Funomena Previews: Anime Winter 2016 Opening Watchlist

I believe in the practice of casting a wide net from the get go, to reel in the best catch. Granted, I will have to deal with a multitude of indigestible garbage and an occasional shopping cart or human carcass, but this way, I can taste-test a wide range of shows, before settling with what to follow, drop or slot into my watchlist.

It’s because of this practice, that I usually start the season running with a dozen shows at least, before it dwindles into 3 or 4 shows I will still be following weekly after 5 or 6 rounds. The shows I stopped following and my reasoning vary, from ‘It’s not my type of show’ to ‘this will look great on 1080p BD’… or ‘This is too epic to NOT marathon’. There’s also added dilemma in what shows work better with a English dub. Then there’s the always fascinating slew of Funimation broadcast dubs. We are definitely in the future.

As the very next season, right after my 1 year anniversary as a full-on anime fan…needless to say, the opening line up for Winter 2016 features the most numerous titles I’ve ever followed weekly…I doubt I will survive.

Well then, with all that said, let’s browse the schedule for next season.

(Side note) This list WILL not last the test of time: any title can be dropped and slotted back in regularly throughout the weeks before my half-season overviews.


Monday

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash | Hai to Gensou no Grimgar (A-1 Pictures)

Fun fact: SAO was effectively my gateway anime. I remember enjoying both seasons immensely, having marathoned the lot within a few weeks, soon after my high school finals at the end of 2014. Now, as I visualise the various plot points and scenes through memory…I can piece together the flaws as easily as solving a 6-block puzzle, meant for kindergarten.

Yet, I can proclaim, whilst standing proud, that Sword Art Online was an enjoyable ride, however hopelessly nonsensical everything was. Even the sizable dips of the show’s general watch-ability during the Fairy Dance Arc were partially forgiven by the various flickers of strength from the Gun Gale Online Arc and its new heroine Sinon; currently my favourite character from the franchise; and the welcome change in protagonist during the Mother’s Rosario Arc.

The premise of Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash reads much like a conventional ‘fish out of its element’ fantasy story, which was made even more amusing by its similar tones with SAO’s original premise…one that showed much promise, despite the polarising quality of the show itself. Yes, it’s derivative, but it certainly tingles my interest in such plotlines of swords and sorcery.

Unlike many, I’ve no quarrels against A-1 Pictures as a studio. What convinced me to check this title out were essentially its art style…shown to be rather vibrant and aesthetically pleasing, when you consider the preview trailer. A-1 knows how to style their shows, when they want to make something to the best of their ability (see Sound of the Sky and Sword Art Online’s visual polish, sound design and foley work’s astounding quality). So if anything, I will be treated to a visual feast (though I would prefer less incidental ass shots…).

Also, seeing how Funimation is the one grabbing the licence, their decision to also provide the title with a broadcast dub means I will be previewing only 1 to 2 episodes before shelving it, in order to judge the dub’s quality and choosing my method of consumption in a month’s time. I’ve retained my general approval in the quality of Funimation dubs, and as a guy who prefers dubs, and seeing how the main appeal of this title are its looks, I hope I can watch the show, instead of reading it.

Interest level: Can’t talk, too busy screenshotting. (Oh…and epic fights plz.)

Tuesday

Prince of Stride: Alternative (MADHOUSE)

Madhouse has had a HELL of a 2015. After dazzling the fandom with a massively misleading and epic OP to the heavily moody and stylish Death Parade, the studio pleased Shojo and romance genre lovers everywhere with the hopelessly sweet My Love Story!!. But absolutely no one can escape One-Punch Man’s effortless and explosions-aided waltz towards becoming the most popular title of its season, if not the year.

Given Madhouse’s recent record AND its historically spotty performance in TV titles of the last few years…I approached this title with cautioned optimism. I hope for a sports title that uses its rather sci-fi edge to its advantage, without losing the roots that is genuine human spirit in competitions, rivalries and teamwork.

The preview trailer is certainly energetic and kinetic in its inception, which definitely keeps my hopes up. Although having a girl narrating whilst sitting in that golden flower field; borrowed straight from Clannad: After Story; was a rather weird creative choice…

Nevertheless, another series with a fast-phased art style that I wouldn’t mind a Funimation dub with, thankfully provided by a broadcast dub effort.

