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The Spring 2016 season is not off to a particularly inspiring start. I’ve taken a look over the last week at most of the premieres on CrunchyRoll and AnimeLab, and the results are not good. Currently I have:

  • Looking Forward To: 4 (and one of those is a short)
  • Probationary Watch List: 7
  • Dropped: 8
  • Dropped and I hope Pedantic Perspective Watches: 1

There may still be more to come but this post is already long enough so up it goes.

Here they are more or less in that order:

1.      My Hero Academia

My Hero Academia is probably the best of the Spring 2016 debut episodes. Fun, with a serious core to the story, and some unusual character designs to bring a fresh feel to the show.

This is a superheo piece where something like 80% of the population have powers known as “quirks”. Except for the lead Izuku Midoriya, but he’s not about to let that stop him.

My Hero Academia is one of the few shows where I’m truly looking forward to the next episodes.

2.      Flying Witch

Flying Witch is unmistakeably derivative of Kiki’s Delivery Service. That goes all the way down to witches traditionally moving out on their 15th birthdays to be independent, and setting up a redheaded best friend.

That said, Flying Witch has a good sense of humour running through it. The comedy is enhanced by an understated delivery that makes the jokes feel natural in context. All up Flying Witch is quite a charming show to watch, and looks like a keeper.

3.      Joker Game

Joker Game is set in 1937 which makes it an unusual beast indeed. The core characters are members of the spy training organisation “D Agency”, which is publicly covered as the Greater East Asia Cultural Society.

Wait, what, is Joker Game explicitly referencing the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere? Given some of the attitudes expressed within the D Agency, it may well be an ironic and critical reference.

The titular lead character of the first episode, and the victim of the eponymous Joker Game, is a military academy graduate Sakuma. Assigned to the D Agency after most of the members have completed their training. Sakuma is very much in the Imperial Army mould, and sees spying as cowardice. He’s in for a fairly brutal awakening and education… if he survives the second episode.

Joker Game may not be as much fun as My Hero Academia or Flying Witch, but Joker Game was certainly the most substantial of the debuts seen this season. At the moment I’m looking forward to the next episode.

4.      Pan de Peace!

Pan de Peace! is a short – 3 minutes – in the “cute girls doing cute things” genre, in this case eating bread and yuri baiting. The first episode is, surprisingly, quite a lot of fun. Of course it may quickly head into “funny once” territory and be dropped shortly afterwards.

5.      The Lost Village aka Mayoiga

The set up for The Lost Village aka Mayoiga is a bus tour to a rumoured lost, and utopian, village that is completely hidden from modern Japan. That does rather beg the question of why you can drive a bus there.

The problem with this literal busload of characters is that many of them seem to be, well, jerks for want of a better description.

For the moment the premise is interesting enough to keep me watching, and it may develop into a star performer later.

6.      Bungo Stray Dogs

Bungo Stray Dogs has a funky, noirish vibe to it that I quite liked. The opening episode deals with the supernaturally powered Armed Detective Agency tracking down a roaming tiger, oh and rescuing a young man named Atsushi Nakajima. Atsushi may also have rescued himself, as well as a member of the ADA.

Apparently every character is named for a literary figure, and has powers based around the literary works of those figures. I think this brings in a sort of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency feel to Bungo Stray Dogs, and the odd combination of ingredients puts it quite high up the list for this season.

7.      Cerberus

Seisen Cerberus (aka Holy War Cerberus) does not have a particularly inspiring heritage. Adapted from a role playing card battle game, and displaying all the signs of a clichéd fantasy plot to slay the dragon (plot coupons, young male protagonist training to be a swordsman, etc), it was actually a reasonable amount of fun to watch. I did like the subversion of the Damsel in Distress trope in the opening scene.

8.      Endride

Endride has some interesting world building going on, and hasn’t introduced too many characters in a rush. Shun Asanaga is the typical idiot male shounen protagonist who touches something he shouldn’t and gets transported from the surface world to the underworld of Endora.

Meanwhile, Emilio, the prince of Endora is trying to assassinate the King of Endora, presumably because Delzaine killed his father. Delzaine still raised Emilio as a prince however, and is apparently much tougher than Emilio. This leads to Emilio being dumped in a dungeon right where Shun pops up. Hilarity and mayhem ensues as they make their escape.

This is connected to a smartphone game being released in Japan this month, and may not stand on its own as a result. I’ll wait and see, but basically this is another of the not-too-terrible crowd of shows that I’ll keep watching for a bit.

