Spring 2016 – Episode Previews (Part 2)

Still so many shows, still so many thoughts! Here’s part two of the 1st episode reviews for the Spring 2016 season. Let’s do this!

Gakuen Toshi Asterisk 2nd Cour

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The Asterisk War continues its run this season in uninterrupted fashion, and does so without any unnecessary exposition on previous events. It’s reassuring that the show decided not to waste any time with its limited run, but instead chose to integrate a review of the tournament standing through an announcer’s rundown. It also allowed the series to introduce a couple new characters without any unnecessary digression, including a little characterization on Jie Long’s student council president, who only had a mere cameo appearance in the first season.

Now that the cat’s out of the bag, Ayato and Julis put together a tactic that takes into consideration the former’s weakened state. The actual battle tactics aren’t so much the focus as it is, really, the sense of trust the two share. In fact, the fight scenes in this show are gratuitous in the sense that there is a good amount of limited animation to convey the speed of movement, but so quick to end that it could stand to last a bit longer..

All-in-all, the quality of animation and general plot of Asterisk hasn’t changed much from the first season — and this is a good thing. The show still needs to return to the underlying plot on Ayato’s purpose and his search for the truth regarding his sister, which was thankfully hinted at come the end of the episode. Whether or not this will be something we can actually bite into will be a point of contention, but for now we’ll just have to enjoy the battles as they come. Hopefully, it doesn’t wind up becoming pointless.

Initial Rating: 7/10

 

Macross Δ

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Disclaimer: I’ve never watched Macross before. That makes me the perfect, unbiased, reasonable candidate to critique this show — free of the burden of obligation to fandom or unfounded sentimentalism. So what does someone like me have to say about this show?

Damn, it’s amazing.

The animation quality is fluid but noticeably “rough”, which for some reason works with the overall feel of the show. The music is bubbly technopop with an ending song that has a rumba-like feel to it — combine this with technicolor gunfire and dancing robotic sprites, and that’s the monster we’re dealing with, here. And yet as embarrassing as all of that sounds, I can’t help but tap my fingers to the beat and wave around a florescent-pink glow stick.

I never would have imagined that singing idols and transforming fighter jets could be so entertaining. It looks silly, granted, but it works on so many levels that it’s just so entertaining. There’s a demographic for people who like these kind of shows, and apparently, I’m included in it. This is so frustratingly fun.

Initial Rating: 8/10

 

Re: ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-

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Re: Zero is one of those shows that falls under the category of “protagonist gets trapped in a fantasy, video game-like world”, a plot setting that has been used and reused by the likes of Sword Art OnlineLog Horizon, and even recently concluded shows KONOSUBA and Hai to Gensou no Grimgar. The idea alone sends critics cringing in their seats to have to endure all of this light novel drivel, but White Fox studios seemed confident in executing this in a way that could possibly be a bit different than anything else that has come before it.

The show aired as a double-episode special, the first episode having a sort of light fare, anime-trope driven feel to it; the second episode was a bit more sinister, throwing around a time loop card to dramatic effect. The result is a mixed bag of choices that seems more a waste of two episodes worth of airtime for something that could have been expressed in half the amount of time.

The protagonist of the show, Subaru, is a self-proclaimed shut-in who spends much of the first episode spewing out self-aware otaku lines like “where is the cute girl who summoned me?” or “This is the part where I gain my special powers as the hero, right?” This meta-reference seems contrived at times, almost begging the intelligence of the viewer since it’s quite obvious that this is nothing like a video game. And then we run through a couple scenes where he DOES run into the cute girl and he DOES end up getting helped by her and she DOES look just like Asuna in a different color palette.

All of this turns around when they decide to kill both characters, but Subaru is shuttled back using a time loop narrative device, and the show goes on a darker path to discover the more sinister underpinnings of this strange fantasy world.

It both sort of works but feels lacking in originality. I honestly like this show for having such beautiful art and a promising story, but it could do with a little less self-awareness and avoid genre tropes altogether. Just because the story was based off of a light novel doesn’t mean it’s a death sentence to creativity. This show just needs to be confident in its own narrative and allow itself to unfold without the restraints of this already overused plot setting.

Initial Rating: 6/10

 

My Hero Academia

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Since we’re on the topic of genre tropes, My Hero Academia falls under “superhero shounen”, which is home to titles like One Punch ManTiger & Bunny, and basically every superhero show you’ve ever watched from Marvel or DC. This isn’t new, so it’s easy to call out every member of this genre as a clone of one or another. But what makes My Hero Academia stand out is its confidence in itself. It KNOWS its characters and the world they inhabit. Moreover, it KNOWS what it’s like to be in a position of powerlessness — of wanting to do good in an unjust society but being physically unable to. And with that confidence in tow, it does a grand effort in setting the stage in the first episode effortlessly.

The art is bold and expressive, full of exaggerated poses and heavy angles. All of this adds to the gravity and expressiveness of the characters and the emotions that drive them. There’s no need for mind-bending action scenes for this show – its characters deliver the weight and purpose of each line spoken. And even the individual lines are indicative of carefully thought out dialogue. Midoriya is the “abnormal” protagonist born without a quirk, and for that he is ridiculed and ostracized. Despite that, he builds the courage to step forward and ask All Might, the hero he idolizes, a very simple question, but one that bears Midoriya down naked in front of the man he adores: “Can someone without a quirk become like you?” It is a brazen honesty that exceeds his character — speaks of an underlying courage just waiting to shine.

And as a result, this show that could have been just like any other show out there succeeds in being entirely its own. And this is just the first episode. This show has all reason to be the most highly anticipated show this season. Be sure to watch this.

Initial Rating: 9/10

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