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
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.