First Impressions Digest – Tokyo Ravens, Machine Doll wa Kizutsukanai

Tokyo Ravens - 01 -5 Tokyo Ravens - 01 -10 UMD - 01 -1 UMD - 01 -3

So that’s one “maybe” and one “no”.

Tokyo Ravens – 01

Tokyo Ravens - 01 -1 Tokyo Ravens - 01 -2 Tokyo Ravens - 01 -3
Tokyo Ravens - 01 -4 Tokyo Ravens - 01 -6 Tokyo Ravens - 01 -7
Tokyo Ravens - 01 -8 Tokyo Ravens - 01 -9 Tokyo Ravens - 01 -11
Tokyo Ravens - 01 -12 Tokyo Ravens - 01 -13 Tokyo Ravens - 01 -14

Tokyo Ravens was solidly in the middle of my expectations range.  It’s a story about Onmyoudo, which I like, but it’s a LN adaptation from a studio without a long list of accomplishments.  Pretty good but not great staff and director, decent cast.  And in the end, it’s not far off from what I expected – a middle-of-the-pack show, but definitely a cut about strictly mediocre.  There are some good things in this premiere, though nothing that blew me away.

I’ve noticed an interesting trend with Kimura Ryouhei, who seems more and more to be drifting into sidekick and supporting roles.  I’m not sure why a guy who’d mostly been playing leads and who’s both a good and commercially successful seiyuu should see this happen, but it’s unmistakable.  Here he plays Ato Touji, strictly the supporting player to Tsuchimikado Harutora, the scion of a branch of the family of Abeno Seimi with no talent for seeing spirits.  He’s played by Ishikawa Kaitou, who seems to be getting a lot of those leading roles (and he’s good, so no issues there).  The setting is the small town where these two go to school with Hokuto (Kanemoto Hisako), the osananjimi who’s got her sights firmly set on Harutora – and on seeing him become a state onmyouji despite his lack of self confidence.  He’s already pledged to be the medium of his cousin from the main family, Natsume (Hanazawa Kana).

There’s some interesting stuff here, both in terms of premise and execution.  Onmyoudo is a way of life in this modern Japan, just another family responsibility for Harutora.  Most of the episode is on the reflective and slow-paced side, until a rogue member of the governments “Twelve Great Generals”, Dairenji Suzuka (Sakura Ayane) shows up at the local matsuri looking for Natsume but finding Harutora instead.  I liked a lot of those slice-of-life scenes, which had some nice art of unspectacular animation, and the BGM and sound design are quite striking too.

But there are some flaws, starting with the female characters – all of whom seem like pretty cookie-cutter takes on the standard anime tropes of the day (Hokuto especially is a walking encyclopedia of cliches, the hyper-genki and kawaii childhood friend straight out of the manual).  We once again see some awkward and stiff CGI in places we really shouldn’t be seeing it, which is not one of my favorite trends this season.  I can see Tokyo Ravens being a pretty good watch – the basics seem to be in place for an engaging story, and there is a distinct sense of style that pervades the episode.  But it does seem very much a product of convention, and while it does many things a notch or two better than average there’s nothing so far that looks exceptional.  A classic three-episode rule candidate if ever one existed.

Machine Doll wa Kizutsukanai – 01

UMD - 01 -2 UMD - 01 -4 UMD - 01 -5
UMD - 01 -6 UMD - 01 -7 UMD - 01 -8

I’m sure Unbreakable Machine Doll is fine for what it is, and I’m the first to admit that my dislike of it is strictly a matter of personal taste.  But I think I’ve gotten to the point where I have a zero tolerance level for everything this anime brings to table.  Nauseatingly cute girls, most of whom are deadly weapons, Shimono Hiro playing teenagers, self-aware dialogue, hentai jokes followed by slaps…  That we get yet more incredibly bad CGI is strictly gravy.  It just reeks of the modern LN adaptation from every pore, and everything about it annoyed the hell out of me.  I give it points for trying to inject a sort of Victorian/steampunk vibe, but apart from that it all seems pretty old hat.  I’m not the target audience for this one so I happily leave it in the rear-view mirror.



  1. t

    I kinda like Tokyo Ravens. yes it wasn't great, but the premiere was decent.
    animation is nice and lively, yet darker when necessary. character desing was good too and I like that robot-model. CG stuff?almost didn't bother (I'll say that for once – the moment we survived kingdom s1..nothing else can be worse, LOL), and even the change of heart the animation did with the robot-model didn't interrupt the flow, and fitted to the atmosphere.
    I didn't like that weido girl with the candy..but the other two aren't that bad.
    I think with a little more push next episode, we can hook up with the characters, it's just need a bit more time.

    ED was exceptionally bizarre-funny style. it really caught me off guard.
    anyway..I think that this show has potential. it reminded me maou-sama – shonen and action stuff side by other stuff such as drama and comedy, while comic touch is yet far..well it's only first episode and as you said – classic 3-episode check is indeed necessary.

  2. c

    I think you pretty much hit the nail with your Tokyo Ravens comment. As a researcher on religion & magic(k) in animanga, the premise is right up my alley; however as you noted, there's a lot that seems to be pretty much 'by the book' here.

