Anime Open Season: Fall 2015

It’s the last roundup of the year. Will it go out in a whimper or a bang? Personally, I think it’s a fairly standard season with a few notable series. Also, you’re probably wondering, “Matty, what’s with the list being a season and a half late this time?” That’s a good point.

…Onward, forward!

Make time for this ~idolnotes Golden Egg~

Osomatsu-san

Had I dropped this series after the first episode I would have missed out on the most memorable series of the season – perhaps even of 2015. Don’t get me wrong. Idol dudes have their place, but I still had my fill from watching UtaPrince, personally. What was up my alley is everything else after that curveball. Once the Matsuno brothers (sextuplets) dropped the bishonen act, they reveal their true forms that resemble their 1960s design.

That was another surprising aspect. A friend from Japan on Twitter mentioned that the mangaka of the Osomatsu-kun, Fujio Akatsuka, was called the “god of gag manga.” Sadly, Akatsuka passed away in 2008. Osomatsu-san marks what would have been his 80th birthday. Although it’s a measurable departure from what he penned down, I’d like to think he would be proud of the folks who brought this series together. It’s certainly brought out plenty of young women – and I don’t think it’s just the fact that the Matsuno boys are dumb cuties.

The brothers are characters viewers can relate to on several levels. One, they’re around their 20s, much like the outspoken fans in and outside Japan from what I’ve observed, and they deal with some common tribulations of that demographic. The never ending hunt for jobs, living with parents, not even a speck of hope for dating but they give an honest effort. ‘NEET‘ gets thrown at them as an insult from other characters, but they’re really just stereotypical millennials at worst. There’s more to the characters than their petty plight, and that’s what makes the show more than the usual gag anime series out there.

The comedy is set up in a similar way to an absurd sketch comedy. The oldest (and self appointed leader) brother, Osomatsu, suddenly feels left out of his brothers lives and tries to hang out with them. He spots Choromatsu at a live and then asks the idol to have sex with him at the meet-and-great. This might have played out differently in Osomatsu’s head! He then spots Todomatsu on the street, chatting up two women. Despite appearing friendly, Todo straight up ignores Oso then denies knowing him when his two friends asks. Later on, Ichimatsu is seen petting a cat in the alleyway. Once Osomatsu gleefully approaches his brother, Ichi turns into a cat himself, punces up the building, then hisses at his brother before disappearing completely. Giving up, Osomatsu has a drink while oden shop owner Chibita lectures him about taking better care of his siblings. Angered, and a bit drunk, Osomatsu shoots back at him:

Just because we’re sextuplets doesn’t mean I have five comrades! I’ve got five enemies!

A defining quote of the series of there ever were one. Each episode is linked by gags and the character’s quirks, more so than continuity, just like classic Loony Tunes or The Simpsons. This is why the series works so well not only with comedy, but also the more dramatic moments. I got so used to the characters being goofballs that I would get blindsided when the show shifts to a more serious tone. It wasn’t just showing characters in a different light. It’s showing that there’s something more going on in characters that fit into their personalities.

Ichimatsu, the reserved loner of the brothers, suddenly comes across an ESP cat that can speak the thoughts of others. Ichi brushes the cat off at first, telling his brothers about not needing companionship of others to live. Once the cat speaks out about Ichi’s true desire to have friends, Ichi begins to deny the cat’s claim, despite the brothers knowing the cat speaks the truth. The more reasons Ichi tries to defend his loneliness, the more truth of Ichi’s feelings come out, causing him to yell at the cat to leave. It was an intense scene, but seeing it play out with the superb acting made it one my personal favorite scenes. There’s another dramatic scene in the series that involves the goofiest brother, Jyushimatsu, but I’ll leave that you to witness. It’s a pretty powerful scene.

As mentioned earlier, I came close to writing off Osomatsu-san and that would have been my loss. I don’t think I’ve come from back to not only enjoy it but giving it the highest praise – well, as high as a recommendations goes! After witnessing the gigantic success of the series has reached, in large part in how it presents itself and carry on the clever gags from the original series, I’m sure the highest praise this series could ever get is a nod from the original creator. I’m sure he would have been proud his characters were welcomed with open arms from fans and his series widely accepted from the next generation. Still, I just wish Akatsuka-sensei would have been here to see it.

Top  of the crop

The Asterisk War

Confession time! I was mostly drunk while watching this series. It was usually the last thing on the pile of anime viewing night, so by the time I got to Asterisk War I was mostly trying to finish the shots of whiskey I had poured. Still, plastered or not, I enjoyed it.

