Escha & Logy has an interesting history – it’s the 15th game in an RPG series called “Atelier”, though the first to get an anime adaptation. I already had some interest here because I’m fond of Studio Gokumi, which while founded largely by Gonzo escapees seems to have developed just a bit of a Gainax vibe (and has many old Gainax hands on board). And when commenter friedsiopao compared it to Yokahama Kaidashi Kikou, that really caught my attention – I revere that manga profoundly. That of course is a bit of a double-edged sword, because it’s almost impossible for any other series to measure up to the comparison.
The first episode was modestly entertaining, and I do get where the YKK part comes in – it’s a post-apocalyptic world focused on the daily lives of the survivors, for whom this reality is normal because it’s the only one they know. Heck, it even has an android. I see nothing in the premiere that leads me to believe it has a fraction of YKK’s subtlety, depth and emotional power – instead, it’s a pleasant but forgettable diversion, so far anyway.
Heroine Eschy is played by Murakawa Rie, and both the character and the breathy performance are a bit too hyper-kawaii for me. They tend to take the tone of the premiere a bit too close to the saccharine for my tastes. The male lead is Logix “Logy” Ficsario (Ishikawa Kaitou), a newly-minted alchemist from the big city (yes, they call it “Central” here too) come to the small town of Colseit to work with Eschy – also newly minted alchemist – in the R & D Department of the local alchemy branch. He’s as low-key as she is genki, so at least the two of them balance each other out. A raft of other local denizens are introduced, the most impact being made by Clone (Yamamura Hibiku) the automaton who manages the apple orchard where Eschy lives and seems to act as her guardian.
There isn’t a lot of exposition for new viewers here – a little research tells you about the impending “Dusk End” and such, but it doesn’t get much mention in the premiere. There are floating ruins above the town that are clearly going to be crucial, but the sense here is of a “not with a bang but a whimper” style endtime slice of life. As for the look of the series, it’s appealing in the sense that it looks as if it just fell out of a storybook – which is exactly what they were going for – but certainly not as immediately eye-catching as the fabulous premiere of Gokiumi’s Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge. I’ll give this a couple more weeks to show me its true colors – in principle this could be the story I like a lot, but I’m not yet convinced the writing and execution is going to be up to the challenge.
Mekaku City Actors – 01
Yup, that’s a “no”.
This is another show, as it turns out, that has a major controversy swarming around it (Mahouka and the author’s right-wing politics is the other) that I was completely unaware of until after watching it and deciding it wasn’t anything special. Apparently Mekaku City Actors parent mythos, the Vocaloid-based Kagerou Project, is notorious in Japan for having exceptionally rude fans (female and unusually young, or so I read) and thus has reaped a harvest of scorn from more traditional otaku-centric fanbases. The usual places are rife with posts hoping and predicting disaster for this adaptation and anything associated with it.
For me, all of that is Jimmy crack corn, and I don’t care – I didn’t much like the premiere (in truth, I couldn’t even finish it) for completely unrelated reasons. I continue to be mystified that Shinbou Akiyuki can use the same cheap, tired gimmicks over and over with seemingly no consequences commercially and even critically. Does no one see that the Emperor has no clothes? It’s no wonder he’s able to direct so many series, because what he does can’t be all that hard – cut corners by using the same half-dozen or so visual tricks thinly disguised as something different and spew pretentious dialogue. I’m assuming he’s on some kind of work from home plan at the moment, so he can mail it in literally as well as creatively. There was a time when I liked quite a few Shinbou series, but I find everything Shaft borderline unwatchable now – with his increasing commercial success Shinbou (who effectively is Shaft) has become more and more repetitive and predictable in his style, sticking with what he knows cashes the checks.
Still, for all that, there was something in Mekaku City Actors that seemed interesting to me – its unusual genesis, the original art, some of the nuggets of story – and I always go into a Shinbou show thinking this might be the one that wins me back. But this premiere… Well, it was better than Sasami-san, I’ll give it that. But if there’s been a more annoying character (OK, there is Enju) than virtual assistant Ene (Asumi Kana) in the last year I can’t remember it. I get that she’s supposed to be irritating, but this was just torture. Asumi is generally on thin ice as a seiyuu anyway, but she crashes through into the frigid waters in the first 30 seconds here. And I’m also rather put off that we seem to be getting an endless string of series featuring NEETs of late – while they’ve been popular subjects for anime for a while, this is an epidemic. The Hikikomori/NEET (and yes, they are very different) is a very real problem in Japan and the real-life ones deserve to be treated with compassion and empathy. But they’ve come to represent a kind of cheap gimmick to give the disc-buying public something to identify with while at the same time feel superior. It’s an unpleasant trend and I hope it’s peaking now.
If anything, Mekaku City Actors plays like a Nisio Isin wannabe – even more so than most of Shinbou’s shows of late (the ones that aren’t actually Nisio Isin, that is). I know there’s going to be a focus on other characters besides Ene and annoying mope lead Shintarou (Terashima Takuma) in upcoming eps, and I suppose in theory that might make things better. But the writing and direction isn’t going to change, and I can’t see any likelihood I’m going to be able to psych myself up to endure another episode.