Fall 2017 – Previews (Part 3)

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So I ended up not working on the last of the previews for this Fall 2017 season because I randomly decided to pick up Cinderella Girls: Starlight Stage after having stopped playing for roughly 7 months.

I have no regrats.

I mean seriously, man how this game has changed so drastically in terms of visuals — so much so that it heated up my ancient iPhone 5s to the point that I think the battery is starting to swell since the front panel is starting to buckle forward… That can’t be good.

Anyway, that aside, it’s time to finish up the shows for my previews this season. And it’s weird because I just realized that I forgot to do my silly habit of using weird descriptors to describe the shows I’m going to be featuring in my previous posts. So, ahem… without further ado, let’s wrap things up with three more shows, including a boy who wants to be able to use magic, a girl who’s being groomed to use magic, and a girl who’s looking for magic. Make sense? Read on!

Black Clover

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This is part of my regular penance to force myself to watch blatantly shônen-oriented shows in an attempt to broaden my horizons. And don’t get me wrong — I’m not trying to sound pretentious, here — it’s just that I’m trying to understand WHY I’m finding it hard to enjoy the genre when in fact I know for a fact I used to find it very entertaining several years back. Because when Black Clover made its premier last week, I was left wondering if this was really an issue with the source material, or just a lackluster effort from studio Pierrot at translating the manga to the animated format.

Because for a show about an underdog who is unable to utilize magic in a world that is literally full of it is basically My Hero Academia re-skinned. In terms of tone, however, Black Clover has a decidedly medieval approach to things, making it a bit more interesting from a thematic perspective. But even so, things just felt so heavy-handed and awkwardly uninspired. For MHA, at least, it had a very clear sense of purpose, which lended it a sort of charm that allowed the series to gain character as a work that tries to focus in on the heroic attitude that animates its many super-human characters. This made for a refreshing reorientation towards the superhero shônen genre. Black Clover, on the other hand, does the bare minimum of establishing the thrust of characters like Asta, who has a clearly disproportionate handicap to the setting if only to elicit sympathy from the audience, before leading up to the expectant reveal of his own inner power that is just so “bad ass”.

I get it, but at the same time, I think I’ve seen this before. It’s a formula that’s worked in the past, and I’m sure you can re-skin things and enjoy the formula all the same. But that being said, there was nothing in this premiere episode to reel me in. The animation was good, the voice acting questionable, but overall things were just not interesting. I’m not under the illusion that the original work wasn’t any good — but honestly speaking, the anime is looking far from good. Initial rating: 6/10

 

The Ancient Magus’ Bride

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There was a bit of a hubbub going around this title, and so I was curious to see what it was all about. Based on a manga and following from a short OVA stint, the initial reception was quite good from what I heard; learning that the full-blown animation would be handled by Studio Wit only further solidified confidence that this would be a good watch.

And boy oh boy, was it.

Early on in the show, there’s a precise sense of tone that is matched with a similarly elegant pacing in depicting Chise’s journey of depression due to a life plagued by the ability to see creatures of the occult. It’s a similar sort of backstory to Natsume from Natsume Yûjinchô, but here, there is an inherent wariness in Chise’s lived experience that gives it a more cynical flavor. After she is bought off by an bull-skull-topped magus’ to become his apprentice, she is shown, for the first time, what it means to become accepted as a part of a family.

The transition from hopelessness to cautious acceptance feels both poignant and heartfelt. It’s a beautiful exercise of nuanced storytelling, melding the heavy droll of a wretched human existence to the magically uplifting universe of a life as a magus. There’s an odd charm to this show as early as the first episode that just reels me in. Is it the story? The beautiful animation? The wonderfully atmospheric music? I think it’s all of the above. Initial rating: 8.5/10

 

Neto-Jû no Susume (Recovery of an MMO Junkie)

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Recovery of an MMO Junkie is a bit of an odd ball this season if we base it on face value, alone. Indeed, the visuals of this show don’t feel as polished as all the other titles I’ve look at this season, and this is probably due to the fact that it was headed by studio Signal.MD, which is a small subsidiary under Production I.G as a development studio primarily involved in noon-time children’s animation. So hearing that they’d take a stab at “pseudo” isekai work with trappings of a romantic comedy actually sounded like a pretty interesting idea. Granted I could tolerate the slightly downgraded visuals, anything “different” in the isekai genre is a welcome change of pace, and I think I can say with certainty that MMO Junkie just hit the sweet spot as far as both isekai and rom-coms are concerned.

The story focuses on one Moriko Morioka, who after recently quitting her job, takes to the virtual world of MMOs as a “professional” NEET. During her online adventures, she meets a certain female character with whom she starts to have growing affections for, if only to realize that the player on the other end isn’t, actually, a girl. Of course, Moriko doesn’t know this… at least not yet, as far as the first episode goes. And it’s an interesting setup with gender swaps in an anonymous online platform. It harkens to the earlier IRL romance days whilst still remaining quite in-tune with the modern ethos of the burgeoning millennials. All in all, the writing is quite sharp, the comedy adorable, and premise simply charming. This is a show that I can’t really hate on, because it seems to be very confident in the sort of skin it’s wearing — and that’s quite impressive for a show that is essentially a reformulation of the beaten-to-death isekai genre. So kudos to this show, I hope it continues to be this good. Initial rating: 7.5/10

 

And there you have it! Stay tuned for a quick digest of all the shows I’ve previewed in a follow-up post. Until next time, ciao!

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