Akiba’s Trip The Animation – 02

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This week Tomatsu gets oriented in his new role as Mayo’s underling, and his new, more powerful form as an elite hazoku. He comes up with the name “Electric Mayonnaise & Friends”, the first friend being Arisa, who is game for some bugged one-hunting.

Their target this week is a disgruntled replica gun and military supply store manager-turned-hazoku, who reminded me of Orange from the old run-and-gun game Gunstar Heroes. He has ammo that can tear clothes away, which turns out to be just as bad for Tamotsu and Mayo as the bad guys, since they’re the same basic entities (albeit with opposing ideals).

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The fact that a defeated Hazoku doesn’t return to being a normal human, but simply evaporates, is revealed to Tamotsu after Orange is brought down, creating new, fresh stakes for him. Arisa isn’t a Hazoku, just really really strong; I wonder if there’s more to her than meets the eye (even though she reveals quite a bit throughout the episode).

Akiba’s Trip continues to be inoffensively competent and reasonably fun. But KonoSuba is a tough act to follow, exposing this show’s lack of narrative depth. That being said, the characters have distinct (if broad) personalities and good chemistry, so I find myself looking forward to the next leg in Akiba’s Trip.

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KonoSuba 2 – 01

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I have wrested control of KonoSuba reviewing duties from Zane, but we both watched this first episode of its much-anticipated sequel, and it does not disappoint, picking up right where it left off. KonoSuba 2 continues its predecessor’s generosity – you get a lot of bang for your buck. This episode featured five distinct scenarios, all the source of a great many laughs.

People initially come to Kazuma’s defense, first by talking about other bad stuff he’s done, but quickly wilt into the background when Sena, the prosecutor charged with arresting him, makes it clear she has no qualms about putting others in jail for the same charges as Kazuma. Here, Kazuma learns the true value of his “friends” at the tavern.

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However, his core friends don’t give up, as Megumin causes an explosive diversion, allowing Aqua to sneak to the prison where Kazuma is held and give him a pin with which to pick the cell lock. Of course, it’s not that kind of lock. When she returns with a hacksaw, she tosses it to him, even though he can’t reach the window bars, as it never occurred to her to saw the bars herself. The failed attempts re-establish the party’s general incompetence in all things, but especially seemingly simple things.

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That being said, Kazuma exhibits in a hilarious interrogation scene with Sena that he can more than make up for his lack of stupidity with an abundance of embarrassing details about his life, which he has no choice but to elaborate on in front of Sena, a lie-detecting bell, and an enthusiastic stenographer.

In what’s my favorite part of the episode, Kazuma starts out under the stern Sena’s heel, but once the bell seems to prove his innocence, the tables turn completely, and Sena is suddenly docile and contrite. Fukushima Jun and Nabatame Hitomi put on a voice-acting clinic playing the swiftly evolving moods of Kazuma and Sena.

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Naturally, Kazuma gets too full of himself and says something the bell identifies as a lie (b/c he knows Wiz) which is enough for Sena to send him to trial – an open-air trial with the gallows hanging courtroom adjacent. Sena starts breaking down Kazuma’s character with the unflattering testimony of witnesses.

Here the show flexes its memory, using that testimony as a means of refreshing us on what Kazuma has done (not all of it is stuff to be proud of, after all), and Aqua and Megumin fail to provide a robust defense. Kazuma only goes free when he tells the bell he’s not involved with the Devil King, and even then after Darkness has to reveal her Dustiness heritage to override the local Lord leaning on the judge to convict.

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But with each victory comes another defeat, something that one both expects and doesn’t expect on KonoSuba, so engrained is my fantasy anime way of thinking. A brutal and unjust middle ages-style legal system actually worked out for Kazuma in the end…but only because he knew someone important.

That’s his luck in play, but there’s never enough to, say, avoid having his, Megumin’s, and Aqua’s assets snatched up in order to pay his debt to the Lord Aldarp, who emerges as perhaps the next big bad.

And so the party now has to somehow make back enough money to get rid of that debt with nothing but the clothes on their back and their wits, all without incurring more debt or breaking more laws that will get them executed. It’s a hard knock life in this beautiful world.

Any promising opportunities are to be looked upon with suspicion, but even that vigilance will prevent be from being surprised or even shocked by what fresh indignities KonoSuba has cooked up for Kazuma & Co.

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Piace: Watashi no Italian – 01 (First Impressions)

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-6-24-32-pmMelons? – the only joke this episode tried to tell…

The Gist: Average girl Nanase Morina decides she is going to get a summer job on the way home from school. Then she see’s a we’re hiring sign for a hidden restaurant in the woods, which is apparently a trattoria. She gets the job immediately, but also immediately angers Kitahara Maro (the short genius boy cook) with her inability to reach Italian, nor memorize the Japanese descriptions of the dishes.

