2019 Winter Anime, Seasonal Anime Review

Seasonal Anime Review: Winter 2019 First Impression (Full Update)

Like a cold you can’t get rid of, the new season has begun. As tradition, I tailed down all these first new, non-sequel episodes and gave them some quick impressions the moments I finished. This Winter season proves to be a season with no real surprise. It’s certainly the fewest shows in term of quantity for quite a while, and shows that supposed to be stand out are doing a pretty good job. Mob Psycho 100 2 delivers one of the best episode in a while (but to make this post consistent with non-sequel rule I won’t include it in here), Boogiepop tanks but the rest is predictable. This season also marks many shows cut-corner by animating entirely in CG, and the results are pretty clunky (if the bottom two shows are any indication). In total, I watched and reviewed 26 premieres, 2 of them are shorts. Let’s scroll down to see the offerings of this 2019 Winter, from worst to best:

utter trash

Dimension High School

Watching this show reminds me how some of the tropes we can tolerate in anime becomes unbearable when it does in live-action. For example, we seem fine with character overacting in anime but when the Teacher does it in live-action it’s grating to watch. Dimension is also one of the worst production I’ve seen this season: the live action acting is terrible all around the clock, and the full-CG animation doesn’t even attempt to be anything near passable. Then we have a plot of talking rock (in a weird CG special effect) and riddles for Christ sake and you have a full package of bad-anime-please-leave-me-alone.

Virtual-san wa Mitteru

Have you ever gone to one of those theme parks? Where they usually have a parade of their characters in their main street? Where the characters are so eccentric they walk and talk like a terribly-voiced mascot? Well, Virtual-san literally starts of with this parade and the whole episode consists of several improv skits and bizarre character designs to boost. The production is especially grating with amateurish animation, cheap quality that it stands out in a very bad way and midway through all the characters start to melt together with the same personality that you can’t pick apart who with who (except for this annoying lead). To be fair, it’s so campy that it has its own charm, and these skits are silly but never offensive enough so although objectively everything I see was bad I won’t say that I wasted these 20 minutes. I do have a bit of soft spot for improvised dialogue so I don’t mind seeing these, but unless you’re already a fan of these V-tubers I don’t see any reason to keep up with it.

Meiji Tokyo Renka

This is the otome fix of the season and sadly this one is also pretty mediocre. Usually, otome adaptation is a good opportunity to make the female lead strong and you get most out of it based on how she interacts with her harem hot boys. Renka does neither of these things. The main girl has no real personality beside her “talking with ghosts” ability, and her dialogue or monologue isn’t that interesting. Hot boys (apparently based on the real figures of Meiji era) randomly meets her and talks to her. And it’s about 6 OF THEM who already makes an appearance. Visually, apart from “Strawberry Moon” image which I find extremely endearing, the rest of it looks unremarkable. Otome adaptation, you will need to try harder

Grimm Notes the Animation

This show is a mix between anime and Western fairytale tropes and honestly it comes off as a mess. We get into the middle of this week’s case and come out of it we know very little about the main cast, and it says something when you feel more sympathetic to the villain than any of these main character. It has many game mechanics written all over it, especially the way the extras supposed to follow the notes of Fate and the “finding the irregulars in this world” premise. From time to time they would throw up some stupid “technical terms” that they don’t bother to elaborate much on. The character designs look simple, the whole production looks plain and the Red Riding Hood story is a tale that just been depicted far too many times at this point. This one isn’t terrible per se, it’s just mostly forgettable.

Girly Air Force

It’s rather frustrating to see an annoying main lead having a fight with his annoying childhood friend, who both act like total blockheads with little to no logic behind that except from they’re obsessed with their own issues. The guy who so fixated on airplanes after apparently share the kiss with a hot pilot. A childhood friend girl who is another version of Mikasa Ackerman. Then we have a plot of full exposition and a string of hot harem girls to come to the picture. The show also does a poor jobs of connecting all these plot threads together. There’s no sense of how long time pass for example, and guess what? He turns out to be The Chosen One because of course he will be. The animation from all the Planes fighting in the beginning looks clunky and not that well animated. The show looks subpar, the characters are annoying and stock and the story is full of convenient plot points, there’s no reason to go back to this.

Circlet Princess

Surprise. Surprise. Circlet Princess is a sport show. Well, it introduces a new battle game as sport and it runs all the templates that we’ve seen before in other, better anime. A protagonist who has no idea about the sport who accidentally gets sucked in the game, but somehow she learns all the skills necessary like Mozart learns about music. A story about some students who try to revive a lost club which happens to be that same sport? A sport where these girls wear super sexy armor and a story where it starts right in the middle of random battle and feature many out-of-nowhere fanservice. It’s a textbook story and the characters never raise above their own established tropes. I give it points for some nice action sequences and the scene where girl adjusting her panty (it was really well animated).

