Summer 2016, part II

Unfortunately most of these are disappointingly positive reviews too. The bad premieres are more fun somehow. Gotta work with what you’re given, though. Let’s go!


B-PROJECT

Our protagonist, Sumisora Tsubasa, just got a job as a new A&R person at Gandala Music, one of the biggest record companies in the business. Almost like it was a trap, as soon as she started with the company, she was put in charge of the idol unit, “B-PROJECT.” Being in charge of B-PROJECT meant that she was in charge of the three groups, “Kitakore,” “THRIVE,” and “MooNs.” Because this is her first job, things don’t go that well and she’s faced with various trouble and accidents. Be ambitious along with the ten BOYS who are all very different!

SoI’ve been known to enjoy a reverse harem here and there, got a couple otome games under my belt.

But. Wow.

The whole thing is pandering, which I will admit I am subject to, but I prefer my fanservice a little subtler. I don’t need random shirtless inserts, I’m not into girly-guys, and for crying out loud, the sparkles. Every guy gets his own glittery splash image and I hated every second of it, but at least it ate up a lot of time.

Then this happened:

and the angry one was instantly my favorite, I was totally back on board. Not for long though. I hate the music, I hate the art style, and I do not understand what is happening with these outfits. Like, whyyyy. And creepy CG dancing is creepy.

There are some surprisingly competent visuals, but then other weirdness in direction. There’s a shot where a bunch of the boys are walking down some stairs, followed by a very awkward cut to them standing motionless at the bottom, like it was missing a transition shot or a bunch of frames. I mean, I don’t blame them for not caring. But come on.

It also exemplifies basic misunderstandings/misrepresentations of how the music industry works; no way would two recording artists and an experienced producer need a rookie to point out dissonant notes. And these VAs must really suck at singing because normally you can’t hear autotune (which is in almost all pop music because it makes recording sessions go so much faster), but it’s quite easy to detect here.

Girl I am so with you.

Girl I am so with you.

So yeah. No. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t immediately watch the second episode, but that’s because the episode description mentioned THRIVE, the group containing the angry one. But it was just as painful, maybe more so. I think part of it is that I feel my intelligence being insulted? I’m really not just ogling, I am kind of paying attention to this bullshit. Gimme Hakuōki any day, but thisI quit. [2]


DAYS

With no skills or outstanding features, one boy hides a passionate heart, Tsukushi Tsukamoto. The other is a lonely soccer genius, Jin Kazama. The winds of change begin to blow in the world of high school soccer as these two boys with nothing in common come together. The curtain on this hot-blooded, touching story is rising…

To get the taste out of my mouth I shifted to sports, while apparently forgetting that recent sports anime have no qualms about chasing the fujoshi audience (which, again, I am demonstrably subject to). So while only slightly less gay than B-PROJECT, its partner in capitalization crime DAYS is far more enjoyable.

Nothing unprecedented here. Spastic small guy gets into sport, sucks but just tries so hard damn it. Mysterious “genius” who sees small guy’s potential. Stoic upperclassman about to go pro. It’s all there.

But something about Kazama is particularly compelling. He’s got every reason to have a big head about things, but he just doesn’t. He seems popular and well-liked but doesn’t hang out with people. He’s great at his sport but keeps his head down, doesn’t brag or show off. He’s fucking beautiful but doesn’t chase tail (though the eyecatch detailing his stats asserts he never has problems finding a girlfriend). In the off-season he plays beer league soccer with chain-smoking salarymen. And he seems to have even tougher connections, if his teammates are to be believed when he brings Tsukamoto along as a replacement player.

Tsukamoto is the type to push himself beyond reason. He runs his heart out as a fill-in, both before and after an injury that would make me lose my goddamn mind.

And he passes out after 20 (of a commanded 100) reps running the touchlines during the school team’s tryouts. Stoic upperclassman (Mizuki) sends him home, and unexpectedly, Tsukamoto doesn’t put up a fight.

But he does come back after practice, and Mizuki is apparently an enabler so he supervises as Tsukamoto drags himself through the remaining 80 reps. In all he’s a fairly likable protagonist. You get used to his Blush Stickers and his slapstick is legitimately endearing. (His greatest beer league moment: headbutting the ball into the goal, then faceplanting into the nearest goal post.) He also comes standard with a childhood chick friend who—don’t worry—he sees as a big sister. My bitches: the fujoshi fuel is strong. [4]

Guess who he was just thinking about.

Guess who he was just thinking about.


Orange

During the spring of her second year of high school, Naho receives a letter. Its sender is herself from ten years in the future. Naho thinks it’s a prank at first, but when the things written in the letter start to come true one by one, she realizes that the letter is telling her events that will happen in her future. It tells her that she’ll fall in love with Kakeru, a new student who transfers to her school, and that he’ll die in the winter of his 17th year. After learning the regrets and wishes of the 26-year-old Naho following Kakeru’s death, what can the 16-year-old Naho do differently?

The audience sees both the present and the future; the episode opens in the “future”, when five of the friends (the main characters, excluding Kakeru) dig up a time capsule from the “present”. Most of the episode occurs when the characters are 16, and concludes again ten years later, where we see orange-haired Naho meeting up with her orange-haired guy friend (who, from the drop, is way more intriguing than Kakeru), and he is carrying an orange-haired baby so I guess they get together eventually.

