In which our new crop of shows is actually pretty promising for once.
We’ve got a lot of shows to get to this week so I’m breaking out the tiers again to give you a better idea of which shows are close and which are far apart after the first one or two episodes. Let’s go:
1. Plastic Memories (Episodes 1 and 2)
It’s really nice when a show you’ve placed a lot of hope on before the season starts actually delivers from episode one and thankfully Plastic Memories did just that. The premiere didn’t back away from tackling some very weighty subjects like how we deal with death and the implications of having sentient beings with a set expiration time. The show does wear its heart on its sleeve, not afraid to throw out deeply sentimental scenes in the premiere. That style of tugging at your heart strings can be off-putting to some people but I’ve found that it’s very hard to get too melodramatic for me and I really like the way Plastic Memories is going about its business. The second episode, while not as overtly emotional as the first, was still very solid as it did a lot of the work to fill in the gaps left by the first episode concerning how everything in this world fits together. I’m glad to see that Hayashi Naotaka seems to be on his game with the writing and the production team at Dogakobo is holding up their end of the bargain. (Including their usual variety of hilarious faces) There’s a ton of potential with a show that’s willing to take on issues like this and not pull any emotional punches and I look forward to seeing where this goes.
2. Hibike! Euphonium (Episode 1)
I think I’ve trained myself to keep my expectations for a KyoAni show in check after two full years of disappointments but goddamn that was a really good first episode. To start with, the production values from KyoAni were top notch which has been seemingly the only consistent thing about the studio’s recent run of mediocrity. I love the way all of the instruments sparkle in the light and the character movements are all fluid as well. When I wasn’t gawking at the beautiful animation, the dialogue really stood out as the early character interactions had great flow and energy to them and revealed a ton about the cast without having to come out and say things explicitly. I like the conflict they’re setting up with Kumiko sort of living in a no man’s land between the ultra-serious Reina and the more laid back, gung-ho Hazuki and Sapphire.There’s a distinct Hyouka vibe here both in terms of the level of polish and the way the show looks like it’s going to be a strong character drama about what motivates people and how that affects those around them. That’s all without even mentioning the absolutely wonderful Asuka (best girl of the young season right here). As I said, I’m trying not to get too hyped but this show looks really good.
3. Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic (Episodes 1 and 2)
In contrast to the two shows in the top tier, I knew exactly what to expect from the second season of Kiniro Mosaic. The girls are still incredibly cute, the jokes still land more often than not and the whole thing radiates the kind of warmth that typifies a good slice of life. I especially love the dynamic between Kuzehashi-sensei and Karen. The way Karen’s antics always keep Kuzehashi off-balance is great and the two are wonderful to watch together. Then there’s Shino’s delightful blonde-hair obsession, Ayaya’s adorable unspoken affection for Yoko and Alice’s lovable weeaboo tendencies to go with those two. The eighteen months since the first season finished have done nothing to lessen the golden shine of this show. Kiniro Mosaic is still great.
4. Ore Monogatari (Episode 1)
Ore Monogatari is a show about defying stereotypes and in the shoujo romance world I think that’s a very good thing. I love that the show is subverting the traditional shoujo formula by telling the story from the point of view of a boy who has perpetually lived in the shadow of the typical shoujo love interest. The premiere did a great job of showing us how seeing Suna perpetually winning the affection of all the girls around him with almost no effort has affected Gouda and informed how he reacts to Yamato. There’s great chemistry between the main cast and I look forward to watching their relationships slowly develop. As with any romance anime based on an ongoing manga there’s a chance of things stalling out and never going anywhere, but so far Ore Monogatari looks like a show determined to buck all the genre trends so hopefully it’s doesn’t fall prey to that either.
Tentative Thumbs-up Tier
5. Show By Rock!! (Episodes 1 and 2)
Now here’s a show where even after two episodes I’m still not really sure where this might end up. The first two episodes certainly had a ton of energy and I really like the universe this show is creating. The chibi CG animal performances were a little jarring at first but I think I can get used to it with enough time and the rest of the show is enough fun to make up for it even if I don’t. The show is unapologetically silly but there’s a lot of charm in that and I really like this cast of characters. The Plasmagica girls are obviously cute but way the members of SHINGANCRIMSONZ bounce off each other is really entertaining as well. The show could still crash and burn but I like what I see after two episodes.
6. Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku (Episode 1)
So that was a hell of a first episode. Seemingly following the Teekyuu school of comedy, Mikagura felt like it was constantly moving at a hundred miles per hour delivering rapid fire jokes and never really giving you a chance to catch your breath. The plot (I think?) is mostly a nonsensical excuse to make jokes about the protagonist being a perverted lesbian but I actually quite enjoyed this. The rate that the show throws its punchlines at you is such that none of the bad jokes linger and I found the show’s sense of humor working for me more often than not. I don’t know if that’s a recipe for long term success but so far so good.
Not Good but Not Bad Tier
7. The iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls (Episodes 12 and 13 [END])
By the end of the first half of its run it really felt like Cinderella Girls’ motto was “just get to the concert episode and everything will be okay.” It stumbled over itself plenty on the way there but the performance in the finale was exactly what keeps me coming back to this franchise. The animation was very solid and the way the final episode called back to previous plot points was really well done. I especially liked how they had New Generations performing for a limited audience following the rain which tied together nicely with Mio’s previous hang-up about not seeing the crowds she expected. They even took it up a notch later with the survey from a fan that saw the original performance resulting in a moment of understanding between Mio and Producer that I thought was the highlight of the show so far. It was certainly a bumpy ride but Cinderella Girls managed to end on a high note.
