18 CommentsFirst Impressions / By Scamp /

Summer 2017 Anime First Impressions part 2: Compulsive Gambler, Welcome to the Ballroom, Made in Abyss, Shoukoku no Altair

IMG_0580With the usual disappointing start to the anime season, where for some reason all the truly bland stuff is stuffed into the first few days of the month, we’re now into the meat of the latest anime season where the delicious filling lies. There’s some good stuff here is what I’m saying.

Compulsive Gambler

IMG_0579Due to Compulsive Gambler being picked up by Netflix, that meant I had to wait until somebody performed the ancient rite of phans-hubbing and download that. My first reaction is that boy this is a weird pickup for Netflix. I understood Little Witch Academia being made for an audience larger than otaku, but a show about schoolgirls jizzing themselves over gambling? This was made for losers like us, not the normies over there who can’t handle a credit sequence that features close ups of a schoolgirl’s breasts as she strides confidently towards the camera in a shower of water and rose petals.

Anyway, all that aside, the show itself is al right. It has one thing it does well and executes on that. The main character seems pointless when we could just have the main girl by herself. We didn’t need Kaiji to have some useless sidekick. But it is entertaining enough to watch people pull wonderfully deformed faces as they get really excited about the idea of pulling someone’s nails off after a game of memorization. There’s not much more to it than that and I feel the gimmick might get old after a while. But stuff like Kaiji and One Outs proved it can be milked for a lot of enjoyment and Compulsive Gambler feels like a sexualised version of Kaiji in many respects. Some people say this is a negative addition to Kaiji but I feel the inherent silliness of the whole thing is only helped by small helpings of anime boobies.

…I feel like my taste in anime is getting worse as I get older.

Welcome to the Ballroom

IMG_0576The much anticipated premiere of this latest anime about shounen ballroom dancing delivered exactly what it said on the tin. It was a well-produced sports anime about a teenage boy entering the world of competitive ballroom dancing. The animation was good and the directing solid, even if part of me was bothered by how sometimes their necks would look just a little bit too long and become longer than their own heads.

And that’s about it. It’s a sports anime. I really good version of a sports anime, with a unique sport to focus on that gives it a slightly different feel to anything else, but nothing you haven’t seen before. I have heard that as you remain a fan for longer, you start to appreciate execution over originality. It’s true to an extent, but Tanya the Evil proved for me earlier this year that originality is still a huge draw for me, and great execution on top of that is what makes something truly stand out. I’ll continue watching Ballroom and probably enjoy it a lot, but I will likely have my sports anime trope bingo card on hand as I diligently fill it out.

Made in Abyss

IMG_0575Easily the best first episode of the season and it’s not really a contest. Fantastic production from the animation to the music to the point that it felt like I was watching a movie. The story is instantly interesting that allows its narrative to be told through natural character interactions. It’s fun while being mysterious and keeps that edge that has me highly invested in what’s happening. It’s got what I talked about in Welcome to the Ballroom in both originality and execution. I feel like the only anime I’ve seen with a similar plot and design is Strange Dawn, and given that I imagine roughly 0 people reading this post have even heard of Strange Dawn that gives you an idea of what we’re dealing with.

Now. There is the issue with what’s coming up next. It’s hinted at with the story that shit will go down if they head into the Abyss (it’s literally called the Abyss for crying out loud), but the depths of horror it sinks to closer to something like Berserk than the adventure anime it appears to be on the outside. Which has some people feeling very angry about watching their show get ruined by depravity later on. I feel that using extreme violence can be beneficial to telling the story you want to tell. It means you are walking on a knife edge of keeping it relevant without ruining your story in the name of gore, and in going to the depths it does in the manga means any fall it does make is magnified exponentially, but it can and has been done to properly tell the story you want to tell. I can understand why someone simply might not want to deal with facing that level of gore no matter what it might have to say in using that imagery. I though am more than willing to give Made in Abyss the chance to prove that it can use this kind of hardcore gore to tell the story it wants to tell. I’ll be equally to collapse in a fit of despair if it fucks it up and cry over how good those first episodes were and how did it all go so wrong. But using hardcore gore doesn’t automatically disqualify it from having something very striking to say and can definitely contribute to that story. It just dramatically amplifies any missteps.

Shokukau no Altair

IMG_0577My hope was that this would be an intelligent historical action drama series with plenty of political intrigue. Basically what I was hoping to get from Arslan but it just didn’t quite make it. The first episode of Altair was…fine? I feel what it’s missing from that original list of requests I made was the “intelligent” part. It feels more like a young teen historical drama with the motivations and dialogue from such a book. Which maybe I should expect and it’s not like that kind of stuff has turned me off before (I’m a fucking anime fan, of course I like dumb teenage fantasy stories). UT’s just for the sort of historical political drama it’s telling I feel the writing needs to be of a higher standard.