Normally, I’d just leave it like that. Grab a couple cold ones and kick your feet up, ’cause this is that sort of series, and it doesn’t try to hide it. An adaptation of a light novel where there there’s a tournament with ass-kicking with pretty and colorful swords. A few waifus sprinkled here and there on a production that’s pretty good and consistent. I was conferrable in my little anime bubble, but someone had to pop it, man!

Well, not really, but I hate myself for having to defend this series, ’cause it really doesn’t warrant it. Not that it’s a bad series, but someone out there on YouTube did a dissertation on the many reasons it’s crap. The one point I agree with is that you do get a good grasp of what you’re in for by looking at the promotional artwork. If it’s not looking like it’ll be up your alley, you have a chance to get off this train before the engine starts up. And it’ll be completely understandable, too. I, myself, didn’t watch this series until about half of the series was already broadcast, because the whole “special school hosting hotheaded teen tournaments with a ham-fisted plot to give the characters a sense of purpose” thing has been around for a while and there is a lot of those. So many that I don’t even know what I want from getting into any of them. And chances are they’ll likely fall short on delivering by the time they end (if they’re even allowed to see an ending).

Here’s the thing, though; for that sort of series, Aserisk War hits all of its marks that it sets itself up for. I don’t shop around for these sorts of series, so I don’t have a solid base to compare it to, but there are few things that had me looking forward to newer episodes. The most important is that the pace is tight. I don’t mean, “Ey, man, these waifus are TIGHT, know what I’m sayin’!” There’s a steady progression of development in the plot and didn’t linger on any one issue or character to the point where they overstayed their welcome. The characters, while following usual anime archetypes, have chemistry with each other that is lively and engaging when the action starts. I guess another way to put is the show is consistent enough to where even when it following the paint-by-number plot, it doesn’t get boring.

The story, and a few scenes, are downright dumb, however. In the first episode, the protagonist, Ayato Amagiri, sees a handkerchief fall gracefully from the sky. He realizes that it must have fell out from a window that’s four stories high, so what does he do? Ayato jumps — not climb — jumps over a fence that’s about ten feet tall, twirls around a branch of a tree to gain momentum, lands on the window ledge and sees the owner of the handkerchief; right as she’s dressing for school. The girl, Julis-Alexia von Riessfelt, tells Ayato she’s grateful for bringing it back to her, but since he’s an intruder she charges and blasts fire straight at him as he jumps back through the window. The fire blast itself is fucking enormous that it should have started a wildfire, or at the very least break a few fire codes. This all happens within the first 5 minutes of the first episode.

It’s fucking stupid, but in an oh-so-amusing way. I mean, this school has students that use various sorts of weapons for these tournaments, even customized twin particle guns, and they get into battles so often at school that even if they have a concealed carry policy it’s clearly not enforced. It has to be a damn nightmare to be part of the faculty that cleans up the damages and adds up the repair cost on school property because of these kids. Their hormones can barely be reasoned with, and you allow them to blast away people when ever the hell they want!? Granted, the action is pretty cool, but what in the fuck is going on this world?

And that’s why it’s fun. Is it a series that’s completely trash? No, because studio A-1 Pictures put in a good amount of effort in the animation, acting and action sequences. Is something that you need to over analyze in multiple videos about how stupid it is? Fuck no. There’s no need to, since it knows its dumb. If you can accept all the buffoonery you can have a bit of fun in each episode.

And, also, Saya is love.

YuruYuri San☆Hai!

After three years since the second season, the band yuris are back together again. Unlike other series (Working!!!), Yuru Yuri seems to be in its prime. Each scene has jokes that steadily progress in both humor and the occasional weirdness. It’s seamless how it all pulls in together to get to a punchline or a tender moment between characters. And, of course, a pinch of the bizarre, but not too absurd that it takes away from what you’ve come to appreciate.

YuruYuri feels one of the more concentrated slice-of-life series I’ve come across. Most other series either try to be outlandish in some way or they try to be so laid back and “natural” that I feel like I’m watching a documentary or home movie. YuruYuri plays out similar to a bottle episode with the characters hanging out usually in the tea room and left to their own devices. Those devices being the standard archetypes you see in anime, but it comes across so natural that it seems like they have it down to a science. Whether it’s the main four characters together or a few odd pairing for a scene, each character’s …character bounces off each other, like a bouncy ball caught between two walls – and can feel just as fast, too. This also goes for even the most minor of characters, like Sakurako’s serious and straightlaced sisters (polar opposite of Sakurako, by the way) meeting Yui and Kyoko at a resturant, or whenever Akiri’s older sister appears- along with her shameful obsession for her sister. It’s like each scene is a gacha machine; you know what’s available but not sure what will turn up next. Rest assurd, if you’re feeling even a faint of being ticklish you’ll enjoy what’s in store.

