The Anime Pulse #7 – Initial Thoughts on the 2015 Winter Anime Season

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to another edition of The Anime Pulse! The 2014/2015 Winter Anime season is in full swing and I happened to catch a lot of first episodes of new shows that have come out. This column will be dedicated to my thoughts on those particular shows.

I will preface this; however, by saying that a lot of shows actually held my attention and I picked up watching the most amount of shows in quite a while. I did, however, drop two and I will detail all of that below.

So without further delay, let’s jam!

assassination

Ansatsu Kyoushitsu
This one is better known by its English title, Assassination Classroom. It’s about an Earth-born alien being who blew up the moon and left it as a permanent crescent. He vows to destroy Earth; the Japanese government isolates him within the confines of a rural classroom full of underachieving students and forces him to be their teacher. The government tasks the students with assassinating the alien before he can blow up Earth within a one year time frame. If they do so, they will receive a 10 Billion Yen reward for their troubles. While they do want to kill him, they come to realize the alien is the best damn teacher they ever had!

The plot is a bit out there.. it’s crazy.. but it’s pulled off REALLY well in the first episode. I love the comedy in this show and the alien seems to be pretty overpowered. He can run at speeds of up to Mach 20 and he can regenerate his damaged limbs. I loved the fact that he said he was going to China for lunch and he’d be back in about 10 minutes, then comes back with Chinese take-out and a missile because the Japanese government took a shot at him on his trip. The kids are given BB guns with special anti-alien BBs that can really harm him, but he moves too fast for them to hit him. They devise a plan to make a claymore grenade with the BBs and even that plan fails. I can see a lot of great creativity and comedy in coming up with ways to try and kill the teacher and so far, this hasn’t disappointed!

First Episode Rating: 4/5!

binan

Binan Koukou Chikyu Bouei-bu LOVE!
At first glance this looks like a fujoshi or yaoi anime, yet it is anything but that. The best way to describe this is a parody of Sailor Moon with magical boys instead of magical girls.

The first episode sees two friends bathing together in a public bath when all of a sudden, a pink wombat alien from outer space falls out of a dimensional portal and tasks them to save the world using the power of love. The two high tail it because they want nothing to do with this, but, an over anxious and very eager bath attendee, who loves wombats, decides to chase the alien into the school. There, the alien accidentally kills their homeroom teacher and uses his body as sort of a vessel (more like the teacher will slowly rot if the wombat doesn’t stay within a certain range of it). He gives the three of them, plus two others who are part of the Earth Defense Club, the Lovraclets which they use by kissing and yelling “Love Making” to transform. Their first task is to fight a giant piece of food known for stealing the flavor of other foods it’s cooked with. They also don’t even bother naming their special attacks. They simply just yell out “Something or other fire spell!” They have zero interest in being magical boys and even attempt to take off their uniforms, but they can’t.

I’ve seen the first two episodes and I’m loving this show. The comedy all seems very random and that’s something that anime can pull off very well or either failure pretty hard at.  This is one of those series that can pull it off very well (so far).  Just because of the PV and the images of this show, I believe a lot of people will over look it and cause this to become a dark sleeper.  I urge you to check it out, especially if you’re looking for a comedy to watch, as I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

First Episode Rating: 4/5

deathparade

Death Parade
This one is not comedic by any means necessary. This is a dark horror anime with kind of a unique twist. Our first episode deals with a couple arriving at the bottom of an elevator and entering a bar. The bartender tells them that they have been chosen to play a game with only one stipulation: their lives are on the line! They spin a wheel to determine what kind of game they are going to play… and in our first episode, it’s a game of Seven Darts, with one twist. The dart board has images of body parts and they are linked to that person’s body… with the heart being the bullseye. So the more points you score, the more damage you’re doing to your own body. You could cheat and throw outside the dart board and get 0 points, but the person with the most points scored will end up being the winner and the loser will be meeting a grim fate.

Of course, they didn’t realize they could cheat until AFTER they scored a few hits and the bartender tells them it was completely acceptable to aim outside of the dart board on purpose. During the game, the couple reveal dark secrets about their marriage and it lead to the ultimate revelation for the two of them… they’re both already dead and that this game was meant to determine who would go to heaven and who would go to hell! This is a pretty interesting concept and the first episode wrapped up this couple’s story which tells me that this is going to be an episodic anime series rather than an overarching story series like we are accustomed to seeing. I enjoyed the first episode despite the fact that some of the scenes were a little over the top in their detail… I mean… the husband went from being portrayed as a well-mannered doctor to a disgusting human being with drool and slobber just being spat everywhere. Not sure if I’m a fan of that kind of depiction and didn’t think it was warranted to get the point across, but meh.. what do I know, right? All I know is I enjoyed the first episode and will continue to watch.

