Fall 2011 Anime First Impressions

I spent the last week playing Castles II, lamenting the lameness of my fantasy NFL team, and watching anime. I don’t think anybody is interested in reading about the first two but perhaps people might be interested in the anime I watched.


Perhaps the most anticipated show of this season – at least for a large segment of the anime-watching audience – I watched this show with scant familiarity with the Fate/stay night franchise and almost no preconceptions as to what this anime would be about. And yet, my heart sank during its first few moments. It opens with a melodramatic, almost cheesy scene replete with heavyhanded angst and artificial tension. Things get worse during the next scene, where two guys deliver an utterly tedious lecture – while synchronously pacing in a big circle. For some reason – cultural, I would guess – many anime makers are completely clueless when it comes to the principle of “show, don’t tell”, and Fate/zero’s intro sequence is a prime example of how detrimental extended narration can be. For a moment, I remembered all the things I didn’t like about the Fate/stay night anime and I cringed at the prospect of rehashing all its worst points.

What kind of architect puts a row of pillars in the middle of a bedroom?

Fortunately, things pick up from there and despite the episode’s double running length, the pacing quickens, remaining brisk while the plot becomes engrossing. The other contenders for the Grail are introduced, with Kariya and Waver undoubtedly being the most interesting. They display the most humanity – Kariya in the selfless and agonizing sacrifice he makes to protect Sakura, and Waver in the selfish and deceitful manner in which he enters the contest – and their actions demonstrate the significance of the Grail much better than dialogue can. I thought Kiritsugu was interesting as well, mainly because of the legend surrounding him (narrated, of course, rather than shown) and also because it’s hard to imagine how a chump like Shirou could be his kid. He’s also the only character to have a hot partner. The remaining characters are rather wooden, but given the limited screen time allotted to each, it’s too early to negatively judge them.

I’d like to be able to build a set like this.

The artwork is beautiful, with gorgeous environments and appealing character designs. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the actual animation, which is sparse, given that much of the episode consists of people standing around and talking. The music is equally effective, and I hope that the remainder of the season can maintain these production standards – though more animation would be nice. There will be fighting in future episodes and I’d much rather watch action scenes than listen to people talk during what should be an action scene.

As I said, I’m not very familiar with Fate/stay night, having not played the game and having given up in disgust on the anime. I think that works to my advantage here; Fate/zero’s first episode is geared towards people like me, as it carefully introduces the plot background and setting. In addition, as I don’t know many of these characters at all, it’s refreshing to be able to watch this show without prejudging them. And although we see Ilya at the start and Saber at the end and Rin throughout, I didn’t find myself thinking of the older show once the opening scenes were done with. That’s just as well – Fate/stay night’s biggest flaw is Emiya Shirou and his absence is already one big advantage in Fate/zero’s favor. Saber in a killer suit, no boneheaded Shirou to be found anywhere, and the intimation of tragedy, deceit, evil, and valor all portend a great series. I hope it’s as good as it looks like it can be.

Oh, and uhh, that scene with little naked Sakura being “violated” by thousands of larvae was pretty damn hot. Just sayin’.

Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon

Click for Danbooru

Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon is the show that proves my earlier statement wrong, as it is almost all show and almost no tell. We are dropped straight into what appears to be a mixed high-tech and low-tech world with gigantic airships and ramshackle shantytowns. We meet Makiko Oriotorai, an instructor in this curious world, as she promptly orders her class to try to hit her her while she runs off to beat up a criminal. The rest of the episode showcases the members of the student body and their distinctive abilities. It’s a fun episode. I like the instructor a lot, particularly how she spends the whole show wearing a big smile.

This is about as much sense as the episode ever makes.

The students are a bizarre bunch. The girls are all shapely and wear tight bodysuits. There’s also a slime. And a ninja. And a completely naked incubus. Hopefully there’s a plot somewhere in this show. And hopefully the titular and presumptive main character gets some lines; we hardly even see her in this episode. The show is based off of a light novel and perhaps it’s assumed that viewers have some foreknowledge of its premise, but while the quirky characters are great, I don’t think they’re enough to carry the series. Denpa Onna had likable, quirky characters but I stopped watching it after a few episodes – it just didn’t seem like there was any sort of story in there.

