characters room to evolve or by cutting the cast down through murderous shenanigans remains to be seen.

Watch The Lost Village on Crunchyroll

Kiznaiver

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Trigger is at it again with another fascinating and beautifully animated show. While not as insane as Kill la Kill nor as whimsical as Little Witch Academia, Kiznaiver is clearly trying to set itself apart from its predecessors by being a little more grounded and focused on a core ensemble cast in a remarkable situation. All of these high schoolers fit into a traditional anime archetype or trope, such as the big dumb musclehead, the cold and mysterious girl, or the kooky nutjob. To force them to understand each other, these disparate youths have all been linked together by an outside party so that the pain of any injury they sustain is spread out across the entire group.

This premise alone is interesting enough to earn the show a recommendation, but it’s the remarkably well-balanced characterization that’s really been keeping me interested. Each of the characters is extremely distinct and fun to watch, even when they’re being awful to each other, and they are all getting more or less equal screen time so far. The only exception to this is Niko, the kooky one, who might just succeed too well at being annoying. In spite of that, I’m interested enough in seeing how the rest of the cast handles their situation, and how their respective pasts play into the experiment they’ve unwittingly fallen into.

One minor disclaimer on Kiznaiver before we move on: some of the humor in the recent episodes is… less than enlightened on the subject of homosexuality, and plays up cartoonishly ridiculous masochism for laughs. It’s not a deal-breaker at this point, but just be aware than it may get on your nerves if you’re sensitive about such things. Hopefully it won’t continue much into the core of the series.

Watch Kiznaiver on Crunchyroll


Sushma

I wanted to take it easy this season as the five show marathon last year left me a little burned out. Good thing I only picked up four shows this season…plus the rolling review choice Concrete Revolutio: Last Song…which brings me to five shows… Dammit

Life simply isn’t fair…

Bakuon!!

Spring2016_Bakuon

I am having way too much fun with Bakuon!! I picked the show for the sole purpose of torturing Dan. It’s the small things in life people…
Bakuon!! introduces us to Sakura Hane. One day while trying to ride her bike up a hill to school, Hane sees another girl ride up on a motorcycle. It is then that her destiny is decided. She must learn to ride and get her motorcycle license. She can only be fulfilled by becoming one with the open road…or something.

Bakuon!! has a whole mess of K-On! in it. From the doofy lead Hane, to her caring and “better at cooking” sister, to her club full of weirdos, this whole show screams “Moe girls doing cute things”. “Cute things” in this case means riding motorcycles. Hane eventually finds her way into the Bike Club, meets wannabe-badass Amano Onsa , Suzuki obsessed  Rin Suzunoki, the mysterious helmet-toting Raimu Kawasaki and rich delinquency obsessed Hijiri Minowa . Wacky hijinks ensue.

I’ll start with the bad parts of the show. One is that Rin’s cup size changes shot to shot in the same episode. There’s moments where she looks like a normal high school girl and then WHAM!! the show gives her breasts that could smother a small child. It’s creepy and quite a turn-off for anyone looking to enjoy what the show has to offer. Is anyone really watching this show for moe girl fan service?! Another weird and creepy part of the show involves Hane learning to ride a motorcycle. She ends up on a training bike, named Baita, that talks to her and tries to get her to ride the way she’d “ride a man”. She spews sexual comments like a perverse fountain. Luckily this goes away by Episode 3, but that doesn’t stop it from being…unnerving…

To the show’s credit most of the girls in the Bike Club genuinely ride Motorcycles (Hijiri rides in a sidecar and has her butler drive), and Hane actually gets her license by episode 3. What I like most about Bakuon!! is that it doesn’t even remotely take itself seriously. It throws the girls into scenarios befitting a serious bike gang, but then spins the concept into something else entirely. One episode features the girls playing the classic do or die game of “Chicken” to settle differences between Amano and Rin. These two girls give up early in the game to avoid ruining their motorcycles, and Raimu faces off against Hijiri’s Siberian Special Ops butler in a game of pride and delinquency. Yes…I just seriously typed that last sentence. It’s funny and you’ll just have to watch to see what I mean.

Other crazy moments includes Raimu’s backstory as a pro racer on the circuit, Rin’s endless tales of her father’s close calls with death, and Hane meeting Motorcycle Jesus. Yes…that happens…seriously. Bakuon!!’s humor hits the right notes for me so far because it’s just so ridiculous. It acknowledges that it’s a bit dumb and takes very few things seriously (Motorcycle…Jesus…). While it may not be for everyone, I’ll be happy if the show keeps rolling like this (#seewhatIdidthere) and if Dan keeps being mildly miserable.