Also, saying this as an unabashed fanboy of tomboys, Yui Funami really shines this season!

Give and Take

Hacka Doll The Animation

The plot is pretty novel; an app service called Hacka Doll deploys Personal Entertainment AI assistants (Hacka Dolls) to “advance humanity.” This includes anywhere from helping a desperate producer by becoming an idol unit to helping a fan find the perfect gift for his favorite seiyuu. Basically, if Siri (or if you’re a Windows user, Callie. Or was it Courtney? I never use the useless thing) combined with Triple A – they’re there to help with your inane problems when you need ’em.

Each episodes is setup for the Hacka Dolls to get into situations where they do their gags and be silly asses, à la The Three Stooges. Also, if it wasn’t apparent by the theme of the show, Hacka Doll is based on mobile service company DeNA’s news app. Apparently, it’s an app in Japan that’s centered around otaku culture news (anime, cosplay, etc.). I had wondered what “the animation” may have been referring to. It seems kind of counter-intuitive to sell your product through anime with three bumbling characters, but in a way the series touches on the absurdity of what might appear in the headlines of an otaku news app. Take for instance, episode 7; Kurobako. It strips away Shirobako’s intense, yet, uplifting moments in that series and just makes working at an anime studio a never-ending distressful experience – but still funny!

As far as comedy series for this season goes, Hacka Doll makes it to the bottom list of the consistently entertaining ones. If you can squeeze bits of seven minute episodes, consider giving it a watch. If not, the actual app might be more worth your time.

Is The Order of the Rabbit??
All aboard the Moe Express Train! Choo-choo~♪ You know the destination, so step off before the engine starts if this isn’t where you’re headed.
The second season picks up where we left off; wide-eyed Cocoa settling into into a Central European-esque city and its cutesy cast of a characters – and not a whole damn much else. Here’s the thing, for those who shaking their heads (I know you are!); these episodes are sugar cubes for sweet tooth viewers, plain and simple. I remember a few years back when it was common to read that “moe is killing the anime industry.” I think this was the type of show they envisioned. Little girls shooting up the place with moe-infused bullets. Say hello to my moe friend!

The second season picks up where we left off; wide-eyed Cocoa settling into into a Central European-esque city and its cutesy cast of a characters – and not a whole damn much else.

Here’s the thing, for those who shaking their heads (I know you are!); these episodes are sugar cubes for sweet tooth viewers, plain and simple. I remember a few years back when it was common to read that “moe is killing the anime industry.” I think this was the type of show they envisioned. Little girls shooting up the place with moe-infused bullets. Say hello to my moe friend!

To its credit, the show doesn’t aim further than it can’t reach. It doesn’t try to be clever. The punchline is to see the characters (*≧▽≦) when something good happens, (ᗒᗣᗕ)՞ when something (relatively) sad happens, then ヾ(^∇^) at the end. Sunrise, sunset. About the deepest this show reaches is when one character feels her friends are being hogged by their sister, but even then it’s like watching a turtle wiggling itself on its back – it’s just as sad as its cute, but mostly cute. It’s not a bad thing if you’re all about cuteness, but maybe so if you’re expecting a plot beyond what’s offered on, say, Family Matters.

 

Komori-san Can’t Decline!

For a short-timed series (one clocks in at just under a minute and twenty seconds), it’s quite loaded with nuances, mainly with the title character. Komori is a student who is always relied on for help; finding lost contacts, volleyball teams needs another player, and even letting several others use the toilet whiles she’s about to burst out like Old Faithful! She sounds like a pushover, but she just really enjoys being helpful.

The series comes from 4-koma mangaka Cool-kyou Shinja, whose other work includes I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying. I wouldn’t have made the connection without doing the research, because while Komori feels more standard, it also gives more thought to the characters. Well, as much as a two-minute per episode series can handle, but it’s there.

Komori can’t decline because she wants to be useful, meet new people, it means she can be trusted – It almost seems like she’s making it up as she goes along. What Komori actually learns about herself when she isn’t playing the role of a helper is what’s gives the series depth. She loses her spirit when she isn’t as good as the volleyball members who wanted her to fill in, but she resolves to push herself even in areas where she knows she’s lacking. When Komori’s friend is hit on by a dude at the beach, she assumes she’ll start bragging but in reality her friend becomes timid and reserved. The character development isn’t drastic, but man, I appreciate I can get this much out of a series that lasts about as long as microwaving my Budget Cuisine meal.

