I tried to restrain myself from watching any new anime until all of the first episodes came out. I didn’t want to overload myself – every season I end up checking everything out and then accidentally getting invested in like, ten shows right from the get-go.
Unfortunately…I did not hold back this season and ended up watching a random smattering of new shows anyways. Really, the only things I had actually planned to watch was the new Amanchu season and Hanamatsuri. They’ll probably still be the only things I end up following through on because I’m terrible at keeping up with seasonals but – hey, checking out new shows are fun! Here’s part one of my mini-seasonal reviews. I’m a lazy bum and just reviewing them in the order I checked them out and not by their release date or anything so…bare with my unorganized ass, please!
Megalobox had the strongest opening episode I’ve seen so far. Between the classic character designs reminiscent of Cowboy Bebop, the earthy color palette, and those Wes Anderson-esque title cards, episode one screams aesthetic. Out of everything I’ve seen, this has the most distinct look, and I appreciate that. Not to sound like a crotchety old anti-moe elitist, but it is nice to see something that looks a little different. A lot of the character designs I’ve seen lately, even in shows I’ve greatly enjoyed, have been rather bland. The fact that we’ve seen so many different faces just in episode one is a definite standout factor for Megalobox. I also greatly enjoyed the hip-hop influenced background music, and the run-down city’s graffiti covered walls. If there’s one thing I’m a sucker for, it’s hip-hop mixed into anime.
The actual concept of boxing with Gears didn’t really grab me too much, but the idea that our main character, Junk Dog, is on a mission to challenge this capitalist, corporate version of boxing grabs me. It looks like the story will be more than just an underdog story – episode one had overarching themes about class and how money can’t buy you true skill. I definitely plan to watch more of this one. Although, just because I plan to doesn’t mean I actually will…
Magical Girl Ore
I’m a slut for magical girl parodies, so I knew I had to check this one out. Still, I was reluctant – how far can they really take the whole “it’s a magical girl but it’s a boy” shtick? I expected it to be very one-note and lame, but it really surprised me. It doesn’t lean too heavily on the “lol it’s a buff guy in a dress” joke – it subverts a lot of common tropes of the magical girl genre, and subverts them surprisingly well. Instead of having a cute mascot, Saki gets hired by a yakuza who explains that she transforms into a buff man because it’s a body more suited for battle than that of a fifteen-year-old girl. In addition to not being much of a girl, Saki’s not really that magical, either – her staff has no powers, and she has to resort to just bludgeoning the shit out of her enemies. A few of the magical girl digs were a bit predictable, but the timing of the jokes and the sheer ridiculousness made them land anyways. I honestly can’t remember the last time I actually laughed this hard at a comedy anime. Perhaps I’m so impressed because I came in with low expectations, but this is something I might actually stick with to the end, and I recommend that you give it a shot, too.
I do have some criticisms, though. My other big fear with this show was that it would be pretty transphobic, and well…I’m pretty sure it is. Episode two makes a weird passing joke that had me grimacing, but I’m going to give Magical Girl Ore the benefit of the doubt and pretend it was just a poorly translated line. I’m not transgender myself, so I’m hesitant to speak on this issue too much because I’m obviously no expert, but I’m pretty sure this is going to end up being as a problematic fave. Another criticism I have is that the actual animation is pretty weak, and the designs for the female characters aren’t too great. But I don’t ask too much from parody anime in terms of design/aesthetic, so I can tolerate it and will still be checking out a few more episodes.
Dances With Dragons
Hmmm. Well, this is definitely not good. You know when an anime starts off with a long-winded expository narration about the lore it’s gonna be a rough one. Show don’t tell, dude! It’s like, the first rule of writing for the screen! There was so much forced exposition that my eyes glazed over and I gave up reading along with the subs. The episode title was even long and annoying – “Calamitous Song of Jushiki and Swords.” Like, ugh. Shut up with your fake deep episode title. Thinking back, I really can’t remember what even happened in the episode. They defeated a dragon at some point, and the main character flirted with his elf girlfriend. I think that was pretty much it?
The main character design is also really ugly – his eyes are like, too big for his head and every other look at him seemed really off-model somehow. I think the character designer must’ve put all the effort into Hot Ponytail Secondary Lead and Elf Girlfriend and then just gave up. The entire episode was really dark (as in literally poorly lit, not thematically dark) and looked, well, ugly. The only good thing I can say for this one is that the rapport between the two leads was vaguely entertaining – they hate each other because one’s rich and the other’s not, basically. My boyfriend digs shows like this, so I might suffer through a few more episodes, but like…not because I actually want to. The things you do for love…
Space Battleship Tiramisu
This one’s a short-form mecha parody. Honestly, it wasn’t as funny as I expected it would be, but I still had to appreciate its goofiness. The idea of the ace mecha pilot caring more about the sanctuary of his cockpit than the glory of battles is entertaining as hell. Though the jokes didn’t all land for me, it showed potential. I can probably take the seven minutes out of my week to check this one out, if I can remember.
Sword Art Online: Gun Gale Online
Alright so, I know everyone bags on Sword Art Online. Honestly, I’ve never seen it, nor have I had any interest in it. It seems like it’s pretty average, but not abysmal, so I’m not sure what all the hardcore hate is about, but I always resolved to just stay away from it. Until…I saw the poster for Gun Gale. Hello??? A sultry girl in a plug suit, a fiesty blonde girl with a fang, pink guns, and a burning city in the background? I’m in. I didn’t go in expecting it to be good, but…
WOW I LOVED IT! This show seems pretty separate from the actual Sword Art Online universe – it’s a completely different game, and the servers aren’t busted so people who die in the game won’t die in real life. A narrator quickly explains this away in the beginning. I guess all the gamers don’t care that VR killed a bunch of people once, because everyone just dove right back into it once the problem was fixed.
That silliness aside, the episode was actually pretty exciting – seeing LLEN, our pink hero, kick ass despite having been obviously nervous about the VR match was really awesome. The team-dynamic between her and this Big Rugged Veteran Man was pretty endearing, as well – they’re so comically different that just seeing those character designs working together onscreen makes you smile a bit.
I don’t think this is going to the best show of the season or anything like that. It seems off that LLEN is super nervous and has to get all these instructions from Big Dude, even though she’s the team leader and evidently a very skilled player. The visuals weren’t anything super impressive, but they also didn’t give me anything to complain about. I worry that this will rely too much on the whole “LLEN is cute and moe” angle, but it wasn’t overwhelming in this first episode, so I have hope. Though not groundbreaking, Gun Gale‘s first episode was really, really fun, and I feel it encapsulated the thrill of online gaming pretty well. I hope that people give it a chance even though everyone in the anime community seems to collectively turn their noses up at Sword Art Online. Also, the ending reveal of who LLEN is in real life is fucking awesome. I won’t spoil.
Wow, I can’t believe I had the most to say about the friggin Sword Art Online spin-off, of all the things. What can I say, girls with guns is kinda part of my brand…
I’m excited to see what else Spring 2018 will bring. I know I’m going to flop and never finish like…any of these shows I’m starting, but I’m having a good time so far and hope to have a second set of first impressions to share soon!