Fall 2017 Premiers – The Good: Part 2

I’m a bit intimidated by this season – there are more shows I want to follow than I remember there being in a long time, and almost all of them have caught be by surprise. I haven’t even managed to get to Land of the Lustrous, Girl’s Last Tour or Children of the Whales yet and I’m already overwhelmed. Still, too much good anime is a good problem to have!

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Today, we’ll be covering a few more of the premiers that stuck with me – on the docket is Ancient Magus’s Bride (predictably), Kino’s Journey, Konohana Kitan and Anime-Gataris.


The Ancient Magus Bride

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The long-awaited anime adaptation is here! Given that Ancient Magus’ Bride is one of my favorite current running manga, it’s no surprise that I’ve been looking forward to this. Actually, I’ve seen the first three episodes thanks to that advance screening Crunchyroll gave in theaters (here’s hoping they do more of that – it was good fun!) so I’ve got a pretty good sense of what’s coming, and I’m quite pleased with it.

I’m not going to get into the core premise of Ancient Magus’ Bride here, because it’s a complex bit of machinery – it seems to have the edgiest possible setup, and anime has conditioned me to expect the worst when tackling dark topics like abuse, suicide, human trafficking, etc. Pleasingly, while Magus’ Bride has its roots in that dark material, the story that blossoms from it is gentle and uplifting: a continuous celebration of beauty and life.

That gentleness comes through in this episode – we’re taken through many settings, from the stiff majesty of a formal auction house to the warm hospitality of a cottage in the English countryside to the liminal stillness of a fairy-lit forest, but each of these is beautiful in its own way. Though life hasn’t been kind to Chise, our protagonist, the world around her seems literally determined to comfort and support her. The many fairies who inhabit the world can’t seem to resist giving Chise a good cuddle at every opportunity (this is an ongoing theme, and consistently one of my favorite parts of the manga).

Still, despite my delight I can’t say it’s quite where I want it to be as an adaptation. Though the visual design, the colors and the animation range from competent to great, it hews so close to the manga that it can’t help but fall short of that mark – the manga is brilliant, and even the most spot-on moments of the anime feel like a step down. I think there’s an interesting comparison to be made against, for instance, Kyoani’s Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid adaptation from last winter. Dragon Maid was also an adaptation of a comic I dearly love, but a much looser one – it felt comfortable doing it’s own thing and didn’t cling as tightly to its source material. It ended up being something special in its own right, distinct from the quality of the original manga. I was frankly hoping for something similar with this, but it seems not to be the case.

That said, it is nowhere near the travesty that was Centaur’s Life from last season, and when it comes to adaptations, I’ll take competent-if-a-bit-too-literal over gross-malpractice any day. At bare minimum, this is serviceable way to experience this story if for some reason the manga isn’t an option (but seriously: read the manga if you can). And in all fairness we do get the occasional brilliant good cut – the animators clearly had a great deal of fun with some of the super-deformed segments.

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I’ll keep watching this. I hope it gets a little more comfortable in it’s own skin after the first three episodes, but even if not it is still shaping up to be a worthwhile watch.


Kino’s Journey

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I’ve heard of Kino’s Journey before, but this is my first time with the story myself. End result is: I really enjoyed it, but with a few hesitations.

I’m a sucker for stories about travel, and so right from the get go Kino is appealing to me. There’s a natural romance to the idea of living on the road, seeing new things every day and living an independent life with the means to hand. This first episode really does serve to capture that feeling.

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Because I’m a little unfamiliar with the series, there are a few things I’m unclear on from this first episode, but I’m happy to roll with it. Kino seems to be non-binary, which jives with several series descriptions I’ve heard, and is an interpretation I find compelling – though I’m not sure how intentional/canonical that is in terms of original authorial intent. Happily, we can ignore that, because it’s real dang nice to get a NB protagonist (between this an Land of the Lustrous it seems a good season for that).

I’m also not sure what to make of Hermes the Talking Bike. It seems that to be exactly that – Hermes is Kino’s talking motorcycle, which is apparently normal for this fictional world? It does not seem to be an imaginary-friend or only-Kino-can-hear scenario, as Hermes routinely interacts with other folks in this episode, and they respond as though conversing with a bike is perfectly normal. We might get more explanation for it later, but at present it seems just to be a quirk of the show – but one I’m happy to roll with, as it makes for interesting stories.

Animation wise, there’s nothing breathtaking going on here, but it’s definitely pleasing to the eye. I don’t think there’s any point at which things stray off model, and there are no especially flashy cuts. I’d be tempted to call it “workmanlike” or “spartan” but I don’t think that does it justice, because its a very good looking show. Staying on-model seems very in-tone with the show’s writing and designs – it’s deliberate and pensive, and it looks good.

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The main source of discomfort in this episode is the specific subject matter: Kino ends up in a country that is seemingly lawless – killing humans isn’t illegal – but despite this seems both cultured and peaceful. The concept is that the townsfolk of this place are good and responsible, and so they themselves are able to communally keep the peace – by killing people who do bad things. This is demonstrated across the story of the episode, and it all plays out a bit a libertarian’s wet dream, and really leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t think for a second that the authorial intent here is to actually propose or support this as a legitimate real-world system of society, but the fact is there are numerous people in the world who would. I have a significant number of conservative, hard-second-amendment-type family members, and the sort of scenario that plays out in this episode is exactly the the sort of self-indulgent fantasy they tend to carry around in their heads when they justify their beliefs and politics.

