Trickster – 01 (First Impressions)

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Ahh, if only real city skies were like anime city skies

What is it: Trickster, based on the stories of Edogawa Ranpo, focuses on the “Boy’s Detective Club” as they pursue the famous master thief Twenty Faces (Gackt) and attempt to learn what he’s plotting. One member, Hanasaki Kensuke, meets Kobayashi Yoshio, a barefoot, suicidal boy with an invisible bubble around him that makes him invincible.

After Kobayashi comes to rescue him at a fire at a heavy industries facility, Hanasaki offers him a job at the detective club. In the incident, Kobayashi recieves a cut on his hand that starts to tingle.

Why You Should Watch: The Ranpo pedigree aside, this was a well-paced, well-plotted, and well-directed lark, which starts out super-dark (due to the initial Kobayashi POV) but is brightened by Akechi’s cavalier attitude and Hanasaki’s infectious optimism. The agency, its members, and its activities (another stalemate with Twenty Faces) are efficiently laid out while the story of the invincible kid takes the spotlight.

 

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ENHANCE

Rather than come off as annoying or arrogant, Hanasaki just seems like a decent kid who is always trying to see the best in people and situations, even when they can’t see it themselves. His crossing paths with a boy in Kobayashi who definitely sees his “ability” as nothing but a cruel curse seems to instill new purpose in the kid’s life…even if he promises to grant his wish by killing him someday.

To be specific about the animation, Trickster is definitely on a lower frame rate than ‘good’ anime. However, the gestures and the quality of the character designs (being stylish and specific but not over designed, which would break up gestures) make it a gem to watch  hear, with awesome music, including an OP sung by Gackt.

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Obligatory Quirky Hacker Girl

Why You Shouldn’t Watch: Twenty Faces’ part of the story feels more like a B-plot here; little more than a taste of what’s to come and a vehicle introduce how the detective agency operates and who they’re after.

The other characters perform their roles competently but no one other than Hanasaki really stands out yet. With 24 episodes ordered, if you’re in this, you’re in it for the long haul. That’s about all I can think of in Devil’s Advocate mode.

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—”Nice Bruce Lee jumpsuit.” —”Nice…whatever the heck you’re wearin’ over there.”

MagicalChurlSukui’s Verdict: Trickster is off to a slick, stylish, understated start, and I’m fully on board after just one episode. It can spin a good yarn, and there’s certainly a lot more where that came from.

Oigakkosan’s Verdict: its very easy for me to draw comparisons with Ronpo’s Bungou Stray Dogs, which feels very similar. However, Stray Dogs ultimately (and quickly) fell apart because it was ‘too quirky for it’s own good.’ I do not think that will be the case here. The mood is just more serious – Not brooding or drama-grim – TAKEN more seriously.

Thumbs up!

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Gakuen Handsome – 01 (First Impressions)

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THE PROTAGONIST HAS NO FACE!

The Gist: the protagonist’s parents have changed jobs so he and his sister are going to new schools. His school is an all male private academy and his homeroom teacher immediately takes a pass at him.

Later, he meets a friend from grade school and they walk home with his 3rd grade sister, who’s had 3 guys ask her out on the first day. She also thinks her brother, the protagonist, is homosexual. A stranger watches them from afar.

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The verdict: calling Gakuen Handsome profoundly ugly is an understatement. The character designs are freakish and there is nearly no animation. (characters walk by hopping, their waists unseen below the frame) It may be the cheapest show I’ve ever seen.

While this show may eventually blossom into a boy love piece eventually, maybe showing romance or humor along the way, the first episode gives no indication as to who or what audience would actually enjoy watching it. It felt long at 4 minutes, didn’t even make an attempt at being funny, and…

THE PROTAGONIST HAS NO FACE!

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Bloodivores – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Gist: 30 years ago, a vaccine for a virus caused some people to become vampires. After hundred of cases, the courts continue to hold the company accountable and the ‘Bloodvores’ are protesting. Also, occasionally attacking people for their blood.

