And so the Sisyphean attempt to keep up begins…
Youkai Apartment no Yuuga na Nichijou – 01
This one wasn’t in the season preview (it was the last show I cut), but a couple of trusted commenters advised me to keep an eye on it, And based on one episode, looks like they were right.
Youkai Apartment is based on a light novel with a manga in-between, but you wouldn’t necessarily assume that from the premiere which – for lack of a better word – is very “manga-like”. It’s also a pretty old-school anime in terms of look and tone, and that works pretty well with the material. It concerns an orphan boy named Yuushi who’s just finished middle school and is desperate to move out on his own and stop being a burden on his aunt and uncle (and apparently bullying cousin, who I’ll guess has a crush on him). He plans to go to a business high school with a dorm, but it (in)conveniently burns down, forcing him to find an apartment. And when it comes to apartments, one lesson every kid needs to learn is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,
I liked this premiere a lot – it had a jaunty, easy way about it. Yuushi’s best friend is apparently going to be a major player (he sings the ED and is played by Nakamura Yuuichi). The oddballs in the apartment are all played by big names (like Sawashiro and Ishida), and the youkai “tenants” seem like an entertaining bunch. It’s only one episode but the early returns are pretty positive for me – I’ll certainly keep an eye on this one.
Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu – 01
I’m reviewing a “Fate” show and a ufotable show in the post, and they’re different series – go figure. Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu was one of the last survivors to make the preview, but I would say this premiere exceeded expectations. Yeah, it’s an otome game adaptation about a bunch of anthropomorphized bishounen blades – but this series and that earlier Touken Ranbu anime are worlds apart.
It’s easy to forget just how tremendous the production values of ufotable shows can be, but at their best (and the popularity of this franchise should mean a big budget) they’re among the best. In fact I would argue that in terms of really good CGI and integrating it seamlessly, ufotable is the best among the mainly-TV animation studios. This premiere doesn’t just look good – it looks great. The movement is phenomenal, the backgrounds are gorgeous, and all the classic ufo touches are present (has there ever been a studio that could depict a shower of sparks so beautifully?).
I’m not going to declare buy-in on the story, but this series definitely seems more plot-driven than “Hanmaru”. It’s presented as a straight-up battle between the heroic swords and their leader, Saniwa (unseen for most of the episode) and an army of time-travelers intent on changing history. How much staying power that will have I don’t know, but it certainly makes for an interesting first episode. The cast is strong here as well (Kimura Ryouhei especially stands out).
Fate/Apocrypha – 01
Fate/Apocrypha was another of the last series on the bubble when I wrote the preview, and ended on the outside looking in. I’ve more or less decided to give up on the “Fate” franchise, mainly on the grounds that to me it’s basically a collection of VN tropes trying to pass itself off as something deep and meaningful. It was only in Gen Urobuchi’s hands that the mythology occasionally succeeded in that pretense, but even his version jumped the shark pretty hard in the end.
One thing these shows have in common, though, is that they usually start out in fairly engaging fashion. And this one, an alternate take featuring a special 7 vs. 7 grail war, is no exception. This version is A-1 Pictures and it’s clear they have the budget to give this their “A” treatment – the premiere looks great. It’s also nicely-paced and pretty eloquent in setting up the premise.
I’ve been burned by Fate series too many times to give “Apocrypha” much chance to keep me hooked in, but I can only judge it based on its first episode – and it’s a very good one. Maybe this will be the iteration that will break the pattern.