  3. f

    Several shows this season seem to be featuring fairly new/inexperienced seiyuu in lead roles – we have Ishikawa Kaito in four lead roles this season, who (according to his MAL profile) is a relatively new seiyuu. I'm almost entirely unfamiliar with Yowamushi Pedal's main cast, and Samurai Flamenco has Masuda Toshiki, who's also a pretty new person. I think it's nice to hear different voices in anime – I like all the established ones, of course, but the voices of the summer season all seem a bit too familiar. (Or it could be that last season I didn't watch anything with new seiyuu, and this season I am.)

    But I noticed that KanaHana is still in every other show on RC's fall preview.

  4. E

    cute japanese girl in kimono, check
    tsundere blonde girl in round hat, check

  5. k

    I don't think Kimura is getting sidelined – it's just that there are many male seiyuu around, and it's not like he can get lead roles all the time. This year so far he played lead in Valvrave, Silver Spoon and Boku wa tomodachi ga sukunai. That's better than say, Fukuyama Jun who is a bigger name and yet had only one actual leading role this year (so far). Besides, often tasty supporting roles are better than the main character (re: Fukuyama in Mushibugyou or Ixion Saga DT).

    Ishikawa Kaito is a newcomer, but he has a good voice and his agency is pushing him with all they've got, so he landed more main roles than Kimura, but not more leading roles: he was the protagonist in Gargantia and now in Tokyo Ravens, and that's pretty much it. Sure, he's Tsumugu in Nagi no asukara but there the lead character is Hikaru and/or Manaka, Mao in Super Seishun Bros (ensemble cast so again, not a leading role), Manatsu in RDG (not a lead role), and some main-ish role in the current incarnation of Inazuma 11… and I think that's it.

  6. h

    I think Kimura has graduated to the status where he can command leading-role money for playing supporting roles. Each season, we do tend to see younger seiyuus in one or two leading roles and older seiyuus in multiple supporting roles. I may be wrong, but I think this is somehow a result of pay scales.

    Personally, I moderately enjoyed both of these first episodes, about equally. In my opinion, originality is overrated in anime, and in most cases shows do their best when they give us good versions of successful memes (also known as "cliches"). I thought Kanemoto Hisako did a nice job of the genki osananajimi role. And Harada Hitomi was a sympathtic raunchy machine-girl. As you say, it's a matter of personal preference. I have some low taste to go with whatever higher taste I have. I enjoyed your praise of House of Five Leaves.

  7. Doesn't seem to be impacting KanaHana much…

  8. i

    I'm shocked you made it through an episode of Machine Doll. I rebooted my computer after 2 minutes of it.

    I was actually looking forward to Tokyo Ravens and it had many of the things I too would normally like but also plenty of things I don't. The biggest problem for me is that I don't feel compelled by it. I'm not invested in the characters, story or world. Nothing stands out. If there exists such a term I think Tokyo Ravens is standard, its as by the book as imaginable and I no longer have an interest in following shows like that anymore. If it gets interesting please blog it but I'm keeping my predictions (no hope or expectations after that premiere) low.

  9. M

    Yea,well…tons of mediocre series this season and it seems a lot of them are out during the week.The better ones are apparently closer to & during the weekend,which is a good thing if you ask me.

  10. S

    Just some thoughts since I've read both manga (Not the LN for Unbreakable machine doll). First of, Yaya is far less annoying in comparison to the show, and I have no idea why they made Yaya like that otherwise, as it's only an aspect of her personality. The Manga or rather the LN gets much deeper into forbidden technologies, taboos and conspiracy as the story progresses. The main character is a pretty much a shounen who won't stand for wrong, no matter what. A bit cliche, but if you can ignore the fact that Yaya is way misrepresented, I think the issues and the world building of Unbreakable Machine Doll might interest you. It's sad that they had to stick to the usual silliness of Yaya being to cutesy or rather horny, when she hardly does as much in the manga.

    Tokyo Ravens on the other hand, is a mix of comedy and seriousness. This is also an arc that takes a while to reach over probably by episode 3. There also well "reasons" why certain characters are literally walking tropes at the moment. Also, do note that the main character is literally an idiot. I personally think that the show has great comedic moments, while slowly pacing through the story at the moment. It's not bad, but definitely above average to me at least.

    I'm not surprised if the shows might cause some disinterest, they're ones that take a while to get to like, and well Yaya… yet again is just ridiculous since she's acting way too much of one aspect of her at the moment as some sort of way to like appeal to the audience.

  11. K

    Tokyo Ravens was surprisingly enjoyable. Lots of clichés, but the execution was decent, and none of the characters were especially bad or distasteful. I generally don't like the genki osananamiji trope, but this one was quite tolerable, almost enjoyable. I'll stick around for this.

    As for Machine Dolls, I'm sure there was a time many many years ago I would have enjoyed it on a superficial level. Now, the premise and characters just don't interest me anymore. It has been done too many times, and it does not have anything special to offer.

  12. R

    Tokyo Ravans was pretty okay until the blonde girl showed up. With the huge number of shows that I want to stick to this season, I'm not sure if I will have time for this one, but I will stay on for a couple more episodes to decide.

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