Well, that wasn’t entirely different from the way Selector Infected WIXOSS started. The character designs look similar, the art direction looks similar (though no backgrounds by Studio Pablo this time, as far as I know at least), and the main character is something of a loner. Oh, and even before the story proper begins, there are hints that the story is going to be one of darkness and despair, just like the weird tetris metaphor in Selector Infected. And considering that’s about what I expected, I’m actually quite satisfied by the similar introductions.
What surprised me was how much Lostorage decided to diverge from the original series, and how immediately it did so. Instead of the ambiguous and vague promises of either becoming an eternal girl or having your wish turned against you, Lostorage makes the stakes much easier to understand: You start with between 1 and (presumably) 4 coins. Winning a card game nets you a coin, losing one, well, loses you one coin. Lose all coins and you lose yourself (i.e. your memories and personality), get 5 coins in total and you’ll be freed from the magical gambling ring. I love this both as an idea and as it was executed, because the first episode of Lostorage definitely grabbed me.
Verdict: Half as expected, half surprising, excited to see more.
I still don’t know what that random “a” in the parentheses stands for. Anyway, yeah, it turns out Girlish Number is trying to compete with Shirobako instead of Sore ga Seiyuu, in that it’s going for the more serious route rather than the comedic (cameo-filled) route. What this means is that it’s not as fun as Sore ga Seiyuu, but it also doesn’t really live up to Shirobako, because it just doesn’t seem as well-written and -directed. In fact, I think it tries too hard at portraying the anime industry as incredibly cutthroat and full of cash-grabbing and pandering pervert producers. Sure, I understand that in reality it’s not all sunshine and roses either, but I think Girlish Number takes it a bit too far.
That said, the exaggerated elements of the show are also its key strength, because what this means when it comes to the main characters is that they’re all self-centered and borderline narcissistic assholes who constantly talk shit about each other behind their backs, and that’s apparently really entertaining to me. I’m used to main characters in these kinds of shows being kind-hearted and innocent, or at least mostly innocent, but these characters are just savage, and they know it. It’s… not going to be enough to carry the show on its own, but it’s an entertaining start.
Verdict: More entertaining than I thought it’d be. Continuing.
Even if I hadn’t known anything about the show before watching this episode, I would have still almost immediately recognised the character designs by Chika Umino and the animation and art styles of Shaft, that’s how distinct their respective styles are. And that distinctiveness works very much to the show’s advantage: It stands out, very strongly, among all other shows airing this season, and it’s exceeded in visual impact only by the first episode of Flip Flappers. But because Sangatsu’s style is not trying to be new, it’s the style Umino’s had for years, and when it comes to the visual flairs it looks like Shaft shows usually do, it doesn’t come off as a gimmicky at all (not that I’m saying Flip Flappers was gimmicky), and I really appreciate that. It’s a solid, good-looking show.
As for the story, I’ve accepted that it’s going to take me a while to see the whole picture, or – if it’s anything like Honey & Clover – maybe it won’t show me the whole picture at all, and I accept that because I get the feeling that it’s not going to be a show driven by an outside overarching story, I feel like it’ll consist of many small stories arising naturally from the characters’ personalities and interactions, and I like when those are slow-burners. And even if the stories somehow fail to grip me, I still really enjoyed the feel-good scenes between Rei and the girls. I think this is going to be my kind of show.
Verdict: I’m a Shaft fanboy, but I really think this might be something special. Definitely watching.