When I stepped back to take a look at what I wrote down on my “to-watch list”, I realized that there weren’t actually THAT many shows. On top of that, there seemed to be too many “speculative” titles, so although I might have seemed a little enthusiastic about the Winter offerings, on second pass I’m actually a little skeptical at this point.
So I went around and asked a couple people what titles they were planning on watching, and it turns out that a couple of them weren’t in my list, so I thought I might as well… true enough, I’m quite glad I didn’t pass out on them, as they turned out to be actually pretty amusing.
And so that brings us to this next installment of Winter previews, featuring a shepherd with imaginary friends, a teacher with mythological students, and an angel with legendary failings. Let’s do this!
Tales of Zestiria the X (2nd cour)
To be honest, I’m not so sure whether or not it was a good idea for UFOTable to split this show into two separate cours. They did that with Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works, and now they did it with Tales of Zestiria the X — the result of which feels like a disjointed series of events. At least the former had a movie before its run that served as a mental anchor for viewers to reorient themselves with, but the same can’t be said for the latter. And so much of the viewing of this second cour had me double-backing just to recall what had happened in the last cour.
And to make things worse, focus is now being redirected to Rose and the Sparrowfeathers, which feels trite given they barely made an appearance up until now. There was also nothing visually appealing in this episode to reel me back into the world of the show, driving home further my belief that this show was unnecessarily cut mid-run due to production issues.
And that’s a shame for this series. I honestly enjoyed its classic adventure RPG-like vibe, and though stuck on very idealistic morals, had a strong character base that made it honestly enjoying. Now, however, it’s starting to question its own moral backbone by bringing up questions on moral culpability, the paradox of upholding virtue through inglorious deeds, and the moral struggles of a utilitarian philosophy. That’s a lot of philosophical cud for this show to ruminate on, and the split cour run just underscored how unprepared the title is to do that topic justice. It’ll be an uphill battle from here on, that I can guarantee. Initial Rating: 6/10
Demi-chan to Kataritai
This was one of the two titles that took me by surprise. Otherwise known as Interviews with Monster Girls, the show takes place in a world where creatures from mythology, fairytales, and legend live amongst humans. Owing to their otherwise unsavory history with humans in stories, these “demi-humans” have been granted legal protection from society, allowing them to blend in without much incident. And so running in to a demi-human in the flesh is somewhat uncommon, which is enough to spark the interest of one Tetsuo Takahashi into finding out more about them by actually meeting and talking to one.
The idea itself seems a little far-fetched, but the delivery of the idea actually leads itself to a lot of intriguing ideas when it is viewed in the sense of approaching the minority. It’s one of those elephant in the room ideas that is difficult to talk about. But as far as this show is concerned, the desire to talk about these otherwise “un-talked” about things is less a matter of being presumptuous than it is, really, just genuinely wanting to get to know the other more. In fact Tetsuo’s character is, ironically, the anti-thesis to an “approachable” character to discuss such things with given his foreboding appearance.
But it’s these subtle character contrasts that actually do the topic justice. Combined with the witty comedy and overall cute character designs, the discussion becomes far more earnest whilst reflecting a rather keen assessment of society’s treatment towards cultural minorities. Instead of sweeping the discussion under the rug under assumptions of how not to brooch sensitive topics, Demi-chan wa kataritai embraces a spirit of honest discourse whilst maintaining a playful curiosity that makes the whole discussion actually fun. How it’s able to balance this comedy without coming off as tasteless is actually very impressive! Initial Rating: 8.5/10
And here we have the second title that I wasn’t initially expecting to watch, but a friend of mine elegantly described the premier episode of Gabriel Dropout thusly: ’twas pretty dank.
Well, the whole idea of comedic irony of ill-spirited angels coming down from heaven to live on earth as part of their “training” is one thing. Combining this with similarly ironic demon-folk who are anything BUT demonic. Then consider the fact that Otaku culture was what lead to the demise of Gabriel, our main heroine, into nothing more than a NEET, and you have yourself the comedic setup which is Gabriel Dropout.
It sounds a little uninspired — the joke seen on the featured image of this post 駄天使 (pronounced “datenshi”, meaning FAILed Angel) is actually a ripoff of a joke from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt (the name of the city they inhabit is “Daten City”, which is pronounced “Daten Shitii” — a pun on “fallen angel city” and “shitty angels”) — but honestly, this show was pretty fun. The comedic timing is actually okay, albeit predictable, and the overall quality of animation is great. But an uninspired setup doesn’t necessarily preclude a comedy from being entertaining. Although its characters are still pretty much cookie cutter tropes pulled out from other slice-of-life comedies, I think the show has enough material at its disposal to create interesting comedic banter. Case-in-point the ridiculous panty teleportation gag.
Still, I think this is a title that will require a little warming up to. At the very least, in comparison to Urara Meirocho, the elements of fan service feel a little less intrusive, and in the case of Gabriel Dropout actually lend more to character mannerisms than an actual assault on the characters for the sake of a predatory viewer. But still, there’s a lot of work to be done for this title, so let’s see. Initial Rating: 7/10
And there you have it! Still a couple more shows on my list and, oddly enough, one show that airs sometime in the third week of January, and another that airs in February. Gah. I don’t think those are going to be included in my previews, but stay tuned till next time. Ciao!