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Majestic Prince - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Thursday, 04 April 2013 22:10
Mankind's having a hard time of it - at war against an alien race, things are not going their way, with the aliens able to outfight and outmaneuver humans at every turn. The solution, it's been decided, is a new breed of pilot - something not quite human, something born for battle. Enter Team Rabbits, a special unit of 5 young warriors who should fit that bill. In theory. In practice, in training they've become known as the Fail Five - which should tell you just how well that plan is working. But sometimes you have to work with what you've got, no matter how #fail it may be...

Five minutes into this one I was getting strong Nadesico vibes (comic feel to a lot of what was going on, unseen alien invaders and a Jupiter connection), with a little Linebarrels of Iron (character designs look very similar). A little bit of Vandread in there, too. All of this is good - I've been hankering for a decent mech series for a while, and while Star Driver fill that hole for a while, as FABULOUS as it was it wasn't quite what I've been looking for. Majestic Prince, though, seems to tick all the boxes, at least in terms of having all the elements here - it's what it does with them now that'll be important, and this opening episode is too busy scene-setting and showing just how badass Team Rabbits can be when they finally get the chance to show it to spend any time really world-building.

As opening episodes go, it's fairly by-the-numbers, and the gang turning out to be the best of the best (with a little help from new technology) isn't going to surprise anyone. But it's presented well, with the battle scenes being very easy on the eye - hopefully not blowing all the budget at once there - and the typical range of character types playing off each other fairly well.

THE GOOD: Looks the part, takes the battle side seriously while still being able to poke some fun at the characters along the way. It's a good combination.

THE BAD: Can't quite put my finger on why, but the episode did feel a little lifeless in places. May just have been my mood while watching, though.

A decent start, then - there's potential here, and hopefully the series can make use of it. Will certainly be watching for a while yet to see.

Majestic Prince is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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Senran Kagura - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Thursday, 17 January 2013 21:47
A young shinobi named Asuka carries out a daring mission - with mixed success. The following day, she returns to Hanzo National Academy in Asakusa, Tokyo, where she secretly trains with four other would-be-ninja classmates, and where their afternoon fieldwork - to clear a shopping mal of troublesome delinquents - holds an unexpected surprise in store for them...

I had this one pegged as being the Highschool DxD of the season - the fast food equivalent of anime, completely devoid of nutritional value but oh so guiltily enjoyable. I got the first half right. Our all-girl team of ninja-in-training come complete with magical girl transformations, summonable creatures, and outfits that are totally impractical for what they're proclaiming to be - so the wackiness is certainly there - and they appear to be matched by an equal-and-opposite team of evil ninja girls ("Serpent Academy"? Subtle.), but there's a distinct absence of a sense of fun. Which is really what you watch this sort of show for.

It also only goes halfway in a lot of areas. When you're playing in the same ballpark as Highschool DxD or Ikkitousen, you can't really get by on half-measures - you need to go to town on the violence, reveal all (steamed up, of course) in the bath scenes, hold nothing back. Senran Kagura pitches itself as a T&A battle show, but delivers minimal T&A (to this reviewer who's been desensitised by other recent shows) or battling, really.

THE GOOD: Pretty.

THE BAD: If you're going to do this sort of show these days, you should really do it in style. Except Senran Kagura doesn't quite have the cojones and doesn't. Also: ENOUGH WITH BLONDE GIRLS WHO CAN'T RESIST GROPING OTHERS' TITS ALREADY.

Three-episode rule applies, because a bit more of the bad girls and how they play with the show's dynamics could change my mind. But I doubt it.

Senran Kagura is streamed by FUNimation (North America only).

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AKB0048 -next stage- - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Monday, 14 January 2013 00:47
Following the trainees' successful debut concert, AKB0048's manager, Tsubasa, makes a shocking announcement. She intends to revive the New Single General Elections - as well as the Centre Nova position, despite the history of the position's previous holders. It gives the understudies a lot to think about - but a raid by DES forces that sees Ayako, Chieri and Sonata captured and brought before a show trial gives the girls more immediate problems to deal with...

With Crunchyroll not having season one up (yet), anyone staying legit is having to jump in here. That's not ideal, but this episode at least gives a fairly good feel of what the series is about. With concerts, military raids, show trials, and the odd hint at the show’s underlying mysteries, there’s a little bit of everything here, all wrapped up in the the exuberance that’s been typical of the show all along. If you’ve seen the first season, it’s a triumphant return and a sign that showrunner Shoji Kawamori isn’t planning on letting up any; for everyone else, it’s enough to say that if you enjoyed this episode, you’ll likely get a kick out of the rest of the series.

