Re-Kan! – 01 (First Impressions)

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Stop whatever you are doing and watch Re-Kan! right now! It is the funniest show airing this season and anything more I say about it will ruin the experience.

Yes! Go!

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Hibiki is a freshman who can see ghosts and she’s pretty up-beat about it. Unfortunately, one of her classmates can also see ghosts and can’t seem to admit it. Ghost antics ensue, which we the viewer sometimes can see and hear and sometimes can only respond to through Hibiki’s responses.

You must watch this show because it is a masterclass in comedic timing, facial expressions and up-beat humor. It has heart too, and dare I say it emotional depth for it’s characters who have real tragedies nestled in their back stories.

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It may run out of steam mid season or not have a meaningful resolution at the end of the season, but for now, there isn’t any reason not to watch and love this show! It’s not visually remarkable, but what does that matter if you’re rolling around on the floor laughing in the first place?

If you enjoyed Gekkan-Shoujo Nozaki-kun, Re-kan has the same western-style timing to its humor. What’s more, there are no archetypal personality or thematic overlaps with Nozaki-kun. So Re-Kan! feels fresh.

Check it out and if you don’t agree, bring the fighting words to the comments below!

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Hibike! Euphonium – 01 (First Impressions)

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This Spring, Satelight’s Haruhi spinoff goes head-to-head with a new show from its former studio KyoAni, helmed by the director of both Chu2kois and one of Steins;Gate’s screenwriters. While I definitely had the franchise feels with the quiet and perfectly lovely Nagato Yuki-chan, I have to admit I was more impressed with Hibike!’s first outing. This first round goes to KyoAni.

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Yes, this is yet another very pretty show featuring cute high school girls doing musical stuff. Ya know…like K-On! Except…I don’t know! I’ve never seen a lick of K-On!, so I imagine this show is benefiting from my total ignorance of the show many are going to be comparing it to. I, on the other hand, am still coming off the not-flawless but undeniably gorgeous and powerful Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, which really gave KyoAni’s best a run for it’s money (when its episodes were properly funded).

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What I liked right off the bat was how normal and grounded out protagonist Kumiko seemed to be (parts of her remind me of Kato Megumi from Saekano). She’s not struggling with deep-seated psychological trauma, nor does she spew flowery monologue, she’s just trying to figure out what she’s going to do with herself in high school, which she considers a fresh start from some mild unpleasantness a the end of middle school.

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While she’s typcially level-headed, Kumiko does have flashes of exuberance, which makes sense when you consider how much energy one has to put into a big brass horn to make it sing. She’s naturally drawn to her new school’s concert band (which sucks), but the arrival of her former bandmate Kousaka Reina spooks her. It’s not that they had an official falling out; she just severely misjudged Reina’s enthusiasm and desire to WIN IT ALL (the nationals) rather than just make “dud gold.” Kumiko’s initial perspective is: It’s still GOLD! Gold is fine! Better than fine, it’s great!

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Kumiko probably fears that being around someone as fierce as Reina would accentuate the gap in their enthusiasm, yearning, and commitment. It could also call into question her personal definitions of “victory”, “success”, or “greatness”. But one thing I learned from Uso is that musicians can never ever half-ass things, nor can they ever be satisfied until they’ve done there very frikkin’ best. Can Kumiko say she’s done that?

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Surprise! Kumiko has a childhood friend…who’s a GUY! Okay, that’s not that exciting or surprising in and of itself…though he pops into the picture late. What’s interesting is how he and Kumiko interact. There’s immediate chemistry you’d expect of old friends, but other than her initial fright-spazz, their relationship is handled with a very light and mature touch.

Also interesting: when Shuichi mentions he’s joining the band, Kumiko declares she won’t be. Shuichi could interpret this as Kumiko not wanting to be in the same club as him, but we have access to Kumiko’s head, and know it’s because she’s worried about Reina. I doubt she even realized her declaration could have come off as a rejection.

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Kumiko returns home, and major kudos to her seiyu Kurosawa Tomoyo for really nailing her household affectation (as opposed to her school or head voice), which is lazier, and deeper in tone. There, surrounded by reminders in her room that she is, in fact, a musician, she recalls when she and Reina were last on stage together, playing Orpheus in the Underworld.

She’s listening in her head, but her former conductor, having just come from a shrine, is listening to it on his phone. The way the bombastic music soars and blares when he switches it back has a soul-uplifting effect. Heck, my cat even galloped into the room when I kicked the volume up to become surrounded by SOUND! You kicked ass back then, Kumiko seems to think. And it was a blast. I want to get back to that. I’ve gotta get back to that!

