Summer 2016 Preview: Funimation Edition

Funimation’s Summer 2016 Season, for me at least, doesn’t offer as many titles as Crunchyroll. But there are three titles that I think have huge promise, and one of those represents the return of one of my long-time favorite shows, D.Gray-man.

Here are the four shows that I started watching on Funimation this season!

There may be some spoilers among the descriptions; please be cautious if you haven’t seen the first episode or two of each series!

Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars

Yui seems like a compassionate leader, but I'm not sure she's up to the burden of being an empress. Capture from the Funimation stream.
Yui seems like a compassionate leader, but I’m not sure she’s up to the burden of being an empress. Capture from the Funimation stream.

It’s hard to do something new and fresh in the mecha genre. From the semi-sentient mecha from Argevollen to the alien-tech-inspired mechs from Knights of Sidonia, from Evangelion to Valvrave the Liberator, anime’s presented a lot of interesting and enjoyable alternatives. That’s why when I started watching Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars, I was afraid it would be more of the same.

Now, I’m not claiming that this series is astoundingly original or anything. I’m not even claiming (yet) that’s great. But I will say that I enjoy the their visually distinct take on mechs.

The show opens with a battle twelve years ago between two powerful mechs piloted by young women (of course — it’s anime!). The result is the release of energy so terrible that it erased all life from the nearby city. The scene shifts to the “present”, where Yuinshiel Asteria is fixing breakfast for her older sister, Rena Asteria. Yuinshiel (Yui) calls Rena her older sister even though it appears that Rena is years younger. The scene feels like they’re getting ready for school until Aoi Konoe, dressed in a business suit, bursts into their room and begins talking about their schedules, including a lunch Rena wanted to have with Yui.

Their lunch’s pre-empted by a white-haired girl who lures Rena to a seaport. There, a large, cruel man intercepts her and summons a mech from what looks like an alternate dimension. The transformation is one of the series highlights: at the very least, it’s a visually interesting way to summon the mech! He attacks her, and at the last moment, she transforms into a more lithe mech, using much more elaborate and almost sinister animation, and defends herself. Her heart isn’t in it, and she’s nearly beaten. She’s laying in a pool of something that looks like Mercury when Yui arrives. Yui’s looking for her sister after missing lunch, and she’s not in the least bit surprised at the turn of affairs. Helping Rena to her feet, Rena transforms again, this time with Yui as the pilot, and they defeat the intruder.

The mechs are interesting and the fights are exciting to watch! It's going to be interesting to see if Yui, the young empress, can keep everything together. Capture from the Funimation stream.
The mechs are interesting and the fights are exciting to watch! It’s going to be interesting to see if Yui, the young empress, can keep everything together. Capture from the Funimation stream.

Then we find out that Yui is actually the empress of Enastoria, and that Rena was one of the mechs involved in the incident twelve years ago.

The show has a soft look to its animation. There’re a lot of gentle, sustaining hugs between Yui and Rena (and Yui and several other of her entourage). I suspect that’s what’s behind some folks saying this is a Yuri series. Maybe it is, or maybe it will become that, but so far, I just see a number of young women working through tough times and supporting one another.* I find Yui a tad weak as a leader, but not fatally so, and the technology is interesting. Two episodes in, and I haven’t dropped it yet! Many series haven’t fared that well…

I should also mention I like the end theme (ED).

* Why, yes, I have been called naive before. Why do you ask?

Scar-red Rider XechS

I never did quite figure out why this guy moped around and didn't join the battle with his squad. But his motorcycle is cool. Capture from the Funimation stream.
I never did quite figure out why this guy moped around and didn’t join the battle with his squad. But his motorcycle is cool. Capture from the Funimation stream.

I read about this series in the Anime News Network’s (ANN) Summer 2016 preview. After watching it, I’ve come to two conclusions:

  1. I’m not going to watch another episode.
  2. I’m not even going to write about it. Instead, if you’re interested, the ANN reviews (especially the first one) captured my views. This post from RABUJOI is another good summary. That I don’t have to write. When means I can forget about this as quickly as possible.

I’m just not in this show’s target audience.

Look on the good side: I’m not only conserving my time, I’m trying to save yours, too, by pointing out two other write-ups that are already done!