Random trivia note: I wonder if this is the first anime season to feature two characters named Hassan.


Anybody who’s looked through this website would guess that I’m a big fan of fanservice and a big fan of action girl anime. They’d be right, of course, but there are actually very few contemporary action-oriented fanservice shows that I like. I’m not a big fan of the Ikkitousen anime, I didn’t care much for Zettai Shougeki Platonic Heart, I thought Freezing and Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls were completely awful, and I didn’t care to watch High School of the Dead or Infinite Stratos (not sure if the latter is actually an action girl anime; I’m thinking it probably isn’t). This isn’t an indictment of the genre itself; it’s an indication that most of those series simply suck ass. Maken-ki! doesn’t look to improve on any of those – it’s yet another one of those shows where a clueless male lead goes to a school where all the girls alternately wish to berate and fellate him. I’m trying to think of anything else to say about this show but … that’s pretty much it. You’ve seen or heard of this premise before. There’s nothing new here and I don’t think there’s much reason for me to pay much more attention to it.

Oh wait, there’s one unique thing: the main character has the worst haircut I’ve ever seen in anime. At least it’s distinctive.

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai

Click for Danbooru

After Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko got an anime adaptation, it didn’t take much intuition to guess that Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai would be next. I like the manga and so I was looking forward to the anime. And I still am, I think, because the first episode starts off quite slowly. We get introduced to blonde-haired transfer student Kodaka Hasegawa, the quirky, friendless Yozora Mikazuchi, and the super-popular but still friendless Sena Kashiwazaki. And that’s pretty much about it. Most of the show’s energy comes from the force of Yozora and Sena’s personalities bouncing against each other and we only got a small teaser of that, so I’m excited to see future episodes.

Comparisons between this show and Haruhi Suzumiya are easy to make. Both feature low-key but appealing male leads, alpha females, and a clubful of weirdos. I had thought that this show was likely to have the same type of mainstream success as Haruhi Suzumiya, but in a season that features Fate/zero and Persona 4, perhaps that’s not going to happen.

I’ve seen this sort of look in other types of anime I watch.

Haruhi Suzumiya does have one big advantage over this show: a much better opening theme. Even Denpa Onna has a much better opening theme than this show.

Random trivia note: my grandmother’s maiden name was Hasegawa. I wonder what it means?

Persona 4

Possibly the other most anticipated show of this season, though there is plausible reason for pessimism, as the track record of RPG to anime adaptations is decidedly depressing. However, as a very well-regarded game, Persona 4 has an easy path to success: just stick to the game’s plotline. And it does – perhaps a little too closely. The first episode mirrors the opening moments of the RPG, even incorporating many of the overlay graphics from the game. I thought they were distracting, to be honest, since they served to remind me that the main guy wasn’t somebody I’m controlling; rather, he’s now Yu Narukami. And unfortunately, while this guy looks very much like the game character that I named after myself, we learn very little about him, and he doesn’t do much more than grunt and mumble through most of the episode. It’s an uncomfortable feeling; seeing Chie, Yosuke, and Yukiko feels a little like meeting old friends again, but Yu is a complete stranger to me.

Nonetheless, I still liked the first episode a lot. It’s interesting to compare this show with Fate/zero; both are based on existing properties and take a very similar approach with their first episodes in establishing the setting and laying out the plot framework. They even end with virtually identical sequences. I don’t think my unfamiliarity with Fate/zero was a problem with enjoying its first episode, but I’m not sure if my familiarity with the Persona 4 RPG isn’t detrimental to my enjoyment of the anime. While it’s very nice to see these characters again, I already know how the story goes. I already know which characters I like and don’t like. I’m hoping that the protagonist isn’t simply an oddly-named stand-in for the player character, but I’m expecting to be disappointed. Even so, I can’t deny that even the show feels a bit too familiar, I think I’m going to enjoy it.

