Aliens, Gears, Game Creation, and Worlds in Collision: Spring 2017 Anime Preview Part II!

That period between seasons so often makes me anxious. Will I find anything I want to watch? Or more likely, how will I choose what not to watch because I don’t have time (having a real life and all)? Not sure we’re going to get anything with the philosophical or theological depth of Saga of Tanya the Evil or the social commentary of Concrete Revolutio, but who knows — Re:Creators shows promise! This season has at least eight shows that I’m really looking forward to. Here’s the second four:

KADO: The Right Answer

Shown on Crunchyroll Thursdays 10:00am EDT

Shindou’s colleague’s panic is a perfectly reasonable reaction at this point. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

What do you get when The Day the Earth Stood Still goes on a date with Arpeggio of Blue Steel, hits it off, gets married, and has a child? You get something that would look like like KADO: The Right Answer! But instead of the robot Gort we get Kado, and instead of the ambassador Klaatu we get Yaha-kui zaShunina. The animation, in terms of beauty of the models, fluidity of movement, and polished look comes straight out of Arpeggio of Blue Steel. So much so that when I compared the companies involved on Anime News Network (click here for KADO and here for Arpeggio),  I was surprised there wasn’t a 100% match.

Of course, the concept of first contact has been done dozens of times, from serious treatments like the aforementioned The Day the Earth Stood Still to the silly and hilarious (for an 80’s movie) Earth Girls are Easy. That means to distinguish itself, KADO’s going to work hard and present a fresh take.

Yaha-kui zaShunina makes his debut on the world stage — and speaks telepathically (tele-empathetically) a breathless humanity. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

So far, I’m impressed. The show starts with Koujirou Shindou, a negotiator with the Japanese government, waiting to takeoff in a plane with a fellow government employee. As the plane guns its engines for take off, a giant pulsating cube appears above the runway, and the pilot tries to abort. The cube settles on top of the plane, and wherever the plane comes into contact with the cube, the plane get covered in what looks like shimmering slime before disappearing.

All attempts to communicate fail. Young scientist Kanata Shinawa leads most of these attempts, and her boundless energy seems to come from her youth. A young super-scientist isn’t exactly new (like Tasujin Ratu from Akiba’s Trip The Animation, which admittedly isn’t in the same genre as KADO), but her enthusiasm is fun to watch. She adds a good counter-balance to the super-serious government officials and soldiers.

Speaking of soldiers, all attempts to force their way into the cube — including an armor piercing (AP) tank round fired nearly point blank — also fail. It’s only after the tank’s attempt that an opening appears on the very top of the cube, and who should walk out but Shindou! Right behind him is Yaha-kui zaShunina wearing an impressive cape (at Shindou’s suggestion, we learn in episode 2). It was a strong entrance for the character who’s likely to be at the center of the series.

The show looks like it wants to be taken seriously, and it seems like it’s trying to bring a new perspective to the first contact theme. Given what I’ve seen in the first two episodes, I’m willing to give it a chance!

Clockwork Planet

Shown on Crunchyroll Thursdays 3:00pm EDT

Despite not being able to fix a clock, Miura’s able to fix the subtle flaw at RyuZU’s heart. What’s the difference between luck and a plot convenience? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Every once and a while, I find a show that I really, really want to like, but the show fights me. Clockwork Planet is one of those. The premise is that Earth — and humanity — die sometime in the future. Only the work of the mysterious engineer Y brings the planet (and, presumably, humanity) back to life using only gears. Okay, so the idea of a planet made entirely of gears is something that attracted my attention, but if humanity died, does that mean that all humans are now artificial constructs? If not, where’d humanity come from, if they’d died off?

The main character, Naoto Miura, is supposed to be human, but he’s so interested in automata that he tries to have as little human interaction as possible. He talks as if he’s incompetent at clock repair, but his sense of hearing is supernatural. If he’s human, but the world died and was rebuilt, where’d he and the other humans come from?

One day, surrounded by the clocks that he loves, a coffin crashes through his roof. Contained within is a stunningly beautiful automata. She appears to be sleeping, but he can hear that a gear deep within her chest is broken. So, at odds with his inability to fix the clocks surrounding him, he fixes one of the most complex machines in existence. She awakens, tells him her name is RyuZU, and swears undying loyalty to him. I’ll make the point here that all wish-fulfillment isn’t bad!

Marie seems like she has a lot to prove, and she has a loyal body guard in Vainney. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

If the world was rebuilt using just gears, and if “humans” are also just gears (and we haven’t been told yet), then why’s there a distinction between Miura and RyuZU? And if there is a distinction, I still don’t know where humans came from, since their world was destroyed and the intro tells us humans died out.

There’s some good world-building going on. On this clockwork Earth, there are multiple factions, and the military and clock-smiths are two of the leading groups. There’s a military plot that’ll result in the death of millions in Kyoto, and Marie Bell Breguet and her super-powered body guard Vainney Halter work to thwart it. Somehow, she had been counting on RyuZU being delivered to her, but after only two episodes in, I’m not sure what that’s about. There’s also some decent political intrigue within the clock-smiths’ leadership. But there’s also some fanservice that a) embarrassed Marie, who’s clearly underaged and b) did nothing for the plot, so I’m not at all comfortable with it. It almost seemed like an effort to inject interest because of a lack of confidence in the material.

Still, I like the chemistry between Miura and RyuZU, and between Marie and Vainney. And I’ve always loved a good dose of political intrigue…

I’m feeling like I shouldn’t expect too much from this show. Who knows? Maybe those low expectations will translate into the show being fun to watch.

