Vampire Holmes – 01 (First Impressions)

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Holmes, a detective who is also a vampire but not particularly good at either of those things, solves mysteries in period London. Watson, who is human, finds him moderately annoying and lazy.

It’s a three-minute comedy that pokes fun at detective stories and the morose drama of vampire shows. Except, like Holmes himself, it’s kinda lazy about it…

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You may enjoy it: if you have three minutes to kill. Alternatively, pretend that Holmes is a can of soda or it’s a commercial for Geico or something. In that context, the show is slightly more purposeful.

But really, like all short format shows, what’s to lose by watching the first episode?

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If you don’t have three minutes to kill or think having to imagine the show is about something it is not about is a stupid exercise, just skip it. I smirked. It’s harmless. It’s exactly what it is: a pitch that had enough energy for a single normal episode, and thus it was plausible to segment it into a season long run of three minute jokes.

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Arslan Senki – 01 (First Impressions)

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Fictional proxies for Middle Ages / Middle Eastern flavor warfare on a massive scale frames a small prince in his journey to become a man. And that journey involves being kidnapped by a blonde boy and recent prisoner of war who’s escaping the slave market one day.

Also a giraffe. And slavery.

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You may enjoy it: if big battles and decently rendered swordplay are enough for you. The Persian-esque aesthetic is a nice break from traditional Samurai and European knight treatments. Arslan’s Queen mother is also pretty hot too.

The scale is really big, consistently designed, and the CG used to render the immense number of figures is not overbearing, but I can’t escape the feeling that last season’s Junketsu no Maria put a more personal spin—more authentic flavor—into its knights and armor conflict.

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You may want to skip it: if melodramatic ham-acting wears you down, you don’t like “whiny-weak-boy-becomes-great-hero” stories, or find the simplistic fictional overlay of Crusades-era history pedantic. (Parsians = Persians)

Melodramatically speaking, everyone is yelling all the time. Desperately yelling with all the emotion they can put into yelling. Also there are nonsensical moments of humor.

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Unfortunately, Prince Arslan poses a more significant problem. In short, he’s the male narrative equivalent to Princess Yona. He’s whiny, and starts out weak, but is dully destined to become a grand hero.

This is definitely going to be a predictable story and the visual cues are overdone. Arslan’s character design has weak, sagging shoulders to show us he can’t carry the responsibilities he is about to inherit, for example.

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Arslan also force feeds a lot of names, titles and locations out of the gate. Worse, it info dump-introduces several characters that have no bearing on the current story and, since the episode ends skipping three years ahead, the introductions felt pointless.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t terrible. Its just average. Character loses it all and grows up, probably to retake his rightful place as king, with the support or a Samurai Warriors-style mob of over the top allies and his own determination.

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Show By Rock!! – 01 (First Impressions)

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Cyan Hijirikawa, a first year from class 3, wants to join her school’s rock music club but she’s too shy and ends up living in her imagination instead. Then she gets a high score playing pinball on her cell phone and is sucked into a magic scifi world here everyone is anthro and 3D rendered musicians fight dark monsters or have their music-skill-crystals sucked out and become dark monsters themselves.

Then she defeats a giant dark monster with a single guitar riff (using a heart-shaped guitar she unlocked in her pinball game) and signs a contract with a shoddy music studio run by an egg man.

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SbR asks us: what would happen if TRON, Sonic COLORS and an Idol show had a baby with a ho-hum shy-girl high school rock music club show? The answer is, of course, is a schizophrenic but stylish mashup that just barely holds together as it lurches between rendering styles, characters, and worlds alike.

And I almost turned it off because the first 5 minutes are presented straight faced as a dull shy-girl-becomes-bold trope. Mind you, SbR would have done a decent enough job, even by that genre’s standards. I’m just not into that genre and 5 minutes is asking a lot of an audience that doesn’t know what it’s getting into.

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You may enjoy it: if you like absurd and over the top style-first shows, with simple but up beat themes about love music and togetherness. Bros, blushing cuties, and ‘I’m gonna take you down’ (with my music) faces flash all over this thing.

