First Impressions – M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane

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So Okada Mari and Satou Junichi got together to do a mecha anime…  Wait – who did what, now?

A confession – I really shouldn’t have watched this week’s Hunter X Hunter before watching M3 (or any other show).  But the fact is I didn’t want to wait any longer than I had to to watch that, and as a result I had to psych myself up for quite a while before finally queueing this one up.  It’s not really fair and I’ll be the first to admit that, but that’s not to say a premiere can’t still make an impression – if it’s good enough.  But I’m not sure this one was.

I wasn’t really sure what to make of M3 going in, and with names as big and styles as distinctive as Satou and Okada, it’s not easy to go in without preconceptions.  Neither one of them are exactly what you’d call specialists in this genre, and to be honest I think that shows through in the premiere.  It’s not bad or anything, but it plays as if it was put together from a kit rather than built from scratch.  There’s a very prefab sense to the way the plot and characters are introduced, the characters themselves, and the way they interact.

In truth, no one really made an impression on me in the premiere except Hazaki Emiru (Hikasa Yoko) and that’s because she was so annoying.  All of the other students turned test pilots else are pretty featureless.  The most interesting part of the episode for me, in fact, was the pre-open featuring what I assume are those boring teenagers as scared children with darkness closing in around them – but it was mostly downhill after that.  There are nice stylish touches by Satou-sensei and the music is quite good, but not much else that’s really distinctive.  There might be some possibility in the notion of the monsters being the souls of dead people who retain their human emotions, but I don’t see a lot of reason to think M3 can tease it out.  There are still a couple more cast members to be introduced, so perhaps they’ll inject a little life into things.

It should also be pointed out that this is strictly from the bargain-basement side of the Satelight production spectrum – lots of really bad CGI and animation and art that’s old-fashioned but not in the charming way.  It’s the same basic look that helped torpedo Arata Kangatari (a very good manga which surely deserved better).  This is a weird studio – everything they do either seems to look really great or incredibly cheap, with nothing falling in-between.  Any time a show is announced as late as this one was (and it was the final premiere of the season by a wide margin) you always need to worry about the production schedule and budget, and whether the project was really thought-out as it should have been.  The early returns aren’t promising, but there were a few glimmers of something interesting hidden amongst the blandness – I’ll give M3 another week to see if it can do something to catch my interest.

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17 comments

  1. R

    so, can we consider this as Okada's off-season after her last series? Wixoss was just plain horrible.

    as for this, it seems like she might crank up the drama way up (after her restrained work in NnA). The whole "Admonitions are made of human souls" just makes it ripe for the drama/melodrama, as we saw here in the first ep alone. and it's pretty obvious that she might throw in another love polygon, with Hazaki starting it.

    Mech designs are okay ("penetrators" tee-hee-heee!) but the Admonitions are just ugly CG-wise.

  2. m

    @Roger
    Haha yeah I laughed a bunch at "Penetrators" too. There's always a hilarious ridiculous English word choice that comes up in anime every season.

    I'm also finding Wixoss to be horrible. It comes across as if someone said in the studio meeting, "what if we remake Madoka Magika, but make it a card game instead?" Maybe it won't follow the same pattern, but it feels like no effort was put into it so far.

  3. R

    Wixoss lacks the interesting characters that Nagi had prior, which is just disappointing, considering that the former is supposed to be much darker than the latter.

    for this one, I'll give it the three episodes to see if it draws me in with its characters. I gave up on Wixoss by the second ep, btw.

  4. m

    Yeah I have a short attention span for little girls being cute, even if it's going to turn dark. I just don't see Wixoss ever getting good. Plus the creepily mean one/weak one are prob my 2 least favorite stereotypical characters. One behaves in an overly exaggerated bastard way with no rationale behind it whatsoever, and the other I don't even feel bad for bc she's too annoying. When she said "I don't have any friends" in my head I was thinking yeah that's sounds about right.

  5. I didn't even make it through the second ep of Wixoss, to be honest.

  6. R

    @maverick
    "Yeah I have a short attention span for little girls being cute,"

    That's the most annoying part of that series. these are 14-15 year old teenagers, yet they act like little girls. You even have one that has twincest born out of a toddler's statement. Sigh, I am missing Manaka more now, she might be clumsy at times, but at least she isn't childish.

    @Enzo
    Good for you. Forget that show ever existed.