Give Bakuon!! a watch on Crunchyroll. Let’s all be delinquents.

Macross Delta

Spring2016_MDelta01Spring2016_MDelta02

The Year is 2067 AD. Humanity has ventured out into space and built interstellar colonies. Unfortunately the journey into space has not been without problems. The Vars Syndrome is a malady that causes the human mind to destabilize. It effectively turns people into violent zombies. The only cure for the Vars Syndrome………

is Japanese Pop music, sung by the mysterious and beautiful members of the group Walkure. Yes people, this is happening. Let’s do this!

Walkure and the Delta Platoon (the planes that can turn into mechs) protect the galaxy and stop the Vars syndrome with the power of song and uh..bullet..if necessary. The show kicks off with a bang as we are introduced to Hayate Immelman. He’s a lazy punk who jumps from job to job with no purpose in life. While working on a ship as a cargo loader he encounters a stowaway named Freyja Wion. She claims she is on her way to the audition for new Walkure Members. Later we get an awesome pop song battle and Freyja and Hayate are swept up into the fight for humanity.

I’m going to start with the good parts of this show. The show has catchy songs, glossy colors and an overall sense of fantasy. That’s…kinda where the good things end. On the “bad” side of the fence, well…there’s just too much going on. Freyja seems to have some sort of affinity for song healing magic, but can only activate her powers when someone she cares about is in danger. Hayate is accepted into the military for the stupidest reasons known to anime. The lead singer of Walkure, Mikumo, has some sort of secret origin or ability that’s unbenown to even her own teammates, AND Freyja’s native race (the Windermeran) just recently declared war on the rest of the nations. All of this is in addition to the whole “Vars Syndrome” thing that’s introduced in the beginning.

The show is helmed by (believe it or not) Escaflowne‘s creator, Shoji Kawamori. I want to believe this will all turn out good and to be fair the show’s pace is clipping at a mile per minute. With Episode 4 we have met the Winderman’s nation and seen that they have a young prince who can sing songs that interfere with Walkure’s power. The stage is set for drama, pop songs and battle. Here’s to hoping it delivers on all the plot threads introduced thus far.

Sailor Moon Crystal Season III

Spring2016_SMCrystal

Watching the progression of Sailor Moon Crystal has been fascinating. It started off with a very weak reception. Everything from it’s art style to it’s weird CG elements and plotting didn’t sit well with fans of the 90’s version. It was quite a backlash for something that had a ton of anticipation. I am of the opinion that no matter WHAT Sailor Moon Crystal did, it would rub old fans the wrong way so I try and think of the show as a separate entity from the glorious 90’s rendition.

Crystal Season III has massive shoes to fill. The arc it covers is almost universally accepted as the best arc in all of Sailor Moon. It gives us new Sailor Scouts, ups the stakes by about 1000, and has a conflict that is humanitarian at its core. Yes, the Scouts have to save the world, but they also have to weigh in a fragile human girl’s life and contemplate what “sacrifice” is all about.

It’s clear that the creators of Crystal have been monitoring things carefully. This season gets rid of the awkward bi-weekly updates and puts effort into better art for the show. It’s not perfect, but compared to season 1 it’s practically DaVinci. It also brings back the nostalgia by removing the incredibly ugly looking CG transformation sequences and replacing them with ones that mimic the 90’s version. It’s plot has been keeping a good rhythm while maintaining the idea of following the original manga.

It’s nice to see the show not shy away from the ideas of Sailor Moon potentially being bisexual and Haruka/Michiru’s relationship. All of it’s handled as it should be, without any Western butchering or sidestepping. All in all, I am excited to see how this season plays out and here’s to hoping Crystal follows this upward trend in art, animation and narrative.

#SailorSaturnforLife

Watch Sailor Moon Crystal Season III on Crunchyroll or Hulu.  Seriously do it…or Douse yourself in water and Repent!

Kiznaiver

Spring2016_Kiznaiver

Trigger seems to have landed on its feet and just keeps running. Love it or hate it, Kill la Kill was a sensation and Kiznaiver is shaping up to be another great show. This is definitely my “can’t wait till the next episode” show of the season.

Kiznaiver gives us a crazy premise. seven high schoolers are chosen to be part of an experiment that involves “bonding through wounds” and “sharing pain”. In a rapid display of questionable Trigger madness, these seven teenagers with zilch in common are kidnapped, knocked out, and have surgery performed on them. They all have something imbedded in them that causes them to share pain 7 ways when one of them gets hurt. This bonkers scheme is conducted by a mysterious beauty named Noriko Sonozaki who claims that the entire city is an experiment for the sake of “world piece”. The true mystery of the Kiznaivers will be revealed over the course of a summer. Another running mystery is the backstory of one Katsuhira Agata. He is a boy who doesn’t feel pain and seems to have been experimented on at a young age. The mystery surrounding his childhood and his ties to Noriko are slowly getting revealed.