Egao no Daika

I give this show props for its above-par background world-building. The first few minutes showcase that world the best, but then it’s all downhill from there. Through an entire episode I still don’t have a firm idea of what this show is about. 12-year-old princess doesn’t held much of my interest and neither does the entire cast. It switches from “Princess gets acquainted to her new duty” to “piloting robot fighting in a game-mode” (which I believe the actual game it’s based from is about) and in the end, what this story gonna be? In any case I don’t have much interest to find out more about it.

Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita!

Do you find any of this funny?? Just right after UzaMaid we have another show about older woman who has strange obsessions to primary school kid. It has a nice, soft art styles and some nice animated overreactions, but apart from those it leaves the bad taste in the mouth. This older girl acts exactly like a creepy otaku who is even shyer than her 6-year-old little sister and the source of humor comes mostly from how awkwardly this little-Reina-chan behaves. It tries hard for being cute both with her several attempts of “get close” to this poor girl, and for this young girl and her love for sweets. If you find these two elements funny the you’re gonna be fine with this show, others might steer away.

Ueno-san wa Bukiyou

This little short has only one premise, that the girl tries her hardest to win the attention of the boy she having a crush of, but instead backfire because that boy is so dense in every level. While it could be amusing at times, especially how far the girl could go, this premise already feels repeated after this first episode. Add to that we have a low-quality production and every time it tries to point out the cliche, it feels like the show is trying to hard to be smart. This is an easy skip.

Pastel Memories

It’s another anime set in Akihabara that aims squarely on the otaku culture. While I can safely say that I’m not within the target audience, the very concept of reviving a lost culture is an interesting one for me. So the part where the team searches for the full collection of the manga works well enough for me. Sadly though, I’m never sold on the setting itself. The cast works in an otaku cafe where they hardly have any customer, but I counted like 10 people working there. There isn’t a clear time set (how many years since it loses its fandom?), and I find it strange that these manga stores don’t have some sort of network before. But the most head-scratching part comes down at the end, where supposedly the girls have to go the another dimension to destroy virus? Where the heck does that part come from? It feels like another show entirely. It’s jarring no matter how you look at it.

W’z

So this is indeed a sequel of HandShakers. It features the new cast so you don’t need any prior knowledge to watch it. Although the question remains: why bother watching it? As you might aware HandShakers is a rare anime that fails in arguably every single department (it fails so hard that it belongs to so-bad-it’s-good camp, but that’s another issue), and so far with W’z it doesn’t look like they’re gonna change. It has the exact same aesthetic as the screen in bathed in bluey filter. Characters look the same and they never talk like real human. We haven’t gotten into the fights yet so I’m not commenting on the CG battles yet, but the CG background characters stick out like a sore thumb. Even the main plot now is nonsensical. The only way you can enjoy this show is to set your expectation to be as low as HandShakers. But guess what? Despite its awfulness I’m planning to follow it to the end.

mediocre

Bermuda Triangle: Colorful Pastrale

Well, despite being a spinoff of Cardfight Vanguard, I actually enjoy some elements of the show. Being a slice-of-life, the settings is well-realized here. We have a feel of this aquatic village, with many of its own features and customs that makes this world so live-in. It has this laid-back atmosphere, and even when the new girl appears she fits in with the world. If only it could stay this atmospheric it can actually appeal to me more, as later on it develops some sort of a plot and I’m still not sure if it can be able to pull off. The production isn’t the good to be honest with many stiff animation and off-models sometimes. It could serve for a decent, if unremarkable Slice of Life entry to watch this season.

Domestic na Kanojo

Boy, here it finally comes. A melodrama with contrived plots to squeeze out the most dramatic juice. Anyone here who doesn’t find the whole re-marriage affair jarring? It comes out of nowhere (to the main lead himself) and it happens way too quickly. And add that we have him living under the same roof with two cute girls whose 1) he has big crush of and 2) he happens to have sex with and guess what? After 20 minutes I honestly don’t care one iota about all three main characters. Okay, while I’m most certain won’t follow this because I know the direction it’ll ultimately go, there’s still some positive aspects in this premiere. I quite like the moody, heavy-saturated room where he and the little sister sleep with in the beginning. While the exterior scenes can be plain, the interiors feel live in (as appropriate given the title of the show is Domestic Girlfriend). Second, these characters do have some extra-multidimensional level as each other seems to carry their own weight/issues in their shoulder. The comedy bits, on the other hand, totally feel awkward. But it might works for this first episode’s benefits because it has full of awkward moments, from awkward first sex to adjusting themselves to a new relationship to all these awkward confrontations. Anyone who loves soap opera or tearjeaker melodrama, this is a perfect healthy dose for you.

Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka

A dark magical girl genre offers up another entry. While I’m not really a fan of this sub-genre (mostly because they usually try and fail to be another Madoka), as far as first episode of Asuka goes I’m quite alright with it. Usually lesser shows like this would amp up its shock values and pull up stupid psychological drama just for the sake of conflict. This one so far avoids all the shock values (I like how they handle the box part), and more they give a somewhat thoughtful depiction look on the what remains of a soldier after the war. Asuka has a mild PTSD and trying her best to forget that part and make friends. While I understand that these serve as purely as a plot device for her to return to the battle, I did expect both her new friends will die horribly so I’m quite alright that it turns out NOT to be the case (at least not yet). Production-wise, it looks rather dull and uninspired with many stills in the battle scenes. If it keeps itself from going overboard with its shock, and instead building up properly its conflict, this could be a worthy choice to pick.

Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari

Why do these isekai anime love game mechanics so much? Everytime these game mechanics spelled out, they basically lost me. “Status options” on the screen; level up? For most of Tate double-length premiere it runs as a typical isekai, and that’s exactly the point because up to half-an-hour mark the show reveals its hands. It’s a good thing that our protagonist hits rock bottom and we see how he eventually becomes cynical. Has to gain the power, respect and even companion himself without any “cheat” is always a welcome. What worries me however is the end. Not necessary about the “slavery’ aspect, but more that it’s still self-fulfilling in the end: he still gets a comrade who happens to be bloody hot (demi) girl. So what makes or breaks a show is how well it makes him suffer because the more he goes through some real drama the more earned his efforts will be. Visually it doesn’t impress me but knowing this is from Kinema Citrus I have my full trust. I’m also worried that characters can fall into common tropes since aside from our titular characters, the others are quite stock characters. Considered that was the point before the “twist”, we will have to see how well-developed of this new girl in the next episode.

Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan

So we have 4-minute length of actual episode and the rest is a interview footage from the director and Ekoda-chan seiyuu. For that I believe it should be considered as actual part for this anime adaptation. It was frankly a joyous 4-minute short I’ve seen in recent memories with a lead that has so much “naked” personality and mature but realistic humor. The fun here is how she sees the world and people around her, at the same times feel a bit insecure about her love life and this episode nails it with its visual and its “rhythm”. The bigger chunk of this episode is about the interview with the crew involved including the director and the Voice Actress and by that we can see how their own views on Ekoda-chan, some of their personality and especially their chemistry together. It was a whole lot fun to watch, and although I would love for more actual animated content in the episode, I will definitely tune in to watch this every week.

Revisions

My very first impression of this show is that I can never get used to this clunky CG model. It reminds me of Ajin few years ago which was the main reason why I dropped it. As for the story itself, at least in this first episode it fares much better. Yep, the main lead has a hero complex (and his tendency annoys the hell lot from his friends) but there’s a solid reasons behind that. The 5-member cast has some solid chemistry and the flashback has some neat moments here and there. It’s also neat to see how despite the main guy prepares everything for this very day, when the moment comes he’s freezed out of scare. What I’m not too sure is the present where it evolves into some sorts of mecha battles between the good guys vs bad guys, which is a road well trodden at this point. Surprisingly to say the characters’ chemistry, and not the sci-fi settings or “saving the world” premise, is what I’m interested in. I will give it some more chance.

recommendable

Endro!

In general, I don’t mind Endro. Watching this, I feel like it attempts to do sort of the same thing as Tantei Opera Milky Holmes. They both twist around the tropes while never really take these seriously. While Milky Holmes is more parody, this one just contents with the characters having fun time and going for an adventure all over again. It has that moe designs (even down to the cute loli devil), but so far it delivers its jokes with grace and I would say it’s a above-bar CGDCT offering of the season. The main concept seem to be the devil Maou tries her best to stop this hapless students from becoming heroes, but fall for their charms instead. I have no problem with that and if it still has that much wits (my favorite: the mage “predicts” the weather forecast) and maintains its bright settings, I’m all in to follow it.

Boogiebop wa Warawanai

We have a heavy-weight show right of the bat to kick off this 2019 year. Sadly this one doesn’t do a good job of introduce this show. I have been a fan of the 2000 version, and here it looks like it’s going to the same vein. This first episode is indeed intriguing, there’s a lot of mysteries it brings up. But this episode is essentially has no urgency. Events happen and unfold off-screen, and what we have here is like a recollection of these meeting from our protagonist-of-the-week and the Boogiepop Phantom, which could work well if we share any connection to them, which we don’t. The characters keep their distance to us viewers, as if they’re just a piece in a puzzle and everything would make more sense when we place all these pieces together. It could be a rewarding ride, but it can also be very frustrating to watch. From what I heard they chop off the source material and make it even more incoherent, which is a shame, but I’m willing to give this more chance.

