Winter 2016 Anime Slate: Crunchyroll Edition

The Winter 2016 season’s underway. Here’s what I’m watching on Crunchyroll!

Note: There are spoilers sprinkled throughout these descriptions, so it’s best if you watch the first episode of each before reading. Or, if you don’t plan to watch a show at all, maybe reading the description will pique your interest!

Active Raid

The seemingly dysfunctional experimental police unit kept Kazari off constantly off balance. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
The seemingly dysfunctional experimental police unit kept Kazari off constantly off balance. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

A technology called Willwear is basically a kind of mech, and it’s available to the police and to folks who don’t have legal intentions. Asami Kazari is assigned to a Willwear police unit that has a terrible reputation. She tries to make an impact, but she quickly finds out field work is a lot different from what she expected. Hinata Yamabuki, for example, appeared disorganized and inattentive. But when the unit goes after two suspects wearing Willwear, Yamabuki proved that she knew exactly what she was doing. Yamabuki’s job isn’t easy, as not only does she have to deal with perpetrators, but also insane unit members like Willwear pilot Takeru Kuroki, who has a tendency to inflict more property damage than is strictly necessary. I’m curious to see why the higher-ups thought this unit wasn’t performing well, because it looked like they did a fine job. Does someone have a political agenda? Is this unit’s record really that bad? Will Kazari ever fit in? The first episode kept my attention. Here’s hoping the rest of the season does, too!

AOKANA: Four Rhythm Across the Blue

<> was a little uncoordinated when she first tried to fly. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Kurashina was a little uncoordinated when she first tried to fly. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Asuka Kurashina transfers to a new school where she’s surprised to find that the students all have Grav-Shoes.  These shoes let everyone fly all over the island and compete in a sporting event called the Flying Circus. She makes several friends on the way to school on the first day. Masaya Hinata helps her find her house keys when she drops them in the sand and Misaki Tobisawa arrives just in time to remind them that they’re going to be late for school. For some reason, Hinata is reluctant to fly, but he gives in to Tobisawa’s urging so they can help Kurashina, who’s never flown before, fly to school. After the first day of classes, Kurashina meets Mashiro Arisaka, an underclassman who’s utterly devoted to Tobisawa. As they’re going home, Kurashina accidentally challenges an expert at Flying Circus to a duel, and she’s almost completely defeated. However, Hinata talks her through some moves that boosted her confidence, and her conviction not to be defeated helped her score the winning point. This anime feels a lot like Aria in terms of how it presents the beauty of flying and the idyllic life on the island. That could change a lot, though, depending on why Hinata doesn’t want to fly.

One thing that bothered me about this show: the girls fly around in skirts. In the air. I get wanting to have cute girls flying around, but I really think they’d wear shorts under their skirts (like Misaka Mokoto) or even — heaven forbid! — wear pants. I know this is anime, but yeesh!

Erased

<> experiences moments of <>, which gives him the chance to save lives. Capture from the Crunchyroll site.
<> experiences moments of <>, which gives him the chance to save lives. Capture from the Crunchyroll site.

Satoru Fujinuma is a manga artist who’s struggling to build his career. He’s haunted by a memory of a little girl who was kidnapped when he was little; since he was the last one to see her, he blames himself for not offering to walk her home. That’s not his only problem. At any point in his day, he could experience deja vu, but with a twist: it’s always at or near a moment when he had to make a critical observation to save someone’s life. He calls the phenomena Revival. He saves a little boy from a run-away truck after a Revival incident, but ends up in the hospital. His co-worker, Airi Katagiri, saw Revival in action and becomes intrigued enough to visit him in the hospital. Things take a turn for the worse when his mom visits to help him recuperate. As they’re going home from the grocery store, he experiences Revival, but he can’t see why. His mom notices a suspicious man leading a child to a van, but the man sees her and drives away. Later that night, that man tracks her down and kills her. Fujinuma comes home, finds her, and tries to revive her. He panics when he finds she’s dead, and the neighbor sees him with the blood on his hands. As the police are about to arrest him, he experiences Revival — and finds that he’s back to the point in his life a few days before the little girl was kidnapped. Good animation, great foreshadowing, and dramatic pacing make this worth watching.

Gate

The princess works with senators and the Japanese diplomatic corps to bring peace. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
The princess works with senators and the Japanese diplomatic corps to bring peace. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

In Gate’s first season, we learned that a mystical portal (the eponymous Gate) opened between a medieval fantasy world and Japan. Soldiers with swords and bows (some riding small dragons) surged through the Gate to seize the city, but they met the Japanese Defense Force (JDF) with predictable results. The thirteenth episode (first episode of the second season) picked right up where the last season left off. Yoji Itami is working with the Princess Pina Co Lada to bring peace. Unfortunately, the emperor Molt Sol Augustus and his despicable son Zorzal El Caesar have other plans. The dark elf Yao Ro Dushi has learned who Itami cares about outside of the JDF, and she’s desperate to convince Itami to defeat the fire dragon that’s destroying her people. Will she kidnap Rory Mercury, Lelei La Lalena, or Tuka Luna Marceau? Will the Princess’ efforts at peace make headway, or will her father defeat her plans? Will Itami ever get to buy the anime, doujinshi, video games, or manga that he wants? I loved the first season. This season is shaping up to be more dramatically heavy and serious than the first.