Trigger awlays comes out swinging and this show is no exception. It’s loud, it’s colorful, it’s cool and it’s mystery makes you want to watch for every word uttered by Noriko. The seven teens pitted together are odd but not totally unbelievable. You want to root for them and hope everything works out as they navigate the ideas of getting along and keeping each other out of trouble. The art work is typical trigger but lacks the weird body shapes found in Kill la Kill. At its heart I think this show is a character drama and that’s a theme I am always excited for. Each character is forced to reveal a secret early on but many are still keeping things close to the vest, so it’ll be interesting to see how all the personalities collide with one another.

If I had to say two bad things about the show it’d be Katsuhira Agata and newly introduced Yoshiharu Hisomu. Katsuhira’s got a monotone way of talking and doesn’t feel pain, so he does stupid things while showing has no regard for his well being. It’s infuriating at times to watch him throw himself in front of cars or get beat up by bullies. He’s showing slow progress into regaining some humanity, but most of it is directed at Noriko. It all seems like a child’s curiosity moreso than a genuine interest in connecting with others. Yoshiharu is a masochist. His creepy obession with pain gets the others in trouble and although he’s supposed to be a comical part of the show, I can’t help but feel ill watching him. All the other characters will grate on you depending on your tolerance, but Kiznaiver is definitely a wild and fascinating ride so far.

Watch Kiznaiver on Cruchyroll.  Let’s bond over a summer!


Brendan

Hello, folks – since I’m actually trying to follow some shows this season, I thought I’d join in the Impressions post. Honestly I have nothing to add to Scott’s briefs on Uchuu Patrol Luluco and Flying Witch, but I’m also keeping track of the following:

The Lost Village (Mayoiga)

LV_01_00-55

The last time I saw two digits worth of strangers begin an anime by investigating a strange location, it did not end well for them. With a character-to-episode ratio of two and a half, it’s looking like Lost Village is going to be experiencing some attrition as well, especially since it still feels like we’re only scratching the surface of even the few characters that are actually getting appreciable screen time. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten a good mystery in, though (and I never did get into Lost back when it was an American TV phenomenon that seems like it has a rather similar set-up), so I am curious why there’s an empty village not on any real maps that looks likes it was inhabited less than a week before the arrival of our sketchy bus trip (per invitation via untraceable email, no less). The advent of legit weirdness in episode four is only sealing the deal.

I’ll be honest, though – the aspect of the show most responsible for me following it is the frame in the OP dedicated to the nameless random dude who was hired to shuttle all of these weirdos out here.

LV_OP_Driver
I want to see where this guy’s story goes.

Watch The Lost Village on Crunchyroll.

Kuma Miko

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As someone who is rather fond of Gingitsune, which is about a shrine maiden who hangs out with a large, anthropomorphic fox spirit, I thought I’d look into Kuma Miko, which is about a shrine maiden who hangs out with a talking bear. The two are actually pretty different – While Gingitsune is a low-drama slice of life series, Kuma Miko is more of a deadpan-style comedy.

Kuma Miko’s episodes tend to be broken into pairs of unrelated shorts, but the main recurring plotline involves Machi, a shrine maiden living in a sparsely populated rural town deep in Japan’s mountains, wanting to attend high school in the city (two hours away). Natsu, the talking bear serving as Machi’s counterpart at the local shrine, is opposed to this, on the grounds that Machi will not survive life in the city due her inability to keep up with modern technology and culture.

The underlying joke here is that Natsu, who is a bear, has a better grasp on what all is happening in urban Japan than Machi does. Necessarily, much of the humor in these segments pre-supposes this familiarity in the audience. This is fine, of course, but it makes it easy for people like me, who have never even been to Japan, to identify with Machi rather than Natsu. For instance, the segment revolving around Machi’s trip to the nearest Uniqlo ended with both her and me learning what Uniqlo was, rather than amusing me throughout with the thought that (to use an American example) someone in the sticks might assume that an Old Navy store deals in military surplus.

Thankfully, as steeped in Japanese culture as the show is, and as much of the rest of its humor revolves around the characters kind of being jerks (which tends to turn me off), it also makes use of more universal comedy. I’ve  gotten a few good laughs out of the show’s more absurdist gags, so I’ll be keeping an eye on this one as long as it keeps those coming. Plus I dig the ED.

Watch Kuma Miko on Funimation.  Episode 1 has some objectionable content, but it seems to have tapered off.

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