That said, it’s important to note that this story was original written in 2003, when the world was much different, and in any case comes from Japan which has a very different cultural context than I do living in the US. Like I said, I certainly don’t think the US pro-gun stance is at all what the creative team is going for here – it’s just an uncomfortable alignment of ideas.

It’s also worth pointing out that while the show doesn’t exactly interrogate the society that this episode features, neither does it endorse it. This seems very in line with the character of Kino – Kino is a reserved and observant sort, much more keen to watch and learn than to express vocal judgement. I have a feeling the show is going to resemble the character in this way – it seems more interested in giving us a glimpse of humanity without an explicit moralization. A show like that shouldn’t always be a comfortable watch, and I’m down with that (although, if it turns out to be episode-after-episode of discomfort in this exact same vein, I could become non-down fairly quickly).

For now though, I enjoyed significantly more than I was discomforted, and I’m down for more.


Konohana Kitan

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A cute show appeared. I’m not going to dwell that much on this one, other than to say I enjoyed it a lot. Honestly, this show is cute to the point of saccharine, and so it may not be everyone’s thing. I’m down with that though, and as luck would have it I watched this right after watching Juuni Taisen and King’s Game, and so I was ready for something lighthearted and sweet, and this hit me just right.

We’re looking at a cute-girls-doing-cute-things show, the cute thing being the running of an onsen set in what appears to be an animal-people fantasy world. This latter could be seen as a distinguishing characteristic, as characters range cute cat/dog-eared girls to full-blown anthropomorphic animal people, Redwall-style – though the main cast are all the mostly-human-looking neko/inumimi types you’d expect. There’s a lot of variety in the sizes of these characters, which gets played to good effect several times in this first episode.

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The animation, while not as expressive as something like New Game or Love Lab is serviceable, and comfortable going off-model, with ample use of super-deformation. For folks who don’t enjoy cute things, this’ll probably be entirely unappealing, but I was delighted. In particular, main character Yuzu spends half the episode wearing various cartoonily overwhelmed expressions, particularly a diamond-mouthed stupor which gave me a smile whenever it cropped up.

The relationships between the main cast feel unoriginal but sincere, which is much better than the other way around. The show has some gay subtext; it would be lovely if that were to turn textual and be addressed in the show, but I think it’s more likely it’ll stick to flirtatious winking and nudging, as is so often the case.  There is some fanservice baked in – it does take place in an onsen after all – so several scenes take place in the bath, and there’s a brief but salacious shot of the main girl getting a good scrubdown. Mercifully, none of this falls into the most egregious sin of conveniently placed pillars of “buy-the-bluray-to-see-the-nipples” light – this show isn’t in that category.  Speaking honestly, this level of service rarely bothers me, and I’ll often even enjoy it. That said, I know that for others it can be bothersome, so be aware going in.

It’s cute and refreshing. I’ll definitely keep watching it.


Anime-Gataris

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I’m not quite sure what to make of Anime-Gataris yet, but I enjoyed the first episode enough to keep going. One thing I do know is that it has the best OP that I’ve seen this season – both the music and the presentation are really catchy and stylish, and I found myself watching it over more than once since then.

As for the show itself, it’s enjoyable, but I need another episode to see where it goes. At a glance, it seems to be a high school comedy about discussing and enjoying anime using parody titles that are obvious homages to existing series. However, some twists towards the end of the episode, as well as some annoying spoilers in the series description on crunchyroll make it clear that there’s more going on, though it’s not really clear what that is yet. A few signs are hovering around that this may shift Madoka/YuYuYu-style into dark/edgy territory, which I would find pretty disappointing. That said, my gut is telling me that me that while things are almost certainly to get weird and maybe a bit surreal, it won’t go in the dark/violent direction. I hope I’m correct.

I strongly suspect that a good chunk of the show’s humor is going over my head in the form of linguistic puns in the spoof anime-titles that are rattled off in conversation between characters. The subs attempt to do these justice, but puns are difficult to translate, and so I imagine I’m not getting all of it. That said, another good source of humor and enjoyment is the bright and colorful character designs, and the enthusiasm that the characters gush – it’s very refreshing to watch a story about friendly and supportive people be enthusiastic about what they love, and Anime-Gataris is giving me that in spades.

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The animation is solid; it feels loose and relaxed. It doesn’t have the pure energy that a Doga Kobo production might, or the polished character acting I expect from KyoAni (these being some of my gold-standards) but I’m quite pleased with what’s here. There are even some playful visual puns – a charming segment where one character pulls a ridiculous moose hat directly out from another character’s confused reaction earned a chuckle from me. Often anime is at pains to make itself internally consistent, so it’s delightful to see one indulge in this sort of cartoon logic.

All considered, I enjoyed this first episode. I’m not sure where this story is going, and I can see some branching pathways that might lead to disappointing directions, but I’m hopeful it will only end up going to good places instead.


That’s it for today’s post – thanks for reading! If you enjoyed reading this, please like and share with your buddies.

~King

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