Love Kome: We Love Rice – 01
So, this turned out to be a short. It’s cute, but basically three minutes of puns about rice farming and idols. Obviously not a blogging candidate.
Sekaisuru Kado – 00/01
OK, this was kinda interesting. Toei made some seriously unconventional choices with this sci-fi original. In the first place, they went with an intro “Episode 0” that was a complete fake-out in more ways than one. First off, it was a low-key, thoughtful and actually very engaging story about a couple of young government bureaucrats assigned to negotiate a buyout of a factory to make way for a government hall – and thus completely different in tone and premise from Sekaisuru Kado‘s actual plot. And second, it was animated entirely in the traditional method – before switching over to almost full-CGI when the sci-fi plot actually kicked in.
The funny thing is, I liked the “mundane” traditionally animated episode better than the “real” one. Yeah, the awkward transition was a reminder of just how far 3D character animation has to go to be comparable to even low-budget hand-drawn. But beyond that, it was pretty cool to see a story so unlike anything we usually get in anime – a thoughtful, clever look at the art of negotiation and the state of the modern Japanese economy. Thus far at least the premise – a giant cube appears at Haneda, swallows a plane, and a white-haired alien eventually emerges to address mankind (read: Japan), seems pretty (frictionless) boilerplate by comparison.
Yeah, I can’t help but thinking a series about a genius young bureaucrat and his goofy sidekick traveling post-boom Japan negotiating would be more intriguing that what Sekaisuru Kado is. But I give it credit for starting out the way it did, and there’s enough in the alien setup to offer a little interest. Also, director Murata Kazuya is a serious and talented industry stalwart whose impact on this project shouldn’t be dismissed – he seems capable of steering Sekaisuru Kado through the minefield of formula in which it finds itself. For sure, this is worth a couple more episodes at least.
Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 01
It was a really excellent return for Shingeki no Bahamut, another of those anime I liked quite a lot but tended to take for granted a bit. This was the first MAPPA series that really made any money, and one of the surprise hits of 2014 – a game adaptation that basically created an original story and told it in very cinematic form. Shingeki no Bahamut was one of the most movie-like series of recent years, both in form and substance, and that made it a very refreshing change of pace.
“Virgin Soul” finds us returning with the same director (veteran Satou Keiichi) but a new writer in Ooishi Shizuka. That can be a worry with an original series (which Bahamut effectively is at this point) but there aren’t really any danger signs in the first episode. It’s good, damn good – as with the first season’s non-outsourced episodes the looks is terrific, with well-integrated CGI, lovely backgrounds and great cinematography. We’ve apparently skipped ten years forward, with the capital now thriving under a king named Chaorice XVII (Umehara Yuiichirou). But this largesse is built on the backs of slavery, and that’s given rise to outlaws like the Rag Demon, who seems to see the rescue of these demon slaves as his mission in life.
Some of the old cast is here – Kaiser is, a Knight in Chaorice’s court clearly conflicted over what’s happening. Rita shows up briefly at the end of the episode, and Bacchus and Hamsa are their usual comic Greek chorus. Of Favaroooo!!! there’s no sign yet – I’m sure he’ll pop up soon – but siding into place at the center of the narrative is Nina (Morohoshi Sumire). She’s a crazy genki – and strong – 16 year-old construction worker whose secret identity is as an aspiring bounty hunter. But her even more secret identity seems to be secret even from her – she’s a dragon who changes form when she gets too excited staring into the eyes of a handsome man (one of whom is the muralist played by Miyano Mamoru).
I wasn’t 100% thrilled with Nina’s over-the-top antics, which border a bit too much on anime cliche to fit neatly into the Bahamut universe. But apart from that this ep had everything that made the first series such a winner. And early signs for the writing are good, because the exposition in this episode was deftly handled. We know pretty much everything we need to know about what’s going on here without a character having to halt the narrative and blurt it out, and that’s good writing. Definitely a promising start, and “Virgin Soul” is a strong contender for blogging space on what look to be very crowded weekends this season.