I’m pretty excited for the fall 2013 anime season. It’s the first time in a while that a number of series have reached out to me and caught my attention. I’ve seen the first two episodes of each series listed below, and I’ve collected my thoughts into some first impressions. If you have your own impressions to add, please post them in the comments! Hint—spoilers follow for each of the series I’ve decided to cover. Let’s do this!
Kill la Kill
Kill la Kill is created by Trigger (Little Witch Academia), an up-and-coming studio with some deep talent that seems to know how to really entertain. Directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi (Dead Leaves, Gurren Lagann) and written by Kazuki Nakashima (Gurren Lagann), the series features a society completely run by the high school Honnōji Academy. Satsuki, the head of the student council, chooses which students receive special “Goku Uniforms” that give them special powers. An outsider named Ryūko appears with one half of a scissor blade in search of whomever has the other half, as it’s likely this person also killed her father.
This is a series that’s full of unique animation, distinct character designs, and, so far, a fun and entertaining story. When watching the second episode, I really felt it embodied the core of what an entertaining anime should be—well, if the focus is primarily on action and a heavier level of fanservice. There’s no denying that director Imaishi, who also worked on Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, has decided to push the fanservice level to a higher degree with main character Ryūko. Whenever she puts on her own special uniform, also known as a “Kamui,” it wraps around her body and feasts on her blood to power up. It’s also a sentient uniform, which is really cool. Every time she dons the thing, it makes for a fantastic battle sequence.
Do I recommend it? Yes. It’s an overall enjoyable and entertaining start that seems to have a studio that knows how to handle action and a story good enough to keep your attention.
Nagi no Asukara
Nagi no Asukara is a series from P.A. Works (Canaan, Angel Beats!) directed by Toshiya Shinohara (RDG: Red Data Girl) and written by Mari Okada (Black Rock Shooter, Black Butler, Diamond Daydreams). At first sight, we have a popular studio mixed with an excellent writer and a director who has grasped many random episodes of various series over the years. They are working together to create a series where humanity used to live underwater; they could breathe and survive in the ocean. But then one day, a group decided to leave the sea and live on land. Many years later, the groups seem to coexist. The story focuses on four individual students from the ocean who go to school on land. It’s a middle school romance story with an interesting enough foundation to really catch my attention.
The four students—Hikari, Manaka, Chisaki, and Kaname—are all interesting to me in that they have their own quirks. The two who stand out are Hikari and Manaka, as they seem to be our main characters, and they’ve been friends since a young age. Hikari clearly has feelings for her, but he hasn’t told her so. When they begin attending classes on land because their underwater school was shut down, Manaka meets a classmate fisherman named Tsumugu. I guess you could say they have a love-at-first-sight experience, and Hikari becomes jealous of the situation.
What distinguishes Nagi no Asukara from other young romance shows is the writing and how natural it feels. Mari Okada really captures an honest essence of communication that opens the door for characters to divulge their feelings. Some of the conversations they have feel like they would happen a lot later in some similar-genre series, and I’m enjoying this level of maturity in the series so far. When you add an amazing visual quality to the animation and backgrounds, well, it really just enhances the experience.
Do I recommend it? Yes, to most. Some people don’t care for the young romance anime genre, but I think it has enough quality writing to resonate with most.
Golden Time is an anime adaptation of a light novel series of the same name. J.C.Staff (Slayers, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Shakugan no Shana) is producing the adaptation with Chiaki Kon (Junjo Romantica, Higurashi When They Cry) directing. This is a series that originates in already written material, so the background material is different from those on the list so far. The main thing that caught my eye in season previews is the fact that it’s a romance series that takes place in college instead of high school or middle school. Everything pointed toward a breath of fresh air, so my hopes were a bit higher.
Golden Time features a main character named Banri Tada, who’s studying law in Tokyo. He makes friends with another student named Mitsuo, who just happens to have an apparent obsessive-ish girlfriend named Koko who followed him all the way to law school (even though he kept it all a secret from her). It seems as if Mitsuo doesn’t reciprocate her feelings, but Banri takes a liking to her.
So far, I’m enjoying Golden Time, but sometimes, it seems to have a few pacing issues. I’m definitely interested in the main characters and the girls Banri meets in the first two episodes, but I hope it doesn’t become too predictable. Right now, I’m seeing Banri having feelings for the multiple girls—or, rather, them having feelings for him. I truly wonder if he will keep his focus on Koko the entire series and if she herself will lose interest in Mitsuo. It seems there are some supernatural elements that will be revealed later on pertaining to Banri. Some stuff has already been hinted at, with Banri escaping from a hospital and getting hit by a motorcycle.
Do I recommend it? Yes, but only if you enjoy the romance genre and don’t take it too seriously. There are some awkward comedy moments that paint college stereotypes all over the place, but the characters make up for it. I would recommend Nagi no Asukara over Golden Time.
Beyond the Boundary (Kyoukai no Kanata)
Beyond the Boundary is another adaptation of a light novel series, but this time, it’s Kyoto Animation (Lucky Star, K-On!, Free! Iwatobi Swim Club) producing, with direction by Taichi Ishidate (storyboard artist and director of multiple episodes of Kyoto Animation series). This series features an immortal half-youmu named Akihito and a unique Spirit World Warrior named Mirai. They both attend the same school, but their lives intertwine when Akihito witnesses Mirai about to jump off the school roof and kill herself. She then tries to kill him with a blood sword (her unique power) and fails, and then she realizes he’s immortal. They then begin an awkward partnership where Akihito helps her defeat restless and violent youmu.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this series, but I’m enjoying it so far. I’m actually surprised at how fluid the animation is, how nice the action scenes are, and how the writing is holding up. (I have to mention that I’ve seen very little, if any, of KyoAni’s other anime series.)
