First Impressions Digest – Junketsu no Maria, Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata

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In the parched desert that is Winter 2015, any possibility of sustenance must at least be investigated.

Junketsu no Maria – 01 (Pre-air)

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I wouldn’t go so far as to say Junketsu no Maria was a sleeper going in, but in a schedule nearly bereft of interesting prospects it was a cut or two above most.  It comes from a mangaka with a halfway decent series (Moyashimon) under his belt, from an elite studio in Production I.G., and features a pretty strong staff headed by Director Taniguchi Goro and Art Director Ikeda Shigemi.  At the very least this series figured to be interesting to look at and not abjectly stupid.

With that rather low bar in mind, the premiere was fine.  It was indeed very nice visually, with a medieval storybook aesthetic and nice character designs from Chiba Yuriko.  I can’s say I found the story or characters immediately compelling, but at least they’re slightly unusual.  The setting is during the Hundred Years War between England and France, an era featuring some of the most stupid and pointless extended conflict in European history (and that’s a pretty high bar).  The anime wrinkle is the involvement of witches both French and English, with the main focus being on French witch Maria (Kanemoto Hisako) who professes to hate all war and seems determined to do what she can to stop it.

That premise might be dumb, it might not – I haven’t decided yet – but at least it’s different.  Maria employs a succubus named Artemis (Hikasa Youko), who takes the form of an owl, to help her in her task (there’s an incubus too, though we haven’t met him yet).  The hook is that Maria’s powers are apparently only valid until she loses her virginity (I just think it’s better not to ask) which is sure to provide the source of most of the hijinks to come.  There’s also a local boy named Joseph (Ono Kensho) who looks to be the greatest threat to Maria’s virginity.

I really have no idea what we have here yet, but there’s the vaguest hint of something interesting in the premise and execution.  Is this show is serious about showing the stupidity of war that might be something to latch onto, but it may be more of a straight-up sex comedy – it’s hard to tell just yet.  If nothing else Junketsu no Maria is a professionally-produced affair with a bit of style to it, though there’s certainly nothing awe-inspiring in the premiere.  We’ll see.

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – 00

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I think the most interesting thing about Saekano is the question it raises: is this the lowest NoitaminA has ever sunk?  It’s not as though the block hasn’t had mediocrities and worse before, but I’m hard-pressed to think of another show that seems so utterly anathema to what NoitaminA was founded for.

I’m going to give this series another week for two main reasons.  It’s directed by Kanta Kamei, the man who directed Usagi Drop.  And it’s written (both in LN form and for the screen) by Maruto Fumiaki, who wrote the excellent White Album 2.  There’s also the fact that this is apparently some sort of “Episode 0” prequel, and not part of the main narrative.  But boy, there sure isn’t much to draw enthusiasm from here.

I’m not crazy about anime that try and cash in in inane and insipid anime tropes and gratuitous fanservice under the premise that they’re actually “satirizing” them.  If it weren’t for Maruto’s involvement I would frankly have bolted about five minutes in, because I found Saekano’s premiere (or whatever you want to call it) both idiotic and insultingly crass – not to mention utterly unfunny.  By all appearances this is a dumb formula harem LN adaptation with a very thin veneer of meta-humor supposedly layered on top.  So far, it’s a complete washout as far as I’m concerned.  I’ll watch the next episode on the grounds that it’s technically the premiere, but I’d be lying if I said my expectations weren’t at ground zero.



  1. J

    I don't know if my earlier message posting got through, but I wanted to clear this up: Maria's powers are not inherently tied to her virginity. This is a common misconception due to an unclear plot summary.

    Something changes later, for certain reasons, but even then the story isn't about that per se.

  2. S

    Well. that's encouraging. Junketsu was definitely the better of the two. Dear god that Saekano episode was inane. Wasn't that the lame harem anime that was packed with panty shots and fan service from episode 1? I'm ashamed I stuck with it until episode 3.

