Funomenal First Impressions: Anime Season Summer 2017

After taking a year off this format while I readjusted to the fandom and determined how I should follow seasonal shows, the seasonal first impressions is back, and it is now a much more casual setting: no more ratings, staff/genre run downs and a shorter length.

I’ve done away with my impressions rating system, since I’ve halted my ‘try everything’ mentality (not out of spite; just time). Instead, I decided to rely a bit more public word of mouth & the surrounding discourse of my social media circle to select a few shows every season to follow. This means all the shows I end up trying will more likely be seen to the end. Also because of this, the lower tier ratings like ‘AVOID’ will probably be redundant at this point.

So from now on, the seasonal first impressions will likely be the only seasonal post of its kind you see from me: I tend to not finish shows on time for end-of season notes. These posts will act as early-on snapshots of what I’m following around week 2 of the season, if I decide to drop a show mid-way, this post won’t be edited. If I do have shows that are interesting enough for me to talk about in length during or at the end of a season, I will just write a stand-alone post (see my Tsuki ga Kirei or Dragon Maid posts as examples.)

Now that’s done, I’ll get the list going.


Centaur no Nayami

centaur 0101.png

Episodes viewed: 3

(I just had to use the first episode’s half-point title card…it’s pretty damn adorable). In short, the show felt like it is being held up by taped straws on the production side of things. The character designs all lose their impact soon after the initial honeymoon phase of just seeing the sheer amount of cross-species it was able to squeeze out.

Beyond that, the show is a harmless and therefore rather bland treat (for the first two episodes at least). Centaur no Nayami expectedly utilised the nature of its monster girls quirk to work in slight explorations of societal relations. If one were to take a more direct comparison between this title and recently aired Interviews with Monster Girls, the creative intent between the two can be differentiated on how more ambitious the latter is, while the former is more tongue-in-cheek, willing to let the frame and dialogue linger at themes, but not focusing on them enough for the characters to actively commentate on them with substance.

However, the strengths of the show’s multifaceted intents were actually more pronounced in the third episode. It managed to tackle explaining girls and family members kissing and ‘love’ to children with some finesse, while the second half managed to pull off some sentimental warmth covering familial devotion, and wrapping it all up with a cheeky juxtaposition of magical girl battles and…student councils debates. So really, Centaur no Nayami is kind of a sleeper hit with a lot of quiet but well-defined good ideas.

Gamers!

Gamers! - 01

Episodes viewed: 2

Gamers! is frustrating to watch. Its ability to waltz between a surprisingly multi-faceted cast and brain dead blandness is frankly too mind-boggling to describe in words.

Two episodes in, and I started to detect the show’s attempts to establish mirrored commentary on the various attitudes towards gaming via. its two male leads, the personal identification with the ‘gamer’ label (already showcased rather cleanly in the first episode’s run-in with the gamer club), and a straightforward dual romance subplot. Apart from that, I don’t have anything to say here, because whatever details and questions I did note down were either two underdeveloped in my head for me to justify mentioning here, or are too abstract for anyone but me to brainstorm with.

Gamers! has been careful in trying to provide its main players with enough involvement and stake to maintain a voice in the main narrative, and despite being uneven in its execution of jokes, at least the show managed to make me somewhat care about the characters.

Last minute adds: the main lead’s voice bothers me. A lot. The seiyuu’s pitch failed to drop to a level of authenticity that can allow me to take the character even remotely seriously.

Also, Gamers!’ gag with the gamer club members’ origin stories may be effective within the scene, but uh…it’s so far removed from the show’s manufactured reality, that it just feels like a waste. I mean come on…a guy lost all his memories except his gaming skills!

Isekai Shokudou

[HorribleSubs] Isekai Shokudou - 02 [1080p].mkv_snapshot_02.54_[2017.07.22_23.32.21].jpg

Episodes viewed: 3

There is a charming stereotype that befalls a typical bartender: as the central nerve to the town’s access to the best beverages, the numbed, intoxicated patrons of the establishment will spill whatever triumph, failure and drama in their lives onto the nonchalant, world-wary and always empathetic man behind the counter, who always knows the right words to console them.

It is hardly out of character then, for Isekai Shokudou to cruise along with this premise. The chef of a particular ‘western’ restaurant is in charge of servicing the various customers who visit his establishment via. a magical door. This particular door has a nasty habit of turning up at random places (as varied as a castle’s bedroom, or on the tail end of a treasure cave) in different worlds all over the cosmos, but only once every seven days (yeah I know, just…don’t try to ask technical questions about this premise). As a result, wizards, travelling warriors, dukes and dragon ladies all end up visiting the restaurant for the bewildering cuisines that can sooth their yearning appetites.

The above-mentioned patron-bartender relationship is of course a grossly romanticised fragment of history, but no one can deny the appeal: sharing stories over a drink is far from being an obscure part of human culture, and the treasured human stories that are told and remembered through shared meals is as old as historical sentiment itself.