Planetarian

Have you seen the Pixar/Disney movie called Wall-E? Did you think it was gut-wrenching to see the little robot laboring so hard — for those who had abandoned it?

Sad and kinda tragic, wasn’t it?

The man searching for junk was not expecting to meet Hoshino -- nor was he ready for her persistent attention! Capture from the Funimation stream.
The man searching for junk was not expecting to meet Hoshino — nor was he ready for her persistent attention! Capture from the Funimation stream.

This show has that kind tragic written all over it. Maybe that’s why I’m liking it! It’s by no means a take-off on Wall-E; it evokes the same kind of sentiment in its own way. This show will likely break my heart…

Planetarian begins in our future. The staff at a department start deploy a new human-looking robot named Yumemi Hoshino to run the planetarium on the top floor. She’s excited to meet the team, and she talks about how much she’s looking forward to serving them and their customers. The scene cuts to a few months later. The staff is in tears. They tell her that she needs to stay put and wait for them; they’re not sure when they’ll be back. She remains cheerful and wishes them a safe and happy journey.

Then an unnamed enemy drops the biological weapons on the city.

She tried to build a bouquet out of scrap to celebrate his arrival. Capture from the Funimation stream.
She tried to build a bouquet out of scrap to celebrate his arrival. Capture from the Funimation stream.

Fast-forward 30 years. A man whose name I haven’t learned yet has found some scrap in the city, but the sentry bots are chasing him. As he’s trying to escape, he drops his loot and most of his equipment. He ends up hiding the department store. Hoshino, sensing a human she interprets as a customer, readies the planetarian show — she even tries to make him feel special by claiming he’s the 2,500,000th customer — then guiltily confesses that she inflated the number to make this a special occasion. She gives him a bouquet of wiring and electronic scraps as she told him she couldn’t find real flowers.

She knows it’s been 29 years and 81 days since the last customer. She knows that the flower shop on the first floor won’t answer her calls; neither will the maintenance department. But she has no idea why even while she expresses confidence that the other departments will respond soon. The “customer” finds her lack of knowledge so annoying that he asks if she’s broken. She responds, “Yes. I am a little bit broken.”

The idea of this dedicated, partly broken robot trying to fulfill her duty to humans who abandoned her 30 years ago is so poignant that I couldn’t look away. I’m not sure where the show’s going, but between Hoshino’s endearing attitude and the background of a dead city, I’m in for the ride!

D.Gray-man HALLOW

D.Gray-man HALLOW is one of the two series I’m reviewing for the Summer 2016 season. If you didn’t see the first two seasons (totaling 103 episodes), you can catch up quickly with a concise and enjoyable summary over at Anime News Network. Even as a fan of the show who watched every episode, I enjoyed reading their synopsis.

Allen Walker's back with his friends to defend humans from Akuma -- and the Earl. Capture from the Funimation stream.
Allen Walker’s back with his friends to defend humans from Akuma — and the Earl. Capture from the Funimation stream.

This season starts with a political crisis: Allen Walker helped save the Black Order (and therefore the world) in the first two seasons, but to do so, he used memories that only a member of the Clan of Noah could have. They are a main ally of the Millennium Earl and therefore an archenemy of the Order. The Central Agency sent Malcolm C. Lvellie to confront Allen and put him on notice. However, the Order’s so short on Exorcists  that they allow Allen to remain active. The condition? If he begins to show signs of the Noah memories possessing him, he’s to be killed.

Unfortunately, that’s not the only problem. Allen’s mentor and Exorcist General Cross Marian is murdered after he questions Allen about the Noah memories. He had also observed that the war was more than it appeared. Though he accuses Allen of the murder, Malcolm actually suspects that someone at the Central Agency committed the apparent murder without consulting him; he appears worried.

And, of course, there’s the matter of the war itself: Akuma continue their assault on humanity. By the end of the second episode, Allen and his fellow Exorcists have to confront three powerful Akuma. Akuma of that level of power usually fight alone. Even worse, they’ve evolved, and the Exorcists find themselves completely on the defensive.

MyAnimeList shows that this season will have 13 episodes. Given that the previous seasons stretched to 103 episodes, I hope this season doesn’t feel rushed, because the characters are as enjoyable as ever and the danger the Akuma present is as dark and deadly as before.

Now, if they’d only give Lenalee Lee a bigger role…

Post Author: tcrow