The setup is super interesting, and while the letter is the only communication between characters of different eras, narratively there’s a dialogue between these time periods. The letter makes it abundantly clear that 16-year-old Naho falls in love with Kakeru, and if we keep him from dying then I wonder if Naho’s relationship with Ginger will sour in the future, and if that ginger baby will disappear as a consequence. Kinda fucked up, if so. Also the art is occasionally off-putting.

It stayed like this for *seconds*.

This was also a slightly misleading blurb; it’s only alluded to in-series, but the episode description clarifies that Kakeru will commit suicide. So the stakes are higher from the very beginning. It won’t just be a matter of preventing a freak accident at a specified time. It’s a matter of investigating this boy’s state of mind and watching him develop over the course of a few months.

But suicide is fucking serious. The letter puts unfair pressure on Naho to “fix” this boy. I understand that this is anime and her psychological consequences are only as bad as the script says they are. But that’s a bad message for the real-world viewers at home, especially those in the teenager bracket whose brains aren’t done yet. If somebody’s hurting, don’t try “fixing” them yourself. Help them get professional help. I mean, maybe that’ll happen. But not only is this anime, but it’s Japan, where there’s an even greater stigma on mental illness and seeking help than in the US. So who the hell knows.

My feelings about the whole thing are pretty ambivalent. Say ‘I Love You’, another series of the same genre and tone, had a great setup and great character development, but unfortunately ended with some disappointing themes that rubbed me the wrong way. I can see this one easily doing the same, but that’s not going to stop me. Three of Naho’s friends are especially charming, and I could listen to HanaKana’s voice all day, every day. (And normally I couldn’t care less about ladies.) So even if it’s for bad reasons, this one’s staying in the queue. [4]


Alderamin on the Sky

The huge Katvana Empire is at war with the neighboring Kioka republic. In a corner of the empire, a young man is about [sic] be caught up in the flames of war. His name is Iwata Soroku. He’s lazy, a philanderer, and he hates war. He’s about as far from a soldier as you can get. On his way towards the next stage of officer’s qualification exams, he and his childhood friend Yatorishino Igsem encounter the nurse trainee Harouma Beckle, Mashuu Tetrijirch, a member of the old military faction, and Torwey Lemion….

Let’s straighten out these names first. While some are just understandably mistranscribed (Mashuu → Matthew, Beckle → Becker), never once did I see “Iwata” in subtitles or hear it. Pretty sure he’s only ever called Ikta.

Then again I wasn’t paying like a lot of attention? The worldbuilding is not great. There’s clumsy exposition, a big bland boring world, characters you’ve seen a hundred times before. But here’s what I think happened:

> Ikta and Yatori are childhood friends but neither seems romantically interested in the other. That’s cool.
> They are both about to take the officer exam, but Yatori kind of sucks at studying. She’s not a dope or a ditz and actually seems quite capable. Just not good at written tests I guess.
> But it’s important that she scores well because it reflects on her family, an upper-class something or other who always occupies certain top positions maybe.
> She and Ikta agree that, since he’s sure to do well but doesn’t actually want anything to do with the military, they will swap tests so she benefits from his good grades and he doesn’t have to accept any kind of responsibility. Neither of them seem morally conflicted about this. At all. If that is indeed what happened, fucking A.

> They board a ship to travel to the test site and meet various other prospective officers, including Tits McGee, the apparently ever hilarious ugly fat guy, and an ikemen who Ikta instantly pegs as a threat to his womanizing and subsequently threatens back. I’ll let you handle the puns yourself. I mean I already went there but I’m trying to tone it down. You’re welcome.

He was too beautiful. . . .

> Most of these people have a tiny fairy or sprite or something, who each have different elemental powers and are kept in pouches on belts. Meh.
> The ship wrecks, the adventurers hop into a lifeboat. 12-year-old girl they also met falls overboard, and Ikta jumps in to save her. His fairy’s belly lights up like a Care Bear idk.
> They wash up on an island. Young girl turns out to be a princess, who is fairly sensible for her age and defers to the expertise of commoners. I like this.

> Island turns out to be enemy territory. Things got real muddy for me here so I’ll assume the plan is, they go undercover as this enemy to make it out alive. The end.

So from all that it probably isn’t clear—but this was fun. Most of the characters are likably flawed, and they complement each other well (with a fair amount of bickering). That’s most important to me in any story. The fanservice is cheap but I’m willing to let it slide because while the nurse girl is lame, at least Yatori is pretty badass. And the princess is treated with respect as a thinking female, too.

Plus I’m all about an Idiot Hero, especially of the Obfuscating Stupidity type, which Ikta seems to be. I’m not sure what’s going on with the mismatched aesthetics; the main characters are all dressed like they walked off the blue screen for Myst, but their enemies’ uniforms (at least, I think they’re enemy uniforms) are of the typical sci-fi military variety. So if I can continue not hearing what’s actually going on and substituting my own tropes-based narrative, by all means, I shall. [4]

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