First Episode Rating: 3.5/5

drrr

Durarara!!x2 Shou
YES! Finally.. after five years, the second season of Durarara!! has arrived! The good news is for you Durarara!! fans is that this is part one of three in the second season. Durarara!!x2 Ten and Durarara!!x2 Ketsu will follow and apparently, they will be animating the remaining 10 arcs from the light novels!

The first episode was simply a dedication to getting familiar with our characters again. Nothing happened in this episode of any importance, but the mere fact that the show has returned was enough to keep most viewers hooked. You know an anime is good when you can literally sit and watch nothing for 24 minutes and still be entertained.

We saw Celty being chased by the police in the beginning and in typical Durarara!! fashion, the episode jumps back in time to show us how we arrived at what we saw in the beginning. We see all the familiar characters from Shinra, Simon, Mikado, Kida, Anri, Izaya, Shizou, etc. It seems that some plans were set in motion, but not much. It felt more like an episode where you just watch and go.. “OH HEY! THAT GUY!” Being away for five years, this was a pretty smart move. Get everyone’s feet wet into the Durarara!! universe and then kick things into gear with episode 2. I think it worked well and the episode served it’s purpose. I can’t complain!

First Episode Rating: 3/5

shinmaimaou

Shinmai Maou no Testament
Talk about your curveballs.

This anime starts off as a slice of life show in which a father invites his son out to lunch in order to tell him that he’s remarried and he will be getting two step sisters. Right away we’re introduced to one of the biggest tropes in anime… the unintentional sexual encounters. From accidentally walking into the bathroom while the girl is indecent, to tripping and falling on said girl in precarious positions, to even having an eroge game mysteriously planted and discovered. It’s all there, folks.

I almost wanted to drop this show because I’m pretty sick of this genre. I decided to stick it out until the end of the first episode and I’m glad I did because the two step-sisters are actually the Demon Lord and her Succubus. The Father and Son are former members of a Hero clan and they all have special powers. This went from slice of life comedy to shounen battle in roughly 12 minutes. The twist made me smile because that was a pretty unique way of introducing the genre to the viewer and I thought it was pulled off rather well. Despite them being on opposite sides, they still consider all of them as family so an unlikely bond has been formed and it was enough to keep my interest! We’ll see how the rest of the show stacks up because often times, shows like this, will have a great first episode and then fall into a realm of mediocrity.  I’m hoping that doesn’t happen as this shows some promise of being a good show.

First Episode Rating: 3.5/5

saenai

Saenai Heroine no Sodate-kata
This is another comedy and this one IS a slice of life show. It features a boy who wishes to make a dating sims game and along for the ride is an all-female cast of non-otakus whom also wish to make the game with him. I know I just got done talking about the whole sexual tension mishap genre, but this one takes a bit of a twist. All the girls like the guy and unlike most harems, the guy is NOT oblivious to it.. he just chooses to ignore it and try to remain professional. In fact, even in episode zero, he admits that he knows all the girls like him so right off the bat it’s established that he’s not completely oblivious like all other male MCs are in harem shows.  Another thing that’s different about this is that none of the girls really seem to get mad with each other. They kind of realize it’s a competition to try and seduce him. It’s these little tiny nuances that set it apart from the typical genre, BUT, it doesn’t set it apart all too much.

I’m only interested to see if it can continue to be different or if it will fall into the same obscurity as the other shows that came before it depicting the same kind of material (I’m looking at you IS: Infinite Stratos). The first episode was okay.. it was a prequel episode that set up the story, introduced the characters, and explained how everything came to be. It was pretty much an information dump episode while setting up the plot for when the actual series begins to air, giving fans an idea of what to expect. It accomplished what it set out to do so there should be no surprises when the true first episode airs.

First Episode Rating: 3/5

tokyoghoulroota

Tokyo Ghoul Root A
When the first episode aired, the mangaka Sui Ishida announced that the anime would be taking an alternate route than the manga. He had a different story in mind for Tokyo Ghoul and so he wrote out the entire story, gave it to Studio Pierrot, and they gave it the green light and turned into the second season of Tokyo Ghoul. The first episode followed the manga rather closely with some exceptions… such as Kaneki not breaking any of Ayato’s bones like he did in the manga… (He broke 103 of them, folks… just damn…) instead, Ayato was saved by Noro. Also, Suzuya wasn’t seen with Jason after he was defeated by Kaneki at the end of Season 1… instead we saw Suzuya dragging, what is assumed to be Jason’s body, away from the crumbling building… which never crumbled in the manga. Also, the gourmet ended up saving Banjou from the prison cell rather than Kaneki in this adaptation.