Lovely Muco!
I had thought Doge ruined my impression of Shiba Inus forever, but then along comes Muco. The series is Muco and her owner Komatsu, a glassblowing maker and shop owner, just going about their business. A slice-of-life with a dog. Muco herself is energetic and playful, while Komatsu stays focus on his work. Hilarity ensues (not really)!
Since there isn’t much in ways of gags, the show really serves to dog owners and lovers. Muco plays up the cute-dog-doing-cute-dog-things, just short of eating her own poop and commenting on the saltiness. She barks wildly at Komatsu’s love interest whenever she’s near, being slightly traumatized after a run-in with the local kid who’s a little rough with Muco, and then getting sick from playing out in the snow for too long but then heals up only to get sick by running out into the snow again. Aside from the simple and serviceable 3D animation, there isn’t much else take away from a dog show. Muco is no Oliver & Company.
Funny enough, Lovely Muco has my favorite acting role this season.  Hitomi Yoshida plays the lead role and it’s exhausting – in a good way. She keeps up with the pace of a dog’s huffing, ready to pounce and run any second. Yoshida has a few roles under her belt, namely Mimi from the Digimon series, but there has be a dozens of roles she could take on and turn into a highlight of any series with her performance. I at least hope so.
I can’t say I would watch this again or the upcoming second season in full, but why not curl up with your pup and watch Muco be a silly lass to wind down the night? The show is short enough that you don’t even have to worry about your dog wanting a snack!
Muco also features my pick for best ED theme of the season; Team Syachihoko – BASYAUMA ROCK:

Magical Somera-chan

I came across a comment on Twitter that I’ll paraphrase: “Somera-chan is a series that forgot the 90s ended.” I’m not sure what exactly that person was implying, but I get the idea. The desaturated colors, the character designs that could have been used in Cyber Team in Akihabara, but I don’t think that’s the case.

Somera-chan is part of the “Choborau Nyopomi Theater” …uh, experience. The cousin in this group is Ai Mai Mi, and if you’ve seen that series you know what to expect. Exaggerated (even contorted) facial and body expression, bizarre one-shot characters that come out from left field, and build-ups to the punchline that would even make the chaps of Monty Python scratch their heads. Needless to say, it’s an acquired taste, but a welcoming one if Ai Mai Mi or something like gdgd Fairies were something that you looked forward to seeing. Personally, these are the sort of comedy series that make me laugh at just how ballsy and silly it is – certainly not the comedy series that use tropes or moe characters as a crutch, which most anime viewers are accustomed to lately.

 Miss Monochrome The Animation 3

The saga ends here. It’s pretty amazing that this story of an android setting herself up to become an idol is the most consistent and tight story I’ve seen in a while. Monochrome finally starts her concert tour, but there’s plenty of time for shenanigans. Flipping her batteries over and then suddenly becoming a male idol to asking Santa Clause for help about writing a song for a video game.

The episode that stood out was when Monochrome scolds her backup dancers for not being perfect. Blinking too much, turning 0.33 seconds too late during the dance performance? You’re slacking! How Monochrome handed her heavy criticism was a bit much, but the purpose of doing it-to remind the young dancers of their ambitions of becoming idols and to not get too prideful-was tactfully done. Well, as tactful as an android can be. When there’s conflict, Monochrome uses her fantastical abilities to get out of it, but seeing her use a more genuine approach was a pleasant. It seems probable Miss Monochrome will return, and when that time comes I hope the series will approach more episodes like this one.

Shomin Sample

This was the last series I looked up for this season. I think it fell through most people’s radar, and after looking at the premise I don’t blame them.

School boy Kimito Kagurazaka is an ordinary teen (aren’t they all?). So much so that he is abducted by an all-girls school. If that sounds nutty, get this; this is a school that enrolls girls that have no idea what a commoner life is. They’re completely isolated from media, social trends and even tech like smartphones.

If you can buy into that maybe it’s a little understandable they would force a kid like Kimito to take part in their institution. His only job is to be himself- oh, except for one thing: the school mistakenly believe that Kimito is not at all attracted to girls. In fact, he supposedly loves muscle men. He’s free to mingle and share commoner tales as much as he likes, so as long as he upholds the idea he’s into dudes. Once the secret is out, he’s out, and apparently something gets taken off out of him if a certain maid is to be believed. It’s not too far-fetched when you also consider shows like Three’s Company, although I don’t think John Ritter was in danger of being castrated by Don Knotts. Who knows…?