  7. m

    Haha I finished ep 2 and called it a day on that. I wasn't even going to watch it unless I had heard good things about it, but I was bored one Sunday and caved. What a mistake that was. It's added to the list of shows I can't finish. The overly angry/whiney nature of the pop idol/friendless wonder reminds me of the two best friends from Dragonaut: The Resonance (another atrocity). Just a bunch of annoying behavior without even a hint of rationale behind it.

  8. m

    @Roger
    Haha the twincest was clearly planned out well there. I'm going to wish for incest to be acceptable! And then she threw a fit when she thought her bro was dating super old card shop lady. So if it isn't incest it's cradle robbing.

  9. t

    well..it was a fine premiere.

    it's another Okada, but this time with satelight. I liked satelight works of LH and WA2. however, nobunaga the fool didn't work out. and this M3 seems another satelight+Mecha. but with Okada this time.
    well, with Okada premieres are always fine. why? because she provides the right touch about the world's settings that makes some interests. and I admit, in terms of the world and its settings, it does sounds and looks nice – there is some mysterious phenomenon (even though might seem a bit cliche), with some "Darkness" touch upon it. not very bright, but not bad after 1 episode.

    but there were problems with this pilot especially if we think about it and looking ahead.
    the most prominent one is the characters – most feel flat and unattractive at all. one is boring and he meant to be the protagonist. another one is pretty much annoying girl. and there is the senpai or whatever which still doesn't…combine well enough to me.
    and I don't see how they are going to push the story. even the protagonist who seems to have some "dark past" and "demons" around him. it just feels boring. and the outcome?well, I won't be surprised if his brother/father/whatever family relative it was..will become a ghost-robot or will come somehow in the story as conflict. predictable and unattractive. and it seems not only in terms of characters and also in terms of plot.

    yes I know, it's still to early to jump into conclusion. and I am trying not to. I am still gonna give it chance, because yeah, I think it was fine pilot to some extent, despite its problems and..unattractive future of this show.
    but I don't see how it gonna hold with the characters (even WIXOSS is problematic with characters. so…. that's what happen when Okada is doing 2 series parallel?? where are the characters she did like in HanaIro, AnoHana or even NagiAsu (when she didn't destroy the latter of course)).

  10. R

    "and this M3 seems another satelight+Mecha. but with Okada this time."

    She already did Aquarion Evol with Satelight in 2012. and that's the vibe that they seem to be gunning for again here.

    But I agree. M3 (and Wixoss) lack the interesting characters that HanaIro and NagiAsu had. The presentation of the cast just seems to be trying too hard to give them that "dark" feel (mahmu is an obvious example), but that alone just doesn't make them interesting.

  11. I really think Okada should stick to her signature adolescent melodrama oeuvre, for all the baggage she brings to it. When she tries to branch out from that with original material – be it mecha, RK, Evol, whatever – it's generally a disaster. She did fine with Zetsuen for the most part, but that was an adaptation that actually had a fair amount of straight-up character drama, and the worst parts of the anime were the bits she changed (like the ending).

  12. R

    and she should stay away from series aimed to promote toy franchises. Those just doesn't suit her writing, as we saw in in Wixoss, as well as that of 2004's Crush Gear Nitro )a lesser known series promoting one of Bandai's toy car lines), which is just plain horrendous.

  13. m

    Haha Aquarion Evol. Anyone associated with that series should be ashamed. Not only did it have the single most absurd repeated line in anything ever "my smelly wench I'll kill you", but the then there's the random gender changing and the weird three-way action when the mech combines. I'm surprised no one quit or was fired for pointing out how stupid that all was during creation. It brings up lots of questions, or rather all of the questions. Why did no one ever say "you're really going to keep having him call her a smelly wench and say he's going to kill her when he means the opposite? Did he really become high ranking in the military without understanding how his own language works?" Who approved this show? What kind of mindset goes into making something this bad? How little effort did she put into making it?

    And it seems like with 2 shows this season, she isn't putting enough effort into either which does not bode well.

  14. R

    @maverick
    You've got Shoji Kawamori to blame for that series. The whole gender change plot was just plain hilarious. and then there is that hot spring/beach episode OH DEAR GOD!! that episode and the bananas just had me laughing and facepalming with the sheer absurdity of it.

    As for these two, that is why i am considering this as her off season. these just lack the power of her best works.

  15. I'm no fan of Kawamori even at his best, but Mari-O was the main writer for that series. She shares every bit as much of the blame as he does.

  16. G

    I liked this 1st episode (even though it had some faults as already noted). I bet its going to get really dark as the series progresses. Hopefully future episodes will be more cohesive. I think they tried to put too many concepts into episode 1.

  17. S

    Just being curious, what song is that girl keep singing? i wanna hear it

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