So this is the first post on this blog, but I figure rather than making a big to-do about it I may as well jump right in. The Fall Season has been flooding me this past week, and though I haven’t made it through all the premiers yet, I’m gonna go ahead and post about what I have seen.
This season has been a pleasant surprise. I went into it without any real expectations – I was looking forward to Ancient Magus’ Bride, but that was about it. A good number of things have ended up catching my eye though, and it’s shaping up to be a busy season. For this post, I’ll focus on the things I’ve really been enjoying.
I’ve labelled this Part 1, since there’s really too much to talk about in a single post – so I’ll be posting more later. But for now, here’s what’s been good:
This is definitely my biggest surprise of the season; I’d not even heard of this title until I started seeing buzz on twitter, and might have skipped it entirely if not for the positive word.
In fairness, I’m probably more susceptible than most to the basic premise here: Morioka Moriko, thirty years old, has voluntarily quit her job to become a NEET, and ends up addicted to an MMO. Before the first episode is out she’s descended to the point where she gets the entirety of her social interaction from the game. All of this is deep in my strike zone – we’re by no means identical, but there are enough similarities that this really hits home. I appreciate the setup, especially since it’s an age-demographic I feel we rarely see anime featuring. I wish more anime would center stories on characters who are well established in adulthood, though probably that’s a selfish desire to see myself reflected back in my media.
The animation here isn’t the most eye-catching, but it’s sufficiently competent to not get in the way of things. The main visual hook is the tonal shift between the bright colors of the MMO world and a drab reality, especially the unkempt pile that is Moriko’s apartment. Where this works best is in the cuts between Moriko’s in-game avatar and the real-life Moriko behind the monitor – her faces are delightful, both expressive and a bit cartoony. (The ED also has some really good viewpoint-from-the-monitor gags as well – I really like it!)
If I have a gripe, it’s that the MMO setting itself seems pretty uninteresting, and the characters we see in the real world are much more expressive than their digital counterparts. I’m hoping the focus hews closer to following the real-world characters, using the MMO as a tool towards that, rather than making the MMO game world the primary setting – time will tell though.
There’s some interesting potential here for some exploration of gender: Moriko makes her in-game avatar a hot guy, and seems quite eager to flirt with the cute girl avatar Lily (though it’s shortly revealed that Lily is played by a mans). Moriko seems to have a clear understanding that MMO-gender doesn’t always correspond to real-world gender, but she also seems happy to go along with things regardless.
That said, this digital gender-swap has been done before numerous times, and more often than not turns out either banal or uncomfortable, so while I’ll be hopeful we’ll get an interesting take out of it, I’m not exactly holding my breath. Regardless, this first episode was charming and engaging, and I’m down for more next week!
Speaking of stories about adults, I’m already in love with Love is Like a Cocktail. At 3 minutes an episode, this show is looking like it’ll make a delicious palette cleanser, and it’s sweet as could be. The simple premise is, Mizusawa Chisato is a competent, put-together team lead at work, but loses that stern demeanor the second she gets alcohol – and naturally her (seemingly) stay-at-home house-husband can’t help but meet her homecoming with a nice fresh cocktail. A great many cute expressions ensue.
Not much else to say about a 3-minute episode. It’s nice to see a married couple interacting as the focus of an anime. We briefly get to meet one of Chisato’s junior co-workers who I badly want to get more screentime – I imagine that will come in future episodes. Finally, the first episode actually gave a recipe for the cocktail that was featured, which is nice – I suspect we’ll be seeing one of those per episode; it may be fun to try a few!
Urahara is, just in general, A Lot. I’m not even sure where to begin with this show, other than to say I liked it. I went in blind, not knowing anything about it, and came out of it delighted.
Premise: three girls, Rito, Mari and Kotoko are working to open a specialty shop in Harajuku, but are rudely interrupted by invading space aliens looking to steal humanity’s culture; one short magical girl transformation sequence later, and they’re off saving the day. This may seem a bit light on story, because it is – this seems to be a series wherein narrative causality is taken more as a suggestion than a principle; the focus is on strong theme and tone rather than point-by-point plotting.
I imagine that the visuals at play will be pretty divisive, and indeed with a 5.5 on MAL this seems to not be hitting everyone’s first impressions positively. The pastel palette, rough-hewn backgrounds and frenetic story-boarding all make for an experience that I imagine will be polarizing, but in the end it really worked for me. I was especially enjoyed the pawn-shop-chic magical girl costume design and the loosely drawn backgrounds – the episode starts with several entirely pleasing shots of the latter.
I was interested enough to do a little staff digging, and it looks like this is director Kubo Amika’s debut for directing a TV anime, but per this ANN interview she’s been directing shorter work like commercials and music videos for a while. She has a vimeo channel, and there are several utterly adorable mixed-media videos in there that I quite like. This clearly comes through in Urahara, which uses mixed media both visually (it’s used in several BG shots) as well as thematically (the girls themselves seem to be cobbling their shop’s stock together from whatever is at hand, and their magical girl outfits and powers have the same composition). There are also a number of pleasing cuts that feel very music-video-like to me:
This doesn’t necessarily work 100% of the time – in particular, there are several split screen cuts that don’t exactly grab me, but it’s possible that will grow on me as well. Overall though Urahara feels weird and fresh and experimental, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.
So that’s it for this first post – thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. If it inspired any thoughts from you, I’d love to hear from you in the comments, or on my twitter. If you really liked it, please consider sharing for your friends to read also!