Some admissions: I haven’t beaten Persona 4 yet. I got to a point where you could get a bad ending and I got just that, and haven’t resumed playing the game yet. I do know how the game ends though, because there’s a spoiler in the artbook you got from preordering the game (thanks Atlus). I like Persona 3 a lot more than Persona 4. Now, I’m not saying I didn’t like Persona 4; I liked Persona 4 a lot. However, Persona 3 is among my five favorite RPGs of all time – despite hating it whenever the party AI busted out Marin Karin. And a last admission: I really do not like Teddy at all.

Random trivia note: I played the game with English voices, of course, and so it’s a bit strange to hear the characters speak in Japanese. I generally prefer to play Japanese games with Japanese voices, but Atlus did a fine job with the English voicework. That wasn’t always the case, however. Some years back, there was this game called Stella Deus that was about to come out. The game’s character designer was Shigenori Soejima, an artist I had never heard of, but I thought the characters were beautiful and that was the main reason I was interested in the game. I posted a message on the Atlus forum asking whether the Japanese voices would be retained, and I mentioned that their inclusion would be a factor in deciding whether I would buy the game. An Atlus rep responded by suggesting I ought to find a new hobby if the Japanese voices meant that much to me. After the game came out, it got middling reviews and many critics commented on the lackluster English voiceovers. I bought a used copy at Gamestop a couple years later.

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21 Responses to Fall 2011 Anime First Impressions

  1. 5ushi says:

    In regards to Fate/Zero; incase you’re not aware there’s actually been an announcement in regards to the release of a blu-ray box set, and that will have ‘uncensored’ scenes (your prefernce for Sakura in the bug room…). Though that won’t be any time soon since the Fate/Zero animation series will be split; if memory serves correct 12 episodes during this autumn and the remaining 13 (or was it 12) in June next year.

    And personally. Being a Fate otaku, I found the intro a bit… lackluster. But that’s probably I’ve moved onto figures and weaned myself off anime.

    • Tier says:

      OMG :O~~ That is great news, assuming the bug scene is elaborated upon. Almost as great as the inclusion of the bull and stun baton in Kowaku no Toki’s anime adaptation.

      I haven’t gone looking at many other episodic blogs for first episode impressions since I wanted to get my thoughts organized first, but from what I’ve seen, it seems like many Fate stay/night fans either didn’t care for all the explanations and exposition, or really, really liked it. I get the sense that people in the latter group were going to like it no matter what it was about, though. I had never even heard of Kariya Matou or Waver prior to watching the episode, so I appreciated the introduction. I thought the parts with Rin’s dad and the other guy … uhh, Kirei or something … dragged a bit in comparison, but at least perspective switched frequently.

  2. armorknight says:

    I hate all these female characters who act like bitches and cunts though. Seriously, we need some badass male leads with actual balls who can discipline these bitchy female characters, preferably physically.

    Every time I see a bitchy female character, I want to punch her and then rape her into a submissive sex slave.

  3. C43 says:

    Pretty good I like the review. However one thing, I don’t know if you actually meant it or did it by mistake, but the main character of Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon……IS A GUY. While yes he is very fabulous looking…..It’s a guy. He’s even voiced by a guy (Lelouch’s voice actor no less).

    Oh and as for the worms with Sakura all I could do during that scene was ;_;. However I’ve played the game so I probably have a different perspective cause I know how it all ends. Sort of.

    • Tier says:

      Nah, I assumed Horizon was the main character since her name is in the title and she’s shown prominently before the opening theme. I wasn’t sure who the breast-groping goofball at the end was. I probably should’ve checked a plot synopsis or the Chartfag description beforehand.

      My face was more like some combination of :O and 😀 I’ll be honest, I am a bigtime wimp when it comes to masses of bugs or worms or other crawly stuff; the one scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom still gives me the creeps. Throw a cute naked little anime girl in there and I can overcome my fears, though.

      • Safehold says:

        That scene was part of Matou Sakura’s backstory in Heaven’s Feel. Basically Fate is the intro, with Saber as the heroine. Unlimited Blade Works is when Shirou powers up and takes the center stage of a budding hero, with the main heroine being his supporter, Tohsaka Rin. Heaven’s Feel is the… dark, bad, evil stuff starts happening. And the entire Holy Grail is explained in plot and concept, when everything else just glossed over it.

