Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 01

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“‘Scuse me, Ma’am!”

My very first taste of this new project by a franchise celebrating its 20th year is a mere sliver of the first day of school for trainee teacher Masaki Tenchi. For some reason he ends up stranded on a mountain where his compass goes haywire. There, he bumps into one different color-haired girl after another, all of whom end up attending the class he’s teaching back at school.

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I’m guessing this is Hakubi Washuu.

Without any research, watching this is a waste of my time. But I did find out a few interesting things, like the show’s plot, from a trusted source:

In this story, the world is in chaos, thanks to Washu. Now in order to save it, Tenchi Masaki must go undercover as a student teacher at an all-girls school. Unfortunately for him, trouble always comes his way.

Oh, so he’s undercover? The episode didn’t make that clear, but I’d probably know that if I knew the character from other stuff, of which there is much. And he does look a little out of sorts at school.

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As for the world in chaos, well, it’s certainly chaotic for me, being new to the franchise. And that class had Sayonara Mr. Despair written all over it: full of eccentrics. It kinda begs the question: how does teaching at this all-girls school save the world? I imagine I’ll find out.

I also learned that the series (which will consist of 50 5-minute episodes) is sponsored by the city of Takahashi in Okayama Prefecture, in order to promote tourism for the city. That is an awesome idea. I want my city in an anime.

But yeah, this is just an introduction, and it wasn’t interested in cluing noobs in on what was happening. That being said, I can’t say I disliked it. So I will see where it goes.

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 01

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I’m only just getting into this Fall 2014 roll-out, having only reviewed the first episode of Vanadis and my two Summer carryovers. My second premiere packs a punch and has the makings of a rousing quasi-historical magical action romp: Garo: Honoo no Kokuin (The Carved Seal of Flames)

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“You gonna hog all that booze?”

We start the proceedings with what else, a witch execution! Lord Fernando of Valiante is in poor health, and said witch is the scapegoat. When she gives birth to a newborn child while on the stake—protected from the flames by a green barrier—a fellow in an elaborate and particularly bad-ass suit of armor plows through the guards, snatches up the babe, and escapes without a trace.

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Worst. Dad. Ever.

The grizzled narrator so common in these types of shows keep going, right up until we learn he’s sharing a tale from seventeen years ago in between swigs of wine with a shapely, mildly-interested female companion in a brothel. When his son calls to him from outside, he asks him for money (or “love” as he puts it) for the honor of the lady’s company, and gets a well-thrown stone to the face. That son, who is, by the way, as old as the baby in the story would be.

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The son heads home to a small cabin on a hill, and into an ambush arranged by Lord Fernando’s adviser Mendoza (MENDOZAAAA!!). The father, meanwhile, is already in a trap, with the prostitute merely serving as bait for a disgusting monster called a “horror” who has preyed upon many a man before. But Herman Luis is no ordinary man: he’s the Makai Knight Zorro from his tale. He guts the beast in no time; all while buck nakked, mind you, and after having had his sex rudely interrupted.

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Come at me, bro

Meanwhile, the son Leon proves just as capable of defending himself by transforming into the golden (and titular) knight, Garo, combating the horror who led the ambush, and destroying him in grand fashion and more than a few style points. The character design is plain and un-embellished, but that makes the suits of armor that much more striking. Furthermore, the horrors are actually very weird and grotesquely bizarre-looking, mixing human and monster characteristics.

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SHASHIIING

Turns out Pops was chillin’ in the whorehouse to be out of the way for the first big test in Leon’s training to become a sealer of demons like Herman, and he passes with flying colors, no doubt irking Mendoza, who with his assistant Octavia seems to be plotting more mischief behind the backs of Lord Fernando and his son and heir Alfonzo (who witnessed the witch’s execution as a three-year-old.)

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It’s the CIRCLE of LIFE…

From the clever narrative device used by Herman to clue us in on what’s shakin’ in Garo-land, and the episode’s mature treatment of sex, to the impactful bursts of shiny metallic action, Garo: Honoo no Kokuin makes a favorable first impression on your humble reviewer. Looking forward to the next installment.

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There’s some not-so-wholesome doins goin’ on here…

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Akatsuki no Yona – 01

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There’s no nice way to say this but Akatsuki no Yona has no place being released during such a hot season. It’s very average looking, featuring dull character designs with ‘cheats’ like putting many characters in robes, which means they don’t have to have legs or feet or, really, a walk cycle in the first place.