    II would be lying if I didn't snicker at the thought of the conversation from 00:00 to 00:30 was between Guardian Enzo and any random Otaku from /r/anime.

  3. S

    For Saenai, my understanding is that this episode was adapted from a book of short stories that are separate from the main light novel series, the actual story is 'supposed' to be different, so I'll still hold out some hope. The animation was just as concerning as the writing, I didn't understand the significance of all those scenes where everything was outlined in broad green strokes

  4. t

    yeah it felt like all throughout the premiere Maruto Fumiaki was saying "yes, this is lazy and generic, and here's why, but lets do it anyway"
    That's even worse to me than just having a bad writer, it's a waste of talent.

    Why this was a premiere and not an OVA is just mysterious to me.

  5. Yeah, that's what I mean by "insultingly crass". The fact that everyone involved should have known better makes it worse.

  6. D

    "You know what would be a good idea? To broadcast pointless fanservice episode that should be an OVA that comes with the BDs before the actual first episode!" – nobody ever.

  7. d

    My take is that the writer is a massive troll – intentionally surprising people with a fanservice-laden OVA-like premiere, which sets the bar of expectation incredibly low, but with just the right amount of self-awareness as a potential hook for the curious few. The pickier and harder-to-please crowd would disperse right after this premiere (they would be unlikely to buy the BDs to begin with given the subject matter), but the more mainstream crowd would likely stick around which arguably outnumbers the former. Then in the following episodes actually try to surprise the audience again with a half-decent story, while tuning the fanservice setting down a few notches inconspicuously (according to some LN readers, they over-drafted the fanservice credit line in this episode). I wouldn't doubt Maruto’s writing ability if he tries, even if this is supposedly one of his lower rated stories.

    It’s almost like a Nigerian scam, where the email / letters were written atrociously, with the intention to weed out the more cautious type, and allow the easier preys to self-identify. Whether this strategy can convert to commercial success is debatable but I can totally see some thoughts put into trolling.

  8. m

    GE: Consider Sodatekata 0 the "out of timeline" onsen episode of the show. I think it had noticeably more fanservice than the 'normal' storyline will have. Essentially, it said "have fun, watch and relax".

    To be honest, Sodatekata managed to amuse me in 2 aspects: First, when I watched it in a chilled mind with no particular expectations, I was entertained. The girls are somewhere between cute and beautiful, and I have to admit that I quite enjoyed the eye candy. Which is relatively unusual, because I usually abhor bulging tits and male MCs tripping their faces into female crotches. Sodatekata did it in a way that I considered tasteful and unoffensive.

    I also enjoyed that all girls showed distinct and interesting personalities, even Megumi, who I really didn't like much in the mangas. Several of the exchanges were fun and witty, so I'm sure that we'll have more of them once the real show starts.

    To sum it up: Based on the reactions that I've seen from fans of the genre, the vast majority of viewers _enjoyed_ the show as the OVA it was.

    The second thing that amused me is that in big contrast to the fans, the _blogosphere_ was whipping itself in a frenzy to rip the show apart. One blogger even complained about the fact that her rating of "1 – worst" got downrated as not credible/helpful. The discrepancy between people who liked it and people who did not is hilarious to me.

    Let's be clear here: Sodatekata is no drama epic like WA2. It also doesn't strive to be. This is a lightweight show about some schoolkids getting together to write a visual novel game in which a "plain mouse" heroine becomes famous. On this setting, anyone who has overblown expectations is naturally going to be disappointed.

    My advice would be to take it easy and enjoy it for what it is. I most definitely had fun throughout the episode. If the setting and characters are not for you, I can only recommend to bail out ASAP. But what the blogosphere (not you, in this case) has done here reminds me of a bunch of frenzied feminists that stormed into a porn screening, and which are incredulous why noone but themselves are so terribly offended 🙂

    Fun times!

  9. D

    > One blogger even complained about the fact that her rating of "1 – worst" got downrated as not credible/helpful.