I’m just not invested yet either. My favourite characters so far are the badass eagle and comically oversized turban with a small man attached to it. I don’t care about our main character just yet nor the situation he finds himself in. Granted these kinds of stories usually take a while to get going anyway so I’m willing to give it time. It hasn’t done anything aggressively bad, as much as that statement is damning with the faintest of praise. I just haven’t really got anything to latch onto yet.

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  1. Kiseki
    Posted July 13, 2017 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Tbh it’s not so much the gore that’s the issue with Abyss as it is the fetishization of the suffering that comes with the gore. But the anime removed the punishment scene from the first episode so the adaption as a whole will probably be more palatable in this regard.

    • lmm
      Posted July 14, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      So if I prefer my gore fetishized, I should what, read the manga instead?

      • elior1
        Posted July 15, 2017 at 1:09 am | Permalink

        dont worry you will see that punishment scence from the manga in episode 2

  2. DarkEnergy
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Made in Abyss is my favorite show so far. I’m glad you like it, Scamp. I predict it will be the anime of the season. I wish more people would try it.

    Strange Dawn is a Summer 2000 anime about two girls sucked into an alternate world filled with tiny people. The people of this mysterious world sees them as their “Great Protectors” who can protect their land in a time of strife. The two girls set out on a mission with a group of warriors from the village to find out how they were brought here and how might they return home. However, there is a war brewing and these two Great Protectors are the political tool that every faction lusts for to rally the people to their side.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

      Ah I see you have learned the ancient craft of google

      • DarkEnergy
        Posted July 18, 2017 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

        Yeah. God, I love the internet. What an amazing thing. Without it, I wouldn’t know anything about anime. I wouldn’t be where I am now.

        Also, have you seen Made in Abyss?

  3. lmm
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    I haven’t seen a lot of the new season yet, but Princess Principal had an amazingly good first episode.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

      It did! I should be writing a first impression of it now but I decided instead to reply to commenters

  4. Outcast
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    “The main character seems pointless when we could just have the main girl by herself.” <— And he doesn't even really do anything for another three arcs, and then goes back to being useless until the current point in the manga. Maybe they wouldn't let the author publish unless he had a male main character? I dunno.

    • Pete
      Posted July 14, 2017 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      The reference to a male MC confused me because I thought I had looked at the manga before, but apparently I looked at Kakegurui twin. Yeah probably mandatory because what is the point of added sexualization without an useless guy for people to self insert into.

      • Scamp
        Posted July 18, 2017 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

        I feel like these stories should have learned you don’t need a useless self insert yet they keep doing it

  5. Ken
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Wow Made in Abyss. Orphans have it allot harder in anime. I don’t remember anyone being strung up naked as punishment in Little Orphan Annie. It’s a hard knock life indeed.

  6. plint
    Posted July 15, 2017 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Will you be doing a review of Kizumonogatari II and III?

    • Scamp
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

      I haven’t even watched part 1 yet! I know, but I’m a little behind on my Monogatari

  7. Shadow
    Posted July 16, 2017 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    So after watching the first episode. I suggest you give a shot to Fate Apocrypha. It doesn’t look that bad. Still not as good as Fate Zero, but much better than UBW.

    Just like Fate Zero, there are very few kid Masters this time. So its going to be a bit less romance and more actual Grail War.

    Also the Shiro of this Universe is a Shiro that is raised by Kotomine Kirei instead of Emiya Kiritsugu. So he’s ruthless.

    Also Waver appears again (this time as an adult), havent read the manga, so i don’t know if he will participate in this Grail War again.

    Probably the only weak link for this story is how they handle Jean d’ Arc and her master. Since they are the only romantic couple as far as i know.

    But in a way, Fate Apocrypha serves as a better sequel to Fate Zero than UBW. Despite being a different universe.

  8. Posted July 19, 2017 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    Made in abyss what I go for
    but really b/w them any recommendation.

  9. Canary Paint
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    So I started watching Made in Abyss because of your first impressions…

    I am just a few minutes into episode 1, and it has my attention so far.

    I am going to call it right now.

    Robot Boy’s arm is a gravitational beam emitter like from Blame!, so I am saying that this green world is the top most level of the endless maze that Killy wanders.

  10. David
    Posted August 2, 2017 at 4:22 am | Permalink

    Heh. I know Strange Dawn. I even have the 2 DVDs that were released in North America. And about 10 years later I managed to track down the fansub and watch the rest.

    I can see what you mean about that feel. Strange Dawn’s intro had tons of potential, and I’m seeing similar types of potential here. On the other hand, this feels like it has a much stronger handle on where it wants to go with that potential, and not squander it like Strange Dawn did.

    I quite like it so far. Although the old guy that looks like Fate/Zero’s Alexander (but without the red hair) keeps freaking me out.

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