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Fortunately, she also has two new friends in Sapphire (?) and Hazuki, two musical novices who plan to join the band. As a trumpet owner (and occasional player), I can remember the same joy Hazuki gets out of finally getting a good embouchure on the mouthpiece and making a sound, even if it’s a goofy duck call-like sound without a horn attached. I’ll bet it jogged Kumiko’s memory too. Between that and the other girls’ enthusiasm, Kumiko changes her mind right then and there.

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Her reticence towards playing with crazy-intense Reina was overruled by her desire to play again, watch her new friends develop beside her, and maybe turn her school’s relatively crappy band around. But she still has to confront Reina. All the promotional material, OP, and ED suggest they’ll end up getting along fine, so some suspension of disbelief is indicated, but I look forward to finding out not whether, but how she makes up with Reina. That starts next week, to which I very much look forward! After all, music makes everything better.

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Kyoukai no Rinne – 01 (First Impressions)

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Sakura-chan is a freshman who can see ghosts. Rokudou is the frequently absent student who sits next to her in class. He’s poor and can turn invisible to everyone except Sakura when he wants to.

Together, they resolve small time between the living and the dead.

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The premier introduces us to Rokudou’s weird life, which includes sending a gigantic Chihuahua to the afterlife while only Sakura can see them in in the middle of home room.

Later, they exercise a fellow student’s cell phone, which is being called by a 7-years-dead student who they discover was a classmate with their homeroom teacher and died before he could get his beloved track suit back behind the gym and… and the whole story plays like a run on sentence.

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All the elements of humor are here: the weirdness, the Sabagebu style narrator, the misbehavior only one character can see being done in front of (or to) her friends. Unfortunately, it’s not very funny.

There’s no punch to joke delivery or the micro-drama. There’s barely any sound design (let alone music) playing behind it too. KnR is just a quiet, mildly weird, string of stuff happening inoffensively for 24 minutes.

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It actually reminds me of community theatre, in that budget stage work often involves an actor to be on stage where we can see them, even when the other actors must portray characters who can not. We see Rokudou, as Sakura does, and their is no special effect to visually separate his spirit-state that makes him invisible to the other students.

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You may like it: if you set your expectations low. The humor really is here, it’s just so dead pan and the characters are played so unemotionally, that I found it hard to laugh with OR at.

You may want to skip it: because it’s unremarkable on every level. KnR is not ugly, but plain and discount quality animation and has no audio presence. It’s not dull either, or not funny. Rather, the lack of excitement and simplicity of the visual elements snubs the delivery.

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I’m definitely not going to follow this show but I am curious: was this a manga that converted very poorly to Anime? Or am I totally missing something that should make this special?

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Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! – 12 (Fin)

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Binan Koukou comes to a fantastic close, totally “More Better” than I ever could have expected. While not a 10, the last episode captures all the wonderfulness that made this my favorite series of winter season.

From its double-down on the Absurd Aliens Vs. Sailor Boys plot, to the boys’ continued embarrassment about following anime tropes, to the anime final episode conventions the episode does follow and the ones it makes fun of not following, everything is here.

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As I suspected, Binan High School’s students are unwitting participants in alien TV programming. It isn’t even a good show by alien standards, which explains all the conventional story telling elements and cheap production values the Battle Lovers have seen along the way.

However, the double wrinkle is that this is a sequel…

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Yumoto’s firewood chopping brother was Earth’s hero in the original series, which actually caused that show to be canceled because, from the Alien’s perspective, he was the villain their invasion force was supposed to defeat. Since he always won, the show lost its focus and then its ratings.

It was great watching the Battle Lovers just gape as the reveal is dumped on them. The student council too, which is horrified to realize how empty their domination plot is, and how embarrassing “being the popular tsundere” is to the president…

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Leading us to the next story convention, Yumoto’s Bro becomes the near final boss and can not be defeated until the Battle Lovers upgrade their abilities to “More Better” levels, which they find eye rolling as usual.

And of course the show’s director is the final boss, complete with a giant purple space mech which requires former-enemies to join forces, all Much Better Better come together and More Battle Love Shower for the victory.

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My only criticism is that Binan Koukou stays so true to the format it’s making fun of, parts of the episode dragged. The jokes were well timed and well played and the action was surprisingly fun too. But lengthy info dumping between action is what it is, even if its bad pacing is the point.

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Binan Koukou earned my respect by taking itself seriously (in that it wasn’t very serious) to the end. The boy’s personalities had a wonderfully believable response to the silliness around them, including the obvious BL nods.

If you missed it, I’m not going to tell you to dig back and find this one. It’s not on the level of Gekkan-shoujo-Nozaki-kun or Sabagebu but it showed how far a simple idea could be taken without wearing out its welcome.

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