Interest level: Work those moves, impress me with some of dem passion.

Snow White with the Red Hair 2 | Akagami no Shirayuki-hime 2 (Bones)

My relationship with the first season of Snow White with the Red Hair can be summed up by this: This is all I need from a couple, but I want MORE. Prince Zen and his almost instant attraction towards the commoner red-haired flower girl (actually a herbalist, but still…) Shirayuki, most definitely had its story told to us, even before the show reached its halfway point: they are going to fall in love, but social statuses, asshole rich boys and scheming politicians are going to get in their way, yadda yadda, all that Jazz.

But the first season’s relatively plotless progression only served to make me engage even more with the likeable cast; however underutilised some of them seemed to be…BUT HEY, that’s what season 2’s are for, right?

Nevertheless, considering that Bones is one of my favourite studios, any releases from them will attract immediate attention from me (perhaps the only reason why I gave Concrete Revolutio another chance, after that mess of a first episode…whether I regretted it will be revealed on another date).

Also welcomed, are the Funimation efforts in dubbing both the first and second season, since the story takes place in a Disney-flavoured setting. This situation is also a first, as far as I’m aware, with Funimation going back and dubbing a previous season before home video release, in order to correspond with the broadcast dub lineup…IF ONLY THEY DID THAT WITH YONA AS WELL-ahem*, I very much look forward to previewing the dub and determine my course of action.

Oh, did I mention, that the music was amazing? Michiru Oshima rocking it as usual.

Interest level: Heightened. Pretty much heightened.

Four Rhythm Across the Blue | Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm (Gonzo)

Visual Novel adaptations are…spotty in their ability to impress me, but that doesn’t stop me from at least taking a peek at as many of them as I can, as long as their premises hold decent chances for nuggets of gold.

The basic premise of Four Rhythm reads very much like Your Lie in April’s (a show I’m still yet to consume), except a little setting change: a story that takes place in the near future, where flight can be achieved by wearing winged shoes, after the discovery of anti-gravitons.

Naturally, instead of emphasising such technologies’ revolutionary capacity to general society, the title focuses on the rising sport of the Flying Circus, and a boy who has lost his passion in the sport. But after teaching a new transfer student the art of flying, his passion for the sport returns.

Considering the sentimental qualities and the emotional resonance achieved by Your Lie in April; as observed by myself when conversing with anime fans who ‘chewed through’ the show’s content (apparently it was sad?); there’s every chance, that a romance taking place in Four Rhythm’s setting will achieve similar heights. Though I won’t be holding my breath, I shall look forward to Gonzo’s newest venture.

Interest level: Hoping for the best, planning for the worst (Paraphrasing: The Bourne Ultimatum).

Thursday

Haruchika: Haruta to Chika wa Seishun Suru (P.A. Works)

I’m not one to base my early opinions on details, that may or may not be coincidental…but this is pushing it a little bit.

Something more about me and anime: 2 KyoAni anime titles currently holds the top 2 spots of my favourite anime of all time, and they both share some eerie similarities with Haruchika.

So, Hibike! Euphonium and Hyouka are my top 1 and 2 favourite anime of all time, respectively. Let’s see…Hibike! establishes its plot within the daily trials and tribulations of a concert band, whilst Hyouka deals with the mysteries and mystery-solving surrounding the adventures of the barely-saved Classics Club and the relational developments between the members. So what’s Haruchika’s premise? Our main characters, Haruta and Chika, works to save their school’s wind instrument club, not long before a series of mysteries appeared around the school, which leads them to become junior detectives, in order to solve those mysteries. Getting my drift?

How about adding the fact, that they are all based on various novel series, a rather unconventional source material outside visual novels, light novels and manga? Oh, their titles all start with ‘H’ as well (LOL!).

In all seriousness, it’s not every day you find an anime series that’s seemingly a perfect mish-mash of 2 different shows, both which also happen to be favourites. This should make the viewing all the more interesting for me, seeing how P.A. Works; a studio with the quality chops in storytelling and stylings that are rather similar in tone and quality to Kyoto Animation; is helming the project.

