Welcome, everyone, to this season's compilation of some of the most noteworthy (for being garbage) opening episodes. Just as a reminder, I'm doing this as a service to myself to make sure that I manage to complete these episode reviews with my sanity intact. I'll be giving these series as much coverage as I deem necessary - if that means a couple of paragraphs outlining how the show is just like every other show within its genre, then so be it, but if it turns out to deserve a thorough thrashing, that's what it will get. My hope is that this will get most of the junk out of the way so I won't have to sit and dread it for weeks.
As a note, Papa no Iu Koto o Kikinasai! a.k.a. Listen to me Girls, I'm Your Father! is being bumped to this section due to some early reports of it being just as trashy as I had hoped it wouldn't be. Also, I can't seem to find any info on Gokujyo so I assume that it's not being released this season as the chart states. If I update this post with any additional series, I'll be sure to post a note on the front page.
Well then, shall we?
Number of Episodes: 12
Production Company: TNK
Thoughts: While the whole thing was bad, perhaps the worst thing about this episode is that the protagonist came close to death twice but didn't actually snuff it, saving us from having to hear about his preoccupation with women's breasts.
This series has your typical ecchi harem setup, wherein one guy ends up surrounded by women. This time around that guy is Issei, a second-year student at a recently sex-desegregated former girls school. His one goal over the past year has been to get a girlfriend and grab some breasts (as he states often), but he's thus far been unsuccessful. The tides seem to turn when a cute girl from another school asks him out, and Issei boasts about it to his friends. The situation turns negative quickly when Issei's new flame turns out to be a female devil, who promptly kills him for reasons so far unexplained. Luckily for him (and unluckily for those of us who are sick and tired of this stuff), a beautiful upperclassman named Rias saves his life, turning Issei into her loyal servant in the process. An encounter with a fallen angel demonstrates that Issei has been blessed with some unexpected bonus powers as a result of his revival.
So apparently in this anime world, breasts are kept aloft by special anti-gravity devices rather than bras. Seriously, no one seems to wear any supportive undergarments (the fact that all of the female high school students have extremely prominent erect nipples in certain scenes seems to suggest this). I had sympathy chest pains throughout the entire episode, especially when the characters' breasts appeared to jiggle at the slightest hint of bodily movement as if their existence was the by-product of bad video game physics. Perhaps this is one of the benefits to being a demon - you don't really give a darn about your own wayward body parts.
Zac Bertschy of ANN jokingly wrote that someone ought to put together a fund for all the poor manga and anime creators who don't appear to have a sex life that involves real people, the suggestion being that TV series like this one wouldn't be quite so brainless or grotesque if they were less concerned with pleasing the sexually-inexperienced, skeezebucket middle-school mindset and more concerned with constructing a story that doesn't make viewers like me want to send its writers to detention. Hypothetical charities aside, though, the characters in this series aren't just juvenile, they're downright unapologetically immature. The main character's dying regret is that he didn't get a chance to grab more breasts before meeting his untimely end. If there's a quicker way of getting me to completely not care about what terrible things happen to a main character, I don't know what it is.
Abstractly, though, it's a real bummer to see series where the male protagonists are just there to be fodder for the abusive tendencies of other characters (the reverse being true as well). I don't have any issues with S and M fetish material (it has as much a right to exist as any other pornography), but there's something about the tone of this show that just makes it seem very abusive for no reason, and the fact that Issei is an unlikeable git anyway doesn't really excuse that. It's as if the cast is comprised only of very evil, hateful people who either lack self-control or just exist to be terrible to one-another.
Despite what it may seem like at times, I'm not theoretically against entertainment that targets sexual fetishes; we all have our turn-ons and like to seek out stimulation sometimes. But sum total of this episode's content was fetish indulgence at the expense of all writing and characterization (of both sexes), and that is such a waste of everyone else's time. Not to mention the fact that the complete and total breast obsession presented here just encourages the kind of tunnel vision that reduces women to body parts, something which happens in real life enough already. Here's a news flash for this show's creator(s); I'm not just the two fleshy masses attached to my torso, and teenage boys aren't by-and-large uncontrollable horn dogs. Let's stop pretending that sexuality in anime has to have the added effect of alienating half the population and encouraging bad behavior in the other.
Was this episode better or worse than expected? It was about even with my expectations. While I suspect that this will be the worst first episode I'll watch this season (at least as far as fanservice is concerned), it doesn't even rank with some of the really terrible hard-core ecchi series that have cropped up over the last year, so I consider that a small victory. At the same time, though, it's definitely gratuitous and makes its purpose - titillation - brutally obvious at every turn.
