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Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Sunday, 07 April 2013 21:51
Ensign Ledo is a Machine Caliber pilot in the Galactic Alliance of Humankind, fighting a seemingly endless war against the Hideauze, humanity's greates enemy, in the far reaches of the galaxy. But after an accident during a major offensive, he and his robot, Chamber, end up on a mysterious planet filled with a seemingly primitive tribe of humans...

I will not mention The Name that's associated with this one, but suffice to say their reputation makes this one of the more anticipated shows of the season, and I have to say that of the Spring shows I've seen so far, this is head & shoulders above the rest. The opening half is a truly epic space battle (with humanity getting its arse collectively handed to it), while the second moves the focus to a location that is literally far more down to Earth - primitive to Ledo, because his branch of humanity doesn't live on surface worlds anymore.

There are lots of aspects of this that may or may not have been inspired elsewhere. Sticking out particularly, the Galactic Alliance of Humankind seems to draw heavily on the Abh (Crest of the Stars), with some elements of the Starship Troopers movie in there (with Ledo's military service earning him citizenship and the limited right to visit Avalon, humanity's 'homeworld' - a giant station with hundreds of millions of residents). Some weapons seem to be out of Lexx, and the 'modern human cast away' aspect has some echoes of Jyu-Oh-Sei. But that's just the start of ideas that I've seen in other science fiction works. What Gargantia is doing, though, is weaving all those ideas together into a very interesting world, and that's a lot of the appeal right there.

Add in the beautiful presentation - it really is gorgeous to watch - and they mystery of how they're going to tie the war against the Hideauze into Ledo's castaway status (I assume that's were the series is going to go), and I'll admit to giving an involuntary groan when the closing credits ran - I really didn't want this one to end, and next Sunday seems a long way away.

THE GOOD: First show in a while to really grab me by the throat and not let go. Compelling viewing throughout.

THE BAD: Not entirely clear where it's going from here. I think I know, but it could very easily throw me for a loop in the next few episodes. We'll see.

Roll on the next episode, as I genuinely can't way. Best show of the season so far.

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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Nyarko-san: Another Crawling Chaos W (Haiyore! Nyaruko-san! W) - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Sunday, 07 April 2013 20:50
Nyaruko's preparing a report to send back to the office on the progress she's making on Earth - but between her own liberties taken with the truth, and Kuuko's post-production editing, the chances of it being even remotely reliable are remote. Meanwhile, word is that there's a new illegal alien on the planet - but Nyaruko's putting too much effort into getting Mahiro to make her pregnant to notice the alerts she's been getting from HQ...

The first few minutes of this season opener go to great lengths to point out that nothing has really changed since we last saw Nyaruko and the gang - there’s even a little fake-out where they use the original season’s opening theme for a moment. All of this is good - it’s like slipping back into the company of an old friend. This doesn’t exactly please Nyaruko, mind you - in her mind, the gap between season should be filled by the heroine getting pregnant and having a kid, and Mahiro has completely failed to meet his obligations in that regard.

If there’s a story to this episode - and it’s tenuous, at best - it’s the arrival on the scene of illegal alien Tsuruko. On the surface, she’s a clumsy, shy & cute girl who has a crush on Mahiro (thanks to the interstellar distribution of the BL manga based on his alleged exploits) but so far is failing to get close enough to him to express her feelings. She sure looks harmless, but the occasional warnings that make it to Nyaruko’s phone tell a different story.

Away from that, though, we have the usual irreverent poking of fun at other people’s properties - I spotted multiple digs at Oreshura and AKB48, and I wasn’t even looking very hard.

THE GOOD: The return of a familiar friend - there’s been very little tinkering done with the show’s formula, and while the OP hints that there are a few new character introductions to be worked through, it’s been done in fairly subtle fashion so far.

THE BAD: Leaving the formula unchanged means the old hit-and-miss qualities are still here, waiting to drop little nuggets of disappointment along the way.

But that’s nothing I can’t live with - while Nyarko-san misses the mark as often as it hits with its targets of fun, when it hits it usually damn good, and that makes the inconsistency just about worth it. Welcome back, Nyaruko-san...

Nyarko-san: Another Crawling Chaos W is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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The Severing Crime Edge - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Sunday, 07 April 2013 10:09
Urban legend has it that in the old mansion atop the hill, there's a ghost with really long hair. Hardly the stuff to inspire fear, but when young man Haimura Kiri - who suffers from a Grade A hair fetish - passes by, he finds the ghost in question. Except she's not a ghost - her name is Mushanokouji Iwai, and her hair is unusual in that it's impossible to cut...

The important thing to note is that her hair is impossible to cut because of a curse. So what if you used something equally cursed to cut it? Enter a pair of scissors that Kiri owns, previously used by his family's resident serial killer to disembowel his victims - an example of "Killing Goods" (a concept the series seems to be playing heavily on already) if ever there was one. Sure enough, they do the job - and earn the name 'The Severing Crime Edge' as a result. You can watch the show to get the story behind that bit.

On the surface, a happy ending? But beneath the surface, darker forces are at - mostly in the form of the Byouinzaka girls, representatives of a shadowy (and no doubt evil) organisation who have been 'caring' for Iwai (read: subjecting her to endless mental abuse) since her parents disappeared from the scene. Suspicious circumstances were involved. So will Kiri be their next victim, or will be prove to be Iwai's hairdressing saviour..?