Myriad Color Phantom World

<> and <> learned they earned just enough to pay back the property damage they caused. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Kawakami and Ichijo learned they earned just enough to pay back the property damage they caused. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

In the near future, previously invisible phantoms not only become visible to people, but those phantoms can also wreck havoc. High school students Mai Kawakami fights these phantoms while her teammate Haruhiko Ichijo uses his power to capture them. In his case, he has to sketch them, so it takes him awhile, which puts more pressure on Kawakami to contain the phantoms. The two of them end up getting paid comparatively little because they also have to pay for property damage due to his slow sketching. Ichijo has a little phantom companion named Ruru who’s part imp and part honest helper. After school on the day of the battle, worried that he and his teammate were failing, he came across Reina Izumi as she inhaled phantoms as a snack. Seeing her abilities, he begs her to join his team and ends up making an idiot of himself. By the next day, he and Kawakami convince Izumi to join them, and they defeat some wood phantoms who had inhabited power poles. They had to win an electrified limbo contest to do so.

The limbo scene is already famous (you can see it here on Youtube) because Kawakami uses anime “breast physics” to win. I prefer my physics to be realistic, but since this show doesn’t take itself seriously, I laugh along with it. There was a scene early on, when Ichijo met Izumi, where he even realized what was about to happen was a cliche, and he even commented on it. The characters are fun, and the concept’s interesting. I’m looking forward to the next episodes.

Theodor tries to explain the political realities of East Germany to Katia. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Theodor tries to explain the political realities of East Germany to Katia. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Schwarzes Marken

This series is in the same universe as Muv Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse (which will eventually make its way into the Crow’s World of Anime Caw of Fame like Shikabane Hime). In a world parallel to our Earth, other dimensional invaders called BETA attack Earth in a time where the Soviet Union still existed. Schwarzes Marken starts in East Germany under communist rule. The 666th TSF squadron have to fight not only the invaders, but also the Stasi or secret police and informants. The 666th was ordered into action to attack the enemy’s Laser Class, which can utterly destroy any target by shooting beams of light from their over-sized eyes. As they wrap up that operation, they receive a United Nations distress call from Poland that their political officer Gretel Jeckeln asks Inghild Bronikowski, the command officer, to investigate. She orders Theodor Eberbach to accompany her. They find West German Katia Waldheim as the sole survivor from her squadron. They bring her back and are astonished when she asks for asylum. This episode reminds us how brutally dangerous the BETA are.  Unlike its predecessor, where we only catch glimpses from the outside of the evils of the Soviet Union’s regime, this series looks to make that human brutality front and center. There’s already some good drama between Theodor and Inghild, and there must be more we have to learn about Katia — else, why would Gretel support her appointment to the 666th?

And most pressing — why did Aoi Futaba from Cat Planet Cuties travel to this universe and change her name to Gretel Jeckeln?

I was a real fan or the original, so I’m anxious to see how this develops.

Others

  1. BBK BRNK (a.k.a. Bubuki Buranki) starts with Azuma Kazuki when he was young and living with is family on a planetoid orbiting the Earth. His sister accidentally awoke ancient and deadly mechs, so his mom, an adept at defending against such threats, sealed them in one of the mechs and sent them to Earth. The resulting catastrophe killed a lot of people, and the rulers in Japan blamed his mom, who was thereafter considered a mass murderer. Ten year later, Kazuki returns to Japan to find corrupt rulers who are out to get him. Youngsters his age defend him and try to get him to his mom’s mech. The animation’s really good in this one, and I’m anxious to learn more about that world.
  2. Phantasy Star Online 2 the Animation: Itsuki Tachibana is a jack of all trades who the student council president recruits to play Phantasy Star Online 2. It’s an online role playing game. At first, I thought that this might try to imitate Sword Art Online or Log Horizon. I enjoyed both shows immensely (especially the first 12 episodes of SAO and, well, all of the episodes of Log Horizon), and I really couldn’t face a rip-off. Fortunately, it looks like Phantasy Star Online 2 the Animation has a different vision. It has intrigue in its real world. For example, why was the student council president interested in Tachibana when the rest of the council was against him? Why is the council interested in an online RPG anyway?
  3. Satonaka is a middle-schooler who's also a landlord. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
    Satonaka is a middle-schooler who’s also a landlord. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

    Ooya-san wa Shishunki! This is a short (around 2 minutes or so per episode) that follows Chie Satonaka, a middle-schooler, who’s the landlord of an apartment complex. I generally don’t watch shorts (though I’ve watched some of Miss Monochrome the Animation and found its humor delightful), but look at her eyes. Look at them! How can you say no to such innocent and bright eyes!

Summary

Crunchyroll attracted me to six titles in Fall 2015. They got me for nine this winter! Curse their great lineup for gluing me to their site! I think these titles go from light-hearted comedy to serious drama to cold-war era brutality. There’s even other-worldly political intrigue, action, and Rory Mercury! This is shaping up to be a great season.

What do you think? What are you watching on Crunchyroll?

Post Author: tcrow