The humor is also knowing, and almost clever at times. (egg man’s tour bus gets plowed by a limo so long it takes 2 scenes for the back window to reach our heroine)

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You may want to avoid it: if over the top cute, blushing cuties, and bro-power gets on your nerves. This is ditzy girls and idol boys save the day through and through and, while there is obviously a tongue and cheek plot about the evil industry exec who brought Cyna into the world because she’s a master guitarist he needs to play the perfect song to take over the galaxy… well that’s the plot so if you don’t think that will be funny, run?

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Over all, the visual styles are great on their own but don’t mesh together. It comes close but the 3D is so glossy and that the 2D can’t integrate, no matter how saturated the colors get. Oddly, its worth nothing that the styles don’t overlap either — 3D scenes are fully 3D and 2D scenes have no 3D objects, which only further emphasizes their separation.

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I went in blind and was both entertained and surprised by where Show by Rock!! went. I’m not sure I actually like it, and I don’t plan on reviewing it during the season, but its a fun romp and most likely worth your time.

If for no other reason than it’s totally bonkers.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 01 (First Impressions)

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For many, this new Suzumiya Haruhi property has huge shoes to fill. It picks up in a place where the Disappearance film (one of the longest, but best, anime films ever made, IMO) briefly spent time, namely the alternate universe where Haruhi never assembled the SOS brigade and where Nagato Yuki wasn’t a stoic alien but a shy bookish human girl.

Therefore, technically a spin-off.  This Nagato Yuki doesn’t share much beyond her looks with the Nagato Yuki of the original series(s). This isn’t even a KyoAni production, but rather the work of Satelight. It’s also more of a conventional romantic comedy, nearly devoid of metaphysical, supernatural elements, and the focus will be not on what’s going on with this universe, but what’s going on inside Yuki’s human heart.

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As a moderate-core fan of the Haruhi franchise, I viewed this opening salvo of Yuki-chan not as a safe or cynical dilution of a storied brand, but as another demonstration by that brand’s creators that Haruhi herself and the supernatural trappings weren’t all that endeared us to the series. Placing its solid characters in a less magical setting, while leaving the former main heroine out, gives them a new place to shine, and shine they do!

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That being said, Yuki-chan still has moments of playfulness, with Asakura still exhibiting qualities that could be described, but perhaps she’s really only very athletic and multi-talented. Comparisons to Haruhi’s de facto KyoAni rom-com successor, Chu2Koi, are inevitable, and like that solid franchise, Yuki-chan doesn’t forget to show off now and again, whether it’s a bold punctuating gesture or more subtle, intricate details in the presentation.

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One other advantage Yuki-chan has out of the gate is its built-in lived-in world. Sure, it’s not the exact world we know and love, and in fact, it was specifically portrayed as the wrong world in the film, but the same gang is on hand (save Haruhi) and the same locales as well, with all the differences you’d expect considering the changes to the universe. Asakura is a mom-like protector/mentor figure for Yuki, rather than her hard-headed back-up and rival.

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And in a world without Haruhi, Yuki is free to explore her feelings for Kyon and the best way to express them…and vice-versa. Kyon can sometimes miss the point of things like keeping the lit club going, or the significance of having a Christmas party in said clubroom, but his value to bringing Yuki out of her shell can’t be overstated.

Overall, Kyon comes of as his usual kind, perceptive self, always willingly to call out the quirkiness of his peers (mostly in his head), but also devoted to Yuki and willing to go at her pace, which much like Rikka and Yuuta, isn’t that different from his pace. In this way, after mishaps like Kyon seeing Yuki’s belly, things can be patched up between the two while waiting for the dryer.

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With it firmly established the Lit Club consists only of Yuki, Kyon, and Asakura, the introduction of Asahina and Tsuruya is a little…clunky. The conceit that Tsuruya has the Christmas turkey Yuki is hell-bent on serving for the party, and that she must duel Asahina in various random challenges for said turkey, is a bit random.

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The randomness continues when Asakura and Tsuruya hijack the duel and the episode with an increasingly elaborate, over-the-top antics, which end in stalemate and the two becoming friends. Then again, the fact they shoved Yuki out of the frame so easily speaks to work that lies ahead for Yuki to more strongly assert herself in the show that bears her name, both for Kyon, and for the audience.