As far as real-world idols go, I have very little interest. Between the way they’re, well, idolised, the ways their popularity is milked and manipulated, and they way their fandom treats them, I find the whole scene frankly a little creepy. Put them in anime, though, and I seem to get far more of a kick out of the idea - you get to focus on the good (for the most part - season one had one episode in particular that carried as message that I really didn’t agree with) without the bad that goes with the scene. It becomes more of a feel-good experience.

THE GOOD: It's back. Kawamori madness, and idols doing things it makes no sense for idols to do - which is really half the fun.

THE BAD: Kinda sucks for Crunchyroll viewers to not have access to season one - hard to make sense of a lot of what happens in this episode without having seen it. Suspect we won't have to wait for it for long, though.

With Love Live! focussing on the more down-to-earth side of things, AKB0048 can go for the more extreme and ludicrous end of the market - the idea is as silly as you can get, but the way it’s executed makes it simply fun to watch. Between this and Vividred Operation, winter Sundays have become a lot more fun.

AKB0048 -next stage- is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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Vividred Operation - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Monday, 14 January 2013 00:46
Welcome to the island of Izu Oshima, where Akane Isshiki has been living an impoverished (financially) yet rich (in quality) life with her little sister, Momo, and their grandfather, Kenjiro - the creator of the Manifestation Engine, a device which has changed life on Earth. But her idyllic life is threatened when a gigantic flying object suddenly appears out of nowhere - the first wave of an alien invasion...

Two things I knew about Vividred before sitting down to watch it: one, that it was probably going to be the closest I got to a mecha show this season, and two, there would be a strong focus on the rears of its characters - in no small part thanks to sharing a number of key personnel with Strike Witches. While the adventures of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing never quite got me overly excited, though, from the opening scenes of this episode Vividred Operation had its hooks in very quickly - there aren’t as many characters to get your head around, and the setting and sense of fun that permeates the series brings back happy memories of watching Lagrange. With the added bonus of instead of sitting around having fun for most of the series, Akane gets thrown right into the deep end from the beginning. It’s an impressive start.

The technological twist on magical girls is also novel (to me - there are probably shows that have played with the idea before, I just haven’t seen them) and a draw in its own right. Add in some top-class visuals, some good action scenes with appropriate levels of excitement and tension, and characters that are just downright likeable, and there’s a lot here to like. Okay, so there are some parts that will have you going “what??”. Every ass-shot in the episode is gratuitous and unnecessary. The breakneck pace of the episode leaves quite a few questions asked but unanswered. But you know what? I was having too much fun watching it - brain firmly in neutral, admittedly - to really care. It’s simply good entertainment, which is just what I’m looking for.

THE GOOD: Lots of fun, very pretty to look at (and I'm not just talking about Akane's rear there), fast-paced, and lots of potential.

THE BAD: Akane's how old? Stop making me look at her arse, already. Will probably also apply to Aoi from next week.

It’s lightweight, it panders, it won’t tax your braincells. But it’s got an appealing setting, some enjoyable characters, and some ideas that carry plenty of potential for the rest of the series. Vividred Operation is off to a flyer of a start, and I hope it can keep this up.

Vividred Operation is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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Problem Children Are Coming From Another World, Aren't They? - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Saturday, 12 January 2013 21:27
Sakamaki Izayoi, Kudou Asuka, and Kasukabe You, all possess skills greater than the average person - skills that have attracted the attention of someone who'd like to make them an offer. "This letter is for those of you with many troubles and extraordinary powers. If you wish to see how far that power of yours will take you, cast aside your family, your friends, you possessions, and come to our 'Little Garden'."

I'm failing to see how You is a problem child, so far. As for the other two - Izayoi is cocky and overbearing (and proud of it), while Asuka overdoes the ojousama thing to the point where she's barely tolerable. And we have to spend the rest of the series in the company of these two. Joy. Fortunately, You and Kurousagi seem to be more bearable characters.

Set-up seems to be fairly typical tournament stuff, with the kids given the chance to play through a series of games (the "Gift Games") in which they can place wagers to earn greater rewards - with those rewards looking to go to the Community that Kurousagi represents, I'm betting.

THE GOOD: Potential there to have some fun with the games, and Kurousagi's exuberant nature seems fun. Get the feeling you wouldn't want to make her mad.

THE BAD: Very by-the-numbers, and if they make the kids crazy-powered there'll be no tension to the games - and if Izayoi's episode-ending battle is anything to go by there's a real danger of them doing that. Ratchet down the powers a little, m'kay?

There's nothing particularly spectacular here, but equally nothing that's really crying out for it to be dropped. A few more episodes to see how it goes, but I'll be quite surprised if it picks up enough to be essential viewing.

Problem Children Are Coming From Another World, Aren't They? is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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