Saekano – How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend Season 2

Shown on Strike! Thursday 11:55PM EDT (or so)

Kasumigaoka and Hyoudou watch Eiri make a fool of herself trying to talk the demure Katou into assuming suggestive poses. Aki floats nearby, oblivious. Capture from the Amazon Strike stream.

This year we get to see the second season of the show Saekano – How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend Season. It follows Tomoya Aki as he tries to build the ultimate video game. He’s enlisted the help of graphics artist Eiri Spencer, a tsundere childhood friend, as well the writing skills of Utaha Kasumigaoka, an already popular professional writer. The third member of the team is Megumi Katou, who’s their heroine and voice actor. Aki saw her atop a hill, the breeze blowing her white dress as it caught her hat and blew it away. The vision so moved him that he decided to make a video game around it. The final member of the team (well, mostly — the team’s kinda flexible) is Michiru Hyoudou, Aki’s cousin. She’s an accomplished musician, and she’s providing the game’s music.

If Clockwork Planet had an example of what I’d consider inappropriate fanservice, Saekano has the polar opposite. I mean, their fanservice is 180 degrees apart. If you don’t like fanservice, or if you’d think less of me for speaking well of it, consider skipping to the Re:Creators preview below.

Eiri really likes Aki, but she finds it hard to express. Especially with the other women constantly interfering with her! Capture from the Amazon Strike stream.

This show has something of a tradition (if two times constitute a tradition) of a fanservice-heavy first episode. In fact, the opening episode of season two is called “Fan Service of Love and Pure Heart.”

It lives up to its name.

The episode starts off in a New York hotel’s swimming pool, where they’re ostensibly working on the script and artwork. But mostly, they’re lounging around in swimwear. I could talk about the exceptional artwork in this episode. I could talk about how each woman has a different and beautifully-drawn body-type. I could debate whether or not this shot or that shot was tasteful or exploitive. But as I watched this episode, I really didn’t think of any of those. No, what struck me was that this was one of the rare times when I thought the fanservice was almost entirely helpful to the narrative.

Kasumigaoka and Eiri are united in their disapproval of Hyoudou playing the “I’m just a cousin” card with Aki. Again. Capture from the Amazon Strike stream.

For whatever reason, each of these women want to appeal to Aki. I’m not sure they all really want to pursue a relationship; it might be that they are vying for dominance within the group. But each of them demonstrated weaponized sexuality in this episode. Each choice of swimsuit, each pose, and each gesture seemed calculated to one-up the other women and to impress Aki. He seems almost oblivious to it all, but I’m not convinced he’s not secretly enjoying himself. I’ve said that fanservice, when under the character’s control, is just fine. And in this episode, it was most decidedly fine.

Dramatically, the scenes work because they’re a sexualized version of the interactions that make this series so interesting. The second half of the episode began to move in that direction, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this contentions team gets closer to Aki’s dream of producing the perfect video game.

Re:Creators

Shown on Strike! Saturdays 10:30AM (or so)

Mizushino, still in his school uniform, finds himself sudden in another world. Capture from the Amazon Strike stream.

You’ve probably seen the meme that says something like take the red pill to bring someone from anime world to real life or the blue pill to go to anime world. It’s a fun question, but have you ever stopped to think of the red pill’s implications?

Re:Creators has. Souta Mizushino, the main character, finds himself pulled briefly into the world of a favorite anime series by a glitching tablet (must be Android-based!*). He’s in the middle of a battle between the princess Selesia Upitiria and Gunpuku no Himegimi, a character who shouldn’t exist in that world (though Mizushino didn’t know that at the time). The tablet glitches again, and he’s back in his world — with the princess.

The concept alone has entertainment value, but after seeing two episodes, I’m getting the impression that this series has even more going for it. First, the action sequences are fantastic to watch. This shouldn’t come as surprise, given that the Re:Creators’ studio, TROYCA, also created Aldnoah.Zero, which also had sweeping action-packed battle scenes. The choreography put me right in the middle of the action.

Mizushino used quotes from Selesia’s manga to prove she was in his world — much to her embarrassment. Capture from the Amazon Strike stream.

Second, and for me even more important, is that the show’s dealing with the fallout of characters being able to come to this world. Himegimi wants revenge, calling our world the world of irresponsible gods who inflict needless pain and strife on their sub-created worlds. How would a character from a series react after finding out their entire life — even their world — was a work of fiction created for entertainment?

It seems like the show might deal with the question from the other perspective, too. How will writers who put their characters in these terrible situations, all for the sake of drama, react when they learn that their characters are actually living in these fictional worlds? What’s a writer’s responsibility in that case? How will it vary by writer?

Himegimi has the makings of one of the better villains this season, and maybe even in recent years! Capture from the Amazon Strike stream.

I’m already rooting for Re:Creators‘ characters like Selesia and Meteora Österreich. Neither of them panicked; they’re both trying to make sense of what’s going on to plot a way forward. Even Mizushino, a character surrounded by beautiful women whose position is so often filled by a weak-willed male (like Kouta Oyamada from Kanokon or Rosario to Vampire’s Tsukune Aono), is out of his depth but is struggling to help Selesia and Meteora as best he can. Himegimi seems to have a legitimate beef with he creator, to, and I’ve always found sympathetic villains more compelling.

This is one of two series reviewed this season (the other being Alice & Zouroku).

* I’m joking. If you prefer Android-based tablets, feel free to substitute “iOS” for “Android” in my joke.

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