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I’m guessing some among that audience are understandably dubious, but I’m not among them. Unless there’s going to be some twist in which this universe suddenly changes, or everyone’s superpowers manifest, it’s probably appropriate to proclaim “Nagato Yuki is dead; Long Live Nagato Yuki-chan.” I’ve definitely room this Spring for a pleasant conventional shy girl rom-com with KyoAni (er, Satelight) flair. Your mileage may vary.

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Stray Obervations:

  • nagatoicI liked that little Iron Chef moment, where Kyon chose to bite the pepper not like the Chairman, but like…Kyon.
  • Let’s just sit back and admire the fact that Asakura managed to get through this entire episode without stabbing Kyon! She deserves a mincemeat croquette.
  • There’s also something very amusing about the way Asakura snatches up Yuki as if she were a ragdoll.
  • I also liked the fact that Yuki wanted snow in the classroom for the party, but Kyon insists she settle for the fact that her name means snow. A technicality, but a good one!
  • She also seems to have a very nuptual aesthetic in mind, what with the five-layer cake and white dress. Perhaps Kyon should just give in and get her a ring for Christmas?

Denpa Kyoushi – 01 (First Impressions)

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Mr. Despair is back! To be precise Kamiya Hiroshi voices a high school teacher in a class full of students with issues. And he’s more of a Mr. “YD”, what with his self-diagnosed condition that only allows him to “Do what he Yearns to Do.” Kagami Junichiro’s contra-type voice-cast sister Suzune gets him a teaching gig part-time, and it’s up to him to make it something he Yearns to Do.

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Like SZS, Mr. Kagami will surely befriend his students one by one (at least the girl) and solve their problems, or at least support them in some way so they can solve their own. Unlike Itoshiki-sensei, he’s bringing otaku culture and the academic genius that came up with the theoretical framework for building an “Everywhere Door” a century form now…rather than life-weariness and despair over all the girls’ various psychological conditions.

To this end, the first student he meets, Kanou Minako, isn’t about to jump off the roof of the school, she’s merely singing the theme song to one of his favorite anime. Her arrogance about deciding to become a voice actress (a vocation he believes one is chosen for) leads to a characteristic Kamiya rant, but rather than join in the verbal calisthenics, she simply punches him in the face.

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That earns her the hilarious nickname “Face Punch,” in a practice I hope Mr. Kagami continues as the show progresses. As the episode progresses, he sees that Minako is being bullied by certain girls (led by “Wicked Blondie”) and avoided by all the others, but Minako has an answer for that too: she wants to be a voice actress because she wants to be a hero. She was a delinquent in the past, and a moment of despair, had a line from an anime recited to her that turned her life around: if there’s no hero, then become one.

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But heroes have sidekicks, which is the opening Mr. Kagami uses to intervene on Minako’s behalf, turning the underground school website the bullies use to attack her (a site he created) and using a combination of practical tricks (a well-placed bucket of chalk) and technology (live-streaming video with comment feeds) to exact punishment for their legit crimes of harassment and assault.

Even better, he’s only trolling them, but got them to experience at least a few moments of the fear your personal information was out there for all to see, after they all saw you bullying an innocent girl. No lasting damage is done, save to the bullies’ pride, and they learn the lesson, or as Kagami calls it, his first “lecture.”

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Mr. Kagami didn’t just save Minako here with the bullies, but also in the chat room when she was at her lowest point. The two are able to relate and bond on the premise that manga and anime can deliver life lessons if nowhere else in life is getting the job done. In the end, Minako’s bullying problem is solved, but Kagami is also fully engaged in the class, ready for his next lecture to the next student in need of help.

As you can see, Denpa Kyoushi is nothing special to look at, but it’s full of great voice work (as it should, being a show that brings up voice acting so much!), engaging characters, a surprisingly good script, and brisk pacing. I look forward to more nicknames, more lectures, and the answer to who’s that shadowy figure in the limo watching Kagami: Was he hired with the specific purpose of helping these students in his own unique way?

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