Meanwhile, a group of Orphan Bloodvores rob a bank and are framed for 15 murders they did not commit. One of the kids is the sun of the director of BST, a commando group that deals with bloodvores (usually by beating them over the head with clubs) but he has daddy issues.

After a mock trial, the kids are driven away and shot by BST goons, but obvious not killed because they are the main characters…

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Bloodivores is almost so bad it’s funny but the animation is so poor I can not recommend watching it. Character movements are slow, filled with pauses, poorly framed (usually too close), and everything looks generic. 3D vehicle assets and backgrounds look like they were purchased from other shows or asset databases.

What almost works is how oblivious Bloodivores is of its try-hard terrible nature. Things like the TV News piece on ‘The Historical Side Effect Problem of Medicine,’ to the techno-babble about servers and a computer literally blink ‘hack,’ to the 90’s cool tench coats and broodie bad boys, Bloodivores perfectly captures a 8 year old’s sense of cool.

There’s even a scene where a tank slowly moves to block a tunnel exit… except, when it is revealed from the TV helecopter’s view above, the tunnel opens onto a tightly walled road. Meaning, there was no space for the tank to have moved from to block the road and no thought put into this show at all!

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The Verdict: judging from next week’s preview, our kid vampires will be joining a secret group of monster-clean suicide squad style and face nightmares the government is too lazy and or corrupt to deal with. Also, probably something backstory related to the protagonist’s mom.

No thanks

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Chi’s Sweet Home – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Gist: Chii is young Yohei’s and it’s the one month anniversary of her coming to live at his home. Yohei’s crazy parents decide to celebrate this special moment with a feast, a custom photo book, and scary clown faces.

Chii, being a kitten, doesn’t really understand what is going on and gets in trouble for losing Yokei’s marbles and inverting all the photos in her commemorative photo book. Then she goes to a park with Blackie, an older male cat that tries unsuccessfully to give her advice. Then she goes to a party and Yohei makes up with her.

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You may like Chii because it has a lovely Wallace & Gromit claymation’ish 3D rendering style and solid animation. The camera moves slightly within scenes and the characters move simply, but in a pleasant and believable way. The lighting is also top notch and its opening credits have a fantastic song and art style.

You may not be interested in Chii because the story is empty, saccharine fluff. Unlike Wallace & Gromit, Chii’s humor is simplistic and the ‘space’ she occupies has no hidden meaning. It’s all too clean and sanitized.

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The Verdict: at 12 minutes, Chii toes an odd line. I expect more from it than a 3-4 minute mini, but it may not have enough room to develop content like a normal 24 minute show. This first result feels like a bad children’s program, where the audience is entirely underestimated by the developer. Seriously, while it is adorable, even little children want more than cute faces and hopping around for 12 minutes.

All that said, I’m going to recommend you watch Chii. The visuals are well executed in an uncommon style and it is pleasant enough to sit through. However, I am not going to review the series going forward because I can not imagine anything interesting will ever develop in it.

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Ao Oni The Animation – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Gist: 4 students investigate an abandoned mansion (for some reason) and are lynched/eaten/beaten to death by the blue monster that lives there.

You may like Ao Oni because it is a short format ironic horror comedy that pokes fun of the test our courage style horror story. The pacing is quick and easy to under stand and the characters’ response to their situation (denial, logical alternative explanations) is a decent base of comedy.

You may not enjoy Ao Oni if you do not like primitive animation and intentional dumbness. Since the cast is killed off and gets a game over screen at the end, it is safe to assume this show will be a series of nonsensical one-offs, each likely focusing on a single joke or genre convention. If the lack of character depth or long term story telling isn’t you’re thing, this is an easy skip.

Verdict: I enjoyed Ao Oni’s 4 minute blitz well enough but the to-the-point nature of the story and humor left little incentive to review more.

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