First Impressions Digest – Hamatora, D-Frag

Hamatora - 01 -1 Hamatora - 01 -12 Frag-1 Frag-8

Let the madness begin.

Hamatora – 01

Hamatora - 01 -2 Hamatora - 01 -3 Hamatora - 01 -4
Hamatora - 01 -5 Hamatora - 01 -6 Hamatora - 01 -7
Hamatora - 01 -8 Hamatora - 01 -9 Hamatora - 01 -10
Hamatora - 01 -11 Hamatora - 01 -13 Hamatora - 01 -14
Hamatora - 01 -15 Hamatora - 01 -16 Hamatora - 01 -17

The next few days are pretty much going to be a death march to try and keep up with the flood of premieres, especially with the second cours of the Fall carryovers starting in earnest tomorrow.  Today it’s two from the vast mid-tier of the expectations list, Hamatora and D-Frag.

Hamatora was something of an intriguing mystery heading into the season – from a new studio (NAZ), with character designs and concept from Kodama Yuuki (Blood Lad) and a well-known director, Kishi Seiji, acting in the “Chief Director” role he’s never played before.  And Kishi is as hit-and-miss as directors get to begin with.

In my preview I said this might have a bit of a Durarara vibe, and in all honesty I think that’s pretty much what they were going for.  In practice, though, the result is something more like K with weaker animation – and while that’s a series I didn’t outright dislike, in this context that’s not a compliment.  Like K, Hamatora feels very forced, as if it’s trying too hard to be cool and hip – the difference being that shows like Durarara (and the even better Baccano!, by the same author) are cool without having to try.

I’d really like to like Hamatora (and I will give it at least another episode).  I like the idea of a show set in Yokohama, an interesting place underrepresented in anime.  Private dicks with superpowers (in this case called “Minimums”) solving crimes while trying to scrape together burger money and not get serial murdered is a decent concept.  It has a cast full of big names as long as your arms and Kodama’s eye-catching character designs.  But the premiere feels like all marketing and no content – like it’s just a treatment that got extended to a full screenplay. We’ll see if there’s an uptick, but for now my feelings are pretty indifferent.

D-Frag – 01

Frag-2 Frag-3 Frag-4
Frag-5 Frag-6 Frag-7
Frag-9 Frag-10 Frag-11

The thing with comedy is, it’s either funny – for you – or it isn’t.  And I didn’t laugh once during the premiere here, so much as a chuckle or a guffaw.  So that’s pretty much a death sentence right there.

I don’t think I’ve ever dropped a Brains Base series that wasn’t an otome game adaptation after less than three episodes – in fact I’ve finished almost all of them, and liked most of those at the very least – but I’m really going to have to psych myself up hard to watch D-Frag next week.  This tired old genre – girls make the guy’s life hell (which was never much good to begin with) has already been done to death.  If this hadn’t been Brains Base I wouldn’t have held out much hope – it’s not as if the manga is widely adored – but I’d hoped their usual good taste in manga adaptations had caught something that wasn’t evident in the synopsis.  So far it doesn’t look like it.

D-Frag really plays as a tired mishmash of a bunch of other mediocre shows, most directly the really abysmal Medaka Box (though it’s not as pompous and self-important, at least).  It has the usual big names sleepwalking through their roles, really mediocre animation (disappointing for Brains Base, though the much better Oregairu was also pretty shoddily made) and so far at least, not an ounce of originality or charm.  This is pretty open-and-shut, though out of loyalty to the studio I might give it one more chance next week.



  1. M

    I think most of the watchers of D-Frag are waiting for Takao-sempai, really. And given the rate of adaptations, she's not going to appear for a while (at the same point the series embraces its insanity).

  2. M

    Uhhhhhhhh if you give the rate of adaptations for D-Frag, Takao WILL appear in the next episode… considering she appears in chapter 4 and the first episode adapted chapters 1-3. O.o

  3. w

    It's a shame Brains Base are doing D-Frag, Hamatora seems a good fit for them, considering they're the ones behind DRRR and Bacanno (which is an all time favorite of mine).

  4. Yeah, I'd take that trade anyday. I guess I'll settle for Noragami as by BB show this season, because it sure feels like one.

  5. w

    They've got another Otome adaption lined up for Spring.. Have they run out of money altogether? I plan to pretend Kami-sama Dolls is airing this season instead of two years ago and watch that weekly instead.