9.      Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn RE:0096

Mobile Suit Gundam is known for having a number of variant continuities, the most famous being the Universal Century of the original series among others. I have to admit that I haven’t seen a huge amount of UC Gundam (mostly 0080: War in the Pocket and 0083: Stardust Memories). This means that there’s a risk with Unicorn RE:0096 of Continuity Lockout if it relies too heavily on instalments that I haven’t seen.

As per @jaehaerys48’s advice this is an edit of a 7 1 hour episode OAV series into TV broadcast length. This introduces a risk of odd pacing, particularly if each episode is being cut into 2 – 3 pieces.

That said, the first episode wasn’t too bad. Lots of set up and infodump, relatively light on establishing the characters, but very pretty to look at.

10.  Re:Zero –Starting Life in Another World-

Oh the joys of complicated light novel titles. Re:Zero is trying hard to be a Mind Screw involving a hikikomori being dropped into another world with a power that messes with time. Possibly a bit dark for my tastes, and the key visual suggests that Re:Zero will be heading into harem territory soon enough. A key theme seems to be that no good deed goes unpunished.

That said, the key plot device has been handled in a fairly interesting manner so far, and the resulting confusion on the part of Natsuki has also been well handled. The opening episode is effectively double length but split into parts 1A and 1B on CrunchyRoll, and they should be watched together. Borderline, but mostly because of the darkish subject matter.

11.  Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV

Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV is not bad for a game tie in, reasonably short at 11 minutes, and looks cool on screen.

I was amused by the game mechanics intruding so blatantly into the anime as the characters manifest weapons from inventory slots, start with the mooks, and then work up to a boss fight just as the episode ends.

Less impressive is the absence of female playable characters, which I don’t think bodes well for the success of the related game. I’m not really a gamer, but even I know that some of the most iconic Final Fantasy characters were female, and omitting them doesn’t seem like a good way to continue the franchise.

I don’t seem to be the only one commenting on the lack of female characters – see this article for more, and thanks to @elizabeth_fitz for the link.

12.  Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear

Kuma Miko is set in rural Japan with middle school shrine maiden Machi Amayadori dealing with bear Natsu Kumai who can speak human language. The village is in decline, and Machi wants to go to high school in a larger, less boring, city.

There’s a lot of potential in this premise, but to be blunt it’s wasted on off colour humour that I was uncomfortable with and a sense that this show is mocking the rural setting. Non Non Biyori never really appealed to me, but from what I saw it loved the rural life, and the characters who lived there.

13.  Twin Star Exorcists

Twin Star Exorcists isn’t bad per se, it’s just very predictable and, well, shonen. A parallel world called Magano is letting demons into the regular world, and teams of exorcists are trying to push them back. The male lead is a young boy with a traumatic past, the female lead will no doubt be better at exorcism until being so becomes inconvenient to his story. You can probably write the finish from there. Pass.

14.  Space Patrol Luluco

Space Patrol Luluco is a short, and the comedy is likely to work for many but fell flat for me. I might try another episode next week to see if it settles down.

15.  Anne-Happy

Fundamentally Anne-Happy (aka Unhappy Go Lucky!) is a show about cute girls having bad things happen to them, and then being cheerful about it. This is the sort of comedy that can work for some people, but it doesn’t work for me. I didn’t even finish the first episode, but it at least seemed to be mostly free of fanservice.

16.  Tanaka-kun is Always Listless

Exactly What It Says On The Tin, Tanaka-kun is Always Listless is supposed to be a comedy but fell flat for me. I didn’t finish this episode.

17.  Crane Game Girls

So three girls become idols who will save the planet by playing a crane game to retrieve a talking gorilla plushy.

I think.

If that makes no sense to you, I invite you to try watching Crane Game Girls for yourself. It will only take 4 minutes, how bad can it be?

18.  Kiznaiver

I’m not entirely sure what Kiznaiver is trying to be or to do, but the core conceit of the premise (a system that links and distributes pain/injuries amongst a group) seems kind of stupid to me. It’s an excuse to bind disparate characters (and I use the term generously) together into a team (and I again use the term generously), but overall the show comes across as pretentious more than anything else. The panty shot joke at one point didn’t help.

19.  HaiFuri

Haifuri aka Fleet High School had an initially interesting concept that turned to utter stupid in the second half of the episode. You’d think that after Arpeggio of Blue Steel and Kantai Collection that I’d be a sucker for moe naval antics.

Apparently I still require some level of intelligence in my anime, and some support for my willing suspension of disbelief.

Neither of which are evident in Haifuri.

20.  Hundred

Hundred is the show that I’m really hoping gets the Pedantic Perspective Watches… treatment.

If only because I think the name refers to the number of tropes per episode.

I’m not going to say any more than that in case it does. I wouldn’t want to spoil the readers fun (or Pedantic Perspective’s pain).