Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun – 01 (First Impressions)

Morita-san is taciturn. Tanaka-kun is listless. Sakamoto is…Sakamoto (haven’t you heard?). And Aoyama-kun…is a clean freak. He’s also a elite young soccer talent who was selected for the national team’s under-16 squad.

But unlike Tanaka in particular, there’s not much to Aoyama beyond those dual main qualities. His constant scrubbing, and the adoration of his legions of mostly-female fans, becomes tedious pretty fast.

His soccer senpai (and advantaged rich kid) Zaizen also grows weary of Aoyama’s shtick pretty quickly. We get it; dude’s a germophobe…though even that’s arguable, since he doesn’t wear surgical masks everywhere and doesn’t seem to have much of a problem being outside.

We learn in the cold open, and it is confirmed when the team practices against a rival elite team led by the washboard abs-bearing Takechi (who is trying to poach Aoyama) that Aoyama is indeed a singular, if bizarre, soccer talent; applying his obsessive “cleanliness” with a gameplan completely devoid of physical contact, combined with sharpshooter precision on passes and shots. But look to someone else for checks and headers.

Admiring Aoyama from afar (and possibly content to keep it that way) is the very cute but also clearly fixated Gotou Moka, who would like to think she’s locked in on what Aoyama thinks and does, since they’re soulmates or something.

But ostensible side characters like Zaizen, Takechi, and even Moka herself are all more dimensional characters than Aoyama, simply because they have more to say and we see things from their perspective.

Don’t get me wrong: Studio Hibari has rolled out a very good-looking anime in Keppeki Danshi; many of Aoyama’s moves in slow motion are cinematic in their presentation. The character design is clean and crisp. Overall the production is competent. The comedy is well-timed if unexceptional so far (the abs-bearing guy is particularly lame). Colorful—if still shallow—personalities abound.

But the main problem so far is the titular character. Aoyama is little more than cleanliness and soccer ability, and he’s always observed from a distance. He has to develop as more of an actual human being if the audience is going to be expected to connect with and keep rooting for the guy.

There’s a slight but promising glimmer of that when Aoyama suddenly comes to life with five minutes to go, even getting dirty in service of winning the game because he really hates losing.

But if we don’t see more of stuff like that, and continue in the vein of “OMG look at what clean-freak thing Aoyama’s doing now!” ad nauseum, Aoyama-kun won’t just be a “Cleanliness Boy”…he’ll be a Boy I’m Not Watching.

Advertisements

Knight’s & Magic – 01 (First Impressions)

First, let’s get one thing out of the way: the title of this show is stupid. What’s with the apostrophe? That doesn’t belong there, before an ampersand! That aside, even if it were Knights & Magic, that’s still a painfully generic title, which does an otherwise fun and inventive show no favors.

Yes, it’s true: aside from the awful title and the oft-overused “killed in real world, reincarnated in the fantasy world” trope, K&M turns in a damned entertaining and absorbing first episode, covering no less than three different timelines in the life of one Ernesti Echevarria, a very pretty, short-statured boy who happens to have the soul and intellect of an elite video game programmer…and mecha otaku.

In “Eru’s” new world, magic works a lot like programming, so he’s a wiz who not only quickly rises in the ranks of the youth in magical training, but spreads the wealth around. Quickly befriending twins Ady and Kid Olter, he teaches them magic and they get quite good at it.

He also befriends a dwarf, Baston, whose father makes him a gunblade with which he basically tests out of the fundamentals class so he can be in the more advanced silhouette knight design course. Eru is a kid who’s going places, but he’s a very modest, decent sort of kid without a shred of arrogance, as so far, hes able to back up his words with action every time.

Three-quarters in, and it seems K&M‘s only casualty will be a dead horse at the hands of Demon Beasts, but Eru & Co. get their first taste of combat, with him and the twins helping to save their older (and legitimate) sister Stefania from a suspiciously huge horde of the beasts, while and even larger boss-level monster looms for next week.

Just as Eru gets his first taste of magical combat in which he’s the combatant, rather than someone being protected, we get a decent first taste of K&M, it’s world, its workings, and a surprisingly likable core cast (including Takahashi Rie’s voicing of Eru).

It did seem like an odd choice to have so much voiceover narration in the epsiode, and to only show Kurata “inside the head” of Eru just once. However, the real world prologue does serve a purpose in that the reincarnated protagonist possesses gifts and perspective neither a boy nor anyone in his new world would otherwise have.

Overall, a pleasant, upbeat, and attractive first outing. I’ll be back!

Fate / Apocrypha – 01 (First Impressions)

Full disclosure to new readers: I have never played any of the Fate games, and my only exposure to the franchise’s anime was Unlimited Blade Works seasons 1 and 2. UBW was quite entertaining, but didn’t really leave me chomping at the bit for a spinoff that doubles the number of participants in the Holy Grail War.

Apocrypha is the spinoff we got, whether I asked for one or not, and it offers a decent soundtrack but bland masters (at least so far) who spend much of the episode sitting around in rooms talking after four minutes of heated battle. And even those four minutes, while exciting, only serve to emphasize this is not a ufotable anime, as is much less smooth and sophisticated in both character design and animation.

That’s…somewhat problematic right off the bat, as I’m already getting more than my fair share of fun knights-and-magic battle from MAPPA’s Baha Soul (empty calories and all) as well as Re:Creators (when it deigns to include action in its episodes, that is). Unbacked by the ufotable pedigree, this looks more to someone like me (who has only seen ufotable Fate) like, well, a poor imitation.

Take out all the familiar terminology like Holy Grail War, Servants, Masters, etc., and we’re left with a simply okay-looking magical fantasy drama that hopes to capitalize on the cache of the Fate brand. That may prove to be enough for passionate (or at least completionist) followers of the franchise, but I’m just not that enamored with the alternate King Arthur milieu to overlook this spinoff’s technical shortcomings.

Bottom line: this premiere told me a lot, but didn’t show me enough to warrant an enthusiastic dive into its 25-episode span. However, I may still tune in to see if a second episode can capture my interest.