    • Safehold says:

      I also read through all 3 stories in Fate/Stay Night VN. Fate/Zero sounds interesting and will probably fill me in a lot of unasked questions, but I didn’t feel the need to read it because FSN just seemed… complete.

    • Safehold says:

      The male leads in visual novels are often mysterious and have the longest character development or backstory in existence. Hard to exemplify this through an anime. Not sure how the anime will be able to carry that level of complexity out. Historically, anime has had trouble doing this.

  4. Fabienne says:

    Oh an anime post from you, nice 😉
    Im wondering If I should just follow the “Blockbusters” in this season, Fate/Zero, Persona 4, Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai + two other shows and keep the weaker stuff for later in case they turn out interesting enough.

    I liked Fate/Zero so far, its a lot more darker toned than Fate/Stay Night, A bunch of more or less bad guys fighting for the Grail. Its good when you don’t feel too much sympathy for one side. Well I hope Casters dies soon, very soon.
    As you’ve mentioned this scene with Sakura, I actually think that a few people in the staff just hate children, they killed a girl in a sick way in the Fate movie, they violated a small girl with bugs and in episode 2 of Fate/Zero they killed another child, lol they are mad ? XD

    I planned to watch Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon, but I thought it would look more awesome than the pictures are showing. I also fear it will be more harem than anything else ^^

    Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai could be fun and I love that kind of character design since Denpa Onna, the faces are a very good combination of cute and sexy 🙂
    I watch Persona 4, even though I know nothinhg from the game, a guy who can enter a tv panel with his friends is interesting.

    • Tier says:

      I’m thinking I’ll watch the three shows you mentioned and maybe Guilty Crown, whenever that airs and if it’s any good. I’d also like to watch Last Exile but I have the feeling I should watch the first series first (though I’ve heard they’re not really related, so maybe it won’t matter).

      I know how Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai and P4 will turn out, since I played the latter up until just before the end and it’s a good bet the former will follow the manga closely, but I’m not sure how Fate/zero and Horizon will go. I’m really hoping that Fate/zero maintains a dark tone and stay away from some typical anime tropes, and I think it’ll turn out well. I’m not sure about Horizon, I think it could go harem, it could stay wacky … I guess people who are familiar with the light novel would know.

  5. BioToxic says:

    After the very dry previous anime season I’d like to watch quite a few shows this season. The only problem is I come home to a youtube sub box full of junk that I end up watching instead. What is so fun about watching someone else play a game, yet why do I watch and enjoy it.

    Anyway, I thought Fate/Zero started out pretty good. I was gripped for the full 45 minutes, although there’s too many dudes with ‘K’ in their name. I don’t know who’s who yet other than ‘that worm dude’ or ‘that church dude’. Hopefully this doesn’t turn out as dull as F/SN did in the end.

    Persona 4 first episode was boring I thought. I’ve only played the PSP version of Persona 3 and still haven’t bothered finishing it. I have no idea how it ends or what’s going on so it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the anime. The male lead is so god damn dull though. Fair enough he’s mimicking the player character but at least have some sort of personality. I quite liked all the graphics from in-game, it’s certainly something I’ve never seen before. Although the animation was quite poor I felt.

    I’m hoping to watch Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon and Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai at some point too. Then there’s C3, Mashiro Iro Symphony and Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai that I’d like to watch. Fan service and VN adaptations are always fun. Argh I’m going to be busy ><.

    • Tier says:

      I still occasionally enjoy watching some old Warcraft arena videos. I’ve got no desire to ever play the game again but the videos are nostalgic.

      I was kinda confused by the names as well, and also by how some of the characters look superficially similar. It took me a few moments to be able to distinguish between Kirei and Rin’s dad and Kiritsugu. I’m probably going to be more confused when the servants take the stage, since while Saber looks the same, I only know Rider to be a sexy woman in a tight dress and Caster to have pointy ears and a hood and so on. It’s going to take a while for me to get used to the new servants.