Funimation has licenced the show, but hasn’t announced the availability of a broadcast dub. Shame, since the preview seems to showcase a slew of artistic flourishes that are rather different to previous P.A. Works ventures; with the obvious differentiations being its character designs and texture polish; for which it opted for a more glossy and vibrant finish, and more pale skin tones, in contrast to the rather subdued and flat-coloured designs of characters from Charlotte, Shirobako and Hanasaku Iroha.

Overall, I greatly look forward to this title, especially the OST, poised to be composed by veteran Shiro Hamaguchi.

Interest Level: Come on, you share shadows with 2 of my favourites, you BETTER be good.

Myriad Colors Phantom World | Musaigen no Phantom World (Kyoto Animation)

I made no secret about my respect for Kyoto Animation as a studio, but just as a short remark: I’m not blind to shortcomings, either. As a light novel adaptation, with a premise that’s neither revolutionary, nor does it seem to allow for the subtle character developments and interactions which the studio excel at, I don’t have overwhelming hopes for a completely-packaged masterpiece with this one. The best I can hope for is a gag-heavy title that can keep me entertained, without being trashy and cheap.

The preview soundly relaxed a few of my concerns: nope, the art stylings and animation should be as top-notch as ever, the fan service; whilst present; won’t be its central focus, nor would it be as shameless as lesser titles; and the characters promises to be a diverse cast and rather hyperactive. One can hope for the comedic highs they’ve achieved in Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, Chuunibyou and Amagi Brilliant Park.

Interest level: It’s KyoAni, so its fate is obviously ‘must watch’.

Norn9 Norun + Nonetto (Kinema Citrus)

Game adaptations in Western film industries suck in general, but I haven’t experienced enough anime to know if this same rule applies with anime.

The preview premise doesn’t really say much about the setting of the title; other than the usual predictions of a future that has…the liberals spreading its wings around the world and eliminating all world borders?! Huh. What else? Reverse harem? I guess I can give it a chance, but I will tread carefully with this one.

Interest level: More out of blind curiosity rather than fascination.

Give Blessings to This Wonderful World! | Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! (Deen)

The idea of deporting an outcast Otaku into an alternate dimension of elves, goddesses and cat girls, and have him emerge as a hero, doesn’t seem to be an plot element that will be dying any time soon: I would imagine it being the ultimate wish fulfilment fantasy.

Studio Deen hasn’t been doing well in terms of my opinions…as the catalyst for my still lingering dislike for the Fate series AND as the creator of an inferior Log Horizon second season (which may or may not be the studio’s fault, with its less focused storylines, but it was certainly its fault for worsening animation quality), after the amazing ride of the first season by Satelight. The preview didn’t help: showcasing subpar visuals and bland character designs, with the only possible saving grace being its Celtic-influenced music and dynamic voice acting. The future doesn’t look bright with this one.

BUT, as a potential easy comedy watch of the season, I guess there are worse choices than this.

Interest level: Just PLEASE don’t suck.

Friday

Assassination Classroom 2 | Anasatsu Kyoushitsu 2 (Lerche)

Short note: I WON’T be following this title weekly from the premiere, due to myself not finishing the first season as of right now. However, it is VERY likely, that I will re-join the weekly following, once I’ve caught up, since the little amount I did watch entertained me immensely. I shall also look forward to the continuation of the Funimation broadcast dub effort.

Erased | Boku Dake ga Inai Machi (A-1 Pictures)

Amongst the usual overwhelming flood of needless pandering and poorly conceived titles, that A-1 Pictures always somehow finds the budget for recently, the studio also likes to slot in titles targeted at more heavy genre viewers. The recently finished Fall season had the intriguing The Perfect Insider, a mystery show dealing with philosophical questions of self-determined loneliness, plus a locked-room murder mystery acting as the backdrop mood-setter. Needless to say, despite its good intentions, the show failed to be intellectually convincing, having failed to properly characterise its characters efficiently and rewarding its viewers with a decent resolution, after its 11 episodes run.

Nevertheless, with Erased, the studio may have a winner in its hands. As a title dealing with time travel and death & disaster prevention, the preview footage poised a premise that feels more expressively atmospheric without the risky addition of the claustrophobic element, utilised by The Perfect Insider. The chance for more emotional resonance have much breathing room in this title, hopefully the show can utilise them wisely.

Interest level: This Sherlock is curious. Don’t disappoint a high-functioning sociopath, alright?