Then she compliments him after trying some dishes and he falls for her. Roll credits… and quickly forget ever watching this.

The Verdict: I’ll grant that P:WnI is efficient and to the point. It’s about a girl with a summer job that gives her an exotic feel. She’ll make rom-com with Maro-kun, have non-interactions with the non-character with big boobs, and probably a few antics with her boy-troubled friend from school.

Beyond that… the visuals are sub par, there’s no real humor or originality or novelty to the setup, and the animated food show genre really needs a hook to be worth your while.

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Onihei – 01 (First Impression)

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The Gist: a gritty historical crime anime, which nails the mood of swords and samurai Japan, all the way down to the jazzy saxophone music. Heizo Hasegawa is chief of Arson Theft Control, a title that makes about as much sense as his personal blend of torture-love to get criminals to turn over a new leaf does. Learning that the chief’s daughter isn’t biological, but rather adopted from a thief, ATC’s most recent tortured prisoner decides to turn over a new leaf and join them.

The Verdict: the pacing is terrible, lurching right into a lengthy period of non-action before giving the viewer a reason to care about the characters, followed by lengthy exposition and spoken backstories by guards and the protagonists. It doesn’t look great, it doesn’t have much music after the opening roll, and the lethargic pace make this a pure skip.

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Kemono Friends – 01 (First Impressions)

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Originally, I misread this as Kemo-Friends. Boy was I disappointed…

Kemono Friends is a kid friendly cell shaded show about a cat girl and a human boy learning to appreciate each other’s strengths on an adventure. Sort of. It cuts to a zoo keeper talking about the cheetah at points and has an RPG-like quality, in how cheetah refers to her attacks and that they are fighting monsters together.

If you’ve ever fiddled with 3D animation, you’ll immediately recognize some of the weird cheats KF employs in its animation. Cheetah-chan’s animations aren’t terrible per-say… more that her walk and run animations play overtop of a model that is dragged along a path with little connection to its implied movements. The result looks wrong, which only hinders the already frumpy models from working.

I could shrug this all off as being a cheap kids show but there’s something oddly sexualized about Cheetah-chan’s animations. Her panting and back-arching breathing gestures in particular feel like they were stripped out of some ready-made H. Just weird all around and oppressively dull for a full 24 minute program.

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Chou Shounen Tanteidan Neo – 02

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The Gist: Inoua and Noro join the club, rounding out the generic Leader, Girl, Muscle and Brains slots of the group. Meanwhile, their mentor has a nightmare that his shadow murders him and then commits suicide, which leads into un-approved security upgrades to their rented building space and a quick escape by helicopter-backpack from the landlady, who doesn’t speak but may or may not be pissed.

Later, 20 Faces puts a plan into action via a hologram emitting party invite. The club doesn’t really fall for the ploy and 20 masks is further undermined by not knowing how to turn off the projected image.

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The Verdict: I imagine these style could be enjoyable if you were high. Paying attention or understanding what is going is optional. It’s all about a atmosphere and it succeeds for the most part. I smirked and chuckled with its effective use of timing and I found the colors and shapes pleasant.

But I’m not a stoner and the wandering nature of the show isn’t going to hold my attention forever. Not as a reviewer anyhow…

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Chou Shounen Tanteidan Neo – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Gist: Neo is a short format kids humor show, vaguely in the vein of the original Power Puff Girls. Neo features a club of young detectives and a mentor, who has a criminal mastermind nemesis. It’s set in a pleasant scifi future world, but the imagery and gadgets is stylized enough that the setting doesn’t really matter.

There is a plot, both for individual episodes and across the season’s arc, but it does not feel especially important. This time around, a cockroach interrupts the cast reading a 100 year old newspaper, followed by a gun fight with the cockroach who isn’t as indestructible as he thinks. Later, we learn he was an agent for the villain.

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The Verdict: CSTN’s style is quite pleasant, possibly even unique with the insertion of classic illustrations amidst the hyper simplified shapes of the characters and environments. The character expressions are wonderful too, in an unexpectedly abstract way.

Less engaging is the story, humor and characters themselves. Despite being quick and full of frantic animation, not much happened in the story and the humor is child-friendly, in a safe way not meant for me as an audience. I would suggest this for younger audiences, except we live in a post Adventure Time world, and Neo has nothing approaching that level of thoughtful structure and dynamic characters.

Over all, I think I like it but I’m not sure if I will stick with it for an entire season. Depends on how quickly I tire of its opening theme, which is, for now, a delightfully 8-bit jingle. It reminds me of playing Sonic the Hedgehog on a Saturday afternoon all those years ago…

What an odd sensation?

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