I wasn't sure what to expect from this one when I watched it, although the overnight hype on Twitter was good. To me, it seems like a cross between Mysterious Girlfriend X (creepy fetish focus) and Mirai Nikki (general craziness of concept and potential for either Iwai or Kiri to go batshit crazy on us), with a dash of crime-solving for good measure (finding out exactly what lies in both Iwai's and Kiri's pasts) that I suspect will play a large part in how the show plays out.

THE GOOD: Very atmospheric, set-up is clearly directing us towards something very dark and moody, and the Byouinzaka girls seem to be distilled evil. I like that in a series.

THE BAD: Hair fetish is overplayed, but then we'll probably become desensitised to that as quickly as we did to MGX's spit-swapping. Curse of being an anime fan, that.

Definitely a curious start, and easily wins the 'best atmosphere' award from the shows I've seen so far. It's what they do from here, now that they've established the relationship between Kiri and Iwai, that'll make the series, though. The series does seem to be on the right track, though.

The Severing Crime Edge is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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Muromi-san - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Saturday, 06 April 2013 23:05
Takkun's minding his own business fishing when ge hooks a rather unusual prize - a mermaid, by the name of Muromi-san. Rather than being shocked and startled by catching something that's not supposed to exist, though, Takkun finds that having a mermaid take an interest in you can be rathe annoying, as Muromi just won't leave him alone...

Not quite a short, but not quite full-length either, Muromi-san clocks in at 12 minutes - and a fairly entertaining 12 minutes, at that. Muromi's not the smartest person you'll ever meet, but her conversations with Takkun betray a certain childish outlook on life that's quite endearing - even if her attitude sucks. This episode concentrates on them just sitting and chatting, with a few interruptions - fish can't come onto land without birds and cats taking a certain interest, after all - but that works well as an introduction.

Going by the OP sequence, Muromi has a few friends we'll be introduced in the not-to-distant future, which should broaden the scope and help to keep things fresh. We'll have to wait and see how that plays out, though.

THE GOOD: Simple fun that doesn't tax the brain. Episodes are short enough that the idea doesn't get a chance to wear itself out.

THE BAD: Character designs have a vaguely Slayers feel to them that's a bit out-dated.

I like it, so far - just the sort of craziness that appeals to me in a comedy, and the shorter episode length helps with that. One to keep an eye on.

Muromi-san is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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Zettai Bouei Leviatan - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Saturday, 06 April 2013 22:17
In the world of Aquafall (which isn't as watery as the name suggests), there's a young girl called Leviatan, who possesses magic powers but seems less fortunate on the personality front. While training one morning, she encounters talkative little fairy Syrop, who's decided that Leviatan is destined to help fight the invaders that a falling meteorite have brought to Aquafall. Leviatan, meanwhile, is not convinced...

A rare outing from GONZO, this one - and one that I'm already wishing they hadn't bothered with. This is one of those rare shows where even getting to the end of the first episode was a chore, with a bunch of personality-less characters (okay, there's supposed to be a reason for that in Leviatan's case, but that doesn't excuse the rest of the cast) and contrived situations combining to kill what little interest I had in the series in the first place. I mean, half of the episode is devoted to a bunch of (allegedly) big, hard men chasing around a fairy who dared to make them look bad. Come on.

THE GOOD: Magical girl elements. That's normally catnip for me, but THE BAD was more than enough to conteract the effect.

THE BAD: Intolerably dull. The episode's 'big conflict' is over minutae (as if picking on a fairy is REALLY MANLY). Barely registerable levels of personality in its characters.

That all adds up to the first 'one-and-done' of the season. Gone, and already forgotten.

Zettai Bouei Leviatan is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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Oreimo (Season Two) - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Saturday, 06 April 2013 21:18
Brace yourselves, everyone, Kirino's back from the US. The prospect's enough to give Kyosuke nightmares - mostly of the time she turned from being a kawaii little sister into the sister from hell. Of course, things have moved on a bit from then, but her time in the US seems to have turned Kirino to the cold side again. Perhaps because he's the one who hauled her back from the US. So what can he do to get their relationship back on track..?

Took me all of about three minutes of this to remember just how hateful Kirino can be at times. Poor Kyousuke - and even Kuroneko seems to have gone cold-shoulder on him. Yup, the opening episode of this season seems to have fallen into the "let's undo all of the good progress that we made with our characters when you last saw them" trap, and that makes me a very unhappy bunny.

On the other hand, we do at least have Kuroneko and the rest of the gang, and the games club and other things introduced during the 'Kuroneko arc' haven't entirely been forgotten, so it's not all bad. But it does feel as though an at least partial reset button has been hit between seasons, and I dunno that I could be bothered sitting through too many episodes of getting things 'back on track'.

THE GOOD: Not a hell of a lot yet, although I'm expecting most of the show's good aspects to filter back in before too long. They'd better, at any rate...

THE BAD: Kirino bitchiness back to full force, and a general reset-ish feeling since last we last saw them.

Of the returning shows this season, Oreimo was probably the one I was least looking forward to, mostly on account of Kirino's return. So far, my reticence is being proved spot-on. There's enough I like about other aspects of the show, though, that I'll need to give it a few more episodes. Just to be sure.

Oreimo is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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