Dagashi Kashi (Feel)

Those weird cross-eyed iris placements aside, my decision to add this title to my watchlist was essentially one of my attempts to not overlook any hidden gems when it comes to comedy: it’s much harder to tell which comedy title is gold, just by purely staring at the poster and reading the preview text.

Let’s just say, at least that purple haired eccentric girl may have it in her to make this an enjoyable ride.

Due to the nature of this comedy title, I won’t be following the broadcast dub effort, out of personal preference.

Interest level: This better be funny…Or else I’m bailing.

Oshiete! Galko-chan (Feel)

A typical classroom and character interaction gag comedy? Suppose I need at least one of these trashy shows every season, to pad out the seams between more substantial titles.

Interest level: Not much excitement here, just give me some funny gags.

Saturday

2015 cont. Heavy Object (J.C. Staff)

Despite the misguided nature of the fan service content, which plagued the otherwise amusing and entertaining buddy-buddy dynamic between the 2 main leads, Heavy Object still managed to keep itself on my good side, if only barely.

Interest level: Just continue being solid, TRY to lose the fat and I will be pleased as punch.

Bunuki Buranki (SANZIGEN)

The tenth anniversary of an anime studio I’ve never heard of may seem like a trivial reason for being interested in a show, but considering the significance of such a milestone…I suppose it would be fair to expect more effort being put into the quality of such celebratory titles.

Take Gonzo, for instance. As a studio with widely inconsistent outputs during its time operating in the industry, its tenth anniversary project, Last Exile, remains one of its crowning achievements: revolutionary in its blending of 3D CG footage and objects with traditional 2D elements, creating an show, whose setting of an airship-centric warfare above the clouds, has retained its quality in cinematic scope, 10 years after its airing.

But of course, that’s not the only reason for my interest. The premise text is intriguingly vague, with hints of a post-apocalyptic landscape featuring super powered beings.

The character animation also suggests computer-generated models made to imitate 2D hand-drawn frame animation, which usually annoys me in anime, due to its jarring nature and the inability for computer-generated models to properly replicate the gritty, inconsistent but organic feel of hand-drawn models. However, the stylish and fast-phased footage shown in the preview did prove pleasing to the eye.

Interest level: Very interesting. Let’s see how well the 3D holds itself.

GATE: Jietai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri 2 (A-1 Pictures)

Summer 2015 has given us more reason to believe in the heroic capabilities of Otaku…by giving us a lazy soldier, who just happens to be a die-hard otaku with a heart of gold (and an eye for elves and gothic lolita goddesses). Looks like this time, our in-house Otaku Mary Sue happens to be a Black-Ops level military operative from the Japanese army, sent through a generic gate-that-appeared-out-of-nowhere to negotiate with the people of the world of dungeons and dragons (and every otaku fetish imaginable…anyone interested in a peacock girl?).

Despite being an entertaining watch, GATE was plagued with insultingly dumbed down political intrigue and a distracting amount of needless nationalistic tones within both the adaptation and the source material manga (fans of the manga were also questionably disappointed by the lack of bunny girl rape and footage of genocidal massacres shown in the anime O.o), with supposedly dignified characters such as Pina (whose full name has already dispersed any sense of seriousness) being quickly sidelined to make way for the…surprisingly pleasant main character of Itami.

My decision to continue following this title stems mainly from my desire for more world building from the fantasy side, as teased by the unsatisfying ending of season 1, and the promise of more guilty pleasure entertainment. Come on, who doesn’t want helicopters and tanks going against dragons and magical girls?

Interest level: Might as well enjoy dumb shows for what they are…

Luck & Logic (Dogakobo)

I honestly don’t have any feelings on the offerings this show will have for me, completely blind on this one. I like the visual, though…reminds me of Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill simultaneously.

And with Kouichi Chigira as director, I’m even more unsure about my current standing: his portfolio is as inconsistent as ever.

Oh well…it’s only logical that I try my luck with this, could be interesting.

Interest level: Flat, until I know more.

Reikenzan: Hoshikuzu-tachi no Utage (Deen)

Well this is interesting…an anime adaptation of a Chinese online novel?

