Would it kill anime to have the one school-life series about four guys be full-length?
Niijiro Days – 01
I knew Rainbow Days was generally expected to be a short, but given that I’d never seen that reported officially I was holding out hope this sleeper pick would be full-length. No such luck – it’s half-sized, and unlike some short anime it elects for a full OP and ED to boot.
That’s the glass half-empty take on Niijiro Days. The glass half-full take is that the premiere was, as I expected, quite good. I really see no reason apart from risk-aversion why this series shouldn’t be full-length (if the quartet of protagonists were girls it certainly would have been), but it seems to have all the makings of a solid school life comedy. Production Reed (not a big name but probably most notable for Noein) got themselves a very experienced director in Amino Tetsuro (Shiki, among others) and it shows in the effortless execution.
My instant reaction to hearng about Niijiro Days was that it sounded a bit like Kimi to Boku, and as a series about four sensitive guy friends in high school there are obvious superficial similarities. This show seems to be a good bit more restrained in tone, though, and the humor more on the quietly quirky side. The four guys are played by Matsuoka Yoshitsugu (Natsuki, the shy blonde who stars in the first episode), Shimizaki Nobonaga (Keichii, the impish troll), Eguchi Takuya (Tomoya, the tall ladies man) and Uchiyama Kouki (Tsuyhoshi, the introverted otaku type).
They’re all very good, and all the guys seem likeable enough – and their interactions are amusing. The plot of the premiere surrounds a girl named Kobayakawa who seems to have a bit of a fated relationship with Natsuki, which I assume will be an ongoing thread. There are some nice stylistic touches here – I liked the OP’s hybrid of real-world photography and animation – and generally speaking Rainbow Days never appears to be trying too hard to be cute or endearing (which of course makes it more cute and endearing). I wish this show were 22 minutes, but even at 11 it seems to have a chance to be a pretty good one.
Hai to Gensou no Grimgar – 01
There were definitely some interesting elements to Hai to Gensou no Grimgar, the latest entry in a genre that’s becoming a staple of anime schedules. But boy, the sexism really got to me. I knew nothing about this series when I watched the premiere, but I sure didn’t have to look it up to see that it was based on a light novel. I find this less bothersome with overt fanservice shows like To-LOVE-Ru, to be honest – the kind of male fantasy nonsense we see here is the very definition of objectification, and it’s more insidious because it’s so integrated in these settings.
Oh, well – you can’t really hold it against Grimgar that it’s just doing what’s expected of its character class. And if you can get past the gender politics, the premiere is certainly better than most of these sorts of shows. First off, I love the art direction by the stellar Kaneko Hidetoshi, which looks ripped from the pages of a storybook. The animation is very natural (the attention to detail is especially impressive), and the character designs are pleasing.
As for the story, we’ve certainly seen the template of RL kids (and adults) trapped inside MMORPGs played to the hilt – the obvious successes in the genre have made production committees desperate to find more examples to animate. But Grimgar does a nice job of scene-setting here, letting us in on what’s happening (the characters have no memory of their lives before they came to the fictional world of Grimgar) in patient and measured fashion. We get to see the characters start from Level 1, literally, and that makes a nice change of pace.
I’ve tried a number of shows with this general premise, and there really hasn’t been a single one in the last few years that’s kept me interested all the way to the end – they tend to start out well and lose me somewhere along the way – but there’s enough going on with Grimgar that I’ll be keeping an eye on it with some optimism (or at least hope). In addition to the sexism I’m not in love with the casting either – Hosoya Yoshimasa especially seems a poor fit as MC Haruhiro – but that’s not likely to be a deal breaker. It’s another series on the maybe pile…