3 CommentsFirst Impressions / By Scamp /

Summer 2017 Anime first impressions: Touken Ranbu, Clean Freak Aoyama-kun, Knight’s and Magic, and Restaurant to Another World

IMG_0568Sometimes when a new season starts, each new anime is a bundle of hype and thrills, with each new show bringing unexpected delights as your watchlist inflates like a hot air balloon standing under the American president. Then other seasons it’s a constant stream of failures, where you keep checking in and you think you can’t get any more disappointments but each time you are somehow still surprised by the new levels of low, like following American politics. This summer anime season is closer to the latter than the former so far.

Katsugeki Touken Ranbu

IMG_0569I feel like I was doomed with Touken Ranbu from the very start because my knowledge of Japanese history isn’t up to snuff. This plays on your knowledge of specific events in Japanese history as well as the obvious part of assuming you know what each of these swords are. None of which I know anything about nor does the show seem intent on explaining it. I can’t blame it either since it’s for Japanese people who do know about the great fire of 18-something something. For me when they said they were in the 1800’s my mind went “oh yeah that’s when the Shinsengumi were around as they were outlawing samurai and then aliens landed and a white haired samurai…oh wait no that’s Gintama”. This is what happens when your entire knowledge of Japanese history is based off anime and Shogun Total War.

If I enjoyed the regular content I probably would have been encouraged to learn more about the history, but I didn’t. The main character is a whiny little twerp for whom every second word is seemingly him calling out to his partner. Oh Kane-San, help me, save me, teach me, show me how to fight with your smooth hands and firm grip and throbbing…sword. When the other sword boys turned up, it felt more like fanservice to fans of the game than a moment to get hyped over. It’s well animated, even if the shiny face nature of ufotable gets on my nerves occasionally. But other than that, nothing really got me interested.

Clean Freak Aoyama-Kun

IMG_0574I feel there were two ways this could have gone and it might have worked. Either it should have been full gag manga where any semblance of sports manga is thrown out the window. Or it could have gone super deathly serious and the comedy comes from how seriously they treat the subject matter of a germaphobe playing football. Instead they went for something in the middle, where they seem to treat soccer seriously but then throw in gags here and there. This means it’s too silly for me to get invested in the soccer and takes itself too seriously so the gags feel weirdly out of place when it tries chibi slapstick.

I will say though that the ending is incredible and it’s worth the anime existing entirely for that. Animated in 70’s style sports shows, reminiscent of some Captain Tsubasa or Aim for the Ace. It’s so well executed I wish the show was more like that. But asides from that ending, and the one background character whose entire thing seems to be that he only plays football with his butt, which is stupid enough for my brain to find weirdly hilarious because nobody ever comments on it, there wasn’t much here for me to recommend.

Knight’s and Magic

IMG_0572This feels like a 8-year-old’s first attempt at self-insert story writing. They’re too young to want to be seen as cool and edgy, but still want to be amazing and everyone be jealous of them. They’re old enough to know a story needs conflict, but all conflict gets resolved super quickly because our main character is so great. Oh and then we move 5 years into the future because I’m 8 and I ate too much sugar and then he saw the giant robot and the giant robot was awesome and he sat in the giant robot and it was the best you have no idea.

In a way there’s something almost endearing about how earnestly upbeat this is, especially when you consider the story setup is not that far from Tanya the Evil. But every instance in which conflict and hardship could be created in Knight’s and Magic, the show steers away from that. He could be looking for a new lease on life when reborn so he learns something about himself, but no he’s a perfectly happy dude who likes robots. He could have been born in squalor and had to fight his way to the top to achieve his dream of piloting a robot, but nope he’s born into royalty with teachers out there who can teach him magic straight away. He could have struggled learning but fought his way through sheer grit and determination, but nope we skip all the learning and he’s practically there from the start. I get overbearing positivity is kind of the point of the show, but by god do I find it boring without conflict of some kind.

Restaurant to Another World

IMG_0571My question going into this show was what would it be about. Not plot, but character arcs or themes. What would be the stories that grab our hearts and make us come back time after time. The answer to that is…ummm, food is good? They’ve based the show around this chef who comes off as such a complete non-entity I’m left confused as to what we’re supposed to care about. What was the point of the dragon lady anyway? She really likes his beef stew? And? I wanted to know more about her demon butler fellow, what’s his story? Why is he preparing dresses for a dragon queen and trying to tie them up using his massive demon hands? His story seems like the most interesting part so far.

I feel like this is a whole genre of entertainment I’m just not into. These stories where you’re just supposed to watch it and feel nice about things. I just can’t keep my attention nor stay engaged, and looking at pictures of anime food has rather lost its impact on me since it seems there’s like 5-6 anime per season with unusually good food porn. It’s almost like the obligatory panty shots of the past that all anime were required to have by law have been replaced by unusually well-drawn pictures of food. Which I suppose is an improvement. I don’t feel like I’m degrading the entire gender of food with all these pornographic images. Just when it’s the main draw I feel lost and bored.

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  1. Kiseki
    Posted July 4, 2017 at 3:45 am | Permalink

    They basically wrote Hori the same way they wrote Yasu in Hanamaru: the conflicted, inexperienced MC whose character is to mature over the course of the series. Not an approach I like, especially since Hori acts more like Kane-san’s babysitter in game canon.
    I still don’t trust ufo to shit out an interesting plot for Katsugeki.

  2. Ken
    Posted July 4, 2017 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Scamp. Thank you for the wake-up call.
    I’ve been so depressed listening to the news here in the USA, and when I desperately turn to anime to cheer me up I start settling for uninspired crap like Knight’s and Magic.
    I really hope there will be something good this season.

  3. Nigouki
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, as always, for the first impressions! It’s always interesting to hear your thoughts.

    I was curious so I watched the first episode of Katsugeki Touken Ranbu before reading this post. The main character (whether of this episode only or the entire anime) was not likable for me either.

    Maybe it’s a translation thing or I misunderstood, but there’s a point early in the episode where they establish that only two people can be sent to a certain period at one time, which is why there are only two of them facing off against an enemy with larger numbers. Then, later in the episode, the white haired “master” character appears. He summons more swords. …But I thought… How…? Is it different because the master is there? But then why did he do nothing about it until now? Why did he wait until this point to help the two characters get backup??

    There are also the parts where the one guy yells at the MC for wanting to save people because it could change the course of history, and then he ends up going out of his way to save a child. He basically says he can always go back and kill the child he saved later. Wait..if you know how important it is to preserve history and not alter its course, then why did you do that? Why did you even bother to yell at your subordinate if you can’t even practice what you preach? Even if you took care of the child later, she would die at a different point in her life and the circumstances of her death would change entirely and there are SO MANY THINGS WRONG with that statement and I could go on about it but I’ve already obsessed too much about that moment.

    In regards to the animation, there are parts that are nicely animated, like one of the characters landing on the tiled roof of a building or extremely smooth mouth animation, but overall the episode is actually not as animated as it looks. The use of CG and effects balances out the amount of animation and lessens the work while still making it look more animated than it really is. I’m not saying that’s a terrible thing to do, because it’s understandable, especially for a television production.

    I also went into this with only the knowledge that Touken Ranbu was a game with swords personified as ikemen (though I did happen to know about the fire) and I might have enjoyed this more and questioned less if I went in with the knowledge of a Touken Ranbu fan, whom the show is clearly meant for. Maybe a few things would’ve made more sense.

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