      Yeah, I’m hoping Persona 4 develops the lead guy a bit more. It’s sort of important given that all the events in the game revolve around his relationships with random people but it’s going to be pretty dull if they’re all one-sided. I also saw that Rie Kugimiya voices Rise and while I’m not very familiar with that voice actress, I do know of her reputation and I know I really could not stand Yukimura Sanada in Samurai Girls.

      Incidentally, I just got a PSP to play Persona 3 Portable. I was all excited to play it today since it’s at the local post office, but today’s a federal holiday so I have to wait another day.

  6. Nightmare says:

    Good picks. It’s obvious you’re a fanservice kinda guy and to each his own. I feel inclined to ask how you felt about the actual fanservice in a show like Freezing. You mentioned you found the show to be terrible but what did you make of the actual fanservice, is there such a thing as too much in your mind? I had a hard time finishing some episodes because ripping through clothes and exposing breasts tend to get repetitive after seeing it 200 times per minute.

    As for this season Fate/Zero and Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai are in my ever-growing queue. Persona 4 will most likely be skipped. I found Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon to be mindnumbingly dumb, clinging on to poor jokes and interaction. I hope the show can pick up because it sure has a rather interesting cast.
    Maken-Ki! however was surprisingly entertaining for a first episode. There’s nothing new to it (besides the bold haircut) but it was good fun nonetheless.

    There’s just one show that I’ve been looking forward to this season which is Guilty Crown that airs later this week. The main heroine Inori Yuzuriha would make a lovely figure as well.

    • Tier says:

      I didn’t mind the fanservice in Freezing at all – I think tits and violence are a great combination. It was mainly the terrible characterization – particularly of Aoi or whatever the male lead’s name was – that I didn’t like. I struggled through the series as well though that was mainly because I was really, really hoping someone would kick Aoi’s ass.

      I’m looking forward to Guilty Crown as well, though with the hype it’s gotten and the crew that’s worked on it, I kinda have this feeling that it could be a spectacular disaster, kinda like the Miami Heat last year. There’s no reason at all that I would expect that to happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

  7. duqs says:

    Loads of people are kinda disappointed bout P4, especially the fans. However I actually liked the series since I havent finished (note 10 minutes into the game) it yet. At least P4 animu was way better than ohmaygahd Persona trinity soul.

    Oh god, fate/zero was the only thing i looked forward to (but kyoukai senjou no horizon crept its way into my heart XD) and after years of waiting, my expectations were really high. Thank god UfOtable was able to deliver in terms of production.

    Noticed no Guilty Crown in your list XD

    • Tier says:

      I need to catch up on P4, I watched the second episode and sorta lost interest. I don’t dislike it but it’s sticking so close to the RPG that it almost feels like watching somebody else play the video game. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I guess – I enjoyed watching arena match videos when I played World of Warcraft – but it’s really going by the numbers.

      I need to catch up on Fate/zero too, though I’m only one episode behind there. It’s, hmm … well, not bad, I wouldn’t say I dislike it, but man is it talky. Yeah, I know some people will say it comes from a visual novel, which completely misses the point. When I watched the Lord of the Rings movies, I assessed them as movies, not as novels, and when I watch Fate/zero, I’m assessing it as an anime, not a VN. It’s definitely very pretty though, and Saber is dead sexy as a gentleman in a suit.

      I think Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon is my second favorite show of the season, though man it’s one weird show. I think I liked the tone and characters from the first few episodes rather than the last two. It’ll be interesting to see how it proceeds.

      Yeah, I just got around to watching Guilty Crown’s first episode not long ago. I was very impressed by the animation and the lead girl’s breasts and very annoyed by how much of a mopey, emo turd the lead guy is. I was thinking I’d write a post on Guilty Crown, but I dunno … I don’t really write about anime much because I don’t actually watch a lot of it, and the last thing the world needs is another whiny episodic anime blog.

  8. Safehold says:

    The intro scene for Emiya Shirou was that he is adopted. Why, how, and such this happened, remains a bit unexplained even at the end of Heaven’s Feel.

    Anyways, those scenes with the reminiscences concerning Kirits, were interesting and very mood intensive. The father still has a lot of mysteries.

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