Those little nuances were soon forgiven, but they were all clues to the final 1:34 of the show that blew everyone’s mind… Kaneki was supposed to leave Anteiku and go out on his own… instead, he joins Aogiri! Then that insert song came on and it was one of the best anime moments I’ve witnessed in a long time. It shocked fans of the manga and even surprised anime-only viewers. The song set the mood for the moment PERFECTLY and if you wanted to make an impact with the series, this is how you do it!

Also, I love the fact that they got enough budget to make this show look awesome this time around (makes me wish Naruto: Shippuuden got that love outside of the Chikara filler arc)… plus kudos to Tokyo MX for not censoring the hell out of this season. All the blood and gore was intact. No inverted colors, no black bars.. none of that!

I also believe that this is a smart move for the series because it gives everyone and alternate version of the story which means anime-only fans are more likely to buy and read the manga to get the full experience. Tegami Bachi did the same thing with the anime and I enjoyed the parallel story of it. I hope Tokyo Ghoul finds the same success!

First Episode Rating: 5/5

Now let’s get to the shows I dropped

absoluteduo

Absolute Duo
From the description, this seemed rather unique an interesting, but red flag number one… this show comes out on a Monday. Very rarely has a show come out in the beginning of the week and held a candle to anything else that has come out and this is no exception. Red flag number two: Bunbun.. the cosplaying, over-energetic teacher who dresses in a bunny costume with a high pitched annoying voice. Red flag #3: the typical silver-haired, red-eyed loli girl who doesn’t say much and gets innocently affectionate with our male lead who reacts the same way that all other male leads do… with confusion, freight, and decency as if he’s oblivious to sex life as a teenager.

Add in the fact they can all summon weapons, but our main character is a shield because he’s an irregular. So that’s red flag number four… the main character is ALWAYS unique and different while everyone else just seems so cookie cutter.

Don’t get me wrong.. this anime was made this way to print money. Tons of figma statues will be sold with this show. Wall scrolls will be printed, and wallpapers will be downloaded. This show will be popular despite itself and honestly, I’ve given shows like this a chance more than you’d think, but this one didn’t grab me.. the first episode was boring, predictable and not really convincing. I gave the second episode a try and got half way through before I got bored enough to just stop the playback and delete the files.  If you like cookie cutter shounen anime, then go for it, I’m sure you’ll find something you like about it.  

As for me? Pass.

First Episode Rating: 1.5/5 (DROPPED)

maria

Junketsu no Maria
I didn’t even make it to the end of the first episode.

From what I watched, there’s a witch named Maria who hates conflict and war. Other witches will tend to help different sides in the war because whoever wins is likely to allow the witches to profit. Maria stops all of that by interfering and putting an end to battles for good so that no one profits. According to the description, Maria will lose her powers if she loses her virginity, but I never made it that far into the episode to see that even confirmed because the lead up to it was so damn boring that I found myself doing other things waiting for something interesting to happen. Even when Maria summoned a dragon to instill fear into the opposing sides of a battle, I wasn’t really all that impressed.

When you can’t hook an audience immediately in the first 16 minutes of a show, there’s a problem. The fact that I was bored enough to not give this show a chance speaks volumes about it, but then again, that’s just my personal taste. I’m sure there are those out there who think this show could be the second coming of Jesus and if you’re one of those people, then more power to you. I’ve always stated to watch what you like and formulate your own opinions. These are my opinions and if you don’t agree with them, then that’s okay!

First Episode Rating: 1/5 (DROPPED)

That’s going to do it for me this week. Do you agree or disagree with my opinions on these shows? We’re there any shows that came out that I missed that you think I should watch? If so, send me a line at JoshPiedra@theouterhaven.com and I will be sure to include your thoughts in a future column. I’ll even watch and review your suggestions!

If you feel inclined to do so, follow me on Twitter @pulsein

Until next time…

Ja ne!

About The Author

Josh Piedra

Josh (or J.J. as some have come to call him), is a long-time geek culture enthusiast with a deep passion for anime, manga and Japanese culture. Josh also has a Bachelor of Arts in Game Design and is a creative writer who has created original content for over 20 years! He is also the author of the original English light novel Final Hope.