Cooler Nights — That Means It’s Time for the Fall 2016 Anime Preview (Part 1)!

I’ve taken the opportunity presented by the recent announcement of Crunchyroll’s and Funimation’s partnership to streamline how I blog about the seasons. Instead of a post for Crunchyroll and a post for Funimation seasons, I’ll just post about the series regardless of its streaming home. That’s probably overdue, anyway, given how I recently reviewed Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, which streamed on Amazon Prime.

This season, though, it looks like Crunchyroll has a monopoly on my attention. I’m thoroughly excited about several titles, like Hibike! Euphonium 2 and WWW.WAGNARIA!!. Others, like Shuumatsu no Izetta, seemed to come out of nowhere.

Here’s the first installment of what I’m watching this season! You can read the second installment here.

Note: I’m trying something new: listing the day/time new episodes should be released. I’m confident in the sources I’m using, but if you see any errors, please do leave a comment so I can make corrections!

Hibike! Euphonium 2

1:00PM EST Wednesdays on Crunchyroll

Kumiko's as twitch as ever -- and she make the most adorable sound when she's surprised! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Kumiko’s as twitchy as ever — and she makes the most adorable sound when she’s surprised! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Kyoto Animation blew me away with the first season of Sound Euphonium. The animation was stunning, saturated with color, and filled subtle movements. The characters were believable and enthralling. It didn’t hurt that the story was a work of art.

That puts a lot of pressure on the second season to perform. How’s the first episode measure up?

Once, about 1/2 way through, I thought the story seemed to drag, just a bit. Then I realized, “Oh. It’s a double-length episode. It just seemed normal length.” In other words, I was judging a double length episode by how much it felt like a normal length episode.

In other words, it measured up just fine.

The first episode had to not only be Kyoto-awesome; it had a lot of housekeeping to do, like reacquaint us with the characters and lay the foundation for the initial dramatic arcs in this season. Between the lush animation (the Kyoto-awesomeness) and the myriad LCMs (Little Character Moments), I can say “Mission accomplished!”

The dialogue is more subtle and lyrical than before. There are little, beautiful touches everywhere: chalk dust floating away as the teacher writes on the board; Reina Kousaka’s hair blowing in the breeze; Kumiko Oumae’s attitude changing when she talks to her sister, mother, or friends; Reina asking Kumiko to go to the festival and fending off Kumiko’s playful teasing. If anything, this first episode set a high bar for those LCMs.

The only drawback? They’ve set the bar awfully high! I hope they can maintain the quality for an entire season. Though, given the studio, maybe I shouldn’t worry.

Shuumatsu no Izetta

11:45AM EST Saturdays on Crunchyroll

Finé's strong, but there's only so much she can do alone against Germania. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Finé’s strong, but there’s only so much she can do alone against Germania. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

This anime came out of nowhere for me. That’s by design. I don’t research a new season until it’s upon me, because I still like to be surprised.

And boy did the first episode surprise me!

The story’s set in an alternate history, just before our World War II started. It’s only a matter of time before Princess Finé’s kingdom, Eylstadt, falls to Germania. With two loyal bodyguards, Finé travels to a supposedly neutral country to meet a representative from Britannian. Meeting at an opera house, operatic singing in the background, Finé offers to marry a suitor from Britannian in exchange for protection. But it’s too late. Germanian agents, already operating with impunity within the country, apprehend her, stuff her into a plane, and start the flight back to their capital.

There’s a strange container on the plane with them. It’s a cross between a freezer, a coffin, and an iron lung. During some turbulence, Finé wrests a pistol from her captors, but in the scuffle, she’s injured. That’s when a young woman rises from the damaged sarcophagus. She’s a witch that Finé had met years ago.

The witch, Izetta, is not happy that her princess friend has been wounded.

The animators have done a wonderful job bringing the world to life. It feels like late 1930s Europe, down to the clothing, design of the aircraft, and the weaponry. Finé is a strong character. She’s no superhuman, and she’s terrified at what Germania will do to her small country. Far from shrinking away from the threat, she meets it head on. It’s not her fault that Germania moved faster than she feared. It’s too early for me to tell much about Izetta, except that she’s fast to analyze a situation and is devoted to Finé.

Enraging the white witch Izetta is a really bad idea. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Enraging the white witch Izetta is a really bad idea. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, so I’ll just say that I found the whole thing very entertaining.

I’ve got high hopes for this series! It’s in contention for one of the two series I’ll review this season.

WWW.WAGNARIA!!

12:00PM EST Saturdays on Crunchyroll

In the previous three seasons, Souta Takanashi was the point of view character and acted, most of the time, as the straight man. This time around, the role falls to Daisuke Higashida, who has to get a job at one of the Wagnaria restaurants because his father’s business unexpectedly went bankrupt. Whereas Takanashi’s mother was a fearsome force that generated three seasons of tension, Higashida’s father acts goofy and irresponsible, much to the delight of his daughter and wife — and much to Higashida’s disgust.

