Watching the first episode is probably the easiest legitimate way to judge a show. Just 24 short minutes and you’re an expert on the story, the cast and the staff. It backfires often and fans of the source material will not be happy(frankly, when are they ever happy?), but at least you can say you watched it. Right?
Right. I picked up a ridiculous amount of shows this season. 15 so far, and I’ll be adding many more if they actually ever start airing. I won’t write about all of them, unless someone explicitly demands something, but I’ve tried to get a good spread of older and newer franchises, serious shows and fluffy stuff.
Shokugeki no Soma – Food Wars
Speaking of source material fans… Hi! I started reading the manga of Shokugeki no Soma around half a year ago, and I love it. It’s basically a battle shounen with tournament arcs and all, except it’s about food instead of senseless violence. Oh, and it has fanservice. And beautiful drawings of food. And combinations of both.
Ok, yeah, I can’t say much about the first episode of the anime without referring to stuff that happens later on in the manga. In the same way, my opinion of the anime is more biased than it should be. I thought the first episode was good, which makes me want to say that the rest will be good as well, but had the first episode been bad, I would’ve explained it away by calling it a bad adaptation. So, take my opinion with a grain of salt.
As for the technical side, the anime is certainly functional. The visuals were not terrible, they even looked good at times, and I hope that’s not just due to budget frontloading. The voice acting was decent, but most of the cast has yet to appear. The music, however, was great. The angelic chorus added a lot to the “foodgasm” scene.
In (boring) conclusion, I guess it’s going to be a decent show. If they stick to the manga, that is. Verdict: Thumbs up.
Kekkai Sensen – Blood Blockade Battlefront
I’ll keep it short: This looks cool. Really stylish. Probably due, in no small part, to the fact that Rie Matsumoto(of Kyousougiga fame) is directing it. And the music really surprised me with how boldly prominently it was placed. The man responsible for that is Taisei “Huh, what do you mean it’s not Taku?” Iwasaki. It’s apparently his first time working on anime, so I’m thoroughly impressed. The animation during the action scenes was great as well. The main character was not to my liking – colour me surprised that his special ability exactly counters the antagonist’s plan – but the other characters were varied enough to warrant some interest in them. It was a good first episode.
But when I think about it a bit more, the cracks start to show. The setting and story are hardly original. The monsters and how normally they act reminds me of Space Dandy and Samurai Flamenco. The setting and the factions remind me greatly of Tokyo ESP(and to a lesser extent, Ga-Rei Zero). The show has no unique or original hook, no twist that I want to see more of. In addition, some of the great animation is reused frame for frame(around 4:10 and 19:27), a reminder that sometimes the first episode looks much better than the rest of the show. They certainly can’t do something like that lighter scene in every episode.
I liked the episode, but it did most of that with style alone. I hope it can deliver a good story as well. Verdict: Cautiously optimistic.
So this is the show with the weird backgrounds, huh? Indeed, the backgrounds looked unusual, especially in close-ups, but I didn’t really mind. Honestly, the backgrounds in combination with the cinematography, which incorporated lots of seemingly random stills, reminded me of the Monogatari series. That’s a good thing, if you ask me. It seems like that wasn’t just a stylistic choice, though, because there’s at least one cut with missing key frames, resulting in jerky motion. In addition, the quality of the character art is kind of disappointing at times. I like the designs, I just think they could look better.
As for the story and characters, I actually liked it a lot. Most of the jokes are generated by the fact that the main character has a “sixth sense”, i.e. she can see ghosts and talk to animals, but no one else does, so she’ll occasionally look like she’s pantomiming, which actually made me laugh. But this will only be funny for so long, which is why I liked that the show had another aspect to it as well. The main character has a friend who insists that ghosts aren’t real. This created tension as well as an opportunity for the main character to explain why talking to dead people is different from talking to living people.
So there was substance underneath the comedy. Substance that moved me. Hopefully that substance can carry the show after it stops being funny. Verdict: Pleasantly surprised.
Owari no Seraph – Seraph of the End
Ah, how refreshing. An anime episode that didn’t actively annoy me at any point. Cool-looking(but in my opinion somewhat overhyped) backgrounds, decent – though not terribly unique – character designs, understandable story. The main characters is an angry little boy and the bits with exposition were unintentionally hilarious, but I’m ok with that. After all, the drama between the main character and his friend from the orphanage was pretty ok. And I can forgive the extremely convenient plot involving a virus that only infects people older than the totally arbitrary age of 13. I mean, it could be related to the onset of puberty, but then it’d be different for boys and girls.
All of this was ok… until the events at the end of the episode and the next episode preview. I’m not directly opposed to the way the end of the episode established the story for the coming episode, but the preview threw it all away. Apparently the main character goes to school now? Why? I’m not ideologically opposed to that trope either, but I don’t understand why they did it with this story.
A superficial and laughable story, but not actively annoying. Unfortunately, I have a feeling the next episode will change that. Verdict: Pessimistic, but not angry.