It’s not ugly per-see, but it just feels strained. Cheap. Uninspired. That’s just not gonna cut it with Vanadis and Bahamut around. Even Nanatsu no Taizai had more enthusiasm than this — more personality too!

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we pause this drab fantasy/historical drama to bring you worse looking art…carry on!

Akatsuki no Yona is a by-the-numbers tragic tale of betrayal and features a spoiled princess as it’s central character. In fact, Princess Yona gets so much screen time pining for her big-brother-like childhood friend Soo-Won that, when he finally kills her father, I was on his side!

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The princess is simply unlikable from the start, which makes it very difficult to empathize with her after her world turns upside down. If anything, I care about antagonist Soo-Won more. He seems to actually care about her and be conflicted about her unfortunate fate during all of this.

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Even in a slower season of anime, this would be pretty low on our radar. In such a clustered season? I already have Cross-Ange for my tragic sheltered princess genre, thank you.

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Tribe Cool Crew – 02

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Tri-Cool, as it calls itself at various times, pauses a moment from last weeks E & speed-fueled dance party and good vibes to remind us that people are also dramatic. People can get sad and not be able to do the fun things the want. Even people full of crazy dance moves!

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Kanon, aka Rhythm, is from a composed, appropriate family. It is unspoken, but given how seriously into controlled flower arrangements her mom is for their home, it doesn’t have to be stated: Kanon’s rents would fa-fa-fa’lip if they knew she was dancing.

Sorry Haneru! No dance team for you!

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Also, there was a moon walking kappa. (Though he was not a kappa later)

There were also group names proposed like “Cool Dash Rising Brilliant Dragon Crew!” Which Kanon doesn’t understand but Haneru assures her it has no meaning.

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As before, TCC episode two is a machine that only exists to make charming, occasionally funny, dancey silliness. Describing it as good would miss the point. I’m not even sure it is good!

The plot doesn’t matter. The characters don’t even matter. It’s just a whole crazy mess of fun.

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 01

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It’s Chu2Koi, but for real, baby. In a nutshell, that’s Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de, or InoBato for short, AKA When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace. We have a group of mostly girls and a guy, only here the guy is the Chuuni, Andou Jurai, who is messing around one day when he suddenly produces a real ball of magical flame from his palm, and nothing is the same.

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But six months later, aside from a monthly “supernatural checkup” the club undergoes, everything is the same. Everything, except that now Himeki Chifuyu can conjure matter and teleport, Kishikwa Hatoko can control the elements, Kanzaki Tomoyo can manipulate time, and Takanashi Sayumi can restore things to a previous state. Ironically, the true Chuuni just has his little dark flame, which is pretty, but otherwise totally useless; apparently a sore subject.

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The strength of this show, and something that elevates it from being merely another Chu2Koi or Haruhi knockoff, is that Studio Trigger is behind it, which means most of the time, it looks totally badass, but in a more boisterous aesthetic than the more quiet realism of KyoAni. It excels both at rendering the ordinary lives of the students, as well as the awesome magic they periodically break out, because, well, they can.

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The show also moves briskly and confidently, from the way things were before (the only magic was in Jurai’s head) to the way things are (everyone using powers like it ain’t no thang) to their first interaction with someone outside the club, Student Council President Kudou Mirei (who has the Lancet ability), and by the end raises a key question moving forward: why did they receive these powers? What, if anything, are they supposed to do with them?

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That mystery looms over the otherwise playful and fun proceedings, giving the show a measure of gravitas. But I’m not under any illusions that this is a moe showcase of epic proportions, with a diverse sampling of very meticulously-rendered, adorable characters. The show also benefits from Okamoto Nobuhiko’s spirited, sometimes manic voice anchoring the cast of ladies, which includes the warm Hayami Saori (Hatoko) and delicately strict Taneda Risa (Sayumi).

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It’s bold, sharp-witted, pretty, and well-executed. Most of all, it’s just plain fun. You can glimpse that Trigger goodness and infectious joie de vivre that made Kill la Kill along with greats like Gurren Lagann...just way less insane and more moe. And along with the completely different Ushinawareta Mirai o Motomete, I am proud to add it to my Fall 2014 watchlist.

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