Final set of previews for the first episodes of most of the shows this Spring 2016 season. I say “most” because there were quite a number of other shows that I skipped, either because they were sequels or they didn’t really appeal to me that much. But even without those titles, I’m pretty much covered for the next three months. For this last edition, we have two trigger titles, a slice-of-life, and another special anniversary release. So let’s break it down!
Space Patrol Luluco
Anything that flies out of Trigger Studios’ doors is likely to be something zany and original, if not remarkably obtuse and uninhibited. Space Patrol Luluco is definitely the latter, blending artistic flourishes reminiscent of past Gainax hit Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and wacky humor akin to Kill la Kill. The show focuses on the not-so-normal life of a normal girl named Luluco who reluctantly takes her father’s place as a member of a local space patrol bureau after he accidentally freezes himself. Her job is to essentially find and apprehend rogue aliens by using a body suit that morphs her entire body into a pistol.
All of this is framed using intentionally 2-dimensional characters with nicely detailed backgrounds that make the characters stick out. The color palette is generous and pops out without too much flash, and the overall animation is actually quite stunning. As a comedy, the jokes are basically adrenaline driven, made funny more by its manner of execution rather than its actual content. It’s typical Japanese humor made interesting with a swash of romance come the second episode.
So as it stands, this is actually a romcom with a decidedly eccentric baseline. It’s not a landmark work by any chance, but for something that runs at 7 minutes per episode a week, it’s not really that much of an investment. No harm done really, but not much gained either. But if eccentricity and feels are down your alley, then this might just be the show for you.
Initial rating: 7.5/10
P.A. Works celebrates its 15th anniversary with this mecha show that takes its inspiration from ancient Japanese warriors and folklore. It opens in a frozen wasteland with dueling “samurai” mechs before the scene shuttles to the present where our protagonist, Yuuki, is apparently at odds with what she wants to do in the future (go to Mars) and what her current abilities allow her to accomplish. It doesn’t help either that her mother is one of the leading scientists behind the United Nations team tasked at developing mechanized robots for global security. Upon visiting her mother’s workplace to return her smartphone, Yuuki finds herself and everyone else in the U.N. base under siege as an alien mecha force attacks them. Enter a stark naked, sword-weilding man who speaks like a samurai and calls Yuuki a princess, and you have yourself a show called Kuromukuro.
It doesn’t sound like much, and I’m not really much of a mech show watcher myself, but the premise sounds interesting enough. The animation work is also quite lovely, blending fluid animation with stunning action scenes. Ironically, the 3D CGI could stand to use a bit more work in the object physics department, but it’s otherwise a pretty impressive feat coming from P.A. Works. And I mean this quite earnestly, because the studio has been through a rut for the past few seasons. Hopefully, this might change all of that.
Unfortunately, true mecha fans might pass this one over in favor of Macross Delta. For that reason, it might have been too big of a gamble for P.A. Works to pit an original mecha series against a juggernaut like Macross. It will likely be overshadowed by the latter this season, but who knows — this show may very well be the underdog to prove us wrong. But that’s a long shot at best.
Initial rating: 7/10
Flying Witch was a show that I was planning on making my “fall back” of sorts — a show that would serve to help me relax in the face of a long list of high-strung titles. After watching the first episode, it’s quite clear that this show will definitely fulfill that and maybe even more. Flying Witch basically revolves around Makoto, a witch hailing from Yokohama who comes to stay with her distant relatives in the Tohoku region. Though she’s a fledgling witch, her parents’ pragmatism demands that she complete high school, and so she finds herself spending time with her new friends who are, surprisingly, not so used to having a witch around.
The world of Flying Witch is an interesting one, given that people are aware of the existence of witches, but are still flabbergasted at the sight of them. But this device isn’t so much the focus than it is, really, the dynamics that Makoto has with the people she interacts with. And these interactions are very endearing. Smart framing choices and subtle character cues are used to good effect as characterization is established with minimal dialogue. All of this is enhanced by a brilliant soundtrack that mixes pleasant guitar solos with warm woodwinds and an occasional jazz drum kit.
The animation is also quite lovely — low key, but warm and inviting with its use of airbrush-like gradients and soft filters. The backgrounds aren’t exactly award winning, but the detail is enough to make it feel grounded and inviting. For comedy, the show utilizes a running gag on Makoto’s poor sense of direction. Though it feels a bit overused, much of it feels more like characterization than anything else. If not funny, it comes across as endearing.
And perhaps that’s what I find truly remarkable about this show. Flying Witch gives off a very inviting atmosphere that is sure to release the tension from a hard-day’s work and crease a warm smile across your face. Just watch it and enjoy.
Initial rating: 8.5/10
And last but not least, another Trigger Studios original that goes by the name Kiznaiver. If Space Patrol Luluco serves as the repository for the zany antics of Trigger this spring, then this show is probably the originality that remains. But Kiznaiver feels a bit different in execution from other Trigger works in that it actually shows some amount of restraint. Instead of ballsy introductions oozing with confidence like in Kill la Kill, this show opens with an overly dull protagonist, Katsuhira, who harbors an uncharacteristically dark past. His inability to feel pain ironically works against him as he becomes the object of bullying. When a mysterious classmate Sonozaki tells him about her own rendition of the seven deadly sins, she abducts Katsuhira along with six other kids in their school and turns them into “Kiznaivers” — people whose perception of pain are linked with one another. Through the bond created between these incompatible personalities, Sonozaki declares that their bond shall become the salvation of mankind from the endless strife brought about by conflict.
It’s a very grandiose premise framed using psychedelic visuals and somewhat excessive exposition. But Trigger makes up for it with lovely character designs and ingenious camera tricks that create a great sense of space and tension for dramatic effect. The hard contrasts also give it a comic book-like feel, adding to the visual flavor of the show. The music has a funny mix of techno-pop and house, which plays in well with the general eccentricity of the show.
But when we think about the premise, it still feels a little lukewarm. The first episode only succeeds partially as a dramatic hook, but the story definitely has potential. Then again, there can be just so many ways to make this sort of thing collapse; one being that all of these characters are students, and just what exactly are they fighting against to warrant such grandiose exposition? There were already hints about some sinister, underlying plot, and the use of statements like “all for one, one for all” as a battle cry of sorts hints towards a rather dystopian type of world setting. But for what it’s worth, this first episode is more of intrigue wrapped in a delightfully flavorful package — but that’s a packaged I’d be more than willing to tear open.
Initial rating: 8/10
And there you have it! This season is actually looking to be pretty good — almost as good as last season! But if that were true, then it’s likely that a number of these titles will hit some bumps along the line. The first episode of any show is expected to be the best foot forward in general. Some of these shows have done just that, but others maybe not so. Still, there’s a whole season for them to prove their worth!
Stay tuned for a summary post of all the shows I’ve previewed this season. Hopefully, it will give you guys an idea for what shows you may actually want to pursue watching this season. Until next time, happy watching!