Getting back to the isolated part, uh… what? Actually, there are a few points that don’t add up. One girl of the harem is a prodigy who writes elaborate equations on walls and floors, and gets so caught up in a trance doing it she takes her clothes off. The thing is, she’s part of a family that owns a cell phone company, so why would a smartphone blow these other characters minds? Also, while schools aren’t expected to teach pop culture in classes, I’m sure they would have to be aware of the happenings going on in the country. They’re aware of other countries, but the concept of a train pass or fast food service (which they make an effort to go on a field trip for) baffles and astounds them. They’re aware of the world, so they were not raised like those chimps that were kept away from the sunlight for most of their lives. They can’t be that oblivious, yet, they are.

I have to hand it to Kimito. A dude enrolled into a school filled to the brim with young women, even allowing any of them access into his room at any time and not doing anything dodgy. Sure, he would put his dick in jeopardy if tried, but the series doesn’t take it to that ridiculous level – although, not having more than four adolescent girls noticeably attracted to them is ridiculous on its own. Instead, Kimito does his duty of sharing his commoner ways. This is something I wished the series focused on more, because it can actually be creative. For instance, the girls are only familiar with maids at their school, and Kimito tries to introduce maids of the cafe variety. Kimito even pranks Aika with a Dandy Sakano catchphrase  and pose (don’t ask me, I understand Japanese memes as much as western ones) that catches fire on the school. These instances are interesting, but the series is really focused more on the playfulness of the girls and Kimito, and not much about centered around the premise, which makes it a letdown.

The scenes that stand out is when the commoner culture exchange ties into the plight of the characters. Reiko is the popular first year representative and ojou-sama, so it was shocking for her friends to see her outburst out of jealousy at the thought of another student smooching on Kimito. Once Kimito notices the tension around the school, he comes up a plan to have Reiko approach her friends (gyaru style) and apologize through texting and then take a selfie to commemorate their rekindled friendship. Goofy as all hell, yes, but it was a creative way to bridge the plot and setting together, sort of like with Footloose. The girls of the commoner club also dress in their own …weird and wack interpretation of men when they hear that Kimito misses his friends from his old life. It’s silly, but these details are what holds up the series. I just wish there was more of it so it could be a series I’d feel more confident in recommending. All in all, I’m glad I watch it to completion, and for what it is, it’s a series where it was able to meet me on my level. After a couple shots of whisky, of course (I’m sure a drinking game would be fun here, too).

For the birds

Anime De Training! Ex 

I’m not sure how many anime series bother to get their viewers into shape. There are heaps of series centered around food, and a good portion of how to cook fried fish. It seems kind of crappy when I think about it, but I can’t blame them for having an audience that can’t bothered unless cute girls motivate them. And if you actually did the workout routines offered by this series, well, that’s on you!

Workout videos are a staple at department stores. Half of the ads on TV relate to getting fit in some way, so it was only a matter of time until an anime studio stepped in, and this one places you in a POV perspective. Stock personality anime girls are your personal trainers, which makes sense; anime characters have great figures! They even have cheesecake (not the food, ya big silly!) shots to get your blood pumping while the girls stretch. The only thing is, each episode is only four minutes — not enough to even break a sweat. For the past three years I made it a habit to ride my stationary bike every time I sit down to watch anime. If you really want anime to help get you into shape, you can do it on your own way by combining the two. Or maybe you’d like to subscribe to my monthly DVD workshop, One Crunch Manzarek: Crucify Self on Yoga Mat and Die Rising to Heaven!!.

Milpom

I’m going to chalk this one as one of those lost-in-translation casualties, ’cause I have no fucking idea what they were trying to do here. The series revolves around four friends basically shit-talking to each other. That’s usually up my alley if done in a way like, say, The Golden Girls. The way it comes across in Milpom is closer to hearing teenagers talking to each other at the mall.

Maybe this was a satirical take on gyaru culture, seeing how the characters use glitzy mascot heads as fashion accessories, which to their credit are very creative. Using stop motion with dolls is a also something that isn’t common in anime. It’s the dialogue between the characters that range between annoying to insert-pencil-into-my-ears territory that stomps any creative endeavors they were going for in this series.

The only saving grace is the opening theme, which is the best track I’ve heard used in anime this year. If you want to associate with anything relating to Milpom, please only make it this wonderful song by livetune+:


Phew! I think this is my most ambitious effort, yet. Save for a couple series (Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation and The Perfect Insider) that I felt I had to leave aside mainly for time sake- oh, and God Eater being rather erratic with its schedule that pushed itself for viewing at a later date – I watched a lot of damn anime! Lots to write about, too, but I’ve taken enough of your time here. Now, start huntin’!