5-Toubun no Hanayome

It’s one of those cases where you don’t judge book by the premise. The concept of a boy and 5 harem girls might allure you to a basic eroge game, but so far it sells its concept with flying colors. The biggest strength of it is that the jokes keep coming at you, mostly based on how each girl bounces off with the main guy, producing endless snappy interactions and they all spark different chemistry to our male lead. The production is on the weak side and I heard the anime so far doesn’t translate quite well all the jokes from its manga source. I do feel the main guy needs to work more to be more than just a self-insert faceless lead, and we can all guess how this story is going to span out, but if it keeps this level of strong chemistry between its cast (and pray that the production value don’t drop significantly), we’ll have for ourselves a comedy of the season here.

Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue.

It’s a story about an exclusive writer and the cat and how they begin a relationship together. Well, I’m not at all kidding about what I just said because the show went there. It’s fluffy, but it’a the right kind of fluffy because these two characters are an unlikely duo. The writer’s negative patterns can get on the nerve from time to time, but his interaction with this cat is awesome. What makes this show “special”, is that during the last half it tells the story in the cat’s eye of view (with narration to boost) and that when we get a full picture of two individuals who try to understand each other. This one is a keeper.

Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai

Despite its buzz of a its source manga and the director who directed Rakugo few years ago, I mostly enjoyed what I saw but not terribly impressed by it. It’s a good concept by the way of two interesting characters trying to outwit each other so that the other has to confess first. It has some pretty entertaining mind games where we can see the thought-process of each character. I think my main gripes with this show is that it already feels repetitive after this first episode. It’s basically like a sitcom that will use the same formula every time. While I love the exaggerated reactions, as well as the over-the-top monologues and over-complicated plans these two can think of, some of the monologues drag a fair bit for me. What I also enjoy is that despite these two work their minds into absolute degrees, it’s the influence of their unknown factor, their secretary, that throw their plans off most of the time. It still has its appeals, so I hope that I can remain fresh in the next few episodes.

Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai

The most remembered aspect viewers gonna get out of this episode is its technical aspect. There’s not much narrative to begin with since a huge chunk of this episode concentrates on the aerial combat. On that front I’m quite happy with what I saw so far. The combats are mostly well choreographed that you can mostly follow what happening on-screen (I do have some troubles recognizing the planes though), there’s a great attention to piloting details, for example it spends proper time for us to see how they do a start-up procedure. The camera angle (which sometimes adopt first person POV like in a game) and the sound designs are other stand outs. The thing that I’m a bit worried about, is that these aerial combat overwhelmed the characters so far as we don’t know much about them. In addition, the characters’ CG models might be a hit or miss. I enjoy the quick, natural dialogues in these first few scenes and I do like the cowboy settings so I hope the show can give those justice in later episodes.

Kemurikusa

This is basically a spiritual successor of Kemono Friends, in a season where the actual Kemono Friends sequel also airs. A near-apocalyptic settings where our cast fighting against Bugs? Check. A human appeared out of nowhere who doesn’t know why he got there? Check. Cute anthropomorphic/ non human designs? Check? Abandoned bus? Check. On that vein I’m mildly curious on how this one will go. I regard the settings in Kemono Friends where it hints that they might live within a dead world its greatest strength, so I’m more than happy to see this one further explores on that theme. The characters are hit-or-miss at the moment. I don’t mind the main cast (even the quadruplets), but the moment that human boy hits the screen everything goes for more cliche path. Of course he will become some needed brain in the group, right? It doesn’t help either that the dialogue is’t that great. The visual remains dark and grim so far, and the CG aesthetic could take some time to get used to. At the end of the day I don’t mind these shortcomings. Despite its inconsistency in both characters and story, it could offer something interesting and different than what we normally get these days.

elite

Dororo

It’s a pretty solid start for Dororo. As expected from the source material of the great Osamu Tezuka, this first episode already provides some moral complexity to its world. Visually, it looks stylish with memorable character designs. This premiere serves more as a prologue to a story to come but it does extremely well of setting up the conflict and introduces the main characters in play. This could prove to be the breakout hit of the season.

Yakusoku no Neverland

Well, one of the most anticipated title of the season comes out and it sure doesn’t disappoint. I read the manga source before so I know what’s coming, but I still feel a sense of threat apparantly throughout the whole episode. The visual and production so far delivers its intriguing premise, and establishes very well the settings, the main trio, the false hope before the big reveal. There’s only one moment where I felt it messed up the pacing (upon Conny’s departure), but they handle the pace of the rest very well. It’s essentially a survival story with 3 smart characters so seeing them try to outwits Mama Isabelle will prove to be a gripping ride. This is a great start from an already proven manga. I’m excited.

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