Sure, she looks pleasant and unassuming now. But don't let down your guard! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Sure, she looks pleasant and unassuming now. But don’t let down your guard! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

The show starts out with a formula similar to the first three seasons. We get to meet the floor chief, Hana Miyakoshi, who’s friendly and smiling one instant and a complete terror the next. The apparently reliable cooks, who seem to take everything in stride, observe the madness all around them. One of the floor staff, Sayuri Muranushi, can either see ghosts or has issues — unless she’s just leading everyone on.

It turns out Higashida’s not the only one trying to make ends meet. For Yūta Shindō, Wagnaria is his third (and most profitable!) job. He’s working to help pay off his father’s debt, which is owed to the father of another floor worker, Shiho Kamakura. It seems she has no inclination to let him forget it!

Anime News Network published a quick capsule overview of the main characters.

I really enjoyed the first three seasons. The quirky personalities, coupled with the stable and homey feeling in the family restaurant, really appealed to me. My favorite part of the show was the relationship that developed between Higashida and Mahiru Inami, which might account for why I bought her figurine! It looks like season’s trying to relaunch the series using the same formula. Time will tell, but like a favorite recipe that never gets old, I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy WWW.WAGNARIA!!

Bubuki Buranki: Hoshi no Kyojin

10:00AM EST Saturdays on Crunchyroll

In season 1, we met Azuma Kazuki. He and his family lived on an island-sized chunk of land orbiting the Earth, and that chunk was called Treasure Island. Mostly inert, gigantic robots called Buranki dotted the landscape. One day, many of the Buranki awoke, and Kazuki’s mother casts him and his sister to Earth for their safety. Ten years later, a strange orb/relic in hand, he returns to Japan. There, he finds four youths who try to steal his orb. He comes to learn that they have similar relics, called Bubuki. Two of them represent arms, and the other two, legs. Kazuki learns that his relic is the heart, and together, all five can animate a Buranki. If they learn to work together, which took most of the season!

The old and new casts seem to mix well -- for the most part. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
The old and new casts seem to mix well — for the most part. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

The second season starts soon after Treasure Island fell from the sky. Kazuki and his team travel from country to country to take care of the Buranki who tried to escape the ruin of Treasure Island. Kazuki has a run of bad luck (in addition to suffering from a fear of heights), so he gets detailed in airport customs. The other four set off in search of a black Buranki that was supposed to be in the area. They think they’ve found it, and they prepare to engage it in combat. Another Buranki beats them to it. This titan’s heart-holder is a confident young woman with a keen sense of showmanship. Her introduction as Karoruko Kazuki shocked our heroes: yes, she’s a Kazuki. As in, she’s Azuma’s little twin sister. She has a team of four Bubuki users, just like the ones who surround Azuma.

Speaking of those character, they all return. Kogane Asabuki, who wields the right hand that she sometimes refers to as “rightie-chan,” is as cute and bubbly as ever. Hiiragi Nono (left leg) is as arrogant and obnoxious as Asabuki is nice. Kinoa Ougi, intelligent and hot-tempered, holds the Bubuki that makes up the left arm. Finally, the insanely powerful and mysterious Shizuru Taneomi holds a Bubuki in the form of a rifle that becomes the right leg. That team gelled in the last season.

This time around, it looks like there’s going to be tension between the siblings, who didn’t meet in the first episode. The show also introduced an antagonist, another heart-holder, who sees his role quite differently than Azuma. Instead of using the heart to bring a willing team together, this guy uses it to dominate younger or less powerful Bubuki holders. He treats one of the young women with Karoruko with particular disdain — and a familiarity that’s as brutal as it was unwelcome.

I have to admit to a small feeling of pride for Nono when he said he was going to kill that man…

Karoruko's not afraid to stand up to an idiot bully. She didn't even hesitate! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Karoruko’s not afraid to stand up to an idiot bully. She didn’t even hesitate! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

From my perspective, the second season has an uphill battle. Season one’s antagonist, Reoko Banryū, was a complex character. She was clearly the villain, but by the end, I understood why she felt the way she did. I actively sympathized with her! Seeing her in such dire straights, even when she was inflicting pain on the protagonists, was heart-breaking. This time around, if the “annoying heart-user” is the main villain, I’m going to be disappointed at what appears to be a one-dimensional character. I’ll wait and see — and hope!

I enjoyed the animation in the first series. It’s computer generated, and I know that some folks prefer hand-drawn anime. Personally, I like both. One of my favorite series, Arpeggio of Blue Steel, was the product of the same studio (Studio Sanzigen) and shared the same look. The animation this time around looks even more vibrant and smooth than previous works. I think they’re getting better at it!

What series are you looking forward to this season?

Post Author: tcrow