    Ahaha, that's amazing. I mean, to broadcast this episode on the TV ahead of the first episode instead of putting it out as an OVA was, as I've said, a pretty dumb idea, and the episode itself, in my opinion, was not good but that ridiculous overreaction is simply unwarranted and frankly completely retarded.

  10. o

    By this logic, one could enjoy watching paint dry since that too is what it is. If you try to critique it you are a butthurt feminist that gets mad at porn.

    Actually, third-wave feminism is sex positive, but for someone who enjoys masturbatory disgusting harem shows to not know anything about feminism I guess is not too surprising a fact.

  11. m

    You completely missed the point. This show is aimed at people interested in VNs and harem settings, and openly so. If you want to watch the anime, this is what you should expect. Throwing a tantrum over it when you get what should be expected feels pretty weird to me. But then reacting mad when people who watch the show _and_ enjoy it downrate your dissing is pretty silly. If you can't stand the heat, leave the kitchen – or don't go there in the first place.

    As for the rest: Something wrong with watching paint dry? I doubt that there are many people who do, so this will hardly become a big commercial hit, but there are sure lots of people who enjoy the VN/romcom/harem genre. Who are you to judge them? Or are you one of those golden wisdom-bearers who think that they are able and destined to determine which anime is objectively good?

    The anger is strong in this one 🙂

  12. S

    lol @mentaromega. You defended your weakest point.

    "Something wrong with watching paint dry?"

    Well then, why review and critique anything at all? Are people not allowed to have a subjective opinion anymore? Hell, why critique Hitler?

    "There are lots of people who enjoy the Nazis. Who are you to judge them? Or are you one of those golden wisdom-bearers who think that they are able and destined to determine which ideology is objectively good?"

  13. d

    Witnessing Godwin's law proven valid is a surreal experience.

  14. Z

    That's twice I've seen Godwin's Law brought up specifically today.

  15. Z

    Maria no Junketsu not bad at all. It's different than what I initially expected but at the same time quite pleased it didn't go down the low brow route. The sex stuff was really secondary to everything else which was pleasing to see. Has a slightly 90s fantasy vibe too. I'd just like to see a little more world building from here.

  16. m

    @mentaromega yeah I can never understand why people get all high and mighty about why others can or cannot like a show. I personally didn't like it at all, but in no way does that mean you can't, or that you're dumb, wrong, insert generic insult looked up in a thesaurus for liking it. Just like making an offhand reference to storming a porn filming session (hilarious if that happened) under the guise of gender equality doesn't mean you are claiming to be an expert in feminism. Even when I agree with an opinion of a show I find myself annoyed at the ppl who share my opinion telling others they can't like it. I do agree that it's unfortunate for those of us who don't like that type of show that they seem to be a large percentage of anime each season, but that doesn't mean others have to stop enjoying them and suddenly like what I like. That attitude of "no I'll tell you everything that is good, and you can then base your life choices around that" is pathetic. I remember someone commenting on this site about how they were going to watch the last season of SAO in order to have specific things to bring up when making fun of fans of that show. While I hate SAO, I would never be so pathetic as to spend my free time watching something I hate in order to make fun of people who spend their time watching things they love. That's why I don't read many blogger other than GE. At least he stops watching shows he hates, and doesn't go around looking to harass people who do like them.

    @Stot are you comparing saying you should be able to watch what you want to watch without having to hear ppl whine about it with supporting Hitler? That's a great point…..If you aren't harming anyone, taking what isn't yours, holding some group of ppl down bc you think you're genetically superior, or any other generally accepted human rights violation then, yes, you can do literally whatever the hell you want without having to listen to other people tell you why you should stop doing that and be more like them. That is what freedom is. Why you would need such a simple idea explained to you is beyond me….The point isn't that you can't have an opinion on something, it's that you don't get to claim that it isn't an opinion and that everyone has to agree with you. She didn't like the show and wrote a negative review, someone didn't like her review and marked it as unhelpful. Both are fine, but if she can dislike something and write it down, why can't someone dislike what she wrote?

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