Panning the Stream: SHIROBAKO, Your Lie in April, Gonna Be the Twin-Tail

I knew you wouldn’t let me down.

No high fantasy this time (gasp!), but it doesn’t matter, because we’ve got one very good and one positively lovely premiere from two of my favorite studios today, and they’re both getting nice, long Meet ‘n’ Greets. Oh, and then I watched something ridiculous about pigtails. But let’s focus on the first two instead. Hit the jump for stories about animation, music, and the messy artistic process.

SHIROBAKO

Studio: P.A. Works
Original Series: Written by Yokote Michiko (Genshiken, Princess Tutu) and directed by Mizushima Tsutomu (Another, Big Windup!)
Streaming On:
Crunchyroll (USA, Canada, South Africa, Latin America, United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Scandinavia, Turkey, and Australia)

In a Sentence: Five friends promise each other that they’ll make it in the anime industry – and two years later, their dream comes true in all its stressful, unglamorous glory.

How was it? A fresh, funny look at the machinations of the anime industry, with a lot of potential for future storylines.

Overall
The second happy surprise of the season, though I’m not sure why I should be surprised. I’m a pretty big fan of the P.A. Works style and aesthetic, but even by my fangirlish standards this one stuck out. The premiere establishes five young women as its leads in the first few minutes, but then we spend the rest of the episode following one of the girls (Miyamura Aoi) as she scrambles to help get an episode of her studio’s latest anime series out on time. It’s always nice to see a series with adults as the main characters, and there’s a certain originality to doing a show about the anime industry itself (it’s surprisingly hard to think of another show that’s done that, actually). I can’t speak to the accuracy of these scenes, but it sure as hell feels real, and the script is written with authority and confidence.

The premiere crams a lot of character names, faces, and job titles down our throats in about 90 seconds and then has them spinning in and out of the story, vaguely recognizable but difficult to pin down. The pacing is wicked fast, too, interspersed with enough humor to give you the occasional second to catch your breath, but mostly charging forward without a break in the action. All of which is pretty disorienting and could definitely turn some people off, but I kinda loved it, because it matched the frenetic activity of the characters themselves, and really captured the sense of anxiety that goes into fixing last-minute screwups and meeting deadlines.

I’m spending way too much time on this premiere review, I know, but SHIROBAKO really worked for me, and I’m excited to see what it does in terms of pulling back the curtain on the anime industry in the coming weeks.

Did it make the watchlist? P.A. Works’ shows get an automatic three-episode rule for me, but even if this weren’t P.A. Works, I’d be happy to come back for more. Let’s see how this one holds up.

Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso)

Studio: A-1 Pictures
Based On:
The manga byArakawa Naoshi
Streaming On:
Crunchyroll (North America, Central America, South America, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and Ireland)

In a Sentence: 14-year-old former pianist Kousei Arima has been out of the world of classical music for almost three years, but all of that may be about to change when he meets violinist Miyazono Kaori.

How was it? I was in love before the opening theme was even over.

Overall
And as long as I’m complimenting animation studios, I might as well start this one by telling you that A-1 Pictures is one of my favorites. They make a ton of shows and a fair share of them are pretty run-of-the-mill, but they also make it a point to produce at least one series a year that feels more like a genuine labor of love than a financial venture. Recent past examples of this include Silver Spoon, From the New World, and Humanity Has Declined, and I get the feeling we’ll soon be adding Your Lie in April to that list as well.

Barring about 60 seconds of mild annoyance (I’m just so tired of the “accidental panty shot” gag), there wasn’t a thing about this premiere I didn’t adore. It’s charmingly animated with a lovely score, as a show about music should be, and the characters had easygoing, familiar interactions that conveyed their long-time relationships without relying on (much) exposition. There wasn’t a tremendous amount that happened here, but I was so drawn in by the art, music, characters, and story reveals (both past and future) that the 20-odd minutes just flew by.

There’s a sense of understatement in this premiere that I love: We’re dealing with some pretty serious topics here (abuse, trauma, grief), but this episode handled them all with quiet dignity. The series also acknowledges that difficult topics can exist side by side with lighter ones, and the humor (again, barring that one gag) worked really well for me, too. Overall there was a whole lot to like here, and very little to not. I had a good feeling about this one based on the source material. So far, that good feeling is still very much alive.

Did it make the watchlist? If things continue in this vein, I suspect it will not only make the watch list, but hang out pretty close to the top of it.

Dropped

Gonna Be the Twin-Tail!! (Ore, Twintails ni Narimasu)

I had a vague idea of the premise here (dude transforms into magical girl to fight alongside other magical girls), which I actually liked in theory – it’s got kind of a Ranma 1/2 feel to it, and shows that deal with genderbending have at least the potential to say something interesting about the way the different sexes perceive each other. Alas, this show doesn’t seem much interested in any of that. It’s executed with enough energy that I probably would have stuck around until the end of the episode, but then we got to the “great danger” which our heroes must fight: Girls with pigtails (a.k.a twintails) are having their “twintail attributes” stolen from them. THE HORROR! I laughed for a long, long time. Then I hit the stop button. Oh, well. My watchlist is full enough as it is.

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