Wu Xia’s one of those interesting genres of fiction and literature that I find immense interest in, considering the amount of Jet Lee, Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen Kung Fu films I’ve watched when I was young. In grossly simple terms, Wu Xia culture is the Chinese version of Samurai’s bushido, Knights’ code of chivalry and the gunslingers of American Westerns: persons of great fighting capabilities, with a sense of duty to protect the innocent and the powerless and holds the destiny to overthrow injustice.

Introduced to the West with a graceful BANG, Wu Xia’s eye for mystical storytelling of justice, betrayal and tragedy were showcased beautifully in the film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, heightening worldwide fascination in the ancient martial arts cultures in China.

In terms of Reikenzan, I have mixed expectations for the title: I hope for its good fortunes, but will be bracing for the failure to produce a properly artistic and stylish work, which showcases the legends, gods and heroes of mythology offered by this setting of mystical Ancient China.

In terms of previews, not much footage has been shown, only concept art and comic frames, which were rather competent in showcasing the period’s architecture and landscapes, nothing astounding or memorable, however.

Interest level: Should be fun to watch Japan tackle a Chinese novel…

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (Deen)

Funny, how this is perhaps the only pure drama piece of the season…at least the only one I’m aware of. Well, in order to feel intellectual and sophisticated, I might as well check out this one, on the basis, that it can tell a mature story, with realistic cinematic settings and characterisation. And dealing with a man who was recently released from prison, and seeking apprenticeship with a traditional comic storyteller could mean a rather unique storyline, something I’ve never seen before…curious.

Interest level: Curious…Very Curious. (You’ve been living in a hole if you don’t recognise this reference.)

Sunday

2015 cont. Utawarerumono: The False Faces | Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen (White Fox)

I honestly don’t know how to think about this show, at this point…On the one hand, this is false advertising at its worst: a nameless man with no memories, after being saved from certain death…now has 8 animal girls hanging out in the same house as he is, and…that’s it?! On the other hand…it’s amusing to watch. And Kuon is cute.

Whilst I have no problem with such elements of plotless banter and goofy interactions between characters, the unique world and the intricately designed infrastructure and architecture of the capital city, the reveal of countless side characters, many involving princesses, war generals and freaking GODS…I DON’T think 95% Slice of Life and 5% action adventure is going to cut it!

Sigh*…I am entertained by the characters, so I’ll stick around. BUT DON’T TRY MY PATIENCE ANY FURTHER.

Interest level: Reaching boiling point (my patience, that is.)

Dimension W (3Hz)

You know…The Japanese really must hate physics: they just have to flick the middle finger (or whatever insulting gesture they have over there) at every proven physics law and say: “f*ck that noise, this law of physics doesn’t work with my story, let’s screw with it.” Don’t get me wrong, we do it too…The fact that light speed travel would require an infinite output of kinetic energy and equating us being of infinite mass (a little too late for a diet, I suppose…) didn’t stop both Star franchises from using them. The funny thing for me is…the Japanese LOVE to invent mock physics laws and concepts to justify their physics-defying plot points. Think: the fifth dimension and subatomic materials explained by means of: “ummm…scientists discovered it in 2140: they found out that a square DOESN’T have 4 sides…it actually has 4 sides and 17 anti-sides…anti-sides that hides the meaning of life.”

Apparently, an infinite energy source exists within a recently discovered (the year’s 2071, by the way) alternate dimensional plane, named the W dimension, which exists beyond the X, Y and Z dimensions. So…If I were to calculate the volume of a rectangular prism, now I have to find out the dimensions of its length, width, height and… :/ … f*ck this shit.

Ahem* Anyway…the premise speaks of a reluctant partnership between a repo man and an android, though it doesn’t provide details about the purpose of this partnership…Shrugs* only one way to find out.

Ooooo…broadcast dub.

Interest level: the physicist in me is finding this repeated habit amusing.

Ooya-san wa Shishunki (Seven Arcs)

Well this is a rather anti-climactic ending…

Basically the token Slice of Life comedy that I will enjoy on the side.

Interest level: Just be funny. And cute.


And thus ends my preview of the upcoming Winter season. If you could not tell, my level of sarcasm increased towards the end of the post…I’m writing this at 3am, on my side of the globe, so I REALLY need to get some sleep…

ANYWAYS, Happy New Year’s Eve, for those who are still waiting for the Earth to rotate a bit further (Australia’s way ahead of y’all.)

I look forward to another year of blogging.

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