First Impressions Digest – Fukigen na Mononokean, Hatsukoi Monster, D.Gray-man Hallow

Fukigen na Mononokean – 01

So far, this has more or less been the season of met expectations – no real surprises one way or the other.  And Fukigen na Mononokean definitely continues the trend.  It’s relaxing and fun, with a nice Shinto element.  Kaji Yuuki doesn’t help, but he isn’t a deal-breaker.  The human-youkai interaction brings a good dose of feels.  All in all, it was just about the show I figured it would be.

I liked the fuzzball that attached itself to M.C. Ashiya Hanae’s back for most of the episode – a very nicely rendered and well-used creation.  Ashiya itself is a pretty stock protagonist, but the high school exorcist Abeno Haruitsuki is clearly the more dynamic and interesting character, which is why it’s probably for the best that he’s the one played by a stronger actor (Tomoaki Maeno).  We also have one of Pierrot’s stronger directors in Iwanaga Akira (Kingdom 2, Tegami Bachi) who keeps things humming along briskly and nicely balances the kawaii and the snark.

All in all I’m not expecting a series that will end up in the season’s top tier, but Fukigen na Mononokean seems to have a good chance to be a solidly entertaining weekly staple.  I am a bit of a sucker for youkai and Shinto-themed series, it’s true, but I objectively think this one has some pretty strong elements behind it.  A lot will depend on how good the supporting cast is, but so far I’m pleased with what I’m seeing.

Hatsukoi Monster – 01

Well – that was… something.

I have no idea what the point of Hatsukoi Monster is, assuming there is one.  I will say that there are moments that made me laugh just for their sheer absurdity, which in a series where Horie Yui is playing a high-schooler dating a 5th-grader played by Takahiro Sakurai whose best friends are played by Sugita Tomokazu and Morikubo Showtaro is hardly surprising.

But really – a bunch of grade-schoolers making non-stop dick jokes?  And are we going to get an actual explanation as to why these three kids look like college students?  I know this isn’t supposed to be taken seriously in any way but even absurdist comedy really needs to have a premise.  Maybe this is satirizing something and I just haven’t figured out what yet, but right now Hatsukoi Monster just looks like a really bad idea for its own sake.

D.Gray-man Hallow – 01

So – did I miss anything?

I’ve been trying to think back on whether there’s an anime I’ve watched in full that had such a long hiatus and returned as a series (for sure, Peacemaker Kurogane will raise the bar later this year).  We’re talking eight years here, which is a very long time.  And the memories came back slowly as the premiere of D.Gray-man Hallow played out.  It was kind of a surreal experience to return to this world after such a long time away.

The most striking change for most, I think, will be the wholesale change in cast.  I’m not necessarily a big enough D.Gray-man fanatic to be offended, and I thought the new group was generally fine.  Most important of course is Murase Ayumu taking over for Kobayashi Sanae as Allen Walker, and it’s fair to say the two take quite different approaches to the role.  I like Murase as a seiyuu and he doesn’t do anything wrong here, but strictly out of personal preference I prefer Kobayashi based on one episode – she seemed to channel Allen’s inner pain and kindness in a slightly more vibrant way.  But on the whole I don’t think the cast is a problem, and the animation and art seem more or less as I remember them.

As for the story it seems we picked up right where the original series left off, which was quite a test for the memory banks.  D.Gray-man is a manga with a bit of a checkered history – long hiatuses, controversial plot shifts – and Hallow is only going to be one cour.  All of that gives one pause as to what to expect here, but the premiere was very good – I felt drawn back into the story even if some of the details still escape me, and that was surely its main job.

What happens at the end of the premiere is doubtless its most shocking moment, and certainly an interesting way to begin a new series if indeed Cross Marian is really dead.  While this is obviously Allen’s story Cross has always been a presence even when he wasn’t physically present, and if he’s really gone that will represent a huge psychological upheaval for Allen.  But this is D.Gray-man, and life and death are more elusive concepts here than in most series.  This was a good start and a good continuation, and I’m hopeful that Hallow will pull me into the story of D.Gray-man again after all these years.

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4 comments

  1. A

    As a manga reader, D.Gray-Man’s episode felt a bit too rushed. However, as far as I know they want to reach and finish the Alma Karma arc, so I guess there are no helping it. Each minute counts in this adaptation, so they get a pass for that.

    What I wonder is if we will get OVAs. Those sneak peeks at Allen and Mana’s first meeting makes me think in how wonderful would be getting Lost Fragment of Snow (an official light novel telling all the details of how they ended up together) animated. It’s wonderful and, even more important, highly plot relevant. Most western fans have no access to the novels, so an anime version could be a solution for them.

  2. I loved the original D.Grayman when it aired. So this is one of the series I was most looking forward to this summer. I was shocked that they picked up right where the series left off when it ended all those years ago. No attempt at all to bridge new viewers into the series. For long time viewers like me it was no problem but If I was a new viewer I would be WTF (lost). Perhaps over the next few weeks we will see some flashbacks to bring newbies up to speed.

  3. Why should they, though? This a thing that I absolutely despise of the medium. Why would you watch a sequel if you haven’t watched the first series and/or aren’t a manga reader? I applaud everything a series decides to ignore the “new viewer thing” and picks up right where it left off. This helps the narrative to be more streamlined and less cluttered with useless information for people who did watch/read the series.

  4. C

    Mononokean isn’t exactly the same quality as, say, Natsume Yuujinchou, but I’ll hang in there for now, since it’s not bad entertainment so far. As for D.Gray-Man, dear god does this make me feel old, I haven’t read or watched this series in at least six years, watching the new episode felt like reuniting with an old kindergarten classmate: looks more mature, sounds about right, but the names and details escape me, not to mention that lots has happened since the first few arcs.

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