  6. y

    Brains Base is a relatively risk-averse studio that doesn't like investing in production. They're good, but the typical direction for these companies is to cut costs as the years wear on, while utilizing their experience/efficiency to beat less efficient studios at scoring contracts. So basically, the promise is that they can do what Studio X did at a faster rate, at a higher quality level, and for less money.

    The end result is that they stop challenging top tier anime projects (the risk takers go for these, which are increasingly expensive and require more direct investment than ever…..) in favor of the lower echelon.

    Otome game adaptations were once the domain of Studio Deen, but that company isn't producing so much anime these days (and their output is more polished for it). I'd guess that Brains Base either took work away from Deen or were able to move into that niche as the latter scaled back production.

  7. I don't know if I'd say they're risk-averse – or at least if they are, it's a relatively new thing. They did Tonari last year – beautifully animated, by the way – and Blood Lad had a nice look as well, though only ten episodes.

    Historically BB has taken on some interesting, edgy projects – I don't think it would be a stretch to say giving two cours to Mawaru Penguindrum was a big gamble, though it modestly paid off – and delivered some of the most interesting visuals in the business. I think what we're seeing is a devolution on their part, not a continuation of a systemic behavior that they've always had. A concession to the economic realities of the house of pies market and the failure of most of their more ambitious projects.

  8. y

    Well, by risk-aversion, I'm referring more to investment. Generally, Brains Base doesn't join production committees, so there's little risk of financial loss even on experimental projects. A show might tank, but if they stay within budget, no money is actually gained or lost (well, the managers pay themselves well through the production commission, but that's about it). On the other hand, the downside is that they need a constant stream of work for survival because they don't earn royalties. Durarara!! may have made a lot of money for Aniplex, but for Brains Base, the financial reward (or lack thereof) is no different from Amnesia.

    Over time, there's always pressure from high profile companies encroaching into traditional territory, as well as the expansion of young upstarts. For a risk-averse studio, the temptation is to ensure a regular stream of work by marketing their abilities to animate faster/cheaper (naturally, this means that they take lower priority projects in which reduced cost is more important to the client than quality). It's also a vicious cycle because they go through this every time industry conditions change.

  9. M

    Giving MPD one-cour would have been a even bigger gamble considering the director. He would have taken his work elsewhere in all likelihood.

  10. H

    I also got the DRRR and K vibes from Hamataro (although I eventually settled for calling it a Darker than Black copycat because of the "gotta do weird things to use my powers!" gimmick), I feel like this could be a fun show but the way the first episode was done, bleh, just didn't work for multiple reasons for me and can't see myself watching anymore of it.

  11. t

    Hamatora: I agree. I tried to love it but something didn't click for me. it's like when you put a piece of puzzle that is very a like and it almost get in right…but something there is feel weird, it's not going as smooth as it should be with other pieces. and that's exactly with Hamatora for me.

    I found the idea really nice – solving crimes and/or dealing with some other jobs like guarding's all from the crime/police/detective world. and I like it (despite the fact that these cases were almost too easy..).
    same with the thing of holders. it's nice addition. but yeah, totally reminds K. not only in terms of power, but execution as I stated above – something didn't click for me. and it's true for the comic touch as well (THO I liked the atmosphere in the bar they still need to work on that part).

    still, I am hoping that Hamatora can gather itself. it was more like introduction episode. not to mention that they didn't really touch the main thing as I read from the synopsis.
    so there is still potential here to set things to work out.

    well, it's either funny for you or it doesn't.
    I found this very funny and nice. giving me vibes of Chuunibyou's craziness but even much more crazy and energetic HaHa 😛
    however I think the problem is the length of this show. the first 15 minutes work out for perfectly. it was funny, pleasant, enjoyable.
    but ever since the exposition has over and we were introduced with the didn't feel right. pushy too much (and not just a locker :P). THO the finish scene was better.
    I hope they can work out on this because I really find this show to be able to be a good comic relief.

  12. 4

    The first episode of D-Frag! was really good. I read the manga, so I was a bit wary at first, because I had no idea how Brains Base want to do this adapation. In the end it turned out better than I thought.

  13. A

    I like D-Frag, and I didn't really care for episode 1. Not that I cared for the beginning of the manga in the first place, but I don't think Brains Base is trying too hard either.