Final Verdict: 6/10
8. Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works (Episodes 13 and 14)
Blade Works is back, for better or for worse. Episode thirteen was basically what I’ve come to expect from the show at this point. Flashy animation, some overly self-serious bordering on chuunibyou lines from Archer and a few really nice Shirou/Rin moments. Episode fourteen, on the other hand, threw us a curve with an expanded backstory for Caster that paints her as more than just the terrifying witch that tortures Saber for fun in the VN. If Ufotable is going to place their personal stamp on UBW, now’s the time to start doing it and I’m actually curious to see if they add more anime-original content from here.
9. Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha ViVid (Episodes 1 and 2)
Speaking of franchises that seem to always be getting new content: more Nanoha! These first two episodes had all the hallmarks of Nanoha: befriending of enemies, extravagant transformation sequences and rampant lesbianism. These episodes didn’t do a lot more than set the stage for what’s to come, but I do like what I see. Vivio seems like a solid protagonist and I really like Noto Mamiko as Einhard. Plus, seeing Nanoha and Fate as mothers is completely adorable. I don’t think ViVid has a ton of upside but it’ll also be pretty hard to screw this up.
10. Houkago no Pleiades (Episode 1)
Houkago no Pleiades is a strange one. It looks like a standard magical girl show with a strange automobile tie-in coming from a studio in Gainax that hasn’t done anything good in years (or ever if you ask me). All that sounds like a recipe for disaster but I actually rather liked the first episode. There was plenty of sky porn and there’s something endearingly goofy about witch’s brooms that make car noises. I also really liked the character dynamic at work between Subaru (hah) and Aoi. This is an extremely speculative pick at this point and it could fall apart as soon as next week but so far I’m pleasantly surprised.
11. Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Zoku (Episodes 1 and 2)
Despite being placed all the way down here at eleven, Oregairu isn’t really a bad show. I just have never really connected that strongly with the show as a whole, and that doesn’t seem to be changing with season two. I respect what the show does and I appreciate its willingness to show the flaws in Hachiman’s worldview in a way that a show like Saekano never attempted. That said, a show about an angsty teenager that hates a world that hates him back just isn’t that compelling to me. I’ll probably keep watching because the discussion I read about it is interesting and there’s always Hayamin voicing Yukino to keep me happy but I don’t think I’ll ever truly love this show like a lot of people do.
12. Re-Kan! (Episodes 1 and 2)
Re-Kan is pretty much your garden variety 4koma comedy that we get one or two of every season. The only thing keeping it from being dropped already is the fact that I find its premise to be fairly novel. I feel like there’s a good deal of potential in a story about a girl surrounded by benevolent ghosts and spirits that do favors for her and act as her friends/guardians. The jokes are occasionally funny, especially Ero-Neko, but they aren’t overwhelmingly so. Re-Kan is the definition of borderline at this point and its fate likely depends on how many and which shows above it fall apart in the next couple weeks.
13. Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu (Episodes 1 and 2)
This show seems designed to cash in on nostalgia for the original Haruhi anime, but I personally never liked the original show that much. Haruhi herself grated on me terribly and the genre-breaking appeal it seemed to have to a lot of people just was never there for me. That said, my favorite part of the KyoAni Haruhi franchise was the portion that took place in this “disappearance” universe so maybe this show does have some potential. So far it has its cute moments but it’s mostly missing me. It strikes me as the kind of thing that would work for me as a short fan-made story in, say, a 20-page doujin format. I’m just not sure it’s the kind of thing that I want to spend twenty minutes a week with for the next few months. This one is very much on the fence right now.
I Only Watch it for the Fan Art Tier
14. Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka (Episodes 1 and 2)
DanMachi is not a very good show. The characters are mostly bland and the plot is so indistinguishable from every “trapped in a fantasy game” show out there that I have to keep reminding myself that this isn’t actually supposed to be a game world. The most interesting thing about DanMachi might be how Hestia and her “boob string” took over the pixiv and twitter fan art scene like nothing that I have ever seen before. Even at the height of its popularity, KanColle never dominated my feeds the way Hestia has for the past week. Combine that level of fan community dominance with the fact that PumpkinMochi is completely WRONG about who’s better between Hestia and Loki (for the record, Hestia is bestia) and it looks like I’ll keep watching this one. Just remember that I did it for the boob string.
15. Punch Line (Episode 1)
The formula Punch Line is going for doesn’t seem that different from what Mikagura is selling but my reaction to this was pretty much the opposite of how I reacted to Mikagura. Maybe it’s the fact that the protagonist is your typical male pervert getting nosebleeds over panty shots rather than an insane obsessive lesbian. Maybe it’s because I just like Dogakobo’s style more than MAPPA’s Gainax-influenced style. Whatever the reason I found Punch Line to be terribly dull despite the insanity of its premise. With so many better shows this one ends up on the cutting room floor.
16. Etotama (Episode 1)
I’m gonna be honest: I forgot I’d even watched this show when I started this post. The show just blends in with everything else that it becomes hard to remember it at all. Etotama feels like what you would get if a studio with a timeslot to fill and no scriptwriter grabbed a random person in Japan and told them to write an anime. “An anime about what?” he or she would ask, and they’d reply: “I don’t know, anime stuff.” And so Etotama was born. The show’s an incoherent mess of vaguely “anime” things with no real plot or defined characters to carry it. Dropped.
If You Like This You’re Probably a Bad Person Tier
17. Triage X (Episode 1)
I didn’t think it was possible for a show to be more gross and awful and offensive in its premiere than Cross Ange was last fall but Triage X has raised the bar through its oversized breasts, misuse of medical terminology and penchant for scenes of sexual violence. You can read our reactions to this episode here, but I’ll warn you: I legitimately felt bad watching this show. It was not a fun experience and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.