Senki (Senhime) Zesshou Symphogear
Number of Episodes: 13
Production Company: Satelight
Thoughts: Do you ever get the impression that a bad show may have been marginally less-bad if it had been put in more capable hands? I'd be open to the idea of mecha-suited pop idols, but this episode's execution just left me cold.
Kanade and Tsubasa are a pop duo who go by the name "Zweiwing." Tachibana Hibiki is a young girl attending their concert. When the human-devouring creatures called "Noise" interrupt Zweiwing's concert, Kanade and Tsubasa transform into singing, Noise-busting military machines, but not before the majority of the audience is slaughtered. Tachibana is gravely injured, but Kanade gives her own life to protect her. With a new lease on life, Tachibana goes to school to follow in Zweiwing's heroic footsteps. When she's personally threatened by a group of Noise, she discovers just how much power she has stored inside her.
To be perfectly clear, I don't really have a problem with this show's general concept, and I think that it has its good points. Its setup allows for supportive female partnerships, and there's really no question about how powerful the heroes are (especially in comparison to the wholly ineffectual military forces). The issue is really the slapdash construction and the execution of some particular elements that shifts the mood from "intriguing" to "amateurish and silly." There are several major logical flaws that are difficult to overlook, a specific one being the fact that (as others have already noted), Zweiwing is completely unable to save ninety-nine percent of their audience, who are eaten by Noise, yet one of their members sacrifices her own life to save the life of one specific person with whom she isn't even acquainted. On the one hand, this is a clearly an indicator that Tachibana is an important character. On the other... well, Kanade is on almost all of the promotional artwork, and she dies within the first half of the first episode of the series. I highly doubt that this series is worth such a major trolling effort on the part of its creators, so the effort seems worthlessly expended.
There are also several instances of anatomical wrongness that end up being very distracting. Kanade seems to be the most frequent victim of a case of lazy artistry, since her chest seems lopsided in several cuts. This may be more a function of the suits the characters wear, which are impossibly molded to their body and specifically accentuate their bosom. The breasts just seem like unattached entities in several scenes and the effect is off-putting. The quality of the animation isn't really up to the task of convincingly animating the action scenes either; Zweiwing's stage introduction is obviously rotoscoped, but what's gained in smoothness of character movement is lost in the characters' derp faces. Finally, the action scenes are cut like someone's bad AMV, their purpose only to show action happening without enough thought paid to the visual flow of the scenes. It's not impossible to parse out what's occurring since the situation itself isn't complicated, but it does make it kind of a chore to watch. The fact that the names of the characters' attacks are flashed on the screen seems like an unnecessary throwback as well.
Add to all this the fact that there are at least a couple of out-of-the-blue, "let's look at boobs" camera shots (one which involves Tachibana peering down her shirt to look at a scar she received on her chest, the other involving a very bouncy female scientist), and you end up with an opening episode that doesn't really have a clear purpose nor a decent hook.
Was this episode better or worse than expected? I suppose all told it was slightly better than I would have expected. I had actually braced myself to deal with a lot more visual fanservice than was present, so that was a definite plus. What kills it for me, though, is the fact that it seems so ill-constructed and its creators seem to be taking things much more seriously than is actually warranted. If the show had more of a zany, obvious-parody feeling, or if there were a bit more joy evident in the telling, it might be more watchable, but as-is it's difficult to build any enthusiasm for what's happening.
Kill Me Baby (Baby, Please Kill Me)
Number of Episodes: TBA
Production Company: J.C. Staff
Thoughts: So, can something truly be classified as a comedy if one isn't inspired to laugh at it?
Yasuna is a normal high school student whose friend Sonya is an assassin. This makes their friendship a bit touchy, since Sonya often responds to Yasuna's friendly gestures with violence. To offset that her violence, Sonya harbors a number of strange fears (including nervousness around bugs and ghosts) that make her seem uncharacteristically sensitive for a killer. Sonya's associate, Agiri, is a ninja with some very unorthodox skills. Though she seems like an airhead, there's an undercurrent of danger to the way she interacts with others.
As with most anime based on four-panel manga, this series deals out the gags in bite-sized pieces. Its problem is that it does so while being extremely obvious about it, to the point where one wonders why these choppy bits and pieces were forced to play together at all. While I never expected a show like this to have a strong narrative, the way it's presented is jumpy and unfocused, skipping from gag to gag without slowing down to check if those gags are actually funny or not.
The one major factor that contributes to this episode's dullness is the fact that it has essentially one primary joke that gets run into the ground. Sonya is a killer with some amusing fears, and the majority of the gags involve that concept in one way or another. This idea is not really that clever to begin with, so the fact that it's re-established a number of times with very little alteration begins to feel repetitive very quickly. There also seems to be this idea that Yasuna yelling a lot is uproariously funny, because almost all of her lines are delivered at high volume and with a frantic tone. Unfortunately, this just results in me feeling as if I'm being spoon-fed jokes, and good humor shouldn't have to feel like such a chore.