    Well, they missed a couple jokes, but at least they didn't try to replace the fast-pace slapstick and comedic timing with slice of life stuff like they did with TWGOK or Prisma Illya, Now I can just chalk it up as "not as good as the manga", instead of "crime against the source material". That's a good thing, right?

  14. Just to be clear – you aren't suggesting those other two series are Brains Base, are you?

  15. A

    Sorry, I may have phrased that wrong. I have nothing against Brains Base. Those are just random comedies that I liked before they were adapted into something that I don't think even attempted to make me laugh, and decided to appeal to some other audience instead. Well, in my opinion, at least.

    Although, there /was/ some speculation that Manglobe would be the one to adapt D-Frag after a very short reference in TWGOK S2. I'm honestly very grateful that this didn't come to pass.

  16. Just wanted to make sure…

    This really seems like an odd choice for Brains Base to me. Not at all their style – and I think that shows up in the first episode.

  17. i

    I think Enzo's taste in comedy has a soft spot for Meta (otherwise following a moepig anime like Outbreak Company would be impossible) and jokes that take understanding.

    Those aren't my types of comedy. I want to be entertained on the spot with a gag that takes a minimal brain processing power. So with D-Frag and SYD2 I'm very well catered for, especially since one thing Fall lacked was a good comedy. With a good cast (something my sensitive ears likes) and some simple but great jokes, I laughed the hardest I have this year. And seriously why is Harima in this anime? Is this his manga or something? The one he kept drawing over 2 seasons. Anyway this is a definite keeper.

    Hamatora entertained the same way K did, I liked it but wasn't too blown away. But I prefer bishies to moe so I'll see how long it goes without going crazy like K. Doesn't have the punch of Durarara but isn't as simple as K.

  18. I think if you look at the list of comedies I've really liked over the last few years, there's very little that's remotely meta on it. I just don't think D-Frag is funny.

  19. m

    Haha I don't think most people like "meta" humor in general. Tho I must admit I've rarely found Japanese humor anywhere near as funny as I do American humor. The wordplay jokes are way to Abbot and Costelloish for my tastes. The "low brow" stuff will make me laugh in any language, but overall growing up with American/British shows/movies and stand-up I've never laughed nearly as much from Anime pure comedies. It's nice when it's mixed into action or other genres tho.

  20. Z

    While it can be amusing sometimes, I often find a reliance on meta humour an excuse for the writers not to come up with their own scenarios. Witty humour works for me.

  21. i

    I didn't say just meta but also animes where the jokes need understanding like say Hoozuki no Reitetsu.

  22. d

    I enjoyed Hamatora well enough. It wasn't anything too amazing, but then again nothing has came across as too special to me so far this season, so I'm not writing it off so quickly. As for D-Frag, I didn't watch it. I'm not one to usually laugh at anime, so when it seemed that that was this anime's biggest selling point, I kind of wrote it off. It doesn't seem I missed too much, at least.

  23. R

    I didn't try D-Frag — simply didn't have the motivation and interest to — and I'm a little sad and disappointed at Brain's Base. Since Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, I haven't found one series — not even Blood Lad — that I liked from them, and they have been producing disappointing shows, like Amnesia and Brothers Conflict. I'm starting to worry…

    As for Hamatora, I find it okay. To me, it's a mixed of Code:Breaker and K on a much lighter tone, but now that you said DRRR, I kinda agree. I will stick around for a bit to see if there's anything that sparks and can carry the show for its run.

  24. m

    I liked the premier of Hamatora. I didn't think it was anything amazing, but it felt like a decent introductory episode with hints of potential in the story down the road. By no means can I see it being Baccano, but that would be an extremely high bar to reach anyway.

    As for D-frag I completely agree that the whole "girls make guys life miserable" shtick is played out, and has been from the first moment it was used. That is up there with "guy lets girl physically abuse him consistently without getting mad", and "girl verbally abuses man for 'insert any random reason to hide the fact that shes mad bc she didn't get the attention she wanted' and he just accepts it like it's true/apologizes", and "oblivious to a ridiculous degree MC" in massively annoying anime clichés. If there was a show where a guy did that to a girl there would be massive outrage. Like Nagi Asakura when after episode 1 people hopped on the Hikari hate train.

Leave a Comment