I’m enjoying the slow world building that’s happening in the background as we learn about Akihito and Mirai’s lives. It looks like there’s a lot more going on in the background that we’ll learn about as the series progresses, and I like the fact that we were sort of thrown right into the middle of things. It’s interesting to see Kyoto Animation go right from Free! to a series about slaying demons and the like, but hey, I’m not going to complain.
Do I recommend it? Yes, definitely. It’s a series that I think a lot of people will enjoy for the action and animation quality alone, and it has a narrative strong enough to keep your attention.
Coppelion is a post-apocalyptic manga series adapated by GoHands (Mardock Scramble: The First Compression, K) with direction by Hiromitsu Kanazawa, Susumu Kudo, and Shingo Suzuki. A tragedy happens in Japan in 2016, likely nuclear, and an evacuation of Tokyo is required of all citizens. The radiation is too strong for humans to live in the city, but scientists genetically engineer three girls known as Coppelion (named after the titular life-size mechanical doll from the ballet Coppélia (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Copp%C3%A9lia)) who can enter the city without the need of a safety suit. An SOS within the city leads these girls on an eerie adventure where they begin to discover that some humans have remained behind.
After seeing the first two episodes, I gained a better understanding of what the series is about so far, but I can’t help but wonder if we’re getting the entire truth. The three girls—Ibara, Aoi, and Taeko—enter the city with little to no protection at all, and who knows what lies in the shadows? They’ve already fought a rabid wolf, they’ve…befriended a wolf, and they’ve met a few humans, too.
It’s almost tough to distinguish their personalities because the story is sort of a travel-and-destination piece where the atmosphere tends to be the stronger attraction. I find Aoi to be slightly annoying because she truly acts immature during most situations. Ibara stood out as a strong leader, but then broke down crying about herself and her existence. While this showed a more human element to her (even if she’s not truly human), I can’t tell if this is straight-up character development or maybe a snag along the way that shows a lack of direction with her character. It was just a bit sudden to see her break down in a dangerous situation when she was a fearless leader in every scene before.
Do I recommend it? Yes, especially if you are as interested in post-apocalyptic stories as I am.
Gingitsune: Messenger Fox of the Gods
Gingitsune is quickly becoming one of my guilty-pleasure favorites of the season. It’s very slice-of-life, with a nice spiritual twist. A young girl named Makoto is an heiress to a shrine, and she has the unique ability to see its Herald, the fox spirit Gintaro. At times, they work together to help the people of the town she lives in, with Gintaro presenting a fun I-don’t-really-want-to-help-you-but-hey-what-the-heck attitude. Diomedea (Sola, Campione!) is adapting the series from a manga with direction by Shin Misawa (Initial D).
The first two episodes of Gingitsune give off such a refreshing vibe that I’m really happy Crunchyroll has picked it up for streaming. I sometimes think of Kamichu! when watching this—it just has that upbeat stride that goes on throughout the episodes. The first episode had excellent pacing when it came to revealing Makoto’s emotions and how she regretted yelling at Gintaro. The second episode did a decent job at hammering out her friendship with two other girls. I’m also interested in whatever happened to Gintaro’s partner, as each shrine is supposed to have two spirits to watch over the area. I wholeheartedly believe this will be a sleeper hit of the season.
Do I recommend it? Most definitely, but not for those looking for a super-serious anime.
Ace of the Diamond
It’s not very often that I find myself watching a sports anime. I think the last time this happened, I watched Suzuka, but that was more for the romance than anything. I still think Yamato should’ve ended up with Honoka, but that’s just me…
Okay, then. Let’s talk about Ace of the Diamond! Adapted by Madhouse (Summer Wars, Death Note) and Production I.G. (Ghost in the Shell, FLCL) with direction by Mitsuyuki Masuhara (Shirokuma Cafe), this series features a young pitcher named Eijun and his story of baseball. He’s not the brightest guy in the classroom, but his pitching is decent enough to gain the attention of a famous baseball school in Tokyo. He’s invited to attend the school and leave his old teammates behind, and he struggles with his emotions regarding the decision.
I can’t tell if I like Ace of the Diamond enough to keep watching it, but I can say that sports anime fans will have some elements to enjoy. I like the way that baseball is featured as a catalyst and storyline point for Eijun’s inner strengths, but at the same time, I’m looking for something more in the story. I feel like if I continue to watch this, I’m going to become addicted, and I won’t be able to put it down. The characters are decent enough to care about, but I can’t say I feel much attachment to them. I also may not be the best person to pass impressions on a sports series, as I haven’t seen many (aside from Suzuka and Chihayafuru).
Do I recommend it? I would recommend this to sports and baseball anime fans who already know some of the quirks of the genre.
All the referenced series are streaming on Crunchyroll (http://www NULL.crunchyroll NULL.com/videos/anime/simulcasts) except for Coppelion, which can be found over at Viz Anime (http://www NULL.vizanime NULL.com/coppelion) (U.S. only).