The one saving grace in this case is Agiri, whose seeming-ditziness belies a very sinister interior. They way her skills as a ninja are continually disproven, only to be proven twofold in a more subtle and scary way, can be chuckle worthy if one is in the right mood. I especially enjoyed her way of teaching her special ninja skills to Yasuna, via throwing stars and poisoned blow darts. Though hers is essentially another repeated gag, the variety of its expressions help to break up the feeling of monotony a bit.
Despite how I may have classified this series, I wouldn't really call this first episode "bad." Rather, it's just very uninteresting and doesn't seem to offer a whole lot of variety with its humor. It's not the sort of thing that I would be opposed to watching more of, but if this ends up being several episodes of a variation on a theme I can't see myself bothering with it for long.
Was this episode better or worse than expected? I suppose I would have to say better, but only just; it doesn't offend except with its blandness, but that in itself is not really a compliment. As much as I would hate to resort of lazy adjectives, the one word that keeps coming to mind when I think about this episode is "stupid."
Papa no Iu Koto wo Kininasai! (Listen to Me Girls, I'm Your Father!)
Number of Episodes: 12
Production Company: Feel
Thoughts: Yuuta is just beginning his college career, and manages to get friendly with an attractive (but strange) female upperclassman with large breasts and a very deadpan attitude. He counts himself lucky, even though the girl's associates are a bit of an oddball group. He doesn't have much time to enjoy his good fortune, however, before his sister and her husband leave him with a large responsibility; while they're gone, they're leaving their three daughters with Yuuta so that he can act as babysitter. The two older daughters (both of whom are not related to Yuuta by blood) turn out to be a bit more than he can handle; Miu, the ten-year-old, seems a bit too eager-to-please her uncle, and Yuuta makes the mistake of walking in on fourteen-year-old Sora while she's changing clothing. What's a poor guy to do in this house filled with young girls?
[Content Warning for talk of sexual assault and leering]
Well, the first thing would be to NOT check out the ten-year-old's panties peeking out from beneath her short skirt! About eighty percent of this episode is boring and unmemorable, but the last twenty percent makes up for it by being gross and unfolding exactly as I would have expected it to based on the title and promotional artwork.
Here we have yet another example of a scenario that flirts with incestuousness between siblings, but gets off on a technicality; the two older daughters of the Takanashi family are children from their father's two previous marriages, so they are not genetically related to Yuuta in any way. Apparently in some peoples' minds this makes the fact that their primary interactions with their uncle-by-marriage so far have involved him ogling them in a sexual manner hunky-dory. Wow, this is just so edgy and unique! Thanks, anime!
Joking aside, the primary gross-out factor here is, surprisingly, not the girls' blood relation to the main character, but rather their ages in relation to his. So far there have been sexual gags related to both fourteen-year-old Sora and her ten-year-old sister Miu, and the implications of that are almost too terrible for me to want to talk about any further. Here's my issue - it's bad enough that so much anime (and so much media in general) makes a habit of sexualizing female characters to the point of ignoring any real character development for them. I don't have a problem with characters who are sexual and I don't want to be mistakenly accused of slut-shaming of characters (and by extension, real-life women who are open about their sexuality), but I have to ask, to what end does portraying their sexuality serve? If the answer is not "it demonstrates an aspect of her character that allows her to be perceived as a more rounded, real person with wants and desires," then it's very likely that she's there as window-dressing to appeal to a particular demographic. Unfortunately, there are very few anime that actually manage to get this type of character right. The bigger issue here, though, is that the two girls aren't just eye-candy, they're underage eye-candy. This show is making light of ogling girls who aren't old enough to (legally) give consent, because it's oh-so-funny to put a dude in that situation and watch him squirm for the camera. You know, because statutory sexual assault is awesome. Gross out.
Add to all that the fact that the camera seems primed to focus on things like women's breasts (Yuuta's senpai is a frequent victim of the scene framing's pinpoint boob accuracy) and you have all the potential for yet another garbage fanservice incest "comedy." The fact that shows like Nichijou continue to be made prove to me that good, laugh-out-loud comedy doesn't have to be based around pushing the envelope of taste, so at best I can really only call this a lazy attempt at making a few people laugh. At worst, it's pandering and gross.
Was this episode better or worse than expected? I guess if I had to pick an anime genre that I liked the least, "incestuous fanservice comedy" would be near to the bottom, so to call it "worse than expected" would probably be half a lie. I guess what made it feel worse in this instance was the fact that, for most of the episode, the badness was kept to a low rumble which lulled me into a false sense of apathy. It was only when the very last segment rolled around that I was confronted with the really barfy subject matter.