I wouldn’t say Fall 2016 is exactly off to an exciting start…
Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru – 01
I confess I don’t know a whole lot about this franchise, apart from the fact that it’s an online game and massively popular. If doujin sales are a predictor of disc sales (as they often are) any visitor to Comiket could tell you that Touken Ranbu has a chance to move some DVDs.
Touken Ranbu is making a splash in anime (two series in two seasons), but I honestly found the first episode of Hanmaru pretty nondescript. There’s not a whole lot of explanation of the premise – which in itself suggests the target audience is hardcore fans, but also leads to a fairly disconnected response from those who aren’t. Basically it seems we have a bunch of bishounen who are human embodiments of swords wielded by historic figures, all of whom are hanging around at what seems to be a rural villa bathing and having snowball fights. Again, the target audience seems pretty clear-cut here. I’m sure Touken Ranbu is fine for what it is, but at this point I’m not much interested.
Magic-Kyun! Renaissance – 01
If you hadn’t told me this original series was from Sunrise – and an original – I’d probably have guessed it was an otome game adaptation from the “mailing it in” division of Brain’s Base. That’s not a compliment, and I wasn’t a fan of the first episode of Magic Kyun! Renaissance. It wasn’t terrible, but it was pretty pedestrian stuff on the whole. Bland visuals, tired acting, uninspired writing. The only twist of sorts here is combining a performing arts/idol story with a magical element, but even that’s been before so it isn’t exactly new ground. Sorry to be to brief, but I honestly don’t think there’s a whole lot else to say about this series.
Chi’s Sweet Home 2016 – 01
Now that’s more like it.
There are some little heartaches to go along with this revival of Konami Kanata’s wonderful manga Chi’s Sweet Home. Do I miss the gloriously hand-drawn animation in the care of Madhouse? Sure I do. We’re now 100% CGI in the hands of tiny Marza Animation Planet. Most of the cast has changed, too (apart from Chi herself, crucially still played Koorogi Satomi). But among the new seiyuu are the likes of Sakamoto Maaya and Koyama Rikiya, and this version is 12:30 long (the original series were both 3 minutes), so there are consolations.
The best consolation of all, of course, is that Chi is still adorable and Chi’s Sweet Home is still charming. I’m not exactly sure whether this is original material or not – this episode takes place on the one-month anniversary of Chi’s arrival with the Yamada family, but I don’t remember that event in the first series (and it’s been way too long since I’ve read the manga). In any event, I seamlessly slid back into Chi-mode as soon as the episode started. I’m not in love with the CGI, but there are worse sorts of series for it than this one – it doesn’t represent a huge distraction, at least for me.
What really stands out about Chi’s Sweet Home is how Konami-sensei gets all the little details just right – about cats, and about sharing one’s house with them. The mischievous Chi doesn’t lose much transitioning to 3-D, and Youhei (now Shiraishi Ryouko) and his parents are still the kind and very real young family they always were. I especially love Otou-san (he’s Yasumura Makoto this time), who’s as big a softie as you’ll ever see, especially where Chi is concerned. Chi’s Sweet Home is as it ever was – a funny and warm escape, and a collection of familiar moments that bring a smile to the face of every cat person in the audience. Okaerinasai!