Thus far, Isekai Shokudou is content with sharing two stories of this nature every week: a returning or new patron to the restaurant is given a hastily strung up backstory, stumbles into the restaurant, orders something, and proceeds to describe in excruciating detail how amazing and perfect the food is. Now throw in the quirk that is the sheer diversity of patrons a simple magical door set up is able to work into the narrative, and we’ve got a hearty and gentle little story-time every week. From a homeless demon girl who ended up working for the kindhearted chef, to a young treasure hunter who rediscovered the ‘treasure’ that was this humble establishment after her predecessor, every little story is a simple dose of pleasantry. And it more than suffices as a weekly watch for me.

Made in Abyss

[HorribleSubs] Made in Abyss - 01 [1080p].mkv_snapshot_02.05_[2017.07.10_15.34.27]

Episodes viewed: 3

The season darling. Made in Abyss makes quite an early impression, with its impeccable setting and world design, and the sheer grandeur of its cinematic space is confidently flaunted with stunning background art, dramatic framing and lighting.

This is also where I would proceed to commentate on a little interesting detail in the name of authenticity. The world of Made in Abyss skids delicately between whimsical fantasy and a touch of grounded cruelty. As it so happens, under the fictional paradigm of the show, the moral lines drawn by the show’s characters are deliberately far from our own. While the main narrative thus far does not stray far from the conventional hero’s journey and a call to action via. the main character’s mother and a robot’s desire to recover his memories and purpose, the ambient storytelling of the world around them is bursting with passive cultural solidification.

The show is not shy about its narration of the slave-like relationship the orphans have with the orphanage, as well as their wildly different perceptions of human decency and what consists of a typical ‘punishment’ for rule-breaking: what we may perceive as a fitting punishment, like a slap on the wrist, is probably the equivalent of being strung up naked in their world. This mismatch is a very effective signal of the different world we as an audience is peeking into.

Passive world-building that relies not on exposition is the show’s single most definitive strength. The camera is constantly panning over the vast valleys and dangling streets of the town, while the Abyss is excellently depicted with its perspective scaling throughout the show’s bird’s eye view shots. The architectural design of the orphanage’s classroom and the history of the main character’s bedroom (rope ladders and vertical rows against the wall, and the bedroom’s lingering features of a torture chamber) informs us of their society’s cultural and geological dispositions, and the second episode’s festival and puppet shows were utilised to establish the values of the community, and the revere and respect the people had for the White Whistles.

Made in Abyss is wonderfully layered and richly immersive. The visual design of the backgrounds and objects is joyfully indicative of a staff team obsessed with detail and a sense of authentic history and otherworldly awe.

New Game!!

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Episodes viewed: 3

Nenechi wants to learn coding to further her game making hobby. Aoba is co-designing the characters with her idol Kou for their company’s next game release. Hifumi has self-evaluated and is striving to be more outspoken about her opinions. Yun is getting sick of her own lack of willingness to bet on herself in promotion opportunities and competitions, and wants to improve on that front.

New Game!! has found some spanking new ambitions, and this confident drive in its second season is a joy to behold. The opening two episodes were immediately focused on the future prospects of its characters, while also displaying complete familiarity and fluid articulation of the cast’s paired and grouped chemistry. The ‘married couple’ antics of Rin and Kou is as simple and reliable as ever in splashing a grin on my face, and the powerhouse comedic duo of Nenechi and Umiko continues to hit bullseye.

Seemingly every member of the main cast has a propelling sense of purpose and ambition in the loose narrative. Ambition breeds character, and character interaction is key to a great slice of life show.

Princess Principal

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Episodes viewed: 2

I’ve said it before and I’ll parrot it until the end of time: if a show dictates its world’s rules to me in a decently understandable manner, it is free to do whatever it likes within that establishment, however bizarre and ‘unrealistic’ it is. With that in mind, Princess Principal decided quite early on, that the girls in its world can jump off skyscrapers and fly with cool-looking steampunk balls. *shrug* cool, I’ll take it, now show me just how boldly you can stretch this premise.

Princess Principal is as surefooted as it is deliberately unforgiving to conventional logic. It wants the self-fulfilling romp of James Bond power fantasies, it wants to exploit the distinct and emasculating side effects of moe (just how masculine do I feel when I swoon at cute cartoon girls? Not very. And I don’t really care), by dressing cute female badasses up in top hats and rosy turn-of-the-century Victorian dresses, AND it wants to swim freely in a hurriedly and obsessively glued up gunk of steampunk imagery and dramatic staging. And it works. Damn the HEAVENS it works!

Throw in a bombastic OP sequence, exhilarating song number to accompany it and an extrovertedly Jazz-centric soundtrack, the package is stamped with ‘entertainment’ in big red letters all over.

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